Page images
PDF
EPUB

battle, when Bonaparte returned to Parie, he had not the least idea of being called upon tram to abdicate; but expected to obtain from the two chambers the means of renewing or continuing the contest. When he found that this was impossible, he sunk at once into despair, and resigned himself without a struggle. The selfishness which had guided his whole career, disclosed itself in naked deformity in the last acts of his public life. He abandoned hisarmv the moment he found that he could not lead it immediately against the enemy—and no *ooner saw his own fate determined, than ie save up all concern for that of the unhappy country which his ambition had involved in «och disasters. He quietly passed by the ramp «f his warriors on his way to the port by which he was to make his own escape— arid, by throwing himself into the hands of lie English, endeavoured to obtain for himwlf the benefit of those liberal principles which it had been the business of his life to extirpate and discredit all over the world.

At this point Madame de Staël terminates somewhat abruptly her historical review of the events of the Revolution; and here, our reader* will be happy to learn, we must stop too. There is half a volume more of her work, indeed.—and one that cannot be supposed the least interesting to us, as it treats chiefly of the history, constitution, and society of England. But it ¡3 for this very reason that we cannot trust ourselves with the examination of if We have every reason certainly to be satistied with the account she gives of us; nor can any thing be more eloquent and animating than the riew she has presented of the admirable mechanism and steady working of our constitution, and of its ennobling effects on the chara?l'T of all who live under it. We are willing to believe all this too to be just; though we are certainly painted en beau. In some parts, however, we are more shocked at the notions »he gives us of the French character, than nattered at the contrast exhibited by our own. 1-; mentioning the good reception that gentlemen in opposition to government sometimes meet with in society, among us, and the uprizht posture they contrive to maintain, she savs, that nobody here would think of condotmg with a man for being out of power, or of receiving him with less cordiality. She ronces also, with a very alarming sort of admiration, that she understood, when in England, that a gentleman of the law had actually refaeed a situation worth 6000Í. or 7000Í. a year, merely because he did not approve of the ministry by whom it was offered; and •dds, that in France any man who would re

fuse a respectable office, -with a salary of 8000 louis, would certainly be considered as fit for Bedlam: And in another place she observes, that it seems to be a fundamental maxim in that country, that every man must have a place. We confess that we have some difficulty in reconciling these incidental intimations with herleadingposition, that the great majority of the French nation is desirous of a free constitution, and perfectly fit for and deserving of it. If these be the principles, not only upon which they act, but which they arid their advocates avow, we know no constitution under which they can be free; and have no faith in the power of any new institutions to counteract that spirit of corruption by which, even where they have existed the longest, their whole virtue is consumed.

With our manners in society she is not quite so well pleased ;—though she is kind enough to ascribe our deficiencies to the most honourable causes. In commiserating the comparative dulness of our social talk; however, has not thisphilosophic observera httle overlooked the effects of national tastes and habits—and is it not conceivable, at least, that we who are used to it may really have as much satisfaction in our own hum-drum way of seeing eacb other, as our more sprightly neighbours in their exquisite assemblies? In all this part of the work, too, we think we can perceive the traces rather of ingenious theory, than of correct observation; and suspect that a good part of the tableau of English society is rather a sort of conjectural sketch, than a copy from real life ; or at least that it is a generalization from a very few, and not very common examples. May we be pardoned too for hinting, that a person of Madame de Staël's great talents and celebrity, is by no means well qualified for discovering the true tone and character of English society from her own observation ; both because she was not likely to see it in those smaller and more familiar assemblages in which it is seen to the most advantage, and because her presence must have had the unlucky effect of imposing silence on the modest, and tempting the vain and ambitious to unnatural display and ostentation.

With all its faults, however, the portion of her book which we have been obliged to pass over in silence, is well worthy of as ample a notice as we have bestowed on the other parts of it, and would of itself be sufficient to justify us in ascribing to its lamented author ihat perfection of masculine understanding, and female grace and acuteness, which are so rarely to be met with apart, and never, we believe, were before united.

vt

(fibruarg, 1816.)

Mémoires èe Madame La Marquise De Larochejaquelein; avec deux Cartes du Thiatre à la Guerre de La Vendée. 2 tomes, 8vo. pp. 500. Paris: 1815.

