Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

presses the greatest admiration of her, and the most entire devotion to her service; but his holy gallantry is of a very different complexion from Abelard's,-for it is the graces of the spirit alone that he has in contemplation. He appears to have made a visit to the Paraclete, and to have returned impressed with a wonderful reverence for her sanctity and talents. * We know not, however, if the minute particulars respecting Abelard, which he details in one of the letters, are wholly due to pious enthusiasm. The good abbot probably felt, that he could not more acceptably serve his venerable sister than by dwelling on a subject so dear to the woman as well as the nun.

La Providence qui dispose de tout avec sagesse, en nous refusant cette faveur (viz. qu’Heloise fût de l'ordre de Cluni), nous en a accordé une semblable, en nous envoyant un autre vous-même ; c'est assez designer le Maître, t ce grand sectateur de la philosophie de Jesus-Christ. J'ai incessamment son nom à la bouche, et toujours je le prononce avec un nouveau respect. La divine Providence l'avoit conduit à Cluni dans les derniers années de sa vie ; c'est le plus precieux present qu'elle pouvoit nous faire. Il me faudroit un long discours pour vous rendre l'impression qu'a faite sur tous nos frères sa conduite aussi humble qu'edifiante: Non, je ne crois pas avoir un son semblable en humilité, tant pour les vêtemens que pour le maintien ; je l'obligeois à tenir le premier rang parmi notre nombreuse communauté, et il paroissoit le dernier de tous par la pauvreté de son habit. Dans les processions comme il marchoit devant moi, suivant la coutume, j'admirois comment un homme d'une si grande reputation pouvoit s'abaisser de la sorte et se mépriser lui-même. Il observoit dans la nourriture et dans tous les besoins du corps la même simplicité que dans ses habits, et condamnoit par ses discours et par son exemple, non-seulement le superflu, mais tout-ce qui n'est pas absolument necessaire. Il lisoit souvent, prioit beaucoup, gardoit un silence perpetuel, si ce n'est quand il étoit forcé de parler, ou dans les conferences, ou dans les sermons qu'il faisoit à la communauté. Il offroit frequemment le sacrifice, et même presque tous les jours, depuis que par mes lettres et par mes sollicitations il avoit été reconcilié avec le Saint-Siége. Que dirai-je davantage ? Son esprit, son cæur, toutes ses facultés etoient occupées de la meditation, ou de l'exposition et de l'enseignement des verités de la religion ou de la philosophie.'

* It is remarkable, that her person is by no means spoken of in raptures by him who should have prized it most highly. “ Cum per faciem non esset infima, per abundantiam litterarum erat suprema," says Abelard himself.

+ It was thus that Abelard was always named by the singular ve. neration of the age in which he lived, notwithstanding the broils is which his temper involved him.

He then describes his having been removed when he fell ill, for a change of air, to the neighbourhood of Chalons. His malady increased; but he continued the same holy life; and, at last, yielded up his breath in the midst of pious men, and in the performance of devout offices. • Avec quelle pieté' (adds the good Abbot), 6 avec quels sentimens de religion il fit d'abord sa confession de foi, puis celle de ses péchés ! Avec quelle sainte avidité il reçut le saint viatique ! Avec quelle foi il a recommandé à notre Seigneur son ame et son corps ! Il y a eu autant de temoins de ces pieux sentimens, qu'il y a de religieux dans le monastère de Saint Marcel. Ainsi (he concludes) termina sa carriere ce fameux Docteur, qui du haut de sa chaire a fait retentir sa voix jusqu'aux extremités de la terre.' We trust it may not be deemed a crime in the courts of romance, if we add, that this distinguished sage and gallant, in point of fact, died of the itch or mange. Plus solito scabie et quibusdam corporis infirmitatibus gravabatur,' says the account in his works. It is remarkable, that no notice is taken of Astrolabe by Bayle ;-Moreri makes mention of him.

