« FöregåendeFortsätt »
narrative ends with the dissolution of the first Vendean army, before the proper formation of the Chouan force in Brittany, or the second insurrection of Poitou; though there are some brief and imperfect notices of these, and subsequent occurrences. The details also extend only to the proceedings of the Royalist or Insurgent party, to which the author belonged; and do not affect to embrace any general history of the war.
This hard-fated woman was very young, and newly married, when she was thrown, by the adverse circumstances of the time, into the very heart of these deplorable contests ;-and, without pretending to any other information than she could draw from her own experience, and scarcely presuming to pass any judgment upon the merits or demerits of the cause, she has made up her book, of a clear and dramatic description of acts in which she was a sharer, or scenes of which she was an eyewitness,-and of the characters and histories of the many distinguished individuals who partook with her of their glories or sufferings. The irregular and undisciplined wars which it is her business to describe, are naturally far more prolific of extraordinary incidents, unexpected turns of fortune, and striking displays of individual talent, and vice and virtue, than the more solemn movements of national hostility, where everything is in a great measure provided and foreseen; and where the inflexible subordination of rank, and the severe exactions of a limited duty, not only take away the inducement, but the opportunity, for those exaltations of personal feeling and adventure which produce the most lively interest, and lead to the most animating results. In the unconcerted proceedings of an insurgent population, all is experiment, and all is passion. The heroic daring of a simple peasant, lifts him at once to the rank of a leader, and kindles a general enthusiasm to which all things become possible. Generous and gentle feelings are speedily generated by this raised state of mind and of destination; and the perpetual intermixture of domestic cares and rustic occupations, with the exploits of troops serving without pay, and utterly unprovided with magazines, produces a contrast which enhances the effects of both parts of the description, and gives an air of moral picturesqueness to the scene, which is both pathetic and delightful. · It becomes much more attractive also in this representation, by the singular çandour and moderation-not the most usual virtue of belligerent females with which Mad. de Larochejaquelein has told the story of her friends and her enemies -the liberality with which she has.praised the instances of heroism or compassion which occur in the conduct of the republicans, and the simplicity with which she confesses the jealousies
and excesses which sometimes disgraced the insurgents. There is not only no royalist or antirevolutiopary rant in these volumes, but scarcely any of the bitterness or exaggeration of a party to civil dissensions; and it is rather wonderful that an actor and a sufferer in the most cruel and outrageous warfare by which modern times have been disgraced, should have set an example of temperance and impartiality which its remote spectators have found it so difficult to follow. The truth is, we believe, that those who have had most occasion to see the mutual madness of contending factions, and to be aware of the traits of individual generosity by which the worst cause is occasionally redeemed, and of brutal outrage by which the best is sometimes debased, are both more indulgent to human nature, and more distrustful of its immaculate purity, than the fine de claimers who aggravate all that is bad in the side to which they are cpposed, and refuse to admit its existence in that to which they belong. The general of an adverse army has always more toleration for the severities and even the misconduct of his
opponent, than the herd of ignorant speculators at home ;-in the same way as the leaders of political parties have uniformly far less rancour and animosity towards their antagonists, than the vulgar politicians in their train. It is no small proof, however, of an elevated and generous character, to be able to make those allowances; and Mad. de Larochejaquelein would have had en very apology for falling into the opposite error,--both on account of her sex, the natural prejudices of her rank and education, the extraordinary sufferings to which she was subjected, and the singularly mild and unoffending character of the beloved associates of whom she was so cruelly deprived.
She had some right, in truth, to be delicate and royalist, beyond the ordinary standard. Her father, the Marquis de Donnison, had an employment about the person of the King; in virtue of which, he had apartments in the Palace of Versailles; in which splendid abode the present writer was born, and continued constantly to reside, in the very focus of royal influence and glory, till the whole of its unfortunate inhabitants were compelled to leave it by the fury of that mob which escorted them to Paris in 1789. She had, like most French ladies of distinction, been destined from her infancy to be the wife of M. de Lescure, a near relation of her mother, and the representative of the ancient and noble family of Salgues in Poitou. The character of this eminent person, both as it is here drawn by his widow, and indirectly exhibited in various parts of her narrative, is as remote as possible from that which we should have been inclined a priori to ascribe to a young French nobleman of the old regime, just come to Court, in the first flush of youth, from a great military school. He was extremely serious, bashful, pious, and selfdenying,—with great firmness of character and sweetness of temper,-fearless, and even ardent in war, but humble in his
pretensions to dictate, and most considerate of the wishes and sutferings of his followers. To this person she was married in the 19th
year of her age, in October 1792,—at the time when most of the noblesse had emigrated, and when the rage for that unfortunate measure had penetrated even to the province of Poitou, wherc M. de Lescure had previously formed a prudent association of the whole gentry of the country, to whom the peasantry were most zealously attached. It was the fashion, however, to emigrate; and so many of the Poitevin nobility were pleased to follow it, that M. de L. at last thought it concerned his honour, not to remain longer behind; and came to Paris in February 1793, to make preparations for his journey to Coblentz. Here, however, he was requested by the Queen herself not to go farther, and thought it his duty to obey. The summer was passed in the greatest anxieties and agitations; and at last came the famous Tenth of August. Madame de L. assures us, that the attack on the Palace was altogether unexpected on that occasion, and that M. Montmorin, who came to her from the King late in the preceding evening, informed her, that they were perfectly aware of an intention to assault the royal residence on the night of the 12th; but that, to a certainty, nothing would be attempted till then. At midnight, however, there were signs of agitation in the neighbourhood; and before four o'clock in the morning, the massacre had begun. M. de Lescure rushed out on the first symptom of aların to join the defenders of the Palace, but could not obtain access within the gates, and was obliged to return and disguise himself in the garb of a Sansculotte, that he might mingle with some chance of escape in the croud of assailants. M. de Montmorin, whose disguise was less perfect, escaped as if by a miracle. After being insulted by the mob, he had taken refuge in the shop of a small grocer, by whom he was immediately recognised, and where he was speedily surrounded by crowds of the National Guards, recking froin the slaughter of the Swiss. The good-natured shopkeeper saw his danger, and, stepping quickly up to him, said with a familiar air, — Well, cousin, you scarcely expected, on your arrival from the country, to witness the downfal of the 'TyrantHere, drink to the health of those brave assertors of our liberties.' He submitted to swallow the toast, and got off without injury.
