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´╗┐Title: Beaumarchais and the War of American Independence
Author: Kite, Elizabeth S.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Beaumarchais and the War of American Independence" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber\x92s Note: The original publication has been replicated
faithfully except as shown in the Transcriber\x92s Amendments at the end of
the text. Words in italics are indicated like _this_. But the publisher
also wanted to emphasize items in sentences already italicized, so he
printed them in the regular font which is indicated like this: _The
pirates then went to +Hispaniola+._ Superscripts are indicated like this:
M^r Caron de Beaumarchais. Footnotes are located near the end of the
Historical Introduction chapter.

       *       *       *       *       *


      [Illustration: Portrait of Beaumarchais, by Nattier, 1765]


                            _And the War of
                         American Independence_


                           ELIZABETH S. KITE

        _Dipl\xF4me d\x92instruction Primaire-Sup\xE9rieure, Paris, 1905
        Member of the Staff of the Vineland Research Laboratory_

                           WITH A FOREWORD BY
                             JAMES M. BECK
                _Author of \x93The Evidence in the Case\x94_

                              TWO VOLUMES
                              VOLUME ONE



                           RICHARD G. BADGER
                            THE GORHAM PRESS

                  COPYRIGHT, 1918, BY RICHARD G. BADGER

                          All Rights Reserved

                  Made in the United States of America

                   The Gorham Press, Boston, U. S. A.

                            TO THE MEMORY OF

                               MY BROTHER

\x93_We have been surprised that no descendant of Beaumarchais was invited to
represent France at the unveiling of that Statue of Liberty, upon the
pedestal of which his name would not be out of place by the side of that
of Lafayette. Since 1870 Mr. Bigelow has invited his compatriots to ask
themselves seriously if they have done their whole duty towards the memory
of Beaumarchais._\x94

                                                             E. Lintilhac.
                                        \x93_Beaumarchais et ses oeuvres_,\x94
                                                              Paris, 1887.


If \x93good wine needs no bush\x94 and a \x93good play needs no epilogue,\x94--and we
have high authority for both these maxims,--then it should also be true
that a good book needs no prologue, especially where, as in the case of
_Beaumarchais and the War of American Independence_, the author has
prefaced a valuable contribution to history by a scholarly and effective

Notwithstanding this, it gives me pleasure to introduce Miss Elizabeth S.
Kite\x92s work to the American public by a tribute to its value as a timely
contribution alike to the truth of history and the spirit of patriotism.
In these \x93times that try men\x92s souls,\x94 the latter consideration may be the
more important.

The historic tie, which binds together the two great Republics (France and
the United States) in, please God, an indissoluble alliance, cannot be too
constantly emphasized at this time.

It is difficult for America to play the full part, which it should play in
the present world tragedy of supreme interest, unless its people have a
conscious sense of their vital interest in the great issues of the titanic
struggle. Unfortunately our century-old policy of isolation has until
recent months given them a somewhat provincial view of world politics. The
balance of power and similar questions, which were primarily of European
origin and interest, but which vitally affect the whole world in these
days, when Civilization is unified by the centripetal ties of steam and
electricity, were until recent months only of academic interest to the
average American, who like Gallio, \x93cared for none of these things.\x94 The
result was that at the beginning of the world war, the average American
felt that we were not as a nation concerned with the causes of the
quarrel, and to this narrow and apathetic attitude is to be justly
attributed America\x92s temporary infidelity to its noblest ideals and vital
interests for a period of nearly three years. Fortunately, this policy of
narrowing isolation is at an end. President Wilson\x92s epoch-making message
of January 9, 1918, dealt with world-wide problems from a cosmopolitan
attitude that would have been impossible less than twelve months ago. The
transformation of America from a politically hermit nation to _a_, if not
_the_, leading world power has been amazing in its swiftness.

Even at the beginning of the world crisis, one circumstance gave America a
partial, although an inadequate, appreciation that America had a direct
relation to the issues of the world war. It was the instinctive feeling
that the American people owed something to its ancient ally, France. It
was not that the average American believed that France\x92s interests were
our interests, but a subconscious feeling of gratitude stirred America\x92s
emotions and slowly developed an ever-growing sentiment that America could
not stand idly by, when its ancient ally was in danger of destruction as a
world power.

The submarine peril gave to America a practical interest in the war, but
as it affected only a small portion of the nation, the denial of our
rights on the high seas did not have an appeal to the American people,
which, of itself, would have reconciled them to the inevitable sacrifices
of the war. In the soul of America, there was always a deeper, even if a
subconscious feeling, which powerfully moved her emotions and sympathies;
and that feeling was one of deep solicitude for the great nation, which,
in our hour of peril, had come to our relief and whose destruction as a
beneficent world force would have been an irreparable disaster to
Civilization. This feeling of gratitude--and republics are not always
ungrateful--was powerfully stimulated by the admiration with which we
witnessed the heroism of France in beating back a more powerful invader on
the Marne, and later in the titanic struggle at Verdun, and on the Somme.

This factor in America\x92s epoch-making departure from its traditional
policy of isolation would have been even greater had the average American
known sufficient of his own history to realize the full measure of his
country\x92s obligation to France. It is an extraordinary fact that the
average American has scant knowledge of his own history, with the
exception of the few basic and elementary facts which are taught in the
schools. As a very practical people we are more interested in the living
present and the future, and are too little concerned with our past. If the
American reads history at all, he is more apt to study the Napoleonic
wars, which always have had a fascinating interest for Americans because
of the dramatic features of Napoleon\x92s career, and because in his earlier
career he represented the democratic principle of the \x93career open to

If this lack of knowledge of American history were not so, this book would
not be as much of a revelation to the average American, as I am confident
it will be. I venture to say that not one in a hundred Americans ever
heard of Beaumarchais as one of the earliest and most effective friends of
the Colonies in their epic struggle for independence.

The writer of this foreword studied the facts, which are so effectively
and attractively narrated in this volume, some years ago; and although he
always had been from early boyhood a student of history, the facts were
then new to him and came with the force of a revelation. Since then, I
have taken occasion to make many inquiries among educated Americans, and
found few who had any adequate knowledge of the facts narrated in this

I have made a number of addresses on the same subject, which Miss Kite has
so fully and ably treated, and I have found few in any audience, even of
educated Americans, to whom the story of Beaumarchais did not come as a
new and almost incredible chapter in history.

In my book, _The War and Humanity_, in discussing America\x92s lack of vision
and the failure of its colleges and universities to teach adequately to
the American youth their own history, I took occasion to say that if the
ten most brilliant students of the senior classes of the ten leading
universities were asked the simple question, \x93How did aid first come to
America from France\x94 that not five per cent could answer the question
correctly. I referred to the secret aid which Beaumarchais secured for the
armies of Washington, without which the American Revolution might have
ended in a fiasco before Dr. Franklin reached Paris in his quest for such

The great diplomat\x92s services in France in securing the formal alliance of
1778, and the immense prestige which he there enjoyed, have served to
obscure the inestimable services of his predecessors in the great work,
like Beaumarchais and Silas Deane. For it is true beyond question that
before Dr. Franklin ever left America on his great mission, France was
secretly aiding the Colonies, and that no one was more responsible for
that aid than the distinguished author of _The Barber of Seville_ and _The
Marriage of Figaro_. All that the average American knows of the subject is
that Dr. Franklin was well received in France, and that after the battle
of Saratoga, the French Government decided to enter into a formal alliance
with America; and sent to Washington its armies and navies under
Rochambeau and De Grasse, and that among the chivalrous volunteers was
Lafayette, a household name in every American home. Without depreciating
the chivalrous services of the knightly Marquis, his contribution to the
foundation of the American nation from a practical standpoint was less
than that of Beaumarchais; but while Lafayette\x92s name is lisped with
affectionate gratitude by every American child, the names of America\x92s
earlier friends in France, like Beaumarchais and the great foreign
Minister, Vergennes, are almost unknown.

Had Beaumarchais\x92s services in sending arms and munitions to Washington\x92s
army, when they were so imperatively needed, been better known, there
might have been a less dangerous agitation in the American Congress for an
embargo on the shipment of arms and munitions to France in those earlier
days of the present war, when France stood at a great disadvantage with
its powerful adversary by reason of its comparative lack of equipment.

It is this circumstance that makes Miss Kite\x92s book a valuable
contribution to the cause of patriotism. Every American who reads it will
have a deeper sense of obligation to France; and in the trying days that
are coming to America, this inestimable debt to France requires
restatement, and this book thus renders a timely and patriotic service.

Apart from this consideration, Miss Kite\x92s book is a very interesting
contribution to the portrait gallery of biography. It tells us of one of
the most fascinating personalities that history has ever known. It reads
like a romance of Dumas. Indeed, I always think of Beaumarchais as a
D\x92Artagnan in the flesh. If the facts were not so well authenticated they
would be regarded as the wildest romance.

Beaumarchais was a true child of the Renaissance. I sometimes think that
in the lengthening vista of the centuries to come, the Renaissance--that
indeterminate period--will be regarded as having ended with the coming of
the steamship and the railroad. Until the dawn of the present industrial
era, men still differed but slightly from the wonderful children of the
golden Renaissance. Leonardo da Vinci was reincarnated in Benjamin
Franklin. The stupendous genius of such men as Da Vinci and Michael Angelo
can have no parallel in present times, for the industrial era is the age
of specialization.

Similarly Beaumarchais was an Eighteenth Century reincarnation of
Benvenuto Cellini, and like him, was a strange mixture of genius and
adventurer. Unlike Cellini, Beaumarchais with all his failings had a
certain nobility of character, which will endear him to all, who follow in
this notable biography his extraordinary career.

In some respects a camoufleur, he yet played the part of a hero throughout
his trying and arduous career, and rendered a great service to the coming
of the democratic era. As a litterateur, he was as brilliant as Richard
Brinsley Sheridan; as a publicist, he was another Junius; as a financier,
something of a Harriman; as a secret emissary of the French Government,
something of a Sherlock Holmes; as a diplomat, as clever as Talleyrand.

A farseeing statesman, he was one of the extraordinary characters of an
extraordinary era. His influence in precipitating the French Revolution
was recognized by Napoleon himself, when he said that the memorials of
Beaumarchais in his great struggle against the corrupt judiciary of
France, which in their destructive force are nothing under-valued to the
polemics of Junius, was \x93the Revolution in action.\x94

There is no need to commend Miss Kite\x92s book to the reader, for even
though she had not treated an exceptionally interesting subject with
literary skill, yet the subject matter is of such fascinating interest
that the story tells itself.

The only limitation will be that the average reader, because of the
intensely dramatic character of the story, will wonder whether the book is
romance or fiction. It is only necessary to refer such doubters to the
French archives where it will be found that all that Miss Kite has told is
as well authenticated as any biography, and thus again the ancient adage
is vindicated that \x93truth is stranger than fiction.\x94

                                                     JAMES M. BECK.


In 1905 while in London I availed myself of the opportunity to attend the
courses in general history given by the late Dr. Emil Reich at various
educational centers--Gresham College, the Polytechnique, the University of
London, etc. The originality and force of his method of teaching attracted
me strongly, though the desire to be able to reply to his attacks upon the
people of my own country was the most powerful incentive that led me to
follow him to every corner of London where his courses were given.

The most frequently reiterated accusation made against Americans was that
of ingratitude, as shown by our utterly ignoring the services of
Beaumarchais in the cause of American Independence. This made me

Having studied United States history since my childhood and being familiar
with almost everything written on the subject, I naturally asked myself if
it were possible that this man, whose name I knew only in connection with
French literature, had any conspicuous part to play in the securing of our
independence. The idea seemed to me as absurd and impossible as it was

For nine months I listened to these accusations without the slightest
change in my attitude and without even a dawning of real interest in the
subject so frequently referred to. Then I went to Paris to complete a
three months\x92 course of study. On my return I again took up general
history under Dr. Reich. It so fell out, that his first lecture was upon
the American Revolution. It was most illuminating. This time he approached
the subject directly and without any remarks offensive to American pride.
Before he had finished, I found myself wondering where I could learn more
in regard to a matter which seemed to be very interesting. The next day,
following his advice, I went to the British Museum, where to my amazement
I found so many volumes in French, German, and Italian, and also some
English translations, all dealing with this subject, that I was compelled
to admit that America did seem to be alone in her ignorance of all that
France had done for her. Moreover, as I turned and returned the pages of
that monumental work of H. Doniol\x92s, _La Participation de la France dans
L\x92\xE9tablissement des Etats-Unis_, and read or glanced over the memoirs of
Beaumarchais to the king and to his ministers, and their replies, I
realized that Dr. Reich had known very well what he was saying and that
what he said was true.

Under his direction then, this book was compiled--for it claims to be very
little else than a bringing together of the documentary material bearing
upon the subject, and so arranged as to make a continuous story. But this
\x93bringing together\x94 soon came to be a labor of love, for I found like
Gudin, that it was impossible to know Beaumarchais intimately and to
appreciate him only moderately.

But in 1906, when I left London, the time was not ripe for the production
of the work, because the attitude of the American public was very much
like my own during those few months when the subject was first brought to
my attention. It was laid aside, and I waited. In the twelve years that
have intervened, I occasionally have drawn forth a few chapters to read to
a group of friends, whose interest has always assured me that some day the
American Public would be ready to meet \x93their friend\x94--as Beaumarchais
always styled himself in regard to them.

Finally in the fall of 1916 I received, through Miss Adelaide Fitch of the
Hannah Arnett Chapter of the D. R.\x92s of Vineland, New Jersey, an
invitation to speak upon this subject before that body. Without doubt a
very real interest was awakened among my hearers and as a result of such
encouragement I confided to Miss Fitch my entire manuscript, which I had
not read myself in ten years, and with her I continued, during the winter
that followed, to live over again the joys of my first discovery of
America\x92s \x93Friend.\x94 When the French Commission arrived in the United
States in April, 1917, public interest began rapidly to center in France.
Her aid to America was no longer a matter of indifference. The time seemed
ripe and so the work was prepared for publication.

My thanks are here tendered to the many friends who have aided me by their
interest or by their practical help--first, to Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Fels in
whose hospitable London home the work was begun; to Fraulein Hedwig
Appell, whose sympathetic interest brightened many a dark hour in those
far off London days; to Miss Mary Starbuck of Nantucket, Massachusetts,
whose intelligent criticisms often have been of great value; to my nephews
Joshua A. Cope and St. Alban Kite, to Miss Adelaide Fitch, Miss Eleanor
Gray, Miss Jane Griffiths, Miss Flora Otis, Mrs. H. S. Wood--all of whose
friendly reassurances have kept the embers glowing under the ashes of
deferred hope. Among the many others who have aided directly or indirectly
in the preparation of the book I would thank Mr. Joseph P. Byers, Madame
Schwaar and Mademoiselle Schwaar of Philadelphia; Dr. Henry H. Goddard,
Dr. C. T. Jones of Vineland, New Jersey; and the Religious of the Cenacle,
New York, and of the Sacred Heart and of the Holy Child Jesus,
Philadelphia, whose interest and prayers have constantly followed the

  Morton, Pa.,                                       ELIZABETH S. KITE.
  May 1, 1918.



  Foreword                                                            9
                          By Hon. James M. Beck.

  Preface                                                            17

  Historical Introduction                                            27

                                CHAPTER I

    Early life--Trained by his Father to the Trade of Watchmaker--
      Invents an Escapement for Watches--First Lawsuit--_Horloger
      du Roi_--Enters the Court of Versailles as _Contr\xF4leur
      clerc d\x92office_--First Marriage--Assumes the name of
      Beaumarchais--Death of his Wife--Becomes Music Master to
      the Princesses of France--Attracts the Attention of Paris
      du Verney                                                      43

                               CHAPTER II

    Induces the Princesses to Visit the _\xC9cole Militaire_
      Established by du Verney--First Financial Successes--Certain
      Great Lords _mis hors du combat_--\x93_The Fr\xE8re Charmant_\x94--
      the Devoted Son--Preparations for Trip to Spain                69

                              CHAPTER III

    Adventure with Clavico--Business Negotiations in Spain--Life
      of Pleasure at the Spanish Capital--Home Interests and
      Letters                                                        85

                               CHAPTER IV

    The Beautiful Creole, Pauline--Beaumarchais the Judge, the
      Lover, the Friend--Mademoiselle de Boisgarnier Marries Janot
      de Miron--The P\xE8re Caron\x92s Second Marriage                    105

                               CHAPTER V

    New study of Beaumarchais by Lintilhac--Beaumarchais\x92s Return
      from Madrid--The Lover of Julie Carries off Pauline--the
      _R\xE8glement de compte_ which Terminated this
      Romantic Chapter of the Life of Beaumarchais                  126

                               CHAPTER VI

    \x93_Eug\xE9nie_\x94--\x93_Les deux Amis_\x94--Second Marriage of
      Beaumarchais--The Forest of Chinon--Death of Madame de
      Beaumarchais                                                  142

                              CHAPTER VII

    The Death of Paris du Verney--The Lawsuit La Blache--Judgment
      Rendered in Favor of Beaumarchais--The Comte de La Blache--
      Appeals to the New Parliament--Private Life of Beaumarchais
      at This Period                                                164

                              CHAPTER VIII

    Beaumarchais and the Duc de Chaulnes--Attempt Upon the Life of
      Beaumarchais--Same Evening Gives the Promised Reading of _Le
      Barbier de S\xE9ville_.--Victim of a _Lettre de Cachet_          178

                               CHAPTER IX

    Beaumarchais at For-l\x92Ev\xEAque--Letter to his Little Friend--
      Second Trial in the Suit Instituted Against Him by the Count
      de La Blache--Efforts to secure an Audience with the
      Reporter Go\xEBzman--Second Judgment Rendered Against
      Beaumarchais--He Obtains his Liberty--Loudly Demands the
      Return of his Fifteen Louis                                   196

                                CHAPTER X

    The Go\xEBzman Lawsuit--The Famous Memoirs of Beaumarchais         213

                               CHAPTER XI

    The Preparation of the Memoirs--Aid Rendered by Family and
      Friends--The Judgment--Beaumarchais _bl\xE2me_--Enters the
      Secret Service of the King--Gudin Relates the Circumstances
      of the Meeting between the Civilly Degraded Man and Her Who
      Became His Third Wife--The P\xE8re Caron\x92s Third Marriage        235

                              CHAPTER XII

    Beaumarchais Goes to London in Quality of Secret Agent of
      Louis XV--Theveneau de Morande and His _Gazetier Cuirass\xE9_--
      The King Dies--Beaumarchais\x92s Second Mission Under
      Louis XVI--Playing _Figaro_ upon the Stage of Life--Visits
      the Empress of Austria--Is Imprisoned at Vienna--Addresses
      Memoir to the King--Confers with the Ministers upon the
      Recall of the Parliaments                                     248

                              CHAPTER XIII

    The Character of Figaro--The First Performance of _Le Barbier
      de S\xE9ville_--Its Success after Failure--Beaumarchais\x92s
      Innovation at the Closing of the Theatre--His First Request
      for an Exact Account from the Actors--_Barbier de S\xE9ville_
      at the Petit-Trianon                                          269

                              CHAPTER XIV

    Beaumarchais Undertakes to Protect the Rights of Dramatic
      Authors--Lawsuit with the _Com\xE9die-Fran\xE7aise_--Founder of
      the First Society of Dramatic Authors--Jealousies Among
      Themselves Retard Success--National Assembly Grants Decree
      1791--Final Form Given by Napoleon                            286

                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                            FACING PAGE

  Portrait of Beaumarchais, by Nattier, 1765               Frontispiece

  Palace of Versailles                                               32

  Louis XV                                                           56

  Marie Leczinska, Wife of Louis XV                                  60

  _\xC9cole Militaire_                                                  70

  Madame de Pompadour                                                67

  Princess de Lamballe                                              120

  _Eug\xE9nie_                                                         152

  _Le Jardin du Petit-Trianon_                                      162

  Madame du Barry                                                   176

  Title Page of the Memoirs of M. Caron de Beaumarchais             215

  Figaro                                                            236

  Louis XVI                                                         256

  Marie Antoinette                                                  256

  _Le Petit-Trianon_                                                283

  Charles Philippe--Comte d\x92Artois                                  292

                         HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION

The primary cause of discontent among the American colonies, which led to
the Declaration of Independence in 1776, was the proclamation by the King
of England after the evacuation of America by the French in 1763,
forbidding the colonists to extend their settlements west of the

This proclamation instantly roused the ire of the men of the New World,
for the war waged for so many years in the wilderness against the French
and the Indians had taught the settlers the incomparable value of their
vast \x93Hinterland,\x94 and having won at so great cost and by such effort a
footing on the coast, they were by no means willing to be dictated to in
the matter of expansion. Like stalwart sons of a mighty race, grown to
manhood in heroic struggle with the forces of nature, brought to
self-consciousness by the conflict they had endured, these men of the New
World felt within themselves the power, and therefore believed in their
right, to conquer the great and almost unexplored wilderness lying beyond
them. From the moment they were made to feel a restriction to their
liberty in this direction, there was nothing wanting but a pretext for
breaking with the mother country. Nor had they long to wait. One petty act
of tyranny after another showed the determination of the English King
still to treat as a child the son now grown to manhood. At length the time
was ripe and the outbreak came.

Righteous indignation and personal prowess, however, are of themselves
unable to win battles or to insure victory. To be effective they must rest
upon a material basis, and in the contest of the colonies with England
this material basis was conspicuously wanting.

Sparingly provided with munitions of war, possessing no central
government, and lacking unity among themselves, the colonies seemed at the
first to be leading a forlorn hope. The feeling of resentment roused by
the arbitrary interference of England was indeed great, yet the jealousy
that existed between the colonies themselves was, if possible, greater

Nor was this surprising. Up to the time of forming the determination to
break with England there had been no common interest to unite them.
Neither habits of life nor uniformity of opinion bound them together; on
the contrary, the causes which had brought them into being were just so
many forces tending to keep them widely apart. It was this spirit of
jealous fear that made of the Continental Congress a body so conspicuously
devoid of dignity and incapable of commanding respect either at home or
abroad. Composed of delegates representing the colonies, this improvised
body found itself, when assembled in Philadelphia, practically without
power. It could advise and suggest, but it had no authority to tax the
people or even to levy troops.[3]

The presence of members representing different party factions was a
fertile source of discord. More than once the whole cause was brought to
the brink of ruin through the injudicious actions of this incompetent
body.[4] Once it was put to flight by a handful of drunken soldiers and
during the entire course of its existence it remained a living
demonstration of the fact that where there is no authority, no respect
can be commanded, no law enforced.

In this state of affairs help from outside was imperatively needed and
eagerly sought. The question that presented itself was, to whom could the
Americans turn in their dilemma. Naturally to no second-rate European
power, for in combating England, England so lately victorious over all her
enemies, powerful support was necessary; and for powerful support to whom
could she turn but to France? (Geo. Bancroft, Vol. IV, p. 360.) It is not
therefore surprising that we find her looking in this direction. Nor was
France herself indifferent to the situation for she was still smarting
under the humiliating treaty of 1763. The blood of every true-born
Frenchman boiled with indignation when he realized the position to which
his proud nation had been brought through the frivolity and egotism of
Louis XV. From her place among the nations France had been cast down. She
had fallen, not because her own courage or strength had failed her, but
because she had been foully betrayed by those who placed the satisfaction
of their immense egotism before their country\x92s honor; she was burning
with desire to vindicate herself before the nations of the earth, and to
reconquer her place among them. No wonder, then, that she hailed with joy
the first symptoms shown by the Americans of resistance to British rule.

On the part of the colonists, however, there was no feeling of real
sympathy uniting them with the French. English still at heart, though for
the moment fighting against England, the descendants of the Puritans
looked with a half disdain upon what they considered the light and
frivolous French. More than this, the war terminated by the treaty of 1763
had left many bitter memories:--Indian massacres, and midnight atrocities,
all laid at the door of England\x92s historic foe. Moreover, the
disinterestedness of her offers of help seemed to the colonists at the
beginning to be open to question. Had France for a moment shown signs of a
desire to regain her footing upon the western continent, there was not an
American but would have scorned her proffered services. Upon this point,
indeed, they were one--their \x93Hinterland.\x94 For this they would fight, and
in regard to this they would make no compromises.

Perhaps even better than they themselves, France understood the
instinctive attitude of the Americans towards their own continent, and her
first care was to assure the colonists that in case she should decide to
come to their assistance it would be with no intention of laying claim to
any part of the New World. (See _Recommendations to Bonvouloir_, by the
Comte de Vergennes--\x93Canada,\x94 he says, \x93is with them _le point jaloux_;
they must be made to understand that we do not think of it in the

But however great her interest in the struggle, however enthusiastic her
admiration of the heroic part played by the colonists, she was yet far
from desiring to enter prematurely into the contest by openly espousing
their cause at the moment. As a people, she might give them her moral
support, but as a body politic she was forced to act with extreme caution,
for not only was the treasury exhausted, the army and navy demoralized,[6]
but above all the irresolute character of the young Monarch, his
settled aversion to war, his abhorrence of insurrection, were almost
insurmountable obstacles which had to be overcome before the French
Government could attempt to send aid to the insurgent colonies.

The interests of France were, however, too deeply involved to permit the
ministry to look on as idle spectators, and early in 1775 Bonvouloir had
been sent to Philadelphia with secret instructions to sound the attitude
of Congress in regard to France, but bearing positive orders to compromise
the Government in no wise by rousing in the colonies hope of assistance.

As soon, however, as it became known that a kindly interest was felt for
them by France, the secret committee of Congress began to investigate how
far this interest could be relied upon for the benefit of their cause.[7]

Early in the summer of 1776, Silas Deane was sent to Paris with a
commission to secure the urgently needed military supplies and also to
enlist foreign officers, especially engineers, for the war. He was
received at Versailles in a friendly manner, and though no open support
was given him, a secret agent of the Government was pointed out, and Deane
was made to understand that there would be no interference with any
proceedings that might go on between them. The direct result of these
negotiations was that during the spring of 1777, ammunition, guns, and the
complete military equipment for twenty-five thousand men, amounting in
value to no less than five million French livres, were landed on the
American coast. The joy of the colonists knew no bounds, for by this time
they were not only practically destitute of all munitions of war, but they
were quite without means of securing them. The timely arrival of these
immense cargoes permitted the vigorous carrying on of the campaign of 1777
which ended in the decisive victory of Saratoga. This proved the
turning-point of the war. Emboldened by the success of our arms, Congress
began forming plans for urging upon the French Government the open
espousal of our cause. The delicate mission of securing this recognition
was entrusted to Franklin, while the entire hope of our ultimate victory
over the British rested with the success of his endeavors.

Notwithstanding the victory which terminated the campaign of 1777, the
winter that followed was in reality the darkest period of the war. While
the fate of the new nation hung in the balance at the court of Versailles,
the forlorn remnant of the American Army, half-clothed and half-fed, was
wintering under the command of Washington at Valley Forge, and the
incompetent Congress, unable to supply men or money to the public cause,
was exerting what influence it possessed in undermining the authority of
Washington, the one man who in this time of general depression, by his
quiet strength and unwavering faith, was able to infuse hope and courage
into the hearts of the forlorn upholders of the cause of independence. Had
Congress possessed the power, it would have supplanted him in command by
the mock hero of Saratoga, the scheming Gates, who had succeeded in having
himself named to the command of the forces of the north, at the moment
when the scattered divisions of the army under Herkimer, Schuyler, and
Arnold, had been able to unite their forces and entrap Burgoyne at
Saratoga. The subsequent career of Gates in the South showed him to have
been a man of unprincipled character and devoid of real ability, so that
the danger to the country was very great. Fortunately Congress did not
possess this power and Washington remained Commander-in-Chief of the
American Army.[8]

[Illustration: Palace of Versailles]

With the spring, however, fresh hope came to the budding nation. The
winter passed so painfully at Valley Forge had not been spent in vain; the
men had grown used to camp life, and under the excellent discipline of
Baron von Steuben, they had become the nucleus of a formidable army that
was ready to take the field. With the spring, too, came news of the
alliance which Franklin had been able to consummate at the Court of
Versailles. Already victory seemed assured for the cause of independence.
Not only had the colonies become more united in interest and better
trained in the art of war, but England found herself confronted by a new
and formidable enemy which gave to the war a different aspect. Millions of
money at once began to pour into the treasury of the new nation, while
armies and fleets were sent to help fight her battles and to guard her
coasts. From this time forward, the aid rendered by France was openly
avowed; no more mystery was necessary, and the results are too generally
known to need dwelling upon here. It is sufficient to recall that after
two more years of fighting, came the brilliant victory of De Grasse over
the English fleet off Cape Henry, at the moment when Cornwallis had taken
up his position on the peninsula of Yorktown, confidently relying upon the
English supremacy of the seas; that later through the masterful tactics of
Washington, aided by the genius of Rochambeau, the combined American and
French forces were rapidly moved southward, cutting off the retreat of
Cornwallis; and two years later, that peace was declared which deprived
England of her American Colonies.

The very important r\xF4le played by France in this gigantic drama never has
received due recognition even in her own annals. Its significance was
dwarfed by the stupendous events which followed so soon after, known as
the French Revolution.

Naturally England has taken little public notice of French achievement in
this war; like all nations, she dwells upon her victories more than upon
her defeats, so that the entire subject of the War of American
Independence has received scant attention from her historians.

The conspicuous lack of recognition among Americans of the value of
French aid is certainly less pardonable. Real gratitude is so rare and
fine a quality that it is hardly to be expected from aggregates of
mankind, yet from America, indeed, we have the right to expect it, for she
is a country pre\xEBminently based upon high ideals. Her children always have
been taught to sound the praises of her national heroes, especially those
of \x9276 who won for us liberty and independence. But shall America stop
here and refuse to tell them the whole truth about our national existence?
There can be no danger to the patriotism of our children in giving them a
correct idea of what we as a nation owe to France, for the actions of our
own heroes can lose none of their lustre by a generous recognition of what
we owe others.

In giving the rising generation a true understanding of what we as
Americans owe the nation that stood by us in our time of trial, we shall
be training them to an ideal higher than that of mere patriotism, namely,
that of justice.

A decided step in this direction was taken a few years ago, when Theodore
Roosevelt, then President of the United States, caused a statue of the
French General Rochambeau to be erected at Washington and in so doing
opened the way to a more general recognition of a great historical truth.

In 1917, the arrival upon our shores of the Allied Missions has struck a
new note in our national consciousness. Resentment towards England has
died away long ago and warm friendship has taken its place. For France
nothing but the most enthusiastic admiration exists, and men\x92s minds
everywhere are opening to a new realization of the part that that country
has always played in the grand epic of human emancipation.

But America\x92s debt of gratitude to France never can be fully repaid until
she has been brought to consider the claims of the one Frenchman who was
the first of all Europeans to recognize the importance of the uprising
among the colonists. This is no other than Caron de Beaumarchais, the
secret agent to whom Silas Deane had been directed by the French Ministers
in 1776. That his claim to the gratitude of Americans has so long been
neglected is due to a complexity of causes, chief of which is the fact
that not until 1886 were the archives of the French Government touching
this period, given to the public.[9] Among these archives may be found the
complete outline of the help given by France to America during the period
which elapsed between the arrival of Deane in 1776 and the open
recognition by France of American Independence in 1778, all of which aid
passed through the hands of Beaumarchais. After a careful study of these
documents it must be conceded that to him belongs the credit of having
roused the French Government to a realization of the honorable part it
might play in the great conflict. Long before the historic dinner at Metz,
where Lafayette conceived his chivalrous design, before even the Signing
of the Declaration of Independence, Beaumarchais had planned and worked
out the details of the aid to be rendered by France and then literally had
forced the cautious and conservative government of France into
acquiescence with his plans.

The earliest authentic biography of this remarkable man was from the pen
of his ardent admirer and lifelong friend, Gudin de la Brenellerie. It was
intended to be prefixed to the first edition of the works of Beaumarchais
which appeared in 1809. This biography was suppressed, however, for Gudin,
it would seem, was an old philosopher of the eighteenth century who had
outlived his time. In writing the life of his friend, the spirit of
freedom revived in his breast. The Declaration of Independence called from
him imprudent outbursts of enthusiasm. Almost every page gave expression
to the ideas that filled men\x92s minds in the days before the Revolution. In
1809 such expressions were not only out of place: they were dangerous.
Madame de Beaumarchais felt that it was wiser to suppress the work,
dreading lest it should bring upon her family the hostile attention of the
emperor. It was therefore set aside. Although many of its pages afterwards
appeared in the remarkable life of Beaumarchais by Monsieur de Lom\xE9nie, it
was not until many years later that Gudin\x92s work as a whole was given to
the public.[10]

By far the most important of the many lives of Beaumarchais, which have
appeared, is the Study by Louis de Lom\xE9nie, from unedited letters and
documents preserved in the family, which was published in 1855. In this
work Beaumarchais\x92s participation in the cause of American independence
was first made known to the French public. It is incomplete, however,
because in 1855 the Secret Archives of the French Government relative to
this period, were not accessible. The German biography by Bettleheim
published in 1886, lays more emphasis upon the importance of
Beaumarchais\x92s aid in the War of American Independence than has come from
any other recent writer. But it, too, is only fragmentary. In 1887 came
the master work by E. Lintilhac--which is chiefly, however, a critical
analysis of Beaumarchais\x92s literary productions, barely touching upon his
other activities, and making no attempt to penetrate his political career.
This is natural; recognition of the services rendered by Beaumarchais in
the War of Independence rightly should come first from America, since it
was primarily America that was benefited by those services.

But until recently the Hon. John Bigelow is the only American who has
rendered anything like adequate justice to the merits of this great
Frenchman in advocating our cause. During the years that Mr. Bigelow was
minister to France, he made the acquaintance of descendants of
Beaumarchais and was given free access to family papers dealing with the
subject. In 1870, in an article entitled _Beaumarchais, The Merchant_ read
before the New York Historical Society, Mr. Bigelow says: \x93To him
(Beaumarchais) more than to any other person belongs the credit of making
Louis XVI comprehend the political importance of aiding the Colonies in
their struggle with Great Britain; he planned and executed the ingenious
scheme by which the aid was to be extended; he sent the first munitions of
war and supplies which the Colonists received from abroad and he sent them
too, at a time when, humanly speaking, it was reasonably certain that
without such aid from some quarter, the Colonists must have succumbed. He,
too, was mainly responsible for sending them forty or fifty superior
officers, some of whom not only rendered incalculable service in the
field, but a still greater service, perhaps, in enlisting for the Colonies
the sympathies of continental Europe.\x94

In making a close survey of the part played by Beaumarchais in the cause
of American independence, it would seem that we as a nation owe to him not
only a debt of gratitude, but also one of reparation.[11] Surely this is
not because we are incapable of gratitude. The young and chivalrous
Lafayette, throwing himself heart and soul into our cause, won an undying
place in the hearts of the American people. We shall learn, however, that
even Lafayette owed something to Beaumarchais.

Universal gratitude is felt also for the inestimable services rendered by
Baron von Steuben; and here it is primarily to Beaumarchais that we are
indebted for those services. It is easy to give honor where nothing else
is required to be paid; neither Baron von Steuben, nor any other officer,
received from us money for their services; they did not need to ask it,
for the purse of Beaumarchais was ever open to aid the friends of America
when other means were wanting; but because Beaumarchais expected tobacco
and indigo in return for the several million dollars\x92 worth of ammunition
and other supplies which he had furnished the American cause, he was
denied all claims to gratitude, although it was his own boundless energy
and enterprise that had overcome all obstacles in sending those supplies
upon which success depended. More than this, his financial claims were
long ignored and he himself was stamped with the character of a dishonest

It cannot be denied, however, that Beaumarchais\x92s own character lent
itself to misrepresentation. The very brilliancy and versatility of his
genius was a snare to him, while the expansiveness of his nature gave such
an air of adventure to his most sober acts, that they often were
regarded with suspicion by those whom he most desired to serve. The
misunderstandings which arose from these innate qualities were keenly felt
by Beaumarchais. Moreover, he early realized that the ministry, while
making use of his rare abilities, intended to keep him in the background.
Beaumarchais was neither willing to forego recognition nor resigned to the
obscurity in which he was left. The gay philosophy of his nature enabled
him to laugh at his misfortunes, although it was only as he himself has
said through his creation, _Figaro_, \x93that he might not be obliged to
weep.\x94 Stung to the quick on finding himself thrust aside in the midst of
his almost superhuman exertions in the American cause, he turned for
relief to lighter matters and found distraction by writing _Le Mariage de
Figaro_, the gayest comedy perhaps ever put upon the stage, and one so
full of political significance that it was condemned by the authorities,
though in the end he succeeded in bringing it before the public, in spite
of the King and his ministers. Such a man was Beaumarchais, that it is no
wonder that he failed to receive recognition for his serious labors, or
that many people refused to believe him in earnest at all. If his own
nation regarded him somewhat in the light of an adventurer, surely the men
of the New World, bred in stern necessity, accustomed to deal only with
hard facts and unyielding realities, may be judged with less severity if
they failed in comprehending the true nature of their benefactor and
friend. He himself was the first to forgive them, and no spirit of enmity
or personal resentment was ever to be observed in his subsequent attitude
towards them. To the end he called them \x93My friends, the free men of

When, during the French Revolution, Beaumarchais, finding himself an
exile, reduced to a beggarly garret in an obscure quarter of Hamburg while
his wife, his daughter, and his sisters were languishing in a French
prison, his property confiscated, and his credit ruined, addressed a final
desperate appeal to the American people, begging for justice, not a voice
was raised in his favor. Since Robert Morris, the Philadelphia financier,
was allowed to remain for years in a debtor\x92s prison, it is not surprising
that little interest was roused by the claims of a foreigner, in whose
existence even, people refused seriously to believe.

Tardy and very partial justice was at last rendered the heirs of
Beaumarchais by the United States Government, when in 1835 their claims
were settled by the payment of a portion of the debt owed to him; but as a
personality he still remains unknown to us. The study which follows aims
at portraying this unusual character in its true colors; it does not
attempt to make of him an ideal hero, faultless and blameless; but it
endeavors to show him as he was, full of violent contrasts, of limitless
resource and energy, raising constantly about him a whirlwind of
opposition, loved by his family and friends, hated by those whom he
outstripped in the rapidity of his advancement, plunging from one gigantic
enterprise into another, never at rest; ready at all times to come to the
aid of distress which presented itself in any form, entering with
sympathetic interest into the minutest details, always with time for
everything, but above all, with persistent determination demanding
justice, and in the pursuit of this aim, rousing the antagonism of all
classes; attacking fearlessly time-honored institutions,--literary, social
and judicial,--so that he becomes one of the most powerful undermining
forces which finally brought about the total collapse of the old regime.

In his adventurous career, the part which he played in the War of American
Independence forms but an incident. Though the primary object of this book
is to show what that part really was, yet it is necessary to study his
life and character in order to understand why Beaumarchais was interested
in our cause, and how it came about that he was able to render us such
signal service.


[1] See Bancroft, Vol. III, p. 62.

[2] See John Fiske\x92s _American Revolution_, Vol. I, p. 244.

[3] J. Fiske\x92s _American Revolution_, Vol. I, p. 243.

[4] J. Fiske\x92s _American Revolution_, Vol. II, pp. 27-32.

[5] H. Doniol, Vol. I, p. 129.

[6] See Turgot\x92s Address to the King; Bancroft, Vol. IV, p. 369.

[7] See Durand\x92s _New Material for the History of the American
Revolution_, p. 6.

[8] For an account of the cabal formed for replacing Washington in his
command, see Fiske\x92s _American Revolution_, Vol. II, p. 32.

[9] H. Doniol, _La Participation de la France dans l\x92\xE9tablissement des
Etats-Unis_, Paris, \x9286-\x9292, in five folio volumes.

[10] _Histoire de Beaumarchais_, by Paul Philippe Gudin de la Brenellerie.
Edited by Maurice Tourneux, Paris, 1888.

[11] A similar debt of reparation is still owed by America to the memory
of Silas Deane. As his part in the great conflict was closely interwoven
with that of Beaumarchais, the suspicions that fell upon one were
necessarily shared by the other--and both rested under the same
impossibility of justifying themselves before the world. The publication
of the French archives has done for both men what they could not do for
themselves, and though the treatment accorded Silas Deane by Congress
drove him to such despondency that he subsequently lost faith in the
American cause, no shadow rests upon the patriotism which inspired his
early efforts in that cause. Charlemagne Tower, Jr., in his _The Marquis
de La Fayette in the American Revolution_ has given to the public all the
essential documents which show the claim to gratitude which Silas Deane
has upon the American people.


                  _And the War of American Independence_

                                CHAPTER I

_\x93Je passe encore sous silence la sc\xE8ne d\xE9go\xFBtante entre deux hommes o\xF9
vous vous \xEAtes \xE9gar\xE9 jusqu\x92\xE0 me reprocher que je n\x92\xE9tais que le fils d\x92un
horloger. Moi qui m\x92honore de mes parents....\x94_

                                 _Beaumarchais au Duc de Chaulnes, 1771_

    Early life--Trained by his Father to the Trade of Watchmaker--
      Invents an Escapement for Watches--First Lawsuit--_Horloger
      du Roi_--Enters the Court of Versailles as _Contr\xF4leur clerc
      d\x92office_--First Marriage--Assumes the Name of Beaumarchais--
      Death of his Wife--Becomes Music Master to the Princesses of
      France--Attracts the Attention of Paris du Verney

It was on the twenty-fourth day of January, 1732, in an inconspicuous
watchmaker\x92s shop on the rue St. Denis in Paris, that the child first saw
the light who was baptized Pierre-August and whose family name was Caron.
He was the seventh of ten children, six of whom were girls, but as his
brothers all died in infancy he was the only son of the household and
consequently its idol.

Formed by nature for fun and frolic, the little \x93Pierrot\x94 as he was called
had the merriest possible childhood. His mother gentle, loving, and
indulgent shielded her favorite from his father, who at times was somewhat
stern, while his elder sisters petted and spoiled him, and the younger
ones entered heartily into his games and pastimes. Two of the girls were
younger than he, the one nearest his age, Julie, was his favorite, and was
also the one who most resembled him by her talents and her native wit and
gaiety. It is from her pen that we have most of the details of their early
life. In some of her youthful rhymes Julie tells us how \x93Pierrot\x94
commanded a band of little good-for-nothings, roving about either to
plunder the larder of Margot, the cook, or returning at night to disturb
the slumber of the peaceful inhabitants of the rue St. Denis. Again in
inharmonious verse she recounts how--

    \x93_Upon an incommodious seat
    Arranged in form of a pagoda
    Caron presents a magistrate,
    By his huge wig and linen collar.
    Each one pleads with might and main,
    Before that judge inexorable
    That nothing will appease,
    Whose only pleasure is to rain
    Upon his clients ever pleading
    Blows of fist and tongs and shovel;
    And the hearing never ends,
    Till wigs and bonnets roll away
    In dire confusion and disorder._\x94

But it must not be thought that the elder Caron approved of too much
levity. Although he was himself witty and gifted with a keen literary and
artistic sense, he was above all a serious man with an earnest purpose in
life. He was descended from Huguenot ancestors who had managed to live in
France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, although they no
longer possessed a legal existence. Their religious exercises were
performed in caves or dark woods or in some desert spot. Here their
marriages were solemnized by wandering ministers. The grandparents of
Pierre-August, Daniel Caron and Marie Fortain, had been thus united, but
their son, Andr\xE9-Charles Caron, shortly before his marriage with Louise
Picheon in 1722, abjured his faith and joined himself to the Catholic
Church. He retained, however, his Calvinistic character.

Andr\xE9-Charles Caron, like his father, was a watchmaker by profession. He
was one of those exquisitely skilled French workmen who had done so much
for the advancement of science in their own country, and who, when driven
into exile, made the fortune of the people among whom they sought refuge,
notably the Swiss. Not content with the exercise of his profession alone,
the penetrating mind of Andr\xE9-Charles Caron led him into extensive
scientific investigations so that he came to be looked upon as an
authority in many branches of mechanics.

At ten years of age the young Pierre-August was sent by his father to a
professional school at Alfort, where he learned the rudiments of Latin,
but three years later his father brought him home intent on his becoming a

In the years that followed there was a period of stress and storm during
which father and son wrestled for mastery. Always when the latter worked
he showed a dexterity of touch, an ingenuity of invention which astonished
the father; but, on the other hand, his escapades away from home were the
despair of the stern watchmaker. The young Caron, full of wit, of song,
skillful in tricks and gay of humor, attracted a following of youths whose
tendencies were toward a loose life and low morals.

For five long years the struggle continued between the father and his
brilliantly gifted son. Promises of amendment on the one hand and paternal
pardon on the other had led to nothing. Finally, since remonstrance proved
in vain, the elder Caron resorted to sterner measures: he turned his son
into the street and closed his doors against him. He left open to the boy,
nevertheless, one way of return. Friends of the family in secret
communication received the lad, who soon showed a sincere desire to be
restored to the good graces of his father. The P\xE8re Caron, at first
inexorable, at length relented so far as to write the following letter,
which is still in existence:

\x93I have read and re-read your letter. M. Cottin has shown me the one which
you have written to him. They seem to me wise and reasonable. The
sentiments which you therein express would be entirely to my taste if it
were in my power to believe them durable, for I suppose that they possess
a degree of sincerity with which I should be satisfied. But your great
misfortune consists in having entirely lost my confidence; nevertheless,
the friendship and esteem which I entertain for the three respectable
friends whom you have employed, the gratitude which I owe them for their
kindness to you, force from me my consent in spite of myself, although I
believe there are four chances to one against your fulfilling your
promises. From this, you will judge the irreparable stain upon your
reputation if you again force me to drive you away.

\x93Understand then thoroughly the conditions upon which you will be allowed
to return; ... I require full and entire submission to my will and a
marked respect in words, actions, and expression of countenance; do not
forget that unless you employ as much art to please me as you have shown
in gaining my friends, you hold nothing, absolutely nothing, and you have
only worked to your harm. It is not simply that I wish to be obeyed and
respected, but you shall anticipate in everything that which you imagine
will please me.

\x93In regard to your mother, who has twenty times in the past fortnight
implored me to take you back, I will put off to a private conversation on
your return what I have to say to make you thoroughly understand all the
affection and solicitude which you owe to her. Here then are the
conditions of your return:

\x93First,--you shall neither make nor sell, nor cause to be made or sold,
directly or indirectly, anything which is not for my account; and you
shall succumb no more to the temptation of appropriating to yourself
anything, even the smallest matter, above that which I give you. You shall
receive no watch to be repaired under any pretext whatever, or for any
friend, no matter whom, without notifying me; you shall never touch
anything without my express permission--you shall not even sell an old
watch key without accounting for it to me.

\x93Second,--you shall rise at six o\x92clock in the summer and at seven in the
winter and you shall work till suppertime without repugnance at whatever I
give you to do; I do not propose that you shall employ the faculties which
God has given you, except to become celebrated in your profession.
Remember that it is shameful and dishonorable to be the last and that if
you do not become the first in your profession, you are unworthy of any
consideration; the love of so beautiful a calling should penetrate your
heart, and be the unique occupation of your mind.

\x93Third,--you shall take your suppers always at home, and shall not go out
evenings; the suppers and evenings abroad are too dangerous for you, but I
consent that you dine Sundays and holidays with your friends, on condition
that I know always to whom you are going and that you are absolutely never
later than nine o\x92clock. And furthermore I exhort you never to ask
permission contrary to this article and I advise you not to take it to

\x93Fourth,--you shall abandon totally your _maudite musique_, and above all
the company of idle people. I will not suffer any of them. The one and the
other have brought you to what you are. Nevertheless, in consideration of
your weakness, I permit the violin and the flute, but on the express
condition that you never use them except after supper on working days, and
never during the day; and you also never shall disturb the repose of the
neighbors, or my own.

\x93Fifth,--I shall avoid as far as possible sending you on errands, but in
cases where I shall be obliged to do so, remember that above everything
else I shall accept no poor excuses for your being late. You know in
advance how much this article is revolting to me.

\x93Sixth,--I will give you your board and eighteen livres a month which will
serve for your expenses and little by little enable you to pay your debts.
It would be too dangerous for your character and very improper in me to
count with you the price of your work and require you to pay me board. If
you devote yourself as you should, with the greatest zeal to the
improvement of my business, and if by your talents you procure me more, I
will give you a fourth part of the profits of all that comes to me through
you. You know my way of thinking; you have experienced that I never allow
myself to be surpassed in generosity; merit therefore that I do more for
you than I promise; but remember that I give nothing for words, that I
accept only actions.

\x93If my conditions suit you--if you feel strong enough to execute them in
good faith, accept them and sign your acceptance at the bottom of this
letter which you shall return to me; in that case assure M. Paignon of my
sincere esteem and of my gratitude; say to him that I shall have the honor
of seeing him and of asking him to dinner to-morrow, so dispose yourself
to return with me to take the place which I was very far from believing
you would occupy so soon, and perhaps never.\x94

Beneath is written:

\x93Monsieur, very honored, dear father;--I sign all your conditions in the
firm desire to execute them with the help of the Lord; but how sadly all
this recalls to me a time when such laws and such ceremonies were
unnecessary to engage me to do my duty! It is right that I suffer the
humiliation that I have justly merited, and if all this, joined to my good
conduct, may procure for me and merit entirely the return of your good
graces and of your friendship, I shall be only too happy. In faith of
which, I sign all that is contained in this letter.

                                                      A. Caron, _fils_\x94

During the three years which followed the young man\x92s return to his
father\x92s house he made such rapid progress in the art of watchmaking that
we find him in 1753 making his first appearance in public in the defense
of an escapement for watches of which he claimed to be the inventor.

In the December number of _Le Mercure_ of that year, the following letter
was published, which needs no commentary to show how thoroughly his
father\x92s conditions had been understood by the youthful genius and with
what serious purpose he had set to work.

\x93I have read, Monsieur,\x94 he says, \x93with the greatest astonishment, in your
September number, that M. Lepaute, watchmaker to the Luxembourg, there
announces as his invention, a new escapement for watches and clocks which
he says he has the honor of presenting to the King and to the Academy.

\x93It is of too much importance to me in the interests of truth and of my
reputation to permit him to claim this invention by remaining silent on
the subject of a breach of faith.

\x93It is true that on the 23rd of July last, in the joy of my discovery I
had the weakness to confide this escapement to M. Lepaute, allowing him to
make use of it in a clock which M. de Julienne had ordered of him, and
whose interior he assured me would be examined by no one, because of the
arrangement for winding of his own invention, and he alone had the key to
the clock.

\x93But how could I imagine that M. Lepaute would ever undertake to
appropriate to himself this escapement which it will be seen I confided to
him under the seal of secrecy?

\x93I have no desire to take the public by surprise, and I have no intention
to attempt to range it on my side by this simple statement of my case; but
I earnestly beg that no more credence be extended to M. Lepaute than to
me, until the Academy shall have decided who is the author of the new
escapement. M. Lepaute evidently wishes to avoid all explanation, for he
declares that his escapement resembles mine in no way; but from the
announcement which he makes, I judge that it is entirely conformable to it
in principle.

\x93Should the commissioners which the Academy names discover a difference it
will be found to proceed merely from some fault in his construction, which
will help to expose the plagiarism.

\x93I will not here give any of my proofs; our commissioners must receive
them in their first form; therefore whatever M. Lepaute may say or write
against me, I shall maintain a profound silence, until the Academy is
informed and has decided.

\x93The judicious public will be so good as to wait until then; I hope this
favor from their equity, and from the protection which they have always
given the arts. I dare flatter myself, Monsieur, that you will be kind
enough to insert this letter in your next issue.

          \x93Caron, son, watchmaker, rue St. Denis, near Sainte-Catherine,
           Paris, November 15th, 1753.\x94

Two days before the writing of this letter the ardent young inventor had
addressed a lengthy petition to the Royal Academy of Sciences, in which
the following passage occurs, permitting us to judge how completely
watchmaking had become, as the father had hoped, the sole occupation of
his son\x92s mind. He says: \x93Instructed by my father since the age of
thirteen in the art of watchmaking, and animated by his example and
counsels to occupy myself seriously with the perfecting of the art, it
will not be thought surprising that from my nineteenth year, I have
endeavored to distinguish myself therein, and to merit the public esteem.
Escapements were the first object of my reflections. To diminish their
defects, simplify and perfect them, became the spur which excited my
ambition.... But what sorrow for me if M. Lepaute succeeds in taking from
me the honor of a discovery which the Academy would have crowned! I do
not speak of the calumnies which M. Lepaute has written and circulated
against my father and me, they show a desperate cause and cover their
author with confusion. It is sufficient for the present that your
judgment, Gentlemen, assures to me the honor which my adversary wishes to
take from me, but which I hope to receive from your equity and from your

                                            Caron, _fils_
                                            At Paris, November 13th, 1753\x94

The following February, two commissioners were appointed to investigate
the matter. In the registry of the Royal Academy of Sciences, under the
date of February 23rd, 1754, a lengthy report is given, a short extract
from which will suffice to show the results of the investigation.

