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Paris in the mean time began to side more and more with the ugly actress. The beauty had been hissed more than once. Monsieur de Rémusat tried to accord an equal protection to these two débutantes, but whatever he did for one or the other was received with discontent, either by the public or by the Consul.
humor when he discovered that I knew what with the superintendence of this new establishwent on in his home. ment. Pensions and rewards began to be bestowed on men of letters, and on these points Monsieur de Fontanes was constantly consulted. Bonaparte liked to converse with him, and these conversations were often very amusing. Consul delighted in attacking the pure and classic taste of Monsieur de Fontanes, who defended our French chefs-d'œuvre with an ability which induced lookers-on to regard him as possessed of a certain kind of courage. For there were already in this court people so adapted to the métier of courtier that any one was regarded as a Roman who ventured to express admiration for " Mérope" or " Mithridate," since the master had declared that he liked neither the one nor the other of these works.
All this occasioned some disturbance in our circle. Bonaparte, without confiding to Monsieur de Rémusat the secret of his interest, complained to him, and declared that I should not receive his wife's confidences, unless I promised to give her sensible advice. My husband represented me to be a reasonable person, who was by nature and education thoroughly versed in the proprieties of life, and who could not possibly be guilty of the mistake of adding to Madame Bonaparte's exasperation.
The Consul, who was pleasantly disposed toward us, consented to suspend his opinion of me. After this followed another inconvenience. He took me as umpire often into his conjugal disputes, and insisted on appealing to what he called my common sense to support him in his condemnation of the jealous whims of which he complained, and of which he was weary.
As I had not acquired the habit of dissimulating my thoughts, I, when he talked to me of the annoyance he felt at such scenes, told him frankly that I pitied Madame Bonaparte sincerely, whether her sufferings were needless or otherwise that it seemed to me that he should find every excuse for her; but I admitted also that I thought her lacking in dignity when she set her servants to watch for proofs of the infidelities she suspected.
Bonaparte speedily informed Madame Bonaparte that I blamed her, and then I found myself involved in endless explanations from husband and wife; as a matter of course, I was carried away by the vivacity of my years, and by the sincere attachment I felt for the First Consul and his wife.
Then followed a succession of scenes, whose details are effaced from my memory, when I saw Bonaparte imperious, hard, and defiant, then all at once softened, almost agitated, kind, and gentle, hastening to repair the wrongs he had committed, and which should never again occur.
This light storm blew over, and the winter passed peacefully. Several new institutions indicated the return of order. Colleges were organized; robes and some importance were given to the magistrates. All the French pictures at the Louvre were assembled together under the name of a museum, and Monsieur Denon was intrusted VOL. VII.-30
He was greatly amused by these literary controversies, and even contemplated procuring this pleasure for himself twice each week, by inviting certain men of letters to spend the evening with Madame Bonaparte. Monsieur de Rémusat, who knew many men of letters in Paris, was empowered to gather them together at the château.
Some academicians and littérateurs were invited one evening. Bonaparte was in a genial humor; he talked well and freely; was animated and agreeable. I was charmed that he was seen to such advantage. I was extremely desirous that he should please these persons, who did not know him, and that, by showing himself more, he should destroy the prejudices which were gradually forming against him. Bonaparte's tact and wit were both unimpeachable when he chose to exercise them, and he entered into an argument with old Abbé Morellet, who was clear and decided, going always in logical sequence from proof to proof, and never admitting the power of the imagination in the progress of human events.
Bonaparte contradicted this. He allowed his imagination all the liberty it desired, and in this case her flights were far. He touched on all subjects, frequently lost himself, but was delighted to see that he was taxing the Abbé to keep up with him. He was really extremely interesting.
The next day he spoke with pleasure of this evening, and declared that he wished he could have many more like it. A similar reunion was then appointed about a week later, when some one, I do not know whom, expressed himself with some energy on the liberty of writing and thinking, and on their advantage to nations. This led to a discussion which was much less easy than that of the previous evening. The Consul relapsed into long silences which chilled the assembly. At a third soirée he made his appearance late, and was absent-minded, abstracted, and gloomy, and uttered only rare and disconnected sentences.
