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disport themselves, finding entrance from a thousand cracks round the window, which however, if heaven spares me life, I shall surely stop. This wilderness of a room has but one window, divided into three in the old fashion, without either curtain or blind, but instead of these conveniencies three pair of bare shutters. The ceiling is fortunately whitewashed, which contributes a little to light the room which is almost masked by the approach of a rocky bill to the window. The tapestry represents, doubtless, some great personages, to me unknown and not worth inquiring after. The niche is adorned with the trimmings of old clothes, very magnificent no doubt, but ill-matched and rather out of place. A chimney so wide that you could turn a coach and six-It devours I know not what quantities of wood, but never thinks of giving the least little heat in return. The furniture is of a piece with the room itself: some old arm-chairs ; a commode ; one night table, the only thing like a table, by the way, in the room-nothing more; a closet and a dressing-room, (through the walls of which I can see the sky,) to match the rest. To all this you climb by a very fine looking staircase, which however is, on account of its antiquity, not easy of ascent; and, finally, every thing that does not belong to the lady's own apartment, or Voltaire's, is of the most disgusting filth.'--p. 23.
Now for a view of their occupations.
• About half-past ten or eleven o'clock we are summoned to coffee, (breakfast,) which is always served in Voltaire's gallery; that lasts till twelve or one, according as we have assembled earlier or later. At noon precisely, the coachmen, to use their own phrase, go to dinner. These coachmen are the Lord of the castle, the fat lady, (Madame de Chambonin, a cousin and spy of Voltaire's), and her son, Voltaire's amanuensis, who never appears but to copy. We—that is, the Lady, Voltaire and I-stay together about half an hour, when he makes us a low bow and dismisses us. About four we lunch. I seldom come on this occasion unless sent for, which does not always happen. At nine we sit down to supper, and remain at table till midnight.-Good heaven, what suppers! Every kind of pleasure is collected; but the shortness of the time and the necessity of separating is the sword of Damocles. The Lord of the Castle (M. du Châtelet) sits down to table, eats nothing, but sleeps, and consequently does not talk much, and disappears with the dishes.'
In the intervals between these meetings Voltaire gave his fair friend, from time to time, several of his unpublished works to read. Some evenings he read to them parts of the Pucelle d'Orléans, and Madame de Grafigny listened with delight, and even repeats to her friend with enthusiasm the outline of one canto of the piece, which we are confident no Englishman would sit by and hear read. By this act of indiscretion and bad taste, Madame de Grafigny, as we shall see by and bye, lost the comforts of Cirey and the friendship of its owners; and here we must observe, that this sprightly lady’s notions and expressions are, on many occa
sions, of no very nice delicacy: she talks a language which, in these times, would not be tolerated in a housemaid; and there are passages in her letters, her letters to a man, which are wholly unfit to be read.
But the most important of their amusements was rehearsing and acting Voltaire's own plays; and indeed it was not improbable to some theatrical talent that Madame de Grafigny chiefly owed her welcome; but she was punctual in paying for her entertainment in another and more current coin. As no flattery was too gross for Voltaire's appetite, so no slight was so trivial as not to call down his vengeance; and Madame de Grafigny seems to have suspected that the morbid appetites of Voltaire and his mistress induced them to descend to the incredible meanness of prying into the letters which their guests sent or received, for the purpose of discovering what was said about them. She never fails to desire her correspondent to be cautious what he writes ; to be sure to answer her in the same tone which she uses; to slip into all his letters little compliments to the gentleman and the lady; for God's sake not to mention a word of what she writes, and, above all, to ask no questions. On one occasion M. Devaux had sent her a little piece of his own composition. Madame de Grafigny dared not show it at Cirey till she had interpolated it with a couple of dozen of wretched verses of her own making, in praise of the idol; and these saved the piece. Sometimes, however, in spite of her idolatry she lets us see, though obscurely, the personal bigotry, the persecuting jealousy, the cruel and tyrannical vanity of this great enemy of bigotry, persecution, and tyranny; and it is not, as we have already hinted, the least instructive part of her work which shows that the bad passions—all that Voltaire in his rage or his pleasantry attributes to priests and kings—actually raged in his own breast, and were limited only by his power of vengeance, whenever his personal vanity or personal interests were affected.
