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MEMOIR OF MADAME DE GRAFIGNY.
BY THE LATE COUNTESS OF BLESSINGTON.
Françoise d'Issembourg d'Apponcourt was racter, simply replied, “ The Duke of Lorraine born at Nancy in the year 1694, and was the is happy to have so faithful a subject." only daughter of François, Seigneur d'Appon- The Marchioness de Grafigny had two or court and de Greux. He held the post of major three children ; none of whom, however, surde la gendarmerie to Leopold, first Duke of vived their father. Endowed with a lively imaLorraine.
Her mother was the daughter of gination and a ready wit, and, above all, possessed Anthony de Seaureau, Baron d’Houdemon and of a tender heart' and affectionate disposition, Vandæuvre, first maître d'hotel to the Duke which conciliated the attachment of her friends, Leopold. She was also grand niece to the she was so highly esteemed in Lorraine that famous Callot.
when Mademoiselle de Guise was to proceed to The father of Madame de Grafigny descended Paris in 1734, to be married to the Duke of from the ancient and noble house of Issembourg Richelieu, this lady was selected to accompany in Germany, and served in France in his youth. her. It was on this occasion that she first made He was aide-de-camp to the Marshal de Bouflers the acquaintance of Voltaire, who, having asat the siege of Namur. Louis XIV., to mark sisted in accomplishing the match, came to his satisfaction at his services, conferred on him Montjeu, near Anton, in April, to be present at the same rank in France as he held in Germany, the solemnization of the nuptials. Madame de and recognized all the titles bestowed on him. Grafigny had long desired to visit Paris, but He afterwards attached himself to the Court of with little hope to have this wish gratified, for Lorraine, where he ended his days. The subject her pecuniary resources were so limited as to of this memoir married in early life Francis preclude the chance of undertaking such a jourHugues, Marquis de Grafigny, an officer in the ney. It may therefore be imagined with what body guard, and chamberlain to the Duke of pleasure she seized the opportunity now afforded Lorraine.* The violence of temper and unstea- her, though little anticipating how this event diness of conduct of this gentleman rendered would change the colour of her life. Soon adthe marriage a very unhappy one to his unfor- mitted to the most intellectual circle in the tunate wife, who, after bearing with exemplary French capital, her vivacity, good temper, and patience for many years the ill-usage he heaped sprightly conversation made so favourable an on her, was at length compelled to seek a legal impression on its members that her acquaintance separation from him. This step having removed with them in due time grew into friendship. all restraint from the Marquis, his conduct be- A ware of her narrow income, and thinking came even more culpable than before, and led to highly of her talent, some of her friends enhis being committed to a prison, where his days couraged her to attempt a literary production, a were terminated. The mother of Madame de project never previously entertained by her. She Grafigny was grand niece of the celebrated was then in her forty-fourth year, her person Callot, who, descended from a rich and poble still remarkably pleasing, her mind highly cultifamily, was seized with such a passion for paint- vated, and her manners peculiarly attractive. ing, that, contrary to every effort of his parents Her first work appeared in 1745, in a collection, to dissuade him from adopting the profession of the joint production of the literary circle in which a painter, which they considered a degradation, she had now been some years a general favourhe left the paternal roof, and resigned all the ite. This collection was entitled “ Recueil de advantages it held out to him, to study his ces Messieurs,” and her work was the most confavourite art at home. Callot acquired great siderable in the volume in which it appeared. eminence in his profession, and was no less re- The title she selected for it was,
“ Nouvelle markable for his independence of mind, which Espagnole, le mauvais exemple produit autant led him never to become a courtier, although de Vertus que de Vices,” and certainly not a formore than two sovereigns wished to attach hii tunate one; as, to justify it, the dangerous and to their courts. He used his pen, if not quite paradoxical opinion that a bad example produces as successfully as his pencil, yet sufficiently well as many virtues as vices was to be sustained. to write some satirical verses not devoid of merit. The work abounds in maxims, more remarkable It is reported, to the honour of Callot, that for smartness of style than for truth, and met when Louis XIII. took Nancy, he ordered Callot with little success. Piqued by the criticisms it to draw the plan of the siege of that town; but occasioned, and mortified by the remarks of her Callot declined, saying, that being a Lorrain he friends, Madame de Grafigny determined to would sooner cut off his thumb than use his make another effort to attain a literary reputapencil against his country. Louis XIII., with tion, and keeping her intention a secret, wrote more generosity than usually marked his cha- the “ Lettres Péruviennes,” which soon became
very popular. A recent perusal of this work * A situation similar to Lord Steward in our leads us to think less favourably of it than we Royal household.
