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receiving the ambassadors with the ceremonious etiquette known among crowned heads, appearing in public always surrounded by a numerous guard, while he allowed his colleagues only two grenadiers before their carriages, and had finally begun to give to his wife a certain rank in the government.
In the beginning we found ourselves in a position which, although extremely delicate, was not without its advantages. Military distinctions, and the rights they gave, appealed strongly to the generals and the aides-de-camp which surrounded Bonaparte. They had come to believe that all honors belonged exclusively to themselves. Meanwhile the Consul, who appreciated all conquests, and who had formed a secret plan to gain over to him all classes of society, was considerably annoyed by the ideas of his people of the sword, whenever he wished to attract people of other avocations toward him by showing them certain favors.
Consequently, Monsieur de Rémusat, clever, brilliant, and learned, understanding himself and others very thoroughly, and vastly superior in his conversational abilities to any of his colleagues, was promptly distinguished by his master, who was certainly wonderfully clear-sighted in discovering what individuals he could best utilize.
Bonaparte liked those persons, moreover, who knew just those things of which he was ignorant. He found in my husband a knowledge of certain usages which he desired to reestablish, perfect tact and familiarity with the manners and customs of good society; he indicated his wishes promptty, was heard and understood immediately, and was as promptly served.
This gave considerable umbrage to the soldiers about him: they foresaw that the day was near at hand when they would not be sole favorites, and that they would, moreover, be soon called upon to correct that roughness and informality of manner which they had acquired on fields of battle; our presence disturbed them. I was young, but more formed in character than their wives; the most of my companions were ignorant of the world, silent and timid, and were never comfortable in the presence of the First Consul. I, as I have before said, was keenly open to impressions, easily moved by novelty, and with a certain amount of cleverness, and kept my eyes wide open to enjoy the spectacle afforded me by this crowd of unknown personages. I found no difficulty in pleasing my new sovereign, because I really found pleasure in listening to her.
Madame Bonaparte saw in me the woman of her choice; she was flattered, moreover, by having conquered my mother, whose value, as belonging to a family of consideration, she fully estimated.
She treated me with entire confidence, and I felt toward her a genuine attachment. Before long she imparted to me all her secrets, which I received and guarded with entire discretion, although I might have been her daughter.* I often had it in my power to give her good advice, because the habits formed during my quiet domestic youth made me take a serious view of life. We were soon, my husband and myself, in a conspicuous position, to which we attained by degrees, all the time continuing to preserve entire simplicity in our manners, and avoiding anything which could enable any one to think that we wished to ground any assumptions on the favors we received.
It was in the autumn of 1802 that I established myself first at Saint-Cloud, where the First Consul then was. Four ladiest passed each of us a week in succession with Madame Bonaparte. It was the same with all those who came under the head of the service of the préfets du palais the generals of the Guard and the aides-decamp. The governor of the palace, Duroc, lived at Saint-Cloud; his house was maintained with extreme order; we dined with him. The Consul and his wife took their meals alone. Twice each week he invited government officials; once in the month he gave a great dinner in the Galerie de Diane to a hundred persons, after which a reception was given to all who held less important positions, civil or military. Strangers of distinction were also to be met there. During the winter of 1803 we were at peace with England, and a large number of English were in Paris and excited much curiosity, as we were not in the habit of seeing them.
Extreme luxury was displayed at these entertainments. Bonaparte liked to see women much and well dressed, and excited his wife and sisters to emulate each other. Madame Bonaparte and Mesdames Bacciochi and Murat (Madame Leclerc, afterward the Princess Pauline, was in 1802 at Saint Domingo) were resplendent. Each corps had its own costume, the uniforms were rich, and this pomp, which succeeded a time when an affectation of disgusting uncleanliness was combined with that of an incendiary civism, seemed in itself a guarantee against the return of the melancholy régime the recollection of which still weighed upon us.
