portfolio, and an unpublished letter of the marquise de Pompadour By the way in which the king continued to speak to me of M. de Voltaire, I clearly saw how right the duke was in advising me to read the letter myself before I showed it to my august protector. I could not read it until the next day, and found it conceived in the following terms:-- "MADAME LA COMTESSE:--I feel myself urged by an extreme desire to have an explanation with you, after the receipt of a letter which M. the duc d'Aiguillon wrote to me last year. This nobleman, nephew of a gentleman, as celebrated for the name he bears as by his own reputation, and who has been my friend for more than sixty years, has communicated to me the pain which had been caused you by a certain piece of poetry, of my writing as was stated, and in which my style was recognised. Alas! madame, ever since the most foolish desire in the world has excited me to commit a great deal of idle trash to paper, not a month, a week, nay, even a day passes in which I am not accused and convicted of some great enormity; that is to say, the malicious author of all sorts of turpitudes and extravagancies. Eh!
, the entire life-time of ten men would not be sufficient to write all with which I am charged, to my unutterable despair in this world, and to my eternal damnation in that which is to come. "It is no doubt, much to die in final impenitence; altho' hell may contain all the honest men of antiquity and a great portion of those of our times; and paradise would not be much to hope for if we must find ourselves face to face with messieurs Freron, Nonatte, Patouillet, Abraham Chauneix, and other saints cut out of the same cloth. But how much more severe would it be to sustain your anger! The hatred of the Graces brings down misfortune on men of letters; and when he embroils himself with Venus and the Muses he is a lost being; as, for instance, M. Dorat, who incessantly slanders his mistresses, and writes nothing but puerilities. "I have been very cautious, in my long career, how I committed such a fault. If perchance I have lightly assailed the common cry of scribblers or pendants who were worthless, I have never ceased to burn incense on the altars of the ladies; them I have always sung when I--could not do otherwise. Independently, madame, of the profound respect I bear all your sex I profess a particular regard towards all those who approach our sovereign, and whom he invests with his confidence: in this I prove myself no less a faithful subject than a gallant Frenchman; and I venerate the God I serve in his constant friendships as I would do in his caprices. Thus I was far from outraging and insulting you still more grievously by composing a hateful work which I detest with my whole heart, and which makes me shed tears of blood when I think that people did not blush to attribute it to me. "Believe in my respectful attachment, madame, no less than in my cruel destiny, which renders me odious to those by whom I would be loved. My enemies, a portion of whom are amongst yours, certainly succeed each other with frightful eagerness to try my wind. Now they have just published under my name some attacks on the poor president Henault, whom I love with sincere affection. What have they not attributed to me to inculpate me with my friends, with my illustrious protectors, M. le marechal duc de Richelieu and their majesties the king of Prussia and the czarina of Russia! "I could excuse them for making war upon strangers in my name, altho' that would be a pirate's method; but to attack, under my banner, my master, my sovereign lord, this I can never pardon, and I will raise against them even a dying voice; particularly when they strike you with the same blows; you, who love literature; you, who do me the honor to charge your memory with my feeble productions. It is an infamy to pretend that I fire on my own troops. "Under any circumstances, madame, I am before you in a very delicate situation. There is in Versailles a family which overwhelms me with marks of their friendship. Mine ought to appertain to it to perpetuity; yet I learn that it is so unfortunate as to have no conception of your merit, and that envious talebearers place themselves between you and it. I am told that there is a kind of declared war; it is added, that I have furnished supplies to this camp, the chiefs of which I love and esteem. More wise, more submissive, I keep myself out of the way of blows; and my reverence for the supreme master is such, that I turn away my very eyes that they may not be spectators of the fight. "Do not then, madame, think that any sentiment of affection has compelled, or can compel me to take arms against you. I would refuse any proposition which should rank me as hostile to you, if the natural generosity of your enemies could so far forget it. In reality they are as incapable of ordering a bad action as I am of listening to those who should show themselves so devoid of sense as to propose such a thing