had anticipated from the cominendations be
stowed upon it; for, although the plot is inge- , shown to them. In the first days of December, nious, and furnished opportunities for displaying 1738, Madame de Grafigny arrived at Cirey, an the peculiar talent of observation for which its estate which the Marquise du Châtelet possessed author was remarkable, the development and in Lorraine, and where Voltaire had accompadenouement of the novel leave much to be de- nied her. In this retreat, while the great man sired, while the philosophical ideas of the society assiduously applied himself to the composition in which she moved often obtrude themselves of some of those productions in literature and and deteriorate from the interest, and injure the drama which have excited such general adthe charm of the style ; of which, however, some miration, bis fair hostess no less assiduously passages give a very favourable impression. devoted her time to those scientific pursuits, for
The next production of Madame de Grafigny her success in which she justly became celewas “Cerise," a sentimental comedy in prose, in brated. Nor were the Graces neglected while five acts, which met with great success, and its Literature and Science had due homage rendered popularity offered a salve to the wounds inflicted to them by these two remarkable individuals : on her amour propre by the failure of her both liked luxury and splendour, and loved,
Nouvelle Espagnole.” Possessed of no ordi- even while pursuing their labours, to be surnary portion of sensibility, Madame de Grafigny rounded by all the elegances supposed to be exwas even more pained by the persiflage of her clusively sought by petits maitres and maitresses. friends, on the failure of her novel, than by the | To be permitted to become an inhabitant of this severity of her critics: nevertheless, she had the abode was deemed no mean privilege by Madame good sense, as well as good temper, not to resent de Grafigny, and gladly did she avail herself of the annoyances inflicted on her, however deeply it. Aware that every detail connected with the she felt them, and continued to live on terms of manners and habits of the two distinguished amity with those whose wit had been exercised persons with whom she was to spend some time, at her expense. The agreeable and brilliant would be highly interesting to all who knew conversation of Madame de Grafigny had led them, she wrote accounts of the interior of her literary friends to form expectations of her Cirey, the dame chatelaine of that château, and writings, which, whatever was the success of of Voltaire, in which good nature was less visible the “ Lettres Peruviennes," and " Cerise," even than a shrewd and satirical spirit of observation these works did not justify.
which pervades the greater number of her letters In conversation the contact with other minds dated thence. While judging how far she may often elicits ideas which might otherwise have be censured for this breach of confidence toslumbered, and gives birth to lively sallies and wards her hosts, it ought to be remembered that piquant repartees which forin a great charm, her letters were only meant to meet the eyes of and lead persons to think that those who con the friend to whom they were addressed, M. verse so well must equally excel in writing. But Devaux; really to Stanislaus,* King of Poland, rarely are these expectations fulblled; for the with whom she had been on terms of the closest best writers are seldom the best conversation- intimacy since her childhood. But even those alists--nay, more, are in general inferior in this inclined to judge most leniently of Madame de respect to clever persons, who do not devote Grafigny on this point of les bienséances, must their minds to literary labours. From this arises suspect that in her choice of a confidant to rethe disappointment so often experienced by those veal her discoveries to, she at least betrayed who, meeting remarkable writers in society, com- great indiscretion. The reader to a king is not plain that they found them much less brilliant apt always to limit his communications to his in conversation than they had anticipated, and master, to the mere duties of his office. Curiorice perså, after reading the works of a clever sity is a prevalent weakness in courts; the moconversationalist, express their surprise that his notony of which leads those who inhabit them writings are so inferior to his conversation. In- to seek gratification of this passion as a relaxadeed it may be doubted whether excellence in tion from ennui. Voltaire and Madame du Châone of these branches of talent does not