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Splendid Women 


Splendid Women 



"With the wind of Qod in her 
vesture, proclaiming the deathless, 
ever-soaring spirit o/ man."— Locke 



Copyright, 1926, by 
J. H. SEARS & CO., Incorporated 

Set up, Printed and Bound at the 
KiNGSPORT Tennessee 
United States of America 

9 WW^iCC-^ 





By Henry Houssaye 


By Edward Gibbon 

Joan of Arc 

By Thomas DeQiiincy 


By Thomas Adolphiis Trollope 

Catherine de' Medici ^^^ 

By Imbert de Saint- Amand 
Mary Queen of Scots ^^^ 

A Portrait Study •'■^^ 

By Andrew Lang 

The Execution ^^^ 

By Alphonse de Lamartine 

A Defense of Mary Queen of Scots 167 

By Algernon Charles Swinburne 

Maria Theresa ^^ 

By Anna Jameson 

8 Contents 


Madame de Pompadour 209 

By Edmund de Goncourt 

Charlotte Corday 255 

By Thomas Carlyle 

Catherine the Great , . . , , 264 

By K. Walizewski 

--^ Florence Nightingale 290 

y^' By Elisabeth Aldridge 

Notes c 313 




These Splendid Women 

HE ladies are dangerous creatures for a man, to 
say nothing of an editor, to tamper with, unless 
it be from a distance. They have at various 
periods been likened to angels, tigresses, cats, 
dynamite, fairies and furies. They are like the weather in 
Eastern Massachusetts. The self-contained Bostonian starts 
out in the morning with the sun smiling in entrancing beauty. 
He says to himself: "This is a stimulating and a fascinat- 
ing day. I could be happy with it forever." As he turns 
the corner of the street with a smile on his face and a little 
purring glow in his heart, it begins to snow. He turns back 
in haste and hurries home for an overcoat and an umbrella. 
Coming forth a second time with grim determination to stand 
anything and see the thing through, he finds the air tropical 
and the sun mysteriously blinking through a mist. Off comes 
the coat and down comes the umbrella. Turning the corner 
again with perspiring brow and a clammy feeling dov/n his 
spine, he discovers the sun breaking through, and hope 
springs towards a newer and a lovelier day. Just before 
reaching the office a terrific downpour of rain saturates his 
clothes before he can again put on his overcoat or put up 
his umbrella. There is nothing to do but push on. 

At luncheon the air is clear and invigorating. The sun is 
bright and strong. It is the day of days. It is the kind of 

10 Introduction 

weather that makes a man do great things. After an hour 
of luncheon, the return to the office is finally achieved through 
a fog so impenetrable that he runs into other men who curse 
him and thrust him into the street. And on the way home 
in the evening, tired with the commercial and climatic 
struggle of the day, he finally makes the haven of his domicile 
completely exliausted, alternately burning with fever and 
frozen with chills. 

Finally, all through the night, dreams and visions chase 
one another through his fevered brain until, being unable to 
sleep, he rises and pulls aside the curtains to find all nature 
smiling in entrancing beauty out of the pink-faced dawn. 

If you criticize his v/eather, the Bostonian will agree that 
it may be a trying climate, but he will ask you to bear in 
mind what New England has done for the country and the 
world in general. It is in his judgment the infinite variety 
of the weather which custom cannot stale that has achieved 
all these benefits for the world — that keeps the Yankee con- 
stantly on what is known as the jump. 

Perhaps we are happier if we are always alert. At all 
events, so far as the records go in Massachusetts, this in- 
finite variety has existed in the case of the weather from the 
beginning; and so far as the records go throughout history, 
the same infinite variety has existed for the same period 
in the case of woman. 

In this modern day of ours, when woman's idea of the 
family appears in danger of being submerged in the idea 
of stenography, or secretaryship, or clerkship; when moving 
picture shows are pushing out the sewing of the family 
socks; when a career is more important than a child, some of 
us look with dread at the future and wonder what will be- 
come of mankind a hundred years hence when we are not 
here to be troubled by it. 

Introduction 1 1 

Perhaps the whole makeup of woman will be as different 
as her costume now is from that of fifty years ago. Perhaps 
she will no longer be a tigress or a fairy, a fury or an angel, 
all in one; but only a calm person going to her occupations 
with supreme regularity like the rest of us. The changes 
that have taken place in her point of view within the life- 
time of an ancient moralizer like the perpetrator of this 
preface are appalling in their significance. If in these few 
years such developments, what in the next hundred? It is 
distressing to think on. 

Reading some of the memoirs written a hundred years ago, 
it appears that the changes in the new generation of that day 
appalled the ancient moralizer. He or she asked: "If this 
goes on, what will the world be a hundred years hence?" 
— that is to say, today. It would be safe to say that if these 
moralizers could revisit the scenes of their activities now, 
they would be horrified at woman. Think of the legs alone ! 

And yet the world seems to wag along much as heretofore. 

If the view be extended over a greater period, there is 
something amusing in finding the differences and likenesses 
between this hour and one, two, three hundred — even one, 
two, three thousand — ^years ago. The result of such exami- 
nations, so far as any accuracy can be maintained, seems to 
show that while everything external has altered materially, 
the inner woman remains substantially the same. 

Cleopatra, living just before the beginning of the Chris- 
tian era, that is to say about two thousand years ago, was 
born the queen of one of the great kingdoms of that day 
at a time when that kingdom itself was at its height in the 
sense that it was at its richest and best organized point. She 
ruled with absolute sway over the destinies of her people, 
and so far as history goes she carried out her great re- 
sponsibilities with more wisdom and judgment than most of 

12 Introduction 

the potentates, male or female, of her time. She did not 
create a nation, but she did administer one. At the same 
time she would never have been marked in the history of the 
world as unique, if she had not had and exercised the fem- 
inine qualities common to all women, but enhanced a thousand- 
fold in her case. 

If the immense amount of description of her goings and 
comings be discounted, she still remains the woman who by 
her femininity, her personality, fascinated two of the great 
men of history, one practically to his ruin, and both to the 
distinct advantage of her country politically. She was a 
genius in bringing about the results she desired through the 
means and weapons that were at her disposal. But so far 
as any one can discover at this late date, she used no other 
weapons to achieve her victories than half a dozen young 
women have used in the last few years who have become 
notorious the world over ; unless perhaps Cleopatra had more 
brains. Had these easily identified young ladies been born 
queens of great empires running on reasonably well greased 
wheels when they arrived at their thrones, they might have 
done as well as Cleopatra and, instead of being notorious, 
they might have been as famous as she. Which would seem 
to suggest how little is the difference between the woman of 
today and of two thousand years ago, except in custom and 

If Cleopatra had been a man, she would doubtless have 
written her memoirs and we should have much more to go 
by. But women up to a few years ago have, for some 
reason, refrained from telling us how they struggled and 
thought and won this or that victory. It is a pity — ^this 
historic modesty on the part of the female. She could have 
told us so much of interest in the past 2,000 years. Cleo- 
patra's memoirs would have fascinated mankind. They 

Introduction 13 

would be a best seller even to-day. You can see them in 
imagination — ^the first chapter filled with charming little 
stories of how she twisted her father around her finger, 
or fascinated the family dog by just looking at him — ^little 
hints of the origins from which sprang the discovery in 
her restless bosom of the best way in which Antony or 
Caesar could be induced on a later day to relinquish some 
of the demands of Rome. Later chapters would have de- 
veloped confessions of the joy of life, hints of experiments 
upon good-looking Egyptians attached to the Court, the way 
in which a smile upon a doubting councilor won him over, 
or perhaps a gentle pressure upon the arm and a glance 
upward caused the chains of defeat to drop from her people 
and bind themselves permanently about the person of a 
proud victor. 

What a story would have been here for us to read — ^the 
inner workings of a woman's mind ! 

There have been scoffers, such as Schopenhauer, who 
have maintained that women had no minds. If only these 
memoirs of Cleopatra, and Madame de Pompadour, and 
Mary Queen of Scots had come down to us as complete and 
full of confidential detail as they would have come if such 
women had been men, then we should have known defi- 
nitely. We can guess now what a lot of re-writing of our 
histories would become necessary. Should we see the great 
human currents of the ages shifted by a lovely girl's whim, 
or a bit of jealousy, or sudden love? Should we find that 
the Battle of Waterloo was won and lost because of a 
woman's wish? 

There have been rumors here and there in man-made 
tomes that a female impetus, if it may be so styled, has 
upset great councils as well as great councilors time out of 
mind. Here and there in our novels we are given a hint, 

14 Introduction 

though a clumsy male one, that some of the great move- 
ments of mankind are but the outcome of a lady's smile or 
frown. But there is nothing authentic. For myself, though 
I cannot prove it, I am convinced that if there had been no 
women there would have been no history, and from this 
conviction comes the inevitable conclusion that it is, there- 
fore, the women who have really made history. 

It is inconceivable that King Arthur's Round Table 
could have maintained itself without a woman. And who 
started the Trojan War? 

It is a pity — this historic modesty on the part of the 
female. Fortunately, in our later and better day, women 
are at last taking their place in the world as well as in the 
home, and as they fill the places of men it seems fair to 
assume that they will be filled with the qualities of men, 
amongst which is the inevitable urge to write memoirs, 
to tell "how I did it," for the benefit of those who come 
after. Hence, from now on, we may hope to learn defi- 
nitely not only whether woman has a mind, but how it 
works in its infinite and various v/ays. 

But even without any authentic, first-hand information 
to work on, there is enough to be gathered from inference 
out of a collection of sketches gathered in such a volume 
as the present one, to prove that splendid Vv^omen have 
lived and accomplished much by their own methods, though 
there is nothing to prove that they have changed, any more 
than man, in either method or power, since the first one 
upset her spouse in the Garden of Eden. 

Cleopatra is an interesting example taken from ancient 

At a later day, Catherine II. of Russia is still more in- 
teresting. She, unlike Cleopatra, did create a nation. She 
made laws, created precedents, began things, inaugurated 

Introduction 15 

customs, did the thousands of things the contemporary coun- 
terparts of which were in existence when Cleopatra began her 
reign. And yet Catherine rouged and painted her face just as 
little Nellie does on Sixth Avenue today and, unlike Nellie, 
Catherine denied it all her life. She gave the most careful 
attention to her dress and attitude and to the costumes and 
behavior of those about her. She herself in her letters con- 
fesses that she changed her mind constantly without rhyme 
or reason. She frankly indulged in the wiles so identified 
with Cleopatra, but she never let these idle hours interfere 
with the upbuilding of Russia. She cut off people's heads 
and allowed her friends to slap her on the back with typical, 
modern feminine waywardness, and withal she was a creator, 
a builder and a governor greater than any male ruler of her 
day, greater than most rulers of any day. 

In this or any similar exhaustive analysis of the female 
mind and heart it would be unjust to omit to mention that 
all women of today are not exactly alike. While each doubt- 
less has infinite variety within herself, there appears to be 
an almost infinite variety in the species, or gender, or sex. 
It is true that our journals from time to time devote in- 
numerable columns to the amorous but amateurish poetry, as 
well as the amorous but quite professional methods of ladies 
who have so upset gentlemen of large means that they hie 
them to the courts for protection. But it is just as true that 
in this same land great souls like a Jane Addams or a Clara 
Barton carry on their work to the infinite benefit of mankind, 
if with less newspaper notoriety. 

In this particular, too, the past seems to have been much 
the same as today. While many fair damsels in the courts 
of Europe were using their peculiar and age-old methods to 
influence the course of empire, a little peasant maid carried 
on her daily occupations in the village of Domremy and 

16 Introduction 

dreamed of a French nation, sovereign and independent. 
She did not secure the space in the newspapers, or their 
counterparts of that day, that her sisters did; but she had 
a vision, a tenacity of purpose, a power of concentration, and 
a courage that have made the name of Joan of Arc a light 
shining in a dingy world down through the centuries. In 
spite of the fact that she fought battles and wore armor 
and led men on horseback, there appears to be no hint in all 
that has been written of her that she was anything but 

So, too, in England less than a hundred years ago lived 
and worked Florence Nightingale, daughter of a rich man — 
a society girl, who had her vision of what should be done to 
help the sick. In her quiet life she not only invented the 
modern trained nurse, but she set in motion an idea, a stand- 
ard, that makes it impossible for posterity to drop back in the 
smallest degree into the old ways. She not only changed 
the views of humanity in regard to nursing ; she set a pace that 
never again can slacken. Yet so far as all the records, books 
and panegyrics of herself and her work go there is no hint 
that she was anything but the most feminine of women. 

So with others in different eras and different lands. 

It has seemed, therefore, in this day when we ask if woman- 
hood is degenerating, that a little collection, not of biog- 
raphies, but of pictures by master hands, of women in dif- 
ferent periods would make an amusing, if not instructive, 
contradiction or corroboration of our fears for the future. 
It would be presumptuous to forecast the opinions of readers, 
but it may be permitted an editor to summarize his weak, 
masculine views, gathered from a reading of what follows 
in this volume. 

Here it is : The characteristics of woman have not changed 
in the last ten thousand years. They will not change in the 

Introduction 17 

next ten thousand years. The differences in the whole 
twenty thousand years between woman and woman are the 
same differences as those between man and man. Some 
are great; some are small; most are in between. Some are 
born leaders; some are weak sisters; many are just nice 
human beings. The appeal of sex will continue as it has 
begun — and that is as it should be. If it were not for that 
and the spiritual in all of us, men and women alike, there 
would be no civilization and no happiness. 

When a young man comes to love a maid, in this century 
or forty centuries ago, something awakens in his soul that 
makes him long to do not only that which shall please her, 
but that which shall be worthy of her ; and nothing is worthy 
of her but the best, whether that best be in honor, or courage, 
or industry, or ambition, or only treasure. And whether she 
darns socks or punches typewriters, cooks dinner or makes 
speeches, wears skirts long or short, that something awakened 
in the man's soul has come pretty near making the world in 
the past, and will continue to advance it in the future. There 
is, after all, little else of value within us. 

If I should approach the question of the ladies nearer than 
this, the danger zone would be entered which is strewn with 
the literary corpses of thousands of enthusiastic but silly 
fools who have rushed in where angels fear to tread. 

Hamblen Sears 



AFTER an existence of forty or fifty centuries, 
the empire of Egypt was expiring under the 
"evil eye" of the Romans. The Greek dynasty, 
which had given to the country a new strength and re- 
viving brilHancy, had exhausted itself in debauchery, 
crimes, and civil wars. It was now sustained only by 
the good-will of Rome, whose fatal protection was bought 
at a high price, and who still designed to tolerate, for 
a time, at least, the independence of Egypt. Freed from 
nearly all military service by the introduction of Hellenic 
and Gallic mercenaries the Egyptians had lost their war- 
like habits. They had suffered so many invasions and 
submitted to so many foreign dominations that all that 
remained for patriotism was the religion of their an- 
cestors. Little mattered it to them, born servile and used 
to despotism, whether they were governed by a Greek 
king or a Roman proconsul — they would give not an ear 
of corn less, nor receive a blow the more. 

Her glory eclipsed and her power decayed, Egypt still 
possessed her marvelous wealth. Agriculture, manufac- 
tures, and commerce poured into Alexandria a triple wave 
of gold. Egypt had erewhile supplied Greece and Asia 
Minor with corn; it remained the inexhaustible granary 
of the Mediterranean basin. But the fertile valley of the 
Nile — "so fertile," says Herodotus, "that there was no 
need of the plough," produced not corn only. Barley, 

20 These Splendid Women 

maize, flax, cotton, indigo, the papyrus, henna, with which 
the women tinted their finger nails, clover sufficient for 
countless herds of cattle and sheep, onions and radishes, 
supplied to the laborers employed in building the great 
pyramid of Cheops to the amount of eight millions of 
drachms, grapes, dates, figs, and that delicious fruit of the 
lotus, which, according to Homer, "made one forget his 
native land," were other sources of wealth. Native 
industry produced paper, furniture of wood, ivory, and 
metal; weapons, carpets, mats, fabrics of linen, wool, and 
silk ; cloths, embroidered and painted ; glazed pottery, 
glass-ware, vases of bronze and alabaster, enamels, jewels 
of gold and settings of gems. Finally commerce, which 
had its factories beyond the Aromatic Cape, which sent 
its caravans across Arabia and the Lybian Desert, and 
whose countless ships ploughed the seas from the Pillars 
of Hercules to the mouth of the Indus, had made Alex- 
andria the emporium of the three continents. Under 
Ptolemy XL, the father of Cleopatra, the taxes, tithes, 
import and export duties cast annually into the royal 
treasury twelve thousand five hundred talents — sixty-eight 
millions of francs. 

Ptolemy XI. (Auletes) died in July, 51 B.C. He left 
four children. By his will he appointed to succeed him 
on the throne his eldest daughter Cleopatra, and his 
eldest son Ptolemy, and according to the custom of Egypt 
the brother was to marry the sister. At her father's 
death Cleopatra was sixteen and Ptolemy thirteen years 
old. The tutor of young Ptolemy, the eunuch Pothinus, 
was an ambitious man, and, being complete master of 
the mind of his pupil, he calculated to rule Egypt under 
the new reign; but he soon found that Cleopatra would 
permit neither him nor Ptolemy to govern the kingdom. 
Proud and headstrong, Cleopatra was likewise skillful, 
intelligent, and very learned; she spoke eight or ten lan- 
guages, among them Egyptian, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, 
Arabic, and Syriac. How is it possible to think that this 

These Splendid Women 21 

woman, so haughty and so gifted, would abandon her 
share of the sovereignty in favor of a child governed by 
a eunuch? 

Csesar soon learned the contentions of Ptolemy and 
Cleopatra, the flight of the latter in consequence of the 
threats of the populace, and the battle about to take 
place between the two armies assembled at Pelusium. 
It had always been the Roman policy to intermeddle in 
the private dissensions of nations. This policy of inter- 
vention was still more in order for Caesar with regard 
to Egypt, because during his first consulate Ptolemy 
Auletes had been declared the ally of Rome, and in his 
will had conjured the Roman people to have his last 
wishes executed. Another motive, which he does not 
mention in his "Commentaries," induced Caesar to inter- 
meddle in the affairs of Egypt. With little expense he 
had made himself the creditor of the late king, and he 
had to call upon the heirs for a large amount. This was 
no less than seven millions fifty thousand sesterces which 
remained due of the thirty-three thousand talents which 
Ptolemy had promised to pay Csesar and Pompey if by 
the assistance of the Romans he should recover his crown. 

The queen was waiting impatiently for news from 
Caesar. On the receipt of his first message, but partially 
transmitted by Pothinus, she had hastened to disband her 
army. She already felt full confidence in the favor of 
the great leader who was called "the husband of all 
women,'' but she knew that she must see Caesar, or rather 
that Csesar must see her. But the days passed and the 
invitation to Alexandria did not arrive. Finally the 
second message reached her, and she learned that Csesar 
had already sent for her to go to him, but that Pothinus 
had taken measures to prevent her knowing it. 

Cleopatra, abandoning the idea of entering Alexandria 
with the trappings of a queen, bethought herself of a 
plan to do so not merely under a disguise, but as a bale 
of goods. Accompanied by a single devoted attendant, 

22 These Splendid Women 

Apollodorus, the Sicilian, she embarked from near Pe- 
lusium in a decked bark which, in the middle of the night, 
entered the port of Alexandria. They landed at a pier 
before one of the lesser gates of the palace. Cleopatra 
enveloped herself in a great sack of coarse cloth of many 
colors, such as were used by travelers to pack up mats 
and mattresses, and Apollodorus bound it round with a 
strap, then taking the sack upon his shoulders, entered 
the gate of the palace, went straight to the apartments of 
Caesar, and laid his precious burden at his feet. 

Aphrodite rose radiant from the sea: Cleopatra less 
pretendingly from a sack; but Caesar was none the less 
moved at the surprise and ravished with the apparition. 
Cleopatra, who was then nineteen, was in the flower of 
her marvelous and seductive beauty. Dion Cassius calls 
the queen of Egypt the most beautiful of women, but 
Plutarch finds one epithet insufficient to depict her, and 
expresses himself thus : "There was nothing so incom- 
parable in her beauty as to compel admiration; but by 
the charm of her physiognomy, the grace of her whole 
person, the fascination of her presence, Cleopatra left 
a sting in the soul." This is her veritable portrait. Cleo- 
patra did not possess supreme beauty, she possessed 
supreme seductiveness. As Victor Hugo said of a cele- 
brated theatrical character, "She is not pretty, she is 
worse," which suggestive expression may well apply to 
Cleopatra. Plutarch adds, and his testimony is confirmed 
by Dion, that Cleopatra spoke in a melodius voice and with 
infinite sweetness. This information is valuable in a psy- 
chological point of view. Certes, this charm of voice, 
divine gift so rarely bestowed, this pure and winning 
caress, this ever new delight was not one of the least 
attractions of the Siren of the Nile. 

This first interview between Caesar and Cleopatra prob- 
ably extended far into the night. It is certain that, with 
the earliest dawn, Caesar sent for Ptolemy, and told him 
he must be reconciled to his sister and associate her in 

These Splendid Women 23 

the government. "In one night," says Dion Cassius, 
"Caesar had become the advocate of her of whom he had 
erewhile thought himself the judge." 

Eighteen years previous to these events, Caesar, being 
aedile, had endeavored to have voted by a plebiscit the 
execution of the will of Alexander II., who had be- 
queathed Egypt to the Roman people. Now, Egv^pt was 
subjugated and Caesar had but to say the word for this 
vast and rich country to become a Roman province. But 
in the year 63 Cleopatra was only just born; in the 
year 65 Caesar had not felt the bite of the "Serpent 
of the Nile," as Shakspeare calls her — the consul took 
good care not to remember the propositions of the aedile. 
The first act of Caesar on reentering Alexandria was sol- 
emnly to recognize Cleopatra as Queen of Egypt. In 
order, however, to humor the ideas of the Egyptians he 
determined that she should espouse her second brother, 
Ptolemy Neoteras, and share the sovereignty with him. 
As, however, Dion remarks, this union and this sharing 
were equally visionary; the young prince, who was only 
fifteen, could be neither king nor even husband to the 
queen ; apparently Cleopatra was the wife of her brother, 
and his partner on the throne; in reality she reigned 
solely, and continued the mistress of Caesar. 

During the eight months of the Alexandrian struggle 
Caesar, shut up in the palace, had scarcely quitted Cleo- 
patra, except for the fight, and this long honeymoon had 
seemed short to him. He loved the beautiful queen as 
fondly, and perhaps more so, than in the early days, and 
he could not resolve to leave her. In vain the gravest 
interests called him to Rome, where disorder reigned and 
blood was flowing, and where, since the December of the 
preceding year, not a letter had been received from him; 
in vain, in Asia, Pharnaces, the conquerer of the royal 
allies of Rome and of the legions of Domitius, has seized 
on Pontus, Cappadocia, and Armenia ; in vain, in Africa, 
Cato and the last adherents of Pompey have concentrated 

24 These Splendid Women 

at Utica an immense army — fourteen legions, ten thou- 
sand Numidian horsemen, and one hundred and twenty- 
elephants of war; in vain, in Spain, all minds are excited 
and revolt is brewing. Duty, interest, ambition, danger 
— Caesar forgets everything in the arms of Cleopatra. 
Truly he is preparing to leave Alexandria, but it is to 
accompany the beautiful queen on a pleasure excursion 
up the Nile. By the orders of Cleopatra, one of those 
immense flat-bottomed pleasure vessels has been prepared, 
such as were used by the Lagidse for sailing on the river, 
and called thalamegos (pleasure pinnace). It was a 
veritable floating palace, half a stadium long and forty 
cubits high above the water-line. The stories rose one 
above the other, surrounded by porticos and open gal- 
leries, and surmounted by belvederes sheltered from the 
sun by purple awnings. Within were numerous apart- 
ments, furnished with every convenience and every lux- 
urious refinement of Greco-Egyptian civilization, vast 
saloons surrounded by colonnades, a banqueting-hall pro- 
vided with thirteen couches, with a ceiling arched like a 
grotto, and sparkling with a rock-work of jasper, lapis 
lazuli, cornelian, alabaster, amethyst, aquamarine, and 
topaz. The vessel was built of cedar and cypress, the 
sails were of byssus, the ropes were dyed purple. 
Throughout, carved by skillful hands, were the opening 
chalices of the lotus, wound the volutes of the acanthus, 
twined garlands of bean-leaves and flowers of the date 
palm. On all sides shone facings of marble, of thyia, 
ivory, onyx, capitals and architraves of bronze. Mimes, 
acrobats, troops of dancing-girls, and flutists were on 
board to cheer the austere solitude of the Thebaid with 
the diversions and luxuries of Alexandria. 

Caesar and Cleopatra anticipate with rapture this voyage 
of enchantments; they will carry their young loves amid 
the old cities of Egypt, along the "Golden Nile," which 
they will ascend as far as the mysterious land of Ethiopia. 
But on the very eve of their departure the legionaries 

These Splendid Women 25 

become indignant, they murmur, they rebel ; their officers 
cry aloud to the consul, and Caesar returns to reason. For 
an instant he contemplates carrying Cleopatra away with 
him to Rome, but that project must be deferred. It is in 
Armenia that the danger is most pressing; it is to 
Armenia that he will first repair. He leaves two legions 
with Cleopatra — a faithful and formidable guard, which 
will secure the tranquillity of Alexandria, and sets sail 
for Antioch. 

During the campaigns of Caesar in Armenia and Africa 
(from July, 47, to June, 46, b. c.) Cleopatra remained in 
Alexandria, where a few months after the departure of 
the dictator she gave birth to a son. She named him 
Ptolemy-Caesarion, thus proclaiming her intimate relations 
with Caesar, which, however, were no secret to the 

When C^sar, the army of Cato under Thapsus being 
crushed, was about to return to Rome, he wrote to Cleo- 
patra tq meet him there. Probably she arrived there 
about midsummer of the year 46, at the period of the 
celebration of Caesar's four triumphs. In the second, the 
triumph of Egypt, Cleopatra must have beheld, at the 
head of the train of captives, her sister Arsinoe, who at 
the breaking out of the war of Alexandria had joined her 
enemies. The queen had brought with her her son 
Caesarion, her pseudo-husband the young Ptolemy, and a 
numerous train of courtiers and officers. Caesar gave up 
his superb villa on the right bank of the Tiber as a resi- 
dence for Cleopatra and her court. 

Officially, if we may thus use this very new word to 
express a very old thing, Cleopatra was well received in 
Rome. She was the queen of a great country, the ally 
of the Republic, and she was the guest of Caesar, then 
all-powerful; but, beneath the homage offered, lurked 
contempt and hatred. Not that Roman society took 
offense at her intrigue with Caesar; for more than half 

26 These Splendid Women 

a century, republican Rome had strangely changed its 
chaste morals and severe principles. 

In so dissolute and adulterous a city, it could shock 
no one that Cxsar should be false to his wife with one 
mistress or even with several; but in the midst of her 
debaucheries, and even though Rome had lost many of 
her ancient virtues, she still preserved the pride of the 
Roman name. These conquerors of the world looked 
upon other nations as of servile race and inferior human- 
ity. Little did they care for the transient loves of Caesar 
and Ennoah, queen of Mauritania, nor would they have 
cared any more had Cleopatra served merely to beguile 
his leisure during the war of Alexandria; but in bringing 
this woman to the seven-hilled city, in publicly acknowl- 
edging her as his mistress, in forcing on all the spectacle 
of a Roman citizen, five times consul and thrice dictator, 
as the lover of an Egyptian woman, Caesar seemed, ac- 
cording to the ideas of the time, to insult all Rome. As 
Merivale justly observes : "If one can imagine the effect 
that would have been produced in the fifteenth century 
by the marriage of a peer of England or of a grandee of 
Spain with a Jewess some idea may be formed of the 
impression made on the Roman people by the intrigue 
of Caesar and Cleopatra." 

Caesar had received supreme power and had been dei- 
fied. He was created dictator for ten years, and in the 
city his statue bore this inscription: "Caesari semi- 
deo" — To Caesar the demigod. He might believe him- 
self sufficiently powerful to despise Roman prejudices; 
for the rest, during the last two years of his life, Caesar, 
till then so prudent, so cautious in humoring the senti- 
ments of the plebeians, so skillful in using them for his 
own designs, pretended in his public life to despise and 
brave public opinion. It was the same in his private life ; 
far from dismissing Cleopatra, he visited her more fre- 
quently than ever at the villa on the Tiber, talked in- 

These Splendid Women 27 

cessantly of the queen, and allowed her publicly to call 
her son Cassarion. 

He went further still; he erected in the temple of 
Venus the golden statue of Cleopatra, thus adding to 
the insult to the Roman people the outrage to the Roman 
gods. It was not enough that Caesar for love of Cleo- 
patra had not reduced Egypt to a Roman province; not 
enough that he had installed this foreigner in Rome, in 
his villa on the banks of the Tiber, and that he lavished 
on her every mark of honor and every testimony of love; 
— now he dedicated, in the temple of a national divinity, 
the statue of this prostitute of Alexandria, this barbarous 
queen of the land of magicians, of thaumaturgy [wonder- 
working], of eunuchs, of servile dwellers by the Nile, 
these worshipers of stufifed birds and gods with the heads 
of beasts. Men asked each other where the infatuation of 
Caesar would end. It was reported that the dictator was 
preparing to propose, by the tribune Helvius Cinna, a 
law which would permit him to espouse as many wives as 
he desired in order to beget children by them. It was 
said that he was about to recognize the son of Cleopatra 
as his heir, and still further, that after having exhausted 
Italy in levies of men and money he would leave the 
government of Rome in the hands of his creatures and 
.transfer the seat of empire to Alexandria. These rumors 
aroused all minds against Caesar, and, if we may credit 
Dion, tended to arm his assassins against him (to furnish 
the dagger to slay him). Notwithstanding this hostility, 
Cleopatra was not deserted in the villa on the Tiber. To 
please the divine Julius, to approach him more intimately, 
the Caesarians controlled their antipathy and frequently 
visited the beautiful queen. To this court of Egypt trans- 
ported to the banks of the Tiber came Mark Antony, 
Dolabella, Lepidus, then general-of-horse ; Oppius Curio, 
Cornelius Balbus, Helvius Cinna, Matius, the praetor 
Vendidius, Trebonius, and others. Side by side with the 
partisans of Caesar were also some of his secret enemies. 

28 These Splendid Women 

such as Atticus, a celebrated silver merchant with great 
interests in Egypt, and others whom he had won over, 
like Cicero. The latter while making his peace with Caesar 
did not forget his master-passion, love of books and of 
curiosities. An insatiable collector, he thought to enrich 
his library at Tusculum without loosing his purse-strings, 
and requested Cleopatra to send for him to Alexandria, 
where such treasures abounded, for a few Greek manu- 
scripts and Eg}^ptian antiquities. The queen promised 
willingly, and one of her officers, Aumonius, who, for- 
merly an ambassador of Ptolemy Auletes to Rome, had 
there known Cicero, undertook the commission; but 
whether through forgetfulness or negligence the promised 
gifts came not, and Cicero preserved so deep an enmity to 
the queen in consequence that he afterwards wrote to 
Atticus, "I hate the queen (odi reginam)," giving as his 
only reason for this aversion the failure of the royal 
promise. The former consul had also received an affront 
from Sarapion, one of Cleopatra's officers. This man 
had gone to his house, and when Cicero asked him what 
he wished he had replied rudely: "I seek Atticus," and 
at once departed. How often does the ill-conduct of 
upper servants create a prejudice against the great. 

The assassination of Caesar, which struck Cleopatra like 
a thunderbolt, would have been the destruction of all her 
hopes if one could lose hope at twenty-five. C^sar dead, 
there was nothing to detain her in Rome, and she did not 
feel safe in this hostile city amid the bloody scenes of the 
parricidal days. She prepared to depart, but Antony 
having entertained for a moment the weak desire of op- 
posing to Octavius as Caesar's heir the little Caesarian, 
Cleopatra remained in Rome until the middle of April. 
When the queen perceived that this project was finally 
abandoned, she hastened to depart from the city where she 
had experienced so much contempt and which she quitted 
with rage in her heart. 

After his victory over Brutus, Antony overran Greec6 

These Splendid Women 29 

and Asia Minor for the purpose of levying tribute, and 
was everywhere received as a conqueror. Cities and kings 
vied with each other in adulation, heaped up honors and 
lavished gifts on him to secure immunity for the succor 
they had afforded, willingly or by force, to the vanquished 
party. At Athens, Megara, Ephesus, Magnesia, and 
Tarsus embassies and royal visits followed each other. 
To preserve to their kingdoms a quasi-autonomy, every 
petty sovereign of Asia hastened to obtain from the 
powerful triumvir, a new investiture of his crown. Cleo- 
patra alone, whether from queenly pride or womanly art, 
remained in Egypt and sent no ambassador; she seemed 
to pretend to ignore that the victory at Philippi had ren- 
dered Antony the master of the East. 

The silence of Cleopatra surprised and irritated Antony. 
Perhaps wounded pride was not the only sentiment in the 
soul of the triumvir. When he was commanding the 
cavalry of Gabinius he had seen Cleopatra, then fifteen 
years old; he had seen her again at Rome, the year of 
Caesar's death. Without agreeing wholly with Appian, that 
Antony was already in love with the queen of Egypt, it 
may be credited that her beauty and her attractions had 
made on him a deep impression. He remembered the 
"Siren of the Nile," and amid the visits of so many 
kings and powers it was, above all, hers that he awaited, 
but awaited in vain. In the position of Antony, how- 
ever, to speak was to be obeyed. He commanded Cleo- 
patra to repair to Tarsus, to vindicate before his 
tribunal her ambiguous conduct during the civil war. 
Antony enjoyed in advance this deliciously cruel pleasure : 
the beautiful Cleopatra, the haughty queen of Egypt, the 
woman at whose feet he had seen the divine Julius, com- 
ing to him as a suppliant. 

On a day when the triumvir on his judgment-seat 
was giving public audience in the midst of the agora of 
Tarsus, a great uproar arose on the banks of the Cydnus. 
Antony inquired what it meant. Flatterers as all Greeks 

30 These Splendid Women 

are, the Cilicians replied that it was Aphrodite herself 
who, for the happiness of Asia, was coming to visit 
Bacchus. Antony liked to assume the name of Bacchus. 
The crowd which thronged the public square rushed in 
a body to the shore. Antony was left alone with his 
lictors in the deserted agora — his dignity kept him there, 
but he fidgets in his curule chair, till finally curiosity 
gains the day. Unaccustomed to self-control, he, also, 
descends to the strand. The sight is worth the trouble — 
a vision divine which carries one back to the dawn of 
mythologic times. Cleopatra is entering Tarsus, ascend- 
ing the Cydnus on a vessel plated with gold over which 
float sails of Tyrian purple. The silver oars rise and fall 
in measured cadence to the music of Greek lyres and 
Egyptian harps. The queen, the goddess Cleopatra, lying 
beneath an awning of cloth of gold which shades the 
deck, appears as the painters usually represent Aphrodite, 
surrounded by rosy children like the Loves, beautiful 
young girls scarcely clad with lightest drapery as Graces 
and sea-nymphs, bearing garlands of roses and the lotus- 
flower and waving great fans of the feathers of the ibis. 
On the prow of the vessel other Nereides form groups 
worthy the brush of Apelles; Loves suspended to the 
yards and rigging seem descending from the skies. In- 
cense and spikenard kept burning by slaves surround the 
vessel with a light and odorous vapor which sends its 
perfume to both banks of the stream. 

Antony at once despatched one of his favorites to 
Cleopatra to request her to sup with him that same night. 
Cleopatra, availing herself doubtless of her title of god- 
dess rather than of that of queen — a queen of Egypt was 
nobody in comparison with a triumvir — made response 
that it was she who invited Antony to supper, and the 
Roman did not decline the invitation. He went at the 
hour appointed to the palace, which several days previ- 
ously Cleopatra had had secretly prepared with gorgeous 
magnificence. The banquet-hall, sumptuously adorned. 

These Splendid Women 31 

shone with the brilliancy of chandeliers, candelabra, and 
a multitude of golden sconces arranged symmetrically in 
circles, lozenges, etc. The feast, worthy of its decora- 
tions, abounded in nectarean wines served in vases of soHd 
gold, and in rare and artistic viands prepared by a master 
hand. Antony was a great gastronomist, and three 
months before this had given his cook a house for a dish 
that pleased him. He would have given a whole town 
to the cook of Cleopatra. As for the beautiful Egyptian, 
the triumvir was already willing to give her the whole 
world. The next day Antony gave a supper to the queen. 
He hoped to surpass, by means of money, the magnifi- 
cence of his reception, but he was the first to recognize 
his inability to rival her as an Amphitryon, and, clever 
man that he was, he jested gayly in Cleopatra's presence 
at his meanness and coarse taste. Probably in these two 
entertainments there was no mention of the grievances, 
real or pretended, with which Rome charged Cleopatra. 
Antony had no longer any thought of summoning her 
before his tribunal as a suppliant — the suppliant would 
have been Antony himself if Cleopatra had rejected his 
advances. Henceforth it was the queen that commanded ; 
the all-powerful triumvir had become the "slave of the 
Egyptian woman," as Dion Cassius indignantly exclaims. 

The first advantage Cleopatra took of her power was 
to have her son, by Caesar, Ptolemy-Csesarion, recognized 
as legitimate heir to the crown of Egypt. At Antony's 
request the decree was immediately ratified by his col- 
leagues, Octavius and Lepidus. 

When Cleopatra arrived at Tarsus in the summer of 
41 B. c, Antony was preparing to march against the Par- 
thians. At the end of a month the concentration of his 
troops was accomplished, the fleets ready, and no obstacle 
remained to the departure of the army. But this month 
had been passed with Cleopatra, and Antony had found it 
very short. Listening only to his passion, he put off the 

32 These Splendid Women 

expedition till the spring and followed the queen into 

Then began that mad life of pleasure and debauchery, 
that long and sumptuous orgy, which even in the third 
century of our era, and after the excesses of Nero and 
Heliogabalus, was still quoted in the Roman world, though 
then slaves to every corruption and exhausted in efforts 
of magnificence, as an inimitable model. 
' 01 'AxJixY]To5toi : "Those whose Hfe is inimitable." 
This, moreover, was the name assumed by Antony and 
Cleopatra and the intimate companions of their pleas- 
ures. Plutarch and Dion relate that festival succeeded 
to festival, entertainment to entertainment, and hunting 
parties to excursions on the Nile. Cleopatra quitted 
Antony neither day nor night. She drank with him, 
she gambled with him, hunted with him, she was even 
present at his military exercises when by chance this 
man of war, remembering that he was a soldier, took a 
fancy to reviev/ his legions. It is further related that 
Cleopatra was incessantly inventing some new diversion, 
some unexpected pleasure. But this list is very brief, 
this sketch a very modest and faint description to give an 
idea of the superb orgies, the unrestrained voluptuousness, 
and the nameless prodigaHties of the 'Tnimitables." Pliny 
alone of the ancient writers has summed them up, perhaps 
unknown to himself, in the legend, more or less symbolic, 
of the Pearl. One day, says this writer, when Antony 
was extolling the luxuriousness and profusion of a certain 
entertainment, he exclaimed that no other could surpass 
it. Cleopatra, who always affected to put no limit to the 
possible, replied that the present feast was a wretched 
affair, and she laid a wager that the next day she would 
give one on which she would expend ten millions of 
sesterces (two millions one hundred thousand francs). 
Antony took the bet. The next day the feast, magnificent 
as it was, had nothing to distinguish it from the preceding, 
and Antony did not fail to rally Cleopatra. "Per 

These Splendid Women 33 

Bacchus," cried he, "this would never cost ten millions o£ 
sesterces !" "I know that," replied the queen, "but you 
see only the accessories. I myself will drink alone the 
ten millions," and at once detaching from her ear a 
single pearl — the largest and most perfect ever seen — 
she threw it into a golden cup, in which it was dissolved 
in the vinegar there prepared, and swallowed at one 
draught the acid beverage. She was about to sacrifice the 
second pearl when L. Plancus, the umpire of the wager, 
arrested her hand by declaring that she had won. 

Picture to yourself the most costly materials, marbles, 
breccia, granites, ebony and cedar woods, porphyry, 
basalt, agate, onyx, lapis-lazuli, bronze, silver, ivory, and 
gold; conceive the most imposing Egyptian, the most 
beautiful Grecian architecture, imagine the Parthenon and 
the temple of Jupiter Olympus, the Pavilion of Rameses, 
and the ruins of ApoUinopolis Magna; recreate the royal 
palaces of Alexandria, which, with their dependencies, 
their gardens, their terraces, rising one above another, 
made up a third of the city: reconstruct the massive en- 
closures — those double pylons into which opened avenues 
bordered with sphinxes ; those obelisks, those magnificent 
propylsea, those saloons three hundred feet long and a 
hundred and fifty wide, supported by vast columns, in 
which rise double rows of pillars ten meters in circum- 
ference and twenty meters in height, bursting into lotus 
blossoms at their summits; those sanctuaries with their 
screens enameled in gold and tortoise shell, and studded 
with gems; those long picture galleries adorned with 
the paintings of Zeuxis, Apelles, and Protogenes; those 
magnificent thermae with their calidaria, their basins of 
hot and cold water, their retiring-rooms with walls of red 
porphyry, their porticos adorned with statues; those 
gymnasia, theaters, hippodromes, those stages covered 
with saffron powder, those triclinia where the couches 
of embossed silver rested on Babylonian carpets ; those 
atria with their uncovered roofs, sustained by Corinthian 

34 These Splendid Women 

columns with capitals of golden bronze, by day shaded 
by purple awnings, the silk of which was worth its weight 
in gold, and at night open to the starry sky. See, at all 
seasons, blooming in the gardens roses and violets, and 
scatter the pavements of onyx and mosaics four times a 
day with fresh flowers; people this scenery with crowds 
of slaves, pipers, players of the harp and psaltery, dancers, 
actors, Atellans [of the drama, as at Atellan, of lascivious 
character, Atellanae], acrobats, mimes, gymnasts, ballet- 
dancers, and serpent-charmers. Load these tables with 
oysters from Tarentum, lampreys dressed with garum, 
bonitos cooked in fig-leaves, pink ousels, quails, pheasants, 
swans, geese livers, stews made of the brains of birds, 
hares cooked rare and dusted with coriander seeds, truffles 
as large as the fist which were assumed to fall from the 
sky like aerolites, cakes of honey and wheat flour, and 
the most delicious fruits of the Mediterranean basin. In 
the kitchens, roasting before the fires on immense hearths, 
for the entertainment of fifteen guests, twelve wild boars, 
spitted successively at intervals of three minutes, so that, 
according to the duration of the feast, one of these ani- 
mals might be exactly cooked at the very moment it was 
required to be served. Cool in snow the old Caecuban 
wine, the Falernian ripened for twenty years, the wines 
of Phlemtes, Chios, Issa, the imperial wine of Lesbos, 
the ripe wine of Rhodes, the sweet wine of Mitylene, the 
Saprian, smelling of violets, and the Thasos, said to 
"rekindle failing love." Light up the lamps, the torches, 
and the chandeliers, wind the pillars with streamers of 
fire; open the mouths of the bronze colossi that the icy 
water may flow and cool the atmosphere, and the breasts 
of Isis that the sweet waters may perfume it; call in the 
choirs of singing women with their harps and cythera, 
and the females who dance nude with castanets of gold 
in their hands; add to them representations of comedies, 
the farces of mimes, the tricks of jugglers, and the phan- 
tasmagorias of the magicians ; offer mock engagements in 

These Splendid Women 35 

the harbor, and in the hippodrome chariot races and com- 
bats between lions ; summon the masqueraders and witness 
the processions where cluster, around the golden car 
of Bacchus and the Cyprian, fifteen hundred satyrs, a 
thousand cupids, and eight hundred beautiful slaves as 
nymphs and mimes. Finally, imagine all that Asiatic 
pomp, Egyptian state, and Grecian refinement and deprav- 
ity, and Roman power and licentiousness blended in a 
single form — a sensual and splendid woman, delighting 
in pleasure and sumptuousness — can achieve with such 
elements and you will have some idea, though very vague 
and feeble, of the "Life Inimitable." 

Sometimes Antony and Cleopatra indulged in more 
vulgar pleasures. Disguised, she as a barmaid, and he 
as a porter or a sailor, they ran, by night, about the 
streets of Alexandria, knocking at the doors of houses, 
abusing belated pedestrians, entering low lodging-houses, 
and quarreling with drunken men. To the great delight 
of Antony these froHcs usually ended in fights. Despite 
his strength and skill, the Roman did not always win, 
and Cleopatra was sometimes well splashed with mud; 
but victors or vanquished, the lovers returned happy to 
the palace, quite willing to renew their adventures. The 
secret, however, escaped, and thenceforth the royal pair 
were handled more cautiously, without being entirely 

These follies did not turn the Alexandrians against the 
triumvir as much as might have been supposed. If they 
had little esteem for him, they liked him for his good 
humor, and the ease with which he was approached. 
They delighted to say: "Antony wears for the Romans 
a tragic mask, but here he lays it aside, and assumes for 
us the mask of comedy." His intimate companions and 
his officers, who shared without scruple his voluptuous 
and unbridled excesses, were still less inclined to resent 
them, for, like himself, they yielded to the bewitching 
charm of Cleopatra. They loved, they admired her, they 

36 These Splendid Women 

bore cheerfully her snubs and sarcasms, and were not 
shocked, even if in the midst of a feast, at a sign from 
Antony, she quitted the banquet hall with him, and re- 
turning after a short absense resumed her position on the 
couch of the triclinium. They studied to please and divert 
her, each strove to be the vilest toady to the queen — 
"humillimus assentator reginse" — for a smile of Cleopatra 
they sacrificed all dignity. Once, L. Plancus, a man of 
consular dignity, crowned with rushes, a fish's tail at- 
tached to his loins, and his naked body painted blue, 
actually performed in her presence the dance of Glaukos. 

With Caesar, Cleopatra had instinctively played the 
part of a crowned Aspasia, ever bewitching, but uniting 
dignity with grace, concealing the courtesan beneath the 
robe of a queen, ever equable in mood, expressing herself 
in the choicest language, talking politics, art, literature, 
her marvelous faculties rising without effort to the level 
of the lofty intelligence of the dictator: with Antony, 
Cleopatra, at first through policy, afterwards through 
love, played the part of a Lais born by chance to a 
throne. Seeing at once that the inclinations of Antony 
were coarse and low, that his wit was commonplace and 
his language very loose, she immediately set herself to 
the same tone. She kept pace with this great drinker, 
remaining even till dawn with the foaming flagons and 
goblets continually replenished; she accompanied him by 
night into the suspicious streets of Rhakotis, the old 
portion of Alexandria; she jested cynically, sang amatory 
songs, recited licentious poems; she quarreled with him, 
provoking and returning both abuse and blows. Nothing 
delighted Antony like the sight of that ravishing little 
hand threatening and beating him, or to hear from those 
divine lips, fit for the choruses of Sophocles or the odes 
of Sappho, the same words that he had heard bandied 
among the guard of the Esquiline gate and in the unmen- 
tionable dens of the Suburra. 

On the morning of September 2d the vessels of Antony 

These Splendid Women 37 

formed in four grand divisions, crossed the channel of 
Actium, and, issuing thence, were disposed in battle array 
opposite the fleet of Octavius, who was awaiting them 
at eight or ten stadia from the land. On the side of 
Antony, he himself, with Publicola, commanded the right 
wing; Marcus Justus and Marcus Octavius the center, 
and Coelius the left wing, Cleopatra commanded the 
reserve with sixty Egyptian vessels. On the side of 
the Romans, Octavius commanded the right wing, 
Agrippa the left, and Arruntius the center. About noon 
the battle began. The troops on land, who were under 
arms and motionless near the shore, saw not, as is usual 
in sea-fights, the galleys rush at each other seeking to 
strike with their rostra or beaks of steel. On account of 
their slow rate of speed, the heavy vessels of Antony could 
not strike with that impetuosity which gives force to the 
shock, and the light galleys of the Romans feared to break 
their rostra against those enormous ships, constructed of 
strong beams joined with iron. The battle was like a suc- 
cession of sieges, a combat of moving citadels with moving 
towers. Three or four Roman galleys would unite to 
attack one of Antony's vessels, so huge, says Virgil, that 
they looked like the Cyclades sailing on the waters. The 
soldiers cast grappling-irons, fired burning arrows on the 
decks, attached fire-ships to the keels, and rushed to board 
them, while the powerful batteries placed at the summit 
of the towers of the beleaguered ship showered down on 
the assailants a hail of stones and arrows. At the very 
first the Roman right wing, commanded by Octavius, gave 
way before the attack of the division under Coelius. At 
the other extremity Agrippa, having designed a movement 
to surround Antony and Publicola, these turned on their 
right and thus uncovered the center of the line of battle. 
The swift Liburnian galleys improved the opportunity to 
attack the vessels of the two Marcuses, in the rear of 
which was the reserve under Cleopatra. Success and 
reverse went hand in hand; the two sides fought with 

38 These Splendid Women 

equal fury, and the victory was doubtful, but the nervous- 
ness of Cleopatra was to be the ruin of Antony's cause. 
For hours she had suffered a fever of agony. From the 
deck of the Antoniad she anxiously watched the move- 
ments of the fleets. In the beginning she had hoped for 
victory ; now, terrified by the clamor and tumult, her only 
desire was to escape. She awaited with ever-increasing 
impatience the signal for retreat. Suddenly she noticed 
the right wing moving towards the coast of Epirus, the 
left putting to sea, and the center, which protected her, 
attacked, separated, broken, penetrated by the Roman 
Liburnians. Then, "pale with her approaching death" — 
pallens morte futura — listening only to her terror, she 
ordered the sails to be hoisted, and with her sixty vessels 
she passed through the midst of the combatants and fled 
towards the open sea. In the midst of the battle Antony 
perceived the motion of the Egyptian squadron, and rec- 
ognized the Antoniad by its purple sails; Cleopatra was 
fleeing, robbing him at the decisive moment of his power- 
ful reserve; but the queen could not order the retreat, 
he alone could give the signal for that. There is some 
mistake — a feint, perhaps a panic. Antony in his turn 
hoists the sails of his galley and rushes in the wake of 
Cleopatra. He will bring back the Egyptian vessels and 
restore the chances of the battle. But before overtaking 
the Antoniad the unhappy man has time to think. Cleo- 
patra has deserted him either through cowardice or 
treason ; he can bring back to Actium neither her nor her 
fleet. Next he thinks he will return to the combat, which 
is now only a rout, to die with his soldiers — to die without 
seeing Cleopatra once more! he cannot do it. A fatal 
power drags him after this woman. He reaches the 
Antoniad, but then he is overcome with his disgrace. He 
refuses to see the queen. He seats himself on the prow 
of the vessel, his head on his hands, and remains thus 
for three days and three nights. 

The Egyptian fleet and some other vessels which had 

These Splendid Women 39 

followed the fugitives put into the part of Caenopolis, 
near Cape Tenarum. Often repulsed by the obstinate 
silence of Antony, Cleopatra's women finally succeeded 
in bringing about an interview between the lovers. They 
supped and passed the night together. O, wretched 
human weakness! 

Some of his friends who had escaped from Actium 
brought them news. The fleet had made an obstinate 
resistance, but all the vessels which were not sunk or 
burned were now in possession of Octavius. The army 
still maintained its position, and appeared to be faithful. 
Antony at once sent messengers and despatched Canid- 
ius with orders to recall those troops, and himself em- 
barked for Cyrenaica, where he still had several legions. 
One of his vessels bore his jewels, his valuables, and all 
the services of gold and silver which he had used at his 
entertainments of the kings, his allies. Before departing 
from Caenopolis, Antony divided all this wealth among a 
few of his friends, whom he constrained to seek an asylum 
in Greece, refusing to allow them any longer to follow 
his fatal fortunes. When parting from them he talked 
in the kindest manner, seeking to console them and re- 
garding their tears with a sad but kindly smile. 

Cleopatra had sailed from Greece some days before 
Antony. She was in haste to return to Egypt, fearing that 
the news of the disaster of Actium might provoke a revo- 
lution. To mislead the people for a few days, and thus 
gain time to take her measures, she entered the port of 
Alexandria with all the parade of a triumph. Her ships, 
their prows adorned with crowns, resounded with the 
songs of victory, and the music of flutes and sistra. No 
sooner was she reinstalled in the palace than she put to 
death many whose intrigues she feared. These executions, 
which benefited the royal treasury, for death involved the 
confiscation of the wealth of the real or pretended guilty, 
delivered Cleopatra from all fear of an immediate revolu- 
tion, but she none the less felt a mortal terror about the 

40 These Splendid Women 

future. She still suffered from the horror of Actium ; — 
at times haunted by the idea of suicide, she contemplated 
a death as pompous as had been her life, and she erected 
at the extremity of Cape Lochias an immense tomb, in 
which to consume herself and her treasures. At other 
times she thought of flight, and by her orders a number 
of her largest ships were transported with great reenf orce- 
ments of men, engines, and beasts of burden across the 
isthmus to the Red Sea. She had a vision of embark- 
ing with all her wealth for some unknown country of 
Asia or Africa, there to renew her existence of lust and 

Antony soon returned to Alexandria. He was in a 
state of gloomy discouragement; his army in Acarnania, 
deserted by Canidius, who had taken flight, had sur- 
rendered to Octavius after a week of hesitation; in 
Cyrenaica he could not even obtain a meeting with his 
lieutenant Scarpus, who, having taken sides with the 
Cssarians, had threatened his life; Herod, his creature, 
whom he had made king of the Jews, had offered his 
allegiance to the conqueror of Actium; defection on all 
sides with his allies as with his legions. Antony reached 
the point of doubting even Cleopatra; he would scarcely 
see her. Exasperated at the cruelty of the gods, and still 
more so at the perfidy of men, he resolved to pass in soli- 
tude the wretched days that his enemies might yet permit 
him to live. The story of Timon, the misanthrope of 
Athens, which he heard in happier days, recurred to his 
memory, and, determined to live like Timon, he settled 
in the barren mole of Poseidon, and busied himself there 
in erecting a tower which he intended to call the Timonion. 

Cleopatra yielded less submissively to fate. Attacked 
in the crisis of danger by a fainting courage to which 
Antony was an utter stranger, the immediate danger past 
she recovered all her powers. With her exalted imagina- 
tion she could not despair either wholly or even for very 
long. She learned that the vessels she had had transported 

These Splendid Women 41 

to the Red Sea had been burned by the Arabs, and thus 
her flight prevented. She at once prepared for determined 
resistance. Whilst Antony was losing his time playing the 
misanthrope, the queen raised fresh forces, furnished new- 
vessels, formed new alliances, repaired the fortifications 
of Pelusium and Alexandria, distributed arms to the 
people, and to encourage the Alexandrians to the deter- 
mined defense of their city, she inscribed the name of her 
son, Csesarion, in the rolls of the militia. Antony could 
not but admire the courage and energy of Cleopatra, and, 
entreated by his friends besides being weary of his soli- 
tude, he resum.ed his residence at the palace. The queen 
received him as in the happy days of his return from 
Cilicia or Armenia. They again enjoyed with the friends 
of the last hour banquets, festivals, orgies — only "The 
Inimitables" changed their appellation, and called them- 
selves the "Inseparables in Death": hi cruvaxoOofvoupLeuoj. 

The choice of this funereal name, assumed as much 
from resignation as bravado, sufficiently reveals the state 
of mind of the lovers. Antony, it seems, had lost all 
hope; Cleopatra still hoped, but with intervals of gloomy 
discouragement. At such times she would descend to 
the crypts of the palace, near the prisons of the con- 
demned; slaves would drag them, a few at a time, from 
their cells, to test on them the effects of different poisons. 
Cleopatra watched with a curiosity, more painful even 
than cruel, the dying agonies of the victims. The ex- 
periments were frequently repeated, for the queen could 
not discover the poison of her dreams — a poison that 
slays instantly without pain and without shock. She 
noticed that violent poisons killed swiftly but with fright- 
ful torture, and that less active ones inflicted lingering 
agonies ; then she studied the bites of serpents, and after 
new experiments she discovered that the venom of an 
Egyptian viper, called in Greek "Aspis," caused neither 
convulsion nor any painful sensation, and led by a con- 
stantly increasing drowsiness to a gentle death, like a 

42 These Splendid Women 

sleep. As for Antony, like Cato and Brutus, he had his 

Octavius already considered himself the master of 
Egypt — and of the world. He feared but little the broken 
sword in the hand of Antony, still less the shattered 
remains of the army of Cleopatra and the wrecks of her 
navy. But there were two things still beyond his power 
— all powerful emperor as he was — the immense treasures 
of Cleopatra, on which he had reckoned to pay his legion- 
aries, and Cleopatra herself, whom he wished to grace 
his triumph; she might escape the Roman by death and 
her treasure by fire. Traitors and spies were not lacking 
in Alexandria ; and Octavius knew, through their reports, 
of the queen's experiments in poisons as well as that she 
had collected all her treasures in her future tomb. He 
was compelled to employ cunning with the Egyptian, and, 
believing himself justified by the words of her ambassa- 
dor to propose such a step, he declared that if the queen 
would compass Antony's death she should preserve her 
sovereignty. Some days after, fearful that this somewhat 
savage diplomacy might not prevail with Cleopatra, he 
despatched to her Thyreus, his freedman. In Egypt, 
Thyreus talked openly before the court and Antony of the 
resentment of Octavius and of his severe decrees, but 
having obtained without difficulty a secret audience of 
Cleopatra he told her that he had been charged by his 
master to repeat his assurances that she had nothing to 
fear. To satisfy her of this, he pretended to confide to 
her that she was beloved by Octavius as of old by Caesar 
and Antony. Cleopatra had many interviews with 
Thyreus and publicly showed him much friendliness. 

About the middle of the spring of 30 b. c. news reached 
Alexandria that a Roman army had crossed the western 
frontier of Egypt. Antony collected a few troops and 
marched to meet the enemy. A battle was fought be- 
neath the walls of the strong city of Praetonium, which 
was already in the hands of the Romans. Antony, with 

These Splendid Women 43 

his handful of men, was repulsed. When he returned 
to Alexandria Octavius was within two days' march of 
the city. Whilst his lieutenant, Cornelius Callus, was 
penetrating into Egypt by Cyrenaica he himself had en- 
tered through Syria and had taken Pelusium, after a real 
or feigned resistance, in either case a very brief one. 
After the surrender of Pelusium, the last of the Romans 
who had remained faithful to Antony cried out treason, 
declaring that Seleucus had surrendered the city by the 
orders of Cleopatra herself. Is it true that the queen had 
given such instructions? It may be doubted; neverthe- 
less, Cleopatra's trouble of mind and her secret hopes 
give a color to these suspicions. To vindicate herself 
she gave up to Antony the wife and children of Seleucus, 
and proposed that he should put them to death. This was 
but a very doubtful proof of her innocence, but Antony 
had to be satisfied with it. His anger subsided before 
her protestations and tears, true or false ; now was not the 
time for recriminations : he must fight. Octavius had 
pitched his camp on the heights about twenty stadia east 
of Alexandria. Antony, having led in person a strong 
reconnoitering body of cavalry in that direction, fell in, 
not far from the Hippodrome, with the whole body of 
the Roman cavalry. A furious battle was fought in 
which, notwithstanding their great superiority of numbers, 
the Romans were broken and utterly routed. Antony pur- 
sued them to their entrenchments ; then he returned to the 
city, strengthened by this victory, of little importance 
indeed, but brilliant and of good augury. He sprang 
from his horse before the palace, and, without taking 
time to lay aside his armor, rushed, still wearing helmet 
and cuirass, and covered with the blood and sweat of the 
fight, to embrace Cleopatra. She, deceiving herself as to 
the importance of this skirmish, felt her love and her 
hopes at the same time revive. She had again found 
her Antony, her emperor, her god of war. She threw 
herself passionately on his neck, wounding her breasts 

44 These Splendid Women 

against his cuirass. At this moment of sincere feehng 
she must have reproached herself grievously (if she had 
committed it) with the treason of Pelusium ; and the con- 
fidences which she had accepted from the envoy of Oc- 
tavius must have recurred to her as a bitter remorse. 
Cleopatra desired to review the troops. She made them a 
speech, and, having had the bravest of them pointed out 
to her, she gave him a complete armor of solid gold. 

Antony, restored to hope, no longer contemplated nego- 
tiating, and the same day sent a herald to Octavius to 
invite him to decide their quarrel by single combat in 
sight of the two armies. Octavius replied disdainfully 
that there was more than one other way for Antony to 
seek death. This speech, that marked so great assurance 
in his enemy, struck Antony as a fatal omen. Suddenly, 
dashed from his chimerical hopes, he felt his situation 
in all its gloomy reality. Resolved, nevertheless, the next 
day to fight one last battle, he ordered a sumptuous feast. 
"To-morrow," said he, *'it will, perhaps, be too late I" 
The supper was sad as a funeral banquet; the few 
friends that were faithful to him maintained a gloomy 
silence ; some even wept. Antony, simulating a confidence 
which he did not feel, said to them to revive their sinking 
spirits: "Think not that to-morrow I shall only seek a 
glorious death ; I shall fight for life and victory." At day- 
break, while the troops were taking up their position be- 
fore the Roman camp, and the Egyptian fleet, which was 
to support the action by attacking that of Octavius, was 
doubling Cape Lochias, Antony posted himself on an 
eminence whence he commanded both the plain and the 
sea. The Egyptian vessels advanced in battle array 
against the Roman Liburnians, but, when within two 
arrow-flights, the rowers raised high in air their long 
oars in salute. The salute was returned by the Romans, 
and immediately the two fleets, mingling and making 
now but one, sailed into the port together. Almost at 
the same moment Antony sees his cavalry, — that cavalry 

These Splendid Women 45 

which the day previous had fought with such intrepidity, — 
move without orders and pass over to Octavius. In the 
Roman Hnes the trumpets sounded the onset; the legions 
dashed forward with their accustomed war-cry: ''Corn- 
minus! Comminnsr (Hand-to-hand!) The infantry of 
Antony did not wait the shock — it broke and rushed 
towards the city, dragging their leader in the midst of 
the rout. Antony, mad with rage, uttering threats and 
curses, striking the fugitives indifferently with the blade 
and the flat of his sword, reentered Alexandria exclaim- 
ing that he was betrayed by Cleopatra, given up by this 
woman to those with whom he had fought solely for 
love of her. 

Cleopatra had no longer the power either to betray 
or to save Antony; for she, the "New Goddess," the 
"Queen of Kings," she, too, was abandoned by her 
people, as he, the great captain, was deserted by his 
army. Their cause was lost, who would be faithful 
to it? During the preceding day and night, Octavius's 
emissaries had worked upon the legionaries and the 
Egyptians, promising to the former amnesty, to the latter 
safety. The valiant soldier on whom Cleopatra the day 
before had bestowed the golden suit of armor had not 
even waited for the morning to pass into the Roman 
camp ; that very night he had deserted ! At the sight 
of the fugitives rushing like a torrent into the city, 
Cleopatra is overcome with terror. She is aware of 
the suspicions of Antony, she knows his terrible fits 
of rage. Already she is familiar with the idea of death, 
but she desires a more easy death, a death the sister 
of sleep. She shudders and revolts at the thought of 
Antony's sword; she has a vision of hideous wounds 
in her person, her breast, perhaps her face. As for 
attempting to calm his fury, she has neither strength 
nor courage for that. Desperate, she quits the palace 
with Iras and Charmion, and withdraws to her tomb, of 
which she has the door closed; and, to prevent Antony's 

46 These Splendid Women 

attempting to force this refuge, she gives orders to tell 
him she is no more. 

Antony, rushing like a madman about the deserted 
apartments of the palace, learns the news. His anger 
dissolves in tears: "What more have you to expect, 
Antony?" exclaimed he, ''Fortune robs you of the only 
blessing which made life dear." He commands his f reed- 
man Eros to slay him; then, unfastening his cuirass, 
he addresses this last adieu to Cleopatra : *'0, Cleopatra ! 
I do not complain that thou art taken from me, since 
in a moment I shall rejoin thee." Eros, meanwhile, has 
drawn his sword, but instead of striking Antony, he 
stabs himself. "Brave Eros," said Antony, seeing him 
fall dead at his feet, "you set me the example!" and, 
thrusting the sword into his breast, he sinks fainting 
upon a couch. 

In a few minutes he recovers consciousness. He calls 
and entreats the slaves, the soldiers, to put an end to 
him, but none dare to comply, and he is left alone, 
howling and struggling on the couch. Meanwhile the 
queen has been informed of the fact. Her grief is 
bitter and profound — the more bitter that it is mingled 
with remorse. She must see Antony again; she com- 
mands that he be brought, dead or alive. Diomedes, 
her secretary, hastens to the palace. Antony is at the 
last gasp, but the joy at hearing that the queen is not 
dead revives him, and "he rises," says Dion Cassius, 
"as if he might still live!" Slaves bear him in their 
arms, and, to hasten their movements, he utters en- 
treaties, invectives, threats, which mingle with the death- 
rattle. They reach the tomb; the queen leans from a 
window of the upper story; fearing a surprise, she 
will not have the portcullis raised, but she throws down 
some ropes, and commands them to be fastened round 
Antony. Then, aided by Iras and Charmion, the only 
ones she has allowed to enter the mausoleum, she begins 
to drag him up. "It was not easy," says Plutarch, "for 

These Splendid Women 47 

women thus to lift a man of Antony's size. " Never, 
say those who witnessed it, was a sadder or more pitiful 
sight. Cleopatra, with arms stiff and brow contracted, 
dragged painfully at the ropes, whilst Antony, bleeding 
and dying, raised himself as much as possible, extending 
towards her his dying hands. 

At last he reached her, and they laid him on a bed, 
where she long held him in a close embrace. Her grief 
spent itself in tears, in sobs, in despairing kisses. She 
called him her husband, her master, her emperor; she 
struck her breast, tore it with her nails then again casting 
herself upon him, she kissed his wound, wiping off on 
her face the blood that flowed from it. Antony endeav- 
ored to calm and console her, and entreated her to 
care for her own safety. Burning with fever, he begged 
for a drink, and swallowed a cup of wine. Death was 
rapidly approaching. Cleopatra renewed her lamenta- 
tions. "Do not grieve," said he, "for this last mis- 
fortune; rather congratulate me for the blessings I have 
enjoyed in my life, and the happiness that has been 
mine in being the most powerful and illustrious of 
men; congratulate me on this, that, being a Roman, 
none but a Roman has conquered me." He expired in 
the arms of Cleopatra, dying, as Shakspeare says, where 
he had wished to live. 

