Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the University of Ghent in 1845, for the be able to sleep in Holland sheets. Alongbenefit of the poor, and proved a valuable side of them are placed the gloves which contribution to the history of manners and Antonio Perez, Spanish ex-ambassador, art. They were not only of all shapes and sent to Lady Knolles with a letter saying: sizes, in polished steel, in silver and gold,These gloves, Madam, are made of the skin of a dog, the animal most praised for its fidelity. Deign to allow me this praise, with a place in your good graces. And if I can be of no other use, my skin at least might serve to make gloves.' He was so pleased with this conceit, that in a letter to Lady Rich he repeats and improves upon it:

and set with the costliest jewels; but an entire series were painted in miniature by the first artists of the period-the first years of Louis XVI. There were portraits of celebrated beauties, with copies of ancient statues and scenes taken from ancient mythology. Klingstet made double buttons with a spring, containing two surfaces, and each a chef d'œuvre in its way. Honoré Fragonard, a decorator of note, painted for a gay marquis a set of buttons à la Watteau, which have been preserved. Another man of rank wore a set of small watches, without, it is slyly added, becoming more famous for punctuality. Equal extravagance was indulged about the same time in waistcoats, which, although the material was more perishable, afforded wider scope for luxury and design. An exquisite of the first water was then an improving study for both the sempstress or embroiderer and the scene-painter. One might be seen with the amours of Mars and Venus on his stomach, and another with a cavalry review. We are assured,' says a writer in the Mémoires Secrets that an enthusiast has ordered a dozen waistcoats representing scenes from the popular plays, so that his wardrobe may become a theatrical repertory and some day serve for tapestry.' After the assembly of the Notables, there were gilets aux Notables, copied from the print described by Bachaumont The king is in the middle, on his throne: in the left hand he holds a scroll on which are these words, L'age d'or; but by a very offensive oversight it is so placed that he seems to be rummaging his pockets with his right hand.' A little later, the guillotine grew into fashion for ornaments, especially for brooches and pins.

The most curious collection of chaussures (boots, shoes, and slippers) is stated to be in the possession of an Englishman, Mr. Roach Smith. Besides specimens of every successive age, beginning with the boots of a bishop in 721 A.D., he has several to which an historic or romantic interest is attached ; eg. the shoes of most of the beauties of Charles II.'s court, including the Duchess of Cleveland, the Countess of Muskerry, and la belle Hamilton (afterwards Comtesse de Grammont), with those of Miss Jennings and Miss Stewart (the original of the Britannia on the guinea), stolen, according to the labels, by Rochester and Killigrew.

:

The same vaunted collection, which reopens so many curious chapters of social annals, is described as particularly rich in gloves. M. Feuillet de Conches boasts of having himself contributed the identical pair of gloves which Anne of Austria sent to Spain to the Duc d'Arcos, with a letter of business ending with this P.S.: Monsieur Le Duc et Compère, I send herewith a pair of gloves which will serve as a pattern for the dozen which I request you to have forwarded to me.' These gloves are of coarse leather; and surprise is expressed that they could be worn by a woman who, it was feared at Madrid, was too delicate to

'I have endured such affliction at not having ready at hand the dogskin gloves desired by your ladyship, that I have resolved to sacrifice myself for your service, and to strip off a little skin from the most delicate part of myself, if indeed any delicate skin can be found on a thing so rustic as my person. The gloves are of dogskin, Madame; and yet they are of mine, for I hold myself a dog, and entreat your Ladyship to hold me for such, as well on account of my faith as my passion. The skinned dog (perro decollado) of your Ladyship, ANTON PEREZ.'

There is an entire compartment devoted to some of the shoes crowned by the Société des Petits Pieds, over which the member with the smallest foot presided till she was displaced by a competitor; a Cinderella-like slipper being kept to test the qualifications of the candidates. If Pauline Buonaparte (Princess Borghese) had competed, she would have been hailed president for life by acclamation. Her feet, besides their smallness and exquisite shape, were plump (poteles) and rosy like those of a child; and she was by no means chary in exhibiting them. On ceremonial occasions, a page entered with a cushion of crimson velvet, on which she placed her foot, whilst he knelt and drew off the stocking, with the favoured circle looking on. Her remark on sitting for a nearly nude figure to Canova is well known.