The next of these pieces is a dissertation apparently by the editor himself, upon that quæstio vexata the Man in the Iron Mask. All the evidence upon this subject is collected, and the different opinions are stated and discussed. Anong these, one is truly astonished to find, that one so absurd as the conjecture of its being the Duke of Monmouth could have found a single supporter among men of any pretensions to historical knowledge; for none but the class of literary men, of course, ever took part in this controversy. The prisoner was detained in custody from 1661 till the time of his death in 1703; while Monmouth was going about in the English court and army till 1685, when he was publickly executed in London; and, supposing the difficulty of the date to be got over, what possible reason could the French Court have for confining him in order to secure the tranquillity of England and strengthen the title of King William and Queen Anne, with both of whom France was at war,—with the latter, indeed, at the moment of the prisoner's death ?-Common sense rejects some of the other explanations as plainly as the most ordinary historical knowledge does the supposition of Monmouth. Thus, who can listen to the notion of a certain Duc de Beaufort second son of the Duc de Vendome, a bastard of Henry IV. by the celebrated Gabrielle? Still more ridiculous is the fancy broached by Mr Dutens in his Correspondance Interceptée, that it was a minister of the Duke of Mantua, who had shown great skill in negotiations against the French interests, and whom, on that account, the French ambassador carried off, having invited him to a shooting party. It is manifest that such theories would be absurd in the highest degree, even if supported by the most plausible appearances of external evidence; because nothing can overcome the incredibility of the Court'taking the steps known to have been pursued towards this unhappy personage, without some adequate motive;--and that can only be found in the supposition of his having been a man of such importance as to create extreme alarm to the Government. All the probabilities are certainly in favour of his being a brother of Louis XIV., so like him that his resemblance would have made the dangerous disclosure. But whether he was a twin brother legitimately born, or an adulterous child of Anne of Austria, or her natural son born so soon after Louis XIV.'s death as to render his legitimacy possible, we can have no means of deciding. Our author inclines towards the last opinion. The solution of the question is not of very high importance : But it is of great moment to reflect on the state of a country subject to a government like that which could with impunity shut up in distant dungeons, and afterwards in the heart of its metropolis, during a period of above forty years, an individual so distinguished, that his jailor, always a person of high rank and trust, served him with his own hands; that during so long a time this victim should have been compelled to hide his face * on pain of instant death, which the guard had orders to inflict by firing on him when he went to mass if he showed himself; that no public mention should ever have been made of the incident, until Voltaire, many years afterwards, told the story; that though many persons saw acts of violence committed in securing him, the subject should have so long been confined to whispers; and that several persons should have been found dead suddenly, after accidentally being placed in situations where they might have made the important discovery. This is the state of things to which many of our wise politicians bid us cast our eyes as tranquil and happy; this is the kind of government which is deemed by them as far preferable to any change, and most of all to the change effected by the Revolution.

This dissertation upon the Iron Mask is followed by a number of short pieces, containing anecdotes and reflections upon various political and historical subjects. There is none of these tracts that require particular attention, unless it be one upon the fortunes amassed by Ministers of State in France. An exact calculation makes the sums got and spent by Cardinal Mazarin during his administration, including his buildings, foundations,

* The mask was, not of iron, but of black velvet clasped with steel and a hinge, by means of which he could eat.