When Octavius heard of Antony's death, he despatched 
Proculeius and Callus with orders to seize Cleopatra be- 
fore she could have time to kill herself. Their calls at- 
tracted the attention of the queen ; she descended and began 
to parley with them from behind the portcullis. Deaf 
to the promises and protestations of the two Romans, 
Cleopatra declared that she would only surrender if 
Octavius would agree by oath to maintain her or her son 
on the throne of Egypt; otherwise Cassar should have 
but her dead body. Proculeius, espying the window which 
had admitted Antony, left his companion to converse 
alone with the queen, and, finding a ladder, placed it 

48 These Splendid Women 

against the thick wall, and thus entering the tomb, he 
descended the staircase within and sprang upon Cleo- 
patra. Charmion, turning at the noise, exclaimed : "Un- 
happy queen, thou art taken alive !" Cleopatra snatched 
from her girdle a dagger which for some time she had 
carried in order to kill herself, but Proculeius seized her 
wrist and only allowed her to free herself after being 
assured that she had no other weapon and no suspicious 
phial about her. He then resumed the respectful attitude 
demanded by the rank and m.isfortunes of the royal cap- 
tive. He assured her she had nothing to fear from 
Octavius. "O Queen," said he, "you are unjust towards 
Caesar, whom you would rob of the noblest opportunity 
of exercising clemency." 

Her treasures and her person in the power of the 
Romans, Cleopatra felt herself without the means of 
defense. What availed it that Caesar left her her life, 
since henceforth she desired only to die? The only 
favor she asked was to be allowed to pay funeral honors 
to Antony. Although the same request had already 
been made by the captains of his army who had served 
under Antony, Octavius, touched with compassion, 
granted the prayer of the Egyptian. Cleopatra bathed 
the body of her lover, adorned and armed it as for a 
last battle, then she laid it in the tomb which she had 
built for herself and in which she had vainly sought 
death. After the obsequies the queen was conducted, by 
order of Octavius, to the palace of the Lagidae. There 
she was treated with every attention, but she was, so to 
speak, never lost sight of (a prisoner forever watched). 

The terrible emotions through which Cleopatra had 
passed, the intense grief which overwhelmed her, above 
all the wounds she had inflicted on herself during the 
death-struggle of Antony, brought on an inflammation 
of the chest, attended by a burning fever. In this 
illness she saw the hoped-for death, and to hasten her 
deliverance she refused for many days all medical treat- 

These Splendid Women 49 

ment and all food. Octavius was informed of this, and 
he sent her word that she must have forgotten that he 
held her four children as hostages, and that their lives 
should answer for hers. This horrid threat overcame 
the resolution of Cleopatra, who then consented to be 
properly cared for. 

Octavius meanwhile felt he had cause for disquiet. 
What if the pride of the queen overpowered her moth- 
erly instincts? what if the horror of gracing as a captive 
his approaching triumph should decide her to a self- 
inflicted death? Doubtless she was well guarded, but 
what negligence or what treason might he not fear ? Be- 
sides, though without arms or poison, might she not 
induce the faithful Charmion to strangle her ? "Now Oc- 
tavius," so says Dion Cassius, "conceived that the death 
of Cleopatra would have robbed him of his glory." He 
resolved, therefore, to see her. He knew he possessed 
sufficient self-control not to become entangled, and be- 
lieved himself sufficiently skillful to keep the queen un- 
certain of the fate to which he destined her. 

Cleopatra was no longer deceived as to the pretended 
sentiments of love with which, according to Thyreus, she 
had inspired Octavius ; of this we are assured by Plutarch. 
Since the emperor's arrival in Alexandria he had not even 
expressed the intention of seeing her, and the harsh 
treatment, the rigorous seclusion, and the savage threats 
which she had to endure from him did not certainly indi- 
cate a man in love. Can it be said, however, that the 
prospect of the unexpected visit of Octavius aroused in 
Cleopatra, desperate as she was, no glimpse of hope, no 
fugitive vision of a throne, no last enthusiasm? that from 
her beautiful eyes shot no ray of half-seen triumph ? 

The queen, scarcely convalescent, was in bed when 
Octavius entered. She sprang from the couch, though 
wearing only a tunic, and knelt before him. At the sight 
of this woman, worn out by fever, emaciated, dreadfully 
pale, with drawn features, eyes sunken and red with tears. 

50 These Splendid Women 

bearing on her face and breasts the marks made by her 
own hands, Octavius found it hard to believe that this was 
the enchantress that had captivated Csesar and enslaved 
Mark Antony ; but had Cleopatra been more beautiful than 
Venus he would not have been her lover. Continence was 
not among his virtues, but he was too prudent and too 
clever ever to sacrifice his interests to his passions. He 
urged the queen to return to her couch, and seated him- 
self near her. Cleopatra began to vindicate herself, re- 
ferring all that had passed to the force of circumstances 
and the fear she felt of Antony. She often ceased 
speaking, interrupted by her choking sobs; then, in the 
hope of moving Octavius to pity (of seducing him, some 
say), she drew from her bosom some of Caesar's letters, 
kissed them, and exclaimed: "Wouldst thou know how 
thy father loved me, read these letters . . . Oh! 
Csesar! why did I not die before thee! . . . but for 
me you live again in this man!'* and through her tears 
she essayed to smile at Octavius. Lamentable scene of 
coquetry, which the wretched woman no longer could or 
knew how to play. 

To her sighs, her moans, the emperor made no reply, 
even avoiding looking at her and keeping his eyes fixed 
on the floor. He spoke only to reply, one by one, to all 
the arguments by which the queen sought to justify 
herself. Chilled by the impassibility of this man, who, 
without being at all moved by her misfortunes and her suf- 
ferings, was arguing with her like a schoolmaster, Cleo- 
patra felt that she had nothing to hope. Again death 
appeared as the only liberator. Then she ceased her 
pleas, dried her tears, and, in order completely to deceive 
Octavius, she pretended to be resigned to everything, 
provided her life was spared. She handed him the list 
of her treasures, and entreated him to permit her to retain 
certain jewels that she might present them herself to Livia 
and Octavia in order to secure their protection. "Take 

These Splendid Women 51 

courage, O woman!" said the emperor as he left her. 
**Be hopeful; no harm shall happen to you!'* 

Deceived by the pretended resignation of Cleopatra 
Octavius no longer doubted that he would be able to 
exhibit to the Roman rabble the haughty queen of Egypt 
walking in chains before his triumphal car. He had not 
heard, as he left her, the last word uttered by Cleopatra, 
that word which, since the taking of Alexandria, she had 
incessantly repeated: Ou 6pia[jL^£U(70[ ! "I will not con- 
tribute to his triumph." 

A few days after this interview, an intimate com- 
panion of Octavius, taking pity on such dire reverses, 
secretly revealed to Cleopatra that the next day she would 
be embarked for Rome. She asked to be allowed to go 
with her women to offer libations at the tomb of Antony. 
She was borne thither in a litter, being still too weak to 
walk. After pouring the wine and adjusting the crowns 
she kissed for the last time the sepulchral stone, saying: 
"Oh, beloved Antony, if thy gods have any power — for 
mine have betrayed me — do not abandon thy living wife. 
Do not let thyself be triumphed over, by making her at 
Rome take part in a disgraceful show. Hide me with thee 
under this earth of Egypt." 

On her return, Cleopatra went to the bath ; her women 
arrayed her in her most magnificent robes, dressed her 
hair with care, and adjusted her royal crown. Cleopatra 
had ordered a splendid repast; her toilet ended, she was 
placed at the table. A countryman entered, carrying 
a basket. A soldier of the guard desiring to see the 
contents, the man opened it and showed some figs ; and, 
the guard exclaiming at the beauty of them, he offered 
them some to taste. His good nature lulled all suspicion ; 
he was allowed to pass. Cleopatra received the basket, 
sent to Octavius a letter she had written in the morning, 
and was then left alone with Iras and Charmion. She 
opened the basket and separated the figs, hoping to be 
stung unawares, but the reptile was asleep. Cleopatra dis- 

52 These Splendid Women 

covered it beneath the figs. "There it is, then !" cried she, 
and began to rouse it with a golden pin. The asp bit her 
on the arm. 

Warned by the letter of Cleopatra, Octavius sent in 
haste to the apartments. His officers found the guards 
at their post, ignorant of what had occurred. They 
forced the door and beheld Cleopatra, clad in her royal 
robes, lying lifeless on her golden couch, and at her feet 
the corpse of Iras. Charmion was still alive; leaning 
over Cleopatra, she was arranging with her dying hands 
the diadem around the head of the queen. A soldier 
exclaimed in a voice of wrath : "Is this well done, Char- 
mion?" "Yes," said the dying Charmion, "it is well 
done, and worthy of a queen, the descendant of so many 
kings !" 

Octavius put to death Cssarion, the son of Caesar and 
Cleopatra, but he was merciful to the dead body of the 
queen. Granting the mournful prayer she had made to 
him in her last letter, he permitted her to be buried beside 
Antony. He also granted honorable burial to the faithful 
slaves, Charmion and Iras, who had accompanied their 
mistress to the world of shadows. 

By her suicide, Cleopatra escaped contributing to the 
triumph of Octavius, but failing her person he had her 
effigy, and the statue of Cleopatra with a serpent wound 
about her arm was borne in the triumphal procession. 
Does it not seem that the statue of this illustrious queen, 
who had subdued the greatest of the Romans, who had 
made Rome tremble, and who preferred death to assist- 
ing at her own humiliation, had by her death triumphed 
over her conqueror, and still defied the senate and the 
people on the way to the Capitol? 

We can easily conceive of Cleopatra as a great queen, 
the rival of the mythic Semiramis, and the elder sister 
of the Zenobias, the Isabelles, the Maria-Theresas, and 
the Catherines ; but, in truth, only those queens are great 
who possess manly virtues, who rule nations and compel 

These Splendid Women 53 

events as a great king might do. Cleopatra was too 
essentially a woman to be reckoned among these glorious 
androgynuses. If for twenty years she preserved her 
throne and maintained the independence of Egypt, it was 
done by mere womanly means — intrigue, gallantry, grace, 
and weakness which is also a grace. Her sole method of 
governing was, in reality, by becoming the mistress of 
Caesar and the mistress of Mark Antony. It was the 
Roman sword that sustained the throne of the Lagidae. 
When by the fault of Cleopatra the weapon was broken, 
the throne tottered and fell. Ambition, her only royal 
virtue, would have been limited to the exercise of her 
hereditary government if circumstances had not devel- 
oped and exalted it. 

Knowing herself weak, without genius and without 
mental force, she reckoned wholly on her lovers for the 
accomplishment of her designs, and it too often happened 
to this woman, fatal to others as to herself, to retard 
the execution of these, dominated, as she ever was, by 
the imperious desire of some entertainment or some 
pleasure. This queen had the recklessness of the courte- 
san; women of gallantry might have considered her their 
august and tragic ancestress. She only lived for love, 
pomp, and magnificence; wherefore, when her lover was 
slain, her beauty marred, her wealth lost, and her crown 
shattered, she found, to face death, the masculine courage 
which had failed her in life. 

No, Cleopatra was not a great queen. But for her 
connection with Antony, she would be forgotten with 
Arsinoe or Berenice. If her renown is immortal, it is 
because she is the heroine of the most dramatic love- 
story of antiquity. 



AS early as the reign of Claudius, 270 a. d., the city of 
Autun, alone and unassisted, had ventured to de- 
clare against the legions of Gaul. After a siege of 
seven months they stormed and plundered that unfortu- 
nate city, already wasted by famine. Lyons, on the con- 
trary, had resisted with obstinate disaffecion the arms of 
Aurelian. We read of the punishment of Lyons, but 
there is not any mention of the rewards of Autun. Such, 
indeed, is the policy of civil war : severely to remember 
injuries, and to forget the most important services. Re- 
venge is profitable, gratitude is expensive. 

Aurelian had no sooner secured the person and prov- 
inces of Tetricus than he turned his arms against 
Zenobia,^ the celebrated queen of Palmyra and the East. 
Modern Europe has produced several illustrious women 
who have sustained with glory the weight of empire; 
nor is our own age destitute of such distinguished char- 
acters. But if we except the doubtful achievements of 
Semiramis, Zenobia is perhaps the only female whose 
superior genius broke through the servile indolence im- 
posed on her sex by the climate and manners of Asia. 
She claimed her descent from the Macedonian kings of 
Egypt, equaled in beauty her ancestor Cleopatra, and 
far surpassed that princess in chastity and valor. 

Zenobia was esteemed the most lovely as well as the 
most heroic of her sex. She was of a dark complexion 
(for in speaking of a lady these trifles become important). 

These Splendid Women SS 

Her teeth were of a pearly whiteness, and her large black 
eyes sparkled with uncommon fire, tempered by the most 
attractive sweetness. Her voice was strong and har- 
monious. Her manly understanding was strengthened 
and adorned by study. She was not ignorant of the 
Latin tongue, but possessed in equal perfection the Greek, 
the Syriac, and the Egyptian languages. She had drawn 
up for her own use an epitome of oriental history, and 
familiarly compared the beauties of Homer and Plato 
under the tuition of the sublime Longinus. 

This accomplished woman gave her hand to Odenathus, 
who, from a private station, raised himself to the dominion 
of the East. 

She soon became the friend and companion of a hero. 
In the intervals of war Odenathus passionately delighted 
in the exercise of hunting; he pursued with ardor the 
wild^ beasts of the desert, lions, panthers, and bears ; and 
the ardor of Zenobia in that dangerous amusement was 
not inferior to his own. She had inured her constitu- 
tion to fatigue, disdained the use of a covered carriage, 
generally appeared on horseback in a military habit, and 
sometimes marched several miles on foot at the head of 
the troops. 

The success of Odenathus was in a great measure 
ascribed to her incomparable prudence and fortitude. 
Their splendid victories over the Great King, whom they 
twice pursued as far as the gates of Ctesiphon, laid the 
foundations of their united fame and power. The armies 
which they commanded, and the provinces which they 
had saved, acknowledged not any other sovereigns than 
their invincible chiefs. The senate and people of Rome 
revered a stranger who had avenged their captive emperor, 
and even the insensible son of Valerian accepted 
Odenathus for his legitimate colleague. 

After a successful expedition against the Gothic plun- 
derers of Asia, the Palmyrenian prince returned to the 
city of Emesa in Syria. Invincible in war, he was there 

56 These Splendid Women 

cut off by domestic treason, and his favorite amusement 
of hunting was the cause, or at least the occasion, of his 
death. His nephew, Maeonius, presumed to dart his 
javeHn before that of his uncle; and, though admonished 
of his error, repeated the same insolence. As a monarch, 
and as a sportsman, Odenathus was provoked, took away 
his horse, a mark of ignominy among the barbarians, and 
chastized the rash youth by a short confinement. The 
offence was soon forgot, but the punishment was re- 
membered; and Maeonius, with a few daring associates, 
assassinated his uncle in the midst of a great entertain- 

Herod, the son of Odenathus, though not of Zenobia, 
a young man of a soft and effeminate temper, was killed 
with his father. But Maeonius obtained only the pleasure 
of revenge by this bloody deed. He had scarcely time 
to assume, the title of Augustus before he was sacrificed 
by Zenobia to the memory of her husband. 

With the assistance of his most faithful friends, she 
immediately filled the vacant throne, and governed with 
manly counsels Palmyra, Syria, and the East, above five 
years. By the death of Odenathus, that authority was at 
an end which the senate had granted him only as a per- 
sonal distinction; but his martial widow, disdaining both 
the senate and Gallienus, obliged one of the Roman 
generals who was sent against her to retreat into Europe, 
with the loss of his army and his reputation. Instead 
of the little passions which so frequently perplex a female 
reign, the steady administration of Zenobia was guided 
by the most judicious maxims of policy. If it was ex- 
pedient to pardon, she could calm her resentment; if it 
was necessary to punish, she could impose silence on the 
voice of pity. 

Her strict economy was accused of avarice ; yet on every 
proper occasion she appeared magnificent and liberal. 
The neighboring states of Arabia, Armenia, and Persia, 
dreaded her enmity, and solicited her alliance. To the 

These Splendid Women 57 

dominions of Oclenathus, which extended from the Eu- 
phrates to the frontiers of Bithynia, his widow added the 
inheritance of her ancestors, the populous and fertile 
kingdom of Egypt. The emperor Claudius acknowledged 
her merit, and was content that, while he pursued the 
Gothic war, she should assert the dignity of the empire 
in the East. 

The conduct, however, of Zenobia was attended with 
some ambiguity; nor is it unlikely that she conceived the 
design of erecting an independent and hostile monarchy^ 
She blended with the popular manners of Roman princes 
the stately pomp of the courts of Asia, and exacted from 
her subjects the same adoration that was paid to the 
successors of Cyrus. She bestowed on her three sons a 
Latin education, and often showed them to the troops 
adorned with the Imperial purple. For herself she re- 
served the diadem, with the splendid but doubtful title 
of Queen of the East. 

When Aurelian passed over into Asia, against an ad- 
versary whose sex alone could render her an object of 
contempt, his presence restored obedience to the province 
of. Bithynia, already shaken by the arms and intrigues of 
Zenobia. Advancing at the head of his legions, he ac- 
cepted the submission of Ancyra, and was admitted into 
Tyana, after an obstinate siege, by the help of a per- 
fidious citizen. The generous though fierce temper of 
Aurelian abandoned the traitor to the rage of the sol- 
diers : a superstitious reverence induced him to treat with 
lenity the countrymen of Apollonius the philosopher. 

Antioch was deserted on his approach, till the emperor, 
by his salutary edicts, recalled the fugitives, and granted 
a general pardon to all who, from necessity rather than 
choice, had been engaged in the service of the Palmyrenian 
queen. The unexpected mildness of such a conduct 
reconciled the minds of the Syrians, and, as far as the 
gates of Emesa, the wishes of the people seconded the 
terror of his arms. 

58 These Splendid Women 

Zenobia would have ill deserved her reputation had she 
indolently permitted the emperor of the West to approach 
within a hundred miles of her capital. The fate of the 
East was decided in two great battles ; so similar in almost 
every circumstance, that we can, scarcely distinguish them 
from each other, except by observing that the first was 
fought near Antioch, and the second near Emesa. In 
both the queen of Palmyra animated the armies by her 
presence, and devolved the execution of her orders on 
Zabdas, who had already signalized his military talents by 
the conquest of Egypt. 

The numerous forces of Zenobia consisted for the most 
part of light archers, and of heavy cavalry clothed in 
complete steel. The Moorish and Illyrian horse of Aure- 
lian were unable to sustain the ponderous charge of their 
antagonists. They fled in real or affected disorder, en- 
gaged the Palmyrenians in a laborious pursuit, harassed 
them by a desultory combat, and at length discomfited 
this impenetrable but unwieldy body of cavalry. The light 
infantry, in the meantime, when they had exhausted their 
quivers, remaining without protection against a closer 
onset, exposed their naked sides to the swords of the 
legions. Aurelian had chosen these veteran troops who 
were usually stationed on the Upper Danube, and whose 
valor had been severely tried in the Alemannic war. 

After the defeat of Emesa, Zenobia found it impossible 
to collect a third army. As far as the frontier of Egypt, 
the nations subject to her empire had joined the standard 
of the conqueror, who detached Probus, the bravest of 
his generals, to possess himself of the Egyptian prov- 
inces. Palmyra was the last resource of the widow of 

She retired within the walls of her capital, made every 
preparation for a vigorous resistance, and declared, with 
the intrepidity of a heroine, that the last moment of her 
reign and of her life should be the same. 

Amid the barren deserts of Arabia a few cultivated 

These Splendid Women 59 

spots rise like islands out of the sandy ocean. Even the 
name of Tadmor, or Palmyra, by its signification in the 
Syriac as well as in the Latin language, denoted the mul- 
titude of palm-trees which afforded shade and verdure 
to that temperate region. The air was pure, and the 
soil, watered by some invaluable springs, was capable of 
producing fruits as well as corn. 

A place possessed of such singular advantages, and 
situated at a convenient distance between the Gulf of 
Persia and the Mediterranean, was soon frequented by 
the caravans which conveyed to the nations of Europe a 
considerable part of the rich commodities of India. 
Palmyra insensibly increased into an opulent and inde- 
pendent city, and, connecting the Roman and the Parthian 
monarchies by the mutual benefits of commerce, was 
suffered to observe an humble neutrality, till at length, 
after the victories of Trajan, the little republic sunk into 
the bosom of Rome, and flourished more than one hun- 
dred and fifty years in the subordinate though honorable 
rank of a colony. 

It was during that peaceful period, if we may judge 
from a few remaining inscriptions, that the wealthy 
Palmy renians constructed those temples, palaces, and por- 
ticos of Grecian architecture, whose ruins, scattered over 
an extent of several miles, have deserved the curiosity of 
our travelers. The elevation of Odenathus and Zenobia 
appeared to reflect new splendor on their country, and 
Palmyra, for a while, stood forth the rival of Rome; but 
the competition was fatal, and ages of prosperity were 
sacrificed to a moment of glory. 

In his march over the sandy desert between Emesa 
and Palmyra, the emperor Aurelian was perpetually har- 
assed by the Arabs; nor could he always defend his army, 
and especially his baggage, from those flying troops of 
active and daring robbers, who watched the moment of 
surprise, and eluded the slow pursuit of the legions. The 
siege of Palmyra was an object far more difficult and 

60 These Splendid Women 

important, and the emperor, who, with incessant vigor, 
pressed the attacks in person, was himself wounded with 
a dart. 

"The Roman people," says Aurelian, in an original 
letter, "speak with contempt of the war which I am 
waging against a woman. They are ignorant both of the 
character and of the power of Zenobia. It is impossible 
to enumerate her warlike preparations, of stones, of 
arrows, and of every species of missile weapons. Every 
part of the walls is provided with two or three halistce, 
and artificial fires are thrown from her military engines. 
The fear of punishment has armed her with a desperate 
courage. Yet still I trust in the protecting deities of 
Rome, who have hitherto been favorable to all my under- 
takings." Doubtful, however, of the protection of the 
gods, and of the event of the siege, Aurelian judged it 
more prudent to offer terms of an advantageous capitula- 
tion; to the queen, a splendid retreat; to the citizens, 
their ancient privileges. His proposals were obstinately 
rejected, and the refusal was accompanied with insult. 

The firmness of Zenobia was supported by the hope 
that in a very short time famine would compel the Roman 
army to repass the desert ; and by the reasonable expecta- 
tion that the kings of the East, and particularly the Per- 
sian monarch, would arm in the defence of their most 
natural ally. But fortune and the perseverance of 
Aurelian overcame every obstacle. The death of Sapor, 
which happened about this time, distracted the councils 
of Persia, and the inconsiderable succors that attempted 
,to relieve Palmyra were easily intercepted either by the 
arms or the liberality of the emperor. From every part 
of Syria a regular succession of convoys safely arrived 
in the camp, which was increased by the return of Probus 
with his victorious troops from the conquest of Egypt. 

It was then that Zenobia resolved to fly. She mounted 
the fleetest of her dromedaries, and had already reached 
the banks of the Euphrates, about sixty miles from 

These Splendid Women 61 

Palmyra, when she was overtaken by the pursuit of 
Aurelian's light horse, seized and brought back a captive 
to the feet of the emperor. Her capital soon afterwards 
surrendered, and was treated with unexpected lenity. 
The arms, horses, and camels, with an immense treasure 
of gold, silver, silk, and precious stones, were all de- 
livered to the conqueror, who, leaving only a garrison of 
six hundred archers, returned to Emesa, and employed 
some time in the distribution of rewards and punish- 
ments at the end of so memorable a war, which restored 
to the obedience of Rome those provinces that had re- 
nounced their allegiance since the captivity of Valerian. 

When the Syrian queen was brought into the presence 
of Aurelian, he sternly asked her. How she had presumed 
to rise in arms against the emperors of Rome? The 
answer of Zenobia was a prudent mixture of respect and 

"Because I disdained to consider as Roman emperors 
an Aureolus or a Gallienus. You alone I acknowledge 
as my conqueror and my sovereign." 

But as female fortitude is commonly artificial, so it 
is seldom steady or consistent. The courage of Zenobia 
deserted her in the hour of trial; she trembled at the 
angry clamors of the soldiers, who called aloud for her 
immediate execution, forgot the generous despair of 
Cleopatra, which she had proposed as her model, and 
ignominiously purchased life by the sacrifice of her fame 
and her friends. It was to their counsels, which governed 
the weakness of her sex, that she imputed the guilt of 
her obstinate resistance; it was on their heads that she 
directed the vengeance of the cruel Aurelian. 

The fame of Longinus, who was included among the 
numerous and perhaps innocent victims of her fear, will 
survive that of the queen who betrayed, or the tyrant who 
condemned him. Genius and learning were incapable 
of moving a fierce unlettered soldier, but they had served 
to elevate and harmonize the soul of Longinus. Without 

62 These Splendid Women 

a complaint, he calmly followed the executioner, pitying 
his unhappy mistress, and bestowing comfort on his 
afflicted friends. 

Returning from the conquest of the East, Aurelian 
had already crossed the Straits which divided Europe 
from Asia, when he was provoked by the intelligence 
that the Palmyrenians had massacred the governor and 
garrison which he had left among them, and again erected 
the standard of revolt. Without a moment's deliberation, 
he once more turned his face towards Syria. Antioch 
was alarmed by his rapid approach, and the helpless city 
of Palmyra felt the irresistible weight of his resentment. 
We have a letter of Aurelian himself, in which he ac- 
knowledges that old men, women, children, and peasants, 
had been involved in that dreadful execution, which 
should have been confined to armed rebellion; and al- 
though his principal concern seems directed to the re- 
establishments of a temple of the Sun, he discovers some 
pity for the remnant of the Palmyrenians, to whom he 
grants the permission of rebuilding and inhabiting their 
city. But it is easier to destroy than to restore. The 
seat of commerce, of arts, and of Zenobia, gradually 
sunk into an obscure town, a trifling fortress, and at 
length a miserable village. The present citizens of 
Palmyra, consisting of thirty or forty families, have 
erected their mud-cottages within the spacious court of 
a magnificent temple. 

Another and a last labor still awaited the indefatigable 
Aurelian; to suppress a dangerous though obscure rebel, 
who, during the revolt of Palmyra, had arisen on the 
banks of the Nile. Firmus, the friend and ally, as he 
proudly styled himself, of Odenathus and Zenobia, was 
no more than a wealthy merchant of Egypt. In the course 
of his trade to India he had formed very intimate con- 
nections with the Saracens and the Blemmyes, whose 
situation, on either coast of the Red Sea, gave them an 
easy introduction into the Upper Egypt. 

These Splendid Women 63 

The Egyptians he inflamed with the hope of freedom, 
and, at the head of their furious multitude, broke into 
the city of Alexandria, where he assumed the Imperial 
purple, coined money, published edicts, and raised an 
army, which, as he vainly boasted, he was capable of 
maintaining from the sole profits of his paper trade. 
Such troops were a feeble defence against the approach 
of Aurelian; and it seems almost unnecessary to relate 
that Firmus was routed, taken, tortured, and put to death. 

Aurelian might now congratulate the senate, the peo- 
ple, and himself, that, in little more than three years, he 
had restored peace and order to the Roman world. 

Since the foundation of Rome no general had more 
nobly deserved a triumph than Aurelian; nor was a 
triumph ever celebrated with superior pride and mag- 
nificence. The pomp was opened by twenty elephants, 
four royal tigers, and above two hundred of the most 
curious animals from every climate of the North, the 
East, and the South. They were followed by sixteen 
hundred gladiators, devoted to the cruel amusement of 
the amphitheater. The wealth of Asia, the arms and en- 
signs of so many conquered nations, and the magnificent 
plate and wardrobe of the Syrian queen, were disposed 
in exact symmetry or artful disorder. 

The ambassadors of the most remote parts of the earth, 
of Ethiopia, Arabia, Persia, Bactriana, India, and China, 
all remarkable by their rich or singular dresses, dis- 
played the fame and power of the Roman emperor, who 
exposed likewise to the public view the presents that he 
had received, and particularly a great number of crowns 
of gold, the offerings of grateful cities. 

The victories of Aurelian were attested by the long 
train of captives who reluctantly attended his triumph — 
Goths, Vandals, Sarmatians, Alemanni, Franks, Gauls, 
Syrians, and Egyptians. Each people was distinguished 
by its peculiar inscription, and the title of Amazons was 
bestowed on ten martial heroines of the Gothic nation 

64 These Splendid Women 

who had been taken in arms. But every eye, disregard- 
ing the crowd of captives, was fixed on the emperor 
Tetricus and the queen of the East. The former, as 
well as his son, whom he had created Augustus, was 
dressed in Gallic trousers, a saffron tunic, and a robe of 
purple. The beauteous figure of Zenobia was confined 
by fetters of gold ; a slave supported the gold chain which 
encircled her neck, and she almost fainted under the in- 
tolerable weight of jewels. 

She preceded on foot the magnificent chariot in which 
she once hoped to enter the gates of Rome. It was fol- 
lowed by two other chariots, still more sumptuous, of 
Odenathus and of the Persian monarch. The triumphal 
car of Aurelian (it had formerly been used by a Gothic 
king) was drawn, on this memorable occasion, either by 
four stags or by four elephants. The most illustrious 
of the senate, the people, and the army closed the solemn 
procession. Joy, wonder, and gratitude swelled the ac- 
clamations of the multitude; but the satisfaction of the 
senate was clouded by the appearance of Tetricus ; nor 
could they suppress a rising murmur that the haughty 
emperor should thus expose to public ignominy the person 
of a Roman and a magistrate. 

But, however in the treatment of his unfortunate rivals 
Aurelian might indulge his pride, he behaved towards 
them with a generous clemency which was seldom exer- 
cised by the ancient conquerors. Princes who, without 
success, had defended their throne or freedom, were 
frequently strangled in prison as soon as the triumphal 
pomp ascended the Capitol. These usurpers, whom their 
defeat had convicted of the crime of ti^eason, were 
permitted to spend their lives in affluence and honorable 
repose. The emperor presented Zenobia with an elegant 
villa at Tibur or Tivoli, about twenty miles from the 
capital; the Syrian queen insensibly sunk into a Roman 
matron, her daughters married into noble families, and 
her race was not yet extinct in the fifth century. 

Joan of ^rc 


WHAT is to be thought of her? What is to be 
thought of the poor shepherd girl from the hills 
and forests of Lorraine, that — like the Hebrew 
shepherd boy from the hills and forests of Judea — rose 
suddenly out of the quiet, out of the safety, out of the 
religious inspiration, rooted in deep pastoral solitudes, to 
a station in the van of armies, and to the more perilous 
station at the right hand of kings.' The Hebrew boy 
inaugurated his patriotic mission by an act, by a vic- 
torious act, such as no man could deny. But so did the 
girl of Lorraine, if we read her story as it was read by 
those who saw her nearest. Adverse armies bore witness 
to the boy as no pretender ; but so they did to the gentle 
girl. Judged by the voices of all who saw them jrom a 
station of good ivill, both were found true and loyal to 
any promises involved in their first acts. Enemies it was 
that made the difference between their subsequent for- 

The boy rose to a splendor, and a noonday prosperity, 
both personal and public, that rang through the records 
of his people, and became a byword among his posterity 
for a thousand years, until the scepter was departing 
from Judah. The poor, forsaken girl, on the contrary, 
drank not herself from that cup of rest which she had 
secured for France. She never sang together with the 
songs that rose in her native Domremy as echoes to the 

66 These Splendid Women 

departing steps of invaders. She mingled not in the festal 
dances of Vaucouleurs which celebrated in rapture the 
redemption of France. No ! for her voice was then silent ; 
no ! for her feet were dust. Pure, innocent, noble-hearted 
girl ! whom, from earliest youth, ever I believed in as full 
of truth and self-sacrifice, this was amongst the strongest 
pledges for thy truth, that never once — no, not for a mo- 
ment of weakness — didst thou revel in the vision of 
coronets and honor from man. Coronets for thee! Oh, 
no ! Honors, if they come when all is over, are for those 
that share thy blood. Daughter of Domremy, when the 
gratitude of thy king shall awaken, thou wilt be sleeping 
the sleep of the dead. Call her. King of France, but she 
will not hear thee. Cite her by the apparitors to come 
and receive a robe of honor, but she will be found en 
contumace. When the thunders of universal France, 
as even yet may happen, shall proclaim the grandeur of 
the poof shepherd girl that gave up all for her country, 
thy ear, young shepherd girl, will have been deaf for 
five centuries. To suffer and to do, that was thy portion 
in this life; that was thy destiny; and not for a moment 
was it hidden from thyself. 

Life, thou saidst, is short; and the sleep which is in the 
grave is long ; let me use that life, so transitory, for the 
glory of those heavenly dreams destined to comfort 
the sleep which is so long! This pure creature — pure 
from every suspicion of even a visionary self-interest, even 
as she was pure in senses more obvious — never once did 
this holy child, as regarded herself, relax from her belief 
in the darkness that was traveling to meet her. She 
might not prefigure the very manner of her death; she 
saw not in vision, perhaps, the aerial altitude of the fiery 
scaffold, the spectators without end, on every road, pour- 
ing into Rouen as to a coronation, the surging smoke, 
the volleying flames, the hostile faces all around, the pity- 
ing eye that lurked but here and there, until nature and 
imperishable truth broke loose from artificial restraints — 

These Splendid Women 67 

these might not be apparent through the mists of the 
hurrying future. But the voice that called her to death, 
that she heard for ever. 

Great was the throne of France even in those days, 
and great was he that sat upon it; but well Joanna knew 
that not the throne, nor he that sat upon it, was for her; 
but, on the contrary, that she was for thew,; not she by 
them, but they by her, should rise from the dust. Gor- 
geous were the lilies of France, and for centuries had the 
privilege to spread their beauty over land and sea, until, 
in another century, the wrath of God and man combined 
to wither them; but well Joanna knew, early at Dom- 
remy she had read that bitter truth, that the lilies of 
France would decorate no garland for her. Flower nor 
bud, bell nor blossom, would ever bloom for her! * * * 

But stay. What reason is there taking up this sub- 
ject of Joanna precisely in the spring of 1847? Might 
it not have been left till the spring of 1947, or, perhaps, 
left till called for ?, Yes, but it is called for, and clamor- 
ously. You are aware, reader, that amongst the many 
original thinkers whom modern France has produced, 
one of the reputed leaders is M. Michelet. All these 
writers are of a revolutionary cast; not in a political 
sense merely, but in all senses; mad, oftentimes, as March 
hares; crazy with the laughing gas of recovered liberty; 
drunk with the wine cup of their mighty Revolution, 
snorting, whinnying, throwing up their heels, like wild 
horses in the boundless pampas, and running races of 
defiance with snipes, or with the winds, or with their 
own shadows, if they can find nothing else to challenge. 

Some time or other, I, that have leisure to read, may 
introduce you, that have not, to two or three dozen of 
these writers ; of whom I can assure you beforehand that 
they are often profound, and at intervals are even as 
impassioned as if they were come of our best English 
blood. But now, confining our attention to M. Michelet, 
we in England — who know him best by his worst book, 

68 These Splendid Wo?nen 

the book against priests, etc. — know him disadvanta- 

That book is a rhapsody of incoherence. But his 
"History of France" is quite another thing. A man, 
in whatsoever craft he sails, cannot stretch away out of 
sight when he is linked to the windings of the shore by 
towing-ropes of History. Facts, and the consequences 
of facts, draw the writer back to the falconer's lure from 
the giddiest heights of speculation. Here, therefore — 
in his "France" — if not always free from flightiness, if 
now and then off like a rocket for an airy wheel in the 
clouds, M. Michelet, with natural politeness, never for- 
gets that he has left a large audience waiting for him on 
earth, and gazing upward in anxiety for his return; re- 
turn, therefore, he does. 

But History, though clear of certain temptations in one 
direction, has separate dangers of its own. It is im- 
possible so to write a history of France, or of England — 
works becoming every hour more indispensable to the 
inevitably political man of this day — without perilous 
openings for error. If I, for instance, on the part of 
England, should happen to turn my labors into that chan- 
nel, and (on the model of Lord Percy going to Chevy 

"A vow to God should make 

My pleasure in the Michelet woods 
Three summer days to take," 

probably, from simple delirium, I might hunt M. Michelet 
into delirium tremens. Two strong angels stand by the 
side of History, whether French history or English, as 
heraldic supporters : the angel of research on the left 
hand, that must read millions of dusty parchments, and 
of pages blotted with lies ; the angel of meditation on 
the right hand, that must cleanse these lying records with 
fire, even as of old the draperies of asbestos were 
cleansed, and must quicken them into regenerated life. 
Willingly I acknowledge that no man will ever avoid in- 

These Splendid Women 69 

numerable errors of detail; with so vast a compass of 
ground to traverse, this is impossible; but such errors 
(though I have a bushel on hand, at M. Michelet's ser- 
vice) are not the game I chase; it is the bitter and un- 
fair spirit in which M. Michelet writes against England. 
Even that, after all, is but my secondary object; the real 
one is Joanna the Pucelle d'Orleans herself. 

I am not going to write the history of La Pucelle: to 
do this, or even circumstantially to report the history of 
her persecution and bitter death, of her struggle with 
false witnesses and with ensnaring judges, it would be 
necessary to have before us all the documents, and there- 
fore the collection only now forthcoming in Paris. But 
my purpose is narrower. There have been great thinkers, 
disdaining the careless judgments of contemporaries, who 
have thrown themselves boldly on the judgment of a far 
posterity, that should have had time to review, to ponder, 
to compare. There have been great actors on the stage 
of tragic humanity that might, with the same depth of 
confidence, have appealed from the levity of compatriot 
friends — too heartless for the sublime interest of their 
story, and too impatient for the labour of sifting its per- 
plexities — to the magnanimity and justice of enemies. 
To this class belongs the Maid of Arc. The ancient 
Romans were too faithful to the ideal of grandeur in 
themselves not to relent, after a generation or two, before 
the grandeur of Hannibal. Mithridates, a more doubt- 
ful person, yet, merely for the magic perseverance of his 
indomitable malice, won from the same Romans the only 
real honour that ever he received on earth. And we 
English have ever shown the same homage to stubborn 
enmity. To work unflinchingly for the ruin of England ; 
to say through life, by word and by deed, Delenda est 
Anglia Victrixl — that one purpose of malice, faithfully 
pursued, has quartered some people upon our national 
funds of homage as by a perpetual annuity. Better than 
an inheritance of service rendered to England herself has 

70 These Splendid Women 

sometimes proved the most insane hatred to England. 
Hyder Ali, even his son Tippoo, though so far inferior, 
and Napoleon, have all benefitted by this disposition 
among ourselves to exaggerate the merit of diabolic 

Not one of these men was ever capable, in a solitary in- 
stance, of praising an enemy (what do you say to that, 
reader?) ; and yet in their behalf, we consent to forget, 
not their crimes only, but (which is worse) their hideous 
bigotry and anti-magnanimous egotism — for nationality 
it was not. Suffren, and some half dozen of other French 
nautical heroes, because rightly they did us all the mischief 
they could (which was really great), are names justly 
reverenced in England. On the same principle. La 
Pucelle d'Orleans, the victorious enemy of England, has 
been destined to receive her deepest commemoration from 
the magnanimous justice of Englishmen. 

Joanna, as we in England should call her, but ac- 
cording to her own statement, Jeanne (or, as M. Michelet 
asserts, Jean) D'Arc was born at Domremy, a village on 
the marches of Lorraine and Champagne, and dependent 
upon the town of Vaucouleurs. I have called her a Lor- 
rainer, not simply because the word is prettier, but be- 
cause Champagne too odiously reminds us English of 
what are for us imaginary wines — which, undoubtedly. 
La Pucelle tasted as rarely as we English: we English, 
because the champagne of London is chiefly grown in 
Devonshire ; La Pucelle, because the champagne of Cham- 
pagne never, by any chance, flowed into the fountain of 
Domremy, from which only she drank. M. Michelet 
will have her to be a Champenoise, and for no better 
reason than that she "took after her father," who hap- 
pened to be a CJiampanois. 

These disputes, however, turn on refinements too 
nice. Domremy stood upon the frontiers, and, like other 
frontiers, produced a mixed race, representing the cis 
and the trans. A river (it is true) formed the boundary 

These Splendid Wo??ien 71 

line at this point — the river Meuse; and tlmt, in old 
days, might have divided the populations; but in these 
days it did not; there were bridges, there were ferries, 
and weddings crossed from the right bank to the left. 
Here lay two great roads, not so much for travellers 
that were few, as for armies that were too many by half. 

These two roads, one of which was the great high- 
road between France and Germany, decussated at this 
very point; which is a learned way of saying that they 
formed a St. Andrew's Cross, or letter X. I hope the 
compositor will choose a good large X; in which case 
the point of intersection, the locus of conflux and inter- 
section for these four diverging arms, will finish the 
reader's geographical education, by showing him to a 
hair's-breadth where it was that Domremy stood. These 
roads, so grandly situated, as great trunk arteries be- 
tween two mighty realms, and haunted for ever by 
wars or rumors of wars, decussated ( for anything I know 
to the contrary) absolutely under Joanna's bedroom win- 
dow; one rolling away to the right, past M. D'Arc's 
old barn, and the other unaccountably preferring to 
sweep round that odious man's pig-sty to the left. 

On whichever side of the border chance had thrown 
Joanna, the same love to France would have been nur- 
tured. For it is a strange fact, noticed by M. Michelet and 
others, that the Dukes of Bar and Lorraine had for gener- 
ations pursued the policy of eternal warfare with France 
on their own account, yet also of eternal amity and league 
with France in case anybody else presumed to attack her. 
Let peace settle upon France, and before long you might 
rely upon seeing the little vixen Lorraine flying at the 
throat of France. Let France be assailed by a formidable 
enemy, and instantly you saw a Duke of Lorraine insist- 
ing on having his own throat cut in support of France; 
which favour accordingly was cheerfully granted to him 
in three great successive battles: twice by the English, 

72 These Splendid Women 

viz., at Crecy and Agincourt, once by the Sultan at 

This sympathy with France during great ecHpses, in 
those that during ordinary seasons were always teasing 
her with brawls and guerilla inroads, strengthened the 
natural piety to France of those that were confessedly the 
children of her own house. The outposts of France, as 
one may call the great frontier provinces, were of all 
localities the most devoted to the Fleurs de Lys. To 
witness, at any great crisis, the generous devotion to these 
lilies of the little fiery cousin that in gentler weather was 
forever tilting at the breast of France, could not but fan 
the zeal of France's legitimate daughters ; while to occupy 
a post of honour on the frontiers against an old hereditary 
enemy of France would naturally stimulate this zeal by a 
sentiment of martial pride, by a sense of danger always 
threatening, and of hatred always smouldering. That 
great four-headed road was perpetual memento to patri- 
otic ardour. To say "This way lies the road to Paris, 
and that other way to Aix-la-Chapelle ; this to Prague, 
that to Vienna," nourished the warfare of the heart by 
daily ministrations of sense. The eye that watched for 
the gleams of lance or helmet from the hostile frontier, 
the ear that listened for the groaning of wheels, made the 
highroad itself, with its relations to centres so remote, into 
a manual of patriotic duty. 

The situation, therefore, locally, of Joanna was full 
of profound suggestions to a heart that listened for the 
stealthy steps of change and fear that too surely were 
in motion. But, if the place were grand, the time, the 
burden of the time, was far more so. The air overhead 
in its upper chambers was hurtling with the obscure 
sound; was dark with sullen fermenting of storms that 
had been gathering for a hundred and thirty years. The 
battle of Agincourt in Joanna's childhood had reopened 
the wounds of France. Crecy and Poictiers, those with- 
ering overthrows for the chivalry of France, had, before 

These Splendid Women 73 

Agincourt occurred, been tranquillised by more than half 
a century; but this resurrection of their trumpet wails 
made the whole series of battles and endless skirmishes 
take their stations as parts in one drama. The graves 
that had closed sixty years ago seemed to fly open in 
sympathy with a sorrow that echoed their own. The 
monarchy of France laboured in extremity, rocked and 
reeled like a ship fighting with the darkness of monsoons. 

The madness of the king (Charles VI.), faUing in at 
such a crisis, like the case of women laboring in child- 
birth during the storming of a city, trebled the awfulness 
of the time. Even the wild story of the incident which 
had immediately occasioned the explosion of this madness 
— the case of a man unknown, gloomy, and perhaps 
maniacal himself, coming out of a forest at noonday, 
laying his hand upon the bridle of the king's horse, check- 
ing him for a moment to say, "Oh, king, thou art be- 
trayed," and then vanishing, no man knew whither, as 
he had appeared for no man knew what — fell in with the 
universal prostration of mind that laid France on her 
knees, as before the slow unweaving of some ancient 
prophetic doom. 

The famines, the extraordinary diseases, the insur- 
rections of the peasantry up and down Europe — these 
were chords struck from the same mysterious harp; but 
these were transitory chords. There had been others of 
deeper and more ominous sound. The termination of the 
Crusades, the destruction of the Templars, the Papal inter- 
dicts, the tragedies caused or suflfered by the house of 
Anjou, and by the Emperor — these were full of a more 
permanent significance. But, since then, the colossal 
figure of feudalism was seen standing, as it were on 
tiptoe, at Crecy, for flight from earth: that was a revo- 
lution unparalleled; yet that was a trifle by comparison 
with the more fearful revolutions that were mining below 
the Church. By her own internal schisms, by the abomi- 
nable spectacle of a double Pope — so that no man, 

74 These Splendid Women 

except through political bias, could even guess which was 
Heaven's vicegerent, and which the creature of Hell — 
the Church was rehearsing, as in still earlier forms she 
had already rehearsed, those vast rents in her founda- 
tions which no man should ever heal. 

These were the loftiest peaks of the cloudland in the 
skies that to the scientific gazer first caught the colours 
of the new morning in advance. But the whole vast 
range alike of sweeping glooms overhead dwelt upon all 
meditative minds, even upon those that could not dis- 
tinguish the tendencies nor decipher the forms. It was 
therefore, not her own age alone, as affected by its 
immediate calamities, that lay with such weight upon 
Joanna's mind, but her own age as one section in a vast 
mysterious drama, unweaving through a century back, and 
drawing nearer continually to some dreadful crisis. Cat- 
aracts and rapids were heard roaring ahead; and signs 
were seen far back, by help of old men's memories, which 
answered secretly to signs now coming forward on the 
eye, even as locks answer to keys. It was not wonderful 
that in such a haunted solitude, with such a haunted 
heart, Joanna could see angelic visions, and hear angelic 
voices. These voices whispered to her for ever the duty 
self-imposed of delivering France. Five years she lis- 
tened to these monitory voices with internal struggles. 
At length she could resist no longer. Doubt gave way; 
and she left her home for ever in order to present herself 
at the dauphin's court. 

The education of this poor girl was mean according 
to the present standard: was ineffably grand, according 
to a purer philosophic standard: and only not good for 
our age because for us it would be unattainable. She 
read nothing, for she could not read; but she had heard 
others read parts of the Roman martyrology. She wept 
in sympathy with the sad "Misereres'* of the Romish 
Church ; she rose to heaven with the glad triumphant *'Te 
Deums" of Rome; she drew her comfort and her vital 

These Splendid Women IS 

strength from the rites of the same Church. But, next 
after these spiritual advantages, she owed most to the 
advantages of her situation. The fountain of Domremy 
was on the brink of a boundless forest ; and it was haunted 
to that degree by fairies that the parish priest {cure) was 
obliged to read mass there once a year, in order to keep 
them in any decent bounds. Fairies are important, even 
in a statistical view: certain weeds mark poverty in the 
soil, fairies mark its solitude. As surely as the wolf re- 
tires before cities does the fairy sequester herself from 
the haunts of the licensed victualer. A village is too 
much for her nervous delicacy; at most, she can tolerate 
a distant view of a hamlet. We may judge, therefore, 
by the uneasiness and extra trouble which they gave to 
the parson, in what strength the fairies mustered at Dom- 
remy, and, by a satisfactory consequence, how thinly sown 
with men and women must have been that region even in 
its inhabited spots. But the forests of Domremy — those 
were the glories of the land: for in them abode mys- 
terious powers and ancient secrets that towered into tragic 
strength. "Abbeys there were, and abbey windows" — 
"like Moorish temples of the Hindoos" — that exercised 
even princely power both in Lorraine and in the German 

These had their sweet bells that pierced the forests for 
many a league of matins or vespers, and each its own 
dreamy legend. Few enough, and scattered enough, 
were these abbeys, so as in no degree to disturb the deep 
solitude of the region ; yet many enough to spread a net- 
work or awning of Christian sanctity over what else might 
have seemed a heathen wilderness. This sort of religious 
talisman being secured, a man the most afraid of ghosts 
(like myself, suppose, or the reader) becomes armed into 
courage to wander for days in their sylvan recesses. The 
mountains of the Vosges, on the eastern frontier of 
France, have never attracted much notice from Europe, 
except in 1813-14 for a few brief months, when they fell 

76 These Splendid Women 

within Napoleon's line of defence against the Allies. But 
they are interesting for this among other features, that 
they do not, like some loftier ranges, repel woods; the 
forests and the hills are on sociable terms. **Live and let 
live" is their motto. 

For this reason, in part, these tracts in Lorraine were 
a favorite hunting-ground with the Carlovingian princes. 
About six hundred years before Joanna's childhood, 
Charlemagne was known to have hunted there. That, of 
itself, was a grand incident in the traditions of a forest 
or a chase. In these vast forests, also, were to be found 
(if anywhere to be found) those mysterious fawns that 
tempted solitary hunters into visionary and perilous pur- 
suits. Here was seen (if anywhere seen) that ancient 
stag who was already nine hundred years old, but pos- 
sibly a hundred or two more, when met by Charlemagne ; 
and the thing was put beyond doubt by the inscription 
upon his golden collar. 

I believe Charlemagne knighted the stag ; and, if ever he 
is met again by a king, he ought to be made an earl, or, 
being upon the marches of France, a marquis. Observe, 
I don't absolutely vouch for all these things: my own 
opinion varies. On a fine breezy forenoon I am auda- 
ciously sceptical; but as twilight sets in my credulity 
grows steadily, till it becomes equal to anything that could 
be desired. And I have heard candid sportsmen declare 
that, outside of these very forests, they laughed loudly at 
all the dim tales connected with their haunted solitudes, 
but, on reaching a spot notoriously eighteen miles deep 
within them, they agreed with Sir Roger de Coverley that 
a good deal might be said on both sides. 

Such traditions, or any others that (like the stag) 
connect distant generations with each other, are, for that 
cause, sublime; and the sense of the shadowy, connected 
with such appearances that reveal themselves or not ac- 
cording to circumstances, leaves a colouring of sanctity 

These Splendid Women 11 

over ancient forests, even in those minds that utterly 
reject the legend as a fact. 

But, apart from all distinct stories of that order, in 
any solitary frontier between two great empires — as here, 
for instance, or in the desert between Syria and the Eu- 
phrates — there is an inevitable tendency, in minds of 
any deep sensibility, to people the solitudes with phantom 
images of powers that were of old so vast. Joanna, 
therefore, in her quiet occupation of a shepherdess, would 
be led continually to brood over the political condition of 
her country by the traditions of the past no less than by 
the mementoes of the local present. 

IMichelet, indeed, says that La Pucelle was not a 
shepherdess. I beg his pardon ; she wa^s. What he rests 
upon I can guess pretty well : it is the evidence of a woman 
called Haumette, the most confidential friend of Joanna. 
Now, she is a good witness, and a good girl, and I like 
her; for she makes a natural and affectionate report of 
Joanna's ordinary life. But still, however good she may 
be as a witness, Joanna is better ; and she, when speaking 
to the dauphin, calls herself in the Latin report Bergereta. 
Even Haumette confesses that Joanna tended sheep in her 
girlhood. And I believe that, if Miss Haumette were 
taking coffee along with me this very evening (February 
12, 1847) — in which there would be no subject for 
scandal or for maiden blushes, because I am an intense 
philosopher, and Miss H. would be hard upon 450 years 
old — she would admit the following comment upon her 
evidence to be right. A Frenchman, about forty years 
ago — M. Simond, in his ''Travels" — mentions accidentally 
the following hideous scene as one steadily observed and 
watched by himself in chivalrous France not very long 
before the French Revolution : A peasant was ploughing ; 
and the team that drew his plough was a donkey and a 
woman. Both were regularly harnessed; both pulled 
alike. This is bad enough ; but the Frenchman adds that, 
in distributing his lashes, the peasant was obviously de- 

78 These Splendid Women 

sirous of being impartial ; or, if either of the yoke fellows 
had a right to complain, certainly it was not the donkey. 
Now, in any country where such degradation of females 
could be tolerated by the state of manners, a woman of 
delicacy would shrink from acknowledging either for her- 
self or her friend, that she had ever been addicted to 
any mode of labor not strictly domestic ; because, if once 
owning herself a praedial servant, she would be sensible 
that this confession extended by probability in the hear- 
er's thoughts to the having incurred indignities of this 
horrible kind. Haumette clearly thinks it more dignified 
for Joanna to have been darning the stockings of her 
horny-hoofed father, M. D'Arc, than keeping sheep, lest 
she might then be suspected of having ever done some- 
thing worse. But, luckily, there was no danger of that; 
Joanna never was in service; and my opinion is that her 
father should have mended his own stockings, since prob- 
ably he was the party to make the holes in them, as many 
a better man than D'Arc does — meaning by that not my- 
self, because, though probably a better man than D'Arc, 
I protest against doing anything of the kind. If I lived 
even with Friday in Juan Fernandez, either Friday must 
do all the darning, or else it must go undone. The better 
men that I meant were the sailors in the British navy, 
every man of whom mends his own stockings. Who else 
is to do it? Do you suppose, reader, that the junior lords 
of the admiralty are under articles to darn for the navy? 

It is probable (as M. Michelet suggests) that the title 
of Virgin or Pucelle had in itself, and apart from the 
miraculous stories about her, a secret power over the rude 
soldiery and partisan chiefs of that period; for in such 
a person they saw a representative manifestation of the 
Virgin Mary, who, in the course of centuries, had grown 
steadily upon the popular heart. 

As to Joanna's supernatural detection of the dauphin 
(Charles VII.) among three hundred lords and knights, 
I am surprised at the credulity which could ever lend 

These Splendid Women 79 

itself to that theatrical juggle. Who admires more than 
myself the sublime enthusiasm, the rapturous faith in her- 
self, of this pure creature? But I am far from admiring 
stage artifices which not La Pucelle, but the court, must 
have arranged; nor can surrender myself to the con- 
jurer's legerdemain, such as may be seen every day for a 
shilling. Southey's '']o^rv of Arc" was published in 1796. 
Twenty years after, talking with Southey, I was surprised 
to find him still owning a secret bias in favour of Joan, 
founded on her detection of the dauphin. The story, for 
the benefit of the reader new to the case, was this: La 
Pucelle was first made known to the dauphin, and pre- 
sented to his court, at Chinon; and here came her first 
trial. By way of testing her supernatural pretensions, 
she was to find out the royal personage amongst the whole 
ark of clean and unclean creatures. Failing in this coup 
d'essai, she would not simply disappoint many a beating 
heart in the glittering crowd that on different motives 
yearned for her success, but she would ruin herself, and, 
as the oracle within had told her, would, by ruining her- 
self, ruin France. Our own Sovereign Lady Victoria 
rehearses annually a trial not so severe in degree, but the 
same in kind. She "pricks" for sheriflFs. Joanna pricked 
for a king. But observe the difference: our own Lady 
pricks for two men out of three; Joanna for one man 
out of three hundred. 

Happy Lady of the Islands and the Orient! — she can 
go astray in her choice only by one-half : to the extent 
of one-half she must have the satisfaction of being right. 
And yet, even with these tight limits to the misery of 
a boundless discretion, permit me, Liege Lady, with all 
loyalty, to submit that now and then you prick with your 
pin the wrong man. 

But the poor child from Domremy, shrinking under 
the gaze of a dazzling court — not because dazzling (for 
in visions she had seen those that were more so), but 
because some of them wore a scoffing smile on their 

80 These Splendid Women 

features — how should she throw her line into so deep a 
river to angle for a king, where many a gay creature was 
sporting that masqueraded as kings in dress ! Nay, even 
more than any true king would have done: for, in 
Southey's version of the story, the dauphin says, by way 
of trying the virgin's magnetic sympathy with royalty, 

"On the throne, 
I the while minghng with the menial throng, 
Some courtier shall be seated." 

This usurper is even crowned; **the jeweled crown 
shines on a menial's head." But, really, that is ''un pen 
forf; and the mob of spectators might raise a scruple 
whether our friend the jackdaw upon the throne, and the 
dauphin himself, were not grazing the shins of treason. 
For the dauphin could not lend more than belonged to 
him. According to the popular notion, he had no crown 
for himself; consequently none to lend, on any pretence 
whatever, until the consecrated Maid should take him to 
Rheims. This was the popular notion in France. But 
certainly it was the dauphin's interest to support the 
popular notion, as he meant to use the services of Joanna. 
For if he were king already, what was it that she could 
do for him beyond Orleans? 

That is to say, what more than a merely military serv- 
ice could she render him? And, above all, if he were 
king without a coronation, and without the oil from the 
sacred ampulla, what advantage was yet open to him by 
celerity above his competitor, the English boy? Now 
was to be a race for a coronation : he that should win that 
race carried the superstition of France along with him : 
he that should first be drawn from the ovens of Rheims 
was under that superstition baked into a king. 

La Pucelle, before she could be allowed to practice as 
a warrior, was put through her manual and platoon exer- 
cise, as a pupil in divinity, at the bar of six eminent men 
in wigs. According to Southey she ''appalled the doctors." 

Ifs not easy to do that: but they had some reason to 

These Splendid Women 81 

feel bothered, as that surgeon would assuredly feel 
bothered who, upon proceeding to dissect a subject, should 
find the subject retaliating as a dissector upon himself, 
especially if Joanna ever made the speech to them which 
occupies V. 354-391, bk. iii. It is a double impossibihty ; 
1st, became a piracy from Tindal's "Christianity as old 
as the Creation" — a piracy a parte ante, and by three 
centuries; 2d, it is quite contrary to the evidence on 
Joanna's trial. Southey's "Joan" of a. d. 1796 (Cottle, 
Bristol) tells the doctors, among other secrets, that she 
never in her Hfe attended — 1st, Mass ; nor 2d, the Sacra- 
mental Table; nor 3d, Confession. In the meantime, all 
this deistical confession of Joanna's, besides being sui- 
cidal for the interest of her cause, is opposed to the 
depositions upon both trials. The very best witness called 
from first to last deposes that Joanna attended these 
rites of her Church even too often ; was taxed with doing 
so: and by blushing, owned the charge as a fact, though 
certainly not as a fault. Joanna was a girl of natural 
piety, that saw God in forests and hills and fountains, 
but did not the less seek Him in chapels and consecrated 

This peasant girl was self-educated through her own 
natural meditativeness. If the reader turns to that divine 
passage in "Paradise Regained" which Milton has put into 
the mouth of our Saviour when first entering the wilder- 
ness, and musing upon the tendency of those great im- 
pulses growing within himself — 

"Oh, what a multitude of thoughts at once 
Awakened in me swarm, while I consider 
What from within I feel myself, and hear 
What from without comes often to my ears, 
111 sorting with my present state compared ! 
When I was yet a child, no childish play 
To me was pleasing; all my mind was set 
Serious to learn and know, and thence to do, 
What might be public good ; myself I thought 
Born to that end — " 

82 These Splendid Women 

he will have some notion of the vast reveries which 
brooded over the heart of Joanna in early girlhood, when 
the wings were budding that should carry her from Or- 
leans to Rheims; when the golden chariot was dimly re- 
vealing itself that should carry her from the kingdom 
of France Delivered to the Eternal Kingdom. 

It is not requisite for the honour of Joanna to pursue 
her brief career of action. That, though wonderful, forms 
the earthly part of her story; the spiritual part is the 
saintly passion of her imprisonment, trial, and execution. 
But Joanna's history bisects into two opposite hemispheres. 
It is sufficient, as concerns the first half of Joanna's life, 
to say that she fulfilled, to the height of her promises, 
the restoration of the prostrate throne. France had be- 
come a province of England, and for the ruin of both, 
if such a yoke could be maintained. Dreadful pecuniary 
exhaustion caused the English energy to droop; and that 
critical opening La Pucelle used with a corresponding 
felicity of audacity and suddenness (that were in them- 
selves portentous) for introducing the wedge of French 
native resources, for rekindling the national pride, and 
for planting the dauphin once more upon his feet. When 
Joanna appeared, he had been on the point of giving up 
the struggle with the English, distressed as they were, and 
of flying to the south of France. She taught him to blush 
for such abject counsels. She liberated Orleans, that 
great city, so decisive by its fate for the issue of the 
war, and then beleagured by the English with an elaborate 
application of engineering skill unprecedented in Europe. 

Entering the city after sunset the 29th of April, she 
sang mass on Sunday, May 8th, for the entire disappear- 
ance of the besieging force. On the 29th of June she 
fought and gained over the English the decisive battle of 
Patay; on the 9th of July she took Troyes by a coup-de- 
niain from a mixed garrison of English and Burgundians; 
on the 15th of that month she carried the dauphin into 
Rheims; on Sunday the 17th she crowned him; and there 

These Splendid Women 83 

she rested from her labour of triumph. All that was 
to be done she had now accomplished; what remained was 
— to suffer. 

AH this forward movement was her own; excepting 
one man, the whole council was against her. Her enemies 
were all that drew power from earth. Her supporters 
were her own strong enthusiasm, and the headlong con- 
tagion by which she carried this sublime frenzy into the 
hearts of women, of soldiers, and of all who lived by 
labour. Henceforward she was thwarted; and the worst 
error that she committed was to lend the sanction of her 
presence to counsels which she had ceas^ed to approve. 
But she had now accomplished the capital objects which 
her own visions had dictated. These involved all the rest. 
Errors were now less important; and doubtless it had 
now become more difficult for herself to pronounce 
authentically what were errors. The noble girl had 
achieved, as by a rapture of motion, the capital end of 
clearing out a free space around her sovereign, giving him 
the power to move his arms with effect, and, secondly, 
the inappreciable end of winning for that sovereign what 
seemed to all France the heavenly ratification of his 
rights, by crowning him with the ancient solemnities. She 
had made it impossible for the English now to step before 
her. They were caught in an irretrievable blunder, owing 
partly to discord among the uncles of Henry VI., partly to 
a want of funds, but partly to the very impossibility 
which they believed to press with tenfold force upon any 
French attempt to forestall theirs. They laughed at such 
a thought; and, while they laughed, she did it. Hence- 
forth the single redress for the English of this capital 
oversight, but which never could have redressed it effec- 
tually, was to vitiate and taint the coronation of Charles 
Vn. as the work of a witch. That policy was the moving 
principle in the subsequent prosecution of Joanna. Un- 
less they unhinged the force of the first coronation in the 
popular mind by associating it with power given from hell, 

S4 These Splendid Women 

they felt that the sceptre of the invader was broken. 

But she, the child that, at nineteen, had wrought won- 
ders so great for France, was she not elated? Did she 
not lose, as men so often have lost, all sobriety of mind 
when standing upon the pinnacle of success so giddy? 
Let her enemies declare. During the progress of her 
movement, and in the centre of ferocious struggles, she 
had manifested the temper of her feelings by the pity 
which she had everywhere expressed for the suffering 
enemy. She forwarded to the English leaders a touching 
invitation to unite with the French, as brothers, in a com- 
mon crusade against infidels — thus opening the road for 
a soldierly retreat. She interposed to protect the captive 
or the wounded; she mourned over the excesses of her 
countrymen; she threw herself off her horse to kneel 
by the dying English soldier, and to comfort him with 
such ministrations, physical or spiritual, as his situation 
allowed. She sheltered the English that invoked her aid 
in her own quarters. She wept as she beheld, stretched 
on the field of battle, so many brave enemies that had 
died without confession. And, as regarded herself, her 
elation expressed itself thus : on the day when she had 
finished her work, she wept ; for she knew that, when her 
triumplial task was done, her end must be approaching. 

Her aspirations pointed only to a place which seemed 
to her more than usually full of natural piety, as one in 
which it would give her pleasure to die. And she uttered, 
between smiles and tears, as a wish that inexpressibly 
fascinated her heart, and yet was half fantastic, a broken 
prayer that God would return her to the solitudes from 
which he had drawn her, and suffer her to become a 
shepherdess once more. It was a natural prayer, because 
nature has laid a necessity upon every human heart to 
seek for rest and to shrink from torment. Yet, again, 
it was a half-fantastic prayer, because from childhood 
upward, visions that she had no power to mistrust, and 
the voices which sounded in her ear for ever, had long 

These Splendid Women 85 

since persuaded her mind that for her no such prayer 
could be granted. Too well she felt that her mission must 
be worked out to the end, and that the end was now at 

All went wrong from this time. She herself had 
created the funds out of which the French restoration 
should grow; but she was not suffered to witness their 
development or their prosperous application. More than 
one military plan was entered upon which she did not 
approve. But she still continued to expose her person as 
before. Severe wounds had not taught her caution. And 
at length, in a sortie from Compiegne (whether through 
treacherous collusion on the part of her own friends is 
doubtful to this day) she was made prisoner by the 
Burgundians, and finally surrendered to the English. 

Now came her trial. This trial, moving of course 
under English influence, was conducted in chief by the 
Bishop of Beauvais. He was a Frenchman, sold to Eng- 
lish interests, and hoping, by favour of the English lead- 
ers, to reach the highest preferment. "Bishop that art, 
Archbishop that shalt be, Cardinal that mayest be," were 
the words that sounded continually in his ear ; and doubt- 
less a whisper of visions still higher, of a triple crown, 
and feet upon the necks of kings, sometimes stole into 
his heart. M. Michelet is anxious to keep us in mind that 
this bishop was but an agent of the English. True. But 
it does not better the case for his countryman that, being 
an accomplice in the crime, making himself the leader in 
the persecution against the helpless girl, he was willing to 
be all this in the spirit, and with the conscious vileness of 
a cat's-paw. Never from the foundations of the earth 
was there such a trial as this, if it were laid open in all 
its beauty of defence and all its hellishness of attack. 

