Page images
PDF
EPUB

Dangeau was so remarkable for his skill at play, that Madame de Sévigné relates, that one of her amusements when she went to court was to admire Dangeau at the card table. Our readers will not be sorry to see the passage, which is characteristic, not only of Dangeau, but of the French court at that period. It is to be found in her letter of the 29th July, 1676, giving her daughter an account of A DAY AT VERSAILLES.-We lament that our translation will afford our English readers but a very imperfect notion of the charms of the style of this extraordinary woman, who is as unrivalled in her own department of literature as Shakspeare and Molière are in theirs.

* 29th July, 1676. 'I went on Saturday with Villars to Versailles. I need not tell you of the Queen's toilette, the mass, the dinner-you know it all; but at three o'clock the king rose from table, and he, the Queen, Monsieur, Madame, Mademoiselle, all the princes and princesses, Madame de Montespan, all her suite, all the courtiers, all the ladies-in short, what we call the Court of France-were assembled in that beautiful apartment which you know. It is divinely furnished-every thing is magnificent- -one does not know what it is to be too hot-we walk about here and there, and are not incommoded any where :--at last a table of reversi* gives a form to the crowd, and a place to every one.

The king is next to Madame de Montespan, who deals: the Duke of Orleans, the Queen, and Madame de Soubise; Dangeau and Co.; Langée and Co.; -a thousand louis are poured out on the cloth-there are no other counters. I saw Dangeau play !-what fools we all are compared to him-he minds nothing but his business, and wins when every one else loses :-he neglects nothing-takes advantage of every thing—is never absent-in a word, his skill defies fortune, and accordingly 200,000 francs in ten days, 100,000 crowns in a fortnight, all go to his receiptbook.

• He was so good as to say that I was a partner in his play, by which I got a very convenient and agreeable place. I saluted the king in the way you taught me, which he returned as if I had been young and handsome- I received a thousand compliments---you know what it is to have a word from every body! This agreeable confusion without confusion lasts from three o'clock till six. If a courier arrives, the king retires for a moment to read his letters, and returns immediately. There is always some music going on, which has a very good effect; the king listens to the music, and chats with the ladies about him. At last, at six o'clock, they stop playing--they have no trouble in settling their reckoningsthere are no counters—the lowest pools are five, six, seven hundred Louis—the great ones a thousand, or twelve hundred—they put in five each at first that makes one hundred, and the dealer puts in ten more

* A kind of game long since out of fashion, and now almost forgotten; it seems to have been a compound of Loo and Conimerce--the Quinola or Pam was the knave of hearts,

then

[ocr errors]

one

—then they give four Louis each to whoever has Quinola-some pass, others play, but when you play without winning the pool, you must put in sixteen to teach you how to play rashly : they talk all together, and for ever, and of every thing." How many hearts ?”. Two!"_"

" I have three!"-" I have !”. “ I have four!”- “ He has only three !" —and Dangeau-delighted with all this prattle--turns up the trump, makes his calculations, sees whom he has against him-in short-in short, I was glad to see such an excess of skill. He it is, who really knows “ le dessous des cartes."

At ten o'clock they get into their carriages; the King, Madame de Montespan, the Duke of Orleans, and Madame de Thianges, and the good Heudicourt on the dickey, that is, as if one were in the upper gallery. You know how these calashes are made. The Queen was in another with the princesses; and then every body else, grouped as they liked. Then they go on the water in gondolas, with music--they return at ten --the play is ready-it is over : twelve strikes--supper is brought in, and so passes Saturday."

This lively picture of such frightful gambling, of the adulterous triumph of Madame de Montespan, and of the humiliating part to which the Queen was condemned, will induce our readers to concur with Madame de Sévigné, who, amused as she had been by the scene she has described, calls it nevertheless, with her usual pure taste and good judgment, ' l'iniqua corte.'