It seems to me that Bonaparte's costume at
this epoch deserves to be recorded. He wore on ordinary occasions the uniform of some corps in his Guards; but he had ordained for himself and his two colleagues that on days of ceremony they should all three wear scarlet coats, embroidered in gold-of velvet in winter, of cloth in summer.
The two Consuls, Cambacérès and Lebrun, middle-aged, powdered, and erect, wore this brilliant coat with laces and a sword, as in other days they had worn their dress - suits. Bonaparte, who was uncomfortable in this costume, got out of it whenever he could. His hair was cut short, laid flat to his head, and was badly combed. With this scarlet and gold coat he kept on his black cravat, a jabot of lace from beneath, and no cuffs; sometimes a white vest, embroidered with silver, oftener his uniform vest, as well as his uniform sword, and breeches, silk stockings, and boots. This toilet, and his insignificant height, gave him the oddest possible look, at which, however, no one ventured to take exception.
When he became Emperor, his habit de cérémonie, with a small mantle and a plumed hat, was very becoming to him. To these he added a magnificent collar of the Order of the Legion, all in diamonds; but on ordinary occasions he wore only the silver cross.
I remember that, the evening before his coronation, the new marshals he had shortly before created came to pay their respects to him, all superbly dressed. Their showy costumes were in such strong contrast to the simple uniform which he wore, that he smiled. I was standing very near him, and, when he saw that I also smiled, he said in a low voice:
his cabinet. At Paris he joined her often for breakfast; at Saint-Cloud he breakfasted alone, and often on the terrace which opened from his cabinet. During breakfast he received artists and actors. He talked with some volubility and pleasantly at that hour. Then he was occupied with public affairs until six o'clock. Madame Bonaparte remained within, and received any number of visits, generally women whose husbands held positions under the Governmentothers belonging to what was called the ancien régime-who did not desire to have, or did not wish to seem to have, relations with the First Consul, but who were trying to obtain, through his wife, certain favors-names to be struck from the list of émigrés, or restoration of property.
Madame Bonaparte received everybody with charming grace, she promised all that was asked, and sent every one away highly pleased. The petitions left with her were sometimes mislaid, but others were brought in their stead, and she never seemed tired of listening.
At six o'clock in Paris they dined; at SaintCloud they went to drive-the Consul alone in a calèche with his wife, and the rest of us in other carriages. Bonaparte's brothers, Eugène Beauharnais, and his sisters, could one and all present themselves at dinner if they pleased. Madame Louis came sometimes, but she never slept at Saint-Cloud. Her husband's excessive jealousy and her own extreme diffidence made her very unhappy at this time. They sent little Napoleon
who subsequently died in Holland-once or twice each week. Bonaparte seemed to love this child, and had certainly hung his hopes upon him. Perhaps this was the sole reason why he cared for the child, for Monsieur de Talleyrand told me
"The right of being simply dressed does not that when the news of his death reached Berlin belong to everybody!"
A few moments later the marshals of his army were wrangling on some question of precedence, and finally came to the Emperor to ask him to settle the order of their rank in the ceremonies of the next day.
These pretensions were unanswerable, since each of them enumerated his victories. Bonaparte listened, and amused himself with another glance at me.
"It seems to me," I said to him, "that you have stamped your foot to-day on France, and said, 'Let all these vanities rise from the earth!'" "That is true," he answered, "but it is easier to rule the French through their vanity than in any other way."
But, to return. The first months of my duties, sometimes at Saint-Cloud, sometimes at Paris, during that winter, I found very agreeable. The mornings were spent very uniformly. At eight o'clock Bonaparte left his wife's room and entered
Bonaparte was so little moved that, when he was about to appear in public, Monsieur de Talleyrand hurriedly whispered to him: "You forget that a great misfortune has just befallen your family. You should assume an air of sadness."
"It does not amuse me," answered Bonaparte, "to think of dead people!"
It would be somewhat curious to compare these words with the discourse of Monsieur de Fontanes, who, called upon at this same time to make an address on the occasion of the Prussian flags being brought to the Invalides, took occasion to describe the majestic grief of a conqueror, forgetting his glorious victories to weep over the death of a child!
