Imágenes de páginas

seems, as we shall see, never to have forgiven the innocent cause of his disaster, and throughout his whole book aims many poor sarcasms and revives many atrocious slanders against his old master. Arnault admits that he was at first awkward in the performance of his service, but that Monsieur* to do him justice, never showed the least impatience of his maladresse:—but neither,' (complains the mortified ex-valet,) • did he show any satisfaction when by practice I had learned to do better. Indeed, he was a real idol, that never showed either dissatisfaction or pleasure at being better or worse served by its ministers. Once, and once only, he departed from the system of moderation he had prescribed to himself. One of his valets de chambre, named Duruflé, a literary man of some distinction and who had even obtained a prize from the Academy, having hurt the prince while drawing on his stocking, he exclaimed, What a fool!I did not think,” replied the other, “ that one was a fool for not knowing how to put on Monsieur's stocking." “ One is a fool," rejoined the prince, “ who has not sense enough to do properly what he undertakes to do.”—vol. i. p. 166. *Pas si bête,' as honest Figaro says-Monsieur at least was no fool. Indeed, M. Arnault admits that he was a' garçon d'esprit;' and though he evidently has a spite against him, and endeavours by a hundred little sneers and some very calumnious insinuations to lower his character, the foregoing anecdote is the most serious offence which he specifically alleges. We guess, however, that this offence may have been more serious in Arnault's eyes

than it

appears at first sight, as there is reason to suspect that it was Arnault himself, not Duruflé, who received the reprimand.

M. Arnault's politics were not as yet, he tells us, very decided ; though it is evident that he was on the liberal side; but the massacres of September gave a pretty strong hint, that Paris was no longer an eligible residence for any person-however liberal his sentiments might be—who had been in the service of the royal family;* accordingly, on the 5th September, 1792, M. Arnault left Paris, and after many difficulties escaped from Boulogne to England. He spent about six weeks in London ; and as the most he can say of his acquaintance with our language is, that he knew quelque mots d'Anglais, we are not surprised to find that he has little to say about us, and that, in saying that little, he has made some ridiculous mistakes,—such as designating Ancient Pistol in Henry V. as Le Vieux Pistol,—but we cannot so easily forgive him one or two deliberate misrepresentations--as when he tells us that he saw, in the same play, the French scene, between Catherine and her attendant, acted at Drury Lane in all the grossness of the original language. Now, Drury Lane theatre was pulled down in 1791, and not re-opened till 1794; as, however, he might have seen the Drury Lane company at the Opera House, we forgive that inaccuracy: but he adds, that he was very much surprised at hearing in an English playhouse an entire scene which he perfectly understood !' This is a fact about which there could be no mistake : he might have forgotten the name of a play, or of the theatre, or of the actors, but there could be no mistake when he recollects the extraordinary occurrence of a whole French scene, and a scene so very remarkable. Now, we think we may assert that this cannot be true: 'Henry V' was indeed played at the Haymarket in the autumn of 1792; but as to the French scene, M. Arnault most certainly did not see it. There is, as everybody knows, such a scene in the printed play, but everybody equally well knows that it never was acted in modern times. These are small matters, but as tests of veracity they are just as good as more serious affairs; and we confess that we are compelled by a variety of such circumstances to repeat our doubts of M. Arnault's general accuracy.

* A small but curious proof of the virulent fanaticism with which everything that had any connexion, however slight, with royalty, was persecuted in those days, has fallen under our notice as we are writing this article. Having had occasion to coue sult the Almanach Royal for 1790, we happened to procure a copy handsomely bound - but the red morocco and gilding had not prevented the prudence of some former owner from cutting out from the title on the back of the volume, the word · Royal'!

