« VorigeDoorgaan »
de Genlis is tediously fond of omitting to which (to use the words of Madame de give the dates of the events recorded, Genlis) " had not only passed away, but though she never tries to falsify her age. was effaced.” If the vanity which she She could not have been more than four-carried into every detail of life makes a teen when she declined the offer of a M. lasting and disagreeable impression on us, de Monville, “having determined only to it does not do away with the fact that she marry a man of rank, belonging to the was a keen observer and a lively writer. court; in preference to anyone else, I Indeed, as Grimm remarks, she was, alshould have fixed on M. de Popelinière,” though not a profound critic, well versed she remarks," in spite of his being a in the surface movements of society, and farmer-general and an old man; but he has contrived (he is alluding particularly had won my admiration, whereas I felt to “ Adèle et Théodore ") to hit off the nothing warmer than esteem for M. de manners of the day without caricaturing Mooville." Her capacity for imagining them. all men to be in love with her continued As every one is acquainted with the through most of her life. “Custom did main facts of this strange woman's career, not stale its infinite variety;"nor did the this article will deal chiefly with the sidefact that (in later days) some of her ador. lights thrown by her on the little daily ers might have been her grandsons make fashions and habits that never lose their much difference; yet an occasional gleam interest even for the most philosophic; of common sense breaks through her inor-what time our ancestors had their dinner, dioate egotism. She notes (and it is a what clothes they wore, and similar items sign of grace) that her governess openly of foolishness. makes fun of the flatterers who compare
If Madame de Genlis's own account of her to Clairon; and remarks of her own her bringing-up before her marriage is accord that, anxious though all the world true, she is a remarkable example of a may be to listen to her harp-playing, her woman who has learnt from experience, mother is still more unduly anxious to and has contrived, even among the incesthrust her accomplishments on the public. sant claims of society, to repair her par.
It is not easy to tell how far the eight ents' neglect in the matter of education. volumes of memoirs published in 1825 At six she set forth with her mother to can really be trusted to give an accurate Paris, where she spent a few dismal weeks. account of the events recorded in them. After she had had two teeth taken out (the Amid the most adverse circumstances, history of children is always the same), Madame de Genlis kept a journal all “they put a pair of stiff whalebone stays through her life; but when, the Revolu- on me, and imprisoned my feet in tight tion drawing on, she left France, to wan- shoes, which preveoted me from walking: der for years from country to country with They rolled my hair in curl papers, and I Mlle. d'Orléaos, she handed over her wore for the first time a panier. To cure precious volumes to her daughter, Ma- my provincial air, an iron collar was fas. dame de Valence. As Madame de Va- tened round my neck; and, as I squinted leoce was soon after committed to prison, a little, the moment I woke, pair of spec. the journals, among other things, were tacles was placed on my nose, and these hopelessly lost; and all that remained of I was not allowed to move for four hours. the original documents was a volume that Finally, to my great surprise, I was given Madame de Genlis had taken with her. a master to teach me how to walk (which She assures us that the contents were so I thought I knew before), and I was for. engraven on her memory by repeated bidden to run, or to jump, or to ask readings to her friends that she was able questions.” The private baptism of her to re-write them exactly; but (as in the infancy was supplemented by a public case of Madame de Rémusat, with a sim. ceremony, and then her woes were partly ilar misfortune) it is impossible not to feel forgotten in the delight of fêtes, and the misgivings that, although the facts may glory of her first opera. This was “Roremain unchanged, the point of view may land le Furieux ;” and she was fortunate have varied, and events that have been enough to hear Chassé, the singer who written down as they occurred at twenty five years later was ennobled "on account will take a very different complexion at of his voice and his beautiful style.”. Un. sixty.