The street in which M. Lescure resided, being much frequented by persons of the Swiss nation, was evidently a very danger
ous place of retreat for royalists; and, soon after it was dark, the whole family, disguised in the dress of the lower orders, slipped out with the design of taking refuge in the house of an old femme-de-chambre on the other side of the river. M. de Donnison and his wife went in one party; and Madame Lescure, then in the seventh month of her pregnancy, with her husband, in another. Intending to cross by the lowest of the bridges, they first turned into the Champs-Elysées. More than a thousand men had been killed there that day; but the alleys were now silent and lonely, though the roar of the multitude and occasional discharges of cannon and musketry, were heard from the front of the Tuilleries, where the conflagration of the barracks was still visible in the sky. While they were wandering in these horrid shades, a woman came flying up to them, followed by a drunken patriot, with his musket presented at her head. All he had to say was, that she was an aristocrat, and that he must finish his day's work by killing her. M. Lescure appeased him with admirable presence of mind, by professing to enter entirely into his sentiments, and proposing that they should go back together to the attack of the Palace-adding only, · But you see what state my wife is in-she is a poor timid creature-and I must first take her to her sister's, and then I shall return here to you.' The savage at last agreed to this, though, before he went off, he presented his piece several times at them, swearing that he believed they were aristocrats after all, and that he had a mind to have a shot at them. This rencontre drove them from the lonely way; and they returned to the public streets, all blazing with 'illuminations, and crowded with drunken and infuriated wretches, armed with pikes, and in many instances stained with blood. The terror of the scene inspired Madame de L. with a kind of sympathetic frenzy; and, without knowing what she did, she screamed out, Vive les Sansculottes ! d bas les tyrans! as outrageously as any of them. They glided unhurt, however, through this horrible assemblage; and crossing the river by the Pont Neuf, found the opposite shore dark, silent and deserted, and speedily gained the humble refuge in search of which they had ventured.
The domestic relations between the great and their depende ants were certainly more cordial in old France, than in any other country and a revolution, which aimed professedly at levelling all distinction of ranks, and avenging the crimes of the wealthy, armed the hands of but few servants against the lives or liberties of their masters. M. de Lescure and his family were saved in this extremity by the prudent and heroic fidelity of some old waiting-women and laundresses-and ultimately effected
their retreat to the country by the zealous and devoted services of a former tutor in the family, who had taken a very conspicuous part on the side of the Revolution. This M. Thomasin, who had superintended the education of M. Lescure, and retained the warmest affection for him and the whole family, was an active, bold and good-humoured man- a great fencer, and a considerable orator at the meetings of his section. He was eager, of course, for a revolution that was to give every thing, to talents and courage; and had been made a captain in one of the municipal regiments of Paris. This kind-hearted patriot took the proscribed family of M. de Lescure under his immediate protection, and by a thousand little stratagems and contrivances, not only procured passports and conveyances to take them out of Paris, but actually escorted them himself, in his national uniform, till they were safely settled in a royalist district in the suburbs of Tours. When any tumult or obstruction arose on the journey, M. Thomasin leaped from the carriage, and assuming the tone of zeal and authority that belonged to a Parisian officer, he harangued, reprimanded and enchanted the provincial patriots, till the whole party went off again in the midst of their acclamations. From Tours, after a cautious and encouraging exploration of the neighbouring country, they at length proceeded to M. Lescure's chateau of Clisson, in the heart of the district afterwards but too well known by the name of La Vendée, of which the author has here introduced a very clear and interesting description.
A tract of about 150 miles square, at the mouth and on the southern bank of the Loire, comprehends the scene of those deplorable hostilities. The most inland part of the district, and that in which the insurrection first broke out, is called Le Bocage ; and seems to have been almost as singular in its physical conformation, as in the state and condition of its population. A series of detached eminences, of no great elevation, rose over the whole face of the country, with little rills trickling in the hollows and occasional cliffs by their sides. The whole space was divided into small enclosures, each surrounded with tall wild hedges, and rows of pollard trees; so that though there were few large woods, the whole region had a sylvan and impenetrable appearance. The ground was mostly in pasturage; and the landscape had, for the most part, an aspect of wild verdure, except that in the autumn some patches of yellow corn appeared here and there athwart their green enclosures. Only two great roads traversed this sequestered region, running nearly parallel, at a distance of more than seventy miles from each other. In the intermediate space, there was nothing but a labyrinth of