MAHON'S WAR OF THE SUCCESSION.
Tn is is a well-digested narrative of a series of military and po- litical movements. The subject is one which, owing to subsequent changes both in the condition and opinions of Europe, has greatly lost its interest, and scarcely deserved to be treated of in a sepa- rate work : probably it would not, had not Lord MAHON been in possession of documents which throw light on some of its events. His ancestor, General STA.NHOPE, commanded at one period the British Army in Spain, and left behind him numerous folio cases of manuscripts, consisting of papers and correspondence relative to those times : Lord MAHON has studied them with care ; and states, that lie has not only learned new facts from them, but that they have served to illustrate others that were doubtful or imper- fectly known. The style in which these memoirs are drawn up, is that which may be called the old historical narrative,—somewhat formal, pompous, and general ; at the same time, clear, equal, and satis- factory. In the views taken of character or of events, we find no originality : persons are taken very much at the value they had before the Revolution ; and national concerns are, as usual, dis- cussed as if they only affected a few princes and nobles. The school Lord MAHON has studied in, in spite of his youth, is by no means of these times. He might almost, as far as we see any thing to the contrary, have been contemporary with his great-grandfa- ther. He is evidently a personage of considerable industry, grave tastes, and a spice of lordly conceit : these are not usual characte- ristics in modern young noblemen, and must be set down at their value. Literary tastes and learned habits are at least creditable to one who may choose his own path, and when there are so many, more alluring at the first view than the pursuit of political and historical knowledge. We indeed think Lord MAHON s studies might have been better directed; but there is a time for all things, and we understand the author is still young. • We will give a creditable specimen of the writer's manner : it is a character composed in the good old historical style of drawing, of Madame DES URSINS, the friend of Madame DE MAINTENON, and the agent of the French Minister at the court of PHILIP of Spain,—a lady who figures so conspicuously in all the memoirs of that day, and whose correspondence with Madame MAINTENON has been published.
From the feeble character of Philip, it bad been foreseen that he would infal- libly be ruled by his Queen ; and, front her extieme youth, it was no less evi- dent that she would be directed by some guide or adviser. The choice of such a guide was, therefore, a matter of the very highest importance to Louis, as the real efficient spring of administration, and as the only channel by which the French could hope to govern Spain. Very long and very anxious were the de- liberations at Versailles to fix upon some suitable person for the post of Camerera- mayor, the chief lady in the royal household. It seemed no easy task to find the dignity of high rank without its independence, and a thorough knowledge of Madrid without any share in its cabals. Besides, to name a Spaniard would endanger the French supremacy, and a French woman offend the Spanish pride. All these, and many other difficulties, seemed, however, happily avoided by the appointment of Princess Orsini a name better known under its French corrup- tion of Des Ursins. This celebrated woman, though French by birth, was the widow of a Spanish grandee. Her father, the Duke of Noirrnoutier, was of the illustrious family of La Tremouille, and had been a distinguished political cha- racter during the stormy minority of Louis the Fourteenth. Her first husband, Talleyrand, Prince of Chalais, being exiled, she had accompanied him into Spain, had resided there for several years, and become intimately acquainted with the customs, government, and language of that country. They afterward. proceeded to Italy, where she remained after his death, and contracted a second marriage with Orsini, Duke of Bracciano ; but their union was speedily dis- solved, first by a separation, and aftenvards by his decease. She continued to reside at Rome, though with long and frequent visits to her native country, and availed herself of one of these to improve her acquaintance with Madame de Maintenon into confidence and regard. At Rome, also, she had formed many useful friendships, both political and private, especially with Cardinal Porto- carrere, who is supposed to have been one of her lovers during his embassy to the Papal court ; and she was remarkable for her peculiar power of fascination and ascendency over all her friends. Her influence with them was the more secure, because never uselessly exerted nor arrogantly. shown. She knew that weak men are in general far more jealous of authority, or rather of the sem- blance of authority, than able ones, and that the only sure mode of ruling them is to insinuate, without seeming to advise. With superior minds, on the con- trary, she could discern the vulnerable point, or await the auspicious moment.; gain their confidence by bestowing hers, or please them by the display of equal talents; and thus, by different means, she attained the same end with all. No one ever showed more taste or talent for political intrigue. Active bold, and enterprising, yet always calm and cautious, keeping her object steadily in sight, and regardless what loss it might occasion to others, what labour to herself, she was dangerous as an enemy, and hardly less dangerous as a friend. Though now upwards of fifty, she was still fond of dress, and suspected of gallantries ; but ambition was her great, her ruling passion. At this period, she earnestly desired the post of Camerera-mayor, but was too politic to apply for it; and expressing merely a wish to accompany the young Queen into Spain' skilfully led the French Ministers to reflect on her abilities and resolve on her appointment. Accordingly, she joined her new mistress on her road to Spain. To guard against the intrigues of the court of Turin, and at the same time against the jealousies of the Spaniards, a secret order had been sent from Ver- sailles, that every one -of the Queen's Piedmontese attendants should be dismissed on the frontiers ; and this was strictly executed, in spite 0
their complaints and her tears. But the very grief and loneliness in which she found herself, when thus torn from all her youthful connexions, proved favour- able to the views of Princess Orsini. Maria Louisa was far too able to be blindly governed ; but she soon formed for her accomplished Camerera-mayor a friendship no less firm than ardent, and which ended only with her life.