\x93We therefore believe that the Academy should regard M. Caron as the true
inventor of the new escapement and that M. Lepaute has only imitated the
invention; that the escapement of the clock presented to the Royal Academy
on the 4th of August by Lepaute, is a natural consequence of the
escapement for watches of M. Caron; that in its application to clocks,
this escapement is inferior to that of Grabain, but that it is in watches
the _most perfect that has been produced_, although it is the most
difficult to execute.\x94

                                        Signed, \x93Camus and de Montigny.\x94

\x93The Academy has confirmed this judgment in its assemblies of the 20th and
the 23rd of February. In consequence of which I have delivered to M. Caron
the present certificate with a copy of the report, conformable with the
deliberations of March 2nd at Paris.\x94

                   This, March 4, 1754--
                           Signed, \x93Grand-Jean de Fouchy, Perpetual
                             Secretary of the Royal Academy of Sciences.\x94

This lawsuit from which the young watchmaker issued triumphant, proved for
him a valuable piece of advertising, for it gained him the attention of
the king himself who happened to have a passion for novel devices in
time-pieces. It was not long before the young Caron received an order from
His Majesty to make for him a watch having the new escapement.

In a letter to a cousin in London dated July 31st, 1754, less than five
months after receiving the certificate, he writes:

\x93I have at last delivered the watch to the King by whom I had the
happiness to be recognized at once, and who remembered my name. His
Majesty ordered me to show the watch to all the noblemen at the lev\xE9e and
never was artist received with so much kindness. His Majesty wished to
enter into the minutest details of my invention. The watch in a ring for
Madame de Pompadour is only four lines in diameter; it was very much
admired although it is not entirely finished. The King asked me to make a
repeater for him in the same style. All the noblemen present followed the
example of the king and each wishes to be served first. I have also made a
curious little clock for Madame Victoire in the style of my watches; the
King wished to make her a present of it. It has two dials, and to whatever
side one turns, the hours always can be seen.

\x93Remember, my dear cousin, that this is the young man whom you have taken
under your protection and that it is through your kindness that he hopes
to become a member of the London Society.\x94

Even as late as June 16th, 1755, the ambition of the young watchmaker had
not extended itself as is clearly shown in a letter addressed to _Le
Mercure_ by the young _horloger du roi_ as he now styles himself. In this
letter he modestly defends himself against the envy which his success has
awakened. He writes:

\x93Monsieur, I am a young artist who has only the honor of being known to
the public by a new escapement for watches which the Academy has crowned
with its approbation and of which the journals have spoken a year ago.
_This success fixes me to the state of watchmaker, and I limit my whole
ambition to acquiring the science of my art._ I never have thrown an
envious eye upon the productions of others of my profession, but it is
with great impatience that I see others attempting to take from me the
foundation which by study and work I have acquired. It is this heat of the
blood, which I very much fear age will never correct, that made me defend
with so much ardor the just pretentions which I had to the invention of my
escapement when it was contested eighteen months ago. Will you allow me to
reply to certain objections to my escapement which in numerous writings
have been made public? It is said that the use of this escapement renders
it impossible to make flat watches, or even small ones, which if it were
true would make the best escapement known very unsatisfactory.\x94

After giving numerous technical details the young watchmaker terminates
thus: \x93By this means I make watches as thin as may be desired, thinner
even than have before been made, without in the least diminishing their
good quality. The first of these simplified watches is in the hands of the
king. His Majesty has carried it for a year and is well satisfied. If
these facts reply to the first objection, others reply equally to the
second. I had the honor to present to Madame de Pompadour a short time ago
a watch in a ring, which is only four lines and a half in diameter and a
line less a third in thickness between the plates. To render this ring
more convenient I contrived in place of a key a circle which surrounds the
dial plate bearing a tiny projecting hook. By drawing this hook with the
finger nail about two-thirds of the circuit of the dial the watch is wound
up and goes thirty hours. Before taking it to her I watched this ring
follow exactly for five days the second hand of my chronometer; thus in
making use of my escapement and my construction, excellent watches can be
made as thin and as small as may be desired.

                                       \x93I have the honor to be, etc.,
                                       Caron, _fils, horloger du roi_.\x94

Although the vision of the young man was still hemmed in by the walls of
his father\x92s shop, yet his ardent spirit was eager for flight and was
waiting only for opportunity to test its powers. He was now twenty-three
years of age; the unparalleled success which had attended his efforts had
taught even the stern father the need of a wider field for the genius
which had so easily outstripped him in his own calling. Satisfied now with
the solid foundation in character which his own hand had helped to lay he
had no desire to stand in the way of his son\x92s advancement. As not
infrequently happens, it was a woman\x92s hand that opened the door and
liberated the captive. Speaking of this period, his friend Gudin says:
\x93Attracted by the celebrity of his academic triumph, a beautiful woman
brought a watch to his father\x92s shop, either to have it repaired, or
perhaps with the design of meeting the young artist of whom so much was
said. The young man solicited the honor of returning the watch as soon as
he had repaired the disorder, and this event, which seemed so commonplace,
changed the purpose of his life and gave it a new meaning.

\x93The husband of this woman was an old man possessed of a very small
office at court, whose age and infirmities almost incapacitated him for
the performance of his duties, he therefore sought to pass them on to the
young Caron.\x94

Here indeed was an opening which, if embraced, would lead him into a world
wholly outside that by which heretofore he had been surrounded. It meant
for him opportunity. Instantly all the latent desires within him surged
into consciousness. Springing with joy from the low bench of his father\x92s
dimly lighted shop, the youthful genius cast forever aside his workman\x92s
frock and with one bound entered the service of the king, becoming an
inmate of the vast and splendid palace of Versailles.

November 9, 1755, a warrant was issued in the name of Louis XV, King of
France from which the following is an extract:

\x93Great Stewards of France, high stewards and ordinary stewards of our
household, masters and controllers of our pantry and account room,
greetings! Upon good and praiseworthy report which has been made to us of
the person of M. Pierre-August Caron, and his zeal in our service, we have
this day appointed him and by these presents, signed with our hand do
appoint him to the office of one of our _clerc-contr\xF4leurs_ of the pantry
of our household, vacant by the dismission of Pierre-August Franquet, last
possessor thereof, that he may have and exercise, enjoy and use, the
honors, authorities, prerogatives, privileges, liberties, salary, rights,

                      \x93Given at Versailles under the seal of our secret,

[Illustration: Louis XV]

The exchange being thus officially made, Pierre-August Franquet, the aged
man in question, ceded his office, and in return was to receive a yearly
pension which was guaranteed by the elder watchmaker. Although this
office was too insignificant to admit its possessor to the dignity of
bearing a title of nobility, yet certain it is that in his own estimation
at least, the brilliant young _contr\xF4leur_ of the pantry was already a
member of the aristocracy and with the same ardor which he had shown at
watchmaking, he set about acquiring at once, and to perfection, all the
external marks of one born to that station.

His duties as _contr\xF4leur clerc d\x92office_ were not arduous; he was one of
sixteen similar _contr\xF4leurs_ who served the king\x92s table, four at a time,
alternating quarterly. His duty was to walk in grand livery, his sword by
his side, in the long procession which preceded the king\x92s meat; when
arrived at the table, he took the platter and placed it before the king.
Ample time was thus left him to develop those graces of mind and of person
which nature had so lavishly bestowed upon him. For the first time he
began to feel the lack of that classical education which had been denied
him in his youth. The practical training which he had acquired under his
father\x92s roof enabled him, however, readily to turn the force of his
intellect in this new direction, so that in an incredibly short time he
acquired such a knowledge of literature, grammar, geography, history, and
geometry as served for the basis of the important literary work he was
afterward to accomplish.

Amongst the vast collection of manuscripts from the pen of Beaumarchais
left after his death, M. de Lom\xE9nie discovered very many belonging to this
period which show that the young _contr\xF4leur_ of the pantry already was
exercising himself in the art of writing and that from the first he formed
the habit of noting as he read such passages as struck him forcibly, to
which he freely added impressions of his own.

But the many-sided nature of the young man did not permit him to indulge
exclusively his taste for study. The gay world into which he had entered
enlisted much of his time and talents although it never absorbed them. It
gave him the opportunity of cultivating his rare social gifts which he
soon learned to display to advantage. As soon as Beaumarchais appeared at
Versailles, to quote Gudin, \x93The ladies were struck with his high stature,
the elegance of his form, the regularity of his features, his vivid and
animated countenance, the assurance of his look, with that dominating air
which seemed to elevate him above all his surroundings, and, in a word,
with that involuntary ardor which illuminated him at their approach.\x94 But
he adds, \x93Before going farther let us observe that it was in the workshop
of his father that his soul was made strong and inaccessible to vice or
adversity. If he had been born in luxury or grandeur it would have been
softened like wax in the rays of the sun.\x94

Less than two months after relinquishing his duties at court,
Pierre-August Franquet died suddenly of apoplexy leaving his widow a
considerable fortune. Before the year was out she consoled herself by
marrying the brilliant young _contr\xF4leur_, although she was six years his
senior. Thus it would seem that the young man was at last settled in his
career, having a beautiful wife who idolized him, and a sufficient fortune
at his disposal. Their married happiness, however, was of short duration.
In less than a year she was attacked by typhoid fever and died after a
short sickness, although attended by four of the best physicians of the

Gudin, in speaking of her sudden death, says that Beaumarchais was at that
time so inexperienced in the ways of the world and so grieved at the loss
of his wife that he allowed the term permitted by law to expire before he
thought of taking steps to secure to himself the succession to his wife\x92s
property, so that after her death he was reduced to the small income from
his office at court; and it would seem that he never gained from this
connection any material advantage except his footing at court and the name
of Beaumarchais which he took from a small landed property belonging to
his wife and which was in itself a fortune. At twenty-five we find him
again free and awaiting eagerly the opportunity to push his fortunes
further. He had not long to wait.

We have seen already that Beaumarchais was very fond of music and that
according to his father it was this same _maudite musique_ that had in his
early youth brought him so near the brink of ruin. Little did his father
dream that this was to become later the means of his son\x92s most rapid

Gudin says: \x93He loved music and played upon several instruments, amongst
others the harp and the flute. The harp was at that time disdained, but
when Beaumarchais applied to it his mechanical knowledge, he perfected it
and brought it into vogue.

\x93Having won a wide celebrity by performances in numerous salons at Paris
and Versailles, the fame of his skill reached the ears of the Princesses
of France, who were four in number and who all had a taste for music.

\x93They desired to hear the young musician, who was only too flattered to be
permitted to play before them.\x94

The dignity and charm of his person, his manners which though polished and
respectful retained a certain frankness such as rarely penetrated to those
august presences, joined to his brilliant talents, completely won for him
the favor of Mesdames who insisted upon being permitted to have
Beaumarchais for their instructor. From this moment, dates what in a
certain sense might almost be called an intimacy between the young man who
was so recently seated on his workman\x92s bench behind the window looking
out on the rue St. Denis and the four Princesses who were separated by so
profound a gulf from even the highest of the nobility in the court about
them. It must be understood that these women took no part whatever in the
gay licentious existence which disgraced the court of their father, Louis
XV. Trained by their mother, the admirable Queen Marie Leczinska, to a
life of sincere piety, they passed their time with her in the performance
of the really arduous duties of their rank. As queen and daughters of
France they belonged to the nation and not to themselves. So long as they
performed these duties, the nation cheerfully allowed them the
prerogatives of their rank, and the means of gratifying their luxurious

[Illustration: Marie Leczinska, Wife of Louis XV]

It was therefore into this august family circle that Beaumarchais entered,
to be for several years the central figure of all its pastimes and
amusements. Gudin tells us that at this time Mesdames were in the habit of
giving a weekly concert at which the King, Queen and Dauphin were present
and to which a very select company was invited.

These concerts were arranged and superintended by Beaumarchais who seems
to have been treated by all with marked favor and esteem. The Dauphin took
great pleasure in his company, and on one occasion said of him, \x93He is the
only man who speaks frankly with me.\x94 The Dauphin, as is well known, was
of an austere nature, and for that reason, doubtless, valued the honest
character of Beaumarchais at its true worth.

In dealing with his royal pupils, Beaumarchais exercised great tact and
knew how to make them satisfied with themselves and with him. La Harpe
says of him: \x93I have seen few men more favored by nature. His countenance
and the tone of his voice were equally ardent, the former illuminated by
eyes full of fire; there was as much expression in the accent and the
look, as delicacy in the smile, and above all, a kind of assurance which
was inspired by a consciousness of power.\x94

These personal gifts, this assurance and skill, even more than the favor
of Mesdames, quickly attracted to him the enmity of those whose high birth
alone assured them a reception at court. No better idea of the snares set
for him, nor of his skill in avoiding them can be given than by quoting a
few pages from Gudin.

\x93One morning as he presented himself to be admitted to Mesdames, one of
their women ran to meet him.

\x93\x91Oh my dear friend you are lost, some one has persuaded Mesdames that you
are on very bad terms with your father, that he has driven you from his
house and that, indignant at the tricks you have played him, he will not
see you any more.\x92

\x93\x91Oh, is that all? Then I do not count myself dead. Don\x92t disturb
yourself.\x92 He said this and hurried back to Paris.

\x93\x91You have always wished to see Versailles; I have an excellent
opportunity to-day to show you the palace in detail.\x92 Father and son then
returned with all possible speed. Beaumarchais took pains that they should
be seen by the Princesses at the celebration of the mass, at their dinner,
at their promenade, everywhere they were to be found.

\x93In the evening, still accompanied by his father, whom he left in an
ante-chamber, he entered the apartments of the Princesses; he found them
cold, dreamy, embarrassed, and not wanting to look at him, trying to show
more annoyance than they really felt.

\x93The most vivacious of them said to him with impatience, \x91With whom have
you been all day?\x92

\x93\x91Madame, with my father.\x92

\x93\x91His father, Adelaide, that isn\x92t possible, we were told that they had

\x93\x91I, Madame. I pass my life with him. He is in the ante-room--I have come
for your orders; he is waiting for me, if you will deign to see him he
will testify to the attachment which I have never ceased to have for

The Princesses, as Beaumarchais had well guessed, were anxious to see the
father of their instructor and he was bidden to enter. As the elder Caron
possessed, amongst his other qualities, scarcely less sense of a situation
and power of adaptability than his son, he was at once at his ease. His
personal dignity and sincerity of manner could not fail to produce a
pleasing impression upon the young women who, as we have seen, demanded
merit as the ground of their favor, so that in its results this intrigue
which was intended to ruin the young man, really served to heighten the
esteem in which he was held.

At another time on leaving their apartments, Beaumarchais was intercepted
by a crowd of youthful noblemen one of whom had wagered to cover him with
confusion. Approaching him, the nobleman said,--to quote from Gudin,
\x93\x91Monsieur, you who are so clever with watches, will you tell me if this
is a good one?\x92

\x93\x91Monsieur,\x92 replied Beaumarchais, looking at the company, \x91since I have
ceased to work at that trade I have become very awkward.\x92

\x93\x91Ah, Monsieur, do not refuse me.\x92

\x93\x91Very well, but I warn you that I have lost my art.\x92 Then taking the
watch he opened it, raised it in the air feigning to examine it, and
suddenly let it fall from that elevation; then, making a profound
reverence, he said, \x91I warned you, Monsieur, of my extreme awkwardness,\x92
and walked away leaving his provoker to gather up the debris of his watch
while the assembly burst into laughter.\x94

But the insults did not stop here.

They became so frequent and their tone grew so malignant that Beaumarchais
felt the time had come to put a stop to them. Seriously outraged by a
courtier whom Gudin calls the Chevalier du C---- he accepted the

They mounted their horses and rode off to a secluded spot in the woods
behind Meudon. In the words of Gudin, \x93Beaumarchais had the sad advantage
of plunging his sword into the bosom of his adversary; but when on
withdrawing it he saw the blood issue in a copious stream he was seized
with terror and thought of nothing but helping him. He took his
handkerchief and attached it as well as he could over the wound, to arrest
the flow of blood and to stop fainting.

\x93\x91Save yourself,\x92 said the fallen man, \x91you are lost if any one sees you,
if any one learns that it is you who have taken my life.\x92

\x93\x91You must have help, I will get it for you\x92--Beaumarchais mounted and
rode to Meudon, found a surgeon, and indicating the spot to him, where the
wounded man lay, he went off at full gallop to Paris to see what was to be
done. His first care was to inform himself if the Chevalier du C---- still
lived. He found that he had been brought to Paris but that his life was
despaired of--he learned that the sick man refused to name the one who had
wounded him so seriously.

\x93\x91I have only what I merit,\x92 he said. \x91I have provoked an honest man who
never gave me any offense, to please people whom I do not esteem.\x92

\x93His relatives and friends were not able to draw any other reply from him
during the eight days which he lived. He carried the secret to the tomb,
leaving to Beaumarchais the regret of having taken the life of a man who
proved so generous an enemy.

\x93\x91Ah, young man,\x92 Beaumarchais said to me one day when I was joking over
some duel which was then much talked about, \x91you do not know what despair
a man feels when he sees the hilt of his sword upon his enemy\x92s breast!\x92
It was then that he related to me this adventure which was still
afflicting him, although many years had elapsed since it had taken place.
He never spoke of it without grief, and I should probably never have heard
of it, if he had not thought it right to make me feel how dangerous it
might be to joke about such fatal affairs, the number of which is
increased much more by frivolity than by bravery.\x94

It may be well to add, in relation to the death of the Chevalier du
C---- that the protection of Mesdames, who personally interceded with the
King, prevented an investigation being made so that Beaumarchais was

But while he was still holding his own in the envious crowd of courtiers
at Versailles, his position was in reality far from desirable. Monsieur de
Lom\xE9nie says: \x93Having no other resource than the small income from his
charge of _contr\xF4leur_, not only was he obliged to put his time
gratuitously at the disposal of the Princesses, without speaking of the
cost of keeping up appearances, but he even at times found himself under
the necessity of proceeding like a great lord, and of making advances for
the purchase of costly instruments which they scarcely thought of promptly
paying back. Very desirous of enriching himself, he was too clever to
compromise his credit by receiving pecuniary recompense, which would have
put him in the rank of a mercenary; he preferred to wait for some
favorable occasion, when he might obtain a real advantage from his
position, reserving the right to say later: \x91I have passed four years in
meriting the good graces of Mesdames by the most assiduous and most
disinterested pains bestowed upon divers objects of their amusements.\x92

\x93But Mesdames, like all other women and especially princesses, had
sufficiently varied fancies which it was necessary to satisfy immediately.
In the correspondence of Mme. du Deffant is the very amusing story of a
box of candied quinces of Orleans, so impatiently demanded by Madame
Victoire that the King, her father, sent in haste to the minister, M. de
Choiseul, who sent to the Bishop of Orleans, who was awakened at three
o\x92clock in the morning to give him, to his great affright, a missive from
the King, running as follows:

\x93\x91Monsieur the bishop of Orleans, my daughters wish some _cotignac_; they
wish the very small boxes; send some. If you have none, I beg you ... [in
this place in the letter there was a drawing of a Sedan chair, and below]
to send immediately into your episcopal city and get some, and be sure
that they are the very small boxes; upon which, Monsieur the bishop of
Orleans, may God have you in His holy keeping. Louis.\x92 Below in
postscriptum is written: \x91The sedan chair, means nothing, it was designed
by my girls upon the paper which I found at hand.\x92 A courier was
immediately dispatched for Orleans. \x91The _cotignac_,\x92 says Madame du
Deffant, \x91arrived the next day, but no one thought anything more of it.\x92

\x93It often happened that Beaumarchais received missives that recalled
somewhat the history of the _cotignac_, with this difference, that the
young and poor master of music, had not, like the bishop of Orleans, a
courier at his disposal. Here, for example, is a letter addressed to him
by the first lady in waiting of Madame Victoire:

\x93\x91Madame Victoire has a taste, Monsieur, to play to-day on the tambourine,
and charges me to write instantly that you may get her one as quickly as
will be possible. I hope, Monsieur, that your cold has disappeared and
that you will be able to attend promptly to the commission of Madame. I
have the honor of being very perfectly, Monsieur, your very humble

                                             De Boucheman Coustillier.\x92

\x93It became necessary instantly to procure a tambourine worthy to be
offered to a princess; the next day it was a harp; the day after a flute;
and so on and so on.\x94

When the young Beaumarchais had completely exhausted his purse, very thin
at that time, he very humbly sent his note to Mme. Hoppen, the stewardess
of Mesdames, accompanying it with reflections of which the following is a

\x93I beg you, Madame, to be so good as to pay attention to the fact that I
have engaged myself for the payment of 844 livres, not being able to
advance them, because I have given all the money that I had, and I beg you
not to forget that I am in consequence, absolutely without a sol.

  Besides the                                               1852 livres
  Madame Victoire owes me                                     15   "
  Then for the book bound in morocco with her
    arms and gilded                                           36   "
  And for copying the music into said book                    36   "
  Total                                                     1939 livres

Which makes a sum of 80 louis, 19 livres.

\x93I do not count the cab fares which it cost me to go among the different
workmen, who nearly all live in the suburbs, nor for the messages which
all this occasioned, because I have never had the habit of making a note
of these things or of counting them with Mesdames. Don\x92t forget, I beg you
that Madame Sophie owes me five louis; in a time of misery one collects
the smallest things.

\x93You know the respect and attachment which I have for you. I will not add
another word.\x94

Four years spent in petty services of this kind was a severe test to the
earnestness of purpose of a man fired with lofty ambitions and full of
restless energy. Although at times suffering from secret irritation he
remained master of himself and steadily refused to compromise his hope of
great fortune by yielding to the dictates of present necessities. At last
his patience was rewarded in a way worthy of the sacrifices he had made.

There was at this time a celebrated financier, named Paris du Verney, who
for years had been organizing a great work, the _\xC9cole Militaire_,
actually in existence to-day on the Champs de Mars in Paris, but which
seemed likely to languish at its beginning owing to the lack of Royal

[Illustration: Madame de Pompadour]

As Paris du Verney had been the financial manager for Madame de Pompadour,
and as he had been protected by her, a settled aversion was directed
against him by all the members of the Royal family. The disasters of the
Seven Years War had notably diminished the influence of the Marquise so
that the _\xC9cole Militaire_, considered as her work was regarded with an
evil eye by the people of France. Nothing less than the official
recognition of the school by the King\x92s visiting it in person, could lift
it out of the disfavor into which it had fallen. But how could that
indolent monarch be induced to honor the old financier with a visit? This
was the problem that for nine years occupied the mind and heart of Paris
du Verney. All his efforts in this regard had however been in vain. The
King was indifferent, the Princesses prejudiced; there seemed left no
avenue through which approach could be made.

Matters were at this pass when the attention of du Verney was attracted by
the young music master of Mesdames, now growing restless under the tedium
of his showy but irksome charge. The shrewd mind of du Verney was quick to
discover the latent business capacity which lay hidden under the exterior
of a gay courtier. He determined to make a final effort for the
accomplishment of his project by employing the mediation of the favorite
of the Princesses, to whom he promised, if success should crown his
efforts, an open pathway to the rapid acquisition of a brilliant and
independent fortune.

                               CHAPTER II

\x93_On dira que l\x92amour des lettres, des plaisirs, n\x92exclut point une juste
sensibilit\xE9 dans tout ce qui regarde l\x92honneur._\x94

                                 _Marsolier_--\x93_Beaumarchais \xE0 Madrid._\x94

    Induces the Princesses to Visit the _\xC9cole Militaire_
      Established by du Verney--First Financial Successes--Certain
      Great Lords _mis hors du combat_--\x93The _Fr\xE8re Charmant_\x94--the
      Devoted Son--Preparations for Trip to Spain.

Paris du Verney, who had pushed his way upward from an origin even more
obscure than that of Beaumarchais, was a man of wide experience in life,
and of rare energy of character.

Although a certain shadow rested upon his name in connection with the
protection accorded him by Madame de Pompadour and the management of the
Seven Years war, yet no doubt can be entertained of his mastery of the
science of finance or of the breadth and liberality of his views.

Clear sighted and keen in business matters, Paris du Verney was at the
same time a close observer of men, and one not easily deceived as to their
real merits. It was the innate qualities of heart and mind added to the
acquired habit of doing thoroughly and well whatever he undertook, that du
Verney had detected in the young man of bourgeois extraction, so
conspicuous at court, and it was upon him that he now fixed his hopes. In
speaking of it later, Beaumarchais says:

\x93In 1760, M. du Verney, in despair at having employed vainly for the last
nine years, every means at his command to engage the Royal family to honor
with a visit the _\xC9cole Militaire_, desired to make my acquaintance; he
offered me his heart, his aid and his credit, if I was able to effect that
which everyone had failed to accomplish for him.\x94

[Illustration: _\xC9cole Militaire_]

It is easy to understand how readily Mesdames were persuaded to confer
this much coveted honor upon the old financier, understanding as they very
well did that in this way they could repay the years of faithful service
of their young prot\xE9g\xE9. The joy of du Verney may be readily imagined. His
heart overflowed with gratitude toward the one who had done him this great
service. It was an event as La Harpe has said, \x93That brought to the old
man\x92s eyes the sweetest tears of his life.\x94

The day for the visit was therefore appointed, and Beaumarchais was
permitted the honor of accompanying the distinguished guests. They were
received with great pomp and the impression made upon the Princesses was
so agreeable, that on their return to Versailles, as had been hoped, the
account they gave so stimulated the curiosity of the indolent King, that
in a few days he followed the example of his daughters, thus entirely
fulfilling the desire of the founder of the school.

Du Verney was not slow on his side in fulfilling his promise to the ardent
young man who asked for nothing better than the privilege of learning all
that the experienced financier could teach him.

Dating from this moment Beaumarchais entered a new world, where new ideas,
new possibilities opened themselves before him. To quote La Harpe again,
\x93Depository of the entire confidence of the old man, charged with the
handling of his capital, Beaumarchais learned the science of vast
commercial operations and applied himself to it with all the vivacity of
an ardent, enterprising, and indefatigable nature.\x94

Speaking of du Verney, Beaumarchais has said, \x93He initiated me into
financial matters of which as everyone knows he had a consummate
knowledge; I worked at my fortune under his direction and undertook by his
advice a number of enterprises; in several of these he aided me by his
capital and credit, in all by his advice.\x94

Of du Verney\x92s feeling for Beaumarchais, we have the following testimony
from his own pen.

\x93Since I have known him and since he has become an intimate in my
restricted circle of friends, everything convinces me that he is an
upright young man, with an honest soul, an excellent heart, and cultivated
mind, which merit the love and esteem of all honest people; proved by
misfortune, instructed by adversity, he will owe his advancement if he
succeeds to his good qualities alone.\x94

Du Verney also aided Beaumarchais in the acquiring of certain functions at
court which gave him a legal claim to his title of nobility. In 1761 he
bought for 85,000 francs the very noble but very useless charge of
Secretary to the King. An attempt was made afterwards to bring him into a
still higher place by securing for him the very important and very
lucrative charge of Grand Master of the Waters and Forests of France. M.
de Lom\xE9nie says in speaking of this matter that had it been successful,
the whole career of Beaumarchais might have been changed. As it proved,
however, so much opposition was aroused by the almost meteoric rapidity
with which he had arrived at so great fortune that for the first time in
his life, and notwithstanding the warm recommendations of Mesdames,
Beaumarchais was forced to change the direction of his solicitations and
to content himself with the less lucrative but even more honorable charge
of _lieutenant-g\xE9n\xE9ral des chasses aux bailliage et capitainerie de la
varenne du Louvre_.

For a young man of bourgeois extraction, not yet thirty years of age, his
complete transformation had come about with an almost incredible rapidity.
The new office, which will be treated in detail later, placed him on the
level with the ancient aristocracy of France and gave him a social
position which his ever-increasing fortune enabled him more and more
effectively to support.

Not content, however, with his own rise in the world, he desired to share
his fortune with his whole family. We shall soon see him uniting them all
under his roof in Paris, but for the moment we must picture him continuing
to live at Versailles, and though occupied for the most part with his new
business operations, he still has time to superintend, as of old, the
pastimes and amusements of the Princesses, as well as to cultivate his
rare social gifts. No man ever made a more amiable or a more brilliant
figure in a salon. His music, his songs, his jests and repartees, the
gaiety and ardor of his nature, made him everywhere a favorite.

Gudin says of him at this period, \x93He never forgot his old comrades and
almost never came to Paris without staying with his father, going to see
and embracing his neighbors, and those who had been witnesses of his first
efforts. Showing himself as far removed from the silly vanity which
blushes at its origin as from the pride which pretends to be what it is
not; by his gaiety and affability he made those about him forget the
change in his fortune and even at times the superiority of his talents. In
the bosom of his family his manners were simple, he was even what one
calls a _bonhomme_.\x94 Characterizing him a little further on, Gudin says,
\x93For frivolous people Beaumarchais was only a man of the world; for the
ladies, a man attractive by his figure and his wit, amusing by his
talents, his dress, his imagination and a host of amiable adventures such
as the gayest and most interesting romance can scarcely furnish; but for
the old du Verney he was an excellent citizen, a truly manly genius,
zealous for his country, full of liberal ideas, of grand and useful
conceptions. He possessed pre-eminently all the talents which form the
charm of society, he put into everything a piquant originality which made
him more loved and prized than others. In verses or couplets which he
composed, there was always a turn, an idea, a striking feature, another
would have missed. His conversation, mixed with new ideas, jests, lively
but never bitter, unexpected repartee, always founded upon reason, made
him singularly attractive.\x94

It can not be thought surprising that while these amiable and brilliant
qualities endeared Beaumarchais to the hearts of his friends, and to the
ladies into whose society he came, the effect produced by the same
qualities upon men of rank and position, who possessed no such attractions
was of a very different nature.

The hatred which his first entry into the service of Mesdames had so
bitterly aroused was now redoubled since the old financier, du Verney, had
fixed his affections upon the young plebeian, and had helped him to the
amassing of a fortune and the procuring of a high position at court.

This hatred did not hinder these same noblemen from receiving favors from
him which is proved by the numerous lawsuits, quarrels, and disasters
which came to thwart his career, nearly all of them the result of some
debt owed to him, or money not returned of which he demanded restitution.

We shall have occasion in the course of this study to show from
innumerable instances that no man was ever more ready to come to an
amiable adjustment, or when necessary completely to forgive a debt, but it
will be found that this was always on condition that a just and fair
statement be admitted first. When this was refused, as in the famous
Go\xEBzman trial, we shall see that though it be only a question of fifteen
louis, Beaumarchais is ready to stake reputation, happiness, fortune, and,
as the event proves, his civil existence even, in demonstrating before the
whole world that his adversary is completely in the wrong.

To quote Fournier, \x93These gentlemen who did not wish to accept
Beaumarchais as a nobleman, but to whom he had so well proved that at
least, the courage was not lacking to be one, had very much more agreeable
ways with him, when it was a question of some service to be asked, service
of money almost always, but which from lack of restitution made of almost
every debtor an enemy.\x94

As an illustration of the arrogance of some of these courtiers who were
gentlemen in name only, as well as of the cool assurance of Beaumarchais,
Monsieur de Lom\xE9nie has given a series of letters exchanged apropos of a
small debt owed the latter, and contracted at a card table.

It must be stated before going further, that among the peculiarities of
Beaumarchais, was a pronounced distaste for any sort of gambling. This
trait was the more unusual as gaming was at this period the recognized
amusement of all the upper classes while lotteries were recognized by law.

Later Beaumarchais used his influence for the suppression of what he
clearly saw to be an institution ruinous to the prosperity of the country.
As a young man at Versailles and later at Madrid he was frequently witness
of disasters resulting from the chance of a card, and his whole mind
turned toward the procuring of more solid pleasures. But to return to the
matter of the debt contracted at a card table. M. de Lom\xE9nie says:
\x93Beaumarchais found himself in 1763 at a ball at Versailles where there
was playing. He was standing by a table looking on. A man of quality named
M. de Sabli\xE8res borrowed of him, although he was a complete stranger,
thirty-five louis. At the end of three weeks Beaumarchais hearing nothing
of the thirty-five louis wrote to the gentleman in question who replied
that he would send them the next day, or the day after. Three more weeks
passed. Beaumarchais wrote a second time; no reply. He grew impatient and
addressed to M. de Sabli\xE8res the third letter which follows:

\x93\x91Since you have broken the written word which I have received from you,
Monsieur, it would be wrong for me to be surprised at the fact of your not
replying to my last letter; the one is the natural consequence of the
other. This forgetting of yourself does not authorize me to reproach you.
You owe me neither any civility, nor any regard. This letter is written
only to remind you once more of the debt of thirty-five louis which you
have contracted with me at the home of a mutual friend without other title
required but the honor of the debt, and that which is due from both of us
to the house where we met. Another consideration which is of not less
weight is that the money that you owe me has not been taken from me by the
chance of a card, but I loaned it to you from my pocket, and perhaps I
deprived myself by that of the advantage which it was permitted me to
hope, if I had wished to play instead of you.

\x93\x91If I am not happy enough to produce upon you by this letter the effect
that would be made upon me were I in your place, don\x92t take it amiss that
I place between us two a third respectable person, who is the natural
judge in similar cases.

\x93\x91I shall await your reply until day after to-morrow. I shall be very
happy if you judge by the moderation of my conduct of the perfect
consideration with which I have the honor to be--Monsieur, etc.,

                                                   De Beaumarchais.\x92\x94

See now the reply of M. de Sabli\xE8res, man of quality addressing himself to
the son of the watchmaker, Caron. Lom\xE9nie says, \x93I reproduce literally the
letter with the mistakes in spelling and grammar with which it is
decorated. [Unfortunately the effect is spoiled by translation.] \x91I know
that I am unhappy enough to owe you thirty-five louis, and I deny that
this can dishonor me when I have the will to pay them back. My manner of
thinking, Monsieur, is known, and when I shall no longer be your debtor, I
will make myself known to you by terms which will be different from yours.
Saturday morning I shall ask a rendezvous in order to acquit myself of the
thirty-five louis, and to thank you for the polite things with which you
have had the goodness to serve yourself in your letters; I will attempt to
reply in the best possible manner and I flatter myself that between now
and Saturday you will be good enough to have a better idea of me. Be
convinced that twice twenty-four hours will seem very long to me; as to
the respectable third, with which you menace me, I respect him but no one
could care less for threats, and I care even less about your moderation.
Saturday you shall have your thirty-five louis, I give you my word, and I
know not whether for my part I shall be happy enough to reply with
moderation. While awaiting to acquit myself of all that I owe you, I am,
monsieur, as you desire, your very humble. Sabli\xE8res.\x92

\x93This missive announcing not very pacific intentions was replied to by
Beaumarchais (who it will be remembered had recently killed a man at a
time when the laws against duels were very rigorous) in a letter in which
he begins by assurances of having had no intention to wound the honor of
that petulant M. de Sabli\xE8res, and he closes the letter thus: \x91My letter
explained I have the honor of announcing to you that I will wait at my
house all Saturday morning the effect of your third promise; you say you
are not happy enough to vouch for your moderation; from the style of your
letter it is easy to judge that you are scarcely master of yourself in
writing, but I assure you that I shall not exaggerate in any way an evil
of which I am not the cause, by losing control of myself, if I can help
it. If after these assurances, it is your project to pass the limits of a
civil explanation and to push things to their utmost, which I do not wish
in the least, you will find me, Monsieur, as firm to repulse an insult as
I try to be on my guard against the movement which brings it into being. I
have no fear, therefore, to assure you again that I have the honor to be
with all possible consideration, Monsieur,

                                            \x93\x91Your very humble, etc.,
                                              De Beaumarchais.

\x93\x91P. S. I keep a copy of this letter as well as of the first, in order
that the purity of my intentions may serve to justify me in case of
misfortune; but I hope to convince you Saturday that far from hunting a
quarrel, no one should make greater effort than I to avoid one. I cannot
explain myself in writing.\x92\x94

Upon the copy of the same letter is written with the hand of Beaumarchais
the following lines which explain the postscriptum and which treat of the
duel with the Chevalier du C. of which we have spoken already. \x93This
happened eight or ten days after my unhappy affair with the Chevalier du
C, which affair would have ruined me but for the goodness of Mesdames who
spoke with the king. M. de Sabli\xE8res asked for an explanation of the
postscriptum of my letter from Laumur, at whose house I lent him the
money, and what is amusing is that this explanation took away all his
desire to bring the money himself.\x94

We have chosen this instance among numerous others to show the difficulty
of the position in which Beaumarchais found himself placed. Gudin says,
\x93The efforts of envy against him, fortified the character to which nature
had given so much energy. He learned to watch unceasingly over himself, to
master the impetuosity of his passions, to conserve in the most perilous
and unexpected circumstances, a perfect coolness united with the most
active presence of mind. Everything which seemed prepared to destroy
him turned to his advantage and enabled him to rise superior to

It was very soon after acquiring the foundations of a fixed fortune, that
Beaumarchais carried into execution the cherished dream of his life, which
was to gather all the members of his family under his own roof and to
lavish upon them all those comforts of life, in which the limited means of
the elder Caron had not permitted them to indulge. His mother was no
longer living but there remained his father and two unmarried sisters at
home. The elder Caron had, two years before, at his son\x92s request given up
his trade of watchmaker, receiving from the latter a lifelong pension and
a considerable sum of money to cover certain heavy losses which had come
to him in the way of business.

We have formed already the acquaintance of Julie whom Beaumarchais
especially loved and who shared with him to the end all the vicissitudes
of his career.

Julie is spoken of as charming, witty, and vivacious; a good musician,
speaking Italian and Spanish with fluency, improvising songs and composing
verses, \x93more remarkable by their gaiety than by their poetic value.\x94
Later in life she appeared before the public in a serious little volume
entitled _Reflections on Life, or Moral Considerations on the Value of
Existence_, but at the present time--1763--the tone of her letters
distinctly betokens one not yet disenchanted with the gay world of which
her brother formed the center.

The youngest sister of all, Jeanne Marguerite Caron, seems to have
received a more brilliant education than the rest. M. de Lom\xE9nie says of
her that, \x93She was a good musician, playing very well on the harp, that
she had a charming voice and more than that she was very pretty. She loved
to compose verses like her sister Julie, and without being equally
intelligent she possessed the same vivid, gay _esprit_ which distinguished
the family. In her infancy and girlhood she was called \x91Tonton.\x92 When her
brother, now a courtier, had associated Julie with the graceful name of
Beaumarchais, he found an even more aristocratic name for his youngest
sister, he called her Mademoiselle de Boisgarnier, and it was under this
name that Mlle. Tonton appeared with success in several salons.

\x93In her correspondence as a girl, Mlle. Boisgarnier appears to us as a
small person, very elegant, slightly coquettish, slightly indolent,
somewhat sarcastic, but still very attractive. The whole tone of her
letters is that of the _petite bourgeoise_, of quality, very proud to have
for a brother a _Secr\xE9taire du roi, Lieutenant-g\xE9n\xE9ral des chasses_, and
in relation to whom she says in one of her letters, \x91_Comment se gouverne
la petite soci\xE9t\xE9? Le fr\xE8re charmant en fait-il toujours les d\xE9lices?_\x92\x94

An older sister, Fran\xE7oise, already had married a celebrated watchmaker of
Paris, named L\xE9pine, with whom the family tie was never broken. Her home
served as a place of rendezvous for the scattered members of the family
during those cruel years, of which we shall have to speak, when the
property of Beaumarchais was seized and he himself degraded from his
rights as citizen.

A son of this sister afterwards served as an officer in the American army
under the name of \x93Des Epini\xE8res.\x94

The eldest sister of all, Marie-Jos\xE8phe, had left her father\x92s house when
her brother was a young lad just returned from the school at Alfort. She
had married an architect named Guilbert and had settled at Madrid in
Spain. She took with her one of the younger sisters, Marie Louise, who
continued to live with her there. The two sisters kept a milliner\x92s shop
and the younger, Lizette as she was called, became the fianc\xE9e of a gifted
young Spaniard, Clavico, of whom we shall hear presently from the pen of
Beaumarchais himself.

Many years later the elder sister returned to France, a widow without
fortune, accompanied by Lizette and two young children. Beaumarchais gave
them both a yearly allowance, and at the death of the widow Guilbert,
continued to provide for her children whom he gathered under his roof in
Paris. Lizette had died some time previously.

Mademoiselle de Boisgarnier married very soon after her brother\x92s return
from Spain. She was, however, taken early from her family and friends. She
died leaving a daughter who, needless to say, was cared for by her
generous uncle, and who later in life owed to him her advantageous
settlement and dowry. She seems to have inherited a large share of the
family gifts and to have been witty and attractive. In the family circle
she went by the name of \x93the muse of Orleans,\x94 from the city in which she
was married and settled.

In estimating the full value of this unusual generosity which, as will be
seen, did not show itself in isolated and spasmodic acts, but rather in a
constant and inexhaustible stream flowing direct from his heart, it must
not be forgotten that while Beaumarchais was at different periods of his
life enormously rich and able to extend his generosity to those outside
his family, yet there were other periods when exactly the reverse was the
case, when he knew not where to turn for the necessary means of
subsistence for himself alone. It was at such times that the true
generosity of his nature shone forth in unmistakable clearness; there was
never a time in his whole career, no matter what calamity had befallen
him, that he thought of shaking himself loose from the family whose care
he had assumed, a burden which indeed he bore very lightly most of the
time, but which sometimes became a weight which he could scarcely support.
The thought, however, of rising again without every one of those dear to
him was so impossible to a nature like his, that it never entered his
mind. The very fact that it was difficult, that it was impossible for
anyone else was a sufficient spur to his energy. Defeat meant nothing to
him, if one thing which he had tried failed, he at once attempted
something else, but conquer he must and in the end he almost invariably

But to return to Beaumarchais and the family gathered under his roof; as
we have seen, his actions speak for themselves and need no interpreters.
In a letter to his father written a little later he sums up his experience
of the world and his reason for pushing his fortunes so vigorously. He

\x93I wish to walk in the career which I have embraced, and it is above
everything else in the desire to share with you in ease and fortune that I
follow it so persistently.\x94

       *       *       *       *       *

That the family of Beaumarchais knew how to appreciate and to return such
rare devotion we have incontestible proofs. Especially touching are the
outbursts of tenderness which come so spontaneously from the father\x92s
heart. Under the date of February 5th, 1763, at the moment of his
accepting the home prepared for him by his son the elder Caron writes, \x93I
bless heaven with the deepest gratitude for finding in my old age a son
with such an excellent heart, and far from being humiliated by my present
situation, my soul rises and warms itself at the touching idea of owing my
happiness, after God, to him alone.\x94

And a little later: \x93You modestly recommend me to love you a little; that
is not possible, my dear friend. A son such as you is not made to be loved
a little by a father who feels and thinks as I. The tears of tenderness
which fall from my eyes as I write are the proof of this; the qualities of
thy excellent heart, the force and grandeur of thy soul, penetrate me with
the most tender love. Honor of my gray hairs, my son, my dear son, by what
have I merited from God the grace with which he overwhelms me, in my dear
son? It is, as I feel, the greatest favor which He can accord to an honest
and appreciative father, a son such as you.\x94

The sincerity of these lines cannot for a moment be questioned, and we are
not surprised to find that the venerable old watchmaker died with a
blessing upon his lips. At the age of 77, a few days before his death, he
wrote to Beaumarchais, then engaged with his first measures regarding the
War of American Independence: \x93My good friend, my dear son, that name is
precious to my heart, I profit by an interval in my excessive suffering,
or rather in the torment which makes me fall in convulsions, simply to
thank you very tenderly for what you sent me yesterday. If you go back to
England I beg you to bring me a bottle of salts such as they give people
who, like me, fall in fainting fits. Alas! my dear child, perhaps I shall
no longer have the need of it when you return. I pray the Lord every day
of my life to bless you, to recompense you, and to preserve you from every
accident; this will always be the prayer of your good friend and
affectionate father,


But in 1763, many years of happy relationship between father and son were
still before them. It may be of interest to note that the house first
bought by Beaumarchais, in which the family passed many happy years, is
still in existence, possessing much the same external appearance as it did
when occupied by him who gave it its historical significance. It bears the
number, 26 rue de Cond\xE9, in the neighborhood of the Luxembourg. In the
iron grating about the windows may still be seen the initials of

But while he was laying the foundations of the family happiness in Paris,
an event was occurring in the distant capital of Spain the news of which
stirred his soul with indignation and caused him to hasten with all speed
to the scene of action. True however to the many-sided nature so strongly
developed within him, he took time thoroughly to prepare himself for the

He received from the patronage of Mesdames important recommendations to
the court of Spain, and power to enter into business negotiations at the
capital. His faithful friend, Paris du Verney, provided him with letters
of credit, destined to place him grandly at Madrid and to enable him to
carry on whatever his fertile brain could imagine, or his energy and
audacity carry through.

Express trains and automobiles had not been invented in those days, but
whatever the century in which he found himself possessed in the way of
rapid transit was put to the utmost test in this journey into Spain
stopping neither night nor day, and all the while his imagination carrying
him still faster, busying itself with the primary cause of his journey and
so sure of victory in his overwhelming consciousness of power, that
already his indignation was on the brink of turning into pardoning pity,
which it was bound to do as soon as his adversary showed any symptom of
returning to sentiments of honor. Of this rare adventure we must let
Beaumarchais tell in his own way.

                               CHAPTER III

\x93_Que dirait la Sagesse si elle me voyait entre-m\xEAler les occupations les
plus graves dont un homme puisse s\x92occuper, de soir\xE9es agr\xE9ables, tant\xF4t
chez un ambassadeur, tant\xF4t chez un ministre.... Les contraires
peuvent-ils ainsi aller dans une m\xEAme t\xEAte? Qui, mon cher p\xE8re, je
ressemble \xE0 feu Alcibiade, dont-il ne me manque que la figure, la
naissance, l\x92esprit et les richesses._\x94

                                   _Lettre de Beaumarchais \xE0 son p\xE8re._

_Marceline_: \x93_Jamais f\xE2ch\xE9, toujours en belle humeur; donnant le pr\xE9sent
\xE0 la joie, et s\x92inqui\xE9tant de l\x92avenir tout aussi peu que du pass\xE9,
s\xEAmillant g\xE9n\xE9reux g\xE9n\xE9reux._\x94

_Bartholo_: \x93_Comme un voleur!_\x94

_Marceline_: \x93_Comme un seigneur._\x94

                               \x93_Le Mariage de Figaro_\x94--Act I, Scene IV.

    Adventure with Clavico--Business Negotiations in Spain--Life of
      Pleasure at the Spanish Capital--Home Interests and Letters.

\x93For several years,\x94 wrote Beaumarchais, \x93I had had the happiness to
surround myself with my whole family. The joy of being thus united with
them and their gratitude towards me were the continual recompense for the
sacrifice which this cost me. Of five sisters which I had, two since their
youth had been confided by my father to one of his correspondents in
Spain, where they resided, and I had only a faint but sweet memory of them
which sometimes had been enlivened by their correspondence.

\x93In February, 1764, my father received a letter from the elder daughter of
which the following is the substance: \x91My sister has been outrageously
treated by a man as high in public favor as he is dangerous. Twice at the
moment of marrying her, he suddenly has broken his word without deigning
to give any excuse for his conduct. The offended sensibilities of my
sister have thrown her into such a state that from all appearances it is
doubtful if we can save her.\x92

\x93\x91The dishonor with which this event overwhelms us has forced us into
seclusion, where I pass the day and night in weeping while endeavoring to
offer my sister those consolations which I do not know how to take myself.

\x93\x91All Madrid knows that my sister has nothing with which to reproach
herself. If her brother has enough credit to recommend us to the French
Ambassador, His Excellency may be induced to protect us from the disgrace
which this perfidious man has brought upon us.\x92

\x93My father hastened to Versailles to meet me, and weeping gave me the
letter of my sister.

\x93\x91See, my son, what you can do for these two unfortunates, they are no
less your sisters than the others.\x92

\x93I was indeed touched by the account of the distressing situation of my
sister, but I said to my father, \x91Alas, what can I do? Who knows whether
there is not some fault which they hide from us?\x92

\x93\x91I forgot,\x92 said my father, \x91to show you several letters which prove my
daughter to be innocent of any fault.\x92

\x93I read these letters, they reassured me--then the words, \x91She is no less
your sister than the others,\x92 went to the depths of my heart.

\x93\x91Do not weep,\x92 I said to my father, \x91I have decided on a step which will
astonish you, but it seems to me the most certain, the most wise. I will
ask to be released from my duties at court, and taking only prudence for
a guide I will either revenge my sister or bring them both back to Paris
to partake with us of our modest fortune.\x92

\x93Further information which I derived from reliable sources which were
indicated by my sister, made my blood boil with indignation at the outrage
which she had suffered, so without any further delay, I went back to
Versailles to notify my august Protectresses, that a sorrowful affair of
the highest importance demanded my presence in Madrid, and forced me to
suspend my services at court. Astounded at so abrupt a departure, they
were kind enough to desire to be informed as to the nature of my trouble.
I showed them the letter of my sister.

\x93\x91Go, but act prudently,\x92 was the honorable encouragement which I received
from the Princesses; \x91that which you undertake is well and you shall have
support, if your conduct is reasonable.\x92

\x93The warmest recommendations to our ambassador were given me by these
august ladies, and became the inestimable price of four years devoted to
their amusement.

\x93At the moment of my departure I received the commission to negotiate a
very important affair in Spain for the commerce of France. M. du Verney,
touched by the motive of my voyage, embraced me and said, \x91Go my son, save
your sister. As to the business with which you are charged know that in
all you undertake, you have my support. I have promised this publicly to
the Royal Family, and I will never go back on my word. Here are my notes
for 200,000 francs, which will enable you to draw upon me for that sum.\x92

\x93I started and traveled night and day, accompanied by a friend. I arrived
at Madrid the 18th of May at eleven o\x92clock in the morning; I found my
sisters expecting me. Scarcely were the first embraces over, than I said
to them, \x91Don\x92t be surprised if I employ the first moments in learning
exactly the nature of your unhappy adventure. To serve you with success I
must be informed fully in regard to what happened.\x92 The account they gave
me was exact and long. Several of their intimate friends were present who
testified to its accuracy. When the story was finished, I kissed my sister
and said to her, \x91My child, now that I know all, console yourself. I see
with pleasure that you no longer love the man; this makes the matter much
easier for me. Tell me simply where I can find him.\x92 Everyone present
advised me to begin by seeing the ambassador, as our enemy was a man
powerfully supported at court.

\x93\x91Very good, my friends,\x92 I said, \x91to-morrow I will go and pay my respects
to Monsieur the ambassador, but do not be angry if I take certain steps
before I see him. The only thing I ask of you is to keep my arrival here
absolutely secret.\x92

\x93Promptly I had a costume taken from my trunk, and hastily adjusting it,
went directly to the house of Joseph Clavico, guard of the archives of the
king. He was not at home. I was told where he might be found; I hastened
thither and without making myself known I requested an interview at his
earliest possible convenience, as I was charged with certain commissions
for him from France. He invited me to take my chocolate with him at nine
o\x92clock the next morning; I accepted for myself and my traveling

\x93The next morning, the 19th of May, I arrived at half-past eight. I found
him superbly lodged in the house of a man prominent at court, who is so
much his friend, that absent from Madrid he allowed him the use of his
home as though it were his own.

\x93\x91I am charged,\x92 I said to him, \x91by a society of men of letters, to
establish in the cities where I pass a literary correspondence with the
most learned men of the country. As no other Spaniard writes better than
the author of _el Pensador_, to whom I have the honor of speaking, it
seems to me that I cannot better serve my friends, than in connecting
myself with a man of your merits.\x92

\x93I saw that he was enchanted with my proposition, so better to judge the
man with whom I had to deal, I allowed him to discourse lengthily upon
the advantages which different nations might obtain from similar
correspondence. He talked like an angel and simply glowed with pleasure.

\x93In the midst of his joy, he asked me what was the business which drew me
to Spain, saying he would be happy if he might be of any service to me.

\x93\x91I accept with gratitude your flattering offer,\x92 I replied, \x91and I assure
you that for you I have no secrets.\x92 Then desiring to mystify him
completely so that the end of my discourse alone would explain its import,
I presented my friend a second time, saying, \x91Monsieur here is not an
entire stranger to what I have to say to you, and will not be the least in
our way.\x92 This exordium caused him to regard my friend with much
curiosity. Then I began:

\x93\x91A French merchant of limited means had a good many correspondents in
Spain. One of the richest of these, nine or ten years ago, in passing
through Paris, made him the following proposition: \x93Give me two of your
daughters, I will take them with me to Madrid, they will live with me, who
am an old bachelor without family, they will be the happiness of my old
days and they shall inherit one of the richest establishments in Spain.\x94

\x93\x91The eldest daughter, already married, and a younger sister were confided
to him. In exchange for this favor, the father agreed to supply the
Spanish house with whatever merchandise was needed from France.

\x93\x91Two years later the correspondent died, leaving the sisters without
having received any benefit and embarrassed with a commercial house which
they were obliged to keep up. (Here I saw Clavico redouble his attention.)