This is a book to be placed by the side of Mrs. Hutchinson's deligntful Memoirs of her heroic husband and his chivalrous Independents. Both are pictures, by a female hand, of tumultuary and almost private wars, carried on by conscientious individuals against the actual government of their country :—and both bring to light, not only innumerable traits of the most romantic daring and devoted fidelity in particular persons, but a general character of domestic virtue and social gentleness among those who would otherwise have figured to our imaginations as adventurous desperadoes or ferocious bigots. There is less talent, perhaps, and less loftiness, either of style or of character, in the French than the English heroine. Yet she also has done and suffered enough to entitle her to that appellation; and, while her narrative acquires an additional interest and a truer tone of nature, from the occasional recurrence of female fears and anxieties, it is conversant with still more extraordinary incidents and characters, and reveals still more of what had been previously malignantly misrepresented, or entirely unknown.

Our readers will understand, from the titlepage which we have transcribed, that the work relates to the unhappy and sanguinary wars which were waged against the insurgents in La Vendée during the first and maddest years of the French Republic: But it is proper for us to add, that it is confined almost entirely to the transactions of two years; and that the detailed narrative ends with the dissolution of the first Vendean army, before the proper formation of the Chouan force in Brittany, or the second insurrection of Poitou; though there are some brief and imperfect notices of these, and subsequent occurrences. The details also extend only to the proceedings of the Royalist or Insurgent party, to which the author belonged ; and do not affect to embrace any gênerai history of the war.

This hard-fated woman was very young, and newly married, when she was thrown, by the adverse circumstances of the time, into the very heart of those deplorable contests;—and, without pretending to any other information than she could draw from her own experience, and scarcely presuming to pass any judgment upon the merits or demerits of the cause, she has made up her book of a clear and dramatic description of acts in which ï>he was a sharer, or scenes of which she was an eyewitness,—arid of the characters and histories of the many distinguished individuals \vho partook with her of their glories or sulierinss. The irregular and undisciplined wars which it is her business to describe, are naturally far more prolific of

extraordinary incidents, unexpected turns of fortune, and striking displays of individual talent, and vice and virtue, than the ток solemn movements of national hostility; whirs every thing is in a great measure provided and foreseen, and where the inflexible si> ordination of rank, and the severe e»cuuu of a limited duty, not only take away the inducement, but the opportunity, for those eialtations of personal feeling and adveBtc.? which produce the most lively interest, and lead to the most animating results, hi ;:.-. ¡ unconcerted proceedings of an insurgent Depilation, all is experiment, and all is passion. The heroic daring of a simple peasant lilts him at once to the rank of a leader; and kindles a general enthusiasm to which all thing) j become possible. Generous and gentle tW,j ings are speedily generated by this raised state of mind and of destination ; and the perpetual intermixture of domestic carea aal rustic occupations, with the exploits ot tnx.fi serving without pay, and utterly unprovided with magazines, produces a contrast wh.ii enhances the effects of both parts of the >: • scription, and gives an air of moral pic;;.:esqueness to the scene, which is both palheu and delightful. It becomes much more aUrac:ive also, in this representation, by the .*ш-'-lar candour and moderation—not the most usual virtue of belligerent females—«.:!; which Madame de L. has told the »ton ': her friends and her enemies—the liberality with which she has praised the instances: heroism or compassion which occur in tie conduct of the republicans, and the simpi.i.1 v with which she confesses the jealousies t •'• excesses which sometimes disgraced the •:surgents. There is not only no royalist or antirevolutionary rant in these volumes, but scarcely any of the bitterness or exaggeraliœ of a party to civil dissensions; and it is rali;: wonderful that an actor and a sufferer in the most cruel and outrageous warfare by wk:ch modem times have been disgraced, shou.J have set an example of temperance and impartiality which its remote spectators ha« found it so difficult to follow. The truth ;iwe believe, lhat those who have had moít occasion to see thu mutual niadnos o¡ l'" tending factions, and to be aware of the trait; of individual generosity by which the \vor>t cause is occasionally redeemed, and of brutal outrage by which the best is sometimes debased, are both more indulgent to humar, nature, and more distrustful of its immaculate purity, than the fine declaimers who aggravate all that is bad on the side to which thf are opposed, and refuse to admit its existen« in that to which they belong. The general of an adverse army has always more tolera lion for the severities and even the misconduct of his opponents, and the herd of ignorant speculators at home;—in the same way us í Ac leaders of political parties have uniformly far less rancour and animosity towards their antagonists, than the vulgar followers in their train. It is no small proof, however, of an elevated and generous character, to be able to make those allowances; and Madame de L. would have had every apology for falling into the opposite error,—both on account of her sex, the natural prejudices of her rank ami education, the extraordinary sufferings to irhich she was subjected, and the singularly mild and unoffending character of the beloved associates of whom she was so cruelly deprived.