pre- telet were at that period perhaps the two persons clude it in the other. The habit of concentrating in all France about whom people felt the greatthe thoughts, so indispensable for literary com- est curiosity; hence Madame de Grafigny might position, is apt to engender a gravity and reflec- easily, and without any extraordinary degree of tion, which impairs the fancy and Julls the foresight, have concluded that M. Devaux would sprightliness of the imagination ; while on the be very much disposed to interest the court to oiher side the laisser aller in which good talkers which he was attached with the interesting deindulge, by banishing restraint, adds consider-tails furnished to him by his clever and amusing ably to the attraction of their conversation. The correspondent. Such was the result
. Passages cheerful spirits and vivacity of mind of Madame of the letters were comn:unicated and repeated, de Grafigay rendered her a welcome guest in until M. Devaux was induced to confide the the literary circle she frequented, and over this whole collection to a friend, the spiritual Checircle Voltaire and his friend the Marquise du valier de Boufflers, then residing with his broChâtelet held almost sovereign siray, for what ther at the court of Stanislaus, among whose ever might be the envy and jealousy they excited papers it was long after found and published. even in the most favoured of this coterie, all That the jealousy de métier et de sexe may have symptoms of either were carefully suppressed in their presence, and the greatest deference was Stanislaus Luknuk, father-in-law to Louis XV. influenced the judgment of Madame de Gra- in the world. I have a closet lined with Indian figny in her description of la vie intime of chintz, which does not prevent my seeing the Madame du Chatelet at Cirey, may be suspected air through the corners of the walls! I have a by the little indulgence she evinced towards her little wardrobe without hangings, exposed to hostess, compared with the commendations be- the air also, in order to match all the rest. In stowed on Voltaire, even while exposing the short, I tell you, my friend, nothing is wanting. meekness with which he submitted to the im- Dubois * is better off than I am, except that she perious rule of his enslaver. The letters from has no light except from the corridor; and Cirey have no literary pretensions. They are again there is a staircase to ascend, but somenot laboured or studied ones, and bear no indi- what difficult owing to its being of the olden cation of ever having been intended for publica- time. For the rest, all that does not appertain tion by their author. They are, for the most to the apartment of the lady and of Voltaire, is part, lively gossiping ones, that make the reader of a sluitishness to inspire disgust.” acquainted with many particulars and details, This description, even allowing for much exwhich, however blameable may have been the aggeration, gives a strong impression of how indiscretion of the writer in betraying them, little the hostess of Cirey attended to the commust be admitted to be extremely amusing. fort of her guest, while taking such pains to seThe unblushing selfishness which led Madame cure her own. From the first moment of her du Châtelet, while sparing no expense in the arrival to her departure, Madame de Grafigny decoration, luxuries, and comfort of the rooms continued her piquant, but indiscreet revelaoccupied by herself and Voltaire, to curtail even tions; and probably, after the grave misunderthe ordinary necessaries requisite for a female standing which subsequently occurred between guest, was well calculated to wound the suscep- her and Madame du Châtelet, she thought hertibility and disgust the feelings of Madame de self privileged to disclose all that she knew. Grafigny, who, probably actuated by offended However unjustifiable such breaches of conamour propre, revealed all that she observed, fidence must be allowed to be, they are not withwithout being restrained by the delicacy or for- out an important result, in exposing the errobearance which guests owe to their hosts, or neous opinions entertained by those who, the compunction which they ought to experience dazzled by the literary or scientific fame of rewhen they violate such salutary restraints. Per-markable persons, are led to imagine that haphaps Madame de Grafigny, aware that she was piness awaits their homes. Gloomy is the invited to Cirey to fill a post in the private picture laid bare by the pen of Madame de theatricals there, thought herself less blameable Grafigny, and few can examine it without refor revealing its secrets.