like his comrades, he had some notion of Still, take it how you will, these me. modulation. moirs that she produced in 1812 throw an Modern mothers will exclaim with hor. interesting and curious light on the occu- ror at the notion of taking their children pations and amusements of a century to theatres at the age of six; but, in the
first place, music was the one genuine | self came out before she was fourteen, passion of Madame de Genlis's life; and, and she is by no means a solitary example. in the second, spectacles began at a much At any rate, at thirteen, Félicité had les. earlier hour than they do now. People sons (at 6 A.M.), from the celebrated Peiledined at two; and the Comédie Française grini in singing, and in accompaniment was supposed to draw up its curtaic about from the composer Philidor. She learnt five, so that the audience were able to pay the musette and the viola, besides the evening visits or go out to supper after clavecin and guitar; and for a whole year the performance was over, before making had such a passion for the barp that she ready for a bal de l'opéra. Still, it is note. practised it daily for seven hours, someworthy that in this matter, as in regard to times continuing even for ten or twelve. dress, the theory insisted on by Madame When about sixteen, she was living with de Genlis was quite different from the her mother in a convent, and immense practice of her youth. Her model chil. crowds assembled in church to hear her dren have their limbs free, and may ask as play the harp. many questions as they choose.
They After all these years of Paris in the are brought up in the country far from winter and country-house visiting in the parade or ostentation of any sort, — in- summer — their income during part of the deed, so far from Paris that they may not time was nominally six hundred francs even hear of such things; and if their bed- the epoch of Félicité's marriage arrived. time is considerably later than we should Her father had made acquaintance with think desirable, at least it is much earlier M. de Genlis at Launceston, whither both than that of Félicité herself. In fact, Ma- had been carried as English prisoners dame de Genlis's views of bringing up one on his way from St. Domingo, the children are a severe reflection on the other from India and China. M. de Gen. training her own mother had bestowed; lis had served for fourteen years with perpetual visiting, eternal plays, incessant distinction in the navy, which did not in declamation. What wonder that the child the least prevent his being one of twentygrew up to consider herself a marvel, - four colonels of Grenadiers, and (after his what wonder, either, that she was eo marriage) joining his regiment. Before chanted to exchange the iron collar and that event, however, M. de St. Aubin died whalebone stays for Cupid's pink satin of low fever; and eighteen months later frock covered with point lace and sprin- his wife married a man whom her daughkled with artificial flowers, and to put on ter had refused. Delicacy was not the disthe yellow and silver boots and blue wings? tinguishing characteristic of those times. The costume seems hardly suitable for This may be gathered from the fact that muddy country lanes; yet she wore out the marriage of M. de Genlis had to be many such garments, and next jumped to performed secretly, because he had althe other extreme in a boy's dress, which lowed his uncle, M. de Puisieux, to arrange was the most comfortable and sensible an alliance for him with another lady, and thing she had yet worn, and enabled her lacked the courage to inform either of to move about to her heart's content and them of his change of plans. leap over ditches. She had no education The young couple were not rich; but, in the common sense of the word. Her as in modern days, the amount of their governess, Mlle de Mars, who came when income (twelve thousand francs) seemed Félicité was quite a little thing, was a to make very little difference. No one good musician; but she read nothing with appeared to take life seriously, and they her pupil beyond Mlle. Scudery's ro passed their time in inventing elaborate mances, and Mlle Barbier's plays. In the (and costly) diversions. “Dressing-up to morning the child sang, danced, and amuse Byog's aunt” was an entertainment fenced; by way of recreation, she made that never failed. Endless are the histo. artificial flowers, and practised four hours ries of these mystifications. They induced daily on the clavecin, the guitar, and the one unfortunate man, the Duc de Civrac, harp.
