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tracted from the German Correspondence of the Duchess of Orleans, Mother of the Regent ;-Preceded by a notice of this Princess, and accompanied with notes. London. 1824.
ring and indeja o state, she and that deces
The Duchess of Orleans, was a clever, rude-minded, halfeducated woman, remarkably ordinary, and of course a determined satirist; repelling in her manners, and of course left with much leisure time, which she occupied, to the vexation of the Court, the annoyance of her correspondents, and the amusement of posterity, by the most tremendous and perpetual exercise of her pen.' Her Highness is probably the most unsparing and indefatigable letter-writer on record. Her marriage was an affair of state, she and her husband soon settled their mutual dislikes into a system of that decent disgust which prevents disturbance in high life, and after having had one child, the princess sat herself down to the grand employment of her life, and, in letters innumerable, compiled the Scandalous Chronicle of the age.
Of this compilation however the present volume gives but a very inadequate specimen. Our age, bad as it is, is not tolerant of gross publication, and the editor has had the good taste to produce a work perhaps as much pruned as was possible.
The Duchess's early life was like that of most young princesses of her time; the Prince Palatine of Bavaria her father was a brutal husband; and if she had been educated amid such scenes as were exhibited in his Court, her character and her disposition would have been formed after the worst examples. But it was her fortune to have been brought up entirely
VOL. I. NO. II.
at the Court of Hanover under her paternal aunt the Electress, the mother of George I., a rough, but not a dishonest specimen of royalty. Her character was there formed, and during the whole of her long life, even when her pride was most gratified by seeing the government of the most powerful country in Europe in the hands of her son, she seems always to have cast her eyes to Germany as her country, and to have considered herself as a mere stranger and sojourner in the palaces of France.
It is not to be wondered that with these feelings she should have kept up an intercourse with her friends. But the unremitting vigour and rigour, with which she carried on her letter-writing, was absolutely marvellous. Of any other than a German it would be altogether incredible. The editor thus describes it in his biographical notice.
“ One of the most singular habits of her life, was the indefatigable zeal which she displayed in her correspondence. Perhaps no other person ever wrote so many letters: it was her constant occupation, in which she engaged as in the performance of a task inforced by some indispensable necessity; and she did not confine herself to mere letters, or notes, but wrote whole volumes. The ordinary course of her correspondence she details thus: “On Sunday I write “to my Aunt, the dear Electress of Hanover and to Lorraine ; On “ Monday to Savoy, and to the Queen of Spain ; on Tuesday to Lor“raine, on Wednesday to Modena, on Thursday to Hanover again, “ on Friday to Lorraine, and on Saturday, I bring up the arrears of “ the week. Sometimes after having written in the course of a day “ twenty sheets to the Princess of Wales, ten or twelve to my daughter, " and twenty to the Queen of Sicily, I am so tired that I can hardly “ set one foot before the other." It is not difficult to believe the latter fact. She does not include in this enumeration her regular correspondence with her old preceptress, with Prince Ulric of Brunswick, the Queen of Prussia, and many other persons from whom she also received very abundant effusions. This rage for writing letters very often took her from the society of Monsieur, her husband, which was however not of the most engaging description: debauched men and shameless women composed it generally, and it may be conceived that the Princess could find but little satisfaction in such company,”
As no one had better opportunities to know all that passed at the Court, it may be easily imagined that some parts of this correspondence must have been very amusing. In 1788 extracts from her letters to the Princess Wilhelmina, of Wales, and the Duke of Brunswick, were published at Paris, and another edition at Strasburg, in 1789. There was also pub
lished at Dantzig in 1789 a work composed of extracts from her letters to her former governess, Madame de Harling, and her husband. The volume before us is a translation of the most interesting passages in the Strasburg edition, arranged as illustrations of the characters of the most conspicuous persons at the Court. If all admiration of the Court of Louis XIV., had not long since passed away, it could scarcely overlive the publication of the facts which are communicated in these Letters.
Her opinions of Louis XIV. himself are upon the whole more favourable than of any other individual whom she mentions, except her own son. “The King," she says, “though by no means perfect, possessed some great and many fine qualities; and by no means deserved to be defamed and despised by his subjects after his death." How much of this praise was due to his education may be gathered from some of the curious facts which she mentions.
“ The King and Monsieur had been accustomed from their childhood, to great filthiness in the interior of their houses ; so much so that they did not know it ought to be otherwise."
“ Louis XIV., as well as all the rest of his family, with the exception of my son, hated reading. Neither the King nor Monsieur had been taught any thing; they scarcely knew how to read and write." "He had natural wit, but was extremely ignorant ; and was so much ashamed of it, that it became the fashion for his courtiers to turn learned men into ridicule."
These passages prepare us for what follows.
“So great a fear of hell had been instilled into the King, that he not only thought that every body who did not profess the faith of the Jesuits would be damned, but he even thought he was in some danger himself by speaking to such persons. If any one was to be ruined with the King, it was only necessary to say, “he is a Huguenot, or a Jansenist,” and his business was immediately settled. My son was about to take into his service a gentleman, whose mother was a professed Jansenist. The Jesuits, by way of embroiling my son with the King, represented that he was about to engage a Jansenist on his establishment. The King immediately sent for him and said, “How is this, nephew? I understand you think of employing a professed Jansenist in your service.”. “Oh, no!" replied my son, “I can assure your Majesty that he is not, and I even doubt whether he believes in the existence of a God.” “Oh, well then," said the King, "if tiat be the case, and you are sure he is no Jansenist, you may take him.” It is impossible for a man to be more ignorant of religion than che King was. I cannot understand how his mother the Queen could have brought him up with so little knowledge on this subject. He believed all that the Priests said to him. That old Maintenon and Pére la Chaise, had persuaded him that all the sins he had committed with Madame de Montespan, would be pardoned if he persecuted and extirpated the professors of the reformed religion; and that this was the only path to heaven. The poor King believed it fervently, for he had never seen a bible in his life; and immediately after this, the persecution commenced. He knew no more of religion than what his Confessors chose to tell him, and they had made him believe it was not lawful to investigate matters of religion, but that reason should be prostrated in order to gain heaven. He was however, earnest enough himself, and it was not his fault that hypocrisy reigned at Court.”
There appears however to have been a propensity in many of the princesses and ladies of the Court to a jollity the most unrefined-a vice which generally sets hypocrisy at defiance, and which, with all the crimes and follies of the French, is of so coarse a nature, that one is surprised to hear of its prevalence.
." The Duchess (of Bourbon) can drink very copiously without being affected; her daughters would fain imitate her, but they soon get tipsy, and cannot controul themselves as their mother does. i'" Madame de Montespan and her eldest daughter, could drink a large quantity of wine without being affected by it. I have seen them drink six bumpers of the strong Turin Rosa Solis, besides the wine which they had taken before. I expected to see them fall under the table, but on the contrary, it affected them no more than a draught of water.
“ Three years before her death, the Dauphiness changed greatly for the better ; she played no more foolish tricks, and left off drinking to excess. Instead of that untameable manner which she had before, she became polite and sensible, kept up her dignity, and did not permit the younger ladies to be too familiar with her, by dipping their fingers into her dish, rolling upon the bed, and similar elegancies."
In another passage talking of one of her son's mistresses, she says" that would be very well, if she were not a drunkurd."
There are many amusing stories told of Law and his famous Mississippi scheme. In the first account which the Duchess gives of this remarkable person, she describes him as "a very honest and very sensible man"-polite to every body and very well bred "admirably skilled in all that relates to fi