« PreviousContinue »
up the instances he now quotes, would have shown him exactly the same difficulties with mayors and aldermen, not in London alone, but in many other seaports during the Seven Years War, and at least one instance of the pressed men taking violent possession of a tender from Hull on her way to the Thames, running her in-shore, and making their escape. But what is really the most extraordinary part of the chapter is that Sir George implies throughout that the action of the press was illegal, supported only by the prerogative : extraordinary, for he must know that a press was never ordered without parlia– mentary sanction, and was, from the earliest ages, the constitutional method of manning the navy. The need for it at this time was, he thinks, the fault, nay, the crime of the Minister “who through many years of peace forgot the future probability of a war, and left every precaution alone until it was too late to act without violating humanity.” It is, however, a fault for which Sandwich cannot fairly be blamed more severely than Sir Robert Walpole in 1739, Mr. Pitt in 1793, and more than one Prime Minister or First Lord of the Admiralty in the nineteenth century. Sir George is especially severe on Sandwich for reducing the strength of the navy in 1774. What, then, does he think of the still greater reduction made by Pitt in 1792 The blame ought more justly to fall on the Parliament, and, behind it, the nation, which made and is apt still to make retrenchment, without any care for efficiency, a condition of office. Sandwich's crime was not the open reduction of the navy, but the misapplication, amounting to something very like malversation, of the money voted ; the assigning contracts and appointing to offices, not with an eye to the public service, but to the advancement of his party and in payment for votes. Hence, when the pinch came, the navy was destitute of ships, of stores, of munitions of war, of victuals; and the honour and the interests of the country had to be defended with rotten ships,” rigged with worn-out rope, and victualled with putrid beef and animated biscuit. Subordinates, for their own selfish gain, had always been guilty of these crimes, and it had been the endeavour of many chiefs of the Department to prevent them ; but as indirectly conniving at them, Sandwich stands alone on an eminence of guilt which dwarfs the insolence and incompetence of Germain, fatal as these undoubtedly were. More than to any one man, the loss of the American Colonies must be attributed to Sandwich; but Sir George Trevelyan, in his wrath against the King and his Government, has not recognised that, and in blaming him for faults which were none of his, he virtually acquits the greatest administrative criminal of our modern history.
* The Royal George was one, but only one of these. As she happened to choose one of our own roadsteads to fall to pieces in, her loss attracted more attention and might have brought ruin to some subordinates of the Navy Office, had they not succeeded in putting abroad a tale for the land-lubbers about “a land breeze” which “shook the shrouds,” and in preventing all attempts to raise the wreck.
And not only in this. Everywhere he is so determined to besmirch the King and the Ministry that he continually loses his balance and permits himself to make statements—such as that 29 to 79, in a division, is “three out of eight”—or to leave inferences—such as that Lord Albemarle, “who had played trap-ball with a Charles Fox,” was a contemporary, though, in fact, he was only seven when Charles Fox died—which his calmer judgment would certainly condemn. And surely his sense of humour must have been dormant when he wrote of the joy of a distinguished Frenchman at the fall of Lord North's Ministry, “because liberty would henceforward be secure in the one great country of Europe which was constitutionally governed"; or of Frederic the Great's satisfaction at seeing England, also on the fall of the Ministry, “taking a continuous and intelligent interest in continental movements, commanding the esteem and confidence of her neighbours and able, with all her enormous resources well in hand, to make her influence decisively felt.” Surely it is quite conceivable that the Abbé Morellet, as a Frenchman, and Frederic the King of Prussia, were both very well pleased at the staggering blow which the loss of the Colonies was to England, without assuming the truth of all that their courtesy or their cynicism thought fit to write to English correspondents. But throughout the volumes there is the same want of appreciation, the same misunderstanding or misinterpretation of motives and of facts. We do not in the least doubt the author's perfect honesty of purpose ; but if he again, in cold blood, re-reads his own work, we venture to think that he will find much, very much, in it which might properly be classed among Punch's “things which one would wish to have said differently.”