In his inordinate presumption, Voltaire seems to aspire at even more than literary despotism; and he exacted something like royal respect from his attendants.
• His own valet never quits his chair at table, and the other servants hand to him whatever the master wants, just as the king's puges do to the king's gentlemen ; but all this is done naturally, and without any air of grandeur; so true is it that good sense always knows how to maintain its proper dignity without subjecting itself to the ridicule of affectation.'—p. 145.
So true is it that easy impudence often appears to do things quite naturally, which are in the abstract ridiculously impertinent; and so true it is, that poor Madame de Grafigny was under the hard necessity of thinking, or at least of representing every thing that VOL. XXIII. NO. XLV.
Voltaire said or did, couleur de rose. It must, however, be admitted, that—in spite of her dependent and precarious circunstances, her natural wish not to offend, and the real ascendancy which such a man as Voltaire must have had over her mind-her good taste often leads her
"To hint a fault and hesitate dislike;' and though her language is every where scrupulously deferential, she sometimes (as in the passage just quoted) drops an expression which awakens attention to the foibles of the Idol, or the Idol's idol, though even then she takes care to disguise a little her meaning
• How I pity (she says) this poor Nicomede (Voltaire), since he and Dorothea (Madame du Châtelet) cannot agree! Ah! my friend, there is then no happiness on earth, and we are for ever deceived by appearances. We believed them the happiest couple in the world, when we saw them seldom and at a distance; but when one has gotten close to them, we find, alas ! that hell is every where !'-p. 100.
Thus the guilty paradise of these shameless adulterers, which seemed so gay, so splendid, and so luxurious, turns out, on the testimony of its own admirers and partakers, to be nothing but a hell!
The tyranny which Voltaire exercised over others, the tender Emilie exercised over him; and whatever torments of jealousy or indignation the poor Good-man may have felt, St. Lambert, Clairault, Desmarets, and many other young gentlemen who visited the house, inflicted upon Voltaire. In truth this learned lady was at least as much the votary of Venus as of Minerva, and Voltaire had no better simile to describe the succession of lovers, whose presence he was obliged to bear, than that of one nail driving out another!' We dare not pursue this subject farther; our language cannot express, and our feelings would revolt at some of the gentillesses of this nest of deists, atheists, and strumpets.
But however little Madame de Grafigny enlivened her circumspection by touches of descriptive pleasantry or criticism in the first ten letters, we find in the eleventh, written on the 1st of January, 1739, three weeks after her arrival at Cirey, a total alteration of style; the circumspection of the former becomes a complete taciturnity; what was only cautious before is now cold; and the cold rapidly increases to an absolute frost :-no more stories, no more jokes, no more of Nicomède and Dorothea, no more even of Voltaire and Madame du Châtelet. She begins to talk of the end of her visit; she arranges her plans for going into a nunnery; she is ill of all kinds of disorders; and, in short, Cirey is become intolerable, because—it is such a paradise!-they pay her such attentions that leave them she must--the continuance of
: . such
such extatic bliss would render it at last so painful to part, that she must go to save herself from that cruel moment of going: and then-ton Idole! ah! ton Idole, est le meilleur des hommes ! (p. 177.)
Then we find that all the letters she receives are delayed, and when at last they arrive, they bear all the marks of having been opened, and impudently closed again with little care. This audacious cruelty, this worst violation of individual liberty, this most, odious treachery, she attributes to the post-office; and, to be sure, it was a natural conjecture. The French post-office has always been proverbially and disgracefully faithless. Louis XV. knew nothing of the interior of his kingdom but by the gossip which his post-master general pilfered from the intercepted confidence of his subjects. Napoleon the Great (G— save the Emperor !) was equally curious; and the noble Lavalette, and all his predecessors in this honourable station, are said to have pandered to the tyrant's depraved appetite with the most shameless audacity.