Everybody was weary, and the following day Bonaparte said that he saw nothing to like, after all, in these men of letters, that nothing was gained by admitting them to intimacy, and that he did not care to have them invited again.
He was never willing to submit to any restraint, and the necessity of showing himself in an agreeable mood at any fixed day and hour struck him as an intolerable restraint, which he shook off as speedily as possible.
By this time faint rumors arose of war with England. Secret correspondence, in regard to some attempts made in La Vendée were published. The English Government was accused of sustaining these attempts, and George Cadoudal was named as the agent between them and the Chouans. It was also said that Monsieur d'André had returned secretly to France after having again, before the 18th Fructidor, tried to serve the agents of royalty.
The Corps Législatif were assembled. The report that was rendered of the state of the republic was remarkable, and was remarked. At peace with all nations; the conclusum given at Ratisbon on the new division of Germany, and recognized by all the sovereigns; the constitution accepted by the Swiss; the Concordat; the system of public instruction; the formation of the Institute; justice better dispensed; financial improvement; the Code Civil, of which a portion was submitted to this Assembly; the different military works begun along our frontiers and in France; the projects for Anvers, the Mont Cenis, the shores of the Rhine, and the canal de l'Ourey; the acquisition of the island of Elba; Saint Domingo, which was still ours; projects of numerous laws for indirect taxation, for the formation of a chamber of commerce, for the practice of medicine, and for manufactures—all offered an honorable and satisfactory picture of the Government.
At the end of this report, a few words were slipped in regarding a possible rupture with England, and on the necessity of increasing the army. The Corps Législatif and the Tribunat made no opposition, and entire approval, which at this time was unquestionably merited, was bestowed on so many labors so well begun.
Early in March bitter complaints appeared in our journals on the publication by the English press of certain libels against Bonaparte. It was preposterous to complain of this, since the English press has absolute liberty, but these complaints were mere pretexts: the occupation of Malta and our interference in the Government of Switzerland were the real causes of the rupture. On March 8, 1803, a letter addressed by the King of England to the British Parliament
announced that important discussions were pending between the two governments, and complained of the armament then preparing in the ports of Holland. At the same time we were witnesses of the scene where Bonaparte feigned, or where he allowed himself to be carried away by, a violent rage in the presence of the ambassadors. Shortly after this he left Paris and established himself at Saint-Cloud.
He was not so absorbed at this time by public affairs that he neglected to order one of his préfets du palais to write a complimentary letter to the celebrated musician, Paisiello, on the opera of "Proserpine," which he wished brought out in Paris. Bonaparte was very eager to draw thither distinguished people from all countries, paying them liberally. Not long after this, the rupture between France and England burst out, and the English ambassador, before whose door a crowd had daily assembled to rejoice or mourn over his preparations for departure which they saw in his courtyard, suddenly departed. Monsieur de Talleyrand carried to the Senate a communication of the motives which forced the war. The Senate replied that they could only applaud the moderation and firmness of the First Consul, and sent a deputation to Saint-Cloud to carry the assurances of their gratitude and devotion.
Monsieur de Vaublanc, addressing the Corps Législatif, said with enthusiasm:
It was then that we, for the first time, saw in "The Moniteur the acrimonious and violent charges against the English Government, which were endlessly multiplied, and which only too carefully replied to the articles freely and constantly appearing each day in London. Bonaparte often dictated these paragraphs, which Monsieur Maret afterward corrected. It was most unfortunate that the sovereign of a great empire should enter, as it were, into a personal contest with these journalists, and it was certainly undignified to show such irascibility, and to be so moved by attacks which it would have been wiser to disdain.
English journalists had no difficulty in discovering to what degree the First Consul and afterward the Emperor of France was wounded by the jests they permitted themselves in regard
to him, and, as soon as they made this discovery, they redoubled the activity of their pursuit.
