Зображення сторінки

The moral of “Railway Speculation" has yet to be written; the tale that shall instruct mankind has still to be told. It is no journeyman's hand that is competent to the task. It will be the glory of genius to accomplish with a touch that which the tedious and often-repeated efforts of mediocrity will never reach. In the very simplicity and obviousness of the theme consists the difficulty of dealing with it as it deserves.

December 14, 1849.





The time had passed for history to be serviceable either as guide or counsellor to Louis Philippe, King of the French, when he was paying in exile the penalty of opportunity misused in the day of vast prosperity and power. To the Count de Neuilly, the inhabitant of Claremont, with no future before him save the illimitable, which he must share with the meanest, what availed the upbraiding voice of experience—of what use the tremendous lesson learned too late, and at a sacrifice that beggars calculation !

Events repeat themselves. In the daily walk of every man scenes, actions and thoughts recur which have already played their part in the mysterious drama of his existence. Amidst the thousand new combinations of life, a well-known series presents itself to startle the actor and to confound his judgment. The public history of the family of Orleans is a continually returning narrative of the same characters, incidents and passions. The first chapter is identical with the last. The most illustrious ancestor exhibits the political features of the least remarkable descendant. Make due allowance for the altered aspect of the age, and the difference between the public career of the crowned representative of the

house and that of its founder is comparatively trifling. When Louis XIV. sat upon the throne of France, a Philip of Orleans courted the people, and mocked it with a show of popular concession. When the same monarch lay quietly in his grave, a Philip of Orleans took virtual possession of his seat at the bidding of a parliament whose supreme voice he worshipped only the more effectually to insult and silence it. An Orleans, voted ruler by the representatives of the people at the close of a protracted reign of tyranny and despotism, a century and a half ago gave to France, in exchange for a government of arbitrary power, a government of still more deadly corruption. What are these but tales of the day in which we have moved ? Nearer yet to our time, an Orleans, faithless to his blood, regardless of the ties of family and race, made common cause with the revolution that he might the more securely ride upon the storm, and yet lived to be the victim of the bloody saturnalia of which he had been the chosen hero. To gratify the mob, the father of Louis Philippe signed the death-warrant of Louis XVI., and then for reward was himself dragged by his patrons to the scaffold. Louis Philippe, profiting by the exile of Charles X., is flung even more ignominiously into banishment than the king whose downfall was the signal of his own sudden rise. Different phases of the same historical picture meet us at every turn. Throughout the series of portraits there is no mistaking the family likeness. An impure stream mingles with the waters from their source. A Nemesis attends and accompanies the stock from the cradle. It is impossible, in the space to which we are necessarily limited, to illustrate these remarks




by more than a slight notice of a few of the extraordinary events in connection with the family of Orleans that crowd themselves into the last two hundred years. Such as we shall use for our purpose have a surpassing interest in themselves, and overflow with instruction.

A son was born to Louis XIII. and Anne of. Austria in the September of 1638. Another was born to the same parents on the 21st of the same month in 1640. The first became Louis XIV.; the latter was founder of the house with whose history we are now concerned.

The children as they grew exhibited a marked difference both in their personal appearance and natural tastes. Louis was tall and well proportioned, with a fair complexion, and a commanding face. Philip, remarkably small, exhibited a long and repulsive countenance, which jet black hair and eyebrows, and fine dark eyes, could not redeem from ugliness. The dauphin loved to play at soldiers as a boy; Monsieur, shy and retiring, spent his time in his mother's apartments, with the ladies of the court. Arrived at manhood, the elder loved the chase, music, and the drama; the younger found his enjoyment in good eating, gambling, and dress. Throughout life the King was jealous and suspicious of the Duke, whose affability to the populace set a never-to-be-forgotten example to his descendants. The Duke disliked, but feared the King, trembling, it is said, in his presence, and never venturing to remonstrate against a royal command, whatever pangs obedience might cost. In 1661 Louis became the husband of the Infanta Maria Theresa, daughter of Philip IV. of Spain, and



immediately afterwards his brother married Henrietta Anne, daughter of our own unfortunate Charles I.

A fascination not wholly unconnected with the sorrows of her birth, and the sadness of her early death, pervades the character of the volatile and light-hearted Henrietta. Her father had never known her. She was born at Exeter during the height of the civil wars, and she was an exile when he perished. Appearing in Paris after her marriage, she took that gay city by surprise, by the force of “her beauty, her wit, and readiness in repartee." And amongst the chief of her admirers was the King himself. A picture of the times is presented by a stroke. Louis XIV., eager to subjugate Holland, was anxious to obtain, not merely the neutrality, but the active support and help of England. Henrietta of Orleans, a favourite sister of Charles II., was commissioned by the King of France to win the co-operation of her brother by the offer of a mistress and a pension. The ambassadress fulfilled her mission to the letter. The money was paid; the mistress was created Duchess of Portsmouth, and Henrietta of Orleans acquired all the honours of a successful and therefore a great negotiator. She returned to France to receive the grateful thanks of the King, and to be poisoned by her husband's friends. On the 29th of June, 1670, the Duchess of Orleans rose earlier than usual, and visited her daughter, Maria Louisa, then a lovely child not more than eight years old. Before night she had swallowed the draught that killed her. Eighteen years afterwards that lovely child, who inherited much of the character and beauty, and far too much of the fate of her mother, as Queen of

« НазадПродовжити »