After the Consul had dined, we were notified that we could enter the salon. Conversation was prolonged according to the humor he was in; then he disappeared, and was not often seen again that evening. He went to his work, gave some especial audiences, received some minis
ter, and went to bed at a very good hour. Madame Bonaparte finished the evening with a game of cards. Between ten and eleven the following announcement was made: "Madame, the First Consul has retired."
She then dismissed us. In her rooms there was never any mention of public affairs. Duroc, Maret, then Secretary of State, and all the secretaries, were impenetrable. Most of the military men, I believe, abstained from thinking in order to avoid speaking, and there was little expenditure of brain or wit in that circle.
As I had never had any of the terror with which Bonaparte had for some time inspired those about him, I never experienced in his presence the embarrassment felt by many others, and had never conceived it to be my duty to submit to the system of monosyllables, which was religiously and possibly prudently adopted throughout the house.
This made me noticed and ridiculed in a way that I did not at first suspect, which then amused me, and which I finally sought to avoid. Let me here describe one scene which took place on a certain evening when, Bonaparte speaking of the talent of Monsieur Portalis, the father, who was then at work on the Code Civil, Monsieur de Rémusat said that it was more especially the study of Montesquieu that had formed Monsieur Portalis, whose model he had been, who had read and learned him as one would a catechism. Bonaparte, turning to one of my companions, said, with a laugh, "I would be willing to wager that you do not know who Montesquieu is."
"Pardon me," she answered; "who does not know 'Le Temple de Gnide?
At this Bonaparte burst out laughing, and I could not restrain a smile. He looked at me, and said, "And you, madame?"
Bonaparte was unwilling to hear any one utter a word of praise of anything that in any way appertained to the English. We argued for a little while. I said nothing in any way extraordinary. But I had mentioned Shakespeare; I had held my own against the First Consul; I had praised an English author. What audacity! what a prodigy of erudition!-and I was compelled to maintain a profound silence for several days, to do away with the effects of a superiority which I had never supposed could be acquired at such small expense.
When I left the palace, and went home to my mother's, I generally found there a number of charming, cultivated women and men of distinction, who talked most agreeably, and I smiled to myself at the difference between their conversation and that of the court of which I formed a portion.
This habit of almost complete silence preserved us, at all events, from that which was then called in society les caquets. The women were without coquetry, the men were usually occupied in the duties of their various positions; and Bonaparte, who dared not then abandon himself to all his fancies, and who believed that the appearance of regularity would be useful to him, lived at that time in a way to deceive me entirely in regard to his morals. He seemed to love his wife; she appeared to satisfy him. Nevertheless, I discovered in her great uneasiness, which amazed me. She was very jealous by nature; love was not, this jealousy.
I think, the primary cause of
To her it was a grave misfortune that she could bear her husband no children; he sometimes evinced his chagrin, and then she trembled for her future. The family of the Consul, who were always bitter against the Beauharnais, made constant allusions to this, which led to many stormy passages. Sometimes I found Madame Bonaparte in tears, and then she would burst forth into complaints against her brothers-in-law — against Madame Murat and Murat himself, who
I answered quietly that I did not know the "Temple de Gnide," that I had read the Considérations sur les Romains," but that I did not believe either of these works was the catechism of which Monsieur de Rémusat spoke. "The devil take it!" said Bonaparte; are sought to strengthen themselves with the Consul
you a savante?"
This epithet embarrassed me, and I felt that the risk I ran was very great that it would adhere A moment later Madame Bonaparte spoke of some tragedy I have forgotten. The First Consul passed in review all living authors, and spoke of Ducis with little admiration. He deplored the mediocrity of our tragic poets, and said that he would gladly bestow any reward on the author of a fine drama. I ventured to say that Ducis had spoiled Shakespeare's "Othello." This long English word uttered by my lips had an extraordinary effect on our audience of epaulets, who were silent and attentive.
by arousing in him certain passing fancies which they would then countenance and favor.