She had some right, in truth, to be delicate and rovahst. beyond the ordinary standard. Her fattier, the Marquis de Donnison, had an employment about the person of the King; in virtue of which, he had apartments in the Palace of Versailles; in which splendid abode the writer was bom. and continued constantly to reside, in the very focus of royal influence am! ¡ilory, till the whole of its unfortunate inhabitants were compelled to leave it. by the fniy of that mob which escorted them to Paris in 1789. She had, like most French ladies of distinction, been destined from her infancy to be the wife of M. de Lescure, a near relation of her mother, and the representative of the ancient and noble family of Salines m Poitou. The character of this eminent person, both as it is here drawn by his widow, and indirectly exhibited in various parts of her narrative, is as remote as possible from that which we should have been inclined, à priori, to ascribe to a young French nobleman of the old regime, just come to court, in the first flush of youth, from a great military school. He was extremely serious, ba.«hful, pious, and self-denying,—with great firmness of character and sweetness of temper.—fearless, and even ardent in war, but nnmble in his pretensions to dictate, and most considerate of the wishes and sufferings of his followers. To this person she was married in the nineteenth year of her age, in October 1790,—at a time when most of the noblesse hal already emigrated, and when the rage for ihjt unfortunate measure had penetrated even te the province of Poitou, where M. de Leseare had previously formed a prudent association of me whole gentry of the country, to whim the peasantry were most zealously attarhiM. It was the fashion, however, to emigrate; and so many of the Poitevin nobility wert; plf-ased to follow il, that M. de Lescure at last thought it concerned his honour, not to remain longer behind; and came to Paris in February 1791, to make preparations for his joomey to Coblentz. Here, however, he was reqnested by the Queen herself not to go farther; and thought it his duty to obey. The 'immer was passed in the greatest anxieties sffl agitations: and at last came the famous T»nth of August. Madame de L. assures us, that the attack on the palace was altogether uüexpected on that occasion, and that M.

Montmorin, who came to her from the King late in the preceding evening, informed her, that they were perfectly aware of an intention to assault the royal residence on the night of the 12th; but that, to a certainty, nothing would be attempted till then. At midnight, however, there were signs of agitation in the neighbourhood ; and before four o:clock in the morning, the massacre had begun. M. de Lescure rushed out on the first symptom of alarm to join the defenders of the palace, but could not obtain access within the gates, and was obliged to return and disguise himself in the garb of a Sansculotte, that he might mingle with some chance of escape in the crowd of assailants. M. de Montmorin, whose disguise was less perfectj escaped as if by a miracle. After being insulted by the m«b. he had taken refuge in the shop of a small grocer, by whom he was immediately recognised, and where he was speedily surrounded by crowds of the National Guards, reeking from the slaughter of the Swiss. The good natured shopkeeper saw his danger, and stepping quickly up to him, said with a familiar air, "Well, cousin, you scarcely expected, on your arrival from the country, to witness the downfal of the tyrant—Here, drink to the health of those brave asserters of our liberties." He submitted to swallow the toast, and got off without injury.

The street m which M. Lescure resided, being much frequented by persons of the Swiss nation, was evidently a very dangerous place of retreat for royalists; ana, soon after it was dark, the whole family, disguised in the dress of the lower orders, slipped out, with the design of taking refuge in the house of an old femme-de-chambrc, on the other side of the river. M. de Donnison and his wife went in one party; and Madame Lescure, then in the seventh month of her pregnancy, with her husband, in another. Intending to cross by the lowest of the bridges, they first turned into the Champs-Elysées. More than a thousand men had been killed there that day; but the alleys were now silent and lonely; though the roar of the multitude, and occasional discharges of cannon and musketry, were heard from the front of the Tuilleries, where the conflagration of the barracks was still visible in the sky. While they were wandering in these horrid shades, a woman came flying up to them, followed by a drunken patriot, with his musket presented at her head. All he had to say was, that she was an aristocrat, and that he must finish his day's work by killing her. M. Lescure appeased him with admirable presence of mind, by professing to enter entirely into his sentiments, and proposing that they should go back together to the attack of the palace—adding only, "But you see what state my wife is in —she is a poor timid creature—and I must first take her to her sister's, and then I shall return here to you." The savage nt last agreed to this, though before he went off, he presented his piece several times at them, swearing that he believed they were aristb* crats after all, and that he had a min<4 to have a shot at thi>m. This rencontre drove them from the lonely way; and they returned to the public streets, all b'azing with illuminations, and crowded with drunken and infuriated wretches, armed with pikes, and in many instances stained with blood. The tumult and terror of the scene inspired Madame de L. with a kind of sympathetic frenzy; and. •without knowing what she did, she screamed out, Vive les Sansculottes! à bas les tyrans! as outrageously as any of them. They glided unhurt, however, through this horrible assemblage; and crossing me river by the Pont Neuf, found the opposite shore dark, silent, and deserted, and speedily gained the numble refuge in search of which they had ventured. The domestic relations between the great and their dépendante were certainly more cordial in old France, than in any other country—and a revolution, which aimed professedly at levelling all distinction of ranks, and avenging the crimes of the wealthy, armed the hands of but few servants against the lives or liberties of their masters. M. de Lescure and his family were saved in this extremity by the prudent and heroic fidelity of some old waiting-women and laundresses—and ultimately effected their retreat to the country by the zealous and devoted services of a former tutor in the family, who had taken a very conspicuous part on the side of the Revolution. This M. Thomasin, who had superintended the education of M. Lescure, and retained the warmest affection for him and the whole family, was an active, bold, and good-humoured man—a great fencer, and a considerable orator at the meetings of his section. He was eager, of course, for a revolution that was to

