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This volume has not had for its aim the rehabilitation of 
Mme. de Genlis, but it is the truth about her, and a semi- 
rehabilitation of her has resulted from the truth. The 
time was ripe for such a book (and it was not an easy book 
to write), for Mine, de Genlis had come to be only a name 
remembered only with a smile, inasmuch as it evoked 
the idea of the most tedious of all the tedious authors of 
a very tedious epoch ; and, for some, the idea of a political 
intrigante of somewhat easy morals, who, in the witty phrase 
of another woman, " made precepts of the virtues and a 
practice of the vices." 

To many people it would not much matter if these ideas 
had continued to prevail until the very name of Mme. de 
Genlis had been forgotten, but it does matter a little to the 
literary history of France that such an impression should 
be rectified in so far as it is incorrect. 

The reputation of Mme. de Genlis has suffered from two 
things : from her wit, which was very sardonic and which 
drew down on her by way of reprisals a certain number of 
uncomplimentary characterisations that have survived ; and 
her Memoirs, which are so manifestly inaccurate and which 
leave so much untold, that — as often happens in such 
cases — people have been disposed to believe the worst of 
her. " I should like to write a book such as nobody has 
ever written," someone said once to Rivarol. " Faites 
voire eloge" was his reply. In similar fashion, to anyone 
who should say to me, " I want to write a book that every- 


one will attack," I would make answer : " Write a panegyric 
upon yourself." All these autobiographers, in truth, seem 
bent on making us regard them sceptically. There is no 
avoiding it. 

I may go on to confess that Mine, de Genlis's published 
works in general still do her a disservice. To begin with, 
there are too many of them. Secondly, Stendhal was right 
in his saying : " This woman of infinite wit has not enough 
in her books, which are glazed with the hypocrisy of the 
Salons." Yet to my mind it was not so much a case of 
their being glazed by the hypocrisy of the Salons — it was 
rather her method of improvisation that prevented them 
from having the consistency, the substance, the tautness 
(to use the sailor's term) which they might so well have 
possessed. Mme. de Genlis treated her books as she treated 
her royal pupils — she did not allow them to relax. Her 
guiding hand was tender, even loving — but it never let go. 
She kept them ceaselessly on the alert, without respite for 
a moment. She did not realise that a child needs to be 
left to itself from time to time and to live its own little life ; 
and she did not realise that a book also must be " given 
rope " — that to some extent it must write itself and be 
allowed intervals for unconscious meditation and for 
pulling itself together. She was too impetuous for that, 
and this is the reason why this astonishing improvisa- 
tore has now almost nothing to show for herself. It is 
only the very carefully prepared improvisations that 
last ! 

And this is how it has come about that we can say of 
Mme. de Genlis, without being unduly epigrammatic, that her 
life is concealed in her Memoirs and her talent in her books. 
Really to get to know her, therefore — and it was well 
worth while to get to know a woman who played so consider- 
able a part in history — it was necessary not merely to read 
her Memoirs and more important books attentively, but 


also to seek out records of her career elsewhere, with diligence 
and with zest. 

But where ? Why, in history — in the whole history 
of the time — in State archives and in trivial records 
alike. There was never anyone so equally at home in 
" la grande histoire " and in " la petite histoire " as Mme. 
de Genlis ! 

Now, this is the task to which the author of the present 
volume set himself with all his heart. He has spent several 
years over his researches, and if he is the first to acknowledge 
that many important things may have escaped him, we may 
at least feel certain that we have the story of Mme. de Genlis 
set out before us here in its essential outlines for the first 
time. And she comes out of this ordeal — a very dangerous 
ordeal for everyone — if not enlarged to heroic size, at least 
looking all the better for it. 

Her political role was very much open to criticism, but 
it was the result of her devotion to the Prince who had wel- 
comed her and to his children, and this is its excuse — per- 
haps more than an excuse. In the field of education, apart 
from the shortcoming already indicated, she was nothing 
less than an inventor. She invented the entire system of 
modern education, without its defects : a system of educa- 
tion, both literary and scientific, directed towards the true, 
no less than towards the beautiful, and taking account of 
history, modern languages, and of realities — combining the 
study of important new discoveries with the study of the 
great books of ancient and modern times. It was, in the 
truest and best sense of the word, an encyclopaedic system 
of education ; that is to say, it consisted not in piling up 
every possible form of knowledge in the children's heads, 
but, what is really just the opposite method, in opening 
their minds in all kinds of new directions, and in giving them 
an appetite for everything : I call this the opposite, because 
it is opening out instead of filling in. 


She was an inventor in this respect also, that she laid 
herself out to give the same education to her own daughters 
as to her sons. Like Mine, de Gournay, she believed that 
women's brains were not less receptive of enlightenment than 
men's. That is one of the claims of our Feminists, and our 
anti-Feminists very naturally regard Mine, de Genlis there- 
fore with horror. She was, in truth, a genuine Feminist, 
and of the best sort, for (and this is the most curious trait 
in her many-sided character), if she was a femme savante, 
she was so far from neglecting practical, domestic, humdrum 
matters that she attended more thoroughly to these things 
than to anything else. 

In a word, she is the child of the Encyclopedic. She 
might, rather, have been its mother : according to a contem- 
porary wit, " She proposed to rewrite the Encyclopedic in her 
old age." It is all very well to laugh, but there was some- 
thing in that idea : Mme. de Genlis could quite well have 
brought the Encyclopedic up to date in 1820 ; and her learn- 
ing was a finer thing than the ignorant cleverness of so many 
of the ladies of that epoch. She was the child of the age — 
of the serious-minded section of that eighteenth-century 
world, athirst for knowledge and eager for real progress. 
She is akin not to the women who read Crebillon fils or to 
the sentimental worshippers of Jean-Jacques, but to the 
Crequys and the Chatelets. It is a matter of taste, if 
you will, but without being in love with this type I 
prefer it. 

Napoleon I. was not wrong in his estimate of her — at least 
he was not far wrong. He granted her quarters in the 
Arsenal and a pension of 6000 francs a year so that she might 
write week by week " whatever passed through her head," 
but more particularly notes and memories in regard to the 
usages and manners of the Ancien Regime. We feel that what 
he recognised in her above all was the professor of deportment 
and the authority upon etiquette. Still, he persisted in 


asking her to record everything that passed through her 
head. He had satisfied himself that it was a very good 

It must be admitted that even the books of Mme. de 
Genlis have been greatly undervalued. In many of them 
there is a lot of rubbish ; in many there is too much acri- 
mony, too much of a carping, querulous spirit. She was 
essentially a frondeuse. But it must not be overlooked that 
Mademoiselle de Clermont remains a very pretty, touching 
piece of work. M. J. Chenier was not wrong when he said : 
" The characters of the Princess, of her brother, of her lover, 
and of the Due de Melun, are traced with a charming fidelity 
to truth. Neither the incidents nor the speeches are artificial ; 
the action is simple, the style natural, the narrative ani- 
mated, the interest grows steadily." He went too far when 
he added that " one would believe one was reading a post- 
humous work of Mme. de Lafayette," but as he didn't 
mean it in the least, that doesn't matter. 

I will confess my own liking for certain parts, many parts 
even, of the Veillees du Chdtcau. The bloom is on all that 
no longer, and yet it still seems fresh and pleasing. It may 
be recalled possibly that I have spoken favourably of one 
of Mme. de Genlis's dramatic efforts elsewhere, and with 
sincere respect. George Sand, it is well to remember, did 
not look down upon Mme. de Genlis. It was from the 
Battuecas (I admit I have not read the Battuecas) that 
George Sand declares she drew " her first socialistic and 
dramatic instincts." 

In conclusion, Mme. de Genlis contended against the 
philosophy of the eighteenth century throughout forty 
years. It is not at all because she contended against the 
philosophy of the eighteenth century that I have a kindness 
for her ; but it is because she did so that she has been 
depreciated deliberately by a mob of authors, serious, 
frivolous, violent, satirical ; and it is from this depreciation, 


as unjust as many of her own attacks, that we must lift her 
up a little. 

Sainte-Bcuve compares her with Mile, de Scudery, and 
Jean Harmand with Mme. de Maintenon. I should place 
her lower than these two, but between them ; lower, because 
Mile, de Scudery's talent was more real and Mme. de 
Maintenon was altogether on a higher plane ; between 
them, because she was certainly of their species, and Mme. de 
Maintenon would have held her in high esteem while Mile, 
de Scudery would have done a very fine portrait of her. 

To sum up, this woman had a very fine talent which she 
squandered a little through her itch to be always displaying 
it ; but, as La Harpe, who was so fond of her but who was 
so fond also of classifications, might have said, her place 
is in the front row of women of letters of the second class. 

Emile Faguet. 



Preface by M. Emile Faguet ..... v 

Introduction ....... xix 





Champcery — M. de Mezieres, grandfather of Mme. de Genlis — 
The Romance of Mile, de Mezieres — The Du Crest family — 
Birth of Felicite — Saint-Aubin — A small Provincial trans- 
formed into a Parisienne — Stay at Etiolles — The chapter- 
house of Saint-Denis d'Alix ..... i 



Felicite's first schooling— Mile, de Mars — In Cupid's guise and in 
male attire — A first admirer — The salon of Mme. de Belle- 
vaux — An author of twelve — M. de Mondorge, literary 
tutor — The sale of Saint-Aubin — A loan from the husband 
of la Pompadour . . . . . .17 


Young Womanhood 

The Marquise de Saint-Aubin in misfortune — A visit to the 
Farmer-General La Popeliniere — Felicite, a harpist of 
repute — Her admirers — Dalembert — Suitors — Chevilly — A 
Professional or a young lady of Society — Mile, du Crest at 
fifteen ....... 34 






Two Prisoners of War — The Romance of the Comte de Genlis 
and Mile, du Crest — Genealogy of the Genlis family — 
Marriage of Felicite — How it was viewed — Whims and 
Fantasies — Presentation at Court .... 


The Comedy of Society 

Mme. de Genlis and her Circle — LTsle Adam — Villers-Cotterets 
— A Quadrille of Proverbs — Rousseau — Social Successes — 
Mme. de Montesson and the Duke of Orleans — Lady-in- 
Waiting to the Duchess of Chartres .... 


The Palais Royal 

The Palais Royal in 1772 — Mme. de Blot — The Duke of Chartres 
— Mme. de Genlis wakens up the Ducal Court — Friendship 
with the Duchess — Marie-Antoinette and Mme. de Genlis . 


The Visit to Forges 

The Romance of Mme. de Genlis and the Duke of Chartres — An 
outbreak of Smallpox — Chantilly — The role of Egeria — 
The Chiappini affair — A trip to Spa .... 



Mme. de Genlis visits Voltaire — The Comte de Genlis and the 
Gaming-tables — La Harpe — Governess to the Princesses — 
The Convent at Bellechasse — Marriage of Caroline de 
Genlis ........ 



The Governor of the Princes 


A Woman Governor of the Princes — The Appointment ill 
received — Squibs and Pamphlets — Mme. de Genlis's feelings 
— The Chevalier de Bonnard — A problem of feminine Anti- 
pathy — The Programme of Education — Demonstration at 
the Theatre-Francais in 1782 — Mme. de Genlis hits out at 
her Enemies . . . . . . .121 


A Celebrated Woman in 1782 

Mme. de Genlis and the French Academy — The Prix Monthyon — 
Marriage of Pulcherie de Genlis — Mme. de Montesson and 
the Comte de Valence — The Genlis menage in 1785 — Pamela 
and Hermine — Pamela's Parentage — Mme. de Genlis and 
her Works — She loses her Daughter — La Religion Con- 
sideree — " Maman " Genlis ..... 135 




The Preliminaries 

Mme. de Genlis and her disavowals — The Palais Royal in 1787 — 
The Duke of Orleans — His intervention in Parliament — 
Bernardin de Saint-Pierre — The Bellechasse Saturdays — 
Mme. de Genlis Goddess of Liberty — Her share of responsi- 
bility in the doings of the Orleans Party . . .159 


The Dramatis Personm 

Exile of the Duke of Orleans — The Marquis du Crest — His 
Memorial to the King — His disgrace — Return of the Duke 
— Laclos enters upon the scene — The Bellechasse Salon in 
1789 — The Palais Royal in 1789 — The Fall of the Bastille — 
The October Days — The Terrace at Passy . . .169 



At the Arsenal 


Letter from La Harpe — Literary vogue of Mme. de Genlis — Her 
last Salon — The Arsenal — Mme. de Genlis at Sixty — Dr. Gall 
— Talleyrand — Mme. de Genlis's adopted Children — Her 
conflicts with Ameilhon — She leaves the Arsenal . .327 


1 81 2 — The Restoration 

Casimir — His Marriage — The Michaud Quarrel — The Hundred 
Days — Letters from Mme. de Genlis to Talleyrand — She 
meets her Pupils again — Her Pension — The Carmelite 
Convent — Her rooms — The Change in Pamela . . 349 


The Last Phase of Mme. de Genlis 

Mme. de Genlis under the Restoration — She converts Valence — 
L'Intrepide — Astolphe de Custine — Religious zeal — Les 
Diners du Baron d'Holbach — The Memoirs — The Revolu- 
tion of July — Death of Mme. de Genlis — Her last moments 
— Her funeral — Her grave . . . . .370 



I. Mme. de Genlis as Moralist .... 403 

II. II. Mme. de Genlis as Dramatist . . . 408 

III. Mme. de Genlis as Educationalist . . . 422 

List of Her Works ...... 437 


Mme. de Genlis with her Pupil, Eugene Adelaide Louise, 

Princess of Orleans, and Pamela . . Frontispiece 

From a painting at Versailles. 


Charles-Alexis, Comte de Genlis . . . .48 

The Duchess of Orleans (Henriette de Bourbon-Conti, 
Wife of Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orleans) 

Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orleans 

Mme. de Montesson ..... 

Mme. de Genlis ...... 

The Duke of Chartres (Son of Philippe-Egalite) . 



The Duchess of Orleans (Louise Marie Adelaide de 

Bourbon-Penthievre : Wife of Philippe-Egalite) . 212 

Pamela, Lady Fitzgerald ..... 242 

The Duke of Orleans (Philippe-Egalite) . . .252 

M. de Valence ....... 282 

Mme. de Genlis in Later Life . . . . • 334 

From a painting at Versailles reproduced by permission of Messrs. 
Braun, Clement et Cie, Paris. 

Louis-Philippe King of France .... 390 


If it be true that we can appraise our predecessors equitably 
as soon as the strong feelings they evoked have been quieted 
by the lapse of time and have sunk into oblivion, it may 
be said that the hour has come long since for examining 
into the character and career of Mme. de Genlis. 

This all-accomplished woman : educator and politician, 
author of more than a hundred volumes ; leader of society, 
artist, actress, an adept at everything she undertook, 
and in spite of certain shortcomings that were then in 
vogue theologian also and moralist — this famous personage 
is almost unknown to us. 

Posterity remembers nothing of her long career, spanning 
that troubled epoch in our history which extended from 
the reign of Louis xv. to the Monarchy of July, except a 
couple of titles, as it were, summarising a couple of chapters 
in her life's story : the eminent title of Gouverneur to King 
Philippe, and that of amie to Philippe-Egalite. 

A veil has continued to hide from us those features, of 
whose indistinctness Sainte-Beuve complained so many 
years ago. Mme. de Genlis, in truth, cultivated this atmo- 
sphere of mystery ; she persisted in concealing her inner self, 
always wearing a mask alike to her friends and her readers, 
despite her apparent frankness and naturalness and vivacity ; 
and neither her Memoirs nor any of her other works let us 
into the secret of her real nature. 

Those who have been sufficiently interested have had 


to look about them for means of elucidating the enigma 
of this baffling personality. 

And it will be admitted that a dozen or so of lines of 
meagre biographical information in the Dictionaries, two 
or three estimates based upon contemporary satires and 
scandalous attacks, with Sainte-Beuve's portrait of her in 
her role as pedagogue and Barbey d'Aurevilly's sketch of 
her as an old woman in a muffler — a pair of silhouettes : 
that these things amount to very little when we think of 
all the thousand facets there were to the character of this 
Maintenon of the eighteenth century. 

Mme. de Maintenon, of course, towers above Mme. de 
Genlis, but Louis-Philippe's Gouvemeur does indubitably 
follow in the footsteps of her great predecessor. Certain 
points of resemblance stand out conspicuously in the two 
careers, and when we probe more deeply into the two 
characters we find that they have this also in common — 
in the midst of so many human weaknesses : both hungered 
for renown. 

This trait shows itself in Mme. de Genlis in many forms. 
We see it in the young girl of noble lineage who hopes to 
shine at Court ; in the artist striving for success ; in the 
ardent, insatiable student, exploiting every field of know- 
ledge ; in the author eager for admiration ; in the instruc- 
tress jealously moulding her pupils so that they shall out- 
shine all others ; in the woman of affairs seeking to exert 
her sway over men and manners — even over the State ; 
finally in the " Mere de VEglise " (as she was called satirically) 
setting herself up as a guardian of virtue, bearing the standard 
of religion aloft. 

A heavy burden for a woman, all these forms of fame ! 
Mme. de Genlis is all the more fascinating a study, however, 
by reason of them. A difficult study, though, calling for all 
our patience and attention. 

And patience and attention are just what she has been 


hitherto denied. Whether it be due to the influence of all 
the evil rumours which surround her memory, or whether 
it be that her champions have been impelled by excess of 
zeal into attempting to rehabilitate her too completely, 
violence has always characterised the tone of those who have 
written about her. 

The real Mine, de Genlis stands somewhere between the 
blameless prodigy of virtue and the unscrupulous ad- 
venturess that we see depicted by extremists. It is of this 
real Mme. de Genlis that I have sought to retrace the likeness 
with the help of such sources of information as have been 
available, and with the regard for truth and accuracy to 
which this much-abused woman was entitled, after her death. 

In accomplishing this task, I have had the advantage 
of much invaluable assistance from others, and I am at a 
loss to express fully my gratitude for the kindness and 
courtesy of those who have placed at my disposal their 
documents, their knowledge, and their time. 

In the first place, I must record my indebtedness to the 
descendants in the fraternal line of Mme. de Genlis, and in 
particular to M. le Colonel du Crest and M. le Comte du Crest, 
who have given me access to family archives that were of 
the first importance. 

M. Frantz Funck-Brentano, Curator of the Manuscript 
Department in the Library of the Arsenal, and M. le Dr. 
Gillard, both of whom undertook delicate researches for 
me with untiring amiability, and M. Charles Blanchet, of 
the Bibliotheque Nationale, who placed at my service the 
very great help of his bibliographical learning, and have all 
shown me a measure of kindness for which I can never 
return adequate thanks. 

MM. Henry Martin, Curator of the Library of the Arsenal ; 
Cadet de Gassicourt ; Louis Laroche, of the Bibliotheque 
Nationale ; Lazard, of the Archives of the Seine ; Grave, of 
Nantes ; Sadart, Curator of the Library of Rheims ; and 


Favier, Curator of the Library of Nancy ; Mme. Martin- 
Cochet,of Saint-Etienne-de-Saint-Geovis,M.le Colonel Piarron 
de Mondesir ; M. le Baron Andre de Maricourt ; M. le Dr. 
Pol Gosset ; Miles. Mac-Stuartie, Le Maire ; M. le Marquis de 
Bourdeille, and the amiable M. Macon, Curator of the Musee 
Conde at Chantilly, have all contributed bricks to my building 
with a good-nature far in excess of the modest recognition 
which I here make to them. 

In addition, I have to thank Mes. Mouchet and Josset, 
Notaries of Paris, for the very obliging way in which they 
placed their records at my disposal ; and also the very 
courteous librarians and archivists of Spa, Berlin, and 
Hamburg, who helped me so much in my researches. 

I beg them, each and all, to accept this expression of my 
deep gratitude. 

J. H. 





In the early days of December 1745 a man of soldierly 
bearing and a young, athletic-looking woman, both of them 
good riders, were making their way light-heartedly on 
horseback over the upland wastes which stretch across 
the arid countryside of the Charolais, near Autun. 

A cold wind blew, driving the clouds across the wintry 
sky, heavy with snow ; and its icy currents, as they went 
wailing through the naked branches of the trees, accentuated 
i the harsh severity of this region, in which, failing a highway 
or even a practicable road, it was necessary to follow a 
wretched track evolved anyhow from the lie of the ground. 

Nothing could be much more uncomfortable than this 
kind of travelling — nowadays we should have every excuse 
for grumbling at it. Our ancestors, in their hardier, more 
intrepid way, relished its picturesque aspects. As, upon 
the occasion in question, did Messire Francis du Crest 
and his bride, Marie-Francoise-Felicite Mauguet de Mezieres, 
now in this fashion nearing the end of their honeymoon 

Having driven from Paris in a hired carriage as far as 


Issy-1'fiveque, they had secured horses at this stage and 
were now proceeding to their manor-house at Champc^ry, 
situated on a small property of that name, three miles 
farther on. 

Even in the middle of the eighteenth century there was 
something strange in the notion of a honeymoon at Champ- 
eery, amid surroundings so gloomy and in a climate so severe. 

But solitude is sweet to young married couples, and 
these could have enjoyed it nowhere else, for they owned no 
other abode in which they could make their home. More- 
over, Champcery did not belie the meaning of its name, 
originally Champs de Cer£s, for, by contrast with the country 
all about, it had something of the appearance of an oasis in 
the wilderness. 

The landscape softened as you came to it ; the river, 
which fed a pond of some considerable size, flowed beneath 
a cluster of lofty trees and turned the wheels of the mill. 
Beyond lay the fields in cultivation which supplied grain 
for the mill, and the manor-house stood on the banks of the 

It was a large one-storeyed, widespread house, constructed, 
in accordance with the fashion prevalent in Burgundy among 
country squires, of the thick and enduring masonry by 
which our grandfathers flattered themselves they defied the 
onslaughts of time. 

In the courtyard the traditional well displayed the 
customary curb. It still survives, the sole remaining 
vestige of what the manor-house once was. 

Such was the framework within which the youthful 
household was to work out its history — a history begun 
under not unromantic auspices. 

Romance is assigned but a small place in most lives, 
but Marie-Francoise-Felicite was always on the alert for it ; 
her mother had made two love-matches, and it seemed to 
her only natural that romance should have its part also in 
her own career. 

Claude-Christophe Mauquet de Mezieres, tcuyer, her 
father, had lost his heart to her mother, Marie-Josephe 
Minard, at first sight. He was a man of strong individuality — 


a lawyer, a collector, a devotee of manuscripts and antiques, 
and in particular of Polish genealogies ; pluming himself 
upon his knowledge " of all the things which others never 
thought of studying," so Moreau records ; and standing 
in no alarm of the learned ladies of the period. 

It entered into his head one day to leave Paris, where he 
lived, and set out on a visit to Rome. On announcing this 
intention to Mile. Morisot, a woman belonging to the world 
of books and learning, who resided, one gathers, at the 
Louvre, he was persuaded by her to make a journey through 
Burgundy before taking ship at Marseilles, and to pay a 
visit to her relative at Avallon, Mine. Minard. 

M. de Mezieres went no farther. The eldest of Mme. 
Minard's daughters — there were five or six of them — a 
beautiful girl, exceptionally well educated, above all as 
regards history, and something also of a musician, seemed 
to him a veritable Tenth Muse. The banns were published 
almost at once, and he and Marie-Josephe were married 
on 7th January 1717, the bridegroom relying on his income 
of seven or eight thousand livres a year as means of sub- 
sistence, with, in addition, the 900 livres a year produced 
by a small property which constituted the bride's dot. 

Unfortunately, thrift was always the very last concern 
of M. de Mezieres. To his other expensive habits he now 
added conjugal affection to such a degree that he could 
refuse nothing to his wife, and within a very short space of 
time his munificence in the matter of clothes, carriages, 
furniture, and social display in general, brought him to 
financial ruin. 

A prey to his creditors, he was living at Avallon as best 
he could at the Hostel de Chastillon, rue du Petit Bourbon, 
the house of his friend the Marquis de la Haie, when he 
died from an attack of ague on 26th August 1734. This 
" beau la Haye," as he was called, in his youth a page and 
lover of the Duchesse de Berry, daughter of the Regent 
(whose princely favours were attended by bountiful gene- 
rosity), still retained, apparently, and set due store by, the 
household treasures, plate, and pictures surviving from 
those days of splendour. Now he took his ease in wealth 


and comfort, exercising benevolence towards his less 
fortunate friends, among them this luckless neighbour 
of his, M. de Mezieres, whom he was glad to shelter from 
duns and bailiffs. It was, of course, whispered by the 
malicious that Mme. de Mezieres recompensed him for his 
benevolence, though of this no kind of proof was forth- 

Barely four months after her husband's death, however, 
Mme. de Mezieres was united in marriage with the Marquis, 
who had been a widower for several years. And there 
can be no doubt that she had appealed to M. de la Haie's 
sense of pity and chivalry to a degree involving some 
measure of love. 

This is a fact that people have been unwilling to 

Because her parentage was inferior to that of the family 
of la Haie, this marriage seemed to minister to her vanity 
and ambition. It constituted her promotion into the 
great world (so it has been said) which her people had 
always regarded as a land inaccessible to them. 

With all respect to these carpers, the Minards were far 
from being so plebeian in their origin. They did not pretend, 
indeed, to illustrious ancestry, but they were a branch of an 
honourable Auxon family of lawyers of some antiquity, to 
whom patents of nobility had been granted, and the new 
marriage does not seem on examination so very much of a 
?nesalliance, apart from its financial side, and in regard 
to this we find that the Marquis reimbursed himself as 
fully as possible out of the Mezieres estate, putting in a 
claim for every penny he had lent and drawing a further 
sum of 250 livres from the sale of his old friend's household 
effects as payment of rent due to him. 

La Haie assumed the rank and title of Marquis, but in 
the official records and in the marriage contract he appears 
merely as " Chevalier." An arrogant libertine, his whole 
bearing and character — those of a man who would not 
suffer anyone to forget the honours that had been accorded 
to him — bore the stamp of the Regent's Court. 

Absorbed in his memories and vanities, he was no fit 


guardian for the poor little Mezieres children : a daughter 
of sixteen and a son a year younger. And they needed a 
guardian to protect them from their mother, who after her 
second marriage began at once to take a dislike to them. 
They were too old to be left like Dalembert on the steps 
of a church, but there were at least convents at hand which 
offered the inviolable security of perpetual seclusion to 
those numerous parents who were anxious to get rid of 
their children. Whether she wished it or not, Mile, de 
Mezieres was to be made a nun, and to this end was con- 
signed to the convent of the Dames du Bon Secours. 

As for her brother, Anatole-Christophe-Fortunat, it 
appears that the Marquise found a different expedient 
for ridding herself of him. She took him away from the 
school at which he was being educated and at which he was 
achieving a brilliant success, and packed him off to America 
as a bad lot. 

The tranquillity of her new life was now secured. Two 
children came to fortify it : a daughter, Charlotte, who 
became — without any element of romance — first, Mme. de 
Montesson, and then — as the outcome of a romance, both 
long and made the most of — Duchess of Orleans ; and a 
son, the Marquis de la Haie. 

Once in six months, at oftenest, Marie-Francoise-Felicite 
received a visit from her mother at the convent. This 
would probably be when payments for her maintenance 
there became due, and these Avere as low as possible and 
included nothing for special lessons. And during these 
twice-yearly visits, the young girl, who had never received 
a single caress from her mother, had to sit and listen in 
silence to her commonplaces upon the dangers of the world 
and the peace and happiness of the convent. 

Now, the convent has hardships only for those who 
enter it without a vocation. Mile, de Mezieres underwent 
them, buoyed up with the hope, so enduring in young hearts, 
of one day escaping. Mme. Rossignol, the Abbess, en- 
couraged her in motherly fashion to confide in her, took 
the greatest care of her, took her about with her like a 
favourite daughter, and of her own accord had her taught 


by a music-master so that she might be able to find con- 
solation playing the organ. 

But her terrible mother began to talk of vows, and 
it was arranged that Marie-Francoise-Felicite should become 
a nun, despite her tears, prayers, and protestations. The 
day of the ceremony arrived. The postulant, determined 
not to allow the irrevocable " Yes " to be drawn from her, 
declared that she might indeed be taken to the church 
but that she would say " No." She had her way. 

" She resumed that day her ordinary clothes, which she 
had not worn for two years . . ." says Mine, de Genlis in 
her Memoirs. " As she had grown during the period of her 
useless novitiate, they were too short for her to an absurd 
degree, but she resumed them with delight none the less. 
And she was left at the convent, whence she was never allowed 

The best years of her girlhood languished thus, seeming 
to presage an entire life spent in seclusion. 

In the spring of her twenty-sixth year, however, an old 
widowed lady, the Marquise de Fontenille, came to the convent 
to reside there, withdrawn from the world, as was then a 
common custom, in a separate suite of rooms in which she 
could lead her own life, waited on by her own servants, 
after the fashion of Mme. du Deffand at the Filles-de-Saint- 
Joseph ; and Marie-Francoise-Felicite soon began to lend 
the charm of her youth to the austere salon in which the 
Marquise was wont to receive her relatives and friends. 

Here it was that her Prince Charming saw and loved 
her. Living thus sequestered and hidden away, does she 
not in truth set one thinking of the Sleeping Beauty ? 

A gentleman of rank this Prince Charming : a man of 
distinction, educated by the Jesuits of Lyon ; tall, well 
set up ; " of perfect beauty," so his daughter will tell us ; 
of winning manners ; playing the violin quite tolerably, 
and not lacking in other charms and accomplishments. 
He is thirty-five, and his name is Pierre-Cesar du Crest. 

He has ample leisure for his visits to Mme. de Fontenille, 
having no professional ties now that he left the army with 
the rank of captain, as the result of an escapade of which we 


know only this : that having come to Paris one night, 
without leave, and having been attacked by ruffians near the 
gates of the Louvre, he killed one of them. This mysterious 
adventure made it necessary for him to reveal his identity 
and to regain immediately his regiment, then under the 
command of Due d'Hostun. 

Three months later he resigned. This at least is what 
happened according to Mme. de Genlis. 

Now we are a-sail in the realms of romance ! We are in a 
fairy-tale worthy of Perrault. Nothing is lacking. In the 
person of the Abbess we have the guileful and beneficent 

Mme. de la Haie, in her role of wicked mother, refuses the 
hand of her daughter to Prince Charming. Her daughter is 
to have no dowry. 

The Abbess, despite all protestations from outside that to 
unite the two young people is to marry hunger to thirst, 
exerts herself on their behalf ; and her magic ring — or her 
kind soul — will defray the expenses of the wedding. ... A 
delightful tale, for it ends happily with the wedding bells ! 

But to return to plain facts. The du Crest family was 
not rich, except in children — a fine tradition in itself and 
preferable to mere money - bags. Pierre - Cesar, however 
(according to Mme. de Genlis), would have been in receipt of 
from 10,000 to 12,000 livres a year at the time of his marriage, 
had not his joyous and careless, not to say spendthrift, 
temperament already dissipated a large measure of his 

Descended from a race of soldiers and men of action, 
warlike and brave, he was the incarnation of the type of those 
provincial nobles of France who, in the interval between two 
campaigns in the service of the King, were wont to return to 
their manors and to spend their time cultivating the soil and 
clearing the woods of wolves and wild boars. His own 
titles of nobility were of old origin. The Ducrests, or du 
Crests, go back, according to a manuscript genealogy, to that 
Philipes du Crest who, in the fifteenth century (1491), married 
Charlotte de Gevingi, widow of Guichard, Seigneur de Valette, 
a native of Savoy ; and who came into France in the suite of 


the French queen, Charlotte de Savoie, second wife of King 
Louis xi. But traces of a branch of the family may be found 
earlier than this in Italy. 

They have never been de robe, according to their family 
archives. The oldest musters and revues cTarmes which 
have been preserved in Burgundy (Courtray, 1342 ; Chatel- 
Chignon, 1412 ; Chatillon, 1414 ; Beauvais, 1417) mention 
squires of this name, either as accompanying the Duke in his 
wars in Flanders in the fourteenth century, or as galloping 
behind the Bold to the disaster of Nancy. Those who did not 
carry the sword joined the Church. 

The pedigree has no gaps in it dating from 1474, and in 
the fourteenth century there were sixteen or seventeen 
branches, all deriving their name from an estate named Le 
Crest or Ducrest, situated in the parish of Vandenesse-sur- 
Arroux, in le Charolais, which has never passed out of the 

Pierre-Cesar belonged to the branch surnamed de Chigy, 
by no means the least honoured. One of his great-uncles, 
Claude du Crest, proved his mettle at St. John of Jerusalem, 
December 1532 ; another Claude, at Malta, 2nd June 1633. 
Suffice it to say that the pages of Hozier are full of them, as are 
the archives of Dijon, Macon, Nevers, Moulins ; and that 
they contracted alliances with the families of Semur, Le 
Bourgoing, Rollin, Vichy, Maurage, Lichy, Murat, Moroges, 
Rabutin, Villars, Hennezel, Conde, Bonneval, and Leprestre 
de Vauban. 

Fortune, however, was seldom prodigal in their regard. 
In spite of their military prowess, in spite of their gallant 
services in the armies and fleets of the King, they came in 
only for a pension or a cross of St. Louis or of St. Lazare 
by way of recompense. 

It was perhaps a piece of luck, therefore, for the father 
of Pierre-Cesar that he won for his bride, in August 1706, 
a rich heiress of his neighbourhood, Catharine Chaussin, 
daughter of Gilbert Chaussin, described in Hozier as a " rich 
merchant and dealer in the market-town of Issy-1'fiveque, 
near Autun." 

He cannot be said to have married beneath him in the 


literal sense of the words. The Chaussins, without being 
able to lay claim to such ancient lineage as the du Crests, 
were awarded titles of nobility in 1667, 1669, and 1698. 
Gilbert Chaussin himself appears as Seigneur d'Urly pre- 
viously to 1697. Members of the family are to be found in 
the King's bodyguard and among the notables of France. 

Catharine du Crest was left a widow with three children. 
Francois, the eldest, a mousquetaire in the army of the Rhine, 
who died before the marriage of his sister Marie-Madeleine, 
on the 8th January 1731, to Jean- Jacques de Sercey, Baron 
du Jeu, Chevalier of St. Louis and captain of dragoons. 
Catharine died before the marriage of her second son, 

The Seigneur de Champcery et de Perrigny-la-Plaine, to 
give him the full title which now belonged to him, inherited 
half his mother's fortune, which must have amounted to some 
thousands of livres a year. Most of this money he had 
managed to squander either when with his garrison or in 
Paris in merry company. 

He seems to have behaved chivalrously enough by his 
penniless fiancee, and although she had to forgo wedding 
presents and trousseau as well as her rightful share of her 
father's property (in regard to which she was afterwards to 
bring a legal action against her mother), they were married, 
it would seem, towards the end of November 1743. 

Du Crest imparted some lustre to the ceremony through 
the names of those who signed the wedding contract. Among 
the witnesses were Monseigneur de Valette, Bishop of Autun ; 
the Due de Saint-Aignan, Governor of Burgundy, Member 
of the French Academy ; the Marquis de Bauffremont, 
Chevalier de la Toison d'Or, Lieutenant- General of the 
armies of the King ; and the Chevalier de Bauffrement de 
Listenois, Commander of the Order of Malta. 

On the bride's side the witnesses are less distinguished : 
la Haie and his son, and Mme. Minard des Alleurs, an aunt, 
are there to represent the family. The Abbess also was 
present. After the wedding was over, the young couple set 
forth for Champcery, where we have seen them arrive. 

Not quite three years later, 26th January 1746, their first 


child was born to them, the daughter, Magdeleine-Felicite, 
who was to become famous as Mme. de Genlis. 1 

The child is very weak and delicate — so much so that 
they cannot put her in swaddling-clothes. She has to be 
wrapped up in a pillow-case, the four corners of which are 
pinned up. A quaint little parcel of humanity she must 
have looked, deposited there upon an arm-chair. On one 
occasion a local official who had come to offer his congratula- 
tions to the young couple very nearly sat down upon her by 
mistake ! 

She had so little vitality that they had her baptized in 
the house on the day of her birth. Things looked more 
serious still when it was found that the nurse could not 
suckle her and that she had to be fed on crumbs of rye bread 
passed through a sieve and moistened with wine and water. 
As soon as she could move about, she fell into a pond. When 
nearly two, she burnt herself. Another tumble followed soon 
after, and she nearly split open her head. But she survived 
all these mishaps miraculously. They were but forewarn- 
ings, perhaps, of her stormy career. 

Her parents soon began to weary of their small and 
mournful abode. A son came to them, fifteen months after 
Felicite — 28th April 1747: Charles-Louis. Impelled by 
dreams of a fine future for him, they disposed of Champcery 
to their brother-in-law, de Sercey, and bought a house with 
a garden and a terrace overlooking the Loire, at Cosne — a 
temporary arrangement pending better things. 

On 31st July in the following year he acquired by con- 
tract the freehold of Saint-Aubin-sur-Loire, marquisate and 
chateau together — a step which seems disproportionate to 
his scanty means. The purchase did in fact bring about 
pecuniary difficulties, and we shall have to come back to the 
subject later. The titles of Marquis and of " Seigneur Haut 
Justicier " of Saint- Aub in and of Sept-Fons (of which the 

1 Mme. de Genlis says "fifteen months," but according to the date of 
the marriage contract, 23rd November 1743, it must have been three years. 

Mme. de Genlis is sometimes styled £tiennette-Felicite, sometimes Ste- 
phank'-Felicite — this latter name is the one adopted in her own signatures 
as a rule. The former name appears in her marriage contract and in the official 
record of her death. 


famous abbey stood opposite the chateau, on the other bank 
of the Loire) went with the property. To these du Crest 
added the titles of Seigneur and Baron of Bourbon-Lancy. 

Saint-Aubin was charmingly situated. The chateau 
must have been of vast size and magnificent, but at the time 
when it was purchased by the du Crests its walls, already old, 
showed many cracks and fissures. 

" It resembled the castles which have since been described 
by Mrs. Radcliffe," says Mine, de Genlis. " It was old 
and dilapidated, and there were immense courtyards through 
one of which flowed a canal, bordered by ebony trees which 
then were very rare. In this canal fine carps were kept." 
By an extraordinary singularity, impossible to account for, 
there was no view of the river from the chateau, none of the 
windows looking out in that direction. 

The chateau, according to an authentic document, dated 
September 1752, partook of the nature of a fortress in its 
construction. It rose in the midst of a vast walled court- 
yard girt by a moat to the north, west, and south. Two 
blocks of buildings, enclosing a central courtyard, and 
flanked by four large round towers which bore the arms 
of the marquisate and raised aloft their pointed summits 
surmounted by small spires, constituted the manor-house 
properly so called. Behind it was a large garden, also 
walled and defended by two additional round towers. To 
the left of it were stables, barns, and outhouses. 

The principal entrance was from the north. To the 
west, quite near, but out of sight, ran the Loire. The sun 
rose upon the pond, and right at the end of the garden might 
be seen the village church and the cemetery. 

Felicite's room was in one of the big towers, that on the 
right, overlooking the pond : a damp little room on the 
ground floor. This tower is not one of the portions of the old 
chateau which have escaped ruin. 

Felicite and her brother would seem to have been free to 
play about to their hearts' content. Mme. du Crest did 
not give much time or thought to her daughter's upbringing. 
The child is said to have been ill dressed and ill cared for. 
The village schoolmistress, Mile. Durgon, was, however, 


called in to initiate her into the mysteries of the alphabet 
and develop her unformed mind before she was six years old. 
In the course of six or seven months the little girl learnt how 
to read. The small brother needed other teachers besides 
a village schoolmistress. He was sent to Paris to the Pension 
du Roule or the Pension Bertaud. And when Mme. du Crest 
de Saint- Aubin had given birth to a second son and recovered 
her health, she followed to Paris with Felicite. 

We find them staying with a relative, Mme. de Bellevaux, 
nee du Crest, a resident in Paris since the death of her 
husband, who had lost his life at the siege of Prague. This 
lady saw a great many visitors, and poor little seven-year-old 
Felicite, little Burgundian savage that she was, offered a 
marked contrast to the elegantly attired Parisians. She had 
been suffered too long to run wild. She walked ungrace- 
fully, her hair was unkempt, her teeth needed looking to, 
one of her eyes was inclined to squint. These defects needed 
drastic and painful remedies. She had two teeth extracted ; 
her body was imprisoned in a pitiless contrivance of whale- 
bone ; tight shoes tortured her feet ; a collar made of iron, 
hundreds of curl-papers, hoop-petticoats, and a pair of 
spectacles designed to correct the tendency to squint, com- 
bined to complete her transformation. 

As soon as she was held to have been sufficiently 
Parisianised, Felicite was solemnly baptized. (It will be 
remembered that the earlier baptism was administered 
in the house.) Mme. de Genlis does not tell us the name 
of the parish in which the ceremony took place ; she con- 
fines herself to recording the names of the godfather and 
godmother, Michel Bouret, the famous financier, and Mme. 
dc Bellevaux. Thanks to the recent discovery, however, 
of an unpublished document which has been placed at our 
disposal, we now know that the baptism took place at the 
church of Saint -Eustache. Great festivities ensued ; but for 
all their brilliancy Felicite preferred the Opera. 

Music and dancing and the stage transport her already. 
Soon people are to say, " This little person was born to be an 

Almost before she has reached the age of reason, she 


makes her debut between the folding screens of the chateau 
d'fitiolles, the home of Guillaume Le Normand, a friend 
of Mme. Bellevaux, and very probably a former boon-com- 
panion of Pierre-Cesar. 

At Etiolles, life was one long endless comedy — the 
play-acting did not confine itself to the stage. Even during 
the day the costumes of the guests were redolent of the 
theatre. Felicite was to find herself transformed into a 
little Savoyarde, attired, we learn, "in a little monkey's 
apparel, with a little jacket of brown taffetas, and short 
petticoat of the same stuff, trimmed with two or three rows 
of pink ribbons, and for headdress a gauze fichu tied under 
the chin." 

And because she enacted on the stage the allegorical 
role of Friendship and sang a poor couplet or so in her 
pretty dress, the memory of these doings was never to 
pass from her mind, " so glorious did this day appear " to 
her ! 

It is recorded, too, that she made a conquest — her first ! 
This was in the person of the gouty old Marechal de Lowendal, 
a hero, who singled her out from all the others, so pleased he 
was by her naive admiration. Little Felicite began to feel 
she was quite a star. 

It was made a matter of reproach to her mother that she 
paid so long a visit to this chateau. It was thought imprudent' 
on her part. The supposition was that she was attracted 
thither, and tempted to remain on, by the continual round 
of gaiety and frivolity. It was not realised that the poor 
young woman was chiefly actuated by her hopes of getting 
financial help from the powerful Farmer-General. Incapable 
in business matters, like her husband, ignorant and happy- 
go-lucky, it was her nature to count on strokes of miraculous 
good luck to extricate her from the morasses in which their 
improvidence continually landed them. 

At the moment in question, Pierre-Cesar has not paid 
down any of the money due from him for his recently ac- 
quired property. Moreover, " failing the payment of the 
sum of 1200 livres," a certain Sieur Dutrou de Villetang 
has put in a writ of attachment on Saint-Aubin, which is to 


be put up for auction on the 1st of September 1752 by 
Edme Vinot, sheriff's officer at Bourbon-Lancy. 

In desperation over this, Mme. du Crest had recourse to 
the rich Le Normand, who being a man of business before 
anything else, was not inclined to do anything rashly. He 
took the precaution of informing himself first as to the value 
of the property. When, in May 1753, he decided not indeed 
to lend Pierre-Cesar the money needed but to act as his 
security, thus enabling him to borrow elsewhere, Mme. 
du Crest and her daughter were able to return home. 

They returned in a spirit of gaiety and happiness, 
accompanied by Mme. de Bellevaux and two little girls 
who lived with her — children whose origin was a matter 
of much speculation to contemporaries. They were believed 
to be the daughters of Le Normand and Mme. de Bellevaux, 
and unfriendly tongues suggested, of course, that this 
had something to do with the assistance accorded to Pierre- 

Mme. de Chastellux told Moreau (and another writer, 
following in their footsteps, repeats the statement) that a 
Mademoiselle Chaussin, the twenty-year-old widow of 
Claude Beraut de Bellevaux, having come to seek her 
fortunes in Paris, made the acquaintance of Le Normand 
" and consoled him for his notorious domestic grief. She 
succeeded so well that two little daughters came into the 
world, for whom it was necessary to find a father. Cesar du 
Crest and Mile, de Mezieres would seem to have agreed to 
recognise them as their children and to legitimise them 
by their marriage in consideration of the payment of 
300,000 crowns, half of which sum is said to have found 
its way into the hands of intermediaries." And Moreau 
adds : " One of these children, so the story goes, was the 
future Mme. de Genlis." 

Nobody could be misled for an instant by this last 
blunder, so serious that it should suffice in itself to discredit 
the rest of the narrative. A second mistake is obvious 
in that Mme. de Bellevaux was not a Chaussin but a du 
Crest. It is clear, none the less, how easily the uncharitable 
could make capital out of the simple facts. 


We shall see presently the outcome of this fable. For 
the moment it will suffice to explain that the two little girls 
were in truth the illegitimate children of a cousin of Pierre- 
Cesar, Lazare du Crest de Chigy, and of a girl of the neigh- 
bourhood named Philippe Julienne de Gayot de Provencheres. 
Failing the consent of the parents, the lovers had to wait 
until the young mother attained the age at which she could 
marry without it, and they had avoided the gossiping of 
neighbours by confiding their first child to their cousin 
Mme. de Bellevaux, and by placing their second out at 
nurse at a village named Ville-Chaux, near Cosne. The 
children then were du Crests, and, as we shall see, Lazare 
and Mile, de Gayot were to legitimise them on the day 
of their wedding, 19th December 1753. Meanwhile, they 
are taken with Felicite to the noble chapter-house of 
Saint-Denis d'Alix, near Lyon, there to be received as 
" canonesses." x 

The custom, in great favour with the French nobility, 
of conferring on their daughters the title of " canoness " 
involved an excellent method of provision for their future in 
the event of their not marrying. In this event the chapter- 
house offered them many advantages, placing at their 
disposal a highly honoured home, accompanied with titles 
and prebends and enabling them to continue their lives in an 
atmosphere of aristocracy, for even the least distinguished of 
the chapter-houses insisted rigorously upon proofs of noble 
birth. That of Alix, renowned throughout Lyonnais and 
Dauphine, was not as exacting as that of Panthemont and 
certain of those in Bavaria in respect of their rule that at least 
sixteen quarterings must be shown ; eight quarterings were 
sufficient, and Felicite and her cousins were able to satisfy 
the commissaire. In three weeks the proofs were verified, and 
thanks to the influence of a relative on the Minard side, Mme. 
de Clugny, a canoness resident at the chapter, the ceremony 
took place without delay. It was very imposing. All the 
old canonesses, the Abbess at their head, attired in hooped 

1 Mme. de Genlis says she travelled with her cousins, but the second child 
was scarcely out of her cradle, being only eleven months old. It is possible 
that her memory in regard to this was at fault. 


gowns of black silk, with great cloaks faced with ermine, 
filled the choir. The officiating priest handed to the young 
aspirants the insignia of the Order — the red ribbon with an 
enamelled cross, the wide band of watered ribbon, and the 
tiny headdress of black taffetas which these ladies call "a 

It used to be the custom to cut off a lock of hair in every 
case. The priest, who was short-sighted, cut Felicity's ear 
slightly, and the blood began to flow a little — " but I bore 
it heroically," Mine, de Genlis records. The child is in 
ecstasy over the whole experience. Henceforth she is 
Madame ! — Madame la Comtesse de Lancy ; this thought, 
she tells us, gave her more pleasure than anything else. 
Overwhelmed with bonbons and made much of in every 
way, it was natural that she should feel strongly drawn to her 
new condition. 

But when Mine, de Clugny offered to bequeath to little 
Felicite her title and prebend, which would have entailed 
renouncing marriage and taking the vows, Mme. du Crest 
refused on her child's behalf. It would not do to commit 
the future in this way. So they return to Saint-Aubin. 
Mother and daughter arrive just in time to be present at the 
death of the youngest born, who had been made a Knight of 
Malta while still in his cradle. 



It is strange to find children so badly neglected in this 
eighteenth century, so prolific of reform in other directions. 

They passed from the arms of their nurses into other 
mercenary hands, and their parents took no further interest 
in them. We know that Biron and Talleyrand were the 
moral offspring of this custom, against which the Genevan 
Rousseau protested. Mme. du Crest, but lately mixing in the 
best society, did not dream of acting differently. She saw 
her daughter for a few moments in the early morning, and 
for a little while at meal-times, but for the rest of the day 
Felicite was handed over to the chambermaids. 

M. du Crest has taken to the pursuits of a country gentle- 
man. The greater part of his existence is given up to hunting, 
angling, his pack of hounds, snaring birds and fishing at 
night. He passes the rest of his days, with the exception of a 
few visits to the abbey at Sept-Fonts, shut up in his laboratory. 
But these diversions do not prevent him from becoming a 
silent and melancholy man. 

The Marquise, on the other hand, became a social butterfly. 
She led the unrestrained life of a chatelaine, and made up 
for the dull years of her youth, spent in the seclusion of a 

The entertainment of her neighbours was to her the most 
important thing in life. 

Felicite remained untaught and neglected to the last 
degree. The servants, rough peasants for the most part, 
who were told to teach her a little Catechism, filled her head 
with ghost-stories. 



Occasionally, for want of a better tutor, Cesar du Crest 
would take his daughter in hand. He wished to make her a 
hardy woman, and to that end he inured her to touching 
spiders, mice, and toads without flinching, and took her out 
with him when he went fishing at night. 

When she was seven years old, her parents thought of 
getting a governess for her, according to the custom in 
good families. Pierre-Cesar, as we know, was a musician. 
Felicite had a taste for music and gave promise of a pretty 
voice. They therefore looked about for a music-mistress. 

The one chosen was a poor sixteen-year-old Breton girl. 
She was the daughter of the organist at Vannes, a gentle, 
timid girl, grave beyond her years, with a considerable 
knowledge of the harpsichord. Apart from that, she knew 
nothing ; her piety — the gentle, innocent piety of a St. 
Francis of Sales — took the place of everything else. 

Her name was Mile, de Mars. 

Felicite was " given entirely into her charge." She was 
to guide and instruct her in everything. The responsibility 
must have weighed heavily upon one who had never taught 
anything, yet it was a great improvement when Felicite's 
days were occupied and turned to account. 

Felicite could read, which was considered enough. No 
one spoke of writing — that would come later. 

An oral lesson in the Catechism, another in history, 
with an abridged edition of P. Buffier, one in music and 
the harpsichord, formed the daily method of study until 
the midday dinner. After the meal, student and teacher 
went to their rooms to recite the office of the Virgin, and 
the afternoon was devoted to walks. 

It was a meagre education. Besides, P. Buffier was 
abandoned for good at the end of a week. " He bored us 
dreadfully ! " confesses Mme. de Genlis, " and no one ever 
called us to account." 

But gentle Mile, de Mars felt herself very unprepared 
in the face of her duty. She had the care of Felicite's 
mind ; she had to teach, and, feeling afraid, she unbosomed 
herself to the Marquis. They explored the library of the 
manor together. They chose, perhaps by chance, two 


books which appeared promising to their inexperienced 
eyes, the Celie and Le Theatre of Mile. Barbier. 

Could the excellent Scudery ever have foreseen that 
the adventures of Aronce and Princesse Tullie would one 
day serve as grammar, history, and text-book of good 
manners for young girls ! 

Felicite and her governess delighted in it for many long 
months, and probably puzzled over the meaning of it all. 
But P. Burner's insipid history could hardly be expected 
to bear comparison with la carte de Tendre. 

Such was the education of the future Mme. de Genlis. In 
the beginning she became a very pious little girl. 

The saintly Mile, de Mars never wearied of speaking 
to her of God, and during the course of their long walks 
she tried to explain the great mystery of divine love from 
the eternal book of Nature. 

One is really touched by the delightful picture which 
these two children must have made, conversing of holy 
things along the paths and forests of this corner of the 
Bourbon country ; the younger vivacious, impulsive, and 
curious, the elder with the precocious gravity of sixteen 
summers, " admiring with rapture the sky, the trees, and 
the flowers as proofs of the existence of God and as His 
works." When they went to church in the manor chapel, 
Felicite never tired of contemplating a large statue of coloured 
plaster, representing an angel holding an enormous bunch 
of black grapes in his slender hands, who smiled at her 
and appealed to her young soul. 

If one is to believe Mme. de Genlis, her piety had still 
more fervent aspects to it, since it urged her to get up in 
the middle of the night to prostrate herself on the floor in 
prayer ; which did not prevent her, it is true, from having 
recourse to the most barefaced stratagems in the daytime 
to evade the difficulties in a piece of music. 

She acquired, from contact with Scudery and Barbier, a 
taste for romance, a love of intrigue and adventure, and 
a leaning towards sentimentality, which was to be con- 
spicuous in her character later on, and which at this time 
excited her to the point of inventing stories of romantic 


events, in which she imagined herself taking part. She 
became so important in her own eyes that she considered 
herself able to teach others from her own small store of 
knowledge. So while her mother and Mile, de Mars 
retire for their siesta or are busy attending to their personal 
affairs, the child goes up to her room and steps over the 
window-sill on to the terrace, which is raised above the 
bank of the pond and overlooks a narrow strip of grass, 
which slopes gently down to the water's edge. Here it 
is that the urchins of the village, the sons of watermen 
and ploughmen, come to cut rushes and loiter about. Felicite* 
calls to them, enticing them with promises of cakes, and 
from the height of her stone balcony, like a magistrate on 
the bench, suspended between heaven and earth, she recites 
to them some of Mile. Barbier's verses or a passage from 
the Jesuit's history. The boys stand there submissive^, 
with their faces upturned, and go through their spelling 
exercises, and repeat their lessons to their small mistress, 
who withholds the manna of cakes until the lesson is over. 
It appears that Felicite' s teaching bore fruit, and was 
transmitted from father to son in Saint- Aubin. 

The child was a born pedagogue, as people came to 
remark. But this was not her mother's doing, for the 
latter was more than ever absorbed in her own amusements. 

While the lord of Saint-Aubin, who had been called 
away to Paris, where he remained until 1755, by the differ- 
ences always pending with the capitaine du second vol pour 
corneilles, Mme. du Crest conceived the idea of passing 
the time in the preparation of amateur theatricals with 
which to celebrate his return. She herself composed " a 
kind of rustic comic opera, with a mythological prologue " 
in verse, although she knew nothing whatever of the laws 
of versification. She delighted Felicite* by giving her the 
role of Cupid. Racine, it is true, contributed largely to 
the programme, for besides the comic opera they played 
Iphigcnie, and Felicite played the part of Iphigenia. 

From that moment life at Saint-Aubin is thrown into 
confusion. The whole manor, from the Marquise down 
to the four chambermaids, learn their different parts, prepare 


the costumes, and rehearse. The neighbours, who were 
invited to help, ransack their wardrobes, as did Mme. du 
Crest, and even order a quantity of artificial jewels from 
Moulins. The dress rehearsals lasted for three months. 
" A tremendous number of people from Bourbon-La ncy 
and Moulins came to them," and praised Felicite to the 

She was certainly delightfully pretty in her different 
costumes. In the part of Iphigenia she wore a silver and 
cherry-coloured silk damask, trimmed with sable ; in that 
of Cupid a " rose-coloured dress, covered with point lace, and 
decked with artificial flowers," with a quiver and large blue 
wings on her shoulders. The last dress was so becoming 
that Felicite never left it off, but would run about in the 
fields in her little " silver and straw-coloured shoes," and, 
as Mine, dc Genlis says, " with all the paraphernalia of love — 
a quiver on my shoulder and my bow in my hand." She 
had duplicates of this costume, one for Sunday and one for 
" work-days " ; but the wings were suppressed on Sundays 
and her dress was covered with a " kind of mantle of grey 
taffetas." However, as she used to follow the Corpus 
Christi processions dressed like an angel, it is to be supposed 
that the same wings were used for Cupid and the heavenly 
messenger, which was an odd mixture of sacred and profane 
ideas, and might almost be taken as " an emblem of a life 
which, after having known the frailties of love, was to end 
by aspiring to the purity of an angel's." l 

Meanwhile, the Marquis de Saint-Aubin did not return, 
and the Marquise continued to amuse her neighbours for 
the time being with further sumptuous festivities. 

They played Zaire, in which Felicite surpassed Clairon, 
according to the ladies from Moulins. 

She did not yet know how to dance, a defect which they 
were not long in remedying. 

Mme. du Crest secured the services of a Mile. Mion, a 

dancing-mistress at Autun, who taught the little star how 

to da nee and enter a room. She was soon replaced, however, 

on account of her scandalous drinking habits and her mane 

1 Louis Chabaml, Les Prictirseurs du fiministne, " Mme. de Genlis/' p. 201. 


of red hair, by a Vestris of the neighbourhood, fifty years 
of age, who was also a fencing-master. 

Fencing ! What an opportunity for distinction ! Why 
should not Felicite try it ? The professor asked for nothing 
better, and he taught the child his favourite science. 

This was the end of the Cupid's dress. 

Felicite, dressed now like a little boy, wore breeches, 
fenced, jumped ditches, and climbed trees, to the sorrow of 
Mile, de Mars. And as the play has become the most im- 
portant thing with her mother, she gives Felicite the part of 
Darviane, 1 as it needs someone who can draw a sword and 
fence. Mme. de Genlis does not tell us that she shocked 
anyone ; on the contrary, everybody was captivated, in- 
cluding Pere Antoine, chaplain at Saint-Aubin. 

Mile, de Mars alone appears to have kept a grain of 
common sense in the general extravagance. She was the 
only one among so many actresses who dared to criticise and 
laugh at the costumes, the curious success of which was 
spoiling her pupil. Her sense of responsibility made her 
try to bring about a reaction by means of good counsel and 
exemplary behaviour, and by the continuance of pious 
practices, so long as they did not take up the time devoted 
by Mme. de Saint-Aubin to the hobby of play-acting ; but 
she could not do much. The greater part of the morning 
was taken up with dancing, fencing, and studying the parts, 
and music and singing took up the rest. Occasionally they 
read La Reine de Navarre, by Mile, de la Force ; and when 
Mme. de Saint-Aubin is not receiving anyone, the afternoon 
is passed in making garlands of artificial flowers for decorative 
purposes — an agreeable pastime in which Pere Antoine did 
not disdain to join. 

And so the festivities continue, attracting all the nobility 
of the neighbourhood, which was very numerous in a dis- 
trict where so many manors adjoined. 

Once there was a scare of small-pox, which put a stop to 
things ; but it proved nothing more than a slight attack 
over which Felicite's fresh complexion triumphed, thanks to 
good Doctor Pinot, and no one thought any more about it. 

1 Darviane, a character in Melanide, a tragi-comedy by La Chaussee. 


But another invalid appeared to be more seriously, if not 
irremediably, affected. We refer to the manor of Saint- 
Aubin, which had become even more dilapidated and tumble- 
down, and was almost uninhabitable. The Marquis seemed 
to have no remedy for it, since he never returned, and its 
occupants were forced to leave it without waiting for his 
problematical return. 

Meanwhile, in Paris, Pierre-Cesar was righting as best he 
could against reverses. Without money, encumbered with 
debts, plagued with ruinous lawsuits, the unfortunate man 
had recourse to every expedient to escape disaster. It does 
not seem possible that his wife knew the real state of things, 
in view of her reckless way of living. 

We find her settled now at Bourbon-Lancy, with her 
sister-in-law, Mme. de Sercey, whose husband — after an 
attack of paralysis — has come there to take the waters. 

The establishment, of course, had to have a theatre, 
which was fitted up specially for Mme. du Crest. It was the 
autumn of 1755. Comedies and tragedies had been revived 
since the previous winter, and to the former repertory 
they now added George Bandin ; Les Plaideurs ; Cenie, a 
play by Mme. Graffigny ; Attendez-moi sous Vorme ; and Le 
Distrait, in which Felicite aroused general enthusiasm. 

Poor little girl ! She was exposed to the life behind the 
scenes, and grew up among the most artificial emotions, the 
more dangerous by their very exaggeration. At a most 
impressionable age she was continually rehearsing with 
pseudo-heroes, giving voice to the most passionate utter- 
ances, and playing parts in which love was always, and 
only, in question. That was her schooling. 

It would not have been surprising really if Felicite, who 
was a precocious child, had fallen in love. But her heart 
remained untouched, and was not to be the dupe of so many 
sentimental scenes. Her vanity protected her and screened 
her from any disturbing thought, beyond the perfection 
of her acting and the business of the theatre, which absorbed 
her growing zeal. 

But others were not so well balanced. The son of Doctor 
Pinot of Bourbon-Lancy, probably a weak and simple- 


minded boy, was a constant partner of Felicite's in tragic 
parts, and confounded play-acting with reality. He took 
everything in earnest, and his eighteen-year-old affections 
were set on fire by the ten-year-old star. 

The unfortunate youth was destined to have a fall. 
A person of the lower middle-class, " who was not a 
gentleman," daring to make love to Mile, du Crest de Saint - 
Aubin ! Actually having the impertinence to hand her a note ! 
She is " exceedingly shocked," and takes the insolent love- 
letter to her mother and to Mile, de Mars. 

The imprudent lover was sharply rebuked by his father, 
who had been informed, and had to leave the scene, giving 
his word to disappear. Young Pinot did not remain a 
bachelor. He married three years later, and appears to have 
been very happy. 

At length, during the year 1756, Pierre-Cesar returned 
home. Unfortunately, he brought with him nothing but bad 
news — unpaid debts, the threats of creditors, a wasted fortune, 
and the immediate sale of Saint-Aubin and Bourbon-Lancy. 

" His wife and he," says Courchamps, " could have 

devoured two kingdoms. All the available rights to these 

two manors were mortgaged by them for ninety-nine years." 

There is no doubt that the unfortunate du Crests were 

led astray by their improvidence and prodigality. 

They were now forced to give up their salons and the 
theatre ; but rather than undergo the commiseration of the 
little town, the Marquise preferred to leave everything, 
allowing it to be believed that a more brilliant future awaited 
her in Paris. 

She therefore embarks upon the passage-boat which goes 
up the Loire as far as Orleans, together with her daughter, 
Mile, de Mars, the servants, and everything that they could 
take away with them in trunks. It must be explained that 
this was the cheapest way of travelling. After a rest at 
Orleans with some friends, who had invited everyone of 
importance in the town to meet them, our travellers reach 
Paris and put up at Mme. de Bellevaux's, who, it is probable, 
was not aware of their pecuniary embarrassments. 

And while Pierre-Cesar left as quickly as he could for 


Bourbon-Lancy, making money, they say, of the bricks and 
wood, of the manor of Aubin, his wife in Paris set herself to 
settle the state of affairs as quietly and as advantageously as 
she could. 

Meanwhile, life went on quietly and uneventfully. Mme. 
de Bellevaux, a witty woman, and an occasional writer, 1 
had her box at the Opera and the Francaise, and was a lady 
of fashion much sought after. Financiers, men of letters, 
and musicians frequented her salon and her country-house 
at Saint-Mande. Mme. de Saint-Aubin, who had become 
habituated to a life of ease, witty conversation, and the 
arts and graces of society, was entirely in her element on 
her return to the society of Paris. And Felicite, with her 
prettiness, freshness, and vivacity, and her readiness to recite 
and allow her beautiful voice to be heard, was a valuable 
asset to her mother. They praised her to the skies, and she, 
who was always hungry for success, set herself to provoke it 
still further. Four hours of music — singing, harpsichord, and 
guitar, for they were teaching her the guitar now — hardly 
suffice for the preparation of the " pieces " in which she is to 
play. She spends a great deal of time, besides, in rehearsing 
the verses which she recites. Every night she is seen at the 
play. " In this way," the Mcmoires tell us, " my days were 
employed, if not very properly, at least in their entirety, and 
there was no time left for serious study." And Felicite, 
who was an intelligent girl, was very conscious of her own 

How crude and bare is her little provincial mind, com- 
pared with the brilliant intellects of these men of letters ! 
How backward and ridiculous she feels ! How greedily she 
listens to the conversations, tormented by the desire for 
knowledge ! How curious, interested, and captivated she 
is ! The intellectual Genlis of the morrow is awakening. 

A certain M. de Mondorge, a humorous poet and ballad- 
writer, and something of a critic, holds a conversation with 
Marmontel at Mme. de Bellevaux's one day. Helvetius has 
just published his book De VEsprit, and M. de Mondorge 
scourges " the infamy of the principles in this book." 
1 She published a novel, Les Lettres d'une jeune veuve. 


Felicite never tires of listening. She is his frank and gentle 
admirer, and she conquers him by confiding to him her first 
and very mediocre quatrain. 1 

M. de Mondorge, says Mme. de Genlis, was inexpressibly 
delighted and flattered by the artless confidence of this eleven- 
year-old muse, and willingly became the director of her 
literary studies. 

His principle was to make her read and write a great deal. 
As she had no books, he gave her the poems of Jean-Baptiste 
Rousseau, which she conscientiously learned by heart, and 
La Fontaine's Fables and Gresset's Vert-Vert on New Year's 
Day. Nowadays, this choice would appear to us somewhat 
disquieting, but it was characteristic of the age. 

Felicite set to work undaunted. She devoted herself to 
reading and recitation until bedtime. She was also taught 
how to hold a pen, and began to practise by writing long 
letters, some of them sixteen pages in length, in her large, 
awkward handwriting, to Mile. Azerote, a cousin of Mile. 
Durgon, and niece of the priest at Bourbon-Lancy. When 
her brother came to spend his summer holidays with Mme. de 
Bellevaux at her house at Saint-Mande, he continued to take 
Latin lessons, in which Felicite joined. At Saint-Mande, 
besides, she put together some little plays in dumb show, 
for which she borrowed from various pieces for the harpsichord 
and guitar, in combination with some fragments from plays 
and novels. She always arranged them so that she had the 
most important part in the play. These jjots-pourris, it 
appears, covered their author with glory — which was, after all, 
what they were meant to do. They are not to be taken too 
seriously. The little actress, flattered to the top of her bent, 
was unconscious of the slight value of the praises of society. 
At her age one may be excused for not seeing beyond so 
intoxicating a success. However, no one about her ever 
thought that this delightful time was coming to an end. 

1 This was the work of art, founded on the names of the writer, her gover- 
ness, and a chambermaid named Victoire : — 
' ' Felicit6, Mars, et Victoire 
Se trouvent rassembles chez nous. 
Est-il rien de plus grand, est-il rien de plus doux, 
Que de fixer chez soi le bonheur et la gloirc ! " 


And when the final crash came, it appears to have been 
with the suddenness of a catastrophe. 

According to Mme. de Genlis, she and her mother lived 
with Mme. de Bellevaux for two years. 

But, from 15th October 1757, one finds them at rue 
Traversiere-Saint-Honore. They came to Paris during 
the year 1756, and they left Mme. de Bellevaux before 
15th October of the following year, so it appears that Mme. 
de Genlis's memory has not served her well. 

Mme. de Bellevaux, who had received her cousins with 
open arms, promptly gave them one month in which to find 
a district and a house to live in, when she learned of their 
downfall. Mother and daughter therefore went to the Hotel 
du Peron, rue Traversiere, near the church of Saint-Roch, 
to a " shabby ground-floor apartment overlooking a damp 
garden." It is here that Mme. du Crest signed two bills of 
sale in the presence of Me. Dutartre, a notary, " for which 
she had obtained a power of attorney from her husband," 
the first on 15th October 1757, and the second on 28th 
February 1758. The first was in regard to the lands and 
manor of Saint-Aubin, and the second related to the barony 
of Bourbon-Lancy. The purchaser was Le Normand. 
Around the sale and the purchase of these properties there 
has since arisen a whole volume of scandal, which it would 
be as well to clear up. 

When, seven years previously, Pierre-Cesar du Crest 
mortgaged, in consideration of an annuity of twelve hundred 
odd livres, the barony of Bourbon-Lancy, and when, on 
31st July 1751, he bought at the price of 7G,500 livres the 
marquisate of Saint-Aubin, which had been put up for sale 
after the death of its owners (Gilbert Le Gendre, Marquis de 
Saint-Aubin, and his mother, Marguerite Violet de la Forest), 
he did not possess enough to meet such large sums, it is not 
surprising that his new status, in view of his prodigality 
since his marriage and the fact that his wife had no dot, 
proved too much for him. One wonders where the money 
came from, and since all trace of it has remained hidden in 
the old minutes of the notaries of the province, it has been 
believed to have been non-existent. Consequently, it was 


supposed that du Crest became a marquis at the price of a 
shameful action ; that is to say, on account of the various 
events which we have already mentioned. People attributed 
the children of Lazare du Crest and Julienne de Gayot to the 
relations which existed between the husband of La Pompa- 
dour and Mme. de Bellevaux ; and Pierre-Cesar and Mile, 
de Mezieres are supposed — acting as intermediaries between 
their cousin and Le Normand — to have found a father in 
their own family for these miraculous children, for which 
satisfactory brokerage they were to receive the greater part 
of the promised 300,000 ecus. The proof, it has been said, 
lies in the fact that the Crest-Mezieres family buys the 
marquisate of Saint -Aubin in 1752, when " not long before 
they did not possess anything." Another proof is that the 
marriage between Lazare du Crest and Julienne de Gayot, 
which was to legitimise these two children, takes place in 
1753 in the home of Pierre-Cesar. Further proofs are found 
in the following facts : that Felicite's godfather is Bouret, 
" the tool of Le Normand " ; that Pierre-Cesar arranges to 
pay, by means of a mortgage on his Saint- Aubin property, 
the annuities for " each of his two nieces " at Alix ; and 
finally, that in spite of the repurchase of Saint-Aubin by 
Le Normand in 1758, Cesar du Crest continues to bear the 
titles of Marquis of Saint-Aubin and Baron of Bourbon- 
Lancy. '' What claim," they ask, " had he on such gene- 
rosity, if it were not on account of verbal promises which Le 
Normand did not keep, or blackmail, which in the story of 
an adventurer like du Crest is not incredible ? " The words are 
uncharitable. Without attaching too much importance to 
them, it is permissible to raise doubts as to their reliability. 

A comparison of the exact dates would suffice to destroy 
these facts. In reality, the Crest-Gayot marriage took place 
three years after the purchase of Bourbon-Lancy, and more 
than two years after the acquisition of Saint-Aubin. 1 

1 The purchase of Bourbon-Lancy is dated August 20, 1750, according 
to a contract of September 23, 1752, entered in the records of the Chambre 
des Comptes at Dijon on August 8, 1754 (Archives du Crest). See also 
the marriage contract between Lazare du Crest de Chigy and Philippe- 
Julienne de Gayot, December 19, 1758 (B.N. catalogue of entries. Original 
papers, 1036. Du Crest in Burgundy, 23743). 


Pierre-Cesar, therefore, did not pay for them with the 
price of his complaisance towards Le Normand. Moreover, 
it must be remembered that it was on 1st September 1752 
that Dutrou de Villetang issued a writ of attachment against 
Saint -Aubin in default of the payment to him of 1200 francs 
due to him. Du Crest was certainly most improvident ! 
Le Normand, they say, was quick to help him. It was he 
who harboured and protected Mme. du Crest and her daughter 
at the time of their first journey to Paris ; but, given the 
morals and customs of the age, nothing was more natural. 
It was he who extricated du Crest from his difficulties. We 
are going to prove that there was no need to search for a 
questionable motive to justify the help given to the du 
Crests by the great financier. He never lent them any 
money at all. After going into the matter, Le Normand 
merely becomes surety for his friend, so that he can raise 
the necessary money elsewhere. 

In fact, it is a certain Sieur de Saint-Quentin and his lady 
who furnish him with 22,000 Hires ; a Sieur de Ligny, 
trustee of the Colombat children, who were Chaussin's 
cousins, lends him 18,000 Hires by deed on 16th May 1753 ; 
and nearly a year after the Crest-Gayot marriage, Le Nor- 
mand again becomes surety for Pierre-Cesar for 40,000 
Hires, which he obtains from a Sieur Bailie. 1 

Saint-Aubin was bought for 76,400 Hires, and 80,000 
were borrowed, which covered the purchase. 

Thus it is proved that the marriage of his cousin and the 
legitimation of the children attributed to Le Normand have 
not brought Pierre-Cesar a farthing of ready money. All 
he gets out of it is the security already mentioned, and the 
difference is obvious. 

But here, again, the greatest precautions are taken, for Le 
Normand risked nothing in lending his signature to his 
friend. The value of the property more than covered his 

When du Crest made the purchase, the estate of Saint- 
Aubin brought him all the creditors of an inheritance 

1 Sale of the land and manor of Saint-Aubin and its appendages by M. and 
Mme. du Crest to M. Le Normand, October 15, 1767 (Du Crest Archives). 


burdened with innumerable debts. Awarded on 24th 
November 1718 to Messire Charles Le Gendre, a councillor 
in the Parliament, by right of purchase, as was also the 
barony of Bourbon-Lancy, it passed on the death of the 
latter, which occurred some years later, to his son and widow. 

Le Gendre was allied to the greatest families in France, 
to the princes of Lorraine-Armagnac, the Marillac, the La 
Tremoille, the Rohan-Chabot, and the Chaulnes, but that 
did not prevent him from leaving debts, which, unfortunately, 
his widow and son increased instead of paying off. 

Five judgments were issued by the Council of State 
from March 1737 to October 1746, appointing three senior 
counsel to " judge without appeal all the lawsuits begun 
or about to begin between the said Messire Gilbert Le 
Gendre, Marquis of Saint-Aubin, and the Lady Marguerite 
Violet de la Forest, his mother, and widow on his decease 
of Messire Charles Le Gendre ... of the one part, and 
their creditors and debtors of the other part." 1 

Five injunctions ! A great deal of money must have 
been spent on litigation, and consequently further expenses 
added to the debts. 

The situation is so bad on the death of the unfortunate 
squire and his mother that no heir dares to accept the 
inheritance. This is declared vacant, and on 31st May 
1748 a Sieur Brisson is appointed trustee. Already, in 1740, 
the counsel elected by the Council of State replaced a 
creditor in possession of five pieces of land sold by them 
to Le Gendre senior, and not yet paid for. And the estate 
of Saint-Aubin, reduced by these five portions, is put 
up for sale in 1751 as a vacant inheritance — that is to 
say, put up for auction by law, under conditions as un- 
favourable as those consequent on a writ of attachment : a 
circumstance which was disastrous for the creditors, but 
extremely advantageous to the purchaser. This was the 

1 Auction of the land of Saint-Aubin and appendages, held by M. P. 
Cesar du Crest, lord of the said place, on July 14, 1753 (Du Crest Archives). 
This report, which comprises more than fourteen pages of " double-elephant " 
paper, printed in the most minute characters, is a veritable monument of 
legal procedure. 


way in which Me. Hardy de Humes, procurator to the 
Paris Parliament, obtained Saint-Aubin for Pierre-Cesar 
du Crest on 31st July 1751, for the price of 76,500 livres, 
which was barely half the value of the property. 

It was just as the sharp Le Normand had foreseen. 
If the worst came to the worst, and du Crest could pay 
neither capital nor interest, the property would cover him, 
and he could take back his surety, certain of selling the 
land for more than he had risked, and reimbursing the 
lenders. This was precisely what happened. 

On 15th October 1757, Le Normand took over the 
property of Saint-Aubin by deed at the price of 91,000 
livres, the amount of capital advanced on his surety, namely, 
84,503 livres plus 1620 livres for expenses. The balance 
is destined to discharge the costs of the auction of Saint- 
Aubin, which had been paid for at the end of the five years. 

Further, if we wish to know why Pierre-Cesar saddled 
himself with the board of his nieces, the two young canon- 
esses at Alix, we have only to cast our eyes over another 
bill of sale, dated 28th February 1758, less than four months 
after that of Saint-Aubin. 

By this deed, and through the medium of Me. Dutartre 
the notary, Le Normand acquired the barony of Bourbon- 
Lancy for 30,000 livres, on the condition that he paid a 
life-annuity of 1400 livres, assigned by M. and Mme. de 
Saint-Aubin in behalf of Lazare du Crest and Julienne de 

It is quite evident that these benevolent cousins helped 
Pierre-Cesar with their money, and the annuity to their 
daughters at Alix represented the interest on the loan. 
Whether from prudence, or from a knowledge of the low 
price given for this property, Cesar reserves for himself 
and his family, by the deed of 1757, the right of repurchasing 
it from Le Normand, by reimbursing the price given for it. 
It now remains to explain the expedient by means of which 
Pierre-Cesar continues, until his death, to bear the titles 
of Marquis of Saint-Aubin and Baron of Bourbon-Lancy, the 
lands of which no longer belong to him. 

The same document will again inform us. It goes to 


prove the accuracy of Cesar's estimate of the true value 
of Bourbon-Lancy. 

It is stated that Mine, de Saint-Aubin, in the name of her 
family, renounces in these words the option of buying back 
the property which she had reserved in the deed of 1757 : 
" In consideration of the present desistment, the said 
sieur Le Normand is by these presents bound to pay the 
sum of 30,000 livres. It is agreed that the said sieur and 
lady of Saint-Aubin may, during their lifetime, bear the 
name of the said property of Saint-Aubin, and their children 
that of de Lancy." 

Nothing remains, therefore, of this scandalous affair 
when the dates and figures are known. 

What is very clear is that the unfortunate and imprudent 
du Crest has lost everything — lands and money. 

How did the 30,000 ecus disappear ? There is no further 
trace of them either on the side of the du Crest or on that of 
de Gayot. Lazare du Crest and Julienne de Gayot married 
after at least seven years' guilty relations, for want of obtain- 
ing earlier the consent of their parents. And they were 
married under the system of separate estate. It is hardly 
likely that 300 livres worth of " rings and jewellery," and a 
marriage settlement of 100 livres, recoverable by 1000 livres 
in ready money, would be of any importance to people who 
would have received at least 400,000 francs, half of the 
promised sum. We may add, to conclude this sad story, 
that the two lovers had made a written promise of marriage 
at the beginning of their relations. 

This authentic promise, written in the hand of Lazare du 
Crest and annexed to the minute of the marriage contract, is 
dated 20th October 1746. 1 

As to the marriage itself, if it were celebrated at Saint* 
Aubin, it was because Pierre-Cesar was, of all the du Crests, 

1 "We the undersigned Lazare du Crest and Julienne de Gayot promise 
to take each other for lawful husband and wife at the first request by the 
one or the other and when I, Julienne de Gayot, shall have reached my 
majority. The said promise and agreement made upon the forfeiture of a 
sum of 1500 livres, which the first who shall refuse to fulfil the agreement 
above shall pay. Made under our signatures this 20th day October 1746, 
at Flety, Nivernois. . . ." (B.N. catalogue of entries. Original papers, 1036). 


the only one who was willing to help his cousin to regularise 
his false position, and to lend him a home in the circum- 

Mme. de Genlis, therefore, has no need to blush for her 
father. Extravagant, adventurous, improvident he un- 
doubtedly was, but the facts prove abundantly that he cannot 
be accused of a dishonourable complaisance towards Le 
Normand. Of the two, the financier had the best of it. 
And Saint-Aubin must have been desirable indeed, if the 
notification of the right to repurchase, alone, was worth 
30,000 francs from the coffers of Le Normand : a notification 
for which he preferred to waive the title, and by so paying, 
keep the property. 



" When all our debts were paid," says Mine de Genlis, 
"there remained only a small life annuity of 1200 francs, on the 
lives of my father and mother, and not a roof to our heads " ; 
it is poverty with all its humiliations, its anxieties, and its 
hopeless prospects. They had already had to part with 
Mile, de Mars, as they could no longer afford to pay her 
wa g es — a terrible separation for both pupil and governess, 
who had been like sisters. 

Their last talk, punctuated by many tears, lasted a 
whole night, during which they exchange their Books 
of Hours, like two young monks bound by the vow of 
poverty, and promise to pray for each other night and 
morning. When the governess had left, Felicite, pros- 
trated and disfigured by torrents of uninterrupted tears, 
drew upon herself the severe reprimands of her mother, 
and, poor child ! had to steel herself against the bitterness 
of destiny. 

She recalled her dreams at Saint- Aubin : an inextricable 
confusion of imaginary adventures and perils, invented at 
pleasure, which she always overcame by her intelligence 
and will. " They had," she says, " given to my thoughts 
I know not what dignity and strength which put them, 
so to speak, above all the tricks of fate." 

Her mother tried to look at things more stoically. Hers 
was a weak nature, romantic to the last degree, and enervated 
by six or seven years of excessive pleasures. She, also, had 
her dreams, but they were idyllic dreams ; she felt that 
women were born to be shepherdesses, and lived only to 


be adored by shepherds. This idyllic conception of life, 
which she was to realise later on, made her oddly amusing 
to the society in which she usually passed for a witty woman. 
On her face, which is full and rather fat, of a noble air and 
perfect poise, the world sees only one side of the medal. 
Felicite" saw the reverse : her inefficiency, her horror of 
domesticity and seclusion, her temper which, apart from 
society, made her cold, peevish, and unapproachable. When 
she saw herself doomed to the most prosaic poverty, Mme. 
du Crest thought only of evading it, of turning her back 
upon misfortune, and of providing her daughter with social 
attainments which would — albeit in a servile fashion — 
eventually give her the entree to that society where she 
hoped, in spite of everything, to make her a success. And 
from the time of their misfortune, she trained Felicite, as 
Lamartine says, " for the doubtful fate of those women 
upon whom Nature has lavished wit and beauty, and to 
whom Society has refused the necessary complement — social 
adventuresses, sometimes elevated and sometimes debased 
by it." x 

In the meantime, until Felicite finds masters who will 
cultivate her musical gifts, Mme. du Crest — Pierre-Cesar 
remaining in Burgundy to settle the remaining confusion 
of debts — set about finding a hospitality similar to that of 
Le Normand, at the house of one of those rich financiers who 
filled their homes with parasites in order to keep up a sort 
of court around them. 

I do not know what ill wind took them to La Popeliniere, 
the Farmer-General, where they would have been well 
advised not to have gone. The consequences cost her and 
her daughter the ill will of everyone. Rivers of ink have 
flowed in connection with this, and many untruths have 
been circulated. It has been said, not so very long ago 
either, that Felicite du Crest and her mother were plucked 
from their wretched Champcery and afterwards shown the 
way to brilliant careers in Paris by La Popeliniere ; Felicite 
has been compared to Jeanne de la Motte, who was picked 
up by Mme. de Boulainvilliers. 

1 Lamartine, Girondins, i. i. xi. 


There is no authority for such statements, which are 
contradicted by contemporaries. Besides, the two ladies 
are not literally in the street, like the unfortunate adventuress 
who imposed upon the Cardinal du Rohan. They at least 
could hope for help and annuities from the Governor of their 
province, the Prince de Conde, and they were not backward 
in asking for them. Finally, had not Mme. du Crest the 
right to her inheritance, which her mother had retained all 
this time ? Better days may come ; but until then they 
had to live somehow. 

It was then that Mme. du Crest approached La Popeliniere, 
whom she had probably met at the house of her cousin de 
Bellevaux, and obtained an invitation to stay with the 
financier at Passy. 

Apart from his immense fortune, La Popeliniere is chiefly 
noted in history on account of a certain revolving chimney, 
invented by his unfaithful wife for the benefit of the Due 
de Richelieu. 1 After the separation which followed that 
notorious love-affair, the wealthy Pollio, as he liked to call 
himself, consoled himself by giving rein to his liking for 
ostentatious entertainment. His house at Passy was open 
to everyone, and was, according to Grimm, " the haunt of all 
grades of society : people of the Court, leaders of fashion, 
men of letters, artists, foreigners, actors and actresses, 
filles-de-joie — all were assembled there." The master of the 
house ironically called it his farmyard. Comedies were played 
there almost every day, very often some of his own rather 
clever pieces, which were made more enjoyable by suppers and 
fireworks ; and other plays which were full of magnificence, 
a pleasure to the eye, the senses, and the mind, which had 
become almost as necessary to Mme. du Crest as her daily 

Indeed, she must have considered Passy and Pollio 
providential blessings. 

Now, how did she pay her expenses ? 

1 Mme. de la Popeliniere, or rather the actress Mimi Dancourt. " The 
financier had, in marrying her, made reparation to her for having wronged 
her during many years " (Feuillet de Conches, Salons de conservation au 
XI I Heme siecle, p. 94). 


The financier's gallant disposition is sufficiently notorious, 
and it has been said again and again that he had a fancy for 
his original and unhappy guest. Of course, proofs are 
lacking. Well, we must remember the morals of the 
period ! Moreover, Mme. de Genlis herself allows it to be 

She gives La Popeliniere such high praise ; she points out 
" his benevolence, his inexhaustible charity " with such 
remarkable zeal ; she insists so much on " his good heart " 
and on his " domestic virtues " ; she asures us that he had 
" the highest principles, the most respectable and regular 
habits " ; she gives so much credit to " the protection 
which he gave to unfortunate artists and authors " ; she 
becomes so indignant that " petty and mean self-conceit 
could have successfully lampooned a noble self-respect, and 
often calumniated even the purest and sincerest intentions of 
Christian charity," that our suspicions are aroused. We 
must do La Popeliniere the justice to say that he really was 
benevolent. This profligate made his profit out of charity. 
However, it is quite certain that Felicite saw everything with 
the eyes of a child, which was fortunate. The proof is that 
she desired to marry Pollio herself, believing him to be 
virtuous in all good faith. She would have been delighted — 
she, who was only thirteen years of age, while La Popeliniere 
was sixty-seven ! And he thought of it too. 

His constant glances and frequent sighs, and an oft- 
repeated phrase — " What a pity she is only thirteen ! " — 
speak clearly enough. " I was annoyed," Mme. de Genlis 
tells us, " that I was not three or four years older, for I 
admired him so much that I should have been charmed to 
marry him." 

Meanwhile, she acted the parts of Agnes and lady's-maids 
admirably in the theatre at Passy ; she danced constantly and 
to perfection in La Popeliniere's drawing-rooms, and the 
financier gave her Deshayes, the master of the Italian comedy 
ballet, and afterwards Gaiffre, an old German harpist of 
repute, who was nicknamed " King David," to teach her the 
art of pleasing by the perfection of her dancing and her 


One can therefore better understand Mme. de Genlis's 
gratitude towards the generous financier to whom she owed 
her knowledge of the harp, the gage of her future success in 

When Mile. Mondran, a native of Toulouse and the star 
of the Passy theatre, finally captured La Popeliniere and 
their marriage was announced, the whole fine company fled — 
Mme. du Crest with the rest. 

She returned to Paris, to the rue Neuve-Saint-Paul, and 
gathered about her many acquaintances whom she had formed 
at Pollio's house, among whom were the Abbe d'Olivet, 
Mme. Riccoboni, Bertin, Rameau the musician, Latour the 
pastellist, and his comrade Van Loo, and Gaiffre. Felicite's 
heart was heavy with regrets, and she remembered the 
Farmer-General with disappointment. " I had conceived 
for him," she says, " a genuine affection." 

Pierre-Cesar came to Paris at this time to say good-bye to 
his wife and daughter before embarking for San Domingo, 
where he hoped to better his fortunes, and his departure 
increased the child's unhappiness. She suffered a terrible 
moral solitude at an age when her heart longed to open itself. 
Mme. du Crest, who was too little interested in her, and 
consequently aloof from her, had never been able to gain 
her daughter's affections. There was no intimacy, no 
demonstration of affection between mother and daughter. 
F^licite " did not do justice to her mother and was only 
affected by the caprices for which she had to suffer," * though 
she had the greatest affection for her father. To speak the 
truth, their misfortunes made the two women very bitter, 
if one can term woman a child who normally would hardly 
have taken the communicant's white veil. She was far from 
the pure and innocent state of mind of children of her age ! 
She had passed through the April of her life among the 
screens and wings of a theatre, and in costumes suitable 
to romantic comedy ; and the atmosphere which she breathed 
at La Popeliniere's house was not precisely edifying. At 
present, the care for the morrow, or rather, the necessity 
for self-assertion in order to escape at any price from her 

1 Souvenirs of the Marquise de Crequy, ii. 92. 


necessitous position, troubled and saddened her. Her chief 
preoccupation is to become a virtuoso, and all her time is 
taken up with music. Lessons succeed each other from six 
in the morning. Pellegrini comes to teach her singing, and 
Philidor the art of accompaniment, and then it is Gaiffre, 
whose out-of-date methods she soon outdistanced and 
reformed. She took up the study of the oboe — in addition 
to the viola, guitar, and clavecin — so well and so successfully 
that the fame of Mile, du Crest was soon noised abroad in 

They came to listen to her as to a prodigy. Everyone 
became infatuated with the harp, and the rumour reached 
even to rue Michel-le-Comte, where Dalembert lodged. 

The philosopher did not resist " the ardent desire " to 
make the acquaintance of the youthful artist, and he ob- 
tained an introduction to her mother's house. Felicite found 
" his appearance mean, his falsetto voice harsh and shrill." 
Briefly, Dalembert displeased her intensely. He began, 
as he usually did, to tell facetious stories, which is not a 
method to be recommended when paying court to a young 
girl. And besides, what was he but a tiresome mathe- 
matician, even if he were of the Academy ; poor and of 
doubtful origin, as compared with the high-born people 
who raved of Felicite' s talent ? 

Mme. de Genlis has complacently enumerated these 
admirers of her youth, who were aspirants to her hand. 
They are the Baron de Zurlauben, an octogenarian, and a 
colonel of the Swiss ; and M. de Monville, a magnificent 
suitor, young, widowed, very rich, handsome, noble, and 
romantic ; besides the mysterious adventurer, the 
Comte de Saint-Germain, who appears to have entered the 

But the first is decidedly too old, the second is not 
of the Court, — a considerable disadvantage, — and the last 
waits until she attains the age of eighteen. 

Greatly flattered by her success, Felicite du Crest feels 
that she is destined to a great future. 

The prestige of her family is lost — so be it ; she feels 
herself great enough to restore it. All she needs is a husband 


in a high position in order to get to the top of the tree. 
La Popeliniere, on account of his wealth, would certainly 
have pleased her more than any other, and she bitterly 
regrets him. But in default of the Farmer-General, she 
is determined to accept none other than a gentleman of the 
Court. The energy of this fifteen-year-old girl, her faith in 
herself, which would have moved mountains, never allowed 
her to doubt her future success. 

Ambition stimulates her courage. It hardly satisfies her 
to be considered a child-prodigy. She will do even more 
if she can. The five hours of harp daily increase to eight 
and nine, sometimes, Mme. de Genlis confesses, to ten or 
twelve rounds of the dial. This appalling overwork lasted 
for more than a year — a year which, spent between her 
mother, for whom her heart remained cold, and her un- 
remitting work, proved to be of tremendous hardship for 
her. She was bothered, moreover, with the worries of a 
regrettable lawsuit, that which had been brought against 
Mme. de la Haie in order to obtain the restitution of the 
famous inheritance. 

How is one to explain this inheritance, which some 
people say never existed, seeing that Mezieres left nothing 
but debts behind him ? An authentic document tells us, 
however, that the monetary assets of this inheritance (6605 
livres) were divided between the creditors, whom it did not 
suffice to pay in full. 

With the exception of some small debts, these creditors 
were La Haie and his wife. Mme. de la Haie, who demanded 
her dowry (6000 livres) and the settlements agreed to in 
her marriage contract, swallowed up everything, even 
to a house situated in Paris, rue Neuve-des-Petits Champs, 
belonging to Mezieres in his own right, with a revenue 
of 2000 livres. She therefore impaired the inheritance of 
her children. This was undoubtedly the cause of the 
lawsuit to which Mme. de Genlis refers in her Memoires, 
where she describes at great length the phases of this re- 
grettable affair. If we are to believe her, Mme. de la Haie 
acted a revolting farce in a pathetic interview with her 
unhappy daughter. 


Feigning to be ill, she begged her, when they had brought 
her to her senses again, " to desist, to trust to her, saying 
that she would lose nothing by giving her this proof of 

The child of the second marriage, now Mme. de Montesson, 
and her brother the Marquis de la Haie joined their entreaties 
to those of the old Marquise, who was desirous of finishing 
a scandalous lawsuit. 

Mme. du Crest, who was greatly moved, thereupon 
signed everything they wished. Shortly afterwards, the 
Marquis de la Haie, who had been the promoter of this 
negotiation — apparently with the intention of rendering 
justice to his half-sister — left for the war and was killed at 

It is almost incredible, but Mme. de la Haie appears to 
have sent word to her daughter " that she had nothing 
further to claim, having admitted so much herself by signing 
her non-suit." This is Mme. de Genlis's version. According 
to Moreau, the lawsuit related to the story of the Bellevaux, 
and the daughters supposed to be Le Normand's, and con- 
tinued for many years. The parties came to terms, he 
says, for fear of annoying Mme. de la Haie by attacking 
her second marriage, which was entered into with scandalous 
precipitation barely three months after the death of poor 
Mezieres. However, Moreau so often confounds persons 
and families that a certain amount of caution is necessary 
concerning his sayings. 

Mme. du Crest, who had anticipated her inheritance to 
meet inevitable debts, fell again into misfortune. She 
remembered her former expedient — that of becoming a 
parasite. We must excuse her for having had recourse 
to it from the first, and it is a relief to find her quietly in- 
stalled with M. and Mme. de Jouy, in their fashionable 
house at Chevilly — a foretaste of Trianon with its farm, 
its dairy of white marble and pearly shell-work, its terraced 
gardens, and its orchards dotted about with summer-houses. 
The two women hid their misfortune here for a while. It 
was a short-lived protection. M. de Jouy's creditors, and 
they are numerous, obtain a warrant of imprisonment 


against him. He is ruined and imprisoned at Pierre-Encise, 
and Mme de Jouy leaves Chevilly and rejoins her family 
at Lyons and her husband, whose prison is quite close. 

The ladies du Crest return to Paris, to live in gilded 
misery, and transfer their household gods to rue d'Aguesseau, 
where one is somewhat astonished to find them apparently 
living a life of some brilliancy. They have a salon. They 
gather about them some artists and writers, besides the 
old fellow-guests at Passy ; Saint-Foix, author of Essais 
sur Paris, whom Sevelinges called " Le Ferrailleur," the 
harpist Honavre, and the famous violinist Gavinies, etc. 

It must be admitted that Felicite met the expenses of 
this establishment by the exploitation of her talents ; not 
that she went about professionally in the sense that we 
should understand it nowadays. Several aristocratic families, 
w r ho were also very fashionable, invited her to supper once 
a week, and remunerated her for her harp-playing and wit 
by " certain little presents " according to Garat, and the 
principal biographers put it at twenty-five louis when the 
performance did not last after midnight. 

One among them, however, denies with some spirit both 
the fact and the indignity. " No decent people," Cour- 
champs declares, " would have been willing to take part in 
the degradation of a noble family and a girl of rank. . . . 

" Besides, Mme. du Crest had two large pensions on the 
State and Clergy of Burgundy, without counting the money 
which she was always receiving from M. le Prince de Conde, 
the Governor of her province. . . . Until the marriage of 
her daughter, at least, she had never spent less in one year 
than 15,000 to 18,000 francs honourably received." 

With all due deference to this chronicler, who is open to 
grave doubt although he visited Mme. de Genlis a great 
deal during the First Empire, the Memoir es of the lady 
herself contradict this. She has never mentioned these 
important revenues, which might have spared her many 
humiliations. On the contrary, she does not allow one to 
overlook the fact that she was received in society on an 
inferior footing, dressed up in her benefactresses' presents — 
such as those dresses of Mme. de la Reyniere, "at a time 


when she wanted everything " ; she lets one see the revolt 
of her self-respect, and the bitterness with which she regarded 
these brilliant gatherings where she and her harp -playing 
were exhibited, when she has to amuse Society with her 
singing and dancing. She is flattered and praised " to 
excess " ; and she blushes till the tears come. The favours 
and promises of indulgent protection are gall to her young 
pride. She became sullen, ashamed, and unnatural because 
of it all ; at every moment the desire to escape seized her, 
a passionate longing for solitude so that she might at least 
hide her mortified vanity. Her secret worries are real and 
bite into her heart like acid. Yet in all this where is the 
degradation to be found ? Is there anything disgraceful in 
the fact of a girl of rank accepting tactfully given remunera- 
tion from the people of her world for concerts on the harp, 
which it must be borne in mind were marvellous ? The 
fact that she suffers through her sensitiveness and yet has 
the courage to sustain her difficult part is all in her favour. 

In truth, the imputation against her rests on no other 
foundation than the hatred and calumny of writers who had 
no respect for anything, and the enemies of Mme. de Genlis. 

Though Talleyrand may say of her shyness that it was 
assumed, we will none the less keep our sympathy for the 
Felicite who was at that time so courageous and charming 
and unspoilt. 

We shall never have a better opportunity of looking at her 
with favourable eyes than at this moment. Let us look at 
her, therefore. The face is a beautiful oval, very slightly 
rounded towards the chin, which shows a little dimple in the 
middle ; the cheeks are firm and pink, with the delicate 
velvety bloom of youth upon them ; the nose, with its 
sensitive nostrils, prettily retrousse ; the eyes are rather 
provoking and are the colour of chestnuts. They sparkle 
with mischief in a frame of thick, bushy hair, falling on the 
nape of her plump neck in curls, as black as sloes, innocently 
seductive. This face, which fifteen summers brighten with 
an ingenuous smile and a look of roguishness, has about it 
the look of a wild flower, and you would have to be very 
keen to detect in it any sign of high ambition. 


The shoulders are plump and the bust well curved. 
Felicite has gained, from her curious early education and 
her former prowess in boy's costume, a graceful quickness, 
easy and alert, a buoyancy of movement which her con- 
temporaries, whom it charmed, praised without reticence. 
Talleyrand, a little later, condemns her elegant figure as 
" being without nobility." The Abbe of Perigord was 
doubtless a good judge, but when he was in a position to 
appreciate her the youthful Genlis was already bordering 
upon the thirties. According to a woman who did not love 
her, her figure had, without being tall, " the right proportion 
which pleases in a woman." 1 

Yes, without a doubt, Mile, du Crest was attractive. 
She was so attractive that, after having only seen her portrait, 
Charles-Alexis Brulart, Comte de Genlis, fell in love with her 
at first sight. 

And so there was to be another romance in the family. 

1 Duchesse d'Abrantes, Salons de Paris, ii. 177. 




Pierre-Cesar did not foresee, when he returned to his 
native land in the midst of the Seven Years War, after 
having unsuccessfully sought his fortune in San Domingo, 
that he was going to find it coming — not to him, alas ! — but 
to his daughter. 

Misfortune would have it — to some misfortune is kind — 
that the English, meeting the vessel which brought him 
home, should make him a prisoner of war. Du Crest was 
sent to Launceston. He became acquainted with a young 
naval officer, French like himself, covered with glorious 
wounds gained at the siege of Pondicherry, and taken, like 
him, by the enemy. Charles-Alexis Brulart, Comte de 
Genlis, then twenty-six years old, had a brilliant record in 
the service ; ensign at eighteen, a Chevalier of Saint Louis 
at twenty-three, and recently promoted captain, he was 
advancing rapidly towards a high rank. 

He formed a friendship for the unfortunate du Crest, who, 
though having met Avith great pecuniary losses, transferred 
his hopes to his children and talked incessantly of his daughter 
and her loveliness, her wit, and her marvellous talents. One 
day, the naval officer saw in du Crest's hands a delightful 
miniature on the lid of a little box — probably a snuff-box — 
from which he was inseparable. It was the portrait of a 


little harpist, her delicate hands clasping the royal instrument 
with a childlike and innocent grace, so touching, that Genlis 
immediately lost his heart. He enthused. Du Crest allowed 
him to see certain passages from the letters of this extra- 
ordinary child. He marvelled. And from that time there 
was no subject of conversation except Felicite between the 
two men. 

As soon as he was at liberty — for his uncle, M. de 
Puysieulx, Minister of Foreign Affairs, had him exchanged for 
an English prisoner shortly after — Charles-Alexis hastened to 
the original of the portrait. 

We can only imagine that first meeting, which has always 
remained a mystery, but everything points to the young 
naval officer not having been disappointed. 

As he was actively engaged in obtaining his friend's 
exchange, Genlis frequently visited the two ladies and kept 
them informed of his attempts, which were rewarded with 
prompt success. M. du Crest arrived at the rue d'Aguesseau 
at the end of three weeks, but his return was the signal for 
an avalanche of creditors' bills at home. 

The unfortunate man brought nothing back from San 
Domingo except some small dainties for his daughter ; 
however, bailiff's men cannot be appeased with calabash 

A bill of exchange for 600 francs, which he was unable to 
meet, forced him to join the actors and others arrested for 
debt at For-1'fiveque, the debtors' prison. Mme. de Genlis 
speaks of this unhappy event with an unusual show of despair. 
People have tried to read in her rather dramatic words — 
which were, however, written some sixty-five years after the 
event — a " good example of the sort of perversity which her 
curious education had bred in her." But why should not one 
take it that this imprisonment came unexpectedly, at a time 
in her life which was already so unhappy, and grieved her 
bitterly, so that she looked upon it as a stigma, and was filled 
with vexation ? Moreover, no help came to alleviate matters 
for her. Mme. du Crest, deaf to all justifiable spite, applied 
in vain to her half-sister, Mme. de Montesson : " she received 
the bluntest and most arbitrary of refusals." The affected, 


lackadaisical Marquise was hurt to the quick in her delicacy ; 
and besides, M. de Montesson was so parsimonious ! 

It would appear that if Pierre-Cesar was able to leave 
For-1'fiveque after a fortnight therein, it was due to M. de 
Genlis, who " rendered him the great service of paying 
everything." x 

However, this last misfortune proved to be the finishing 
blow to the poor man. He buried himself at home, refused 
to go out, and grew more feeble and spiritless day by day. 