I entreated her to be calm and moderate, It was easy for me to see that if Bonaparte loved his wife it was that her gentleness gave him a sense of repose when he was with her, and that she would lose her empire by becoming excited.
During the first year that I was attached to this court, the light altercations which took place between Madame Bonaparte and her husband were invariably followed by satisfactory explanations and renewed affection.
Talleyrand was in great favor-all the most involved questions of politics passed through his hands. Not only did he manage all foreign affairs and determine as he did, just at this time, the new state constitutions to be given to Germany—which was the sort of work that laid the foundation of his immense fortune-but he had also long and daily conversations with Bonaparte, when he impelled the First Consul to all the measures which could establish his power on a satisfactory basis.
Even at this time I am quite certain that they had many discussions as to the expediency of reestablishing a monarchical form of government, which Monsieur de Talleyrand always believed to be the only one fitted for France. Besides, under such a government he would resume all the habits of his early life, and replace himself on familiar ground.
The advantages and abuses which spring from courts offered him great opportunities of power and of credit.
I did not know Monsieur de Talleyrand, and all that I had heard of him prejudiced me strongly against him. But I was always struck by the elegance of his manners, so strongly contrasting with the rough soldiers by whom I was surrounded. He stood out from among them with the air of a grand seigneur. He was imposing from his disdainful silence, by his patronizing politeness, against which no one could arm himself. He arrogated to himself the right of ridiculing those persons whom the subtilty and delicacy of his jests terrified. Monsieur de Talleyrand, more imitative than can well be imagined, made up an apparently natural character out of a series of habits carefully formed; he preserved them in every possible situation, as if they were absolutely a part of himself. His light manner of treating the most important things has often been useful to him, but it frequently injured that which he did.
I was many years without having any relations with him; I vaguely distrusted him, but I liked to hear him talk, and I liked to watch the charming ease with which he did everything, and the peculiar grace of his manners, which in any one else would have been called affectation.
plain, but with talents which had won for her the approbation of the public; the other was not so good an actress, but wonderfully beautiful. The Parisian public wavered between the two, but talent outweighed beauty finally. Bonaparte, however, thought most of the latter; and Madame Bonaparte speedily learned, through the espionage of her valets, that Mademoiselle Georges had been secretly introduced, on several occasions, to a small apartment slightly apart from the château. This discovery was a sore grief to her. She spoke of it with extreme emotion, and shed more tears than it seemed to me such a passing fancy demanded. I believed it to be my duty to represent to her that sweetness and patience were her sole remedies for a sorrow which time would surely bring to an end; and it was in the conversations which we had at this time that she gave me many new ideas in regard to her husband. The discontent that she showed induced me to believe, however, that there was more or less exaggeration in the bitterness of her complaints. This was what she said: "He had not the smallest moral principle; he concealed his vices merely because he found that they would do him harm; but if he were allowed, and no complaint was made, it would be seen how quickly he would abandon himself to the most shameless passions. . . . Did he not think himself placed in the world merely to gratify all his fancies? And then, too, would not his family profit by her weakness to induce him to relinquish the domestic life he had hitherto led and to alienate him from her? Would not the consequence of this or a similar act be the divorce which she saw always suspended over her head, and of which there had already been some question ? "
"It is the greatest misfortune in the world for me," she added, "that I have given no son to Bonaparte. Then no hatred, however venomous, could have troubled my repose."
"But, madame," I answered, "it seems to me that your daughter's child repairs this misfortune; the First Consul loves him, and will probably end by adopting him."
"Alas!" she replied, “would that this might be so; but Louis Bonaparte's jealous and suspicious character forbids the realization of this hope. His family have malignantly informed him of all the outrageous gossip which they have themselves put in circulation in regard to my daughter's conduct and the birth of her child. Hatred gives this child to Bonaparte, and this is reason enough for Louis never to give his consent to any arrangement in regard to the boy. You see how he keeps himself aloof, and how excessively guarded my daughter is compelled to be in her every act. Besides, independent of the higher considerations which will not allow me to
endure with patience these infidelities on the part of my husband, they are always the signal for a thousand annoyances against which I am compelled to arm myself, and which I can only summon all my patience to endure."