to lie perdu in a garret for twenty-four One cannot help speculating as to hours after his arrival from Vienna, in whether in those days children matured order to produce him at the proper mophysically at an earlier age than they do ment, in a fête they were preparing for M. now. How is it possible to explain the de Puisieux's birthday. They carry on a hours that girls then devoted to singing mystification played upon a house-painter when they were twelve or thirteen, and the for eight months, and go through elaborate extraordinary youth of many of the débu- ceremonies, in which they persuade the tantes at the Opera? Sophie Arnould her- poor fool that he is created a grandee of
Spain; and, strange to say, the deception / village (bleeding is among her accomplishis kept up not only by the Genlis family ments); and acts plays in odd moments. themselves, but by the servants and vil. It is easy to see that she is not greatly lagers. It is seldom indeed that practical pleased with the fuss that is made over jokes have any real humor; but consider- her young sister-in-law, the marquise, for able fun was got out of Madame de Gen- she never loses a chance of having a fling lis's first introduction to Rousseau. Some at her. Indeed, the art of “praising the weeks before, M. de Sauvigny had given charms" of " a sister," or of anybody else, her to understand that her husband in- was not one of the many in which Madame tended passing off on her Préville the de Genlis excelled. The delight and asactor for Rousseau himself. Having once perity with which she records the failures made this project, M. de Genlis thought of all who attempt to vie with her, in parno more about it; and when one day ticular of her young aunt, Madame de Rousseau was announced, she received Montesson, whom she declares that she him in a jaunty, off-hand manner, chattered loves “almost to madoess," are surprisand laughed, played and sang, and alto-ing. Like Alexander, she would reign, gether showed in her conduct little of the and she would reign alone, and no attempt reverence due to a philosopher. Her hus- to interfere with her sovereignty is allowed band watched her in astonishment, and to go unpunished. According to her own when Rousseau had departed, inquired view, she is a quiet and unobtrusive per. how she could have gone on like that. son, and could with difficulty be roused to “Oh," she answered, "you didn't suppose bear any part in what was going on. “Up that I should be so simple as to take Pré- to this time," she writes, when relating ville for Rousseau?” “ Préville ?” “Yes; her visit to the Prince de Conti's lovely no one could have done it better, except property called l’lle d'Adam, -"up to that, of course, he ought not to have been this time I was only known by my harp so genial and good-humored.” Rousseau, and my face. I had always kept silence however, bore no malice; and they were when in company, and my reserve and quite good friends till the inevitable quar- timidity augured ill for my conversation." rel came.
One evening, however, it was suggested It is to Madame de Genlis's credit that that she and two gentlemen should act a she resented being considered a “fine proverbe. It was a prodigious success, lady;" but she took some singular means and all the ladies were crazy to act pra of vindicating herself from the aspersion. verbes. Therefore a series of entertainImmediately after her marriage she and ments, in which Madame de Montesson her husband were staying with the Mar- and Madame de Sabran had parts, were quis de Genlis in his château, and they all arranged. Alas !" they played not even went fishing in the lakes. Irritated by passably, but ridiculously, and, becoming some badinage as to “ Paris manners, aware of their failure, lost their tempers she picked up a live fish the length of her and were very cross. Madame de Sabran finger and swallowed it whole. It did not cried with rage, and henceforth was my choke her; but she was punished for the enemy. I have made many from equally pasty trick by the horrible fear, which frivolous causes.' possessed her for many months, that the The naiveté of this last remark is deli. fish was alive and would grow.
