Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry
Baron Etienne Leon Lamothe-Langon
Part 5 out of 10
her to be hanged without fully understanding whether she were
innocent or guilty. This unfortunate creature was a young and
pretty country girl, whose worthy pastor, the curé de Liancourt,
had availed himself of the influence he possessed, and of the
advantages of his authority over the poor creature's mind, to
seduce her from the paths of virtue. Unfortunately, just at the
time when she expected to produce a living witness of their amour,
and when she trusted to the cares of the curé to procure for her
those comforts her unfortunate situation required, the author of
her shame was suddenly carried off by a violent death, and the
wretched girl, either thro' ignorance or the shame of having
listened to the illicit passion of a priest, neglected to make any
of those formal declarations required by the law, and gave birth
to a dead infant. The justice of the village, informed of her
fault, caused her to be arrested, and recorded against her sentence
of death, a decision which was afterwards approved by parliament.
The poor girl was in this extremity when, happily for her, M. de
Mandeville, a worthy man from either Normandy or Picardy, who
had served in the black musketeers, resolved upon attempting
the revocation of the severe sentence which had been passed upon
her, by addressing the king thro' my mediation; he accordingly
followed me to Marly, where I then was, and lost no time in
forwarding to me the following billet:--
"MADAME,-- Beauty has ever been found the
inseparable companion of goodness; to yours I
would appeal to obtain the favor of an immediate
audience. My reasons for requesting it are not
to solicit either place or pension, but to save the
life of an erring creature whose crime has been
that of ignorance. I await your reply with the
most lively impatience, and have the honor to
remain, etc., etc."
This note puzzled me excessively, however I gave orders for the
immediate introduction of M. de Mandeville, whose appearance
was even more prepossessing than his note; he looked and spoke
like an honorable man endowed with that sensibility so precious
and so rare; he put into my hands the petition, whilst he explained
to me the particulars relative to it, and I instantly wrote to the
chancellor the following note, of which a thousand copies were
taken in the course of the day. Altho' it has been many times in
print, I shall offer no apologies for again submitting it to
"MONSIEUR LE CHANCELLOR,--I do not profess
to understand your laws, but they seem to me as
unjust as barbarous. They are contrary to both
reason and humanity, if they put to death an
unfortunate female for giving birth to a
still-born child without having previously disclosed
her situation to any one; and yet, according to
the memorial annexed to this, the petitioner is
so circumstanced. Here is an unhappy girl
about to pay with the forfeit of her life for
her ignorance of such a law, or because the
modesty and even shame attendant upon her
disgraced condition prevented her conforming
to it. I appeal to your sense of justice; the
wretched girl, concerning whom I write, is a
fit object for the exercise of your lenity, and I
venture to assure myself that you will at least
effect the commutation of her punishment.
Your own kind feelings will dictate all I would
ask further for her.
"I am, etc., etc."
I felt very certain that, from the manner in which I had expressed
myself, the consent of M. de Maupeou was quite certain; I therefore
said to my visitor, the handsome musketeer,
"And now, sir, the noble work of charity, in which you have
associated me must be completed: go yourself and see the chancellor,
tell him you come from me, and do not quit him till you obtain
the reply I have solicited."
M. de Mandeville loaded me with thanks and praises which I did
not really merit, because in the present instance I acted as much
from the wish to gratify my own feelings as his. My name and my
letter were talismans before which all doors flew open, and he
reached, without difficulty, the presence of the chief administrator
of justice, who, having read the memorial and the note I had
affixed to it, said, "That is sufficient, sir; have the goodness to
assure madame la comtesse du Barry, my cousin, that the reprieve
she desires is already granted; and as my fair relation appears to
fear trusting implicitly to my personal friendship and humanity,
I will set her mind at rest by putting you in possession of the
legal forms requisite for the prisoner."
He immediately issued the necessary orders for suspending the
execution of the sentence, which M. de Mandeville lost no time
in communicating to the poor girl, who, a very few days afterwards,
received a full pardon, and was thus, in a manner, snatched from
an unmerited and ignominious death. The musketeer requested
permission to present my to my notice. She really
was a very pretty girl, her feelings overpowered her, and she
fainted in her attempt to throw herself at my feet; I soon revived
her by the aid of those restoratives which my staring people
stupidly did not try to offer, and then to send her away perfectly
happy and cheerful, I slipped into the pocket of her apron a
of fifty louis which the king had given me for her use.
And here I must remark, that this prince, avaricious as he naturally
was, was yet always ready to perform a good action, and, indeed,
in this respect, he possessed many excellent qualities to which no
one has ever yet done justice.
When I next saw the chancellor--"Do you know, my fair cousin,"
said he, "that if I wished to set you and the parliament quarreling
together I need only just whisper in what manner you treat our laws?"
"Your laws," exclaimed I, "are barbarous edicts, made rather for
tigers than for men. Your punishments are atrocious, nor do I
see their application to correct a single malefactor; particularly
in the case of this young girl it is abominable, and if the king
would listen to me such savage edicts should not long remain unrepealed."
"That may do very well," replied M. de Maupeou, "some time hence,
but not just now; ere our penal code can be revised we must have
magistrates more supple than those who now dispute our slightest
innovation; and if, by the grace of God, we can manage to make a clear
house of them, why we may confidently anticipate the noblest results."
By these and similar insinuations the chancellor bespoke that aid
and assistance which I afterwards so largely rendered him when he
commenced the ruin of parliaments.
Upon another occasion my credit and influence were employed with
equal success. The objects of my present exertions were the
comte and comtesse de Louerne. Both husband and wife were deeply
loaded with debts, a thing common enough with the nobility of the
time; these debts they never paid, another thing by no means unusual;
their creditors, whose flinty hearts were but little moved by the
considerations of their rank and high blood, sent officers to
enforce payment, when the Louernes opposed them with positive
force and violence, and the laws, thus outraged, condemned them
to suffer death. In vain did persons of the highest rank in the
kingdom intercede in their behalf, imploring of the chancellor to
interpose with the king; altho' deaf to every other entreaty he
instantly granted a reprieve at my solicitation, declaring I was
the only person who could have effected so much in behalf of the
distressed culprits, as well as being the only source thro' which
the king's mercy could be obtained.
Immediately upon this notification, I was waited upon by the
comtesse de Moyau, their daughter, and the baronne d'Heldorf,
their daughter-in-law; both these ladies came to me in the deepest
sorrow, and I mingled my sighs and tears with those they so
plentifully shed; but this was rendering poor service, and if I
desired to aid their cause it was requisite I should speak to the
king, who was little disposed to show any indulgence in such
cases, and was never known to pass over any attempts on the part
of the nobility to resist the laws; he looked with horror on
every prospect of the return of those times which he hoped and
believed were passed and gone never to return. I well knew his
sentiments on the subject, and yet, trusting to my great influence
over his mind, I did not despair of success; besides Chon, my
sister-in-law, was constantly reminding me that people of a
certain rank should support one another, and that now was the
time or never. I therefore resolved upon befriending the daughters
of comte de Louerne to the utmost of my power, and for that
purpose I placed them both in a corner of the drawing-room so as
to catch the king's eye as he entered; he observed them, and
inquired who those two ladies were. "Sire," replied I, "they
are the heart-broken daughters of the comte and comtesse de
Louerne, who implore clemency of your majesty to save the lives
of the authors of their being."
"Ah!" returned he, "madame, you know I can do nothing against
the law which they have offended."
At these cruel words the two young ladies threw themselves at his
feet, exclaiming, "Pardon, pardon, sire; in the name of heaven and
your illustrious ancestors."
"Rise, ladies," said the king; "I would willingly serve you,
but I have not the power."
"No, sire," cried I, "you must not, you cannot refuse our united
prayers; and I here vow to remain kneeling at your feet till your
lips shall pronounce the word which shall restore life and happiness
to so many afflicted hearts."
"Madame," said the king, altho' in a tone less firm, "you force
me to do what my principles condemn; but since it must be so, I
yield; and only rejoice that the first personal favor you request
of me is to perform an act of beneficence. Ladies," added he,
turning towards the comtesse de Moyau and her sister-in-law,
"you owe the lives of your parents to the generous mediation
of the comtesse du Barry."
The joy of the Louernes was only equalled by the base calumny of
my enemies, who accused me of having prepared this scene, which
was got up by the king and myself to produce effect and excite
popularity. Could such disgusting falsehoods have entered the
minds of any but the most depraved? Yet those who continually
watched and misrepresented my least action appeared anxious to
deprive me of even the taste for, as well as the power of, doing
good. This took place at Choisy, which we very shortly after
quitted for Compiègne, where I passed my time very agreeably.
The king would not suffer either the duchesse de Grammont or the
comtesses d'Egmont and de Brienne to accompany us upon this
excursion. It has likewise been asserted, that neither the duchesse
de Grammont nor the princesse de Beauvau was present during the
king's first visit to Chantilly: that is not correct; it was at
the second that they were forbidden by Louis to join the party.
Those who fabricated such accounts, in all probability derived
their information from either the stable or the kitchen, which
was all they knew of the court of Louis XV.
During my abode at Compiègne I dined several times at the house
of my brother-in-law, Cleon du Barry, then a captain in the
regiment de Beauce, who was, with a detachment, quartered in
the neighborhood of the castle; and he, with the rest of his brother
officers, vied in endeavors to please and amuse me. They gave
fêtes in my honor, were perpetually devising fresh schemes to
render the place agreeable to me; and in that they perfectly
succeeded, for I quitted Compiègne with no other regret than
that my stay there was at an end.
The king appeared each day more and more solicitous to render me
happy, and even anticipated any wishes I might form. Amongst
other marks of his favor, he bestowed upon me the splendid pavilion
de Lucienne, sold by the duc de Penthièvre after the death of his
son, the prince de Lamballe. You know this charming spot, which
both nature and art have so liberally contributed to adorn: I have
converted it into the most perfect and delightful habitation in
which a mortal could desire to end her days. Nevertheless, this
hope of passing my life tranquilly and happily within its sheltering
bosom will prove but fallacious, if I may credit a prediction
which has been verified already in part. You doubtlessly remember
the young man who so obstinately pursued me to announce the high
destiny to which I should attain, ere I had for one moment
contemplated such an elevation. Well! You will scarcely credit
me when I declare, that all recollection of him had entirely
escaped me; but, in truth, the constant vortex of a court life
leaves no time for the recollection of the past, and fills our
minds with no other ideas but to provide for the present, and
occasionally to glance at the future.
