Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXII, 24

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XXII, 23 << Chateaubriand's memoirs >> XXII, 25


Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XXII, chapter24
First Minister – I publish Réflexions Politiques – Madame la Duchesse de Duras – I am named as Ambassador to Sweden



The Legislative Body transformed into a Chamber of Deputies, and the Chamber of Peers, composed of a hundred and fifty-two members, appointed for life, among which were more than sixty senators, formed the two supreme legislative Chambers. Monsieur de Talleyrand, installed as Foreign Minister, left for the Congress of Vienna, whose opening was fixed for the 3rd of November, in fulfilment of article 32 of the treaty of the 30th of May; Monsieur de Jaucourt held his portfolio during the interim, until the Battle of Waterloo. The Abbé de Montesquiou became Minister of the Interior, with Monsieur Guizot as his secretary-general; Monsieur Malouët took the Navy; he died and was replaced by Monsieur Beugnot; General Dupont obtained the War Department; he was replaced by Marshal Soult, who distinguished himself by erecting a funeral monument at Quiberon; the Duc de Blacas was Minister for the King’s Household, Monsieur Anglès Prefect of Police, Chancellor Dambray Minister of Justice, and Abbé Louis Minister of Finance.

On the 21st of October, the Abbé de Montesquiou presented the first law on the subject of the Press; it required all writings of less than twenty printed sheets to be submitted to censure: Monsieur Guizot drafted this first law of liberty.

Carnot sent a letter to the King: he confessed that the Bourbons had been welcomed with joy; but, without taking account of the short time elapsed, nor all that the Charter granted, he gave a haughty lecture mingled with dangerous advice: valueless from one who was forced to accept the rank of Minister and title of Count of the Empire; it is not appropriate to show pride towards a weak and liberal prince when one has been subject to a prince who was violent and despotic; when, an instrument of the Terror, one has been found to be inadequate in calculating the dimensions of Napoleonic warfare. In reply I published the Réflexions Politiques; they contained the substance of Monarchie selon la Charte. Monsieur Lainé, President of the Chamber of Deputies, spoke in praise of the work to the King. The King was always delighted with the services I had the good fortune to render him; the heavens seemed to have placed on my shoulders the insignia of herald to the Legitimacy: but the more success the work achieved, the less the author pleased His Majesty. The Réflexions Politiques disclosed my constitutional doctrines: the Court received the impression from it that my loyalty to the Bourbons could be weakened. Louis XVIII said to his followers: ‘Take care never to admit a poet to our counsels: he will lose us everything. Such people are good for nothing.’

A strong and lively friendship then filled my heart: the Duchesse de Duras had imagination and something of Madame de Staël’s expression of countenance: one can assess her talent as an author by Ourika. Returning from emigration, retiring for several years to her chateau d’Ussé, on the banks of the Loire, it was in the lovely gardens of Méréville that I heard her speak for the first time, after having passed her in London without meeting her. She came to Paris to educate her delightful daughters, Félicie and Clara. Connections with her family, her province, and her literary and political opinions had opened the door to her society. Her warmth of heart, nobility of character, elevation of mind, and generosity of feeling made her a superior woman. At the commencement of the Restoration, she took me under her wing, since, despite what I had done for the legitimate monarchy and the services Louis XVIII confessed to having received from me, I had been ignored to the extent that I thought of retiring to Switzerland. Perhaps I would have been better to do so: would I not have been happier in those solitudes that Napoleon had destined me for, as his ambassador to the mountains, than in the Palace of the Tuileries? When I entered those chambers on the return of the Legitimacy, they made almost as painful an impression on me as the day when I saw Bonaparte there, preparing to murder the Duc d’Enghien. Madame de Duras spoke about me to Monsieur de Blacas. He replied that I was quite free to go where I wished. Madame de Duras was so forceful, she had such courage on behalf of her friends, that they dug up a vacant embassy for me, that of Sweden. Louis XVIII, already weary of my name, was happy to make a present of me to his dear brother King Bernadotte. Did the latter not realise that they were sending me to Stockholm to dethrone him? Good Heavens! Princes of the earth, I dethrone nobody; keep your crowns, if you can, and above all do not give them to me, since I want naught of them.

Madame de Duras, that excellent woman who allowed me to call her sister, whom I had the happiness to see again in Paris over several years, has died at Nice: a re-opened wound yet. The Duchesse de Duras knew Madame de Staël well: I cannot understand why I was not drawn into the path of Madame Récamier, who had returned from Italy to France; I would have welcomed the help that has come to aid my life: already I belong no more to those days which are their own consolation, I have reached those twilight hours which have need of being consoled.