flecting on the vanity of fame, riches, and the After describing the splendour of the apart- homage of sovereigns, to bestow happiness, or ments of the Marquise de Châtelet and Voltaire, even content. The undeniable and pre-eminent Madame de Grafigny gives the following un- talents with which Voltaire and his friend tempting picture of her own :-“ It is a hall in Madame du Châtelet were gifted, had not loftiness and size, in which the winds amuse enabled either to conquer the violence of their themselves by a thousand openings around the tempers, or to submit with even common dewindow, and which I will certainly stop, if God cency to the constraint of them, so indispenlends me life. This immense room has only sable for the maintenance of decorum and peace. one window, divided into three as in the olden The restless vanity and jealous susceptibility of time, and has nothing but six shutters. The both, accompanied them from the busy world walls, which are whitewashed, diminish a little that flattered them, to the solitude whcre they the gloom which would otherwise prevail, owing hoped, but hoped in vain, to enjoy repose. At to the little light and want of prospect; for an Cirey, the hours not passed by Voltaire in arid mountain, which I could almost touch with writing, were poisoned by the imperious temper my hand, entirely masks it. At the foot of this of its mistress, or the reception of those attacks mountain there is a little meadow, which may with which his enemies—and their name was be about fifty feet wide, and through which a Legion-assailed his productions. Although little river winds in many serpentines. Let us he had ascended high on the steep eminence of enter, for the window shows only ugly objects. Parnassus, his ascent had not removed hiin sufThe hangings represent large personages un- ficiently above the atmosphere of the "workknown to me, and very ugly. There is a niche a-day world” to be insensible to its assaults. furnished with old dresses of very rich stuff, hut Although the wounds inflicted were not grave rendered disagreeable to the eye by the want of ones, and that he was well able to avenge them, assortment in the colours. For the chimney they nevertheless pained and irritated him, just nothing can be said: it is so small, that all the as the stings of insects can annoy those who sabot might pass in line. One might consume have the power to crush them. Voltaire had half a load of wood a-day in it without the room not sufficient dignity to look down with confeeling less chilly. Old-fashioned chairs, a tempt or pity from the lofty height he had commode, a light table--the only one, but to reached, on those who could never attain it; compensate for this, there is a handsome toilet of but was as much vexed at their malice as he carved wood. Now you see my chamber, which would have been insensible of their applause. I hate, and not without cause. Alas! one cannot have at the same time all the good things
* Her femme de chambre.
His was not a mind to rest satisfied with the Madame de Grafigny for the enjoyment she had laurels he had won, while any more could be expected. Her pecuniary affairs, never easy, gathered. Insatiable of fame, he laboured on; were so much embarrassed when she arrived at and as every new conquest achieved in the fields Cirey, that she was without the means of of literature drew on him fresh attacks, the mind abridging her visit, should aught occur to render that could soar into the regions of Genius was a step of this kind desirable; and the anxiety often dragged down to earth by his susceptibility such a state of destitution could not fail to occato censure, and soiled with its impurities and sion must have preyed on her mind, and taken frailties. To such a man the constant society from her the feeling of independence so essenof a woman like Madame du Châtelet, however tial to the comfort of a visitor in any house, but great his affection for her, must have proved above all in that of a capricious hostess. While anything but a balm or a solace. Vain of her oppressed by this sense of poverty, she beheld own acquirements in sciences so rarely studied Madame du Châtelet in the possession of not by her sex, she expected no less homage as the only all the luxuries of life, but of all the goods reward of ber industry than was offered to Vol- of fortune. With jewels, trinkets, fine plate, taire for his genius; and not often satisfied in and rich furniture she was superabundantly this expectation, she became irritable and ex- supplied : she exacted and received the homage acting. A grave lesson is afforded by the fact due to a sovereign from the most celebrated man that, while this gifted woman was commenting of his time, and could hardly imagine a wish on Newton, and writing a dissertation on the that she possessed not the power of satisfying. nature of fire, noticed with high commendations Such a forcible contrast to her own destiny by the “ Academie des Sciences,” she gave way might have perhaps unconsciously aroused the to