However, I thought no more of my young prophet, when one Sunday,
after my return to Versailles from Compiègne, I attended mass at
the castle; all at once I caught a glimpse of my mysterious
acquaintance, leaning his back against the wall behind the altar.
He was examining my countenance with a deep and fixed attention.
You may picture to yourself my astonishment and surprise at
recognising in this place the person who had so long ago foretold
my brilliant destiny. The color rushed to my cheeks, and he could
distinctly observe how much I was agitated by his presence, and
his beautiful countenance was lit up with a pleasant smile; after
which he gracefully waved his hand round his head as tho' he
would say, "Are you not queen of France?" This gesture excited
my astonishment still further; however, I returned his mute inquiry
by a slight inclination of the head, intended to say, "You are
right." In a moment a sort of cloud seemed to cover my eyes. So
soon as I could recover from the sudden dimness which obscured
my vision, I endeavored to bend my looks in an opposite direction;
for so greatly was I the point of general observation, that I
feared to awaken suspicion by an indiscreet attention to one
particular person or place: and when after some little time had
elapsed, and I ventured to turn my eyes again to the spot where
the young man had been standing, he had disappeared.
I was unable to recover my astonishment at the whole affair, and
the suddenness of his departure inspired me with a lively desire to
know more of him, whether he were man or demon. I mentioned it
to Chon the same day, who, having listened to me with extreme
attention, "Upon my word," said she, "this is a most marvellous
event in your history. Why do you not mention the fact to M.
de Sartines? "
"Because it appears to me folly to disturb or annoy a person who
has given me no offence; and were I to put him into the hands of
the police, I might possibly find reason to repent having acted
so. On the other hand, I would give any sum of money for one
more interview with this wonderful person."
There the conversation ended; but my sister-in-law, by an unpardonable
curiosity she ought not to have indulged in, wrote, unknown to
me, to the lieutenant of the police, entreating of him to use the
most active measures to trace out the object of my curiosity. M.
de Sartines delighted at having an opportunity of proving to me and
mine his skill and zeal, turned all his bloodhounds loose upon the
track of this unfortunate being. During these proceedings I
received a letter, sealed with five black seals, bearing the
impress of a death's head. I thought at first that it was to
notify the decease of some friend, and I looked upon the style as
gloomy as it was strange; but, upon opening it, I found it to
contain the following words:--
"MADAME LA COMTESSE,--I am perfectly aware
that the strict pursuit made after me in your name
is without your knowledge or sanction: those sent
in search of me have spared no pains nor trouble
to ascertain my name and abode. My abode!
Let all as they value themselves avoid meeting
me there; for, when they enter it, it will be never
to quit it more. Who am I? That can only be known
when this life has been exchanged for another. I
charge you, madame, to command the lieutenant,
M. de Sartines., to cease his researches after me;
they would be fruitless, and might only compromise
your safety. Remember, I predicted your good
fortune; was I not correct in it? I have also
foretold reverses: I am equally correct in them also.
You will see me twice more; and should I
unfortunately cross your path a third time, prepare
to bid adieu to the light of heaven and the pleasures
of this world."
It is impossible to convey an idea of the excessive terror with
which I was filled upon the perusal of this billet. I summoned
my sister-in-law, and complained of the harshness of conduct
thus adopted against my pleasure. Chon was equally alarmed,
and confessed to me what she had done in asking the aid of M.
de Sartines; at the same time that she was the first to declare that
it was requisite to put an end to all further search, which, in
one shape or other, might bring on the most fatal consequences.
I therefore wrote myself to M. de Sartines, thanking him for his
exertions; but saying, that my sister-in-law and myself had
learned from the lips of the mysterious stranger all we were
desirous of knowing, and that any future researches being
unpleasant to him would be equally disagreeable to me. M. de
Sartines obeyed my request; and from that period till the death
of the king I heard no more of this singular personage.
Extraordinary anecdote of Louis XIV and madame de Maintenon--
The comtesse du Barry at Chantilly--Opinion of king and comte de
la Marche respecting the "Iron Mask"--Madame du Barry visits
madame de Lagarde
My acquaintance with the singular being I was speaking of in the
last chapter did not end here, as you will find in the sequel. I
will now give you an account of an equally strange affair, in
nearly the same words as Louis XV himself related it to me.
Altho' strongly recommended by my sister-in-law and M. de Sartines
to conceal the whole story of my mysterious friend from the
king, yet, unaccustomed to the prudential observation of court
reserve, I, one fine evening, in order to fill up a long blank in
the conversation, related the story from beginning to end. His
majesty listened with attention until I had concluded.
"This is indeed," said he, "a most singular history; and I think
you have acted very wisely in putting an end to all such interference
on the part of the police; for in such cases you frequently run
great risks to procure a trifling gratification. We have seen
something of the same sort in our family."
This discourse excited my curiosity; and I entreated of him to
explain himself more fully. "I ought not to do so," replied he;
"such transactions should be kept for ever concealed; but as more
than half a century has elapsed since the event I allude to took
place, I think I may venture to break the silence I have religiously
observed until now. You are the only person I have ever mentioned
it to, and I must bind you to the strictest secrecy."
This I faithfully promised; and so long as Louis XV lived I kept
"At the conclusion of the last century, during the month of
September," resumed the king, "it happened that Louis XIV, and
madame de Maintenon formed the wish of consulting together some
learned astrologer, in order to ascertain whether the coming age
would be productive of good or ill to them. As neither of them
knew to whom to apply, in order to attain their object, madame de
Maintenon was compelled to confide her wishes to her friend,
madame de Montchevreuil, who readily engaged to find for her the
person she required; for, spite of the severity with which the law
visited such practices, there was no scarcity of dealers in augury,
who promised good or bad fortune accordingly as they were paid for it.
"Whilst this lady was making diligent search after one perfectly
competent to satisfy madame de Maintenon, this latter, in
conjunction with the king, despite the superiority of their minds,
was greatly disturbed at the probable consequences of the step
they meditated. Their desire to penetrate into futurity appeared
to them as ridiculous as it was criminal, but their weaker feelings
triumphed; and the result of their deliberations was that far
from relinquishing their intention of searching the book of fate,
they should lose neither pains nor trouble to attain their object;
and to encourage each other, they reckoned upon their fingers
the names of every person of their acquaintance, or even belonging
to the court, who had derived profit and advantage from the
predictions of fortune-tellers.
"The minds of all at this period were still imbued with those
superstitious feelings, of which many of the most illustrious
persons had given ample proof even in the preceding reign. We
have become either more wicked or more sceptical, whichever
you please to term it; but this is certain, that many of the
things predicted were accomplished with an exact punctuality,
which might serve to overthrow the finest arguments of the
greatest philosophers, and which has indeed destroyed many
ingenious theories. Doubtless the hidden laws of nature have
reference to other beings than ourselves; and, beyond dispute,
may be said to govern the creatures of an unknown world as well
as exercising control over poor mortals like us." After this short
digression, of which I give you the precise wording, the king
continued as follows:
"On the following day madame de Montchevreuil paid a visit to
madame de Maintenon, in which she declared, that upon mature
reflection, she could not proceed with the commission she had
undertaken: that it was tempting Providence, and had better be
abandoned. This remonstrance had no effect upon madame de
Maintenon, who shielded herself from any necessity of retracting,
by repeating to herself, that she had pledged herself to join
Louis XIV in the undertaking, and it would never do for her to
forfeit her character for firmness and good sense by now appearing
trifling and capricious. However, she feigned a seeming
compliance with the advice of madame de Montchevreuil, whilst,
in reality, her mind was resolved upon executing her project.
"There was in her household a female who was not immediately one
of her establishment, altho' generally ranking as such; one of
those active, stirring persons, who thrust themselves into a
noble family under the equivocal title of half servant, half lady.
This one had charge of all the necessary purchases of linen,
Engaged the servants, kept watch over their conduct, procured
for the marchioness whatever particulars she might require upon
any subject; and took upon herself, in a word, any piece of service
by which she could more firmly plant herself in the family of her
employers. She received no fixed wages, but their absence was
abundantly compensated in the numerous rich presents that were
continually made her. Her sleeping apartment was always
immediately adjoining that of madame de Maintenon in the castle.
A person of this description (as may be readily supposed) knew
the world too well to find any difficulty in procuring a mere
fortune-teller; and as her discretion might be confidently relied
on, it was resolved by her mistress to intrust her with the design.
"Two days after, she had removed all difficulties by discovering
an Italian priest, famed as the most skilful necromancer of his
day, one who undertook to reveal the decrees of fate to all
those who should consult him, as clearly and readily as tho' its
leaves lay open, as a book before his eyes. But this gifted
person lived in the utmost dread of attracting the notice of
parliament, and exercised his art only under the strictest
assurances of secrecy, in the most retired and secluded manner,
with every precaution to prevent the possibility of a surprise.
"These conditions were too gratifying to madame de Maintenon to
cause much delay in subscribing to them; and it was finally
arranged, that the prophet and his new applicants should meet at a
house in Sévres belonging to the royal family, then in the
occupation of madame Cerfol (the lady of whom mention has been
already made). The marchioness was to repair thither at one
o'clock in the morning with a single friend. To have taken such a
measure in open daylight would have been to proclaim their
secret to all Paris. One person besides madame de Cerfol was
necessarily admitted into their confidence, and that was the
duc de Noailles, who was charged, by the king's express orders,
to take every possible precaution to ensure their safety, as far
as it could be done without attracting public attention to so
extraordinary an affair.
"At the hour appointed madame de Maintenon and the duc de Noailles
ascended a carriage which awaited them at one of the park gates,
and soon conveyed them to Sévres, whither the Italian priest had
gone the preceding night. This wretched man had celebrated alone
the sacrifice of the mass, and had consecrated several wafers.
"Everything confirmed the opinion, that the conjuror, up to the
present moment, merely supposed himself sent for to satisfy the
curiosity of some country nobleman and his lady, who were both
anxious and eager to read their future fortune thro' his assistance.
I can only suppose, if he had been in ignorance of the real rank
of those who addressed him, the sight of the king must have
quickly undeceived him, as the conclusion of the story proves he
well knew to whom he spoke when he delivered his prediction.
