Make your own free website on

List Of Contents | Contents of Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

that he could effect this prodigy, but he hoped to have a greater
ascendancy over his minister.  It was to the duc de Choiseul,
therefore, that he first addressed himself, desirous of securing
the husband and wife before he attacked the redoubtable sister.
The next morning, after my warm assault on the prince de Soubise,
he profited by an audience which the duke requested at an unusual
hour to introduce this negotiation of a new kind, and the details
I give you of this scene are the more faithful, as the king gave
them to me still warm immediately after the conversation
had terminated.

The state affairs having been concluded, the king, seeking to
disguise his voluntary embarrassment, said to the duke, smiling,

"Duc de Choiseul, I have formed for my private hours a most
delightful society: the most attached of my subjects consider
themselves highly favored when I invite them to these evening
parties so necessary for my amusement.  I see with pain that you
have never yet asked me to admit you there."

"Sire," replied the duke, "the multiplicity of the labors with
which your majesty has charged me, scarcely allows me time
for my pleasures."

"Oh, you are not so fully occupied but that you have still some
time to spend with the ladies, and I think that I used to meet you
frequently at the marquise de Pompadour's."

"Sire, she was my friend."

"Well, and why, is not the comtesse du Barry?  Who has put it into
your head that she was opposed to you?  You do not know her: she
is an excellent woman: not only has she no dislike to you, but even
desires nothing more than to be on good terms with you."

"I must believe so since your majesty assures me of it; but, sire,
the vast business with which I am overwhelmed--"

"Is not a sufficing plea; I do not allow that without a special
motive, you should declare yourself against a person whom I honor
with my protection.  As you do not know her, and cannot have any
thing to urge against her but prejudices founded on false rumors
and scandalous fabrications, I engage you to sup with me at her
apartments this evening, and I flatter myself that when I wish it
you will not coin a parcel of reasons in opposition to my desire."

"I know the obedience that is due to your majesty," said
de Choiseul, bowing low.

"Well, then, do first from duty what I flatter myself you will
afterwards do from inclination.  Duc de Choiseul, do not allow
yourself to be influenced by advice that will prove injurious to
you.  What I ask cannot compromise you; but I should wish that
with you all should be quiet, that no one should struggle against
me, and that too with the air of contending against a person's
station.  Do not reply, you know perfectly what I would say, and
I know what belongs to myself."

Here the conversation terminated.  The duc de Choiseul did not
become my friend any the more, but behaved towards me with all
due consideration.  He used grace and  in his proceedings,
without mingling with it anything approaching to nonsense.  He never
allowed himself, whatever has been said, to dart out in my face any
of those epigrams which public malignity has attributed to him.
Perhaps like many other persons in the world, he has said many
pleasantries of me which have been reported as said in my presence,
but I repeat that he never uttered in my society a single word with
which I had cause to be offended.

At this juncture I received a letter of which I had the folly to be
proud, altho' a little reflection should have made me think that
my situation alone inspired it: it was from M. de Voltaire.  This
great genius was born a courtier.  Whether he loved the protection
of the great, or whether he thought it necessary to him, he was
constantly aiming, from his youth upwards, at obtaining the
countenance of persons belonging to a high rank, which made him
servile and adulatory whilst they were in power, and full of
grimace towards them when the wind favor ceased to swell their
sails.  It was in this way that mesdames de Chateauroux and de
Pompadour had had his homage.  He had sung their praises, and,
of course, he could not forget me.  You will recall to mind the
letter which he wrote to the duc d'Aiguillon, on occasion of the
piece of poetry entitled "."  He had denied
having composed it, but this denial had not been addressed directly
to me.  Having learnt, no doubt, that my credit was increasing, he
thought himself obliged to write to me, that he might rank me with
his party.  He might have availed himself of the intermediation of
the duc d'Aiguillon, but preferred putting the duc de Richelieu into
his confidence, and begged him to fulfil the delicate function of
literary Mercury.  I was alone when the marechal came to me with
an assumed air of mystery.  His first care was to look around him
without saying a word; and it was not until after he had shaken
the curtains, and peeped into every corner of the apartment, that
he approached me, who was somewhat surprised at his monkey tricks.

