Page images
PDF
EPUB

by the Duke of Chartres and Madame de Thiange ; who invited them with true tradesmanlike civility to walk in and look at their wares. In the next was the Dutchess and Madame de Chevreux, the former being too young to keep shop with a man; and in the third stood, soliciting custom, the Dauphin of France and Madame de Montespan.

The travellers wandered on to the fourth shop, where the Duke of Maine, a son of the king, was joking and laughing with his friends who came to patronise him. His companion, they were told, was the Marchioness of Maintenon ; but it was some time before they could see her face. They waited patiently, however, till she turned round, for it was here that they were to draw. The Marchioness was at last at liberty to attend to them, and Agnes desired her husband to produce the ticket. He did not answer; he scarcely seemed to breathe ; he stood gazing at the face before him like a man in a dream, and at last passed his hand before his eyes as if to drive away some spectral illusion. A strange smile, which Agnes could not comprehend, lighted up the face of the Marchioness of Maintenon, while she said, in a low tone of voice-

“I need not ask this time how you have got on in the lottery of the world, for I see you have drawn a prite! Come, let us try what fortune will send you in the Lottery of Jewels ;' and, without waiting for the ceremony of drawing, she threw round Agnes's neck a chain of gold and gems of extraordinary magnificence.

" Adieu," continued the Marchioness ; “ repair to the royal chapel on Sunday at noon, to return God thanks for the success of your mission, and on the following day leave Paris. Go; be good and be happy in the station allotted to you!"

When they had left the hall, Agnes's wonder and delight found vent in words.

“What a lovely--what an interesting--what a majestic woman !” cried she. • Where, when, and how did you know her ?''

“In Martinique,” said Frederic, lost in a revery; "she was a forsaken girl-a poor white little slave, starved and beaten—"

Surely you dream! you never were in Martinique. Tell me really where you knew her."

" On the farm De Neuillant, where she watched poultry from daybreak, and was thankful for a little fruit or cream, which I gave her to make up her coarse and scanty breakfast."

“ Is it possible ? and did you never see her again till now ?" “ Yes. She was the wife, and then the widow of the burlesque poet Scarron, soliciting a miserable pension from the charity of the king. Good beavens, what a world is this !”

On Sunday they went to the chapel, according to the Marchioness's desire, although with no intention of joining in the service which their religion denounced as profane. The chapel was crowded with nobility, but neither royal party nor Madame de Maintenon had yet arrived ; and the strangers employed the interval in asking questions respecting the localities of the place. Among other things supposed to be worthy of note, the pews of the dauphiness and princesses were pointed out to them, and those of the king and queen, all of which were separate. The queen's, they were told, had never been opened since her death.

A stir was now heard, indicative of the ceremony with which the earthly potentate was coming to pay his homage at the footstool of the King of kings. Among the royal party, the splendid figure of Louis XIV. was conspicuous ; and all eyes were withdrawn from the cross and fixed upon the prince. He walked majestically on till he arrived at the 'queen's pew, and with his own hand opened the door. The most extraordinary sensation was created among the courtiers by this action; and the rustle of robes and the catching of breaths, were heard throughout the chapel like a sudden but momentary gustof wind. The next instant, all was hushed as death.

The king then led a lady by the hand into the pew of the royal consort, and she knelt upon the cushion. Few had observed her face, or if they had, believed their eyes ; but when she rose up, it was seen that she was the Marchioness of Maintenon !

“Let us away," whispered Frederic, suddenly=5 let us away, beloved Agnes, while I retain my senses ! Let us go back to Holland, to our snug counting-house, which we are now so well able to keep open.

Make haste--make haste! mercy on us! if the tide of fortune sets in this way, you and I may be caught up before we are aware, and set on a throne ourselves !"

HISTORICAL SUMMARY.

EIGHTEENTH CENTURY.

Louis XIV. ob. 1715. , Louis XV. 1774.. Louis XVI. 1793.

REPUBLIC.