A malignant fever soon carried him off, delivering him 
from a life full of vicissitudes. His burial took place at the 
church of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine of the Ville l'fiveque, on 
5th July 1763. 

Du Crest left nothing but debts behind. Two presses 
full of linen and clothes which had seen much wear were all 
that he possessed. It is a curious thing that Le Normand of 
Etioles is to be found " among the claimants on his meagre 
estate," and also Me. Hardy de Juines, the attorney, whose 
fees were still due in part. Mme. du Crest owed 200 francs 
for rent, and she was not likely to be able to support herself 
by her literary efforts. She removed again, thankful to be 
able to go and bury her grief and distress in the convent of 
the Filles du Precieux Sang, 2 in the rue Cassette, where a 
compassionate friend offered her a temporary shelter. In 
this manner she followed the example of many widows of 
the upper class who, according to an old custom, came to 
lament — or otherwise — their husbands in the quiet, religious 
obscurity of a cloister. 

Felicite naturally followed her mother. As to her 
brother, Charles-Louis du Crest, it is not known how he passed 
his time ; at the period when his sister was playing in public 
it is simply stated that he " had not 100 pistoles income." 

What happened to the Comte de Genlis ? 

If he paid the du Crests' creditors, as Michaud has it, the 
two women at any rate did not count upon him, since Mme. 

1 Michaud, Biography. 

2 The Filles du Precieux Sang occupied the site of the house which to-day 
forms the corner of the rue Cassette and the rue de Vaugirard, opposite the 
actual church of the Catholic Institute. 


du Crest lectured her daughter untiringly and begged her to 
accept the elderly Baron d'Andlau, who had pestered her 
with attentions since the death of Pierre-Cesar, whose friend 
he had been. However, Felicite persisted in refusing her 
sexagenarian admirer — who was nevertheless younger than La 
Popeliniere — in spite of his having preceded his request by " a 
large parcel containing his entire genealogy," of very ancient 
deeds and titles. Agnes would have nothing to do with 
Arnolphe — this particular one had, besides, a very disagree- 
able reputation. 1 Had she received a letter ? Had she any 
means of approaching him ? 

Talleyrand's equivocal remark, " being young, pretty 
and lonely, it was by risking a few visits from gentlemen in 
the morning that she obtained a husband," would seem to 
lend colour to this supposition. In any case, it was a fairly 
long walk from the rue Cassette to the rue de Richelieu, 
where the young officer lived, and the meetings could not 
have been frequent. 

We know of nothing, however, that goes to support 
Talleyrand's insinuation, possibly quite baseless. 

A deep mystery has always remained round Mme. de 
Genlis's marriage, and she who " tells us everything " has 
been careful not to clear it up. 

On the other hand, if Genlis has never given up paying 
court to Mile, du Crest, we can understand that he hesitates 
to let himself be drawn into an adventure which can only 
end in a disadvantageous marriage, and which would annoy 
his uncle, who is busy arranging a brilliant alliance for him 
with a young orphan, Mile, de la Motte, whose 40,000 livres 
income will keep up the family position in proper style. 

Charles-Alexis, Comte de Genlis, was descended from the 
noble lineage of the Bruslart, which dated back to Pierre 
Bruslart (1437), who in turn traced his origin to Adam 
Bruslart and his son Geoffroy in the twelfth century — 
in the year 1150, to be exact. In former times the family 
comprised three branches, of which the greater number 

1 " As for the baron . . . the most foolish and dissolute of men, I would 
not have allowed him to marry a decent servant-girl to whom I wished well " 
(J. N. Moreau, op. cit. ii. 185). 



of members occupied high offices. The most celebrated of 
them all is Nicolas Brulart, Marquis de Sillery, King Henry 
iii.'s ambassador and a Chevalier de France in 1607 ; there 
was a Fabio Bruslart, Bishop of Soissons and a member of 
the French Academy in 1705 ; there were several presidents 
of the Burgundian Parlement, bishops, abbes of Saint-Waast, 
and many chevaliers of various orders, etc. It was a power- 
ful family. 

It took the title and the name of Genlis from a large fief 
situated at Hangest-en-Santerre, near Noyon, which formerly 
belonged to the Hangest-Genlis, one of the most illustrious 
families of the province. When it fell to the female line, and 
the inheritance was sold, the de Genlis manor " fell to 
Pierre Brulart, lord of Crosne, Secretary of State, and was 
made a marquisate for his sons and grandsons in 1645. The 
descendants in their turn sold it to the Due d'Aumont, 
through whom it became the duchy of Villequier, but the 
Brulart kept the name of Genlis." 

In the eighteenth century there remained only two 
branches, that of Brulart-Sillery, represented by the Mar- 
quis and Marquise de Puysieulx, and their only daughter, 
who married the Marechal d'Estrees — a childless union ; 
and that of Brulart-Genlis, reduced by the death of Charles 
de Genlis and his wife, nee Charlotte-Franchise d'Hallencourt 
de Dromenil, to their two sons, the Marquis de Genlis and 
Comte Charles-Alexis, who was obviously a great catch. 

Three months had passed since the death of Pierre-Cesar. 
Things dragged on both sides. M. de Puysieulx quietly 
continued his matrimonial projects, and M. de Genlis decided 

Mme. and Mile, du Crest then left the Precieux Sang 
for the convent of Saint -Joseph, rue Saint -Dominique, where 
Mme. du Deffand lived. They remained too short a time 
to form a friendship with Walpole's misanthropical friend, 
and did not even make her acquaintance. 1 At the end 

1 The house of the Filles de Saint-Joseph de la Providence occupied the 
spacious site which is covered to-day by the various buildings for the Ad- 
ministration of War. To the left of the hotel de Brienne, given up to-day 
to the dwelling of the Minister, was the body of a separate house, connected 



of a month they accept the hospitality of the Comtesse de 
Sercey, cul-de-sac de Rohan. And then, very suddenly, 
Felicite du Crest's marriage with the Comte de Genlis took 

Mme. de Genlis's Memoirs affect to mention the event 
as something very natural, foreseen, and almost unimportant, 
in two short lines. 

Not a word of her betrothal — or of her romance. 

However, she cannot persuade us that, even in this 
" sensible " century, marriages between rich titled gentlemen 
who are men of mark and impoverished girls of very inferior 
birth are so common. 

It was a love match. For all that, the brave, well-born 
sailor is by no means a novice to be captivated by the 
innocent coquetry of a schoolgirl. Biographers have be- 
stowed upon him such flattering and fashionable names as 
" roue" " and " libertin blase," and attributed to him the 
" cursed passion for gambling, which outweighed (with 
him) that for women." x His small stature, his handsome 
lively face with its refined features and delicate lips, his 
open look, and his long, aristocratic nose revealed his ele- 
gance and refinement, while his expression showed daring 
with that air of premature fatigue of men who have lived 
hard. Everything about him was eloquent of his breeding 
and good taste. We know that he bore an extraordinary 
resemblance to the Abbe de Ranee, or rather to the celebrated 
portrait by Rigaud of the Trappist reformer. There was a 
similarity of feature, but not one of character. 2 

Certainly there is no one better able to appreciate the 
fair musician whose beautiful arms so gracefully clasped the 

by a small court, to which access was gained by the rue Saint-Dominique. 
In this part of the house, independent from that where the nuns shut them- 
selves up, certain apartments of an unobtrusive elegance were let to fashionable 
ladies, widows, spinsters, or those separated from their husbands (Marquis 
de Segur, Julie de VEspinasse, p. 79). 

1 Dufort de Cheverny, Memoirs, i. 175. 

2 When Mme. de Genlis and her pupils visited, in 1788, La Trappe, they 
admired the copy of Rigaud's portrait at the convent, and remarked upon 
the extraordinary resemblance of the Abbe de Ranee to M. de Genlis. But 
Mme. de Genlis says that he had not the pallor of the ascetic (Cf. Clarisse 
Bader, Les Princes d'OrUans a la Trappe en iy88, p. 12). 


golden harp, who made one think of Saint Cecilia charming 
the pathetic Valerian. However, she was never Cecilia 
nor he Valerian, and the Comte de Tremont remarks that 
" if he married Mile, du Crest in an entirely romantic manner, 
M. de Genlis had nothing romantic in his character." * 

Nevertheless, Felicite was a charming Eve. Could any- 
one be more naively seductive, more innocent, or more 
youthful and artistic ? 

Is it the first time that she has played Agnes ? 

This roue was, on the whole, very faithful. He showed it 
to some extent in politics later on. He did not give way to a 
moment of feverish emotion, and his very natural hesitation 
— very natural when one thinks of M. de Puysieulx and his 
leltre-de-cachet with which this terribly vigilant guardian 
had formerly given his ward three years' imprisonment 
at Pierre-Encise, for a game of tric-trac which lasted eight 
days and cost the imprudent young man 100,000 ecus — lasted 
for some time. 

Would Felicite have conquered it by herself and the 
unique charm of her beautiful chestnut eyes, if that clever, 
worldly match-maker, Mine, de Sercey, besides had not 
taken a hand ? 

To her, certainly, is due the success of this uncertain 
game of love and chance, which is so often unlucky. And if 
Mme. de Montesson brought to it, as has been supposed — in 
spite of Mme. de Genlis's contradictions — her already great 
influence and her support as a great lady in society, so 
much united feminine skill formed around the undecided 
and enamoured Genlis a quartette as subtle as it was 

The really mysterious point about the whole affair is the 
feelings of the young girl. Did Charles-Alexis, who was 
thoroughly in love with the charming canoness, get back 
what he gave ? Mme. de Genlis affects a reserve to the 
point of silence on this delicate subject. 

When, at seventy-five, she wrote her Memoirs, she was 
absolutely swayed by the doctrines of " good form " and was 
a qualified professor of deportment, and she does not allow 
1 Comte de Tremont, unpublished document concerning Mme. de Genlis. 


anything to appear concerning the state of her heart when 
she was betrothed (if indeed she still remembered it). She 
therefore leads us to believe that she accepted her marriage 
with submission ; that she had nothing to do with it, and 
that it entered into the usual order of things. As Talleyrand 
remarked maliciously : " Tant bien que mal, elle epousa." 

As a matter of fact, the marriage was at least celebrated 
in the most correct fashion possible. 

A formal contract was prepared a fortnight before at 
Mme. de Sercey's by Me. Lenoir, the notary. Genlis acknow- 
ledged having received 40,000 livres as Mile, du Crest's 
dowry, which dowry was probably never paid over, but 
served to explain a jointure of 7000 livres income allowed to 
the young wife. Husband and wife bestowed all their 
worldly goods upon each other in usufruct, which did not 
bind Felicite in the least. M. de Genlis, it is true, brought no 
more than 15,000 livres to the common estate ; the surplus, 
that is to say, his inheritance, from his father and mother, and 
that from a brother and a maternal great-uncle, had to revert 
to his family. Moreover, he admitted having 20,000 francs 
of debts. 

This contract is only signed by near relatives, the Com- 
tesse de Sercey, Felicite' s aunt, the Comtesse du Jeu, and 
Charles-Louis du Crest, the brother. The bridegroom had 
as witnesses Antoine Hanicque, equerry, a former Governor 
of the Pages of the King's Stable, the Sieur Bertheaud, 
a brigadier of Paris, and Demary, the former tutor to the 
young Marquis de la Haie, and afterwards steward to Mme. 
de Montesson ; these latter were almost unknown people. 

In the afternoon of the same day, the 30th October 1763, 
the Comte de Genlis settled upon his mother-in-law, by 
special deed, a yearly income of 1200 livres, payable every 
six months, and insured it by means of a mortgage on all her 
possessions. In consideration of this, he acknowledged 
having received from Mme. du Crest the sum of 15,000 livres 
" in gold and silver louis and money in currency." 

The du Crests, for once, lost nothing in the business. 

Their admirable precautions surrounded the chief event 
with the greatest mystery. Never was a secret so well kept. 


Up to the present day it was unknown at which church the 
marriage took place. 

In fact, none of the contemporary memoirists speak of 
it. Mme. de Genlis simply says : " We left Saint-Joseph and 
went to live with Madame la Comtesse de Sercey, my aunt, 
who lived in the cul-de-sac de Rohan. I married there in her 

The author of La Jeunesse d'une femme celebre concludes 
that it was the church of Saint-Roch, relying upon a similarity 
of names and judging that the cul-de-sac de Rohan must be 
found in the neighbourhood of the Rue de Rohan itself. Old 
maps of Paris show a sort of passage named Cours de Rohan, 
with, in fact, a triple courtyard, connecting the Rue du 
Jardinet, formerly called Rue de l'Escureul, with the Cour du 
Commerce. Lefeuve says these courtyards call to mind the 
fact that in 1584 the Archbishop of Rouen resided in the 
buildings on this site, which dated back to the Middle Ages. 
It appears there was still the base of a tower to be seen, 
which formerly formed part of the body of the place in 
Philippe-Auguste's time. The de Rohan family had possessed 
the block until the Revolution. However, these courtyards 
were nothing but a cul-de-sac in 1714. Almost all this 
quarter has disappeared since the opening up of the boulevard 
Saint-Germain, but the rue du Jardinet still exists, and its 
position leads us to place the Crest-Genlis marriage at the 
church of Saint -Andre des Arts. 

Nevertheless, this hypothesis — rendered still more prob- 
able by the declaration of Felicite's contract of her domicile 
as " cul-de-sac de Rohan, parish of Saint-Andre des Arts " — 
awaits historical confirmation, that undeniable proof with- 
out which there can be no certainty ; a proof which the 
destruction of all the old Paris registers makes very unlikely. 
We have, however, found a formal document among the 
old registers : the very declaration of Etiennette-Felicite du 
Crest's marriage-contract, in the genealogical archives of 
MM. Pavy and Andriveau. It is certainly at the church of 
Saint-Andre des Arts on the 8th November 1763 (not Decem- 
ber, nor in 1762, as has been stated), at midnight — according 
to the custom in great families — and with the greatest 


secrecy that Charles-Alexis Brulart joyfully took the final 
and irretrievable step. 1 

The next day Paris heard the news. 

What a scandal it was among the nobility ! It raised 
an outcry on all sides. 

People enjoyed themselves to their hearts' content 
criticising the marriage, and did not hesitate to call the 
young wife an " intrigante." As always happens, they 
exceeded the limit : they attacked Felicite's reputation. 

M. de Puysieulx's anger was terrible. This alone formed 
the subject of conversation for many days, and helped 
not a little (for the Minister was powerful) to rouse public 
opinion against the young couple, and to make most of 
their friends and supporters shut their doors in the faces of 
the unfortunate Brularts. 

M. de Genlis in vain humbly presented himself and his 
wife at the hotel de Puysieulx, and at the house of the 
Marechale d'Estrees. They were not received. His grand- 
mother, the Marquise de Dromenil, did not even answer 
Felicite's courteous letter. The only sympathy the Comte 
and Comtesse de Genlis received the day after their exploit 
was from the Marquis de Genlis, whom it would have ill 
become to be shocked by his brother's marriage ; and from 
M. and Mme. de Balincourt, distant relatives, who showed 
them " tokens of friendship " ; and finally from Mme. de 
Montesson, who paid a polite visit to Mme. du Crest, an act 
of politeness to which, according to Felicite, she confined 
herself. " The marriage pleased her vanity." 

The young couple did not try the patience of their relatives 
for more than ten days, and, ceasing to knock at doors which 
remained stubbornly locked, they left for Genlis, where the 
Marquis received them with open arms. 

The harsh condemnation of a society which showed so 
much leniency in other respects to many more reprehensible 
evils than a love-marriage, did not prevent Felicite from 
enjoying her novel position. 

Her new happiness — let us not say unhoped-for — intoxi- 

1 We owe this item to M. Andriveau, who has himself had to look up the 
document in his lists of marriages in Paris from 1740 to 1793. 


cates her. She exults in it. She does not know how to 
show her gratification, and in her joy comes out with a 
thousand original freaks. She feels she must astonish people 
in order to justify her fame as an extraordinary girl. Some- 
times she lays claim to " the pretensions of a person who 
was a stranger to no country occupation," and goes off to 
fish in the ponds in a light dress and little white embroidered 
shoes ; and sometimes, to prove that she is not " a pretty lady 
from Paris," shedevours a live fish without a qualm. "Every- 
one was amazed," says she. There was some reason for it. 

And when the honeymoon was over, M. de Genlis was 
obliged to rejoin his regiment at Nancy — he had passed 
from the navy to the army, from the rank of a captain of a 
ship to that of a colonel of the French Grenadiers, on the 
23rd February 1763 — and not wishing to expose his young 
wife to the dangers of Stanislaus's court, he left her for some 
time at the abbey of Origny, where she amused herself in 
the most extravagant way at everyone's expense. 

Neither the nuns, whom she covered with rouge and 
patches while they were asleep ; nor the abbess, whom she 
defied by running away, disguised as a peasant, to a village 
wedding in order to dance all day long ; nor her own maid, 
the unfortunate Mile. Beaufort, who was nearly fifty years 
old, whom she dressed up to act sometimes as a Prince 
Charming and sometimes as an idyllic shepherdess, 1 satisfied 
her thirst for pleasure. She enjoyed herself so well that, 
when M. de Genlis came to fetch his wife, she refused to 
leave, and asked for a month s grace. A " curt and absolute " 
refusal made her shed many tears, but she obeyed and made 
up for it at Genlis. It would need a large volume to describe 
her eccentricities at that time. She takes milk baths. At 
nightfall she plays ghosts at the doors of inns, crying out : 
" Good people, do you sell sacrcchien ? " 2 and running 
away to the back, laughing enough " to fall to the ground." 

1 These were little white dresses edged with ribbons of different colours, 
a straw hat trimmed with flowers (which was worn over the ear) ... a 
shepherd's crook. And Mile. Beaufort was forty-five years old, her hair 
was grey, she had a pimply face, and her two front teeth were missing (Genlis, 
Memoirs, i. 184). 

2 A name given to brandy. 


She loses herself while hunting, and all the manor turns out 
to look for her, and her husband feels almost ready to die with 
fright. She takes a fancy to learn the science of bleeding 
under the surgeon of la Fere, and afterwards under Cha- 
mousset, and you find her running about the countryside 
with her case of surgical instruments in her hand. As she 
accompanied each bleeding with a piece of twenty-four or 
thirty sous, she did not lack customers. Usually the village 
barber, a M. Racine, the iEsculapius of the place, followed 
her and managed her consultations, and the patients at any 
rate gained sometimes by having tisanes and broths, instead 
of expensive emetics from M. Racine. 

She led the dance everywhere with a frenzy of vitality, a 
fervour of excitement, and an irresistible gaiety and high 
spirits which made her much talked of. 

The Genlis's neighbours — respectable provincial nobility 
of patriarchal morals — are old and burdened with large 
families, and are besides very austere and domesticated. 
That does not stop her. Mme. de Genlis will visit them, 
shake up their torpor, and make them act in a play. 

And in very truth, wherever she shall appear hereafter, a 
theatre springs up and works as if by magic. 

Is the Genlis manor without a stage and wings ? 

Quick ! a builder to construct one, and a painter to 
paint the scenery ! 

The painter, a certain Tirmane, brought specially from 
Saint-Quentin, has a history. He was a curious half-crazy 
person, in whom Moliere would have delighted ; a sort of 
Don Quixote of the brush, who was convinced " that he had 
the talent of Raphael and Rubens, and could paint the 
ceiling of a room very well." 

Tirmane became — as did the Chevalier de la Mancha 
formerly — the hero, or scapegoat, of a thousand ludicrous 
enterprises. Mme. de Genlis, with impish ingenuity, used 
to hoax him unceasingly. Among other things, she played 
pranks upon him during his vigils ; she had him robbed in 
the middle of the day by a gardener disguised as a thief, 
and everyone laughed at the piteous figure of the unfortunate 
man as he returned to the house in scanty attire. These 


frivolities went on for eight months. Let us refrain from 
describing them, as it would take away the freshness of 
Mme. de Genlis's amusing account, the reading of which can 
be recommended to people who are bored. 

It is a curious thing that these pranks, the outcome 
merely of heedless youth and a boundless delight in life, 
have nearly all been brought up against her bv her enemies. 

The innocent occasion of her first appearance on horseback 
with old Jean, who placed her astride on the gardener's 
horse, and in this way initiated her into the mysteries of 
riding, has seemed an incident of the most vicious intent ; 
and the fact of taking " a course of anatomy, doctoring, 
bleeding, and purging, etc." — an innovation — has been 
eagerly turned to ridicule. 

However, this foolish yet clever Comtesse could do nothing 
by halves. The impetus of her desires is such that, at a 
moment when her life was crammed with agreeable employ- 
ment, her unusual wish for knowledge and learning — for a 
time abated and subservient to the material care for her 
daily bread — awoke stronger, increased tenfold by the com- 
pulsory delay during those years of poverty. 

Married, and comfortably settled down, living with great 
freedom the easy and amusing life of a chatelaine, Mmc. de 
Genlis realised as never before the deficiencies in her educa- 
tion. She began to find the country monotonous, and a 
great desire to read more took possession of her. However, 
she was so ignorant that she did not know where to begin, 
and she could make no choice. History attracted her ; 
then a treatise on geometry fell into her hands. " I saw," 
she says, " by the advertisement that it was so easy that a 
child of twelve would understand it," and she began on it. 

She could not see anything in it, and M. de Genlis laughed 
" at her silliness," so she fell back on Roman history. She 
ransacked the splendid library at Genlis, and inaugurated, 
during the visit of a friend, M. de Sauvigny, 1 whom she had 
met in other days at the Convent of Saint-Joseph, a series 
of daily meetings at which they read aloud. In this way 
she read the Lettres de Mme. de Sevigne, the Provinciates, and 

1 Edme-Louis Billardon de Sauvigny (i 730-1802). 


the dramas of Corneille. She also set herself the task of 
summarising these readings in writing ; and having discovered 
a large blank book-size folio in the kitchen, intended for the 
accounts, she took possession of it, and this plebeian portfolio 
became the "Diary" of the Comtesse, who confided to it 
every night the account of her occupations and reflections. 
This curious record has unfortunately been lost. It dis- 
appeared after the death of Mme. du Crest. 

We may note, finally, the large correspondence which the 
youthful Genlis kept up. Without counting her daily letter 
to her mother, she scribbles three a week to Mme. de Montes- 
son ; and the others were to Mme. de Bellevaux, with whom 
the quarrel was made up : to Mme. de Balincourt, a friend at 
the convent of Origny, living in Valenciennes : an advocate 
at Douai ; Feutry, poet and translator of Robinson Crusoe, 
etc. ; which nearly completed a round dozen of weekly 

These pleasant or intellectual pursuits served her only as 
a palliative. These things could not take the place of Paris. 
She had been at Genlis for two years, and save for one 
glorious holiday — three weeks at Arras, where the colonel 
commanded the garrison, and where, contrary to custom, 
she followed her husband — an infringement which was 
heartily welcomed by the Grenadiers — the petulant Com- 
tesse imagined herself exiled in its domains. 

How much she must have dreamed and reflected beneath 
the sad, grey skies of Picardy. What inexhaustible subjects 
present themselves to her imagination in the Court, the city, 
and the society which refused her entrance, and into which 
she longs to gain admittance. Are her youth, her charm, her 
beauty to fade hidden away from the sun ? 

There cannot be many people in that gay and complex 
Paris to talk about the du Crests after a period of two years. 

Her mother has married the rejected suitor, the Baron 
d'Andlau, eighteen months after the marriage of her daughter. 
It was an unfortunate choice, for the old man had nothing 
but his name and a small life annuity. 

As to Charles-Louis du Crest, he has taken service and 
does not live in Paris. 


And after all, has not time abated many a resentment ? 

She was alone one day, and was probably feeling very dull. 
M. de Genlis has had to go to Paris to his brother, who is ill. 

A mad idea crosses the lonely woman's mind — supposing 
she were to rejoin her husband ? 

She has no carriage. So much the worse, she will do 
without one. 

Mme. la Comtesse calls her servant, Lemire, and Mile. 
Victoire, her maid, and gives them her orders. Lemire lends 
his top-boots, which are too large, and he remedies this by 
packing Mme. de Genlis's legs in straw. She dresses herself 
in her husband's clothes, and Mile. Victoire puts on Lemire's 
riding-coat and breeches. Thus equipped, the three are about 
to ride on horseback along the road to Paris, when the 
startled and more prudent postmaster brings forward a 
carriage " without curtain or glass," wherein Mme. de Genlis 
— cursing and fuming, and regretting " her stout boots and 
the glory of riding twenty-five leagues at full speed " — 
starts off in the pouring rain. She sticks to her masculine 
attire, and is trundled along all night. 

M. de Genlis proved " strangely surprised " at the 
unexpected arrival of his wife. Perhaps he suspected that 
it was more the attraction of Paris than her love for him 
which had inspired this foolish escapade. 

The young Comtesse, anyhow, gained six weeks of pleasure 
— in particular, a ball at the Spanish Embassy. Mme. de 
Montesson opened her salon to her. Mme. de Boulain- 
Villiers and the Marquise de Saint-Charmant condescended 
to half-open their own to the young couple, but Mmes. de 
Puysieulx and d'Estrees rigorously ostracised her. 

Shortly afterwards, the Marquis de Genlis married 
Mile, de Vilmeur, an orphan, and the young sister-in-law, 
who acted as mother to the bride, had the humiliation of 
seeing Mme. de Puysieulx turn aside from her, and all the 
other ladies present at the wedding imitate the powerful 
Marquise's frigid silence at her expense. 

There was nothing for it but to leave things alone. Mme. 
de Genlis, who had expectations of becoming a mother, 


hoped that the de Puysieulx's spiteful indifference would 
not be able to resist the innocent smile of a baby's lips. 

In the meantime, she wrote Les Reflexions aVune mere de 
vingt am" 1 " She was a writer above everything," Sainte- 
Beuve says later, with his usual penetration ; as yet he 
did not know of these early Reflections, which were also 
lost, together with the kitchen accounts, but their substance 
seems to have formed in part Adele et Theodore. 

Mme. de Genlis, who had been settled for a month in 
anticipation of the event at the cul-de-sac Saint-Dominique, 
in the heart of the faubourg Saint-Germain, gave birth on 
the 4th September 1765 to her first child, a girl, whom they 
named Caroline. 

The birth of the child obliged the relations to make a 
formal visit. It was Mme. d'Estrees who performed the 
unpleasant duty, accompanying it with a present of beautiful 
Indian fabrics. The Marshal's wife added a polite formula : 
the relations would receive the young mother with much 
pleasure and would present her at Court. 

These words could not be taken as a sign of gracious 
reconciliation or of forgiveness of old grievances. They 
were dictated by pride of birth. 

Presentation at Court necessitating proofs of nobility, 
went to prove that the Minister Puysieulx's nephew had 
not degraded himself, since his wife's claims could bear 
the closest scrutiny by the royal genealogists without any 
fear. Mme. de Puysieulx, in chaperoning her new niece 
at Versailles, vouched merely for the honour of the family, 
which shone with the same proud integrity, and did not 
deny her private grudge. 

At her first visit, five weeks after her confinement, Mme. 
de Genlis saw plainly that nothing was changed, by the 
haughtiness and stiffness of her husband's aunt. 

She herself remained " cold and silent." This first 
interview was void of any sympathy. 

The second, a week later, showed more painfully the 
hostility between the two women. This was for the pre- 

1 She was not nineteen years old, and had then only the hope of maternity 
(Louis Chabaud, Mme. de Genlis, p. 203). 


sentation, the great day in the lives of well-born ladies. 
It was a day which needed unending preparation — the 
rehearsal of curtseys which Gardel had just taught, or 
the attire, the great Court dress with its long train, or the 
dressing of the hair, all of which were regulated by an in- 
exorable etiquette. 

Mme. de Genlis slept the night before at Versailles, 
with Mme. d'Estrees, and early the next day, the torture, 
made even more unbearable by the Puysieulx's ill grace, 

" Mesdames de Puysieulx and d'Estrees really perse- 
cuted me," Mme. de Genlis tells us, "... they had my 
hair dressed three times, and decided upon the style which 
was most old-fashioned and unbecoming to me. They 
compelled me to put on a lot of powder and rouge, two 
things that I hated ; they wished me to wear my stiff bodice 
at dinner, in order, they said, to accustom myself to it. 
These stiff bodices left the shoulders uncovered, cut the 
arms, and were horribly uncomfortable ; in addition to 
which, they had me laced to the utmost tightness in order 
to show my figure off." 

" Mother and daughter then had a bitter quarrel on 
the subject of my collarette, as to the way to fasten it. 
They were seated and I was standing and tired out during the 
dispute. That collarette was tried on and taken off me at 
least four times, and finally Mme. d'Estrees took it away, on 
the advice of three of her maids, which very much annoyed 
Mme. de Puysieulx. I was so tired that I could hardly keep 
up, when we had to go to dinner." 

Mme. de Genlis could neither breathe nor eat at dinner, 
she was so tight -laced. The repast was enhanced by unending 
discussions on the subject of her toilet. Finally, when 
her hoop petticoat and skirt were on, and the curtseys 
rehearsed, Mme. de Genlis thought herself delivered, but 
Mme. de Puysieulx " forbade her to push her skirt gently 
back with her foot, as she retired backwards, saying that 
it was theatrical. I explained to her that I should entangle 
my feet in it, and should fall. She repeated, with a cold, 
imperious voice, that it was theatrical. I did not reply." 


Happily, the terrible trial passed off well. Beneath the 
blue eyes of Louis xv., Mme. de Genlis forgets all her tortures. 
She thinks the King " very handsome," she admires " that 
royal and majestic something which distinguished him 
noticeably from all other men." 

The Queen appeared to her as " a charming little old 
lady." Lying upon a couch, "in a lace night-cap with 
large sprigs of diamonds (ear-rings)," Marie-Leczinska 
spoke to the young Comtesse with gracious words, said 
with a charming smile, and in a tone of voice which was 
faint, but sweet and " went to the heart." 

The day ended with Mesdames the daughters of the 
King, and with the children of France. Mme. de Genlis 
afterwards lived at Genlis, and continued to revolutionise 
peasants and neighbours with her theatrical entertainments, 
her harp, and the doctoring, which she practised with the 
greatest enthusiasm, her Tissot and lancet in her hand, 
and always in the company of the barber. 

She ended by carrying her zeal to excess ; so much 
so that she felt impelled to abstain from bleeding without 
the assistance of a surgeon, in order to put a stop to scandal. 
At this time she wrote a novel of which the title alone 
has come down to us : Les dangers de la celebrite. 



The birth of a second daughter, Pulcherie, interrupts 
only for a moment the round of gaieties which have 
come to form the normal existence of Mine, de Genlis. 
Every kind of entertainment arouses her restless ardour 
— visits, private theatricals, music, suppers, and the 

Mine, de Montesson, the " tantatre " so assiduously culti- 
vated, has already introduced her into many of the salons, 
and she has the entree also to those of former friends : the 
Marquise de Beuvron, the Comtesse d'Harville, Mmes. de 
Balincourt and de Custine, and the Duchesse de Liancourt. 
As yet, Mine, de Genlis is admitted rather than sought after 
in a society very quick to notice all distinctions, and she 
anxiously awaits the first steps and expressions of patronage 
which are undoubtedly doled out according to the attitude 
of the Puysieulx, whose forgiveness tarries in spite of two 
or three formal invitations. 

She lacks, also, knowledge of Court customs, having had 
up to the present scant intercourse with the highest society. 
Her deportment suffers in consequence ; it is not confident, 
nor has it the supreme ease which is necessary. Her charms 
continue to be those of a debutante. She has vivacity, 
piquancy, " few features in her conversation," although her 
wit was " already very caustic." She has also an intelligent 
expression, many accomplishments, and good-humour, but 
she is a little nervous and awkward, because sympathy, which 
would allow her qualities to appear, is lacking around her. 
The Duchesse d'Abrantes does not refrain from saying that 


" Mme. de Genlis never had the bearing of a great lady in 
society." x 

She was not very much of a success at Isle-Adam, where 
Mme. de Montesson presented her soon after the birth of 

Isle-Adam is the kingdom of the arbiter of fashion. It is 
even more difficult of access than the Court. The highest 
nobility and the most aristocratic young people scintillated 
there in full magnificence under the undisputed direction of 
Mmes. de Luxembourg and de Boufflers. The old Marquise 
holds the sceptre here and leads the fashion. Her utterances 
are oracular. She can launch a young woman into society 
with a single word. Her support is equivalent to a certificate, 
and it is advisable to obtain it, for the Prince de Conti has so 
great an esteem for her that he always ratifies it. 

Mme. de Genlis did not omit this social duty, and leads us 
to believe that she attracted the interest of the Marechale. 
Nevertheless, the Prince did not depart from his attitude of 
rather disdainful haughtiness towards her, which unnerved 
her to the last degree. She could not overcome her awkward- 
ness and embarrassment, and did not make much impression 
on him, in spite of her pretty face. The Prince remained 
cold even after a wonderful sonata on the harp and some 
verses which she sang in the famous theatre — to say nothing 
of a certain part in Le Savetier et le Financier, in which she 
almost achieved success, her self-possession having returned. 
Ordinary fascination was powerless before this greatpersonage. 

It was not the same at Villers-Cotterets. The Duke of 
Orleans 2 is a charming prince, full of good-nature and 
cordiality. If he receives few ladies, it is because the 
dowagers and ladies of the Court hesitate to rub elbows in 
public with Mile. Le Marquis, a ballet-dancer in the Comedie- 
Italienne, who has been honoured since the death of the 
Duchess by an open liaison with the first Prince of the blood. 
His Highness has therefore restricted his invitations to the 

1 Duchesse d'Abrantes, Paris Salons, ii. 166. 

2 Louis-Philippe d' Orleans, son-in-law of the Regent, and father of Philippe- 
Egalite (1725-77), married in 1744 Henriette de Bourbon-Conti ; died on 
8th February 1759. 



ladies of his family ; and neither the old Marquise de Segur, 
nor the strait-laced Comtesse de Pont, could take umbrage 
at the youthful appearance of Mmes. de Montesson and 
de Genlis, who have now an opportunity to make up for the 
background to which they were relegated at Isle-Adam ! 

The Duke takes a deep interest in dramatic art and litera- 
ture, and Mme. de Genlis is very successful in acting proverbs, 
charades, amateur theatricals, and even operas, elaborately 
staged by the Prince's builders, Sedaine and Colle, while the 
stout Prince devours her with his eyes. He himself takes the 
part of peasants with " great frankness." Mme. de Genlis 
arouses such enthusiasm that the Prince begs her to act every 
night, and orders her portrait to be painted by Carmontelle. 
Her skill on horseback delights him by day. 

M. de Puysieulx is moved to indulgence in view of such 
success. He could scarcely show greater severity than the 
first prince of the blood. He therefore invites the repentant 
nephew and niece to Sillery. Mme. de Dromesnil has already 
forgiven them. As to the Marquise, if at first there was a 
coolness between her and Mme. de Genlis, it is because our 
strongest dislikes and feelings of resentment die hard. Mme. 
de Puysieulx, however, overcame her own in six days. As 
Talleyrand says, her niece " was well aware that here lay 
the key to her entry into society, and she therefore brought 
all her talents into play." A scene of tearful emotion, which 
she had the wit not to restrain, " disarmed Mme. de 
Puysieulx's former bitterness." l The rubicon was crossed. 
Finally, the enemy — alternately laughing and kissing her, 
astonishing her with her witty sallies and her youthful 
loveliness — became the spoiled darling of the old lady, 
allowing herself to be corrected, for the Marquise was fond 
of preaching, " with a perfect equanimity of temper and that 
natural tractability which never allowed others to suspect 
that one had the impertinent desire to rule." 

M. de Puysieulx, " the most ennuye man of his day," 
did not resist the charms which his attentive niece dis- 
played in his honour. The clever Countess made little of 
playing the harp, and composing verses adapted to the 

1 Memoirs of the Prince de Talleyrand. 


question of the hour, or of getting up proverbs, learning the 
dulcimer, and dressing herself up — laying herself out in 
every way on every occasion. One can well imagine her as 
she accompanied the Minister on his morning rides, when 
she fascinated him to such an extent that he had a pretty 
stage and wings erected, in fact a complete theatre, the 
indispensable accessary to all entertainments. Soon after 
this he gave further evidence of his affection by a princely 
gift, the revenue of the governorship of Epernay, which 
amounted to 7000 livres annual income. This, added to the 
12,000 livres a year and M. de Genlis's pay, allowed of the 
household being kept up in greater style. 

Mme. de Genlis begins to count for something in society 
from the time she returns to Paris in the winter of 1767. 
She has been received under the wing of Mme. de Montesson 
until then — now the foundations are laid. 

She throws herself into a whirlpool of pleasures with the 
incredible eagerness which characterises all her undertakings. 

Amateur theatricals form her battlefield — a battlefield 
upon which her forces are always victorious. She acts at 
home, at Isle-Adam and elsewhere, with no respite in spite 
of her condition — a son was born in the spring — and to her 
alone is due the fashion of social theatricals. 

This is Mme. de Genlis's first period of real brilliance. 
It is all the more intoxicating because it comes to her in the 
springtime of her youth when she is in the prime of health, 
and at a time when beauty, youth, and strength develop the 
body and mind. She is twenty-two years old, and her face 
has kept the immobility of childhood. There is a bewitching 
glance in her almond-shaped eyes. The joy of life is always 
lurking in her marvellous smile, and her mouth, which is per- 
haps a trifle large, is well cut and shows her pearly and regular 
teeth. She has a graceful, swanlike neck, and her nose, 
fairly large and slightly turned up like the famous Roxelana 
nose, " gave her face a piquant expression which, added to the 
spirit of observation which dominated everything in this 
pretty head, made her singularly attractive." 1 As to her 
figure, which is slighted by Talleyrand, Mme. d'Abrantes 

1 Duchesse d'Abrantds, Paris Salons, iii. 177. 


will say that " it was charming at this time : it was slender 
and lissome and prettily rounded, and her every attitude 
was graceful and unpremeditated." 

Everything about her breathed happiness and content- 
ment. At the time of the Proverb quadrilles at the Opera 
ball, a great deal of jealousy was caused by Gardel writing 
a ballet specially to Mme. de Genlis's music. According to 
the description of contemporary writers, the quadrille had 
hardly begun when an enormous cat with flaming eyes and 
menacing claws interrupted it with loud caterwauls. It was 
chased and beaten, and chased again, but it persisted and 
quite put an end to the figure. The interrupter was merely 
a little Savoyard disguised, apparently put up to it by the 
young Duke of Chartres, who revenged himself in this way 
for not having been invited to help in the organisation of the 
dancing proverbs. 

The general opinion later on was that he fell in love at 
first sight that evening with Mme. de Genlis, who was dressed 
as a peasant girl. 

However, this ball established the pretty Comtesse, and 
her salon had a great reputation thenceforth. She gathered 
about her artists and scholars who made it attractive by their 
sense of art and poetry and their intellectuality, " which was 
sufficiently unusual in the highest society." 

It is believed that Chamfort and Lemierre took part in 
the production of charades, ballets, and musical plays in 
which little social incidents were pictured. The music, 
thanks to Mme. de Genlis's talent with the harp, guitar, 
small oboe, and other instruments, held the first place, and the 
theatricals always ended with a concert conducted by Cramer. 

Among the people who frequented her salon were the 
Comte d'Albaret, a Southerner, the President de Perigny, 
the Abbe Arnaud, the Chevaliers de Talleyrand and de Bar- 
bentane, the Abbe Delille, M. de Sauvigny, M. de Verac and 
his wife, the Vicomte and Vicomtesse de Custine, Mines, de 
Brancas, de Ranee, etc. Mme. de Montesson never went ; 
her niece's prestige began to threaten her own. It had 
received the hall-mark of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the in- 


Mme. de Genlis had, indeed, made the acquaintance of 
the philosopher shortly before this period. Her husband 
brought him in one day and introduced him for fun as the 
actor Preville, who resembled Rousseau slightly. 

Mme. de Genlis, quite taken in, had all the difficulty in 
the world in controlling herself, and replied to him in a very 
cavalier manner, said many foolish things, and finally ap- 
peared to be surprisingly merry — all of which seemed to 
Jean-Jacques the perfection of artlessness. He went away 
charmed with such an original young woman, so " free from 
pretensions." And he returned to dine and play fragments 
from the Devin du village, and to read his Pygmalion, for 
Mme. de Genlis confessed that she did not know his work. 
He also gave her his novels. It began as it always did — 
and ended as it always did, so far as he was concerned. 

He believed he had found in this young woman a pure 
heart, an innocent mind, a sweet, uncorrupted nature as free 
from artificiality as a sunny meadow, such as he was always 
eagerly seeking. He went towards the meadow and en- 
thusiastically gathered the flowers from it. But at the end 
of three months he thought such an abundance of charms 
might be deceptive ; he seemed to see a shadow fall across 
the field, a wicked, deceitful shadow which attracted him 
onty to blind him and strangle his liberty and persecute him. 
He did not think of the shadow he cast wherever he went. 

There came a day when M. de Genlis thought fit to send 
him a basket of Sillery of a very rare colour, like the skin of an 
onion. To him — Rousseau ! They wanted to bribe him 
with wine the colour of onion skin ? He had the greatest 
difficulty in calming himself, and it was only after two months 
of sulks on his part, and of smiles and advances on the part 
of the Genlis, that he came back. This reconciliation did 
not last long. 

The quarrel reached its height at the Theatre-Francais in 
a closed box, whither he had accompanied Mme. de Genlis 
to see the production of Pcrsifleur, by M. de Sauvigny. It 
is not known whether he was annoyed at finding himself 
the cynosure of the entire house, or at having been less 
remarked upon than Mme. de Genlis, whom he judged to be 


"too dressed up for a closed box." He complained that 
he had been brought to the theatre in order to be made a 
spectacle of in public, " as they show off the wild beasts 
fair," and a sea of bitterness submerged all that remained 
of the friendship in his heart. His morbid fancy got the 
better of him, and he never in his life saw the Genlis again, 
convinced that they were his bitterest enemies. 

But let us return to Mme. de Genlis and her gaieties. 

What is the most surprising thing about her is that she 
is a fashionable doll and yet at the same time a studious 
woman. She finds time to learn Ancient History and the 
history of the Lower Empire, Roman history, and myth- 
ology, and to practise Pascal's Pcnsees, Bossuet's Or ai sons 
funebres, Massillon's Petit Careme, and Buffon's Natural 
History. She writes out long extracts in exercise-books, 
and recopies the memoirs about the war and the navy 
which her husband addressed to the Minister, and which she 
corrected and sometimes entirely rewrote. 

She learned from all this how to write correctly, and she 
thought her own essays only fit for burning, with the excep- 
tion of two. These she replaced by an historical novel, 
Parysatis ou la Nouvelle Medee, which was a horrible tragedy, 
and certain Dialogues des Moris after the style of Fontenelle, 
but " more moral." 

One wonders by what miracle of intelligence and energy 
she was able to reconcile so much inclination for study with 
her frivolities. She mingled one with the other, reading 
for an hour each day while she dressed and during the rare 
afternoons when she did not go out until five or six o'clock, 
studying parts, making up disguises, acting, dancing, singing, 
writing, visiting the town, the fair, the market, the cabaret, 
and the country with untiring energy. 

In the summer she stayed with various friends for several 
weeks, visiting Dieppe and Vaudreuil with the Balincours, 
and Rheims with Mme. de Dromesnil. She enjoys he 
there, and amuses everyone with her marvellous energy and 

It was while she was at Vaudreuil that she rewrote in 
six or seven days the celebrated comedy of the Trois Suit am s 


with a plot entirely different from that used by Favart. 
" I gave myself a very brilliant part," she says, " in which 
I sang, danced and played the clavecin, the harp, the guitar, 
the small oboe, the dulcimer, and the hurdy-gurdy. ... I 
omitted only the viola, but I had not played it for three 
years, and the mandoline would have had little success 
beside the guitar, which I played very much better." 

It met with triumphant success and was received with 
deafening applause. On the night of that memorable 
day, Mme. de Puysieulx, with tears in her eyes, took the hands 
of her niece in her own, and, gazing at her with tenderness, 
said to her in an uneasy voice, " Yes, you will have an 
extraordinary fate ! But what will it be ? " 

The good lady probably trembled for her nephew's 
happiness, but " M. de Genlis, whose intelligence and refine- 
ment gave no hint of the feeble apathy of a man who allows 
himself to be led, accompanied his wife everywhere, was 
seen at all the entertainments of which she was, so to speak, 
the moving spirit, and he never left her except to join his 
regiment." x 

It was during one of these absences that certain pre- 
liminary negotiations were entered into, the result of which 
— successful on the whole — seems to have been the nomina- 
tion of Mme. de Genlis to the Palais Royal. 

It was during the summer of 1769. M. de Montesson died 
on 31st July, leaving his wife free to covet the Duke of Orleans. 
For ten years a romance had been weaving between them, 
guided by the Marquise with a sure hand, and cleverly kept 
within the most virtuous, not to say austere, limits. Up 
to this time they had been obliged to content themselves 
with pretty sentimentality, a quiet, prudent friendship, 
founded on affection and kept alive by stolen smiles and 
glances, and pretty speeches exchanged at the theatre or 
during private theatricals. 

This arsenal of platonic allurement had gradually in- 
flamed the Prince's sentimental heart with a passionate love 
for Mme. de Montesson, and the time had now come for 
turning this passion into matrimonial love. 

1 Duchcsse d'Abrant£s, Salons de Paris. 



This was by no means so simple as it looked, for there 
had been no culpable love-passages between them. Mme, 
de Montesson intended to become a princess without in the 
least appearing to wish for it ; on the contrary, she protested 
that she opposed the idea and that His Highness was the 
only one to make any advances towards a marriage so un- 
reasonable from the point of view of his children, in particular 
of his son, the Duke of Chartres. In fact, she came out of 
the ordeal with skill. In this particular, Mme. de Montesson 
was equal to any diplomat. 

In the first place, she went away. She retired to Bareges 
for her period of mourning, and left the princely aspirant 
to reflect upon the situation. However, she left it to Mme. 
de Genlis, who was, as we know, alone at that time, as the 
Colonel had returned to his regiment, to receive the Duke 
of Orleans and to point out quietly for him the way which 
leads from the heart to the hand. 

" Fat Philippe," as he was familiarly called, on account 
of his stoutness and his joviality, had perhaps measured the 
distance, for he hesitated and seemed to cool off ; and Mme. 
de Genlis served her aunt's interests in a mischievous manner. 

To quote only her own record of the matter, in which, 
with the most innocent air possible, she lets us into the 
secret of the lover's state of mind : " The Duke was in love 
like a good soldier who remains faithfully at his post and 
does not leave it until he gets permission. But when there 
was no longer any post, he forgot easily and changed service 
without regret or disappointment." 

The intrigue was really of the slightest description. The 
Prince called at the hotel Montesson ; he found there a witty 
young woman, and, falling a victim to her attractions, he set 
briskly to work from the time of his second visit upon the 
tale of his love-affairs. The affair had this much humour in 
it — that the Duke was notorious for his failures. However, 
his stories " couched in decent language " were none the less 
" horribly scandalous in their subject," and Mme. de Genlis 
tolerated them. His Highness was delighted with his con- 
fidante, and invited her to stay a few days at Villers-Cottcrets ; 
and when she returned after two weeks' visit, during which 


she was chaperoned by Mme. de Puysieulx, he opened a 
correspondence with her. 

Mme. de Genlis says her august friend " was never tired 
of singing my praises." He wrote " many very tender 
letters " to her at Sillery, and she does not hide the fact that 
if a certain pretty lady had wished to take the place of the 
absentee, there would have been nothing easier in the world. 
Sainte-Beuve has written : " There are certain things which 
must always be believed of women when they say them." 
Let us follow this advice. In any case, the Prince reinstated 
the Marquise in his affections upon her return. The good 
soldier resumed his duties ; and if there was any delay in the 
marriage, at least it was duly celebrated. 

Faithful to her programme of prudence, Mme. de Mon- 
tesson sent him away for two years, giving him the time to 
calm the Duke of Chartres' susceptibilities and to obtain the 
royal sanction. This did not amount to much, for Louis xv., 
not wishing to have to legitimise the issue of such a union 
later, would not consent — on the advice of Mme. du Barry — 
to anything but a morganatic marriage. The essential fact 
is that the marriage took place, for the Archbishop of Paris, 
Mgr. de Beaumont, celebrated the marriage of the first prince 
of the blood with the Marquise de Montesson on 28th July 

Meanwhile, Mme. de Genlis was appointed to the Palais 
Royal, to the court of Mme. la Duchesse de Chartres, and all 
biographers agree in attributing this nomination to Mme. de 
Montesson's influence. Every one of them, on the supposition 
that the success of her aunt's ambitions was due to the young 
Countess's part in them, has supposed that the position at the 
Palais Royal rewarded " her extraordinary dexterity " in 
" retiring in time from her double-dealing game." * All 
these opinions are based on an apparent coincidence of 

In the absence of reliable documents to the contrary, we 
must believe Mme. de Genlis when she says in her Memoirs, 
" I entered the Palais Royal a month before my aunt's 
marriage." The two events would appear from this to be 

1 Cf. Billault de Gerainville, Histoire de Louis Philippe, i. 15. 


thirty days apart, the one logically the result of the other. 
However, it is certain now that Mme. de Genlis's memory was 
evidently confused, and she is mistaken by one year. She 
was undoubtedly at the Palais Royal before July 1772. x 

When she asserts that her appointment to the suite of 
the Duchess of Chartres had nothing whatever to do with 
Mme. de Montesson, she is near enough to the truth. Un- 
doubtedly there is a connection between the marriage of the 
one and the accession to a position of honour of the other, but 
it is more indirect than one imagines. Undoubtedly, too, 
since the aunt is not yet married, she thinks it opportune 
to introduce her niece into the family ; it looks like 
excellent diplomacy. But could she rely blindly upon this 
niece ? 

As a matter of fact, at the time of the marriage, and even 
for several months beforehand, peace did not exactly reign 
between the two women ; each was looking after her own 
interests. They were merely reconciled on the eve of the 
wedding for the benefit of the gallery. In addition, have we 
not just seen, during the absence at Bareges, the curious 
manner in which this niece takes care of her aunt's love- 
affairs ? Was she not exploiting the Duke of Orleans' 
interest in herself for her own ends ? 

Then, in speaking of her appointment, Mme. de Genlis 
says : " My aunt had no reason to take credit for it. M. le 
due d'Orleans personally desired it, for I pleased him, and 
he thought that I would add to the enjoyment of the long 
journeys to Yillers-Cotterets." 

The right to appoint his son's household did indeed 
belong to the Duke of Orleans, and in her heart Mme. de 
Genlis had been longing for some time to occupy a position 
in the Palais Royal. She had forced her way to it under 
Mme. de Montesson's wing in the beginning, no doubt ; but 
she was not placed there as a reward. Herein lies a vast 

1 According to another version, the marriage, declared officially on 28th 
July, had already been entered into on 23rd April. The Prince's correspond- 
ence permits of assuming with a certain amount of security that 28th July- 
is correct. In any case, Mme. de Genlis's appointment to the Palais Royal 
took place eight or nine months before the event. 


difference, inasmuch as it would not have cost her a single 
one of her many flirtations and overtures to have attained 
the desired post. 

Was she not already thinking of it when the Comte de 
Provence married and there was a talk of appointing her to 
Madame ? Louis xv. promised this favour to M. de Puysieulx, 
who thanked him in public. People were not very astonished 
to learn that under the pretext of finding it impossible to 
conform to the necessary visit to Mme. du Barry, 1 the lady 
elect refused to go to Versailles. 

When the suggestion that she should enter the Palais 
Royal was finally officially made to her, she knew how to 
behave under the circumstances, as a good pupil of Mme. de 
Montesson's should. 

The preliminary overtures came at an inopportune 
moment. M. de Puysieulx had just died, and the Genlis 
household, which was established on the ground floor of 
the magnificent hotel in the rue de Grenelle, overwhelmed 
the widow with affectionate attentions. 

Mme. de Genlis replies that " gratitude decided her to 
remain with Mme. de Puysieulx." She thinks, however, of 
nothing but how to fly away to the paradise of her dreams. 
She pictures herself a shining star at the youthful court of the 
de Chart res. 

Her friend, the clairvoyant Vicomtesse de Custine, who 
had early guessed the secret of her ambition, was dismayed. 
No one could possibly blind themselves to the difficulties 
which would be met with in safeguarding — where the Duke 
of Chartres was concerned — the reputation of a young 
woman as beautiful and attractive as Mme. de Genlis was. 
However respected she might be, the gentle Duchess had 
by no means overcome the old Adam in her august husband, 
and his exploits were notorious in Paris. 

Mme. de Custine was a sensible and prudent woman, 
and she used all her persuasion as a friend to deter Mme. de 
Genlis from taking heedless action, and she was successful 
in obtaining her promise not to enter the Palais Royal. 

1 According to Billault de Gerainville, Mme. de Genlis did not have the 
chance of refusing to visit Mme. du Barry (Histoire de Louis Philippe, i. 15). 


Unfortunately, the Vicomtesse died of a mysterious 
illness soon after, and Mine, de Genlis considered herself 
absolved. Scarcely three months passed before she allows 
herself to be influenced into going to Raincy, and to the 
Palais Royal or anywhere where her ambition is likely to 
be encouraged. She makes use of every opportunity, here 
a word and there an attention or a call, with her eyes fixed 
upon the end which justifies the means. Those about her 
have guessed her object ; they speak about it to her and 
try to sound her, but she prudently retires to a distance, 
temporises and delays her answer, for Mme. de Puysieulx 
as yet knows nothing about it. When at length she decides 
to inform the old lady, she cannot do so without acting a 
most artificial part. She pretends the greatest unhappiness 
at leaving the Marquise, and begs for her advice, apparently 
placing herself entirely in her hands. 

Mme. de Puysieulx, in whom that sense of protection 
had been appealed to which is so easy to arouse in mothers, 
considered first of all the young people's interest. To have 
her nephew and niece in positions near to royalty was to 
be sure of their favour. She felt it almost a duty to persuade 
the deceitful girl, who wept at present " but would offer no 
resistance," to accept the offer. The good lady did not 
know the convert to whom she appealed. She even 
went so far as to urge M. de Genlis, who was not at all 
anxious, to apply to the Duke of Orleans for a position for 
his wife in the Duke of Chartres' household. 

To tell the truth, M. de Genlis did not go without a 
great deal of persuasion. He was only induced to do so 
by Mme. de Genlis's assurance that she would refuse to 
enter the Palais Royal without him. Then he yielded 
and asked for two places. He was given them — a captaincy 
in the Guards for himself, " one of the first in the household 
and worth 5000 francs," and for his wife the position of 
lady-in-waiting, which was worth 4000 francs. 

With what delight Felicite du Crest hailed her new 
dignities ! The unhappy days of her youth were far behind 
now. However, the joy of success was not without its 
remorse. Her conscience was troubled by her hypocrisy, 


and Mme. de Genlis confesses to it in her Memoirs as " one 
of the greatest faults of my life." 1 

Therefore, when the day came, Mme. de Genlis was 
ashamed of herself and quite unable to keep up the false 
appearances which deceived poor Mme. de Puysieulx, who 
imagined her niece was in despair at having to leave her. 
She left at nine o'clock in the morning without saying good- 
bye to anyone, and wept like a culprit who has a sense of 
early punishment awaiting her. As if in answer to this 
presentiment, her coachman nearly upset her in turning 
the corner of the street, when he dashed against a post. 
" Good heavens ! " Mme. de Genlis cries in anguish, " what 
an omen ! " 

But it is too late to look backwards. " With an in- 
describable heaviness of heart" she enters the gates of the 
Louvre, passes in front of the Palais Royal, dismounts 
before a little door opening on to the Rue de Richelieu and 
gains her apartments. 

The repairs and alterations which are being made in 
those intended for her use are not yet finished. She is to 
occupy in the meantime a temporary room at the end of 
the large passage on the first floor which had been part of 
the Regent's former suite, which was connected to the rue 
Richelieu by a private staircase. The gilding and the 
profusion of mirrors, the libertine subjects of the paintings 
which covered the panels and ceilings shocked the new- 
comer, and she felt ill at ease. 

Alas ! as Laure d'Abrantes says : " M. le Due de Chartres 
bore these kinds of embarrassments easily." 

1 " I might say that it was only the interests of my children which decided 
me, that it was a maternal sacrifice which was painful to me : if it had been 
so, Heaven would have blessed this action. But God, who can read the depths 
of all our heart, knew the motives and has severely punished me. I merited 
it" (Genlis, Memoirs, ii. 161 and succeeding pages). 



The Duke and Duchess of Chartres, but lately married, 
had just set up house like a happy young pair at the 
Palais Royal, and under the influence of the Prince 
the place had at once assumed an air of great elegance. 
But by a special arrangement there were few young 
women in the household. They were rather to be found 
at Versailles, to which the Dauphine, Marie Antoinette, 
had brought, like a ray of springtime, the wonderful 
beauty and the spontaneous youthful grace of her sixteen 

The Duchess of Chartres was surrounded almost exclus- 
ively by solidly respectable ladies, incapable of arousing or 
exciting the least jealousy. 

There were the old Comtesse de Rochambeau, formerly 
the governess of the Duke, whom she excused and made 
much of — kindly, indulgent, a regular grandmamma ; the 
Comtesse de Montauban, of about the same age, a wild 
gambler, but rather dull-minded, and " a match for anyone 

' at saying nothing " ; the Dowager Marquise de Polignac, 
who, thanks to having spent all her life at Court, was allowed 

j the privilege of uttering sweeping opinions which then 
went the round of gossip ; the Marquise de Barbentane, 
a very great dame, imperious, somewhat haughty, and 
really the grand-mistress of the Palace ; the Vicomtesse de 
Clermont-Gallerande, younger, but of a grave and somewhat 
sad aspect ; Jthe young Comtesse de Polignac, who was 

i the only one of them all near the age of Mme. de Genlis ; 
Mme. de Fleury, Mme. de Noailles, and Mme. de Belzunce ; 


and finally, the Comtesse de Blot. It was rather a dull 
kind of world. 

The Duke did not care much for the studiously correct 
society of these ladies. Far from dallying in their company, 
he tried to lighten the time, during which etiquette required 
him to endure it, by walking up and down while he assailed 
the feminine circle with jests and sarcasms. To take the 
standpoint opposed to received opinions, to ridicule fashion- 
able conversation, put forward paradoxes and offer to bet 
upon them, — this was the amusement of the " Egalite " 
of days to come, now the declared enemy of romance and 
sentiment. It was only the Marquise de Polignac who held 
her own against the sallies of His Highness, and made smart 
replies to them. Mme. de Blot, on the contrary, took the 
line of offended delicacy. The other ladies preferred to smile 
at the Prince's outbursts. 

Before the coming of Mme. de Genlis the Comtesse de 
Blot was the angel of the Palais Royal. " Pretty, elegant, 
affecting fine feelings," she seemed to live in an azure realm 
of love, without troubling herself much about M. de Blot, 
a mortal of more earthly mould, quite without any pretension 
to intellectual ideas or even it seems to ordinary wit, — nor 
about the Marquis de Schomberg, whom she drove to despair 
by her coldness. 

Mme. de Blot, it was afterwards known, hoped to make 
a conquest of the Prince himself, and quietly to bring him 
to her feet, but he detested the ethereal type of woman and 
obstinately avoided her. 

Tall, vigorous, alert, with a proud, independent bearing, 
the Duke of Chartres " was then in all the flower of youth." 
His noble and lofty countenance, with its wide forehead, 
would have been handsome only that it was spoiled by a 
florid bourgeois complexion ; his eyes, already sunk in their 
orbits, had a look that was at once blase and capricious. 
There was a good deal of haughtiness in them, too, and their 
glance was disturbing, able to attract but not to captivate. 

Like the Prince of Wales, whom he greatly admired, he 
gave the tone to masculine fashion. 

His English tastes, the cut of his clothes, the shape of his 


hats, his carriages, his jockeys (for his thoroughly British zeal 
for horse-racing was extreme), were the law for the fickle 
world of men of fashion, some of whom went so far as to have 
the hair removed from their foreheads in imitation of his 
premature baldness. 

When he was, so to say, hardly out of leading strings, 
he had posed as the chief of a number of licentious youths, 
who too often made it their boast to go beyond, if possible, 
the irregularities of their leader. But knowing that he was 
" inclined by character to independence and the hatred of 
all authority," 1 the people, already hostile to the Court, 
were blind enough to attribute to him, in contrast to other 
royalties, the generous good qualities of a liberator, qualities 
with which, however, the Prince seems to have been very 
poorly endowed. 

The Duchess of Chartres, Louise Marie Adelaide de 
Bourbon-Penthievre, pretty, graceful and modest, was 
purity itself. To see her beside her husband, whom she 
loved with simple affection, one thought of the lily of Scrip- 
ture, whose whiteness shone forth in the midst of thorns. 

Kindly to the verge of weakness, somewhat soft in dis- 
position, scrupulously attached to her duties, very pious, 
and, like her father the Due de Penthievre, inspired with 
the idea of perfection, the Princess would have nothing to do 
with the intrigues that are the life of courts, and without 
which they would often die of boredom. And except on 
state occasions, the days of the opera and the comedy, 
when there were crowds at the Palais Royal, because all 
who had once been presented could come without further 
invitation, the Duchess held few receptions. Her tastes were 
for quiet evenings, of which the chief occupations were 
conversation and little games, while she herself with her royal 
hands worked at some garment for the poor. As twelve 
o'clock struck she withdrew, leaving her household to the 
delights of gaming, cards or tric-trac, with the lady-of -honour 
who happened to be on duty presiding in the salon. 

Only for its theatricals the elegant Palais Royal would 
have been but a dull background for this anything but 
1 Clermont-Gallerande, Memoires, i. 64. 


playful round of existence, amidst which there stood out 
in slight relief the affected and languishing airs of Mme. de 

The Comtesse de Genlis made her appearance at the 
right time. 

She was no sooner at the Palais Royal than there was 
seen to be " an immense change in its ordinary life." As 
if by enchantment, conversation there took a higher and 
more lively tone, that was very different from the usual 
insignificant small-talk of drawing-rooms. 

Mme. de Genlis, who in her education and the culture 
of her mind was very superior to all the ladies about the 
Duchess, was able to lead the conversation to interesting 
subjects, and to make it amusing by her animation and 
sprightliness and her original ways. Her harp, which she 
played like a professional musician, inaugurated the era of 
a series of charming little musical parties, and, of course, 
theatricals, which were then all the rage, completed the work 
of bringing life and animation to the little Court. As if 
under this new influence, the Duchess began her " little 
days," when there were parties and regular suppers, at 
which sometimes as many as thirty sat down to table, and at 
first most people were quite delighted. 

But the pretty Comtesse, having easily secured the 
leading place in all this, very soon aroused the jealousy 
of the rest. Before long all the women were her enemies, 
beginning with Mme. de Blot, whom she had dethroned. 

The men no longer paid attention to anyone but Mme. 
de Genlis. " They vied with each other in their courtesies 
to me," she says, " but their gallantry is anything but 
encouraging when one has to fear the enmity of the women." 
And as she did not affect the humility of a dependent, war 
was declared against her, and a hundred malicious little 
persecutions were brought to bear upon her. 

Mme. de Blot, belonging to a higher grade in the 
hierarchy of the Court — she was a " lady-of-honour " and 
Mme. de Genlis only a "lady-in-waiting" — did not 
hesitate to make her authority felt. She indulged in 
hectoring orders, needless commands, little affronts, all the 


guerrilla tactics of pitfalls for the unwary in which women 

Mme. de Genlis knew how to offer resistance. To 
conquer by tiring out the enemy was no new thing for her 
intelligent mind. She had given proof of this already. And 
she was not without a certain liking for a fight. Observant 
and persevering as she was, she had soon taken the measure 
of each one's strong and weak points, and could think with 
a smile that the last word would be hers. Henceforth she 
began to study a part in the drama of life that has often been 
played : she was apparently full of detachment, moderation, 
and integrity, but under this exterior passionately eager for 
success, imperious and ambitious. With undeniable clever- 
ness, she concealed the game she was playing. 

She might have taken advantage of her growing prestige 
with them and made the men her allies. But she preferred 
to seek the protection of the Duchess of Chartres. 

Nothing could be more pleasing to Mme. de Chartres 
than a serious and cultivated young woman, occupied with 
learning and with educating herself ; and Mme. de Genlis, 
with the remarkable industry that had become a habit of 
hers, devoted all her spare time to reading, writing, perfecting 
her talents, while the other ladies were idly passing their time 
in useless frivolities. There was nothing better calculated 
to win the pious and pure-minded Duchess than the pro- 
testations and discourses of her lady-in-waiting, who was 
always talking of virtue and piety, and eager to wage war 
against the passions in the name of morality and religion. 
So she freely gave her entire esteem and admiration to such 
an exceptional young person. 

With the inexperience of youth, she thought she had 
found the happiness that is so rare even among princes — that 
of meeting with a devoted heart on which one can rely — and 
she soon abandoned herself to the ardent friendship that her 
new lady-in-waiting showed towards her. 

This " marked protection," if it " in a short time destroyed 
all the petty social opposition that still survived," x did not 
blind the envious eyes of the Palais Royal. These veteran 

1 Talleyrand, Memoires {loc. cit.). 



worldlings understood intrigue better than the gentle, simple- 
minded Duchess of Chartres. The difficulties of the debut 
of Mile, de St. Aubin, a late arrival in high society, 
made them mistrustful, and their watchful jealousy became 
all the keener in the half-light of the salons and corridors 
of the Palace. Meanwhile they saw how Mme. de Genlis 
was summoned to the private apartments of the Duchess at 
all hours even when she was not regularly on duty, and as 
they heard Her Highness herself proclaiming the merits of the 
new lady-in-waiting, they chafed under the effort to keep 

But at the end of six months — whether it was a clever 
move or a mere yielding to fatigue — Mme. de Genlis 
suddenly left the field clear for the malcontents, and herself 
offered them an opportunity for disarming. 1 

She asked for leave of absence, wishing to accept the 
invitation of a friend at Brussels, the Comtesse de Merode. 

She was given leave for six weeks, and set off. It was 
a move that reminds one of the methods of De Montesson. 

And this journey to Brussels was a fine triumph, a series 
of even more brilliant days in the life that had already been 
such a success. The Court of France enjoyed, as is well 
known, a privileged position with regard to foreign Courts, 
and these distinctions of etiquette ensured for Mme. de 
Genlis the most marked honours while she was with the 
Comtesse de Merode. But apart from such conventional 
rights, the graceful manners of Paris everywhere won uni- 
versal admiration, and Mme. de Genlis combined in herself 
all claims to such favours. Did she not on one occasion 
presume on this position to the extent of keeping all the 
most important people in Belgium waiting for several hours, 
and yet they did not complain of this breach of politeness ? 
On this subject Mme. de Montesson wrote later on to the 
Duke of Orleans : — 

" Just imagine, one day Madame de Merode gave a dinner 
to the Stahrembergs, the Arenbergs, in a word all the most 

1 " My absence just as I began to be in favour would prove that I had no 
desire for domination " (Genlis, Memoires, ii. 247). 


important people, and she (Madame de Genlis) arrived wearing 
a jacket, after having kept them all waiting more than three 
hours, and instead of making excuses, she said that that was 
the way they dined at the Palais Royal ! " x 

So our Countess won uninterrupted success in Belgium, 
and the six weeks' leave lengthened out to three months. On 
the return of the De Genlis the attachment of the Duchess 
for Madame, increased by the privations of her absence, was 
all the stronger. And so was the hostility of the courtiers. 

Relying on this all-important protection, the Countess 
passed through plenty of petty displays of ill-will with her 
mind at rest and her head carried high. She seemed no 
longer to care much for Court life, and was even more 
absorbed in study, always carrying about some book 2 with 
her, and reading it as she walked or drove in a carriage. She 
learned English, continued her famous collection of extracts, 
questioned everyone — foreigners, artists, travellers — and 
made notes of these conversations. In a word, she did not 
lose a minute, for she even utilised for writing a selection of 
verses the quarter of an hour during which the Duchess 
regularly kept her ladies waiting for her before dinner. 

So much wisdom was a marvel to the Duchess of Chartres. 
" She attached herself to me," say the Memoirs of Mme. de 
Genlis, " with a kind of passion that lasted in full force for 
more than fifteen years." 

Seeing the Countess possessed by this frantic zeal for 
knowledge — she used to go now to the Jardin du Roi to be 
initiated into the mysteries of natural history, and was 
painting flowers in miniature — Mme. de Chartres herself 
became anxious to learn. She had, it seems, " no education, 
and did not even know how to spell " — at least, according 
to Mme. de Genlis. But the teacher was at hand, and 
generously offered to give lessons. Had she not already 
persuaded Her Highness to study geography ? 

1 Mme. de Montesson to the Duke of Orleans, 22nd May 1773 (A. E. 
France, 319). 

2 The Abbe des Aulnais, the royal librarian, lent her all she asked for, even 


Orthography, history, mythology, regularly taught, 
soon furnished the mind of the august pupil, and made still 
more dear, more indispensable to her the studious friendship, 
the affectionate cares of her " lady-in-waiting." Almost im- 
perceptibly she let her take a larger place in her daily life, 
made her really her confidante, her intimate adviser, and 
finally her secretary. 1 How could she, the Princess, round 
off a note or scribble a letter as elegantly as Mme. de 
Genlis ? So the Comtesse drafted all Her Highness's corre- 
spondence, which the Princess then copied in her own hand- 

Having so quickly become indispensable, Mme. de Genlis 
escaped the malignant enterprises of the courtiers, their 
slanders, and their venomous suggestions. 

She took advantage of the fact also to extend her in- 
fluence by organising at the Palais Royal — as, for the matter 
of that, she did wherever she went — a circle of wit and talent. 

Twice a week the Comtesse de Genlis had a reception. 
On the Tuesday she held a kind of intellectual reunion of 
men of letters and men of the world. And though she 
claims that she never opened her door to men of letters with 
the exception of M. de Sauvigny and M. de Dorat, she knew 
and visited Buffon, who by his own account came to see her 
at the Palais Royal " at least once a month," 2 and at his 
place she met Bailly, Heraut de Sechelles, and Lacepede ; so it 
is most probable that these Tuesday conversations brought 
together literary men and a circle of amateurs — M. de Schom- 
berg, the Comte de Fleurieu, the Chevalier de Durfort, etc. 
Soon La Harpe came to them regularly. 

The Saturday was devoted to music. Mme. de Genlis 
on that day gave regular concerts with artists and com- 
posers of note, especially Gluck and Monsigny. During 

1 " Every day if anything out of the ordinary occurred to her she told me 
of it and sent for me to consult me or to confide to me what interested her. It 
very often happened that she sent me Mademoiselle Lefdvre, one of the ladies 
of her chamber, at two or three in the morning, when I had not been able to 
see her during the day " (Genlis, ii. 258). 

2 " I went," says Mme. de Genlis, " to dine with him every ten or twelve 
days. I came rather early in order to find him alone ; we never talked of any- 
thing but literature " (Memoires, ii. 279). 


this winter of 1772-73 the quarrel between the Gluckists and 
the Piccinists was at its height. Mme. de Genlis, whose 
position as a musician was undeniable, owed it to herself to 
fight in the foremost rank. 

Not only did she encourage Gluck by faithfully attending 
all the performances of his works, but she also missed none of 
the rehearsals of the orchestra. And moreover, her witty 
pen, her sarcastic speech, made the most of the thousand 
pointed railleries she shot off against the literary champions 
of Piccini. 

As literary men are not necessarily experts in music, it 
sometimes happens that in musical matters they take sides 
without quite knowing why, or at least for reasons that have 
very little to do with music. Now, according to Mme. de 
Genlis, the literary partisans of Gluck " did not know a word " 
of music. She did not hesitate to tell them this cruel truth. 
And none of them pardoned her for it ; Suard in particular 
cherished all his life a certain rancour for the too frankly 
ironical Comtesse. 

But her own celebrity gained by all this. Criticising 
and judging with the authority that came from talent, 
Mme. de Genlis was asserting in a brilliant way her own 
pre-eminence as an artist. And with this view, to use the 
expression of a contemporary, " listlessness and indifference 
seemed to her always worthy of condemnation." * What a 
victory it was for her when the Gluckists carried all before 
them ! But the opposing camp revenged itself by means 
of strange demonstrations. As soon as Mme. de Genlis 
arrived at the Opera there would be a great display of 
feeling, which was not entirely made up of admiration. 

Then she only showed herself there on the days when she 
was on duty as lady-in-waiting ; it was a sacrifice so painful 
to her musical disposition that she thought she would have to 
seal it with a vow. But, on the other hand, her talent was 
to receive the consecration of royal approval next year at 
Marly. The Princes, following the example of the youthful 
Louis xvi., went there to be vaccinated, and Mme. de 
Genlis accompanied the Duchess of Chartres. Here is how 
1 Toulotte, La Cottr et la Ville, i. 3. 


she tells us what happened : " When I came back to my 
rooms in the evening after supper, I generally played some 
music for two good hours before going to bed. One evening 
between eleven and midnight, when, according to my custom, 
I was playing the harp and practising a sonata, M. d'Avaray, 
to my great surprise, suddenly came into the room and 
whispered to me that the Queen was with Madame Valbelle 
(in the next room) to hear me play the harp." One can 
imagine how Mme. de Genlis would feel such an honour. 
Under her agile fingers the delightful Italian sonatas, or 
chaconnes and gavottes, mingled their lively rhythms with 
the " Graves " and " Largos " ; displayed all their alluring 
charms ; and the brilliant variations of their recurring 
cadences resounded triumphantly through the thin wall of 
the room, on the other side of which was the Queen, all ears, 
and all delight. 

Romances followed the sonatas, for now the artist was 
singing. And for an hour and a half the unequalled talent 
of Mme. de Genlis excited the enthusiasm of Marie An- 
toinette. When, at last, Her Majesty withdrew, and respect 
no longer restrained the other listeners, the applause came 
ringing through the wall ; at the same time M. d'Avaray 
brought the compliments of the young Queen to Mme. 
de Genlis, who stopped, wearied out with her performance. 
Next day Marie Antoinette deigned herself to compliment the 
artist-Countess, and told her she would be pleased to hear 
her at her private concerts. The Princesse de Lamballe 
strongly urged her to have herself included in them, and 
thus to be brought into closer relations with the royal family. 

Strange to say, Mme. de Genlis showed herself in- 
different in this matter. " I had," she says, " ties enough 
not to wish for others. This would have taken up an 
enormous amount of my time, and so would have upset my 
studies. ... So I allowed no further steps to be taken in 
the affair." 

That she should refuse such a chance of royal favour 
naturally seems surprising in the case of a woman who 
was so resolved to make herself a name. More than one in 
her position would have welcomed with smiling face such an 


augury of fortune, and would have hastened to bask in the 
great sunlight of Versailles. 

But clearly Mme. de Genlis was better pleased to be at 
the Palais Royal. No doubt she had so much at heart the 
friendship of the Duchess of Chartres that even the patron- 
age of Marie Antoinette could not stand the comparison. 

We shall see what is to be thought of all this. 

For we have come to the morrow of the visit to Forges, 
the first episode of a fresh romance, and a dramatic one. It 
was the second and the great romance of the life of Mine. 
de Genlis, and it lasted twenty years, beginning with a love 
duet and ending with a capital execution — namely, the 
guillotining of Philippe-Egalitc. 



The biographers of Mme. de Genlis have all passed lightly- 
over this journey to Forges, on the surface an insignificant 

There could be nothing more natural than that in the 
first part of July 1772 Mme. de Chartres, weak in health, 
anaemic, and distressed at her childlessness, should go by the 
doctors' orders to the waters of Forges, as Queen Anne of 
Austria had gone there formerly for the same reasons ; 
and that Mme. de Genlis (with Mme. de Blot and the 
Vicomtesse de Clermont-Gallerande) should accompany Her 
Highness ; and that the Duke of Chartres, as an affectionate 
young husband, should not let his wife travel without him, 
and should himself preside over her temporary establish- 
ment at the watering-place. 

And so certain unfriendly echoes, originating doubtless 
among the jealous folk of the Palais Royal, and current at 
the time among well-informed people, had, until quite re- 
cently, the look of calumnies, the air of being only the talk 
of evil tongues that one does not venture to transmit to 
posterity in the written record. 

And not long ago a biographer could affirm that the friend- 
ship of Mme. de Genlis for the Duke of Chartres had noth- 
ing more in it than good comradeship. 1 

There was no precise fact known that could justify a 
directly contrary supposition. Besides, the Memoirs of the 
lady concerned make it impossible to fix the date of this 
journey on her testimony alone, for they speak of it very 

1 Cf. M. de Chabreul, Gonvemeitr de Princes, p. 200. 



carelessly in the midst of the events of 1777, as it were a 
forgotten trifle of the past, and so take away from it any kind 
of importance. 

Notwithstanding this clever confusing of details, there 
can be no possible doubt nowadays. The proof — alas ! the 
famous irrefutable proof, that Mme. de Genlis herself used 
to require when judging of a woman — the proof exists. It 
consists of her own letters and those of the Duke of Chartres, 
discovered in the archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 
and published in 1904 by M. Gaston Maugras. 1 

According to this correspondence, the Duke went to Forges 
not only to instal the Duchess there, but also that he " might 
live in closer relations with Madame de Genlis," 2 and to 
abandon himself for a few days to the delights of an ardent 
love that was returned. 

He had hardly begun this new experience whenonSaturday, 
18th July 1772, he was called away to Chantilly on account of 
the condition of his young sister, the Duchesse de Bourbon, 
who was from one moment to another expecting the birth of 
an heir. Then he went back to the Palais Royal, whence he 
could easily go to see the Duchesse de Bourbon ; and he con- 
soled himself for the absence of his lady friend by exchanging 
affectionate letters with her. As a precaution, M. de Genlis 
had been sent to Charleville. 

But these letters, which the post conveyed daily from 
Paris to Forges, and vice versa, were opened before they 
reached those for whom they were intended, and read by 
other eyes than theirs. Louis xv., whose secret police were 
hard at work, and amongst other intrigues kept a watch on 
those of his licentious cousin, certainly amused himself by 
having the first reading of them. He had copies kept in his 
cabinet noir. So they were preserved to our day mixed up 
with diplomatic secrets between the covers of a green port- 
folio at the Foreign Office. And it must be granted that 
they bring the element of romance into the place. Billets 
doux mixed up with diplomatic documents ! Would even 
the late Ponson du Terrail have ventured to imagine such a 
thing ! But anyhow, he could easily have imagined what 

1 Gaston Maugras, L'Idylle d'un Gouvemeur. 2 Ibid., p. 9. 


the letters themselves were like, for nothing resembles one 
love-letter so much as another. 

Mme. de Genlis confirms the rule. She is wretched at 
the departure of the lover ; she is consumed with the fires 
of passion. Thus, for example, she writes : " Oh, my love, 
I can really love only you ! You are the one object of all 
my feelings, all my thoughts. I have accustomed myself 
to pass half my life in seeing you, and the rest of the time in 
waiting for you, hoping and longing to see you," etc. 

Or again : " Yes, my dear friend, I have given myself to 
you, abandoned myself to you in a transport of delight. Never 
was friend or child loved like you," etc. 

For the two lovers addressed each other as " Mon enfant " 
(My child), and perhaps Mme. de Genlis's tone was some- 
times rather that of a protector, despite her imprudent 
declarations. As for the Duke, to prove the irrevocable 
character of his feelings, he had a device tattooed upon his 
arm ; and, what was assuredly in better taste, he ordered 
from Fragonard two pictures with subjects taken from one of 
Madame de Genlis's stories. During this time the Duchess of 
Chartres was suffering with her teeth, and using ether as a 
remedy, the odour of which made her lady-in-waiting feel ill. 
And she received a letter from the husband with these 
edifying words : "I would like to hear from the Chevalier x 
to-morrow that all her jaw had been taken out And I would 
not even be sorry if the tongue went with it ! " 2 

A touching expression of conjugal love ! 

After about a month — to be precise, on 14th August 
1772 — the Duchess ended her cure. On the 12th a last note 
reached the Duke : " I hear from Paris that M. de Genlis 
is to arrive there on the 14th. If this is so, he will know from 
Saint-Jean what day I am to arrive. I shall, I think, manage 
to get rid of him before half-past eleven on the pretext of 
fatigue. Come quietly, and if the door is closed, mon enfant 
will wait, and picture to himself that on the other side of it 
there is a heart as agitated and as impatient as his own." 3 

In October the flame was still burning. 

1 The Chevalier de Durfort. 2 Maugras, op. cit. p. 19. 

3 Ibid. p. 51. 


The Duke and Duchess of Chartres spent the autumn at 
Chantilly with the Prince of Conde, and the Countess seemed 
to take a pleasure in defying public opinion. She drove the 
ducal carriage, and " there was laughter among the courtiers 
at those carriage drives, which seemed symbolical, for the 
Duke and Duchess, seated side by side, were taken through 
the winding alleys of Chantilly at the whim of Madame de 
Genlis' fancy." x The Duchesse de Bourbon, who had seen 
through it all, died of horror. Did the illusions of her simple- 
minded sister-in-law last much longer ? 

Now a princess is seldom the first to discover secrets of 
this kind. But in this case the secret was so well kept that 
even the keenest of the sharp-minded onlookers thought 
only that there was some dangerous warmth. Everything 
was known at last, but they were only suspected in the 
following spring — in May 1773 — and then on account of a 
false move on the part of Mme. de Genlis. 

It was at the moment when Mme. de Montesson — 
having been obliged to put off her marriage for two years, 
an interval of delay that she had herself fixed — had gone to 
Spa to pass away the time. The Comtesse de Genlis was to 
have accompanied her aunt. But this would have been to 
give up, or at least to relax, her relations with the Duke of 
Chartres. At the last moment — when she was divided between 
two dangers : that of betraying her secret, and the risk her 
love-affair would run through absence — she chose to allege an 
illness of some kind of her daughter's — a poor pretext that 
deceived no one ; and her cleverness broke down. She re- 
fused to leave Paris, insisted on her husband spreading the 
story about, and ceased to appear at the Palais Royal. 

But there was incredulity everywhere. At once some 
mystery was suspected, and certain letters of the Duke of 
Orleans to his dear Montesson clear up the subject very well 

" You ask me, dear friend," he writes on 22nd May, " what 
is the effect of this silly conduct of Madame de Genlis, and 
how long she will go on playing this comedy. As to the last 
point, I know nothing. As to the former, everyone is asking 

1 Cf. Vitrac, Philip pe-Egalite et Monsieur Chiappini, p. 73. 


what it means. It is regarded as bad form and something 
that has no sense in it. No one can say what her reason 
is, for there is not one who believes in her daughter's 
illness. . . ." 

Before long " fat Philip " was better informed. Just 
after this Mme. de Blot, whose keen-sighted jealousy had 
half discovered, half imagined the existence of a romance, took 
it into her head to relate to him an interview between Mme. 
de Genlis and her aunt, in which the latter had offered, 
without any result, to put off her journey. 1 

Finally, the Dowager de Segur had lost no time in telling 
the Duke of Orleans how on Sunday morning, the day before 
the start, M. de Pont-St. Maurice, calling upon Mme. 
de Genlis, had found her discussing the journey with the 
Vicomte de Pont, who was to accompany Mme. de 
Montesson. " It is absolutely necessary," said the Countess, 
" for me to be in Paris on 9th June. I have promised this to 
the Duke of Chartres and all his ladies." The Viscount urged 
that this was impossible. " But we need only shorten the 
stay at Brussels," she said. " It is for you, Madame," 
replied M. de Pont, " to obtain that from your aunt. But I 
doubt if you will succeed." " Well, if she won't cut short 
her visit, I am not afraid of riding. I shall get astride of a 
post-horse and come back from Brussels at full gallop, for I 
must be here on the 9th." 

The Comte de Pont-St. Maurice went away after this 
peremptory statement of Mme. de Genlis, leaving her still 
disputing with the incredulous Viscount. 

Mme. de Genlis, a hundred leagues away from the 
Palais Royal, was informed at Spa of the current talk, and 
expressed to her correspondents her pleasure in amusing 
herself with the gossip about her niece's conduct. But all 
the while the sagacious Marchioness was asking herself if 
the influence of this niece, who did not like her, might not 
do her harm in the opinion of the Duke of Chartres. 

Meanwhile, only a few days after these events, Mme. de 
Genlis was laid up with a serious attack of measles, and at 

1 Ibid. See also Le Due Lonis Philippe d' Orleans. Son manage secret avec 
la Marquise de Montesson, par A. Choppin de Janvry. 


once the report spread abroad that the Prince's passion was 
declining and growing cool, and seemed about to disappear. 

" Madame de Genlis has a fever," wrote the fat Duke of 
Orleans. 1 " It is said that she is not on such good terms 
with someone you know. It is even made out that they 
have parted. But we shall soon know all about that." 

At the Palais Royal the jealous crowd, who had long 
marvelled at the constancy of the Duke de Chartres in his 
love-affair, were now secretly rejoicing. We learn this 
from another friend of Mme. de Montesson, the Marquis 
d'Entraygues, who liked to send her the small-talk of the 
Court. " It is said," he informed her on 27th May, " that she 
(Madame de Genlis) is threatened with trouble. At the 
moment she is ill with the measles. Before this latest illness 
of hers, she was very depressed. Perhaps she remembers 
the prediction once made to her that she would be greatly to 
be pitied. She will be unhappy, if she is abandoned and 
has no one to pity her. This is the event with which she 
has been menaced." 

The envious people were rejoicing too soon over what 
they hoped for. But it must be recognised that just now a 
greater prudence directed the proceedings of the two lovers. 
When on the occasion of his father's secret marriage to the 
Marquise de Montesson, in July 1773, the Duke of Chartres, 
in order to show his disapproval the more strongly, left 
Paris and in his turn went to Brussels, it is true that he still 
corresponded with Mme. de Genlis, but it was in very 
reserved and almost ceremonious terms. " Monseigneur " 
and " Madame " had replaced the affectionate " Mon enfant." 
Perhaps it was only a pretence. Perhaps some rumour had 
put the two friends on their guard. But let there be no 
mistake : the Prince was for a long time under the empire 
of Mme. de Genlis. And he was never to free himself al- 
together from her sway. When the caprice of the libertine 
was satisfied— and this was indeed a trifling matter in the 
time with which we are dealing — the fair one knew how to 
substitute for the impulses of passion a friendship that was 
assiduous, all-subduing, warm still, but subjugating, by 

1 Cf. Maugras, op. cit. 


which she ruled all the intelligence that the poor weak Duke 

He did not know how to resist the woman who knew how 
to lead him, he said one day to his sister. And that woman 
was the Comtesse de Genlis. She excelled in the skill to hide 
behind the scenes, and work this poor puppet like a marionette. 

Immensely his superior, she arrived at the point of ruling 
him even in the smallest details of his life, exerting her power 
even to tear him away from his despicable pleasures, and give 
him back to his simple, pure-minded Duchess. Soon Mme. 
de Genlis controlled the secrets of his policy as well as those 
of his household ; before long she was to hold that position 
of " Governor " which is unique in history, and thus it was 
that, from the time of the visit to Forges, she ruled without 
resistance the future Philippe Egalite. It was to this she 
tended with all the force of her being. To rule was her 
business far more than to whisper words of love : this comes 
out indeed clearly enough in her letters. There is no doubt 
passion in them, but one looks in vain for those childish 
expressions, or the self-devotion of a heart enraptured with 
love and swayed by some sublime illusion. 

So from 1772 the Palais Royal was in the hands of Mme. 
de Genlis. She was to reign there in secret for nearly twenty 
years ; no longer probably by the sway of passion, but 
through the subtle intelligence of a mind that knew how to 
" animate that moral corpse," l think for him, and inspire 
him with a line of policy, until the day when the more cunning 
and more daring Laclos supplanted this artful intriguer in 
the political field. Till then she remained the Prince's 

Under the date of 1st August 1773, three months after 
that famous attack of the measles, the dossier of the Foreign 
Office on which we have already drawn contains two curious 
letters that it is interesting to compare. 

One is addressed to the Duchess of Chartres, who, still 
in Paris, is about to find herself for the first time in the 
embarrassing position of meeting her father-in-law and 
Mme. de Montesson, who five days before had, so far as 

1 Ferrieres, Me moires, p. 91. 



a morganatic marriage went, become Duchess of Orleans. 
The other reached Mme. de Genlis by the same post. The 
first — that of a husband giving his wife instructions as to 
the line of conduct to take — would seem quite natural, and 
would be of trifling interest, if we did not learn from the 
second that it was to a certain extent dictated by Mme. de 

" Set your mind quite at rest, and do not be at all anxious," 
writes the Duke to his wife. "He certainly will not speak 
to you of it [that is, of his recent marriage], but probably 
he will do what he can to give you some hint of it ; and if 
you blush or seem embarrassed, it is very likely that he will 
suppose you have understood without his having actually 
said it, and he will go on to talk of it as if you knew all about 
it. This is just what you must try to avoid by calling up 
all the self-possession and even the effrontery that you are 
capable of, even if he takes you, for the time being only, to 
be the most stupid of creatures. You must not seem to 
understand him, whatever he says," etc. 

Now here is the letter to Mme. de Genlis : — 

" Spa, 1st August 1773. 

" I have just written to M. la D. de C. [i.e. Madame la 
Duchesse de Chartres]. I tell her that I strongly approve 
of her having sent to Raincy, and that above all she must 
not show any affection towards her [Madame de Montesson], 
but that unhappily it is necessary that she should be pre- 
pared to do things that later on will be very displeasing 
to M.P. [i.e. Mon Pere — my father] You may be quite 
sure that I shall not change anything in my plan in case 
they write to me. I have worked the whole matter out 
with you, Madame, and I have too much confidence in 
your views and opinion of it to change anything whatever 
on which we have together decided. If they write to me, 
I shall reply with a very simple letter, as affectionate as 
possible, but in which this matter will not be touched 
upon. This is just what we decided upon — is it not ? 

" Do not fear that I shall forget anything that you 
have said to me. Adieu, Madame. I do not know how 


to thank you for all your kindness. I hope to hear again 
from you this evening or to-morrow at latest. Indeed you 
are too good to me." 

So now the line is taken. Externally there is nothing 
to disclose the sovereignty of Mine, de Genlis ; she is 
not to be seen in the guise of a favourite, an appearance 
she will never assume. But in reality the policy and the 
manner of life of the Palais Royal will depend on her. 

And if the Duke of Orleans and Mme. de Montesson 
know what course to take, they will beware of compromising 
so useful an ally, even though the Countess has done nothing 
— but quite the contrary — to incline the Duke of Chartres 
to accept with good grace his father's second marriage. 

Finally, out of consideration for the peace of mind of 
the Duchess of Chartres, whose eyes will remain closed for 
many years to come, they will be silent in her hearing. 

Just then the Princess, wonderfully strengthened by the 
waters of Forges, was hoping soon to be a mother. And 
in fact, on 5th October in this same year, 1773, she brought 
into the world her first-born, the Duke of Valois, afterwards 
King Louis Philippe. 

When later on her husband announced to her the plan 
he had formed of embarking for a " naval campaign " — in 
other words, a cruise — she listened with delight to the sugges- 
tion of Mme. de Genlis (whose jealous passion she did 
not suspect) that she should accompany the Duke as far as 
Toulon. Then leaving M. de Chartres at Toulon to con- 
tinue his expedition (the first step to the post of Grand 
Admiral in which he hoped to succeed his father-in-law 
the Due de Penthievre), the two young women decided 
suddenly on the plan of pushing on into Italy without the 
previous permission of the Court. 

The Duchess was to be supposed to be seized with an 
irresistible desire to go to visit her grandfather the Duke of 
Modena, and from Antibes she wrote her excuses to the 

The journey was to Modena by way of Nice, Monaco, 
and the Corniche road, then to Mantua, Venice, Rome, 


Parma, and Naples. For her suite the Duchess brought 
with her only her dear Countess and a young person hardly 
sixteen years of age, Mile, de Rully. 

Could one imagine that such an innocent escapade would 
give rise to one of the enigmas of history, which people are 
discussing to this day ? 

This was the Chiappini affair — a strange outcome of the 
journey to Forges, in which the name of Mme. de Genlis 
has been unpleasantly involved. 

There was a well-known lawsuit at the beginning of the 
reign of Louis Philippe over which the enemies of the house 
of Orleans eagerly did their best to provoke a scandal. 

The heroine of and the prime mover in the affair, Maria 
Stella Chiappini, the daughter of an obscure jailer of Modig- 
liana, a little town in the neighbourhood of Ravenna, tried 
to make out that she had been changed at birth with a boy 
born on the same day in August 1774. She alleged that 
she was the daughter of a great French noble, the Comte de 

Now, by a curious coincidence it happened that the 
Duchess of Chartres actually travelled in Italy incognita 
under the name of the Comtesse de Joinville. Hence 
people were found to credit the story of Maria Stella, 
and gave it out as something certain that Mme. de 
Chartres had brought into the world at Modigliana a 
daughter, whom her husband, the pseudo-Comte de Join- 
ville, had changed for the male child of Chiappini, bribing 
him with a fortune. Thus it was said the child of a poor 
Italian jailer became by fraudulent means Duke de Valois, 
and later King of France, while Maria Stella, born a Princess 
of royal blood, was condemned to poverty and a life of ad- 
ventures, and these adventures were famous enough ; first 
she was a singer, after which came her two marriages. 1 

At the time many writers championed this claim, of 
which historical documents have completely disposed. We 
may be pardoned if we here discuss it in anticipation. 

1 Maria Stella married first an English nobleman, very wealthy and of an 
old family, Lord Newborough. Then when she became a widow she was 
married again to a Russian noble, Baron Sternberg. 



Though the Chiappini affair dates from 1824, it had all the 
same its origin in this journey in Italy, and by the theories 
to which it gave rise it is linked with the liaison which Mme. 
de Genii s began at Forges. But after all, if the memory of 
Louis Philippe emerged unharmed from the scandal, it must 
be admitted that the reputation of Mme. de Genlis had to 
endure further attacks on the part of certain narrators of the 
affair, not to talk of the extremities to which some went 
against her ; and we owe it to her to recall these things if 
only to show that she had no reason to fear the discussion. 

In the first place, she was formally accused of having 
herself effected the exchange of the children. 1 

Once public curiosity had been started on this track it 
did not stop. As the lawsuit began just at the moment 
when the Comtesse de Genlis was publishing her Memoirs, 
people turned to them, and not without suspicion, to seek 
there lights and details on the journey to Italy. 

But, unfortunately, every time that there is any question 
of compromising events the Memoirs, far from clearing up the 
facts, seem purposely to confuse still further the tangled 

There is no clearly fixed date, no definite point from 
which one can argue with certainty. And it was asked why 
did Mme. de Genlis seem to take a pleasure in enveloping 
her narrative in obscurities and needless and uncalled-for 
digressions ? Why does she represent the journey under the 
guise of a secret expedition, suddenly resolved upon ? Why 
was she the only companion of the Duchess — for one can 
hardly count the young Comtesse de Rully as an expert 
witness ? Why does she seem to have doubts about the 
Duchess being soon to become a mother ? 

The enemies of the house of Orleans compared these 
mysteries with another, that referring to his own birth which 
Philip-figalite almost admitted, shamefacedly, before the 
Convention, and they suggested various doubts. The fact 
that Mme. de Genlis had been under serious suspicion 
since the Revolution gave a leverage to hostile opinion. 
Besides, certain rumours that had circulated in the old Court 
1 Cf. Paul Dumont, Orleans et Chiappini. 


still haunted the ears of the Royalists. Although there were 
no actual proofs available, they held for certain the amorous 
relations of the Countess and Philip £galite at the time when 
he was known as the Duke of Chartres, and this was a secret 
motive for not sparing her. 

From this there was only a step to accusing her — only a 
step to the absurd fable of Mme. de Genlis hating the 
Duchess of Chartres, and wishing for nothing less than her 
death in order to take her place beside the Duke. That step 
malevolent writers deliberately took. 1 

Because, during the Italian journey, one fine day a wheel 
came off, and the travelling carriage upset, falling over to the 
side on which Mme. de Chartres was seated — then supposed 
by her friends to be in delicate health — the terrible charge of 
having intended to assassinate the Duchess hung over Mme. 
de Genlis. 

It was a commonplace accident, such as happened 
hundreds of times in those days of carriages and post- 
chaises, and as for this pretended attempt at assassination, 
one need hardly say that it cannot stand honest examination. 
The sole cause of the accident was that the wheels were 
wrong — they were new ones, a present from Cardinal de 
Bernis, and not the proper size for the carriage. 

As for the mystery of Modigliana — if mystery there be — 
how can Mme. de Genlis be shown to have been an 
accomplice in it, seeing that in the month of August 1773 she 
was undeniably at the Palais Royal, 2 as were the Duke and 
Duchess of Chartres ; and that the journey to Italy took place 
in reality not in the course of the year 1773, but three years 
later, in the summer of 1776. 3 

What remains of this obscure story ? Is there perhaps 
anything in it to explain the confused statements of Mme. 
de Genlis in her Memoirs ? 

But when she related these events, some fifty years later, 

1 Cf. G. de Vautibault, Paul Dumont, op. cit. 

2 Cf. Gazette de France, 1773. 

3 See on this subject Billault de Gerainville, op. cit., ii. 143, etc. ; Maurice 
Vitrac, Philippe-Egalite et Monsieur Chiappini ; the Vicomte de Reiset, Belles 
du temps passe, Maria Stella. 


her memory had not always the clearness one would desire. 
No one will deny the disorder, the loose writing of these 
Memoirs, in which under what is meant to be a chronological 
order nothing or hardly anything is in its place. 

And in this particular case Mme. de Genlis was think- 
ing much more of communicating her impressions of 
Italy than of giving precise historical details. Her over- 
flowing enthusiasm, her transports of delight, her tears of 
joy at treading the soil of the Eternal City ; her disillusions 
at Venice, where " the gondolas, black all over, looked like 
coffins floating on waves of ink " ; the account of her ad- 
ventures at Naples, all give us evidence enough of her desire 
to describe with a certain artistic pride the state of her mind 
in this Latin land of glorious monuments. She acted as a 
traveller describing a picturesque country, not as a historian 
putting documents on record. 

And if she does not speak of the pretended secret on 
which the Chiappini scandal was propped up, it is evidently 
because no such secret existed. 

One would like to be able to pronounce with the same 
certainty upon another enigma, and this a more closely con- 
nected result of the visit to Forges. 

There is indeed a certain coincidence of dates and events 
that leads one to the belief that the relations of the Duke 
of Chartres with Mme. de Genlis left some traces. 

When, as a result of the epidemic of measles that raged at 
Paris, little Casimir de Genlis died, her sorrow brought the 
mother, who herself was ill, to the gates of death. 1 She fell 
into a kind of languid state of illness that was very serious, 
and thought herself doomed. It seemed to her that divine 
Justice was pursuing and chastising her, and she was haunted 
by gloomy remorse. The Memoirs in telling of this episode 
throw a strange light on the agitation of her conscience. 
One finds in them, under the form of sorrowful self-conscious- 
ness, the echo of the terrors of Mme. de Genlis. 

She tells us how, believing that she was attacked by 

1 Mme. de Genlis says she had at this time an attack of the measles. 
Now we know she had been ill in this way already in 1773. Is she not con- 
fusing one date with the other, unless indeed she had this illness twice ? 


consumption of the lungs, she made her will, and wrote some 
verses on her malady ; how as her carriage drove through 
the Bois de Boulogne amid the scents of spring, by thickets 
perfumed with the rosy whiteness of the flowering hawthorns, 
her imagination was for a moment aroused again and built 
up a romance, of which notwithstanding her weakness she 
noted the outlines on paper as soon as she returned home. 1 

And at last she was making such a slow recovery that 
Tronchin le Jeune sent his patient to the waters of Spa. 

But was this languor the consequence of symptoms of 
quite a different kind ? 

Mme. de Genlis does not fail to inform us that her 
sadness and her state of collapse made it impossible for her 
to receive anyone during her stay at the Belgian watering- 
place, " except on two or three occasions when there was 

She hardly saw anyone but an Englishman named Conway, 
whom she told of the breakdown of her health. And when, 
nine or ten years later, two little girls, who came from England, 
arrived at the Palais Royal, scandalous gossip did not hesitate 
to attribute their parentage to the Duke of Orleans and 
Mme. de Genlis. 

But the absence of proof makes all these mysteries well- 
nigh impenetrable. And they are made only the more 
obscure by the confusion of dates that is introduced, as if at 
haphazard, into the Memoirs of Mme. de Genlis. 

She places her stay at Spa in 1776. But the list of 
visitors shows that she arrived there on 12th June 1775. 
The Chevalier de Conway had been there since 1st June. 2 

And Mme. de Genlis goes on to say : " My health was 
perfectly restored by the end of six weeks," and a tour 
through Luxemburg, Germany, and Switzerland completed 
the cure. " I wrote to Paris to ask for an extension of leave, 
and to M. de Genlis for permission to make a journey in 
Switzerland," she adds. " I obtained all I wanted." 

Now this tour, with halts at Luxemburg, where Mme. 

1 This romance appeared twenty years later under the title of Les Vceux 

2 Cf . Liste des Seigneurs el Dames venus aiix eaux de Spa. 


de Genlis was the guest of the Prince of Hesse ; at Strasburg, 
where she wrote her name on the silver bell of the Cathedral ; 
at Colmar, where her father-in-law, Baron d'Andlau, lavished 
entertainments and presents upon her; at Bale; at Lausanne, 
where she made the acquaintance of the Prince of Holstein 
and Mme. de Crouzas, whom she delighted with her playing 
on the harp, — this tour brought her to Ferney, a literary 
pilgrimage, which was inevitable for every foreign visitor to 

But this visit of Mme. de Genlis to Voltaire is not noted 
in the philosopher's correspondence till August 1776. 