\x93\x91About this time a young man, a native of the Canary Islands, presented
himself at the house. (All his gaiety vanished at the words which
designated him.) Notwithstanding his small fortune, the ladies, seeing his
great ardor to learn the French language and the sciences, aided him by
every means in their power.

\x93\x91Full of desire to become celebrated, he formed the project, quite new
for the nation, of providing the city of Madrid with a periodical journal
in the nature of the English _Spectator_. He received from his friends
encouragement and help of every kind. His enterprise met with great
success; then, animated with the hope of making himself a name, he
ventured to propose marriage with the younger of the French women. \x91Begin
by succeeding,\x92 said the elder one, \x91if you are able to secure a position
which will permit you to live honorably and if she prefers you to other
suitors, I shall not refuse my consent.\x92 (Here Clavico began to move about
nervously in his chair, but without apparent notice I continued thus:)

\x93\x91The younger, touched by the merits of the man who sought her hand,
refused several advantageous alliances, preferring to wait until he had
succeeded in obtaining what he desired and encouraged him to issue his
first philosophic paper under the imposing title of _el Pensador_. (Here I
saw he looked ready to faint.) The work,\x92 I continued with icy coldness,
\x91had a prodigious success; the King himself, amused by that charming
production, gave the author marks of his satisfaction. He offered him the
first honorable position which should become vacant. At this the young
man dispersed all other pretendants to the young woman\x92s hand by publicly
announcing his intentions.

\x93\x91The marriage was postponed only by the non-arrival of the desired
position. At last, after six years of waiting on one hand, and of
assiduous efforts on the other, the position arrived, and at the same
moment the young man disappeared. (Here Clavico gave an involuntary sigh
and then turned crimson with confusion. I noticed all this without ceasing
to speak.)

\x93\x91The affair had made too much noise to permit the ladies to regard this
_d\xE9no\xFBment_ with indifference. They had taken a house large enough for two
families, the bans had been published; the outrage made all their friends
indignant. Monsieur the French ambassador interested himself. When the
young man in question found that the women were thus protected, fearing to
lose his credit, he went and prostrated himself at the feet of his
fianc\xE9e. He employed every means in his power to win her back. As the
anger of a woman is almost always love disguised, everything was soon
adjusted. The preparations for the marriage were recommenced. The bans
were published again, and the event was to come off in three days.

\x93\x91The reconciliation had made as much noise as the rupture. He went to
obtain leave of the minister to marry, and before going said, \x93My friends,
conserve the wavering heart of my mistress until my return and dispose
everything so that I may then conduct her to the altar.\x94 (In spite of the
horrible state in which my recital put him, Clavico, still uncertain of my
motive, looked from time to time from me to my friend, whose sang-froid
instructed him as little as my own.) I continued:

\x93\x91He returned sure enough two days later, but instead of leading his
fianc\xE9e to the altar he sent her word that he had again changed his mind,
and that he would not marry her.

\x93\x91Their friends, infuriated, rushed upon him. The insolent fellow defies
them to do their worst, and threatens that if the French women undertake
to interfere he has it in his power to ruin them. At this the young woman
falls into such a state that her life is in danger. In her utter despair,
the elder sister writes to France, recounting the public outrage they had
received. This account touches the heart of a brother who demanded at once
permission to come to Spain in order to clear up this affair. He has made
but one bound from Paris to Madrid, and this brother _am I_, who have left
everything: country, position, business, family, pleasures, to come here
to revenge an innocent and unhappy sister; it is I who come armed with
right and firmness to unmask a traitor, and to write his soul in traces of
blood upon his face,--and that traitor--_is you_!\x94

The effect of these words upon the unhappy Clavico, can be imagined better
than described. As Beaumarchais finished his long recital he turned and
fixed his gaze steadily upon his adversary, who writhed under its spell.
As Beaumarchais paused, Clavico began to mutter forth excuses.

To return to the account of Beaumarchais. \x93\x91Do not interrupt me, you have
nothing whatever to say, but a great deal to hear. To commence, will you
have the goodness to declare before Monsieur here who has come with me
from France for this express purpose, whether by breach of faith,
frivolity, weakness, or other vice, my sister has merited the double
outrage which you have had the cruelty to impose upon her publicly.\x92

\x93\x91No, Monsieur, I admit that Donna Maria, your sister, is full of spirit,
grace and virtue.\x92

\x93\x91Has she ever given you any subject for complaint?\x92

\x93\x91Never, never.\x92

\x93Then turning to the friend who accompanied me: \x91You have heard the
justification of my sister, go and publish it, the rest that I have to say
to Monsieur does not need witnesses.\x92

\x93My friend went out, Clavico rose but I made him sit down.

\x93\x91Now, Monsieur, that we are alone, here is my project which I hope you
will approve.\x92\x94 Beaumarchais then proposed either a duel, or a written
justification of his sister.

While Clavico rose and paced restlessly up and down the room, Beaumarchais
coolly rang for the chocolate to which he helped himself while the unhappy
man was going over in his mind what there remained for him to do.

Clavico, though unprincipled in character, was clever enough to recognize
the qualities of the man with whom he had to deal. Being possessed of
neither physical courage nor training, the first alternative offered by
Beaumarchais had no place in his consideration. Obliged to accept the
other, he decided to do so with the grace of one having been convinced of
his wrong. Beaumarchais, informed of this purpose, summoned several
servants of the house whom he stationed in an adjoining gallery as
witnesses in case Clavico ever should try to prove that force had been
employed. Paper, pen, and ink were brought, Clavico seated himself and
meekly wrote, while Beaumarchais walked indifferently to and fro
dictating. Again to return to the narrative of Beaumarchais:

\x93Declaration, of which I have the original:

\x93\x91I the undersigned, Joseph Clavico, guard of the archives of the crown,
testify that I have been received with kindness in the house of Madame
Guilbert, that I have deceived Mademoiselle Caron her sister by a promise,
a thousand times repeated, to marry her, that I have failed in the
fulfillment of this promise, without her having committed any fault which
could serve as a pretext or excuse for my breach of faith; that, on the
contrary, the conduct of that lady, for whom I have the most profound
respect, always has been pure and without spot. I testify that by my
conduct, by the frivolity of my discourse, and by the interpretation which
could be given it, that I have openly outraged this virtuous young lady,
of whom I beg pardon by this writing made freely, although I recognize
fully that I am unworthy to obtain it, promising her every possible
reparation which she could desire, if this does not satisfy her.

\x93\x91Made at Madrid and entirely written by my hand, in presence of her
brother, the 19th of May, 1764.

                                                Signed--Joseph Clavico.\x92\x94

As we have said, Clavico had accepted the r\xF4le forced upon him with
admirable grace. As soon as he had signed the paper and handed it to
Beaumarchais, whose anger now was wholly appeased, he began in the most
insinuating tones, \x93Monsieur, I believe that I am speaking to the most
offended but most generous of men.\x94 He then proceeded to explain how
ambition had ruined him; how he had always loved Donna Maria; how his only
hope now lay in her forgiveness and in being able to win back her
affection; how deeply he realized his unworthiness of this favor and that
to obtain it there was only one person to whom he could have recourse and
that was the offended brother before him; he therefore implored
Beaumarchais to take the paper he had just signed and use it as he wished,
but to plead his cause with Donna Maria.

This was a turn in the situation for which the brilliant Frenchman was
hardly prepared. The wily Clavico pursued his advantage and before the
interview had ended he was already convinced that the man with whom he had
to deal was too generous to be really dangerous.

Strong in his position through the written declaration of Clavico,
Beaumarchais now hurried back to the home of Madame Guilbert. He found his
sisters in the midst of their friends, waiting with indescribable
impatience for his return; when he arrived with the paper, when they heard
its contents, a scene of the greatest excitement occurred in which amid
mutual embraces, with everyone weeping and laughing together, and all
talking at once, the whole story little by little at length was brought

As can be imagined, the affair made a great stir in Madrid. The influence
of the friends of Clavico on the one hand, and on the other, the strong
recommendations of the French Ambassador, who took the matter seriously in
hand, finally induced the family after several weeks of indecision on
their part and of pleading on that of Clavico, to hush the matter by
accepting a new alliance. The affair once settled, Beaumarchais, true to
his character of doing wholeheartedly whatever he undertook, became at
once the warm friend and confidant of Clavico, lent him money, entered
heartily into his schemes of advancement, so that the two were constantly
seen together. After a short period of this friendship, so sincere on the
part of Beaumarchais, imagine his surprise to suddenly find that the
cunning Clavico had all along been secretly plotting his ruin and was now
on the brink of having him arrested and thrown into prison.

Furious at last, Beaumarchais no longer hesitated in wreaking his
vengeance upon his perfidious adversary; he rushed to court, made the
whole matter thoroughly known, and the king, having entered into the
merits of the case, decided against Clavico whom he discharged from his
service and who was obliged to take refuge in a convent outside of Madrid.
From this retreat he addressed a pleading letter to Beaumarchais imploring
his commiseration. The latter in speaking of it says, \x93He was right to
count upon it, I hated him no longer, in fact I never in my life hated

Before going farther, it may be of interest to note that this same Clavico
survived Beaumarchais a number of years, dying in Madrid in 1806. He seems
to have succeeded in making his way in the world in spite of his temporary
loss of favor, and also, to quote Lom\xE9nie, \x93after having seen himself
immolated during life in the open theater, by Goethe, as a melodramatic
scoundrel.\x94 He translated Buffon into Spanish and died editor of the
_Historical and Political Mercury_ and vice-director of the Cabinet of
Natural History of Madrid.

As might be expected the news of Beaumarchais\x92s way of settling the
Spanish matter, caused no less joy to the family in France, than to that
in Madrid. On June 6th, 1764, his father wrote to him: \x93How deliciously I
feel the honor, my dear Beaumarchais, of having such a son, whose actions
crown so gloriously the end of my career. I see at a glance all the good
that will result for the honor of my dear Lisette from the generous action
which you have performed in her favor. I receive by the same post two
letters from the charming Countess (the Countess of Fuen-Clara, one of the
patronesses of the _p\xE8re_ Caron, watchmaker) one to me and the other to
Julie, so beautiful and touching, so full of tender expressions for me,
and honorable for you, that you will have no less pleasure than I when you
read them. You have enchanted her; she never tires of dwelling upon the
pleasure it gives her to know you, or the desire she has of being useful
to you, or the joy it gives her to see how all the Spanish approve and
praise your action with Clavico; she could not be more delighted if you
were her own son. Adieu, my dear Beaumarchais, my honor, the joy of my
heart; receive a thousand embraces from the kindest of fathers and the
best of friends.


There is also a letter extant from the abb\xE9 de Malespine to the elder
Caron. He wrote: \x93I have read and re-read, Monsieur, the account which has
been sent you from Spain. I am overwhelmed with joy at all that it
contains. Monsieur your son is a real hero. I see in him the most
brilliantly gifted of men and the tenderest of brothers; honor, firmness,
everything shines out in his proceedings with Clavico.\x94

When this affair which had occupied him so intensely for almost six weeks
was definitely settled, Beaumarchais seems to have given it no further
consideration, but to have turned his attention to the business
negotiations with which he was charged, and to the life of gaiety and
pleasure which his brilliant gifts opened to him. In speaking of this
period, Lom\xE9nie says, \x93Scarcely arrived at Madrid, we see him plunging
into the whirlpool of industrial enterprises, pleasures, festivals,
gallantries, of music and of song, which was his element. He is in the
flower of his age; all his esprit, all his imagination, all his gaiety, in
a word all his faculties, are at the highest point of their development.\x94

Soon we find him writing to his father, \x93I follow my affairs with a
determination which you know me to possess; but all business between the
French and the Spanish is hard to bring to success. I shall have long
details to give you when I get back to warm myself at your fire. I work,
I write, I confer, I draw up documents, that is my life. I promise you
that whether I succeed or not in all that I have undertaken, I will at
least bring with me the esteem of all those in this country with whom I
have to deal. Take care of your health and believe that my greatest
happiness will be to enable you to share whatever good comes to me.\x94

A little later he wrote, \x93I am now at the flower of my age. It is for me
to work and for you to repose yourself. I may perhaps be able to relieve
you entirely from all your engagements. To this object I devote all my
energy. I will not tell you all now, but understand that I shall not go to
sleep over the project which I have always had in my mind to put you on a
level with all that is about you. Take care of yourself, my dear father,
and live. The moment will come when you will be able to enjoy your old
age, free from debts, and satisfied with your children. I have just had
your son-in-law appointed paid engineer to the king. If you receive news
of me from any inhabitant of Madrid they will say, your son amuses himself
like a king; he passes all his evenings at the Russian Ambassador\x92s,--with
my lady Rochford; he dines four times a week with the Commander of the
engineers, and drives with six mules all about Madrid; then he goes to the
_sitio real_ to see M. de Grimaldi and other Ministers. He takes one meal
a day at the French ambassador\x92s so that his stay is not only charming,
but very inexpensive. All this is true as far as amusements go,--but you
must not suppose that I neglect my business. I attend to every detail
myself. It is in the high society for which I was born that I find the
means which I require--and when you see what I have written, you will
admit that I have not been walking but running toward my goal.\x94

One of the chief enterprises which Beaumarchais had undertaken was the
establishment of a Louisiana Company modeled on that of the British East
India Company, which had for its object the securing for France the right
to trade in that territory for the next thirty years.

He had a project for the colonization of the Sierra Morena Mountains in
Spain, a third for the introduction of a new and more practical method of
providing the army with the necessary supplies; then there were
innumerable minor schemes for the improvement of agriculture, commerce,
industry, and things generally in Spain. Upon all of these subjects, he
addresses innumerable memoirs to the Spanish ministers, and, in a word,
does his utmost to infuse some of his own energy into that unenterprising
nation. Although he almost succeeds in stirring things into a semblance of
life, yet it will not be thought surprising when we consider the nation
with which he had to deal, that notwithstanding his assiduous efforts,
many of his projects failed completely, and others met with but partial

There is a lengthy letter given by Lom\xE9nie addressed by Beaumarchais to
his father in which the son goes into minute details about his project for
supplying the Spanish army with provisions. It shows, amongst other
things, his mastery of calculation on a gigantic scale, and that no
enterprise was too vast for his comprehensive intellect.

True to the dictates of his generous soul, here as elsewhere, it is the
thought of the ease and comfort which he will be enabled to give to those
dear to him that fills his heart with gladness. Still to his father he
wrote: \x93I finish, my dear father, by recommending the care of your health
as the most precious thing that I have in this world and I reiterate the
tender and respectful attachment with which I have the honor of being,
Monsieur and very dear father, your very humble and very obedient servitor
and affectionate son, Beaumarchais.\x94 ... (Then in postscript) \x93I might be
able to find ten days that I would employ with a rare satisfaction in
procuring you a consultation with M. Tronchon so as to get at the bottom
of your malady. This idea consoles me in advance. It may be that before I
go to Lyons, I shall pass by Paris, in which case I will take you with me
and the rest will follow of itself. Your health becomes more and more dear
to me, as I feel myself able to augment your satisfaction by my
advancement and by the care that I will give to render your old age
agreeable in procuring comfort for all those who are dear to you.\x94

But to return to the social life which Beaumarchais was leading at Madrid.
We have spoken already of his distaste for card playing. Lom\xE9nie gives a
very characteristic letter of Beaumarchais to his sister Julie, where he
paints with rare force and vividness of coloring the scene about a _table
de jeu_ in the salon of the Russian Ambassador. The center of the life and
movement is naturally himself. With his usual frankness he writes to
Julie, \x93Evenings we have cards or music and then supper, of all of which I
seem to be the soul. The society has been increased by all the
Ambassadors, who before my arrival lived rather isolated. They say now
they have charming evenings because I am there.\x94 Then follows a vivid
description of the mad playing which ends by Beaumarchais\x92s lending this
time, not thirty louis, but two hundred and thirty, besides three hundred
and fifty which he had gained at the play, but which were not forthcoming.
The debtors in this case were the Russian Ambassador and his wife. As
Beaumarchais was now winning he rose and refused to play any longer. The
Ambassador and his wife who were excited over their losses, failed in
their duties as host and hostess; the matter made a good deal of noise and
for ten days coolness reigned in all the social life of Madrid,
Beaumarchais vowing that he had played for the last time. During the
whole affair he carried himself with so much dignity and showed so much
moderation that he won great credit among all the Princes and Ambassadors
of that high society. Finally the matter was adjusted, the joyful evenings
recommenced, but with grand music instead of cards, and Beaumarchais adds:
\x93Word of honor, let no one ever speak to me of playing again, let us
amuse ourselves with other things which do not entail such serious
consequences.\x94 And a little further on, \x93the friendship is stronger than
ever; balls, concerts, but no more cards. I have written some French words
to a Spanish air that is very much admired; I have had two hundred copies
made. I will save one to send with the music of the one I sent to my
father. Good night, I will write Tuesday to my Pauline and her aunt.\x94

But not only the Russian Ambassador rejoiced in the pleasure of the
intimate friendship of Beaumarchais, but also--in the words of Lom\xE9nie:
\x93Lord Rochford dotes upon him, goes to the Prado with him, sups with him,
sings duets with him and becomes astonishingly jovial for an English

\x93But this is not all his life at the Capital. In the midst of his
industrial enterprises and his aristocratic pleasures, the future author
of the _Barbier de S\xE9ville_ appears to be continually occupied with his
humble family, now displaying a rare tact and without compromising his
patrician bearing to force great ladies at Madrid to pay the bills which
they had long owed the elder Caron; and with fraternal bonhomie, entering
into all the details of the life of his sisters at home, or leaving the
salons of the Capital for the modest dwelling of his sisters at Madrid.\x94

That he was not ashamed of their station in life is admirably shown by the
following letter addressed to his father. He wrote: \x93I have seen Drouillet
(a French banker established in Madrid). He and his wife called soon
after my arrival, but I have not entered into their society although
Drouillet is himself an estimable man. The reason I have kept away is the
ridiculous airs of his wife, who because she possesses a few more _\xE9cus_
than your daughters considers herself above them. She has tried to attract
me there by attentions and invitations of every sort but never mentioned
my sisters, which made me reply that I was making too short a stay in
Madrid to give my time to any but my family. It is the same everywhere,
this ridiculous feeling belongs to every country. There are here great and
little France. My sisters are too well brought up to belong to the latter
and they are not considered rich enough to be admitted to the former, so
that the visits of the Drouillets were for me alone; at which Monsieur
your son, took the liberty of putting Madame Drouillet in her place; and
so she says that I am _malin_. You know what that means, my dear father,
and whether there is malice in seeing things clearly and then in saying
what one thinks.\x94

In relation to the debtors of the elder Caron at Madrid, allusions
frequently occur in the letters. For instance, the father writes, \x93I see
what you have done and what you are doing among my debtors from whom I
would never have drawn a farthing but for you.\x94 At another time
Beaumarchais writes, \x93I am in a way to receive payment from all of your
grandees--their self esteem is so mixed up with it that I think I shall
manage to get all they owe you. My letters to them are polite but proud.
The duke and duchess do not seem to want to be under any obligation to me,
fearing that I will boast of it and that the length of the credit will be
divulged. Let me manage it in my own way.\x94

Here is a sample of his manner of approaching these creditors of his
father. \x93Knowing that a number of idle people do me the honor of
disturbing themselves regarding the motives of my stay in Spain, it has
seemed to me my duty to tranquilize them by employing my time in
soliciting the debts of my house. In consequence I have the honor to
demand of your excellency the permission\x94--here follows a statement of the
debt owed to the elder Caron. One of these individuals of quality thus
addressed being in no way anxious to pay, revenged herself by trying to
show up Beaumarchais as an adventurer. Immediately the latter wrote home
and received from his sister Julie by return post, a beautifully printed
decree drawn from the \x93Cabinet rose\x94 by the chimney. There are four great
pages containing fifteen articles reinforced by legal terms and extracts
of ordinances--the whole surmounted with a beautiful ornament made of
acanthus leaves and bearing the following inscription, \x93Made at the castle
of the Louvre by Monsieur Pierre-August Caron de Beaumarchais, Equerry
Councilor of the King, _lieutenant-g\xE9n\xE9ral des chasses aux bailliage et
capitainerie de la varenne du Louvre, grande vennerie, fauconnerie of
France_, having session in the chamber of council, Tuesday, January 17th,
1764, signed de Vitry, chief registrar.\x94 For fear the list was not long
enough, knowing well that one can never have too many titles in Spain, his
brother-in-law added, \x93Equerry Councilor, secretary of the king,
_contr\xF4leur_ of the house of the king, lieutenant-general, etc.\x94

But it is impossible to touch upon all the details of that correspondence
so faithfully sustained on both sides for more than a year, during his
stay in Spain. These letters are the chief source from which we have to
draw in estimating Beaumarchais the son, brother and friend, as well as
the man of the world and the man of business. Fortunately nearly all these
letters have been preserved; we shall have occasion to return to them when
treating of another phase of the life of Beaumarchais in relation to a
connection formed before his sudden departure from Paris. As this incident
with its connections takes us away from the outside world and conducts us
into the inmost sanctuary of the home established in the rue de Cond\xE9, all
the letters which touch upon it seem to belong to the next chapter.

It is there we shall see Beaumarchais playing at first the part of the
happy and accepted lover of his charming Pauline, but a little later
assuming the rather astonishing r\xF4le of victim, for in the words of
Lom\xE9nie, \x93In the end he is really the victim, and we shall see that he
does his best to be furious. He is here the antithesis of Clavico. It is
Pauline who will be Clavico, or rather there will be a Clavico who will
carry off Pauline.\x94

                               CHAPTER IV

\x93_Figure charmante, organe flexible et touchant! de l\x92\xE2me surtout...._\x94

                                      _\x93Les deux amis,\x94 Act 1, Scene 1._

    The Beautiful Creole, Pauline--Beaumarchais the Judge, the
      Lover, the Friend--Mademoiselle de Boisgarnier Marries Janot
      de Miron--The P\xE8re Caron\x92s Second Marriage.

Before entering into a consideration of the r\xF4le played by Beaumarchais as
lover, a few more touches are necessary to represent him as he was before
the world. We already have spoken of his various appointments at court,
and mentioned the fact that in 1763 he had bought the very honorable
charge of _lieutenant-g\xE9n\xE9ral des chasses aux bailliage et capitainerie de
la varenne du Louvre_.

In order that it may be quite clear to the reader what were the functions
assumed in acquiring this office we may explain that the _capitaineries_
were territorial circumscriptions in which the right of hunting was
reserved exclusively for the king. That known as \x93_la varenne du Louvre_\x94
extended for some fifty or sixty miles about Paris. There was a special
tribunal called \x93the tribunal to conserve the pleasures of the king\x94 which
tried all cases connected with infringements of the regulations belonging
to the _capitaineries_. The audiences of the particular one in question
were held once a week at the Louvre. They were presided over by the duke
de la Valli\xE8re, whose chief officer Beaumarchais now became.

When the duke was absent, which M. de Lom\xE9nie assures us was almost
invariably the case, Beaumarchais himself presided. Under the latter were
many subordinates, some of them noblemen of high rank, so that it is easy
to understand the prestige of such an office.

There were innumerable regulations, many of them very trying to private
individuals, which it became the duty of the lieutenant-general to
enforce. In the territory belonging to the _capitainerie_, no game could
be shot, no garden or other wall be constructed without special
authorization from the tribunal which presided over these matters. So
annoying were these regulations that in 1789 the suppression of the
_capitaineries_ was one of the most popular measures voted by the
_Assembl\xE9e Constituante_. In 1763, however, no one had thought as yet of
the possibility of doing without them, so that we shall see Beaumarchais
entering with his usual ardor into the exact and circumspect performance
of his new duties.

To think of Beaumarchais as he appears later in life, attacking with the
audacity which belongs to him alone, the very foundations of feudal
despotism in his inimitable _Mariage de Figaro_, and to see him now in his
long judicial robes seated upon the _fleur de lis_, gravely judging \x93pale
humans\x94 apropos of rabbits, is a contrast which hardly can be met with in
any other career, and certainly not in any other century. That he took his
functions seriously and that he also knew how to guard such rights as
individuals then possessed is clearly shown in the following
characteristic anecdote which we quote from Gudin.

\x93Soon after his return from Spain, Beaumarchais had a quarrel with the
Prince of Cond\xE9, on the subject of the privileges of the chase, in
connection with a certain garden wall which the Prince had torn down and
which Beaumarchais as the protector of the rights of the individual had
caused to be rebuilt. The Prince was very angry. M. de Beaumarchais
mounted on a horse and went to find him while the nobleman was out

\x93\x91I have come,\x92 said Beaumarchais, \x91to give an account of my conduct.\x92

\x93A discussion at once arose; the Prince had a good deal of _esprit_ and
what is rarer still in one of his rank, he had liberal ideas.

\x93\x91Certainly,\x92 Beaumarchais said to him, \x91your Highness can obtain anything
you wish. Your rank, your power--\x92

\x93\x91No,\x92 replied the Prince, \x91it is as lawyer that I pretend to be in the

\x93\x91In that case,\x92 said Beaumarchais, \x91I demand of your Highness leave to be
the lawyer on the opposite side and to plead before you. You shall be the

\x93He then proceeded to expose the affair with so much clearness, precision,
eloquence, energy, and regard for the Prince that the latter avowed he was
in the wrong and from that moment felt for Beaumarchais the greatest
affection.\x94 And the devoted biographer hastens to add, \x93It was difficult
to see him without loving him; the Dauphin, Mesdames, the Duke de la
Valli\xE8re, the Duke de Chaulnes and nearly all those with whom he came in
contact have experienced the same sentiment.\x94

During Beaumarchais\x92s sojourn in Spain the functions of this office, when
not presided over by the Duke in person, were necessarily left to
subordinates. Beaumarchais however retained his charge until a period just
prior to its final abolishment in 1789.

When in the spring of 1765, Beaumarchais returned from Spain he found the
court plunged in mourning, for the Dauphin was very near his end. Concerts
for Mesdames were not to be thought of, so very naturally he found
himself drifting farther and farther from the social atmosphere of Court
life. We soon shall see him employing his spare moments in literary work
but before attempting to study Beaumarchais as an author, let us pause to
contemplate him as the lover.

Like most romances connected with the life of this unusual character, the
affair which we are now about to consider is not a romance pure and
simple, but has also a very prosaic, business-like, matter-of-fact side.
It would seem that the story has come down to us only because there was a
question of money involved, and of money never repaid to Beaumarchais. In
the words of Lom\xE9nie, \x93We thank heaven that there was really a matter of
business, that is to say, a debt at the end of this love affair, or else
it would have met the fate of other episodes of the same nature, the
papers relating to which have been destroyed, and so it is in the august
character of _pi\xE8ces justicatives_ that some very tender letters of an
amiable young lady have been able to traverse the years.\x94

The amiable young lady in question, Pauline, was a charming creole, born
on the island of Santo Domingo, then belonging to France. She had lost her
parents in early infancy and was brought to Paris, where she was received
by an aunt who became a second mother to the young girl. The family estate
was estimated to be worth two million francs, but as it was heavily
encumbered with debts and in a run-down condition Pauline was no such
heiress as at first it would appear.

She was beautiful, however, and is described by those who knew her as
tender, delicate, and childlike, with a bewitching voice and good musical
ability. The family of Pauline at Paris became intimate with that of the
Carons about the time that Beaumarchais made his first acquaintance with
Paris du Verney.

From the first, Beaumarchais was much attracted to the beautiful girl,
then about eighteen years of age, and as may be imagined had little
difficulty in arousing in her a corresponding sentiment. Before demanding
her hand in marriage, however, he decided to send a commissioner to Santo
Domingo to look carefully into the condition of her affairs and to see
what would be best to do for the re-establishment of the estate. An uncle
of Beaumarchais, M. Pichon, accepted the commission and set out for Santo
Domingo provided with 20,000 francs in money and a cargo of merchandise of
which he was to dispose to the best advantage possible. Having taken this
step, Beaumarchais wrote the following letter to Pauline in which prudence
shows itself quite as clearly as sentiment.

\x93You thought me sad, my dear and amiable Pauline; I was only preoccupied;
I had a thousand things to say to you which seem so serious, so important,
that I have thought it wise to put them upon paper so that you can better
grasp their import. You could not have doubted, my dear Pauline, that a
sincere and lasting attachment was the true cause of all that I have done
for you. Although I have been discreet enough not to seek your hand in
marriage until I was in a situation to give you your proper station, my
whole conduct must have proved to you that I had designs upon your future
and that they were honorable. To-day, now that my funds are engaged for
the re-establishment of your affairs I am hoping for the sweet fruits of
my labors; I even said something to your uncle yesterday, who seemed
favorably disposed toward me. I must avow to you that I took the liberty
of assuring him that I believed that your consent would not be refused me
and I explained clearly to him my intentions. Pardon, my dear Pauline, it
was without presumption that I was led to make the avowal to him. It
seemed to me that your constant friendship for me was the guarantee of
what I advanced. Do you disavow it?

\x93There is one thing, however, which still deters me, even though, my
amiable Pauline, with proper management and a reasonable economy, it is
probable that the actual state of my affairs is such that I have enough to
make your destiny agreeable, which is the only desire of my heart; yet if
through some terrible misfortune all the money which I send to Santo
Domingo should be engulfed in the ruinous condition of an affair of which
we as yet know nothing but from the testimony of others, these funds
deducted from my fortune will no longer permit me to support a condition
such as I would have given you; and what would be my sorrow if that were
the case!

\x93This disquietude is the only reason that has forced me to retard the
demand for your hand, after which I have sighed for so long a time.

\x93I do not know what claims you have upon the property of your dear uncle,
either in regard to the dowry of your late aunt or for the debts of which
I have heard indirectly spoken. It seems very improper for me to broach
this subject to you or to him. I revolt at the thought. Nevertheless, my
dear Pauline, in order to pass a happy life, one must be without
uneasiness as to the future, and no sooner should I have you in my arms
than I must begin to tremble lest some misfortune should cause the loss of
the funds which I have sent to America; because I have placed no less than
80,000 francs aside for this purpose.

\x93This then, my dear Pauline, is the cause of my silence which must have
seemed strange after all I have done.

\x93There are two ways out of this difficulty if you accept my proposal; the
first is to have patience until the entire success of my plans and the
security of my capital permits me to offer you something assured; the
second is that you engage your aunt to sound your uncle upon what
dispositions he intends to make in regard to you. Far, however, from
wishing to diminish his comfort in order to augment yours, I am entirely
ready to make sacrifices on my part, to render his old age more agreeable
if the actual condition of his own affairs holds him in restraint. But if
the tenderness which he feels for you leads him to favor your interests,
my intentions would never be to permit him to transfer to you anything
during his lifetime, but since in case of his death he would be no longer
able to enjoy the use of it himself, it does not seem improper to make a
similar request of an uncle who takes the place of a father to you, and
who has the right to expect your care and your attentions to make his old
age agreeable. Assured from this side, we could then conclude our happy
marriage, my dear Pauline, and look upon the money sent away as a _pierre
d\x92attente_, thrown out into the future, to render it more agreeable if it
succeeds, but which the future benevolence of your uncle would make good
in case of loss.

\x93Reflect seriously upon what I have written you. Give me your advice in
reply. My tenderness for you will always have the ascendency over my
prudence. My fate is in your hands; yours is in the hands of your uncle.\x94

This must have seemed a very solemn and business-like letter for a young
colonial unused to the minute exactitude of a French _m\xE9nag\xE8re_. Her reply
shows that the heart had discovered what it most desired to know, but that
the mind was confused by the mass of detail on the matter of her fortune
which after all must have seemed to her a matter of but secondary

She wrote in reply: \x93Your letter, Monsieur, my good friend, has thrown me
into extreme distress; I did not feel strong enough to reply myself; nor
did I feel either that I ought to communicate it to my aunt, her
tenderness for me which is her chief merit in regard to me, could not help
me in the least. You will no doubt be very much astonished when you learn
the intrepid act which I decided upon; the moment was favorable, your
letter urgent, my embarrassment more inspiring than the most prudent
counsel. I went and threw myself into the arms of my uncle, I opened to
him my heart without reserve, I implored his advice and his tenderness. At
last I dared to show him your letter, although without your permission my
good friend; all this was done on the impulse but how glad I am that I
overcame my timidity, so that he could read into my soul! It seemed to me
that my confidence in him augmented his fondness for me. In truth, my good
friend, I did well to go to him. I acquired in reasoning with him the
certitude of his attachment for me, and what pleases me still more I found
him full of esteem for you and he also renders you all the justice which I
am sure you merit. I love my uncle a thousand times more because of this.
As to the business of your letter, he wishes to confer with you himself. I
should manage this too badly to undertake it. He wishes to see you very
soon. You have written me that your fate is in my hands, and that mine is
in the hands of my uncle; in my turn I give my interests over to you, if
you love me as I believe, you will be able to cause a little of your ardor
to pass over to my uncle; he complains that he is bound already.

\x93My good friend, in this conversation, your heart and your mind must work
at the same time; nothing resists you when you really set your heart upon
it. Give me this proof of your tenderness. I shall regard your success in
this as the most convincing proof of the zeal which you have for what you
so sweetly call your happiness and which your Pauline could not read
without a fearful beating of the heart. Adieu, my good friend, I hope that
your first visit when you come back from Versailles, will be to my uncle.
Think of all the respect which you owe him if he is to be yours. I stop,
for I feel myself ready to write foolishly. _Bonsoir, m\xE9chant!_\x94

Whatever may have taken place at the meeting between Beaumarchais and the
uncle, the results were not such as permitted an immediate marriage. It
was therefore postponed until the Santo Domingo matter cleared itself. In
the meantime, the lovers saw each other frequently and in the intervals
letters were exchanged. Those of Beaumarchais are in every tone; sometimes
a lengthy and profound dissertation on the nature of love which accords
well with the philosophic side which is by no means the least developed in
his surprisingly complex character; others reveal some touch of a longing
for the deeper sentiment of a pure affection which shall be all his own;
while others totally at variance with these are in a light jovial vein.
The following presents an epistle of this type:

\x93_Bonjour_, my aunt; I embrace you, my amiable Pauline; your servitor, my
charming Perrette. My little children, love one another; this is the
precept of the apostle word for word. May the evil that one of you wishes
another fall back upon his own head; this is the malediction of the
prophet. This part of my discourse is not made for tender, feeling souls
like yours, I know it, and I never think without an extreme satisfaction
how nature, which has made you so amiable, has given you such a portion of
sensibility, of equity, and of moderation which permits you to live so
happily together and me to be in the midst of so charming a society. This
one will love me as a son, that one as a friend and my Pauline, uniting
all these sentiments in her good little heart, will inundate me with a
deluge of affection, to which I will reply following the power given by
Providence to your zealous servitor, your sincere friend, your future....
_Peste!_ what a serious word I was going to pronounce! It would have
passed the limits of the profound respect with which I have the honor to
be, Mademoiselle, etc., etc.\x94

Matters were at this pass when Beaumarchais left Paris for Madrid. Soon
after his arrival there, news of an alarming nature began to reach France
from Santo Domingo. The uncle had met with an unscrupulous relative of
Pauline and very soon money and merchandise were lost, and as a crowning
misfortune the uncle suddenly died.

The elder Caron, in writing to his son, seems to have intimated a
suspicion of foul play, for the son replies from Madrid, after quoting a
line from his father\x92s letter, \x93What do you mean by that? If it is simply
that our funds are lost that is a misfortune no doubt, but truly the other
thought is far worse. My heart aches to think of my poor uncle who, having
a presentiment of misfortune and death, went to meet his fate with so much
good grace; but do not believe that anyone has hastened his end, for we
have no proof and the suspicion is the most odious that can enter into the
mind of man; the climate alone, even where there are no worries or
enfeeblement, carries off two-thirds of the men and it is certainly
sufficient calamity for us to feel that we have sent him to a natural
death, without gnawing our hearts out by the dreadful idea that we sent
him there to be a victim.

\x93My sisters at Madrid know nothing of my real sorrow. I could have wished
that you yourself might have been spared the knowledge of it.\x94

That Beaumarchais conceived the idea of himself going to the West Indies,
is proved by a passage in one of his letters to his father in which he
speaks of his design to sell his appointment at court and go with Pauline
to settle in Santo Domingo.

Through some of the letters of the elder Caron we have a picture of the
delightful home life of the family and the gaiety of the sisters of this
brilliant brother. On the 22nd of January, the father writes, \x93Nothing
more beautiful than the festival at Beaufort could be imagined.
Boisgarnier and Pauline shone with their usual brilliancy. They danced
until two, after the concert and the supper; there was nothing wanting but
our Beaumarchais.\x94

Julie also wrote to a friend. \x93We played comedies and we made love, there
was a company of forty-five persons and your Julie pleased generally in
all her r\xF4les. Everyone declared her one of the best actresses. What I say
here is not to praise her, because every one knows how modest she is; it
is only because of your weakness, and to justify your choice in having
made her your friend. We are preparing another more agreeable festival for
the return of my brother.\x94

Of Julie\x92s manner of love-making we shall permit her to tell us, a little
later, in her own way. For the moment, let it suffice to state the fact,
that a certain Chevalier du S----, a gifted young man with no fortune, but
with a name and a position of honor, had been for some time very assiduous
in his attention to the favorite sister of Beaumarchais. He had been well
received by the family and had asked her hand in marriage. He was also a
native of Santo Domingo, though in no way connected with Pauline, whom he
met for the first time at the home of his friends, in rue de Cond\xE9.

It does not concern us in the study which we are making to enter very
deeply into the merits of this young man since in the end he does not ally
himself with the family; we shall, however, be forced to speak of him
later, as it is he who turns out to be the other Clavico, who deserts
Julie and carries off Pauline. In how far these two are justified for
their double desertion, the reader may judge if he has the patience to
follow the story to its completion. For the present, let us turn our
attention to another pair of lovers, less romantic, perhaps, at least so
far as the hero is concerned,--but possessed of more sterling qualities.

It will be remembered that the youngest sister of Beaumarchais,
Mademoiselle de Boisgarnier, was rather an attractive, though slightly
affected, little body. A certain young man, Janot de Miron, had been
introduced into the home of the Caron family and had fallen much in love
with the rather disdainful young woman in question.

She seems in the beginning to have been but slightly touched by his ardent
addresses. She did not find him elegant enough for her fastidious taste.
But Miron was a tenacious young man whose ardor was only stimulated by the
coldness and disdain of her whose heart he never despaired of conquering.

Beaumarchais, unconscious of this and seeing his sister\x92s indifference,
had written from Madrid proposing another alliance. Miron, learning of the
interference of his friend, promptly grew furious and wrote an indignant
letter in which he indulged freely in injurious personalities.

The reply of Beaumarchais is so characteristic and shows so clearly the
crude strength of his nature as well as his sense of justice that we take
from it a rather long extract. The affair once settled, true to the
instincts of his warm heart, the matter was not only forgiven but also
completely forgotten.

Beaumarchais wrote: \x93It is my turn to reply, my dear Miron, to the very
astounding letter which I have just received from you.... I want to tell
you now, that long ago I was tired of sacrifices and that my one desire
has been that everyone around me should be happy; you alone seem to
imagine that you have the right to complain of my proceedings. I am not
touched by your reproaches, I have done my duty by everyone. I do not need
to prove this, that does not concern me now--but to refute the most heavy,
awkward, disagreeable jesting which is the tone of your letter, my friend.
I am most astonished that those Sapphos of sisters of mine did not prevent
your putting such impertinence into the post. It is a fact that you are
not made for jesting but for more serious matters. Nothing could be more
ridiculous than to see you attempt the lighter vein, which does very well
for the little dog of La Fontaine, but which is disgusting in more solid
animals. More than this, your ideas are based upon a foundation so false
and so equivocally set forth that they fill me with pity.... As far as my
sister is concerned, I shall be very happy if I find her married as her
heart dictates when I return; if I find her unmarried, I shall put no
obstacle in the way of her happiness. I have two left for whom I will
provide according to the turn which my affairs take on.... I am in no
haste for either of them for I have certain ideas about the future which
make me feel that the longer they wait the less they will regret not
having been in too much of a hurry.

\x93And now since I do not pretend to give myself airs in disposing of any of
my family without their consent, it would have been easy to draw from me
an explanation which would have made your letter unnecessary. I am
returning the missive to you that you may have the pleasure of regaling
yourself thereon if by chance you have not kept a copy.

\x93For the rest, your desire to marry my sister is an honor to her--I repeat
it--and she is entirely free to choose you if you satisfy her; far from
trying to prevent it I give my consent from to-day forth--but always with
the understanding that you never confound the rights which you will
acquire over her as her husband, with those which you can never have over
me. This is what I wish to tell you once for all in order that nothing of
this kind may ever again happen between us.

\x93I take the liberty of begging you to keep to the only tone which will
pass with me--that of friendship. I have need neither of a preceptor who
pretends to explore into the motives of my actions, nor of a pedagogue who
takes it upon himself to instruct me.

\x93I do not know why Julie should have communicated to you that which I
wrote, and I am still more astonished that she has imagined that your
ridiculous letter could affect me. It is my intention never to return to
this subject, therefore I beg her by this letter, never again to suffer in
her presence that anyone fails in the respect which is due me. I am so
indulgent truly, that this need not be denied me.

\x93You will receive this letter by the way of my father, who sent me yours,
so that _All The Family_ may be the witnesses of the way in which I accept
your jesting.

\x93It is not very agreeable to me to think that my sisters, not wishing to
take with me an improper tone, make it their business to pass on to me
your words, to relieve themselves of the restraint they have before me.

\x93After this, jest on as much as you like, you will receive nothing from me
to engage a serious quarrel. When you know so little of my life, however,
you will spare me your commentaries.

\x93I am none the less, my dear Miron, your servant and friend


As he himself has said, \x93with good hearts, anger is only a pressing need
for pardon,\x94 so the matter was not difficult to settle. August 27th, 1764,
he writes to Julie, \x93How is everybody, the christian pedagogue first of
all?\x94 and Oct. 26th of the same year, \x93I have received your letter of the
9th by which you confirm all that has been told me of the moderation of
Boisgarnier. I thank her sincerely. Miron has written to me, but while
reading, I felt like saying, \x91Miron, what do you want of me with this
beautiful letter? A month ago my anger was all gone and all this seems to
me but tiresome repetition.\x92\x94

In spite of her moderation the youngest sister seems to have sided with
her brother at her lover\x92s expense, for we soon find the former pleading
with her in a letter addressed to his father from Madrid, dated January
14, 1765.

                                        \x93Monsieur and very dear father:

\x93I have received your last letter dated December 31st--and that of
Boisgarnier. Her reply gave me much pleasure. She is a droll creature, but
she has a good deal of intelligence and rectitude of character; now, if I
am in any way the cause of the coldness between her and her friend, I say
in advance that I have entirely given up my resentment and she will do
well to follow my example. For whatever opinion he may have of me, I am
determined not to quarrel with him.

\x93The only thing that can hurt me is that he should speak ill of my heart,
I don\x92t care what he says of my mind. The first will always be at his
service and the second ready to give him a drubbing if he needs it....

[Illustration: Princess de Lamballe]

\x93I am indeed sorry if they cannot agree, for Miron is a man who does not
lack a single quality which should make an honest woman happy; and if my
Boisgarnier is less touched by these qualities than by the defects of a
few frivolous attractions (which for my part I do not deny him) then I
should say that she is a child who has not yet acquired that experience
which prefers happiness to pleasure. To say absolutely what I think, I am
convinced that he is right to prefer his qualities to mine, for there are
many points where I do not feel that I possess either his virtue or his
constancy, and these things are of great price when it is a question of a
union for life.

\x93Therefore I invite my Boisgarnier not to think of our friend except in
regard to what there is of him which is infinitely estimable, and soon the
matter will adjust itself. I was furious with him for twenty-four
hours--nevertheless there is no other man whom I would prefer to be
associated with as a brother-in-law.

\x93I understand all that Boisgarnier would say--yes, he plays on the
hurdy-gurdy, that is true, his heels are half an inch too high, he has a
nasal twang when he sings--he eats raw apples at night, he is cold and
didactic when he talks,--he has a certain awkwardness of manner in
everything he does; but still the good people of the rue Cond\xE9 ought not
to be offended at such things;--a wig, a waist coat, a pair of clogs ought
not to drive anyone away when he excels in matters of the heart and his
mind is in keeping. Adieu Boisgarnier, here is a long article for thee.\x94

It is interesting to find Beaumarchais candidly acknowledging the lack of
certain qualities in himself which at least he knows how to appreciate in
others. In his relations with Pauline it will be seen that whatever her
real motives may have been, she uses what she considers his inconstancy as
a pretext later for her break with him. However, to do him justice, it
must be affirmed that there is no evidence that he ever for a moment
entertained an idea of abandoning her, or that in his heart he meant to be
untrue; yet the fact remains that other women did not lose their charm for
him because of her, and while at Madrid he was far from denying himself
consolation for being deprived of her society. His letters to her were by
no means frequent enough, nor ardent enough to satisfy the longings of a
romantic young girl.

Already before his departure for Madrid, he seems to have given ground for
complaint, as we find Julie accusing him of levity in a letter to a friend
while at the same time she paints in her merriest vein the love-sick
condition of the family.

\x93Our house,\x94 she wrote, \x93is a dovecote where everyone lives on love and
hope; I am the one who laughs more than the others, because I am the least
in love; Beaumarchais is a perverse being who by his levity teases and
grieves Pauline. Boisgarnier and Miron discuss sentiment till one loses
one\x92s breath, and impassion themselves with order up to the point of a
sublime disorder. The Chevalier and I are worse than all that; he is as
loving as an angel, passionate as a seraph, while I am as gay as a linnet,
and malicious as a demon. Love does not make me lon-lan-la like the
others, and yet in spite of my madness I could not keep from tasting of
it. More\x92s the pity!\x94

Beaumarchais wrote from Madrid, \x93I have this afternoon been to the French
Ambassador\x92s in the _carosse_ of Madame the Marquise de La Croix, who has
the goodness to drive me everywhere with her six mules. She is a charming
lady who has great credit here by her rank, but still more by reason of
her intelligence and the graces which make her dear to all the world. Her
society dissipates the dust, the inaction, the ennui, the impatience which
seize everyone who remains long in this place. I should die in this dull
city if it were not for this delicious company.\x94

It is quite evident that Beaumarchais is thinking little of Pauline and he
will soon find to his chagrin, that she has ceased to think any longer so
tenderly of him.

He has not, however, forgotten her interests in Santo Domingo nor his
project of going there to settle in case the turn of his affairs should
point to that move as the best solution of the difficulties, but in the
meantime, he amuses himself in his moments of leisure in the pleasantest
way that offers itself.

But not only were the sisters of Beaumarchais living on hope and love, the
elder Caron himself was entertaining the same guests as is proved by the
following letter written by his son from Madrid.

\x93Monsieur and very dear father:--

\x93I am not surprised at your attachment for Madame Henry; she is
cheerfulness itself, and has one of the best hearts that I know. I could
wish you might have been happy enough to inspire a more lively return of
affection. She would make you happy and you would certainly render
agreeable this union founded upon reciprocal affection and an esteem which
has lasted twenty-five years. If I were you, I know very well how I should
go about it, and if I were she, I know also very well how I should reply;
but I am neither the one nor the other and it is not for me to clear up
this affair of yours, I have enough of my own.\x94

To which the elder Caron replied, September 19th, 1764, \x93We supped
yesterday with my dear and good friend who laughed heartily when she saw
the article in your letter, imagining as she very well could, the way in
which you would go about this affair if you were in my place, so that as
she says, she only embraces you with all her heart, because you are nine
hundred miles away.\x94

But though the amiable Madame Henry was quite ready to laugh at the
article in the son\x92s letter she does not appear to have been in any hurry
to change the relationship which had so long existed between herself and
the elder Caron, for shortly before his return from Madrid we find
Beaumarchais writing in relation to the same matter: \x93A man ought not to
be alone. One must hold to something in this life, and the society of your
sons and daughters can only be sacrificed to another much sweeter, but
which you do not seem on the point of acquiring. I precede my arrival by a
picture of what should be, so that you may have time to determine what you
ought to do before my return, which will be soon. What happiness for me,
if on reaching there I could on the same day see assured the felicity of
my father and my sister.\x94

Unfortunately for us, Beaumarchais returned from Spain in May, 1765, so
that the correspondence ceased and with it, our means of following in
detail the lives of those in whom we have begun to take so warm an
interest. The \x93felicity\x94 of the father we know, however, to have been
consummated, for on January 15, 1766, he was united in marriage with the
woman of his choice, Madame Henry, she being then sixty years of age and
he sixty-eight. After two years of happy married life, Madame Caron died
and we find her husband again returning to the rue Cond\xE9 to live with his
dearly loved son.

In the meantime, Mademoiselle de Boisgarnier had taken the advice of her
brother, and we cannot for a moment doubt that she acted wisely; for her
lover, Janot de Miron, seems to have been a man of exceptionally fine
character. Referring to the letter already quoted in which Beaumarchais
pleads with his sister for her friend, M. de Lom\xE9nie says, \x93In reading
this eulogy of poor Miron, where his moral qualities are exalted rather to
the detriment of his brilliant ones, we have need to remember that
Beaumarchais previously had declared his friend was not wanting in
external accomplishments; and truly he was not. Miron, judging from his
letters was rather pedantic, but in no way stupid. The taste for poetry
and art, which reigned in the Caron family was no stranger to him. After
several years of torment, he succeeded in touching that disdainful little
heart and thus his constancy was rewarded. Mademoiselle de Boisgarnier,
suitably endowed by her brother, married in 1767 M. de Miron, whom the
influence of Beaumarchais later succeeded in having appointed _Secr\xE9taire
des Commandements du Prince de Conti_.

In all these matters it will be seen that Beaumarchais did not set himself
up to be dictator in his family but was actuated solely by the desire to
see consummated the dearest wish of those about him. Pauline he accepted
as a settled fact of his existence, treating her as though he were her
brother rather than her lover. His taste led him naturally to women more
mature in years and experience, and he was far less sentimental than

We shall see presently, as we come to treat of Beaumarchais as an author,
that though through flashes of inspiration he may at times attain the
heights of the heroic, yet he has in reality small sympathy with it,
either in life or literature. At no time, do we find him possessed of one
of those absorbing passions which devour all lesser ones and which alone
make sacrifice, not only necessary but easy; sacrifice is always
distasteful to him. He has an intense desire to be happy and to have all
about him happy. We must not expect, in this wise to find him a hero.
Beaumarchais is pre-eminently a modern man, and it is no accident that he
should have been an instrument to aid in laying the foundations of that
modern nation, which more than any other, has brought case and comfort
within the reach of every class and condition of men.

                               CHAPTER V

                         _\x93Les serments
                          Des amants
                      Sont l\xE9gers comme les vents,
                          Leur air enchanteur,
                          Leur douceur
                      Sont des pi\xE8ges trompeurs
                      Cach\xE9s sous des fleurs.\x94_

                                 _S\xE9guedille de Beaumarchais_

    New study of Beaumarchais by Lintilhac--Beaumarchais\x92s Return
      from Madrid--The Lover of Julie Carries off Pauline--the
      _R\xE8glement de compte_ which Terminated this Romantic Chapter
      of the Life of Beaumarchais.

Among the numerous studies of the life of Beaumarchais which the admirable
and scholarly work of M. de Lom\xE9nie stimulated into being, none takes a
higher place than that of Eug\xE8ne Lintilhac. Fired into enthusiasm by the
work of Lom\xE9nie, and having as he has said, his curiosity rather
stimulated than satisfied thereby, he demanded of the descendants of
Beaumarchais leave to examine for himself the entire mass of manuscript
which had served as the foundation of that great work. He was also
actuated, as he tells us, by the sentiment so forcibly expressed by Gudin,
\x93I soon found that I could not love him moderately when I came to know him
in his home,\x94 and it was this sentiment which made him desire to refute
from direct evidence some unsympathetic writings which had appeared,
writings in which the character of Beaumarchais is inverted and all his
great and disinterested actions viewed from the standpoint of whatever was
ordinary about him, or whatever could be tortured into appearing so, thus
making everything seem petty and contemptible, as when a telescope is
reversed and all its power directed towards diminishing the objects upon
which it is turned.