Oh, child of France ! shepherdess, peasant girl ! trodden 
under foot by all around thee, how I honor thy flashing 
intellect, quick as God's lightning, and true as God's light- 
ning to its mark, that ran before France and laggard 

86 These Splendid Wo?nen 

Europe by many a century, confounding the malice of the 
ensnarer, and making dumb the oracles of falsehood! 
"Would you examine me as a witness against myself ?" 
was the question by which many times she defied their 
arts. Continually she showed that their interrogations 
were irrelevant to any business before the court, or that 
entered into the ridiculous charges against her. General 
questions were proposed to her on points or casuistical 
divinity; two-edged questions, which not one of them- 
selves could have answered, without, on the one side, 
landing himself in heresy (as then interpreted), or, on 
the other, in some presumptuous expression of self- 

Next came a wretched Dominican, that pressed her with 
an objection, which, if applied to the Bible, would tax 
every one of its miracles with unsoundness. The monk 
had the excuse of never having read the Bible. Her 
answer to this, if there were room to place the whole 
in a clear light, was as shattering as it was rapid. An- 
other thought to entrap her by asking what language the 
angelic visitors of her solitude had talked — as though 
heavenly counsels could want polyglot interpreters for 
every word, or that God needed language at all in whis- 
pering thoughts to a human heart. Then came a worse 
devil, who asked her whether the Archangel Michael had 
appeared naked. Not comprehending the vile insinuation, 
Joanna, whose poverty suggested to her simplicity that it 
might be the costliness of suitable robes which caused the 
demur, asked them if they fancied God, who clothed 
the flowers of the valleys, unable to find raiment for his 
servants. The answer of Joanna moves a smile of tender- 
ness, but the disappointment of her judges makes one 
laugh exultingly. Others succeeded by troops, who up- 
braided her with leaving her father; as if that greater 
Father, whom she believed herself to have been serving, 
did not retain the power of dispensing with his own rules, 
or had not said that for a less cause than martyrdom 

These Splendid Women 87 

man and woman should leave both father and mother. 

On Easter Sunday, when the trial had been long pro- 
ceeding, the poor girl fell so ill as to cause a belief that 
she had been poisoned. It was not poison. Nobody had 
any interest in hastening a death so certain. M. Michelet, 
whose sympathies with all feelings are so quick that one 
would gladly see them always as justly directed, reads the 
case most truly. Joanna had a twofold malady. She was 
visited by a paroxysm of the complaint called homesick- 
ness. The cruel nature of her imprisonment, and its 
length, could not but point her solitary thoughts, in dark- 
ness and in chains (for chained she was), to Domremy. 
And the season, which was the most heavenly period of 
the spring, added stings to this yearning. That was one 
of her maladies — nostalgia, as medicine calls it ; the other 
was weariness and exhaustion from daily combats with 
malice. She saw that everybody hated her and thirsted 
for her blood; nay, many kind-hearted creatures that 
would have pitied her profoundly, as regarded all political 
charges, had their natural feelings warped by the belief 
that she had dealings with fiendish powers. She knew 
she was to die ; that was not the misery ! the misery was 
that this consummation could not be reached without so 
much intermediate strife, as if she were contending for 
some chance (where chance was none) of happiness, or 
were dreaming for a moment of escaping the inevitable. 

Why, then, did she contend? Knowing that she would 
reap nothing from answering her persecutors, why did she 
not retire by silence from the superfluous contest? It was 
because her quick and eager loyalty to truth would not 
suffer her to see it darkened by frauds which she could 
expose, but others, even of candid listeners, perhaps 
could not; it was through that imperishable grandeur of 
soul which taught her to submit meekly and without a 
struggle to her punishment, but taught her not to submit — 
no, not for a moment — to calumny as to facts, or to mis- 
construction as to motives. Besides, there were secre- 

88 These Splendid Women 

taries all around the court taking down her words. That 
was meant for no good to her. But the end does not 
always correspond to the meaning. And Joanna might 
say to herself, "These words that will be used against 
me to-morrow and the next day, perhaps, in some nobler 
generation, may rise again for my justification." Yes, 
Joanna, they are rising even now in Paris, and for more 
than justification. 

Woman, sister, there are some things which you do 
not execute as well as your brother, man; no, nor ever 
will. Pardon me if I doubt whether you will ever produce 
a great poet from your choirs, or a Mozart, or a Phidias, 
or a Michael Angelo, or a great philosopher, or a great 
scholar. By which last is meant — not one who depends 
simply on an infinite memory, but also on an infinite and 
electrical power of combination; bringing together from 
the four winds, like the angel of the resurrection, what 
else were dust from dead men's bones, into the unity of 
breathing life. If you can create yourselves into any 
of these great creators, why have you not? 

Yet, sister woman, though I cannot consent to find a 
Mozart or a Michael Angelo in your sex, cheerfully, and 
with the love that burns in depths of admiration, I ac- 
knowledge that you can do one thing as well as the best 
of us men — a greater thing than even Milton is known 
to have done, or Michael Angelo ; you can die grandly, and 
as goddesses would die, were goddesses mortal. If any 
distant worlds (which may be the case) are so far ahead 
of us Tellurians in optical resources as to see distinctly 
through their telescopes all that we do on earth, what is 
the grandest sight to which we ever treat them? St. 
Peter's at Rome, do you fancy, on Easter Sunday, or 
Luxor, or perhaps the Himalayas ? Oh, no ! my friend ; 
suggest something better ; these are baubles to them; they 
see in other worlds, in their own, far better toys of the 
same kind. These, take my word for it, are nothing. Do 

These Splendid Women 89 

you give it up? The finest thing, then, we have to show 
them is a scaffold on the morning of execution. 

I assure you there is a strong muster in those far 
telescopic worlds, on any such morning, of those who hap- 
pen to find themselves occupying the right hemisphere for 
a peep at us. How, then, if it be announced in some such 
telescopic world by those who make a livelihood of catch- 
ing glimpses at our newspapers, whose language they have 
long since deciphered, that the poor victim in the morn- 
ing's sacrifice is a woman? 

How, if it be published in that distant world that the 
sufferer wears upon her head, in the eyes of many, the 
garlands of martyrdom? 

How, if it should be some Marie Antoinette, the wid- 
owed queen, coming forward on the scaffold, and present- 
ing to the morning air her head, turned gray by sorrow — 
daughter of Caesars kneeling down humbly to kiss the 
guillotine, as one that worships death ? 

How, if it were the noble Charlotte Corday, that in 
the bloom of youth, that with the loveliest of persons, 
that with homage waiting upon her smiles wherever she 
turned her face to scatter them — homage that followed 
those smiles as surely as the carols of the birds, after 
showers in spring, follow the reappearing sun and the rac- 
ing of sunbeams over the hills — yet thought all these 
things cheaper than the dust upon her sandals, in com- 
parison of deliverance from hell for her dear suffering 
France ! 

Ah ! these were spectacles indeed for those sympathiz- 
ing people in distant worlds, and some, perhaps, would 
suffer a sort of martyrdom themselves, because they could 
not testify the wrath, could not bear witness to the 
strength of love and to the fury hatred that burned 
within them at such scenes, could not gather into golden 
urns some of that glorious dust which rested in the cata- 
combs of earth. 

On the Wednesday after Trinity Sunday in 1431, being 

90 These Splendid Women 

then about nineteen years of age, the Maid of Arc under- 
went her martyrdom. She was conducted before mid-day, 
guarded by eight hundred spearmen, to a platform of 
prodigious height, constructed of wooden billets supported 
by occasional walls of lath and plaster, and traversed by 
hollow spaces in every direction for the creation of air 
currents. The pile "struck terror," says M. Michelet, "by 
its height"; and, as usual, the English purpose in this is 
viewed as one of pure malignity. But there are two ways 
of explaining all that. It is probable that the purpose 
was merciful. On the circumstance of the execution I 
shall not linger. Yet, to mark the almost fatal felicity of 
M. Michelet in finding out whatever may injure the Eng- 
lish name, at a moment when every reader will be inter- 
ested in Joanna's personal appearance, it is really edifying 
to notice the ingenuity by which he draws into light from 
a dark corner a very unjust account of it, and neglects, 
though lying upon the highroad, a very pleasing one. 
Both are from English pens. Grafton, a chronicler, but 
little read, being a stiff-necked John Bull, thought fit to 
say that no wonder Joanna should be virgin, since her 
"foule face" was a satisfactory solution of that particular 
merit. Holinshead, on the other hand, a chronicler some- 
what later, every way more important, and at one time 
universally read, has given a very pleasing testimony to 
the interesting character of Joanna's person and engaging 
manners. Neither of these men lived till the following 
century, so that personally this evidence is none at all. 
Grafton suddenly and carelessly believed as he wished to 
believe ; Holinshead took pains to inquire, and reports un- 
doubtedly the general impression of France. 

The circumstantial incidents of the excution, unless 
with more space than I can now command, I should be 
unwilling to relate. I should fear to injure, by imperfect 
report, a martyrdom which to myself appears so un- 
speakably grand. Yet, for a purpose, pointing not at 
Joanna, but at ]\I. IMichelet — viz., to convince him that an 

These Splendid Women 91 

Englishman is capable of thinking more highly of La 
Pucelle than even her admiring countrymen — I shall, in 
parting, allude to one or two traits in Joanna's demeanor 
on the scaffold, and to one or two in that of the by- 
standers, which authorize me in questioning an opinion 
of his upon this martyr's firmness. The reader ought to 
be reminded that Joanna D'Arc was subject to an un- 
usually unfair trial of opinion. Any of the elder Chris- 
tian martyrs had not much to fear of personal rancor. 

The martyr was chiefly regarded as the enemy cf 
Caesar ; at times, also, where any knowledge of the Christ- 
ian faith and morals existed, with the enmity that arises 
spontaneously in the worldly against the spiritual. But the 
martyr, though disloyal, was not supposed to be there- 
fore anti-national; and still less was individually hateful. 
What was hated (if anything) belonged to his class, not 
to himself separately. Now, Joanna, if hated at all, was 
hated personally, and in Rouen on national grounds. 
Hence there would be a certainty of calumny arising 
against her such as would not affect martyrs in general. 
That being the case, it would follow of necessity that 
some people would impute to her a willingness to recant. 
No innocence could escape that. Now, had she really 
testified this willingness on the scaffold, it would have 
argued nothing at all but the weakness of a genial nature 
shrinking from the instant approach of torment. And 
those will often pity that weakness most who, in their 
own persons, would yield to it least. Meantime, there 
never was a calumny uttered that drew less support from 
the recorded circumstances. It rests upon no positive 
testimony, and it has a weight of contradicting testimony 
to stem. 

And yet, strange to say, M. Michelet, who at times 
seems to admire the Maid of Arc as much as I do, is the 
one sole writer among her friends who lends some coun- 
tenance to this odious slander. His words are that, if she 
did not utter this word recant with her lips, she uttered it 

92 These Splendid Women 

in her heart. "Whether she said the word is uncertain; 
but I affirm that she thought it." 

Now, I affirm that she did not; not in any sense of 
the word ''thought" appHcable to the case. Here is 
France calumniating La Pucelle; here is England de- 
fending her. M. Michelet can only mean that, on a 
priori principles, every woman must be presumed liable 
to such a weakness; that Joanna was a woman; ergo, 
that she was liable to such a weakness. That is, he only 
supposes her to have uttered the word by an argument 
which presumes it impossible for anybody to have done 
otherwise. I, on the contrary, throw the onus of the 
argument not on presumable tendencies of nature, but on 
the known fact of that morning's execution, as recorded 
by multitudes. 

What else, I demand, than mere weight of metal, abso- 
lute nobility of deportment, broke the vast line of battle 
then- against her ? What else but her meek, saintly de- 
meanor won, from the enemies that till now had believed 
her a witch, tears of rapturous admiration? "Ten thou- 
sand men," says M. Michelet, "ten thousand men wept"; 
and of these ten thousand the majority were political 
enemies knitted together by cords of superstition. What 
else was it but her constancy, united with her angelic 
gentleness, that drove the fanatic English soldier — who 
had sworn to throw a fagot on her scaffold as his tribute 
of abhorrence, that did so, that fulfilled his vow — suddenly 
to turn away a penitent for life, saying everywhere that 
he had seen a dove rising upon wings to heaven from the 
ashes where she had stood? What else drove the execu- 
tioner to kneel at every shrine for pardon to his share 
in the tragedy? And, if all this were insufficient, then I 
cite the closing act of her life as valid on her behalf, were 
all other testimonies against her. The executioner had 
been directed to apply his torch from below. He did 
so. The fiery smoke rose upward in billowing volumes. 
A Dominican monk was then standing almost at her side. 

These Splendid Women 93 

Wrapped up in his sublime office, he saw not the danger, 
but still persisted in his prayers. Even then, when the 
last enemy was racing up the fiery stairs to seize her, 
even at that moment did this noblest of girls think only 
for him, the one friend that would not forsake her, and 
not for herself ; bidding him with her last breath to care 
for his own preservation, but to leave her to God. That 
girl, whose latest breath ascended in this sublime expres- 
sion of self-oblivion, did not utter the word recant either 
with her lips or in her heart. No; she did not, though 
one should rise from the dead to swear it. 


Bishop of Beauvais ! The victim died in fire upon a 
scaffold — thou upon a down bed. But, for the departing 
minutes of life, both are oftentimes alike. At the fare- 
well crisis, when the gates of death are opening, and flesh 
is resting from its ^'struggles, oftentimes the tortured and 
the torturer have the same truce from carnal torment; 
both sink together into sleep; together both sometimes 
kindle into dreams. When the mortal mists were gather- 
ing fast upon you two, bishop and shepherd girl — when 
the pavilions of life were closing up their shadowy cur- 
tains about you — let us try, through the gigantic glooms, 
to decipher the flying features of your separate visions. 

The shepherd girl that had delivered France — she, 
from her dungeon, she, from her baiting at the stake, 
she, from her duel with fire, as she entered her last dream 
— saw Domremy, saw the fountain of Domremy, saw 
the pomp of forests in which her childhood had wandered. 
That Easter festival which man had denied to her lan- 
guishing heart — that resurrection of springtime, which 
the darkness of dungeons had intercepted from her, hun- 
gering after the glorious liberty of forests — were by God 
given back into her hands as jewels that had been stolen 
from her by robbers. With those, perhaps (for the min- 
utes of dreams can stretch into ages), was given back to 

94 These Splendid Women 

her by God the bliss of childhood. By special privilege 
for her might be created, in this farewell dream, a second 
childhood innocent as the first ; but not, Hke that, sad with 
the gloom of a fearful mission in the rear. This mission 
had now been fulfilled. The storm was weathered; the 
skirts even of that mighty storm were drawing off. The 
blood that she was to reckon for had been exacted; the 
tears that she was to shed in secret had been paid to 
the last. The hatred to herself in all eyes had been 
faced steadily, had been suffered, had been survived. 
And in her last fight upon the scaffold she had triumphed 
gloriously ; victoriously she had tasted the stings of death. 
For all, except this comfort from her farewell dream, she 
had died — died amid the tears of ten thousand enemies — 
died amid the drums and trumpets of armies — died amid 
peals redoubling upon peals, volleys upon volleys, from the 
saluting clarions of martyrs. 

Bishop of Beauvais! because the guilt-burdened man 
is in dreams haunted and waylaid by the most frightful of 
his crimes, and because upon the fluctuating mirror — ris- 
ing (like the mocking mirrors of mirage in Arabian des- 
erts) from the fens of death — most of all are reflected 
the sweet countenances which the man has laid in 
ruins; therefore I know, bishop, that you also, entering 
your final dream, saw Domremy. That fountain, of 
which the witnesses spoke so much, showed itself to your 
eyes in pure morning dews; but neither dews, nor the 
holy dawn, could cleanse away the bright spots of inno- 
cent blood upon its surface. By the fountain, bishop, 
you saw a woman seated, that hid her face. But, as you 
draw near, the woman raises her wasted features. Would 
Domremy know them again for the features of her child ? 
Ah, but you know them, bishop, well ! Oh, mercy ! what 
a groan was that which the servants, waiting outside the 
bishop's dream at his bedside, heard from his laboring 
heart, as at this moment he turned away from the foun- 
tain and the woman, seeking rest in the forests afar off. 

These Splendid Women 95 

Yet not so to escape the woman, whom once again he 
must behold before he dies. In the forests to which he 
prays for pity, will he find a respite? What a tumult, 
what a gathering of feet is there ! In glades where only 
wild deer should run armies and nations are assembling; 
towering in the fluctuating crowd are phantoms that 
belong to departed hours. There is the great English 
Prince, Regent of France. There is my Lord of Win- 
chester, the princely cardinal, that died and made no sign. 
There is the bishop of Beauvais, clinging to the shelter of 
thickets. What building is that which hands so rapid are 
raising? Is it a martyr's scafifold? Will they burn the 
child of Domremy a second time? No; it is a tribunal 
that rises to the clouds; and two nations stand around 
it, waiting for a trial. Shall my Lord of Beauvais sit 
again upon the judgment-seat, and again number the 
hours for the innocent ? Ah, no ! he is the prisoner at 
the bar. Already all is waiting: the mighty audience is 
gathered, the Court is hurrying to their seats, the wit- 
nesses are arrayed, the trumpets are sounding, the judge 
is taking his place. Oh, but this is sudden ! My lord, 
have you no counsel ? "Counsel I have none ; in heaven 
above, or on earth beneath, counsellor there is none now 
that would take a brief from iiie: all are silent." Is it, 
indeed, come to this ? Alas ! the time is short, the tumult 
is wondrous, the crowd stretches away into infinity; but 
yet I will search in it for somebody to take your brief ; 
I know of somebody that will be your counsel. Who is 
this that Cometh from Domremy? Who is she in bloody 
coronation robes from Rheims? Who is she that cometh 
with blackened flesh from walking the furnaces of Rouen? 
This is she, the shepherd girl, counsellor that had none 
for herself, whom I choose, bishop, for yours. She it is, 
I engage, that shall take my lord's brief. She it is, 
bishop, that would plead for you; yes, bishop, she — when 
heaven and earth are silent. 

Uittoria Qolonna 


VITTORIA COLONNA/ was the daughter of 
Fabrizio, brother of that protonotary Colonna 
whose miserable death at the hands of the heredi- 
tary enemies of his family, the Orsini, allied with the 
Riarii, then in power for the nonce during the popedom 
of Sixtus IV., has been related in the life of Caterina 
Sforza. Her mother was Agnes of Montefeltre; and all 
the biographers and historians tell us that she was the 
3^oungest of six children born to her parents. The state- 
ment is a curious instance of the extreme and very easily 
detected inaccuracy which may often be found handed 
on unchallenged from one generation to another of Italian 
writers of biography and history. 

It can scarcely be necessary to tell even the most ex- 
clusively English reader how ancient, how noble, how 
magnificent, was the princely house of Colonna. They 
were so noble that their lawless violence, freebooting 
habits, private wars, and clan enmities, rendered them a 
scourge to their country; and for several centuries con- 
tributed largely to the mass of anarchy and barbarism, 
that rendered Rome one of the most insecure places of 
abode in Europe, and still taints the instincts of its popu- 
lace with characteristics which make it one of the least 
civilizable races of Italy. The Orsini being equally noble, 
and equally powerful and lawless, the high-bred mastiffs 
of either princely house for more than two hundred years, 
with short respites of ill-kept truce, never lost an oppor- 

These Splendid Women 97 

tunity of flying at each other's throats, to the infinite 
annoyance and injury of their less noble and more 
peaceably-disposed fellow-citizens. 

Though the possessions of the Colonna clan had be- 
fore been wide-spread and extensive, they received the 
considerable additions, during the papacy of the Colonna 
pope, Martin V, great uncle of Fabrizio, Vittoria's father, 
who occupied the papal chair from 1417 to 1431. At 
the period of our heroine's birth, the family property was 

Very many were the fiefs held by the Colonna in the 
immediate neighborhood of the city, and especially among 
the hills to the east and south-east of the Campagna. 
There several of the strongest positions, and most de- 
lightfully situated towns and castles, belonged to them. 
Among the more important of these was Marino, admir- 
ably placed among the hills that surround the lovely lake 
of Albano. 

Few excursionists among the storied sites in the en- 
virons of Rome make Marino the object of a pilgrimage. 
The town had a bad name in these days. The Colonna 
vassals who inhabit it, and still pay to the feudal lord 
a tribute, recently ruled by the Roman tribunals to be due 
(a suit having been instituted by the inhabitants with a 
view of shaking off this old mark of vassalage), are said 
to be eminent among the inhabitants of the Campagna 
for violence, lawlessness, and dishonesty. 

It was at Marino that Vittoria was born, in a rare 
period of most unusually prolonged peace. Her parents 
had selected, we are told, from among their numerous 
castles, that beautiful spot, for the enjoyment of the 
short interval of tranquillity which smiled on their first 
years of marriage. A very successful raid, in which 
Fabrizio and his cousin Prospero Colonna had harried 
the fiefs of the Orsini, and driven off a great quantity 
of cattle, had been followed by a peace made under 
the auspices of Innocent VIII. on the 11th of August, 

98 These Splendid Women 

1486, which seems absolutely to have lasted till 1494, 
when we find the two cousins at open war with the new 
Pope Alexander VI. 

Far more important contests, however, were at hand, 
the progress of which led to the youthful daughter of 
the house being treated, while yet in her fifth year, as 
part of the family capital, to be made use of for the 
advancement of the family interests, and thus fixed the 
destiny of her life. 

When Charles VIII. passed through Rome on his 
march against Naples, at the end of 1494, the Colonna 
cousins sided with him; placed themselves under his 
banners, and contributed materially to aid his successful 
invasion. But on his flight from Naples, in 1495, they 
suddenly changed sides, and took service under Ferdi- 
nand 11. The fact of this change of party, which to our 
ideas seems to require so much explanation, probably 
appeared to their contemporaries a perfectly simple 
matter; for it is mentioned as such without any word 
of the motives or causes of it. Perhaps they merely 
sought to sever themselves from a losing game. Pos- 
sibly, as we find them rewarded for their adherence 
to the King of Naples by the grant of a great number of 
fiefs previously possessed by the Orsini, who were on 
the other side, they were induced to changed their al- 
legiance by the hope of obtaining those possessions, and 
by the Colonna instinct of enmity to the Orsini race. 
Ferdinand, however, was naturally anxious to have some 
better hold over his new friends than that furnished by 
their own oaths of fealty; and with this view caused 
the infant Vittoria to be betrothed to his subject, Ferdi- 
nand d'Avalos, son of Alphonso, Marquis of Pescara, a 
child of about the same age as the little bride. 

Little, as it must appear to our modern notions, as 
the child's future happiness could have been cared for 
in the stipulation of a contract entered into from such 
motives, it so turned out that nothing could have more 

These Splendid Women 99 

effectually secured it. To Vittoria's parents, if any doubts 
on such a point had presented themselves to their minds, 
it would doubtless have appeared abundantly sufficient 
to know that the rank and position of the affianced 
bridegroom were such as to secure their daughter one 
of the highest places among the nobility of the court 
of Naples, and the enjoyment of vast and widespread 
possessions. But to Vittoria herself all this would not 
have been enough. And the earliest and most important 
advantage arising to her from her betrothal was the 
bringing her under the influence of that training, which 
made her such a woman as could not find her happiness 
in such matters. 

We are told that henceforth — that is, after the be- 
trothal — she was educated, together with her future hus- 
band, in the island of Ischia, under the care of the 
widowed Duchessa di Francavilla, the young Pescara's 
elder sister. Costanza d'Avalos, Duchessa di Franca- 
villa, appears to have been one of the most remarkable 
w^omen of her time. When her father Alphonso, 
Marchessa di Pescara, lost his life by the treason of 
a black slave, on the 7th of September, 1495, leaving 
Ferdinand his son the heir to his titles and estates, an 
infant five years old, then quite recently betrothed to 
Vittoria, the Duchessa di Francavilla assumed the entire 
direction and governance of the family. So high was 
her reputation for prudence, energy, and trustworthiness 
in every way, that on the death of her husband, King 
Ferdinand made her governor and "chatelaine" of Ischia, 
one of the most important keys of the kingdom. Nor 
were her gifts and qualities only such as were calcu- 
lated to fit her for holding such a post. Her contempo- 
rary, Caterina Sforza, would have made a "chatelaine" 
as vigilant, as prudent, as brave, and energetic as Cos- 
tanza. But the Neapolitan lady was something more 
than this. 

Intellectual culture had been held in honor at Naples 

100 These Splendid Wofnen 

during the entire period of the Arragonese dynasty. All 
the princes of that house, with the exception, perhaps, 
of Alphonso, the father of Ferdinand II., had been lovers 
of literature and patrons of learning. Of this Ferdinand 
II., under whose auspices the young Pescara was be- 
trothed to Vittoria, and who chose the Duchessa di 
Francavilla as his governor in Ischia, it is recorded that 
when returning in triumph to his kingdom after the 
retreat of the French he rode into Naples with the 
Marchess de Pescara on his right hand, and the poet 
Cariteo on his left. Poets and their art especially were 
welcomed in that literary court ; and the tastes and habits 
of the Neapolitan nobles were at that period probably 
more tempered by those studies, which humanize the 
mind and manners, than the chivalry of any other part of 

Among this cultured society Costanza d'Avalos was 
eminent for culture, and admirably qualified in every 
respect to make an invaluable protectress and friend to 
her youthful sister-in-law. The transplantation, indeed, 
of the infant Colonna from her native feudal castle to 
the Duchessa di Francavilla's home in Ischia was a change 
so complete and so favorable that it may be fairly sup- 
posed that without it the young Roman girl would not 
have grown into the woman she did. 

For in truth, Marino, little calculated, as it will be 
supposed such a stronghold of the ever turbulent Colonna 
was to afford the means and opportunity for intellectual 
culture, became, shortly after the period of Vittoria's be- 
trothal to the heir of the D'Avalos, wholly unfit to offer 
her even a safe home. Whether it continued to be the resi- 
dence of Agnus, while her husband Fabrizio was fighting 
in Naples and her daughter was under the care of the 
Duchessa di Francavilla in Ischia, has not been recorded. 
But we find that when Fabrizio had deserted the French 
King, and arranged himself on the side of Ferdinand of 
Naples, he was fully aware of the dangers to which his 

These Splendid Women 101 

castle would be exposed at the hands of the French troops 
as they passed through Rome on their way to or from 
Naples. To provide against this, he had essayed to 
place them in safety by consigning them as a deposit in 
trust to the Sacred College. But Pope Borgia, deeming, 
probably that he might find the means of possessing him- 
self some of the estates in question, refused to permit 
this, ordering that they should, instead, be delivered into 
his keeping. On this being refused, he ordered Marino 
to be leveled to the ground. And Guicciardini writes, 
that the Colonna, having placed garrisons in Amelici and 
Roca di Papa, two other of the family strongholds, aban- 
doned all the rest of the possessions in the Roman States. 
It seems probable, therefore, that Agnus accompanied her 
husband and daughter to Naples. Subsequently the same 
historian relates that Marino was burned by order of 
Clement VII in 1526, so that it must be supposed that 
the order of Alexander for its utter destruction in 1501 
was not wholly carried into execution. 

The kingdom and city of Naples was during this time 
by no means without a large share of the turmoil and 
warfare that was vexing every part of Italy. Yet who- 
soever had his lot cast during these years elsewhere than 
in Rome was in some degree fortunate. And considering 
the general state of the peninsula and her own social 
position and connections, Vittoria may be deemed very 
particularly so, to have found a safe retreat and an ad- 
mirably governed home on the rock of Ischia. In after 
life we find her clinging to it with tenacious affection, and 
dedicating more than one sonnet to the remembrances 
which made it sacred to her. And though in her widow- 
hood her memory naturally most frequently recurs to the 
happy years of her married life there, the remote little 
island had at least a strong claim upon her affection as the 
home of her childhood. For to the years there passed un- 
der the care of her noble sister-in-law, Costanza d'Avalos, 
she owed the possibility that the daughter of a Roman 

102 These Splendid Women ' 

chieftain who passed his life in han-ying others and being 
harried himself, and in acquiring as a "Condottiere" 
captain the reputation of one of the first soldiers of his 
day, could become either morally or intellectually the 
woman Vittoria Colonna became. 

From the time of her bethrothal in 1495 to that of 
her marriage in 1509, history altogether loses sight of 
Vittoria. We must suppose her to be quietly and happily 
growing from infancy to adolescence under the roof of 
Costanza d'Avalos, the chatelaine of Ischia, sharing the 
studies of her future husband and present playmate, and 
increasing, as in stature, so in every grace both of mind 
and body. The young Pescara seems also to have profited 
by the golden opportunities ofifered him of becoming 
something better than a mere preux chevalier, A taste 
for literature and especially for poesy, was then a ruling 
fashion among the nobles of the court of Naples. And 
the young Ferdinand, of whose personal beauty and 
knightly accomplishments we hear so much, manifested 
also excellent qualities of disposition and intelligence. 

Vittoria, if we are to believe the concurrent testimony 
of nearly all the poets and literateurs of her day, must 
have been beautiful and fascinating in no ordinary de- 
gree. The most authentic portrait of her is one pre- 
served in the Colonna gallery at Rome, supposed to be 
a copy by Girolamo Muziano, from an original picture 
by some artist of higher note. It is a beautiful face of 
the true Roman type, perfectly regular, of exceeding 
purity of outline, and perhaps a little heavy about the 
lower part of the face. But the calm, large, thoughtful 
eye, and the superbly developed forehead, secure it from 
any approach towards an expression of sensualism. The 
fulness of the lip is only sufficient to indicate that sensi- 
tiveness to and appreciation of beauty, which constitutes 
an essential element in the poetical temperament. The 
hair is of that bright golden tint that Titian loved so 
well to paint; and its beauty has been especially recorded 

These Splendid Women 103 

by more than one of her contemporaries. The poet 
Galeazzo da Tarsia, who professed himself, after the 
fashion of the time, her most fervent admirer and devoted 
slave, recurs in many passages of his poems to those fas- 
cinating **chiome d'oro;" as here he sings, v^^ith more 
enthusiasm than taste, of the 

"Trecce d'or, che in gli alti giri, 
Non e che' unqua pareggi o sole o Stella;" 

or again where he tells us that the sun and his lady-love 

"Ambi con chiome d'or lucide e terse." 

But the testimony of graver writers, lay and clerical, 
is not wanting to induce us to believe that Vittoria, in 
her prime, really might be considered "the most beauti- 
ful woman of her day," with more truth than that hack- 
neyed phrase often conveys. So when at length the 
Colonna seniors, and the Duchessa di Francavilla thought 
that the fitting moment had arrived for carrying into 
effect the long-standing engagement — which was not till 
1509, when the promessi sposi were both in their nine- 
teenth year — the young couple were thoroughly in love 
with each other, and went to the altar with every pros- 
pect of wedded happiness. 

The marriage festival was held in Ischia on the 27th 
of December, 1509, with all the pomp then usual on such 
.occasions; and that, as will be seen in a subsequent page, 
from the account preserved by Passeri of another wed- 
ding, at which Vittoria was present, was a serious matter. 
The only particulars recorded for us of her own marriage 
ceremony consist of two lists of the presents reciprocally 
made by the bride and bridegroom. These have been 
printed from the original documents in the Colonna 
archives, by Signor Visconti, and are curious illustrations 
of the habits and manners of that day. 

The Marquis acknowledges to have received, says the 

104 These Splendid Women 

document, from the Lord Fabrizio Colonna and the Lady 
Vittoria : 

\. A bed of French fashion, with the curtains and 
all the hangings of crimson satin, lined with blue taffetas 
with large fringes of gold; with three mattresses and a 
counterpane of crimson satin of similar workmanship; 
and four pillows of crimson satin garnished with fringes 
and tassels of gold. 

2. A cloak of crimson raised brocade. 

3. A cloak of black raised brocade, and white silk. 

4. A cloak of purple velvet and purple brocade. 

5. A cross of diamonds and a housing for a mule, of 
wrought gold. 

The other document sets forth the presents offered by 
Pescara to his bride: 

L A cross of diamonds with a chain of gold, of the 
value of 1000 ducats ($75,000). 

2. A ruby, a diamond, and an emerald set in gold, of 
the value of 400 ducats ($28,000). 

3. A "desciorgh" of gold (whatever that may be), of 
the value of one hundred ducats. 

4. Twelve bracelets of gold, of the value of forty 

Then follow fifteen articles of female dress, gowns, 
petticoats, mantles, skirts, and various other finery with 
strange names, only to be explained by the ghost of some 
sixteenth-century milliner, and altogether ignored by Du- 
cange and all other lexicographers. But they are described 
as composed of satin, velvet, brocade ; besides crimson 
velvet trimmed with gold fringe and lined with ermine, 
and flesh-colored silk petticoats trimmed with black velvet. 
The favorite color appears to be decidedly crimson. 

It is noticeable that while all the more valuable presents 
of Pescara to Vittoria are priced, nothing is said of the 
value of her gifts to the bridegroom. Are we to see 
in this an indication of a greater delicacy of feeling on 
the part of the lady? 

These Splendid Wo??ien 105 

So the priests did their office — a part of the celebra- 
tion, which, curiously enough, we learn from Passed, 
was often, in those days, at Naples, deferred, sometimes 
for years, till after the consummation of the marriage — 
the Pantagruelian f eastings were got through, the guests 
departed, boat-load after boat-load, from the rocky shore 
of Ischia ; and the little island, restored after the unusual 
hubbub to its wonted quiet, was left to be the scene of 
as happy a honeymoon as the most romantic of novel 
readers could wish for her favorite heroine. 

The two years which followed, Vittoria always looked 
back on as the only truly happy portion of her life, and 
many are the passages of her poems which recall their 
tranquil and unbroken felicity, a sweet dream, from which 
she was too soon to be awakened to the ordinary vicissi- 
tudes of sixteenth-century life. 

Vittoria continued her peaceful and quiet life in Ischia, 
lonely indeed, as far as the dearest affections of her 
heart was concerned, but cheered and improved by the 
society of that select knot of poets and men of learning 
whom Costanza di Francavilla, not unassisted by the pres- 
ence of Vittoria, attracted to her little island court. We 
find Musefilo, Filocalo, Giovio, Minturno, Cariteo, Rota, 
Sanazarro, and Bernardo Tasso, among those who 
helped to make this remote rock celebrated throughout 
Europe at that day as one of the best-loved haunts of 
Apollo and the muses, to speak in the phraseology of 
the time. 

Many among them have left passages recording the 
happy days spent on that fortunate island. The social 
circle was doubtless a charming and brilliant one, and the 
more so as contrasted with the general tone and habits 
of the society of the period. But the style of the fol- 
lowing sonnet by Bernardo Tasso, selected by Visconti 
as a specimen of the various effusions by members of 
the select circle upon the subject, while it accurately il- 
lustrates the prevailing modes of thought and diction of 

106 These Splendid IV omen 

that period, will hardly fail to suggest the idea of a 
comparison — mutatis mutandis — between this company of 
sixteenth century choice spirits and that which assembled 
and provoked so severe a lashing in the memorable 
Hotel de Rambouillet, more than a hundred years after- 
ward. But an Italian Moliere is as wholly impossible in 
the nature of things as a French Dante. And the six- 
teenth century swarm of Petrarchists and Classicists 
have, unhke true prophets, found honor in their own 

Gentle Bernardo celebrates in this wise these famed 
Ischia meetings ; which may be thus "done into English" 
for the sake of giving those unacquainted with original 
Italian some tolerably accurate idea of Messer Bernardo's 
euphuisms : 

"Proud rock ! the loved retreat of such a band 

Of earth's best, noblest, greatest, that their light 
Pales other glories to the dazzled sight, 
And like a beacon shines throughout the land; 
If truest worth can reach the perfect state. 

And man may hope to merit heavenly rest, 
Those whom thou harborest in thy rocky breast, 
First in the race will reach the heavenl}'- gate. 
Glory of martial deeds is thine. In thee, 

Brightest the world e'er saw, or heaven gave, 
Dwell chastest beauty, worth, and courtesy! 
Well be it with thee! May both wind and sea 

Respect thee : and thy native air and wave 
Be temper'd ever by a genial sky 1" 

Such is the poetry of one of the brightest of stars of 
the Ischian galaxy ; and the incredulous reader is assured 
that it would be easy to find much worse sonnets by the 
ream among the extant productions of the crowd who 
were affected with the prevalent Petrarch mania of that 
epoch. The statistical returns of the ravages of this 
malady, given by the poetical registrar — general Cres- 
cimbeni, would astonish even Paternoster Row at the 
present day. But Victoria Colonna, though a great 
number of her sonnets do not rise above the level of 

These Splendid Women 107 

Bernardo Tasso in the foregoing specimen, could oc- 
casionally, especially in her later years, reach a much 
higher tone, as will, it is hoped, be shown in future pages. 

In October of 1522 Pescara made a flying visit to his 
wife and home. He was with her three days only, and 
then hastened back to the army. It was the last time 
she ever saw him. Pescara received three wounds, though 
none of them serious, in a battle. He obtained 
the rank of generalissimo of the imperial forces in Italy, 
In the latter end of that year he fell into a state of health 
which seems to have been not well accounted for by the 
medical science of that day. The wounds he had received 
at Pavia in the previous February are specially described 
by Passeri as having been very slight. It seems clearly 
to have been of the nature of a sudden and premature 
decay of all the vital forces. 

Toward the end of the year he abandoned all hope 
of recovery, and sent to his wife to desire her to come 
to him with all speed. He was then at Milan. She set 
out instantly on her painful journey, and had reached 
Viterbo on her way northward when she was met by 
the news of his death. 

Thus Vittoria became a widow in the thirty-sixth year 
of her age. She was still in the full pride of her beauty, 
as contemporary writers assert, and as two extant medals, 
struck at Milan shortly before her husband's death, attest. 
One of them presents the bust of Pescara on the ob- 
verse, and that of Vittoria on the reverse ; the other has 
the same portrait of her on the obverse, and a military 
trophy on the reverse. The face presented is a very 
beautiful one, and seen thus in profile is perhaps more 
pleasing than the portrait, which has been spoken of in 
a previous chapter. She was, moreover, even now prob- 
ably the most celebrated woman in Italy, although she 
had done little as yet to achieve that immense reputation 
which awaited her a few years later. Very few, prob- 
ably, of her sonnets were written before the death of her 

108 These Splendid Women 

husband. But the exalted rank and prominent position 
of her own family, the high military grade of her hus- 
band, the widespread hopes and fears of which he had 
recently been the center in the affairs of the conspiracy, 
joined to the fame of her talents, learning and virtues, 
which had been made the subject of enthusiastic praise 
by nearly all the Ischian knot of poets and wits, rendered 
her a very conspicuous person in the eyes of all Italy. 
Her husband's premature and unexpected death added 
a source of interest of yet another kind of person. A 
young, beautiful and very wealthy widow gave rise to 
quite as many hopes, speculations, and designs in the 
sixteenth century as in any other. 

Here is a sonnet, which was probably written at the 
time of her return to Ischia in 1527; when the sight of 
all the well-beloved scenery of the home of her happy 
years must have brought to her mind Dante's — 

"Nessun maggior dolore 
Che ricordarsi del tempo felice 
Nella miseria!" 

Thus Vittoria looks back on the happy time: 

"On what smooth seas, on what clear waves did sail 

My fresh careened bark! what costly freight 

Of noble merchandise adorn'd its state! 
How pure the breeze, how favoring the gale! 
And Heaven, which now its beauteous rays doth veil, 

Shone then serene and shadowless. But fate 

For the too happy voyager lies in wait. 
Oft fair beginnings in their endings fail. 
And now doth impious changeful fortune bare 

Her angry ruthless brow, whose threat'ning power 

Rouses the tempest, and lets loose its war 
But though rains, winds, and lightnings fill the air, 

And wild beasts seek to rend me and devour, 
Still shines o'er my true soul its faithful star." 

In considering the collection of 117 sonnets from which 
the above specimen has been selected, and which were 

These Splendid Women 109 

probably the product of about seven or eight years, from 
1526 to 1533-4 (in one she laments that the seventh year 
from her husband's death should have brought with it 
no alleviation of her grief), the most interesting question 
that suggests itself is, whether we are to suppose the 
sentiments expressed in them to be genuine outpourings 
of the heart, or rather to consider them all as part of 
the professional equipment of a poet, earnest only in the 
work of achieving a high and brilliant poetical reputation? 
The question is a prominent one, as regards the concrete 
notion to be formed of the sixteenth-century woman, Vit- 
toria Colonna; and is not without interest as bearing on 
the great subject of woman's nature. 

Vittoria's moral conduct, both as a wife and as a 
widow, was wholly irreproachable. A mass of concurrent 
temporary testimony seems to leave no doubt whatever on 
this point. More than one of the poets of her day pro- 
fessed themselves her ardent admirers, devoted slaves, 
and despairing lovers, according to the most approved 
poetical and Platonic fashion of the time; and she received 
their inflated bombast not unpleased with the incense, and 
answered them with other bombast, all en regie and in 
character. The "carte de tendre" was then laid down on 
the Platonic projection; and the sixteenth-century fashion 
in this respect was made a convenient screen, for those 
to whom a screen was needful, quite as frequently as 
the less classical whimsies of a later period. But Platonic 
love to Vittoria was merely an occasion for indulging 
in the spiritualistic pedantries by which the classicists 
of that day sought to link the infant metaphysical specula- 
tions, then beginning to grow out of questions of church 
doctrine, with the ever-interesting subject of romantic 
love. Vittoria, when she began to write on religious 
subjects, was more in earnest; and the result, as we shall 
see, is accordingly improved. 

The noble rivalry of Francis I. and Charles V. was 
again, in 1530, making Naples a field of glory in such sort 

110 These splendid Wo?nen 

that outraged nature appeared also on the scene with pes- 
tilence in her hand. The first infliction had driven most 
of the literary society in Naples to take refuge in the 
comparative security of Ischia. The latter calamity had 
reached even that retreat ; and Vittoria some time in that 
year again visited Rome and resided during her stay there 
with Donna Giovanna d'Aragona, her sister-in-law. Paul 
III., Farnese, had succeeded Clement in the chair of St. 
Peter; and though Paul was on many accounts very far 
from being a good pope or a good priest, yet the Farnese 
was an improvement on the Medici. As ever, Rome began 
to show signs of improvement when danger to her system 
from without began to make itself felt. Paul seems very 
soon to have become convinced that the general council, 
which had been so haunting a dread to Clement during 
the whole of his pontificate, could no longer be avoided. 
But it was still hoped in the council chambers of the 
Vatican, that the doctrinal difficulties of the German re- 
formers which threatened the church with so fatal a 
schism, might be got over by conciliation and dexterous 
theological diplomacy. As soon as it became evident that 
this hope was vain, fear began to influence the papal 
policy, and at its bidding the ferocious persecuting bigotry 
of Paul IV. was contrasted with the shameless profligacy 
of Alexander, the epicurean indifferentism of Leo, and 
the pettifogging worldliness of Clement. 

Accordingly, we are told that her stay in Rome on this 
occasion was a continued ovation; and Signor Visconti 
informs us, on the authority of the Neapolitan historian, 
Gregorio Rosso, that Charles V., being then in Rome, 
condescended to visit in their own house the ladies 
Giovanna di' Aragona, wife of Ascanio Colonna, and Vit- 
toria Colonna, Marchesa di Pescara." 

The following year she went, Visconti says, to Lucca, 
from which city she passed to Ferrara, arriving there on 
the 8th of April, "in humble guise, with six waiting- 
women only." Ercole d'Este, the second of the name, was 

These Splendid Women 111 

then the reigning duke, having succeeded to his father Al- 
phonso in 1534. And the court of Ferrara, which had 
been for several years pre-eminent among the principali- 
ties of Italy for its love of literature and its patronage 
of literary men, became yet more notably so in conse- 
quence of the marriage of Hercules II. w^ith Renee of 
France, the daughter of Louis XII. The Protestant 
tendencies and sympathies of this princess had rendered 
Ferrara also the resort, and in some instances the refuge, 
of many professors and favorers of the new ideas which 
were beginning to stir the mind of Italy. And though 
Vittoria's orthodox Catholic biographers are above all 
things anxious to clear her from all suspicion of having 
ever held opinions eventually condemned by the church, 
there is every reason to believe that her journey to Fer- 
rara was prompted by the wish to exchange ideas upon 
these subjects with some of those leading minds which 
were known to have imbibed Protestant tendencies, if not 
to have acquired fully formed Protestant convictions. It 
is abundantly clear, from the character of her friendships, 
from her correspondence, and from the tone of her poetry 
at this period, and during the remainder of her life, that 
her mind was absorbingly occupied with topics of this 
nature. And the short examination of the latter division 
of her works, will probably convince such as have no 
partisan Catholic feelings on the subject, that Vittoria's 
mind had made very considerable progress in the Prot- 
estant direction. 

The reader fortunate enough to be wholly unread in 
controversial divinity will yet probably not have escaped 
hearing of the utterly interminable disputes on justifica- 
tion, free-will, election, faith, good works, prevenient 
grace, original sin, absolute decrees, and predestination, 
which, with much of evil, and as yet little good conse- 
quence, have occupied the most acute intellects and most 
learning-stored brains of Europe for the last three cen- 
turies. Without any accurate knowledge of the manner 

112 These Splendid Women 

in which the doctrines represented by these familiar terms 
are dependent on, and necessitated by, each other, and of 
the precise point on which the opposing creeds have 
fought this eternal battle, he will be aware that the 
system popularly known as Calvinism represents the side 
of the question taken by the reformers of the sixteenth 
century, while the opposite theory of justification by good 
works was that held by the orthodox Catholic Church, or 
unreforming party. And with merely these general ideas 
to guide him, it will appear strangely unaccountable to 
find all the best, noblest, and purest minds adopting a 
system which in its simplest logical development inevitably 
leads to the most debasing demonolatry, and lays the 
axe to the root of all morality and noble action; while 
the corrupt, the worldly, the ambitious, the unspiritual, 
the unintellectual natures that formed the dominant party, 
held the opposite opinion, apparently so favorable to 

An explanation of this phenomenon by a partisan of 
either school would probably be long and somewhat in- 
tricate. But the matter becomes intelligible enough, and 
the true key to the wishes and conduct of both parties is 
found, if, without regarding the moral or theological re- 
sults of either scheme, or troubling ourselves with the 
subtleties by which either side sought to meet the objec- 
tions of the other, we consider sim.ply the bearings of 
the new doctrines on that ecclesiastical system, which the 
orthodox and dominant party were determined at all cost 
to support. 

Indeed, even among the reformers in Italy the fear of 
schism was so great, and the value attached to church 
unity so high, that these considerations probably did as 
much toward checking and finally extinguishing Prot- 
estantism in Italy as did the strong hand of persecution. 
From the first, many of the most earnest advocates of 
the new doctrines were by no means prepared to sever 
themselves from the Church for the sake of their opinions. 

These splendid Women 113 

Some were ready to face such schism and martyrdom 
also in the cause ; as, for instance, Bernardino Ochino, the 
General of the Capuchins, and the most powerful preacher 
of his day, who fled from Italy and became a professed 
Protestant, and Carnesecchi, the Florentine, who was put 
to death for his heresy at Rome. 

But it had not yet become clear how far the new doc- 
trines might be held compatibly with perfect community 
with the Church of Rome at the time when Vittoria ar- 
rived in that city from Ferrara. The conference with 
the German Protestants, by means of which it was hoped 
to effect a reconciliation, was then being arranged, and 
the hopes of Vittoria's friends ran high. When these 
hopes proved delusive, and when Rome pronounced her- 
self decisively on the doctrines held by the Italian re- 
formers, the most conspicuous friends of Vittoria did 
not quit the church. She herself writes ever as its sub- 
missive and faithful daughter. But as to her having 
held opinions which were afterward declared heretical, 
and for which others suffered, much of her poetry, writ- 
ten probably about this time, affords evidence so clear 
that it is wonderful Tiraboschi and her biographers can 
deem it possible to maintain her orthodoxy. 

Take, for example, the following sonnet, thus rendered 
into English blank verse, with a greater closeness to the 
original than might perhaps have been attained in a trans- 
lation hampered by the necessity of rhyming: 

"When I reflect on that bright noble ray 
Of grace divine, and on that mighty power, 
Which clears the intellect, inflames the heart 
With virtue, strong with more than human strength, 
My soul then gathers up her will, intent 
To render to that Power the honor due; 
But only so much can she, as free grace 
Gives her to feel and know th' inspiring fire. 
Thus can the soul her high election make 
Fruitful and sure; but only to such point 
As, in his goodness, wills the Fount of good. 

1 14 These Splendid Women 

Nor art nor industry can speed her course; 

He most securely and alertly runs 

Who most by Heaven's free favor is upheld." 

The leading points of the Calvinistic doctrine could 
hardly be in the limits of a sonnet more clearly and com- 
prehensively stated. 

And again, in the following sonnet will be remarked 
a tone of thought and style of phrase perfectly con- 
genial to modern devotional feeling of what is termed the 
evangelical school ; while it is assuredly not such as would 
meet the approval of orthodox members of either Roman 
Catholic or Anglo-Catholic churches; thus rendered into 
English : 

"When by the light, whose living ray both peace 
And joy to faithful bosoms doth impart, 
The indurated ice, around the heart 

So often gather'd, is dissolved through grace, 

Beneath that blessed radiance from above 

Falls from me the dark mantle of my sin; 
Sudden I stand forth pure and radiant in 

The garb of primal innocence and love. 

And though I strive with lock and trusty key 
To keep that ray, so subtle 'tis and coy, 
By one low thought 'tis scared and put to flight. 
So flies it from me. I in sorrowing plight 
Remain, and pray, that he from base alloy 

May purge me, so the light come sooner back to me." 

Here, in addition to the "point of doctrine" laid down 
in the previous sonnet, we have that sudden and instan- 
taneous conversion and sanctification ; and that without 
any aid from sacrament, altar, or priest. 

Similar thoughts are again expressed in the next sonnet 
selected, which in Signor Visconti's edition immediately 
follows the preceding: 

"Feeling new force to conquer primal sin, 

Yet all in vain I spread my wings to thee 
My light, until the air around shall be^ 

Made clear for me by thy warm breath within. 

That mortal works should reach the infinite 

These splendid Women 115 

Is thy work, Lord! For in a moment Thou 
Cans't give them work. Left to myself I know 

My thought would fall, when at its utmost height. 
I long for that clear radiance above 

That puts to flight all clouds; and that bright flame 
Which secret burning warms the pagan soul; 

So that set free from every mortal aim, 
And all intent alone on heavenly love, 
She flies with stronger pinion toward her goal." 

The readers of the foregoing sonnets will prob- 
ably have wondered at the greatness of the poetical 
reputation, which was built out of such materials. It is 
but fair, however, to the poetess to state, that the citations 
have been selected, rather with the view of decisively- 
proving these Protestant leanings of Vittoria, which have 
been so eagerly denied, and of illustrating the tone of 
Italian Protestant feeling at that period, than of pre- 
senting the most favorable specimens of her poetry. 
However fitly devotional feeling may be clothed in poetry 
of the highest order, controversial divinity is not a happy 
subject for verse. And Vittoria, on the comparatively 
rare occasions, when she permits herself to escape from 
the consideration of disputed dogma, can make a nearer 
approach to true poetry of thought and expression. 

In the following sonnet, the more subjective tone of 
her thought affords us an autobiographical glimpse of her 
state of mind on religious subjects. We find that the 
new tenets which she had imbibed had failed to give her 
peace of mind. That comfortable security, and undoubt- 
ing satisfied tranquillity, procured for the mass of her 
orthodox contemporaries, by the due performance of their 
fasts, vigils, penitences, etc., was not attained for Vit- 
toria by a creed, which required her, as she here tells us, 
to stifle the suggestions of her reason. 

"Had I with heavenly arms 'gainst self and sense 
And human reason waged successful war, 
Then with a different spirit soaring far 

I'd fly the world's vain glory and pretence. 

Then soaring thought on wings of faith might rise. 

116 These Splendid Women 

Armed by a hope no longer vain or frail, 
Far from the madness of this earthly vale, 

Led by true virtue toward its native skies. 

That better aim is ever in my sight, 
Of man's existence; but not yet 'tis mine 
To speed sure-footed on the happy way. 
Signs the rising sun and coming day 
I see; but enter not the courts divine 

Whose holy portals lead to perfect light." 

There is every reason to feel satisfied, both from such 
records as we have of her life and from the perfectly- 
agreeing testimony of her contemporaries, that the tenor 
of her ovi^n hfe and conduct was not only blameless but 
marked by the consistent exercise of many noble virtues. 
But, much as we hear from the lamentations of preach- 
ers of the habitual tendency of human conduct to fall 
short of human professions, the opposite phenomena ex- 
hibited by men, whose intuitive moral sense is superior 
to the teaching derivable from their creed, is perhaps quite 
as common. That band of eminent men, who were espe- 
cially known as the maintainers and defenders of the 
peculiar tenets held by Vittoria, were unquestionably in 
all respects the best and noblest of their age and country. 
Yet their creed was assuredly an immoral one. And in 
the rare passages of our poetess's writings in which a 
glimpse of moral theory can be discerned, the low and 
unenlightened nature of it is such as to prove that the 
heaven-taught heart reached purer heights than the creed- 
taught intelligence could attain. 

Vittoria Colonna has survived in men's memory as a 
poetess. But she is far more interesting to the historical 
student, who would obtain a full understanding of that 
wonderful sixteenth century, as a Protestant. Her highly 
gifted and richly cultivated intelligence, her great social 
position, and above all, her close intimacy with the emi- 
nent men who most strove to set on foot an Italian 
reformation which should not be incompatible with the 
papacy, make the illustration of her religious opinions a 

These splendid Women 117 

matter of no slight historical interest. And the bulk of 
the citations from her works has accordingly been selected 
with this view. But it is fair to her reputation to give one 
sonnet at least, chosen for no other reason than its merit. 
The following, written apparently on the anniversary 
of our Saviour's crucifixion, is certainly one of the best, 
if not the best, in the collection : 

"The angels to eternal bliss preferred, 

Long on this day, a painful death to die, 
Lest in the heavenly mansions of the sky 

The servant be more favored than his Lord. 

Man's ancient mother weeps the deed, this day 
That shut the gates of heaven against her race. 
Weeps the two pierced hands, whose work of grace, 

Refinds the path, from which she made man stray. 

The sun his ever-burning ray doth veil ; 
Earth and sky tremble; ocean quakes amain, 
And mountains gape, and living rocks are torn. 

The fiends, on watch for human evil, wail 
The added weight of their restraining chain. 
Man only weeps not ; yet was weeping born." 

As the previous extracts from the works of Vittoria 
have been, as has been stated, selected principally with 
a view to prove her Protestantism, it is fair to observe 
that there are several sonnets addressed to the Virgin 
Mary, and some to various saints, from which (though 
they are wholly free from any allusion to the grosser 
superstitions that Rome encourages her faithful disciples 
to connect with these personages) it is yet clear that the 
writer believed in the value of saintly intercession at the 
throne of grace. It is also worth remarking, that she 
nowhere betrays the smallest consciousness that she is 
differing in opinion from the recognized tenets of the 
Church, unless it is found, as was before suggested, in 
an occasional obscurity of phrase, which seems open to 
the suspicion of having been intentional. 

The majority of these poems, however, were in all 
probability composed before the Church had entered on 

^118 These Splendid Women 

hef new career of persecution. And as regards the ever- 
recurring leading point of "justification by grace", it was 
impossible to say exactly how far it was orthodox to go 
in the statement of this tenet, until Rome had finally de- 
cided her doctrine by the decrees of the "Council of 

One other remark, which will hardly fail to suggest 
itself to the modern reader of Vittoria's poetry, may be 
added respecting these once celebrated and enthusiastically 
received works. There is not to be discovered through- 
out the whole of them one spark of Italian patriotic feel- 
ing. The absence of any such, must undoubtedly be re- 
garded only as a confirmation of the fact asserted in the 
previous pages, that no sentiment of the kind was then 
known in Italy. In that earlier portion of her works, 
which is occupied almost exclusively with her husband's 
praises, it is hardly possible that the expression of such 
feelings should have found no place, had they existed in 
her mind. But it is a curious instance of the degree to 
which even the better intellects of an age are blinded by 
and made subservient to the tone of feeling and habits of 
thoughts prevalent around them, it never occurs to this 
pure and lofty minded Vittoria, in celebrating the prow- 
ess of her hero, to give a thought to the cause for which 
he was drawing the sword. To prevail, to be the stronger, 
"to take great cities," "to rout the foe" appears to be all 
that her beau ideal of heroism required. 

Wrong is done, and the strong-handed doer of it ad- 
mired, the moral sense is blunted by the cowardly worship 
of success, and might takes from right the suffrages of 
the public, in the nineteenth as in the sixteenth century. 
But the contemplation of the total absence from such a 
mind as that of Vittoria Colonna, of a recognition of a 
right and a wrong in such matters, furnishes highly 
instructive evidence of the reality of the moral progress 
mankind has achieved. 

Vittoria arrived in Rome from Ferrara in all probability 

These Splendid Women 1 19 

about the end of the year 1537. She was now in the 
zenith of her reputation. The learned and elegant Bembo 
writes of her that he considered her poetical judgment as 
sound and authoritative as that of the greatest masters of 
the art of song. Guidiccioni, the poetical Bishop of Fos- 
sombrone, and of Paul III.'s ablest diplomatists, declares 
that the ancient glory of Tuscany had altogether passed 
into Latium in her person ; and sends her sonnets of his 
own, with earnest entreaties that she will point out the 
faults of them. Veronica Gambara, herself a poetess of 
merit perhaps not inferior to that of Vittoria, professed 
herself her most ardent admirer, and engaged Rinaldo 
Corso to write the commentary on her poems, which he 
executed as we have seen. Bernardo Tasso made her 
the subject of several of his poems. Giovio dedicated 
to her his life of Pescara, and Cardinal Pompeo Colonna 
his book on "The Praises of Women;" and Contarini 
paid her the far more remarkable compliment of dedicat- 
ing to her his work, "On Free Will." 

Paul III. was, as Muratori says, by no means well dis- 
posed toward the Colonna family. Yet Vittoria must have 
had influence with the haughty and severe old Farnese. 
For both Bembo and Fregoso, the Bishop of Naples, 
have taken occasion to acknowledge that they owed their 
promotion to the purple in great measure to her. 

But the most noteworthy event of this period of Vit- 
toria's life, was the commencement of her acquaintance 
with Michael Angelo Buonarroti. That great man was 
then in his 63d year, while the poetess was in her 47th. 
The acquaintanceship grew rapidly into a close and dur- 
able friendship, which lasted during the remainder of Vit- 
toria's life. It was a friendship eminently honorable to 
both of them. Michael Angelo was a man whose in- 
fluence on his age was felt and acknowledged, while he 
was yet living and exercising it to a degree rarely observ- 
able even in the case of the greatest minds. He had, at 
the time in question, already reached the zenith of his 

120 These Splendid Women 

fame, although he lived to witness and enjoy it for an- 
other quarter of a century. He was a man formed by 
nature, and already habituated by the social position his 
contemporaries had accorded to him, to mould men — not 
to be moulded by them — not a smooth or pHable man; 
rugged rather, self-relying, self-concentrated, and, though 
full of kindness for those who needed kindness, almost 
a stern man ; no courtier, though accustomed to the society 
of courts ; and apt to consider courtier-like courtesies and 
habitudes as impertinent impediments to the requirements 
of his high calling, to be repressed rather than conde- 
scended to. Yet the strong and kingly nature of this high- 
souled old man was moulded into new form by contact 
with that of the comparatively youthful poetess. 

The religious portion of the great artist's nature had 
scarcely shaped out for itself any more defined and sub- 
stantial form of expression than a worship of the beauti- 
ful in spirit as well as in matter. By Vittoria he was 
made a devout Christian. The change is strongly marked 
in his poetry ; and in several passages of the poems, four 
or five in number, addressed to her, he attributes it en- 
tirely to her influence. 

Some silly stuff has been written by very silly writers, 
by way of imparting the "interesting" character of a 
helle passion, more or less platonic, to this friendship 
between the sexagenarian artist and the immaculate 
Colonna. No argument is necessary to indicate the utter 
absurdity of an idea which implies a thorough ignorance 
of the persons in question, of the circumstances of their 
friendship, and of all that remains on record of what 
passed between them. Mr. Harford, whose "Life of 
Michael Angelo" has been already quoted, was permitted, 
he says, to hear read the letters from Vittoria to her 
friend, which are preserved in that collection of papers 
and memorials of the great artist, which forms the most 
treasured possession of his descendants ; and he gives the 
following account of them : 

These Splendid Women 121 

"They are five in number; and there is a sixth, ad- 
dressed by her to a friend, which relates to Michael 
Angelo. Two of these letters refer in very grateful terms 
to the fine drawings he had been making for her, and to 
which she alludes with admiration. Another glances with 
deep interest at the devout sentiments of a sonnet, which 
it appears he had sent for her perusal. . . . Another 
tells him in playful terms that his duties as architect of 
St. Peter's, and her own to the youthful inmates of the 
convent of St. Catherine at Viterbo, admit not of their 
frequently exchanging letters. This must have been writ- 
ten just a year before her death, which occurred in 1547. 
Michael Angelo became architect of St. Peter's in 1546. 
These letters are written with the most perfect ease, in 
a firm, strong hand ; but there is not a syllable in any of 
them approaching to tenderness." 

The period of Vittoria's stay in Rome on this occasion 
must have been a pleasant one. The acknowledged leader 
of the best and most intellectual society in that city ; sur- 
rounded by a company of gifted and high-minded men, 
bound to her and to each other by that most intimate 
and ennobling of all ties, the common profession of a 
higher, nobler, purer theory of life than that which pre- 
vailed around them, and a common membership of what 
might almost be called a select church within a church, 
whose principles and teaching its disciples hoped to see 
rapidly spreading and beneficially triumphant; dividing 
her time between her religious duties, her literary occu- 
pations, and conversation with well-beloved and well- 
understood friends — Vittoria can hardly have been still 
tormented by temptations to commit suicide. Yet in a 
medal struck in her honor at this period of her Hfe, the 
last of a series engraved for Visconti's edition of her 
works, the reverse represents a phoenix on her funeral 
pile gazing at the sun, while the flames are rising around 
her. The obverse has a bust of the poetess, showing the 
features a good deal changed in the course of the six or 

J122 These Splendid Women 

seven years which had elapsed since the execution of that 
silly Pyramus and Thisbe medal mentioned in a previous 
chapter, though still regular and well formed. The 
tendency to fatness, and to a comfortable looking double 
chin, is considerably increased. She wears a singularly 
unbecoming head-dress of plaited linen, sitting close to 
and covering the entire head, with long pendants at the 
sides falling over the shoulders. 

These pleasant Roman days were, however, destined 
to be of brief duration. They were cut short, strange 
as the statement may seem, by the imposition of an in- 
creased tax upon salt. For when Paul III. resorted, in 
1539, to that always odious and cruel means of pillaging 
his people, Ascanio Colonna maintained that, by virtue of 
some ancient privilege, the new tax could not be levied 
upon his estates. The pontifical tax-gatherers imprisoned 
certain of his vassals for refusing to pay; whereupon 
Ascanio assembled his retainers, made a raid into the 
Campagna, and drove off a large number of cattle. The 
pope lost no time in gathering an army of ten thousand 
men, and "war was declared" between the sovereign and 
the Colonna. The varying fortunes of this "war" have 
been narrated in detail by more than one historian. Much 
mischief was done, and a great deal of misery occasioned 
by both the contending parties. But at length the forces 
of the sovereign got the better of those of his vassal, and 
the principal fortresses of the Colonna were taken, and 
their fortifications ordered to be razed. 

It was in consequence of these misfortunes, and of 
that remarkable "solidarity" which, as has been before 
observed, united in those days the members of a family 
in their fortunes and reverses, that Vittoria quitted Rome, 
probably toward the end of 1540, and retired to Orvieto. 
But the loss of their brightest ornament was a misfortune 
which the highest circles of Roman society could not 
submit to patiently. Many of the most influential per- 
sonages at Paul III.'s court visited the celebrated exile at 

These Splendid Women 123 

Orvieto, and succeeded ere long in obtaining her return 
to Rome after a very short absence. And we accordingly 
find her again in the Eternal City in the August of 1541. 

There is a letter written by Luca Contile, the Sienese 
historian, dramatist and poet, in which he speaks of a 
visit he had paid to Vittoria in Rome in that month. She 
asked him, he writes, for news of Fra Bernardino 
(Ochino), and on his replying that he had left behind 
him at Milan the highest reputation for virtue and holi- 
ness, she answered, "God grant that he so persevere !" 

On this passage of Luca Contile's letter, Visconti and 
others have built a long argument in proof of Vittoria's 
orthodoxy. It is quite clear, they say, that she already 
suspected and lamented Ochino's progress toward heresy, 
and thus indicates her own aversion to aught that might 
lead to separation from the Church of Rome. It would 
be difficult, however, to show that the simple phrase in 
question had necessarily any such meaning. But any 
dispute on this point is altogether nugatory; for it may 
be at once admitted that Vittoria did not quit, and in all 
probability would not under any circumstances have 
quitted the communion of the Church. And if this is all 
that her Romanist biographers wish to maintain, they un- 
questionably are correct in their statements. She acted 
in this respect in conformity with the conduct of the 
majority of those eminent men whose disciple and friend 
she was during so many years. And the final extinction 
of the reformatory movement in Italy was in great meas- 
ure due precisely to the fact, that conformity to Rome was 
dearer to most Italian minds than the independent asser- 
tion of their own opinions. It may be freely granted, 
that there is every reason to suppose that it would have 
been so to Vittoria, had she not been so fortunate as 
to die before her peculiar tenets were so definitively con- 
demned as to make it necessary for her to choose between 
abandoning them or abandoning Rome. But surely all 
the interest which belongs to the question of her religious 

124 These Splendid Women 

opinions consists in the fact that she, like the majority 
of the best minds of her country and age, assuredly held 
doctrines which Rome discovered and declared to be in- 
compatible with her creed. 

A more agreeable record of Vittoria's presence in Rome 
at this time, and an interesting ghmpse of the manner in 
which many of her hours were passed, is to be found 
in the papers left by one Francesco d'Olanda, a Portu- 
guese painter, who was then in the Eternal City. He had 
been introduced, he tells us, by the kindness of Messer 
Lattanzio Tolemei of Siena to the Marchesa de Pescara, 
and also to Michael Angelo and he has recorded at length 
several conversations between these and two or three other 
members of their society, in which he took part. The ob- 
ject of his notes appears to have been chiefly to preserve 
the opinions expressed by the great Florentine on subjects 
connected with the arts. And it must be admitted, that 
the conversation of the eminent personages mentioned, 
as recorded by the Portuguese painter, appears, if judged 
by the standard of nineteenth-century notions, to have 
been wonderfully dull and flat. 