The King of Spain having left his crown to a grandson of Louis XIV., the latter prince armed himself anew to take possession of the legacy; and at the same time roused the wearied lion of England again, by declaring himself for the son of James II. A son of the Count de Soissons, a young lad whom Louis despised so much that he is said to have refused him a regiment, went over to the service of the emperor, and became famous by his victories, under the name of Prince Eugene. He gained great advantage in Savoy over the veteran Villeroi. The Duke of Savoy abandoned Louis ; and Marlborough triumphed in the Netherlands. Villars, however, vanquished the Imperialists at Hochstet, where the French were beaten in turn in the following year by Eugene and Marlborough. [A. D. 1703.]

The English took Gibraltar and Barcelona ; Vendome, the grandson of Henry IV., repulsed Eugene in Italy; and Marlborough gained the decisive victory of Ramillies over Villeroi. [A. D. 1706.] The French army was beaten at Turin; Toulon was besieged ; the archduke was crowned at Madrid ; and Louis's protégé, Philip V. was within a hair's breadth of losing the throne of Spain. [A. D. 1707.] Prince Eugene rushed like a whirlwind from north to south, and from south to north. He took Lille in conjunction with Marlborough ; and Louis XIV. demanded peace. [A. D. 1709.]

The terms offered him, however, were too humiliating ; France was ruined, at any rate ; and Louis persevered. All was unavailing. The army, under the command of Villars, was beaten, with immense loss to both parties, at Malplaquet: and the king again condescended to ask for peace. This time he was refused. [A. D. 1710.]

Affairs in Spain were retrieved by the successes of Vendome ; Marlborough retired in disgrace with ministers, and a truce was made with England. Villars, having surprised Eugene at Denain, gained one of those unexpected and extraordinary victories which finish wars, and save or ruin empires. Peace was concluded at Utrecht; and afterward, by Villars and Eugene, at Radstadt. [A. D. 1713.)

The death of his son and grandson completed the misfortunes of Louis XIV. [A. D. 1715.) He died at the age of seventy-seven, after having reigned seventy-two years, leaving behind him a debt of two thousand six hundred millions of francs. This prince, who caused the death of more than a million men, and who at one time would have had altars erected to him, had such things been in fashion, died in contempt, the people insulting his remains.

VOL. II.--22

Louis XV. was only five years of age when he ascended the throne ; and the Duke of Orleans, in spite of the testament of the late king, was made regent. The majestic foolery of the last reign, in which vice paid the homage of hypocrisy lo virtue, was at an end; and the people rushed from the shackles of ceremony and etiquette into licentious exabroad. No matter what were the departments which they took, or the course of studies they adopted, their business was to teach people to think, and they made prodigious scholars.

cess.

A war with Spain filled up a part of this period. A wandering Scot, called John Law, passed over into France, to escape from justice and push his fortune. He turned the heads of the people by a financial scheme of almost incredible grandeur; and when the phrensy abated, they found that they were ruined. In the mean time, the Duke of Orleans did just what he pleased; for nothing was thought of, from one end of the country to the other, but how to get hold of Law's paper, and after it was got hold of, how to turn it into cash: the latter was the more difficult.

The regent died. [A. D. 1723.] Under the Duke of Bourbon, new persecutions took place against the Protestants; but under the milder ministry of Fleury, who succeeded, France enjoyed a long peace. The expulsion, however, of Stanislaus, King of Poland, and father-in-law of Louis, at last occasioned a war with the empire. A decisive campaign was made in Italy, and the French came off gainers of Lorraine. The next war was not so fortunate. [A. D. 1740.] In it, France figured as the ally of Prussia and the Elector of Bavaria, who had set up claims to the empire. In spite of the victory of Fontenay, gained over the English and Dutch, who were arrayed on the opposite side, the party of Maria Theresa conquered, and peace was concluded at Aix-la-Chapelle. [A. D. 1748.]