The Marquis of Dangeau began his Journal in the year 1684, and continued with extraordinary perseverance to record from day to day whatever appeared worthy of his notice down to 1720: there seem to have been but two intervals, one in 1709, on account of the illness of his only son, wounded at Malplaquet; the other in 1712, on the death of the younger Dauphine--an amiable young princess, whose fate cast a gloom over France, not unlike

• That which of late o'er pale Britannia pass’d.' His notes are extremely succinct, not to say dry, and relate to all subjects, the most trifling as well as the most important, and preferably perhaps to the former. Our readers will judge of the extent of the original manuscript, when we inform him that Mad. de Genlis' abridgment contains fifteen hundred octavo pages, and that M. Lémontey has added above three hundred pages more. Such an immense mass has for a century past deterred every printer from undertaking its publication; and though it was known to exist, and though the curious throughout Europe were anxious about it, it would never probably have seen the light but for the inclination of Madame de Genlis towards the history of Louis XIV., which induced her to wind through this labyrinth, and to select for publication such articles as appeared to her the most interesting. Those who read merely for amusement will consider, we fear, this eternal chronicle of small facts and proper names as insufferably tedious: but those who have a taste for this kind of writing, and some previous knowledge of the personages to whom it relates, will be pleased at meeting so many of their old friends, and amused with the transactions, great and small, which Dangeau records of them ; while those who look still deeper into the work will find a great deal of chronological and some historical information, with many important views of the manners and morals of the age, of the character of the sovereign and his ministers, and of the secret springs and personal motives of many considerable events.

But this collection is, above all, rich in matters of court etiquette. It is indeed a text-book of this kind of learning; and if the present king of France were not so much of a philosophe, and so willing to forget all the forms and feelings of the ancient monarchy, we should be inclined to felicitate him on the recovery of a work as important to the re-establishment of courtly regulations, as the finding the Justinian Pandects was to the revival of the Roman law. We suspect that it was in the search of matter for her Dictionnaire des Etiquettes that Madame de Genlis became acquainted with Dangeau; she has in that work large obligations to him, which she has now repaid by generously bringing him forward in his own character.

Dangeau's punctilious anxiety about etiquette was so great as not to contine itself to Versailles; he was not indifferent to the proceedings of the English court, where the easy negligence of Charles the Second and the unbending ceremony of James alike called forth his animadversions.

• We learn that the King of England (James II.) received the Maréchal de Lorges (the French ambassador) covered and sitting; the late king, his brother, was not used so to receive the ministers of France, or even of other kings; this exception has surprized us by its vovelty, though, strictly speaking, it may be right. The late king was so little inclined to any kind of ceremony that when M. de Vaudémont went to the English court, and wanted to stipulate that (being a grandee of Spain) he should cover himself at his audience, Charles replied to those who spoke to him about il—“Let him cover himself if he will, provided he does not force me to do so too.” The present king has also regulated that ambassadors and foreign ministers should hereafter only speak to him at formal audiences; this is also a great change, for the king, his brother, gave audience at all hours and every where, and most freqnently at his mistresses, and without any preparation.— March 20th, 1685.'

James was right in this point of etiquette, and he imitated the example set him (as we see in Bassompierre's account of his own embassy) by his father; it was also the custom of the court of France: and Dangeau's surprize therefore only shows the arrogant pretensions which that court was inclined to advance of being VOL. XIX. NO, XXXVIII.

treated

HH

treated with more respect than it paid. Charles's answer to the Prince de Vaudémont reminds us of his pleasant rebuke to Penn the Quaker, who not only persisted in wearing his own hat in the sovereign's presence, but condescendingly invited the king to put on his : "No, Friend Penn,' said the good-humoured monarch, it is the custom that only one person should be covered here.'

