Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXVIII, 7

Free texts and images.
Jump to: navigation, search

XXVIII, 6 << Chateaubriand's memoirs >> XXVIII, 8


Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XXVIII, chapter 7
I gather my former adversaries around me – My public changes



Paris put an end to its recent celebrations: the age of indulgence, reconciliation, and favour was past: sad reality alone was left us.

Since, in 1820, censorship had finished off the Conservateur, I lost no time recommencing, seven years afterwards, the same polemic in another form and using another printer. The men who fought alongside me on the Conservateur demanded, like me, freedom of thought and the pen: they were in opposition as I was, in disgrace like me, and they called themselves my friends. Achieving power in 1820, by my efforts even more than their own, they turned against the freedom of the press: from the persecuted, they became the persecutors; they ceased to be or to call themselves my friends; they maintained that Press licence only began on the 6th of June 1824, the day of my dismissal from government; their memories were short: if they had re-read the opinions they had stated, the articles they had written against another government, and in favour of the freedom of the Press, they would have been forced to admit that in 1818 and 1819 they were at least the seconds-in-command of licence.

On the other side, my former adversaries gathered round me. I tried to link the partisans of freedom to legitimate Royalty, with more success than I had rallied the servants of throne and altar to the Charter. My public had altered. I was obliged to warn the Government of the dangers of absolutism, after having protected it from popular preaching. Accustomed to show my readers respect, I did not deliver them a line that I had not written with all the care of which I was capable: so many of those little works of a day cost me more pain, in proportion, than the longest works from my pen. My life was incredibly busy. Honour and my country called me onto the field of battle. I had arrived at an age when a man needs peace and quiet; but if I had judged my years by the ever-increasing hatred that oppression and baseness aroused in me I would have thought myself young again.

I gathered around me a group of writers to give unity to my struggles. Among them were Peers, Deputies, Magistrates, and young authors starting out on their careers. There flocked to me Messieurs Montalivet, Salvandy, Duvergier de Hauranne, and plenty of others who were my pupils and who churn out today, as new, reflections on representative monarchy, things which I taught them, and appear throughout my works. Monsieur de Montalivet became Interior Minister and a favourite of Louis-Philippe; those who enjoy following the vagaries of destiny will find this letter quite interesting:

‘Monsieur le Vicomte,
I have the honour to send you a statement of the errors I have found in the table of judgements of the Royal Court which has been conveyed to you. I have verified them further, and I think I can attest to the correctness of the attached list.
Deign to accept, my dear Vicomte, the homage of profound respect with which I have the honour to be,
Your very devoted colleague and sincere admirer,
MONTALIVET.’

That did not prevent my devoted colleague and sincere admirer, Monsieur le Comte de Monalivet, so great a partisan in his time of the freedom of the Press, having me, as a protagonist of that freedom, committed to Monsieur Gisquet’s gaol.

A summary of my fresh polemics which lasted five years, but which finished by my triumphing, will convey the power of ideas that opposed events, even those backed by force. I was dismissed on the 6th of June 1824; on the 21st I entered the arena, I remained there until the 18th of December 1826: I entered alone, naked and despoiled, and I emerged victorious. It is history I write here, in making an extract of the arguments I employed.