However this may have been, he was no sooner alone with the
marchioness, than he commenced the necessary preparations for
the performance of his sorceriesand enchantments; he burned
perfumes, offered prayers,and with loud invocations adjured the
powers of hell to answer him; and in the midst of a wild and
agitating sound which pervaded the whole building, during the
heavy swell of noises too dreadful to have arisen from mortal
sources, and whilst a thousand visions were flitting to and fro,
he drew the horoscope of the king and madame de Maintenon. He
promised Louis XIV that he should succeed in all his undertakings;
and that, on the very day on which he spoke the words (the 2nd
of October) one of his children had been called to the inheritance
of an immense fortune. Then giving him a small packet, wrapped
in new parchment, 'The day in which you form the fatal resolution
of acquainting yourself with the contents of this packet,' said
he, 'will be the last of your prosperity; but if you desire to
carry your good fortune to the highest pitch, be careful upon
every great festival, that is to say, Easter, Whit-Sunday, the
Assumption, and Christmas, to plunge a pin in this talisman, so
that the point shall pass directly thro' it; observe to do this,
and you will live perfectly happy.'
"The king accepted this fatal present, and swore upon the Gospel
never to open the packet; he richly rewarded the priest, who from
that period lived in a retreat so well concealed as to evade the
most diligent researches of those who sought to discover it.
"Some time after news was received, that on the very 2nd of
October, 1700, named by the priest, Charles II, king of Spain,
had appointed in his will Philip of France, son of the dauphin,
his successor and heir, an inheritance truly immense, as the
astrologer had foretold. You may well think how highly this
realization of the prediction inspired the king with confidence
as to the fulfilment of the remainder: and, on his part, he never
failed upon any saint's day or other solemn festival to stick the
mysterious pin in the talisman upon which so much depended.
"Nevertheless, spite of all these observances, his undertakings d
id not invariably succeed, which astonished him greatly; when one
day the great Bossuet, happening to be at madame de Maintenon's,
the conversation turned upon magic and sorcery, necromancy and
their horrible profanations; and he expressed himself with so much
force and energy, that the king and madame de Maintenon looked
at each other without knowing what to say, and began, for the
first time, to feel compunction for what they had done, and to
regret their imprudence. They talked of it much together, and at
length resolved to reveal their crime to their confessors. The
punishment imposed on the king by his spiritual adviser was, that
he should evince his contempt for the talismanic properties of
the parchment packet, by immediately opening it.
"Louis XIV did not by any means admire this method of expiating
his fault; and a sort of involuntary dread took possession of him,
as, in obedience to the command of his confessor, he went to
procure the magic parcel, which he tore open in the presence of
madame de Maintenon and father la Chaise. The packet contained
nothing but a consecrated wafer, pierced thro' with as many pins
as there had been saints' days since the king had received it. At
the sight of this horrible sacrilege my grandfather was filled
with deep remorse and consternation, from which it was a long
time ere he recovered; and it was not until he had undergone
many severe penances, fastings, and caused numberless masses to
be said, that he felt himself at all relieved from the weight of
"But all this was only the commencement of the divine vengeance:
and those in the secret of this unfortunate affair remarked, that
this great monarch lost from that time as many male descendants
in a direct line as he had stuck pins into the holy wafer."
Louis XV here terminated his singular history, which struck my
mind with a sort of religious terror. I strove by every possible
effort to dissimulate, concealing from the king the emotions to
which his narration had given rise. I contented myself with
observing, "that after hearing his marvelous recital, I should
only be more confirmed in my determination to leave my young
prophet to the tranquillity he desired."
"It will be far best so," added Louis; "I know so many
fatal results which have followed any indiscreet curiosity,
that I am persuaded you had much better leave such
mysterious affairs to work their own solution."
I promised to follow his advice, and we then conversed
upon other subjects. Since then this anecdote has recurred to
my memory; and without wishing to impeach the sincerity of
Louis XV, I have asked myself, whether, by the opportune relation
of this adventure, probably invented by himself, he did not seek
to destroy the confidence I appeared to entertain in the predictions
of my prophet. I say invented, because the king had a peculiar
readiness and facility in composing these sort of wonderful tales,
carefully noting down every circumstance which fell under his
knowledge deviating from the ordinary course of things. He had
a large collection of these legends, which he delighted in narrating;
and this he did with an ease and grace of manner I have never
About this period the prince de Condé, whose gallantry never
failed, entreated the king to pay a second visit to Chantilly: and
it was upon this occasion that Louis erased from the list of court
ladies all those whose presence would be disagreeable to me
during our stay at Chantilly. One scene of pleasure followed
another, and one fête succeeded another. I accompanied his
majesty without ever quitting him; and if hitherto there had
existed any doubts as to the sincerity of the king's attachment,
the most sceptical person would now have been convinced of the
fact. Louis XV was never from my side, and appeared solely
occupied in gratifying my slightest wish; the princes of the
court carefully followed his example; and such a life as I then
led was abundant compensation for all the pains and anxieties
I had endured from the malice and jealousy of certain females,
as well as the sarcastic bitterness of men, who feared lest my
influence should destroy theirs.
I may, with truth, affirm that I received the honors and attention
of a queen; verses, plays, all written to convey some praise or
compliment to me; and the king testified the lively gratification
it afforded him to see me thus an object of general solicitude,
as well as of the most flattering distinction. His conduct
towards the prince de Condé became more gracious than it had
ever been observed to be to the princes of the blood; for there
existed a singular coolness in the royal family towards all the
princes of this branch. The king looked upon it as vastly inferior
to his own, because it had been separated from the throne before
the accession of Henry IV to the crown; he even asserted, that
there was much to be said upon this subject, and prudence compels
me to pass over the many histories and circumstances related by
him to me of this brilliant portion of his noble race.
Neither the prince de Condé, whom I knew well, nor the prince de
la Marche, entertained much regard for their relations; and they
had always some spiteful story in store respecting the posterity
of Louis XIII. There is one historical fact which has never been
One day I was conversing with the comte de la Marche upon the
disputes concerning the parliaments, and expressing my fear, that,
if driven to desperate measures, the people would rise in open
rebellion in favor of the magistracy. "They would be still more
clamororous," replied he, "if they knew all I could tell them."
"And what do you know more than myself?'" asked I; "your highness
alarms me by speaking thus."
"Amongst events now passed and gone is one that would materially
affect the public peace, if known."
"You must explain yourself, my lord," said I. He refused; but I
persisted in pressing the matter with so much earnestness, that
at last he said, in a low voice,
"Did you ever hear of the man who wore the iron mask?"
"Yes, certainly," replied I, "who was he?"
"A great prince, and a most unfortunate man."
"But who was he really?"
"In the eyes of the law the crown of France should have been
his; but in the conscientious view of things he certainly had
The comte de la Marche stopped here; and, as I was not very
deeply read in history, I did not exactly comprehend the
distinction he had just made. I had frequently heard talk of the
"Iron Mask," whom people reported to be either allied to, or
sprung from, the royal family; but all these particulars were
confused in my memory. However, I was much struck with the
conversation I had had with the comte de la Marche; and when
next the conversation fell on this mysterious personage, I asked
the duc de Richelieu what he thought of him.
"Upon my honor," replied he, "I never could find out who he really
was; not that I did not try," added he, assuming an air of modest
vanity, which well became his green old age. "I had a mistress
of tolerably high birth, mademoiselle d'Orleans, as indeed I had
the honor of having the princesses, her august sisters. However,
the former, known under the name of mademoiselle de Charollais,
was dying to do some act of kindness that should be agreeable to
me. Well, I requested she would obtain from the regent, her
father, the solution of the secret relative to the 'Iron Mask.'
She used every possible device, but nothing could she obtain
from her father, who protested that the mystery should never
escape his lips; and he kept his word, he never did divulge it.
I even imagine that the king himself is ignorant of it, unless
indeed the cardinal de Fleury informed him of it." The maréchal
told me afterwards that he thought the opinion adopted by Voltaire
the most probable, viz: that this unknown person was the son of
the queen Anne of Austria, mother of Louis XIV. These last words
helped, in a measure, to resolve the enigma which comte de la
Marche had left me to unravel; and, with a view to satisfy myself
more positively on the subject, I availed myself of the first
time I was alone with the king, to lead the conversation to
At the mention of the "Iron Mask," Louis XV started. "And do
you really credit such a fable?" asked he.
"Is it then entirely untrue?" inquired I.
"Certainly not," he replied; "all that has been said on the matter
is destitute of even common sense."
"Well," cried I, "what your majesty says only confirms what I
heard from the maréchal de Richelieu."
"And what has he been telling you?"
"Very little, sire; he told me only, that the secret of who the
'Iron Mask' really was had not been communicated to you."
‘The maréchal is a simpleton if he tells you so. I know the
whole affair, and was well acquainted with the unhappy business."
"Ah!" exclaimed I, clapping my hands in triumph, "just now you
affected perfect ignorance; you knew nothing at all about it,
"You are a very dangerous woman," cried the king, interrupting
me by loud fits of laughter, "and you are cunning enough even
to surprise the secrets of the state."
"'Tis you, rather, who could not resist the inclination to let me
see that you knew what the maréchal had declared you ignorant of.
Which of us two is the more to blame, I wonder?"
"Myself, I think," answered the king; "for after all, you did but
act with the candor and curiosity of your sex: it was for me to
have employed more of the prudence of a king in my replies to
"Well, but," said I, "since you really do know all about this man
with the iron mask, you will tell it to me, will you not?"
"I should be very careful how I gratified your curiosity," said
he; "this is a point of history which must never be cleared up;
state reasons require that it should for ever remain a matter of doubt."
"And must have you tell me," returned I; "do pray tell, and I
will love you with all my heart."
"It cannot be."
"And why not? This unfortunate person has been long dead without
leaving any posterity."
"Are you quite sure of that?" inquired the king, in a serious tone.
"But what signifies," said I, "whether he be dead or alive? I
entreat of you to bestow upon me this proof of your confidence.
Who of all those who have spoken of him have told the truth?"
"Nobody; but Voltaire has approached it more nearly than any
After this partial confession the king implored of me to change
the conversation, which I could easily perceive was extremely
disagreeable to him. Nevertheless, it seemed to me quite clear,
that this celebrated person belonged to the royal family, but by
what title I could not devise. It was in vain that I afterwards
revived the subject; not even during the most tender confidences
could I obtain the information I desired. Possibly had I lived
with him some years more I might have succeeded in drawing from
him all he knew respecting the object of my curiosity. Old men,
like children, can conceal nothing from those they love, and who
have obtained over them an influence they willingly submit to.
Before I proceed to more important events, I would fain speak of
persons with whom I lived before my elevation. My godfather,
M. Billard du Monceau, was still living, as well as madame Lagarde,
with whom I had resided as companion. My interview with the
former is well known; and the authors of "Anecdotes of My Life,"
published thirteen years since, have strictly adhered to the truth,
with the exception of some vulgarisms they have put into the
mouth of that excellent man which he never uttered.
As to madame Lagarde, she was strangely surprised to see me arrive
at her house; and the evident embarrassment my presence occasioned
her was a sufficient revenge on my part for the many unkind things
she had said and done respecting me. I would not prolong her
uncomfortable situation, but studied to conduct myself with the
same unaffected simplicity of former days. I talked over the
past, inquired after her family, and offered my best services and
protection without malice for what was gone by, and with perfect
sincerity for the future. But spite of all my endeavors to spare
her feelings, it was evident that rage and humiliation at the
advantage my altered fortunes gave me over her, struggled within
her, and the conflict of her mind was but too plainly depicted in
her countenance. However, that was the least of my troubles; I
soon restored her to comparative calmness; and before I quitted
her, made her promise she would come and see me.
She would gladly have evaded this request; but her son, the master
of requests, who sufficiently misjudged me to fear my resentment,
and who possessed great influence over her, induced her to present
herself at my house. She accordingly came to call upon me, with a
mind bursting with spite and jealousy; yet she choked down her
angry passions, and so far humbled herself, as to entreat my
pardon for her own sake and that of her family, for all her
unkindness towards me. I would not allow her to finish; "Madame,"
said I, "I only allow agreeable recollections to find a place in
my memory; had I entertained the slightest resentment against
either you or yours, you may be quite certain I should not have
again entered your dwelling; and I again repeat the offer I
made the other day, of gladly seizing the first opportunity
of being useful to you."
Each of these words expressive of the kindest feelings towards
her was like the stab of a poniard. She, however, extolled them
with the most exaggerated praise, imploring me to believe how
deeply she regretted her behavior, and talked so long and so much
about it, that when she quitted me, it was with the most certain
impression on my mind, that in her I possessed a most violent and
implacable enemy, and in this conclusion I was quite correct. M.
Dudelay, her son, had the effrontery to request to be presented to
me, and charged the excellent M. de Laborde to make known his
wishes to me. I begged he would inform M. Dudelay, that I admitted
into the circle of my acquaintance only such as were known to the
king; and that if he thought proper to apply to his majesty, I
should obey his royal will on the subject, whatever it might be.
He justly considered this repulse as a biting raillery, for which
he never forgave me. I entertained no ill will against him for his
past perfidy, but I considered it strange that he should presume to
approach me with familiarity. I should not have adopted the same
line of conduct towards the farmer-general, his brother, who,
less assuming, contented himself with assuring me of his devotion,
and the sincere regret with which he contemplated the past, without
ever seeking to introduce himself into my presence.
The chevalier de la Morlière--Portrait of the duc de Choiseul--
The duc de Choiseul and the comtesse du Barry--No
reconciliation effected--Madame du Barry and the duc
d'Aiguillon--Madame du Barry and Louis XV
About this period I received a piece of attention, any thing but
gratifying if considered in a strictly honourable sense. The
contemptible chevalier de la Morlière, who detested me, and
subsequently pursued me with rage, presumed to dedicate to me
some wretched collection of his compositions, and I had the
weakness to accept the dedication; I had even the still greater
folly to receive its author at my house; this piece of condescension
injured me greatly. Until that period I had not, like madame de
Pompadour, shown myself the protectress and patroness of men of
letters; and even my warmest friends could not deny, that in
stepping forwards as the encourager of literature, I had made a
very unfortunate choice in selecting the chevalier de la Morlière
as the first object of my patronage. But how could I have done
otherwise? The prince de Soubise, who found this man serviceable
upon many occasions, would have sacrificed any thing to promote
his advancement; and I have been assured, that had the maréchal
taken half the pains on the day previous to the battle of Rasbach,
we should not have left it so disgracefully.
The king well knew the unfortunate chevalier for a man as destitute
of modesty as merit; when therefore he saw his book upon the
mantel-piece of my drawing-room, he said,
'So! you are the inspiring muse of the chevalier de la Morlière;
I only warn you, when the day comes for him to be hanged,
not to ask me to pardon him."
"Be assured," replied I, "that I will never deprive the Place de
Grêve of one so formed to do honour to it."
In fact, the chevalier was within an ace of reaching it before
his friends anticipated; for, very shortly after this conversation,
he was guilty of the most detestable piece of knavery I ever
heard of. He learned that an unfortunate young man from the
country, into whose confidence he had wormed himself, was to
receive 15,000 livres on his father's account; he invited him to
supper, and, by the aid of two villains like himself, stripped him
of his last sous. Not satisfied with this, he wrote the father
such an exaggerated account of his son's loss and general bad
habits, that the enraged and irritated parent procured an order
to confine his son at Saint Lazare! Did you ever hear of a more
infamous and accomplished rogue than my honourable ?
However, I shall give him up to his fate, be it good or bad, and
proceed with the relation of my affair with duc de Choiseul.
I had named to madame de l'Hôpital the hour at which I could
receive the duke. She had requested, in pursuance of her directions,
no doubt, that the conversation between us should take place
either amidst the groves of Versailles or in the labyrinth of
Marly;--the self-love of M. de Choiseul inducing him to desire
that this interview should be so contrived, as to wear the air of
a mere chance rencontre. To this I would not consent; saying,
that it did not suit my pleasure to quit the house; and that when
a gentleman solicited the favour of speaking to a lady, it became
his business to wait upon her, without expecting she should come
in search of him; and, spite of all the arguments of madame de
l'Hôpital, I persisted in my determination: she had no alternative
but to submit, and I awaited the coming of M. de Choiseul on the
The duc de Choiseul possessed a greater reputation than his
talents were entitled to; and his advancement was more attributable
to his good fortune than his merit. He had found warm and
powerful assistants in both philosophers and women; he was a
confirmed egotist, yet passed for a man who cared little for self.
He was quick at matters of business, and he obtained the character
of a deep and profound politician. It must, however, be admitted,
that he was witty, gallant, and gifted with manners so elegant and
fascinating, that they never failed to remove the first unfavourable
impression caused by his excessive plainness. The tide of public
favour was with him; and, in order to contest it, it required all
the influence of a woman, and that woman to be no less than the
beloved mistress of the king of France.
He presented himself before me tastefully and magnificently dressed,
both look and voice wearing the stamp of high-born pride and
haughtiness. Nevertheless, amidst all this pomp, it was evident
that he did not entirely feel the ease he assumed, and that a
species of remorse rankled at his heart, spite of the courtier-like
gallantry with which he had invested himself.
"Madam," said he, bowing twice most profoundly, "the moment has
arrived which I have long most ardently desired."
"The fault has not been mine, my lord," said I, "that it has been
delayed until now. My door has never been shut against any
visit you might have honoured me with."
"Ah, madam! why have I not known this sooner? Some evil planet
ruled my thoughts when it occurred to me that I might not be so
happy as to meet with a favourable reception."
"There, my lord, you were indeed in error; for though I might not
feel a very tender friendship towards you whilst supposing I had
many causes for complaint, I could not refuse you those marks of
respect your rank and station entitle you to receive."
"Then, madam, I may flatter myself that I should have been
"Yes, sir, you would ever have been welcome, but not those
belonging to you, for I will be perfectly candid; always excepting
the duchesse de Choiseul, for whom I entertain the greatest
veneration and respect."
"She is indeed well worthy the exalted opinion you express of her;
and had I followed her advice, I should not have been found
amongst the ranks of your enemies."
"You confess the fact then, monsieur le duc?" said I.
"I trust, madam, you will not take advantage of an inadvertent
expression to turn it against myself. What I fear is, that without
ever having been your enemy, I may have passed for such in your
estimation; and such indeed is the cruel position in which I
"Stay, my lord duke," cried I; "be candid, and acknowledge that
you are my enemy as you have ever been; and that it is only
because there has been war between us that you are now come to
conclude a treaty of peace--"
"Peace or war, madam," replied he, "as you please to will it; all
I will admit is, that things have turned out most unfavourably for
my wishes. Your arrival at Versailles, your grace, beauty, and
wit, excited universal jealousy; and, amidst the general panic
caused by your all-excelling merit, was it not necessary I too
should keep myself on my guard? For the first time in my life
a beautiful woman became an object of alarm to me; you may
further believe me, when I protest that, at the outset, I warmly
defended you; but how could I wage war against so many--how
oppose the general torrent? It bore me down."
"And you fear lest it should carry you beyond your depth, and
would fain return to ; is it not so, my lord duke?"
At this ironical speech an expression of heavy displeasure rose
to the countenance of M. de Choiseul, and he remained for several
minutes like a man who fears to trust himself to reply. Then
"Madam, when I solicited the favour of this conversation, it was
with the sincerest desire of adjusting all differences between
us, and it would but ill advance that purpose were I now to reply
to you with warmth and petulance; condescend, on your part, to
lay aside sarcasm and raillery. You have already too many advantages
over me, and it would ill accord with your wonted generosity to
insult a half-conquered foe."
"You are right, my lord," answered I; "jests and recrimination
will effect nothing; let us rather proceed at once to consider
what is best for the interest of both."
"Willingly," replied he. 'Now you speak to the purpose; and as I
was prepared to hear you--are you inclined for a serious discussion
of our business?"
"Pray begin, my lord, I am all attention."
"Well, madam, I deeply regret all that has passed, and deplore
that my friends and part of my family should be disagreeable to
you; I take upon myself to engage that their hostility shall end,
and am willing to afford you the most perfect satisfaction upon
this point. Impressed with highest respect for his majesty, and
the most lively desire to serve him, I ask for nothing more than
to be on good terms with those he loves; and as for the future,
my unshrinking loyalty may be relied on."
"I am well assured of it, my lord duke; and likewise you have
never taken any part in the calumnies which have been aimed at
me. Let us then forgive the and since we are agreed as to the
future, let us speak but of the present. I have friends fitted
to serve the king, whose ambition leads them to aspire to that
honour. What will you do to assist them?"
"Ere I promise that, madam, it is necessary I should be acquainted
"What would it avail to name them to you? You perfectly well
comprehend to whom I allude. I am resolutely decided to support
them, and to employ for this purpose the friendship with which
his majesty deigns to honour me."
The duke coloured deeply at these words.
"Then, madam," said he, " you would fain strip me to enrich others?"
"No, my lord, I ask but a division of your possessions. You cannot
have every thing; and it would not be fair that our reconciliation
should be profitable to you only."
"I did not anticipate, madam, in coming hither, that you would
command me to offer up myself as a sacrifice upon an altar raised
by you to the interests of your friends."
"Meaning to say, my lord duke, that you will keep every thing to
yourself. I cannot compliment you upon your liberality, however
I may for your candour."
"Madam, I have never since my entry into the ministry sought to
live at the expense of my country, and let me resign office when
I may, I shall retire loaded only with debts, whilst you and your
friends draw large revenues from the nation."
The conversation became warm and angry, the duke and myself, with
crimson cheeks and inflamed countenances, surveyed each other
with haughty defiance. At length he added,
"I had hoped that I should have quitted you more kindly disposed
"And I, my lord, fancied that you were coming with an ardent
desire for peace; but no, the spirit of your sister leads you
astray, and you would fain punish me for her absence from court."
"Madam, I beseech you to leave my sister in peace; she has gone,
that ought to satisfy you. We will not, if you please, speak of her."
"I only wish that she would likewise do me the honour to be silent
respecting me. I am not ignorant that she continues to aim her
slanders at me from afar as she did when near me. One might
suppose that the sole object of her journeyings was but to excite
all France against me."
"Madam, you are mistaken. My sister--"
"Continues to play the same part in the country she did in Paris.
She detests me because I happen to have youth and beauty on my
side. May her hatred last forever."
"Ah, madam, say not so; for with your charms you are indeed too
formidable an antagonist; and the more so, as I clearly perceive
you are not inclined for peace."
"At least," said I, "the war on my side shall be fair and open,
and those belonging to you have not always waged it with me upon
The duke merely warded off this last assertion by some unmeaning
compliment, and we separated greater enemies than ever.
The first person to whom I could communicate what had passed was
the duc d'Aiguillon. He listened to my recital without any decided
expression of his opinion; but no sooner had I concluded, than he
took me by the hand, and pressing it with a friendly grasp,
"How I congratulate you," said he, "upon the good fortune which
has extricated you from this affair. Do you know that a reconciliation
with the duc de Choiseul would have involved your inevitable
disgrace? What evil genius counselled you to act in such a manner?"
"I fancied I was doing right," said I, "in thus proving to the
king that I was not an unreasonable woman."
"The Choiseuls," replied he, "would have entangled you in their
nets, and, separated from your real friends, would have made you
the innocent author of your own destruction. Tell the king just
so much, that the duc de Choiseul has been to see you, that you
conversed together some time, and that he has offended you more
"I promise you, my kind friend," said I, "to follow your advice."
When I next saw the king, I apprized him of the visit.
"That does not astonish me," said Louis XV, "the duke is anxious
to be on friendly terms with you."
"He has then taken a very contrary road to arrive at my friendship,"
said I; "if he really desires that we should be on good terms, he
must conduct himself very differently"; and there the conversation
ended. But several days afterwards, having sent away my
d'hôtel>, with whom I had reason to be dissatisfied, and the
king appearing surprised at seeing a fresh countenance amongst
my household, I said to him, "Sir, I have got rid of Choiseul,
when will it please you to get rid of yours?" The king, without
replying to me, began to laugh; in which, for want of a better
termination to my remark, I was constrained to join.
Dorine--Mademoiselle Choin and the maréchal d'Uxelles--Zamor--
M. de Maupeou's wig--Henriette--The duc de Villeroi and Sophie--
Letter from the comtesse du Barry to the duc de Villeroi--His
reply--The countess writes again--Madame du Barry and Sophie--
Louis XV and the comtesse du Barry
Among the number which composed my household were three beings
who played conspicuous parts in my family, and who received the
kindest caresses in honour of their mistress. These three favoured
objects were Dorine, Zamor, and Henriette. Following the order or
disorder in which I have written thus far, I will first introduce
my dear Dorine to your notice.
Sweet, beautiful Dorine! how amiably affectionate and attached
to thy mistress wert thou! The poor animal still exists; for I
would have you know that I am speaking of a most faithful little
dog; now indeed grown old, asthmatic and snappish; but fifteen
years since, distinguished for her lightness, swiftness, and grace,
for her pretty little countenance, white teeth, large sparkling
eyes, long tufted tail, and above all, for her snow-white coat,
spotted here and there with the most beautiful brown.
Dorine was just three months old when madame de Montmorency
brought her to me in her muff; her throat was adorned with a rich
gold collar, bearing the arms of the du Barrys, and clasped with a
large sapphire surrounded with diamonds. The moment she saw me
Dorine leaped upon my lap with the most endearing familiarity,
and from that period has never quitted me. My train of courtiers
hastened to become those of the new favourite likewise; and
pastrycooks and confectioners racked their brains to procure
tempting morsels for the gentle Dorine. She sipped her coffee
daily from a golden saucer, and Zamor (between whom and Dorine
a mutual dislike existed) was appointed her cupbearer. The
wonderful instinct of the highly gifted animal soon taught her,
that although she had free permission to bark at all the rest of
the world, there was one person in it to whom it behoved her to
show herself in her most gracious and smiling moods; who this
person was I leave it to your sagacity to divine. She, however,
indemnified herself for this extra complaisance by barking and
biting at all who approached; and the handsomest, best turned
leg in the court was not secure from the sharp teeth of mademoiselle
Dorine. Nevertheless, all vied in praising and fondling her, and
I was enchanted with the general admiration she excited, as well
as the attention she received. One day that I was exultingly
relating to the duc d'Aguillon the cares and praises lavished on
my dog, he replied, "The grand dauphin, son of Louis XIV, after
the death of his wife, Marie Christine of Bavaria, secretly espoused
mademoiselle Choin. The maréchal d'Uxelles, who was not ignorant
of this marriage, professed himself the most devoted friend of
the lady; he visited her regularly morning and evening, and
even carried his desire to please her so far, as to send a servant
with a dish of grilled hare for the house dog, who had a particular
fancy for game dressed in that manner! These attentions and
assiduities were faithfully continued for several years, till the
grand dauphin died, and then no more morning and evening visits,
no more presents to either mistress or dog. Apply the story well,"
added the duke, as he terminated his recital. Unfortunately the
application of the tale presented itself but too soon, and I have
experienced the sad truth of the history of mademoiselle Choin.
At the death of the king so, did my visitors disappear; and poor
Dorine has partaken of the disgrace of the comtesse du Barry.
The second object of my regard was Zamor, a young African boy,
full of intelligence and mischief; simple and independent in his
nature, yet wild as his country. Zamor fancied himself the equal
of all he met, scarcely deigning to acknowledge the king himself
as his superior. This son of Africa was presented to me by the
duc de Richelieu, clad in the picturesque costume of his native
land; his head ornamented with feathers of every colour, a short
petticoat of plaited grass around his waist, while the richest
bracelets adorned his wrists, and chains of gold, pearls, and
rubies, glittered over his neck and hung from his ears. Never
would any one have suspected the old maréchal, whose parsimony
was almost proverbial, of making such a magnificent present.
In honour of the tragedy of Alzire, I christened my little negro
Zamor, to whom by degrees I became attached with all the tenderness
of a mother. You ask me why? Indeed that is more than I can
tell; perhaps at first I looked upon him as a sort of puppet or
plaything, but, imperceptibly to myself, I became passionately
fond of my little page, nor was the young urchin slow in perceiving
the ascendancy he had gained over me, and, in the end, to abuse
his influence, and attained, as I have before said, an almost
incredible degree of insolence and effrontery. Still I pardoned
all his folly, and amused myself from morning to night with
watching his nimble fingers perform a thousand tricks of jugglery.
Even now that I have lost the gaiety of my happy days, when I
recall his irresistibly comic ways, I catch myself laughing, like
an old simpleton, at the bare recollection of his monkey feats.
I could relate twenty of his mischievous pranks, each more
amusing than the other. I will, however, excuse you from hearing
nineteen of them, upon condition that you shall listen to the
twentieth, which I select as being the shortest.
One day, upon which I had invited some select friends to dinner, a
superb pie was brought to table as a present which the ungallant
M. de Maupeou had had the politeness to send me in the morning.
One of the company proceeded to cut it, when scarcely had he
pierced the crust, than its perfidious contents proved to be an
immense swarm of cockchafers, which spread humming and buzzing
all over the chamber. Zamor, who had never before seen these
insects, began to pursue them all over the room, buzzing and
humming as loudly as they did. The chase lasted a long time; but
at last the poor cockchafers weary of carrying on the war, and
mistaking the peruke of M. de Maupeou for an impregnable fortress,
flew to take refuge there. What did Zamor do, but run to the
chancellor, snatch off his wig, and carry it in triumph to a
corner of the room with its colony of cockchafers, leaving us all
to admire the bald head of the chief magistrate. I could willingly
have enjoyed a hearty laugh at this scene, but, out of respect for
M. de Maupeou, I feigned to be much displeased with Zamor, whom
I desired one of the attendants to flog for his rudeness. However,
the guests and the chancellor uniting in entreaties that I would
pardon him, I was obliged to allow my assumed anger to give way
to their request, and the culprit received a pardon.
There was but one person in the world whom Zamor really feared;
he was however on good terms with all my friends, and did not
disdain the society of the king. You have heard that the latter,
by way of amusement, bestowed on my little negro the title of
governor of the Pavillon de Lucienne, with a revenue arising
therefrom of a thousand crowns, and that the chancellor caused
the necessary papers to be prepared and delivered to him sealed
with the state seal.
But of all the persons who visited me, the one most beloved by
Zamor was madame de Mirepoix, who never came without bringing
him amusing presents or some sweetmeats. The sight of her threw
him into ecstasies of delight; and the moment he caught sight of
her, he would clap his hands, leap with joy, dance around her,
and kiss her hand, exclaiming, "" " ("Ah!
Madame la maréchale "). The poor maréchale always dreaded
meeting the king when she came to visit me and Zamor; for the great
delight of his majesty was to make my little negro repeat a name
of Israelitish origin, which he did in so ridiculous a manner, that
the modesty of my fair friend was most shockingly put to the blush.