"I am the bearer," he said, in a low voice, "of a secret and
important communication, which I have been entreated to deliver
after five or six hundred cautions at least: it is a, defection
from the enemy's camp, and not the least in value."

Fully occupied by my quarrel with the ladies of the court, I
imagined that he had brought me a message of peace from some
great lady; and, full of this idea, I asked him in haste the name
of her whose friendship I had acquired.

"Good," said he, "it is about a lady, is it?  It is from a personage
fully as important, a giant in power, whose words resound from
one extremity of Europe to another, and whom the Choiseuls
believe their own entirely."

 "It is M. de Voltaire," I said.

"Exactly so: your perspicacity has made you guess it."

 "But what does he want with me?"

"To be at peace with you; to range himself under your banner,
secretly at first, but afterwards openly."

"Is he then afraid openly to evince himself my friend?"  I replied,
in a tone of some pique.

"Rather so, and yet you must not feel offended at that.  The
situation of this sarcastic and talented old man is very peculiar;
his unquiet petulance incessantly gives birth to fresh perils.  He,
of necessity, must make friends in every quarter, left and right,
in France and foreign countries.  The necessary consequence is,
that he cannot follow a straight path.  The Choiseuls have served
him with perfect zeal: do not be astonished if he abandon them
when they can no longer serve him.  If they fall, he will bid them
good evening, and will sport your cockade openly."

"But," I replied, "this is a villainous character."

"Ah, I do not pretend to introduce to you an Aristides or an
Epaminondas, or any other soul of similar stamp.  He is a man of
letters, full of wit, a deep thinker, a superior genius, and our
reputations are in his hands.  If he flatters us, posterity will
know it; if he laugh at us, it will know it also.  I counsel you
therefore to use him well, if you would have him behave so
towards you."

"I will act conformably to your advice," said I to the  marechal;
"at the same time I own to you that I fear him like a firebrand."

"I, like you, think that there is in him something of the infernal
stone: he burns you on the slightest touch.  But now, to this
letter; you will see what he says to you.  He begs me most
particularly to conceal from every body the step he has taken
with you.  What he most dreads is, lest you should proclaim from
the housetops that he is in correspondence with you.  I conjure
you, on his behalf, to exercise the greatest discretion, and I
think that you are interested in doing so; for, if what he has done
should be made public, he will not fail to exercise upon you the
virulence of his biting wit."

Our conversation was interrupted by a stir which we heard in the
chateau, and which announced to us the king.  The marechal hastily
desired me not to show Voltaire's letter to the king until I had
read it previously to myself.  "He does not like this extraordinary
man," he added, "and accuses him of having failed in respect,
and perhaps you will find in this paper some expression which
may displease him."

Scarcely had I put the epistle in my pocket, when the king entered.

"What are you talking about," said he, "you seem agitated?"

"Of M. de Voltaire, sire," I replied, with so much presence of
mind as to please the duc de Richelieu.

"What, is he at his tricks again?  Have you any cause of complaint
against him?"

"Quite the reverse; he has charged M. d'Argental to say to M. de
Richelieu, that he was sorry that he could not come and prostrate
himself at my feet."

"Ah," said the king, remembering the letter to the duc d'Aiguillon,
"he persists in his coquetries towards you: that is better than
being lampooned by him.  But do not place too much confidence in
this gentleman of the chamber: he weighs every thing in two scales;
and I doubt much whether he will spare you when he evinces but
little consideration for me."

Certainly Richelieu had a good opportunity of undertaking the
defence of his illustrious friend.  He did no such thing; and I
have always thought that Voltaire was the person whom the duke
detested more heartily than any other person in the world.  He did,
in fact, dread him too much to esteem him as a real friend.

"M. d'Argental," said the king, "unites then at my court the double
function of minister of Parma and steward of Ferney.* Are these
two offices compatible?"

*The name of Voltaire's residence- TRANS

"Yes, sire," replied the duke, laughing, "since he has not
presented officially to your majesty the letters of his creation as
comte de Tournay."

The king began to laugh.  This was the name of an estate which
Voltaire had, and which he sometimes assumed.


Unpublished letter of Voltaire to madame du Barry--Reply of the
countess--The marechale de Mirepoix--Her first interview with
madame du Barry--Anecdote of the diamonds of madame de Mirepoix--
The king pays for them--Singular gratitude of the marechale--The

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: