Page images


not to perceive. The topics of the day were discussed ; the Tencins had recently received letters from Spain, which enabled them to amuse their guest with the latest details respecting the disgrace of the Princess d’Ursians. The visitor was able to elucidate the narrative, by relating the scandals circulated in Paris against the Duke of Orleans. Claudine, as if she had some secret foresight of her future destiny, took a lively interest in the anecdotes told of that licentious prince, and was not quite so much shocked as might have been expected from her secluded education.

After some time, it was proposed that the gentleman should visit the gardens, accompanied by Claudine and her two sisters, the eldest of whom was only ten years of age.

In this promenade the conquest was pleted; the mother, who watched from the windows, though she could not hear the conversation, easily learned, from the cavalier's animated gestures, that his heart was won.

Chandennier was an ardent lover: he frequently repeated his visits to the De Tencins, sent them presents of game, but could not be induced to make a formal proposal of marriage. Evil tongues soon began to propagate scandal. At a later period, such attentions might have passed unnoticed, but at this period the piety and pru. dery of Madame de Maintenon reigned supreme-the ladies of the provinces, aping the manners of Versailles, had three confessors a-piece, read nothing but homilies, and were quite convinced that society was threatened with total ruin by the profane levity of the rising generation. The young men of Gre. noble observed that Chandennier seemed to have forgotten the journey to Paris, for which he was at first so eager ; his repeated rural excursions gave rise to suspicion ; and with the usual charity of provincial gossip, it was speedily decided that Claudine had fallen a victim to vanity and temptation.

The tale reached the ears of the abbess of the Augustinian nuns at Montfleury, who was distantly related to the family; she came to the castle, and informed Claudine and her mother of the ca. lamnies which had been propagated. While the ladies were discussing this delicate subject, Chandennier made his


Claudine overwhelmed him with reproaches, until he offered to silence scandal by immediately making her his wife. Though this had been the great object of her arts and hopes, she could not resist the way. wardness of her temper: she declared that the lover should endure the penance of three months' delay, which she would spend in a convent; and she insisted that the abbess should carry her off to Montfleury within the hour. Remonstrances were in vain. Claudine, however, feeling that she had been a little hasty, informed her lover, that if she had reason to be satisfied with his conduct, she would abridge the period of his penance.

Chandennier's self-love was wounded by such caprice ; his friends in Grenoble jested him on having been the dupe of a village coquette. Claudine soon perceived that his attachment was cooling, and, in order to revive it, she pretended to have imbibed a taste for conventual life ; and when he spoke to her of his heart, she answered with pious disquisitions on the state of her soul. In imagination she had constructed a romance, of which she hoped to be the heroine. A true lover in her view, so far from being daunted by obstacles, ought rather to be roused to exertion by every new difficulty. He ought to be prepared to escalade walls, to burst bars, to storm the cloister, to tear his mistress from the altar, and even if she had pronounced conventual vows, to fly with her to Rome, and wrest a dispensation from the Pope, by dint of tears and supplications. Unfortunately while poetry and romance led the lady in one direction, prose and reality conducted the gentleman in the very opposite. His ambia tious hopes returned; he remembered his resolution to seek for a wealthy wife, and recollected that Claudine had no fortune ; he thought that a rustic beauty ought to have been more grateful for the proffer of his purse and person; and he could not comprehend Claudine's high-flown sentimentality. Finally, Chandennier became weary of the romance : he wrote her a letter, in which he showed that he clearly understood the nature of the farce which she was playing, declared that he would no longer be her dupe, and bade her farewell in cold and cutting terms.


To escape

Having gratified his self-love by this the heart than solitude and weari, petty vengeance, the gentleman proceeded to Paris, where successful am- “ Who, in the name of wonder, is bition soon healed the pangs of mor- this little chatterer?" asked the surtified vanity. He obtained high office prised but mollified archbishop. in the court, married the daughter of “I am sister Claudine, my lord, a wealthy financier, and eventually formerly Mademoiselle de Tencin. I became the minister of Louis XV., received the veil from you some few with the title of Marquis de Roche- months ago, though a very wealthy chouart.

and noble

gentleman proffered me his This rupture grievously disappoint- heart and hand." ed Claudine ; she dreaded to face the Lecamus was a better theologian reproaches of her mother, and the than logician ; he quoted the rules of laughter of the world.

the order, and several long passages both, she loudly proclaimed that she from St. Augustine, to all of which had refused Chandennier, in order to Claudine replied by clever appeals to devote herself to heaven. All the his feelings, until at length the arch. pious people in the province declared bishop compromised the matter, by that they were edified by such a sacri- permitting the nuns to retain their fice.