When James, expelled at the Revolution, arrives in France, Dangeau's chief concern in the affair is the several questions of precedency and etiquette to which the presence of the two kings and the generosity of Louis give occasion. It is strange, and shews the costive style in which Dangeau writes, that this generosity-one of the noblest traits of Louis's history-does not draw a single word of admiration or applause from the phlegmatic chronicler: he even relates—without any remark, and as coldly as he does the morning or evening compliments——the fine expression with which Louis took leave of James, when setting out to attempt the recovery of his kingdom. The best wish I can make for you, Sir, is that I may never see you again; if however fortune should oblige you to return, you will still find me what you have already found me.25th Feb. 1689.'

We bave heard that when the Prince Regent was taking leave of the present French king, at Dover, His Royal Highness addressed him in these words of Louis XIV.a well-timed compliment, which, besides its obvious import, had the merit of reminding his Majesty of the generosity of his great ancestor, and of a king of France's having paid, to an unfortunate sovereign, the same attentions which, under happier auspices, he himself now received.

Of two of Charles II.'s sons, Dangeau gives us anecdotes, of which we, at least, were before ignorant.

"The Duke of St. Albans, son of the king of England, and of Miss Gouin (Gwynn), an actress, was presented to the king; the Queen Dowager gave him a pension of 2,000 pieces, without which he could not subsist.'—Nouv. Mém. May 8th, 1681.

It was but the year before that he was created a Duke, and appointed to some very lucrative offices. James (less generous than the Queen Dowager, to whom the very existence of the young duke was an insult) had, it would seem, resumed all these grants. We are now the less surprized at reading that the Duke of St. Albans was abroad at the time of the Revolution, and that his regiment, with his lieutenant-colonel at its head, was one of the first that went over to the Prince of Orange.

The king was pleased to assist at the abjuration of the Duke of Richmond. Note. This conversion (to popery) did not last long. The Duke returned to England after the Revolution of 1688, reconciled himself with the Church of England,' &c.Nouv. Mém. Oct. 25th, 1685.

turned The words in italic are omitted by Madame de Genlis--we shall observe upon this by and bye. HH 2

• The Duchess of Portsmouth, to whom the king gave a pension of 12,000 livres six months ago, has requested the king to convey it, with some addition, to her son, the Duke of Richmond. The king consented, and granted 8,000 in addition, so that he has now 20,000 livres.'-Nouv. Mém. Dec. 13th, 1690.

The Duke of Richmond was, at this time, only fifteen years of age, and it does but little credit to James that he drove into want, exile, and the temptations incident to both, the children of so indulgent a brother as Charles: it ill accords also with the promises of protection and friendship, which, the day after Charles's death, he voluntarily proffered to the Duchess of Portsmouth and her children; as we see in Barillon's letters, in the Appendix to Mr. Fox's History.- In the same place will be found an important ex. planation of the following passage

• The courier of Barillon (the French ambassador) said that the king (Charles) had died a Catholic, and had confessed and received the Communion from the hands of a priest, who had saved his life in a battle he had lost against Cromwell. But Barillon does not mention it, and would not have forgotten it ; and when we told the King in the evening what the courier had said, he answered, that all he knew on that subject was, that the English bishops had pressed the King to receive the Sacranent, thut he had refused them, and that they did not dare pressing farther, for fear he should make a more open declaration.*_19th Feb. 1685.

Barillon, as appears in his original dispatch, published by Mr. Fox, did not forget it.--He relates the fact in the most curious detail, and substantially as Bishop Burnet does: Barillon might well say that he supposed the secret would not be long kept,' when it appears that his own courier was so well informed. Louis, however, in his reply, promises not to divulge his ambassador's account of the transaction, and it appears from this passage in Dangeau, that he kept his word.—But James was eager to promulgate the glad tidings of his brother's salvation, and took anxious pains to have his apostasy published: his eagerness however on this point (which defeated the caution of Barillou and Louis) excites some doubts in our mind, and we are almost inclined to think that the bigotry of James may have exaggerated into a reconciliation with the Church of Rome, Charles's indifference to the Church of England.

The sincerity of the conversion of James himself has never been doubted, but Dangeau gives us a minute and pitiable instance of

it.

« PreviousContinue »