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Title: Later Queens of the French Stage
Author: Williams, H. Noel, 1870-1925
Language: English
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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.

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                          LATER QUEENS OF THE
                             FRENCH STAGE

[Illustration: _Sophie Arnould._

_Printed by J. B. Grange_ (_Wallace Collection_)]

                            LATER QUEENS OF
                           THE FRENCH STAGE


                           H. NOEL WILLIAMS

                DE MONTESPAN,” “MADAME DU BARRY,” ETC.

                       [Illustration: colophon]

                          LONDON AND NEW YORK

                           HARPER & BROTHERS

                        45 ALBEMARLE STREET, W.


                            A. M. BROADLEY



I.   SOPHIE ARNOULD                  1



IV.  MADAME DUGAZON                195

V.   MADEMOISELLE CONTAT           223


     INDEX                         345


SOPHIE ARNOULD (_Photogravure_)                            _Frontispiece_

_After the painting by_ GREUZE _in the Wallace Collection
at Hertford House_

GLUCK                                                  _To face page_ 56

_After the painting by_ N. F. DUPLESSIS

SOPHIE ARNOULD                                                 “      72

_From an engraving by_ PRUD’HON _after the drawing by_ CŒURÉ

MARIE MADELEINE GUIMARD                                        “     112

_From an engraving by_ GERVAIS _after the painting by_ BOUCHER

MLLE. RAUCOURT                                                 “     160

_From an engraving by_ RUOTTE _after the painting by_ GROS, _in
the collection of_ Mr. A. M. BROADLEY

MADAME DUGAZON                                                 “     202

_From an engraving by_ MONSALDI _after the painting by_ JEAN

LOUISE CONTAT                                                  “     240

_After the painting by_ DUTERTRE

MADAME SAINT-HUBERTY                                           “     288

_From an engraving by_ COLINET _after the painting by_ LE MOINE




In her unpublished _Mémoires_,[1] which she began, but never completed,
and only a few pages of which--possibly all that she wrote--have been
preserved, Sophie Arnould tells us that she was born in 1745, “in the
same alcove in which Admiral Coligny had been assassinated two hundred
years before.” As a matter of fact, the celebrated singer was born on
February 14, 1745, and it was not until some years after her birth that
her parents removed to the Hôtel de Ponthieu, Rue Béthisy, then known as
the Rue des Fossés-Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois.[2]

Sophie’s parents belonged to the upper _bourgeoisie_, and at the time
of her birth appear to have been in comfortable circumstances. Her
father, Jean Arnould, was a worthy man, whose worldly ambitions were
limited to securing a comfortable competence, retiring from business,
and purchasing some Government or municipal office and the social
distinction which went with it. Her mother, however, had received an
excellent education, “which, joined to her natural intelligence,” says
Sophie, “rendered her in society the most amiable and interesting of
women.” She affected literary society and numbered among her friends and
acquaintances Voltaire, Fontenelle, who, a few days before his death,
called to show her the manuscript of one of the great Corneille’s
tragedies, Piron, the Comte de Caylus, Moncrif, the Abbé (afterwards the
Cardinal) de Bernis, Diderot, and d’Alembert.

So impressed was Madame Arnould by the conversation of these
celebrities, that she determined to make her little girl a prodigy of
learning. Sophie’s education began almost as soon as she was out of her
cradle. She was precocious and learned quickly. At four, she declares,
she could read; at seven she wrote better than at the time of penning
her _Mémoires_, and at the same age could read music at sight without
any difficulty. The infant prodigy was petted and spoiled to the top of
her bent, “dressed up in silk and satin, with marcasite necklace and
flowers in her hair.”

When the child was four or five years old she attracted the attention of
the Princess of Modena, wife of the Prince de Conti, from whom, however,
she was separated. Madame de Conti, lonely and bored, without husband,
lover, child, or occupation, took a violent fancy to Sophie, and begged
Madame Arnould to let her have the little girl to live with her. Madame
Arnould consented, and Sophie became the plaything of the eccentric
princess, “who dragged her about everywhere as she might have her little
dog,” now nursing her on her knee, now setting her down to the
harpsichord, now taking her visiting in her carriage, now summoning her
to her salon to amuse her guests, and anon, if she happened to be in an
ill-humour, turning her out into the ante-chamber to play with the
yawning lackeys.

No pains were spared with Sophie’s education, and the best masters of
the day were engaged to teach her all the arts and accomplishments.
Before she was twelve, she could both write and speak her own language
correctly--a rare accomplishment in those days outside literary
circles,[3] and was familiar with Latin or Italian; while she could sing
like a professional.

