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CHARACTER AND CONDUCT OF
BY GEORGE HOGARTH.
“ The Life and Times of Louis the Sixteenth” is a work which yet remains to be written. The biography of the unhappy monarch, in whose person was accomplished the destruction of a dynasty which had existed for a thousand years, and the private history of his reign, are full of interest in themselves, and afford many a key to the momentous public events which have changed the destinies of the world. The materials for such a work, as widely scattered as they are abundant, furnish the means, in competent hands, of one of the most valuable contributions which could be made to modern literature.
We have lately observed a curious addition to these materials consisting of a private diary kept by Louis for many years, lately discovered in an obscure old_book-shop in Paris. An account of this discovery is given in a French publication ;* and, considering the respectability of the medium through which this information is given to the world, we see no reason to doubt its authenticity.
M. Alby gives the following account of this discovery :-After a graphic description of the innumerable shops and stalls for old books in several quarters of Paris, particularly along the Quais, and in the oldest parts of the Cité, the multitudes of which are surprising to stran. gers, and furnish such inexhaustible food to book.collectors,
“At the corner of the Rue du Marché aux-Fleurs and the Rue Gervais-Laurent, one of these old book-shops attracts the eyes of the book-hunter. About five years ago a friend of mine, strolling one day along the Quai aux Fleurs, happened to go into this shop. The shopkeeper the day before had bought several hundred weight of old paper at a private sale, and my friend set about exploring their contents. After a long search, which produced nothing of any con. sequence, he was about to give it up, when he came upon a number of paper books, the appearance and preservation of which excited his curiosity. He began to examine them, and was not a little surprised to find a regular journal, drawn up year by year, month by month, day by day, the contents of which, apparently, could relate only to Louis the Sixteenth. He bought the manuscripts ; and when he went home, compared the hand-writing with autographs of this sovereign. His satisfaction may be imagined when he ascertained that these papers, of which chance had made him the possessor, were all written by the hand of Louis the Sixteenth, and that he had in his custody a most precious manuscript, the perusal of which must necessarily afford curious information respecting the habits, tastes, and dispositions of a prince whose tragical fate has not yet silenced his enemies, or expiated the faults laid to his charge,faults which should be ascribed to a state of social organisation antiquated and worn out by his predecessors. The question occurred to my friend, how these memoirs had found their way into this old
• La Presse, one of the best of the Parisian daily journals ; by one of its contributors, M. Ernest.
book-shop ; and his inquiries afforded an answer.
When the popu. lace, in 1792, broke open and ransacked the iron cabinets in which papers were kept in the palace of the Tuileries, several members of the Convention took possession of the papers which were carried off. These memoirs fell into the hands of a member of the Convention, who kept them concealed during his life. His family, ignorant of their value and importance, got rid of them at his death, as useless rubbish, no doubt, and they found their way into the hands of the old book-vender."
M. Alby goes on to say, that on hearing of this adventure, he entreat. ed his friend to give him a perusal of these manuscripts ; but his friend had already shown them to more prudent people, by whom he had permitted them to be torn up (lacérés). M. Alby, however, was able to make notes and extracts from them, which he has given to the world through the medium of the newspaper already mentioned. By pre. senting our readers a few of these passages, and exhibiting them in con. nection with the passing occurrences and circumstances in which Louis was placed at the moments when he wrote them, we may afford some curious glimpses of his character.
The diary began on the 1st of January, 1766 (when Louis was yet Dauphin), and was continued down to the 31st July, 1792,-only ten days before the fatal 10th of August, which consummated his fall.
In phrenological language, he seems to have possessed, in a very remarkable degree, the organ of order. He put down his petty receipts and disbursements with extreme minuteness, and the smallest mistake in his entries annoyed him excessively. Many in. stances are mentioned of his exactness in regard to accounts and figures. One day, in particular (we are told by Soulavie), an account was laid before him by one of the ministers, in which there appeared among the disbursements an item which had been inserted in the preceding year's account. “ There's a double charge here," said the King ; " bring me last year's account, and I will show it you there." Lo uis thus begins his diary for the year 1779 :“ I have in my cash-box on 1st January
8. d. 42 rouleaus of 1200 livres.