M. Arnault's emigration may have been mainly decided by the influence of fear, or, as he expresses it, - by his horror of blood,' but we see cause to surmise that there was a little of another kind of prudence in it. The advance of the allies into France made it probable, in September, 1792, that the royal cause was about to triumph,--and in that case a little tour to London would have been an irresistible claim to restoration, if not to promotion, in the royal household; we are led to this suspicion by M. Arnault's avowal, that • after the retreat of the Prussians, the successes of the French, and après le train que prenaient les choses, the prolongation of his visit to England had no longer any reasonable motive, but might even be seriously injurious.'-vol. i.

p. and so he returned to France; where, unfortunately, the reign of blood was not only not passed, but had taken a course wider, deeper, better organized, and more demoniacal, than even the mob massacres of September.

Two or three anecdotes relative to those days of terror we think worth preserving: the first is truly characteristic of a French savant

I have made,' said La Grange, a statement of the mortality in Paris during the years 1793 and 1794, and on comparing them with the preceding years, I do not find that the establishment of the Revolu.




tionary Tribunal made any great difference. Deduct from the number of the victims those who would have died from old age, sickness, or accident, and you will find that the influence of this tribunal on the mortality of the capital is reduced to almost nothing.'-vol. iv. p. 316.

Now, this calculation of the bonhomme La Grange (as Arnault strangely calls him) is not more atrocious in morals than erroneous in statistics—as discreditable to the mathematician as to the

In the first place, the population of Paris had been so enormously diminished—every one who could possibly quit that hell upon earth having done so—that if the mortality in the diminished numbers had only equalled the natural mortality of former years, it would have proved a vast increase on the proportionable number of deaths. Again, begging the philosopher's pardon, we think that, even if the number of deaths had been the same, some little difference might be suggested between dying in one's bed, and being mangled on a scaffold. And again, did not this learned gentleman see that his calculation supposes that the guillotine was peculiarly active with those who were the least possible of being guilty of any offence—the old and the ailing? But above all, since his calculation was founded on the returns of the mortality, what was the use of the calculation at all ? If the returns were accurate, they must have specified how many were executed. Why then does he not tell us that number ? Why proceed with circuitous trouble to produce a vague result, instead of the certainty which he must have possessed, and which he chooses to conceal? This was the same savant who, when · Napoleon, who liked that folks should believe in a God,' (vol. iv. p. 317,) asked him 'what he thought of God,' replied, 'A pretty theory—it explains a great many things.' Zolie hypothèse ! (the philosopher lisped), elle explique bien de sozes.' La Grange's science seems to us quite on a par with the feeling of one Artaud, who, a few days after the execution of Camille Desmoulins, said, with a sentimental sigh, 'One cannot mow the harvest without cutting down some flowers.'-(ib.)

M. Arnault, by his intimacy with the infamous Chenier and some other notorious Jacobins, fell under the inputation of having belonged to that party; and an attempted defence of Chenier in these volumes seems to give additional countenance to that opinion; but, to do him justice, we must express our belief that such suspicions were groundless ; at least we may confidently say that of the three greatest infamies of that period—the murders of the innocent and patriot-king, of the innocent and heroic queen, of the innocent and angelic Elizabeth—he now speaks with proper feeling; and with regard to that one of these illustrious victims against whom the most violent acharnement of the Jacobins had


been directed the Queen—he speaks, not merely with pity, but with respect and admiration, creditable both to his feelings and his understanding. He attributes the death of the king to the audacity of the Mountain and the lacheté of the Girondins; and he states, very truly, that the people were so little in favour of the execution, that Louis would probably have been rescued, but for the adroit manouvre of the faction of blood, which—by calling out the National Guard on that day, and keeping them in military order and activity-prevented the union of those who, if at liberty, would have, no doubt, made some effort to save their innocent and still beloved sovereign. He carried,' says M. Arnault, the quality of passive courage even to sublimity, and died like a martyr.'—(vol. ij. p. 6.) We know not how, with such sentiments, M. Arnault could have been suspected of having contributed to the king's death; but he states that he was so, and he attributes the exile to which he was doomed, after the Hundred Days, to that unfounded imputation.