Her musical talents were not destined to remain long hidden. When the
time for her first communion drew near, she was placed in the Ursuline
Convent at Saint-Denis, the _supérieure_ of which was a fellow
townswoman and friend of Madame Arnould. Here she sang in the choir, and
with such astonishing success that Court and town flocked to hear her,
and Voltaire, from his retreat at Ferney, wrote to his little friend a
letter congratulating her on her twofold success as a vocalist and a
first communicant; an epistle which Madame Arnould, who did not share
the Patriarch’s views on matters of religion, promptly committed to the
fire, although the Duc de Nivernais begged for a copy on his knees. On
leaving Saint-Denis, Sophie returned to live with Madame de Conti, who,
delighted by the notice which she had attracted, provided her with the
most celebrated music-masters to be found in France: Balbatre gave her
lessons on the harpsichord, and the famous Jéliotte--Jéliotte, the pride
of the Opera!--Jéliotte, “the happy and discreet conqueror of all the
fair ladies in Paris!”--condescended to sing with her. Sophie proved
herself worthy of her teachers.

It was then the fashion, among ladies of rank, to do penance during Lent
by retiring to one of the many convents in Paris or its neighbourhood.
Some of the visitors were, of course, sincerely desirous of benefiting
by the services, the conversation of the nuns, and the opportunities for
meditation which these peaceful abodes afforded; but to the majority the
practice would appear to have been regarded merely as a kind of rest
cure. There was nothing at all austere or conventual about the life for
such as these. They rose late, walked in the gardens, dined on plain but
well-cooked food, received visits from their friends, attended a service
or two, supped, and retired early to bed; and if their souls did not
greatly benefit, the early hours and simple fare worked wonders with
their complexions. They had, too, an opportunity of listening to some
very beautiful singing; for, during Holy Week, the convents vied with
one another in engaging the finest voices of the Opera to reinforce
their choirs, and the services of such singers as Jéliotte, Chassé, and
Mlles. Fel, Chevalier, and Anna Tonelli were always in great request.

At the beginning of Holy Week 1757, Madame de Conti, who, as became an
Italian princess, was very strict in her observance of Lent, arrived at
the Abbey of Panthémont, where she found the community in a state of
consternation. The convent in question had not deemed it necessary to
enlist the services of any of the stars of the Opera, as it numbered
among its inmates a nun with an exceptionally beautiful voice. But alas!
she had suddenly been taken ill, and it was feared that it would be
impossible to replace her. Half fashionable Paris would be coming on
Holy Wednesday to hear the _Tenebræ_ sung, and there would be no one
capable of singing it. The abbess fell upon Madame de Conti’s neck and
wept tears of mortification.

The princess bade her not despair, told her of the talent of her little
_protégée_, and suggested that she should be sent for; a proposal to
which the grateful abbess readily consented.

Holy Wednesday came, and with it a great crowd of visitors. At the
beginning of the service Sophie was a little nervous, but quickly
recovered her presence of mind, and sang so divinely that her hearers
were enraptured, and some, in spite of the solemnity of the place, could
not refrain from applause. The following day there was not a vacant seat
in the church; while on Good Friday the doors were literally besieged,
and more than two hundred carriages were turned back. Those who had
succeeded in gaining admission had every reason to congratulate
themselves on their good fortune, for Sophie sang the _Miserere_ of
Lalande, and with such exquisite pathos that there was scarcely a dry
eye in the congregation.[4]

Paris was as delighted as if it had found a new fashion. All the
Faubourg Saint-Germain wended its way to the Hôtel de Conti to
congratulate the princess upon the possession of this little wonder with
her angelic voice. The Court was scarcely less interested and, finally,
the Queen, the pious Marie Leczinska, who lived in a little world of her
own and seldom troubled herself about what was happening in the one
outside, expressed a desire to see Sophie.

“On your account,” remarked Madame de Conti to the radiant girl, “her
Majesty condescends to remember my existence.” (The said Majesty did not
approve of ladies who lived apart from their husbands.) Nevertheless,
the Queen had to be obeyed, and so the princess, who was proud of her
_protégée_ and, in truth, far from displeased with so striking a tribute
to her discernment, ordered her coach and set out for Versailles.

