Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXXV, 10

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XXXV, 9 << Chateaubriand's memoirs >> XXXV, 11


Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XXXV, chapter 10
A note from Madame la Duchesse de Berry – A letter to Béranger – Departure from Paris.



Paris, Rue d’Enfer, 1st to the 8th of August 1832.

My nephew Count Louis de Chateaubriand, for his part, advanced me a similar sum of twenty thousand francs. Thus freed of material obstacles I made preparations for my second departure. But a matter of honour restrained me: Madame la Duchesse de Berry was on French soil; what would become of her, and should I not stay in the country to which her perils might summon me? A note from the Princess which arrived from the depths of the Vendée served to set me free.

‘I am writing to you, Monsieur le Vicomte, regarding that provisional government, which I had thought to form when I was ignorant as to when, and even if, I might return to France, and in which I was told you had consented to take part. It did not in fact exist, since it never met, and some of its members only agreed in order to offer me advice which I could not follow. I am not at all ungrateful to them for it. You judged, according to the report made to you, my situation, and that of those regions which have better reason than I to understand the effects of a fatal influence, in a manner which I did not choose to accept, and I am sure that if Monsieur de Chateaubriand had been with me, his noble and generous heart would have equally rejected it. I nonetheless rely on the good offices of various individuals and even on the advice of people who formed part of the provisional government, the choice of whom was dictated by their known zeal and devotion to the Legitimacy in the person of Henri V. I hear that it is still your intention to leave France, and I would regret it greatly if I were able to draw you closer to me; yet you have weapons which strike from a distance and I hope you will not cease to fight for Henri V.
Believe wholly, Monsieur le Vicomte, in my esteem and friendship.
M.C.R’

In this note, Madame neglected my services to her, and accepted nothing of the advice I had dared to give her in the note of which Monsieur Berryer had been the bearer; she even seemed a little wounded by it, even though she recognised that a fatal influence had lead her astray.

Thus, set at liberty and disengaged from everything, today the 7th of August, having nothing left to do but go, I wrote a farewell letter to Monsieur de Béranger, who had visited me in prison.

‘Paris, the 7th of August 1832.
To Monsieur de Béranger,
Sir, I wish to say farewell and to thank you for remembering me; time is short and I am forced to leave without having the pleasure of seeing and embracing you. I am ignorant of the future: is there an obvious future for anyone these days? We are not in an age of revolution, but of social transformation: now, transformations take place slowly, and the generations which are part of the period of metamorphosis perish wretchedly and obscurely. If Europe (as she may well be) is in an age of decrepitude that is another matter: she will produce nothing, and will fade away in an impotent chaos of passions, morals and doctrines. In that case, Sir, you will have sung over a tomb.
I have fulfilled all my engagements, Sir: I returned to your singing; I have defended what I came to defend; I have survived the cholera: I am returning to the mountains. Do not break your lyre as you threatened; I owe to it one of my most glorious titles to human remembrance. Keep France smiling and weeping: since, by a secret you alone know, it seems that in your popular songs the words are happy yet the music is plaintive.
I recommend myself to your friendship, and to your Muse.
CHATEAUBRIAND.’

I am to set out tomorrow. Madame de Chateaubriand will join me at Lucerne.