« PreviousContinue »
the sudden death of Monsieur de Rey. Although I had never loved him, and his love for me had been at an end, it gave me a very sensible concern.'
The remainder of the year she spent very quietly in the convent. The Abbess was seized with a dangerous illness which terminated in death in a few days. She was a very amiable character, such a fund of real goodness, so much sweetness, so much concern for others and neglect of herself, and such punctuality and attention to all her duties, were rarely combined in an Abbess.
Madame de Grieu had always lived with her sister the Abbess, and the Abbey was by right hers, but the former cabals were again in motion; she might have removed to the Abbey of Jouarre as a nun, but she would not forsake Mademoiselle de Launay, and a young niece who was equally dear to her. She accordingly removed with them to a convent in Paris, until something more advantageous might offer. Mademoiselle de Launay found the necessity of strengthening her mind with steady principles. She determined, rather than be a burden to her friends, to bear penury or seek a service'; for certainly it is only by our personal behaviour that we are debased; we frequently sink under want, not so much from its weight as our own weakness; yet, not to be extreme in her firm ness, she accepted of ten pistoles from a female friend. She now began to find a change in her situation, hitherto she had always lived where she was the chief object of attention, and where every trifle, if it concerned her, made an event. One day she had an head-ache-this formerly would have set the whole house in a bustle, abbess, sisters, and maids, now she was merely asked if she wanted any thing.
"At length Mademoiselle de Launay went to reside at the convent La Presentation*, where she had just sufficient to pay a quarter' allow ance. "A little before the time was expired," says she, "I was taken so ill that I had some hopes of dying, but I was disappointed. One never dies in the right time. When I was recovering, my sister, who lived with the Dutchess de la Ferté, came to see me, and with great transports of joy, congratulated me on the fortune which she imagined was now before me. She told me that going to Versailles with the Dutchess de la Ferté, she had mentioned me, and said that I knew all that could be known, and ennumerated to her Grace the sciences, of which she imagined I was mistress of. The Dutchess being ignorant, thought I was a prodigy. In the whole world there was not a person more ardent in her fancies. She arrived at Versailles with her mind full of this supposed prodigy, which she spoke of in all companies, and especially at Madame de Ventadour's + her sister. Her imagination became inflamed by the warmth of her elocution, and she said a hundred things more than had been told her. sister after this narrative, told me that I must by all means wait upon her lady and thank her: I was not mistress of a gown fit to make my appearance in, but borrowed one from a convent boarder for a few hours. We got to the Dutchess' just at her awakening. She was delighted at the sight of me, and said a thousand things in my praise. After a few questions on her side, and some plain, and possibly insipid answer on mine; Bless me," says she, "never creature talked so
An order of nuns established in France in 1627. †Then governess to Lewis the fifteenth
finely! She comes just in the nick of time to write a letter for me to Monsieur Desmarets which I must send him immediately. Come Mademoiselle, some paper shall be brought to you, and you need only write." "But what shall I write Madam?" answered I, much out of countenance, "You may give it what turn you please; it must be right: I insist on his complying with what I ask." But Madame," replied I, "still I should know what you would say to him." "No, no, you understand me." What could I gather from such a vague sallies? but it was in vain to insist on any further explanation? At last, connecting the broken sentences which came from her, I guessed the matter in hand. At length I finished the letter, and with a palpitating heart for the success of it, went and delivered it to her. "Well," cried she, this is just the whole of what I was for saying to him; 'tis really strange she should hit my thoughts so well. Hetty your sister is a surprizing girl. Oh! since she has such a knack at writing I must have another letter to my steward that may be despatched while I dress." "There was no asking a second time what she intended to say. A torrent of words issued from her mouth with a rapidity, which all my attention could not keep pace with; I was still more embarrassed with this second essay. She had named her Counsellor and Attorney, who constituted a part of this letter. They were both utterly unknown to me and unfortunately I took the name of the one for that of the other. "The business is well conched," said she after reading my letter," but how could a girl of your wit, call my Counsellor by the Attorney's name?" By this she discovered the limits of my genius; yet by good fortune, it did not en
BELFAST MAG. NO. XXXII.
