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k'^*!6-l^lS-?638w.^-* J* - 












{A/ter the pastel in the Berlin Museum) 






Dear dead women, with such hair, too — what's become of all the gold 
Used to hang and brush their bosoms? I feel chilly and grown old." 
Robert Browning: " A Toccata of Galuppi's. 





Richard Clay & Sons, Limited, 




With the exception of Charlotte Corday, that 
personification of the Marseillaise— who had the whole 
stage to herself for one sublime moment — none of the 
women whose strangely contrasted lives are recorded 
in this book can be said to occupy a conspicuous niche 
in the history of their times. Nevertheless, what they 
lack in public importance, which too often possesses 
only a political significance, they make up in private 
or human interest. 

It is as the merry magdalen with the heart of gold 
rather than as a brilliant and accomplished actress 
that Peg Woffington appeals to the imagination. The 
Duchesse de Choiseul deserves to be rescued from 
oblivion as the most devoted of wives and most loyal of 
friends in an age in which fidelity was held up to ridicule. 
Always true to herself, she knew how to command the 
respect of the sans-culottes of the Revolution in the 
day of her adversity, as in the period of her splendour 
she had cast the spell of her purity over the cynical 
and frivolous society of the old regime. Domestic 
happiness, which was her ideal, was the aim also of the 
Countess Potocka's feverish existence, but she sought it 
in a very different way. She was the woman of impulse 
par excellence — passionate, ardent, reckless, and warm- 
hearted, with a career as stormy and romantic as a page 




in the history of her native Poland. While the 
Countess Potocka is familiar to all by reason of her 
lovely portrait, the Princess Tarakanof is not even 
so much as a name to the general reader. But the 
story of this mysterious adventuress, whose daring 
aspirations and brutal abduction form one of the 
most dramatic episodes in the reign of the Empress 
Catherine, is none the less amazing. 

In the case of each it is her personality that is her 
chief claim to distinction. It is a claim that seldom 
fails to obtain recognition, and one which it is the 
object of this book to attempt to make good. 

Concerning the frontispiece, a word of explanation 
is necessary. The original of this celebrated picture — 
a pastel in the Berlin Museum which frequent re- 
productions have rendered familiar to all — has afforded 
much speculation both as regards the identity of the 
artist and the person whom it represents. Attri- 
buted variously to Vestier, Antoine Graff, Angelica 
Kauffmann, Kucharski, and Madame Vig^e Lebrun, it 
was long supposed to be the portrait of the Countess 
Sophie Potocka de Witt, known as La belle Grecque. 
On the other hand, the late Madame Lucien Perey, the 
accomplished biographer of the Countess Vincent 
Potocka, nde Helene Massalska, claimed it to be the 
portrait of the latter as a girl, on the strength of 
information she received from the family of de Ligne, 
into which Hdene Massalska originally married. It 
is this opinion, as the inscription on the frontispiece 
indicates, with which I am inclined to agree. As the 
proofs, however, on which it is based are not accepted 



as conclusive by those who would claim the portrait 
for the Countess Sophie Potocka, I have reproduced 
other portraits of both the ladles in question, painted 
at a later period in their lives and of unquestioned 
authenticity, in order that readers, by comparing them 
with the frontispiece, may judge for themselves as to 
which of the two the portrait in dispute is the more 
likely to be attributed. 

For the rest, I am greatly indebted to the Prince 
de Ligne, Sir Henry Bellingham, and Count Mycielski, 
for their kindness in allowing me to publish the various 
portraits in their possession, now reproduced for the 
first time, and a description of which will be found on 
the pages they illustrate. 

W. R. H. Trowbridge. 

August igii. 




Louise Honorine Crozat du ChAtel, Duchesse de 

Choiseul, 1734-1801 I 

Princess Tarakanof, 1752 (?)-i775(?) .... 75 

Peg Woffington, i 720-1 760 121 

Apolline HELfeNE Massalska, Countess Potocka, 1763- 

I8I5 177 

Charlotte Corday, i 768-1 793 247 



To fact page 

Apolline Helene Massalska, Countess Potocka 


DucHESSE de Choiseul 


Due DE Choiseul 


Baron Gleichen 


Duchesse de Gramont . . ... 




Abb£ Barth^lemy 

• 65 

Princess Tarakanof 


Czarina Elizabeth 

• 8s 


. 91 

Prince Charles Radziwill 

• 97 

Alexis Orlof 

• 105 

Empress Catherine 

• "5 

Peg Woffington 



Sir Charles Hanbury Williams .... 



Kitty Clive 

• 155 

George Anne Bellamy 

. 161 


List of Illustrations 

H^LfeNE Massalska, Princesse Charles de Ligne 
Prince Ignace Massalski, Bishop of Wilna 


Prince de Ligne 
Princesse de Ligne . 
Countess Sophie Potocka 
Prince Charles de Ligne 
Countess Anna Mycielska 
Count Vincent Potocki 
SiDONiE de Ligne 
Charlotte Corday 
Barbaroux . 
Marat .... 

To face page 













(After Carnwntelle) 

Reproduced by the courtesy of the Director of the Musee Condi. 

[To /ace p. 3 

*' There lived a singer in France of old 
By the tideless dolorous midland sea. 
In a land of sand and ruin and gold 

There shone one woman, and none but she." 

Swinburne : " The Triumph of Time." 




Attar de Choiseul ! Parfttm de la vieille cour / 
How faint and faded is the memory of its once incom- 
parable charm. Yet it is as fresh as ever in the witty 
memoirs and brilliant letters in which the beautiful, 
proud, old-world name is preserved. Turn the pages, 
shake the leaves, and you will still find clinging to 
them the fascination oi " cette belle ^ cette delicieuse, cette 
sMuisante duchesseT 

But it is too subtle an essence for its full effect to be 
perceptible at once. Charming in little things, sublime 
in great, Madame de Choiseul, like a picture of Rem- 
brandt, a sonnet of Ronsard, or an opera of Mozart, 
requires to be studied to be appreciated. 

She was not, strictly speaking, beautiful, yet the 
charm of her expression, the gentleness of her man- 
ners, the captivating sweetness of her voice and the 

B2 3 

Daughters of Eve 

matchless grace of her petite figure combined to pro- 
duce that impression. In speaking of her, all her con- 
temporaries are unanimous in expressing admiration ; 
there is not one dissentient voice. Horace Walpole, 
most fastidious and critical of men, thought her " the 
most perfect being of either sex " he knew. " Nothing," 
he says in one of his letters, "that I ever saw any- 
where was like the Duchess of Choiseul, who has 
more parts, reason and agreeableness than I ever met 
in such a delicate little creature. Her face is pretty, 
though not very pretty ; her person a little model. 
You would take her for the queen of an allegory. Oh, 
it is the gentlest, most amiable and civil little creature 
that ever came out of a fairy ^^'g ! " 

Madame Du Deffand, who was even harder to 
please than Walpole, is equally rapturous. " What a 
pity that she is an angel ! " she writes. " I would rather 
she were a woman, but she has only virtues, not a 
weakness, not a fault." 

Speaking of her health, which was always delicate, 
the Abbe Barthelemy declared that " if he were her 
master he would deprive her of half her virtues, it would 
make her twice as strong, and she would still remain 
the best woman in the world, without any longer being 
the most frail." 

Some one has described her as one of the moral 
assets of the eighteenth century. But this very imper- 
fectly explains her charm, for a blameless life and a 
spotless reputation are not necessarily attractive in 
themselves. How many good people only succeed in 
boring, antagonizing or repelling us, while others with- 
out a stitch of morality to their backs contrive somehow 
to awaken our sympathy ! To be adored, virtue must 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

possess a heart as well as a conscience. The Duchesse 
de Choiseul was one of the rare instances of a eood 
woman with both — rare, for however familiar the type 
may be in ordinary life, it is unfortunately not one that 
has been particularly conspicuous in history. In the 
eighteenth century, that age of loose morals and cor- 
rupt refinement, the type is so rare that you can count 
the number on the fingers of one hand. 

Goodness in her was an instinct, she had no need to 
cultivate it. Nevertheless, although she had so little 
in common with her times that she remained virtuous 
when it was the fashion to be vicious, she did not 
altogether escape their influence. If she lived like a 
saint, she was as sceptical as a philosopher. She 
thought like Montesquieu and wrote like Madame Du 
Deffand. But though exquisitely sensitive, tender, and 
sympathetic, she did not weep like Rousseau. Her 
nature was essentially cheerful and practical. In 
following her through the various stages of her 
strangely chequered career we shall find her, whether 
at the dazzling height of her good fortune or in the 
slough of adversity, always equal to herself, enduring 
every change with imperturbable serenity. 

As a child she was left entirely in the hands of 
servants. " My child," said her mother to her once, 
"have no likes or dislikes." It was the only advice 
or instruction she could remember ever to have re- 
ceived from her mother. Precocity made her old 
before her time. " I never knew youth," she said ; 
"of the illusions of childhood, I was early and cruelly 

Gifted with great good sense, tact, wit, and quick 
perception, she evaded the guillotine as she had 


Daughters of Eve 

passed unscathed through the corrupt society of the 
old Court — apparently without giving the least thought 
to her safety in either case. The ancien regime and 
the Revolution alike respected her. Indeed, the 
esteem in which she was held was so universal that 
in the midst of the Terror, aristocrat though she was, 
she procured life and liberty for more than one of 
her intimate friends threatened with death by simply 
begging for them. 

But while the sublimity of her friendship was only 
put to the test on great and rare occasions, her un- 
swerving fidelity to a faithless and dissolute husband — 
which is the dominant feature of her character — was 
tried every day for years in a hundred secret and 
ignominious ways. It is true she adored him, but it 
is this very fact which constitutes her fame and her 

In spite of all the talk of love in the eighteenth 
century, true love was so rare that only Mademoiselle 
Aisse was capable of dying for it, and Mademoiselle 
de Lespinasse of it. But rarer still was respect for 
the marriage tie — only the Duchesse de Choiseul was 
capable of glorifying it when it galled. 


It is rather curious to note that she, in whom all 
the graces for which the aristocracy of the old regime 
was so conspicuous were displayed in their most 
perfect development, was herself of plebeian origin. 
In 1734, when Madame de Choiseul was born, her 
grandfather, who had started life as a merchant's clerk, 
if not as a lacquey as Saint-Simon maliciously asserts, 

Duchesse de Choiseul 

was still living. Antoine Crozat, however, had brains, 
and turned them to such good account that he amassed 
an immense fortune, whereupon he promptly sought, 
with the usual modesty of the parvemi, to divert 
attention from his great abilities by changing his 

As he was worth more than twenty millions, Louis 
XIV was easily persuaded to make him a marquis, 
and he accordingly selected du Chatel as his title, 
which was the name of the estate he had bought in 
Brittany. But the world always persisted in calling 
him, behind his back bien entendu, Crozat as before — 
Crozat le Pauvre to distinguish him from his brother, 
Crozat le Riche, whose fortune was still greater. 

By the humble partner of his early struggles, the 
new marquis had three sons and a daughter, through 
whom he souorht the noble kindred he lacked. For a 


millionaire this was just as easy under the old regime, 
when, according to the Princesse de Lamballe, nobody 
was worthy of the name of 7na7i under the rank of 
baron, as it is to-day. Honest old Crozat, as may be 
imagined, never did things by halves. A dowry of 
500,000 crowns bought the Comte d'Evreux, the 
youngest son of the Due de Bouillon, the head of one 
of the most historic houses in France, for his daughter. 
But the old family, as is often the case, got the best 
of the bargain, and the Comtesse d'Evreux shortly 
after her marriage was glad to return to the parental 
roof. It was with her dot that her husband built, in 
what was then open country, the palace, afterwards 
bought by Madame de Pompadour, now known as the 

Old Crozat, however, had better luck with his sons. 


Daughters of Eve 

The youngest married a Montmorency, and spent his 
time collecting pictures, like his uncle Crozat le Riche, 
who left him his own superb collection, which his 
daughters on his death sold to the Empress Catherine, 
who placed it in the Hermitage at St. Petersburg, 
where it is still to be seen. For his eldest son old 
Crozat purchased Mademoiselle de Gouffier, whose 
mother was a member of the ducal house of Luynes. 
Thus did the multi-millionaire, who had once been "a 
clerk at Parmantier's in Toulouse," ally himself to the 
best families in the kingdom. 

His eldest son, the second Marquis du Chatel — 
and the last, for the title became extinct for lack of 
male heirs to perpetuate it — had two daughters. 
Antoinette Eustache married the Due de Gontaut- 
Biron ; while Louise Honorine found a husband in 
the Comte de Stainville, afterwards Due de Choiseul. 

In the present shoddy age when the vulgar are 
courted in society, and the ignorant belauded in 
politics, it is the fashion to deride such a thing as a 
pedigree. All the same it is the only privilege of the 
aristocracy that legislation is incapable of suppressing, 
and the sole one, if there be any virtue in heredity, 
that really matters. When the Comte de Stain- 
ville began life it was the only fortune he possessed, 
and he managed to exist on it very handsomely till he 
married old Crozat s granddaughter. 

The Choiseuls, of which family the Stainvilles 
were a branch, traced their descent to the tenth cen- 
tury, or more than a hundred years before William the 
Conqueror invaded England. Under the old regime, 
a pedigree of such antiquity had a special claim to the 
protection of the State, and the Comte de Stainville 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

had been provided with a commission in the French 
army at an early age. As wars were frequent in the 
eighteenth century, he saw a great deal of active ser- 
vice, in the course of which he acquired a reputation 
for valour. During the Marechal de Belle- Isle's 
heroic retreat from Prague, which was almost the last 
and by far the most glorious achievement of French 
arms under the old regime, he had covered himself 
with glory. But his notoriety was chiefly confined to 
mess-rooms. In society where blue blood is debased 
and bravery eclipsed by poverty, he was merely a 
needy officer of good family, on whom old Crozat's 
granddaughter with her 1 20,000 a year was considered 
to have thrown herself away. 

But though of so little consequence at the time of 
his marriage, there was no man in France better quali- 
fied to give his wife a more splendid position — if that 
was what she wanted — than the Comte de Stainville, 
He was one of those men who are predestined to 
"arrive." His wife's fortune undoubtedly hastened his 
success, but was not essential to it. Had he married 
any one else or remained single his career would have 
been precisely the same. Fortune had bestowed on 
him the most valuable of all her gifts — personality. 
The very defects of his appearance predisposed one at 
first sight in his favour. In spite of his insignificant 
figure, pale face, red hair, and sarcastic manner, it was 
impossible to refrain from liking him. His little eyes 
sparkled with intelligence, his snub nose gave him a 
comical look, and his sensual mouth, round the corners 
of which there always lurked a smile, suggested 

His high spirits infected all who came in contact 


Daughters of Eve 

with him. " When he entered a room," says Gleichen, 
" the very manner in which he put his hands in his 
pockets seemed to suggest that they were filled with 
an inexhaustible store of gaiety and wit. I never met 
a man who created such an atmosphere of good- 
humour and contentment around him as he. Amiable, 
noble, frank, generous, gallant, magnificent, liberal, 
proud, daring and passionate, he was like some French 
knight of the olden times." 

As a conversationalist, in a period when conversa- 
tion was cultivated as an art, the Comte de Stainville — 
or Due de Choiseul, to give him the name by which 
he is best known — was unrivalled. He was a past- 
master in the difficult art of pleasing. " Grace, good 
company, and gaiety are no longer to be found in any 
one but him," wrote Madame Du Deffand ; " every one 
else is dull, ridiculous or pedantic." In his early 
days the mordant persiflage for which he was noted 
caused him to be regarded contemptuously by those 
whom it wounded — and they were not a few — as " a 
brainless coxcomb who had some brimstone in his wit." 
But when he was once fairly launched on his dazzling 
career he quickly made his abilities respected, though 
history, judging them by the levity and frivolity in 
which he wrapped them, has not done them the justice 
they deserve. 

His character was so full of inconsistencies as to be 
well-nigh inexplicable. Goncourt, struck by its amazing 
contrasts, aptly declares that one can only judge him by 
"the profile of his personality, for the full face has 
always been hidden from the historian." Even this 
profile, he might have added, was masked. What the 
real Choiseul was like nobody ever knew, save, perhaps. 


{From the fiorirait at Versailles) 

\Tofacef>. ii 

Duchesse de Choiseul 

his sister, who inspired him, and his wife, who loved 

The most frivolous of Cabinet ministers, he worked 
eight hours a day without turning a hair. The instinct 
of pleasure was so strong in him that he never checked 
it, even in the Council Chamber. In Choiseul's day 
the gravest affairs of state were discussed with a jest. 
Never was minister more indiscreet or more audacious. 
Honour, apart from a sort of etiquette of birth, he did 
not understand. If it suited his purpose, he never 
hesitated to break his word, or to ruin a man, or 
betray a secret. Yet, though full of malice, which he 
vented even on his intimates, no one was less vin- 
dictive. He took a delight in converting enemies into 
friends. Once, incensed by a foul lampoon directed 
against his private life, he offered a reward to discover 
the author. The latter, tempted by the bait, had the 
hardihood to claim it in person. Choiseul was for 
a moment speechless with amazement, then offering 
the fellow his hand he said lightly, "Yes, it is true I 
promised a reward. If my friendship is of any use to 
you, accept it and grant me yours in return." Whether 
his frankness was studied or not, it served him well. 
But his unalterable good-nature, which was his chief 
virtue, prevented him from hating any one. He re- 
garded those whom he ruined merely as obstacles in 
his path that it was incumbent on him to remove. To 
his friends he was always loyal. 

The only part of his nature that he did not trouble 
to hide was its sensuality. Judged by his vices he was 
probably more representative of his age than any of his 
contemporaries. From the point of view of immo- 
rality, Choiseul was the eighteenth century incarnate. 


Daughters of Eve 

The role he aspired to play, and to the study of which 
he devoted more pains than to the government of the 
country, was that of Lothario. " He made his debut 
in the world," says Goncourt, "as a squire of dames, a 
merciless worker of evil, a consummate rake, marching 
onward to his goal with heedless gait, never moving 
a step or uttering a single word without having some 
design on a woman." 

So perfectly had he studied the role of seducer, 
that he mig^ht have served as the model of Valmont in 
Laclos' diabolically clever novel Les liaisons dange- 
reuses. It was as Valmont that Choiseul began and 
finished his career, and nothing ever interrupted or 
prevented his performance of the part — least of all his 

The manner in which this event was "arranged" casts 
a lurid light on the morality of the man and his times. 

Between Choiseul and his wife's brother-in-law, 
the Due de Gontaut, there existed one of those friend- 
ships that stand any test to which they are put. To 
outvie one another in manifestations of their mutual 
regard seemed to be the object of their lives. As a 
graceful proof of his devotion Choiseul had fallen in 
love with the Duchesse de Gontaut, who promptly, 
and with the full approbation of her husband, returned 
the compliment. But these marks of their esteem by 
no means ended the friendly contest. Threatened 
with extinction by Gontaut's lack of offspring, the 
great family of Biron were in despair. To the devoted 
Choiseul a reproach so injurious to the honour of his 
friend was not to be borne, and to lift it he resolved to be 
the faiher of Gontaut's child as he had been the lover of 
his wife. 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

But, alas ! in giving the Birons the heir ^ for which 
they longed, Choiseul robbed Gontaut altogether of 
his wife. For the Duchesse de Gontaut, in fulfilling 
her part of the bargain, was unexpectedly summoned 
to the next world. Before her departure, however, 
she had time to give her lover a last and substantial 
proof of her attachment. Aware that he had no 
fortune — at the time of his marriage his worldly pos- 
sessions were said to consist of 2,000 francs — Madame 
de Gontaut determined to provide him with one on her 
death-bed. She accordingly sent for her sister, then 
only twelve years old, and extorted from her a promise, 
which the child faithfully kept, that she would marry 
the Comte de Stainville. 


In the sphere to which the Choiseuls belonged, 
marriage, sous Louis Quinze, was generally a domestic 
disaster. In nine cases out of ten a couple whose 
characters and tastes were so different would very 
soon have agreed to live apart. But neither Choiseul 
nor his child-wife — she was but fifteen at the time of 
her marriage, he thirty-one — were like the ordinary 
run of people. It was not in the nature of either to 
quarrel or bicker; and as for separating, he had no 
motive for leaving her had he been so disposed, while 
she was the last woman in the world to dream of such 
a thing. On the contrary, though obliged to live at 

1 The Due de Lauzun, afterwards Due de Biron. Under both 
titles he was one of the most conspicuous figures in the social world 
of his time. That he was the son of Choiseul, Talleyrand declared 
nobody doubted. 


Daughters of Eve 

first with Madame de Choiseul's mother — with whom 
also Gontaut made his home — a condition well calcu- 
lated to try the temper of a newly married couple at 
any time, and especially so in this instance, owing to the 
lack of sympathy between the mother and daughter 
— they contrived to live harmoniously. 

Such a miracle, in such an age, as the maintenance 
of perfect amity, exposed as it was perpetually to all 
sorts of mortifications between a husband and a wife 
so dissimilar, could only be worked by great love 
on the part of one or the other. And the love of 
Madame de Choiseul for her faithless and fascinating 
husband was not only great, but unreasoning. 

With the passage of time, moreover, it increased 
rather than diminished. As the years went by, the 
worship of her husband became a cult with her. The 
friendly notice he had taken of the precocious, lonely, 
neglected little creature, with whom his intimacy with 
the Gontauts constantly brought him in contact, had 
won her heart long before she promised her sister to 
marry him. His wit, his gaiety, and his bravery in 
battle, of which she had heard many tales, had dazzled 
her youthful imagination ; and the disparity in their 
ages had assisted the process of idealization. She had 
looked forward to marrying him as the realization ot 
some wonderful dream. When on her father's death 
her uncles brought an action against her and the 
Due de Gontaut, as her sister's heir, to dispossess her 
of her fortune, his willingness to marry her without a 
dowry had completed his conquest of her heart. The 
fact that his poverty had tempted him to run the risk 
of her uncles' losing the suit — as they did — was 
nothing to her. She regarded the act as a supreme 

Duchesse de Choiseul 

proof of his good-nature and kindness of heart. So 
deep was her passion that, had she not been his wife, 
she must have been his mistress, for all her virtue. It 
was the thought that he had saved her from this 
degradation by marrying her that made her look 
up to him. She felt she owed him a debt she could 
never pay. 

But the flame he had kindled failed to warm him, 
and the delicacy of her health, which was always 
feeble, was not conducive to love. To his credit, 
however, be it said, Choiseul was not ungrateful for the 
affection he was unable to return. To please her he 
was ready at any time to do anything save interrupt an 
intrigue or sacrifice a mistress of whom he had not yet 
tired. During the long illness with which his wife 
was afflicted shortly after her marriage, though most 
assiduous in the attention he paid her, he did not 
for a moment dream of breaking with the beautiful 
and notorious Princesse de Robecq, who at the time 
possessed his fickle heart. 

Naturally, loving him as she did, the Duchesse de 
Choiseul suffered much from the flaunted infidelities 
of her husband. But such things were too much a 
matter of course in the eighteenth century to outrage 
the dignity, or shock the susceptibilities of any woman. 
The wound they inflicted on her feelings was of quite 
another character. She blamed herself and not her 
husband for all she suffered. The knowledge that 
she had won his respect, but was incapable of winning 
his love, was the real source of her mortification. 

But though she endured his follies and infidelities 
without complaint, the luxurious idleness in which 
Choiseul lived was the despair of the Due de Gontaut. 


Daughters of Eve 

" With your wealth, your rank, and your abilities," 
he was continually saying, *' you ought to have a 
great career." And to prove to his friend the grati- 
tude he felt for having saved the family of Biron from 
extinction, though devoid of ambition himself he 
endeavoured to awaken it in Choiseul by dangling 
before his eyes the immense influence he possessed 
over Madame de Pompadour. 

This, Gontaut had acquired by the faculty of 
making himself indispensable to those to whom he 
attached himself. Of Fortune, all he desired was 
the privilege of dancing attendance on the mighty. 
Having been the fast friend of the Duchesse de 
Chateauroux when she was maitresse en titre, he had 
found the means after her death of making himself 
equally agreeable to her successor. Madame de 
Pompadour was seldom seen anywhere without her 
"White Eunuch," as he was nicknamed. It was the 
Due de Gontaut who accompanied her on the mys- 
terious visits she paid to fortune-tellers, in whose 
predictions she placed the greatest faith, ever since 
one had foretold that she would become the King's 
mistress at a time when such a contingency seemed 
utterly out of the question. 

" He is," says Madame du Hausset, " a useful 
piece of furniture for a favourite ; he makes her laugh, 
never causes jealousy or interferes, and never asks for 
anything either for himself or for others." 

He was ready enough, however, to make an 
exception in favour of Choiseul had his brother-in-law 
permitted him. But Choiseul's aversion to court the 
Pompadour, of whom he had made an enemy by a 
mordant jest at her expense, was as great as his 



Duchesse de Choiseul 

ambition was difficult to awaken. Nevertheless, 
Gontaut was too devoted to his friend to abandon 
the hope of surmounting either of these difficulties, 
and the manner in which he eventually overcame 
them is an admirable instance of Court intrigue in the 
days of Louis Ouinze. 

The position of a king's mistress is never secure. 
Madame de Pompadour, whose consummate craft 
enabled her to hold the post even when the King's 
passion had cooled, lived in such constant dread of 
being supplanted that she declared her life was 
"like that of a Christian, a perpetual fight." It was 
in a particularly disturbing royal "infidelity," as she 
termed the feeble efforts Louis made from time to 
time to break her spell, that the Due de Gontaut 
found his opportunity. The captor of the King's 
fancy was a certain Comtesse de Choiseul-Romanet, 
the young and charming wife of a cousin of 
Choiseul. Intoxicated by the passion she inspired, 
and egged on by a powerful cabal composed of all 
the enemies of the Pompadour, she ventured to make 
the dismissal of the maitresse en litre the sine qua 
non of her favours. An order to that effect, it was 
rumoured, was actually signed, and Madame de Pom- 
padour was so convinced of the futility of any attempt 
to regain her ascendency that she determined to make 
her fall as light as possible by going before she was 

But her rival was a fool. While Madame de 
Pompadour was packing her trunks, Madame de 
Romanet was so indiscreet as to boast of her victory, 
which she declared she was certain of from the tone 
of the King's letters to her. Such news travelled 
c 17 

Daughters of Eve 

like wild-fire at Versailles, and Gontaut, most harmless 
and insignificant of men, no sooner heard of these 
royal love-letters than he bethought himself of a 
scheme to get possession of them and save Madame 
de Pompadour, which proved him not to be such a 
fool as he seemed. It was diabolical enough to have 
originated with Choiseul himself. 

Going to his friend, he said, " You are Madame 
de Romanet's relation, you must also be her lover. 
With your reputation and powers of seduction that 
will not be difficult. Madame de Romanet has had 
love-letters from the King. You must get possession 
of them that I may give them to Madame de Pompa- 
dour, who will thus be able to save herself by proving 
Madame de Romanet to have been faithless to the 

" But I have no desire to save Madame de 
Pompadour," replied Choiseul, who has himself de- 
scribed the whole intrigue in detail. 

" Nonsense ! As my friend you must save her to 
save me. If she falls I am ruined. That I am sure 
you cannot contemplate with indifference." 

"This," says Cheverney, "was enough to persuade 
M. de Stainville. He exerted all his powers of 
attraction, and Madame de Choiseul- Romanet was 
won. He then affected jealousy, and by skilful by- 
play obtained possession of the King's letters, which 
he at once sent to the Marquise de Pompadour, who 
made such good use of them that Louis XV was 
convinced, and gave up his new caprice." 

Tricked thus out of the victory in her hands, 
Madame de Romanet, who had neither brains nor 
friends capable of advising her, was banished from 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

Court. On her death shortly afterwards, Choiseul 
was said by his enemies to have poisoned her as well 
as betrayed her. It was, however, only one of many 
equally atrocious calumnies with which people who 
lived in the limelight were continually assailed under 
the old regime. Choiseul never noticed it by so 
much as a shrug. 

Madame de Pompadour was too clever a woman 
to suffer the slightest service rendered her to pass un- 
recognized. She requested the honour of an interview 
with Choiseul. He could not refuse, and these two 
persons, who had detested one another without 
having met, found themselves on first acquaintance 
in the most perfect accord. 

The interview was the beginning, in fact, of a 
lifelong friendship, which Choiseul valued quite apart 
from the benefits that accrued from it. These, 
Gontaut no longer had occasion to worry about, for 
the all-powerful mistress heaped them upon his friend 
with lavish hand. As they were of the sort that 
makes a "career" necessary, it was only a question 
of persuading Choiseul to accept them. Madame de 
Pompadour's tact, however, overcame all obstacles. 
To awaken his ambition, which friendship and a 
perception of the great talents hid under his levity 
made her desire as much as Gontaut, she cunningly 
employed the Marechal de Noailles, who, being his 
commander-in-chief, would, she rightly conjectured, be 
more likely to influence him than any one. 

Noailles executed his commission so successfully 
that Choiseul was tempted to leave the army and 
enter politics. Airy and flippant though he was, he 
never did anything by halves. He liked to excel in 

C 2 19 

Daughters of Eve 

all he undertook ; it was vanity, however, rather than 
ambition that inspired him ; and the same motive was 
the basis of all the success he won either as soldier, 
Lothario, diplomatist, or Prime Minister. Aware that 
nothing was to be gained by ignoring the favours he 
had formerly disdained, the favourite of the favour- 
ite desired to be loaded with honours and dio-nities. 
Madame de Pompadour was no sooner informed of 
his willingness to be employed in affairs of state than 
she procured him the post of French ambassador at 
Rome. A year later she got him transferred to 
Vienna, whence she recalled him on the fall of 
Cardinal de Bernis to be Minister of Foreign Affairs. 
Under Louis XV, this was the chief post in the 

But the protig^ of Madame de Pompadour did 
not halt on this fine road. The ancient dukedom of 
Choiseul was revived for his benefit, and, to maintain 
it with the fitting dignity, he was appointed Colonel- 
General of the Swiss Guards, Governor of Touraine, 
Grand Bailli of Hagenau, Superintendent of the Royal 
Mails, etc. To all of these posts large revenues were 
attached. The command of the Swiss Guards alone 
was worth 100,000 livres a year. At the zenith of 
his career it was estimated that the annual income 
Choiseul derived from the State was upwards of 
800,000 livres. 


It was in Rome, where her husband made his 
debut in politics, that the Duchesse de Choiseul like- 
wise made hers as a queen of society. Since her 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

marriage, she had been known merely as the wife of 
the most notorious trifler and flaneur in Paris. Ill- 
health, extreme youth, and a preference for a quiet 
life had kept her withdrawn from the public view. 
But the appointment of Choiseul as French ambas- 
sador to the Papal Court naturally brought his wife 
into evidence, and served as an excellent preparation 
for the great position she was subsequently to fill at 
Versailles with such charm and dignity. 

In the eighteenth century, society, in the sense 
in which the word was understood in Paris, London, 
and Vienna, was unknown in Rome. Such society as 
existed was very formal, very dull, and very exclusive. 
The Roman aristocracy was divided into three classes 
— the great patrician families, the lesser nobility, and 
the untitled gentry whose birth alone distinguished 
them from the bourgeois. These different classes 
never mixed. The houses of such families as the 
Borghese or the Colonna were seldom open to 
foreigners. The nearest approach to entertaining was 
a function known as a "conversation," at which 
very light refreshments were served, and of which 
gambling was the distinctive feature. The Duquesa 
Corsini had acquired a reputation as the leader of 
fashion because she gave these tedious affairs more 
frequently than any one else in Rome. 

"Each lady," wrote Madame de Nivernais, the 
wife of Choiseul's predecessor, to a friend in Paris, 
"has her special male attendant, or cicisbeo, as he is 
called. They arrive shortly after one another. As 
each couple sits together and talks in whispers no one 
dares to interrupt them. Later they gamble, which 
is the chief amusement of these parties. Supper in 


Daughters of Eve 

the French sense is unknown. The role of husband 
is bizarre, but they do not appear to mind it or to 
think that the attention paid their wives by the cicisbeo 
is excessive. Indeed, I have heard them declare that 
their wives are infinitely less coquettish than French- 
women since they only seek to please one man. Be 
this as it may, the constancy of these liaisons is sur- 
prising. A woman who changes her lover, or a man 
his mistress, would be beyond the pale of society. So 
a wife passes her life very tranquilly between her 
husband and her cicisbeo^ all three living together on 
the best of terms." ^ 

For the foreigner, diplomatic society offered even 
still fewer attractions. According to Choiseul, the 
foreign representatives were "either especes or im- 
possible." For the rest there was the daily promenade 
or drive in the Corso, where, in spite of the dust, the 
heat and the crowds, fashionable Rome spent the 
afternoons ; while at night there was the theatre or 
the opera, where people passed the evening visiting 
one another's boxes, and paid no attention to the 

Choiseul had no sooner arrived in Rome and taken 
its measure than he set himself to revolutionize it. 
Like all reformers, he encountered a great deal of 
hostility, which he ignored in his customary airy way. 
If he did not exactly succeed in converting a wilder- 
ness into a garden, he at least reclaimed enough to 
render the French Embassy a very agreeable oasis 
in the desert. It was as much as he desired. 

From the start he sought to dazzle the Romans, 

1 The cicisbeo was often, indeed, provided for in the marriage 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

and give them a great idea of the grandeur of the 
sovereign he represented. His "state entry" is 
celebrated. This function was incumbent on all 
ambassadors, and frequently crippled them during 
the remainder of their stay in the Holy City. But 
expense was of no more account to Choiseul than 
silver to King Solomon. The splendour of the 
pageant he gave Rome struck the imagination, and 
created a reputation of magnificence for him which 
followed him throughout his career. Attracted by 
the novelty of the hospitality he dispensed on a scale 
equally sumptuous, all Rome flocked to the French 
Embassy. His wonderful gift of pleasing and amusing 
all with whom he came in contact, and the exquisite 
manners of his wife, soon did the rest. 

Called upon by the exigencies of her position to 
play the grande dame to her husband's grand seigneur, 
her love for him and her own dignity alike made 
Madame de Choiseul anxious to do credit to the role. 
In spite of her extreme youth and inexperience she 
proved equal to the occasion. Among the antiquaries, 
savants, artists, generals and cardinals who thronged 
her salon, the young ambassadress held her own 
with infinite grace and spirit. "Well read," said the 
Due de Nivernais, "very sensible, and, better still, 
possessing a character that only permitted her to 
say, to think and to do what was good, she was 
exceedingly popular in Rome." 

Everything about her inspired the most lively 
interest. "She evoked the sympathy of all," says 
Abbe Barthelemy, " by her age— then scarcely 
eighteen — her looks, the delicacy of her health, the 
yiyacity she gave to all she said or did, by the desire 

Daughters of Eve 

of pleasing everybody which it was so easy for her 
to gratify, by an extreme ^sensibility for the feelings 
of others, in fine, by that purity of heart which pre- 
vented her from even suspecting evil. At the same 
time," adds the enthusiastic Abb^, *' it was extra- 
ordinary to see so much intelligence combined with 
such simplicity and modesty. She reflected at an 
age when others have scarcely begun to think." 
Needless to say, such a woman was not to be 
spoilt by any amount of success or admiration. 

The giving of splendid entertainments, however, 
by no means constituted the sole or the chief dis- 
traction of the Choiseuls. To the ambassador they 
were merely a means to an end. He used the great 
popularity they gave him to recover for France the 
influence she had formerly held at the Papal Court, 
and which he found at a very low ebb on his arrival. 
Consummately crafty under his husk of frivolity and 
superficiality, he never for one moment lost sight 
of the future. His greatest delight, even when he 
returned to govern France, was in the society of 
brilliant and accomplished people who possessed 
intellectual and artistic tastes similar to his. With 
this end in view he and the duchess, whose love of 
literature and art was even greater than her husband's, 
gathered round them a small inner circle of congenial 
spirits to whom the pleasures of the intellect were 
the chief consideration. 

In a city like Rome, to which literary and artistic 
people of all countries were constantly being drawn 
by the relics of her mighty past, this was not difficult. 
French students, in particular, found powerful and 
appreciative patrons in the Choiseuls. It was im- 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

possible to possess talent without having a claim to 
their protection. To encourage the struggling Greuze, 
whose work she especially admired, the duchess 
commissioned him to paint the portrait of herself and 
her husband, and purchased several of his pictures 
as well. The hitherto obscure Guiard was equally 
fortunate. ''Madame^' stammered the poor sculptor, 
intoxicated by the kindness and encouragement she 
bestowed on him. " vous nie mettez le feu dans le 
corps ! " 

It was from this period, and through her craze 
for the antique, that the lifelong friendship of the 
Duchesse de Choiseul and the Abbe Barth^lemy 
dates. Born in Provence of well-to-do bourgeois 
parents, he was destined at an early age for the 
Church, and to this end educated at the Oratory in 
Marseilles. Manifesting a decided taste for the classics, 
he made a special study of the history and literature 
of the ancients, particularly of the Greeks, whose 
world as it existed in the days of their greatest 
glory he was afterwards to re-create in his Voyage du 
jeune Anarcharsis en Gi'ece. It is on this book, the 
idea of which was first suggested to him by Madame 
de Choiseul in Rome, and which took him thirty 
years to write, that the fame of the Abb6 Barth^lemy 

The study of Greek and Latin induced him to 
turn his attention to Arabic and Hebrew as well. The 
aptitude he manifested for these various languages 
caused him, he says with characteristic modesty, to 
pass for being much more learned than he was. An 
amusing instance of both his modesty and his talent 
occurs in his memoirs. 


Daughters of Eve 

"One day," he says, "a beggar appeared at the 
school. He declared that he was a converted Jew and 
professed to be acquainted with several Oriental 
languages. To convince us of the truth of this 
assertion, on which he counted to obtain the charity he 
sought, he offered to be examined in Hebrew by any 
one acquainted with that idiom. I was accordingly 
called upon to perform this task. The bare suggestion 
flung me into a cold sweat, and I endeavoured to 
prove that I had not learnt the language with a view 
of speaking it, when the fellow suddenly began to 
attack me with an intrepidity which at first still further 
embarrassed me. 

" Fortunately, I perceived that he was reciting the 
first psalm of David, which I knew by heart. I let 
him repeat the first verse, when I replied by a phrase 
from an Arabic dialogue I had recently learnt. We 
continued in this manner, he reciting the following 
verse of the psalm and I the next phrase in my 
dialogue. The conversation became animated. We 
spoke at the samie time and with equal rapidity. When 
he had finished the last verse of the psalm, I declared 
that both on account of his learning and his misfor- 
tunes he was deserving of our charity. Hereupon, 
speaking in an execrable jargon, he asserted that 
he had travelled through Spain, Portugal, Germany, 
Italy, and Turkey, and that nowhere had he ever met 
so learned a man as the young Abb^. I was then 

On finishing his studies, he conceived a distaste 
for an ecclesiastical life. Nevertheless, like so many 
others, to retain the title of abbe, which did not 
necessarily impose on the bearer the observance of 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

religious duties, he received the tonsure, and set out 
for Paris to seek a living in accordance with his tastes. 
Thanks to his reputation, which he quickly justified, 
and the influence of friends, he obtained a post in the 
Academic des Inscriptions, and, later on, the still more 
lucrative one of Curator of the Cabinet of Medals. 

This appointment he owed to the recommendation 
of Choiseul, who, without knowing him, had been 
induced to exert his influence in the Abbe's favour. 
Desiring to express his thanks in person to the man to 
whose kind offices he was so deeply indebted, Barthe- 
lemy called on Choiseul prior to his departure for 
Rome. The good-natured ambassador received him 
with his usual cordiality, and, taking a liking to him 
on the spot, asked with characteristic impulsiveness 
whether a trip to Italy would not be compatible with 
his duties. The Abbe, enchanted at the idea of 
realizing the dream of his life, replied in the affirmative. 
Whereupon Choiseul won his eternal gratitude by 
inviting him to visit him in Rome, and offering to pay 
all the expenses of the journey. 

The Choiseuls had been some months in Rome 
when Barthelemy, joyous as a school-boy on a holiday, 
came to pay his visit. The refreshing interest he dis- 
played in everything, and his agreeable conversation, 
made him a very welcome acquisition to the little 
circle of congenial people whom the ambassador had 
formed around him. '* His solid judgment, great 
integrity and mild disposition," says Dutens, "joined to 
the merit of a man of letters and the agreeable 
exterior of a man of the world, rendered him the most 
amiable and the most estimable man I ever met." 

To the duchess, his archaeological researches, which 


Dauo^hters of Eve 

he commenced at once and in which she was equally 
interested, contributed the chief diversion of her daily- 
life. On her arrival in Rome she had begun " a course 
in antiquity " under the Abbe Venutti, an eminent 
antiquarian, and the knowledge she had acquired of 
the ancient monuments and ruins was so extensive 
that no detail of their history was unknown to her. 
She accompanied the Abb^ in all his excursions, and 
proved, to his great surprise and delight, a collaborator 
as instructed as himself. Their explorations and dis- 
cussions on antiquity rapidly led to intimacy. Barthe- 
lemy, who was as old as Choiseul and much more 
staid and serious, charmed to find in so young a woman 
so much knowledge and sympathy, manifested for her 
a lively friendship which eventually became a deep 
platonic attachment that was beyond suspicion and 
endured to the end of his life. Of all the friends of 
the Choiseuls — he was as devoted to the husband as 
he was to the wife — the Abbe was the most faithful 
and unselfish. 

In his zeal, he began to collect antiquities, and this 
hobby led him into predicaments which were a 
perpetual source of amusement to the duchess, who 
extricated him from them with the tact and kindness 
of heart characteristic of her. In those days, as now, 
the manufacture of antiquities was a lucrative business. 
In Rome all sorts of relics supposed to have been 
discovered in the excavations of Herculaneum were 
sold to amateurs at enormous prices. But, though fre- 
quently victimized, Barthelemy's passion did not cool. 

In spite of the remonstrances of the duchess, he 
continued to risk his health rushing about in the 
blazing sun and spending all his money. When the 



{A/ter Carmontellc) 

Reproduced by the courtesy of the Director of the Mus^e Cond6. 

[To /ace p. 29 

Duchesse de Choiseul 

Choiseuls went to FrascatI, where they spent the 
summer with their intimate friends, " in a villa with a 
vast garden filled with fountains and plane trees," the 
Abb^ was in ecstasies. Here antiquities were to 
be found at every step. One day some workmen un- 
earthed a marble tomb containing twelve terra-cotta 
fipfures. The Abbe was no sooner informed of this 
discovery than he flew to the spot to purchase the 
treasure. But the price demanded was beyond his 
purse. At dinner he mentioned the incident, and 
sighed over his bad luck. The next day, to his sur- 
prise, he found the twelve terra-cottas on a table in his 
room. "It was such graceful attentions," he says, 
" that Madame de Choiseul constantly paid to all 
who surrounded her." 

Needless to say, the sentiments she inspired were 
not always as purely platonic as the honest A^ he's, 
though they never dared express themselves openly. 
So great was the dread of losing her esteem that even 
the boldest sought to disguise their passion under the 
respectable name of friendship. 

Among these discreet lovers, no one, with the 
exception of the Abbe, was ever so unselfishly devoted 
to her as a certain Baron Gleichen, who was visiting 
Rome in the suite of the Margrave and Margravine of 
Bayreuth. " A quarrel," he says, " instead of breaking 
our acquaintance at the start, cemented it into a friend- 
ship that lasted thirty years." He had been invited to 
Frascati, and the episode to which he refers took place 
on the day of his arrival. At dinner the conversation 
turned on the Margravine of Bayreuth, the Princess of 
Prussia and the favourite sister of Frederick the Great. 
Choiseul, " who loved to be daring," regardless of the 


Daughters of Eve 

presence of his guest, expressed his opinion in so 
disrespectful a manner that Gleichen, who was under 
the greatest obligations to the Margravine, resented it 
*' with the romantic folly of a young man of twenty." 
He became so heated that Choiseul threw down 
his napkin and left the table in anger. Whereupon 
Gleichen, too, rose with the intention of returning to 
Rome, the execution of which was only prevented by 
the tact of the duchess. Choiseul apologized, and, far 
from cherishing the least resentment, conceived the 
greatest respect for the young German. 

The efforts of the charming duchess to obliterate 
the memory of this contretemps from the mind of her 
guest were more than successful. Both were of the 
same age, both had the same tastes, the same tempera- 
ment. Gleichen, impressionable and sentimental, was 
soon madly, hopelessly in love. The duchess, loving 
only her husband, did not, because she could not, 
prevent herself from being admired and adored. But 
always calm and serene, always kind and sympathetic 
to all, she pretended not to be aware of the passion she 
had aroused. Nor did Gleichen dare to inform her, 
lest the declaration should prevent him from being her 
friend as well as her lover. His self-restraint had its 

" That year (1756)," he says, " was the happiest of 
my life. Overwhelmed with all that Italy has to offer, 
I lived at Rome in the lap of the Fine Arts with the 
Choiseuls in the intimacy of a society which surpassed 
that of anv other I have ever known." 

To the duchess, likewise, the pleasure of her life in 
Rome was, perhaps, the most unalloyed she ever knew. 
But to Choiseul, Rome was but the first stage on the 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

fine road along which his ambition had begun to 
march. At the end of the two years Madame de 
Pompadour, ever mindful of his interests, got him 
transferred to Vienna, then the chief post in the French 
diplomatic service. The news of Damiens' attempt on 
the life of Louis XV caused him to depart hurriedly 
for Paris, leaving Madame de Choiseul, whose health 
was delicate, to follow leisurely under the care of 


The offensive and defensive alliance which France 
and Austria had recently formed after centuries of 
mutual jealousy and enmity, rendered the French 
ambassador at Vienna a person of great importance. 
Thanks, moreover, to the old intimacy that existed 
between the Marquis de Stainville — Choiseul's father 
— and the Emperor, the new ambassador was -a. persona 
grata at Court. But neither Choiseul nor his wife 
cared for Vienna. Stately Court functions were never 
at any time to the taste of the duchess, and these were 
all that Viennese society had to offer her. 

To Choiseul, Vienna was even more distasteful than 
to his wife. His position was rendered exceedingly 
difficult from the start by the attempt of Maria 
Theresa to recapture Silesia from her mortal enemy, 
Prederick the Great. The rupture of the peace 
between Austria and Prussia, with which the Seven 
Years' War began, was anything but agreeable to 
France, which was bound by treaty to assist Austria. 
Urged, on the one hand, from Versailles to mollify 
the bellicose passions of the Empress, by whom, on the 


Daughters of Eve 

other, he was pressed to keep his government to the 
letter of their obligations, Choiseul had need of all his 
craft and powers of persuasion to maintain the alliance 
of the two countries. Between two such fires he had 
little opportunity to think of dazzling Vienna as he had 
Rome. Such time as he could snatch from the cares 
of state he devoted to the society of his latest mistress, 
the Countess Kinsky. 

But, irksome though the sojourn of the Choiseuls 
in the Austrian capital was, it did not last long. At 
the end of a year they returned to Paris, where, within 
a month of his arrival, the ambassador succeeded 
Cardinal de Bernis as Minister for Foreign Affairs. 
It was with this appointment that Choiseul began his 
career as chief adviser to the King — a position that he 
was destined to hold for twelve years, during which he 
was the virtual master of France. 

His rise to power naturally had the effect of 
increasing the intimacy between the new minister and 
the mistress to whose influence he owed his elevation. 
But Choiseul was far too independent by nature to 
suffer his conduct in this respect to be guided by 
purely selfish considerations. Loyalty in friendship 
was Choiseul's great virtue. In his devotion to 
Madame de Pompadour he was thoroughly sincere. 
Not a day passed without his seeing her, and to prove 
his devotion he took her into his confidence in all that 
he did or proposed doing. No detail in state affairs 
was deemed too insignificant to be withheld from her. 
She, on her part, no longer treated him as her 
proteg^, but as an equal and even a superior. Her opin- 
ion of his abilities was so great that she saw every- 
thing through his eyes. He ruled her completely. 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

She admitted as much to Gontaut one day. " They 
talk of my great influence," she said, " but I can 
assure you that without the friendship of M. de 
Choiseul I should not be able to obtain for any one so 
much as a Cross of St. Louis." 

His ascendency over the all-powerful favourite was 
so marked as to give rise to the report that he was her 
lover. It was, however, a canard of their enemies. 
Never was woman less inclined by nature to play the 
part of king's mistress than the Pompadour. Cold to 
excess, she nev^er had a lover but Louis, and he soon 
ceased to be even that in the ordinary acceptance of 
the term. The spell she exercised was over his mind 
rather than his heart. It was the secret of her supre- 
macy, which threatened daily not only by her would-be 
rivals, but by the overwhelming disasters attributed 
to her intrigues, survived till her death, and has no 
parallel in the annals of such unions. Madame de 
Maintenon, the only other woman to be compared to 
Madame de Pompadour, if not the wife was never 
the mistress of Louis XIV, and the youth of both had 
long since departed when they formed their strange 

The Duchesse de Choiseul, moreover, was no less 
attached to Madame de Pompadour than her husband. 
Such a circumstance, far from casting a reflection on 
the reputation of the duchess, is, on the contrary, rather 
to the credit of the favourite. Though it may seem 
inexplicable, according to twentieth-century ideas, that 
such a woman as Madame de Choiseul should be willing 
to associate with a king's mistress, it should not be 
forgotten that Madame de Pompadour was held in 
high esteem by others equally irreproachable. Maria 

D 33 

Daughters of Eve 

Theresa did not disdain to address her as " my cousin" 
in the voluminous letters she was wont to write her ; 
while the pious queen of Louis XV, who, if any one, 
might have been expected to despise her, even " missed 
her when she died." 

Louis, at all events, paid no heed to the slanderous 
reports that were circulated about his minister and his 
mistress. However much he may have disliked the 
man to whom, it is said, much against his will he had 
been induced to entrust the highest office in his gift, 
he changed his opinion when he got to know him. 
For Choiseul, needless to say, soon wormed his way 
by his attractive manners into the King's confidence. 
Charmed to have a minister who made light of all 
difficulties, and relieved him of the boredom and care 
of state business, Louis loaded him with favours of his 
own accord. 

Nor was Choiseul the man to forget his friends and 
relations in the day of his power. Though the merest 
suspicion of nepotism would be sufficient to discredit a 
minister to-day, it was regarded as a virtue rather than 
otherwise in the eighteenth century. It was certainly 
not by his contemporaries that Choiseul was ever 
reproached for conferring benefits upon his kindred. 
Of his two brothers he made the younger, who was an 
abb6 without a benefice. Bishop of Evreux, and, later. 
Archbishop of Albi. For the other, a colonel in the 
Hungarian army, he obtained a commission in the 
French military service, in which he was quickly pro- 
moted to the rank of lieutenant-general. Though a 
fool, Choiseul would not have hesitated to make him a 
Mar^chal of France had he been an amiable fool. 
But he had the misfortune to be so cross-grained and 



{After CarinonieUe) 
Reproduced by the courtesy of the Director of the Mus^e Cond^. 

{To face p. 35 

Duchesse de Choiseul 

quarrelsome that his brother was disgusted with him, 
and, having married him to a rich and charming 
woman, whom he treated shamefully, gave him up as a 
bad job. 

His relations had only to ask to receive. One of 
the first favours he conferred on his penniless kindred 
was to appoint a cousin to the embassy in Vienna that 
he had vacated. As he proved himself both able and 
devoted, he was created Due de Choiseul- Praslin, and 
given a place in the ministry. Indeed, so great was 
their friendship, that when Choiseul got tired of being 
Minister of Foreign Affairs, or of War, or of Marine, 
he would exchange portfolios with Praslin. Between 
them they held in the course of twelve years every 
office of any account in the Cabinet with the exception 
of that of Controller-General. 

•' For God's sake," wrote Voltaire to a friend, " don't 
let Choiseul have the Treasury ; within two years he 
would fritter it all away in presents, pensions and 
luxury. His liberality is incurable." 

His sister was the one of the family to benefit most 
by his elevation. While he ruled the King, Madame 
de Pompadour and the country, she ruled him. In her 
vices and abilities Beatrix de Stainville was the double 
of her brother, but here the resemblance ceased. She 
was a tall, ungainly woman, with the shrill, harsh voice 
and the rough, imperious manners of a virago. She 
could, however, make herself " exceedingly agreeable 
when she pleased," says Walpole. It must have been 
in one of these moods that she captivated H^nault, the 
life-long friend of Madame Du Deffand, who ** found 
it difficult to prevent himself from falling in love with 
her." But to most people, according to a contemporary, 

D2 35 

Daughters of Eve 


" she was utterly disagreeable, and as spiteful as the 

One of Choiseul's first acts on becoming minister 
was to bring her to Paris from the convent of Remire- 
mont, where having no dot to secure a husband, and 
no wish to renounce the world, she was vegetating on 
a small stipend in irritating obscurity. She was at 
the time past twenty-eight. At first, on being pre- 
sented at Versailles, she behaved modestly enough, 
but as soon as she felt sure of her footing her natural 
arrogance asserted itself, and she did not hesitate to 
treat the greatest personages with disdain. 

To play this role successfully, however, it was 
necessary to have a suitable position, and she had 
none. So Choiseul found the means to persuade the 
Due de Gramont to provide her with it. He was a 
widower, a drunkard, and "looked as if nature had 
intended him for a barber." But as he had a pedigree 
as old as the hills and a fortune to match, Beatrix 
de Stainville did not hesitate to marry him. Their 
marriage, needless to say, was not happy, and three 
months later the Duchesse de Gramont, retaining her 
ducal title and a large income, left her husband and 
returned to live with the Choiseuls. Ambitious and 
intriguing, she soon manifested an interest in politics, 
and to the despair of Madame de Choiseul, whom she 
bullied and snubbed, gained complete ascendency over 
her brother. 

The intimacy between them, however, was the 
least of Madame de Choiseul's grievances. She had a 
soul above such things. But to have this overbearing 
and arrogant woman relegate her to a subordinate 
position in her own house was more than she could 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

put up with, and she resolved to assert her right to be 
treated as the mistress of her own house. It was the 
only time in her life that her wonderful serenity was 
ever ruffled. But Madame de Gramont was too 
strongly entrenched to be ousted, and as it was not in 
the duchess's nature to quarrel, she gave up the contest 
and accepted with good grace the secondary role. 
The result was a covert hostility between the two 
women which lasted to the end of their lives. 


But Madame de Choiseul was not the woman to 
suffer the mortification to which she was subjected 
to spoil her existence. Having resigned herself to 
support without complaint ills she could not avoid, 
she sought to make their burden as light as possible 
by forgetting them in the intellectual pursuits of 
which she was so fond. Her mind being now fully 
developed by varied experience of the world, she was 
able to discriminate between culture that was real and 
that which was fictitious. She looked at pictures, 
which she collected, with the eye of a connoisseur, 
and had an equally fine taste in music. It was, how- 
ever, in philosophy, which then enjoyed so great a 
vogue in French society, that her mental gifts were 
most noticeable. 