One person alone never vouchsafed to bestow the slightest glance
of encouragement upon my little imp of Africa, and this was comte
Jean, who even went so far as to awe him into silence either by a
frown or a gesture of impatience; his most lively tricks could
not win a smile from the count, who was either thoughtful or
preoccupied with some ambitious scheme of fortune. Zamor
soon felt a species of instinctive dread of this overpowering and
awe-inspiring genius, whose sudden appearance would chill him
in his wildest fits of mirthful mischief, and send him cowering
to a corner of the room; where he would remain huddled together,
and apparently stupefied and motionless, till the count quitted
At the moment of my writing this, Zamor still resides under my
roof. During the years he has passed with me he has gained in
height, but in none of the intellectual qualities does he seem to
have made any progress; age has only stripped him of the charms
of infancy without supplying others in their place; nor can I
venture to affirm, that his gratitude and devotion to me are such
as I have reason to expect they should be;* for I can with truth
affirm, that I have never ceased to lavish kindness on him, and
to be, in every sense of the word, a good mistress to him.
*This wretch, whom the comtesse du Barry
loaded with her favours and benefits, conducted
her to the scaffold.- EDITOR (i.e., author)
There was one member of my establishment, however, whom I preferred
to either Dorine or Zamor and this was Henriette, who was sincerely
attached to me, and who, for that very reason, was generally
disliked throughout the castle. I bad procured a good husband
for her, on whom I bestowed a post which, by keeping both himself
and his wife in the close vicinity of the castle, prevented my kind
friend from quitting me. However, my poor Henriette was not fated
to enjoy a long connubial felicity, for her husband, being seized
with a violent fever, in a fit of delirium threw himself from a
window into the court below, and was taken up dead. Slander
availed herself even of this fatal catastrophe to whisper abroad,
that the death of the unhappy man arose from his deep sense of
his wife's misconduct and infidelity. This I can positively assert
was not the case, for Henriette was warmly and truly attached to
him, and conducted herself as a wife with the most undeviating
propriety. The fact was, that Henriette had drawn upon herself a
general hatred and ill will, because she steadily refused all
gossiping invitations, where my character would have been pulled
to pieces, and the affairs of my household discussed and commented
upon: there, indeed, she had sinned beyond all hope of pardon.
She it was who pointed out to me the perfidious conduct of the
duc de Villeroi. This gentleman, from the very beginning of my
rise in the royal favour, had demonstrated the most lively friendship
for me, of which he sought to persuade me by the strongest
protestations, which, weak and credulous as I was, I implicitly
believed, until one day that Henriette, availing herself of my
being quite alone, let me into the secrets of my establishment
and furnished me with a key to the assiduities of M. de Villeroi.
Amongst the females in my service was one named Sophie, young,
beautiful both in face and form, of a sweet disposition, and every
way calculated to inspire the tender passion. M. de Villeroi felt
the full force of her charms, and became the whining, sighing
lover--her very shadow. Up to this period I had had no cause of
complaint against M. de Villeroi; and certainly I should not have
interfered with his plebeian flame had he not thought proper,
when questioned by my enemies as to his continual presence at
the castle, and great assiduities there, to protest that his visits
thither were not in honour of my charms, but for those of my
waiting-maid. However, my vanity had rendered me his constant dupe.
I felt perfectly astonished as I listened to Henriette's recital;
and when she had ceased, I conjured her to tell me candidly,
whether she had not invented the whole tale either out of spite
to Sophie or with a design to make me break off further friendship
with the duke.This she most solemnly denied, and recommended me
to make inquiries amongst my friends, who would be compelled to
bear testimony to the truth of all she had asserted. I determined
to do so; and the first person whom I was enabled to interrogate
respecting the affair was the bishop de Senlis. This prelate
came frequently to see me, and I found his society each day more
pleasing. He served me as a kind of gazette of all that passed
with the princesses, in whose opinion I had still the misfortune
not to be in the very highest estimation. When occasion required
it, M. de Roquelaure would venture to take my part, and that
without making a single enemy; for who could be offended with
one so affable, so good, so full of kindness towards all? In
fact, the worthy bishop was so fortunate as to obtain the love of
every person who knew him; and, in the most select society of
opposing parties, each would reserve a place for good M. de Roquelaure.
When I questioned him as to his knowledge of the affair, his
embarrassment was evident.
"What a world is this! "cried he. "Why, let me ask, do you
listen to those who repeat such mortifying tales to you?"
"Because, my lord, my friends will not see me made the sport of a
heartless and perfidious friend; and, if you entertain the slightest
regard for me, I conjure you to tell me all you know upon the subject."
"And do you, my good madam, conceive that it would become my
sacred calling to speak ill of my neighbour? besides, surely you
would not attach any belief to the idle reports spread about the
castle by ill-disposed persons?"
"All this has nothing to do with my question, my lord," resumed I.
"I ask you once again, whether you ever heard the duc de Villeroi
assign his passion for one of my women as the reason for his
visits to me? Have you, my lord bishop? I entreat you to answer."
"Madam, I have not," said the good prelate, colouring deeply.
"Ah, monsieur de Roquelaure," cried I, "you must not say mass
to-morrow, for I greatly fear you have just committed a certain
fault which is styled fibbing."
The bishop made no reply, and his silence spoke volumes of confirmation.
Scarcely had he quitted me than the duc d'Aiguillon entered, to
whom I put the same question; and he frankly confessed, that the
excuse alleged to have been used by the duc de Villeroi was
strictly the expression of that gentleman.
"I was wrong," said the duke, "not to have mentioned it to you,
but I was silent from a desire to preserve peace between you.
Now that the affair has been revealed to you, I will not sully
my lips with a falsehood for the pleasure of upholding an
"I will not ask you to tell me more," replied I. "I know enough
to make me despise the cowardly spirit of him whom I reject as
unworthy of my friendship." So saying, I ran to my writing-table,
and wrote to the duc de Villeroi the following note:--
"MONSIEUR LE DUC,--I love my friends with
all their faults, but I cannot pardon their perfidy;
and, since from what I have heard I am left to
conclude, that but for the charms of my attendant
Sophie, I should not have been favoured with so
many of your visits, I now write to warn you,
that I this day dismiss the unfortunate object of
your admiration from my service, and therefore
recommend you to cease all further communication.
Your presence in my house would be any thing
but agreeable to me; and since the fair object which
has hitherto attracted you will no longer dwell
under my roof, I presume your presenting yourself
before me would only be more painful than you have
hitherto found it. The frankness of my conduct may
offend you, but it cannot surprise or grieve you
more than your duplicity has me.
"I remain with befitting sentiments, monsieur
"Your most humble and obedient servant."
When I had completed my letter, I rang, and a footman attended.
"Go, "said I to him," carry this note immediately to the duc de
Villeroi, and wait, if it be necessary, the whole day, until you
can return with the assurance that you have delivered it into
his own hand."
Whilst I was thus speaking to the man, who had been engaged by
my steward, and very recently entered into my service, I chanced
to look at him inadvertently, when my attention was arrested by
seeing him rapidly change colour. I could not at the moment
conceive what could thus agitate him, and making a sign for him
to depart immediately upon his commission, he slowly left the
room, regarding me as he went in such a manner, that I could not
fail recognising him: and here, my friend, I must lay aside every
particle of self-love and vanity ere I can make you a complete
confession; the retrospect of my life brings many events, of which
the remembrance is indeed painful to me, and only the solemn
promise I am under to conceal nothing restrains me from consigning
many particulars to oblivion. I am once more about to incur the
chance of drawing down your contempt by my candour, but before I
enter upon the subject, permit me to conclude my affair with the
duc de Villeroi.
My letter was a thunderbolt to the duke. He better than any one
knew the extent of my credit, which he dreaded, lest I might
employ it to his injury; he therefore hastened to reply to me in
the following words:--
"MADAME LA COMTESSE,--I am a most unhappy,
or rather a vilely calumniated man; and my enemies
have employed the most odious means of making me
appear despicable in your eyes. I confess, that not
daring to aspire to you, I stopped at the footstool
of your throne, but I wholly deny the words which
have been laid to my charge. I venture to expect
from your justice that you will grant me the favour
of an opportunity of exculpating myself from so
black a charge. It would be cruel indeed to condemn
a man without hearing him.
"I am with the most profound respect, &c."
To this hypocritical epistle I replied by another note as follows:--
"Every bad and unfavourable case may be
denied, monsieur le duc, therefore I am not
astonished at your seeking to repel the charge of
having uttered the disrespectful words laid to
your charge. As for the explanations you offer
me they would be fruitless; I will have none with
those who have either been my friends or appeared
to be such. I must therefore beg you will cease
all attempts at a correspondence which can lead
to no good results.
"I have the honour to remain, &c., &c."
After this business was despatched, I caused Sophie to be sent
for to attend me.
"Well, Sophie," said I, " you perceive the confusion you have
occasioned through your folly. Is it then true that the duc de
Villeroi has spoken of love to you?"
"Yes, indeed, madam," replied the poor girl, weeping bitterly.
"And you return his passion."
"I believe so, madam."
This confession made me smile. I continued--
"Then you are not quite sure of the fact?"
"No, madam; for when I do not see him I forget all about it; but
when he is before me, so handsome and so generous, so full of
love, I try to make myself equally fond of him; but somehow I
cannot help preferring his courier, M. l'Eclair."
These last words completely destroyed all attempts at preserving
my gravity, and I burst into the most uncontrollable laughter,
which, however, soon gave place to a painful recollection of how
soon this young and artless creature, as simple as she was beautiful,
was likely to lose this open-heartedness in the hands of her seducer.
"Sophie," said I to her at last, "this unfortunate affair forbids
my retaining you any longer in my service; I am compelled to
send you from me. I trust this noble lover of yours will never
forsake you; have a care only to conceal from him, should you
persist in encouraging his addresses, that he has a rival in the
person of his courier, l'Eclair."
Sophie threw herself weeping at my feet. I raised and encouraged
her by the kindest words to pursue the right path, but I remained
steady in my determination of sending her from me.
I was not mistaken. The duc de Villeroi became the possessor of
poor Sophie, and publicly boasted of having her under his protection.
He did not, however, proceed to these extreme measures until he
had essayed every possible means of effecting a reconciliation
with me, and he employed more than a hundred persons in the vain
attempt of inducing me to pardon him. With this view the maréchale
de Mirepoix, whose succour he had implored, observed to me that
it was sometimes necessary to feign to overlook an insult; I
replied, that dissimulation was an art I knew nothing of, nor did
I wish ever to acquire it.
"Really, my dear countess," cried she, "you should not live at
court, you are absolutely unfit for it."
"It may be so," replied I; "but I would rather quit Versailles
altogether than be surrounded by false and perfidious friends."
All the remonstrances of the good-natured maréchale were fruitless,
I could not bring myself to pardon a man who had so openly
outraged my friendship.
Directly I saw the king, I related the whole affair to him.
"It must be confessed," said he, "that the duke has behaved very
ill towards you, but he has certainly shown his taste as far as
regards Sophie. She is a sweet creature."
"Ah! you are all alike," cried I. "You gentlemen think a pretty
face an excuse for every fault; and he only deserves blame who
can attach himself where beauty is wanting."
"Because he is a simpleton for so doing," said Louis XV with the
utmost gravity, giving me at the same time an affectionate embrace.
The prince des Deux Ponts--Prince Max--The dauphin and Marie
Antoinette--The comtesse du Barry and Bridget Rupert--The countess
and Geneviève Mathon--Noël--Fresh amours--Nocturnal adventure--
Conclusion of this intrigue
All my friends were not treacherous as the duc de Villeroi; and I
may gratefully assert I have possessed many true and sincere ones
who have ever faithfully adhered to my fortunes. One in particular
I shall mention here, that I may recommend him to your warmest
esteem; for, although of high and distinguished rank, he did not
despise the good opinion of the meanest citizen. I speak of the
prince de Deux Ponts, Charles Auguste Christian. This prince, who
chanced to visit France during the zenith of my court favour, was
very desirous of seeing me, and both he and his brother were
presented to me by the comte de la Marche, their friend, and
they quickly requested the honor of my friendship. Auguste
Christian pleased me most by his gentle and amiable manners,
although most persons gave the preference to his brother, Maximilian
Joseph, better known by the name of prince Max. Auguste Christian,
in the fervour of his attachment, speaking openly to me of the
delicacy of the situation, proposed to me, in case of any reverse,
that I should seek an asylum in his dominions; and I must do him
the justice to say, that at the death of the king, far from
forgetting his proffer, he lost no time in reminding me of it.
Fidelity and attachment such as his, is sufficiently rare to
merit a place in my journal. The prince des Deux Pouts was
presumptive heir to an immense inheritance, that of the electorate
of Bavaria, and the electorate Palatine, to the latter of which
he was direct heir after the decease of his cousin, the present
elector. I could almost wish that he had already succeeded to
these possessions: he can never reign too soon for the happiness
of his subjects.
Prince Max had served in France; he was extremely well looked
upon at court both by the king and the princesses. As for the
dauphiness, prejudiced against him as she was by her mother,
she naturally regarded him with an eye of cool mistrust, and
manifested her open dislike by never inviting him to any of her
parties. Prince Max spoke of this pointed neglect to the king,
who immediately summoned the dauphin. "My son," said he to
him, "I see with regret that prince Max is never an invited guest
at any of your balls and fêtes. Remember, he belongs to a family
which has been our most ancient ally, and do not take up the
quarrels of a house which, until your marriage, has ever been
disposed in deadly hatred to us."
If the dauphin was not gifted with a very extensive capacity, he
was possessed of sufficient plain sense to comprehend, and to
enter into the views of his grandfather, to whom he pledged his
word, that henceforward prince Max should be treated with more
respect; and he kept his word, for the instant he returned to his
apartments, he commanded the duc de la Vauguyon to add the name
of prince Max to the list of invited persons. When the paper was
drawn out it was carried to the dauphiness, who was with her
husband. She read on till she came to the name of prince Max,
which she desired might be erased; but the dauphin interfered.
"Oblige me," cried he, "by suffering this name to remain; his
ancestors have for ages been the friends of our family, and his
alliance may one day be useful to us in Germany."
The dauphiness comprehended the signification of these words,
and her fine eyes were filled with tears. However, she no longer
insisted upon the erasure, when her husband, who most tenderly
loved her, further declared it to be the king's desire that
nothing should be done which could in any way displease the
prince des Deux Ponts. He was, therefore, from that period
invited to the house of Marie Antoinette, who indemnified herself
for this compulsory civility, by refusing to bestow upon him one
single smile or gracious word. It must indeed be agreed that the
dauphiness had brought with her into France too many Austrian
notions, which she was long in losing for those of a wife and
mother; but now at the moment of my writing this, she is much
changed, and is as true a French woman as though she had been
born and bred in Paris. Unfortunately, the people appear slow in
giving her credit for her altered opinions, and to this mistake
will she owe the loss of that general love and popularity to
which she has such just claims.
Prince Auguste Christian entertained for me a sincere regard,
which I returned with the truest friendship. My feelings were
as pure and simple as his own, spite of the odious calumnies
with which my enemies have attacked this harmless acquaintance;
but their slander in this matter was no worse than the manner in
which they spoke of every person who visited me. According to
their report, I was the mistress of all who presented themselves.
'Tis well for you, ye courtly dames, that you may convert friends
into lovers with impunity; be the number ever so large none dares
arraign your conduct; but for those of more humble pretensions it
is indeed considered atrocious to number more than two admirers;
should we ask to swell the list to a third--what comments, what
scandal, what vilifying reports are in circulation! In this
letter, my friend, I shall speak to you exclusively of myself.
You will find little in my conduct to praise, and I fear, much
to blame. You will easily perceive my heart was better than my
head; and dear as your opinion is to me, I write on in the hope,
that should my candid avowal lose me any portion of your esteem,
it will yet obtain me a larger share of your friendship. The
dismissal of Sophie from my service occasioned a vacancy in my
household. Immediately her departure was known, I received
numberless solicitations from all who heard of it. Three days
afterwards, Henriette came to inform me that the wife of an
attorney of Chatelet solicited the task of serving me in Sophie's
stead; that she was a well-looking and respectable person, and
might very probably suit me.
"Will you see her, madam?" continued Henriette. "She is
recommended by the marchioness de Montmorency."
"Willingly," answered I; "desire her to come in." Henriette left
me and quickly returned, introducing the new candidate.
At the first glimpse I recognised Brigitta Rupert, that haughty
girl, who had been my early friend and companion at Saint Aure,
but who found it impossible to continue her friendship and favour
to a humble milliner's girl. The sight of her occasioned me a
surprise by no means of a pleasing nature; and the involuntary
start I gave, evidently recalled me to her recollection. In a
moment her cheeks assumed the paleness of death, and her self-love
seemed to suffer the most horrible torments at the light in which
our rencontre mutually placed us. As soon as she could command
herself sufficiently to speak, she cried,
"Ah! madam, do I then appear in your presence?"
"Yes," replied I, "before the poor and humble milliner to whom you
so harshly refused your friendship,"
"Fortune has well avenged you, madam," said Brigitta, in a
melancholy tone; "and as I can easily imagine how unpleasant the
sight of me must be, I will hasten to relieve you from it."
These last words touched me, and restored me in a degree to my
natural good temper.
"Brigitta," said I to her, "after the little affection you have
ever manifested for me, it would be impossible as well as unwise
to take you into my service; but let me know in what way I can
best promote the interest of yourself and husband, and I pledge
myself to accomplish it for you."
"I thank you, madam," answered she, resuming her accustomed
haughtiness, "I came to solicit a situation near the person of the
comtesse du Barry. Since that is refused me, I have nothing more
"Be it as you please," replied I. Brigitta made a low courtesy,
and quitted the room.
Henriette, who had been the witness of this scene, expressed her
apprehensions that I should be displeased with her for introducing
an unwelcome visitor to me. "No," cried I, "'tis not with you I
am vexed., but myself."
"And why so, dear madam?"
"Because I reproach myself with having in my own prosperity
forgotten one of my earliest and dearest friends, who loved me
with the tenderest affection. Possibly she may now be in trouble
or difficulties, from which I might have a thousand ways of
relieving her; but it is never too late to do good. To-morrow,
early, you shall set out for Paris; when there, go to the rue Saint
Martin, inquire for the sign of la Bonne Foi; it is kept by a
pastrycook, named M. Mathon, of whom I wish you to learn every
particular relative to his daughter Geneviève."
My wishes were laws to Henriette, who instantly retired to prepare
for her journey. I had not ventured to desire her to glean any
information concerning the brother of Geneviève, and yet at the
recollection of the handsome Nicolas my heart beat impetuously.
With what impatience did I await the return of Henriette! at
length she came.
"Well!" said I.
"I have found out M. Mathon," answered Henriette.
"Which, the father?"
"And what is his present occupation?"
"As usual, madam, superintending his kitchen and shop."
"Is he alone in his business?"
"Oh, no! madam; he is assisted by his son, a fine dark handsome
"His son then lives with him?"
"Yes, madam, and he is married."
"Married!--but it is not of this young man I wish to speak, but
of his sister, of Geneviève; tell me of her."
"I only learned, madam, that she had married a tailor, named
Guérard--who, after having been very unsuccessful in business,
died suddenly, leaving her wholly destitute with two young children."
I immediately wrote the following note to my early friend:--
"The comtesse du Barry having heard of the misfortunes of madame
Guérard, and knowing how much she is deserving of a better fate,
is desirous of being useful to her. She therefore requests madame
Guérard will call next Monday, at two o'clock, on her at her
hotel, rue de la Pussienne."
Poor Geneviève nearly fainted when she received this note, which
was conveyed to her by a footman wearing my livery. She could
not imagine to whom she was indebted for procuring her such exalted
patronage, and she and her family spent the intervening hours
before her appointed interview in a thousand conjectures on the
subject. On Monday, punctually at two o'clock, she was at the
hotel dressed in her best, her lovely countenance setting off the
humble style of even her holiday garb. She knew me the instant
she saw me; and, in the frank simplicity of her own heart imagining
she could judge of mine, she ran to me, and threw herself into
my arms, exclaiming,
"Oh, my dear Jeannette, what pleasure does it afford me to meet
you again. Oh! I see how it is; you are the friend of the comtesse
du Barry, and it is to you I shall owe my future good fortune, as
I do this present mark of her favor."
"No, my good Geneviève," cried I, weeping for joy, "she who now
embraces you is the comtesse du Barry."
After we had a little recovered ourselves, I took my friend by the
hand, and led her to a sofa, where we seated ourselves side by
side. Returning to the scenes of our early youth, I related to
Geneviève all that had occurred since--my adventures, faults,
and favour. When I had concluded my recital, Geneviève commenced
hers, but it was soon told. There is little to relate in the life
of a woman who has passed her days in the virtuous discharge of
Our mutual confidences being over, and having again exchanged a
most affectionate embrace, I put into the hands of my companion
a portfolio, containing 30,000 livres in bank bills. I promised
her likewise to obtain for her some lucrative situation. "Do
more than this for me!" cried Geneviève. "Since you will still
grant me your friendship, secure for me the happiness of occasionally
meeting you. I can with truth declare, that of all your proofs of
kindness and regard, that which I prefer is the pleasure of seeing you."