tirely lose me in her esteem. By the time I had finished these dispatches, she was dressed, and in a hurry to be at Versailles. I followed her to the coach, and when she had seated herself, and my sister whom she took with her, had got in.— "Suppose," said she to my sister, "I should take her with us? Come in Mademoiselle, I'll show you to Madame de Ventadour." This order was a thunder-clap to me, but the time for having a will of my own, and opposing that of others, was now over. After asking me innumerable questions; "to be sure,' said she, "as you know so many things, you understand casting a nativity; there is nothing in my mind comes up to that." I told her that I had not the least idea of the science. "And why," said she "learn so many which are of no use?" I assured her that I had never learned any, but without minding me she was now running on in praise of geomancy, chiromancy, &c. related to me several predictions concerning herself, which, she was sure would be accomplished, her last night's dream and other equally important incidents. I listened to the whole with great submission, but little faith. I was introduced to Madame de Ventadour, who received me with all imaginable condescension, she talked to me about my mother who had been governess to her daughter, and her intention of finding me a suitable place. The Dutchess de la Ferté had made such a stir about me that I was become an object of curiosity. A thousand people flocking about me, to have a sight of me, and to ask me questions." "Here Madam,” said the Dutchess de la Ferté to the Dutchess de Noailles, introducing Mademoiselle de Launay, "is the person I was speaking to you of, who has so much wit, and knows so
many things. Come, Mademoiselle, speak; you'll see Madam how she talks." Perceiving that Mademoiselle de Launay hesitated, she thought of assisting her, as the beginning of a song is sometimes hummed over to a different singer, she added, "Let us have a word or two about religion, and then you shall talk of something else. This ridiculous scene was repeated in other hou ses, and I had to be exhibited like a monkey which shows tricks at a fair." Shortly after the Dutchessdu Maine persuaded Mademoiselle de Launay, to accept a place in her establishment. The exaltation of the Dut chess' family was then at the highest point; since her marriage with the Duke du Maine, by her active solicitude in procuring for him a rank equal to her own, they had gradually attained all the honours of the princes of the royal blood, and she availed herself of some favourable occurrences to obtain that famous edict, which entitled them and their descendants to the succession. The precipitate loss of so many of the princes of the blood, had produced and facilitated that scheme which was then executed without any contradition, and afterwards occasioned such animosities. But her prosperity, blinding the catastrophe to which it led, made her court a brilliant scene of joy and festivity.
Lewis XIV dying on the first of September, the assembly of the parliament, was held the next day. The king directed by his will a regency, specifying the members and nominating the Duke d' Orleans, president. Every thing was to be decided by a majority of votes; to this assembly was committed the tutelage of the young king; the superintendance of his education &c. to the Duke du Mainet. This au
Daughter of the prince of Condé, commonly called the Great Condé.
An illegitimate son to Lewis XIV.
thority would have given him great power if he had retained it, but the power of kings, however despotic, does not reach beyond the grave.
The woman whose business was to tell the Dutchess du Maine stories until she fell asleep, being ill, Mademoiselle de Launay was appointed to read in her place. "The Dutchess being mortified that the Duke d'Orleans should have so much power," says Mademoiselle de Launay, "determined to apply to the king of Spain, to require a meeting of the states of France, to enquire into the conduct of the Duke D' Orleans. The regent having been informed of this application the Dutchess received positive advice, from more than one quarter, that she was to be taken into custody. She used often to talk to me, and would say that whatever place she was carried to, she would ask that I should go with her. This, if matters came to that melancholy pass, was what I most passionately wished. We both thought that, considering her rank, the place of confinement would be one of the royal seats, with a suitable retinue. It was not in nature to imagine any thing of the harsh treatment she afterwards went throngh. I was under this melancholy expectation, when one evening, being fa tigued both in body and mind, I threw myself on a couch in my chamber and fell asleep. In the midst of my nap I was aroused by a wornan, who told me in haste that her mistress sent her to inform me that the Dutchess du Maine was to be arrested that night. These words quite dispelled my somnolency, and I found that she was sent by the Marchioness de Lambert, so famous for the purity of her morals, and the sublimity of her intellects, and than whom the Dutchess du Maine had not a firmer friend, though in this affair she had not shared her confidence. Without loss of time, I in
formed the Dutchess, but she was so little concerned, as to turn it into a subject of jocularity; at length she requested me to read to her, in order to put her asleep. I took Machiavel's Decades, and folded down at the chapter, of Conspiracies. I shewed it to her, and she smiling said, Away with this evidence against us, it would be one of the strongest." Our expectations this time were premature; the morning came, and matters still remained in statu quo. Some measures, which remained to be taken, obliged the regent to defer the execution of his designs for some days. Four or five days had passed away pretty quietly, and after having employed part of the night in discoursing to me, the Dutchess fell asleep at six o'clock in the morning, and I withdrew. I was just beginning to dose, when I heard the door open, I imagined that the Dutchess had sent for me again, and, half awake, said, "who is there?" an unknown voice answered, "I come in the king's name." I was at no loss about his meaning, and he ordered me in no very mannerly accent to get up. I obeyed without reply. It was the 29th of December, before day break, but when they brought a candle I perceived my company to be an officer of the guards, and two musqueteers; the officer read an order for guarding me in sight. The whole house swarmed with guards and musqueteers. I was under horrible distress of mind about the Dutchess du Maine, doing myself the honour to look upon this visit to me, only as a consequence of that princess being put under arrest. My guards would not gratify my affectionate solicitude about her, I only knew that the Lieutenant of the life guards had brought the king's warrant for carrying her to prison, to which she submitted with the most amiable serenity."