The record is a very curious one even in this point of 
view. It is interesting to measure the distance between 
what was considered first-rate conversation in 1540, and 
what would be tolerated among intelligent people in 1850. 
The good-old-times admirers, who would have us believe 
that the ponderous erudition of past generations is dis- 
tasteful to us, only by reason of the touch-and-go butterfly 
frivolousness of the m.odern mind, are in error. The 
long discourses which charmed a sixteenth-century audi- 
ence are to us intolerably boring, because they are filled 
with platitudes — with facts, inferences, and speculations, 
that is, which have passed and repassed through the popu- 
lar mind till they have assumed the appearance of self- 
evident truths and fundamental axioms, which it is loss 
of time to spend words on. And time has so wonderfully 
risen in value! And though there are more than ever 

These Splendid Women 125 

men whose discourse might be instructive and profitable 
to their associates, the universaHty of the habit of read- 
ing prevents conversation from being turned into a lec- 
ture. Those who have matter worth communicating can 
do so more effectually and to a larger audience by means 
of the pen; and those willing to be instructed can make 
themselves masters of the thoughts of others far more 
satisfactorily by the medium of a book. 

But the external circumstances of these conversations, 
noted down for us by Francesco d'Olanda, give us an 
amusing peep into the literary life of the Roman world 
three hundred years ago. 

It was one Sundajy afternoon that the Portuguese 
artist went to call on Messer Lattanzio Tolemei, nephew 
of the cardinal of that name. The servants told him that 
their master was in the church of San Silvestro, at Monte 
Cavallo, in company with the Marchesa di Pescara, for 
the purpose of hearing a lecture on the Epistles of St. 
Paul, from a certain Friar Ambrose of Siene. Maestro 
Francesco lost no time in following his friend thither. 
And "as soon as the reading and the interpretations of 
it were over," the Marchesa, turning to the stranger and 
inviting him to sit beside her, said, "If I am not mistaken, 
Francesco d'Olanda would better like to hear Michael 
Angelo preach on painting, than to listen to Friar Am- 
brose's lecture." 

Whereupon the painter, "feeling himself piqued," as- 
sures the lady that he can take interest in other matters 
than painting, and that, hoavever willingly he would 
listen to Michael Angelo on art, he would prefer to hear 
Friar Ambrose when St. Paul's epistles were in question. 

"Do not be angry, Messer Francesco," said Signor 
Lattanzio, thereupon. "The Marchesa is far from doubt- 
ing that the man capable of painting may be capable of 
aught else. We, in Italy, have too high an estimate of 
art for that. But perhaps we should gather from the 
remark of the Signora Marchesa the intention of adding 

126 These Splendid Women 

to the pleasure you have already had, that of hearing 
Michael Angelo." 

"In that case," said I, "her Excellence would do only 
as is her wont — that is, to accord greater favors than 
one would have dared to ask of her." 

So Vittoria calls to a servant, and bids him go to the 
house of Michael Angelo and tell him "that I and Messer 
Lattanzio are here in this cool chapel, that the church is 
shut, and very pleasant, and ask him if he will come and 
spend a part of the day with us, that we may put it to 
profit in his company. But do not tell him that Francesco 
d'Olanda the Spaniard is here." 

Then there is some very mild raillery about how Michael 
Angelo was to be led to speak of painting — it being, it 
seems, very questionable whether he could be induced to 
do so; and a little bickering follows between Maestro 
Francesco and Friar Ambrose, who feels convinced that 
Michael will not be got to talk before the Portuguese, 
while the latter boasts of his intimacy with the great man. 

Presently there is a knock at the church door. It is 
Michael Angelo, who has been met by the servants as he 
was going toward the baths, talking with Orbino, his 

"The Marchesa rose to receive him, and remained 
standing a good while before making him sit down be- 
tween her and Messer Lattanzio." Then, "with an art 
which I can neither describe nor imitate, she began to talk 
of various matters with infinite wit and grace, without 
ever touching the subject of painting, the better to make 
sure of the great painter." 

"One is sure enough," she says at last, "to be com- 
pletely beaten, as often as one ventures to attack Michael 
Angelo on his own ground, which is that of wit and 
raillery. You will see, Messer Lattanzio, that to put him 
down and reduce him to silence, we must talk to him of 
briefs, law processes, or painting." 

By which subtle and deep-laid plot the great man is set 

These Splendid Women 127 

off into a long discourse on painters and painting. 

"His Holiness," said the Marchesa after a while, "has 
granted me the favor of authorizing me to build a new 
convent, near this spot, on the slope of Monte Cavallo, 
where there is the ruined portico, from the top of which, 
it is said, that Nero looked on while Rome was burning; 
so that virtuous women may efface the trace of so wicked 
a man. I do not know, Michael Angelo, what form or 
proportions to give the building, or on which side to 
make the entrance. Would it not be possible to join 
together some parts of the ancient constructions, and make 
them available toward the new building?" 

"Yes," said Michael Angelo ; "the ruined portico might 
serve for a bell-tower." 

This repartee, says our Portuguese reporter, was ut- 
tered with so much seriousness and aplomb that Messer 
Lattanzio could not forbear from remarking it. 

From which we are led to infer that the great Michael 
was understood to have made a joke. He added, however, 
more seriously, "I think that your Excellence may build 
the proposed convent without difficulty ; and when we go 
out, we can, if your Excellence so please, have a look 
at the spot, and suggest to you some ideas." 

Then, after a complimentary speech from Vittoria, in 
which she declares that the public, who know Michael 
Angelo's works only without being acquainted with his 
character, are ignorant of the best part of him, the lecture, 
to which all this is introductory, begins. And when the 
company part at its close, an appointment is made to 
meet again another Sunday in the same church. 

A painter in search of an unhackneyed subject might 
easily choose a worse one than that suggested by this 
notable group, making the cool and quiet church their 
Sunday afternoon drawing-room. 

The few remaining years of Vittoria's life were spent 
between Rome and Viterbo, an episcopal city some thirty 
miles to the north of it. In this latter her home was in 

128 These Splendid Women 

the convent of the nuns of St. Catherine. Her society 
there consisted chiefly of Cardinal Pole, the governor of 
Viterbo, her old friend Marco Antonio Flaminio, and 
Archbishop Soranzo. 

During these years the rapidly increasing conscious- 
ness on the part of the Church of the danger of the 
doctrines held by the reforming party was speedily making 
it unsafe to profess those opinions, which, as we have 
seen, gave the color to so large a portion of Vittoria's 
poetry, and which had formed her spiritual character. 
And these friends, in the closest intimacy with whom she 
lived at Viterbo, were not the sort of men calculated to 
support her in any daring reliance on the dictates of her 
own soul, when these chanced to be in opposition to the 
views of the Church. Pole appears to have been at this 
time the special director of her conscience. And we know 
but too well, from the lamentable sequel of his own career, 
the sort of counsel he would be likely to give her under 
the circumstances. There is an extremely interesting 
letter extant, written by her from Viterbo to the Cardinal 
Cervino, who was afterward Pope Marcellus 11. , which 
proves clearly enough, to the great delight of her or- 
thodox admirers, that let her opinions have been what 
they might, she was ready to "submit" them to the 
censorship of Rom^e. We have seen how closely her 
opinions agreed with those which drove Bernardino 
(Dchino to separate himself from the Church and fly from 
its vengeance. Yet under Pole's tutelage she writes as 
follows : 

"Most Illustrious and most Reverend Sir: The 
more opportunity I have had of observing the actions of 
his Eminence the Cardinal of England (Pole), the more 
clear has it seemed to me that he is a true and sincere 
servant of God. Whenever, therefore, he charitably con- 
descends to give me his opinion on any point, I conceive 
myself safe from error in following^ his advice. And he 

These Splendid Women 129 

told me that, in his opinion, I ought, in case any letter or 
other matter should reach me from Fra Bernardino, to 
send the same to your most Reverend Lordship, and re- 
turn no answer, unless I should be directed to do so. I 
send you therefore the enclosed, which I have this day 
received, together with the little book attached. The 
whole was in a packet, which came to the post here by 
a courier from Bologna, without any other writing inside. 
And I have thought it best not to make use of any other 
means of sending it, than by a servant of my own." 

She adds in a postscript : 

"It grieves me much that the more he tries to excuse 
himself the more he accuses himself ; and the more he 
thinks to save others from shipwreck, the more he ex- 
poses himself to the flood, being himself out of the ark 
which saves and secures." 

Poor Ochino little thought probably that his letter to 
his former admiring and fervent disciple would be passed 
on with such a remark to the hands of his enemies ! He 
ought, however, to have been aware that princesses and 
cardinals, whatever speculations they may have indulged 
in, do not easily become heretics. 

She returned once more from Viterbo to Rome toward 
the end of the year 1544, and took up her residence in 
the convent of Benedictines of St. Anne. While there 
she composed a Latin prayer, which has been much ad- 
mired, and which though not so Ciceronian in its diction 
as Bembo might have written, will bear comparison with 
similar compositions by many more celebrated persons. 
Several of the latest of her poems were also written at 
this time. But her health began to fail so rapidly as to 
give great uneasiness to her friends. Several letters are 
extant from Tolomei to her physician, anxiously inquiring 
after her health, urging him to neglect no resources of 

130 These Splendid Women 

his art, and bidding him remember that **the Hves of 
many, who continually receive from her their food — 
some that of the body and others that of the mind — are 
bound up in hers." The celebrated physician and poet, 
Fracastoro, was written to in Verona. In his reply, after 
suggesting medical remedies, he says, "Would that a 
physician for her mind could be found ! Otherwise the 
fairest light in this world will, from causes by no means 
clear {a non so cite sfrano modo) be extinguished and 
taken from our eyes." 

The medical opinion of Fracastoro, writing from a 
distance, may not be of much value. But it is certain 
that many circumstances combined to render these de- 
cHning years of Vittoria's life unhappy. The fortunes 
of her family were under a cloud; and it is probable 
that she was as much grieved by her brother's conduct as 
by the consequences of it. The death also of the Mar- 
chese del Vasto, in the flower of his age, about this time, 
was a severe blow to her. Ever since those happy early 
days in Ischia, when she had been to him, as she said, 
morally and intellectually a mother, the closest ties of 
affection had united them; and his loss was to Vittoria 
like that of a son. Then again, though she had per- 
fectly made up her mind as to the line of conduct it 
behooved her to take in regard to any difficulties of 
religious opinion, yet it cannot be doubted that the neces- 
sity of separating herself from so many whom she had 
loved and venerated, deserting them, as it were, in their 
falling fortunes, must have been acutely painful to her. 
Possibly also conscience was not wholly at rest with her 
on this matter. It may be that the still voice of inward 
conviction would sometimes make obstinate murmur 
against bhndfold submission to a priesthood, who ought 
not, according to the once expressed opinion of the 
poetess, to come between the creature and his Creator. 

As she became gradually worse and weaker, she was 

These Splendid Women 131 

removed from the convent of St. Anne to the neighboring 
house of GiuHano Cesarini, the husband of GuiHa 
Colonna, the only one of her kindred then left in Rome. 
And there she breathed her last, toward the end of Feb- 
ruary, 1547, in the 57th year of her age. 

In her last hours she was visited by her faithful and 
devotedly attached friend, Michael Angelo, who watched 
the departure of the spirit from her frame ; and who de- 
clared, years afterward, that he had never ceased to 
regret that in that solemn moment he had not ventured 
to press his lips, for the first and last time, to the marble 
forehead of the dead. 

She had directed that her funeral should be in all re- 
spects like that of one of the sisters of the convent in 
which she last resided. And so completely were her 
behests attended to that no memorial of any kind remains 
to tell the place of her sepulchre. 

Qatherine de^ ^Medici 


TO Francis 11. had succeeded Charles IX.; to an 
imaginary majority, a real minority. The little 
King was only ten years old. At last Catherine 
de' Medici reigned.^ Never had a more overwhelming 
burden rested on a woman's shoulders. True, history 
has a right to be severe towards this woman. Yet, for 
all that, it must recognize the terrible obstacles she had 
to surmount, and give her credit for the courage with 
which she accepted the struggle. There is no science 
more contingent than that of politics. Assuredly, Cath- 
erine knew what she wanted; her aim was to save the 
house of Valois, and solidify the royal authority. But the 
means to do this varied with events. Justice demands 
us to recognize that she began by trying the paths of 
gentleness, moderation, and impartiality. In a time when 
there were as yet no constitutions, she acted, at the be- 
ginning of her regency, like a true constitutional sov- 
ereign. She sought to balance powers, she tried concilia- 
tion, she induced mortal enemies like the Duke of Guise 
and the Prince of Conde to embrace each other. 

In troublous and violent epochs, the masses listen to 
nothing but exaggerations. Moderate people are consid- 
ered lukewarm. There is no longer either impartiality or 
justice. The moral sense and the reason disappear to- 
gether. Doubtless, truly noble souls are not immoderately 
affected by these aberrations of public opinion. Per- 
severing without uneasiness in the path of right and duty. 

These Splendid Women 133 

they remember the old adage, which is the device of virtue. 
Do what you ought, come what may. But Catherine was 
not one of those grand characters which events do not 
affect. From the day on which she became convinced 
that mildness would not succeed, she never recoiled from 

It is incontestable that the Oueen-rnother hesitated 
momentarily between the rival cults. She had been greatly 
impressed by the progress of Protestantism. In 1555, 
there was but a single reformed church in all France ; in 
1559, there were two thousand. Surrounded as she was 
by a great number of Protestant ladies, Catherine ques- 
tioned whether it were the interest of the dynasty to 
remain loyal to the Catholic faith. 

She liked much the notion of replenishing the funds by 
seizing the ecclesiastical property. Her Huguenot cour- 
tiers said that nothing could be easier than to make 
France Protestant, and that where Henry VIII. and 
Gustavus Wasa had succeeded so easily she could not 
fail. Would not a word from Catherine suffice to change 
the religion of the kingdom, as had happened in England 
andjn Sweden? Nothing was more dangerous than such 
counsels, and the Queen-mother soon repented of having, 
for several months, entertained an inclination to follow 
them. It is evident, none the less, that at the beginning 
of her regency she inclined toward the new ideas. 
Brought up in the Catholic religion, however, she re- 
tained up to a certain point the impressions of her child- 
hood. She certainly believed in hell and in paradise, in 
the devil and in God. But she varied as to other doc- 
trines. There were hours when, like Montaigne, she 
would have been tempted to say: What do I know? 
There were others when the religious sentiment regained 
entire possession of her soul. Nothing absolute can be 
found in her. Her character is full of contradictions, 
and the historians who will conscientiously analyze her 

134 These Splendid Women 

life, will waver, like her contemporaries, between sym- 
pathy and dislike for this mobile nature. 

From the day when she gained the twofold conviction 
that Protestantism was sapping the foundations of royal 
authority, and that Catholicism was assured of success, 
Catherine no longer hesitated. The first wars of religion 
opened her eyes to the tendencies, by turns republican 
and feudal, of the Calvinist leaders, to the ambition of 
the Prince of Conde and Admiral Coligny^ to the danger 
to the great cause of French unity arising from the new 
ideas, and to the anti-national character of the Huguenot 
alliance with England. 

It is impossible to deny that, with all her faults, Cath- 
erine had the national sentiment. When she saw that 
the heart of the nation beat for the Catholic cause, she 
would have no more of the Reformation. Moreover, she 
had too much intelligence not to jcomprehend that to 
abandon the honor of protecting the faith to the Guises, 
was to destroy, for their behoof, all the prestige of the 
crown. "The churches were the theatre of all the fetes 
and all the joys of the people; their palaces were more 
splendid than those of the kings, where, kings in their 
turn, they forgot all their hard labors and their miserable 
dwellings in dreams of heaven. What was offered them 
in place of all this magnificent Catholic symbolism, this 
immense poem in action which incessantly unrolled with 
the rolling year? Abstract worship of the spirit, in 
temples void and empty to eyes of flesh, enthusiasm for 
moral reform, praise of the Christian's dignity sounding 
in the chants of a new harmony, the sole act of an icono- 
clastic worship." 

When Catherine beheld the Huguenots, like true Van- 
dals, destroying the masterpieces of the Middle Ages, 
dragging crucifixes and relics through the mud, raging at 
everything which to the people meant civilization, happi- 
ness, and glory; when these modern Saracens respected 
not even the dead; when they profaned, at Angouleme, 

These Splendid Women 135 

the sepulchres of the ancestors of the reigning family; 
when they burned, at Cleri, the bones of Louis XL, and 
at Sainte-Croix the heart of Francis IL; Catherine, as 
she listened to the cry of wrath and vengeance which 
rose from the Catholic masses told herself that the Valois 
must range themselves on the side of the people, if they 
would not perish in the tempest. Moreover, the Catholic 
triumvirate, which had so alarmed Catherine, no longer 
existed. The Marshal of Saint-Andre had been killed 
at the battle of Dreux, and the Duke of Guise assassinated 
before Orleans. Protestantism was now the danger for 
authority. Ideas of moderation had no longer any in- 
fluence. The civil war assumed a savage character on 
both sides; whole garrisons had their throats cut. The 
wells were choked with human bodies; the soldiers be- 
came headsmen. Roadside trees turned into gibbets. 
"The civil war," says Castelnau in his Memoirs, "were 
an inexhaustible source of all villainies, thefts, robberies, 
murders, incests, adulteries, parricides." 

And yet Catherine did not despair of appeasing all 
hatreds, ending all discords, and bringing out the royal 
authority victorious from all its trials. Nothing discour- 
aged her. The more difficult the situation, the more 
astuteness, patience, and activity she displayed. Her life 
was an incessant labor. 

I think I see her in her Louvre, living by her intelli- 
gence, her head, far more than by her heart, never losing 
sight of her plans and ideas, pursuing her ends by the 
most crooked paths, displaying in all circumstances the 
resources of an adroit and pliant character. "At table, 
and while walking, she is constantly conversing with some 
one on affairs. Her mind is bent, not merely on political 
matters, but on so many others that I do not know how 
she can endure and go through so much." Notwithstand- 
ing all her preoccupations, she still finds time to think 
of letters and the arts. She makes Amyot preceptor to 
Charles IX., takes pleasure in Montaigne's conversation, 

136 These Splendid Women 

and, in 1564, begins the erection of the Tuileries after 
the plans of Jean Bullant and Philibert Delorme. 

Calm, smiling, happy, apparently at least, amidst the 
gravest perils and most horrible tragedies, I behold her 
feared by her children, held in great consideration even 
by her enemies, pleasing even the most rebellious by the 
courtesy of her manners and the sweetness of her v^ords, 
overwhelming with attentions every one likely to be of 
use to her. To her, more than to any other personage, 
may be applied that line of a great poet : — 

"Sans haine, sans amour, tu vivais pour penser." 
("Without hate, without love, thou livest to think.") 

To reign, is what one should say. To rule is Cath- 
erine's joy. "All her actions," says the Venetian am- 
bassador, Sigismund Cavalli, "are founded on that 
invincible passion which, even during her husband's life- 
time, was recognized in her, — ^the passion for domineering ; 
un affetto di signoreggiare" She yields to this lust for 
power, but without conceit, without arrogance, and with 
a sort of good-nature. Amiable, attractive, and exqui- 
sitely polite, she takes pains to make herself agreeable 
to all who approach her. Her conversation is by turns 
jovial and instructive. She is conversant, not merely with 
French affairs, but with those of all other kingdoms and 
European states. 

Mistress of herself, she has the great art of self- 
control. If she is dissatisfied with one of her officials 
or attendants, she expresses her displeasure in affectionate 
terms. "When she calls any one 'my friend,' " says Bran- 
tome, "it is either because she thinks him a fool, or is 
angry ; so true is this, that she had a noble servant named 
M. de Bois-Fevrier, who said as much when she called 
him *my friend': *Ah, Madame, I would like it better if 
you called me your enemy, for it amounts to saying that 
I am a fool, or that you are angry with me, for I have 
known your disposition this long while.' " 

These Splendid Women 137 

Up to the fatal moment when the Saint Bartholomew 
Massacre spotted her black robe with an ineffaceable stain 
of blood, she was much oftener accused of moderation and 
mildness than of violence and cruelty. The parties re- 
proached her with being too conciliating, and with wishing 
to pacify everybody. It was by means of the beautiful 
girls in her train, her flying squadron as they were called, 
that she attacked and vanquished her harshest enemies. 
She wanted to blunt hatreds by pleasures, to change shouts 
of rage into voluptuous chants ; and this woman, destined 
a few years later to wear a sinister aspect, never appeared, 
during the childhood of Charles IX., but with a smile on 
her lips and the olive-branch in her hand. 

Fate reserved for her the spectacle of other struggles 
more bloody than those of the Medici and the Pazzi. 
The childhood of Catherine de' Medici had prepared her 
for the crises and storms of her career. The prologue 
was worthy of the drama. 

The city of Marseilles was in great joy on October 
12, 1533. The signals of the tower of If and of Notre 
Dame de la Garde had just announced that the pontifical 
fleet was approaching, with Pope Clement VII. and his 
niece, the betrothed of the King's son, the young Cath- 
erine de' Medici, on board. The steeples of the Major 
responded to the municipal belfry on the Place de Linche 
in ringing welcome to the august voyagers. Numerous 
boats, containing a crowd of gentlemen and musicians, 
left the shore to go and meet them. Three hundred 
pieces of artillery rent the air with their joyous salvos. 
The populace were on their knees. At the head of the 
fleet came the principal galley, which carried the Blessed 
Sacrament, according to the custom of the Popes when 
travelling by sea. Carpeted with crimson satin and cov- 
ered with a tent of cloth-of-gold, the vessel of Clement 
VII. was richly sculptured in the Venetian fashion. Ten 
cardinals and a great number of bishops and prelates 
accompanied the successor of Saint Peter. 

138 These Splendid Women 

The solemn entry into the town was surrounded with 
extraordinary pomp. Throned on the sedia gestatoria, 
the Vicar of Jesus Christ was borne on the shoulders 
of robust men. Preceding him, on a white horse led by 
two equerries in sumptuous costumes, was the Blessed 
Sacrament, in a magnificent ostensory. The crowd, re- 
ceiving the Apostolic benediction piously, rained flowers 
along the path of the procession ; priests chanted canticles, 
and there rose a cloud of incense in the air. Vested 
in their purple, the cardinals, on horseback, followed the 
Pope by twos. Then, giving her hand to her uncle, John 
Stuart, Duke of Albany, and wearing a robe of gold 
brocade, came the fourteen-year-old Florentine, with her 
black eyes, her dull compkxion, her gentle and intelligent 
expression. Curiosity, so great already, would have been 
far more excited, could the part this young girl was 
called to play in the destinies of France have been fore- 
seen. The next day, Francis I. attended by his court and 
all the foreign ambassadors, went as the Most Christian 
King, to pay homage to the Holy Father. For the Pope 
and the King, two palaces had been made ready, separated 
from each other only by a street, and united by a great 
wooden bridge, forming a vast hall hung with rich 
tapestries, and intended for the consistories as well as 
for the interviews between the two sovereigns. 

The Pope's attendants, bragging much about the ad- 
vantages of the pontifical alliance, claimed that Catherine 
would give to the house of France "three rings of in- 
estimable price: Genoa, Milan, and Naples." Francis I. 
had never displayed more courtesy, or made a greater 
show of luxury. The young Duke of Orleans testified a 
lively sympathy for his young betrothed, and all France 
participated in his joy. The marriage was celebrated 
October 23, in the cathedral church, the Major, by the 
Pope, who said the Mass, and gave the nuptial ring to 
the spouses. Catherine wore a robe of white silk enriched 
with precious stones and ornaments of Florentine wrought 

These Splendid Women 139 

gold. Her head was covered by a veil of Brussels point. 
She looked like the Italian Madonnas in their glittering 
frames. The Pope and the King did not separate until 
November 27, when His Holiness went on board of the 
pontifical galley, and Francis I. took the road to Avignon, 
whence he was to return to Fontainebleau. 

This residence, which Catherine occupied, had never 
been more gorgeous. At the age of thirty-nine, Francis 
I. retained all the tastes of his early youth, and his court 
was not a school of morality. Brantome describes him 
as inciting his "worthy gentlemen to have mistresses un- 
der penalty of being regarded by him as dolts or block- 
heads, and promising them his good offices with such as 
were inhuman; he was not contented with merely see- 
ing them follow his example; he wanted to be their con- 
fidant. Often, too, when he saw them in great discus- 
sions with their mistresses, he would accost them, asking 
what good things they had said, and, if he did not think 
them good, would correct them and teach them others." 
It was not merely in matters of gallantry that Francis I. 
might be esteemed a master. A Venetian ambassador, 
Marino CavaUi, wrote concerning him: "This Prince 
has very good judgment and great knowledge : listening 
to him, one recognizes that there is neither study nor 
art which he cannot discuss with much pertinence, and 
criticise in a manner as positive as those who have spe- 
cially devoted themselves to it. His acquirements are not 
limited to war, the manner of provisioning and command- 
ing an army, arranging a plan of battle, preparing quar- 
ters, assaulting or defending a town, directing artillery; 
he not only understands all that appertains to maritime 
warfare, but he has great experience in hunting, paint- 
ing, literature, the languages, and the different exercises 
befitting a handsome and brilliant chevalier." Catherine 
understood at once how much was to be gained in the 
society of this learned, amiable, and powerful King. She 
wished to become his pupil, and seeking every occasion 

140 These Splendid Women 

to follow and ply him with homage, she set to work to 
become an assiduous companion, a sort of maid-of-honor 
to him. 

Francis I. had a passion for the chase. Catherine be- 
came a great huntress. "She prayed the King/* says 
Brantome, "to permit her to be always at his side. They 
say that, being subtle and crafty, she did this as much or 
more for the sake of watching the King's actions, ex- 
tracting his secrets, and listening to and knowing every- 
thing, as for the sake of hunting." After this reflection, 
Brantome adds : "King Francis was so pleased with such 
a prayer, and her ready fondness for his company, 
that he granted it very cordially, and besides his natural 
affection for her, his liking continually grew, and he de- 
lighted in giving her pleasure at the hunt, where she 
never quitted the King, but always followed him at full 
speed; she rode well and was daring, and had a very 
graceful seat, being the first one who threw her leg over 
the saddle bow, insomuch that her grace was even more 
striking and apparent there than on a floor." Catherine 
followed from city to city, from castle to castle, this 
monarch whose custom it was to change his abode in- 
cessantly. Marin Giustinian, Venetian ambassador to 
France from 1532 to 1535, says concerning this: "Never, 
during my embassy, did the court remain in the same 
place for more than fifteen consecutive days." Agreeable 
by the quickness of her intellect, as well as her even- 
ness of temper, the young Florentine sought to make 
friends, not merely of the King and the Princes, but of 
all who approached her. She lived on good terms with 
"the little band of court ladies," as Brantome says, "ladies 
of family, damsels of reputation," whom Francis I. as- 
siduously sought for among "the most beautiful and most 
noble," and who appeared "in the court like goddesses 
from heaven." 

Catherine needed all her address and prudence to avoid 
the snares already laid for her. Aristocratic prejudices 

These Splendid Women 141 

were enlisted against her. The French nobles did not think 
the escutcheon of the Medici sufficiently gilded by the pon- 
tifical tiara of Leo X. and Clement VII. They said it 
was, after all, but a family of merchants, and that even 
with the best will in the world the marriage of the Duke 
of Orleans could not be considered other than a 
mesalliance. It was claimed, also, that the Pope had 
not kept his promises very well, and had in fact been 
of no advantage. Catherine, who had only married the 
king's second son, did not at this time seem destined to 
play an important political role. The sole ambition which 
she and her husband could hope to realize was that, when 
the war between Charles V. and France was over, they 
might receive the investiture of the Duchy of Milan or 
that of Urbino. 

An unexpected event abruptly changed this situation. 
The Dauphin, who had followed the King to the war of 
Provence, died suddenly at Tournon, July 15, 1536. The 
Duke of Orleans became the heir to the throne, and as- 
sumed the title of Dauphin. He was eighteen years old, 
and Catherine seventeen. 

The position of the new Dauphiness was becoming 
very difficult. Though she had been married for three 
years, she had no children, and people said she never 
could have any. A beautiful and imperious woman, ac- 
customed to power, Diana of Poitiers, had subjugated 
the heart of Catherine's husband, and Catherine, with 
rare penetration, saw at once that it would be im.possible 
to contend with her. And yet Diana of Poitiers, born 
in 1499, was twenty-three years older than the 
Dauphiness. But she was an enchantress, an Armida, 
a woman full of seduction and prestige, whose charm 
was like a talisman to bewitch the feeble Henry. 

During the last years of the reign of Francis I., a 
feminine duel raged between the two favorites, the 
Duchess d'fitampes, mistress of the King, and Diana of 
Poitiers, mistress of the Dauphin. The court was divided 

142 These Splendid Women 

into two camps, and the King, instead of putting a stop 
to the quarrels, disputes, and intrigues, took a certain 
pleasure in them. It was a war of slanders, calumnies, 
and epigrams. Very proud of being ten years younger 
than her rival, the Duchess who, according to her flatterers, 
was the most learned of beauties and the most beautiful 
of learned women, triumphed insolently, and wanted to 
see the whole court at her feet. Queen Eleanor, the 
sister of Charles V., a gentle, modest woman, kept her- 
self apart, and sought consolation in piety and in reading, 
of which she was passionately fond. The Duchess 
d'j^tampes had all power in her hands. The Emperor 
was well aware of this. When he was in France, the King 
had said to him, pointing to his favorite: "Brother, 
there is a beautiful lady who thinks I ought not to let 
you depart until you revoke the treaty of Madrid," and 
he contented himself with answering coldly: "If the 
advice is good, you must follow it." But the same day 
at dinner he let a diamond of great value drop before 
the Duchess, who was giving him his napkin, and refused 
to take it back, saying: "Madame, it is in too fair 

The wily monarch knew how to make an ally of his 
rival's mistress. She became the head of the party which 
desired him to base French policy on an agreement with 
the Emperor. Diana supported the contrary opinion, and 
the struggle between the two women attained the propor- 
tions of a great affair of state. Poets and artists took 
part in this rivalry of women which occupied the court 
more than that between Francis I. and Charles V. While 
Primaticio endlessly reproduced the features of the 
Duchess d'fitampes in the decorations of the royal gal- 
leries, Benvenuto Cellini chose as his model Diana of 
Poitiers, the beautiful huntress, and in his Memoirs the 
famous engraver has detailed in the most picturesque 
fashion his quarrels with the King's mistress and Prima- 
ticio. The poets enlisted on the side of the Duchess 

These Splendid Women 143 

d'fitampes celebrate her as a resplendent, unparalleled 
beauty, and were one to judge by their French and Latin 
epigrams, the Seneschale was nothing but a toothless, hair- 
less, old woman, who owed her remnant of deceptive 
brilliancy to paint. 

A less intelligent woman than Catherine would have 
ranged herself openly on the side of the Duchess, and 
tried to form a league, a connection with the powerful 
favorite, for an attack on the Seneschale. But this bold 
stroke would not have been in keeping with the tem- 
porizing genius of the Florentine. She understood that 
in declaring against Diana she would run a risk of being 
repudiated, and instead of clashing with a force which 
was now irresistible, she employed all her skill in re- 
maining on equally good terms with both the favorites, 
irreconcilable enemies though they were. Thus the 
woman, who was thereafter to occupy so great a place, 
now sought only to efface herself; she seemed a real 
model of simplicity and reserve. Francis I., to whom 
she had never occasioned any vexation, was astonished 
and enraptured. He attributed her precocious wisdom to 
his instructions, and was both pleased and flattered by it. 
As to the Dauphin, in spite of the lack of warmth in his 
affection for his wife, he could not avoid doing justice 
to her physical and moral qualities. 

The menage a trois continued therefore, and if the 
Dauphin loved his mistress he certainly had a friendship 
for his wife. And, on her part, whenever she felt an 
inclination to complain of her lot, Catherine bethought 
herself that if she quitted her position she would prob- 
ably find no refuge but the cloister, and that, taking it 
all round, the court of France, in spite of the humilia- 
tions and vexations one might experience there, was an 
abode less disagreeable than a convent. 

At the end of nine years of marriage, she had still no 
children, and was constantly troubled by fear of a divorce. 
"It is unknown," says Varillas, ^'whether Francis I. had 

144 These Splendid Women 

been deterred from such a step by its visible injustice, 
the oaths by which Clement VII. had bound him never 
to send away this Princess who was his niece, or the 
pity inspired by Catherine, whose condition was then so 
deplorable that no place of refuge would have been open 
to her, the new Duke of Florence being too politic to re- 
ceive her in his dominions where her rights exceeded his ; 
or, finally, by the address of Catherine herself, who 
spared no pains to preserve the rank her uncle had ac- 
quired for her." The account given by the Venetian 
ambassador, Lorenzo Contarini, explains how prudently 
Catherine averted the dangers impending over her: 
"She went to the King and told him she had heard it was 
His Majesty's intention to give his son another wife, and 
as it had not yet pleased God to bestow on her the grace 
of having children, it was proper that, as soon as His 
Majesty found it disagreeable to wait longer, he should 
provide for the succession to so great a throne; that, for 
her part, considering the great obligations she was under 
to His Majesty, who had deigned to accept her as a 
daughter-in-law, she was much more disposed to endure 
this affliction than to oppose his will, and was deter- 
mined either to enter a convent or remain in his service 
and his favor. This communication she made to King 
Francis I., with many tears and much emotion. The noble 
and indulgent heart of the King was so greatly moved by 
it that he replied : 'Daughter, do not fear that, since God 
has willed you to be my daughter-in-law, I would have 
it otherwise; perhaps it will yet please Him to grant to 
you and to me, the grace we desire more than anything 
else in the world.' Not long afterwards she became preg- 
nant, and in the year 1543 she brought a male infant 
into the world to the great satisfaction of everybody." 
Not long before, a Venetian ambassador, Matteo 
Dandolo, had written concerning Catherine: "Her 
Majesty is so much liked by both the court and the 
people, that I think there is no one who would not shed 

These Splendid Women 145 

some of his blood to procure her a son." She was as 
fruitful in the later years of her marriage as she had 
at first been sterile. Between 1543 and 1555 she had ten 
children. As soon as she became a mother she felt re- 
assured. Her fear of divorce departed, and the wily 
Princess inwardly congratulated herself on the prudence 
which had extricated her from a difficult situation. Much 
younger than Diana of Poitiers, she waited for time to 
put her in the right and brilliantly avenge her. The 
astrologers, who were her counsellors, had promised her 
domination. Relying on their words, she waited. An in- 
terior voice said to her : "Thou shalt govern !" She did 
not doubt it for an instant, and each day brought her 
nearer to her goal. To her might be applied the famous 
saying: Genius is a long patience. 

^y^ciry Queen of ^cots 

A Portrait Study ^ By Aiidrew Lang — The 

Execution^ By Alphonse de Lamar tine — 

A Defense of Mary Queen of Scots^ By 

Algernon C. Swinburne 

A Portrait Study 


THE Queen is a tall girl of twenty-four, with 
brown hair, and sidelong eyes of red brown. Such 
are her sidelong eyes in the Morton portrait; such 
she bequeathed to her great-great-grandson, James, "the 
King over the Water." She was half French in temper, 
one of the proud bold Guises, by her mother's side; and 
if not beautiful, she was so beguiling that Elizabeth rec- 
ognized her magic even in the reports of her enemies.' 
"This lady and Princess is a notable woman," said 
Knollys ; "she showeth a disposition to speak much, to be 
bold, to be pleasant, and to be very familiar. She showeth 
a great desire to be avenged of her enemies, she showeth 
a readiness to expose herself to all perils in hope of 
victory, she delighteth much to hear of hardiness and 
valiance, commending by name all approved hardy men of 
her country, although they be her enemies, and concealeth 
no cowardice even in her friends." 

There was something "divine," Elizabeth said, in the 
face and manner which won the hearts of her gaolers in 
Loch Leven and in England. "Heaven bless that sweet 
face!" cried the people in the streets as the Queen rode 

These Splendid Women 147 

by, or swept along with the long train, the "targetted 
tails" and "stinking pride of women/' that Knox de- 

She was gay, as when Randolph met her, in no more 
state than a burgess's wife might use, in the little house 
of St. Andrews, hard by the desecrated Cathedral. She 
could be madly mirthful, dancing, or walking the black 
midnight streets of Edinburgh, masked, in male apparel, 
or flitting in "homely attire," said her enemies, about the 
Market Cross in Stirling. She loved, at sea, to "handle 
the boisterous cables," as Buchanan tells. Pursuing 
her brother, Moray, on a day of storm, or hard on the 
doomed Huntly's track among the hills and morasses of 
the North; or galloping through the red bracken of 
the October moors, and the hills of the robbers, to Her- 
mitage; her energy outwore the picked warriors in her 
company. At other times, in a fascinating languor, she 
would lie long abed, receiving company in the French 
fashion, waited on by her Maries, whose four names "are 
four sweet symphonies," Mary Seton and Mary Beaton, 
Mary Fleming and Mary Livingstone. To the Council 
Board she would bring her woman's work, embroidery of 
silk and gold. She was fabled to have carried pistols at 
her saddle-bow in war, and she excelled in matches of 
archery and pall-mall. 

Her costumes, when she would be queenly, have left 
their mark on the memory of men: the ruff from which 
rose the snowy neck; the brocaded bodice, with puffed 
and jewelled sleeves and stomacher; the diamonds, gifts 
of Henri H. or of Diane; the rich pearls that became 
the spoil of Elizabeth ; the brooches enamelled with sacred 
scenes, or scenes from fable. Many of her jewels — the 
ruby tortoise given by Riccio; the enamel of the mouse 
and the ensnared lioness, passed by Lethington as a token 
into her dungeon of Loch Leven; the diamonds be- 
queathed by her to one whom she might not name; the 
red enamelled wedding-ring, the gift of Darnley; the 

148 These Splendid Women 

diamond worn in her bosom, the betrothal present of 
Norfolk — are, to our fancy, like the fabled star-ruby 
of Helen of Troy, that dripped with blood-gouts which 
vanished as they fell. Riccio, Darnley, Lethington, Nor- 
folk, the donors of these jewels, they were all to die for 
her, as Bothwell, too, was to perish, the giver of the 
diamond carried by Paris, the recipient of the black 
betrothal ring enamelled with bones and tears. "Her feet 
go down to death," her feet that were so light in the 
dance, "her steps take hold on hell. . . . Her lips 
drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than 
oil. But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two- 
edged sword." The lips that dropped as honeycomb, 
the laughing mouth, could wildly threaten, and vainly rage 
or beseech, when she was entrapped at Carberry ; or could 
waken pity in the sternest Puritan when, half-clad, her 
bosom bare, her loose hair flowing, she wailed from her 
window to the crowd of hostile Edinburgh. 

She was of a high impatient spirit: we seem to rec- 
ognize her in an anecdote told by the Black Laird of 
Ormistoun, one of Darnley 's murderers, in prison before 
his execution. He had been warned by his brother, in 
a letter, that he was suspected of the crime, and should 
"get some good way to purge himself." He showed the 
letter to Bothwell, who read it, and gave it to Mary. 
She glanced at it, handed it to Huntly, "and thereafter 
turnit unto me, and turnit her back, and gave ane thring 
with her shoulder, and passit away, and spake nothing 
to me." But that "thring" spoke much of Mary's mood, 
unrepentant, contemptuous, defiant. 

Mary's gratitude was not of the kind proverbial in 
princes. In September 1571, when the Ridolfi plot col- 
lapsed, and Mary's household was reduced, her sorest 
grief was for Archibald Beaton, her usher, and little 
Willie Douglas, who rescued her from Loch Leven. They 
were to be sent to Scotland, which meant death to both, 
and she pleaded pitifully for them. To her servants she 

These Splendid Wo?nen 149 

wrote : "I thank God, who has given me strength to en- 
dure, and I pray Him to grant you the Hke grace. To 
you will your loyalty bring the greatest honor, and 
whensoever it pleases God to set me free, I will never 
fail you, but reward you according to my power. . . . 
Pray God that you be true men and constant, to such He 
will never deny his grace, and for you. John Gordon and 
WiUiam Douglas, I pray that He will inspire your hearts. 
I can no more. Live in friendship and holy charity one 
with another, bearing each other's imperfections. . . . 
You, William Douglas, be assured that the life which you 
hazarded for me shall never be destitute while I have one 
friend alive." 

In a trifling transaction she writes: "Rather would I 
pay twice over, than injure or suspect any man." 

In the long lament of her letters written during her 
twenty years of captivity, but a few moods return and 
repeat themselves, Hke phrases in a fugue. Vain com- 
plaints, vain hopes, vain intrigues with Spain, France, the 
Pope, the Guises, the English Catholics, succeed each 
other with futile iteration. But always we hear the note 
of loyalty even to her humblest servants, of sleepless 
memory of their sacrifices for her, of unstinting and gen- 
erous gratitude. Such was the Queen's ''natural," mon 
naturcl: with this character she faced the worlds a lady 
to live and die for: and many died. 

This woman, sensitive, proud, tameless, fierce, and 
kind, was browbeaten by the implacable Knox ; her priests 
were scourged and pilloried, her creed was outraged 
every day; herself scolded, preached at, insulted; her 
every plan thwarted by Elizabeth. Mary had reason 
enough for tears even before her servant was slain almost 
in her sight by her witless husband and the merciless 
Lords. She could be gay, later, dancing and hunting, 
but it may well be that, after this last and worst of cruel 
insults, her heart had now become hard as the dia- 
mond; and that she was possessed by the evil spirits of 

150 These Splendid Women 

loathing, and hatred, and longing for revenge. It had 
not been a hard heart, but a tender; capable of sorrow 
for slaves at the galley oars. After her child's birth, 
when she was holiday-making at Alloa, according to 
Buchanan, with Bothwell and his gang of pirates, she 
wrote to the Laird of Abercairnie, bidding him be merci- 
ful to a poor woman and her "company of puir bairnis" 
whom he had evicted from their "kindly rowme," or little 

Her more than masculine courage her enemies have 
never denied. Her resolution was incapable of despair ; 
**her last word should be that of a Queen." Her plighted 
promise she revered, but, in such an age, a woman's 
weapon was deceit. 

She was the centre and pivot of innumerable intrigues. 
The fierce nobles looked on her as a means for procuring 
lands, office, and revenge on their feudal enemies. To 
the fiercer ministers she was an idolatress, who ought to 
die the death, and, meanwhile, must be thwarted and in- 
sulted. To France, Spain, and Austria she was a piece 
in the game of diplomatic chess. To the Pope she seemed 
an instrument that might win back both Scotland and 
England for the Church, while the English Catholics 
regarded her as either their lawful or their future Queen. 
To Elizabeth she was, naturally, and inevitably, and, in 
part, by her own fault, a deadly rival; whatever feline 
caresses might pass between them; gifts of Mary's heart, 
in a heart-shaped diamond; Elizabeth's diamond "like a 
rock," a rock in which was no refuge. Yet Mary was 
of a nature so large and unsuspicious that, on the strength 
of a ring and a promise, she trusted herself to Elizabeth, 
contrary to the advice of her staunchest adherents. She 
was no natural dissembler, and with difficulty came to 
understand that others could be false. Her sense oi 
honour might become perverted, but she had a strong 
native sense of honour. 

One thing this woman wanted, a master. Even before 

These Splendid Women 151 

Darnley and she were wedded, at least publicly, Randolph 
wrote, **A11 honour that may be attributed unto any man 
by a wife, he hath it wholly and fully." In her authentic 
letters to Norfolk, when, a captive in England, she re- 
garded herself as betrothed to him, we find her adopting 
an attitude of submissive obedience. The same tone per- 
vades the disputed Casket Letters, to Bothwell, and is 
certainly in singular consonance with the later, and gen- 
uine epistles to Norfolk. But the tone — if the Casket 
Letters are forged — may have been borrowed from what 
was known of her early submission to Darnley. 

The Executio72 


THE punishment of her friends impressed Mary 
with a presentiment of her own fate. Involved 
in their plots, and more feared than they were, 
she could not long remain in suspense as to her own des- 
tiny. She was carried, in fact, some days afterward to 
Fotheringay Castle, her last prison. This feudal resi- 
dence was solemn and gloomy, even as the hour of ap- 
proaching death. Elizabeth, after long and serious de- 
liberation, at last named thirty-six judges to examine 
Mary and report to the council. The Queen of Scots 
protested against the right of trying a queen and of judg- 
ing her in a foreign country, where she was forcibly de- 
tained as a prisoner. 

"Is it thus," cried she, when she appeared before the 
commissioners, "that Queen Elizabeth makes kings to be 
tried by their subjects? I only accept this place" (point- 
ing to a seat lower than that of the judges) "because 
as a Christian I humble myself. My place is there," she 

152 These Splendid Women 

added, raising her hand toward the dais. "I was a queen 
from the cradle, and the first day that saw me a woman 
saw me a queen!" Then turning toward Melvil, her 
esquire, and the chief of her household, on whose arm she 
leaned, she said, "Here are many judges, but not one 
friend !" 

She denied energetically having consented to the plan 
for assassinating Elizabeth; she insinuated, but without 
formally asserting, that secretaries might easily have 
added to the meaning of the letters dictated to them, as 
none were produced in her own handwriting. "When I 
came to Scotland," she said to Lord Burleigh, the prin- 
cipal minister, who interrogated her, "I offered to your 
mistress, through Lethington, a ring shaped like a heart, 
in token of my friendship ; and when, overcome by rebels, 
I entered England, I in my turn received from her this 
pledge of encouragement and protection." Saying these 
words, she drew from her finger the ring which had been 
sent her by Elizabeth. "Look at this, my lords, and 
answer. During the eighteen years that I have passed 
under your bolts and bars, how often have your queen 
and the English people despised it in my person!" 

The commissioners, on their return to London, assem- 
bled at Westminster, declared the Queen of Scots guilty 
of participation in the plot against the hfe of Elizabeth, 
and pronounced upon her sentence of death. The two 
houses of parliament ratified the sentence. 

Mary asked, as a single favor, not to be executed in 
secret, but before her servants and the people, so that no 
one might attribute to her a cowardice unworthy of her 
rank, and that all might bear testimony to her constancy 
in suffering martyrdom. Thus she already spoke of her 
punishment, a consolatory idea most natural in a queen 
who desired that her death should be imputed to her faith 
rather than to her faults. She wrote letters to all her 
relatives and friends in France and Scotland. 

These Splendid Women 153 

"My good cousin," she wrote to the Duke of Guise, 
**who are the most dear to me in the world, I bid you 
farewell, being ready by unjust judgment to be put to 
death — what no one of our race, thanks to God, has ever 
suffered, much less one of my quality. But, praise God, 
my good cousin, for I was useless in the world to the 
cause of God and of his Church, being in the state in 
which I was; and I hope that my death will testify my 
constancy in the faith, and my readiness to die for the 
maintenance and restoration of the Catholic Church in 
this unhappy island ; and though never executioner dipped 
his hands in our blood, be not ashamed, my friend, for 
the judgment of heretics and the enemies of the Church, 
who have no jurisdiction over me, a free queen, is prof- 
itable before God to the children of his Church. If I had 
yielded to them I would not have suffered this stroke. All 
of our house have been persecuted by this sect; witness 
your good father, with whom I hope to be received by 
the mercy of the just Judge. I recommend to you my 
poor servants, the payment of my debts, and the founding 
of some annual masses for my soul ; not at your expense, 
but to make solicitation and ordinance as may be required, 
and as you will learn my intentions from my poor af- 
flicted servants, eye-witnesses of this my last tragedy. 

"God prosper you, your wife, children, brothers, and 
cousins, and above all our chief, my good brother and 
cousin, and all his. May the blessing of God and that 
which I would bestow on my children be yours, whom I 
recommend less to God than my own — who is unfortunate 
and ill-used. 

"You will receive tokens from me to remind you to pray 
for the soul of your poor cousin, deprived of all help and 
counsel but that of God, who gives me strength and cour- 
age to resist alone so many wolves howling after me; to 
Him be the glory. 

"Believe, in particular, what will be told you by a per- 
son who will give you a ruby ring from me, for I take it 

154 These Splendid Women 

to my conscience that you shall be told the truth in that 
with which I have charged her, specially as to what regards 
my poor servants, and the share of each. I recommend 
to you this person for her simple sincerity and honesty. 
that she may be settled in some good place. I have 
chosen her as the least partial, and who will the more 
plainly report to you my commands. I pray you that it 
be not known that she have said anything particular to 
you, for envy might injure her. 

**I have suffered much for two years and more, and 
have not made it known to you for an important reason. 
God be praised for all, and give you the grace to per- 
severe in the service of the Church as long as you live; 
and never may this honor depart from our race, that, 
men as well as women, we have been ready to shed our 
blood to maintain the cause of the faith, putting aside 
all other worldly conditions; as for me, I esteem myself 
born, on both father's and mother's side, to offer my 
blood in this matter, and have no intention of falling back. 
Jesus crucified for us and all the holy martyrs, make us, 
through their intercession, worthy of the voluntary sac- 
rifice of our bodies for his glory ! 

"Thinking to humble me, my dais had been thrown 
down, and, afterward, my guardian offered to WTite to 
the queen, as this act was not by her command, but by 
the advice of some one in the council. I showed them, in 
place of my arms on the said dais, the cross of my 
Saviour. You will understand all this discourse; they 
were milder afterward." 

This letter is signed, "Votre affectionee cousine et 
parfaitte amye-Marie R. d'Ecosse, D. de France." 

When she was shown the ratification of her sentence, 
and the order for her execution signed by Elizabeth, she 
tranquilly remarked, "It is well; this is the generosity 
of Queen Elizabeth! Could any one believe she would 
have dared to go to these extremities with me, who am 

These Splendid Women 155 

her sister and her equal, and who could not be her sub- 
ject ? Nevertheless, God be praised for all, since he does 
me this honor of dying for him and for his Church I 
Blessed be the moment that will end my sad pilgrimage; 
a soul so cowardly as not to accept this last combat on 
earth would be unworthy of heaven l'* 

On the last moments of her life we shall follow the 
learned and pathetic historian who has treasured up, so 
to speak, her last sighs. The queen, guilty till then, be- 
came transformed into a martyr by the approach of death. 
When the soul is truly great it grows with its destiny; 
her destiny was sublime, for it was at once an accepted 
expiation and rehabilitation through blood. 

It was night, and she entered her chapel and prayed, 
with her naked knees on the bare pavement. She then 
said to her women, *'I would eat something, so that my 
heart may not fail me to-morrow, and that I may do 
nothing to make my friends ashamed of me." Her last 
repast was sober, solemn, but not without some sallies 
of humor. "Wherefore," she asked Bastien, who had 
been her chief buffoon, *'dost thou not seek to amuse me ? 
Thou art a good mimic, but a better servant." 

Returning soon after to the idea that her death was a 
martyrdom, and addressing Bourgoin, her physician, who 
waited on her, and Melvil, her steward, who were both 
kept under arrest, as well as Preaux, her almoner : 
"Bourgoin," said she, "did you hear the Earl of Kent? 
It would have taken another kind of doctor to convict 
me. He has acknowledged besides that the warrant for 
my execution is the triumph of heresy in this country. 
It is true," she rejoined with pious satisfaction, "they put 
me to death not as an accomplice of conspiracy, but as 
a queen devoted to the Church. Before their tribunal my 
faith is my crime, and the same shall be my justification 
before my Sovereign Judge." 

Her maidens, her officers, all her attendants were 
struck with grief, and looked upon her in silence, being 

156 These Splendid Women 

scarcely able to contain themselves. Toward the end of 
the repast Mary spoke of her testament, in which none 
of their names were to be omitted. She asked for the 
silver and jewels which remained, and distributed them 
with her hand as with her heart. She addressed fare- 
wells to each, with that delicate tact so natural to her, and 
w^ith kindly emotion. She asked their pardon, and gave 
her own to every one present or absent, her secretary 
Nau excepted. They all burst into sobs, and threw them- 
selves on their knees around the table. The queen, much 
moved, drank to their health, inviting them to drink 
also to her salvation. They weepingly obeyed, and in 
their turn drank to their mistress, carrying to their lips 
the cups in which their tears mingled with the wine. 

The queen, affected at this sad spectacle, wished to be 
alone. She composed her last will. When written and 
finished, Mary, alone in her chamber with Jane Kennedy 
and Elizabeth Curie, asks how much money she has left. 
She possessed five thousand crowns, which she separates 
into as many lots as she has servants, proportioning the 
sums to their various ranks, functions, and wants. These 
portions she placed in an equal number of purses for the 
following day. She then asked for water, and had her 
feet washed by her maids of honor. Afterwards she 
wrote to the King of France: 

*T recommend to you my servants once more. You 
will ordain, if it please you, for my soul's sake, that I be 
paid the sum that you owe to me, and that for the honor 
of Jesus Christ, to whom I shall pray for you to-morrow 
at the hour of my death, there may be enough to found 
a mass for the repose of my soul, and for the needful 
alms. This Wednesday, at two of the clock after mid- 

"M. R." 

She now felt the necessity for repose, and lay down on 

These Splendid Women 157 

her bed. On her women approaching her, she said, "I 
would have preferred a sword in the French manner, 
rather than this axe." She then fell asleep for a short 
time, and even during her slumber her lips moved as 
if in prayer. Her face, as if lighted up from within 
with a spiritual beatitude, never shone with a beauty so 
charming and so pure. It was illuminated with so sweet 
a ravishment, so bathed in the grace of God, that she 
seemed to "smile with the angels," according to the ex- 
pression of Elizabeth Curie. She slept and prayed, pray- 
ing more than she slept, by the light of a little silver lamp 
given her by Henry H., and which she had preserved 
through all her fortunes. This little lamp, Mary's last 
light in her prison, was as the twilight of her tomb; 
humble implement made tragic by the memories it recalls ! 

Awaking before daylight, the queen rose. Her first 
thoughts were for eternity. She looked at the clock, and 
said, "I have only two hours to live here below." It was 
now six o'clock. 

She added a postscript to her letter addressed to the 
King of France, requesting that the interest of her dowry 
should be paid after her death to her servants ; that their 
wages and pensions should continue during their lives; 
that her physician (Bourgoin) should be received into the 
service of the king, and that Didier, an old officer of 
her household, might retain the place she had given him. 
She added, "Moreover, that my almoner may be restored 
to his estate, and in my favor provided with some small 
curacy, where he may pray God for my soul during the 
rest of his life." The letter was thus subscribed : "Faict 
le matin de ma mort, ce mercredy huitiesme Fevrier, 
1587. Marie, Royne. Done on this morning of my 
death, this Wednesday, eighth February, 1587. Mary, 

A pale winter daybreak illuminated these last lines. 
Mary perceived it, and, calling to her Elizabeth Curie and 

158 These Splendid Women 

Jane Kennedy, made a sign to them to robe her for this 
last ceremony of royalty. While their friendly hands 
thus apparelled her she remained silent. When fully 
dressed she placed herself before one of her two large 
mirrors inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and seemed to con- 
sider her face with pity. She then turned round and 
said to her maidens: "This is the moment to guard 
against weakness. I remember that, in my youth, my 
uncle Francis said to me one day in his house at Meudon, 
*My niece, there is one mark above all by which I rec- 
ognize you as of my own blood. You are brave as the 
bravest of my men-at-arms, and if women still fought as 
in the old times, I think you would know well how to 
die.' It remains for me to show to both friends and 
enemies from what race I have sprung." 

She had asked for her almoner Preaux; two Prot- 
estant ministers were sent to her. "Madam, we come to 
console you," they said, stepping over the threshold of 
her chamber. "Are you Catholic priests?" she cried. 
"No," replied they. "Then I will have no comforter but 
Jesus," she added, with a melancholy firmness. 

She now entered her chapel. She had there prepared 
with her own hands an altar, before which her almoner 
sometimes said mass to her secretly. There, kneeling 
down, she repeated many prayers in a low voice. She 
was reciting the prayers for the dying when a knock at 
the door of her chamber suddenly interrupted her. "What 
do they wish of me ?" asked the queen, arising. Bourgoin 
replied from the chamber where he was placed with the 
other servants, that the lords awaited her Majesty. "It 
is not yet time," she replied ; "let them return at the hour 
fixed." Then, throwing herself anew on her knees be- 
tween Elizabeth Curie and Jane Kennedy, she melted into 
tears, and striking her breast gave thanks to God for all, 
praying to Him fervently and with deep sobs that He 
would support her in her last trial. Becoming calmer by 
degrees, in trying to calm her two companions, she re- 

These Splendid Women 159 

niained for some time in silent and supreme converse 
with her God. 

What was passing at that moment within her con- 
science ? 

She then went to the window, looked out upon the 
calm sky, the river, the meadows, the woods. Returning 
to the middle of the chamber and casting her eyes toward 
the time-piece (called la Realc), she said to Jane, **The 
hour has struck, they will soon be here." 

Scarcely had she pronounced these words when An- 
drew, sheriff of the county of Northampton, knocked a 
second time at the door, and, her women drawing back, 
she mildly commanded them to open it. The officer of 
justice entered, dressed in mourning, a white rod in his 
right hand, and, bowing before the queen, twice repeated, 
*'I am here." 

A slight blush mounted to the queen's cheeks, and, ad- 
vancing with majesty, she said, ''Let us go." 

She took with her the ivory crucifix, which had never 
left her for seventeen years, and which she had carried 
from cell to cell, suspending it in the various cliapels of 
her captivity. As she suffered much from pains brought 
on by the dampness of her prisons, she leaned on two 
of her domestics, who led her to the threshold of the 
chamber. There they stopped, and Bourgoin explained to 
the queen the strange scruple of her attendants, who de- 
sired to avoid the appearance of conducting her to 
slaughter. The queen, though she would have preferred 
their support, made allowance for their weakness, and 
was content to lean on two of Paulet's guards. Then all 
her attendants accompanied her to the uppermost flight of 
stairs, where the guards barred their passage in spite of 
their supplications, despair, and lamentations, with their 
arms extended toward the dear mistress whose footsteps 
they were hindered from following. 

The queen, deeply pained, slightly quickened her steps, 

,160 These Splendid Women 

with the design of protesting against this violence and of 
obtaining a more fitting escort. 

Sir Amyas Paulet and Sir Drew Drury, the governor 
of Fotheringay, the Earl of Shrewsbury, the Earl of 
Kent, the other commissioners, and many strangers of 
distinction, among whom were Sir Henry Talbot, Edward 
and William Montague, Sir Richard Knightly, Thomas 
Brudnell Bevil, Robert and John Wingfield, received her 
at the bottom of the stair. 

Perceiving Melvil bent down with grief, "Courage, my 
faithful friend," she said; "learn to resign thyself." "Ah, 
madam," cried Melvil, approaching his mistress and fall- 
ing at her feet, "I have lived too long, since my eyes now 
see you the prey of the executioner, and since my lips 
must tell of this fearful punishment in Scotland." Sobs 
then burst from his breast instead of words. 

"No weakness, my dear Melvil!" she added. "Pity 
those who thirst for my blood, and who shed it unjustly. 
As for me, I make no complaint. Life is but a valley of 
tears, and I leave it without regret. I die for the Catholic 
faith, and in the CathoHc faith; I die the friend of Scot- 
land and of France. Bear testimony everywhere to the 
truth. Once more, cease, Melvil, to afflict thyself ; rather 
rejoice that the misfortunes of Mary Stuart are at an end. 
Tell my son to remember his mother." 

While the queen spoke, Melvil, still on his knees, shed 
a torrent of tears. Mary, having raised him up, took his 
hand, and, leaning forward, embraced him. "Farewell," 
she added, "farewell, my dear Melvil ; never forget me in 
thy heart or thy prayers !" 

Addressing the Earls of Shrewsbury and Kent, she 
then asked that her secretary Curie might be pardoned ; 
Nau was left out. The earls keeping silence, she again 
prayed them to allow her women and servants to accom- 
pany her, and to be present at her death. The Earl of 
Kent replied that such a course would be unusual, and 
even dangerous ; that the boldest would desire to dip their 

These Splendid Women 161 

handkerchiefs in her blood; that the most timid, and, 
above all, the women, would at least trouble the course of 
Elizabeth's justice by their cries. Mary persisted. "My 
lords," said she, "if your queen were here, your virgin 
queen, she would not think it fitting for my rank and my 
sex to die in the midst of men only, and would grant me 
some of my women to be beside my hard and last pil- 
low." Her words were so eloquent and touching that the 
lords who surrounded her would have yielded to her re- 
quest but for the obstinacy of the Earl of Kent. The 
queen perceived this, and, looking upon the puritan earl, 
she cried in a deep voice, 

"Shed the blood of Henry VH., but despise it not. 
Am I not still Mary Stuart? a sister of your mistress and 
her equal : twice crowned ; twice a queen ; dowager Queen 
of France ; legitimate Queen of Scotland." The earl was 
affected, but still unyielding. 

Mary, with softer look and accent, then said, "My 
lords, I give you my word that my servants will avoid 
all you fear. Alas! the poor souls will do nothing but 
take farewell of me; surely you will not refuse this sad 
satisfaction either to me or to them? Think, my lords, 
of your own servants, of those who please you best; the 
nurses who have suckled you ; the squires who have borne 
your arms in war; these servants of your prosperity are 
less dear to you than to me are the attendants of my 
misfortunes. Once more, my lords, do not send away 
mine in my last moments. They desire nothing but to 
remain faithful to me, to love me to the end, and to see 
me die." 

The peers, after consultation, agreed to Mary's wishes. 
The Earl of Kent said, however, that he was still doubtful 
of the effect of their lamentations on the assistants, and 
on the queen herself. 

"I will answer for them," Mary replied; "their love 
for me will give them strength, and my example will lend 
them courage. To me it will be sweet to know they are 

162 These Splendid Women 

there, and that I shall have witnesses of my perseverance 
in the faith.'* 

The commissioners did not insist further, and granted 
to the queen four attendants and two of her maidens. 
She chose Melvil her steward, Bourgoin her physician, 
Gervais her surgeon, Gosion her druggist, Jane Kennedy 
and Elizabeth Curie, the two companions who had re- 
placed Elizabeth Pierrepoint in her heart. Melvil, who 
was present, was called by the queen herself, and an usher 
of Lord Paulet was sent for the others, who had remained 
at the upper balcony of the stair, and who now hastened 
down, happy even in their anguish to perform this last 
duty of devotion and fidelity. 

Appeased by this complaisance on the part of the earls, 
the queen beckoned to the sheriiT and his followers to 
advance. She was the first to lead the melancholy proces- 
sion to the scaffold. 

She arrived in the hall of death. Pale, but unflinching, 
she contemplated the dismal preparations. There lay the 
block and the axe. There stood the executioner and his 
assistant. All were clothed in mourning. On the floor 
was scattered the sawdust which was to soak her blood, 
and in a dark corner lay the bier which was to be her 
last prison. 

It was nine o'clock when the queen appeared in the 
funeral hall. Fletcher, Dean of Peterborough, and certain 
privileged persons to the number of more than two hun- 
dred, were assembled. The hall was hung with black 
cloth; the scaffold, which was elevated about two feet 
and a half above the ground, was covered with black 
frieze of Lancaster ; the armed chair in which Mary was 
to sit, the footstool on which she was to kneel, the block 
on which her head was to be laid, was covered with black 

The queen was clothed in mourning like the hall and as 
the ensigns of punishment. Her black velvet robe, with 
its high collar and hanging sleeves, was bordered with 

These Splendid Women 163 

ermine. Her mantle, lined with marten sable, was of 
satin, with pearl buttons and a long train. A chain of 
sweet-smelling beads, to which was attached a scapulary, 
and beneath that a golden cross, fell upon her bosom. 
Two rosaries were suspended to her girdle, and a long veil 
of white lace, which, in some measure, softened this 
costume of a widow and of a condemned criminal, was 
thrown around her. 

She was preceded by the sheriff, by Drury and Paulet, 
the earls and nobles of England, and followed by her 
two maidens and four officers, among whom was re- 
marked Melvil, bearing the train of the royal robe. 
Mary's walk was firm and majestic. For a single moment 
she raised her veil, and her face, on which shone a hope 
no longer of this world, seemed beautiful as in the days 
of her youth. The whole assembly were deeply moved. 
In one hand she held a crucifix and in the other one of 
her chaplets. 

The Earl of Kent rudely addressed her, "We should 
wear Christ in our hearts." 

"And wherefore," she replied quickly, "should I have 
Christ in my hand if he were not in my heart?" Paulet 
assisting her to mount the scaffold, she threw upon him 
a look full of sweetness. 

"Sir Amyas," she said, "I thank you for your courtesy ; 
it is the last trouble I will give you, and the most agreeable 
service you can render me." 

Arrived on the scaffold, Mary seated herself in the 
chair provided for her, with her face toward the spec- 
tators. The Dean of Peterborough, in ecclesiastical cos- 
tume, sat on the right of the queen, with a black velvet 
footstool before him. The Earls of Kent and Shrewsbury 
were seated like him on the right, but upon larger chairs. 
On the other side of the queen stood the sheriff Andrews, 
with white wand. In front of Mary were seen the execu- 
tioner and his assistant, distinguishable by their vestments 
of black velvet, with red crape round the left arm. Be- 

164 These Splendid Women 

hind the queen's chair, ranged by the wall, wept her at- 
tendants and maidens. In the body of the hall the nobles 
and citizens from the neighboring counties were guarded 
by the musketeers of Sir Amyas and Sir Drew Drury. 
Beyond the balustrade was the bar of the tribunal. The 
sentence was read; the queen protested against it in the 
name of royalty and innocence, but accepted death for 
the sake of the faith. 

She then knelt down before the block, and the execu- 
tioner proceeded to remove her veil. She repelled him by 
a gesture, and turning toward the earls with a blush on 
her forehead, "I am not accustomed," she said, "to be 
undressed before so numerous a company, and by the 
hands of such grooms of the chamber." 

She then called Jane Kennedy and Elizabeth Curie, 
who took off her mantle, her veil, her chains, cross, and 
scapulary. On their touching her robe, the queen told 
them to unloose the corsage and fold down the ermine 
collar, so as to leave her neck bare for the axe. Her 
maidens weepingly yielded her these last services. Melvil 
and the three other attendants wept and lamented, and 
Mary placed her finger on her lips to signify that they 
should be silent. 

"My friends," she cried, "I have answered for you, do 
not melt me ; ought you not rather to praise God for hav- 
ing inspired your mistress with courage and resignation ?" 
Yielding, however, in her turn to her own sensibility, she 
warmly embraced her maidens; then pressing them to 
descend from the scaffold, where they both clung to her 
dress, with hands bathed in their tears, she addressed to 
them a tender blessing and a last farewell. Melvil and 
his companions remained, as if choked with grief, at a 
short distance from the queen. Overcome by her accents, 
the executioners themselves besought her on their knees 
to pardon them. 

"I pardon you," she said, "after the example of my 

These Splendid Women 165 

She then arranged the handkerchief embroidered with 
thistles of gold, with which her eyes had been covered by 
Jane Kennedy. Thrice she kissed the crucifix, each time 
repeating, "Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit." 
She knelt anew, and leaned her head on that block which 
was already scored with deep marks and in this solemn 
attitude she again recited some verses from the psalms. 
The executioner interrupted her at the third verse by a 
blow of the axe, but its trembling stroke only grazed her 
neck ; she groaned slightly, and the second blow separated 
the head from the body. The executioner held it up at the 
window, within sight of all, proclaiming aloud, according 
to usage, "So perish the enemies of our queen!" 