And, in fact, I have always noticed that as soon as the First Consul occupied himself with another woman, whether from the despotism of his character, which induced him to think it very strange that his wife would not quietly submit to this exercise of the independence which he always carefully preserved, or from the fact that Nature had endowed him with so small a power of loving that it was absorbed by the person momentarily preferred, leaving him without even ordinary kindliness for any other-be this as it may, it is certain that he was hard, violent, and pitiless toward his wife as soon as he had a mistress.
He forced the knowledge upon her without delay, and showed a surprise that was almost savage that she did not approve his abandoning himself to these distractions which he demonstrated mathematically, so to speak, as being allowable and necessary.
"I am not a man like other men," he would say, "and laws of morality and propriety were never made for me."
Such declarations naturally excited the discontent, tears, and complaints of Madame Bonaparte, to which her husband frequently responded by violence, the details of which I should not dare give. This went on until his last fancy suddenly evaporated, and his affection for his wife sprang once more into being. Then he was touched by her grief, and his caresses were as unrestrained as had been his violence. She, naturally of an aimable and trusting disposition, was soon reassured.
But, as long as the storm lasted, I was constantly embarrassed by the strange confidences of which I was the recipient, and even sometimes by the steps which she compelled me to take. I remember one especial evening when I had a terrible fright, at which I have often laughed since.
That winter Bonaparte had not relinquished the habit of coming every night to his wife's bed. She had had the address to persuade him that his personal safety demanded this.
She said she "slept lightly, and, if any nocturnal attack should be made upon him, she would be there to call for help."
She never retired until she was informed that Bonaparte was in bed. But, when he was under the influence of his passion for Mademoiselle Georges, he received her very late, after his work was completed, and did not come to his wife's room until toward morning. One evening Ma
dame Bonaparte, more jealous even than usual, kept me with her, and spoke with bitterness of all she suffered. It was one o'clock in the morning; absolute silence pervaded the Tuileries. Suddenly she started up.
"I can not endure it!" she exclaimed. "Mademoiselle is certainly up stairs. I will go and surprise them."
Considerably disturbed by this sudden announcement, I did what I could to induce her to give up the project; but I could produce no effect upon her."
"Come with me," she said; "we will go together."
I represented to her that such espionage, while admissible on her part, would be utterly inexcusable in me; and, in case she made the discovery she feared, that I should be entirely de trop in the scene which would follow.
She would not listen to one word I said. She reproached me vehemently with abandoning her in her troubles, and urged me with such entreaty of word and voice that I could not refuse to accede to the repugnance I felt. I consoled myself, however, with the thought that our enterprise would amount to nothing, as undoubtedly adequate precautions against a surprise were taken on the next floor.
Imagine us stepping softly after each other. Madame Bonaparte went first, in a state of great excitement, and I followed. We crept up a private staircase which led to Bonaparte's cabinet, I being very much ashamed of the part I played.
Half way up we heard a noise. Madame Bonaparte stood still and whispered in my ear:
"It is probably Rustan, Bonaparte's Mameluke, who guards the door. The creature is quite capable of strangling us both!"
At these words I was overwhelmed with such mortal terror, which was undoubtedly ridiculous, that I waited to hear no more, but turned and fled, and, without thinking that I left Madame Bonaparte in complete darkness, carried off the candle with me. I hurried back to the salon as fast as my feet could take me. She followed as quickly as the darkness would permit. When she saw my frightened face she began to laugh, as I did in a moment or two, and we relinquished our undertaking. I left her, saying I was glad that I had yielded to my impulse-glad that she had frightened me.
This jealousy, which affected Madame Bonaparte's naturally sweet temper, was not a mystery to any one. She placed me in the embarrassing position of a confidante whose advice had no weight, and gave me the air of sharing the displeasure I witnessed. Bonaparte at first believed that one woman necessarily enters into the feelings of another, and he showed excessive ill