Many of the letters which we have already quoted were first published by
him, and we shall have occasion, more than once to have recourse to his
volume. In the family correspondence M. Lintilhac found several fragments
of letters written by friends and especially by one M. de la Chataignerie,
a man at that time well advanced in years, but devoted to the interests of
his friend and who had been left with a certain oversight of the family.
He wrote: \x93The dear sister, who though slightly indisposed, conserves her
reason, at least so far as essentials go, begs you to bring everything
that you find which is good in all the places where you pass, even the
hams of Bayonne. Time presses because the little dog of a Boisgarnier
drives me to despair, and beats me--it is true that I deserve no better.
Adieu, adieu--deliver me from my guardianship!\x94

And M. Lintilhac continues: \x93Nevertheless the care does not rest
altogether on him, the main part falls on Julie--who keeps the purse,
which is no small matter, for we find that, by the 17th of November she
already had given out from 7000 to 8000 francs. We must believe that they
were well expended because she no doubt followed the programme traced for
her by her brother. \x91I recommend to you economy as the mother of comfort,\x92
and he adds without joking, \x91modesty as the amiable companion of great
success.\x92 He wishes that the family, \x91think of him a little in his
absence.\x92 \x91Men are vain,\x92 he adds, \x91they like to be flattered.\x92\x94

Beaumarchais, just before leaving Spain, wrote: \x93So I am putting my whole
mind on my business, my Father, while my misfortune causes me to lose 2000
_\xE9cus_ of income from the provisions of France which dissolve especially
to ruin me, the King of Spain and the Ministers cast their eyes on me to
be at the head of those in Spain, as my old Du Verney is of those in
France. There is talk of joining to this the furnishing in general of all
the grain needed for Spain as well as the fabrication of saltpetre and
powder, so that I may find myself suddenly at the head of a company for
providing provisions, subsistencies, munitions and agricultural products.

\x93Keep this for the family and see that my prospects, honest as they are,
are known only by their success.\x94

And Julie replied in her tenderest vein, \x93My Beaumarchais, my amiable
genius, I have seen your letters, your projects, your work and nothing
surprises me, not even your philosophizing over our sad news. When any one
appreciates you as I do, one has the right to count upon astonishing
things. Assuredly we will keep the secret; but when do you return? My
heart rebels at your long absence.\x94

M. Lintilhac continues: \x93We know his grand projects did not receive the
aid and sanction of the ministry, but they were dismissed with flattering
compliments for him. All his plans, however, had not proved abortive as
has so often been said, because on returning to France he writes to his
father from Bordeaux, April 2nd, 1765, \x91I am now at Bordeaux, I don\x92t know
whether I shall leave to-morrow or the next day. My Spanish business
requires certain information which I can obtain only here, or in some
other seaport.

\x93\x91I received a letter from Durand at Madrid very satisfactory in regard to
the obliging regrets of the honest people of Madrid as well as for the
affairs to which I have there attached him. I am absolutely alone, my
valet de chambre stayed at Bayonne with a groom and three beautiful
horses, which at Paris ought to pay the price of their journey as well as
my own.\x92\x94

No record has come down to us of the meeting of Beaumarchais and his
family after their long separation, but now that we know them all so
intimately it is not difficult to reconstruct the scene, the venerable
father pressing his son to his bosom, the tears of tenderness welling to
his eyes, the sisters rushing to embrace him, the friends and domestics
even, eager to clasp his hand, and all radiant with the thought of having
him in their midst. Then this outburst of affection over, what gaiety and
mirth follow, and all that human expansiveness which comes so
spontaneously from the heart!

But though the family tie remained as strong as ever, a decided change had
come already into the situation between him and Pauline. Nevertheless,
matters were smoothed over and the marriage was definitely decided upon.
Misunderstandings, however, continued from time to time, and in the midst
of these troubles, a rumor reached the ears of Beaumarchais, that the
Chevalier du S. had intentions upon Pauline. Beaumarchais, furious, wrote
a letter to the Chevalier who in turn defended himself in a letter which
is as follows: \x93It seems to me, Monsieur, that a counterfeit story ought
to find less credit in your eyes than in those of others, since you have
been all your life the butt of such reports. For the rest, I beg you to
believe that I do not write to obtain grace, but because I owe to Mlle. de
L. B.--to make known the truth upon a point which compromises her, and
because it would be hard and very hard for me to lose your esteem.\x94

Pauline replied to the same charge with an indifference which shows a
great change of sentiment on her part.

\x93As I was ignorant of the project of M. le Chevalier before I received
your letter, and as I know nothing of the matter, you will permit me to
inform myself before I reply. As to the reproach which you make in regard
to Julie, I do not feel that I merit it, if I have not sent to know how
she is, it is because I have been assured that she was very much better
and had been seen at her window, which made me think that it was true. If
my aunt were not ill, which prevents my leaving, I would assuredly go to
see her. I embrace her with all my heart.\x94

M. de Lom\xE9nie says: \x93The two were perhaps innocent at that moment, if I
can judge from a letter of a cousin of Pauline\x92s and a friend of
Beaumarchais, very badly treated by the latter in regard to this affair,
\x91When you have a more tranquil mind so that you will do me justice,\x92 says
the cousin, \x91I will speak openly with you and prove to you that you, who
condemn others so easily, are more culpable than those you believe to be
dissimulating and perfidious. Nothing is so pure as the heart of the dear
Pauline, nothing nobler than that of the Chevalier, or more sincere than
my own, and you look upon all three as though we were monsters.\x92\x94

The above letter of November 8, 1765, is all we have to fix the date of
the previous one. During the interval which follows, it is impossible to
determine exactly what happened, but true it is that by February 11th,
1766, the definite rupture had taken place and even the cousin undertakes
no longer to shield the \x93dear Pauline.\x94 As to the Chevalier, who a year
before had written of Julie, \x93She is the unique object of my tenderest
desires,\x94 it may be that Julie herself had much to do with his
estrangement, for in a letter already quoted we have her own authority for
believing that she was never very deeply in love, and her \x93maliciousness,\x94
may have helped to cool the ardor of the Chevalier. Certain it is, that
Julie with all her warmth and expansiveness was not by nature any more
formed for absorbing passions than was her brother. A letter belonging to
a very much earlier period, proves that love was at no time a very serious
matter with her, while it paints to the life the gaiety of her character.
She writes, \x93You must know, my dear Lh\xE9non upon what terms of folly I am
with your brother. His air of interest for me, of which I wrote a month
ago, has developed singularly and beautified itself since our friends have
gone to the country. He comes nearly every evening to supper and stays
till midnight or one o\x92clock. Ah my dear Lh\xE9non, you should hear him
recounting to me, and me retorting in the same tone with that air of
_folie_ that you have always known me to possess; but in the midst of all
these pleasantries I have sometimes found a happy way of expressing
myself, so as to persuade him seriously that I do not love him, and I
believe him convinced, although I have never said half as many sweet
things to him as I do now, because of an agreement which we have to love
each other two days of the week, he has chosen Monday and Saturday, and I
took Thursday and Sunday. On those days we say very tender things,
although it is agreed that there shall always be one _farouche_ when the
other loves.\x94

This to be sure was a girlish fancy, but the character of Julie retained
to the end much of the _folie_ of which she here speaks, without,
however, in the least impairing its real seriousness. But whatever the
cause, the fact remains that the Chevalier du S. declared himself to
Pauline, who in turn disengaged herself from Beaumarchais. The
correspondence ended with two long letters from the latter and one short,
dry note from Pauline. M. de Lom\xE9nie in speaking of the letters of
Beaumarchais observes, \x93In novels each impulse of the human heart is
ordinarily painted separately with vivid colors, well marked and without
blending. In reality, things seldom pass that way; when one impulse is not
strong enough to stifle all the others, which generally is the case, the
human heart presents a confused medley where the most diverse sentiments,
often directly opposite, speak at the same time.\x94 It is thus that in the
letters which are given, one can discern in the heart of Beaumarchais, to
quote Lom\xE9nie, \x93a remnant of love reawakening, excited by jealousy and
restricted in its expression by vanity, scruples of delicacy and honor,
the fears of \x91what they will say,\x92 the need to prove that he has no
reproach to make to himself, the determination to wed, and yet perhaps a
certain fear of being taken at his word, because, although these letters
contain a very formal offer of marriage, they also contain certain
passages sufficiently mortifying, so that the pride of Pauline would reply
by a refusal. Again it is evident that Beaumarchais fears a refusal and
whether from love or self esteem he wishes to triumph.\x94

\x93You have renounced me,\x94 he wrote to Pauline, \x93and what time have you
chosen to do it? The very moment which I had announced to your friends and
mine, would be that of our union. I have seen the perfidy which has caused
everything to turn against me, even to my offers. I have seen you, you who
have so often sighed at the injustice which others have done me, join
yourself to them to create wrongs of which I never thought. If I had not
had the intention of marrying you, would I have put so little form into
the services which I rendered you? Would I have assembled your friends and
mine two months before your refusal, to announce to them my resolution?
Everything has turned against me. The conduct of a friend, two-faced and
perfidious, in giving me a cruel lesson, has taught me that there is no
woman so honest and so tender who cannot be seduced and made to change.
Also the contempt of all those who have seen him act, is his just
recompense. Let us come back to you. It is not without regret that I have
turned my thoughts from you, since the first heat of my resentment has
passed, and when I insisted that you should write formally that you
refused my offer of marriage, there was mixed with my chagrin, an obscure
curiosity to see whether you would take this last step with me; to-day I
must know absolutely how I stand. I have received very advantageous
propositions of marriage, on the point of accepting I felt myself suddenly
arrested; I do not know what scruple of honor, what return toward the
past, made me hesitate. I have every reason to feel myself free and
disengaged from you after all that has passed; nevertheless, I am far from
tranquil, your letters do not say formally enough what is most important
for me to know. Reply truly, I beg of you. Have you so completely
renounced me that I am free to contract with another woman? Consult your
heart upon this point, while my delicacy questions you. If you totally
have cut the knot which should unite us, don\x92t fear to tell me so. In
order that your _amour-propre_ be completely at ease upon the demand which
I make, I add this, that in writing to you I have put back everything to
where it was before all these storms. My demand would not be just if,
setting a trap for you, I did not give you the liberty of choice in your
reply. Let your heart answer alone. If you do not give me back my liberty,
write me that you are the same Pauline, sweet and tender for life, whom I
used to know, and that you believe yourself happy to belong to me,
instantly I break with everything that is not you. If your heart is turned
to another, and invincibly estranged from me, do me the justice of
admitting that I have been honest with you. Give to the bearer of this,
the declaration which frees me and I shall feel that I have accomplished
my duty and shall have no reproach to make myself. Adieu, I am, up to the
moment of your reply, under whatever title it shall please you to choose,
Mademoiselle, your very humble servant, etc.

                                                   De Beaumarchais.\x94

A few hours later followed a second letter: \x93I send you back the package
of your letters, if you keep them, join mine to your reply. The reading of
your letters has moved me deeply, I do not wish again to experience that
pain, but before replying examine well what is the best for you, as well
for your fortune as for your happiness. My intent is that, forgetting
everything, we pass our days in tranquillity and happiness. Do not let the
fear of living with the members of my family who do not please you arrest
your sensibility, if another passion has not extinguished it. My home is
so arranged that whether it be you, or whether it be another, my wife
shall be the peaceful and happy mistress there. Your uncle laughed in my
face when I reproached him with having opposed me. He told me that his
opinion was that I need not fear a refusal or else that his niece\x92s head
had been turned. It is true that at the moment of renouncing you forever,
I felt an emotion which showed me that I held more strongly to you than I
thought. What I write therefore is from the sincerest faith in the world.
Don\x92t flatter yourself ever to give me the chagrin to see you the wife of
a certain man. He must be very daring to think of raising his eyes before
the public if he proposes to accomplish this double perfidy. Pardon me if
I grow warm! Never has that thought entered my mind that all my blood has
not boiled in my veins.

\x93But whatever your resolution, don\x92t keep me waiting, because I have
suspended all my business to give myself over once more to you. Your uncle
tried to convince me that this marriage with you was not all to my
advantage, but I am very far from occupying myself with these
considerations. I wish to possess you only for yourself, and that it be
for life.... I admit that it would be sweet to me, if while the enemies
slept, peace should be concluded between us. Re-read your letters and you
will understand that I found again in the depths of my heart all the
sentiments that they had there called into being.\x94

Lom\xE9nie remarks: \x93The reply of Pauline is much more laconic and much more
direct. With her there is no conflict of sentiments: she does not love
Beaumarchais any more; that is very simple and very clear.

\x93\x91I can only repeat, Monsieur, what I said to Mademoiselle your sister,
that my stand is taken not to return, therefore I thank you for your
offers, and I desire with my whole heart that you may marry the person who
will make you happy; I assured Mademoiselle your sister of this. My aunt
and I feel it our duty to tell you how unhappy we are that you should fail
in respect to us in treating so badly a man whom we consider as our
friend. I know better than anyone else that you have no right to call him
perfidious. I said once more this morning to Mademoiselle your sister,
that a demoiselle who used to live with my aunt was the cause of what
happens to-day. You have still several of my letters which I ask you to
return. I will beg one of our friends to arrange with you about everything
which remains to be adjusted. I am, very perfectly, Monsieur, your very
humble and obedient servant,

                                                     L. B----.\x92\x94

Still quoting Lom\xE9nie: \x93Pauline who used to sign herself, \x91I am for life
thy faithful Pauline\x92 now signs politely her family name, and so this
correspondence ends like so many others of the same nature, by, \x91I have
the honor to be,\x92 or \x91I am very perfectly\x92 which succeed the protestations
of an eternal love.\x94

And now follows a second letter from the cousin in relation to this
unhappy affair, \x93All is said, my dear Beaumarchais, and without hope of
return. I have notified Madame G. (the aunt of Pauline) and Mlle. Le
B---- of your dispositions, they ask nothing better than to come to an
honorable arrangement in this rupture. It remains now to regulate the
account between Mlle. Le B---- and you, and to take measures to secure for
you the sum which is due. These ladies beg you to give back all the papers
which you have concerning the affairs of Mlle. Le B----. You cannot tell
how unhappy I am not to have been able to unite two hearts which for so
long have seemed to me made for each other, but man proposes and God
disposes. I flatter myself that on both sides the justice which I feel
belongs to me, will be rendered. I have let you read in my heart, and you
must have seen that I know neither disguisement nor artifice. Adieu, my
friend, I will go to see you as soon as I can; in the meantime write to
me. I embrace you, I am as always,

                                        \x93Your sincere friend P----
                                        \x93February 11th, 1766--\x94

In the words of Lom\xE9nie, \x93Let us accord this worthy cousin, whose
sentences are more consoling than new, the justice which he claims, and
acknowledge that he is a stranger to the perfidy of the Chevalier. If we
were writing a romance we would stop here, or else end with the death of
Beaumarchais, he killing himself in despair, or by the death of the
Chevalier, immolated by the fury of his rival; but as we are writing a
history we are obliged above all else to be exact and instead of stating
that the adventure ends by a suicide or a duel we are forced to state that
it terminates much more prosaically, by a _r\xE8glement de comptes_ where the
future author of the _Mariage de Figaro_ makes an amusing enough figure in
his r\xF4le of betrayed lover and uneasy creditor.\x94

There is, we must admit, an indefinable humor in the idea of the brilliant
genius Beaumarchais, deserted by his Pauline, seating himself, _le coeur
gros_, the tears of anger and mortification welling to his eyes, intent
upon regulating, with the same minute exactitude that he showed in making
the watch to be set as a jewel in a lady\x92s ring, the account existing
between him and Pauline.

As a matter of fact, he had been far less prudent in his generous advances
of money than in the expression of his sentiments as a lover, for not only
had he risked large sums on the Santo Domingo property, but he had been in
the habit of advancing money both to Pauline and to her aunt without
keeping any special count. To return to the account of Lom\xE9nie, \x93He groups
the capital with the interest and presents a bill of the most scrupulous
rectitude. The Chevalier, who has no time to bother with such vile
details, and who has gone to pass his honeymoon I don\x92t know where, sends
to Beaumarchais his older brother, the abb\xE9 du S----, respectable, but a
little quick tempered, who not only quibbles over the bill, but permits
himself sometimes to deepen a bleeding wound by opposing the lover to the
creditor. From that come stormy discussions, of which the following letter
of Beaumarchais to the abb\xE9 will serve as illustration.

\x93\x91Monsieur l\x92abb\xE9,

\x93\x91I beg you to notice that I never have been lacking in politeness towards
you, but that I owe nothing but contempt for him whom you represent, as I
have had the honor of saying to you twenty times, and as I strongly would
have desired to say to him if he had been as exact in showing himself as
he has been clever in taking my place. The proof that Mlle. Le B----
wished well of me, of my affection, of my counsels, of my money, is that
without your brother she would still make use of all my gifts which I
lavished upon her as long as they were agreeable and useful to her. It is
true that she bought my services very dear, since she owes to our
affection for your brother the happiness of having married him, which she
would not have done, if he had remained without knowing us in the place
where he then vegetated. I do not understand the secret of the phrase
about the apology, so I am dispensed with replying to it. I regret that he
is absent, only because I would have the greatest pleasure to testify to
him in person, what he can now only know through proxy. I shall not cease
to prepare myself for atrocities and injustices by benevolent acts. It
always has agreed with me very well to do good in the expectation of evil,
and your counsel adds nothing to my disposition in that regard.

\x93\x91Since you admit that you have lost your temper with me, it would be out
of place for me to reproach you with it. It is sufficient that you accuse
yourself, for me not to hold any resentment.

\x93\x91I do not know why you have underlined the words, \x93your sister,\x94 in
recalling to me that I said that it was in this way that I loved Mlle. Le
B----. Does this irony fall back on her, on me, or on your brother? Just
as you please, for that matter. Although the fate of Mlle. Le B----
interests me no longer, it would be out of place for me, in speaking
of her, to use other terms than those which I have employed. It is not her
that I blame; she is as you have said, young and without experience and
although she has very little fortune, your brother has used well his
experience and has made a good affair in marrying her.

\x93\x91Remember, I beg you, Monsieur l\x92abb\xE9, that all which is addressed to him
has nothing to do with you. It would be too humiliating for a man of your
station to be suspected of having had any part in the perfidy of your
brother in my regard; let him bear the blame, and do not take up those
things which do not deserve to have a defender as honest as yourself.

\x93\x91I have the honor to be, etc.


The matter finally was adjusted and the account reduced to 24,441 livres,
4 sous, 4 deniers.

One would almost think that after making such important reductions the sum
might have been rounded off by the omission of the 4 sous, 4 deniers. Not
so Beaumarchais--the whole debt might go unpaid for he was not a man to
make much trouble about that, but in any case, the matter must stand in
its absolute exactitude. M. de Lom\xE9nie terminates this interesting
chapter of the life of Beaumarchais in the following manner: \x93And now I
demand pardon of the shade of the charming Pauline, but it seems certain
that this debt, recognized and accepted by her, was never paid. Not only
do I find it amongst papers of a later date classed as almost hopeless
debts, but the touching solicitude of the cashier Gudin, after the death
of his master, for the least letter of Pauline, is sufficient to
demonstrate that this too must be ranged amongst those debts recognized
but not dissolved, where so many amiable women, poets, and great lords
have left their traces in the papers of Beaumarchais. It is true that
Pauline was left a widow a year after her marriage, and this misfortune no
doubt spoiled the arrangement of her affairs--and I conclude that if the
young and beautiful Creole left her debt unpaid, it must have been because
the habitation of Santo Domingo was seized by the other creditors, or
plundered by the blacks or swallowed up by an earthquake.\x94

For our part let us hasten to add that we are very grateful to the
Chevalier du S---- for carrying off Pauline. Charming as she was, she did
not possess those sterling qualities which alone could have enabled her to
be a real helpmeet to him in the terrible trials, which were preparing for
him. Overwhelmed as we shall presently see him, a nature like hers would
have been as a millstone about his neck, and he inevitably must have
succumbed. As we shall see, the woman who eventually comes to share his
life was of a very different mould. Misfortune and all the terrors of the
Revolution only served to bring into more striking relief the vigor of a
character already pronounced in its strength and womanliness.

Our gratitude to the Chevalier du S---- is no less great, in that by
abstracting Pauline, he left to Beaumarchais the truest support of his
life, the woman who better than any one else understood the inmost
recesses of his nature, and who at no moment of his career failed in
giving him the affection, the encouragement, which he needed, and that
served as the solid basis upon which he could build. In leaving to
Beaumarchais the undisputed possession of his sister Julie, the Chevalier
du S---- has won our undying gratitude, and so in all sincerity we say,
_requiescat in pace_.

                               CHAPTER VI

_\x93Je laisserai sans r\xE9ponse tout ce qu\x92on a dit contre l\x92ouvrage, persuad\xE9
que le plus grand honneur qu\x92on ait pu lui faire, apr\xE8s celui de s\x92en
amuser au th\xE9\xE2tre, a \xE9t\xE9 de ne pas le juger indigne de toute critique.\x94_

                     _Beaumarchais in \x93Essai sur le genre dramatique
                     s\xE9rieux,\x94 prefixed to the edition of \x93Eug\xE9nie.\x94_

    \x93_Eug\xE9nie_\x94--\x93_Les deux Amis_\x94--Second Marriage of
      Beaumarchais--The Forest of Chinon--Death of Madame de

The immediate effect of Pauline\x92s desertion of Beaumarchais was to turn
his thoughts from the gay world in which he was so brilliant and so
striking a figure, to the more sober realms of literature. His talent as
an author already had manifested itself by several farces and charades
written for his colleague, M. Lenormant d\x92\xC9tioles, the husband of Madame
de Pompadour, at whose ch\xE2teau d\x92\xC9tioles they were produced.

The very spicy charade, \x93_John B\xEAte \xE0 la Foire_,\x94 was written in 1762 for
a special festival given at this ch\xE2teau in the forest of Senart. On this
occasion and on all similar occasions the farces of Beaumarchais found no
more spirited interpreters than his own sisters. Fournier says, \x93The
youngest played comedies with a surprising _verve de gaillardise_, and it
would seem, was not frightened by the most highly seasoned of her
brother\x92s productions. She and the Countess of Turpin played the leading
parts. Comedies and charades were also played enchantingly by Julie who
frequently arranged them in her own style; several scenes and not the
least spicy, according to family tradition, passing as her own

But this vein of true Gallic wit which was later to carry its possessor to
almost unprecedented heights of fame was not in keeping with the spirit in
which Beaumarchais found himself during the winter of 1766.

The entire family as we have seen possessed in an unusual degree a warm
life blood which burst spontaneously into joyful expression, but it showed
itself also in sentimental sallies. The English novelist, Richardson, was
a favorite with them all and we find Julie writing in her diary, about
this time, \x93I see in Beaumarchais a second Grandison; it is his genius,
his goodness, his noble and superior soul, equally sweet and honest. Never
a bitter sentiment for his enemies arises in his heart. He is the friend
of man. Grandison is the glory of all who surround him, and Beaumarchais
is their honor.\x94

The father writing to his son during an illness said: \x93In the intervals
when I suffer less I read Grandison and in how many things I have found a
just and noble resemblance between him and my son. Father of thy sisters,
friend and benefactor of thy father, \x91if England,\x92 I said to myself, \x91has
her Grandison; France has her Beaumarchais; with this difference, that the
English Grandison is the fiction of an amiable writer, while the French
Beaumarchais really exists to be the consolation of my days.\x92\x94

It was, therefore, Beaumarchais, as Grandison, whom we now find seriously
occupying himself with the thought of literature. Nor shall we be
surprised later to find those of the literary profession preparing to meet
him in very much the same spirit as did in the beginning M. Lepaute,
watchmaker, and a little later, _Messieurs les Courtisans_ at Versailles.
So long as his literary ambition limited itself to charades, farces, and
comic songs the antagonism of men of letters was not aroused; but that he
who had received no regular training in the schools should presume, _de se
m\xEAler_, with serious literary productions was quite another matter.

Lintilhac says: \x93But our immature author, shaking his _t\xEAte carr\xE9e_ braved
this danger like all the rest, arming himself with patience and _esprit_;
let us see him at his work.

\x93A literary instinct had from the beginning led him straight to those
Gallic writers whose race he was destined to continue. We find him
studying Montaigne; he extracts notes and imitates Marot, translates in
verse and sets to music one of the hundred and twenty romances of the Cid
going against the Moors in the eleventh century.

\x93But his taste for the ancestor of the _esprit fran\xE7ais_ is not exclusive;
he is happy to find it among their direct descendants: Regnier, whom he
quotes abundantly, La Fontaine, of whom he is a disciple, Moli\xE8re and
Pascal, who furnish the models of his chefs-d\x92oeuvre. More than that, he
goes back to their antique masters. The rudiments of Latin which he
learned at school serve to help him to read Lucrece, Catulle, Tibulle,
Horace, Ovid, and Seneca, and to take from them that salt of _citation_
with which he heightens so effectively the sallies of his Gallic wit.\x94

Among the manuscripts of the Com\xE9die-Fran\xE7aise are a number of pages
covered with Latin citations, elegantly translated, which Beaumarchais
adapted to the circumstances of his life and works, with a precision which
could not have been the result of chance.

\x93This is the serious side of his education, but it was not all; the
unfolding and development of his talents must have been deeply influenced
by that society of which he was the _bout-en-train_, and where the Prince
de Conti and the Countess de Boufflers, _la divine Comtesse_, restored the
ancient traditions of epicurean esprit. What did he not owe to
conversation, often free, always piquant, of the aristocratic and
bourgeois salons, to the foyers of the theaters and caf\xE9s which he
frequented, and in which he was past-master, fencing with such skilled
champions as Chamfort, as Sophie Arnould, those little kings _de
l\x92esprit_! We must therefore give to these brilliant contemporaries of our
author the honor of having shaped his genius.\x94 (M. de Lom\xE9nie.)

We have spoken already of Beaumarchais\x92s natural aversion to the heroic in
literature, all his instincts led him toward the new dramatic school which
was then appearing in France, and whose master was Diderot. In this school
the old heroic tragedy was replaced by a domestic tragedy in which the
ordinary events of daily life formed the theme. By the side of this, there
was to be a serious comedy, not clearly defined from the tragic element,
but which was to take the place of the \x93gay comedy\x94 of the past.

More than a century of democratic ideas has so far removed the present
generation from the ideas of the past, that it is difficult for us to
appreciate the magnitude of the innovation made by this new style of
literature when it first appeared in France. It was, however, but the
natural outgrowth of that new order of things which was year by year
becoming more pronounced, in which the bourgeoisie of France rises to a
state of self-consciousness which demands expression. The splendor of the
monarchy as upheld by Louis XIV had faded from men\x92s minds. The people
were beginning to realize that they themselves, with their joys and
sorrows, their loves and hates, belonged to the realm of art.

Beaumarchais forcibly expresses the new ideas when in his essay \x93_Sur le
Genre S\xE9rieux_,\x94 he says, \x93If our heart enters into the interest taken in
tragic personages, it is less because they are heroes and kings than
because they are human beings and miserable. Is it the Queen of Messina
that touches me in M\xE9rop\xE9? No, it is the mother of \xC9giste. Nature alone
has right over our hearts.--The true relation of the heart is, therefore,
always from man to man, and never from man to king. The brilliancy of rank
far from augmenting the interest which we feel in a tragic personage, on
the contrary destroys it. The nearer to mine the condition of him who
suffers, the more touched am I by his woes. It belongs to the essence of
the serious drama to offer a more pressing interest, a more direct
morality than that of the heroic tragedy, and there should be something
more serious than mere gay comedy.\x94 After developing this theme for a
considerable length he terminates thus, \x93The morality of comedy is nil,
the reverse of what should be in the theater.\x94

Beaumarchais, a few years later, yielding with his usual suppleness to the
inevitable, when he found the public refusing to be interested in his
serious mediocrities, abandoned the _genre s\xE9rieux_, which in the
beginning he so warmly defended. He did not leave it, however, without a
last thrust at his critics.

In his preface to the \x93_Barbier de Seville_,\x94 which he published eight
years later, he thus alludes to these earlier productions: \x93I had the
weakness, Monsieur, to present to you at different times two poor dramas,
monstrous productions as is very well known, because between tragedy and
comedy no one is any longer ignorant that nothing exists, that is a point
settled.... As for myself, I am so completely convinced of the truth of
this that if I wished again to bring on the scene, a mother in tears, a
betrayed wife, a forlorn sister, a son disinherited, in order to present
them decently to the public, I should begin by placing them in a beautiful
kingdom where they had done their best to reign, and I should situate it
near one of the archipelagoes, or in some remote corner of the world....
The spectacle of men of medium condition, crushed and suffering, how
absurd! Ridiculous citizens and unhappy kings, there is nothing else the
theatre will permit.\x94

For those of Beaumarchais\x92s admirers who consider the creation of _Figaro_
as his highest title to fame, it is no matter of regret that after
imperfect success with his first drama, and almost failure with his
second, he should have made the transition to gay comedy. _Figaro_,
however, as we shall see, did not come before the public simply for its
amusement, he came as the announcement of that complete change which
already was taking place in the social institutions of modern Europe,
first breaking out in France, so that his apparition, therefore, was no
mere accident, but a momentous event.

At the present moment in 1766, no one could be farther than Beaumarchais
from the possibility of such a creation, for although he had brought with
him from Spain the crude outline of the \x93_Barbier_,\x94 he lacked as yet all
that experience which was to give political significance to the play, and
which was destined to enable him to voice for all time the right of the
individual to be heard in his own cause. In 1766 he not only imagined
himself to be, but was, one of the most loyal, one of the most respectful
subjects of the king. His life of adventure apparently was over. He asked
for nothing better than the fortune and position he had acquired already.
At heart he was above everything else domestic and was therefore warmly
attracted toward the new literary school. Lom\xE9nie says, \x93He precipitated
himself with his ordinary fervor into the _drame domestique et bourgeois_,
which seemed to him an unknown world of which Diderot was the Christopher
Columbus, and of which he hoped to be the Vespucius.\x94

In speaking of Beaumarchais\x92s attraction for this school Gudin says:
\x93Struck with the new beauties which the French stage displayed from day to
day, drawn on by his own talent he descended into the arena, to mix with
the combatants who disputed the palms of the scenic plays.

\x93Never before had been seen such an assemblage of excellent actors; the
theater was not simply a place of amusement, it was a course in public
instruction; here were displayed the customs of all nations and the
principal events of history; all the interests of humanity were there
developed with that truth which convinces, and arouses thought in every

\x93Diderot proposed to paint upon the scene the different duties of the
social condition, the father of the family, the magistrate, the merchant,
in order to show the virtues which each requires. It was certainly a new
point of view which he offered to the public. Beaumarchais felt his heart
deeply touched, and yielding to the impulse which he felt, he composed,
almost in spite of himself, his touching _Eug\xE9nie_.

\x93This is the picture of a virtuous girl infamously seduced by a great
lord. No piece ever offered a more severe morality, or more direct
instruction to fathers of vain women, who allow themselves to be blinded
by titles and great names. It is the duty of every author to attack the
vices of his own century. This duty the Greeks first understood. But in
France a thousand voices were raised against the innovation. Beaumarchais,
whom nothing intimidated, dared in his first play to attack the vice so
common among great lords, especially under Louis XV.

\x93Certainly this ought to have made him applauded by every friend of
virtue. The opposite occurred. The friends kept silence. Those who were
guilty of similar vice cried out against the play, their flatterers cried
still louder, journalists and the envious authors hissed and cried out
that it was detestable, scandalous, badly conceived and executed, immoral.
Not one applauded the energetic audacity of the author who dared to raise
his voice against the luxurious vice permitted by the monarchy and even by
the magistrates. Beaumarchais, however, had the public on his side, the
piece remained upon the stage and was constantly applauded.\x94

Although the fastidious French taste, apart from all the enmity aroused by
the many-sided success of its author, found much to criticise in the
production, _Eug\xE9nie_, or _la Vertu malheureuse_, the piece retains its
place upon the repertoire of the Th\xE9\xE2tre-Fran\xE7ais and is still
occasionally given.

Outside France it met with a much warmer reception. The German writer,
Bettleheim, assures us that it was at once translated into most of the
Kultur-Sprachen of Europe and was produced in the principal theatres
everywhere. In England, through the support of Garrick, then director of
the Drury Lane theater, and in Austria, through that of Sonnenfels, it met
with an astounding success.

In Germany the translation was very soon followed by an imitation called
\x93_Aurelie, oder Triumph der Tugend_.\x94

Of the English play Garrick writes to Beaumarchais: \x93_The School for
Rakes_, which is rather an imitation than a translation of your _Eug\xE9nie_,
has been written by a lady to whom I recommended your drama, which has
given me the greatest pleasure and from which I thought she could make a
play which would singularly please an English audience; I have not been
deceived, because with my help, as stated in the advertisement, which
precedes the piece, our _Eug\xE9nie_ has received the continual applause of
the most numerous audiences.\x94

In Italy the success of _Eug\xE9nie_ was scarcely less pronounced. It was
first produced in Venice in 1767, and in the criticism which follows the
publication of the translation we read: \x93The whole city was in great
expectancy when it was known that this drama was to appear upon the scene.
The impressions made upon the hearts of the spectators corresponded with
the fame which had preceded it and instead of diminishing this constantly
continued to increase in such a manner that the whole of Italy, although
rich in her own productions, has not grown weary of praising the piece.\x94

But for Beaumarchais the important thing was to win recognition from his
own country. This was no easy matter; he, however, did not despair, and
set about it with his usual tenacity of purpose, infinitude of resource
and versatility of genius.

M. de Lom\xE9nie says: \x93Beaumarchais worked with all his energy to prepare a
success for his play; we are indeed, far from 1784, at which time the
author of the _Mariage de Figaro_ only had to hold back the feverish
impatience of a public that awaited the performance of the piece as one of
the most extraordinary events. We are in 1767, Beaumarchais is completely
unknown as an author. He is a man of business, a man of pleasure who has
been able to push himself somewhat at court, about whom people talk very
differently, and whom men of letters are disposed to consider, as did the
courtiers, an intruder. From this arose the necessity for him to push
ahead, to arouse curiosity and to secure from all ranks supporters for
his play. This is what he does with that aptitude which distinguishes him.

\x93When, for instance, it is a question of obtaining the privilege of
reading his drama before Mesdames, he poses as a courtier who has
condescended to occupy himself with literature in the interest of virtue
and good manners. He assumes a celebrity which he has not yet acquired and
on the whole seems endowed with a rare presumption; here is the letter:


\x93\x91The comedians of the Com\xE9die-Fran\xE7aise are going to present in a few
days, a drama of a new kind which all Paris is awaiting with lively
impatience. The orders which I gave to the comedians in making them a
present of the work, that they should guard the secret of the name of the
author, have not been obeyed. In their unfortunate enthusiasm, they
believed that they rendered me a service in transgressing my wishes. As
this work, child of my sensibility, breathes the love of virtue, and tends
to purify our theater and make it a school of good manners, I have felt
that I owe a special homage to my illustrious protectresses. I come,
therefore, Mesdames, to beg you to listen to a reading of my play. After
that, if the public at the representation carries me to the skies, the
most beautiful success of my drama will be to have been honored by your
tears, as the author has always been by your benefits.\x92

\x93With the duke of Noailles, to whom he had read the piece, and who had
shown an interest, Beaumarchais poses as a statesman who has missed his
calling. The letter to the Duke of Noailles is as follows:

\x93\x91It is only in odd moments, Monsieur le duc, that I dare give way to my
taste for literature. When I cease for one moment to turn the earth and
cultivate the garden of my advancement, instantly what I have cleared is
covered with brambles so that I must recommence unceasingly. Another of
the follies from which I have been forced to tear myself is the study of
politics, a subject thorny and repulsive for most men, but quite as
attractive as useless for me. I loved it to madness, and I have done
everything to develop it, the rights of respective powers, the pretentions
of princes, by which the mass of mankind always is kept in commotion, the
action and reaction of governments, all these are interests made for my
soul. Perhaps there is no one who has felt so much the disadvantage of
being able to see things _en grand_, being at the same time the smallest
of men. Sometimes I have gone so far as to murmur in my unjust humor that
fate did not place me more advantageously in regard to those things for
which I believed myself suited, especially when I consider that the
missions which kings and ministers give to their agents, have the power to
confer the grace of the ancient apostleship, which instantly made sublime
and intelligent men of the most insignificant brains.\x92\x94

To the duke of Nivernais, Beaumarchais was indebted for a useful criticism
of the weak side of his play. It probably may be due to that nobleman\x92s
observations that he made the important change of transporting the scene
to England, and giving the characters English names. As the play now
stands, after decided modifications made immediately following the first
representations, the story is this:

[Illustration: _Eug\xE9nie_]

Eug\xE9nie, the daughter of a Welsh gentleman, supposes herself the wife of
Lord Clarendon, nephew of the Minister of War. Clarendon, however, basely
has deceived her by a false marriage in which his steward plays the r\xF4le
of chaplain, and he prepares to marry a wealthy heiress the very day that
his victim arrives in London.

The weakness of the play consists in this, that while the character of
Eug\xE9nie in its delicate, sweet womanliness, enlists our entire sympathy
and admiration, we are not sufficiently prepared at the end of the fifth
act to see the man who has so deceived her, pardoned and re-accepted on
his giving up his intended marriage along with the ambitious schemes of
his powerful uncle, even though the old baron utters the sublime truth
that \x93he who has sincerely repented is farther from evil than he who has
never known it.\x94

In the words of the Duke of Nivernais, \x93In the first act Clarendon is a
scoundrel who has deceived a young girl of good family by a false
marriage, he prepares to wed another, and this is the man, who in the end
finds grace in the eyes of Eug\xE9nie, a being who interests us. It requires
a great deal of preparation to arrive at this conclusion.\x94 This was the
whole difficulty, and though Beaumarchais retouched as best he could the
character of Clarendon, making as much as possible of the extenuating
circumstances, and emphasizing his hesitation and remorse, the play
remains weak in this respect.

The English imitation before spoken of, rectifies this difficulty by
altering the r\xF4le of Clarendon. In the advertisement, the author says,
however, \x93I have not dared to deviate from the gentle, interesting Eug\xE9nie
of Beaumarchais.\x94

The play finally was given for the first time, January 29th, 1767. In the
\x93_Ann\xE9e Litt\xE9raire_\x94 of that year this passage occurs: \x93_Eug\xE9nie_, played
for the first time January the 29th of this year, was badly received by
the public and its reception had all the appearance of a failure; it has
raised itself since with brilliancy, through omissions and corrections; it
occupied the public for a long time and this success greatly honors the

\x93The changes made by Beaumarchais between the first and second
representations were sufficient,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie, \x93to bring into relief the
first three acts, which contain many beautiful parts, and which announced
already a rare talent of _mise en sc\xE8ne_ and of dialogue. The refined,
distinguished acting of an amiable young actress, Mlle. Doligny, who
represented Eug\xE9nie, contributed not a little to save the drama and make
it triumph brilliantly over the danger that threatened its first

Beaumarchais had gained the public ear, but not the critics. As Lintilhac
says: \x93The enterprise did not proceed without scandal, for at the second
representation instead of hissing, the public weeps. The critic enraged at
the success of the piece cried, \x91It is all the fault of the women--talk to
them of _Eug\xE9nie_; it is they who have perverted the taste of our dear
young people.\x92 Nevertheless the piece endures in the face of censures and
cabals.--He managed his dramatic affairs quite as cleverly as the others.
Abuse goes along with success, _tant mieux!_ So much the better, it gives
him the opportunity of lashing criticism with witty replies, which he
prints with his play in a long preface of justification.\x94

\x93Into what a wasps\x92 nest you have put your head,\x94 said Diderot to him.

Gudin observes, \x93He was not one to be frightened at their buzzing, or to
stop on his way to kill flies. He was busying himself with a new drama.\x94

That this first production, \x93This child of my sensibility,\x94 as he called
it, was always dear to his heart is proved by the fact that years
afterwards Beaumarchais gave the name of Eug\xE9nie to his only daughter, of
whom we shall have much to say later on.

But in the meantime, an event occurred which for a period of two years had
an important bearing on his life. To quote Gudin: \x93It was about this time
that Madam B., celebrated for her beauty, came one day to find the sister
of Beaumarchais and asked her what her brother was doing as she had not
seen him for a long time.

\x93\x91I do not know if he is at home, but I believe he is working on his

\x93\x91I have something to say to him.\x92

\x93He was called. He appeared looking like a hermit, his hair in disorder,
his beard long, his face illumined by meditation.

\x93\x91Well, my friend, what are you busying yourself with when an amiable
woman, recently a widow, sought already by several pretendants, might
prefer you? I am to ride with her to-morrow in that secluded avenue of the
Champs \xC9lys\xE9es, which is called _l\x92all\xE9e des Veuves_; mount on horseback,
we will meet you there as if by chance; you will speak to me, and then you
shall both see whether or not you are suited to one another.\x92

\x93The next day Beaumarchais, followed by a domestic, appeared mounted on a
superb horse which he managed with grace. He was seen from the coach in
which the ladies were riding long before he joined them. The beauty of the
steed, the bearing of the cavalier worked in his favor; when he came near,
Madam B. said she knew the horseman. Beaumarchais came up and was
presented to the lady.

\x93This meeting produced a very vivid impression; the veil, the cr\xE8pe, the
mourning costume served to bring into relief the fairness of the
complexion and the beauty of the young widow. Beaumarchais soon left his
horse for the carriage, and as no author dialogued better for the stage so
no man ever brought more art into his conversation. If at first it was
simply sallies of wit, it became by degrees more interesting and finished
by being attractive. Beaumarchais finally proposed that the ladies should
come and dine at his home. Madam B. persuaded the young woman to consent,
although she refused several times. He sent back his horse by his domestic
which was the signal arranged with his sister in order that she might
prepare to receive the ladies, one of whom was an entire stranger.

\x93It is very different seeing a man out riding and seeing him in his own
home. It is there that one must follow him in order to judge him rightly
and so it was on entering that unpretentious, though elegant and
convenient home, seeing Beaumarchais surrounded by his old domestics,
seated between his father and sister, the latter a young woman of much
intelligence and proud of such a brother, the young woman could not but
realize that it would be an honor to have him for her husband. The table
disposes to confidence, the heart opens and discloses itself; they had not
left it before each was sure of the other and they had but one desire,
never to separate. They were married in April, 1768. His fortune was
increased by that of his wife, and his happiness by the possession of a
woman who loved him passionately.\x94

His wife\x92s name was Madame L\xE9v\xEAque, _n\xE9e_ Genevi\xE8ve Madeleine Watebled.
She was possessed of an ample fortune which added to that of Beaumarchais
made their position in every way desirable. The world at last seemed ready
to smile upon him and he quite content to settle down to peaceful
enjoyment of all the blessings with which his life was now crowned.

Gudin says, \x93Happy in love and in his friends, he amused himself in
painting the effects of these passions in a drama, \x91_Les Deux Amis_.\x92\x94 The
following year a son was born to him, the happiness of being a father was
the only happiness which had hitherto been denied him.

The new drama, \x93_Les Deux Amis_,\x94 although he himself says of it, \x93It is
the most powerfully composed of all my works,\x94 was not a success before
the Parisian public. In the provinces and in the most of Europe it met
with a very different reception, long retaining its favor with the public

It is the story of two friends who live in the same house, Malac _p\xE8re_,
collector of rents for a Parisian company, and Aurelly, merchant of Lyons,
where the scene is laid. Aurelly is expecting from Paris certain sums to
enable him to meet a payment which must be made in a few days. Malac
_p\xE8re_ learns that the money from Paris will not arrive and to save his
friend turns into the latter\x92s case all which he has in his possession as
collector of rents, allowing his friend to think that the money from Paris
has arrived. At this moment the agent-general of the Paris company appears
demanding the rents. During two acts Malac _p\xE8re_ allows himself to be
suspected of having appropriated the money, meekly accepting the disdain
of the friend whose credit he has saved.

The real situation discloses itself at last and through the heroism of
Pauline, the niece of Aurelly, and the curiosity of the agent-general, St.
Alban, the threatened ruin is averted.

In connection with the main action, Beaumarchais has joined a charming
episode of the loves of Pauline and Malac _fils_. The play opens with a
pleasing scene, where the young girl is seated at the piano playing a
sonata while the young man accompanies her with the violin; the scene and
the conversation which follows are a touching souvenir of the early days
of Beaumarchais\x92s attachment for the beautiful creole, Pauline.

The piece was produced January 13, 1770, and was given ten times. Lom\xE9nie
says, in explaining the reason for the short duration of the play: \x93Each
one of us suffers, loves and hates in virtue of an impulse of the heart,
but very few have a clear idea of what is felt by one exposed to
bankruptcy or supposed guilty of misappropriating money. These situations
are too exceptional to work upon the soul, too vulgar to excite the
imagination, they may well concur in forming the interest of a drama, but
only on condition that they figure as accessories. Vainly did Beaumarchais
blend the loves of Pauline and Malac _fils_, trying to sweeten the aridity
of the subject. Several spiritual or pathetic scenes could not save the
too commercial drama of \x91_Les Deux Amis_.\x92\x94

The author having, as he said, the advantage over his sad brothers of the
pen in that he could go to the theater in his own _carosse_, and making
perhaps a little too much of this advantage, the effect of the failure of
his drama was to call out many witticisms. It is said that at the end of
the first representation a wag of the parterre cried out, \x93It is question
here of bankruptcy; I am in it for twenty sous.\x94

Several days afterward Beaumarchais remarked to Sophie Arnould, apropos of
an opera _Zoroaster_ which did not succeed, \x93In a week\x92s time you will not
have a person, or at least very few.\x94

The witty actress replied, \x93_Vos Amis_ will send them to us.\x94

Finally the capital fault of the play is very well drawn up in the
quatrain of the time,

    _\x93I have seen Beaumarchais\x92s ridiculous drama,
    And in a single word I will say what it is;
    It is an exchange where money circulates,
    Without producing any interest.\x94_

Lintilhac remarks, \x93He gave in this crisis a double proof of his genius;
in the first place, he allowed his piece to fall without comment, and in
the second he did not despair of his dramatic vocation.\x94

Already Beaumarchais was meditating his _Barbier de S\xE9ville_ but in the
meantime he was seriously occupied with a new and extensive business
transaction. The fortune of his wife had enabled him to enter into a
partnership with old Du Verney in the acquisition of the vast forest of
Chinon, which they bought from the government. A letter to his wife, dated
July 15, 1769, shows him at his work.

  \x93De Rivarennes.

\x93You invite me to write, my good friend, and I wish to with all my heart,
it is an agreeable relaxation from the fatigues of my stay in this
village. Misunderstandings among the heads of departments to be
reconciled, complaints, and demands of clerks to be listened to, an
account of more than 100,000 _\xE9cus_, in sums of from 20 to 30 _sous_ to
regulate, and of which it was necessary to discharge the regular cashier,
the different posts to be visited, two hundred workmen of the forest whose
work must be examined, two hundred and eighty acres of wood cut down whose
preparation and transportation must be looked after, new roads to be
constructed into the forest and to the river, the old roads to be mended,
three or four hundred tons of hay to be stacked, provisions of oats for
thirty dray horses to be arranged for, thirty other horses to be brought
for the transport of all the wood for the navy before winter, gates and
sluices to be constructed in the river Indre in order to give us water all
the year at the place where the wood is discharged, fifty vessels which
wait to be loaded for Tours, Saumur, Angers and Nantes, the leases of
seven or eight farms to sign, beside the provision for housing thirty
persons; the general inventory of our receipts and expenses for the last
two years to regulate, _voil\xE0_, my dear wife, briefly the sum of my
occupations of which part is terminated and the rest _en bon train_.\x94

After two more pages of details Beaumarchais terminates his letter thus:
\x93You see, my dear friend, that one sleeps less here than at Pantin, but
the forced activity of this work does not displease me, since I have
arrived in this retreat inaccessible to vanity, I have seen only simple
people with unpretentious manners, such as I often desire myself to be. I
lodge in my office which is a good peasant farm, between barnyard and
kitchen garden, surrounded with a green hedge. My room with its four
white-washed walls has for furniture an uncomfortable bed where I sleep
like a top, four rush-bottomed chairs, an oaken table and a great
fireplace without ornament or shelf; but I see from my window on writing
you, the whole of the Varennes or prairies of the valley which I inhabit,
full of robust, sunburned men who cut and cart hay with yokes of oxen, a
multitude of women and girls each with a rake on the shoulder or in the
hand, all singing songs whose shrill notes reach me as I write. Across the
trees in the distance I see the tortuous course of the Indre and an
ancient castle flanked by towers which belongs to my neighbor Madame de
Ronc\xE9e. The whole is crowned with wooded summits which multiply as far as
the eye can see, the highest crests of which surround us on all sides in
such a manner that they form a great spherical frame to the horizon, which
they bound on every side. This picture is not without charm. Good coarse
bread, the most modest nourishment with execrable wine composes my
repasts. In truth, if I dared wish you the evil of lacking everything in a
desolate country I should deeply regret not having you by my side. Adieu,
my friend. If you think that these details might interest our relatives
and friends you are free to read my letters to them. Embrace them all for
me and good night--it seems hard to me sometimes not to have you near--and
my son, my son! how is he? I laugh when I think that it is for him that I

In January, 1770, Beaumarchais could easily afford the ill success of his
drama, for he was one of the best placed men in France. As we see him at
this moment nothing seems lacking to complete his happiness. All his
ambitions either are satisfied, or submerged. Of fierce trials,
overwhelming calamities, of revolutions, and ignominy worse than death, he
had as yet no idea. In 1767, he had written in his preface to his
_Eug\xE9nie_, \x93What does it matter to me, peaceful subject of a monarchial
state of the eighteenth century, the revolution of Athens and Rome? Why
does the story of the earthquake which has engulfed the city of Lima with
all its inhabitants, three thousand miles away, fill me with sorrow, while
the judicial murder of Charles committed at the Tower only makes me
indignant? It is because the volcano opened in Peru might explode in Paris
and bury me in its ruins, while on the other hand I can never apprehend
anything in the least similar to the unheard of misfortune which befell
the king of England.\x94 This from the pen of Beaumarchais! Beaumarchais, who
in 1784 was to produce his famous _Mariage de Figaro_, of which Napoleon
said it was, \x93The Revolution in action.\x94 Yes the Revolution, but not at
all like the Revolution in England whose results were only political, but
one which went down to the very foundation of the human soul changing the
psychology of every individual man, woman and child in the fair land of
France and from thence spreading its influence over the entire civilized
world! Here again we have a startling proof of what already has been
advanced, namely that the great actions in the life of Beaumarchais do not
come from his own willing or contriving. In the sublime na\xEFvet\xE9 of his
genius he became the instrument of those mysterious forces, so gigantic,
which first manifested themselves in France, and whose revolutionary power
continues to be felt over the whole world to-day. For the moment, however,
his thoughts and interests were all for the restricted circle of his
family and friends. He laughed when he thought of the son for whom he was
working. But alas, as no happiness had been denied, so no human calamity
was to escape him, he must drink his cup of grief and abasement to the

Already the wife whom he cherished was attacked by a fatal malady which
only could end in the grave, the son for whom he worked so gaily was soon
to follow her; his property was to be seized, his aged father and dearly
loved sister were to be turned adrift. Deprived of his liberty, entangled
in the meshes of a criminal lawsuit and under circumstances so desperate
that no lawyer could be found bold enough to plead his cause, it was then
that the true force and grandeur of his soul were to be made manifest; it
was then that he found himself caught on the crest of that giant wave of
public opinion now forming itself in France, his petty personal affair was
to become the affair of the nation. It was not to be himself as a private
individual who opposed his wrongs against despotic power, but the people
of France found through him a voice crying aloud for vengeance.

But the time was not yet ripe. Beaumarchais, happy in the bosom of his
family, thought only of sweetening the remainder of that life which was
perishing in his arms.

[Illustration: Le Jardin du Petit-Trianon]

\x93Before his second marriage, Madam Beaumarchais realizing to the full how
difficult it was to see him without loving him,\x94 says Gudin, \x93and knowing
how much he cherished women in general, said to him, \x91You are a man of
honor, promise me that you will never give me cause for jealousy and I
will believe you.\x92 He promised her and kept his word.\x94 Gudin further says,
\x93When she was stricken with a fatal and contagious disease, he was even
more assiduous than before in his devotion. Reading in her eyes the fears
that devoured her, he sought to dissipate them by his care and that host
of little attentions which have so great a price for the hearts which
understand each other. She received them with all the more gratitude in
that she could not fail to realize that she had lost those charms which
had made her attractive, leaving only the memory of what she had been,
joined to the sentiments of a pure soul already on the point of escaping
from a frail body.

\x93Father, sisters, all the relatives of Beaumarchais, alarmed at his
attachment, trembled lest he too should contract the malady and follow her
to the tomb. She died on the 21st of November, 1770, leaving him the one
son before mentioned. Her fortune, which had consisted almost entirely of
a life income, was cut off with her death.\x94

Paris du Verney had died the same year. The moment had arrived when the
storm so long gathering was about to break. The first part of the career
of Beaumarchais was over, the dream of a quiet, peaceful life vanished
forever, while stern and unending conflict entered to take its place.