The queen's maids of honor and attendants enshrouded 
the body, and claimed it, in order that it should be sent 
to France; but these relics of their tenderness and faith 
were pitilessly refused. Relics which might rekindle 
fanaticism were to be feared. 

But that cruel prudence was deceived by the result. 
Mary's death resembled a martyrdom ; her memory, which 
had been execrated alike by the Scottish Presbyterians 
and the English Protestants, was practically adopted by 
the Catholics as that of a saint. The passions were 
Mary's judges; therefore she was not fairly judged, nor 
will she ever be. 

Elizabeth, having thus mercilessly sacrificed the life 
of her whom she had so long and so unjustly retained in 
hopeless captivity, now added the most flagrant duplicity 
to her cruelty. Denying, with many oaths, all intention 
of having her own warrant carried into execution, she 
attempted to throw the entire odium on those who in 
reality had acted as her blind and devoted agents. This 
poHcy of the English queen was unsuccessful, however; 
posterity has with clear voice proclaimed her guilty of 
the blood of her royal sister, and the sanguinary stain 
will ever remain ineffaceable from the character of that 
otherwise great sovereign. 

166 These Splendid Women 

If we regard Mary Stuart in the light of her charms, 
her talents, her magical influence over all men who ap- 
proached her, she may be called the Sappho of the six- 
teenth century. All that was not love in her soul was 
poetry ; her verses, like those of Ronsard, her worshipper 
and teacher, possess a Greek softness combined with a 
quaint simplicity; they are written with tears, and even 
after the lapse of so many years retain something of the 
warmth of her sighs. 

If we judge her by her life, she is the Scottish Semir- 
amis; casting herself, before the eyes of all Europe, into 
the arms of the assassin of her husband, and thus giving 
to the people she had thrown into civil war a coronation 
of murder for a lesson of morality. 

Her direct and personal participation in the death of 
her young husband has been denied, and nothing in effect, 
except those suspected letters, proves that she actually and 
personally accomplished or permitted the crime; but that 
she had attracted the victim into the snare ; that she had 
given Both well the right and the hope of succeeding to the 
throne after his death; that she had been the end, the 
means, and the alleged prize of the crime; finally, that 
she absolved the murderer by bestowing upon him her 
hand — no doubt can be entertained regarding these points. 
To provoke to murder and then to absolve the perpetrator 
— is not this equivalent to guilt? 

In fine, if she be judged by her death — comparable, 
in its majesty, its piety, and its courage, to the most heroic 
and the holiest sacrifices of the primitive martyrs — the 
horror and aversion with which she had been regarded 
change at last to pity, esteem, and admiration. As long 
as there was no expiation she remained a criminal; by 
expiation she became a victim. In her history blood seems 
to be washed out by blood ; the guilt of her former years 
flows, as it were, from her veins with the crimson stream ; 
we do not absolve, we sympathize ; our pity is not absolu- 
tion, but rather approaches to love ; we try to find excuses 

These Splendid Women 167 

for her conduct in the ferocious and dissolute manners 
of the age ; in that education, depraved, sanguinary, and 
fanatical, which she received at the court of the Valois ; in 
her youth, her beauty, her love. We are constrained to 
say with M. Dargaud — to whom we feel deeply indebted 
for the researches which have guided us — "We judge not ; 
we only relate." 

A Defense of Mary Queen of Scots 


AMONG the various points of view taken in times 
past and present by students of a subject* 
which must surely have lost its interest long 
since if that interest were less than inexhaustible, I have 
always missed, and wondered at the general oversight 
which appears to ignore it, one which would most nat- 
urally seem to present itself for candid and rational con- 
sideration by either party to the argument. Every shade 
of possible opinion on the matter has found in its various 
champions every possible gradation of ability in debate. 
And the universal result, as it appears to an outsider — 
to a student of history unconscious alike of prejudice 
and prepossession — is that they who came to curse the 
memory of Mary Stuart have blessed it as with the bless- 
ing of a Balaam, and they who came to bless it, with 
tribute of panegyric or with testimony in defence, have 
inevitably and invariably cursed it altogether. To vin- 
dicate her from the imputations of her vindicators would 
be the truest service that could now be done by the most 
loyal devotion to her name and fame. 

A more thorough, more earnest, and on the whole a 
more able apology for any disputed or debatable char- 

168 These Splendid Women 

acter in all the range of history it would indeed be hard 
to find than that which has been attempted by Mr. Hosack 
in his two copious and laborious volumes on Mary Queen 
of Scots and her Accusers. Every point of vantage 
throughout the intricacies of irreconcilable evidence is 
clearly seen, is swiftly seized, is manfully defended. And 
the ultimate outcome of all is the presentation of a figure 
beside which, I do not say the Mary Stuart of Mr. 
Froude, but the Mary Stuart of George Buchanan, is an 
accepfable and respectable type of royal womanhood — a 
pardonable if not admirable example of human character. 
Many bitter and terrible things were said of that woman 
in her lifetime by many fierce and unscrupulous enemies 
of her person or her creed: many grave and crushing 
charges were alleged against her on plausible or improb- 
able grounds of impeachment or suspicion. But two 
things were never imputed to her by the most reckless 
ferocity of malice or of fear. No one ever dreamed of 
saying that Mary Queen of Scots was a fool. And no 
one ever dared to suggest that Mary Queen of Scots 
was a coward. 

That there are fewer moral impossibilities than would 
readily be granted by the professional moralist, those 
students of human character who are not professional 
moralists may very readily admit. A very short and a 
very narrow experience will suffice to preserve a man — 
or for that matter a boy — of average intelligence from any 
sense of shocked astonishment when his expectation is 
confronted by "fears of the brave and follies of the 
wise," instances of mercy in the unmerciful or cruelty in 
the humane. But there is a limit to the uttermost range 
of such paradoxical possibilities. And that limit is 
reached and crossed, cleared at a leap and left far out 
of sight, by the theorist who demands our assent to such 
a theorem as this : That a woman whose intelligence was 
below the average level of imbecility, and whose courage 
was below the average level of a coward's, should have 

These Splendid Women 169 

succeeded throughout the whole course of a singularly 
restless and adventurous career in imposing herself upon 
the judgment of every man and woman with whom she 
ever came into any sort or kind of contact, as a person 
of the most brilliant abilities and the most dauntless 
daring. Credat Catholicus; for such faith must surely 
exceed the most credulous capacity of ancient Jew or 
modern Gentile. 

But this is not all, or nearly all. Let us admit, though 
it be no small admission, that Mary Stuart, who cer- 
tainly managed to pass herself off upon every one who 
came near her under any circumstances as the brightest 
and the bravest creature of her kind in any rank or any 
country of the world, was dastard enough to be cowed 
into a marriage which she was idiot enough to imagine 
could be less than irretrievable ruin to her last chance of 
honour or prosperity. The violence of Bothwell and the 
perfidy of her council imposed forsooth this miserable 
necessity on the credulous though reluctant victim of brute 
force on the one hand and treasonable fraud on the other. 
Persuaded by the request and convinced by the reasoning 
of those about her, Lucretia felt it nothing less than a 
duty to accept the hand of Tarquin yet reeking from the 
blood of Collatinus. The situation is worthy of one of 
Mr. Gilbert's incomparable ballads or burlesques ; and her 
contemporaries, Catholic or Protestant, friend or foe, rival 
or ally, may be forgiven if they failed at once to grasp 
and realize it as a sufficiently plausible solution of all 
doubts and difficulties not otherwise as rationally ex- 
plicable. Yet possibly it may not be impossible that an 
exceptionally stupid girl, reared from her babyhood in an 
atmosphere of artificially exceptional innocence, might 
play at once the active and the passive part assigned to 
Mary, before and after the execution of the plot against 
her husband's life, by the traducers who have undertaken 
her defence. But for this improbability to be possible 
it is obviously necessary to assume in this pitiable puppet 

170 These Splendid Women 

an extent of ignorance to be equalled only, and scarcely, 
by the depth and density of her dulness. A woman 
utterly wanting in tact, intuition, perception of character 
or grasp of circumstance — a woman abnormally devoid of 
such native instinct and such acquired insight as would 
suffice to preserve all but the dullest of natures from 
ludicrous indiscretion and perilous indelicacy — ^might per- 
haps for lack of experience be betrayed into such a suc- 
cession of mishaps as the training of an ideally rigid 
convent might have left it difficult or impossible for her 
fatuous innocence to foresee. But of the convent in which 
Mary Stuart had passed her novitiate the Lady Superior 
was Queen Catherine de Medici. The virgins who shared 
the vigils of her maidenhood or brightened the celebration 
of her nuptials were such as composed the Queen- 
Mother's famous "flying squadron'* of high-born harlots, 
professionally employed in the task of making the wor- 
ship of Venus Pandemos subserve the purposes of Cath- 
olic faith or polity, and occasionally, as on the Feast of 
St. Bartholomew, exhilarated by such diversions as the 
jocose examination of naked and newly-murdered corpses 
with an eye to the satisfaction of a curiosity which the 
secular pen of a modern historian must decline to explain 
with the frankness of a clerical contemporary. The 
cloistral precinct which sheltered her girlhood from such 
knowledge of evil as might in after days have been of 
seme protection to her guileless levity was the circuit of 
a court whose pursuits and recreations were divided be- 
tween the alcoves of Sodom and the playground of Acel- 
dama. What were the vices of the society described by 
Brantome it is impossible, or at least it would be re- 
pulsive, to suggest by so much as a hint: but its virtues 
were homicide and adultery. Knox or Ascham would 
have given plainer and juster expression, in shorter terms 
of speech more purely English, to the fact that no man 
was honoured who could not show blood on his hands, 
no woman admired who would not boast as loudly of the 

These Splendid Women 111 

favours she had granted as her gallants of the favours 
they had received. It is but a slight matter to add that 
the girl who was reared from her very infancy in this at- 
mosphere — in the atmosphere of a palace which it would 
be flattery to call a brothel or a slaughter-house — ^had for 
her mother a woman of the blood-stained house of Guise, 
and for her father the gaberlunzie-man or jolly beggar of 
numberless and nameless traditional adventures in pro- 
miscuous erotic intrigue. The question of family is of 
course very far from conclusive, though certainly it may 
help "to thicken other proofs that do demonstrate thinly.'* 
The calendar of saints includes a Borgia; or, to put it 
perhaps more forcibly, the house of Borgia contains a 
saint. And some writers — Landor among them, who had 
little love for the brood — have averred that the Bonaparte 
family did once produce an honest man and equitable 
ruler — -Louis king of Holland, whose only son gave his 
life in vain for Italy. It would certainly have been no 
greater miracle than these, no more startling exception 
to the general rule, that the daughter of James V. and 
Mary of Guise should have been a blameless though imbe- 
cile creature, an innocent in the least flattering sense of 
the word, whose blood was very snow-broth and whose 
brain a very feather. But mere innocence, as distin- 
guished from the absolute idiocy which even her warmest 
admirers would hesitate to ascribe to her, will hardly 
suffice to explain her course of conduct in the most critical 
period of her life. A woman who could play the part 
assigned to Mary by the Whitakers, Stricklands, Aytouns, 
and Hosacks whose laudations have so cruelly libelled her, 
must have been either the veriest imbecile whose craven 
folly ever betrayed in every action an innate and irre- 
sponsible impotence of mind, or at least and at best a 
good girl of timid temper and weak intellect, who had 
been tenderly sheltered all her life from any possible 
knowledge or understanding of evil, from all apprehen- 
sion as from all experience of wickedness and wrong. 

172 These Splendid Women 

Now it is of course just barely possible that a girl might 
come innocent as Shakespeare's Marina even out of such 
a house of entertainment as that kept by the last princes 
of the race of Valois: but it is absolutely and glaringly 
impossible that she should come forth from it ignorant 
of evil. And it is not a jot less impossible that an in- 
nocent woman who was not animally idiotic or angelically 
ignorant, a drivelling craven or a thing enskied and 
sainted, the pitifullest or the purest, the most thick-witted 
or the most unspotted of her kind, could have borne her- 
self as did Mary after the murder of her caitiff husband. 
Let us assume, though it is no small assumption, that all 
her enemies were liars and forgers. Let us imagine that 
except among her adherents there was not a man of any 
note in all Scotland who was not capable of treason as 
infamous as that of the English conspirators on her be- 
half against the life of Elizabeth and the commonwealth 
of their country. Let us suppose that a Buchanan, for 
example, was what Mr. Hosack has called him, "the 
prince of literary prostitutes" : a rascal cowardly enough 
to put forth in print a foul and formless mass of undi- 
gested falsehood and rancorous ribaldry, and venal enough 
to traffic in the disgrace of his dishonourable name for a 
purpose as infamous as his act. Let us concede that a 
Maitland was cur enough to steal that name as a mask 
for the impudent malice of ingratitude. Let us allow that 
Murray may have been the unscrupulous traitor and 
Elizabeth the malignant rival of Marian tradition. Let 
us admit that the truest solution of a complicated riddle 
may be that most ingenious theory advocated by Mr. 
Hosack, which addresses to Darnley instead of Bothwell 
the most passionate and pathetic of the Casket Letters, and 
cancels as incongruous forgeries all those which refuse to 
fit into this scheme of explanation. Let us grant that 
the forgers were at once as clumsy as Cloten and as in- 
genious as lago. The fact remains no less obvious and 
obtrusive than before, that it is very much easier to 

These Splendid Women 173 

blacken the fame of Mary's confederate enemies than to 
whitewash the reputation of Bothwell's royal wife. And 
what manner of whitewash is that which substitutes for 
the features of an erring but heroic woman those of a 
creature not above but beneath the human possibility of 
error or of sin? 

But if we reject as incredible the ideal of Prince La- 
l^anoff's loyal and single-hearted credulity, does it follow 
that we must accept the ideal of Mr. Froude's implacable 
and single-eyed animosity? Was the mistress of Both- 
well, the murderess of Darnley, the conspiratress against 
the throne and life of her kinswoman and hostess, by any 
necessary consequence the mere panther and serpent of 
his fascinating and magnificent study ? This seems to me 
no more certain a corollary than that because she went to 
the scaffold with a false front her severed head, at the 
age of forty-five, must have been that "of a grizzled, 
wrinkled old woman." By such flashes of fiery and 
ostentatious partisanship the brilliant and fervent advocate 
of the Tudors shows his hand, if I may say so without 
offence, a little too unconsciously and plainly. And his 
ultimate conclusion that "she was a bad woman, disguised 
in the livery of a martyr," (vol. 12, ch. 34) seems to me 
not much better supported by the sum of evidence produc- 
ible on either side than the counter inference of his most 
pertinacious antagonist that "this illustrious victim of sec- 
tarian violence and barbarous statecraft will ever occupy 
the most prominent place in the annals of her sex" 
(Hosack, vol. 2, ch. 27). There are annals and annals, 
from the Acta Sanctorum to the Newgate Calendar. In 
the former of these records Mr. Hosack, in the latter Mr. 
Froude, would inscribe — as I cannot but think, with equal 
unreason — the name of Mary Stuart. 

"She was a bad woman," says the ardent and energetic 
advocate on the devil's side in this matter, because "she 
was leaving the world with a lie on her lips," when with 
her last breath she protested her innocence of the charge 

174 These Splendid Women 

on which she was condemned to death. But the God of 
her worship, the God in whom she trusted, the God on 
whom she had been taught to lean for support of her 
conscience, would no more have been offended at this 
than the God of Dahomey is offended by human sacrifice. 
Witness all the leading spirits among his servants, in that 
age if in no other, from pope to king and from king to 
cutthroat — from Gregory XIII. and Sextus V. to Philip 
II. and Charles IX., and from Philip II. and Charles IX. 
to Saulx-Tavannes and Maurevel. To their God and hers 
a lie was hardly less acceptable service than a murder ; 
Blessed Judas was a servant only less commendable than 
Saint Cain. Nor, on the whole, would it appear that the 
lapse of time has brought any perceptible improvement to 
the moral character of this deity. The coup d'etat of 
August 24, 1572, was not an offering of sweeter savour 
in his expansive and insatiable nostrils than was the St. 
Bartholomew of December 2, 1851. From the same 
chair the vicar of the same God bestowed the same ap- 
proving benediction on Florentine and on Corsican per- 
jurer and murderer. And in a worshipper of this divine 
devil, in the ward of a Medici or a Bonaparte, it would be 
an inhuman absurdity to expect the presence or condemn 
the absence of what nothing far short of a miracle could 
have implanted — the sense of right and wrong, the dis- 
tinction of good from evil, the preference of truth to 
falsehood. The heroine of Fotheringay was by no means 
a bad woman : she was a creature of the sixteenth century, 
a Catholic and a Queen. What is really remarkable is 
what is really admirable in her nature, and was inerad- 
icable as surely as it was unteachable by royal training 
or by religious creed. I desire no better evidence in 
her favour than may be gathered from the admissions 
of her sternest judge and bitterest enemy. "Throughout 
her life," Mr. Froude allows, "she never lacked gratitude 
to those who had been true to her. — Never did any human 
creature meet death more bravely." Except in the dialect 

These Splendid Wotnen 175 

of the pulpit, she is not a bad woman of whom so much 
at least must be said and cannot be denied. Had she been 
born the man that she fain would have been born, no 
historian surely would have refused her a right to a 
high place among other heroes and above other kings. All 
Mr. Froude's vituperative terms cannot impair the nobility 
of the figure he presents to our unapproving admiration : 
all Mr. Hosack's sympathetic phrases cannot exalt the 
poverty of the spirit he exposes for our unadmiring com- 
passion. For however much we may admire the courage 
he ascribes to her at the last, we cannot remember with 
less than contemptuous pity the pusillanimous imbecility 
which on his showing had been the distinctive quality of 
her miserable life. According to her champion, a witness 
against her more pitiless than John Knox or Edmund 
Spenser, she had done nothing in her time of trial that 
an innocent woman would have done, and left nothing 
undone that an innocent woman would have studiously 
abstained from doing, if she had not been in the idiotic 
sense an innocent indeed. But it is in their respective 
presentations of the closing scene at Fotheringay that the 
incurable prepossession of view which is common to both 
advocates alike springs suddenly into sharpest illustration 
and relief. Mr. Froude cannot refrain from assuming, 
on grounds too slight for Macaulay to have accepted as 
sufficient for the damnation of a Jacobite, that on receipt 
of her death-warrant the Queen of Scots *'was dreadfully 
agitated," and "at last broke down altogether," before the 
bearers of the sudden intelligence had left her. Now 
every line of the narrative preceding this imputation 
makes it more and more insuperably difficult to believe 
that in all her dauntless life Queen Mary can ever have 
been "dreadfully agitated," except by anger and another 
passion at least as different from fear. But this exhibition 
of prepense partisanship is nothing to the grotesque 
nakedness of Mr. Hosack's. At a first reading it is dif- 
ficult for a reader to believe the evidence of his eyesight 

176 These Splendid Wotnen 

when he finds a historian who writes himself **barrister- 
at-law," and should surely have some inkling of the moral 
weight or worth of evidence as to character, deliberately 
asserting that in her dying appeal for revenge to the 
deadliest enemy of England and its queen, Mary, after 
studious enumeration of every man's name against whom 
she bore such resentment as she desired might survive 
her death, and strike them down with her dead hand by 
way of retributive sacrifice, "exhibited an unparalleled 
instance of feminine forbearance and generosity" (the 
sarcasm implied on womanhood is too savage for the 
most sweeping satire of a Thackeray or a Pope) "in omit- 
ting the name of Elizabeth." sancta simplicitas! Who 
shall say after this that the practice of the legal profession 
is liable to poison the gushing springs of youth's ingenu- 
ous trustfulness and single-minded optimism? 

An advocate naturally or professionally incapable of 
such guileless confidence and ingenuous self-betrayal is 
Father John Morris, "Priest of the Society of Jesus," 
and editor of "The Letter-books of Sir Amias Poulet, 
Keeper of Mary Queen of Scots" : a volume nothing less 
than invaluable as well as indispensable to all serious 
students of the subject in hand. Writers of genius and 
impetuosity such as Mr. Froude's and the late Canon 
Kingsley's lay themselves open at many points of minor 
importance to the decisive charge or the wary fence of an 
antagonist expert in the fine art of controversy: but their 
main or ultimate positions may prove none the less dif- 
ficult to carry by the process of countermine or other 
sacerdotal tactics. Father Morris is not quite so hard on 
his client as Mr. Hasock: for by admitting something 
of what is undeniable in the charges of history against 
her he attenuates the effect and diminishes the prom- 
inence of his inevitable and obvious prepossessions : and 
though he suggests (p. 275) that "perhaps Mary was not 
quite 'the fiery woman' Mr. Froude imagines her to have 
been," he does not pretend to exhibit her as the watery 

These Splendid Women 111 

thing of tears and terrors held up to our compassion by 
the relentless if unconscious animosity of the implacable 
counsel for her defense. 

On one point (p. 143) the pleading of Father Morris 
must in no inconsiderable measure command the sympathy 
of all Englishmen who honestly love fair play, and that 
not only when it plays into their own hands. It is surely 
much more than high time, after the lapse of three cen- 
turies, that honest and generous men of different creeds 
and parties should be equally ready to do justice, if not 
to each other's God, — since Gods are by necessity of na- 
ture irreconcilable and internecine, — at least to the mem- 
ories of their common countrymen, who played their part 
manfully in their day on either side with fair and loyal 
weapons of attack and defence. We regard with disgust 
and the horror of revolted conscience that vile and execra- 
ble doctrine which assures us in childhood that the glory 
.of martyrdom depends on the martyr's orthodoxy of 
opinion, on the accuracy of his reckoning or the justice 
of his conjecture as to spiritual matters of duty or of 
faith, on the happiness of a guess or the soundness of 
an argument; but surely it profits us little to have cleared 
our conscience of such a creed if we remain incapable of 
doing justice to Jesuit and Calvinist, creedsman and 
atheist, alike. It profits us little if we are to involve 
in one ignominy with the unscrupulous and treasonous 
intrigues of Parsons and Garnet the blameless labours 
and the patient heroism of Edmund Campion. So far, 
then. Father Morris has a good card in hand, and plays 
it well and fairly, when he pleads, for example, against 
Mr. Froude's charges, and on behalf of his own famous 
Society, that "Gilbert Gifford had no 'Jesuit training,' 
and 'the Order' never had anything to do with him; — 
but it is necessary to note that all through Mr. Froude's 
History he habitually styles 'Jesuits' those who never 
had anything in the world to do with the Society of which 
St. Ignatius Loyola was the founder." Gilbert Gilford 

178 These Splendid Women 

was a traitor, and any man must be eager to avoid the 
disgrace of any connection, though never so remote 
or obHque, with a traitor's infamy. But I hope it may not 
be held incompatible with all respect for the conscien- 
tious labours of Father IMorris, and with all gratitude for 
help and obligation conferred by them, to remark with 
due deference that a champion of Jesuits against the 
malignant errors of calumnious misrepresentation would 
be wise to avoid all occasion given to heretical pravity 
for a scoff on the old scores of pious fraud or suggestion 
of falsehood. Exactly two hundred and five pages after 
this pathetic protest of conscious virtue and candid in- 
dignation against the inexcusable injustice of an anti- 
Catholic historian, this denouncer of Mr. Froude's un- 
fair dealing and unfounded statements, "the parallel of 
which it would be difficult to find in any one claiming to 
occupy the judicial position of a historian," affords the 
following example of his own practical respect for his- 
torical justice and accuracy of statement. 

"Not only," he says, with righteous disgust at such 
brutality, "not only would Poulet deprive Mary of Mel- 
ville and du Preau, but, writing too from his own sick 
bed, he betrays his wish to remove the medical attendants 
also, though his prisoner was in chronic ill health." 

The whole and sole ground for such an imputation is 
given, with inconsistent if not unwary frankness, on the 
very next page but one, in the text of Paulet's letter to 

"The physician, apothecary, and the surgeon have been 
so often allowed to this lady by her Majesty's order, that 
I may not take upon me to displace them without special 
warrant, referring the same to your better consideration." 

It is scarcely by the display of such literary tactics as 
these that a Jesuit will succeed in putting to shame the 
credulity of unbelievers who may be so far misguided by 
heretical reliance on a groundless tradition as to attribute 
the practice of holy prevarication, and the doctrine of an 

These Splendid Women .179 

end which sanctifies the most equivocal means of action 
or modes of argument, to the ingenuous and guileless 
children of Ignatius. For refutation of these inexplicable 
calumnies and explosion of this unaccountable error we 
must too evidently look elsewhere. 

An elder luminary of the Roman Church, the most 
brilliant and impudent chronicler of courtly brothelry be- 
tween the date of Petronius and the date of Grammont, 
has left on record that when news came to Paris of the 
execution at Fotheringay the general verdict passed by 
most of her old acquaintances on the Queen Dowager 
of France was that her death was a just if lamentable 
retribution for the death of Chastelard. The despatch 
of a disloyal husband by means of gunpowder was not, 
in the eyes of these Catholic moralists, an offence worth 
mention if set against the execution of a loyal lover, 
"even in her sight he loved so well." That the luckless 
young rhymester and swordsman had been Mary's 
favoured lover — ^a circumstance which would of course 
have given no scandal whatever to the society in which 
they had grown up to years of indiscretion — can be neither 
affirmed nor denied on the authority of any positive and 
incontrovertible proof : and the value of such moral if 
not legal evidence as we possess depends mainly on the 
credit which we may be disposed to assign to the re- 
ported statement of Murray. Knox, who will not gen- 
erally be held capable of deliberate forgery and lying, 
has left an account of the affair which can hardly be 
regarded as a possible misrepresentation or perversion 
of fact, with some grain of discoloured and distorted 
truth half latent in a heap of lies. Either the falsehood 
is absolute, or the conclusion is obvious. 

The first sentences of his brief narrative may be set 
down as giving merely an austere and hostile summary 
of common rumours. That Chastelard "at that tyme 
passed all otheris in credytt with the Queue"; that "in 
dansing of the Purpose, (so terme thei that danse, in the 

180 These Splendid Women 

which man and woman talkis secreatlie — wyese men wold 
judge such fassionis more lyke to the bordell than to 
the comelynes of honest wemen,) in this danse the Ouene 
chosed Chattelett, and Chattelett took the Quene" ; that 
"Chattelett had the best dress"; that "all this winter" 
(1563) "Chattelett was so familiare in the Quenis cabi- 
nett, ayre and laitt, that scar sly e could any of the Nobilitie 
have access unto hir"; that "the Quene wold ly upoun 
Chattelettis shoulder, and sometymes prively she wold 
steall a kyss of his neck"; these are records which we 
may or may not pass by as mere court gossip retailed 
by the preacher, and to be taken with or without dis- 
count as the capable and equanimous reader shall think 
fit. We may presume however that the prophet-humour- 
ist did not append the following comment without sar- 
donic intention. "And all this was honest yneuch; for it 
was the gentill entreatment of a stranger." The kernel 
of the matter lies in the few sentences following. 

"But the familiaritie was so great, that upoun a nycht, 
he privelie did convey him self under the Quenis bed; 
but being espyed, he was commanded away. But the 
bruyte arysing, the Quene called the Erie of Murray, and 
bursting forth in a womanlie affectioun, charged him, 
'That as he loved hir, he should slay Chattelett, and let 
him never speak word.' The other, at the first, maid 
promesse so to do; but after calling to mynd the judge- 
mentis of God pronunced against the scheddaris of inno- 
cent bloode, and also that none should dye, without the 
testimonye of two or thre witnesses, returned and fell 
upoun his kneis befoir the Quene, and said, 'Madam, I 
beseak your Grace, cause me not tack the bloode of this 
man upoun me. Your Grace has entreated him so 
f amiliarlie befoir, that ye have offended all your Nobilitie ; 
and now yf he shalbe secreatlie slane at your awin com- 
mandiment, what shall the world judge of it? I shall 
bring him to the presence of Justice, and let him suffer 
be law according to his deserving.' 'Oh,' said the Quene, 

These Splendid Women 181 

*ye will never let him speak ?' *I shall do, said he, 'Madam, 
what in me lyeth to saiff your honour/" {The History 
of the Reformation in Scotland, Book IV.: The Works 
of John Knox; collected and edited by David Laing. 
Vol, 11. , p. 368.) "Upon this hint I spake," when in the 
last year of my life as an undergraduate I began my 
play of Chastelard; nor have I to accuse myself, then or 
since, of any voluntary infraction of recorded fact or 
any conscious violation of historical chronology, except — 
to the best of my recollection — in two instances : the date 
of Mary's second marriage and the circumstances of her 
last interview with John Knox. I held it as allowable 
to anticipate by two years the event of Darnley's nuptials, 
or in other words to postpone for two years the event 
of Chastelard's execution, as to compile or condense 
into one dramatic scene the details of more than one 
conversation recorded by Knox between Mary and him- 

To accept the natural and unavoidable inference from 
the foregoing narrative, assuming of course that it is 
not to be dismissed on all counts as pure and simple 
falsehood, may seem equivalent to an admission that the 
worst view ever yet taken of Queen Mary's character 
is at least no worse than was undeniably deserved. And 
yet, without any straining of moral law or any indulgence 
in paradoxical casuistry, there is something if not much 
to be offered in her excuse. To spare the life of a suicidal 
young monomaniac who would not accept his dismissal 
with due submission to the inevitable and suppression of 
natural regret, would probably in her own eyes have been 
no less than ruin to her character under the changed cir- 
cumstances and in the transformed atmosphere of her 
life. As, in extenuation of his perverse and insuppressible 
persistency in thrusting himself upon the compassion or 
endurance of a woman who possibly was weary of his 
homage, it may doubtless be alleged that Mary Stuart 
was hardly such a mistress as a man could be expected 

182 These Splendid Women 

readily to resign, or perhaps, at Chastelard's age, to 
forego with much less reluctance than life itself ; so like- 
wise may it be pleaded on the other hand that the Queen 
of Scotland could not without at least equal unreason 
be expected to sacrifice her reputation and imperil her 
security for the sake of a cast-off lover who could not 
see that it was his duty as a gentleman of good sense to 
submit himself and his passion to her pleasure and the 
force of circumstances. The act of Chastelard was the 
act of a rebel as surely as the conduct of Darnley three 
years later was the conduct of a traitor; and by all the 
laws then as yet unrepealed, by all precedents and rights 
of royalty, the life of the rebellious lover was scarce less 
unquestionably forfeit than the life of the traitorous con- 
sort. Nobody in those days had discovered the inestim- 
able secret of being royalists or Christians by halves. At 
least, it was an unpromising time for any one who 
might attempt to anticipate this popular modern dis- 

It must be admitted that Queen Mary was generally 
and singularly unlucky in her practical assertion of pre- 
rogative. To every one of her royal descendants, with 
the possible exception of King Charles II., she transmitted 
this single incapacity by way of counterpoise to all the 
splendid and seductive gifts which she likewise bequeathed 
to not a few of their luckless line. They were a race 
of brilliant blunderers, with obtuse exceptions inter- 
spersed. To do the right thing at the wrong time, to fas- 
cinate many and satisfy none, to display every kind of 
faculty but the one which might happen to be wanted, 
was as fatally the sign of a Stuart as ever ferocity was 
of a Claudius or perjury of a Bonaparte. After the 
time of Queen Mary there were no more such men born 
into the race as her father and half-brother. The habits 
of her son were as suggestive of debased Itahan blood 
in the worst age of Italian debasement as the profitless 
and incurable cunning with which her grandson tricked 

These Splendid Women 183 

his own head off his shoulders, the swarthy levity and 
epicurean cynicism of his elder son, or the bloody piety 
and sullen profligacy of his younger. The one apparently 
valid argument against the likeHhood of their descent from 
Rizzio is that Darnley would undoubtedly seem to have 
pledged what he called his honour to the fact of his wife's 
infidelity. Towards that unhappy traitor her own conduct 
was not more merciless than just, or more treacherous 
than necessary, if justice was at all to be done upon him. 
In the house of Medici or in the house of Lorraine she 
could have found and cited at need in vindication of her 
strategy many far less excusable examples of guile as 
relentless and retaliation as implacable as that which lured 
or hunted a beardless Judas to his doom,. If the manner 
in which justice was done upon him will hardly be jus- 
tified by the most perverse and audacious lover of his- 
torical or moral paradox, yet neither can the most rigid 
upholder of moral law in whom rigour has not got the 
upper hand of reason deny that never was a lawless act^ 
committed with more excuse or more pretext for regard- 
ing it as lawful. To rid herself of a traitor and murderer 
who could not be got rid of by formal process of law 
was the object and problem which the action of Darnley 
had inevitably set before his royal consort. That the 
object was attained and the problem solved with such in- 
conceivable awkwardness and perfection of mismanage- 
ment is proof that no infusion of Guisian blood or train- 
ing of Medicean education could turn the daughter of 
an old heroic northern line into a consummate and cold 
intriguer of the southern Catholic pattern. The contempt 
of Catherine for her daughter-in-law when news reached 
Paris of the crowning blunder at Kirk of Field must have 
been hardly expressible by human utterance. At her best 
and worst alike, it seems to my poor apprehension that 
Mary showed herself a diplomatist only by education and 
force of native ability brought to bear on a line of life 
and conduct most alien from her inborn impulse as a 

184 These Splendid Women 

frank, passionate, generous, unscrupulous, courageous and 
loyal woman, naturally self-willed and trained to be self- 
seeking, born and bred an imperial and royal creature, at 
once in the good and bad or natural and artificial sense 
of the words. In such a view I can detect no necessary 
incoherence ; in such a character I can perceive no radical 
inconsistency. But *'to assert," as Mr. Hosak says (ch. 
27 )y "that any human being," neither a born idiot nor a 
spiritless dastard, **could have been guilty" of such ut- 
terly abject and despicable conduct as the calumnious ad- 
vocates of her innocence find themselves compelled to 
impute to her, "is," as I have always thought and must 
always continue to think, "an absurdity which refutes 
itself." The theory that an "unscupulous oligarchy at 
length accomplished her ruin by forcing her" — of all 
things in the world — "to marry Bothwell," is simply and 
amply sufficient, if accepted, to deprive her of all claim on 
any higher interest or any nobler sympathy than may 
be excited by the suffering of a beaten hound. Indeed, 
the most impossible monster of incongruous merits and 
demerits which can be found in the most chaotic and in- 
consequent work of Euripides or Fletcher is a credible 
and coherent production of consistent nature if compared 
with Mr. Hosack's heroine. Outside the range of the 
clerical and legal professions it should be difficult to find 
men of keen research and conscientious ability who can 
think that a woman of such working brain and burning 
heart as never faltered, never quailed, never rested till 
the end had come for them of all things, could be glorified 
by degradation to the likeness of a brainless, heartless, 
sexless and pusillanimous fool. Supposing she had taken 
part in the slaying of Darnley, there is every excuse for 
her; supposing she had not, there is none. Considered 
from any possible point of view, the tragic story of her 
life in Scotland admits but of one interpretation which is 
not incompatible with the impression she left on all friends 
and all foes alike. And this interpretation is simply that 

These Splendid Women 185 

she hated Darnley with a passionate but justifiable hatred, 
and loved Bothwell with a passionate but pardonable love. 
For the rest of her career, I cannot but think that what- 
ever was evil and ignoble in it was the work of education 
and circumstance ; whatever was good and noble, the gift 
of nature or of God, 

d^aria Theresa 


MARIA THERESA/ of Austria, born on the 
13th of May, 1717— was the daughter of Charles 
the Sixth, Emperor of Germany, and Elizabeth 
Christina, of Brunswick, a lovely and amiable woman, 
who possessed and deserved her husband's entire confi- 
dence and affection. 

Maria Theresa had been destined from her infancy 
to marry the young Duke of Lorraine, who was brought 
up in the court of Vienna, as her intended husband. 
It is very, very seldom that these political state-marriages 
terminate happily, or harmonize with the wishes and 
feelings of those principally concerned ; but in the present 
case "the course of true love" was blended with that of 
policy. Francis Stephen of Lorraine was the son of 
Leopold, Duke of Lorraine, surnamed the Good and 
Benevolent. His grandmother, Leonora of Austria, was 
the eldest sister of Charles VL, and he was consequently 
the cousin of his intended bride. Francis was not pos- 
sessed of shining talents, but he had a good understand- 
ing and an excellent heart; he was, besides, eminently 
handsome, indisputably brave, and accomplished in all 
the courtly exercises that became a prince and a gentle- 
man. In other respects his education had been strangely 
neglected; he could scarcely read or write. From child- 
hood the two cousins had been fondly attached, and their 
attachment was perhaps increased, at least on the side of 
Maria Theresa, by those political obstacles which long 

These Splendid Women 187 

deferred their union, and even threatened at one time 
a lasting separation. Towards the end of his reign the 
affairs of Charles VI., through his imbecility and mis- 
government, fell into the most deplorable, the most in- 
extricable confusion. Overwhelmed by his enemies, 
unaided by his friends and allies, he absolutely enter- 
tained the idea of entering into a treaty with Spain, and 
offering his daughter Maria Theresa, in marriage to 
Prince Charles, the heir of that monarchy. 

But Maria Theresa was not of a temper to submit 
quietly to an arrangement of which she was to be made 
the victim; she remonstrated, she wept, she threw her- 
self for support and assistance into her mother's arms. 
The empress, who idolized her daughter and regarded 
the Duke of Lorraine as her son, incessantly pleaded 
against this sacrifice of her daughter's happiness. The 
English minister at Vienna gives the following lively de- 
scription of the state of affairs at this time, and of the 
feelings and deportment of the young archduchess : — "She 
is," says Mr. Robinson, "a princess of the highest spirit; 
her father's losses are her own. She reasons already; 
she enters into affairs; she admires his virtues, but con- 
demns his mismanagement ; and is of a temper so formed 
for rule and ambition, as to look upon him as Httle more 
than her administrator. Notwithstanding this lofty 
himior, she sighs and pines for her Duke of Lorraine. If 
she sleeps, it is only to dream of him — if she wakes, it 
is but to talk of him to the lady in waiting; so that 
there is no more probability of her forgetting the very 
individual government and the very individual husband 
which she thinks herself born to, than of her forgiving 
the authors of her losing either." 

Charles VI., distracted and perplexed by the dif^culties 
of his situation, by the passionate grief of his daughter, 
by the remonstrances of his wife and the rest of his 
family, and without spirit, or abilities, or confidence in 
himself or others, became a pitiable object. During the 

188 These Splendid Women 

day, and while transacting business with his ministers, 
he maintained his accustomed dignity and formality; but 
in the dead of night, in the retirement of his own cham- 
ber, and when alone with the empress, he gave way to such 
paroxysms of affliction, that not his health only, but his 
Hfe was endangered, and his reason began to give way. 
A peace with France had become necessary on any terms, 
and almost at any sacrifice ; and a secret negotiation was 
commenced with Cardinal Fleury, then at the head of 
the French government, under (or, more properly speak- 
ing, over) Louis the Fifteenth. By one of the principal 
articles of this treaty, the Duchy of Lorraine was to be 
given up to France, and annexed to that kingdom; and 
the Duke of Lorraine was to receive, in lieu of his 
hereditary possessions, the whole of Tuscany. The last 
Grand Duke of Tuscany of the family of the Medici, the 
feeble and degenerate Cosmo III., was still alive, but in 
a state of absolute dotage, and the claims of his heiress, 
Anna de' Medici, were to be set aside. Neither the in- 
habitants of Lorraine nor the people of Tuscany were 
consulted in this arbitrary exchange. A few diplomatic 
notes between Charles's secretary Bartenstein and the 
crafty old cardinal, settled the matter. It was in vain 
that the government of Tuscany remonstrated, and in 
vain that Francis of Lorraine overwhelmed the Austrian 
ministers with reproaches, and resisted, as far he was 
able, this impudent transfer of his own people and domin- 
ions to a foreign power. Bartenstein had the insolence 
to say to him, "Monseigneur, point de cession, point 

Putting love out of the question, Francis could not 
determine to stake his little inheritance against the bril- 
liant succession which awaited him with Maria Theresa. 
The alternative, however, threw him into such agony 
and distress of mind, that even his health was seriously 
affected. But peace was necessary to the interests, and 
even the preservation of the empire. Lorraine was given 

These Splendid Women 189 

up, and the reversion of the grand-duchy of Tuscany 
settled upon Francis. The preHminaries of this treaty 
being signed in 1735, the emperor was reheved from 
impending ruin, and his daughter from all her apprehen- 
sions of the Prince of Spain; and, no further obstacles 
intervening, the nuptials of Maria Theresa and Francis 
of Lorraine were celebrated at Vienna in February, 1736. 
By the marriage contracts the Pragmatic Sanction was 
again signed and ratified, and the Duke of Lorraine 
solemnly bound himself never to assert any personal 
right to the Austrian dominions. The two great families 
of Hapsburgh and Lorraine, descended from a common 
ancestor, were by this marriage re-united in the same 

Prince Eugene, who had commanded the imperial 
armies for nearly forty years, died a few days after 
the marriage of Maria Theresa, at the age of seventy- 
three. His death was one of the greatest misfortunes 
that could have occurred at this period, both to the 
emperor and the nation. 

A young princess, beautiful and amiable, the heiress of 
one of the greatest monarchies in Europe, married at 
the age of eighteen to the man whom she had long and 
deeply loved, and who returned her affection, and soon 
the happy mother of two fair infants, presents to the 
imagination as pretty a picture of splendor and felicity 
as ever was exhibited in romance or fairy tale; but 
when we turn over the pages of history, or look into 
real life, everywhere we behold the hand of a just Provi- 
dence equalizing the destiny of mortals. 

During the four years which elapsed between Maria 
Theresa's marriage and her accession to the throne, her 
life was embittered by anxieties arising out of her poHti- 
cal position. Her husband was appointed generalissimo 
of the imperial armies against the Turks, in a war which 
both himself and Maria Theresa disapproved. He left 
her in the first year of their marriage, to take command 

190 These Splendid Women 

of the army, and more than once too rashly exposed 
his hfe. Francis had more bravery than miHtary skill. 
He was baffled and hampered in his designs by the weak 
jealousy of the emperor and the cabals of the ministers 
and generals. All the disasters of two unfortunate cam- 
paigns were imputed to him, and he returned to Vienna 
disgusted, irritated, sick at heart, and suffering from 
illness. The court looked coldly on him; he was un- 
popular with the nation and with the soldiery; but his 
wife received him with open arms, and, with a true 
woman's tenderness, "loved him for the dangers he had 
passed." She nursed him into health, she consoled him, 
she took part in all his wrongs and feelings, and was 
content to share with him the frowns of her father and 
the popular dislike. They were soon afterward sent 
into a kind of honorable exile into Tuscany, under pre- 
tence of going to take possession of their new dominions, 
and in their absence it was publicly reported that the 
emperor intended to give his second daughter to the 
Elector of Bavaria, to change the order of succession in 
her favor, and disinherit IMaria Theresa. The arch- 
duchess and her husband were more annoyed than alarmed 
by these reports, but their sojourn at Florence was a 
period of constant and cruel anxiety. 

Maria Theresa had no sympathies with her Italian sub- 
jects; she had no poetical or patriotic associations to 
render the "fair white walls of Florence" and its olive 
and vine-covered hills interesting or dear to her ; she dis- 
liked the heat of the climate; she wished herself at 
Vienna, whence every post brought some fresh instance 
of her father's misgovernment, some new tidings of de- 
feat or disgrace. She mourned over the degradation of her 
house, and saw her magnificent and far-descended heritage 
crumbling away from her. The imbecile emperor, without 
confidence in his generals, his ministers, his family, or 
himself, exclaimed, in an agony, "Is then the fortune of 
my empire departed with Eugene?" and he lamented 

These Splendid Women 191 

hourly the absence of Maria Theresa, in whose strength 
of mind he had ever found support when his pride and 
jealousy allowed him to seek it. The archduchess and 
her husband returned to Vienna in 1739, and soon after- 
ward the disastrous war with the Turks was terminated 
by a precipitate and dishonorable treaty, by which Bel- 
grade was ceded to the Ottoman Porte. The situation 
of the court of Vienna at this period is thus described by 
the English minister, Robinson: — "Everything in this 
court is running into the last confusion and ruin, where 
there are as visible signs of folly and madness as ever were 
inflicted on a people whom Heaven is determined to 
destroy, no less by domestic divisions than by the more 
public calamities of repeated defeats, defencelessness, 
poverty, plague, and famine." 

Such was the deplorable state in which Charles be- 
queathed to his youthful heiress the dominions which had 
fallen to him prosperous, powerful, and victorious, only 
thirty years before. The agitation of his mind fevered 
and disordered his frame, and one night after eating 
most voraciously of a favorite dish, he was seized with an 
indigestion, of which he expired October 20th, 1740. 
Maria Theresa, who was then near her confinement, was 
not allowed to enter her father's chamber. We are told 
that the grief she felt on hearing of his dissolution en- 
dangered her life for a few hours, but that the following 
day she was sufficiently recovered to give audience to the 

Maria Theresa was in her twenty-fourth year when 
she became in her own right Queen of Hungary and 
Bohemia, Archduchess of Austria, Sovereign of the 
Netherlands, and Duchess of Milan, of Parma, and Pla- 
centia; in right of her husband she was also Grand 
Duchess of Tuscany. Naples and Sicily had indeed been 
wrested from her father, but she pretended to the right 
of these crowns, and long entertained the hope and 
design of recovering them. She reigned over some of 

192 These Splendid Women 

the finest and fairest provinces of Europe; over many 
nations speaking many different languages, governed by 
diiferent laws, divided by mutual antipathies, and held 
together by no common link except that of acknow- 
ledging the same sovereign. That sovereign was now a 
young inexperienced woman, who had solemnly sworn 
to preserve inviolate and indivisible the vast and heter- 
ogeneous empire transmitted to her feeble hand, as if it 
had depended on her will to do so. Within the first few 
months of her reign the Pragmatic Sanction, so fre- 
quently guaranteed was trampled under foot. France de- 
ferred, and at length declined to acknowledge her title. 
The Elector of Bavaria, supported by France, laid claim 
to Austria, Hungary, and Bohemia. The King of Spain 
also laid claim to the Austrian succession, and prepared 
to seize on the Italian states ; the king of Sardinia claimed 
Milan; the King of Prussia, not satisfied with merely 
advancing pretensions, pounced like a falcon on his prey 
and seized the whole duchy of Silesia, which he laid waste 
and occupied with his armies. 

Like the hind of the forest when the hunters are 
abroad, who hears on every side the fierce baying of 
the hounds, and stands and gazes round with dilated eye 
and head erect, not knowing on which side the fury of 
the chase is to burst upon her — so stood the lovely maj- 
esty of Austria, defenceless, and trembling for her very 
existence, but not weak, nor irresolute, nor despairing. 

Maria Theresa was by no means an extraordinary 
woman. In talents and strength of character she was 
inferior to Catherine of Russia and Elizabeth of England, 
but in moral qualities far superior to either; and it may 
be questioned whether the brilliant genius of the former, 
or the worldly wisdom and sagacity of the latter, could 
have done more to sustain a sinking throne, than the 
popular and feminine virtues, the magnanimous spirit, 
and unbending fortitude of Maria Theresa. She had 
something of the inflexible pride and hereditary obstinacy 

These Splendid Women 193 

o£ her family ; her understanding, naturally good, had been 
early tinged with bigotry and narrowed by illiberal pre- 
judices ; but in her early youth these qualities only showed 
on the fairer side, and served but to impart something 
fixed and serious to the vivacity of her disposition and the 
yielding tenderness of her heart. She had all the self- 
will and all the sensibihty of her sex; she was full of 
kindly impulses and good intentions ; she was not naturally 
ambitious, though circumstances afterward developed that 
passion in a strong degree ; she could be roused to temper, 
but this was seldom, and never so far as to forget the 
dignity and propriety of her sex. It should be mentioned, 
(for in the situation in which she was placed it was by 
no means an unimportant advantage,) that at this period 
of her life few women could have excelled Maria Theresa 
in personal attractions. Her figure was tall, and formed 
with perfect elegance; her deportment at once graceful 
and majestic; her features were regular; her eyes were 
grey and full of lustre and expression; she had the full 
Austrian lips, but her mouth and smile were beautiful; 
her complexion was transparent; she had a profusion of 
fine hair; and, to complete her charms, the tone of her 
voice was peculiarly soft and sweet. Her strict religious 
principles, or her early and excessive love for her husband, 
or the pride of her royal station, or perhaps all these com- 
bined, had preserved her character from coquetry. She 
was not unconscious of her powers of captivation, but 
she used them, not as a woman, but as a queen — not to 
win lovers, but to gain over refractory subjects. The 
"fascinating manner" which the historian records, and for 
which she was so much admired, became later in life 
rather too courtly and too artificial; but at four-and- 
twenty it was the result of kind feeling, natural grace, 
and youthful gayety. 

The perils which surrounded Maria Theresa at her ac- 
cession were such as would have appalled the strongest 
mind. She was not only encompassed by enemies with- 

194 These Splendid Women 

out, but threatened with commotions within. She was 
without an army, without a treasury, and, in point of fact, 
without a ministry — for never was such a set of imbecile 
men collected together to direct the government of a 
kingdom, as those who composed the conference or state- 
council of Vienna, during this period. They agreed but 
in one thing — in jealousy of the duke of Lorraine, whom 
they considered as a foreigner, and who was content 
perforce to remain a mere cipher. 

Maria Theresa began her reign by committing a 
mistake, very excusable at her age. Her father's confi- 
dential minister, Bartenstein, continued to direct the 
Government, though he had neither talents nor resources 
to meet the fearful exigencies in which they were placed. 
The young queen had sufficient sense to penetrate the 
characters of Sinzendorf and Staremberg; she had been 
disgusted by their attempts to take advantage of her sex 
and age, and to assume the whole power to themselves. 
She wished for instruction, but she was of a temper to 
resist any thing like dictation. Bartenstein discovered 
her foible; and by his affected submission to her judg- 
ment, and admiration of her abilities, he conciliated her 
good opinion. His knowledge of the forms of business, 
which extricated her out of many little embarrassments, 
she mistook for political sagacity — his presumption for 
genius; his volubility, his readiness with his pen, all con- 
spired to dazzle the understanding and win the confidence 
of an inexperienced woman. It is generally allowed that 
he was a weak and superficial man ; but he possessed two 
good qualities — he was sincerely attached to the interests 
of the house of Austria, and, as a minister, incorruptible. 

In her husband Maria Theresa found ever a faithful 
friend, and comfort and sympathy, when she most needed 
them; but hardly advice, support, or aid. Francis was 
the soul of honor and affection, but he was illiterate, fond 
of pleasure, and unused to business. Much as his wife 
bved him, she either loved power more, or was conscious 

These Splendid Women 195 

of his inability to yield it. Had he been an artful or 
ambitious man, Francis might easily have obtained over 
the mind of Maria Theresa that unbounded influence 
which a man of sense can always exercise over an 
affectionate woman; but, humbled by her superiority of 
rank, and awed by her superiority of mind, he never made 
the slightest attempt to guide or control her, and was 
satisfied to hold all he possessed from her love or from 
her power. 

The first war in which Maria Theresa was engaged 
was begun in self-defence — never was the sword drawn 
in a fairer quarrel or a juster cause. Her great adver- 
sary was Frederick H. of Prussia, aided by France and 
Bavaria. On the side of the young queen were England 
and Holland. Nothing could exceed the enthusiasm which 
her helpless situation had excited among the English of 
all ranks : The queen of Hungary was a favorite toast 
— her head a favorite sign. The parliament voted large 
subsidies to support her, and the ladies of England, with 
the old Duchess of Marlborough at their head, subscribed 
a sum of £100,000, which they offered to her acceptance. 
Maria Theresa, who had been so munificently aided by 
the king and parliament, either did not think it con- 
sistent with her dignity to accept of private gifts, or from 
some other reason, declined the proffered contribution. 

The war of the Austrian succession lasted nearly eight 
years. The battles and the sieges, the victories and de- 
feats, the treaties made and broken, the strange events 
and vicissitudes which marked its course, may be found 
duly chronicled and minutely detailed in histories of 
France, England, or Germany. It is more to our present 
purpose to trace the influence which the character of 
Maria Theresa exercised over passing events, and their 
reaction on the fate, feelings, and character of the woman. 

Her situation at the commencement of the war ap- 
peared desperate. Frederick occupied Silesia, and in the 
first great battle in which the Austrians and Prussians 

.196 These Splendid Women 

were engaged, (the battle of Molwitz), the former were 
entirely defeated. Still the queen refused to yield up 
Silesia, at which price she might have purchased the 
friendship of her dangerous enemy. Indignant at his 
unprovoked and treacherous aggression, she disdainfully 
refused to negotiate while he had a regiment in Silesia, 
and rejected all attempts to mediate between them. The 
birth of her first son, the archduke Joseph, in the midst 
of these distresses, confirmed her resolution. Maternal 
tenderness now united with her family pride and her 
royal spirit; and to alienate voluntarily any part of his 
inheritance appeared not only humiliation, but a crime. 
She addressed Herself to all the powers which had guaran- 
tied the Pragmatic Sanction, and were therefore bound to 
support her. And first to France: To use her own 
words — "I wrote," said she, "to Cardinal Fleury; pressed 
by hard necessity, I descended from my royal dignity, 
and wrote to him in terms which would have softened 
stone!" But the old cardinal was absolute flint. From 
age and long habit, he had become a kind of political 
machine, actuated by no other principle than the interests 
of his government; he deceived the queen with delusive 
promises and diplomatic delays till all was ready; then 
the French armies poured across the Rhine, and joined 
the Elector of Bavaria. They advanced in concert within 
a few leagues of Vienna. The elector was declared Duke 
of Austria; and, having overrun Bohemia, he invested 
the city of Prague. 

Who has not read of the scene which ensued, which 
has so often been related, so often described? and yet 
we all feel that we cannot hear of it too often. When 
we first meet it on the page of history, we are taken 
by surprise, as though it had no business there; it has 
the glory and the freshness of old romance. Poetry never 
invented anything half so striking, or that so completely 
fills the imagination. 

The Hungarians had been oppressed, enslaved, insulted, 

These Splendid Women 197 

by Maria Theresa's predecessors. In the beginning of her 
reign, she had abandoned the usurpations of her ances- 
tors, and had voluntarily taken the oath to preserve all 
their privileges entire. This was partly from policy, but 
it was also partly from her own just and kind nature. 
The hearts of the Hungarians were already half won 
when she arrived at Presburg, in June, 1741. She was 
crowned Queen of Hungary on the 13th, with the peculiar 
national ceremonies. The iron crown of St. Stephen 
was placed on her head, the tattered but sacred robe 
thrown over her own rich habit, which was incrusted with 
gems, his scimitar girded to her side. Thus attired, and 
mounted upon a superb charger, she rode up the Royal 
Mount, and according to the antique custom, drew her 
sabre, and defied the four quarters of the world, "in a 
manner that showed she had no occasion for that weapon 
to conquer all who saw her." The crown of St. Stephen, 
which had never before been placed on so small or so 
lovely a head, had been lined with cushions to make it 
fit. It was also very heavy, and its weight, added to the 
heat of the weather, incommoded her ; when she sat down 
to dinner in the great hall of the castle, she expressed a 
wish to lay it aside. On lifting the diadem from her 
brow, her hair, loosened from confinement, fell down 
in luxuriant ringlets over her neck and shoulders ; the 
glow which the heat and emotion had diffused over her 
complexion added to her natural beauty, and the as- 
sembled nobles, struck with admiration, could scarce for- 
bear from shouting their applause. 

The effect which her youthful grace and loveliness pro- 
duced on this occasion had not yet subsided when she 
called together the Diet, or Senate of Hungary, in order 
to lay before them the situation of her affairs. She en- 
tered the hall of the castle, habited in the Hungarian 
costume, but still in deep mourning for her father; she 
traversed the apartment with a slow and majestic step, 
and ascended the throne, where she stood for a few 

198 These Splendid Women 

minutes silent. The chancellor of state first explained 
the situation to which she was reduced, and then the 
queen, coming forward, addressed the assembly in Latin, 
a language which she spoke fluently, and which is still in 
common use among the Hungarians. 

"The disastrous state of our affairs," said she, "has 
moved us to lay before our dear and faithful states of 
Hungary the recent invasion of Austria, the danger now 
impending over this kingdom, and propose to them the 
consideration of a remedy. The very existence of the 
kingdom of Hungary, of our own person, of our children, 
of our crown, are now at stake, and, forsaken by all, we 
place our sole hope in the fidelity, arms, and long-tried 
valor of the Hungarians !" 

She pronounced these simple words in a firm but mel- 
ancholy tone. Her beauty, her magnanimity, and her 
distress, roused the Hungarian chiefs to the wildest en- 
thusiasm; they drew their sabres half out of the scab- 
bard, then flung them back to the hilt with a martial 
sound, which re-echoed through the lofty hall, and ex- 
claimed with one accord, "Our swords and our blood 
for your majesty — we will die for our king, Maria 
Theresa!" Overcome by sudden emotion, she burst into 
a flood of tears. At this sight, the nobles became almost 
frantic with enthusiasm. "We wept too," said a noble- 
man, who assisted on this occasion, (Count Roller) ; "but 
they were tears of admiration, pity, and fury." They 
retired from her presence, to vote supplies of men and 
money, which far exceeded all her expectations. 

Two or three days after this extraordinary scene, the 
deputies again assembled, to receive the oath of Francis 
of Lorraine, who had been appointed co-regent of Hun- 
gary. Francis, having taken the required oath, waved 
his arm over his head and exclaimed with enthusiasm, 
"My blood and life for the queen and kingdom !" It was 
on this occasion that Maria Theresa took up her infant 
son in her arms and presented him to the deputies, and 

These Splendid Wo?nen 199 

again they burst into the acclamation, "We will die for 
Maria Theresa and her children !" 

It had been the favorite object of Maria Theresa to 
place the imperial crown on the head of her husband. 
The election of Charles was, therefore, a deep morti- 
fication to her, and deeply she avenged it. Her armies, 
under the command of the Duke of Lorraine and Gen- 
eral Kevenhuller, entered Bavaria, wasted the hereditary 
dominions of the new emperor with fire and sword, and 
on the very day on which he was proclaimed at Frankfort, 
his capital, Munich, surrendered to the Austrians, and the 
Duke of Lorraine entered the city in triumph. Such were 
the strange vicissitudes of war! 

Within a few months afterward the French were every- 
where beaten ; they were obliged to evacuate Prague, and 
accomplished with great difficulty their retreat to Egra. 
So much was the queen's mind embittered against them, 
that their escape at this time absolutely threw her into 
an agony. She had, however, sufficient self-command 
to conceal her indignation and disappointment from the 
public, and celebrated the surrender of Prague by a mag- 
nificent fete at Vienna. Among other entertainments 
there was a chariot-race, in imitation of the Greeks — in 
which, to exhibit the triumph of her sex, ladies alone 
were permitted to contend, and the queen herself and her 
sister entered the lists. It must have been a beautiful 
and gallant sight. Soon afterward Maria Theresa pro- 
ceeded to Prague, where she was crowned Queen of 
Bohemia, May 12, 1743. 

In Italy she was also victorious. Her principal op- 
ponent in that quarter was the high-spirited Elizabeth 
Farnese, the Queen of Spain. This imperious woman, 
who thought she could manage war as she managed her 
husband, commanded her general, on pain of instant dis- 
missal, to fight the Austrians within three days; he did 
so, and was defeated. 

The eflFect produced on the mind of Maria Theresa, by 

200 These Splendid Women 

these sudden vicissitudes of fortune and extraordinary 
successes, was not altogether favorable. She had met 
dangers with fortitude — she had endured reverses with 
magnanimity; but she could not triumph with modera- 
tion. Sentiments of hatred, of vengeance, of ambition, 
had been awakened in her heart by the wrongs of her 
enemies and her own successes. She indulged a personal 
animosity against the Prussians and the French, which 
almost shut her heart, good and beneficent as Heaven had 
formed it, against humanity and the love of peace. She 
not only rejected with contempt all pacific overtures, and 
refused to acknowledge the new emperor, but she medi- 
tated vast schemes of conquest and retaliation. She not 
only resolved on recovering Silesia, and appropriating 
Bavaria, but she formed plans for crushing her great 
enemy, Frederick of Prussia, and partitioning his domin- 
ions, as he had conspired to ravage and dismember hers. 
The enthusiasm which her charms and her address ex- 
cited in Hungary from the proudest palatine to the mean- 
est peasant, again saved her. In the following year 
Bohemia and Bavaria were recovered; and the unfortu- 
nate emperor, Charles the Seventh, was driven from all 
his possessions, after playing for a while a miserable 
pageant of royalty in the hands of the French, died 
almost broken-hearted. With his last breath he exhorted 
his successor to make peace with Austria, and reject the 
imperial dignity which had been so fatal to his family. 
The new elector, Maximilian Joseph, obeyed these last 
commands, and no other competitor appearing, Maria 
Theresa was enabled to fulfill the ambition of her heart, 
by placing the imperial diadem on her husband's head. 
Francis was proclaimed Emperor of Germany at Frank- 
fort; and the queen, who witnessed from a balcony the 
ceremony of election, was the first who exclaimed "Vive 
i'emperor !" From this time Maria Theresa, uniting in 
herself the titles of Empress of Germany and Queen of 
Hungary and Bohemia, is styled in history, the empress- 

These Splendid Women 201 

queen. This accession of dignity was the only compen- 
sation for a year of disasters and losses in Italy and the 
Netherlands. Still she would not submit, nor bend her 
high spirit to an accommodation with Frederick on the 
terms he offered; and still she rejected all mediation. At 
length the native generosity of her disposition prevailed. 
The Elector of Saxony, who had been for some time her 
most faithful and efficient ally, was about to become a 
sacrifice through his devotion to her cause, and only 
peace could save him and his people. For his sake the 
queen stooped to what she never would have sub- 
mitted to for any advantage to herself, and on Christmas- 
day, 1745, she signed the peace of Dresden, by which she 
finally ceded Silesia to Frederick, who, on this condition, 
withdrew his troops from Saxony, and acknowledged 
Francis as Emperor. 

By this time (1747) all the sovereigns of Europe be- 
gan to be wearied and exhausted by this sanguinary and 
burthensome war ; all, except Maria Theresa, whose pride, 
wounded by the forced cession of Silesia and the reduc- 
tion of her territories in the Netherlands and in Italy, 
could not endure to leave off a loser in this terrible game 
of life. It is rather painful to see how the turmoils 
and vicissitudes of the last few years, the habits of 
government and diplomacy, had acted on a disposition 
naturally so generous and so just. In her conference 
with the English minister she fairly got into a passion, 
exclaiming, with the utmost indignation and disdain, "that 
rather than agree to the terms of peace, she would lose 
her head" — raising her voice as she spoke, and suiting 
the gesture to the words. With the same warmth she 
had formerly declared, that before she would give up 
Silesia she would sell her shift! In both cases she was 
obliged to yield. When the plenipotentiaries of the vari- 
ous powers of Europe met at Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, 
her ministers, acting by her instructions, threw every 
possible difficulty in the way of the pacification ; and when 

202 These Splendid Women 

at length she was obHged to accede, by the threat of her 
alHes to sign without her, she did so with obvious, with 
acknowledged reluctance, and never afterward forgave 
England for having extorted her consent to this measure. 

The peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, which was one of the 
great events of the last century, was signed by the em- 
press-queen on the 23d of October, 1748. "Thus," says 
the historian of Maria Theresa, "terminated a bloody 
and extensive war, which at the commencement threat- 
ened the very existence of the house of Austria ; but the 
magnanimity of Maria Theresa, the zeal of her subjects, 
and the support of Great Britain triumphed over her 
numerous enemies, and secured an honorable peace." 

Maria Theresa had made peace with reluctance. She 
was convinced — that is, she jclt — that it could not be of 
long continuance ; but for the present she submitted. She 
directed her attention to the internal government of her 
dominions, and she resolved to place them in such a con- 
dition that she need not fear war whenever it was her 
interest to renew it. 

Eight years of almost profound peace elapsed, and 
Maria Theresa was neither sensible of the value of the 
blessing, nor reconciled to the terms on which she had 
purchased it. While Frederick existed — Frederick, who 
had injured, braved, and humbled her — she was ready to 
exclaim, like Constance, "War! war! — no peace! Peace 
is to me a war !" In vain was she happy in her family, 
and literally adored by her subjects; she was not happy 
in herself. In her secret soul she nourished an implacable 
resentment against the King of Prussia; in the privacy 
of her cabinet she revolved the means of his destruction. 
The loss of Silesia was still nearest her heart, and she 
never could think of it but with shame and anguish. 
She could not bandy wit with her enemy — it was not in 
her nature; but hatred filled her heart, and projects of 
vengeance occupied all her thoughts. She looked round 
her for the means to realize them; there was no way 

These Splendid Women 203 

but by an alliance with France — with France, the heredi- 
tary enemy of her family and her country ! — with France, 
separated from Austria by three centuries of mutual 
injuries and almost constant hostility. The smaller states 
of Europe had long regarded their own safety as de- 
pending, in a great measure, on the mutual enmity and 
jealousy of these two great central powers; a gulf seemed 
forever to divide them, but, instigated by the spirit of 
vengeance, Maria Theresa determined to leap that gulf. 

Her plan was considered, matured, and executed in the 
profoundest secrecy; even her husband was kept in perfect 
ignorance of her designs. She was not of a temper to 
fear his opposition, but her strong affection for him made 
her shrink from his disapprobation. Prince Kaunitz was 
her only coadjutor ; he alone was intrusted with this most 
delicate and intricate negotiation, which lasted nearly two 
years. It was found necessary to conciliate Madame de 
Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV., who was at that 
time all-powerful. Kaunitz, in suggesting the expediency 
of this condescension, thought it necessary to make some 
apology. The empress merely answered, "Have I not 
flattered Farinelli?" and, taking up her pen, without 
further hesitation, this descendant of a hundred kings and 
emperors — the pious, chaste, and proud Maria Theresa — 
addressed the low-born profligate favorite as "ma chere 
amie," and "ma cousine." The step was sufficiently de- 
grading, but it answered its purpose. The Pompadour 
was won to the Austrian interest; and through her 
influence this extraordinary alliance was finally arranged, 
in opposition to the policy of both courts, and the real 
interests and inveterate prejudices of both nations. 