But for once the French post-office was innocent, or, at least, was not alone guilty. Madame du Châtelet and Voltaire opened. the letters of their guests; and these exalted persons—these philosophers, these disciples of Locke and Newton, these regenerators of mankind, these scourgers of tyranny, these apostles of universal liberty and toleration—amused their idleness, or solaced their vanity, or exercised their jealousy in the baseness of reading the letters of the unhappy dupes whom they betrayed into their philosophic retreat.
During the whole month of January, during nineteen short letters, Madame de Grafigny languishes in a most unaccountable way; and the eternal complaints of the irregularities of the post and of the indiscretion of her correspondent are really wearisome; --at last her life becomes so miserable that she is forced to fly from this garden of Eden, and it is not till she is beyond its limits that she ventures to write her real sentiments, and then we learn (in the last letter of the Collection) the secret of her misery, and we have opened to us the whole horrors of the kind of society into which she had been inveigled; the extract will be somewhat long, but cannot be uninteresting.
I have not dared till now, my dear friend, to allow my dreadful story to escape from my pen. I was so ill that I was afraid I was dying, and I was unwilling to leave behind me the frightful tale of the degradation which I have suffered. I am, however, better now, and by Desmarets, or some other safe hand, I shall continue to have my letters conveyed to the post-office. Ah, the wretch! what has she not inflicted upon me! On the 29th December, the post arrived as usual, but there were, as
they said, no letters for me-supper went off as usual, and nothing announced the storm which was brewing. I went to my room, and was about to seal a letter to you when, in about half an hour, I saw-you guess who-coming in. I was extremely surprized, for he (Voltaire) never before came into my room, and least of all was he to be expected at this hour; but still more was I surprized when he exclaimed, “ that he was undone-that his life was in my hands." Good God, I exclaimed, and how? “ How?" he answered, “ there are an hundred copies of a canto of the Pucelle abroad. I am off this instant; I shall fly to Holland—to the end of the world—10-) not where! M. de Châtelet is going off post to Luneville. You must write to Panpan (her correspondent) to help him in recalling these copies-- he cannot refuse to do. that.”
• I, poor simpleton, assured him that you would do all that you could to help him. Write, then, said Voltaire, write, and write with your whole heart. Willingly, I exclaimed; how happy am I to have an opportunity of shewing you my affection! and I added some words of regret at the necessity which obliged him to ask my assistance: he started up like a fury, and exclaimed, “ No prevarication, Madam; it is you, you yourself, who have circulated it.” I was astonished-I assured him that I had never read or written a line of it. “On the codtrary,” he exclaimed, “ You copied it you sent it to Devaus, and he published it." I, in all the confusion of a surprize, but with all the vivacity of truth, denied it: he insisted with increased violence, and added that you had read it to Desinarets at an assembly-given copies to every body, and that Mde. de Châtelet had the proof all in her pocket.
• What could I say or do? I did not, as you may believe, understand what he meant, but I was not the less frightened. At last he insisted that I should sit down and write to you to send me the original, which I had sent you, and all the copies you had made. I humbly submitted, and began to write; but, as you can well conceive, I could not ask you to return what never was sent, and which, I believed, never existed : he read my letter, and threw it down in disgust. “ For shame," Madam, he cried, “a little honesty is at least due to a poor wretch whom you have ruined;" and then redoubled cries, redoubled violence, till at last, as all my protestations only rendered him more intolerable, I was reduced to silence : this frightful torture lasted a full hour, but it was nothing; it was reserved to the lady to make it still more frightful. She rushed in, screaming like a Fury, upbraiding me in the same way, which I received in the same silence; at last she pulled a letter out of her pocket, and, stuffing it almost into my mouth, “There," said she, “there is the proof of your infamy; you are the most abandoned of creatures ;. you are a monster that I received here, not out of regard, for I never had any, but out of pity, because you did not know where else to go, and you have had the infamy to betray us—to stab us—to steal from my desk a work, to copy it, to circulate it.” Ah, my poor friend, where were you?-a thunderbolt would have astonished me less. That's all I remember of the flood of abuse with which she overwhelmed me.