                               CHAPTER VII

\x93_La calomnie, Monsieur! vous ne savez gu\xE8re ce que vous d\xE9daignez; j\x92ai
vu des plus honn\xEAtes gens pr\xEAts d\x92en \xEAtre accabl\xE9s. Croyez qu\x92il n\x92y a pas
de pl\xE2te m\xE9chancet\xE9, pas d\x92horreurs, pas de conte absurde, qu\x92on ne fasse
adopter aux oisifs d\x92une grande ville en s\x92y prenant bien.... D\x92abord un
bruit l\xE9ger rasant le sol comme hirondelle avant l\x92orage, +pianissimo+
murmure et file, et s\xE8me en courant le trait empoisonn\xE9. Telle bouche le
recueille, et +piano+, +piano+, vous le glisse en l\x92oreille adroitement.
Le mal est fait; il germe, il rampe, il chemine et +rinforzando+ de bouche
en bouche il va le diable; puis tout \xE0 coup on ne sait comment, vous voyez
la calomnie se dresser, siffler, s\x92enfler, grandir \xE0 vue d\x92oeil. Elle
s\x92\xE9lance, \xE9tend son vol, tourbillonne, enveloppe, arrache, entraine,
\xE9clate et tonne, et devient, grace au ciel, un cri g\xE9n\xE9ral, un +crescendo+
public, un +chorus+ universel de haine et de proscription. Qui diable y

                            _\x93Le Barbier de S\xE9ville,\x94 Act II, Scene VII._

    The Death of Paris Du Verney--The Lawsuit La Blache--Judgment
      Rendered in Favor of Beaumarchais--The Comte de La Blache--
      Appeals to the New Parliament--Private Life of Beaumarchais
      at This Period.

As will be remembered, it was in 1760 that Beaumarchais entered into
relationship with Paris du Verney. During the ten years which followed
there had been considerable movement of capital between the two, very many
business transactions more or less sustained by the old financier,
numerous loans of money, and finally the partnership in the forest of
Chinon, without their ever having arrived at a definite settlement.

Beaumarchais, always minutely careful in matters where money was
concerned, realizing the advanced age of du Verney often had urged upon
his friend the necessity of such a settlement. Finally in April, 1770,
after several years of correspondence, an act was drawn up in duplicate by
Beaumarchais, dated, signed, and sealed by du Verney.

By this act, after a long and detailed enumeration of the rights on both
sides, Beaumarchais gave back to his old friend 160,000 francs of the
latter\x92s notes and consented to the dissolution of the partnership in the
Forest of Chinon.

Du Verney, on his side, declared Beaumarchais absolved from all debts
against him, recognized that he owed the latter 15,000 francs and obliged
himself to loan 75,000 francs without interest, for eight years.

Du Verney died before the last two clauses had been executed, so that it
was to his heir, the Comte de la Blache, that Beaumarchais presented the
act demanding its execution.

This was the moment for which the count had been so long waiting. Already
for years he had been saying of Beaumarchais, \x93I hate that man as a lover
loves his mistress.\x94

M. de Lom\xE9nie, after giving reasons natural enough for the hatred of an
heir presumptive for a person constantly receiving benefits from an old
man whose fortune he was to inherit, has said, \x93The Comte de la Blache had
very particular motives for hating Beaumarchais. This latter was closely
united with another nephew of du Verney\x92s, M. Paris de Meyzieu, a man
distinguished in every way, who had powerfully aided his uncle in the
founding of the \xC9cole Militaire, but being very much less skillful in the
difficult and painful matter for a man of heart, to secure to himself a
succession to the property--had withdrawn from the contest allowing
himself to be sacrificed to a more distant relative.\x94

Beaumarchais, finding this sacrifice unjust, had not ceased to combat the
weakness of his old friend du Verney, and to plead for M. de Meyzieu with
a frankness and a vivacity proved by his letters, of which I will only
cite a fragment, but which has relation precisely to the settlement in

\x93I cannot endure,\x94 he wrote to du Verney on the date of March 9, 1770,
\x93that in case of death you place me vis-\xE0-vis with M. le Comte de la
Blache, whom I honor with all my heart but who, since I have seen him
familiarly at the house of Madame d\x92Hauteville, never has given me the
honor of a salutation. You make him your heir, I have nothing to say to
that, but if I must, in case of the greatest misfortune which I could
imagine, be his debtor, I am your servant for the arrangement. I will not
dissolve our partnership. But place me vis-\xE0-vis with my friend Meyzieu,
who is a gallant man, and to whom you owe, my good friend, reparation for
debts of long standing. It is not apologies which an uncle owes to a
nephew, but kindness and above all some benevolent act, when he knows that
he has done him wrong. I never have hidden my opinion in this matter from
you. Put me vis-\xE0-vis with him. This is my last word; you, or in your
absence Meyzieu, or else no dissolution. I have other motives in relation
to this last point, which I will reserve till the time when I can give
them by word of mouth. When do you wish to see me? Because I notify you
that from now until then, things shall remain as they are.\x94

It is evident from this and similar letters that Beaumarchais had no
illusions as to the difficulties of his situation. With the increasing
failure of the old man\x92s faculties, his cunning nephew so exercised his
ascendency that it was with the greatest difficulty that Beaumarchais
could obtain an interview with his old friend. Du Verney, it would seem,
hid, so far as possible, all connection which he had with his nephew. This
state of affairs, M. de Lom\xE9nie assures us, accounted for the absence of
the duplicate acts and all letters in relation to the matter, which alone
could make a lawsuit possible.

When after du Verney\x92s death, Beaumarchais presented the act, demanding
its execution, the Comte de la Blache coolly replied that he did not
recognize his uncle\x92s signature and that he believed it false.

The matter was taken to law. Not daring, however, directly to accuse
Beaumarchais of forgery, he demanded that the act be annulled, declaring
that it contained in itself proofs of fraud. Again to quote Lom\xE9nie, \x93Thus
Beaumarchais found himself caught in the meshes of an odious snare,
because while not daring to attack him openly for forgery, the Comte de la
Blache did not cease to plead indirectly this possibility and after an
infamous discussion he had the audacity to take advantage of this very act
which he declared false and turned it against his adversary.

\x93Thus refusing to pay the 15,000 francs recognized by the act signed by du
Verney, he demanded of Beaumarchais payment of 139,000 francs from which
the act discharged him.\x94

\x93In this way,\x94 said Master Caillard, a very ingenious lawyer chosen by the
Comte de la Blache, \x93justice will be avenged, and honest citizens will see
with satisfaction a similar adversary taken in the snares which he has
himself set.\x94

Not to enter too deeply into the tedious details of this suit, we will
content ourselves with a few pages taken from the account of M. de Lom\xE9nie
as giving a sufficiently clear idea of its nature as a whole.

He says, \x93Let us suppose that Beaumarchais had wished to fabricate a false
act, would he have given it the form of this one? It is a great sheet of
double paper, very complicated details of the settlement written by the
hand of Beaumarchais fill the first two pages, at the end of the second
page it is signed on the right by Beaumarchais, and on the left dated and
signed by the hand of du Verney, the third page contains a r\xE9sum\xE9 of the
same settlement. What did the lawyer of the Comte de la Blache say of
this? He discussed it with the facility of a lawyer. At times he
insinuated that the signature of du Verney was false, then when summoned
to plead the falsity of the act he declared that if it was true, that it
belonged to a date earlier than 1770, \x91at which time,\x92 he said, \x91the old
du Verney had a trembling hand, while the one at the foot of the act is a
bold writing from a hand firm and light.\x92

\x93Here the lawyer pretended not to see that just above the signature was
written in the same hand these words, \x91At Paris, the 1st of April, 1770,\x92
that is to say that du Verney had not only signed, but dated the act in
question, which obliged one to suppose that the old financier had amused
himself in his youth or in mature years in signing and dating in advance,
blank signatures for the period of his old age. Repelled on this side the
lawyer insinuates that the paper must be a blank signature signed and
dated by du Verney in 1770, secured and filled by Beaumarchais.\x94

Feeling the weakness of his arguments, the lawyer came back to the clauses
which were complicated, diffuse, and mixed with observations foreign to
the settlement in question; this was true, but in favor of Beaumarchais,
because had he been fabricating an act, it would have been brief,
methodical, and clear, while in regulating a long account with an old man
of eighty-seven this act must necessarily correspond to the prolixity, or
the fantasies of, this advanced age.

But one will say, why, when he had only to contend against such feeble
arguments, was it possible for Beaumarchais, after gaining his suit in the
first instance to lose it in the second, as we shall presently see him do?

The story is long and involved, and many pictures are needed to convey the
scene in all its intensity and intricacy.

A sentence dated February 22, 1772, rejects the demand of the Comte de la
Blache, and a second dated March 4th, 1772, orders the execution of the
act. Upon this the adversary appeals to the grand chamber of Parliament.

Although victorious in his struggle, Beaumarchais was vilified by the
crafty Caillard to the extent of the latter\x92s power. The credit and
influence of the Comte de la Blache excited against him a swarm of
writers, and the gazettes, especially the foreign periodicals, made the
most of all the atrocious calumnies which had been set going regarding his
character. The sudden death of his two wives served as a pretext for the
most infamous accusations. All the confusing details of this disastrous
lawsuit have been fully investigated and the whole matter clearly exposed
by M. de Lom\xE9nie and we know that the final decision rendered at Aix in
1778 exonerated Beaumarchais from every semblance of fault or dishonorable
action. That which concerns us at this time is to learn what effect all
these infamous machinations had upon a character which we have recognized
already as strong, elevated, and free.

From the bitterness of the attacks of his enemies, let us turn to the
refreshing and faithful picture which his devoted friend Gudin makes of
him at this time.

He writes: \x93It was in the winter of 1771 that I met Madame de Miron,
sister of Beaumarchais, at the home of a woman of my acquaintance. She had
been invited to a reading of one of my poems. In the beginning she showed
no interest, but as I read, her face became animated and at the end she
was as prodigal of her praise, as at first she had been indifferent. She
spoke to me of her brother. She found me without prejudice for his dramas,
but naturally biased in regard to his character of which I had heard much
adverse criticism.

\x93Satisfied with my discourse, she resolved to conquer me for her brother
and accordingly invited me to dine with her at a time when the abb\xE9
D\xE9lille was to read some verses still unknown to the public.

\x93Given to study and retirement, rather reserved in my friendships, and not
desiring to make new ones, I refused at first; she urged my acceptance
with so much grace, however, that I could not persist in my refusal.

\x93I went to her home, I found the abb\xE9, I applauded his verses as all Paris
has since done, but I did not see the brother of the mistress of the

\x93At last one evening, while I was visiting Madame de Miron, he came in.
She presented him to me and begged me to recite some verses of the poem
which had made her wish to interest me in him.

\x93He showed the same indifference as his sister had done at the beginning,
but glowed with even finer interest as I proceeded. He wished to take me
at once to sup with him with Madame le Comtesse de Mir.... I refused
absolutely, and did not yield to any of his solicitations although they
were very ardent. I did not wish that my first step should give him the
idea of a frivolous man who could be disposed of lightly.

\x93The next morning he called on me and brought me an invitation from Madame
le Comtesse de Mir ... and in the evening he came for me. Two days later
he invited me to his house, presented me to his father, to the one sister
who lived with him, and whom I had never met.

\x93I saw him as simple in his domestic circle as he was brilliant in a
salon. I was very soon certain that he was a good son, good brother, good
master, and good father because he had still a little son, a young child
whose infantile words were often repeated to us, which charmed me all the
more because it betrayed his paternal tenderness and showed how much more
powerful were his sentiments than his _esprit_.

\x93We soon learned to esteem each other from a similar foundation of severe
principles, hidden in his case under an exterior of lightness and gaiety,
by a vivid and constant love of the good, the beautiful, the honest, by an
equal disdain for prejudice, and for all opinions ill-founded.

\x93We became intimate friends through the similarities and differences of
our characters, and the congeniality of our interests.

\x93The taste for letters, for the theatre, for the arts, the same indulgence
for the weaknesses of the human heart, strengthened our union. We passed
many evenings together, now in the midst of a great number, now in more
restricted circles. Poetry, music, new scientific discoveries, all were
subjects of our discourse. I heard him blend witticisms, graceful stories,
the best pleasantries, all the charm of an _esprit_ free, abundant, and
varied with the effusions of a sensible, active, generous heart.

\x93He never criticised any work, on the contrary he always brought out
beauties which others had not noticed, extolled talent, repelled scandal;
he defended all those whose merit he heard depreciated, and never
listened to slander. \x91I am,\x92 he used to say, \x91an advocate of the absent.\x92

\x93I noticed that he never spoke evil of his enemies, even of those whom he
knew to be the most intent on ruining him. One day when I had learned some
most injurious details in regard to the conduct of the man who had brought
suit against him, I expressed my astonishment that I had not learned these
facts from him, but rather from a relative of the man himself.

\x93\x91Eh, my friend,\x92 he replied, \x91should I lose the time which I pass with
you in recalling the things which would only afflict your spirit and mine.
I try to forget the folly of those about me, and to think only of what is
good and useful; we have so many things to say to each other, that such
topics should never find a place in our conversation.\x92

\x93And in fact there scarcely passed a day when we did not express our pity
for the sterility of spirit and the dryness of heart of the many people
who have nothing to say unless they talk scandal.

\x93Beaumarchais was at this time secretary to the king, lieutenant-general
of the preserves of the king and enjoyed an income of from 15 to 20
thousand francs a year. He thought of nothing but to make use of his own
talents, to cultivate his friends, music, and the theater. I see by a
letter to the Duchess de ---- that he was already forming a project for
enlarging the range of the drama, so as to give to the French scene more
variety and interest. These objects alone occupied him when I made his

\x93The suit in which he was engaged in the first place, gave him no
disquietude, he believed that he could not lose it, but this suit was to
be the stumbling block which was to destroy his happiness, to tear from
him the possibility of disposing of himself according to his own will, or
to live as his taste dictated.

\x93It precipitated him into a succession of events which never permitted him
for a moment to enter into the tranquil career which he had proposed for
himself. His life so fitted for pleasure and the beaux-arts became a
combat which never ceased. It is thus that events often dispose of men in
spite of themselves.

\x93During the delay accorded by law and which circumstances required,
Beaumarchais composed a comic opera, which he ornamented with couplets to
the Spanish and Italian airs which he had brought back with him from
Madrid. He read the piece to the Comedians of the so-called _Italiens_,
who were in possession of the right to play this kind of production. That
evening, supping with Mademoiselle M----, _femme d\x92esprit_, whom we shall
see later, in an assembly of several men of rank, Beaumarchais told us
that his piece had been refused by the theater of Souz.

\x93We congratulated him, we knew his piece, we assured him the comedians of
the Th\xE9\xE2tre-Fran\xE7ais would be more sensible, that he would only lose the
couplets, and that the _Barbier de S\xE9ville_ would have more success at the
theater of Moli\xE8re than at the Harlequin.

\x93Marmontel and Sedaine, who were of the company, knowing very well all of
the _Com\xE9diens des Italiens_, revealed to us the secret of the disgrace of
the _Barbier_. They told us that the principal actor, before showing
himself on the stage, had figured, razor in hand in the shops of the
wig-makers, and now he did not wish to produce anything which would recall
his origin. We laughed, we moralized and it was decided that Beaumarchais
should carry his work to the Th\xE9\xE2tre-Fran\xE7ais.\x94

It is this many-sided, this complex character of Beaumarchais which makes
him so difficult to understand. Immersed in financial difficulties which
would have overwhelmed an ordinary man, we find him composing an immortal
dramatic production. Still deeper plunged in distresses, and caught in a
net of harassing circumstances almost unbelievable, we find him attacking
single-handed one of the greatest wrongs of the nation and pulling himself
out of a quicksand to be borne in triumph on the shoulders of the people
of France.

In 1772, two years before the time of the lawsuit brought by the Comte de
la Blache against Beaumarchais, by an arbitrary act of the Chancellor
Maupeou under the sanction of the old king Louis XV, the ancient
parliaments of the realm had been dissolved and in their place a new one
had been set up, called the Parliament Maupeou. From the beginning it met
with very bitter opposition. To quote Lom\xE9nie, \x93The nation had bowed
itself under the glorious scepter of Louis XIV, but that scepter fallen
into the hands of Louis XV no longer inspired respect. The spirit of
resistance to arbitrary power was general. In the absence of every other
guarantee, the parliaments presented themselves as the one barrier which
could be opposed to the caprices of a disorderly power, and whatever were
the particular vices of those bodies, judicial and political, every time
that they resisted the royal will they had with them the sympathy of the

\x93Supported by this, the parliaments saw themselves growing stronger day by
day. Closely united the one to the other, they declared themselves \x91the
members of a single and individual body, inherent in the monarchy, an
organ of the nation, essential depository of its liberty, of its interests
and of its rights.\x92

\x93Every one of their combats with royalty terminated by a victory, until at
last a man issuing from their ranks, an audacious and obstinate character,
undertook to command or crush them. This man was the Chancellor Maupeou.

\x93Sustained by Madame du Barry, who dominated the King, the Chancellor
issued the edict of December 7th, 1770, which changed the entire
organization of the parliaments. The one of Paris protested and repelled
the edict. The Chancellor instead of following the ordinary methods
dissolved this parliament, confiscated the charges of the magistrates,
exiled them and installed a new parliament composed for the most part of
members of the Grand Council. The eleven Parliaments of the provinces
addressed the most vehement remonstrances; the one in Normandy went so far
as to send a decree, declaring the new magistrates intruders, perjurers,
traitors, and all the acts null that emanated from that bastard tribunal.
All the princes of the blood except one refused to recognize the judges
installed by Maupeou; thirteen peers adhered to the protestation. The
_cour des aides_ protested equally by the eloquent voice of Malesherbes.
The Chancellor resisted the storm, he prevented the dissenting princes
from being admitted to court; he broke the _cour des aides_, dissolved in
turn all the parliaments of the provinces and replaced them in the midst
of an unheard of fermentation. \x91It is not a man,\x92 wrote Madame du Deffand,
\x91it is a devil; everything here is in a disorder of which it is impossible
to predict the end; it is chaos, it is the end of the world.\x92

\x93To dissolve these ancient and formidable bodies whose existence seemed
inseparable from the monarchy and whose suppression delivered France to
the r\xE9gime of Turkey or Russia, was truly a very hazardous enterprise.

\x93The chancellor took care to sweeten and color the act by blending some
very important reforms, long desired by the people. Thus the mass of the
people little understanding the gravity of the plan of Maupeou showed
themselves indifferent, but the enlightened classes of society refused to
purchase a few needed reforms at the price of an ignominious servitude and
sided unitedly with the destroyed parliaments.

\x93Very soon followed a deluge of sarcastic pamphlets against the king,
against his mistress, against the chancellor, and the new parliament. This
last, hastily formed of heterogeneous elements, into which several men but
lightly esteemed had been introduced, had not in the beginning found
either lawyers, attorneys, or litigants who wished to appear before it.
Nevertheless, Maupeou counting upon the _mobilit\xE9 fran\xE7aise_, opposed
perseverance to the clamor, and at the end of a year most of the lawyers
were tired of keeping silence; under the influence of the celebrated
Gerbier and that of the same Caillard whom we have seen so violent against
Beaumarchais, they had taken up their functions.

\x93The dissenting princes demanded to be taken back into favor, the
dispossessed magistrates of the dissolved parliaments consented to the
liquidation of the charges against them, the pamphlets diminished, and
things came back to their ordinary course. Maupeou held himself assured of
triumph and vaunted that he had saved the crown from the registrar.

\x93But he had deceived himself. When any large part of a nation, honest and
intelligent, feels itself wounded in its dignity, though the wound may
close in appearance, it does not heal; that which was in the beginning a
flame became a smouldering fire, which hidden under the ashes of an
apparent non-resistance was in reality but waiting an opportunity to break
forth into a devouring element.

\x93It was reserved for Beaumarchais to fan this into a flame with a suit for
fifteen louis, and to destroy both Maupeou and his parliament.\x94

[Illustration: Madame du Barry]

It was then to this parliament and Maupeou that the Comte de la Blache
made his appeal. The institution was the more to his liking, since at its
head presided a certain counsellor by the name of Go\xEBzman who seemed
especially made for his purpose.

We shall have much to say of this same Go\xEBzman in a succeeding chapter
when it comes to the question of the famous lawsuit concerning the fifteen
louis. At this time, however, Beaumarchais\x92s case was very strong and none
of his friends seriously supposed that the count would be able to turn the
suit against him.

It was at this crisis that a circumstance, one of the most bizarre of all
the strange happenings in the life of Beaumarchais, suddenly placed him at
the mercy of his bitterest enemy.

For a minutely detailed account of this incident we have Beaumarchais\x92s
own account as rendered to the lieutenant of police after the matter had
been taken up by the authorities. While Gudin on his side, who, as we
shall see, had his own part to play in this singular drama, gives a no
less circumstantial account of the whole proceeding.

When in 1855, M. de Lom\xE9nie published his important work, the incident
about to be related was wholly unknown to the public although as he tells
us, \x93The author of the _Barbier de S\xE9ville_ had collected with care all
the documents relating to this strange affair. Upon the back of the bundle
of papers was written with his own hand, \x91Material for the memoirs of my

As M. de Sartine, at that time lieutenant-general of police, later became
a warm friend of Beaumarchais, the latter was able to obtain all the
letters deposited by each one of the actors of this tragi-comique scene.

We can do no better than follow the account of M. de Lom\xE9nie with
occasional touches from Gudin.

                              CHAPTER VIII

_La Jeunesse--\x93Y-a-t-il de la justice?\x94_

_Bartholo--\x93De la justice? C\x92est bon pour les autres mis\xE9rables, la
justice. Je suis ma\xEEtre, moi, pour avoir toujours raison.\x94_

                             _Le Barbier de S\xE9ville, Act II, Scene VII._

    Beaumarchais and the Duc de Chaulnes--Attempt Upon the Life of
      Beaumarchais--Same Evening Gives the Promised Reading of the
      _Barbier de S\xE9ville_--Victim of a _Lettre de Cachet_.

It will be remembered that Gudin in his history of Beaumarchais speaks of
a meeting of literary men at the table of a certain Mademoiselle M\xE9nard,
_femme d\x92esprit_, where the subject of the comic opera lately composed by
Beaumarchais was discussed. It was this same Mademoiselle M\xE9nard who in
the words of Lom\xE9nie was \x93the cause of an Homeric combat between
Beaumarchais, prudent and dexterous as Ulysses, and a duke and peer,
robust and ferocious as Ajax.\x94

Mademoiselle M\xE9nard was a young and pretty actress, who in June, 1770,
had made her d\xE9but with success at the Com\xE9die Italienne. In his
_Correspondence litt\xE9raire_, of June, 1770, Baron von Grimme, the great
critic of the time, says of her after a rather cold analysis:
\x93Mademoiselle M\xE9nard must be given a trial; she seems capable of great
application. It is said that her first occupation was that of a flower
girl on the boulevards, but wishing to withdraw from that estate which
has degenerated a little from the first nobility of its origin, since
Glys\xE8re sold bouquets at the doors of the temple of Athens, she bought a
grammar and applied herself to a study of the language and its
pronunciation, after which she tried playing comedies. During her first
attempts, she has addressed herself to all the authors, musicians, and
poets, asking their counsels with a zeal and docility which has had for
recompense the applause which she has obtained in her different r\xF4les. M.
de Pequigny, to-day the duc de Chaulnes, protector of her charms, has had
her portrait painted by Greuze; so if we do not retain her in the theater
we shall at least see her at the next salon.\x94

Acting on the wishes of her protector, Mademoiselle M\xE9nard had renounced
the theater and was in the habit of receiving at her house poets,
musicians, and great lords, Beaumarchais among the rest.

\x93The duc de Chaulnes,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie, \x93was a man notorious for the violence
and extravagance of his character. The history of Beaumarchais by Gudin
contains details about him in every way confirming the testimony of other

\x93His character,\x94 wrote Gudin, \x93was a peculiar mixture of contradictory
qualities; _esprit_ without judgment, pride, with such a lack of
discernment as to rob him of dignity before superiors, equals or
inferiors, a vast but disorderly memory, a great desire to improve
himself, a still greater taste for dissipation, a prodigious strength of
body, a violence of disposition which rendered him extremely unreasonable
and robbed him of the power to think clearly, frequent fits of rage which
made of him a savage beast incapable of being controlled.

\x93At one time banished from his country for five years, he spent the time
of his exile in making a scientific expedition. He visited the pyramids,
lived with the Bedouins and brought home many objects of natural history.\x94

To this portrait by Gudin, Lom\xE9nie adds the following: \x93In the midst of
his disorderly and extravagant life, he had conserved something of the
taste of his father, a distinguished mechanician, physicist, and natural
historian who died an honorary member of the Academy of Natural Sciences.
The son loved chemistry passionately and made several discoveries.
Nevertheless even here he displayed many eccentricities. Thus, to verify
the efficacy of a preparation he had invented against asphyxiation, he
shut himself up in a glass cabinet and asphyxiated himself, leaving to his
valet de chambre the care to come to his aid at the proper moment to try
his remedy. Happily his servant was punctual and no harm was done.

\x93The peculiar character of the duke rendered his liaison with Mademoiselle
M\xE9nard very stormy. At the same time brutal, jealous, and unfaithful, he
inspired in her little sentiment other than fear. Suddenly becoming
infatuated with Beaumarchais, he introduced him to the young woman in

Gudin says, \x93One of the greatest wrongs that I have known in Beaumarchais
was to appear so amiable to women that he was always preferred, which made
him as many enemies as there were aspirants to please him.\x94

The duc de Chaulnes, perceiving very soon that Mademoiselle M\xE9nard found
Beaumarchais very agreeable, his friendship turned to fury.

\x93Frightened by his violence,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie, \x93she begged Beaumarchais to
cease his visits. Out of regard for her, he consented, but the bad
treatment of the duke continuing, she decided to take the desperate step
of shutting herself up in a convent. When she believed that the danger
was over and that she would be safe in her own home, she returned and
invited her friends, Beaumarchais among them, to come to see her.\x94

The duke during his intimacy with Beaumarchais had received many favors
from him, notably important sums of money which, of course, he never
repaid. It was at the moment of the return of Mademoiselle M\xE9nard to her
home that Beaumarchais wrote the following letter to the duke.

  \x93Monsieur le Duc,

\x93Mademoiselle M\xE9nard has notified me that she has returned to her home and
has invited me to come to see her along with all her other friends, when I
can make it convenient. I judge that the reasons which forced her to the
retreat now have ceased. She tells me she is free and I congratulate both
of you sincerely. I expect to see her sometime to-morrow. The force of
circumstances has then done for you what my representations were unable to
accomplish. I have known by what pecuniary efforts you have tried again to
bring her to be your dependent, and with what nobility she has refused
your money.

\x93Pardon me if I make certain reflections, they are not foreign to the end
which I have in view in writing this. In speaking to you of Mademoiselle
M\xE9nard I forget my personal injuries. I forget that after making it clear
to you that my attachment for you alone inspired the sacrifices which I
made, and that after having said to me very disadvantageous things about
her, you have changed and said things a hundred times worse to her about
me. I pass also in silence the scene, horrible for her--and disgusting to
me, where you so far forgot yourself as to reproach me with being the son
of a watchmaker. I, who honor myself in my parents in the face of those
even, who imagine they have the right to outrage their own. You must feel,
Monsieur le duc, how much more advantageous my position is at this moment
than your own, and except for the anger which makes you unreasonable, you
would certainly appreciate the moderation with which I repelled the
outrage against him whom I have always made profession of loving and
honoring with all my heart. But if my respectful regards for you have not
gone so far as to make me fear you, then it is because it is not in my
power to fear any man. Believe me, Monsieur le duc, I have never tried to
diminish the attachment of this generous woman for you. She would have
despised me if I had attempted to do so. You have had, therefore, no enemy
but yourself. Recall all that I have had the honor to say in regard to
this subject and give back your friendship to him whom you have not been
able to deprive of his esteem for you. If this letter does not appeal to
you, I shall feel that I have done my duty to the friend whom I have never
offended, whose injuries I have forgotten, and to whom I come now for the
last time....\x94

The duke did not reply to this letter and matters remained at a standstill
until one morning the infatuated duke took it into his head to kill

\x93Fatality,\x94 says Gudin, \x93was the cause that I who never left my study in
the morning unless it was to go and turn over the pages of the books or
ancient manuscripts in the Bibliot\xE8que du Roi, had gone out that morning
by request of my mother, it being the 11th of February, 1773. My
commission for her finished and finding myself near the lodging of
Mademoiselle M\xE9nard whom I had not seen for a long time, I mounted to her

\x93\x91It is a great while since I have seen you,\x92 she said, \x91I feared you no
longer had any friendship for me.\x92 I assured her of my regard and seated
myself in an armchair. Soon she burst into tears as if her heart could not
contain its grief, and began to recount the violences of the duke and
spoke of a very insulting remark which he had made about Beaumarchais. At
that moment the duke entered the room, I rose and gave him my place.

\x93\x91I weep,\x92 she said, \x91and I beg M. Gudin to induce Beaumarchais to justify
himself for the ridiculous accusation you have made against him.\x92

\x93\x91What need is there for a scoundrel like Beaumarchais to justify

\x93\x91He is a very honest man,\x92 she said, shedding more tears.

\x93\x91You love him,\x92 cried the duke. \x91You humiliate me. I declare to you that
_I will kill him!_\x92

\x93The duke sprang up and rushed from the room. We all rose and cried out. I
ran to prevent his escape, but he evaded me. I turned back into the room,
I cried to the women that I would warn Beaumarchais and prevent the

\x93I was beside myself, I left and ran to his house. I met his carriage in
the Rue Dauphine. I threw myself in front of the horses, stopped them,
mounted on the steps of his carrosse, and told him that the duc de
Chaulnes was hunting for him and wished to kill him.

\x93\x91Come home with me, I will tell you the rest.\x92

\x93\x91I cannot,\x92 he answered, \x91the hour calls me to the tribunal of the
varenne du Louvre, where I must preside, I will come to you as soon as the
audience is finished.\x92

\x93His carriage started and I went back home. Just as I was mounting the
steps of the Pont-Neuf I felt myself violently pulled by the skirts of my
coat, I fell backward and found myself in the arms of the duc de Chaulnes
who, using his gigantic strength, picked me up like a bird, threw me into
a fi\xE0cre, cried to the coachman, \x91Rue de Cond\xE9,\x92 and said to me with
horrible oaths that I should find for him the man he sought to kill.

\x93\x91By what right,\x92 I said, \x91Monsieur le duc, you who are always crying for
liberty, do you take mine from me?\x92

\x93\x91By the right of the strongest. You will find for me--Beaumarchais or--\x92

\x93\x91Monsieur le duc, I have no arms, you will perhaps wish also to
assassinate me?\x92

\x93\x91No--I will only kill that Beaumarchais.\x92

\x93\x91I do not know where he is and if I did, I would not tell you while you
are in the fury of your present rage.\x92

\x93\x91If you resist, I will give you a blow.\x92

\x93\x91And I will return it.\x92

\x93\x91What, you would strike a duke!\x92 With that he threw himself upon me and
tried to seize my hair. As I wore a wig it remained in his hand, which
made the scene very amusing as I perceived from the laughter of the
populace outside the fi\xE0cre, all the doors of which were open. The duke
who saw nothing, seized me by the neck and wounded me on my throat, my
ear, and my cheek. I stopped his blows as best I could and called the
guard with all my might. The duke grew calmer and we arrived at the home
of Beaumarchais.

\x93The duke jumped from the carriage and pounded on the door. I sprang from
the other side of the carriage and knowing that my friend would not be
found, I escaped to my own home by the side streets, there to await the
coming of Beaumarchais.

\x93I waited in impatience,--he did not come, I grew uneasy, fear seized me,
I gave orders that he should await me, I ran to his home. Here is what
happened and which is to be found in his petition to the marshals of

\x93Exact recital of what passed Thursday, the 11th of February, 1773,
between M. le duc de Chaulnes and myself, Beaumarchais.

\x93I had opened the audience of the _capitainerie_, when I saw M. le duc de
Chaulnes arrive with the most bewildered air that could be imagined and he
said aloud that he had something very pressing to communicate to me and
that I must come out at once. \x91I cannot, Monsieur le duc, the service of
the public forces me to terminate decently what I have begun.\x92 I had a
seat brought for him; he insisted; everyone was astonished at his air and
tone. I began to fear that his object would be suspected and I suspended
the audience for a moment and passed with him into a cabinet. There he
told me with all the force of the language _des halles_, that he wished to
kill me at once and to drink my blood, for which he was thirsty.

\x93\x91Oh, is it only that, Monsieur le duc? Permit then, that business go
before pleasure.\x92 I wished to return; he stopped me, saying that he would
tear out my eyes before all the world if I did not instantly go out with

\x93\x91You will be lost, Monsieur, if you are rash enough to attack me

\x93I re-entered the audience chamber assuming a cold manner.

\x93Surrounded as I was by the officers and guards of the _capitainerie_,
after seating le duc de Chaulnes, I opposed during the two hours of the
audience, a perfect _sang-froid_ to the petulant and insane perturbation
with which he walked about troubling the audience and asking of all, \x91Will
this last much longer?\x92

\x93Finally the audience was over and I put on my street costume. In
descending, I asked M. de Chaulnes, what could be his grievance against a
man whom he had not seen for six months.

\x93\x91No explanation,\x92 he said to me, \x91let us go instantly and fight it out.\x92

\x93\x91At least,\x92 I said, \x91you will permit me to go home and get a sword? I
have only a mourning sword with me in the carriage.\x92

\x93\x91We are passing the house of M. le Comte de Turpin, who will lend you one
and who will serve as witness.\x92

\x93He sprang into my carriage. I got in after him, while his equipage
followed ours. He did me the honor of assuring me that this time I would
not escape him, ornamenting his sentences with those superb imprecations
which are so familiar in his speech. The coolness of my replies augmented
his rage.

\x93We arrived as M. de Turpin was leaving his home. He mounted on the box of
my carriage.

\x93\x91M. le duc,\x92 I said, \x91is carrying me off. I do not know why he wants us
to cut one another\x92s throats, but in this strange adventure he hopes that
you will wish to serve as witness of our conduct.\x92

\x93M. de Turpin replied that a pressing matter forced him to go at once to
the Luxembourg and would detain him there until four o\x92clock in the
afternoon. I perceived that M. de Turpin had for his object to allow time
for the rage of Monsieur le duc to calm itself. He left us. M. de Chaulnes
wished to take me to his home. \x91No, thank you,\x92 I replied, and ordered my
coachman to drive to mine.

\x93\x91If you descend I will poniard you at your own door.\x92

\x93\x91You will have the pleasure then, because it is exactly where I am
going.\x92 Then I asked him to dine with me.

\x93The carriage arrived at my door, I descended, and he followed me. I gave
my orders coldly, the postman handed me a letter, the duke seized it from
me before my father and all the domestics. I tried to turn the matter
into a joke, but the duke began to swear. My father became alarmed, I
reassured him and ordered dinner to be served in my study.\x94

At this point we return to the account by Gudin which is much less
detailed than Beaumarchais\x92s recital.

\x93The duke followed him, and on entering the study though wearing a sword
of his own, he seized one of Beaumarchais\x92s which was lying on the table
and attempted to stab him, but found himself seized and enveloped before
he had time completely to draw the sword from its case. The men struggled
together like two athletes, Beaumarchais less strong, but more master of
himself, pushed the duke toward the chimney and seized the bell cord. The
domestics came running in and seeing their master assailed, his hair torn
and his face bleeding, they attacked the duke. The cook arming himself
with a stick of wood was ready to break the skull of the madman.
Beaumarchais forbade them to strike, but ordered that they take away the
sword which the duke held in his hands. They so far disarmed him but did
not dare to take the sword which he still wore at his side. In the
struggle, they had pushed and pulled each other from the study to the
steps, here the duke fell and dragged Beaumarchais with him. At this
moment I knocked at the street door. The duke immediately disengaged
himself and threw open the door. My surprise can be imagined.

\x93\x91Enter,\x92 cried the duke, seizing me, \x91here is another who will not go out
of here,\x92 his mania seemed to be that no one should leave the house until
he had killed Beaumarchais.

\x93I joined my friend and tried to make him enter the study with me; the
duke opposed himself to us with violence and drew his own sword.
Beaumarchais seized him by the throat and pressed him so closely that he
could not strike. Eight of us came instantly to his aid and disarmed the
duke. A lackey had his head cut, the coachman his nose injured and the
cook was wounded in the hand. We pushed the duke into the dining-room
which was very near the street door and Beaumarchais went up stairs.

\x93As soon as the duke ceased to see his enemy he sat down by himself at the
table and ate with a furious appetite.\x94

Here Beaumarchais shall continue with the account: \x93The duke again heard a
knocking at the door and rushed to open it. He found M. the commissioner
Chenu, who, surprised at the disorder in which he found the establishment,
and at my appearance as I descended to greet him, inquired the cause of
the confusion. I told him in a few words.... At my explanation the duke
threw himself once more upon me striking me with his fists, unarmed I
defended myself as best I could before the assembly who soon separated us.
M. Chenu begged me to remain in the salon while he took charge of the
duke, who had begun to break glass and tear his own hair in rage at not
having killed me. M. Chenu at last persuaded him to go home and he had the
impertinence to have my lackey whom he had wounded, dress his hair. I went
to my room to have myself attended to and the duke throwing himself into
my carriage rode away.

\x93I have stated these facts simply, without indulging in any comments,
employing as far as possible the expressions used, and endeavoring to
state the exact truth in recounting one of the strangest and most
disgusting adventures which could come to a reasonable man.\x94

Gudin ends his account with a very characteristic picture of Beaumarchais.

\x93Anyone else, after an equally violent scene, would have been overwhelmed
with anxiety and fatigue, would have sought repose, and would have been
anxious in regard to precautions against the repeated violence of a great
lord, but Beaumarchais, as cheerful and assured as if he had passed the
most tranquil day, was not willing to deny himself a moment of pleasure.
That very evening, at the risk of encountering the duke, he went to the
home of one of his old friends, M. Lopes, where he was expected to give a
reading of his _Barbier de S\xE9ville_.

\x93Upon his arrival he recounted to them the adventures of the day. Everyone
supposed that after such an exciting experience, there would be no feeling
on his part for comedy. But Beaumarchais assured the ladies that the
scandalous conduct of a madman should not spoil their evening\x92s pleasure
and he read his play with as much composure as if nothing had happened. He
was as calm, as gay, and as brilliant during supper as usual, and passed a
part of the night playing on the harp and singing the Spanish seguedillas
or the charming scenes he had set to music which he accompanied with so
much grace upon the instrument which he had perfected.

\x93It was thus that in every circumstance of his life he gave himself
entirely to the thing which occupied him without any thought of what had
passed or was to follow, so sure was he of all his faculties and his
presence of mind. He never needed preparation upon any point, his
intelligence was always ready, and his principles of action faultless.\x94

As might be expected, the scandalous adventure made a great deal of noise.
It was taken up by the marshals of France, judges in such cases between
gentlemen, and a guard was sent to the home of each one of the
adversaries. Lom\xE9nie says, \x93In the interval the duke de la Vrilli\xE8re,
minister of the house of the king, ordered Beaumarchais to go into the
country for some days, and as the latter protested energetically against
such an order the execution of which, under the circumstances, would have
compromised his honor, the minister had directed him to stay at his home
until the matter had been taken before the king.

\x93The marshals then successively called each combatant in turn to appear
before them. Beaumarchais had no trouble in proving that his only wrong
consisted in being permitted the friendship of a pretty woman, and the
result of the investigation having been unfavorable to the duc de
Chaulnes, he was sent on the 19th of February by a _lettre de cachet_ to
the ch\xE2teau of Vincennes. The Marshals of France then sent for
Beaumarchais a second time and declared him free.

\x93All this was just, but Beaumarchais, not over confident in human justice,
went to the duke de la Vrilli\xE8re to assure himself that he was free. Not
finding the nobleman at home he addressed a note to Sartine,
lieutenant-g\xE9n\xE9ral of police, to ask the same question. This latter
replied that he was perfectly at liberty, then for the first time
Beaumarchais ventured to stir abroad. But he counted even then prematurely
on the justice of the court. The very small mind of the duc de la
Vrilli\xE8re was offended that the tribunal of the marshals of France should
discharge arrests given by him and so to teach the tribunal a lesson and
to show his authority, on the 24th of February he sent Beaumarchais to

As may be imagined, this was a terrible blow to a man of his active
temperament and especially at this time when his enemy the Comte de la
Blache was capable of using the advantage thus acquired to complete his
ruin. Nevertheless his first letter from prison shows his usual serenity
of mind. He wrote to Gudin: \x93In virtue of a _lettre sans cachet_
called _lettre de cachet_ signed Louis and below Philippeaux,
recommended--Sartine, executed--Buchot, and submitted Beaumarchais, I am
lodged, my friend, since this morning at For-l\x92Ev\xEAque, in an unfurnished
room at 2160 livres rent where I am led to hope that, except what is
necessary I shall lack nothing. Is it the family of the duke whom I have
saved a criminal suit who have imprisoned me? Is it the ministry whose
orders I have constantly followed or anticipated? Is it the dukes and
peers of the realm with whom I am in no way connected? This is what I do
not know, but the sacred name of \x91King\x92 is so beautiful a thing that one
cannot multiply it or employ it too frequently _\xE0propos_. It is thus that
in every country which is governed by police they torment by authority
those whom they cannot inculpate with justice. Wherever mankind is to be
found, odious things happen and the great wrong of being in the right is
always a crime in the eyes of power, which wishes to punish unceasingly,
but never to judge.\x94

The two rivals were thus very securely lodged for the present and
Mademoiselle M\xE9nard, the unwilling pretext of all the trouble, was quite
safe from her tormentor. Before the rendering of the sentence, however,
which confined the duc de Chaulnes to the prison of Vincennes, in the fear
which the violence of his character inspired, this \x93beautiful Helen,\x94 says
Lom\xE9nie, \x93went and threw herself at the feet of M. de Sartine, imploring
his protection.\x94 The next day she wrote a letter communicating her fixed
resolve to retire to a convent. Other letters follow and four days after
the terrible scene which has been described, Mademoiselle M\xE9nard entered
the _couvent des Cordeli\xE8res, faubourg Saint-Marceau, Paris_.

M. de Sartine had entrusted the very delicate, not to say hazardous
mission of seeing the young woman in question safely lodged in a convent,
to a worthy priest, l\x92abb\xE9 Dugu\xE9. This very respectable, very good and
very _na\xEFf_ abb\xE9, wrote the same evening a lengthy letter to the
lieutenant-general of police in which he showed himself very anxious not
to compromise his own dignity as well as not to incur the enmity of a
great duke still at liberty, whose character was universally known.

After explaining the difficulties he had encountered, and his just
uneasiness in finding himself entangled in what to him was a very
embarrassing affair, he humbly begged that the duke be prevented from
disturbing the young woman, the circumstances of whose history he has been
forced to hide from the good sisters of the Cordeli\xE8res. If the
interference of the duke could be prevented, he hoped that the repose,
joined to the sweetness of the appearance and character of this _\x93afflig\xE9e
recluse\x94_ would work in her favor in this home of order and prevent his
passing for a liar, or even worse, as though being in fault for irregular

\x93I left the ladies,\x94 he continues, \x93well disposed for their new
pensionaire, but I repeat, what disgrace for me, if jealousy or love,
equally out of place, find her out and penetrate even to her parlor there
to exhale their scandalous or their unedifying sighs.\x94

The good abb\xE9\x92s fears in regard to the young woman were, however,
groundless, for as we have seen, by the 19th of February the duc de
Chaulnes was safe in the fortress of Vincennes.

Lom\xE9nie continues: \x93This _afflig\xE9e recluse_, as the good abb\xE9 Dugu\xE9 said,
was not at all made for the life of a convent, she had scarcely enjoyed
the existence within its protecting walls a fortnight before she felt the
need to vary her impressions, and she abruptly returned to the world,
tranquilized by the knowledge of the solidity of the walls of the ch\xE2teau
de Vincennes which separated her from the duc de Chaulnes.\x94

Beaumarchais, inactive at For-l\x92Ev\xEAque, having heard of Mademoiselle
M\xE9nard\x92s return to the world wrote her a most characteristic letter full
of brotherly advice in which is shown his tendency to regulate the
affairs of those in whom he feels an interest, as well as a certain
chagrin perhaps, that the young woman in question should enjoy her liberty
when he, Beaumarchais, is forced to remain inactive at For-l\x92Ev\xEAque.

He wrote: \x93It is not proper that anyone should attempt to curtail the
liberty of others, but the counsels of friendship ought to have some
weight because of their disinterestedness. I learn that you, Mademoiselle,
have left the convent as suddenly as you entered it. What can be your
motives for an action which seems imprudent? Are you afraid that some
abuse of authority will force you to remain there? Reflect, I beg you, and
see if you are more sheltered in your own home, should some powerful enemy
think himself strong enough to keep you there? In the painful condition of
your affairs having no doubt exhausted your purse by paying your pension
quarter in advance, and furnishing an apartment in the convent, ought you
to triple your expense without necessity? The voluntary retreat where
sorrow and fear conducted you, is it not a hundred times more suited to
you than those lodgings from which your feelings should wish to separate
you by great distance? They tell me that you weep. Why do you do so? Are
you the cause of the misfortunes of M. de Chaulnes or of mine? You are
only the pretext, and if in this execrable adventure anyone can be
thankful, it ought to be you who have no cause to reproach yourself and
who have recovered your liberty from one of the most unjust tyrants and
madmen who ever took upon themselves the right of invading your presence.

\x93I must also take into account what you owe the good and worthy abb\xE9
Dugu\xE9, who to serve you, has been obliged to dissimulate your name and
your trouble in the convent, where you were sheltered on his word. Your
leaving, which seems like a freak, does it not compromise him with the
superiors of the convent, in giving him the appearance of being connected
with a black intrigue, he who put so much zeal and compassion into what he
did for you? You are honest and good, but so many violent emotions may
have thrown your judgment into some confusion. You need a wise counsellor
who will make it his duty to show you your situation just as it is, not
happy, but bearable.

\x93Believe me, my dear friend, return to the convent where I am told you
have made yourself loved. While you are there, discontinue the useless
establishment which you keep up against all reason. The project which it
is supposed that you have of returning to the stage is absurd. You should
think of nothing but tranquilizing your mind and regaining your health. In
a word, whatever your plans for the future, they cannot and ought not to
be indifferent to me. I should be informed, for I dare say that I am the
only man whose help you should accept without blushing. In remaining in
the convent it will be proved that there is no intimate connection between
us, and I shall have the right to declare myself your friend, your
protector, your brother, and your counselor.


But all these remonstrances were in vain. Mademoiselle M\xE9nard persisted in
remaining in the world. Beaumarchais resigned himself as she became very
useful in soliciting his release. Her name, however, very soon disappears
from the papers of Beaumarchais. His own affairs take on so black an
aspect that he had little time to busy himself with those of others. As
for the duc de Chaulnes before leaving prison he addressed a humble letter
to M. de Sartine in which he promised never again to torment Mademoiselle
M\xE9nard nor to interfere with Beaumarchais, asking only that the latter
keep himself at a distance.

Thus ends the famous quarrel whose consequence had so profound an effect
upon the career of Beaumarchais as we shall see in the next chapter.

                               CHAPTER IX

  _\x93La Jeunesse--Mais quand une chose est vraie....
  Bartholo--Quand une chose est vraie! si je ne veux pas
  qu\x92elle soit vraie, je pr\xE9tends qu\x92elle ne soit pas vraie. Il n\x92y
  aurait qu\x92a permettre \xE0 tous ces faquins-l\xE0 d\x92avoir raison,
  vous verrez bient\xF4t ce que deviendrait l\x92autorit\xE9.\x94_

                           _\x93Le Barbier de S\xE9ville,\x94 Act II, Scene VII._

    Beaumarchais at For-l\x92Ev\xEAque--Letter to his Little Friend--
      Second Trial in the Suit Instituted Against Him by the Count
      de la Blache--Efforts to Secure an Audience with the Reporter
      Go\xEBzman--Second Judgment Rendered Against Beaumarchais--He
      Obtains his Liberty--Loudly Demands the Return of his Fifteen

Although Beaumarchais\x92s first letter from For-l\x92Ev\xEAque sounded
philosophical, his situation was cruel in the extreme. Lom\xE9nie says: \x93This
imprisonment which fell in the midst of his suit against the Comte de la
Blache did him frightful harm; his adversary profiting by the
circumstance, worked without relaxation to blacken his character before
the judges, multiplying his measures, his recommendations, his
solicitations; and ardently pressing the decision of his suit, while the
unhappy prisoner whose fortune and honor were engaged in this affair,
could not even obtain permission to go out for a few hours to visit the
judges in his turn.

\x93M. de Sartine showed him the greatest good-will but he was unable to do
more than mitigate his situation, his liberty depending on the minister.

\x93Beaumarchais had begun by pleading his cause before the Duke de la
Vrilli\xE8re, as a citizen unjustly imprisoned. He sent him memoir after
memoir proving ably that he had done no wrong; he demanded to know why he
had been detained, and when M. de Sartine warned him in a friendly way
that this tone would lead to nothing, he replied with dignity, \x91The only
satisfaction of a persecuted man is to render testimony that he is
unjustly dealt with.\x92\x94

While he was consuming himself in vain protestations, the day for the
judgment of his suit approached. To the demands of M. de Sartine
soliciting permission for Beaumarchais to go out for a few hours each day
the duc de la Vrilli\xE8re replied always, \x93That man is too insolent, let him
follow his affair through his attorney!\x94 and Beaumarchais, indignant and
heart-broken, wrote to M. de Sartine:

\x93It is completely proved to me that they desire that I shall lose my suit,
if it is possible for me to lose it, but I admit that I was not prepared
for the derisive answer of the duc de la Vrilli\xE8re to solicit my affair
through my attorney, he who knows as well as I, that it is forbidden to
attorneys. Ah, great heavens! cannot an innocent man be lost without
laughing in his face! Thus, Monsieur, have I been grievously insulted,
justice has been denied me because my adversary is a man of quality, I
have been put in prison, I am kept there, because I have been insulted by
a man of quality. They even go so far as to blame me for enlightening the
police as to the false impressions they have received, while the immodest
gazettes Les Deux-Ponto and Hollande unworthily dishonor me to please my
adversary. A little more and they would say that it was very insolent in
me to have been outraged in every way by a man of quality, because what
is the meaning of that phrase, \x91He has put too much boasting into this
affair?\x92 Could I do less than demand justice and prove by the conduct of
my adversary that I was in no way wrong? What a pretext for ruining an
offended man, that of saying, \x91He has talked too much about his affair.\x92
As if it were possible to talk of anything else! Receive my sincere
thanks, Monsieur, for having notified me of this refusal and this
observation of M. the duc de la Vrilli\xE8re, and for the happiness of the
country may your power one day equal your sagacity and your integrity! My
gratitude equals the profound respect with which I am, etc.,

                                              This March 11th, 1773\x94

But the correspondence of Beaumarchais with M. de Sartine did not advance
matters in the least. What M. the duc de la Vrilli\xE8re exacted before
everything else was that he cease to be insolent, that is to demand
justice, and that he ask for pardon.

Beaumarchais resisted this for about a month, when on the 20th of March he
received a letter without signature, written by a man who seemed to
interest himself in the situation and who endeavored to make Beaumarchais
understand that under an absolute government, when anyone has incurred
disgrace at the hands of a minister, and that minister keeps one in prison
when one has the greatest possible interest to be free, it is not the
thing to do to plead one\x92s cause as an oppressed citizen but to bow to the
law of force and speak like a suppliant.

What would Beaumarchais do? He was on the brink of losing a suit most
important for his fortune and his honor, his liberty was in the hands of a
man unworthy of esteem, because the duc de la Vrilli\xE8re was one of the
ministers the most justly disdained by history, but the situation was such
that this man disposed at will of his destiny. Beaumarchais resigned
himself at last, humiliated himself. See him in the part of suppliant.


\x93The frightful affair of M. the duc de Chaulnes has become for me a
succession of misfortunes without end, and the greatest of all is that I
have incurred your displeasure in spite of the purity of my intentions.
Despair has broken me and driven me to measures which have displeased you,
I disavow them Monseigneur, at your feet, and beg of you a generous
pardon, or if it seems to you that I merit a longer imprisonment, permit
me to go during a few days to instruct my judges in the most important
affair for my fortune and my honor, and I submit after the judgment to
whatever pain you may impose. All my family weeping join their prayers to
mine. Everyone speaks, Monseigneur, of your indulgence and goodness of
heart. Shall I be the only one who implores you in vain. You can with a
single word fill with joy a host of honest people whose gratitude will
equal the very profound respect with which we are all, and I in
particular, Monseigneur, your, etc.,

                                    From For-l\x92Ev\xEAque, March 21, 1773.\x94

The duc de la Vrilli\xE8re was satisfied in his petty vanity, so a reply was
soon forthcoming. The next day, March 22nd, the minister sent to M. de
Sartine the authorization to allow the prisoner to go out during the day,
under the conduct of an agent of police, but obliging him to eat and sleep
at For-l\x92Ev\xEAque.

