Have no objection to us poor monarchs imitating him; and allow me the same privilege in mine. After all, why should I need his or any other person's opinion; let the whole world applaud or condemn, I shall still act according to my own best judgment." On my side I was far from feeling quite satisfied with the accounts I continued to receive from Chanteloup; above all I felt irritated at the parade of attachment made by the prince de Beauvau for the exiles, and I complained bitterly of it to the marechale de Mirepoix. "What can I do to help it," said she; "my sister-in-law is a simpleton; who, after having ruined her brother, will certainly cause the downfall of her husband. I beseech you, my dear, out of regard for me, to put up with the unthinking conduct of the prince de Beauvau for a little while; he will soon see his error and amend it." He did indeed return to our party, but his obedience was purchased at a heavy price. Some days after the disgrace of the duc de Choiseul, I received a letter from M. de Voltaire. This writer, who carped at and attacked all subjects, whether sacred or profane, and from whose satires neither great nor small were exempt, had continual need of some powerful friend at court. When his protector, M. de Choiseul, was dismissed, he saw clearly enough that the only person on whom he could henceforward depend to aid and support him, was she who had been chiefly instrumental in removing his first patron. With these ideas he addressed to me the following letter of condolence or, to speak more correctly, of congratulation. It was as follows:-- "MADAME LA COMTESSE,--Fame, with her hundred tongues, has announced to, me in my retreat the fall of M. de Choiseul and your triumph. This piece of news has not occasioned me much surprise, I always believed in the potency of beauty to carry all before it; but, shall I confess it? I scarcely know whether I ought to congratulate myself on the success you have obtained over your enemies. M, de Choiseul was one of my kindest friends, and his all-powerful protection sufficed to sustain me against the malice of my numerous enemies. May a humble creature like me flatter himself with the hope of finding in you the same generous support? for when the god Mars is no longer to be found, what can be more natural than to seek the aid of Pallas, the goddess of the line arts? Will she refuse to protect with her aegis the most humble of her adorers? "Permit me, madam, to avail myself of this opportunity to lay at your feet the assurance of my most respectful devotion. I dare not give utterance to all my prayers in your behalf, because I am open to a charge of infidelity from some, yet none shall ever detect me unfaithful in my present professions; at my age, 'tis time our choice was made, and our affections fixed. Be assured, lovely countess, that I shall ever remain your attached friend; and that no day will pass without my teaching the echoes of the Alps to repeat your much-esteemed name. "I have the honour to remain, malady, yours, etc., etc." You may be quite sure, my friend, that I did not allow so singular an epistle to remain long unanswered. I replied to it in the following words:-- "SIR,--The perusal of your agreeable letter made me almost grieve for the disgrace of the duc de Choiseul. Be assured, that to his own conduct, and that of his family, may be alone attributed the misfortune you deplore. "The regrets you so feelingly express for the calamity which has befallen your late protector do honour to your generous heart; but recollect that your old friends were not the only persons who could appreciate and value your fine talents; to be esteemed worthy the honourable appellation of your patron is a glory which the proudest might envy; and, although I cannot boast of being a Minerva, who, after all, was possibly no wiser than the rest of us, I shall always feel proud and happy to serve you with my utmost credit and influence. "I return you my best thanks for the wishes you express, and the attachment you so kindly profess. You honour me too much by repeating my name amidst the bosom of the Alps! be assured, that I shall not be behindhand in making the saloons of Paris and Versailles resound with yours. Had I leisure for the undertaking, I would go and teach it to the only mountain worthy of re-echoing it--at the foot of Parnassus. "I am, sir, yours, etc., etc." You perceive, my friend, that I intended this reply should be couched in the wittiest style imaginable, yet, upon reading it over at this lapse of time, it appears to me the silliest thing ever penned; nevertheless, I flattered myself I had caught the tone and manner in which M. de Voltaire had addressed me: he perceived my intention, and was delighted with the flattering deference it expressed. You know the vanity of men of letters; and M. de Voltaire, as the first writer of the age, possessed, in proportion, the largest portion of conceit. CHAPTER XXVIII A few