Page images
PDF
EPUB

oppose the wishes of her husband and son. Under such circumstances, she had no remark to make, the furious duchess replied, and left the room with a hurried curtsey. On reaching her roon, she burst into tears. Her son, who hastened after her, found her in this state, but she ordered him out; and when her husband arrived shortly after, she would not allow him to say a word in his defence. All this had taken place in the afternoon ; in the evening the event was announced to the whole court. The mother of the bridegroom walked up and down the gallery with one of her ladies, speaking loudly and weeping bitterly, with a handkerchief in her hand : she might be compared with Ceres seeking for Proserpine, and asking her back from Jupiter. Everybody went past her sympathisingly. The Duke de Chartres looked inconsolable, his young bride very embarrassed and sad. At table, Louis XIV. handed the still weeping duchess nearly all the dishes that stood before him; and he did not leave off, although she declined the majority of them. She did not honour her husband and son with a single glance. It was a wretched betrothal. When the court reassembled on the following day, and the Duke de Chartres, as he daily did, approached his mother to kiss her hand, the well-known burst of anger on the part of the wretched princess took place; she gave her son, in the presence of all, a resounding box of the ears, which equally terrified the poor prince and the numerous spectators. It was the requital for the sorrow caused her, for gentle affection from this moment returned to her excited heart. A few weeks later Mademoiselle de Blois became the wife of the Duke de Chartres.

Shortly after on March 19, 1692—the Duke de Maine also had his wedding-day, and Elizabeth Charlotte was heartily glad of it. For she had no longer to fear about the fate of her daughter: not she, but a daughter of the Prince de Condé, another princess of royal blood, became Duchess de Maine. “ Thauk Heaven, that stone is off my mind,” Elizabeth Charlotte writes, and, so to speak, thanks public opinion for it. She states that the people of Paris were highly dissatisfied with the king's original plan, and had even uttered violent threats against Madame de Maintenon as its suggester.

Other subjects sprang up, and formed a separation between her and the king. The court had fallen into piety, while she in her heart remained true Protestant. Even in her latest years she could not forget Luther's hymns. Thus she once sang, in the orangery of her palace, David's Sixth Psalın, without noticing Rousseau, the painter, who was at work on the ceiling. She had scarcely finished, when Rousseau hurried down from his platform, and threw himself at her feet. She did not know that he was a member of the Reformed Church. In alarm, she exclaimed," Good Heavens! M. Rousseau, what is the matter with you?” But he answered, with tears in his eyes, “ Can it be possible, madame, that you still remember our psalms and hymns! God bless you for it, and keep you straight in these sentiments.” That the persecuted religion should find a warm adherent in the highest court circles, was too affecting for the sincerely believing artist. Twenty-five years later Elizabeth Charlotte mentions this event, and assured her half-sister that she still remembered many of the old hymns, and frequently sang them. "I am very thankful to Luther," she says, on one occasion, " for having

a

a

[ocr errors]

written pretty hymns; I believe that this gave many persons an inclination to become Lutheran, for it has something jolly about it; but mysticism, with its contemplation, would not be my

affair.” Her confessor, Linières, the Jesuit, had hard work with her. • My confessor," she writes, “is reasonable in everything except religion ; in that he is too simple, and yet he has good sense.

He wishes me to admire everything and believe all the bagatelles of miracles; and that I cannot do, or let myself be humbugged. He says that I am not studious enough; but I told him plainly that I was too old to believe foolish things.” On one occasion a story was told of a prince who was converted, because he had held a piece of the true cross in a candle and it did not burn. The duchess declared that was no miracle ; there was a wood in Mesopotamia that did not burn. “You will not believe in miracles !" Linières exclaimed. Elizabeth Charlotte, however, had some of the wood; she fetched it, handed it to the pater for careful inspection; he cut off a piece, threw it into the fire, and lo! it became red-hot like iron, and did not burn. “Who was ridiculed and teazed ?" she writes; “ that was my good confessor, for I could not hold my laughter. When Frau von Rathsamhausen” (a faithful servant of the duchess) “hears me disputing thus with my confessor, she says, very humorously, 'I hope to Heaven your royal highness will in the end educate your confessor properly.

The desolation of the Palatinate, her beloved home, entirely separated Elizabeth Charlotte from the king. In vain did she intercede for Heidelberg, her birthplace, and for Mannheim. She received the awful intelligence with a truly poetical depth of feeling. “Even if they were to take

life for it, I cannot leave off regretting and weeping, that I am, so to speak, the destruction of my Fatherland, and that all my

father's efforts and cares have been overthrown. Every night, just as I have fallen asleep, I fancy I am at Heidelberg or Mannheim, and then I start up in my sleep and cannot get off again in two good hours, for I remember how everything was in my time, in what state it now is, and in what state I myself am, and then I cannot refrain from crying.'