This ingenuous request touched my heart, and I replied to it by
fondly caressing the warm-hearted Geneviève, and assuring her that
my purse and my house should be ever open to her. We then resumed
our interesting reminiscences, and Geneviève was the first to
speak of her brother. At the name of Nicolas I felt the blood
mount to my very forehead, and an indefinable sensation passed
over me at the mention of him who had possessed my virgin love.
I strove, however, to conceal from my friend the powerful emotion
which agitated me, and I replied, with apparent tranquillity,
that I should be happy to assist her brother with the best of my
credit and influence; and I kept my word by obtaining for him,
at the solicitation, of his sister, some lucrative situation, the
exact nature of which I do not now recollect, where they resided
together in ease and comfort. I had only to recommend them to
the notice of M. de Boulogne, who felt himself much flattered at
being selected by me to make the fortunes of my two friends.
>From this time Geneviève visited me as frequently as she could,
and her society delighted me; whilst, in her conversation I found
a frankness and sincerity which I had vainly sought for at court.
She had loved me when a simple milliner, and she cherished the
same fond regard for me in my improved situation. Her friendship
has not forsaken me in my reverses; and I feel quite assured that
death only will dissolve the tender friendship which still subsists
between us. As for her brother, he spared me much shame and
confusion by never seeking my presence; a meeting with him would
indeed have overwhelmed me with painful recollections.
And now, my friend, I am about to relate to you an adventure, the
bare mention of which covers my cheek with guilty blushes; fain
would I conceal it from you, but my promise is given to lay my
whole heart before you, and it shall be done, cost what it may.
I know not why it should ever have been permitted you gentlemen
to frame laws, which, while they permit you, in the gratification
of your passions, to descend ever so low in the scale of society
without any disgrace attaching itself to you from the obscure
condition of the object of your search, to us females it is
prohibited, under penalty of incurring the utmost degradation,
to gratify the inclination of our hearts when awakened by one of
more humble rank than our own. A great lord may love a kitchen
maid, a noble duke, like M. de Villeroi, may indulge his fancy
for a waiting-woman, and yet lose no portion of his dignity, or
of the esteem in which the world holds him; but, on the other
hand, woe to the high-born dame who should receive the homage
of an obscure citizen, or the noble countess who should lend a
favourable ear to the sighs of her ; the public
voice would loud and angrily inveigh against so flagrant a breach
of decorum. And why should this be? But, my friend, do you not
see in my seeking to defend so weak a cause sufficient intimation
that such a justification involves a consciousness of requiring
it? Alas! I plead guilty, and will no longer delay the painful
confession I have to make.
Do you remember a singularly handsome young man, who, during my
abode with madame Lagarde, fascinated me till my very senses seemed
bewildered by my passion. You know how he betrayed me, and how,
through him, I was expelled the house, as well as the termination
of this foolish adventure. You are now to pass over seven or
eight years, and take your place with me in the drawing-room, in
which I stood when I rang to summon a servant to convey a letter
to the duc de Villeroi. You may remember what I told you in the
last chapter of the person who entered, of his agitation and his
blushes, and of his fixing his eyes with deep meaning upon me till
he quitted the room-this servant was Noël!
Had I listened to the dictates of prudence, I should, without
loss of time, have obtained against him a ,
which would have freed me from all chance of discovery through
his means; but I could not listen to such cool-blooded, though
cautious, suggestions. One idea only took possession of my
mind--the absurd desire to know what had become of Noël since we
separated, and by what accident I now found him wearing my livery
in the castle. With this intent I availed myself of the first
moment I was secure from interruption, to summon him to my presence.
He threw himself at my feet, imploring of me to pardon his audacity.
"Alas, madam!" said he, "I am more unfortunate than guilty. I saw
you walking some time since, and I could obtain no rest or peace
till I was fortunate enough to obtain admission to your establishment.
Punish me for my temerity if you will; expel me from the castle,
have me confined in a prison, I deserve it all; but, voluntarily,
I cannot leave this house; and if you will only permit my stay, I
solemnly vow you shall see nothing in my conduct but the zeal
of an attached and respectful servant."
I was weak enough to pardon Noël and shortly after to raise him
to the rank of , which brought him infinitely
too much about me.
Yes, my friend, the woman is, after all attempts to excuse it,
blamable for bestowing her affection on one below herself in the
scale of society. Nature herself appears to have planted in our
bosoms a kind of instinct, which warns us from it, and a prejudice
against all those who so degrade themselves. It is different
with men; they can confer rank and elevation on the beloved object.
A woman should always have reason to look up to and feel proud
of the man to whom she consigns her heart; this species of vanity
is mixed with the noblest love, and the woman who can overlook
it, acts from passion of the lowest, basest kind. How easy is it
to reason! Alas! Why have I not always acted as well as I speak.
I was thus again a second time enthralled by Noël, and much more
so, too, than I will now tell you. My faithful Henriette, whose
devoted attachment for me kept her ever watchful of my safety and
reputation, was thunderstruck at perceiving what I vainly strove
to conceal from her; and, as she has since told me, was long in
deciding whether to speak to me of the affair, when an unexpected
incident arose, which determined her, at every risk of my
displeasure, to use her endeavors to put an end to so disgraceful
a connexion, which must infallibly have ended in my disgrace.
One night, or rather midnight, all was at rest in the castle, and
I was sleeping peacefully in the arms of Noël, when all at once
I was awakened by the sudden opening of an outer door, which
announced to me the approach of the king, who had merely one
more door to open ere he would be in my apartment. Noël, terrified,
leaped quickly out of bed, and ran to seek refuge in a small
chamber adjoining where Henriette slept. Happily she was yet
awake; and, by the light of a night-lamp or recognized
Noël, who, with clasped hands, conjured her to take pity upon him.
Henriette saw the danger, and putting out her hand, seized him,
and drawing him rapidly towards her, made him lie down beside
her. Noël, struck with her goodness, was preparing to offer her
the same marks of his gratitude he had shown me of his respect;
but repulsing him, she said in a low voice, "Wretch, think not it
is on your account I thus expose my reputation; 'tis to save that
of my beloved mistress; either conduct yourself with silent respect
or you are lost." At this threat Noël 's courage melted away
and he lay still as a frightened child. "Listen," said Henriette,
"if you do not quit this place to-morrow at break of day, without
seeking to see madame again, I will denounce you to the king,
who will inflict upon you the most dreadful punishment."
Whilst these things were passing in the chamber of Henriette, I
did not feel perfectly at ease on my side, and many were the wise
reflections I made upon my folly, as well as the promises I gave
never again to expose myself to such imminent danger. Nor did my
terrors abate till after the king had quitted me. At the sound of
my bell Henriette hastened to my bed-side.
"My good Henriette," said I to her, trembling from head to foot,
"what a night of anxiety have I passed, I must indeed confess--"
"Fear not, my beloved mistress," replied she; "I will watch over
your safety, and trust to be enabled fully to provide for it."
I durst not then ask for any further explanation of her words, for
such was the ascendancy her good and steady conduct had given her
over me, that she would certainly have blamed me for my glaring
imprudence. I pressed her hand in mute thankfulness; she
comprehended my silence and left me to myself.
At the end of some days, seeing nothing of Noël, I ventured to
question her as to his fate: she then related to me all you have
been told, and added, that the day following this shameful and
unfortunate night she had lost no time in apprizing the comte
Jean of all that had occurred, who had quickly despatched Noël
out of the kingdom, furnishing him with a purse of ten thousand
livres to defray his travelling expenses. Such was the fortunate
termination of this disgraceful affair; and now, having completed
my painful confession, I will change the subject to others doubtless
more calculated to interest you than the recital of such lapses.
Madame du Barry succeeds in alienating Louis XV from the due de
Choiseul--Letter from madame de Grammont--Louis XV--The chancellor
and the countess--Louis XV and the abbé de la Ville--The maréchale
de Mirepoix and madame du Barry
Matters now assumed an air of importance. My struggle with the
des Choiseuls had become a deadly war, which could only be
terminated either by his downfall or my dismissal from court;
this latter measure was not very probable; an old man is not
easily detached from a woman whom he loves, and each day only
added to my ascendancy over the mind of the king. It is true,
that the same force of habit which enchained Louis XV to me
bound him likewise to M. de Choiseul. The idea of change terrified him;
and so great was his dread of fresh faces, that he would have
preferred dying with his old minister, to creating a younger one
who might witness his end. Happily the duke himself brought on
the crisis of his fate; his power was cramped on all sides, yet,
resolved not to lay it down till the last extremity, he sought
to stay his failing credit with the rising influence of the dauphiness.
His enemies were not slow in pointing out to the king his minister's
frequent visits and great assiduities to a foreign princess, and
enlarged upon the fatal effects this new alliance might produce
to the monarchy.
Meanwhile the chancellor, threatened by the parliaments, saw
only one way of averting the storm which was about to burst on
his head. This was to introduce into the cabinet persons entirely
devoted to himself; but to accomplish his purpose, it was necessary
to exclude the duc de Choiseul and his party. M. de Maupeou came
to me in December, and after having gently scolded me for what
he termed my carelessness, he showed me a letter from the duchesse
de Grammont, which, he said, would wonderfully aid our plans.
This letter was written to one of the presidents of the parliament
of Toulous, M. de ----. I cannot give you his name; for, although
I have preserved the original of the letter, I have mislaid the
envelope on which the address was written. I here give you a
copy of this curious and important production:--
"MONSIEUR LE PRESIDENT,-- I promised to give
you the exact details of all that passed in this gay
metropolis, and 'tis with much pleasure I sit down
to fulfill my engagement. Things go on much
as usual, or, perhaps, I should be speaking more
correctly, were I to say they are rapidly
progressing from bad to worse. We have
no longer a king in France; all power is lodged
in the hands of one sprung from the most infamous
origin; who, in conjunction with others as
intriguing as herself, seeks only to ruin the
kingdom, and to degrade it in the eyes of
"The noble firmness of sovereign courts is
odious to people of this class; thus you may
imagine the detestation in which they regard
the candid and loyal conduct of the duke. I
n the hopes of procuring the dismissal of my
brother, they have chosen for his successor
wretch loaded with crimes, a coward, an
extortioner, a murderer--the duc d'Aiguillon.
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