The splendid style in which Choiseul lived — at his 
daily dinners alone there were never less than thirty- 
five and sometimes as many as eighty guests — though 
little to her taste brought her into contact with con- 
genial people. To be admitted to this charmed 
sphere, where " vice lost half its evil by losing all its 


Daughters of Eve 

grossness " it was not enough to be well-born or rich. 
Intellect was absolutely essential. In such a world 
the qualities that had enabled the little inexperienced 
duchess of eighteen to "keep her end up" so well in 
Rome could not fail to be recognized and appreciated. 
Endowed as she was with enormous wealth, unlimited 
influence, exceptional charm of manner, great common- 
sense and an accomplished mind, any other woman in 
her place would have been driven by the sheer force 
of circumstances, if not by vanity or ambition, to form 
a salon. But Madame de Choiseul was restrained by 
an innate modesty that led her to seek to efface her- 
self where others court publicity. It was in corre- 
spondence rather than in conversation that she showed 
to the greatest advantage. This talent, always rare 
and never more esteemed than in the last years of the 
old regime, was not one to be concealed. The plea- 
sure of "conversing by post" with the Duchesse de 
Choiseul was soon eagerly sought by four persons who 
had acquired the art to perfection — Voltaire, Horace 
Walpole, the Marquis de Mirabeau and Madame Du 

Among the friendships the duchess thus formed as 
a means of forgetting the secret unhappiness of her 
domestic relations, none afforded her greater consola- 
tion than that of Madame Du Deffand. This " de- 
bauchee of wit," as Walpole calls her, had had wide 
experience of life, in the course of which she had 
lost all her illusions. A member of the noble family 
of Vichy-Chamrond, she had been married faute de 
inieux to a man who was her inferior in everything but 
his rank. Beautiful and brilliant, she had found many 
to console her, among whom was the Regent. Later, 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

she made what she termed " a decent arrangement " 
with Henauk, the President of the Parlement of 
Burgundy, which lasted for forty years. Neither 
bHndness nor old age impaired the buoyancy of her 

" I have become quite a reformed character," she 
wrote to a friend, " I have given up cards and go to 
Mass. As to rouge and the President, I shall not do 
them so much honour as to renounce them." 

When she was sixty-four she and Horace Walpole, 
who was ten years younger, formed their famous — and 
on her part not altogether platonic — friendship which 
was only to end with her death twenty years later. 
It is by Walpole that the character of this singular 
woman is perhaps best described. 

"Madame Du Deffand," he wrote to Thomas 
Gray, the poet, " was for a short time the mistress of 
the Regent, is now very old and stone-blind, but 
retains all her vivacity, wit, memory, judgment, pas- 
sions and agreeableness. She goes to operas, plays, 
suppers, and Versailles ; gives suppers twice a week, 
has everything new read to her, makes new songs and 
epigrams, ay, admirably, and remembers every one 
that has been made these fourscore years. She 
corresponds with Voltaire, dictates charming letters to 
him, is no bigot to him or anybody, and laughs both 
at the clergy and the philosophers. In a dispute, into 
which she easily falls, she is very warm, and yet 
scarce ever in the wrong ; her judgment on every 
subject is as just as possible ; for she is all love and 
hatred, passionate to her friends to enthusiasm, still 
anxious to be loved — I don't mean by lovers — and a 
vehement enemy, but openly. As she can have no 


Daughters of Eve 

amusement but conversation, the least solitude and 
ennui are insupportable to her." 

Possessed of small means — Choiseul with his char- 
acteristic generosity afterwards obtained a pension for 
her — she had, on losing her sight, taken up her abode 
in the Convent of St. Joseph, which had likewise shel- 
tered Madame de Montespan in her adversity. It 
was in this sacred retreat that Madame Du Deffand 
held her famous salon which was for years the rendez- 
vous of all that was most distinguished in the social 
and intellectual life of Paris. 

At first sight nothing appears more inexplicable 
than the intimacy of the fresh, pure-minded Madame 
de Choiseul and this Voltaire in petticoats forty years 
her senior. The young duchess, however, with her 
quick intuition, like Walpole, had detected under the 
cynicism and hardness of the old woman a heart that 
none believed existed. Attracted in the first instance 
by the brilliant, mordant wit with which the blind 
marquise masked the bitterness, discontent, and 
melancholy of her lot, the duchess had been drawn by 
the secret grief of her own life to sympathize with 
hers. Misjudged and often betrayed, Madame Du 
Deffand, perceiving that she was understood, returned 
the friendship of the duchess with interest. 

Having had a grandmother who had married a 
Choiseul, the old lady was wont to call her young 
friend " Grandmamma," a pleasantry to which the 
duchess responded by addressing her as " Grand- 
daughter." These nicknames were soon adopted by 
their mutual friends, and Choiseul, who stood only 
second to his wife in the good graces of the witty old 
marquise, was known as " Grandpapa." 


THE DlCHtSSh 1)1 LlU>Islll \M> IHh M \RIJI ISh 1)1 DIM \sli 

{After Carjiiontelte) 

\Toface p. 41 

Duchesse de Choiseul 

To correspond with her "Granddaughter," whom 
she saw every day when in Paris, was, when absent, 
one of the most agreeable occupations of *' Grand- 
mamma." Their correspondence, in which the Abbe 
Barthdemy was included, lasted for many years, and, 
like Madame de S^vign^'s, to which it is a worthy 
sequel, presents a picture of the social life of the times 
of great literary charm and historical interest. Some 
idea of the duchess's epistolary style may be gathered 
from the following letter, in which it will be seen how 
little to her taste was the grand ceremonial life of 

" I have just dragged myself out of bed," she 
writes to Madame Du Deffand, " in order that a 
frisure, begun yesterday, may be finished. My poor 
head is at the mercy of four heavy hands, and, what is 
worse, my ears are deafened with the hiss and click of 
curling-tongs. Now they are too hot, now not hot 
enough. . . . ' What cap will Madame wear to-day ? 
This goes with such or such a dress. Here, Angelique, 
this will do. Quick, Marianne, fasten on th^ panierf 
It is, needless to say, the great Tintin [the duchess's 
principal maid] who gives these orders, being in the 
meantime hard at work herself cleaning my watch with 
an old glove. 

" Nor is the making of my toilette all that I am 
suffering. While it proceeds an equerry is making a 
speech on the expulsion of the Jesuits, two doctors are 
talking to me, and an archbishop is showing me some 
architectural designs, seeking to catch my eye to 
obtain attention while the others endeavour to occupy 
my thoughts. You alone fill my heart. 

" Now they are calling me from the other room : 


Daughters of Eve 

* Madame, it is a quarter to the hour ; the King is on 
his way to Mass.' ' Quick, quick ! My bonnet, my 
shawl, my handkerchief, my fan, my prayer-book ! Be 
sure that I have everything, or I am ruined in the 
sight of the Court. Ah ! at last I am ready. Porters, 
my chair ! ' 

"The moment I return from Mass, a friend calls. 
Dressed in the height of fashion, she fills my tiny 
room with her enormous panier. She insists that I 
am to go on with my letter. * I shall not be in your 
way, Madame, I would not be so much my own enemy 
as to deprive myself of the pleasure of seeing and 
talking to you.' At last she goes. I would give up 
my letter in despair, but they have come to tell me 
that the post is about to close for Paris. Have I any 
letters ? Yes, indeed. I am writing to my dear grand- 
daughter, the post must wait ! 

'' Mon Dieu ! more visitors! A young Irishwoman 
comes to solicit a favour which I shall not grant her, 
and a merchant of Tours to thank me for one I have 
not procured him. Another calls to recommend his 
brother, whom I shall not see. In fine, it seems as if 
all the world had been to see me save Mademoiselle 
Pels [a notorious actress]. 

" There goes the drum ! You would think all the 
chairs in my ante-chamber had been overturned. The 
guards are hurrying into the court-yard. The inaitre 
d' hotel IS inquiring if I am ready for dinner. He says 
that the salon is full of people and that monsieur is 
impatient. So then, I must finish my letter another 
day after all ! 

" There you have an exact account of all that I 
have experienced yesterday and to-day in writing you, 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

and almost all at the same time. Judge, then, how 
weary I am of society, and whether it is worth while 
giving yourself so much trouble to procure it for me. 
Judge, also, how much your poor hurried, harassed 
grandmamma must love you to bother about you. Pity 
her and love her, and you will console her for every- 


The official position, however, of Choiseul by no 
means necessitated a permanent residence at Ver- 
sailles. In 1763 he purchased the Chateau of 
Chanteloup, situated on the Loire, near Amboise. 
Fond as he was of luxury and splendour, he spent 
enormous sums on improvements, till he made it, 
according to Dutens, who had a wide experience in 
such matters, the most superb residence possessed by 
any nobleman in Europe. Considering the magnifi- 
cence of the establishment he maintained here, one 
would think that with large and frequent house-parties 
to entertain, for one who disliked so much " the idle 
turmoil " of society, there was not much to choose 
between Versailles and Chanteloup. The house- 
parties, however, were, till Choiseul's fall, composed 
principally of intimate friends, Lauzun and his wife, 
Gleichen, Gatti and the Abbe Barthdemy. 

The last was practically one of the family. The 
duchess had furnished his rooms herself in a manner 
to make them an ideal retreat for a scholar. "It is a 
fairy's boudoir ! " exclaimed the delighted Abb6 when 
shown them for the first time. Choiseul was himself 
equally attentive. " I have loaded him with favours, 


Daughters of Eve 

I mean to crush him with them," he said, quoting a 
Hne from Corneille, when the duchess sought to obtain 
some post for her friend. 

The first time he met Barth^lemy after his eleva- 
tion to the ministry, he said, in the presence of his wife, 
" Now that it is in my power, I mean to occupy my- 
self with making your fortune. But you must tell me 
what I am to do. Let me know what you want." 

The good Abb^ was too modest to desire anything, 
but neither Choiseul nor the duchess was content 
with such an answer, and at last to satisfy them he 
was persuaded to request "a pension of 6,000 livres, 
chargeable on a benefice, with which he would be 
perfectly happy." It was at once obtained for him. 
But it was not Choiseul's idea of a favour, and he 
forced upon the Abb6 the treasurership of St. Martin 
of Tours when it fell vacant, and the secretaryship of 
the Swiss Guards, of which he was the Colonel, and 
which was worth 20,000 livres a year. 

The Abba's great devotion to his benefactors, how- 
ever, did not prevent him from regretting the name he 
might otherwise have striven to make for himself. 

"You know how deeply conscious I am of all 
their kindness," he wrote to a friend, " but you do 
not know that by devoting to them my time, my 
obscurity, my zeal, and, above all, the reputation I 
might have made, I have made for their sakes the 
greatest sacrifices of which I am capable. Sometimes 
the memory of them comes to haunt me, and then I 
suffer cruelly. But do not pity me, I know so well 
the value of what I have that I would give my life 
rather than lose it." 

At Chanteloup the duchess went in for breeding 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

sheep and cattle. The farm buildings were famous 
for their luxury. " She had sixty cows and two bulls, 
kept in marble stalls." She rose at ten and devoted 
the rest of the morning to a tour of inspection of the 
estate, which consisted of endless conferences with the 
shepherds, cowherds, gardeners and bailiffs. Dinner 
was served at two, afterwards, if the weather was 
fine, she went for a drive or payed calls in the neigh- 
bourhood. After supper she played backgammon, to 
which she was devoted, for sou points. When guests 
were staying at Chanteloup there was a concert every 
evening given by the band of the Swiss Guards. 

The pleasing monotony of this simple rural exist- 
ence was broken daily by various incidents. A wolf 
is taken in a snare, to the intense excitement of the 
Chateau ; the sheep are shorn, and their wool is so 
fine that it is supposed to be unique, or the big bull is 
very vicious and the little one very dull. Sometimes 
visitors call, and the duchess shows them over the 
estate. Her pet sheep, a magnificent ram named 
Cath^drale, is admitted to the salon, where it slips and 
slides on the polished floor ; or the blue and red 
macaws are brought in, which she calls '* the French 
and the Swiss Guards of Chanteloup " ; or the pet 
monkey dressed as a grenadier, a sword by his side, 
a gun on his shoulder and a little cocked hat. " He 
walks on two legs like a man," reports the Abb6 
to Madame Du Deffand, "and is as spiteful as the 

One season, the terrible condition of the peasants, 
whose harvests had been completely ruined by heavy 
and prolonged rains, was the sole topic of conversation. 
Madame de Choiseul, " who could not," says the Abb^, 


Daughters of Eve 

" bear the idea of anybody being unhappy, scoured the 
neighbourhood from morning to night to find practi- 
cal means of relieving their distress. She gave them 
all she had, even to the farthings she won at back- 

Never were masters more adored by their servants. 
The post of lodge-keeper having fallen vacant, Choiseul 
offered it to a valet, but nothing would induce him 
to accept it, though it was a sinecure. " As valet, 
monsieur le due," he said, " I see you fifty times a day, 
but as lodge-keeper I should scarcely ever see you. I 
wish to be near my master." The duchess's harpsi- 
chord player, a child of twelve, became so attached to 
her as to be unable to control his tears when he saw 
her " because he did not know how to prove to her 
his devotion." 

The retrenchments necessitated in later years by 
Choiseul's extravagant mode of life proved how much 
he and the duchess had endeared themselves to all 
who had served under them. The maitre cf hotel, in- 
formed that his services would no longer be required, 
begged to be retained as kitchen-boy. " It is a post," 
he told the duke, " you will not be able to abolish." 


In 1764 this brilliant and enjoyable existence was 
clouded by the death of Madame de Pompadour, who 
had done so much to render it possible. This event 
was a blow to the prestige of Choiseul. 

Nobody doubted that the King would take a new 
mistress, and the Court was full of women only too 
eager to pick up the royal glove the moment it was 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

thrown down. In reality it was a great Court office 
that had fallen vacant which was sought — the duties 
attached to which, like that of all other posts at Ver- 
sailles, existed in name only. The King had his 
seraglio at the Pare aux Cerfs, and no one hoped to 
break him of habits that Madame de Pompadour had 
encouraged him to form. 

Amonof those who desired this enviable sinecure 
the Duchesse de Gramont even made so bold, it is 
said, to ask for it. Being a self-willed, domineering 
woman, she was prepared to govern Louis as she 
governed her brother. But her tactless and arrogant 
conduct only served to discredit her, and furnished the 
enemies of her brother with a new weapon with which 
he was very nearly destroyed. 

One of the signs of the times was the manner in 
which the philosophers had usurped the supremacy 
formerly held by the Church. It was they who first 
gave expression to the popular disrespect for the old 
worn-out conventions which hung like an Old Man of 
the Sea round the neck of civilization. Intellectual, 
cynical, and conscious of their superiority, the accom- 
plished people who composed the salons were not to be 
subjected to the stupid and despotic authority of a creed 
they had ceased to believe in. Revolutions always 
begin at the top and work downwards ; the mobs, by 
whom the crumbling walls of a discredited political 
and social system are finally pulled down, only begin 
the work of destruction when the ideas and opinions 
that once inhabited the edifice have been ejected. 
This is the task of the educated or upper classes. In 
France, where they did their work most effectually, 
they begin by declaring war on the Jesuits, who, having 


Daughters of Eve 

got possession of the Papacy, sought to impose their 
arbitrary will on Europe generally. 

In the decline of belief, for which they were 
largely responsible by their arrogant and absurd 
pretensions, the basis of their power became under- 
mined. The blunders they made in the attempt to 
recover it gave a handle to the hostility of the 
intellectuals, of whom Madame de Pompadour and 
Choiseul, if not the most inveterate of their enemies, 
were at least the most powerful. Perceiving that the 
Jesuits were scoffed at and ridiculed by the salons and 
execrated by the masses, Choiseul determined to give 
them their coup de grace, in France at all events. The 
mind of the King having been skilfully prepared by 
Madame de Pompadour, he issued an edict requiring all 
Jesuits to take an oath which practically robbed them 
of all their prestige. 

At Court, however, where the Queen and the 
Dauphin were completely controlled by the Jesuits, 
this high-handed movement raised a terrible storm 
against Choiseul, of which his enemies sought to take 
advantage. Their intrigues were defeated by the 
deaths of the Queen and the Dauphin, but they did 
not despair. Five years later, when Du Barry became 
mistress, they obtained a fresh and more favourable 
opportunity of attacking him. The elevation of this 
woman of the people to the place of maitresse en litre 
was the final stage in the process of the moral 
degeneration of Louis XV which was eating like a 
cancer into the vitals of the monarchy and into the 
whole fabric of society. Never before had a woman 
of so low an origin and so depraved a past appeared 
at Versailles, much less in so intimate a connection 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

with the sovereign. The noblesse were outraged, 
and the King found the greatest difficulty in getting 
any one to present her at Court. 

By none was this outrage resented more bitterly 
than Choiseul, his wife and sister. The Duchesse de 
Gramont, as became one of her rough, outspoken, 
virago nature, was particularly vehement. Urged by 
her, Choiseul declared war on the Du Barry. He 
tried to hinder her presentation, stirred up the 
Parlements against her — the only opinion for which 
Louis cared — rained epigrams, libels and pasquinades 
of all sorts on her ; caused her to be hissed in public, 
insulted everywhere, as well as the i^^N grandes dames 
who had been bribed to associate with her, and ridiculed 
her under the very eyes of the King. The public 
who watched his resistance attributed it to the hisfhest 
motives, and it is probable that Choiseul, who was 
fully aware of the danger to which such conduct 
exposed him, courted it for the sake of the popularity 
it won him. 

His enemies, needless to say, were not slow to turn 
his rashness to account. Nevertheless, in spite of the 
intrigues of the powerful cabal that was endeavouring 
to bring about his fall, he might have saved himself 
had he listened to the advice of disinterested friends. 

" The Du Barry," wrote Madame Du Deffand, " is 
nothing but a stick, which may be used as a prop or 
as a defensive or offensive weapon. Grandpapa has 
it in his power to make what he will of her. His 
pride is injudicious. He is very badly advised." 

The Due de Gontaut, who had been the friend of 
two mistresses, sought to be the friend of the new one 
to save him. Even the King, who hated new faces 
E 49 

Daughters of Eve 

and regarded Choiseul as indispensable, recommended 
him to make his peace with the Du Barry. 

"You manage my affairs very well," he told him, 
" I am satisfied with you. Madame Du Barry does 
not hate you. She knows you to be clever and bears 
you no grudge." 

At first she herself was anxious to come to terms 
with him, and several times sent him word that she 
would willingly meet him half-way, "reminding him 
that it was the part of a mistress to choose ministers 
and not that of ministers to choose mistresses in 

But even had he wished to make his peace, 
Madame de Gramont, who ruled him completely, 
would not have let him. In her hatred of Madame Du 
Barry she did not even respect the King. There was 
no end to which she was not prepared to go. Aware 
that it was entirely owing to Choiseul's efforts that 
the hostility of the Parlements, of which the King 
was afraid, was held in check, she urged him to 
threaten Louis with a popular rising. But in this 
matter she overstepped the mark. Louis, to his credit 
be it said, was not a coward. Fully alive to the 
republican sympathies of the masses, he was not the 
man to yield to threats. Having escaped from the 
thraldom of Cardinal Fleury in the early part of his 
reign, he dreaded nothing so much as falling under 
that of another minister. The moment he perceived 
that Choiseul's victory meant his subjection to his will, 
he determined to break his power before it was too late. 

The hints of the exasperated Madame Du Barry, 
who was never tired of painting Choiseul as the soul 
of the Parlements, a usurper capable of repeating in 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

France the tragedy of Charles I in England, helped to 
confirm him in this decision. One day she informed 
*' France," as she called Louis, that she had dismissed 
her Choiseul, meaning her cook who was said to 
resemble the minister. Another day she seized an 
orange from the King's plate at dinner and cried as 
she tossed it into the air, " Saute Choiseul ! Saute 
Praslin ! " 

It was soon evident that she would have her way. 
Madame de Gramont became so upset that she was 
obliged to go to Bareges to take the waters. 

But it is truly an ill wind that blows no one any 
good. The absence of her sister-in-law allowed the 
duchess at last to be mistress in her own house. " Her 
departure," she wrote to Madame Du Deffand, " has 
done me a world of good, it is impossible for me not 
to appreciate it." 

Although he admitted that " the harlot caused him 
a great deal of trouble," Choiseul showed not the 
least trace of anxiety. His passion for the witty 
and beautiful Comtesse de Brionne occupied all his 
thoughts. Up to the last moment he maintained his 
wonderful gaiety and serenity. 

"He is like Charles VH," said Madame Du 
Deffand, " no one could lose a kingdom more blithely." 

The blow, as all Louis XV's blows, came suddenly, 
and at the last unexpectedly. The day before 
Christmas 1770 the Due de la Vrilliere handed the 
following letter to Choiseul — 

" My Cousin, 

" The dissatisfaction that your conduct causes 
me compels me to exile you to Chanteloup, for which 

E2 51 

Daughters of Eve 

you will leave in twenty-four hours. I should have 
sent you much farther but for the great respect I have 
for Madame la Duchesse de Choiseul, for whose health 
I am much concerned. Take care that you do not act 
in a way that shall force me to adopt other measures. 

" Trusting, my cousin, that God may keep you in 
his holy care, 

" Louis." 

The Due de Choiseul-Praslin, Minister of Marine, 
was exiled at the same time. He was in bed when the 
order was brought him, he read it, closed the curtains 
and slept tranquilly till he was awakened to enter his 
carriage. Thus fell Choiseul, without the chance of 
justifying himself, after a ministry of twelve years, 
during which he had been the veritable King of 

The ministers who succeeded him, in rapid suc- 
cession till the Revolution, were only makeshifts. 
Choiseul's was the last long ministry, the last to have 
a definite policy, and, in spite of its errors, due chiefly 
to ill-luck rather than to inability, not unworthy to 
close the era of the grandeur of France and the 
monarchy inaugurated by Richelieu. 


Some idea of the strength of Choiseul's position 
may be gathered from the fact that his struggle with 
Madame Du Barry, which was the eventual cause of 
his fall, lasted two years. Having succeeded in main- 
taining himself so long against such odds, the news of 
his disgrace came in the end as a surprise both to him- 
self and to the public. 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

The sensation it created throughout France was 
immense. Hitherto the people had regarded the 
ministers with indifference when they did not execrate 
them. Such a thing as a popular minister according 
to modern ideas was unknown. Choiseul was the first 
minister who had ever paid attention to public opinion 
or shown any sympathy for the people. "It is," says 
Soltau, " no exaggeration to say that he had the spirit 
of a Constitutional minister to whom the will of the 
people is the supreme law." Choiseul was the first in 
whom the public had taken anything approaching a 
sympathetic interest. Against the background of the 
Seven Years' War, with its misery and disgrace, stood 
out in bold relief his expulsion of the Jesuits and 
defence of the Parlements — the sole means the nation 
had of expressing its will. The moment he fell, this 
interest, made up at once of jealousy, suspicion and 
admiration, was changed as if by magic into a popularity 
unheard of before. At once he became the idol of the 
people. Verses were written in his favour as well as 
epigrams against his enemies. One pasquinade reflect- 
ing on Louis was even sung in the streets of Versailles. 
His portrait was displayed everywhere — in windows, 
on snuff-boxes and fans. Opinion emancipated by the 
scepticism, mockery and reasoning of the philosophers 
resented his fall as a wanton act of despotism. It was 
intolerable that a mistress — and such a mistress ! — 
should have the power to disgrace a minister. The 
popular manifestations in favour of Choiseul were the 
first expression of the public indignation that, becoming 
bolder, more violent and more frequent, was to end 
twenty-five years later in the Revolution. 

Nor was this indignation manifested by the people 


Daughters of Eve 

alone. The upper classes were equally affronted. 
Aristocracy, enslaved under Louis XIV, had regained 
its freedom under Louis XV. The disgrace of the 
minister was an insult to its pride of birth and its 
intelligence. His departure resembled a triumphal 
progress. During the twenty-four hours allotted 
Choiseul before setting out for Chanteloup the house 
in which he lived when in Paris was inundated with 
sympathizers. The streets through which his carriage 
was to pass were thronged ; the windows and even the 
roofs of the houses were crowded with people who 
hailed the exile and his wife with acclamation as they 
appeared. At the Barriere de I'Enfer, the Due de 
Chartres — so celebrated in the Revolution as Philippe 
Egalit^ — forced his way through the guards and 
embraced Choiseul for the last time. 

But the minister appeared as unmoved by his 
popularity as by his disgrace. He took his dismissal 
apparently without a vestige of regret or vexation. 
He did not even seek an interview with Louis, whom 
he was never to see again. As for the duchess, she 
displayed the most perfect firmness of mind, sweetness 
and tranquillity. 

No sooner had the exiles arrived at Chanteloup 
than there was a rush to visit them, regardless of the 
consequences of the royal anger. " One saw," says 
Henri Martin, " what had never been seen before, the 
Court faithful to a fallen minister." 

This pilgrimage was not confined to the personal 
friends and partisans of Choiseul. " Many persons of 
both sexes, ladies whom he had loved and others who 
had detested him, were equally ready to affront the 
King rather than not be in the fashion." Not to have 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

gone to Chanteloup was to lay one open to the charge 
of not being in society. The Princes of the Blood 
were among the first to set the example, and the young 
Dauphiness, Marie Antoinette herself, who owed her 
marriage to Choiseul, cut the Du Barry as a sign of her 
sympathy with her victim. Versailles became a desert. 
The cabal which had overthrown him tried to induce the 
King to punish those who continued to court him.' 
But Louis merely shrugged his shoulders. He even 
asked for news from Chanteloup. 

Choiseul out of vanity encouraged this concourse 
of visitors, who continued coming till the end of the 
reign. His life in exile was even more brilliant than 
in his heyday. To commemorate this, he erected in 
the grounds a sort of Chinese pagoda, on the walls of 
which were placed marble tablets inscribed with the 
names of those who visited him. Of the former splen- 
dours of Chanteloup this costly " toy," as he called it, 
alone exists to-day. The number was so great that the 
duchess sometimes forgot those she had seen, and wel- 
comed them twice. " I feel," wrote the Abb^, who of 
course lived in the house, " as if I were at the mouth 
of a harbour where a stream of vessels of all nations is 
constantly coming and going." 

The first person to arrive at Chanteloup, after 
the Choiseuls reached there, was the Duchesse de 
Gramont, who travelled post from Bareges on receipt 
of the news. At such a moment the appearance of 
this arrogant woman, who had snubbed and effaced 
her in her own house, was more than the amiable 
duchess could stand, and, plucking up her courage, she 
determined to assert her independence. 

" I have had a talk with Madame de Gramont," 


Daughters of Eve 

she wrote Madame Du Deffand, who frankly hated 
the duchess, "in the presence of M. de Choiseul, 
which has eased my mind and preserved my dignity. 
I was very poHte to her and full of consideration for 
my husband's feelings. I declared that I wished to 
be mistress in my own house, that everybody could 
do as they pleased in it, and that I would do all in 
my power to please them. But I should not bind 
myself to anybody as a friend. As for Madame de 
Gramont, I should treat her with the utmost respect, 
but as for friendship, I neither craved it nor would give 
it, but for my husband's sake I hoped we might live 
together on the best of terms." 

Madame de Gramont was so taken aback that she 
began to stammer apologies. The duchess's blood, 
however, was up, and she cut her short by saying 
"it was unnecessary to recall things that could only 
cause bitterness, and that enough had been said." 

Madame de Gramont looked at her brother for 
support, but his disgrace, to which her advice had 
largely contributed, had weakened her influence. He 
was silent, and Madame de Gramont was obliged to 
accept her defeat with the best grace possible. 

The victory she had gained over her redoubtable 
sister-in-law no doubt helped Madame de Choiseul to 
bear the mortification of havino- to receive the Com- 


tesse de Brionne, who was also among those who 
came to Chanteloup. As it had been the object of 
her life to please her husband, in the hope that her 
devotion might at last awake in him the affection she 
craved, she was not the woman, after vindicating her 
rights in regard to Madame de Gramont, to run the 
risk of losing what she had gained. Though perfectly 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

well aware of her husband's infatuation, she welcomed 
Madame de Brionne, outwardly at least, with the 
utmost cordiality. She went to the length of furnish- 
ing the room assigned to her with the choicest 
furniture and pictures at Chanteloup — "a room which 
it was understood should always be set apart for the 
countess whenever she cared to repeat her visit, and 
which no one in the interval should be allowed to 

As compensation, however, the duchess had a visit 
from Madame Du Deffand, who, in spite of her age 
and infirmities, was induced to make the fashionable 
pilgrimage. The joy of the duchess was very great, 
and no pains were spared to make her " granddaughter " 
welcome and comfortable. " I can say with truth," the 
marquise wrote to Horace Walpole, " this visit has 
been the most agreeable time of my life." She stayed 
five weeks. 

Gleichen also came frequently, though his silent 
and sombre manner did not add to the gaiety. 
And the indispensable, devoted Abbe was always 

To Choiseul, accustomed as he had been for so 
many years to the glitter and turmoil of the great 
world, exile under such conditions was but another 
triumph. His enemies, however, did not rest. Though 
the lettre de cachet that had sent him into exile had 
likewise stripped him of his offices and the revenues 
attaching to them, that of Colonel-General of the Swiss 
Guards, the most valuable of them all, he had still 
retained. When it had been offered to him he had 
accepted it on the express understanding that he should 
retain it in the event of his ceasing to be minister. 


Daughters of Eve 

Pride, perhaps, rather than a presage of future 
adversity, had led him to stipulate for this condition. 
Louis XV, however, continually urged by the cabal, 
of which Madame Du Barry was the mouthpiece, was 
finally provoked into depriving him of it. 

To Choiseul the loss of this lucrative post was a 
serious matter. Naturally extravagant, he had spent 
money regardless of the future. To continue to 
maintain his sumptuous mode of life it was necessary 
to retrench. He was obliged to sell his fine collection 
of pictures, which, thanks to his popularity, fetched 
four times what was expected. " This sale," says 
Grimm, " is the most singular in the history of art." 
But the sacrifice was not enough, and the duchess parted 
with her diamonds. To her this privation was nothing 
compared to the necessity of cutting down the estab- 
lishment, which entailed the dismissal of many old 
retainers whose services were useless sinecures. 
" This reform," she wrote Madame Du Deffand, 
"breaks my heart." But it was necessary to retain 
the Hotel de Choiseul in Paris and Chanteloup 

Great, however, though the anxiety of all these 
financial worries was, neither showed it. Visitors 
continued to come as before, and life was pretty 
much what it had been in the past. There were 
generally eighteen or twenty persons staying in 
the house. At eight the company assembled in the 
grand salon before supper, which was served at nine. 
After supper the guests played cards, the duchess 
clinging to her favourite backgammon. After cards, 
Choiseul, "seated at a frame for worsted work, held 
a court till three in the morning, while he stitched, 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

dazzling all by his sparkling spirits and droll anecdotes 
and reminiscences of his ministerial career." 

Those who had the privilege of listening to him 
were astonished at his light-hearted and cheerful 
manner. " Grandpapa is wonderful ! " wrote Madame 
Du Deffand. " He has discovered new tastes to take 
the place of his former official occupations. I am 
firmly convinced that he has no regrets and is per- 
fectly happy." Cheerfulness was indeed cultivated 
by all. Even Madame de Gramont softened, and 
said "only pleasant things." "Time does not pass, 
but flows away without our perceiving it," wrote the 
Abbe. "We are always inventing new amusements." 

When Choiseul, during a slight indisposition, 
amuses himself with reading fairy stories, all Chante- 
loup follows his example, " surprised to find how 
much they resemble real life." Now the guests take 
to flying kites. Again, acting is the rage. While 
this lasts nothing is talked of but rehearsals, reading 
parts, and trying on costumes. The Chateau is 
turned upside down, the library ransacked, solitary 
people are to be found in the gardens, passages, and 
all sorts of places, book in hand, declaiming their parts 
in an undertone. "All acted well," wrote the Abb6, 
" but Madame de Choiseul bore away the palm. She 
looked no more than twelve on the stage, and was so 
little embarrassed that she might have been acting 
there fifteen or twenty years." 

During the day there were excursions on the 
Loire, ending, when the weather was fine, in a dance 
in the open air, veritable fetes champHres, for which 
the old regime was famous. Then, too, there was 
coursing, or hunting in the park, though the latter 


Daughters of Eve 

was a failure as there was nothing to hunt. Yet the 
parties were very merry all the same, and the Abbe, 
seated on a pony with his legs almost touching the 
ground, created no end of laughter, till one day he 
had a fall and broke his collar-bone. The anxiety of 
the duchess was extreme till the Abbe was pronounced 
out of danger. " I passed horrible hours," she wrote 
Madame Du DefTand, ** a prey to ceaseless suspense." 
He recovered, however, and all went as gaily as 
before till Louis XV died, and the exile was over. 

With the accession of the new king, Choiseul at 
once returned to Paris. " He was received like our 
Lord at Jerusalem," says Madame Cramer; "people 
mounted on the house-tops to see him pass by." The 
poets celebrated his return, and the salons feted him 
and the duchess. 

Every one imagined, in fact, that the King would 
give him the government, and the Queen, who owed 
her crown to his policy, worked in his favour. But 
Louis XVI was not to be persuaded to recall him to 

" You've grown fat, M. de Choiseul," was all he 
said when Marie Antoinette herself presented the ex- 
minister to him; "you're losing your hair and growing 
bald." After this, to dream any longer of returning 
to office would have been the height of folly, and 
Choiseul wisely decided to return to Chanteloup, and 
resume the magnificent idleness of life there, for 
which he had secretly a much greater predilection 
than for the splendour of power with its ceaseless 
cares and responsibilities. 

To the duchess the years that followed were per- 
haps as happy as any in her life. Her husband had 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

at last begun to appreciate the full value of the woman 
he had married, and gave her a proof of this late-born 
affection during an illness that nearly proved fatal to her. 
" On the point of being buried alive," says Dutens, 
who had the story from the duchess herself, " she 
heard every word that was said by those about her 
without being able to show the smallest sign of life. 
M. de Choiseul, who had been forced from the room, 
was informed that she was no more. They prepared 
to have the last duties performed. It is impossible to 
conceive the affliction of her husband. He had never 
before experienced the fear of losing her. Suddenly, 
while his friends were trying to calm him, he ran out of 
the room crying that he must see his wife for the last 
time, and, rushing into her chamber, threw himself by 
her side, exclaiming, ' My dear wife ! My dear wife ! 
Madame de Choiseul told me herself that these pierc- 
ing cries recalled her to life. She was in a profound 
catalepsy. ' The cries of that man whom you know I 
adore,' she said, ' were alone able to bring me to life.' 
She presently came to herself and found she had 
strength enough to throw her arms around his neck." 

In failing to return to power. Fortune was perhaps 
kinder to Choiseul than he or his wife dreamt. For as 
it is not likely that with all the will in the world he 
would, in the pass to which things had come, have 
been able to please both the Court and the nation, it 
was fortunate for his reputation that he was not per- 
mitted to try. Fortune favoured him, too, in dying 
before his popularity had waned. During his brief ill- 
ness many were the marks of attachment and respect 


Daughters of Eve 

he received. The great friends who had come to 
Chanteloup were constantly at his bedside, Paris was 
agog with excitement. It was felt that with him one 
of the last links of the great past was broken. " Four 
secretaries," says Bachaumot, " were kept occupied in 
writing bulletins ; the crowds were immense. The 
Queen sent a page several times a day to ask for 
news. Up to the last he was faithful to his character, 
his courage, and his egotistical display. To his dying 
moment, he had the air of granting audiences, and 
made a fine end." 

His death occurred on May the 8th of 1785. The 
same day a memorial service was held at St. Eustache 
at which all that was distinguished in Paris assisted. 
Afterwards the body was transported to Amboise, 
where it was buried in the new cemetery that Choi- 
seul had given to the town. 

In his will he remembered all his servants, mention- 
ing them by name and thanking them for all their 
services. More than fifty of them received legacies. 
To Madame de Brionne, his last inamorata and the 
only one he mentioned, he left the diamond in his 
order of the Golden Fleece. Madame de Gramont 
was residuary legatee. The duchess, who on his 
advice years before had obtained a legal separation of 
property to save what remained of her fortune from 
the creditors, nobly undertook to pay all his debts, 
which amounted to six millions, and to guarantee the 
legacies. The day after his death she retired to the 
Convent of the R^collettes with a single servant and 
Choiseul's dog Chanteloup. For her the world's 
greatness was over. 


Duchesse de Choiseul 


The wonderful self-control which the duchess had 
displayed during her husband's illness completely de- 
serted her when all was over. Her grief was terrible 
to witness. But it was not long before painful ques- 
tions as to the means of subsistence, all the cares and 
worries which accompany ruin, forced themselves with 
brutal and sordid insistence into the sacred precincts 
of her sorrow, giving her an opportunity to put into 
practice those maxims of philosophy she was so fond 
of quoting in her letters, and which it is so much easier 
to profess when one lives in the lap of luxury than to 
apply in the day of adversity. 

To make the effort of subordinating the immense 
loss she had sustained to her sense of duty the harder, 
she was afflicted with a painful illness which necessi- 
tated an operation, from the effects of which she never 
fully recovered. Any other woman would have been 
crushed by the triple burdens of grief, physical suffer- 
ing and the debts she had undertaken to discharge. 
The privations to which she was subjected filled the 
devoted Abb^ with "a feeling of consternation." He 
could not get accustomed to see her reduced to two 
little rooms in a convent, without air or comfort. " It 
makes me feel," he wrote to a friend, "as if I were 
paying with usury for the delightful past at Chante- 
loup." But her courage never faltered. 

She had managed to reduce her husband's enormous 
debts by some two millions of livres, when the 
Revolution cut short her heroic task. On the sup- 
pression of the convents she was obliged to seek 
another shelter, and after moving from one lodging to 


Daughters of Eve 

another, finally took up her abode on the third floor 
of a house in the Rue St. Dominique behind the 
Palais de Bourbon. Of her former friends the Ahh6 
was almost the only one she had left. His daily 
visits were to both their sole pleasure, and that they 
might not be deprived of it, as he was now old and in- 
firm the duchess preserved a small room for him in 
case he should be too tired or ill to return home when 
he called. It was a timely forethought, for one day the 
honest old fellow slipped on the stairs and was so badly 
injured that six months elapsed before he could be 

Thus, clinging to one another for mutual protection 
and comfort, these two simple and loyal souls, the last 
of the dazzling company of the triumphant existence 
at Chanteloup, entered the maelstrom of the Revolu- 
tion in which the world, as they had known it, 
was engulfed. How bitter must have been their 
reflections as they contrasted the General Overthrow, 
as they had conceived it in the elegant refinement 
of the salons of those palmy days when Choiseul was 
prime minister, and all the world was expecting and 
working for the golden age, with the real form in 
which it arrived, with its "law of the suspect" and its 
September massacres, the suspense of the tocsin and 
the horrors of the tumbrils ! 

Each day had some fresh disaster, some new 
regret for them. The decrees of the Convention, 
daily abrogating the old laws and obligations, gradually 
reduced them to the verge of ruin. The spirits of 
the Abb^, who had been stripped of everything but 
the Curatorship of the Cabinet of Medals, were all 
but crushed. 



{F?-oin an old print) 

{To face p. 65 

Duchesse de Choiseul 

" Life is only a succession of evils," he wrote to 
a friend. " If Fortune till now treated me with too 
much kindness, she is cruelly revenging herself for it." 
Nevertheless, the old man made a brave effort to 
bear up for the sake of his "divine citoyenne," as 
he playfully called the duchess. Inured by suffering, 
she had learnt to bear it, and it had less dismay for 
her than for him. The shafts that struck her which 
she felt the most were those that were indirect. 

Both had been so long overlooked in the furious 
persecution of all who recalled the life of the old Court, 
that they might have expected to continue so — she 
by virtue of her complete seclusion from the world 
for years, he by his age, his claim to fame, and his 
irreproachable conduct, which had kept him outside 
the pale of political hatred. But the blow fell suddenly 
when least expected. 

The Abbe was denounced as a suspect and carried 
off one morning to the prison of the Madelonnettes. 
In this hour of danger and despair the duchess, in 
whose lodging he had been apprehended, displayed 
the greatest courage and coolness. Accompanied by 
a representative of the people, whom she induced to 
support her, she went to the Committee of Public 
Safety, and vehemently protested against the Abbe s 
arrest on the ground that "imprisonment in his con- 
dition of health and at his age was equivalent to 
death." She never gave a thought to the fact that 
in doing so she risked her own head to save his. 
Her nature, like that of a Roman matron, was above 
such considerations. 

The members of the Committee, usually proof 
against pity, were taken by surprise, and showed a 
F 65 

Daughters of Eve 

disposition to grant her prayer. One alone resisted 
on the ground that the Abba's famous work the 

Voyage du jezme Anar char sis en Grece "breathed 
the very spirit of aristocracy." But Madame de 
Choiseul, who had charmed the society of the old 
regime, the correspondent on equal terms with a 
Voltaire or a Madame Du Deffand, was not a woman 
to be at a loss for an answer. She prevailed by her 
wit, her energy, and the heroism of her conduct, and 
after a day of the greatest agitation succeeded at 10.30 
at night in carrying the Abb6 herself home from 

* One can imagine the feelings of the two after the 
agitating experience of that day. Once more they 
picked up the threads of a painful existence, sorrowfully 
draoro-jnor out throuoh the winter lives that had become 
a burden to both. But such peace as they found was 
not of long duration. Paris — all France — was en pleine 
terreur. The duchess's dauntless indifference to the 
danger she ran in risking her head to save the Abbe's 
was sufficient to render her suspect. With the odour 
of noble and royal blood in their nostrils and its 
savour on their tongue, the Apaches of anarchy, to 
whom the infamous "law of the suspect" had given a 
sinister power, the stoicism of the noblesse was gall 
and wormwood. 

One morning in the spring of 1794, two officials, 
armed with an order for the duchess's arrest, appeared at 
her lodging and carried her off. Fortunately the prison 
in which she was incarcerated was Les Oiseaux, the 
healthiest and most cheerful in Paris. Formerly the 
property of the Marquis du Lau, it owed its name 
to an immense aviary in the garden, which was visible 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

from the street. At the beginning of the Revolution 
the "patriots" of the section showed at once the 
value of their humanitarian ideals and their utter 
incapacity for self-government by scaling the walls 
and restoring the birds to liberty, with the result that 
all that did not die of hunger were devoured by the 
cats of the section ! 

Here she found Madame de Gramont, whom she 
had not seen since Choiseul's death. Time had taken 
the sting from their old hostility, and in the presence 
of a common peril the two women became reconciled. 
Unlike the Duchesse de Choiseul, Madame de 
Gramont had spent the intervening years since her 
brother's death in the world she loved so much. 
Rich, high-born and clever, she had continued up to 
the end to hold a prominent place in society. With 
her haughty nature she was not to be induced to 
emigrate like so many others, and had remained in 
Paris to brave the Revolution, growing more arrogant 
and contemptuous with each excess of the mob. To 
escape suspicion for such a woman was impossible, 
she did not even put herself to the trouble of attempt- 
ing it. She was arrested for harbouring her friend 
the Marquise du Chatelet, the wife of Voltaire's 
"divine Smilie's " son, who after emigrating had 
foolishly returned to Paris. 

After being detained a few days at Les Oiseaux, 
both were removed to the private asylum of the 
ferocious Belhomme, whose conduct leads one to 
suppose that he was himself afflicted with the malady 
he professed to treat. Here as long as they had 
money to pay their board they were comparatively 
safe, for Belhomme was a friend of those in power. 
F 2 d"^ 

Daughters of Eve 

But the time came when their money ran short, and, 
unable to obtain credit, they were transferred at 
Belhomme's request to the Conciergerie. This was 
the gate to the guillotine. Summoned before the 
Revolutionary Tribunal, the Duchesse de Gramont pre- 
sented a striking contrast to her old enemy Madame 
Du Barry, who was arrested at the same time, and, 
alone of the women of the old Court, died frantic 
with terror. The courage with which she confronted 
the redoubtable Fouquier-Tinville was unparalleled. 

When asked whether she had sent money to 
various (Emigres she haughtily replied, " I was going 
to say no, but my life is not worth a lie." After 
that she only thought of saving her friend. " That 
you should kill me," she cried with inexpressible 
contempt, " me — who despise and detest you, and 
who would have stirred up all Europe against you — 
nothing can be more natural. But what has Madame 
du Chatelet, who has never taken the least part in 
political affairs, and to whom not the least suspicion 
can attach, done to harm you ? " 

This chivalrous plea, however, availed nothing. 

Madame du Chatelet was offered her life if she 
would reveal the secret of her young son's where- 
abouts. "Never!" she replied, with a spirit to match 
the Gramont's. " Denouncing is a civic virtue too 
new for me to acquire it." Both went to the scaffold 
"treating their judges like valets." 

At the same time Madame de Choiseul lost another 
relation in the Princesse de Monaco, n^e Choiseul- 
Stainville, whose husband had been one of the fre- 
quent visitors at Chanteloup. It was said of this 
young and lovely woman that she was so unpractical 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

and giddy that she beHeved "diamonds grew in rings 
and fruit in baskets." Yet when it came to the 
guillotine, not even Madame de Gramont mounted it 
more courageously. Sentenced to death by Fouquier- 
Tinville, the " Monaco woman " obtained a day's 
reprieve, on the ground that she was enceinte, to cut 
her magnificent hair, which she did with a piece of 
broken glass, so that "the executioner's hand might 
not soil it." She also rouged her cheeks before 
entering the tumbril " to conceal the paleness, which 
might otherwise be mistaken for fear, should she 
feel a momentary faintness." 

The duchess daily expected the same fate, seeing 
that neither age nor infirmity was respected. But 
the seeds of her goodness, it is pleasing to the credit 
of human nature to relate, had fallen on fertile soil. 
After the fall of Robespierre, the people of her section 
petitioned for and obtained her release. She had 
been in prison six months when she was once more 
permitted to return to her home. During this period 
not a day passed but that she believed it to be her last ; 
yet she never betrayed the least sign of weakness, and 
left the prison with as serene a front as she had 
entered it. 


The state of mind of the poor Abbe during this 
terrible interval may be imagined. The anxiety he had 
suffered, added to his own troubles and infirmities, had 
completely broken him. The joy of meeting his 
adored duchess, of knowing that she was safe from 
further molestation, was too much for him. He died 


Daughters of Eve 

shortly after her release. His only regret in leaving 
the world was the thought of the pain his death would 
cause his friend. Aware that his end was at hand, he 
entreated those around him to conceal his condition 
from her, in order to save her the pang of watching 
him die. Noblest of cicisbeos, most unselfish of friends, 
his conduct throughout his life was based on his motto : 
" Hate your enemies as if they would some day be 
your friends." 

Shortly after the Abba's death, the Due de Gontaut 
followed him to the grave at the age of ninety. Blind 
and ruined, he had by a miracle escaped the guillotine, 
on which all those nearest and dearest to him had 
perished. After his death the duchess no longer went 
abroad. Paris was to her a desert filled with bitter 
memories. The scaffold or emigration had carried off 
all her friends. Nevertheless she did not remain 
inactive. Obliged to abandon the task of paying off 
her husband's debts, she set herself to obtain the 
release of her nephew, an dmigre who, shipwrecked 
on the coast of Normandy, had been imprisoned as a 
traitor. She succeeded, only to learn that instead of 
being permitted to return to Paris, he had been again 
expelled the country. Informed that he was destitute, 
slender though her own resources were, she reduced 
herself to actual want to relieve his distress. 

Her efforts in behalf of her nephew had revived 
the memory of a name which had once been one 
to conjure with in France. The political principles 
associated with it saved it from the disrespect into 
which most of the other reputations of the old regime 
had fallen. People who had forgotten Madame de 
Choiseul were surprised to learn that she was still 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

livins^, and the rumours that floated about concerning 
her misfortunes excited a general feeling of pity. 

" One day when she was alone in the attic to which 
she was now reduced," says Grasset, " there was a 
knock at the door. She went to answer it, and found 
a stranger on the threshold. At the sight of her he 
seemed embarrassed, then, as she asked him in her 
gentle voice what he wanted, he exclaimed in agonized 
accents : ' Oh, Madame la Duchesse, have you for- 
gotten the little Pierre who used to keep the paths 
clean in the grounds of Chanteloup, and to whom you 
used to say, " Well, little Pierre, what is your idea of 
perfect happiness ? If you had a wish, what would it 
be .'"' "An ass and a cart," I used to reply, and one 
day you gave them to me. It was the beginning of 
my fortune. I am rich, very rich indeed now. And 
you — oh, Madame la Duchesse, can it really be true 
what they say, that you are not so any more ? Oh, 
but, indeed, you are, for all that I have is yours. 
It was you who gave me the ass and the cart, and 
I have only come to pay you back what I owe. I 
shall never be happy, Madame la Duchesse, if you 
refuse.' " 

Sobs broke his voice, he could say no more for 
the grief that choked him. For a moment it seemed 
to the duchess as if the attic, by the touch of a 
magician's wand, was converted into the Chateau of 
Chanteloup. " She saw herself once more light- 
hearted, happy and idolized, near him she had loved 
the best in the place she had loved the most." 

But Madame de Choiseul was not a woman whose 
distress is easy to relieve. The griefs that afflicted her 
were spiritual rather than material. What mattered 


Daughters of Eve 

it now where she lived, or what she was? No palace, 
not even Chanteloup itself, no luxury with which she 
could be surrounded would make life for her anything 
but the abomination of desolation. The gratitude of 
the noble peasant whom she had befriended thirty 
years before was worth more to her than his charity. 
She thanked him with tears streaming down her 
cheeks for his devotion, but she would not accept his 
offer. It should never be said that the widow of 
Choiseul was dependent on the alms of servants. 

It was not for herself that she was proud, but for 
the honour of her husband's memory. Of this she 
was very jealous. The publication of the Marquis 
de Bouille's memoirs, in which Choiseul was bitterly 
attacked, stung her to the quick. In a letter to 
Bouille demanding a public refutation of his accusa- 
tions, she taunted him with having " assassinated a. 
widow on the tomb of her husband." His refusal to 
oblige her she treated as a deliberate insult. 

So great was the respect her dignity in misfortune 
inspired, that one man who did not even know her, 
learninor that she refused to solicit aid from the 
government, wrote anonymously to Bonaparte to 
acquaint him with her condition and recommend her 
to his notice. Bonaparte, to his credit be it said, 
though constantly inundated with such appeals, seldom 
failed to respond to them, and it was only such noble 
families as scorned assistance at his hand that failed to 
obtain repatriation or the restitution of their property. 

But the favours that Madame de Choiseul would 
not seek for herself she was ready to demand for 
others. At the same time her anonymous sympathizer 
appealed to Bonaparte on her behalf, she herself wrote 


Duchesse de Choiseul 

him to obtain the favour of having her nephew's name 
struck off the list of dinigr^s. This letter was con- 
veyed to Josephine, who in sending it to her husband 
wrote on the margin recommending him to grant the 
prayers of the " ci-devant Duchesse de Choiseul, a 
woman loved and respected by all who know her, and 
who has supported all her misfortunes with unparalleled 

The same night Bonaparte granted her request in 
a letter of the " greatest politeness, in which he thanked 
her for reminding him of it," and offered to oblige her 
at any time to the utmost of his ability. But death 
rendered all further assistance superfluous. Her 
nephew only reached her in time to close her eyes. 
Without him she would have died as deserted as she 
was destitute. Death, it is easy to understand, could 
have no terror for her ; she looked on it as a release. 
"The day of her death," wrote her nephew, " was the 
same to her as any other day. Up to the last she 
displayed that fortitude, that strength of character, 
that nobility of mind, that clearness of intellect and 
superiority of judgment which from her youth had 
caused her to be regarded as an honour to her sex 
and a glory to her family." 

Before dying she dictated a letter to Bonaparte 
in which she thanked him for having permitted her 
nephew to return to France and be with her at the 

It was her wish to be buried beside Choiseul under 
the superb mausoleum she had erected to his memory 
at Amboise. But as her nephew had not the means 
to execute this request, he had her body interred in 
the cemetery of the Convent of St. Joseph, where 


Daughters of Eve 

Madame Du Deffand had been buried, till such time 
as Fortune should smile on him again. Alas ! before 
that happened, the Convent of St. Joseph was razed 
and the bodies buried there were removed to the 
Cemetery of Picpus, where, failing any one to claim 
them, they were placed in the fosse co77tmune ! 



1752 (?)-i775 (?) 

{After Flavitzky) 

\To/ace p. 77 

" In Xanadu did Kubla Khan 
A stately pleasure-dome decree 

* * * * 

The shadow of the dome of pleasure 
Floated midway on the waves ; 
Where was heard the mingled measure 
From the fountain and the caves. 
It was a miracle of rare device, 
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice ! " 

Coleridge : " Kubla Khan." 


1752 (?)-i775 (•) 


Among the kings and the cardinals, the ministers, 
the generals and the philosophers, the grandes dames 
and the grandes anioureuses, the poets, the painters, 
and the musicians enshrined in the eighteenth century 
Valhalla, the adventurers and the adventuresses are 
scarcely less numerous and attract scarcely less atten- 
tion. As was fitting in an age of adventure, of which the 
climax was the discovery of the New World of the 
Revolution, it was by the adventurers that some of 
the chief roles were acted on that stage, so charmingly 
decorated by Watteau and Boucher, when to the 
music of an orchestra conducted by Pope or Florian, 
Marivaux and Metastasio, the scene of the picturesque 
comedy constantly shifted from 2. /He champetre to a 

Daughters of Eve 

battle-field, or from the boudoir of a king's mistress to 
the oubliettes of Giant Despair. 

It is by a Maurice de Saxe, bdtard, broken, brule, 
that France is saved from invasion, Chapeau bas, 
grandees of Spain ! tremble, Europe ! whilst Ripperda, 
Dutch charlatan and adventurer, basks in the smile 
of fickle Fortune. A Comtesse de Lamotte, shiftiest 
and shadiest of swindlers, shakes the throne of France 
to its foundations. Cagliostro, coming no one knows 
whence and living no one knows how, obtains a page 
in history on which to write his name when scarce a 
minister in Europe on the eve of the Revolution is 
given the space of a line. The memoirs of Casanova, 
chevalier d'industrie, are read and re-read by a posterity 
that has never so much as turned the leaves of the 
masterpieces of Voltaire or Rousseau. 

But these are the princes of vagrancy, the Knights 
Commander of the Order of Industry. In the vaga- 
bond army that followed in their wake there was a 
vast peripatetic horde belonging to the rank and file 
who won no decoration, but who, had they been given 
the opportunity, would have displayed equal, and 
perhaps even greater, talents. They were to be 
found everywhere, blown like locusts over Europe, 
creeping into palaces and prisons alike, ready for any 
job that offered, from mounting a throne like Theodore, 
King of Corsica, to picking pockets like Joseph Balsamo, 
impostors and swindlers not because of any natural 
bent that way, but impelled by the most powerful of all 
instincts — the instinct of self-preservation. 

Russia was the happiest of all happy hunting- 
grounds for them. With a little luck anything was 
possible there. Had not the peasant wife of Peter 


Princess Tarakanof 

the Great reio^ned after him ? To what heights had 

o o 

not the pastry-cook Mensikof attained ? Was it luck 
or brains that made Biron, the groom-lover of the 
Czarina Anne, Duke of Courland ? Had not Razu- 
movski, a choir-boy, actually married the Czarina 
Elizabeth ? 