The news reached Paris, and freedom, on condition of giving up was the theme of conversation in the their guitars and mandolines, and saloons of Madame de Maintenon; banishing romances from their li. and her profession was made in the brary. presence of all the clergy and nobles Before leaving Montfleury, the archof the south of France.

bishop, however, warned Claudine that The beautiful nun became the rage; he would hold her responsible, if any the parlour of the convent became scandalous consequences followed from the centre of attraction for all the the liberties he had conceded. She pious and all the fashionable in Gre- replied — noble and its vicinity; the devout and “My lord, it would not be just to the dissipated flocked thither together. condemn me for any such result. The The nuns were delighted, and the ab- dæmon is artful and crushing ; should bess, who was rather short-sighted, he derive any advantage from your believed that her convent was about kindness, we will console ourselves to sanctify the whole kingdom.

with the reflection, that worse results There was, however, some envious might have followed from anger and people who thought that such scenes severity. Pray for us, that we may were not consistent with conventual not be led into temptation." propriety. They represented the state Lecamus was quite won over ; he of the convent to Lecamus, the arch- left the convent without pronouncing bishop of the diocese. One day, when a word of censure; and when any of mirth and gallantry were at their his more austere brethren remonhighest in the parlour, the door was strated, he replied, “We must leave suddenly thrown open, and the grave the poor young ladies a little liberty. prelate stood in the midst of the as- I know that they will not make a bad tonished assembly. The crowd dis- use of it. There is amongst them a persed in an instant. Claudine com- youthful model of innocence and virtue, prehended the crisis, and stood her who has pledged herself for the conground by the side of the abbess. Be. duct of the rest.” fore the archbishop could complete The worthy archbishop bad formed a sentence she said:

a friendship for Claudine, as warm as “ My lord, I am the only person his age, dignity, and sacred profession here deserving censure or punishment. allowed. He visited Montfleury more The abbess and nuns treat me as a frequently than any other convent in spoiled child. They think that I, who his diocese; he showed a marked predespised gallantry when I mixed in

ference for the sparkling conversation the giddy circles of fashionable life, of his lively favourite ; he sanctioned can fear no danger when sheltered by the amusements which she patrouised the sanctity of these walls. Believe by his presence ; and lightened the peme, holy father, that freedom of con- nances for slight breaches of convenversation is far less likely to corrupt tual discipline at her solicitation. This

influence with the archbishop render- into shepherdesses ; but though he was ed Claudine all-powerful with the sis- present, and has left a very amusing terhood; she was, in fact, allowed the account of the pastoral sports, he has entire direction of the convent. omitted some 'incidents, which we

At this period, “ Fontenelle's Ec- hasten to supply from other sources. logues" had spread a passion for the The repast was served under an arimaginary sentimentalism of pastoral bour of trellis-work, commanding an life throughout France ; in every rank extensive view of the gardens; a casof life persons were anxious to become cade fell into a marble basin at the shepherds and shepherdesses—to dis- extremity of the parterre, and the percuss the mysteries of love when they spective was completed by a grove of led their focks to pasture, and to linden-trees, ingeniously cut into the recite pastoral odes under the shade form of umbrellas. After the feast, of the wide-spreading beech. Fon- which was attended by negro servants, tenelle himself happening to come to a rustic quadrille was danced, in which Grenoble, was introduced at Mont- the host took a conspicuous part, and fleury, and, with the sanction of the the company then, separating into archbishop, he presented a copy of his groups, promenaded through the pastorals to the innocent nuns. The park, enlivened by a concert of indelicious poetry turned their brains ; strumental music. Claudine was the they regretted the vows which con- heroine of the entertainment; she and fined them to a cloister, instead of Destouches discussed the mysteries of leading their flocks to pasture ; and pastoral and Platonic love until sunthey bought a pet sheep, which they set, when the fireworks having engaged soon crammed to death with sweet- general attention, they turned into a meats.

sbady walk, to indulge their interIn the neighbourhood of the con- change of sentiment more freely. Senvent lived a young landed proprietor, timent soon gave place to warmer M. Destouches, who was seized with emotions ; Claudine forgot her habits the pastoral mania more strongly than of negation at the moment they would the nuns themselves. He roamed have been most useful to her-she and through the fields dressed as a shep- M. Destouches became more than herd, reading or reciting favourite poetic lovers, and vowed eternal atpassages from Fontenelle; and some. tachment to each other. times his voice penetrated into the In needs not to tell how often M. convent, and brought a response of Destouches escaladed the walls of the poetry from the amiable Claudine. convent, and how he encountered M. Destouches was soon introduced at nightly dangers to visit his shepherdess Montfleury, and became the most fa- in her monastic cell. The natural youred visitor of the parlour.

