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SLANDER OF MARIE ANTOINETTE.
escaped observation with considerable difficulty in disguise.” Is there nothing scandalous and degrading here? He adds, that “Madame Campan acknowledged to persons who have acknowledged it to me, that she was privy to the intercourse between the Queen and the Duc de Coigny." Could that Queen, being also a wife and a mother, have intercourse with the Duke, and not degrade herself utterly and irretrievably? We repudiate the subtle distinctions made in favour of the royal lady, whom Lord Holland damns indeed with the faintest praise he has it in his power to bestow. Marie Antoinette was virtuous or vile; there is no halfway-house between purity and dishonour to which the character of woman can fly for refuge. There is all the difference imaginable between the late Princess Charlotte of England and Madame du Barry, but none whatever between Madame du Barry and a minor offender. It would have been well if the editor of these Reminiscences had added another to his four erasures, and wholly obliterated the defamation which it is out of his power to make good. The virtue of the unfortunate consort of a most unhappy monarch is without a flaw. Enmity, hatred, and every evil passion have done their worst to palliate murder and to blacken innocence, but the ineradicable spot cannot be fixed to the fair fame of this true woman.
Faultless she was not. We are under no obligation to vindicate her imprudent, wilful, and fatal interference with public questions in which she had no concern; we say nothing of her ignorance of the high matters of State into which her uninformed zeal conducted her, to the bitter cost of herself, and of those she loved dearest on earth; but of her purity, her uprightness, her beneficence, her devotion, her sweet playful, happy disposition, in the midst of those home endearments, which were to her the true occupation and charm of life, there cannot exist a doubt. Misfortune fell upon her house to strengthen her love, and to confirm her piety. Persecution, imprisonment, calamity that has never been surpassed, and a dreadful end, which, in its bitterness, has seldom been equalled, found and left her a meek, but perfect heroine. One historian has told us that as
an affectionate daughter and a faithful wife, she preserved in the two most corrupted courts of Europe the simplicity and affections of domestic life.” It is sufficient to add, that she ascended the scaffold enjoining her children to a scrupulous discharge of duty, to forgive her murderers,—to forget her wrongs; and that her last words on earth were directed to the beloved husband who had preceded her, whose spirit she was eager to rejoin, yet whose bed, if we are to believe my Lord Holland, she had oftener than once defiled.
Lord Holland's distinguishing and most amiable trait, we have been informed, was sympathy with the oppressed-generosity towards the fallen. “In his pity for misfortune he forgot altogether the offences of the unfortunate.” We search in vain throughout the present volume for this peculiar feature of the writer's mind. Lord Holland, as well as his wife, had, it is true, inordinate sympathy for the misfortunes of Napoleon Bonaparte, but not one sigh escapes his Lordship for the troubles of any other prince. He could see Europe itself brought under
SYMPATHY FOR FOREIGN OPPRESSORS.
the yoke of oppression, and whole nations weeping from the extent of their misfortunes, and actually rejoice in the terrific misery. Nay, he could chuckle over the throes and trials of his native land, and grasp in friendship the iron hand that wrought her agony. Nothing, indeed, exceeds his indignation at the just punishment of Napoleon, even whilst he inhumanly regrets the “ tenderness, perhaps improvident, and certainly almost unprecedented, shown to the exiled Bourbon family.” Lord Holland, “always felt," writes his panegyrist, “ that he who defends oppression shares the crime." This remark is as true as the rest. A more gigantic oppressor never harassed mankind than the very man whom Lord Holland mourns as a martyr and worships as a god. Louis XVI., whatever his culpability, was surely unfortunate. Marie Antoinette, not without sin, suffered far beyond her faults. The one he proclaims an adulteress, on hearsay, the other he libels so grossly as to compel the reluctant remonstrance of his own friends against the baseless calumny.
Lord John Russell is the late Lord Holland's literary executor. We can hardly believe that the Premier has given his imprimatur on the present occasion.* The indecent anecdotes are bad enough; the asterisks are still worse; these, with the old jokes of Talleyrand and the less excusable after-dinner stories and backstairs scandal, can never have passed from Lord John's eye to the press, and thence to the Row. But, if they have, surely discretion must have provided against the publication of a sentiment that
• Lord John Russell lias, since the first publication of this article, denied that he saw Lord Holland's book till it appeared in print.
at page 31 teaches how free government is difficult, if not wholly incompatible, with lineal descent. Is this, we take the liberty to ask, the doctrine which Lord John Russell would have instilled into the mind of the eldest son of his royal mistress ? It is the doctrine of his old colleague put forward in so many words, and without disguise. At what period of lineal succession is the liberty of the subject in danger? It is desirable that we should be accurately informed, that we may be at least prepared for our inevitable change. Since the accession of the house of Brunswick to the throne of these realms the succession has been tolerably direct and uninterrupted. Free government has not entirely ceased with the reign of the great-great-great granddaughter of George I. Is Lord Holland's executor the man to assert that its extinction is at hand ?
Our author was a close observer of men and manners in 1791, and he could find little truth in men except in Talleyrand, and nothing in manners that pleased him, unless they were those of Philip Egalité. Lord Holland believes that no man has lived in his time whose character " has been more calumniated, or will be more misrepresented to posterity," than the father of the late Count de Neuilly. He believes other matters affecting this profligate and unscrupulous prince equally singular and unaccountable. He half believes that his unpopularity at the court of Louis XVI. was occasioned by his neglect of the amorous advances of Marie Antoinette (!), and he is quite satisfied that the Duke of Orleans, seeing that he could not have saved the King's life by voting against his death, and that he might have accelerated
HIS ESTEEM FOR PHILIP EGALITÉ.
his own destruction by voting the other way, had as much excuse as any man of his day for the monstrous and inhuman act which, to the remotest posterity, will excite the horror of the just, and which actually made the hellish crew of the National Assembly shudder with disgust as they recorded it. We dare not pollute our columns by describing the ordinary life of the most infamous prince of his time. Such description curiosity may find in chronicles whose veracity cannot unfortunately be questioned. It is sufficient to say here, that no account of profligacy blasphemy, and selfishness has reached us that can stand comparison with this man's well-authenticated history. Yet Lord Holland, in his maturity, regrets that in his youth he was not honoured by Philip Egalité's familiar acquaintance !
Fox, the uncle of Lord Holland, began life as the supporter of arbitrary government, but died the ardent friend of civil and religious liberty. His less illustrious nephew, combined, after a fashion, the youth and manhood of Fox in his vivacious character. When he would be most chivalrous in the defence of popular rights, he is most resolute in the vindication of downright tyranny. In one place he vehemently asserts that “there is no mitigation of the excesses of despotism;" that “violence alone can remove them;" and in another he upbraids the English government in no measured terms for chaining incorrigible despotism to a rock at St. Helena. “ The best and rarest qualities of a sovereign;" he writes, “are inconsistent with absolute rule ;” yet Bonaparte, he tells us, ruled absolutely under the influence of the best and rarest qualities ever owned by emperor or