29 APRIL 1865, Page 15



FRENCH Revolutionary history accumulates on our tables. The last contribution is an interesting life of the Princess de Lamballe by Monsieur de Lescure. But there has not been on the whole so valuable a volume as the one we now desire to notice,—the genuine and very unique correspondence of the great Maria Theresa and her daughter Maria Antoinette from 1770 to 1780. It is scarcely possible for a collection of letters to present more points of interest. So tender lathe maternal tone, so softened, occasionally so steeped in love and pride, and yet so curiously are the worldly-wise traits of the sagacious Empress developed, that one feels as in some strange contradictory- dream. Now it is the religious, earnest adviser, thinking of nothing half so much as that her youngest born, her joy and delight, should show forth the light of a holy and blameless life,—and anon there are startling political com- promises., small ends and smeller means, and busy, rather degrad- ing, attempts to lay down the law and get herself obeyed even in the least matters. Through it all, however, you always see heart. The mother's censures are invariably followed by expressions of tenderness, except when once or twice she suspects her daughter is not keeping faith with her, and then it is a grieved rather than an angry tone.

Before we say more of these letters, however (all which were written in French), we are bound to remark that, confident as the best authorities are of their authenticity, they place us in an embarrassing position with respect to some of the detached letters of Marie Antoinette (not so of the Empress) given to the world by Monsieur Feuillet de Conches. They do not harmonize well with the letters now given : are often contradictory indeed. Some ur. the particulars can be reconciled, but not all. We should be unwilling to think any of them forgeries, and in particular we believe the series edited by the Comte de Hunolstein is reliable, —but even this is somewhat puzzling as respects the young Dauphiness's relations at the French Court. However, the Vienna letters are we think, unassailable. They have every possible mark of genuineness.

We should say that the impression we receive of the daughter from them is not at all, on the whole, unfavourable, but it is not more favourable than we had before, and perhaps the mother is partly in fault for our not liking her much better. Every action is canvassed by her critical mind, and probably correct versions of that which was the subject of comment were not easily to be obtained. Madame Elizabeth somewhere calls the Comte de Mercy "an old fox." No doubt he was set to guard the interests of the House of Austria, and he performed his part faithfully, but who shall say how mach of the after misery of the Queen's life was occasioned by the Austrian influence ? This much is clear, that very early the Dauphiness had the sense and good feeling to try heart and soul to be a Frenchwoman. No love of mother, or home, or people excluded from her mind a very strong sense of her paramount duty as the wife of the French King. When one sees how girlish she was, even childish, in her early letters from Paris, one feels that there must always have been something solid beneath the surface frivolity which directed her, without much reading, with little general information, to seize on the best ideas presented to her. It has been the fashion to speak of the influence of two ladies, the Vicomtesse de Noaffies and Madame de Monsen, as oppressive to her. In some degree doubtless they were so, though we look in vain for a com- plaint in any-of these letters, but it should never be forgotten that it was to the latter of these women that Louis XVI. owed almost all his beat ideas. It was she who in his youth dwelt upon the abuses of the Government, the injustice, the depredations, and the exactions of the nobles. She impressed on him nobler principles, put before him the papers of his father, and made him aware that his life must be one of undoing the evils that had been done. In due course the Queen was made to see this also. But alas ! how to act? No more truly fettered man could be pointed out than the absolute monarch of France. To have the liberty of being either a good or a bad man seems really to have been the extent of his actual freedom—that is, when the checks were understood— and woe came to him with the awakened perceptions of his subjects of the thraldom in which they might, if they pleased, hold him. Some curious revelations occur in Maria Theresa's letters. She was probably often ill-informed as to facts, but it is clear that for a considerable time after her arrival in France the • Maria Therese end Marie dakinette. Ihr Brietwechsel wahrend der Jahre 1770- 1780. Alfred Ritter on Amnia Dauphin's aunts, so far from being distasteful to the Dauphiness, were regarded with positive jealousy by the Empress! She was right enough, most likely, in her estimate of those narrow women.