Now, it will be remembered that the visit to Italy took 
place, without any possible doubt, precisely in this summer 
of 1776. 

Did Mme. de Genlis make two journeys in this year ? 
Or rather, as the cure at Spa was in 1775, must we not place 
the tour that followed it, ending with the visit to Ferney, in 
that same year ? 

But finally, as to the two little girls who came from 
England in 1785, though absolute certainty is not possible, 
the date of their birth seems to coincide exactly with that of 
Mme. de Genlis's absence. And who can say if the scandalous 
talk that was set going by the arrival of Pamela and Hermine 
was not founded in part on this coincidence ? 



" For your sake I shall give up for a while my slippers and 
my dressing-gown," wrote Voltaire to Mme. de Genlis. The 
Comtesse, decked out with " all her flowers and feathers," 
arrived too soon, but was not sorry for it. The confusion 
of the domestics led her to make the amusing reflection that 
her unexpectedly early visit would prevent the patriarch 
from writing a few more impious or licentious lines. She 
had plenty of time to remark, in the rather darksome waiting- 
room, a magnificent Correggio, unworthily hidden away in 
the shade, while a frightful picture, " a regular ale-house 
sign, representing Voltaire in a blaze of glory with Calas 
at his knees, and trampling under foot his enemies Freron 
and Pompignan, held the place of honour in the middle of 
the salon." 

The sight of this strengthened all the more the resolution 
she had taken not to conform to " the etiquette of Ferney." 

It appears it was a rule for visitors to Voltaire " to seem 
deeply moved, to turn pale, to be overcome " at his appear- 
ance, and finally to throw themselves into his arms. Mine. 
de Genlis promised herself that she would treat this rule as a 
dead letter, and took up an expectant attitude, which she 
had plenty of time to rehearse, for she was kept waiting. 

At last there was a little noise and some excitement that 
seemed to herald the entry of the great man. 

But it was only Mme. Denis and Mme. de St. Julien. 
They proposed to the visitor and her travelling companion 
— a German painter named Ott — to walk round the grounds 
while waiting for Voltaire. 


But the terrace to which they took Mme. de Genlis to 
give her a view of the surrounding scene with the Alpine 
summits towering above it — this terrace, sheltered by an 
arcade of foliage with plants that were bent into low arches, 
was disastrous for fine toilettes. It was difficult to stand 
erect ; everywhere one had to stoop a little, and the feathers 
caught in the branches, and broke and hung down ; the 
dress and petticoats got mixed up with the tangle of twigs, 
and were held and torn by them. So the Countess appeared 
before her host " with headgear spoiled, everything dis- 
arranged, and with a really wretched appearance that took 
away all self -composure." 

She never felt less inclined to embrace him. 

Despite the discreet suggestions of Mme. de St. Julien, 
and notwithstanding her disordered costume, she assumed 
a grave look and went forward to meet Voltaire with the 
greatest respect and with all the dignity she could muster 

Voltaire remembered that Mme. de Genlis belonged to 
the Court. So he played the gallant, took her hand and 
kissed it 

" I don't know why," she says, " that very commonplace 
act touched me, as if this kind of homage was not as vulgar 
as it is unmeaning. But after all I was flattered at Monsieur 
de Voltaire having kissed my hand, and I embraced him 
with all my heart — in spirit." 

On the other hand, the enthusiasm of the German painter 
absolutely lacked all discretion, and displayed itself to the 
point of extravagance. Ott, taking advantage of this 
exceptional occasion, eagerly tried to attract Voltaire's 
attention by showing him some miniatures done at Berne, 
which he at once took out of his pocket. One of them 
represented the Blessed Virgin and the Infant Jesus, and 
this the famous man made the occasion for " many impious 
remarks that were as stupid as they were revolting." Mme. 
de Genlis took no pains to conceal her displeasure, and 
Voltaire abruptly changed the subject of the conversation. 
He spoke of Italy and the fine arts, but in a rather mediocre 
way. When they rose from table, he asked Mme. de St. 
Julien to open the clavecin in honour of the visitor, and to 


play for her, in old-fashioned style, some of those airs that 
carry back the thoughts to the time of Louis xiv. " But 
this recollection," says Mme. de Genlis, " is not the most 
pleasant to recall." Finally, he accompanied the Countess 
as far as the village in her travelling carriage, passing on the 
way the alms-houses he had founded. 

It was then only that Mme. de Genlis admired and 
felt herself better disposed towards Voltaire. From that 
moment the eyes of the philosopher seemed to her to be 
extraordinarily full of thought. " They had at the same 
time," she says, " something of velvet softness and an in- 
expressible mildness. The soul of Zaire is all in those 
eyes." But she adds : "His smile and his extremely malicious 
laugh changed all at once this charming expression. He was 
very broken down. . . . When the talk was not of religion or 
of his enemies his conversation was simple and natural 
without any pretentiousness, and consequently, with an 
intelligence like his, perfectly pleasing. It seemed to me 
that he could not endure that on any point one should hold 
an opinion contrary to his own. If one contradicted him 
in the least thing, his tone became sharp and sarcastic." 
But in the opinion of the Comtesse de Genlis, who having 
very fully studied him knew his circle, Voltaire had, thanks 
to the unmeasured adulation of which he was the object, 
lost the manners of good society — of that society with which 
he was not now familiar, and to which she returned to 
resume her place in it, sure of herself, with her mind once 
more calm and brave, after five months' absence and her 
meeting with the " philosopher." Never had her zeal against 
immorality, vice, and the passions been so full of conscious 
vigour. But by a strange irony of fate these were just the 
devouring monsters that she found installed as masters in 
her own home. 

M. de Genlis, who from what we know of him was a 
somewhat ridiculous figure, thought he was escaping ridicule 
by making free use of the excessive freedom of conduct that 
was the fashion at the time even in the best families of high 
society. A contemporary tells us how " he made a point 
of honour of showing himself to be giddy, frivolous, and 


debauched. By the mere fact that he was one of the fre- 
quenters of the Palais Royal he thought himself obliged by his 
own conduct to recall that of the roues of the Regency. In a 
word, he was one who made a boastful show of being vicious, 
and bad as he was in appearance, he was better in reality." i 

One cannot say whether husband or wife was the first to 
be unfaithful, or if the relations of Mine, de Genlis with 
the Duke of Chartres were the determining cause of a serious 

Perhaps the Countess, who was soon tired of the gaming- 
table, was not, as has been suggested, the first to be wronged. 
Her husband was indeed one of the wildest gamblers that 
ever lived. The story of the time finds frequent traces of 
him in the gaming-houses. And if he and his brother, the 
Marquis de Genlis, never openly kept such an establishment 
in the strict sense of the term, they nevertheless used to 
gather in private round the green table in their rooms the 
greatest gamblers in Paris, including Talleyrand, then merely 
the Abbe de Perigord. When, in February 1776, the Parle- 
ment de Paris, roused to action by current scandals involving 
considerable losses of money, directed the Lieutenant- 
General of Police to make an inquiry as to public and private 
gambling, and to look up the gaming resorts, several lettres 
de cachet followed. The brothers Genlis, who were proved to 
have kept a table for play " in a house situated in the Place 
Vendome and in another in the Rue Bergere," 2 narrowly 
escaped one of these warrants, and their name was talked of 
on this occasion. 

And when, in 1776, Mme. de Genlis met her husband 
again, it was to hear that he wanted to go abroad. 

M. de Genlis was in fact trying to obtain the governor- 
ship of San Domingo. There is no doubt that just then the 
cards had made a serious breach in the family fortune, and it 
is probable that what made the Comte think of going abroad 

1 Cf. Me" moires d'un fonigye, i. 420. 

2 Hector Monin, Paris en iy8g, p. 410: A. N. X'B. 8975. " Compte rendu 
fait au Parlement par le lieutenant g6neral de Police de la quantite de jeux 
tant publics que particuliers des noms et qualites de ceux qui donnent a jouer 
ct des banquiers des jeux " (Dulaure, Ilistoire de Paris, v. 507). 


was rather the desire to repair these losses than that of 
putting some thousands of leagues between his wife and the 
Duke of Chartres. Thanks to the influence of the Princesse 
de Lamballe, the place was promised him as a favour to be 
expected. And in anticipation of the great establishment 
to be set up Mine, de Genlis hastened to provide herself 
with table linen, silver plate, dinner services, etc. 

Suddenly the dismissal of the Minister of Marine, M. de 
Bomes, and the appointment as his successor of M. de 
Sartine, " a personal enemy of M. de Genlis," put an end to 
all these fine plans. At least this is the version of it supplied 
by Mme. de Genlis, who adds : "To tell the truth, I was not 
sorry for it," — a light-hearted way of taking it, with which 
perhaps the influence of a certain Prince had something to do. 

Besides, her active mind, always eager for occupation, 
was already busy with other plans. The Countess was pur- 
posely turning her energies in the direction of educational 

First of all, she got up a course of physical science for 
fashionable people at M. Sigault de la Fond's. It was soon 
followed by a course of chemistry applied to the arts at 
Mittouart's, the King's chief apothecary. She succeeded in 
attracting regularly to these lectures more than twenty-five 
people belonging to the Court — the Comtesses d'Harville, de 
Jumilhac, and de Chastenet ; the eldest daughter of Lazare 
du Crest, now Marquise d'Arcambal ; Mme. de Meulan ; 
the Chevaliers de Cosse and de Chastellux, M. de Guibert, 
the Comte de Custine, etc. etc., without forgetting M. de 
Genlis himself. 

Then, by a remarkable happy inspiration, she prepared 
the way for that apostolate of education which within a few 
months she was to exercise in so brilliant a manner, by 
arranging for her daughters and their girl friends to give 
representations at her rooms of charming little comedies from 
her own pen. These were real gems of delicate art, truth to 
nature and tactful grace. They were masterpieces of moral 
teaching shown in action for the use of children, but with 
such an insight in the choice of subjects and such an unusual 
knowledge of theatrical expedients, that their scope was far 


beyond that of a play for children, and placed them far above 
the productions ordinarily intended for young people. 

Nothing better in this style than these works of Mme. 
de Genlis has ever been done. 

She had a genius for the theatre and for educational 
work, and from her earliest youth she had given evidence of 
both in her strange disposition. And now in her first at- 
tempt she reached perfection. 

Even before an act of generosity was the occasion for their 
author having them published, these little dramas, played in 
Mme. de Genlis's salon, had delighted the society of the 
day, and the taste she had displayed in them called forth 
flattering echoes from the literary world. 

On the occasion of the second representation a hall that 
could seat five hundred was found to be too small for the 
crowd of aristocratic lovers of the stage, who were moved 
to tears by Pulcherie and Caroline de Genlis, only eight 
years old and already pupils of Mile. Sainval. In the 
audience literature was represented by Dalembert, Mar- 
montel, La Harpe, Diderot, and the Abbe le Monnier, all 
brought by the Vicomte de la Tour du Pin. The friend of 
Julie de l'Espinasse expressed his emotion to Mme. de 
Genlis in an " obliging note." 1 

La Harpe, who now saw the Countess for the first time, 
had felt " one of the sweetest impressions I have ever experi- 
enced in my life," and celebrated it in lyric fashion in a set 
of wretched verses, which he sent next day to the Palais 
Royal. Here are two of his laboured stanzas : — 

" Non, ce que j'ai senti ne peut etre un prestige, 
Non, j'ai su trop bien en jouir, 
Et si Ton doute d'un prodige 
Comment douter de son plaisir. 

Ton art, belle Genlis, l'emportant sur le notre, 
Ne fait parler qu'un sexe et charme l'un et l'autre 

1 Mme. de Genlis, under the impulse of political feeling, wrote later on : 
" M. Dalembert wrote me on the subject of education things that would make 
the hair of anyone who quoted them stand on end. They were pompous 
eulogies which good feeling, not modesty, prevents me from reproducing, for 
there was nothing in them to be proud of " (PrScis de ma conduite, 274). 


Que tes tableaux sont vrais dans leur simplicite. 
Tu peins pour des enfants, mais la maturite 
Et se reconnait et t'admire," etc. 

In July 1779, Mme. de Genlis was deeply touched by the 
fate of four gentlemen of Bordeaux, the Messieurs de Queissat, 
who were condemned to pay 75,000 livres in damages to a 
business man of their city, and being unable to do so, were 
imprisoned with the prospect of remaining there for the rest 
of their days ; and she had the idea of publishing her delight- 
ful comedies for their benefit. The venture had a triumphant 
success. The first five hundred copies were snatched up at 
unheard-of prices. Twice and three times the twenty-four 
livres asked for each volume were paid for them. The 
Queen and the Princesses headed the subscription list. The 
Empress of Russia and the Electress of Saxony caught 
the enthusiasm and had the little book translated, and 
the Electress even wrote to Mme. de Genlis to ask for her 

All the papers of the time without exception praised the 
Theatre a I 'usage des jeunes personnes} 

La Harpe, in a letter to the Grand Duke, spoke of Mme. 
de Genlis as " the woman in all Paris who had perhaps the 
most brains," and said that her piece, entitled La Mere 
rivale, " would perhaps be worthy of the Theatre Frangais 
if the author would incur the risk of producing it there." 2 
Then, becoming quite excited on the subject, he began again 
to make rhymes in honour of the " fair Genlis," like an admir- 
ing and foppish young gallant. Now he dedicated to her his 
Trois langages ; then, annoyed at a clumsily written eulogy 
of the Comtesse in the Annee litteraire — " that rhapsody 
which for a long time has hardly been read anywhere except 
in the cafes " — he mended his pen and exclaimed — 

" Devant les Deites du Cnide et du Parnasse, 
Le don le plus grossier se mclc au pur encens. 
Un lourdaut (sic) peut sentir la grace ; 3 
Un sot a loue les talents," etc. 

1 Theatre a V usage des jeunes personnes, Chez Panckouke, Hotel de Thou, 
Rue des Poiterins, Svo (1779-80). 

2 La Harpe, Correspondance litteraire, Lettre lxxxi. 

3 Ibid., Lettre cxiv. 


Or when Mme. de Genlis goes away to the country, he 
writes in Petrarchian fashion — 

"Ah! Genlis, ne nous quittez plus! 
Nous sommes tous heureux du desir de vous plaire, 
D'un seul de vos regards nos soins sont trop payes. 
Vous voyez pres de vous un epoux, une mere, 
Vos eniants dans vos bras, et nous tous a vos pieds." 

A little later Grimm 1 himself honoured the Thedtre with 
a long analytical review, in which, contrary to his custom, 
the criticism was interwoven with praise. In a word, there 
was no one more in fashion than Mme. de Genlis, who had 
become the object of a real enthusiasm. 

It must be added that meanwhile an important event 
served to increase her importance and surround her name with 
respect and prestige. 

On 23rd August 1777 the Duchess of Chartres had given 
birth to twins, and the little Princesses had been entrusted 
to Mme. de Rochambeau, until the time when their governess 
could undertake their education 

Then in the enclosure of the convent of Bellechasse 
the construction of a detached building was begun. The 
governess was to retire to it in order to devote herself com- 
pletely to their education. 

Now, this governess was to be no one else but Mme. de 

" It had been long settled between us," 2 she says, " that 
if the Duchess of Chartres had a daughter, I would be her 
governess, and that instead of taking charge of her when she 
was fifteen, I would take her from the cradle." 

She had made up her mind in advance, she tells us, not 
to educate her at the Palais Royal, but to place herself in a 
convent with her. 

But could the Comtesse de Genlis thus desert the elegant 
Palais Royal ? Could she exchange her brilliant life at Court 
for life in a cloister, or at the very least for the merely 
scholastic and quasi-monastic life of a boarding - school 
teacher ? 

1 Grimm, Correspondance, July 1779. 

2 This promise, it seems, dated from the time of the visit to Italy. 


Why should she retire from the world, in complete health, 
only thirty-one, with still youthful features and a graceful 
figure, and without any pecuniary gain ; for notwithstanding 
the generous offers made by the Duke of Chartres, and 
although there were two Princesses, she would not accept 
anything more than the allowance of 6000 limes fixed by the 

It seemed a colossal sacrifice. 

But Mine, de Genlis liked winning wagers. 

She had proved this already by giving up the use of 
rouge as soon as she was thirty. " It was," according to a 
contemporary, " the age when some women of the great 
world, out of affectation, ceased to dance or to wear flowers. 
It was a way of prolonging the youth of those who were pretty 
and w r ell preserved." x When Mine, de Genlis announced 
her intention of marking the occasion by giving up rouge, 
the Duke of Chartres laughed at her, said it was only a piece 
of feminine coquetry, made a bet on it . . . and lost. On 
26th January 1776 the Countess appeared at the Palais 
Royal without rouge. The next day she found seated at her 
writing-table a life-sized doll, pen in hand, before a quire of 
fine paper, and within reach were thirty- two octavos of blank 
paper bound in green morocco and twenty-four others bound 
in red morocco, displaying all the bright newness of their gilt 
edges. At the feet of the figure lay a large cardboard case 
furnished with notepaper, envelopes, sealing-wax, gold and 
silver powder ; a penknife, a compass, a ruler and scissors 
completed the present. The Duke of Chartres had lost his 
bet and was paying his debt in a way that was both gallant 
and ingenious. 

" It is strange," said Mme. de Genlis at a later date, 
" that though I always had religious feelings, yet all the 
devout sacrifices I have made were not inspired by religion, 
and it is a thing I am sorry for." Wc can therefore without 
doing her an injustice reckon up the advantages she would 
derive from her apparently claustral retirement at Belle- 

In quitting the Palais Royal Mme. de Genlis did not 
1 Comte de Tremont, Notice imdite. 


really give up what was most valuable to her there, namely, 
her close friendship with the Duke and Duchess of Chartres, 
but she gained in so far as her conduct would no longer be 
subject to the unceasing and malevolent inspection of the 
courtiers, so that she would enjoy the freedom of action that 
she valued, and have the time and the quiet that were 
necessary if she was to pursue the literary career of which she 
had made such a brilliant beginning. She would no longer 
be the mark of ill-will, jealousy, and spiteful epigrams. 

Instead of living continually on her guard, in a state of 
war that her smiles hardly disguised, Mine, de Genlis 
would regain her independence. She would be the mistress, 
and the absolute mistress, of the Princesses. Finally, there 
was the glorious thought that she was walking in the foot- 
steps of Mme. de Maintenon. 

Beautiful and younger than the widow of Scarron, she 
was, like her, about to rule over a little world of her own, 
withdrawing far from useless distractions, with the royal 
children and their nurses, and like her, too, devoting herself 
entirely to her new duties, moulding as she pleased these 
young minds and watching over them night and day. 

Where Mme. de Genlis broke with the tradition left 
by her austere model was in reserving her appointment and 
her rooms at the Palais Royal for her daughter Caroline, 
for the days when, after her marriage, she could have the 
benefit of both. 

But as Mme. de Maintenon had not a daughter, one 
cannot say what she would have done if the existence of 
children had forced her to take their future into consideration. 

The convent of Bellechasse, 1 a house of the canonesses 
of the Holy Sepulchre, known also as the nuns of Lorraine, 
then occupied the large rectangle between the Rues St. 
Dominique, de Grenelle, de Bourgogne, and de Bellechasse — 
that is to say, very nearly the site now occupied by the 
basilica and the square of Sainte Clotilde and the Rue Las 
Cases. The front of the buildings looked upon the Rue de 

1 The community at the end of the eighteenth century was composed of 
twenty-four nuns and six lay sisters. It had an income of over 30,000 livres 
at the time of the Revolution (Arnaud, Adelaide d' Orleans, p. 20). 


Bellechasse, and on that side was the main entrance. But 
the gardens extended lengthwise between the Rues de Gre- 
nelle and St. Dominique as far as the Rue de Bourgogne. It 
was on the side looking out on the Rue St. Dominique, in the 
garden to the left of the convent, that the Duke of Chartres 
caused to be built for the young Princesses and their teacher 
a detached building, of which Mme. de Genlis, acting as an 
amateur architect, had drawn the plans. 

It was a square house with one storey above the ground 
floor, in a simple and regular style without ornamentation. 
It was connected with the convent by an alley of trellis-work, 
roofed with oilcloth, along which a vine was trained. Before 
the front door, opening on the Rue St. Dominique, was an 
iron rail and gate, of which the nuns kept the key. 

After the Revolution this building became a dwelling- 
house with a courtyard opening on the end of the present 
Rue de Solferino, and was numbered 13 (or, according to 
M. Lenotre, 11 and 11 bis) in the Rue St. Dominique. And in 
our own days, before a great modern erection took its place, 
there was still to be seen, it appears, instead of the iron rail 
a screen of sheet-metal " painted to represent curtains falling 
in folds " flanked by two niches in which lightly draped 
figures of women seemed to invite the visitor — " one smiling 
with her little foot advancing as if in a gliding step of a 
dance ; the other turning her head away half pettishly, and 
with a sweeping gesture bringing an upraised finger to the 
corner of her lips." 1 

In the time of Mme. de Genlis the interior of the 
building, its arrangement and decoration, all, even to the 
smallest details, told of the educational purpose for which 
she had designed it. 

It was so arranged that day and night she could watch 
over her pupils. 

Her own room was hardly separated from that of the 
Princesses by a glass door without any frosting on the panes, 
and with no curtains. From her bed the governess could see 
all that happened in her pupils' room. She has described 
for us, with a touch of pride, this room for the children, 

1 Lenotre, Vieilles maisons, Vieux papiers (Temps, 29th December 1909). 



with its walls adorned with panels painted in oil, on which, 
on a background of sky-blue, medallions in monochrome 
represented the seven Kings of Rome and at least six dozen 
of the Emperors up to Constantine, with their Empresses, 
copied from Roman medals. From the dawn of their in- 
telligence the twins could see above the door the chief 
exploits of celebrated men, on two large folding-screens the 
portraits of the Kings of France, and on hand-screens scenes 
from mythology. All the staircase was devoted to geography. 
The whole length of the walls was covered with hanging maps, 
which could be taken down for lessons — those of the southern 
countries at the low T er end of the stair, those of northern lands 
higher up. Finally, an English maid and one who knew how 
to speak Italian perfectly were chosen for the Princesses. 

Having thus organised the surroundings in which her 
teaching was to be carried on, the new governess, after having 
been feted at a state dinner, given in her honour by the 
Duke and Duchess of Chartres, entered in triumph into 
Bellechasse, " that refuge where I was to exercise so sweet a 
swa}^." She was accompanied by her mother, now a widow, 
and her daughters, who followed her into her retirement. 

One may ask, no doubt, with the latest biographer of 
Marie Adelaide, what precisely she could do for Princesses so 
young as these ? 

First of all, she had to share with the Duchess of Chartres, 
who came and spent a part of the day with her children, the 
sweet cares of motherhood, the smiling and kissing and sing- 
ing by the cradle. But to talk about education, and discuss 
its various methods, was so much the fashion with mothers 
since Jean-Jacques, that this had to be a part of the pro- 
gramme till the Princesses were old enough for practical 
applications of the theory. 

As there were no lessons to be done, no teaching to be 
given, the governess at least took care to show that she 
was a good housekeeper. A great lady now, she clung to her 
reputation for this practical business, " because it is ordin- 
arily denied to women who like reading and cultivate litera- 
ture and the arts." She therefore organised the household 
arrangements of Bellechasse, and examined each day the 


prices of supplies for the kitchen ; but, refusing to handle 
the money, she sent those who brought the bills, after she had 
properly checked them, to be paid by the Duke's treasurer. 
And this very admirable method once more reminds us of 
Mme. de Maintenon. 

But the monastic peace in which she lived in the midst 
of this district of great houses and convents allowed Mme. 
de Genlis to abandon herself undisturbed to her favourite 
studies. In the evening after eight o'clock her familiar 
friends came to see her — the Duke and Duchess of Chartres 
very often, also the Marquis du Crest, the Balincourts, three 
or four of her inner circle ; but the Duke of Orleans was never 
seen there, or Mme. de Montesson. They never set foot in 

At ten o'clock no stranger was to stay any longer within 
the bounds of the convent, and the portress closed the gate. 
However, the servants had the key of a little door opening on 
the street, and no doubt in case of need use might be made 
of this. 

But every Saturday, from six to half-past nine, the 
governess held a reception. Her favourite guests were men 
of letters and artists ; for the greater was her own recognised 
success, the more she liked to meet celebrated people and 
deal with them like one great power treating with another. 
So we find that these Saturday gatherings had very learned 
elements in their composition. 

The most notable guest was Buffon, now full of years 
and fame, venerable, illustrious, and yet always ready to 
burn incense before "his noble daughter." Other incense- 
bearers were Gaillard, the historian, an easy-going gentle- 
man ; the Abbe de Vauxelles, famous as a bibliographer ; 
the Chevalier de Chastellux, enthusiastic and eager ; M. de 
Sauvigny, more eager and ardent still ; Marmontel ; the 
sarcastic Rulhieres : they formed her ordinary circle. To 
these must be added the names of two regular visitors, men 
of letters and rather inclined to pedantry — Bernardin de 
St. Pierre and La Harpe. The latter was misanthropic, a 
grumbler, suffering from his own ill -humour, and though a 
friend of Rousseau by no means a philosopher in his way of 


living. " He went away before the rest, and always in bad 
humour," x for he was worrying about the expected success 
of his Etudes de la Nature. The former, a passionate ad- 
mirer of the fair mistress of the house, came dressed with 
excessive care, was affected in his conversation, stiffly 
dignified in his bearing, and, says Mme. de Genlis, " made 
no secret of his own opinion of his pretensions being all- 
sufficient." He avenged himself for the coldness of the idol 
to which he offered incense by letting fly in the conversation 
a number of sarcastic and spiteful remarks. 

Sometimes Mme. du Deffand would find her way to 
Bellechasse, and her sad scepticism, full of bitterness as it 
was, would break out in more irritable remarks than usual 
if Dalembert happened to be present. For he came often 
enough with M. de Schomberg, sending beforehand one of 
his essays fresh from the printing press, 2 an act of homage 
always appreciated by an authoress. But she gave him in 
return even less of literary praise than of the favour of her 
good graces. For she disliked the appearance, the falsetto 
voice, the acrid, mocking, burlesque, and caustic tone of the 
philosojihe. Perhaps unwittingly he reminded her of a certain 
salon in the Rue Neuve St. Paul, where, it will be remem- 
bered, he had come to pay tactless compliments to a little 
harpist, poor but already famous. Alas ! she was no longer 
the simple-minded debutante whose sallies and self-willed 
jests well suited her fresh, childish looks. A condescending 
dignity befitting her new and important post of instructor 
to Princesses of the royal race was now the all -pervading 
characteristic of Mme. de Genlis's manners and bearing. 
And it was from this time that she began to assume the 
austere mask under which those of later years generally saw 
her. It was since she had established herself at Bellechasse 
that there was noticed in her that touch of pedantry which, 
according to a contemporary, " took from her one of the 
charms of her sex, simplicity . . . and which irritated the 
captious, imposed on the foolish, amused those who saw 

1 Arnaud, op. cit., p. 40. 

2 " D'Alembert sent me his essays as soon as they were printed " (Genlis, 
Souvenirs de Felicie, ii. 317). 


through it, and took in those who had not time to look 
closely into it." x Of course the life of Mme. de Genlis at 
Bellechasse was not a cloistered retirement like that of the 
nuns. At certain times she left the convent, went about 
Paris, and visited her friends. 

According to Lefeuve, 2 it even happened sometimes that 
she received them in the privacy of a charming place of 
refuge. The historian of the old houses of Paris tells us 
that M. de Genlis owned in the Rue des Amandiers Popin- 
court one of those luxuriously furnished mansions that 
were so numerous in the eighteenth century, and were then 
called " follies " after having been known under the Regency 
as " petites maisons." The house had been the scene of his 
bachelor dissipations. It was the " Folie Genlis," a large 
and fine mansion surrounded by a little park and gardens. 
" The interior was enriched with wonderful paintings and 
sculptures. A small Greek temple adorned with statues 
was among the outbuildings. There was a parlour with 
mirrors, the entrance to which was defended by the figure 
of an armed warrior ; the warrior's lance, moved by a 
spring, was lowered and presented in salutation to the 
visitors as they entered." The house, we are told, had been 
placed by the Count at his wife's disposal, and she used to 
come there to enjoy the delights of conversation in company 
with her cousin M. de Tressan, and some famous men, especi- 
ally Gluck and Buffon. 

The story is not without its points of interest. It opens 
the way to more than one theory. But, unfortunately for 
it, the " Folie Genlis " really belonged not to the Count, but 
to his brother the Marquis, who gave it to his wife, nee 
Villemeur, no doubt in partial restitution of her dowry, which 
he had squandered in his dissipations with La Duthe. So 
when Lefeuve hints at scandals connecting the authoress of 
the Veillees du Chateau with the " Folie Genlis," is he not 
confusing Mme. de Genlis with her sister-in-law, who was said 
to have taken reprisals on her husband by conduct even 
more lax than his own ? 

1 Cf. Galerie des Dames francaises, Polixene. 
* Anciennes Maisons de Paris, 1873. 


There is nothing to show that even the fine description 
of the house is correct. Lefeuve tells us what it was like 
when he saw it in 1856. But the " Folie " had been rebuilt 
by the sculptor Carbonneau, who certainly must have changed 
its original arrangements. All these reasons must make 
us doubtful as to the presence of Mine, de Genlis at the 
mansion in the Quartier Popincourt. But there is reason to 
believe that besides Bellechasse the governess had another 
place in Paris. According to a tradition preserved in the 
Quatremere family, she lived for some time in rooms in one 
of the two houses, both of which are now numbered 6 Rue 
de St. Dominique. Perhaps this lodging was intended for a 
place for meeting politicians during the Revolution ; perhaps 
it served for other purposes. In any case, it would seem 
that Mme. de Genlis had thus provided herself with a 
shelter outside Bellechasse, where she could go when she 
wished, and have more freedom than inside the walls of a 

Mme. de Genlis discharged the duties of governess during 
about five years. 

The Duke of Chartres had engraved in London " in black 
and white " a print showing the teacher with her two 
daughters and the two Princesses. Below the print, which 
was entitled " The Governess," there were verses specially 
composed by La Harpe, celebrating the talents and the 
maternal love of the teacher. 

And indeed this La Harpe, with his facile rhymes, had 
made himself indispensable. His pen was always ready for 
an appropriate verse. If the young Princesses presented 
the Duchess with a drawing on her birthday, La Harpe at 
once added a quatrain as its inscription. 

The Duchess was present at the marriage supper of 
Caroline de Genlis, who married in 1779 a Belgian nobleman, 
the Marquis Becelaer de la Woestine, a rich match well 
regarded at Court : La Harpe addressed to Her Highness a 
couplet composed at the table. The young bride on the 
same occasion presented to the Duchess an allegorical 
drawing representing virtue surrounded by its attributes, 
and again it was La Harpe who versified its dedication and 


inscribed with his own hand its pompous phrases below the 

He could hardly in decency be so troublesome as to 
present himself every day at Bellechasse : but are verses 
ever out of place ? So his were continually arriving there, 
full of exaggerated praise, and dull even to stupidity. 

On 1st January 1780 he sent his " poetic tribute " with 
the Maxims of La Rochefoucauld, his New Year gift to 
Mme. de Genlis. This was what he said : l — 

" Voici du coeur humain ce sinistre interprete, 
Ce moraliste redoute, 
Qui medisait de tout aupres de La Fayette, 
Ce peintre severe et vante, 
Qui d'un triste crayon noircit l'humanite, 
Pres de vous, 6 Genlis, eut change de palete (sic) 
Et vous voyant aussi parfaite, il eut peint la nature en beaute," etc. 

As was anticipated, the young Marquise de la Woestine 
took possession of her mother's appointment and rooms at 
the Palais Royal. 

As has been mentioned, Mme. de Genlis had invited 
Mme. d'Andlau, now a widow, to live with her at Belle- 

In the beginning of January 1782 the eldest of the little 
Orleans twins, Mile, d' Orleans, was attacked with an ill- 
ness " which was stated to be measles or scarlatina, but 
was really nothing less than smallpox," and there was grave 
anxiety about her. 

The Duchess of Chartres came to stay beside her daughter, 
and would leave to no one else the duty of caring for her, 
while Mme. de Genlis took away to the chateau of St. 
Cloud the other Princess, whom it was necessary to remove 
from the danger of infection. 

But in spite of the doctors and of the most devoted 
care, Mile, d' Orleans succumbed on 6th February. Her 
sister Adelaide, who had so far been known as Mile, de 
Blois, then took the title of d' Orleans. 

A month before this to the very day — on 6th January 
1782 — a surprising piece of news, which no one could credit, 
1 La Harpe, Correspondance littcraire, Lettre cxx. 


flew from Paris to Versailles, and in the twinkling of an eye 
went the round of the salons. The Duke of Chartres, in 
some incomprehensible whim, " had just dismissed the 
governors and deputy-governors appointed ten years before 
for his two sons, the Due de Valois and the Due de Mont- 
pensier, in order to hand over for the future the entire care 
of their education to the gentle Comtesse de Genlis, already 
the instructress of his daughters the two Princesses." 1 
1 Journal du libraire Hardy, 8th January 1782. 



Of all the singular proceedings with which the Duke of 
Chartres from his youth upwards had been in the way of 
setting people talking, the appointment of Mine, de 
Genlis to the post of governor of his sons, the young Princes, 
was the most unexpected. If we are to believe the lady, 
she found herself unexpectedly the object of a choice which, 
she says, " nothing had ever led me to anticipate." 

There was a curious scene at Bellechasse one evening 
between eight and nine o'clock. The Comtesse was all 
alone in her rooms, expecting her august friend, who gener- 
ally paid her a visit at that hour. When he came, he was 
disturbed, excited, in a bad humour. He declared point- 
blank that he could no longer endure M. Bonnard, the " sub- 
governor " of his sons. In the way in which things were 
going on, they would soon have the manners of " shop-boys." 
Had not the eldest that very morning had the impudence 
to say that he had been regularly " drumming " at the door ; 
and during a walk at St. Cloud that he was " very much 
tormented by his relations " — meaning the insects spoken of 
as cousins ! 

Really this was intolerable. So the Duke had come to 
consult Mme. de Genlis as to the choice of a governor, 
who would put the " sub -governor " in his proper 

She proposed several names in succession. M. de Schom- 
berg ? He would make the boys into pedants. 

The Chevalier de Durfort ? He was too solemn ; too 
emphatic. M. de Thiars ? He was levity personified. 



" Then," adds Mme. de Genlis, " I began to laugh, 
and I said to him, ' Well, what about me ? ' " 

Strange to say, the Duke did not move a muscle. He 
seemed prepared to hear this wild proposal ; one would have 
said that he had foreseen it. At once his lips murmured, 
" Why not ? " 

And, stranger still perhaps, Mme. de Genlis at once 
accepted. Anyone else would have played the part of being 
taken by surprise, would have pretended to think it was a jest, 
would have protested. She, on the contrary, was delighted, 
and took the chance as soon as it presented itself. " The 
manner and the tone of the Duke of Chartres," she says, 
" made a very strong impression on me. I saw the possi- 
bility of something quite out of the common, something 
famous, and I hoped that it might be possible for it to be 
realised. I told him quite frankly my thoughts. The Duke 
seemed charmed, and said to me, ' Well, it's done. You 
shall be their governor.' " 

On the Epiphany all Paris learned the latest new depart- 
ure of the Duke of Chartres — a regular coup d'etat. It 
created an extraordinary sensation everywhere, an immense 
agitation of public opinion, the echoes of which went on 
for some months to come. 

Nothing else but this event was discussed in conversation 
and in correspondence, in the newspapers and news-letters, 
among gossips and sensible people, in the Court and in the city. 

And whatever Mme. de Genlis may say, the thing was 
not generally approved of — " rather it called forth general 
ill-will." > 

It was whispered that, notwithstanding the Duke's well- 
known disregard for conventionalities, it might well be at 
Bellechasse that the idea had its origin. It was asked if 
the Duchess of Chartres had been consulted ; and no one 
could say, because her maternal anxieties soon made Her 
Highness a prisoner at the bedside of her sick daughter, 
and cut her off from all relations with the outside world. 
But her friendship for Mme. de Genlis at this time does 
not permit any doubt of her approbation. 
1 Cf. Toulotte, La Cour et la Ville, i. 17. 



When the Duke, in fulfilment of his duty, asked the 
opinion of the King, Louis xvi. replied, with a shrug of 
the shoulders, " Happily I have the Dauphin. The Com- 
tesse d'Artois has her children. You have the right to do 
what you please with yours." * 

Naturally the Court made the most of the royal ill- 
humour ; the Palais Royal, with its jealousy of the Genlis, 
was even more hostile. The bourgeoisie criticised a step 
which went beyond established usage, and the publisher 
Hardy, echoing its respectable feelings, did not think that 
" the example given by the Duke of Chartres ought ever 
to find any great number of imitators." Even foreigners 
mixed themselves up with the affair. " One cannot say," 
writes M. de Kageneck, " what new theory of education 
has led this father to entrust his sons to the hands of women 
so long after the time when all Princes take theirs away 
from them." 2 

As soon as the appointment was officially notified — in the 
last days of February 1782 — there was a shower of songs, 
little poems, epigrams of all kinds. 

" Here," says Garat, " they talk for two or three days 
about a battle won or lost, and then the success or failure 
of a comic opera soon makes people forget about it. It 
is not so with the adventure of Madame de Genlis. It has 
now for more than a month been the chief subject of con- 
versation, and every day there is a renewed outburst of 
couplets, sarcasms, and puns." 3 

The jokers of Versailles started a report that the Due de 
Luynes, whose stupidity was proverbial, had asked for the 
post of nurse to the little Dauphin. And the story went 
that, when His Majesty asked a nobleman of the Court about 
it, he got the reply, " Sire, however powerful the Duke of 
Chartres may be, I can hardly believe that he will ever succeed 
in changing a woman into a man." 4 

1 The reply of Louis xvi. has been variously reported, but these variations 
do not change its sense. Cf. Kageneck, Garat, Prudhomme, op. cit. 

s Letters of Kageneck to Baron Alstromer, 1782, p. 388. Cf. Correspond- 
ance secrete inedite, publiee par M. de Lescure, i. 455. 

3 Garat, Precis historique de la vie de M. le Chevalier de Bonnard, 103. 

* Ibid. 


Talleyrand, later on, attributed the event to the vanity of 
the Duke. But, after all, at that time it was an easy pretext 
for the " furbishing up of old stories that had been forgotten." 

In Mme. de Montesson's circle they were humming — 

" F.tre prude, etre galante, 
Meier la gloire a l'erreur 
Fut l'art de la gouvernante 
Pourquoi pas du gouverneur ? 
De cette femme charmante, 
Ne plaignons point le Destin. 
On peut bien etre pedante, 
Sans pour cela cesser d'aimer le genre humain." 

There was undeniable truth in the gossip which alleged 
that feminine failings had prepared the way for this mas- 
culine appointment. Truth has sometimes ugly aspects. 
Besides, Mme. de Genlis herself thought it well to cast 
a veil over them. When her Memoirs appeared in 1825, 
and especially that charming account of the famous evening 
when the Duke seemed, as if on a sudden impulse, to have 
appointed her governor, the story was to be contradicted by 
the son of the Chevalier de Bonnard. 

" One may be allowed," he wrote, " to regard as incorrect 
this account of the manner in which the Duke of Chartres 
suddenly decided to appoint Madame de Genlis governor to 
his children. The papers in my possession contain sug- 
gestions of very different circumstances, and point to the 
decision having been brought about by preparations made 
long in advance." x 

At the same time the Genlisiana recalled the fact that the 
public in 1782 named La Harpe assistant governess, attri- 
buting, in a spirit of exaggeration, to the author of Les 
Barmecides " the greater part of the writings of Madame de 
Genlis." 2 And in fact there is to be found among the minor 
records of the period before 1789 an epigram that had been 
quietly handed round in this scandal-loving world, which is 
an attack on the critic and Mme. de Genlis. 

Before this chorus of jest and sarcasm Mme. de Genlis 
did not for a moment lose her self-possession. She would 

1 Journal des Debats, 26th May 1825. 

2 Cousin d'Avallon, Genlisiana. Cf. also Nougaret, Anecdotes, ii. 190. 


indeed have had little foresight if she had not anticipated all 
this clamour. The reality was, in fact, something less than 
she expected, and the outburst less terrible than she had 

She was not afraid of being talked about. It is opinion, 
says Pascal, that makes success. The Countess therefore 
took possession of her new post with incomparable assurance. 
By what mistaken sense of shame could she disguise her joy 
at it ? This title of " governor " was a superb triumph, a 
brilliant glory for her, a halo round her name. 

Her pride exulted, and all her being glowed with a haughty 
sense of the intoxication of success. One can see it in the 
delightful miniature at Chantilly, that portrait with its 
daring charm which " has an expression of real triumph, and 
must be as good a likeness mentally as physically." 1 When 
one has seen it, one feels that Mine, de Genlis was the kind 
of woman to put the railers to silence. 

Usually the governors, while nominally presiding over 
the education of their princely pupils, confided, for good 
reasons, the active part of their duties to subordinates. The 
Comtesse de Genlis, a governor in petticoats, did not mean 
to have the title without the duties, and was resolved on 
justifying her ambition by the knowledge she displayed. 

Capable as she was of instructing and communicating 
science, she decided not to leave to anyone else the task of 
teaching her pupils what she had acquired with patience and 
resolution. A woman called to an office which till then had 
belonged only to men, she thought she could do better than 
any man ; and at the price of her freedom and her repose, 
though not of her own personal likings, she assumed the task 
of educating the descendants of Henri iv. 

It was she, then, who was to dole out to them each day 
instalments of history, mythology, grammar, literature, and 
the arts, without counting good advice and the incessant 
care such a duty required — a difficult, fatiguing, heroic task, 
worthy of a Fenelon and not of a Maurepas. 

But since she had the toil, she must also have the honour 

1 Gruyer, La Jeunesse du roi Louis Philippe, 28 (this portrait is the frontis- 
piece of the present work) . 


of it. Mme. de Genlis was intent on this above all else in the 
world, and she gave proof of it by once more refusing the 
salary of 20,000 francs offered her by the Duke. 1 In return 
she insisted upon full powers and an almost unlimited re- 
signation of the father's authority into her hands. She 
meant to be " absolute mistress " of the education of the 
Princes. From the day when she took up her duties, 
" Madame le Gouverneur " made her authority felt, and 
let it be clearly understood that she placed in the first 
rank the virtue of obedience. To submit or to resign, 
such was implicitly the watchword of her joyous accession 
to her post ; and the first victim of it was the gentle, upright, 
and methodical Chevalier de Bonnard. 

Bernard de Bonnard was one of those men who are 
sensitive in heart and mind, and who direct to noble ideals 
the faculties of their soul and the aspirations of their life. 

Affectionate, serious-minded, delicately scrupulous, " an 
agreeable poet, but above all distinguished by his moral 
character," 2 full of gentleness and pleasantness, the Chevalier 
had none but friends. 

Such natures seem made for quiet provincial life, with its 
narrow circle and its somewhat contemplative character ; 
for family life, where their modest virtues can expand in the 
glow of the domestic hearth. But above all they are capable 
of deep and faithful attachment. They triumph in the ac- 
complishment of long-enduring tasks, in which the example 
they give of continuous, persevering effort gradually wins 
esteem, and builds up stone by stone a solid edifice. 

It was a task like this that Bonnard thought he was called 
by Heaven to accomplish with the Orleans Princes. 

And since, according to custom, the governor — always 
a great noble — enjoyed his title as a distinction that gave him 
privileged rank at Court, and entrusted to his subordinates 
the care for the practical duties of his office, to be appointed 
sub-governor was to find oneself called to direct these young 

1 " The Duke of Chartres offered me 20,000 francs. I replied that such an 
engagement and so much care could only be repaid by friendship. He insisted 
in vain" (Mimoires, hi. 143). 

2 Michaud, Biographie, art. " Genlis." 


minds ; to guide, adorn, and develop them, and make them 
worthy of their name and their future. For the Chevalier 
" this post of sub-governor was his life, his aim, his honour. 
He had ardently desired it." x 

Thanks to Gueneau de Montbeliard ; to Buffon, whose 
disciple he had been, and to the excellent Mme. de Buffon ; 
thanks also perhaps to Mme. de Genlis, who boasts of 
having been his patron, 2 Bernard de Bonnard obtained the 
realisation of his dream on 8th November 1778. 3 

The dream had lasted four years — for a dream here below 
that is something immense — when the sudden appointment 
of the Countess made it vanish. 

According to Mme. de Genlis, the Duke of Chartres 
thought of leaving Bonnard his title of sub-governor for the 
sake of appearances. But one can well understand that to 
impose the rule of Mme. de Genlis on a man who had been 
exercising power for four years was to place that man in an 
impossible position. " M. de Bonnard," she says in her 
Memoirs, " felt that with me the honour of educating the 
Princes would not be left in his hands ; that he would have 
to follow my ideas and not his own ; it seemed to him very 
humiliating to obey a woman." The Chevalier gave in his 
resignation. It was equivalent to a dismissal. 

Many have asserted that the dismissal preceded the 
appointment of the lady governor. This is hardly likely. 
The Countess herself, the son of Bonnard, and following them 
the latest biographer of the Chevalier, hold that the dis- 
missal was a result of the appointment. They are certainly 
right. 4 In any case, the two events succeeded each other at 
an interval of a few hours, between the 5th and 6th of January. 
As soon as he heard that a governor was appointed, and that 
this unexpected governor was Mme. de Genlis, Bonnard 
retired. Both, far from attracting each other according to 

1 Martin-Dairvault, Poesies du chevalier de Bonnard, p. 12. 

2 " The Chevalier de Bonnard, who owed his place to me" (Genlis, Me- 
moires, hi. 145). 

3 He was appointed in December 1777, but did not enter upon his duties 
till 8th November 1778. 

4 Cf . Genlis. Ibid., Journal des Dibats, 24th May 1825. Martin-Dairvault, 
op. cit. 


the laws of physics, mutually repelled each other. Too many 
divergences separated them. When one arrived, the other, 
judging that he had lost his master's confidence, went away. 
He enjoyed — and this, it would seem, at the request of his 
enemy — the same salary as if he had remained in office ; 
moreover, an autograph letter from the Prince softened his 
disappointment at having to retire. The magnanimous 
Mme. de Genlis flattered herself that she had on this 
occasion obtained the highest approbation from Buffon — 
a mistake frankly pointed out by Nadault de Buffon in a 
note on his uncle's correspondence. 1 

We do not know why Mme. de Genlis was always ex- 
tremely unfair towards the Chevalier, whose death came not 
long after. 2 

Forty-five years later she once more turns him into 
ridicule in her Memoirs, laughing at his ways, his " bad 
tone," his puerile poems, and his negligence. Already be- 
fore this the Journal d' education des princes, published dur- 
ing the Revolution, contained several passages criticising the 
unfortunate habits that poor Bonnard had given to his pupils. 

" It seems," says the son of Bonnard sadly, " that forty 
years after his death she could not pardon him the harm she 
had done him during his life." 

Was it out of a kind of incomprehensible jealousy that 
she complained to the Duke of Chartres about the Precis de la 
vie du chevalier, published by Garat in 1785, as a homage to 
the memory of his friend ; and that under the pretext that 
the Prince's letter to the sub-governor on his resignation 
was printed without his authority, she induced His Highness 
to bring the matter before the Keeper of the Seals ? The 
latter being unable to touch an author whose work had not 

1 " The friendship of Buffon for Madame de Genlis cooled for a moment. 
He was a patron of the Chevalier de Bonnard, and with the help of the Count 
de Maillebois had got him a place in the Palais Royal. But he was very- 
displeased with the conduct of Madame de Genlis towards the Chevalier. 
On the day when she was appointed Governor of the children of the Duke of 
Chartres, the Chevalier de Bonnard asked for his dismissal, and Buffon had some 
difficulty in forgiving Madame de Genlis for the injury she had done to his 
protege " (Correspondance inedite, published by Nadault de Buffon, ii. 568). 

2 He died of the smallpox in 1784. 


been issued for sale, turned upon the printer Didot, and sent 
him to spent two nights in the Bastille. 1 

We shall not try to clear up this problem of feminine 
antipathy. Perhaps the foundation of Mme. de Genlis's 
animosity was a feeling of awkward constraint. For it is 
said that Bonnard was a man " who was perfectly well 
informed as to the frivolities and failings of her youth," 2 
It would thus be of extreme importance for the Countess to 
send away to a distance from Bellechasse a witness who knew 
so much. 

However this may be, the post of sub-governor fell to a 
M. Lebrun, formerly secretary to M. de Genlis, a good 
mathematician, an excellent administrator, and uprightness 

The Abbe Guyot remained as a tutor. " Madame the 
Governor," indeed, made some fun of his pretence to wit, his 
pedantry, his mania for repeating on every occasion, " If I 
may venture so to express myself." He armed himself with 
evangelical patience and remained. There were associated 
with him later, an Italian master, M. Mariottini ; a chemist, 
M. Alyon ; and a Polish painter, Myris. 

M. Lebrun and the Abbe whose duty was to go over 
various lessons, the former in the exact sciences, the latter 
in religious instruction and Latin, brought their pupils 
every day to Bellechasse, and took them back to the Palais 
Royal at ten in the evening. Mme. de Genlis thus gave 
each day all the afternoon to the instruction and education of 
the Princes. 

At this period only the two elder boys counted for the 
Governor. M. de Valois was eight, his brother, M. de Mont- 
pensier, seven. As for the youngest, M. de Beaujolais, he 
was vStill in the nursery. 

Mme. de Genlis took it into her head to teach them 
all the knowledge of the time in all its branches. Having 
given her attention a little to everything in history, literature, 

1 Cf. Grimm, Correspondence, September 1785. Also at the same date a 
curious letter of Garat to Grouvelle, and the reply of Grouvelle. See also 
Rabbe, Biographic , art. " Genlis." 

2 Billault de Gerainville, Histoire de Louis Philippe, i. 11. 



grammars, and dictionaries, she had enough of personal 
erudition, even with a tinge of theology, to form for herself 
an idea of the extent of such a programme of education. Her 
ambitious desire to surpass in this way everyone who before 
her had engaged in such work, her mind inspired by the 
writings of Rousseau and formed on the new ideas, did the 
rest. From the very outset her plan included those practical 
exercises that Emile had brought into fashion, notably 
manual work at carpentry, gardening, basket-making, etc., 
till then unknown to Princes of royal blood ; and besides 
those gymnastic exercises and that physical hardening, for 
which, before her time and during it, reliance had been placed 
only on riding and hunting. Then there was the study of 
five or six living languages, botany, etc. 

She managed it all, it must be admitted, in a splendid 
way, and we shall have detailed proof of this later. 

But from outside, eyes inspired by ill-will were watching 
the college and its directress. 

Although exceptional intellectual culture was not denied 
to Mine, de Genlis, many threw doubt upon her capacity for 

She, on the contrary, felt she was illuminated with 
infinite light. The difficulties of her formidable task filled 
her with a glorious zeal. As Sainte-Beuve says : " She was 
something more than an authoress, she was a woman- 
teacher . . . born with the sign of it on her forehead." And 
without loss of time she proved it. 

In the very month in which she became Governor, a book 
appeared : Adele et Theodore, ou Lettres sur V education. It 
was the reply — or the challenge — of Mine, de Genlis to 
public opinion. The choice, of which she had just been the 
object, " had, so to say, fixed all eyes upon her. It was im- 
possible not to be curious to see whether her book would 
justify such an extraordinary appointment, or would make it 
appear more ridiculous." x 

These familiar letters, written in an excellent style, con- 
tained, on the whole, an adaptation to practical life of the 
educational principles of Rousseau — who himself took them 
1 Grimm, Correspondence, January 1782. 


from Locke — but this adaptation was so natural, so well 
brought down to the understanding and taste of the minds of 
that time, that it was hailed as if it were a miracle. People 
thought they recognised in it " Plato without chimerical 
ideas, and Fenelon under the guidance of his heart and his 
fine imagination." x No work of Mme. de Genlis, except 
perhaps the Veillees du Chateau, had a more successful sale 
than Adele et Theodore. 2 

But it did not contain only a treatise on education. 
There were, besides, views on practical morality — morality 
founded on the Gospel ; there was a romantic element 
mingling in it, with word-portraits in which, under supposed 
names, the author caricatured some of the ridiculous women 
of her acquaintance. 

The intoxication of success carried away Mme. de Genlis 
a little. Hardly installed in her pulpit at Bellechasse, she 
settled herself in it and began to lay down the law in her 
own way. But in her imprudence she avenged herself 
thoroughly upon her numerous enemies for their stabs in the 
back. Certain caricatures were unfortunately so lifelike that 
the names of the victims were soon on every lip. 

Mme. de Montesson, who was by this time very jealous 
of her clever niece, recognised herself easily in the character 
of Mme. de Surville, and, if we are to believe certain 
gossips, she bestirred herself to make things unpleasant for 
Mme. de Genlis. 3 

Mme. de la Reyniere, scarcely concealed beneath the 
name of Mme. d'Olcy, had the mortification of seeing her 
despair of being nothing but a financier's wife advertised by 
the satirical Countess. However, against the " Governor's " 
ready sarcasm, she was able to compare the by no means 

1 Cf . Fr. Ad. de Lezay-Marnesia, Plan de lecture pour une jeune dame. 

2 Adele et Theodore, ou Lettres sur Veducation (Paris, Lambert, 1762, 3 vols. 

3 Bachaumont, on whom the responsibility for the information must 
rest, echoes a rumour according to which Mile. d'Orleans, who had died 
previously, did not succumb to measles, but to the consequences of a fall which 
Mme. de Genlis had carelessly omitted to mention. " Madame de Mon- 
tesson," he says, " hoped in this way to alienate at any rate Madame la Duchesse 
de Chartres, which would make her lose her position as tutor." Hardy, the 
bookseller, records the same rumour. 


distant time when the latter, " before her marriage with 
Monsieur de Genlis, was nothing but a poverty-stricken 
canoness, who went about playing the harp in great houses," 
and to whom " she had formerly had the impertinence on 
twenty occasions to offer dresses which were all accepted." 

By this time everyone was indignant, the more so since 
the author of Adele et Theodore, with a suggestion of very 
feminine conceit, appeared herself under the name of Baronne 
d'Almane, " in combination with every virtue and per- 

Quite suddenly a song appeared which was commonly 
attributed to Mme. de la Reyniere's son Grimod, better 
known as a gourmet than as a literary man. 

It was a tissue of such offensive allusions that Bachau- 
mont, himself a lover of gossip and spicy anecdotes, felt 
obliged to censure them. 

A second song followed, of which the last verse run : — 

" Le matin ma tete est sensee, 
Elle devient folle le soir. 
Je suis Monsieur dans le lycee, 
Et Madame dans le boudoir." 

As we see, the same accusations of intrigue were always 
made, but they were not of much importance at that time, 
being raised only by the Epinays, Boufflers, Coignys, and 
Houdetots. Nevertheless, they became more serious, or 
hit harder, when the philosophers took part in them. Adele 
et Theodore began the open warfare which was to last for half 
a century between Mme. de Genlis and the Encyclopedic. 

The philosophers, authors by profession, finding them- 
selves held up to scorn in the name of religion and morality 
by a woman who could both teach and fight, felt it wrong 
that this woman should defend in good style opinions con- 
trary to their own. They called it prudery and " revolting 
hypocrisy," and pretended to have discovered not only that 
the educational part of the work was a mere infusion of 
Locke, Rousseau, Fenelon, and Nicole, but that in addition 
the romantic episodes came from English and German 
sources, and were borrowed by Mme. de Genlis, who 
afterwards translated them. 


The songs began afresh. Every day a pile of anonymous 
papers arrived at Bellechasse, and there were not wanting 
many little ribald verses. In fact, " all the echoes of Paris 
were in accord " on the score of Mme. de Genlis. 

Public opinion had not subsided four months later, when 
it showed its indignation on Tuesday, 10th April 1782, in the 
Theatre-Francais. Les Females Savantes was being played 
that night for the second time in the new house. 

The arrival of Mme. de Genlis with the Princes, her 
pupils, who also accompanied their father, the Duke of 
Chartres, was the signal for the outburst of a tempest of 
whistling and hooting which went on for ten minutes. The 
storm had scarcely stopped when the Duke of Orleans and 
Mme. de Montesson appeared in their box, which was 
opposite the Duke of Chartres, and in violent contrast, the 
whole house breaks out into applause. During the whole 
performance, the allusions — " obvious to the point of in- 
decency " — are greeted noisily. These two lines : — 

" They wish to write and to become authors, 

And in this house more than in any other spot in the world" . . . 

were met particularly by cries, stamping, exclamations, and 
satirical applause. 

In fact, " everything that is ridiculous in the role of 
Philaminte was applied to Madame de Genlis, and every- 
thing that is virtuous and ingenuous in the role of Henriette 
was applied to Madame de Montesson, to whom people 
turned with much clapping of hands, while nothing but 
scornful and indignant glances were cast upon the other." 

The following day, and for many days after, there were 
new verses, songs, and parodies. Paris once more made 
merry at Mme. de Genlis's expense, as an authoress, 
instructress, and blue-stocking. 

Again she raised her head and braved the storm. She 
replied to the bursts of ironic laughter and jeers by the 
publication of crushing diatribes against " impiety and false 

This was perhaps hardly putting the struggle upon its 
proper footing. The friends of Voltaire, if they took part 


among the scoffers, met with many sensible, noble men, and 
virtuous women, at Versailles or at Mme. de Montesson's. 
However, one must defend oneself as best one can. It was 
a plucky thing for a woman to attempt to defend herself 
against so many enemies. 

And although the epigrams and indecent songs which 
ran from salon to salon made public opinion doubt her virtue, 
Mme. de Genlis went beyond the moralists and Christian 
teachers in raising the religious standard, and proved that 
she knew more of moral philosophy than anyone ! Her ardent 
convictions, defended with head held high and with the 
daring of sincerity, gained for her at any rate the Church's 
protection and the esteem of pious souls, against the denials 
of Voltaire, the atheistic sensualism of Holbach, and the 
licence of Diderot. 



Diderot learned through M. de Schomberg that Mme. 
de Genlis was about to publish a sensational book against 
the philosophers, and the Encyclopedic circle became 
alarmed. In spite of all the epigrams, Mme. de Genlis's 
prestige was growing. Her name was famous abroad as well 
as in Paris, and her influence, principally in matters of 
religion and morality, could not fail to win " the opinion of 
the great world and the Court at the Palais-Royal." x 

The philosophers, aware that " the bishops and parlia- 
mentarians only awaited an opportunity to proceed against 
the Encyclopedic" 2 became frightened and thought of how 
to prevent such a disaster. 

Mme. de Montesson's opinion, on the other hand, was of 
equal importance. The Marquise kept house for the fat 
Duke of Orleans with infinite charm and good taste. The 
most eminent and most respected people at Court and among 
the writers and artists visited her salon in the Chaussee 
d'Antin in the winter, and the Chateau de Sainte-Assise in the 

People found it impossible to conciliate the aunt and her 
niece at the same time, since neither of them forgave the 
other for her recent elevation, and both kept each other at 
a distance ; although, in the case of any dispute involving 
philosophy or religion, the two enemies would certainly have 
joined forces against the Encyclopedic — as that circle well 

A medium for agreement was looked for, and finally 

1 Souvenirs of the Marquise de Crequy, iii. 94. 2 Ibid. 



Dalembert took it upon himself to treat with the feminine 
powers. As he was often a visitor at Bellechasse, it was easy 
for him to begin with Mme. de Genlis. An excellent means 
of winning the consent of both ladies occurred to him, for 
both Mme. de Genlis and Mme. de Montesson, while differing 
greatly, presented the same vulnerable spot to a penetrating 
observer — that of their vanity as authoresses. 

Dalembert, like a clever mathematician, submitted the 
two vanities to the same calculation, believing that the 
operation would infallibly bring forth the same result in both 

His idea was none other than to open the doors of the 
French Academy to their feminine talents. Dalembert 
would very courteously lead them towards immortality. He 
began with Mme. de Genlis, and invited her before anyone 
else to sit in the glorious arm-chair of the Forty, providing 
she would not attack the Encyclopedic and " would not 
intrigue with the bigots." x After her would come Mme. 
de Montesson, and then — so as to " frame " them — Mme. 
Necker, Mme. d'Angivilliers, and the Marquise de Crequy. 
This was all right so far as it concerned Mme. de Genlis, 
who was a woman of great promise, but as to her foolish aunt, 
with her insipid collection of dull, unplayable comedies, 
unskilfully imitated from those by Marivaux, and drawn, it is 
said, from twelve models — could he have seriously thought 
of it? 

Dalembert, who was secretary for life of the French 
Academy, was for the moment busy only with the persuasion 
of Mme. de Genlis, which he undertook with great eloquence. 
It was a game at which he had often played, and in which he 

Alas ! Mme. de Genlis remained insensible to the 
charmer and his honeyed words. The glory of attaining 
immortality — when, moreover, she would have to share it 
with other women — did not attract her under such con- 
ditions. She wished also — and this does her honour — to 
preserve her freedom of thought and belief, and to be able 
to speak and write according to her conscience. 

1 Souvenirs of the Marquise de Crequy, iii. 94. 


An hour and a half of arguing did not convince her, and, 
besides, Dalembert was the last to whom she would have 
yielded. He finished by saying with a touch of spite : " You 
will always have charm on your side, Madame, but you will 
not have force." " Monsieur," she replied, with an ironic 
smile, as she showed him out, " women have no need of 

In this way Mme. de Genlis saved the French Academy 
from the feminine peril. Or so she assures us. But the 
anecdote is an amusing one, and Courchamps, who probably 
had it from the Comtesse when, during the Consulate, he 
visited her frequently, is the only one who confirms it, so the 
responsibility rests with him. 

Since then, the idea of an Academy in which women 
might have been included has often exercised our writers. 
It is a remarkable thing that Mme. de Genlis has always 
appeared worthy of being a member of it, and quite recently 
the eminent critic, M. Emile Faguet, placed her in the 
same rank with Mme. de Sevigne and Mme. de Stael. 
However, at the period when (if she did as she asserts) she 
refused with some haughtiness the honour of a seat among 
the Immortals, the philosophers paid her out in return, and 
the opportunity was not long in coming. 

In June 1782 — the same year — she was imprudent enough 
to solicit one of the Monthyon prizes for Adele et Theodore. 
The success of the work, the discussions of which it was 
everywhere the subject, the approbation and praise which it 
received, seemed to ensure its being crowned. The philo- 
sophic clique thereupon ostensibly interested itself in the 
second volume of Conversations d'jfcmilie which had recently 
appeared, and which was particularly dear to it more on 
account of Mme. d'Epinay's name than on account of the 
work itself. 

On the whole, the two books were of much the same 

Mme. d'Epinay, whose book dealt merely with the 
education of earliest infancy, wrote in general of appropriate 
subjects, neatly expressed in the natural style of dialogues 
between mother and daughter. As became a disciple of 


Jean-Jacques, the basis of the whole doctrine was the beauty 
and glorification of Nature. 

Mme. de Genlis was more scientific. Her book was 
broader, more learned, and was a better treatise on education. 
It roused at once the reader's interest and allowed him to 
assist in detail in the special education which the Baronne 
d'Almane, an excellent instructress and authoress of a 
Theatre a Vusage des jeunes personnes, gave to her pupils. 
But it firmly disputed the principles of the philosophers and 
the excellence of human nature as extolled by Rousseau. 

Mme. de Genlis had not the slightest doubt that the 
Academy would feel obliged to award the prize to her. Once 
more she hoped to break down all barriers and enter among 
people in spite of their resistance. A very amusing letter 
from Mme. de Genlis to her cousin, the Comte de Tressan, 
who had lately been elected to the French Academy, shows 
very clearly how she went to work. Here is the essential 
passage from this curious epistle : — 

" . . . As you speak to me with deep interest about the 
Academy and the judgment which it is going to pronounce, I 
am going to answer you with frankness. There is only one 
medal which could flatter me : it is the one which they are 
going to give ; if I do not have it, they will do well not to 
offer me any other afterwards. I know that there is a little 
plot to give it to the Conversations d'Emilie, a little work 
which is known only because I praised it, and which I praised 
only because it is by a woman. However, this work, abound- 
ing in faults of language, without interest, full of expressions 
in the worst taste, is not in a position to compete. 

" The first volume, the only one which can be read, and 
the only one which I praised, appeared four years ago. This 
second edition of this year offers nothing newer than a 
second volume, and upon the acknowledgment of everyone 
this second volume is detestable. Supposing it were ex- 
cellent, it is not in a position to compete, since it is not a 
complete work. This is what you can say as coming from 
yourself ; and, moreover, suggest to them that they read, 
if they can, these insipid conversations, and promise to show 
them at least twenty pages of phrases which are not French 


and of words which only chambermaids use (words in the 
mouth of the mother), taken from this work, which I will 
pledge myself to furnish you with when you want it, quoting 
volume and page. ... I wish you could induce Monsieur 
Gaillard to attend the meeting which will decide this matter. 
I count greatly on his justice. As for the rest, I leave it to 
you to make the best of Adele et Theodore, this work being 
above all by the author of Le Theatre d: 'Education, and this 
author a woman. To tell you the truth, this medal will give 
me pleasure ; but if I do not have it the injustice will be too 
obvious to humiliate me. I shall lose no glory and I shall 
gain my freedom of speech. I shall ridicule them all quite at 
my ease, and I know how to ridicule with sufficient grace ; 
incapable of malice, I am one to revenge myself by piquant 
raillery which would attack the honour of no one, but which 
could bring ridicule upon some. I have a pretty little story 
ready against every event, the page is prepared ; however, do 
not think that I have prepared this story with any design, 
etc. . . . 

" From Saint-Leu, this Tuesday, 17th June 1782." * 

Did the Comte de Tressan act as ambassador ? He did, 
and acquitted himself perfectly, bestirring himself zealously 
in the interests of his beautiful cousin. He paid " numerous 
visits to gain votes " ; 2 Mme. de Genlis, on her side, exerted 
herself in every way by " visits and overtures which were not 
at all customary." 

The Academy naturally resented the intrigues and petty 
threats with which Mme. de Genlis made herself ridiculous. 
Some of the Immortals defended her through friendship — 
Buffon, Gaillard, M. de Chastellux, La Harpe, and Tressan 
— but the philosophers carried the day and the prize was 
awarded to Mme. d'Epinay ! 

The author of the Conversations oV&milie, as La Harpe says 
later, " against my advice and, I believe, against that of the 

1 Saint-Leu-Taverny, a magnificent chateau surrounded by a park, which 
was crossed by a stream, and adjoining the forest of Montmorency, was acquired 
by the Duke of Orleans in 1780 to serve as a summer residence for his children. 
It was this chateau, says Mile. Bader, which was decorated by Queen Hortense. 

2 Cf. Michaud, Biography. 


public, has prevailed over Madame de Genlis. It is true that 
the latter is foolishly waging war against the philosophers. 
But what does that matter ? Let them reply to her if she 
is worth the trouble, and let them crown her if she merits it. 
I am perhaps the one whom she has treated the worst, and I 
know why. . . ." 

La Harpe's opinion is a valuable one to have. Tired of 
burning incense at the feet of an inaccessible divinity, this 
devotee was not long in putting it aside and taking up his 
sharp and bitter pen again. For the author of Adele et 
Theodore kept her word. Her famous story, Les Deux 
Reputations, directed against the French Academy, appeared 
in 1784 in the Veillces du Chateau, and spared neither Voltaire, 
Fontenelle, Dalembert, nor even Marmontel and La Harpe. 
The latter, with extreme annoyance, saw himself exposed to 
public contumely under the name of Damoville, the type of 
an intriguing author, and his judgment and feelings towards 
yesterday's idol underwent an understandable change, of 
which he hastened to give proof by unmercifully criticising 
Adele et Theodore in the Mercure. 

In this way the Comtesse de Genlis, one of the most 
eminent women in France by reason of her work and position, 
became in a short time also one of the most criticised. 

One of the slightest of the inconveniences attendant on 
celebrity is to find oneself a target on every occasion and 
to see oneself exposed daily as an object of curiosity to the 

Mme. de Genlis laid herself open to gossip more than 
anyone else ; but she continued on her way with the most 
perfect freedom, an enemy to obscurity in every sense. She 
took no heed of public opinion ; on the contrary, she loved to 
provoke it without intermission, and during the fifteen years 
which are to follow people never stopped talking of her. 

The excitement caused by Adele et Theodore had scarcely 
subsided when people were gossiping again. This time it was 
over the marriage between Pulcherie de Genlis and the 
Vicomte de Valence, 1 who was supposed to be very attentive 

1 J ean-Baptiste-Cyrns-Marie- Adelaide de Timbrune-Thiembrone, Comte de 
Valence (i 757-1 822), colonel and first equerry to the Duke of Orleans.lieutenant- 


to Mme. de Montesson. People insinuated that the 
Marquise was anxious to keep her Sigisbee, and took " the 
only means of attaching permanently to her person the 
man she loved." They wondered spitefully how Mme. de 
Genlis could so lightly and selfishly endanger Peky's (as 
she was called by her intimates) happiness, knowing the 

The unhappy woman has accused herself and lamented her 
lack of foresight. " I admit," she says, " with the sincerity 
which I have promised myself always to have, . . . that my 
ambition for my daughter in this case overcame my fore- 
sight and judgment : in principle, the motive which decided 
me should have prevented me from thinking of that union." 

However, the Marquise, who was now a widow, 1 did 
more for this marriage " than anyone could have imagined." 
She had Pulcherie near her, and gave the young people 
600,000 francs — in fact, Mile, de Genlis did not receive 
any dowry from her parents — and she was able to raise her 
to the greatest honours. In short, if she loved " that fool 
Valence " we can imagine how far she would go, for she 
was forty-seven and he was barely twenty-nine. Pulcherie's 
seventeen summers had to take the chance of comparison, 
with disastrous results. 

Should not the Comte de Genlis, however, bear the same 
responsibilities as his wife in this matter ? 

We do not know whether he was much interested in the 
marriage of his daughter, marriages at that period being 
such flimsy ties that no one bothered much about them, save 
for personal advantage in high families ; and M. de Genlis 
appeared to be very much engrossed by other matters. His 
love affairs and luck at cards were the subject of much 
scandal at that time. 

He was then living as a bachelor in the Place Vendome. 
Separated from his wife, he used to walk gaily along the 

general in 1792, afterwards commander-in-chief of the army in the Ardennes, 
took the side of Dumouriez. Napoleon appointed him senator. Louis xvin. 
created him a peer of France. 

1 The Duke of Orleans died on 18th November 1785. According to custom 
the Duke of Chartres took the title of Orleans, and that of Chartres went to 
his eldest son. 


streets, conspicuous still for " the very courteous manners 
which he kept even in the worst company," and for a scepti- 
cism common to those who are quick to laugh at everything 
for fear of being forced to weep. According to a contem- 
porary " he had a passion for gambling, and for every woman 
except his wife, with whom he lived as a mere acquaintance ; 
he even made fun of her, and called her Mme. Livre. He 
enjoyed relating how different were her private life and char- 
acter from those which she exhorted in her works," x and he 
sang of his happy lot in ribald verse. 

The household, founded upon one of those loves-at-first- 
sight of which girls dream — the fragile foundation of a still 
more fragile union — was now broken up entirely. 

Its already precarious existence had been destroyed by 
Mme. de Genlis's resolution to retire to Bellechasse ; a re- 
solution which did not meet with any apparent opposition 
from her husband, the two having lived separate lives, in 
fact, for some time past. M. de Genlis was too much 
a man of his world and the period not to know how to save 
appearances. Every day, or nearly every day, he visited 
his wife ; and this regular visit, paid between the hours of 
eight and ten in the evening, coincided with those of their 
relatives and intimates who came to join Mme. de Genlis's 
circle after supper, and sufficed to give the impression of a 
perfect understanding between husband and wife. Genlis, 
it has been said, hoped to find in the wife who inspired him 
with the noblest sentiments a more tender affection and a 
deeper attachment than those of which she was so lavish in 
speech. He was mistaken, and consoled himself after the 
manner of the age. Mme. de Genlis does not appear to have 
suffered by this state of affairs, and from this point of view 
she is entirely a woman of her time. She has the outward 
appearance of it — the big words, the deep-seated insincerity, 
the " religion of sentiment," the " romantic imagination," 
and that indescribable artificiality and verbosity which are 
so skilled in hiding the heart's indifference. 

Wonderfully intelligent, she is at the same time truly 
intellectual because of her endless curiosity and thirst for 

1 Memoires d'un Emigrt, i. 420. 


understanding, but although she talks unceasingly of tender- 
ness she is little gifted in that direction ; the wife of 
Alexis Brulart was, rather, cold and unfeeling. 

The Genlis household is licentious frivolity allied to 
intelligent ambition, subjected to the dissolvent influence of 
the Palais Royal. But it is not an exception in a society 
where family life is unknown, where the events which disturb 
it do not count outside the official register except for personal 
gain and self-conceit. 

It was therefore not astonishing that M. de Genlis did 
not interfere with Pulcherie's marriage. Valence was of 
good family ; he belonged to the Palais Royal, and his 
future promised to be brilliant ; everything was satisfactory. 
Her father made no more objection than he did when, in 
1785, the arrival at the Palais Royal of two mysterious little 
girls from England excited the greatest curiosity, as indeed 
it does to this day. We fall again among the enigmas of 

In order to accustom her pupils to speak English very 
correctly, Mme. de Genlis had the brilliant idea of giving 
them as companions a little English girl of their own age. 
It was not as though there were no English girls in Paris, 
but she would have none of them. Then the Duke of Chartres 
wrote to London " and commissioned his correspondent, Mr. 
Forth (ex-secretary to the British Ambassador in Paris), to 
send him a pretty little English girl of about five or six years, 
after having had her vaccinated." A month later, Forth 
confided the child to the care of a horse-dealer named Saint- 
Denis, who was bringing the Duke a thoroughbred, with this 
brief letter : "I have the honour to send your Serene 
Highness the prettiest mare and the prettiest little girl in 

The Duchesse de Gontaut speaks in her Memoires of a 
charming little girl who could not speak a word of French, 
whom the Chevalier de Grave, First Equerry, had brought 
from England. Mme. de Genlis had promised to look after 
the future of this child, on the condition that she was never 

She went by the name of Nancy Sims. It sounded too 


common, and Mine, de Genlis gave her the more distinguished 
one of Pamela. " However," Mme. de Gontaut adds, " this 
was not enough ; we looked for a family name, and that of 
Seymour was chosen and made known." 

What was the true origin of this child ? To speak 
frankly, it is lost in a very romantic obscurity. The mother, 
Mary Sims, a poor English working-girl, seduced by a young 
nobleman named Guillaume de Brixey, and taken by him 
to Fogo in Newfoundland, had given birth to it in the icy 
regions of that island. Later, fallen back into poverty after 
the death of the father, she had returned to England, and had 
become a washerwoman at Christchurch, in the county of 
Hampshire, when Forth discovered her, and offered her a 
small annuity, provided that Mary did not see her daughter 
again until her majority. 

This unlikely story, which was whispered of in secret, 
was not credited. When, on 24th May 1785, the Corre- 
spondence secrete announced the arrival of Pamela and the 
other little girl, Hermine, its author wrote without pretence : 
" That they are both the daughters of Madame de Genlis, 
who has had them brought up under fictitious names . . . 
these young ladies believed themselves orphans, when 
suddenly they have found their parents." x Grimm said 
the same thing at greater length, and just as bluntly. He 
even added unpublished details : namely, that the Comte 
de Genlis had recognised the two children, that Mme. de 
Montesson took it upon herself to provide their dowries, 
and that the Duke of Chartres gave M. de Genlis a 
hundred thousand ecus " for having so well guarded the 
secret which had been exacted of his paternal affection." 2 

And Mme. de Genlis might well remark that Pamela 
favourably resembled the Duchesse de Polignac ; others 
also saw the hereditary dark eyes of the Orleans. Since 
that time, this historical enigma has never ceased to interest 

According to one of them, Pamela was born in Paris in 
the greatest mystery on 28th February 1774 ; Hermine two 

1 Correspondance secrite, published by Monsieur cle Lescure. 

2 Cf. Grimm, Correspondance littiraire, 17th May 17S5. 


years later, about 1776. 1 Now, if one remembers, certain 
relations begun by the journey to Forges were still continued 
in May 1773. 

However, an impenetrable secrecy surrounds everything, 
so that we have to fail back on conjecture in default of 

Investigations, nevertheless, have been made in England. 
There is no official registry of births in Newfoundland to 
refer to, but a family of planters named Sims has been 
discovered in Fogo Island. A member of this family, Henry 
Sims, who died in 1786 at the age of eighty-five, relates 
that his grandfather, an Englishman living in Fogo, had a 
daughter. This girl, Mary Sims, had a child at Gander Bay, 
and sailed for Bristol the following summer on a ship captained 
by a Frenchman named Brixey. Since then the Sims had 
heard nothing of her. 2 

Yet more recently, Southey's Commonplace Book has 
given the result of researches made in Christchurch at the 
period when the incident was still fresh in the memory of 
the inhabitants of the little town. 

Mary Sims was known there as a Bristol woman, living 
at Christchurch with her only daughter, a natural child, aged 
five or six years, of extreme beauty. She had consented 
to allow her to be sent to France to the Duke of Orleans in 
return for a small annuity, the amount of which is unknown 
to us. The business is said to have been transacted by a 
clergyman of the same name as the Duke of Chartres's corre- 
spondent. 3 It is said that Mine, de Genlis made sure of Mary 
Sims's renunciation of her child, the unfortunate mother 
promising by a deed duly signed and registered, for the 
sum of twenty-four guineas once paid, never to reclaim her 
child unless she paid back all the money which her education 
might have cost up to the day when her mother's love might 
attempt to claim its rights. 

This deed, however, remains very hypothetical, since in 

1 Nauroy, Le Curieux ; Deux soeurs de Louis-Philippe. 

2 Dictionary of National Biography. Pamela Fitz-Gerald. Cf. also Lenotre, 
Vieilles Raisons, Vieux papiers (loc. cit.). 

3 Ida A. Taylor, The Life of Lord Edward Fit '.-Gerald. 



spite of research no trace of it has been found. Among all 
those who have been engaged in clearing up the question, one 
writer alone — Monsieur Nauroy — states that he has seen 
an authentic copy of a deed of 1784, giving the rights to Mme. 
de Genlis. However, he has it that Stephanie-Caroline-Anne 
Sims x passed from the control of her mother, Mary, to 
Mme. de Genlis on 4th February 1780. The Correspondance 
secrete, which was usually well informed, did not announce 
Pamela's arrival until 1785, as we have seen, when the event 
was intended, it appears, to cover the introduction of Her- 
mine to the Palais Royal. This child who, in consequence, 
benefited by the favours of the Orleans family, was born at 
Spa or Paris, according to different accounts. 

Mme. de Genlis's stay in the Belgian watering-place, at a 
time which her Memoirs do not permit of being accurately 
determined, but which, according to the visitors' list, is found 
to begin on 12th June 1775, will doubtless be remembered. 

We know, too, from the Countess herself what " sadness " 
and " affliction " she suffered at Spa. 

She has taken care to make a note that she received no 
one, with the exception of "an Englishman of my acquaint- 
ance, Mr. Conway," to whom she confided the wretched 
state of her health. (Later on she saw the Comtesse Potocka 
there also.) 

Ought we to put the birth of Hermine down to this date 
—the June of 1775 ? 

The child was, like Pamela, brought up in England and, 
coming mysteriously to Paris, passed for a young relation 

of Mme. de Genlis, Hermine de X , whose father was 

supposed to have been a certain Colonel Campton. The 
Englishman, Conway, who was at that time a cavalry major 
in the service of the King of England, might well have been 
there providentially. Could not he or his wife, who accom- 
panied him to Spa, have taken the child across the Channel 
and kept her until she was of an age to go to the Palais 
Royal ? 

1 The Christian names — Stephanie-Caroline — which appear on the official 
deeds, are by a curious coincidence those of Mme. de Genlis and her eldest 
daughter respectively. 


If, on the contrary, she was born secretly in Paris, in 
1776, 1 she might have been taken by a third person to Major 
Conway, who was again in Spa with his wife from 6th June 
of that very year. 2 Georgette du Crest, one of Mme. de Genlis's 
nieces, will say that Hermine is the daughter of an English 
major who died leaving his widow and child without means. 

We may mention further this recent opinion that " Her- 
mine could lay claim to an illustrious albeit irregular origin 
on which Mme. de Genlis was alone the very discreet con- 
fident," 3 and await the happy chance which will discover 
the birth certificates of these two children. Finally, we may 
say that, rightly or wrongly, Pamela passed everywhere — 
even in Mme. de Genlis's family — for the daughter of the 
Duke of Chartres. 4 Later on she remembered clearly her 
arrival at the Palais Royal, when the Duke took her in his 
arms, kissed her, and himself carried her across the dark 
corridors to Mme. de Genlis, to whom he said, " Here is our 
little darling." 

In those days, Bellechasse was a veritable colony of 
learning. Not only had Mousieur de Beaujolais, who was 
a delightful little man, an aristocrat to the tips of his fingers, 
joined the princes, their brothers and Mademoiselle, but 
Cesar du Crest — the son of the Marquis du Crest, who had 
lost his mother and was confided to his aunt's care 5 — and 
Henriette be Sercey, Mme. de Genlis's niece, lived at Belle- 
chasse and took part in the Princes' lessons. 

The arrival of Pamela and Hermine therefore brought 
the number of students at this miniature college, which 
Mme. de Genlis directed with great happiness, up to eight. 
She was in her element. No trouble or pains were spared 
where her mission as teacher was concerned. 

1 Cf. Nauroy, op. cit. 

8 Liste des Seigneurs et Dames venus aux Eaux de Spa. 3 Lenotre, op. cit. 

4 Cf. Comte de Neuilly, Dix annees d 'emigration : Cs. A.N.F. 7 6221, no. 1291 : 
Mile. Pamela described as the natural daughter of Mme. de Genlis and the 
late Duke of Orleans, etc. 

5 The Marquis du Crest had married at Versailles, on 12th February 1775, 
Marie-Louise-Bonne- Alexandrine de Canouville de Raffetot. Their Majesties 
signed the contract. The young Marquise died prematurely on 24th October 
1782, leaving a son, of whom Mme. de Genlis took charge. 


It is certain that few ladies of her rank and position 
would have taken up such duties ; especially as since the 
deaths of M. de Puysieulx and the Marechale d'Estrees, 
which followed each other at short distance, had made the 
Genlis heirs to the name and marquisate of Sillery, and to 
more than a hundred thousand livres income. Sillery was 
that considerable property in Champagne, in the neighbour- 
hood of Rheims, which produced an effervescing wine that 
is famous to-day. 

Its historian, according to a document found in the 
National Archives, brings the total value at that period up 
to 1,859,920 livres, without counting several buildings ; the 
manor, lands, seigneurial rights representing about 153,000 
livres. 1 M. and Mme. de Genlis therefore entered into 
a large fortune. The Countess took the title of Marquise de 
Sillery-Genlis, but did not change her mode of life in any way. 

In December 1786, Mme. de la Woestine died in 
turn, and this unlooked-for catastrophe plunged all her 
family into grief. Mme. de Genlis felt her loss profoundly, 
but this did not prevent La Harpe from writing to the Comte 
de Montmorin-Saint-Heren on 22nd December that : " Mme. 
de Genlis's daughter has been universally regretted and 
deserved it. People talk a great deal of the grief of her 
relatives, of the sorrow of Mme. la Duchesse d'Orleans, in 
a word, of all those who knew her : but what is curious 
is that no one has said a word of Mme. de Genlis : it is as 
though Mme. de la Woestine had no mother." 2 

This soured writer has changed his incense of former 
days to gall and vinegar. 

Posterity which has not the same reason for doubting 
Mme. de Genlis's maternal love will not do her that injustice. 
She rants of her sorrow in her Memoirs, it is true, and this 
characteristic shows clearly the depth of the imprint of 
theatricality which she had received when she was young, 
and she showed at every moment in her writings ; she could 
not express herself with simplicity. Did she suffer ? Her 

1 Pechenart, Sillery et ses Seigneurs, p. 183. Vide also Young, Voyage en 
France, i. 417. 

2 Cf. Amateur d'Autographes, November 1866, No. 117. 


pen itched to transcribe " Reflections on Grief " or to build 
up a chapter on resignation. 

She redoubled her work and ardous studies, 1 but her 
affliction was none the less real — so real, indeed, that her 
health suffered from it. She was so shocked by the death 
of Mme. de la Woestine that the doctors ordered another 
cure at Spa. 

" I did not wish to do this," says Mme. de Genlis, " on 
account of leaving my pupils." The Duke and Duchess 
therefore decided to stay at Spa with their children, out of 
friendship for the governess. It is during this stay that the 
Princes, at Mme. de Genlis's instigation, celebrated their 
royal mother's name-day in the Sauviniere thickets, which 
they had cleared, by erecting an altar to Gratitude among 
the heather and flowers, on which they placed sheaves, 
while they recited verses composed for the occasion by 
their governess ; it was a little stage effect that was quite 
in keeping with the " sensitive " tastes of the period, which 
delighted their highnesses and proved to them Mme. de 
Genlis's sentiments. 

The soothing effect of the waters and climate of Spa 
refreshed the latter after the work she had set herself while 
under the influence of grief which her daughter's death had 
caused her. 

She had, in fact, just published the famous book against 
the philosophers, the mere announcement of which alone 
had frightened that society five years before. 

It appeared during the month of March 1787, bearing — 
according to the fashion of that day — the formidable title 
of : La Religion consideree comme V unique base du bonheur et de 
la veritable philosophic. Ouvrage fait pour servir a V education 
des enfants de S.A.S. Mgr. le due a" Orleans et dans lequel on 
expose et Von refute les principes des pretendus philosophes 
mod ernes — and the preface apprised the reader that this 
work, written especially for the young Duke of Chartres, had 
been read to him in manuscript as a preparation for his first 

1 Mme. de Genlis set herself to learn Spanish and Portuguese after the 
death of Mme. de Puysieulx. 


Mme. de Genlis had, in fact, considered herself better 
qualified than any ecclesiastic to prepare her pupil for this 
important religious duty, and the Abbe Guyot had been 
informed that she intended not only to give religious instruc- 
tion herself, but also to reserve to herself the right of authority 
over the mind and conscience of Louis-Philippe. 

The Abbe permitted himself to make some remarks : 
the governess retaliated. The diary of the Princes bears the 
trace of these disagreements. Both stood their ground in 
writing, and suavely acid reproofs covered innumerable 
pages. " If I believe myself to possess the talent for repre- 
senting religion as it is, consoling, indulgent, and necessary 
to happiness, may I have," says the governess, " the patience 
that Monsieur l'Abbe demands of me ! " (read : to leave the 
catechism to the Abbe !) Monsieur l'Abbe insists on saying 
it is for the good of education. I shall reply, with as little 
modesty since he forces me to it, that my works have proved 
that I know how to talk of religion in a manner to make it 
liked. I know how to do so perfectly : I have already in my 
life prepared two children — my own — for their first com- 
munion. I have since acquired a great deal of experience . . . 
etc." 1 In witness whereof the Abbe Guyot, who was obvi- 
ously wrong in believing himself appointed by his office to 
teach the principles of religion, gave in to the imperious 
governess, and, like Bonnard of old, sent in his resignation 
(November 1786). A few months previously, the young 
Abbe Mariottini had, for the same reasons, left Bellechasse, 
the " flowery inn where dwells the goddess without whom the 
earth would be a vast horror." And in a scathing and some- 
what unedifying pamphlet, embellished with those various 
metaphors to which the Italian language lends itself so easily, 
he has left us an amusing picture of the governess's relations 
with her collaborators. 2 According to him, they lived under 
the most despotic rule imaginable at Bellechasse. 

Mme. de Genlis is " a lady of excitable and brilliant 
imagination and of too sensitive and impetuous a heart ..." 

1 Lefons d'une gouvernanle a ses ilrves, i. 

2 Alia signora di Sillery-Brulart (per lo innanzi Contessa di Genlis), Letlera 
dell' abate Felice Mariottini. 


She treats everyone with the same tyranny. She makes 
no difference between the under-governor, the tutors, the 
masters for drawing, foreign languages, dancing, the dispenser 
or the servants. They had all to bow the head, and the more 
humbly they inclined, the more they enjoyed the friendship 
of Madame the governess. The Abbe boasts with humorous 
self-conceit that he possessed it to some extent. The letters 
addressed to him by Mme. de Genlis and published by him 
show evidence of a sympathetic disposition, a certain pre- 
ference somewhat haughtily accorded, and of many courtly 
phrases and pretty words, friendly expressions of esteem for 
" the beautiful mind " of the young ecclesiastic, all of which 
mean nothing, and it is useless looking for anything deeper. 

But at the least remark, the least attempt to discuss the 
principles of education, there came the call to order, squabbles 
by letter, explanations, replies without end, and the complete 
cessation of respect in the presence of the pupils and strangers. 
If they patched it up and renewed their service, her favours 
returned with warnings like these : 

" I am always interested in my duties, firm to keep up my 
rights when the good of the family requires it ; unable to 
permit or tolerate that anyone should want the respect due 
to my position, my sex, and I dare say to my person, but, 
despising little things, incapable of taking revenge, knowing 
the value of friendship, and always ready to serve those who 
hate me." 1 

Nevertheless— again according to the Abbe Mariottini — 
Mine, de Genlis was very exacting as to the privileges of 
her sex. He complains of the " distaste " which he felt in 
pandering to the governess's caprices, the madrigals and 
love-letters which he had to write, the servile adulation 
and flirtations, the " manierosa morbidezza del bel mondo 
Parigino, e della corte " which he had to conciliate with his 
serious duties as tutor. And he declares it impossible for 
him to be " sybarite at night and Spartan in the morning." 

Without attaching too much importance to these sugges- 
tions, it must be stated that at the beginning of 1787, Mme. 

1 Alia signora di Sillery-Briilart (per lo innanzi Contessa di Genlis), Lettera 
dell' abate Felice Mariottini. 


Desrois, under-governess, was dismissed for incompata- 
bility of temper ; she also left Bellechasse and retired to the 
Convent of the Visitation, Rue de Chaillot. 

But let us return to Mme. de Genlis as a theologian. 
The uncomplaining departure of the Abbe Guyot left the 
field clear for her. 

Those who, from curiosity, may read La Religion con- 
sider ce, etc., will doubtless wonder what influence this extra- 
ordinary instruction had on the mind of a little boy of ten. 
Louis-Philippe's Voltairianism is in consequence recalled to 
mind. The religious substance of this book is really very 
slight ; one would say that it had all been taken from some 
abridged volume of apologetics. 

The remainder, a long and violent attack based on copious 
quotations touching the existence of God, original sin, the 
immortality of the soul, forgiveness, etc., taken from Bour- 
daloue, Malebranche, Pascal, and principally from the Abbe 
Gauchat's letters against Voltaire, appears to be aimed at 
personal enemies rather than at evil principles. The tone is 
especially deplorable. 

Mme. de Genlis fancied she was writing a theological 
work, and instead she strayed into controversy. Her 
method was more like giving Voltaire, Helvetius, Diderot, 
Raynal and others a number of smacks in the face, than 
discussing their work in a serious way. It was a curious 
manner in which to carry on the debate, if debate there was, 
since with the exception of Condorcet and Raynal, all 
the philosophers stigmatised by Mme. Livre were dead, 
Dalembert included. Of course, their disciples and their 
works lived to annoy the morality and piety of catholic 
tradition. Their friends were numerous in the literary 
world, and one can imagine how they rose against the self- 
constituted theologian ! 

A great deal of adverse criticism was levelled at her, and 
Mme. de Genlis found less support around her than when 
Adele ct Theodore was published. Grimm spitefully gave her 
the nickname of " Mother of the Church," and the name 
" caught on " wonderfully. He reflected upon " the prin- 
ciples hazarded with as much assurance as frivolity " in the 


book, and denounced with sly humour at the Sorbonne 
" this new method of defending religion." 1 His long article 
aroused many echoes. Although Mme. de Genlis lived at 
Bellechasse, people always considered that she lived with 
the Duchess of Orleans, and it seemed amusing that a 
religious thesis should come " from the boudoirs of the 
Palais Royal." And as five years' earlier gossip had named 
La Harpe the " father " of Adele et Theodore, so the theological 
paternity of La Religion consideree was attributed to the 
Abbe Gauchat and the Abbe Lamourette. 2 Mme. de 
Genlis received at any rate the distinguished support of 
Buffon, who wrote her a dithyrambic letter which she did 
not allow to remain overlooked. 3 

However, this token of respect from the great naturalist 
was entirely personal ; it did not influence public opinion, 
and Mme. de Genlis was greatly disappointed. The public 
would not obey her orders like the Princes at Bellechasse, 
where she was listened to, admired and obeyed with an 
unequalled veneration. Here she reigned in truth, and 
everything she did was the object of an ardent, almost 
passionate worship on the part of the Orleans children. 

Mademoiselle, of delicate and nervous constitution and of 
extreme sensitiveness, expressed her feelings in tears and 
sighs. The Princes were more fervid ; Mme. de Gontaut 

1 Grimm, Correspondance, April 1787. 

2 Cs. Galerie historique des Contemporains. Michaud, Biographie. 

3 In the King's garden, 21st March 1787. " My noble daughter, I have just 
read your new book with all the interest of friendship and that love which is 
renewed with every paragraph in a book written by a master's hand. A 
preacher both persuasive and eloquent, when you present religion and all the 
virtues with the style of a Fenelon and the majesty of books inspired by God 
Himself, you are an angel of light ; and when you descend to earthly things 
you are the first of women and the most pleasant of philosophers. I have read 
with emotion the praise with which you overwhelm me, and I accept with 
much gratitude the place which you have created for me alone. But I view 
with reverence this friendship, which is my glory and the despair of my rivals. 
When you drew certain sham philosophers, you did not allow a single trick which 
characterises them to escape you ; you have combined delicacy of colouring with 
boldness of drawing, and you have placed in the shadow all that should be there. 
This is what, my adorable and noble daughter, I think of your work. I congratu- 
late you with that sincerity and that tender and respectful affection which I have 
vowed to you for life" (Le Comte de Buffon, Correspondance inedite, ii. 221). 


has left recorded for us the moods of exaltation that made 
these children kiss Mine, de Genlis's footprints. " I had 
almost blushed to be left behind in the romantic devotion 
which everyone sought to show her," she says ; " . . . and I 
confess to my shame that wishing 'one day to distinguish 
myself in affection, I precipitated myself upon the armchair 
from which she had just risen, and having kissed it with 
fervour, I found my mouth filled with dust, which calmed my 
devotion." l 

We may smile at the recital of this devout and certainly 
blameless love, which was yet disquieting because it en- 
croached upon the affection due to parents, and principally 
to the mother. The Duchess of Orleans loved her children 
very much more than most aristocratic mothers of the age. 
She clung to the outward marks of respect because her rank 
exacted them, but her maternal affection was profound. 
She would never have suffered her son to be left to the care 
of any valet, as, for example, the sons of Mesdames de Tilly 
and de Biron. 

And yet the real mother of the Princes is Mme. de 
Genlis : " Maman " Genlis. To her their young hearts 
unreservedly belong, to the extent of blind submission and 
the subjection of their individuality, which they accepted 
with joy — hanging on the least word that escapes from her 
lips, happy at the slightest caress, the lightest kiss on the 
forehead, the faintest words of praise, as though they were 
priceless favours. Truly, this " smacked of sorcery," for 
Mme. de Genlis ruled by severity : " the fear with which 
she inspired us then doubled our desire to please her by 
showing admiration," says Mme. de Gontaut. 

But she also ruled by justice, and she governed these 
children through their conscience. We have innate in us in 
our youth so great a repulsion to injustice, and we under- 
stand the relations of things so little, that our esteem is sure 
to be gained by equity. 

In the innocent eyes of her pupils, Mme. de Genlis 
seemed as inflexible as Truth itself. When Mme. de 
Genlis, informed on the most varied subjects as she was, 
1 Duchessc dc Gontaut, op. cit., p. 6. 


started the school of universal learning, their youthful in- 
telligence was amazed and saw in her a woman of vast know- 
ledge. It was not astonishing that she had won the hearts 
of these gifted children. 

With the implacable and summary logic of their years, 
the Princes, though full of respect for their august mother, 
did not feel for her the same warmth of affection that they 
had for Mme. de Genlis, who kept it alive at every moment. 
They had no intercourse with the Duchess which was not 
semi-officially ordered. She could not fail to notice it. 
Fundamentally she was so timid, lacking both will power 
and initiative ; never daring to displease the husband 
whom she adored in spite of his vices and dissipation, and 
who swore by Mme. de Genlis that she endured this im- 
possible state of affairs in a spirit of Christian resignation. 

The Duke ostensibly attached himself to Mme. de 
Buffon, whom it appeared his Egeria had chosen for him ; 
but he was still to be met with at Neuilly, in the " Pare 
Saint- James," in amorous conversation with the governess. 

" They were reputed to have quarrelled, out of respect 
for Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans, who had obtained this 
much by force of weeping," says Mme. d'Oberkirch, " and 
they were very much astonished to see me there. His 
Serene Highness had asked for the exclusion of the public 
from the garden, and Monsieur de Saint -James had promised 
it to him, but the concierge had misunderstood. . . . The 
Prince bowed to us without animation. The lady adopted 
a supercilious attitude and raised her head, looking at us 
like an empress. I saw her again in the evening, I no longer 
remember where, with her eternal harp which she dragged 
about with her everywhere ; she pretended not to 
recognise me, and her haughtiness did not decrease after 
this." 1 

Finally, the Duchess, faithful to her beliefs as to her 
duties, and attached to the King as to her God, was to see 
the governess estrange the Duke and the Princes from these 

1 Baronne d'Oberkirch, Memoires, ii. 376. Lamartine says : " The outraged 
Duchess's complaints did nothing but change the inclination into obstinacy " 
{Girodins, i. Book xi.). 


secular principles, which was as great a grievance as the other, 
if it were possible. 

The new ideas which her traditional royalism could not 
accept, the Duke was to make his own, and vigorously aided by 
Mme. de Genlis, he was to transmit them to his sons. The 
Princess, no doubt, had not the mind for great political 
schemes that Mme. de Genlis had. 

However, the Revolution approaches, and it will not take 
the governess by surprise. 



We catch fleeting glimpses of Mme. de Genlis every now 
and again as we see the events of the revolutionary period 
passing before us in quick succession. 

We become momentarily conscious of her presence follow- 
ing in the wake of the gods of the hour, now of Mirabeau, now 
of Talleyrand or Camille Desmoulins. It is, of course, no 
secret to anyone that she is mixed up in the operations of the 
party of Philippe-Egalite. 

But everything she does seems clothed in mystery — to 
such a degree, indeed, that she herself is able to deny, some- 
times in a fashion both maladroit and inopportune, that she 
took any part whatever in the politics of the time. This 
attitude of hers has helped to strengthen the view of her as 
a subtle and sinister figure, to be reckoned among the prime 
movers of the Revolution. The general belief in regard 
to her has come to be that she played a part in regard to 
Philippe-Egalite similar to that of Mme. de Maintenon, in 
regard to Louis xiv. 

What really was her role ? Had she really a definite 
plan of campaign in the politics of the time ? Or did she 
merely drift with the ebb and flow of events, falling in with 
the varying currents of public opinion and the intrigues 
and manceuvrings of parties, without committing herself 
any more deeply than other philosophical onlookers and 

All we know for certain is that she was to be found 



among the Revolutionaries — whether animated by the wish to 
see the Duke of Orleans on the throne, or whether working 
in the interests rather of his son, her pupil, the Duke of 
Chartres, we cannot say. She had long been aware of the 
incapacity of the father. 



One is not a little surprised to find Mme. de Genlis for- 
mally denying in detail in her Memoires that she took any 
part in the revolutionary intrigues, when one knows her past 
life — her courage, her ambition, for " there never was a 
woman perhaps less able to endure the slightest competition, 
nor more tormented by the desire to be first in everything, nor 
more eager to annex for herself every kind of glory." x 

Her denials are significant to such a degree that, apart 
from all documentary evidence, they show clearly her political 

Let us therefore take her declarations ; it is right to hear 
her defence first. 

She flatly denies that : 

(1) She mixed herself up in politics. 

(2) That the Duke of Orleans ever spoke to her concern- 
ing his own policy, except vaguely. 

(3) That, once the Revolution began, he ceased entirely to 
speak to her of his affairs. 

(4) That she knew any of his political agents, even by 

(5) That she had any knowledge of the printed memor- 
anda until they had been published. 

" I add in this same matter that in order to be scrupu- 
lously truthful I must say that since the Revolution began 
he has consulted me on one single matter : this was re- 
lative to the regency at the time when they talked of pro- 
claiming the King dethroned after his return from Varennes." 
1 Toulotte, La Cour et la Ville, i. 18. 



She could not well be more explicit : she had been 
accused of having directed the Duke of Orleans and his 
party. She denies it ; it is false. She continues : " Will 
they say I took part in politics by other means and ties ? It 
would be as unfounded an accusation, as (in a word) I never 
left Bellechasse." 

It is true that all her time seemed given to the education 
of the Orleans children, and behind the iron gates of the Rue 
Saint Dominique her life might be compared with that of the 
superintendent of a boarding-school. But with admirable 
foresight the governess had known how to take precautions 
for keeping her ringer in all the politics at the Palais 

The Duke of Orleans was surrounded by members of the 
Genlis family or their creatures. 

His favourite, the confidant of his thoughts and amuse- 
ments, was Sillery, otherwise Comte de Genlis, the captain 
of his Guards. 