The Captain of the life guards left the Dutchess du Maine at Essonne, from whence she was taken to. Dijon citadel. This was a reverse of fortune for a princess accustomed to splendour and homage, always sur#rounded by friends and dependents, and who thought herself alone when she was not in a croud of servile flatterers. The Duke du Maine was taken to the Citadel of Dourlans in Piccardy.
At seven o'clock in the evening, Mademoiselle de Launay was taken to the Bastile. After crossing several draw-bridges, she was brought to a large chamber, whose walls was covered with inscriptions written with charcoal, expressing the very opposite sentiments and condition of the former occupiers. A little rush chair was brought her to sit down; two stones for supporting a fire which was kindled, and her light was a small candle end stuck against the wall. All these conveniences having been provided, the governor withdrew, wich was followed by the harsh noise of five or six large rusty locks, and twice the number of bolts. The governor at length permitted Rondle, (a woman who always attended her at Seaux) to go to the Bastile; "she related," says Mademoiselle de Launay, "all that she had heard and seen, the day I was taken into custody; when she had finished her story I made her begin again that my attention might be diverted. Several days passed and I waited with anxiety for the time that I should be examined. I used to prepare answers for every thing that could be said to me. I believe I had collected enough to make a pretty sizeable volume; but except the exercise of my genius, I might as well have been unemployed. The governor of the Bastile sent me a pack of cards, and some volumes of Cleopatra. With this trash I wiled away the time till some
thing better should come, and played at picquet with Rondle. Being, with oat my departure, taken up ther thoughts than about what I might want, I now found the disagreeable effects of this absence of mind, for at the end of a few days I found myself in want of every thing." She was in some respects, in a worse situation than the heroine of a romance, when she elopes from her friends, as she had not a change of clothes, nor the usual resource, a casket of jewels, with which these imaginary and illustrious personages are always provided. She was shut up in the Bastile, debarred from all intercourse with her friends, and had reason to fear real misfortunes; the heroine of a romance always finds some means of escape. ..............." Let solid walls impound The captive fair, and dig a moat around; Let there be brazen locks and bars of steel, And keepers cruel, such as never feel; With not a single note the purse supply, And when she begs let men and maids
Be windows those from which she dares not fall,
And help so distant that she dare not call; Still means of freedom will some power devise,
And from the baffled ruffian snatch the prize."
Mademoiselle de Launay's great est alarm was lest she should be put to torture to force her to confess, She could not avoid anticipating this misfortune as she dreaded the force of excessive torture against the strongest resolution. Before she had got over her fears she was called upon in order to be interrogated by the commissioners. After innumerable questions were asked, she was permitted to retire without betraying any confusion or fear. In her confinement she seemed to be quite free from that lassitude, which is so much dreaded under confinement, by feeling so much agitation and
fear in the first part of her imprisonment, and when tranquillity began to dawn she excluded ennui by a varie ty of occupations and amusements. After intense reading she relaxed her mind by more trifling pursuits; by this means she found that what renders insipid the most spirited diversions of those trifling characters, whole lives are but a round of indulgence and pleasure, is that with them they lose the genuine effect of relieving the mind or body when wearied.
Mademoiselle de Launay was pretty well informed of every thing that passed out of the Bastile, though this was generally a source of addiNews on which tional torture. prisoners feed with such avidity, is poison to them-they come to a knowledge of a part, and remain ignorant of the other. The happiest condition to them is absolute igno rance of all that passes out of the prison-doors.
"In our prison," says she, "we merely heard a vague report of a discovery, but this had been so often talked of, that no credit was At last, Monsieur le given to it. Blanc who had not made his appearance within our walls for some time, came here about the end of November, He told me that Ishould have saved him a great deal of trouble if I had, on my former examination, satisfied him concerning what I knew of the Dutchess du Maine's aflair, with which I was perfectly acquainted; that she herself had set it forth in an exact declaration, and that my secrecy was now quite unseasonable. I answered that it did not appear to me that I was thought to know so much; in effect they had only examined me once, and that very slightly. "Besides," added I,
if the Dutchess du Maine herself has spoken, what can I say to give you further insight? Who should know so well as