to me. "I am persuaded that you have understood me, and I am fully cleared in your eyes. It would be delightful to me to ascertain this with certainty. I charge M. le marechal duc de Richelieu to explain to you my disquietude on this head, and the favor I seek at your hands, from you who command France, whilst I, I ought to die in peace, not to displease any person, and live wisely with all. I conclude, madame la comtesse, this long and stupid epistle, which is, in fact, less a letter than a real case for consideration, by begging you to believe me, etc., "VOLTAIRE " , April 28, 1769. Gentleman in ordinary to the king. "P. S. My enemies say everywhere that I am not a Christian. I have just given them the lie direct, by performing my Easter devotions ( ) publicly; thus proving to all my lively desire to terminate my long career in the religion in which I was born; and I have fulfilled this important act after a dozen consecutive attacks of fever, which made me fear I should die before I could assure you of my respect and my devotion." This apology gave me real pleasure. I pretended to believe the sincerity of him who addressed me, altho' he had not convinced me of his innocence; and I wrote the following reply to M. de Voltaire, which a silly pride dictates to me to communicate to you, in conjunction with the letter of the philosopher: "MONSIEUR:--Even were you culpable from too much friendship towards those you cherish, I would pardon you as a recompense for the letter you address to me. This ought the more to charm me, as it gives me the certainty that you had been unworthily calumniated. Could you have said, under the veil of secrecy, things disagreeable to a great king, for whom, in common with all France, you profess sincere love? It is impossible. Could you, with gaiety of heart, wound a female who never did you harm, and who admires your splendid genius? In fact, could those you call your friends have stooped so low as not to have feared to compromise you, by making you play a part unworthy of your elevated reputation? All these suppositions were unreasonable: I could not for a moment admit them, and your two letters have entirely justified you. I can now give myself up without regret to my enthusiasm for you and your works. It would have been too cruel for me to have learnt with certainty that he whom I regarded as the first writer of the age had become my detractor without motive, without provocation. That it is not so I give thanks to Providence. "M. the duc d'Aiguillon did not deceive you when he told you that I fed on your sublime poetry. I am in literature a perfect novice, and yet am sensible of the true beauties which abound in your works. I am to be included amongst the stones which were animated by Amphion: this is one of your triumphs; but to this you must be accustomed. "Believe also that all your friends are not in the enemy's camp. There are those about me who love you sincerely, M. de Chauvelin, for instance, MM. de Richelieu and d'Aiguillon: this latter eulogizes you incessantly; and if all the world thought as he does, you would be here in your place. But there are terrible prejudices which my candor will not allow me to dissemble, which you have to overcome. There is who complains of you, and this one must be won over to your interests. He wishes you to testify more veneration for what he venerates himself; that your attacks should not be so vehement nor so constant. Is it then impossible for you to comply his wishes in this particular? Be sure that you only, in setting no bounds in your attacks on religion, do yourself a vast mischief with the person in question. "It will appear strange that I should hold such language to you: I only do it to serve you: do not take my statements unkindly. I have now a favor to ask of you; which is, to include me in the list of those to whom you send the first fruits of the brilliant productions of your pen. There is none who is more devoted to you, and who has a more ardent desire to convince you of this. "I am, , with real attachment, etc." I showed this letter to M. de Richelieu. "Why," he inquired, 'have you not assured him as to your indiscretion, which he fears?" "Because his fear seemed to me unjust, and I leave you to represent me to him as I am; and now," I added, "it does not appear to me necessary for the king to know anything of this." "You think wisely, madame; what most displeased him was to see madame de Pompadour in regular correspondence with M. de Voltaire." I have related to you this episode of my history, that it may recompense you for the tiresome details of my presentation. I resume my recital. I told you that M. de Maupeou had told me that he would endeavor to bring madame la marechale de Mirepoix, and introduce her to me, trusting to the friendship she had evinced for madame de Pompadour during, the whole time of the favor and life of her who preceded me in the affections of Louis XV. I
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