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He was descended from a country gentleman's family in Franche Comte, of which he favours us with a genealogical tree. Some of them had, in a course of generations, risen to distinction in the army, and one had, on an extraordinary occasion, rendered a signal service to the house of Austria, the former sovereigns of the province. Some promise was then hastily made that he should be raised to the dignity of a prince of the empire, or at least the tradition of such a promise subsisted among his own descendants. If it ever existed, it seems to have been unknown beyond the country house of the family, while they continued to be nothing more than provincial gentry. Like many other tales of the same naturę, it served to amuse the insipid and insignificant lives of those who, though not within sight of objects of ambition, were yet too noble for any liberal pursuit or useful occupation. A genealogy through females has always a much better chance of really finding some distinguished person in one of its many lines; so that M. de Montbarey may be believed when he tells us, that the Baron de Montclar, a French adventurer, who became a grandee of Spain in the war of the Succession, was his maternal ancestor. Both these pretensions seem to have been watchfully preserved by the Montbareys, in the hope that one of them might at last be successfully used. A series of favourable circumstances at length enabled the author of these Memoirs to urge them both with effect.
In the year 1755, he married Madamoiselle de Mailley, a young beauty of the Court, of one of the families who subsisted on the King's bounties. She was immediately appointed to the household of Madame Adelaide, a daughter of Louis XV. Her younger sister was married to the Marquis, afterwards Duc d'Avarey, the favourite, or rather the friend of Louis XVIII., a Prince who was very early distinguished by a certain show of literary talent, on which he always valued himself. Montbarey tells us an anecdote on this subject, which is curious. The deputies of some province, who came to Versailles to present an address of congratulation to the King, in making the rounds of the Court, made their compliment to the three young Princes, then almost in a state of childhood, the sons of the Dauphin, In bestowing on all these children, as a matter of course, every talent and every virtue, they praised the Duc de Berry, afterwards Louis XVI., for his abilities, The child, with a modesty and fairness which gave promise of his subsequent character, interrupted the addresser, saying( I am much obliged to you, Sir. I am not the clever boy ;
but my brother Provence.' ( Ce n'est pas moi qui ai de l'esprit;
"c'est mon frere de Provence.'| By the help of his Court connexions, but chiefly by means of assiduous subserviency, and without any merit, but ordinary courage and common capacity for business, in which he was probably surpassed by hundreds of corporals and clerks in France, Montbarey at length came within sight of high office. His pretensions to German and Spanish dignities then rose into view. In 1774, he became a Prince of the empire; and, in 1779, when Secretary of State for the War Department, he found no longer any difficulty at Madrid in being recognised as a Grandee of Castile-a dignity which descends by females. His daughter married a Prince of Nassau, and might consequently be the mother of a Queen of England; though his own real station in the community was not higher than that of a very moderate country gentleman; and though a law was passed, and still exists in this country, which supposes it to be a degradation for a Prince of the blood to marry into the noblest of our own families ;-for example, into the House of Howard, which has possessed, for near four centuries, the unmatched distinction of being the first private citizens of the greatest of free States.
One of the most curious parts of the book is, the careful and very minute narrative of the writer's amours, from his youth upwards, to a mature or rather advanced age, which, in his own opinion, (delivered with due caution and gravity,) were 6 perhaps necessary to his health ;' and, if we may judge from his practice, continued to be an indispensable part of his medical regimen, till he had reached the age of threescore. His extreme anxiety to conceal these arrangements from Madame de Montbarey, (a lady of whom he appears always to have stood in due awe), however commendable in itself, is somewhat ludicrous in grave description. He bestows a warm panegyric on Mademoiselle Renaud, who was long his favourite. It was not one of her smallest merits, that, by her quiet and discreet behaviour, she helped him in his anxious exertions to keep peace at home. At length, however, this convenient connexion was disturbed. M. Casenove, a painter of Paris, became enamoured of Mademoiselle Renaud, and made proposals of marriage to her. Notwithstanding her gratitude to the Prince, she very naturally preferred a creditable and secure establishment with a man of her own age and station. By this desertion, which occurred when he was fifty-seven years of age, the Prince de Montbarey very seriously assures us, that he was reduced to a situation of much perplexity. He deliberated for a long time on the best means of replacing Mademoiselle Renaud. If he chose a lady of the Court, her triumph would be
an insult to Mad. de Montbarey, which she was not of a temper to brook. On the other hand, a mistress of an inferior class, and more easily reconciled to obscurity, exposed him to equal, though very unlike inconveniences. He had lately been appointed Secretary of State for the War Department. Many military appointments depended on him; and a lady whose favours were to be purchased, might very naturally traffic in preferment, or (what was just as bad) would certainly be thought to carry on that trade.