• The death of the king might have had a political object;' but he adds, in an obvious imitation of Mr. Burke, “what excuse can be made for that of the queen—for dragging to the scaffold all that mankind ought to reverence and honour-beauty, grace, dignity, goodness ?' · That woman whom I had seen at Versailles resplendent with majesty and happiness—throwing into the shade, by her personal qualities, that must brilliant court and the youngest and most beautiful of those who adorned it—that woman whom nature had made a grace, fortune a queen, enthusiasm a divinity, and revolutionary madness a heroine - I saw her again on the 16th Oct. 1793, dragged in a common cart, dressed in mean clothes borrowed for the occasion, and under which her arms were pinioned—I saw her dragged—widow of the king and of the kingdom-to the scaffold, still red with the blood of her husband. It was while I was accidentally crossing a street that leads from the Halles to the Rue de la Ferronerie, that I sawmi

-invoa luntarily and at a distance—this frightful procession. In half an hour she was no more, and the blood of Maria Theresa was mingled with that of Henry IV. and St. Louis.'- vol. ii. p. 88.

The guillotine never rested from its labour-'even Sunday shone no sabbath-day to it;-one holiday it however had the day of Robespierre's celebrated Feast of the Supreme Being.' Yet even that day revived, by a strange incident, the recollections of its bloody predecessors. In a car drawn by twelve bullocks, appeared some deitied prostitute,' whom Robespierre followed, at the head of a procession of the National Convention. When they came to the site of the guillotine-although the place had been carefully washed, and covered with a thick coat of gravel—the poor beasts stopped suddenly, and exhibited such marks of horror, that it was not without great difficulty and severe goading that they were at last driven forward.—(vol. ii. p. 90.)


Much as he detested these scenes of blood, Arnault's curiosity induced him to witness the execution of both Danton and Robespierre. He met, he says by accident, the fatal car which carried the former and his associates to that very scaffold to which they had sent so many others. It is well known, but never can be too often repeated, that the Revolutionary Tribunal which condemned him, Danton himself had instituted !--the atrocious violence which stified his defence, Dauton himself had enacted! During the fatal procession, Danton was calm, seated between Camille Desmoulins, who was ranting, and Fabre d'Eglantine, who appeared stupified. Camille fancied himself a martyr to his new-born humanity--for

he grew humane when he found he was himself in danger; but Fabre, more just, was overwhelmed with remorse and shame. Another person attracted notice in this batch of monsters—it was Herault de Sechelles. The mild tranquillity that reigned on the handsome and interesting countenance of this man (who had been in high legal office under the crown before the Revolution, and was 'an eminent law reformer in his day) was of another kind from the stern calm of Danton. Danton showed no signs of terror, but Herault exhibited as tranquil an air and as lively a colour as if he were going out to a dinner. Every spectator was interested by his appearance, and inquired with emotion the name of that amiable person; but when it was told —when the inquirer heard it was Herault de Sechellesthe interest vanished, and no one bestowed a second thought on the selfish apostate.

It was but a few weeks before his own exhibition on the same stage, that Herault had happened to meet the cart conveying Hebert, Cloots, and others of his former associates, to execution. • It was by chance,' he afterwards said, that I met them ; I was not looking for them, but I am not sorry to have seen thein-it was refreshing.' This Arnault relates with just indignation; yet when hem-a tragedian, be it remembered, by trade—met this batch of victims, he exclaimed, 'Here is a tragedy well begun, let us see the last act;'—and he followed it to the Place de la Révolution. We think that his exclamation is well worthy a place beside Herault's.

Of this batch-as it was commonly called--Danton died last : it was growing dark-at the foot of the horrible statue (a colossal effigy of Liberty, in plaster-of-Paris, erected on the pedestal of the ci-devant statue of Louis XV.) which looked black against the sky, the dark figure of Danton rose, defined rather than illuminated


« AnteriorContinuar »