A desire to mount the Alps of life is characteristic 
of almost all adventurers ; but it was only in Russia 
that they dreamt of scaling the throne. This dazzling 
peak had been conquered too often for the difficulties 
of the ascent to act as a deterrent. Providing the 
season, or opportunity, was favourable, there was no 
reason why any one should not make the attempt to 
reach the summit — and succeed, too, as so many had 

It was this fact that caused so much importance to 
be attached to the pitiful effort of poor little Princess 


The first recorded appearance of this pathetic 
adventuress, whose career from the beginning to the 
end was surrounded with mystery, took place in Paris 
in 1772. Coming from England or Holland — but 
whence or why matters not — she calls herself the 
Princess Aly Emettee de Vlodomir. She is young — 
twenty-five at the most — blonde and beautiful, with the 
hectic flush of \\\q. poitrinaire. Her eyes are her most 
remarkable features — they are large and lustrous and 
possess the strange quality of changing colour, now 
blue, now black, which gives to their dreamy expres- 
sion a peculiar, mysterious air. She has very fascinating 


Daughters of Eve 

and dignified manners, speaks or understands several 
languages, and has all the accomplishments of a high- 
born and well-educated woman. 

With her are two Germans, or men with German 
names — one, a young man of good appearance, calls 
himself Baron von Embs, and, though without any 
resemblance to her whatever, claims to be a relation. 
The other, an elderly man known as Baron von 
Schenk, appears to combine the functions of maitre 
d hotel with those of a confidential adviser. 

The princess refuses to satisfy completely the 
curiosity she arouses, but she lets it be understood that 
her principality of Vlodomir is in Circassia and that 
she is the heroine of a tragic romance. The mystery 
which surrounds her adds to her charm. In Paris, to 
be a Circassian is a recommendation. It suggests the 
slave-mart and the harem. The rumour runs that the 
Princess Aly Emettee is a fugitive odalisque. 

As she lives in a luxurious style she soon has a 
large circle of acquaintances. In the salon of her fine 
house in the lie Saint Louis, then one of the most 
fashionable quarters of Paris, one meets many illus- 
trious Polish refugees, notably Oginski and Massalski, 
the Bishop of Wilna, late chiefs of the Confederation of 
Bar. Prince Oginski, in particular, manifests a very 
lively though purely platonic interest in the fair 
Circassian, who plays almost as well as himself on 
the harp, pedals for which instrument he has lately 

The Comte de Rochefort-Velcourt, who has the 
honour — a very sterile one — of representing the Duke 
of Limburg at the French Court, is another and more 
ardent admirer. In fact, all the habitues of the 


Princess Tarakanof 

princess's salon adore her ; but while Oginski's adora- 
tion is confined to harp-playing, and Rochefort- 
Velcourt's to talking of love and marriage, a certain 
M. de Marine, an old beau and brule-pavS, rich and 
vain,, manifests his in a much more practical fashion 
by lending the charmer large sums of money. 

Suddenly a catastrophe occurs. The princess's 
putative relation, the young Baron von Embs, is 
arrested for debt ; and one learns that he is no baron 
at all, but the renegade son of a rich merchant of 
Ghent, named Vantoers, by whom he has been 
expelled from the paternal roof for I know not what 
discreditable conduct. The reputation of the princess, 
however, weathers the storm. Her admirers accept 
her serene assurance that there are " certain mysterious 
reasons " for her mode of life. Marine even advances 
the money necessary to obtain the release of the 
equivocal Vantoers. The suspicions of the police, 
however, are not so easily silenced, and to escape from 
their espionage the princess and her two barons 
suddenly decamp, to the utter dismay of Marine, who 
realizes that he has been duped of 52,000 livres. 
Old men always pay dear for the privilege of adoring 
young and charming women. 

A few days later the princess and her two com- 
panions arrive at Frankfort, and proceed to live in 
the same luxurious style as before. ** It is understood 
that she is expecting to receive money every day from 
Persia." After a time the creditors, regardless of the 
difficulties of communicating with the East, once again 
imprison Vantoers, and the princess is forced to leave 
the hotel in which she has been living. Fortunately 
at this juncture the Comte de Rochefort-Velcourt 

G 81 

Daughters of Eve 

happens to arrive in Frankfort to meet his master 
the Duke of Limburg. His admiration of the lovely- 
Circassian and his faith in the principality of Vlodomir 
still survive. Though unable himself to give substance 
to the imaginary bills of exchange she is daily expect- 
ing from Persia, he draws such a touching picture of 
the sad situation in which he has found the brilliant 
princess that His Serenity desires to see her and, as in 
romances, falls in love with her at sight. 

Philip Ferdinand, Duke regnant of Limburg and 
Styrum, Prince of the Empire, Count of Oberstein, and 
possessor of several fiefs in Lorraine and elsewhere, 
was one of those petty potentates, formerly as numerous 
in Germany as leaves are thick in Vallombrosa, whose 
dominions were so small that a stag could have leapt 
them all at a bound. Like the majority of his kind, 
however, he gave himself the airs of a sovereign. He 
had a court, but, alas ! no courtiers ; an army, but no 
men — he was himself the only officer ; a treasury, but 
no funds. He kept, however, his representatives at 
Versailles and Vienna, whom he seldom or never paid, 
conferred titles of nobility, distributed decorations, and 
laid claim to the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. 
It was on business in regard to this subject, over which 
he had been at law for fifteen years, that he had come 
to Frankfort. Excessively vain, he was also excep- 
tionally credulous. Though over forty, he was as 
unsophisticated as a school-boy. Of "an amorous 
complexion," like M. de Porceaugnac in Moliere's 
comedy, he had been vainly seeking all his life for a 
companion according to his heart when it was ravished 
by the seductive Circassian. 

Though deeply in debt himself, he pays her most 


Princess Tarakanof 

pressing creditors, appeases the others — taking care, 
however, to leave Vantoers in prison — and gallantly 
puts his castle of Oberstein at the disposal of the 
princess pending the arrival of her Persian funds, an 
offer she at once accepts. 

Installed at Oberstein, the Princess Aly Emett^e's 
empire over the duke daily increases. He would fain 
have some return for his devotion, but she knows how 
to restrain it within the bounds of propriety whilst 
encouraging it. To prove her gratitude, she promises 
to pay off the mortgages on his estates — when she 
receives the millions from her bankers in Ispahan. 
Moreover, as she pretends to know intimately all the 
most influential personages in Europe, she undertakes 
to exert her own influence in his behalf in Copenhagen 
and St. Petersburg to obtain a favourable termination 
to his long and costly law-suit over his claim to the 
duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. Infatuation gives 
a free rein to his credulity. Doubt her? Has he 
not seen scraps of letters and petitions that she has 
addressed to ministers and kings ? 

One day he finds her in tears. In response to his 
tender inquiries as to the cause of her sadness, she 
tells him that she has received a letter from Prince 
Galitzin, Grand Chancellor of Russia, that she is about 
to be recalled to Persia to be married. Carried away 
by his passion, the infatuated duke immediately offers 
to marry her himself, threatening if she refuses " to shut 
himself up in a cloister." The princess appears to be 
surprised at his offer, but she lets him understand that 
it is anything but distasteful to her, and asks for 
time to communicate with Galitzin. The delay this 
necessitates only serves to inflame still more the 
G2 83 

Daughters of Eve 

passion of the duke. He becomes insanely jealous 
of Rochefort-Velcourt, who also aspires to her hand, 
and has him imprisoned. The affair causes a scandal. 
The subjects of the duke cease to conceal their doubts 
as to the origin and fortune of the princess, and openly 
style her "the adventuress." His Serenity, however, 
like Louis XV, is impervious to public opinion, and 
when at last the princess has the pleasure of informing 
him that Galitzin " authorizes " her to marry him he is 
overwhelmed with joy. 

At this stage Hornstein, the duke's representative 
at Vienna and the most sensible of his advisers, in- 
formed of the indignation of the good people of Lim- 
burg, arrives on the scene. He is a profound theologian 
and very ardent Catholic, with a passion for making 
converts. The princess takes his measure at a glance. 
She speaks modestly of her great wealth, manifests a 
desire to be instructed in the tenets of the Catholic 
religion, asks him to be her mentor. Hornstein, with 
whom money is as scarce as with his master, is inclined 
to believe in this colossal fortune which is to replenish 
the empty treasury of Limburg, but he wants some 
proof of its existence " to silence scandal and above 
all to prove to Germany that a Duke of Limburg 
makes no 7n^sallianceJ" 

Far from being disconcerted by such an exigency, 
the princess " finds it quite natural," and v/hilst waiting 
for the proofs to arrive she condescends to give more 
details of her past. She is really the Princess of Azov, 
a principality in Asia under the suzerainty of the 
Empress of Russia, and the sole heiress of the House 
of Vlodomir. Become an orphan at the age of four, 
she had been brought up at the Court of the Shah of 



{From an old print) 

[To/ace J>. 85 

Princess Tarakanof 

Persia by her uncle, who, some two years ago, at a 
period of great political agitation, had sent her to 
Europe for safety. The estates to which she is heiress 
had been sequestrated in 1749 for twenty years, but 
the term of the sequestration has expired, and she has 
only to obtain the sanction of the Czarina to enter into 
full possession of the revenues of her principality. To 
suggest that the Czarina might raise obstacles is 
absurd, for the Shah has taken up her cause, having, 
she lets it be understood mysteriously, a special reason 
for supporting her. 

If in our own times, with the telegraph and the 
Almanack de Gotha to facilitate inquiries, bogus barons 
and soi-disant countesses still managfe to flourish, how 
much easier must it have been in the eiohteenth 


century for a fair, fascinating Princess of Azov to 
obtain credence ? In 1772 the means of communica- 
tion were so slow, and geographical and ethnological 
knowledge so imperfect, that the existence of a princi- 
pality of Azov under the suzerainty of Russia was not 
easy to inquire into. The infatuated Duke of Lim- 
burg, bewitched by a pair of wonderful eyes that 
"changed colour, now blue, now black," does not 
even make the attempt, while Hornstein, rigid mentor 
though he is, dazzled by these glimpses of the Gol- 
conda he wants to believe in, sees in the princess a 
brilliant conquest for the Church, and manifests an in- 
dulgence more than paternal for the folly of his master, 
who, with a right royal disdain of scandal, shows him- 
self everywhere in public with the Circassian as if he 
wished to call the whole of his tiny duchy to witness 
the engagement he had contracted. 

Confident of marrying him, she at last consents to 


Daughters of Eve 

lower the barrier she has raised against his desire, 
whereby she entangles him the tighter in her toils. 
But in spite of her triumpli, the Princess of Azov can- 
not help feeling considerable anxiety at the difficulty 
and uncertainty of obtaining any news from Ispahan. 
She sees herself surrounded by pitfalls and perils of 
all sorts. Vantoers, left to languish in prison in 
Frankfort, complains that he is forgotten, and threatens 
to make trouble. The duke, notwithstanding her 
boasted influence at Copenhagen and St. Petersburg, 
loses his law-suit and finds himself reduced to a state 
of distress that insensibly leads to suspicion. His 
subjects boldly express their discontent. The princess 
is hissed in public. Finally Hornstein receives an 
anonymous letter depicting the princess in the blackest 
colours, speaking of the dupes she has made in Berlin, 
London and Paris as a fact beyond dispute. 

Time was when the duke had treated such rumours 
with disdain. After listening to them one day when 
related to him at a hunt by a person whom he honoured 
with his confidence, he had struck the fellow with the 
butt of his gun for answer. But now, overwhelmed 
with debts, without credit or influence, at the end of 
his resources, the idea that he should be the dupe of 
an adventuress as well is the last straw. He demands 
an immediate explanation of the charges in Hornstein's 
letter, and without waiting for it bursts into violent 
reproaches of her conduct. 

She listens to him with scornful tranquillity, and 
when he is breathless, replies that she was prepared 
for such treatment from a man who is the plaything of 
false friends, the miserable slave of a prejudiced public 
opinion, and in a voice broken with emotion pities the 


Princess Tarakanof 

weakness which, seeing she will soon be a mother, has 
led her to dishonour herself for love of him. 

This unexpected revelation — a fiction, by the way 
— quite extinguishes the duke's indignation. She has 
scarcely finished when he implores her pardon and 
bursts into piteous apologies. In a word, he loves 
her and will always love her, be she poor, low-born, 
even guilty ; and only asks that she tell him the whole 
truth about herself. 

The truth ! At the mention of this magic word 
whose secret has perplexed the minds of the deepest 
thinkers and tormented the hearts of the most earnest 
believers, the princess or adventuress, what you will, 
becomes sublime. 

" You ask me for the truth ? " she replies, after a 
moment's silence. " You would not believe it, if I 
told it to you. What is truth ? What is falsehood ? 
In this strange comedy, called life, that we are con- 
demned to play, and in which we are not permitted 
to choose our roles, tell me if you are able to dis- 
tinguish the masks from the faces. Each one deceives 
himself and deceives the others. All lie, but some lie 
without effect and are ruined ; others understand how 
to influence the future. They lie, if you will, but 
systematically ; and it is among them that I wished to 
be classed. Condemn me, make it a crime, if you 
dare, to love you and to be willing, in saving myself, 
to save you with me." 

The Duke of Limburg was too much a child of 
his century not to be caught by an avowal so typical 
of it. It brings him to her feet and keeps him there. 
His conduct henceforth is that of a man bewitched. 
Once more she pretends to be able to mend his broken 

Dauo^hters of Eve 

fortunes, and to serve him the more completely, makes 
him an accomplice without initiating him into all her 
secrets. In his letters to her, which have been pre- 
served, he speaks of " the system " as horrible, but he 
lends himself to it, nevertheless, without resistance. 

It is at this stage that the romance of the mysteri- 
ous princess, who has till now been merely an ordinary 
adventuress like hundreds of others, suddenly takes a 
new turn, and passes out of the region of the common- 
place into the domain of history. 


Of the Polish exiles who in those days were to 
be found in such numbers all over Europe, many, 
attracted by the cheapness of living and the sympathy 
of the inhabitants, had sought a temporary asylum 
in Limburg and the neighbouring petty principalities. 
The wealthiest lived at Mannheim, near Oberstein ; the 
rest were scattered about in small towns and villages 
along the Rhine. In one of these, Mosbach, a very 
intelligent and good-looking young fellow named 
Domanski had taken up his abode. Intensely patri- 
otic, he had been one of the first to join the Confedera- 
tion of Bar, which had as its object the expulsion ot 
the Russians from Polish territory. 

The disastrous termination of this adventure, in 
which he had conducted himself with the reckless 
courage and impetuosity characteristic of the Poles, 
had failed to damp his enthusiasm for a cause that was 
lost. Ever dreaming of Poland, which he loved as a 
man loves a mistress, he passed his time in exile 
plotting and scheming to redress the wrongs of his 

Princess Tarakanof 

country, ready for any deed, however daring, however 

In his retreat at Mosbach, in the neighbourhood of 
Mannheim, he had heard-=^as who had not ? — of the 
mysterious sorceress who bewitched the Duke of 
Limburg at Oberstein. He had a servant, one Joseph 
Richter, who had formerly been in the service of 
Prince Oginski in Paris, which he had exchanged for 
that of the heiress of the House of Vlodomir, whom he 
had subsequently followed to Frankfort. That Richter 
should talk to Domanski of his former mistress, whose 
presenc e at the Castle of Oberstein had given rise to 
so much scandal, was but natural. Adventurous himself 
by temperament, and with a mind teeming with schemes 
and intrigues, Domanski was just the man to become 
interested in such a woman. One day, hearing that 
she was in Mannheim — whither she had come for a few 
days during the absence of the duke from Oberstein — 
he called upon her. As a Pole and ex-Confederate of 
Bar, intimately acquainted with Prince Oginski, whose 
esteem the Princess Aly Emettee, clever actress tha 
she was, managed to retain in spite of the cloud under 
which she left Paris, Domanski could not fail to be 
well received. Like most men of his imaginative and 
ardent nature, he was extremely impressionable, and as 
the princess was a woman whose charm, from all 
accounts, was felt by all who came in contact with her, 
he was fascinated from the start. 

Compared with the Duke of Limburg, who, 
impoverished though he was, nevertheless wielded a 
sceptre, Domanski, apart from such personal attrac- 
tions as he possessed, was, one would think, of too little 
importance for his conquest to appeal to an adventuress. 


Daughters of Eve 


But adventuresses are essentially creatures of circum- 
stance, and Fortune appeared to be on the eve of 
deserting the Princess of Azov when she met Doman- 
ski. Living in daily fear of exposure, unable to prove 
either the identity she sought to establish, or the exist- 
ence of the fortune she claimed, she had the worst to 
dread, once the suspicions of the besotted duke were 
thoroughly aroused. He, for all his infatuation, still 
delayed to make her his wife ; and without this hold 
over his weak nature she might at any moment 
be forced to return to the misery from which he had 
rescued her, lucky enough if she managed to retain 
her freedom and perhaps her life. 

At such a crisis, a devoted Domanski, though 
only a poor exile, is a protector not to be despised. 
Whether she returns his passion or not, she encour- 
ages it, and shortly after her return to Oberstein 
he follows her. To avoid exciting the jealousy of the 
duke, the consequences of which they have every 
reason to dread, the greatest precautions are necessary 
to conceal his presence. But though the duke does 
not discover the intrigue till long afterwards, when 
his vengeance is powerless to injure them, the good 
people of Oberstein have their suspicions of the 
" stranger from Mosbach " who lives so quietly in 
their village. The gossips observe that he knows 
nobody, and only goes out at dusk, when "the post- 
man often sees him on the road leading to the castle, 
talking in a shadow with some one enveloped in a 
long black cloak with a hood, whom he once thought 
he recognized as the princess." 

That love was not the only topic discussed at these 
mysterious interviews is evident from their sequel. 



{To /ace p. 91 

Princess Tarakanof 

About this time new rumours suddenly arise concern- 
ing the princess. She is no longer the Princess of 
Azov, or heiress of the House of Vlodomir. She has 
merely assumed these titles to hide the secret of her 
birth, which is so lofty that she has not dared to 
whisper it, from fear of the peril attaching to it. Con- 
fined in a convent in Siberia, where attempts have 
been made to poison her, she had escaped by the aid 
of her euardian and fled to Persia, whence she had 
come to Europe. As proof of this remarkable story, 
it is rumoured that she possesses a document, certifi- 
cate at once of her origin and her fortune, which she 
has preserved in all her wanderings. It is worth an 
empire, for it is nothing less than the will of the 
Czarina Elizabeth, bequeathing to her, as the sole issue 
of her secret marriage with Razumovski, the throne of 
Russia ! 

The very audacity of these rumours strengthens 
them. People recall the marvellous career of Razu- 
movski, the peasant lad with a wonderful voice, whom 
some nobleman had discovered in a village of Little 
Russia and brought to St. Petersburg to sing in the 
choir of the Imperial chapel, where his handsome face 
had attracted the notice of the amorous Czarina, who, 
to the dazzling dignities she had heaped upon him, 
had, it was always believed, added her hand as well as 
her heart. It is true the report of their marriage had 
never been confirmed, but the world is ever ready to 
believe anything that is said of the illustrious, the 
more especially when, as in this case, the lack of any 
official denial to a rumour at once so important and so 
persistent is practically tantamount to its confirmation. 
Still more credible, because still more natural, was 


Dauehters of Eve 


the report that children had been born of this romantic 
union — the fact that EHzabeth had never acknowledged 
them being attributed, like her marriage, to reasons of 
state. The very mystery concerning their fate added 
to the belief in their existence. The new rumours, 
therefore, concerning the unknown lady at Oberstein 
were well calculated to obtain credence. A Princess 
of Azov with a fortune in Persia might well appear, 
and very probably was, an impostor ; but a Princess 
Tarakanof, daughter of Elizabeth and Razumovski, 
was sure to find many to believe in her. 

In Limburg, where her presence had caused so 
much scandal, the opinion regarding her completely 
changed. The duke, who heard the rumours for the 
first time during a visit to his sister, the Countess 
Hohenlohe-Bartenstein, writes to the princess at Ober- 
stein that " everybody there believes her to be the 
daughter of Elizabeth and Razumovski." He puts 
entire faith in it himself, and, realizing that in a country 
like Russia, where the cards are constantly being 
shuffled in the strangest fashion, she may very possibly 
some day herself be holding the winning trumps, he is 
now more than ever eager to marry her — in spite of 
the extraordinary slowness of her conversion, which, 
though designed, no doubt, to make the change of 
faith, when it occurred, the more sincere, has hitherto 
been the chief obstacle to matrimony. 

But the princess, who has cunningly left it to 
rumour to confirm as well as to discover her identity, 
no longer aspires to be Duchess of Limburg. A future 
Czarina of All the Russias cannot descend so low. 
She is very grateful, however, for the hospitality she 
has received, which as soon as she mounts her throne 


Princess Tarakanof 

it will be one of her first tasks to repay. In the mean- 
time she graciously continues to honour Oberstein with 
her presence till the projects of her partisans in Russia 
are ripe for execution. These, or as much of them as 
it is fitting he should know, she confides to him, for to 
an exiled and penniless Czarina even a Duke of Lim- 
burg can still be of use. He, victim at once of passion 
and ambition, is obliged to accept with resignation the 
conditions on which his only hope of future fortune 
and favour is based, and to realize them the more 
rapidly he assists her to the best of his ability to com- 
plete the vast edifice of invention she has raised. 


Having thus finished, so to speak, the drama his 
passion and patriotism have inspired, Domanski now 
seeks to get it produced. With this object the first 
person whom he approaches is Prince Charles Radzi- 
will, the most influential of the Confederates of Bar. 

This great Polish noble, who had formerly reigned 
like a king over his vast estates, on which he had 
maintained at his own expense an army of 12,000 
men, was now living in exile at Mannheim on the 
proceeds of twelve life-size statues of the Apostles in 
solid gold which he had managed to carry off with him 
when compelled to flee from his castle at Nieswicz. 
Like Domanski, he was passionately devoted to his 
country, and though he had not seen the mysterious 
Princess Tarakanof and probably did not believe in 
her, he was quick enough to perceive the advantage to 
which she could be turned. 

In Russia, which he knew well, the political 


Daughters of Eve 


situation was such as to justify the maddest schemes. 
The country, Httle sensible of the benefits which the 
Empress Catherine had despotically conferred upon it, 
seethed with discontent. Frequent revolts among the 
peasants, pitilessly repressed, only led to fresh out- 
breaks. Impostors claiming to be the Empress's 
mysteriously murdered husband Peter III, sprang up 
like mushrooms. Of these, Pugatchef, ex-soldier, ex- 
monk, ex-bandit, was the most successful. With an 
army of 100,000 serfs, who regarded him as a liberator, 
he marched on Moscow, which was prepared to wel- 
come him, burning castles, massacring nobles. For a 
moment it seemed as if the sceptre Catherine had torn 
from her unfortunate husband's hands would in turn 
be wrenched from hers. But destiny was on the side 
of the " She-Louis-Quatorze." Pugatchef was cap- 
tured and executed. The discontent, however, to 
which he had given such loud expression, survived ; 
and where he had failed, it was possible another might 

Domanski, moreover, had chosen a particularly 
favourable moment to confide the secret of the Princess 
Tarakanof to Radziwill, who was on his own account 
actively intriguing to recover the liberty of his country 
with the aid of Turkey, which for six years had been 
at war with Russia. To prolong this war had been 
the policy of the Confederates of Bar, who hoped by 
this means to complicate affairs in Russia still further. 
But the Turks, discouraged by the defeat and total 
destruction of their fleet at Tchesme, now appeared to 
be disposed for peace. To prevent this the Polish 
exiles, secretly backed by France, who permitted num- 
bers of French officers to serve in the Turkish army, 


Princess Tarakanof 

had represented to the Grand Vizier that Russia was 
exhausted, that the insurrection of Pugatchef proved 
how much the government of Catherine was detested, 
and that a Httle patience was all that was necessary to 
assure the triumph of the Porte and the recovery of 
Poland's partitioned provinces. To give greater force 
to the argument, Radziwill was actually on the point 
of starting for Constantinople in person when Doman- 
ski approached him. Consequently, whether he was 
persuaded or not of the truth of the Princess Tara- 
kanof's origin, her appearance on the scene at such 
a moment was too valuable a reinforcement to be 
despised. What a bomb to hurl at Catherine, whose 
nerves were still shaken by the shock Pugatchef had 
given her ! 

But Radziwill is too experienced a hand to com- 
promise himself needlessly in so doubtful a cause as 
that of the enigmatic creature who claims to be the 
daughter of Elizabeth and Razumovski. *' I regard 
your Highness's affair," he writes her, "as a miracle 
of Providence, which proves that it has not deserted 
my unhappy country, by sending it so great a heroine." 
He would fly to her at once, but the situation is one 
that demands the greatest circumspection. A thousand 
obstacles prevent their meeting, but he hopes soon to 
pay her his court. In a word, whilst circulating the 
rumours concerning her, he wishes to see how the 
cat jumps. 

Later, having gone to Venice, which is more 
favourably located for intriguing with Turkey than 
Mannheim, Radziwill, who is careful to correspond 
with her indirectly through Domanski, suggests that 
she might also find it more advantageous to her plans 


Daughters of Eve 

to come to that city. The Princess of All the Russias 
desires nothing better ; and the Duke of Limburg, 
though in despair at her departure, in spite of his own 
poverty provides her with a train worthy of her rank. 
At Zweibruck, where they part, for ever, as it turns 
out, she takes an affectionate though condescending 
leave of him, promising him, in the fascinating con- 
vincing way she has, that " when she has invaded 
Russia with the help of Sweden, and Austria with 
the help of Turkey, she will compel the Imperial Diet 
to rescind the decree depriving him of the duchies of 
Schleswig and Holstein." 

Travelling under the name of the Countess of 
Pinneberg, a title which the duke has conferred upon 
her, and accompanied by Domanski and a numerous 
suite, she reaches Venice the end of May 1774, 
and, thanks to Radziwill's intrigues, takes up her 
residence at the French embassy. The next day, 
Prince Radziwill, attended by his Polish followers in 
gorgeous uniforms, pays her a visit of ceremony, 
which she promptly returns in like fashion. The 
pretence of incognito is kept up, but her name and 
her plans are now known to everybody. 

Radziwill has long interviews with her each day 
at which Domanski is present. The Poles openly 
talk in the cafes of what " her Highness " has promised 
to do for their country. The young French officers, 
who had been induced by the love of adventure to 
join the Polish contingent Radziwill intended to offer 
the Sultan, are equally loud in their admiration of her 
beauty and intelligence. Edward Wortley Montagu, 
the eccentric son of the famous Lady Mary, who 
happened to be in Venice at the time, is most 



{To face p. 97 

Princess Tarakanof 

assiduous in his attentions. He did not believe in her, 
but, an adventurer himself by instinct, anything that 
smacked of adventure appealed to his imagination, 
and beautiful young women who dared to dream of 
disputing the throne of Russia with the Empress 
Catherine were not to be met with every day. 

Nor does the princess fail to do full justice to the 
difficult role she plays. But convincingly though she 
acts, and flattering as was the applause, the box-office 
receipts, so to speak, are very small. The bankers 
politely but firmly refuse to honour her drafts, though 
" she offers as security the Castle of Oberstein and 
certain agate mines belonging to the Duke of 

The attitude of the Venetian Government, which 
the presence of so many adventurers rendered uneasy, 
is even more threatening. At the end of a fortnight 
it becomes necessary for Radziwill and his Poles, as 
well as the princess, to seek a more hospitable country. 
They accordingly go to Ragusa on the Dalmatian 
coast, to await the arrival of the firman that Radziwill 
has demanded of the Sultan, and without which it is 
impossible to go to Constantinople. 

At Ragusa, as in Venice, the French Government, 
which encouraged the adventure, instructs its represen- 
tative, Descriveau, to place his house at the disposal of 
the princess. Installed in this residence, delightfully 
situated on the outskirts of Ragusa, the Countess of 
Pinneberg now openly discards all further pretence 
of concealing her identity. Treated by Radziwill as 
the daughter of Elizabeth and Razumovski, she calls 
herself Princess of All the Russias, and having 
solemnly renewed the promises she has made to the 
H 97 

Daughters of Eve 

Polish exiles at Oberstein, is hailed by them as the 
legitimate sovereign of that empire. She holds a 
court, issues manifestoes and proclamations. To give 
consistency to her claims, she produces the will of 
the Empress Elizabeth bequeathing her the crown, 
and, intoxicated by the grandeur of her role, in playing 
which she has acquired such prestige, she conceives 
the idea — which was the ultimate cause of her ruin — 
of sending a copy of this document to Alexis Orlof, 
the victor of the Turks at Tchesm6, *' with a ukase, 
signed Elizabeth II, instructing him to communicate 
its contents to the fleet under his command." 

Unfortunately, while engaged in composing mani- 
festoes and issuing proclamations, the Princess of All 
the Russias deigns to indulge in the Imperial luxury 
of an amorous intrigue, which, owing to an awkward 
accident, does grave harm to her reputation. One 
night a man is seen climbing over the wall of the 
house the princess inhabits. The guard, taking him 
for a robber, fires and wounds him. The next morning 
Domanski — for it is he — is found lying unconscious 
in the garden. There is a scandal which Radziwill 
endeavours in vain to hush. Domanski's explanations 
convince no one. People recall the warmth of the 
admiration he has always manifested for the princess, 
and a thousand little things which had till then seemed 
perfectly natural in their intercourse now appear 
suspicious. No one doubts that he is her lover, and 
as gallantry is always a great fault in a female 
pretender to a throne, the loss in respect which this 
incident induces gives rise to all sorts of injurious 
rumours. The proud Polish nobles and the French 
officers who have been addressing her as " Highness," 


Princess Tarakanof 

and " bowing so low in her presence that they almost 
seemed to be kneeling," now speak of her as an 
adventuress, and treat Domanski as her accomplice. 

To crown all, the firman that Radziwill has been 
daily expecting from Constantinople, like the millions 
that the Princess of Azov expected from Ispahan, 
never came. Instead, there arrives the news that 
Turkey has made peace with Russia, This event 
effectually upsets all Radziwill's plans. To continue 
to intrigue with a questionable Princess Tarakanof, 
concerning whom strange stories reach him from 
Paris, is to court ridicule as well as danger. Disgusted 
at the turn affairs have taken, he makes haste to wash 
his hands of her altogether, and returns to Germany. 

Under such circumstances there is nothing left for 
the princess but to take herself off also as quickly and 
as gracefully as possible. Accordingly, accompanied 
by Domanski and a couple of Poles, who still believe 
in her, or pretend to, she crosses over to Italy to 
continue her adventurous career as best she can. 

Thus ended the first act of the drama. 


However discouraged Domanski may have been 
on the fall of the curtain at Ragusa, the faith, at all 
events, of his heroine in the part she has played so 
cleverly is unshaken. If, as seemed only too probable, 
the Princess Tarakanof would never mount the throne 
of Peter the Great, there is, at least, nothing to pre- 
vent her from eking out a comfortable existence as the 
unrecognized and unfortunate daughter of the Czarina 
Elizabeth and her peasant husband. Moreover, as an 
H 2 99 

Daughters of Eve 

adventuress, to whom a title is essential, the role is 
congenial to her temperament ; and its glamour and 
^clat appeal to her quite apart from mere mercenary 
motives of imposture. These, indeed, had she wished 
to, want would have prevented her from ignoring. 

That her companions looked to her for guidance 
on disembarking at Barletta from the little Tunisian 
felucca in which they hastily left Ragusa, is evident 
from the tactics adopted to make two ends meet. 
They are the tactics of a Princess Aly Emettee, of 
the mysterious Persian heiress, rather than those of a 
Domanski — of the experienced adventuress accustomed 
to turn the present to account rather than of the exiled 
patriot whose schemes and intrigues are the foundations 
of future dreams. 

As the election of a successor to Pope Clement 
XIV, who had just died, was attracting immense 
numbers to Rome, it is in the direction of the 
capital of the Christian world, as a stage well adapted 
to the display of the talents of adventurers of all de- 
scriptions, that the steps of the wandering Princess 
Tarakanof naturally turn. Passing through Naples 
on her way to Rome, the accomplished adventuress, 
whose business it is to be au courant with the names 
of the most prominent persons in the various cities 
and countries through which she passes, makes the 
acquaintance of the English ambassador, the famous 
Sir William Hamilton, either on the strength of a 
genuine letter of introduction — or a forged one — pro- 
cured in Venice from Edward Wortley Montagu, or 
merely by the use of his name. 

Hamilton, who has heard of her exploit with 
Prince Radziwill in Ragusa, is sufficiently interested 


Princess Tarakanof 

to receive her when she calls. A door once opened 
to the Princess Tarakanof is afterwards seldom or 
never closed to her. Her intelligence, her exquisite 
manners, her beauty, and above all her birth, to which 
so much mystery attaches, produce their usual effect. 
" For several days she reigns like a queen in the saton 
of the ambassador, out o{ \Nh.osQ penchant for beautiful 
women she has no difficulty in wiling a passport that 
enables her to enter Rome and reside there without 
exciting the suspicion of the authorities." 

Here she finds a stage on which the personal charms 
that have served her so successfully before are no longer 
of any avail. But she is equal to the occasion. Aware 
that in Rome, where it is a question of exploiting 
cardinals and priests, piety and good works rather 
than beauty and wit are the winning cards, she 
achieves the necessary transformation with wonderful 
dexterity. Instead of courting publicity, as in Paris 
and Frankfort, she installs herself with her companions 
in a lonely palace in a secluded quarter of the city, 
where the contrast between the very modest scale on 
which her establishment is conducted and the exces- 
sive generosity she displays to the poor of the neigh- 
bourhood, while exciting the liveliest curiosity, win her 
the good opinion she desires to cultivate. In this way, 
aided, no doubt, by Domanski and the Poles in her 
suite, one of whom is an ex- Jesuit, the attention of 
Cardinal Albani, the protector of the Poles, and doyen 
of the Sacred College, is drawn to her. Informed that 
she is " the Princess Elizabeth of Muscovy and has 
come to Rome on a subject of great importance to the 
Church," he sends his secretary, the Abbe Roccatani, 
to call on her. 


Daughters of Eve 

But consumption, with which Prince Oginski had 
believed she was threatened two years before in Paris, 
had now unquestionably laid its blighting hand upon 
her. In the wake of the hectic flush in her cheeks had 
come a dry, hacking cough. She appeared so ill when 
Roccatani was admitted to her presence that he made 
as if to postpone the interview. But the moment she 
learns who he is she seems to acquire fresh strength ; 
the hopes he personifies banish fatigue and reanimate 
her flagging faculties. 

"It is true she is very ill," she says with that grace 
and dignity which always give such an irresistible charm 
to her words, " but it is imperative that the Cardinal 
should be informed of the passions which are fer- 
menting in Poland, which, if she lives six months, 
will recover its former frontiers. Catherine will be 
fortunate if she keeps St. Petersburg and the Baltic 

Although unfavourably prepossessed against the 
" foreign lady " whose charities he believes mask some 
design on the Cardinal's purse, Roccatani is much im- 
pressed by her grand air ; perceiving which she speaks 
of her correspondence with Orlof, and the Sultan, and 
professes to have numerous partisans in Russia, and 
even at the Imperial Court. To hear her, " Panine 
was a creature of her mother's and attached to her at 
bottom, though her position rendered it difficult for 
him to declare himself at present." And to support 
what she says, she once more produces the will of the 
Czarina Elizabeth. Nor does she fail, realizing it is 
a Jesuit with whom she has to deal, to give him to 
understand that she desires to be converted, " that 
once on the throne she may do the Church a service 


Princess Tarakanof 

which she regards as her mission in life and the glory 
of her reign." 

As for the money that Roccatani expects her to ask 
him for, she tells him that " My Lord Montagu is 
raising a loan for her in Venice which she expects to 
receive any day." With such a trout as a Cardinal 
Albani nibbling round her hook a Princess of Muscovy 
cannot angle too carefully. 

Roccatani leaves her in astonishment. If she is 
not what she claims to be, she must at least be some 
great lady in distress. He is confirmed in this im- 
pression by a certain Pere Linday, formerly a soldier 
in the Russian army, who assures him " that he had 
seen the princess of whom he spoke, and recognized 
her as the wife of the Grand Duke of Oldenburo^, 
whom he had often seen in St. Petersburg during the 
reign of the late Czar Peter III." But Roccatani is 
very cautious, and, acting on his advice, Cardinal Albani 
only sends her a polite letter in which he " wishes her 
enterprise success, if right is on her side." 

The princess, however, is not the woman to be 
discouraged by such coldness. If the Cardinal is not 
to be caught, Roccatani may still serve to put her in 
contact with others more easily exploited. 

She continues to communicate with him, and suc- 
ceeds by his means in making the acquaintance of 
the Marquis d'Antici, the Polish ambassador in Rome, 
with whom she has "a secret interview in a church." 
Antici, believing he has to do with " a natural daughter 
of Elizabeth, tries to convince her that she has no 
chance of mounting the throne of Russia, and offers to 
provide her with the means of finding an asylum in 


Daughters of Eve 


As long as it is only a question of finding benevo- 
lent listeners to a romantic story, the false princess is 
heard with interest, but her powers of persuasion fail 
when she asks for assistance. Accustomed hitherto to 
spend money without counting the cost, she is now 
reduced to practise the strictest economy. The luxury 
of giving alms to the poor by which she had attracted 
attention has to be abandoned. To raise the money 
she so badly needs she has recourse to the expedient 
of selling diplomas of Limburg titles, of which she had 
obtained a stock from the duke with an eye to future 

But in a city where Papal titles are cheap, pur- 
chasers are scarce. The wolf howls daily at the door. 
Creditors become threatening, and the servants inso- 
lently demand their wages. The poor Poles who have 
followed her fortunes desert her ; only Domanski, whom 
she has drained of all he possessed, remains, more 
infatuated than ever, tortured by her hacking cough 
and hectic flush and the suffering they denote which 
he is powerless to alleviate. But though desperately 
ill and broken, the brilliant and accomplished creature, 
mere girl that she is, does not lose courage. Through 
it all she still wears the same proud and majestic air 
that has commanded so much admiration, imposed on 
so much credulity, and is now all that is left of the 
high pretensions to which she lays claim. 

Occasionally she hints tentatively to Roccatani 
of a loan — for a Princess of All the Russias cannot 
descend so low as to ask for alms — but the Abbe, who 
has observed her increasing distress and is greatly 
impressed by her pride, takes fright at the mere 
suggestion. At last, confronted with starvation, she 


{From an old print) 

\Tofnce p. 105 

Princess Tarakanof 

bethinks herself of appeaHng to the generosity of 
Sir WilHam Hamilton. But even now the actress is 
true to her art. She writes him a letter as if she were 
conferring a favour instead of asking one. She is, 
she says, about to go to Turkey, and desires to 
contract a loan, offering as security the revenues of 
her estate at Oberstein, and requesting at the same 
time an introduction to the English ambassador at 

Hamilton, who had fallen under her spell, does not 
hesitate to render her the service she asks ; but as the 
sum she names is a large one he sends her letter to 
one of his friends, John Dick, the English consul at 
Leghorn and also a banker in that city, to arrange the 
matter. This act, though kindly meant, gives the 
unfortunate creature her coup de grace. 


That the Empress Catherine should remain 
ignorant of the existence of a woman who was plotting 
to usurp her throne was of course impossible. It 
was not, however, until after the suppression of the 
Pugatchef rebellion that she gave much thought to 
the matter. Hitherto, the numerous pretenders who 
sprang up and disappeared like mushrooms had only 
excited her contempt, but after the fright Pugatchef 
had given her she was determined to treat any attempt 
to imitate him with the most rigorous severity. 
Consequently, when Alexis Orlof sent to inform her of 
the letter he had received from a woman who claimed 
to be the daughter of the Czarina Elizabeth and of 
her intrigues with Prince Radziwill and the Porte, 


Daughters of Eve 

Catherine ordered him to proceed to Ragusa with some 
vessels of his fleet to demand her extradition, and 
" to throw two or three bombs into the town if the 
senate of the Httle repubHc dared to refuse." In fine, 
the Empress considered no price too great to pay for 
the discovery and capture of the person who claimed 
to be the daughter of Elizabeth Petrowna. 

To execute such an order no man was better fitted 
than Alexis Orlof. It was to him, more than to any 
one, that Catherine owed her throne. He it was who 
instructed her what to do on the morning of the 
revolution that proclaimed her Empress of All the 
Russias, and who afterwards, with her consent if not 
by her orders, with his own hands, " which could bend 
a horse-shoe or tie a poker in a knot," strangled her 
miserable husband, Peter III, in the dungeon at 
Ropscha in which she had confined him. Like all the 
Orlofs, he was a man of heroic build and superb looks, 
the primitive beauty of which an enormous scar 
running from the corner of the mouth to the ear, the 
result of a quarrel in his youth, failed to efface. As a 
reward for his services Catherine had covered him 
with honours and riches. In 1768, on the outbreak of 
the war with Turkey, she gave him the command 
of the Russian fleet in the Archipelago. Orlof had 
neither evinced, nor did he ever develop, a talent to 
justify such a promotion ; but he had the good sense 
to be guided entirely by Elphinstone and Gregg, two 
English naval officers who had joined the Russian 
service. It was to them that he owed the great naval 
victory at Tchesme, of which he won all the glory, 
when the entire Turkish fleet was destroyed. This 
event still further increased his importance. On his 


Princess Tarakanof 

return to St. Petersburg he entirely eclipsed all others 
at Court. Catherine gave him the most marked 
proofs of her esteem, and conferred on him, by an 
Imperial ukase, the additional surname of Tchesmenski. 
"The Tshernishofs," wrote a Frenchman who often 
saw him at this time at the Winter Palace, " scarcely 
dare lift their heads. . . . Catherine venerates, loves, 
and fears him. ... In fine, Alexis Orlof may be 
looked upon as the master of Russia." 

His undisciplined character was, however, unable 
to support the weight of a fortune of such magnitude. 
Intoxicated by the rapidity and ease with which it had 
been acquired, he gave the rein to his passions, 
which were primitive and uncultured. He loved 
pomp. At reviews and parades he appeared covered 
with gold, diamonds and decorations. In his palace 
at Moscow he gave fabulous feasts at which more than 
three hundred people would sit down. When he 
travelled it was like a satrap, astonishing everybody 
with his Asiatic luxury. Extravagance was the hall- 
mark, so to speak, of all his actions. To furnish an 
artist, whom the Empress had commissioned to paint 
some pictures representing the victory of the Russians 
at Tchesme, with the means of depicting with greater 
truth the destruction of the Turkish fleet, Orlof did 
not hesitate to blow up a ship for his benefit, regardless 
of the risk of firing all the vessels in the harbour 
of Leghorn, which was the scene of this amazing 

To his audacity there was no limit. In his quarrels 
with Catherine, who suffered him, perhaps because of 
the secret part she had played in her husband's murder, 
to treat her with outrageous licence, " his thundering 


Daughters of Eve 

voice made the palace windows rattle." Once at a 
supper-party at the Russian ambassador's in Vienna, 
he even turned the conversation on the revolution that 
had cost Peter III his throne and life ; and when no 
one dared to put the least question concerning the 
death of the unfortunate Czar, Orlof related it of his 
own accord. Perceiving the shudder of horror he 
excited, he was base enough to seek to excuse himself 
of the crime he had committed by implying that it was 
the Empress by whom "he was forced to do what 
he had been commanded." That his conscience was 
not easily alarmed is proved by his conduct on the 
exhumation thirty-four years later of the body of 
Peter III. Ordered by the Emperor Paul " to remain 
the whole night with the corpse in the church of the 
Citadel of Petersburg, Alexis went through this 
function and likewise assisted at the funeral with 
perfect composure." 

Given over to debauchery and utterly devoid of 
scruple, there was no infamy, no perfidy, of which he 
was incapable. For him, women existed only to be 
seduced. Many, fascinated by his gigantic figure, his 
martial air, heightened by the scar across his handsome 
face, which was popularly supposed to have been 
gained in battle, and by his insinuating manners, had 
been the victims of his brutal lust. In fine, as the 
Princess Dashkof told Diderot, " the Orlof who is 
known as " le Balafr^ " [from the scar on his cheek] " is 
one of the biggest scoundrels on the face of the 

As the recent fall from favour of his brother 
Gregory, the celebrated lover of Catherine, had 
robbed Alexis of his former importance, the violence 


Princess Tarakanof 

of his nature led many to believe that he might be 
induced to conspire against the Empress. It was on 
the strength of these rumours that the Princess Tara- 
kanof had appealed to him at Ragusa. But Alexis 
Orlof, like his brother, had sense enough to realize that 
the day of his supremacy in Russia was over. Interest, 
if not gratitude for all the favours Catherine had heaped 
upon him and still permitted him to enjoy, made him 
more anxious than ever to serve her. 

As commanded by the Empress, he proceeded at 
once to Ragusa, but the bird had already flown. He 
was told that she was at Paros " spending much money, 
and having a ship of war at her disposal." But the 
lady he took for the pretender turned out to be a 
" marchande de modes to the harem of the Sultan." 
Information received from other quarters proved on 
investigation to be equally deceptive. In spite of the 
agents he had searching for her in all quarters, no trace 
of her was to be found anywhere. She had vanished 
as completely as if she were a ghost, and Orlof had 
begun to despair of finding her, when he suddenly 
received from John Dick at Leghorn the letter of Sir 
William Hamilton. 

Having found her, it now became a question of 
getting possession of her. This, it was evident at 
once, was only to be effected by kidnapping, for Rome 
was not Ragusa, into which one could "throw two or 
three bombs." In the eighteenth century kidnapping 
was of such common occurrence that the practice 
developed into an art. Orlof was no novice at laying 
traps for women, and, as in the case of Madeleine 
Morelli, the ingenuous poetess whom he seduced after 
she had been crowned at the Capitol with the laurels 


Daughters of Eve 

of Petrarch and Tasso, the trap he laid for the 
Princess Tarakanof was a masterpiece of infamy. 

Remaining at Pisa, where he was spending the 
winter, Orlof despatches one of his aides-de-camp, 
named Kristenek, to Rome to inform the princess that 
he has received the document she has sent him from 
Ragusa, and that he is anxious to pay homage to one 
whose fate and fortunes are of such importance to all 
her countrymen. The condition in which Kristenek 
finds her is pitiable. Disease and hunger between 
them have wasted her to a shadow. The room in 
which she receives him is cold and bare ; its only 
furniture consists of "a leather sofa on which she lay 
in a high fever, coughing convulsively." Domanski, 
who attends her, is almost in rags. Both seem to 
have lost all confidence in themselves and all hope in 
the future. 

The very despair, however, of the princess makes 
her suspicious of Kristenek. But he is persistent in 
his visits, and necessity having forced her to accept 
from him some assistance, it is not long before he 
appears " in the light of a saviour whom Heaven had 
sent to her deliverance." When he thinks he has 
sufficiently gained her confidence he declares that 
Orlof has commissioned him to offer her the throne that 
had been filled by her mother, and that the time is 
ripe for the revolution which Orlof, who can never 
forgive Catherine for her ingratitude to him and his 
brother, has prepared. He entreats her to go to Pisa, 
where the climate is much milder than at Rome, 
to take care of her health which is so precious to 
Russia and to confer with his master. And to give the 
greater weight to his words, he informs her that he 

I lO 

Princess Tarakanof 

is commanded to place at her disposal the sum of 
I i,ooo ducats. 

This offer, so unlooked for and so maofnificent, 
completes the deception. The adventuress, whom 
experience should have taught to detect treachery, is 
the more easily deluded by her own deceit. She has 
identified herself so thoroughly with her part that she 
now actually imagines herself destined for the throne, 
and the very similarity between Kristenek's alluring 
proposals and her own opinions only serve to en- 
courage the notion. In vain does Domanski, who 
suspects the trap, urge her not to go to Pisa. "If 
you are afraid, remain," she tells him ; "as for me, I 
shall go where my destiny calls me." 

With fortune, hope and health alike return. Be- 
fore leaving Rome she pays her debts and revenges 
herself on the astonished Roccatani, who had beheld her 
distress without relieving it, by making him a hand- 
some present. On February ii, 1775, she departs 
with great pomp, accompanied as in the past by 
a numerous suite, and distributing alms lavishly to the 
poor who flock round her carriage. 

At Pisa, Orlof receives her as if she were already 
his sovereign. He refuses to be seated in her presence, 
gives numerous fetes in her honour, permits none to 
approach her but persons on whose devotion he can 
rely, and accompanies her in public wherever she 
goes. He neglects nothing that is likely to fan her 
ambition or flatter her vanity. During the Carnival 
she receives mysterious letters in which she is ad- 
dressed as" Empress of All the Russias." His atten- 
dants, following his example, also pay her court ; and 
Kristenek entreats her to get Orlof to promote him to 

1 1 1 

Daughters of Eve 

the grade of captain, a favour that is granted at her 

Past-master in the art of seduction, Orlof tinges the 
respect with which he treats her with sentiment, and 
feigning to be dazzled by her charms, finally assumes 
the role of a passionate adorer. This semblance of 
passion, skilfully charged with bitter complaints of 
Catherine, whom he taxes with the grossest ingrati- 
tude, inspires in her a true one ; and when he entreats 
her to marry him, she willingly consents to share with 
him the empire he proposes to conquer for her. 
Domanski, whose suspicions, in spite of Orlof s efforts 
to dispel them, have been fostered by his jealousy, con- 
tinues to warn her in vain. Intoxicated by the sudden 
and brilliant reappearance of fortune, the ill-starred 
adventuress pursues it recklessly down the fatal slope 
which leads to ruin. 

At the very moment when the squadron, in obedi- 
ence to Orlof's instructions, arrives at Leghorn to 
convey his victim to Russia, two of his accomplices, 
"disguised as priests of the Greek Church," perform the 
ceremony which unites her to him. To entice her to 
Leghorn, he proposes to celebrate his mock marriage 
with a sham-fight in her honour. At his request, Dick, 
the British consul, who was afterwards handsomely re- 
warded by Catherine for his share in this discreditable 
affair, puts his house at her disposal, and gives a ban- 
quet in her honour to which the chief people in Leghorn 
are invited The next morning after breakfast, Mrs. 
Dick suggests a visit to the fleet. The princess readily 
consents. Nothing, she declares, will afford her greater 
pleasure than to see "her beautiful Russian ships." 

The necessary orders are immediately given. 

I 12 

Princess Tarakanof 

Domanski warns her for the last time, but she 
silences him with a look of disdain. She embarks in 
the Admiral's launch with Mrs. Dick, Orlof, and 
Domanski, who will not leave her, in sight of an im- 
mense concourse of people who have lined the shore 
to witness the sham-fight. As the boat approaches the 
flag-ship The Three Hierarchs, it is received with 
music, a salvo of artillery and cries of '' Long live the 
Empress ! " which she believes meant for her. A 
splendid chair is let down from the yard-arm in which 
she is hoisted on deck, where the veil is rudely torn 
from her eyes. Instead of the homage she expects to 
receive she is instandy handcuffed and confined in a 
cabin, while Domanski, who has drawn his sword, is 
disarmed and likewise made a prisoner. 

In vain she implores the pity of the man she still 
believes to be her husband. He has disappeared and 
she never sees him again. To calm her they tell her 
he, too, is a prisoner, whereupon she faints away. The 
next day, her papers and maid having been put on 
board, the ship sails for Cronstadt under the command 
of Sir Samuel Gregg. To extenuate as far as he can 
his share in this despicable business, the brilliant 
Englishman who had won for Russia the battle of 
Tchesme, of which Orlof took the credit, treats his 
prisoner with every consideration. He gives up his 
cabin to her, allows her to be waited on by her maid, 
suffers her to come on deck, where she passes the 
weary days in silent and sombre contemplation of the 
sea. To cheer her, he even hints that Orlof will find 
some means to rescue her. When the ship approaches 
the English coast she seems to revive, but learning 
from a word dropped in her hearing how she has been 
I 113 

Dauehters of Eve 


duped and betrayed by Orlof she sinks into a swoon. 
On cominof to her senses she makes an effort in a fit 
of despair to fling herself overboard, only to be stopped 
by those who watch her. Gregg, who had little taste 
for the part of gaoler, afterwards wrote to Orlof that 
" he had never had a more painful task," 

Finally, on May ii, 1775, after a voyage of two 
months, The Three Hierarchs arrives at Cronstadt, and 
the prisoner is immediately conveyed under a strong 
guard to St, Petersburg, where, from a barred window 
in the gloomy fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul, she 
looks for the first time upon the capital of the empire 
over which she had dared to dream of reigning. 


The next day Prince Galitzin, the Grand Chancellor, 
in obedience to the instructions he has received from 
Catherine, who has been kept au courant with all 
the details of the plot to entrap the pretender, 
examines the prisoner. When she sees him she asks 
him haughtily " by what right and for what crime " she 
had been deprived of her liberty, and, manifesting the 
liveliest indignation at the manner in which she is 
treated, she tells, without waiting to be questioned, 
the story of her life. It is the same as that already 
related, coloured cleverly to make her appear a 

Of her origin, the most important detail of all, she 
professes total ignorance, though the character of the 
mystery in which it is shrouded induces her to believe 
that she was born in Russia of illustrious parents. 
Prince Radziwill had assured her that she was the 



{^Afte?- Rosseliii) 

[To /ace p. 115 

Princess Tarakanof 

daughter of the Czarina Elizabeth. As to the will of 
the Empress, she had received it at Ragusa without 
knowing where it came from, and it was merely in the 
hope of learning something definite of her birth that 
she had sent a copy to Orlof, who had confirmed all 
that Radziwill had told her. She denies that she ever 
attempted to foment disturbance in Russia, or enter- 
tained any of the pretensions imputed to her, from 
which she concludes that she has been the involuntary 
tool of some political intrigue. 

Galitzin is so impressed by the tone of conviction 
with which she speaks that he consents to attach to his 
report a letter in which she demands an audience of 
the Empress. She is able, she says, to be of great 
service to Russia, and to dispel at the same time the 
misunderstanding of which she is the victim. She 
even dares to sign the letter " Elizabeth," as if she 
were addressing an equal. 

But such effrontery only serves to exasperate 
Catherine against her the more. " The impudence of 
the wretch," she replies to Galitzin, "is beyond all 
bounds. She must be mad. Tell her if she wishes 
any amelioration of her lot to cease the comedy she is 

To force her to confess she is an impostor, Galitzin 
is ordered to treat her with the utmost rigour if neces- 
sary. He questions her again, but she persists in the 
mystery of her birth and refuses to brand herself as an 
impostor. She is deprived of her maid, stripped of her 
clothing, surrounded night and day by warders who 
watch her without speaking, and finally placed in a 
cell underground with bread and water for diet. There 
are some natures whose resolve is only strengthened 

12 115 

Daughters of Eve 

by punishment. The prisoner treats her tormentors 
with unutterable disdain. 

The Empress, more and more irritated by such 
stubborn resistance, goes to the length of drawing up 
with her own hand a list of questions calculated to trap 
her victim into the confession she desires. The result 
is the same. In the meantime she has agents scouring 
Europe for traces of the adventuress. The English 
ambassador in St. Petersburg informs her that " the 
unknown is the daughter of an innkeeper at Prague." 
But when Galitzin tries to confound his prisoner with 
this information, " she indignantly denies ever having 
been in Prague in her life, and swears if she knew who 
slandered her she would scratch out his eyes." 

Nor is the secret to be torn from Domanski, 
though offered his liberty if he will reveal her origin 
and designs. He declares that he knows nothing of 
either. Galitzin, who has " remarked his passionate 
attachment to the prisoner," tempts him with the hope 
of marrying her. This, too, fails. Domanski knows 
nothing, and is even willing to spend the rest of his 
life in prison if permitted to marry her. His senti- 
ments, however, are not shared by the unfortunate 
object of his devotion. " She smiled strangely when 
I repeated what he said," reports Galitzin, "and 
declared that the fellow was a fool." 

