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nephew, with Marie Anne ; but in vain. Whether the wily minister had other projects, or whether he considered that, with a fortune of four hundred thousand crowns, and the profits accruing from the government of Auvergne, his niece was fairly entitled to choose her own husband, it is certain that he turned a deaf ear to the proposal, and, in spite of the hints of his confidential friend and counsellor, Ondedei, who, either from interest or conviction, warmly supported the cause of the Marshal, “ died, and made no sign.” Now, however, the case was altered. Ondedei, profiting by his influence over Anne of Austria, easily persuaded her to take the affair in hand; and the young lady herself being nothing loth, she was shortly after betrothed to Maurice Godefroy de la Tour, Duke of Bouillon ; and the marriage was finally solemnised at the Hôtel de Soissons in presence of the King and the two Queens, April 22, 1662.
Six years previously Marie Anne had lost both her parents, her father dying in Rome in 1656, and her mother in Paris at the close of the same year. Of the latter, who appears to have been a most exemplary woman, Madame de Motteville says :-“Madame de Mancini
" was universally respected and esteemed at Court ; she lived principally in retirement, and devoted herself wholly to the interests and judicious superintendence of her family.” Thus deprived of her natural protectors, it was fortunate for the youthful duchess that the husband selected for her, although they had scarcely a taste or sympathy in common, was a brave and honourable soldier, who, unlike Armand de Mazarin, the miserly tyrant to whose unintelligible whims and caprices her sister Hortense was perpetually subjected, invariably treated her kindly, and, luckily for his own peace of mind, had not a spark of jealousy in his composition. To him the pomp of Versailles and the gaieties of Fontainebleau were alike insupportable ; literature and the arts were to this true son of Mars a sealed letter, and he gladly embraced every opportunity of escaping from the trammels of society, and seeking refuge in the more congenial atmosphere of the camp and barrack-room. Madame de Bouillon, meanwhile, was perfectly contented with her lot; surrounded by a circle of poets and wits, such as Benserade, Segrais, Ménage, and Madame Deshoulières, she presided in her hotel of the Rue Neuve des Petits Champs over a miniature academy, from whose sittings the profane were at first rigidly excluded. She mixed freely in the diversions of the Court, and continued to figure in the ballets successively produced; her graceful vivacity being especially admired in the Birth of Venus, in which she represented a Nereid.
In January, 1665, her eldest son was born; and soon after, the duke, more restless than ever, started on an expedition to Hungary, and joined Montecuculli in a campaign against the Turks. During his absence, his wife retired to one of the family estates at Château Thierry, and there made the acquaintance of La Fontaine, then in his fortyfourth year, and still deeply affected by the disgrace of his liberal Mecænas, the superintendent Fouquet. He was at that time but little known, and had as yet only published a single volume, containing Joconde, and a few miscellaneous poems. Naturally indolent and easily discouraged, he required the fostering influence of a kindred spirit to stimulate him to exertion, and the sympathising patronage of the young Duchess, who from the first felt warmly interested in his favour, was therefore a godsend to him. To her intuitive perception of his merits, and of the peculiar line of composition most suited to his talent, we are indebted not merely for most of his admirable fables, but also for those exquisite, though by no means immaculate, versions of Boccaccio and Poggio, the piquancy of which charmed even the discreet Madame de Sévigné, and at once established the hitherto contested celebrity of their author. In less than two years after his presentation to Madame de Bouillon, he completed and published the first six books of his fables, and no inconsiderable portion of his Contes, each of which had been previously read to and approved by her; we can fancy the poet reciting the latest production of his muse in presence of his châtelaine and her attendant ladies, and thus realising in the princely domain of Château Thierry a new Decameron. Nowhere, indeed, could he have found a fairer or a more attentive auditor. Marie Anne was not, like her sister Hortense, a classic beauty ; she was pretty rather than handsome, and the charm of her physiognomy consisted in its ever-vorying expression. Her eyes sparkled with animation, and every movement of her elastic figure was marked by feminine grace and queenly dignity; her feet and hands were perfect, her long and luxuriant hair reached almost to her ankle, and completed an ensemble which the “ Fabulist (as she was wont to designate him) has so graphically described :