her temper like a spoiled child, neither tasting envy of Madame de Grafigny, and jaundiced her fepose nor happiness herself, nor permitting vision when viewing her hostess ; for it is obVoltaire to find them. Such was the state of servable that, from the very day of her arrival at mind of Madame du Châtelet and Voltaire when Cirey, she writes slightingly of her. Another Madame de Grafigny arrived at Cirey. The circumstance which militated against the enjoyhusband of Madame du Châtelet was also an ment of Madame de Grafigny at Cirey, was that inmate of that abode ; but so little sympathy es- she pined her separation from Monsieur Desisted between him and his wife, either in tastes marets, for whom she was strongly suspected to or pursuits, that they met only at the diurnal entertain an affection of no ordinary kind. This repasts, when the hounds of a cold politeness person was the son of the celebrated musician were never passed : nor was any attempt made Desmarets, and was a lieutenant of cavalry. Beto conceal the utter indifference of the Marquise tween bin, Saint Lainbert, M. Devaux, and tovards her husband. Her marriage-one Madame de Grafigny a constant intercourse was wholly of convenience, then as now customary maintained, and as constant a correspondence in France-was formed not on any preference on kept up when separated. the part of the individuals to be united, but by Madame de Grafigny gives the following acthe desire of the mutual families, induced by count of the mode of life at Cirey :- Between motives of fortune, and fitness of station and ten and eleven o'clock in the morning the party connections, and offered little chance of domestic assembled in the gallery of Voltaire to take happiness. Two persons more wholly unsuited coffee, and remained there an hour or more ento each other than the Marquis and Marquise gaged in conversation. At twelve o'clock dindu Châtelet could hardly have been found, and ner is served; and half an hour after, Voltaire neither took any step to conciliate the good bows the ladies out, who retire to their own will of the other. The Marquise sought in the chambers to pursue their avocations. At four attachmentof Voltaire for the happiness she found o'clock the party again assemble pour le goûter not in her union with the Marquis du Châtelet ; -a slight collation resembling our luncheon, and the Marquis, with the philosophy then so except taken after, instead of previously to, dinmuch in vogue, tolerated a liaison, which, how- ner; and at nine o'clock supper is served, and ever he might disapprove, he had no power to the party do not separate until midnight. Vol. prevent-a toleration which probably saved him taire generally reads aloud some of his unpubfrom some of the asperities of his wife's temper, lished productions, or relates the most amusing and conciliated the good-will of Voltaire. .of anecdotes. Sometimes this routine was interall societies, perhaps the most difficult in which rupted by the performance of the dramas of Volto maintain harmony is that composed of lite- taire. rary persons. The vanity and the pretensions Madame de Grafigny describes Madame du of each individual brought into contact, are ex- Châtelet and Voltaire's mode of following their cited into such undue action, that the laws of studies as follows: -“She (Madame du politeness are seldom found sufficient to restrain Châtelet) passes her nights, until seven o'clock the ebullitions of temper occasioned by the in the morning, in writing. She keeps a woman junction of such warring elements. It cannot, with her, to copy her works, who however does therefore, be matter of surprise that the visit of not understand one word of them. You think, Madame de Grafigny to Cirey was productive of perhaps, that she sleeps until three o'clock in the much less pleasure to her and to her hosts than afternoon : not at all; she leaves her bed at had been anticipated on either side. Circum- nine or ten in the morning, and sometimes at six, stances also existed well calculated to unfit I when she has only entered it at four, which she calls going to bed at cock-crow. In short, she be well made, and she required a fresh apartsleeps but two hours, and leaves not her desk in ment to-day. Take notice, that owing to the the twenty-four but for a single hour, to take want of servants she had made the bed herself; her coffee and for supper. Sometimes she eats she found a defect in the mattresses, which I bea morsel at five o'clock in the evening, but lieve offended her exacting spirit more than her without quitting her desk; but this indulgence person, which is not over delicate. In the she very rarely gives herself.”
meanwhile she has an apartment which has In another letter, Madame de Grafigny ren- been promised to another, and which she leaves ders Madame du Châtelet full justice, when she on Friday or Saturday for that of the Marechal writes, “ I have been reading a translation of de Maillebois, who will leave us one of these an English work, by Madame du Châtelet. It days.