portions to relations, and money left to his heirs, amount to the enormous sum of 8,333,3331. Sterling, (two hundred millions of li, vres). Dubois, at his death, enjoyed an income of above 110,0001. a year, in which our author includes a pension of 40,000l. from England, which he appears, we know not upon what authority, to think was unquestionably paid to this profligate wretch, How nobly does Fleury appear among such scenes of rapacity, confining himself to 50001. a year, with all the revenues of the State and Church at his disposal during a long and prosperous ministry! It seems even the virtuous Sully had above 30,000l. a year, in places and church preferment held by him notwithstanding his being a protestant; a sum equal to 60 or 70,0001. in the present day. Colbert, from the many high offices united in his person, is reckoned to have had nearly as much; beside the large sums which he occasionally received from the King, and which were equal to his other appointments. Le Tellier and Louvois had revenues and emoluments upon the same enormous scale; and our author estimates the gains of five ministers includ. ing Colbert, during forty-two years of Louis XIV's reign, at two hundred millions. These men are above all suspicion of having owed their fortune to peculation or illegal exactions; but the result is, that they and Mazarin together, received from the people of France for their ministerial services about seventeen millions sterling, being a sum equivalent perhaps to fifty millions in this country and at the present day. A cardinal who had no legitimate family whose inheritance could gratify his vanity, might now and then seek to perpetuate his name by endowments of a charitable and religious kind; but laymen spent the sums thus obtained in the usual ways. Thus, Louvois spent above half a million upon a house. It is probable that Milton may have had these things in his eye, rather than what he saw at home, when he said that the trappings of a monarchy would suffice to set up a commonwealth. It seems, however, that such gains were reserved for the Prime Minister;-in Louis XV.'s reign, at least, ve find the salary of Secretary of State only about 60001. a year, and those of Comptroller-General, Chancellor, and Keeper of the Seals, at from 5500l. to 6500l. .

We now come to the last, the longest, and by far the most curious of these miscellaneous pieces. It is a kind of irregular Journal kept by a certain Madame du Hausset, femme-de-chambre of the celebrated Madame Pompadour, and occupies about 170 pages of this volume. The Editor properly introduces it by stating the manner of obtaining it. M. Marigni, it seems, brother of the royal favourite, was one morning burning some old papers, when a friend of his, M. de Senac de Meilhan, called

upon him. The former happening to say, “Here is a journal of iny sister's waiting-maid, who was a very worthy person, '-M. de Senac saved it from the flames, and asked him for it, to which he assented. Mr Crawford purchased it from this gentleman; and found it ill written and badly spelt, without any arrangement, and, as might be supposed, full of defects in style; for, though a gentlewoman, Mad. du Hausset was but ill educated. In the present publication nothing has been changed except the orthography, and some of the proper names, which were confounded. She begins by mentioning, that slie kept the Journal at the request of a friend, who was a woman of talents, and who wished her to write a book after the manner of Mad. de Caylus's Souvenirs. Her intention was to give her friend the Journal, that it might be made more like its model. But .we cannot help rejoicing that things took another course; for the work appears now in all the simplicity of its original composition; and one advantage, among many, which it derives from thence, is the air of naïveté and honesty that pervades it all, and gives the reader an entire confidence in its truth.

Of course we do not mean to give any general account of the King's private habits-of his decorous visits in secret to Mad. de Pompadour-of his seraglio at the Parc aux Cerfs, where he generally carried on intrigues of an inferior description-of his mistress's alarms lest other persons of rank might supplant her, while she had hardly ever any jealousy of those low amoursor of the kind of life generally which was led by the principal persons who are mentioned in this piece. We shall only select some of the most interesting particulars which are to be found in it; preferring those which throw light either upon remarkable men, or upon the administration of the French government in former times, to those passages which only gratify an idle, curiosity.

One of the fortunate circumstances attending this journal is, that Mad. du Hausset happened to be mistress of the celebrated Quesnay, the founder of the sect of the Economists. He was, as is well known, a distinguished physician, and began to practise physic at Nantes, from whence he accompanied the Duc de Villeroi to Paris, as his medical attendant. There, as Mr Crawford informs us in a valuable note, he happened to be in the Duke's carriage when Mad. d'Estrades, M. de Pompadour's favourite, and d'Argenson's mistress, was taken ill with an epileptic attack; and being called in, he concealed the nature of the malady with such discretion from all the family, that she recommended him to her powerful friend, who made him her physician, and obtained for him a place at Court, as well as

« AnteriorContinuar »