consequences followed— Claudine felt At this crisis, Louis XIV. died, and that she was about to become a mother, the profligate follies of the regency and she resolved to confide to Archcommenced. The relaxation of morals bishop Lecamus the secret of her was felt throughout France, and M. situation. It is easier to conceive Destouches was permitted to give a than to describe the surprise and pastoral fête, ending with a display of horror of the worthy prelate. But fireworks, to the nuns of Montfleury, Claudine retained her influence over on his own estate. The announce- him ; she induced him to inform Fonment of this feast produced some tenelle of the prosaic consequences excitement in the province: remon- produced by the influence of his poe. strances were addressed by a few de. try, and to exert himself to procure a votees to Archbishop Lecamus, but he dispensation from the pope. Clement could discover no danger in pastorals. XI. was an admirer of Fontenelle; he His secretary, the Jesuit Bougeaut, was also anxious to gain literary supwas equally unsuspicious; and he has port in France, where the controversy recorded in his correspondence, with respecting the bull Unigenitus was great complacency, that the entertain. then raging. Claudine was named a ment took place on Easter Monday, canoness in the Chapter of Neuville, 1716. The worthy Father Bougeaut near Lyons, an office which exonerated dwells with great unction on the inno. her from her vows of poverty and cent enjoyment of the nuns travestied obedience, but left her bound to chas.

tity, for which she had herself assumed introduced Claudine to his friends. the power of dispensation. After Fontenelle, who had been interested having taken possession of her pre- in her past history, and had some hope bend, Claudine retired to a small vil. of winning her favours, laboured to lage near Grenoble, where, on the 2d bring her into fashion. She was in. of January, 1717, she gave birth to a troduced to Law just as the Regent son,who received the name of D'Alem- was about to place that celebrated bert, from a small estate settled on Scotchman at the head of the finances, him by his father. It is scarcely and it was at her instigation that Law necessary to add, that this boy subse- consented to embrace the Catholic quently attained European celebrity, religion, and to ascribe the honour of as the great mathematician, D'Alem- his conversion to her brother, the bert, one of the most eminent of the Abbé de Tencin. She was soon inEncyclopedist philosophers, and Fon- vited to the brilliant assemblies at the tenelle's successor as perpetual secre- Palais Royal, and after several failures, tary to the French Academy. After at length succeeded in attracting the a short time, she received evidence attention of the Regent. He had paid that M. Destouches was a faithless her but little attention when she was lover, and this, united to some mater- first introduced at court, and only nonal advice which her mother is said to ticed her when his friends, casually have given shortly before her death, discussing the beauties of a court-ball, induced the pastoral canoness to set awarded the preference to Madame de out for Paris, with the determined Tencin. He declared his passion, and purpose of captivating the heart of the was not allowed to languish in doubt. Regent.

Fontenelle, who half-persuaded himself At the time when the canoness de that he was in love with Claudine, vi. Tencin set out for Paris, the extrava- sited her one morning ; the carriage gance of the regency was at its height. was at the door, and the lady dressed A fever of dissipation had turned every in her most alluring style. He spoke brain ; parties of pleasure were blend- of love, and was ridiculed ; he asked ed with parties in politics, and amorous to be her companion in her drive, and intrigues were conjoined with treason- was rejected. As she had shown him able conspiracies. The Regent, to se- some attention the day before, he was cure leisure for his criminal indul- both surprised and displeased; but the gences, had entrusted the entire admi

mystery was explained when he heard nistration to Cardinal Dubois; and the her command to the coachman. cardinal, or abbé, as he was at this pe- “ Drive to the Palais Royal, and riod, dividing his time between de- set me down at the private entrance." bauchery and the secret police, allowed The Regent, at first, exhibited large arrears of business to accumu- greater steadiness of attachment to late, which he frequently cleared off by Claudine than he had ever manifested burning the despatches without read. to any of his former mistresses. She be. ing them. The sun rose on the unex- lieved that her fortune was fixed, when tinguished tapers in the Palais Royal ; Orleans publicly installed her as his the Regent's daughter maintained the mistress, and she hoped to acquire the state of a queen, and the habits of a same influence in the state as a Moncourtesan in the Luxembourg; the tespan or a Maintenon. She did not city was as profligate as the court. know the Regent; as inconstant as he Songs, suppers, and assignations made was profligate, he parted from a misthe entire sum of life. The re-action tress with as little scruple as he against the hypocritical severity of changed bis coat; and trained to form Madaine de Maintenon's regime was the most contemptuous opinion of the greater than that which took place in fair sex, he dreaded nothing on earth England when the profligacy of the so much as a female politician. ClauRestoration superseded the stern reign dine hoped to overcome his inveterate of Puritanism. Every one lived in the indolence-to induce him to take an midst of excitement; nothing like active part in the affairs of state, and quiet or repose could be found in the to convert her boudoir into a miniscourt or the country.

