List Of Contents | Contents of Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry
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Bompart--Livres expended on the -- Good advice--

I was now firmly fixed at court, the king, more than ever devoted
to me, seemed unable to dispense with my constant presence.  I
had so successfully studied his habits and peculiarities, that my
empire over him was established on a basis too firm to be shaken,
whilst my power and unbounded influence convinced my enemies,
that, so long as the present monarch sat upon the throne of France,
their attempts at diminishing my credit and influence would only
recoil upon themselves.  Louis XV generally supped in my apartments
every evening, unless indeed, by way of change, I went to sup with
him.  Our guests were of course of the first order, but yet not
of the most exemplary morals.  These persons had tact, and saw
that, to please the king, they must not surpass him; so that, if
by chance he should reflect on himself, he would appear to
advantage amongst them.  Poor courtiers!  It was labour in vain.
The king was in too much fear of knowing himself to understand
that study: he knew the penetration and severity of his own
judgment, and on no account would he exercise it at his own expense.

The duc de Duras, although a man of little wit, was yet gay and
always lively.  He amused me; I liked his buoyant disposition,
and forgave him although he had ranged himself with the protesting
peers.  In fact, I could not be angry with him.  The folly of
opposition had only seized on him because it was epidemic.  The
dear duke had found himself with wolves, and had begun to howl
with them.  I am sure that he was astonished at himself when he
remembered the signature which he had given, and the love he had
testified for the old parliament, for which, in fact, he cared no
more than Jean de Vert.  God knows how he compensated for this
little folly at the chateau.  It was by redoubling his assiduities
to the king, and by incessant attentions to me.  In general, those
who wished to thrive at court only sought how to make their
courage remembered; M. de Duras was only employed in making
his forgotten.

The prince de Terigny, the comte d'Escars, the duc de Fleury,
were not the least amusing.  They kept up a lively strain of
conversation, and the king laughed outrageously.  But the vilest
of the party was the duc de Fronsac.  Ye gods!  what a wretch!
To speak ill of him is no sin.  A mangled likeness of his father,
he had all his faults with not one of his merits.  He was perpetually
changing his mistresses, but it cannot be said whether it was
inconstancy on his part, or disgust on theirs, but the latter
appears to me most probable.  Though young, he was devoured by
gout or some other infirmity, but it was called gout out of
deference to the house of Richelieu.  They talked of the duchess
de ------, whose husband was said to have poisoned her.

The saints of Versailles--the duc de la Vauguyon, the duc d'Estissac,
and M. de Durfort--did like others.  These persons practised
religion in the face of the world, and abstained from loose
conversation in presence of their own families; but with the king
they laid aside their religion and reserve, so that these hypocrites
had in the city all the honours of devotion, and in the royal
apartments all the advantages of loose conduct.  As for me, I
was at Versailles the same as everywhere else.  To please the
king I had only to be myself.  I relied, for the future, on my
uniformity of conduct.  What charmed him in the evening, would
delight again the next day.  He had an equilibrium of pleasure,
a balance of amusement which can hardly be described; it was
every day the same variety; the same journeys, the same  fetes,
the balls, the theatres, all came round at fixed periods with the
most monotonous regularity.  In fact, the people knew exactly
when to laugh and when to look grave.

There was in the chateau a most singular character, the grand
master of the ceremonies of France.  His great-grandfather, his
grandfather, his father, who had fulfilled these functions for a
century, had transmitted to him their understanding and their
duties.  All he thought of was how to regulate the motions and
steps of every person at court.  He adored the dauphin and dauphiness,
because they both diverted and fatigued themselves according to
the rules in such cases made and provided.  He was always preaching
to me and quoted against me the precedents of Diane de Poitiers,
or Gabrielle d'Estrees.  One day he told me that all the misfortunes
of Mademoiselle de la Valliere occurred in consequence of her
neglect of etiquette.  He would have had all matters pass at court
during the old age of Louis XV as at the period of the childhood
of Louis XIV, and would fain have had the administration of the
, that he might have arranged all with due ceremonies.