Our new guests will enact a is admirable. The preface, which is by the comedy. translator, and which only took her half an hour “Wednesday: our spectres don't show themto write, is really astonishing. Our sex ought selves by daylight; they appeared last night at to raise altars to her. Ah! what a woman! ten o'clock, and I don't think we shall see more How little am I near her!
of them to-day. One is writing History, the if this comparative littleness of mind extended other commenting Newton. They will neither to my person, I really think I might pass through play nor walk. They are of little use in a society a keyhole. I have also read a discourse of Vol- to which their grave works bring no attraction. taire on fire. It is not equal to the other.
Madame du Châtelet took possesIt is true, that where women undertake to sion yesterday of her third lodging: she could write, they surpass men : what a prodigious no longer bear the one she had chosen. It was difference! But how many centuries may it noisy, had smoke without fire (which seems to take to form a woman like this? And how has me to be an emblem of her). It is not in the she composed this discourse? In the night, night that the noise annoys her, as she told me, because she wished it to be hidden from Vol- but in the day, in the middle of her work; it taire, She slept not a single hour; when over- deranges her ideas. She is now engaged in a powered by sleep, she put her hands into iced review of her principles : it is an exercise which water, walked up and down the room beating she repeats every year, without which they might her arms to keep awake, and then wrote the escape ; and perhaps go so far that she might most abstract reasonings in a style worthy of not be able to refind a single one. I truly bebeing read for itself. She passed eight succes- lieve that her head is for her principles a strongsive nights in this manner.”
hold, and not the place of their birth. It is This account, coming from a person who ex- therefore wise to guard them with care, and she posed the errors of Madame du Châtelet so mer- preferring the air of distinction which this occucilessly, may be received without any doubt of pation gives her, to all amusement, persists in its truth, and proves that one capable of such not showing herself by day. Voltaire has writexertions could be no ordinary person. It is ten some complimentary verses, which hare only to be lamented that some portion of this atoned a little for the bad effect produced by moral courage was not turned to the correction their strange conduct.” of those errors which clouded the reputation of In another extract of Madame de Staël's letter a woman so remarkable for her acquirements. to Madame du Deffand, giving an account of
That Madame de Grafigny did not exaggerate the comedy performed by the visitors a few the selfishness and exacting disposition of Ma- evenings before, she writes that the principal dame du Châtelet, may be taken for granted actress (Madame du Châtelet), preferring the when her statements are compared with those of interest of her personal appearance to that of the Madame de Staël, well known as Mademoiselle piece, had figured on the stage in the brilliant de Launey, who resided with the Duchesse de and elegant dress of a lady of the court, instead Maine. This sprightly writer, in a letter to of the simple one which her róle required. She Madame du Detfand, notices the arrival of the had to share a portion of her splendour with Marquise and Voltaire at Sceaux, the abode of Voltaire ; but she is the sovereign, and he the the Duchess :-“Madame du Châtelet and Vol- slave. “I am very sorry that they have left taire, who announced their visit for to-day, us,” adds the lady,“ although worn out by her arrived last night at midnight, looking like two different wants and desires, for the execution of spectres, with an odour of embalmed bodies re- which she addressed herself to me." Requestmoved from their tombs. We had risen from ing Madame du Deffand to come to Sceaux, table; but the spectres were famishing. They she adds, “ a good apartment shall be kept for wanted a supper, and beds, which were not pre- you--that of Madame du Châtelet, which, after pared. The porter, already in bed, arose in an exact inspection of all the house, she took great haste. Gaya, who had offered his lodging possession of. It will have, it is true, much in case of necessity, was on this one forced to less furniture than she caused to be placed in it, resign it, and removed with no less precipitation for she really stripped all the rooms she passed and dissatisfaction than an army surprised in through, to fill this one. On ber departure, its camp, leaving a part of his baggage in the six or seven tables were found in it: she repower of the enemy. Voltaire was satisfied quired them of every size; large ones for spreadwith his lodging, but this did not at all console ing her papers on, solid for supporting her Gaya. For the lady, her bed was not found to dressing-boxes, light ones for her knots of rib