"Les dies," says Madame de la Marck, speaking of the children of Louis XV., "out de paw Sites, impossible d'y rien mettre do rai- sonable. In Dauphin (Louis XVL) montre quelques vertus sauvages, mais sans esprit, sans connaissance, sans lecture, n'en ayant pas mime le goat, at dur dans sea principes comme brat dans sea actions . . . . Ella eat jolie, cette Dauphine [Marie Antoinette], elle a de l'esprit, et une grace et un agrement dans toute sa porsonne qui n'appartiennent qu'it elle, mais sa grande jennesse at un pen de Is frivolit8 (apannage de son age) la readout inutile au Roi."

The low estimation in which the Royal family of France was generally held is abundantly evident in the letters of the noble and high-minded ladies who contemplated things at a dis- tance.

"No people," says Madame de Bouffiers, in one of her letters to Gus- tavus III. of Sweden, "are more merciless than affronted Frenchmen, and one must allow never was there more just reason for indignation, never did a nation, particular as ours is on the score of honour, nor a proud order of nobles, receive a greater and more inexcusable insult than that which the late King (Louis XV.) passed upon it when, not content with the scandal afforded by his mistresses and his seraglio, at the age of sixty he dragged from a low class and an infamous condition a creature, the worst of her kind, to establish her at Court, admit her to the family table, make her absolute mistress of favours, honours, and rewards, &e."—(Revue des Deus Monde-% July 15, 1864.) It sickens one, after reading this burst of honest indignation, to find the good and really virtuous Maria Theresa absolutely scolding her daughter for ignoring Du Barry, and alternately praising the "excellent" father-in-law and depreciating his daughters. Perhaps the politic woman was aware, which was true enough, that letters were often opened by the favourite, and she might wish to neutralize her own daughter's neglect of courtly con- duct, but it is not the less unworthy of her. On the other hand, it must be said that Marie Antoinette was acting on her husband's counsels, as well as those of his aunts. "I have many reasons," she says, September 13, 1771, "for believing that oven the King himself does not want me to speak to Madame Du Barry, besides his never having required me to do it. He has been more friendly with me since he knew that I refused, and if you were able to see all that passes here as I do, you would be convinced that this woman and her clique will never be content with a compliment, but it will always have to be repeated. You may be satisfied that I require no one's guidance in the simple ways of rectitude." But after all it proves she has spoken, only she will do it in her own way. "To show you the injustice of Du Barry's friends, I ought to tell you that I have spoken to her. I never said that I would not do so, I only refused to speak to her just at the par- ticular day and hour pointed out, in order that she might be ready in advance to make a triumph of it."

This for a girl of sixteen, a year old only in her position, is spirited enough and sensible enough. Far sounder counsels pre- vail in most of the mother's letters, but we think it would not be fair to omit the less wise. There is something very like rating the poor young Queen for some supposed inattention to Austrians. Also the Empress is afraid she is not carrying herself with suffi- cient deference to the Ambassador Mercy ; she alternately coaxes and scolds.

"It is *not your beauty, which is not so very remarkable, nor your talents, nor knowledge (you know you have little enough), it is your goodness of heart, your frankness, your attentions, applied with proper judgment, that will serve your objects. Now, I am told that you neglect to speak to and distinguish the grandees, that at table or at play you amuse yourself with your young ladies, whispering and laughing with them. I am not so unjust as to wish to sever you from easy, natural intercourse with the young people you know, and substitute those you only see in public, but a distinction of different people is a very great point, which you must not neglect, having begun so well, 8m. Do not give way to the love of ridicule ; you are a little inclined to it, and if this weakness is observed, people will play upon it, and you will forfeit that esteem and confidence of the public," esc.