The despotism of Catherine is not more inflexible 
than the will of the frail creature whose secret not 
even the promise of pardon can extort from her. But 
though her will is not to be broken, her health com- 
pletely gives way. In this bullying business the only 
progress that is made is in the disease of the lungs from 
which she has always suffered. In the damp under- 


Princess Tarakanof 

ground dungeon in which she is imprisoned its stride 
is rapid. The doctors sent to examine her — for the 
Empress does not wish her to die while there is a 
chance of her confessing the secret she guards so 
jealously — declare that she has but a few days to live 
if the severity with which she is treated continues. 
This obtains for her some slight relaxation of a con- 
finement which Galitzin himself declares is " rigorous 
beyond a doubt." 

But her days are numbered. At the end of 
summer, worn out by incessant coughing, repeated 
haemorrhages, and mental anguish, she begins to fade 
rapidly. There are days when her gaolers expect her 
to die at any moment. In this feeble condition she 
once more begs permission to write to Catherine. 
On this occasion her letter is couched in the most 
humble and pathetic language. Her condition, she 
declares, "makes Nature shudder," and she implores 
the Empress to examine her in person. But to this 
pitiful appeal no reply is vouchsafed. 

On November 30 she begs that a priest of the 
Greek Church may be sent to her. She feels she is 
dying and wishes to confess. The Empress herself 
chooses the priest ; and " has an interview with him 
beforehand that lasts a whole hour." 

He is received meekly at first, but his attempts to 
extricate the mysterious secret of the pretender's origin 
are at once cut short. " Say the prayers for the dead," 
moaned the dying girl, " that is all there is for you to 
do here." Finally, on December 4, 1775, Galitzin 
reports to the Empress that " the woman confined 
since May 12 is dead." 


Daughters of Eve 

And this secret which she carried with her to the 
grave, what was it ? That there was a secret, it seems 
impossible to doubt ; from her accompHshments, her 
education, her manners, it is evident that she was no 
vulgar adventuress, no Prague innkeeper's daughter. 
It is quite possible that she told the truth when she 
declared that she did not know her origin. Whatever 
the motives that led her to pass as the daughter of 
Elizabeth and Razumovski, she had been so accus- 
tomed to think of herself as a princess that at last she 
actually believed she was one. If, as Prosper Merim6e 
imagines, her persistency in refusing to confess herself 
an impostor, by which she would probably have 
obtained kind treatment in prison, is to be attributed 
to a mind deranged by all she had suffered at the 
hands of Orlof, the immense importance the Empress 
evidently attached to her confession would only have 
served to foster her delusion. 

But what is still more remarkable, Catherine herself 
in the end seems to have come to the same conclusion. 
Aware as she was of Elizabeth's rumoured offspring, 
the spectacle of this weak creature, whose will no torture 
or hardship could break, might easily have created the 
impression that she was, perhaps, after all, the person 
she supposed herself Even Pugatchef had confessed 
he was an impostor before he died. Eight years after 
her death, when the French ambassador, on behalf 
of Marine, who, it will be remembered, had lent 
the Princess of Vlodomir 52,000 livres in Paris 
in 1772, made inquiries concerning her, "he was 
stopped at the first word." The princess in question, 
he was told, was dead, and her creditors paid, and 
Marine had only to send in his account for it to be 


Princess Tarakanof 

settled. At the same time Catherine was refusing to 
pay the debts her son by Gregory Orlof had contracted, 
likewise in Paris ! 

The same secrecy, too, was manifested in the 
official reports dealing with the imprisonment of the 
Princess Tarakanof, which were discovered after 
Catherine's death in the Imperial archives. Accord- 
ing to them she was buried "deeply" in the court- 
yard of the keep in which she had been confined ; 
the soldiers who dug her grave were sworn to secrecy, 
as well as the governor of the fortress, the gaolers, 
judges, doctors and priests — all, in fact, who had 
approached her during her imprisonment. 

This secrecy, however, only served to deepen the 
mystery of both her origin and her fate. The year 
following her reported death rumours were current 
in Moscow that "a very important and mysterious 
personage had been brought from St. Petersburg and 
confined in the Novo Speski convent under the name of 
Sister Dosithee." It was openly said that she was the 
Princess Tarakanof. A portrait, said to be hers, was 
discovered in the convent half a century later. 

Another rumour, which has developed with time 
into a sort of legend that has often inspired poets, 
novelists and artists in Russia, is that to which 
Flavitzky has given expression in his famous canvas, 
reproduced at the beginning of this article, depicting 
a young and beautiful woman being drowned in the 
dungeon of a fortress in which she is imprisoned by the 
sudden inundation of the Neva that occurred in 1777. 

That she paid dearly for her dream is undeniable. 
The cruelty of which she was the victim was purely 
gratuitous. Had she attempted to proclaim her right 


Daughters of Eve 


to the throne of Russia, she undoubtedly deserved 
to be punished. But when Orlof entrapped her 
she was Hving in obscurity in Rome, too poor and 
helpless for her claims or existence to be worth 
notice. In Leghorn, where Orlof 's treacherous con- 
duct was at once discovered, the indignation it 
aroused was such that he informed Catherine "his life 
was no longer in safety." But if the Grand Duke of 
Tuscany, as reported, complained to Catherine of the 
outrage he certainly got no reply. 

Catherine was not naturally cruel or revengeful, 
but she was utterly without mercy to all who in any 
way dared to threaten the stability of the throne she 
had mounted over the body of her husband. The 
crimes that sullied her reputation were very few, but 
they were monstrous. It was not for nothing that 
Catherine the Great was also sometimes styled the 
Messalina of the North. 

1 20 








{After I -an Bleeck) 

{To face p. 123 

" For the Colonel's lady an' Judy O'Grady 
Are sisters under their skins ! " 

RuDVARD Kipling : " The Ladies." 




Nature, in her supreme indifference to man and his 
pretensions, is constantly upsetting his most elaborate 
calculations and overriding his most cherished con- 
ventions. A favourite way of expressing this colossal 
contempt is to endow members of one class of society 
with the attributes popularly supposed to belong exclu- 
sively to another. Thus, in defiance of the so-called 
laws of eugenics and heredity, to which certain people 
attach so much importance, we often see aristocrats 
of long descent moulded of the commonest clay, while 
genius, beauty, chivalry, and charm, all of the highest 
order, are as frequently discovered among the poorest, 
the most illiterate, and most degraded. 

Peg Woffington is a case in point. Like the 
Empress Theodora, Madame Du Barry, and Lady 
Hamilton — to name three of a countless number — 
this most adorable of magdalens and most lovable of 
actresses, who gave to the grandes dames she imper- 
sonated a bel air that was at once the envy and 
despair of real grandes dames who sought in vain to 
imitate it, sprang from the dregs of humanity. 


Daughters of Eve 

Her origin was such as would puzzle a herald or 
antiquarian to trace. The date of her birth is equally 
uncertain; it took place somewhere about 1720 in 
Dublin, probably in George's Court, Dame Street, one 
of the most squalid slums of the city. It has even 
been stated that her real name was Murphy, and 
that that of Woffington was adopted later by the 
actress for stage purposes. This statement, though 
based apparently on nothing more substantial than 
supposition, is by no means improbable. There is at 
least no record of the name of Woffington in this form 
having been borne before or since. 

According to all accounts, which under the circum- 
stances are naturally very meagre, her father was a 
journeyman bricklayer, whose steady and industrious 
habits, coupled with his wife's frugality, enabled him 
during his life to maintain his family in some degree 
of comfort and decency. The fact that " he sent Peg 
when she was five to a school kept by an old woman 
in the neighbourhood " suggests that he was fairly 
prosperous in his humble sphere. Whatever money 
he managed to save, however, was consumed during 
a long illness, to which he succumbed when Peg was 
about nine or ten years of age, and the poverty in 
which he died was so great that he was buried at 
the expense of the parish. 

To support herself and her two children, the 
youngest of whom was "a babe at the breast," his 
widow turned washerwoman, " being by her make 
and constitution well fitted for that business," in pur- 
suing which she was assisted by Peg, who used to 
fetch and carry back the linen given her mother to 
wash. Whether out of compassion for the poor 


Peg Woffington 

woman or the interest her Httle handmaiden excited 
in the students of Trinity College, who were among 
her patrons, Mrs. Woffington was enabled after a 
short time to start a small huckster's shop on Ormond 
Quay. But this new venture, either owing to bad 
management, or hard times, proved a failure. In 
spite of all her eftbrts she was more than once evicted 
from her home for non-payment of rent, and finally 
forced to sell watercress in the streets. In this, too, 
she was assisted by her daughter, and years later, 
when the latter was a famous actress, there were 
many in Dublin who remembered to have seen the 
"lovely Peggy with a dish upon her head and with- 
out shoes on her delicate feet crying through College 
Green: "All these fine young salads for a ha'penny, 
all for a ha'penny." 

It was at this juncture, when her mother's fortunes 
were at their lowest, that the child met with an adven- 
ture that was destined to prove the hinge on which her 
whole future career turned. 


In the early part of the eighteenth century, the Irish 
stage was regarded as scarcely second in importance 
to the English. Many of the best actors and actresses 
were of Irish birth, and it was in Ireland that some 
of the most successful plays were first produced. To 
acquire a reputation in Dublin was a guarantee of a 
triumph in London. 

The principal theatres in the Irish capital were 
the Theatre Royal in Aungier Street, and the Smock 
Alley Theatre in Smock Alley. The former was 


Daughters of Eve 

patronized chiefly by "Castle" and fashionable society, 
while the latter catered to the cruder taste of the 
middle classes. In addition to these two play-houses 
there were several small places of entertainment, of 
which Violante's Booth situated in Fownes Court, 
near College Green, was for a time the most popular. 
It derived its name from a certain Madame Violante, 
as she called herself, a dancer on the tight-rope of 
French or Italian origin, who after a successful 
season in London arrived in Dublin about 1728 with 
a troupe of acrobats, of which she was herself the 
most conspicuous member. Among the feats of 
daring with which she delighted the lovers of che 
dangerous she was accustomed to cross the stage 
of her booth, from one end to the other, on a tight- 
rope, with a basket containing an infant attached to 
each foot. Peg Woffington is reported to have been 
one of these infants whose life was thus imperilled ; 
but as Madame Violante's first appearance in Dublin 
was not earlier than 1728, when Peg would have been 
at least eight years old, if either of the "infants" 
appended to the feet of the rope-dancer was a 
Woffington it must have been Peg's sister Mary, 
who was at this time not yet a year old.^ 

This form of amusement did not, however, prove 
a success, and Madame Violante, being as enterprising 
as she was acrobatic, conceived the idea of training 
a company of children to perform pieces in which 
singing and dancing would be the principal features. 

^ On her death in 181 1, Mary Woffington, afterwards the 
Honourable Mrs. Cholmondeley, was said to be eighty-three. She 
must, therefore, have been born some time in 1728, the year in 
which Violante is reported to have arrived in Dublin. 


Peg Woffington 

Among the children she selected for this purpose 
was Peg Woffington, who is said to have attracted 
her attention one day as she was fetching water 
from the Liffey for her mother. The fact that all 
the other members of her juvenile troupe subse- 
quently made their mark on the stage, speaks as 
much for her powers of discernment as for the pains 
she took to train them. 

She was equally fortunate in the piece she selected 
for the opening performance. This was The Beggars 
Opera, which was then the rage in London. Though 
its fame had crossed the Channel, it had not yet, 
strange to say, been seen in Dublin. Peg, whom the 
discerning Violante had cast for the role of Polly 
Peachum, the heroine of the piece, more than justified 
the choice. Mere child though she was, she was 
fully alive to the importance of the part assigned to 
her, and, notwithstanding the nervousness she dis- 
played when the curtain rose, the little creature's 
sense of responsibility came to her rescue and 
enabled her to realize all that was expected of her. 
The applause she received, far from turning her head, 
only stimulated her desire to please ; and did not 
prevent her when the performance was over from 
helping her mother, who was permitted to sell 
oranges to the audience, to carry home the empty 
baskets or any fruit that remained. Indeed, through- 
out her entire career Peg Woffington was entirely 
free from the vanity to which the members of the 
theatrical profession are so prone. 

Thanks to the great pains she had taken in the 
training of her company, Madame Violante's venture 
was an immediate success. " The novelty of the 


Daughters of Eve 

sight," says Hitchcock, "the uncommon abilities of 
the Httle performers, and the great merit of the piece 
attracted the notice of the town to an extraordinary 
degree." All Dublin came to the booth in Fownes 
Court to see the juvenile actors, including the Viceroy. 
Other plays were acted with equal success, and, em- 
boldened by the encouragement she received, Madame 
Violante transformed her booth into a regular theatre. 
But the popularity of her little troupe excited the 
jealousy of the Smock Alley company, whose audiences 
fell off as Violante's increased, and they eventually 
succeeded in procuring from the mayor an order com- 
pelling her to close her theatre, on the ground that it 
infringed some ancient privilege that had been granted 
them. The suppression, however, of the Lilliputians, 
as they were termed, was of short duration. The 
public, incensed at the injunction which deprived them 
of so popular a form of entertainment, subscribed the 
money to erect a special theatre for their favourites in 
Rainsford Street, beyond the pale of the mayor's 
jurisdiction, where Madame Violante and her troupe 
entered on a fresh career of prosperity. 

After a couple of years of popularity, however, the 
Rainsford Street audiences fell off. Madame Violante 
held out as long as she could, but finding the luck 
against her she was finally obliged to relinquish the 
management of the theatre altogether. Her former 
pupils then endeavoured to run it on their own 
account, but their efforts were doomed to failure, and, 
after a short struggle to keep their heads above water, 
the juvenile company was obliged to disband. 

It is an ill wind, however, that blows nobody any 
good, as little Peg soon discovered. Thanks to the 


Peg Woffington 

great interest Madame Violante had taken in her, she 
had acquired an excellent knowledge of French, which 
was of great use to her in after life, and above all an 
ease of deportment that, coupled with the native grace 
and symmetry of her figure, gave such an air of dis- 
tinction to her movements as to strike all who beheld 
her with admiration, and a certain Charles Coffey in 
particular. Originally a schoolmaster with a passion 
for the stage, from which he was debarred by physical 
deformity, he had turned playwright. Two of his 
pieces, The Beggar s Wedding, an imitation of Gay's 
Beggar s Opera, and The Devil to Pay, had been pro- 
duced in London with great success. In the latter 
the famous Kitty Clive — then known as Miss Raftor 
— had won her first triumph in the part of Nell. The 
success his work had met with in England made 
Coffey anxious to repeat it in his own country, where 
he was still a prophet without honour. As Madame 
Violante's efforts were limited to the reproduction of 
such pieces as had previously acquired popularity, 
Coffey had no difficulty in persuading her to perform 
The Devil to Pay. Peg, as usual, was given the 
principal part, in which Miss Raftor — destined to be 
her greatest enemy and rival — had made her hit. 
Trained by Coffey, who was eager that his piece 
should be a success in his native town, the con- 
scientious child applied herself with a right good will 
to help him to win the triumph he desired. Coffey 
was so delighted at the sensation she created that he 
regarded her as a prodigy, and assisted her to the 
best of his ability to develop her talent. This, by the 
time the Lilliputians were disbanded, was so well 
recognized in the theatrical world of Dublin that 
K 129 

Daughters of Eve 

Thomas Elrington, manager of the Theatre Royal, 
engaged her to sing and dance between the acts — a 
custom observed in all theatres in those days — in 
company with two Frenchmen. 

But Peg's previous training and triumphs had 
awakened her ambition. She wished to do some- 
thing more than dance, and pleaded hard to be given 
a part, no matter how small. Elrington, however, 
long refused to gratify her ; he feared she was too 
young, for one thing, for an audience to take seriously, 
and unkindest cut of all, with a brogue so pronounced 
as hers, he doubted whether there was a future for her 
on the stage at all ! Deeply mortified, but not dis- 
couraged, the child studied harder than ever to 
assimilate all that she could pick up from Madame 
Violante and Coffey, but try as she would she fortun- 
ately could not quite conquer the brogue which, in 
spite of Elrington, proved one of her most alluring 
attractions in the days to come. 

Opportunities, however, always come sooner or 
later to the ambitious, and Peg's came in true stage 
fashion. Two days before the production of Hamlet 
at the Theatre Royal, the actress who was to play 
Ophelia was taken seriously ill. For some reason or 
other the part had not been understudied, and Elring- 
ton, at a loss to find any one to take her place at such 
short notice, was on the point of announcing the post- 
ponement of the tragedy when Peg, who saw her 
chance, volunteered to step into the breach. She 
must, no doubt, have convinced him that willingness 
was not the only qualification she possessed, but as the 
bookings for the performance, which had been well 
advertised, were unusually heavy, Elrington on this 


Peg Woffington 

occasion probably did not require much pressing. His 
consent obtained, Peg set to work with energy to study 
her role. As she had an excellent memory, she quickly 
learnt her lines, but she was greatly concerned about 
her appearance, the dress she was obliged to wear 
being much too big for her. On recalling the event 
afterwards she was wont to say in her lively way that 
when the curtain rose she " felt Ophelia all over." 
However, the consciousness that her future depended 
on the use she made of her opportunity acted as a 
spur, and her interpretation of the role was greatly 

Henceforth she ceased to dance between the acts, 
for Elrington, as pleased as he was astonished at her 
reception, at once gave her a tangible proof of his 
esteem by enrolling her in his company at a salary of 
thirty shillings a week. She was at this time about 
sixteen. At first she was given old women's parts, 
but the talent she displayed as Mrs. Peachum in The 
Beggar s Opera and Mother Midnight in Farquhar's 
Twin Rivals, induced Elrington to cast her for the 
principal role in every play he produced. As Polly, 
she had the satisfaction of repeating in the chief 
theatre of Dublin the triumph she had scored as a 
child in Violante's Booth, while her success as Sir 
Harry Wildair in Farquhar's Constant Couple was 
the talk of the town. 

" It was now," says Hitchcock, "that she first 
began to unveil those beauties and display those 
graces and accomplishments which for so many years 
afterwards charmed mankind." In Ireland, which has 
ever been famous for the beauty of its women, she 
was regarded in her day from first to last by common 

K 2 131 

Daughters of Eve 

consent as the loveliest of her race. The celebrated 
Miss Gunnings had not more perfect figures or more 
dazzling complexions. Her small, well-shaped head 
was crowned with a "forest of true blue-black Irish 
hair," her eyes were "large and black as jet with long 
lashes and exquisitely pencilled eyebrows." One 
writer declared that " her mouth with its matchless 
teeth and coral lips would thaw the very bosom of an 
anchorite." Another thought that " for beauty, shape, 
wit, and vivacity, she was equal to any theatrical 
female in any time." 

But physically beautiful though Peg Woffington 
undoubtedly was, her appeal was by no means a purely 
plastic one. Like all the most beautiful of Eve's 
daughters, she possessed in a rare degree the subtle 
and elusive charm of personality. Even as a child her 
bewitching manners had won her many admirers ; the 
students of Trinity College, in particular, being her 
devoted slaves. 

Needless to say, the admirers were not long in 
turning into lovers. Nor did the voluptuous, impul- 
sive girl resent the change. Accustomed from her 
earliest years to the loose habits of the stage, which 
was never so profligate as in the eighteenth century, 
she never dreamt of attaching any value to virtue. 
To have done so would have been ridiculous. Every- 
body, to the very characters in the plays in which she 
acted, regarded gallantry as the most natural thing in 
the world ; least of all was the undisciplined daughter 
of a bricklayer and a washerwoman, who had run 
about the streets barefoot and danced between the 
acts of plays for a living, one to pretend to scruples 
that the greatest ladies of rank and fashion flouted. 


Peg Woffington 

In Peg's case, immorality was too much a thing to be 
taken for granted to have any effect on her character. 
If she lost her morals, she kept her heart, and, magda- 
len though she was, remained to the last gay, kind- 
hearted, ever willing and ready to oblige. 

Or, as Murphy charitably puts it, "apart from one 
female error, it might fairly be said of her, that she 
was adorned with every virtue ; honour, truth, benevo- 
lence and charity were her distinguishing qualities." 

Of the many more or less trustworthy legends with 
which contemporary gossip decorated her early career, 
the most romantic is that of her first love. It was by 
no means her first affaire, but the first one in which 
her heart was engaged. The object of her affection 
was a young gentleman of good family but small 
fortune, named Taaffe. He had seen her in the part 
of Sir Harry Wildair, and fallen a victim to her 
charm. It was, perhaps, the striking resemblance of 
his character to that of the fashionable and fascinating 
rake she impersonated herself with such success that 
made her take a deeper interest in him than in the 
others whose heads she had turned. Sir Harry, under 
all his dissolute flippancy and frivolity, had a heart 
capable of being " fixed " in the end. The experiment 
is one that few women refuse to try when given a 
chance, and almost always with fatal results. In any 
case, whether Peg maliciously attempted to rivet the 
fickle heart of her new adorer, or whether she was 
merely content to accept his attention by way of an 
agreeable pastime, she completely lost her heart to 
him, and, after having lived with him as his mistress 
in Dublin, suffered herself to be lured to London by 
his promise of marriage. 


Daughters of Eve 

If the rake had any intention of keeping his 
promise, it was diverted after reaching London. No 
sooner had they arrived there than his passion began 
to cool, and, instead of being led to the altar, the 
inimitable impersonator of Sir Harry Wildair found 
herself deserted altogether. Taaffe, who apparently 
had not the courage to break with her openly, left her 
suddenly on the plea that urgent business affairs called 
him back to Ireland immediately. He went off with 
many protestations of affection and the promise of a 
speedy return ; but he had not long been gone when 
Peg discovered that, instead of going to Ireland, as 
she imagined, he was on the point of being married to 
an heiress, whose heart, in true Sir Harry Wildair 
fashion, he had succeeded in capturing. 

At this news the fury of the passionate Irish girl 
knew no bounds. Her love turned to hate, and she 
panted for revenge. The manner in which she got it 
is vividly described by Molloy in his memoir of Peg. 
Assuming male attire, she so successfully disguised 
herself as " Mr. Adair, a young Irishman of family 
and fortune," that no one could recognize her, and 
patrolled the town to get sight of the heiress, *' attired 
in silken hose and satin breeches, with broidered 
waistcoat and wide-flapped coat, powdered, painted 
and bewigged, a perfect specimen of the impertinent, 
dainty, and effeminate coxcomb of the day." 

Everywhere the heiress went " Mr. Adair " was, if 
possible, present. " In the park before dinner, where 
the lady was sure to take the air ; in the theatre at 
night, where the lady sat in her box ; and to such 
assemblies as were open to the public for payment, 
where the lady was most likely to attend." Finally, 


Peg Woffington 

after having attracted the notice and excited the 
curiosity of the heiress, "Mr. Adair" managed to 
make her acquaintance at " a public ridotto in Vaux- 
hall Gardens," and, without disclosing her own identity, 
exposed Taaffe's profligacy and dishonour so success- 
fully that the rich marriage he contemplated was 
rendered impossible. 

But if Peg hoped by such desperate means to 
recover the heart she had lost, she was disappointed. 
"Breaking from her arms," says an old pamphlet, 
" where she was detaining him with the most soothing 
words and blandishing caresses, he swore never to see 
her more." Luckily for her he was as good as his 
word, for, having been turned out of White's Club, to 
which he belonged, apparently as the result of this 
escapade, he went to Paris, where, after being 
" arrested for robbing a Jew in company with Lady 
Mary Wortley Montagu's son," he seems to have 
gone to the devil altogether. 


As may be imagined, Peg Woffington was not the 
woman to sit down and break her heart because the 
man she loved was faithless. The idea of appearing 
on the English stage, perhaps even more than the 
promise of marriage, had induced her to accompany 
him to London. Accordingly, cast upon her own 
resources, she set to work to seek an engagement. 
Though without a single acquaintance in the theatrical 
world of London, she was gifted with plenty of assur- 
ance. Believing that her success as Polly Peachum in 
Dublin must have reached the ears of John Rich, the 


Daughters of Eve 

manager of Covent Garden Theatre, by whom The 
Beggars Opera had first been produced, she went to 

Rich, in spite of his eccentricities and iUiteracy, which 
rendered him, as a patron of the drama, an admirable 
target for ridicule, was the shrewdest theatrical manager 
of his day. He had made his name by introducing 
the pantomime into England, or rather, by being the 
first to make it respectable as a form of entertainment, 
and his fortune by the production of Gay's Beggars 
Opera, which, as was wittily said, " made Gay rich, 
and Rich gay." Success, however, had somewhat 
turned Rich's head, and he was seldom at home to 
anybody under a baronet. Peg Woffington is said to 
have called at his house nineteen times before she was 

Her reception was in keeping with his reputation 
for eccentricity. " The great manager," says Augustin 
Daly in his monograph on the actress, now very rare, 
" as Woffington first saw him, was lolling in ungrace- 
ful ease on a sofa, holding a play in one hand, and in 
the other a tea-cup, from which he frequently sipped. 
Around about him were seven and twenty cats of all 
sizes, colours, and kinds. Toms and Tabbies, old cats 
and kittens, tortoise-shells, Maltese, brindles, white, 
black and yellow cats of every description. Some 
were frisking over the floor, others asleep on the rug ; 
one was licking the buttered toast on his breakfast 
plate, another was engaged in drinking the cream for 
his tea ; two cats lay on his knee, one was asleep on 
his shoulder, and another sat demurely on his head." 

Peg Woffington was astounded at the sight. Rich, 
to her mind for years, had been the greatest man in 


Peg Woffington 

the world. The menagerie of grimalkins amid which 
he lay so carelessly was so different an environment 
from her conception of the Covent Garden Theatre 
manager, that she was embarrassed into silence. Rich, 
in his turn, was equally confused by the beauty of his 
visitor, and lay staring at her a long time before he 
recollected his courtesy and offered her a chair. Stand- 
ing before him was a woman whom he afterwards 
declared to be the loveliest creature he had ever seen. 
She was taller than the ordinary standard of height, 
faultless in form, dignified even to majesty, yet, withal, 
winsome and piquant. Her dark hair, unstained by 
powder, fell in luxuriant masses over her neck and 

"It was a fortunate thing for my wife," said Rich, 
describing the scene to Sir Joshua Reynolds, " that 
I am not of a susceptible temperament. Had it 
been otherwise, I should have found it difficult to 
retain my equanimity enough to arrange business 
negotiations with the amalgamated Calypso, Circe, and 
Armida who dazzled my eyes. A more fascinating 
daughter of Eve never presented herself to a manager 
in search of rare commodities. She was as majestic 
as Juno, as lovely as Venus, and as fresh and charming 
as Hebe ! " 

Such an impression was worth all the introductions 
and recommendations in the world. Rich straight- 
way offered her a salary of nine pounds a week 
for the season, "in spite of her brogue." The 
offer was as eagerly accepted, and on November 6, 
1740, Peg Woffington made her first appearance on 
the London stage as Sylvia in Farquhar's Recruiting 

Daughters of Eve 


The selection of the piece was a wise one, as the 
experienced Rich well knew, for the part of Sylvia was 
admirably adapted to display the charms and abilities 
of the new star. In the opening scenes Sylvia is one 
of those fascinating hoydens whose fondness for 
masculine sports does not in the least detract from 
her essentially feminine character. She delights in 
galloping all the morning after the hunting-horn, and 
all the evening after the fiddle, is ready to imitate her 
father in everything but his drinking, and though 
thoroughly tired of her own sex, loves to distract the 
other. Then later, by way of contrast, in the guise 
of a rakish young officer — a part she could play to 
perfection — she gives all the fops and rakes in the 
theatre a chance to admire the exquisite turn of her 
leg and fit of her clothes. 

The play was a favourite with the public, and the 
new actress was so enthusiastically received by a 
crowded audience, which included the Prince and 
Princess of Wales, that Rich was obliged to repeat 
the performance several times during the same month. 
It is worth remarking that " Miss Woffington," as she 
was described on the programme on the night of her 
first appearance, styled herself " Mrs. Woffington " on 
the second evening and ever after. She had not, 
needless to say, been married in the interval. It was 
merely the custom of the time, " Mrs." being applied 
to all females on the stage who were no longer children. 
In Peg's case, as Daly says, " Miss " was the last relic 
of her Lilliputian career. 

A fortnight later the actress appeared as Sir Harry 
Wildair in Farquhar's famous comedy The Constant 
Cout>le, or A Trip to the Jubilee, and immediately 


Peg Woffington 

established her reputation as a comMienne of the first 
order. Sir Harry is a rich and fashionable young 
rake, who, though utterly depraved, is so brave, witty, 
and light-hearted a fellow that it is impossible not to 
like him. The love adventures of which he is the 
hero constitute the comedy, and skilfully portray his 
humorous gaiety, and the airy, yet honourable freedom 
of his conduct. This role, the sprightliest and most 
brilliant created by Farquhar, had first been played by 
Robert Wilks, whose impersonation was so clever that, 
during his lifetime, no other actor could compete with 
him in the part ; a fact that caused Farquhar to say 
that " when the stage had the misfortune to lose him, 

Sir Harry might go to the d d Jubilee." Indeed, 

the part (which depended for success on personal 
charm, even more than on acting) was considered so 
difficult that since Wilks's death, some ten years before, 
the play had seldom been performed. 

The announcement, therefore, that a woman was 
to play Sir Harry Wildair, excited a great deal of 
curiosity. Whatever apprehensions, however, Peg's 
admirers may have felt as to her capacity for the part, 
they were dispelled the moment she appeared. In the 
handsome young rake of quality, humming a gay air 
as she tripped lightly across the stage followed by two 
footmen, she was Sir Harry to the life. " So infinitely 
did she surpass expectations," says Tate Wilkinson, 
" that the applause she received was beyond any at 
that time ever known. Her success became the con- 
versation of every polite circle, as well as in every 
tavern and coffee-house in the town from St. Paul's 
to St. James's." 

The critics were for once unanimous in their 


Daughters of Eve 

commendations, and Victor voiced the general opinion 
when he said, "it must be confessed to her praise as 
an actress that the ease, manner of address, vivacity, 
and figure of a young man of fashion were never more 
happily exhibited." Prints of the new star were on 
sale everywhere, and all the wits and rhymsters of the 
town vied with one another in singing her praises. 
The following verses inspired by her impersonation of 
Polly Peachum, and Sir Harry Wildair in particular, 
had a great vogue — 

" Peggy, the darling of the town ! 
In Polly won each heart ; 
But now she captivates again, 
And all must feel the smart. 

" Her charm, resistless, conquers all — 
Both sexes vanquished lie. 
And who to Polly scorned to fall 
By Wildair, ravaged, die." 

One susceptible damsel is said to have been so 
enraptured that, believing her really to be a man, she 
made her an offer of marriage. But there are always 
to be found certain persons more ready to scoff than to 
praise. Horace Walpole, whose vanity made him seize 
every occasion to draw attention to himself, thought 
her "a bad actress," though he admitted she had 
"life." His friend Conway, for the same reason, 
professed to see in her "only an impudent Irish-faced 
girl." While Garrick — after he essayed the role 
himself and was a complete failure in it — declared 
that Sir Harry Wildair should always be played by a 

The general verdict, however, was overwhelmingly 
in her favour. From the moment she appeared as 



{A/fer Piiif) 

\_To face p. 141 

Peg Woffington 

Wildair she became a favourite with the public, a 
position she retained for the remainder of her bright, 
brief career. 

Rich was obHged to repeat the play for twenty 
consecutive nights — an unheard-of run in those days. 
Sir Harry Wildair, indeed, continued to be the chief 
role in her repertoire, and never failed to draw crowded 
audiences for the next twenty years. 


The following season (i 741) owing to some dispute 
with Rich over her salary, Peg severed her connection 
with Covent Garden Theatre and appeared at Drury 
Lane. About the same time David Garrick made 
his first appearance at the little out-of-the-way Good- 
man's Fields Theatre in Richard III, and, like Peg 
Wofifington the year before, took the town by storm 
from the very start. At the end of the season Duval, 
the manager of the Smock Alley Theatre, in Dublin, 
engaged them for three months as a counter attraction 
to Quin and Mrs. Gibber, who were carrying all 
before them at the Theatre Royal. 

Needless to say, during the two years she had 
been absent from her native town. Peg Woffington 
had not been forgotten. The fame of her triumphs 
in London had crossed the Channel, and on her re- 
appearance all Dublin was ready to welcome her back 
as a citizen to be proud of. Sylvia was the part she 
chose to open in, to the delight of an enthusiastic 
audience, which was amazed beyond expression at 
the polish and finish her acting had acquired. Nor 
was Garrick less applauded. There was no longer 


Daughters of Eve 

any question of Quin and Mrs. Gibber. They were 
forced to cut short their season and return to England. 

Dublin went stage-mad over the new-comers. In 
Smock Alley the crowds were so great that it was 
almost impossible to get into the theatre. " Those 
who succeeded in gaining admittance," says Daly, 
" held audience next day to recount the marvels 
of these performances." When Garrick died as 
Richard III, "women shrieked; went into hysterics 
over the sorrows of his King Lear, and sobbed aloud 
at Peg Woffington's Ophelia." 

To add to the sensation of this season in Dublin, 
the weather was "the hottest ever recorded in Ireland 
up to that time." It did not, however, cause any 
diminution in the crowds that flocked to the Smock 
Alley Theatre, where the atmosphere was so stifling 
as to breed a sort of epidemic, known popularly as 
"Garrick fever," which "carried away numbers from 
the playhouse to the grave." 

But Peg Woffington's triumphs were by no means 
confined to the stage. After the play, when the 
green-room, as was the custom in those days, was 
thronged with a motley crowd of fops, rakes, wits, 
and critics, the admiration she excited took a tenderer 
and freer form. The more timid or subtle slipped 
verses and billets doux into her hands, the bolder and 
coarser showered presents and proposals upon her, in 
a manner which left no doubt as to their intentions 
and desires. And the brilliant, beautiful creature, 
radiant with youth, health and success, in the reckless 
impulsiveness of her over-generous and wayward 
nature, encouraged them all, the richest and the poorest 
alike, leaving none to sigh in vain. 


Peg Woffington 

But in this intoxication of verve, in this riot of 
non-morality, she had her preference, and he who 
considered himself honoured by it was Garrick. He 
was madly in love with her, had been ever since the 
night she had appeared as Sylvia in Covent Garden 
Theatre, and leapt at a bound into fame. He had 
not then gone on the stage himself, and night after 
night he haunted the theatre in which she played. 
Peg, who met him in the green-room to which he 
had the entrSe, soon became very fond of him. It 
was the most natural thing in the world that two 
such beings should attract one another, matched as 
they were in youth, beauty and talent, being of the 
same profession, and having the same desire to be 

The extraordinary success each scored on the same 
stage in Dublin, during the summer of 1742, drew 
them still closer together, and on their return to 
London the pair set up a joint establishment. Such 
a partnership did not occasion the least surprise, and 
far from being ostracized, their society was courted 
by persons of the highest rank. The young actor 
in particular, thanks to his good looks, polished 
manners, and growing fame, was inundated with 
invitations by ladies of fashion. But Peg, needless 
to say, owing to her utter disregard of propriety, 
apart from actresses, numbered few women among her 
acquaintances. She was, however, too much of a 
Bohemian to care for that. She had little in common 
with her own sex. " Women," she was wont to say, 
"only talked of silks and satins." 

Naturally witty and intelligent, she made the most 
of such advantages as came in her way. Her tastes, 


Daughters of Eve 

improved by good company, were of the intellectual 
sort. She read much and with discrimination, and 
spoke French admirably. As "she dearly loved," 
says Davies, "to pursue the bagatelle of vivacity and 
humour," she was never happier than when entertain- 
ing the first wits of the day, who "felt honoured by 
her acquaintance." Apart from the rakes and lords, 
who were always dangling at her heels, such men as 
Dr. Johnson, Boswell, Henry Fielding, and Samuel 
Foote, whose wit and satire gained him the name of 
the English Aristophanes, delighted to gather round 
her festive board, where she held her own in repartee 
with the best of them. In particular did she blarney 
the heart out of old Colley Cibber, who had been in 
his day a good actor and a better playwright, and was 
now an execrable laureate and an antiquated beau. 

Garrick was quite as fond as Peg of entertaining 
such people, but he grudged the cost of it. On 
setting up housekeeping it was agreed they should 
defray the monthly expenses alternately, but it soon 
became a joke among their friends that "the fare was 
better when it was Mrs. Woffington's turn to pay." 
Dr. Johnson relates that one night during her month 
of catering, Garrick scolded Peg roundly for making 
the tea too strong. 

"It is no stronger than I have made it before, 
Davy," she replied, good-humouredly. 

"No stronger than usual ! " he cried, thumping 
angrily on the table. " It is, madam. All last month 
it would have hurt nobody's stomach. But this tea, 
madam, this tea is as red as blood ! " 

Many are the stories told of Garrick's parsimony. 
"In talk," says Macklin, "he was a very generous 


(From an old frint') 

[To /ace p. 145 

Peg Woffington 

man, a very humane man, and all that, and I believe 
he was no hypocrite in his immediate feelings, but 
the very first ghost of a farthing would melt all his 
fine sentiments into the air." 

Once when walking with Foote, he dropped a 
guinea for which he searched in vain. " Where on 
earth can it have gone ? " said Foote. 

" To the devil, I think," replied Garrick irritably. 

" Ah, Davy," replied the wit, who had a weakness 
for repeating his witticisms at the expense of others, 
"let you alone for making a guinea go further than 
anybody else." 

It goes without saying, that between a man so 
close and calculating as David Garrick, and a woman 
so impulsive and extravagant as Peg Woffington, no 
connection could be permanent. At the beginning 
of their intrigue, each had agreed to allow the other 
full liberty of action. But Peg's idea of liberty was 
not Garrick's, and though he bore with her inconstancy 
he did so grudgingly. He especially objected to Sir 
Charles Hanbury Williams, one of her most devoted 
and favoured admirers. A prettier fellow never 
cracked a bottle at White's than this " plenipotentiary 
of fashion." He could tell the wittiest, if not the 
decentest of stories, pen a pasquinade in the twinkling 
of an eye ; ridicule a political enemy in a scathing- 
lampoon ; write poetry of considerable merit ; and 
gamble from sunset to sunrise — like a rake of the 
first water. He was, moreover, an able diplomatist, 
and the friend of all the most distinguished people 
of the day. The world to which Sir Charles belonged 
was the world in which Garrick particularly wished 
to move, for "the little-great man dearly loved a lord," 

L 145 

Daughters of Eve 

and was a snob for all his talents. But Garrick was 
none the less extremely jealous of Sir Charles, not 
only because he was a favourite lover of Peg, but 
because of the verses he addressed to her. All 
London talked of the baronet's poem Lovely Peggy, 
while Garrick's lines passed unnoticed. 

That Peg gave him reason to complain of her 
conduct there can be no doubt ; but though her love 
for him was not very deep, as her abuse of the terms 
of their agreement proves, it is equally certain that 
she cared more for him than for any one else. Much 
as she loved her freedom she would gladly have 
married him. 

" Ah, Peggy," he is said to have exclaimed raptur- 
ously one night as she came off the stage radiant with 
the applause of the audience, "you are queen of all 
hearts ! " 

"Ay," she replied, with a sudden sadness, "queen 
of all hearts, but not legal mistress of one." 

Under the circumstances what lover, worthy of 
the name, could refuse to take the hint ^ Garrick 
went as far as to " purchase the wedding-ring, which 
fitted her finger perfectly." 

But their marriage, fortunately for both, was never 
destined to take place. As the novelty of Garrick's 
passion wore off and his fame increased, his ambition, 
constantly fed by the flattery of the great, rendered 
him more and more prudent, economical, and politic. 
At last his love, which had been a raging fire, burnt 
itself out. Even then he did not dare to break with 
her. He hoped she would perceive the alteration in 
his feelings and release him of her own accord. Her 
failure to do so made him morose and irritable. But 


Peg Woffington 

his complaints of her infidelity, her extravagance, and 
even of her popularity on the stage, were of no effect. 
Finally driven to desperation, he confessed, says 
Macklin, that " he was wearing the shirt of Dejanira, 
whereupon she told him with spirit to throw it off, and 
declared she would never see him more except in the 
course of business or in the presence of a third 

All the presents he had given her were promptly 
returned. But in sending back those he had received 
from her Garrick kept a pair of diamond shoe-buckles 
of considerable value. Recollecting them, she sent 
him a polite note to remind him he still had them. 
He replied that " the buckles were all he had to recall 
his many happy hours with her, and trusted on that 
account she would allow him to retain them." She 
was too proud to ask again, and he wore them till he 
left the stage. But suspecting that the association he 
attached to them was due to their intrinsic value 
rather than to sentiment, Peg maliciously related the 
affair to others by whom it was made much of. A 
caricature ridiculing Garrick's conduct was exposed in 
the print-shops, to the intense mortification of the 
actor and the equal delight of Peg, who, knowing his 
sensitiveness to ridicule, felt she had her revenge. 


The pride, begotten of success, which had extin- 
guished the fire of Garrick's love for his bewitching 
mistress and made him dread to humiliate himself by 
marrying her, was totally foreign to Peg Woffington's 
nature. She had her pride, too, but there was nothing 
L 2 147 

Daughters of Eve 

mean or crincrinor in it. She was not ashamed of her 
humble origin and never attempted, like so many 
others of her profession, to pose off the stage as 
the £Tande dame which she impersonated so wonder- 
fully on. With the world of fashion at her feet, she 
never forgot that she was the daughter of a bricklayer 
or dreamt of shirking the duty she owed to her poor 
old mother. 

As a child in Violante's Booth, and later when she 
danced between the acts at the Theatre Royal, she 
had not only given her mother the money she earned, 
but even the coins flung on the stage in appreciation 
of her juvenile talents. Later, when she began to 
command the salary of a popular actress, her first care 
had been to place her mother beyond the reach ot 
poverty. Before leaving Dublin with Garrick, she had 
setded on her an annuity of forty pounds — an ample 
allowance in those days for one of her mother's station 
and requirements — particularly as she did not have to 
pay for her clothing, which Peg gave her in addition 
to the annuity. For years the honest soul — "a 
respectable-looking old lady in her short black velvet 
cloak, with deep rich fringe, a diamond ring, and 
small agate snuff-box " — who had had such a struggle 
in her early days, was a familiar figure in the streets 
of Dublin. "She had nothing to mind," says 
O'Keeffe, "but going the rounds of Catholic chapels 
and chatting with her neighbours " — of her daughters, 
doubdess, how Peg was a famous actress, and Polly a 
great lady in society. 

The improved condition of the latter, like her own, 
the happy mother also, no doubt, attributed to the 
rightful source. For Peg had been as good to her 


Peg Woffington 

sister, to whom she was devoted, as to her mother, 
and had left nothing undone to give her the best pos- 
sible education. Brought up in a foreign convent like 
the daughter of a nobleman, Polly Woffington made the 
most of her opportunities. On her return to England 
there were many who considered her more beautiful 
than Peg. But if her features were more regular and 
her manners more refined, she lacked Peg's charm and 

Peg's pride in her was touching. Far from being 
jealous of Polly's beauty, she was never tired of admir- 
ing it. But above all was she careful to protect her 
from the temptations to which she herself yielded so 
light-heartedly. Polly's honour was to Peg as the 
apple of her eye. To shield her from the dangers to 
which she perceived the girl's innocence and beauty 
would expose her among her own corrupt associates, 
on Polly's arrival Peg left the lodgings in which she 
was living after her rupture with Garrick and moved 
to Teddington. But to be cut off indefinitely from 
the world was little to the captivating Polly's taste. 
She wanted to go on the stage like her sister, and 
Peg finally consented to gratify her. 

Polly Woffington's first appearance, however, 
proved such an utter failure that she gave up all 
further idea of becoming an actress. But though she 
failed behind the footlights she was successful enough 
on the wider stas^e of the world. On the nio-ht of her 
theatrical debut the Hon. Captain Cholmondeley 
happened to be among the audience, and was so fasci- 
nated by her beauty that he sought her acquaintance. 
He was soon head over heels in love, and, as his in- 
tentions were honourable. Peg threw no obstacles in 


Daughters of Eve 


the way of his courtship of her sister, whom he in due 
course married. 

The aristocratic relations of the Captain, whose 
mother, the Countess of Cholmondeley, was the only 
legitimate daughter of Sir Robert Walpole, as may be 
imagined were highly indignant at such a mesalliance. 
The Countess's brother, Horace Walpole, whose 
maternal grandfather was a timber-merchant, con- 
sidered the family as good as disgraced by his 
nephew's marriage with "a player's sister," though he 
subsequently got over his mortification, as did the 
bridegroom's noble father the Earl of Cholmondeley. 

This nobleman, whose indignation was increased by 
the equally undesirable union his heir had contracted, 
was driven to call on Peg to give her a piece of his 
mind. But like Balaam, coming to curse he remained 
to bless — and what was more to the point, to with- 
draw all his objections and to accept " the player's 
sister" as his daughter-in-law. After a fascinating 
hour in Peg's drawing-room at Teddington, he was 
even condescending enough to confess to his " dear 
Mrs. Woffington that he was happy at his son's 
choice in spite of being so very much offended pre- 
viously." Whereupon Peg, who was aware of the 
Earl's financial distress, with much spirit retorted : 
" Offended previously, my lord ! It is 1 who have the 
more reason to be offended. Previously I had one 
beggar to support, and now I shall have two ! " 

The marriage proved a very happy one. Mrs. 
Cholmondeley, who had a great deal of the vivacity 
and tact for which the Irish are famous, was soon a 
prominent figure in society. Like Peg she had a pre- 
ference for intellectual company, and posed as a blue- 


Photo. LaJ.i_Mtti, lUihliH 


{Polly Wofjfington') 

Reproduced by the courtesy of Sir Henry Bellingham, Bart., from the pastel by Cotes 
at Castle Bellingham. 

\To/ace p. 15 1 

Peg Woffington 

stocking. She was on terms of friendship with all the 
celebrities of the day. Sir Joshua Reynolds thought 
her parties more entertaining than those of Mrs. Vesey, 
Mrs. Montague or Mrs. Thrale ; while Fanny Burney, 
whose novel, Evelina, she praised to the skies, re- 
garded her as an " authority." Her husband, soon 
after his marriage, sold out of the army and took holy 
orders. He was a colourless, insignificant individual, 
"nothing shining," says Miss Burney, "either in 
person or manners, but rather grim in the first and 
glum in the last." He was, however, a devoted 
husband and father. 

The daughters his wife bore him, with the excep- 
tion of one who was killed in a carriage accident when 
in attendance on the Princess of Wales, made brilliant 
matches, by which a strain of Woffington blood is per- 
petuated to this day in many of the noblest families in 


Peg's generosity was by no means confined to 
conferring benefits on her mother and sister. A quick 
and ready sympathy was the distinguishing trait of her 
character. The memoirs of her day are full of anec- 
dotes of her spontaneous kindness of heart. Milward, 
who caught a cold while acting in the same company 
with her, which developed into consumption, " repeat- 
edly declared that her heart was as gentle as her face 
was lovely." Peg, though slightly acquainted with 
him, was so touched by his unfortunate condition that 
throughout his illness she looked after him personally, 
and when he died got up a benefit for his widow and 

Daughters of Eve 

children. In no Instance, indeed, was she ever known 
to refuse her eratuitous services at a benefit in aid of 
any one belonging to the theatrical profession. She 
was ever ready, moreover, to lend a helping hand to 
those who sought her assistance on the stage, though 
often — notably in the case of Miss Bellamy, whose 
first appearance was due to her interest — she got no 
gratitude for her pains. 

Her willingness to appear in minor roles in plays 
in which the leading character might be said to be 
hers by right of creation was due less, perhaps, to her 
good-nature than to her sense of duty to the public as 
a performer. If her manager fancied his interests 
were best served that way, she would cheerfully act 
parts which others in her position would have con- 
sidered as insults if offered them. On one occasion 
she yielded Portia to her rival and enemy, Kitty Clive, 
with the best grace in the world ; and on another con- 
sented to " paint her lovely face with wrinkles " to act 
the part of an old woman. She was so anxious to 
please her audiences that for three seasons she never 
once disappointed them, either by real or affected ill- 
ness, though Victor declares that he had " often seen 
her on the stage when she ought to have been in her 

Such conscientiousness was all the more creditable 
from the fact that actors at this period were in the 
habit of availing themselves of the slightest pretext to 
sacrifice work for play. They had fallen into indiffer- 
ent and careless habits ; managers were continually 
being requested to excuse them from acting ; or 
receiving messages, sent often late in the day, to say 
they were ill. At these times Peg Woffington was the 


Peg Woffington 

prop of the theatre, and if too late to learn the part 
herself she would good-naturedly consent to the 
substitution of some comedy in which she was the 

But there was a limit even to her good-nature. 
On one occasion, when acting under the management 
of Rich, perceiving that her willingness to sacrifice 
herself to the interests of the theatre was being 
maliciously taken advantage of, she informed him that 
the next time he attempted to treat her as a stop-gap 
she would not play. If Rich had any doubts as to 
her determination to keep her word they were speedily 
and roughly dispelled. The very next day Mrs. 
Cibber, who had been billed to act Jane Shore, had 
one of her periodic attacks of " the spasms " and sent 
word to say she could not play. Rich immediately 
withdrew the announcement and substituted The 
Constant Couple with Mrs. Woffington as Sir Harry 
Wildair, whereupon Peg, on being informed of the 
change, sent back word that she, too, was ill, and that 
nothing would induce her to play. And she kept her 

Unfortunately she chose the wrong moment. The 
public had become thoroughly tired of the disappoint- 
ments to which they were subjected by the frequency 
of these "illnesses." They took it into their heads 
that they were being victimized, and resolved to resent 
the next change of bill at the theatre. It chanced to 
be at this moment that Peg refused to oblige Rich, 
and on her appearance a few days later as Lady Jane 
Grey she was "hissed, pelted with orange-peel, and 
ordered by the audience to beg pardon." Such treat- 
ment, unjustly deserved from the public which she had 


Daughters of Eve 


studied so conscientiously to please, was calculated to 
cover any player in her position with confusion. But 
Peg Woffington was equal to any occasion. 

" Whoever is living," says Tate Wilkinson in his 
Memoirs, "and saw her that night will own that they 
never beheld any figure half so beautiful since. Her 
anger gave a glow to her complexion and even added 
lustre to her charming eyes. She behaved with great 
resolution, and treated their rudeness with glorious 
contempt. She left the stage, was called for, and with 
infinite persuasion was prevailed upon to return. How- 
ever, she did ; walked forward and told them she was 
there ready and willing to perform her character if 
they chose to permit her ; that the decision was theirs 
— on or off, just as they pleased, it was a matter of 
indifference to her. The 'ons' had it, and all went 
smoothly afterwards." 

A character endowed with such independence, and 
the jealousy common to the profession of which she 
was so conspicuous and popular a member, naturally 
created many enemies for Peg. Moreover, kind- 
hearted and good-natured though she was, she had a 
quick temper, and was ever ready, though not eager, 
for a contest with any one who provoked it. At no 
period in the history of the stage has theatrical jealousy 
been so open and unashamed as in the eighteenth 
century. In the green-room of Co vent Garden or 
Drury Lane scarce a night passed without a quarrel 
between the stars of the profession. The violent 
scenes that were witnessed by the rakes and the fops, 
the wits and the critics, who had the run of the green- 
room, the insults that were hurled, the sneers, the 
jibes, and often the blows that were exchanged, became 


Peg Woffington 

topics of general conversation in tap-room and salon 
alike. The public, then as now, intensely interested 
in the private doings of stage celebrities, took sides 
in these quarrels, and signified in no uncertain way 
their approval or disapproval. 

Peg's contempt for the society of her own sex was 
due chiefly to the pin-pricking to which she was sub- 
jected by actresses jealous of her beauty and popularity. 
In Mrs. Gibber and Mrs. Pritchard, who belonged to 
the Covent Garden company when she joined it on her 
first appearance in London, she had two petty and 
irritating enemies. They never lost a chance of vent- 
ing their dislike before the visitors in the green-room, 
but as Peg's tongue was much sharper than theirs the 
discomfiture they sought to inflict on her generally 
rebounded on themselves. 

In Kitty Glive she had a much more aggravating 
and formidable antagonist. For the jealousy of Mrs. 
Gibber there was some excuse, as she had made her 
name in roles in which Peg aspired to fame. But 
Kitty's special gifts ran no danger whatever of a com- 
parison with Peg's. She was a soubrette — the best, 
perhaps, that ever trod the British stage — and Peg 
Woffington's talents and inclinations were of a totally 
different kind. Nevertheless, Kitty was pleased to 
regard Peg as a rival. 

Born of a good Irish family that had been ruined 
in supporting the cause of the Stuarts, Kitty Raftor, 
as she was first known, made her first appearance on 
the stage in her seventeenth year as a page in Mith^^a- 
dates, King of Pontus, at Drury Lane, about the same 
time that the ten-year-old Peg Woffington made her 
first bow to the public in Madame Violante's Booth in 


Dausfhters of Eve 


Dublin. Though coarse and vulgar by nature, she 
was a woman of the strictest virtue. Married at 
twenty-one to a gentleman of the name of Clive, from 
whom she had soon parted, no breath of scandal then 
or afterwards ever sullied her name. Plain of face, but 
not without charm, she had gradually and with diffi- 
culty worked her way to the front. For several years 
prior to Peg Woffington's arrival in London she had 
been, says Macklin, "the joy of her audience when 
she kept clear of anything serious or genteel." But 
popularity on such terms was by no means to her 
taste. Not satisfied with v/inning popularity as a 
chambermaid, a hoyden, or a vulgar fine lady, she 
aspired to win renown in the nobler sphere of tragedy, 
only to reduce such roles as Desdemona or Portia, 
when she attempted them, to burlesque. 

It was, therefore, with anything but equanimity 
that Kitty beheld Peg, younger and more beautiful, 
win with ease the position it had taken her years to 
attain, and in the parts she longed, but had not the 
ability, to perform. Both being naturally quick-tem- 
pered, friction between them was inevitable. Neither 
tried to avoid it. " No two women in high life," says 
Davies, " ever hated each other more unreservedly 
than these two great dames of the theatre ; but though 
the passion of each was as lofty as those of a duchess, 
yet they wanted the courdy art of concealing them. 
Woffington was well-bred, seemingly very calm, and 
at all times mistress of herself. Clive was arrogant, 
high-tempered, and impetuous. What came upper- 
most in her mind she spoke without reserve. Woffing- 
ton blunted Clive's sharp speeches by her apparently 
civil but ever keen and sarcastic replies. Thus she 


Peg Woffington 

often threw Kitty off her guard by an arch seventy 
which the other could not easily parry." 