How often he came in the blackest of humors and told Madame Bonaparte that he had been reading articles in the Sun" or the "Courier" against him! He did his best to excite a war of pens between the different English journals; he had men in his pay in London, spent much money, and deceived no one either in England or in France.
I stated that he often dictated articles in the "Moniteur." Bonaparte had a singular manner of dictating. He never wrote anything with his own hand. His writing was unformed and absolutely undecipherable, to others as well as to himself. He was totally lacking in the patience demanded by any manual labor, no matter what it might be; and the extreme activity of his mind, combined with his strict punctuality, never permitted any of those occupations where one part of himself was under the control of the other.
Those people who wrote for him, Monsieur Bourrienne first, then Monsieur Maret, and his private secretary Menneval, had each adopted a style of abbreviation by which their pens went as fast as his thoughts. He dictated as he walked up and down his cabinet. If he were at all animated, his language became very violent, and was even at times intermingled with oaths, which, of course, were suppressed by the writers, and which had the advantage of giving them a little more time. He never repeated what he said, even when he had not been heard, and, unfortunately for the secretary, he remembered what he had said and detected any omissions.
One day he had just read a manuscript tragedy which had been sent to him; he was so struck by it, that he took it into his head to make some changes in it.
"Take pen and ink," he said to Monsieur de Rémusat, "and write down what I am going to say."
sieur de Rémusat and myself, have never been able to read one word of it, often as we have tried!
Monsieur Maret, Secretary of State, although a man of very mediocre abilities-Bonaparte did not dislike such persons, because he said he had enough talent to give them what they lackedMonsieur Maret, I say, finished by acquiring quite a reputation because of his quickness in writing. He leaped at the meaning of Bonaparte's words, and, without hazarding an observation, set them down faithfully. This fact serves to show the cause of his success with his master in conjunction with the fact that he affected for him the greatest admiration and the most unbounded regard. Bonaparte could never resist flattery.
This gentleman was so adroit in his flattery that I have been told that, when starting on a journey with the Emperor, he left with his wife models of letters which she was to copy carefully, and in which she complained that her husband's devotion to his master was such that she was jealous of him; and, as during these journeys the couriers delivered the letters and dispatches only into the hands of the Emperor, who never hesitated to break a seal if the fancy took him, these adroit complaints produced precisely the effect he desired and anticipated.
When Monsieur Maret was made Minister of Foreign Affairs, he took care not to follow Monsieur de Talleyrand's example, who often said that in this position it was more especially with Bonaparte that it was necessary to negotiate. But, on the contrary, entering into all his passions, always ready to express surprise that foreign potentates dared to show irritation when they had been insulted, or ventured to offer any opposition to their own ruin, he often strengthened his own fortune at the expense of Europe, when a disinterested and skillful minister would have taken a more just and accurate view.
He had, so to speak, always a courier booted and spurred ready to bear to each sovereign the first angry words which escaped Bonaparte's lips when unpleasant intelligence exasperated him. This culpable complaisance did infinite harm to his master, and caused more than one rupture which was regretted after the first heat had passed. It contributed possibly to Bonaparte's fall, for, in the last year of his reign, while he at
And, almost without giving my husband time to establish himself at his table, he began to dictate with such rapidity that Monsieur de Rémusat, accustomed as he was to writing very quickly, was covered with drops of perspiration in his attempts to follow him. Bonaparte saw this perfectly well, and checked himself several times only to say: "Come, now, try and understand me, for I Dresden hesitated in regard to the steps he shall not repeat a single word."
He always enjoyed any discomfort which he succeeded in inflicting upon any one. His great general principle, which he applied to small things as well as to large, was that people were energetic only when they were uncomfortable.
He fortunately forgot to ask for the sheets he had dictated-I say fortunately, for we two, Mon
should take, Maret retarded the retreat which was so important to be made by his inability to summon courage enough to inform the Emperor of the defection of Bavaria, which he should have known at the earliest possible moment.