Such a weariness of life overpowered her, that she envied the fate of her predecessor. “ If any one here would do me the service that was done her, of sending her into the other world in four-and-twenty hours, I should not be ungrateful to them.” Ever and ever the thought tortures her that she has been the cause of all the misfortune.

« That the poor Pfälzer should be deceived in my name—that the poor

innocent people, through affection for the Elector, our late father, fancied they could not do better than willingly surrender, as they would be mine and live more happily than under the present Elector, because I am of the blood of their true lords, and that they were not only deceived in this their hope and their affection very badly rewarded, but also driven by it into eternal misery, that pains me so that I cannot digest it." It affects her deeply when she hears how the poor folk of Heidelberg, when a Frenchman arrives, surround him, ask after her, then speak of her father and her brother, and weep bitterly. She cannot hear, without tears, that the

. poor Mannheimers have returned to their cellars, and live in them as in houses, even hold a market daily, as if the city were in its former state. Gradually the wild sorrow gave way to a gentler melancholy, and this

my

[ocr errors]

accompanied her through her whole life. As a penance for her crime, she henceforth bestows an unbounded affection on the ill-treated country; she revels in the attachment and in the reminiscences of the scenes of her youth. In a letter of the year 1719, she describes in detail, after the manner of talkative matrons, the road from Schwetzingen to Mannheim, in order to prove that she could find it alone. “ Then you see,” she says, in conclusion, “how well I still know my Heidelberg by heart ?” 66 There is no better air in the world,” she writes, in 1722, “than that of Heidelberg.” She mentions with pleasure the ditch in the palace garden where she used to fish, the upper gate, through which she often went at five in the morning to pluck cherries on the mountains, and ate a good lump of bread with them. “ But what has become of the pretty little stream,” she asks, another time," which flowed through the garden, where I so often sat and read on a fallen willow-tree, or chatted with the peasants ? It diverted me more than the duchesses in the circle.” The horrors of the desolation also became at last the objects of distant memory; but the impression produced by the horrors was ineffaceable. “I never hear Mannheim mentioned without a sigh,” she writes, in 1699; “my God, how sorry I felt for the place !" “ If ever I were to see Mannheim, Schwetzingen, or Heidelberg again, I believe that I could not endure it, but dissolve in tears.” (1718.)

Her matrimonial relations grew worse rather than better. The duke treated her with a sort of hostility. “ When the court is at Paris,” the duchess tells us, " Monsieur plays every evening lansquenet at a large table ; I am not allowed to go near him or take part in the game,

for Monsieur has a superstition that I bring him ill luck when he sees me." He wished that his wife should be out of favour with the king, and Elizabeth Charlotte fancied she noticed that Louis treated her harshly, and displayed his favour towards the favourites, whenever he wished his brother to be in a good temper. For the system of favourites had not yet ceased. For whole nights the duke drank with his gallants, lost heavy sums, and often gave one hundred thousand francs to one man, so that he was obliged to sell or pawn plate and jewellery. In the mean while his family suffered privations ; the duchess never had any money, and often wanted necessaries. If she wished to purchase linen or sheets, she had to beg for them for a year, while La Carte, a chamberlain of the duke, received ten thousand crowns with which to procure linen for himself from Flanders. Under such circumstances, no domestic improvements could be expected from her. Elizabeth Charlotte was terrified at the thought that, if her husband were to die, she would be dependent on the king's favour. But Philip openly declared that, as he was beginning to grow old, he had no time to lose, and would spare nothing to be jolly to his end; those who survived him might then see how they should get on; he loved himself more than wife and children, and hence would take care of himself as long as he had to live.

Elizabeth Charlotte left him alone, and did not say a word that could displease him. Only to her aunt in Hanover did she reveal her sufferings," because I always entrust everything that concerns me to your grace." The duke, however, fancied that he must always anticipate any complaint of hers to the king by calumniating his wife, saying that she

May-VOL. CXXXIV. NO. DXXXIII.

н

a

m

hated the king. In the same way he tried to make her unpopular with others; he did everything he could to annoy servants who were attached to her, while those who humiliated her stood in high favour with him. When she once asked him, reproachfully, “ Why do you wish to make me detested ?” he made no answer, but shook his head, and laughed. “I do my best,” she concludes; “ live politely, and with great respect, and do everything he wishes ; but your grace can easily believe that this does not make a happy or pleasant life.” So late as April 19, 1701, or hardly two months before the duke's decease, she reports, without deceiving herself: "Monsieur is as he has always been ; and though he gives me good words, and ostensibly lives happily with me, in reality he cannot endure me.” Thus, a thirty years' marriage ended as it had begun.

