MADAME DE MONTAGU..
-"Tins volume is simplya collection of familyrecords not (originally) intended for the public eye. The children of Madame de Montagu, long spectators of their mother's excellencies, naturally desired to perpetuate the memory of her beautiful and saintly character, and to hold her up as a pattern to their own descendants." "As to the facts and details of the life, they are nearly all drawn from Madame de Montagu herself, by means of two different sources to which access has been given. Early in life she kept a journal, not so much in order to serve any historical or secular purpose, as to facilitate self-knowledge (and, we may add, self-improvement), every day recording her own thoughts and feelings. Then there are letters, her intimate correspondence with her sisters and friends."
It seems fair to give the few sentences above ; because, being -extracted from the preface, of course submitted, as well as the work in every stage, to the family inspection, it must be supposed to tell the truth. The materials of the volume were entrusted, by the desire of the Duc de Noailles, to a compiler, and the result is a book which, after being long kept in strict privacy, has at length been allowed general circulation, and has within a few months reached a fifth edition. The record is certainly one of the most interesting it has ever been our lot to examine, and yet we cannot but say that we wish the family had themselves been the editors, and that a larger portion had been given in the very words of Madame de Montagu and her sisters. It is true there are valu- able extracts from Madame de la Fayette, from Madame de Gram- mont's, and private papers preserved in the family, but these -excite our wish for more; there is too mach of the editorial put- ting together, and a want of that personal unity and coherence which is more valuable than any second-hand working up of details, however masterly.
And yet we have not the slightest doubt about the correctness of the pictures brought before us, any more than of their beauty. They accord with all we know of the effects of the French Revolution upon the Legitimists of the best and purest type. They bring those who practised the difficult virtues entailed on them into comparison with the highest characters which history, ancient or modern, has ever dealt with. You have all the self- denial, the grace, the submission of Madame Elisabeth, set a step dower, and also her indomitable courage and cheerfulness, mingled with her tenacity ; but the social difficulties of the position of the Noailles sisters were in some respects greater than even that royal person's, on account of their connection by marriage with men who considerably differed from each other both in religion and politics ; and they bad to endure exile, imprismunent, poverty, and the scaffold, while their hearts were wrung by the con- flict between duties to their husbands and children and what they conceived was required by fidelity to their religion.
• inne-Paule-Dorninique de Noailks, Marquise de Montagu. 5me Edition. Le vend an profit des pausres. Douniol : Paris. The volume is by no means merely a record of conflicts, how- ever. It has many very curious private details. You have the life of the virtuous and noble mother, the Duchesse d'Ayen, bring- ing up her daughters as she thought most for the benefit of their souls, mingling the interests of charity with the claims of kin- dred and society, choosing, for example, sponsors for the future Madame de Montagu from among the mendicants of the parish of St. Rock, "and, says Madame de In Fayette," only auabitious of being able to say to the Judge at the last day, "Of those Thou gayest me I have lost none." Of course there were evils attached to their life of seclusion and ignorance of the world. They were so trained in fact by example and precept to live according to a high standard, that (again we quote Madame de la Fayette) "the first examples we met with of a different standard among those usually called good people, occasioned us an astonishment which years passed in the world hardly weakened." They used to visit their grandfathers and grandmothers—maternal and paternal— uncles, aunts, and cousins, and they had a governess, who is spoken of with a comical attempt at respect, though nothing could hinder their laughing at her regular downfalls from a donkey every time she went on a country expedition with the children.