In the meantime, however, another disgrace was threatening him. Some
enemy had taken advantage of his absence to attack his rights as
_lieutenant-g\xE9n\xE9ral des chasses_. \x93From the depths of his prison,\x94 wrote
Lom\xE9nie, \x93he reclaimed them immediately in a letter to the duc de La
Valli\xE8re where he appeared proud and imposing as a baron of the middle

  \x93Monsieur le duc,

\x93Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, lieutenant-g\xE9n\xE9ral at the court of
justice of your _capitainerie_, has the honor of representing to you that
his detention by order of the king has not destroyed his civil estate. He
has been very much surprised to learn that in violation of the regulation
of the _capitainerie_ of May 17th which says that every officer who does
not bring valid excuse for not being present at the reception of a new
officer will be deprived of his _droit de bougies_, etc., etc. The
exactitude and zeal with which the suppliant has always fulfilled the
functions of his charge to the present day makes him hope, Monsieur le
duc, that you will be so good as to maintain him in all the rights of the
said charge against every kind of enterprise or infringement. When M. de
Schomberg was in the Bastille the king permitted him to do his work for
_les Suisses_ which he had the honor to command. The same thing happened
to the M. the duc du Maine.

\x93The suppliant is perhaps the least worthy of the officers of your
_capitainerie_ but he has the honor of being its lieutenant-g\xE9n\xE9ral and
you will certainly not disapprove, Monsieur le duc, that he prevents the
first office of that _capitainerie_ to grow less under his hands or that
any other officer takes upon himself the functions to its prejudice.

                                                Caron de Beaumarchais.\x94

In striking contrast to this picture of Beaumarchais defending so proudly
his rights before a great noble, is another, also drawn by his own hand,
in a letter to a child of six years in which all the warmth and goodness
of his heart, as well as the delicacy of his sentiments, manifest

We already have mentioned the fact that as secretary to the king,
Beaumarchais was the colleague of M. Lenormant d\x92\xC9tioles, the husband of
Madame de Pompadour. After the death of his first wife in 1764, he had
married a second time and he now had a charming little son, six and a half
years old. Beaumarchais, intimate with the family, completely had won the
heart of this little boy whose pretty ways were a constant reminder of the
child he had lost. Learning that his friend was in prison, the child
spontaneously wrote the following letter:

  \x93Neuilly, March 2nd, 1773.

\x93I send you my purse, because in prison one is always unhappy. I am very
sorry that you are in prison. Every morning and every evening I say an Ave
Maria for you. I have the honor to be, Monsieur, your very humble and very
obedient servitor


Beaumarchais instantly replied:

\x93My good little friend Constant, I have received with much gratitude your
letter and the purse which you joined to it. I have made a just division
of what it contained among the prisoners, my companions, according to
their different needs, while I have kept for your friend Beaumarchais the
best part, I mean the prayers, the Ave Marias, of which I certainly have
need, and so have distributed to the poor people who suffer imprisonment
all that the purse contained. Thus intending to oblige only a single man
you have acquired the gratitude of many. This is the ordinary fruit of
such good actions as yours.

                                   \x93Bonjour, my little friend Constant,

And to the child\x92s mother he wrote at the same time: \x93I thank you very
sincerely, Madame, for having sent me the letter and the purse of my
little friend Constant. These are the first outbursts of the sensibility
of a young soul which promise excellent things. Do not give him back his
purse, in order that he may not think that such sacrifices bring a similar
recompense, but later you may give it to him that he may have a reminder
of the tenderness of his generous heart. Recompense him now in a way that
will give him a just idea of his action without allowing him to pride
himself upon it. But what am I thinking of to join my observations to the
pains that have caused to germinate and to develop so great a quality as
benevolence at an age when the only morality is to report everything to
oneself. Receive my thanks and my compliments. Permit that M. l\x92abb\xE9
Leroux participate in them. He has not satisfied himself with teaching his
pupils to decline the word virtue, he inculcates the love of it. He is a
man full of merit and more fitted than anyone to second your views. This
letter and the purse have caused me the joy of a child. Happy parents! You
have a son capable at the age of six of this action. And I also had a son,
I have him no more, and yours gives you already such happiness. I partake
in it with all my heart, and I beg you to continue to love him a little
who is the cause of this charming outburst of our little Constant. One
cannot add anything to the respectful attachment of him who honors
himself, Madame, etc.

  From For-l\x92Ev\xEAque, March 4, 1773\x94

\x93And this,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie, \x93is the man whom the Comte de la Blache
charitably calls a finished monster, a venomous species of which society
should be purged, and at the moment when the count says this, it is the
opinion almost universally adopted. It is in vain that Beaumarchais
follows his guard and returns every evening to his prison, passing his day
in hastening from one to another of his judges, the discredit attached to
his name followed him everywhere.

\x93Under the influence of this discredit, and upon the report of the
Counsellor Go\xEBzman, the parliament decided at last between him and M. de
la Blache, and gave, April 5th, 1773, a strange judgment from a legal
point of view. This judgment, declared nul and of no effect the act made
between the two majors, saying that there was no need of _lettres de
r\xE9cision_, that is to say, that the question of fraud, surprise or error
being set aside, Beaumarchais found himself indirectly declared a forger
although there was against him no inscription of forgery.\x94

In the words of Bonnefon, \x93Precisely the counsellor designated as
_rapporteur_ in the affair of Beaumarchais by la Blache was one of the
least scrupulous members of that strange parliament. A learned legist, he
had begun his career as judge of the superior council of Alsace, and the
chancellor Maupeou, in quest of magistrates who could be bought, had
raised him to his new functions.

\x93Valentine Go\xEBzman was not overly scrupulous in regard to the means of
conviction employed and if he kept his doors well closed to all litigants
it was only to make them open all the wider by the money of those who
solicited his audiences.

\x93Needy himself he had married a second wife, young and coquettish, even
less delicate than her husband as to the choice of means. \x91It would be
impossible,\x92 she was heard to say, \x91it would be impossible for us to live
from what is given us, but we know how to pick the chicken without making
it cry out.\x92\x94

It was a certain publisher, who according to Lom\xE9nie, \x93hearing that
Beaumarchais was in despair at not being able to find access to his
reporter, sent him word that the only means of obtaining the audience and
assuring the equity of the judge was to make a present to his wife, who
demanded two hundred louis.\x94

But of this strange proceeding, let us allow the victim to step forward
and speak for himself. In the exposition made in the first of those famous
memoirs of which we shall soon speak, Beaumarchais wrote: \x93A few days
before the one appointed for the judgment of my suit, I had obtained from
the minister permission to solicit my judges under the express and
rigorous conditions of going accompanied by a guard, the sieur Santerre,
named for this purpose, and of going only to the judges, returning to the
prison for all my meals and to sleep, which exceedingly embarrassed my
movements and shortened the time accorded for my solicitations.

\x93In this short interval I presented myself at least ten times at the
office of Monsieur Go\xEBzman without being able to see him. I was not very
much affected by this. M. Go\xEBzman was of the number of my judges but there
was no pressing interest between us. On the first of April however when he
was charged with the office of reporter of my suit he became essential to

\x93Three times that afternoon I presented myself at his door always with
the written formula, \x91Beaumarchais prays Monsieur to be so good as to
accord him the favor of an audience, and to leave orders with the door
keeper setting the hour and day.\x92 It was in vain. The next morning I was
told that Monsieur Go\xEBzman would see no one, and that it was useless to
present myself again. I returned in the afternoon; the same reply.

\x93If one reflects that of the four days which were left me before the
decision, one and a half had already been spent in vain solicitations and
that twice a friend of Monsieur Go\xEBzman had been to him and vainly pleaded
for an audience for me, one can conceive of my disquietude.

\x93Not knowing what to do, on returning I entered the home of one of my
sisters to take council and to calm my mind. It was then that the sieur
Dairolles, lodging at my sister\x92s, spoke of a certain publisher, Le-Jay,
who perhaps might procure for me the audience which I desired. He saw the
man and was assured that by means of a sacrifice of money an audience
would be promptly given.\x94

At this point let us break the narrative of Beaumarchais while we listen
for a moment to Gudin. \x93I was with him when he was told that if he wished
to give money to the wife of the reporter he could obtain the audiences he
desired, and that this was only too necessary in our miserable manner of
gaining justice. I remember very well the anger which seized him at this
proposition and the pride with which he rejected it.

\x93But his friends and family as well as myself, alarmed at what his enemies
were doing to ruin him, united our solicitations and tore from him rather
than obtained his consent.\x94

And Beaumarchais, after giving in great detail the above scene, continues,
\x93To cut the matter short, one of the friends present ran home and brought
two rolls of fifty louis each, which I did not possess, and gave them to
my sister, and these were finally delivered to Madame Go\xEBzman while I
returned to prison.\x94

The details which follow are too numerous to be given here. It is
sufficient to say that though the reporter promised an audience for nine
o\x92clock that same evening, Beaumarchais on arriving found that he was not
expected. He was, however, this time not to be rejected and finally
succeeded in forcing admittance. It was the moment when Madame and
Monsieur Go\xEBzman were preparing to seat themselves at table. A few
moments\x92 conversation convinced Beaumarchais that the judge\x92s mind was
made up and he returned to his prison, more alarmed than ever. His desire
for a satisfactory audience was augmented rather than diminished. It was
the fourth of April, the following day the final decision was to be given.
Through the sieur Dairolles and Le-Jay Madame Go\xEBzman demanded a second
hundred louis and promised this time to secure the audience. Beaumarchais
did not possess the money but offered a watch set with diamonds which was
of equal value. She accepted the watch, but demanded fifteen louis extra
as a gratification for her husband\x92s secretary. Beaumarchais, desperate,
gave them, although as he told us, with a very bad grace. The audience was
promised for seven o\x92clock.

Beaumarchais presented himself, but in vain. This time he was unable to
force an entrance and returned without seeing the judge.

He continues: \x93The reader, tired at last of hearing so many vain promises,
so many useless steps, will judge how beside myself I was to receive the
one and to take the other. I went back to prison, rage in my heart. Now
came a new course of intermediaries, this time the curious reply which
was brought to me cannot be omitted. \x91It is not the fault of the lady if
you have not been received. You may present yourself to-morrow. But she is
so honest that if you cannot obtain an audience before the judgment she
assures you that you shall receive again all that she has received of

\x93I argued evil from this new announcement. Why did the lady engage herself
to return the money? I had not asked for it. I made the most of the
melancholy reflections on this subject. But although the tone and the
proceeding seemed absolutely changed, I was none the less resolved to make
a last effort to see my reporter the next morning; the only instant of
which I could profit before the judgment.\x94

An interested friend had succeeded in penetrating to the presence of
Go\xEBzman the night before and the judge promised to see Beaumarchais the
next morning. The latter says: \x93If ever an audience seemed sure, this one
certainly did, promised on the one hand by the reporter while his wife
received the price on the other. Nevertheless, in spite of the assurances
of all, we were no happier than on former occasions.... Santerre and I
remained for an hour and a half, but the orders were positive, we were not
allowed to cross the threshold.

\x93But I had lost my suit, the evil was consummated. The same evening, sieur
Dairolles returned to my sister the two rolls of fifty louis each and the
watch. As for the fifteen louis, he said since they were required by the
secretary of M. Go\xEBzman, Madame Go\xEBzman believed herself discharged from
returning them.

\x93This conduct of the secretary was an enigma to me, I wished to fathom it.
In the beginning he had modestly refused ten louis voluntarily offered
him. I begged the friend who finally had induced the secretary to accept
the ten louis to inquire if he had received the fifteen louis given to
Madame Go\xEBzman for him. He replied that they had never been offered to him
and if they had been, he would not have accepted them....

\x93Stung by the dishonest means employed to retain the fifteen louis,
believing even that the sieur Le-Jay whom I did not know at all perhaps
had wished to keep them, I demanded of him through the sieur Dairolles
what had become of them.

\x93He affirmed that Madame Go\xEBzman had refused to give them back, and
assured him that it had been arranged that in any case they were lost to
me. He could not endure that it should be supposed that he had kept them,
the lady herself was not to be seen, but I might write to her.

\x93The 21st of April, that is, seventeen days after the judgment, I wrote
her the following letter.

\x93\x91I have not the honor, Madame, of being personally known to you and I
should be very far from importuning you, if after losing my suit, when you
were good enough to return to me the two rolls of louis and my watch, you
had at the same time returned the fifteen louis, which the common friend
who negotiated between us left you in supererogation.

\x93\x91I have been so horribly treated in the report of Monsieur, your husband,
and my defence has been so trampled under foot before him that it is not
just that to the immense loss which this report has cost me should be
added that of fifteen louis which it is impossible should have strayed in
your hands. If injustice must be paid for, it should not be paid by him
who has so cruelly suffered.

\x93\x91I hope you will be so good as to respect my demand, and that you will
add to the justice of returning me these fifteen louis that of believing
me, with the respectful consideration which is due to you

                                                    Madam, your, etc.\x92\x94

Bonnefon says: \x93To this demand the wife of the counsellor grew indignant
and cried aloud. Beaumarchais was not to be intimidated and maintained his
demand. It was then that the counsellor intervened and complained first to
Monsieur the duc de la Vrilli\xE8re and then to M. de Sartine; badly
instructed perhaps and feeling sure of an easy triumph over an enemy
already half-vanquished, he brought a suit for calumny before the

\x93Beaumarchais did not draw back. The counsellor accused him of attempt at
corruption; his presence of mind did not desert him. He replied to
everything with a vivacity and an apropos truly remarkable. Listen to him.

\x93... \x91It is time that I speak. Let me wash myself from the reproach of
corruption by a calculation and some very simple reflections.

\x93\x91It cost me a hundred louis to obtain an audience of M. Go\xEBzman. Be so
good as to follow the trace of that money and then judge, if from the
distance where I remained from the reporter it was possible that I had
formed the mad project of corrupting him.

\x93\x91In ceding to the necessity of sacrificing one hundred louis which I (one
person) did not possess; a friend (two persons) offered them to me, my
sister (three) received them from his hands, she confided them to sieur
Dairolles (four); who gave them to the sieur Le-Jay (five) to be given to
Madame Go\xEBzman (six) who kept them, and finally Monsieur Go\xEBzman (seven),
whom I could see only at that price and who knew nothing about the whole
affair. See then from M. Go\xEBzman to me a chain of seven persons of which
he says I hold the first link as corruptor, while he holds the last as
incorruptible. Very good. But if he is judged incorruptible how will he
prove that I am corruptor?\x92 ...\x94

Monsieur Lom\xE9nie, entering into more detail, says of Go\xEBzman: \x93He must
have been convinced that his wife had seriously compromised herself.
Compromised himself through her, he had to choose between several
different measures; all of them, in presence of a litigant discontented
and fearless, offered great disadvantage for his reputation; the one which
he adopted was incontestably the most daring, but also the most

\x93Starting from the idea that Beaumarchais had not the force to resist him,
he imagined that in taking the initiative and attacking him while
maneuvering in such a way that the truth might not be made known, he might
be able to ruin him who had given the fifteen louis, and save her who had
received them. It will be seen that the stratagem of Go\xEBzman was baffled
and his crime cruelly punished.\x94

But to return to the decision given by the parliament on the report of
Go\xEBzman April 5th. Lom\xE9nie says: \x93At the same time that this decree
dishonored Beaumarchais it was a rude blow to his fortune. The Parliament
had not dared award to the Comte de la Blache as he had demanded, the
passing of the act of settlement declared by it nul; the iniquity would
have been too glaring; but it condemned his adversary to pay fifty-six
thousand livres of debt annulled by the act of settlement, the interests
of the debt and the costs of the suit.

\x93It was enough to crush him for at the same time the Comte de la Blache
seized all his goods and revenues, other pretending creditors with equally
false pretentions, united their persecutions with those of the Comte de la
Blache, and the man thus attacked demanded in vain, with loud cries that
the doors of his prison be opened.

\x93\x91I am at the end of my courage,\x92 he wrote April 9, 1773, to M. de
Sartine. \x91The opinion of the public is that I am entirely sacrificed, my
credit has fallen, my business is ruined, my family of which I am the
father and the support is in despair. Monsieur, I have done good all my
life without ostentation and I have never ceased to be torn to pieces by
those evilly disposed.

\x93\x91If my home were known to you, you would see me in the midst of its
members, a good son, a good brother, a good husband, and a useful citizen;
I have assembled only benedictions about me, while my enemies calumniate
me at a distance.

\x93\x91Whatever vengeance one may wish to take of me for that miserable affair
of Chaulnes, will it then have no limits? It is well proved that my
imprisonment makes me lose a hundred thousand francs. The form, the
ground, everything makes one shudder in that iniquitous sentence, and it
is impossible for me to rise above it so long as I am kept in this
horrible prison. I have courage to support my own misfortunes; but I have
none against the tears of my respectable father, seventy-five years of
age, who is grieving himself to death for the abject state to which I have
fallen. I have none against the anguish of my sisters, of my nieces, who
already feel the horror of my detention and know of the disorder which has
come to my affairs because of it. All the activity of my being is again
turned inward, my situation kills me, I am struggling against an acute
malady of which I feel an agonizing premonition, through loss of sleep and
disgust with food. The air of my prison destroys me.\x92

\x93It was in this state of deep depression and misery when the soul of
Beaumarchais seemed overwhelmed and all his manhood slipping from him,
that the petty detail of the fifteen louis came to stir his mind once more
to action, and while his sisters wept and his father prayed, his proud and
unconquerable spirit rose triumphant out of the abyss into which for a
moment it had fallen, and with fresh courage gleaming in his eyes he began
pacing the floor of his prison, already \x91meditating his memoirs.\x92

\x93The minister de la Vrilli\xE8re allowed himself at last to be touched, and
on the 8th of May, 1773, after two months and a half of detention without
cause, he gave the prisoner his liberty.

\x93It is here that out of this lost process sprang suddenly another more
terrible still, which should complete the ruin of Beaumarchais, but which
saved him and made him pass in a few months from the state of abjection
and of misery where to use his own expression, \x91He was an object of
disgust and pity to himself, to a state where he is acclaimed the
vanquisher of the hated parliament and the favorite of the nation.\x92\x94

\x93He was,\x94 says Grimm, \x93the horror of Paris a year ago; everyone upon the
word of his neighbor, believed him capable of the greatest crimes; all the
world dotes on him to-day.\x94 It remains for us now to explain how this
change of opinion came about.

                                CHAPTER X

_\x93Mais que dira-t-on quand on apprendra que ce Beaumarchais, qui jusqu\x92\xE0
pr\xE9sent n\x92est connu que par son inalt\xE9rable ga\xEEt\xE9, son imperturbable
philosophie, qui compose \xE0 la fois un air gracieux, un malin vaudeville,
une com\xE9die folle, un drame touchant, brave les puissants, rit des sots et
s\x92amuse aux d\xE9pens de tout le monde?\x94_

                   _Marsolier--\x93Beaumarchais \xE0 Madrid,\x94 Act IV, Scene V_

    The Go\xEBzman Lawsuit--The Famous Memoirs of Beaumarchais.

We have come at last to the turn of the tide in the career of
Beaumarchais, which in his case is no ordinary tide but a tidal wave so
gigantic in force that he is carried by it to such a height of popularity
as fixes upon him for the time the attention of Europe.

\x93The degree of talent which he displayed,\x94 says La Harpe, \x93belongs to the
situation. It came from his perfect accord with the time in which he lived
and the circumstances in which he found himself. The secret of all great
success lies in the power of the man to see with a comprehensive glance
what he can do with himself and with others.\x94

Already we have had occasion to note that in this harmony between
Beaumarchais and the circumstances of his life lies the secret of his
genius. He is no moralizer, but he sees things clearly and in just
proportion and he knows how to take advantage of his own position as well
as of the weakness of his adversaries.

In relation to the lawsuit of which we now write, La Harpe further says,
\x93What would have disconcerted or rendered furious an ordinary person did
not move the spirit of Beaumarchais. Master of his own indignation and
strong with that of the public, he called upon it to witness the fraud
which has been employed against him.\x94 At first many cry out that it is
ridiculous to make such a fuss about fifteen louis; his family, his
friends, Gudin among the number, implore him to desist; wiser than they,
he instinctively feels that in the very pettiness, the absurdity of the
charge, lies its gigantic force.

Again quoting La Harpe, \x93It was a master stroke, this suit about the
fifteen louis; and what joy for the public, which in reading Beaumarchais
saw in his different memoirs which rapidly succeeded one another, only the
hand which took upon itself to revenge the people\x92s wrongs. The facts did
not speak, they cried!\x94

When Beaumarchais found himself actually charged with a criminal
accusation capable of sending him to the public infamy of the pillory or
the galleys, unable to find a lawyer willing to plead his cause, it was
then that the whole power of his genius was revealed to him. Instantly he
realized that he was to be his own lawyer, and that from the magistracy
before him, it was to the people that he must appeal, \x93that judge of
judges,\x94 and we see him flinging forth one factum after another, while all
the force of his soul, the gaiety of his character, the brilliancy of his
wit, returned to him in overabundant measure. The family and friends,
lately so depressed, rose with the rising of his courage, lent to him the
whole force of their beings and formed the constant inspiration of his
ever-increasing success.

In a few weeks his first memoir had attracted the attention of all
France, while in less than three days after the publication of the fourth,
more than six thousand copies had been sold. At the ball or the opera,
people tore them from one another\x92s hands, and in the caf\xE9s and foyers of
the theaters they were read out loud to enthusiastically admiring crowds.

[Illustration: Title Page of the M\xE9moires de M^r Caron de Beaumarchais]

What could be more surprising? Judicial factums or memoirs universally
recognized as being the dryest and most uninteresting of writings come to
be preferred to all others?

It was, as Voltaire said, after reading the fourth memoir, \x93No comedy was
ever more amusing, no tragedy more touching,\x94 and Lintilhac taking up this
judgment and applying it to the memoirs has made perhaps the most
brilliant of the many criticisms which this subject has called forth.

\x93The judgment of Voltaire,\x94 he says, \x93reveals to us the most original of
their merits, that of being a tragi-comedy in five acts. The unity of the
subject is placed in evidence by this question which is so often raised.
Who is culpable of the crime of corruption--the judge whose surroundings
put his justice at auction, or the litigant thus constrained to scatter
gold about the judge?

\x93The five memoirs mark the phases of the debate. The first is a perfect
exposition of the subject destined to soothe the judges. After having made
a r\xE9sum\xE9 of the preceding incidents, and taken his position, Beaumarchais
engages the offensive and orders his intrigue by light skirmishes in the
form of episodes. Then he opens a dramatic perspective upon the sudden
changes of the contest.

\x93From the first to the second memoir during the _entre-act_ the action has
advanced. A rain of ridiculous and arrogant factums, of false testimonies
and infamous calumnies has poured down upon the victim of the piece. The
black intrigue is knotted, the scenes press varied and picturesque. At
first it is that of the registrar, then Madame Go\xEBzman comes before us
with insults but ends with artful pretty faces. After this comic prelude,
the two principal characters engage in the background, in a dramatic

\x93\x91Give me your hand,\x92 cries Beaumarchais, and illuminating the scene, he
ousts his crafty adversary, seizes him, drags him frightened like a thief
in the night to the nearest lamp post, that is to say, the crude
illumination of the foot lights, crying in his face the invective: \x91And
you are a magistrate! To what have we come, great heavens!\x92

\x93Similar to the third act of a strongly intrigued play, the third memoir
throws the adversaries on the scene and engages them in a furious fray. We
have just seen the judge imprudent enough to descend from the tribunal to
the arena, he lies there panting under the grip of his adversary, it is
then that fly to his aid \x91that swarm of hornets.\x92 The image is piquant,
the scene, does it not renew the _parabase des Gu\xEApes_? \x91Six memoirs at
once against me!\x92 cries the valiant athlete in an outburst of manly
gaiety. He takes up the glove, salutes them all around with an ironic
politeness, and then sends all of them, Marin, Bertrand, Arnaud, Baculard,
even to Falcoz, who in vain tries to turn in a whirligig upon an
absurdity, to bite the dust by the side of Go\xEBzman. It is the moment to
bring up the reserves. They arrive in serried ranks. Here comes a
president and a whole host of counsellors. \x91My, what a world of people
occupied to support you, Monsieur!\x92

\x93A daring offensive alone can disengage Beaumarchais. He instantly makes
it, and following his favorite tactics, he wears it as an ornament, an
accusation of forgery well directed against Go\xEBzman changes the r\xF4les;
this is the grand counter movement of the piece.

\x93A sudden stupor has broken up the allies, their adversary knows how to
profit by their confusion, and throws out his petition of mitigation. It
is the fourth act. He prepares briefly and wisely the fifth. Beaumarchais
with an affected and deadly moderation, sums up the facts, fortifies
himself in the conquered position and prepares the supreme assault.

\x93At last in the fourth memoir he gives out the fifth act of the peace.

\x93Without ceding in the least to the third memoir in point of composition,
the fourth in spite of an occasional \x91abuse of force,\x92 according to La
Harpe, surpasses it by its heat and brilliancy.

\x93There reigns above everything else an ease that Beaumarchais announces
from the beginning. \x91This memoir,\x92 he says, \x91is less an examination of a
dry and bloodless question, than a succession of reflections upon my
estate as accused.\x92

\x93It is the best of his dramas, a _m\xE9lange_ of mirth and pathos, where are
centered and dissolved with an authoritative cleverness, all the elements
of interest and of action which he draws from the heart of his subject and
which are multiplied by his fancy and his fears. In the beginning, an
invocation, the prelude of a _h\xE9ro\xEFque-comique_ drama, then thanking a
host of honest people who applaud and whose aid he skilfully declines, the
hero springs with one bound into the fray.

\x93He directs his finishing blows to each one of his adversaries, and making
a trophy of their calumnies, he awards himself an eloquent apology which
he modestly entitles, \x91Fragments of my voyage in Spain.\x92 The episode of
Clavico, thanks to the touching interest which it excites, crowns the
memoir like the recitals which unravel the plot in classic plays, and
whose discreet eloquence leads the soul of the auditor to a sort of final

\x93If the action is dramatic, the characters are no less so. First Madame
Go\xEBzman advances, a scowl upon her face, but at a gracefully turned
compliment from her adversary, \x91at once a sweet smile gives back to her
mouth its agreeable form.\x92\x94

And so with the rest. \x93But the most vivid of all his portraits is that of
the principal personage, the author himself, this propagandist always _en
sc\xE8ne_, who is never weary, whom one sees or whom one divines everywhere,
animating everything with his presence, the center of all action and
interest. He is endowed with such a beautiful sang-froid, which acts under
all circumstances, and such vivid sensibility that everything paints
itself in his memory, everything fixes itself under his pen. So that he
appears to us in the most various attitudes; here the soul of gallantry,
advancing to offer his hand to Madame Go\xEBzman; there of modesty lowering
his eyes for her, or again, hat in hand very humbly inclining before the
passage of some mettlesome president.\x94

But as Gudin assures us, \x93The courage of Beaumarchais was not
insensibility. The tone of his memoirs showed his superiority but he was
none the less deeply affected. I have seen him shed tears, but I have
never seen him cast down. His tears seemed like the dew which revivifies.
The hour of combat gave him back his courage. He advanced, dauntless,
against his enemies; he felled them to the ground and caused to react upon
them the outrages with which they attacked him. In their despair they
published that he was not the author of his memoirs. \x91We know,\x92 they
cried, \x91where they are composed and who composes them.\x92

\x93It was this accusation which gave to Beaumarchais the opportunity for one
of his wittiest retorts. \x91Stupid people, why don\x92t you get your own
written there?\x92\x94

Gudin was even accused of writing them,--faithful Gudin, whose history of
France in thirty-five volumes never found a publisher, and \x93whose prose,\x94
says Lom\xE9nie, \x93resembled that of Beaumarchais about as the gait of a
laboring ox resembles that of a light and spirited horse.\x94

Rousseau when he heard the accusation cried out, \x93I do not know whether
Beaumarchais writes them or not, but I know this, no one writes such
memoirs for another.\x94

Voltaire in the depths of his retreat read the memoirs with eager
interest. Personal reasons had made him in the beginning a supporter of
the parliament Maupeou. Little by little, he changed his opinion; \x93I am
afraid,\x94 he wrote, \x93that after all that brilliant, hare-brained fellow is
in the right against the whole world.\x94 And a little later, \x93What a man! He
unites everything; jesting, gravity, gaiety, pathos,--every species of
eloquence without seeking after any; he confounds his adversaries; he
gives lessons to his judges. His _na\xEFvet\xE9_ enchants me.\x94

As to the most atrocious calumnies circulated against him, La Harpe who
knew him well, although never intimately, has said: \x93I have not forgotten
how many times I heard repeated by persons who did not believe in the
least that they were doing wrong, that a certain M. de Beaumarchais who
was much talked about had enriched himself by getting rid successively of
two wives who had fortunes. Surely this is enough to make one shudder, if
one stops to reflect that this is what is called scandal (something
scarcely thought sinful) and that there was not the slightest ground for
such a horrible defamation. He had, it is true, married two widows with
fortunes, which is surely very permissible for a young man with none. He
received nothing from the one, because in his grief he forgot to register
the contract of marriage duly, and this alone which rendered the crime
useless was sufficient to prove his innocence.

\x93He inherited something from the second who was a very charming woman,
whom he adored. She left him a son, whom he lost soon after his wife\x92s
death. I do not know why no one ever accused him of poisoning the child,
that crime was necessary to complete the other. It is evident, even if he
had not loved his wife, that in keeping her alive he had everything to
gain, as her fortune was in the main hers only during life.

\x93These are public facts of which I am sure, but hatred does not look for
the truth, and it knows that it will not be required of it by the
thoughtless. Where are we, great Heavens, if a man cannot have the
misfortune to inherit from his wife without having poisoned her?...\x94

When Voltaire, who had heard the calumny, read the memoirs of
Beaumarchais, he said, \x93This man is not a poisoner, he is too gay.\x94

La Harpe adds, \x93Voltaire could not know as I do, that he was also too
good, too sensible, too open, too benevolent to commit any bad act,
although he knew very well how to write very amusing and very malicious
things against those who blackened him.\x94

Compelled to defend himself and to prove himself innocent of a crime so
horrible that its name could scarcely be forced to pass his lips, he
replies with a gentleness, but a power of eloquence which confounds his
adversaries. \x93Cowardly enemies, have you then no resource but base insult?
Calumny machinated in secret and struck out in the darkness? Show
yourselves then, but once, if for nothing more than to tell me to my face
that it is out of place for any man to defend himself. But all honest
people know very well that your fury has placed me in an absolutely
privileged class. They will excuse me for taking this occasion to
confound you, where forced to defend a moment of my life I am about to
spread a luminous daylight over the rest. Dare then to contradict me. Here
is my life in a few words.

\x93For the last fifteen years I honor myself with being the father and the
sole support of a numerous family, and far from being offended at this
avowal which is torn from me, my relatives take pleasure in publishing
that I have always shared my modest fortune with them without ostentation
and without reproach.

\x93O you who calumniate me without knowing me, come and hear the concert of
benedictions which fall upon me from a crowd of good hearts and you will
go away undeceived.

\x93As to my wives, from having neglected to register the contract of
marriage, the death of the first left me destitute in the rigor of the
term, overwhelmed with debts and with pretentions which I was unwilling to
follow, not wishing to go to law with the relatives, of whom, up to that
moment, I had no reason to complain. My second wife in dying carried with
her more than three-fourths of her fortune, so that my son, had he lived,
would have found himself richer from the side of his father than that of
his mother....

\x93And you who have known me, you who have followed me without ceasing, O my
friends, say, have you ever known in me anything but a man constantly gay,
loving with an equal passion study and pleasure, inclined to raillery but
without bitterness, welcoming it against himself when it was well
seasoned, supporting perhaps with too much ardor his own opinion when he
believed it to be just, but honoring highly and without envy everyone whom
he recognized as superior, confident about his interests to the point of
neglecting them, active when he is goaded, indolent and stagnant after the
tempest, careless in happiness but carrying constancy and serenity into
misfortune to the point of astonishing his most intimate friends....

\x93How is it that, with a life and intentions the most honorable, a citizen
sees himself so violently torn to pieces? That a man so gay and sociable
away from home, so solid and benevolent in his family, should find himself
the butt of a thousand venomous calumnies? This is the problem of my life.
I search in vain for its solution.\x94

It was by such outbursts of feeling that Beaumarchais won the hearts of
all except those who for personal reasons were bent upon his ruin. But as
the admiration of the one side increased, the fury of the other was
proportionally augmented. Under the able guidance of M. de Lom\xE9nie, let us
examine a few of the adversaries who presented themselves, and from the
few, the reader may judge of the rest.

First of all is Madame Go\xEBzman, \x93who,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie, \x93wrote under the
dictates of her husband and threw at the head of Beaumarchais a quarto of
seventy-four pages, bristling with terms of law and Latin quotations.

\x93Beaumarchais sums up in a most _spirituelle_ manner the profound
stupidity of the factum when he cries out, \x91An ingenuous woman is
announced to me and I am presented with a German publicist.\x92

\x93But if the memoir of Madame Go\xEBzman is ridiculous in form, it is in
matter of an extreme violence. \x91My soul,\x92 it is thus that Madame Go\xEBzman
begins, \x91has been divided between astonishment, surprise, and horror in
reading the libel of sieur Caron. The audacity of the author astonishes
me, the number and atrocity of his impostures excite surprise, the idea he
gives of himself fills me with horror.\x92 When we remember that the honest
lady who speaks has in her drawer the fifteen louis, whose reclamation
excites the astonishment, surprise, and horror, one is inclined to excuse
Beaumarchais for having permitted himself certain liberties of language.
It is very well known with what mixture of ironic politeness and pressing
argumentation he refutes, irritates, embarrasses, compliments, and
confounds Madam Go\xEBzman.

\x93Who has not burst into laughter on reading that excellent comic scene
where he paints himself dialoguing with her before the registrar? The
scene is so amusing that one would be tempted to take it for a picture
drawn at fancy. This is not the case however....\x94

A few extracts from this comic scene will give the reader an idea of _la
force de t\xEAte_ of the pretty woman attempting to face so subtle an
adversary as Beaumarchais.

  \x93Confrontation of myself with Madame Go\xEBzman.

\x93No one could imagine the difficulty we had to meet one another, Madame
Go\xEBzman and I. Whether she was really indisposed as many times as she sent
word to the registrar, or whether she felt the need of preparation to
sustain the shock of a meeting so serious as that with me, nevertheless we
at last found ourselves facing each other.

\x93Madame Go\xEBzman, summoned to state her reproaches if she has any to
formulate against me, replied, \x91Write that I reproach and _r\xE9cuse_
monsieur because he is my capital enemy and because he has an atrocious
soul, known for such in Paris, etc.\x92 The phrase seemed a little masculine
for a lady, but on seeing her fortify herself, leave her natural
character, inflate her voice to utter these first injuries, I decided that
she felt the need of beginning her attack by a vigorous period and so I
did not mind her bad temper.

\x93Her reply was written verbatim and I was questioned in my turn. Here is
my answer: \x91I have no reproach to make against madame, not even for her
little bad humor which dominates her at this moment; but many regrets to
offer for the necessity of a criminal process in order to present to her
my homage. As to the atrocity of my soul I hope to prove to her by the
moderation of my replies and by my respectful conduct that her counsel has
evilly informed her in my regard.\x92

\x93And it was written down. This is the general tone that prevailed during
the eight hours that we passed together the twice that we met.\x94

After several pages of this interrogation, Beaumarchais gives us, \x93The
Confrontation of Madame Go\xEBzman With Me.\x94 From which we give the following

\x93I took the liberty of saying, \x91To-day, Madame, it is I who hold the
attack, we shall first take up your interrogations.\x92

\x93I took the papers to run them over.

\x93\x91What? This Monsieur here, has he the liberty to read all that I have
been made to write?\x92

\x93\x91It is a right, Madame, which I shall use with all possible deference. In
your first interrogation, for instance, to the sixteen consecutive
questions upon the same subject, that is, to know whether you received one
hundred louis from Le-Jay to procure an audience for le sieur Beaumarchais
I see to the great honor of your discretion that the sixteen replies are
not charged with any superfluous ornaments.

\x93\x91Questioned as to whether you have received one hundred louis in two

\x93You reply, \x91That is false.\x92

\x93\x91If you put them in a case ornamented with flowers?\x92

\x93\x91That is not true.\x92

\x93\x91If you kept them until the day after the suit?\x92

\x93\x91Atrocious lie.\x92

\x93\x91If you did not promise an audience to Le-Jay for the same evening?\x92

\x93\x91Abominable calumny.\x92

\x93\x91If you had not said to Le-Jay, money is not necessary, your word is

\x93\x91Diabolical invention,\x92 etc., etc. Sixteen negations following one
another in relation to the same subject.

\x93And yet you admit freely at the second interrogation that \x91It is true
that Le-Jay presented one hundred louis, that I put them away in an
_armoire_ and kept them a day and a night, but simply to accommodate that
poor Le-Jay, because he was a good man and did not realize the
consequences, and because the money might make him tired in carrying it
about.\x92 (What goodness, the sums were in gold!)

\x93\x91As these replies are absolutely contrary to the first, I beg you madame
to be so good as to tell us which of the two interrogations you decide to
hold to in this important matter?\x92

\x93\x91Neither to the one nor to the other, Monsieur, all that I said there
means nothing, and I shall only hold to my verification which is the only
thing that is true.\x92 All this was written down.

\x93\x91It must be admitted, Madame,\x92 I said to her, \x91that the method of
recusing this your own testimony after having recused that of every one
else would be the most convenient of all if it could only succeed. In
waiting for the parliament to adopt it let us see what is said of the one
hundred louis in your verification.\x92

\x93Madame Go\xEBzman here assured us that she begged Le-Jay to take away the
money with him and that when he was gone she was astonished to find it in
a case decorated with flowers which was on the mantel piece. She sent
three times during the day to that poor Le-Jay begging him to come and get
his money, which he did not do until the day after.

\x93\x91Observe, Madame, that in the first instance of all, you have rejected
the one hundred louis with indignation, then put them aside with
complaisance, while in the last case it is without your knowledge that
they remained with you. Here are three narrations of the same act, what is
the true version I beg you?\x92

\x93\x91I have said to you, Monsieur, that I shall hold to my verification,\x92
etc., etc., etc.\x94

Then comes the question of the fifteen louis: \x93I begged her to be so good
as to tell us clearly and without equivocation whether she had not
required fifteen louis of Le-Jay for the secretary, and if she had not put
them in the bureau when Le-Jay gave her the money.

\x93\x91I replied clearly and without equivocation that Le-Jay never spoke to me
of the fifteen louis, neither did he give them to me.\x92

\x93\x91Observe, Madame, that there would be more merit in saying, \x91I refused
them,\x92 than in maintaining that you know nothing about them.\x92

\x93\x91I maintain, Monsieur, that no one ever spoke to me of them. Would there
have been any sense of offering fifteen louis to a woman of my quality,
after having refused a hundred the day before?\x92

\x93\x91The day before what, Madame?\x92

\x93\x91Eh, monsieur, the day before the day----\x92 (she stopped suddenly and bit
her lip.)

\x93\x91The day before the day,\x92 I said to her, \x91on which no one ever spoke to
you about the fifteen louis, _n\x92est-ce-pas?_\x92

\x93\x91Stop this,\x92 she said, rising furious to her feet, \x91or I will give you a
box on the ears. I\x92ve had enough of those fifteen louis! With all your
despicable little _tournures de phrases_ you try to confuse me and make me
blunder, but I tell you in truth that I shall not answer you another
word.\x92 And her fan assuaged by redoubled strokes the fire which had
mounted to her face.... She was like a lioness feeling that she had just
escaped being taken.

\x93After Madame Go\xEBzman came Bertrand who began with this epigram taken from
the Psalms _\x91Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta,
et ab homine iniquo et doloso erue me_.\x92\x94

Beaumarchais avenged himself on _le grand_ Bertrand by indicting upon him
the celebrity of ridicule. Here, as elsewhere, the shade of the
physiognomies is perfectly grasped. It is in vain that Bertrand attempted
to deal terrible blows, in vain that he committed to writing such phrases
as, \x93cynic orator; buffoon; brazen-faced sophist; unfaithful painter who
draws from his own soul the filth with which he tarnishes the robe of
innocence; evil, from necessity and from taste; his heart hard,
implacable, vindictive; light-headed from his passing triumph; and
smothering without remorse human sensibility ...\x94 instead of paying back
anger for anger, Beaumarchais contented himself with painting his enemy.
He painted him talkative, shrewd for gain, undecided, timid, hot-headed,
but more stupid than bad, in a word exactly as he showed himself in the
four grotesque memoirs with which he has enriched this famous suit.

The fourth champion who precipitated himself upon Beaumarchais, the head
lowered to pierce him through by the first blow, was a novelist of the
time, amusing enough in a melancholy way, who prided himself as he said,
upon having _l\x92embonpoint du sentiment_. It is d\x92Arnaud-Baculard, who, to
be agreeable to the judge Go\xEBzman, wrote a letter containing a false
statement and who, after being very politely set right in the first memoir
of Beaumarchais, replied in this style:

\x93Yes, I was on foot and I encountered in the rue de Cond\xE9, the sieur
Caron _en carrosse_--_dans son carrosse_,\x94 and as Beaumarchais had said
that d\x92Arnaud had a somber air, he grew indignant and cried, \x93I had an
air, not somber but penetrating. The somber air goes only with those who
ruminate crime, who work to stifle remorse and to do evil--There are
hearts in which I tremble to read, where I measure all the somber depths
of hell. It is then that I cry out, \x91thou sleepest, Jupiter! for what
purpose then hast thou thy thunderbolts?\x92\x94

\x93One sees,\x94 said Lom\xE9nie, \x93that if d\x92Arnaud on his side was not _m\xE9chant_,
it was not from lack of will. The reply of Beaumarchais perhaps will be
found interesting; there it will be seen with what justice he gave to each
one his deserts, and what attractive serenity he brought into the combat.
He began by reproducing the phrase of d\x92Arnaud about the _carrosse_.

\x93\x91_Dans son carrosse_,\x92 you repeat with great point of admiration, who
would not believe after that sad, \x91yes I was on foot\x92 and that great point
of admiration which runs after my _carrosse_, that you were envy itself
personified. But I, who know you to be a good man, I know that the phrase
_dans son carrosse_, does not signify that you were sorry to see me in my
_carrosse_, but only that you were sorry that I did not see you in yours.\x92

\x93\x91But console yourself, Monsieur, the _carrosse_ in which I rode was
already no more mine when you saw me in it. The Comte de la Blache already
had seized it with all my other goods. Men called _\xE0 hautes armes_, with
uniforms, bandoliers and menacing guns guarded it, as well as all my
furniture; and to cause you, in spite of myself, the sorrow of seeing me
in my _carrosse_ it was necessary that same day that I had that of
demanding, my hat in one hand and a _gros \xE9cu_ in the other, the
permission to use it, of that company of officers, which I did, _ne vous
d\xE9plaise_, every morning, and while I speak with such tranquillity the
same distress reigns in my household.

\x93\x91How unjust we are! We are jealous of and we hate such and such a one
whom we believe happy, who would often give something over, to be in the
place of the pedestrian who detests him because of his _carrosse_. I, for
example: could anything be worse than my actual situation? But I am
something like the cousin of H\xE9loise, I have done my best to cry; the
laugh has to escape from some corner. This is what makes me gentle with
you. My philosophy is, to be, if I can, contented with myself and to let
the rest go as it pleases God.\x92

\x93And at the end, after the honey comes the sting. \x91Pardon, Monsieur, if I
have not replied by an express writing to you alone, to answer all the
injuries of your memoir, pardon, if, seeing you measure in my heart the
somber depths of hell, and, hearing you cry, \x93_Tu dors, Jupiter; \xE0 quoi te
sert donc ta foudre?_\x94 I have replied lightly to so much bombast. Pardon,
you were a school boy, no doubt, and you remember that the best blown up
balloon needs only the stick of a pin.\x92\x94

But it is impossible without becoming wearisome to draw forth all the
characters and to allow them to pass in review. Let us turn our attention
for a few moments to the sublime invocation of the fourth memoir, and with
it a few observations of M. de Sainte-Beuve, taken from his admirable
criticism of the memoirs of Beaumarchais in his famous \x93_Causeries de

In this invocation the orator supposes himself to be speaking with God,
\x93that Beneficent Being who watches over all.\x94 The Supreme Being deigns to
speak even to him, saying, \x93I am He who is all. Without me thou didst not
exist. I gave thee thy body, healthy and strong, I placed in it the most
active of souls. Thou knowest the profusion with which I have poured
sensibility into thy heart, and gaiety into thy character; but, filled as
I see thee with the happiness of thinking, of feeling, thou wouldst be too
happy if some sorrow did not balance the state of thy fortune, therefore I
will overwhelm thee with calamities without number, thou shalt be torn by
a thousand enemies, deprived of liberty, of thy property, accused of
rapine, of forgery, of imposture, of corruption, of calumny, groaning
under the opprobrium of a criminal lawsuit, attacked upon every point of
thy existence by absurd, \x91they say\x92 and tossed about to the scrutiny of
public opinion....\x94

Then he prostrates himself before the Supreme Being accepting his whole
destiny and saying, \x93Being of all Beings, I owe to Thee all things, the
happiness of existence, of thinking, of feeling. I believe that Thou hast
given us the good we enjoy and the evil we suffer in equal measure; I
believe that Thy justice has wisely compensated all things for us and that
the variety of pains and pleasures, fears and hopes, is the fresh wind
which sets the vessel in motion and causes it to advance upon its way....\x94

In relation to the above Sainte-Beuve says: \x93I have wished to cite this
fresh and happy image which impresses us like a morning breeze, which in
spite of everything reached him across the bars of his prison. This was
the true Beaumarchais, truer than he ever painted himself elsewhere.

\x93In his invocation he continues to address himself humbly to the Supreme
Being, begging, since he must have enemies that they be given him
according to his choice, with the faults, the stupid and base animosities
which he designates, and then with admirable art and vivifying brush, he
sketches one after another all his adversaries, giving them an
unmistakable resemblance. \x91If,\x92 he says, \x91my misfortune must begin by an
unforeseen attack by a greedy legatee, for a just debt, for an act founded
on the reciprocal esteem and the equity of the contracting parties, accord
me for adversary, a man, miserly, unjust and known so to be\x92--and he
designates the Comte de la Blache so vividly that every one has named him
already. It is the same for the counsellor Go\xEBzman, for his wife, and for
their acolytes, but here his ardent spirit outstrips its bounds, it can no
longer be contained--at the end of each secondary portrait the name
escapes of itself and this name is an additional comic touch, \x91Supreme
Goodness--Give me Marin! Give me Bertrand! Give me Baculard!\x92

\x93The whole idea,\x94 says Sainte-Beuve, \x93the manner of its conception and
execution, with so much breadth, superiority of gaiety and irony, all with
one stroke, one breath, composes one of the most admirable pieces of
eloquence which our oratorical literature can offer.\x94

It was by such outbursts as these, that the nation was aroused from the
semi-torpor into which it had fallen after the subsidence of the
resistance offered to the establishment of the new parliament. With one
voice Beaumarchais was hailed as the deliverer of the rights of the
people, and the saying, \x93_Louis the XV_ founded the parliament which
_fifteen louis_ destroyed,\x94 was the slogan of a new era of public acclaim
for justice and equity. In every country of Europe Beaumarchais\x92s memoirs
were read, and they excited the liveliest admiration. In the memoirs of
Goethe it is told how at a social gathering where those of Beaumarchais
were being read aloud, a young woman suggested to the poet that the
incident of Clavico might be converted into a drama, where Beaumarchais
should come upon the scene. From Philadelphia even came warm expressions
of interest, while from every corner of France letters of congratulation,
of sympathy and admiration poured upon the hero of the hour.

A few extracts will be sufficient to give an idea of the reigning
enthusiasm. The wife of one of the presidents of the ancient parliament,
Madame de Meini\xE8res, wrote after reading the fourth memoir: \x93I have
finished, Monsieur, that astonishing memoir. I was angry yesterday at the
visits which interrupted that delicious reading and when the company was
gone, I thanked them for having prolonged my pleasures by interrupting
them. On the contrary, blessed forever be _le grand cousin_, the
sacristan, the publicist and all the respectables who have been worth to
us the relation of your trip to Spain. You really owe a reward to those
people. Your best friends could never have done for you, by their praises
or their attachment, what your enemies have done in forcing you to talk
about yourself. Grandison, the hero of the most perfect of romances, does
not come to your foot. When one follows you to the home of that Clavico,
that M. Whall\x92s, to the ambassador\x92s, to the King\x92s presence, the heart
palpitates and one trembles and grows indignant with your indignation.
What magic brush is yours, Monsieur! What energy of soul and of
expression, what quickness of _esprit_! What impossible blending of heat
and prudence, of courage and of sensibility, of genius and of grace!

\x93When I saw you at Madame de Sainte-Jean\x92s you seemed to me as amiable as
the handsome man that you are, but these qualities are not what make a man
attractive to an old woman such as I. I saw too that you had gifts and
talents, that you were a man of honor and agreeable in every way, but I
would never have dreamed, Monsieur, that you were also a true father of
your family, and the sublime author of your four memoirs. Receive my
thanks for the enthusiasm into which your writings have thrown me and the
assurances of the veritable esteem with which I have the honor to be,
Monsieur, etc.

                                               \x93Guichard de Meini\xE8res.
                                          This 18th of February, 1774.\x94

A second letter from the same pen, speaks in even stronger terms.

\x93Whatever the result of your quarrel with so many adversaries, I
congratulate you, Monsieur, to have had it. Since the result of your
writings is to prove that you are the most honest man in the world, in
turning the pages of your life no one has been able to prove that you have
ever done a dishonorable deed, and assuredly you have made yourself known
as the most eloquent man, in every species of eloquence which our century
has produced. Your prayer to the Supreme Being is a chef-d\x92oeuvre, the
ingenious and astonishing blending of which produces the greatest effect.
I admit with Madame Go\xEBzman that you are a little _malin_ and following
her example, I pardon you, because your _malice_ is so delicious. I hope,
Monsieur, that you have not a sufficiently bad opinion of me to pity me
for having read eight hundred pages when you have written them. I begin by
devouring them, and then return on my steps. I pause, now at a passage
worthy of Demosthenes, now at one superior to Cicero, and lastly a
thousand quite as amusing as Moli\xE8re; I am so afraid of finishing and
having nothing more to read afterwards, that I recommence each paragraph
so as to give you time to produce your fifth memoir, where without doubt
we shall find your confrontation with M. Go\xEBzman; I beg you simply to be
so good as to notify me by _la petite poste_ the day before, that the
publisher may send copies to the widow Lamarche; it is she who furnishes
them to me. I always take a number at a time for us and for our friends,
and I am furious always, when, not knowing in time of their publication, I
send too late, and word is brought me that I must wait until the next

                               CHAPTER XI

_\x93Apr\xE8s le bonheur de commander aux hommes, le plus grand honneur,
Monsieur, n\x92est-il pas de les juger?\x94_

                                       _Pr\xE9face du Barbier de S\xE9ville._

    The Preparation of the Memoirs--Aid Rendered by Family and
      Friends--The Judgment--Beaumarchais _Bl\xE2m\xE9_--Enters the
      Secret Service of the King--Gudin Relates the Circumstances
      of the Meeting between the Civilly Degraded Man and Her Who
      Became His Third Wife--The P\xE8re Caron\x92s Third Marriage.

But while public opinion was expressing itself so loudly in his favor, the
situation of Beaumarchais was in reality cruel in the extreme.

The breaking up of his household had necessitated the separation of the
members of his family. His father went to board with an old friend, while
Julie retired temporarily to a convent. The two sisters whose acquaintance
we made while Beaumarchais was in Madrid, had returned to France, the
elder a widow with two children. All of these were dependent upon the
generosity of the brother and uncle. Madame de Miron, the youngest sister,
had died during the same year, so that it was at the home of the next to
the oldest member of the family, Madame L\xE9pine, that the family reunions
were held.

M. de Lom\xE9nie has drawn an admirable picture of these gatherings, where
eager and devoted friends met to discuss, suggest, and criticise with
Beaumarchais the composition of his memoirs.

He says: \x93His coadjutors are his relatives and nearest friends. First of
all it is the elder Caron, who with his seventy-five years of experience,
gives his advice about the memoirs of his son. It is Julie, whose literary
aptitudes we are already acquainted with. It is M. de Miron, the
brother-in-law of Beaumarchais, _homme d\x92esprit_, of whom we have spoken
elsewhere, who furnishes notes for the satirical parts; it is Gudin, who
very strong in ancient history, aids in composing several erudite portions
and whose heavy and pale prose grows supple and takes color under the pen
of his friend. It is a young and very distinguished lawyer named Falconnet
who superintends the drawing up by the author of parts where it is as a
question of law. It is at last a medical doctor from the Provence, named
Gardanne, who especially directs the dissection of the _Proven\xE7aux_ his
compatriots, Marin and Bertrand.\x94

This is the little phalanx that Madame Go\xEBzman, in her memoirs, calls a
\x93_clique infame_\x94 and which the _grand Bertrand_, less ferocious and more
reasonable names simply, _la bande joyeuse_.

