Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXV, 6

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XXV, 5 << Chateaubriand's memoirs >> XXV, 7

Mémoires d'Outre-tombe

Book XXV, chapter 6
I am struck off the list of Ministers of State – I sell my books and La Vallée

I resisted the seizure of La Monarchie selon la Charte in order to shed light on the abuse of royal power, and to defend freedom of thought and the Press; I had freely embraced our institutions, and remained faithful to them.

These troubles being over, I was left bloodstained from the wounds dealt me on publication of my pamphlet. I was unable to take possession of my political career without scars from the blows I received on entering that career: I felt ill, I could not breathe.

A little while later, a decree signed Richelieu struck me off the list of Ministers of State, and I was deprived of a position which until then had been considered permanent; it had been granted to me at Ghent, and the pension attached to the position was withdrawn: the hand which had welcomed Fouché struck at me.

I have had the honour of being despoiled by the Legitimacy on three occasions: the first time, for having followed the scions of St Louis into exile; the second, for having written in support of the principles of monarchy by consent; the third time, for ruining myself in accord with a disastrous law at the moment when I was about to achieve a military triumph: the soldiers of the country of Spain had returned to the white banner, and if I had been left in office, I should have extended our frontier to the banks of the Rhine once more.

My nature makes me totally indifferent to loss of office; I was reduced to going on foot again and, on wet days, taking a cab to the Chamber of Peers. In my public vehicle, protected by the rabble which travelled around me, I returned to the laws of the proletariat of whom I now made one: from the height of my fiacre I could look down on the processions of kings.

I was obliged to sell my books: Monsieur Merlin put them up for auction at the Sylvestre Room, on the Rue des Bons-Enfants. I kept only a little Homer in Greek, in whose margins were attempts at translation and comments written in my own hand. Soon I had to cut back; I asked Monsieur the Minister of the Interior for permission to sell my country house by lottery: the lottery was inaugurated at the offices of Monsieur Denis, the notary. There were ninety tickets at 1000 francs each: the Royalists would not take up the tickets; Madame the Dowager Duchesse d’Orléans, took three; my friend Monsieur Lainé, Minister of the Interior, who had signed the decree of 5th September and agreed to my erasure in council, took a fourth ticket, under a false name. The money was returned to the subscribers; however, Monsieur Lainé refused to reclaim his 1000 francs; he left it with the notary to be given to the poor.

A short while afterwards, my Vallée-aux-Loups was sold, as the poor sell their furniture, at the Place Chatelet. I suffered a great deal on that sale; I was fond of my trees, planted and growing, so to speak, with my memories. The offer price was 50,000 francs; it was accepted by Monsieur le Vicomte de Montmorency, who alone dared to overbid by a hundred francs: the Vallée was his. He has since taken possession of my retreat: it is not wise to be involved with my fate: that virtuous man is no more.