But these five young ladies grew up, and of course suitable husbands must be provided for _them. First, came the Vicomte de Noailles, the son of the Marechal de Mouchy, and of his Wife, who was the famous Madame Etiquette. On him was bestowed the eldest daughter ; then M. de in Fayette mar- ried Adrienne, the second daughter. Then a third married the Vicomte du Wore ; but this was a short-lived connection, as the Viscomte died four or five years afterwards, and she married again, the Vicomte de Thesan. Next we come to Anne-Paule-Dominique, our own heroine, generally called Pauline, and for her was provided, at the age of fifteen, the young Marquis de Montagu. Lastly, a year later, the Marquis de Grammont appears as a suitor to the youngest sister, Rosalie. Now, among these noble maidens, early married, and all, as it appears, to men of probity as well as of aristocratic connection, there would of course occur some diversities of position according to the views their husbands took of public affairs. The two eldest, for instance, saw themselves left alone for a time, while the Vicomte de Noailles and M. de in Fayette were fighting the battles of the United States, and when they returned it was with a strong infusion of republicanism, which, however conscien- tiously restrained, out of a conviction that such ideas were un- suitable to France, there can be no doubt laid the foundation of a distrust on the part of the Royal family which La Fayette at least never could conquer. His wife, however, admired as well as, to a great extent, trusted him. Yet there mast have been much exercise of mutual forbearance, and she never seems to have been satisfied either with his political or his religious views. The inconsisteney of the old Catholic fathers and mothers, who, while rigid to the last degree in bringing up their daughters, yet mar- ried them seemingly without scruple to the freest thinkers of the day, is a curious subject. The saint of such men must have been a constant source of anxiety. As to Madame de Montagu, one does not hear of anything very inharmonious in her married life. Her husband was a man of quiet sense, and though devoted to his wife, would not be guided by her in joining the emigrants at Cologne, nor would he be led by the vituperations of M. Beaune, his father, whose hatred of the Revolutionary party carried him so far as to make him declare that he would not enter a house where La Fayette was. Perhaps the very violence of this father-in-law, joined to her unalterable attachment to her sister, Madame de la Fayette, had the contrary effect to that he desired. Madame de Montagu was led to see the extreme difficulties of their relative positions, and she seems to have taken up during the whole of her after life the practical task of making the lives of those around her as little miserable as the times would allow Of. You see neither in her nor her sisters any of the penetrating bril- liancy of the Comtesses d'Egmont, De In Merck, or De Bouffiers, but instead of it a sweetness, a self-devotion, a readiness to con- trive for the comfort and even amusement of others, which enabled them to put aside their own desires after retirement and contem- plation when they felt themselves needed by others. Instances of this self-subduing turn are frequent. In her own family Madame de Montagu suffered muck One child after another died, and she had been in the deepest distress. Yet, like our own Lady Rachel Russell, she would put aside personal grief when others needed sympathy of a livelier sort. Thus, on one occasion, her sick child having died in the,night, Madame de Montagu retired to her own room in an agony of grief. Soon after she was roused by a message from her sister, Madame de Grammont, who had that same night
given birth to her first child. Madame de Montagu knew that her sister would be startled and surprised at her non-attendance. She rose, put away the traces of tears, and went to the young, happy mother's bedside. She saw the infant in its cradle, kissed her sister, and spoke cheerfully to her. She hoped to find strength to return unsuspected, but it would not do. She fainted in the ad- joining room, and this proved the prelude to a severe illness.
We do not propose following her through what was for many years a life of exceeding great trial. It should be read and judged of from the record. During part of the Revolutionary contests she was in England, among the emigrants at Richmond. Little trained in domestic management, it was hard enough to economize for a large number of persons, and yet she always managed to help the poorest of her compatriots ; but as time went on resources were exhausted, and then it was that the clever, generous aunt, the Comtesse de Tease, who had escaped from France and was rich, came to the rescue. She had a considerable lauded estate at Lowenberg, in Switzerland, and pressed her niece to come to her, sending the money for the journey. The character and proceed- ings of this lady are extremely amusing, original, and curious. She is called by Madame de Steel the wittiest woman she had ever known. She was a great politician, a philosopher, an immense talker, antagonistic at almost every point to her nieces, yet anxious to help them in their own way, and generous to the last degree. Voltaire had been her master, La Fayette was her hero. Singularly unfortunate in person, her face marked with small-pox, afflicted by tic, which occasioned all sorts of grimaces when she spoke, yet her high breeding, her dignified and strong, and noble ideas, made her first in all companies. She would sometimes talk as an unbeliever, yet had her superstitions ; as to her charities, they were bounded by no party considerations. She maintained in great secrecy three poor exiled priests. She afterwards openly added a chaplain to her establishment, not that she wanted him herself, she said, but for her niece's sake. Further than this, she endured in silence, carefully concealing them from Madame de Montagu, some serious difficulties and dangers from the persecution of the Government of Fribourg, which threatened to expel her from her estate if she did not send away the poor French emigrants. Madame de Tease fought, and remonstrated, and prayed long against this tyranny, but fearing at length that she would be robbed of all her means of living if she persisted, she was obliged to ask her niece to remove for a time, till another home could be provided for her. This was found after con- siderable difficulty and several removals. It was a large, uninteresting dairy-farm, near the Lake of Ploem, in Holstein. The recommendations were, that the means of feeding a large family colony could be found on the spot; there were one hundred and twenty cows, much poultry, and arable land for corn, while both fish and game were easily procurable. Madame de Tease certainly consulted the necessities of her people, and managed affairs admirably, and this was her best compensation for the want of sprightly society and conversation. Tender always to her niece's conscientious feelings, she provided the means of her reli- gious needs. In return Madame de Montagu worked like a servant, beyond her strength even, and her sweetness, affection, and unconquerable meekness turned off the smartness of her aunt's occasional sallies from her ; while Madame de Tease was as anxious as herself about the welfare of those absent sisters of whom they could with difficulty obtain any intelligence, and laboured to the utmost to assist her niece in charitable help for the emi- grants. We have not space to pursue the personal narrative farther. Every one knows that in the space of a few days, the guillotine made an end of five members of this noble family,—of the Maree.hal de Monchy and his wife, then of the virtuous Duchesse d'Ayen, the cherished mother of the old Marquise de Noailles, almost in second childhood, and of Madame de Montagu's sister, the charming Vicomtesse de Noailles.