When this treaty was first divulged in the council of 
Vienna, the Emperor Francis was so utterly shocked and 
confounded, that, striking the table with his hand, he vowed 
he would never consent to it, and left the room. Maria 
Theresa was prepared for this burst of indignation; she 

204 These Splendid Women 

affected, with that duplicity in which she had lately become 
an adept, to attribute the whole scheme to her minister, 
and to be as much astonished as Francis himself. But 
she represented the necessity of hearing and considering 
the whole of this new plan of policy before they decided 
against it. With a mixture of artifice, reason and tender- 
ness, she gradually soothed the facile mind of her husband, 
and converted him to her own opinion, or at least con- 
vinced him that it was in vain to oppose it. When the 
report of a coalition between Austria and France was 
spread through Europe, it was regarded as something 
portentous. In England it was deemed incredible, or, as 
it was termed in parliament, unnatural and monstrous. 
The British minister at Vienna exclaimed, with astonish- 
ment, "Will you, the empress and archduchess, so far 
humble yourself as to throw yourself into the arms of 
France?" "Not into the arms," she replied, with some 
haste and confusion, "but on the side of France. I have," 
she continued, "hitherto signed nothing with France, 
though I know not what may happen; but whatever does 
happen, I promise, on my word of honor, not to sign any- 
thing contrary to the interests of your royal master, for 
whom I have a most sincere friendship and regard." 

The immediate result of the alliance with France was 
"the seven years' war," in which Austria, France, Russia, 
Sweden, and Denmark, and afterward Spain, were con- 
federated against the King of Prussia, who was assisted 
by Great Britain and Hanover, and only preserved from 
destruction by the enormous subsidies of England, and 
by his own consummate genius and intrepidity. 

In this war Maria Theresa recovered and again lost 
Silesia; at one time she was nearly overwhelmed and on 
the point of being driven from her capital; again the 
tide of war rolled back, and her troops drove Frederick 
from Berlin. 

But all parties were by this time wearied and exhausted ; 

These Splendid Women 205 

all wished for peace, and none would stoop to ask it. At 
length, one of Maria Theresa's officers, who had been 
wounded and taken prisoner, ventured to hint to Frederick 
that his imperial mistress was not unwilling to come to 
terms. This conversation took place at the castle of 
Hubertsberg. The king, snatching up half a sheet of 
paper, wrote down in few words the conditions on which 
he was willing to make peace. The whole was contained 
in about ten lines. He sent this off to Vienna by a 
courier, demanding a definitive answer within twelve 
days. The Austrian ministers were absolutely out of 
breath at the idea; they wished to temporize — to delay. 
But Maria Theresa, with the promptitude of her char- 
acter, decided at once; she accepted the terms, and the 
peace of Hubertsberg was concluded in 1763. By this 
treaty, all places and prisoners were given up. Not a 
foot of territory was gained or lost by either party. 
Silesia continued in possession of Prussia; the political 
affairs of Germany remained in precisely the same state 
as before the war; but Saxony and Bohemia had been 
desolated, Prussia almost depopulated, and more than 
500,000 men had fallen in battle. 

At the conclusion of the seven years' war, Maria 
Theresa was in the forty-eighth year of her age. During 
the twenty-four years of her public life, the eyes of all 
Europe had been fixed upon her in hope, in fear, in 
admiration. She had contrived to avert from her own 
states the worst of those evils she had brought on others. 
Her subjects beheld her with a love and reverence little 
short of idolatry. In the midst of her weaknesses, she 
had displayed many virtues; and if she had committed 
great errors, she had also performed great and good 

In the summer of 1765, the imperial court left Vienna 
for Inspruck, in order to be present at the marriage of 
the Archduke Leopold with the Infanta of Spain. The 
emperor had previously complained of indisposition, and 

206 These Splendid Women 

seemed overcome by those melancholy presentiments 
which are often the result of a deranged system, and 
only remembered when they happen to be realized. He 
was particularly fond of his youngest daughter, Marie 
Antoinette, and, after taking leave of his children, he 
ordered her to be brought to him once more. He took 
her in his arms, kissed, and pressed her to his heart, say- 
ing, with emotion, "J'^vais besoin d'embrasser encore 
cette enfant!" While at Inspruck he was much indis- 
posed, and Maria Theresa, who watched him with solici- 
tude, appeared miserable and anxious; she requested 
that he would be bled. He replied, with a petulance very 
unusual to him, "Madame, voulez vous que je meurs dans 
la saignee?" The heavy air of the valleys seemed to 
oppress him even to suffocation, and he was often heard 
to exclaim, "Ah! si je pouvais seulement sortir de ces 
montagnes du Tyrol!" On Sunday, August 18th, the 
empress and his sister again entreated him to be bled. 
He replied, "I must go to the opera, and I am engaged 
afterward to sup with Joseph, and cannot disappoint him ; 
but I will be bled to-morrow." The same evening, on 
leaving the theatre, he fell down in an apoplectic fit, 
and expired in the arms of his son. 

Maria Theresa was the mother of sixteen children. 
The unhappy Marie Antoinette, wife of the dauphin, 
afterward Louis XVL, was her youngest daughter. She 
was united to the dauphin in 1770, and thus was sealed 
an alliance between Austria and France — the great object 
of her wishes, which Maria Theresa had been engaged 
for years in accomplishing — for, in placing a daughter 
upon the throne of France, she believed that she was se- 
curing a predominant influence in the French cabinet, and 
that she was rendering, by this grand scheme of policy, 
the ancient and hereditary rival of her empire, subser- 
vient to the future aggrandizement of her house. 

Maria Theresa lived in the interior of her palace with 
great simplicity. In the morning an old man, who could 

These Splendid Women 207 

hardly be entitled a chamberlain, but merely what is 
called on the continent a frottiur, entered her sleeping- 
room, about five or six o'clock in the morning, opened 
the shutters, lighted the stove, and arranged the apart- 
ment. She breakfasted on a cup of milk-cofifee ; then 
dressed and heard mass. She then proceeded to business. 
Every Tuesday she received the ministers of the different 
departments; other days were set apart for giving audi- 
ence to foreigners and strangers, who, according to the 
etiquette of the imperial court, were always presented 
singly, and received in the private apartments. There 
were stated days on which the poorest and meanest of 
her subjects were admitted almost indiscriminately; and 
so entire was her confidence in their attachment and her 
own popularity, that they might whisper to her, or see 
her alone, if they required it. At other times she read 
memorials, or dictated letters and dispatches, signed 
papers, &c. At noon, her dinner was brought in, consist- 
ing of a few dishes, served with simplicity; she usually 
dined alone, like Napoleon, and for the same reason — 
to economize time. After dinner she was engaged in 
public business till six; after that hour her daughters 
were admitted to join in her evening prayer. If they 
absented themselves, she sent to know if they were in- 
disposed; if not, they were certain of meeting with a 
maternal reprimand on the following day. At half past 
eight or nine, she retired to rest. When she held a draw- 
ing-room or an evening-circle, she remained till ten or 
eleven, and sometimes played at cards. Before the death 
of her husband, she was often present at the masked 
balls, or ridottos, which were given at court during the 
carnival; afterward these entertainments and the number 
of fetes, or gala-days, were gradually diminished in num- 
ber. During the last years of her life, when she became 
very infirm, the nobility and foreign ministers generally 
assembled at the houses of Prince Kaunitz and Prince 

208 These Splendid Women 

The treaty of Teschen was the last political event of 
Maria Theresa's reign in which she was actively and per- 
sonally concerned. Her health had been for some time 
declining, and for several months previous to her death 
she was unable to move from her chair without as- 
sistance; yet, notwithstanding her many infirmities, her 
deportment was still dignified, her manner graceful as 
well as gracious, and her countenance benign. 

She had long accustomed herself to look death steadily 
in the face, and when the hour of trial came, her resigna- 
tion, her fortitude, and her humble trust in Heaven never 
failed her. She preserved to the last her self-possession 
and her strength of mind, and betrayed none of those 
superstitious terrors which might have been expected and 
pardoned in Maria Theresa. 

Until the evening preceding her death, she was en- 
gaged in signing papers, and in giving her last advice 
and directions to her successor ; and when, perceiving her 
exhausted state, her son entreated her to take some re- 
pose, she replied steadily — *Tn a few hours I shall ap- 
pear before the judgment-seat of God, and would you 
have me sleep?" 

Maria Theresa expired on the 29th of November, 1780, 
in her sixty-fourth year ; and it is, in truth, most worthy 
of remark, that the regrets of her family and her people 
did not end with the pageant of her funeral, nor were 
obliterated by the new interests, new hopes, new splendors 
of a new reign. Years after her death she was still re- 
membered with tenderness and respect, and her subjects 
dated events from the time of their "mother," the empress. 
The Hungarians, who regarded themselves as her own 
especial people, still distinguish their country from Austria 
and Bohemia, by calling it the "territory of the queen." 

(i^adame de Pompadour 


MADAME DE POMPADOUR' had the mis- 
fortune and the bad taste to be the daughter 
of a M. Poisson, interested in the commis- 
sariat, whose peculations had driven him into exile, and 
of a Madame Poisson, daughter of one De La Mothe, 
contractor of provisions for the InvaHdes, whose gal- 
lantry has passed into a proverb. At the moment of her 
birth, her mother was conducting a regular intrigue with 
M. Lenormand de Tournehem, who, deeming himself to 
have considerable share in the little Poisson's entrance 
into the world, provided for the cost of the young girl's 
magnificent education. It was not long before Mad- 
emoiselle Poisson was surrounded by a court of lovers; 
but the most ardent of her admirers was a nephew of 
M. Lenormand de Tournehem, M. Lenormand d'fitioles. 
The arrangements for a family marriage were soon settled 
without any difficulty. 

M. Lenormand de Tournehem gave up the half of his 
property to his nephew, with the promise of the other 
half after his death; and Mademoiselle Poisson became 
Madame d':6tioles. She entered upon the fortune of her 
husband without embarrassment, and took possession, with 
perfect ease, of the charming estate of fitioles, in the 
government of Sens, where the young bride reorganized 
and recalled the society of Madame Poisson, and M. de 
Tournehem, Cahusac, Fontenelle, the Abbe de Bernis, 
Maupertuis and Voltaire, who will later remind the Mar- 

210 These Splendid Women 

quise, in a letter, of the wine of Tokay drunk at J^tioles. 
Madame d']&tioles had married with the utmost coldness 
and reason. She was quite indifferent to her husband's 
passion, seeing him as he was, short, fairly ugly, and 
badly built. Marriage, moreover, to her was neither an 
aim nor an end ; it was a state of transition and a means. 
A fixed ambition which had dazzled her childish instincts, 
her dreams as a young girl, filled her aspirations as a 
woman. The first impressions of her imagination, the 
credulous beliefs and superstitions which were in her, 
represented the frailty of her sex, the promises of the 
fortune-tellers to whom later she will hie secretly from 
Versailles to consult the future; the cynical and insolent 
hopes which issued from the lips of her mother in view 
of the grace and talents of her daughter, her nature 
and her education predestined Madame d'fitioles to be- 
come *'a king's morsel." In her heart, as in the heart of 
Madame de Vintimille, there grew and germinated a 
rooted plan oi seduction, the great project of an enormous 
fortune; and we have proof of this secret thought of 
Madame d']&tioles' premeditation in the curious accounts 
recently published. We read in the list of pensions, made 
by Madame de Pompadour: 600 livres to Madame 
Lehon, for having predicted to her, when nine years old, 
that she would one day become the mistress of Louis 
XV. That was the starting point of Mademoiselle de 
Poisson's dream. 

It begins with the gipsy's prophecy, uttered on the 
threshold of life, as at the opening of a novel. Thence- 
forward Madame Lebon's auspicious forecast takes pos- 
session of her; and for all her smile, it is in no jesting 
mood that she says, that once married, no one in the 
world save the King shall make her unfaithful to her 

Madame d'Etioles caught sight of the King at Ver- 
sailles: her whole life hinges on being seen, noticed by 
him. To this pursuit of a glance from Louis XV. she 

These Splendid Women 211 

brings the labor of all her ideas, her time wfthout count- 
ing it; to it she consecrates all the liberty and facility 
afforded her by a husband who is in bondage to her 
caprices, submissive to her slightest wish. At l&tioles she 
throws herself in the King's way in the forest of Senart, 
the meeting-place of the royal hunt; she exposes herself 
to his curiosity, tempts in the daintiest of costumes; she 
flutters before his eyes that fan, upon which, it is said, 
some rival of Masse had depicted Henri IV. at Gabrielle's 
feet. She passes and repasses in the midst of the horses, 
dogs, and escort of the King, like some light and alluring 
Diana, now clad in azure, in a rose-coloured phaeton, now 
in an azure-coloured phaeton, clad in rose. The King 
looked at her, remarked her, and took a pleasure in the 
handsome equipage which set the court a-talking. One 
day, when the Duchesse de Chevreuse is talking to the 
King of the "little d'Jfitioles," the Duchesse de Chateau- 
roux drew near her noiselessly and trod so heavily on 
her foot that Madame de Chevreuse was hurt. On the 
following day, Madame de Chateauroux, during the visit 
of apology she paid her, let fall, with a negligent air, the 
question: "Do you know that they are trying to force 
the little d'fitioles on the King, and are only seeking for 
the means ?" Nor did Madame de Chateauroux stop short 
there : she gave Madame d'lfitioles to understand that she 
was to appear no more at the King's hunt. Madame 
d'J&tioles resigned herself to waiting for the death of 
Madame de Chateauroux before she ventured on any 
fresh attempt. The great masked ball given every year 
on the Sunday before Lent, at the Hotel de Ville, gave 
her an opportunity of approaching the King, towards the 
end of February 1745. Louis XV. was attacked by a 
charming mask who tormented him with a thousand 
provocations, a thousand pretty sayings. At the King's 
entreaty, the domino consented to unmask, and the hand- 
kerchief which Madame d'J^tioles dropped, as though by 
accident, when she raised her mask, was picked up by 

212 These Splendid Women 

Louis XV., to the accompaniment of this murmur amongst 
the company: "The handkerchief has been thrown." 

Some days later, if the biographers of the time are to 
be believed, when retiring to bed one night, the King 
unbosomed himself to Binet upon the disgust he derived 
from those amours without a morrow, his weariness of 
chance women and connections of caprice. He confided 
to him his repulsion towards Madame de Popeliniere, who 
was pushed to the front and maintained by Richelieu, 
towards the Duchess de Rochechouart, afterwards Com- 
tesse de Brionne, whom a court intrigue sought to foist 
on him, and of whom the scurvy tongues at court said 
jestingly that "she was like the horses in the small stables, 
always being offered, never accepted." Binet, who was 
distantly related to Madame d':6tioles, then spoke to the 
King of a person who could not fail to please him, and 
who had, from her very childhood, cherished the most 
tender sentiments towards the King of France. And 
Binet reminded Louis XV. of the woman of the forest 
of Senart, the woman of the masked ball. He revived his 
memories, appealed to the recollection of his heart and 
eyes with so much eloquence, skill and fire, that the King 
authorized him to ask for an appointment. The appoint- 
ment was granted. 

A month elapsed. The King held his tongue. He 
seemed deaf to the allusions of Binet and of Bridge, one 
of his equerries, and a strong friend of Madame fitioles. 
Notwithstanding, the intrigue started by Binet, in concert 
with that indefatigable intriguer, Madame de Tencin, who 
had staked upon Madame d'fitiole's chances, — the first 
rendezvous had not taken place without exciting comment. 
It came to the ears of Boyer, the Dauphin's tutor, who 
had been delivered over by Madame de Chateauroux to 
the sarcasms of Voltaire. Boyer openly threatened Binet 
that he would have him dismissed by the Dauphin. He 
set himself against the evil example which would be 
derived from the acknowledgment of a mistress accused 

These Splendid Women 213 

of irreligion, whose youth had been spent in the society 
and the school of Voltaire, Fontenelle, Maupertius. But 
Madame d']^tioles had already a following amongst the 
King's intimates. They aroused Louis XV. with their 
suggestions, their remarks, the incitements they made to 
his vanity. They pointed out to him the affectation of 
the young Dauphine, in refusing to appear any longer in 
the private apartments, in consequence of the indecorous 
judgments her husband passed upon the King's conduct. 
They irritated him against what was censorious and 
insulting in this observation, and pointed out to him the 
feebleness he would show in submitting to the intrigues 
of his son's tutor, the lessons of his menials. One night 
the King asked Binet with a laugh what had become of 
his kinswoman. Louis XV. then admitted to his valet- 
de-chambre that she had pleased him, but added that he 
had thought to detect in her ambition and self-interest. 
Binet hastened to answer that Madame d':fitioles was 
madly in love with the King, and that, as her husband 
had conceived suspicions of her first fault, nothing was 
left her but to die of despair, in order that she might not 
survive the King's love, and to deceive the resentment 
of a man who adored her. The King declared that he 
would be charmed to see her a second time ; and a second 
interview took place on the 22nd of April 1745. Madame 
d'fitioles was invited to sup in the private apartments with 
Luxembourg and Richelieu, who treated her coldly 
enough, omitted to praise her beauty or applaud her witty 
conversation. But this time Madame d']d:tioles, fore- 
warned by Binet, dissembled her ambitions and the char- 
acter which had alarmed the King; she put a rein upon 
her soul, and was no more than the amiable woman the 
King desired her to be. 

Binet had spoken the truth : the night spent away from 
the conjugal bed had opened the eyes of the poor husband, 
who, being sincerely and passionately in love, threatened, 
in the first violence of his resentment, his shame and his 

214 These Splendid Women 

sorrow, to proceed to extremities. Taking advantage of 
these threats, the jealous storms which awaited her at 
home, Madame d'fitioles played the part of a woman in 
a state of terror, and her fears moved the King, who 
allowed her in the morning to hide herself in the former 
apartment of Madame de Mailly. It was from there that, 
mistress of the man and the position, holding the King 
all day by her love and her caresses, the wife of M. 
d';fitioles extracted from the King, successively, a lodging, 
the promise of her acknowledgment, the promise of her 
husband's banishment, the promise of protection against 
the cabal of the Dauphin. And a few days later she 
further obtained from the King the assurance that she 
should be installed, acknowledged as titular mistress in 
Easter week, in order that her triumph might be shown 
publicly to involve that absolute independence from the 
principles of the Dauphin which she exacted from the 

After that, soaring forth suddenly in that Versailles 
whither she had crept so humbly, Madame d'fitioles, 
without being in any way disturbed by the approach of 
greatness, made her debut by a master-stroke. Realizing 
that any compromise between the Dauphin and herself 
was impossible, she sought to diminish his following and 
forces, by disarming the Queen with her caresses, her 
submission, her careful efforts to be pleasant to her on 
all occasions. She played an admirable comedy to her, 
saying that people had injured her in her opinion, speak- 
ing of "a week's incomparable sorrow," and that with 
so moved an accent, a display of her graces so calculated 
to deceive and touch the Queen, that the Duchesse de 
Luynes came, on behalf of Marie-Leczinska, to assure 
Madame d'fitioles of her kindly feelings to her. It was 
such a new thing to the Queen to meet with consideration 
from one of her husband's mistresses ! 

The King, captivated, enthralled, succumbed to the 
bondage of this new amour, and by the 9th of July, 1745 

These Splendid Women 215 

Madame d'fitioles could exhibit with pride eighty love- 
letters of the King, sealed with the device ^'discreet and 
faithful," which he had written to her since the beginning 
of May, when he had set off to become the conqueror of 
Fontenoy. At last, on the King's return — his long absence 
with the army had delayed her presentation — Madame 
d'fitioles was presented to the court (14th September 
1745) at six o'clock, in the King's apartment, before a 
vast company which filled chamber and ante-chamber, 
and whose curiosity derived pleasure from the excessive 
embarrassment of the King and the mistress. Madame 
d':£tioles was escorted by the Princesse de Conti, who 
had played such a large part in the King's intrigue with 
Madame de Mailly, and whose prodigality, the disorders 
of her household, whose debts and whose husband's debts, 
had cast for these such complaisant roles. She was ac- 
companied by Madame de La Chaumontauban, and her 
cousin, Madame d'Estrades. From the King's apartment, 
Madame d'fitioles repaired to the Queen, where a host of 
curious persons, even more numerous than had been pres- 
ent at the King's, were thronged in expectation. Great 
was the astonishment of the courtiers, who were ignorant 
of Madame d'litiole's skilful manoeuvre, when, instead of 
some meaningless compliment upon her gown, the Queen, 
reminding the newly-presented mistress of one of the few 
women of the great noblesse with whom she was intimate, 
said to her: "Pray, liave you any news of Madame de 
Saissac? I was very pleased to have met her sometimes 
in Paris.'' Touched at such noble charity, Madame 
d'Jfitioles stammered out this sentence: ''Madame, my 
greatest passion is to please you." But the Dauphin was 
faithful to his part: as it had been previously arranged, 
he paid Madame d'ifitioles a few frigid compliments upon 
her toilette. 

At the time when Madame de Mailly became the 
mistress of Louis XV., public opinion declared, in the 
mouth of the chronicler, Barbier, "that nothing could be 

216 These Splendid Women 

said, the name of Nesle being one of the greatest names 
in the kingdom." Compare with this dictum, meaningless 
to-day, the sentiment which greets the arrival of Madame 
d':£tioles, who assumed in the year of her presentation 
the name of an extinct family, the title of Marquise de 
Pompadour, and you will have the measure of an extinct 
prejudice, a prejudice of which our age has lost the very 
meaning. This amorous mesalliance of the King, the 
novelty of a parvenu mistress, of a woman bearing no 
great name, raised to the administration of the royal 
favour, the installation at Versailles of this grisette, this 
tradeswoman — it is the expression of a republican of the 
Monarchy, of the Marquis d'Argenson — met from the 
very first with such contemptuous hostility, such obstacles, 
in the tradition of the court, the very habits of the 
nation, that for a moment it was thought the mistress 
would be unable to maintain her position. All the haughty 
jealousy innate in the aristocracy, all its contemptuous 
hatred for the enriching and aggrandisement of the middle 
classes, was directed against the little bourgeoise who had 
been so insolent as to usurp a heart whose frailties were 
the property of women of birth and of the world of 
Versailles. The scandal was not only a scandal, it was 
a breach of privilege; and hence the explosion and 
vehemence of discontent from the whole of that court, 
wounded, outraged, and, as it were, insulted by the inso- 
lent success of Madame d'fitioles. There is an immediate 
organization of a conspiracy of espionage and calumny. 
The women are all eyes, exercise the most piercing and 
malicious qualities of their spirit of observation, to pene- 
trate the woman to the bottom. They spy, study, analyse 
her tone, her manners, her language, until they have 
found the foot of clay within the goddess: the lack of 
that distinction which is not taught or acquired, but is 
handed down like a natural tradition in the blood of a 
caste — the lack of race. The most malicious tongues, the 
most redoubtable scoffers, the most impertinent rakes take 

These Splendid Women 217 

up arms against her, accentuate her smallest inadvertences, 
her slightest breaches of etiquette, and, above all, the 
expressions she has not had time to forget on her journey 
from Paris to Versailles. 

And is it not easy for them to attack this woman who 
brings familiar nicknames to court, who calls the Due de 
Chaulnes "my pig," and Madame d'Amblimont, "my rag- 
bag," the vulgar tongue, a sort of familiar, popular speech 
which is one day to bestow on the daughters of Louis 
XV. the strange pet names with which their father will 
baptise them? A league is started to arouse the King's 
mocking instincts against the mistress, to discredit her, in 
the name of distinction, and to make the self-love of the 
lover blush for such an amour. The courtiers are so 
successful in their feigned astonishment at the nothings 
which fall from the favourite, at all that is over "free" 
in her speech and betrays her origin, that they extort 
from the embarrassed and quite shame-faced King this 
confession : "It is an education which it will amuse me 
to complete." Madame de Lauraguais, that wittiest of 
women, deceived in her hopes and supplanted, dismantles 
the little bourgeoise who has stolen the King from her, 
from head to foot, omitting not a gesture, dissects her, 
passes her from one hand to another like a stripped doll, 
and delivers her to the laughter of the gallery. The royal 
family, sensible to the humiliation of such a liaison, sulks 
and murmurs against the mistress who has detracted from 
the honour of the King's adultery. On that side of the 
court, they make a point of not speaking to Madame 
d':6tioles at the hunt, even of not replying to her ques- 
tions ; and disdain, in the somewhat rough nature of the 
Dauphin, almost becomes brutality. It is not long before 
the court infects the public with its hatred ; the whispers 
of Versailles reach the street, the very populace, and un^ 
loose curiosity and insult. The maHce of the nation peers 
into the foulness of Madame d'fitioles' cradle and the ig- 
nominy of her origin. A cluster of furtive, flying leaflets 

218 These Splendid Women 

falls around that rotten tree — the genealogical tree of 
Mademoiselle Poisson. It is one of those floods of songs 
and libels which, at certain moments in her history, relieve 
the gall of France. They spring up everywhere, these 
Mazarinades of the eighteenth century; the Poissonnades 
which fling at the forehead and the heart of Madame 
d'fitioles the double shame of her birth — her father, her 

Maurepas, faithful to his part of enemy to the King's 
mistresses or wives, led the war against the favorite. He 
was the soul of the satires which filled Paris and Ver- 
sailles. Relying on that great power, the witty tribunal, 
which he held with Pont de Veyle and Caylus, even more 
redoubtable with him through those supper parties, where 
all the best society thronged, and where his genius for 
caricature, his vein of irony, spurred by the stimulus of 
wine, gave, amidst the freedom which attends the end of 
a repast, a comedy so admirably played, spoken, mimicked, 
gesticulated, of the airs, manners, tricks of Madame 
d']^tioles, Maurepas, that high-chancellor of ridicule and 
of the regiment of La Calotte, was of all the favorite's 
enemies the one who knew how to inflict the most grievous 
wounds, and to strike the woman most surely and piti- 
lessly in the most intimate part of her vanity, her frailties, 
even to the very secrets of her body, her health, her 

Madame de Pompadour was not ignorant of the dangers 
of this malicious war which might strike such a formid- 
able blow at her favor by gaining the smile of the 
King's ironical mind. In order to resist the hostilities of 
Maurepas, to put herself on guard against the prejudices 
of his colleagues, the Comte d'Argenson, Machault and 
Orry, the Controller-General, she sought allies and made 
friends. She acquired the support of a Prince of the 
Blood, the Prince de Conti, whom she attached to the 
interest of her fortunes, by flattering his secret ambi- 
tions, by promising to arrange the marriage of Madame 

These Splendid Women 219 

Adelaide and his son. She surrounded herself with the 
devotion of those State financiers, the brothers Paris, from 
whom she received great services before becoming Mar- 
quise de Pompadour. She made them her men and her 
maintainers, by fortifying the King — so alarmed and an- 
noyed at financial embarrassments — in the belief that only 
they, with their calculations, ideas, experience, were 
capable of furnishing the money necessary for the needs 
of the war. With her words and all her efforts she fur- 
thered the proud plans, the haughty audacity, the mobile 
and enraged policy of those real masters of the wealth of 
France, whose imagination contemplated successively the 
ruin of Austria, Holland, and Russia. She concealed 
with all the resources of her ability the extravagance and 
heritage of debt involved in this system, which ruined the 
provinces, but always found money for the King and 
Paris. She made the King and the Council lend an ear 
to the ideas of Duvernay, with whom she acquired credit 
through the eloquence and apparent good-nature of Mar- 
montel. She incessantly dilated to the King on the un- 
easiness, the loss of public credit which would ensue, if 
these men were to fall; and by giving them on every 
occasion and at every hour the authority of her friend- 
ship, the succour of her protection, allying herself with 
them even to intimacy, entering into their families, where 
she brought peace, she made them auxiliaries at her or- 
ders, the foes of her foes; and it was with their aid 
that she overthrew the Controller-General, Orry, who was 
opposed to her expenses, and even less favourably dis- 
posed towards her than towards the Duchesse de 

For several Lents, already, in order to enliven the 
King's piety and his remorse, Madame de Pompadour had 
arranged his Holy Week for him after the pattern of an 
opera: she offered him spiritual concerts in her apart- 
ments, and grand motets, in which she sang herself, with 
Madame Marchais, Madame de I'Hopital, Madame de La 

220 These Splendid Women 

Salle, the Vicomte de Rohan; Monsieur D'Ayen the 
younger, who were supported by the finest voices in Paris, 
Mademoiselle Fel and Geliotte, and the musicians of the 
Cabinets. But this was only an experiment to pave the 
way; and with these mundane canticles, which soothed, 
for an instant, the melancholy of the King, Madame de 
Pompadour was preparing him for the distraction of the 
theatre. The theatre, with its various resources, its chang- 
ing spectacle, its speaking illusions, with its magic, its 
interest, all the hold it has over the mental and physical 
attention, must it not be, in the eyes of Madame de 
Pompadour, the surest and happiest means of interesting 
the King's senses, reviving his imagination, of making him 
live for a few hours afar from the realities and business 
of his royal life, in the enchanted deception of an ani- 
mated fiction and a living dream? What better thought, 
indeed, could occur to the mind of a favorite in order to 
offer to a King what Pascal calls a King's greatest felicity : 
the diversion from himself and release from thoughts 
of himself ? 

Moreover, it was not merely the interests, it was also 
the instincts of Madame de Pompadour which led her to 
the theatre. Her mind, as her graces, were of their age, 
of that age, possessed, even in the lowest ranks of the 
middle classes, by the passion for the comedy of society. 
The tastes of the woman then were in harmony with the 
calculations of the favorite, and no less than her desire 
to occupy the King and dominate the court, the recollec- 
tion and the regret for her past successes impelled her to 
seek once more upon a royal stage the applause whose 
triumph and joy had been hers upon the stage of Monsieur 
de Tournehem at iStioles, upon the stage of Madame de 
Villemur at Chautemerle. 

To fix the King's will it was suf^cient to fix his curi- 
osity. An easy task! to which all Madame de Pompa- 
dour's friends applied themselves with ardor. The Due 
de Richelieu, who had seen Madame de Pompadour play 

These Splendid Women 221 

at Chautemerle, the Due de Nivernois and the Due de 
Duras, who had played with her there, besieged the 
King's ear and filled his mind with words, notions of 
spectacle, comedy; they spoke to him of the talents of 
his mistress, of all the accomplishments, which she had 
not as yet had the opportunity or satisfaction of showing 
him. The King, interested and seduced, met the wishes 
of Madame de Pompadour ; he smiled at the creation of a 
theatre in the private apartments. The stage was erected 
in the Cabinet of Medals. The pieces were chosen, the 
company formed, rehearsals organized. Madame de 
Pompadour associated the King with her energy, her 
labors; she made him share her impatience, triumphed 
over his antipathies; and it was a piece by Voltaire, 
L'Enfant Prodigue, which inaugurated this intimate the- 
atre, where etiquette did not exist, and where, for the first 
time in France, the King's presence in person left the 
public free to its manifestations and permitted them to 
applaud. In the interval between the first and second 
performances of UEnfant Prodigne, Madame de Pompa- 
dour produced Le Mediant of Cresset, which was still 
bidding for success with the Parisian public. Then to 
comedies succeeded operas, ballets, La Bruere's Bacchus 
and Erigonc, Rebel's Ismenc, La Garde's L'Eglee, La 
Surprise de V Amour and Tancrcde, and the ballet of 
L'Opcratem Chinois. 

The theatre of the Cabinets was soon a perfectly organ- 
ized and decorated theatre. Madame de Pompadour had 
appointed as director the Due de La Valliere, the best 
organizer of comedies in France ; as prompter, an abbe, 
her secretary and librarian, the Abbe de La Carde. The 
orchestra was a most excellent one ; and Madame de Pom- 
padour seated in it by the side of the King's professional 
musicians, the most renowned amateurs in the kingdom, 
the Prince de Dombes, Marliere's rival upon the bassoon, 
the Marquise de Souches so skilled upon the viol, and M. 
de Courtomer, who vied with Mondonville as a violinist. 

222 These Splendid Women 

Dehesse, an actor from the Italian Comedy, led and ar- 
ranged the ballets. Bury directed the operatic portions 
and the choirs. Madame de Pompadour's theatrical com- 
pany — a company into which the Due de Chartres only 
entered with difficulty ! — was as complete as it was highly 
bom. Amongst the women, it included Madame de Sas- 
senage, Madame de Pons, Madame de Brancas, such ac- 
complished actresses in Tartujfe, and the youthful 
Madame de Livri, so charming as a miller's daughter. 
The operatic parts were sustained by Madame de Mar- 
chais, Madame de Brancas, and Madame de Trusson. 
The company was proud of possessing that rare comedian, 
the admirable Valere of Le MecJmnt, whose acting, at 
times, was a lesson to the Theatre Fran^ais, the Due de 
Nivernois. There were other good actors, such as the 
Marquise de Voyer, Croissy, Clermont d'Amboise. The 
Comte de Maillebois played admirably in Duf reny's Mar- 
iage fait et rompu, La Valliere excelled in the parts of 
baihffs, and the Due de Duras as Blaise. The singers 
were Clermont d'Amboise, Courbanvaux, Luxembourg, 
D'Ayen, Villeroi. Dupre and Balletti had trained the 
Due de Beuvron, the Comte de Melfort, the Prince of 
Hesse and the Comte de Langeron as dancers. And to 
complete the dancing, a battalion of figurants and figur- 
antes from nine years old to twelve, a miniature opera, 
in which La Puvigne, La Camille and La Dorfeuille were 
already noticeable, supported the solo dancers. The com- 
pany possessed a musical copyist, a wig-maker, no other 
than Notrelle, the wig-maker of the Menus-Plaisirs, so 
noted for his sublime wigs, for gods, demons, heroes, 
shepherds, Tritons, Cyclops, naiads and furies. It had 
seven costumiers, who went to take the measures of Ver- 
sailles, two dressers, whose names were La Jaussin and 
La Dangeville. It had wardrobes, dancing-shoes, silken 
stockings that cost fifteen livres, Roman buskins and 
Roman wigs, black moustaches, flame-coloured top-knots, 
two hundred and two costumes for men, a hundred and 

These Splendid Women 223 

fifty-three costumes for women, and brocades, tissues, em- 
broideries, braids and tassels of gold and silver to the 
value of two thousand one hundred and twenty livres. 
It possessed all necessary and conceivable properties, ac- 
cessories of Tartarus or the Elysian fields, materials for 
a voyage to Cythera and a pilgrimage to Paphos ; twelve 
blue and silver staffs and twelve gourds, four shepherds' 
crooks garnished with blue, a club imitated in cardboard, 
a set of mechanical serpents— and, not least, those speak- 
ing arms of Madame de Pompadour, a wheel of Fortune 
and a magician's wand ! It was really a theatre, in which 
nothing was lacking, not even regulations, laws, a charter. 
Madame de Pompadour had given a code to her company; 
and ten articles, dictated by her and approved by the King, 
laid it down that in order to be admitted as an associate, 
one had to prove that it was not the first time one had 
acted in comedy; that everyone must define his line of 
business; that one could not, without having obtained 
the consent of his colleagues, take a different line from 
that for which one had been accepted; but no associate 
could refuse a part suitable to him, on the excuse that it 
would give him scanty opportunity; that the actresses 
alone would enjoy the right of choosing the pieces to be 
performed ; that they would, likewise, have the right of 
fixing the date of the performance, and deciding the 
number of rehearsals, and the day and hour when these 
should take place. The regulations further declared that 
every actor was bound to appear at the exact time fixed 
for rehearsal, under penalty of a fine, which the actresses 
alone would settle; that to the actresses only would the 
half -hour's grace be accorded, after which the fine they 
might have incurred would be decided by themselves. 
Finally, the theatre of the Cabinets had its tickets. On a 
card, as big as a playing-card, upon which the word 
Parade was written, the witty pencil of Cochin had drawn 
a columbine upon a puppet-stage, her dress adorned with 
ribands, like the dress of Silvia in the portrait of Latour ; 

224 These Splendid Women 

she minces astonishment, and flirts her fan, whilst beside 
her, Leandre, in ruffs, his arm upon the balustrade, de- 
clares his love to her, under the nose of Pierrot, who 
thrusts his head through the curtain behind : this was 
the gallant voucher, the "open sesame" of Madame de 
Pompadour's theatre. 

This theatre, the performances of which succeeded one 
another without any interruptions save those caused by 
the King's hunting expeditions, became almost a govern- 
ment at Versailles. It was not long in attracting the 
whole attention of the court to it, and all the ardor of 
the courtiers. In putting into the King's hands a direction 
which amused him, it put into the hands of the favorite 
a fresh source of favor, and a new opportunity for 
domination. The list of admittances was surrounded 
and besieged by ambitions and solicitations as keen as 
those round the list of benefices; and this intimate 
approach to the King, which was at the disposal of the 
favorite, brought her an influence, hidden from the pub- 
lic, but real, effective, and increasing. The public, care- 
fully chosen from the whole of Versailles, was small, 
select, and devoted to the mistress. The nucleus of it was 
formed by her family, her friends, by what might be 
termed her court: her brother, Vandieres, her uncle, 
Tournehem, the Marechal de Saxe, the two Champcenets, 
Madame d'Estrades, Madame du Roure. IMadame de 
Pompadour also admitted the actors, who had their entree 
to the entertainment, whether they played or not, and 
the actresses, who, when they were not playing, were 
accommodated in the stage-box, in which Madame de 
Pompadour reserved two seats, one of which was always 
given to her friend, the Marechale de Mirepoix. The 
favorite also bestowed the honor and satisfaction of 
admissions upon the authors whose works were repre- 
sented on the stage of the Cabinets, and the composer had 
the right of marking the time of his music to the orches- 
tra. Often enough she dropped an invitation upon the 

These Splendid Women 225 

younger Coigny, the Marquis de Gontaud, Querchy, the 
Abbe de Bernis. 

In the midst of these pleasures, and by means of these 
same pleasures, Madame de Pompadour waxed greater 
and enlarged the radius of her power. Each day saw 
her drawing nearer to royalty, affecting a more assured 
tone of authority, and playing more seriously with the 
exercise of sovereignty. One day, when M. de Maurepas 
happened to be with the King, Madame de Pompadour 
asked that a lettre de cachet should be cancelled. "Mon- 
sieur must return," and turning to the minister, she gives 
him the order in the King's name; and as Maurepas ob- 
jects : "His Majesty must command it. . . ." "Do 
zvhat Madame wishes/' says Louis XV. Furious at this 
omnipotence, at such a taking possession of the King's 
will, at this power which goes on acquiring strength, 
which nothing can shake, not even songs, Maurepas lost 
all reserve. His rashness and his indiscretion could no 
longer be contained ; his wit, to which he gave loose rein, 
burst out in insults, and his muse indulged in those bru- 
talities which strike a woman in her weakness and out- 
rage her in her sex. After a supper-party in the cabinets, 
between the King, the Comtesse d'Estrades, Madame de 
Pompadour and Maurepas, the minister uttered the cruel 
and famous allusion to the bouquet of white hyacinths 
which Madame de Pompadour had pulled to pieces during 
supper and scattered beneath her shoes. Madame de 
Pompadour, demanding vengeance and failing to obtain 
it, finished by seeking the minister and asked him "what 
if he knew the author of the songs?" — "When I know 
him," replied Maurepas, "I will tell the King." "Mon- 
sieur," retorted the Marquise, "you make mighty small ac- 
count of the King's mistresses." To which, Maurepas, 
without troubling himself : "I have always respected them, 
whatever sort they were," and he accentuated the in- 
solence of the phrase with a look. 

At the conclusion of the interview at the Marechal de 

226 These Splendid Women 

Villars', being complimented on the flattering visit he had 
received that morning: "Yes," he replied, "that of the 
Marquise. It will bring her misfortune. I remember 
that Madame de Mailly also came to see me, two days 
before she was dismissed by Madame de Chateauroux. I 
bring misfortune to them all." Madame de Pompadour 
hastened to carry off the King, and during an expedition 
to the little Chateau of La Celle, keeping the King all 
to herself, out of reach of exterior influences, away from 
the minister, who had gone to Mademoiselle de Maupeon's 
wedding, she spoke to her lover of the insults put upon 
his mistress, to the King of the disrespect of his chief 
servants. To the suspicious father, the Louis XV. so 
prone to suspicion, she depicted M. de Maurepas as re- 
sponsible for the insurrection of the royal family against 
its head, as the instigator of the songs and innuendoes 
circulating everywhere against her and against the King 
himself. She laid perfidious stress on the intimacy of the 
Dauphin with M. de IMaurepas. All, however, would have 
failed, perhaps, but for a stroke of cunning which flashed 
through Madame de Pompadour's head like an inspira- 
tion: she set to work to weary the King with pretended 
fears of having been poisoned by Maurepas. She in- 
cessantly repeated to him that she would perish by the 
hand which had caused the so opportune disappearance 
of Madame de Chateauroux. She carried the comedy and 
her feigned terror so far as to wish to have a surgeon 
sleeping near her apartment, and antidotes within her 
reach. And she filled the King's soul with such dreads, 
that she snatched from him a desire, and, as it were, a 
coup d'etat of fear : Maurepas was exiled. But, on leav- 
ing for Bourges, with that smile which is the mask of his 
whole life, Maurepas bequeathed to Madame de Pompa- 
dour the enmity of his colleague d'Argenson. The latter 
was a foe of another sort ; he had darker passions, a colder 
soul, graver hates. 

At last the Marquise de Pompadour reigned, and her 

These Splendid Women 227 

tone was adapted to the superb insolence of her fortune. 
She endeavoured to drop upon all the projects and peti- 
tions a royal: ''We zM sec/' She said already to the 
ministers: "Proceed, I am pleased with you; you know 
that I have long been your friend." To the ambassadors 
she said again : "For several Tuesdays the King will be 
unable to see you, gentlemen, for I suppose you would not 
come to look for us at Compiegne." And she accustomed 
her mouth and the court to that We, which put the royal 
utterance on her lips, and was, as it were, the half of 
royalty. Her apartment at Versailles, on the ground floor, 
was the royal apartment of the Montespan. The utmost 
etiquette prevailed there, the traditions of which the 
Marquise had sought for in the manuscripts of the 
memoriahsts of the court of Louis XIV. : a single arm- 
chair forewarned all to remain standing before the en- 
throned favorite ; and there was found in that humbled 
Versailles, but one man to seat himself on the arm of 
that chair, that frank and brave courtier, with so much 
heart and so much wit, daring and saying everything, the 
Marquise de Souvre, the last King's jester of the mon- 
archy. Madame de Pompadour's carriage had the velvet 
cap and ducal mantle on the arms. It was a gentleman, a 
gentleman belonging to one of the oldest families of Guy- 
enne, snatched from penury, who bore Madame de Pom- 
padour's cloak upon his arm, followed at the door of 
her sedan-chair, and waited for her to come out in the 
antechamber. Her butler, Collin, she had not thought 
worthy to hold the napkin behind her who wore the cross 
of Saint Louis upon her breast. And as though her 
pride passed the bounds of her life and must accompany 
her in death, she bought a vault from the Cregni family, at 
the Capucines of the Place Vendome, where she had the 
body of her mother conveyed and prepared a magnificent 
mausoleum for herself. In this majesty of scandal, in this 
huge enjoyment of favour, in the midst of this prosperity 
and these delights, loaded with riches, bounded by that 

228 These Splendid Women 

horizon of splendours which starts, around her and within 
her scope, with the suite of furniture which is the envy 
and admiration of Europe, Madame de Pompadour 
dreams of raising her family to her own level. She de- 
sires her kinsmen to follow her and gravitate in the orb 
of her greatness. She wishes the obscurity of her birth 
to be obliterated beneath the titles and offices of those 
to whom she belongs, and her blood to be so exalted in 
that court that she need no longer remember she ever 
blushed for it. She hides her father in the lordship of 
Marigny, which she buys from the confraternity of Saint- 
Come. For her brother she obtains the captaincy of 
Crenelle, with the revenue of a hundred thousand livres 
attached to it, and covers his name with the Marquisate 
of Vandieres. But what different projects, ambitions how 
far more impudent occupy the maternal vanity of Madame 
de Pompadour! What dreams for the future hover over 
the head of that fair young girl, her daughter and her 
portrait : Alexandrine d'fitioles, who is growing up in the 
Convent of the Assumption, where she attracts the great- 
est heiresses in the kingdom, eager to form a friendship 
which may, later on, become a protection. Madame de 
Pompadour's daughter is brought up like a princess ; like 
princesses, she only calls herself by her Christian name; 
and her mother has nurtured her vanity so v/ell that she 
disputes precedence with Mademoiselle de Soubise. The 
Marquise, dreaming of a duchy of Maine for her, had sent 
one day, in her fig-garden at Bellevue, for a handsome 
child, who in his face, gestures, attitudes was the living 
portrait of the King his father : this child was the Comte 
de Luc, the son of Louis XV. and Madame de Vintimille. 
Madame de Pompadour sought to interest the King in the 
union of these two beautiful children, and endeavoured 
to turn the King's softened mind towards that pretty 
castle in the air, a family in which the likeness of grand- 
father and grandmother should be reunited, a race to 
smile on their old age and speak to every eye, a race 

These Splendid Women 229 

which should mingle the blood of Louis and the Pom- 
padour. But the King remained cold to this project; and 
Madame de Pompadour fell back upon an alliance with 
the Due de Fronsac, the son of the Marechal de Richelieu. 
Good courtier as Richelieu was, however submissive his 
pride to his ambition, he was almost wounded at the 
honour the Marquise would do him, and answered her 
ironically, "that he was most flattered by her choice, but 
that his son, on his mother's side, had the honour of 
belonging to the princes of the House of Lorraine, and 
that he was compelled to ask their consent." These 
two checks did not discourage Madame de Pompadour, 
and caused her to abate no whit of her pretensions. She 
returned to another side of the court, and was almost 
satisfied at having negotiated the marriage of Alexandrine 
with the Due de Chaulnes, who was to bring three millions 
into the family he entered, when a chill, caught at 
Benediction in the Convent of the Assumption, degen- 
erating into virulent small-pox, robbed her of this child 
of her hopes, and left only a brother and a father for 
the ambition of her affections. 

But what could or would Madame de Pompadour do 
for her father, beyond hiding him and keeping him in 
the second plan of favour, in one of those satisfied ob- 
scurities, one of those positions of gratified and un- 
assuming ease in which courtesans bury out of modesty 
a father without prejudices? 

The paternal Poisson appears, from the few coarse 
traits which history has retained of him, as the type of 
a subordinate tax-farmer, vulgarising in his gross and 
robust person, the wit, the scepticism, the tastes, the 
vices, even the very insolence of the great financiers of 
the day. It is a gross man, full of wine, of blood and 
wine, fired and disordered by debauchery, drunken and 
dubious, who steeps the scandal he causes in his cynicism, 
and in that head of his, which has interviewed the gallows, 
nurses the theories and morals of a Neveu de Rameau. 

230 These Splendid Women 

Joyous, mocking and brutal, set squarely, hat on head, 
in the impunity of his fortune, and the disgrace of his 
pensions, he laughs at everything with a shameless irony 
and a crude speech ; he reminds his daughter's lackeys of 
his title of father in language that can not be quoted ; he 
escapes from the contempt of others by flaunting the 
contempt he has for himself ; he enforces his commands 
on the Pompadour, wrests favours from her, through the 
intimidation his sight causes, and his threats of a dis- 
turbance; and it is he who, one night in the middle of 
a supper-party, bursting into a peal of laughter which 
checks the orgy, shouts at his fellow-guests, shouts at 
Montmartel, in tones as crushing as a blow from a fist: 
"You, Monsieur de Montmartel, are the son of an inn- 
keeper. . . . You, Monsieur de Savalette, the son 
of a vinegar-maker. . . . You, Bourret, the son of 
a lackey. . . . What I am?. . . . Who is there 
does not know?" 

A very different man, a perfectly presentable relation, 
was Madame de Pompadour's brother. He derived noth- 
ing from his father, neither in character nor in face. 
Before he grew fat, he was his sister's equal in beauty, 
in that smiling, and, as it were, princely beauty, which 
we see in Tocque's portrait. He was elegant, graceful, 
finely built, of noble manners; in brief, graced with all 
the externals which put a man in his place in the ele- 
gant court of Louis XV. The King liked him ; admitted 
him to his tete-a-tete suppers with Madame De Pompa- 
dour, called him by the name of "little brother'' He was 
successful, he pleased; he was neither exacting nor com- 
promising; finally, he was entirely devoted to his sister. 
Nevertheless, in this brother so well endowed, so happily 
adapted to the position of the favourite, forming such a 
contrast to the unworthy and compromising father, there 
existed an unfortunate quality which chilled Madame de 
Pompadour's good will by thwarting the dreams of her 
vanity and the ambitions of her affection. Madame de 

These Splendid Women 231 

Pompadour's brother, brought up and trained by the 
paternal Poisson to be excessively distrustful of himself, 
was modest to the point of shyness ; he had that bashful- 
ness which deprives ambition of assurance as it deprives 
the countenance of ease; and he himself recalled with a 
charming naivete, his embarrassment when, being quite 
young, he could not drop his handkerchief in the gallery 
of Versailles without seeing in a moment the skilled cooks 
grovelling and disputing for the honor of picking it up. 
These were weaknesses too ridiculous in such a land, at 
court, not to be railed at and calumniated. The shyness 
of Madame de Pompadour's brother was voted nullity by 
all the courtiers; and there were not jests enough at 
Versailles against the Marquis ''Day-be fore-Yesterday/' 
flouted in the song: 

Qu' ebloui par un vain eclat, 
Poisson tranche du petit maitre ; 
Qu'il pense qu' a la cour un fat 
Soit difficile a reconnoitre : 
Ah! le voila, ah! le voicy 
Celui qui n'en a nul souci. 

These laughs, which cut the Marquise to the quick, ex- 
cited her self-conceit against the brother who did not take 
his marquisate as seriously as she could have wished, and 
seemed to encourage the laughers by his philosophy and 
absent-minded ways. She endeavored to shake him up, 
to inspire him; she tormented and urged him to seek 
places, honors, aggrandizement, but was unsuccessful in 
rousing him from that sort of sluggishness of soul, and 
moderation of desires which made him ten times during 
his life refuse to become minister. She sent him on a 
visit to Italy with a host of historians, painters, draughts- 
men, governors. On the death of Lenormand de Tourne- 
hem, she pushed him into the position of general director 
of buildings, gardens, arts, manufactures; that direction 
of art in which the brother of the Marquise becomes, 
according to the expression of a contemporary, arbiter 

232 These Splendid Women 

elegantiarum, and creates a new knowledge and a new 
taste in art by the internal arrangement of apartments, 
their architecture and decoration. And none the less, the 
sure tact, the rare style, all the zeal that he brings to this 
ministry of the ideal, and of the industry of France, the 
most able management, the most generous and sympa- 
thetic government of the things and world of art do not 
disarm the preconceived judgment of the court, and the 
injustice of opinion towards the man of whom Quesnay, 
a judge by no means to be accused of partiality, said: 
"He is a man very little known; no one speaks of his 
wit and his knowledge, nor of all he has done for the 
advancement of the arts ; nobody, since Colbert, has done 
as much in his place ; he is, moreover, a perfectly honest 
man, but people will only see in him the brother of the 
favourite, and because he is stout, deem him heavy and 
dull of wit." 

But if Madame de Pompadour was humiliated to see 
her brother thus misconstrued, she was wounded and in 
despair at seeing him unmarried, an obstinate bachelor. 
A great and magnificent marriage for her brother, which 
would prevent her from dying altogether, and by carrying 
on her fortune in a family of her blood, hand down to 
nephews the inheritance of her opulence and her pride, 
was the hope to which the Marquise clung after the death 
of her daughter Alexandrine. And the grief she felt at 
being disappointed in this last dream, the sorrow caused 
her by the refusals and resistance of her brother, are 
clearly depicted in the following confidential letter to her 
father, curious, from the vivacity with which the Marquise 
defends herself against the charge of being insatiable for 
her family : "I know, my dear father, of many red rib- 
ands promised, and much doubt, therefore, whether it be 
possible to obtain one for M. de Petit; there has never 
been any question of the provost-ship of Paris for my 
brother, neither he nor I have funds to dispose of. This 
office is very dear, brings in little, and would not make 

These Splendid Women 233 

him a greater noble than he is, but it is very certain that 
everything that is vacant will be attributed to him by the 
public, it has become accustomed to people who are in- 
satiable; I should be sorely displeased to have this 
infamous character, or that my brother should have it. 
I am very vexed that he will not marry, he will never 
find a match like the one I hoped to arrange for him. I 
am delighted that you amuse yourself as Crecy; stay 
there, my dear father, as long as the place suits you, and 
believe in my tender attachment." 

The years glided away, without reconciling the Marquis 
de Vandieres, now the Marquis de Marigny, to the proj- 
ects of the Marquise. And satisfied with the present, 
glutted with honors and riches, detached from the court 
which he did not like, glad to live at his ease, gently 
rocked by the facile graces of life, in that world of artists 
which he had made his world, he would not consent to 
stake his happiness, his friendships, his indolence and his 
pleasant freedom against the noblest alliance ; and he drove 
the Marquise to despair with the final impenitence of his 
epicurean wisdom. 

In the midst of all these benefits lavished upon her 
family, all the fortunes she built up around her, the 
favorite was urging on her private fortune and raising 
it to a royal opulence. She amassed possessions and 
castles, and attained such a vast ownership of estates and 
houses as no other mistress had ever ventured to dream of. 
In 1746, she bought from the farmer-general, Rousset, 
the estate of La Celle, which cost her 155,000 livres, and 
for which she abandoned Alontretout. The same year she 
bought the estate of Crecy. In 1747, she paid 100,000 
crowns for a hotel at Fontainebleau. She united the 
estate of Crecy with the estate of Aulnay, for which 
she paid 400,000 livres; in 1750, she acquired Brim- 
borion, below Bellevue. In 1752, she bought the estate 
of Saint-Remy, adjoining the estate of Crecy, and a 
hotel, for 100,000 crowns, at Compiegne. On April 1st 

234 These Splendid Women 

of 1753, she bought the magnificent Hotel of the Comte 
d':fivreux, on the Champs-£:lysees, at a price of 800,000 
livres. And to all these purchases must be added the 
Hermitage of Fontainebleau, the Hermitage of Versailles, 
the Chateau of Meudon, and, finally, Bellevue. But the 
sales-money was not the heaviest item in the expense 
of these acquisitions. No sooner was the land acquired, 
than money poured in upon it. A whole colony of paint- 
ers, workers in marble, sculptors, gilders, metal-workers, 
potters, joiners, florists, and gardeners, swooped down 
upon each new domain of Madame de Pompadour, and re- 
molding it, as her tastes, her caprices, her follies ordered, 
cast into the estate of La Celle, 68,114 livres; into Crecy 
and D'Aulnay, 3,947,264 livres; into the Hotel at Com- 
piegne, 30,242; Pompadour, 28,000; into the Hermitage 
of Fontainebleau, 216,382; into the Hermitage of Ver- 
sailles, 283,013; into the Hotel d':£vreux, 95,169; and into 
Bellevue 2,526,927 livres. From this vast prodigality, 
which raised the cost of Madame de Pompadour to France 
to more than thirty-six millions, from all this money 
lavished without reckoning on these dwelling-places of a 
luxury, an elegance, and an artistic taste hitherto un- 
known, there rose those pleasure-palaces of the favorite, 
of which Bellevue was the admirable example. 

That small and delicious model of a royal chateau, that 
museum of French art created by Madame de Pompadour, 
and filled with her inspiration, Bellevue, sprang from the 
earth as if by magic. Struck by the extent and beauty 
of the view, when accidentally passing those hills which 
seem a natural terrace, the foot of which is bathed by the 
Seine, Madame de Pompadour made an appointment with 
two architects, L'Assurance and DTsle, and there, on the 
territory of her dream, seated on a rustic operatic throne 
improvised out of grass and stones, she drew out her plan, 
marked the site of the buildings, and traced the arrange- 
ment of the gardens. The first blow of the pick was 
struck on the 30th June 1748, and the works were carried 

These Splendid Women 235 

on so energetically that the inauguration was able to take 
place on 2nd December 1750, in the presence of the King, 
with a charming ballet. Love the Architect, in which one 
saw a mountain, the Mountain in Labour of La Fontaine, 
delivered of the Chateau of Bellevue, while on the Belle- 
vue road, one of those carriages known as pots de chambre 
was upset, and tumbled upon the stage a basket full of 
women, a ballet and dancers. The principal wing of the 
chateau had only nine windows, according to the expressed 
desire of the King. It displayed on the exterior, marble 
busts attached in the interspaces. The antechamber was 
adorned with two statues upon which the chisels of Fal- 
connet and of Adam had vied with one another. In the 
dining-room Oudry had painted the accessories of hunting 
and fishing, and these were repeated on the wood-work by 
the fine carvings of Verbreck. Six paintings by Vanloo, 
Comedy and Tragedy, lined the walls of the reception- 
room. A gallery, in which Love smiled in the marble of 
Saly, led to the music-room, of which the door-panels 
were signed by Pierre. Next came the King's apartment, 
painted by Vanloo, and separated from the apartment of 
Madame de Pompadour by a boudoir in chintz, decorated 
in gold, enlivened by two Chinese landscapes from the 
brush and invention of Boucher. The elder Brunetti had 
painted the staircase, and his decorative genius had 
wrought, in the mass of a noble architecture extending 
to the first floor, the ladder of Olympus, Bacchus and 
Ariadne, Zephyrus and Flora, Diana and Endymion. 
Boulogne and Vernet had brougth their names and efforts 
to the paintings in the apartment of the Dauphin and 
Dauphine ; for the chateau of Madame de Pompadour con- 
tained an apartment for the Dauphin and Dauphine. 
Next came the great curiosity and glory of Bellevue, 
the gallery conceived and designed by Madame de Pom- 
padour in person, a gallery, throughout the whole length 
of which garlands of an amazing delicacy, carved by 
Verbreck and daintily painted by Dinaut and Du Fort, 

236 These Splendid Women 

formed a frame to some of the prettiest of Boucher's 
pictures, to which the texture of the furniture seemed a 
harmonious echo. The brush of Perrot had caught up 
there, with an exquisite art, the gaieties of colour, the 
froHc hght, the rural and bedizened allegories cast upon 
the walls by the painter. In that Bellevue everything was 
in harmony; and in those painted saloons, gilded and 
splendid, or through those gardens, grottoes, those alleys 
which sloped down so pleasantly, beside those living and, 
as it were, truant waters, in the arbour by the waterfall, 
the green arbours, the arbours where the trees formed 
canopies, which were known as the Rond de Sevres^ the 
avenues of sycamores from Lebanon, and poplars from 
Lombardy, beside the two nymphs of Pigalle, the pedes- 
trian statue of Louis XV. in Genoa marble, or the marble 
Apollo of Couston, there came and went, passed and 
strolled, a whole world dressed in the livery of the Cha- 
teau, and after the fantasy of the place: the men wore 
coats of purple cloth, embroidered with golden borders, 
with vests of grey satin worked with a design traced 
in purple, and fringed with four inches of dead gold em- 
broidery; the women were clad in dresses similar to the 
vests of the men. And what uniform were better fitted 
for that palace of enchantment where, presently, in full 
winter, the Marquise is to astonish the King with that 
unheard-of and prodigious flower-bed, all the flowers of 
spring, all the sweet-smelling flowers of summer, living 
almost — a flower-bed in perfumed porcelain of Sevres. 

This imagination of Madame de Pompadour, a real 
imagination of Armides, did not confine itself to the fair 
domain she had created; she remoulded and added fresh 
decorations to the chateaux where the King received her, 
and repaid him with the hospitality of Bellevue. 

Choisy, which belonged to the King, became, as it were, 
her property, owing to all the embellishments she brought 
to it, all the expenses incurred at her command. From 
small matters to great, all the luxury of the Chateau, 

These Splendid Women 237 

all that was beautiful in the life of Choisy belonged to 
her, and exhibited in its least details the delicacy of 
her inventiveness; was it not she who devised that castle 
of faery, in which the mechanical table invented by her 
in collaboration with the engineer, the model of which 
was sold at the Marquis de Menars' sale, the table of 
Loriot supplied the King with a pin for which he had 
asked, with verses by Lanjou? 

Where Madame de Pompadour endeavoured and suc- 
ceeded was in bringing change and contrast to all these 
retreats which afforded the King's ennui the distraction 
of a lucky-box. When he was weary of Bellevue and 
Choisy, she received him at the pretty Hermitage of 
Versailles, where all was countrified, where the house 
looked on nothing but sheep-folds, where the gardens, 
free of the pomp and monotony of French gardens, were 
all myrtle-bowers, shrubberies of roses, rustic hiding- 
places for Love's statue, fields of daffodils, pinks, violets, 
tuberoses, embalming the air with nature's own perfumes. 
It was there that, renewing her beauty, she revived the 
King's fancy by the changes and disguises of her person, 
now appearing to him in the dress of the Sultana of 
Vanloo, now dawning upon him as a fair gardener, in the 
costume which has been handed down to us, said by her 
to be her best likeness — her head covered by a straw hat 
lined with blue, with that blue, her favourite color, which 
was the cause of all blue garments being christened "the 
Marquise's clothes"; her left arm passed through the 
handle of a basket of flowers, her right hand holding a 
spray of hyacinths. Or again, she would charm the 
King's eyes with a dress, the conception and pattern of 
which she had found in a gallant assembly of Watteau, 
an ideal undress, since dubbed a neglige a la Pompadour: 
imagine a sort of Turkish vest, tight round the neck, 
buttoned at the wrist, plastic to the bust, clinging round 
the hips, revealing all that it left visible and suggesting 
all that it hid. 

238 These Splendid Women 

None the less, in spite of all these seductions and this 
perpetual bewitching of the King's senses and his love, 
the favourite was obliged each day to dispute and regain 
her power. Its exercise, its maintenance, and its aug- 
mentation was a laborious and incessant conquest. The 
effort of a perpetual battle, the tension of a sleepless 
activity, the constant labor of the head, a daily com- 
bination of intrigues, subterfuges and countermines was 
necessary to keep Madame de Pompadour enthroned in 
her slippery greatness, and in that high estate so envied 
and attacked, so beset with traps and snares, assaulted 
by ambition and treason ; a cloud of favour at the mercy 
of a breath, a caprice, a storm, or a pin-stab. To possess 
the King, occupy his ennui, startle and amuse him by 
change of scene and the element of surprise in his 
pleasures; when ill, and restricted to a milk diet, to go 
abroad and sup, to remain beautiful and find factitious 
strength to keep beauty and freshness amid fatigue, this 
was the favourite's easiest task. What was that beside 
the most exhausting part of her role, the hardest expiation 
of her rule: to be every moment on the watch, to divine 
the menace of a smile, and the danger lurking in success, 
to surmount the indolence and indisposition of body and 
mind, to oppose a resistance to all who surrounded the 
King, to all who approached him, to hidden enemies, 
secret plots, to the Royal family, the ministry, the rivals 
which start up, the perils which are unmasked! 

The light sceptre of a King's mistress, the government 
of favours and the command of pleasures no longer suf- 
ficed Madame de Pompadour. She dreamed of surviving 
herself, and, wishing to figure beyond the fleeting moment 
in the age of Louis XV., all her ambitions were directed 
to recommending the memory of her name to posterity 
by creations and monuments which time respects, and 
which seem to prolong the favour of a favourite into 
the future. This popularity which Madame de Pom- 
padour sought to attach to her reign, she sought at the 

These Splendid Women 239 

outset, and passionately pursued in the order of her 
tastes. She created the manufactory of Sevres, whose 
products, endowing French industry with an artistic por- 
celain, were to rob Saxony of the tribute paid to it by 
Europe, and no longer to leave to the foreigners an 
art, a taste, a fashion, an elegance which was not a source 
of revenue to France. And was it not a sore wound to 
the artistic patriotism of the favourite to see the whole 
host of merchants and commissioners hurrying to Dres- 
den, and disputing that porcelain which had deceived the 
finest connoisseurs of Amsterdam, and made the King 
of Poland resolve not to manufacture a single piece of 
porcelain without his mark and arms? To rival, to ruin 
Dresden china by a china made in France becam.e the 
Marquise's fixed idea. She will not be discouraged by 
the imperfection of the results, the half success of the 
attempts made at Mennecy, at Villeroy, and at Chantilly, 
where, in spite of the wagons that bring earth from 
Saxony, and the revelations as to the methods of manu- 
facture made by the Comte d'Hoyn, punished for his in- 
discretion with disgrace, tHere issued from the furnaces 
only pieces far inferior, both for the substance and the 
enamelling, to the fine pieces of Saxony. 

The manufactory of Vincennes, already transferred to 
Sevres, was installed by her in the vast building, which 
still stands at the present day, in spite of the gloomy 
forebodings of the Marquis d'Argenson. She calls in the 
chemists, urges them to fresh efforts, new attempts, to 
those trials and experiments with all the clay in France, 
which were to lead to the discovery of the Kaolin of 
Saint- Yriex in 1765. A whole army of skilled workmen, 
painters of flowers and landscapes, sculptors, is put at 
Bachelier's disposal. The Marquise has Sevres proclaimed 
a royal factory, like the Savonnerie and the Gobelins, and 
compels the King to take a third share in the enterprise. 
She makes Sevres the habitual goal of her excursions, 
she lavishes her superintendence, her interest, her inspira- 

240 These Splendid Women 

tion, the ideas or the counsels of her fantasy on that 
workshop of frail ware which was destined to outlive the 
monarchy. She protects the establishment, encourages 
the artists, bespeaks zeal and enthusiasm through the 
gauntlet she flings down to the King of Saxony, by 
sending him a service which she declared to be superior 
to any yet produced. She starts, in short, and determines 
the fortune of Sevres ware by exhibitions in the Chateau 
of Versailles, by the warmth of her praise, the example 
of her custom, by all the means that a favorite possesses 
of imposing a new taste and an unforeseen expense upon 
a court, by that patronage, the passion of which is re- 
vealed to us in one of her sayings: "Not to buy this 
china, so long as one has any money, is to prove oneself 
a bad citizen." 

But there was another creation to which Madame de 
Pompadour devoted herself even more completely, and 
upon which her ambitions were most heavily staked. She 
conceived the idea of completing the noble conception of 
Louis XIV., and making a pendant to the Invalides by 
the foundation of a military college which should make 
the King the father of the sons of soldiers killed in the 
wars or ruined in the service. It was a dream, which, 
no sooner conceived, became a project, a fever, a passion ; 
she was absorbed and enraptured by it, and her mental 
impulse towards this great undertaking is so keen and 
genuine that it seems, at moments, to enlarge her heart. 
At the outset, the favourite's idea is a secret, a secret so 
well kept that the majority of historians attribute the 
project to the Comte d'Argenson; but it is an honour 
which must be rendered to Madame de Pompadour, after 
the perusal of this letter written by her on the 18th Sep- 
tember 1750, on her return from a visit to Saint-Cyr. 