War recommenced. [A. D. 1749.) In America, France lost all her possessions except New Orleans ; and in Europe, she was beaten frequently by Frederick of Prussia.

In other respects the reign of Louis XV. was a very important one. Men are not ashamed of being governed by a tyrant of genius; but to be ridden to death-by a blockhead is provoking in the highest degree. When the people saw the same Louis who spurned and trampled them, giving himself up habitually to idiot debauchery, their eyes were opened, and they said one to another, like Caliban

1 What a thrice double ass
Was I, to take this drunkard for a god,
And worship this dull fool!"

The minister, Choiseul, however, did all he could for the external honour of the country: he conquered Corsica ; and the Jesuits, who had killed a king in Portugal, and who were afterward suspected of directing against Louis tho dagger of Damiens, were expelled. (A. D. 1774.] When the people once begin to think, there is no stopping them ; more especially if they have among them some higher spirits capable of leading their thoughts from particulars to generalities, and of erecting out of opinions, which are liable to disappear and be forgotten with their immediate causes, a system of general applicability. This period was fertile in such men. If the harvest was great, the labourers were not few. In the various departments of mind there, were Lamotte, Montesquieu, Fontenelle, Voltaire, Masillon, Bayle, D'Alembert, Diderot, Duclos, Mabey, Condillac, Marmontel, Helvetius, Raynal, and Rousseau. These were the schoolinasters that were

Louis XVI. called to the ministry two men of talent and virtue, Turgot and Malesherbes, who, both from policy and inclination, thought it advisable to give way to the evident spirit of the age. They proposed, among other things, to destroy the vestiges of feudality ; to suppress monasteries, which from their nature must be either hospitals of fools or knaves; to recall the Protestants, and to establish liberty of conscience. A caba was formed against them the court, and the fated king gave thein up.

At this period, the English colonies in America, being now strong enough to go alone, felt within them the stirrings of the spirit of freedom, and resolved to detach themselves from their parent. Although this is a natural and inevitable change which takes place in political society, it may yet be put off, or modified, by good management and other circumstances. Here, however, there was nothing of the kind. The pretext afforded to the colonists seemed to have been given purposely; and Franklin, the apostle of American liberty among the gentiles, found an echo to his call in every generous bosom in France. La Fayette, glowing with all the beautiful enthusiasm of high-minded youth, crossed the ocean at his own expense. [A. D. 1778.] Even the government suffered itself to be led into the affray from a desire of humbling the pride of England ; and the result at length was, the treaty of Paris, by which the independence of the United States was recognised in Europe. [A. D. 1783.]

The immediate consequence of the war to France was a scarcity of money; and Necker, the able and honest minister of finance, showed, in a publication, the means of obviating it, by an equalization of burthens on all classes of society. The nobility and clergy, of course, were shocked at this strange and unpolite disclosure ; the one cried “ treason!" and the other “sacrilege !" and Necker fell. Then came Colonne, a sort of quack, who professed to be able to do without affronting the privileged orders, and without oppressing the people ; he was at last obliged to call an assembly of notables to demand money ; it was refused, and he fell. [A. D. 1787.] The obstinacy of the parlia. ment exiled it to Troyes; and when it returned to Paris it was still more unaccommodating. The Duke of Orleans joined the opposition, and was banished; two counsellors were imprisoned. A plan for humbling the parliament was detected and exposed; the people applauded ; Paris was in a ferment, and the provinces slightly agitated. Necker was at length recalled, and the States-General announced for 1789.

The grand question now arose of “equal representation," and must arise in every political society, and be settled at one time or other, either by blood or reason. It was known well enough before, that the first and second States were the nobility and the clergy ; but what was this tiers-etat? It was the PEOPLE. The people demanded to be represented as fully as the other orders. Clubs and other political societies were instituted throughout the country. [A. D. 1789.] Arguments elicited new light, and the light spread. Every body knew what he was about, and many saw very clearly what was coming.

Versailles was chosen as the scene of the States-General, because

« PreviousContinue »