His chancellor was the Marquis du Crest, brother of the 
Countess-Governor, who had been introduced into the Palais 
Royal since 24th November 1785, at the annual stipend of a 
hundred thousand livres, with the use of a magnificent house 
opposite the Palais Royal. 

His first equerry was the Comte de Valence, Mme. de 
Genlis' s son-in-law, who in addition had just been entrusted 
with the military education of the young Duke of Chartres. 

His business manager, Limon, decorated with the title 
of Superintendent of Finance, owed his position to Mme. de 
Genlis, through the Abbe de Cabre : this intriguer, her 
future intimate, became the Prince's also, through her 
influence, and Talleyrand speaks of his " extraordinary 
effrontery, his fascinating imagination, his eloquence, rich 
in style, extravagant and fertile in insult ! " x 

These men controlled both the Duke and his money. 
They gathered about them at the Palais Royal a band of 
ambitious and discontented people, dissolute courtiers in 
need of places, " people without morals or principles," 2 

1 Talleyrand, Memoir es, i. 179. 

2 Clermont-Gallerande, Memoires, i. 64. 


among whom were Biron, Liancourt, d'Aiguillon, La Marck, 
Talleyrand, Noailles, etc. 

Such was the society which surrounded the Duke of 
Orleans in 1787, when the first signs of Mme. de Genlis's 
political influence were seen. Following the example of the 
Prince, she cherished a deep hatred for the Queen, the 
Polignacs, and the Comte d'Artois. In this matter she fol- 
lowed the traditional feud between the younger and elder 
branches of the Bourbon family. One created difficulties 
for the other, which weakened its power ; and without 
going back to Louis xn., 1 as Barere does, we may say that 
the Duke's opposition " to the abuses of the old regime and 
ministerial tyranny was a family inheritance." 2 It was, 
however, strengthened by numerous personal grievances 
which were notorious and more or less justified. Let us re- 
call them briefly to memory : The refusal to give him the 
post of Grand Admiral of France, which should have gone to 
him by right on the death of his father-in-law, the Due de 
Penthievre, but which the Queen awarded to the eldest son 
of the Comte d'Artois, the Due d'Angouleme ; calumnies at 
Court after the battle of Ushant (27th July 1788), and after 
an excursion in a balloon ; accusations concerning the 
premature death of the Prince de Lamballe, brother of the 
Duchess of Orleans ; insults received at the time of the 
journey of Maxmilian of Austria ; frequent reproaches from 
the King on the subject of the Duke's morals, and the opposi- 
tion of His Majesty to his cousin's travels in England, where, 
under the pretext of keeping an eye on his capital which was 
for the greater part invested across the Channel, he acquired 
the too independent habits of his friend, the Prince of Wales, 
" an insubordinate son and a factious citizen " ; 3 and finally, 
the last humiliation, the failure of the marriage recently 
proposed between the Due d'Angouleme and Mile, 
d' Orleans, a blow of which Marie-Antoinette was not entirely 
innocent, without counting the innumerable hurts to his 

1 Barere compares Philippe-ligalite to Louis xn., who, when he was Duke of 
Orleans, was calumniated, slighted, and persecuted at the Court in the same way. 

2 Toulotte, op. cit., i. 49. 

3 Lamartine, Les Girondins, book xi. chap. iv. 



self-respect which she delighted to inflict, or the sale of the 
estate of Saint-Cloud, which he had coveted. 

The Duke hid his resentment the less as his popularity 
with the public increased, as it was known he was in sympathy 
with the general trend of its opinion. Indeed, the people 
began to denounce with louder voices the abuses and foolish 
expense at Court. Versailles was the object of general con- 
tempt. Whether they lamented more or less sincerely the 
people's sufferings, or whether they applauded Figaro or 
ranted against the ministers who came and went according 
to feminine caprice and never ameliorated the state of affairs 
— the people never ceased to decry the Court. 

For the moment they made the most of the Queen, whose 
influence had brought Brienne into power (April 1787). 

The Duke of Orleans is the personification of public dis- 
content. Being a great lord, he commands the people's 
respect, and liked because of his enmity with the Court. 

That which assured him preference, however, not only 
from the Versailles mud-slingers, but from the middle classes 
and the moderate party, was that great financial power which 
he wielded — for it is believed that he was the richest man in 
the kingdom by his marriage with the daughter of the Due 
de Penthievre. 

In comparison with the state of the Treasury, this great 
monetary lever could raise the masses against royalty, more 
especially as their grievances, the bad administration and 
disorder of finances, and, finally, the new philosophy, excited 
their contempt for the monarchy. 

Mme. de Genlis noticed all these signs of agitation. 
She was too intelligent and too ambitious to assist blindly 
at these preliminaries to the great upheaval. 

Was she the first to prompt the Duke ? 

Was it the Prince himself who, exasperated by injustice 
at Court, feeling himself backed by public opinion and the 
popularity of which every day brought him fresh proof, took 
the first opportunity of his own accord to checkmate the 
King ? 

The question must remain in abeyance. 

It is true that in 1787 " they did not know what they 


wanted ; they had always been so far from exerting an in- 
fluence on the government, and they were so much accustomed 
to doing nothing but complain, that they complained without 
conceiving an idea how to act or how to make a revolution." l 
Who dreamed, therefore, of putting the Duke of Orleans at 
the head of the state ? 

He was a lover of pleasure and ease, indifferent, inconstant, 
of feeble and contradictory mind, happy so long as his 
eccentricities were flattered, but he could not be a leader ; 
for in order to lead a party you must have a firm will, decision, 
courage, perseverance, and he had none of these necessary 
virtues. However, it would appear that Mine, de Genlis 
made up for it. 

Though it might have been " the fashionable thing," 2 
for the Duke to pronounce himself against the Maupeou 
parliament, though, on 15th May 1781, he takes part in the 
acclamations which greeted the fallen minister (Necker), 
yet when he intervened in parliament on 20th September 
1787, and opposed, in the presence of the King, the bill for the 
creation of a successive loan — he who had never taken any 
part in politics until now, he who could not speak in public 
without losing countenance at the end of three words — there 
must have been a stronger will to spur him on, or give him a 
lead, as we say to-day. This first excursion of his into the 
political fields has therefore been attributed to the influence 
of Mme. de Genlis. 

Everyone who is interested in the Duke of Orleans has 
attempted to find the counter-party, the political comple- 
ment of the Palais Royal, in the salon at Bellechasse. Not 
that the Comtesse's weekly receptions had taken a revolu- 
tionary colour two years before the convocation of the 
States-General ; and the writings of Barere, upon which we 
rely for the description of the famous salon, do not by any 
means apply to the period which preceded 1789. 3 

If these gatherings constituted for the moment the 
principal means of Madame de Genlis 's influence, they were 

1 Thiers, Revolution franfaise, i. chap. i. (1787). 

2 A. Britsch, Philippe-Egalitt avant la Revolution. 

3 Bardre, Memoires, i. 42. 


attended only by literary and artistic people, and were held 
on Saturdays. They did not become openly political until 
after 1789, or, in fact, from the beginning of 1789, and took 
place on Sundays, without our knowing whether the Sundays 
put a stop to the Saturdays. Therefore, everything that 
has been stated concerning Mme. de Genlis's guests, her 
political gatherings and club at Bellechasse can only refer to 
the time immediately after the convocation of the States- 

From that time, however, art and literature furnished 
Mme. de Genlis with opportunities for devoting herself 
to the process of approaching people in a skilful manner, in 
view of recruiting partisans for her friend the Duke of Orleans, 
and Bernardin de Saint- Pierre was among those who were 
caught with the bait of a pension. 

The success of Etudes de la nature had only recently trans- 
formed the shabby, poverty-stricken philosopher into a great 

Soon after, Necker, the' Archbishop of Aix, and the Abbe" 
Fauchet hastened to enlist him in their service, and Madame 
de Genlis had also fixed her choice on him. She was better 
able than anyone to succeed and to gain him over to the 
Orleans' party. " Cajolery, attentions, love-letters, kind- 
ness — all were employed in making her conquest," says her ' 
biographer ; " never had she shown such skill and charm, 
never had she acted with such strong and subtle motives ; 
he was caught, and received an annuity from the prince." 1 
However, on the occasion of an insinuation which he had 
not understood, M. de Genlis laughingly told him one day 
that he was the greatest fool in the world, and that princes 
did not give something for nothing. M. de Saint-Pierre 
was so struck by this argument that he returned his brevet 
to the Duke of Orleans the very next day. 2 

According to Saint-Pierre's correspondence, Mme. de 
Genlis had paid him a visit with her pupils on 26th December 
1786, and the pension was given to him on the 31st. 

1 It was an annuity of 8oo livres, to date from ist July 1786. 

2 L. Aime-Martin, Correspondance de J ' . H . Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, 
prbce'dLe d'une supplement aux Memoires de sa vie, i. Apologue, p. 109. 


Mme. de Genlis's pre-revolutionary activity extended 
at the same time to the feminine society which surrounded 
the Duke. She jealously superintended it, and did not 
intend to allow her own supremacy to be taken from her ; 
but by a subtle circuit of her self-respect, for which we should 
esteem her after all, she gave her ambitions an admirable 
moral motive — that of bringing some sort of dignity into 
the life of the Prince. It was her mission to reform people 
and to correct their faults, and she knew how to preach so 
eloquently of duty, honesty, and virtue that the licentious 
Duke ended by giving in to her. 

We find him renouncing in that year, 1787, the degrading 
orgies which undermined and weakened his character, and 
attaching himself to young Mme. de Buffon, daughter-in- 
law of the great naturalist, on the advice of his far-seeing 
Egeria. " From that time one ceased to see women at 
Monceaux, and there never appeared any again." l 

Agnes de Buffon, a pretty, gracious society woman, 
tender and frivolous, was to amuse the Duke without in- 
fluencing him. She would take account of rivalry in love- 
affairs, and she never, so we are told by the Comte de la 
Marck, " tried to separate Monsieur the Due d'Orleans 
from Madame de Genlis, whom she looked up to as a superior 
woman, capable of advising her well." 

In short, it is curious to note at this period in Mme. 
de Genlis the beginning of an evolution towards new 

Although she always remained an enemy to the Ency- 
clopaedic philosophers because of their impiety, she became 
impregnated with the democratic influences of the moment. 
The hatred of the Court with its abuses and privileges was 
crowned with doctrines of liberty and equality. These 
doctrines were in the air, and people breathed them in 
more and more every day " with a weariness and an 
impatience of rules and social yokes, judged to be too 
heavy, narrow and inflexible," 2 and with a spirit of 
reform and renovation which were goaded and harassed by 

1 Covreipondance enlve le Comte de Mirabcau, et le Comte de la Marck, i. 74. 
2 E. Faguet, Dix-huiticme slide, p. 291. 


the newspapers, pamphlets, and manifestos now being issued 
in swarms. 

Mme. de Genlis, while apparently revolutionary, was in 
reality practising the doctrine of opportunism, and she 
could adapt herself without the slightest repugnance to 
these new ideas. 

Apart from any hope of royalty for the Duke of Orleans, 
she loved using big words, talking constitution, law, humanity, 
justice, and liberty ; to write of them, to flatter herself 
that she was regenerating the State and exercising on men 
and the government of her country a ruling influence — this 
seemed to her a glorious task, and suited her bent for teach- 
ing. It is this that no one seems to have considered when 
they make it a grievance that she, the irreconcilable enemy 
of the philosophers, " did not look upon this revolution, 
the fruit and consequence of their doctrines, with 
horror." x 

In truth, wherever there is manna for her vanity to 
pick up, we shall find Mme. de Genlis. This is the reason 
why she follows each fluctuation of opinion, and is always 
at the front, because the first arrivals are often the first 

" Every period," says Capefigue, " has its salon oifemmes 
savantes. Moliere has held up the type to ridicule for all time ; 
it is only the shade of pedantry that changes or modifies 
with the generations." 2 

Would Mme. de Genlis permit Mme. Necker to be 
the only regent of the constitution ? Certainly not — she 
would fight her for the glory of saving the State. 

Did she not think of getting the best of that solemn, 
bourgeoise rival, whom she treated as a newcomer on account 
of her riches, and a dragon of virtue ? 

It may be objected that Mme. de Genlis's role was 
by no means so platonic, and that she was actuated by very 
ambitious motives. Rut it must be remembered that we 
are dealing with a complex nature. 

The fact of being attached to the Duke of Orleans — 

1 Billault dc Gerainville, op. cit. 

2 Capefigue, Deesses de la Liberie, p. 47. 


Heaven knows how deeply — binds her to his fortunes and 
dictates to her in a sense the way she shall act and think. 
If would be surprising if it were different. 

Because the Duke is an enemy of the Court, Mme. de 
Genlis follows him. He is — or is going to be — the idol of 
the people, so Mme. de Genlis must be democratic. The 
throne is tottering, and she looks about for one who will 
hold it firm — the Duke is the obvious one, so long as he 
is helped. Here is reason for her acting the part of an 
" Orleans conspirator," proclaiming it with a sincerity 
of accent, an enthusiasm, and such a spirit of republi- 
canism that Brissot, for instance, did not hesitate to vouch 
for it. 1 

So, continuing to hate the philosophers, but more from 
personal animosity than horror of their doctrines, Mme. de 
Genlis embraced, with the exception of the question of 
religion, their anti-aristocratic liberalism, taught it to her 
pupils, and won their father over to it. She was successful 
in showing them how glorious it would be to sacrifice their 
titles and fortunes for the good of the people, and this is 
why she was called both " Mother of the Church," and 
" Goddess of Liberty." 

If she thought of the good of the people, however, she 
did not lose sight of her own ; and the future of the Duke of 
Orleans was her own at that moment. 

She therefore manoeuvred this pitiful creature, " who had 
not the least little shred of a political conviction," 2 and who, 
as she knew, was incapable of following a serious question 
for a quarter of an hour. The Duke, blinded by his hatred 
of Marie-Antoinette, permitted her to manage him without 
the shadow of resistance. 

For the rest, it must be stated that his friends at the 
Palais Royal, and more especially Laclos, were soon to take 
the responsibility of him, happily relegating Mme. de 
Genlis to a back place. To them, certainly, is due the 
greater number of the actions of the Orleans party. 

However, it is obvious that the first steps were taken 

1 Brissot- Varville, Memoires, ii. 263. 

2 Barbey d'Aurevilly, Les oeuvres et les kommes. 


by the Comtesse. It was she who urged the Prince into 
the road where he fought with bent head, and at the end 
of which the scaffold reared its grisly silhouette. 

Thus we have seen him intervene in the parliament on 
20th November 1787. 



To these first indications of a revolutionary tendency on the 
part of the Duke of Orleans, the King replied, as will be 
remembered, by exiling him to Villers-Cotterets. 

Mme. de Genlis, who, hidden away in retirement at 
Bellechasse, was undoubtedly the instigator of the scene in 
parliament, had not been en evidence. But the Marquis du 
Crest, her brother, who was under suspicion from the first, 
and who presently was accused of being the author of the 
intrigue, was soon to pay the penalty. 

Charles Louis du Crest, a man whose brain was ever 
teeming with new projects and ideas, had been absorbed, 
before he began to exercise the functions of chancellor to the 
Duke of Orleans, in innumerable inventions, every one of 
which he expected to make his fame and fortune. In his 
youth he had attached himself to " Diderot, Helvetius, and 
others of that kidney," M. de Neuilly tells us ; brought up in 
their school and much disposed like them to take things 
easily, he was very careless of his person. A man of parts, 
however, and devoured by a fierce anxiety to distinguish 
himself, the Marquis du Crest, in addition to his originality, 
could lay claim to be a person of genuine worth and good sense. 

He it was who originated the idea of transforming' the 
magnificent gardens of the Palais Royal into galleries of 
shops, the rents of which served to re-establish the Duke's 
finances, so deeply involved through his gambling and 
unlucky speculations. 

This move, of course, set the entire fashionable world of 
Paris in arms against both the Duke and his chancellor, for it 


had been the thing to stroll and loiter beneath the famous 
rows of chestnut trees leading to the Orangery ; but what did 
that matter to the Duke. His coffers began to refill, and 
soon we have du Crest talking of replacing Necker ! 

On 20th August 1787, he addressed to the King a 
naive epistle accompanying a memorandum in which he 
affirmed that he alone could save the State without new 
taxes and without convoking the States-General, provided 
His Majesty appointed him Prime Minister. " This piece of 
madness was his undoing," comments Brissot ; the chancellor 
enhanced his faux pas by having his memorandum printed 
and distributed broadcast throughout Paris and in the 
provinces. But how true a prophet he showed himself ! 
" No one knows better than I," he had written two days 
earlier, " what must be the outcome of the fermentation now 
going on in every brain. The convocation of the States- 
General will be the tomb of the royal authority." He did not 
indeed realise the full truth of his prediction. Public opinion, 
however, refused to take Du Crest seriously, and he became a 
target for ridicule. On the occasion of the Prince's interven- 
tion in the Assembly, there had been talk of " certain secret 
conclaves held behind locked doors in a house owned by 
the Marquis du Crest at Gennevilliers." Unmasked now 
by his own hand, du Crest began to be alternately sneered 
at and threatened by the Royalists as a conspirator. And 
instead of presiding over the destinies of the State, he has to 
content himself with a vague mission to England upon which 
the Duke sends him in company with his friend Brissot, 
another (but less ingenuous) angler in unquiet waters. 

The Prince exiled, du Crest out of the country, the Court 
believed itself to have foiled a conspiracy triumphantly. But 
behind the harmless and sanguine Marquis was to be descried 
the more impressive figure of Mrae. de Genlis. Well-informed 
people began to say that the disgrace of the brother would 
presently involve that of the sister. The Correspondance 
Secrete went so far as to add (making no secret of its 
delight), when announcing du Crest's departure : " Mme. de 
Genlis might very well follow him. The reign of the femme- 
gouverneur is over no less than that of the chancellor." 


Once again a succession of pamphlets attacking her began 
to appear. 

One of the first of these was a satirical parody of no merit, 
entitled Le Songe d'Athalie, preceded by a dedicatory 
letter to M. le Marquis du Crest, signed with the initials, 
" G. D. L. R." — standing for Grinod de la Reyniere. But the 
sponsorship by an amateur whose methods derived from 
Lucullus rather than from Juvenal seemed out of keeping 
with the style of the pamphlet, and there were some who 
attributed the work to either Rivarol or his imitator Cham- 
prenetz. In the catalogue of the Bibliotkeque Nationale, the 
pamphlet is ascribed to the latter. 

Besides railing at Mme. de Genlis, Le Songe d'Athalie 
contained attacks upon her supposed principal allies, the 
Abb6 Gauchat, Gaillard, La Harpe, and it heaped ridicule 
on Buffon. Even Condorcet came in for some hard knocks. 

The insolence of this brochure was accentuated by one 
which followed under the title Desaveu du sieur Grimod de 
la Reyniere. 

Another publication in which Mme. de Genlis was ridi- 
culed was the companion volume to La Petit Almanack de 
nos Grand Hommes dealing with " grande femmes." In 
this she is alluded to as " the most learned of all the learned 
ladies, past, present, and probably to come," and La Harpe 
and Gaillard are twitted with being her collaborators. The 
screed ends with the malicious sentence : " We may say that 
there has come into our possession a letter of Sillery's, 
written and signed by herself and in which we have found 
the precise style of her other works, save for some faults 
of grammar and orthography such as are commonly to be 
met with and overlooked in the writings of women authors." 
And in a series of Predictions for the year 1789, appended to 
the Almanack, satirical references are made to new works 
alleged to be forthcoming from the pen of the famous 

Perhaps these attacks served as a warning to Mme. de 
Genlis, showing her the need of prudence ? 

In any case, she left Bellechasse with her pupils to take 
up her residence at Lamothe while the Prince was in exile. 


Here she remained until the Duke of Orleans, by dint of 
continual entreaties and even a letter to Marie Antoinette, 
his enemy, at last succeeded in obtaining permission to 
return to Paris. 

It is thought — and it would redound nicely to her credit — 
that she had some part in inspiring the truly royal gifts 
bestowed on the poor by the Duke and Duchess during 
the terrible winter of 1788 — gifts which at Versailles were 
looked upon askance as " munificence with a motive." 

Certain it is that the Comtesse-Gouvemeur displayed 
much zeal in charitable work at this time, being at pains 
to bring the young Princes, and more particularly the Duke 
of Chartres, into contact with the people by means of visits 
to workshops and manufactories. She sought to accustom 
the Duke of Chartres to intercourse with the people, so 
that he might keep them in mind in everything he said and 
did, and thus win their confidence. 

When in June 1786 the Duke of Chartres put these prin- 
ciples into practice by destroying, while at Lamothe, the 
famous iron cage of Mont St. Michel, he had the appear- 
ance of acting as a demagogue. 

Meanwhile, the opening of the States-General is fixed 
for 1st May 17'9. Throughout France people are getting 
ready to prepare the cahiers, the Duke of Orleans publishes 
his Instructions aux Bailliages, those fourteen articles demand- 
ing all kinds of rights, even that of divorce, and destined to 
serve as a model for a great number of other cahiers. These 
are the famous " instructions " which Mme. de Genlis is 
accused of having inspired, but with which she protests — 
apparently with truth — she had nothing to do. Moreover, 
it was just at this moment that an intriguing individual 
made his way into the confidence of the Duke of Orleans. 
This was a captain in the engineers named Choderlor de 
Laclos, better known through a scandalous romance which 
served as a more effective recommendation to the good 
graces of the future Philippe-li!galite\ 

Laclos soon got the Duke's political affairs into his 
hands, beginning with the drawing up of these instructions, 
Madame de Genlis doing all she could to oppose him. She 


even went so far as to threaten to resign her post if the Duke 
accorded to Laclos a post which the Vicomte de Segur had 
sought to secure for him. 

The rivalry between these two skilled players becomes 
from this out a subject of much interest to historians of the 
Orleans' clique ; and if Laclos apparently triumphs and 
acquires the predominance, Mine, de Genlis, at least, never 
gives in but continues to foil so far as possible her opponent's 
schemes and plans. 

Was it he who persuaded the Duke to allow Sieves to 
amend the Instructions aux Bailliages ? As the Abbe is 
believed to have been in the habit of visiting at Bellechasse, 
this has been supposed, but the fact has not been ascertained. 
She undoubtedly judged it opportune to applaud the ideas 
of the Third Party and — perhaps won over at heart to 
the popular cause — to give a political tendency to her 

Dating from 1789, it begins to be frequented by gazetteers, 
deputies, publicists of all kinds ; and this change in its nature 
— for hitherto it had been essentially a literary salon — en- 
courages the idea that Mme. de Genlis, far from being dis- 
couraged by her defeat at the hands of Laclos, was stimulated 
into new energy, veering towards the side of public opinion 
as a natural consequence of being ousted from her role of 
political guide to the Palais Royal. 

Now begin her famous Sunday receptions in that salon 
at Bellechasse, and to which the Goncourts refer as her " salon 
bleu" confusing it apparently with her reception rooms at 
the Palais Royal, of which she took possession seventeen 
years previously. These latter were noted for their blue 
damask hangings and their profusion of mirrors. When she 
betook herself to Belleville, however, Mme. de Genlis handed 
over her suite of rooms at the Palais to her eldest daughter, 
and on the latter' s death the furniture is not likely to have 
come back into her hands. There is no record of the salon 
at Bellechasse being a " blue salon." If, indeed, blue was its 
dominating colour up to 1789, red and white soon were 
added. The tricolor was to be the note alike of its outward 
appearance and of its social atmosphere. 


The Goncourts says also : " This salon derives its im- 
portance, not from the woman who conducts it but from the 
man by whose wish she does so." In a sense, of course, this 
is true ; Mme. de Genlis was on sentinel duty, and Bellechasse 
was primarily an antechamber to the Palais Royal. But the 
Comtesse herself was a sufficiently notable personality to 
win fame for her salon. She knew how to make the most of 
her conversational powers, reinforced by a melodious voice 
and her skill as a harpist, and " the grace that emanated 
from her whole person, and the fresh and ravishing charm of 
her countenance." 1 

There is no exaggeration in this description of her. 
Amidst all the bitter criticisms from which her reputation 
still suffers, there is a chorus of admiring tributes to her 
fascinations. They arouse a keen regret in us of the twentieth 
century to whom conversation is a lost art. How pleasant it 
would be to lend ear to those witty sallies and wise reflections 
which Bouilly admired so much, which so astonished Barere, 
and which Mme. Vigee Lebrun tells us she would like to have 
made notes of. " Within half an hour," she says, " friends 
and enemies alike were enthralled by the brilliancy of her 

It is easy to picture her presiding over her flock of re- 
formers, attired in her bluish-grey dress with its fichu of 
lawn crossed over her breast ; her hair, with the merest 
sprinkling of powder on it, raised high on the forehead, is 
fastened with a narrow blue ribbon, two long curls a VAnglaise 
framing the delicate oval face. Her brown eyes sparkle with 
intelligence, and the suspicion of a smile curves her sensitive 
upper lip as in that charming portrait of Vestier, which tells 
rather of the citoyenne Brulart than of the Marquise de 

With tact and confidence she initiates and directs the 
conversation, drawing it into new channels when topics are 
reached in any way dangerous to her supremacy. Through- 
out it all she remains the centre of admiration by reason 
of the distinction of her bearing and " a charm of manner 
which seems the product of kindly feeling and which wins 

1 Bouilly, Des Recapitulations , p. 251. 


our affection by ministering to our self-esteem." * And as 
she is entirely free from the arrogance of the great, she has 
no difficulty in convincing the representative of the Third 
Party that she is a genuine anti-aristocrat. It is not sur- 
prising to find the lions of the Assembly, properly tamed, 
assembled at her gatherings — Barere and Brissot conspicuous 
among them ; the former a young and ardent son of the 
Pyrenees, " fresh from his provincial home, yet endowed 
with manners well fitted for high society and the Court," his 
somewhat boyish, southern vanity flattered to the extreme 
by his welcome into such famous company ; the latter, taken 
from the Bastille by Mme. de Genlis in 1784, at the instance of 
the geographer, Mentelle, and married to Mile. Dupont, lady 
of the bedchamber to Mile. d'Orleans, who perhaps acted as 
an intermediary between the Comtesse and Pet ion. Here is 
Petion himself, " the pure and incorruptible," whose intimacy 
with the Comtesse is a matter for whispered comment and 
speculation even in Jacobin conclaves. Here is a group of 
able men : Talleyrand, Mathieu de Montauron, the Abbe de 
Cabre ; Alexandre Lameth, of whom later our hostess will 
declare " that she never spoke to him in her life." There are 
some hot-heads : Volney, Barnave, Alquie, the painter David, 
and possibly (but this is not certain) Camille Desmoulins, 
as yet an obscure young lawyer. The " Procureur de la 
Lanterne " will be one of Mme. de Genlis's most intimate 
associates later, but he does not appear to have been much of 
a frequenter of Bellechasse. 

Barere will rub elbows here with the Vicomte de Beau- 
harnais, and at times with the Duke of Orleans and the 
Duchesse de Bourbon, and last but not least with his hostess's 

The latter, for his part, is wont to receive Brissot, Laclos, 
the Marquis de Clermont-Tonnerre ; Danton, of whom he 
said that he was " one of those creatures that you set to do 
the dirty work, but with something out of the common about 
him " ; Lechapelier ; and presently he will be welcoming 
Manuel and Robespierre. 

1 Helene-Marie Williams, Lettres ecrites de France a une amie d'Angleterre 
pendant Vannie, 1790. Lettre v. p. 37. 


Were the doors of the salon opened habitually to the 
young Orleans' Princes ? To have them listening to dis- 
cussions of public affairs and la haute politique would have 
been to push even the advanced educational theories of 
Rousseau to extremes. From the following passage in the 
Memoirs of Mme. de Genlis it would seem that the children 
were not admitted to the Sunday receptions. " We enter- 
tained at Belleville on Saturdays with a view to forming the 
manners of the young Princes and so enabling them to get 
into the way of listening to conversation. I wrote down in 
my diary the things in which they were at fault and which 
they ought to have done or said." But we know that they 
were initiated into the doings of the Assembly, and that they 
often came across some of the deputies either in the Pare de 
Monceaux or in the Pare du Raincy, where their father 
invited them to dinner. 

Barere boasts of " delicious days " thus spent, and the 
Duchesse de Gontaut recalls an afternoon in 1789 when she 
was present as a child at such a dinner at Monceaux, followed 
by Blind Man's Buff, and when she saw the Duke of Orleans, 
Biron, and Mirabeau conferring with a group of men who were 
unknown to her. Mme. de Genlis was of the party also. 

It is interesting to note how, dating from 1789, the Palais 
Royal and Bellechasse compete with each other in their 
efforts to control the actions of the weak and vacillating 
Duke of Orleans, posing now as the saviour of his people, 
and with a Party of his own in the Assembly — a Party, as 
Clermont-Gallerande said, " with their usurper all ready for 
use " — -this usurper being of course the Duke himself. He 
had contrived to make himself something of a power by 
means of the Instructions des Bailliages, and by the agents 
appointed everywhere in his domains. Other subordinate 
agents, recruited doubtless by Laclos, " excited and directed 
the actions of the populace or else sought to corrupt the 
troops by bribes in his name." And the tribe of unemployed 
who turned the gardens of the Palais Royal into one of the 
lowest and most infamous spots in Paris, acclaimed wildly 
and frantically this sworn enemy of the Court and of the 
Queen, this Prince of the Blood Royal who had abandoned his 


rank to please them, substituting for it the status of a mere 
depute ! 

The gardens of the Palais Royal became now the centre 
whence went forth the signal for all the mad and wicked 
follies of the town. 

All day long they were filled by a restless shouting mob, 
shoving now this way, now that, as one speaker after another 
took up his position on chair or table to harangue them. 

To the gardens came the earliest tidings always of 
everything happening at the Assembly or at Versailles, or 
elsewhere. " You knew nothing of what was going on," 
says Pasquier, " unless you made your way through the 
gardens at least twice in the course of the day." 

It was from the gardens that the mob set out, which 
rushed to the Abbaye on the 20th of June, to set free the 
undisciplined soldiers ; and hence also issued that other mob 
on 12th February which, at the instigation of Camille Des- 
moulins, tore down the leaves of the trees and twisted them 
into cocades, and which, carrying the busts of Necker and 
the Duke of Orleans in triumph, came into collision with the 
Royal Allemand in the Place Vendome. 

We do not hear of Mine. deGenlis putting in an appearance 
in the gardens, but it is questionable whether she had not 
something to say to these violent proceedings. 

If she did not take part in them herself, apparently she 
was represented by Pamela, whose striking beauty combined 
with her mysterious origin to inflame the imagination of 
the crowd. 

It is Mine. Vigee-Lebrun who relates how she saw the 
beautiful young girl attired in a riding habit, and wearing 
a hat decorated with black feathers, proceeding from one 
end of the gardens to the other, followed by two attendants 
in the blue and yellow uniform of the Orleans household, 
the crowd dividing into two sections to let her pass, and 
yelling at the tops^ of their voices — " Voila ! Voila ! There 
is she whom we must have as queen ! " And we hear of 
her again on the 14th of July, dressed in red, making a 
triumphal progress through the excited populace. 

It seems that Pamela ought to have been attending to 



her studies on that day with her governess. Now, Mme. de 
Genlis was not at Bellechasse. Some days earlier she had 
taken her pupils to Saint-Leu. And Sillery, who spent 
Sunday the 12th of July at Saint-Leu with his wife, received 
a message there announcing the dismissal of Necker. He set 
out at eight o'clock that evening, and, reaching Paris at the 
Clichy barrier in the midst of fusillades of musketry, he 
waited for daybreak before proceeding to Versailles. On 
the morning of the 14th he carried to the tribune of the 
Assembly an address, " the object of which seemed to be to 
egg on the populace to new excesses." x 

At the outbreak of these disturbances a messenger 
hastened to Saint-Leu. Mme. de Genlis and her pupils are 
engaged in theatricals. They abandon this occupation with- 
out a moment's delay and, without delaying to change their 
attire, start for Paris at once, on horseback or by carriage. 

Beaumarchais, friend and frequent guest of the Duke 
of Orleans, invites them to the terrace of the new gardens 
which he has had built not long since, and from this splendid 
vantage point they look on at the assault on the Bastille, 
as are doing many of the aristocrats and many fashionably 
dressed ladies, a-foot among the crowd, " having left their 
carriages at a distance in order to get there more easily." 2 

Mme. de Genlis, observers noted, made no conceal- 
ment of her delight and enthusiasm. It is said that not 
only Louis-Philippe and his brothers, but also Mademoiselle, 
were witnesses of this brutal demonstration, a portent of the 
impending fall of the monarchy. Mme. de Genlis came to 
be spoken of as a Revolutionary and a Terrorist. She herself 
admitted her imprudence, but she did not deny her feeling 
of satisfaction, and the hands of the Parisian who broke 
down the feudal monument seemed to her the " avenging 
hands of Providence." 

Was she ignorant of the fact that the destruction of the 
Bastille had for a long time been part of the Revolutionary 
programme ? 

In his famous letter to the King the Marquis du Crest 

1 E. Dard, op. cit., 183. 

2 Chancelier Pasquier, op. cit., 53. 


had called out for the destruction of the Bastille as an urgent 
measure. It was only natural, therefore, that Mine, de 
Genlis should be a joyful and conspicuous witness of the 
actual event. 

She did not, however, dare to avow another step which 
she took, — one which was much more rash. On this same 
night of tumult she conducts her pupils to the Palais Royal, 
and she and the young Prince take part in the wild dance, 
hand in hand with the drunken viragoes who are making the 
gardens re-echo with their frenzied songs and obscene yells. 1 

On the following day she returned to Saint-Leu, retracing 
her steps on the 2nd of September in order to instal her 
pupils at Passy, so that they might be within reach of the 
National Assembly. 

Throughout this period the Duke takes no part in what is 
happening. He had but to present himself before the King 
and his Council, who were quite terrorised. 

Popular as he is at this moment of unrest, he is in truth 
the uncrowned King of Paris, supported by his lieutenants : 
Laclos, Cillery, Sieves, Latouche, watched over by Mirabeau, 
from Montrouge, where he is waiting ; backed up by crowds 
of mercenaries ; the hope of the famished mob which throngs 
the Palais Royal. A single word from him and he is 
lieutenant-general of the kingdom, with power to nominate 
ministers, to dispose of the royal treasure, etc. etc. 

But he dares not utter this word. In the royal anti- 
chamber, where he knocks up against the Baron de Breteuil, 
he loses countenance, forgets the part which has been com- 
posed for him by the plotters of Montrouge, stammers out 
some banal inquiry, and capitulates without striking a blow. 

It would be idle to enter into details on this subject, for 
the historians of the Revolution have dealt with the matter 

Coming back to Mme. de Genlis, it is important to note 
that she had nothing to do with the Montrouge schemings. 
She was not inactive, however. Her name recurs several 
times at this period. 

1 Cf. A. Nettemest, loc. cit. Touchard-Lafosse, Souvenir d'un demi-siecle, 


First of all, on the 17th of August at Rouen, in connection 
with the Bordier affair. This Bordier, an actor from the 
Varietes, was a ringleader in the outbreak at Rouen. A sum 
of 74,000 livres was found upon him. Particulars of the 
charge against him were forwarded to the Chatelet, but the 
matter was hushed up, Bordier himself being executed with- 
out any fuss. It was known only that in his pleadings he 
had mentioned the Duke of Orleans and Mme. de Genlis. 

The Orleans party was believed at this juncture to be 
working to prevent supplies of corn from arriving and the 
bakers from baking (it is said to have cost them 150,000 
francs a week to contrive this), besides endeavouring to 
corrupt the troops. A witness saw " Mme. de Genlis going 
about the barracks of the Gardes Francaises with the Duchesse 
d'Aiguillon, Mme. Necker and her daughter, addressing the 
soldiers or giving them brandy." l And there are similar state- 
ments about her visiting other barracks and garrisons and 
camps. But this kind of gossip is not to be credited. What 
is known, however, is that she now gave Mirabeau that single 
interview of which he was to boast so fatuously to Sophie 

On the 16th of September, when the Assembly was dis- 
cussing the question of the succession to the throne and the 
eventual right of the King of Spain, a Bourbon, to reign in 
France, Sillery intervened suddenly and unexpectedly. 

The Duke of Orleans had just left his place as though to 
refuse all responsibility for what was being done, and was 
standing conspicuously near a door, when M. de Genlis, who 
was known to have been ill and in bed, made his unlooked for 
appearance, and took out of his pocket, where somehow they 
had found their way, the letters patent of 1713 (resulting 
from the Treaty of Utrecht), and the renunciation of the 
throne of France by the Royal House of Spain. 

This incident indicates to what an extent the political 
future of the Duke of Orleans and the possibility of his 
becoming Regent were engaging the energies of the Party. 

It would not be rash to recognise in this step the influence 
of Mme. de Genlis, whose memory for historical dates and 

1 Touchard-Lafosse, op. cit., 26. 


incidents were wonderful. She was more likely than her 
husband to remember the Spanish renunciation, and it was 
she probably who supplied him with the necessary documents 
at the right moment. 

The fateful days of October now approached. 

Recent histories of the Revolution show that it is no 
longer possible to impute any responsibility for the events 
of those days to the Duke of Orleans. It is even doubted 
now whether he was at Versailles on the 6th of October. 

All that can be charged against Mme. de Genlis is that 
she was staying within reach in that Maison Boulainvilliers 
where Rivarol would have us believe that emissaries of the 
Party continually arrived with news. It is not known 
whether she was present on the 5th at that stormy meeting 
of the Assembly, when the mob of frantic women led by 
Maillard made their way in : the meeting at which Mirabeau 
broke out into violence, and at which Puget de Barbentane 
cried out : " It can be seen that these gentlemen want some 
lanternes — they shall have them ! " The Duke of Chartres 
was present with his brother, Montpensier, but apparently 
they were not accompanied by Mme. de Genlis. The young 
Duke took up Puget' s words and repeated : " Yes, gentlemen, 
yes, — we must have more lanternes ! " 

" When we reflect," Billault de Gerainville comments 
upon this, " that the Prince who uttered these words was 
barely sixteen years old, and that the horde of cannibals 
with whom he seemed to threaten the King's friends were 
only a few yards away, it is difficult not to believe that he 
had been initiated into the dreadful plot which was about 
to do its work. " 

A courier rushes up now and whispers into the ear of the 
Duke of Chartres a message from his father, who immediately 
hastens away with his young brother and makes for Passy 
and the Maison Boulainvilliers. 

Night falls. In the darkness, rain falling heavily, cries, 
shouts, yells, and the clash of sabres and pikes are to be 
heard unceasingly all round the castle. 

The ragged mob, made ferocious by hunger, swarms up 
against the iron railings. The guard cannot keep them back 


— they succumb before the wild onslaught. The attackers 
are hungry for blood as well as bread. In a moment blood 
begins to pour, heads are cut off and raised aloft on pikes. 
Now the castle is broken into and sacked — the Queen's own 
apartment invaded and sullied, Marie Antoinette herself 
taking flight in her nightdress and by a miracle escaping the 

Such were the facts in brief. We are all familiar with 
them. We all know, minute by minute, the terrible story of 
those twenty-four hours, during which the knell of the un- 
fortunate Louis xvi. tolled in every heart. 

When at last the Royal Family are taken to Paris as 
prisoners, surrounded by its terrible escort, it passes in front 
of the terrace of this Boulainvilliers mansion, from the 
height of which, as from a box in a theatre, Mme. de Genlis 
and her pupils, with the Duke of Orleans and Laclos, are 
looking down with smiles upon their lips. 

At the sight of the Duke, conspicuous in his grey coat 
and with a gigantic cocade in his hat, the mob is said to have 
burst out into shouts and cheers, the while Mme. de Genlis 
" indulged in the most offensive comments upon the Queen 
and Mme. de Lamballe." x 

She herself declared afterwards that she took no part in 
these proceedings, but numerous witnesses establish the fact 
of her presence. " I saw her," records the Comte de Neuilly. 
" I can certify to this." 

On the morning of the 6th the French Guard said to La 
Fayette : "If the King is too weak, let him put aside the 
crown. We shall nominate his son. We shall have a Council 
of Regency, and all will be well." 

A Council of Regency ! This meant the triumph of the 
Duke of Orleans. 

And we are set thinking sadly of Lamartine's saying : 
"It is more fitting for a king to abdicate than to be over- 
thrown ; from the moment he ceases to be king, the throne 
is the lowest place in the kingdom." 5 

1 Cf . Clermont-Gallerande, op. cit., i. 191 . Comte de Neuilly, op. cit. ; Ducoin, 
op. cit., etc. 

2 Laraartine, Girondins, L. vi. ch. xi. 



In Paris public opinion, in the nervous fit that followed 
the disorders of the 5th and 6th October, blamed the Duke 
of Orleans and Mirabeau. Baron de Stael shared the 
general opinion, though he was in a good position for obtain- 
ing information, for his wife and Mine. Necker were with 
the Queen at the (Eil-de-Bceuf and had not seen the Duke 
of Orleans at the palace. Writing on the 22nd to Gustavus 
in., to inform him of the outbreak, De Stael explicitly- 
indicated the Duke and his friends, Latouche, Biron and 
Sillery as the authors of the plot. 1 

Further, the Court directed the tribunal of the Chatelet 
to open an official enquiry involving the Prince and Mira- 
beau, and there were rumours that the faction, though its 
plans had been upset by Louis xvi. having come to Paris, 
was preparing for a new attempt. 

As for Mirabeau, he was the man to get out of an awkward 
situation, for he knew thoroughly well how to make himself 
feared, especially by La Fayette. Now, if he sided with the 
Prince he could, by making a scene in the Assembly, draw 
the people on to new disorders, and ruin the rising glory of 
the general, who was supposed to have saved the King and 
defeated the Duke of Orleans on 6th October. 

It is well known that La Fayette sent the Duke away 
to England — whether by alarming him as to the proceed- 
ings that might be taken against him as the instigator of 
the disturbances, 2 or dazzling him with the prospect of the 

1 Cf. E. Dard, op. cit., 187. 

- The Comte de Quelen writes to the President de St. Luc, October 18, 1789 : 



Regency and the Duchy of Brabant, if he could intervene 
efficaciously in the Low Countries, now in revolt against 
Austria (this last prospect a mere Utopia, a dry bone that 
M. de Montemorin threw to the Orleans party, and which 
the Prince gnawed at persistently for nine long months). 

As for Mme. de Genlis, she tried, it seems, to regain 
her influence. A fine opportunity presented itself for 
throwing the responsibility for the events of October on 
Laclos. But she had to encounter the preconceived ideas 
of her august friend, and the Marquis de Luzerne, the am- 
bassador at London, was able to write on 10th October : — 
" I know by private reports that the Duke is on bad terms 
with Mme. de Sillery, that she has done everything in 
the world to induce him to dispense with the services of 
Laclos, whom she cannot bear ; but that notwithstanding 
her efforts the latter has succeeded in maintaining himself 
in favour. . . ." * Then she thought of retiring from the 
scene, and prepared to go with her pupils to Nice. " Un- 
fortunately," she says, " I had announced my intention, 
and the idea was so censured by the newspapers, and seemed 
to be so damaging to the fragile and fatal popularity of the 
House of Orleans, that it had to be given up, — at least for the 
moment." 2 

Gorsas confirmed this statement of the Governess in his 
newspaper, 3 and Mme. de Genlis at once replied to him in 
a long letter which Gorsas published next day, and which 
was reproduced in the Orleanist papers. At the same time 
a pamphlet issued in the form of an open letter to the Duke 
of Orleans said : " It is reported, Monseigneur, that yielding 
to the advice of the female Governor whom you have placed 
over your children you are thinking about, nay, you have 

— " Mischievous people — and there are some of them about — are spreading the 
report that M. de la Fayette said to Monseigneur in the presence of the King, 
' I have handed His Majesty a written statement containing the proofs of your 
influence on the rising of the people and your desire to get me assassinated. 
This just lets one see how far the malice of men will go. . . ." (P. de Vaissiere, 
Lettres d' aristocates) . 

1 Cf. E. Dard., op. cit., 157. 

2 Genlis, Memoires, iv. 87. 

3 Le Courrier de Versailles a Paris et de Paris a Versailles, October 15, 1789. 


decided on, removing them from the Kingdom, on sending 
them to Italy. . . . 

" Is it an ambitious over-bearing woman trying to involve 
in and identify with her teachings all your thoughts, all 
your plans, — is it a woman who has only a certain wit, 
extravagant ideas and no principles but those of getting 
everything into her own hands — is it, I say, a woman ' Gov- 
ernor ' who will be able to inspire them with the virtues 
they require ? 

" Delay, or rather abandon at once, Monseigneur, this 
projected journey, this separation from your family. The 
People has taken alarm at it, and nowadays the People 
is swift to murmur, to be angered, to proscribe and con- 
demn. ..." 

It is true that Mme. de Genlis fixes these preparations 
for a journey in the autumn of 1790, but it seems clear that 
they were the outcome of the events of 5th and 6th October 
1789 — events of which she could not for the present 
escape the after effects in Paris. In fact, the Prince him- 
self started off suddenly like a fugitive on 14th October, 
accompanied by Laclos. Mme. de Buffon followed him, 
keeping just one stage behind him on the way. And next 
day the King informed the Assembly that he had entrusted 
the Duke of Orleans with a special mission to the King of 

It was the sign of the times that George in. did not 
grant him an audience till November, and then only after 
giving him a weary wait of three-quarters of an hour in the 
anti-chamber. In the Prince's own circle there had been 
nothing to make anyone expect this sudden departure. 

" I thought," relates Mme. de Genlis, " that we would 
start in a couple of days, when one evening M. de 
Valence came to tell me that he knew for certain that M. 
d'Orleans was setting out that very night for England. He 
found it impossible to persuade me of the matter that was 
so unexpected and so strange, but it was nevertheless 
absolutely true. M. d'Orleans set off at five o'clock in the 

" They gave me a note from him in which he said that 


he would be back at the end of a month, yet he remained in 
London for nearly a year." l But he left Mme. de Genlis full 
power over his children. 

This event made a most disastrous impression on the 
public. Then, in concert with the Duchess of Orleans, 
the deserted Egeria drew up " a short statement of about a 
page announcing this strange journey," and Mme. d'Orleans 
had this short statement inserted in all the newspapers. 

Nevertheless there came showering down on Paris a 
cloud of pamphlets and anonymous fly-sheets on the de- 
parture of Monseigneur the Duke, on the motives of his 
journey, on his pretended embassy, etc. . . . Friendly 
publications, the work of the Prince's adherents, put forward 
lengthy explanations of his conduct, defended him from the 
charge of criminal ambition, and further assured the public 
that " he was entrusted with the purchase of wheat in 
England." The anti-Orleanist pamphleteers jeered at these 
explanations, indulged in epigrams, or said flatly that the 
Prince had run away. 

The Palais Royal was utterly depressed, and Mirabeau, 
turning contemptuously away from his ally of yesterday, 
with a shrug of his shoulders applied to him an epithet too 
grossly emphatic to be reproduced here. Mme. de Genlis 
was in a fury at finding herself tied to Paris, for she says : 
" This journey, inconceivable from every point of view, made 
it impossible for my pupils to leave France. The people, 
already in ill humour at the departure of their father, kept 
an eye on them, and would have stopped them at the 
frontier," 1 — as they had nearly stopped the Duke at 

Now that the Duke of Orleans had gone and had 
abandoned himself without resistance to Laclos, his cause 
evidently ceased to be of much interest to Mme. de Genlis. 
M. Dard goes so far as to say, " that cause was in her opinion 
a lost one, since she had been supplanted by Laclos." 

But while the Prince, after having more than once allowed 

the chance of sitting in the place of Louis xvi. to slip through 

his irresolute hands, seemed thus to abandon the struggle 

1 Genlis, Precis de ma conduite depuis la Revolution, p. 12 ; Memoir es, iv. 89. 


and his party, the Revolution none the less pursued its 

Why should Mme. de Genlis, well known for her Republi- 
canism, slacken in her zeal ? 

Why should she lose for nothing the results of her activity 
and all her efforts ? 

Is there not another left to her — young, enthusiastic, 
formed and fashioned by herself even to the inmost recesses 
of his conscience, submissive to her in heart and soul, whose 
will she can sway as she chooses, who eagerly drinks in the 
slightest word that falls from her thin lips, and who with an 
excess of veneration speaks of her as " his beloved friend," 
" his mother " — the Duke of Chartres ! 

We shall have to say more of the affection of the pupil for 
his Governess, a passionate affection, but as she would have it, 
entirely blameless, — of this there is no possible doubt. Mean- 
while let us note that she had literally applied the principle 
of Rousseau : " Emile will love and respect his parents, but 
he must obey only me." 

For the present shethought it opportune to bring the Duke 
of Chartres forward, keep him before the people, bring him to 
take his father's place in public opinion, and try to attract 
to this grave youth of seventeen the popular favour. And 
strange to say, the practical and encyclopaedic education 
that Mme. de Genlis had given the young Prince was so 
well adapted to his new destiny, that it seemed as if she had 
long foreseen the actual situation. Not only was M. de 
Chartres subjected to a rigid rule of life, austere enough to 
rival that of a monk, punished, put on bread and water for 
eight days for the slightest outbreak, but he had been taught, 
contrary to tradition, democratic habits, and the principles of 
absolute equality. 

He must rise at six in the morning, in winter as well as 
in summer, after having slept on a plank ; for breakfast he 
had a raw apple and a little dry bread and cherries ; his 
only nourishment was milk, roast meat and fruit, without 
ever being given even the least dainties, and sweets never or 
hardly ever. Here certainly was a severe regimen. And one 
cannot deny that the Duke of Chartres was trained to be a 


strong man, if one remembers the enormous amount of 
physical exertion that Mine, de Genlis's varied programme 
imposed upon him — manual work as a mason, a carpenter, a 
smith, and even as a groom ; physical exercise that included 
the handling of heavy jars of water, weight lifting, hauling 
on pulleys, wearing leaden soles to his shoes ; visits to 
factories, and the medical as well as charitable task of tending 
the sick in the Hotel-Dieu, and with all this his intellectual 
studies ! 

But he was also trained to be a free man. 

This son of the first Prince of the Blood Royal takes no 
account of birth and rank ; he despises decorations, dis- 
tinctions, titles and other baubles of vanity ; he values only 
personal merits ; and be it said, by the way, that all this is 
quite in harmony with the precepts of the Gospel. But he 
believes firmly in the equality of all men, in the sovereignty 
of the people, which is outraged by privileges and abuses. 
Moreover, he is used to keep account for himself of his own 
affairs, study the character of those around him, exercise 
a minute supervision over his subordinates, keep a watch on 
himself, master himself, give under all circumstances an 
example of acting as if his slightest movements were subject 
to the criticism of all the world. Finally, his political ideal — 
at the age of eighteen — is the Republic. 

Honourable, courageous, pure, pious, well educated, the 
Duke of Chartres, wonderfully gifted and besides of a charming 
presence, rises so high above the average of mankind and of 
the generality of princes, that he seems a hero, an exceptional 

" A democrat Prince," exclaims Miss Helena Williams, in 
a transport of admiration at the grave and somewhat Puritan 
manners of Chartres, " is in itself something strange enough ! " 
Pitt's fellow-countrywoman is full of admiration for this 
" warm partisan of the new Constitution of France, who is 
determined with all the enthusiasm of a youthful mind and 
an ardent soul to sacrifice the splendour of his titles to the 
general good of his country." x 

1 Helena Maria Williams, Letters written from France to a friend in England 
during the year 1790, p. 38. 



How could he fail to tread deliberately the path in which 
he was preceded by Mme. de Genlis — that unwearying 
panegyrist of the Constitution — seeing that with Montpensier 
he carefully followed the debates of the Assembly, made 
written summaries of the discussions of its orators, and 
several times each week submitted these reports to the 
criticism of the deputy Biauzat, whom the Governess had 
charged with the duty of teaching politics to the two princes 
under the guise of a course of law. 

How could he fail to be popular, he who since the 
14th of July wore habitually, like his brothers, the uniform 
of the National Guard, though it was something of an 
encumbrance for little eleven-year-old M. de Beaujolais ? 
He used also to frequent the public swimming school, 
established since July 1789, at the point of the He 
Saint-Louis, wearing, however, a swimming costume that 
differed in colour and material from that of ordinary 

And the popular enthusiasm for the young Duke broke 
out especially at the theatre. 

While he was a child he had not been taken to the theatre 
more than eight or ten times each winter. Now things were 
different, and the three princes were often in the audience 
at those tragedies, at which the clamorous applause of the 
people emphasised the lines that lent themselves to political 
allusions, thus interpreting certain passages in a sence that 
neither Corneille, nor Racine, nor even Voltaire had ever 
dreamed of. 

On Wednesday, 4th November, they were to be seen 
at the representation of Chenier's Charles IX., and the 
whole audience applauded the princes with persistent 

The popularity of the Duke of Chartres increased rapidly. 
In this excitable, inflammable Paris, where the least spark 
produced explosions, the Dames de la Halle were prominent 
in their effervescence. In this same month of November, 
meeting a very well dressed young man, and doubtless 
mistaking him for the Prince, they make him come down 
from his carriage, kiss him, decorate him with a beautiful 


rose, and " invite him to go to meet the Duke of Orleans, 
who they declared was to arrive that day." 1 

Then it is M. de Chartres himself who takes fire. One 
day in March 1790 he reads Marat's paper. In it some anony- 
mous penny-a-liner likens the people to a wild beast, and 
further speaks " with much contempt of the new Constitu- 
tion and of the National Assembly." 1 In a fit of indignation 
he sends by post to the newspaper a protest. He does not 
sign it. But the article fell into the hands — or was sent to 
— the Duchess of Orleans, who recognised her son's style. 
Sent for by his mother, the young prince blushed, lied, and 
denied its authorship. And he had a sharp reprimand 
from Mme. de Genlis, but only because he had not dared 
to avow himself the author of the protest. 

Some days before this, on 9th February, with his brothers, 
and in the uniform of the National Guard, he took the 
civic oath, in the district of St. Roch, an act to which, Billault 
de Gerainville notes, " they were in no way obliged, and 
from which their age dispensed them." On the page of the 
district register the Prince struck out all his titles and 
dignities, which had been inscribed there beforehand, and 
signed himself, " Citizen Chartres." 

On 31st March the abolition of the right of primogeniture 
filled him with joy. 

On 19th June a decree abolished titles of nobility. At 
once the Duke assembled his people, forbade them to address 
him as " Monseigneur," or even as " Monsieur le Due," made 
them put off their livery, " unfrocking coachmen, lackeys, 
footmen and the rest." 

On the day of the Fete of the Federation, his arrival at 
the Champ de Mars caused a great sensation. The people 
lavished their applause upon him. 

To such an extent that the enthusiasm of M. de Chartres 
became touched with fanaticism, and Mme. de Genlis, 
fearing with her accustomed prudence the excesses to which 
a young head might lead them, held forth to her pupils on 
23rd April in a discourse full of edifying restraint : — 

" I have taught you," she said to them, " to despise 

1 Journal de la Cour et de la Ville, November 8, 1789. 


ridiculous outward show, and really to honour only merit 
and virtue ... I read the Game Laws for you to make you 
detest them. I asked you to promise that you would re- 
nounce all these horrible rights ; I taught you to despise 
pomp, and to seek the love of the people, the only foundation 
of the renown of Princes. . . . Thus you never received from 
me an aristocratic education, . . . but as I hate excess, 
which is the characteristic of limited intelligences, I desire 
that you should go nowhere else but to the National Assembly 
— otherwise you will commit many follies and sheer absur- 
dities." i 

This episode shows that the teacher felt scruples that 
did her honour, but that were somewhat belated. For 
some time Mme. d'Oberkirch had remarked that the young 
princes were losing all respect for their name and race, and, 
at the risk of repetition, let us add that for some time Mme. 
de Genlis was giving them the example. She too has re- 
nounced all her titles and the " de " to become plain " Citi- 
zeness Brulart ; she too wears in her own fashion the patriot 
uniform — a tricolour dress trimmed with an immense pro- 
fusion of blue, white and red ribbons. She proudly displays 
a piece of jewellery, made out of a bit of stone from the 
Bastille, bought no doubt from the famous Palloy, and 
mounted in a revolutionary medallion that deserves de- 

In the very centre the word " Liberte," written in 
diamonds, sparkled on a moon, represented in its phase of 
the Fourteenth of July, while in smaller diamonds the name 
of the planet that shone that day was inscribed above it. 
All round, forming a frame for the medallion, a wreath of 
laurels in emeralds, closing upon a cockade of gems on three 
colours, through which passed the chain that suspended 
the jewel on the graceful neck of the Countess. 2 

To complete her collection of revolutionary jewellery 
she had, besides the medallion, half a dozen rings cut out of 
a flinty agate that also came from the Bastille. On each 
ring was engraved the date " 14th July 1789," and the 
inscription, " For one of the six best patriots." 

1 LeQons d'une gotwernanle, April 23, 1790. - Miss Williams, Letters, 11. 


Of those six distinguished beings one only, Alexander 
Lameth, is known to us. Those who came to visit the 
lady, friends on the Saturday, politicians on the Sunday, 
found her in her rooms " so bedizened with the three colours 
that their crude contrasts tired one's eyes." 

In this appropriate setting Miss Williams heard her talk 
with disdain of distinctions of rank, and of " the silly English 
Constitution with its hereditary peerage and its two houses 
instead of a single chamber." 

Rings, jewels, inscriptions, trifles that had a meaning, 
anathemas and prophecies uttered by a pretty woman — 
what a love the close of the eighteenth century had for such 
amusements ! How they bring back to us the time with 
its sensitive beings in pannier skirts and powdered hair ! 

But we must come to graver matters ; let us see the 

Mme. de Genlis publishes two of these discourses in this 
same year 1790. 

The first, the one that made the most sensation, appeared 
in the month of July. It was the Discourse on the Education 
of the Dauphin, 1 intended to prove that the happiness of a 
people depends on the education of the heir to the throne ; 
that under a free Government the interests of the King can 
never be separated from those of the people ; that a free 
nation had therefore the right to supervise the education of 
the prince who is to govern it. 

Consequently the plan for his education ought to be 
printed in full detail and made public ; an Education Journal, 
issued each month, should record hour by hour, his studies, 
his physical and mental exercises, with bulletins of his 
health, notable remarks made by the prince, and a general 
account of his progress. Thus the people will follow moment 
by moment the life of " a child so precious to them." 

The leading part in this programme belongs naturally 
to the " Governor," whom Mme. de Genlis indicates by a 
boldly outlined characterisation of what he should be. Under 

1 Discours sur I 'Education du Dauphin et sur V adoption, par Mme. de 
Brulart ci-devant Madame Sillery, gouvernante des enfants de la maison 
d' Orleans (1790). 


her pen the Dauphin's Governor appears as an exceptional 
being, an unheard-of assemblage of all the virtues, all the 
sciences, a saint and a phenomenon. She promises him in 
advance the hatred of envious men and the persecutions of the 
wicked ; she predicts for him solitude and abandonment, for 
he will find it impossible to cultivate his friends ; the enmity 
of those below him, who will always consider his vigilance 
excessive — in a word, all that it was of public notoriety that 
she herself had experienced. 

In the presence of these explicit utterances, the Court at 
first began to ask if Mme. de Genlis herself was aspiring 
to the post of Governor of the Dauphin. But there was a 
certain passage in which she described a pupil " of lofty 
soul, superior intelligence, intrepid courage, extraordinary 
genius," of whom his Governor, " especially at the moment 
when a new Constitution had been created, should not make 
either a conqueror or a despot." This significant passage, 
which could not in any way whatever be applied to poor 
little Louis xvn., pointed plainly enough to the Duke of 

The Royalists, on second thoughts, made no mistake 
about it, and in the Mercure La Harpe — whose intervention 
in the affair one would hardly have expected — frankly told 
the author of the Discours to mind her own business. 1 

But the Discourse on Adoption, published shortly after the 
former pamphlet, pressed the point, if one may say so, and 
showed the course to be followed. 

Adoption enabled one to give to merit the rights and 
distinctions unjustly bestowed on mere birth and nobility 
without virtue or talent. Mme. de Genlis reminded her 
hearers that the historic names of Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, 
Childebert, were those of adopted sons. 

1 La Harpe wrote ironically : " I am very far from suspecting Madame de 
; Sillery of that self-centred way of thinking which, when it dictates the opinions 
to be given to the public, leads only to the revelation of secret egotism and of the 
delusions of self-love. ... I do not think that anyone will ever give practical 
ieffect to Madame de Sillery's idea. One might for her own sake advise her 
not to treat of political questions. She will not succeed any better in these 
imatters than she succeeded when she tried to treat of theology," etc. (Mercure 
de France, September-October 1790). 



And there was some support for the idea that in the 
presence of the unpleasant rumours, the imputations and 
the calumnies that were current about the Queen and the 
birth of the Dauphin, Louis xvi. might " disavow the son 
of the Austrian woman," and adopt as his successor a Prince 
of the younger branch, a descendant of Henry iv. — in a word, 
the Duke of Chartres. 1 

And we may take it that there is a further emphasising 
of this idea in a note added by Mme. de Genlis in the 
second edition of the Discours sur V 'Adoption, in 1802, in 
which she says : " While entirely disapproving of hereditary 
distinctions, I by no means wish to argue that royalty should 
not be hereditary " — a pointless explanation if there was 
nothing to call for it. 

But after all the Discours seems to have been a two- 
edged weapon. It tended, by one at least of its paragraphs, 2 
to assist in the realisation of a personal plan of its author — 
the adoption of a charming girl, the idol of her reputed 
parents : the adoption of Pamela or of Hermine. And this 
seems to be confirmed by a pressing letter of our Countess 
to Camille Desmoulins, dated 11th July 1790 : — 

"... Allow me to make a request of you, which is not 
prompted by self-love, but in which I have a heartfelt 
interest of the most tender and lively kind. It is that 
you will strongly advocate with your eloquence and your 
admirable logic my proposal relating to adoption, with 
this condition — that one may adopt a daughter in addition 
to other children. 

" If the law is passed in this form, I shall give the first 
example of the happiness it can procure. I conjure you to 
do everything in your power, by your writings and with 
your friends, to have this law passed. Another in your 
place would ask me what right a person unknown to you can 
have to expect such zeal on your part, but this zeal will 

1 Cf. E. Dard, op. cit., p. 295. 

2 "Whatever number of children one may have, there ought to be per- 
mission to adopt besides a daughter on condition only of securing her an annuity 
for life." 


contribute to the happiness of two people, and no doubt to 
that of many others. It will cost you nothing ; and if your 
writings indicate your way of thinking, they justify the con- 
fidence I am reposing in you. You see, sir, how frankly I 
speak to you ; I hope my motive will excuse me with a soul 
such as yours, and I swear that I shall feel towards you 
faithful friendship and real gratitude if, in a matter so dear 
to me, and touching me so deeply, you help me with all the 
zeal and activity of which you are capable. 

" I am your most humble and obedient servant, 

" Ducret-Brulard. 

" Saint-Leu, 11th July 1790." » 

Taken literally, the request would indeed seem to have 
been inspired by the desire to adopt Pamela, whom she so 
petted, and treated with greater tenderness than all else ; 
but the other plan — that which was concerned with a possible 
adoption of the Duke of Chartres — might after all be hidden 
away under the disguise of that which was openly avowed, 
and Mme. de Genlis was not the woman to reveal herself 
completely in a note in her handwriting addressed to Camille 
Desmoulins, who just before this was unknown to her except 
by reputation. 

Their relations seem, in fact, to date from the publication 
of the Discours sur V Education du Dauphin, as a frontispiece 
to which the publisher had inserted an engraving — the 
portrait of the author, sitting at her writing-table, in a 
pannier skirt and a little hat a la Pamela, with her hair 
dressed in youthful fashion with very full puffs. 

Below in a medallion was shown a lamp burning with a 
band bearing the inscription : " Pour eclairer tu te con- 
sumes " (You consume yourself in giving us light). 

And the portrait was accompanied by these verses of 
M. de Sauvigny : — 

" Vertus, graces, talens, esprit juste, enchanteur, 
Elle a tout ce qu'il faut pour embellir la vie, 
C'est le charme des yeux, de l'oreille, du cceur, 
Et le desespoir de l'envie." 

1 Correspondence de Camille Desmoulins, publiee par Matton, p. 73. 


Feeling her modest love of equality offended, Mme. 
de Genlis raised an outcry, " broke out into invectives 
against the engraving," and sent a protest to Camille Des- 
moulins, who published it in full in his Revolutions <lc France 
et de Brabant. It must have been shortly afterwards that, 
charmed at his action, and anxious to have a near view of the 
fiery Revolutionist, she sent him the note on the adoption 
question. It throws an interesting light on the obscurity 
in which Mme. de Genlis's proceedings are lost to sight at 
this period ; and lights of the epistolary kind are rare. It 
also shows us something of the quiet independence of this 
busy woman, who was now content to dispense with the 
once necessary support of the Orleans name. 

For the moment the Duke was not an ally that could 
count for much. He had returned from England on 20th 
July, but was living and lodging no one knows where, prob- 
ably at Mme. de Buffon's. He nowhere showed himself in 
public, did not go to the Palais Royal, and met the attacks 
of the journalists with complete silence. Apparently he 
had returned to his former apathy, his pleasures, and, left 
to himself, was taking no interest in current events. It was 
said that he was abandoned by all, even by Mme. de Genlis, 
whose enemies, ever on the alert, proclaimed her ingratitude 
in an anonymous pamphlet. 

This insulting publication, taking the Governess directly 
to task, reproaches her with " the incredible proceedings of 
the Prince, his irrational conduct, and the discredit into which 
he has fallen," and ironically invites her " to give some ex- 
planation as to the line she intends to take or induce her old 
pupil to take." x 

Mme. de Genlis's only reply was to assert herself all the 
more on the popular side. We have proof of this in her 
assiduous visits — sometimes with Mile. d'Orleans — to 
the sittings of the Assembly, to several meetings of the 
Jacobin Club, 2 and even to that of the Cordeliers, 3 where she 

1 Vie privee de Madame de Sillery. 

2 Cf. Toulotte, op. cit., i. 77. 

3 Mme. de Genlis has left us a picturesque account of the meetings of the 
Cordeliers in her novel Les Parvenus. 


found a piquant excitement for her curiosity in the fierce 
excitement of the mixed audience, with its contingent of 
fishwives ever ready to interrupt. Amid such surroundings 
she met her husband again 

On 3rd Marchl791 Sillery wrote to Camille Desmoulins : — 

" Madame de Sillery is coming to dine at my place with 
Pethion and Robespierre, and I venture to ask your amiable 
and pretty wife to do me the same honour. Madame de 
Sillery tells me to say to you that she is as fond of you as ever, 
but she is afraid that you may be childish enough to be sulky 
towards her. 1 Come, my dear Camille, and if ever you find 
yourself amidst pure democracy it will be next Sunday at 
eight, when I hope to grasp your hand. Send me a word in 
reply. " Sillery." 2 

Was it on this Sunday, or some other day, that in M. de 
Genlis's yellow salon in the Rue des Mathurins she sang, for 
the Attorney-General of the Lanterne, accompanying herself 
on the harp, a song in praise of inconstancy ? — It was, alas ! 
a seasonable subject for the Genlis, but well calculated to 
make Lucile Desmoulins anxious. Meanwhile Pamela danced 
for him a Russian dance " so voluptuous," he says, " and 
performed in such a way, that I don't think young Herodias 
can have danced for her uncle anything more calculated to 
turn his head." 

The ungrateful Revolutionist ! He will remember it all, 
but only to use these recollections of a fete day as points of 
accusation. Nevertheless, at the moment he inspires the 
Livre Rouge to celebrate with highest praise the merits of 
Genlis the Siren. 3 

1 In the original of this letter, in possession of the learned Dr. Pol Gosset of 
Rheims, one can read in the margin opposite this passage these words in the 
handwriting of Lucile Desmoulins : " You have not made a bad guess." 

2 Correspondence de Camille Desmoulins. 

3 " If she had been content with certain social talents ; if she had been an 
exquisite nobody, or if she had been nothing more than a good, useless, kindly 
woman, praise would not have been spared to her ; but when it is a case of an 
extraordinary career, of successes won in various departments, the human race 
rises in anger, multiplies obstacles, conspires against reputations, and tries to 
destroy them before they have reached the summit. It is then that equality 


But how after all could they omit the praise of a Governess 
whose favourite pupil had just been received into the 
Jacobin Club ! 

In fact, he had for long months been all eagerness to 
become a member of this society of the " Friends of the 
Constitution," in which he would find scope for his patriotism 
and his impatience for action. 

Mme. de Genlis took care to write for the sake of posterity : 
" The Duke of Chartres was received into the Jacobin Club 
by desire of the Duke of Orleans, and assuredly not by any 
wish of mine." Yes, it is true that she made the young 
Prince defer this step till he had received his father's 
authorisation. 1 But this merely formal delay is no set-off 
against the enthusiastic encouragement which she lavished 
on her pupil. And indeed she does not deny this. 

Besides, Chartres could not be received into this subversive 
assembly without the nomination of a member, and it so 
happened that the member who nominated him was Sillery. 

On the day — 2nd November 1790 — Mme. de Genlis was 
not so far away from the Jacobin Club as she afterwards pre- 
tended, and the tumultuous applause, the re-echoing din, 
that marked the reception as something different from all the 
rest, did not teach him anything that she had not long since 
made perfectly acceptable to him. 

Though the newspapers dilated upon the excited scene, 
and the Court expressed its strong disapproval, and a letter, 
that certainly came from the royal circle, attempted to 
enlighten the Duke of Chartres on the character of his detest- 
able advisers, 2 it was all waste of trouble. The political con- 
is a real necessity ; but try as one will to create it, there is an aristocracy which 
will endure. It is that of talent" (Mcmoires historiques sur les Pensions, 
nth supplement, 41). 

1 Pricis de ma conduite deptiis la Revolution, p. 36 : " The eldest of my 
pupils, the Duke of Chartres, became a member of the Jacobins, but I had no 
part in this matter. The Duke of Orleans wished it, and took him there." 

2 " Young Prince, your first teachers must certainly have told you that 
wisdom is a gift of Heaven, for all comes from on High. Those who replaced 
them have inspired you with contrary principles. I who have no interest 
in deceiving you ... I tell you that truth will no more approach young 
ymnces, than young maidens who are pretty will come to them. Everyone 
around you flatters you ; and they flatter you only to deceive you ; and they 


victions of Chartres were of too old a date and too deeply 

deceive you only to take advantage of your weaknesses. The school of Pytha- 
goras would have been more useful to you than the Club of the Jacobins," 
etc. {Lettre a M. le ci-devant Due de Chartres, no date or place of publication). 



Whether the Duke of Chartres' membership of the Jacobin 
Club was due to Mme. de Genlis or not, it had woeful 
results besides those it entailed in the sphere of politics. It 
made a mother's heart overflow with grief till then suppressed. 

What a path the innocent Duchess had traversed since 
the time when she unreservedly bestowed her confidence on 
a newcomer, who was both talented and attractive ! 

How many illusions had vanished since the day when, 
without hesitation, she had entrusted to her her dearest 
possession — her children ! 

When, and by what chance, did she discover the masterful 
interference of Mme. de Genlis, her domination over the 
Duke, and, through this, over the whole life of the august 
household ? We cannot say. 

Neglect had come first, then disunion. She found herself 
forestalled with her children, and there was the humiliating 
sorrow of not being, from the secondary position to which 
Mme. de Genlis had quietly reduced her, able to intervene 
even in the slightest way in the education of her sons and her 

Even if she could still possess the affection of her children 
— but every time she met them she found them more distant, 
more unresponsive and colder to her — she no longer knew the 
way to their hearts. She had to abdicate all rights over them, 
and remain outside of their lives to such a point that she 
never — or so rarely — heard from them a word of affection, 
a thought of filial attachment to her. 

Of this fact there is deplorable evidence in the Diary of 



the Princes ; of themselves these children never give a 
thought to their parents. During the summer visits to 
Lamothe and St. Leu, where the stay of the Duke and 
Duchess sometimes extended over more than a month, this 
separation does not weigh upon them. It never even occurs 
to them — naturally affectionate though they are — to lighten 
this absence by letter-writing. They never write to the 
Palais Royal unless by order of their Governor, and then as 
if it were a difficult duty or a task imposed as a punishment. 

Thus forced into a mournful self-effacement, which she 
accepted with most noble resignation, the helpless Princess 
had been for ten years suffering without a murmur. 

No doubt it was a long time before she knew the whole 
truth. No doubt she was too obsequious to the commands 
of a husband who was unworthy of her. She was wanting in 
firmness, and then in her wounded pride she judged it un- 
becoming to demand from her children an affection which 
they owed her, but did not accord her. 

At present, in the heart of the three Princes there was 
nothing that could withstand the influence of the Governess. 
The most that could be said was that M. de Beaujolais, the 
youngest, but already the most reserved, showed some 
indifference towards her ; but this was amply compensated 
by the assiduous and demonstrative fidelity of the Duke of 

And the incredible spell thus cast over her eldest son 
by Mme. de Genlis was not the least of the Duchess of 
Orleans' reasons for complaint. That the Governess was 
very superior to the mother, everyone agreed. But what 
right had she to alienate so completely from the latter the 
heart of the young Prince ? 

Why should she claim, under the cover of a mere pretence, 
to leave her his respect and filial attachment, while she kept 
him to herself in all that regarded heartfelt affection, ad- 
miration, and personal confidence ? 

There has been much talk about the relations between 
Chartres and his teacher. Some, relying on an anecdote of 
doubtful authenticity and an unfavourable interpretation of 
the private diary of the Prince, have been ready to attribute 


to these relations more or less of a disgraceful character. 
They have gone so far as to say of Mme. de Genlis : " She 
was the lover of the father and of the son." 

Now we have to put an end to this allegation, since, after 
a serious examination of the matter, no mistake about it is 
possible. We shall be therefore excused if we go into some 
detail, at the risk of seeming to dwell somewhat insistently 
on this delicate subject. 

At the period when the Duke of Chartres ceased to be a 
child, he confided his thoughts to a private diary. Through- 
out these pages written by the young man, and which one 
can compare with the Diary of the Princes, kept day by day 
by Mme. de Genlis, his state of mind appears clear as a 

He reveals it to us in his continual desire to be with 
Mme. de Genlis ; in his overwhelming distress at being 
separated from her ; in his excessive joy in her presence 
When he spends a day at Bellechasse, the Prince writes, " A 
good day," or " This day has done me more good than I can 

He is more pleased to escort on foot his Governess on her 
donkey through muddy and stony lanes rather than go for a 
ride with his brothers. He cannot conceal an outbreak of 
vexation or a fit of melancholy if on a carriage drive he is 
not placed beside Mme. de Genlis. 

He devotes himself to listening to, looking to her only. 
He writes her tenderly affectionate letters — as his teacher 
herself testifies — and he takes for their composition time set 
apart for his studies. 

Finally, all his happiness centres on certain private con- 
versations he has with her, some of which — on two or three 
occasions- -are prolonged after midnight. And here is the 
passage from his private diary which has chiefly excited the 
suspicion of the malevolent : — 

" 8th February 1790. 

" After supper went back to my friend. I remained 
alone with her ; she treated me with infinite kindness, and 
I came away the happiest of men." l 

1 Cf. Correspondance de L. P. J. d'Orleans, publiec par L.C.R. 


What was the conduct of Mme. de Genlis in this 
matter ? Assuredly the Diary of the Princes shows that 
she thought there was nothing more puerile and stupid than 
the exclusive and unwelcome preference for her of this young 
fellow " who dares not be away from his Mentor for a minute." 
On several occasions she intimated to him an order not to be 
always running after her, and " to put himself in his pocket." * 

As for those tenderly affectionate letters, the pupil ventures 
to address the Governess as . . . what ? " My dear friend ! 
my mother ! " Yes, and sometimes as " My real mother ! " 
as she permitted him to do. One of the letters contains 
the words, " What I love best in the world is the new Con- 
stitution and you ! " And one may well grant, with a smile, 
that a passion which unites in the same ardour the Con- 
stitution and the beloved object is hardly a dangerous one. 
Moreover, the other Princes and Mademoiselle had also per- 
mission to write to Mme. de Genlis ; they availed them- 
selves of it from time to time, and might have written oftener 
if their hearts prompted them. 

There remains the question of those famous private 

Why be startled at a woman of about fifty granting her 
pupil the privilege of an hour's conversation ? Rather late 
in the evening, it is true ! But the occupations of both left 
them no free time except in the evening, after supper. And if 
one tries to find fault with such conversations, why suppose 
that Mme. de Genlis did not keep to those serious subjects 
that were, after all, the topics generally selected with pre- 
cocious gravity by the Duke of Chartres, and in which this 
youth, older than his years, took special pleasure ! 

But it will be said, what were the feelings of the Prince ? 

And was not love the source of these preferences, these 
joys and sorrows, of which Mme. de Genlis was the main- 

" King Louis Philippe said to me the other day," relates 
Victor Hugo, " ' I was never in love with anyone but once in 
my life.' ' And who was it, Sire ? ' 'It was Madame de 
Genlis.' " — Granted that there was love — it was love of the 

1 Lemons d'une gouvemante, i. (April 19, 1790). 


head, not the heart ; love of the disciple for the teacher ; 
docile, obedient love, bearing joyfully the yoke of recog- 
nised and venerated superiority ; which indulges in admiring 
contemplation ; takes delight in a word, a note ; is satisfied 
with talk, and lives in feelings, not realities. Can one see 
anything else in it but schoolboy simplicity ? 

Let us look more closely at the private diary — those 
little confessions of a heart of seventeen. It is impossible to 
be mistaken about it. There is not a trace of sensuality. 
What one does find there is a scrupulous uprightness, great 
loftiness of feeling, remarkable piety, instead of the anxious 
emotions and excited superlatives of transports of passion. 

A word from Mme. de Genlis would have been enough 
to transform this critical mood of a studious and retiring 
youth into reality. But she scrupulously refrained from it. 
One can find still clearer proof of this in two significant 
passages, taken the one from the Diary of the Princes, the 
other from the private diary. The more one reflects on the 
matter, the less one gives credit to that anecdote — a piece of 
thorough gossip — so very complacently accepted by Michaud, 
and of which, by his own account, the painter Myris was a 
witness at the chateau of Anet. 1 Mme. de Genlis notes 
on 18th June 1790 : "I see with great satisfaction that as 
the Due de Chartres and the Due de Montpensier increase 
in age, they at the same time become all the more firmly 
fixed in feelings of true piety, and in the love of modesty, 
chastity, and virtue. I venture to say that there are no young 
people of their age of purer lives than theirs." 2 

Nearly a year later, on 22nd May 1791, the Duke of 
Chartres has some idea of marriage — perhaps one might say 
with Pamela — and makes an ingenuous confession of it : "I 
know well that this moment is still far off, but at last it 
will arrive. And this is what supports me, and failing which 
I would succumb and abandon myself to all the irregularities 
of young men. O my mother, how I bless you for having 

1 Visiting the chateau of Anct with her pupils, the Governess is said to have 
exclaimed before the tomb of Diana of Poitiers, " How fortunate she was in 
having been loved by the father and the son ! " 

2 LeQons d'une gouvernante, i. (June 28, 1790). 


preserved me from all these evils by inspiring me with those 
religious sentiments that are my strength, giving me the 
certitude of a life to come, and the knowledge that a fault of 
this kind would be like the stab of a dagger." x 

And further, we may rely upon the very proper letter 
written by Mme. de Genlis to the Duchess of Orleans at 
the moment when the eldest of the Princes, having completed 
his seventeen years, was leaving the hands of his " Governor " 
to become his own master : — 

" For yourself only, Madame, this letter concerning the 
Duke of Chartres exclusively : — 

" . . . I would wish, Madame, that at this moment, when 
he is being given his freedom, you would have immediately 
an interview with him, in which you would say : That he 
can make you happy only by conducting himself in an irre- 
proachable manner ; that you hope he will maintain his 
religious principles, and that if he abandons them, and allows 
the purity of his morals to be corrupted, he will make you 
very unhappy ; while on the contrary, if he preserves his 
morals and principles, he will make you the happiest of 
mothers and will be passionately loved by you." 

But Mme. de Genlis adds, coming to the substance of 
the letter : " In order to strengthen him and keep him in the 
right way, you must exert that predominant influence over 
the Prince that I myself have had over him, and which 
can be the result only of a perfect knowledge of his defects, 
his virtues, and the bent of his mind. I w T ill therefore tell 
you the line to take, and it is important that your influence 
in this direction should be quickly established, for the most 
dangerous year for him is that which is about to begin. I 
cannot watch over him in the world ; that office is that of his 
good and thoughtful mother," etc. 2 

And finally, we have the testimony of Louis Philippe 
when he was King, as reported by Victor Hugo. In a few 
words he gives us a pleasing impression : ; ' When I was 

1 Correspondance de L. P. J. d'Orleans, publiee par L.C.R. 

2 Lecons d'une gouvernante, ibid. 


quite little," says the King, " I was afraid of Madame de 
Genlis. I was a weak, idle, timid boy. . . . She made of me 
a fairly courageous man with a heart. As I grew up I began 
to see that she was very pretty. I did not know what my 
feelings in her presence meant. She noticed it, understood 
me, and saw her way at once. She treated me very harshly." 
On which Victor Hugo concludes that she absolutely 
refused " to complete her work by the supreme education of 

It is now sufficiently demonstrated that the conduct of 
Mme. de Genlis in this matter was altogether to her 

Doubtless she considered it necessary to obtain a com- 
manding influence over her pupil, and she succeeded only too 
well. Her empire over him had banished the very image of 
his parents from the Prince's heart, and it was of this that the 
Duchess of Orleans complained as a just cause of offence. 

But now it was too late to resume her rights, and Mme. 
de Genlis, despite her letter of resignation, knew this well. 
The flame of filial love no longer burned in the Duke of 
Chartres. He never really loved his mother. 
He was not happy when with her. 

He was ill at ease on account of the divergence of their 
opinions. If he dined three or four times a week at the 
Palais Royal, and this without any particular enthusiasm, 
he escaped as soon as the meal was over, to run off to the 
Jacobins or to return to Bellechasse. 

Besides, the conversation of his mother's guests grated 
on his patriotic feeling. " She went astray " — these are 
the very words of the young Prince — " in the frivolities of 
a disgusting aristocracy." 

The Duke of Chartres preferred to dine at Monceaux, 
where his father invited some of the deputies to meet his 
sons and Mme. de Genlis, and better still at Bellechasse, 
where such guests as Voidel, Sillery, Barere, Volney, 
Pethion set on fire his ardour for equality. 

So on 25th March 1790 we find him informing the Duchess 
that henceforth he can only dine twice a week with her. 

Mme. d' Orleans agrees to this. She does not wish to 


displease her son. But can one doubt that this caused a 
cruel wound to her heart ? 

Doubtless at first she had not taken the political tend- 
encies of her eldest son at all seriously. 

They were the outcome of the excitement of youth and 
impatience for action ; and with everyone in Paris saving- 
France or the throne twenty times a day since the States- 
General, she attached no great importance to his ideas. But 
when the talk of the Court and the newspapers announced 
that Chartres had become a novice of the Jacobins, the 
granddaughter of Louis xiv. revolted with all her sincere 

Mme. d' Orleans could not endure that her son should 
be made to renounce august traditions, that in her eyes 
were something sacred. And if she had not been able to 
bring up the heirs of the first Prince of the Blood Royal in 
respect for these traditions, at least she desired at any 
cost to save them from Jacobinism. The well-known letter 
which she wrote on this occasion to her husband might be 
worthy of a saint. It was a gentle, plaintive, supplicating 
letter, full of concessions to this husband who had wandered 
so far from his duty ; a letter in which her goodness, her 
tender conjugal fidelity, her indulgent forgetfulness of the 
wrongs she had suffered from her husband, call forth our 
admiration, and in which, as it were in spite of herself, the 
deep grief of this broken heart breaks out in every line. 

The unhappy Princess makes an appeal to respect for the 
throne and for religion. Prepared for the greatest sacrifices, 
provided only she can save her son, she yields easily on the 
question of Mme. de Buffon. 1 

As for Mme. de Genlis, she despises her, for she has 
seen and heard those things of which she complains : " You 
tell me," she writes to the Duke of Orleans, "that Madame 
de Sillery is a source of happiness to you, and that she loves 

1 " So everything was arranged. Madame de Genlis and Madame de Buffon 
had each their share of authority : one skilfully and decently, the other with 
public scandal ; and thus everything combined to rend the heart of the Duchess 
of Orleans, and fill her life with bitterness and suffering " (Laurentie, Histoire 
des Dues d'OrUans, iv. 249). 


me. I confess to you that when you say things like this to 
me, it kills me." x 

Nevertheless, if her husband considers it necessary for 
the education of the children, she will endure this woman. 
But do not let them put Chartres on a false track. Let him 
learn politics at the Assembly and nowhere else. At his 
age, indeed, it is hardly yet time for his being initiated in 
politics. . . . 

This touching letter received only an evasive reply. 

The Duchess insists, renews her complaints, and the 
Duke replies to her in brief notes, without any frankness, 
without opening his heart to her, and with shifty expressions. 

The Duchess, who had at last shaken off something of 
her apathy, and at last was capable of an effort, relying on 
the support — weak and out-of-date as it was — of her father, 
the Due de Penthievre, began to attempt something against 
the astute Governess, the cause of all her troubles. But 
besides we must note that behind the poor Princess, whose 
tears were often her best resource, there was manoeuvring 
a feminine deus ex machina, the Comtesse de Chastellux, 
who had been appointed a lady of honour on the retirement 
of Mme. de Genlis, and, admitted like her to deal with 
confidential matters, was carrying on a struggle against her 
predecessor. She was an Irishwoman, Miss Jenny Plunkett, 
and Mme. de Genlis had arranged her marriage with the 
Marquis de Chastellux, and installed her at the Palais Royal, 
where she repaid her benefactress with ingratitude and 
jealousy. She was working to get her dismissed. And this 
was the critical point of the business. 

For throughout all his embarrassed replies one sees clearly 
that the Duke is pleading for Mme. de Genlis. 

In the first place, she is his Egeria, his Minerva, to whom 
he returns as to a port of refuge ; she comes before everything 
else. 2 

1 Correspondance de L. P. J. d'Orleans. 

2 When Mme. Desrois, dismissed by the Governess, left Bellechasse, she 
wrote to the Abbe Mariottini : " The Duke of Orleans will give me a pension 
of 1800 livres on condition that I do not talk ; but if I say a word I am to be 
deprived of it for ever " {Letter a di Madamigella Nonon all' abate Mariottini, 
March 2, 1787 ; op. cit., p. 90). 


Mme. de Genlis has ideas that accord with his own, 
with liberty for their first principle, and he, the Duke of 
Orleans, considers her an admirable woman. 

Mme. de Genlis will not bring up his children in old- 
fashioned prejudices ; she will make them new men, men of 
the future, and he, the Duke of Orleans, approves of this, 
utterly rejecting the childish fears of his wife. 

It is therefore the Governess herself that the Duchess will 
have to attack. 

And here we come to an infinitely sorrowful story — that 
of a mother trying to regain her children. And it matters 
little that her motherly love may have been mingled with 
something of feminine pride. Every right was on her side, 
against Mme. de Genlis. 

As to this sad episode — perhaps the most pathetic of all 
those that darken the story of the Palais Royal — one of the 
most important pieces of evidence we possess is that of the 
Governess herself. 

She had just then the idea of making the public the judge 
of her dissensions with the Duchess — an unfortunate and 
indiscreet idea if there ever was one, but by which we gain 
something, for it led the Governess to provide herself with 
proofs to be laid before her contemporaries. 

The Diary of the Princes, a defence prepared well in 
advance for the justification of their Governess, contains in 
fact a long statement of her wretched quarrel with the 
Duchess of Orleans. 

" More especially in a free State," exclaims Mme. de 
Genlis, " when a citizen lays his defence before the public, he 
has the right to be heard. The public is the august tribunal 
that alone can vindicate virtue from a host of calumnies that 
the laws do not punish ; its opinion formulates decrees that 
must be respected. . . ." * 

So we find in this Diary the minute, detailed record — 
hour by hour, one may say — of the relations of Mme. de 
Genlis with her pupils and with their mother ; of her acts 
and deeds, her discourses, her reprimands. The teacher is 
throughout in the forefront of everything. 

1 Lefons d'une gouvemante, Paris, 1791, 2 vols. 121110. 


But the Duchess, notwithstanding the requests of Mme 
de Genlis, and of her sons, would never read the Diary, 
though she accepted that which his valet de chambre, Barrois, 
kept for M. de Beaujolais. This refusal indeed marked the 
opening of hostilities, or at least served as a pretext for them 
after the outbreak of the Duke of Chartres in Marat's news- 

It was in March 1790, then, that the Duchess, making 
Mme. de Genlis responsible for the imprudent conduct of 
her eldest son, showed mistrust and coldness towards her. 
But for some time before she had made only brief visits to 
Bellechasse. On 15th March, Mme. de Genlis, anxious 
to give proof of her good intentions, had asked Madame 
d' Orleans to be so good as to read the Diary, and received 
this negative reply : "I have no reason for reading the 
Diary. I trust my children." 

At once the Governess scented danger. 

She was not the woman to let herself be surprised, and 
she foresaw the blow that was coming. The hostile attitude 
of the Duchess showed that she was well informed. As the 
Comte de Moriolles said afterwards, she had suddenly learned 
" a thousand things that everyone but herself had long 
known." And already Mme. de Genlis was preparing for 
resistance. She was making weapons, gaining allies, and 
preparing for an appeal even to public opinion, for she had 
at once thought of a possible publication of the Diary. 

From 2nd April onwards she secures a verification of its 
authenticity by making the Princes themselves henceforth 
attach their signatures to each entry. And to begin with, 
they approve with their signatures a long defence, a regular 
state paper, in which she insidiously puts on record the short- 
ness of the Duchess's visits to Bellechasse, always made at 
moments when she knew she would not meet the Governess 
there. 1 

1 " There is one thing to which I attach a very great value, namely, to put 
myself in a position to be able one day to give an exact account, minute by 
minute, of the whole of the education of Monseigneur to Madame . . . and 
perhaps to the public, if I judge this necessary." Then comes a long statement 
as to the authenticity of the Diary, which the Princes approve as follows : 
" I have just read this entry, on this 2nd of April at io p.m., and I recognise 


Thus it would seem that Mme. de Genlis had the 
treacherous purpose of, in a way, making the children ratify 
a charge against their mother, a complaint supported by 
proofs against the conduct of the Duchess towards them. 

And the endless piece of special pleading, including 
copies of letters exchanged between the Duchess and the 
Governess on this occasion, which closes the first volume, 
is proof enough that if Mme. de Genlis wished to inform 
the public of the method of education of the Princes, she was 
at the same time making an indictment against the Duchess 
of Orleans before the bar of public opinion. 

But all these arguments nevertheless did not prevent 
even the most prejudiced minds from believing firmly that 
the more persecuted of the two, and the real victim of in- 
justice, was not Mme. de Genlis. 

In fact, she could not deny that she had taken an unfair 
possession of the children, and after Chartres had thus 
secured Mademoiselle, his sister. 

Even in the Diary itself one can see how the Princess had 
been alienated from her mother. On various occasions the 
Duchess makes a complaint ; she suffered still more at the 
moment when the Duke of Chartres no longer concealed his 
impetuous zeal for the Jacobins, at the moment when, after 
the noisy reception of her eldest son into the sect, she was led 
in an agony of fear to write to her husband. 

After letters on letters that had no result but the clumsy 
equivocations of the Duke, Mme. d' Orleans at last made up 
her mind to question the children herself as to their feelings. 

" Is it true that you love Mme. de Sillery so much ? " 
she asked of her daughter, of Chartres, and of Montpensier. 
And Mademoiselle replied, " I would be very ungrateful not to 
love her with all my soul." 

The two boys made much the same reply. 

There was no longer room for doubt. On her side, Mme. 

with the greatest pleasure that all its contents are of the most exact and most 
scrupulous veracity: A.P.L. d'Orleans (the Due de Chartres). Rue de Pro- 
vence, Chaussee d'Antin, this April 3rd, 1790 ; I give the same testimony as my 
brother and with the same feelings : A.P.L. d'Orleans (the Due de Montpen- 
sier)." Then come the signatures of Adele d'Orleans, Beaujolais, Henriette 
Sercey, Pamela, Olimpe (?), and Cesar Ducrest. 


de Genlis, to whom the children told everything, was all 
rejoicing. " Add to this," she writes, " that they see the 
Duchess of Orleans only for a few minutes at a time ; that 
they are treated with extreme coldness by her ; that they 
see that I am entirely devoted to them ; that they think 
that such care as mine ought to inspire such gratitude as one 
gives to a mother. . . . Certainly they will not say that I 
am in the wrong, and such conduct cannot fail deeply to 
embitter them." x 

Meanwhile the Duchess of Orleans no longer concealed 
her displeasure, and ceased to receive the Governess at the 
Palais Royal. She refrained almost entirely from going to 
see her children at Bellechasse, and gave them to understand 
that she had withdrawn from them, if not her affection, at 
least her confidence. 

It was then Mme. de Genlis' s turn to play the part of an 
injured woman. So on 10th September she throws her 
resignation in the face of the Duke, — unless " within three 
days I am given the reparation I have a right to. . . . Let 
Madame d' Orleans resume her friendly relations with me, 
and let this be followed by a decent treatment of me, and let 
her come here in the evenings as she used to do ... in that 
case I shall remain and forget everything. . . ." 2 

The Duke refuses the resignation, and promises to obtain 
from his wife satisfaction for Mme. de Genlis. 

Then these matters come to the ears of Mademoiselle, who 
is known to have been of an extremely, almost unhealthily, 
sensitive disposition. The fear of being separated from her 
dear teacher throws her into such a terrible agony that she 
loses consciousness and faints out in the garden at Belle- 
chasse. They take her into the house " in the most frightful 
convulsions ! " 3 

It is not possible to think of abandoning Mademoiselle 
in this state. In fact, the young Princess only recovers 
from her attack of the nerves when she gets from Mme. de 

1 Genlis, Mimoires, iv. 16. 

2 Ibid., Letter of Mme. de Genlis to the Duke of Orleans, Bellechasse, 
Friday, September io, 1790. 

3 Ibid. 




Genlis a formal promise that the latter will remain with her 
till she has completed her education, and will never volun- 
tarily leave her. 

The Governess then finds herself so much at her ease as 
herself to write a letter to the Duchess of Orleans — the letter 
of an injured innocent, who nevertheless is anxious to enter 
into explanations. She reminds the Duchess that she as well 
as the Duke begged her to take charge of the education of 
the Princes, that she has more than a hundred and fifty- 
letters of the Princess in support of this statement. Mme. 
de Genlis purposely insists on these proofs, on the multitude 
of letters, portraits, keepsakes, pledges of friendship she has 
received from Mme. d' Orleans. Then she goes on to speak 
of her zeal as a teacher, her disinterestedness, and the 
exceeding danger of violent emotions " for the extremely 
sensitive nature of Mademoiselle." Finally, she protests her 
good faith and her keen desire for an understanding, even 
offering to educate Mademoiselle at the Palais Royal. 1 

But this masterpiece did not touch the Duchess ; she 
perceived its threats, disguised though they were as con- 
cessions. But, in her love for peace, she diplomatically lent 
herself to a kind of compromise, hoping thereby to gain the 
heart of her daughter. 

So Mme. de Genlis received a note in which the Duchess 
announced that she would come three times a week to take 
out Mademoiselle, and keep her with her each time for about 
an hour and a half. She would also come and take the chil- 
dren each Sunday at three o'clock, and after the dinner, 
at which the Governess might be a guest with her pupils at 
the Palais Royal, Mademoiselle would be taken back to 
Bellechasse. Things went on in this way for three weeks. 

The Duchess lavished caresses and affectionate care on her 
daughter, and Mme. de Genlis dined on the Sundays at the 
Palais Royal with her pupils. 

Then, at the end of this time, without apparently anything 
in particular having happened, the Duchess felt that she had 
no longer the courage to receive her enemy at table. 

She informed her husband that she felt an " invincible 
1 Lemons d'une gouvernante, Letter of October 3, 1790 ; Memoires, iv. 22-31. 


repugnance " for Mme. de Genlis, and that by her desire 
the young Princes were to come to her on the following 
Sunday without their Governess. After that day the latter 
never again set foot in the Palais Royal. 

But Her Highness failed in her attempts to regain her 
daughter. Whatever she did, Mademoiselle could not be 
tamed. No sign of reviving affection gave warmth to word 
or gesture on her part. It was no longer possible for mother 
and daughter to abandon themselves to affectionate con- 
fidences, Mme. de Genlis having long before this cut off 
the current. And each of them had in her heart a secret 
thought that closed all access to it and chilled their 

The Duchess tried to brighten their interviews with the 
presence of the lively lady-of-honour, Mme. de Chastellux. 
But this only made things worse, Mme. de Chastellux 
railing at Mme. de Genlis, and Mademoiselle complaining 
of this. So the utter defeat of the mother's love was com- 

At the beginning of 1791, as the Duke of Chartres was 
fulfilling the office of porter — or " censor " — at the Jacobin 
Club, Mme. d' Orleans ceased her visits to Bellechasse and 
broke absolutely with Mme. de Genlis — a decision which, 
rightly or wrongly, the latter attributed to the influence of 
Mme. de Chastellux. 

The Duke thought he might make his wife more tract- 
able by arranging meetings on neutral ground, so he invited 
her with her children to dine at Monceaux. But as Mme. 
de Genlis was to be present the Duchess kept away. 

At the time of the carnival Mademoiselle gave four 
little dances with refreshments — children's parties, where 
there was a dance to the tune of Qa ira ! The Duke came 
without the Duchess, and Mme. de Genlis in a tricolour 
dress presided at these gaieties. 

At last, to put an end to this false situation, the Duke 
insisted on his wife coming to a frank explanation with 
Mme. de Genlis. 

The timid inferiority of the Duchess pitted against the 
cleverness of Mme. de Genlis would guarantee the success 


of the latter at the interview, for which, as the Governess 
herself confesses, she had been long preparing. " I thought," 
she explains, " of saying to her : ' I have promised Made- 
moiselle not to give in my resignation, so I shall not do so. 
You will not ask me for it, because M. d'Orleans controls 
the arrangements for his children and you would not take 
a step opposed to his wishes, and therefore to your duty.' " 
Finally, she would suggest, very diplomatically, that it 
would be better to come to a mutual understanding, avoid 
annoying the Duke, meet Mademoiselle's wishes, and at 
any rate put off the question of the resignation till the next 

But the Duchess had taken into account in advance 
her own weak points ; and when, one morning in March 
1791, she presented herself at Bellechasse, it was to read 
to the Governess a statement of what she wanted set down 
in writing, and to signify to her her dismissal. 

" She came in brusquely," relates Mme. de Genlis, 
" sat down, bade me be silent, and took a paper out of her 
pocket, telling me in a most imperious tone that she was 
about to declare to me her intentions. Then she proceeded 
at once to read to me in a loud voice and with great volu- 
bility the most surprising document in the world. 

" The Duchess of Orleans signified to me in this written 
statement that, considering our differences of opinion, I 
had no other course to take, if I were an honourable woman, 
but to go away without further delay." 

In the presence of such a positive order she could only 
submit and depart. Mme. de Genlis immediately declared 
that she would go in a month, " unless," as she told the 
Duke, who was anxiously awaiting the result of the inter- 
view, " Mme. d'Orleans herself should ask me to stay." 

But the Duchess stood firm. 

In vain her husband exhausted every means of per- 
suasion ; pleading the unfinished education of his daughter, 
public opinion, the health of Mademoiselle. In vain he 
sent his son, the Duke of Chartres, to add tears to entreaties. 
Mme. d'Orleans would not yield. 

Suddenly, on 5th April, there came the news that she 


had gone away unexpectedly to Eu. Mme. de Genlis 
would have it that she was merely putting herself beyond 
the reach of those who were arguing with her. But later 
revelations told of more cruel incidents, and if we are to 
believe the Comte de Moriolles the Duchess was brutally 
driven out of the Palais Royal by her husband himself in 
his fury at her resistance. 1 

From Eu the poor woman applied to the courts for a 
separation, or rather this formality was carried through for 
her, for she would never have been strong enough to take 
the step herself. 

The wrongs pleaded by the Duchess were the squander- 
ing of her fortune, the unfaithfulness of the Duke, notably 
his guilty relations with Mme. de Genlis, the difference be- 
tween his and her political and religious opinions, and finally 
the anti-traditional education given by the " Governor " to 
the children. 

The Prince at once replied by expelling Mme. de 
Chastellux from the Palais Royal, giving her a written order 
to hand over the keys of her rooms within fifteen days. 
Finally, on 19th April, a process-server summoned the Duchess 
to return to her husband's home — a mere formality, says 
one of his biographers, by which the Duke expressed his 
satisfaction " at getting rid of an inconvenient and yet too 
generous witness of his way of life." 2 

And on 26th April, in the early morning, Mme. de Genlis 
departed from Bellechasse, taking Pamela with her, for a 
tour in Franche Comte. She left three notes addressed to 
Mademoiselle, and to be given to her at intervals of twelve 
hours. The young Princess did not know the truth. It 
had been thought prudent to conceal it from her. 

What a sorrowful surprise these three notes must have 
caused her ! One may judge of it by their contents, which 
we purposely reproduce here. They throw a clear light 
on this family episode, and satisfy our curiosity as to the 

1 " The Duchess of Orleans, whom her husband had driven from the Palais 
Royal, sending her away with only the clothes she wore " (Comte de Moriolles, 
Mhnoires, p. 32). 

2 Ducoin, Philippe-fLgalitt , p. 148. 


strangely exaggerated tone of her Governess's affection 
for Mademoiselle. 

First Letter 

" April 25th, 1791, 8 p.m. 
"Mme. de Genlis to Mile. d'Orleans. 

" Dear Child, — I am forced to leave you at least for a 
time ; but I hope that we shall meet each other again. In 
the name of your affection for me, be reasonable and take 
care of your health. 

" The Duchess of Orleans has forced me to go away 
from you. But my heart remains with you. Remember, my 
dear friend, that you must submit to a mother's will. . . ." 

Second Letter 

" The 25th. Midnight. 

" You felt, dear child, that violent palpitation of the 
heart that I noticed when you lay down in bed. 1 

" I leave your room. I have just kissed you once more. 
. . . My dear child, I would never have asked to leave you, 
whatever treatment was inflicted on me ; but the Duchess of 
Orleans herself has positively required it of me. I had to 
obey. I shall write you a long letter to-morrow morning ; 
but it will not be handed to you till you are again calm and 

" Dear child, I love you more than my life — a thousand 
times more ; take care of your health if you want me to live. 

" Be quite sure that we shall meet again." 

Third Letter 

" The 26th. Morning. 

" My dear Child, — I am going to write to you more in 

detail. I promised you that I would never ask to leave you, 

no matter what treatment I experienced. I have kept my 

word. I have suffered all that you have seen in the last two 

1 Mademoiselle had had sad presentiments ; without having been told any- 
thing, she feared misfortune was near ; she cried without any reason, and was 
ill when she went to bed. To calm her, Mme. de Genlis had to play the harp 
for her, and assure her that her fears had no foundation. 


years. I have been treated as they would not treat a servant- 
girl, since the Duchess of Orleans forbade me to go to the 
Palais Royal even with you. I have suffered many other 
things that you have witnessed. If I had not loved you, as they 
never love, I would have asked for, I would have been bound to 
ask for, my dismissal at the very outset of this conduct. But 
to keep you with me nothing was too great a price for me. . . . 
" The Duke of Orleans has not left you in ignorance of 
his fears as to the petition for a separation made by the 
Duchess of Orleans, — terrible, heart-rending fears for you 
and your brothers. . . . Thank Heaven, I am not even made 
the pretext for this last outbreak of the Duchess of Orleans ; 
she insisted on my going away the day she came here by 
herself. It was in my room, a month ago. And I replied 
that I would go. So she has gained what she wanted. Our 
separation is very cruel, my affectionate friend ; but a mis- 
fortune like this is not unprecedented. Remember the story of 
Fenelon and his pupil the Duke of Burgundy. (Mme. de 
Genlis adds in a note in her Memoirs : " I had on purpose read 
this story for her some days before our separation.") They 
were parted in much the same way ..." etc. 

As one can see, there is not in these letters a single word 
to open the eyes of Mademoiselle to the real reasons for 
the resolution taken by her mother. 

Thirty-five years later, Mme. de Genlis ventured at 
last to do partial justice to the Duchess of Orleans. She 
did it awkwardly, alleging as the explanation the " false 
philosophy " 1 which misled so many minds at the period 
of the Revolution, but between the lines one can easily read 
a desire to make some reparation, inspired by some beginning 
of repentance ; it was, it is true, a belated reparation. Public 
opinion had long before this given the example to Mme. de 

1 " The motive for the sudden breaking off of the Duchess of Orleans from 
me was plainly the difference of our political opinions ; but I recognise now 
that all her fears, which then seemed to me so exaggerated and even so unjust, 
were only too well founded. Such had to be the inevitable results of the 
odious principles that had been propagated for more than half a century in 
Europe, and above all in France, by a false philosophy " (Mimoircs, iv. 81). 



Mademoiselle bore these saddening events badly. This 
sudden departure was the cruel breaking of a thousand dear 
bonds of affection ; it was as though an abyss had opened 
around her heart and soul. The presence of Henriette de 
Sercey, whom Mme. de Genlis had left with her to lessen 
the shock, was but a poor palliative, and did not console her 
for the loss of her dear Governess. 

Extremely impressionable as she was, Mademoiselle gave 
way to despair, and her weak health suffered in consequence. 

And her relatives, seeing her suddenly reduced to such 
a wretched state, hastily recalled her tutelary genius. 

When the first alarming news reached Mme. de Genlis, 
she was at Lyons. 

Without losing an instant, and all the while secretly 
rejoicing, she turned back. 

She was only about six leagues from Auxerre when she 
was met by an express courier sent after her with a bundle 
of pressing letters. 

And, good Heavens, what letters ! Did they really 
believe the Governess would persist in taking her dismissal 
as final ? 

There were letters from the Duke of Orleans, from the 
three Princes, from M. Pieyre, from Mme. de Valence, 
from M. de Genlis himself. 

All Bellechasse was imploring her, adjuring her with 
clasped hands to return, " to save the poor little thing from 
death or from a state a hundred times worse." 

The Duke of Orleans had even thought it right to add to 



his epistle a copy of that which he had sent to inform his 
wife, and the reply of the latter addressed to Montpensier. 

As the Duchess declares that " she has no rights over her 
daughter, that she wishes to have no part in the affair, and 
that she leaves it absolutely to the Prince to take any pre- 
cautions required for her," 1 and as Sillery adds, " The Duke 
of Orleans has formally stated to me that your return de- 
pends on yourself alone," Mme. de Genlis could consider that 
her self-respect was satisfied, and that she could say she was 
authorised to reappear at Bellechasse. 

Swiftly — doing the last stages at full gallop — she arrives, 
and in fact finds her dear pupil " in a heart-breaking state." 

But like a young plant beaten down by a stormy wind but 
revived by the least drop of water, Mademoiselle at once 
regains strength under the fond looks of her dear mistress. 
" My care and my affection soon restored her to health," says 
Mme. de Genlis. The Duke of Chartres, too, who has been 
severely tried by this crisis in the family, and has also been 
ill, regains his normal condition. 

As for the Duchess, she is at Eu. 

She did not appear at her daughter's bedside — a fact that 
lends some confirmation to the report that she had been 
brutally driven away by the Duke — nor beside the rival who 
though dismissed a few days ago had now returned to the 
precincts of Bellechasse as their immutable and predestined 

All in tears, the Duchess of Orleans, now staying with her 
father, awaits the result of the suit for a separation. She has 
the esteem and sympathy of others, although gossip runs on 
and dilates upon the interrupted journey of the Governess. 
The least malicious report is that in fact she went into the 
provinces to recruit from club after club partisans for the 
Orleanist faction. 2 But nothing that happened afterwards 
confirms this improbable story, this fancy of over-excited 

1 Cf. M. de Chabreul, Gouverneur de Princes, p. 273. 

2 " Meanwhile Madame Brulard has just gone with her Pamela to rekindle 
the zeal of all the societies of ' Friends of the Constitution ' on the road between 
Lyons and Paris. They make out that the eloquence of the mother and the 
beauty of the daughter have worked marvels, and won many servants for 
Philippe Capet, who is hiding, as far as he can, under the mask of a Friend of 


brains, and Heaven knows if just then Orleans had any 
supporters in Paris or in France, either on the side of the 
Aristocrats or in the grasping, hate-inspired crowd of which 
the Jacobins were the leaders. And it so happened that one 
May day this People, on whom Mme. de Genlis lavished 
so much affection in her writings, was so good as to let her 
experience the sweets of its vigilance. 

It was during a carriage-drive that the teacher took to 
Colombes with Mademoiselle and the two youngest of the 
Princes — the Duke of Chartres was at Vendome with his regi- 
ment. Some Sansculottes, thinking the party were Madame 
Elisabeth, Madame Royale, and the Dauphin, stopped the 
carriage and took them under a strong escort to the mairie, 
despite the protests and democratic harangues of Mme. de 
Genlis. They were kept prisoners there until the return of 
an old servant, whom they sent in haste to Bellechasse to 
bring their " papers of identity," at last extricated them 
from this awkward situation. 

On 21st June came the flight to Varennes. 

Intrigues were once more busy around the Palais Royal, 
now known as the Palais-Orleans. Laclos conducted them. 

Rumours of the deposition of the King and rumours of a 
Regency were in circulation and found credit. 

The tribunes of the Clubs, the newspapers, resounded with 
the name of Orleans. 

Certain papers devoted to his faction — notably Perlet's 
Assemblee nationale — published " regular Orleanist mani- 

At the Jacobin Club, Laclos, Brissot, Danton, and the rest 
did the oratorical part of the business. 

For the third time the Duke of Orleans had only to say a 
word and the throne of France would fall to him — he would 
first be Regent, then King — this would come as a matter of 
course, considering the feeble health of the Dauphin. 

To the indignant surprise of some, to the utter stupefac- 
tion of others, he refused to say the word. 

He rejected the throne in a speech at the Jacobin Club, 

the Constitution" (Correspondance secrete, published by Lescure, May 21, 


at the sitting of 25th June 1791, the very evening the King 
was brought back from Varennes ; and in a letter to Mme. 
de Genlis next morning, 26th June. The letter appeared in 
the Assemblee Nationale of 28th June in the form of a reply to 
Perlet's manifesto. 1 

Was Mme. de Genlis responsible for this determination, 
which was as tactless as it was unexpected ? 

If we are to believe her Memoirs, all that she did was to 
draw up the note for the newspapers by order of the Duke. 

" I imagine," she suggests, " that he got me to draw up 
this declaration because his recognised counsellors did not 
approve of the step." 2 

It would seem that at this point her recollections are 
wanting in accuracy. 

This refusal by the Duke of Orleans would seem to have 
been nothing more or less than the revenge of Mme. de 
Genlis on Laclos. 

And the learned biographer of Laclos does not hesitate 
to write : " This treacherous woman saw with fury the efforts 
of her old adversary Laclos. . . . With the Dauphin crowned 
and the Duke of Orleans Regent, there would for the present 
be an end of all hope for the Due de Chartres. In fact, his 
father was an obstacle in the way of Madame de Genlis. 
She resolved to get rid at once of the barrier and of her 
master. . . . On the 27th Madame de Genlis frightened and 
persuaded him into signing this letter addressed to Perlet, 
but which appeared in all the newspapers next day." 3 

These papers, which were so enthusiastic for the Duke of 
Orleans the day before, now suddenly took to repeating in 
honour of the Duke of Chartres the enthusiastic eulogies 
which the cause of his father inspired but yesterday. And 

1 " To the Editor, — Paris, June 26, 1791. — -Having read in your issue No. 
689, your opinion as to the steps to be taken after the return of the King, 
and all that your justice and impartiality dictate in my regard, I must repeat, 
what I have already publicly declared on the 21st and 22nd of this month to 
several members of the National Assembly, namely, that I am ready to serve 
my country on land, on sea, in the diplomatic service, in a word in any position 
that requires unbounded zeal and devotion to the public welfare ; but that if it 
is a question of governing, I renounce now and for ever the rights the Constitu- 
tion gives me" (Assemblee nationale, No. 692, Tuesday, June 28, 1791). 

2 Genlis, Mcmoires, iv. 92, 93. a E. Dard, op. cit., 302-303. 


the young Prince gave an example of patriotism to the nation 
by hurrying from Vendome, where he had received the civic 
crown, to mount guard at the Tuileries. 

What a hero was this young Duke of Chartres — patriotic, 
brave, enlightened ! 

Mme. de Genlis was triumphant. She took advantage of 
this exceptionally favourable moment to publish the Legons 
(Tune gouvernante, which have been already mentioned. 
This enabled her not only to let the world know what an 
admirable education she had given to her pupil, but also 
publicly to renew her profession of democratic faith. 

From the summit of this pedestal she shows herself 
teaching, day by day, hour by hour, contempt for the order of 
things founded upon old prejudices, training her pupil " to 
sympathise with the oppressed People, to detest arbitrary 
power and all the abuses of the ancien regime, to despise 
pomp and empty distinctions . . . and to regard as sacred 
and inviolable every engagement, public or private, and 
therefore a solemn oath pronounced in the presence of the 
whole nation. . . ." 

But the civic virtue of Chartres, undoubted and remark- 
able though it be, seems to fall to the second rank compared 
with the proclamations of Revolutionary doctrine put forth by 
his Governess, in her preface, which was obviously inspired by 
recent events. Brissot could hardly be suspected of Royalism, 
and even he after the event was startled by these utterances. 

" One may ask," he says, " if it was possible to invoke 
more artfully — I would almost say more perfidiously, if this 
word could be applied to an act of loyalty — the Constitution 
to which the King had taken the oath ; one may ask if it 
was possible ... to bring Louis xvi. more directly before 
the tribunal of the nation in case he violated the law ; and it 
was at the very time when by his flight to Varennes he had 
just violated it. 

" It is perhaps in this piece of writing that one can trace the 
first word that seems to suggest his deposition uttered as if by 
prophetic inspiration — a word that others merely repeated." 1 

But Brissot judged all this from his own point of view, 

1 Brissot, Memoires, ii. 329-330. 


and Brissot was not trusted, and so was kept in ignorance of 
the latest intrigues of the moment. 

There was Laclos, refusing to acknowledge his defeat, 
and pretending not to believe that the Duke of Orleans had 
renounced his claim to the Regency. Elected secretary of 
the Jacobin Club, Laclos was manoeuvring in the dark to up- 
hold the constitutional monarchy, by hook or by crook, to 
the advantage of his patron. 

Following with the biographer of Laclos the course he 
took as a leader in this affair, one discovers how, on 13th July, 
he instigated the petition of the Champ-de-Mars ; how by a 
skilful addition made by this master of intrigue the text of 
the petition " implied the proclamation of the Dauphin and 
the Regency of the Duke of Orleans " ; how, on 16th July, 
Mme. de Genlis sent her husband to warn Bailly, while 
Laclos with his printing-press was preparing to send the text 
of the petition all over France ; how when Danton solemnly 
read the petition at the " altar of the fatherland " on the 
Champ-de-Mars, the Cordeliers protested, and had the 
petition referred back to the Jacobins ; how finally, after a 
long discussion, Laclos succeeded in maintaining the original 
text, when at that very moment a deputy ran in with the 
news that the Assembly formally recognised Louis xvi. as 
King. 1 This time Laclos had clearly lost the game. 

And granted that his failure was due rather to the 
decision of the Assembly than to the work of Mme. de 
Genlis, all the same she had won ; it was merely a victory 
for her personal pride, it is true, for from the political point 
of view she had gained nothing. 

Unfortunately, her successes were won only over the 
Duchess of Orleans. 

For the Duke, ill provided with cash, and even in some 
difficulty, did not want to spend his money on the sup- 
port of his four children. He had lately entered into 
negotiations with his wife, asking her to provide an annual 
allowance of 100,000 livres (francs) for each of them. The 
Princess, whose dowry he had squandered, was not rich 
enough " to satisfy such an exorbitant demand." 2 

1 E. Dard, op. cit., 324. 2 Ducoin, Philippe-£galit6 , 149. 


All that she could do was to provide for the present and 
the future for Mademoiselle and Beaujolais, on condition 
that these two children were at once sent to her. 

By the advice of Mme. de Genlis, who could overcome 
even his cupidity, the Duke treated this offer with disdain, 
and kept possession of his children, and on 11th October 1791 
the Governess took Mademoiselle to England, together with 
Pamela, and Henriette de Sercey, and her granddaughter 
Eglantine de Lawcestine. 1 

Petion and Voidel accompanied the ladies. 

The presence of the future Mayor of Paris with Mme. de 
Genlis in the familiar association of the inside of a travelling 
carriage, where the Governess and Pamela " sat knee to knee 
with the worthy man," seemed very suspicious to the " men 
of the Mountain " in 1792. And Camille Desmoulins, 
Robespierre, and especially Marat, violently reproached the 
incorruptible Petion with this expedition, for which they 
could see no good reason. It remains puzzling enough so far 
as he is concerned. 

Mme. de Genlis in her Memoirs relates that she was led 
to accept the offer of Petion' s escort because she feared the 
journey might excite disagreeable suspicions " if she had not 
a man who could harangue the people and the municipalities 
in case of need." 2 

But Petion knew that he was on the eve of being elected, 
by the favour of the Duke of Orleans, Mayor of Paris. Should 
not his interests have led him to remain there ? 

The following letter of Mme. de Genlis to the Duke of 
Orleans, published long after, shows that this journey was 
arranged between them, but for a later date. 

" Bath, Thursday evening, 3rd November 1791. 
"... I had agreed with Petion to take him to London, 
iand then when I suddenly decided to start I thought he 
would not come, for I had settled not to start till the 4th or 

1 A week before Mme. de Genlis, Mademoiselle and Pamela visited the 
Louvre, where in the Salon of 1791 Giroust exhibited his " Lecon de harpe." 
All three wore the red cap and called forth wild enthusiasm. 

2 Genlis, Memoires, iv. 99. 



5th of this month. I thought of M. de Voidel, and M. de 
Sillery answered for him, on condition that I would take 
him in the carriage as far as Bath, and bring him back to 
London, and that, further, a carriage should be found for him 
from Calais to Paris. This having been settled one evening, 
and having to start next day, I wrote to Petion to tell him 
I was going, that he was not now necessary to me, but that I 
would take him with pleasure. He took me at my word, 
and I was not sorry to have two instead of one to extricate 
me from the fearful perils that I foresaw. This is how I 
came to take them with me. I parted from Petion in London 
while we were changing horses. I brought Voidel here. I 
am sending him back in a chaise which Dufour will pay 
for." 1 

It is still said that the incorruptible Jerome courted the 
fair Countess. She does not deny that she felt " a real 
esteem " for him, and we have Brissot's word for it that it 
was reciprocated. 2 

Was this journey only a proof of polite attention, an 
excursion in pleasant and charming company ? 

The presence of Voidel and of Mademoiselle forbids any 
suspicion of gallantry. But were not those terrible politics 
hidden away in the background of it all ? 

May not Petion have gone to London to get into touch 
with agents or emissaries of the Duke, who was so well 
known and popular there ? Perhaps to come to an under- 
standing with the Marquis du Crest, who since 1789, 
that is, since his second marriage, with Mile. Parisot, 
a younger daughter of the President de Minute, was living 
in a French hotel in London ? But of all this nothing has 
been made public. 

Mme. de Genlis remained a fortnight in the British 
capital, and then went to stay at Bath, the fashionable 
watering-place, and a centre of the most elegant society. 

But her sudden departure from France is proof enough 
that she meant to remain mistress of Mademoiselle. 

A little while ago Laclos lost his game. Now the Duchess 
had lost her daughter. From Eu, whither she had followed 

1 Correspondance de L. P. J. d'Orlians, 196. 2 Brissot, Mtmoires, ii. 322. 


her father, she wrote to "an old and humble friend, M. Le 
Roi, who was a true sympathiser with the unfortunate," 
these lines as to Mme. de Genlis : " This wicked and 
haughty woman, who in my regard dispenses with the 
simplest forms of courtesy and respect, aod who considers 
it necessary to withdraw my daughter from ' my dangerous 
influence ' . . . this woman to whom I have never done any 
harm, and of whom I cannot speak without weeping. . . ." x 

When after seven years of separation she saw Mademoi- 
selle again, a painful incompatibility, a deep chasm that 
had been dug long ago, formed, alas ! a barrier for ever be- 
tween her and her daughter. 

It was not the first time that the Governess had travelled 
in England. 

Six years before, in 1785, she had gone there with Pamela, 
winning everywhere the greatest success in the higher circles 
of English society. It was then that she received the degree 
of Doctor from one of the Universities ; it was then that she 
met Horace Walpole, the enemy of women-authors, the 
enemy of Rousseau, the enemy of Mme. de Genlis, on 
account of her theories of education, or from hearsay — a 
mere prejudice on his part. 

These unfriendly dispositions towards this " hen- 
Rousseau," this " schoolmistress," did not however prevent 
the dryly aggressive satirist from surrendering to the charms 
of Mme. de Genlis, notwithstanding a certain bourgeois 
air which he asserts hung about her. She made such an 
excellent impression on him that he invited her to lunch. 

As for Pamela, he says : " Mme. de Genlis had educated 
her to be very like herself in the face." 2 

At Bath in 1791 the Governess, the Princess and their 
companions lived a somewhat retired life. They seemed to 
be giving all their attention to the study of the English 
language, and with a view to this they took a box for the 
season at the local theatre. 

Mme. de Genlis mentions six people — among them an 
Irish priest, and the doctor in charge of the waters — who 

1 Baron de Maricourt, La Duchesse d'OvUans. 

2 Ida A. Taylor, Life of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, 123. 


made up their circle of acquaintances. But their resources 
would not allow them to follow the round of wealthy social 
life. Living at Bath was dear, and for her entire fortune 
the Governess had a hundred louis in her pocket. After a 
few weeks reasons of economy made a less expensive place 
of residence advisable, and Bury, a country town in Suffolk, 
gave the shelter of one of its cottages to their unpretentious 
housekeeping. Victor Hugo has told how, in order to 
spare the hundred louis, Mademoiselle and Pamela had to 
sleep in the same room. There were two beds in it, but 
only one woollen bedcover, and this Mme. de Genlis 
authoritatively allotted to Pamela. Mademoiselle had " to 
be content to shiver through every night." l It is curious 
that the house soon obtained a singular reputation in the 
neighbourhood. Men, who seemed odd-looking to the 
inhabitants of the little town, appeared to have some business 
with the French ladies, and were treated now on the footing 
of equals, now on that of servants. 

The Governess passed for an oddity. Her so-called 
caprices were the subject of local gossip, and it is said led to 
a forecast that she would go away before long. 

The truth is that whilst devoting herself with incredible 
ardour to literary work, and literally devouring English 
dictionaries, histories and dramas, she never ceased her 
watch on the affairs of France, and on this account she was 
receiving political visitors at Bury. She certainly spent 
there the spring and summer of 1792. 

It is also said, on the strength of one of the Governess's 
letters to the Duke of Orleans, that while in England she 
was engaged in drawing up a diary of events intended to 
represent the Duke as a model husband and father. But 
people have misinterpreted a passage in the letter as indicat- 
ing a new publication. She does indeed allude to a diary 
she has written, but this diary is nothing else but that of the 
Princes, those Legons d'une gouvernante, which were just 
then causing so much talk at Paris. 2 


1 V. Hugo, Le roi Louis-Philippe. 

2 Cf. Genlis, Mtm., iv. "I am charmed, dear friend, at your having heard 
such good opinions of my Diary," etc. See also Les meres rivales, Preface, xii. 


But she was too clever to defend before, and against, 
every one a lost cause, and such was the cause of constitutional 
royalty after the dismissal of the Girondins. After the 
10th of August — or at any rate during the events that led up 
to the 10th of August, she sent her husband an imperative 
warning : — 

" I see that the good cause is very nearly lost," she 
says to him. ..." You can take one of two courses ; either 
that of supporting the Constitution and perishing in its 
defence ; or that of accepting the changes that are proposed, 
but at the same time laying down conditions which will 
make the change as lasting and as solemn as possible. Then 
everything will go on for five or six months without proscrip- 
tions. France will not be the freest country in the world, 
but it will not be under such a despotical government as 
before the Resolution. Some things will be abolished for 
ever — letires de cachet, the tyrannical game laws, and feudal 
rights, and that is always a gain. And in course of time 
everything really good in the Constitution will be re-estab- 
lished. These things have been debated and put into print, 
and they will assuredly be established again. I have never 
thought that people went too far, but I have thought that 
they went too fast. The scheme of ideas and principles 
is generally excellent, but the plan of conduct was absurd. . . . 
Do not count upon Luckner," she adds, " he has no know- 
ledge of politics, and don't dream of being able to turn out 
Lafayette. For that one should be able to point to some 
misdeed, not against the Jacobins, but against the Consti- 
tution, and there is none." Her last piece of advice is this : 
" Supposing there is talk of negotiations with the enemy, 
look to your means of leaving France. Give our landed 
property to Mme. de Montesson, on condition of her paying 
us an annuity ; but take proper precautions, and try to have 
a secure contract in legal form." x Certainly this was 
prudent advice. But no one will be surprised that Sillery took 
no notice of it. 

His political faith attached him to the Duke of Orleans, 
and with reckless audacity he disdained to cling to life. At 

1 Correspondance de L. J . P. d' Orleans, 210. 


Paris, for some time people had been playing with danger, 
dancing on a volcano without being swallowed up. Natur- 
ally daring, and with his feelings dulled by habit to the 
danger of death, Sillery braved it without showing anything 
of the braggart. But all the while the volcano was becoming 
more dangerously menacing and pouring out lava on all 

After the September massacres, Philippe-figalite, know- 
ing that the law against the emigres was in preparation, 
asked Mme. de Genlis to send his daughter back to him. 
But the girl, rightly alarmed at the idea of returning to her 
native land at such a moment, refused to come. Was there a 
fair wind blowing for home ? Was there not on the con- 
trary the rising Terror driving Frenchmen across their 
frontiers ? 

Like a torrent swollen by a storm, aristocrats and " sus- 
pects " came pouring into England. They had a fierce 
hatred for the Orleanist party, and contemptuously called 
Mme. de Genlis the Jacobine. 

Then she had to face the greatest alarms. 

Anonymous letters insulted and threatened her, spoke 
of burning down her house in the night ; of carrying off 
Mademoiselle by force " to hand her over to a foreign 

Under the stress of these menaces we find her attempting 
a defence of the royal family in a letter for which a kind of 
semi-theatrical advertisement seems to have been organised. 
Mme. de Genlis addressed it to Petion with the design of 
forwarding it to him through Fox and Sheridan, to whom she 
sent it unsealed, after having sent it round to a number of 
people in London. The letter appeared without a signature 
in the Patriote Francais, and Gorsas reproduced it in his 
newspaper on 3rd October, 1 " and this," writes Mme. de 
Genlis, " secured for me henceforth the hatred of the party of 
Marat and Robespierre." 2 

All the same, the Royalists continued to shower upon her 
the most insulting anonymous letters. One of them, written 
in English, called her " a savage furie " (sic), and added such 

1 Annates patriotiqiies. 2 Genlis, Memoires, iv. 125. 


serious threats that the Governess in a fright sent off a 
pressing appeal to Fox begging him to send her without 
delay a legal adviser. 

She hardly knew the great opponent of Pitt, having only 
met him at the house of John Hurford Stone, 1 an enthusiastic 
Revolutionist and a faithful friend of Miss Williams, who 
also knew Sheridan. But in a situation of such danger — at 
least in her opinion — the views and the influence of Fox 
seemed to her, with some reason, to suggest that it would be 
useful to have recourse to him, and she addressed to him a 
suppliant request : — " I am uneasy," she wrote, " sick, 
unhappy, and surrounded by the most dreadful snares of 
fraud and wickedness." 

The reply of the English statesman has not reached us, 
but we know that he at once sent Sheridan to the Governess 
to give her his assistance and advice. 

In the beginning of October Sheridan took the little party 
of Frenchwomen to a hotel in London, where their presence 
was at once known. 

For London was full of emigres, nobles who had brought 
across the Channel the feelings and the manners of their 

And they were as divided as they had been at Paris. 

But nothing was easier for Mme. de Genlis than to find old 
acquaintances among them. Always sociable and ready to 
bestir herself, she soon succeeded in getting together a little 
circle of her own shade of politics, and Mademoiselle presided 
in the evenings at its quiet social gatherings. 

Old friends of the Duke of Orleans, whom Walsh calls 
" the colleagues and accomplices of Egalite," refugees who 
lately frequented the Palais Royal, Narbonne, Mme. de la 
Chatre, Mme. de Flahault, the inevitable Abbe de Cabre, met 
each other there. But " the star of this little coterie " was 
Talleyrand. Escaped by a miracle and by great efforts from 
the claws of Robespierre, he never better understood the 
value of freedom. 

1 Stone, accused of high treason, went to live in France. But in 1790 he 
was one of the most active propagandists of the Society of the Friends of the 
Revolution in London. It is said that Stone secretly married Miss Williams. 


With Mme. de Genlis he found himself among people 
of his own way of thinking, and far from those Jacobins 
whose excesses he denounced in those forms of words of 
which he had the secret, epigrams that told, and that he had 
carefully prepared beforehand. 

" Sociable and brilliant, he is lavish of his cheerfulness and 
his polished amiability." x He is the most welcome guest, 
the one they like to see by himself. Every evening he brings 
books, and partakes of a supper of which he praises " the 
inestimable frugality." 

These two aristocrats, the unfrocked prelate and the 
Governess, have more than one point in common. Old 
habitues of the Palais Royal, influenced by the same political 
ideas, both had more or less helped to bring about this awful 
state of things, and both were silently awaiting better days 
for their ambitions. 

At an early date they had understood each other's minds, 
and their first meeting had been long since. It dated almost 
from Mme. de Genlis' s first entry into the social world, from 
1770 or 1771. She had seen at Sillery, in the salon of Mme. 
de Puysieulx, Maurice de Perigord, accompanying his uncle 
the archbishop. He was then thirteen, and, being intended 
for the Church, he already wore the soutane. The pale face 
of the delicate youth, his silence, his slight limp, and above 
all his observant looks made a deep impression on the fair 
Countess. Later on she remembered the young cleric, when 
the gaming tables of the Comte de Genlis were at least as 
great an attraction for the Abbe de Perigord as the charms of 
the wife. And it is not to be denied that if he often risked a 
stake with Genlis, he was said to have also paid assiduous 
court to the Governess. 

Their common interests attached them to the Orleanist 

One meant to be a minister in the Government ; the 
other had, it might be, still higher projects. Henceforth a 
real attachment united these two ambitions, these two clever, 
attractive people, the offspring of the same century, brought 
up in the same school of refined corruption, and who had 

1 Bernard de Lacombe, Vie privie de Talleyrand. 


early learned in an unhappy childhood to busy themselves 
with making the way easy for good fortune. 

The fierce whirlwind that swept over France in 1792 had 
just brought them together again for a while in London. 
But they will find a way to meet again even after the widest 
of separations, and notwithstanding the worst vicissitudes 
keep faithfully a mutual remembrance and friendship. We 
shall see them again on more than one occasion. 

Meanwhile the decree against the emigres was being got 

In his anxiety on his daughter's account the Duke of 
Orleans put into circulation a note in which he explained the 
departure of Mademoiselle on the plea of " a fear that my wife, 
in my absence, would come and take possession of my daughter 
and change her education," * and alleged the health of the 
Princess as the reason for her prolonged stay in England, and 
in which, finally, he made much of the sound principles of 
Mme. de Genlis. 

This note did not prevent the Commune from entering 
the names of the Princess and the Governess on the list of the 

Hoping to obtain their removal from this list on condition 
of their returning, Philippe-Egalite, in the beginning of 
November, sent Maret — the future Due de Bassano — to 
Mme. de Genlis with a power of attorney, with a view to 
bringing back Mademoiselle to her father, in case she was 
not herself willing to escort her immediately to France. 

Maret found that they were no longer in London. 

Alarmed by the threats of an Irish gentleman named 
Rice, who talked of nothing less than forcibly embarking her 
for America, or taking her away to be shut up on his property in 
Ireland, and frightened half out of her mind by the accusations 
of the newspapers, which made out that she was in political 
correspondence with Calonne, Mme. de Genlis had been only 
too happy to accept for herself and her pupils the hospitality 
of Sheridan at Isleworth, near Richmond. 

The dramatist had fallen madly in love with Pamela, 
and asked for nothing better than to entertain his muse, or 

1 Correspondance de L. P. J. d' Orleans. 


rather his fiancee. He was a widower, and the charming 
Pamela bore such a striking likeness to the late Mrs. Sheridan 
that he thought he saw his wife living again in her. He loved 
her, and was only too happy to invite her to the house he had 
just taken at Isleworth, because he could not pay the rent 
of his rooms in London. 

Walpole makes sarcastic remarks about the balls and 
parties given by Sheridan for his French friends. A month 
was thus spent in amusements ; but the prospect of happy 
days to come was suddenly interrupted by the arrival of 
Maret. . . . 

The action taken by the Duke of Orleans was a severe 
blow to Mine, de Genlis. She was " in a desperate state 
as to either sending Mademoiselle to France or escorting her 
thither." However, Sheridan's advice led her to decide on 

She would take the Princess back to her father, hand in 
her own resignation, and return in a fortnight to be present 
at the marriage of Pamela — this was her programme, and it 
showed a great haste to part with both Mademoiselle and 
her father. 

It would seem, indeed, that from this day, considering 
that the Orleans family had become " suspect," and that 
she herself was compromised by Philippe-figalite, whom 
Jacobins intended to get rid of very shortly, Mme. de Genlis 
meant to separate her fortunes from those of the House of 

Moralists will perhaps recall the familiar comparison 
that a certain King of Prussia once mentioned to Voltaire 
in connection with a sucked orange, but assuredly at this 
period Mme. de Genlis regarded her own safety as above 
every other consideration. 

At 10 a.m. on 20th October she got into the carriage with 
her pupils. By a strange coincidence she would have arrived 
at Paris on the very day on which the decree of the Assembly 
ordered Louis xvi. to be brought to trial. But she did not 
even go as far as Dover, on account of a strange adventure, 
a regular episode of brigandage, of which she was the 


The postilions on the carriage horses suddenly took an 
unexpected direction. Refusing to reply to the questions 
of the travellers, they had put the horses to full gallop and 
would not stop. Was she being carried off ? 

Thanks to a faithful servant and the providential help 
of two passers-by, this surprising attempt was brought 
to an end. Mme. de Genlis, all alarm, had herself taken back 
to the house of Sheridan, who began an investigation. 
Strange to say, the matter ended there, and Mme. de 
Genlis confesses that the mystery was never cleared up. 
It was not, and for a very good reason ; for this tragi-comic 
adventure was the work of Sheridan himself, who wanted 
to keep his fiancee with him for awhile. And it was a com- 
plete success, for the departure of Mademoiselle was put off 
until the English dramatist could accompany the French 
ladies as far as Dover, that is to say for four weeks. 

Mme. de Genlis and her pupils were not able to start 
until 17th November. On the 20th they reached Calais. 
If the Countess speaks truly, a great crowd cheered the 
Princess as she landed. Sillery, returning from the Argonne, 
where he had been sent with Prieur and Carra as a delegate 
to proclaim the Republic, met them at the jetty. They 
arrived just in time to be a first offering to the law against 
emigres. They were coming, one might say, to throw them- 
selves into the jaws of the wolf. 

The Duke of Orleans, knowing the danger, had sent a 
courier to meet the travellers. He ordered them to retrace 
their steps at once, instead of coming on to Paris. But they 
had already reached Chantilly, and Mme. de Genlis, in a hurry 
to get rid of Mademoiselle, went on. " I took no notice of 
that order," she says, " and in the evening I arrived at 
Bellechasse. They were expecting me there." 

They were expecting her in an agony of anxiety. 

Every face bore a look of consternation. Neither Chartres 
nor Montpensier, nor Beaujolais (who had all gone to the 
army of Dumouriez), were there to do anything to lighten 
the ill-omened reception. 

The Duke, with dark and anxious looks, " and a kind of 
wandering expression that had something really sinister in 


it," 1 and Sillery looking hardly any better, notwithstanding 
his habitual recklessness, spoke of disasters to come in a 
way that made Mademoiselle burst out into a fit of sobbing. 

Mme. de Genlis, cool and dignified, formally handed over 
Mademoiselle to her father in the presence of all, gave him 
her famous resignation, and announced that she would go 
away again next morning. Then Philippe-Egalite became 
alarmed, led the Governess into a neighbouring room, and 
adjured her not to desert his daughter. 

Was it not the fault of Mme. de Genlis that Made- 
moiselle had returned too late ? 

Why not have brought her back at the time when he 
ordered it ? 

Nevertheless he will ask as a favour to both himself and 
his daughter only this — let Mme. de Genlis consent to go and 
wait for her in some neutral territory. Will she be so cruel 
as to refuse this last proof of affection to the child she has 
educated ? 

" I replied coldly," says the Countess in her Memoirs, 
" that I would take Mademoiselle to Tournay, but on con- 
dition that unless a decree of exemption was published 
within fifteen days, he would send some person to Tournay 
to replace me in the charge of Mademoiselle. He gave me 
his word of honour for this." 2 

Next morning Barere, on going to see Mme. de Genlis, 
found with her Guadet, whom Sillery had asked to draw up 
the petition for exemption and to present it, and who had 
already consulted their colleagues in the Convention on the 

The same day the Prince spoke from its tribune. His 
speech reminded the Jacobin legislators of the motives of his 
daughter's journey to England, without omitting to allude 
to the principles of the Duchess of Orleans, and contrast them 
with the " Republican virtues " of Mme. de Genlis. 3 

The Convention exempted, in general, from the law against 

1 Genlis, Memoires, iv. 143. 2 Genlis, Mtmoires, iv. 143. 

3 Cf. Moniteur, 23rd November 1792. See also, "Envoi par la Convention 
Nationale au Comite de legislation d'une motion du citoyen Egalite en faveur 
de sa fille." 21st Nov. 1792. 


emigres, " children sent abroad for their education," but this 
decree was never put in force. 

The Commune, without taking any account of Made- 
moiselle having renounced the name of Orleans for that of 
figalite, gave her notice of " the order that she must leave 
Paris within twenty-four hours, and go and await the decision 
of the Convention outside the territory of the Republic." x 

A stormy interview between the Duke and the Governess 

After the sitting of the Assembly, Philippe-Egalite* had 
returned to Bellechasse. He came and went from room to 
room without stopping, seeming very nervous, and "as if 
anxious to avoid conversation." Mademoiselle, Henriette, 
and Pamela were present. With an authoritative order 
Mme. de Genlis sent them into the gardens, and with a glance 
of her eyes told her husband to follow them. Sillery under- 
stood the look. He left the Prince and his Egeria alone. 
It was she who started the hunt by a few words on the 
political situation. He sharply interrupted her, for she 
was getting on to dangerous ground ; he was a Jacobin — 
that word summed up everything. 2 Then as in old times, 
when she used to address him as " mon enfant," Mme. de 
Genlis rated the Prince. His conduct was a crime, a folly ; 
the Jacobins were making a tool of him only to ruin him ; 
he would be their victim ; the decree against the emigres 
had been passed only to strike at his daughter. . . . 

Let him go away and seek a refuge in America with his 
family ; this was the only course to take. But it is all in 
vain that his friend of old times exhausts herself in repre- 
senting to the Duke how irrational his conduct is ; he looks 
away, shrugs his shoulders, and keeps silent. Having used 
up all her arguments she suddenly goes towards the mantel- 
piece ; with a wave of her hand she points out to him the royal 
emblem still glittering on the smoke-blackened tablet, the 

1 Ducoin, op. cit., 253. 

2 " Orleanists," says Billault de Gerainville, " meant the same thing as 
Montagnards, though they always pretended not to know each other. Marat 
lavished abuse on Philippe-figalite and was in agreement with him " (Hist, 
de Louis-Philippe, i. 115). 


three fleurs-de-lis heraldically displayed there with the 
princely coronet of Orleans, notwithstanding the Jacobin 
decrees. 1 

Surprised and taken aback, Philippe-Egalite stares at it. 
The argument is like the cut of a whip. He starts up, he is 
in revolt, he becomes again for the moment a Prince of the 
Blood Royal. " I left them there," he exclaims, " because 
it would have been a piece of cowardice to remove them ! " 

Having risen to this higher tone he thinks it well to 
keep to it. The listless, easy-going enfant is now holding his 
own against the former lover. He lets the conversation 
change from a discussion to a dispute. The debate becomes 
excited, bitter expressions are exchanged, and suddenly the 
Duke cuts it short by leaving the room. 

And now it is Sillery's turn. 

What precisely passed at this last interview between wife 
and husband ? 

We shall probably never know. Sillery's diary would 
perhaps have told us, if he had not unfortunately burned it, 
when the first attacks on the Girondins began in the Con- 

Mme. de Genlis relates that she " conjured her husband, 
with tears in her eyes, to leave France. He had," she says, 
" enough money in his possession, about 200,000 francs." 
But he refused, for he hoped for the fall of Robespierre at an 
early date, and did not want to desert the master whom he 
knew to be ruined, and " whom the Jacobins took a pleasure 
in degrading so that they might be able later on to sacrifice 
him more surely." 

Mme. de Genlis did not press the matter, or did not 
press it far enough ; for, after the execution of Sillery, she 
felt great remorse, and keenly reproached herself with her 
conduct on this occasion. 

Next day she started for Tournay with Mademoiselle, 
Henriette, and Pamela. 

And then there came another moving scene, that passes 

1 Sevelinges asserts that this was not so, and that after the close of the 
sitting, at which nobility was abolished, the coats-of-arms with the fleur-de-lis 
were broken by well-known hands {op. cit., 235). 


before our eyes like a tragic picture on the dark and sinister 
background of the threatening future. 

We see the travelling carriage waiting at the gate of 
Bellechasse ; the Duke, whose fit of anger has passed off 
and is now regretted, is standing there, pale, ill at ease, his 
thoughts given up to the emotions of a parting, the harassing 
anxieties of the present, and above all the revival of half- 
vanished memories. 

Now on the eve of the great Terror a very little thing 
would have been enough to re-establish the influence of his 
friend of the past after its temporary eclipse. 

But she felt herself all of a tremble. 

Let us hear what she says : " The Duke of Orleans, 
more depressed than ever, gave me his arm to escort me to 
the carriage. I was greatly agitated. Mademoiselle burst 
into tears. Her father was pale and trembling. When I 
was in the carriage he stood motionless by its door, with his 
eyes fixed on me. His look of sorrow and pain seemed to 
implore pity ! ' Adieu, Madame,' he said to me. The 
broken tone of his voice brought my agitation to a climax. 
Unable to utter a word I held out my hand to him. He 
took it, pressed it with a strong grasp, then turning and 
going quickly towards the postilions he made a sign to them 
and we started." r 

Never perhaps did the unknown that broods in the 
background over every parting, contain more of agonising 
pain and mournful surprises than at this sad separation. 

Of the actors in the sorrowful scene two were very soon 
to lose their heads on the scaffold. And of the four women 
not one was to see France again for many a day. 

1 Genlis, Memoires, iv. 146. 




" Mme. de Genlis found herself, like Dr. Pangloss, in the 
best of all possible worlds, when the blast of political tempests 
swept her, so to say, from the hall of the Jacobins and cast 
her into the lands of the emigration." 

These words — slightly exaggerated though they may 
be — in which the chronicler Toulotte expresses his opinion 
on the departure of our celebrated lady, sum up the situation 
accurately enough. 

For the present, notwithstanding their provisional pass- 
ports, 1 Mme. de Genlis and Mademoiselle are fairly launched 
on the way of exile. They are practically emigres. 

Having dried the tears of their departure, they meet 
at one of the first stages a young Irish nobleman who begins 
to follow Sheridan's example, and politely escorts them 
as far as Tournay. 

Lord Edward Fitzgerald, a son of the Duke of Leinster, 
had fallen madly in love with Pamela, and this with most 
serious intentions. The affair dated from only three days 
ago, from 21st November 1792. That day after dinner at 
White's Hotel, in the rue des Petits Peres, he took a fancy 

1 " Those they gave us stated that we were going away only in obedience 
to the law, and further eulogised our civic virtues " (Genlis, Precis de ma 

conduite, 62). 



to spend the rest of the evening at the theatre. They 
were playing Lodoiska to a rather thin audience, but in one 
of the boxes his attention was attracted by some ladies of 
charming figure, bright eyes, fine and winning features, 
and a wonderful chance would have it that a friend of his 
was there, like himself bitten with Rousseau and the Revolu- 
tion, and who knew these enchantresses, and presented our 
young dandy to Mme. de Genlis and Pamela. It was John 
Hurford Stone. 

By a piquant coincidence, Fitzgerald had been the object 
of the last love affair of Mrs. Sheridan. She loved him to 
the extent of leaving her husband to follow him, and then 
die of remorse for it. Pamela's likeness to her, which 
had so agitated Sheridan, electrified Lord Edward in the 
same way. Next day he dined at Bellechasse, and 
the day after that he was galloping along the Tournay 
road, and at the first halt presented himself as a suitor of 

And when, comfortably installed with Mme. de Valence 
and Hermine, who had already joined the emigres at Tournay, 
the four ladies had resumed their usual occupations, the old 
round of life as it was at Bellechasse, all kinds of little in- 
dustries, such as Mme. de Genlis, the enemy of idleness, 
excelled in, Lord Edward was there to amuse them as they 
busied themselves with embroidery, water colours, straw 
plaiting, and to listen to the harp, or read for them. The 
Orleans Princes were serving on the staff of Dumouriez, but 
Cesar du Crest had just arrived. 

The susceptible Irishman made rapid progress. 

In less than three weeks he had gone on from the betrothal 
to the marriage ; this included the time for crossing the 
Channel to obtain— as Mme. de Genlis required — the written 
consent of the Duchess of Leinster, his mother, " whom he 
led to believe that Pamela was a natural daughter of one of 
the Seymours." l 

The marriage ceremony was celebrated at Tournay, on 
27th December 1792. Did Philippe-Egalite accompany to 
the altar, in the character of her father, his reputed 

1 Forneron, Hist, ginirale des Emigres, i. 406. 



daughter, who instead of a bridal veil wore the red cap 
under her wreath of orange blossoms ? This has been 

He had given her in 1791 an allowance of 6000 francs, in 
addition to another allowance of 1500 francs, this being the 
price at which he bought Mme. de Genlis's library. 1 And 
on the other hand, the latter speaks of having agreed to 
renounce in favour of Pamela her retiring pension as Gover- 
ness, which amounted to 6000 francs. 

It seems that the Duke of Orleans was present at least 
as a witness for Pamela, together with the painter Myris. 
Besides, he signed the marriage contract, as well as the Duke 
of Chartres, Mademoiselle, Cesar du Crest, Mme. de Valence, 
Henriette de Sercey, Hermine, and finally Mme. de Genlis, 
and old General O'Moran, the Governor of Tournay. Imme- 
diately after the wedding breakfast, Lord Edward took his 
young wife away to Ireland. 

And this was the last time that Mademoiselle and the Duke 
of Chartres saw their father. 

In the midst of all these rejoicings, the poor young Princess 
was having a trying time. She endured the continual misery 
of knowing that she was a trouble to others, that she was 
compromising those around her. 

Notwithstanding her " repeated letters," no substitute 
came to set Mme. de Genlis free. On the contrary, the 
Duke, every time he wrote to her, entreated her, as a favour, 
to wait a few days longer. 

Mademoiselle, so delicate, so impressionable, was in misery 
at the sight of the impatience of her Governess. 

Attached from the depth of her heart to Mme. de Genlis, 
and with the whole of her delicate nature under her influence, 
she, who believed that she held the first rank in her affections, 
now saw herself on the eve of being abandoned by her to the 
first hireling that came along. It was, in fact, quite clear 
that Mme. de Genlis was thinking only of extricating herself 
from the whole affair. 

The Princess had seen this. Silent, discreet, wrapped 
up in herself, she hid her sorrow. But her feeble constitution 

1 Barere, Memoires. 


could not bear up against it. She fell sick. It was a bilious 
fever, the result of anxiety. 

" To leave her at such a moment," says Mme. de Genlis, 
" would have been to send her to her death." She remained 
therefore a little while longer, consenting thus to a provisional 
prolongation of her engagement. 

In January 1793 the Duke of Orleans sent news of the 
condemnation and death of Louis xvi., in a letter in which 
he explained stupidly enough his own unworthy vote. Sillery 
wrote also. His letter enclosed a large number of printed 
copies of his " opinion " — the pamphlet beginning with 
the words, "I do not vote for death. ..." He asked his 
wife to have them sent over to England, and said to her 
plainly, " I am perfectly well aware that in pronouncing 
this opinion I have pronounced my own sentence of death." 

Mme. de Genlis seems to have received her husband's 
letter with a certain amount of apathy. She had persuaded 
herself that he would get off with a few months' imprisonment, 
and being besides unable to do anything, since her return 
to France was forbidden under the penalty of being at once 
sent to prison, she did not trouble herself very much, knowing 
that Sillery was clever enough to get away if he wished, 
and believing that he would find support enough among his 
political friends. But the trial of the King and the conduct 
of Philippe-Egalite filled her " with horror and consterna- 
tion." The Duke of Chartres did not conceal his disgust. 
He expressed it some weeks later to his father, in that 
letter which the Committee of Public Safety found when 
it searched Philippe-Egalite's papers after the defection of 
Dumouriez, and which served as a pretext for the arrest of 
the regicide Prince. 

In March 1793 all Europe was in league against France, 
and Belgium, on the point of being invaded by the Austrians, 
was about to rise, everything indicating an immediate 
revolt. In a fortnight Tournay might be in the hands of 
the enemy — and not only of the Imperial troops, but also 
of the thousands of Royalists who swelled the army of 

Mme. de Genlis was distracted ! Caught in Tournay 


as in a mouse-trap, connected with the Orleanist party, 
and, to add to it all, accused of having contributed to the 
death of the King, what fate could she expect ? She liter- 
ally lost her head ! She formed a thousand impracticable 
plans. To be in France, in the country, in one of the pro- 
vinces which she knew well, seemed to her by far the most 
preferable position. She thought of taking refuge in Bur- 
gundy, with an uncle of hers, and eagerly asked for leave 
to return. The reply was that " the recall of Mademoiselle 
would be obtained, but that hers was again deferred." 

Then she began to anticipate, with terror, misfortunes 
like those of Lafayette. To hide herself in a convent and 
pass herself off as an Englishwoman seemed to her a reason- 
able plan. She would perhaps have decided upon it, if the 
want of money did not forbid it to her. Mademoiselle is 
no better off, and the Governess, who has had to make her 
an advance of one hundred and thirty-two louis, spends 
days of terror and of indescribable panic. Mme. de Valence, 
for her part, has preferred to return to Paris, where Mme. de 
Montesson offers her hospitality. 

However, Sillery and Valence sent a courier with some 
money, and Mme. de Genlis could now escape. But she 
was no longer disposed that way. This was because 
Dumouriez, forced to evacuate Holland and retire before 
the Austrians, had come and camped in the neighbourhood 
of Tournay. The negotiations at Ath soon showed precisely 
what his real intentions were. To unite his army with the 
Austrian troops, march on Paris, make himself master of 
the Convention and establish a constitutional monarchy, such 
was the plan arranged by Dumouriez, in concert with General 
Mack, representing the Prince of Coburg. And what King 
but the Duke of Chartres would have occupied the throne. 
It is well known that Dumouriez gave this to be understood. 
Accompanied by his staff officers, the Duke of Chartres, 
Valence, and Montjoie,he came to Tournay to pay his homage 
to Mademoiselle, and had military honours rendered to her, 
thus posing as the champion of the House of Orleans and 
the powerful protector of the persecuted Princess. 

Mme. de Genlis was " charmed at seeing Dumouriez, 


that celebrated man," * charmed, above all, at being able to 
leave Tournay and all its dangers, and go and place herself 
under the immediate protection of the General, moving to 
his very camp at Boues de St. Amand. 

The Ath negotiations lasted four days, and the con- 
spirators had every facility for meeting each day at the 
Governess's quarters. Lamartine believed firmly in her 
influence on " these corps commanders who had to be ex- 
cited and won over to turn against the Republic." 2 And 
Camille Desmoulins did not hesitate to say flatly that " the 
Republic was betrayed . . . through the complaisance of 
Mine. Sillery for an old man-of-straw " 3 — a supposition 
that came naturally to the mind of such crude psychologists. 
Mme. de Genlis, in her Memoires, has defended herself on 
this point as well as she could, perhaps, some will say, too 
well. But in such matters the makers of hypotheses have 
the game in their hands. 

Because the Commissioners sent to Dumouriez did not 
meet the General in his camp, but at the lodgings of Mme. 
de Genlis, can this sole fact — and there is no other alleged 
against her — be taken as sufficient proof of a mere possi- 
bility ? 

When Proly — according to Mme. de Genlis it was 
Dubuisson — went to order Dumouriez back to Tournay, 
he found the latter in the midst of a numerous circle, which 
included Mme. de Genlis, Mile. Henriette de Sercey, Valence, 
the Duke of Chartres, and some of the staff officers. The 
General was not afraid to give the " Representative of the 
People " a most unbecoming and most " uncivic " reception, 
" and the Governess smiled malignantly." Of all this 
the angry representative complained to the Convention. 
Result : on 2nd April, that is to say, on the eve of the 
seizure of the three Commissioners, the Committee of Public 
Safety issues a warrant of arrest against the Citizeness 
Sillery, the two sons of Egalite, Valence, and some others. 

On 3rd April, Robespierre demands from the tribune 
that the members of the Orleans and figalite family shall be 

1 Genlis, Memoires, iv. 2 Girondins, i. 37. 

3 Camille Desmoulins, quoted by Ducoin. 


brought before the Revolutionary Tribunal, as well as 
Sillery, his wife, Valence, and all those who are specially 
attached to the House of Orleans. 

That same Wednesday, 3rd April, Dumouriez inter- 
cepted the package of warrants of arrest issued against him- 
self and his officers — among them the Duke of Chartres — 
made prisoners of the three envoys of the Convention, and 
handed them over to the Imperialists. 

If we are to believe Mme. de Genlis, she heard the news 
only at midnight, and by rumours current in the camp. 
Already " suspecting some very terrible designs and plots," 
and in every way disapproving of them, " I no longer had," 
she says, " but the one desire, that of flight from St. Amand, 
but the difficulty of procuring horses kept me there in spite of 
myself." 1 

That is to say, that since 1st April she had been on the 
alert, because the French troops were on the verge of revolt, 2 
and on the 3rd, at that late hour, the general increase of 
disorder, or some officer, perhaps Montjoie, told her of the 
probable failure of the conspiracy. 

She lost no time, did not go to bed, got a promise of 
horses, and passed the rest of the night preparing for flight. 
She would start in the morning. Dumouriez, she says, 
offered her passports, which she refused, " knowing his 
conduct." But was it only that night in the course of a 
conversation with the General that she became aware of 

And is it not more likely that Dumouriez had offered her 
these passports at an earlier date, and while he expected a 
successful result ? For they could be of no use after a 

At this anxious moment Mme. de Genlis is in a hurry to 
get away from the armies of the Convention. She has also 
decided as to Mademoiselle " to leave her in the hands of her 
brother, as I was no longer her Governess, and not to involve 
her in my own dangers and misery." 

1 Genlis, Memoires, iv. 171. 

2 Lettre de Mademoiselle d'Orlians a la princesse de Conti (Genlis, 
Memoires, iv. 233). 


The unfortunate girl suspects this. Weak as a bent reed 
she accepts without a word this sad destiny, having, alas ! 
only her tears with which to oppose it. And this sad night, 
when anxiety deprives her of sleep, she lies down uttering 
dull moanings and weeping, with her heart torn with 

At dawn, about five in the morning, she is exhausted, her 
poor strength has broken down, and Mademoiselle falls into 
a dull slumber. The Governess was waiting only for this 
moment. With tears in her eyes, but in great haste, she 
pays a silent farewell to her pupil " with all a mother's 
affection and blessings," and goes out of the room to pray 
till it is time for starting. 

At seven o'clock the Duke of Chartres arrives. He has 
seen a carriage at the door. Henriette is already seated in it 
with Montjoie. Mme. de Genlis, brought face to face with 
him, begins a farewell. 

Hardly capable of understanding the hurried explanation 
given by the friend of the family of why she wishes to avoid 
a heart-rending leave-taking of Mademoiselle, the young 
Prince looks round for his sister. 

But the Governess is not taking with her the child she has 
brought up, dear Adele, of whom she has so often declared 
herself the second mother. What a strange affair ! Chartres 
thinks he must be dreaming ! 

He conjures her to return to another state of mind. Can 
she really expect him to expose his sister to the dangers of 
a soldier's life ? How can he take care of this weak child in 
the midst of the toils of his profession, and when he must 
defend his own head against the Republicans ! 

Mme. de Genlis brings up against him equally pressing 
arguments ; the general reprobation of the name of Orleans, 
the danger of arrest. It would be better for Mademoiselle 
to go alone to Valenciennes. Then they would not dare 
to take any rigorous measures in her regard ; at most they 
would send her across the frontier. 

No doubt Mme. de Genlis was still ignorant of the fact 
that some time before this Mademoiselle had been condemned 
to death en contumace, for failing to appear before the 


Revolutionary Tribunal. Finally, she refuses to be moved 
from her refusal She goes out. She gets into the carriage. 

The Duke of Chartres has hurried to his sister's room. 
Suddenly, at the very moment when the coachman is about 
to start his horses, the Prince is seen rushing out of the house, 
carrying in his arms, enveloped in only a muslin gown, the 
whiteness of which contrasts with his General's uniform, a 
fragile female form, all collapsed, and as it were crushed, 
which he quickly lays down on the knees of Mme. de Genlis. 

It is Mademoiselle ! Desperate, carried away by an 
impulse of impetuous and romantic youth, her brother can 
think only of this violent means of saving her. To go and 
take her from her bed, and almost undressed as she was, 
hand her to the fugitive Governess, slam the carriage door, 
and make a sign to the coachman to drive off, such is his 
conduct, worthy indeed of the romances of Mme. de Genlis. 
One would have thought they were running away with her. 
He saved indeed the life of the Princess, but he saved only 
that . . . and her harp. Jewels, dresses, clothes, headgear, 
nothing ever reached her. They seem not to have known 
what to do with the harp, and a servant put it into a car 
that later on found its way to Mademoiselle ; but it did not 
bring her " even a dress, even a piece of underwear." 

However, even now the situation was a very anxious one. 
Three women and a man, in flight, at the beginning of 
winter, without passports, and travelling over awful by- 
roads, all mud and ruts, in a frontier district infested with 
Republican volunteers and deserters — what a miserable 
journey ! 

The first patriot they met might question them, arrest 
them, and send them to the Committee of Public Safety at 
Lille or Valenciennes, and then it was certain death. 

It had been agreed that Montjoie alone was to speak at 
the posting-houses, and he was to represent his companions 
as three English ladies on the way to Ostend. The ill-health 
of Mademoiselle might help to support this explanation, but 
the three women did not conceal from themselves that it was 
a lame story. Their trials were only beginning. They were 
hardly two hours on the way when the carriage broke down. 


While it was being repaired they had to wait for an hour and 
a half in a drinking bar full of volunteers. Before they could 
get away, they had to meet a thousand questions, and answer 
without betraying themselves. And very soon night began 
to come on. It begins early in the north at that time of the 
year. With the twilight an icy fog rose from the damp earth 
towards the low-lying clouds that covered the sky. In 
sticky quagmires the carriage sinks to its axles. 

To avoid having to stop they get out and walk, shivering 
with cold, while a guide with a lantern shows the way to the 

After dragging along thus for a league, at a walk, the 
lantern betrays the presence of the fugitives. A captain of 
volunteers, making his rounds, has the idea that there is 
something suspicious in this way of travelling. The replies 
he gets only confirm his suspicions. Evidently these people 
are emigres. He is so sure of it that he decides on taking 
them to Valenciennes, under a strong escort. 

At this moment the four fugitives must have imagined 
they saw the blood-stained blade of the guillotine outlined 
above their heads. Its terrible menace stimulated the energy 
of Mine, de Genlis like a formidable spur. Then staking 
everything on a bold stroke, and with wonderful presence 
of mind, she took the officer's arm with a sprightly air, and 
as if he has been suggesting a pleasant party, she takes him 
in hand, talking volubly in broken French with an irre- 
sistible English accent, smiling all the time, and in the drollest 
way " making a thousand jests," so that presently he had no 
longer any doubt about the thoroughly British character of 
this " Lady Verzenay and her nieces." Charmed by the 
adventure, he pushed his politeness so far as show them a 
safe road to Quievrain, which was held by the Austrian 
outposts. They were saved ! 

At Quievrain there was another adventure, this time 
pleasant enough and even comical. Mme. de Genlis has 
given an amusing account of the mistake of Baron de 
Vounianski, the Austrian commandant, who was absolutely 
convinced that he recognised in the pretended Lady Verzenay, 
the Princess von Lansberg, his Dulcinea, and acted accord- 


ingly. A splendid supper and an escort to Mons, closed, in 
the happiest way, this episode worthy of Cervantes. 1 

But the Princess and Henriette felt the effects of so 
many trying experiences. Mademoiselle, in her light muslin, 
had caught cold at the very outset, and during the night 
journey through the half -frozen mud of Hainault she never 
ceased shivering. 

At Mons a severe attack of fever and scarlatina prostrated 
her as well as Henriette, and forced the two girls to remain 
shut up in a wretched inn, of which the better rooms were 
already engaged by others 

Mme. de Genlis installed herself as their nurse, passed 
the nights beside their beds, and went out only to buy 
medicines, keeping all the time a strict incognito, for Mons 
was crowded with Royalist emigres. 

Ill-luck would have it that one day, when she " went to 
get some drugs at an apothecary's," she found herself face to 
face with one of the most ardent partisans of Marie Antoinette, 
namely, her relative the Prince de Lambesc. Lambesc, at once 
recognising the " Jacobine" Genlis, rushed off to denounce 
her to the Austrian commandant. It so happened that he 
was General Mack. 

Could he be ignorant of the intended result of the con- 
spiracy, the co-operation of Dumouriez and the Duke of 
Chartres with the Austrian troops ? However this may be, 
the memory of Ath was still too recent for him to act other- 
wise than as a friendly gentleman. 

General Mack, accordingly, went in person to the lodging 
of Mme. de Genlis and Mademoiselle, who were trembling with 
fright. But he came to reassure them, and to procure for 
them passports from the Prince of Coburg, which would 
allow them to travel through Germany without interruption. 

Provided with these, the three women were able to leave 
Mons on 13th April, and cross the German frontier. Montjoie 

1 The existence of the Princess von Lansberg has been disputed, although 
Mme. de Genlis refers to the testimony of two young nobles of Moravia, 
whom unfortunately she does not name. The anecdote, in any case, has 
no importance, and we leave her all responsibility for it. Cf. Toulotte, 
op. cit., and Sevelinges, Madame de Genlis en miniature, p. 252. 


had left them for some private reason at Quievrain, but he 
now rejoined them. They reached Wiesbaden on the 20th, 
and went up the Rhine as far as Schaffhausen, where they 
arrived on the 26th, after having run some serious risks. 
" We were obliged," say the Memoir es, " to pass close to the 
Hessian camp, which lay along the Rhine on our side of it, 
while on the other we could see Cassel, where the French were. 
Mayence was burning and there was a cannonade in pro- 
gress." x In these circumstances Mme. de Genlis did not 
feel her conscience quite at ease, as she lets us know later on. 
" Seeing myself in the midst of the enemies of my country," 
she writes, " my reason in vain repelled a kind of involuntary 
remorse, as painful as it was groundless. ' For assuredly I had 
nothing with which to reproach myself. ..." 

This way of thinking was, however, not generally ac- 
cepted. The name of Mme. de Genlis was commonly 
associated with the conspiracy of Dumouriez. 

When on 4th April the news of the General's revolt 
called forth an outburst in the Convention, and led to the 
arrest of Philippe-Egalite, hardly six months before the 
terrible shearing off of the heads of the Girondins, Mme. de 
Genlis, luckily for her, was out of the reach of the party of the 

At the moment when the search among the Prince's 
papers led to the discovery of the famous letter from the 
Duke of Chartres, 2 a lady's-maid of Mademoiselle's arrived 
from Tournay with a story that the Governess still treated 
Chartres as a little boy, " making him sing vespers from 
morning to night, describing his father to him in the most 
fearful colours," and even having recourse to tears " to 
induce him to follow Dumouriez." 3 

This same Thursday, 4th April, the Committee of Public 
Safety issues its warrant of arrest, signed by Santerre, not 
only against Philippe-Egalite, Sillery and the Duchess of 
Orleans, but also against Mme. de Valence and her children 

1 Genlis, Memoires, iv. 195. 

2 It contained the words : " I see liberty lost. I see the National Con- 
vention utterly ruining France, by forgetting every right principle." 

3 Cf. Brissot, Mhnoires, ii. 335. 



and Mme. de Montesson. At midnight — still on this 4th 
April — the two women were arrested and their effects put 
under seal, while Santerre's underlings escorted them to the 
prison of the Abbaye. 1 

Valence, of whom Sillery had once said, " I will punish 
him myself like Brutus if he is guilty," 2 folloAved Dumouriez, 
thus escaping from the Sansculottes. But their hatred 
was more violent against the Bourbons, and Marat soon 
demanded that a price should be put upon the head of the 
Duke of Chartres. Such were the more immediate results 
of the conspiracy of Dumouriez. 

Can we hold Mme. de Genlis responsible for it ? 

The ambitious General had no need of her advice. If 
she had some part in his plan, if she knew of his hesitations, 
if, perhaps, she hastened the hour of rebellion, that hour 
would have struck without her. 

Mme. de Genlis may have helped plans that were already 
ripe, but she did not inspire them. 

As for the Duke of Chartres, he refused to fight against 
his country. Leaving Dumouriez and the Austrians, he made 
an adventurous journey through Germany, accompanied by 
a single servant, the faithful Beaudoin. He travelled in a 
chaise, and on 4th May rejoined his sister at Schaffhausen. 
Barthelemy mentions his having passed through Basel the 
evening before, 3rd May. Montjoie was there already, living 
with his family. He was a native of the canton. 

But Basel, a dangerous city, united to France since 
7th April, Basel which is now a part of the Department of 
Mont Terrible, and where members of the Convention, Monnot, 
Ritter, and Laurent, are recruiting victims for the Revolu- 
tionary Tribunal, and where the famous inn of the " Three 
Kings " " has been metamorphised into a branch of the 
Jacobin Club," — Basel, one may imagine, has no attractions 
for the Prince. 

1 A.N.F. 7 , 4619. 

2 He wrote also: " I have forgotten the services which he (Valence) has 
rendered to the country, and I only recall his name to inform my fellow- 
citizens that my daughter divorced herself from him on hearing of his crime." 
(Sillery, A ses concitoyens.) 


Besides, it is his duty to protect his sister, and he does 
not know what are the intentions of Mme. de Genlis. 

These two unfortunate young people, poor remnants of a 
broken family, are henceforth to lead a wandering life. 
Hated by the Royalist emigres, hunted down by the Revolu- 
tionists, innocent victims against whom these opposing 
parties rage furiously, they seem destined to pay the price 
of their father's errors. If the Governess indeed shares their 
dangers, their hours of bitterness, the insults they daily 
endured, she at least was responsible through her own actions. 
Escaped from the talons of the Convention, and now beyond 
the frontiers of France, she began to take a juster view of 
her duties, and continued to link her life with that of her 
pupils, — princely victims of a birth that in a moment of 
frank devotion to equality they refused to regard as a 
privilege, and which for the present brought them only the 
privilege of persecution. 

On 7th May the whole party left Schaffhausen, and put 
up at Zurich at the hotel de l'Epee, until they could find in 
the city or its neighbourhood a suitable refuge in which to 
install themselves. 

" They soon saw," says Barthelemy, " that this was not 
possible, for soon after their arrival the magistrates of Zurich 
sent to ask them when they would go away." 

Four days later the Senate of Berne informed them that 
it had decided not to allow them to enter its territory if 
they presented themselves there. At the same time several 
of the emigres, nobles of minor rank and poor education, 
who once they passed the frontier made the most of their 
titles, recognised the fugitives at Zurich, and expressed evil 
intentions regarding the " Jacobin women." Again they 
took to flight. On 12th May, Kilchsperger, the burgo- 
master of Basel, reports the passing through the place of M. 
Egalite, Mme. de Sillery, etc. ..." who gave out that they 
were Irish, and seemed to be on the way to the St. Gothard 
and Italy." 

But as secretly as possible they made their way to Zug. 

A lonely little house on the margin of the lake sheltered 
them under assumed names. They hardly went out even to 


go to church, being always in danger of denunciation. A 
I month went by — a month of truce. Then what they feared 
came to pass. A party of emigres, passing through the 
place, recognised the Duke of Chartres. The same day Zug 
learned the real names of the mysterious dwellers in the 
little house by the lake. On 12th June the news appeared 
in the Moniteur. The magistrates of Zug were only waiting 
a chance of verifying the identity of the so-called Irish 
visitors. This publication of the news gave them what they 
wanted, and was made the reason for an order of expulsion. 
They used a little more formality than those of Zurich, but 
nevertheless they requested their visitors to leave the canton 
" as soon as they could do so without exposing themselves 
to the hazards of the future." 

Mine, de Genlis insinuates that this order was directed 
against the name of Orleans, but not against her own, and 
that they offered to allow her to remain at Zug if she wished. 
" Bound to Mademoiselle d'Orleans," she refused, and sum- 
moned up all her courage. Young as she was, Mile, du Crest 
had tasted the bitterness of misfortune. If she has passed 
through days as trying as these, she has learned also how one 
can tire out ill-fortune by resisting it. Without home or 
friends, and driven from two of the most tolerant cantons 
of Switzerland, she thought now of the august lady who 
had been ill-treated a while ago, and who was the natural 
protectress of the children she had helped to take from her, 
— the Duchess of Orleans, — and she made Mademoiselle and 
the Duke of Chartres write to her. At all risks she added a 
letter of her own to theirs. 

The unfortunate Princess made no reply. Did she ever 
receive these tidings of her children, at Vernon, where 
Robespierre was keeping her a prisoner ? Was not her 
separation from them one of the most cruel sources of sorrow 
to her ? Did not the Comte de Moriolles see her, during a 
short stay at the chateau of Anet, always in tears, with her 
eyes " red and bloodshot " ? did he not hear her complain 
that she was a lonely woman, the victim of treachery . . . 
with her children " running about Switzerland with Mme. 
de Genlis " ? 


And can one doubt that, if it had been possible, she would 
at least have replied to Chartres and to Mademoiselle, con- 
sidering that, worn as she was by sorrow and privation, she 
was nevertheless sending some of what she herself needed to 
Montpensier and Beaujolais, and giving it to the poor ? 

The Duke of Chartres and his sister were now living in the 
most harassing uncertainty as to the future. The young 
hero of Valmy strained at the curb in inaction that weighed 
heavily on his youthful energies. With his usual clearness of 
judgment, and the seriousness of his thoughtful mind, he did 
not shut his eyes to the fact that, of them all, he was the one 
whose presence was the most compromising. And his will, 
acting on reason, inspired him with the noble resolution of 
facing all alone the dangers which everywhere lay in wait for 
the name of Orleans. By this means Mademoiselle and her 
Governess might be able to live in security. Who would 
venture to attack weak women ? 

But where could they find a refuge ? where hide them- 
selves in this country of Switzerland, which was traversed 
in every direction by the emigres ? 

In the midst of these cruel circumstances Montjoie came 
from Basel to see them. He had met, when passing through 
Bremgarten, a fellow-countryman, who had secured a great 
position in the country by his birth, his fortune, his valour, 
and his chivalrous courtesy. Maintaining excellent relations 
with the Senate of Berne and the magistrates of the neigh- 
bouring cantons, obliging and generous, General the Comte 
de Montesquiou possessed real influence. 

Mme. de Genlis wrote to him, laying before him the 
wretched position of the children of the House of Orleans, 
and asked as a favour that he would arrange for herself, her 
niece Henriette, and Mademoiselle to be given a refuge in the 
convent of St. Clare near Bremgarten. 

M. de Montesquiou at once showed admirable zeal on their 
behalf, and to such good effect that on 27th June, at ten in 
the morning, the four proscribed travellers made their way 
to this home of piety. It was high time. The position at 
Zug was becoming untenable. The evening before, some 
unknown persons had thrown heavy stones into the little 


drawing-room where Mademoiselle generally passed her 
time. By a fortunate chance the Princess had just gone up 
to the room of Mme. de Genlis, and so escaped this attack. 

The Duke of Chartres accompanied the three women as 
far as the convent parlour. There he embraced the weeping 
Princess, bade farewell to Mme. de Genlis and Henriette, 
and then went away, without a guide, to the Swiss Alps, to 
wander from summit to summit, rinding in the pure mountain 
air a means of renewing his courage, and among the peaks and 
rocks a refuge inaccessible to the hatred of men. 

It is on record that, on 6th July, when, as he passed by 
the Lake of Sempach, he prepared to bathe in it, he was 
driven away with showers of stones and narrowly escaped 
being stoned to death. 

At the Convent of So. Clare the registers mention the 
arrival of three Irish ladies, " Madame Lennox and her 
nieces Mesdemoiselles Stuart." 




Because it did not completely isolate her from the agitation 
of the world, the shelter of the convent, welcome though 
it might be amid great misfortunes, seemed something that 
had not kept its promise to Mine, de Genlis. 

The walls of St. Clare's did not secure peace for her. At 
Bremgarten she was too near France, where the Terror was 
in its full fury, and where noble blood flowed each day and 
cried for vengeance. At Bremgarten she was within reach of 
the Royalist emigres, a crowd of whom had settled in the 
neighbourhood and were attempting reprisals, so far as they 
could, against everything that was Jacobin, or had even a 
trace of it. 

Mme. de Genlis, classed among the executioners of the 
Royal Family, and " so despised," excited in the highest 
degree those feelings of resentment that rose to a frenzy 
after the execution of Marie Antoinette. It was then that to 
persecute a Mine, de Genlis seemed — alas for human nature ! — 
by just comparison almost an act of piety, the paying of 
a debt of hatred contracted under the most atrocious con- 
ditions, and augmented by the proscriptions, confiscations, 
executions and massacres of the time. Doubtless, compared 
to these horrors, the exiling of a woman count for very little. 
When, in December 1793, secret intrigues secured the issue of 
a decree of expulsion against all the foreigners residing at 
Bremgarten, this order included not only Mine, de Genlis and 
Montesquiou, but also the Duke of Chartres, who was 
believed, and believed for certain, to be hiding with the 



When the Governess was informed of it she was suffering 
from the shock of terrible news. She was a widow — Sillery 
had been executed on 31st October, and her crape was the 
symbol of a double sorrow, for Philippe-Egalite had just been 
guillotined on 6th November, and in the charges against him 
the Revolutionary Tribunal bad linked together the two 
names — that of the Prince and of Mme. de Genlis. She 
was in fact treated as his accomplice, not indeed his accom- 
plice in the Revolution, but, contrary to what one might 
expect, his accomplice on the side of the Aristocrats. By a 
strange irony of events the accusers remembered her religious 
opinions to impute them to her as a crime, but forgot her 
political opinions, that had so effectively aided her to lead 
on the Duke, govern his children and annihilate the Duchess. 
Petion and Dumouriez were also implicated in the affair. 1 

Voidel, the defender of Philippe-Egalite, and but lately 
the friend of Mine, de Genlis, made an unsparing attack upon 
her and Dumouriez, declaring that they had both prepared 
and consummated the ruin of the Prince by perverting his 
children, notably the Duke of Chartres, and deliberately 
taking them away from their father. 2 

Shortly before Louvet had harped upon nearly the same 
strain as to " the fanaticism of every kind of the Governess 
and of her writings." 3 

1 Extract from the examination of Philippe-Egalite : — 

Q. : " Why did you consent to put your daughter into the hands of that 
traitor (Petion) and of de Genlis, a clever and treacherous woman who has 
since emigrated ? " 

A.: "I did indeed consent to hand over my daughter to the woman 
Sillery, who did not deserve my confidence. She associated Petion with 
herself, and I undesignedly gave my approval to his accompanying her to 

Q. : "But you could not but know that this woman, Sillery, was an 

A . : "I was absolutely ignorant of it." 

a While the monster was gaining possession of the mind of this young man 
by politic proceedings and by the ascendency over him that his military re- 
putation gave him, Mme. de Sillery, his teacher, acted on his heart by super 
stitious ideas and by exciting his pity, and under the name of reason and 
virtue made error and crime enter his soul " (J. G. C. Voidel, A ses concitoyens 
sur V affaire de L. P. J. d'Orleans). 

3 Louvet de Cauvrai, Memoires sur la Revolution frangaise, ed. Aulard, 


Mme. de Genlis did not know these details. But the 
catastrophe with all its horrors, nevertheless, deeply affected 
her. For the first time since leaving Paris she fell sick. And 
if the Comte de Montesquiou had not taken energetic, 
prompt and successful steps to have the order of expulsion 
withdrawn, one cannot say to what extremity she would have 
been reduced — perhaps to that romantic flight on foot, or in a 
country cart disguised as a peasant — a plan she had been 
considering. Thanks to Montesquiou, the two proscribed 
women were able then to remain at St. Clare's, an uncertain 
place of refuge, uncomfortable and poor enough, but after all 
a roof under which they could rest their heads. 

Besides this, Mme. de Genlis was paying out of her own 
money for the board and lodging of Mademoiselle, and 
keeping the young Princess — then suffering from dysentery — 
ignorant of her father's death. 

The Duke of Chartres must have been better informed. 
The change of feeling which he soon after manifested towards 
his former " Governor," and which is generally attributed to 
the emancipation of his mind in solitude and misfortune, 
clearly dates from this period. No doubt the newspapers 
informed him of the execution of his father, and of the way in 
which the name of the Prince was everywhere connected with 
that of the ex-Countess. The cleverness of the latter, the 
weakness of the former, were known to him. And the 
adventurous flight from St. Amand must assuredly have 
dealt a heavy blow to the unbounded veneration for the 
Governess that he had formerly professed. 

Besides, had not some one intervened in this matter ? 
Had not some one undertaken to open the eyes of the Prince, 
and to represent to him certain recent events, especially the 
judicial separation between the Duke and his wife and the 
taking away of Mademoiselle from her mother, as crushing 
charges against Mme. de Genlis ? But if we may believe 
that Mme. de Flahault — who had little liking for the Gover- 
ness — had something to do with the unfavourable opinion of 
the young Prince (now Duke of Orleans), with regard to his 
instructress, it is not all the same probable that she inspired 
his resolve to take Mademoiselle away from her, for, according 


to Madame's biographer, she was not now resident at Brem- 
garten. 1 

In fact, the Princess Adelaide was about to leave Mme. de 
Genlis and go to live with her aunt, Mme. de Conti, at Freiburg. 

We are not very fully informed as to the real motives 
that led to the parting, this time a final one, between the 
Governess and her dear pupil. Mme. de Flahault, in her 
letters to Governor Morris, attributes to her eldest brother 
the initiative in withdrawing his sister from the hands of 
Mme. de Genlis. Mme. de Boigne, imagining like many 
other of the emigres that Mme. de Genlis kept the Princess as 
a prisoner, writes that " after the catastrophe of her father's 
death, and her mother the Duchess being still in prison, the 
family reclaimed possession of the young Princess." 2 But 
what does " the family " mean here ? 

Montpensier and Beaujolais were at Fort St. Jean ; the 
Prince de Conti and the Duchess de Bourbon on their way 
to Spain, and the Duke of Modena did not trouble himself 
about his granddaughter. There remains the Princess de 
Conti. She was believed to be with her father at the Court 
of Modena, but she was residing at Freiburg. 

Was it she that demanded back — or as Barthelemy will 
have it, carried off — her niece ? 

But at this moment the question — and a very imperious 
question — was whether the pretended Mme. Lennox and the 
pretended Misses Stuart could stay on at St. Clare's. The 
want of money had become urgent. Mme. de Genlis, who 
had already advanced 200 louis on Mademoiselle's account, 
was thinking about finding a printer as soon as possible to 
publish some work, in the hope of refilling her purse, now 
three-fourths empty. 

The young Princess had already, in a long and very 
touching letter, begged for shelter and support with her 
grandfather. But he, being of a selfish disposition, limited 
his help to sending her exactly 180 louis, not quite enough 
to repay the advance made by her Governess. 

Then, as Mme. de Genlis tells us, having learned by 

1 Cf. Baron de Maricourt, op. cit., 176-178. 

2 Comtesse de Boigne, Me moires, i. 427. 


chance that the Princess de Conti was in Switzerland, " I 
made Mademoiselle write to her, asking to be received by her, 
and she wrote thus notwithstanding her sorrow at leaving 

Mademoiselle's letter settles the question. It was she 
who first approached Mme. de Conti. Now, was this only 
at the suggestion of the Governess, and did not the young 
Duke of Orleans direct her to take this step ? It is very 

However this may be, ten days later the answer arrived. 
Mme. de Conti would send for her niece in a month ; and, 
on 12th May 1794, the Comtesse de Pont St. Maurice, her 
envoy for this purpose, drove up to the convent gate. 

According to her custom, Mme. de Genlis avoided a fare- 
well scene. Eight days before she had handed her dear pupil 
certain religious and moral exhortations, and a portrait of 
Pamela. On the arrival of Mme. de Pont St. Maurice she 
gave the latter written and detailed instructions as to Made- 
moiselle, "as to her character, talents, health, and way of 
living," etc. Then at the moment of her departure she stayed 
in her own room, and the Princess was told that Mme. de 
Genlis had gone out before daybreak. 

So there was no " heartrending scene " between the young 
girl and her second mother. But the sorrow of both was 
not the less real, though it was more acute on Mademoiselle's 
side. Mme. de Genlis has left us in her Memoirs a pathetic 
account of the event, which is not wanting in sincerity. 

Apart from all ambitious views, she had a real affection 
for the delicate Princess. Had she not brought her up ? 

She speaks the truth in this respect when she repeats : 
" One must be a mother, to imagine what I felt at such a 

This time their separation was to be a long one. It 
lasted till 1814. Mademoiselle wrote to her Governess during 
her journey. She wrote to her again from Freiburg, that 
letter dated 1794, so full of grief, so weighed down with all 
the burden of her sorrowful life, and in which she dwells upon 
their friendship and their mutual affection. 

But the correspondence soon became infrequent — and 


besides, it might prove dangerous for the security of the two 
friends — till one day there came a formal order from the 
Princess de Conti, who did not like it, that it must cease, 
at least openly. 1 

The young girl was then with her aunt at Landshut in 
Bavaria, whence they were driven by the armies of the 
Directory. They had to take to flight and made for Austria, 
where they stopped on the banks of the Danube at the cele- 
brated and picturesque Hungarian city of Poszony, other- 
wise known as Pressburg. 

There Mademoiselle had recourse to her confessor to 
communicate with Mme. de Genlis, but the death of the priest 
in 1800 put an end to this secret correspondence. 

These letters if published would definitely clear up the 
question of the real feelings of the august pupil for her 
Governess, feelings which have been supposed to be favour- 
able to Mme. de Genlis or the reverse, according to the 
opinions of various writers. 

We would then know if her feelings towards her remained 
those of confidence and affection, or if they changed to 
coldness and aversion under the hostile influence of Mme. de 
Conti, and much later of the Duchess of Orleans. 

These letters are in the possession of the Orleans family, 
and till they are published — if ever — we have to be content 
with doubtful conjectures. 

After the departure of Mademoiselle, Mme. de Genlis 
thought only of putting an end to her stay at Bremgarten, 
which had become an unpleasant place for her. Assailed 
with anonymous letters, and insulted in the French and 
foreign newspapers, she received blows from all sides. 

Condemned to silence — she had been so imprudent as 
send a reply one day to the Gazette de Leyde, 1 whose editor 
refused to retract — and, hard pressed by want of money, 

1 A futile pretext was the motive for this interdict. Madame de Genlis 
had sent Mademoiselle on her name day a water-colour sketch of a red rose 
in a blue vase, the background being naturally white. Madame de Conti 
took offence at this tricoloured design. 

2 The Ga-ette de Leyde of 26th April 1793 announced that Dumouricz 
had started for Germany by way of Aix-la-Chapelle in company with the 
Duke of Orleans, M. de Valence, Mademoiselle, Pamela and Mme. de Genlis. 


she was anxious to be away from Bremgarten and Switzer- 

And then she had to think of making a living with her pen, 
and though the spur of hard times was a powerful stimulant 
to her desire to be writing again, she must have a publisher 
and a printer somewhere near her. To send away her manu- 
scripts would be a means of putting the Royalists on her 
track, the very thing she wanted to avoid. 

It was just then that Talleyrand wrote to her offering her 
12,000 francs. Since they met in London he had lost sight 
of her, but at the end of 1793 he was enquiring for her 
of Mine, de Flahault. She would be able to give the ex- 
bishop precise information. Mme. de Genlis refused the 
generous offer — an offer less surprising than one might 
imagine on the part of this man, who calculated every step, 
and who, when he thought it was the right moment, could 
be charitable in a lordly way. 

But amid the cruel difficulties with which she was 
struggling, such a sum would have filled her purse abund- 
antly, and cleared away most of her embarrassments. To 
refuse it was indeed to push self-respect to the verge of 

The poor woman must have passports, and she only 
secured them after unheard-of difficulties, under assumed 
names. To mislead her enemies she procured two passports 
— one under the name of Mme. Brown which she did not use, 
the other under another pseudonym. 

As soon as she was provided with these precious papers 
she left St. Clare's — " to her inexpressible relief " — on 
19th May 1794, a week to the day after the departure of 
Mademoiselle. Cesar du Crest had come to Bremgarten 
shortly before this. She left him to get away at his own 
risk and peril, — a mere boy of fourteen would excite no one's 
suspicions. She took her niece Henriette with her. They 
reached the Rhine, and went down it without stopping 
anywhere till they were at Utrecht, where M. de Valence 
had taken up his abode for a time. 

But when she left Bremgarten she had broken with the 
Duke of Orleans. 


Did they see each other at this time ? Had they an 
explanation face to face ? 

If we are to believe a former chaplain of the Due de 
Penthievre, of whose sincerity there can be no doubt, we 
might ask if the date of May 19th given by Mme. de Genlis 
as that of her departure is correct ? 

Four months later, on 19th September, the Abbe Lambert 
thought he saw her leaning on the arm of her pupil, the 
young Duke. 

The Abbe arrived that morning — a Monday — at Brem- 
garten in the hope of seeing the Duke, who, he had heard, 
was staying there with M. de Montesquiou. The bells were 
ringing for Mass, and he hastened to the church. 

" I had hardly knelt down," he writes, " when I saw 
the Duke of Orleans come in with a lady on his arm whom 
I thought to be Mme. de Sillery." x 

The Abbe had seen Mme. de Genlis only once, and that 
was on the occasion of the Prince's first Communion at Anet. 
After so many years would the Governess have been any- 
thing like his recollection of her, or rather would she not 
have disguised her general appearance, as it was her interest 
to put her enemies off her track. 

In any case neither the Prince nor the lady wanted to 
be recognised, and when after Mass the Abbe, following 
their steps, rang at the door of M. de Montesquiou, where they 
had just gone in, a servant peremptorily dismissed him : 
" Monseigneur was no longer at Bremgarten. Monseigneur 
had gone away to the Grisons." And the poor chaplain 
took his departure sadly discomfited. 

Can it be then that Mme. de Genlis was staying at Brem- 
garten in September ? May one suppose that now that the 
coup d'etat of Thermidor had changed the situation in France, 
she had an idea of coming to an arrangement with the Duke 
in view of some political move being attempted ? This 
would be quite erroneous. 

However, Mme. de Flahault — an enemy of Mme. de Genlis, 
partly through jealousy of her as an author, and still more 
on account of Talleyrand,— Mme. de Flahault, chosen by 

1 Abbe Lambert, Memoires de Famille, L. iv. 180. 


the Prince " as the confidante of his moral solitude and of 
his ardent desire to throw off the yoke," x was writing a little 
later from Bremgarten to Governor Morris (the American 
diplomatist, who after having been such a frequent guest at 
the Palais Royal and in her salon showed himself so finely 
devoted to the children of the House of Orleans) a well 
known letter, which we must reproduce here in order to 
make our story clear : — 

" I have seen the young Duke of Orleans in Switzer- 
land. He has had a serious quarrel with Mme. de Sillery, 
of whom he has had so much reason to complain. But 
do not repeat this, for if she knew he had been talking about 
her she would persecute him even in his retirement. He 
will now have nothing whatever to do with that lady and 
her principles. 

" Could you not do him the welcome service of informing 
his mother of his noble conduct, of his veneration for her- 
self, and of his hatred for Mme. de Sillery, whose folly was 
the ruin of his father ? . . . 

" He remembers having seen you, and admits that he 
was so much under the influence of the bad principles and 
the prejudices of his Governess, that you could not form 
a fair opinion of him . . . etc." 

All this leads one to believe in a " quarrel." 

But must we place it at about 19th May or 19th Sep- 

The Memoirs of Mme. de Genlis formally oppose the 
latter hypothesis. And may not the lady whom the Abbe 
Lambert took for Mme. de Genlis have been Mme. de Flah- 
ault, who clearly was mixed up with the Prince's affairs, 
and, as a recent writer says, " threw as much oil as she could 
on the fire." But then, according to the biographer of 
Mme. de Flahault, she would not be at Bremgarten till the 
month of October. Who, then, was the lady seen by the 
Abbe Lambert ? 

But it must be admitted that the letters written at this 
time by the Prince to Morris make no allusion good or bad 

1 Maricourt, op. cit., 182. 


to Mme. de Genlis. 1 At the beginning of 1795 he was 
anxious to get away to the United States, and he thought 
of that only. But then (January 1795) Mme. de Genlis 
was at Altona. She had had a rough journey. After having 
reached Schaffhausen, she and Henriette at Mayence took 
what she jestingly calls a " private gondola " to go down the 
Rhine to Cologne, whence they travelled in a carriage to 

There M. de Valence was waiting for them ; he took 
them to Naarden on the Zuyder Zee, where he had rented 
a little country house. There they could wait for better 

At the end of five weeks Mme. de Genlis, wishing not 
to be an expense to her son-in-law, and to procure a more 
settled place of abode, set off for Denmark, the Govern- 
ment of which had shown itself friendly to the French exiles. 

The expedition was not such an easy matter. There 
were not many roads between the province of Utrecht and 
Holstein, and these were difficult and in anything but good 
condition. Anyone else but the intrepid Mme. de Genlis 
would have lost heart at the outset, and abandoned the idea 
of using them. 

But her old hardihood, her long-continued habit of 
physical exercise, enabled her bravely to undergo this new 
Odyssey. She astonished everyone by her persistence, by 
her wonderful endurance. And who else, indeed, would have 
thought it " a fine thing " to travel through Hanover in a 
post-chaise that was a miserable vehicle, hardly covered in, 
heavy, primitive, of a thoroughly German type of con- 
struction, in which one was lumbered up with bundles and 
baskets, and which took three days and three nights to go 
only from Utrecht to Osnabriick ? What delicate cmigree 
dame from the French Court would have ventured to embark 
at Hamburg under a deluge of rain, to cross the Elbe in a 
poor, little, open boat, and arrive at Altona soaked to the 
skin and in a state rivalling that of a gipsy tramp ? It was 
an expedition worthy of a writer of romances ! 

1 On the other hand, Madame de Genlis says that the Prince wrote her 
a friendly letter in October 1794. 


Mme. de Genlis had run these risks in the company of 
an old Jewess, a shopkeeper from Hanover, talkative, 
obliging, and ready to share with her the cost of the ferry 
boat on the Elbe. Our Countess got from the Jewess some 
information about Altona. She asked her, " At which of the 
inns of the place was the innkeeper most friendly to the 
French Revolution ? " And one need not be surprised at 
the question. 

Altona, besides being, as is well known, the headquarters 
of the emigration properly so-called, also entertained opinions 
favourable to the Revolution. Altona, as indeed the rest of 
Europe, revered Robespierre. Since Klopstock wrote his 
emphatic ode on the taking of the Bastille, the richer classes 
— at a safe distance — had been taken with " a lively en- 
thusiasm for the great movement in France." * 

So a Red inn — in the political sense of course — ought to 
be easy to find in the town. And the best of all from this 
point of view was that of Master Pflock, in the Rathhaus- 
markt, in the Grund quarter of Altona. 

The Adressbuch or Director} 7 of Altona for the year 1794 
mentions the house : " Pflock (Christo), innkeeper, — wines & 
mineral waters — Grund, No. 98," — but does not count it 
among the hotels of the town. And as for the date at which 
our countess arrived, it is impossible for us to fix it. In the 
default of exact information we hesitate between July and 
October 1794. 

Madame de Genlis found in Master Pflock the jewel of 
inn-keepers. A fine fellow, and though a Revolutionist a 
man of patriarchal manners, courteous, and absolutely 
honourable, he paid every attention to his new lodger, whose 
distinguished manners were in somewhat sharp contrast 
with the tone of his usual clients. 

He gave her no rest till she accepted his invitation to 
dine at " the host's table," — still a table d'hote in more than 
name. And when Madame de Genlis had been assured that 
she would meet no unwelcome guest there, she would come 
into the room and take her place each day — generally after 

1 Cf . Charlotte Niese, Die Grdfin von Genlis, Gren.boicn, No. for Dec. 3, 


the first courses, for it was a solid meal — among the Danish 
or German officials, the business men and the other regular 
diners, who sat at the family table side by side with all the 

Did it remind her of the Grand Vainqueur Inn, or the 
bar of the Porcherons, where, in disguise, one evening in 
1778 she made a conquest of the courier of M. de 
Brancas ? 

The comparison would certainly not have pleased honest 
Pflock. But here, as there, Mme. de Genlis exerted her 
usual charming influence. In a few days she had — as was 
her way — won all present, beginning with Mile. Pflock, the 
innkeeper's daughter, who prided herself on literary culture. 

She was known to them all as Miss Clarke, an Irish lady, 
educated in France. And as she hardly left her small room 
looking out on the courtyard except to go to church, it was 
thought she must be religious and an exile for it. Mean- 
while her modest lodging was like a little temple of the arts. 
" I had," she tells us, " a fairly good piano, a harp, a guitar, 
water colours and pencils, a writing-desk, some books and a 
collection of dried plants that had been lent to me. My 
days went by with unimaginable rapidity." 

She enjoyed also the consolation of talking about her 
dear France with two compatriots, a lady, Mme. Gudin, and 
an emigre gentleman, M. de Kercy, who was not too much 
of an aristocrat. Both were lodging at Pflocks. Madame 
Gudin, inspired with friendship for this interesting foreign 
lady, liked to practise music with her. But Kercy, who had 
the next room to Madame de Genlis, was even more friendly. 
He rendered Miss Clarke various little services. He helped 
her in her work, for, obliged to earn her daily bread, she had 
looked for and found employment. She designed and painted 
patterns of flowers and arabesques for a neighbouring factory 
of printed cottons. 

M. de Kercy was useful in another way. He was always 
well supplied with news from France. He went regularly 
to Hamburg, only divided from Altona by a long avenue of 
fine trees, to look for news at a street corner cafe founded 
by an ex-duke, where the Paris newspapers were to be seen. 


Finally, at a later date, he corrected her printer's proofs for 
his friendly neighbour. 

Besides these two compatriots, Miss Clarke made acquaint- 
ance at Pflock's with two men whose friendship was very 
useful to her. One was a Danish official of good position, 
Pierre Joseph Texier, Councillor of Legation and Director of 
the Fisheries. The other was Dr. Unzer, a professor, district 
medical officer, and poet, a brother-in-law of Louis Schroder, 
Klopstock's friend, and a member of several literary societies. 
He had chosen the inn as his abode, and consoled himself for 
his desertion by his wife, Dorothea Ackermann, by devoting 
himself to painting. He it was who obtained for Mme. de 
Genlis work as a designer of patterns for the factory. 

But above all, she rejoiced at being in safety. Her 
incognito seemed to her to be marvellously secure here within 
the walls of Altona. Two travellers only, Frenchmen, who 
passed through the inn recognised her, but they respected 
her secret. Amongst the emigres living in the town, who were 
estimated at four thousand, she was, she says, quite un- 
noticed. But it would be astonishing enough if our Countess 
was not recognised at Altona, this rendezvous of Royalists, 
where the Princess de Vaudremont gave her famous evening 
parties, where all the emigres were eager to be invited, among 
them the two brothers De Caraman, Maurice and Joseph, 
the latter the future Prince de Chimay — M. Clermont 
Tonnerre, the Marchioness de Pardaillan, Garat and the rest. 
It is more likely that they were aware of her presence, but 
pretended not to remember her. Besides, Mme. de Flahault 
— only to mention one — knew perfectly well where to find 
Mme. de Genlis. 

But the natives of the place who frequented Pflock's 
inn certainly did not suspect the real identity of Miss Clarke. 

Thus she had the piquant amusement of hearing her fellow- 
guests talk about a certain Marquise de Sillery living over 
in Hamburg, who they said had installed herself in that 
city with Dumouriez, and had been seen there and actually 
recognised. She could secretly give way to her amusement 
when one day, after she had changed her work from designing 
patterns for muslins to writing manuscripts, they looked at 


each other with a puzzled expression, and Mme. Gudin 
exclaimed : " Miss Clarke an authoress ! I can answer for 
it that except her prayer-book she has never looked into a 
book of any kind." 

Another treat of the same kind was reserved for her to 

listen to criticisms of one of her dramatic works and o-o to 
see it played. 

A travelling party of English actors, " Williamson's 
Theatrical Company," came to Altona and played several of 
Mme. de Genlis's pieces in an English translation. According 
to Professor Harkensee, the programmes of the local theatre 
which still exist in the town library of Altona mention only 
one with certainty, namely — The Child of Nature, Comedy in 
four acts. From the French of the Marquise de Sillery by Mrs. 
Inchbald, which was played at the Old Comedy Theatre of 
Altona on 13th November 1794, and on the stage of the 
Great Newmarket Theatre at Hamburg on 17th February 
1795. This must have been her Zelie ou VIngenue. The 
translators did what they liked with titles, and besides Mme. 
de Genlis mentions this piece as having been the subject 
of conversation at the dinner table at Pflock's. 

Let us add that the critics there were enthusiastic, and 
lavished their flowery praise on Mme. de Genlis. 

These good people were not entirely ignorant as to French 
theatrical matters. Even though the Princess de Vaudre- 
mont sent them no invitations, they could go to the per- 
formances given by the Schauspielergeselleschaft, the French 
company at Hamburg, and their critical judgments were not 
uninteresting. Miss Clarke took much pleasure in their 
friendly incense. But she had foreseen the possibility of 
something different, and for the sake of her literary honour 
she had made up her mind beforehand that, if they indulged 
in offensive censures, she would say who she was and leave 
the table. 

She had not to proceed to this extremity, because her 
self-esteem as an author reaped only a harvest of praise. 

Soon after this, Kercy knocked at her door at midnight. 
At this late hour the Countess was still writing by the light 
of her lamp. She did not open. Kercy knocked again. 


Still she took no notice. Then he called to her : " Robes- 
pierre is dead ! " and at last the door opened. In a transport 
of joy Mme. de Genlis embraced her worthy neighbour, and 
then knelt with him to offer a thanksgiving. 

But the good people of Altona did not take the news so 
well. They seemed quite upset by it. It would appear 
even that one of the adorers of the virtuous Maximilien fell 
down in a fit at the news, for at Altona they almost believed 
that the man with the green eyes was as immortal as a 

Robespierre being dead, it seemed that all Terrorism had 
vanished with him, and that the sun was shining again in the 
sky of France. 

Mme. de Genlis, living thus hidden, had not met any of 
her own people for eight months, with the exception of her 
son-in-law, M. de la Woestine, then living at Cleves, who had 
come to stay with her for a fortnight. She now thought 
with a lighter heart of leaving her hiding-place. And just 
then Master Pflock died. The good man had carried his 
interest in her so far as to find a fiance for the worthy Miss 
Clarke, a rich widower, a master-baker at Altona. 

This suitor, whose best reason was that the delicate 
sounds of her harp had made him fall desperately in love 
with her, played his part so seriously that he died, it would 
seem, shortly after the refusal with which the unfeeling 
Genlis dismissed him. So this was one more victim of the 
French Revolution. 

But the Comtesse was about to leave Altona. Her niece 
Henriette and M. de Valence had both arrived at Hamburg 
with a party of Dutch emigres, and had come to look for her. 
Valence was about to establish himself in a farm not far from 
Hamburg, and Mme. de Genlis preferred to reside in that 
city, to be nearer her son-in-law. 

Before leaving her friends at Pflock's she revealed her real 
name, in order that, as she says in her Memoirs, " all the 
French people whom I had seen during nine months might 
know, beyond the possibility of a doubt, that it was false 
that Madame de Genlis was living with M. Dumouriez." As 
a matter of fact, the General had attached himself to Mme. 


de Beauvert, the sister of Rivarol ; and some time ago that 
lady had rejoined him in his exile. 

It may be well to note that the Duke of Orleans left 
Hamburg just at the time when his Governess arrived there. 
Thanks to a hundred louis d'or lent him by Governor Morris, 
he had, under the escort of Mme. de Flahault, been able to 
reach Hamburg, or rather the village of Neuenstadt at the 
gates of that city, and was preparing to travel on to Denmark 
and Norway. But during his stay there he carefully avoided 
Altona and all that had anything to do with Mme. de 

A letter from Mme. de Flahault to Morris, written, 
not without some bitterness of feeling, in February 1795, 
states this quite plainly. 

Other considerations still enforced on the future Louis- 
Philippe the strictest incognito. 

He did not wish to — and he could not— play any public 
part. Whatever may have been said to the contrary, he had 
no political party at Hamburg. And the most recent his- 
torians of the Revolution have so far not shown that any 
such party existed. But the mere presence of the young Duke 
in Europe excited to such a degree the suspicions and the 
fears of the party that had conquered in Thermidor, that 
they still kept his brothers Montpensier and Beaujolais as 
hostages, ready to sacrifice them on the first news that the 
young chief of the House of Orleans was at the head of an 
agitation. Louis-Philippe knew this through Morris. He 
lived as much unknown as possible at Hamburg, and this 
to such an extent that Dampmartin, meeting him one day 
with Montjoie, did not know for years after that his friend's 
"excellent young companion" was the Prince. 

And then his departure for the lands of northern ice 
put an end to all the fables in circulation as to his alleged 
political ambition, and as to the equally mythical revival 
of the old Orleans faction. This made possible at last the 
i liberation of Montpensier and Beaujolais, which Morris 
accelerated with all his intelligently directed enthusiasm. 
It was followed by the embarkation for Philadelphia, and 
the reunion of the three brothers. 


Now it is quite possible that Mme. de Flahault pressed 
Louis-Philippe to get away from Hamburg as soon as possible. 
In removing him from the neighbourhood of Mme. de Genlis, 
she probably would not be sorry to give a lesson to her 
enemy, and would hope thus to deprive her eventually of 
the fruits of many years of intrigue. 



In her Memoirs Mme de Genlis says that she arrived at 
Hamburg on 1st April 1795. We must respectfully remark 
that she is wrong to the extent of a fortnight, for her letters 
of the time enabled us to assert that she arrived there on the 

For the first few days the Comtess and Henriette put 
up at the house of a certain M. Braasch in the centre of 
the city and on one of the finest of the quays of the Alster, 
the Jungf ernstieg. Thence they soon removed to the house 
of the Pastor Wolters, — Michel Wolters, second deacon of 
St. Catherine's, residing at No. 36 St. Catherine's Cemetery. 
Their bright and pleasant rooms on the first storey looked 
out upon the Alster, whose little green waves rippled against 
the walls of the house. 

Mme. de Genlis soon forgot her homely existence in the 
Pflock household when she found herself on the sunlit 
quays, amid the traffic of this beautiful and populous city, 
teeming with life, with its port and its gardens, the open-air 
meeting-place of a rich and elegant crowd. 

Her mind, which had stored up many things during the 
inactive days of a prolonged exile, suddenly awoke and 
began to sparkle, as soon as she found herself once more in 
touch with those of her own class and her own country. 
For Hamburg was crowded with emigres. Though there 
might be a lack of luxury and even of comfortable ease, 
Mme. de Genlis found herself once more in the midst of a 
polished society, full of taste, and of the love of conversation, 
literature, and pleasure. She found herself again among 


Frenchmen of noble birth, with their easy, polished, bright, 
and yet haughty, manners — and one must add — with their 
whims, their recklessness, and their habitual vices. In a 
word there was all the tone of Parisian social life — salons, 
gaming tables, supper parties, theatres. For if one must 
keep shop during the day, one became an aristocrat again 
in the evening, — one dressed, cultivated the arts, amused 
oneself. At once she tried to organise a little circle of her 

Two very definitely separated parties divided this society 
into two camps. Between the Republicans who wore the tri- 
colour cockade and the Royalists who had no cockade, there 
was not room for any shade of opinion. Now Mme. de Genlis 
stood at about an even distance from the one and the other, 
suspected by the former and an object of aversion to the 
latter. Nevertheless she tried to set up a rallying point. 
She could, at least, count upon her relatives — her son-in-law, 
General de Valence, and her brother, the Marquis du Crest. 

M. de Valence was somewhat isolated. He was generally 
to be found in the little group, half -patriot, half-Constitution- 
alist, formed out of the wreckage of the old Orleanist 
faction, in which one met the brothers Lameth, the Duke 
d'Aiguillon, and a few others, " the Comte de Rice, Beau- 
marchais, etc." He was of a melancholy turn, as is often 
the case with a man away from his family. Mme. de Valence, 
whom he had always neglected, and to whom he had been un- 
faithful, had, after the arrest in April 1793, taken advantage 
of the new law to sue for a divorce, and at this cost saved 
her life and that of her three children, and of young 
Hermine, whom she called her adopted daughter. 1 Thanks 
to a petition, in which she expressed her detestation of 
" arristocratie " (sic), and which she signed " P. Brulard, 
divorced woman," she obtained from the Convention an 
authorisation to retire to Mme. de Montesson's house at 
Neuilly. Since then Mme. de Genlis had heard nothing 
of her. 

More successful were the Marquis du Crest and his witty 
young wife, whose talents as a musician, but even more her 

1 The decree of divorce is dated 20th May 1793. 


slanting, Chinese-looking eyes, her air of a little girl fresh 
from school, and her look of an Oriental, attracted many 
admirers. Their salon gathered together a society that was 
ready to be friendly, and not very strict in its morals, and 
this group formed the nucleus of the salon of Mme. de Genlis. 
It was soon reinforced by some Hamburghers of good stand- 
ing, brought in by the influence of her Altona friends, Coun- 
cillor Texier and Dr. Unzer. 

The two salons, that of the brother and the sister, mutually 
helped each other. Their guests passed from one to the 
other. Music was the leading feature with du Crest, and 
literary matters at the social gatherings of Mme. de Genlis. 
Both of them were better used than most people to extricat- 
ing themselves from the most trying situations, so these 
resourceful minds and thoroughly experienced characters 
triumphed over the prevailing disease of impecuniosity. 
They kept up appearances by dint of unceasing effort, she 
with her pen, he, the indefatigable inventor, the man of 
projects, by building boats and carriages half of wood, half 
of papier mache, and by winning, it seems, at the gaming 
tables, enough to be able several times each week to invite 
his friends to that " roast joint of modest proportions accom- 
panied by a wretched salad," of which the biographer of 
Mme. de Souza gives us an amusing account. 

The ex-chancellor of the Palais Royal had, like his sister, 
the art of pleasing and a wide erudition. He had never 
set great store on fine manners, or on the elegance of his 
costume, about which he was rather careless. But what of 
that ! It was no longer the time for Court dress, and his guests 
preferred Mme. du Crest's sonatas and the anecdotes the 
Marquis had collected in old days in the society of Diderot, 
the Marquis d'Holbach, and Helvetius, rather than the 
baser delights of a well-spread table and the vanities of 
costly toilets. Poverty is not a vice ! And Du Crest, 
perhaps less discredited than his sister, was able to attract, 
now here, now there, some young nobles, who, at twenty 
years of age, had enough of careless philosophy to keep 
politics apart from pleasure. 

Amongst these the Comte de Neuilly, at some risk of com- 


promising himself, went also to the salon of Mme. de Genlis. 
To speak frankly, she excited rather his sprightly raillery 
than his admiration. He admits her charms, but speaks of 
them in the past tense, or even in the pluperfect. " She had 
been very pretty," he says, " and even more piquantly 
interesting ; and when her expression became animated, 
one saw that she must have been very attractive." He thus 
finishes his portrait of her, the most complete that we have 
of Mme. de Genlis at fifty : " Her mind, which was un- 
doubtedly very remarkable, was spoiled by pedantry and a 
want of naturalness. Her tone, her manners, were affected. 
Everything about her, even her dress, had something pre- 
tentious in it. She was thin and rather short of stature, 
and she strutted about in high-heeled shoes. By the same 
token she trod on my foot with them one day, and with such 
force that I let go an exclamation that was quite soldierlike 
in its energy." x M. de Neuilly does not err on the side of 
indulgence. But even more than the formal literary and 
dramatic soirees of Mme. de Genlis, even more than " the 
little morning invitations with attractions that got talked 
about and won some useful recruits," 2 the star that drew so 
many guests to her — patriots, citizens of Hamburg, writers, 
artists, and some young deserters from the emigre party, 
was the pretty brunette Pamela, who was staying in the 
home of her adopted mother while Lord Edward was pre- 
paring the Irish insurrection of '98. Whatever may have 
been said, she did not yet welcome any consolers. She was 
expecting the birth of her second child. But those on 
whom she did not smile took their homage to the star of the 
second magnitude, Henriette de Sercey. She had the 
ruddy complexion of a Rubens. A premature embonpoint 
showed itself in her shoulders, her arms, and her shapely 
hands, and touched with rosy red the round cheeks that 
contrasted with her ebony black hair. Her mouth, with 
full lips, showed pearly white teeth, and her eyes with their 
black velvety pupils shone as she listened to the rapid 
exchange of merry jests. 

1 Comte de Neuilly, Dix ans d' emigration, p. 138. 

2 De Lescure, Rivarol et la Socicte francaise, 435. 


For the sake of the smiles of these two bright young 
women, the guests were ready to pay all the more admiration 
to the Comtesse, make more of the success of her talents, 
endure her sometimes pedantic moral maxims, or her lectures 
on politics. They welcomed her readings in the salon of 
choice passages, fresh from her pen, of that famous novel, 
the Chevaliers du Cygne — that, for instance, in which, with a 
strange lack of feeling, she described the execution of Marie 
Antoinette. They flattered her with exaggerated praise, 
and mercilessly ridiculed the little weaknesses, the small 
successes, of the would-be grand master of the intellectual 
world of Hamburg — Rivarol, the sworn enemy of Mme. de 

It is well known how, for a long time, "as a man, as a 
critic, and as a Royalist," he had hated her. 1 The horror 
Rivarol felt for Philippe-figalite was of public notoriety. It 
quite naturally included Mme. de Genlis, and never was their 
hatred more persevering and more vindictive. 

Whilst affecting mutually to ignore each other, the two 
opponents vied with one another in the exchange of epigrams, 
allusions, malicious witticisms, behaving like a pair of wolves 
that have fallen out. Rivarol was, beyond contradiction, the 
stronger of the two at this game. 

Supported by the pugnacious aristocratic crowd of the 
emigres, who circulated the slightest of his smart sayings as 
if it were an oracle, he could, with one sally, one peppery 
phrase, fire the hostility of the party against Mme. de Genlis, 
and he never hesitated to do so. With his scoffs, his insults, 
and his calumnies he set up a general boycott of the salon 
of the ex-Governess. When, in the month of July 1795, she 
went away to the home of her son-in-law, the Comte de 
Valence, at Silk in Holstein, she was in flight from Hamburg, 
which the discourteous manoeuvres of Rivarol had made 
uninhabitable for her. 

Silk, five leagues from the city, and half-way between 
Rheinbeck and Friedrichsruhe, was only a farm or country 
house that M. de Valence had rented. Mme. de Genlis 
— extricated from her troubles by the sale of the Chevaliers du 

1 De Lescure, Rivarol et la Societe franfaise, p. 253. 


Cygne (which the publisher Fauche had just bought for 300 
gold Fredericks, or 6600 francs), paid her son-in-law for her 
board and lodging. Here she was within reach of her friends 
at Hamburg, and she went back there from time to time, 
although, since the first days of her arrival there, her enemies 
in the city had given her the worst of reputations. They 
declared that they had seen Mme. de Genlis, disguised as a 
groom, in the company of Count Potocki. They announced 
that she was starting for Switzerland to marry Necker. Such 
were the absurd stories in circulation ! In a wretched paper 
that appeared at Hamburg under the name of the Spectateur 
de Paris, she was described as the " ex-Comtess Flahault- 
Genlis," in ignorance of the fact that, as she notes in the 
Memoirs, these were the names of two different persons, who 
had no kind of connection or relation with each other. This 
gossip penetrated even to German social circles. Notwith- 
standing the fame of Klopstock's visit to the famous Coun- 
tess, certain Hamburgers of note showed anything but a 
friendly feeling towards her. Such, for example, were Frau 
Doktor Reimarus and Herr Piter Poel. Mme. Reimarus 
wrote to a friend, soon after the publication of the Chevaliers 
du Cygne, " You have no doubt seen the new novel by 
Mme. de Genlis, and noticed her disregard of all decency and 
honour. And this worthy lady talks only of modesty and 
virtue. She plays the devotee" (an allusion to the pious 
habits of Mme. de Genlis, who, it seems, had been seen even in 
Protestant churches), " and yet she is certainly worthless. 
But she is splendidly clever." As for M. Piter Poel, he de- 
scribed the "thorough-going malice" of the Comtesse and her 
son-in-law, of which he said he had had proof. 

On the other hand, Dampmartin considered himself 
" happy and complimented " in having been allowed to visit 

And Talleyrand, who had returned from America and 
just landed at Cuxhaven (July 1795), and meant to stay in 
Hamburg long enough to find out what was going on there, 
eagerly hastened to visit Mme. de Genlis, with whom he had 
never ceased to keep up a correspondence. Mme. Flahault, 
then at Altona, and much occupied with her coming marriage 


with " that good M. de Souza," was quite mistaken in her 
fears that the old friend would avail himself of rights that had 
been in desuetude since 1792. 

He had quite different things in his head. He could 
present himself without disturbing the admirably regulated 
plans, to which it would be a mistake to suppose he was in 
any way opposed. He went straight to the intelligent ally, 
whose well-tried energy would be of more use to him than 
the retrospective recollections of Mme. de Flahault. " I 
found Mme. de Genlis," he says, " just the same as I had 
known her at Sillery, at Bellechasse, and in England. The 
steadiness of such self -composed characters is a part of their 
adaptability." x 

One may penetrate at one's leisure the significance of 
these words of the ironical diplomatist. 

We must keep in mind the obscure agitations of the 
moment, — the rise of the Directory, the intrigues of the 
so-called Constitutionalists, the proceedings of the Royalists, 
and, finally, the disturbances in Ireland, of which some believe 
they can trace a reaction upon France. Considering all 
this, we cannot be surprised that Mme. de Genlis tried to give 
some support to movements so well calculated to bring the 
intriguing ex-bishop again to the front, — and promote her own 
interests at the same time. It is certain that she was not 
altogether a stranger to the insurrectionary movement in 
Ireland, with which Talleyrand was mixed up more or less 

Since the month of May 1793, negotiations had been in 
progress between the United Irishmen and the French 
Government. In accordance with the patriotic feeling of 
the nation the Directory had, in principle, decided to support 
Ireland in its revolt against England, the old enemy of 
France, and had declared itself ready to send troops to 
assist an enterprise for the establishment of the Republican 
form of government in Ireland. Lord Edward Fitzgerald 
and Arthur O'Connor, sent as delegates by their compatriots 
to arrange the details of a Franco-Irish convention, began by 
opening up communications with Reinhard, the French 
1 Talleyrand, Mimoires, i. 248. 


Minister at Hamburg, and this was how Lord Edward came 
to that city with Pamela. Naturally, O'Connor too v 
visitor of Mine, de Genlis. and it has been stated that Talley- 
rand, during hi> Hamburg, had several interviews 
with her. M. de Valence. Fitzgerald, and O'Connor. 

:er this the two Irish gentlemen set out for Switzer- 
land. They were to meet Hoche at Basel, and then go to 
Paris to negotiate with the Directory, which felt some mis- 
trust of an insurrection to be organised by the husband of a 
supposed daughter of the late Duke of Orleans. Pamela 
stayed behind with Mme. de Genlis. and Talleyrand started 
for Berlin on a secret mission, in which his latest biographer 
refuses to believe. 1 but which, according to other historians, 
had for its object to inform Barras of the situation in 

Meanwhile, Reinhard, by his position at Hamburg, " the 
headquarters of the malcontents of England and Ireland," 
was better placed than anyone else for keeping the Directory 
well informed. And it seems that there was some kind of 
connection between the proceedings of Talleyrand and those 
of Mme. de Genlis, of whom John Murray — full of ill-will as 
usual, but with good information — does not hesitate to 
write that u She was the intermediary between Republican 
France and disloyal Ireland."' - 

On the other hand, an unpublished document, certainly 
of English origin, accuses Mme. de Genlis, " the Revolutionary 
pedant," of having drawn her son-in-law, M. de Valence, into 
the Irish insurrectionary movement, after having ruined 
him., and goes so far as to say : i; After the ruin of M. de 
Valence, Mme. de Genlis was the only one that had pity 01 
his misfortunes, and she gave him a few louis to enable that 
gentleman to pass over to England and equip himself with a 
view to fighting as a comrade of the Irish." These, however, 
are statements which there is not the least reason to take 
seriously, and they are only another proof of the animosity 
which the enemies of our Countess could not help showing 
towards her. 

1 Bernard de Lacombe, Vie privee de Talleyrand. 
1 John Murray, The Female Revolutionary Plutarch. 


Following Talleyrand's example, she tried to make her- 
self useful to the Directory. This would be the safest 
method of preparing the way for her return to France, that 
happy return to which one can easity imagine that she must 
have looked forward as to the entry into the Promised 

So we need not look for any other explanation of her 
conduct, or for any other reasons for the famous open letter 
to the Duke of Orleans, published by Mme. de Genlis in 
March 1796, and known as the " Letter from Silk," 1 and 
which echoed like a cannon-shot in Paris, where, on the least 
pretext, and without any pretext, there was talk of the 
Orleanist faction. 

In this epistle, and in a tone of maternal dignity that 
well became a teacher abandoned by her august pupil, the 
Governess begins by a long dissertation on the mystery with 
which young Louis-Philippe surrounds his proceedings, and 
on his desire to keep Mme. de Genlis in ignorance of the 
place of his residence, forbidding even his correspondents 
to reveal it. Then she goes on to dissuade the youthful 
head of the House of Orleans from claiming the throne, and 
even defies him to do so. " You," she says, " a candidate 
for the crown ! You, to be a usurper, to abolish a Republic 
which you have recognised, which you have loved, and for 
which you have fought valiantly ! And at what a time ! 
When France has been reorganised and a Government 
established, which appears to be based on solid foundations 
of morality and justice ! " 

" The throne," Mme. de Genlis declares, "if it is ever 
to be re-established — legitimately belongs to the brother of 
Louis xvi. And besides, you could not give peace to France, 
and except courage and probity you have none of those 
needful virtues that go to the making of a king." 

Reading this pronouncement in the Letter, one asks one- 
self if its author really believed seriously that Louis-Philippe 
was unfit to occupy a throne ; and to admit the sincerity of 
the " Letter from Silk," one must remember with what 

1 It was at first printed and circulated separately from the Precis de ma 
conduite, to which it was added after the appearance of the latter in July 1796. 


singular persistence she defended the same opinion even in 

It was a strange thing that in France she was thought to 
be a dangerous woman and capable of exciting a conspiracy. 

And the more Mme. de Genlis turned her coat — so to say 
— the more she proclaimed her quarrel with Monseigneur, the 
more she seemed to renounce her former hopes, the more 
people were inclined to suspect the Duke of Orleans and his 
instructress. The men of the Directory did not realise that 
she was, above all, anxious to prove that she had no part in 
the acts of her pupil from the day when, as she says, " On his 
taking up friends who have never been mine, an end was 
put to a correspondence, the sole value of which was its 
mutual confidence." l They were hallucinated by the spectre 
of the Orleanist faction, and one finds echoes of this state of 
mind in the newspapers of the time, amongst others in the 
Censeur and the Eclair. The Journal de Paris alone ven- 
tures to judge the letter to be " in conformity with the prin- 
ciples of the Due de Chartres " and to call the Orleanist 
faction a chimera. 

No doubt the conduct of Mme. de Genlis seems self- 
contradictory, if we remember certain principles set forth 
and upheld in 1790 in the Discours sur V education du Dauphin 
et sur V adoption. But one must not forget that circumstances 
were no longer the same, and that the interest of the moment 
— the basis of all practical politics — imposed this attitude on 

In her pressing need of getting rid of the awful clog of 
being counted as a Jacobin emigree, which hampered her 
continually at Hamburg, anything that could hasten her re- 
call to France seemed to her to be justifiable. This was why 
she published the " Letter from Silk," and sent it straight- 
way to the Minister of Justice at Paris, on 14th July 179G 
(25 Messidor, Year IV), adding to it a regular dossier — letter, 
petition, memorial, protests, and finally the manuscript of 
a pamphlet soon to be published under the title of Precis de 
ma conduile depuis la Revolution (" A summary of my conduct 
since the Revolution "). 

1 Precis de ma Conduite, 217. 


There is nothing out of the way in the petition, unless it 
be that Mme. de Genlis brings forward as a claim to the 
goodwill of the Directory that for three years she has had no 
correspondence with her daughter, Mme. de Valence. There 
runs through it the usual tone of petitions, with the obli- 
gatory formula of respect and admiration for the Government 
and esteem for the Minister. 

The letter to the Duke of Orleans and the Precis have for 
introduction a kind of preface, in which Mme. de Genlis 
seeks to clear herself of all charges of complicity with 
Dumouriez. 1 

But the Memorial is more interesting. It is presented as 
" a frank confession without any reserve." For those who 
like to draw parallels it suggests more than one instructive 
comparison. In this manifestation of herself the Countess, 
no doubt, tones down a good many things. Like the bat of 
the fable she excells in saying — and with full sincerity — 

" Je suis oiseau, voyez mes ailes, 
Je suis souris, vivent les rats." 2 

We may judge of how she pleaded her case by the follow- 
ing passage : — 

" I hold some opinions that may be unpleasing. Here 
they all are — 

"1. I have sincerely regretted all that has been done 
against religion, and this on account of my feelings, my 

1 " The fresh calumnies with which an attempt is made to blacken me 
in the Gaette Nationale, have decided me to have printed separately and 
immediately the letter addressed to the Due de Chartres. If you will deign 
to read this letter, you will see if I took any part in the intrigues that they 
denounce. Assuredly this letter cannot leave the shadow of a doubt on the 
matter, but this is unnecessary in the country in which I have resided for the 
last two years. Here every one knows that I have lived in the most profound 
retirement, that MM. Dumouriez and De Montjoye are my bitterest enemies, 
as also are the small number of partisans they have in this country ; that 
M. de Chartres broke with me three years ago ; that I have never sought 
to meet M. Dumouriez and his associates, and I may add that I do not even 
know the name of the place where he lives. . . ." (Memoire et Reclamations 
de la Citoyenne Genlis, ". Archives Nationales " F 7 6521, No. 1291.) 
2 " I am a bird — see my wings, 

I am a mouse — 'long live the rats." 


persuasions, and because I hold that without religion a nation 
can have neither morals nor manners. 

"2. I have regarded the deaths of Louis xvi., of his wife, 
and of his sister as cruelties that were not only useless but 
also impolitic. 

"3. I would have wished that the monarchy had been 
preserved, because people had sworn to maintain it, and 
because this form of government is milder and less turbulent 
than the Republican, and I prefer peace to all else, but at the 
same time I do not belong and I have never for an instant 
belonged to the party which is called Constitutionalist, for from 
the moment that the French Republic was proclaimed I 
have desired from the depth of my soul that it should be 
maintained ; this great step once taken, it seemed to me 
that the nation, for the honour of its character, should 
support it, and I think this all the more strongly since the 
war ; / have always persistently said, written, and repeated 
that the French nation, after all that it has done, would be the 
last people in the world if it resumed royalty. 

" This is the real state of my mind, but I will add (and my 
word can be relied on), that if my rights are restored to me, 
no French citizeness will show or entertain a more sincere 
attachment than mine for the actual government. ..." 

The Minister — it was Merlin de Douai, once a guest at 
the table of the Palais Royal and the companion of Laclos — 
received, every day, documents like this. As soon as he 
got them, he sent them off to the central police office, and 
thought no more about them. The Brulard-Genlis dossier 
shared the common lot. Merlin wrote at the top of its first 
page — " Referred to the Minister of Police (for his personal 
information) 25 Messidor, Year IV," and signed the note. 
And the clever prose of Mme. de Genlis was buried in the 
portfolios of the police records, until, not long after, it was 
claimed again by its author. As we have seen, the publica- 
tion of the Precis de ma conduite followed in four months 
that of the letter to the Duke of Orleans. Mme. de Genlis, in 
this pamphlet, while deploring " the excesses that tarnished 
the triumph of the people, " dwells mainly on her attachment 


to the Revolution ; and on the joy with which she saw the 
new Constitution " destroy horrible abuses and despotism " ; 
but she earnestly repudiated the allegation that she had had 
any relations with the Revolutionists whose names had now 
become compromising. 

Thus she makes out that she never met Laclos ; that she 
never in her life spoke to Lameth or Sieyes ; that she hardly 
saw Brissot, and that only with reference to matters that had 
nothing to do with politics ; that she refused to receive 
Mirabeau ; and that she called Barrere " a wretch and a 
scoundrel." The most she ventures to admit is her sincere 
esteem for Petion, and that she had been sometimes at the 
National Assembly, twice at the Jacobin Club, and once only 
at the Cordeliers. Finally, she protests that, living shut up 
at Bellechasse — like the wise man in his tower of ivory — and 
occupied solely with literary work, she never mixed in public 
affairs, politics, and matters of ambition. 

One can see that Mine, de Genlis would have made a 
splendid special pleader at the bar ! 

Meanwhile the Duke of Orleans had heard of the open 
letter his former " Governor " had addressed to him, as well 
as of the Precis. He read it at the beginning of August 
1796, and thought it right to make a public reply to it, in a 
pamphlet of his own (now no longer to be found), with the 
title of Quelques observations sur la dernier e brochure de 
Madame de Genlis, and signed L.-P. d' Orleans. 1 

This was not a direct reply to Madame de Genlis, for 
whom he no longer felt any affection, nor was it a political 
move. It was simply a correction of the errors, voluntary 
or involuntary, that he had noted in the Precis. 

Louis Philippe informed his mother of this, and though 
the Observations are lost, the letter at least has reached us — 

" For a long time," he writes to the Duchess of Orleans, 
" I have had no relations with Mine, de Genlis ; she has 
lately had printed at Hamburg a letter addressed to me, 
accompanied by a summary (a very incorrect one) of her 
conduct during the Revolution, in which she does not 
respect even the memory of my unfortunate father. I 

1 Hamburg, 17th August 1796. 


certainly have no idea of replying to the letter she has 
written me ; but I think it my duty to set forth in their 
integrity some of the facts that she has misrepresented. I 
shall have this little piece of writing printed at Hamburg, 
and I will take care that a copy is addressed to the Minister 
of Police in the hope that he will be so good as to forward it 
to you." 

The young Prince's pamphlet, which revived latent 
feelings of hatred for her, made a stay at Silk or Hamburg 
still more disagreeable for Mine, de Genlis. She made pre- 
parations for going away. Besides, there was no longer 
anything to keep her there. Fitzgerald was negotiating 
with Barras at Paris, and Pamela was living with her friend 
Henriette de Sercey, Avhom Mme. de Genlis had meanwhile 
married to a rich Hamburger, the banker Matthiessen. " I 
don't know how she took to him," says Neuilly. 

Johann Conrad Matthiessen, hunchbacked, very ugly and 
already of mature age — he was forty-six — but head of the 
important firm of Matthiessen and Sillem, one of the foremost 
in the city, attracted by the elegant and subtle charms of 
the salon of Mme. de Genlis, had offered his hand, and a 
fortune of the first class, to the delightful Henriette. 

Mme. de Genlis, after subjecting the banker's suit to the 
test of time, accepted him for her niece. She was only 
too happy thus solidly to secure her future. The wedding 
was celebrated at the family mansion of the Matthiessens in 
the Grosse Reichenstrasse, on 19th May 1796. The bride- 
groom being of the Reformed religion, the marriage was 
simultaneously blessed by Pastor Willerding of St. Peter's, 
and by Father Hovestadt of the Catholic Chapel, now the 
Kaiserlichen Herrn Ministers' Capelle. 

Then the newly married couple set up housekeeping 
in brilliant style in a new house on the Speersort, and their 
receptions were soon the talk of all Hamburg. 

The young wife threw herself into the whirl of life and 
devoted herself to fashionable amusements. Matthiessen, 
who was kindness itself, played beside her the part of a 
husband who was open handed but counted for little. He 
only half-understood the fine points of literary conversation, 


and he left his wife to the dozen of admiring cavaliers, bright - 
witted young fellows who did not hesitate to pay court to her, 
and in the first rank of whom glittered the son of the oreat 
Swiss banker, Baron de Finguerlin, the " model of dandyism." 
Henriette was to make a marriage with him that was famous, 
after five years of conjugal bitterness had tired out the 
kindly patience of Matthiessen and made a rupture in- 

The stout burgher deserved a better fate. Under an 
unpleasing exterior he really hid treasures of good feelincr 
and generosity. 

Had he not, when he married, offered hospitality to 
Mme. de Genlis ? 

Out of a sense of dignity, the love of independence, and the 
fear perhaps of exposing the newly wedded pair to the attacks 
of the emigres, she refused. For a long time she had been 
thinking of going away to seek a new refuge, and she felt 
attracted towards Prussian territory. Berlin then enjoyed — 
quite undeservedly — a reputation for giving agenerous welcome 
to the French emigres, though these soon found little it was 
worth despite misleading appearances. But its hypocritical 
selfishness was only found out by actual experience of it, 
and Mme. de Genlis, after so many adventures, was not 
likely to be influenced by mere omens or the anxious fears 
of a weak woman, so she set out in careless good spirits, 
counting on her celebrity as a writer x to provide her with a 
living in Prussia as well as at Hamburg. 

Besides, she knew in advance where to put up. There 
was just then, in Berlin, an old maid who was the directress 
of a girls' boarding-school. She was a wild admirer of the 
French Revolution, and, by her own account, of the works 
of the Comtesse de Genlis. She gladly received emigree 
ladies of " patriotic " opinions. It was Mile. Bocquet. 

At her place one was best treated at the outset. If new 
arrivals were received with violent enthusiasm, it soon 
declined as their bill lengthened. At the end of a short 
time Mademoiselle showed that she had an unbearable 

1 The. Precis de ma conduite had been sold for 10 louts, and various 
minor writings for 30 louis. 

J 9 


temper, and one had to leave her house after a thousand 
annoyances of the domestic order. Mme. de Genlis had to 
learn this at her own expense. For the moment she met 
with nothing but demonstrations of friendship on the part 
of her hostess, at whose house moreover she met fellow- 
countrywomen, French ladies. Sieyes, too, is said to have 
been a visitor at the Pension Bocquet, which is surprising 
enough, for at this time he should have been at the National 
Assembly, for he was not appointed Ambassador to Berlin 
until July 1798. 

And meanwhile, according to Mme. de Genlis, people were 
accusing her of reviving the zeal for the Republic among 
the French refugees in Berlin, and they tried to make out 
that she had gone to Prussia in order to be again in com- 
munication with the " patriot " element, that was so largely 
represented in its capital. 

Did she think that she would thus get into touch with 
the French Government and obtain her recall ? Had she 
made the mistake of supposing that Talleyrand, who she 
knew had lately been at Berlin, was preparing the way for 
her ? On this point a beginner in politics might have been 
misled by simple want of knowledge, but not our experienced 
Countess. Even if she did not know that as soon as he reached 
Paris the ex-Bishop of Autun forgot the little circle at 
Hamburg, she must have guessed it. Talleyrand, in fact, 
was at this moment on the look out for a ministerial portfolio, 
and was cultivating with remarkable assiduity the influential 
salons and the women who were leaders of the current fashion 
— Mme. de Stael, whose intellectual gifts influenced the 
two Assemblies, and through them public affairs ; Mme. de 
Beauharnais ; Mme. Tallien ; and besides, that last refuge 
of the polished grace of the ancien regime, the hotel Mont- 
esson, where the name of Mme. de Genlis was not precisely 

In fact, she had hardly anything but enemies, either 
in Berlin or in Paris. It was not much use her protesting 
that she had never seen Sieyes — no one would believe her ; 
and indeed it seems very surprising that in the days of 
Bellechasse she had never had occasion to meet the Abbe- 


deputy, whose relations with the Orleanists were well known. 
And it is certain she had seen him, at least at the National 

Well, at Berlin it was asserted that one day, by the most 
unlucky of chances, he was recognised going into the Pension 
Bocquet. Surely he must have been paying a visit to Mme. 
de Genlis ! " No," she said. " Yes, certainly," thought 
the Royalist emigres, who were in high favour with King 
Frederick William. 

This was enough. Someone, " a lady," says Mme. de 
Genlis, without further identifying her, took it upon herself 
to send at once to the King of Prussia a memorial, in which 
the Countess was described as " having largely contributed 
to bring about the Revolution, and as being capable of 
disturbing Brandenburg and Prussia." The writer of 
the memorial was the more insistent upon the incon- 
venience of Mme. de Genlis's presence at Berlin because 
Frederick William, himself an excellent musician, knew 
by repute that Mme. de Genlis was famous for her talent 
with the harp, and had, it seems, expressed a wish to hear 

In the eyes of the maliciously disposed emigres, the harp 
suddenly appeared to be a formidable instrument of intrigue. 
They feared its seductive powers, and would not rest until 
the royal ears had been made safe against these melodious 

One fine day, as twelve o'clock was striking, Mme. 
de Genlis received the visit of a police official, and 
heard that she was ordered to leave Berlin within two 

Frederick William had a tendency to cruel jests. " I 
shall never exile Mme. de Genlis from my library," he had 
said, " but I shall not tolerate her in my dominions." Already 
many a subject of Prussia, who had suddenly fallen under 
suspicion, had been sent in this summary fashion to the 
fortress of Landau, whence it was not easy to get away. 
The King even carried his incivility to the point of expelling 
people at their own expense. Mme. de Genlis, who still 
had 80 louts but no carriage, had hurriedly to borrow one 


from an obliging neighbour, " a kind of little caleche, entirely 
open, and seated for four." 

Mile. Bocquet and her nephew, full of the gloomiest 
apprehensions, got into it with her and the police officer, 
and they drove off at a gallop between two lines of the 
Berlin crowd, that had gathered in the street. It was some 
consolation that the police official did not know one word 
of French, so the prisoner could exchange her impressions 
with her friends. These, after the first stage of the journey, 
knew what they had to expect ; they had turned their 
backs on the direction of Bavaria, and were not travelling 
towards that terrible Landau. Mine, de Genlis was being 
simply taken back to the frontier. As it happened, the 
frontier town that was nearest was Rathenow, on the borders 
of Saxony. The Memoirs of Mme. de Genlis inform us that 
the night was passed in travelling, and they arrived at the 
frontier early next morning. Now, the distance between 
Berlin and Rathenow is 80 kilometres (50 miles), and it is 
probable that this little town was chosen as the place to 
which the expelled Frenchwoman was to be taken. 

The journey was extremely uncomfortable. It was 
not unlike the flight from Mons, although in this case it was 
the beginning not the end of winter, but all the way, through 
the chilly night, it was cold and rainy. In the open carriage 
it was impossible to hold up an umbrella, on account of the 
low branches of the trees that overhung the narrow roads, 
and poor Genlis, chilled to the bone and shivering with 
cold, became so unwell that the rough Prussian policeman, 
touched by her sufferings, took it upon himself to derogate 
from strict discipline, and, despite the royal order that he 
was to stop nowhere on the way, allowed a short halt to be 
made at a woodcutter's hut. 

When at last the frontier was reached, he required of her 
a signed engagement that she would not again set foot in 

Mme. de Genlis showed with what courage she could face 
adversity by the plucky, and thoroughly French, way in 
which she obeyed the order. As if she were jesting in a Paris 
salon, instead of passing through a Prussian country town 


as a proscribed exile, she wrote on the paper presented to 
her by the official, 

" Malgre mon gout pour les voyages, 
Je promets, avec grand plaisir, 
D'eviter et meme de fuir 
Ce royaume dont les usages 
N'invitent pas a revenir," * 

and signed this witty improvisation. 

Then, finding herself on the road to Hamburg, she reached, 
after more or less trouble on the way, the home of the 
Matthiessens, which she had left hardly two months ago. 
But to avoid being an expense to them, she took lodgings 
with a widow, of whom we know little beyond the fact that 
she excelled in running up a bill. 

1 " Notwithstanding my taste for travel, I promise, with great pleasure, 
to avoid and even to flee from this kingdom, the customs of which do 
not tempt one to return." 



After the Berlin adventure Mine, de Genlis continued the 
chequered existence that she had known for nearly six years. 
Its changes might have suggested the illusions of romance, if 
she had not felt at each step the deep sadness that comes 
with uncertainty as to the morrow. 

She naturally stayed only a very short time at Hamburg, 
where living was much too dear for her resources. 

As soon as Mile. Bocquet's niece, Jenny, an orphan 
sixteen years of age, had brought her the clothes, the harp, 
the music, the papers and boxes she had left at Berlin, she 
was busy with preparing for another journey. 

Pamela and her husband had embraced her before em- 
barking for Dublin. Fitzgerald, who had succeeded in 
convincing the Directory and was assured that a French 
fleet was fitting out at Brest and getting ready to deliver 
Ireland, was going, for his part in the affair, to enrol and 
train volunteers for his brave " Legion of Kildare." 

With a view to this he had secretly provided arms and 
munitions of war, which were piled up in the storerooms of 
the Matthiessens, and thus transformed the peaceful home 
of the banker into a regular arsenal. 

M. de Valence was also thinking of going away. He had 
become almost a suspicious personality in Hamburg, now a 
centre of agitation, torn by contradictory opinions of op- 
posing parties, amongst whom the agents of Louis xviii. — 
who were numerous, powerful, and well informed — kept a 
close watch on the Constitutionalists. 

It was at this moment that a young German Countess, 



Mme. de Wedercop, an enthusiast for Mme. de Genlis, as 
young folk at twenty often were, was proud to offer the 
celebrated French novelist a lordly hospitality in her chateau 
of Dollrott in Holstein. It was a providential interposition, 
and she lost no time in availing herself of it. M. de Valence 
escorted his mother-in-law to Dollrott. He did not remain 
there long, and after this we lose sight of him. But his 
disappearance from Hamburg must have given some support 
to the fable of his having gone to Ireland at the instigation 
of Mme. de Genlis. And the Hamburgers, and notably Herr 
Piter Poel, were thoroughly convinced that she and Pamela 
had infected Fitzgerald with their Revolutionary doctrines, 
and inspired the young Irish nobleman with the idea of 
bringing about the insurrection. 

Mme. de Genlis enjoyed five weeks of rest at the chateau 
of Dollrott, in company with Jenny, whom she had taken 
as her secretary. She had suffered from the shock at Berlin, 
but in this calm retreat her mind regained the elasticity it 
needed for the production of fresh literary work. And the 
delights of this peaceful existence were so beneficial to our 
Countess that she wished to prolong them by settling in 
the country. But with her imagination inspired by the 
ideas of Rousseau she wanted a cottage — preferably a 
thatched cottage, or some little house of a sufficiently poetical 
aspect to deserve that charming name. 

Mme. de Wedercop found it for her. It was really a 
lonely farmhouse, in a flat stretch of country, not too far 
from the chateau, at a place called Brevel — but the house 
had a thatched roof. The farmers — honest countryfolk — 
were " like characters in an Eclogue," with " a noble Greek 
air about them," and the farmer's brother realised in the eyes 
of Mme. de Genlis " the idea one forms of an Apollo." 

But the reality was something very different from these 
pleasant Virgilian dreams. 

The ex-Comtesse de Genlis, a poor refugee, without 
wealth or property, had only her pen with which to earn a 
living for herself and her secretary. A hundred livres, the 
price of an unfinished novel, Les Vceux temeraires, which 
had been interrupted by her expulsion from Berlin, and sold 


to the Matthiessens for half the cash down, was the whole of 
her fortune. 

So the life she led at Brevel was not one of bucolic 
repose, but as busy as that of a Benedictine. 

All the day, and for even part of the night, she was at 
work. In the morning she was writing a novel, Les Petits 
Emigres, and in the evening Les Vceux temeraires. She was 
busy during her walks composing the fables for her Herbier 
Moral, which she afterwards dictated from memory to Jenny, 
who was also occupied in making fair copies of her manu- 

She took a little recreation with music and painting. 
And she read ! She devoured the whole of the Encyclo- 
pedic, with the exception only of the articles on astronomy 
and mathematics. This formidable toil lasted eighteen 

It was hardly interrupted by two or three flying visits to 
Sleswig, where the Court of Hesse resided. There were only 
five leagues between Brevel and Sleswig, the little Court 
to which Mme. de Wedercop had introduced her friend, 
and the Prince of Hesse had shown himself extremely gracious 
towards Mme. de Genlis. He invited her to his table, put 
his fine library freely at her disposal, lent her portfolios 
from his herbarium, allowed her to copy his pictures of 
flowers, and finally lavished on her courtesies and friendly 
gifts — baskets of oranges and table delicacies, that came as 
miraculously opportune supplies in the desert of Brevel. 

These were like brief clearings in the darkened sky of 
this chequered life. Then once more ill fortune swooped 
down upon her. The poor woman was overwhelmed by 
bad news, added to the daily round of overwork. 

First came the failure of the French fleet, defeated by 
a storm — dispersed without even a fight — at Bantry Bay 
in December 1796. Fitzgerald was denounced, hunted 
down, hidden no one knew where ; the Royalists had got 
wind of the depot of arms at the house of the Matthiessens, 
Thauvenay had informed the British Minister of it, and he 
had obtained its seizure ; after which the Marquis du Crest 
found himself compelled to escape from Hamburg and the 


reprisals of the emigres, and to go to Copenhagen to exploit 
his talents as an inventor there ; and finally, the Wedercops 
were ruined and their property sold up. 

The health of Mme. de Genlis could not stand all these 
blows. She became extremely agitated by nervous troubles. 
Her feverish imagination, always working at high pressure, 
began to take foolish turns and even to wander a little. 
As in those early days when she indulged in childish dreams 
at St. Aubin, and piled romance on romance, her head was 
filled with fancies. She took to talking out aloud when 
she was quite alone. She imagined she had Pamela with 
her, or her daughter, or Mile, d' Orleans. She would carry 
on conversations with them ; and in this state of nervous 
over-excitement she was wandering away into an imaginary 

Soon medical aid had to be called in. She had to go 
to Sleswig, to be taken care of in that city, and she had 
hardly arrived there when a serious attack of fever kept 
her for a month in danger of death. 

She had none of her own relatives with her. Henriette 
did not come — she was busy flirting with M. de Finguerlin — 
and Pamela was in Dublin, where she had become " the 
heroine of an even more moving romance than the Veillees 
du Chateau," x for she was watching over the safety of her 
husband. After hiding all day in a cellar, he would come to 
her disguised as a woman in the night. She was helping 
him once more to organise a rising, for which he had asked 
the help of Talleyrand, now Minister of Foreign Affairs. 
M. de Valence was trying to get back to France. So Mme. 
de Genlis, abandoned in a noisy inn at Sleswig, was fortunate 
in finding in her secretary, Jenny, the most devoted of nurses. 

In a lucid interval between two crises of the fever she 
considered her case hopeless, and in her terror began to 
think of her conscience. 

But in Holstein, an almost entirely Protestant country, 
few Catholic priests were to be found ; and though there was 
a Catholic chapel at Sleswig, the priest in charge of it could 
not speak any language that was familiar to the sick woman. 

1 G. Lenotre, Pamela. 


Jenny, in her agony of anxiety, made hasty inquiries, and 
providentially found out that therewas an aged French ecclesi- 
astic, formerly chaplain to the Due de Deux-Ponts, living 
in retirement in the neighbourhood, about four leagues 
from the city. She sent word to him. He came quickly, 
administered the last Sacraments to his compatriot, and 
remained a whole day with her, giving her the consolations 
of his ministry. Mme. de Genlis tells in her Memoirs how 
after the departure of the priest a more severe crisis than 
the rest seemed about to carry her off, and how poor Jenny, 
in desperation, suddenly threw herself on her knees, invok- 
ing Him in whose hands are all human lives, and promising 
to become a Catholic if the sick woman recovered her health. 

God granted the miracle. " It seemed," says Mme. de 
Genlis, "as if she had saved me and given me life again." 
And indeed during all this long time of trial the conduct of 
Jenny was worthy of all praise. 

Two months later, Henriette at last came to see her 
aunt, then convalescent, and took her back to Hamburg. 
But, as before, she declined the hospitality kindly offered 
by Matthiessen, and went again to lodge with the widow, 
while she petitioned the new King of Prussia, Frederick 
William in., who was more accessible than his father, to 
authorise her to reside again in Berlin. His Prussian Ma- 
jesty gladly granted the request, and in less than a fort- 
night Mme. de Genlis set off at once. 

In this second and final residence of the ex-Governess at 
Berlin, as in all the last phase of her trying career abroad, 
one sees a marked decline of her force of character. De- 
pressed by such long and painful wanderings hither and 
thither, deprived of all influence, she had now to drag on 
through days of toil and misery. She had to live a life of 
privations and arduous work — the life of a galley-slave. 

Productions of the most various kinds flowed from her 
pen : a book of piety, Les Heures a V usage des jeunes per- 
sonnes ; the fables of her Herbier Moral ; a Manuel du 
Voyageur containing dialogues for the use of French people 
in Germany or Germans in France, with " the expressions 
most used in travelling and in the various circumstances of 


life " ; x then some bizarre novels — Ida, ou le J upon vert ; 
Le Maillot ; and that impossible romance of the Meres rivales, 
full of the fictions of an extravagantly romantic mind and 
an uncontrolled imagination. 

But with all this varied output she could not even make 
a living. The Petits Emigres, published at Berlin as soon 
as she arrived there, although the book was a success, did not 
give her enough to pay for her board. And when she began 
to let the weekly bills fall into arrear (though they were so 
moderate that, according to her own account, Mademoiselle 
supplied some of the expenses herself), the hostess suddenly 
became ill-humoured and subjected her to endless unpleasant- 
ness. She took Jenny away from her, on the pretext that 
her niece's religion was in danger with Mme. de Genlis ; she 
removed furniture from her room, told the servants not to 
obey her orders, and, in a word, in various ways gave her to 
understand that she was not in the least honoured by having 
to give hospitality to the French Countess merely in the name 
of art. 

In bad health, and forced to live on a strange diet of 
boiled carrots, she emptied her purse to enable Jenny to go 
away to her sisters at Magdeburg, and then waited patiently 
for the day when, having received some money from her 
publisher, she was able to pay her bill, and remove to a modest 
lodging which a friend of hers, the blind Mile. Itzig, provided 
for her near the Royal Gun Factory at the Silesian gate. 

This Mile. Itzig was a Jewess, with a pathetic story. She 
had lost her sight as the result of an unsuccessful operation 
for cataract, and she felt always warm sympathy and deep 
gratitude towards Mme. de Genlis, who with a charming 
ingenuity had taught her to play on the harp. In her lodging 
beside the Gun Factory she became closely attached to the 
lively Frenchwoman, who opened out such a delightful 
range of intellectual pleasures to her when her life seemed 
all sadness and darkness at only twenty-eight years of age. 
A real affection soon united them together. They were 

1 Mme. de Genlis, remembering the tragic time of her illness in the midst 
of difficulties in a foreign country, ended the manual with a dialogue on the 
way to make one's last will. 


hardly ever apart, and often had with them a sister-in-law 
of Mile. Bocquet, who, being more or less at variance with the 
latter, remained faithful to Mme. de Genlis ; and together 
they used to take pleasant carriage drives to Potsdam, or 
through the neighbouring country, where, thanks to the 
touching patriotism of the refugees of the time of the Edict 
of Nantes, several of the villages bear French names. 

Notwithstanding all this, Mme. de Genlis sometimes felt 
lonely. Mile. Itzig could not replace her dear Jenny. A 
young lady companion who disappeared after a few days, 
leaving proof of her dishonesty, made her lose heart com- 
pletely. Tied to her toilsome literary work, and absorbed for 
whole days in her manuscripts, she longed more strongly 
than ever to see her young people, whose loving attentions 
would recreate and console her. She had so long enjoyed 
the happiness of resting her eyes on the pretty faces of 
children, reading their innocent little souls and their young 
minds in all their freshness, and correcting their defects as 
they showed themselves. 

By nature motherly and delighted to act as a teacher 
and protector, she could not do without children to bring up. 
" To be entirely without them, seemed to me," she says, " the 
greatest of all privations." Her old ideas on the subject of 
adoption came back to her — haunted her. Why not try to 
realise them ? 

When botanising in the woods, she had sometimes met a 
very pretty little girl whose parents were poor people. 

They had a large family, and they were well pleased to 
yield to the caprice of the foreign lady, and send her the child 
every day. They even seemed to enter into her curious 

But at the psychological moment they refused to separate 
themselves from the little girl unless they were paid 60 
gold Fredericks (1320 francs). Mme. de Genlis was far from 
possessing such a sum ; and she had to give up the little 
girl, for whom she had been so imprudent as to buy an outfit, 
which she kept neatly packed in a pretty trunk. As much out 
of disappointment as for the sake of economy, she made one 
more removal, took two poor rooms in Berlin itself, and 


about the end of the autumn of 1799 completed in hot haste 
the Meres Rivales, sold in advance at the rate of a hundred 
francs the sheet to the publisher Delagarde, who had made a 
payment on account. But this work exhausted her to such a 
degree that she says she could not for a long time even think 
of writing. And her purse continually had an empty sound, 
and she was terribly badly dressed ; for the small payments 
made to her in advance had been with remarkable imprudence 
disposed of in the purchase of the little outfit, and of a re- 
peating watch. 

As she was installing herself in her new lodgings there 
came news from Pamela, telling of the awful ending of the 
Irish insurrection. Lord Edward, with a price set on his 
head (a thousand pounds sterling), had been betrayed, dis- 
covered, wounded, condemned to death, and at last found 
on 4th June lying in his prison cell already stiff and cold. 
The unfortunate man had poisoned himself. Was it Pamela 
who, as rumour went, had provided him with the poison ? 

But in any case, contrary to certain statements, she was 
not that day within reach of her husband, having left Dublin 
ten days before for Kildare Castle, where she brought her 
third child into the world. It was said that Lord Edward 
regarded the separation as inevitable, and was not surprised 
at the absence of his wife. 

Besides, a brother and a devoted aunt had done their 
best to lighten his solitude. After his death, Pamela, driven 
into exile, took to flight, wandered hither and thither, and at 
last reached Hamburg in a wretched state and asked for 
shelter with Henriette. 

It was then that Mme. de Genlis received the news. 
Notwithstanding her difficult position, she offered to receive 
Pamela. But the hospitality of the Matthiessens and the 
society of Hamburg together presented advantages more 
desirable than the humble and precarious way of living of 
Mme. de Genlis at Berlin. So her offer was declined without 
hesitation by her adopted daughter. 

Presently the mother was exerting herself to get lessons 
to give in houses that might welcome her talents. 

It was in her search for pupils that Mme. de Genlis found 


a way into the most brilliant society of Berlin, those in- 
tellectual circles where her fame was an introduction. Now 
those who were the acknowledged leaders, with a marked 
superiority, in the patronage of literature and learning 
were the rich Israelites. The Jewish salons, extremely 
elegant and wealthy, and crowded with guests, were the 
resort of all the cultivated minds and the celebrated men 
of the capital — poets, writers, artists, men of science, and 
Prussian and foreign diplomatists. The aristocracy, and 
especially the younger part of it, " brought up in the ideas 
of the French Encyclopaedist?, and philosophising like them," 1 
assiduously frequented these salons, preaching by this ex- 
ample the abolition of caste. 

The receptions at the houses of the bankers Meyer, 
Ephraim, Cohen derived a special distinction from the 
brilliant crowds of highly educated young women. The 
salon of Henriette Herz and that of Rachel Levin, the future 
wife of Varnhagen, were extremely in request, and, on account 
of those who frequented them, obtained a high literary 

During twenty years, from 1795 to 1815, these salons 
were made brilliant and glorious by the presence of such 
guests as Goethe and Schiller, the Prince Louis Ferdinand of 
Prussia and his sister the Princess Radziwill, Augustus 
William Schlegel and his brother Frederick, who married 
Dorothea Mendelssohn, the two Humboldts, Kotzebue, 
Jean Paul, the poet-historian Arndt, so zealous against 
Napoleon, Johann von Miiller, Schleiermacher, Gentz, the 
Duchess of Courland and her daughter Mme. de Dino, and 
Iffland, the Talma of Prussia. The Baroness von Grott- 
huiss and Mme. von Rybenberg, daughters of Mme. Cohen, 
and the Itzigs had also their elegant circles, and the 
salon of the Duchess of Courland vied with those of the rich 
Jewesses in that union of literary and artistic grace which made 
one forget the distinctions of rank and social grades. 

Mme. de Genlis had access to this society probably through 
Mile. Itzig. It so happened that her first pupils were 
Mme. Cohen and Mme. Herz. She did not wish to take more 

1 K. Hillebrand, La societi de Berlin de iySg a iSij. 


than four, so as to keep some time for writing. The two 
others were a Mme. Bernard and a young Privy Councillor of 
twenty-one, Lombard, a brother of the famous intriguing 
secretary who was a favourite of Frederick William n. 
Mme. de Genlis, for the enormous fee of a ducat (ten francs) a 
lesson, taught them to read French in verse and prose, to 
declaim poetry, and to write letters. 

Touched by the poverty of their professor, her pupils 
before long offered to arrange a public course of lectures on 
literature for her. 

" They were ready to lend me a very fine hall, which 
would have cost me nothing," say the Memoirs. " I would 
have had an infinite number of subscribers, and would have 
made a lot of money. But my repugnance thus to put my- 
self forward in public was insuperable. I preferred to give 
lessons in my room." 

The taste for lectures, which is such a feature of the in- 
tellectual education of to-day, had not come into existence 
at the beginning of the last century. 

People were then less superficial, less in a hurry than they 
are now. They did not profess to be able in a few hours to 
extract the quintessence of a life, or of a great work, or to 
make a sweeping survey of them with a mere glance of the 
eyes. Those who were interested in men's lives and works 
considered that months, and sometimes years, might be 
given to their study. 

The part of a lecturer seemed therefore hardly becoming 
for the ex-Governess. She refused it under influence of a 
strong feeling of dignity, and not from the fear of under- 
taking a too absorbing task, which was the reason why, 
about the same time, she declined to give lessons on the 
harp ; and refused another attractive offer made by a Berlin 
shopkeeper, a dealer in feminine knick-knacks, who offered her 
four thousand francs a year if she would work for him and 
direct his workwomen. 

People may be surprised that while Mme. de Genlis con- 
sidered lecturing an anomaly, an extravagant self-exhibition, 
she was always happy to play a part in a comedy. 

But in the eighteenth century acting was always an 


amusement, while a lecture or a conference was a form of 

Now the Cohens had a theatre in their house, and a rage 
for producing comedies of high life. Must not this have 
suggested to the Countess a charming opportunity of re- 
viving the delightful old times of the Palais Royal ? De- 
spite her fifty-four years, the taste for dramatic amuse- 
ments, that she had doubtless never lost, awoke again in her. 
The theatre had the magic power of bringing back again 
for awhile the charming and sprightly Genlis of other 

She began by composing for the Cohens some short 
plays turning on proverbs. Then she prepared for their 
little stage her Galatee, written as a sequel to the Pygmalion 
of Rousseau, and which in fact was played in their theatre 
with this piece by Jean Jacques. At her suggestion the 
denouement of the latter was altered, and this in a very happy 

Thus the Berlin people who were invited could compare at 
their ease the art of Mme. de Genlis and that of the philo- 
sopher. At the same time, they appreciated her talent as 
an actress, for she took a part, and her success was such that 
she ventured to take in the Mariage secret the part Mile. 
Contat had played, and was received by the audience with 
transports of enthusiasm. Iffland lavished praise upon her, 
and said she was the best actress he had ever seen ; and the 
Princes of the Royal Family, without showing any resent- 
ment for her having previously refused to be presented to 
them, 1 obtained invitations for themselves, and were delighted. 
" I had never been seen," say the Memoirs, " except very 
carelessly dressed. People did not recognise me at that 
distance, and wearing rouge and jewellery. Many strangers 
who had seen me only there thought I could not yet be 

1 Mme. de Genlis avoided the Court and distinguished strangers at 
Berlin out of a feeling of self-respect which did her honour. " I always 
thought," she says, " that when one has come down in the matter of fortune, 
one can only preserve one's dignity by avoiding to make oneself prominent, 
making advances to no one, accepting only those of friendship, and living 
in profound solitude." 


And indeed had she not gone back some forty years ! 
And, as if to complete the illusion, here was young Lombard, 
her fellow-actor and her pupil, setting himself to rehearse 
the scenes not included in the text of the play that once 
caused the exile of young Pinot. 

Only he was not discreet by nature, and his passion soon 
rose to such a pitch that he became abominably tiresome. 
The suitor pestered her with love-letters full of blunders 
in French, and his Dulcinea regularly sent them back to him 
scored with corrections of his style, which made him furious 
. . . but next day he began again. 

Mme. de Genlis shows some satisfaction in detailing to 
us the ravages that her belated charms made in the heart of 
the foolish young Councillor. She gives a sarcastic account 
of how, when, a little later, she spoke to him of her coming 
departure from Berlin, he thought it was a coquettish pre- 
tence, and seriously made a proposal of marriage to her ; 
how after that the unhappy man, quickly disillusioned, 
fell into a fit of melancholy that ended in jaundice. But 
strange to say, Lombard, as soon as he recovered, knowing 
his lady was at Paris, set off on a journey thither to see her 
again, and no doubt to cure his passion. 

It so happened that in the course of 1799 Mme. de Genlis 
began to hope she would see her native land once more, 
for Beurnonville had arrived, having been appointed Am- 
bassador at Berlin in reward for his zeal on the 18th Brumaire. 
Introduced at once into Berlin society, he met his com- 
patriot at Mme. Cohen's. Perhaps he had already made her 
acquaintance at the camp of Dumouriez, when the latter, 
at the same time as he arrested the three commissioners of the 
Convention, handed the General over to the Austrians at her 

But, far from keeping up any ill-will in connection with 
his recollections of Mme. de Genlis, he must have reflected 
that this arrest had without doubt been the means of saving 
his life. And he generously interested himself in the fortunes 
of the poor woman. 

Until then it had been all in vain that she had written 
letters, requests, and petitions, and engaged a lawyer to 


represent her and take the necessary steps on her behalf. 
She had obtained nothing. 

There exist in the National Archives traces of her efforts 
in this direction. Already on the 13th Messidor, Year V 
(2nd July 1797), we find a certain Citizen Chaix, " in the 
name of the Citizeness Brulart, whose power of attorney he 
holds," asking the Minister of Police for documents "estab- 
lishing the non- emigration of the said Citizeness." x 

Honest Chaix, meeting with a refusal even to consider 
his petition, and anxious loyally to earn his fees, requests 
an official reply from the Minister — " even if it is in the 
negative." It is given to him on the 29th Thermidor, by 
Citizen Chevrieres, archivist of the former Committee of 
Public Safety, who, suggesting a quest from office to office, 
refers Citizen Chaix to " the Archives of the Central Bureau, 
formerly the Mairie, and the Archives of the Directory, if 
any exist dating from that period." 2 

Since then Mme. de Genlis had been waiting for further 

But the intervention of Beurnonville, a man of the new 
time, standing well with Bonaparte, succeeded in a few 
days better than all possible requests and petitions, and the 
removal of the name of the ex-Countess from the lists of 
emigres was soon an accomplished fact. 3 

Mme. de Genlis was at last to leave her exile, and put an 
end to that painful life of an emigree which had been dragging 
on for nine years. Everywhere, except among her irrecon- 
cilable enemies, her intellectual and amiable character had 
attracted friends to her. At Berlin, above all, where she had 
met with so much sympathy, Mme. de Genlis personified 
French wit, grace, and manners. It seemed as if they could 

1 The documents Mme. de Genlis asked for, to prove she was not an 
Emigree, were : ist, her passport for the journey to England, issued 
to her in October 1791 ; 2nd, the resolution passed by the Municipality 
of Paris, October 8, 1792, in virtue of which her passport for the journey to 
Tournay was given to her ; 3rd, the warrant of arrest of the Committee of 
Public Safety (A.N.F. 7 6521). 

2 Cf. A.N.F.' 6521. 

3 The removal of the name of Mme. de Genlis from the lists of hnigrks 
is mentioned by the Publiciste of the 2nd Messidor (June 21, 1800). Cf. 
Aulard, Paris sous le consulat, i. 


not do without her there, and that her charming sallies of 
wit, her comedies so full of good taste, her erudition, her 
critical judgments, were a refining and guiding influence in 
that society which was so zealous for polite letters and the 
cultured life. She brought to it the manners of the courtly 
world, the real world of Paris, which had always been its 

Amongst the Cohens there was the deepest grief on 
account of the bonds of friendship that united them to their 
French visitor. They were at their wits' end to find some 
way of keeping her in Berlin. Mme. Cohen, in the hope of 
tempting her, one day offered her, it appears, her magnifi- 
cent jewel-case, all her diamonds, if she would consent to 

Mme. de Genlis was assuredly touched by this proof of 
affection. But nothing in the world could have kept her 

According to her custom, she started at dawn one morning 
in July 1800, in order to avoid the pain of leave-takings. 
She was accompanied by a young boy, of whom it is now time 
to say something. 

The family name of the child was Boecker. Mme. de 
Genlis had christened him Casimir, but later on he produced 
as his names — Frederick Henry Louis Charles. 

Casimir Boecker was, after Pamela, — and even more than 
Pamela, — the darling, the spoiled pupil, the favourite child 
of the ex-Governor. 

Rigid disciplinarian as she had been for her own daughters 
and for the children of the House of Orleans, she passed over 
everything where he was concerned, and attempted the im- 
possible in order to refuse him nothing. 

So much weakness with regard to a very commonplace 
boy could not fail to excite curiosity. It was for a short 
time supposed that she was not the mother by adoption, 
but the actual mother, of Casimir. According to the Comtesse 
de Neuilly, he was the son of a tailor. 

Later on Victor Hugo informed Louis-Philippe that 
the father of Casimir was the porter at the lodgings of Mme. 
de Genlis. But after all, it seems, we may take her word 


for it when she tells us that he was the son of her landlady, 
and, in the absence of all official documents relating to his 
birth, there is nothing to justify us in a contrary opinion. 
It was a moment when the motherly feelings of Mme. de 
Genlis made it painful for her to have no object on which 
to lavish her affection. After the unfortunate adventure of 
the little girl whom the parents refused to give up, her ardent 
and imperious longing to have children beside her made her 
discover a treasure in the first she could find. 

The person who let her last lodgings at Berlin to her had 
two boys, of whom the elder was eight years of age. Mme. de 
Genlis endowed this child with all imaginable good qualities 
— to her mind he had a pretty face, a noble bearing, a su- 
perior intelligence, musical taste, an extraordinary memory 
— in a word, marvellous gifts. 

She became infatuated with the child with all her heart 
and mind. 

" I asked," she says, " for this child from his mother, 
declaring to her that I would bring him up in the Catholic 
religion. She consented without any hesitation, and even 
seemed charmed to give him to me. I took him with me, 
and named him Casimir, after the boy of my own that I had 

From that moment Mme. de Genlis never ceased to 
look upon Casimir with delighted eyes. He always seemed 
to her an angel, an incomparable jewel, an exceptional 
being. She lived in this illusion till her death. It was 
the greatest, the supreme weakness of her old heart. 

On leaving Berlin, Mme. de Genlis, instead of going 
directly to France, went to Hamburg to see Henriette, 
Matthiessen, and Pamela. She found the last of these on 
the best of terms with the American Consul at Hamburg, 
Mr. Pitcairn, whom she was to marry soon after. The 
affair was already the talk of the city. When Mme. de 
Genlis arrived there at the end of July 1800, local scandal 
was enlarging freely on the mysterious birth of Pamela, 
whom all Hamburg regarded as the daughter of Mme. de 
Genlis. The Hamburger Correspondant had already revealed 
this as the explanation of the secret in 1792, and Herr Piter 


Poel speaks of Pamela as " die reizende Tochter der Genlis " 
(the charming daughter of Mme. de Genlis). 

There was so much of this that Mme. de Genlis arranged 
a scene that was solemn and dramatic enough, after which 
she thought no doubt should remain on this subject. Here 
is how her daughter, the Duchesse de Neuilly, relates it : — 

" Madame de Genlis, after having gone through the for- 
mality of confessing and communicating at the Spanish chapel, 
assembled all her friends, relations, and acquaintances at 
Madame Matthiessen's. There she told them that after the 
religious action she had just performed, she owed it to herself 
to render homage to the truth by declaring that Pamela 
was not a daughter of hers and of the Duke of Orleans, but 
the daughter of a poor washerwoman, from whom she had 
bought her for a round sum of money. Pamela fainted on 
hearing this fine declaration, and her lover, the American 
Consul, was near doing so too. But after many tears and 
romantic scenes they dried each other's eyes, and Dame 
Genlis set off for Paris, with another adopted child, a tailor's 
son, to whom she had given the name of Casimir." 

It would seem that after that the last word had been 
said on the disputed origin of Pamela. Madame thought it 
ought to be so regarded by all sincere Catholics. 

Why, alas ! are we still waiting for the definite proof, 
the tangible document that will finally solve the enigma 
of the origin of Pamela, which ever remains obscure for 
that great sceptic we call History ? 

Mme. de Genlis considered she had given this proof, 
and after having made again a parting visit to her Hamburg- 
friends, notably Klopstock, who honoured her by coming 
a second time to see her, she journeyed on with a light 
heart towards her native land. 

Henriette and Pamela accompanied her on the Elbe as 
far as the little town of Harburg, where seven years before, 
during her wanderings in search of a hidden retreat, she wrote 
one night, in the miserable room of an inn where she did not 
venture to go to bed, her Epitre a Vasile quejaurai. 

At Antwerp her son-in-law, M. de la Woestine, came to 
meet her. She found at Brussels her nephew, Cesar du 


Crest, who, having returned to Paris, was there during the 
troubles of Fructidor, and escaped, thanks to the protection 
of M. de Pontecoulant. Finally, Mine, de Genlis saw once 
more at Brussels her daughter, Mme. de Valence, from 
whom she had been parted for nine long years, and who 
went back to Paris with her. 





The immense joy that Mme. de Genlis felt at returning to 
her native land, her deep emotion when she once more 
heard people speaking French and saw again the towers of 
Notre Dame, gradually gave way — alas, too soon ! — to 
sorrowful disappointment. 

In this Paris, which was all movement and excitement, — 
changed in many ways, but still wildly rejoicing in life and 
enjoyment, — she found no friends, no familiar faces — in a 
word, no one to bid her welcome, though emigres and nobles, 
or at least those of them who had been spared by the great 
storm, were hurrying back in crowds. They were coming 
home to have their names struck out of the lists of pro- 
scription, and to try to recover their confiscated property ; or 
else, impoverished and scattered as they were, they would 
try to build up again out of the wreck their social life. 

Amongst them, how many there were who had once been 
the familiar friends of the Genlis ! 

But those aristocrats, faithful to their traditions, did 
not forget. In their eyes Mme. de Genlis then was, had 
been, and would always be, a Jacobiness. They would not 
give up this idea, in their hostility to the principles which 
she has now half renounced, and they closed their eyes to 


her sincere piety, a little external it might seem, but in 
reality ardent and evidently inspired with an intention of 
expiation. Even in her own family she was thought of 
exclusively as the Egeria of Philippe-Egalite ; and the various 
branches of the Du Crests, living in the provinces, had long 
broken with her. The only one of her relatives of whom 
she could think during this trying new start in life was 
Mme. de Montesson. The two women had never cared very 
much for each other. In the times when the niece was in 
high favour and Governor of the Duke of Chartres, the aunt 
kept her antipathy silent 

But now the positions were reversed. With more clever- 
ness, the Marquise had compromised herself less than Mme. de 
Genlis, and, having providentially survived the storm, she 
had established herself again in splendid style in her mansion 
in the Chaussee d'Antin. There she displayed a princely 
luxury, and this was an easy matter for her, thanks to the 
double allowance of 160,000 francs granted to her by the 
First Consul as if she were a Princess of the Blood Royal. 
So, having ostentatiously sided with Bonaparte, she was in 
high favour. 

We may imagine with what eagerness Mme. de Genlis, 
hardly arrived in Paris, and temporarily lodged in furnished 
rooms in the Rue Papillon, almost next door to Mme. de 
Montesson, hurried to visit her aunt. 

She went there on the second day after her arrival. A 
chilling reception awaited her. 

When Mme. de Genlis entered the salon of the Marquise, 
whom she had not seen since 1789, it was thronged with 
visitors. The mistress of the house, honoured with the title 
of " Dowager of Orleans," which the First Consul had publicly 
given her, made the most of her success, and did not hesitate 
to tell her circle all about the friendship shown her by Mme. 
Bonaparte, and the dejeuners to which that lady came as a 
guest at the Hotel Montesson. Towards her niece, whom 
she had once flattered, but who was now poor and lonely, the 
aunt assumed a disdainful coldness. 

Strange to say, M. de Valence, who was back in France 
since 1799, and was installed at the chateau of Sillery, which 


had been bought back by Mme. de Montesson, but in reality 
spent much of his time at the great house in the Chaussee 
d'Antin — M. de Valence though present on the occasion of 
his mother-in-law's visit, did not intervene in her favour 
even to the slightest extent. And yet he was the chief ruler, 
the prime minister of the house, controlling with an absolute 
sway the heart and the possessions of the Marquise. 

And if it is true, as has been said, that Mme. de Genlis had 
helped him with her purse at Hamburg, either M. de Valence 
had a very short memory, or he was very ungrateful for the 
service rendered to him at a difficult time. It was enough 
to wound a woman of even less delicate feelings and less 
sensitive self-esteem than Mme. de Genlis ; she suffered the 
more keenly from all these changes of sentiment towards her, 
and her visit was " brief and silent." " M. de Valence," she 
says, " went to the door with me. I told him, as I took my 
departure, that I was much too old to allow myself to be 
treated m this way, and that I would not come there again. 
He made a very strange kind of excuse for Mme. de Mon- 
tesson. He said to me that she would be better another 
time ; that she was in a fit of bad temper at seeing that I 
had not aged in any way ; that it was a little outburst of 
feminine ill-humour that one ought to forgive her." And 
he ended with a word as to financial matters, to which 
Mme. de Genlis would soon have to give attention. 

And besides this unexpected hostility — unexpected at 
least as regards its bitterness — there was the disconcerting 
aspect of Paris itself. 

The delightful Paris that Mme. de Genlis had known and 
whose refined atmosphere she had breathed, was dead, killed 
by the Revolution. The houses had suffered as well as the 
people. The stately mansions of the past were gone. The 
streets had lost their names. The house fronts and walls 
were covered with threatening inscriptions : " Liberty and 
fraternity or death ! " The shops were full of objects marked 
with armorial bearings that showed they had once been the 
property of nobles since guillotined. The carriages of these 
same people were now transformed into vehicles on the 
cab ranks. Their family portraits were publicly displayed 


for sale. Such was the legacy of Robespierre to the sur- 

All this made a painful impression on Mme. de Genlis. 

In three months she has hardly become used to recognise 
in the streets, under this Revolutionary caricature, the places 
she had once known. In her terror — her remorse, said some 
— it was a year before she ventured to cross the Place 
Louis xv. or pass in front of the Palais Royal. 

" Everything seemed new to me," say the Memoirs ; "I 
was like a stranger whom curiosity compels to stop at every 
step. I had some trouble to know where I was in the streets, 
of which nearly all the names were changed." 

Yesterday and to-day — the everlasting contrast impressed 
itself upon her mind and a hundred times a day increased 
her sense of discomfort. 

From the moral as well as from the physical point of 
view, Paris, at the dawn of the Consulate, differed strangely 
from Paris before the Revolution. One must read in her 
Memoirs the pages in which Mme. de Genlis describes for us 
the new manners of the city — pages so full of living interest 
and so well informed. 

The old aristocratic life had completely disappeared. The 
nobles who survived just managed to live, ruined as they 
were, without equipages and almost without servants, and 
crowded together either in the Faubourg St. Germain or the 
Faubourg St. Honore, which they hardly ever left for lack 
of a carriage. But in the Chaussee d'Antin and the Champs 
Elysees the parvenus triumphed in an ostentatious luxury. 
" Full of pride and self-sufficiency, they mistook want of 
politeness for dignity." The women, overdressed, vain, 
touchy, " kept count of visits and haggled for a courtesy. 
They were always anxiously on the watch, always worrying 
about the way in which they were treated without exactly 
knowing how they ought to be treated; with the result that 
they were continually irritated at imaginary want of regard 
for them and supposed impertinences." Stupid gossip had 
taken the place of the brilliant exchange of ideas of other 
days. There was not conversation now, only slander. 

There were no more witty circles — Mme. de Genlis assures 


us that she did not regret them — but the tone of talk 
had strangely depreciated, and was full of low forms of 

With what indignation does the author of Adele et Theo- 
dore, the lover of the easy, polished style and the wonderfully 
clear language of the eighteenth century, note the expressions 
in current use ! She considers these " new words " left by 
the Revolution like the filth and mud brought down by a 
river after a great flood. She remarks with horror that they 
said " voire demoiselle " — " your young lady " — instead of 
"Mademoiselle voire fille" ; and plain "Madame," when 
speaking to a husband of his wife ; a " castor " f or a " hat " ; 
a "superbe denture" — a "superb set of teeth" for "fine teeth" 
("belles dents") ; the "Capital" instead of Paris ; and phrases 
like " se donner des tons," " celd est farce," etc. ("to give one- 
self tones," " that is a farce "). Mme. de Genlis cannot 
express all her contempt for these undignified forms of speech. 
— What would she think of the polite Paris slang of to-day, 
with its expressions gleaned from sport and from the cafes 
of Montmartre ? — Finally, there is no longer any good society. 
People rinse their mouths at table. They treat women 
disrespectfully, and these take advantage of it to show 
themselves wanting in modesty and restraint. 

And vanity, carelessness, ostentation, dull solemnity, 
indecent dress, outrageously theatrical toilettes, have re- 
placed the polished grace of the ancien regime, somewhat 
hypocritical though it was, but with all its artificiality, 
delicate and orderly, elegant, lively, pleasing and refined. 

These stupid parvenus knew very well where the shoe 
pinched, and vied with each other in aping nobility, trying 
to produce some imitation of two or three aristocrats by birth 
who survived among them — Tal^rand, De Valence, De 
Narbonne, De Vaudreuil. " It must be admitted," says 
Mme. de Genlis, " that they made an apt choice of their 

But after all, unpleasant though these social changes 
might be, they were of less importance than the hard fact 
that there was not the least provision for the material needs 
of life. 


To obtain possession again of her property was the most 
pressing need of the Countess, and at first sight the matter 
seemed simple enough, for she was not an emigree. But 
what did this property amount to, and where was it ? 

According to Mme. de Genlis, her fortune would consist 
of a claim on the estate of Sillery, and the settlement assured 
to her by her contract of marriage ; and further, her share 
in the inheritance of her maternal grand-uncle, M. des 

In reality, according to official documents, she ought 
to be able to enter into possession of — 

(1) Her dowry of 40,000 francs, less 15,000 assigned as 
common property to her husband. 

(2) A personal claim of 6000 francs' worth of furniture or 
of cash according to her choice. 

(3) Her annual allowance under the settlement of 7000 

(4) Her part of the common property under the marriage 
contract, to be taken from the possessions of M. de Genlis. 
These had been confiscated and declared national property 
after his execution, and included lands in Picardy and the 
district of Agen, and the estate of Sillery, which he had 
inherited on the death of Marshal d'Estrees, with the furniture 
of the chateau. Now nearly all of this property had been 
publicly sold. 

At Sillery the sale of the immeubles (lands, buildings, etc.) 
had taken place on eleven days between the 13th Vendemiaire 
and the 24th Messidor, Year II ; the sale of furniture and 
effects (meubles) on fifteen days between the 29th Brumaire, 
Year II, and the 13th Fructidor, Year III. When all 
the accounts had been made up, a decree of the department 
of the Marne on the 26th Messidor, Year X, fixed the sum 
coming to the heirs of the " Brulart " family at 1,147,651 
livres, 15 sols, 2 denier s, a total reduced according to the 
tables of depreciation to an actual value of only 456,623 
livres, 3 sols. 1 

At Genlis the property had also been sold, but had been 
bought back by the Marquis de Noailles, the husband of 
1 Cf. Pechenart, Sillery et ses Seigneurs, 206. 


the granddaughter of Mme. de Drosmesnil, subject to the 
payment of Mme. de Genlis's annual allowance under the 

According to the Law of Prairal (9th June 1795), con- 
fiscated property that had not yet been sold was to be re- 
stored to the emigres ; and the same was to be done in the 
case of money paid into the Treasury and representing the 
result of sales of " movable and immovable property " made 
before the decree of the 30th Ventose. It was thus that 
the sum of 456,623 livres, 3 sols was due to the heirs of 

Now, Mme. de Genlis tells us that M. de Valence had 
drawn a considerable sum from the Directory. She asked 
him for an account of it. She resigned all family property 
to her children. As for the chateau of Sillery, it had been 
bought back by Mme. de Montesson for Valence. 1 

Now, the Marquis de Noailles, so far from keeping up the 
allowance to Mme. de Genlis, had freed himself from the 
obligation by giving formal notice to the Government and 
paying a fee of 2000 francs in assignats. 

She began a lawsuit against the Marquis, and, as was to 
be expected, lost it. 

As to the inheritance from uncle Des Alleurs, besides a 
sum of money of which Mme. de Genlis does not state the 
amount, it included an estate and chateau known as " Les 
Pannats," situated in the neighbourhood of Avallon, with 
the furniture and plate at the chateau. The estate was 
estimated to have the annual value of 5000 livres (francs). 

It must be remembered that M. des Alleurs was the 
brother of Mme. de la Haie, and that Mme. de Montesson 
was the daughter of the latter. She therefore obtained 
possession of her uncle's inheritance and detained the part 
of it coming to Mme. de Genlis. 

So we need not be astonished at the haughty reception 
given by the aunt who held the inheritance to the niece 
who claimed it. It was a way of giving her to understand 
that she had no rights to assert. The stupid compliment of 

1 It is probable that some bits of land that had not been sold were restored 
to Mme. de Genlis in virtue of a decree of the Year X. 


M. de Valence, as he escorted his mother-in-law to the door, 
disgusts one, when one remembers the selfish thoughts that 
it concealed. And knowing as we do that Valence con- 
trolled like a master all the business affairs of Mme. de 
Montesson, strange reflections are suggested by his parting 
advice, given to Mme. de Genlis as she went downstairs, 
or was about to do so : " Don't trouble yourself about your 
business matters. I shall take charge of them. Besides, you 
understand nothing about such things." And if he " took 
charge " of the negotiations between the two women, it was 
decidedly not to the advantage of Mme. de Genlis. 

The wealthy Marquise " did not blush at " offering her 
niece a single payment of 10,000 francs as the price of her 
renunciation of all her rights to the inheritance. 

" I had nothing," says Mme. de Genlis. " It was only 
with the greatest difficulty that I could provide for my 
living. So I had to accept. . . . And then, if they had even 
paid me that sum down, I would have been extricated from 
all my difficulties, because I would have had time to write 
a book and sell it on advantageous terms. . . . But I received 
these 10,000 francs only in small instalments and at no fixed 
times, and I was obliged to buy all the furniture for my 
rooms, all that was required for a little kitchen, table and 
house linen, and a small supply of plate," etc. 

Once more Mme. de Genlis returned to the hard school 
of poverty. She tried a new edition of the Meres rivales. 
By an act of unaccountable negligence on her part — for she 
was no novice in publishing matters — she was content with 
the verbal promise of the publisher, Henrichs, who bought 
her manuscript for 4000 francs, and according to the Memoirs 
did not pay her a farthing, although the novel was sold 
out in a fortnight. After all, she was rich only in 

In her distress she gladly accepted the offer of Maradan, 
who proposed to her that she should write for the Biblio- 
theque des Romans at a fixed salary of 1200 francs a 

But the first of her new stories did not appear until 1802. 
Till then she lived on reprints of her works — the Annates 


de la Vertu, a wretched compilation ; the Henres, which drew 
down on her the satire of M. J. Chenier ; the Petit La 
Bruyere, etc. 

Her mind was so tired that she could not produce an 
original work such as would revive public taste in her favour. 
And she bitterly regretted the loss of a parcel of manuscripts 
that she had entrusted to Mme. de la Valence on her de- 
parture from Tournay in 1792, and which the latter had 
prudently left in the care of John Hurford Stone. Mme. 
de Genlis set a value of 12,000 francs on these papers, and 
in her vexation at not being able to recover them accused 
Stone of having pretended that he had lost them. But later 
on Miss Williams cleared up the mystery. Anxious to refute 
the charge against the man she loved, and to whom, it seems, 
she was united by a secret marriage, she tells how Stone, 
being in danger and forced, in the midst of the Terror, to 
take flight to Switzerland, handed these precious papers, 
about sixty cahiers in all, to the mother of Miss Williams, and 
she sewed them up in the cushions of an old arm-chair. Then 
in the course of the year 1794 there was a threat that her 
rooms would be searched, and, as one can easily understand, 
she feared these papers would be discovered, and — an irre- 
parable loss ! — she burned them. 1 

During eighteen months Mme. de Genlis vegetated as 
well as she could. However, in the spring of 1801 we find 
her installed in rooms she had furnished in the Rue d'Enfer, 
opposite the gate of the old Chartreuse. But life in Paris 
was horribly expensive for her, and as by a providential 
chance she had an offer of a holiday in the country for the 
summer season — perhaps with Henriette, who had just 
married the Baron de Finguerlin and settled on her husband's 
estate at the chateau of Carlepont, near Noyon — she accepted 
without hesitation. 

On her return, she left the Rue d'Enfer for a little house 
in the Avenue de Paris at Versailles, and, once more held 
in the terrible grip of necessity, she wore herself out with 
work. Although she was unwell she wrote, wrote, in feverish 
haste and with admirable courage. The following verses 

1 Helen Maria Williams, Souvenirs de la Revolution Francaise, 69. 


that she dashed off with her pen at this time are unfortun- 
ately only too eloquently true — 

" Je ne travaille pas, mon ami, pour mon plaisir, 
Croyez-moi, ce n'est pas la gloire qui m'enivre ; 
Qui mieux que moi saurait jouir 
Des charmes d'un heureux loisir ? 
Mais je suis obligee de me tuer pour vivre." l 

And incredible as it may seem, living under these painful 
circumstances, and having only her pen with which to earn 
her bread, she found means to gather round her and support 
a regular family ! Besides Casimir, of whom she was so 
foolishly fond, she took up a child of fourteen, her god- 
daughter, Stephanie d'Alyon, whose father was a chemist, 
formerly attached to the Orleans Princes. Moreover, three 
months after her return to Paris, a young German Baroness, 
Helmina von Hastfer, wrote from Berlin asking for her 
hospitality and protection. This Helmina was a strange 
character, badly brought up and with her head turned by 
romance. She had poetry in her blood, 2 according to Mme. 
de Genlis. She had known the Baroness in Berlin at the 
house of her mother, Mme. von Klencke, and was invited to 
the young girl's wedding with the Baron von Hastfer. It 
looked as if they had been united under an evil star, and 
neither the youth of the bride of seventeen, nor the vase of 
flowering myrtle sent as a wedding present by the French 
Countess had the gift of bringing them good fortune. Two 
months after her marriage the young Baroness wrote to Mme. 
de Genlis asking for a refuge beside her, and deserted the 
home of which she had hardly taken possession. 

In May 1801 she arrived at the Rue d'Enfer. 

She was a spoiled child, capricious, violently self-willed. 

1 " I do not work, my friend, for pleasure ; believe me it is not glory that 
excites me ; who would be able to enjoy, better than me, the charms of a 
happy leisure ? But I am obliged to kill myself in order to live." 

2 According to Mme. de Genlis, the grandmother of Helmina, a shepherdess 
named Karschin, used to indulge in dreams in the fields and compose verses, 
while spinning and watching her sheep. One day she composed an ode to 
Frederick the Great. The King heard of it, brought the shepherdess to his 
Court, and, charmed with her, found her a home in Berlin and got her married. 
Her daughter married M. von Klencke. 


She united, it seems, " to the most lovable and gentle dis- 
position and much wit and talent, an ill-balanced mind, and 
conduct so extravagant that, even with the greatest in- 
dulgence, it was difficult to put up with the difficulties to 
which it led." 

Mme. de Genlis endured it for eighteen months. At 
the end of that time Mme. von Hastfer, thinking she could 
live by her own work — she copied music and was probably 
a poetess — went to board with the publisher Henrichs, at 
No. 12-31 Rue de la Loi. 

After 1803 she took refuge with Madame Recamier. 
But the " white rose " had soon to part with the eccentric 
German lady, for the same reasons as Mme. de Genlis. The 
latter remained for a long time attached to her ; she gave 
her warm recommendations on various occasions ; she even 
wrote to great people, whom she did not personally know, 
in order to obtain help for the eccentric Baroness. We do 
not know what became of her. 

To return to Mme. de Genlis — notwithstanding persistent 
hard work she could hardly make ends meet. The novelist 
Fievee, who was a witness of her painful struggle against 
poverty, advised her to ask the Consuls to grant her a lodging, 
and himself wrote to the First Consul to inform him of the 
pitiful position of the celebrated Countess. 

Mme. de Genlis believed that she had claims on the 
gratitude of Fievee, and made out that she had saved his 
life at a time when the novelist was in prison under suspicion 
of complicity in the conspiracies of 1800. On the testimony 
of Mme. de Genlis, who, though she really only knew him 
through two of his novels, pledged her word for him to 
Bonaparte, Fievee was liberated. 

He did not accept this version of the affair ; but all the 
same, after the 18th Brumaire he entered into correspondence 
with Napoleon, and Mme. de Remusat says he was able to do 
so, thanks to Mme. de Genlis. 

When the Journal de Debats became a source of trouble 
to Bonaparte, and the First Consul decided to appoint an 
editor of the paper who would be devoted to himself, he chose 
Fievee for the post. Roederer had perhaps some influence 



in this decision. Finally, whether out of gratitude or mere 
sympathy, Fievee interested Bonaparte, or the inner circle 
around Bonaparte, in Mme. de Genlis ; and on the 29th 
Ventose, Year X. (19th March 1802), Chaptal, the Minister 
of the Interior, wrote to the Librarian Ameilhon at the 
Arsenal : — 

" I beg to inform you, my dear colleague, that I have 
granted to Madame de Genlis the use of the rooms that you 
have just given up. I request that you will place them at 
her disposal as soon as possible. — I salute you, 

" Chaptal." 

Less difficult times were beginning for the poor woman. 
There can be no doubt that she owed this change for the 
better to Bonaparte. But knowing what humble sub- 
mission he required from those whom he favoured, and his 
Caesar-like authority, Mme. de Genlis was malevolently 
accused of having basely flattered the new ruler of France 
and repudiated the benefits she had received from the House 
of Orleans. Nevertheless, we know that she went no further 
than to testify to the First Consul her gratitude in a very 
proper way, by sending him the somewhat trifling gift of 
the Discours that she had published in 1790, and the 
Fro jet aVune Ecole Eur ale pour V Education des Filles, four 
pamphlets in all, which she had bound together in a little 

The prevailing ill will for her found another weapon 
against her, and even against her memory, in the fact that 
Napoleon, after becoming Emperor, further granted her a 
pension of 6000 francs, in return for which he imposed on 
Mme. de Genlis the duty of writing to him once a fortnight 
" on moral and literary questions." 

" Morals and literature ! Mere pretexts," it was said. 
" Much the Emperor cared, indeed, for such topics ! He to 
become a pupil of Mme. de Genlis ! A good joke that ! 
Rather, it was important for him to be informed as to the 
usages, the views, the character of the old noblesse, whom he 
wished so much to win over — a mysterious region to the 
knowledge of which he was such a stranger. Above all, was 


it not important for him to know the secrets of the Bour- 
bons ? " 

From this point of view there was only a step to making 
out that Mme. de Genlis was a police spy, an informer. 
And her enemies did not hesitate to take this step. Other 
secret correspondents of the Emperor, such as Fievee and M. 
de Montlosier, carefully concealed their employment, and 
in the same way Napoleon, who received these letters into 
his own hands under the address of Lavalette, read them 
himself, and burned them when he had done so. " Above 
all, he took care that the writings of those correspondents 
should not fall into the hands of his ministers." * So, 
after all, when later on it began to be publicly stated that 
Mme. de Genlis was keeping up a secret correspondence with 
Bonaparte, Lady Morgan tells us that this was " a respect- 
able name for a higher kind of espionage." 2 

This suspicion has survived among men of our own time, 
thanks to certain passages in the Memoirs of Madame de 
Remusat, 3 and a passage in which Talleyrand tells how on 
the evening of Austerlitz, having been told to open the 
imperial post-bag, he read to the victor the " report " of 
Mine, de Genlis, at the same time as the reports of the police. 4 

And the further fact that Napoleon never saw or gave 
audience to Mme. de Genlis, and that their relations were 
throughout confined to letter writing, seems to indicate the 
disdain of the master for his correspondent. 

But happily the true explanation is simple enough. It 

1 Cf. Baron Fain, Mi-moires, pp. 54-57. 

2 Lady Morgan, La France, t. ii., L. viii. p. 322. 

3 Madame de Remusat, Memoir es, t. ii. 402. 

4 " The report, which he took more notice of, was that of Mme. de Genlis. 
It was long, and written throughout with her own hand. She spoke in it of the 
feeling in Paris, and quoted some offensive remarks which, she said, were 
current in the houses then spoken of as the Faubourg St. Germain ; she named 
five or six families who, she added, would never rally to the government of 
the Emperor. The rather severe expressions which Mme. de Genlis reported 
excited Napoleon to a violent fit of anger such as one would hardly imagine ; 
he swore and stormed against the Faubourg St. Germain. ' Ah ! they think 
themselves stronger than me,' he said. Gentlemen of the Faubourg St. 
Germain, we shall see ! we shall see ! " And these exclamations were uttered, 
when ? — a few hours after a victory won over the Russians and the Austrians." 
(Talleyrand, op. cit., i. 199). 


was nothing more than that the precarious position of this 
celebrated woman touched the Emperor, and he granted her 
a pension. And " to spare her feelings," says Meneval, he 
asked for a letter from her once a fortnight. 

On the other hand, Barbey d'Aurevilly attributes to 
Napoleon the idea of having recompensed Mme. de Genlis 
" out of a fellow feeling for his brother princes, because 
she had educated the Princes of the House of Orleans." * 
For one or other of these motives the private correspondence 
of Mme. de Genlis with Napoleon was made an honourable 
pretext for her pension, something for her to do, so that 
it might not seem to be merely an alms. And this is corro- 
borated not only by the partial statement of Lady Morgan, 2 
but also by a very precise document lately re-discovered. It 
is a page of a note book, in the handwriting of Mme. de 
Genlis, with this heading : — 

" Subjects of Notes for the Emperor." 

And what subjects were they ? 

" On injustice in general. The thing it is most difficult 
to endure. 

" On Magnetism. 

" On the sorceresses of Paris — Mile. Normand. 

" On dreams, etc. 

" On the house of M. de Choiseul. 

" On the newspapers. {Keep this clear of politics.) 

" On the inns of Spain. 

" On the occult sciences." 3 

All this is a long way from Royalist politics. But does 
it mean that Mme. de Genlis kept strictly to this range of 
subjects ? 

Good heavens, no ! For we know from her own testimony 
that in her letters to the Emperor she confesses to him in 
fairly full detail what had been her relations with the Orleans 
family, and that these same letters contained ideas on the 

1 Barbey d'Aurevilly, Les CEuvyes ct les Hommes, t. xiv. 136. 

2 Lady Morgan, op. cit. 

s Cf. Henri Lapauze, Lettres de Madame de Genlis a Casimir Boecker. 


spirit of society and the brilliant life of the Court of old days. 
In this connection Mme. de Genlis must certainly have 
given Napoleon the benefit of her recollections, and described 
to him the manners of the old aristocracy. But we know 
also that she was continually taking advantage of these 
written reports to recommend to him a crowd of people. 
If we are to take her own word for it, a hundred individuals 
owed their positions to her. 

There was, for instance, Mme. de Lascours, of whom she 
had praised the capacity as a governess. There was Cardinal 
Maury, " who will be a very good archbishop — he would have 
been a very good ambassador." There was the poet Treneuil, 
vouched for as " a good Frenchman, an affectionate character, 
and a true poet." There w r as M. de Bonald, suggested 
by Mme. de Genlis as the official writer of the Imperial 
Annals. 1 

She even goes so far as to claim with some pride that she 
protected Chateaubriand himself against severe measures 
on Napoleon's part. Finally, the old musician Monsigny, 
so thoroughly French in his inspiration, obtained a pension, 
thanks to her, his former pupil. Mme. de Chastenay asserts 
that Monsigny' s pension was the only favour obtained 
by Mme. de Genlis, and " the solitary proof that Bonaparte 
read her letters." 2 

Even so this would be eulogy enough of the disinterested 
character of this woman against whom such an outcry was 
raised. Napoleon, who certainly read the requests of the 
Countess, thought her most unselfish and too credulous. 
The edifying lessons sent him by his " correspondent of the 
grand old times," as he playfully called her, gave him some 
recreation and keen pleasure. " It is not my fault," writes 
Mme. de Genlis, " if I did not succeed in making him devout." 
The Emperor had no such ideas. He smiled as he spoke 
of her, and said that she was the greatest enchantress in 

1 Oil this point Mme. de Genlis is certainly boasting. M. Frederic Masson, 
writiag in the Echo de Paris on the relations of Napoleon with M. de Bonald, 
says that it was really Fontanes who answered for the philosopher. ... In 
all this long story M. Masson does not once mention Mme. de Genlis. 

2 Memoires de Madame de Chastenay, i. 453. 


the world, and that her letters ought to secure her for all 
time to come the title of inimitable. 

All these indications should no doubt incline us to regard 
in a less suspicious light these letters of a moralising lady 
pedagogue, who had long ago bid farewell to political 



Now that she had been extricated from poverty, and granted 
rooms and a pension, the barometer of public opinion was 
rising in favour of Mine, de Genlis. 

It began with the much talked of success of her cele- 
brated novel, Mile, de Clermont — " the best thing she had 
done," says Ste. Beuve," whether regarded as a page of 
history or a page of romance," — this revived her literary 

Mme. de Montesson, always clever at seeing how the 
wind was blowing, suddenly remembered that her dear niece 
ought to come to her parties at Romainville, and her recep- 
tions at the Chaussee d'Antin ; sent her word that she 
ought not to neglect her ; and received her " with the most 
exaggerated show of affection." 

La Harpe, lately converted, also recollected her, and 
wrote to her. His letter, written as some sort of reply to 
that which Mine, de Genlis had sent him from Holstein 
four years before, excused his long delay as " an oddity of 
the Revolutionary kind." With the zeal of a neophyte he 
ended thus : " Happily founded only on the love of letters 
and the charm of your talents, our relations never had any 
thing in them that could bring regret or repentance to either 
of us, and you yourself knew how to protect me from the 
seductive attraction that charms of another kind might 
have made dangerous for me. I am pleased to render you 
this just tribute." 

Mme. de Genlis was quite willing to be reconciled with 
her aunt, but made friends with La Harpe only in a hall- 



hearted way. As she neglected to reply to his repentant 
letter, he returned to the charge, and was authorised to 
present himself to the former Queen of Bellechasse. They 
talked of old times, and of the conversion of the critic, and 
finally he invited Mme. de Genlis to the literary gatherings, 
at which once a week he brought his friends together to talk. 

She did not go to them. La Harpe was out of favour 
at Court, for he spoke too frankly of Napoleon, and his 
meetings of men of letters were looked upon as " mystic and 
political conventicles." 

She considered that a woman writer whose last book 
had, it appeared, drawn tears from the First Consul, would 
only compromise herself by frequenting the society of a 
fellow author who had fallen under suspicion, and besides 
was soon to be exiled. 

The publication of Madame de la Valliere in 1804 had, 
indeed, given proof of the great literary popularity of Mme. de 

When people heard that Napoleon had wept over it the 
general enthusiasm lauded the book to the skies, and four 
editions went off one after the other. But the author was 
none the richer for this. She had sold the book for three 
years for a hundred louis. But even though it brought no 
riches, its success was enough to enchant Mme. de Genlis. 
She took advantage of the flowing tide of fame to publish 
very soon after Madame de la Valliere her Madame de Main- 
tenon, which under the form of a historical chronicle described 
with charming art the life of the Court of Louis xiv., and 
introduced the parvenus of the Consulate to the glories, the 
manners, the conversation of the " Roi-Soleil," and let them 
know something of the grand seigneurs and the great ladies 
of the sixteenth century, and described for them nobility 
and rank, the air of the Court, its brilliant and polished life, 
all swept away by the Revolution, and now something that 
the new society, wealthy, ostentatious, eager for grandeur, 
desired to imitate, thinking that this was all it needed to 
have the tone of true aristocracy. Its success was such 
that the engravings illustrating the work and those of 
Madame de la Valliere, exhibited in the booksellers' windows, 


excited a popular enthusiasm that seemed to Fouche 
dangerous enough for him to forbid the pictures to be pub- 
licly shown, or sold apart from the books. Then in the 
Emperor's circle they began to pass unfriendly criticisms 
on the Countess de Genlis ; witness this letter of Roederer 
to his wife : — 

" Florence, 28th April 1806. 

" I have read Madame de Maintenon. It is a book 
written to prove of how little importance a mother may be 
and how great may be the importance of a governess. And 
then the wit of Madame de Genlis does not seem to me to 
add much charm to that of Madame de Maintenon. Finally, 
there are things repeated a hundred times, which ought not 
to have been said at all. The style is nearly always common- 
place and sometimes trivial. I do not dwell upon the pre- 
tentiousness and affectation of repeating unceasingly a word 
which neither in the times of Madame de Maintenon, nor 
in our own, has been in use in diplomatic language, namely, 
the word sovereign. They used to say then ' the prince,' 
1 the king,' ' the monarch.' 

" All the book can do is to confuse people's ideas of the 
reign of Louis xiv., while it throws some light on the views 
of this intriguer, whose pen has never been used except for 
her personal ends. I must ask you to pardon my speaking 
thus of your friend." x 

Madame de Lage is not more kindly. 

But on the other hand Mme. de Genlis obtained the 
friendly support of Fontanes. She had sent him a copy of 
her book, and received an extremely flattering reply from 
this eminent man of letters — 

" It has been said," he wrote, " that Fenelon was the 
foremost writer in the art of making virtue seem something 
lovable. It seems to me that you share this glory with him. 
Fenelon had enemies ; well, you must have yours also. The 
injustice, of which you appear to complain in your writings, 
is a thing that belongs to all times. I doubt if even in an age 
more worthy of you, Madame de Sevigne and Madame de la 

1 Roederer, CEuvres, ii. 67. 


Fayette would have pardoned your surpassing them. It is 
true that La Rochefoucault, La Fontaine, and La Bruyere 
would have been at your feet ; but where are such men 
nowadays ! " 

M. de Fontanes was, as every one knows, the personifica- 
tion of courtesy. 

The literary reputation of Mine, de Genlis shone, then, 
brilliantly in Paris, and flung its rays over the whole of 
France. She was further exalted by her sister novelists, 
and there were more than a hundred of them already in 
Paris. They were just then frightened at the romance of 
Delphine, and feared to see Mme. de Stael take up their 
branch of literature, — she who till now had kept strictly 
to the region of philosophy and literary criticism. They 
dreaded above all that she would reopen her salon ; she 
had just lost her father and was then travelling in Italy. 
So they vigorously opposed to her the celebrated lady of the 
Arsenal. 1 

In a word, all the polite world was proud to pay its com- 
pliments at the Arsenal. Only the nobles who had not yet 
rallied to the Empire stood apart, but there were the diplo- 
matists, the poets, foreign visitors of distinction, leaders of 
fashion, Imperialists of to-day, Royalists of to-morrow. 

When it chanced that circumstances made it difficult 
to come openly, some romantic stratagem would be brought 
into use. 

Thus young Mme. de Chevreuse, the daughter-in-law of 
the Duchess de Luynes, several times disguised herself as 
a flower girl in order to gain access to Mme. de Genlis, and 
the latter gave her the pleasure of allowing this charming 
amusement to go on for some time. 

In the autumn of 1804 Mme. de Chevreuse had " quite 
declared herself," and was in correspondence with the author 

1 Mme. de Maltzan wrote on 12th October 1808 to the Countess of Albany, 
— " We no longer talk of Madame de Stael : no doubt she is preparing to wake 
us up. . . . Madame de Genlis has now more successes than she has, but I think 
it is by giving us as recent work things she wrote in middle life." (Cf.Pelissier, 
Le Poftefeuille de la Comtesse d' Albany.) 


of Madame de la Valliere. Anatole de Montesquiou, though 
a relation of Mme. de Genlis, would have at all risks pre- 
sented himself in the guise of a black-bloused printer's 
messenger, bringing her her proof sheets, if Maradan would 
have allowed it. Tired of arguing the point, he had to have 
recourse to a regular introduction. And being now so much 
sought after, the Comtesse de Genlis again fixed a day for 
visitors, the Saturday. It was the last salon that she 

To tell the truth, it was in many ways very different 
from the elegant " blue salon " of the Palais Royal, or even 
the political gatherings at Bellechasse. If the mistress of 
the house kept up the ways of society before the Revolution 
in her talk, her attitude, her cultured ease that was at once 
noble and full of animation, there was nothing else to recall 
the air of the Court. 

The salon at the Arsenal was not a fashionable assembly 
of people who made and unmade reputations ; nor was it 
a circle of wits, whose sprightly sayings circulated all over 
Paris ; it was rather the study, the workroom, of a laborious 
student of the Muses, that was thrown open in the interval 
between the writing of two pages of history or romance, 
to admit a number of educated people who were sociable 
as well as learned, who had a liking for intellectual matters, 
and were more refined that the new made society of the 
day. They went seldom or never to the imperial receptions, 
but they had for their hobby art, poetry, literature of all 
kinds — French and foreign — and finally they were philoso- 
phers enough to be willing to come together without much 
comfort or luxury. 

For it must be said that to go to Mme. de Genlis's " At 
Homes " meant overcoming all kinds of discouraging cir- 

The Arsenal was out of the way and difficult of access. 
With its labyrinth of vaulted archways and gates, court- 
yards and stairs, it was like a fortress. 

Miss Edgeworth, who was passionately desirous of 
making the acquaintance of the author of the Rosiere de 
Salencij, which she had seen acted at Mme. Campan's, was 


very nearly lost, with her father and their carriage, in this 
tangle of vaulted passages, and in the courtyards where 
nobody knew anything about Mine, de Genlis. The merest 
chance made their coachman stop before a winding stair- 
case in bad repair, and lighted only with a candle-end in a 
wretched tin lantern hanging in the angle of the wall. " There 
was just enough light," she says, " to show us the bareness 
as well as the extreme dirt of the stairs. Only for this 
lamp, which could hardly be the only one alight in the build- 
ing, there was nothing to indicate that it was inhabited." 

At the second storey, where the " authoress " resided, 
there was the same air of abandonment. On the landing, 
which was barely lighted by a miserable taper, they saw 
" two large double doors, very dirty, one to the right, the 
other to the left, each one with a bell of the size of what 
one would find in the bar parlour of an English inn." But 
it was no good ringing and knocking, for no answer came. 
At last, as the result of questioning an ill-humoured porter, 
it was found that there was a third bell — and this the right 
one — lost in obscurity and therefore invisible. 