The Curieux relates a trait of enthusiasm | correct the stiffness of his paternal alleys on the part of a milord which we suspect and flower-beds. Then, in 1774, came Marie will prove new to his countrymen. A Antoinette, who, under the direction of Scotch earl, Lord Fife, gave Madame Ves- Bernard de Jussieu and a clever gardener, tris a thousand guineas to allow a cast to be converted Trianon into a charming parterre, taken of her leg, which was superb. The where the system of the English painter, earl died, and this cherished leg was sold for William Kent, and his rival, Browne (the half-a-crown! The moral reflection is con-inventor Du Fresnoy was altogether forgotveyed in a line from Lamartine : ten) was more followed than the severe harmony of Le Nostre and De la Quintenie.

'J'ai pesé dans ma main la cendre des héros.'

This leg should have been sent to the fair at Leipsic along with Kant's wig. The Germans are, or were, the people for answering to an extraordinary call on sensibility or sentiment. When Sontag was in the height of her celebrity at Berlin, a party of her military admirers bribed her maid to give them one of her cast-off slippers, had it set as a cup, and toasted her in it till it was worn out. There is another story that a party of students rushed into her hotel whilst her carriage was driving off, and made prey of a wine-glass not quite empty, out of which she had just been drinking. This was put up to auction on the spot, and fetched seventeen dollars. A pair of shoes has been preserved with extravagantly high heels painted by Watteau to represent a flock or sheepfold (bergerie) of Loves. The Duchess de Berry had a shoe that once belonged to Louis XIV., of dark velvet, embroidered wtth fleurs-de-lis, and adorned with a battlepiece painted by Parrocel.

'Puisque nous causons, let us pause a little to speak of the history of the flowers that Marie Antoinette loved so well, that she so largey contributed to multiply and embellish.' We wilingly pause to record the plausible claim put in for the invention of what is commonly called the English system of gardening, by a Frenchman, in the time of Louis Quatorze. It was the poet Du Fresnoy, we are assured, who first ventured on substituting the picturesque variety of the landscape-painter for the rectilinear style of the architects, and was made comptroller of the royal gardens in recognition of his merit. But nature and simplicity were sadly out of keeping of the rouè maxim, Write not, Burn not, with the artificial grandeur of Versailles. without regarding, probably without susThe genius of Du Fresnoy was chilled or pecting, the consummate profligacy that rebuked by his royal patron, and the reform lurked in it. Yet in his highly interesting planned by him stopped short. His system dissertation on the Cassette aux Poulets of returned to us,' says the Curieux, in the Fouquet, he incidentally demonstrates the following age, with the British stamp on it, imprudence, to use no stronger term, of givas so many products of French imagination ing a permanent form to any shade of forreturn to us. Girardin created Ermenon- bidden feeling, or any passing burst__of ville; M. Boutin, Tivoli; M. de la Borde, irritability, disappointment, or caprice. The Mereville; the poet-painter Watelet, Moulin- one may make an enemy or unmake a Joli. The Prince de Ligne did his best to friend; the other may destroy a reputation.

6

Kent died in 1748; and Browne achieved his highest distinction by laying out the grounds of Blenheim, where he committed a solecism which elicited a cutting sarcasm on his illustrious employer, the great Duke of Marlborough. A magnificent bridge over a streamlet provoked the epigram:

'The lofty arch his high ambition shows,
The stream an emblem of his bounty flows.'

Our neighbours were in no hurry to reclaim their property in the invention, if it can be so termed; and we suspect that the resumption simply formed part of the Anglomania that came over them about the time when Marie Antoinette began amusing herself with the creation of Le Petit Trianon. Her fondness for flowers led to one of those revolutions in headdresses of which specimens may be multiplied to weariness. When flowers got common, the court ladies took first to fruit, and afterwards to vegetables. Chaplets of artificial radishes and carrots were in vogue. Madame de Matignon appeared one day, à la jardinière, in a headdress of brown linen striped with blue, ornamented by the artist hand of Léonard with a head of brocoli and an artichoke.