But though, as Macklin says, Peg " made battle 
with a better grace," she was not always " mistress of 
herself." Once, indeed, the quarrels of the two, we 
are told, "exceeded the limits of language." Peg, 
with her customary good-nature, had consented to act 
the minor role of Lady Percy in Henry IV. Kitty, 
though not acting herself in the drama, was highly 
pleased at the small chance it afforded Peg, and at the 
fall of the curtain sneeringly condoled with her. This 
produced a sharp retort from Peg that made Kitty 
furious, and she immediately began to abuse her in a 
torrent of vituperation of which she was a perfect 
mistress. Peg happened to be feeling anything but 
good-humoured at the time, and instantly kindling into 
a rage in which words were no longer serviceable 
weapons, she struck Kitty. The blow was at once 
returned with a right good-will, and the two "fought 
like Amazons." To render this contest of fisticuffs, 
in which Peg is said to have been vanquished, the 
more grotesque, those who witnessed it, instead of 
trying to separate or appease the pair, took sides and 
came to blows themselves. 

Such an affair, needless to say, could not be kept a 
secret. The wits seized upon it with zest, and, to the 
huofe delight of the town, caricatures of The Green-room 
Scuffle were exposed in all print-sellers' windows. 

After her rupture with Garrick, life at Drury Lane 
was made, according to Daly, " a perfect Hades " for 
her. Garrick, who had become joint manager of the 
theatre with Lacy, regardless of her feelings, persuaded 
Mrs. Gibber and Mrs. Pritchard, her old enemies at 


Daughters of Eve 


Covent Garden, to join his company at Drury Lane, 
where they united with Kitty CHve in subjecting her 
to every conceivable annoyance. Her name was 
printed in the announcement bills in smaller type than 
theirs ; her favourite roles were given to them ; and she 
was frequently even left out of the cast altogether. 

To crown all, Garrick himself, who had once ex- 
tolled her in verse, had the baseness to revile her 
coarsely through the same medium. But this was 
more than Peg's proud spirit could endure, and she 
withdrew from the company. 

After a prolonged holiday in Paris she returned 
once more to Covent Garden, only to find in " blue- 
eyed Bellamy " an enemy more aggravating than Mrs. 
Gibber or Mrs. Pritchard, and more dangerous than 
Kitty Clive. The illegitimate daughter of an Irish 
peer, who, after bringing her up in luxury, had in a 
moment of pique cast her adrift, George Ann Bellamy 
had the most sensational career of any actress that 
ever appeared on the English stage. Among her 
numerous adventures, after declining all proposals 
except "marriage and a coach," she had been ab- 
ducted and rescued in a manner worthy of a heroine 
in a melodrama. For a time she counted her admirers 
by the thousand. But her triumph on the stage was 
of short duration. Having lost her looks and her 
suitors, she was finally hissed off the boards, and dis- 
appearing into obscurity ended her days pathetically 

When Peg Woffington rejoined the Covent Garden 
company, however, "blue-eyed Bellamy," as she was 
called by the habitues of the green-room, was a great 
favourite with the public. Irish, like Peg, though 


Peg Woffington 

without her wit, she had the advantage of being ten 
years her junior — a fact that the pretty, spiteful little 
creature was fond of rubbing into her more talented 
rival in the most aggravating fashion. Conscious of 
her beauty and puffed up with her success, she was, 
according to one of her admirers, "as cold as ice and 
as conceited as the devil." Having reigned supreme 
at Covent Garden till the advent of Peg, she objected 
to share her supremacy with her more gifted colleague. 
But George Ann's methods of manifesting her ani- 
mosity were totally different from the vituperative 

Infinitely crafty, she quickly detected Peg's weak- 
nesses and turned them to account. As leading lady, Peg 
had a natural desire to appear before her audience in 
costumes worthy of the superior parts she acted. Rich, 
however was notoriously parsimonious, and Peg, to her 
great disgust, was obliged to be content with such 
finery as the wardrobe at Covent Garden, which was 
barely sufficient to the needs of the theatre, afforded. 
Miss Bellamy had an equally expensive taste in dress, 
and as she was fortunate enouorh to have friends willinsr 
to gratify it, it was her amiable practice to out-dazzle 
her rival by unexpectedly appearing on the stage in a 
costume calculated to cause her discomfiture. 

A revival of Nat Lee's once famous and lonof 
popular tragedy, The Rival Queens, is a notorious 
instance of "little Bellamy's " capacity in this respect. 
Peg, who was to play the part of Roxana, was deter- 
mined for once to have a costume worthy of the 
character. The due pressure was accordingly brought 
to bear on Rich, who, to flatter her vanity and at the 
same time curtail the expense as much as possible, 


Daughters of Eve 

purchased for her a dress reputed to have been worn 
by no less a personage than the Princess of Wales. 
Miss Bellamy, on the other hand, had recourse as 
usual to the generosity of one of her admirers, and 
secretly sent over to Paris for two superb costumes. 
The effect she produced on the unsuspecting Peg 
when " accoutred in all her magnificence she made 
her entrde into the green-room as the Persian Princess 
Statira " is thus characteristically and amusingly related 
by Miss Bellamy herself — 

" As soon as she saw me, almost bursting with 
rage, she drew herself up, and with a haughty air thus 
addressed me : ' I desire, madam, you will never more 
upon any account wear those clothes in the piece we 
are to perform to-night.' 

"You are too well acquainted with my disposition 
to suppose this envious lady took the proper way to 
have her request granted. I replied : * I know not, 
madam, by what right you take upon yourself to 
dictate to me what I shall wear. And I assure you, 
madam, you must ask it in a very different manner 
before you obtain my compliance.' She now found it 
necessary to solicit in a softer strain. And I readily 
gave my consent. The piece consequently went 
through without any murmuring upon her part, what- 
ever might be her sensations. 

" However, the next night I sported my other suit, 
which was much more splendid than the former. This 
rekindled Mrs. Woffington's rage, so that it nearly 
bordered on madness. When, oh! dire to tell! she 
drove me off the carpet, and gave me the coup de 
grace almost behind the scenes. The audience who, 
I believe, preferred hearing my last dying speech to 

1 60 


(Froiu an old prinf) 

{To/ace p. i6i 

Peg Woffington 

seeing her beauty and fine attitude, could not avoid 
perceiving her violence, and testified their displeasure 
at it. 

"Though I despise revenge, I do not dislike 
retaliation. I therefore put on my yellow and purple 
once more. As soon as I appeared in the green-room, 
she imperiously questioned me, how I dared to dress 
again in the manner she so strictly prohibited. The 
only return I made to this insolent interrogation was 
by a smile of contempt." Hereupon Peg's Irish wit 
was used as a weapon of defence with such effect that 
her rival " recollecting the well-known distich that 

He who fights and runs away, 
May hve to fight another day, 

made as quick an exit as possible, notwithstanding she 
wore the regalia of a queen." 

Peg's rage, however, would appear to have got the 
better of her. For, adds Miss Bellamy in her feline 
way, " I was obliged in some measure to the Comte " 
(the adorer who had supplied her with the dresses) 
" for my safety ; otherwise I should have stood a 
chance of appearing in the next scene with black 
eyes instead of the blue ones which Nature had 
given me." 

The recollection of the favours she had solicited 
and received from Peg when she arrived in London 
from Dublin, a few years before, in an almost destitute 
condition, seems never to have crossed the mind of 
this airy creature. On another occasion, she brought 
the Duchess of Queensberry, whose well-known devo- 
tion to the drama caused her patronage to be much 
sought after in the theatrical world, into the green-room 
M i6i 

Daughters of Eve 

at a moment designed to destroy whatever illusions 
she might have entertained of the charms of Peg. As 
they entered, the first thing the duchess saw " was the 
Fair, the Egyptian Queen with a pot of porter in her 
hand, crying: "Here's confusion to all order! Let 
liberty thrive ! " — a spectacle that caused her Grace 
to withdraw hastily, "wondering if hell were let loose." 

Peg's mortification, however, was shared by all the 
other members of the company as well, and to quiet 
them, Rich was obliged to publish an order, "exclud- 
ing every one from the stage and green-room except 
those absolutely attached to the theatre." 

But Miss Bellamy, whose admirers had been wont to 
monopolize the green-room, and who consequently was 
the one most affected by this order of exclusion, was 
not the only thorn in the flesh of Peg. Quin, who re- 
garded himself as the head of the company, a position 
in which he displayed an insufferable arrogance, was 
extremely jealous of her popularity. He never forgave 
her for having prompted him once when he forgot his 
lines, and never missed a chance of insulting her. On 
one occasion, after she had been more enthusiastically 
applauded than usual in her role of Sir Harry Wildair, 
she exclaimed as she came off the stage flushed with 
excitement, " I really believe half the town take me 
for a man ! " Whereupon Quin in his coarse way had 
retorted, " The other half, at any rate, have had 
tangible proof of the contrary." 

Mrs. Gibber, too, returned to Govent Garden to 
annoy her in a hundred different petty ways. It was 
now that she was hissed in Jane Shore, as already 
related, for refusing to be treated as a stop-gap when 
Mrs. Gibber chose to fancy she was too ill to act. This 


Peg Woffington 

was the limit of her endurance, and being convinced 
that Rich, whom the whole company cordially disliked, 
was responsible for the indignity, she refused to remain 
at Covent Garden after the end of the season. 

The two principal theatres in London being thus 
closed to her, Peg decided to go back to Dublin, 
where she was engaged by Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 
father, Thomas Sheridan, who was at the time manager 
of several theatres. 


Dublin society was never more brilliant than in 
the autumn of 1751 when Peg Woffington made her 
rentrie at the Smock Alley Theatre as Lady Townley 
in Colley Gibber's sparkling comedy, The Provoked 
Husband. It was the beginning of the Duke of 
Dorset's second Viceroyalty, one of the most popular 
in Irish history ; and the three years it lasted, during 
which Peg remained in her native city, was likewise 
the period of her greatest fame. 

She had been engaged rather reluctantly by 
Sheridan for the season at a salary of four hundred 
pounds, but as in ten performances of four of her 
roles she brought the theatre the colossal sum of four 
thousand pounds, he was glad enough to engage her at 
double the sum for the following season. Her acting, 
which had now reached its highest development, was 
the only topic in or out of the theatre. An anonymous 
critic, speaking of her, says, "she first steals your 
heart, and then laughs at you as secure of your 
applause. There is such a prepossession arises from 
her form, such a witchcraft in her beauty, and, to 
M 2 163 

Daughters of Eve 

those who are personally acquainted with her, such an 
absolute command from the sweetness of her disposi- 
tion, that it is almost impossible to criticize upon her." 

She was always fond of " breeches " parts, in which 
all her contemporaries agree " she cut an elegant 
figure." As Rosalind, from all accounts she must have 
been inimitable. But it was something more than the 
" mere grace of her gestures " which made her render- 
ing of Sir Harry Wildair " not only a sensuous but 
an intellectual delight." Never, perhaps, with the 
exception of Eleanora Duse's, have such true grandes 
dames as Peg Woffington's been seen on the stage. 
Those who beheld her as Lady Townley, Lady Betty 
Modish, or Maria, in old Colley Gibber's brilliant 
comedies of intrigue, found it difficult to believe that 
she was the daughter of a bricklayer and a washer- 
woman. " From the distinction of her bearing," says 
one writer, " it seemed as if her family tree should 
bristle with peers, and, perhaps, two or three of those 
wicked old Plantagenet kings." 

But if in Murphy's stilted language "genteel 
comedy was her province," like her enemy Kitty 
Clive, she also desired to excel in tragedy. To this 
end, during her visit to Paris she made a special study 
of the method of Mademoiselle Dumesnil, who after 
winning fame in soubrette parts had become the most 
accomplished tragic actress of her day. In comedy, 
which gives the freest scope to a vivacious personality, 
her extreme unconventionality and scorn of stage 
traditions contributed largely to her success ; but in 
spite, or perhaps on account, of the great pains she 
took to master a medium of expression so foreign to 
her nature as tragedy, her acting of serious parts was 


Peg Woffington 

conventional and stilted after the fashion then in 

The peculiar timbre of her voice, moreover, was 
not suited to the recitation of blank verse, in which 
most of the tragedies of the day were written. Even 
in comedy, where she reigned supreme and alone, the 
" dissonant notes " of her voice seem to have offended 
sensitive ears. One critic speaks of her " barking as 
Lady Townley ; another of her " croaking." But the 
fact that she still managed to please in spite of this 
defect proves that her powers of fascination must 
indeed have been wonderful. It is possible, however, 
that the exception taken to her voice was due to her 
brogue rather than to any defect in the voice itself, for 
none of her Irish critics refer to it. 

But if her "tragic utterances were the bane of 
tender ears," she seems to have pleased the public, for 
she appeared as frequently in tragedy as in comedy. 
Victor, who was no mean judge, greatly admired 
her in tragic roles. Another of her contemporaries 
declared that " her Hcrmione was an instance there 
was scarce anything she could not do in tragedy." 
Even the envious Miss Bellamy says that "when 
dressed for Cleopatra, Woffington's beauty beggared 
description," and is reported to have been so overcome 
by her acting of Jocasta in CEciipus that she once 
fainted on the stage when playing with her. This 
has been set down to affectation, but as Dr. Doran 
observes, George Ann was not a lady likely to swoon 
for the sake of complimenting a rival actress. 

Though not received at the " Castle " or seen in 
the drawing-rooms of women of rank. Peg was too 
sensible to feel slighted. She never had the least 


Daughters of Eve 

ambition to win a position in society. Her chief 
pleasure was the companionship of clever men, and 
in Dublin, as previously in London, she gathered 
about her the most brilliant and distinguished of their 
sex. It was not altogether the seductive actress they 
courted, but the woman whose intellect, sharpened 
and refined by constant association since girlhood with 
wits, poets, and statesmen, made her, as Victor says, 
" such a jovial bottle companion." 

Nor did the flattery with which they perpetually 
censed her turn her head. "To Mrs. Woffington's 
honour," says Hitchcock, " be it ever remembered that 
whilst thus in the zenith of her glory, courted and 
caressed by all ranks and degrees, it made no altera- 
tion in her behaviour ; she remained the same gay, 
affable, obliging, good-natured Woffington to every one 
around her." 

Needless to say, with such a reputation there were 
many who sought to turn it to account, like the famous 
Miss Gunnings. The daughters of a poor Irish 
squireen, whose noble connections " remained inflexible 
to repeated solicitations," for pecuniary assistance 
they had been brought to Dublin by their mother, 
who saw in their wonderful beauty the family's last 
resource. The first step to its proper exploitation was 
naturally to be presented at Dublin Casde. But this, 
which a pedigree renders the simplest thing in the 
world, poverty makes the hardest. Without a suitable 
dress no woman, no matter how beautiful, can go to 
Court, and the Gunnings had no money to purchase the 
requisite attire. But they did not despair. Finding the 
tradesmen as deaf to their appeals as their grand relations 
they suddenly bethought themselves of Peg Woffington. 

1 66 

Peg Woffington 

She lived opposite the house in which they lodged ; 
they had often seen her driving about the town in 
her fine coach, and remembering the stories they had 
heard of her good-nature, which was proverbial in 
Dublin, they wrote beseeching her to lend them the 
dresses they lacked. Peg at once replied, bidding 
them come and select whatever they needed from 
her wardrobe. They did not require a second 
invitation, and, thanks to the borrowed finery of an 
actress, the sensation they created was such that one 
subsequently caught a duke, and the other an earl. 

"It was," says Macklin, "at this era that 
Woffington might be said to have reached the came of 
her fame. She was then in the bloom of her person, 
accomplishments and profession ; highly distinguished 
for her wit and vivacity ; with a charm of conversation 
that at once attracted the admiration of the men and 
the envy of the women. Her company was sought 
off the stage, as well as on it ; and though she did 
not much admire the frivolity of her own sex, and 
consequently did not mix much with them, she was 
the delight of some of the gravest and most scientific 
characters in Church and State." 

Indeed, her popularity with the audiences who 
flocked to see and applaud her was such that she 
might have remained indefinitely in Dublin, for she 
was as fond of her native city as it was proud of her. 
But in an evil hour she suffered herself to be elected 
president of the Beefsteak Club, and through that 
distinction, which she was the only woman to share, 
came to grief along with her manager and his theatre. 
This club had been founded by Sheridan " with the 
object of allowing the followers of the Sock and 


Daughters of Eve 

Buskin to have some hours of social mirth and 
relaxation." The original project, however, had been 
completely altered in its execution. Of its fifty or 
sixty members recruited from the " Castle " set, 
Sheridan and Peg Woffington were the only actors. 
As asocial club it soon became remarkably fashionable, 
and stories of the jollity that reigned there under 
the presidency of "the gay, the lovely, the volatile 
Woffington," gave it great notoriety. It was reported 
among other things that at the weekly dinners toasts 
were drunk to the Government, which was then very 
unpopular, and that the Irish were held up to ridicule. 
As a result of these stories, Sheridan and Peg, who 
were both Irish, were denounced as traitors by the 
excited populace, which only wanted an opportunity 
to make its displeasure felt. 

This occurred when Voltaire's Mahomet was pro- 
duced. Certain lines were considered by the public, 
already familiar with the play, to be peculiarly applic- 
able to those in the " Castle " set. On the first 
performance the audience had received Sheridan and 
Peg in stony silence, and loudly applauded the actor 
whose part it was to utter these lines. But instead of 
being warned by this danger and withdrawing the piece 
altogether, Sheridan was foolish enough to repeat it, 
whereupon there was a scene of wild disorder. For 
being requested to repeat the fatal lines, the actor, 
who either wished to ingratiate himself with the public 
or to pay off some old scores against his manager, 
begged to be excused, as '•' his compliance would 
be greatly injurious to him." Such an insinuation 
naturally fired the indignation ot the audience, which 
gave vent to it in calls for Sheridan. 

1 68 

Peg Woffington 

He, however, ordered the curtain to be lowered, 
and informed the audience, through the prompter, that 
the play would only proceed if suffered to do so 
without interruption ; if not, all persons were at liberty 
to take their money back. This message only in- 
flamed the audience still more, and when it learnt that 
Sheridan, alarmed for his personal safety, had sneaked 
out of the theatre, it demanded he should return. 
His refusal to do this filled the house with a howling 
mob which amused itself with calls for the manager, 
shouts for vengeance on all the "Castle" set, and 
threats of firing the theatre. 

The appearance of Peg, who bravely came forward 
in the hope of quieting the tumult, only added fuel to 
the flame. As president of the obnoxious club her 
patriotism was suspect. She was greeted with a 
storm of hisses, and forced to beat an undignified 
retreat. Sheridan was given an hour to return and 
apologize, and when the hour expired without his 
appearance the rioters proceeded to demolish the 
house. In a few minutes the whole of the interior of 
the Smock Alley Theatre was wrecked, and an 
attempt to set fire to the building was only stopped 
by the timely arrival of a company of Guards. 

This put an end to all further performance. 
Sheridan was forced to retire from the manao^ement 
of the theatre and leave Dublin. He went to London 
with his leading lady, who, having made her peace 
with Rich, returned to Covent Garden, where on 
her reappearance on October 22, 1754, after three 
years' absence, she received an ovation from a 
crowded house. 


Daughters of Eve 


" I will never," said Peg once, " destroy my own 
reputation by clinging to the shadow after the sub- 
stance has gone. When I can no longer bound on 
the boards with at least some show of my youthful 
vigour, and when the enthusiasm of the public 
begins to show signs of decay, that will be the last 
appearance of Margaret Woffington." 

This resolve, which others have so often made 
and found so hard to keep, was never put to the test. 
Fate intervened instead, and put an end to her 
brilliant career with truly tragic suddenness. It is 
true in 1757, when the blow which was to rob the 
stage of her for ever fell upon her, the bloom of her 
old charm had somewhat faded. It was observed 
that a change had come over her — the vim seemed to 
have gone out of her vivacity, and there were times 
when she looked old and haggard. She was aware 
of the change herself; and for the first time in her 
life began to complain of indispositions which rendered 
it impossible for her to act. She attributed the cause, 
however, to overwork, and, believing that a period of 
much-needed rest at the end of the season would 
speedily put her to rights, she struggled gallantly to 
keep up. The idea that the time had come for her 
to retire never occurred to her, for though people 
might whisper that " Woffington was on the wane," 
her Rosalind and Sir Harry Wildair continued to 
delight as of old. 

It was in the former of these roles that she 
was seen on the night of May 17, 1757, when 
the blow fell. She ought to have been in her bed, 


Peg Woffington 

but with her usual kindheartedness she had promised 
to act RosaHnd for the benefit of two minor actors 
and a dancer, and she would not disappoint them. 
For the first four acts all went well. " Among the 
audience," says a writer, "one frequently overheard 
observations on her delightful playing. Nothing 
could have been more fascinating than the scene 
where, as the youthful Ganymede, she made Orlando 
swear everlasting love. Even the critics actually 
forgot to ask, as they had done of late, who was to 
be Woffington's successor," 

But to those behind the scenes it was evident that 

she was acting under a terrible strain, and during the 

fifth act, as the play neared its end, she was heard to 

complain, on leaving the stage to change her costume, 

that she felt ill. Tate Wilkinson, who chanced to be 

standing in the wings, offered her his arm. He was 

an impudent and forward youth with a remarkable 

talent for mimicry which he had once displayed at 

her expense. Particularly sensitive to ridicule, Peg 

had never forgiven him, and in her resentment had 

ever since vainly attempted to drive him out of the 

theatrical profession, which was his sole means of 

livelihood — " almost the only unkind action that can 

be laid to her charge." But whether his readiness to 

come to her assistance in spite of her vindictive 

treatment softened her, or whether she was feeling 

too ill to remember the grudge she had against him, 

she graciously accepted the proffered arm in the spirit 

in which it was offered. Admittedly ill though she 

now was, she managed to return to the stage to finish 

her part. But suddenly, on uttering the lines of the 

epilogue, " If I were among you, I would kiss as many 


Daughters of Eve 

of you as had beards that pleased me," her voice 
faltered. She tried to continue, but could not proceed, 
then, with a scream of terror, she tottered to the wings, 
and was caught before she fell. 

"The audience," says Wilkinson, "sunk into awful 
looks of astonishment, both young and old, before and 
behind the curtain, to see one of the most handsome 
women of the age, a favourite principal actress, who 
had for several seasons given high entertainment, 
struck so .suddenly by the hand of death in such a 
situation, and in her prime, she being then in her 
thirty-eighth year." 

That night and for weeks afterwards her life was 
despaired of, but she recovered to linger for three 
years more — " no longer recognizable as the once 
lovely Peggy." 

Though her body, whose once faultless shape had 
been the object of so much admiration, was paralysed, 
her mind was still unimpaired. But its vivacity and 
wit, which had won her the friendship of so many 
brilliant men, had vanished. Stricken as she was in 
the heyday of her triumphant career, life lost for her 
all its old allurement. As she lay in her villa at 
Teddington, tenderly cared for by the grateful wife 
of Barrinofton, with whom she had acted as a child in 
Violante's Booth, and who owed such fortune as he 
won on the London stage to her interest, her whole 
outlook on the world from which she was slowly 
making her exit changed. 

During these three last years her conduct is spoken 
of by all as something like a phenomenon. " Simple, 


Peg Woffington 

graceful and pious," says Gait, "it partook of all that 
was blameless in her previous life." She had been 
born a Roman Catholic, but as she did not hesitate 
to renounce this creed to inherit an annuity of two 
hundred pounds bequeathed to her for life by one of 
her admirers, on condition she became a Protestant, 
her religious opinions would appear to have been 
as light as her life. The change of creed certainly 
produced no change in her conduct, which till her tragic 
exit from the stage had been typical of an actress 
of the Restoration period. Even the eloquence of 
John Wesley, whom she once went to hear preach out 
of curiosity, failed to exert any influence on her 
emotional nature ; and it was not till she lay in the 
shadow of death that she turned to religion for 

Conversion under such circumstances is apt to 
be of very questionable value, and there were not 
wanting many to charge the repentant magdalen 
with hypocrisy. But this reproach, of which she was 
fully conscious, only served to add fervour to her new- 
found faith, and inspired her with a loathing of her 
past life. The stage in particular, the scene of her 
worldly triumphs, source of her meretricious joys, 
inspired her with a veritable horror. She sought to 
awaken the consciences of her former theatrical 
acquaintances to its dangers. " There is no position," 
she said to one of them, " so full of temptation. At 
the bottom of my heart I always loved and honoured 
virtue, but the stage for years made me a worthless 

But actions speak louder than words, and Peg 
Woffington's repentance was by no means confined to 


Daughters of Eve 

lip-service. Her heart was too brimful of sympathy 
and loving-kindness for the austerity of the Puritan to 
find room there. She was no saint, but an impulsive 
sinner whose frailty obtains forgiveness from admira- 
tion of her virtues. Zealous in the performance of 
good works, full of sorrow for the past and hope in 
the future — all the Magdalen was there in that 
beautiful wreck. One of the last-recorded acts of 
her life was to send for her old enemy and rival, 
Miss Bellamy, and beg her forgiveness for whatever 
humiliation she may have caused her. 

After the first shock of Death's terrible and im- 
perative summons had passed, Peg answered it 
bravely enough. At her request she was buried in 
the churchyard at Teddington, where a tablet erected 
to her memory may still be seen in the parish 

In spite of her extravagance, to which Garrick had 
so strongly objected when they kept house together in 
the old glad days of her early triumphs, she left a 
considerable fortune, over which there was much heart- 
burning. Colonel Caesar of the Guards, her latest 
lover, expected to inherit it, and with this end in view, 
according to Kitty Clive, had actually married her 
after her seizure. Peg did, indeed, make a will in his 
favour, but her sister, in whose house she died, per- 
suaded her at the last to destroy it and name her sole 
heir of all she possessed. In this way Mrs. Chol- 
mondeley also defrauded Mrs. Barrington, who had 
nursed her sister during her illness, of Peg's jewels 
which had been promised her. 

It was, no doubt, also due to Mrs. Cholmondeley 
that the dying woman failed to provide for the endow- 


Peg Woffington 

ment of the almshouses which O'Keeffe declares she 
built at her own cost for the poor of Teddington. As 
a result, this charity, in which Peg had taken great 
interest, ceased at her death. 

" The Margaret Woffington cottages," as they are 
called, however, still exist — a low range of vine-covered 
old-world dwellings, with quaint little gardens in front, 
such as one sees in the pictures of Constable — and 
help, in a charming fashion that would have pleased 
her, to keep alive the memory of one who was a lovely 
woman, a rare actress, a merry companion, and a 
generous friend. 




(,Aftcr Lccierc) 

[To J~ace J>. 179 

" Ou sont-ils, vierge Souveraine ? — 

Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan ? " 

Francois Villon : 
Ballade des Dames du Temps Jadis. 




" Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first 
drive niad," is an aphorism applicable to nations as 
well as to individuals. 

Poland is a case in point. Her regrettable 
obliteration from the map of Europe, over which so 
much futile blood and ink have been spilt, is the 
more tragic from the fact that it was the direct con- 
sequence of her own folly. It was her misfortune, 
perhaps, rather than her fault that she could only 
produce soldiers when she needed statesmen. Had 
King Stephen Bathory or King John Sobieski — her 
two most famous warriors — been a little less sublime 
and a little more subtle, Poland might still be an 
independent state. But as no Louis XI arose to 
curb the insolence of the nobles, or no Richelieu to 
centralize and strengthen such authority as existed, 
Poland never outgrew, so to speak, the anarchy of her 
turbulent youth. 

N 2 179 

Daughters of Eve 

Without any clearly-defined boundaries, govern- 
ment, or policy, the " Republic," as she termed herself, 
was really, even at her zenith, nothing more than a 
convenient term to designate a confederation of abso- 
lutely independent feudal lords, whose sole bond of 
union consisted in strict adherence to the principle 
that the mere protest of one was sufficient to invalidate 
any decree upon which the others might agree. 
When to the disruptive tendencies of the libermn veto, 
as this ridiculous prerogative was called, were added 
the perpetual suspicion of the Polish nobles towards 
each other, and their perpetual mutiny towards their 
king, whose office, bereft of all power, was sold when- 
ever vacant to the highest bidder, extinction could 
naturally be but a question of time. 

Poland, however, like Charles II, was an "uncon- 
scionable time in dying." 

For a moment it seemed as if she had expired 
with King John Sobieski, in 1696, but she lingered 
for another hundred years, gradually becoming weaker 
and weaker. France and Saxony fought for her throne 
in her territories, which Charles XII and Peter the 
Great alike used as their battle-ground. Peace or war, 
it was just the same. When her rowdy neighbours 
patched up their quarrels, they treated her as a sort 
of " public inn," and were continually dropping in to 
be entertained at her expense. As the Empress 
Catherine expressed it, "one can always pick up 
something worth having in Poland for the mere trouble 
of stooping for it." 

The year 1763, in which Helene Massalska was 
born, was one of the most impudent of these cavalier 
visitations. The Empress dropped in and picked up 


{Froj>i a very rare print) 

[To /ace p. i8i 

Countess Potocka 

the Polish crown, which as it did not quite fit her 
own head she gave to one of her lovers, Stanislas 
Poniatowski, who was destined to be the last to 
wear it. 

Having thus set the country ablaze, as she had 
craftily designed, Catherine determined to drop in 
again and pick up something more. Accordingly, 
under pretext of supporting her prot^g^, she sent a 
Russian army to his aid, which, after occupying several 
fortresses, exacted of the unhappy king, in return for 
its services, a treaty granting to all Jews, Protestants, 
and members of the Greek Church in Poland the 
privileges which had till then belonged exclusively to 
the Roman Catholics. 

In taking the Dissidents, as they were termed, 
under her protection, Catherine, needless to say, was 
utterly devoid of any sympathy for them. Like 
Frederick the Great, and the French philosophers, 
whom they both so much admired, religion in any 
form was to her merely a ridiculous superstition. Her 
object was to exasperate the Poles to some act of 
resentment, which would give her an excuse for 
picking up the whole country, or as much as her 
neighbours would let her carry off. Poland, as she 
had planned, rushed headlong into the trap. Con- 
spiracies were formed all over the country to drive 
out the Russians, of which the most important was 
known as the Confederation of Bar. 

Among the leaders of this belated patriotic move- 
ment, the first genuine attempt of the Poles to maintain 
their independence, was Prince Ignace Massalski, 
Bishop of Wilna. Descended from one of the oldest 
and richest families of Lithuania — 'Poland's most 


Daughters of Eve 

important province — Massalski possessed considerable 
influence, which he was ready to sell to the highest 
bidder. As a noble, indeed, he was typical of his 
class — violent and corrupt, fickle and irresolute. As 
a prelate he lived the luxurious life of a prince of the 
Church of the eighteenth century. As a man he was 
very handsome, very intelligent, and, according to his 
contemporaries, very learned. 

His chief vice was gambling. In three years he 
lost more than a hundred thousand ducats, and in 
spite of his vast estates and notorious speculations, he 
was continually in debt. 

His chief virtue lay in the love he bore to his 
orphaned niece and nephew — Helene and her brother 
Xavier — who had been left to his care. 

Though related to the Radziwills, who had violently 
opposed Poniatowski's elevation to the throne, he had 
decided to support the king. This conduct had very 
nearly cost him his life. For PrinceRadziwill, hearing 
of it, hastened to Wilna with two hundred noblemen, 
broke into the episcopal palace, and, brandishing his 
sword in the face of Massalski, who was taken com- 
pletely by surprise, he recited the names of former 
bishops whom the princes of his house had put to 
death, ending with these words : " Next time you are 
subjected to a similar temptation, remember that I 
have a hundred thousand ducats in reserve with which 
to obtain my absolution at Rome ! " 

In this critical situation Massalski acted with 
consummate guile. He pretended to submit, but 
Radziwill had no sooner departed than he barricaded 
the palace and the cathedral, sounded the tocsin, 
armed the populace, and chased Radziwill out of Wilna. 


Countess Potocka 

This spirited conduct, however, by no means pre- 
vented the Bishop of Wilna from abandoning King 
Stanislas, and throwing in his lot with the patriots of 
Bar, the moment he found it to his interest to do so. 
But Catherine was a very different adversary from 
Radziwill. She quickly and ruthlessly stamped out 
the resistance she had invited. The Confederates of 
Bar, routed in their first battle with the Russians, fled 
the country to escape a worse fate. Massalski, whose 
bishopric was pillaged and property confiscated, found 
a refuge in Paris with his little nephew and niece, 
whom he nobly refused to leave behind without 
protection in such perilous times. 

This flight amidst a thousand dangers, from " a 
country where she saw nothing but fierce-looking 
soldiers, whose appearance alone frightened her," was 
the first memorable episode in Helene Massalska's 

It does not seem, however, to have made a very 
vivid or lasting impression upon her mind. In a 
short time all she could recollect of this thrilling 
journey was that "she quite forgot her French on the 
way, and that the driver on the coach blew his horn 
all the time." Of her life in Poland she soon ceased 
to have any recollection at all, which is not singular, 
considering she was only seven when its trend was 
so abruptly changed. Nevertheless, something of the 
turbulent atmosphere in which she was born always 
clung to her. It was particularly noticeable in her 
temperament. In spite of her French education, 
and preference for everything French, she remained 
essentially Polish to the end — impulsive, rebellious, 


Daughters of Eve 

The Bishop of Wilna, as has been stated, was a 
highly-educated and accompHshed man, and he was 
anxious that his Httle nephew and niece should receive 
an education worthy of their rank and fortune. To 
this end, immediately after his arrival in Paris, he 
placed Helene in the convent of the Abbaye-aux- 
Bois, where he wisely decided to let her remain till 
her education was complete. 

This institution, which had been recommended to 
the Bishop by the celebrated Madame Geoffrin, with 
whom he was very intimate, was admirably suited for 
the purpose he had in view. 

From the time of its foundation in the Regency 
till it was closed in the Revolution, the school conducted 
by the nuns of the Abbaye-aux-Bois enjoyed the dis- 
tinction of being the most fashionable and select of all 
the schools for girls in Paris. The nuns, who were all of 
noble birth, received as pupils none but the daughters 
of the greatest families. The head mistress was 
Madame de Rochechouart, a member of the historic 
house of Mortemart. After Madame de Chabrillan, 
the Lady Abbess, she was the most important person 
in the convent. When Helene was placed under her 
charge she was a tall, stately woman of twenty-seven, 
" handsome and witty like all her family, with a 
pretty foot, delicate white hands, a proud and serious 
expression, and a bewitching smile." An aristocrat to 
her finger tips, and fully conscious of the fact, she 
never let an occasion slip of impressing on her pupils 
the grandeur of their birth and the dignity attaching 
to rank. Her efforts in this direction were quite need- 


Countess Potocka 

less, for the pensionnaires of the Abbaye-aux-Bois, 
young though they were, required no one to instruct 
them as to the importance of such things. 

They had learnt their pedigrees before they had 
been taueht their catechism. From their earliest 
infancy not a day passed without their being reminded 
in a hundred ways of the value of ancient lineage. 
The manner in which they lived, moreover, at the 
Abbaye-aux-Bois was on a par with these traditions. 
The convent was run on the most expensive and 
luxurious scale. The " welcome," as it was called, 
consisting of a "collation with ices," that it was cus- 
tomary for each new arrival to give the school, cost 
twenty-five louis. The elder girls had their own 
maids. Helene, who was only seven when admitted 
to the Abbaye-aux-Bois, had a nurse, a maid, and a 
maid for the nurse, a room to herself, and four louis a 
month spending-money. When her uncle returned to 
Poland after an exile of two years, he gave orders to 
his banker in Paris to supply her with thirty thousand 
livres a year (^1,200) if necessary. As the other 
girls had similar provision made for them, some idea 
may be gathered of the cost of educating a nobleman's 
daughter in a fashionable boarding-school under the 
old regime. 

The price, according to modern ideas, was far in 
excess of the value received. As the education pro- 
vided by the Abbaye-aux-Bois was principally con- 
cerned with preparing the girls to adorn as brilliantly 
as possible the lofty position they were destined to fill 
in society, more attention was paid to the teaching 
of fashionable accomplishments than to more useful 
knowledge. The prize for dancing, for instance, was 


Daughters of Eve 

equivalent to that for history. Music and painting 
were scarcely less important than dancing. Elocution 
— the art of reading aloud and acting, accomplish- 
ments considered absolutely essential to good breed- 
ing in the eighteenth century — received the greatest 
care. The instructors were the best that could be 
procured. The first dancers at the opera directed 
the dancing classes ; and actors, from the Comedie 
Frangaise, were engaged to teach elocution and to 
arrange and produce the plays that were given at the 
convent in the fine theatre which had been specially 
built and equipped for the purpose. The nuns merely 
superintended the studies of their pupils and were 
present during the lessons. They, however, took 
complete charge of the more practical subjects the 
girls were taught, such as cooking, sewing, and 

The school was divided into three classes — the 
Blue, the White, and the Red — so named from the 
colour of their respective uniforms. The Blue class, 
which Helene joined, was composed of children from 
five — the earliest age at which they were received by 
the nuns — to ten years. The White class was the one 
in which they were prepared for their first communion ; 
after which they entered the Red, where they remained 
till they left the school. 

A more frivolous and superficial system of educa- 
tion it would, perhaps, be hard to conceive ; never- 
theless, it was not so barren as it seems. To it the 
high-born women of the eighteenth century owed the 
exquisite grace and distinction for which they were 
noted. If it taught them how to shine in the salons 
and to render Versailles to the last the Court par 


Countess Potocka 

excellence of Europe, it also taught them how to 
mount the scaffold in the Revolution with matchless 
courage and dignity. 

It taught them how to live, too, as well as to die. 
In the terrible years to come not a few of Helene's 
school companions turned their elegant, frivolous 
accomplishments to very practical account. Fallen 
from that lofty and dazzling sphere in which she 
had believed herself entrenched as in some impreg- 
nable fortress, Madame la Marquise could always 
support herself, if necessary, by teaching some vulgar 
little bourgeoise in London or Hamburg how to dance 
or recite like a grande dame. 

Under the rule of Madame de Rochechouart, who 
commanded the respect of all her pupils by her tact 
and discriminating judgment, the convent was a home 
as well as a school. Its atmosphere was so cheerful 
and its discipline so gentle, that Helene, spoilt by her 
uncle, who allowed her to have her way in every- 
thing, and as "stubborn as the Pope's uncle" into 
the bargain, adapted herself quickly to her new 

Sister Bathilde, one of the nuns in charge of the 
younger members of the Blue class, who found it easy 
to keep them quiet by telling them stories, in which 
she took as much pleasure as they did, found in the 
little Pole her most attentive and intelligent listener. 

" I remembered," says Helene, in her delightful 
account of her life at the Abbaye-aux-Bois, " every 
word she uttered, so that when she left us I could 
repeat her stories without omitting a single syllable." 

These tales had the effect of stimulating her 
imagination as well as her memory. When Sister 


Daughters of Eve 

Bathilde, as frequently happened, exhausted her 
powers of invention, Helene would take her place, 
and " relate endless stories of her grandmother, a 
notable woman of her day, who had fired a cannon at 
the siege of Dantzig and defended the place when the 
garrison thought only of surrendering." In a place 
where rank and birth were regarded with such rever- 
ence as in the Abbaye-aux-Bois, Helene's ancestral 
reminiscences were so popular that when she related 
them "the whole Blue class clustered round her on 
their knees in order not to lose a word, and even some 
of the White young ladies would occasionally listen 

Unfortunately, Sister Bathilde, whose prestige was 
impaired by the popularity of Helene, attempted to 
recover it by frightening her pupils with tales of 
ghosts and goblins. The skill with which she played 
upon their credulity gave rise to a rumour that the 
convent was haunted — the ghostly visitant being a 
daughter of the Regent — known as the " Wicked 
Abbess," who had formerly presided over the Abbaye- 
aux-Bois. The fact that the apartments she had 
occupied were only opened twice a year to be cleaned 
fostered the belief in her shade, which it was whispered 
came back there to expiate all the evil she had done 
during her lifetime. The terror these rooms, in 
which " shrieks and the rattle of chains could be 
heard," inspired in the pupils finally infected the nuns 
themselves, and when one of them " who had gone in 
to sweep, found marks of blood in the bedroom and 
was nearly suffocated by a strong smell of sulphur," 
the matter became so serious that Madame de Roche- 
chouart was obliged to interfere. 

Countess Potocka 

Sister Bathilde, who had more than once been 
reprimanded for frightening the children, was dis- 
missed from the class, and story-telling was forbidden 
altogether. But though Madame de Rochechouart's 
rigorous measures quickly allayed the fears these tales 
had created, the impression they had produced on 
H^lene's excitable imagination was never wholly 
obliterated. Her belief in the supernatural remained 
unshaken, and rendered her in later life, on occasions 
of extreme agitation, prone to morbid presentiments 
and hallucinations. 

As a child, however, Helene was far too healthy 
to indulge in such fancies. She and her companions 
were up to all sorts of mischief. To pour ink into the 
holy water stoup, to blow out the lamps, to unfasten 
the bell-ropes and to cause the novices, who were 
scarcely older than themselves, to break the rules by 
creeping into their cells in the dead of night to chatter 
and eat sweets, afforded them the greatest amusement. 
Quarrels, too, between the girls were of frequent 
occurrence. A beating that one of the big girls gave 
Helene for refusing to fetch her gloves, led to open 
conflict between the Reds and the Blues, in which 
"the Reds had all their things torn up or thrown 
down the well and the Blues were beaten to plaster." 

The exalted opinion they possessed of their station 
in life made the task of keeping them in order a diffi- 
cult one. Punishment and reproof they alike resented. 
It was related of Mademoiselle de Montmorency when 
she was eight or nine, she one day behaved with such 
obstinacy that Madame de Richelieu, who at the time 
was Lady Abbess, said to her, " When I see you like 
that, I could kill you." To which the child haughtily 


Daughters of Eve 

rejoined, "It would not be the first time that the 
Richelieus had been the murderers of the Mont- 
morencys." The sarcasms of Madame de Roche- 
chouart, however, seldom failed to act as a restraining 
influence on these spirited young sprigs of nobility. 

Once while the girls were playing in the convent 
garden they heard the sound of a boy's voice, which 
they discovered issued from a hole in the wall of the 
house adjoining. They determined to attract his 
attention, and whilst some proceeded to talk to the 
boy the others formed a line to hide what they were 
doing from the nuns. In this way they discovered 
that the boy's name was " Jacquot," and that he had 
the honour of serving in the kitchen of the Comte de 

They then told him their names, and, as they 
returned each day at the same time, Jacquot soon 
knew several of them by the sound of their voices 
and would call out when they approached : " Hullo, 
Choiseul, Massalska, Mortemart ! " At last, one day 
as they were engaged in extracting from the hole 
some "dainty morsels" he had brought them from his 
kitchen, one of the nuns approached without their 
noticing it. Inexpressibly shocked at conduct so 
unbecoming, she at once reported the " flirtation " to 
Madame de Rochechouart, who merely gave orders 
that the hole should be stopped up that very day. 

" To come down to the school-room about such an 
adventure," says Helene, "would, she thought, be to 
attach too much importance to it. But in the evening, 
at roll-call, she made some sarcastic jests about the 
delightful conquest we had made, and added that we 
must have very refined tastes and noble feelings to set 


Countess Potocka 

such store by a scullion's conversation, and she trusted 
that at some future date he would take advantage of 
our familiarity, which would naturally be extremely 
pleasant for our families. In this way she humbled 
without scolding us." 

It was an intuitive conviction that Madame de 
Rochechouart understood the innocent motives of 
these mischievous pranks and secretly sympathized 
with them that gave such effect to her sarcasms. 
The intense devotion this conviction inspired in her 
pupils did not, however, necessarily act as a check 
upon their mettlesome natures. On one occasion, 
indeed, it actually incited them to mutiny. Aware 
that Madame de Rochechouart had in vain endeavoured 
to persuade the Lady Abbess to dispense with the 
services of Madame de Saint-Jerome, who was "hated 
without being feared by the Red and White young 
ladies and ridiculed even by the little Blues," the girls 
formed a conspiracy to compel her to resign. 

"A quarrel," says Helene, who was one of the 
heads of the conspiracy, "that ended in fisticuffs 
between de Lastic and de Saint-Simon, two little 
girls of the Blue class, afforded us the opportunity 
we sought to put our plans into execution. Without 
inquiring which of them was right or wrong, Madame 
de Saint- Jerome flew into a dreadful rage and, seizing 
Mademoiselle de Lastic by the neck, threw her down 
so violently that she fell on her nose, which began to 
bleed. When we saw the blood we gathered round 
Madame de Saint- Jerome and threatened to throw her 
out of the window. At this she lost her head, and 
went off" in a great fright to complain to Madame de 
Rochechouart, leaving the class without a mistress. 


Daughters of Eve 

As soon as she had gone, Mortemart, a niece of 
Madame de Rochechouart, got on a table and per- 
suaded all the girls to withdraw from the school-room 
till we obtained the condition we desired. 

" It was decided that we should oro throuorh the 
garden, secure the kitchens and larders and reduce 
the nuns by famine. Accordingly we crossed the 
gardens and went to the buildings containing the 
kitchens. In the store-room we found Madame de 
Saint- Isidore and Sister Martha, who were so frightened 
when they saw us that they went away at once. We 
next proceeded to the kitchens, leaving one of our 
party in charge of the store-room, Madame de Saint- 
Am61ie, head of the kitchen department, tried to turn 
us out, but we turned her out instead, keeping Madame 
de Saint-Sulpice, who was only sixteen, as a witness 
that we did not waste the provisions of the establish- 
ment. Then we bolted the doors opening into the 
refectory and left those of the garden open with 
about thirty of the pupils to guard them. 

" Our next move was to address a petition to 
Madame de Rochechouart, in which we entreated her 
forgiveness for the measures which the cruelty and 
incapacity of Madame de Saint- Jerome had forced us 
to take, requesting a general amnesty for the past, 
that Madame de Saint-Jerome should not be allowed 
to put her foot again inside the school-room, and that 
we should have a week's holiday to enable our bodies 
and minds to recover from the fatigue we had endured. 
A postscript was further added to the effect that if the 
bearers of the petition did not return we should con- 
sider it as a sign that it was rejected, in which case 
we should go in force to fetch Madame de Saint- 


Countess Potocka 

Jerome and whip her round the four corners ot the 

" Mademoiselle de Choiseul and I offered to carry 
the petition. 

"When we entered Madame de Rochechouart's 
cell, she looked at us with an air of such severity that 
I turned quite pale, and Choiseul, bold as she was, 
trembled. Madame de Rochechouart hereupon re- 
fused to consider the petition, and lectured us on the 
enormity of our conduct, which still further confused 
me. But Choiseul courageously declared it was an 
affair of honour, and that we would die sooner than 
seem to betray or abandon our companions. 

"At this, Madame de Rochechouart turned her 
back on us and said, ' Well, carry your petition to 
whom you will, I have ceased to be your mistress.' 
We then went to the Lady Abbess. She read the 
petition but refused to grant it, whereupon we returned 
to the kitchen. As soon as our companions learnt the 
result of our mission, it was decided to prepare for 
hostilities. We made Madame de Saint-Sulpice give 
out provisions, and, breaking open the door of the 
bakery, forced Sister Clothilde, who was in charge of 
it, to give us supper, which was very merry. 

"As we were in high spirits, we did a thousand 
foolish things, and toasted Madame de Rochechouart. 
The great affection we all had for her is proved by the 
fact that our only fear was that she would keep her 
word and leave the class. The best joke was that 
Saint-Sulpice, who considered herself as a hostage, was 
quite reconciled at being forcibly detained. She was 
as merry as any, and after supper played all sorts of 
games with us. 

o 193 

Daughters of Eve 

"When bed-time came, we made a sort of couch 
with some straw, which we took from the back-yard. 
It was decided that this couch should be for Madame 
de Saint-Sulpice, but she refused it, and said we must 
give it up to the youngest girls, who were the most 
delicate. We therefore settled on it several children 
of five or six years of age. We wrapped up their 
heads in napkins and clean kitchen cloths, so that they 
should not catch cold. About thirty of the older girls 
posted themselves in the garden before the door, for 
fear of a surprise. And so we spent the night, partly 
in sleeping, partly in talking, as best we could. Next 
morning we prepared to spend the day in the same 
way, and we felt as if this state of things was to last all 
our lives. 

" Madame de Rochechouart, however, had sent for 
the mothers of the pupils who were supposed to be the 
ringleaders. They accordingly came to our camp and 
called their daughters, who, not daring to resist, were 
carried off. Then a lay-sister came to tell the rest of 
us that the school-room was open, that it was ten 
o'clock, and that all those who should be back in class 
by twelve would have a full pardon. The principal 
mutineers being gone, after a general consultation, we 
accepted these terms. When we returned to our places 
we found all the mistresses assembled, even Madame 
de Saint- Jerome, who seemed rather embarrassed. 
Madame de Saint-Antoine said we deserved to be 
punished, but, however, it was the return of the 
prodigal child. This mistress, who was the head of 
the Red class, belonged to the Talleyrand family, and 
was much beloved and respected. Madame de Saint- 
Jean was delighted to see us back. She said she had 


Countess Potocka 

felt very dull during our absence ; in fact, they were all 
most indulgent. 

"As for Madame de Rochechouart, she did not 
say one word about what had happened. In the 
evening at roll-call, when my turn came she looked at 
me with a smile and chucked me under the chin, and I 
kissed her hands. The next day everything resumed 
its normal course. A month later Madame de Saint- 
Jerome was removed." 

Madame de Rochechouart's affection for the " little 
wild thing from Poland," who in return " quite 
worshipped her," was shared by the whole convent. 
So thoroughly had she endeared herself to all, that 
her promotion to the White class, which had been 
considerably retarded by her mischievous conduct, was 
as much a source of regret to the pupils and nuns 
of the Blue class as of joy to those of the White. 
Madame de Saint-Delphine even went so far as to say 
that "she hoped she would never become steady." 

Touched by the spontaneous tokens of affection 
she received, the emotional child impulsively begged 
the pardon of the mistresses of the Blue class for all 
the trouble she had caused them, and thanked them 
for the indulgence with which they had treated her 
faults. The sincerity of her regret moved the simple 
nuns to tears, and old Madame de Montluc, who was 
irreverently nicknamed " Mother Ouatre Temps," 
the strictest of all, declared that although she "had 
occasionally maddened her, there had been moments 
which compensated for all." 

Helene's love of mischief, however, by no means 
prevented her from being a credit to those who had 
02 195 

Dauehters of Eve 


the task of educating her. While in the Blue class 
she won prizes in history and dancing. During the 
carnival, Madame de Rochechouart gave parties for 
her pupils, which were much talked about in society. 
Invitations to them were eagerly sought, "especially 
by young married ladies, who, not being able to go 
out alone, preferred them to those of the fashionable 
world, at which they were obliged to remain seated all 
the time next to their mothers-in-law." Madame la 
Duchesse de Bourbon, a princess of the blood, and 
her daughter, Mademoiselle de Bourbon-Conde, came 
regularly to these parties, and never failed to request 
Helene to dance the far lane and the montfdrine (old 
French dances), which she executed to perfection. 

As an actress she surpassed all her companions. 
In the classic dramas of the French stage, which were 
performed in the convent theatre before an audience 
composed of the relations and friends of the pupils, 
Helene was always assigned the leading part. After 
seeing her act Esther " in a dress embroidered with 
diamonds and pearls worth a hundred thousand crowns " 
lent her for the occasion by some great ladies, the 
Duchesse de Montemart besfofed Madame de Roche- 
chouart, as a great favour, that she might be allowed 
to act the part of Joas in Athalie that was to be given 
at her house. The favour was granted, to the intense 
delight of Helene, who scored a great triumph in the 
part. Even Mole, whom the duchess had engaged to 
train her company, " was obliged to admit that she acted 
Joas better than the child at the Com^die Frangaise." 

Most children would have been spoilt by all this 
flattery and attention. On Helene, however, they had 
not the slightest effect. 


Countess Potocka 

At the close of the performance of Esther, which 
was given on Madame de Rochechouart's birthday, 
Helene was called upon to recite some lines in honour 
of the occasion. Touched by the sentiment they con- 
tained, she could not restrain her tears. At this 
Madame de Rochechouart began to cry too, whereupon 
the emotional child, who "had an utter incapacity to 
control first impulses," rushed into the arms of the 
head mistress, " which were held out to receive her." 

One of the most singular features of this aristocratic 
education was the manner in which it was frequently 
interrupted temporarily by the marriage of the pupils. 
In the fashionable society of the eighteenth century, 
where matrimonial alliances were almost always a 
question of family interest, parents were by no means 
deterred from concluding these bargains by such a 
trifle as the infancy of the contracting parties. Often 
a child who was not destined, as many portionless ones 
were, to take the veil, was taken from the convent in 
which she was being educated to be married to some 
one she had never seen — whether of her own age or 
fifty years her senior, it mattered not — and sent back 
again as soon as the ceremony was over. There were 
many of these " brides " among Madame de Roche- 
chouart's pupils, and they exercised considerable 
influence upon the impressionable minds of their less 
experienced companions, not only by reason of the 
o-limpse they had had of the world the others were 
burning to enter, but from the maturing effect that the 
ordeal, mere formality though it was, through which 
they had passed had upon them. 

When Mademoiselle de Bourbonne left the con- 
vent to be married to the Count d'Avaux, she was 


Daughters of Eve 

only twelve. " She returned the same day," says 
H^lene, " having received magnificent wedding 
presents, but what pleased her most was that we all 
called her Madame d'Avaux. Every one gathered 
round her and asked her a hundred questions. She 
told us frankly that her husband was very ugly and 
very old, and that he was coming to see her the next 
day. We had a glimpse of him from the windows 
when he arrived, and thought him horrible." 

Incompatibility of age and temperament, however, 
were not always the rule in these alliances. There 
were occasional exceptions. One of these was the 
marriage of little Mademoiselle de Choiseul, Helene's 
most intimate friend at the Abbaye-aux-Bois, to her 
good-looking cousin of seventeen. Hdene naturally 
took the greatest interest in this event, which she 
has described in detail in her Memoir-diary. On 
this occasion the bride, who was married with great 
magnificence at Chanteloup, the seat of her famous 
uncle, the Due de Choiseul, was absent from the con- 
vent a fortnight. On her return she gave Helene a 
graphic description of the festivities given in her 
honour, which her mother-in-law contrived to rob of 
all pleasure by not letting " a single day pass without 
scolding her." This did not, however, prevent her 
from falling madly in love with her husband, who, 
although they were never left alone together for a 
moment, nevertheless managed to say a great many 
agreeable things to her, " which," adds Helene, " she 
had scruples about repeating to me, as I was not 

To the girls at the Abbaye-aux-Bois an existence 
in which dances, theatrical performances and marriages 


/ / 


(.4/h'r Citrinoti/eUe) 

Reproduced by the courtesy of the Director of the Mus^e Cond6. 

\Tofacep. 199 

Countess Potocka 

were of such frequent occurrence, was naturally enjoy- 
able. Till the sudden death of Madame de Rochechouart 
*' reduced her to utter despair," Helene, in particular, 
was " so happy that she would have been glad if her 
school-days could have lasted for ever." But this 
event, which caused the girl the first real anguish she 
had ever known, completely robbed the convent life 
of its old charm, and she longed to get away from a 
place in which she was perpetually reminded of the 
loss she had sustained. Fortunately, she had now 
reached an age at which the realization of this desire 
could not long be deferred. 


Though Helene herself had given little thought to 
the subject, her marriage had long been a favourite 
topic of discussion in society, where more than one 
mother, aware of her great fortune, had thought of her 
as a desirable match for their sons. The Comtesse 
de Brionne had even made overtures on the subject to 
the Bishop of Wilna, who was immensely flattered by 
them. Of the great ladies of the Court of Louis XVI, 
none were more justly celebrated for their wit and 
beauty than Madame de Brionne, of whom the Mar- 
quis de Mirabeau declared that, "if he went into 
society, he should prefer talking to her at her dullest 
to any other women at her wittiest." A Rohan by 
birth and a Lorraine by marriage, she was, moreover, 
apart from her social attractions, a personage of the 
greatest consequence. The family of Lorraine, of 
which her husband was a cadet, was semi-royal, and the 
Comtesse de Brionne never forgot the fact. 