five every thing to talents and courage: and ad been made a captain in one of the municipal regiments of Paris. This kind-hearted patriot took the proscribed family of M. de Lescure under his immediate protection, and by a thousand little stratagems and contrivances, not only procured passports and conveyances to take them out of Paris, but actually escorted them himself, in his national uniform, till they were safely settled in a royalist district in the suburbs of Tours. When any tumult or obstruction arose on the journey, M. Thomasin leaped from the carriage, and assuming the tone of zeal and authority that belonged to a Parisian officer, he harangued, reprimanded, and enchanted the provincial patriots, till the whole party went off again in the midst of their acclamations. From Tours, after a cautious and encouraging exploration of the neighbouring country, they at length proceeded to M. Lescure's chateau of Clisson. in the heart of the district afterwards but toó well known by the name of La Vendée, of which the author has here introduced a very clear and interesting description.

A tract of about one hundred and fifty miles square, at the mouth and on the southern bank of the Loire, comprehends the scene of those deplorable hostilities. The most inland part of the district, and that in which the insurrection first broke out. is called Le Bocage; and eeeiys to have been almost as singular in

its physical conformation, as in the state ami condition of its population. A series of detached eminences, of no great elevation, rose over the whole face of the country, with litlie rills trickling in the hollows and occasion! cliffs by their sides. The whole space was divided into small enclosures, each surrounded with tall wild hedges, and rows of pollard trees; so that, though there were few large woods, the whole region had a sylvan and impenetrable appearance. The ground ww mostly in pasturage; and the landscape had. for the most part, an aspect of wild verdure. except that in the autumn some patches 01 yellow corn appeared here and there athwart the green enclosures. Only two great roads traversed this sequestered region, runnir; nearly parallel, at a distance of more tha.i seventy miles from each other. In the intermediate space, there was nothing but a labyrinth of wild and devious paths, croseingeach other at the extremity of almost every field —often serving, at the same time, as channels for the winter torrents, and winding so capriciously among the innumerable hillocks. and beneath the meeting hedgerows, that the natives themselves were always in danger of losing their way when they went a league or two from their own habitations. The country, though rather thickly peopled, contained, as may be supposed, few large towns: and the inhabitants, devoted almost entirely to rural occupations, enjoyed a great deal of leisure. The noblesse or gentry of the country were very generally resident on their estates; where they lived in a style of simplicity and homeliness which had long disappeared from every other part of the kingdom No grand parks, fine gardens, or ornamented villas: but spacious clumsy chateau», garrounded with farm offices and cottages ior the labourers. Their manners and way of life, too, partook of the same primitive rusticity. There was great cordiality, and even much familiarity, in the intercourse of the seicnc-urs with their dependants. They were followed by large trains of them in their hunting expeditions, which occupied a great part of the;r time. Every man had his fowlingpiece. ar.d was a marksman of fame or pretensions. They were posted in various quarters, to intercept or orive back the game; and were thus trained, by anticipation, to mat sort of discipline and concert in which their whole art of war was afterwards found to confiftNor was their intimacy confined to the;r sports. The peasants resorted familiarly 10 their landlords for advice, both legal ¡u:J medical; and they repaid the visit? in their daily rambles, and entered with interest into all the details of their agricultural operations. They came to the wedding? of the.г children, drank with their guests, and made little presents to the younsr people. On Sundays and holidays, all the retainers of it» family assembled at the chateau, and dar.c«! in the barn or the court-yard, according to ihe season. The ladies of the house joined in the festivity, and that without any airs of condescension or of mockery; for, in their own îiie, there was little splendour or luxurious refinement. They travelled on horseback, or in heary carriages drawn by oxen; and had little other amusement than in the care of their dependants, and the familiar intercourse of neighbours among whom there was no rivalry or principle of ostentation.