The bare list of collections visited by the Curieux would fill many pages. But his master-passion is for autographs; and he is constantly digressing to expatiate on their value and their charm; on the best methods of utilising, and the sacred duty of preserving them. Indeed, he is a veritable Chinese in his reverence for written paper; and he would cordially assent to the second branch

1

wrecked.

Trifles light as air, once committed to paper, which she was held by the Court and her have often led to complications in which private marriage to the King. There is no peace, fortune, and happiness have been hatred like religious hatred, and this very marriage became a fresh topic for calumny in the hands of those who had suffered from the persecutions encouraged by her bigotry. 'In 1835, at the French Hospital in London,' says the Curieux, I found, in the possession of an old female inmate, an English libel against Madame de Maintenon, entitled, The French King's Wedding, or the Royal Frolic; being a pleasant account of the intrigues, comical courtship, catterwauling_and surprising marriage ceremonies of Louis XIV. with Madame de Maintenon, with a Comical Song, sung to His Majesty: 1708. The old Protestant obstinately refused to cede me the book, which she read and re-read with pleasure, although she found difficulty in understanding it.'

Another lady whom the Curieur deems unjustly calumniated was the Marquise du Plessis-Bellière, accused of having assisted Fouquet in his designs on Madame de la Vallière on the strength of what is termed a hideous apocryphal letter amongst the papers of Conrart. The Marquise was a

Fouquet, the prince of financiers, was not less renowned for gallantry than for liberality and wealth. His downfall was owing to his indiscreet rivalry with his royal master both in magnificence and love. The first step after his arrest was the seizure of his papers, including the casket in which he kept those notes and letters of female friends and applicants which pass under the denomination of poulets. The opening of this casket was dreaded like that of another Pandora's box, without Hope at the bottom. What varied evils, what scandalous disclosures, what revelation of broken fortunes and fallen or falling virtue, might come forth! The King himself opened the casket, and its contents were read by only two persons besides himself, the Queen and Tellier (the royal confessor). All sorts of stories were afloat, and Madame de Molteville remarks that few persons about the Court were exempt from the charge of having sacrificed to the golden calf; that the fable of Danae was fully borne out, and that, friend of Fouquet and rendered him imporsince, by extraordinary ill-luck, Fouquet tant political services, whether she was paid kept all the letters addressed to him, things for them or not. The reputation of another were read which did great harm to very great lady, the Princess of Monaco (née de many persons. Rumour and malice added, Grammont), who was also compromised by coloured, or invented. A pretended letter the correspondence, is abandoned as not from Madame Scarron (afterwards Madame worth defending; and in this instance at de Maintenon), was handed about, contain- least a sound discretion has been exercised. ing this passage: Leaving her husband to the solitary enjoyment of his miniature sovereignty, she lived a gay life at the French Court, where she was renowned for the rapid succession of her lovers, every one of whom was regularly hung in effigy by the Prince in the avenue of his palace at Monaco, with a label round the neck. The number became startling; strangers came from far and near to admire the spectacle; and the circumstance at length came to the ears of the Grand Monarque. He tried at first to interfere with a high hand, but finding his threats vain, and the scandal on the increase, he was fain to conciliate the Prince by a promise that a strict guard should henceforth be kept on the Princess; whereupon the effigies were removed.

'J'ai toujours fuy le vice, et naturellement je hais le péché; mais je vous avoue que je hais encore davantage la pauvreté. J'ai reçu de vous dix mille écus; si vous voulez encore en apporter dix mille dans deux jours, je verrai ce que j'aurai à faire.'

Another version of the letter commences differently, and ends: Je ne vous deffends pas d'espérer. The Curieux indignantly denounces this letter as a fabrication, and justifies his incredulity by a passage in the Souvenirs of Madame de Caylas: I remember to have heard that Madame Scarron, being one day obliged to go to speak to M. Fouquet, she thought fit to go so negligently

dressed that her friends were ashamed to take her there. Everybody knows what M. Fouquet was, and his weakness for women, and how the vainest and the best placed sought to please him.' The uncharitable might put an opposite interpretation on this neglected dress; and the best defence for Madame Scarron is the continued respect in