This is, perhaps, the place in which it will be appropriate to relate an anecdote à propos of Monsieur de Talleyrand, which proves how well
this skillful minister knew how to manage Bonaparte, and how thoroughly he was master of himself.
Peace was negotiated at Amiens between England and France in the spring of 1802. New questions arose nearly at the close of the negotiations between the plenipotentiaries, which gave considerable uneasiness to Bonaparte, who awaited the arrival of the courier with impatience. He came and brought to the Minister of Foreign Affairs the signature so much desired. Monsieur de Talleyrand put it in his pocket and went to the Consul, appearing before him with that impassive face which he preserved on all occasions. He was there an hour, going over with Bonaparte a number of affairs which it was necessary to complete, and when the work was finished he said with a smile:
"And now I am about to give you a very great pleasure. The treaty is signed, and here it is."
These anecdotes, which I write down as they occur to me, were in reality unknown to me until later-not, in fact, until an intimate acquaintance with Monsieur de Talleyrand taught me to understand certain characteristics of Bonaparte.
In the beginning, I was profoundly deceived in him, and, at the same time, happy that that was so. I recognized his talents: I saw him disposed to repair the wrongs of which he was guilty toward his wife. I looked on with pleasure at this friendship with Berthier; he petted in my presence the boy-the little Napoleon— whom he appeared to love. I believed him to be accessible to all sweet and natural sentiments, and my youthful imagination adorned him with every good quality.
It is only just to say here that he was intoxicated by his excess of power, that his passions were exasperated by the facility with which he could satisfy them. Young, and uncertain of his future, he often hesitated at exhibiting certain
Bonaparte was literally stupefied at this way vices, and less often at the affectation of certain of making the announcement.
'This power of silence struck the Consul so forcibly that he was not angry," added Monsieur de Talleyrand, "because he at once concluded that he could make this quality useful to himself."
Another man of this court devotedly attached to Bonaparte, whom he admired as well, was Marshal Berthier, Prince of Wagram. He had made the Egyptian campaign, and there learned to love his general. His friendship was so demonstrative that Bonaparte-although very indifferent to any sentiment which sprang from the heart-could not refrain from responding to it in some degree. But their feelings toward each other continued to be unequal, and gave to Bonaparte many occasions to exact all sacrifices which sprung from sincere affection.
One day Monsieur de Talleyrand was talking with Bonaparte before he became emperor :
"I really can not understand," he said, "how Berthier and I fell into relations which have a certain air of intimacy. I never trouble myself much about useless sentiments; and Berthier is so thoroughly commonplace that I am at a loss to know why I am amused by him or feel any interest in him, and yet it is true that I have a certain affection for him."
"If you love him," answered Monsieur de Talleyrand, "I can tell you why: it is because he believes in you."
In the summer of this year a journey to Belgium was determined upon, which Bonaparte wished to be on a scale of great magnificance. He had little difficulty in persuading Madame Bonaparte to do everything in her power to impress the people to whom she was to show herself. Madame Talhouet and myself were selected to go with her, and the Consul gave me thirty thousand francs for our expenses. We left on June 24, 1803, with a cortége of several carriages, two generals of his Guard, his aides-de-camp, Duroc, two préfets du palais, Monsieur de Rémusat and a Piedmontese named Salmatons, and nothing was omitted to render this journey imposing.
We were to pass a day at Mortefontaine, which place had been purchased by Joseph Bonaparte; all the family were there assembled, and a very odd incident took place. We had spent the morning in the gardens, which were very beautiful. At dinner-time a question of precedence arose Bonaparte's mother was at Mortefontaine. Joseph told his brother that on entering the dining-room he must place his mother on his right, while Madame Bonaparte sat on his left. The Consul was wounded by this ceremonial, which placed his wife in a secondary position, and ordered Joseph to change the programme. His brother refused, and nothing that was said would induce him to yield. When dinner was announced Joseph took his mother's hand, and Lucien led in Madame Bonaparte. The Consul, irritated by this perseverance on the part of his brother, crossed the salon hastily, seized his wife by the arm, preceded every one
into the dining-room, took his seat with his wife in the chair next him, and then called me to take the seat on his other side. The assembly were dumfounded-I, more than any one else; and Madame Joseph Bonaparte,* to whom we all naturally owed every courtesy, was left at the end of the table, as if she were not a member of the family. As may easily be imagined, this arrangement did not add ease or gayety to the repast. The brothers were out of temper, Madame Bonaparte sad, and I much disturbed by the prominence into which I was forced.