words respecting Jean Jacques Rousseau--The comtesse du Barry is desirous of his acquaintance--The countess visits Jean Jacques Rousseau--His household furniture-- His portrait--Therese-- second visit from madame du Barry to Jean Jacques Rousseau--The countess relates her visit to the king--Billet from J. J. Rousseau to madame du Barry--The two duchesses d'Aiguillon Spite of the little estimation in which I held men of letters, generally speaking, you must not take it for granted that I entertained an equal indifference for all these gentlemen. I have already, I fear, tired your patience when dwelling upon my ardent admiration of M. de Voltaire; I have now to speak to you of that with which his illustrious rival, Jean Jacques Rousseau, inspired me--the man who, after a life so filled with constant trouble and misfortunes, died a few years since in so deplorable a manner. At the period of which I am now speaking this man, who had filled Europe with his fame, was living at Paris, in a state bordering upon indigence. I must here mention, that it was owing to my solicitation that he had been permitted to return from his exile, I having successfully interceded for him with the chancellor and the attorney-general. M. Seguier made no difficulty to my request, because he looked upon Jean Jacques Rousseau as the greatest enemy to a set of men whom he mortally hated--the philosophers. Neither did M. de Maupeou, from the moment he effected the overthrow of the parliament, see any objection to bestowing his protection upon a man whom the parliaments had exiled. In this manner, therefore, without his being aware of it, Rousseau owed to me the permission to re-enter Paris. Spite of the mortifying terms in which this celebrated writer had spoken of the king's mistresses, I had a lively curiosity to know him; all that his enemies repeated of his uncouthness, and even of his malicious nature, far from weakening the powerful interest with which he inspired me, rather augmented it, by strengthening the idea I had previously formed of his having been greatly calumniated. The generous vengeance which he had recently taken for the injuries he had received from Voltaire particularly charmed me.* I thought only how I could effect my design of seeing him by one means or another, and in this resolution I was confirmed by an accident which befell me one day. *Jean Jacques Rousseau in his journey through Lyons in June 1770 subscribed for the statue of Voltaire.--author It was the commencement of April, 1771, I was reading for the fourth time, the "
,"and for the tenth, or, probably, twelfth, the account of the party on the lake, when the marechale de Mirepoix entered the room. I laid my open volume on the mantel-piece, and the marechale, glancing her eye upon the book I had just put down, smilingly begged my pardon for disturbing my grave studies, and taking it in her hand, exclaimed, "Ah! I see you have been perusing ' '; I have just been having more than an hour's conversation respecting its author." "What were you saying of him?" asked I. "Why, my dear, I happened to be at the house of madame de Luxembourg, where I met with the comtesse de Boufflers." "Yes, I remember," said I, "the former of these ladies was the particular friend of Jean Jacques Rousseau." "And the second also," answered she; "and I can promise you, that neither the one or the other spoke too well of him." "Is it possible?" exclaimed I, with a warmth I could not repress. "The duchess," resumed madame de Mirepoix, "says he is an ill-bred and ungrateful man, and the countess insists upon it he is a downright pedant." 'Shameful, indeed," cried I; "but can you, my dear friend, account for the ill-nature with which these ladies speak of poor Rousseau?" "Oh! Yes," replied the marechale, "their motives are easily explained, and I will tell you a little secret, for the truth of which I can vouch. Madame de Luxembourg had at one time conceived the most lively passion for Jean Jacques." "Indeed!" cried I; "and he--" "Did not return it. As for madame de Bouffiers, the case was exactly reversed; and Rousseau has excited her resentment by daring long to nurse a hopeless flame, of which she was the object: this presumption on the part of the poet our dignified countess could never pardon. However, I entreat of you not to repeat this; remember, I tell you in strictest secrecy." "Oh, be assured of my discretion," said I; "I promise you not to publish your secret" (which, by the way, I was very certain was not communicated for the first time when told to me). This confidence on the part of the marechale had, in some unaccountable manner, only increased the ardent desire I felt to see the author of the " "; and I observed to madame de Mirepoix, that I had a great curiosity to be introduced to Rousseau. "I fear," said she, "you will never be able to persuade him to visit at the chateau." "How then can I accomplish my desire of seeing this celebrated man?"