Another letter to Fouquet, which no virtuous woman could have written, endorsed Lettre d'une Inconnue by Conrart, was by turns attributed to Madame Scarron and Madame de Sévigné in the Memoires sur la Bastille, and finally given to Madame de Sévigné by the rest of the scandalous chronicles in circulation. Her known and

The following passage is copied verbatim et literatim from an autograph letter of hers to Ménage in the possession of the Curieux:

avowed letters go far to refute the calumny. | his collection of autographs; and he insists With him' (Fouquet), she writes to Bussy, on throwing the entire responsibility of the I have always the same precautions and revocation of the Edict of Nantes and other and the same fears, which notably retard arbitrary measures suggested or sanctioned the progress he would willingly make. by Madame de Maintenon, on the King. The believe he will be tired at last of always ingrained absolutism and egotism of Louis recommencing uselessly the same thing.' XIV., he contends, were at their acme from his earliest years. In the public library of St. Petersburgh, under the glass covering of a collection of autographs, may be seen one of the copybooks in which his Majesty practised writing as a child. Instead of Evil communications corrupt good manners,' or Virtue is its own reward,' the copy set for him was this: Les rois font tout ce qu'ils veulent.'

6

The best mode that could be hit upon for teaching history to Louis XV. was that recommended by St. Simon to Fleury, the royal preceptor, afterwards cardinal and minister. It was to hang a gallery with historical portraits and sketches, to make this the place of reception for the children of the nobility who came to pay their respects to their young sovereign, to have them tutored beforehand and accompanied by preceptors, who were to lead the conversation to prominent events or characters, and so draw him on to make inquiries and pick up information.

'Je vous remercie, mon cher monsieur, de toutes vos nouuelles. Il y en a deux ou trois dans vostre lettre que ie ne sauois point. Pour celles de M. Fouquet, ie nentends parler dautre chose. Je pense que vous saues bien le deplesir que iny eü davoir esté trouuée dans le nombre de celles qui luy ont escrit. Il est vray que ce nestait ny la galanterie, ni linterest que mauoient obligée davoir vn commerce avec luy. Lon voit clairement que ce nestait que pour les affaires de M. de la Trousse; mais cela nempesche pas que ie naye esté fort touchée de voir quil les avoit mises dans la cassette de ses poulets, et de me voir nommée parmy celles qui nont pas eu des sentimens si purs que moy. Dans cette occasion iay besoin que mes amis instruisent ceux qui ne le sont pas. Je vous croy asses genereux pour vouloir en dire ce que M. de la Fayette vous en aprendra, et iay receu tant dautres marques de vostre amitié que je ne fais nulle facon de vous coniurer de me donner encore celle-cy.'

Bussy-Rabutin who, like Fouquet, had failed to touch his charming cousin's heart, quarrelled with her, and took an ungenerous revenge in his Histoire Amoureuse des Gaules. But he soon grew ashamed of his conduct, and did his best to compensate for the wrong by (to use his own language) 'siding with her loudly against the people who sought to confound her with the mistresses of the minister.' To be well-armed for the campaign, he saw Tellier, and was assured by him that the letters of Madame de Sévigné were the letters of a friend who had a great deal of wit, and that they had amused the King more than the insipid tenderness of the other letters, but that the surintendant had mal apropos mixed love with friendship.' Tellier, it is justly added, was not the man to palliate evil if there was any, for it was he of whom the Comte Grammont said, on seeing him go out from a private conference with the King, He looks like a polecat that has just been killing chickens and is licking his blood-stained muzzle.'

Both Madame de Sévigné and Madame de Maintenon are in high favour with the Curieux, having both contributed largely to

[blocks in formation]

" This surpasses all meanness of heart in persons of their rank, to have wished to derive glory from egotism and prattle, to the point of employing for this purpose their private letters to their friends; so that, some having missed the time for being sent, they have notwithstanding published them with this worthy excuse tha they were unwilling to lose their pains.

Does it become two Roman consuls, sovereign magistrates of the imperial State of the world, to occupy their leisure in arranging and dressing up a fine missive, to draw from it the reputation of understa ding well the language of their nurse? What could a schoolmaster, who gained his livelihood by it, do worse?"