Peut-on s'ennuyer en des lieux
D'une aimable et vive princesse
On his return from the wars, M. de Bouillon rejoined his wife, and accompanied her to Paris, La Fontaine following in their train. Once more installed in her town residence, the Duchess presented the poet to her sisters Olympe and Marie, to her brother the Duke of Nevers (himself no mean proficient in the gentle craft), and to her brother-in
law the Duke d'Albret, the future Cardinal de Bourbon. Nay, more, at her solicitation he was appointed gentleman of the chamber to the fascinating Henrietta of England, Duchess of Orleans. From this date the Hôtel de Bouillon counted among its constant frequenters not only such literary magnates as Corneille, La Fontaine, and Molière, but also a miscellaneous assemblage of contemporary celebrities, including Turenne, who gravely listened to the discussions which the fair hostess delighted in provoking, and in which she herself took a prominent part. Occasionally, however, her zeal for the interests of her habitués got the better of her critical judgment; as in the case of Pradon, who had been introduced into the sanctum by Madame Deshoulières, and whom it was then the fashion in certain circles to support as a rival to Racine. Both writers had chosen “Phèdre” as the subject of a tragedy, and whether from an instinctive antipathy (like that manisested in a lesser degree by Madame de Sévigné) to a rising dramatist pronounced by his partisans superior to Corneille, or from an exaggerated idea of the talent of Pradon, Madame de Bouillon determined that Racine's piece should not succeed, and ensured its temporary downfall by hiring the entire theatre for six nights at a cost of fifteen. thousand livres. This triumph was destined to be short-lived. The public, as soon as an opportunity was allowed them of judging for themselves, absolutely declined to ratify the verdict of the coterie, and at once recognised the beauties of the unjustly condemned masterpiece; whereas the tragedy of Pradon, although extolled to the skies on its first production, barely survived the ordeal of fifteen performances, and was then consigned for ever to the tomb of the Capulets. This ill-advised attempt to depreciate real genius—the great literary mistake of Madame de Bouillon—was, in every sense of the word, a misfortune for Pradon, whose name, though he subsequently proved himself capable of better things, and with the aid of the actor Baron obtained for his Régulus an honourable place in the repertory of the Comédie Française, has nevertheless been handed down to posterity as that of a sorry poet, who in a moment of ambition had forgotten that
Tel brille au second rang qui s'éclipse au premier.
Shortly after this regrettable incident, while the conspiring party were still rejoicing in Racine's discomfiture, a circumstance occurred which foi a time interrupted their meetings, and cast an unexpected cloud over the gaieties of the Hôtel Bouillon. The lively Duchesspiqued, some say, by the indifference of her liege lord—had listened, perhaps too attentively, to the honeyed words and tender protestations of attachment of Count de Louvigny, a younger son of Marshal Grammont, and one of the handsomest cavaliers of the day; her husband's
family, and more particularly Turenne, took the alarm, and by way of precaution, obliged her to pass a certain interval in retirement at the convent of Montreuil. About the same period, her sisters Hortense and Marie were also, for identical reasons, in seclusion; and the former is reported to have declared that, what with playing tricks on the nuns, and disturbing the equanimity of the abbess by her irreverent sallies, she never had a moment's ennui. Very possibly, if Marie Anne had been questioned as to her personal experiences of conventual life, she might have given a similar answer.