Minute and deeply interesting details are given of these events. It is pleasant to know that the later years of Madame de Mon- tagu were passed in peace and happiness. She died, aged seventy- three, in 1839, surrounded by children and grandchildren. Her younger sister, Madame de Grammont, lived till 1853.
We must make room for a few words respecting that sister who perhaps of them all excites our strongest admiration, we mean Madame de is Fayette. In the beginning of the Revolution she bad certainly partaken of her husband's political ideas, not quite be- lieving in them, but yet out of her own generous and expansive nature cherishing the proud hope that he would be one of the renovators of French institutions, ready to go through evil and good report with him, always honouring and looking up to him as perfection in all his domestic relations. Slowly the dream of pro- gress for France faded away. She lost all faith in the consistency of the people. At length the personal blow fell ; La Fayette was denounced. He could do no more for France, and was about to escape from the army to England, and from thence to go to America, when he was taken prisoner by the Austrians. His wife heard of his arrest ; instantly and eloquently she wrote to Wash- ington. Her letters have been preserved, and are now before us, very recently printed by the Philobiblon Society. Not being able to entrust them to any one in France, she had given them for transcription and also for transmission, says the printed preface, to Mr. John Dyson, a young Englishman, who had resided for some time in the family of M. de is Fayette, for the purpose of making him acquainted with the improved system og Norfolk husbandry. The copies printed "are in the handwrit- ing of Mr. Dyson, to whose family they belong." Madame cu,
la Fayette evidently wanted Washington to claim her husband sal" an American citizen.
"Doubtless," she writes, "you have heard of our misfortunes.. You know that your disciple, your friend, has never ceased to be worthy of you and of liberty." Then she tells him of the arrest and captivity, and implores his assistance both for her husband and his companions in adversity. Washington is silent. What could he do ? Before her letter reached him, she herself was in the hands of the Terrorist party, and the least suspicion of what she had done might have cost her her life. Yet she wrote again, and through the same channel. It seems to us very moving..
She told him of her former letter ; that was in October, 1792..
What she was then writing was in April, 1793.
"Did that letter ever reach you ?" she sake; "could it be needed in. order to excite your interest? I cannot believe it ; and yet your silence, Sir, the total absence of all communication with you for six months, is perhaps of all our trials that which I can least explain or understand. I trust it will not last for ever," dm. "For arm," she adds, after speaking of her children, "I can do nothing ; I can neither receive nor send him a single line, let me try as I please. Certainly I will take no step that is. unworthy of him, nor of the cause to which he has been so faithful."
After writing these letters she had in fact to undergo two long imprisonments, and was not set at liberty till February, 1795. She then sent over her son George to Washington. We have no means of ascertaining what the effect of her letters had been, but we learn from Mr. Bancroft's history that the President of the United States, though surrounding George de la Fayette with friends and protectors, did not think it prudent to receive him in his public capacity, involved as were his relations with different parties in France. Madame de is Fayette meanwhile hastened to Vienna, not for the purpose of gaining her husband's release (for this she knew was impossible), but only for permission to take her daughters and share his prison at Olmutz. In that aim she suc- ceeded, and at Olmutz, as is well known, she remained, though in wretched health, and subjected to every privation, till the 10th of October, 1797, when the prison doors were opened, and the hus-
band, wife, and children were at last free.
"That incomparable woman," writes M. de la Fayette, after her decease, "to whom I owe the unclouded blessing of thirty-four years of a union dignified by her goodness, her elevation' and generosity." "Her devotion," he also wrote, in another letter, not inserted in this volume, "was very peculiar ; never in all those thirty-four years did it cause me annoyance. All her observances were regulated with a consideration for my convenience, and the hope she always expressed was that with the integrity she gave me credit for I should yet be convinced. Her last recommendations were in this tone. She begged me for her sake to read certain books, which I shall undoubtedly examine once more with greater earnestness ; and she called her religion the most perfect liberty,' in order to make me love it."
This excellent woman, whose health had never been good since her stay at Olmutz, died on Christmas Day, 1808. Both her daughters and her son were then married and were near her.
One closes this beautiful book, as we have before said, full of reverence for the characters with which it makes us familiar, and. we think it is pre-eminent in its lessons and examples of charity. Whether it be that the Catholic habit of prayer for the dead softens everything else, and gives a religious character to all con- nections, with the visible as well as the invisible, we know not, but certainly it does appear to us that hope ever accompanying their dead into regions beyond the grave,—hope, we say, and the sense of communion, narrows the dividing sea, and unites all in one bond of affection. Perhaps, too, though the Catholic purgatory may be very awful, it is stimulating ; there is not continually in view the black, unredeemed horror of the everlasting doom.