From the duke's death his widow returned again to the king's family circle. Her son now caused her great delight. From the time of his father's death he quite altered, and, “ believe me, it is much,” she writes still in 1701, “ that my son loves me, for he has truly not been trained to do so; from his earliest youth every effort was made to turn him from me, but his excellent nature has gained the upper hand.” In his letters from Paris, he assures her of his deepest reverence and love. He is active not only in the war but in the council, and works a great deal with the king and the ministers. “He loves neither hunting, nor shooting, nor gambling"—thus his mother describes him with pleasure in 1709" but he loves all the liberal arts, and, above all, painting, which he understands very well, so the artists say ; he likes distilling; he likes conversation, and does not speak badly; he has studied carefully, and knows a good deal, for he has an excellent memory; he likes music and women; I wish in the last instance it were a little less.” In his learned zeal he frequently tells his mother of things very remote from her; and when, for instance, he wishes to make her understand how far he cannot agree with Leibnitz's philosophy, she is unable to follow him. Such strictly scientific disputes she gladly leaves to the forum of men, for in such matters, she says, she resembles Pickle-herring, when he is a judge; the last speaker always appears to her to be in the right. Still it' affords her pleasure to listen to her son, for “it becomes him tenfold better when he speaks earnestly than when he wishes to play tricks ; seriousness is natural to him." Her head may not comprehend, but her love-needing heart is satisfied; she is happy in the consciousness of having a loving and beloved son by her side.

Then came gloomy days again : within eleven months France lost three Dauphins, and three years later arrived the death-hour of Louis XIV. Her son now became Regent, but his exalted dignity caused her more grief than pleasure, for she saw how detested he became. But their relations to each other remained affectionate and undisturbed. “My son lives with me,” she writes in 1721, “in great friendship. He was frightened that I was going to die, and glad when he saw me recover. His visits are better for me than quinine ; they do not give me a stomach ache, and cheer my heart. He tells me all sorts of funny things that make me laugh; he has sense, and describes very prettily, and is naturally eloquent. I am of not much use to my son, but I love him heartily as a true mother."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

About this time her health began to give way. In October, 1722, she went to Rheims, in order to see her daughter, who was now Duchess of Lorraine, and her children. On her return she was taken ill, and died a month later at the palace of St. Cloud. The Duke of Orleans did not leave her side during her illness, and Saint Simon, who visited him on the day after his mother's death, saw him weeping bitterly. Elizabeth Charlotte died in the full possession of the love of her children ; and death at the right moment saved her from the grief of seeing her son sink into the grave when scarce fifty years of age.

TWO GERMAN PAINTERS.*

GERMANY has, perhaps, suffered more from the French mania of the eighteenth century than all the other countries of Europe put together. Her manners, her fashions, her literature, her fine arts, were nothing but a bad imitation of the French. Her petty princes had their “ siècle, their Pompadours, and their Versailles. Art, in this bad imitative condition, was the mere servant of despotism, of useless luxury, and of vile servitude. Its highest tendencies were but base flattery in the garb of allegory:

The Poussins, the Lesueurs, the Lebruns of the seventeenth century had died away with the Grand Monarch, and a century of shameless servitude followed. The artists, too, were nothing but the representatives of such a century. Shepherdesses in pink satin and hoops, all the gods and goddesses of Olympus in attendance upon a Pompadour, became the worthy objects of their pencil. But this bad taste was to be found in everything. Alpheus appeared on the stage in a periwig and with ruffles of point d'Alençon; and Pluto, in “The Rape of Proserpina,” made his appearance in a gilded coach!+

This corrupt taste was, of course, worse when imitated; worse in a country which, if we may believe Swift and Mauvillon, had, at that time, neither wits nor books. But the petty kings and pettier princes and grand-dukes wished to be princes like Louis XV., as they had tried to be princes like Louis XIV. Dresden, Hanover, Schwerin, Berlin, each was the Paris of a little pseudo-French empire, only duller, stiffer, more demoralising, and less witty. The walls of their Herrenhausens and Ludwigslusts, each a miniature Versailles, were adorned with Plutos and Aurora, surrounded by Cupids, and-oh, happy emblem!-nursing lambs with rose-chaplets; or, leaning on Minerva's arm and crowned by Apollo himself, holding a review over all the nymphs and sylphs, the happy witnesses of their triumph, their virtue, and their celestial happiness. Bad taste was only inferior to bad morals. But the

Contributions from Würtemberg to the History of Modern Art in Germany. By Professor Dr. Ad. Haakh. Stuttgart, 1863. † Spectator, April 3, 1711.

« EelmineJätka »