When it jingled, Stephanie Alyon, who attended to the 
door, " badly dressed but with her hair beautifully arranged," 
led the visitors, " with the grace of a young girl who has 
learned to dance," through two badly-furnished anterooms 
into the little salon where Mme. de Genlis was sitting. 

This room still exists. It had been the boudoir of the 
Duchesse de Maine before it was assigned to Mine, de 
Genlis, and it is now the private office of the librarian of the 
Bibliotheque de l'Arsenal. It is a room of moderate size, 
lighted by a large window, and its arrangement remains 
the same as in these old times. 

The pearly grey woodwork, in the rococo style of Louis 
Quinze, frames, with its carved mouldings over the three doors 
and the double-panelled glass of the mantelpiece, medallions 
in monochrome, representing mythological subjects in the 
pure style of the eighteenth century. Facing the window 
and flush with the wall, is a cupboard with double-folding 
doors fitted with silk screens. The fireplace, of noble pro- 
portions, sent out, in Mme. de Genlis's time, if there chanced 


to be a fire in it, a puff of smoke to meet the visitors as they 
opened the door. It appears that still from time to time it 
attests its antiquity by the same token. 

By the feeble light of a single lamp one made one's way 
to the arm-chair, which the mistress of the house occupied, 
usually near the fire. And while exchanging the first polite 
greetings, one was surprised at seeing all round a strange 
confusion, suggestive of a bric-a-brac shop. " There was 
no taste in the furnishing of the room," says Fievee, " no 
care for it, not even that effort at cleanliness which is to the 
end, and almost necessarily, a matter about which old ladies 
are particular. She had lived in palaces but she had not 
the least idea of how to keep in order, I won't say a mansion, 
but even the simplest household. One never saw anything 
like it." 1 

In fact, one ran up against a thousand things of the most 
varied kind, work-baskets, writing-desks, Chinese vases, 
bird cages. Chairs were missing or hidden under heaps 
of books and music, " all the apparatus of art and all the 
tools with which she busied herself." 

A green silk fire-screen, displaying a long stain of oil, and 
her beautiful harp, all bright with gilding, stood in front of 
her-writing table, represented by an old deal table, worm- 
eaten, worn out, and blotted with ink. This table of itself 
might suggest a poem. One day Frederic Barriere saw 
upon it, all at the same time, tooth brushes, a coil of hair, 
two open pots of jam, some eggshells, combs, a breakfast roll, 
a bottle of hair wash, the remains of some cafe-au-lait in a 
cracked cup, irons for goffering paper flowers, a candle end, 
an unfinished water-colour drawing of a garland, a little 
Brie cheese, two stout volumes, and two sheets of paper 
with verses scribbled on them. Finally, an ugly leaden 
ink-pot took the place of the magnificent inkstand the Queen 
of Spain had sent as a present to her, and which, like all 
the presents she received, the Countess had given away. 

To complete the description, the mirror over the mantel- 
piece was " a gathering place for dust and cobwebs that 
defied the broom ; for the broom, stretched on a slip of 

1 Fievee, Madame de Genlis. 


carpet, was so crippled, so battered out of joint, that it 
seemed past all work, like the bellows, another invalid, 
hanging in the chimney corner by a string that was worn and 
near the breaking point." x 

In the midst of this disorder, and herself in careless guise, 
Mine, de Genlis received her guests, as if she were still at the 
Palais Royal. She displayed as much grace and tact, and 
exerted herself without stint. Thanks to her practical 
knowledge of the world and her natural sociability, she 
saved the situation despite its unpleasant features. As 
soon as one sat down beside her, one forgot the painful 
impression of her lodging, and could only listen to her, reply 
to her, admire her, allow oneself to be carried away with 
wonder at the charm that made one its own. " One must, 
like me, have passed long years in her society fully to under- 
stand all the attraction she exercised," writes Brifaut, " all 
the magic resources of her mind, this Proteus of a thousand 
forms ; all the gifts of pleasing she derived from a well- 
stored and ready memory, an unwearying imagination, and 
a talent for observation that gave her at once the measure of 
the strong and the weak points of every one, the chief secret 
of her power." 2 He tells us further that Mme. de Genlis 
" possessed the special art of making one believe that she took 
an interest in one even when no such thing existed, of whisper- 
ing into one's ear words of praise that she had carefully 
weighed beforehand, but which seemed to come involuntarily 
from the heart, of charming one's self-esteem, arousing one's 
attention, and disposing one to feel a gratitude based on 
what ? On a friendly look, a polite smile, a formal grasp of 
the hand, slight and fragile proofs of an affection which 
one liked to think one had secured. As soon as she wished 
it, one was caught." 3 

In fact, Mme. de Genlis was still something of a coquette. 
And she had also kept the capricious humour of coquetry. 
All the cares and courtesy " lavished on her so freely that 
you felt sure that your credit was established with her for 
ever," was a dead letter as soon as you had repassed her 

1 Cf. Brifaut, QLuvres, t. i., p. 281, etc. 

2 Brifaut, op. cit., i. p. 280. 3 Ibid., p. 279. 



threshold. " You went away enchanted with yourself, and 
when you came back what did you find ? A woman who 
was cold, dull, bored ; the empire of her heart was for others." l 

Thirty years earlier these capricious changes of mood 
would have been regarded only as the whims of a pretty 
woman, and might have been praised by poets as such. But 
now, alas ! Madame de Genlis had no longer the roses of 
spring on her fresh cheeks, or the bright glances of youth. 

The terrible marks of misfortune and suffering had marred 
her countenance and brought some bitterness to her smile. 
Her cheeks were pale and hollow ; her lips, now almost thin 
lines, told of a mouth that once was pretty ; the skin was 
discoloured and dried up. But in her eyes, under the lessened 
shadow of her eyebrows, there still lingered a spark of gaiety, 
and her nose, of the beautiful Roxalana type, had not yet 
lost its shape. But her chin was becoming pointed, and 
two or three locks of hair that was turning grey escaped 
from under the lace cap on her high but now wrinkled fore- 

Miss Edgeworth notes that Mine, de Genlis, so anxious to 
please the masculine element, shows herself less amiable to 
her own sex. Her Irish visitor could discern behind her 
petulant vivacity, a background of bitterness, the nervous 
melancholy of a woman tormented by literary jealousy, and 
made irritable by ill fortune. But she was the fashion, 
and that was enough, so a very numerous circle frequented 
her salon at the Arsenal. There was the Comte de Choiseul- 
Gouffier and his wife the witty Princess de Beauffremont ; 
Victorine de Chastenay and her mother Mme. Kennens ; 
Mine, de Brady, the Baroness Dubrosseron ; Mme. de 
Vannoz, who was compared to, and often set up against, 
Delille ; Mme. de Bon, the translator of Sir Walter Scott's 
Lady of the Lake and any number of English novels ; Mme. 
Tallien ; Mme. Hainguerlot ; Mme. de Bellegarde ; Mme. 
Roger, the future Countess de Montholon ; Mme. Daubenton ; 
and Mme. Delarue, the niece of Beaumarchais. So much for 
the feminine side. We must add the names of the Countess 
of Albany and the Countess d'Harville, the only one of her 

1 Brifaut, op. cit., i. p. 281. 


former lady friends who revisited Mme. de Genlis after 
the Revolution. 

The men also belonged to that literary class which was 
trying to find once more the delights of intellectual life 
among the ruins of an overturned world. Naturally they 
were favourable to the new regime which had made a calm 
prevail after the cyclone of the Revolution. The poets 
especially came in numbers ; Brifaut, a future Academician, 
and a mediocre rhymster, but a man of the world, lavish in 
his offerings of incense to women, and by choice an oppor- 
tunist ; Desaugiers ; Millevoye, suffering from poor health, 
but crowned with laurels at twenty -five ; Charbonnieres, 
who believed and declared he was the nephew of the Abbe 
Delille, a little stupid, but always welcome to the mistress 
of the house on account of his incessant epigrams against 
Mme. de Stael ; and M. de Treneuil, another poet and the 
successor of Saugrain at the Arsenal — all were regular visitors. 
There, too, were Count Joseph d'Estourmel, then a young 
Auditor of the Cour des Comptes, an insatiable reader, and 
a habitue of the library of the Arsenal, where one could 
hear, in the storey overhead, Casimir's wonderful harp ; M. 
Laborie ; the vaudeville writer, Radet ; Cousen de St. Malo, 
Count de Courchamps, soon to be the author of the Souvenirs 
de la Marquise de Crequi ; the septuagenarian Descherny, 
still an admirable singer, " an enthusiastic disciple of Rous- 
seau, and an extreme philosophe ; M. Pieyre, formerly 
assistant tutor to the Orleans Princes ; the violent Royalist, 
Coriolis d'Espinouze ; the learned Count de Laborde, whom 
his hobbies had made famous, a consummate musician and 
an enthusiast for Casimir ; old Prince Kurakin, the Russian 
ambassador at Paris, whose ugliness was proverbial, and 
whose coat of cloth of gold covered with the insignia of all 
manner of orders, set in diamonds, made him a man of mark 
everywhere. Then there were D'Offremont, M. de la 
Tremblaye, Dussault, the editor of the Journal des Debats, 
M. de Sabran, the Count de Rochefort, young Anatole de 
Montesquiou, the Abbe Sabatier de Cabre, an old acquaint- 
ance of the Genlis, who was always intriguing, the Baron de 
Lascours and his wife. They formed a distinguished enough 


company which was reinforced from time to time by some 
foreign visitors. 

As was fitting, conversation was the main business at 
these gatherings, interrupted from time to time by the 
poets, who brought their works with them to give readings, 
or who recited verses in honour of the mistress of the house! 
Millevoye, Radet, Charbonnieres and some others even 
composed in her honour a garland of flowers of poetry in 
imitation of that which once helped to make Julie d'Angennes 

And it will be asked, was the drama forgotten at the 
Arsenal ? No it was not ; but the form of it was changed. 
The time was long past when the sprightly Genlis could 
make her appearance and win a triumph on a stage impro- 
vised out of two folding screens. She was no longer of 
the age for playing youthful heroines, or even noble 
mothers, and the theatricals that once were such an 
effective means of showing off her face, figure and bearing, 
her graceful manners and her voice, could now do no more 
than interest her as a spectator. So they became a mere 
pleasure for the eyes, an ingeniously contrived spectacle 
consisting of one or more tableaux vivants, which the fertile 
imagination of Casimir set off with poetry and appropriate 

One of these spectacles is mentioned in the Memoirs. 
It was David and Saul. David, or rather Casimir, appeared 
in the guise of a little shepherd, charming with his harp the 
madness of Saul, " whose fine face and gestures spoke even 
more powerfully than all the sounds of the harp." x But 
Saul was represented by Talma himself. 

This " living picture " was produced on 25th January 
1810, for the celebration of Mme. de Genlis' birthday. Mine. 
Dubrosseron organised a series of similar tableaux on subjects 
selected from the novels of her friend. 

So this was what made up nearly all the social life of Mme. 

1 Cf . D'Estourmel, Dernier s Souvenirs, 341. Madame de Genlis gives an- 
other version of this scene. According to her account, Saul was represented 
by the actor Michelot. But no doubt it was given on more than one occasion — 
once with Talma, the other times with Michelot. 


de Genlis. At this time, except at her receptions, she seldom 
saw anyone. She never went to the Imperial Court, but only 
to a few houses where good company was welcome — to that 
of the Marquise de Grollier among others, and to the salon 
of the Duchess of Courland, where the famous Dr. Gall gave 
a course of phrenology. 

Was it there or was it at the Arsenal, where he was 
received one day " when there was grand company," in- 
cluding Talleyrand, the Vicomtesse de Laval, Mine, de 
Choiseul-Gouffier, and the Duchess of Courland, that the 
doctor discovered that Mme. de Genlis had " the bump of 
religion and elevation of soul, and that of perseverance 
developed to a really extraordinary size " ? On which 
Talleyrand, always ready for a witty sally, said, " You see, 
Mesdames, that she is not a hypocrite." Finally, Brifaut 
introduced her to M. Sage, and the latter invited her to a 
supper with Talma, whom she annoyed to the extent of 
putting him quite out of countenance by her lavish eulogies 
of Lekain. 

But she preferred to cultivate the friendship of a little 
intimate group, a privileged circle of intellectuals whom she 
called " the Inseparables." Their hour was nine o'clock each 
Saturday evening, and it was for them only, such were her 
orders. At the appointed hour the Inseparables arrived. 
There were Fievee and the Abbe de Cabre, the Count de 
Choiseul-Gouffier and the Baron de Lascours, the tribune 
Carrion-Nisas, the poet Marigne, M. de Sennovert, the 
collector Baron Vivant-Denon, and perhaps Cardinal Maury ; 
with Brifaut, Treneuil and D'Estourmel, all conversation- 
alists, educated men, with a stock of piquant anecdotes. 
" Then began," says Fievee, " a wild talk. There was no 
ordered discussion, no settled plan, no prudence. One said 
everything that came into one's head, and in this freedom 
one realised how much self-respecting restraint there is in 
pleasant amusement united to intellect." Midnight arrived 
too soon, bringing the end of these fine literary gatherings. 
" At last," says Fievee, " it was time to end and go away ; 
but then among the Inseparables there began another con- 
versation of running commentary on the conversation from 


which they had just torn themselves away." 1 To close 
this account of society at the Arsenal, we must not forget 
those notable persons who, having exceptional claims upon 
her, visited and did honour to the Muse in her refuge. They 
were given private audience. There was, for instance, 
Fontanes, for whom Madame de Maintenon served as an 
introduction, and whom Mme. de Genlis met later at Mine. 
de Montesson's. He came three or four times. So did 
Desiree Clary, who had now become the Marechale Berna- 

Then there was Cardinal Maury, always on a friendly 
footing with the Countess. This friendship dated from long- 
ago. And since the time when Maury, then only an Abbe, 
had come to Bellechasse to read confidentially to her his 
address on his reception into the French Academy — a speech 
which but for Mme. de Genlis would have been spoiled by an 
enormous error of taste 2 — these two veterans of the Court 
of Louis xv., who had fought with honour in the combats of 
1789, had never ceased to esteem one another. There was a 
literary comradeship between them ; and each freely com- 
municated to the other projects and plans for books, criti- 
cisms, problems of style or of erudition, and finally political 

After 1809, Maury, having been made Archbishop of 
Paris, could not continue to visit his old friend so frequently. 
He did not entirely give it up, but he seldom came. One of 
the last occasions when His Eminence was at a party at the 
Arsenal seems to have been 25th October 1810. " As he 
will not be able to make further visits," wrote Mme. de Genlis 
to Casimir, " he has asked me to choose a day in the week 
for coming to lunch alone with him. I shall go on the Sun- 
days. . . . His sentiments are admirable and his conduct 

King Jerome of Westphalia honoured the Arsenal with 

1 Fievee, Madame de Genlis. 

2 The Abbe Maury had intended to make in one passage of his address a 
direct appeal, in interrogative form, to his audience, and to reply to them 
if he was contradicted. Madame de Genlis happily prevented him from carry- 
ing out this project of getting up a political discussion. 


two or three visits. Finally, Chateaubriand, who in 1802 
offered his Genie du Christianisme to Mme. de Genlis, made 
her acquaintance a little later, and seems to have come once 
to see her. 

And there was \^et another visitor, admired, flattered 
since long ago by the lady who had vowed an indestructible 
friendship for him. 

As in former days, " the better to enjoy the charm of his 
conversation," she received him quite alone. He neverthe- 
less was dry, cold, indifferent, essentially an egotist. But 
what a value " this apparent indolence " gave to his friend- 
ship. ..." A sign of approbation, a smile, an air of being 
interested, were in him really something enthralling," she 
exclaims in her Memoirs. And as for his mind, " that mind 
so versatile, which without an effort and without pedantry 
could display its brilliance on the greatest occasions, and yet 
in everyday intercourse could also brighten conversation 
with epigrams, or with inimitable grace lend itself to the 
most frivolous badinage " — nothing could be compared 
to it. 

Do we not recognise in this portrait that old friend of so 
many women, who still remained the friend of Mme. de 
Genlis ? Do we not recognise Talleyrand ? And truly it 
was with him, and perhaps with him only — for in this respect 
Brifaut never got beyond pleasantly agreeable conversation 
— that she remembered the old time, and opened the gates of 
memory. With him it seemed as if she was once more a 
lady of the Court, laying aside for awhile the governess, the 
authoress ; and the corner of her old heart that she kept 
for him seemed still to perserve a last glow of the feelings of 
other days. Was not Talleyrand, indeed, the only one who 
had ever sought to dominate her ? — However, in this he had 
only wasted his time. But she, who even in love kept her 
intellectual strength, may she not have been more deeply 
moved by this man of such wide-reaching allurements, who 
had, alas ! ali women devoted to him and deceived them all. 
She, who was so caustic to most people, could not refrain 
from praising in a tone of affection that is almost surprising, 
Talleyrand's kindness of heart, and " his good actions per- 


formed with such simplicity." He was, as we very well know, 
the very opposite of simplicity, but if we are to take Mine. 
de Dino's word for it, he liked it in others. Who knows 
but that he was inclined to appreciate that rare virtue in 
Mine, de Genlis, with her outspokenness, her sudden and 
charming changes of mood, and that vivacity, still full of 
playfulness, that so readily put her at her ease with another 
in conversation. She must have made him feel tired of 
Mme. de Laval and his other lady friends, his " old seraglio," 
as they were irreverently called. But he was now a greater 
personage than ever, and he was too much of a cynic to 
abandon himself in the case of Madame de Genlis in her declin- 
ing years to an autumn friendship that might still have some 
tenderness in it. 

And besides, Talleyrand was not the most familiar of the 
visitors at the Arsenal. There was another of whom she 
said, " He knows my heart perfectly." x Him to whom she 
wrote, " My friend, I am externally the coldest person living." 
I have seen so much affected sentiment. I have heard so 
many false protestations. The expressions and the language 
of the heart have been so profaned to me, that it is no longer 
possible for me to make use of them. But listen to my 
silence ; it is worth more than my words." 2 And again : — 

" My excellent friend, I am in every way happy at thought 
that a person so perfect]}'' amiable as you, is at the same 
time so worthy of affection." 

And this privileged, this chosen one, an ecclesiastic like 
Talleyrand, and almost as much compromised as he, this 
confidant was the Abbe de Cabre. He was very devoted 
to Mme. de Genlis, and obtained a pension for her from the 
Queen of Naples. He seems indeed, among the many who 
were indifferent or scoffers, to have had a really kind feeling 
for her. In return she confided in him, she let him see some- 
times a little of her heart, which was so embittered, so dis- 
enchanted, so lonely, in order to calm its restlessness, and 

1 The Comtesse de Genlis to the Countess d'Albany, October 12, 1806 
(Pelissier, op. cit.). 

2 Lettres inedites de Madame de Genlis, published by Pelissier, Intermediare, 
February 22, 1908. 


break away from the isolation that surrounded her as she 
remembered Bellechasse and its little world of children. 
And in her devotion to teaching, and also out of her fear of 
solitude, she had again added to her household a poor little 
boy, picked up we know not where : it was Alfred Le Maire. 

Foreseeing that Casimir and Stephanie d'Alyon would 
marry, she adopted him. Perhaps he would be there to 
close her eyes at the last. Meanwhile she was giving him 
an education, — spelling, arithmetic, poetry, — but above all 
she tried to put a useful occupation in his hands, and direct 
him to a musical career, that of a harpist, for which it seems 
he had some gifts. In a word, she was as interested in him 
as if he had been one of her own children, and she brought 
him up as an admirer of Casimir. When the latter went 
away in 1810 for a series of concerts in Germany — leaving 
by the way the son of a precocious love affair with Mile. 
Duchesnois, Henri Achille Rafin, born on 10th January in 
that year — Mme. de Genlis brought in a certain Mme. 
Roussel to take care of Alfred. But the boy, if possible, 
made a poorer return for her interest in him than even 
Casimir. 1 So one wonders why she " uprooted " him from 
his old surroundings. 

It is quite certain that Alfred would have preferred to 
lead a vagabond life with urchins of his own age, rather 
than bend himself to the fine manners for which he was 
not fitted by his nature. But the instinct of the pedagogue 
in Mme. de Genlis was not repelled by so small a matter 
as this. 

That instinct found further scope for its exercise when, 
in 1812, Napoleon appointed his correspondent lady 
inspectress of the schools of her district of Paris. It was 

1 " He is not a child after my heart," she writes in the autumn of 1810. 
" Nothing strikes his imagination : he has not a bad heart, but he has no delicacy 
of feeling ; it will be difficult to give him noble manners. He is not stupid, but 
he is so backward for his age that he takes no interest in anything. It is 
impossible to speak seriously with him even for half of a quarter of an hour. He 
is dirty and negligent to excess. But with all this one has to treat him gently 
and with kindness. Naturally he is not very communicative. . . . Since your 
departure I make him be very respectful to me, but I have to treat him with 
extreme patience, for there are days when he is quite broken down " {op. cit., Si) . 


an honorary position without any salary, but it might 
console her for not having some higher post. Mme. de 
Genlis had, in fact, expected for a short time in 1806 to 
become once more the governess of princes, — in this case 
of the children of Joseph, then King of Naples. The idea 
perhaps came from the Abbe Sabatier de Cabre, who acted 
as an intermediary between Mme. de Genlis and the Queen 
of Naples, and thought he could obtain for her the education 
of the Emperor's nieces. 

" Mme. de Genlis, who believed she was born with the 
vocation for training and instructing others and impart- 
ing to them her principles and opinions," x took advantage, 
according to Meneval, of her correspondence with the 
Emperor to ask for his approbation of this idea. On the 
other hand, we find her writing to Mme. d' Albany : " I 
do not yet know if I shall go to Italy. It is a favour that 
I have neither asked for nor desired, and which I can hardly 
even look for. To rest, to be forgotten, to have a little 
garden, these are my constant wishes. But when one has 
been stripped of everything, one does not rest, and one 
has not enough freedom to go and bury oneself in solitude. 
However, it is still possible that a single word may oblige 
me to start for Naples, and in that case it is quite certain 
that I shall fulfil my duties there with as much zeal and 
affection as if I had myself chosen my lot." 2 But already 
the suspicion that dogged her least steps had put aside these 
plans and disappointed the hopes of the poor woman. 
The Marquise de Lage de Volude writes from the hostile 
standpoint to M. de Sabran : — 

" It is said that this Genlis is aspiring to be the governess 
of the Corsicans. I think that Bonaparte knows the people 
about him too well to allow his nephews and nieces to be 
entrusted to this shrew. If Josephine were to die, you 
would see that she would want to marry the Emperor, as 
the other governess married the King. This idea occurred 
to me when reading her Madame de Maintenon. Just you 

1 Cf. Meneval, Napoleon et Marie Louise, iii. 285. 

2 Mme. de Genlis to the Countess d'Albany, op. cit. 


read it attentively and you will find you have something 
to tell me. I had not the time to write in the margins the 
thoughts that struck me, but her character is continually 
coming out in it. As she speaks of her heroine, she takes 
every opportunity of making one think of herself." * 

Mme. de Lage had no reason to be so excited. When 
he received the letter of his correspondent Napoleon had 
knitted his brows. He did not want to bring Mme. de 
Genlis into the imperial household, and he made his wishes 
on this point at once known to Mme. Julie, who, at the 
suggestion of the Abbe de Cabre, softened the disappoint- 
ment of her refusal and of the Emperor's disapproval of 
Mme. de Genlis by a pension of a thousand crowns. The 
latter showed her gratitude by a gift of several of her 
manuscripts. But she makes out in her Memoirs that the 
post was offered to her, and that she refused it out of 
attachment for the House of Orleans. 

Strange to say, having failed to obtain this advantage 
for herself, she thought of getting it given to Victorine de 
Chastenay, and made some efforts with this object. It is 
well known how the witty Canoness de Chastenay, wishing 
to have a place in the Court of the Empress, and not in 
that of Naples, refused the post, which went to Mme. 
Dannery. 2 

Whatever she may have said on the subject, Mme. de 
Genlis, so far as her own feeling went, would probably have 
preferred the post of governess to the Emperor's nieces 
rather than her actual position. But her failure on this 
point took nothing away from her privileges as the cor- 
respondent of Napoleon, and the good offices of the Queen 
of Naples did not indicate any loss of favour. Those 
around her soon had proof of this, especially the librarian 
of the Arsenal Ameilhon, against whom she always scored 
a success in her disputes with him. Now they were always 
in perpetual rivalry, living under the same roof, and not 
able to endure each other. The story of their disputes 

1 Comtesse de Reinach-Foussemagne, La Marquise de Lage de Volude, 242. 

2 Mme. de Chastenay, Mimoires, ii. 58. 


has a touch of the serio-comic novel, and one feels a regret 
that some writer like Alexandre Dumas pere has not told 
it to us in his lively style. 

The arrival of Mme. de Genlis had been hailed with any- 
thing but pleasure by Ameilhon, who regarded it as nothing 
short of an intrusion. To have for his neighbour a literary 
lady, who had no claim to occupy a place in a domain which 
he considered as his own, hurt his self-esteem, and, besides 
this, deprived him of a suite of rooms into which he had long 
been wishing to move. 

And if it had even been possible for him to ignore the 
presence of this neighbour ! 

But, not content with living next door to him, she dis- 
turbed the peace of the librarian even in the very heart of his 
kingdom, having obtained from high quarters an authorisa- 
tion to borrow books from the library without any restriction. 
As for the number and duration of these borrowings, every- 
thing depended on her wants, the work she had in hand, 
and, if it came to that, on her good pleasure. Then, 
divining the ill-disguised hostility of Ameilhon, she took a 
delight in playing the autocrat with him, using him as a 
humble subordinate, and making him give way to her wishes. 
There was not one of the regulations that could hold good 
against her, and the librarian had each day, hat in hand, to 
bow to the orders of Mme. the Comtesse de Genlis. 

Did he seem to be touchy or recalcitrant ? 

Did he venture to raise his voice, and claim in a threaten- 
ing way some volume that Mme. de Genlis had kept too long ? 

She seized her pen, complained to the Minister, and he 
gallantly took her part, and she gained the day. 

In 1812 she formed the plan of publishing an Abridg- 
ment of the Memoires of Dangeau. It was a colossal work, 
for the original manuscript consisted of more than forty 
folio volumes. She accordingly had brought to her the 
magnificent manuscript copy in fifty-eight quarto volumes — 
one of the finest things in the Arsenal library, which had 
been purchased by the Marquis de Paulmy at Mme. de Pom- 
padour's sale, and she kept it for nine months running. But 
she did not foresee that Napoleon would become alarmed 


as to certain comparisons suggested by the criticisms oi 
Dangeau on Louis xiv., and that on the eve of publication., 
notwithstanding the good offices of Talleyrand, the " Abridg- 
ment " would be kept waiting in vain for his imprimatur. 

Mme. de Genlis had marked with lines in the margins of 
the original manuscript the passages to be extracted for her 
work, passages which were then copied out chiefly by Ste- 
phanie d'Alyon. She now protested that the public, or the 
first comer of them, might go to the Arsenal library, read 
Dangeau in the fifty-eight quarto volumes that had belonged 
to Mme. de Pompadour, note the passages marked by the 
marginal lines, collect them, and, thus appropriating her 
abridgment, publish it quite legally in Belgium or elsewhere. 

Quickly she took her pen and poured out letters, pro- 
tests, petitions. On which Napoleon sent for the beauti- 
ful manuscript, locked it up in his private library, and kept 
it. When he heard who had been the cause of this blow 
poor Ameilhon nearly died of rage. He moved heaven 
and earth, sent out letters full of recriminations and pro- 
tests, went direct to the Minister, and, as she assures us, 
forgot himself in unheard-of scenes with Mme. de Genlis, 
urging her to demand the return of Dangeau. It was all no 
use. The beautiful manuscript did not come back to the 

Mme. de Genlis did not stop there in the way of success. 
When Saugrain 1 died she asked for the suite of rooms that 
the conservator had occupied. Needless to say she obtained 
it, with the further favour of a grant of 1500 francs for the 
expenses of moving into it (25th Brumaire, Year XIV). 
"But what must seem odious to us," says the learned historian 
of the Arsenal library, " the widow of Saugrain — of the man 
who had saved the library during the Revolution — was 
turned out to clear the rooms for Madame de Genlis." 2 And 
then, if the Countess would only move quickly and quietly ! 

1 " Till then the position of those who directed the library had not been 
clearly denned. Ameilhon was the librarian ; Saugrain had the title of con- 
servator-librarian ; and the Minister corresponded now with one, now with the 
other" (Henry Martin, Histoire de la Bibliotheque de V Arsenal, 405). 

2 Ibid., 422. 


But she delayed, and, as if on purpose, took an endless time 
over it, while her tardiness blew into angry flame the irritation 
in the hasty mind of Ameilhon, who was waiting for Mme. 
de Genlis's lodging, and anxious to move into it, or at any 
rate place his books there. At last one fine day, all his 
patience being at an end, he conceived the plan of removing 
the doors. The enemy had gone out that day. But on her 
return the gaping entrance revealed her rooms to her with 
all privacy gone from them. What an outrage ! what an 
impertinence ! The librarian must answer for it. Going 
straight to the reading-room, where he was sitting, she im- 
periously lectured him, and before all the readers gave him 
the sharpest scolding he had ever heard. It seems that, 
quite ashamed of having failed to such an extent in the 
respect due to a woman, Ameilhon made excuses and had 
the doors replaced. 

But she was implacable, and revenged herself in a clever 
but very cruel way. A printer's boy had brought her by 
mistake some proof-sheets of Ameilhon's Histoire du Bas- 
Emjnre. She joyfully set to work scratching out, striking 
lines through, and correcting " not mere printer's errors but 
faults in style," and on the Saturday evening passed round 
the proof-sheets, riddled with her corrections, for the amuse- 
ment of the Inseparables, who laughed heartily at the expense 
of the librarian. "M. Ameilhon thundered about it," she 
says. Poor man ! 

He had already tried to have his dear neighbour sent 
away, when in 1811 the opening up of the Rue de Sully led to 
the demolition of several buildings in which there were heaps 
of books. He had claimed her apartments as being required 
for housing of the books thus displaced. It was his ill-luck 
to fail once more. But time, which is cleverer than men 
in bringing things to pass, was soon to give him the satis- 
faction of witnessing, before he died, the departure of Mme. 
de Genlis. 

For a long time the old Arsenal had been very damp. 
Walls and wainscots were becoming saturated, until at last 
the panelling of one of his enemy's windows fell to pieces. 
She asked for repairs, but Ameilhon, on being consulted, drew 


up with a ready pen an estimate the total amount of which 
frightened the Minister ; and just then his department was 
very short of money. 

Nevertheless, the Government had granted Mine, de 
Genlis a lodging for life, and there was no other vacant. 
Obliged to give up the rooms at the Arsenal, that were now 
becoming uninhabitable, she took advantage of this state of 
things to make a demand for compensation. 

A fresh petition explained to the Minister that, wishing to 
retire to the country and there continue her literary labours, 
the Countess was willing to renounce her right to lodge at the 
Arsenal, and asked for a sum of 8000 francs " to prepare the 
place of my retirement." An imperial decree, dated 12th 
April 1811, granted her what she asked for " out of the 
vote included in the budget of the Ministry of the Interior 
for unforeseen expenses." All the same, she was in no great 
hurry, and on 30th April, with a view to hasten her depart- 
ure, Ameilhon wrote to the Ministry : "I hear from various 
sources that Mme. de Genlis is preparing to leave the Arsenal, 
and that she will at last restore to the library the rooms she 
has occupied so long to the prejudice of one of the chief 
officials of that institution." x 

In the course of the month of May, Mme. de Genlis vacated 
the place. Ameilhon was not long to enjoy the gain he had 
fought so hard for ; he was ill, and he died soon after, but 
not without Mme. de Genlis having in his last days shown 
him some kindness, some friendliness. As for herself, she 
could not shut her eyes to the fact that in leaving the Arsenal 
she was leaving also the brightness of her life. 

No doubt we shall see her shed some remnant of light on 
the days of the Restoration. But these will be the last 
gleams of a reputation that was to go on declining during 
some fifteen years. 

1 Cf. Henry Martin, op. cit., 429. 



Mme. de Genlis pitched her tent for awhile in the Rue des 
Lions St. Paul, with many regrets for the Arsenal, where she 
had the illusion of living in a kind of palace. 

The suite of rooms, damp, " Gothic in style and ridiculously 
planned," could barely suffice for her diminished household. 
Casimir was just then giving his concerts in Germany ; 
Mme. Roussel was establishing herself in Italy ; as for 
Pamela, she would not rejoin her adopted mother. Casimir 
had met her three years before in an inn at Dover, where 
she had taken refuge after her separation from Pitcairn. 
She was in a miserable state, and was living under the name of 
Mme. Dufour. He brought her back disguised and hidden 
away below decks in a vessel placed at his disposal by 
Prince Esterhazy, and Pamela landed at Calais on 15th 
February 1808, not without exciting the suspicions of 

After Mme. de Genlis had made an appeal in her favour, 
Napoleon, thinking that he might obtain interesting informa- 
tion from her, gave orders that she was to be allowed to come 
to Paris, and permitted her to reside there. But Pamela, 
considering that the kind of life her mother by adoption 
offered her was of too mediocre a kind, refused her hospitality, 
and, dreaming of triumphs to come, set up housekeeping 
in a luxurious style at a considerable distance from the 
Arsenal. But what really came her way was debt. By 1811 
she owed 3000 francs, and already, in 1810, her creditors had 
sold up her furniture. However, they could not seize a 
pension supplied by the Fitzgerald family, and another from 



Pitcairn, these amounting together to G800 francs, besides 
some minor sums of money. On this income she lived in a 
cottage, to which some rooms had been added, about five 
leagues from Paris — that Paris which she could visit only on 
Sundays and holidays, when legal processes could not be 

So there remained with Mme. de Genlis only Stephanie 
d'Alyon and Alfred Le Maire. 

As we have said, she was at the Rue des Lions St. Paul 
only for awhile, for she was not lying when she told the 
Minister that she wished to retire into the country. Her 
idea was, in fact, to buy a farm for about 20,000 francs, 
end her days there, and then leave it to Casimir. " You 
will choose the place," she wrote to him on 11th February 
1811, " either near Lyons, or near Brussels, or near Stras- 
burg ; for as to the neighbourhood of Paris, it must not be 
thought of. You would do nothing there, and you must 
not contract any more debts." She inclined towards Stras- 
burg, " and those little courts, where one could get on very 

The farm was never bought, because Mme. de Genlis was 
short of money. " When my affairs are arranged," she said ; 
but they never were arranged. 

Want was always holding her poor fireside in its grasp. 
Any other but she could have lived at her ease on the pension 
from the Emperor, that of the Queen of Naples, and the 
profits of her works. There is no denying that Mme. de 
Genlis scored great success with the publishers. Almost all 
her works appeared in new editions. About 1812 her 
Souvenirs de Felicie were in the third edition ; the Veillees 
du Chateau, the Vceux temeraires, and the Petits Emigres in 
the fifth ; the Petit La Bruyere and the Chevaliers du Cygne 
in the fourth ; the Meres rivales in the sixth ; the Duchesse 
de la Valliere was getting on to the eighth or ninth ; and 
Madame de La Fayette was an immense success — the first 
edition, on sale at the booksellers' at eight o'clock in the 
morning, was sold out to the last copy by ten in the evening. 
Finally, she had completed her Siege de la Rochelle, which was 
translated into every language in Europe, and the Bergeres 


de Median, which went into a second edition in the same year 
in which it was pubished. 1 

Once more, anyone else but Mine, de Genlis would have 
made ends meet. But she was terribly wanting in system, 
and above all the caprices of Casimir were everlastingly ex- 
hausting her resources. This great big boy — mediocre, lazy, 
sensual, phlegmatic, a drinker, a spendthrift, and a hypocrite 
— enchained her old heart by some kind of spell, for he never 
seems to have had any touch of feeling, and his only merit 
was his agility with his fingers. In her inexplicable blind- 
ness, Mme. de Genlis thought he was a genius destined to 
immortal fame, and refused him nothing. 2 So all, or nearly 
all, her letters tell of a remittance of money to this acrobat 
of the harp, who excelled in tricky displays, arpeggios and 
lightning variations — at best a poor kind of talent. But 
for this Casimir she empties her purse, kills herself with 
work, and deprives herself even of necessaries. 

Casimir Boecker might spend 1800 francs in a single 
month at Strasburg, and ask in letter after letter for twenty 
or thirty louis ; she did impossibilities in order to send them 
to him, with a heap of good advice : " You must eat this, 
and not drink that — I order you to have some light summer 
vests made for yourself, and this at once." There is advice 
as to drinks and pills — she forbids him to smoke — she exhorts 
him to penitence, and tells him to go to a confessor. She had 
indeed a great anxiety about Casimir' s salvation, and all 
her letters without exception end with the three letters 
" G.D.E." or with the three words — strange to say in English 
— " God, Death, Eternity " ; or with the maxim, " Honour 
always and in all places divine religion." Certainly these 
were admirable sentiments, rare enough with the mothers of 
the eighteenth century ; but we are somewhat disappointed 
at seeing that Mme. de Genlis continually mixes them up 

1 The manuscript of this work is now in the library of St. Petersburg, to 
which it was presented by Casimir on 5th April 1837. 

2 " I have never received such dull letters as yours," she writes to him in 
1804. " What a correspondence ! But I pass it all over, and you have none 
the less in me the best of mothers and of friends. ... I have always a de- 
lightful presentiment which tells me that a great change will take place in 
your mind, and suddenly you will become what you might be " (Lapauze, 3). 


with another kind of litany, the versicles of which reveal a 
singular utilitarianism. There are such phrases as " Get 
married ; make a good marriage," emphasised with, " If I 
were in your place, I would have made a grand marriage 
this very month," or, better still, " Try to turn your thoughts 
towards a rich widow, and above all keep right with God." 
It is the everlasting contradiction of human nature making 
piety the ally of ambitious views ; the everlasting mingling 
of sacred and profane, of which Mme. de Genlis from her 
childhood was an instance, accustomed as she had been to 
such things as part of a system or method. 

And let us not accuse her of hypocrisy. In her actual 
state of mind, preoccupied solely or almost exclusively with 
Casimir, the settling in life of this adopted son, the securing 
of his future by a rich marriage, became for her a fixed idea. 
She only thinks of that. If she were to die, Casimir would 
have no means of livelihood. Casimir would be lost. Casimir 
would be incapable of directing himself. What he needs is 
a peaceful life in easy circumstances. (Many still limit their 
ambitions to such desires.) So she looked round her for 
the fiancee of whom she dreamed, she made inquiries, she 
worked out schemes. At one moment there was an idea of 
Caroline Collard, the daughter of Hermine whom we saw at 
the Palais Royal, and who had since been married to Jacques 
Collard, at that time deputy for the Aisne. But the plan 
came to nothing. 

All the time Mme. de Genlis could not help recognising 
the fact that the obscure origin of Casimir necessarily limited 
his prospect of a brilliant marriage, and she tried to find a 
remedy for this drawback. She heard from someone that 
in Austria, according to a custom still in use in some of the 
French provinces, young Catholics, presenting themselves 
to receive the sacrament of Confirmation, were accompanied 
by a godfather. And it appeared that at Vienna the person 
confirmed adopted the name of his sponsor. 

By the direction of his adopted mother, Casimir accord- 
ingly was confirmed at Vienna, and Mme. de Genlis claimed 
that he should call himself M. de Morald, after one of the 
names of the Prince de Ligne, who had been his sponsor at 


confirmation. Unfortunately Lamorald was not a surname 
but only a Christian name, and in fact Casimir used it as 
such after this. 

In the beginning of 1812 Mme. de Genlis, by dint of ferret- 
ing everywhere and exhausting herself in the matrimonial 
quest, found herself on the eve of success. Witness the 
letter she wrote to Casimir on 29th January 1812, from 
which we take the following passage : — 

" For my part, I have been employed only in looking for 
a wife for you, and besides Lucy I have five to propose to 
you. Amongst these there is a charming girl of seventeen, 
of whom I have as yet said nothing to you, because I had 
such slight hopes. She was at your last concert, and the 
thought of you is fixed firmly in her charming head. She 
is delightfully pretty, without being beautiful ; but she has 
a face, a look, a smile that are matchless, and a very pretty 
figure. She is the only daughter of a man who adores her, 
and besides an honourable position has a settled income of 
25,000 limes. I so thoroughly interested him by my account 
of your perfections and of all I mean to do for you, that he 
asked to be allowed to introduce his daughter to me. We 
talked much about you. I read for him, as if by chance, 
M. Jeckel's first letter. Those details about your studies 
delighted him. He repeated, ' That young man will go far.' 
He is a M. Carre (sic). . . . He has been for thirty years 
the chief doctor and administrator of the hospitals of 

Mme. de Genlis had in fact a year before discovered the 
lady who was to be the fiancee of Casimir — Mile. Adele Carret, 
whose father had become one of the leading councillors 
of the Cours des Comptes, and was a member of the Legion 
of Honour. The marriage took place on 19th November 

Previously to it, in order to form a property for Casimir, 
who possessed nothing, she had sold to him by a deed drawn 
up and witnessed by Maitre Morand, a Paris notary, on 
2nd July 1812, " the full and entire personal property in 
all the literary works whatsoever produced and published 
either under her own name or under that of Sillery." She 


further tried to secure for him a source of profit by taking out 
a patent for a game of cards painted with flowers which she 
had invented. 1 Besides this, at the close of 1812 she asked 
for a sinecure for him, the post of Inspector of Publishing. 
Finally, being desirous of making some kind of a show, she 
moved into a fine suite of rooms in the Rue Ste. Anne, 
then known as the Rue Helvetius. 2 It was there that, 
living in better style, thanks to the sale of a herbarium with 
sketches in water-colours which the King of Westphalia, 
Jerome Bonaparte, had bought for 6000 francs, she began a 
new series of weekly receptions. On these days, if we are to 
believe her, her salon was never empty " from five in the 
afternoon till one o'clock in the morning ; without counting 
the days when there was music or they played proverbs." 
We may be sure that proverbs and romances were intended 
solely to bring Casimir to the front. But, on the other hand, 
the Inseparables continued to rally round their old friend. 
D'Estourmel tells us that he was then one of her favourites, 
with Anatole de Montesquiou and Brifaut. She called them 
laughingly her lovers, and she wrote : " At sixty I find I am 
able, like Mademoiselle de l'Espinasse, to love three lovers at 
once." It was a mere jest, with which no one would dream 
of reproaching her. 

The marriage of Casimir marked the close of the musical 
and theatrical parties. With her mind for the present at rest 
as to the future of the young man, who had set up house at 
Ecouen, and at once gave up all work and settled down to 
a quiet life, Mme. de Genlis, it seemed, need only repose upon 
her laurels. Perhaps she would have done wisely if she had 

1 This curious card game consists of fifty-two cards grouped according to 
the flowers of the four seasons. The king, queen, and knave of each suit are 
represented by mythological personages. All the other cards each represent a 
plant or some flowers, the number of which corresponds to the value of the card. 
The pack, entirely original in design and workmanship, painted in water- 
colours by Mme. de Genlis, is a real curiosity of art. Mme. de Genlis 
subsequently gave it to a friend, the Marquise de Bourdeille, who had a literary 
and artistic salon about 1830. Thanks to the kindness of the Marquis de 
Bourdeille, we are able to give a specimen of it here. 

2 It was to Mme. de Genlis that the Rue Ste. Anne owed the resumption of 
its Christian name. She was proud and happy to obtain this by the inter- 
vention of M. de Charbonnieres, the friend of the prefect. 


shut up her desk. But could her active mind ever be at 
rest ? At this time she was editing a little paper, the Journal 
Imaginaire, in which under the guise of imaginary works 
under the names of various authors, she sharply criticised 
the literary productions of the day. 1 And her great quarrel 
with the biographer Michaud was in full swing. 

At all times Mme. de Genlis had a liking for controversy. 
She rightly considered that there was nothing more apt to 
keep alive public interest in connection with her name, and 
she liked it all the better when it gave her the opportunity 
of using her pen, like the sword of an apostle, against the 
philosophes and their disciples. Consumed with an ardent 
zeal for religion, animated with a bellicose devotion that was 
sometimes a little bitter, she acted at times as a Christian 
woman roused to anger and indignation by the Voltairian- 
ism of her times, and as an uncompromising champion of 

If she refused, then, to increase or even to sanction the 
influence of the philosophes, it was only her duty as a good 
Catholic, and it fell in with her inclinations. 

When she was asked to contribute to Michaud's Bio- 
graphical Dictionary her first care had been to ask who were 
the other contributors. 

She saw on the list her enemies Auger and Suard, and 
thought she might tolerate them. But at the name of 
Ginguene, the agent of Voltaire and Diderot, she broke off 
the negotiation on the pretext of being too busy. 

Nothing was more natural than that Mme. de Genlis, on 
being subsequently assured by the organisers of the work that 
Ginguene had been excluded from it, should reconsider her 
decision and accept a payment in advance. But when she 
found out that she had been misled by a mere pretence, and 
this was all it was, she withdrew her promise and sent back 
the money she had received. Nothing could be fairer. 

" M. de la Borie wrote to me," she says, " that they had 
not been able to get rid of Ginguene, and that they hoped I 
would reconcile myself to this. I did nothing of the kind. . . . 

1 The Journal Imaginaire was begun at the Rue des Lions-St. Paul in 1 812, 
and ceased to appear in 181 3. 


I sent back the money and got a receipt for it in regular form, 
and by this adventure all I gained was thirty fresh enemies, 
who still remain such for me." 

But there also remained for her as a balance on the trans- 
action a lot of articles on celebrated women, which she had 
prepared for the Biographical Dictionary. 

These collected in a volume, with the addition of some- 
what rambling commentaries, in which she ventured upon 
a hundred criticisms of Voltaire, Diderot, and false philosophy 
in language that was at once sharp and polished, formed 
her book on the influence of women on French literature 
(1811), a kind of handy dictionary of celebrated French- 
women, that began with Queen Radegonde, and came down 
to Mme. Cotin, passing in review all the queens of France on 
the way. But even more than the historical part, and the 
preface which was a plea for women authors, certain passages 
where personal feeling came out, excited an amused interest, 
as for example the pin-pricks aimed at the French Academy, 
which before this had preferred to honour Mme. d'Epinay 
as a teacher rather than Mme. de Genlis. " If there were 
an Academy of women in existence," she exclaims, " one 
ventures to say that it would find no difficulty in conducting 
itself better and coming to sounder judgements," — an 
opinion of which we may well leave her all the responsi- 

It was a fine chance for the editors of Michaud's Universal 
Biography to reply to the disdainful treatment Mme. de 
Genlis had given them, and they took good care not to neglect 
it. They had their revenge, in well-written and severe 
reviews, by Auger (Journal de VEmpire) and Nepomucene 
Lemercier (Gazette de France), amongst others. 

To which Mme. de Genlis replied by a first pamphlet 
against the Biographie Universelle, soon followed by another. 1 

1 See Genlis, Examen critique de I'ouvrage intitule Biographie universelle 
and Suite de V examen critique (Paris, Maradan, 1811). Mme. de Souza 
wrote to Mme. d'Albany on 22nd July 181 1 : " Madame de Genlis has had 
published to-day a little pamphlet in which she tries to show that she was right 
in her attacks on Fenelon, Madame Cotin, and Madame Necker. But she 
does not quite prove that it was her business to attack them " (cf. Pelissier, op. 
cit., 107). 


Auger, in the name of all its editors, and especially of 
Suard and Ginguene, replied with some cruel truths in a little 
work against Mme. de Genlis, 1 and she tried to have the 
last word in a third pamphlet. 

She carried on the whole controversy cleverly and ener- 
getically. She made plenty of judicious criticisms. The 
Biographic fared badly. It had not many celebrated names 
in its list of contributors. Mme. de Genlis proclaimed its 
weakness in this respect in the plainest language, touching 
the tender spot. 

She compared with the Voltairian group recruited by 
Michaud a number of names of those who, to her mind, 
could " if they liked " carry through a rival work in 
victorious competition against Michaud's enterprise. And 
her insight was absolutely remarkable. 

Among the names she selected were : Delille, Bonald, 
Chateaubriand, Millevoye, Legouve, Baour-Lormain, Mercier, 
Arnault, etc., who since that time have all most certainly 
won for themselves fame or at least celebrity. 

The public — that is to say the literary public — followed 
with attentive interest the various phases of the quarrel. 
Begun in the month of August 1811, it went on through 1812, 
and made so much stir that the Minister Pomereuil, " an 
ardent philosophe" ordered the censorship to suppress 
forty pages of Mme. de Genlis's pamphlets. She did not 
hesitate to intervene with this powerful personage, and was 
received discourteously. " Why the devil, Madame," he 
exclaimed, " are not you tired of screeching against philo- 
sophy for thirty-five years ? You have given yourself 
a lot of useless trouble in coming to see me ! " Happily, 
she had some good friends to support her in the camp of 
religion — the Abbe Frayssinous, the future Bishop of Rodez, 
whose influence extended to a number of Catholics of good 
position since his famous conferences had first been forbidden 
and then authorised afresh ; and Cardinal Maury, who still 
came to talk with her, though on rare occasions. 2 Besides 

1 L. S. Auger, Ma brochure en reponse aux deux brochures de Madame de 

2 A letter of Mme. de Genlis to Cardinal Maury speaks of an evening they 


this spiritual support she received many encouraging 
letters, among them one from M. Pieyre, whose admiration 
consoled her for her rude reception by the Minister. Finally, 
she obtained an imperial authorisation to produce an ex- 
purgated and corrected edition of the works of the Encyclo- 
paedists, and this was an official encouragement to continue 
the war against their detestable influence. 

Meanwhile the political horizon was darkening with 
storm-clouds. There came news of the disastrous campaign 
in Russia. Then 1813 passed by, and France was invaded — 
the Allies attacked Paris — Marmont and Mortier signed 
the capitulation. The imperial Colossus was tottering, and 
at the same time, following the general movement that 
was detaching nearly all his old adherents from Napoleon, 
the enthusiasm of Mme. de Genlis took for its guide and 
model the man of the day, the contriver of the Restoration, 
and the chief actor on the stage at the moment — Talleyrand. 
Convinced, like so many others, that the Prince of Benevento 
would bring back the Bourbons and at the same time be 
their master, she addressed to him, on 6th April 1814, this 
long letter, in which she recommended Casimir for favours 
to come : — 

" The Comtesse de Genlis to Prince Talleyrand 

" At last we are seeing the denouement of this long- 
tragedy, of this pompous and sanguinary drama, of which 
the plot was so defective, so badly developed, and of which 
the incidents had so little probability. If anyone ever 
makes out of it a historical romance it will be very gloomy, 
and full of catastrophes and theatrical surprises, but there 
will be no common sense in it. 

" After having thought a great deal about my actual 
position, I have called to mind that I lived fairly well for 
nine years in foreign countries with a little work. It is 
likely I have not now so long to live, and as I have enough 
for my needs I am giving up the idea of working for a 
newspaper, and certainly I shall not ask for a pension, even 

had lately passed together, and leads one to believe that it was at the Countess's 
(cf. Mgr. Ricard, Correspondance et Memoires du Cardinal Maury, t. Li.). 


if they are giving such to several writers. I can very well 
do without it. But I have just one favour to ask of you. 
It will secure repose and happiness for the remainder of a 
life which has been full of vicissitudes and hard work, a 
life of bitter suffering caused by much ingratitude, a life of 
persecutions and unjust treatment — in fact, my own. This 
favour would be the granting of a place as Inspector-General 
of the Post Office to Casimir. I am convinced that people 
have prejudiced you against this young man. They cannot 
have said that he is wanting in brains or talent, or that 
he is a gambler or a libertine. But those who envy or 
hate anyone attack his character when they cannot attack 
his conduct. They will have told you that he is giddy, 
imperious, violent, and that he is foppish. Ask Mme. 
d'Harville, who has known him since his childhood, and 
who has the tenderest affection for him, what he really is, 
and she will tell you, like me and all those who know him, 
that it is impossible for anyone to have more gentleness, 
goodness, more of sound reason and most perfect feeling. 
Because he made a few excursions on the roofs of the 
Arsenal, and twice or thrice rode eighty leagues at headlong 
speed, they said he would make me very unhappy ; it is 
generally by escapades like these that he makes one anxious. 
I am far from approving of his conduct lately, when, while 
righting was in progress, he passed five hours on the battle- 
field collecting and carrying off the wounded, for he is 
married, and even for my sake he ought not to have acted 
thus. But I protest that he has never caused me any 
trouble except in this way. They blame him for never 
having reaped any advantage from his admirable talent ; 
but he loves the art and abhors the trade. He has too 
much intellect, and that intellect is too cultivated, — he 
has too much loftiness of soul, for a profession in which a 
fortune is made by thinking only of money, and by devoting 
oneself to a kind of society quite different from that which 
he can really like. Besides, he wanted to pursue other 
studies, to learn Latin, get through a great deal of reading, 
and learn to write well. If he wished, he could be a very 
distinguished man of letters. It is impossible to have more 


wit, a better judgment, and more imagination. Finally, 
among a thousand good qualities he has two that are very rare 
— great frankness and perfect discretion. If you knew all 
that he is, you would judge him to be well fitted for more 
than one kind of public position. He knows German 
perfectly — it is his native language. He has neglected 
English, which he used to speak wonderfully well, but he 
would need only a couple of months to pick it all up again. 
And these serious studies have not led him to neglect his 
artistic talents. He composes like an angel ; he is un- 
equalled on the harp ; he paints landscapes ; he has a 
crowd of other agreeable talents. And he can acquire 
many more, for he is only twenty-four years of age. Such 
is the young man for whom I ask this position. He is 
married to one of the most charming creatures living. You 
will secure happiness for this young and interesting house- 
hold and for me. I hope this will tempt you. My gratitude 
will be equal to my joy, and you can rest assured that after 
such a favour I shall never be so indiscreet as to make the 
least demand upon you. I have been inviolably attached 
to you from the depth of my soul since first I had the 
happiness of knowing you, and it would be most pleasing 
to me to owe to you the tranquillity of my life. Deign to 
send me a word in reply on this matter, so that I may be 
certain that you have received this letter. Remember 
that you have given me a right to count upon your kindness 
and friendship, and you will excuse this action of mine, 
and allow me to say to you that if you destroy the hopes 
that this gives me, you will make me very miserable. If 
you make this hope a reality, I cannot express to you how 
deeply I shall be touched, how happy and grateful I shall 
be. . . ." i 

Is Mme. de Genlis to be accused of versatility ? 

Yesterday at the feet of Napoleon, she runs to the 
Bourbons as soon as the news of their restoration seems 
to be certain. Quite happy at returning to Royalist ideas, 
" which I have always held," she says ingenuously, " as all 

1 Unpublished letter, British Museum, Add. MSS. 


my works prove " — she was among the first of those who 
acclaimed on the Boulevards the return of the Comte d'Artois 
on 12th April 1814. 

She might boast that she had never frequented the 
Imperial Court — for lack of an invitation, but she did not 
say that — and she went to pay her homage at the Tuileries 
as soon as Louis xviii. announced that he would receive 
all the ladies. In this our Countess followed the example, 
not only of the people of Paris, but also of the marshals, 
of the Emperor's oldest comrades in arms, of Talleyrand, 
and of M. de Valence. The latter, after being made a 
senator and general of division in 1805, had signed the 
resolution for the Emperor's deposition, and at the first 
Restoration was given a seat in the Chamber of Peers. 
All these had not, to an equal extent with Mine, de Genlis, 
the excuse — always the same, alas ! — of their means of 
livelihood being in danger, for now that Napoleon had 
fallen and left France, a time of anxious uncertainty had 
again begun for her. 

The same motive — with some mingling, however, of affec- 
tion and attachment — made her go to the Duke of Orleans 
and Mme. Adelaide almost as soon as they returned to the 
Palais Royal, now half dismantled. Aided by the pleasant 
memories of Bellechasse, she hoped to renew the relations 
that had been broken off during the time of the emigration, 
but also, as respectfully as possible, to put forward her claim 
to her retiring allowance as governess. 

Ripened by sorrow and exile the Princes had somewhat 
forgotten the tutorship of Mme. de Genlis. They had left 
that world in which she had kept them young, they had 
found themselves, and they saw life with other eyes than 
those of the past. And their welcome showed signs of 
all this. Only that Marie Amelie was so kind and gracious, 
and in her delight at knowing her husband's old teacher, 
embraced her and addressed friendly words to her, the first 
interview would have been rather cold and stiff. Matters 
improved later. In 1816 we find Mme. de Lage, then at 
Figuieres with the Duchess of Orleans, noting that between 
the mother and the daughter " a shadow continually inter- 


poses — that of La Genlis. The pupil is still under the evil 
influence of her teacher." 1 Mme. de Genlis had therefore 
been able, without much difficulty, to re-establish the current 
of sympathy between herself and her pupils by means of long 
letters to Mademoiselle and to the Duke of Orleans. 

At the end of June the Prince sent word that he was 
going to make a visit to his former " Governor." Then, 
being obliged to defer it, he wrote Pieyre a two-page letter 
full of affectionate sentiments and of his desire to contribute 
to the happiness of Mme. de Genlis, etc. 

On 3rd July 1814, Mademoiselle sent her word that she 
would come on the following Monday. 

Nay, even the Dowager Duchess, generously forgetting 
her grievances of the past, in her great goodness renewed 
her friendly relations with her former enemy. So Mme. 
de Genlis writes to Casimir — 

" Dear Child, — All goes well. You have no idea of 
the success of my novel, the Marais Pontins 2 in every way. 
The Duchess of Orleans was very much touched by it. I 
had not sent it to her, but she bought it. She sent M. de 
Folmont to me this morning. It is the greatest proof of good 
feeling for me that she could have given. He spent an hour 
tete-a-tete with me, and he was most politely obliging and 
friendly. He told me that the Duchess would see me with 
the greatest pleasure, meeting me by myself as I had asked, 
as soon as she was free from the people to whom she was 
giving receptions morning and evening. This would be 
within eight days. She would then be able to close her 
doors in the mornings. . . ." 3 

But these undeniable proofs of politeness would not 
supply the means of livelihood at a moment when she was 
absolutely without funds, and when the troubled state of 
public affairs caused general mistrust, and hermetically 
sealed up money boxes and purses. 

How could she think of being able to sell new manuscripts 

1 Comtesse de Reinach-Foussemagne, op. cit., 242. 

2 Les Hermites des Marais Pontins (1814). 
8 Lapauze, op. cit., p. 230. 


at a time when the allied troops were encamped in France, 
and when the Government's want of financial credit made 
every one timid ? The times were hard for those who, like 
Mme. de Genlis, were living almost from hand to month, and 
were unable, or did not know how, to cut down expenses. 

The greatest expense was that of her rooms. So, at the 
end of April 1814, she had left the Rue Ste. Anne, and then 
made several moves one after another. In July we find she 
has taken refuge at Ecouen, with Casimir, who himself was 
living on his wife's resources — the allowance made by her 
father, Councillor Carret, to the young couple. 

In this temporary shelter, expecting every day some 
proof of Talleyrand's interest and of that of the Princes her 
pupils, she worked industriously at new books. But nothing 
came from the Rue St. Florentin, where certainly there were 
other affairs than those of Mme. de Genlis to be thought of ; 
and nothing either from the Palais Royal. It was at Ecouen, 
no doubt, that, weary and full of anxiety, she became more 
imploringly urgent in her petitions, and on 10th July 1814, 
wrote the Prince of Benevento this letter full of infinite 
distress — 

" My position has been frightful since the Duke of Orleans 
went away. I have had neither pension, nor income, nor 
resources of any kind ; I have lived only by borrowing and 
pawning things. ... If the King grants pensions to literary 
people, it seems to me that I can put forward better claims 
than most. However modest it was it would be enough for 
me, even if it were only 1200 francs. Your decision in this 
matter will do everything. Think of my position ; and 
that I am sixty-nine years old ; deign to remember that 
you have permitted me to be your friend and to count upon 
your kindness. I am without any resources. . . . etc." ' 

This same letter announced another great work that 
she had in preparation, her Histoire de Henri iv., begun 
in eager haste with a view to winning the good graces of 
Louis xviii., " for it is full of allusions that are flattering to 
the Bourbons and very damaging to Bonaparte." 

1 Cf. Charavay, Amateur d' Autograft he s, No. 125, 1st March 1867. 


Unfortunately, events wrecked all her forecasts. The 
Histoire de Henri le Grand was ready just too late. It 
was issued by the publisher on 20th March 1815, the very day 
that Napoleon, returning from the island of Elba, made his 
triumphant entry into the capital. 

Thunderstruck, Mine, de Genlis tried to parry this fresh 
blow of fate by a letter to the Emperor, for which fifteen 
years later she offered her excuses to posterity. " It was," 
says the Memoirs, " the only letter in all my life in which I 
made use of flattery." And what better way than that of 
praise was there for reminding Napoleon of the interrupted 
correspondence, and the pension attached to it ? 

We need not be surprised that the Emperor had not 
time to think of such a trifling person as Mine, de Genlis. 

He was never again to give any sign of life to the corres- 
pondent of his great days, who now fell back into the most 
painful poverty. 

Casimir gave her some trifling support, but he had no 
great means. He was now living at Mantes, in the Rue aux 
Pois, and trying to get pupils for the harp. 1 Overstrained, 
weakened by work and anxiety, Mme. de Genlis fell ill at 
Mantes — hence an increase of expenses (for the illness lasted 
six weeks), and hence loans " at usurious rates." To com- 
plete her ill fortune, Louis xviii. refused to continue the 
pension the Emperor had granted her. It was a period of 
dark adversity, in the midst of which many would have lost 
all courage. But she, with her marvellous energy, her old 
habit of holding out, soon pulled herself together again. 

Who would help her ? The Abbe de Cabre ? He was too 
much in the disfavour of Talleyrand. As soon as her strength 
would allow, she began a new campaign of petitions. Her 
post as Governess of a Prince of the Blood Royal gave her a 
right to an annual retiring allowance of 12,000 francs. The 
Duke of Orleans at last granted her one of 8000, and, besides, 
got into the way of sending her a present of 2000 on New 
Year's Day. 

Talleyrand gave proof once more that he was capable of 
pity by buying a box of manuscripts from her for 20,000 

1 Note from M. Grave of Mantes. 


francs — rough drafts of novels and romances, " useless and 
very useless papers," which he gave the same day to the 
Princess Helene de Bauffremont, who had an ardent desire 
to possess them. 

Refurnished with money, Mme. de Genlis ceased to 
be an expense to Casimir, and at the end of 1816 she returned 
to Paris. But instead of setting up again in a fashionable 
quarter, she chose a place of retirement, far from noise and 
agitation, in the house of the Carmelites of Vaugirard. 

But what was this convent ? Who were these Carmelites? 
Up to the time of the Revolution we find no trace of them at 
Vaugirard, and it was not until the reign of Louis Philippe 
that the order was temporarily installed at No. 86 rue de 
Vaugirard. Contemporary publications throw no light on the 
question ; and the Memoirs of Mme. de Genlis give only the 
topographical clue of placing the convent in the neighbour- 
hood of the Abbaye-aux-Bois. But an English lady who 
visited the author of Adele et Theodore in 1817 is more explicit, 
and speaks of the chapel, " a mournful monument of the 
massacre of bishops and priests in 1792," as being separated 
only by a low wall from the garden of the Carmelites. x 

The reference is plainly to the old house of the " Carmes." 

Now, at the time of the massacres, the Carmes stood 
between two houses of nuns, the Benedictines of the Blessed 
Sacrament and Notre Dame de Consolation ; but there was 
no Carmelite convent there. But the clue to the mystery 
lies in the identification of the existing Catholic Institute of 
Paris with the former monastery of the Carmes. 

In fact, the monastery and its garden — after having 
been abandoned by the monks after September 1792, con- 
fiscated as national property, then let by the Convention 
to a gardener who erected a drinking-bar and dancing-room 
under the aged trees ; transformed into a state prison, then 
into a barrack, then into the official printing office of the 
Directory, then once more, at least as far as the garden was 
concerned, converted into a dancing place, a bal des Zephyrs, 
then bought by a joiner — were at last bought back on 15th 
August 1797 by the brave Mile, de Soyecourt, a Carmelite 

1 Lady Morgan, La France, ii. 319- 


nun. Her father and mother liad been imprisoned under 
Robespierre and were both dead, the former guillotined on 
the 5th Thermidor, the latter dying of the hardships of 
imprisonment at Ste. Pelagic Sister Camille de Soyecourt 
repaired the buildings as best she could, and, being joined by 
some other former Carmelite nuns, little by little restored the 

Further purchases enabled her to regain possession of 
the gardens and out -buildings of the Carmes, then the houses 
abutting on the Rue de Vaugirard, in which she installed 
" some pious ladies who devoted themselves to the education 
of young girls." x 

In 1817 the chapel of the martyrs, which had been opened 
for two years to the veneration of the faithful, had become a 
place of pilgrimage. It was separated from the convent by a 
low wall and a garden known as " the great garden." On the 
other side of this wall, in the enclosure of the convent, and 
attached to the main building where the nuns lived, there was 
a little building, a kind of wing, in which rooms were let to 
lay women who wished to live there in silence and peace. It 
looked out upon a narrow strip of grassy lawn. It was to 
this little building, which was not subject to the rule of 
enclosure of the convent, that Mme. de Genlis retired. When 
she was at Bellechasse she had known Mile, de Soyecourt, 
who was then a boarder in a convent, the garden of which 
was next to that in which the Orleans children took their 
recreation, and a slight bond of friendship had united them. 
This was renewed in 1817. Mme. de Genlis went gladly to 
this retirement, pleased to be once more in a place that 
memory made dear to her, for the convent of the Daughters 
of the Precious Blood, where she was living at the time of her 
marriage, had stood only a few steps away at the corner of 
the rue Casette. 

And those who were good at gossip, including old Mme. de 
la Reyniere, still in vigorous health and always hostile to 
Mme de Genlis, said that she had gone there to end her days 
in monastic observances " disappointed with the vanities of 
the world and the false hope of celebrity." 

1 Abbe Pisani, La Maison des Carmes, 1610-1875. 


But if we are to credit Lady Morgan, 1 Mme. de Genlis's 
room still blossomed strangely with the perfumes of the 
world. " Her apartment might pass for the oratory of a 
saint or for the boudoir of a coquette." The English woman 
thought she was in some region of romance. She mistook, 
it seems, for a " beautiful bedstead in the Greek style " the 
commonest of bedsteads in mahogany veneer, and for 
" draperies of blue silk," an old bed quilt. But, after all, 
the beautiful gilded harp, always kept in tune, the alabaster 
vases, the fresh flowers everywhere, the piano heaped with 
new music, seemed elegant trifles beside the great crucifix 
of ivory, that Pius vn. had asked to see during his forced 
stay in Paris, and the chaplets and rosaries hanging on 
the walls, one of which was regarded as a priceless relic 
because a few days before his death Fenelon had held it in 
his hands as he prayed. And then the many books, scattered 
on shelves and tables, were a testimony to the serious side 
of the mind of the woman who lived in this cell, and their 
titles paid homage to her indestructible faith, that had been 
made more ardent by the recollection of the errors of her 

In the midst of these studious surroundings Mme. de 
Genlis, still keeping her good looks, erect, and with her 
bright eyes lighting up the worn features of her face, seemed 
to set time at defiance. And, nevertheless, violent nerve 
pains, the result of the intellectual overstrain to which as a 
diligent worker she condemned herself, were almost entirely 
depriving her of sleep. Bent all day long over her writing- 
table, 2 seldom receiving visitors, and still more rarely going 
out, she might be supposed to have retired from the world. 
If one wished to see her and enjoy the charm of her conversa- 
tion, one had to write to her more than once, renew one's 
request, and finally come and ask for her at her room. It was 
thus Lady Morgan, anxious to meet the celebrated French 

1 Lady Morgan, op. cit., 324. 

2 She published during the fifteen months of her stay at the Carmelites 
her famous abridgment of Dangeau, for by persevering efforts she had at last 
obtained the use of the manuscript ; and, besides, she published her romance 
Les Battuecas, three stories, etc. 


woman, penetrated to her presence, and that Mme. de Krudener 
made her acquaintance and succeeded in making her very 
interested in her. But for a long time Mme. de Genlis had 
shown herself disinclined to satisfy the curiosity of strangers. 
Even at the Arsenal she had written to the Abbe de Cabre, 
" Allow me to tell you, dear friend, that I would be greatly 
embarrassed if Madame d' Albany brought to me ladies who 
are unknown to me. I am continually declining such visits. 
If they want to come and hear some music, well and good, 
but if it is only to see me, I am not worth the trouble, and it 
is no pleasure to me to receive people who have only this 
trivial curiosity, and besides have no wish to make friends 
with me." x 

She might have made friends with her neighbour Mme. de 
Vilette, the famous " beautiful and good lady" of Voltaire, 
who seems to have shown her desire to be neighbourly by 
kindly letters and even by an invitation to dinner. But 
Mme. de Genlis took her stand in obstinate coolness, and 
out of her horror for Voltaire kept Mme. de Vilette at a 

Besides, she limited her goings out to some flying visits to 
the Abbaye-aux-Bois, where Madame Recamier held her 
Court, and where Pamela had gone into respectable retire- 
ment, the Orleans family paying for her board and lodging — 
four thousand francs — which in this way were beyond the 
reach of seizure by her creditors. 

The adopted daughter had made advances to the ex- 
governess. But there was an ill-concealed coldness between 
them. On the side of Pamela it took the form of an air of 
mistrust, a kind of rancour and disregard. It seems that she 
held Mme. de Genlis responsible for her actual position. 

On the part of the latter, it was inspired by prudence. 
For the widow of Fitzgerald was a source of anxiety to the 
royal police. She was the subject of unfavourable official 
reports. In 1815 she was said to be " receiving in her rooms 
in the rue St. Lazare many persons known for their bad 
political opinions, General Grouchy, M. de Pontecoulant," etc. 
A report of 16th November 1816 makes out that "she has an 

1 L. G. Pelissier, Lettres inedites de Madame de Genlis. 


understanding with the Orleanist party and receives con- 
siderable sums from them." 

This report is based on some small sums that Mme. Adelaide 
had lent to her to stop the proceedings of a creditor, besides 
the pension for board and lodging at the Abbaye-aux-Bois, 
which was paid directly by M. Pieyre. The loans were the 
result of her still finding the means of contracting debts that 
entailed legal proceedings. 

Worried by creditors, and suffering from a rheumatic 
pain in the head that mostly forced her to keep to her room, 
Pamela was nevertheless always dreaming of love. 

Soon she will have herself carried off by the Due de la 
Force, and taken to the elegant Villa Chambord at Montauban. 
There she will be seen as late as 1830, in the satin costume 
of a Watteau shepherdess, watching sheep decked out with 
ribbons and roses, like a heroine of the Golden Age. 1 

But at the Abbaye, as long as she stayed there, Mme. 
de Genlis visited her regularly, and this enabled her to 
become more intimate with Mme. Recamier, who, moreover, 
sometimes visited her at the Carmelites. 

1 Cf. Vicomte de Reiset, Anne de Caumont la Force, p. 386. 




The last period of the life of Mme. de Genlis was entirely 
taken up with literature and religion. 

All her anxiety in these last years turned upon her 
writings and the question of putting her own conscience, 
and the consciences of those who were near to her, in order. 
Her fame as an author planed her in communication with 
literary people of all kinds, and, as we shall see, she knew at 
this time all the literary celebrities of the first part of the 
nineteenth century. The ardour of her devotion placed her in 
the front of the anti-Voltairean movement, which Chateau- 
briand had inaugurated, and her heart was set on marking 
her position in it by writings and literary enterprises 
directed against the Encylcopsedia and the Encyclopaedists. 

It was a noble occupation, befitting a closing life, and a 
woman who was now free from all family life. Her grand- 
daughters had long since married, Felicie de Valence to the 
Count de Vischer de Celles, a Belgian nobleman, then one 
of Napoleon's prefects. " It was autumn and springtime," 
said Bnfaut. Rosamonde de Valence had married Marshal 
Gerard. Anatole de la Woestine had retired to his father's 
house in Belgium. He had joined the Royalists in 1814, 
making an exaggerated display of decorations and crosses, and 
his new friends had persuaded Louis xviii. to dispense with 
his services. The Marquis du Crest was living at Meung-sur- 
Loire, on a pension for which the House of Orleans had kept 
him waiting three years, until by threatening them with a 
law-suit and revelations he secured with great trouble 4000 
francs, which might have been more but for his making a 



disadvantageous compromise. The ex-Chancellor of the 
Palais Royal consoled himself by dreaming of his beloved 
inventions and of the marriage which (to her misfortune) 
his daughter Georgette had contracted with the musician 
Bochsa. As long as Mme. de Montesson lived, Georgette 
du Crest, protected by her and introduced to the Empress 
Josephine, passed a fairly happy time. After the death of 
the Marchioness, who did not leave her even the smallest 
legacy, she bravely prepared herself for an artistic career, in 
order to make a living and educate her daughter Coral y, 
in whom Mme. Adelaide no longer took any interest. 

Mme. de Montesson died, on 3rd February 1817, after a 
long illness, at her splendid country house at Romainville, — 
she had let her mansion in the Chaussee d'Antin to Ouvrard. 
She was cared for by Mme. de Valence, who was then 
living with her, and by Mme. de Genlis, who was so devoted 
as to spend four or five hours a day at her aunt's bedside. 
She showed very poor gratitude for the care of her nurses, 
and even at the point of death gave further proof of the 
antipathy with which her mother had long ago inspired her 
for the Mezieres and their descendants. 

Under the influence of this feeling, and especially of her 
affectionate preference for M. de Valence, the last will of 
Mme. de Montesson was a monument of injustice. 

Mme. de Genlis and the Marquis du Crest were disin- 
herited for the benefit of Valence, who was made almost 
sole legatee. As if out of pity, she left each of them a mere 
20,000 francs. Anatole de la Woestine received " the 
legacy one might have left to a lackey," — 4000 francs. 
Moreover, M. de Valence, who, according to Georgette du 
Crest, had the bad taste to draw up the will, far from doing 
anything to mitigate its results, asserted against Du Crest 
a charge of old date upon his 20,000 francs, and went so 
far as to refuse to let him have even a picture, the work of 
the Marquise de Montesson. After the death of the lady, 
Mme. de Valence spent most of her time with one of her 
daughters. Then the pupils of Mme. de Genlis had left her 
one after the other. Casimir, married as we have said, and 
now father of a family, was living at Ecouen. Stephanie 


d'Alyon was also married. Alfred Le Maire had been sent 
by his benefactress to Belgium. She had now no one near 
her except M. de Valence, for whom she still kept some 
secret affection. And in 1819 she went to stay at his mansion, 
No. 9 Rue Pigalle. Before that, tired of the Carmelites, 
she had returned to Casimir's home at Ecouen, where her 
mind was haunted by the plan she had so often formed of 
owning a house of her own, shaded with trees, which she 
could later on leave to her beloved Casimir. This went so far 
that she conceived the idea of asking Louis xviii. for it in 
these terms : — 

" Sire, — I am over seventy-one, and with my health en- 
feebled by prolonged work and great troubles. For myself 
I only long for solitude and a little rest. But in whatever 
part of Paris I might stay I would not find the tranquillity 
that I need. 

" There are at Versailles, besides the rooms of the palace, 
a large number of vacant apartments, which are at your 
Majesty's disposal, amongst others the whole of the Hotel 
d'Angeviliers. It is there that I would like to end my days. 
But I would never have taken the liberty of troubling your 
Majesty with a request merely for a lodging for myself, which 
perhaps would be only for a few days. I could not have been 
induced to take this step only for something that I have 
greatly at heart. 

" Seventeen years ago I brought back from Germany a 
boy from Berlin who was then eight years of age. To me 
he owes his religion, his education, the most brilliant talents, 
the cultivation of a mind that nature had made capable of 
acquiring and assimilating everything. To me he owes the 
cultivation of a soul that is in a high degree exalted and 
beautiful, and has the noblest feelings ; to me he owes a 
marriage that makes him happy, and I owe to him all the 
consolations and pleasures of my home life for the last twelve 
years. But the arrangements I have made as to my works 
will not suffice for me to purchase a little country house, and 
nevertheless all my happiness depends on ending my life with 
him, and thinking that I shall leave him after I am gone the 


enjoyment of the quiet refuge where we will have together 
cultivated literature and art, and where he will have received 
my last lessons and my last breath. So the favour I venture 
to ask of your Majesty is a place of residence at Versailles 
given to me under his name, — granted to Casimir Boecker. 
It is only under this condition that I would enjoy it or have 
any desire for it. This favour would produce no public 
effect. I would confine myself to saying that I had obtained a 
lodging at Versailles, and this is all that people would know 
or say. If your Majesty — with a condescension that one can 
hope for from you alone — deigns to grant me this favour, 
there will be nothing wanting to my happiness and nothing 
equal to my gratitude. How greatly I shall then enjoy a 
tranquillity that I have long desired in vain, and which will 
be so honourable for me, because it will be a favour from 
your Majesty. — I am, etc. . . " l 

It was a prettily worded petition. Roederer, who had re- 
ceived such things at Naples, including one from the Comtesse, 
and who read the document while playing cards with the 
King, said that " there was not a writer of begging letters 
in all Italy who better knew her business." Nevertheless 
Louis xviii. was deaf to her request, and Mme. de Genlis, taken 
once more with her liking for changes, moved again, returned 
to Paris, and put up in the Faubourg St. Honore. Without 
being aware of it, she was coming back to the unsettled 
humour of her early youth. Her last years were like a con- 
tinual moving. One might say that she has hardly taken 
up her abode in a neighbourhood before she began to dislike 
it. Restless, haunted by the fear of death, she believed, 
says a gossiping historian, that she might escape the grim 
visitor by changing her address. 

In fact, in the twelve years from 1818 to her death, she 
was jumping about Paris from district to district, so that 
she lived in more than fifteen different places, without count- 
ing her visits to the country— to Marshal Gerard's home at 
the Chateau of Villers, to Mme. de Custine's at Fervacques, 
to Mme. de Grollier's at Epinay, and elsewhere. 

1 B.N. MSS., Nouvelles acquisitions frangaises, 1304. 


At the end of 1818 we find her living in the Rue Neuve 
des Petits Champs, and in the summer of 1819 she went 
for a country holiday to Villers. This visit gave her the 
opportunity of consulting General Gerard, whose opinion 
she greatly valued, on a family affair that was troubling her. 

The fact was that Anatole de la Woestine was making 
a claim for the payment of his mother's dowry, 100,000 
francs, of which the half not actually paid over was a charge 
on the inheritance of M. de Genlis, which, it will be 
remembered, was administered by M. de Valence. Now, 
the young man declared that he had been deprived of his 
rights, and talked of nothing less than beginning a law-suit 
against M. de Valence. 

Mme. de Genlis recognised that Anatole had very serious 
claims to put forward, and General Gerard agreed with her. 
She tried to act as a mediator, and wrote from Villers to 
her grandson. But Valence would not listen to reason, 
and became obstinate, and the matter could not be arranged. 
Seeing this, the grandmother went to pass the autumn 
with Henriette at Carlepont. But on her return to Paris, 
having no place of her own, she asked M. de Valence for hospi- 
tality, and he granted it to her " with all possible grace." 

In going to stay at the Rue Pigalle, Mme. de Genlis 
was influenced by two important motives. She hoped to 
bring Valence to an agreement with young La Woestine, 
and in the second place to attempt his conversion, to help 
him to die well. 

She expected to settle the former affair in three weeks, 
but at the end of that time nothing had been done. M. de 
Valence fell seriously ill, and then she only occupied herself 
with the second point. A man who, to use the conventional 
phrase, enjoyed " life," a lover of good cheer and pleasure, 
a reckless gambler, he had during all the years he had lived 
been a proof of that saying of La Bruyere that the rich 
delight in excess. Worn out and wearied, with his con- 
stitution like that of an old man, and tried by the campaigns 
of Spain and Russia, he broke down rapidly under the 
final strain that his attempts to enjoy the heritage of Mme. 
de Montesson entailed upon him. He was dying of having 


" lived " too much. A Peer of France, reestablished in the 
good graces of royalty after temporary disgrace following 
on the Hundred Days, he had been living in grand style. 
But in the midst of all his opulence and dignity he would 
have been left uncared for if Mme. de Genlis had not come 
to his help. And he kept on saying that he would die if 
she left him. 

Mme. de Genlis stayed with him. " Besides," she 
says, " M. de Valence had taken that strong liking to me 
that all people when seriously ill have had for me." x 

She had lodged at first in the top floor of the mansion 
in a large room which commanded a magnificent view 
and had splendid air. But to be nearer the invalid she 
came down to the lowest store}' - . The treatment was easy 
for her to superintend, for it consisted only in a severely 
plain diet. But as Valence did not come to table, Mme. 
de Genlis, out of a thoughtful wish to spare trouble, took 
her meals with her lady companion at the table d'hote of a 
pension, kept by ladies who once ranked as aristocrats, 
but had been ruined by the Revolution. 

It was during this stay with her son-in-law that, at his 
request, and to please him, she had her portrait painted by 
Mme. Cheradame. 

However, Mme. de Genlis had not obtained any practical 
result as yet with regard to her two great objects. She 
saw at the end of three months of regular treatment that 
M. de Valence seemed to be regaining strength, and he soon 
began to take supper again at the Cafe Robert, to stay up 
late, and to play for high stakes. But as she was being 
suffocated in her apartment in the entresol storey, badly 
ventilated as it was, with a low ceiling, " a regular barrack 
room," where the working of a pump close by woke her 
up at daybreak, he offered to give up to his mother-in-law 
his own room," the only good one in the house," and to 
remove to the fifth floor. She would not consent to this, 
and preferred to get a change of air by taking rooms at the 
Bains de Tivoli. 

This did not last long. After a short time Valence 

1 Genlis, Memoires, iv. 218, 


sent word to her that if she refused his request it was quite 
certain that he would fall ill again and die. So she came 
back to the little room in the entresol. Her way of life 
then depended on that of the general. She visited his 
friends, presided in his salon, received his guests with him, 
w r ent out with him, and accompanied him to the cabaret. 
She appeared at the magnificent dinners given by M. de 
Valence to his colleagues of the Chamber of Peers — dukes, 
generals and other political friends, all Liberals, wildly 
eager for thorny discussions in which old Mme. de Genlis 
was not allowed a word. She gives us an amusing account 
of one of these dinners, at which the guests, amongst whom 
were four peers, four marshals and three generals, talked 
nothing but politics from one end of the table to the other 
without taking any notice of her. When they went to the 
salon they seated themselves in a circle in armchairs, 
without any further care for Mme. de Genlis, and began 
to discuss affairs of state. " They shouted loudly enough 
to deafen one," she says ; " they interrupted each other, 
quarrelled and made themselves hoarse. ... It was a 
perfect image of the Chamber of Deputies." 

It must be said that they did not consider her as one of 
themselves, as they were Liberals and she an extremist on 
the other side. But by a curious chance the extremists 
called her a " phrase-monger," no doubt out of dislike for the 
speeches addressed to the Chamber of Peers that she com- 
posed for Valence. Notwithstanding these differences of 
opinion, and thanks in some degree to her position at Mme. 
de Valence's, Mme. de Genlis was nevertheless very much 
in fashion in the year 1820. 

Whatever opinion one might have as to the value of her 
works, her name, surrounded as it was with the respectful 
consideration that comes of celebrity, counted for much. 
It recalled the perfume of a period of politeness and good 
taste of which she was one of the few survivors. It counted 
to her credit that she had depicted in her historical romances 
the manners and tone of the Court, of which after the license 
of the Directory one could only form an idea in imagination. 

Besides, in spite of current talk, Mme. de Genlis was a 


moralist. The errors of her youth had not prevented her 
from always defending the principles of an irreproachable 
code of morals founded on the Gospel. Since her return to 
France she had always taken up this position more strongly, 
and she might well be pardoned if in her struggle against the 
Encyclopaedists she had sometimes been too declamatory 
in her argument. It now seemed that her only object in 
writing was this defence of good morals. Everyone in the 
literary circles of Paris knew of her project of recasting the 
Encyclopedic, purifying it and remodelling it. Meanwhile, 
in expectation of the time when she would be in a position 
to carry out her plan, she published an expurgated edition 
of Emile, with appropriate notes dealing with the dangerous 
passages or ridiculing them. And she repeated this kind of 
criticism, but with reference to her contemporaries, in a little 
monthly magazine which she founded under the title of 

Slight as may be the influence that is now assigned to 
the Intrepide, it was not at the time disdained by men of 
letters, or even by writers of genius. Chateaubriand and 
Lamartine — to name only these — attached a good deal of 
value to its support. Chateaubriand was so pleased at Mine, 
de Genlis having praised his little work on the death of the 
Due de Berri, that he wrote to her on 27th May 1820, 
" Your indulgence, Madame la Comtesse, is the result of 
your talents. You are willing to give me a share of your 
own fame. I accept the present because it comes from you " ; 
and Lamartine showed much disappointment at her having 
criticised his first Meditations. It did not matter that she 
recommended him to Madame Adelaide. — If she speaks 
truly, it was this recommendation that disposed those in high 
places to name Lamartine an attache to the Embassy at 
Florence. But a poet does not readily pardon anyone who 
has written of him that he does not belong to a good school, 
that his expressions are ill chosen and obscure, his verses 
ambitious, and his phrases formed at haphazard. 1 

1 Genlis, Memoires, vi. 178-180. She says also of Lamartine (vii. 79) : 
" I had" praised exceedingly his talents and his poetry, and I had criticised 
with much politeness some really ridiculous verses. ... It was infinitely 


On the other hand, Astolphe de Custine was made famous 
by Mme. de Genlis, and did not thank her for it. This 
singular young man, of a capricious disposition and an un- 
healthy and presumptuous spirit, inspired her from the first 
with an ardent interest. She had made his acquaintance 
in May 1819 at the house of old Mme. de St. Julien, a last 
survivor of Ferney and still a brilliant conversationalist at 
the age of ninety-two. Perhaps it was because Astolphe 
reminded her of the tastes of old times, and recalled the 
memory of that poor friend of her youth, the Vicomtesse de 
Custine, and of the Comte, her brother-in-law, who had 
been in love with Mme. de Genlis before the days of the 
Palais Royal. 

She at once regarded the young man as belonging to 
her ; she had an idea of protecting him, of lecturing him, 
of becoming his literary guide, of all which he made fun 
later on. But in the first stage of their acquaintance 
young Custine was delighted at the interest Mme. de 
Genlis took in him. She began a literary correspondence 
with him, and wrote to him :"...! shall not say a 
word to you about friendship. Every line of this letter 
speaks to you of that with which you have inspired me, 
for all this good advice would be very ridiculous if it 
were not dictated by the most affectionate feeling. I love 
at once or never. I have predicted that you will be an 
extraordinary man. You will make pass me for a sorceress. 
I am quite prepared for it ; I have already the age of 
a Sibyl, and, thanks to you, it will be admitted that I 
have also the prescience of one. . . ." x Young Astolphe, 
won by her charm, confided in her, sent her verses and 
asked for her advice. 

" It was not the fault of Madame de Genlis," writes the 
biographer of Mme. de Custine-Sabran, " that she did not 
inspire the grandson of her friend with a long-out-of-date 

trying to me to show such impartiality towards an author who, when 
Jiimself sending me his work, had with his own hand written on the first 
page : ' M. de Lamartine begs Madame la Comtesse de Genlis to accept 
this very slight homage of his respect for her and his admiration for her 
genius.' " 

1 Unpublished letter, E.N. MSS. Francais, XouveUes acquisitions, 1304. 


affection," x and she never suspected the cynical ingratitude 
of which he gave proof later on. Perhaps he felt ill-will for 
her on account of the failure of her project of uniting him 
in marriage with the daughter of the General's widow, Mme. 
Moreau, a splendid match, very favourably regarded in 
Royalist circles and much desired by Astolphe. At the 
request of Mme. de Custine the Countess had in fact under- 
taken the negotiations, but, happily for Mile. Moreau, an 
obstacle — the reluctance of the General's widow to part with 
her daughter — broke them off at the decisive moment. 
The disappointment of young Custine was very great, but the 
curious thing was that his friends in Germany, especially 
Rachel Levin (now Mme. de Varnhagen), who had known Mme. 
de Genlis at Berlin, were active in turning him against her. 
Rachel indeed wrote to Custine at this moment : " Your 
mother, that dear lady, cannot be happier than I am at this 
rupture. Believe me, that intriguing woman (Mme. de 
Genlis) will not be easily tired out. You will have only too 
many experiences of the same kind." 2 

For the moment Astolphe was offering incense to the 
old Countess, and this too in verse. In this matter he was 
in competition with his uncle, M. de Sabran ; going to the 
Princesse de Vaudemont to read her the letter of Mme. de 
Genlis to Mile. d'Orleans on her old watch, and replying with a 
pleasant madrigal with old-fashioned and witty grace in it. 
M. de Sabran, as his contribution, rhymed the two stanzas, 
which she reproduces in her Memoirs. At the same time, 
Anatole de Montesquiou, another cavalier-in-waiting, dedi- 
cated to her a rondeau in the same affected style. All this 
was a far-off echo of the eighteenth century. One might 
have imagined oneself to be still in the times of the Boufflers, 
the Latteignants, the St. Lamberts. 

And it was indeed this vanished time that Mme. de Genlis 
reminded one of. They came to her to breathe its perfume, 
like that of a faded sachet whose scent recalls old memories. 
And writers especially, and not the least of them, felt them- 
selves attracted to her. Besides' her old friends of the 

1 A. Bardoux, Madame de Custine, 367. 

2 Quoted by Bardoux, p. 36S. 


Arsenal, many another asked for the favour of being received 
at the Rue Pigalle. 

There was M. de Bonald, whom the Chevalier d'Har- 
mensen had to introduce to her. Many years were to go 
by, it is true, before the austere philosopher knocked at her 
door. There was Lacepede, at Avhose table she dined with 
M. de Valence. There was M. de Lingre, a youthful moralist, 
the author of a very good book of maxims. There was 
Delille ; and the Due de Bassano ; and Pougens. Fievee, 
whom some difference kept for a while apart from her, 
sought a reconciliation, and Mme. de Genlis, who liked very 
much to hear him talk politics, gladly agreed to it. M. de 
Norvins read her his verses. The}^ all greatly appreciated 
her judgment, her good sense, her conversation, and came 
to talk with her ; and besides these there were learned men 
like M. de Sommariva,the Baron Vivant-Denon, Count Arthur 
de Bouille, M. de Courchamps, Baron Trouve, the Abbe Des- 
mazures ; men of rank like Lord Bristol, Sir Sidney Smith, the 
Duke of Mecklenburg, and better still, the Grand Duke Paul of 
Wurtemberg ; and the pleiad of young poets who submitted 
their verses or dedicated them to her. So when, in 1821, the 
Genlisiana appeared, it added nothing to the fame of her 
whom it sought to depict ; the traits of character and the 
actions of which it reminded its readers had long been 
public property. They had not the attraction of novelty, 
and they could not harm a celebrated woman nearly eighty 
years of age, who had an established reputation as a writer on 
moral questions. Besides, as if to guarantee her position, 
the Orleans Princes kept on excellent terms with their former 
Governess, and the Duchesse de Bourbon had up to the day of 
her death lavished marks of friendship upon her. Among 
all who knew her one voice only was raised in support of 
malignant attacks upon her, and to the general surprise that 
was the voice of Pamela. That dislike to be near her mother 
by adoption which we saw in her in 1808, had ten years later 
become a kind of underhand ill-will against her, which grew 
stronger, and, cherished in secret, at last broke out without 
a trace of restraint. On what subject and in what con- 
nection ? Pamela had got the idea of asserting to Mme. 


Adelaide some supposed rights of her own to the favours 
of the Orleans family. It certainly had something to do with 
the secret of her birth. And this in itself was enough to 
result in her being ignominiously driven away from the Palais 
Royal by the indignant Princess, who sent word to her that 
she wished never again to see the intriguer or to hear a word 
about her. 

M. Pieyre had written " four furious pages " to Mine, de 
Genlis on the subject. He expressed for Pamela, " for her 
infamous lies and her inconceivable hypocrisy, the uttermost 
degree of contempt." 

" Good heavens ! " exclaimed Mme. de Genlis in a letter 
to Casimir, " is it of this person whom I once loved so much 
that I now write thus, not only without mortal sorrow, but 
with a kind of pleasure ! " 

In fact, any friendly feeling between the two women had, 
after long weakening, at last broken its last link. It had 
become very strained, very frail, and all correspondence be- 
tween them now ceased 

Mme. de Genlis — more lonely than ever, for the Abbe 
de Cabre had died in the course of 1821 — now turned her 
attention again to M. de Valence. It was a case of 
helping this man, who had seen too much of " life," to 
die a decent death. And his state of health was deplor- 
able, and made worse by continual excesses and impru- 
dences in his way of living. It could not fail to inspire 
anxiety about him. 

Gangrene had shown itself and was making rapid progress 
in his limbs, so that everything indicated that the end must 
come soon. 

It will be remembered that at an earlier date Mme. de 
Genlis had attempted the conversion of Valence ; and her 
zeal against the Encyclopaedists had had some influence on 
the mind of the old pleasure-seeker. She persuaded him to 
adopt certain good practices — the abstinence on Fridays and 
Saturdays, the Mass on Sundays, and some reading ; but 
there was a long way from this to a sincere conversion, and 
his temporary recovery had banished far off all thoughts 
of religion. When she found that he was again in danger, 


Mine, de Genlis, who herself was so seriously ill that she 
received the last sacraments, dictated to Casimir a long letter 
for Valence. Casimir had already taken it upon himself to 
bring to the bedside of the dying man the former confessor 
of Mme. de Montesson, but had gained nothing by his 

But the pressing letter of Mme. de Genlis, arriving when 
all hope had been given up, persuaded M. de Valence to make 
his peace with God. When he was at the last extremity he 
sent for Mme. de Genlis' s confessor, a curate of Notre Dame 
de Lorette, the Abbe Gavoile, and, according to the precept 
of the apostle, worked out his salvation in fear and trembling. 
He confessed and received absolution, and expired during 
the extreme unction. It seems that Mme. de Valence and 
her daughters were present at his last moments. However 
this may be, their grief was overwhelming. A ghastly circum- 
stance made it more painful for them. The corpse of the 
deceased was of such great bulk that it required a very 
large and heavy coffin, and it seemed as if it would never be 
got down the rather narrow stairway of the house. It took 
a full hour to manage this. Mme. de Genlis, still ill, and 
unable to rise from her bed, heard as she lay there " the 
collisions against the wall as this mournful and heavy burden 
almost slipped from the hands of its bearers, who all the time 
were uttering terrible cries." " I never suffered more," she 
says. But she had the consolation of thinking that her 
efforts had been crowned with success, and had resulted 
in this wretched Valence being led to make a good 

Some time before, the dispute between him and young 
La Woestine had been settled in a friendly way. General 
Gerard, the husband of Mile, de Valence, bought from his 
father-in-law the Sillery estate, for 300,000 francs, under 
condition that if he resold it at a higher price he would share 
the profit with Valence, and that out of it they would pay to 
La Woestine what was due to him. Mme. de Genlis says that 
General Gerard sold it for 600,000 francs, and that they 
gave 100,000 to M. de la Woestine, " in settlement of the 
lawsuit begun by him." In reality, the estate and chateau 


of Sillery were bought by M. Hedin on 6th June 1821 for 
400,000 francs. 

After the death of M. de Valence and the sale of Sillery, 
the Comtesse de Genlis remained for six weeks at the mansion 
n the rue Pigalle and then returned to the Bains de Tivoli. 
It was there that she completed her convalescence and also 
the most violent of all her works against the Encyclopedie, 
and above all against Voltaire — the famous Diners du Baron 
d'Holbach. In this book she fought the philosophes with their 
own weapons — that is to say, with quotations taken from 
their writings, chiefly from their correspondence. She made 
it an imaginary record of the talk of Holbach's guests at his 
dinner-table — Diderot, the Abbe Morellet, Dalembert, Duclos, 
Helvetius, the Abbe Galiani, Raynal, the Chevalier de 
Chastellux, etc. The subject, the inexhaustible subject, of 
conversation was the letter from Voltaire that Dalembert 
received on every post-day. Mme. de Genlis made use, for 
this purpose, of the correspondence of the "patriarch" — at 
least of as much of it as was then known — and of the Memoirs 
of Morellet, which had lately been published. But the 
interest of the book did not centre upon these dialogues, 
written with a purpose, between the members of the same 
coterie. It depended on the vigorously written introduction, 
containing two terrible indictments against Voltaire, in 
which she explained her purpose. And after having been so 
long in the fight, Mme. de Genlis had had ample leisure to 
polish up her weapons. She now brought them all out. It 
must be allowed that often she chose them well. Without 
dwelling on the somewhat combative tone of her essay, one 
ought perhaps to say of her philippic, it must be admitted 
that Mme. de Genlis saw quite clearly the failings of Voltaire 
— the extent of his inferiority to Racine and Corneille ; the 
coldness of his poetry ; his lies, his immorality, his intoler- 
ance ; finally, that literary jealousy which led him systematic- 
ally to calumniate everyone who was suspected of being a 
genius. She says with much justice that the immense extent 
of his influence " is no credit to the false philosophy," and 
" proves that the corruption of human nature is easier to 
mislead than to enlighten." She judges his age and the 


man who dominated it from the Christian not from the 
mere literary point of view. And in this sense, and for 
the matter of that in the philosophic sense, she is right 
again and again. She maintains that the century of 
education, of literary masterpieces, of philosophy, and of 
good morals was rather the seventeenth than the 
eighteenth, and once more she is right. It will be 
objected against her that she saw only the bad side of 
Voltaire. But writing as a moralist, and a Christian 
moralist, she might indeed remain silent as to his talents ; 
and she took this course, though there is no doubt she 
could appreciate Voltaire as a writer. 

The Diners du Baron oVHolbach made a noise. One 
can easily imagine who were its admirers and who its un- 
friendly critics. 1 

The work appeared in 1822. As soon as it was published, 
there was such a " prodigious demand " for it that it could 
not be supplied quickly enough. 2 Even two years later 
a preacher in the pulpit of St. Roch spoke highly in its 

Encouraged by this success, and happy, as she liked to 
repeat, in working for religion, Mme. de Genlis set actively 
to work on her new edition of the Encyclopedie. It amounted 
to nothing less than an entire transformation. Our Countess 
had read the immense compilation twice through. She 
undertook to expurgate Diderot's articles, to revise all those 
on mythology, etc. 

And she undertook with joyous ardour at the close of 
her career this titanic work, that might have alarmed a 
writer in the full vigour of life. She had already confided 

1 Mme. de Genlis asserts that the publication of the Diners du Baron 
d'Holbach was followed by the coming of anonymous letters and threats of 
revenge, so that she did not dare to go out unaccompanied to Mass. Mme. 
de Choiseul escorted her and kept her in sight ; nevertheless, an insolent 
young man assailed her, it appears, in the church, — with words only, pre- 
sumably, — and the romantic imagination of Mme. de Genlis made her 
believe that soon after she saw an unknown person who had got into her 
room, and was advancing upon her with fury in his eyes, when at that 
moment the Count de Rochefort arrived, and " the unknown made his 
escape without delay" (Memoires, vii. 252, 253). 

2 Cf. L. G. Pelissier, Portefeuille de la Comtesse d' Albany , 2nd December 1S22. 


her plans to an illustrious visitor at the Rue Pigalle, M. de 
Chateaubriand, to whom the idea seemed so admirable, 
that he interested himself in it, came back to talk about it 
a second time, and on 23rd March 1823, put 2000 francs at 
the disposal of Mme. de Genlis, with that condescending 
grace that was characteristic of him. 

"It is a mere trifle," he said, " for so useful a work, 
but perhaps I shall have more funds at my disposal in the 
last quarter of the year, and I could not make a better use 
of them than in giving you the means of instructing and 
charming a public that has become accustomed to admire 
you." i 

Finally, this colossal project had the good fortune to 
please Louis xviii. He gave proof of this by granting 
Mme. de Genlis a pension of 1500 francs, payable from the 
budget of the theatres, and dating from 16th September 

" I have a very shabby pension of 1500 francs," she 
writes to Casimir, " with a fine letter about my talents, my 
writings, their utility, etc. Anyhow it will do to pay the 
rent and the servants." 

Mme. de Genlis was then living in the Place Royale 
(now the Place des Vosges), and her finances had great need 
of being livened up. Apparently the royal pension did 
not suffice for this, for our poor Countess was thinking of 
lodging at less expense in a convent, and to diminish the 
outlay she hoped to share her rooms with Mme. de Valence. 
However, the latter was happier with her daughters ; she 
lived sometimes in Belgium with the Comtesse de Celles, 
sometimes at Villers with Rosamonde, Comtesse Gerard ; 
and Mme de Genlis set to work to search for two rooms with 
a lodging for a servant, but they must be healthy, with good 
air and a lofty ceiling, which is " the thing most difficult to 
find in all the world." 

From this point of view a first floor suite then vacant 
at the Abbaye aux Bois did not suit her, and a convent an- 
swered better her desire for retirement and austerity. She 
has said herself that in old age the sight of the pleasures 

1 Chedieu de Robethon, Chateaubriand et Madame de Custine, p. 226. 


and vain amusements of the world is painful and seems 
foolish. Feeling that she was on the threshold of eternity, 
and although she was remarkably free from illness, and at 
nearly eighty-four read and wrote without glasses, she was 
dominated by the fear of death, and wished to prepare for 
it by penitence. For several years she had been in the 
habit of periodically making good resolutions, generally 
the same, for they were quickly forgotten. This one, how- 
ever, she kept : " Not to wear silk any more or jewellery, 
except her wedding ring." " Considering how she 
dressed, whether in silk or woollen," says Fievee, " I think 
that God did not see much difference. But her carelessness 
about dress could not prevent her having a most distin- 
guished air." 