The poor Marie Antoinette ! she had not much food for mirth, nor much variety as yet in her days. Hear her own account of one of them :—

" I rise at ten or half-past nine, and having dressed myself, I say my morning prayers, then breakfast, and after that go to my aunts', where I generally find the King. That lasts till ten and a half—only an hour for prayers, dressing, and breakfast!) At eleven I go to my toilette. By noon any one of the privileged order may enter my room, and I put on my rouge and wash my hands before everybody. Than the men go out and only the ladies remain. I finish dressing before them. Mass is at noon. If the King is at Versailles I go with him and my husband to mass. If not, I go only with M. the Dauphin, but always at that hour. After mass we two dine in public, but it is over in an hour and a half, for we both eat very quickly. From thence I go to my husband's apartments, or if he is busy I go to mine. I read, write, or work, for I am working a vest for the King, which advances slowly, bid .1 hope, please God4 it will be done in the course of some years! At 8 o'clock I go to my aunt's house, where the King comes at that hour, and at 4 the Abbe comes to me in any rooms. At 5 every day I have my harp prac- tice, and my singing-master till 6. At half past 6 I nearly always go to my aunts' again, when I do not walk out or take the air. My hus- band nearly always goes with me to our aunts'. At 7 we play till 9, but when it is fine I take the air, and there are then no cards in my rooms, only at my aunts'. At 9 we sup, and if the King is not there any aunts (the eternal aunts) come to sup with us, but when the King is hero we go after supper to their rooms. We wait for the King till 10 or quarter to 11, but when I have to wait I get a good sleep till he comes. When he is not there we go to bed at 11. This is our day." (pp. (3 and 7.)

The Empress mother is but moderately satisfied. She wants more particulars—what is the dear daughter reading ? &c.

'I wait in vain every month for a list of your readings and occupa- tions. Is not the Abbe Vermond with you still? I should be sorry if he were not, but still more so if he were, without your making any use of him. At your age one passes over some lightness and puerility, but in the long run these will tire every one, and yourself too. You must read, you must employ yourself in what will turn to some account This will draw upon you some esteem and consideration, especially in such a country as France, where people are so well instructed, and nothing is dispensed with, however great people may be. I cannot conceal from you that already people begin to comment upon you. You will go back if you do not go forward," &c.

But after all this bickering a great change passes over both the mother and daughter when Louis XV. dies. Nothing can be more affecting (looking to the end) than to con over the brilliant anticipations of the former, contrasted as they are with the serious misgivings of the young Queen, strong as yet she was in her conviction of the high character of her husband, and his deep desire (in which she fully shared) for the good of his people :—

" It is very true, my dear mother," she writes, 30th Juliet, 1774, "that the praises and admiration bestowed on the King resound through- out the country, and he deserves them, for the rectitude of his mind, and the desire he has to do good, and yet I am doubtful about the con- tinuance of this French enthusiasm. By what little I know of the state of affairs I cannot help seeing that they are very difficult and embarrassing. Every one agrees that the late King left them in a very bad state ; parties are much divided, and it will be impossible to please everybody in a country of so vivacious a temperament, which wants to have everything done at once. It is very true, as my dear mamma says, we must have fixed principles, and not depart from them. The King will not have the weakness of his grandfather, and I wish he may not have any favourites; but I fear he is too good and too easy . . . . . as, for instance, when M. de Maurepas persuaded him to give 500,000 francs to M. d'Aignillon . . . My dear mamma may be assured I will not lead him into great expenses : on the contrary, I have refused, of my own accord, the petitions made to me to ask him for money. . . I am ready to allow my dissipation and idleness with regard to serious things. I desire and hope to correct this fault by degrees, and without ever mixing in intrigues to put myself in condition to partake the con- fidence of the King, who is always good to me . . . I am touched by my dear mother's prayers, and by the affection of my dear compatriots. I can exchange like compliments with them, but I never can show my dear mamma how much respect, and tenderness, and eonfidence I have for her." (p. 118.)

And here if we end, it is not because the letters which follow are less interesting. There are curious, even comic, dissensions still. The dear old mother is not pleased with the reports of the young Queen's head-dress.

"They tell me that from the root to the top of your hair measures 36 inches, with feathers and ribbons above it. You know I was always in the mind to follow the fashion in moderation, but not to go beyond it. A pretty young Queen, full of grace, does not need those follies. Sim- plicity suits her station better. She leads the ton, and everybody is eager to follow her little caprices, but I, who love and follow my little Queen's every step,—I cannot help warning her against this frivolity, having so many reasons to be satisfied and proud of her." (p.132.) Also the reading does not go on too well, though she is reading Hume too, "remembering all the time that he is a Protestant." But we must close our revelations of these obliquities.