Daughters of Eve 

She considered that she honoured the Bishop of 
Wihia by asking for his niece's hand and fortune for 
her youngest son. He thought so too, and would 
willingly have consented to oblige her. But Helene's 
head had been turned by a certain Prince Frederick 
de Salm, who had chanced to come to one of the 
convent parties, and she refused to hear of the Com- 
tesse de Brionne or her son. Though the likes and 
dislikes of boys and girls were insignificant factors in 
the marriages of the eighteenth century, Massalski was 
much too fond of his niece to urge her to marry 
any one against her will. Nevertheless he drew a 
line at the Prince de Salm, whose high birth and good 
looks were no compensation at all in the opinion of 
respectable society for the stigma of dishonour that 
blighted his reputation. 

Captivated by the undeniable fascinations of his 
appearance, to which the rumours of his dissipations 
lent a meretricious attraction, and accustomed to have 
her own way, Helene would, no doubt, have overcome 
her uncle's opposition to the Prince de Salm in the 
end but for the intrigues of a certain Madame de 
Pailly, who, according to the great Mirabeau, was "as 
clever as five hundred thousand devils, or angels, if 
you prefer." Fascinating, as well as clever, it was the 
ambition of this " nobody from Switzerland " to be 
received in the most exclusive circles in Paris. With 
this end in view, she was always ready to place her 
questionable talents at the disposal of any man or 
woman willing to take them at her valuation. 

Aware of the great influence she exercised over the 
crabbed Marquis de Mirabeau, for whom the Bishop 
of Wilna had the highest esteem, Madame de Brionne, 


Countess Potocka 

Rohan and Lorraine though she was, in her anxiety 
to secure Helene's hand and fortune for her son, 
had condescended to employ her as a go-between 
in the negotiations with the Bishop. Madame de 
Pailly's failure to bring off the match made her dread 
Madame de Brionne's resentment, and, anxious to 
recover the prestige she had lost, on which her position 
in society depended, she offered her services to 
the Princesse de Ligne- Luxembourg, who had also 
thought of Helene as a suitable wife for her nephew, 
Prince Charles de Ligne. 

The Princesse de Ligne- Luxembourg, who "had a 
chin of three stories and a fat, shiny face that dripped 
like a tallow-candle," hailed the offer with delight. 
It was accordingly agreed that she should win over 
the Lignes while Madame de Pailly undertook the 
conversion of Helene and her uncle. 

As fortunes like Helene's never go a-begging, the 
Princesse de Ligne- Luxembourg had no difficulty in 
accomplishing her part of this contract. It is true 
Prince Charles himself had little inclination for the 
match, his affections being already and hopelessly 
pledged elsewhere ; but his mother, by whom he was 
completely ruled, was not the woman to let such con- 
siderations interfere with any plans she chose to make 
for his future, and she was all for the Massalski alliance. 

The Bishop of Wilna, as much flattered at the 
idea of his niece marrying into the family of Ligne as 
into that of Lorraine, jumped at the suggestion. But 
Madame de Pailly had her work cut out, so to speak, 
to bring Helene to the scratch. She did it, however, 
in a manner worthy of the reputation she was piqued 
to defend. 


Daughters of Eve 


Feigning to ignore the preference the girl openly 
avowed for the Prince de Salm, she skilfully fired her 
imagination with accounts of the illustrious lineage of 
the Lignes, of the splendours of Beloeil, their ancestral 
home in Flanders, of the almost royal state in which 
they lived in Brussels and Vienna, where they had 
palaces, and of their lofty position at the Imperial 
Court. Nor did Madame de Pailly fail to talk of 
Prince Charles's fascinating and famous father, the 
Prince de Ligne, who through his fondness for 
Versailles, where he was in the highest favour, might 
easily be induced to obtain an establishment in Paris 
for his son, whom he adored. While dropping these 
hints of a residence in Paris, which she discovered was 
the dream of Helene's life — and the chief attraction 
in her eyes of the Prince de Salm, who possessed a 
splendid house in Paris — Madame de Pailly went on 
to describe the wonderful beauty of the historic family 
jewels of the Lignes, among which were " certain 
enormous diamond earring, known as girandoles, 
that Prince Charles's wife would wear on state 

Helene was duly impressed by the clever manner 
in which Madame de Pailly enlarged on the brilliancy 
of the alliance she advocated. But obstacles arose 
which more than once nearly broke off the negotiations. 
Prince Charles's mother, who had strong views on the 
subject of economy, was not at all disposed to hear 
of the establishment in Paris. Madame de Pailly 
endeavoured to make light of her opposition to Helene 
by insisting more than ever on the Prince de Ligne's 
preference for Versailles and the ease with which she 
would find an ally in him. But scarcely were Helene's 


Countess Potocka 

objections conquered, than a gloomy account of life in 
Brussels which she received from an old school-fellow 
who had married and settled there created fresh 
difficulties for Madame de Pailly. Nevertheless she 
did not despair, and after exercising diplomacy that 
would have made the fame of a minister of state she 
accomplished her task, and obtained the reward she 
desired in the compliments she received from the 
grandes dames whose society she coveted. 

Helene's consent having been obtained principally 
by the thought of the girandoles, on which she had 
set her heart, Madame de Pailly shrewedly advised 
the Lignes and the Bishop of Wilna to celebrate the 
marriage without delay. They accordingly set out 
for Paris immediately, where shortly after their arrival 
they were joined by the Prince de Ligne, "whose 
head was completely turned by his future daughter-in- 
law," a fact on which Helene, remembering Madame 
de Pailly's hints, at once began to build hopes of a 
house in Paris. 

Prince Charles, too, whose affections were already 
otherwise engaged and who was consequently indiffer- 
ent as to whom he led to the altar, was sufficiently 
attracted to admit that she was " very pretty," though 
she was wearing her convent uniform when he came 
to see her in which she considered that she " looked 
like a fright." On returning to the school-room after 
his visit, Helene told the girls who gathered around 
her that "there was something German about him, 
but on the whole her impressions were favourable." 
She was, however, much more interested in the 
girandoles which he brought with him than in 


Daughters of Eve 

As became persons of such consequence, their 
wedding was a grand one. In the marriage contract 
to which it was customary in the eighteenth century to 
attach far more importance than to the vows made by 
the contracting parties at the altar, H dene's dowry 
consisted of estates in Poland valued at 1,800,000 
roubles. The Bishop of Wilna, whose present to 
Hdene was a trousseau which cost him 100,000 crowns, 
also guaranteed her 60,000 roubles a year, and 
promised to pay her expenses whenever she resided 
in Paris. Prince Charles, on his side, received from 
his father an income of 30,000 livres, which was to 
be doubled if he had any children. In addition, the 
Prince de Ligne undertook to maintain his son and 
daughter-in-law free of charge in any of his palaces 
in which they chose to reside. The ceremony of 
sianine the marriag^e contract took place at Versailles 
on July 25, 1779, in the presence of the King and 
Queen. The ages of the bride and bridegroom at the 
time were respectively sixteen and twenty-one. 

As neither the Lignes nor the Massalskis had a 
residence in Paris, the religious ceremony, which took 
place four days later, was celebrated at the Abbaye- 
aux-Bois, to the delight of the pupils, who each 
received a souvenir from Helene, and were treated 
by the Bishop to a "collation with ices." Helene, 
needless to say, made a lovely bride. Being one of 
those rare people whom flattery never spoils, she 
attributed the admiration she excited to the girandoles. 

On returning to the convent parlour, after changing 
into her travelling-dress, she was very pale and there 
were tears in her eyes. At such a time such signs 
of emotion were too natural to attract any serious 



{After Leclerc) 

\_Toface p. 205 

Countess Potocka 

notice ; yet they denoted something more than nerves 
overstrung by the excitement of the occasion. At 
the sight of her travelHng-dress, she had been 
suddenly impressed with the seriousness of the step 
she had just taken, and before stepping into the coach- 
and-six, with its postiHons in the pink and silver livery 
of the Lignes, that was waiting to bear her from the 
home in which she had been so happy, the emotional 
girl " went quickly to the choir-chapel where Madame 
de Rochechouart was buried, to offer up a prayer on 
her tomb." 


As Madame de Pailly had informed Helene, the 
Liofnes were one of the most illustrious families in 
Flanders, where they had been settled since the tenth 
century. Among their various claims to distinction 
was their descent through a former Princesse de Ligne 
from Mary Queen of Scots — a fact of which they were 
very proud. The titles and dignities they had acquired 
in the course of their history were as thick as leaves 
in Vallombrosa. Charles Joseph, Prince de Ligne, the 
father of Prince Charles and the head of the house, 
was a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, a Knight of 
the Golden Fleece, a grandee of Spain of the first 
class, a Field-marshal of the Austrian Army, Chamber- 
lain to their Imperial Majesties, Seigneur of Fagnolles, 
Baron of Fauquemberghe and Wershin, Vicomte of 
Baudour, Beloeil, and Valincourt, and Marquis of 
Roubaix and Dormans. 

In addition to this dazzling array of honours, the 
Prince de Ligne was one of the most fascinating 


Daughters of Eve 

personalities of his time. Handsome, generous, and 
ciiivalrous, he was also a brave soldier, an excellent 
tactician, a brilliant writer and conversationalist, an 
amiable courtier, a clever diplomatist and the gayest 
of companions. His wit, on which his fame princi- 
pally rests, was unrivalled, except perhaps by that of 
Sophie Arnould, the famous actress of the Comedie 
Fran^aise. As some one has justly said of him, *' he 
was the wittiest man in an epoch in which all the 
world was witty." 

Notwithstanding all these advantages, so well cal- 
culated to spoil a man, he was the most unaffected of 
men, an opinion on which all his contemporaries are 
agreed. " If you are astonished," wrote Madame de 
Stael, " at what I say of him, how much more so would 
you be if you knew him ! " 

He had been brought up by his father in the 
strictest fashion. " My father," he says in his 
Memoirs, "did not care for me. I know not why, for 
we hardly knew each other. It was not the custom at 
that time for a man to be either a good father or a 
good husband. My mother was terribly afraid of him. 
So strict was he as to his appearance and formalities, 
that she gave birth to me dressed in her farthingale, 
and even died in the same dress a few days later." 
He entered the army at a very early age. In those 
days promotion was rapid for the soldier of noble birth. 
At twenty the Emperor gave him the colonelcy of the 
regiment of dragoons which the Lignes maintained at 
their own expense, much to the vexation of his father, 
" who declared that it was bad enough to have him as 
a son, without having him for his superior officer." 
His subsequent military career, however, fully justified 


Countess Potocka 

the appointment. He had a veritable passion for war ; 
a battle was to him " like an ode of Pindar." 

His marriage to a princess of the House of Lichten- 
stein was one of convenience. He was too much a man 
of his time to dream of being faithful to his wife, who 
ruled his household if not his heart, but he was full of 
consideration for her in other ways, and always treated 
her with deference. He had suffered too severely from 
his father's harshness to imitate it, and all his children 
were brought up with the greatest affection. He had his 
preferences, however. His eldest daughter Christine, 
Countess Clary, whom he called his " masterpiece," 
and Prince Charles, his eldest son, were his favourites. 
The latter he fairly worshipped, and taught him what 
he knew so well himself: "to fight like a gentleman." 
When still a boy he took him with him on one of his 
campaigns, to give him his baptism of fire. And this 
is how he did it — 

"At some small affair ot outposts," he says, 
"jumping into the saddle with him I took his little 
hand in mine, and, as we galloped away, I said, as I 
gave the order to fire, ' What fun it would be, Char- 
lot, if we received a little wound together.' And he 
lauofhed and swore and became excited, and behaved 
quite as I desired." 

Popular wherever he went — and he went every- 
where — the Prince de Ligne won for himself a unique 
position in the courts of Europe by his gaiety and wit. 
At St. Petersburg or Berlin, Versailles or Vienna, he 
was as much at home as in his superb Chateau of 
Beloeil, on which he had spent millions. The moment 
he arrived at a court he became the life and soul of it. 
He said whatever came into his head, but although he 


Daughters of Eve 

was too shrewd a courtier to abuse this privilege, he 
would occasionally under cover of a joke utter many 
a serious and disconcerting truth. Indeed, from the 
licence he enjoyed by reason of his gaiety and wit, 
the role he played at the courts he frequented was 
not unlike that of the jesters and fools of an earlier 
and ruder period. 

" What did you suppose I would be like ? " asked 
the Empress Catherine of him. 

" Tall and stiff as a poker, with a large hoop and 
eyes like stars. I thought also I should only have to 
admire, and constant admiration is most fatiguing. 
But I find it is necessary to have all one's wits about 
one." And the Empress laughed heartily at this 
clever mingling of frankness and flattery. 

He accompanied her on her famous visit to the 
Crimea, which had for its secret object a meeting 
with the Emperor Joseph to discuss the partition of 

" I felt as if dreaming," he says in one of his 
brilliant letters, "when I found myself in the depths 
of an enormous coach, seated between these two 
personages, the heat of whose august shoulders nearly 
stifled me, and heard, as in a dream, one say to the 
other, ' They tell me I have thirty millions of subjects, 
counting males only,' and the other reply, 'And I have 
twenty-two millions, all included.' Then they fell to 
work disposing, in the course of their conversation, of 
towns, cities, and even provinces, changing them aboat 
without seeming to consider it anything at all, till at 
last I said, ' Your Majesties will never get anything 
but trifles and troubles,' whereupon the Emperor 
replied, ' Madame, we are spoiling him. He has not 


Countess Potocka 

the least respect for either of us. I must tell you that 
he has been in love with one of my father's mistresses, 
and at the time of my debut in society he outwitted me 
in the affections of a marchioness who was as beautiful 
as an angel.' " 

If the Prince de Ligne was fascinating to the 
crowned heads who honoured him with their friend- 
ship, they were equally so to him. Frederick the 
Great "completely conquered him," and "he based 
his claim to immortality " on the strength of his 
acquaintance with that monarch, "who would con- 
verse on anything and everything for hours at a time, 
but in so inexpressibly charming a voice that if, like 
Homer's heroes, he was something of a babbler, he 
was at least a sublime one." 

For Marie Antoinette the Prince de Ligne had a 
vrai culte. " No one could see her without adoring 
her," he wrote ; " I never saw anything in her society 
that did not bear the impress of grace, kindness and 
good taste." To him she was always "noble, sublime, 
beautiful, adorable," etc. His description of the 
charm of her personality is the most vivid portrait 
ever penned of the hapless Queen. 

Men accustomed to bask in the smiles of royalty 
are generally intolerable in their own homes. It was, 
however, in the bosom of his family that the Prince de 
Ligne was most charming. It is true he quickly tired 
of domesticity, and his absences were frequent and 
prolonged ; nevertheless, when absent he was wont to 
sigh for "his beautiful life at his beloved Belceil." 
His return home was eagerly welcomed by the entire 
household, and even his severe and unsympathetic 
wife, who spent her time when he was away scraping 

p 209 

Daughters of Eve 

and paring to the discomfort of everybody, under the 
magic of his good humour suffered him to resume 
his favourite pastime of " flinging millions out of the 
windows " without a reproach. 

The marriage of his eldest son afforded him an 
excellent excuse to gratify his taste for display. In 
accordance with his instructions, a splendid welcome 
was prepared for Prince Charles and his bride at 
Beloeil, whither they w^ent immediately after their 
wedding, accompanied by all the members of their 
respective families who were present at the ceremony. 
Their arrival was celebrated by a fete in the beautiful 
grounds of the Chateau, in which the tenants of the 
estate took part dressed as shepherds and shepherdesses 
a la Watteau. During the week the festivities lasted, 
the park was thrown open to the public, for whose 
amusement the Prince de Ligne provided dancing, 
puppet-shows, concerts by the fine band of his regi- 
ment of dragoons, and fireworks ; while the Chateau 
itself was filled with sfuests from Brussels and the 

To the bride of sixteen, fresh from her convent, it 
seemed " as if she had stepped into fairy-land." Enjoy- 
ment added to her beauty and charm, and in her 
impulsive way she was grateful to her husband to 
whom she owed so much happiness. Prince Charles 
took very little part in the amusements to which his 
volatile father and wife were addicted. His was an 
essentially serious nature. A passionate lover of 
pictures, he had found time, in spite of his arduous 
military duties, to make a fine collection of pictures 
and drawings of the old masters. He was also an 
excellent draughtsman himself, and had made a study 



Reproduced for the first time by the courtesy of the Prince de Ligne from the 
portrait at Beloeil. 

\Toface p. 211 

Countess Potocka 

of the art of engraving with a view to reproducing the 
gems of his collection. To please him, Helene mani- 
fested an interest in his hobby and volunteered to 
catalogue his drawings, of which there were more than 
six thousand. The offer was accepted in the spirit in 
which it was made ; and, irksome though the task was 
when it interfered, as it frequently did, with her own 
enjoyment, the reputation she gained for amiability by 
it compensated for the occasional sacrifice it entailed. 
Everybody was delighted with her, and the Princesse 
de Ligne wrote to the Princesse de Ligne- Luxembourg 
" that she was all that one could desire in a daughter- 

As long as the Prince de Ligne was at home to 
keep the ball of pleasure rolling merrily, Helene was 
in perfect harmony with her surroundings. But at the 
end of six months he flitted off again to Versailles and 
Vienna. At the same time Prince Charles rejoined 
his regiment, and the Princesse de Ligne, who never 
did any entertaining in their absence, at once set to 
work to repair the ravages that her husband's extrava- 
gance had made in his fortune. The discomfort the 
process entailed heightened the monotony that now 
reigned at Beloeil. 

Perceiving that Helene chafed at the curtailment of 
her pleasures, her mother-in-law undertook " to form " 
her. To be " formed " by the Princesse de Ligne was 
anything but an agreeable ordeal. The dominant 
influence in her family by reason of the rigidity of her 
morals and opinions and her skill in the management 
of his property, which her husband left entirely in her 
care, she inspired fear rather than aflection. Her 
children trembled in her presence. Helene, on the 

P2 211 

Daughters of Eve 

contrary, accustomed to be petted and spoilt, resented 
reproof in any shape. Least of all was she inclined to 
submit to being ruled by her mother-in-law, whose 
despotic nature revived the antipathy she had formed 
at school to mothers-in-law in general from the stories 
she had heard of their "tyranny" from all her married 
school-mates. Naturally headstrong, she determined 
to assert her independence in an unmistakable manner, 
to the amazement of the Princesse de Ligne, who, 
judging from her previous " docility," believed she was 
" without a will of her own." 

Under such circumstances life at Beloeil became 
unendurable to Helene. To escape from her mother- 
in-law's exasperating tutelage, she demanded the estab- 
lishment in Paris which she had been vaguely promised 
on her marriage. The Princesse de Ligne, who had 
never been in favour of the proposal, was now more 
than ever opposed to it. She thoroughly disliked her 
daughter-in-law, but to get rid of her, much as she 
wanted to, on her own terms, would have seemed like 
a defeat. But Helene was "as stubborn as the Pope's 
mule " ; she resolved to have that establishment in 
Paris, and in the end she had her way. 

To lead the life she desired, it was necessary to 
have her tabouret at Versailles. As this coveted dis- 
tinction was granted only to the wives of dukes and 
grandees of Spain, for Helene to obtain it seemed on 
the face of it tantamount to crying for the moon. But 
she remembered that her father-in-law was a grandee 
of Spain, and as his wife never came to France, she 
saw no reason why he should not transfer his privilege 
to his son. It was no slight matter to get Prince 
Charles to make the request, but backed up by the 


Countess Potocka 

Princesse de Liene-Luxembourq-, who wanted the credit 
of presenting her at Court, Helene finally forced him 
to do as she wished. The Prince de Ligne was easily 
persuaded to grant his son the favour, and Helene 
returned to Paris in triumph. 

Never had the Court of Versailles been more 
brilliant. It is true, the rumblings of the approaching 
Revolution could already be heard by those who had 
ears to hear them, but the butterflies of fashion 
fluttered from pleasure to pleasure, utterly heedless 
of the impending storm. Young, rich, beautiful and 
witty, Helene was pre-eminently fitted to shine in the 
dazzling circle that revolved around the lovely and 
light-hearted Queen. But Prince Charles was utterly 
out of place in this vortex of pleasure and frivolity. 
Thrown into the shade by his brilliant father and 
captivating wife, his position was a trying one. 
Among the giddy triflers who fluttered round Helene 
he was voted a bore ; and she, conscious of the 
ridicule his German manners and serious tastes ex- 
cited, soon began to despise him herself. 

She was not, however, unmindful of his honour, 
and in return for the complete liberty he accorded 
her, she was careful to avoid giving him just cause to 
curtail it. The birth of their first and only child — a 
daughter, who received the name of Sidonie — for a 
while effected a sort of reconciliation between the ill- 
mated couple. Prince Charles, whose dislike of Paris 
had increased every month, took advantage of this 
rapproche^nent to persuade his wife to return to 
Beloeil — a plan to which the impulsive creature, 
softened by the joy of being a mother, readily con- 
sented. Shortly after their arrival, however, a serious 


Daughters of Eve 

insurrection occurred in Flanders, which rendered the 
country so unsafe that, on the advice of the Prince de 
Ligne, who was at the time absent in Russia, his whole 
family removed to Vienna. 

Here it was Helene who appeared at a dis- 
advantage. The Imperial Court presented a great 
contrast to that of Versailles. Under the strait-laced 
Maria Theresa it had been more like a convent than 
a court; under Joseph II, whose tastes were as plain 
as his mother's, it resembled a barrack ; yet he could, 
when he chose, impart to it an air of pomp and 
dignity. These occasions, however, were very rare, 
and when Helene arrived in Vienna the Court had 
never been duller. As a Pole, moreover, whose 
country had been recently partitioned by Austria, she 
received but scant consideration. This she would 
have overlooked on personal grounds, for fond though 
she was of admiration, she was not vain. But to be 
slighted on account of her nationality was humiliating) 
and, cordially disliking the Austrians, whom she 
regarded as boors, she did not even take the trouble 
to conceal her contempt. 

Prince Charles, on the contrary, who had been 
intimate from childhood with all the chief families at 
Court, to many of whom he was related, was at his 
best in Vienna. Aware of the fact, he could not 
resist the temptation of showing his volatile wife that 
whereas in Paris he had been neglected and despised, 
he was a person of importance in Vienna. The com- 
parison was not one of which Helene cared to be 
reminded, and the manner in which it was emphasized 
by her husband's devotion to the celebrated Countess 
Kinsky only served to embitter her resentment. 


Countess Potocka 

This beautiful and accomplished woman, who was 
regarded as the chief ornament of the Imperial Court, 
had a curious history. Her husband, whom she saw 
for the first and last time on the day of her wedding, 
had left her at the church door, " to rejoin the woman " 
he told her, " without whom it would be impossible to 
support life." The quiet dignity displayed by the un- 
fortunate Countess in this equivocal position had won 
for her universal sympathy. Outwardly at least her 
conduct was above reproach. But though she and 
the Prince observed the strictest propriety in their 
intercourse, Hdene, with a wife's quick instinct, 
guessed the real nature of the tie that united them, 
and, thoug-h she mio-ht not love her husband, she 
could be jealous of him. To make matters worse, 
the Princesse de Ligne was at hand, ever ready to 
find fault and give advice on the management of the 
baby, on which she had very decided views. 

With so many causes of mutual discontent and 
irritation the good understanding which had been 
effected by the birth of little Sidonie could not last, 
and the couple drifted wider apart than ever. By the 
end of the winter, when order was re-established in 
Flanders and the question of returning there arose, 
the tension between the husband and wife had reached 
the snapping-point. 

H^lene, however, reckless though she was, took 
care to avoid coming to open conflict. She had no 
desire to be confined in a convent like many another 
refractory wife, and the law, as she well knew, gave 
her husband that power over her, if he cared to 
exercise it. She was also equally unwilling to return 
to Beloeil with her mother-in-law. Accordingly, to 


Daughters of Eve 

avoid this contingency or its possible alternative, she 
had recourse to strategy, and requested permission 
before returning to Flanders to pay a visit to her 
uncle, in order to expedite the payment of the 
revenues of her estates, which owing to the unsettled 
state of affairs in Poland had been long overdue. 

Prince Charles could not very well refuse to grant 
such a request, but he insisted that Sidonie should 
remain behind in his mother's care. To this condition 
Helene readily consented, for she had no fixed in- 
tention of deserting her husband and child. In her 
overwrought and excited state she thought only of the 
present — it was unendurable, and she was fleeing from 
it, that was all. But the step was to have consequences 
of which she little dreamed. 


Since the flight of the Bishop of Wilna seventeen 
years before, in the Confederation of Bar days, things 
had steadily gone from bad to worse in Poland. Yet 
in spite of the shock of the two terrible surgical opera- 
tions she had undergone at the hands of the partition- 
ing powers, the dying nation still lived, and, though 
her days were now numbered, still hoped to live. 
Deceived by the comparative peace in which she 
was temporarily left by the internal troubles of her 
neighbours, she had begun to believe that she was 
recovering from her deadly malady, and like an ex- 
piring consumptive who mistakes the last flicker of 
the flame of life for a sign of returning health, on the 
brink of the grave was making plans for the future. 

When H61ene arrived in Warsaw in 1788 the 
foolish Diet had assembled to reform the Constitution 


Countess Potocka 

— a task which should have engaged the attention of 
the Poles at least a hundred years earlier, and to the 
execution of which they now set themselves with all 
their characteristic distrust, intrigue, and incapacity. 
The capital, crowded with people from all over the 
country, presented an unusually animated appearance, 
and the Polish Court, to whose half-Oriental splendour 
King Stanislas had given the tone of the best French 
society in which he had moved in his youth, was 
never more brilliant. 

Preceded by a reputation for beauty, wit, and 
fascination, Helene at once became a prominent figure 
on this dazzling stage by reason of her nationality and 
the evident pride she took in it, as well as by her 
refinement and grace. Enchanted with her liberty, 
she forgot the past and all that tied her to it, and 
gave herself up without restraint to enjoyment. The 
Princesse Charles de Ligne no longer existed, she was 
once more only Helene Massalska. 

Her uncle, who had always spoilt her, was as ready 
as ever to gratify her every wish. The old Massalski 
Palace in Warsaw, which had long been untenanted, 
was redecorated, and became under her clever manage- 
ment the centre of the world of fashion. The months 
flew by on wings. Her husband, offended by her long 
absence, disdainfully forebore to urge her to return to 
him. Utterly indifferent to his opinion, she asked no 
better than to have her present life continue for ever. 
An impulse, as sudden as it was powerful, had taken 
possession of her. For the first time in her life she, 
who was made for love, was in the thrall of a great 
passion, and she abandoned herself to it without 
scruple, unrestrainedly, after her impetuous fashion. 


Daughters of Eve 

He who had kindled this flame which only death 
could quench was the Grand Chamberlain of the 
King, Count Vincent Potocki. Like Radziwill and 
Czartoriski, Potocki was a name to conjure with in 
Poland. As a family, it was the most numerous and 
the richest of the Polish nobility. On the death, in 
1805, of Count Felix Potocki, the head of this historic 
house, according to the Comte de Lagarde "his 
property was estimated at 165,000 available individuals, 
besides petty nobles, Jews, and women, who altogether 
amounted to twice that number, all of whom were 
practically his subjects, for with a yearly revenue of 
nine millions of florins (^700,000) he not only lived 
like a king on his estates, but exercised an almost 
kingly authority in the administration of them." 

His widow was the famous Countess Sophie 
Potocka, whose peerless beauty and romantic adven- 
tures rendered her one of the most conspicuous figures 
of her time. As historians are constandy confounding 
her with H^lene, who subsequently became one of the 
many Countesses of the same name as herself, her 
history is worth relating. 

The child of Greek parents who had been reduced 
to beggary, she had been discovered in the streets of 
Constantinople by the Marquis de Vauban, French 
ambassador to Turkey, who, attracted by her remark- 
able beauty, had her taken care of and educated. On 
his return to France, accompanied by his Oriental 
treasure, he chanced to stop at Kaminiecz, one of the 
fortresses Russia had "picked up " on one of her visits to 
the "public inn," as the Empress Catherine described 
Poland. General de Witt — a descendant of the famous 
Grand Pensionary of Holland — who was Governor ot 



(^Froin a niiniaiiire by P'inceut de Lescur in the 
coltectioti of Cojnte Tarnmvski) 

Reproduced by the courtesy of Librairie de I'Art 
Ancien et Mciderne. 

I To face p. 219 

Countess Potocka 

Kaminiecz, treated Vauban with the greatest hospi- 
tality, and became so enamoured of the fair Greek, 
with whom he had fallen in love at first sight, that he 
made her an offer of marriage. As he was under thirty, 
handsome, and high in the favour of the Empress, the 
former beggar-maid quickly made up her mind that it 
was better to be the wife of young General de Witt 
than the mistress of old Marquis de Vauban, and 
accepted the offer of her lover without hesitation. 

Foreseeing, however, that Vauban might naturally 
object to such an arrangement, to escape the charge of 
violating the laws of hospitality de Witt had recourse 
to stratagem. He accordingly arranged a hunting- 
party in honour of his guest, which was to meet at 
some distance from the fortress. At the last moment 
he invented some excuse to remain behind, and 
married Sophie the moment Vauban was out of sight, 
who, being informed on his return of what had taken 
place, philosophically accepted a situation which it was 
useless to contend against. But General de Witt's 
happiness was not of long duration, and two years 
later Count Felix Potocki won his "magnificent 
Greek," from him in a precisely similar fashion. 

To Helene, Count Vincent's life appeared scarcely 
less romantic than that of his beautiful cousin. At 
thirty-seven he still possessed the extraordinary good 
looks and personal attractions for which he had been 
noted at the outset of his career, when he married the 
Kine's niece, Countess Ursula Zamoiska, whom he 
quickly divorced to marry theCountess AnnaMycielska. 
He had two sons by the second marriage, the youngest 
of whom was but a few weeks old when Helene 
crossed his path. 


Daughters of Eve 

He had been attracted to her from the start, but 
greatly as he admired her, his passion was by no 
means so violent as to be unreasoning. It flattered 
his vanity to be loved by one so beautiful and admired 
as Helene ; nor was her great wealth without weight 
as well. Fascinating though he appeared, he was 
really unworthy of the various passions he had inspired. 
There are many men like that, and it was Helene's 
curse to understand the fickleness and selfishness of 
his character, and to be as unwilling as she was unable 
to escape from the thraldom of his spell. Her one 
desire was to be loved in return, and for his sake she 
altered her mode of life, and even dropped out of 

At the beginning of their acquaintance. Count 
Vincent behaved with prudence. Drawn to Hdene, 
he still continued to love his second wife, who was 
recovering from her recent confinement at Kowalowka, 
his estate in the Ukraine. Countess Anna, however, 
had an enemy in her predecessor, the Countess Ursula, 
who, in spite of her divorce, remained on the best 
terms with her forn er husband. The Countess 
Mniseck, as she had now become, was anxious that 
Count Vincent should be faithless to his second wife, 
who had robbed her of him and who was known to be 
madly in love with him. Perceiving Helene's infatua- 
tion, she accordingly sought her friendship, and offered 
to aid her in conquering the Count's fickle heart. 

This campaign, in which, it goes without saying, 
Hdene won the declaration of love she so much 
desired, was conducted at first with due regard to 
propriety. But the Countess Mniseck had no inten- 
tion of letting it continue in this circumspect fashion. 


Countess Potocka 

Wishing to make trouble, she took care to let a rumour 
of the liaison reach the ears of the Countess Anna at 
Kowalowka, who at once returned to Warsaw and had 
a "scene" with her husband. This led to another 
between Helene and the Count. Mortally wounded 
by the Countess Anna's refusal to receive her when 
she called, Helene violently demanded her lover to 
compel his wife to admit her, " in order that she might 
not be dishonoured in the eyes of the world." In vain 
did Count Vincent seek to pacify both women, but 
neither would listen to reason, and to escape from a 
situation, as inconvenient as it was ridiculous, he 
abruptly disappeared. 

Helene had parted from him in a fury, but as with 
all ardent and undisciplined natures, the reaction was 
swift and violent. She wrote him a heart-broken 
letter, in which she abandoned all claim to his affec- 
tions, while " swearing that he should be the eternal 
object of hers." This letter was returned to her a few 
minutes later, unopened, by the Countess Anna, who 
had received it, and who briefly informed her on the 
envelope of the Count's departure, foolishly adding, in 
her elation at the dismay she knew the news would 
cause her rival, his destination — Kowalowka. 

But the knowledge that her weak lover, in his 
anxiety to escape from an embarrassing situation, had 
left her to bear the world's censure alone, infuriated 
Helene. She was not a woman to submit tamely to 
such treatment. With her, to think and act were 
identical, and within half-an-hour of the return of the 
letter she set out for Kowalowka, accompanied only 
by a maid. 

At the sight of her. Count Vincent, who had barely 


Daughters of Eve 

arrived himself, was " completely unnerved," but under 
the spell of Helene's beauty and charm, which the 
rashness of her conduct heightened, he soon recovered 
and was re-enslaved. But Helene was no longer 
content to be the mistress of the man she loved so 
recklessly. Dreading lest he should abandon her 
again, and alarmed for her reputation, she proposed 
that they should each obtain a divorce to enable them 
to marry.^ Count Vincent, accordingly, wrote to the 
Countess Anna to obtain her consent to the annulment 
of their marriage ; while Helene demanded her 
"freedom, her daughter, and her fortune" of Prince 
Charles, and implored her uncle for assistance. 

As divorce was an every-day affair in Poland, they 
took it for granted that no objections would be raised 
to their proposals. But the replies they received 
speedily disabused them of this idea. The Countess 
Anna, who had only been married four years, and 
whose blameless character merited the love she craved 
from her husband, sent him a touching appeal for pity. 
Prince Charles dryly and formally refused to consent 
to his wife's requests. The Bishop's reply was eva- 
sive ; he desired " time to give the matter his careful 

The position in which these letters placed Helene 
was extremely painful. She saw herself discredited 
with her relations, compromised in the eyes of the world, 
and even pinched for ready money, for, heiress to 
millions though she was, by the terms of her marriage 
contract the revenues of her estates were paid to her 

1 " Divorces were very easily obtained in Poland. The granting 
of decrees was a source of considerable revenue to the Court of 
Rome." — Ferrand, Demembrement de la Fologne. 



Reproduced for the first time by the courtesy of the Prince de Ligne from the 
portrait at Beloeil. 

\.To/ace p. 223 

Countess Potocka 

husband. Aware that she had burnt her bridges and 
that her only security lay in the loyalty of the man for 
whom she had sacrificed herself, and on whom she felt 
she could not rely, she was keenly alive to the shame 
of her situation, for she never for a moment contem- 
plated being his mistress. She was, moreover, quite 
alone, for to save appearances as far as possible she was 
not actually living with the Count at Kowalowka, but 
in a small house in the neighbourhood. With the easy 
optimism of her nature she had persuaded herself that 
all would go well, and the dashing of her hopes was 
harder to bear for being entirely unexpected. 

The climax was reached when the Count fell ill of 
a putrid fever, and for three months lay between life 
and death. Though prevented from nursing him, she 
went in disguise from time to time to see that he was 
being properly cared for. But these furtive visits only 
served to deepen her humiliation and increase her 

It was exactly at this period of depression, when 
her hopes were at their lowest ebb, that the news of 
her husband's death arrived. Serving in the Austrian 
army, which the Emperor had sent under the command 
of the Duke of Brunswick to the relief of the French 
royal family after the fall of the monarchy, Prince 
Charles had been killed in an engagement near Mons. 
Regretted by the entire army as a brave and capable 
officer it could ill afford to lose, his death cast a 
gloom over Viennese society in which he had been 
so popular. 

His father, in particular, never recovered from the 
blow, and for a time no one dared to tell him the fatal 
news. The Prince de Ligne, whose life had hitherto 


Daughters of Eve 

been one long gala, was to suffer greatly in the troub- 
lous times that the French Revolution brought upon 
Europe, but worldly and sceptical though he was, he 
bore his misfortunes philosophically. Asked once how 
he manaofed to rise above circumstances under the 
weight of which others would have succumbed, he 
replied, "At the cost of a great grief. When the soul 
has been wounded by the loss of all that one holds 
dearest, I defy minor misfortunes to touch it ; loss 
of wealth, total ruin, persecution, injustice, everything 
sinks into insignificance." 

To Helene, however, the death that spoilt existence 
for her father-in-law brought a sense of relief. Ab- 
sorbed in the selfishness of her grande passion and its 
humiliatinor entana;lements, she did not feel an atom of 
pity. " A cannon ball has carried off Prince Charles," 
she wrote her lover : " I am free, free at last. It is an 
act of Providence. As Madame de Sevign6 said on 
hearing of the death of Turenne, ' That cannon was 
loaded from all eternity ! ' " 

A few days later her brother Xavier died, and she 
inherited his fortune — 600,000 livres a year. Like 
herself, he had been educated in France. When 
the Bishop of Wilna returned to Poland after his 
exile, he had left his nephew, a very delicate child, in 
the care of a tutor. This man, who had been highly 
recommended, shamefully neglected the trust reposed 
in him, for which he had received in the course of seven 
years the enormous sum of 230,000 livres. The boy 
had returned to Poland at the age of fourteen half 
crazy, to the horror of his uncle, who had never since 
let him out of his sight. His death, merciful though 
it was, gready affected the Bishop, and caused him to 


Countess Potocka 

relent to Helene, whose mad infatuation for the Count 
he had highly disapproved of. 

At the same time, as if death had received a mis- 
sion from heaven to remove all the obstacles to Helene's 
happiness, the Countess Anna Potocka's youngest boy 
died. A threat to deprive her of the care of her only 
remaining child brought the stricken mother to give 
her consent to a divorce, which she had hitherto with- 
held in the hope of regaining her husband's love. The 
road to the goal of Helene's desire being thus cleared 
of all obstructions, she implored her uncle to use his 
influence at Rome to facilitate the formalities necessary 
for Count Potocki's marriage. This naturally took 
some time, and patience was not one of Helene's 
virtues. Living in daily fear that the project on which 
all her future happiness depended should fall through, 
and assured that the Count's decree of divorce was 
coming from Rome, she saw no reason why she 
should wait till its arrival to be married, and to per- 
suade her easy-going uncle to view the matter in the 
same light was not difficult. But it required all his in- 
fluence to find a priest to marry the couple under such 

The marriage took place with great secrecy at 
midnight, in a chapel on the outskirts of Wilna. This 
circumstance, with its suggestion of mystery and un- 
lawfulness, was well calculated to create morbid fancies 
in a mind like Hdene's, prone to superstition, and 
still agitated by the memory of past tribulations. On 
entering the chapel she suddenly stopped short, a prey 
to a fearful hallucination. In the dim and flickering 
light of the tapers, she fancied she saw three coffins 
in the aisle between her and the altar. The Count, 

Q 225 

Daughters of Eve 

appalled by her fixed and terrified gaze, inquired 
the cause of her alarm. At the sound of his voice 
the sinister vision vanished, and, perceiving that the 
imaginary coffins were, in reality, only three steps of 
black marble leading to the altar, she mounted them 

Thus, within three months of the death of Prince 
Charles, did H^lene finally succeed in becoming 
Countess Potocka. 


After a short tour of inspection round his wife's 
Lithuanian estates, which had contributed not a little 
to the realization of her hopes, the Count brought his 
wife home to Kowalowka. Lying in a valley of the 
Ukraine, by far the most picturesque part of Poland, 
Kowalowka was a delightful abode. It was sur- 
rounded with undulating meadows and wheat-fields, 
where in summer the peasants, in red smocks, chant- 
ing the plaintive melodies of the country, presented a 
charming picture as they stacked the golden sheaves. 
A river, in the midst of which was an island planted 
with poplars and oaks, flowed through the well-trimmed 
park. The garden was laid out in a manner to harmo- 
nize with the architecture of the chateau, from which 
a flight of steps descended to a terrace ornamented 
with citron and orange trees that testified to the 
mildness of the climate. 

H^lene, delighted to cast anchor in such a port 
after her stormy voyage, set herself with all her old 
ardour to enjoy the happiness she had won so dearly. 
Her sole occupation was to please the man she loved. 


Countess Potocka 

In the world, which she had been so fond of, she had 
been noted for the elegance of her toilettes, and this 
taste is the only one she still retained. Aware that 
her husband admired her most in the bizarre costumes 
of her native land, which suited her piquant style of 
beauty to perfection, she appeared as the fancy took 
her, "to-day in a poppy-coloured dress of Turkish 
material, trimmed with silver a la Mameluke ; the 
next day, in a polonaise of white Indian silk em- 
broidered with pink flowers ; another day, in a Cossack 
tunic of dyftich fringed with gold." 

The Count, whose tastes she divined by instinct 
and gratified even before he expressed them, was 
anything but insensible to her attentions. He became 
so jealous that, whenever business compelled him to 
leave her for a day or two, "he refused to permit a 
single man, save the gardener, to set a foot in the 
house during his absence." But this tyranny, far from 
displeasing Helene, only enchanted her the more, and 
caused her in after years to look back on this period 
as the happiest of her life. 

"To-morrow," she wrote him on one of the rare 
occasions when he was absent, " I shall see you again, 
and find you still the same, for I would not have you 
change in the smallest degree. Your mind, nature, 
attractions, and even your faults, all are precious to 
me. If you were to become more perfect, you would 
no longer be the Vincent for whose sake I have been 
guilty of the greatest follies, which would have been 
unpardonable, if a kind Providence had not caused 
them to turn out for the best in the end." 

But such happiness was too great to last. The 
blow that shattered it fell without the least warning 
Q 2 227 

Daughters of Eve 

just as the birth of a son, who received the name of 
Alexis, seemed to fill H^lene's cup of bliss to the brim. 

So slowly did news travel in those days, that 
several months elapsed before the Countess Anna, 
who had gone to live in Paris with her child, learnt 
of her husband's marriage. As the decree of divorce 
had not been sent to her for her signature, she sup- 
posed that there had been some hitch in obtaining 
it, and her resentment at the manner in which she 
had been ignored was such that she wrote to the 
Bishop, "accusing him of having connived at the 
bigamy of the Count, and informing him that she 
was returning to Poland to take steps to break up 
the illegal union." 

In the political agitation of the time, the Bishop 
of Wilna had quite forgotten the "irregularity" of 
which he was accused, or if he ever gave it a thought 
fancied, not unnaturally, that Count Potocki had com- 
plied with the necessary formalities attaching to the 
granting of the divorce. That Hdene should have 
allowed him to neglect them seems incomprehensible ; 
but such was the case, and she now had to pay dearly 
for her folly. The Bishop, realizing the disastrous 
effect the exposure of his conduct would produce on 
the public, at a moment when the dangerous political 
game he was playing made him particularly anxious 
to divert attention from himself as much as possible, 
was greatly alarmed by the Countess Anna's threat. 
He gave vent to his feelings in a violent letter to 
Hdene, in which he accused the Count of deliberately 
neglecting to legalize his marriage, in order to enjoy 
her fortune untrammelled by any ties, and ended by 
washing his hands of her and her affairs. 


Reproduced by the courtesy of Count Mycielski. 

[To face p. 229 

Countess Potocka 

The Countess Anna was eventually persuaded to 
withdraw her threatened opposition to "the bigamy 
of her husband," but not till Helene had passed many 
months in a state of miserable anxiety, in the course 
of which her second child, Vincent, was born, and her 
uncle, the Bishop, perished a victim to his passion for 
political intrigue. Having sided in turn with every 
party and faction in Poland, he had been detected 
intriguing with Russia. Accused of high treason 
along with several others, he was imprisoned in 
Warsaw. While waiting their trial, a mob, infuriated 
by the news that the Russians were marching on 
Warsaw, broke into the prison and massacred the 
traitors. After having been dragged alive through 
the streets for seven hours, the unhappy prelate was 
finally hung on a gibbet in front of the Cathedral. 

Owing to the disturbed state of the country, fifteen 
days elapsed before this terrible news reached Kowa- 
lowka. Heiene, who lost in her uncle her nearest 
relation and most powerful friend — for she knew him 
too well to doubt that his anger would be appeased — 
was utterly prostrated by the blow. 

Shortly after this event occurred the third and 
final partition of Poland, when to the unhappy nation, 
brutally divided between Russia, Prussia and Austria, 
it seemed as if — 

"Hope for a season bade the world farewell, 
And freedom shrieked as Kosciusko fell." 

The province of Lithuania, in which the Massalski 
estates were situated, fell to the share of Russia, 
whose first step was to confiscate all the property of 
the Polish nobles. Considering that the Bishop of 
Wilna owed his assassination to his sympathy with 


Daughters of Eve 

Russia, Hdene had reason to hope that his property 
at least would be exempt. But the Prince de Ligne 
had at once written to the Empress Catherine on 
behalf of his granddaughter Sidonie, who, he declared, 
was in danger of being despoiled of her interest in 
the Bishop's fortune for the benefit of H^lene's 
children by her second marriage. Thus pressed by 
a man who stood high in her favour, the Empress 
seized the entire property of the Bishop, declaring it 
her intention to hold it in trust for Sidonie till she 
came of age. 

This decision, which virtually deprived Helene of 
her entire fortune, was followed by a new move on 
the part of the Countess Anna. Hard pressed her- 
self for money by the ruin of her country, she was 
driven to set up a claim for her son to be the sole 
heir of his father, on the plea that, as the birth of 
Helene's children antedated by several months the 
legal dissolution of the Count's marriage, they were 
illegitimate, and, therefore, in the eye of the law in- 
capable of inheriting property. Helene's only hope of 
evading this claim, by which she and her children, 
in the event of her husband's death, would be reduced to 
beggary, lay in the mercy of the Empress, who could, 
if she wished, have the date of the decree of the 
divorce altered so as to render the children legitimate. 

Fortunately, the Count had a friend at Court in 
his uncle. Count Felix Potocki— the husband of the 
romantic Countess Sophie — to whose intrigues the 
second partition of Poland was due, as the third and 
last was due to the intrigues of the Bishop of Wilna. 
But, influential though Count Felix was in St. Peters- 
burg, it took a great deal of time and money to obtain 


Countess Potocka 

Catherine's consent, whose manner of safeguarding 
the rights of Sidonie and the Countess Anna's son 
Frangois made it, as Helene said, "very dear to 
make true Potockis of her children." 


Once more the sun of the old happiness shone out 
from the clouds which had darkened it, though not 
quite so brilliantly as of yore. A daughter, eagerly 
longed for, died six weeks after birth, and both 
Helene's and the Count's fortunes were shattered and 
shackled. Nevertheless, she still had her husband, 
whom she regarded as the ideal of perfection, her two 
little boys, whom she adored, and her beautiful home. 

Like the Huguenots after their expulsion from 
France one hundred years before, the French exiles 
of the Revolution were to be found in every quarter 
of Europe. Several of them had sought a temporary 
asylum in the neighbourhood of Kowalowka, whose 
doors, in spite of the seclusion in which she lived, 
Hdene felt tempted to throw open to them. One 
family, consisting of a father, mother, and two 
daughters, who had fled from their burning chateau 
in a state of destitution, she even provided with a 
home in her house, with the full approval of her 
husband ; an act of kindness that did the more honour 
to her impulsive heart since it was entirely instigated 
by their misfortunes. 

But Helene, as may be imagined, was not always 
easy to get on with. Her guests, who, it must be 
owned, were unusually stupid, " frequently got on her 
nerves." "To-night at dinner," she wrote in her 


Daughters of Eve 

diary, " Madame de Badens complained that I had 
insulted her. It is true I had told her she played 
cards like a fool, and I repeated it." On another 
occasion, her loss of temper so flurried Madame de 
Badens that she accidentally "upset the tea-pot full 
of boiling tea over the Count's legs." He took it 
quite calmly, but "I," says Helene, "gave her a 
glance that froze her," 

These quarrels, however, were very quickly healed, 
and Madame de Badens and her family lived at 
Kowalowka for four years — in fact, till the Potockis 
themselves were forced to leave it. 

The other French exiles were far from being as 
tiresome as those to whom Kowalowka was so stormy 
a refuge. The Marquise d'Aragon, a niece of the 
great Mirabeau and a former schoolmate of Helene's 
at the Abbaye-aux-Bois, and the Comtesse Diane de 
Polignac had been noted at the Court of Versailles 
for their wit. Adversity had not extinguished the 
gaiety of their spirits, and the zest they displayed in 
forming a dramatic society to act plays, an amusement 
of which French society had been so fond, gave a 
Sfreat deal of animation to the life of the neio^hbour- 
hood. Acting had been Helene's favourite pastime 
in the days before the passion that enslaved her caused 
her to withdraw from the world, and she was delighted 
to repeat her old triumphs. The Count was flattered 
by her success, in spite of his extreme jealousy, which 
made him insist on selecting the roles of her lovers 

But the periods of tranquillity in Helene's existence 
were never of long duration. "Some fatality," as she 
wrote in one of her letters to her husband, " seems to 


Countess Potocka 

attend all I do, and happiness always eludes me when 
I grasp it." Her second boy, Vincent, was suddenly 
taken ill with diphtheria, and died in a few days. She 
had scarcely got over the first shock of his death, 
when Alexis, the eldest, a very delicate and precocious 
child, her pride and her despair, succumbed to the 
same dread disease. Her grief on this occasion nearly 
cost her her life. 

At his burial, as she stood by the side of the grave 
in which two of her children lay, and saw the little 
bier of the third lowered into it, the memory of the 
three coffins she had seen on her wedding night came 
back to her. 

"Three! There are really three!" she shrieked, 
and fell insensible to the ground. 

At the same time financial troubles arose, due to 
the dismemberment of her unfortunate country. Like 
the majority of Polish families, the Potockis possessed 
estates in each of the three provinces into which 
Poland had been divided by Austria, Prussia and 
Russia, and the differences in the laws, taxes, money, 
and customs of these various nations led to inextric- 
able confusion. In the hope of obtaining redress 
from the extortions to which he was subjected by the 
Russian officials, the Count went to St. Petersburg, 
while Helene remained to manage Kowalowka, which 
had been greatly neglected, and, owing to some 
unfortunate speculation of the Count, was heavily 

She found the serfs on the estate, the condition of 
which she had been entirely unaware of, ground down 


Daughters of Eve 

by a despotic agent to the extreme of misery. In one 
of her letters to the Count she tells a pathetic story of 
a peasant, whom she found lying in despair beside his 
dying ox. "When I asked him why he did not take 
the animal home, he explained that it was the only 
day in the week he was permitted to work for himself, 
and if he refrained he and his family must die of 
hunger." Her compassion was at once aroused, and 
in her impulsive way she " immediately gave orders 
that no one shall be forced to work for us more than 
three days a week, and as I cannot see all the people 
myself, I have asked them to choose two representa- 
tives to bring complaints to me every Saturday. I am 
told," she adds, " that they all bless me." 

In the midst of these efforts to improve things the 
Count sent for her. His mission to St. Petersburg 
had proved fruitless, and he wanted the assistance of 
her tact and charm. She arrived on the eve of the 
assassination of Czar Paul, whose insanity had created 
a veritable reign of terror. Alexander I, who suc- 
ceeded him, was a friend of the persecuted Poles, and 
thanks to his clemency the Potockis recovered posses- 
sion of their confiscated estates. 

Kowalowka, however, was too deeply involved to 
be worth reclaiming. During Helene's absence it had 
been seized by the creditors, and the contents of the 
chateau dispersed. Her portrait was sold for fifty 
florins.^ She bore the news of the loss of her beauti- 
ful home, in which she had known the happiest and 
unhappiest moments of her life, calmly. Since the 
death of her children Kowalowka had become hateful 

^ Probably the one in Berlin, of which the frontispiece of this 
book is a reproduction. 


Countess Potocka 

to her. The thought that she was never to see again 
the " poor Httle church " in which they were buried 
cost her a few tears, but they were quickly dried. 

" Nothing matters any more," she told her husband. 
" I am indifferent to either the good or the evil that 
may befall me." 

She was mistaken. Such a nature as hers is never 


On their return from Russia the Potockis went to 
live at Brody in Galicia, which in the dismemberment 
of Poland had fallen to Austria. It was from the 
town of Brody, which belonged to him, and possessed 
considerable commercial importance, that the Count 
derived the greater portion of his income. The 
degradation of its down-trodden inhabitants, seven- 
eighths of whom were Jews, and the unspeakable 
squalor of its streets, "in which one sank to the 
knees in mud," rendered it anything but agreeable to 
reside in. 

After Kowalowka, Brody was the abomination of 
desolation. The chateau was " situated in a swamp 
filled with frogs that croaked day and night." It had 
not been inhabited for years, and was in a state of 
utter dilapidation. Moisture dripped from the walls, 
the mirrors were spotted and blurred by the damp, the 
furniture was either tumbling to pieces or had already 
done so, and, " in every room there was the horrible 
stench of rats dead under the flooring." The wall 
that surrounded the chateau cut off all view of the 
country. In winter it was impossible to see even 
Brody for the fog or snow. The building, moreover, 


Daughters of Eve 

was so large that it was impossible to heat it. In the 
vast dining-hall the cold was so intense that "one 
froze at the table." 

Fortunately, adjoining the chateau there was a 
small house which, as it was easier to heat and to 
furnish, Helene and the Count decided to occupy. 
Mademoiselle Karwoska, a young and attractive 
girl of good family in reduced circumstances whom 
Helene had taken as a companion, resided with them. 
The rest of the household, which consisted of the 
widow of a general related to the Count, his secretaries 
and agent, Helene's man of affairs and his wife, 
formerly employed in the same capacity by her uncle, 
the cur^, and the doctor, dwelt at the chateau. At 
night they all met for dinner, " when the men invariably 
drank themselves under the table, and the stupidity 
of the women was exasperating to the last degree." 

The deadly monotony of such an existence pro- 
duced irritation and discontent. By degrees differ- 
ences arose between the husband and wife. Helene, 
longing for children, which were denied her, accused 
her husband of not sharing her desire. He became 
sullen and avoided her ; apparently absorbed in busi- 
ness, he passed the entire day shut up in his office 
with his secretaries. To her regret he had ceased to 
be jealous of her, " though the house was full of men, 
and the cur6 over a game of cards repeated all the 
filthy gossip of Brody." Each day her diary notes a 
quarrel. Now the Count " makes a scene because the 
soup is not to his liking, or the salmis is burnt." Again 
it is Hdlene who is offended, because " he finds fault 
with her at whist, or goes to bed without saying good- 


Reproduced by the courtesy of Count Mycielski. 

[ To /ace p. 237 

Countess Potocka 

At last the crisis is reached when she surprises him 
and Mademoiselle Karwoska in a compromising situa- 
tion. A terrible scene follows. The guilty husband 
attempts an explanation and is petrified into silence. 
The Karwoska, dismissed on the spot, is not even 
given time to pack her things. "Within a quarter of 
an hour she is on her way to her sister's at Klekotow," 
and Helene, " not knowing whether she suffered more 
from her husband's infidelity or his choice of such a 
rival," takes to her bed for a week. 