Mine, de Genlis tried therefore to find a place of retire- 
ment with the Dames du Saint Sacrement. The attempt 
proved impossible for her, on account of several drawbacks, 
among which the impossibility of having a confessor every 
week was the principal. At the end of four months she 
moved to the Rue Taranne. But increasing complications 
in her affairs, and the debts of which she did not take time 
to check the accounts, for she was all day bent over her 
writing-table, very soon forced her to leave the place. Sad, 
lonely, deserted, and in no state to extricate herself from 
her difficulties, the poor woman was glad to receive help 
from Casimir. He rented a suite of rooms for his mother 
by adoption in the Rue Neuve St. Roch, furnished it, organ- 
ised the housekeeping, found a servant and a cook, and 
leaving for awhile his wife and children — by 1824 there were 
three of them — at Mantes at his place in the Rue des Pois, 
came to stay with Mme. de Genlis. 

This state of things lasted six months, after which Mme. 
de Genlis, having become ill through trying to keep the 
Lent strictly, Casimir proposed to her to come to his home 
at Mantes in the spring. He had to be beside the domestic 
hearth just then, for his wife brought into the world, on 3rd 
April 1824, a son — Marie- Joseph-Gabriel-Edouard Boecker. 1 
But Mme. de Genlis kept the rooms in the Rue Neuve St. i 

1 fitat-civil de Mantes (communicated by M. Grave). 


Roch, leaving them to the care of her two servants. She 
came back to them for the New Year's Day of 1825, wishing 
to see all her friends again and receive their good wishes ; 
and it was a real joy to her to gather round her her daughters 
and nieces, and M. de la Woestine and his daughter Leocadie, 
the offspring of his second marriage and a Bavarian canoness, 
and Pamela and the rest. There was, alas ! one missing 
from this family party ; it was the Marquis du Crest, who 
had died on 9th April 1824 ; but his widow and Georgette, 
in deep mourning, reminded the old Countess of the absent 

She stayed only two months in Paris ; just long enough 
to see through the press the first two volumes of her Memoirs 
which were about to appear, and draw up the prospectus that 
was to launch them. It was at Mantes, therefore, that 
there came to her the echoes of the work, the protests, the 
outcries of people named in these two volumes, drawn from 
the life and described in them. Even descendants of those 
she mentioned did not fail to cry out as if they had been 
flayed, and talk of calumny and scandal. Sainte-Beuve has 
remarked that " no doubt in her desire to conceal and to 
attenuate many things she has revealed a good many others." 
And her revelations, those of a person who has seen and 
heard what she talks about, and who describes it with a 
lively pen, skilled in drawing with a single line the whims and 
oddities of others, especially of women, and in making herself 
come out well in all circumstances — these revelations fell 
.into the midst of royalist society like a stone into a pond of 
frogs. There was an outcry. The late Mme. de Montesson, 
who had lived only to court public opinion, found posthumous 
defenders against this " devilish niece " of hers. Others, 
descendants of the contemporaries of the youthful Genlis, 
filled the newspapers with their corrections, — notably the son 
of the Chevalier de Bonnard, who defended his father in the 
Journal des Debats. 1 Others wrote to her and overwhelmed 
her with protests, to which she paid hardly any attention. 
I Again and again Mine, de Genlis, after this descent into the 
literary arena, found herself exposed to a succession of 

1 Journal des Debats, Maj' 1825 


attacks. We have remarked elsewhere how carelessly she 
relied upon her untrustworthy memory, which was assisted 
and often misled by her imagination, and with what incom- 
parable art she forgets dates and circumstances that she had 
no reason to be proud of. We need not return to the subject. 1 
Did she remember at eighty-four the failings of the past ? 
She was, on the contrary, all delight at being once more the 
subject of every one's talk, and enchanted with the stir 
this publication had made. She was in a hurry to follow 
it up with the next two volumes, and for this purpose came 
back to Paris to make arrangements with Ladvocat. It 
was the end of May 1825. But she did not again appear at 
the Rue Neuve St. Roch. 

Ladvocat had looked for and found another place for her. 
It was in the outskirts of Paris, so far out then that one 
thought one was almost in the country. It was in the maison 
de sante of Dr. Canuet at 10 Grande Rue de Chaillot. There, 
far from the noise of the city, she could find quiet and the care 
she needed for her health. This journey came iust at the 
time of the celebrations on the occasion of the coronation of 
Charles x., which she saw from the carriage of Mme. de 
Choiseul. But she had no longer the elasticity of youth. 
Having failed to resist the temptation to eat freely of an 
enormous box of Rheims gingerbread, a present from her 
pupil the Duke of Orleans, Mine, de Genlis suffered violent 
colics, became nervous, and sent in all haste for Baron Alibert, 
the physician of Louis xvm. We quote this pressing 
note, which, considering how unimportant was her in- 
disposition, gives a somewhat amusing picture of the old 
lady's fears : — 

" I have been some days in Paris, my dear doctor. I 
arrived in perfect health, but to-day I feel myself very 
sick. I have very sharp pains in the stomach, a thing I have 
never before had. I suspect it is a kind of tympanic colic, 
for there is much local swelling and tension. What should 
I do ? Send me word this very day, or come at once to my 
help. I have confidence only in you. 

1 See on this subject the opinion of Stendhal, Correspondence, i. 290. 


" Good-day, dear doctor. It is four o'clock in the after- 
noon. My address is No. 10 Grande Rue de Chaillot. 


" Thursday, 9th June 1825." l 

Of course this mere indigestion had no serious result. 
But the house of Dr. Canuet was not to be the last refuge 
of Mine, de Genlis. Haunted by the idea of ending her days 
in the shadow of the cloister, she removed on 12th October 
in the same year to the convent of the Dames de Saint Michel. 
Her lodging there was " a very bad and very lofty " room, 
where, as the winter came on, she found that " one would 
need all the skins of a flock of sheep to stop all the cracks 
and all the holes in it," and that this icy habitation would 
be fatal to her. So there was a fresh removal. Her new 
apartments were in the Rue Neuve de Berry, in a school 
for young girls. It was there that, still hard at work, she 
published the La Bruyere des Domestiques and the Soupers de 
la Marcchale de Luxembourg, works of the last declining 
period of her life, but not entirely without passages full of 
intelligence and sound sense. 

Finally, in 1827, at the age of more than eighty-four, she 
made her last move, and retired to a family boarding-house 
kept by a certain Mme. Afforty at No. 24 Rue du Faubourg 
du Roule. She hoped to make from there a final pilgrimage 
to St. Aubin, but she could only do it by letter, and this 
was her last place of residence. There it was she heard the 
firing of July 1830, for there was fighting nearly opposite 
the house, at the royal stables in the Rue d'Artois, the site 
of the present Rue de Berry. Her niece, Georgette du 
Crest, came from Clichy, where she lived, to tell her the news 
— how the insurrection had broken out, how the troops under 
General Gerard were masters of the Revolution, how the 
Duke of Orleans had been named Lieutenant-General of 
the kingdom, and it was thought would soon be King of 
France. " God guard him from accepting it," exclaimed 
Mme. de Genlis. " I wrote thus to him years ago, and my 

1 Unpublished letter, Library of Nancy. The signature and date only 
are in the hand-writing of Madame de Genlis. 


opinion of him is the same as then. He has all the virtues 
of a good father of a family, but none of the qualities required 
for the chief of a party — no ambition and no firmness of 
character. . . ." x 

The governess strangely deceived herself. And if Heaven 
had granted her greater length of days, Louis-Philippe, a King, 
and a King that really governed, would have proved to his old 
teacher that, having learned from her to rule himself with 
integrity, he could therefore all the more surely and bravely 
guide the car of the state. But she clung so obstinately to her 
opinion that, even after the republication of her " Letter from 
Silk " in 1828 by the enemies of the Duke of Orleans, and even 
after 9th August when Louis-Philippe had accepted the 
crown, the object of his desires, she persisted in saying, " He 
will repent of it. Happily I shall not be a witness of his 
regrets. I shall be dead." 2 

She was, in fact, then hardly recovered from one of those 
illnesses of old people of which age is the most serious 

In her case the malady had attacked the head. Her 
ideas became confused, her speech failed, and a continual 
drowsiness dulled her whole body. At the very outset, with 
keen foresight, she recognised what her state meant, and 
wanted to write to her august pupil to recommend Casimir to 
him. But she could not manage to hold the pen, or even to 
dictate the shortest letter. A torpor she could not over- 
come made all her ideas vague the moment she tried, with a 
hopeless effort, to keep the thread of them. Mine, de Valence, 
Casimir, a devoted friend the Comtesse Anquetil, and Georg- 
ette cared for her day and night. This last relates an amusing 
incident relating to this illness of Mme. de Genlis. One day 
one of her doctors, finding her lying in an uncomfortable way, 
gently raised her up while the nurses rearranged the bed a 
little. She suddenly roused up from her torpor and ex- 
claimed : " Whatever arc you doing, Monsieur ? Are you 
trying to run away with me ? Such a thing never occurred 
to me in my life, and I don't think it ought to happen at 
eighty-four. Please lay me down at once." 

1 Georgette du Crest, op. cit., ch. xiii. 2 Ibid. 



To a question of Georgette as to how she felt she replied, 
" Be silent. You are distracting me ! " It was afterwards 
known why she did not wish to be distracted. " It was," 
she said, " because I believed I was dying. I thought 
I recognised what one must feel when the soul is depart- 
ing, and I was afraid it would go while you were talking 
to me." 

A remarkable thing happened. The last Sacraments 
brought her back to life. On the morrow of the day when 
she received them she was better. Two days after her 
health became excellent. They saw her once more reading 
and writing without using glasses, hearing admirably, sur- 
prising every one by her wonderful memory, and resuming the 
almost vegetarian regime that she had adopted for thirty- 
five years. Her meals consisted almost entirely of vegetables 
boiled in water without salt, and fruit of all kinds, grapes 
from Fontainebleau, oranges, and enormous quantities of 
strawberries. Chicken broth and a drink of honied barley- 
water completed her fare, from which she had excluded, for 
good and all, wines, coffee, and liqueurs. It then seemed to 
those around her that her health had been solidly restored, 
and that if she received no sudden shock she might go on 
till she was a hundred. As for Mine, de Genlis herself, she 
went on quietly with her literary work and her romantic 
projects. Was she once more dreaming of making a fortune 
when, on 2nd June 1829, she formed a partnership with two 
young people, a doctor and a bachelor of law, with a view to 
putting on the market a balm to cure rheumatism, a patent 
medicine of her own invention ? 

Her idea, no doubt, was that the profits of this discovery, 
if there were any, should go to Casimir — everything was for 
him — he was the object of her last and her only affection. 
It cost her something to leave the world without having first 
secured a comfortable future for this careless young fellow, 
who had now set up as a teacher of the harp at Mantes. She 
would have liked to make him rich — very rich. There is a 
letter of hers dated 20th October 1829, dictated by Mme. de 
Genlis to a friendly amanuensis, in which, after extolling 
the good qualities of Casimir, she recommends him to a 


person in high position who was absolutely unknown 
to her. 

Death came suddenly on Friday, the last day of 1830. 

That morning her maid, Mile. Sorel, came as usual into 
her room at eight o'clock. Her mistress asked her for a glass 
of eau sucree, and told her to let her rest until ten. 

" At nine o'clock," her niece tells us, " her doctor 
arrived to wish her a Happy New Year. The maid hesitated 
about allowing him to go in before the hour fixed for awaking 
her mistress. But the doctor insisted, saying that he could 
not come to see her next day, as he would be obliged, as an 
officer of the National Guard, to make several visits in 
connection with the corps, and that he must really give 
her his good wishes now. 

" He therefore went in, and was surprised at seeing that 
she remained asleep, notwithstanding the noise made in 
opening the shutters, and that she looked very yellow. 
He went close to her, and spoke to her without receiving 
any reply. He took her hand ; it was icy cold. Alarmed 
at this he tried her pulse and felt the region of the heart. 
It was not beating. Mine, de Genlis was dead ! . . . Her 
features had not changed ; she was holding a handkerchief 
to her mouth like some one wiping the lips after drinking. 
The glass standing near her was empty. 

" The doctor tried to do something for her. He put 
some alkali in the mouth. But it was all of no use." 1 
Mme. de Genlis was no more ! 

As soon as this was known a magistrate was sent 
for, and went through the sad formality of sealing up her 
belongings. But no will was found, for the inventory 
makes no mention of one being among the papers of the 

It was, however, well known, for she had often men- 
tioned it, that she wished to rest in the cemetery of the 
Calvary on Mont Valericn, and arrangements were made 

Mont Valcrien had been from time immemorial a holy 
and venerated place. Since, in the year 1130, the village 

1 Georgette du Crest, op. cit. 


of Suresnes, ravaged by the plague, had seen its sick cured 
at the fountain on the Mount, the water of this miraculous 
spring had drawn crowds of pilgrims from twenty leagues 
around. Some hermits took up their abode there, and in 
1640 Louis xiii. authorised the erection of the Calvary. 
The protection of Louis xiv. made it more widely known. 
As the feasts of the Cross came round, and especially in 
Holy Week, the faithful came in crowds, venerated a relic 
of the true Cross, the gift of the Elector Palatine, and formed 
processions in long array. In the eighteenth century 
Bernardin de St. Pierre and Jean-Jacques Rousseau came 
there together, and dreamed of the happiness and peace 
of soul of those who believed. The Revolution broke every- 
thing up, and left the Calvary in the possession of Merlin 
de Thionville, who sold it to M. de Gay, the incumbent of 
the Abbaye-aux-Bois. Rebuilt, and much visited by the 
Royalists, it excited the jealous suspicion of Napoleon, who, 
after various projects, decided to build a barrack there. 
1815 interrupted the work, and Louis xviii. restored the 
Calvary to its original destination. 

Then Monsignor de Forbin-Janson established the Peres 
de la Foi there, and they reopened the ancient cemetery 
for those who out of devotion might wish to rest under 
the sacred shadow of the Cross. 

All the aristocracy were eager to obtain allotments of 
ground for graves, and before long the enclosure sheltered 
the last repose of privileged nobles, cardinals, bishops, 
generals, admirals, Chevaliers of St. Louis and of the Legion 
of Honour, and some ladies of distinguished families. 1 Then, 
during the Revolution of July, the monastery was sacked 
and the Calvary damaged, and one of the first acts of Louis- 
Philippe was to forbid any more burials in the aristocratic 
cemetery. The decree was dated 25th December — that is, 
five days before the death of Mine, de Genlis, and it had 
not yet been put in force. 

Nevertheless, a special permission from the King was 
required before the new law could be suspended in favour 
of his old teacher. Louis-Philippe granted it " in view of 

1 Cf. Robert Henard, Le Mont Valerien. 


the fact that she had chosen her place of burial under the 
shelter of the Calvary and under the care of the Priests of 
the Mission." But the Constitutionnel did not fail to protest 
and to ask " why under so thoroughly constitutional a 
Government decrees could exist that were not applied 
without exception." x But notwithstanding the Constitu- 
tionnel, Mme. de Genlis was buried at Mont Valerian. 

If they could have seen her will, they would have found 
there this provision as to her funeral — for she had thought 
of everything, even of the persons to whom invitations should 
be sent — " I wish to be buried without any display." But 
nothing was known of this ; for her executor under her 
will, M. Aniere, formerly a magistrate at St. Denis, a friend 
of Mme. de Genlis, who had known him at Mantes, was 
then in Switzerland, where he heard of her death only 
through the newspapers, so that the will, which he had in 
his keeping, arrived too late. 

There had been only brief announcements of the death 
of the Countess in the newspapers of 2nd January 1831, — 
the Gazette de France, the Debats, the Quotidienne, and the 
Constitutionnel. The Constitutionnel and the Gazette in very 
short notices mentioned only, to the honour of the deceased, 
that she had been the King's governess. But the Temps 
devoted to her a long biographical article, in which it was 
easy to recognise the bitter and rancorous pen of one of 
Michaud's contributors. 2 

The Gazette announced the funeral service for Monday, 
3rd January. In reality it took place on Tuesday the 4th, 
at St. Philippe du Roule, the parish church of Mme. de Genlis. 

By the order and at the expense of Louis-Philippe, who 
nobly offered this last public testimony of esteem for his 
old teacher, the ceremony was splendid. The obsequies of 
"Madame la Marquise de Sillery, Comtesse de Genlis, formerly 

1 Constitutionnel, January 8, 1831. 

2 Le Temps, January 3, 1831. The article ended thus: "Outside of 
this conventional world Madame de Genlis could neither describe nor under- 
stand anything. She seems never to have examined human passion except 
in the embroidered vests of the Court of Louis xv., and never contemplated 
Nature except through the Venetian blinds of the summer-house at Belle- 


lady-of-honour to Her Highness the Dowager Duchess of 
Orleans, and Governor of His Majesty the King," were cele- 
brated with a magnificence that " was in complete contrast 
with the modest and simple ways of the deceased." 

The church with its portals draped, and its nave entirely 
hung with black, with the great catafalque covered with 
black hangings embroidered in silver, and the sanctuary 
bright with hundreds of tapers in silver candlesticks, pre- 
sented the imposing spectacle of a great Catholic funeral 
service, always the same through the centuries. 

The chief mourners were the Marquis Anatole de la 
Woestine, Colonel of the 6th Regiment of Hussars and grand- 
son of Mme. de Genlis, and Marshal Comte Gerard, the hus- 
band of her granddaughter, Rosamonde de Valence. Then 
came the officers of the Palais Royal representing the King 
and the Princess Adelaide ; Casimir and his eldest son ; Louis 
Boecker, aged ten, a godson of Mme. de Genlis ; and finally, a 
group of friends, small in number, alas ! for death had terribly 
thinned their ranks and the departed was very old. 

It was the funeral of a grandmother, all of whose con- 
temporaries belonged to two generations ago, and where 
the only representative of these old days was the Comte de 
Sabran, for Talleyrand was at the Embassy in London, 
Anatole de Montesquiou was absent, and except Fievee 
there were few among her colleagues of the literary world 
who remembered her. The carriages of the Court with the 
Orleans liveries closed the procession, which wended its way 
to Mont Valerien. 

There a discourse brought the ceremony to an end. 

But who was it that had the honour of pronouncing the 
funeral oration of Mme. de Genlis ? Georgette du Crest 
says it was the Latin scholar Lemaire. But she must be mis- 
taken, and other narrators attribute it to a provincial man of 
letters, a scholar and member of several learned societies, 
who died Inspector of the Academy at Bourges, but is quite 
unknown to the present day — a certain Pierquin de Gem- 
bloux. We have, in fact, found in the list of his works the 
mention of a discourse delivered at the grave of Mme. de 
Genlis, with these words in parenthesis : "It was the only 


one that was delivered." * One might well have wished 
that some less obscure voice had praised the memory of a 
woman whose career was celebrated, and who numbered 
nearly fifty j^ears of literary reputation. Besides, M. Pier- 
quin de Gembloux was for her something less than an ally, 
and little more than a stranger, for he had married a cousin 
of Mme. de Montesson. By this open grave he made up in 
some small degree for the neglect and injustice with which 
the late Marquise de Montesson had disdainfully over- 
whelmed her dear niece ; but the laurels that he bestowed 
on the dead woman were not of the kind that are rich enough 
and vigorous enough to endure. They withered as soon as 
they were bestowed. The discourse has, unfortunately, not 
reached us. We only know that Anatole de Montesquiou 
read it and eulogised it. And all this passed without causing 
any stir and in the midst of indifference. Mme. de Genlis 
had lived too long. Her name, as a contemporary publica- 
tion remarked, " seemed already a recollection of the past, 
of antediluvian or at least of ante-Revolution date, and 
people murmured a Requicscat in pace, as a sufficient tribute 
to her memory." 2 

Now that Mme. de Genlis was gone, there was the winding 
up of her affairs. Her direct heirs, Mme. de Valence and 
Anatole de la Woestine, had the legal inventory of her effects 
drawn up. The first meeting for this purpose took place on 
13th January 1831, the second on Wednesday, 23rd February. 
They revealed no hidden treasures. Mme. de Genlis had 
died poor. 

They found several agreements relating to works sold 
outright to publishers, and having now no value, as full pay- 
ment for them had been made long since ; two assignments of 
literary property in payment of bills signed by her ; another, 
a settlement with the publisher Roret, " for the assignment 
to him of two works, one the Manuel epistolaire, the other 
the Manuel cncyclopediquc, at the price of 300 francs for each, 
reduced to 400 francs in all, paid to Mme. de Genlis, seeing 
that the work delivered under the title of Manuel encyclo- 

1 Travaux scientifiques de Pierquin de Gembloux, p. 3. 
- EpMm&rides universelles, December 30, 1830, t. xii. 


pedique was only a copy of an older work." * They found 
also the curious little agreement concerning the anti-rheumatic 
balm. As she was boarding at Mme. Afforty's, the Countess 
had very little furniture of her own. The few objects be- 
longing to her were valued at a little under 300 francs. The 
beautiful ivory crucifix blessed by the Pope, which Mme. 
Afforty was taking care of, is valued at only 80 francs. 

Then bills came in, mostly from shopkeepers, represent- 
ing the expenditure of the current year : a shoemaker, a dyer, 
a pastry-cook, a provision dealer, a jeweller — for hardly 900 
francs in all. Who can say whether the jeweller's account did 
not refer to a " ring of brilliants " which Mme. de Genlis 
wished very much to have attached to her beautiful crucifix ? 
Then there had to be added two months' board and lodging, 
and 2000 francs due to Maitre Morand, notary, for costs — 
making the total of her debts 3710 francs, 70 centimes. 
Meanwhile, her will had become known. 

At the moment of the death of Mme. de Genlis M. Aniere 
was at Carouge, near Geneva, whence he sent it by post to 
the President of the Tribunal of the Seine on 9th January. 
It arrived on the 18th. 

This long recital of the last wishes of the Countess was 
dated 6th August 1827. It left to Mme. de Valence and to 
the Marquis de la Woestine all her rights as an author with 
reference to her various works, with the exception of one 
single work already reserved to M. de Bouille, 2 and it dis- 
tributed to her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nephews, 
and friends little legacies, knick-knacks, and books — every- 
thing she possessed : her wedding-ring to Mile. Pulcherie de 
Celles ; her beautiful crucifix to M. de Morlaincourt ; her 
ivory palette to Henriette ; her guitar to Mme. de Choiseul ; 
her snuff-box to M. Pieyre, etc. Various copies of her works 
went to Pamela, to M. de Courchamps, to M. de Sabran, to 
the Comtesse de Brady, to Georgette du Crest, to the Comte 
de Rochefort, etc. 

Mme. Recamier was to have the manuscript of an un- 

1 Inventaire, fitude Mouchet. Cf. on this point Querard, Superchcries 

2 Les mcmoires de la marquise de Bonchamps. 


published novel, the Chateau de Coppet. But the most 
important clause concerned Casimir. Mme. de Genlis, relying 
upon the gratitude of her august pupils King Louis-Philippe 
and the Princess Adelaide, begged them to give to Boecker 
the reversion of half of her pension, or 5000 francs. 

Finally, another clause bequeathed to the children of 
Boecker and to Alfred Le Maire the sum of 2000 francs, 
which was to be increased to 4000 francs if the payment 
was delayed for six months. The loose cash that might be 
found in her drawers was to be given to the poor of the 
parish. 1 

Louis-Philippe respected the last wishes of his old gover- 
ness : Casimir had henceforth an assured livelihood. Georg- 
ette du Crest, moreover, attributes to the royal generosity 
the payment of the two thousand francs left to young Le 
Maire, and not only this one payment, but, if she speaks 
truly, an annual allowance of 2000 francs. However, her 
statement is unfounded. 

As to the other bequests of money, who undertook the pay- 
ment of them ? In making them, doubtless Mme. de Genlis did 
not assume that she could give away what she had not got. 

Now an entry in the archives of the registry, dated 21st 
June 1831, notes with regard to the Genlis inheritance : 
" Heirs unknown." 2 It would appear, then, that Mme. de 
Valence and M. de la Woestine renounced all claims under the 
will ; the Treasury even lost some trifling fees, for lack of a 
balance to draw upon. 

And here, it seems, the story of Stephanie Felicite du 
Crest, Comtesse de Genlis, comes to its close. 

We must, however, to be quite complete, add to it some 
posthumous details, for her tomb has a history of its own. 
Where precisely was this tomb among those that lay under 
the shadow of the Calvary ? 

It is a difficult and much-disputed question, on which it 
is impossible to give a certain decision on account of the lack 
of precise documents. 

Recently the author of an article on Mont Valerien 

1 Testament, ittudc Mouchct. 

2 Archives de V enregistrement , registre des deces, 1831. 


that appeared in the Revue hebdomadaire claimed to have 
seen it, and the Journal des Dcbats repeated the statement — 
speaking of the " aristocratic cemetery, where all the families 
of the Faubourg St. Germain are represented, and where 
there sleep bishops, marshals of France, a descendant of 
the Kings of Scotland, and fitienne Felicite, Comtesse de 
Genlis." » 

These lines were printed in 1902. Now at that date the 
remains of Mme. de Genlis no longer reposed at Mont Valerien. 
They had left the pious enclosure sixty-eight years earlier. 
But, after all, some trace of the tomb might yet remain ; and, 
in support of this supposition, the same author speaks of 
having with difficulty deciphered on a cross the name of the 
celebrated Countess. He was more fortunate than we have 
been. For, notwithstanding long and patient researches, it 
has not been granted to us to rediscover in the cemetery of 
Mont Valerien the tomb of Mme. de Genlis, or even the 
traces of it or its former site. And nevertheless, if the cross 
existed in 1902, it is not rash to suppose that, a few years 
after, time would not have entirely destroyed it. But among 
the rows of tombs that remain, now sheltered under the fresh 
foliage of a delightful little wood, there is not the smallest 
stone bearing the name of Genlis. And neither the collection 
of epitaphs from the cemetery drawn up with scrupulous 
care by M. de Hennezel 2 nor the work of M. Robert 
Henard 3 make any mention of it. More than this, a learned 
friend of ours who lived at Mont Valerien before the date of 
the article referred to has made the cemetery the subject 
of special studies, illustrated with photographs, 4 and he has 
never seen any trace of a tomb with the name of Mme. de 

As to official documents, they are absolutely non-existent. 
The old register of burials at the Calvary kept by the Peres de 
la Misericorde and begun in 1825 still exists, it is true, but 

1 L. Feuquieres, A lTnterieur du Mont Valerien. Revue hebdomadaire 
of the 22nd and 29th November 1902. 

2 Vicomte de Hennezel d'Ormois, Les epitaphes de I'ancien cimetiere du 
Mont Valerien, Paris, 1905. 

3 Robert Henard, Le Mont Valerien, Paris, 1904. 

4 They have been carefully reproduced by Feuquieres and Henard. 


unfortunately it stops at the month of June 1830. l The 
official record of the exhumation would no doubt have given 
us some useful information, but it was burned with the civil 
registers of Paris in 1871. 

It seems, then, more than unlikely that in 1902 the former 
tomb of Mme. de Genlis in the cemetery of Mont Valerien 
was still to be seen. Perhaps the remains of a cross, a 
fragment that had by chance survived, and was lying among 
scattered stones, might have been found. But the real 
position of the grave is unknown. The most that can be 
said is that an examination of the tombs still remaining 
in the fourth row leads by induction to the conjecture that 
Mme. de Genlis was perhaps buried in that place. One of 
them is, in fact, that of Valerie Boecker, who died in 1828. 
She was a daughter of Casimir and godchild of Mme. de 
Genlis. The next grave is that of Hales de Morlaincourt, 
who died in 1829, aged four, a great -grandnephew of Mme. 
de Genlis through his mother, Felicite Pulcherie de Sercey. 
Near him were buried another Morlaincourt, his sister, in 
1830, his brother in 1832, and his father in 1837. 

Various photographs of this corner of the cemetery 
dating from ten years ago show that the neighbouring graves 
in the same row had been dug up for disinterments, and that 
the monuments belonging to them had disappeared. One 
of them was probably that of Mme. de Genlis, who would 
have been laid here among her kindred. Besides, the tombs 
that come before and after the Boecker and Morlaincourt | 
graves all belong to the period of 1827-1830. 2 This is all | 
that can be positively stated as to the first place of burial 
of the body of the celebrated Countess. As to her last || 
resting-place, one can indicate the spot without any possible [ 
doubt, for it still exists. 

The remains of Mme. de Genlis, transferred to Pere 
Lachaise on 21st December 1812, now repose in the eighth 
line of the twenty-fourth division, under a stone sarcophagus j 

1 Archives de la Seine. Register of interments in the cemetery of Mont 
Valerien (communicated by M. Lazard). 

2 Archives de la Seine. Registre des sepultures: de Hennezel, Henard 
op. cit., and communications by Dr. Gillard. 


surmounted by a funeral urn, and decorated with a medallion 
by Sornet, representing the side face of the Countess. 

The sarcophagus, adorned with marble panels, stands on a 
tomb, on the front of which is the inscription : — 



Nee en sa terre de Champ-Ceri pres Autun (Saone-et-Loire) 
Le 25 Janvier, 1746 

Morte a Paris, le l er Janvier 1831. l 

This monument is classed as one of the historical tombs, 
and is now kept in order at the cost of the city of Paris. 
Formerly the Valence family fulfilled this pious duty. 

During the three quarters of a century since the soul of 
Mme. de Genlis departed to the realm of the shades, time has 
accumulated its fine dust upon her memory. Oh, how the old 
governess of Louis-Philippe is forgotten in this land of the 
living, where once all worldly success was vouchsafed to 
her. However, there is something to survive her — namely, 
her voluminous — perhaps too voluminous — series of works, 
over which it is worth while to cast one's eyes. For in more 
than one place they are worth attention and full of interest. 

1 See Inventaire des recherches d'Art de la France, iii. 203. 




The works of Mme. de Genlis constitute a veritable 
library in themselves, comprising as they do novels, 
plays, memoirs, historical volumes, educational volumes, 
poetry (an item of not much account), theology and pious 
manuals, diaries also, even a dictionary, as well as politics, 
catalogues of art and botany. 

At least a hundred and thirty volumes in all, without 
counting re-issues and revised editions, and volumes of 
extracts from her correspondence, which has never been 
published in full. 

" One would have to be very daring," said Sainte-Beuve, 
" to pretend one had read them all " ; upon which M. 
Faguet remarks that Sainte-Beuve would seem to have read 
only three of them, and it certainly looks as though he 
limited himself to the Memoirs, the Lecons (Tune Gouvernante, 
Adele el Theodore and some of her stories, among them Mile. 
de Clermont. 

Sainte-Beuve probably reinforced this very limited series 
of Mme. de Genlis' s work by examining the tables of contents 
included in some editions, and, with these before him and his 
incomparable acumen, enabled him to detect its essential 
features, and its literary and moral value so accurately, 
that even with a wider knowledge of the books it may seem 
daring — to use his own word again — to venture to speak of 
them after him. 

However deep one may go into Mme. de Genlis's work, 



indeed, one -will not arrive at any conclusions different from 
those of the great critic, except in regard to a few points of 

Sainte-Beuve divides it into four chronological sections : 
Before 1789, the Revolution, Napoleon, the Restoration. 
This is not a hard and fast division ; he gives it merely as an 
aid to synthetical treatment, and it is not to be taken quite 

For instance, Sainte-Beuve noted quite correctly that 
Mme. de Genlis' first works, published under Louis xvi., 
have all a direct bearing upon education ; x but he over- 
looked her dramatic efforts, whether her Theatre d 'Education, 
properly so-called, or her Theatre de Societe, in which the 
theatrical and worldly elements were infinitely in excess of 
the educative. 

She wrote very little for the theatre, though an actress all 
her life. Her few volumes of comedies — mere drops in the 
ocean of her productions — all belong to this first period of 
her life, when she was devoting her mind to education ; the 
single exception was her Galatee, which was written in Berlin. 
If Sainte-Beuve had read these plays he would not have 
failed to talk about them. 

It is necessary also to amplify a little Sainte-Beuve's 
treatment of her work during the Revolution. He alludes 
to it very summarily, leaving it to his readers to fill in the 

Mme. de Genlis did, of course, exercise her pen in regard 
to the new ideas, writing whenever she herself had any new 
thought to formulate or whenever she wanted to support 
the policy of the Orleans Party, or to explain and defend 
her own conduct. Occasionally her Discours or her Lecons 
oVune Gouvernante serve her as catapults from which she may 
sling stones at her enemies, who retaliate — and with interest. 
But this revolutionary period does not extend beyond 1797 — 
that is to say, not beyond her Precis de ma Conduite, the last 
book in which she plays the part of a political Egeria. In 
regard to principles, moreover, it marks a step back from the 
Discours and the Lecons ; while it appears to palliate and 

1 Addle et Thiodore, Les Annates de la vertu, La Religion ConsidMe, etc. 


excuse — almost even disavow — the violent blows admini- 
stered in these earlier writings. 

Her pen ceases to be revolutionary from the date of the 
appearance of the Precis. Before coming to the Napoleonic 
period note ought to be made of this change, and all the 
more that, while in exile, she published a series of romantic 
stories which had an immense success — Vceux T enter aires, 
while she was at Altona, Meres Rivales in Berlin, etc. ; 
besides continuing to work her vein as pedagogue and as 
moralist in such publications as the Manuel du Voyageur, 
a sort of vade mecum in four languages, the Petit La Bruyere 
and the Herbier moral. 

The revolutionary period should be regarded as ended, if 
not in 1797, in the year 1708, which saw published the Re- 
flexions oVun ami des talens et des arts, destined to incline the 
Directorate towards clemency in regard to La Harpe and 
Suard. The Napoleonic period, " her best moment," accord- 
ing to Sainte-Beuve, includes the Bibliotheque des Romans 
and the historical romances. 

Sainte-Beuve has not troubled to deal with the fourth and 
last period, beyond pointing to its abundant insipidity ; 
that at least is the most conspicuous feature of Mme. de 
Genlis' last works of fiction. The most insignificant, most 
uninteresting theme, the most commonplace plot, serve to 
string together a succession of moral platitudes. But if her 
faculty for weaving romances and for writing with elegance 
has failed her, her religious zeal and her anti-Encylopaedist 
energy are more notable than ever before. 

These qualities come out most vigorously in her Diners 
du Baron d'Holbach (1822). We may say what we like about 
this book, we may smile at its bellicose sentences, its bullying 
tone and its fanaticism, but we cannot deny its force and 
weight ; as Sainte-Beuve showed himself disposed to do when, 
in referring to it, he said that Mme. de Genlis was becoming 
more and more the " Mother of the Church " and the mortal 
enemy of Voltaire. 

In the brief study of Mme. de Genlis's work which I am 
about to undertake it seems to me preferable to deal with 
her books in the three different categories into which they 


naturally subdivide, rather than in accordance with Sainte- 
Beuve's chronological table. I shall deal with Mine, de 
Genlis first as Moralist, then as Dramatist, finally as Educa- 
tionalist. The task will not take me so long as might be 
expected, for there was not much depth in her. Her merit 
lies in her alertness and social tact, her good sense and 
intelligence, the ease of her style and often the originality 
of her ideas, qualities invaluable to a psychologist, knowing 
how to develop them and turn them to account ; but Mine, de 
Genlis does not work things out, she does not go deep enough. 
Her fluency carries her away. Her books seem to flow 
from her like meandering rivulets, now flashing brightly, 
now reflecting the flowers beside the banks. The page 
once written, she never rereads it ; she confides to the paper 
her impressions of the moment, and her writing reflects all 
her many moods. 

She is at her best in dealing with education, for in this field 
her practical experience gives solidity to her work. In her 
dramatic efforts also her stage experience is of service to her, 
and her construction in consequence is better here than in 
her novels. In all her other work, indeed, she is content 
not to take much pains. Knowledge had come to her easily 
and speedily, while her feeling for morality and religion was 
inbred. She herself believed that the moral and religious 
principles inculcated by means of maxims and anecdotes 
were sufficient in themselves to establish the value of even 
the feeblest of her books. 

Despite her prolixity, there is something that pleases in 
her writings, even to the end : she is fair-minded ; she has a 
consummate knowledge of the world, and she has always 
some indefinable charm. She undoubtedly wrote too much ; 
but those of her works which depict for us the life of her 
own time — the Petits Emigres, the VceuM Timeraires, the 
Dictionnaire des Etiquettes, and finally her Memoirs — deserve 
to survive. 

Her juvenile books, the Veillees du Chateau, for instance, 
a good half of Adele et Theodore, and above all her 
Theatre a" Education, are still worth putting into the hands 
of children and even young people. Her educational 


works, as we shall see, are extremely interesting and 

The rest of her published work — apart from those which 
provide biographical information in regard to herself — 
does not count for much. Suggestive ideas may be found in 
them here and there, and observations with wit and fancy in 
them, but much patience would be required to take one 
through all the multitude of meaningless pages in search of 



In considering Mine, de Genlis' work we have to recognise 
that it is all definitely moral. 

From the very beginning, even before she puts her pen 
to paper, she is intentionally a moraliser, a character much 
resembling that of the pedagogue, for by moralising we mean 
pointing out faults and showing people how to do rightly, — 
in a word, instructing them. 

This intention of moralising is always there, whatever 
her subject may be, education, history, theology, botany, the 
theatre or literary criticism, whether she is constructing 
mere romances or only stories with some amount of pro- 
bability in them. Even when she is writing apparently 
only for the sake of writing, or because she has seized some 
slight pretext for it, she recognises no other reason for her 
literary activity except this moral intention, and if by 
any chance the reader should forget it she takes care to 
remind him of it. 

Every one of her works has a moral aim announced, with 
a copious preface. " I firmly believe that my romances 
are really moral treatises," she says in her preface to the 
Meres Rivales, " therefore I trust I shall be forgiven if they 
are not quite so frivolous as so many other romances." In 
the preface to Madame de Maintenon she declares that 
" A historical romance is the most favourable form for the 
development of really moral conceptions." We might give 
any number of such examples, but we must not forget the 
preface to the Veillecs du Chdteau, in which we find an " out- 
line sketch " which shows the spirit in which she entered upon 


all her work. The moral to be taught was always present 
in her mind. Unlike those who deduce a moral from some 
given subject, Mme. de Genlis composed and invented 
anecdotes, stories, romances, or comic episodes to suit the 
moral which she wished to enforce. She says : " Instead of 
attempting to find a moral in each story after it was written, 
I composed and arranged each story to illustrate some moral 

Her work therefore does not at all resemble those con- 
structions made of small stones carefully shaped and polished, 
each one containing some spark of truth so brilliant as to 
illustrate with its tiny light some hidden vice, some depth 
of the human heart, as in the writings of La Bruyere or of 
La Rochefoucauld. Is her architecture a mere logical 
monument which, aiming at being useful or even super- 
useful, if I may be permitted to use such a term, is solid 
but not very pleasing ? To admit this would be to accuse 
her of having written heavy and tiresome books. What a 
mistake we should make if we laid too much stress on her 
confessed intention of writing only for the sake of enforcing 
some moral ! if we failed to recognise in her the clever tact- 
fulness of a woman of the world ! 

Before her time no one except Rousseau had so thoroughly 
realised the inefficacy of moral treatises, and no one had 
practically acted upon that principle, so often expressed by 
Jean-Jacques and becoming at last a fixed idea with him, 
that moral teaching ought to be made attractive. " There 
is no detail of morality," says Mme. de Genlis, " which cannot 
be treated attractively, and no book about morality can be 
useful if it is tiresome. This truth is not sufficiently recog- 
nised. That is why the moralists have produced so many 
treatises, so many ' thoughts,' so many ' reflections,' dis- 
sertations, discourses, essays, etc. . . . why should they ex- 
clude sentiment and imagination from their writings about 
morality ? " 

Therefore Mme. de Genlis will moralise, but without 
repelling or irritating her readers ; she will show morality in 
action, in the form of romances, comedies, tales, letters, etc. 
As she has sufficient imagination to invent the most extra- 


ordinary stories, she is able to intermingle in the cleverest 
manner her morality and her tales of intrigue or of romantic 
and astonishing adventures ; she not only moralises, but she 
also keeps her readers interested and amused. 

Does she wish to prove that love is an illusion, that it 
holds out a promise of felicity but can only disturb and 
destroy it ? She weaves a story, the Palais de la Vcritc, 
a tissue of legends and allegories the heroes of which are 
genii and fairies, with wonderful details, both pathetic and 
droll, — like that of the fairy Zolphire condemned by a male- 
ficent foe to spend her life on a see-saw, — and dramatic com- 
plicated adventures which she unravels to the great delight 
of the reader. Does she desire to prove the strength of 
maternal love capable of withstanding the worst trials ? 
She writes Alphonsinc, the most incoherent romance that 
has ever been written. We will not relate how Diana de 
Mendoce, wedded to a horrible Spanish bandit, the Comte de 
Moncalde, is after an ambuscade shut up in a cavern and 
there gives birth to her daughter Alphonsine, whom she 
brings up in subterranean darkness for five or six long years ; 
this tale, crammed full of adventures, ought to be read by the 
bored and morose people of to-day. 

When her task is to show the ways of the modern world, 
corrupted by too much civilisation, and to paint the charms 
of simple, virtuous life in the country, she writes the Bat- 
tuecas. In that book she gives an imaginary picture of a 
small Spanish tribe, which, having sought refuge in an in- 
accessible valley hemmed in by mountains, dwells there 
without any contact with the world. " It is," says George 
Sand, " a small rural republic governed by artlessly ideal 
laws. Its inhabitants cannot help being virtuous. It is 
the golden age with all its happiness and all its poetry." 
When a young Battuecas wandering by chance along the 
disused road which leads to the outside world, enters into 
civilised life and discovers that it offers not only grandeur 
and beauty, fame and pleasure, but also hypocrisy and 
misery and many other evils, he returns gladly to his narrow 

It is unfortunate that Mme. de Genlis did not keep entirely 


to the highly original plan which she had conceived. But 
she was most illogical. After having denounced the weari- 
some writers of reflections, essays, thoughts, and moral dis- 
courses, she falls into the same error by writing heavy treatises 
on morality. What else can we call her book Religion 
consideree comme V unique base du Bonheur, the Annalcs 
de la Vertu, the Petit La Bruyere, the Etude du coeur 
humain, the La Bruyere des Domestiques, and many others 
of the same sort ? It is quite remarkable how utterly she 
fails in such attempts. As soon as she abandons the im- 
aginary world and the romantic fictions which serve as a 
framework for her morality and hide the feebleness of her 
arguments all her good qualities disappear. 

She has neither the depth nor the power nor the know- 
ledge required for elaborating a character or a philosophical 
essay ; as soon as she ventures on this higher ground she 
becomes embarrassed, she is unable to frame striking maxims, 
but she stumbles on, using a mass of verbiage devoid of 
real ideas. Then she compiles, borrows, copies, loses herself 
in details, and only occasionally escapes from this tangled 
wilderness by giving a well-aimed stroke or making an in- 
teresting observation. This is clearly seen by glancing 
through the pages of the Petit La Bruyere, the best of the bad 
lot I have just mentioned. In this book, as in La Bruyere* s 
immortal Characters, we find portraits, maxims, and character 
sketches. But what a pale imitation of that great writer ! 
Certainly it was intended for children, though it is not at 
all suitable for such young people. A child of twelve is not 
able to understand maxims and portraits, also it is very 
dangerous to incite little boys and girls to notice the whims 
and the oddities of those around them. Yet in order to 
entertain them she gives descriptions of the faults of various 
children who might well be their companions. They read 
about Hortense, who is capricious, vain, badly educated, 
impatient, idle ; Chloe, who is a coquette ; Rosalina, who is 
too talkative. Among the boys we have Ernest the fop ; 
Stephen the miser ; Irenseus the coward ; Otho, who 
mocks at everybodj\ As a curious specimen read this sketch 
of Adrian, a youthful pedant : " Adrian is twelve and a 


half years old, he is very clever, he has a well-trained memory 
and a great taste for literature, he is already an author in a 
small way, he has a feeling for the rhythm of versification 
and knows its rules fairly well, he has already written several 
little pieces of poetry. Well, if Adrian would only believe 
that time, study, and good advice are necessary for success, 
he might some day show real talent in this line. But Adrian 
thinks that he is already a poet and a very good one ; by that 
mistake he makes himself very ridiculous." This beginning 
is not so bad in itself, but it goes on for three whole pages. 
Mme. de Genlis is entirely blind to the absurdities which 
characterise her own book, but at the end she atones for them 
by a few happy thoughts, such as : " Piety should neither be 
advertised nor concealed " ; " Youth is seldom able to 
avoid a fault except by flying to the opposite extreme." And 
then in the very same book she writes long pages on the 
necessity of rendering morality lively and agreeable ! 

However inconsistent Mme. de Genlis may be, we must 
confess that we may learn a good deal from her moralisings. 
Except in her actual treatises, we shall find all her work full 
of sensible observations which throw a wonderful light on 
the minor habits and the small weaknesses of the society 
of her time. Of course she has not sufficient ability to 
construct a museum like that of La Bruyere, but her natural 
curiosity and her instinctive moral sense have, during the 
whole course of her long life, prompted her to write an 
infinite number of most interesting observations and 
criticisms. There is not much to be gained by dwelling on 
the moral characteristics of her work — there are too many, 
they permeate it, they overcrowd it. But two essential 
ones may be mentioned : first, that although living in a 
licentious age her morality is very pure ; secondly, that it is 
incomplete because intended almost exclusively for the 
upper classes. 

Although dealing with such a variety of subjects and 
interspersing them with so many varied precepts, Mme. 
de Genlis continually recurs to two or three important 
themes, family affection, maternal and filial love in all its 
forms. In all her writings the home has the highest place 


of honour, it is thus exalted because, being founded on 
religion and on the precepts of the Gospel, it is a school of 
all the virtues. When she treats of maternal love the work 
of this singular woman has a real tinge of passion due to 
that fondness for exaggerated sentiment characteristic of 
the age in which she lived and by which she was in this 
respect so strongly influenced. In her inmost heart she 
loved other people's children better than her own, yet we 
find her depicting maternal tenderness with an incredible 
depth of feeling and perception which could hardly be 
expected in a nature so cold and, in certain ways, so arid. 

The favourite leit-motivs of Mine, de Genlis, after family 
affection, are the simple life, rural life, the love of Nature 
(a direct inspiration from Rousseau) as opposed to the 
corruptions of the town and of the Court ; learning, as 
opposed to vanity, luxury, and frivolity ; and finally charity, 
as atoning for all other faults. She avoids speaking about 
love and seems to hold herself aloof from it. When she 
has to depict it she does it hastily by exclamations, inter- 
jections, broken sentences ; she can only imagine it as a 
passion. Then, of course, she is up in arms against it, 
she is on guard, she withdraws. On all points of difficulty 
she invariably refers to the Gospel, that eternal rule of all 
morality, but it is not so much for the morality of the 
Gospel as for its religion. This is a characteristic of her 
work which deserves some attention. 

It is well known that as early as 1785 Mme. de Genlis 
entered on a campaign against the philosophers, and 
especially against Voltaire, in her book Religion considered 
as, etc., and she maintained the war until her very last 
breath. Taking up a purely moral and religious ground, 
fighting against the philosophic spirit and identifying it 
with atheism and immorality, she never lost an opportunity 
of stirring up public opinion against it. 

We are surprised sometimes to see her suddenly start 
a diatribe against Dalembert, Condorcet, or Voltaire ; she 
does so because she cannot bear to write a book without 
inserting some public accusation against the false philosophy. 
That is the polemical side of her work and the least solid. 


We may neglect it and dwell more on the intention which 
she has so perseveringly manifested throughout her long 
career. It grew stronger in each new work up to the famous 
Diners du Baron cVHolbach, a veritable fortress firing shots 
from every opening. This hook, although written in 1822, 
shortly before her death, is wonderfully vigorous. The whole 
set and especially its chief, Voltaire, were very badly handled 
by this feminine pen, so skilful in stigmatising their defects. 

Mme. de Genlis clearly saw that Voltaire was preparing 
the way for a new departure by upsetting the sane traditions 
of the seventeenth century. We have already shown how 
plainly she pointed out his negative cynicism, his literary 
intolerance, his deplorable facility in telling lies, his audacity 
in ruining all morality and in scoffing at all good men, his 
hypocritical wheedling of those in power ; yet at the same 
time he was entirely opposed to the democratic spirit. 

Strangely enough, she was one of the first to accuse 
Voltaire of being unpatriotic and to point out his numerous 
plagiarisms ; Zuline a transposition of Bajazct, Merope 
borrowed from Maffei, Semiramis and Rome sanvee stolen 
from Crebillon. Now we know quite well how little 
originality there was in the dramatic conceptions of the 
patriarch of Ferney, almost all his tragedies have English 
ancestors, but Mme. de Genlis said it long before the 
specialists of the present day. Doubtless she did not exhaust 
the question, but we ought to notice that she knew about 
it and studied it. 

In examining the doctrines of the Encyclopedists she 
gives proof of similar intelligence ; she goes back to their 
predecessors, Bayle and Fontenelle ; she knows — we cannot 
say how or from whom she ascertained it — but she does 
know that the Encyclopedic was not original in its negations 
but merely took and popularised a number of opinions 
professed by Hobbes or by Spinoza and also ancient heresies 
condemned long ago by the Church. As to the philosophers 
themselves, she stamps each one with his characteristic 
mark. D'Holbach is the heavy materialistic atheist whom 
we know so well, Dalembert dry and sarcastic, Diderot a 
skilful destroyer endowed with artistic feeling ; Morellet, 


Galiani, discourse brilliantly and utter epigrams, etc., all 
of them irreligious, sceptical, licentious, menacing God, 
priests, kings, and all morals. 

Mme. de Genlis had taken up a noble cause. The 
apostle of morality and of truth, she had a splendid mission 
in defending the rights of human dignity in the name of the 
Gospel ; she was a defender of the Church and of the Faith. 
How is it then that she was not able to write more vigorously ? 
Why was the Diners du Baron d'Holbach, in which she used 
every weapon she could lay hands on, written in the 
declining period of her life and of her success ? Why did 
it not come before the Genie du Christianisme and before 
the " Martyrs " which obtained all the glory like major 
stars outshining in the literary heavens all the smaller ones. 

The reason seems to be that Mme. de Genlis was a moralist 
in an age that was not moral. In the eyes of posterity that 
will be her title to honour. Neither her education nor her 
environment nor her century gave any inducements towards 
morality. All around her, in the Palais Royal, at the 
theatre, in the salons, and in literature, haughty carelessness, 
insolent corruption, and elegant vices were in fashion, there was 
nothing to predispose her to act as a " Mother of the Church." 
Yet, whatever style of life or of literary work she adopted, 
she always preserved her moral sense. As soon as she sat 
down to her work-table and began to write, no pernicious or 
even doubtful thoughts come into her mind, she is conscious of 
having a responsibility, or exercising a sort of ministry. 

When we think of the prose and verse produced in her 
time amid general sensuality and religious indifference, we 
cannot help being grateful to Mme. de Genlis — in spite of 
what the Marquise de Crequy said about her — for preaching 
virtue, faith, and piety. 

Her morality was especially adapted, as we said before, 
to the men and women of her own world. She flattered 
herself, but without any reason, that she was the first author 
who had tried to instruct and improve the common people ; 
she has occasionally described artisans, dressmakers, seam- 
stresses, and servants, but neither her subjects nor her style 
responded to the needs of the people. They were suitable 


for literary or worldly members of society, they appealed 
to the aristocracy and the middle class, they had not that 
solid simplicity, that rather brutal directness, which alone 
are intelligible to common people. 

She did indeed at times remember the Revolution, and we 
get stray whiffs of the ideas of 1789, especially of equality. 
Therefore, George Sand called the Battuecas a socialistic novel, 
although the author certainly had no such notions in her 
head when she wrote it in 1S1G. The idea of equality was, 
however, consonant with her scheme of preaching universal 
morality, and that scheme included not only educated people 
but also the masses who, being regarded as children, had the 
same title to her consideration. We must admit that, as 
regards the masses, her work bad no result, but with children 
she was particularly successful. This leads us to the con- 
sideration of her efforts as a dramatic author. 



At the present time we can hardly imagine morality as a 
leading feature of a play. It does not now occupy the stage ; 
it seems to have deserted it as an uninhabitable place. Light 
comedy helped to banish it, and now the only " moral " 
plays are those wearisome productions written to suit schools 
for boys and girls. A lively and interesting comedy, well 
written and yet moral, would be put down as the result 
of a wager. It is perhaps surprising, but into this sterile 
field Mme. de Genlis dared to venture, and she achieved 

Her dramas and her comedies, whether intended for young 
people or for fashionable drawing-rooms, her Theatre ^Edu- 
cation or her Theatre de Societi, are irreproachably moral 
and yet wonderfully amusing and interesting. All those 
who have studied her works give the palm to her Theatre 
^Education as being the best of all. It was certainly an 
original idea to write little comedies without the aid of 
amorous intrigues, and fit to be played by little girls ten 
years old. 

She did not always restrict herself to this limited sphere, 
but whenever her educational ingenuity set itself to instruct 
and amuse children by plays suited to their comprehension, 
they were perfectly successful. There was no lack of subjects. 
Any observer of life, especially of the life of high society, will 
notice every day a score of situations, tragic or comic, worthy 
of being dramatised. But a piece which does not touch on 
the only subject which is the chief support of the stage seems 
destined to be childish, wearisome, and insignificant. To treat 


morality as a living subject is not so easy as some people 

This art furnished Mme. de Genlis for the first time with a 
means of experimentally testing the process which afterwards 
she employed so frequently, composing her works for the sake 
of demonstrating some moral truth or some wrong which she 
wished to set right. In that way she created some charming 
moral fables. As an antidote to the vanity of little girls, 
she constructs a small play called the Flagons, in which two 
coquettish little girls, becoming suddenly convinced by a 
fairy's artifice of their ugliness and deformity, try to cure 
themselves of frivolity and to acquire more solid qualities. 
Then when the fairy offers them two magic phials — one which 
will restore their former prettiness, while the other will im- 
prove their hearts and minds — a charming scene is enacted 
before the looking-glass. The children, finding themselves so 
very ugly, are about to choose the phial of beauty ; but then, 
in order not to distress their mother and the fairy, they make 
the necessary sacrifice. In the end the fairy arranges every- 
thing satisfactorily. 

It would be impossible to describe the charm of this little 
play, simple and natural in its tone and perfectly intelligible 
to young children. Some of the passages referring to the 
perils of the world are quite pathetic, and even now do not 
seem old-fashioned. 

Another delightful piece of work is Colombo : its cooing 
dialogues were designed to cure little girls of jealousy. 
Others, like U Enfant Gate and Dangers du Monde, are ingeni- 
ous though apparently simple comedies which appeal for a 
verdict against the customs of her day, against the weaknesses 
of that society which Mme. de Genlis knew so well. Then 
there are some which extol the virtue of purity (La Rosier e 
de Salency), maternal love (La Bonne Mere, la Curieuse), 
charity (VAveugle de Spa). 

It would be a mistake to think that the Theatre 
a"Education is devoted only to rather dull subjects. Some- 
times it deals with sentimental affairs, happening as it were 
behind the scenes, and it makes a psychological study of 
the characters. Here we have a series of plays designed 


not only for children and young people, but also for their 
parents. In these the lights and shades of stronger feelings 
are depicted ; there are social criticisms which forecast 1789. 
The high society in which Mine, de Genlis shone at the very 
time when her plays were being acted had not always been 
merciful to her ; in her role of moraliser she had to castigate 
its vices. She did not fail to do so ; a schoolmistress by nature, 
she scolded well. Thus the V Intrigante shows the influential 
woman who procures favours for her friends, and in succession 
promises to three different people the same post at Court, 
the same admission to the Academy of Painting, the same 
governorship. In the Portrait, a good three-act play full of 
well-planned scenic effects, she feelingly depicts a passion 
which, beginning badly, grows purer amid dramatic scenes 
that are sketched with consummate art. 

We need not say much about Cecile, in which Mine, de 
Genlis indulged in a scathing and almost revolutionary 
satire on the Convents ; in it there is a certain Mere Oppor- 
tune, a Rabelaisian personage — a part certainly not fit to 
be acted by children or in their presence. It is difficult to 
understand how this bitter, violent piece came to be acted at 
Bellechasse before the Duchess of Orleans. The Vrai Sage 
is a comedy rather too outspoken for young girls, — certain 
things are mentioned which they ought not to think about, 
— but in it Mme. de Genlis strikes a deep, strong note 
which shows that she possessed extraordinary dramatic 
talent. Here is a scene which would do credit to Dumas 

The Chevalier, a sort of Don Juan, has his eye on Colette, 
a young and pretty peasant girl. This is the way in which 
he reveals his intentions to his friend Verceil : — 

The Chevalier : " Well, in that case, Colette will come 
to Paris merely for my sake, and I will undertake to console 
her for your change of plan." 

Verceil : " You may be sure that her father will not con- 
sent to her going away." 

The Chevalier : " Then I shall do without it." 

Verceil : " What ! you intend to abduct Colette ? " 

The Chevalier : " Abduct ! What an absurd word ! You 


cannot apply it to a girl of that class. Yon can abduct a 
young lady, but a peasant girl you merely carry off." 

Verceil : " Then, according to you, violence has a different 
name when it is practised on the weak ! This is just a case 
in which it seems to me that the abuse of strength and the 
hope of impunity give a tinge of meanness which makes 
it doubly atrocious." 

The Chevalier : " You take a too tragic view. Colette 
is not the sort of girl to live in a cottage. I want to bring 
her out and make her fortune. Would that be a great 
crime ? Besides, I shall take steps to prevent her father 
having any more rights over her. I shall have her inscribed 
at the Opera as a dancer." 

Verceil : " Colette a dancer ! That's nonsense. What a 
reception she would have ! She does not know how to dance." 

The Chevalier : " That does not matter. It is an ingeni- 
ous system which is often used as an excuse for removing 
a pretty girl from the absurd authority of low-class parents. 
A substantial shopkeeper might perhaps find some way 
of maintaining his rights, but what possibilities are there for 
a poor rustic, coarse and ignorant and unable to stir far 
from his hut ? " 

Another passage, where Verceil launches forth in the 
style of Beaumarchais, would have pleased the philosophers : 
" I always remember it, and I never blush for it. I am the 
son of a tradesman, who by honesty, ability, and hard work 
was able to acquire a considerable fortune. His moderation 
and beneficence have gained public esteem for him and have 
even killed that mean, secret envy with which a proud and 
poor nobility often regards the good fortune of a parvenu. 
Therefore, when resentment or anger reproach me for my 
birth, I do not feel humiliated by such insults. The blood 
in my veins is not illustrious, but it is pure ; it has transmitted 
into my heart a love of virtue and a horror of vice and bad 
principles." Is it not strangely reformist for a work written 
in 1782 ? On the stage these passages produced a great 
effect. Stage effect was Mme. de Genlis's strong point ; in 
producing it she showed most wonderful skill. To conduct 
an intrigue, to entangle it, to prolong it so as to postpone 


the pathetic moment, to insert a tirade, to excite emotion, 
to stimulate it to its utmost point, all these artifices of the 
dramatic author were but child's play for this woman whom 
M. Faguet said, " She was a born actress, a born manageress, 
an aristocratic Montansier, with wonderful gifts for theatrical 
work." x He was the first in our time to recognise her genius. 

Since he has revealed them we now acknowledge the 
merits of " Tendresse Maternelle," that pearl in the Theatre de 
SocieU, that act full of intense emotion, transplanted by Mme. 
de Giradin into La joie fait peur, and from which Musset has 
borrowed the character of the abbe in his II ne faut jurer de 
Hen. But we do not recollect that La Harpe considered the 
Mere rivale good enough for the Theatre Francais ; and that 
the love scenes at the telephone, so often introduced by modern 
authors, have a prototype in the Cloison of Mme. de Genlis ; 
she had foreseen the situation, minus the telephone. 

She had a real vocation for the stage, and she obtained 
her experience when still quite young. Into the amateur 
theatricals which were the rage in the high society to which 
she belonged she introduced phrases and sentiments far 
superior to their narrow setting. She had high moral and 
social aims, she handled romantic adventures, marvellously 
imagined, with consummate art, using combinations and 
contrasts with all the skill of a professional dramatist — a 
dramatist of the period, of course. 

Ingenuity, remarkable skill, a determination to moralise, 
technical experience, these are Mme. de Genlis's theatrical 
characteristics, charming when they were employed in 
dialogues for young actors and young audiences, though 
they are apt to lose their interest when expended on plays 
like those in the Theatre de Societe. The latter have also 
a fundamental fault, being mostly three- or five-act pieces. 
Five acts of the eighteenth century phraseology — that is too 
much for any modern audience to endure. 

1 E. Faguet, Propos de TJitatre, 2e serie. 



As I have remarked already, Mme. de Genlis is no longer read. 
All that is remembered of her now is that she was an admirable 
educationalist. Adele et Theodore and the Lecons (Tune 
Gowvernante, so familiar to our parents in their childhood, 
are unknot n to-day. 

They are held of no account, like so many other peda- 
gogic treatises. 

They are of use, however, in enabling us to reconstruct 
with precision Mme. de Genlis's whole system of education — 
the most complete system imaginable — inasmuch as it begins 
with the child while still in his cradle and leads him on to 
manhood without leaving him for a moment ! 

From infancy to the age of twelve — such is the cycle 
embraced in Adele et Theodore ; from the age of the use of 
reason up to manhood, such is the period covered by the 
Lecons oVune Gouvernante. And if we remember that it was 
in the field of education, as Sainte-Beuve says, that Mme. 
de Genlis realised her gifts to the full, we shall be ready to 
devote some special attention to these two books. 

Naturally, all was not original in her methods — we shall 
see presently in what respects she was an innovator. Like 
all her contemporaries, she derived much of her inspiration 
from Rousseau, and this is particularly noticeable in Adtle et 
Theodore, in which wc find principles from Emile put into 
practice, side by side with Mme. de Genlis's own theories. 
But another very profound influence, permeating all her 
thought, is that of Mme. dc Maintenon. 

The directing of education towards realities and per- 



sistence in the effort to overcome ennui and the passions — 
these principal elements in the Saint-Cyr method have the 
first place also in that of Mine, de Genlis. She bases herself 
indeed upon a groundwork of ideas originating in the seven- 
teenth century — largely in Mme. de Maintenon and in 
Fenelon ; but, influenced by Rousseau, she adapts these 
ideas in accordance with his reforming notions. On one 
point she breaks away entirely from them : namely, the 
scope of instruction. 

According to Mme. de Genlis, a child cannot have too much 

The acquiring of knowledge is at the very root of her 
system, as is evident from Adele et Theodore, which is essenti- 
ally an educational work, and from which the anecdotes, 
included with a view to enlivening it, might with advantage 
have been omitted. 

The general ideas of this book belong for the most part 
to Rousseau : the adapting of education to the age of the 
children ; keeping the lessons and exercises and moral 
instruction well within their powers of comprehension ; 
teaching them all kinds of ordinary things ; always being 
frank and candid with them ; paying particular attention 
to their physical well-being— food, clothes, hygiene ; above 
all, never leaving them out of sight, watching over them 
always, in their games and on their walks no less than in their 
studies — such were the main principles. It is from Rousseau 
also that she derives this view of Latin : "I consider a 
knowledge of Latin very useful, but not indispensable, as it 
was held a hundred and fifty years ago. It was then im- 
possible to acquire any idea of the beautiful otherwise than 
by learning the Greek and Latin languages, but nowadays 
anyone perfectly acquainted with French, English, and 
Italian may read a number of works superior to, or at least 
equal to, anything antiquity can offer." 

A wrong idea, put into practice in our modern educational 
programmes with the disadvantages of which we are all 

But the other influence, that of Mme. de Maintenon, 
makes itself felt simultaneously. 


Following the example of the founder of Saint-Cj^r, Mme. 
de Genlis accustoms the child to do useful things. The idea 
of utility runs through the system, modifying that of the 
acquiring of knowledge of every description. 

That is to say, that instead of giving her pupils the super- 
ficial, conventional education then in vogue, Mme. de Genlis 
aimed above all at what would be practical and of real value. 

It was the custom for young people to study Greek and 
Latin, chronological tables, and historical summaries, a little 
geography, a little heraldry, a little prosody, music, dancing, 
and riding. Orthography and literature were greatly 
neglected, the sciences were left on one side altogether with a 
few exceptions. Their turn came generally when, towards 
his fifteenth year, the young aristocrat began to take up the 
career of arms ; but the veneration professed in the eighteenth 
century for antiquity maintained the classical mythology 
universally, and the exploits of Hercules and Theseus were as 
familiar as the catechism or the sacred history. 

Mme. de Genlis did not propose to change all this. She 
retained the speculative studies in her programme, though 
she gave precedence to the practical. Her first concern was 
to teach the child what he could learn. 

Rousseau had said : " It is important that he should not 
do anything unwillingly " ; Mme. de Genlis, however, took 
the line that the boy should be accustomed to overcome his 
unwillingness in regard to the learning of useful things, and 
that it was quite practicable to bring this about without 
fatiguing him. 

Making a good use of one's time was an all-important 
feature of this system of utility. The best way of getting 
through a good day's work, she always held, was by utilising 
what are generally spoken of as spare moments. With this 
in mind, she parcelled out the day minute by minute, so to 
speak. No hours, except sleeping hours, were without 
their task, or outside her supervision. Even the hours of 
recreation were turned to account by means of instructive 
games. After supper, there were a variety of manual exer- 
cises — the making of boxes and hampers and horse-hair 
rings, the cutting out of paper figures, etc., etc. 


Details of the order of the day as arranged in the case of 
her godchild, Alfred Le Maire, have come down to us. That 
which was adopted in the case of the children of the Duke of 
Orleans is not to be found recorded in full. Louis-Philippe 
declared, looking back upon it when he was King, that Mine. 
de Genlis educated him and his sister " with ferocity." 
His day, we may take it, began at 6 a.m., winter and summer, 
and ended at 10 p.m. He does not seem to have been 
allowed time to digest his supper, for his Italian lesson 
began a quarter of an hour after it, involving the study and 
translation of Metastasio — a heavy and tiring piece of work. 
And at no period of the year could he ever hope for any re- 
laxation in the regime. 

Mme. de Genlis would not listen to any nonsense about 
holidays. It was her contention that studies should never 
be interrupted. " Holidays," she wrote, " have done more 
harm to education than all the incompetence of teachers." 

During their journeys, of course, which broke in some- 
what upon studies, practical things took the place of books ; 
but Mme. de Genlis devoted her attention to her pupils 

Rousseau had said in Emile : " I would have teacher 
and pupil regard each other as so inseparable that they 
should plan out in common the order of all their days." 

In this way Mme. de Genlis sought complete control over 
those in her charge. She sought to educate their minds and 
govern their hearts. The daily records of the studies at 
Bellechasse were evidences of this. 

These studies, save for philosophy, comprised every form 
of knowledge. The living languages come first, then history, 
literature and natural history, chemistry, botany and miner- 
alogy, architecture and mechanics, Greek and Latin, and the 
study of the law ; something of medicine, chemistry and 
anatomy ; drawing and music, and finally a very strengthen- 
ing system of physical development upon new and very 
complete lines, including gymnastics, fencing, swimming and 

Everything in this programme that a woman could teach 
Mme. de Genlis attended to herself. She called in only 


such assistants as were indispensable, and these she super- 
vised and directed even in regard to minute details, leaving 
them no initiative whatever : M. Lebrun for geometry, 
mathematics, chemistry and common law, — after 1789, 
Biauzat was charged with the task of explaining to the 
young Princes the difference between the laws of the Ancien 
Regime and those of the Assembly ; the Abbe Guyot for 
Latin, Greek and religious instruction ; M. Alyon, for 
chemistry and botany ; the Abbe Mariottini for Italian, 
M. Pieyre acting as a sub-tutor. The Abbe Guyot' s functions 
Mme. de Genlis reduced to a minimum, and it will be re- 
membered that he resigned his post when she took it upon 
herself to prepare Louis-Philippe for his first Communion. 
The Abbe Mariottini also left owing to certain domestic 
quarrels, and Mme. de Genlis, knowing enough Italian 
herself by this time, did not get anyone else in his place. 

The subjects which remained entirely for Mme. de Genlis 
then were grammar, history, and literature, geography, 
mythology, the fine arts, anatomy, gymnastics, German, 
English and Spanish. She set aside two and a half hours 
every day for history and literature, and if, contrarily to 
the wishes of Rousseau, she made use of chronological tables 
and summaries, she contrived to vivify them in various ways. 
The students' rooms at Bellechasse were hung with repro- 
ductions in tints of the heads of Roman emperors and 
empresses, and of pictures representing the most important 
scenes in ancient hisotry ; there were ingeniously devised 
sets of written tables. " I would read out a heading from 
one of these tables," Mme. de Genlis tells us, " and they 
would narrate to me from memory the story connected with 
it. For instance, I would say: '^Egeus; the sail ' ; " and the 
pupil would repeat the details of the return of Theseus, the 
vanquisher of the Minotaur, with the account of the death of 
iEgeus caused by the white sail, which ought to have been 
raised on his ship being forgotten. 

Literary extracts were selected from history, mythology 
and books on geography to enable the children to commit 
certain points to memory ; and the painter Myris executed 
several series of small pictures illustrating sacred and ancient 


history, as well as episodes in the history of China and Japan. 
These were done expressly for use in a magic lantern — 
the " Historical Magic Lantern " was the name given to 

Mine, de Genlis thus describes her method of teaching 
literature. " I began by reading to them the works of the 
poets of the second or third rank. I endeavoured in the 
course of these readings to impart to them an excellent spirit 
of criticism. We had plenty of material for criticism, for 
as it is much easier to recognise the faults of mediocre work 
than to appreciate the beauties of what is really fine, my 
pupils soon became very good judges of the poems of Mile. 
Barbier, Campistron, Autreau and others of that class ; and 
certainly at that age they would have been very bad judges 
of Corneille, Racine, Voltaire, Crebillon (sic !), La Fontaine, 
Moliere, etc. Educational authorities may smile at this 
progressive method of tasting literary beauties. At least 
we must admit that it was ingenious. 

But it was in regard to the teaching of modern languages 
that Mme. de Genlis was most in advance of her time. Far 
from following Jean-Jacques, who ranked this study among 
the useless forms of education, she was the first to understand 
their importance. She was the first to realize that it was not 
enough to read Dante and Shakespeare with a dictionary, 
and that it was not much good to stock one's memory with 
extracts from odes and plays if one could not hold a con- 
versation of five minutes with an Englishman or an Italian ; 
that it was not much good to be conversant with the dead 
if one could not hold converse with the living. 

Convinced of this, she divided the day up into four 
quarters — each devoted to one language exclusively. 

On the morning walk a German gardener (who also 
supervised the young Princes' gardens at Saint-Leu) went 
out with them, and nothing but German was spoken. German 
was the language also during the midday meal. During the 
afternoon walk an English man-servant took the place of 
the German gardener, and nothing but English was spoken 
until after dinner. Italian was spoken during supper, which 
was followed by a lesson in that language and in Italian 


literature. At a subsequent period Mme. de Genlis contrived 
to find time for a Spanish hour as well. 

At the age of eight the young Princes and the Princesse 
Adelaide, as well as C6sar du Crest and Henriette de Sercey, 
were able to speak and construe the three languages, German, 
English and Italian. At twelve Louis-Philippe was, in 
addition, fairly well grounded in Greek and Latin. 

In regard to the Fine Arts, Mme. de Genlis was also very 
well equipped. It would have been difficult to find anyone 
better versed in music. Herself an admirable harpist, and 
familiar with all the traditions of the great musicians, her 
qualifications in this field were indisputable. 

Carmontelle, an amateur artist, was entrusted at first 
with the teaching of the elements of drawing. Later Mme. de 
Genlis, breaking away from the ordinary routine, set her 
pupils drawings from models made to show the muscles. A 
Polish painter named Myris, a good draughtsman, was after- 
wards installed at Bellechasse, and David came from time to 
time to supervise the instruction and judge of the work done. 

Side by side with all these studies, properly so-called, 
Mme. de Genlis's pupils were kept busy with gardening and 
all kinds of gymnastic exercises : working pullies, carrying 
baskets upon their heads, and pitchers of increasing weight 
in their hands, walking in slippers weighted with lead, etc. 
They were taken also to visit manufactories of pins and 
of furniture, and mustard and vinegar factories, as well as 
to workshops of carpenters, basket-makers — to say nothing 
of the theatre. The development of their bodies proceeded 
simultaneously with the development of their minds ; there 
was no coddling, no spoiling, however tired the young Princes 
might be, and very little was made of their occasional cuts 
and bruises. 

Sainte-Beuve has commented on the fact that Mme. 
de Genlis was much given to the introduction of the dramatic 
element hi her educational methods. She used to get the 
children to enact scenes and tableaux from history on a 
portable stage which was set up in the large dining-hall ; 
and in the park of Saint-Leu, where the trees and work- 
houses and the little river served as accessories, they would 


perform the principal scenes from the travels of the Abbe 
Prevost, and give many other historical and mythological 
representations. David took great pleasure in these thea- 
trical efforts, and supervised the artistic side of them. He 
was enthusiastic in particular over a little production entitled 
Psyche persecutee par V Amour. 

But it was not merely in these circumstances that Mme. 
de Genlis's pupils came under the influence of the drama. 
The theatrical element was constantly to the fore in their 
life. It was to be found in their declamation of verses, in 
honour of the Duchess of Orleans ; it was present on the 
occasion of the decorating of the Thanksgiving Altar at Spa ; 
and there were traces of it in the diaries of the young Princes 
and in the demonstrative affection of the pupils for their 
governess. Her contemporaries were not blind to all this. 
They charged her with loving the limelight, and with in- 
juring her pupils by all these scenic displays. It may, how- 
ever, be contended that Mme. de Genlis's system was only 
theatrical in respect to outward forms, not in its essentials, 
as indeed its positive results bear witness, for neither Louis- 
Philippe nor Mme. Adelaide can be accused of theatricality. 

The question deserves looking into more closely. Nothing 
could really be more practical, more materialistic, than this 
system of education, exercising as it did the memory more 
than the understanding, the eyes more than the brain, re- 
ducing the imagination to the simplest expression, turning 
the intellectual faculties into a machine. Sainte-Beuve points 
out the disadvantages of their very modern and one-sided 
method, with its entire lack of all feeling for antiquity. He 
notes also to what an extent Mme. de Genlis's programme 
repressed all originality and exuberance and vigour in those 
subjected to it. Louis-Philippe might believe himself to be 
versed in all the different branches of knowledge, and might 
be able to discuss everything under the sun ; he was a con- 
scientious pupil, diligent, attentive, but not original, and with 
nothing of the artist in him. He had been discouraged from 
dreaming, and had learnt only to be far-seeing, practical, 
sometimes a little mean. 

On the other hand, it must be remembered that the 


severely hygienic regime to which he had been subjected — 
the way in which he had been taught to bear heat and cold, 
wind and rain, to sleep upon bare boards, to endure fatigue 
and even hunger, and to fend for himself in all possible cir- 
cumstances, fitted him wonderfully for meeting with the 
courage and dignity we all know of the hard vicissitudes 
which were his lot during the years of the Emigration. 

The schooling which he had from Mme. de Genlis had 
been a democratic schooling, anticipating strangely that 
which is given to the young Princes of to-day. It made of 
him a man of the new age — even in the matter of indifference 
to religion. 

For in this one respect he had not been a good pupil. 
Presumably, Mme. de Genlis, with all her qualifications, was 
not as good an instructor as a simple priest like the Abbe* 
Guyot might have proved. So that in its results in this case 
the system was essentially modern in doing more for the 
body than for the soul. In any case, the throne of France 
gained a man of action, a man of worth and intellect who 
knew how to govern — in short, a good king. This we owe 
to Mme. de Genlis. It involves no small praise for her 

The same system of education — " substantial and free 
from all frivolity " x — that was given to the young Princes 
was given also, as we know, to those other young "collegians" 
of Bellechasse, Mile. Adelaide, Pamela, and Henriette. 

Mme. de Genlis has expounded her ideas on the subject of 
the education of girls in two small works which are quite 
unknown to-day and which are curiously interesting : the 
Discours sur la suppression des Convents de Religieuses ct 
V education publique des Femmes (1791) and the Projet d'unc 
Ecolc ruralc pour VEducation des Filles (1801). 

The Discours, written and published during the Revolu- 
tion, takes an unfavourable review of the education given in 
religious establishments, as might be expected in the case 
of an expert like Mme. de Genlis. She declares roundly that 
the girls are taught little, because the schools have no purpose 

1 E. Faguet, Sainte-Beuve et le Feminisme. 


except to free indifferent and neglectful parents from the 
toublesome duty of looking after their own children. 

The convent is a safe refuge in which instruction is indeed 
given, but in which it counts for less than anything else. 
There are convents without classes and convents with classes. 

In the former " the girls are kept in separate rooms with 
governesses to teach them, . . . the nuns take no part 
whatever in their education." The governesses were lady's- 
maids retired from service, as in the time of Mme. de 
Maintenon : " peasants or at best townsfolk of no social 
standing who knew only how to hold up their heads, how to 
lace a corset, and how to curtsy " ; l and they were paid 
only about 500 or 600 francs a year. 

Masters came to give the additional instruction in other 
subjects chosen by the parents — the number of the masters 
varying in accordance with the rank of the pupil. Whence it 
followed that these convents were extremely expensive, and 
were supported mainly by the nobility and wealthy financiers. 

The education given in the convents with clerics, notably 
those of the Ursulines and the Filles de Marie, was generally 
speaking not as good as it might have been, but it was 
superior, Mme. de Genlis held, to education by parents to 
whom the bringing up of their own children was not a sacred 
duty coming before everything else. In both kinds of 
convents the great thing, the great security, was the cloister ; 
and Mme. de Genlis, in her anxiety to retain this, devised a 
plan for the establishment of cloistered schools in which the 
girls should be indoor boarders, but not the mistresses — as 
in the case of our Lyc£es for girls to-day ; and in which the 
masters should give their lessons in parlours with a grating 
in the door, and in which men should never enter the cloister. 
We must remember that at the moment of the publication 
of this Discours the National Assembly had abolished the 
abbeys and convents, and that, more intent upon destroying 
than on building up, it had made no provision for filling 
the enormous breach caused by the departure of the religious 
orders which had been occupied in the education of girls as 
well as boys. 

1 Mme. de Maintenon, Entreiiens sur I' Education (1703). 


It was this breach that Mme. dc Genlis thought to fill by 
the creation of her cloistered schools. 

What was to be taught in them ? 

The curious thing is that in 1791, on the eve of the Terror, 
Mme. de Genlis takes as the ground plan of her proposed 
method the Saint-Cyr system, with its governing idea that 
education should be adapted to the sex and social standing 
of the pupils, and that, as women were not destined to take 
part in public affairs, sweetness, modesty, prudence and 
regard for a spotless reputation were the qualities to be 
developed in them. Her programme, then, was to be the 
Saint-Cyr programme : very thorough religious and moral 
instruction ; the elements — not more — of history, mythology, 
geography and common law, a little medicine and chemistry, 
and some accomplishments — the drawing of flowers, vocal 
music, simple embroidery. Above everything else came 
knowledge of the management of the house, and the girls 
were to sew all their own clothes. That was to form 3 
woman's education. 

What had become then of Mme. de Genlis' s innovations ? 
They consisted in an extreme regard for hygiene and diet. 
Gymnastics were an important feature. 

The study of the laws governing the country was also in 
the nature of an innovation, and constituted an open door 
for feminism. Not that Mme. de Genlis would have wished 
to see women become lawyers, professors of economy, or 
members of the Chamber of Deputies ; but she did foresee 
such things. " When a woman becomes a widow," we 
find her saying, " she quits the modest rank in which nature 
and the laws have placed her, and takes up her position among 
men, she replaces a citizen, and so doing becomes a citizen 
herself." Decidedly, we are on the eve of Feminism. Our 
Feminists of to-day may be interested to learn how Mme. de 
Genlis proposed to bring home the laws to her sex. " It 
would be desirable," she writes, " that in these educational 
establishments some kind of altars or small columns should 
be placed, after the fashion of the Ancients, either in the 
class rooms or the recreation rooms, with the fundamental 
laws and principal articles of our constitution engraved upon 


them. This, of course, is derived direct from Rousseau — 
it is the " education made attractive " of his dreams. 

Ten years later Mme. de Genlis amends this educational 
scheme, rendering it more useful and practical in the second 
work which has been mentioned, the Projet d'une Ecole 
rurale pour le Education des Filles. 

The groundwork of it is still the Saint-Cyr system, in- 
formed with its horror of idleness and worldly dissipation 
— those schools of the passions. But whereas Mme. de 
Maintenon was content to evoke and stimulate the love of 
work, Mme. de Genlis adds the work itself with a view to 
embellishing the mind ; and whereas Mme. de Maintenon 
fortified the inner life by means of intellectual austerity 
and privations — the abstention from useless reading, for 
instance, and especially of books calculated to nourish vanity 
of mind — and by a mode of moral therapeutics based upon 
fasting and abstinence which resulted in the subjection of the 
woman, and in restricting her to a life of domesticity and 
dependence, Mine, de Genlis held that woman should have 
an individual worth apart from mere moral worth, and 
sought to endow her in addition with mental accomplishments. 

Leaving such a school, a woman was prepared for her 
walk in life, whatever it might be. All positions were pro- 
vided for, save only that of the frivolous and useless, idle 
woman of the world — the type of woman that Feminism 
has always fought from the days of Fenelon and Mme. de 
Maintenon down to our own time. 

To the actual school, situated in the country, a farm was 
to be attached, with a mill in addition to the poultry-yard, 
kitchen-garden, orchard, vineyard, wine-press and fish- 

Here is the complete curriculum as Mme. de Genlis sets 
it forth : — 

Religious and moral instruction. 

Writing, arithmetic, English, German and Italian. In 
the study of these languages, all that is to be attempted is 
to make the pupils to speak them well, to read prose fluently 
and to write a letter correctly. They are not to be made to 
read poetry. 


Some elementary notions of history and geography. The 
drawing and painting of flowers. 

Everything that concerns the interior economy of a 
house : — 

1. Supervising the laundry work. 

2. Washing and ironing clothes themselves once a 

3. Taking care of poultry. 

4. Managing a dairy. 

5. Managing a fruit-garden. 

6. Supervising a kitchen and cooking for themselves, so 
that they may never be taken in regarding the price and 
quantity of the ingredients to be used. 

7. Everything concerned with distilling. 

8. Supervising the bakery, and getting to understand 
the different ways of making bread for the household. 

9. An infinity of household recipes. 

10. A knowledge of botany, at least as far as plants in 
general use are concerned, and a knowledge of the principal 

11. A knowledge how and when to sow, together with 
actual practice in gathering in the crops and in vintage. 

12. Practice in sewing, knitting, net-making, embroidery, 
carpet-weaving, lace-making, artificial-flower making. In 
addition, a man of business to be in the house to teach them 
all they need to know with regard to managing a property, 
and in reference to the laws bearing upon wills, inheritances, 
dowries, guardianships, etc. 

Mme. de Genlis was not entirely without justification 
when she complained of the way in which she was plagiarised. 
It is certain that she was much plagiarised during the genera- 
tion of Louis- Philippe. It was some considerable time before 
she was forgotten — she was still read forty years ago. To-day 
she is too much neglected. Perhaps these pages will help 
some future readers to pick out the best of her works. They 
will find many original passages and much that is interesting 
and full of good sense. 

The list of her books which follows will aid them still 


further in their researches. I shall be glad for my part if 
my efforts shall have helped to freshen the faded laurel 
wreath which indicates the right of Stephanie Felicite 
du Crest, Comtesse de Genlis, to take her place beside 
Mme. de Maintenon in the history of the literature of 



Theatre d I 'usage des jeunes personnes. Paris, 1779-80. 4 vols. 8vo. 

(Reprinted, 1785, in 5 vols. i2mo.) 
Theatre de la Societe. Paris, 1781. 2 vols. 8vo. 
Annates de la Vertu. Paris, 1782. 2 vols. 8vo. 
Adele et Theodore. Paris, 1782. 3 vols. 8vo. 
Les Veillees du Chateau. Paris, 1784. 4 vols. i2mo. 
La Religion consideree comme I' unique base du bonheur et de la veritable 

philosophie. Paris, 1787. 8vo. 
Discours sur V education de M. le Dauphin et sur V adoption. Paris, 

1790. 8vo. 
Discours sur la suppression des couvents de riligieuses et V education 

publique des femmes. Paris, 179 1. 8vo. 
Discours sur l' education publique du peuple. Paris, 1791. Svo. 
Lecons d'une Gouvemanle d ses Eleves. Paris, 1791. 2 vols. i2mo. 
Discours sur le luxe et I'hospitalite. 1 Paris, 179 1. Svo. 
Les Chevaliers du Cygne. Hamburg, 1795. 3 vols. Svo. 
Epitre d I'asile que faurai, suivi d'une Epitre d Henriette de Sercey. 

Precis de ma conduite depuis la Revolution, suivi d'une lettre d M. de 

Chartres et de reflexions sur la Critique. Hamburg, 1796. i2mo. 
Les Petits Emigres. Paris, 1798. 2 vols, bound in one, i2,mo. 
Reflexions d'un ami des talens et des arts. Paris, An. VII. (1798). Svo. 
Manuel du Voyageur. Berlin, 1798. 2 vols. 8vo. 
Herbier moral. 1799. i2mo. 

Les Vceux temer aires. Altona, 1799. 3 vols. i2mo. 
Les Mbres riv ales. Berlin, 1800. 3 vols. Svo. 
Nouvelles Heures a V usage des enfants. Paris, 180 1. iSmo. 
Le Petit La Bruyere. Paris, 180 1. Svo. 
Nouvelle methode d'Enseignement pour la premiere enfance. Paris, 

1801. Svo. 
Projet d'une Ecole rut -ale pour I 'education des filles. Paris, 1801. Svo. 

1 In 1797 all the " Discours " were republished in a single volume under 

the title of Discours moraux et politique s. 



Mademoiselle de Clermont. Paris, 1802. i6mo. 

Nonveaux Contes moraux et Nouvelles hisloriques. Paris, 1802. 3 vols. 

1 2 mo. 
L'epouse impevtinente. Paris, 1804. i2mo. 

Souvenirs de F 'elide L . Paris, 1804. 12 mo. 

La Duchesse de La Valliere. Paris, 1804. 2 vols. i2mo. 

Les Monuments religieux. Paris, 1805. 8vo. 

Etude du Cceur humain. Paris, 1805. i2mo. 

Le Comte de Corke. Paris, 1805. 2 vols. i2mo. 

Madame de Maintenon. Paris, 1806. 2 vols. i2mo. 

Alphonsine. Paris, 1806. 3 vols. i2mo. 

Esprit de Madame de Genlis, ou Portraits, caracteres, maximes, pensees, 

extraits par Demonceaux. Paris, 1807. i2mo. 
Suite des Souvenirs de Felicie. Paris, 1807. 12 mo. 
Le Siege de La Rochelle. Paris, 1808. 2 vols. i2mo. 
Belisaire. Paris, 1808. 2 vols. 12 mo. 
Sainclair. Paris, 1808. i6mo. 
Alphonse. Paris, 1809. 8vo. 

Arabesques mythologiques. Paris, 18 10. 2 vols. i2mo. 
La Maison rustique. Paris, 18 10. 3 vols. 8vo. 

La Botanique historique et litter aire. Paris, 18 10. 8vo. 

De l' influence des femmes sur la litter attire francaise. Paris, 181 1. 8vo. 

Observations critiques . . . ou veponse de Mme. de Genlis a Messieurs 
T. et M. et sur les critiques de son dernier ouvrage de I 'Influence des 
femmes. Paris, 1 8 1 1 . 8 vo. 

Examen critique de I' ouvrage intitule " Biographie universelle." Paris, 
181 1. 8vo. 

Suite de l' examen critique de l' ouvrage, etc. . . . Paris, 1812. Svo. 

Les Bergeres de Madian. Paris, 181 2. i2mo. 

La Feuille des gens du Monde ou le Journal imaginaire. Paris, 1813. 

Mademoiselle de La Fayette. Paris, 181 3. 2 vols. 12 mo. 

Les Hermites des Marais Pontins. Paris, 18 14. Svo. 

Histoire de Henri le Grand. Paris, 181 5. 2 vols. Svo. 

Jeanne de France. Nouvelle historique. Paris, 18 16. 2 vols. i2mo. 

Le Journal de la J eunesse. Paris, 18 16. 121110. 

Les Baltuecas. Paris, 18 16. 2 vols. i2mo. 

Abrege des Memoir es du Marquis de Dangeau. Paris, 18 17. 4 vols. 

Les Tableaux du Comte de Forbin. Paris, 18 17. Svo. 

Zuma, ou la dicouverte du Quinquina. Paris, 1817. i2mo. 

Dictionnaire critique et raisonne des etiquettes de la Cour, usages du monde, 
etc. Paris, 181 8. 2 vols. 8vo. 

Les Voyages poetiques d' Eugene et d'Antonine. Paris, 181 8. i2mo. 

Almanack de la J eunesse. Paris, 18 19. i8mo. 

Emile {edition Genlis) avec des relranchements, une note et line preface. 
Paris, 1820. 3 vols. i8mo. 


Catechisme critique et moral de V A bbe Feller, avec preface et notes. Paris, 

1820. 2 vols. i2mo. 
Contes, nouvelles et historiettes par Mme. la Comtesse de Genlis, Mme. la 

Comtesse de Beaufort de Hautpoul, Mme. Dufresnoy, M. le chevalier 

Lablee. Paris, 1820. 2 vols. i2mo. 
L'Intrepide. 1820. 

Le Siecle de Louis XIV. Paris, 1820. 3 vols. i2mo. 
Palmyre et Flaminie. Paris, 1821. 2 vols. 8vo. 
Prieres, ou Manuel de Piete. Paris, 1821. 
Six nouvelles morales et religieuses. Paris, s.d. (1821). 12 mo. 
Les Jeux champetres des Enfans. Contes de fees. Paris, s.d. (1821) 

Les Diners du Baron d'Holbach. Paris, 1822. Svo. 
Les Veillees de la Chaumiere. Paris, 1823. Svo. 
Les Parvenus. Paris, 1824. 3 vols. i2mo. 
Les Prisonniers (contenant six nouvelles et une notice historique sur 

l' amelioration des prisons). Paris, 1824. Svo. 
De I'Emploi du temps. Paris, 1824. Svo. 
Les Athees consequens, ou Memoires du Commandeur de Linanges. 

Paris, 1824. 8vo. 
Petrarque et Laure. Paris, 1825. 2 vols. i2mo. 
Theresina. Paris, 1826. i2mo. 
Ines de Castro. Paris, 1826. 2 vols. i2mo. 
Le La Bruyere des domestiques. Paris, 1828. 2 vols. 12 mo. 
Les soupers de la Marechale de Luxembourg. Paris, 1828. Svo. 
Memoires inedits sur le XV I lie siecle et la Revolution francaise. Paris, 

1825-28. 10 vols. 8vo. 
Le dernier voyage de Nelgis. Paris, 1828. 2 vols. 8vo. 
Etrennes politiques pour 1828. Lettre an Due d 'Orleans. Paris, 1828. 

Svo. (This is a reprint of the "Letter from Silk," issued by enemies 

of Louis-Philippe and Mme. de Genlis. There was another reprint 

of the same kind in 183 1.) 
Manuel de la jeune femme. Guide complet de la maitvesse de maison. 

Paris, 1829. i8mo. 
Athenais. Paris, 1832. i8mo. (A posthumous work, left in MS. to 

Mme. Recamier, and published for her by Didot in 1832.) 

Besides these works, Mme. de Genlis edited the Memoires de la 
Marquise de Bonchamps, and wrote a series of articles under the title 
of Lettves de Marie-Anne (1790). Two unpublished MS. works 
of hers are in the library of the city of Nancy: (1) Catalogue 
sommaire du cabinet de tableaux de M. le Comte de Sommariva, 
written on vellum, with illuminated titles and tailpieces. (2) Essai 
sur les Arts, with water-colour sketches as illustrations. 

Printed by 

Morrison & Gibb Limited 




Ify Lord 'Rossmore 

Illustrated Price 10/6 net 

Lord Rossmore's recollections should contribute to the 
gaiety of the nation, for it would be difficult to find, within 
the covers of a book, a collection of stories so racy and 
so rich in humour. 

Lord Rossmore was a friend of King - Edward, and he has 
several good stories to tell about the late monarch. 

Among the many well-known people who figure promi- 
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the late Duchess of Teck ; Consuelo, Duchess of Man- 
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Lord and Lady Zetland ; Lord Lonsdale ; the late 
Viscount Masserene and Ferrard ; Lord and Lady 
Londonderry ; the late Lady Cadogan ; Mrs. Cornwallis 
West; "Bay" Middleton ; "Chicken" Hartopp ; and 
the late Lord Clonmell. 

" Things I Can Tell " abounds in amusing anecdotes, 
and there are few people in Society who will not be 
tempted to read it — if only in self-defence — for, in dining 
out this autumn, there is one question which is sure to 
be asked, and that is, " Have you read the Rossmore 
Recollections ?" 



By 'Princess Louise of ^Prussia 

Illustrated Price 16/- net 

An important and interesting" autobiography, containing 
many recollections of royal persons. The Princess was a 
niece of Frederick the Great and has several anecdotes to 
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of the period. The author lived in stirring times, amid 
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graphic account of them — also the inner history of the 
Peace of Tilsit. 


By Edward Legge 

duthor of" The Empress Eugenie, 1 870-1 910," etc. 

Illustrated Price 16/- net 

No matter how great the reputation, there comes a time 
when the memory of a magnetic personality becomes a 
target for the dispassionate historian, and the Memoir in 
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regard to King Edward. In view of the great prominence 
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Mr. Legge, who shows an exceptionally intimate ac- 
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On unchallengable evidence, Mr. Legge is able to refute 
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Mr. Legge concludes a striking and well-balanced volume 
with a special section on Queen Alexandra. 


Being the Private and Political Life of 
Madame de Genlis 

©y Jean Harmand 
Illustrated Price 16/- net 

The career of Madame de Genlis is one of the baffling 
enigmas of history. For the greater part of her life she 
played an important role in the social and political life 
of France. 

By virtue of her intimate association with Philip Egalite, 
Due d'Orleans, and her high position as the Governor 
of Louis Phillipe and the other Orleans children, the 
influence she wielded practically amounted to royal power. 

She cast her spell over a wide circle, winning admira- 
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subject of a storm of scandalous reports and speculations 


What was her exact relationship to the Duke ? was she 
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affair of " Maria Stella " ? what part did she play in the 
Revolution ? — these are some of the mysteries surrounding 
her on which M. Harmand, with the help of many un- 
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The whole truth will probably never be known, but 
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*By Madame Judith 

(of the Come die Franc aise) 
Illustrated Price 10/6 net 

Madame Judith's memories extend over a deeply 
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Famous actors and actresses, poets, novelists and 
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Kind-hearted, clear-headed and brilliantly gifted, Madame 
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nesses of others she is equally ready to acknowledge 
her own. 



By -^Maximilian Harden 

Author of" Word Tortraits " 
Illustrated Price 10/6 net 

Herr Maximilian Harden is Germany's most forcible 
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In " Monarchs and Men" he gives us some brilliant 
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While it is often impossible to agree with Herr Harden's 
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Contents : — King Edward VII — King Albert of Saxony — 
Pope Leo XIII — The Emperor of Austria — The Tsar 
of Russia — M. Briand, Ex-Prime Minister of France 
— Lueger — Tolstoi and Rockefeller. 


By John Fyvie 

Author of " Tragedy Queens of the Georgian Era" etc. 
Illustrated Price 15/- net 

The striking personalities of the Borgia have afforded a 
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In the present volume, Mr. Fyvie attempts to present 
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The lives and careers of Rodrigo, Cesare, and Lucrezia 
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By a German Resident — Mariano Herggelet 

Price 3/6 net 

This little book is the outcome of close observation 
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The book concludes with an examination of the proba- 
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the future of the two countries. 


Being an account of the Abor Expedition, the 
Mishmi Mission, and the Miri Mission 

'By Angus Hamilton 

Author of " Korea," " Jfghanhtan" etc. 

With numerous Illustrations and a Map 

Price 18/- net 

In this volume, the famous war correspondent of the 
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He also describes the characteristics of the country, 
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Considerable interest will undoubtedly attach to the 
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but the Gam was well known to the members of the party, 
and there is every probability that his story is a correct 



record of the events which culminated in the massacre. 

The inclusion of a wonderfully fine series of photographs 
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By S. H. Leeder 

^Author of" The Desert Gateway" etc. 

Illustrated Price 16/- net 

Though books innumerable have been written upon 
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A series of beautiful photographs, illustrating the native 
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which no intending visitor to Egypt should fail to read. 



Sy Archdeacon Sinclair 

With Full-page Illustrations reproduced in Photo- 
gravure from Point Drawings by Louis Weirter, 
R.B.A. Royal 8vo. Price 21/- net 

A beautiful book on a great national subject, teeming 
with historical interest and romance. Such Royal Chapels 
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beautiful plates by Mr. Louis Weirter. 


Sy Jessie ^Adelaide Middleton 

Price 61- 

Some startling instances of modern haunting are de- 
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scientific investigation of psychic phenomena, aims at 
interesting the reader for whom the supernatural has a 

One section is devoted to London Ghosts, and in par- 
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Lord Hylton, Mr. Ralph Nevill, Sir Griffith Boynton, the 
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*By Dr. ^Andrew Wilson 

Price 2/6 net 

An invaluable little book by a well-known authority. 
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Sy ^Arthur Miller, M.D., M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P. 

Price 2/6 net 

A companion book to "Before the Doctor Comes." 
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With Photogravure Frontispiece Price 10/6 net 

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Illustrated Price 10/6 net 

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Illustrated with many Photographs by the Author 
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jluthor of" The Broken Commandment'''' and ii Tenelope's Trogrets." 

A story of love and intrigue. The plot concerns the 
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£y J. S. Fletcher 

Author of 
" The Paths of the Prudent? " The Town of Crooked Way? etc. 

Mr. Fletcher's new novel is of the same genre as his 
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seventeen, Valency Winsome, having half-killed a brutal 
stepfather, sets out into the world to fend for herself. 
She meets and travels with an eccentric youth, Hilary Crewe, 
who is poet and poacher too, and who caravans about the 
country peddling. His poaching brings him within reach 
of the law, and Valency, unexpectedly left alone, drifts into 
the hands of a wealthy young man, Jeffery Hessle, who 
conceives the idea of bringing her out on the operatic 
stage. Her adventures with him and his friend, Hadyn 
Smith, a musician, her final revolt, and her eventual escape 
to Hilary Crewe, and the wild life of the woods and heaths, 
are narrated in a spirit of genuine comedy, while the story 
is marked with all Mr. Fletcher's well-known gifts of 
strong characterisation and graphic description of life in the 
open country. 


By ^Morley Roberts 
Author of 11 %achael Marr? " David 'Bran? etc. 


Author of" Qrim Justice? etc., etc. 
A dramatic story with a sensational d^noument. 




©y Charles Inge 

" An unusual and powerful novel . . . the character studies are 
wonderfully human and strong." — Daily News. 


Sy Marcelle Tinayre 

"A brilliant and exciting- story, instinct with the voluptuous magic 
of Italy past and present." — Daily Mail. 

THE MUMMY % "I^iccardo Stephens 

" It reminds one very much of Wilkie Collins ... he has the 
knack of putting and keeping us on good terms with the men and 
women we meet in his pages." — Evening Standard. 


Sy William Le Queux 

A new Egyptian mystery which has for its central figure a fashion- 
able ladies' doctor, who is also an expert in certain newly-discovered 
poisons, and is as exquisitely polite as he is unscrupulous. 


Tty Theodore Flatau 

"A deeply interesting and picturesque tale, with Ariha, the 
wonderfully fascinating, weird and wayward dancer, as the central 
figure . . . ' The Soul of a Dancer' is, moreover, remarkable for its 
atmospheric effects . . . amazingly realistic indeed, is the picture he 
gives of existence in Cairo." — Daily Telegraph. 




HEART OF THE WEST £y 0. Henry 

.Author of" Cabbages and fQngs " 

" Vivid, racy, artful and exquisitely droll." 

— Glasgow Evening News. 

" Bright, fresh and vivid as Bret Harte at his best." 

— Nottingham Guardian. 

£y /. S. Fletcher 

Author of " The Hardest Moon" etc. 

" A good, bustling story." — Times. 

" He has utilised the coming of the airship for purposes of 
romance ... a spirited and interesting story. 

— Daily Telegraph. 





Sy Aiphonse Courlander 



Sy Arthur Lambton 




Sy William Le 





By H. c I(ider Haggard 


By SMax ^emberton 



Ski-ing and other Winter Sports. By Arnold 
Lunn. With 32 Action Photographs. 2/- net 

Bridge and Auction Bridge. By " Valet de Pique." 

With 48 Problems. 2/- net 


Cricket. Batsmanship. By C. B. Fry. With 32 

Action Photographs. 2/- net 

Hockey. By Eric H. Green (English Inter- 

national) and Eustace E. White (Author of "The 
Complete Hockey-Player "). 32 Action Photographs. 
21- net 

Athletics. By E. H. Ryle (Ex-President Cambridge 
University Athletic Club), with contributions by 
famous Athletes. With 32 Action Photographs. 2/- net 




Santa Barbara 


2/92 Series 94X2 



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