"We went the day before yesterday to Saint-Cyr. I 
cannot tell you how much emotion I felt at the sight 
of this establishment, as well as of all therein; they all 

These Splendid Women 241 

came to tell me that a similar one should be founded 
for men. This made me want to laugh, for they will 
think when our affair transpires, that it was they who 
gave me the notion." 

From that day forward we find the Marquise de 
Pompadour plotting with Paris Duvergney, ''her beloved 
booby," She asks him for plans, makes him study Saint- 
Cyr and its organization, urges him to join his brother 
in seeking for the most suitable field for her project. It 
is a flood of letters, projects, devices, and an immense 
impatience for the spring, when the foundation stone of 
the edifice is to be laid! The Marquise never brought 
more fire or spirit to an affair of her own. In a letter 
of the 9th of November she writes : "I have been en- 
chanted to see the King now concerning himself with 
the details. I am on fire to see the thing made public, 
since after that it will be impossible to draw back. I 
count on your eloquence to seduce M. de Machault, al- 
though I deem him too much attached to the King to 
thwart his glory. In short, my dear Duvergney, I count 
upon your vigilance presently to inform the universe. 
You will come to see me on Thursday, I hope. I need 
not tell you how charmed I shall be, and that I love you 
with all my heart." 

And through the ensuing years, the desire, the activity, 
the passion and zeal of the Marquise never falter. She 
encourages and discusses the propositions of Duvergney. 
In order to endow the establishment, she seeks funds 
with him by means of a tax upon playing-cards; she 
soothes the altercations of her brother IMarigny and 
Paris-Duvergney upon the subject of the buildings. She 
orders the internal arrangements of the school; she 
interests the King in the digging up of the earth for 
foundations, and when, at one moment, in 1755, money 
is lacking, when Madame de Pompadour sees that long 
cherished dream of her young school manoeuvring to 

242 These Splendid Women 

the sound of drums before the King's eyes, on the point 
of vanishing, she takes up her pen and writes with an 
accent of grandeur and generous emotion: "No, most 
certainly, my dear booby, I will not allow to founder 
in harbor an establishment destined to render the King 
immortal, to give his nobility happiness, and testify my 
attachment for the State and for the person of his 
Majesty to posterity. I told Gabriel to-day to make ar- 
rangements to send the workmen necessary for the com- 
pletion of the work to Crenelle. My revenues for this 
year have not yet come in; I shall devote them in their 
entirety for the payment of the weekly wage-bills of the 
laborers. I know not whether I shall find sureties for 
my repayment, but I am very sure that I will risk a hun- 
dred thousand livres with great satisfaction for the wel- 
fare of these poor children. Good-night, dear booby. If 
you are able to come to Paris on Tuesday, I shall have 
much pleasure in seeing you; if you can not come, send 
your nephew to me about six o'clock." 

Voltaire, indeed, was not only Madame de Pompadour's 
courtier, but also her tool, her man, and her weapon of 
attack. Satires, epigrams, literary executions, tasteful 
tempers, all that in him seemed like the work of a friend, 
the pleading of a poet pro domo sua, masked and served 
the vengeance of Madame de Pompadour; and in that 
police of Parnassus, made of strokes of irony, it was 
at the political enemies of the Marquise that he aimed. 

With his shower of Whens and Ifs and Whys and 
Wherefores, Whos and Whats, he cudgelled not Lefranc 
de Pompignau, but the party of the Dauphin and the 
Dauphin himself. A key to Voltaire's pamphlets is a 
fact not to be forgotten in the history of Madame de 
Pompadour. Thus bound to Voltaire by services and 
her need of his wit, the mistress favoured him with her 
friendship and patronage as long as she lived, in spite 
of coolnesses, susceptibilities, and petty squabbles, and 
Voltaire remained her most devoted pensioner. He had 

These Splendid Women 243 

to thank her for having retained the 1000 livres which he 
received from the King's treasury. He shared the re- 
sentment and the rancour of the favourite against Boyer, 
whom he accused of having compelled him to take refuge 
in Holland ; he defended and consoled her all through her 
reign by his attacks upon those ''imbecile bigots of al- 
moners''; he devoted to her his flattery and his pen, and 
when Madame de Pompadour died he gave her the great 
canonisation of his party, proclaiming her a philosopher. 

Madame de Pompadour had strength for all these 
interests, for labors so vast, occupations so diverse. And 
her indefatigable activity found leisure besides in a life 
so full, disputed by so many agitations. Here we see 
her stealing from her cares and the thousand affairs of 
each one of her days the time to recall herself to her 
friends in a familiar correspondence, which has the free- 
dom and ease of conversation. The Gazette of the Court 
and the soul of the woman who holds the pen, all passes 
pell-mell in an unrestrained style whose tone of amiability 
is a brusque, almost virile cordiality. From commissions 
for stuffs for furnishing, Madame Pompadour leaps to 
the properties she has acquired, to the retreats where she 
loves to take refuge, to her removals to Versailles, the 
giddy round of the court, the dead of yesterdays, the mar- 
riages she has made at Crecy, the couples dancing in the 
courtyard of her chateau. Her troubles, her joys, her 
changing humors, and habits, have a frank and living 
echo in the short and interrupted epistles, which deserve 
a niche in the favorite's biography. 

" 'Tis an age since I wrote to you, big woman. Play- 
going, a thousand different matters have prevented me. 
Poor Coigny's misfortune has made us despair. The 
King frightened me from its effect on him. He gave such 
marks of his good heart that I dreaded the effect of them 
upon his health. Happily, reason has now got the upper 
hand. After long expecting Monsieur, your brother, I 
saw him yesterday. We were not able to meet. He gave 

244 These Splendid Women 

me a beautiful book, and has promised to deprive you 
of his house in order to compel you to come here; you 
will easily imagine my gratitude to him. I have given up 
Tretou, and bought La Selle in its stead, a little chateau 
near here, passably pretty. I want my dimities; write 
me what I owe you for I have no idea. I have spoken 
to Monsieur de Venelles ; he told me that if it were pos- 
sible he would take away the shop from you. Little 
Madame has just died from teething. Monsieur le 
Dauphin is heart-broken. Good-night, big woman; you 
know my friendship. This 26th of March 1748." 

"I was heart-broken at Madame la Dauphin's mis- 
carriage; but I hope that it will soon be repaired. The 
King, thank Heaven, is amazingly well, and I too; you 
thought that we were no longer moving, you make a 
mistake, we are still on the road : Choisy, La Muette, a 
little chateau and a certain hermitage near the Grille du 
Dragon, at Versailles, where I pass half my life. It is 
seventy-two feet long by thirty wide, and nothing above 
it, judge of its beauty; but I am alone or with the King 
and little company, thus I am happy here; you will have 
been told that it is a palace like Meudon with nine win- 
dows out of seven in front. But it is the fashion now 
in Paris to talk nonsense, and about everything. Good- 
bye, my biggest of women, I will prepare a room for 
you at Meudon, and should like you to promise to come 
there. This 27th of February." 

*T hope and flatter myself greatly, big woman, that 
my silence has made no impression upon you ; in any case, 
you would be wrong. The life I am leading is terrible, 
I have hardly a minute to myself, rehearsals and per- 
formances, and constant journeys twice a week both to 
the little Chateau and to La Muette, etc. Important and 
inevitable duties. Queen, Dauphin, Dauphine (mercifully 
confined to her couch), three girls, two Infantas, judge 
whether it is possible to breathe, pity me and do not 
accuse me." 

These Splendid Women 245 

"The little La Faye's accident is horrible, big woman, 
and I agree with you that it is impossible for your 
son to marry her. The Petites Maisons were never 
wedded; it is a case in point, and, although I pity her 
mightily, the thing is not practicable. The King has 
given me the lodging of Monsieur and Madame de 
Penthievre which will be very convenient for me. They 
move to that of Madame la Comtesse de Toulouse, who 
retains a corner of it, in order to visit the King of 
evenings. They are all very pleased, and I too; it is 
consequently a pleasant arrangement. I shall not be 
able to move in until after Fontainebleau, because it will 
have to be fitted up. I receive your compliment to 
Madame la Duchesse with great satisfaction. There are 
surely few persons who are as contented as I am with 
the hopes we have. What they have told you about 
me is absolutely false. I will see that you are immedi- 
ately reimbursed for what I owe you; I have all I need 
for all my furniture at Bellevue, so that I require no more 
chintz, and I thank you greatly for it and embrace you, 
big woman, with my whole heart. This 29th, 1750." 

"The children have arrived safely, big woman, and have 
been sent at once to the Cabinet of the Jardin des Plantes. 
I do not find them over good-looking. You can well 
imagine how enchanted I was to receive the King at 
Bellevue. His Majesty has made three journeys there; 
he is to go there on the 25th of this month. It is a 
delicious place owing to the view; the house, although 
not very large, is commodious and charming, without any 
sort of magnificence. We shall play some comedies there. 
The spectacles of Versailles have not been started again. 
The King wishes to reduce his expenditure of every kind ; 
although this is hardly considerable, as the public believe 
it to be so, I wished to respect its opinion and set an 
example. I hope that the others will think the same ; I 
suppose you are mighty pleased with the edict which the 
King has issued ennobHng the officers. You will be more 

246 These Splendid Women 

so with the one which is about to appear for the establish- 
ment of five hundred gentlemen whom his Majesty will 
educate in the military art. This Royal School will be 
built near the Invalides. This establishment is all the 
finer in that His Majesty has been working at it for more 
than a year and his ministers have no share in it, and only 
knew of it when he had arranged all to his liking, which 
happened at the end of the visit to Fontainebleau. What 
you wish for your son does not seem to me possible. I 
have consulted well-informed persons who tell me that the 
officers of the Guards would look upon it as a robbery I 
had committed on them; that, besides, the 12,000 livres 
increase would certainly be withdrawn; thus 2,000 livres 
would do your son no great good, but would be much to 
an exempt. Think of something else that I can obtain for 
your son; I will go about it with all the friendship that 
you know I bear you. This 3rd of January 1751." 

Then, dropping her pen, Madame de Pompadour would 
seek recreation in reading. She would apply her mind or 
let her thought wander to some one of the volumes in that 
library which satisfied all the tastes of her intellect, and 
responded to all the needs of her position. The library 
of Madame de Pompadour, indeed, was not merely a 
woman's reading-room : it was also the favorite's arsenal 
and school. The most serious volumes were not there for 
show and parade; they completed IMadame de Pompa- 
dour's education, they furnished her with the arms of 
government, the terms of matters of State, the knowledge 
of historical precedents, the art of touching politics with- 
out gaucherie, the capacity of speaking on the gravest 
questions of authority and the greatest conflicts between 
prerogatives, with the accent and almost the competence 
of a minister. The books on public law, the old French 
law, the history of all countries, the history of France 
taught her all that was necessary to enable her to play 
her part with competence if not with distinction. Like 
the political woman, the woman philosopher found succor 


These Splendid Women 247 

and resources in that library: the ancient and modern 
moraHsts lined the shelves; and Madame de Pompadour 
had but to stretch out an arm in order to touch the wis- 
dom of Paganism or of Voltaire and strengthen herself 
in the stoicism of her last hour. Beside these books of 
study and these books of counsel, the manuals of her mind 
and breviaries of her soul, came the magnificent collection 
of the actress and the singer, the archives of the Virtuoso, 
the unique series of works upon the drama, of pieces since 
the time of the mysteries, of operas printed and engraved, 
for which the fine library of Beaumarchais, the author of 
Researches into the Stage, had supplied the first material. 
Here and there books with plates, engraved books, Callot, 
La Belle, Sylvestre, at times tempted the hand of the fair 
engraver, weary of holding her tool, and gave her their 
mute lessons. But, above all, how many books, among 
all those volumes, the most severe of which delighted the 
eye with their morocco backs and blazoned sides, how 
many volumes spoke to the imagination of the woman, 
amused her, soothed her, enticed her into the distraction 
of dream! The library of Madame de Pompadour was 
the palace of romance, love stories from all the lands of 
love, Spanish, Italian, French, romances of chivalry, 
heroic romances, historical romances, moral and political 
romances, satirical comic rom.ances, romances of the mar- 
vellous and of faery, — the favorite had willed that all 
the children of human fiction should surround her with 
their falsehoods and their enchantments, and should give 
her for a few hours oblivion of the present and of so 
hugely envied a life! 

Time and death served Madame de Pompadour. They 
rid her in succession of the two Dauphines and of the 
Dauphin, that constant and redoubtable foe, over whom 
she had never ceased casting ridicule. Disgrace again 
relieved her of the Marquis de Souvre, who had for so 
long represented in his sole person the opposition of the 
court to the favourite, with so much wit and audacity, 

248 These Splendid Women 

with such pitiless allusions, such fearless epigrams such 
as the one which earned him exile; he had said "that he 
was astonished that Madame de Pompadour should wish 
to learn German, whilst she did nothing but murder 

And, nevertheless, all these deaths which diminished 
the party of the Royal family, this exile which deprived 
the little group of malcontents at court of a leader and a 
pattern, did not give Madame de Pompadour tranquillity. 
And she went back to Versailles with despair in her 
heart. She was alarmed further at the sight of her own 
alarm on the forehead of M. de Choiseul. But the advice 
of that Providence to the mistresses, the Marechale de 
Mirepoix, restored her courage with her coolness, her 
healthy view of things, and that clear summing up of 
the situation which she knew how to make so clearly and 
keenly, with so practical a knowledge of life and character. 
Speaking of the King, Madame de Mirepoix said tc 
Madame de Pompadour: "I will not tell you that he 
loves you better than her, and if by the stroke of a wand 
she could be transported here, if she could be offered to 
him to-night at supper, and initiated into his tastes, there 
would be cause, perhaps, for you to tremble. But princes 
are, before all, people of habit. The King's friendship 
for you is the same as for your apartment, your surround- 
ings. You are used to his manners, his histories; he 
stands on no ceremony, is not afraid of boring you. How 
do you suppose he will have the courage to root up all 
that in a day, to form another establishment, and make 
a public spectacle of himself by so great a change of 
decoration?" She also said, in reference to the child, 
which was the great uneasiness of Madame de Pompa- 
dour: "You may be convinced that the King troubles 
mighty little about the child. He has enough of it, and 
would not wish to have mother and child on his hands. 
Look how he occupies himself with the Comte de Luc, 
who resembles him in the most striking manner ; he never 

These Splendid Women 249 

speaks of him, and I am sure that he will never do 
anything for him. Once more, we are not under 
Louis XIV. . . ." 

These words of Madame de Mirepoix saved Madame 
de Pompadour from discouragement; they gave her the 
strength to struggle, the certitude of victory, and the 
necessary presence of mind to hide her alarm and her 
dreads from the King, recover an undivided power over 
him, and reduce his amour to the proportions of an in- 
trigue at the Parc-aux-Cerfs. 

Thus, then, the very infidelities, the longest and keenest 
caprices of the King could not break her chain. Habit 
had subjugated him to Madame de Pompadour's domina- 
tion. And the favorite had arrived at that moment of 
confidence and security in a liaison, when the infidelities 
of her lover's senses no longer convey any menace to 
her position as a mistress. After this last proof, Madame 
de Pompadour might well deem her favor impregnable. 
Nothing need any longer disquiet her; and she was de- 
livered from that torment as to the future, which poisoned 
her fortune, the fixed idea of her dreams, the constant 
care that tainted all her joys, the jealousy of her ever 
restless, ever trembling ambitions. And nevertheless, in 
this deliverance, in the midst of these untroubled days, 
when her reign seemed definitely assured, and every bless- 
ing seemed to smile upon her, a sadness deeper and 
gloomier than the weariness of the last days of Madame 
de Maintenon gradually overcame Madame de Pompa- 
dour, suffused her face and her soul, the solitude of her 
heart and the gaze of her great dying eyes. The greatest, 
and, let it be added, the noblest dream of her life had been 
frustrated: she must needs renounce glory, "renounce all 
glory! . . ." she writes with despair in a letter which 
seems the supreme and heartrending cry of her van- 
quished hopes and pride. Do not, indeed, be deceived by 
the mask of Madame de Pompadour, by that parade of 
indifference and carelessness, by that saying, in which, in 

250 These Splendid Women 

order to shock Louis XV., her lips blasphemed posterity: 
**After us the deluge!" The favorite did not despise 
the memory of her name. She was concerned for, preoc- 
cupied with history. All the time of her favor, she had 
everywhere followed and entreated glory with all the pas- 
sion and obstinacy of a woman. Upon the great throne to 
which chance had raised her, she had sought to attain to 
posterity, and the present, as little as the tomb, had 
seemed the term of her reign and fame. She had 
dreamed of binding up her image and the name of Pom- 
padour with a reign of conquest, captured cities, and 
subjugated provinces, with the aggrandizement of the 
monarchy, the glory of our arms, the thunder of victories, 
with all the great immortalities of war, that patrimony of 
a people's honor. For a moment she had thought to 
surpass the political combinations of Richelieu and the 
vaunted plans of the Marquis de Louvois. For a moment, 
she had thrust out her hand upon Hanover, Hesse, the 
two Saxonies. For a moment, she had thought to push 
the frontiers and flag of France as far forward as 
L'Escaut. . . . What was left of all these illusions? 
The fortune of battles had played with France, and 
Madame de Pompadour had to count all those defeats 
which had followed Rosbach and Minden and Warbourg 
and Filingshausen, unparalleled reverses which had even 
detracted from the European reputation for bravery of 
the French soldier, and which exposed the French bank of 
the Rhine to the passage of foreign troops. What hu- 
miliations for her in these humiliations of France: our 
Channel coast ravaged by fire and bombarded; our fleets 
taking refuge in our ports and deserting the seas; and 
India and Africa where fortune betrayed us as in Europe ! 
Then within the kingdom there were all the corresponding 
effects of these disasters, all the miseries entailed by an 
unfortunate war, the countryside bereft of a million of 
men, agriculture clamoring for arms, commerce de- 
stroyed, the finances exhausted and insufficient for the 

These Splendid Women 251 

needs of the King and the State, France more ruined, en- 
feebled and abased than in the gloomiest days of the close 
of the monarchy of Louis XIV.! Lugubrious spectacle 
thrust upon her from all sides, wounding her at every 
moment, maledictions of fates, men and things, in which 
she already heard the voice of her future unpopularity; 
dumb sorrows, stifled shames, wounds always open, where 
the King's shamefaced look before some foreign general 
rendered illustrious by our reverses made the vanity of 
a woman bleed almost as painfully as a people's pride ! 

And finally, when the whole policy of Madame de 
Pompadour was brought to a conclusion in the Treaty 
of Paris; when she had to resign herself to sign the 
abandonment of our rights over the New World, the 
cession of Arcadia, Canada, the Isle of Cape Breton, all 
the islands in the Gulf and River of the Saint-Lawrence ; 
when she had to submit to all those sacrifices for which 
future ages were to ask Madame de Pompadour to account 
as the real master of the policy of King Louis XV.; 
what torture to the favorite, who, fighting over the 
details of the treaty, and wishing at least to preserve 
the King's dignity, came near to quarrelling with Choiseul 
over the ancient title of King of France, assumed in the 
treaty by the King of England. 

This awakening, after that dream, the lack of glory 
after such an impatience and longing for glory was a 
most bitter deception to a woman accustomed to mould 
everything to her wishes and caprice. Madame de Pom- 
padour found no consolation, and her grief at so great 
a fall was a torture to her as mortal as the disease she 
bore within her which was her death. 

An internal malady, secret sufferings, were afflicting 
Madame de Pompadour. That nervous organization, 
that weak chest, which asked for rest and care, shaken 
and inflamed by the life of bustle and fatigue, "that 
life ever in the air and on the highways," as she has 
somewhere said, exhausted her more, day by day. The 

252 These Splendid Women 

tension of all the moral energies further enfevered and 
wasted that body to which Madame de Pompadour 
would show no mercy, and which she continued to exert 
and agitate. It was a miracle to see her thus, crushing 
down her disease and keeping about, to many who be- 
lieved her undermined by a slow poison. Of her beauty, 
those fresh features so lively and animated in 1748, hardly 
anything remained but the brilliancy of her eyes, made 
bigger by fever and full of an ardent flame. That se- 
ductive physiognomy over which such soul and spirit 
passed and played in flashes, was only revealed now in 
a smile which grimaced beneath a mask of irony. In 
vain she plastered and loaded with vivid red and white 
that drawn, leaden, and extinguished face; in vain, be- 
neath toilettes and artifices, the coquetries of despair, did 
she veil her leanness and seek passionately to hide all of 
her that was already dead ; every one saw her as she was : 
worn out, sick, dying. 

It was during a pleasure excursion to Choisy that the 
machinery suddenly stopped; strength failed the volition 
of the Marquise: she had to take to her bed. Troubles 
that were little suspected by the public beset the Marquise 
at the beginning of her illness. She was worried in the 
bed, where she was laid low by fever, by money diffi- 
culties. Such had for long been the wretched preoccupa- 
tions of this grasping woman who took from every hand, 
and whom the populace accused of having invested enor- 
mous sums abroad. In her mad desire to build and make 
acquisitions of every kind, the favorite's expenditure 
had far exceeded her revenues, the perquisites of her 
position. She was forced, every moment, to have re- 
course to expedients, whilst nothing could cure her of 
her mania of acquiring, of her laboring to possess more. 
The pension which the King gave her in 1746, that 
pension of 2400 livres a month, which the King hardly 
counted, in his first moments of passion, amid the 
generosity which he lavished upon his mistress, became 

These Splendid Women 253 

regularized with the habit of the liaison and never ex- 
ceeded 4000 hvres a month. On the other side, the King's 
presents, which in 1747 amounted to 50,000 Hvres, soon 
fell as low as 20,000 Hvres; and from 1750 ceased al- 
together. How were matters to be met, especially during 
the bad years of the Seven Years' War; in 1760, for 
instance, when her pension had fallen to 3000 Hvres a 
month, and when she had also bought Menars? Madame 
de Pompadour faced what was most pressing with all 
sorts of resources and sacrifices, sometimes by her card 
winnings, which in 1752 amounted to nearly 38,000 
livres, in 1753 to 20,000 Hvres; sometimes, when luck 
was against her, by the sale of snuff-boxes, jewelry, 
pearl bracelets; sometimes, again, by a small windfall, a 
present of 6000 livres, for instance, which she obtained 
from the King owing to her courage in letting herself 
be bled. This lack of balance between receipts and ex- 
penses, this difficulty in the midst of the opulence which 
piled up debts, reached such a point that Collin was 
obliged to borrow 70,000 livres at the moment when 
Madame de Pompadour fell ill. Who would have thought 
that the favorite would leave, for all money, at her death, 
but thirty-seven louis d'or in her writing-table? 

After a few days the sick woman's cough grew worse. 
The bed suffocated her. The doctors did not conceal 
their anxiety. The King visited the patient almost every 
day; and upon the days when he was detained at Ver- 
sailles, couriers brought him hourly reports from Choisy 
which the members of the Royal Family sent for in their 
turn. It was not long before the Marquise was con- 
demned ; and there seemed no more hope remaining, when, 
at the end of three weeks, a sudden improvement declared. 
The fever was diminished ; the cough almost ceased ; and, 
one morning, the friends of Madame de Pompadour were 
full of the good news : she had been able to sleep for five 
hours in an arm-chair, and felt so well that she was to 
make an attempt to sleep in her bed that night. After 

254 These Splendid Women 

some returns of fever, the Marquise was able to rise, 
then soon to take the air in a carriage in the neighbour- 
hood of Choisy. The doctors themselves had already 
fixed the day for her return to Versailles. It was a resur- 
rection. Cochin received the order to design, for the con- 
valescence of the Marquise, a cartel in which Favart was 
already taking the measure of his song upon the eclipse 
of the sun: 

Le Soleil est malade, 
Et Pompadour aussi. 
Ce n'est qu'une passade, 
L'un et I'autre est gueri. 
Le bon Dieu qui feconde 
Nos voeux et notre amour 
Pour le bonheur du monde 
Nous a rendu le jour 

Avec Pompadour. 
Votum populi, laus ejus. 

But engraving and song were destined to be too late. 
The Marquise, transported to Versailles, to the palace, 
deprived of the care of Quesnay, who was acquainted with 
her disease and her temperament, delivered into the un- 
skilled hands of Richard, the Marquise died. 

Qharlotte Qorday 


JN the leafy months of June and July, several French 
departments germinate a set of rebellious paper- 
leaves, named proclamations, resolutions, journals, 
or diurnals, of "the union for resistance to oppression." 
In particular, the town of Caen, in Calvados, sees its 
paper-leaf of Bulletin de Caen suddenly bud, suddenly 
establish itself as newspaper there; under the editorship 
of Girondin national representatives ! 

For among the proscribed Girondins are certain of a 
more desperate humor. Some, as Vergniaud, Valaze, 
Gensonne, "arrested in their own houses," will await with 
stoical resignation what the issue may be. Some, as 
Brissot, Rabaut, will take to flight, to concealment ; which, 
as the Paris barriers are opened again in a day or two, 
is not yet difficult. But others there are who will rush, 
with Buzot, to Calvados; or far over France, to Lyons, 
Toulon, Nantes and elsewhither, and then rendezvous at 
Caen : to awaken as with war-trumpet the respectable de- 
partments ; and strike down an anarchic mountain faction ; 
at least not yield without a stroke at it. Of this latter 
temper we count some score or more, of the arrested, and 
of the not yet arrested; a Buzot, a Barbaroux, Louvet, 
Guadet, Petition, who have escaped from arrestment in 
their own homes; a Salles, a Pythagorean Valady, a 
Duchatel ; the Duchatel that came in blanket and nightcap 
to vote for the life of Louis, who have escaped from dan- 
ger and likelihood of arrestment. These, to the number 

256 These Splendid Women 

at one time of twenty-seven, do accordingly lodge here, 
at the "Intendance, or departmental mansion," of the 
town of Caen in Calvados; welcomed by persons in 
authority; welcomed and defrayed, having no money of 
their own. And the Bulletin de Caen comes forth, with 
the most animating paragraphs: How the Bordeaux de- 
partment, the Lyons department, this department after the 
other is declaring itself ; sixty, or say sixty-nine, or 
seventy-two respectable departments either declaring, or 
ready to declare. Nay Marseilles, it seems, will march on 
Paris by itself, if need be. So has Marseilles town said, 
that she will march. But on the other hand, that MonteH- 
mart town has said, No thoroughfare ; and means even to 
"bury herself" under her own stone and mortar first — 
of this be no mention in Bulletin de Caen. 

Such animating paragraphs we read in this new news- 
paper ; and fervors and eloquent sarcasm : tirades against 
the mountain, from the pen of Deputy Salles; which re- 
semble, say friends, Pascal's Provincials. What is more 
to the purpose, these Girondins have got a general in 
chief, one Wimpfen, formerly under Dumouriez; also a 
secondary questionable General Puisaye, and others; and 
are doing their best to raise a force for war. National 
volunteers, whosoever is of right heart: gather in, ye na- 
tional volunteers, friends of liberty; from our Calvados 
townships, from the Eure, from Brittany, from far and 
near; forward to Paris, and extinguish anarchy! Thus 
at Caen, in the early July days, there is a drumming and 
parading; a perorating and consulting; staff and army; 
council; Club of Carahots, Anti-Jacobin friends of free- 
dom, to denounce atrocious Marat. With all which, and 
the editing of bulletins, a national representative has his 
hands full. 

At Caen it is most animated ; and, as one hopes, more or 
less animated in the "Seventy-two departments that ad- 
here to us." And in a France begirt with Cimmerian 
invading coalitions, and torn with an internal La Vendee, 

These Splendid Women 257 

this is the conclusion we have arrived at: To put down 
anarchy by civil war ! Durum et durum, the proverb says, 
non faciunt murum. La Vendee burns ; Santerre can do 
nothing there ; he may return home and brew beer. Cim- 
merian bombshells fly all along the north. That siege of 
Mentz is become famed; lovers of the picturesque (as 
Goethe will testify), washed country-people of both sexes, 
stroll thither on Sundays, to see the artillery work and 
counterwork; "you only duck a little while the shot 
whizzes past." Conde is capitulating to the Austrians; 
royal highness of York, these several weeks, fiercely 
batters Valenciennes. For, alas, our fortified camp of 
Famars was stormed ; General Dampierre was killed ; Gen- 
eral Custine was blamed, and indeed is now come to Paris 
to give "explanations." 

Against all which the mountain and atrocious Marat 
must even make head as they can. They, anarchic 
convention as they are, publish decrees, expostulatory, 
explanatory, yet not without severity ; they ray forth com- 
missioners, singly or in pairs, the olive-branch in one hand, 
yet the sword in the other. Commissioners come even to 
Caen; but without effect. Mathematical Romme, and 
Prieur named of the Cote d'Or, venturing thither, with 
their olive and sword, are packed into prison; there may 
Romme lie, under lock and key, "for fifty days;" and 
meditate his new calendar, if he please. Cimmeria, La 
Vendee, and civil war! Never was republic one and in- 
divisible at a lower ebb. 

Amid which dim ferment of Caen and the world, 
history specially notices one thing; in the lobby of the 
mansion de Vlntendance, where busy deputies are coming 
and going a young lady with an aged valet, taking grave 
graceful leave of Deputy Barbaroux. She is of stately 
Norman figure; in her twenty-fifth year; of beautiful still 
countenance: her name is Charlotte Corday,"* heretofore 
styled D'Armans, while nobility still was. Barbaroux has 
given her a note to Deputy Duperret, him who once drew 

258 These Splendid Women 

his sword in the effervescence. Apparently she will to 
Paris on some errand ? **She was a republican before the 
revolution, and never wanted energy." A completeness, 
a decision is in this fair female figure; "by energy she 
means the spirit that will prompt one to sacrifice himself 
for his country." What if she, this fair young Charlotte, 
had emerged from her secluded stillness, suddenly like 
a star; cruel; lovely with half -angelic, half daemonic 
splendor; to gleam for a moment, and in a moment be 
extinguished; to be held in memory, so bright complete 
was she, through long centuries! Quitting Cimmerian 
coalitions without, and the dim-simmering twenty-five 
millions within, history will look fixedly at this one fair 
apparition of a Charlotte Corday ; will note whither Char- 
lotte moves, how the little life burns forth so radiant, then 
vanishes swallowed of the night. 

With Barbaroux's note of introduction, and slight stock 
of luggage, we see Charlotte on Tuesday the 9th of July 
seated in the Caen diligence, with a place for Paris. None 
takes farewell of her, wishes her good-journey ; her father 
will find a line left, signifying that she is gone to England, 
that he must pardon her, and forget her. The drowsy 
diligence lumbers along; amid drowsy talk of poHtics, and 
praise of the mountain; in which she mingles not; all 
night, all day, and again all night. On Thursday, not 
long before noon we are at the bridge of Neuilly ; here is 
Paris with her thousand black domes, the goal and pur- 
pose of thy journey ! Arrived at the inn de la Providence 
in the Rue des Vieux Augustins, Charlotte demands a 
room; hastens to bed; sleeps all afternoon and night, till 
the morrow morning. 

On the morrow morning, she delivers her note to 
Duperret. It relates to certain family papers which are in 
the minister of the interior's hands ; which a nun at Caen, 
an old convent-friend of Charlotte's, has need of; which 
Duperret shall assist her in getting: this then was Char- 
lotte's errand to Paris? She has finished this, in the 

These Splendid Women 259 

course of Friday ; yet says nothing of returning. She has 
seen and silently investigated several things. The con- 
vention, in bodily reality, she has seen ; what the mountain 
is like. The living physiognomy of Marat she could not 
see; he is sick at present, and confined to home. 

About eight on the Saturday morning, she purchases a 
large sheath-knife in the Palais Royal; then straightway, 
in the Place des Victoires, takes a hackney-coach. "To 
the Rue de I'Ecole de Medicine, No. 44." It is the resi- 
dence of the Citoyen Marat! The Citoyen Marat is ill, 
and cannot be seen ; which seems to disappoint her much. 
Her business is with Marat, then? Hapless beautiful 
Charlotte ; hapless squalid Marat ! From Caen in the ut- 
most west, from Neuchatel in the utmost east, they two 
are drawing nigh each other. They two have, very 
strangely, business together. Charlotte, returning to her 
inn, despatches a short note to Marat ; signifying that she 
is from Caen, the seat of rebellion; that she desires ear- 
nestly to see him, and "will put it in his power to do 
France a great service." No answer. Charlotte writes 
another note, still more pressing ; sets out with it by coach, 
about seven in the evening, herself. Tired day laborers 
have again finished their week; huge Paris is circling 
and simmering, manifold, according to its vague wont: 
this one fair figure has decision in it; drives straight, 
toward a purpose. 

It is yellow July evening, we say, the thirteenth of the 
month; eve of the Bastille day, when "M. jMarat," four 
years ago, in the crowd of the Pont Neuf, shrewdly 
required of that Besenval hussar-party, which had such 
friendly dispositions, "to dismount, and give up their 
arms, then;" and became notable among patriot men. 
Four years; what a road he has traveled; and sits now, 
about half -past seven of the clock, stewing in slipper bath ; 
sore afflicted ; ill of revolution fever, of what other malady 
this history had rather not name. Excessively sick and 
worn, poor man: with precisely elevenpenny-half penny 

260 These Splendid Women 

of ready-money, in paper; with slipper-bath; strong three- 
footed stool for writing on, the while; and a squalid 
washerwoman, one may call her; that is his civic estab- 
lishment in Medical School street; thither and not else- 
whither has his road led him. Not to the reign of 
brotherhood and perfect felicity; yet surely on the way 
toward that? Hark, a rap again! A musical woman's 
voice, refusing to be rejected: it is the citoyenne who 
would do France a service. Marat, recognizing from 
within, cries, admit her. Charlotte Corday is admitted. 

Citoyen Marat, I am from Caen the seat of rebellion, 
and wished to speak with you. Be seated, mon enfant. 
Now what are the traitors doing at Caen ? What deputies 
are at Caen? Charlotte names some deputies. "Their 
heads shall fall within a fortnight," croaks the eager 
people's friend, clutching his tablets to write; Barharoux, 
Petion, writes he with bare shrunk arm, turning aside in 
the bath: Petion, and Louvret, and Charlotte has drawn 
her knife from the sheath; plunges it, with one sure 
stroke, into the writer's heart. ''A moi, chere amie, Help, 
dear!" no more could the death-choked say or shriek. 
The helpful washerwoman running in, there is no friend 
of the people, or friend of the washerwoman left; but 
his life with a groan gushes out, indignant, to the shades 

And so Marat people's-f riend is ended ; the lone Stylites 
has got hurled down suddenly from his pillar, whither- 
ward He that made him knows. Patriot Paris may sound 
triple and tenfold, in dole and wail ; re-echoed by patriot 
France; and the convention, "Chabot pale with terror, 
declaring that they are to be all assassinated," may decree 
him Pantheon honors, public funeral, Mirabeau's dust 
making way for him; and Jacobin societies, in lamentable 
oratory, summing up his character, parallel him to one, 
whom they think it honor to call "the good Sansculotte," 
whom we name not here ; also a chapel may be made, for 
the urn that holds his heart, in the Place du Carrousel; 

These Splendid Women 261 

and new-born children be named Marat; and Lago-di- 
Como hawkers bake mountains of stucco into unbeautiful 
busts; and David paint his picture, or death-scene; and 
such other apotheosis take place as the human genius, 
in these circumstances, can devise; but Marat returns no 
more to the light of this sun. One sole circumstance we 
have read with clear sympathy, in the old Moniteur news- 
paper; how Marat's brother comes from Neuchatel to 
ask of the convention, "that the deceased Jean-Paul 
Marat's musket be given to him." For Marat too had a 
brother and natural affections; and was wrapped once in 
swaddling-clothes and slept safe in a cradle like the rest 
of us. Ye children of men ! A sister of his, they say, 
lives still to this day in Paris. 

As for Charlotte Corday, her work is accomplished ; the 
recompense of it is near and sure. The chere ami, and 
neighbors of the house, flying at her, she "overturns 
some movables," entrenches herself till the gendarmes 
arrive ; then quietly surrenders ; goes quietly to the Abbaye 
prison; she alone quiet, all Paris sounding, in wonder, 
in rage or admiration, round her. Duperret is put in 
arrest, on account of her; his papers sealed, which may 
lead to consequences. Fauchet, in like manner; though 
Fauchet had not so much as heard of her. Charlotte, 
confronted with these two deputies, praises the grave firm- 
ness of Duperret, censures the dejection of Fauchet. 

On Wednesday morning, the thronged Palais de Justice 
and revolutionary tribunal can see her face ; beautiful and 
calm; she dates it "fourth day of the preparation of 
peace." A strange murmur ran through the hall, at sight 
of her ; you could not say of what character. Tinville has 
his indictments and tapepapers; the cutler of the Palais 
Royal will testify that he sold her the sheath-knife; "all 
these details are needless," interrupted Charlotte ; "it is I 
that killed Marat." By whose instigation? "By no 
one's." What tempted you, then ? His crimes. "I killed 
one man," added she, raising her voice extremely {ex- 

262 These Splendid Women 

tremement), as they went on with their questions, "I 
killed one man to save a hundred thousand; a villain 
to save innocents; a savage wild-beast to give repose to 
my country. I was a republican before the revolution; I 
never wanted energy." There is therefore nothing to be' 
said. The public gazes astonished; the hasty limners 
sketch her features, Charlotte not disapproving; the men 
of law proceed with their formalities. The doom is death 
as a murderess. To her advocate she gives thanks; in 
gentle phrase, in high-flown classical spirit. To the priest 
they send her she gives thanks; but needs not any shriv- 
ing, any ghostly or other aid from him. 

On this same evening therefore, about half-past seven 
o'clock, from the gate of the Conciergerie, to a city all 
on tiptoe, the fatal cart issues; seated on it a fair young 
creature, sheeted in red smock of murderess ; so beautiful, 
serene, so full of life; journeying toward death, alone 
amid the world. Many take oft their hats, saluting rev- 
erently; for what heart but must be touched? Others 
growl and howl. Adam Lux, of Mentz, declares that she 
is greater than Brutus ; that it were beautiful to die with 
her; the head of this young man seems turned. At the 
Place de la Revolution, the countenance of Charlotte 
wears the same still smile. The executioners proceed to 
bind her feet ; she resists, thinking it meant as an insult ; 
on a word of explanation, she submits with cheerful 
apology. As the last act, all being now ready, they take 
the neckerchief from her neck ! a blush of maidenly shame 
overspreads that fair face and neck; the cheeks were still 
tinged with it when the executioner lifted the severed 
head, to show it to the people. "It is most true," says 
Forster, "that he struck the cheek insultingly ; for I saw it 
with my eyes; the police imprisoned him for it." 

In this manner have the beautifulest and the squalidest 
come in collision, and extinguished one another. Jean- 
Paul Marat and Marie-Anne Charlotte Corday both, sud- 
denly, are no more. "Day of the preparation of peace?" 

These Splendid Women 263 

Alas, how were peace possible or preparable, while for 
example, the hearts of lovely maidens, in their convent- 
stillness, are dreaming, not of love-paradises and the light 
of Hfe, but of Cordrus'-sacrifices and death well-earned? 
That twenty-five million hearts have got to such temper, 
this is the anarchy; the soul of it lies in this; whereof 
not peace can be the embodiment! The death of Marat, 
whetting old animosities tenfold, will be worse than any 
life. Oh ye hapless two, mutually extinctive, the beauti- 
ful and the squalid, sleep ye well, in the mother's bosom 
that bore you both ! 

This is the history of Charlotte Corday ; most definite, 
most complete ; angelic-daemonic : like a star 1 Adam Lux 
goes home, half-delirious ; to pour forth his apotheosis of 
her, in paper and print ; to propose that she have a statue 
with this inscription. Greater than Brutus. Friends rep- 
resent his danger ; Lux is reckless ; thinks it were beautiful 
to die with her. 

Catherine the Qreat 


TO tell the truth, I have never fancied myself ex-. 
tremely beautiful, but I had the gift of pleas- 
ing, and that, I think, was my greatest gift." So 
Catherine herself defines the particular kind of attrac- 
tion that nature had given her in outward appearance." 
Thus, having passed all her life in hearing herself com- 
pared to all the Cleopatras of history, she did not admit 
the justice of the comparison. Not that she underrated 
its worth. ^'Believe me," she wrote to Grimm, "there can 
never be too much of beauty, and I have always placed 
a very high estimation on it, though I have never been 
very beautiful." Did she deliberately depreciate her 
charms, through a modest ignorance or an artifice of re- 
fined coquetry ? One is tempted to believe it, on hearing 
the almost unanimous opinion of her contemporaries. 
The "Semiramis of the North" flashed across the latter 
half of the eighteenth century, and over the very thresh- 
old of the nineteenth, as a marvellous incarnation, not 
only of power, grandeur, and triumphant success, but 
also of adorable and adored femininity. In the eyes of 
all, or nearly all, she was not only imposing, majestic, 
terrible, but also seductive, beautiful among the beautiful, 
queen by right of beauty as by right of genius, Pallas 
and Venus Victrix. 

Well, it seems that her contemporaries saw the n ar- 
vellous Czarina in a sort of mirage. The illusion was so 
complete that it extended to the most apparent and the 

These Splendid Women 265 

most insignificant details. Thus, the greater part of those 
who came into her presence speak of her lofty stature, 
by which she dominated a crowd. Now, as a matter of 
fact, she was under the middle height, short almost, with 
a precocious tendency to grow stout. The very color of 
her eyes has given rise to absurd contradictions. Some 
found them brown, others blue, and Rulhiere has tried 
to harmonize both accounts by making them brown with 
a shade of blue in some lights. Here is his whole por- 
trait — a portrait which belongs to the period a little be- 
fore Catherine's accession to the throne, at the age of 
thirty-seven. No portrait of an earlier date has come 
down to us with anything like so much detail: Ponia- 
towski's is only four or five years earlier in date, and 
is a lover's portrait. 

"Her figure," writes Rulhiere, "is noble and agreeable, 
her bearing proud ; her person and her demeanour full of 
grace. Her air is that of a sovereign. All her features 
indicate character. Her neck is long, her head stands out 
well ; the union of these two parts is of remarkable beauty, 
aHke in the profile and in the movements of the head; 
and she is not unmindful of her beauty in this respect. 
Her forehead is large and open, her nose almost acquiline ; 
her mouth is fresh, and embellished by her teeth ; her chin 
a little large, and inclined to fleshiness. Her hair is 
chestnut in colour, and of the greatest beauty; her eye- 
brows brown, her eyes brown and very beautiful — in 
certain lights there seem to be shades of blue; and her 
skin is of dazzling whiteness. Pride is the main charac- 
teristic of her physiognomy. The amiability and good- 
nature which are also to be seen there seem, to a 
penetrating eye, merely the effect of an extreme desire 
to make a pleasing impression." 

Rulhiere is neither a lover nor an enthusiast. Compare, 
however, with this sketch the sketch done in pencil about 
this time by a Russian artist, Tchemessof. There is a 
story that this portrait was made at the desire of Patiom- 

266 These Splendid Women 

kine, whom Catherine began to favor just after, or per- 
haps just before, the revolution of July. Catherine was 
very pleased with it, and took the artist into her service 
as secretary to her cabinet. And yet what an Empress 
this Tchemessof shows us, and how unHke all that we see 
of other painters, sculptors, and memoir-writers, from 
Benner to Lampi, from Rulhiere to the Prince de Ligne ! 
The face is agreeable indeed, if you will, and intelligent, 
but so little ideal, but — dare one say it? — so common. 
The costume perhaps has something to do with this, a 
strange mourning attire with the hair oddly dressed, cov- 
ering the forehead down to the eyebrows, and overtopping 
the head with a pair of bats'-wings. But the hard, smil- 
ing face, the heavy, half -masculine features, stand out 
with a brutal frankness. You would say a German 
vivandiere turned into a nun. Cleopatra, never ! 

Was Tchemessof a deceiver, and did Catherine, in see- 
ing herself in the portrait, merely show that total ig- 
norance of art which she afterwards confessed with such 
candor to Falconet? It may be, to a certain point. We 
have nevertheless a sort of duplicate of the Russian artisfs 
sketch in a written portrait done some years later by 
Richardson, who seems to have had a mind and eyes of 
his own, not to be taken in by any kind of illusion. This 
is how he notes his impressions : — 

"The Empress of Russia is under the middle height, 
graceful and well-proportioned, but inclining to be stout. 
She has a good color, and nevertheless endeavors to 
improve it with rouge, after the manner of all the women 
of this country. Her mouth is well-shaped, with good 
teeth ; her blue eyes have a scrutinizing expression — some- 
thing not so pronounced as an inquisitive look, nor so 
ugly as a defiant look. The features are in general regu- 
lar and agreeable. The general effect is such, that one 
would do an injustice in attributing to it a masculine air, 
and something less than justice in calling it entirely 

These Splendid Women 267 

This is not exactly in the tone of the naif and all but 
gross realism of Tchemessof. A common trait, however, 
appears in both, and it is what would seem to have been 
the dominant trait of the model, and, from the point of 
view of plastic beauty, to have considerably diminished, 
if not destroyed, its charm: that mannish expression, 
namely, which is emphasized in both, and which we find, 
through all the magic of colors, in the work of even the 
least conscientious of artists. The portrait that was the 
delight of Voltaire, and is still to be seen at Ferney — even 
that betrays something of it. Catherine was nevertheless 
observant in the matter, and down to the very last. A 
wrinkle that she discovered near the root of the nose in 
the portrait painted by Lampi, not long before her death, 
seeming to her to give a hard expression to her face, 
brought both picture and painter into trouble. Lampi 
nevertheless, and quite justly, had the reputation of not 
saying the truth too cruelly to his models. He effaced 
the wrinkle, and the all but septuagenarian Empress took 
the air of a young nymph. History does not tell us if 
she was satisfied this time. 

"What do you think I look like?'* asked Catherine of 
the Prince de Ligne, on his first visit to St. Petersburg ; 
"long, lanky, eyes like stars, and a big hoop." This was 
in 1780. The Empress was fifty. This is what the 
Prince de Ligne thought of her : "She still looked well. 
One saw that she had been beautiful rather than pretty : 
the majesty of her forehead was tempered by her pleasant 
eyes and smile, but the forehead was everything. ^ It 
needed no Lavater to read there, as in a book, genius, 
justice, courage, depth, equanimity, sweetness, calm, and 
decision: the breadth of the forehead indicated memory 
and imagination; there was room for everything. ^ Her 
chin, somewhat pointed, was not absolutely prominent, 
but it was anything but retiring, and had a certain nobility 
of aspect. The oval, notwithstanding, was not well de- 
signed, though excessively pleasing, for frankness and 

268 These Splendid Women 

gaiety dwelt on the lips. Her fine bust had been acquired 
somewhat at the expense of her waist, once so terribly 
thin ; but people generally grow fat in Russia. If she had 
not so tightly drawn back her hair, which should have 
come down more around her face, she would have looked 
much better. One never noticed that she was short." 

Again an enthusiast, but the Comte de Segur, who 
piqued himself on being less so, in his quality of diplo- 
matist, noted at the same time almost identically the same 
traits. *'The whiteness and brilliance of her complexion," 
he says, "were the charms that she kept the longest." 
But Castera explains in his own way her triumph over 
the "irreparable outrage" : "In the last year of her reign 
she used a great deal of rouge." It is just this that 
Catherine would never confess to. We read in one of her 
letters to Grimm, dated 1783 : — 

"Thank you for the pots of rouge with which you ad- 
vise me to brighten my complexion; but when I tried to 
use it, I found that it was so crude in colour that it made 
me look frightful. So you will excuse me if I cannot 
imitate or adopt this pretty fashion, notwithstanding my 
great liking for your Paris fashions." 

The most authoritative, the least impressive, testimony, 
from the plastic point of view, is perhaps that of Mile. 
Vigee-Lebrun, who, unfortunately never saw Catherine in 
her best days. She had nothing to praise in the conduct of 
the sovereign, so far a guarantee of her sincerity. She 
could not induce the Empress to pose to her. Her brush, 
later on, did no more than evoke certain recollections. Pen 
in hand, she retraced them thus : — 

"I was at first extremely surprised to find that she was 
short ; I had expected her to be mighty in stature, as high 
as her renown. She was very stout, but she had still a 
handsome face, admirably framed in by her white hair, 

These Splendid Women 269 

raised up on her head. Genius sat on her large high fore- 
head ; her eyes were soft and clear, her nose quite Grecian, 
her complexion bright, her physiognomy very mobile. 
. . . I said she was short; yet on her reception days, 
her head held high, her eagle glance, the composure that 
comes of the habit of command, all in her had such 
majesty that she seemed to me the queen of the world. 
She wore on these occasions the insigna of three orders, 
and her costume was simple and dignified. It consisted 
in a tunic of muslin embroidered with gold, the ample 
sleeves folded across in the Asiatic style. Above this 
tunic was a dolman of red velvet with very short sleeves. 
The bonnet that framed in her white hair was not decked 
with ribbons, but with diamonds of the greatest beauty." 

Catherine had early adopted the habit of holding her 
head very high in public, and she kept it all her Hfe. 
Aided by her prestige, this gave her an effect of height 
that deceived even observers like Richardson. The art of 
mise en scene, in which she was incomparable, has re- 
mained a tradition at the court of Russia. A court lady 
at Vienna once gave us her impressions of the arrival of 
the Emperor Nicholas in that capital. When she saw him 
enter the castle, in all the splendor of his uniform, his 
virile beauty, and that air of majesty that shone in his 
whole person, upright, lofty in stature, a head taller than 
the princes, aides-de-camp, and chamberlains, she felt that 
here was a demigod. In the upper gallery, where she 
was placed, she could not turn away her eyes from the 
sight. Suddenly, she saw that the swarm of courtiers had 
retired, the doors were closed. Only the imperial family 
and a few of the private retinue remained. But the Em- 
peror — where was he? There, sunk into a seat, his tall 
form doubled in upon itself, the muscles of his face re- 
leased from constraint, settling into an expression of un- 
speakable anguish; unrecognizable, only the half of him- 
self, as if fallen from the height of grandeur to the 

270 These Splendid Women 

depth of misery, the demigod was but a handful of suf- 
fering human flesh. This was in 1850. Nicholas was then 
already stricken by the first attacks of the disease that 
undermined the last years of his life, and prematurely 
ended it. Withdrawn from the eyes of the crowd, he 
bowed beneath its weight. Before the public, by an heroic 
effort of will, he became once more the splendid Emperor 
of the past. Perhaps it was so with Catherine in the 
last years of her reign. 

The Princess of Saxe-Coburg, who saw her for the first 
time in 1795, begins her account of the meeting unpleas- 
antly enough, saying that she always fancied a sorceress 
must look much as did the old Empress. But the sequel 
shows that her idea of a sorceress was by no means dis- 
agreeable. She praises in particular the "singularly fine 
complexion" retained by the Empress, and says that in 
general she seemed to find in her "the personification of 
robust old age, though abroad there is much talk of her 

Catherine, nevertheless, had never very good health. 
She suffered much from headaches, accompanied by colics. 
This did not prevent her from laughing at physics and 
physicians to the very last. It was quite an affair to 
make her swallow a potion. One day when her doctor, 
Rogerson, had succeeded in making her take some pills, 
he was so delighted as to forget himself, and clapped 
her familiarly on the shoulder, crying, "Bravo, madame !" 
She was not in the least offended. 

From 1722 she was obliged to use glasses to read. 
Her hearing, though very sharp, was affected by an odd 
peculiarity : each of her ears heard sounds in a different 
way, not merely in loudness, but in tone. This no doubt 
was the reason why she could never appreciate music, 
hard as she tried to acquire the taste. Her sense of 
harmony was completely lacking. 

It was pretended that when the scarves in which she 
was accustomed to wrap up her head at night came to 

These Splendid Women 27 1 

be washed, they were seen to emit sparks. The same 
phenomenon occurred with her bedclothes. Such fables 
only serve to indicate her actual physical influence over 
the minds of her contemporaries, marvelling just then 
over the mysterious discoveries of Franklin. 

"I assure you," she writes in 1774 to Grimm, "that 
I have not the defects you impute to me, because I do not 
find in myself the qualities that you give me. I am, per- 
haps, good-natured, ordinarily, but, by nature, I am con- 
strained to will terribly what I will, and there you have 
what I am worth." 

Observe, however, that if, as a general thmg, she is 
persevering in the exercise and in the invariable tension 
of this natural energy, having always willed, according to 
her expression, "that the good of the empire should be 
accomplished," and having willed it with extraordinary 
force, in small things she is inconstancy itself. She wills 
everything strongly, but she changes her mind with a no 
less surprising facility, as her idea of what is "good" 
varies. In this respect she is a woman, from head to foot. 
In 1767 she devotes herself to her Instruction for the 
new laws that she would give to Russia. This work, in 
which she has pillaged Montesquieu and Beccaria, is in 
her eyes destined to open a new era in the history of 
Russia. And she wills, ardently, passionately, that it 
should be put into action. Difficulties, however, arise; 
unlooked-for delays interpose themselves. Whereupon, 
all at once, she loses interest in the thing. In 1775 she 
excogitates Rules for the administration of her provinces. 
And she writes: "My last rules of the 7th November 
contain 250 quarto pages of print, and I swear to you 
that it is the best thing I have ever done, and that, 
in comparison, I look upon the Instruction as so much 
nonsense." And she is dying with desire to show this 
new masterpiece to her confidant. Less than a year 

272 These Splendid Wo7?ien 

afterwards it is finished. Grimm has not had sight 
of the document, and as he insists on being favored 
with it, she loses patience: "Why is he so anxious to 
read anything so little amusing? It is very good, very 
fine, perhaps, but quite tedious." At the end of a month 
she has forgotten all about it. 

She has the same way with men as with things; 
sudden, passionate infatuations, of an unexampled im- 
petuosity, followed by disenchantments and by an equally 
rapid subsidence into the most complete indifference. The 
greater part of the able men whom she drew to Russia, 
Diderot among the rest, experienced it in turn. After hav- 
ing passed twenty years of her reign in adoring dif- 
ferent residences which have been successively preferred 
and preferable in her eyes, she takes a fancy, all of a 
sudden, in 1786, to a site near St. Petersburg, which 
has no advantages in itself. She summons the Russian 
architect Starof, of the Academy of St. Petersburg, to 
build a palace there in all haste; and she writes to 
Grimm: "All my country houses are as hovels in com- 
parison with Pella, which is rising like a phoenix." 

Not being wanting, by any means, either in common 
sense or in acuteness, she comes to find out, late enough, 
what we have just noted. "Two days ago," she writes 
in 1781, "I made the discovery that I am a beginner by 
profession, and that up to now I have finished nothing 
of all that I have begun." And a year afterwards: 
"For all that, I only want the time to finish; it is 
like my laws, my regulations: everything is begun, noth- 
ing finished." She has her illusions, however, and she 
adds: "If I live ten years longer, all will be finished 
to perfection." Two years and more having passed, she 
ends by perceiving that time has nothing to do with the 
matter. "Never have I so com.pletely realized that I am 
a very accumulation of broken ends," she declares, not 
without a certain melancholy. To which she adds, that 
she is "as stupid as a goose," and that she is convinced 

These Splendid Women 273 

Prince Patiomkine had much more notion of good man- 
agement than she. 

She would not be a woman if it did not sometimes 
happen to her not to know very well what she wanted, 
or even not know it at all, while she was very much in 
want of something. Apropos of a certain Wagniere, 
who was secretary to Voltaire, whose services she de- 
sired for herself, and whom, after all, she did not know 
what to do with, she writes to her souffre-douleur : — 

"A truce to your excuses . . . and to mine, for 
not knowing exactly, now as often, what I wanted, nor 
what I did not want, and for having consequently writ- 
ten for and against. ... If you will, I will found 
a professorship, in addition to the one you counsel, on 
the science of indecision, more natural to me than people 

It is to be observed that a disposition of this kind is 
not made to give a firm and well-balanced direction to 
the affairs of an empire. And, indeed, nothing of the 
kind is to be found in the part that Catherine played 
in history. If this part was a large one, it was — as she 
well knew herself — because she had to do with a new 
people, at the first stage of its career, the stage of ex- 
pansion. In this stage a people has no need of being 
directed; for the most part, it is not even susceptible of 
direction. It is an "impelled force," which follows its 
own impulsion. In obeying it, it is in no danger of 
going astray. The sole misfortune of which it is capable 
is that of falling asle^. It would be vain and useless 
to take such a nation by the hand, and lead it into the 
way that it knows so well how to find by itself. It 
suffices to give it a shaking, and start it forward from 
time to time. That is what Catherine understood in the 
most wonderful way. Her action was that of a stimu- 
lant and a propeller of prodigious vigor. 

274 These Splendid Women 

In this respect she bears comparison with the greatest 
men of history. Her soul is like a spring, always at 
full tension, always vibrating, of a temper which resists 
every test. In the month of August 1765 she is unwell, 
and is keeping her bed. Rumors are spread that she 
is enceinte, and that an abortion is to be procured. 
Nevertheless she has arranged for some great manoeuvres, 
"a camp," as it was called then, for the end of the month, 
and she has announced that she will be present. She is 
present. The last day, during the "battle," she remains 
on horseback for five hours, having to direct the ma- 
noeuvres and to send orders, by the intermediary of her 
aide-de-camp, to Marshal Boutourline and to General 
Prince Galitzine, who command the two wings of the 
army. The aide-de-camp, glittering in a cuirass of gold 
studded with jewels, is Gregory Orlof. Some months 
later, riots having broken out in the capital, she comes 
in the middle of the night from Tzarskoie-Sielo to St. 
Petersburg with Orlof, Passek, and a few other trusty 
friends, mounts on horseback, and traverses the streets 
to make sure that her orders have been properly carried 
out, and proper precautions taken. Even now she has 
not fully recovered from the more or less mysterious 
crisis that she has passed through. She can take no 
nourishment. She, however, thinks well to appear cheer- 
ful and in good health. Festivity follows festivity; the 
French play comes to Tzarskoie. 

Physical or moral dejection, lassitude, or discourage- 
ment, are things equally unknown to her. Her force of 
resistance seems to increase in proportion to the demand 
upon it. In 1791, when things lodk dark about her, when 
she has to face Sweden and Turkey, and is in danger of 
a rupture with England, she has, or affects to have, the 
most tranquil serenity, the most contagious good humor. 
She laughs and jests; advises those about her to give up 
English liquors in good time, and get accustomed to the 
national drinks. 


These Splendid Women 275 

And what *'go"; what ardor, for ever youthful; 
what impetuousness, never relaxed ! 

"Courage! Forward! That is the motto with which 
I have passed through good years and bad years alike, 
and now 'I have passed through forty, all told, and what 
is the present evil compared with the past ?" 

That is her habitual tone. The force of will that 
she has at command allows her both to control the out- 
ward expression of her feelings, and even to abstract 
herself when she will from these feelings when they be- 
come troublesome, intense as they may be, for she is 
far from being indifferent, or hard to move, or naturally 
calm. Sang-froid, for instance, is not at all a part of 
her disposition. In May 1790, on the eve of a sea-fight 
with Svv^eden, she passes whole nights without sleep, puts 
every one about her on pins and needles, gets a rongeur 
on her cheek, which she attributes to the acuteness of 
her emotions, and behaves in such a way that every one, 
including her Prime Minister, Besborodko, bursts into 
tears. No sooner has she known the issue of the battle 
than her peace of mind is restored, and no matter what 
bad news may follow, she is gay and light-hearted again. 
Every moment she is passing through some fever or 
other. She falls ill with anxiety, and has colics. One 
day Chrapowicki, her factotum, finds her lying on a sofa, 
complaining of pains in the region of her heart. "It is 
the bad weather, no doubt," says he, "that indisposes 
your Majesty." "No," replies she, "it is Otchakof ; the 
fortress will be taken to-day or to-morrow; I have often 
such presentiments." These presentiments often prove 
deceptive, as in the present case, for Otchakof was not 
taken till two months after. On hearing the news of 
the death of Louis XVL, she receives such a shock that 
she is obliged to take to her bed. It is true that, this 
time, she makes no attempt to master or to dissimulate 
her emotion, which, however, is not inspired only by a 
sentiment of political solidarity, for the fibres of her 

276 These Splendid Women 

heart are extremely excitable. She has not merely "sen- 
sibility," after the fashion of the day; she is sincerely 
accessible to sympathy and pity. 

"I forgot to drink, eat, and sleep," she writes in 1776, 
announcing the death of her daughter-in-law, "and I 
know not how I kept up my strength. There were mo- 
ments when my very heart was torn by the suffering 
I saw about me." 

This does not hinder her from adding to the letter, 
which is lengthy, a host of details concerning current 
affairs, with the usual jokes, a little heavy, which serve 
to season her familiar correspondence. After giving her- 
self up to her impressions, she returns to herself, and 
she explains it all : — 

"On Friday I seemed to turn to stone. ... I who 
am so given to weeping, saw death without a tear. I 
said to myself : *If thou weep, the others will sob ; if 
thou sob, the others will faint, and every one will lose 
their head and their wits.' " 

She never lost her head, and, she declares in one of 
her letters, she never fainted. Whenever she has to play 
a part, to take an attitude, and, by her example, to im- 
pose it upon others, she is always ready. In August 
1790 she thinks seriously of accompanying the army 
reserve to Finland. "Had it been needful," she said 
afterwards, "I should have left my bones in the last 
battalion. I have never known fear," 

With our present-day notions, it does not seem a very 
signal proof of courage that she gave in 1768, in being 
the first, or almost the first, in her capital and in her 
empire, to be inoculated. For the time it was a great 
event, and an act of heroism celebrated by all her con- 
temporaries. One need but read the notes written on 
the subject by the inoculator himself, the Englishman 
Dimsdale, expressly brought over from London, to realize 

These Splendid Women 277 

the idea that the profession itself still cherished in regard 
to the danger of the operation. We cut open or trepan 
a man to-day with much less concern. Catherine bared 
her arm to the lancet on the 26th October 1768. A 
week afterwards she had her son inoculated. On the 
22nd of November the members of the legislative com- 
mission, and all the chief dignitaries, assembled in the 
church of Our Lady of Kasan, where a decree of the 
senate was read, commanding public prayers for the oc- 
casion ; after which they went in a body to present their 
compliments and thanks to her Majesty. A boy of seven, 
named Markof, who had been inoculated first of all, in 
order to use the lymph found on him, was ennobled in 
return for it, and received the surname of Ospiennyi 
(0^^a__smallpox). Catherine took a liking to him, and 
had him brought up under her eyes. The family of this 
name, now occupying a high position in Russia, owes its 
fortune to this ancestor. Dr. Dimsdale received the title 
of baron, the honorary charge of the physicians in ordi- 
nary to her Majesty, the rank of Chancellor of State, 
and a pension of £500 sterling. It was certainly much 
ado about nothing; but some years later, in 1772, the 
Abbe Galiani announced, as still an important piece of 
news, the inoculation of the son of the Prince of San 
Angelo Imperiali at Naples, the first that had taken place 
in that city. In 1768 Voltaire himself found much to 
admire in an Empress who had been inoculated *Vith 
less ceremony than a nun who takes a bath." Catherine is 
perhaps the one who thought least of her bravery. Be- 
fore the deputations that came to compliment her, she 
thought it well to take a serious air, declaring "that she 
had done no more than her duty, for a shepherd is 
bound to give his life for his sheep." But, writing a few 
days afterwards to General Braun, the Governor of 
Livonia, she laughs at those who are lost in admiration 
of her courage: "As for courage, I think every little 

278 These Splendid Women 

urchin in the streets of London has just as much." 

Certainly, she possesses a happy equiHbrium of fac- 
ulties, an excellent moral health. It is this which renders 
her easy to get on with, though she has perhaps less 
indulgence and benignity than she would credit herself 
with, but still is in no wise given to wrangling, nor 
excessively hard to please, nor unreasonably severe. 
Outside official ceremonies, in regard to which she 
is very particular, giving to them the greatest pos- 
sible lustre, she is full of charm in her intercourse 
with others. She has an easy simplicity which puts every 
one at ease, and which allows her to maintain her own 
rank, and to keep others in their proper place, without 
her appearing to give the matter a thought. On the 
birth of her grandson, Alexander, she falls to regretting 
that there are no more fairies "to endow little children 
with all one would like them to have," and she writes 
to Grimm: "For my part, I would give them nice pres- 
ents, and I would whisper in their ear: 'Ladies, be nat- 
ural, only be natural, and experience will do pretty well 
all the rest.' " She is hon enfant, and puts on a familiar 
manner. She hits her secretary in the ribs with a roll 
of paper, and tells him: "Some day I will kill you like 
that." In corresponding with her master of the horse, 
M. Eck, she writes: "Monsieur mon voisin." 

The Prince de Ligne recounts an episode of the tour 
in the Crimea, when she took it into her head to be 
thee'd and thou'd by every one, and to tutoyer them in 
return. This whim often returned to her. "You cannot 
conceive," she writes to Grimm, "how I love to be 
tutoyee; I wish it were done all over Europe." Then 
hear her account of her relations with Mme. Todi, a 
famous prima donna, whose talent she could not appreci- 
ate, but whom she was willing to pay very liberally. This 
was at Tzarskoie-Sielo : — 

"Mme. Todi is here, and she is always about with 

These Splendid Women 279 

her husband. Very often we meet face to face, always 
however without coming in collision. I say to her: 
"Good-morning or good-evening, Mme. Todi, how do 
you do?" She kisses my hands, and I her cheek; our 
dogs smell one another; she takes hers under her arm, 
I call mine, and we both go on our way. When she 
sings, I listen and applaud, and we both say that we get 
on very well together." 

She carries her condescension in the matter of sociabil- 
ity to great lengths. If any one ventures to criticize 
her choice of friends and lovers, she replies: "Before 
being what I am I was thirty-three years what others 
are, and it is not quite twenty years that I have been 
what they are not. And that teaches one how to live." 
On the other hand she makes merry at the expense of 
the great: "Do you know why I dread Kings' visits? 
Because they are generally tiresome, insipid people, and 
you have to be stiff and formal with them. These per- 
sons of renown pay much respect to my unaffected ways, 
and I would show them all my wit; sometimes I show 
it by listening to them, and as I love to chatter, the 
silence bores me." 