During this time the Count, who regretted the 
effect his infidelity had produced on Helene rather 
than his actual faithlessness, was very repentant. His 
passion had burnt itself out, but he still admired the 
beauty, the grace and talent of his wife. He desired 
above all things to be reconciled. Touched by his 
anxiety and devotion, Helene forgave him, and the 
dull routine of life began again — duller than ever for 
the absence of the Karwoska, though Helene would 
have died sooner than admit it. 

The quarrels soon began again, and finally the 
situation became so intolerable that Helene, in a fit of 
desperation, left the Count, convinced, though she had 
no proof of it, that he was in secret communication 
with the Karwoska. This step, which she regretted 
the moment she had taken it, was rendered the more 
critical by its suddenness. Beyond going to Lemberg, 
a few miles away, where the Princess Jablonowska, a 
friend of the old Warsaw days, on whom she knew she 
could count, resided, she had made no plans at all. As 
she took leave of her husband, who made no effort to 
detain her, and even escorted her to the carriage, " she 
could not realize that it was she, Hdene Massalska, 


Daughters of Eve 


who was leaving for ever the man she had so 
dearly loved and whom, she owned to herself, she still 
loved." Such a denouement to the passion which had 
dominated her life completely overwhelmed her, and 
she was obliged to take to her bed as soon as she 
reached Lemberg. 

The Princess Jablonowska, who had received her 
with the greatest sympathy, at a loss how to advise 
her, bethought herself of consulting the Prince de 
Ligne, who by chance happened at the time to be in 
Lemberg. Devoted to the memory of his son, he had 
just cause to resent the manner in which Helene had 
treated him ; but he was not one to cherish resent- 
ment, and he went at once to call upon her. At the 
sight of the gallant old gentleman, whom she greatly 
respected, and whose presence vividly recalled the 
glad and brilliant days she had known at Belceil and 
Versailles, she was profoundly agitated. Touched by 
her distress, the Prince de Ligne advised her to return 
to her husband. The only justification, he told her, 
of her past conduct lay in the passionate attachment 
she professed for the Count, and that if she abandoned 
him now, the world would for ever condemn her. 

He spoke to her, too, of her daughter, Sidonie, 
descanting on her beauty and amiability, and the love 
she bore her mother, whom she had been brought up 
to respect, and whose history had been carefully kept 
from her. As he fully understood Helene's emotional 
nature, he played upon her pulses as upon an instru- 
ment. Overwhelmed by his tenderness, which she so 
little deserved, she consented, with torrents of tears, 
to follow his advice. It was first necessary, however, 
to ascertain whether her husband would permit her to 


Countess Potocka 

return. In reply to her letter pleading for forgiveness, 
the Count sent two lines : "A cordial welcome awaits 
you at Brody, where you are free to come and go 
as you please." Unfaithful though he was, he had 
missed her. If life at Brody was insufferable with 
her, it was impossible without her — and Karwoska, to 

When she arrived at the chateau he was waiting at 
the door to greet her. At the sight of him, "she felt 
her heart beat as if it would break." She leapt from 
the carriage and flung herself into his arms. " Oh, 
Vincent, how I love you ! " she murmured brokenly, 
as he kissed her. Only five days had passed between 
her departure and return, but brief though the time 
was, it was sufficient to convince her that her heart 
was bound to him for ever. 


Shortly after this event — in 1796 — having sold a 
portion of their Polish estates on very advantageous 
terms, the Potockis took up their abode in Paris. To 
see Paris again had been one of the dreams of Helene's 
life. She had sighed for it perpetually at Beloeil and 
Vienna, constantly talked of it at Warsaw and Kowa- 
lowka, and frequently wept over the recollection of it 
when contrasting the brilliant, gay life she had led 
there with the horrors of her existence at Brody. But 
the Paris she returned to after a twenty years' absence 
was very different from the Paris she had known. Its 
general appearance was pretty much the same, but the 
ravages of the Terror, the chaos of the Directory, and 
the wars of the Consulate had completely changed its 


Daughters of Eve 


character. Though the traces of the Revolution were 
all but effaced, enough remained to enable one to judge 
of its excesses. 

The day after her arrival, on returning from a walk, 
Helene was so depressed that she could not restrain 
her tears as she related her impressions to her husband. 
She had directed her steps first to the Abbaye-aux- 
Bois, only to find the convent closed and the nuns dis- 
persed. The Lady Abbess alone remained, living in an 
attic in a neighbouring street with one of the sisters. 
Helene, however, "obtained permission from the 
porter in charge of the convent to visit the deserted 
garden, where she had played the ' Massacre of the 
Innocents,' and a thousand other things, with Choiseul 
and Mortemart, and to view once more the chapel 
where her dear benefactress, Madame de Roche- 
chouart, was buried." 

It was in society that the havoc wrought by the 
guillotine and exile was most apparent. Very few of 
H^lene's former friends who had escaped the scaffold 
were in a position to entertain, and the world of fashion 
as reconstructed by Bonaparte, was very lugubrious 
and dull, in comparison with the days when Marie 
Antoinette queened it at Versailles and Trianon. In 
society, in fact, everything was changed — people, the 
hours of meals, of the theatre and of the opera, the 
very nature of social functions. The petit souper of 
the old regime was unknown, and wit and manners 
were all but extinct. 

It was in the wreckage of the noblesse of the old 
Court rather than in the gaudy plebeian aristocracy that 
was crystallizing round General Bonaparte, that the 
Potockis sought their friends. The Count, who had 


Countess Potocka 

always affected the air of a grand seigneur, desired to 
live like one, particularly as his fortune enabled him to 
do so, and Helene, who at forty-four was still beautiful, 
attractive and as fond of pleasure as of old, was willing 
enough to assist him. Accordingly, with the reckless 
extravagance of the Polish nobility, they purchased a 
house in Paris and a chateau in the country, which 
they furnished at the cost of nearly a million francs. 
The style in which they lived was on a scale of equal 
magnificence. Their chef was considered one of the 
best in Paris, while not even the receptions of the wife 
of the First Consul were more suivies than those of 
Madame la Comtesse Potocka. 

But Helene's thoughts were dominated by another 
and greater interest than these ephemeral triumphs. 
It was no transient tenderness that the Prince de Ligne 
had awakened in her mind for the child she had aban- 
doned twenty years before. Touched by his assurance 
that Sidonie loved and respected her, she had sent her 
a long letter accompanied by her miniature and a lock 
of her hair, which the young girl had acknowledged 
in the most affectionate manner. The correspondence 
thus begun continued, and brought the mother and 
daughter nearer and nearer to each other. In a short 
time Helene, with the usual intensity of her nature, 
was completely obsessed with the longing to see this 
daughter — the only one of her children still living — 
from whom she was separated as the result of her own 
conduct. Her remorse was still further sharpened by 
the thought that in marrying the Count, she had failed 
to make any provision for Sidonie. In the event of 
the Count's death, his son, Frangois, by the Countess 
Anna, would benefit at the expense of her daughter. 
R 241 

Daughters of Eve 

Meditating long over this matter, H^lene came to 
the conclusion that it was only by the marriage of the 
two that the injustice of which she had been guilty 
could be rectified. 

To this proposal the Count readily assented. He 
was proud of Fran9ois, a fine young fellow of one-and- 
twenty, whom he had recently met for the first time 
since his marriage to Hdene. He wanted to see him 
married and settled, and where could he find a more 
suitable wife than in Sidonie de Ligne, an attractive 
girl from all accounts, whose claims to a share in her 
mother's fortune would, by such a match, be amicably 
adjusted ? The affair, however, was not an easy one 
to negotiate. The stern old Princesse de Ligne, who 
had brought up Sidonie, objected to the proposal solely 
because H^ene advocated it ; while the Countess 
Anna saw in it an attempt to rob her of the affection 
of her son. 

Their opposition, however, was finally overcome, 
and the marriage of the two children was celebrated 
at Toplitz, in Austria, in 1807. Helene, who had not 
yet seen Sidonie, wished above all things to be present 
at the wedding, but she tactfully gave up the idea on 
learninor that the Countess Anna also intended to 
be present. She was determined that on the day 
she saw her child again, nothing should cloud the 
happiness of the reunion. 

Sidonie looked forward to this event as eagerly 
as her mother. Growing up a lonely little girl, under 
the watchful eye of the Princesse de Ligne, her 
thoughts were ever turning to the beautiful mother she 
had never known and to whom some mystery clung. 
She loved her instinctively, and when after a short 



Reproduced for the first time by the courtesy of the Prince de higne from the 
portrait at Belceil. 

[To /ace/'. 243 

Countess Potocka 

honeymoon in Vienna she arrived in Paris, she was 
enchanted with Helene. 

Helene in the meantime was a prey to the most 
morbid misgivings. " Suppose," she wrote in her 
diary, " she should reproach me with my long indiffer- 
ence ! This thought overwhelms me, I am afraid of 
my child ! " She passed the day on which the young 
couple were expected, at the window in a fever of 
anxiety. When, at last, their carriage drove up, her 
suspense was so great that she was at the door before 
they could alight. 

A single glance was sufficient to reassure her that 
her fears were groundless. 

"Oh, my child, my only child," she cried in a voice 
shaken with sobs as she clasped her in her arms, "you 
are all that I love most in the world ! " — adding in a 
sudden fit of hysterical gaiety, " after my husband, 
bien entendu. I must set you a good example, you 

She was scarcely less delighted with Fran9ois, who 
at once fell under the spell of his fascinating mother- 
in-law ; while the Count was equally captivated by 

Rich and admired, living at last in Paris, the object 
of her dreams, with the husband she worshipped, and 
assured of the affection and devotion of her children, 
whose marriage was perfectly happy, it seemed to 
Hdene that life had nothing left to offer her. The 
even tenor of her existence was only broken by the 
Count's occasional visits to Poland on business. As 
these visits were often inexplicably long, Helene, most 
of whose unhappiness, like that of her unfortunate 
country, was due to her own begetting, would work 
R 2 243 

Daughters of Eve 

herself into a fever of suspicion and jealousy. More 
than once convinced that he was " under the spell of 
Karwoska," she set out for Poland on the spur of the 
moment, intent on surprising them. But somehow the 
Count andKarwoska, if indeed the liaison stillcontinued, 
always managed to elude her. In the opinion of the 
doctors, these frantic journeys made in the depth of 
winter through countries bristling with war, shortened 
her life. But in no case is it probable that she would 
have reached old age. Natures like hers prematurely 
consume the body in which they are imprisoned. 

Helene was only fifty-two when she died. The 
end came very suddenly. She had just returned to 
Paris from her chateau in the country, where she had 
passed the autumn apparently in the best of health, 
when she was seized with terrible internal pains. 
Twelve hours later she breathed her last in the arms 
of her beloved daughter, without realizing that she 
was dying. Almost the last act of her life was to 
write to her husband, absent in Poland, a letter full of 
affection, as all her letters to him were. 

The Count, who, in spite of his numerous infideli- 
ties, had loved her after his fashion, on being in- 
formed of her death, declared that "all his happiness 
had perished with her." But his despair, which ex- 
pressed itself in the display of a morbid interest in 
anything that recalled her, was inspired by the 
suddenness of the blow, rather than the pain it occa- 
sioned him. 

Helene had often expressed the wish to be buried 
in the *' poor little church at Kowalowka " beside her 
boys. In the first flush of his grief the Count, no 
doubt, intended to respect this wish ; for according to 


Countess Potocka 

the register of the Cemetery of Pere-la-Chaise, her 
interment there three days after her death was only 
" temporary." But this was as near execution as his 
intention ever got. Some time later, he even con- 
templated remarrying the Countess Anna, who, in a 
letter accepting his offer, signed herself, "Your wife 
in the future as in the past." His death, however, 
defeated this project. 

In 1840, twenty-five years after her death, the 
remains of " Helene Massalska, wife of Potocki, " 
were indeed removed from their temporary resting- 
place "beside the tomb of Marshal Ney " by order of 
the cemetery authorities — to be reinterred, not at 
Kowalowka, but along with scores of others equally 
neglected in the /osse commune I 





{A/Ur Marke) 

[To /ace p. 249 

" Amour sacre de la Patrie, 
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs ! 
Liberte, Liberie cherie, 
Combats avec tes ddfenseurs ! " 


Aux armes, citoyens ! formez vos bataillons ! 

Marchons, marchons ! 
Qu'un sang impur abreuve nos sillons ! " 

RouGET DE l'Isle : "La Marseillaise." 




Marie Anne Charlotte de Corday d'Armont, 
commonly called Charlotte Corday, was born on 
July 27, 1768, at Saint-Saturnin-des-Ligneries, a 
hamlet near the town of Argentan in Normandy. 
Though her birthplace was little better than a peasant's 
hovel, the blood that flowed in her veins was blue 
enough to have won the respect even of such an ultra- 
aristocrat as the Comtesse de Brionne. For the family 
of Mademoiselle de Corday 's mother, which was held in 
high esteem in the duchy, claimed descent — and could 
prove it too — from John Baliol, King of Scotland, 
while her father, who derived his name from Corday,^ 
an estate that his ancestors had owned in the time of 

^ Now Cordey — a village of 152 inhabitants near Falaise. 


Daughters of Eve 

William the Conqueror, belonged to the old nobility 
of Normandy. Frangois de Corday, however, was 
much prouder of being the great-great-grandson of 
Corneille than of the antiquity of his pedigree. 

But notwithstanding their illustrious origin, Char- 
lotte's parents possessed little beyond the memory of 
the former splendour of their respective families. 
The de Cordays, in particular, had greatly come down 
in the world. M. de Corday's eldest brother, according 
to the law of primogeniture, had inherited all the 
property there was to inherit. It consisted of the 
Chateau de Glatigny, and some farm land near 
Argentan. Ronceraye, the dwelling in which M. de 
Corday himself lived at Saint-Saturnin-des-Ligncries, 
and in which Charlotte was born, was one of those 
little thatched cottages, still to be seen in Normandy, 
with a courtyard, some trees and a well, surrounded 
by a high wall covered with ivy. 

At the time of his marriage he and his wife 
between them had scarce fifteen hundred livres a year. 
To add to their difficulties, their family was a large 
one — two sons and three daughters — of which Charlotte 
was the second. As a younger son, reduced almost 
to the condition of a peasant, M. de Corday was one 
of those who suffered most from the abuses of the 
feudal system. When the Revolution broke out he 
promptly embraced the new ideas. In 1790, the 
bitterness which, like many another, he had cherished 
in secret against a regime of which privilege was the 
basis, expressed itself in a violent brochure against 
the law of primogeniture, and in the parish council 
of which he was a member his voice was frequently 
raised in denunciation of the old abuses. 


Charlotte Corday 

That his views, with which Charlotte must have 
been familiar from childhood, had much to do with 
the development of hers there can be no doubt. The 
father and daughter were devoted to one another. 
But while Charlotte could state with truth at the 
Revolutionary Tribunal that she " was a republican 
before the Revolution," M. de Corday, in spite of his 
liberal views, remained a royalist. The horrors that 
followed in the wake of the new gospel of liberty, 
disgusted and alarmed him. He was a gentle, serious 
man, of the utmost integrity of character. So great 
was his love of honesty that he took it for granted 
that his children, to whom he was a most affectionate 
parent, valued it equally. 

There is' something touching in the simplicity, 
rectitude and tenderness of M. de Corday's character 
that reminds one of the fathers in the pictures of 
Greuze. His faith in his children was such that he 
let them have access to his money, which he kept 
lying loose in an open drawer. It is pleasant to 
know that this confidence was never betrayed. The 
children, aware of the slenderness of his purse, and 
the necessity of practising the strictest economy, would 
have cut off their hands sooner than have abstracted 
a farthing from that open drawer. Madame Loyer de 
Maromme, who knew the family intimately, says, " All 
the children also absolutely refused to have any money 
spent upon them beyond what was strictly necessary, 
and each of them strove in some way or other to be 
of assistance to so kind a father." 

But M. de Corday's poverty made itself felt none 
the less cruelly. To a gentleman in reduced circum- 
stances with sons to provide for, the army, in which 


Daughters of Eve 

only those of noble birth could hold commissions, was 
always a resource. At the time of Charlotte's birth, 
her eldest brother was already at the Ecole Militaire, 
where the younger was to follow him when he reached 
the requisite age. But to maintain the one at this 
institution, and prepare the other to enter it, M. de 
Corday and his wife were obliged to subject them- 
selves to many privations ; not the least to bear being 
the necessity of confiding their daughters to such of 
their relations as were in a position and willing to 
receive them. 

The revolutionary views that M. de Corday held 
on the subject of the law of primogeniture by no 
means caused any ill-feeling between himself and his 
eldest brother at the Chateau de Glatigny. On the 
contrary, the most cordial relations existed between 
the two brothers and their families. Both as a child, 
and subsequently, Charlotte was a frequent guest at 
Glatigny, where, according to M. Eugene Defrance, 
who has collected the minutest details of her early 
life, the room she occupied is still to be seen. 

It was, however, with her father's youngest brother, 
the Abb6 de Corday, who had a small living at 
Vieques, that Charlotte chiefly resided. Here, in the 
old presbytery in which he lived, and which still 
exists, the Abbe "taught her to read out of an old, 
precious copy of the works of their famous ancestor, 
Pierre Corneille," of whom, like her father, he was an 
enthusiastic admirer. These early lessons, in which 
Corneille, with his sublime sentiments, his heroic 
characters, and his relationship to her, always figured 
"great and illustrious," could not fail to produce a 
deep impression on the little girl, who was naturally 


Charlotte Corday 

of a dreamy nature, and left much to herself. Their 
effect on her was not unlike that which certain races 
of antiquity thought to produce in their children by 
feeding them on the heart of a lion, a diet which they 
believed made those who partook of it brave and 
noble-minded. If her father, by his example, taught 
her to treasure honesty, sincerity and purity as 
pearls beyond price, it was in reading Polyeude and 
Le Cid that Charlotte Corday took her first lessons 
in heroism. 

When she was about twelve her elder sister died, 
and she returned home to help her mother about the 
house. Shortly afterwards, however, Madame de 
Corday herself died, and M. de Corday, who had 
become involved in a law-suit with her relations, which 
rendered his affairs more critical than ever, was obliged 
once more to part with his children. Charlotte and 
her sister were placed in the convent of Sainte Trinity 
at Caen, familiarly known as the Abbaye-aux- Dames, 
and one of the finest Gothic edifices in Normandy. 

This institution, which had been founded in 1066 
by Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror, did not 
make a speciality, like the Abbaye-aux- Bois in Paris, 
of educating girls. The nuns only received a limited 
number of pupils, of whom the King had the right of 
nominating five, belonging to the poor noblesse of 
Normandy. It was to his favour that the daughters 
of M. de Corday, on the recommendation of Madame 
de Belzunce, the Lady Abbess, who had been a 
friend of their mother's, owed their admission to the 

The years that Charlotte passed in the Abbaye- 
aux-Dames were the happiest of her life. Enthusiastic 


Daughters of Eve 

and impressionable, hers was the very nature to 
respond to the appeal of monastic life, with its intimate 
friendships and its sensuous mysticism. Thanks to 
the romantic friendship she formed with Alexandrine 
de Forbin, a niece of Madame de Belzunce, and with 
Mademoiselle de Faudoas, the daughter of one of the 
principal families in Caen, as well as to the uniform 
affection with which she was treated by the Lady 
Abbess and her coadjutrix Madame de Pontecoulant, 
she asked nothing more than to close her life, scarcely 
open, at the first page, and to entomb herself in this 
sepulchre in which she found so much happiness and 

Madame Loyer de Maromme, who was educated 
at the Abbaye-aux- Dames at the same time, describes 
Charlotte as a model of piety, though she was capable 
on occasions of displaying a stubborn and intractable 
spirit, for which she was more than once severely 
reprimanded. Her pride, fostered by the reading of 
Corneille, engendered in her a courage proof against 
suffering. "The little one," said Madame de Ponte- 
coulant, " is always hard upon herself. She never 
complains, I have to guess when she is ill, for she 
will never tell me." 

This firmness increased as time went by, and 
prepared her for the deed which was to immortalize 
her name. But as she grew older her religious fervour 
cooled, or rather, as Lamartine wisely says, " without 
abandoning God or virtue, the two first passions of 
her soul, she gave them other names and other forms." 

The need of intellectual and moral emancipation, 
which was the burning question of the age, had made 
itself felt in the convents as in every sphere of the 


Charlotte Corday 

social system of France. Philosophy invaded the 
cloister as well as the salon, and it was in the peaceful 
seclusion of the convent that it found its most ardent 
adepts. The Abbaye-aux- Dames was no exception 
to the rule. Here, as in most of the convents of 
the period, the greatest laxity prevailed. All sorts 
of social entertainments, at which the pensionnaires 
assisted, were of frequent occurrence. Men were even 
admitted to these functions, at which politics and 
philosophy were freely discussed, as well as all the 
scandals and frivolities of Caen and Paris. 

The interior governance of the convent was equally 
lax. The inmates were subjected to few restrictions, 
for though Madame de Belzunce and Madame de 
Pontecoulant were themselves the most estimable of 
women, they were extremely easy-going. Nuns and 
pupils alike were allowed a free choice of books, and 
many that they read, studied, and admired, often 
without comprehending- the reasoning of the author, 
were of very doubtful orthodoxy. 

Charlotte was an omnivorous reader, skimming the 
meretricious novels of Louvet and Laclos, and puzzling 
her brains over the philosophic treatises of Raynal and 
Rousseau indiscriminately. But she was one of those 
who can be subjected with impunity to the temptations 
latent in books and opinions. She never lost the 
purity of her mind. Though she ceased to believe in 
the creed of her childhood, her thoughts were too 
lofty, her nature too loyal, to look back on it with 
contempt. To the last she manifested an outward 
respect for the Church in which she had been born 
and bred. 

Her character, like Joan of Arc's, to whom she 


Daughters of Eve 

has often been compared, possessed the moral virginity 
of a child. This singular trait showed itself in her 
voice, which was almost infantile in its softness. One 
might forget, as many who knew her did, the colour 
of her hair and the outline of her features, but not her 

It was not long, however, before her mind began 
to rebel against the indiscriminate surfeiting to which 
she had subjected it. Her taste having been formed 
by reading Corneille, craved, by a sort of intellectual 
instinct, works which supplemented his heroic sen- 
timents. Like a true child of the Revolution, her 
favourite author was Plutarch, her favourite hero 
Brutus. The great men of the pagan world who gave 
their lives to live for ever obsessed her imagination, 
till "she longed to join them in the Elysian fields," 
a sublime figure like themselves. From constantly 
musing over them, they became so real to her that 
she confused them with the heroes of her own exciting 
times, which bore so strange a resemblance to antiquity 
that the two finally became merged in her mind. It 
was Brutus, whom she saw in Barbaroux, and whom 
she invoked when she set out for Paris to free France 
of Marat. And it was a copy of Plutarch that she 
was to take with her on the journey for inspiration. 


In 1790, when the Abbaye-aux-Dames was closed 
by order of the National Assembly, which had decreed 
the suppression of the convents and monasteries 
throughout France, Charlotte Corday and her sister 
once more returned to the parental roof. Since the 


Charlotte Corday 

death of his wife, M. de Corday had been living in 
Argentan, where fortune had treated him even worse 
than before. The Revolution, on which at its com- 
mencement he had built the highest hopes, had failed 
to improve his condition. It had, moreover, created 
differences of opinion in his family, of which the con- 
sequences were even harder for him to bear than the 
abuses from which he had suffered under the old 
regime. Both his sons had emigrated. The eldest 
perished at Quiberon in the Vendue, " struck by a 
republican bullet in a brave attempt to save the 
royalist flag." The youngest, who joined the Princes 
at Coblentz, also fell in battle against the republican 
forces. " Royalists to the marrow of their bones," 
both had strongly objected to the political opinions of 
their father. 

But these opinions, which were too advanced for 
his sons, were not advanced enough for his daughter. 
Sighing as she did " for the beaux jours of Sparta and 
Rome," she had hailed the fall of the Bastille as a tocsin 
sounding the return of the Golden Age. A diligent 
reader of all the papers and pamphlets with which Paris 
inundated the provinces, she fancied she recognized 
the voice of antique liberty in the speeches of the 
Girondins. As the Revolution with its excesses ad- 
vanced, it filled her with indignation to see individuals 
inferior to events. Her father's timorous liberalism 
got on her nerves. She missed the life she had been 
accustomed to at Caen, where at the social gatherings 
at the Abbaye-aux- Dames she had been in touch with 
the great world, and heard the great deeds that were 
agritatino- France discussed. Perceiving" how she 
chafed, her father advised her to return to Caen and 
s 257 

Daughters of Eve 

seek the protection of a certain Madame de Brette- 
ville, an old relation to whom she was an entire 

Madame de Bretteville was the only child of an 
old miser who had never been able to make up his 
mind to give her a dot. She was forty when she 
married M. de Bretteville, who had lost his fortune in 
gambling, and to recover it was willing to accept the 
chance of succeeding to the miser's. He waited, 
however, a long time, only to die three months 
after his father-in-law. At sixty, Madame de Brette- 
ville found herself a widow with 40,000 livres a 
year. But she had become too habituated to the 
penury in which she had passed the best years of her 
life to make any change in her habits. 

Easily alarmed, suspicious of strangers, close like 
her father, and living in perpetual dread of being vic- 
timized by designing persons, the arrival of Charlotte, 
who seemed to have fallen from the skies without the 
least warning, and whom, as she quaintly expressed it, 
she " didn't know from Eve or Adam," afforded her 
anything but pleasure. She received her, however, 
but the preoccupied air of her young relation, who 
"seldom spoke, and always seemed in a brown study," 
greatly perturbed her. 

" I don't know why," she confessed to Madame 
Loyer de Maromme, " but she frightens me. She 
gives me the impression of one who is meditating 
some evil business." 

Charlotte, however, quickly succeeded in inspiring 
the old lady with confidence. A mutual affection even 
sprang up between the two, and Madame de Brette- 
ville became so attached to her singular relation that 


Charlotte Corday 

she invited her to make her home with her for the 
rest of her hfe. 

The Grand Manoir, as the house she inhabited at 
Caen was known, was an old, gloomy, semi-Gothic 
building, in whose vast and lonely rooms there reigned 
a mournful silence, fit accompaniment to the sad, 
dim light that filtered through the heavy mullioned 
windows which looked upon a neglected garden with 
high, moss-grown walls, in the seclusion of which an 
old fountain plashed monotonously. On a nature so 
emotional and sensitive under its calm and phlegmatic 
exterior as Charlotte Corday 's, the atmosphere of 
such a place was well calculated to develop a tendency 
to morbidity. According to Alphonse Esquiros, who 
visited the house in 1841, "its whole aspect was so 
peculiarly sinister that one understood after inspect- 
ing it how, under its moss-covered roof in some dim- 
lit room at a lonely window where no glimpse of the 
street ever distracted the thoughts, a morbid and long- 
meditated idea might ripen into a terrible resolve." 

Absolutely free to do as she pleased, for Madame 
de Bretteville did not attempt to restrict or advise 
her in any way, the young girl passed most of her 
time in reading. But though she digested all she 
absorbed, she did not possess the critical faculty. 
Carried away by the false philosophy and plausible 
sophistry of Rousseau and Raynal, whose impassioned 
style gave them an immense popularity, her ardent 
and romantic imagination, which had long been fired 
by the lives of the heroes of antiquity, began to 
weave dreams of lofty devotion to the public weal 
and of services sublimely rendered to humanity. 
What wonder, then, in an age which resembled so 
s 2 259 

Daughters of Eve 

closely that of antiquity's struggles for freedom, she 
should arrive, as Lamartine says, " at that desperate 
state of mind, which is the suicide of happiness, not 
for the profit of glory or ambition, like Madame 
Roland, but for the profit of liberty and humanity 
like Judith or Epicharsis ? " 

Unfortunately, the people with whom she came 
into contact only served to strengthen these morbid 
influences. From Caen, as from every town in 
France, most of the families whose rank and wealth 
exposed them to the vindictive hatred of the masses 
had emigrated. A few, however, remained, and the 
little group, staunch royalists all, and intimate friends 
of Madame de Bretteville, were wont to forgather 
in the gloomy rooms of the Grand Manoir, to discuss 
the changes that had taken place and bewail the 
degeneracy of the times. Charlotte, whose ideal of 
justice, liberty and humanity was concentrated in that 
of a republic, moved among these relics of the old 
regime with graceful tact, listening respectfully to 
their lamentations, and refraining from expressing 
her dissent from fear of hurting their susceptibilities. 
The habit of solitary meditation grew upon her. 
When addressed, she would start like one suddenly 

There were times, however, when she suffered 
herself to be drawn into a discussion. 

"On these occasions," says Madame de Maromme, 
" she gave the rein to herself and astonished us all 
by the sublimity of her ideals and her unbounded 
admiration for the great women of antiquity. The 
mothers of the Gracchi and Coriolanus were a sort 
of cult with her. She found in the history of the 


Charlotte Corday 

periods in which they Hved, she said, a proof that 
the classic times of the ancient repubhcs were pre- 
ferable to the vulgar attempts to imitate them made 
by the men of the Revolution, which were calculated 
to disgust one for ever with that form of government 
which she considered the noblest of all. At these 
words my mother, of whom she was very fond, asked 
her in a tone of surprise if she wished it to be under- 
stood that she was a republican. She blushed at the 
warmth into which her feelings had betrayed her, and 
answered quietly, ' I should be, if the French were 
worthy of a republic.'" 

Sometimes her patriotism got the better of her 
discretion, and she expressed herself in a way which 
startled her hearers. 

"Once at a dinner given by Madame de Brette- 
ville," says Vatel, who was told the story by one 
who had been present, "after having expressed her- 
self very freely on the events of the times, excited 
by the contradiction she met in a man next her, she 
told him that if he were the last of the republicans 
she would assassinate him, toying with her knife 
while she spoke in so sinister a fashion as to convey 
the impression that the words were no mere trivial 
utterance, but the expression of an idea upon which 
she had often meditated." 

An incident, equally significant and much more 
dramatic, occurred at another dinner given by Madame 
de Bretteville as a farewell to some of her royalist 
friends, who, alarmed by the increasing insubordination 
of the populace, had decided to leave Caen. M. de 
Corday came from Argentan to attend this dinner, 
accompanied by his youngest son, who was on his 


Daughters of Eve 

way to Coblentz with a M. de Tourndlis, a young 
cousin of Madame de Bretteville's, who was also of 
the party. TourneHs had been much attracted by 
Charlotte, and Madame de Bretteville had done her 
best to make a match between them. Her efforts, 
however, were unsuccessful. Instead of encouraging 
Tournelis' advances, Charlotte seemed to take pleasure 
in expressing in his presence opinions which were the 
opposite to his, and more freely than was her wont, 
perhaps because he attributed them to an error of 
judgment and refused to believe that much as she 
praised Rome and Sparta, she desired the overthrow 
of the monarchy. 

" Never," says Madame de Maromme, " shall I 
forget that dinner. It was St. Michael's Day, 1791. 
Mademoiselle de Corday was dazzlingly beautiful in 
a lovely gown her old relation had given her. It 
was of pink taffeta with a white stripe, the skirt being 
of white silk. It fitted her fine figure to perfection. 
A pink ribbon bound her hair, and harmonized with 
her complexion, which was more brilliant than usual. 
She was, indeed, that day, an ideal creature. 

" The dinner was at first very gay. Every one 
was in good spirits. Our future emigrants fancied 
they were only going on a little trip to the Rhine 
and expected to return to Paris for the winter when 
order would be fully re-established. Mademoiselle 
de Corday joked them on the rapidity of their tour 
and their early return. She compared them to Don 
Quixote : they expected to find Dulcineas and would 
only find kitchen wenches. All went well and merrily 
until some one proposed the King's health. 

" Every one rose simultaneously, except Made- 


Charlotte Corday 

moiselle de Corday, who remained seated and left 
her glass untouched. ' To the health of the King ! ' 
repeated some one, but she paid not the least atten- 
tion in spite of her father's visible annoyance. My 
mother tapped her gently on the arm to persuade 
her to rise, but she looked at her with her customary 
placidity and refused to budge. 

"'Surely, my child,' said my mother, 'you will 
not refuse to drink the health of a king who is so 
good and so virtuous ! ' 

" ' I believe he is virtuous,' she replied in her 
melodious voice, ' but a weak king cannot be a good 
one, for he is powerless to prevent the misfortunes 
of his people.' 

" An absolute silence followed this reply. I was 
furious. My mother could scarcely restrain her indig- 
nation. We drank our loyal toast all the same, but 
each of us sat down visibly dejected and disconcerted. 

" Mademoiselle de Corday, I am sure, did not mean 
to be disobliging, but frank and incapable of feigning 
what she did not feel, she would have considered she 
had been guilty of apostasy had she done what was 
demanded of her. A few minutes later she was 
enabled to make ample amends for her seeming 
affront to the feelings of the company, without 
abandoning her principles. 

"It chanced to be the day on which Fauchet, one 
of the bishops appointed by the Convention, made 
his official entry into Caen. In his progress he 
was attended by a paid mob which made the air 
resound with shouts of ' Vive la nation ! Vive P4veque 
constitutionnel ! ' These manifestations so exasper- 
ated M. de Tournelis and the young brother of 


Daughters of Eve 

Mademoiselle de Corday, who were already Irritated 
by her incomprehensible conduct, that they rushed to 
the window under which the procession was just then 
passing, with the avowed intention of manifesting 
their contempt with counter-cheers of ' Vive le rot ! ' 
Such an act was to expose us all to certain death. 
The mob would have strangled us, for in such times 
of popular effervescence and delirium, woe betide him 
who provokes its wrath without the means of quelling 
it ! Accordingly we all attempted to restrain them by 
force from committing so unpardonable a folly. 

'* Whilst M. de Corday sternly silenced his son 
with all the authority of a father, his daughter seized 
M. de Tournelis by the arm and dragged him to the 
other end of the room. 

" * Are you not afraid,' she said to the youth 
whose royalist fervour had more than once before 
placed him in grave danger, ' that such an untimely 
expression of your sentiments might prove fatal to 
those around you ? If this is the way you expect 
to serve your cause, you might just as well not go to 

" ' And had you no fear, mademoiselle,' he re- 
plied impulsively, ' of offending your friends when you 
refused just now to join your voice to a toast so dear 
to us all ? ' 

" * Pshaw ! ' she said, with a smile, ' my refusal 
could only injure myself But you, without serving 
any useful purpose, were about to endanger the lives of 
all around you. On which side, I ask, is there the most 
generosity of sentiment, the most common-sense ? ' 

" M. de Tourndis hung his head in silence, and we 
were thus spared the terrible consequences of his folly." 


Charlotte Corday 

Beauty is, so to speak, the natural appanage of 
sublime natures. Lofty principles deeply cherished 
have a way of ennobling the plainest features, and those 
cast in an heroic mould seldom fail to ravish the sight 
of the beholder. All the portraits of Charlotte Corday 
represent her as an undeniably beautiful woman. She 
was tall and slender, and she carried herself with a 
dignity that was full of grace. Her features were 
Grecian — the chin, perhaps, rather too prominent. She 
had wonderful hair of a deep chestnut colour, a 
dazzlingly white, smooth skin, and the complexion of 
a rose. The problems that occupied her thoughts 
totally excluded the least suggestion of vanity. Beauty 
in her owed nothing whatever to artifice. Madame de 
Bretteville, proud of the attention paid her, would 
gladly have provided her with hats and frocks of the 
latest fashion. But her dress was simplicity itself, she 
spent little time over her toilette and never gave a 
second thought to her appearance. Yet the impression 
she produced on all occasions upon all who saw her 
was indescribable. 

" She blushed very easily," says Madame de 
Maromme, "and then became truly ravishing. Her 
eyes, a deep blue, veiled by long lashes, were very soft 
and lovely. The whole expression of her face, indeed, 
was one of ineffable sweetness, as was the sound of her 
voice. It would be impossible to conceive of an organ 
more melodious, more enchanting ; or a purer, more 
angelic expression and a more attractive smile." 

It is, perhaps, not too much to say that it is to 
her great beauty that she, and Marat along with her, 


Daughters of Eve 

principally owe their fame. Unquestionably it opened 
the door to fame for both of them wider than their lives 
and deeds alone would have done. Had Marat died 
naturally, or even on the guillotine, it is probable that 
he would have fallen to the insignificant level of the 
minor actors in the Revolution. The part he played 
in that upheaval is not in itself particularly memorable. 
It is his death by the hand of Charlotte Corday that 
has given him his terrible immortality. 

So likewise with her. Had she been a plain 
woman her assassination of Marat, for all its sublimity 
of purpose, would have been a very vulgar affair. It 
was the beauty of the murderess that, by giving her 
that nimbus of romance which always makes a powerful 
appeal to humanity, produced on her contemporaries 
an indelible impression of patriotism that has ever 
since been a source of inspiration to painters, sculp- 
tures, poets and musicians. 

That such a woman should inspire passion it is 
easy to understand. Many men years after she had 
passed out of their lives are said to have trembled at 
the mention of her name. But the love she inspired 
never seems to have been returned. 

" No man," says Madame de Maromme, " made 
the least impression on her, her thoughts were else- 
where. I can affirm, moreover, that nothing was 
further from her thoughts than the idea of marriage. 
It was her firm intention to remain single. ' Never,' 
she wrote me once, ' will I renounce my dear freedom, 
never will you have the opportunity of addressing me 
on a letter as Madame.' " 

Rumour, however, for which a heroine without a 
lover loses half her interest, professed to have de- 


Charlotte Corday 

tected, as Lescure expresses it, "that corner of tender- 
ness which every Roman nature possesses, that flaw in 
the stoical cuirass where the arrow penetrates by which 
the heroine becomes the woman." She admitted as 
much herself in one of her letters, in which she de- 
clared that she possessed " an imagination so lively, a 
heart so full of sensibility as to augur a stormy life." 
Legend, accordingly, has given her numerous lovers to 
whom she was not altogether unresponsive. 

These little romances, however, based either on 
hypothesis or invention, all tumble to pieces like a 
house of cards on investigation. Fouquier-Tinville, 
who would fain have robbed the assassination of Marat 
of the sublimity of its motive, declared it to have been 
an act of revenge inspired by the fate of the Vicomte 
de Belzunce, a young, handsome, effeminate and in- 
credibly foolish officer in the Bourbon regiment who 
had been massacred by an infuriated mob in the streets 
of Caen. 

The story of his death is a gruesome one. An 
ultra-royalist, relying on his popularity in the regiment, 
he displayed his hatred of the new era by making fun 
of the public fetes given in honour of the taking of the 
Bastille and sneering at the reviews of the National 
Guards. Having exasperated the citizens by his con- 
duct, he finally went to the length on parade of prom- 
ising rewards to those men who snatched from the 
soldiers of the Artois regiment, also in garrison at Caen, 
the medals of Necker and the Breton Union, given 
them by the city of Rennes. The affair caused an im- 
mense sensation, and a mob numbering more than 
20,000 besieged the barracks. To restore order the 
Bourbon regiment was withdrawn from the town, and 


Daughters of Eve 

Belzunce volunteered to surrender himself to the author- 
ities as hostage. The mob, however, burst into the Hotel 
de Ville, where he was detained, and, dragging" him 
out, massacred him in the streets. The most horrible 
atrocities, of a kind very common in France during the 
Revolution, were perpetrated on his corpse. His head 
was cut off and paraded on a pike, while " a female fury 
tore out his heart and cooked it over some live coals." 

Charlotte, according to the story, was supposed to 
have fallen in love with him while at the Abbaye-aux- 
Dames, where she had met him at one of the parties given 
by his relation, Madame de Belzunce, the Lady Abbess. 
As a matter of fact, however, Madame de Belzunce 
died in 1787, and the supposed lover of Charlotte 
Corday did not arrive in Caen till 1789. Moreover, as 
to her murdering Marat to avenge him, it is extremely 
doubtful if she had ever heard the name of Marat when 
Belzunce was killed. It is certain that the Ami du 
Peuple which made Marat notorious did not make its 
appearance till after this tragic episode. " The whole 
assertion," says Madame de Maromme, " is absurd and 
false. Not only did she not love him, but she despised 
his conduct." 

On the other hand, Lamartine, who could not con- 
ceive of a tragedy without love, pinned his faith in 
" that flaw in the stoical cuirass of the Roman maiden " 
to a much more ridiculous story. According to him, 
she reciprocated the passion of a mysterious " M. de 
Franquelin," who, after her execution, retired to the 
village of Vilraye in Normandy, where he died of a 
broken heart, carrying his secret with him to the tomb. 
But a packet of letters that had been buried with him 
betrayed it. For years later, during some exhumations 


Charlotte Corday 

in the cemetery, " the envelope of iron in which the 
burning pages had been sealed was opened, and the 
mystery revealed." 

M. de Franquelin's existence, however, was even 
more problematical than his love. Not only was he 
never known to any of the friends or relations of the 
girl he adored, but the register of the cemetery at Vil- 
raye, where he was said to have been buried, does not 
even contain his name. The whole story is based on 
the evidence of an old servant who, on seeing Ary 
Scheffer's imaginary portrait of Charlotte Corday, 
" declared it reminded her of a miniature she had often 
seen a young man of the name of Franquelin con- 
template with tears in his eyes." 

Bougon-Longrais, another of Charlotte's mythical 
lovers, at least has the merit of having existed ; and 
the supposition of her affection for him rests on a 
more serious basis than that of the other candi- 
dates for her heart. He was one of the young men 
admitted to the entertainments at the Abbaye-aux- 
Dames. He was young, handsome, talented, and very 
eloquent. Both had the same opinions, the same ideals, 
the same temperaments. An intellectual, if not a senti- 
mental, bond united them closely. It was from him 
that Charlotte borrowed the books on philosophy to the 
study of which she was so addicted. It was for him, 
too, that the letter she wrote Barbaroux in the last 
moments of her life was intended. " I do not address 
it to Bougon for several reasons," she declares. " In 
the first place, I am not sure where he is at the 
moment, furthermore, knowing the sensibility of his 
nature, I dread the pain I should inflict on him by 
informing him of my approaching end." 


Daughters of Eve 

Of Bougon-Longrais' love for her, at least, there is 
no doubt. He followed her to the scaffold shortly after 
her execution for the " crime of moderatism." In his 
farewell letter to his mother he said that he died gladly, 
as life had robbed him of all that he held dear. " O 
Charlotte Corday," he exclaimed in a passionate out- 
burst," whose memory unceasingly occupies my thoughts 
and heart, I am coming to rejoin thee ! The desire to 
avenge thee alone enabled me till now to support life. 
It is, I trust, at last sufficiently realized. I die content 
and worthy of thee ! " 

The assertion of Madame de Maromme, however, 
that Charlotte Corday never loved any man, sup- 
ported as it is by the utter lack of any real evidence to 
the contrary, does not necessarily prove that she was 
incapable of love. On the contrary, it is in such 
natures as hers that the deepest and most ardent 
passion burns. But at the first symptom of love, her 
reserve and her sense of dependence always caused 
her to repress the avowal of such feelings. Thus 
restrained, love in her changed, not its nature, but its 
ideal. The passion with which some one individual 
should have inspired her became a sublime devotion to 
a dream of public welfare. Love of country absorbed 
all her thoughts till she reached that enthusiastic state 
of mind in which patriotism begot the desire of self- 


The fall of the monarchy on August lo, 1792, 
put an end to such royalist society as was left in 
France. The few aristocrats who had remained in 
Caen, terrified by the constantly increasing lawlessness 


Charlotte Corday 

of the times, proceeded to leave the country before it 
was too late. Madame de Bretteville, too old and too 
timid to follow their example, no longer dared leave her 
house, over which the gloom now hung like a pall. 

Bereft thus of all society, imprisoned, as it were, in 
herself, Charlotte, naturally reserved and prone to day- 
dreaming, became, as Michelet expresses it, " the victim 
of the demon of solitude." She seldom went beyond 
the old garden of the Grand Manoir. Here she would 
sit for hours brooding over the rumours that reached 
her from without; the papers she read were full of 
forebodings, lamentations, and discouragement — sad 
reading at any time, but doubly so in the gloomy 
solitude of the Grand Manoir, for an impressionable 
girl whose love of country was so great that " each of its 
throes sent a pang through her heart." 

To one of her temperament, such an existence was 
fraught with the greatest danger. Its sinister influence 
is apparent in the letters she wrote to her absent 
friends, a few of which have been preserved. In follow- 
ing the tragic course of the events she describes, one 
can see, as it were, the gradual ripening of the morbid 
idea of sacrificing herself for her country which had 
taken possession of her mind. 

Scarce a day passes but some fresh horror is 
recorded. Things seem to go from bad to worse. 
Insurrections in the streets of Caen are of almost 
daily occurrence. At Verson, a village in the neigh- 
bourhood, the refusal of the cur^ to take the civil oath 
prescribed by the Convention is the cause of a san- 
guinary riot, in which " fifty people were hung and 
beaten, and women outraged." 

Avowed Republican though she is, the "frightful 


Daughters of Eve 

news of the King's death" makes her "tremble with 
indignation." Living and reigning she had refused to 
drink his heaUh, but his death on the scaffold causes 
her to "shed tears of blood." "The greatest evils 
that one can imagine" she sees lurking "in a future 
ushered in by such an event." 

" These men," she says in one of her letters, " who 
were to give us liberty have murdered it. They are 
nothing but assassins. Let us grieve for the fate of 
poor France. A fearful despotism awaits us, for if 
they succeed in chaining up the people again it is to 
fall from Charybdis into Scylla." 

All her metaphors, be it said, Charlotte Corday 
borrowed from the ancients. In this respect, however, 
she was by no means singular. Pagan allusions were 
as common in France at this period as Biblical ones are 
in England. The application of Greek and Roman tra- 
ditions in daily life was the most marked and curious 
feature of the times. Unfortunately, the sublimity of 
the ideals of antiquity, which so profoundly influenced 
great natures like Charlotte Corday, Madame Roland, 
and those magnificent visionaries the Girondins, had 
its revers de 7nddaille of unbridled tyranny and self- 
aggrandizement which appealed with equal force to 
the base souls of the Jacobins and the mob to whose 
vilest passions they pandered. 

Deist though she was, the suppression of the con- 
vents was something much worse to Charlotte than an 
act of impiety. She looked back with regret on the 
happy days she had passed at the Abbaye-aux- Dames, 
and shuddered at the cruelty of the law which drove 
the gentle, timid and inexperienced nuns out of their 
cloisters like frightened doves from a dovecote. The 


Charlotte Corday 

fate of Mademoiselle de Forbin, to whom she had 
been deeply attached, and who, driven from the con- 
vent in which she had become a nun, was in dire 
distress in Switzerland, caused her great anxiety. 

Mademoiselle de Forbin, however, was not the 
only one about whom she was concerned. She com- 
plains that "all her friends are being persecuted." 
Even poor old Madame de Bretteville had become an 
object of suspicion, and was made the victim of all 
manner of petty annoyances, as a result of having 
sheltered an ^migri who was fleeing to England. 

"We are in the power of villains here," she writes, 
adding in exasperation, " it is enough to make one 
hate this republic if one did not remember that ' les 
for/aits httmains n atteignent pas les cieux^ " 

A tragic event which made a deep impression on 
her was the imprisonment of her eighteen-year-old 
friend Eleanore de Faudoas. It recalled with peculiar 
poignancy an incident that occurred after the fall of 
the monarchy. The two girls and Mademoiselle 
Levaillant — afterwards Madame de Maromme — had 
been in the habit of studying English together, and 
one day while reading the account of the trial of 
Charles I they had stopped to discuss his misfortunes, 
which bore so strikingf a resemblance to those of Louis 
XVI. Mademoiselle Levaillant was particularly im- 
pressed with the devotion and unalterable loyalty of 
the Cavaliers to their king. 

" That," she exclaimed, " is what I would do, if 
such things happened in France. I would sacrifice 
myself for my king. 'All for the King,' is my motto! " 

" Oh," replied Eleanore de Faudoas, laughing, " I 
should, of course, do all in my power to help him, 

T 273 

Daughters of Eve 

except dying. I much prefer to keep my head on my 
shoulders, even though it were hind-side before." 

Since then the King had lost his head, and now 
El^anore de Faudoas had been arrested and imprisoned 
for beinor the dauofhter of a man who had been one of 
those that had attempted in vain to sustain the last 
vestige of royal power when attacked and destroyed 
by the people on the fatal loth of August. For this 
crime the innocent Eleanore was guillotined along 
with her father and a widowed aunt. This event did 
not take place till some weeks after Charlotte herself 
had perished on the same scaffold, but the terrible fate 
of the girl was none the less sure. It was, perhaps, from 
this moment that the vengeance which was to spur 
"the victim of the demon of solitude" to the heroic 
suicide she termed sacrifice began to germinate in her 


These personal causes of grievance were exacerb- 
ated by political ones. The atrocities, the general 
insecurity of life, and the fury of the factions by which 
France was torn by the execution of Louis XVI, 
created a revulsion of feeling in all those who, while 
rejoicing in the abolition of the monarchy, desired to 
raise in its place a republic founded on the principles 
of justice, liberty, and order. The party which repre- 
sented these opinions in the Convention was known as 
the Girondins. Recruited almost entirely from the 
upper middle-class, they were men of culture and re- 
finement, sincerely patriotic, honest, and humane. 
They possessed, moreover, all the brains in the Con- 


Charlotte Corday 

vention, and in Vergniaud, their leader, an orator of 
the greatest eloquence. In a more peaceful and law- 
abiding epoch they would have governed the country 
with great efficiency and in the best interests of the 
people. But in a period of revolution they had not 
the requisite energy to usurp the supreme authority to 
maintain public order, the audacity to intimidate their 
opponents, or the cunning to pacify them. 

Their very virtues weakened them. The loftiness 
of their principles was a constant source of reproach 
to those in whom the Revolution, with its abuse of 
liberty, had given a free rein to the vilest passions of 
mankind. The difference between them and their 
rivals for popular favour was aptly defined by 
Vergniaud. "The Jacobins," he said, "believe in 
consolidating the republic by terror. We would fain see 
it consolidated by love." Theorists rather than men 
of action, their enemies easily tangled them in their 
own theories. The position they held midway between 
the extremists was difficult and dangerous. In revo- 
lutions moderation is political suicide. The Girondins 
were the en/ants perdus of the Ideal. Having over- 
thrown the monarchy, they tried to save the monarch. 
The political death of Louis was all they desired. But 
at such a time no appeal to the nobler feelings of the 
people was of any avail ; their efforts to obtain mercy 
for their own victim only weakened their influence 
and furnished the Jacobins with fresh weapons. In the 
end they were destined to slip in the very blood they 
had spilt. 

Too late they perceived how foolish had been their 
attempt to create a Utopia by law. " My friends," 
said Vergniaud, on the night before the execution of 
T 2 275 

Daughters of Eve 

the famous Twenty-two, who had refused to seek 
safety in flight like their less sublime comrades, " we 
have killed the tree by pruning it. The soil is too 
weak to nourish the roots of civic liberty. This nation 
is too childish to wield its laws without hurting itself. 
It will return to its kings as babes return to their toys. 
We were deceived in the age in which we were born. 
We deemed ourselves in Rome, and we were at Paris." 
Words more pregnant with truth were never uttered 
in the Revolution. 

Of all the blunders these visionary disciples of 
Rousseau and Plutarch committed, the most fatal, and 
at the same time the most creditable to them, was 
their arraignment of Marat for his complicity in the 
infamous September massacres. To save themselves 
from a similar fate, Danton and Robespierre, though 
they dreaded the ascendency of Marat in the Jacobins, 
were obliged to attempt to save him. All France took 
part in the struggle that ensued, by which Marat 
achieved a notoriety he had never before possessed, 
and out of all proportion to his real importance. The 
failure of the Girondins to bring him to justice was 
the direct cause of their downfall. The wonderful 
ovation Marat received on his acquittal, when he was 
carried in triumph on the shoulders of a Jacobin mob 
to his seat in the Convention itself, was the prelude to 
their own arraignment and condemnation. Twenty- 
two of their number who had refused to flee were 
arrested and executed in due course. Of the others, 
eighteen took refuge in Caen, " because this city had 
been the first to protest against the violation of the 
liberty of the people in the arrest of their representa- 
tives." With their proscription the republic became 


Charlotte Corday 

the tyranny of a party composed of men destitute of 
scruple or mercy, who took a sadistic delight in 
legalizing murder. 

Marat, who had played a more prominent part 
than any one in the proscription of the Girondins, 
and whose thirst for blood for which he clamoured 
daily in his paper, L'Ami dii Peuple, had become 
more insane than ever, was not unnaturally regarded 
in the provinces as possessing far greater importance 
than any of the Mountain — as the Jacobin party in the 
Convention was termed. 

"The horror he inspired," says Garat, "by his 
maxims and the popular idea of his revolting appear- 
ance made the people think they saw his influence in 
everything, so that they imagined he was the Moun- 
tain or that all its members were like him." 

Charlotte Corday was one of these. To her, 
beholding the political ideal of which she had dreamed 
outraged and destroyed, Marat became a symbol for 
the infamy and cruelty that profaned liberty. 

The atmosphere of Caen only served to foster this 
illusion. In this stronghold of the Girondins, hatred 
of the Jacobins, above all of the man who was regarded 
as the incarnation of all their violence, had raised a 
battalion ready to march on Paris and strike down 
the tyrant, as the Marseillaise had struck down 
Louis XVI. 

Such an atmosphere was like wine to the girl who 
had brooded so long in solitude over the anarchy of 
the times. In the proscribed deputies she believed 
she saw the saviours of her country. She burned 
with desire to know them, to assist at their discussions, 
and to take part in their actions. Attended by an old 


Daughters of Eve 

servant of Madame de Bretteville, she called at the 
Palais de I'lntendance, where they lodged as the 
guests of the city, on the pretext of interesting them in 
behalf of her friend Mademoiselle de Forbin, who had 
forfeited a pension to which she was entitled by leaving 
France. Barbaroux, " the Antinous of France," as he 
has been called, though his looks no longer warranted 
the title, received her. She had two or three inter- 
views with him — on the strength of which, owing to 
his well-known weakness for women, historians have 
attempted to build a romance — that only served to 
confirm her in the opinion that, " as long as Marat 
lived there would never be any safety for the friends 
of law and humanity." 

Believing that any means were justifiable to attain 
this end, the idea of his assassination was one she had 
probably often contemplated in her solitary musings. 
It was not, however, till the high hopes she built of 
rescuing the country by other means had been blighted 
that she became convinced that the role of Brutus was 
one for which she had been specially created. 

The Jacobins in the meantime were by no means 
satisfied with their victory over the Girondins in the 
Convention. In the pass to which things had come, 
it was only by the wholesale slaughter of their enemies 
that they counted on escaping a similar fate. The 
lists of those thus doomed were drawn up, it was said, 
by Marat's own hand. In Brittany and Normandy 
alone three hundred thousand persons were reported 
to be marked out for destruction. To escape such a 
fate the Girondins all over France were prepared to 
defy the Convention. 

