« PreviousContinue »
tey has contrived to select an octavo volume, consisting of one thousand articles onnitted by Madame de Genlis, and we must confess that, of the two, we consider M. Lémontey's collection as more interesting than her's, as, perhaps, our readers, by the extracts we have made, may have already discovered: but this is not all; we are sorry to say that the articles omitted by Madame de Genlis are those which, generally speaking, do least credit to Louis XIV., and are therefore least favourable to her hypothesis of his character. This then wears the appearance of an unfair suppression; and this suppression has been exercised not merely on entire articles, but on parts of articles which appear not to have suited her views : for in-' stance, her zeal for the Roman Catholic religion has not only induced her to suppress all the extraordinary and extravagant attempts by force, bribery, &c. which Louis made to convert his Protestant subjects, but even to conceal the doubts which Dangeau throws on the story of the conversion of Charles II. If our readers will look back to page 469, they will see marked in italics the passage which Madame de Genlis has omitted-an omission which we cannot call by any milder term than a falsification; and we are surprised and sorry that Madame de Genlis could imagine that the cause of religion was advanced by such a conversion as Charles's, or such a finesse as her own.
In the same spirit, she has suppressed the death-bed acts of two Popes, (Nouv. Mém. 23d August, 1689. 14th Jan. 1691.) which, in her opinion, were not altogether creditable to those holy persons ; and in giving an account of James the Second's foolish wish that he might die on a Friday, she puts a reason for it into Dangeau's mouth (from a feeling of religion,') which is not in the original.
Sometimes her anxiety for Louis induces her to change the too simple expressions which Dangeau attributes to him, into something which she considers as more noble; thus, Dangeau had said,
• After the death of the Dauphine, the king took the Dauphin into his closet, and said to him, You see what the greatness of this world comes to! You and I must come to that ourselves.--20th Ap. 1690.' The words in italics Madame de Genlis exalts into • Behold what awaits you and me: may God give us the grace to end as holily!
These alterations are, it must be added, not many, and, for the most part, of but little importance-they nevertheless throw a doubt over the candour of Madame de Genlis, which our respect for this agreeable and instructive writer makes us regret. We still bave some faint expectation that as there are known to exist several manuscripts of Dangeau, that which she consulted may not have contained the passages which M. Lémontey has found in his; and as some of the differences are altogether unessential, there seems
reason to hope that Madame de Genlis may be able to show that her copy really differed from that of Lémontey.
Lémontey informs us that his copy is enriched with notes by an unknown hand.
I am ignorant,' says he, of the name of the author or authors of these additions, and I did not recognize the hand-writing of any of those persons
who have left us memoirs.-One thing only seems certain, that the unknown annotator was a contemporary of Dangeau ; that he survived him some years ; and that he was well acquainted with the domestic affairs of the great families, and with the most secret anecdotes of the court.'-Avertissement.
This account of M. Lémontey convinces us, (as several previous instances had induced us to suspect,) that he is not very well read in the Memoirs of the time, and consequently not very well fitted for the work which he undertook.–We ourselves can make no pretension to cope with a Frenchman in French literature, and particularly in a department to which he has devoted himself, yet we think we can inform M. Lémontey that his annotator is not known;' that he is a person who has left us memoirs ;' in short, that he is no other than the Duke of St. Simon whom we have already often quoted, and whom also M. Lémontey quotes now and then, though we think we shall show that he has not very attentively read the works of that bitter but most entertaining writer. We shall select a few of these notes, and afterwards add St. Simon's account of the same person or transaction, that our readers may judge whether we are wrong in attributing them to the same source.
We shall begin by the character of the President Rose, the private secretary of the king, and our translations shall be literal in order that the comparison may be perfect.
Annotator. • Rose held the king's pen, that is, he wrote all the letters in the king's own hand; whose handwriting he imitated so that they could not be distinguished, and he had an inimitable style-he was a man of sense, sly and adroit, bold and dangerous, and he was not to be offended with impunity—there are stories without number about him.-A word more of this good man, with his calotte of satin, his grey hair, his band almost like an Abbé, his little cloak, and a handkerchief always between his unbuttoned coat and his waistcoat, with a tolerably handsome countenance and piercing eyes sparkling with sense.'--p. 134.
St. Simon. * Rose for fifty years had held the king's pen :--to hold the pen is to be an official forger, and to counterfeit so exactly the King's writing, as that one cannot be distinguished from the other. It was not possible to make a king speak with more dignity than Rose did. The good man was sly, cunning, adroit, and dangerous ; there are stories without number about him. Rose was a little man, neither fat nor lean, with a tolerably handsome face; a sly physiognomy, piercing eyes sparkling with sense, a little cloak, a calotte of satin on his white hairs, a little band almost like an Abbé's, and always wearing a handkerchief between his coat and his waistcoat.'- vol. xii. p. 18.
The following account of the courtly grief for the death of M. de Barbezieux is amusing and (iu one view) not uninstructive.
Annotator. Many persons lost by his death, and many ladies were quite melancholy in the saloon ; but when they sat down to table and had cut the twelfth-cake the king exhibited a joy which made itself remarked and imitated; and, when he cried out, La Reine boit ! he turned up his plate and rattled his fork and spoon on it; and this was soon imitated by the afflicted ladies : and this school-boy racket was often repeated,' &c. &c.
St. Simon. • Many fine ladies, who lost much by his death, were quite melancholy in the saloon at Marly ; but when they sat down to table, and had cut the cake, the king exhibited a joy which seemed to wish to be imitated ; he was was not content with crying out, La Reine boit ! (as if at a tavern), but he himself rattled and made the rest rattle their forks and spoons on their plates, and this strange racket was frequently repeated?-vol. ix. p. 43. Again,
Annotator. • Madame de Montchevreuil was a tall, thin, devout, austere, and sour figure--a nose without end, and long yellow teeth which she showed by a silly laugh, a face of yellow wax, in short she was a fairy moved by springs. She was the tribunal of all the women, old and young, or whose testimony they were admitted or rejected, distinguished or neglected, banished or recalled-she was the heart, the soul, the entire confidante, without question or appeal, of Mad. de Maintenon—she was above every body,' &c.—p. 122.
St. Simon. Madame de Montchevreuil was a tall, thin, yellow creature, who laughed sillily, and showed hideous long teeth: she wanted only a wand to be a real witch. Without any talents, she had so captivated Mad. de Maintenon, that she only saw. by her eyes: she was the watch over all the women of the court, and on her testimony depended distinction or affronts—every one trembled before her.'- vol. ii.
46. We now think our readers will have but little difficulty in pronouncing the Annotator and the Duke of St. Simon to be the same; the coincidence between the passages is so great as to render it impossible that these traits can have been sketched by different pens, and there are certain little variances which a mere copyist of St. Simon would hardly have made. At all events, whether from his own hand, or by a copyist, we may venture to pronounce that the substance of the notes are St. Simon's; and we even see reason to suspect that St. Simon, in the compilation of his Memoirs, must have had a copy of Dangeau before his eyes.
We have now done with these amusing volumes; we are aware that we have given a very inadequate view of their contents, but we have said enough to enable our readers to judge whether they are likely to be amused by the work, and to put them on their guard against the prepossessions of the two editors, and against the weight which they might give to the notes, if supposed to be from another pen, than that of St. Simon; whose cynical, not to say malignant, humour, throws a suspicion over all his relations, and diminishes the pleasure excited by the vigour of his style, the extent of his information, the vivacity of his wit, the curiosity of his subjects, and the boldness of his character.
Art. XIII. Letter from Sir Robert Wilson to his Constituents
in Refutation of a Charge for dispatching a false Report of a Victory to the Commander in Chief of the British Army in the Peninsula in the Year 1809; and which Charge is advanced in the Quarterly Review published in September, 1818. 8vo.
FOR the appearance of this pamphlet we are ourselves in some
measure answerable, inasmuch as its avowed intention is to serve as a reply to a charge advanced against its gallant author in our last Number, of having enlivened a period of inaction during the Spanish war, by dispatching to head-quarters a false report of a victory gained by the corps under his command.' p. 140. In reply to this imputation, Sir Robert Wilson has thought fit to republish, with considerable enlargements, his former statement of the services of the Lusitanian Legion, in which, not content with refuting the particular aspersion to which we have referred, he has apparently made it his object to prove himself and his corps the most conspicuous and effective agents in that illustrious period of military adventure.
We, therefore, stand with him at present in the double relation of parties and of judges, and, as we are vaturally anxious to keep these characters distinct from each other, we shall first reply to those parts of the present work in which we are personally concerned, before we resume our accustomed office as examiners of the general accuracy and importance of its claims and representatious.
And here it is, in the first place, no more than the performance of that duty which we owe to the public and to Sir Robert Wilson himself
, to state that we were misinformed as to the period of the war in which this undue assumption of success was said to have occurred, and no less so as to the precise terms of that statement which, apparently, gave rise to the rumour in question.-The affair of Banos did not occur during a time of inactivity, and (whatever may be our difference of opinion with Sir Robert Wilson as to its importance) it must be admitted that it was not of a nature to enliven :' and instead of the words "OF A VICTORY,' which we had used on the authority of current fame, Sir Robert's Reply convinces us that we ought to have said of an ACTION, which, though only a trivial skirmish, ending in an unaccountable rout, was described with all the pride of a victory?
We must also admit to Sir Robert Wilson that he was right in supposing that we alluded to him ; and to whatever satisfaction the foregoing correction of our error can give his feelings he is fairly entitled. Our readers will probably not consider that error to have heen a very serious one ; but such as it is, we must, in justice to ourselves, request them to recollect that the point in question was incidental only to our argument, and that it can in no degree affect the general tenour of an Article, in which we have as yet found nothing else which we are inclined to retract or qualify. If they will do us the favour to attend to our subsequent statements, they will find Sir Robert Wilson himself affording the most ample confirmation (with the single change of action for victory) of all our observations. Before we proceed to this examination, we must, however, take notice that the gallant officer has imputed to us an insidious allusion’to himself, as having been the first to suggest that interpretation of the Treaty of Paris, which Marshal Ney advanced against the execution of the sentence pronounced on him. But the charge of insidiousness' is all which we here wish to disclaim. We were, certainly, assured, on authority which appeared to us decisive, that Sir Robert Wilson was the first to suggest that interpretation, not, indeed, to the counsel of Marshal Ney, but to Marshal Ney himself, or his confidential friends. Nor did we mean to impute to him as a crime, a line of conduct which would have been perfectly consistent both with his avowed political predilections, and with the humane interest which he expressed for Marshal Ney and his companions in misfortune. But we were fully justified in adducing such a circumstance as proof that that could not be the natural meaning of a treaty, which, after being overlooked in cases to which it would have equally applied, was suggested at length by the acuteness of a by-stander. And, whoever was the first author of the interpretation in question, we should certainly require very forcible evidence to make us believe that it was known without being acted on, by individuals whose lives (like those of Ney aud Labedoyère) depended on its recognition.
How far Marshal Ney was a worthy object of Sir Robert Wilson's intercession we are not called on to decide. As, however, an attempt has been made to extenuate his apostasy by the supposed example of Marlborough, we are anxious, in justice to our renowned countryman, to instance some remarkable points of difference between the two cases; though we, at the same time, protest anew against that monstrous doctrine which makes the nature