Her proverbial munificence is not only in ostentation. 
Grimm o'ften distributed large sums for her anony- 
mously. And she puts a charming grace and delicacy 
in some of her gifts. "Your Royal Highness," she 
writes to the Comte d'Artois, who is leaving Russia, 
"wishes, doubtless, to make some small presents to the 
people who have done you service during your stay here. 
But, as you know, I have forbidden all commerce and 
communication with your unhappy France, and you will 
seek in vain to buy any trinkets in the city; there are 
none in Russia save in my cabinet; and I hope your 
Highness will accept these from his affectionate friend 

What she lacks, in this as in so many things, is mod- 

280 These Splendid Women 

eration. She is well aware of it herself, and admits: 
"I know not how to give; I give too much or not 
enough." One would say that her destiny, in raising 
her to such a height, has taken from her the sense of 
proportion. She is either prodigal or miserly. When 
she has exhausted her resources by her excessive expendi- 
ture and liberalities she has '*a heart of stone" for the 
most worthy, the most just, demands upon her. She gives 
a third of his pension to Prince Viazemski on his retire- 
ment. He has served her for thirty years, and she has 
appreciated his services, but he has ceased to please her. 
The poor man dies of vexation. 

With those who please her, as long as they have that 
good fortune, she knows no stint. In 1781, when Count 
Branicki married a niece of Patiomkine, she gave 500,000 
roubles as a marriage portion to the bride, and the same 
amount to her husband, to pay his debts. One day she 
amused herself with imagining how the principal people 
at her court might meet their end. Ivan Tchernichef 
would die of rage. Countess Roumiantsof of having 
shuffled the cards too much, Mme. Vsievolodsky of an 
excess of sighs; and so forth. She herself would die — 
of complaisance. 

It is not only complaisance, there is in her an in- 
stinctive generosity which comes out in more than one 
way. With those whom she honors with her confidence 
she has none of that facile change of front so common 
to her sex. She is incapable of suspicion. One of the 
foreign artists whom she had commissioned to make 
considerable purchases for her gallery at the Hermitage, 
Reiffenstein — the "divine" Reiffenstein, as she called him 
— fancied his honesty suspected. Grimm, who acted as 
intermediary, became anxious about it. 

^'Begone with your notes and accounts, both of 
you!" wrote the Empress to the latter. "I never sus- 
pected either of you in my life. Why do you trouble 
me with stingy, useless things of that sort?" 

These Splendid Women 281 

She added: "No one about me has insinuated any- 
thing against le divin/' Grimm could well believe her, 
for she was absolutely averse to this kind of insinuation, 
so much favored in courts. In general, any one did 
but do a bad turn for himself by saying evil of others. 
Patiomkine himself experienced this in trying to shake the 
credit of Prince Viazemski. 

If there was need, however, to serve or defend her 
friends, she was ready to do anything in total forget- 
fulness of her rank. She learns, for instance, that 
Mme. Ribas, the wife of an Italian adventurer whom 
she has made Admiral, is in childbed. She jumps into 
the first carriage that she finds at the gate of the palace, 
enters like a whirlwind into the room of her friend, turns 
up her sleeves, and puts on an apron. "Now here are 
two of us," she says to the midwife; "let us do our best." 
It often happens that advantage is taken of this well- 
known characteristic. "They know I am good to bother," 
she says. Is she simply "good," in reality? Yes, in her 
way, which assuredly is not the way of everybody. The 
absolute mistress of forty millions of men is not "every- 
body." Mme. Vigee-Lebrun dreamed of painting the por- 
trait of the great sovereign. "Take," said some one, "the 
map of the empire of Russia for canvas, the darkness of 
ignorance for background, the spoils of Poland for 
drapery, human blood for coloring, the monuments of 
her reign for the cartoon, and for the shadow six months 
of her son's reign." There is some truth in this sombre 
picture, but it wants shading. At the moment of the 
terrible uprising of Pougatchef, sharp as was Catherine 
in the repression of a revolt which put her empire to 
the stake, she bids General Panine use no more than the 
indispensable severity. After the capture of the rebel, 
she does her best to succor the victims of this terrible 
civil war. Yet, in Poland, the conduct of her generals 
is for the most part atrocious, and she never interferes. 
She even compliments Souvarof after the massacre which 

282 These Splendid Women 

accompanies the taking of Warsaw. And in this empire 
of hers, "from which the hght now comes," the knout 
still bears sway, the stick still falls on the bleeding shoul- 
ders of the serf. She lets knout and stick do their work. 
How is this to be understood? 

It is needful first of all to realize the conception — a 
well-reasoned and elaborated conception — of the position 
of the sovereign and of the exigencies of that position, 
which obtained in the mind of this autocratic ruler. We 
cannot make war without dead or wounded, nor can we 
subdue a people jealous of its liberty without stifling its 
resistance in blood. Having resolved on the annexation 
of Poland — rightly or wrongly, need not be discussed here 
— it was necessary to accept all the consequences of the 
enterprise. This Catherine did, taking upon herself, 
calmly and frankly, the entire responsibility of the affair. 
Calmly, for, in these matters, reasons of state alone in- 
fluence her; they take the place of conscience, and even 
of feeling. Frankly, for she is not a hypocrite. An 
actress ever, and of the first order, by reason of her posi- 
tion, which is nothing but a part to play. It is in this 
sense that the French envoy Durand could say of her: 
"My experience is quite useless ; the woman is more false 
than our women are tricky. I can say no more." But she 
was never a hypocrite by preference, for the pleasure 
of deceiving, like so many; nor by need of deceiving her- 
self. "She was too proud to deceive," said the Prince 
de Ligne. 

In what she did, or suffered to be done, in Poland, 
she has had many imitators, beginning with the pious 
Maria Theresa herself. Only Maria Theresa mingled her 
tears with the blood that she shed. "She is always crying 
and stealing," said Frederick. Catherine keeps dry-eyed. 

Catherine, too, followed a different principle of gov- 
ernment. A sovereign, however absolute, cannot be every- 
where at once. Souvarof has orders to take Warsaw. 
He takes it. How? That is his affair, not that of 

These Splendid Women 283 

any one else. The principle is contestable, but we have 
not to discuss political theories in a study of character. 

Finally, Catherine is a Russian sovereign, and the 
Russia of the eighteenth century, without going further, 
is a country where European ideas in regard to justice 
and sentiment are quite out of place, where both moral 
and physical sensibility seem to obey different laws. In 
1766, during the Empress's stay at Peterhof, a sudden 
alarm one night startles her Majesty and all about her. 
There is great excitement and confusion. It turns out 
that a lackey, who has been making love to one of the 
waiting-maids of Catherine, has caused all this fright. 
He is brought to trial, and condemned to receive a hun- 
dred and one strokes of the knout, which is practically 
equivalent to a sentence of death, to have his nose slit, 
to be branded on the forehead with a hot iron, and to 
end his days in Siberia, if he recovers. No one has any- 
thing to say against the sentence. It is after such traits, 
and on the scale of notions, sentiments, and sensations, 
apparently proper to the surroundings in which they 
have root, that we require to judge a sovereign who, 
politically speaking, could certainly not claim the title of 
"most gracious." 

Apart from politics, Catherine is an adored and ador- 
able sovereign. Those about her have nothing but praise 
for her dealings. Her servants are spoilt children. The 
story of the chimney-sweep is well known. Always 
an early riser, in order to work more quietly in the silence 
of the early hours, the Empress sometimes lights her own 
fire, so as not to disturb any one. One morning, as she 
sets the faggots in a blaze, she hears piercing cries from 
the chimney, followed by a volley of abuse. She under- 
stands, quickly puts out the fire, and humbly proffers her 
excuses to the poor little chimney-sweep whom she had 
nearly roasted alive. There are thousands of similar 
stories told of her. One day, the Countess Bruce enters 
the Empress's bedroom and finds her Majesty alone, half- 

284 These Splendid Women 

dressed, with her arms folded in the attitude of one who 
is waiting patiently because she is obliged to wait. See- 
ing her surprise, Catherine explains the case — 

"What do you think? my waiting-maids have all de- 
serted me. I had been trying on a dress which fitted 
so badly that I lost my temper; so they left me like 
this . . . and I am waiting till they have cooled 

One day she sends Grimm an almost indecipherable 
letter, and thus excuses herself — 

"My valets de chamhre give me two new pens a day, 
but when they are worn out I never venture to ask for 
more, but I turn and turn them as best I can." 

One evening, after ringing in vain for some time, she 
goes into the anteroom and finds these same valets de 
clmmhre absorbed in a game of cards. She offers one 
of them to take his place so that she can finish the game 
for him, while he can do an urgent errand for her. She 
catches some servants in the act of making off with pro- 
visions intended for her table. "Let this be the last 
time," she says, with severity ; then she adds : "And now, 
be off quickly, or the marechal de la cour will catch you." 
She sees in the courtyard of her palace an old woman 
running after a fowl, and soon the valets are running 
after the old woman, anxious to show their zeal under the 
eyes of the Empress. For this fowl is a fowl "belong- 
ing to her Majesty's treasure," and the woman is the 
grandmother of a court scullion; a double crime. Cath- 
erine, after making inquiries, orders a fowl to be given 
every day to the poor old soul, but a fowl already trussed. 

She keeps by her, despite her infirmities, an old German 
nurse, whom she watches over with the greatest care. "I 
feared her," she writes to Grimm, announcing her death, 
"as I dread fire, or the visits of kings and great people. 
Whenever she saw me, she would seize me by the head, 
and kiss me again and again till she half stifled me. And 

These Splendid Women 285 

she always smelt of tobacco, which her respected husband 
used largely." 

Nevertheless, she is far from being patient, for nat- 
urally she is quick-tempered, too quick-tempered. Her 
fits of rage are one of her most noticeable defects. 
Grimm compares her to Etna, and she delights in the 
comparison. She calls the volcano "my cousin," and fre- 
quently asks for news of it. For she knows her defect, 
and it is this that enables her to combat it effectually. 
If she gives way to the first paroxysm of anger, she 
immediately recovers command of herself. If it is in her 
private room, she turns up her sleeves with a gesture to 
which she is accustomed, and begins to walk to and fro, 
drinking glass after glass of water. Never does she give 
an order or a signature in one of these passing fits of rage. 
In her speech she gives way sometimes to undignified ex- 
pressions, as in her sallies against Gustave III. during the 
war with Sweden. ^'Canaille" in French and ^'Bestie" in 
German are too often part of her vocabulary. She always, 
however, regrets what she has done or said, and, in 
course of time, so strictly does she watch over and restrain 
herself, she attains to a bearing which makes this weak- 
ness of her character or temperament seem almost in- 

"She said to me slowly," writes the Prince de Ligne, 
"that she had been extremely quick-tempered, which one 
could scarcely believe. . . . Her three bows a la 
Russe are made always in the same way in entering a 
room, one to the left, one to the right, and one in the 
middle. Everything in her was measured, methodical. 
. . . She loves to repeat 'J'ai de I'imperturhahilitef 
taking a quarter of an hour to say the word." 

Senac de Meilhan, who visited Russia in 1750, confirms 
these characteristics. In one of his letters, dated from 
St. Petersburg, he speaks of the inexpressible impression 
of tranquillity and serenity with which the appearance of 
Catherine before the court is always accompanied. She 

286 These Splendid Women 

does not affect the rigidity of a statue. She looks round 
her with eyes that seem to see everything. She speaks 
slowly, not as if seeking for words, but as if choosing 
quietly those that suit her." 

Nevertheless, to the end of her life, Catherine kept 
to her habit of pinning her serviette under her chin 
on sitting down to table. "She could not otherwise," 
as she frankly avows, "eat an egg, without dropping half 
of it on her collerette." 

Her temperament is particularly lively, sanguine, and 
impetuous. This appears, we know well, in more than 
one aspect of her private life. To this we shall have 
to return. Let us say here that the shamelessness of 
her morals, which it would be idle to try to attenuate, 
does not seem to have its root in any constitutional vice. 
She is neither hysterical nor tainted with nymphomania. 
It is a sensual woman who, being Empress, gives free 
course to her senses, imperially. What she does in this 
order of things is done as she does everything else, 
quietly, imperturbably — we might almost say methodically. 
She gives way to no bewilderments of imagination, to no 
disorder of nerves. Love with her is but the natural func- 
tion of a physical and moral organism endowed with 
exceptional energy, and it has the same imperious char- 
acter, the same lasting power, as the other phenomena 
of her life. She is still amorous at sixty-seven ! 

Her other tastes are those of a person well-balanced, 
both mentally and physically. She loves the arts, and the 
society of intelligent and learned people. She loves 
nature. Gardening, "plantomania" as she calls it, is one 
of her favorite occupations. Note that though she 
adores flowers, she cannot endure too strong perfumes, 
that of musk in particular. Every day, at a fixed hour, 
which a bell announces to the winged population, she ap- 
pears at a window of the palace and throws out crumbs 
to the thousands of birds that are accustomed to come to 

These Splendid Women 287 

her to be fed. Elizabeth used to feed frogs, which were 
expressly kept in the park: one sees the difference, the 
morbid, extravagant note. In Catherine there is nothing 
of the kind. She Hkes birds, dogs, who play a consider- 
able part in her private life, horses too ; she likes animals 
in general, but she prefers those which are more generally 
liked. All that is very simple, very natural, very normal. 

Elizabeth led an irregular life, turning night into day, 
never having a fixed hour for anything. Catherine is 
regularity itself; always early to bed, up with the dawn, 
fitting in her occupations as well as her pleasures with a 
programme that she has made out beforehand, and that 
she carries out without deviation. Elizabeth used to get 
drunk; Catherine is sober, eating little, only drinking a 
mouthful of wine at her principal meal, never taking 
supper. In public and in private, save for the mysteries 
of the alcove, she is perfectly correct in demeanour, never 
allowing an impropriety in conversation. And in this 
there is no hypocrisy, for she shows, and indeed shows 
off, her lovers. 

In order to find something unnatural, abnormal, in her, 
some have laid emphasis on her supposed indifference to 
family feeling. The point is susceptible of controversy. 
She despised and detested her husband, if she did not kill 
him or let him be killed ; and she was not tender towards 
her son, if she did not think of disinheriting him. Still 
it must be remembered what this husband and this son 
really were, both to her and to Russia. She never saw 
again her only brother, never having allowed him to come 
and see her, though she only survived him by three years. 
That was a matter of policy. She found that there were 
Germans enough in Russia, herself among the number. 
With her, it is certain, the head always ruled the heart, 
and, though German, she was by no means sentimental. 
But she was, as we shall see, a delightful grandmother, 
and she was passionately fond of children. 

Her shameless sensuality thus seems an isolated phe- 

288 These Splendid Women 

nomenon, without connection with any other in her tem- 
perament. Perhaps this is only in appearance; perhaps 
we should seek a certain connection, if not the relation 
of cause to effect, between this side of her nature and 
another that we are about to look into, that is to say, 
the intellectual culture of one who loved to call herself 
the pupil of Voltaire. If, indeed, there is method in 
this madness of the senses, which she does not lose even 
in middle age, there is also a certain lofty cynicism, a cer- 
tain tranquil assurance, which a physiological peculiarity, 
anomaly if you will, is not sufficient to explain. The 
philosophical spirit of the eighteenth century has passed 
over it, and not only the spirit of the age of Brantome. 

Catherine is a great temperament, not a great intellect. 
She herself did not pretend to '*a creative mind." Never- 
theless she prides herself on her originality. "All my 
life," she writes to Mme. de Bielke, "I never could tol- 
erate imitation, and, to put it bluntly, I am as much of 
an original as the most determined Englishman," But it 
is in her tastes, her habits, her modes of action, that is 
to say in her temperament rather than in her mind, that 
we must look for this personal note. There is not a 
single new idea in her Instruction for the laws, written 
at the age of thirty-six, in the full vigor of her intel- 
lectual faculties. It is the second-rate v/ork of a student 
of rhetoric, who has been given as a task the analysis of 
Montesquieu and Beccaria, and who has done creditably, 
but without showing any great talent. This work, never- 
theless, gives her enormous trouble. At the end of March 
1765 she has been toiling at it for two months, at the 
rate of three hours a day. Her best hours, in the morn- 
ing, are given up to this work. By the middle of June 
she has covered sixty-four pages, and she feels that she 
has made a considerable efifort. She is quite worn out. 
"I have emptied my sack," she writes, "and, after this, 
I shall not write another word for the rest of my life." 

These Splendid Women 289 

We have all known these vows, and, too, this impression 
of weariness at the end of the first long effort. But 
having regard to the actual result, this author's trouble 
is almost laughable. The sack, too, that she had emptied, 
or thought she had emptied, was easy to replace, for it 
was not hers. She found plenty more in turn. 

Had she then nothing of her own? Yes, much good 
sense, to begin with, joined, singularly enough, to a great 
wealth of imagination. She passed the thirty-four years 
of her reign in building castles in the air, magnificent 
buildings founded on nothing, and evaporating in space 
at the least breath. But the day came when one stone, 
a single stone, was placed in the soil, as if by miracle, 
at the angle of the fantastic edifice. It was Catherine 
who had planted it there. The Russian people, this good 
people which has not yet come to realize itself, nor to 
dispute with those who govern it, did the rest. It brought 
its sweat and blood, and like the Egyptian colossi, where 
the effort of thousands of unknown existences is 
superposed, the edifice rose and assumed tangible form. 
The conquest of the Taurida was thus accomplished. This 
was one of Catherine's dreams, put in action and trans- 
lated into a novel of adventures by Patiomkine. But the 
corner-stone appeared suddenly in a port of the Black 
Sea, and the Crimea of to-day was then created. 

J^lorence ^A(J^ghtingale 


EVERYONE who knows London at all knows the 
Houses of Parliament at the foot of Westminster 
Bridge. Across the bridge on the Surrey bank, 
just opposite the great Gothic Houses where legislators 
talk and govern, stands the new St. Thomas's Hospital, 
where sick folk suffer, get cured, or die; where young 
doctors "walk," and older ones teach; where experienced 
nurses tend the sick, and where probationers are trained. 

Let us go over the crowded bridge, through the long 
corridors of the hospital, and enter a large room, where 
tables are neatly laid for a numerous company, and there 
look at a statuette under a glass shade on a pedestal. 
There she stands, a ministering woman. Her dress is 
the simple garb of common life, as it was in the days of 
the Crimean War, with no separating badge to mark her 
off from her fellow-beings. In one hand she holds a 
nurse's night-lamp, with the other she shades the light 
from the eyes of the sick faces she is watching. You 
do not see their faces, but you know that she sees them ; 
on every line of hers you read how carefully and wisely, 
and with what clear knowledge and gentle womanliness 
she is pondering what she sees. 

It is a statuette of Florence Nightingale." It stands 
in the dining-room of the Nightingale Home, St. Thomas's 
Hospital; where those who have eyes and hearts and 
brains may study it, and learn the lessons taught with 
such quiet, unobtrusive force. 

These Splendid Women 291 

That Nightingale Home is part of the British nation's 
tribute of thanks to the noble woman who found the 
death-rate in the Barrack Hospital at Scutari 60 per 
cent., and left it a fraction over 1. 

The Nightingale Home is established for the purpose 
of training nurses. Two classes of women are admitted : 
those who are termed "nurse probationers ;" and gentle- 
women, who are "special probationers." 

A very distinguished lady nurse who has been m half 
the hospitals in Europe once said to me, "To Florence 
Nightingale, who was my own first teacher and mspirer, 
we owe the wonderful change that has taken place m 
the public mind with regard to nursing. When I first 
began my hospital training, hospital nursing was thought 
to be a profession which no decent woman of any rank 
could follow. If a servant turned nurse, it was supposed 
she did so because she had lost her character. We have 
changed all that now. Modern nursing owes its first 
impulse to Florence Nightingale." 

I don't suppose that any of my readers have ever seen 
a hospital nurse of the now nearly extinct Gamp type ; 
but I have. I have seen her, coarse-faced, thick of limb, 
heavy of foot, brutal in speech, crawling up and down the 
stairs or about in the wards in dresses and aprons that 
made me feel (although quite well and with a good healthy 
appetite) as if I would rather not have my dinner just 
then These were the old-fashioned "Sairey Gamps. 
But Florence Nightingale has been too strong for even 
the immortal "Sairey." Go now through the corridors 
and wards of a modern hospital; every nurse you meet 
will be neat and trim with spotless dress and cap and 
apron, moving quietly but quickly to and fro, doing her 
work with kindness and intelligence. 

The Nightingale Home itself is charming ; and many, 
were they to see the little white beds and pleasant rooms 
of the probationers, or were to stand at the windows of 
the wards, overlooking the busy Thames and the opposite 

292 These Splendid Women 

Houses of Parliament, or to meet the probationers troop- 
ing down to dinner, some in their soft grey alpacas, 
which tell they have just come from the lecture-room, 
and others, in print gowns and white aprons, from the 
wards, would desire to become ^^Nightingales." But this 
is no easy matter : no one is admitted before twenty-three 
years of age; the preliminary training is very thorough, 
and they have to work very hard; most of them find it 
trying at first ; indeed, every woman must be sure of her 
vocation before she attempts the work, interesting as it 
is to those who care for it in the highest spirit. 

It was in 1820, the year George the Third's long life 
quite faded out, that the younger of the two daughters 
of William Shore Nightingale was born at Florence, and 
named after that lovely city. 

Mr. Nightingale, of Embley Park, Hampshire, and the 
Lea Hurst, Derbyshire, was a very wealthy landowner. 
He was of the Shores of Derbyshire, but inherited the 
fortune with the name of Nightingale through his mother. 
Lea Hurst, where Miss Nightingale passed the summer 
months of each year, is situated in the Matlock district, 
among bold masses of limestone rock, gray walls, full of 
fossils, covered with moss and lichen, with the changeful 
river Derwent now dashing over its stony bed, now 
quietly winding between little dales with clefts and 
dingles. Those who have travelled by the Derby and 
Buxton railway will remember the narrow valleys, the 
mountain streams, the wide spans of high moorland, the 
distant ranges of hills beyond hills of the district. Lea 
Hurst, a gable-ended house, standing among its own woods 
and commanding wonderful views of the Peak country, 
is about two miles from Cromford station. 

At Lea Hurst much of Florence Nightingale's childhood 
was passed. There she early developed that intense love 
for every living suffering thing that grew with her growth, 
until it became the master-passion of her life. 

A few years since a true story of her as a little girl 

These Splendid Women 293 

apeared in Little Folks Magazine, and it is so charm- 
ingly told, and gives so distinctly the key-note of her 
character, that I repeat it here in full, as to curtail it 
would be to spoil it: — 

Some years ago, when the celebrated Florence Night- 
ingale was a little girl, living at her father's home, a 
large, old Elizabethan house with great woods about it, 
in Hampshire, there was one thing that struck everybody 
who knew her. It was that she seemed to be always 
thinking what she could do to please or help any one who 
needed either help or comfort. She was very fond, too, 
of animals, and she was so gentle in her way, that even 
the shyest of them would come quite close to her, and 
pick up whatever she flung down for them to eat. There 
was, in the garden behind the house, a long walk with 
trees on each side, the abode of many squirrels ; and when 
Florence came down the walk, dropping nuts as she went 
along, the squirrels would run down the trunks of their 
trees, and hardly waiting until she passed by, would pick 
up the prize, and dart away with their little bushy tails 
curled over their backs, and their black eyes looking about 
as if terrified at the least noise, though they did not 
seem to be afraid of Florence. The reason was that 
she loved them, and never did anything to startle or trouble 

Then there was an old grey pony, named Peggy, past 
work, living in a paddock, with nothing to do all day long 
but to amuse herself. Whenever Florence appeared at 
the gate, Peggy would come trotting up and put her nose 
into the dress pocket of her litde mistress, and pick it 
of the apple or the roll of bread that she knew she would 
always find there, for this was a trick Florence had taught 
the pony. Florence was fond of riding, and her father's 
old friend (the clergyman of the parish) used often to 
come and take her for a ride with him when he went to 
the farm cottages at a distance. He was a good man, 

294 These Splendid Women 

and very kind to the poor. As he had studied medicine 
when a young man, he was able to tell the people what 
would do them good when they were ill, or had met with 
an accident. Little Florence took great delight in helping 
to nurse those who were ill, and whenever she went on 
these long rides, she had a small basket fastened to her 
saddle, filled with something nice, which she had saved 
from her breakfast or dinner, or carried for her mother, 
who was very good to the poor. She thus learned to be 
useful as well as kind-hearted. 

Now, there lived in one of two or three solitary cot- 
tages in the wood, an old shepherd of her father's, named 
Roger, who had a favourite sheep-dog called Cap. Roger 
had neither wife nor child, and Cap lived with him, and 
kept him company at nights, after he had penned his 
flock. Cap was a very sensible dog; indeed, people used 
to say he "could do everything but speak." He kept 
the sheep in wonderfully good order, and thus saved 
his master a great deal of trouble. One day as Florence 
and her old friend were out for a ride, they came to a 
field, where they found the shepherd giving his sheep 
their night feed; but he was without the dog, and the 
sheep knew it, for they were scampering about in all 
directions. Florence and her friend noticed that the old 
shepherd looked very sad this evening, and they stopped 
to ask what was the matter, and what had become of 
his dog. 

"Oh," said Roger, "Cap will never be of any more 
use to me; I'll have to hang him, poor fellow, as soon 
as I go home to-night." 

"Hang him!" said Florence. "Oh, Roger, how wicked 
of you ! What has dear old Cap done ?" 

"He has done nothing," replied Roger; "but he will 
never be of any more use to me, and I cannot afford to 
keep him for nothing; one of the mischievous school- 
boys throwed a stone at him yesterday, and broke one 
of his legs." And the old shepherd's eyes filled with 

These Splendid Wofnen 295 

tears, which he wiped away with his shirt-sleeve; then 
he drove his spade deep in the ground to hide what he 
felt, for he did not like to be seen crying. 

"Poor Cap!" he sighed, "he was as knowing as a 
human being almost." 

"But are you sure his leg is broken?" asked Florence. 

"Oh, yes, miss, it is broken safe enough; he has not 
put his foot to the ground since." 

Florence and her friend rode on without saying any- 
thing more to Roger. 

"We will go and see poor Cap," said the vicar. "I 
don't believe the leg is really broken. It would take a 
big stone, and a hard blow, to break the leg of a great 
dog like Cap." 

"Oh, if you could but cure him, how glad Roger would 
be!" replied Florence. 

They soon reached the shepherd's cottage; but the 
door was fastened, and when they moved the latch such 
a furious barking was heard, that they drew back startled. 
However, a little boy came out of the next cottage, and 
asked if they wanted to go in, as Roger had left the 
key with his mother. So the key was got, and the door 
opened, and there on the bare brick floor lay the dog, 
his hair dishevelled, and his eyes sparkling with anger 
at the intruders. But when he saw the little boy he grew 
pacified. Dogs always know their friends. And when 
he looked at Florence, and heard her call him "Poor 
Cap," he began to wag his short tail, and then crept 
from under the table, and lay down at her feet. She took 
hold of one of his paws, patted his old rough head, and 
talked to him, whilst her friend examined the injured 
leg. It was dreadfully swollen, and hurt him very much 
to have it examined; but the dog knew it was meant 
kindly, and though he moaned and winced with pain, he 
licked the hands that were hurting him. 

"It's only a bad bruise ; no bones are broken," said hex; 

296 These Splendid Women 

old friend; "rest is all Cap needs; he will soon be well 

"I am so glad/' exclaimed Florence; "but can we do 
nothing for him? he seems in such pain." 

"There is one thing that would ease the pain, and heal 
the leg all the sooner, and that is plenty of hot water 
to foment the part." 

"Well then," said Florence, "if that will do him good, 
I will foment poor Cap's leg." 

"I fear you will only scald yourself," replied he. 

But Florence had in the meantime struck a light with 
the tinder-box, and lighted the fire, which was already 
laid. She then set off to the other cottage to get some- 
thing to bathe the leg with. She found an old flannel 
petticoat hanging up to dry, and this she carried off, and 
tore up into slips, which she wrung out in warm water, 
and laid them tenderly on Cap's swollen leg. It was 
not long before the poor dog felt the benefit of the appli- 
cation, and he looked grateful, wagging his little stump 
of a tail in thanks. On their way home they met the 
shepherd coming slowly along, with a piece of rope in 
his hand. 

"Oh, Roger," cried Florence, "you are not to hang 
poor old Cap; his leg is not broken at all." 

"No, he will serve you yet," said the vicar. 

"Well, I be main glad to hear it," said the shepherd, 
"and many thanks to you for going to see him." 

On the next morning Florence was up early, and the 
first thing she did was to take two flannel petticoats to 
give to the poor woman whose petticoat she had torn up 
to bathe Cap. Then she went to the dog, and was de- 
lighted to find the swelling of his leg much less. She 
bathed it again, and Cap was as grateful as before. 

Two or three days afterwards Florence and her friend 
were riding together, when they came up to Roger and 
his sheep. This time Cap was watching the sheep, though 
he was lying quite still, and pretending to be asleep. 

These Splendid Women 297 

When he heard the voice of Florence speaking to his 
master, who was portioning out the usual feed, his tail 
wagged and his eyes sparkled, but he did not get up, 
for he was on duty. The shepherd stopped his work, 
and as he glanced at the dog with a merry laugh, said, 
"Do look at the dog, miss ; he be so pleased to hear your 
voice."" Cap's tail went faster and faster. "I be glad," 
continued the old man, "I did not hang him. I be greatly 
obHged to you, miss, and the vicar, for what you did. But 
for you I would have hanged the best dog I ever had 
in my life." 

Florence Nightingale always retained her belief in ani- 
mals. Many years afterwards, when her name was known 
all over the world, she wrote: "A small pet animal is 
often an excellent companion for the sick, for long chronic 
cases especially. An invalid, in giving an account of his 
nursing by a nurse and a dog, infinitely preferred that of 
the dog. 'Above all,' he said, 'it did not talk.' " Even 
Florence Nightingale's maimed dolls were tenderly nursed 
and bandaged. 

Mr. Nightingale was a man singularly in advance of 
his time as regards the training of girls. The "higher edu- 
cation of women" was unknown to the general public in 
those days, but not to Mr. Nightingale. His daughter 
was taught mathematics, and studied the classics, history, 
and modern languages, under her father's guidance. 
These last were afterwards of the greatest use to her in 
the Crimea. But she was no "learned lady;" only a 
well-educated Englishwoman, all round. She was an 
excellent musician, and skilful in work with the needle; 
and the delicate trained touch thus acquired stood her in 
good stead, for the soldiers used to say that a wound 
which Miss Nightingale dressed "was sure to get well." 

She felt a strong craving for work, more even than the 
schools and cottages, the care of the young, the sick, and 

298 These Splendid Wofnen 

the aged (in which she followed her mother's example) 
could afford her at her father's home. 
Mrs. Brownings tells us to 

"Get leave to work 
In this world; 'tis the best you get at all." 

Florence Nightingale not only got leave to work, but 
did so, very quietly but very persistently. And so she 
became a pioneer for less courageous souls, and won for 
them also "leave to work." Taught by her father, she 
soon learned to distinguish between what was really good 
work and which mere make-believe. She had many op- 
portunities even as a child of seeing really fine, artistic 
work both in science and art. She set up a high standard, 
and was never satisfied with anything short of the best, 
either in herself or others. It is a grand thing to know 
good work when you see it. 

The love of work, however, with Florence Night- 
ingale always went hand in hand with that love for every 
living thing in God's world, which was born with her, 
and which was never crowded out by all this education. 
As she grew up she more and more felt that helpfulness 
was the first law of her being; but her reason and in- 
tellect having been so carefully trained, she was thor- 
oughly persuaded that in order to help effectually, one 
must know thoroughly both the cause of suffering and 
its radical cure. 

The study of nursing had an irresistible attraction for 
her. Few people in England at that time valued nursing. 
Florence Nightingale was convinced that indifference 
arose from the all but absolute ignorance of what nursing 
should be, and she set herself to acquire the necessary 
knowledge to enable her to carry it out in the very best 
and most scientific way. She never lost an opportunity 
of visiting a hospital either at home or abroad. She 
gave up the life of so-called "pleasure" which it was 

These Splendid Women 299 

then considered a young woman of her position ought 
to lead, and after having very carefully examined m- 
numerable nursing institutions at home and abroad, at 
length went to the well-known Pastor Fliedner s Deacon- 
esses at Kaiserswerth, where she remained for several 

months. ^ ,.• „ 

When "Sweet Agnes Jones," who was at one time a 
"Nightingale" probationer at St. Thomas's, was learmng 
to nurse at Kaiserswerth several years later, she found 
that Florence Nightingale was tenderly remembered 
there not only for her wonderful skill, but for the earnest- 
ness with which she had tried to win the souls of her 

sick people to Christ. ... , . i r 

After leaving Kaiserswerth, Miss Nightingale was for 
a while with the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul in Pans, 
so anxious was she to see how nursing was carried on 
under many different systems. It was during 1851, the 
year of the first Great Exhibition, that she was thus fitting 
herself practically for the great task that lay before her 
in the not very distant future. . . , ^ j 

On her return to England, Miss Nightingale found a 
patient that required all her time and help of every kind. 
This patient was none other than the Sanatorium in 
Harley Street for gentlewomen of limited means. ^ into 
the saving of this valuable institution Miss Nightingale 
threw all her energy, and for two or three years hidden 
away from the outside world, she was working day and 
night for her poor suffering ladies, until at length she 
was able to feel that the Sanatorium was not only in good 
health but on the high road to permanent success. 

Florence Nightingale's own health, however, gave way 
under the long-continued strain of anxiety and fatigue ; 
she was obliged to leave the invalids for whom she had 
done so much, and go home for the rest and change she 
so sorely needed. . 

Now, while Miss Nightingale had been quietly gettmg 
"Harley Street" into working order, the gravest and most 

300 These Splendid Women 

terrible changes had taken place in the affairs of the 
nation, and not only in those of England, but in those 
of the whole of Europe. 

In 1851, when the first Great Exhibition was opened, 
all was peace — the long peace of forty years was still 
unbroken, people said it never was to be broken again, 
and that wars and rumors of wars had come to an end. 
So much for human foreknowledge. By the autumn 
of 1854, the horrors of the Crimean War had reached 
their climax. The Times was full, day by day, of the 
most thrilHng and appalling descriptions of the hideous 
sufferings of our brave men, sufferings caused quite as 
much by the utter breakdown of the sanitary admin- 
istration as by even the deadly battles and trench- work; 
while every post was bringing agonizing private letters 
appealing for help. 

Men were wounded in the Crimea, the hospitals were 
far off at Scutari, the wide and stormy Black Sea had 
to be crossed to reach them ; the stores of food, clothing, 
and medicine that might have saved many a life were 
at Varna, or lost in the Black Prince; the state of the 
great Barrack Hospital at Scutari was indescribably hor- 
rible ; everybody was frantic to rush to the relief ; no one 
knew what best to do ; public feeling was at fever-heat. 
How could it be otherwise when William Howard Rus- 
sell, the Times correspondent, was constantly writing such 
true but heartrending letters as this ? — 

"The commonest accessories of a hospital are wanting; 
there is not the least attention paid to decency or cleanli- 
ness; the stench is appalHng; the foetid air can barely 
struggle out to taint the atmosphere, save through the 
chinks in the walls and roofs ; and, for all I can observe, 
these men die without the least effort being made to save 
them. There they lie, just as they were let gently down 
on the ground by the poor fellows, their comrades, who 
brought them on their backs from the camp with the 
greatest tenderness, but who are not allowed to remain 

These Splendid Women 301 

with them. The sick appear to be tended by the sick, 
and the dying by the dying." 

Miss Nightingale, who was then recovering from her 
Harley Street nursing, deeply felt the intensity of the 
crisis that was moving the whole nation; but, whereas 
the panic had driven most of the kind people who were 
so eager to help the army nearly "off their heads," it 
only made hers the cooler and clearer. She wrote offer- 
ing her services to Mr. Sidney Herbert, afterwards Lord 
Herbert, the Minister for War, who, together with his 
wife, had long known her, and had recognised her won- 
derful organizing faculties, and her great practical ex- 

It was on the 15th of October that she wrote to Mr. 
Herbert. On the very same day the Minister had written 
to her. Their letters crossed. Mr. Herbert, who had 
himself given much attention to military hospitals, laid 
before Miss Nightingale, in his now historical letter, a 
plan for nursing the sick and wounded at Scutari. 

"There is, as far as I know," he wrote, "only one 
person in England capable of organizing and directing 
such a plan, and I have been several times on the point 
of asking you if you would be disposed to make the at- 
tempt. That it will be difficult to form a corps of nurses, 
no one knows better than yourself." 

After specifying the difficulty in finding not only good 
nurses, but good nurses who would he willing to submit 
to authority, he goes on, "I have this simple question 
to put to you. Could you go out yourself and take charge 
of everything? It is, of course, understood that you will 
have absolute authority over all the nurses, unlimited 
power to draw on the Government for all you judge neces- 
sary to the success of your mission; and I think I may 
assure you of the cooperation of the medical staff. Your 
personal qualities, your knowledge, and your authority 
in administrative affairs all fit you for this position." 

Miss Nightingale at once concurred in Mr. Herbert's 

302 These Splendid Women 

proposal. The materials for a staff of good nurses did 
not exist, and she had to put up with the best that could 
be gathered on such short notice. 

On the 21st, a letter by Mr. Herbert from the War 
Office told the world that "Miss Nightingale, accompanied 
by thirty-four nurses, will leave this evening. Miss Night- 
ingale, who has, I believe, greater practical experience of 
hospital administration and treatment than any other lady 
in this country, has, with a self-devotion for which I have 
no words to express my gratitude, undertaken this noble 
but arduous work." 

A couple of days later there was a paragraph in the 
Times from Miss Nightingale herself, referring to the 
gifts for the soldiers that had been offered so lavishly: 
"Miss Nightingale neither invites nor refuses the gen- 
erous offers. Her banking account is open at Messrs. 
Coutts'." On the 30th of October, the Times republished 
from the Examiner a letter headed "Who is Miss Night- 
ingale?" and signed "One who has known her." Then 
was made known to the British pubHc for the first time 
who the woman that had gone to the aid of the sick and 
wounded really was; then it was shown that she was no 
hospital matron, but a young and singularly graceful and 
accomplished gentlewoman of wealth and position, who 
had, not in a moment of national enthusiasm, but as the 
set purpose of her life from girlhood up, devoted herself 
to the studying of God's great and good laws of health, 
and to trying to apply them to the help of her suffering 

From that 30th of October, 1854, the heroine of the 
Crimean War was Florence Nightingale, and the heroine 
of that war will she be while the English tongue exists, 
and English history is read. The national enthusiasm for 
her was at once intense; and it grew deeper and more 
intense as week by week revealed her powers. "Less 
talent and energy of character, less singleness of purpose 
and devotion, could never have combined the hetero- 

These Splendid Women 303 

geneous elements which she gathered together in one 
common work and labour of love." 

I met, the other day, a lady who saw something of 
Miss Nightingale just before she went out to the East. 
This lady tells me that Miss Nightingale was then most 
graceful in appearance, tall and slight, very quiet and 
still. At first sight her earnest face struck one as cold; 
but when she began to speak she grew very animated, 
and her dark eyes shone out with a peculiarly star-like 

This was the woman whose starting for the East was 
at once felt to be the beginning of better things; but 
so prejudiced were many good English people against 
women-nurses for soldiers that Mrs. Jameson, writing at 
the time, calls the scheme "an undertaking wholly new 
to our English customs, much at variance with the usual 
education given to women in this country." She, sensible 
woman, one in advance of her day, hoped it would suc- 
ceed, but hoped rather faintly. "If it succeeds," she 
goes on, "it will be the true, the lasting glory of Florence 
Nightingale, and her band of devoted assistants, that they 
have broken down a 'Chinese wall of prejudices,' religious, 
social, professional, and have established a precedent 
which will, indeed, multiply the good to all time." 

The little band of nurses crossed the channel to Bou- 
logne, where they found the fisherwomen eager for the 
honor of carrying their luggage to the railway. This 
display, however, seemed to Miss Nightingale to be so 
out of keeping with the deep gravity of her mission, that, 
at her wish, it was not repeated at any of the stopping- 
places during the route. The Vectis took the nurses across 
the Mediterranean, and a terribly rough passage they had. 
On November 5th, the very day on which the battle of 
Inkermann was fought, the ship arrived at Scutari. 

Miss Nightingale and her nurses landed during the 
afternoon, and it was remarked at the time that their neat 
black dresses formed a strong contrast to those of the 

304 These Splendid Women 

usual hospital attendants. A large number of men, 
wounded at Balaclava, had been landed the day before. 

The great Barrack Hospital at Scutari, which had been 
lent to the British by the Turkish Government, was an 
enormous quadrangular building, a quarter of a mile each 
way, with square towers at each angle. It stood on the 
Asiatic shore a hundred feet above the Bosphorus. An- 
other large hospital stood near ; the whole, at times, con- 
taining as many as four thousand men. The whole were 
placed under Miss Nightingale's care. The nurses were 
lodged in the south-east tower. 

The extent of corridors in the great hospital, story 
above story, in which the sick and wounded were at 
first laid on wretched paillasses as close together as they 
could be placed, made her inspection and care most diffi- 
cult. There were two rows of mattresses in the cor- 
ridors, where two persons could hardly pass abreast 
between foot and foot. The mortality, when the Times 
first took up the cause of the sick and wounded, was 

In the Crimea itself there was not half the mor- 
tality in the tents, horrible as were the sufferings and 
privations of the men there. 

"The whole of yesterday," writes one of the nurses 
a few days after they had arrived, "one could only forget 
one's own existence, for it was spent, first in sewing the 
men's mattresses together, and then in washing them and 
assisting the surgeons, when we could, in dressing their 
ghastly wounds after their five days' confinement on board 
ship, during which space their wounds had not been 
dressed. Hundreds of men with fever, dysentery, and 
cholera (the wounded were the smaller portion) filled 
the wards in succession, from the overcrowded trans- 

Miss Nightingale's position was a most difficult one. 
Everything was in disorder, and every official was ex- 
tremely jealous of interference. Miss Nightingale, how- 

These Splendid Women 305* 

ever, at once impressed upon her staff the duty of obey- 
ing the doctors' orders, as she did herself. An invalid's 
kitchen was established immediately by her to supplement 
the rations; a laundry was added; the nursing itself was, 
however, the most difficult and important part of the 

But it would take far too much space to give all the 
details of that kind but strict administration which 
brought comparative comfort and a low death-rate into 
the Scutari hospitals. During a year and a-half the 
labor of getting the hospitals into working order was 
enormous, but before the Peace arrived they were models 
of what such institutions may be. 

Speaking of Miss Nightingale in the Hospital at 
Scutari, the Times correspondent wrote: "Wherever 
there is disease in its most dangerous form, and the 
hand of the spoiler distressingly nigh, there is that in- 
comparable woman sure to be seen; her benignant pres- 
ence is an influence for good comfort even amid the 
struggles of expiring nature. She is a 'ministering 
angel,' without any exaggeration, in these hospitals, and 
as her slender form glides quietly along each corridor, 
every poor fellow's face softens with gratitude at the 
sight of her. When all the medical officers have retired 
for the night, and silence and darkness have settled down 
upon these miles of prostrate sick, she may be observed, 
alone, with a little lamp in her hand, making her solitary 
rounds. With the heart of a true woman and the manner 
of a lady accomplished and refined beyond most of her 
sex, she combines a surprising calmness of judgment and 
promptitude and decision of character. The popular in- 
stinct was not mistaken, which when she set out from 
England on her mission of mercy, hailed her as a heroine ; 
I trust that she may not earn her title to a higher, though 
sadder, appellation. No one who has observed her fragile 
figure and delicate health can avoid misgivings lest these 
should fail." 

306 These Splendid Women 

Public feeling bubbled up into poetry. Even doggerel 
ballads sung about the streets praised 

"The Nightingale of the East, 
For her heart it means good." 

Among many others, the American poet, Longfellow, 
wrote the charming poem, The Lady with the Lamp, so 
beautifully illustrated by the statuette of Florence Night- 
ingale at St. Thomas's Hospital, suggested by the well- 
known incident recorded in a soldier's letter : 

"She would speak to one and another, and nod and 
smile to many more; but she could not do it to all, you 
know, for we lay there by hundreds; but we could kiss 
her shadow as it fell, and lay our heads on our pillows 
again content." 

"Lo ! in that house of misery 
A lady with a lamp I see 

Pass through the glimmering gloom, 
And flit from room to room. 

"And slow, as in a dream of bliss, 
The speechless sufferer turns to kiss 
Her shadow as it falls 
Upon the darkening walls. 

"On England's annals, through the long 
Hereafter of her speech and song, 
A light its rays shall cast 
From portals of the past. 

"A lady with a lamp shall stand 
In the great history of the land, 
A noble type of good, 
Heroic womanhood." 

In the following spring Miss Nightingale crossed the 
Black Sea and visited Balaclava, where the state of the 
hospitals in huts was extremely distressing, as help of 
all kinds was even more difificult to obtain there than 
at Scutari. Here Miss Nigthingale spent some weeks, 
until she was prostrated by a severe attack of the Crimean 
fever, of which she very nearly died. 

These Splendid Women 307 

The characteristic little extract following will show at 
once her power of observation, and how readily she turns 
every scrap of personal experience to advantage for other 
sufferers : 

"I have seen in fevers (and felt when I was a fever 
patient myself in the Crimea) the most acute suffering 
produced from the patient (in a hut) not being able to 
see out of window, and the knots in the wood being the 
only view. I shall never forget the rapture of fever 
patients over a bunch of bright-coloured flowers: I re- 
member (in my own case) a nosegay of wild flowers being 
sent me, and from that moment recovery becoming more 

But at length the Crimean War came to an end. The 
nation was prepared to welcome its heroine with the most 
passionate enthusiasm. But Florence Nightingale quietly 
slipped back unnoticed to her Derbyshire home, without 
its being known that she had passed through London. 

Worn out with ill-health and fatigue, and naturally 
shrinking from publicity, the public at large has scarcely 
ever seen her ; she has been a great invalid ever since the 
war, and for many years hardly ever left her house. 

But her energy has been untiring. She was one of the 
founders of the Red Cross Society for the relief of the 
sick and wounded in war. When the Civil War broke 
out in America she was consulted as to all the details 
of the military nursing there. "Her name is almost more 
known amongst us than even in Europe," wrote an 
American. During the Franco-German War she gave 
advice for the chief hospitals under the Crown Princess, 
the Princess Alice, and others. The Children's Hospital 
at Lisbon was erected from her plans. The hospitals in 
Australia, India, and other places, have received her care. 
A large proportion of the plans for the building and 
organization of the hospitals erected during the last 
twenty-five years in England have passed through her 

308 These Splendid Women 

The Queen, who had foflowed her work with constant 
interest, presented her with a beautiful and costly dec- 
oration. The nation gave i50,000 to found the Night- 
ingale Home. 

In this home Miss Nightingale takes the deepest in- 
terest, constantly having the nurses and sisters to visit 
her, and learning from them the most minute details of 
its working. Great is evidently her rejoicing when one 
of her "Nightingales" proves to be a really fine nurse, 
such a one, for instance, as Agnes Jones, the reformer 
of workhouse nursing. 

When Agnes Jones died in 1868, Miss Nightingale 
broke through her retirement in an article in a monthly 
magazine, called "Una and her Lions," a sketch, indeed, 
of her friend's taming the paupers, but far more is it 
a portrait of Florence Nightingale by herself. This 
article now forms the introduction of the well-known 
memorials of Agnes Jones. It is a noble tribute from 
one great worker to another. It throws so much light 
on the true character of Florence Nightingale herself ; 
it brings you closely into contact with her own heart 
and brain, that you feel as you read it she must be 
writing her own experience. A true portrait of herself 
by herself comes out when we look at that record as a 
whole. You see how Florence Nightingale herself had 
to fight, first against the people who thought nursing as 
a profession unfit for decent women, then with those 
who admitted it might be followed by "the lower middle- 
class," and lastly with those who considered it a natural 
gift, for which no training at all was necessary. 

Just notice the strong terseness, the business-like 
pointedness, as well as the beautiful earnestness, both 
religious and artistic, of the following. After telling 
us of the wonders wrought by Una on her paupers, 
more hard to tame than lions, she goes on: "In less 
than three years she did this. And how did she do all 

These Splendid Women 309 

"Agnes had trained herself to the utmost; she was 
always training herself; for nursing is no holiday work. 
Nursing is an art ; and, if it is to be made an art, requires 
as exclusive a devotion, as hard a preparation, as any 
painter's or sculptor's work; for what is the having to 
do with dead canvas or cold marble compared with hav- 
ing to do with the living body, the temple of God's 
Spirit? Nursing is one of the Fine Arts; I had almost 
said, the finest of the Fine Arts." 

*Tid-fadding" was one of the besetting sins of most 
women in the days when Florence Nightingale was 
young. It was certainly one of the sins most abhorrent 
to her energetic nature. "How can any undervalue busi- 
ness habits ? As if anything could be done without them !" 
she exclaims. 

This was the high position Florence Nightingale con- 
quered for her fellow-women. Hundreds have occupied, 
and are still occupying, the ground she won for them. 

"And I give a quarter of a century's European experi- 
ence," she goes on, "when I say that the happiest people, 
the fondest of their occupation, the most thankful for 
their lives, are in my opinion those engaged in sick 

I will quote no more, but if you really want to know 
Florence Nightingale, read the Introduction to "Agnes 
Jones," which shows that Miss Nightingale has as great 
a power of administrating pen and ink as hospitals. Her 
invalid Hfe since the war has been full of business; the 
amount of work of all kinds, at home and abroad, she has 
done since the war is enormous. "Notes on Nursing," 
an invaluable book which the Medical Times declared no 
one else could have written, has entirely conquered the 
bad old ideas, and has shown what an art and science 
nursing can become; better still, it has "vindicated the 
ways of God with man." "Notes on Hospitals," less well 
known to the general public, contains a perfect mine of 
information, the gist of which she has reduced, in a 

310 These Splendid Women 

most marvellous appendix, under five simple headings. A 
few remarks from the preface of the third edition will 
show with what patient care she had thought out the 

"It may seem a strange principle to enunciate as the 
very first requirement in a hospital, that it should do the 
sick no harm. It is quite necessary, nevertheless, to lay 
down such a principle, because the actual mortality in 
hospitals, especially in those of large crowded cities, is 
very much higher than any calculation founded on the 
mortality of the same class of diseases among patients 
treated out of hospital would lead us to expect. The 
knowledge of this fact first induced me to examine into 
the influence exercised by hospital construction on the 
duration and death-rate of cases received into the wards" 

Of^cials in high places, ever since the Crimean War, 
have sent Miss Nightingale piles, mountains, one might 
say, of Reports and Blue Books for her advice. She 
I seems to be able to condense any number of them into 
half-a-dozen telling sentences ; for instance, the mortality 
in Indian regiments during times of peace became ex- 
ceedingly alarming. Reports on the subject were poured 
in upon her. 

"The men are simply treated like Strasbourg geese," 
she said in effect. "They eat, sleep, frizzle in the sun, 
and eat and sleep again. Treat them reasonably, and 
they will be well." 

She has v/ritten much valuable advice on "How to 
live and not die in India." 

Children's Hospitals have also engaged much of her 
attention. You cannot open one of her books at hazard 
without being struck with some shrewd remark that tells 
how far-reaching is her observation; as in this, on the 
playgrounds of Children's Hospitals: "A large garden- 
ground, laid out in sward and grass hillocks, and such 
ways as children like (not too pretty, or the children will 
be scolded for spoiling it) must be provided." 

These splendid Women 311 

Here, I am sorry to find, my space comes to an end, 
but not, I hope, before I have been able to sketch in 
some slight way what great results will assuredly follow 
when Faith and Science are united in one person. In the 
days which we may hope are now dawning, when these 
gifts will be united, not in an individual here and there, 
but in a large portion of our race, there will doubtless 
be many a devoted woman whose knowledge may equal 
her practical skill and her love for God and her fellow- 
creatures, who will understand, even more thoroughly 
than most of us now can (most of us being still so 
ignorant), how deep a debt of gratitude is due to her 
who first opened for women so many paths of duty, 
and raised nursing from a menial employment to the 
dignity of an "Art of Charity" — to England's first great 
nurse, the wise, beloved, and far-seeing heroine of the 
Crimean War, the Lady of the Lamp, Florence 

ISJotes on 
These Splendid Women 

Note 1.— Cleopatra, daughter of Ptolemy XI (Auletes), King 
of Egypt, was born in 68 B. C, of pure Macedonian Greek 
origin. At the death of her father in 51 B.C., she and 
her brother, Ptolemy, were associated in royal power. Later, 
her brother expelled her from the throne, but Julms Caesar, 
arriving just then in Alexandria (48 B.C.), re-mstated her 
and when Ptolemy died that same year, Cleopatra was made 
Queen of Egypt. She was a woman of great ability and 
ambition, who for twenty years kept her country from entire 
subjugation to the Roman Empire, through her feminine 
appeal to her conquerors. When she failed to subjugate 
Augustus Csesar with her charms, and her participation in 
his triumph at Rome was imminent, she committed suicide by 
applying the poisonous asp to her arm, dying in the thirty- 
eighth year of her life (30 B.C.). 
Note 2 — Zenobia was another woman who held at bay the Roman 
Emperors, though by the force of arms a few years after 
Cleopatra. Zenobia was the wife of Odenathus, Prince— 
afterwards styled King— of Palmyra, so honored for his 
signal services against the Persians on behalf pf the Em- 
peror Gallienus. After the death of her husband in 266 A. D., 
Zenobia assumed the throne of the East in the territory 
conquered by him, and moreover subjugated Egypt, l^or 
six years thereafter she fought off the Roman generals sent 
to reduce her power, aiming at complete independence ot 
Palmyra from the Roman yoke. But finally, in a disastrous 
battle, following the treachery of her allies, she was defeated 
by Aurelian in 272, and was herself captured. Zenobia, a 
woman of more balanced character, did not try to make aNvay 
with herself because of the approaching triumph of Aurelian. 
She accepted the ignominy as valiantly as a pitched battle, 
was taken to Rome, and figured in Aurelian's triumph in 
golden chains, among his other trophies. That over, sh^ was 
permitted to live the rest of her life in a villa near Tivoli, 
in all the comfort of a Roman noble-woman. Zenobia was 
as strenuous and sagacious a fighter as any man of her day, 
as Gibbon has told in his detailed and vivid manner. 

314 Notes on These Splendid Women 

Note 3. — Joan of Arc was born in Domremy in Upper Lorraine, 
some miles southwest of Nancy, in 1412. _ From the age of 
thirteen she had constantly heard mysterious voices, calling 
her to be the deliverer of France from the English who then 
overran the country. After the dramatic hearing with the 
Dauphin at Chinon, where she recognized the heir of France 
who scarcely recognized himself, she secured the confidence 
of soldiers like Dunois and Alegon, and Charles allowed her 
to lead an expedition for the relief of the sorely invested 
Orleans. Starting April 29, 1429, within two days a victory 
was won, and by May 8 the siege of Orleans was raised and 
the English were in full retreat. On July 17 Charles VII was 
formally crowned and anointed King of France at Rheims. 
Her mission now ended, the Maid of Orleans sought to return 
to her native village, but she was at length persuaded that 
she must go on other military expeditions to expel the English 
completely from the soil of France. Finally, when she was 
attempting the relief of Compiegne, she was captured by the 
Burgundians, May 24, 1430, and sold to the English. She 
was imprisoned at Rouen, where, after much brutality, she 
was brought to a mockery of a trial on January 9, 1431. 
Pierre Couchon, bishop of Beauvais, engineered her condem- 
nation as a sorceress and heretic, by infamous trickery, and 
on May 30, 1431. she was burned at the stake, so high that 
all the world might see. And the world saw and has for 
these centuries stood at horror at this unjust end of the slip 
of a girl who saved France, and her heavenly appointment 
could not but be recognized. At last, in 1909, the Roman 
Catholic Church came forward to make some recompense to 
the memory of the simple messenger of heaven, and on April 
18, in the basilica of St. Peter's at Rome, Joan of Arc was 
beatified by the Pope, in the presence of a multitude, including 
40,000 pilgrims from France. 

Note 4. — Vittoria Coloxna was born on the family estate of 
Marino in 1492. She was one of the leading spirits among 
the reform party of the Roman Catholic Church, and her 
verses, which may be divided into two sections, were first, 
those inspired by her dead husband, and second, those on 
religious themes. She was a beautiful woman, of beautiful 
character and brilliant intellect, admired by many great men 
and celebrated by Michelangelo in poems, alone sufficient 
to insure her immortality. Thomas Adolphus Trollope has 
given in his biography a romantic picture of the greatest 
woman poet of her age and one of the most outstanding of 
all ages. When Vittoria Colonna died in 1547, Michelangelo 
was at her bedside. 

Note 5. — Catherine de' Medici, Queen of France, was born in 
Florence in 1519. She married Henry, Due d'Orleans, after- 
ward Henry II of France, in 1538, but played no great part 

Notes on These Splendid Women 315 

in French politics until 1559, when the first of her three sons 
ascended the throne as Francis II. Against her she found 
two parties, each as strong as the crown— the Guises and the 
ultra-Catholics on the one hand, and the Protestants, under 
Henry of Navarre, on the other. She was not in favor oi 
the Protestants, but nevertheless entered into an alliance with 
them against the Guises until 1563, when she transferred 
her favor to the opposite side, allying herself with Spain and 
the Guise party, to exterminate the Huguenots, resulting in the 
Massacre of St. Bartholomew. This cruel and heartless 
woman, dominating her sons, Charles IX and Henry III, was 
virtually ruler of France, subtle and shifty in policy, which 
none the less served to carry France over a difficult period of 
Note 6. — Mary, Queen of Scots, only daughter of James V 
of Scotland and Mary of Guise, was born in Linlithgow Palace, 
while her father was on his deathbed, thus becoming queen 
when only a week old. All the more important years of her 
earlier life were spent in France, where she was educated with 
the royal children under the direction of Margaret, sister 
of Henry II. In 1558 she was married to the Dauphin, son 
of Catherine de' Medici, who came to the throne as Francis 
II, but who died two years later. Upon his death Mary re- 
turned to Scotland, where she married Lord Darnley in 1565. 
Soon, however, she became estranged from Darnley, and, 
coming under the influence of Bothwell, is said to have con- 
sented to the murder of her husband and the same year 
married his murderer, Bothwell, May 15, 1567. She was 
imprisoned and forced to abdicate, but finally escaped into 
England, where she was received by Queen Elizabeth with the 
hospitality of imprisonment. For Elizabeth remembered that 
upon the death of Mary Tudor, Mary Stuart had laid claim 
to the English crown, with sufficient justification. Fully 
nineteen years were spent by the unfortunate Mary as prisoner 
in various castles, until at last, in the spring of 1586. she was 
charged with having given her support to the Babington 
conspiracy against the life of Elizabeth, and was finally be- 
headed at Fotheringay, February 8, 1587. 'The Casket 
Letters," according to a declaration made by the Earl of 
Morton, afterward regent of Scotland, were found by him on 
June 20 1567, in a silver casket taken from a servant of 
Bothwell and examined before witnesses. The documents 
were- (1) an undated promise (in French) by Mary of 
marriage to Bothwell; (2) a marriage contract in Scotch, 
subscribed by Mary and Bothwell; (3) eight letters (in 
French) supposed to have been written by Mary to Both- 
well' and (4) a series of French sonnets. The letters and 
sonnets if genuine, implicate Mary ir. the murder of Darnley. 
Recent' investigations, however, seem to prove that these 

316 Notes on These Splendid Women 

letters were forgeries of her secretary, and the world is still 
left with a feeling of fond pity for the picturesque but un- 
fortunate queen, and inclined to applaud the remarkable de- 
fense of her good name by Algernon Swinburne. 

Note 7. — Maria Theresa was the daughter of the German 
Emperor Charles VI and was bom in Vienna in 1717. She 
married Francis of Lorraine, whom, when crowned her- 
self at Presburg in 1741, she nominated joint regent. Her 
succession, however, was challenged by Charles Albert of 
Bavaria, who, supported by the Elector of Saxony and the 
King of Prussia, as well as other European rulers, was pro- 
claimed Emperor in 1742 as Charles VII. Then Maria 
Theresa threw herself upon the generosity of the, Magyars, 
who supported her in the Wars of the Austrian Succession 
which followed, winning back her throne in 1748. She was 
also involved, later, in the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) 
with Frederick the Great, over Silesia. In 1772 she took part, 
with Frederick the Great and Catherine 11 of Russia, in the 
partition of Poland, acquiring Galicia. A woman feminine 
but capable, Maria Theresa was responsible for the insti- 
tution of many reforms in the army, in justice and education; 
she opened the ports of Trieste and Fiume to trade: she ex- 
pelled the Jesuits and confiscated much church property; and 
she also abolished legal torture. She was the mother of 
Joseph II and Leopold II, and of Marie Antoinette. She 
died in 1780. 

Note 8. — Madame de Pompadour was born in Paris in 1721. She 
was the mistress of Louis XV of France, who met her at 
a "bal masque" in 1745 and was captivated by her charms 
and established her at Versailles. He ennobled her that same 
year. "La Pompadour" became the center of a brilliant, 
intellectual and artistic circle, including Voltaire, Quesney, 
Boucher and Greuze. Louis, a mere puppet, gave her tre- 
mendous power. She made and unmade ministers, diplomats 
and generals. During the Seven Years' War France supported 
her hereditary enemy, Austria, merely because Maria Theresa 
had written a courteous letter to the Marquise de Pompadour, 
while Frederick the Great composed scandalous verses about 
her. There was one thing that is not so incidental : to Madame 
de Pompadour the credit has been given of starting the first 
"Little Theatre" movement. This she did with the worthy or 
unworthy purpose of keeping his royal highness's attention 
upon her ability as a woman of rare intellectual powers. 
She died in 1763. 

Note 9. — Charlotte Corday, a descendant of Pierre Comeille, 
was born in 1768. ^ Though of noble birth, she adopted with 
enthusiasm the principles of the revolution ; but its bloody 
excesses so filled her with horror that she determined to 
save her country from the monsters in power. The worst 

Notes on These Splendid Women 317 

of these was Marat, whom Charlotte Corday sought out with 
utmost tenacity and assassinated in his bathtub, July 3, 
. 1793. Four days later she paid the penalty, composedly, by 
the guillotine. She has been celebrated in verse and prose 
by Andre Chenier, Lamartine, Michelet and Ponsard, and 
in paintings by Scheffer and Baudry. Charlotte Corday 
had the courage of her convictions, a courage that made her 
commit a sin that must be, if her beloved France would be 
relieved of the monstrosities which the French revolution bore 

Note 10.— Catherine ii, Empress of Russia, daughter of a 
Prussian field marshal, was born at Stettin in 1729. She was 
selected by the Empress Elizabeth in 1745 as wife of the heir 
to the throne, whom she married. But when, upon his acces- 
sion in 1762, Peter III attempted to divorce her, she had the 
army and the clergy with her, and the Emperor was impris- 
oned and secretly murdered. Catherine succeeded to the throne 
(1762) and became sole ruler of all Russia. This remarkable 
woman governed her empire with great energy, instituting 
far-reaching reforms, acquiring new territory, and her reign 
is second only to that of Peter the Great in importance. 
Though a Prussian in origin, she was all for Russia, for 
Great Russia. But she was human to the extreme, and every 
bit a woman. Here are some interesting commandments 
she made which have recently been discovered in Leningrad: 
"(1) Leave your rank outside, as well as your hat, and es- 
pecially your sword. (2) Leave your right of precedence, 
your pride, and similar feeling, outside the door. (3) Be 
gay, but do not spoil anything; do not break or gnaw any- 
thing. (4) Sit, stand, walk as you will, without reference 
to anybody. (4) Talk moderately and not very loud, so as 
not to make the ears and heads of others ache. (6) Argue 
without anger and without excitement. (7) Neither sigh nor 
yawn, nor make anybody dull or heavy. (8) In all innocent 
games, whatever one proposes, let all join. (9) Eat what- 
ever is sweet and savory, but drink with moderation, so that 
each may find his legs upon leaving the room. (10) Tell 
no tales out of school ; whatever goes in at one ear must 
go out at the other before leaving the room." 

Note 11. — Florence Nightingale, the pioneer of trained army 
nursing, was born in 1820 and, after a quietly forceful life, 
died in 1910. When reports of the sufferings of the troops 
in Crimea reached England, she sailed, in October, 1854, with 
a staff of thirty-eight volunteer nurses for Scutari, where 
she toiled until the English troops left the region in July, 
1856. The feeling of the nation found expression in a gift 
of £50,000, with which Miss Nightingale founded a training 
home for nurses. The childhood story of her pity and care 
for an injured sheep-dog is the keynote of her kindly life, 
as brought out in this very intimate biography by Elizabeth 

The Splendid Books 

These volumes depict the dramatic and stirring events in 
the lives of men and women who by their singular qualities 
of greatness have left their impress on the history of the 
world. These interesting books are more distinguished for 
having been written by the great masters of literature. There 
is a new and interesting introduction for each volume. 

These Splendid Fighters 

This book presents a number of the world's outstanding figures 
— generals, statesmen, rulers, prophets, priests, founders of re- 
ligion — fighters all, of whom the author, Edward Gibbon, the 
great historian, has painted vivid :.nd distinguished portraits. Here 
we find Attila, the Hun ; Belisarius, the Invincible : Stilicho, the 
Vandal Governor of Rome; Athanasius, the Unyielding Priest; 
Mohammed, the Prophet; and Zingis Khan, the Mongol 

Thes^ Splendid Women 

History furnishes us with magnificent women characters. For 
this book have been selected a number of these eminent feminine 
figures whose lives, colorful and dramatic, are here portrayed 
brilliantly by master writers and biographers. These famous 
women are Cleopatra, Zenobia, Joan of Arc, Catherine de' Medici, 
Vittoria Colonna, Mary Queen of Scots, Maria Theresa, Ma- 
dame de Pompadour, Charlotte Corday, Catherine the Great, and 
Florence Nightingale. 

These Splendid Painters 

Intensely interesting are the vivid biographies in this book, 
because of the insight they give into the lives of men who have 
displayed the rarest genius. It attains the rank of a classic, for 
each account is written by Vasari, whose great fame rests upon 
his brilliant characterization of famous painters. Here are Giotto, 
Botticelli, Fra Filippo Lippi, Fra Giovanni da Fiesole, Leonardo 
da Vinci, Perugino. Correggio, Raphael, Andrea del Sarto, 
Michaelangelo, and Titian. 

These Splendid Rulers 

The Golden Ages of the World. Here we find emperors, kings, 
queens, chieftains, whose reigns were truly regal, and with quali- 
ties which were infinitely splendid. The stories of these glorious 
figures include Pericles, Augustus Caesar, Charlemagne, Ferdinand 
and Isabella, Lorenzo the Magnificent, Charles V, Queen Eliza- 
beth, Louis XIV, and Peter the Great. 
In Preparation 
These Splendid Pirates These Splendid Priests 

These Splendid Sailors These Splendid Pioneers 

These Splendid Soldiers These Splendid Explorers 

Other Titles to Follou;.