Of Caen, where the Girondin leaders were trying 


Charlotte Corday 

to raise an army to march on Paris, great things were 
expected. It was arranged that on July 7 (1793) a 
great review of the National Guard should be held, at 
which General Wimffen, the commander, should call 
for volunteers. To celebrate the event fittingly, the 
review was conducted with the greatest pomp. But 
at the call of Wimffen only seventeen men of the 
thousands whom he addressed stepped forward from 
the ranks. To Charlotte, who was present on a 
balcony with the Girondin deputies, the sight of this 
pitiful handful seemed to spell the ruin of her country. 
She could not restrain her tears. Petion, who stood 
next her, chaffed her on her tears, which he believed to 
be due to regret at the departure of a lover. "Ah, 
citizen," she replied with a spirit that astonished 
him, blase though he was in emotion, " you judge me 
without knowing me. One day you will understand 
what I am made of." 

It was at this moment, as she declared afterwards, 
that her resolution to rid France of Marat was 


Having made up her mind, Charlotte lost no time 
in the execution of her project. Two days later, on 
July 9, she set out for Paris. She had previously 
engaged her seat in the diligence, burnt all her letters, 
and destroyed everything that was likely to incriminate 
her friends. She made no secret of her departure, 
though its motive obliged her to conceal her real 
destination. Madame de Bretteville believed she was 
going to see her father at Argentan for a few days. 


Daughters of Eve 

To M. de Corday she wrote that "she was going to 
England, because she could no longer live happy and 
at peace in France." 

As she crossed the threshold of the Grand Manoir 
for the last time she met a little playmate of hers, the 
child of a carpenter opposite, whom she had been 
wont to make much of. " Here is something for you, 
Louis," she said, giving him her sketching-book, which 
he had been very fond of looking at. " Don't forget 
me ; you will never see me again." And, taking him 
up in her arms, she kissed him and bade him be a 
good boy. 

On passing the house of Madame Malfilatre, the 
last of her friends who remained in Caen, she stopped 
to say good-bye. When she left, her feelings got the 
better of her and she kissed young Malfilatre, a boy of 
sixteen, who was present, as well as his mother. ** He 
grew up and grew old," says Cheron de Villiers, 
" envied and admired by all his neighbours, as if he 
had been touched on the brow by an angel. He lived 
to be seventy-five, and to the day of his death he 
claimed to have received the last kiss Charlotte Corday 
ever gave." 

The journey to Paris was tedious and uneventful. 
The diligence reached its destination on July ii, at 
noon. On the recommendation of the guard, Charlotte 
proceeded immediately to the Hotel de la Providence. 
Having obtained a room, she went to bed and slept till 
the following morning. On arising she went to call 
on Lauze Duperret, a member of the Convention, to 
whom she had a letter from Barbaroux in regard to 
the affair of her friend Mademoiselle de Forbin. 
Being informed that he was out, but would return at a 


Charlotte Corday 

certain hour, she went back to the hotel to wait, 
passing the time reading Plutarch's Lives, which she 
had brought with her from Caen. 

At the appointed hour she returned to the deputy. 
On being received she told him she had come to Paris 
in the interests of Mademoiselle de Forbin, and 
besought his influence on her friend's behalf. The 
request was merely a pretext on her part to bring her 
into contact with a man who was in a position to give 
her the information she required concerning Marat. 
But Duperret could do nothing for her. As a friend 
of the proscribed Girondins he was already under 
suspicion, which, confirmed by the sequel to Charlotte's 
visit, was to lead him to the guillotine. She was, how- 
ever, fully alive to the danger to which she exposed 
him, and before parting from him, implored him, in 
vain, to leave Paris. 

Returning once more to the hotel, Charlotte 
occupied herself for the remainder of the evening in 
writing her famous "Address to the French People," 
which was at once her apology for the murder she 
contemplated and her political testament. 

In it, while declaring that " the happiness of France 
depends on obedience to law," she denies that she 
disobeys the law in killing Marat, for " condemned 
by the whole world, he is beyond the pale of the 

" What just tribunal would condemn me.'*" she 
pleads in justification. " If I am guilty, so was 
Alcides when he destroyed the monsters, if, indeed, he 
ever encountered any monster so hateful," In the 
nobility of her motive she finds a complete vindication 
of her conduct. 


Daughters of Eve 

" My heart," she says, "is torn by the misfortunes 
of my country ! My life is all I have to give her, and 
I thank Heaven I am permitted to offer it. I desire 
my last breath to be useful to my fellow-citizens. Let 
my head borne through Paris be a rallying-sign for 
all the friends of law. Let the Mountain, already 
tottering, see its fall written in my blood. Let me be 
their last victim, and the avenged universe will declare 
that I have deserved well of humanity. I care not if 
others view my conduct in a different light." 

It is her conviction that with the fall of the 
Mountain "only brothers and friends will remain." 
She believes that " Marat, vilest of all wretches, 
whose name alone suffices to conjure up an image of 
every crime, in falling beneath the avenging steel has 
shaken the Mountain, made Danton and Robespierre 
grow pale, and terrified the other villains seated on 
this throne of blood." 

Regarding the task to which she had consecrated 
herself not as a murder, but as a solemn immolation 
which was to strike terror in the minds of the Jacobins, 
she desired to execute it in a manner that would pro- 
duce the greatest effect. Her first idea had been to 
accost Marat in the Champ de Mars on July 14, 
during the fete in honour of the fall of the Bastille. 
The popular agitation, however, inflamed by the 
royalist rising in La Vendue, caused the ceremony to 
be postponed and deprived her of her theatre. She 
had then planned to strike Marat in the midst of the 
Convention itself, under the very eyes of the Moun- 
tain. But informed by Duperret that Marat was ill 
and did not go to the Convention, she was obliged to 
abandon this project too, and fall back on the more 


Charlotte Corday 

obscure and commonplace plan of slaying him in the 
privacy of his own house. 

This, however, was not so simple as it seemed. 
The fear of failure evidently haunted her. On the 
morning of the 13th she awoke at six, and, in spite of 
the earliness of the hour, rose, dressed, and went out. 
She directed her steps to the Palais Royal and walked 
about the gardens till the shops opened. At eight she 
entered a cutler's shop and purchased for forty sous a 
common kitchen knife with a black handle. She then 
hailed a cab and directed the driver to take her to 
Marat's house. Here she encountered her first 
difficulty. The " Friend of the People," who clamoured 
daily for heads, lived in mortal fear lest his own should 
be the forfeit of his insane thirst for blood. The 
concierge had orders to refuse admittance to all 

Forced to leave without seeing her victim, the 
girl returned quietly to her hotel and wrote him a 
letter, which she despatched at once by a messenger. 
In it she begged for an interview as one coming from 
Caen who had information for him which would 
enable him " to render France a great service." At 
half-past seven in the evening, having got no reply to 
her letter, she set out again for his door. To mollify 
those who guarded it, she bethought herself for the 
first time in her life of her great beauty, and dressed 
herself with the utmost care. She wore a low-necked 
white gown ; on her beautiful hair, bound round her 
brows with a wide green silk riband, rested a Nor- 
mandy cap, the long lace of which brushed her cheeks. 
In her bosom, concealed by the folds of a pink silk 
scarf which covered her shoulders, was the knife she 


Daughters of Eve 

had purchased. In her hand she carried a fan. No 
agitation revealed her deadly purpose, no suggestive 
pallor dimmed the brilliant hue of her cheeks, no 
tremulousness betrayed itself in her soft voice. Her 
eyes were as calm as Asian lakes, her manner was 
gentle and full of dignity. In this attractive guise, 
like " Judith, adorned with a marvellous beauty which 
the Lord had bestowed on her to deliver Israel," she 
knocked for the second time that day at Marat's 

Once again she was refused admittance, but this 
time Charlotte was determined not to be sent away. 
The sound of the altercation drifting through the half- 
open door reached the ears of Marat. Gathering by 
the few words he could make out that the visitor was 
the stranger who had endeavoured once before that 
day to have an interview with him, he ordered his 
mistress to admit her. The woman did as she was bid, 
and at last Charlotte Corday found herself in the 
presence of her victim. 

The room into which she was shown was small, 
ill-lit, and meanly furnished. On one of the walls 
hung a map of France, showing the departments into 
which the former provinces of the old regime had 
recently been divided. Opposite hung a brace of 
pistols, crossed, with the inscription " Death " above 
them. Several copies of the A7ni du Peuple were 
scattered about the floor. A solitary window, through 
which there glimmered a faint shaft of the rapidly 
fading daylight, opened upon a dismal court. Beside 
it sat Marat, stewing in a slipper-bath. 

Any description of Marat, self-styled " Friend of 
the People," is almost superfluous. The name of no 



(^After Boze) 

[7\> face p. 285 

Charlotte Corday 

actor in the great drama of the Revolution is more 
familiar. Of his early life and antecedents little is 
known. His father, a learned and estimable man, 
was descended from a Spanish family resident in the 
island of Sardinia, whence he had emigrated to Switzer- 
land, on becoming converted to Calvinism. It was in 
this country, to which his mother belonged, that Marat 
was born in 1743. He was exceedingly intelligent 
and had received a good education, enhanced by 
extensive travel. For a time he had lived in Scotland, 
where he studied medicine and took his degree, after- 
wards practising for some years in London with con- 
siderable success. In 1777 he left England to fill the 
post of physician to the body-guards of the Comte 
d'Artois, brother of Louis XVI. It would be interest- 
ing to know how he obtained this appointment, which 
was one of those coveted sinecures for the possession 
of which much influence was needed. 

Being of a restless and energetic nature, he 
employed the leisure it afforded him in experimenting 
in chemistry and physics. He wrote pamphlets on 
these subjects from time to time, as well as on political 
questions, in which he had always been keenly inter- 
ested. Enthusiastic for the new ideas, on the out- 
break of the Revolution he abandoned himself entirely 
to politics. Henceforth his career is too well known 
to be recapitulated. 

In justice, however, it is but fair to add that the 
execration in which his name has been held is not alto- 
gether deserved. But to rush to the other extreme, as 
some recent writers have done, is absurd. In reality 
Marat was neither a monster nor a model of civic 
virtue. Turbulent, bold, eloquent, active and full of 


Daughters of Eve 

energy, he was the sort of man to do the spade-work 
in a revolution. His hatred of the old regime was 
personal, and for that reason the more deadly. He 
professed to love liberty, but just what he meant by 
liberty he perhaps could not have explained himself. 
His statecraft, such as it was, was entirely destruct- 
ive. He had a plan for a constitution, but it was 
merely replacing the old, worn-out tyranny of feudal- 
ism with the new, untried tyranny of Socialism in its 
most uncompromising form. He represented the 
masses more than any other person in the Revolution. 
Understanding them thoroughly, he was able to articu- 
late their hopes, their fears, and their desires. It was 
the secret of his vast popularity. 

Intensely neurotic, the Revolution with its negation 
of all restraint developed in him a latent tendency to 
degeneration. The terror and suspicion of the atmo- 
sphere in which he lived acted like cantharides upon 
his imagination. Naturally combative and vindictive, 
he saw a mortal enemy in every one who attempted to 
differ from him, and, in the panic inspired by the com- 
plete loss of control of his passions, he reverted to the 
primordial type, of which he had always possessed, un- 
known even to himself, all the ferocious and brutal 
instincts. In the transformation he passed from one 
extreme to the other. It is worthy of note that 
furiously as he clamoured for " heads," he had formerly 
as passionately pleaded for the abolition of the death 

The same contrast was noticeable in his tastes and 
habits. As the physician of the Comte d'Artois' 
body-guards, he had been noted for the elegance of 
his attire and the luxury of his surroundings. As 


Charlotte Corday 

demagogue and " Friend of the People," he was 
slovenly in his dress, coarse in his speech, and pre- 
ferred squalor to the graces to which he had been 
addicted. So complete a perversion is only to be 
explained by medical science. Its progress, indeed, 
was attended and accelerated by a physical decay. 
The loathsome and irritating disease of which he was 
the victim, and which by the suffering it entailed 
extenuates to some extent the violence of his temper, 
had all but run its course when Charlotte Corday 
entered his presence. According to his doctor, he was 
a stricken man who had but a week at the most to 
live — an object more deserving of pity than execration. 
But Charlotte, utterly ignorant of his condition, 
and incapable of sympathizing with it had it been 
explained to her, could only judge him by the evil 
associated with his name. Nor was the sight of him 
calculated to diminish her hatred or alter her precon- 
ceived idea of him. Immersed to the waist in his 
medicated bath, with a ragged sleeveless gown on his 
shoulders and his matted hair wrapped in a dirty 
handkerchief, he was a sickening and disgusting 
object. His receding forehead, feverish protruding 
eyes, vast frog's mouth, hairy chest and shrivelled 
body seemed to belong to some loathsome animal 
rather than to a human being. Squalid, unclean, 
hideous, even in his bath he continued to stoke the 
fire of the Revolution. A rough plank laid across the 
bath served as a table. It was covered with papers, 
and letters and articles for the Ami du Petiple. On 
one — a letter to the Convention, demanding the 
immediate prosecution of all the Bourbons remaining 
in France — the ink was still wet. 


Daughters of Eve 


At the first glance at his livid, repellent features, 
distorted by suffering and revolutionary passion, Char- 
lotte's calm almost deserted her. 

He began at once to question her as to the state 
of affairs in Normandy. In replying she took care 
not to meet his eyes, lest the horror with which the 
sight of him had filled her should betray itself in hers. 
He then asked the names of the Girondin deputies 
who had taken refuge in Caen. As she repeated them 
he proceeded to write them down. 

"Well," he said, when she had finished, "I shall 
have them all guillotined in Paris before they are a 
week older." 

At these words Charlotte summoned all her 
courage, and before he could raise his eyes from the 
plank on which he was writing, she drew the knife 
from her bosom and plunged it up to the hilt in his 
heart. The blow, struck from above with superhuman 
force, passed through the lung, penetrated the clavicle, 
and severed the carotid artery. She then drew out 
the bloody blade and dropped it on the floor. The 
death of her victim was almost instantaneous. 
" Help ! " he called once in a strangled voice ; his head 
fell forward on the plank, and he expired. 


At his cry, the woman with whom he lived, a maid, 
and a fellow employed to run errands for the " Friend 
of the People" rushed in. Charlotte was standing 
motionless, like one petrified, half concealed by the 
window curtain. The man picked up a chair and 


Charlotte Corday 

felled her to the floor with it. The two women, with 
shrieks of horror and despair, flew to the dead man, 
and attempted to stanch the blood which still gushed 
from the wound in his breast. 

The noise brought in the neighbours and attracted 
persons passing in the street. When it was known 
that Marat had been murdered, an immense multitude 
besieged the house clamouring for those within to 
throw the assassin out of the window to them. The 
police commissioner of the quarter and his guard 
arrived just in time to save Charlotte from being torn 
to pieces. The bayonets of the soldiers who sur- 
rounded her alone kept back the infuriated crowd, 
which both within and without the house continued to 
menace her with a thousand deaths. Her hands were 
bound behind her back with cords, so tightly that her 
wrists bled. But she never lost her presence of mind. 
To the questions of the police commissioner, who pro- 
ceeded to examine her, she answered calmly, clearly, 
and in a manner that manifested the proud satisfaction 
she felt. She spoke of her deed as if it were deserving 
of the highest praise. 

So rapidly did the news spread, that the four 
deputies sent by the cowardly Convention, which 
could suffer the blood of others to be shed with 
impunity but trembled with fear at the least menace 
to itself, arrived before the police examination was 
over. They came " expecting to behold a monster," 
and their astonishment was great when they saw a 
young and beautiful girl who answered the questions 
put to her quietly, firmly, and without the least sign 
of fear. Never before had a criminal produced such 
a curious impression. She appeared so to alter the 
u 289 

Daughters of Eve 

aspect of her crime that they felt a sort of admiration 
for her even in the presence of her victim. Harmand 
de la Meuse, who was among those present during her 
examination, speaks of her in terms of the warmest 

When the police commissioner had concluded his 
interrogations, the deputies ordered that she should 
be conducted to the Abbaye. The prison was distant 
from the house of Marat only a couple of minutes, 
but the route bristled with danger. On Charlotte's 
appearance, the crowd, which had waited for hours to 
see her, greeted her with a roar of fury. It was only 
respect for the members of the Convention that pre- 
vented the mob from seizing her. 

If she seemed, as some thought, to falter for 
a moment, it was from disgust, not from fear. " I 
was really perfectly collected," she wrote afterwards 
to Barbaroux, "when I left Marat's house to go to 
the Abbaye, but the cries of some women pained 
me. Whoso saves his country does not count the 


She even considered the rage of the mob she had 
bereaved "excusable." 

At the Abbaye she was subjected to a second 
examination, in the vain hope of discovering the 
conspiracy of which it was believed she was the agent. 
She was then confined in the room previously occupied 
by Madame Roland, who had been removed to the 
Conciergerie. At the instigation of the contemptible 
Chabot, one of the deputies sent by the Convention 
to report on the affair, two gens d'armes were placed 
in the room to watch her during the night, in spite 
of her repeated protestations against the indecency 


Charlotte Corday 

of such surveillance. Her request, however, for paper, 
pens, and ink was granted, but the trap which 
this clemency was intended to conceal was utterly 

Hearine the voices of criers set to hawk under 
the window of her cell the news of the arrest of 
Fauchet, the Constitutional Bishop of Calvados, who, 
though he had not even been aware of her existence, 
had been seized along with Duperret as an accomplice 
in her crime, she wrote to the Committee of Public 
Safety declaring that she had never seen him but once 
in her life, and then only from a window. This attempt 
to save Fauchet, "whom she despised," was repeated 
again on the following day at her trial, but it availed 
him nothing. Like Duperret, he had managed to 
incur the enmity of the Jacobins, who welcomed the 
opportunity of getting rid of them, and both were 
guillotined for a crime of which they were perfectly 

Charlotte also wrote to Barbaroux and her father. 
Her letter to the former, written in a witty and 
ironical style, was a detailed account of everything 
that had happened to her since she left Caen. The 
truth which was stamped in every line of it was so 
convincing that when it was read at her trial it made 
it clear to every one, in the opinion of the public at all 
events, that she had no accomplice in the murder of 

Of this letter Louvet, writing to Barbaroux after 
her death, declared : " Either nothing that is beautiful 
in the Revolution will endure, or this will pass down 
the centuries. Ah, dear Barbaroux, in the whole of 
your career, so enviable throughout, I have never 
u 2 291 

Daughters of Eve 

envied you anything but the honour of having your 
name attached to this letter." 

Her letter to her father in its brevity, simplicity, 
and sadness of tone, was a great contrast to the other. 
In it she begs his pardon for having disposed of her 
life without his permission ; believes she has avenged 
many innocent victims and prevented many other 
disasters, and is convinced that the people will one 
day be disabused and rejoice at their delivery from a 
tyrant. In conclusion, she bids him " remember that 
line of Corneille : Le crime fait la honte et non pas 
r^chafaud !'' 

Needless to say, these letters never reached those 
to whom they were addressed. After her death they 
were published in the report of her trial, but the 
papers in which they appeared were immediately 
suppressed as " likely to excite sympathy for her 

The morning after her arrest she was brought 
before the Revolutionary Tribunal. The court was 
crammed with an excited mob eager to catch a glimpse 
of the "monster" who had murdered their beloved 
Marat. On her arrival she was greeted with many 
signs of anger, which only respect for the despots 
who dispensed the odious justice of the Revolution 
held in check. But scarcely had she passed to her 
place than the murmur of rage was hushed by the 
wonder she excited. Her beauty and the calmness 
of her demeanour disarmed even the judges, and they 
gazed at her with a sort of stupid surprise and reluctant 

"All," says Chauveau de la Garde, "judges, jury, 
and spectators looked at her as if she were the judge 


Charlotte Corday 

of a supreme tribunal before which they were about 
to be arraigned. Her features have been painted, 
and her words recorded, but no art could depict the 
nobility of her soul which manifested itself in her 
bearing. The moral effect of it was perceptible 
throughout the trial." 

During her examination she showed neither fear 
nor remorse. " I was quite convinced," she said, 
" that I should be the immediate victim of the people. 
It was what I desired." Her imperturbability and 
the precision with which she answered the questions 
put to her astonished the court. "When she spoke," 
says Perlet, "she was listened to in perfect silence, 
because of the wonderful sweetness of her voice." 
Asked who had inspired her with hatred of Marat, 
she replied that she had no need of the hatred of 
others, her own was sufficient. " Besides," she added, 
"one always does badly what one has not devised 

"What did you hope to effect by killing Marat.-*" 
asked one of the judges. 

" To restore peace to my country," she said. 

" Do you think you have killed all the Marats ? " 

"No," she answered sadly, "that is more than I 
am capable of undertaking. But, since he is dead, 
perhaps the others will tremble." 

Taunted by Fouquier- Tinville with having lied 
to get access to her victim, she confessed that 
her ruse was unworthy, but that any means were 
justifiable when it was a question of getting rid 
of a tyrant. " I was a republican before the Revo- 
lution," she added proudly, " and I never wanted 


Daughters of Eve 

"What do you mean by energy?" questioned a 

" The resolve that those make who put aside 
private interest, and know how to sacrifice themselves 
for their country. I have killed one man to save a 
hundred thousand." 

There was no shaking her composure. When her 
letter to Barbaroux was read in court, she was asked 
if she had anything to add to it. 

"Yes," she replied, "this sentence: 'The leader 
of the anarchists is no more ; you will have 

This thought was uppermost in her mind. " Peace 
at all costs," she had written to Barbaroux, "must be 
procured." Marat dead, she enjoys " a delicious peace." 
Her letter to Barbaroux was dated "the second day 
of the preparation for peace." 

Shown the knife stained with the blood of Marat, 
and asked if she recognized it, " Certainly," she 
replied, with an impatient gesture of disgust, " it is 
I who killed Marat." 

" You must be a practised hand," sneered Fouquier, 
" to have dealt so sure a blow." 

" The monster ! " she exclaimed, indignant at 
having her action dragged from its heroic height to 
the level of a vulgar crime. "He takes me for an 
assassin ! " 

The words had the effect of a thunder-clap, and 
ended the interrogation. Her defence then followed. 
The enactment of this cynical farce was entrusted to 
Chauveau de la Garde, who subsequently defended 
Marie Antoinette, Madame Roland, and all the nota- 
bilities whom revolutionary justice had pre-con- 


Charlotte Corday 

demned. He must have possessed great tact, for in 
spite of the great danger attached to his post, which 
he increased by the respectful sympathy he manifested 
to his unfortunate clients, he managed to escape the 
guillotine, and had the brilliant career he deserved 
under the Empire. 

He had received instructions to confine his defence 
to a plea of insanity. "They wished me," he says, 
"to humiliate her. As for her, when I rose, her face 
was as calm as ever, but she looked at me in a manner 
that convinced me she did not wish any justifica- 
tion." Unable to save her, he courageously deter- 
mined to gratify her, and, cleverly steering a middle 
course, stated that while her immovable calm and 
entire self-abnegation, " in some respects sublime," 
were unnatural and only to be explained by the 
exaltation of political fanaticism, she confessed that 
her "horrible crime" had long been premeditated. 

She was unanimously sentenced to death, and, as 
in the case of all persons convicted of murder, to have 
her "goods confiscated." The perfect indifference 
with which she listened to her sentence was discon- 
certing. The Jacobin press was so irritated by the 
impossibility of making her tremble that it professed 
to see in her sang-froid another sign of her 
" monstrous " nature. Asked if she had anything to 
say relative to her punishment, she made no reply, 
but, turning to Chauveau de la Garde "with in- 
effable grace and sweetness," she said in her musical 
voice — 

" Monsieur, you have defended me as I wished to 
be defended. I thank you, and I would otTer you a 
proof of my gratitude. These gentlemen " (indicating 


Daughters of Eve 

the judges) "have confiscated my property. I owe a 
trifling sum in the prison, and I would rely on your 
generosity to settle the debt." 

Needless to say, the request was scrupulously 
respected, and the chivalrous lawyer paid the little 
debt on the day after his client's execution. 


At the conclusion of her trial, Charlotte was con- 
ducted to the Conciergerie to await the execution of 
her sentence, which was to take place that evening. 
The prisoners, informed of her coming, had ranged 
themselves in the courts and corridors to see her, and 
manifested their sympathy and admiration in the 
liveliest fashion. To Madame Roland, who was soon 
to follow her to the scaffold, she seemed "a heroine 
worthy of a better century." 

Charlotte was amazed at the pity she inspired. 
The sacrifice of her life seemed such a simple thing 
to her ; she renounced it without the least regret. 
In stabbing Marat she was convinced that she had 
fulfilled a sacred duty. She had no desire to be 
mourned. " The grief of my friends," she said, " would 
dishonour my memory." 

During her trial she had perceived an artist 
sketching her, and she had smilingly turned her face 
towards him that he might better see her features. 
Recollecting that her removal from the court had 
interrupted his work, on arriving at the Conciergerie 
she requested that he should be allowed to finish the 
picture that he had begun. Conscious of the sublimity 


Charlotte Corday 

of her sacrifice, she desired to sit for her portrait to 
immortality. Her request was granted, and Jacques 
Hauer, whose name she thus saved from oblivion, was 
admitted to her cell. Whilst he painted she conversed 
with him on his profession, the events of the day, and 
"the delicious peace she felt after accomplishing the 
mission of her life." She also begged him to make 
a copy of her portrait and send it to her father. " Her 
tranquillity was such," said Hauer afterwards, "that I 
almost forgot the tragic circumstances under which 
I worked." 

He was still painting when Sanson, the executioner, 
entered with his scissors and the red chemise des 

" What, already ! " she exclaimed, with a bright 
smile, and, rising from her seat, she let down her beauti- 
ful hair which reached almost to the ground. 

She begged Sanson to give her the scissors, and 
cutting off a strand gave it to Hauer. 

*' Monsieur," she said, " I know not how to thank 
you for the pains you have taken. I have only 
this to offer you. Please keep it as a token of my 

A constitutional priest then presented himself to 
offer her the last consolations of religion. She gently 
bade him thank those who had sent him, but firmly 
declined his services. When the priest withdrew she 
put on the red smock, and Sanson proceeded to cut 
her hair and bind her hands behind her back, which 
he did in such a manner as to occasion her as little 
discomfort as possible. She called it "the toilette of 
death which leads to immortality." 

As she mounted the tumbril a violent thunder- 


Daughters of Eve 

storm burst over Paris, " as if Nature," says Chauveau 
de la Garde, "joined in the indignation the virtuous 
felt at her fate." It failed to disperse the immense 
crowd which had gathered to see her pass. The 
infamous tricoteuses, those furies of the Revolution, 
whom Robespierre and Marat encouraged to inflame 
the murderous instincts of the populace of Paris, 
surofed round the tumbril and shrieked abuse and 
curses upon the girl. But neither the sight of 
these hideous creatures nor their insults made her 

The tumbril, forced to crawl at a snail's pace 
through the densely-packed streets, took two hours to 
reach the Place de la Revolution where the guillotine 
was erected. Several times Sanson turned to see if she 
showed any signs of weakness, but nothing blanched 
the brilliancy of her complexion and her lips were as 
red as ever. 

"Do you not find the way long?" he asked her 

" Bah ! " she replied, "we are sure to arrive all the 

The storm was brief, but it drenched her to the 
skin. The red gown, clinging in dripping folds to her 
classic form, displayed its exquisite symmetry, and 
gave a sinister splendour to her beauty. In her 
sublime serenity she seemed to be already in the 
Elysian Fields with the heroes of antiquity, of whom 
she had so often dreamed. Fascinated by the splendid 
vision, many could not restrain their admiration. As 
she proceeded, exclamations of pity mingled with the 
ribald execrations of the tricotezises. Even they 
seemed to feel the majesty of her demeanour, and the 


Charlotte Corday 

silence which it often imposed upon them added to the 
impressiveness of her wonderful composure. Robe- 
spierre, Danton, and Camille Desmoulins, who were 
looking from a window, drew back as she passed, as 
if they had seen in her peaceful heroic face the 
Nemesis which threatened them. 

On arriving at the scaffold, Sanson stepped in front 
of her to save her the shock of seeing the guillotine. 
But she leant forward to look at it, saying quietly as 
she did so, '* Surely I have a right to be curious. I 
have never seen one before." 

She leaped from the tumbril without waiting to be 
assisted, and quickly mounted the steps of the scaffold. 
A hush suddenly fell upon the crowd as it beheld her 
on the platform. Whilst she was being pinioned, 
one of Sanson's assistants tore away her kerchief, 
exposing to view her dazzling neck and shoulders. 
She crimsoned with shame, but at once regained her 
self-control and placed herself under the axe. 

When the blade fell, a brute picked her head out 
of the basket into which it had fallen by the hair and 
struck it with his fist. It is said to have reddened 
at the blow as if life were still in it. A cry of 
horror burst from the bloodthirsty wretches round the 
scaffold, who had been impressed in spite of them- 
selves by the heroism of their beautiful and splendid 
victim. So great was the popular indignation that 
the Revolutionary Tribunal deemed it wise to pacify 
it by imprisoning "the over-zealous patriot" for a 

Even more atrocious was the indignity to which 
her corpse was subjected. The Jacobins, anxious to 
vilify her memory and make her appear, not only a 


Daughters of Eve 

common murderess, but a woman devoid of either 
beauty or virtue, caused her body before burial to 
be taken to a charity hospital and subjected to an 
infamous examination, in the hope of finding proof of 
the odious charge which had been brought against her 
moral character at her trial. This brutal outrage, 
however, which was intended to blast her reputa- 
tion and rob her of her halo of martyrdom, only 
had the effect of establishing more conclusively 
than ever the virginity of the Joan of Arc of the 

The remains were then flung into a pit in the 
cemetery of the Madeleine where the guillotined were 
usually interred. The skull is said to have been bold 
by Sanson to a member of the Acad^mie Fran^aise. 
This relic, the authenticity of which is extremely 
doubtful, after passing through many hands is now 
in the possession of Prince Roland Bonaparte. 


If Charlotte Corday had lived in the days of 
religious persecution, she would without a doubt have 
died a martyr to her faith. As she did not pale 
before the guillotine, neither the arena nor the stake 
would have had any terrors for her. Born in an epoch 
no less stormy, she died for her political opinions, and 
antiquity offers no more shining example of stoicism 
than hers, if indeed there is any in its annals to equal 
it. To condemn while admiring her, as is usually 
done in print in the interest of conventional morality, 
is absurd. There are times, fortunately rare in the 

Charlotte Corday 

history of the world, when tyrannicide is not only 
lawful, but a duty. In Athens and Rome statues 
would have been erected to her memory. 

Her heroic sacrifice, however, was useless, as such 
sacrifices nearly always are. It was a sublime error of 
judgment rather than a crime. As Madame Roland 
shrewdly observed, " she deserved the admiration of 
the world, but, for want of a proper knowledge of 
the state of affairs, chose her time and her victim 
badly." She failed to deliver her country from the 
butchers who were slaughtering it. To Marat suc- 
ceeded Robespierre, Hubert, and the studiously cruel 
St. Just. 

The moral effect of her deed was immense and 
terrible. The night after Marat's death the people 
hung garlands at his door. The Convention decreed 
him a public funeral. In the Jacobins he was com- 
pared to Christ, and extolled as a god. Sections and 
clubs squabbled for the possession of his heart. His 
bust was to be seen everywhere. Streets and new- 
born children were named after him. The Mayor of 
Nimes called himself the Marat of the South, and the 
Mayor of Strasburg the Marat of the Rhine. A 
company of bravoes was formed in his honour. David, 
the chief artist of the Revolution and the worst France 
ever produced, arranged his obsequies and strove to 
imitate those of Caesar. His funeral cortege took as 
long to pass as the tumbril of his assassin. Every- 
thing was done to perpetuate his memory. The body 
of the great Mirabeau was torn from its sepulchre in 
the Pantheon to make room for that of the idol of the 
moment, which was destined in its turn, two years later, 
to be dragged forth and cast into a sewer. 


Daughters of Eve 

"What a people to found a republic!" as Charlotte 
Corday herself exclaimed. 

But the divine people do not think of the future, 
least of all in revolutions. Marat became more 
terrible dead than he had ever been when alive. 
Death lurked in his very name. A poor couple, who 
had a little theatre of marionettes in the Champs 
Elys^es, were the victims of uttering it thoughtlessly. 
One day during a representation of the tragic end of 
the popular idol, a marionette that played the part 
of Charlotte Corday forgot herself so far as to cry, " A 
das Marat ! " The unfortunate couple were arrested, 
and confined in the same prison as the haughty 
Duchesse de Gramont and other royalists. But their 
humble condition did not save them from the guillotine. 
The Jacobins were not discriminating, their guillotine 
was a glutton, not an epicure — one head tasted as nice 
as another to it. In the frenzy of the Terror which 
they legalized, to escape the guillotine men rushed to 
enlist, and the armies of the republic, thus recruited 
and reinforced, stifled every attempt at protest in seas 
of blood. In a word, as Lamartine says, "the poniard 
of Charlotte Corday, instead of stanching blood, 
seemed to have opened the veins of France." 

In Caen, as elsewhere, the Jacobins got the upper 
hand, and the Girondins who had taken shelter there 
were obliged to flee. Their flight was one of the 
most dramatic episodes in the French Revolution. 
All who were in any way connected with Charlotte 
were the victims of Jacobinical persecution. Her 
father, M. de Corday, was arrested, but managed 
somehow to evade the scaffold, as did his brother, 
the Abb^ de Corday. Threatened in her turn with 


Charlotte Corday 

arrest, Madame de Bretteville took refuge with a 
friendly carpenter and his wife, whose son, Louis 
Lionel, used afterwards to dispute with young Malfi- 
latre the honour of having received the last kiss of 
Charlotte Corday. She lived throughout the Revolu- 
tion concealed in a cupboard of the Grand Manoir in 
daily fear of the fury of the mob. Bougon-Longrais, 
whose intimacy with Charlotte was well known, was 
hunted down, and perished on the guillotine, as 
previously stated. Little Mademoiselle de Faudoas, 
who was in prison as a suspect at the time of the 
murder of Marat, was guillotined with her father and 
aunt a month after Charlotte. Rose Fougeron du 
Fayot, another of Charlotte's friends, was condemned 
to imprisonment with hard labour. 

But the vengeance of the Jacobins only served to 
perpetuate the memory of the heroic Maid of Caen. 
The Girondins, who were the immediate victims of 
her deed, could not contain their admiration. " She 
has killed us," exclaimed Vergniaud, ''but she teaches 
us how to die ! " Barbaroux regretted that he had not 
known her better. Louvet invoked her passionately 
as " the future idol of all republicans." Potion, who 
had regarded her somewhat contemptuously as "a 
pretty aristocrat," was loud in his praise of the 
"sublime woman." At a public meeting in Caen he 
declared that she had " set an example for men to 

Royalists found in her name a talisman to conjure 
with far more efficacious than that of Louis XVI, 
which had only the interest of misfortune. " Even 
the most zealous partisans of the Mountain itself," 
says Klause, " recognized in this extraordinary woman 


Daughters of Eve 

a strength of character, a fixity of purpose, and a 
self-possession of which few men would be capable." 
Her execution was no mere dramatic episode of 
the Revolution, but the commencement of a legend. 
It was no longer Brutus, old patron saint of despot- 
slayers, that those who would rid their country of a 
tyrant at the cost of their lives invoked, but Charlotte 
Corday. The passion for immortal fame, which made 
the Revolution resemble a pagan renaissance of liberty, 
received a fresh impetus from her death. In an age 
and among a people prone to imitation, it became 
the fashion to die like her. A veritable cult of the 
poniard was founded in her blood. An ode dedicated 
to her containing the lines : 

" O vertu ! le poignard, seul espoir de la terre," 

cost the poet Andr^ Ch^nier his head. C^cile Renault 
was sent to the guillotine for having a knife concealed 
in her basket when she called on Robespierre " to see 
what a tyrant was like." 

There were some, too, conquered by her youth, 
beauty, and fearlessness, who sought to die for her, 
as well as like her. During her trial, a young man 
asked the judges to make him a prisoner in her 
stead, and to suffer the punishment to which she was 
condemned. They granted him only the half of his 
request — he was sent to the guillotine. Another 
enthusiast, " who lived in the Rue Jean Jacques 
Rousseau," went to the scaffold for comparing her to 
William Tell, and seeking to incite others to profit by 
her lesson. Equally fatal and still more extravagant 
was the admiration that " the Angel of Assassination " 
inspired in Adam Lux. Of all the strange and tragic 


Charlotte Corday 

passions begotten of the Revolution, there is none 
purer and more fantastic. 

Adam Lux, whose name will for ever be linked to 
Charlotte Corday's, whom he only saw once, was the 
deputy whom the citizens of Maintz, infected by the 
ideals of the Revolution, had sent to France to plead 
for the inclusion of their town in the republic. He had 
been among the first to welcome the new ideas, for 
which, like Charlotte, his mind had long been prepared 
by the works of Plutarch and the French philosophers. 
Exalt d 2Si^ Utopian almost to the point of madness, 
the revolutionary saturnalia he had witnessed in Paris 
had filled him with a profound loathing of the actions 
of the men of the Convention, whose high-flown 
speeches about the regeneration of humanity had so 
thrilled him in Maintz. Reality made him hold the 
dream in horror. After the proscription of the 
Girondins he had resolved to kill himself at the bar 
of the Convention, a project from which he was with 
difficulty dissuaded by Potion, to whom he had con- 
fided it. The influence of the sentimental Rousseau 
on his impressionable nature was so great that he 
had begged a friend to see that his body was buried 
beside that of the author of the Contrat Social, with 
no other epitaph than : " Here lies Adam Lux, the 
disciple of Jean Jacques Rousseau." 

It was in this state of disillusionment that he 
heard of the assassination of Marat. The news 
revived all his old ardour. He believed, like 
Charlotte, that the deed would petrify the Jacobins 
and give peace to the distracted country. The hand 
that had struck down the tyrant appeared to him 
sublime. He had followed the course of Charlotte's 

X 305 

Daughters of Eve 


trial, as it was reported in the papers, with the liveliest 
emotion. Drawn by an irresistible curiosity, he went 
to catch a glimpse of her as she passed on her 
way to the guillotine. When she appeared, proud, 
beautiful, and tranquil, with the scum of humanity 
shrieking insults round the tumbril, his enthusiasm 
knew no bounds. Intoxicated with the splendid 
vision, he followed her to the end of her terrible 
journey. Once her gaze, scanning the crowd, as it 
seemed to him, in search of sympathy, met his, and 
in that fleeting interchange of looks he drank death. 
Instantly he was seized with a sudden and violent 
panic, the travail-pang of a strange and marvellous 
love, the purest and most immaterial the heart of man 
ever conceived. 

In a pamphlet of great eloquence entitled The 
Apology of Charlotte Corday, which he caused to be 
placarded the next day on the walls and distributed 
publicly in the streets, describing the feelings she had 
raised in him, he requested the honour of dying 
under the same knife "which, since the death of that 
incomparable girl, had lost any ignominy that was 
ever attached to it," and demanded that a statue 
should be erected to her memory bearing the 
inscription : " Greater than Brutus." 

Three days later he was arrested. He knew well 
the fate that was in store for him, but death under 
such circumstances had no terror for him. His only 
anxiety was lest he should be forgotten in prison, in 
which he remained four months before being brought 
before the Revolutionary Tribunal. When he heard 
his sentence, he exclaimed with joy, " At last, I shall 
die for Charlotte Corday ! " His elation was uncon- 


Charlotte Corday 

trollable. The Revolution never had a more wiUing 
victim. On the scaffold he kissed the guillotine. . . . 
After this, of what use a moral ? When it is a 
question of a tyrant, whether he be called Prince, 
Priest, or People, " Codrus-sacrifices and death well 
earned " will never fail to appeal to the imagination. 

X2 307 



Le Due et la Duchesse de Choiseul : leur 
vie intime, leurs amis, et leur temps . 

La Disgrace du Due et de la Duchesse 
de Choiseul ..... 

Le Due de Lauzun et la Cour intime de 
Louis XV 

Le Due de Lauzun et la Cour de Marie 
Antoinette ..... 

Les Femmes Philosophes 

Madame de Choiseul et son temps 

L'Amour au dix-huitieme siecle 

Madame de Pompadour 

Choiseul a Rome ..... 

L'Ambassade de Choiseul a Vienne 

The Duke of Choiseul .... 

Memoires d'un voyageur qui se repose . 

Essai sur la vie de I'Abbe' Barlhelemy . 

" La Duchesse de Choiseul et Madame 
Du Deffand," in Revue des Deux 
Monies, Dec. 1859 .... 

"Madame de Choiseul et ses amis," in 
Revue des Deux Mofides, Aug. 1890 . 

Correspondance complete de la Marquise 
Du Deffand avee la Duchesse de 
Choiseul et I'Abbd Barthdlemy, edited 
by the ...... 

Gaston Maugras 




Charles de Mazade 
Victor Du Bled 

Marquis de Saint 


Les Razoumovsky .... 
La Derniere des Romanovs . 
Autour d'un trone : Catherine II 

Russie ..... 
Histoire de Catlje'rine II 


Prince Vasil'chikov 
Kazimierz Waliszewski 




"The Cossacks of the Ukraine," with a 
Memoir of Princess Tarakanof, from 
the PoHsli of Count Krasinski. 

" The Princess Tarakanova," from the 
Russian of Danilevski 

Historical Memoirs of My Own Time . 

" La Princesse Tarakanov," in Revue des 
Deux Monies^ March 1870 

" Histoire de la fausse Elizabeth II," in 
/ournai des Savans, 1869 . 

Ida Muchanov 

Sir Nathaniel Wraxall 


Prosper Merimee 



Woffington ..... 

Annals of the English Stage . 

Memoirs of David Garrick 

Memoirs ..... 

Memoirs ..... 

History of Theatres of London and 

Lives of the Players 

An Historical View of the Irish Stage 

Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs. Woffing- 

Recollections . . . . , 

Peg Wofifington . . . . . 

An Apology for her Life 

AuGUSTiN Daly 
Dr. Doran 
Lee Lewis 
Tate Wilkinson 






George Anne Bellamy 


Histoire d'une Grande Dame au 
XVIIP""" Siecle : La Princesse Helene 
de Ligne ...... 

Histoire de I'Anarchie de Pologne . 

Les Trois Ddmembrements de la Pologne 

Le Prince de Ligne et ses contemporains 

Mdmoires ...... 

Memoires ...... 

Voyages dans quelques parties de I'Europe 

The Last King of Poland 

LuciEN Perey 
Victor Du Bled 
Prince de Ligne 
Comte de Cheverny 
Comte de La Garde 
R. N. Bain 

charlott:: corday 

Charlotte Corday et les Girondins . . Vatel 
Les Trois Girondines .... Duces 
Histoire des Girondins .... Lamartine 



Marie Anne Charlotte de Corday 
d'Armont : Sa vie, son temps, et son 
proces ...... 

Charlotte Corday ..... 

L'x\mour sous la Terreur 

Charlotte Corday et la Mort de Marat . 

Marat Inconnu ..... 

La Jeunesse de Marat .... 

Les Hommes de la Revolution : Marat . 

Jean Paul Marat ..... 

Details de I'Assassinat commis sur la 
personne de Marat .... 

Dossiers du Proces Criminel de Charlotte 

Charlotte Corday ..... 

Les Femmes de la Revolution : Charlotte 
Corday ...... 

Souvenirs de Charlotte Corday, by 
Madame Loyer de Maromme, in Revue 
Hebdommadaire, March 1898. 

Anecdotes relatives a quelques personnes, 
et a plusieurs e'venemens remarquables 
de la Resolution .... 

Cheron de Villiers 

Adam Lux 




p. de Witt 

V. Meric 

E. Belfort-Bax 

R. F. Lebois 

Henri d'Almeras 


J. B. Harmaud, de la 



Albani, Cardinal, ioi, 103 
Albi, Archbishop of, 34 
Alexander I, Emperor, 235 
Anne, Czarina, 79 
Antici, Marquis d', 103 
Aragon, Marquise d', 232 
Armont, Marie Anne Charlotte 

Cordayd'. See Charlotte Corday 
Artois, Comte d', 285, 286 
Avaux, Comte d', 197 
Azov, Princess of. See Princess 


Badens, Madame de, 232 
Barbaroux, 269, 278, 280, 290, 291, 

294. 303 
Barrington, 172 

, Mrs., 172, 174 

Barth^lemy, Abbe, 4, 23-29, 31, 41, 

43. 44. 45. 55. 59, 60. 63, 64. 65, 

69, 70 
Bathilde, Sister, 187, 188, 189 
Bayreuth, Margravine of, 29, 30 
Beaumanoir, Comte de, 190 
Belhomme, Dr., 67, 68 
Bellamy, George Anne, 152, 158, 

159, 160, 161, 165, 174 
Belzunce, Madame de, 253, 254, 255, 


, Vicomte de, 267, 268 

Bernis, Cardinal de, 20. 32 

Biron, Due de. See Due de Lauzun 

Bonaparte, Napoleon, 72, 73, 240 

, Prince Roland, 300 

Bougon-Longrais, 269, 270, 303 
Bouille, Marquis de, 72 
Bourbonne, Mademoiselle de, 197 
Bretteville, Madame de, 258, 260, 

261, 271, 278, 279, 303 
Brionne, Comtesse de, 51, 57, 62, 

199, 200, 201 
Burney, Fanny, 151 

Caesar, Colonel, 174 

Catherine, Empress, 8, 94, 95, 102, 

105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 112, 114- 

120, 180, 183, 208, 230 

Chartres, Due de, 54 

Chatel, Antoinette Eustache Crozat 

du. See Duchesse de Gontaut- 

, Louise Honorine Crozat du. 

See Duchesse de Choiseul 

, Marquis du, 8 

Chitelet, Marquise du, 67, 68 
Chauveau de la Garde, 292, 294, 

295, 298 
Chenier, Andre, 304 
Choiseul, Due de, 8-22, 27-37, 40, 

43. 44. 49-54. 57, 58, 59. 61, 62, 


, Duchesse de, 3-74 

, Mademoiselle de, 190, 193, 198 

Choiseul-Praslin, Due de, 35, 51, 52 
Choiseul-Romanet, Comte.ssede, 17, 

18, 19 
Cholmondeley, Countess of, 150 

, Earl of, 150 

— — ,Hon. Captain Robert, 149, 150, 


, Hon. Mrs. 126, 149, 150, 154 

Cibber, CoUey, 144, 163, 164 

, Mrs., 141, 142. 153, 155. 157, 

158, 162 
Clary, Countess, 207 
Clement XIV, Pope, 100 
Clive, Kitty, 129, 130, 152, 155, 156, 

157, 158, 164, 174 
Cohey, Charles, 129, 130 
Corday, Abbe de, 252, 302 

, Charlotte, 249-307 

, Fran9ois de, 250, 251, 252, 

253, 257, 261, 264, 280, 291, 292, 


, Madame de, 250, 252, 253 

Corneille, Pierre, 250, 252, 253, 292 
Courland, Duke of, 79 
Crozat, Antoine, 7, 8 

Damiens, 31 
Danton, 276, 299 
Dashkof, Princess, 108 
David, 301 
Descriveau, 97 




Desmoulins, Camille, 299 
Dick, John, 105, 109, 112 

, Mrs., 112, 113 

Domanski, 88, 89, 90, 91, 93, 95, 96, 

97,98,99,101, 104,110, III, 112, 

113, 116 
Dorset, Duke of, 163 
Dosithee, Sister. See Princess Tara- 

Du Barry, Comtesse, 48, 49, 50, 51, 

52. 58 
Du Deffand, Marquise, 4, 10, 35, 38, 

39. 41. 45. 49, 51. 56, 57. 58. 59. 

60. 74 
Dumesnil, Mademoiselle, 164 
Duperret, Lauze, 280, 281, 282, 291 
Dutens, 27, 43, 61 
Duval, 141 

Elizabeth, Czarina, 79, 81, 87, 88, 
102, 103, 105, 106, 115, 118 

Elphinstone, Admiral, 100 

Elrington, Thomas, 130 

Embs, Baron von. See Vantoers 

Evreux, Bishop of. See Arch- 
bishop of Albi 

, Comte d', 7 

, Comtesse d', 7 

Farquhar, 131, 137, 138, 139 

Fauchet, 263, 291 

Faudoas, Mademoiselle Eleanore 

de, 254, 273, 274, 303 
Flavitski, 119 
Foote, Samuel, 144, 145 
Forbin, Mademoiselle Alexandrine 

de, 254, 273, 278, 280, 281 
Fougeron du Fayot, Rose, 303 
Fouquier-Tinville, 68, 69, 267, 293 
Franquelin, M. de, 268, 269 

Galitzin, 83, 84, 114, 115, 116, 117 
Garrick, David, 140, 141, 142, 143, 

144, 145, 146, 147, 157, 158 
Gay, i2g, 136 
Geoffrin, Madame, 184 
Gleichen, Baron von, 10, 29, 30, 43, 

Gontaut-Biron, Due de, 8, 12, 13, 

14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 49, 70 

, Duchesse de, 8, 12, 13 

Gouffier, Mademoiselle de, 8 

Gramont, Due de, 36 

, Duchesse de, 35, 36, 37, 47, 

50. 55, 56. 59, 62, 67, 68 
Gregg, Admiral Sir Samuel, 106, 

113. "4 

Greuze, 25 
Guiard, 25 
Gunnings, The Miss, 132, 166 

Hamilton, Sir William, 100, 105, 

Hauer, Jacques, 297 
Hausset, Madame du, 16 
Renault, President, 35, 39 
Hohenlohe-Bartenstein, Countess, 

Hornstein, 84, 85, 86 

Jablonowska, Princess, 237, 238 
Jaquot, 190 

Johnson, Dr. Samuel, 144 
Joseph II, Emperor, 208, 214 
Josephine, Empress, 73 

Karwoska, Mademoiselle, 236, 237, 

Kinsky, Countess, 32, 214, 215 
Kristenek, no, in 

Lacy, 157 

Lau, Marquis du, 66 

Lauzun, Due de, 13 note, 43 

Lee, Nat, 159 

Ligne, Prince Charles de, 201, 202, 

203, 204, 207, 2IO, 212, 215, 216, 

222, 223 
, Prince de, 202, 203, 204, 205, 

206, 207, 208, 209, 214, 223, 238, 

, Princesse Charles de. See 

Helene Massalska 
, Princesse de, 211, 212, 213, 

215, 242 
, Sidonie de, 213, 215, 216, 230, 

231, 238, 241, 242, 243, 244 
Ligne-Luxembourg, Princesse de, 

201, 211, 213 
Limburg, Philip Ferdinand, Duke 

of, 80, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87. 88, 

89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 96, 97, 104 
Linday, Pere, 103 
Lionel, Louis, 280, 303 
Louis XV, King, 17, 18, 31, 32, 33, 

34, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 

54. 55. 58, 60 

, XVI, King, 60, 273, 274 

Louvet, 291, 303 

Loyer de Maromme, Madame, 251, 

254, 258, 260, 263, 265, 267, 268, 

270, 273 
Lux, Adam, 304, 305, 306, 307 



Macklin, 144, 147, 156. i57. 167 

Malfilatre, 280, 303 

Marat, 256, 261, 267, 268, 276, 277, 

281, 283, 284, 285, 286, 287, 288, 

301, 302 
Maria Theresa, Empress, 31, 33, 34, 

Marie Antoinette, Queen, 60, 209, 

Marine, M. de, 81, 118 
Massalska, Hel^ne, 179-245 
Massalski, Prince Ignace, 80, 181, 

182, 183, 184, 185, 199, 200, 201, 

203, 204, 216, 222, 224, 228, 229, 


, Xavier, 182, 224 

Milward, 151 

Mirabeau, Marquis de, 38, 199, 200 

, Comte de, 200, 301 

Mniseck, Countess. See Countess 

Ursula Zamoiska 
M0I6, 196 

Monaco, Princesse de, 68, 69 
Montagu, Edward Wortley, 96, 

100, 103, 135 

, Lady Mary Wortley, 96, 135 

Montmorency, Mademoiselle de, 

Morelli, Madeleine, 109 
Mortemar, Duchesse de, 196 
Mycielska, Countess Anna, 219, 220, 

221, 222, 224, 228, 229, 231, 241, 

242, 245 

Ney, Marshal, 245 
Nivernais, Due de, 23 

, Duchesse de, 21 

Noailles, Marechal de, 19 

Oginski, Prince Michael, 80, 81, 89, 

Orlof, Alexis, 98, 102, 105, 106, 107, 

108, 109, no. III, 112, 113, 114, 

115, 120 
/Gregory, 108, 119 

Pailly, Madame de, 200, 201, 202, 

Paul, Czar, 108 

Peter III, Czar, 94, 103, 106, 108 

Petion, 279, 303, 305 

Pinneberg, Countess of. See Prin- 
cess Tarakanof 

Pompadour, Marquise de, 7, 16, 17, 
18, 19, 20, 32, 35, 46, 48 

Poniatowski, King Stanislas, 181, 
182, 183, 217, 219 

Pontecoulant, Madame de, 254, 255 
Potocka, Countess. See Helene 

, Countess Sophie, 218, 219, 

Potocki, Count Felix, 218, 219, 230 
, Count Vincent, 218, 219, 220. 

221, 222, 224, 226-245 

, Francois, 231, 241, 242, 243 

Pritchard, Mrs., 155, 157. 158 
Pugatchef, 94. 95. io5. n^ 

Queensberry, Duchess of, 161, 162 
Quin, 141, 142, 162 

Radziwill, Prince Charles, 93, 94. 
95, 96, 97, 99, 100, 105, 114. 115. 
182, 183 
Raftor, Miss. See Kitty Clive 
Razumovski, 79, 81, 88, 91, 97 
Renault, C6cile, 304 
Reynolds, Sir Joshua, 137, 151 
Rich, John, 135, 136, 137, 138, 141, 

153, 159. 160, 163, 169 
Richter, Joseph, 89 
Robecq, Princesse de, 15 
Robespierre, 276, 299 
Roccatoni, Abbe, loi, 102, 103, 104, 

Rochechouart, Madame de, 184, 

187-199, 205, 240 
Rochefort-Velcourt, Comte de, 80, 

81, 82, 84 
Roland, Madame, 290, 294, 296 

Saint- Jerome, Madame, 191, 192, 

193, 194 

Salm, Prince Frederick, de, 200, 

Sanson, 297, 298, 299 

Schenk, Baron von, 80 

Sheridan, Richard Brinsley. 163 

, Thomas, 163, 167, 168, 169 

Sobieski, King John, 180 

Stainville, Beatrix de. See Duch- 
esse de Gramont 

, Comte de. See Due de 


, Marquis de, 31 

TaaSe, 131. 132 
Tarakanof, Princess, 77-120 
Tournelis, M. de, 262, 263, 264 

Vantoers, 80, 81, 83, 86 
Vauban, Marquis de, 218, 219 
Venutti, Abb6, 28 




Vergniaud, 275, 276, 303 Wilks, Robert, 139 

Victor, 140, 146 Williams, Sir Charles Hanbury, 

Violante, Madame, 12G, 127, 128, 145, 146 

129, 130, 155 , Wilna, Bishop of. See Prince 

Vlodomir, Princess Aly Emettee Ignace Massalski 

de. See Princess Tarakanof Wimpfen, General, 279 

Voltaire, 35, 39, 67, 168 Witt, General de, 218, 219 

Vrilliere, Due de la, 51 Woffington, Mary. See Hon. Mrs. 

Walpole, Horace, 4, 35, 38, 39, 57, , Mrs., 124, 125, 148 

140, 150 , Peg, 123-175 

, Sir Robert, 150 

Wesley, John, 173 Zamoiska, Countess Ursula, 219, 

Wilkinson, Tate, 139, 154, 171, 172 220 

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