J. K. LAUGHTON.
HISTORICAL NOTES ON THE ELYSEE AND ITS INHABITANTS
IN 1718 the Comte d'Evreux, second son of the Duc de Bouillon, received as a gift from King Louis XV. a large piece of ground between the Faubourg Saint Honoré and the Champs Elysées, and the architect Mollet was commissioned to build him a house on the site. The charming residence, which arose thus in the sparsely inhabited regions of Monceau, has been known in turn as the Hôtel d'Evreux, the Hôtel Beaujon, the Elysée Bourbon, the Hameau de Chantilly, and the Palais de l'Elysée. Many and distinguished have been the personages who lived there, and the scenes witnessed within its gates connect it closely with the history of France. As regards the building, it remains practically what it was when Mollet finished it, except for the west wing added in quite recent days. The central portion stands between cour et jardin, the entrance being to the north from the Faubourg, while the windows of the southern façade overlook a charming view towards the Champs Elysées. The Avenue Gabriel rounds off the gardens to the south, and the present western limit is the Avenue de Marigny. In former days, however, the grounds on this side were much more extensive and at one time reached as far as the Avenue d'Antin. When the hotel was first built, it might almost be called a country house, for it stood outside the gates of Paris, and was surrounded by market gardens. Neuilly, Le Roule, Chaillot, and Monceau were still but tiny villages, and in the marshes near the river the new proprietor could obtain excellent sport. The Comte d’Evreux of whom the Goncourts" write that, previous to his marriage, his credit would not have sufficed to buy him a box of matches, had allied himself with the daughter of the richest financier of the day, Mlle. Crozat—le petit Lingot, as she was called in her husband's family. The marriage was too unequal in point of rank to be a success, and Mathieu Marais, writing in 1722,” says: “The Comte d'Evreux passes all his time hunting, and does not conceal his attraction for the Duchesse Lesdiguières, who follows him everywhere, and whom he finds infinitely more attractive than the little Crozat.” Le petit Lingot therefore returned to her father's house and her chambre de jeune fille, glad to escape from the atmosphere of contempt that surrounded her in the magnificent hotel her millions had helped to build. In justice to her husband it must be said that when his share in the transactions of Law, the Scottish financier, gained him a fortune, he gave back his wife's dot. After the death of the first owner, the property passed into the hands of Madame de Pompadour, just then arrived at the summit of her ambition, having been officially recognised as the king's mistress. The price paid by the newly created marquise was 730, ooo livres, and a further large sum was spent in adding to the gardens and beautifying the interior. The whole of the first floor was re-furnished, and the scheme of decoration already initiated by Pineau carried to completion. To this maitre ornemaniste, the associate of Mansart, is due the superb example of that special type of decoration in which panel and mirror are combined. His also are the boiseries in the Salle du Conseil (formerly the Salon de Musique of the hotel d'Evreux) which are cited f amongst the finest in Paris. Installed thus in the greatest splendour, the Marquise de Pompadour, mee Antoinette Poisson, found herself within a short distance of the house in Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré which had seen her debut as Madame d'Etioles only a few years before. Her rise had been rapid since the days when she and her mother had forced their acquaintance on their neighbour, Madame Geoffrin, whose salon had appeared to the intriguing couple the gate of Paradise. The Marquise de La Ferté Imbault (Madame Geoffrin's daughter), writing of this first visit, says: “I saw with dismay Madame Poisson and her daughter arrive to call on us ; their reception was certainly not a cordial one, for Madame Poisson had been so much talked about that it seemed impossible to continue the acquaintance. Madame d'Etioles, on the other hand, was perfectly well-mannered and deserving every consideration.” The difficulty was to see one without the other, but in the end Madame d'Etioles was admitted
* La Femme au 18” Siècle M.M. Goncourt.
* Journal of Mathieu Marais.
# See French Decoration and Furniture in the Eighteenth Century. By Lady Dilke.
within the charmed circle of encyclopaedists, for whose society she professed unbounded admiration. Her attitude toward Madame Geoffrin and Madame La Ferté was a mixture of deference and naïveté. “On New Year's Day 1744,” continues the Marquise, “she came with her husband to my toilette to wish me la bonne année with a respect and attention I had to scold her for in fun. A year after, on New Year's Day, her toilette was attended by all the great seigneurs of the Court, hat in hand, and by the Princes of the Blood; I laugh when I think of it.”* The new favourite and successor was, according to Michelet, already losing her freshness. Arsène Houssaye, however, declares that she was a fine woman as well as a pretty one, and thus describes the picture of her painted by La Tour, which now hangs at the Louvre : The Marquise appears with slightly powdered hair, dressed in a décolleté gown of flowered design. The neck is proudly turned, the head a marvel of beauty (sic), the expression of the face lively and coquettish. The forehead is high and rather severe, the lips slightly pursed, giving an idea of determination and mockery. . . . In all the features there is an impression of nobility and even dignity, belied, however, by what one remembers of the orgies galantes of Versailles.” The King's infatuation was not to be wondered at if the subject of the picture possessed all the charms thus depicted by the artist, but, strange to say, the influence of the mistress did not diminish with fading beauty, for long after the face of the original had become as elaborate a work of art as La Tour's canvas, the intelligent little bourgeoise still played the rôle of Queen at Versailles. It is true that latterly Louis ceased to love her, though he bore with her, and when she died at the age of forty-four, after nineteen years of association, he manifested very little grief. A torrent of rain was falling at Versailles as the coach that took her body away drove out of the courtyard. His Majesty was looking on from a window of the Palace. “The Marquise will not have a very pleasant journey,” he said, with a smile that betrayed his cynicism. When, ten years later, his body was carried to the grave, it was followed with as little regret and buried without ceremony. The loathsomeness of his disease kept away all but a few Court officials, and the scandal of his deathbed had finally extinguished the affection of the nation to whom he had once been the Bien-aimé. By her will, Madame de Pompadour bequeathed her hotel in
* Le Royaume de la rue St. Honoré (Mme. Geoffrin et sa fille). By Pierre de Ségur.