cious. The words could only have been The custom of ladies following the drum uttered by a person without a grain of was not considered correct in the last humor. But then humor is a wonderful century. Thus, when M. de Genlis was specific against vanity, and is the best occupied by garrison duties, his wife preservative against making oneself ridiceither retired into a convent or stayed ulous. Madame de Genlis had none of it, with some elderly relative. It was at and rambles complacently on, narrating these times that she began to improve her own triumphs at the expense of every herself. She spent her days in reading one else. This aunt, Madame de Mon. Roman History, Madame de Sévigné, the tesson, plays a great part in her life. “ Lettres Provinciales,” Marivaux, and They are always quarrelling and always other authors, while she learnt cooking and " inaking it up;” but, whatever terms embroidery from the nuns. On her hus. they may be on at the moment, Madame band's return to his brother's house of de Genlis never loses an opportunity of Genlis, near St. Quentin, they amuse telling tales to her discredit." She is furithemselves as before. She takes to riding, ous with Madame de Montesson for beand “becomes very clever at it;” is taught coming the morganatic wife of the Duke billiards, reversi, and picquet; doctors the of Orleans (father of Philippe Egalité),
and scoffs at her pretensions to being an According to her own story, Madame author and a bel esprit, declaring that she de Geolis was not at all a favorite with the was “ so ignorant all round, she could members of this little court. Still, satisnever have written her plays without Le-fied with the approbation of the duke and febvre's help," and that “ the few clever duchess, she kept as much as possible to bits in them were stolen straight from her own rooms, and busied herself with Marivaux.” “I was her dupe in nothing,” her books and her music. Then the she continues. “When you once have Opera-house was accessible by a covered the key to an artificial character, it is way from the Palais Royal, and she coneasily understood, because there is not a stantly attended the rehearsals of Gluck's movement but what is calculated." These operas, which Gluck was conducting him. remarks, deliberately written down to be self. Twice a week, too, he made a point read to the friends of the person who is of coming to her rooms and hearing her the object of them, and afterwards to be sing and play the harp. She never suffered printed, are not genial; but there is worse anything to interfere with her music, and behind. Seventeen years later, à propos practised every evening for two hours. of the marriage of her own daughter Pul- When the twin princesses were eleven chérie, she calmly says that it is univer- months old (one of them died at five years) sally reported that Madame de Mootesson, they were handed over entirely to her care, then a widow, was in love with the bride and she retired with them to a house not groom, M. de Valence, but that she (Ma. far from the Palais Royal, called Belledame de Genlis) had reassured herself by Chasse. Whatsoever Madame de Genlis's arguing that, even if M. de Valence had faults may have been, she was oot lacking been the lover of a woman much older in energy. She regulated the minutest than himself, his marriage with a pretty details of the establishment, so as to congirl of seventeen would put an end to all duct it on economical principles; she cal. that; and as for the dot of two hundred culated the amount of every kind of food thousand francs which she permitted a necessary for the day's consumption, and friend to beg from Madame de Montes- even knew the current prices of the marson, she contents herself with observing ket. While the children were young, she that in reality it is not Pulchérie to whom had more time to devote to her literary it is given, but M. de Valence himself. work, and published her first volume of
Madame de Genlis would have been the “ Théâtre d'Education," which made very much surprised if she had been told " a perfect rage" for her, and sorely ex. that in all this she appears infinitely more cited Madame de Montesson's jealousy. culpable than the person she is abusing ; In our judgment the enthusiasm seems yet this is probably the impression that somewhat misplaced. “The Death of will be left on the minds of most of her Adam," " The Return of Tobias,” “ Agar readers. She was twenty-four when she in the Desert” (a comedy), and similar was nominated lady-in-waiting to the Du- works, gain nothing by being transplanted chesse de Chartres, afterwards Duchesse from their original setting and converted d'Orléans, with a salary of four thousand into dramas. The other volumes are secfrancs, while her busband was made cap- ular; but, although the actors express tain of the Guards, with six thousand. themselves in a natural way, they are At that time the society of the Palais moral stories rather than plays, and, as Royal was the most brilliant and witty in such, not likely to attract children. Paris. Ill-breeding, or any flagrant scan.
At this time Madame de Genlis was dal, shut the door inexorably; but neither thirty-one, and, in compliance with a vow, a spotless life nor a shining gift of any had left off rouge at the very age when sort was indispensable. As long as people most women would feel inclined to take to had good manners, and were rich and it. Her life at Belle-Chasse for the next pretty, they might find their way in; and thirteen or fourteen years was very quiet; dévotes, prudes, and coquettes of all kinds but she declares it was the happiest time were to be met with on opera nights, when of her existence. She never went into any one who had once been presented society at all; but she saw her immediate might drop in to supper. On the other friends and relations every evening for evenings of the week the circle was se- two hours, and the general public once a lect. The ladies sat round a table with week, from 6 till 9.30. She soon had a their embroidery frames, or heaps of gold perfect little academy; for her mother fringes to "drizzle or unravel; and the (now a widow for the second time) and her gentlemen sat behind and joined in the two daughters lived with her, while the conversation.
