Chateaubriand's memoirs, XV, 5

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Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XV- Chapter 5
The Funeral



Paris

Ordinarily, those who weep can indulge their tears in peace, others being charged with attending to the requirements of religion: as the representative of France, on behalf of the Cardinal and Minister who was then absent; and as the sole friend of Monsieur de Montmorin’s daughter, and responsible to her family, I was obliged to see to everything: I had to select the place of burial, arrange the size and depth of the grave, order the shroud, and give the carpenter the dimensions of the coffin.

Two monks watched by this coffin, which was to be carried to San Luigi dei Francesi. One of these fathers was from the Auvergne and a native of Montmorin itself. Madame de Beaumont had requested to be buried in a piece of cloth that her brother Auguste, who alone had not died on the scaffold, had sent her from Mauritius. This cloth was not in Rome; we could only find a fragment of it which she carried everywhere. Madame Saint-Germain fastened this strip around the body with a cornelian locket containing a piece of Monsieur de Montmorin’s hair. The French ecclesiastics were invited; Princess Borghèse lent her family hearse; Cardinal Fesch had left orders, in the event of the only too predictable occurrence, to send his livery and his carriages. On Saturday the 5th of November at seven in the evening, by torchlight in the midst of a large crowd, Madame de Beamont passed along the road by which we all must pass. On Sunday the 6th of November, the Funeral Mass was celebrated. The event would have been less French in Paris than it was at Rome. That religious architecture, which bears among its ornamentation the arms and inscriptions of our ancient land; those tombs on which the names of some of the most historic families of our annals are carved; that church, under the protection of a great saint, a great king, and a great man, all that gave no consolation, but it gave honour to misfortune. I wished the last offshoot of a once high family to find some support, at least, in my obscure attachment, and the friendship not be lacking like the fortune.

The people of Rome, accustomed to foreigners, treat them as brothers and sisters. Madame de Beaumont has left on that soil, hospitable to the dead, a pious memory; they still remember her: I have seen Leo XII pray at her tomb. In 1828, I visited the monument of her who was the soul of a vanished society; the sound of my footsteps around that mute monument, in a solitary church, was a warning to me. ‘I shall love you always,’ says the Greek epitaph, ‘but you, among the dead, drink not, I beg you, of that cup which brings forgetfulness of former friends.’