Since this word  has escaped my pen, I will tell
you something of it.  Do you know, my friend, that but little is
known of this place, of which so much has been said.  I can tell
you, better than any other person, what it really was, for I, like
the marquise de Pompadour, took upon myself the superintendence
of it, and busied myself with what they did there.  It was, , the black spot in the reign of Louis XV, and will cost me
much pain to describe.

The vices of Louis XV were the result of bad education.  When an
infant, they gave him for governor the vainest, most coxcombical,
stupidest of men--the duc de Villeroi, who had so well served the
king (),*

* The countess alludes to the  written, after his
famous defeat, "."
(Ed.) i.e., author

Never had courtier so much courtiership as he.  He saw the
young prince from morning till night, and.  from morning till
night he was incessantly repeating in his ears that his future
subjects were born for him, and that they were all dependent on
his good and gracious pleasure.  Such lessons daily repeated,
necessarily destroyed the wise instructions of Massillon.  When
grown up, Louis XV saw the libertinism of cardinal Dubois and
the orgies of the regency: madame de Maillis' shameless conduct
was before his eyes and Richelieu's also.  Louis XV could not
conduct himself differently from his ministers and his family.  His
timid character was formed upon the example of others.  At first
he selected his own mistresses, but afterwards he chose some one
who took that trouble off his hands.  Lebel became purveyor in
chief to his pleasures; and controlled in Versailles the house
known as the .

As soon as the courtiers knew of the existence and purposes of
this house, they intrigued for the control of it.  The king laughed
at all their efforts, and left the whole management to Lebel, under
the superintendence of the comte de Saint-Florentin, minister of
the royal household.  They installed there, however, a sort of
military chief, formerly a major of infantry, who was called,
jestingly, M. de Cervieres; his functions consisted in an active
surveillance, and in preventing young men from penetrating the
 seraglio.  The soldiers at the nearest station had orders to
obey his first summons.  His pay was twelve thousand livres a year.

A female styled the  had the management of the
domestic affairs; she ruled with despotic sway; controlled the
expenses; preserved good order; and regulated the amusement of
her charges, taking care that they did not mix one with the other.
She was an elderly canoness of a noble order, belonging to one of
the best families in Burgundy.  She was only known at the  as
, and no one ventured to give her any other title.  Shortly
after the decease of Mme.  De Pompadour, she had succeeded in
this employ a woman of low rank, who had a most astonishing mind.
Louis XV thought very highly of her, and said that if she were a
man he would have made her his minister.  She put the harem on
an admirable system, and instructed the  in  all the
necessary etiquette.

The Madame of my time was a woman of noble appearance, tall,
ascetic, with a keen eye and imperious manner.  She expressed a
sovereign contempt  for all the low-born beauties confided to her
trust.  However, she did not treat her wards ill, for some one of
them might produce a passion in the heart of the king, and she
was determined to be prepared for whatever might fall out.  As to
the noble ladies, they were her favourites.  Madame did not divide
her flock into fair and dark, which would have been natural, but
into noble and ignoble.  Besides Madame, there were two
under-mistresses, whose duties consisted in keeping company with
the young ladies who were placed there.  They sometimes dined
with new comers, instructed them in polite behaviour, and aided
them in their musical lessons or in dancing, history, and literature
in which these  were instructed.  Then followed a dozen
women of lower station, creatures for any service, half waiting
women, half companions, who kept watch over the young ladies,
and neglected nothing that could injure each other at every
opportunity.  The work of the house was performed by proper
servants and male domestics, chosen expressly for their age and
ugliness.  They were paid high, but in return for the least
indiscretion on their part, they were sent to linger out their
existence in a state prison.  A severe watch was  kept over every
person of either sex in this mysterious establishment.  It was
requisite, in fact, that an impenetrable veil should be cast over
the frailties of the king; and that the public should know nothing
of what occurred at the .

The general term  was applied to the young persons who
were kept there.  They were of all ages from nine to eighteen
years.  Until fifteen they were kept in total ignorance of the
city which they inhabited.  When they attained that age, no more
mystery was made of it; they only endeavoured to prevent them
from believing that they were destined for the king's service.
Sometimes they were told that they were imprisoned as well as

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