During dinner Bonaparte never once addressed a member of his family; he talked with his wife and with me-and even took that occasion to tell me that he had restored to my cousin, the Vicomte de Vergennes, that very morning, certain woods which had been sequestrated in consequence of his emigration, but which had not been sold.
I was much touched by this kindness, but also excessively annoyed that he had chosen such a moment to convey to me this information, as the gratitude which at another time I would gladly have expressed to him, and the joy I felt, gave me an air of gayety and ease which I knew to be unbecoming under the circumstances, as well as strongly in contrast with the discomfort I experienced. The remainder of the day passed uneasily, and we left the following morning.
It was at Ghent that he found the daughters of the Duke de Villequier, one of the four First Gentlemen of the Chamber, who were nieces of the Bishop. To these ladies he restored the fine estate of Villequier with its considerable revenues. I had the pleasure of contributing to this restitution by urging it with all my power both with Bonaparte and with his wife.
The evening after this kind act I made some allusion to the gratitude felt by the two young ladies.
"Gratitude!" he exclaimed.
Ah, that is a
beautiful word—a poetical word, but one that is void of sense in revolutionary times. And all that I have done would never prevent your two friends from rejoicing should some royal emissary succeed in assassinating me."
I started, but he continued:
“You are young-you know nothing of political hatred. You see, it is a sort of spectacles through which one sees individual opinions and sentiments. It follows, therefore, that nothing is either bad or good in itself, but only according to the way in which one views it. In reality this
* Joseph Bonaparte married Mademoiselle Julie Clary, daughter of a merchant at Marseilles.
is a very convenient fashion of seeing things by which we should all profit. We have our spectacles, and, if it is not through our passions that we look at things, it is at least through our interests."
"But," I said, in reply, "with such a system of action, where would you place all these evidences of approval which now gratify you? For what class of men would you employ your life? For whom would you undertake great and hazardous enterprises?"
'Oh, a man must follow out his destiny! He who feels himself called must not resist. And then human pride creates the public he desires in the ideal world which is called posterity. Let him come to believe that in a hundred years a poem will recall some great act, some noble picture consecrate its memory, etc., etc., then his imagination is stirred, the battle-field is without danger, the cannon roars in vain, he regards it only as the sound which will hand the name of a brave general down to his descendants."
"I can never understand," I answered, "how a man can risk his life for glory if he cherishes only contempt for the men of his time."
Here Bonaparte interrupted me hastily: "I feel contempt for no man, madame; it is a word which should never be spoken. And I especially esteem Frenchmen."
I smiled at this abrupt declaration, and he, as if he divined the meaning of my smile, smiled in return, and, coming up to me, he pulled my ear,
which was a gesture common to him when in good humor, and repeated:
"Understand, madame, if you please, it must not be said that I despise Frenchmen."
Our entry into Brussels was magnificent. Superb and numerous regiments surrounded the Consul, who mounted a horse.
Madame Bonaparte was presented by the town with a superb carriage; the city was decorated; cannons were heard and bells were ringing. The numerous clergy of each church stood on its steps in full ecclesiastical pomp. The crowd was immense and the weather delightful.
I was enchanted. There was a succession of brilliant fêtes all the time we were in Brussels.
The French Minister, the Consul Lebrun, and ters to settle with us, crowded there. It was at the attachés of foreign courts which had matBrussels that I heard Monsieur de Talleyrand reply in the most adroit and flattering manner to little sudden. question of Bonaparte's which was certainly a
One evening the First Consul asked him abruptly how he had made his large fortune so quickly.