From all this there resulted, as Madame de L. assures us, a certain innocence and kindliness of charade^ joined with great hardihood and gaiety,—which reminds us of Henry IV. and his Bearnois,—and carries with it, perhaps, on account of that association, an idea o¡'.something more chivalrous and romantic— more honest and unsophisticated, than any thing we now expect to meet with in this modem world of artifice and derision. There was rrreat purity of morals accordingly, Madame de L. informs us. and general cheerfulness and content throughout the whole district ;—crimes were never heard of, and lawsuits almost unknown. Though not very well educated, the population was exceedingly .terout ;—though theirs was a kind of superstitious and traditional devotion, it must be owned, rather than an enlightened or rational faith. They had the greatest veneration for crucifixes and images of their saints, and had no idea of any duty more imperious than that ot attending on all the offices of religion. They were singularly attached also to their cures; who were almost all born and bred in the country, spoke their patois, and shared in all their pastimes and occupations. When a banting-match was to take place, the clergyman announced it from the pulpit after prayers, —aud then took his fowlingpiece, and accompany] his congregation to the thicket. It fas on behalf of these curés, in fact, that the first disturbances were excited.

The decree of the Convention, displacing »11 priests who did not take the oaths imposed by that assembly, occasioned the removal of several of those beloved and conscientious pastors: and various tumults were excited by attempts to establish their successors by authority. Some lives were lost in these tuœults; but their most important effect was indiffusinz an opinion of the severity of the i ">v 2ovt>mment, and familiarizing the peop.e with the idea of resisting it by force. The order of the Convention for a forced levy of three hundred thousand men, and the preparation» to carry it into effect, gave rise to ihe first serious insurrection ;—and while the dread of punishment for the acts of violence already committed deterred the insurgents from robmitting, the standard was no sooner rai»! between the republican government on tie one hand and the discontented peasantry on the other, than the mass of that united and population declared itself for their s: and a great tract of country was arrayed in open rebellion, without con•*". leader, or preparation. We have the testimony of Madame de L. therefore., in adJ'tiwi to all other good testimony, that this feat civil war originated almost accidentally. Jr«(l certainly not from any plot or conspiracy t' the leading royaliste in the country. The

resident gentry, no doubt, for the most part, favoured that cause; and the peasantry felt almost universally with their masters;—but neither had the least idea, in the beginning, of opposing the political pretensions of the new government, nor, even to the last, much serious hope of effecting any revolution in the general state of the country. The first movements, indeed, partook far more of bigotry than of royalism; and were merely the rash and undirected expressions of plebeian resentment for the loss of their accustomed pastors. The more extensive commotions which followed on the compulsory levy, were equally without object or plan, and were confined at first to the peasantry. The gentry did not join until they had no alternative, but that of taking up arms either against their own dependants, or along with them; and they went into the field, generally, with little other view than that of acquitting their own faith and honour, and scarcely any expectation beyond that of obtaining better terms for the rebele they were joining, or of being able to make a stand till some new revolution should take place at Paris, and bring in rulers less harsh and sanguinary.

It was at the ballot for the levy of St. Florent, that the rebellion may be said to have begun. The young men first murmured, and then threatened the commissioners, who somewhat rashly directed a fieldpiece to be pointed against them, and afterwards to be fired over their heads:—Nobody was hurt by the discharge; and the crowd immediately rushed forward and seized upon the gun. Some of the commissioners were knocked down— their papers were seized and burnt—and the rioters went about singing and rejoicing for the rest of the evening. An account, probably somewhat exaggerated, of this tumult, was brought next day to a venerable peasant of the name of Cathelineau, a sort of itinerant dealer in wool, who was immediately struck with the decisive consequences of this open attack on the constituted authorities. The tidings were brought to him as he was kneading the weekly allowance of bread for his family. He instantly wiped his arms, put on his coat, and repaired to the village marketplace, where he harangued the inhabitants, and prevailed on twenty or thirty of the boldest youths to take their arms in their hands and follow him. He was universally respected for his piety, good sense, and mildness of character; and, proceeding with his troop of recruits to a neighbouring village, repeated his eloquent exhortations, and instantly found himself at the head of more than a hundred enthusiasts. Without stopping a moment, he led this new army to the attack of a military post guarded by four score soldiers and a piece of cannon. The post was surprised,— the soldiers dispersed or made prisoners,— and the gun brought off in triumph. From this he advances, the same afternoon, to another post of two hundred soldiers and three pieces of cannon; and succeeds, by the same surprise and intrepidity. The morning after, while preparing for other enterprises, he is

« PreviousContinue »