50,400 0 0 In my purse,
549 00 17 24-sous pieces,
20 8 0 46 12.sous pieces,
27 12 0 99 6-sous pieces,
29 14 0 88 2-sous pieces,
8 16 0 136 6-farthing pieces,
10 4 0
51,045 14 0" The following are some of his disbursements :“ July, 1772.-A watch.glass, 12 sous. “ August.—To Testard, for postage of a letter, 6 sous. “ September.-- To L'Epinay, for a wash-hand basin, 6 sous. " January, 1773.–For a quire of paper, 4 sous.
February.–For cotton, 6 sous. "May.-T. L'Epinay for disbursement, 4 sous 3 deniers."
Many of these entries are important in themselves, or interesting from their simplicity. For example :
"27th December, 1776.Gave the Queen 25,000 livres :" And he adds in a note,
“ These 25,000 livres are the first payment of a sum of 300,000 livres which I have engaged to pay to Boehmer in six years, with interest, for the ear.rings bought by the Queen for 348,000 livres, and of which she has already paid 48,000 livres."
Boehmer was the court jeweller ; the same person who afterwards furnished the celebrated “diamond necklace,” which gave rise to so much scandal, and for a time so deeply involved the Queen's character. Under the date of 18th February, 1777, there is a further entry on the same subject as the preceding :
“Paid the Queen, on account of the 162,660 livres which she owes Boehmer for diamond bracelets, 24,000 livres.”
There are various entries of gratuities given to courtiers and men of letters.
* 15th January, 1775.–Paid M. de Sartine (the Chief of the Po. lice) 12,000 livres for a part of the expenses incurred by Beaumar. chais in stopping the circulation of an improper book. “ 1st April
, 1775.—Paid M. de Sartine for Beaumarchais, 18,000 livres."
The celebrated author of Figaro, by the way, notwithstanding the bitterness of his political satires, and the ultra-liberalism of his senti. ments, was for many years a regular and well-paid employe of the court, during the reigns of both Louis the Fifteenth and Louis the Sixteenth.
Prince Esterhazy is put down annually for a sum of 15,000 livres, which the Queen was charged with paying him.
He held some em. ployment, we may presume, in the household of the Austrian prin. cess; but a salary of five or six hundred a year sounds odd to a member of a family whose revenues are equal to those of many sovereign.
M. de Cubières, court-poet, had an allowance of 6000 livres a year; and M. de Pezay, another court-poet, had 12,000 livres. These sums were paid through M. de Mauripas, the minister, or M. de Sartine.
Louis summed up his gains and losses at play, and entered them at the end of every month :
“ October, 1779.- Lost at play 59,394 livres.
“ March, 1780.—My partners have lost at Marly, at lansquenet, 36,000 livres.
“February, 1781.—Lost at play 15 livres."
He was much given to the weakness—a common one in his dayof trying his fortune in the lottery. We find such entries as the fol. lowing:
“28th December, 1777.--To M. Necker for lottery-tickets, 6000 livres.
“ 2d January, 1783.-Gained in the lottery, 990 livres.
He was equally minute in recording the employment of his time as of his money. At the end of every year, he drew up a general summary of the manner in which his days had been spent. The fol. lowing is his recapitulation for the year 1775:
Days when I was out.
Days when I was out. «Stag-hunting
Brought forward 175 St. Germain,
15 “ Journeys without hunting :-
1 The “Grands Environs," 9
1 Alluerts and Besnet,
Returning from Compeigne, 1 (I missed two hunts there.)
from Choisi, 1. Boar-hunting :
Going to Fontainbleau,
1 St. Germain,
To St. Denis, where dined, 2 Fontainbleau, 7-14
-11 “Roebuck-hunting, 27" Reviews,
3 “Harriers :Compeigne, 2
Total, 189 Fontainbleau,
2-4 Shooting, 58 Hunting-dinners,
8 “ Dinners and suppers at St.
26." Carried forward 175
He was careful, too, to mark down every month the quantity of game he killed, and summed up the whole at the end of the year. It thus appears that, in the month of December, 1775, he killed 1564 head of game; and the total for the whole year amounted to 8424. “ The only passion ever shown by Louis the Sixteenth," says Sou.
was for hunting. He was so much occupied by it, that when I went up to his private apartments at Versailles, after the 10th of August, I saw upon the staircase six frames, in which there were statements of all his hunting parties, both when Dauphin and when King. They contained the number, kind, and quality of the game he had killed every time he went out, with recapitulations for every month, every season, and every year of his reign.
It is obvious that these statements, which the King seems to have had so much pleasure in making up and displaying, must have been drawn from the entries in his diary.
The following is the whole of Louis's diary for the eventful month of July, 1789:
“ Wednesday, 1.-Nothing. Deputation of the States.
“ Thursday, 2.-Got on horseback at the Porte du Main, for a stag-hunt at Port-Royal. One taken. “ Friday, 3.-Nothing.
Saturday, 4.-Hunted the roebuck at Butart. One taken, and twenty-nine killed. “Sunday, 5.-Vespers.
Tuesday, 7.-Stag.hunt at Port-Royal. Two taken. " Wednesday, 8.-Nothing. * Thursday, 9.- Nothing. Deputation of the States.
Friday, 10.--Nothing. Answer to the Deputation of the States. Saturday, 11.-Nothing. Departure of M. Necker. "Sunday, 12.-Vespers. Departure of Mess. Montmorenci, St. Priest, and La Luzerne.
" Monday, 13.-Nothing.
“ Tuesday, 14.-Nothing.
“ Wednesday, 15.–At a meeting in the Hall of the States, and re. turned on foot.
“ Thursday, 16.- Nothing.
“Sunday, 19.-Vespers. Return of Messieurs Montmorenci and St. Priest.
“Monday, 20.-Airing on horseback, and shooting in the Little Park. Killed two.
“ Tuesday, 21.-Nothing. Return of M. de Luzerne. Stag-hunt at Butart. Cardinal Montmorenci's audience.
“ Wednesday, 22.-Nothing. “ Thursday, 23.-Nothing.
“Friday, 24.-Airing on horseback, and shooting at Butart. Killed thirteen.
“ Saturday, 25.—Nothing.
" Tuesday, 28.-Nothing. Prevented from going out by bad wea. ther.
Wednesday, 29.-Return of M. Necker, “ Thursday, 30.-Nothing. “ Friday, 31.-Kept within doors by rain."
It was in this month of July, 1789, in which we find such finite deal of nothing,” that the Revolution actually commenced. The terrible day of the fourteenth, when the Bastile was stormed by the po. pulace, and the heads of its governor and some of its defenders, paraded on pikes through the streets of Paris, is merely noticed by the word “Rien :” and, in the momentous and agitating scenes which occupied the following days, Louis quietly records his stag-hunts and shooting. matches at Butart and the Little Park, and the quantity of game he killed! Was this the depth of insensibility, or the height of phi. losophy ?
The following is the diary for the whole of another memorable month-June, 1791 :
" Wednesday, 1.-Nothing.
Monday, 6.-Nothing. “ Tuesday, 7.-Airing on horseback, at half.past seven, by Grenelle, Sevres, and St. Cloud.
Wednesday, 8.-Nothing. “ Thursday, 9.-Nothing. * Friday, 10.—Nothing.
“Saturday, 11.-Airing on horseback at nine o'clock, by Mesnil. montant and Noisy-le-sec. There were no early vespers for want of orders.
“Sunday, 12.-There have not been the regular ceremonies. Highmass and vespers. Grand couvert.
“ Monday, 13.-Vespers. “ Tuesday, 14.-Vespers.