English nurses of the princesses were supplemented, when the children were selves. To be properly carried out, too, it five, by the arrival from England of Pa- requires a great deal of money, a large mela. Every one knows that Pamela was house, and an absolute isolation and self. believed to be the child of Philippe Ega- sacrifice on the part of the teachers. Pri. lité and Madame de Genlis herself, and vate people would have to think of some this belief is strengthened by the elaborate easier (aod cheaper) method of teaching and highly improbable account given by their children history than hanging their Madame de Geolis of the baby's parent. rooms with tapestries representing charage, and still more emphatically by the acters and events, or with a series of welcome subsequently bestowed on the instructive pictures painted in gouache. girl by her mother-in-law, the Duchess of They would not be always able to afford Leioster. Whosoever she was, Pamela several personal attendants of every nawas certainly a fascinating little person, tionality, nor would most boys enjoy havhorribly careless over her lessons, and ing a German valet to accompany them in gaining the hearts of all who knew her. their walks. The games in the garden By aod by the circle was joined by two games of adventures and shipwrecks – relations of Madame de Geolis, her cousin would be very popular; and so would the Henriette de Sercey, aod her brother's portable theatre, though we could have orphan boy; and then came the supreme wished them something more lively to moment of her life, when she was requested act than the “Théâtre d'Education," of by the duke to take the entire charge of which new volumes were always appearhis three sons, the eldest of whom, the ing. If they “talked io German," they Duc de Valois, was only eight.
diped in English” and “ supped in Ital. The appointment of a woman as gov. ian;" and at odd moments they studied ernor naturally excited a good deal of botany and chemistry and painted in mirth at Versailles; but in the end society gouache. When in Paris, they all worked was satisfied. It must be said that Ma. at trades; and on one occasion there was dame de Geolis did not spare herself. an exhibition at the Louvre of the Russia She exercised her functions wisely and leather cases, baskets, tools, wardrobes, well; exercised them, too, without accept- and other things, entirely made by the ing a penny more of salary than what she Orleans children. In their leisure hours received for Mlle. d'Orléans. She had they visited museums, galleries, and man. absolute control over their teachers, and factories, and any other places worth kept a journal of all their lessons and seeing. They were even brought up hours, which she arranged with the utmost from St. Leu to Paris, by their enthusicare. The princes got up at 7 A.M. They astic governess, in order that they might slept at the Palais Royal, and were taught watch from Beaumarchais' Garden the Latio and sums till eleven. They were crowd assembling for the taking of the then taken to Belle-Chasse, and at two Bastille. they all dined. After dinder the tutors Amidst all this practical teaching, the left, and she undertook the children her- claims which society would have upon self till nine, when the tutors returned, them were not forgotten. Dancing was and after supper the boys were conveyed taught them by Dauberval of the Opera; home to bed. These seem long hours ; every Saturday they "received" at Bellebut in the country, where they all passed Chasse; and once a week, after the eldest eight months of the year, they may have was twelve, they were taken to the Franbeen rather shorter. Some of the lessons çais. They learned to swim. They were - history, literature, and mythology taught to bleed, and to dress wounds; in Madame de Genlis gave herself. Her first acquiring which arts they practised on the experience of teaching M. de Valois can poor at the Hôtel Dieu. It is possible hardly be called encouraging. She turned they were not more clumsy than many round in the midst of recouoting some medical students. exciting deed of his ancestors, to find him It is amazing that with all this Madame yawning and stretching himself, and finally de Geolis managed to give up so much throwing himself at full length on the sofa time to her writing; but she produced with his feet on the table! Punishment many books, most of which were on the promptly followed, and the offence was education of her pupils. Of these “ Adèle never repeated.
et Théodore” (highly commended by Her plan of education (practically the Grimm for its grace, style, and seose. same as that described in "Adèle et Théo-though most of the ideas had been apricidore") seems very sensible; only, the pated by Locke and Rousseau) is the children were hardly left enough to them. I best known, and even now is not at all