What would Montaigne have said had he lived to be told of the miserable subterfuge of Pope, who surreptitiously caused his let

ters to be published, and then denounced the
publication as a theft; or of the anxious
care taken by Horace Walpole to transmit
corrected copies of epistolary gossip to pos-
terity? Be their motives what they might,
we are indebted to them for compositions
which the world would not willingly let die.
Throwing over Pliny, somewhat uncere-
moniously and unnecessarily, M. Feuillet de
Conches takes up the cudgels for Cicero,
who, he vows, did not write his letters to his
familiars-
ad familiares for any eyes but
theirs; and the proof is that when Atticus
applied to him for copies, with a view to a
complete collection, he had none. Mon-
taigne, too, it is retorted, printed some of
his own letters; and his mode of speaking of
them and his method of epistolary composi-
tion, are strongly marked by self-com-
placency: -

After saying that he writes very fast, and very badly, trusting to the indulgence of the great personages with whom he corresponds to excuse blots and erasures, he continues:

brated Frenchwoman to her husband is a model of conciseness. 'Je commence, parce que je n'ai rien à faire: je finis, parce que je n'ai rien à dire.' — T. A. V.

The increased facility of communication has encouraged brevity and haste; we dash off a dozen letters in an hour instead of devoting half a morning to the production of one; and literary people are more remarkable than others for carelessness in this respect, probably on the principle avowed by Madame de Stael: Since I have aimed openly at celebrity by my books, I have left off paying any attention to my letters.'

The literary public are indebted to M. Feuillet de Conches for a valuable collection of letters in which the place of honour is assigned to Montaigne; and his familiarity with the style and hand-writing of this, the quaintest and most original of essayists, led to his being called in to decide an amusing and instructive controversy. An autograph letter of Montaigne belong

'On this subject of letters, I wish to say this one word, that it is a work in which my friends bold that I am capable of something; and I should more willingly have chosen this form of publishing my whims, had I had anyone to ad-ing to the Countess Boni de Castellain was dress (si j'eusse eu à qui parler). I needed, what I put up to auction in 1834, and the agent of have had at other times, a certain commerce M. de Pixérécourt, having received an unthat attracted, sustained, and excited me. If all limited commission, gave 700 francs for it the paper was in existence that I have ever blot- to the extreme disgust of his employer; ted for the ladies, when my hand was truly car- who, on the chance of getting rid of his ried away by my passion, there would haply bargain, started what at first sounded like a be found some page worthy to be communicated plausible objection to its authenticity. The to idie youth misled by this madness.' autograph was a Report, dated February 16, 1588, to Maréchal de Matignon of what befell the writer and his party in an encounter with a troop of Leaguers, and contains this sentence: Nous n'osions cependant passer outre pour l'incertitude de la sûreté de nos persones, de quoi nous devions estre esclercis sur nos passepors.' The doubt arose from the word passepors, which, it was contended, was more modern. reply was that, besides being used in another letter of Montaigne's and in one from the Cardinal de Lorraine of anterior date, it actually occurs eight times in the Ordonnance d'Institution des Postes framed under Louis XI. in 1464. An autograph, however, like Cæsar's wife, cannot endure suspicion to be once discredited is enough; and the letter which cost 700 francs was subsequently thought dear at thirty. The word passport, it may be remembered, is introduced by Shakspeare in Henry V.'s speech before the battle of Agincourt: Let him depart: his passport shall be made.' But it appears from The Sentimental Journey,' published

The

"

'The letters which cost me most are those that are worth least; from the moment that I flag, it is a sign that I am no longer in the vein I readily begin without plan; the first sometimes produces the second. . .

As I hid rather compose two letters than close and fold one, I always resign this duty to another; so that, when the substance is finished, I would willingly charge some one with the duty of adjusting those long harangues, offers, and prayers, that we place at the end, and wish that some, new custom would deliver us

from them.'

[ocr errors]

:

His wish has been granted, and our formal conclusions are now speedily dispatched. His habit of beginning without a plan recalls Rousseau's beau idéal of a loveletter, which (he maintains) should be began without the writer knowing what he is going to say, and end without his knowing what he has said. The letter of a cele-toire du Seizième Siècle.

*Lettres Inédites de Michel de Montaigne et de quelques autres Personnages pour servir à l'His

« ZurückWeiter »