- These considerations,' he tells us, with historical gravity, - determined me on adopting a measure, by which I could pursue my own gratification, without either disturbing my domestic peace, or endangering my official character, or wasting, in the pursuit of my pleasures, any part of that time which was due to the State. As M. Lenoir, Lieutenant-General of Police, came to do business with me once a week, I explained to him my situation and my wishes ! I told him frankly what I wanted, which I was willing to purchase by money. I begged him to employ all the means which his situation, at the head of the Police of the kingdom, afforded, to procure for me a person, who might, in her character, conduct, and connexions, be free from the inconveniences which I dreaded. He had the means of making a proper choice, and of watching her conduct. The person chosen would be aware that he would be informed of every step she took, and could severely punish her indiscretions. His authority over the whole class was unbounded. After this conversation, I took occasion to speak of it to M. Maurepas, the Prime Minister, who approved my plan! I had the address to mention it to the King himself, who, without expressly approving the plan, agreed with me that it was the least inconvenient which could be adopted. Eight days after these preliminaries, about seven o'clock in the evening, a young person, of agreeable appearance, with a letter from the Lieutenant-General of Police, was introduced into my apartment, &c. &c. &c.
No remarks can enhance the ridicule of this story, as it is told by the hero himself. It would be impossible to imagine or devise a fiction better adapted to exhibit the manners of Versailles, than this evidently true narrative. It may help an English reader to form a livelier notion of it, to be told or reminded, that the Lieutenant-General of Police in the old government of France had a large part of the province which with us is now allotted to the Secretary of State for the Home Department. Sartine was about that time promoted from the Police to be Minister of Marine. We have now no Secretary of State for the War Department. During the twenty years' existence of that office, however, it has been filled by several respectable, and some distinguished men. Among the Secretaries for the Home Department in the same period, the names of some persons of the highest character in the kingdom will occur to most readers. The most exclusively English reader may bring the negociations of M. Montbarey home to his feelings, by trying to imagine the scene which would have occurred if such pro. positions had passed between persons occupying these situations in this country. It is needless to mention the additional ridicule or indignation which would be excited by them, if we were to suppose our English Secretary to have consulted a Prime Minister of seventy-eight, and to have sounded his late Majesty on the occasion. Louis XVI. was indeed young; but he had more of the bashfulness and shyness, than of the passions of youth; and there were some peculiar circumstances in his personal history, which would have disposed him to listen to the communication with more than common wonder.
Accustomed as the world is to the most moral language in the mouth of those whose life is a continued defiance of every moral rule, it could hardly be supposed that any man, in the very book in which he displays his own vices, should inveigh with the utmost violence against the depravity of his age and nation. But M. de Montbarey is loud in his condemnation of the Revolution, for its hostility to religion and morality; and it may be doubted, whether his declamations arise chiefly from shamelessness, or from the want of the understanding necessary to discover his own inconsistency. A single specimen of this tone is sufficient. M. Neckar was in private life a man of -virtue, and he was a minister of unsuspected integrity. But he was desirous that the power of the Kings of France should be legally limited. His desire of so destructive an innovation appears to our author so plain a proof of consummate depravity, that it could only be accounted for, by his having had the misfortune to be born at Geneva, which, in the decent language of this courtier, is called, “A receptacle of the dregs of all na. 6 tions, where all the vices are naturalized !! - Such a picture of the low vices of frivolous men ought not to be exhibited to the puhlic, without an endeavour to convert it to every useful purpose to which it can be reasonably ap. plied. One reflection which may at first seem too grave to suit the description of scenes, which, considered apart from their consequences, are only contemptible, will, on more mature examination, appear to have a close and serious relation to them. In all former times, the teachers of severe morality, whether philosophical or religious, have observed the natural connection of despotic government with disso, lute manners. This observation has produced a remarkable
effect on theological moralists, who have been charged (hastily and superficially) with placing pure manners too high in their ethical scale. Hence in part arose the alliance between religious zeal and the spirit of liberty, which once produced such mighty effects in Europe, and to which the free constitution of this country owes its preservation and improvement. The moralists who most condemned the vicious indulgences of the , senses, were the natural enemies of that degrading rule which disqualified its subjects for every higher enjoyment. They do not often avow, and perhaps did not always distinctly perceive, this ground of the hatred of tyranny, which was one of their noblest distinctions. But it must have been evident to men of such sagacity as the first reformers, and our ancient Puritans, that the manners of the rich are most pure where the opinion of the middle and industrious classes is most valued; where objects of ambition are bestowed by their suffrages; where the i most eminent of their fellow-citizens stand in need of their es.teem. In a popular government, where the road to power is . open to all, there are checks on the licentiousness of the affluent, and institutions which allure them to higher pursuits. The chase of popularity or power lifts them at least above the senses; they may be touched by a passion for glory; the desire of permanent praise necessarily leads to the desire of acquiring praiseworthiness; and under this discipline, a few purer spirits may at length rise to the love of virtue. · On what principles would a potent and crafty enemy of mankind construct an effective school of profligacy? He would collect together, from every quarter of a great country, all who had the most extensive means of gratification, and were least restrained by regard to the opinion of the sober and considerate classes, of whom they had nothing to hope or to fear, of whom the men treated females of inferior rank, in all respects but one, as animals of a lower species ; * and the women considered themselves as born only to feel and inspire a passion, in which it was esteemed an honour to every new lover to teach them inconstancy; where the avowed object of the life of both sexes was pleasure,—where the only business of the more
serious was to supplant each other in the favour of a single 'master, the distributor of every desirable object; and where - agreeable vices were as effectual instruments of advancement
* The influence of the profligacy of the Knights of Malta on the manners of the Maltese, as it is described by Mr Coleridge, in his beautiful account of Sir Alexander Ball, in the third volume of The Friends strikingly exemplifies this part of the above description, ..