[Illustration: Figaro]

They were in fact very joyful, all those _spirituals bourgeois_, grouped
around Beaumarchais, combating with him a crowd of enemies, and not
without running personal risk, because Julie notably was formally
denounced by Go\xEBzman. There was a printed petition of this judge directed
especially against her, although it had no consequences. All of them,
however, underwent interrogations, confrontations, and verifications, but
they came out none the worse for it and their gaiety supported the courage
and the ardor of the man to whom they were devoted heart and soul.
Beaumarchais, forced to live _en camp volant_ at the mercy of the sheriffs
of the Comte de la Blache and the persecutions of the judge Go\xEBzman, was
always on the wing but he came to the home of Madame L\xE9pine near the
Palais de Justice to prepare with his friends his means of defense and
attack. It is in this house that the elements of each memoir were
discussed. All the first draughts were written by the hand of
Beaumarchais, all the brilliant portions are rewritten by him three or
four times. Like all who wish to write well, he corrects and rewrites many
times, he cuts out, amends, concentrates and purifies. If at times he
allows himself to be too easily satisfied, he has friends prompt to
censure him who do not spare him.

M. de Miron especially criticises in detail and with persistent candor.
\x93Beaumarchais profited from all these aids, so that if his memoirs against
Go\xEBzman do not present from the nature of the subject all the interest of
the \x91_Barbier de S\xE9ville_\x92 or the \x91_Mariage de Figaro_,\x92 they are none the
less, so far as style is concerned, the most remarkable of all his works,
the one where the good qualities of the author are the least mixed with
faults. They contain portions of a really finished perfection.\x94

Monsieur de Lom\xE9nie assures us further, that a certain passage, which is
cited at times as being one of the most graceful of the memoirs, is due
largely to Julie. He quotes at length the rough draughts of the passage in
question as it appeared in its different stages, at first rather dry as
written by Beaumarchais, then colored and animated by the brush of Julie,
finally very skillfully retouched by her brother. It is where the
_plaideur_ replies to the attack of Madame Go\xEBzman upon the ancestry and
profession of his father. The printed text is as follows:

\x93You begin your chef-d\x92oeuvre by reproaching me with the condition of my
ancestors; alas madame, it is too true that the last of all united to
several branches of industry a considerable celebrity in the art of
watchmaking. Forced to pass condemnation on that article I admit with
sorrow that nothing can wash from me the just reproach which you make me
of being the son of my father.... But I pause, because I feel him behind
me, who, watching while I write, laughs while he embraces me. Oh you, who
reproach me with my father, you have no idea of his generous heart. In
truth, watchmaking aside, there is no one for whom I would exchange him;
but I know too well the value of time which he taught me to measure to
waste it by similar trifling.\x94

Supported as Beaumarchais was by the constant affection of those nearest
to him the loss of his fortune and the dissolution of his household were
the least of the calamities weighing upon him. He had known, as we have
seen, how to gain the support of the nation at large, but he remained
still completely at the mercy of the parliament which he had so hopelessly
offended in daring to open up before the whole world those proceedings
which it was never intended should be exposed to the light of day. It was
of this period that La Harpe says, \x93Afterwards prosperity came of itself,
it was during the combat and the oppression that his glory was gained.\x94

The unique character of this contest as well as its sublimity lies in
this, that it is not simply a personal matter in which he was engaged. The
blows he dealt so deftly had behind them the force of a nation eager to
avenge itself, a nation whose favorite weapon was ridicule. Never was that
weapon wielded by \x93a hand more intrepid and light. It seemed to amuse him
to lead before the public so many personages like animals for combat.\x94
\x93Simpletons,\x94 says La Harpe, \x93are by no means rare and they bore us; to
put them before us in a way to make us laugh so heartily and so long, to
make them amusing to the point of finding pleasure in their stupidity, is
surely no common talent, it is that of good satire and good comedy.\x94

This was the talent of Beaumarchais. The public laughed, it is true, but
the simpletons thus led forward did not laugh, nor did the chancellor
Maupeou. They were waiting, rage in their hearts, for the day of vengeance
which was not far off.

Begun in August, 1773, the suit had gone on until February of the
following year. \x93The day of judgment,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie, \x93arrived on the 26th
of February, 1774, in the midst of universal interest.

\x93\x91We are expecting to-morrow,\x92 wrote Madame du Deffand to Horace Walpole,
\x91a great event, the judgment of Beaumarchais.... M. de Monaco has invited
him for the evening to read us a comedy _de sa fa\xE7on_, which has for the
title _le Barbier de S\xE9ville_.... The public is crazy over the author who
is being judged while I write. It is supposed that the judgment will be
rigorous and it may happen that instead of supping with us he will be
condemned to banishment or to the pillory; this is what I will tell you

\x93Such is the _dose_ of interest which Madame du Deffand takes in people.
What a pity for her if the accused had been condemned to the pillory. She
would have lost the reading of the _Barbier_. She lost it anyway. For
twelve hours the deliberation of the judges prolonged itself. Beaumarchais
addressed to the prince of Monaco the following note which belongs with
the letter of Madame du Deffand.

\x93\x91Beaumarchais, infinitely sensible of the honor which the Prince of
Monaco wishes to do him, replies from the Palace where he has been nailed
since six o\x92clock this morning, where he has been interrogated at the bar
of justice, and where he waits the sentence which is very long in coming;
but, in whatever way things turn, Beaumarchais who is surrounded by his
family at this moment cannot flatter himself to escape them until he has
received either their congratulations or their condolence. He begs
therefore that the Prince of Monaco will be so good as to reserve him his
kindness for another day. He has the honor of assuring him of his very
respectful gratitude.

\x93\x91This Saturday, February 26th, 1774.\x92\x94

\x93The evening before the judgment,\x94 says Gudin, \x93he arranged his private
affairs, passed the night at work, and went to the gate of the palace
before it was day, saw the judges pass before him and submitted to his
last interrogation. When it was finished and it only remained to the
judges to decide, Beaumarchais returned to the home of his sister who
lived near the Palais de Justice. Fatigued from so much labor and very
certain that there was nothing left for him to do in that critical time,
he went to bed and slept as profoundly as though no one in the universe
were occupied with the thought of him. I arrived and found him sunk in a
sleep such as only comes to a pure, strong soul, and a truly superior
mind, because at such a moment it would have been considered pardonable in
anyone to have felt the anguish of anxiety. He slept while his judges
watched, tormented by the furies. Divided among themselves, they
deliberated in tumult, spoke in rage, wishing to punish the author of the
memoirs but foreseeing the clamor of the public ready to disavow them. At
last after almost fifteen hours of contradictory opinions and violent
debates, they abandoned reciprocally their victims.

\x93The lady of the fifteen louis was _bl\xE2m\xE9e_ and Beaumarchais was condemned
also to _bl\xE2me_ which seemed a contradiction. The magistrate, husband of
the woman, was put out of court which was equivalent to _bl\xE2me_ for a
magistrate, who thus remained incapable of filling any function of the

\x93I was by his side with all the family when a friend came running,
terrified to tell him this absurd judgment. He did not utter an angry word
or make a gesture of indignation. Master of all his movements as of his
mind, he said, \x91Let us see what there yet remains to be done.\x92\x94

Lom\xE9nie says: \x93The penalty of _bl\xE2me_ was an ignominious one which
rendered the condemned incapable of occupying any public office, and he
was supposed to receive the sentence on his knees before the court, while
the president pronounced the words, \x91The court blames thee and declares
thee infamous.\x92\x94

Gudin says, \x93This sentence had been so badly received by the multitude
assembled at the doors of the chamber, the judges had been so hissed on
breaking up the audience, although many of them took themselves out of the
way by passing through the long corridors unknown to the public, which are
called les _d\xE9tours du palais_, they saw so many marks of discontentment
that they were not tempted to execute to the letter the sentence which
attracted to them only the _bl\xE2me universel_.\x94

Before speaking of the veritable triumph which the public accorded to
Beaumarchais in return for this cruel sentence, let us finish with the
parliament Maupeou.

\x93It was not destined,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie, \x93long to survive this act of anger
and vengeance. In striking with civil death a man whom public opinion
carried in triumph, it had struck its own death-blow. The opposition which
had slept, now roused, let itself loose upon the parliament with redoubled
fury. Pamphlets in prose and verse took on a new virility, the end of the
reign assured its fall, and one of the first acts of the new king, Louis
XVI was to establish the old parliament.\x94 Louis XV died in May, 1774, the
old parliament was re-established in August of the same year.

\x93There were not lacking those,\x94 says Bonnefon, \x93who called the destruction
of the parliament Maupeou, the Saint-Bartholomew of the ministers.\x94

The Spanish ambassador, quick at repartee, added, \x93that in any case it was
not the massacre of the Innocents.\x94

But to return to Beaumarchais. \x93All the gentlemen at court,\x94 says Gudin,
\x93all the most distinguished persons of Paris, inscribed themselves at his
door. No one spoke of anything but of him.\x94

\x93It was at the very moment,\x94 says Beaumarchais, \x93when they declared that I
was no longer anything, that everyone seemed the most eager to count me
for something. Everywhere I was welcomed, sought after; offers of every
nature were showered upon me.\x94 The Prince of Conti was the first to set
the example.

\x93We are of a sufficiently illustrious house,\x94 he said, \x93to show the nation
what is her duty toward one who has deserved so well of his country.\x94 He
left his name the same day at the door of the man whom the parliament had
attempted to degrade, inviting him to a princely festival the next day
where some forty or more of the greatest personages of the realm were
present. The Duke of Chartres showed a like attention. It was in the midst
of all these ovations that M. de Sartine wrote to him:

\x93\x91I counsel you not to show yourself any more publicly. What has happened
is irritating to many people. It is not enough to be blamed, one must be
modest as well. If an order came from the king I should be obliged to
execute it in spite of myself. Above everything do not write anything,
because the king wishes that you publish nothing more upon this affair.\x92\x94

Gudin says: \x93Determined as was Beaumarchais to break this iniquitous
sentence, he was yet conscious that the royal power was a rock against
which prudence might well fear to throw herself. He therefore took the
wise policy of submitting to the weakness of the king, to obey him and to
keep silent.\x94

\x93Wishing, however, to show to the world,\x94 says Lintilhac, \x93that his
silence was not cowardice, he withdrew from France and retired into an
obscure place in Flanders.\x94

\x93It could not be expected,\x94 says Bonnefon, \x93that Beaumarchais would rest
tranquilly under the blow of a condemnation which struck him with civil
death and ruined his career.\x94 His first thought was to appeal for a second
judgment. But he feared lest the parliament might confirm the sentence by
a second act and foreseeing that it was already doomed, his great desire
was to secure from the king a reprieve, which would allow him the right of
appeal, no matter how long the period of time elapsed since the decree was

Several days after the judgment he wrote to his friend La Borde, banker at
court and particular friend of Louis XV.

\x93They have at last rendered it; this abominable sentence, chef-d\x92oeuvre
of hatred and iniquity. Behold me cut off from society and dishonored in
the midst of my career. I know, my friend, that the pains of opinion
should trouble only those who merit them; I know that iniquitous judges
have all power against the person of an innocent man and nothing against
his reputation. All France has inscribed itself at my door since Saturday!
The thing which has most pierced my heart on this sinister occasion is the
unhappy impression which has been given the king concerning me. It has
been said to him that I was pretending to a seditious celebrity; but no
one has told him that I only have defended myself, that I never ceased to
make my judges feel the consequences which might result from this
ridiculous suit.

\x93You know my friend that I always have led a quiet life, and that I should
never have written upon public matters if a host of powerful enemies had
not united to ruin me. Ought I to have allowed myself to be crushed
without attempting self-justification? If I have done it with too much
vivacity is that a reason for dishonoring me and my family, and cutting
off from society an honest subject whose talents might perhaps have been
employed usefully for the service of the king and the state? I have
courage to support a misfortune which I have not merited, but my father
with his seventy-five years of honor and work upon his head and who is
dying of sorrow, my sisters who are women and weak, their condition is
what kills me, and renders me inconsolable. Receive, my generous friend,
the sincere expression of the ardent gratitude with which I am, etc.


A second letter to La Borde, written from his retreat in Flanders, shows
that the much desired reprieve had been granted him. He wrote, \x93The
sweetest thing in the world to my heart, my dear La Borde, is the
generosity of your sincere friendship. Everyone tells me that I have a
reprieve; you add to this the news that it is the king\x92s free will that I
obtain it. May God hear your prayers, my generous friend!\x94

To be sure the king had granted the reprieve but he set a price upon this
favor. \x93Judging from the very dexterity which Beaumarchais had displayed
in the Go\xEBzman affair,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie, \x93Louis XV felt that he had need of
such skill and promised letters of relief to put him in a position to
recover his civil estate, if he should fulfill with zeal and success a
difficult mission to which the king attached a great importance. So it was
that the vanquisher of the Parliament Maupeou presently went to London in
the capacity of secret agent of the king.\x94

But before entering into a consideration of this new phase of adventure,
let us ask the faithful historian, Gudin, to relate to us a charming
incident which came at the moment of the triumph of Beaumarchais, to add
sweetness to its brilliancy. Gudin wrote:

\x93The celebrity of Beaumarchais attracted to him the attention of a woman
endowed with wit and beauty, a tender heart and a firmness of character
capable of supporting him in the cruel combats that were destined to come
to him. She did not know him at all, but her soul, touched by reading his
memoirs, by the fame of his courage, called to that of this celebrated
man. She burned with a desire to see him. I was with him when, under the
frivolous pretext of busying herself with music, she sent a man of her
acquaintance, and of that of Beaumarchais, to beg him to lend her his harp
for a short time. Such a demand under such circumstances disclosed her
intentions. Beaumarchais comprehended, he replied, \x91I lend nothing, but if
the lady wishes to come with you I will hear her play and she may hear
me.\x92 She came, I was witness to their first interview.

\x93I already have said that it was difficult to see Beaumarchais without
loving him. What an impression must he have produced when he was covered
with the applause of the whole of Paris; when he was regarded as the
defender of an oppressed liberty, the avenger of the public. It was still
more difficult to resist the charm attached to the looks, the voice, the
hearing, the discourse of Mademoiselle de Willermawlaz. The attraction of
the first moment was augmented from hour to hour, by the variety of their
agreeable accomplishments and the host of excellent qualities which each
discovered in the other as their intimacy increased. Their hearts were
united from that moment by a bond which no circumstance could break and
which love, esteem, time, and the law rendered indissoluble.\x94

Of the charming woman here described who subsequently became the third
wife of Beaumarchais we shall have occasion to speak later. For the
present, his situation was such that marriage was out of the question,
their union was not solemnized until later. Their one and only daughter,
Eug\xE9nie, was born in 1777. She was the darling of her father, the source
of his deepest happiness and the cause of his cruelest suffering. It was
for her that we shall find him, old and broken in health, setting himself
with almost juvenile vigor, at the time of his return from exile after the
Reign of Terror, to gather together the shattered remains of his fortune.

At the moment of his triumph in 1774, flattered, praised, and loved as we
have seen him, this condition was offset not only by the judgment of
parliament which ruined his career, but by a domestic trouble which was at
that moment preparing for him.

His father\x92s health had been so shattered by the terrible strain through
which he had been obliged to pass by the succession of calamities which
had befallen his son that in the end the vigor of his mind became

It was thus that shortly before his death in 1775, at seventy-seven years
of age, without the knowledge of his son, he united himself in marriage
with the woman who had been provided for him, as caretaker. M. de Lom\xE9nie
says of this individual, \x93She was a cunning old maid, who made him marry
her in the hope of being ransomed by Beaumarchais.

\x93Profiting by the weakness of the old man, she had had assigned to her in
their contract of marriage, the dowry and the part of a child. However,
the elder Caron left no fortune. The portion which he had received from
his second wife had gone towards partly covering the advances made to him
by his son who in addition gave him a lifetime pension. A written
settlement guaranteed Beaumarchais; but the third wife of the elder Caron,
speculating upon the celebrity of the son and his repugnance to a suit of
such a nature at the very moment when he had scarcely recovered himself
from the suit Go\xEBzman, threatened to attack the settlement and to make a

\x93For the first time in his life,\x94 continues Lom\xE9nie, \x93Beaumarchais
capitulated before an adversary and disembarrassed himself by means of
6,000 francs of the person in question, a person, by the way, very subtle,
very daring, and _assez spirituelle,_ to judge from her letters.

\x93Upon the package of documents relating to this affair I find written in
the hand of Beaumarchais these words: _\x91Infamie de la veuve de mon p\xE8re
pardonn\xE9e\x92_ (Infamy of the widow of my father, pardoned). It is to the
influence of this _rus\xE9e comm\xE8re_ that we must attribute the only moment
of misunderstanding between the father and the son during an intimate
correspondence which embraced the last fifteen years of the life of the
former; and it must be added that the misunderstanding lasted but a
moment, because the letter of the father on his death-bed which has
already been cited proves that harmony had been completely re-established
between them at the time of the death of the elder Caron towards the end
of August, 1775.\x94

                              CHAPTER XII

_\x93Il n\x92y a pas de conte absurde qu\x92on ne fasse adopter aux oisifs d\x92une
grande ville, on s\x92y prenant bien.\x94_

                             _Le Barbier de S\xE9ville, Act II, Scene VIII_

    Beaumarchais Goes to London in Quality of Secret Agent of Louis
      XV--Theveneau de Morande and His Gazetier Cuirass\xE9--The King
      Dies--Beaumarchais\x92s Second Mission Under Louis XVI--Playing
      Figaro upon the Stage of Life--Visits the Empress of Austria--
      Is Imprisoned at Vienna--Addresses Memoir to the King--
      Confers with the Ministers upon the Recall of the

\x93If at the end of a cultivated education and a laborious youth, my parents
could have left me an entire liberty as to the choice of a vocation, my
invincible curiosity, my dominant taste for the study of mankind and its
great interests, my insatiable desire to learn new things, and to form new
combinations, would have led me to throw myself into politics.\x94 So
Beaumarchais had written in 1764, at a time when his intimacy with the
diplomatic circle of the court of Madrid had opened up a vista of possible
future usefulness in the world of politics and of vast business
enterprises, connected with matters of national importance. When his hopes
in both these directions had been blighted, we have seen him returning
home, bent only upon giving up his appointments at court and retiring with
Pauline to the West Indies, there to lead the life of a planter. This
dream having likewise dissolved, his next thought was to find consolation
in literature. Happy at last in his second marriage, prosperous and rich,
his ambition limited itself for a time to the following of a literary
career. Suddenly robbed of all these blessings by the untimely death of
his wife and infant son, attacked by powerful enemies, forced to defend
his honor and his life, we have followed him to where he now stands, a
civilly degraded man, powerless in the grasp of overwhelmingly adverse

As we already have seen in this narrative, Beaumarchais was no stranger to
adversity, whose only effect upon his character seems to have been to
rouse him to ever greater and greater efforts to overcome the obstacles
that would have seemed to another insurmountable. So in this case we find
him turning at once the whole force of his being to outside conditions in
order to discover what still remains to be done.

The path which opened before him was one that could have presented itself
only under such conditions of abuse of authority and of misrule as
characterized the declining years of Louis XV, a condition which allowed
justice to be given over into the hands of the infamous parliament of
which it has just been question, and which tolerated by the side of the
King of France a woman, Madame du Barry, who had begun her career as a
girl of the streets.

In the occult diplomacy of the court of Louis XV there was need enough for
secret agents, and it was in this capacity that we find our civilly
degraded man entering upon that new phase of his career which was so soon
to place him where he could take a hand in directing the destinies of

In speaking of this, M. de Lom\xE9nie has said, \x93The history of the secret
missions of Beaumarchais is instructive if we would attempt to understand
absolute governments. The weak side of liberal governments, and the
consequences of the abuse sometimes made of liberty, have of late years
been sufficiently exposed for it to be interesting to see what went on
behind the scenes of absolute power.... and to note by what complicated
ways an unjustly condemned man was obliged to pass to obtain his
rehabilitation, and how in revenge, this same man, stricken with civil
death by a tribunal, was able to become the confidential agent of two
kings and their ministers, and little by little make himself so useful
that he reconquered his civil state and obtained control of a great
transaction, one worthy of himself and of his intelligence.\x94 This
transaction was of course no other than his intervention in the cause of
American Independence.

But now in regard to his secret mission, it will be remembered that after
the parliament had pronounced its crushing sentence, silence had been
imposed upon him by the authority of the King. Strange as it may seem,
Louis XV was not unfriendly to the petulant man who had so warmly defended
himself. He had followed the suit with interest, had read the memoirs, and
even amused himself at the expense of the magistracy, which he had himself
established in defiance of the whole nation. The indolence and levity of
the King\x92s character showed themselves clearly in this attitude. So long
as things lasted _tant que lui_ he was satisfied to amuse himself in any
way that offered, regardless of the future. One day he said to La Borde
(first _valet de chambre_ of the King and friend of Beaumarchais), \x93They
say that your friend has a superior talent for negotiation; if he could be
successfully and secretly employed in an affair which interests me, his
own affairs would be the better for it.\x94 The matter which weighed upon
the old king, the settlement of which was to be the price of the
rehabilitation of Beaumarchais, was one that had been troubling him for
more than a year.

There was at this time, established in London, a certain French
adventurer, Theveneau de Morande, who, says Lom\xE9nie, \x93had taken refuge in
England, where, speculating upon scandal, he composed coarse libels which
he clandestinely introduced into France, and in which he defamed, outraged
and calumniated without distinction, every name, more or less known, which
presented itself under his pen. He had published amongst other works,
under the impudent title of _le Gazetier cuirass\xE9_, a collection of
atrocities, perfectly in accord with the impudence of the title. Profiting
from the terror he inspired, he sent from time to time across the Channel,
demands for money, from those who feared his attacks.... For a
manufacturer of this kind, Madame du Barry was a mine of gold; so he wrote
to that lady announcing the near publication (except in case of a handsome
ransom) of an interesting work of which her life was the subject, under
the alluring title of _M\xE9moires secrets d\x92une femme publique_. Anyone else
but Madame du Barry might have disdained the insults of the pamphleteer,
or have brought him to justice before the English tribunals; it can easily
be understood that Madame du Barry could take neither of these
alternatives. Alarmed and furious, she communicated her anger and her
fears to Louis XV.\x94

The King began by demanding George III to give up the adventurer. The
English Government had no desire to harbor such a character and replied
that if the French King did not wish to pursue legally the pamphleteer, he
might arrest him, but only on condition that it was done with absolute
secrecy and without arousing the susceptibilities of the English populace.
Louis XV then set about preparing for his capture.

Theveneau de Morande was on the alert, and having been warned, he
forestalled the King by posing publicly as a persecuted political refugee,
placing himself under the protection of the London public. He had not
misjudged the temper of the people amongst whom he had sought refuge.
Furious at the thought of such a desecration of English law, a band of
supporters of Morande lay in wait, so that the secret agents on arriving
in London were known and followed. They were on the point of being seized
and thrown into the Thames when they learned of their betrayal, and so
were obliged to hurry with all possible speed back to France, with their
object unaccomplished.

Gloating over his triumph, the unprincipled adventurer hastened on his
publication, becoming daily more insolent in his demands. Louis XV sent
numerous agents across the channel to attempt to treat with him, but all
to no purpose, for the wily Morande, posing now before the public as a
defender of public morality, retained the protection of the people and
thus escaped the agents in question. Things were at this pass when the
thought occurred to the King of employing the talents of Beaumarchais in
terminating this difficult negotiation.

The sentence of the Parliament Maupeou, it will be remembered, had been
rendered the 26th of February, 1774; early in March the civilly degraded
man started for London, and as his own name was too widely known through
his memoirs to admit of secrecy, he assumed that of Ronac, anagram of
Caron. The firmness, tact, and above all the persuasiveness of his
character, enabled him in a few days completely to gain the confidence of
Morande, so that he reappeared almost immediately at Versailles to the
unbounded astonishment of the King, bringing a specimen of the libel, and
prepared to receive final orders for the termination of the affair. The
King sent him back to London in quality of his confidential agent to see
that the entire scandalous publication was destroyed by fire, and the
future silence of Morande secured. Both objects were speedily

Immediately following the destruction of the Memoirs of Mme. du Barry,
Beaumarchais wrote to Morande, \x93You have done your best, Monsieur, to
prove to me that you return in good faith to the sentiments and the
conduct of an honest Frenchman, from which your heart reproached you long
before I did, of having deviated; it is in persuading myself that you have
the design of persisting in these praiseworthy resolutions, that I take
pleasure in corresponding with you. What difference in our two destinies!
It happened to fall into my way to arrest the publication of a scandalous
libel; I work night and day for six weeks; I travel nearly two thousand
miles. I spend 500 louis to prevent innumerable evils. You gain at this
work, 100,000 francs and your tranquillity, while as for me, I do not even
know that my traveling expenses will be repaid.\x94

When Beaumarchais arrived in Paris he hastened to Versailles to receive
the reward of his activity. He found the old King attacked by a fatal
disease, and in a few days he was no more. \x93I admire,\x94 he wrote the same
day, \x93the strangeness of the fate which follows me. If the King had lived
in health eight days longer, I would have been reinstated in the rights
which iniquity has taken from me, I had his royal word.\x94

A few days later he wrote to Morande, \x93Restored to my family and friends,
my affairs are quite as little advanced as before my voyage to England,
through the unexpected death of the King. I seize the first instant of
repose to write to you and to compliment you, Monsieur, very sincerely
upon your actual condition. Each one of us has done his best; I to tear
you from the certain misfortune which menaced you and your friends, and
you to prove a return with good faith to the sentiments and conduct of a
true Frenchman.... There only remains to me for total recompense the
satisfaction of having fulfilled my duty as an honest man and a good
citizen.... What consoles me is that the time of intrigue and cabal is
over. Restored to my legal defense the new King will not impose silence on
my legitimate reclamations; I shall obtain, _by force of right_, and _by
title of justice_ that which the late King was only willing to accord me
as a favor.\x94 (Quoted from Lintilhac, _Beaumarchais et ses oeuvres_, p.

Here as elsewhere, true to the instincts of his nature, he accepted the
inevitable, while looking about him to see what remained to be done.
Realizing that the service accomplished for Louis XV could have small
interest for the virtuous young monarch just ascending the throne, he had
no thought for the moment of pressing for his rehabilitation, but
preferred to wait until some opportunity offered for making himself
useful, and if possible necessary, to the young King.

In November of the same year, he had the satisfaction of seeing the
parliament abolished which had degraded him. More than this, his opinion
was sought as to the best means to be employed in the re-establishment of
the ancient magistracy. Gudin, in his life of Beaumarchais says, \x93The
ministers were divided in opinion as to the best means to employ in
recalling the parliaments; they consulted Beaumarchais, and demanded of
him a short, elementary memoir, where his principles should be exposed in
a way proper to instruct every clear mind.... He obeyed and gave them
under the title of--_Id\xE9es \xE9lementaires sur le rappel du parlement_--a
memoir, which contains the most just ideas, the purest principles upon
the establishment of that body, and the limitations of its powers....\x94 The
Ministers, however, did not dare to follow the simplicity of the
principles he laid down. After much discussion the parliaments were
recalled, and though the liberties of the people received but slight
attention, \x93Everyone was too flattered by the return of the ancient
magistracy, to think of the future.\x94

In the midst of his correspondence with the ministers over this matter of
public import, Beaumarchais did not forget his own private interests. He
wrote to M. de Sartine, \x93I have cut out the fangs of three monsters in
destroying two libels, and stopping the impression of a third, and in
return I have been deceived, robbed, imprisoned, my health is destroyed;
but what is that if the King is satisfied? Let him say \x91I am content,\x92 and
I shall be completely so, other recompense I do not wish. The King is
already too much surrounded by greedy askers. Let him know that in a
corner of Paris he has one disinterested servitor--that is all I ask.

\x93I hope that you do not wish me to remain _bl\xE2m\xE9_ by that vile Parliament
which you have just buried under the debris of its dishonor. All Europe
has avenged me of its odious and absurd judgment, but that is not enough.
There must be a decree to destroy the one pronounced by it. I shall not
cease to work for this end, but with the moderation of a man who fears
neither intrigue nor injustice. I expect your good offices for this
important object.

                                                        \x93Your devoted

Gudin, after quoting this letter, adds \x93According to the immemorial custom
of all courts, they were much more eager to make use of the zeal of a
servitor than to render him justice. Nevertheless they repealed the
prohibition to play his _Barbier de S\xE9ville_.\x94

This was near the end of 1774. Already Beaumarchais again had been
appealed to, to suppress another scandalous publication, the appearance of
which was announced immediately after the accession of Louis XVI to the
throne of France. It had for title, _Avis \xE0 la branche espagnole sur ses
droits \xE0 la couronne de France, \xE0 d\xE9faut d\x92h\xE9ritiers_ (Advice to the
Spanish branch, upon its claims to the crown of France in default of
heirs.) Although in appearance political, it was in reality a libel
directed against the young queen Marie Antoinette. In a memoir addressed
to the King after the suppression of the publication, Beaumarchais
accounts for its appearance in the following manner, he says, \x93As soon as
your Majesty had mounted the throne, several changes made, several
courtiers disgraced, having caused strong resentments to germinate,
suddenly there appeared in England and Holland a new libel against you,
Sire, and against the Queen. I went with all haste, and an express order
of your Majesty augmenting my courage, I followed up the book and the
editor to the point of extinction.\x94

[Illustration: Louis XVI]

[Illustration: Marie Antoinette]

\x93All that was known of this pamphlet,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie, \x93was that its
publication was confided to an Italian named Guillaume Angelucci, who in
England went under the name of William Atkinson, and who used a host of
precautions to insure his incognito. He had at his disposition enough
money to enable him to produce two editions at the same time, one in
England and the other in Holland. In order to ensure success to his
enterprise and still more no doubt, to heighten the importance of the r\xF4le
he was about to play, Beaumarchais in accepting this second undesirable
mission had demanded a written order from the King, bearing the royal
signature. This had been refused. Beaumarchais started for London without
delay, but had by no means given up the idea of obtaining the written
order which seemed to him so important.\x94

\x93I have seen the Lord Rochford,\x94 he wrote to M. de Sartine, \x93and found him
as affectionate as usual, but when I explained to him this affair, he
remained cold as ice. I turned and returned it in every way, I invoked our
friendship, reclaimed his confidence, warmed his _amour-propre_ by the
hope of being agreeable to our King, but I could judge from the nature of
his replies that he regarded my commission as an affair of police, of
espionage, in a word of _sous-ordre...._

\x93You should do the impossible to bring the King to send me an order or
mission signed by him, in about the terms which I have indicated at the
end of this letter. This need is as delicate, as it is essential for you
to-day. So many agents have been sent to London in relation to the last
libel, they were often of so questionable a character, that anyone who
seems to belong to the same order, cannot expect to be looked upon except
with contempt. This is the basis of your argument with the King. Tell him
of my visit to the Lord. It is certain that one cannot decently expect
that minister, however friendly he may be, to lend himself to the service
of my master, if that master puts no difference between the delicate and
secret mission with which he honors an honest man, and an order with which
a police officer is charged.\x94

M. de Sartine seemed to have been convinced, at all events he succeeded in
inducing the young king to copy with docility the model which Beaumarchais
had drawn up, and which ran as follows:

\x93The sieur de Beaumarchais, charged by my secret orders, will start for
his destination as soon as possible; the discretion and vivacity which he
will put into their execution will be the most agreeable proofs which he
can give me of his zeal for my service.

                                              Marly, July 10, 1774.\x94

Beaumarchais, exultant, wrote at once to the minister, \x93The order of my
master is still virgin, that is to say, it has been seen by no one; but if
it has not yet served me in relation to others, it has none the less been
of a marvelous help to myself, in multiplying my powers and redoubling my

He even went so far as to address the King personally. He wrote, \x93A lover
wears about his neck the portrait of his mistress; a miser, his keys; a
devotee, his reliquary--while as for me, I have had made a flat oval case
of gold, in which I have enclosed the order of your Majesty, and which I
have suspended about my neck with a chain of gold, as the thing the most
necessary for my work, and the most precious for myself.\x94

Satisfied at last in his ambition to have in his possession a written
order from the King, Beaumarchais set about arranging with redoubled zeal
for the suppression of the publication mentioned before. \x93He succeeded,\x94
says Lom\xE9nie, \x93through great supply of eloquence, but also through great
supply of money. For 1,400 pounds sterling, the Jew renounced the
speculation. The manuscript and four thousand copies were burned in
London. The two contractors then betook themselves to Amsterdam for the
purpose of destroying the Holland edition. Beaumarchais secured the
written engagement of Angelucci, and then free from care, he gave himself
up to the pleasure of visiting Amsterdam _en tourist_.\x94

Up to this point the authority of M. de Lom\xE9nie seems to hold good upon
this mission of Beaumarchais, which of late years has given rise to much
bitter controversy. \x93This obscure affair Angelucci--Atkinson,\x94 says
Lintilhac, \x93has caused as much ink to flow in the last twenty years, as
the chefs-d\x92oeuvre of our author.\x94

We shall not attempt here to enter into the intricacies of this case, and
shall scarcely blame our hero, even supposing we should find him playing a
bit of comedy, very much _\xE0 la Figaro_, upon the stage of real life; for
it is necessary to recall the fact that under the cloak of philosophic
acceptance of his fate, Beaumarchais was all the while, at heart, a
desperate man. The death of the old King at the moment when he had every
reason to expect a speedy restitution to his rights as citizen, had been a
cruel blow which left him in a state of inward desperation. When we
consider the intense mental excitement in which he had been living from
the day of his frightful adventure with the duc de Chaulnes, his
imprisonment, the loss of his property, the dissolution of his family, the
execration of his enemies, the adulation of a nation; when we consider all
this and the events immediately following, our wonder is, not that
Beaumarchais lost for a time his sense of proportion and the true relation
of things, but rather that he had not been a thousand times over, crushed
and broken by the overwhelming combination of circumstances against which
he had struggled.

There is no doubt that now, at the moment of the termination of his
mission, his one idea was to exaggerate to the utmost the apparent value
of what he had accomplished, so that it would seem worth the price which
he desired for it, in the eyes of the young master whom he served. It was
no favor that he wanted; he desired nothing but to be allowed to work, but
his rehabilitation he must have at whatever cost. He knew only too well
that to the young King it was, after all, a matter of supreme
indifference whether or not he, Beaumarchais, regained his civil rights.
The affair of the libel even, had scarcely penetrated his consciousness;
that was a matter for the ministers to attend to. Beaumarchais felt,
therefore, that something must be done to force himself upon the attention
of the royal pair, both so young and so unconscious, not to say heedless,
of the duties of their station; the young Queen thinking of nothing but
the amusement of the hour, the King asking only to be relieved from the
responsibilities of state and of individual action. How was Beaumarchais
then to arouse in them sufficient interest to cause them to give a
moment\x92s attention to his wrongs? The spirit of adventure which always
animated him, his taste for intrigue, his talent of _mis en sc\xE8ne_, all
combined to aid him in what he undertook. He decided before he returned to
France, to present himself therefore before the Empress of Austria, sure
that by his talents, his address, and show of fervent zeal in the interest
of his Queen, he would win the tender heart of that tenderest of mothers.
To give a show of reason to his appearance before the Empress, and to
enhance the interest he might arouse, he imagined a wild and romantic
story, the heroic part of which he was himself to have acted. On his way
down the Danube, he wrote a detailed account of this supposed happening,
sending several copies to friends--among others to Gudin, who were asked
to inform his extended circle of acquaintances, of this rare new adventure
which had befallen him. It may be stated briefly as follows: After having
destroyed the libel in London and Amsterdam, and relieved from all further
responsibility, he supposed himself suddenly to have discovered that the
wily Angelucci had retained a copy of the libel, and that he had gone on
to Nuremberg with the intention of there issuing another publication.
Furious at this breach of faith, Beaumarchais hurriedly followed after,
stopping neither night nor day. He overtook Angelucci in the forest of
Neustadt, not far from Nuremberg. The rattling of the chaise attracted the
attention of the Jew, who, turning round, recognized his pursuer, and
being on horseback, dashed into the forest, hoping thereby to make good
his escape. Beaumarchais, however, springing from the chaise, followed
after on foot. The density of the forest enabled him to overtake
Angelucci, whom he dragged from his horse. In the depths of his traveling
sack, the infamous libel was discovered. Then he let Angelucci go. As
Beaumarchais was returning to the highway, he was fallen upon by two
robbers who attacked him savagely and from whom he defended himself with
bravery. He was delivered from them by their taking fright at the noise of
the postilion, who, uneasy at the long delay, had come to see what had
happened to the traveler. The latter was found, with face and hands badly
wounded. He passed the night in Nuremberg, and next morning, without
waiting to have his wounds dressed, he hastened on to Vienna.

So much for the romance--what follows is authentic history.

In a _proc\xE8s-verbal_, under date of September 7, 1774, held by the
Burgomaster of Nuremberg, under order of Marie Th\xE9r\xE8se, Empress of
Austria, the bourgeois Conrad Gruber, keeping the inn of the Coq Rouge at
Nuremberg, explained how M. de Ronac arrived at his inn, wounded in the
face and hands, the evening of August 14th, after a scene in the woods,
and he added \x93that it was remarked that M. de Ronac seemed to be very
uneasy, that he had risen very early in the morning, and wandered all over
the house, in such a way that from this and his general manner, it
appeared that his wits were a little disordered.\x94

As we said, Beaumarchais immediately hastened on to Vienna. Once arrived
in the capital, the question was, how to penetrate to the august presence
of the Empress. Absolutely without recommendation of any sort, traveling
as an inconspicuous M. de Ronac--anyone but Beaumarchais would have
renounced so wild and impossible a project from the beginning. In a very
lengthy memoir addressed to Louis XVI by Beaumarchais after his return to
France, the latter gives a minute account of this most singular adventure.
The following extracts will enable us to follow him:

\x93My first care at Vienna was to write a letter to the Empress. The fear
that the letter might be seen by other eyes prevented me from explaining
the motive of the audience which I solicited. I attempted simply to excite
her curiosity. Having no possible access to her, I went to her secretary,
M. le baron de Neny, who, on my refusing to tell him what I desired, and
judging from my slashed face, took me for a wild adventurer.... He
received me as badly as was possible, refused to take charge of my letter,
and would have entirely rejected my advances had I not assumed a tone as
proud as his own, and assured him that I made him responsible to the
Empress for all the evil which his refusal might make to an operation of
the greatest importance, if he did not instantly take my letter and give
it to the sovereign. More astonished by my tone than he had been by my
face, he took my letter unwillingly, and said that for all that, I need
not hope that the Empress would see me. \x91It is not this, Monsieur, that
need disquiet you. If the Empress refuses me an audience, you and I will
have done our duty....\x92

\x93The next day I was conducted to Schoenbrunn, and into the presence of Her
Majesty.... I first presented to the Empress the order of your Majesty,
Sire, of which she perfectly recognized the writing.... She then
permitted me to speak.... \x91Madame,\x92 I said, \x91it is here less a matter of
state interest, properly speaking, than the efforts which black intrigues
are making in France to destroy the happiness of the King.\x92 Here I recited
the details of my negotiation, and the incidents of my voyage to Vienna.

\x93At every circumstance, the Empress, joining her hands in surprise,
repeated, \x91But, Monsieur, where have you found so ardent a zeal for the
interests of my son-in-law, and above all, of my daughter?\x92

\x93\x91Madame, I was the most unfortunate man of France during the last reign;
the queen in that terrible time did not disdain to show an interest in my
fate. In serving her to-day, I am only acquitting an immense debt; the
more difficult the enterprise, the more my ardor is inflamed....\x92

\x93\x91But, Monsieur, what necessity had you to change your name?\x92

\x93\x91Madame, I am unfortunately too well known in Europe under my own name to
permit me to employ it while undertaking so delicate and important a
mission as the one in which I am engaged.\x92

\x93The Empress seemed to have a great curiosity to read the work whose
destruction had caused me so much trouble. The reading immediately
followed our explanation. Her Majesty had the goodness to enter with me
into the most intimate details of this subject; she had also that of
listening a great deal to what I had to say. I remained with her more than
three hours and a half, and I implored her not to waste a moment in
sending to Nuremberg and securing the person of Angelucci....

\x93The Empress had the goodness to thank me for the ardent zeal which I had
shown; she begged me to leave the pamphlet with her until the next day.
\x91Go and repose yourself,\x92 she said, with infinite grace, \x91and see that
you are promptly bled....\x92\x94

Whatever pleasing effect the ardor and enthusiasm of Beaumarchais may have
produced upon Marie Th\xE9r\xE8se, it was soon dispelled by the Chancellor
Kaunitz, to whom she at once showed the libel, and related the adventure
as she had heard it from Beaumarchais. Kaunitz not only pronounced the
whole story an invention, but at once suspected that Beaumarchais himself
was the author of the libel, and that the Jew Angelucci was a fabrication
of his own brain. At the Chancellor\x92s instigation, Beaumarchais was at
once arrested and kept in custody until the matter could be cleared up. To
continue the narrative as given by Beaumarchais in his report to the King:

\x93I returned to Vienna, my head still hot with the excitement of that
conference. I threw upon paper a host of observations which seemed to me
very important relative to the subject in question; I addressed them to
the Empress.... The same day at nine o\x92clock I saw enter my room, eight
grenadiers, bayonets and guns, two officers with naked swords, and a
secretary of the regency bringing me word which invited me to allow myself
to be arrested, reserving all explanations. \x91No resistance,\x92 said the
officer to me.

\x93\x91Monsieur,\x92 I replied coldly, \x91I sometimes have resisted robbers, but
never Empresses.\x92 I was made to put all my papers under seal. I demanded
permission to write to the Empress, and was refused. All my effects were
taken from me, knives, scissors, even to my buckles, and a numerous guard
was left in my room, where it remained _thirty-one days_ or _forty-five
thousand, six hundred_ and _forty minutes_; because, while the hours fly
so rapidly for happy people that they scarcely note their succession,
those who are unfortunate count time by minutes and seconds, and find it
flows slowly when each one is noted separately....

\x93One may judge of my surprise, of my fury! The next day the person who
arrested me came to tranquilize me. \x91Monsieur,\x92 I replied, \x91there is no
repose for me until I have written to the Empress. What happened to me is
inconceivable. Give me paper and pens or prepare to chain me, for here is
surely enough to drive one mad.\x92

\x93At last permission was given me to write; M. de Sartine has all my
letters; read them, and the nature of my sorrows will be seen.... I wrote,
I supplicated--no reply. \x91If I am a scoundrel, send me back to France, let
me there be tried and judged....\x92

\x93When, on the thirty-first day of my detention, I was set at liberty, they
told me that I might return to France or remain in Vienna, as I wished.
And if I should die on the way, I would not have remained another quarter
of an hour in Vienna. A thousand ducats were presented to me which I
firmly refused. \x91You have no money, all your belongings are in France.\x92

\x93\x91I will give my note and borrow what is absolutely necessary for my

\x93\x91Monsieur, an Empress does not make loans.\x92

\x93\x91And _I_ accept no favors but from my master; he is sufficiently great to
recompense me if I have served him well.\x92

\x93\x91Monsieur, the Empress will think that you are taking a great liberty to
refuse her favors.\x92

\x93\x91Monsieur, the only liberty which cannot be taken from a very respectful
but cruelly outraged man is the liberty to refuse favors. For the rest, my
master will decide whether I am right or wrong in this conduct, but as to
my decision--it remains as I have said.\x92

\x93The same evening I left Vienna, and traveling day and night, I arrived
the ninth day, hoping at last for an explanation. All that M. de Sartine
has been willing to say to me is: \x91_Que voulez-vous?_ The Empress took you
for an adventurer....\x92

\x93Sire, be so good as not to disapprove of my refusal to accept the money
of the Empress, and permit me to return it to Vienna. I should, however,
be willing to accept an honorable word, or her portrait, or any similar
token which I could oppose to the reproach which is everywhere made me of
having been arrested in Vienna as a suspicious character.... I await the
orders of your Majesty.

                                            \x93Caron de Beaumarchais.\x94

The money was subsequently returned, and in its place a valuable diamond
ring was sent by the Empress. This ring shone on its possessor\x92s finger,
from henceforth, on all occasions of ceremony. As for the suspicions of
Kaunitz, which have been shared by many, we can do no more than refer the
reader to the special literature on this subject. The story of the
brigands is unquestionably an invention, as for proofs of forgery, or real
guilt of any kind,--after the most exhaustive investigations, none has
ever been found.

In his edition of the History of Beaumarchais, by Gudin, 1888, Maurice
Tourneux in a lengthy note points out the fallacies in the story of this
adventure as told by Gudin. After speaking of the most recent accusations
against Beaumarchais, he says, \x93But it must be admitted, this is to
venture upon a series of very serious as well as practically gratuitous

Lintilhac does not hesitate to assert that Angelucci did exist, and that
not a line of the libel is from the pen of Beaumarchais. As this is the
most recent study of the subject which has appeared, it attempts to answer
all the arguments set forth by the adversaries of Beaumarchais, and
through before unpublished documents, to prove the fallacy of all their
conjectures. (See _Beaumarchais et ses oeuvres_, by E. Lintilhac, Paris,

What is, however, of vital importance for the life of Beaumarchais, and
above all for the very important r\xF4le which he is about to play in the War
of American Independence, is that the adventure just related did not in
the least bring upon him the dislike of Marie Antoinette, who had always
protected him, or of Louis XVI, or his ministers. On the contrary, he had
hardly returned when he found himself summoned to confer with the heads of
the government upon the recall of the parliaments. A greater honor could
scarcely have been paid to the sound judgment of the man who passed for
the wittiest, the most fascinating, in a word the most brilliant man of
his time. While conferring with the ministers upon weighty matters of
state, Beaumarchais took pains at the same time to obliterate as far as
possible from the public mind the impression made by the news of his
imprisonment at Vienna. Immediately on his arrival, he launched forth a
song which he had composed for this purpose, a song which became at once
universally popular, and which renewed the admiration of the people for
its author.

The song in question begins with the following stanza:

    _\x93Toujours, toujours, il est toujours le m\xEAme,
              Jamais Robin,
        Ne connut le chagrin,
        Le temps sombre on serein,
        Les jours gras, le car\xEAme;
        Le matin ou le soir;
    Dites blanc, dites noir,
    \x93Toujours, toujours, il est toujours le m\xEAme.\x94_

In previous chapters, we have spoken already of the intimacy of
Beaumarchais with Lenormant D\x92Etioles. The latter\x92s f\xEAte happening a few
days after Beaumarchais\x92s return from Vienna, he suddenly appeared
unannounced in the midst of the gay festival, to the unbounded joy of his
old friends. As the entertainment progressed, Beaumarchais absented
himself for half an hour, returning with a song in dialect, which he had
just composed in honor of his host. A young man present sang it before the
company. Its success was complete, and along with the one previously
mentioned, it soon spread all over Paris. This song contained a verse
which recalled in a very pleasing way, the personal affair which was of
such great importance to the author, and which had served to make him
popular. He was thus kept fresh in the public mind and its sympathetic
interest was conserved.

    _\x93Mes chers amis, pourriez-vous m\x92enseigner
    J\x92im bon seigneur don cha\x92un parle?
    Je ne sais pas comment vous l\x92designer
    C\x92pendent, on dit qu\x92il a nom Charle ..._


    _L\x92hiver pass\xE9 j\x92eut un mandit proc\xE8s
    Qui m\x92donna bien d\x92la tablature.
    J\x92m\x92en vais vous l\x92dire: ils m\x92avons mis expr\xE8s
    Sous c\x92te nouvelle magistrature;
        Charlot venait, jarni,
        Me consolait, si fit;
    Ami, ta cause est bonne et ronde ..._


    _Est ce qu\x92on bl\xE2me ainsi le pauvre monde?\x94_

                              CHAPTER XIII

_Le Barbier De S\xE9ville--_

_\x93J\x92ai donc eu la faiblesse autrefois, Monsieur, de faire des drames qui
n\x92etaient pas du bon genre; et je m\x92en repens beaucoup._

_\x93Press\xE9 depuis, par les \xE9v\xE9nements, j\x92ai hasard\xE9 de malheureux m\xE9moires
que mes ennemis n\x92ont pas trouv\xE9s de bon style; j\x92en ai le remords cruel._

_\x93Aujourd\x92hui je fais glisser sous vos yeux, une com\xE9die fort gaie, que
certains ma\xEEtres de go\xFBt n\x92estiment pas du bon ton; et je ne m\x92en console


_\x93Je ne voudrais pas jurer qu\x92il en fut seulement question dans cinq ou
six si\xE8cles; tant notre nation est inconstante et l\xE9g\xE8re.\x94_

                                    _Pr\xE9face du Barbier de S\xE9ville._

    The Character of Figaro--The First Performance of _Le Barbier
      de S\xE9ville_--Its Success after Failure--Beaumarchais\x92s
      Innovation at the Closing of the Theatre--His First Request
      for an Exact Account from the Actors--_Barbier de S\xE9ville_ at
      the Petit-Trianon.

Aside from Beaumarchais\x92s participation in the affairs of the War of
American Independence, the chief title to glory which his admirers can
claim for him is his creation of the character of Figaro.

\x93Certainly no comic personage,\x94 says Gudin, \x93has more the tone, the
_esprit_, the gaiety, the intelligence, the lightness, that kind of
insouciance and intrepid self-confidence which characterizes the French

So long and lovingly had Beaumarchais carried about with him this child of
his _esprit_, that the two at last practically had become one. Gudin says,
\x93The handsome, the gay, the amiable Figaro, daring and philosophical,
making sport of his masters and not able to get on without them, murmuring
under the yoke and yet bearing it with gaiety\x94 is no other than
Beaumarchais in person. \x93Welcomed in one city, imprisoned in another, and
everywhere superior to events, praised by these, blamed by those, enduring
evil, making fun of the stupid, braving the wicked, laughing at misery and
shaving all the world, you see me at last in Seville.\x94

\x93Le Comte--\x91Who gave thee so gay a philosophy?\x92

\x93Figaro--\x91The habit of misfortune, I hasten to laugh at everything for
fear of being obliged to weep.\x92 (\x92_Le Barbier de S\xE9ville_,\x92 Act I, Scene
II) or again--

\x93Le Comte--\x91Do you write verses, Figaro?\x92

\x93Figaro--\x91That is precisely my misfortune, your Excellency. When it became
known to the ministers that I sent enigmas to the journals, that madrigals
were afloat of my making, in a word that I had been printed alive, they
took it tragically, and deprived me of my position under the pretext that
the love of letters is incompatible with _l\x92esprit des affaires_.\x92\x94

When Figaro re-appears a few years later, we shall see all his
characteristics intensified in proportion as the experiences and success
of Beaumarchais had heightened his daring and address.

We must not make the mistake however of identifying Beaumarchais with his
creation, for to create Figaro required one greater than he. There is
undoubtedly a strongly developed Figaro side to Beaumarchais\x92s nature and
it is this which always had prevented him from being taken seriously, and
which made him an unfathomable being even to those very persons who
depended upon and profited most by his rare gifts.

With such limitless resources, such power of combination, such insight,
incapable of taking offense at any injury, so generous, forgiving,
laughing at misfortune, how could he be taken seriously? With
Beaumarchais, as with Figaro, it is the very excess of his qualities and
gifts which alarms. As one of his biographers has said, \x93What deceives is,
that in seeing Figaro display so much _esprit_, so much daring, we
involuntarily fear that he will abuse his powers in using them for evil;
this fear is really a kind of homage; Figaro in the piece, like
Beaumarchais in the world, gives a handle to calumny but never justifies
it. The one and the other never interfere except for good, and if they
love intrigue it is principally because it gives them occasion to use
their _esprit_.\x94

The first conception of Figaro dates very far back in the history of
Beaumarchais. Already before his return from Spain the character was
beginning to take form in his mind. Its first appearance was in a farce
produced at the Ch\xE2teau d\x92\xC9tioles. We have spoken already of its rejection
by the _Com\xE9die des Italiens_, after it had assumed the form of a comic
opera. Made over into a drama, it had soon after been accepted by the

It will perhaps be remembered that following the frightful adventure with
the duc de Chaulnes, Beaumarchais had spent the evening of that same day
in reading his play to a circle of friends. It had at that time passed the
censor and had been approved. Permission for its presentation had been
signed by M. de Sartine, then lieutenant of police, and it was advertised
for the thirteenth of February of that year, 1773. The affair with the
Duke happened on the 11th, two days before the piece was to be performed.
The difficulties which immediately followed were of a nature to cause the
performance to be postponed indefinitely.