She had not long emerged from her retreat, when she found herself exposed to a far more serious imputation, arising from a visit imprudently paid by her to La Voisin, then enjoying an unenviable notoriety as a supposed professor of the magic art, and a skilful compounder of poisons. Like her father, who had a passion for drawing horoscopes, and is said to have foretold the date of his own death and that of his wife, and her uncle the Cardinal, whose faith in astrology nothing conld shake, the Duchess was naturally superstitious, and unable to resist the temptation of testing the knowledge of futurity popularly ascribed to the sorceress, and more particularly to one of her acolytes named Sage, of whose mysterious acquaintance with "things not generally known” strange stories had been related to her. She therefore, accompanied by the Duke of Vendôme and the Abbé de Chaulieu, repaired in a coach-and-six to La Voisin's abode in the Temple, and the motive of her coming having been stated to Sage, the latter proposed that one of the party should write certain questions on a sheet of paper, promising to reply to them. Vendôme consented, took a pen and inquired whether the Duke of Beaufort was really dead, and where the Duke of Nevers was at that moment. The paper having been sealed up, Sage tied a silken thread round it, sprinkled some sulphur over the cover, and charged the Duke to burn it himsclf, saying to Madame de Bouillon that on her return home she would find the answer in a porcelain vase on her table. On arriving, she examined the vase in question, and found nothing; upon which she treated the whole affair as a ridiculous imposition, and alluded to her disappointment in a letter to her husband, who was then absent with the army. Nevertheless, La Voisin having been arrested by the police, the Duchess was summoned to appear before the Chambre Ardente at the Arsenal (January 29, 1680), in order to explain the motive of her visit to the Temple, and to answer a charge made by Sage that he had been required to supply her with poison to be administered to the Duke, that she might be enabled to marry her nephew, the Duke of Vendôme. Madame de Sévigné gives a graphic account of the proceedings.
“ This is (she says) what I hear on good authority : Madame de
Bouillon entered the room like a little queen, took her seat on a chair which had beon prepared for her, and, instead of replying to the first question addressed to her, demanded that what she was about to say might be written down, namely, that she came there out of respect for the King's order, and not for the “Chambre," whose authority she declined to acknowledge, as derogatory to the privilege of the ducal rank.' This was written down, word for word; she then took off her glove, and displayed a beautifully shaped hand. She answered every question truly, even when asked her age. “Are you acquainted with La Vigoureux?' 'No.' With La Voisin ?' 'Yes.' Why did you wish to get rid of your
husband ?' Get rid of him ! You have only to ask him if he believes it; he gave me his arm to the door of this room.' Why, then, did you visit La Voisin ?' 'Because I was curious to see the spirits she had promised to show me; such a sight was well worth the journey.' •Did you not offer the woman a bag of money ?' She replied in the negative, preserving throughout an ironical and haughty tone. "Well, gentlemen, is that all you have to say to me?' · Yes, madame.' She then rose, and as she left the room remarked aloud : • Really, I should never have thought that men in their senses conld have asked such silly questions!'”
This interrogatory was the only one to which the Duchess was subjected, the absurdity of the charge against her being universally acknowledged.* Louis the Fourteenth, however, displeased at the publicity given to the affair, exiled her to Nérac; but soon after allowed her to return. From that time she rarely went to Versailles ; and, on the few occasions when she appeared there, horrified the obsequious courtiers by the liberty of her speech, and her utter disregard, even in the royal presence, of all ceremony. This independence was hardly calculated to win the favour of a monarch accustomed to the most abject submission on the part of those around him; and her sudden departure for London without permission, in July, 1687, furnished him with a long-wished-for opportunity of effectually delivering himself in future from so unwelcome a visitor. Fifteen years had elapsed since she and her sister Hortense had met; they had always been on the best of terms, and the latter, in her repeated attempts to escape from the persecutions of M. de Mazarin, had invariably found an able and willing coadjutress in Marie Anne. It was, therefore, natural that the accession of so charming a recruit to the little circle of
* An anecdote, popularly current at the time, but possibly apocryphal, may be inserted here. Among other questions addressed to her by the members of the tribunal, the Counsellor of State, La Reynie, is reported to have asked her if she had seen the devil? “No," she replied, looking him full in the face, “but I see him now."