terial saloon. Her brother, the abbé, who had One day when the Regent visited already made some progress in life, her at her toilette, she reproached him

with his indolence, his disregard for evidence esisted against him, the Abbé glory, and his neglect of the duties of de Tencin offered to deny the charge on his station. Orleans in vain endea. oath ; but, as he rose for the purpose, voured to turn her from the subject by La Vassière's advocate produced the witty replies ; but at length worn out, contract of sale in Tencin's own handhe ordered his servants to throw open writing, and thus at once convicted him the doors, and to admit the entire cir- of simony and perjury. It required all cle of his profligate compaions. Clau- the power of Dubois to shield his fadine, half dressed, hid herself behind a vourite from the consequences of the screen, but the Regent threw down the double crime ; and he would probably screen, and sarcastically introduced have failed, had not the Abbé de Tenher to his companions as “a female cin succeeded in purchasing powerful Plato, peculiarly suited to become a protection at Rome, with the money professor in the University, or the given him to procure a cardinal's hat tutor of any ambitious youth who for Dubois. He also persuaded the wished to combine love with politics, Pope that his aid was necessary to and sentimentality with statistics, add- maintain the authority of the Bull ing that he had already received enough Unigenitus ; his adversary, La Vasof her lessons, and would recommend sière, was known to favour the liberher to seek another pupil.”

ties of the Gallican Church ; and at Claudine, though bitterly mortified, Rome, as in the court of Louis XIV., lost neither her wit nor her presence Jansenism was deemed a worse crime of mind. Assuming a high tone, she than Atheism, while Jesuitism was sternly reproved the Regent for the deemed a sufficient apology for all the gross insult he had offered her, and vices. declared that vice had become so con- Claudine was exposed to a more singenial to him, as to render him intole- gular danger. Among those who rant of the presence of any virtue. sought to win her favours was a counThen, having made a formal reverence cillor of the royal court, named Lafresto the company, she retired with as naye, who spared no expense to win much composure as if she had been a her affections. Although she gave him spectator, not an actor in the scene.

no encouragement, he continued his On the stairs she met Dubois, the Re. exertions until he had exhausted all gent's powerful favourite ; to him she his fortunes, and he then presented briefly related what had just happen himself to her with the strange deed; Dubois at once proposed to her to mand that she should consent to share take revenge by becoming his mis- his poverty as his mistress. On her tress, assuring her that he would en- refusal, he projected a terrible revenge; able her to govern France in spite of presenting himself to her one evening the Regent. The bargain was soon when she was alone, he repeated his concluded, Claudine placed herself un- demand, and, on her refusal, fired a der the protection of Dubois, and was pistol into his breast. The servants permitted to enjoy a large share of the rushed into the room at the sound of ministerial authority. Her first care the report, and the dying man declared was to provide for her brother ; he that he had been assassinated by Clauwas entrusted with the delicate mis. dine. On this charge she was sent to sion of procuring a cardinal's bat for the Bastile, and detained a prisoner for the impious and profligate Dubois, and several weeks. Her innocence, howhis success was rewarded by the rich ever, was generally recognised, and archbishopric of Embrun, which luck- she was discharged without ever havily fell vacant only a few days before ing been subjected to the disgrace of a the death of his patron.

trial. Fontenelle made great exertions The scandal of this unworthy ap- to obtain Claudine's liberation ; in pointment was increased by an inci- fact, he was himself interested in the dent which took place just before the charge for the suicide stated as the abbé undertook the mission to Rome. chief cause of her hatred that he had He was accused of simony before the surprised her in the arms of the philoparliament, by La Vassière, whom he sopher some months before. This was had deceived by exaggerating the strenuously denied both by Fontenelle amount of revenue from the benefice and the lady, and it is not a very prowhich he sold him. Believing that no bable tale. Fontenelle was at this

« PreviousContinue »