A year later, however, when the great success of the memoirs of
Beaumarchais had made him so famous, \x93the comedians,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie,
\x93wished to profit by the circumstance. They solicited permission to play
the _Barbier de S\xE9ville_.\x94

But the police, fearing to find in it satirical allusions to the suit then
in progress, caused a new censorship to be appointed, before permission
could be obtained. Their report was, \x93The play has been censored with the
greatest rigor but not a single word has been found which applies to the
present situation.\x94

The representation was announced for Saturday, the 12th of February, 1774.
Two days before this date, however, came an order from the authorities
which prohibited the presentation. The noise had gone abroad that the
piece had been altered and that it was full of allusions to the suit.
Beaumarchais denied this rumor in a notice which terminates thus:

\x93I implore the court to be so good as to order that the manuscript of my
piece, as it was consigned to the police a year ago, and as it was to be
performed, be presented; I submit myself to all the rigor of the
ordinances if in the context, or in the style of the work, anything be
found which has the faintest allusion to the unhappy suit which M. Go\xEBzman
has raised against me and which would be contrary to the profound respect
which I profess for the parliament.

                                             \x93Caron de Beaumarchais\x94

The prohibition was not removed and the piece was not presented until
after the return of the author from Vienna in December, 1774.

\x93He then obtained permission,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie, \x93to have his _Barbier_
played. Between the obtaining of the permission and the presentation he
put himself at his ease; his comedy had been prohibited because of
pretended allusions which did not exist; he compensated himself for this
unjust prohibition by inserting precisely all the allusions which the
authorities feared to find in it and which were not there. He reinforced
it with a great number of satirical generalities, with a host of more or
less audacious puns. He added a good many lengthy passages, increased it
by an act and overcharged it so completely that it fell flat the day of
its first appearance before the public.\x94

The defeat was all the more striking because of the fame of the author;
the public curiosity so long kept in abeyance had brought such a crowd to
the first presentation as had never before been equalled in the annals of
the theater.

\x93Never,\x94 says Grimm, \x93had a first presentation attracted so many people.\x94
The surprise of himself and his friends was extreme, for Beaumarchais
instead of applause received the hisses of the parterre. Anyone else might
have been discouraged, or at least disturbed by so unexpected a turn, not
so Beaumarchais.

In his own account of the defeat, wittily told in the famous preface to
the Barbier, published three months later, he says, \x93The god of Cabal is
irritated; I said to the comedians with force, \x91Children, a sacrifice here
is necessary,\x92 and so giving the devil his part, and tearing my
manuscript, \x91god of the hissers, spitters, coughers, disturbers,\x92 I cried,
\x91thou must have blood, drink my fourth act and may thy fury be appeased.\x92
In the instant you should have heard that infernal noise which made the
actors grow pale, and falter, weaken in the distance and die away.\x94 But
Beaumarchais did more than simply renounce an act, he set instantly to
work to rearrange and purify the whole play.

\x93Surely it is no common thing,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie, \x93to see an author pick up a
piece justly fallen, and within twenty-four hours ... transform it so that
it becomes a charming production, full of life and movement....\x94

At its second production, \x93everyone laughed, and applauded from one end to
the other of the piece; its cause was completely gained.\x94 (Gudin)

What Beaumarchais did, was to restore the piece to about the form which
had been approved and signed by the censors.

Some of the best of the satirical portions which are to be found in the
printed play, nevertheless, were inserted before the first presentation,
these he dared to retain in the final form.

In accounting for its fall, Gudin says, \x93A superabundance of _esprit_
produced satiety and fatigued the audience. Beaumarchais then set about
pruning his too luxuriantly branching tree, pulled off the leaves which
hid the flowers--thus allowing one to taste all the charm of its details.\x94

As might be expected, the success of the play after its first presentation
produced a storm of opposition; critics and journals vied with each other
to prove to the public that they had again been deceived. Gudin says, \x93His
facility to hazard everything and receive applause awakened jealousy and
unchained against him cabals of every kind.\x94

In the brilliant preface already alluded to, which Beaumarchais published
with the play after its success was established, he allowed himself the
pleasure of mocking, not only at the journalists and critics, but at the
public itself. \x93You should have seen,\x94 he wrote, \x93the feeble friends of
the _Barbier_, dispersing themselves, hiding their faces, or disappearing;
the women, always so brave when they protect, burying themselves in hoods,
and lowering their confused eyes; the men running to make honorable amends
for the good they had said of my piece and throwing the pleasure which
they had taken in it upon my execrable manner of reading things. Some
gazing fixedly to the right when they felt me pass to the left, feigned
not to see me, others more courageous, but looking about to assure
themselves that no one saw them, drew me into a corner to ask, \x91Eh? how
did you produce such an illusion? Because you must admit my friend that
you have produced the greatest platitude in the world.\x92\x94

Beaumarchais could afford to indulge in such pleasantries, for his piece
was not only continuing to draw vast crowds, but it had begun already a
triumphant progress over Europe. In St. Petersburg alone it went through
fifty representations.

But the revenge of Beaumarchais did not stop here; most of the cuttings
which he had been forced to make in the play, the witticisms, jests and
tirades were far too good to be lost. He saved them for future use and
made the public laugh over and applaud what it first hissed. When Figaro
made his second appearance, on the mad day of his marriage, he used them
nearly all. Beaumarchais\x92s revenge then was complete. But while waiting
for this, he had the audacity to make the comedians themselves mock at
their own playing, as we shall see presently.

The story of the _Barbier de S\xE9ville_ is of the simplest: \x93Never,\x94 says
Lintilhac, \x93did any one make a better thing out of nothing.\x94

A young nobleman, the count Almaviva, tired of the conquests which
interest, convention, and vanity make so easy, has left Madrid to follow
to Seville a charming, sweet, and fresh young girl Rosine, with whom he
has never been able to exchange a word owing to the constant oversight of
her guardian, the Doctor Bartholo, who is on the point of marrying her and
securing to himself her fortune. In the words of Figaro, the doctor is a
\x93beautiful, fat, short, young, old man, slightly gray, cunning, sharp,
cloyed, who watches, ferrets, scolds and grumbles all at the same time and
so naturally inspires only aversion in the charming Rosine.\x94 The count, on
the contrary, is a sympathetic figure, who, although disguised as a
student and only seen from afar, has already won the heart of the young

Figaro, the gay and resourceful barber to Bartholo has long ago succeeded
in making himself indispensable to the latter and to his whole household,
while at the same time taking advantage of the avarice and cunning of the
doctor and turning them to his own account. It is he who recognizes the
disguise of the student, his old master, the count Almaviva, loitering
under Rosine\x92s window, and offers his services in outwitting the doctor
whose arrangements are made for the consummation of his marriage on that
self-same day.

It is no easy matter which he here undertakes, for with all his
resourcefulness, Figaro has to deal with a suspicious old man, subtle and
cunning, who is almost as resourceful as himself.

The count obtains entrance to the house as a music teacher sent by
Rosine\x92s usual instructor whom the count announces as ill.

A most amusing scene ensues when Basile, the true instructor, appears,
unconscious that he has a substitute and where, by the quick wit of the
others, even the old doctor is made to laugh him out of the house, before
the situation is spoiled. Basile goes, utterly mystified by the whole
proceeding, but carrying with him \x93one of the irresistible arguments with
which the count\x92s pockets are always filled.\x94

The embroglio thickens. Although Bartholo is constantly on his guard and
suspicious of everyone, especially of Figaro, the latter succeeds in
getting the key to Rosine\x92s lattice from the old man\x92s possession, almost
under his very eyes, and then shows it to him, but at a moment when
Bartholo is too much taken up with watching the new music teacher to
notice the key, or the gesture of Figaro.

In the end, it is by the very means which Bartholo has taken to outwit the
others, that the count succeeds in replacing him by the side of Rosine,
and leading her before the notary, who arrives, after he has been sent for
by Doctor Bartholo. The ceremony is concluded, as the doctor arrives on
the scene. The fury of the latter is appeased, however, when he learns
that he may keep the fortune of Rosine, while the count leads her off
triumphant, happy in the \x93sweet consciousness of being loved for himself.\x94

It is to be sure an old, old story, but made into something quite new by
the genius of the author. The situation of Basile in the third act, as
already described, is absolutely without precedent, while numerous other
scenes offer a _comique_ difficult to surpass.

\x93The style lends wings to the action,\x94 says Lintilhac, \x93and is so full and
keen that the prose rings almost like poetry while his phrases have become

Perhaps the most remarkable passage of the whole play is that upon
slander, which Beaumarchais puts into the mouth of Basile,

\x93Slander, sir! You scarcely know what you are disdaining. I have seen the
best of men almost crushed under it. Believe me, there is no stupid
calumny, no horror, not an absurd story that one cannot fasten upon the
idle people of a great city if one only begins properly, and we have such
clever folks!

\x93First comes a slight rumor, skimming the ground like a swallow before the
storm, _pianissimo_, it murmurs and is gone, sowing behind its empoisoned

\x93Some mouth takes it up, and _piano, piano_, it slips adroitly into the
ear. The evil is done, it germinates, it grows, it flourishes, it makes
its way, and _rinforzando_, from mouth to mouth it speeds onward; then
suddenly, no one knows how, you see slander, erecting itself, hiss, swell,
and grow big as you gaze. It darts forward, whirls, envelops, tears up,
drags after it, thunders and becomes a general cry; a public _crescendo_,
a universal chorus of hatred and proscription.\x94

The _Barbier de S\xE9ville_ had gone through thirteen presentations when the
time arrived for the closing of the theater for the three weeks before
Easter. It was a time-honored custom on this occasion for one of the
actors to come forward after the last performance was over, and deliver a
discourse which was called the _compliment de cl\xF4ture_. \x93Beaumarchais,\x94
says Lom\xE9nie, \x93lover of innovation in everything, had the idea of
replacing this ordinarily majestic discourse by a sort of proverb of one
act, which should be played in the costumes of the _Barbier_.\x94 In
explaining the composition of the proverb he says further, \x93It has not
been sufficient for Beaumarchais to restore to the _Th\xE9\xE2tre-Fran\xE7ais_ some
of the vivid gaiety of the olden time,--he wished for more, he desired
not only that the people be made to laugh immoderately, but that one
should sing in the theater of _Messieurs les com\xE9diens du roi_.\x94 This was
an enormity and essentially contrary to the dignity of the
_Com\xE9die-Fran\xE7aise_. Nevertheless, as Beaumarchais had an obstinate will,
the comedians to please him undertook to sing at the first representation
the airs introduced into the _Barbier_; but whether the actors acquitted
themselves badly at this unaccustomed task, or whether it was that the
public did not like the innovation, all the airs were hissed without pity
and it had been necessary to suppress them in the next presentation. There
was one air in particular to which the author was strongly attached; it
was the air of spring sung by Rosine in the third act. \x93_Quand dans la
plaine_,\x94 etc. The amiable actress, Mademoiselle Doligny, who had created
the r\xF4le of Rosine, little used to singing in public, and still less to
being hissed, refused absolutely to recommence the experiment and
Beaumarchais had been forced to resign himself to the sacrifice of the

But as in everything he only sacrificed himself provisionally.

At the approach of the day of the _cl\xF4ture_, he proposed to the comedians
to write for them the compliment which it was the custom to give, but on
condition that they sing his famous air which he proposed to bring into
the compliment, that was to be played by all the actors of the _Barbier_.

As Mademoiselle Doligny still refused to sing the bit in question,
Beaumarchais suppressed the _r\xF4le_ of Rosine, and replaced it by the
introduction of another actress more daring, who sang very agreeably,
namely, Mademoiselle Luzzi.

This amusing proverb in the style of the _Barbier_ had a great success and
the delicious little spring song as sung by Mademoiselle Luzzi received
at last its just applause. In the scene in which it was produced the
daring author has dialogued thus:

                               Scene III

Mlle. Luzzi--\x93Very well, gentlemen, isn\x92t the compliment given yet?\x94

Figaro--\x93It\x92s worse than that, it isn\x92t made.\x94

Mlle. Luzzi--\x93The compliment?\x94

Bartholo--\x93A miserable author had promised me one, but at the instant of
pronouncing it, he sent us word to serve ourselves elsewhere.\x94

Mlle. Luzzi--\x93I am in the secret, he is annoyed that you suppressed in his
piece his air of spring.\x94

Bartholo--\x93What air of spring? What piece?\x94

Mlle. Luzzi--\x93The little air of Rosine in the _Barbier de S\xE9ville_.\x94

Bartholo--\x93That was well done, the public does not want any one to sing at
the _Com\xE9die-Fran\xE7aise_.\x94

Mlle. Luzzi--\x93Yes, Doctor, in tragedies; but when did it wish that a gay
subject should be deprived of what might increase its agreeableness?
Believe me, gentlemen, Monsieur _le Public_ likes anything which amuses

Bartholo--\x93More than that is it our fault if Rosine lost courage?\x94

Mlle. Luzzi--\x93Is it pretty, the song?\x94

Le Comte--\x93Will you try it?\x94

Figaro--\x93In a corner under your breath.\x94

Mlle. Luzzi--\x93But I am like Rosine, I shall tremble.\x94

Le Comte--\x93We will judge if the air might have given pleasure.\x94

Mlle. Luzzi sings.

    _\x93Quand dans la plaine
    L\x92amour ram\xE8ne
      Le printemps
    Si ch\xE9ri des amants,
      Tout reprend l\x92\xEAtre
      Son feu p\xE9n\xE8tre
        Dans les fleurs
    Et dans les jeunes coeurs.
      On voit les troupeaux
    Sortir des hameaux;
      Dans tous les coteaux
    Les cris des agneaux
    Ils bondissent;
    Tout fermente,
    Tout augmente;
    Les brebis paissent
      Les fleurs qui naissent;
    Les chiens fid\xE8les
    Veillent sur elles;
    Mais Lindor enflamm\xE9
      Ne songe gu\xE8re
      Qu\x92au bonheur d\x92\xEAtre aim\xE9
      De sa berg\xE8re.\x94_

Le Comte--\x93Very pretty, on my honor.\x94

Figaro--\x93It is a charming song.\x94

Beaumarchais was so far content. He had proved his point and had triumphed
over friends and enemies alike. A far more difficult matter remained,
however, to be settled. It was one that would have frightened a less
intrepid character than that of our author, but obstacles, as we have seen
in many previous instances, only served to strengthen his determination
to conquer, which in this instance, as in most others, he did in the end.

When Beaumarchais demanded of the _Th\xE9\xE2tre-Fran\xE7ais_ a statement verified
and signed as to his share of the profits from the representation of the
_Barbier de S\xE9ville_, no one knew better than he the magnitude of the
innovation which he was committing.

The alarmed comedians, who had never in their lives made out an accurate
account and who had not the remotest intention of yielding to the demand,
endeavored by every possible means to put him off. The money that they
sent and the unsigned memoranda which accompanied it, were all promptly
but politely returned with the reiterated statement, most obligingly and
cleverly turned and always in some new form, that it was not the money
which was wanted, but a verified and signed account which could serve as a
model for all future occasions, when it became a matter of business
transaction between authors and comedians.

For fifteen years he pursued his object with unfaltering perseverance.
Unable to establish a new order of things under the old _r\xE9gime_, we shall
find him in 1791 presenting a petition in regard to the rights of authors
to the _Assembl\xE9e Nationale_.

But to return to the _Barbier de S\xE9ville_, let us anticipate a period of
ten years and accompany Beaumarchais to a representation of this famous
piece played upon another stage than that of the _Th\xE9\xE2tre-Fran\xE7ais_, and
by actors very different from the comedians of the king.

It was in 1785. The aristocracy of France, all unconscious of what they
were doing towards the undermining of the colossal structure of which they
formed the parts, were bent upon one thing only and that was amusement.

From the insupportable _r\xE9gime_ which etiquette enforced, Marie
Antoinette fled the vast palace of Versailles on every possible occasion,
seeking refuge in her charming and dearly loved retreat, the

[Illustration: _Le Petit-Trianon_]

In the semi-seclusion of her palace and its adjoining pleasure grounds,
her r\xF4le of queen was forgotten. It was there that she amused herself with
her ladies of honor, in playing at being shepherdess, or dairy maid.
Whatever ingenuity could devise to heighten the illusion, was there
produced. Innocent and harmless sports one might say, and in itself that
was true, but for a Queen of France! A queen claiming still all the
advantages of her rank, renouncing only what was burdensome and dull!
Innocent she was, of all the crimes that calumnies imputed to her, and of
what crimes did they not try to make her appear guilty; but innocent in
the light of history she was not. More than any other victim perhaps of
the French Revolution, she brought her doom upon herself. The sublimity,
however, with which she expiated to the uttermost those thoughtless
follies of her youth, enables us to pardon her as woman, though as queen,
we must recognize that her fate was inevitable.

But in 1785, mirth and gaiety still reigned in the precinct of the
_Petit-Trianon_. In August of the year Marie Antoinette who had always
protected Beaumarchais, wishing to do him a signal honor had decided to
produce upon the little stage of her palace theater the _Barbier de

In his _Fin de l\x92ancien R\xE9gime_, Imbert de Saint-Amand gives the following
narration of that strange incident.

\x93Imagine who was to take the part of Rosine, that pretty little mignonne,
sweet, tender, affable, fresh and tempting, with furtive foot, artful
figure, well formed, plump arms, rosy mouth, and hands! and cheeks! and
teeth! and eyes! (_Le Barbier de S\xE9ville_, Act II, Scene 2). Yes, this
part of Rosine, this charming child, thus described by Figaro, was to be
played by whom? By the most imposing and majestic of women, the queen of
France and Navarre.

\x93The rehearsals began under the direction of one of the best actors of the
_Com\xE9die-Fran\xE7aise_, Dazincourt, who previously had obtained a brilliant
success in the _Mariage de Figaro_. It was during the rehearsals that the
first rumor of the terrible affair of the diamond necklace reached the
Queen. Nevertheless she did not weaken.--Four days after the arrest of the
Cardinal de Rohan, grand-almoner of France, Marie Antoinette appeared in
the r\xF4le of Rosine.

\x93Beaumarchais was present. The r\xF4le of Figaro was taken by the Comte

\x93A soir\xE9e, certainly the most singular. At the very hour when so many
catastrophes were preparing, was it not curious to hear the brother of
Louis XVI, the Comte d\x92Artois, cry out in the language of the Andalusian
barber, \x91Faith, Monsieur, who knows whether the world will last three
weeks longer?\x92 (Act III, Scene 5). He the zealous partisan of the old
_r\xE9gime_, he the future _\xE9migr\xE9_, he the prince who would one day bear the
title of Charles X, it was he who uttered such democratic phrases as
these: \x91I believe myself only too happy to be forgotten, persuaded that a
great lord has done us enough good, when he has done us no harm.\x92 (Act I,
Scene 2)

\x93\x91From the virtues required in a domestic, does your Excellency know many
masters who are worthy of being valets?\x92 (Act I, Scene 2)

\x93Was there not something like a prediction in these words of Figaro in the
mouth of the brother of Louis XVI, \x91I hasten to laugh at everything for
fear of being obliged to weep\x92? (Act I, Scene 2)

\x93Ah, let Marie Antoinette pay attention and listen! At this moment when
the affair of the necklace begins, would not one say that all the
maneuvers of her calumniators were announced to her by Basile: \x91Calumny,
Sir....\x92 Beautiful and unfortunate Queen, on hearing that definition of
the _crescendo_ of calumny would she not turn pale?

\x93With this representation of the _Barbier de S\xE9ville_, ended the private
theatricals of the _Petit-Trianon_. What was preparing was the drama, not
the fictitious drama, but the drama real, the drama terrible, the drama
where Providence reserved to the unhappy queen the most tragic, the most
touching of all the r\xF4les....\x94 (For the full details of this fatal affair
of the diamond necklace, see _L\x92ancien R\xE9gime_, by Imbert de Saint-Amand.)

Little did Beaumarchais realize the part he was playing in the preparation
for that great drama. The gay utterances of his Figaro were the utterances
of the mass of the people of France. Through Beaumarchais, the _Tiers
\xC9tat_ was at last finding a voice and rising to self-consciousness; it was
rising also to a consciousness of the effete condition of all the upper
strata of society. Hence the wild enthusiasm with which these productions
were greeted, an enthusiasm in which the aristocracy themselves joined,
eager as the populace to laugh, for exactly the same reason as Figaro, so
that they might not be obliged to weep.

                              CHAPTER XIV

_\x93On dit qu\x92il n\x92est pas noble aux auteurs de plaider pour le vil int\xE9r\xEAt,
eux qui se piquent de pr\xE9tendre \xE0 la gloire. On a raison; la gloire est
attrayante; mais on oublie que, pour en jouir seulement une ann\xE9e, la
nature nous condamne \xE0 d\xEEner trois-cents-soixante-cinq fois;... Pourquoi,
le fils d\x92Apollon, l\x92amant des Muses, incessammant forc\xE9 de compter avec
son boulanger, n\xE9gligerait-il de compter avec les com\xE9diens?\x94_

                                     _Compte Rendu, par Beaumarchais_

    Beaumarchais Undertakes to Protect the Rights of Dramatic
      Authors--Lawsuit with the Com\xE9die-Fran\xE7aise--Founder of the
      First Society of Dramatic Authors--Jealousies Among
      Themselves Retard Success--National Assembly Grants Decree
      1791--Final Form Given by Napoleon.

While Beaumarchais was enjoying the triumph of his _Barbier de S\xE9ville_,
his other affairs were by no means neglected.

Very soon we shall have occasion to accompany him to London on one of the
most singular missions of which it is possible to conceive. But before
entering into a history of the political and financial operations into
which Beaumarchais plunged after his return from Vienna, it is necessary
to speak of the very important matter which the success of the _Barbier_
emboldened its author to undertake.

As Beaumarchais possessed to such an extraordinary degree the power, as he
himself has expressed it, _\x93de fermer le tiroir d\x92une affaire,\x94_ and
instantly to turn the whole force of his mind into a totally different
channel, we shall not be surprised to find him at one and the same time
undertaking to protect the rights of dramatic authors against the
comedians of the king; settling for Louis XVI a matter of occult diplomacy
of the old king, Louis XV, which had dragged on for years, and which no
one else had been able to adjust; working with unremitting zeal for his
own rehabilitation as citizen; pursuing the interests of his suit with the
Comte de la Blache, which was still in progress; leading a life in London
and Paris which from the point of view of pleasure left little to be
desired; and all the while engaged in constant and almost superhuman
exertions to stir the French government out of its lethargy in regard to
the insurgent American colonies, and later in sending the latter aid,
under the very eyes of the English, exposed to constant danger of
bankruptcy and ruin.

Unlike Beaumarchais, we are unable to give our attention to so many things
at the same time, and we are therefore forced to treat each action

Beginning then with his action against the comedians, it is necessary to
state that the custom by which that ancient and highly honored institution
the _Th\xE9\xE2tre-Fran\xE7ais_ regulated its accounts with the author whose plays
were there produced, permitted of so much obscurity that no attempt was
ever made to verify those accounts, so that all the authors practically
were obliged to content themselves with whatever the comedians chose to
give them.

This condition of affairs had arisen in the following manner. The earliest
theatrical representations, since those given in Greece and Rome, were the
Mysteries, or Miracle Plays, which were written by the monks, who went
about presenting them and who, of course, worked gratuitously. Later,
small sums were offered for plays, but it was not until the time of Louis
XIV that an author received any considerable sum for a literary
production. Even during the reign of this liberal monarch it was the
personal munificence of the king that extended itself to the author,
rather than any rights which he possessed. That this munificence was quite
inadequate is proved by the fact that the \x93grand Corneille,\x94 whose sublime
genius lifted at one stroke, the literature of France to a height which
few nations have surpassed, was allowed to die in poverty and distress.

Finally in 1697, a royal decree had been issued, which gave to the authors
of the _Th\xE9\xE2tre-Fran\xE7ais_ the right to a ninth part of the receipts of
each representation, after the deduction of the costs of the performance
and certain rights, the limits of which were not clearly defined. It was
stipulated also that if for twice in succession the receipts fell below
the cost of performance, from which presentation the author of course
received no returns, the piece, which was then termed, _tomb\xE9e dans les
r\xE8gles_, became the property of the comedians. There was nothing said
about any future performance of the piece. The comedians thus had it in
their power to take it up anew, retaining for themselves the entire
proceeds of the performances.

Innumerable abuses had crept in, so that instead of a ninth, it was well
proved that often the author received less than a twentieth part of the
returns of the play. The position of the comedians was strengthened by the
current opinion that it was degrading to the high art of literature to
bring it down to a financial basis. Profiting by this and abusing their
privileges, the _Com\xE9die-Fran\xE7aise_ had gone on confiscating the
productions of authors without serious opposition, although their actions
had given rise in more than one instance to very serious trouble. Such was
the condition of affairs in 1775.

\x93The richest of the dramatic authors,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie, \x93Beaumarchais, for
whom the theater had never been anything but a form of recreation, and who
had made a present of his first two plays to the comedians, could not be
taxed with cupidity in taking in hand the cause of his brothers of the
pen. This is what determined him. We soon shall see him defending, for the
first time, the rights of others more than his own, and hazarding himself
in a new combat against adversaries more difficult to conquer than those
against whom he had fought already; he will conquer nevertheless, but not
for many years, and only with the aid of the Revolution will he succeed in
getting the better of the kings and queens of the theater, in restraining
the cupidity of the directors, and in establishing the rights of authors,
until this time so unjustly despoiled.

\x93To the end of his life he did not cease to demand that the law surround
with its protection a kind of property, no less inviolable than other
forms, but before his fervid pleadings, completely sacrificed.

\x93The society of dramatic authors to-day so powerful, so strongly
organized, which rightly, or wrongly is sometimes accused of having
replaced the tyranny of the actors and directors of the theatre by a
tyranny exactly the reverse, do not know perhaps all they owe to the man
who was the first to unite into a solid body the writers who up to that
time had lived entirely isolated.\x94

Beaumarchais had long lived on terms of intimacy with the comedians of the
_Th\xE9\xE2tre-Fran\xE7ais_; that he continued to do so during the years when his
suit against them was in progress, is proved by the following letter from
Mlle. Doligny, written in 1779.

The letter to which she alludes was in relation to his drama, _Les Deux
Amis_, which he very much desired to have brought a second time before the
public. The piece, it will be remembered, had never succeeded in Paris.
Beaumarchais professed a special fondness for it, however, and desired now
to have it revived. The letter of Mlle. Doligny is as follows:

\x93Monsieur: I do not know how to thank you enough for all that you said of
me in the letter which you wrote to the _Com\xE9die_ on the subject of _Les
Deux Amis_. All my comrades were enchanted with the gaiety and _esprit_
which shone in your letter. I was more enchanted than anyone, because of
your friendship and goodness to me.\x94 Then follows a special request in
regard to two friends, after which she terminates thus:

\x93It is your Eug\xE9nie, your Pauline, your Rosine, who solicits this; I dare
hope that you will pay some attention to their recommendations. Receive
the testimony of esteem, of attachment and of gratitude with which I am
for life, Monsieur, your, etc.


In 1775, Beaumarchais and the comedians were living on the best of terms
as well may be supposed. Never had the _Com\xE9die_ received such fabulous
returns from any play heretofore produced. Never had actors entered with
more spirit into the views of their author.

\x93As many times as you please, Messieurs, to give the _Barbier de S\xE9ville_,
I will endure it with resignation. And may you burst with people for I am
the friend of your successes and the lover of my own!--If the public is
contented and if you are, I shall be also. I should like to be able to
say as much for the critics; but though you have done all that is
possible to give the piece to the best advantage and played like angels,
you will have to renounce their support; one cannot please everybody.\x94

During the summer the matter of the _Barbier de S\xE9ville_ seems to have
dropped, owing no doubt to the fact that Beaumarchais was occupied
completely with his secret mission and with his ardent addresses to the
king in relation to the insurgent colonies. It will be remembered also
that it was in August of this same year that the elder Caron breathed his
last. We have given already the letter written on his death-bed where the
venerable old watchmaker with expiring breath blessed his son who always
had been his pride and honor, as well as his devoted friend.

And so to return to the case of the _Com\xE9die-Fran\xE7aise_. In December,
1775, being for a short time in Paris, Beaumarchais addressed himself to
the comedians, in a letter the tone and matter of which show that his
solicitude as an author had been aroused by a suspicion that they were
trying to make his piece _tomber dans les r\xE8gles_, and so confiscate it,
by giving it on a day when some special performance at Versailles was
liable to attract thither a large portion of the theater-going public. He
wrote in a spirited way demanding that something be substituted for the
_Barbier_ on that night. The letter terminates thus, \x93All the good days
except Saturday, the 23rd of December, 1775, you will give me the greatest
pleasure to satisfy with the _Barbier_, the small number of its admirers.
For that day only, it will be easy to admit the validity of my excuses,
recognized by the _Com\xE9die_ itself. I have the honor to be, etc.

                                             \x93Caron de Beaumarchais.\x94

\x93In re-reading my letter I reflect that the _Com\xE9die_ may be embarrassed
for Saturday because all the great tragedians are at Versailles. If that
is the reason--Why did you not tell me simply how the matter stood? He who
seems strict and rigorous in discussing his affairs is often the man who
is the easiest in obliging his friends.--I should be distressed if the
_Com\xE9die_ had the smallest occasion to complain of me, as I hope always to
have nothing but praise for it.

                                         \x93Reply if you please.
                                         Paris, December 20th 1775.\x94

Time passed on. As Beaumarchais had given to the comedians his first two
dramas, hope was entertained that he would demand no return for his
_Barbier_. Early in May, 1776, to their surprise and dismay, came a polite
request that an exact account of the part due him as the author be made
out and given to him. The play then had been given thirty-two times.

Not wishing to stir up trouble between themselves and their excellent
friend, while at the same time unable and unwilling to grant the request,
the comedians met the difficulty by a profound silence. \x93At last,\x94 says
Beaumarchais in his _Compte rendu_, written several years later, \x93one of
them asked me if it was my intention to give the piece to the _Com\xE9die_ or
to require the right of authorship? I replied laughing like Sagnarelle: \x91I
will give it, if I wish to give it, and I will not give it, if I do not
wish to give it; which does not in the least interfere with my receiving
the account; a present has no merit, excepting as he who gives knows its

\x93One of the actors insisted and said, \x91If you will not give it, Monsieur,
tell us at least how many times you desire that we play it for your
profit, after that it will belong to us.\x92

[Illustration: Charles Philippe--Comte D\x92Artois]

\x93\x91What necessity, messieurs, that it should belong to you?\x92

\x93\x91A great many authors make similar arrangements with us.\x92

\x93\x91Those authors are not to be imitated.\x92

\x93\x91They are very well satisfied, monsieur, because if they do not enjoy the
profits of their piece, at least they have the advantage of seeing it
played more often. Do you wish that we play it for your profit six, eight,
or even ten times? Speak.\x92

\x93The proposition seemed to me so amusing that I replied in the same gay
tone, \x91Since you permit me, I ask you to play it a thousand and one

\x93\x91Monsieur, you are very modest.\x92

\x93\x91Modest, Messieurs, as you are just. What mania is it that you have, to
wish to inherit from people who are not dead? My piece not belonging to
you until it falls to a very low receipt, you ought to desire that it
never belong to you. Are not eight-ninths of a hundred louis, more than
nine-ninths of fifty? I see, Messieurs, that you love your interests
better than you understand them.\x92

\x93I laughingly saluted the assembly, who smiled a little on their side
because their orator was slightly flushed with argument.

\x93At last, on January 3rd, 1777, M. Desessarts, one of the comedians, came
to my house ... bringing me four thousand, five-hundred, and six livres as
belonging to me from my _droits d\x92auteur_ for the thirty-two performances
of the _Barbier_. No account being joined, I did not accept the money,
although M. Desessarts pressed me to do so in the most polite way in the

\x93\x91There are a great many points upon which it is impossible for the
_Com\xE9die_ to give MM. the authors anything but _une c\xF4te mal taill\xE9e_ (in
lump, without detail)\x92.

\x93\x91What I require very much more than money,\x92 I replied, \x91is _une c\xF4te bien
taill\xE9e_, an exact account, which may serve as a type or model for all
future accounts and may bring at last peace between the actors and the

\x93\x91I see,\x92 he said, \x91that you wish to open a quarrel with the _Com\xE9die_.\x92

\x93\x91On the contrary, Monsieur, nothing would please me so much as to be able
to terminate everything to the equal advantage of both parties.\x92 And he
took back the money.\x94

Three days later Beaumarchais sent a polite note explaining why he
returned the money, and clearly stating the nature of the account which he
demanded. Receiving no reply, he wrote again, in the most courteous way,
reminding them of their negligence.

The _Com\xE9die_ then sent a simple memorandum, \x93following the usages
observed by us with Messieurs, _les auteurs_,\x94 which was without

Beaumarchais at once returned the memorandum, thanking the comedians for
their pains, but begging that the memorandum be verified and signed.

Receiving no reply, three days later he sent a second missive, in which he
assumed that his first letter had gone astray. \x93I beg you,\x94 he added, \x93to
enlighten me as to this matter and send me your account certified. The
messenger has orders to wait.\x94 And he ends thus, \x93I am ill. I have been
forbidden all serious affairs for several days; I profit by this forced
leisure to occupy myself with this which is not serious at all.\x94

For the _Com\xE9die_, however, it was, to say the least, a serious
embarrassment. They replied that it was impossible to verify the account
except for the receipt taken at the door, \x93the other elements can only be
guessed at.\x94

\x93The letter,\x94 says Beaumarchais, \x93was garlanded with as many signatures
as the memorandum had not.\x94

Assuming that it was their ignorance of affairs that caused the disorder,
he undertook to give, in his own inimitable way, a lesson in bookkeeping.
The letter begins as follows:

\x93In reading, Messieurs, the obliging letter with which you have just
honored me, signed by a number among you, I am confirmed in the idea that
you are very honest people, and very much disposed to do justice to
authors; but that it is with you, as with all men who are more versed in
the agreeable arts than in the exact sciences, and who make phantoms of
the embarrassing methods of calculation, which the simplest arithmetician
would solve without difficulty.\x94

Then follows the lesson. The letter ends with, \x93Eh, believe me, Messieurs,
give no more _c\xF4tes mal taill\xE9es_ to men of letters; too proud to receive
favors, they are often too much in distress to endure losses.

\x93So long as you do not adopt the method of an exact account unknown only
to yourselves, you will have the annoyance of being reproached with a
pretended system of usurpation over men of letters which is surely not in
the mind of any one of you.

\x93Pardon that I take the liberty of rectifying your ideas, but it is
necessary to come to an understanding; and as you seemed to me in your
letter embarrassed to give an exact form to a simple account, I have
permitted myself to propose to you an easy method, capable of being
understood by the simplest accountant.

\x93Two words, Messieurs, enclose the whole of the present question; if the
account which I returned is not just, rectify it. If you believe it to be
exact, certify it; this is the way we must proceed in all matters of

\x93The actors,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie, \x93did not relish this lesson in accounts given
with so much complaisance and politeness. They replied that they would
assemble the lawyers forming the council of the _Com\xE9die_ and name four
commissioners from their body to examine the case.\x94

\x93To assemble all the council of lawyers,\x94 says Beaumarchais, \x93and name
commissioners to consult as to whether an exact account should be sent me,
duly signed, seemed to me a very strange proceeding.\x94

The comedians were, however, in no hurry to act. The 14th of February,
1777, they wrote to their troublesome friend.

\x93It is still a question of assembling the council. The circumstance of the
carnival joined to the services which we are obliged to perform at court
and in the city have prevented the frequent reunion of different persons
who should occupy themselves in this affair....\x94

\x93I concluded from this letter,\x94 says Beaumarchais, \x93that the _Com\xE9die_ was
contented with me, but that the carnival seemed a bad time to occupy
themselves with business. Letting the comedians, the lawyers, and their
council dance in peace, I waited patiently until the end of Lent, but
either they were still dancing, or doing penance for having danced,
because I heard nothing from them.

\x93Four months rolled by in a profound sleep from which I was awakened June
1st, 1777.\x94 The cause of Beaumarchais\x92s awakening was the sudden discovery
that urgent requests from time to time to the comedians to play the
_Barbier_ met with constant refusal.

The 2nd of June he wrote a letter from which we extract the following, \x93If
patience is a virtue, you have the right, Messieurs, to think me the most
virtuous of men, but if you take the right to forget that you owe me for
two or three years a verified account ... it is I who have the right to
be offended, because there are limits to the patience of even the most

After a spirited recapitulation of his wrongs he continues, \x93In a word,
Messieurs, you will give the piece, or you will not give it, it is not
that which is important to-day. What is important is to put an end to so
much indecision. Let us agree that if you accept I shall within eight days
receive from you a certified account ... and when that term has expired, I
may regard a silence on your part as an obstinate refusal to do me
justice. You will not then object if, making a pious use of my rights as
author, I confide the interests of the poor to those persons whose zeal
and interests oblige them to discuss these interests more methodically
than I, who profess to be always, with the greatest love of peace,...
Yours, etc.,


The comedians in their turn awakened by the letter just quoted replied
before the expiration of the eight days, promising the much desired
meeting. Beaumarchais accepted their proposal with his usual grace and
himself fixed the day for the assembly. Fresh difficulties arose. The
comedians wrote an apologetic letter asking for a further delay of a few

\x93I thought the comedians very good,\x94 wrote Beaumarchais, \x93to fear that
after waiting more than a year for their convenience, I should be offended
by a new delay of a few days; I was too used to their manner of proceeding
to lose patience at so small a cost. I resolved, therefore, to await the
moment when it should please the fugitive assembly to meet. I waited until
the 15th of June, when I received a letter from M. le Mar\xE9chal de

\x93The comedians,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie \x93brought to the wall had solicited the
support of the duke, who intervened and begged the claimant to discuss the
matter with him. As Beaumarchais demanded nothing better, he hastened to
offer to the Duke of Duras the same lesson in bookkeeping which he had
vainly offered to the comedians.... Beaumarchais wrote to him:

\x93\x91You are too much interested, M. le Mar\xE9chal, in the progress of the most
beautiful of the arts, not to admit that if those who play the pieces gain
an income of twenty-thousand livres, those who thus make the fortune of
the comedians should be able to draw from it that which is absolutely
necessary. There is no personal interest, M. le Mar\xE9chal, in my demand;
the love of justice and of letters alone determines me. The man whom the
impulsion of a great genius might have carried to a renewal of the
beautiful chefs-d\x92oeuvre of our masters, certain that he cannot live
three months from the fruits of the vigils of three years, after having
lost five in waiting, becomes a journalist, a libellist or debases himself
in some other trade as lucrative as degrading.\x92\x94

M. de Lom\xE9nie continues, \x93After a conversation with Beaumarchais, M. de
Duras seemed to enflame himself with ardor for the cause of justice. He
declared that it was time to finish with the debates where authors are at
the discretion of the comedians. He proposed to substitute for the
arbitrary accounts a new regulation where the rights of the two parties
shall be stipulated in the clearest, the most equitable manner. He invited
Beaumarchais to consult with several dramatic authors, and to submit to
him a plan. To this Beaumarchais replied that in a question which
interested all equally, everyone who had written for the Th\xE9\xE2tre-Fran\xE7ais
had a right to be heard and that all must be assembled.\x94

The duke consented and the first society of dramatic authors was founded
by a circular, dated June 27th, 1777, in which Beaumarchais invited all to
a dinner.

\x93To unite men,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie, \x93who up to that time had been in the habit
of living isolated and jealous lives, was something far from easy, even
when invoking them to a common interest.\x94

In order that the reader may judge of the obstacles which this new phase
of his enterprise presented, we subjoin two letters of La Harpe, published
by M. de Lom\xE9nie, in reply to the invitation of Beaumarchais.

\x93If the end,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie, in speaking of the first of these letters,
\x93announced a man unwilling enough to treat with his fellows, the beginning
seemed equally to indicate a little annoyance that another than himself
should have been given the lead with the consent of M. de Duras.\x94

\x93M. le Mar\xE9chal de Duras,\x94 wrote La Harpe, \x93has already done me the honor,
Monsieur, of communicating to me, and even in great detail, the new
arrangements which he projects, and which tend, all of them toward the
perfection of the theater, and the satisfaction of authors. I am none the
less disposed to confer with you and with those who like you, Monsieur,
have contributed to enrich the theater, upon our common interests and on
the means of ameliorating and assuring the fate of dramatic authors. It
enters into my plan of life necessitated by pressing occupations never to
dine away from home but I shall have the honor of coming to you after
dinner. I must warn you, however, that if by chance, M. Sauvigny or M.
Dorat are to be present, I will not come. You know the world too well to
bring me face to face with my declared enemies. I have the honor to be
with the most distinguished consideration, Monsieur, etc.

                                                     \x93De la Harpe.\x94

Beaumarchais, a little embarrassed because he had also invited Sauvigny
and Dorat, replied to La Harpe by the following letter: \x93You have imposed
upon me, Monsieur, the unpleasant task of informing you that MM. Sauvigny
and Dorat do me the honor of dining with me to-day. But in a common cause,
permit me to observe to you that in all countries it is the custom to set
aside private quarrels.

\x93I shall be only too happy, if seconding my pacific views, you do me the
honor to come and forget in the pleasure of an assembly of men of letters
all of whom honor you, small resentments which exist perhaps only through

\x93Do not divide us, Monsieur. We are none too strong with all our forces
united against the great machine of the _Com\xE9die_. We dine at three, and I
shall flatter myself that you are coming even until three-fifteen--so
anxious am I to have you with us.

\x93I have the honor to be, etc.


To which La Harpe replied:

\x93It is absolutely impossible, Monsieur, ever to find myself with two men
whose works and whose persons I equally despise; one of them, Dorat,
insulted me personally ... and the other is an unsociable and ferocious
madman whom no one sees, and who is always ready to fight for his verses.
You feel, Monsieur, that this means to fight for nothing. I cannot
conceive how you can class these among _les plus honn\xEAtes gens de la

\x93I beg you to accept my excuses, and my sincere regrets. I take very
little account of quarrels where _amour-propre_ alone is concerned, but I
never forget real offenses.

\x93I have the honor to be ... etc.

                                                     \x93La Harpe.\x94

\x93It was necessary to get on without La Harpe,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie, \x93at least for
this first meeting, because I see by another note of his that at the next
meeting, where Beaumarchais no doubt sacrificed to the irascible
academician on that day Dorat and Sauvigny, for he accepted the invitation
for dinner and wrote in a more joyful tone.

\x93\x91Your invitation leading me to suppose that the obstacles which kept me
away no longer exist, I willingly consent to join you towards five
o\x92clock. It is not that I renounce the pleasure of finding myself, glass
in hand, with a man as amiable as you, Monsieur, but you are of too good
company not to have supper and I admit that it is my favorite repast; thus
I say with Horace, \x93_Arcesse vel imperium fer._\x94

                                      \x93\x91I have the honor to be--etc.
                                          La Harpe.\x92\x94

On the third of July, 1777, twenty-three dramatic authors found themselves
gathered together around the table of Beaumarchais. If several had
absented themselves from personal jealousies, others had stayed away
through indifference. Coll\xE9, _homme spirituel_ and author famous in his
time, replied in a letter flattering to Beaumarchais but refusing all
participation in the work of the society. Absent at that time from Paris,
he wrote, \x93I avow, Monsieur, with my ordinary frankness that even had I
been in Paris I should not have had the honor of finding myself at your
assembly of MM. the dramatic authors. I am old and disgusted to the point
of nausea with that _troupe royale_. For three years I have seen neither
_com\xE9diens_ nor _com\xE9diennes_.

    _De tous ces gens-l\xE0
    J\x92en ai jusque-l\xE0._

I do not any the less, Monsieur, desire the accomplishment of your
project, but permit me to limit myself to wishing you success, of which I
would very much doubt if you were not at the head of the enterprise, which
has all the difficulties which you can desire because you have proved to
the public, Monsieur, that nothing is impossible to you. I have always
thought that you disliked that which was easy.

                                      \x93I have the honor to be, etc.

A second invitation had no better success. The old poet answers in the
same vein, \x93M. Coll\xE9 thanks M. de Beaumarchais for his remembrance. He
begs him anew to be so good as to receive his excuses for the affair of
the comedians. He is too old to bother himself with it. Like the rat in
the fable, he has retired into his Holland cheese and it is not likely
that he will come out to make the world go otherwise than she is going.
For fifteen years he has been saying of the impolite and disobliging
proceedings of the comedians, that verse of Piron in _Callisth\xE8ne_, \x91From
excess of contempt I have become peaceable. _A force de m\xE9pris je me
trouve paisible._\x92

\x93M. Coll\xE9 compliments M. de Beaumarchais a thousand and a thousand times.\x94

Diderot, the founder of the new school of literature, also refused his

\x93_Vous voil\xE0_, Monsieur,\x94 he wrote, \x93at the head of an insurgence of
dramatic poets against the comedians ... I have participated in none of
these things and it will be possible to participate in none that are to
follow. I pass my life in the country, almost as much a stranger to the
affairs of the city as forgotten of its inhabitants. Permit me to limit
myself to desires for your success. While you are fighting, I will hold
my arms elevated to heaven, upon the mountains of Meudon. May those who
devote themselves to the theater owe to you their independence, but to
speak truly I fear that it will be more difficult to conquer a troup of
comedians than a parliament. Ridicule does not have here the same force.
No matter, your attempt will be none the less just and none the less
honest. I salute and I embrace you. You know the sentiments of esteem with
which I have been for a long time, Monsieur, yours, etc.


Most of the authors had responded with enthusiasm to the appeal of
Beaumarchais. A few lines from a letter of Chamfort will serve to show the
spirit which animated many of them.

He says, \x93One can flatter one\x92s self that your _esprit_, your activity and
intelligence will find a way to remedy the principal abuses which must
necessarily ruin dramatic literature in France. It will be rendering a
veritable service to the nation and join once more your name to a
remarkable epoch.... I hope, Monsieur, that the _\xE9tats-g\xE9n\xE9raux de l\x92art
dramatique_, which to-morrow is to come together at your house, will not
meet with the same destiny as other states-general, that of seeing all our
miseries without being able to remedy any. However it be, I firmly believe
that if you do not succeed, we must renounce all hope of reform. For
myself, I shall have at least gained the advantage of forming a closer
bond with a man of so much merit, whom the hazards of society have not
permitted me to meet as often as I should have desired.

                                   \x93I have the honor to be, etc.

\x93After the dinner,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie, \x93they proceeded to the election of four
commissioners charged to defend the interests of the society, and to work
in its name at the new regulations demanded by the duke of Duras.
Beaumarchais, originator of the enterprise, naturally was chosen first.
Two Academedians, Saurin and Marmontel, were joined to him, and besides
them Sedaine, who, without being yet a member of the Academy, enjoyed a
very justly acquired reputation.

\x93This assembly of _insurgents_, to use the term of Diderot, recalled in a
way the group of colonies who just one year before at the same time of the
year, had declared their independence, but it was easier to conquer the
English than the comedians.

\x93These latter, learning of the action of the authors, assembled on their
side, called to their aid four or five lawyers, and prepared to make a
vigorous resistance.\x94

In very truth the troubles of Beaumarchais were only beginning, nor did
these troubles come from the comedians alone; after the first few meetings
complete discord reigned among the authors themselves, so much so that
anyone but Beaumarchais would have given up in despair. The details of
this disheartening undertaking have been given fully in the _Compte
rendu_, published with the works of Beaumarchais. They have interest for
us only so far as they reveal the character of this many-sided man.

Overwhelmed with enterprises of every sort, with losses and disasters that
from time to time brought him to the verge of ruin, he still maintained
the cause of men of letters with unfaltering perseverance, and this
notwithstanding the bickerings, the petty jealousies, the ingratitude of
the most interested in the result of the undertaking. Those appointed
joint-commissioners with him left to him all the work. When anything went
wrong all the blame fell back on his shoulders; nevertheless, with his
usual philosophy he forgave and forgot everything but the end which he
kept constantly in view.

At last, in the spring of 1780, a sort of arrangement was reached which
was indeed an improvement on the regulations of the past, though still far
from satisfactory.

In honor of the reconciliation, authors and comedians were invited to dine
together at the house of the man who for so long had been trying to bring
peace between them. It was not long before a rumor was afloat that
Beaumarchais had gone over to the side of the comedians. His colleague,
Sedaine, hastened to inform him in a thoughtless fashion of the reproaches
which were being made by some of those for whom he had sacrificed so much
of his repose. The tone of the letter of Sedaine was light and flippant.
Beaumarchais, hurt to the quick, replied in the following words:

  \x93Paris, this 3rd of May, 1780.

\x93I have not at once replied, my dear colleague, to your letter because the
heat which mounted to my head would not have permitted me to do so with
proper moderation. I have passed my entire life in doing my best, to the
sweet murmur of reproaches and outrages from those whom I have served; but
perhaps nothing ever has hurt me so much as this ... Let others do better,
I will congratulate them.... No human consideration can retain me any
longer in the following of this very ungrateful, dramatic literary
association. I salute, honor and love you.

\x93I realize in re-reading my scribbling that my head is still hot, but I
recommence in vain. I find myself less master of myself than I could

\x93Sedaine,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie, \x93recognizing that he had been in the wrong,
replied by an affectionate letter which proved that if the author of _Le
Philosophe sans le Savoir_ loved gossip, he was at heart an excellent

\x93Yes, my dear colleague,\x94 he wrote, \x93your head was still hot when you
replied. Perhaps something in my letter hurt you, because the reproaches
which I had heard uttered had angered me. I cannot, however, believe that
you have taken for my sentiments that which I reported of your ungrateful
and unreasonable _confr\xE8res_. Nevertheless, excepting three or four, the
rest do us justice, and it is to you that we pass it on. If I said
anything which pained you, I very sincerely beg your pardon. It is for you
to be moderate, it does you more honor than me, who am older than you.
Continue your beautiful and excellent services; finish your work, and do
them good in spite of their ingratitude. This affair terminated to our
honor by you, I will beg them to assemble at my house and they will order
me to join myself to a deputation to go to thank you for all your pains.
This is all we can offer you now. They will do it, or I shall separate
myself from them for the rest of my life, who have only need of repose and
your friendship.

\x93I embrace you with all my heart, and let us leave the evilly disposed for
what they are.\x94

The debates, however, were not over, for the next ten years the struggle
continued with Beaumarchais always in the lead.

\x93At last,\x94 says Lom\xE9nie, \x93the Revolution came to put an end to the old
abusive privileges of the Th\xE9\xE2tre-Fran\xE7ais, and the usurpation of the
directors of the theaters of the provinces. Following a petition drawn up
by La Harpe, Beaumarchais and Sedaine, representing the society of
dramatic authors and under the influence of numerous memoirs published by
Beaumarchais, the National assembly recognized the right of property of
authors, suppressed all the privileges of the Com\xE9die-Fran\xE7aise, and
decreed, on the 13th of January, 1791, that the works of living authors
could not be produced anywhere in France without the consent of the
authors.... To protect these interests was one of the chief occupations of
the old age of Beaumarchais.... To the very end he continued to be the
patron of men of letters; one of his last letters was addressed to the
Minister of the Interior under the Directory, supporting a petition of the

It was Napoleon who gave the final form to the regulations existing
between dramatic authors and the Th\xE9\xE2tre-Fran\xE7ais. The honor,
nevertheless, belonged to Beaumarchais, for it was he who conceived and
carried on for so many years one of the most difficult enterprises ever
undertaken by a private individual.

Essentially modern in all his views, his was the r\xF4le of preparing the way
for many of the things that the nineteenth century was to produce. Himself
no revolutionist, at least not in theory, it was yet he who played so
important a part in sustaining on one hand and preparing on the other the
two greatest political and social revolutions which the world has ever

The establishment of the reign of justice, liberty, and individual rights
was the goal ever before him.

\x93_Qu\x92 \xE9tais-je donc_,\x94 he writes near the close of his life, \x93What have I
been after all? I have been nothing by myself and myself as I have
remained, free in the midst of fetters, serene in the greatest dangers,
braving all the storms, sustaining commerce with one hand and war with the
other, indolent as a mule, but always working, the butt of a thousand
calumnies, but happy in my family, never having been of any coterie,
neither literary, nor political, nor mystic, never having paid court to
anyone, and ever repelled by all.\x94 Somewhere else he adds, \x93It is the
mystery of my life, in vain I try to comprehend it.\x94

                      STUDIES IN AMERICAN HISTORY

Illustrated. _By Elizabeth S. Kite._

PRE-EMPTION TO HOMESTEAD. _By George M. Stephenson._

Ross McCain._


Brooke, Ph.B._


       *       *       *       *       *

                        Transcriber\x92s Amendments

Transcriber\x92s Note: Blank pages have been deleted. Footnotes have been
moved. Some illustrations may have been moved. We have rendered consistent
on a per-word-pair basis the hyphenation or spacing of such pairs when
repeated in the same grammatical context. Paragraph formatting has been
made consistent. The publisher\x92s inadvertent omissions of important
punctuation have been corrected.

The following list indicates additional changes. The page number
represents that of the original publication and applies in this etext
except for footnotes and illustrations because they have been moved.

  Page          Change

   32  {illustration caption} Palace of Versaille[Versailles]
   74  as in the famous Goezman[Go\xEBzman] trial,
  179  a study of the language and its pronounciation[pronunciation],
  231  begin by an unforseen[unforeseen] attack by a greedy legatee,

       *       *       *       *       *

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