On reaching the Château, Madame de Conti and Sophie were conducted to
Marie Leczinska’s apartments, where the Queen almost immediately joined
them. Her Majesty smiled very graciously upon the girl, and kissed her
forehead, murmuring: “She is indeed very pretty!” Then several
portfolios of music were put before her, and she was bidden to choose
what she would like to sing, and not to be afraid; a somewhat
unnecessary exhortation, since never was there a more self-possessed
young person. Sophie, quite undismayed by the presence of her royal
auditor, forthwith assailed a very difficult piece, and had scarcely
finished when the Queen, who was herself a musician of no mean
attainments, remarked to Madame de Conti: “I should like to have her,
cousin; you will give her up to me, will you not?” meaning that she
wished to make her one of her Musicians of the Chamber. Afterwards
refreshments were brought in, and the Queen, having complimented the
young singer and bestowed upon her a friendly pat with her fan, took her

But there was another Queen of France: Madame de Pompadour, to wit, who
had already expressed a wish to hear Sophie sing; a wish which could no
more be ignored than that of Marie Leczinska. On the morrow of the
interview with the Queen, Madame du Hausset, the favourite’s _femme de
chambre_, presented herself at the Hôtel de Conti, bearing a letter from
her mistress to the princess, requesting the loan of little Mlle.
Arnould till the evening.

This request caused Madame de Conti considerable embarrassment. What one
called then “_les grandes convenances_” forbade her to present Sophie to
both the crowned and the uncrowned Queen of France. On the other hand, a
refusal would mortally offend the latter, who was an extremely awkward
person to offend, as a great many people, from Princes of the Blood and
Ministers of State to ballad-mongers, had found to their cost. The poor
lady was at a loss what to do.

Finally, she sought refuge in a compromise. Sophie should go to
Versailles again, but, on this occasion, not in her patroness’s company,
but in that of her mother. So Madame Arnould was sent for and told to
take her daughter, as from Madame de Conti, to the favourite; and the
princess congratulated herself on having emerged with credit from a very
embarrassing situation.

Madame de Pompadour received her visitor very graciously, and remarked
that “mother and daughter were the very picture of one another,” after
which, saying that the King had sent for her, and that she would return
in a few minutes, she left them to themselves. In the room in which
they sat were two magnificent harpsichords, one of which had been
decorated with charming pictures by Boucher. This instrument attracted
Sophie’s attention, and, while Madame de Pompadour was absent, she
stepped up to it, ran her fingers over the keys, and began to sing. The
marchioness, returning at that moment, listened entranced to the girl’s
singing until she had finished, when she exclaimed: “My dear child, _le
bon Dieu_ has made you for the theatre; you were born, formed as one
ought to be for it: you will not tremble before the public.”

Then their hostess conducted them through her apartments, where Sophie
appears to have been particularly struck by the favourite’s sumptuous
bed, with its green and gold hangings and gold fringes, raised, like a
throne, upon a daïs, and enclosed within a semi-circular balustrade of
gold and marble, the exact counter-part, in fact, of the Queen’s own
couch. The marchioness begged her to sing again, and, delighted with her
sweet voice, smilingly inquired who were her masters; to change
countenance, however, when she heard their names, for they were the same
whom she had engaged for her idolised little daughter, Alexandrine
d’Étoiles, who had died some years before.

As Sophie and her mother were taking their leave, Madame de Pompadour
drew the latter aside, and said in a low voice: “If the Queen should ask
for your daughter for the music of the Chamber, do not have the
imprudence to consent. The King goes from time to time to these little
family concerts, and, instead of giving this child to the Queen, you
will have made a present of her to the King.” Then she turned to Sophie,
and, having examined the lines in the girl’s forehead and hand, said to
her gravely: “You will make a charming princess!”

A few days after these visits, Madame Arnould received a communication
from the Gentlemen of the Chamber to the effect that her Majesty had
deigned to admit the demoiselle Sophie Arnould into her private company
of musicians and singers, at a salary of one hundred louis; Madame
Arnould received a similar appointment, at the same salary as her

Hardly had the good lady had time to master the contents of this
document, when there came a second of a much less welcome nature. It was
a _lettre de cachet_, informing her that by the express order of the
King, the demoiselle Sophie Arnould was attached to his Majesty’s
company of musicians, and, in particular, to his theatre of the Opera.

On reading this, the poor mother burst into tears. She had no objection
to her daughter singing before the virtuous Marie Leczinska, but the
Opera was a very different matter. No young girl could hope to preserve
her virtue for long at the Académie Royale de Musique, the rules of
which emancipated its members from parental control. Rather than see her
child ruined, she resolved to consign her to a convent, and,
accordingly, hurried off to Madame de Conti to implore her assistance.

Madame de Conti promised to do all in her power to save Sophie from the
danger which threatened her, and took the girl to her friend the Abbess
of Panthémont. “I bring you,” said she, “this young girl, of whom the
Gentlemen of the Chamber wish to make an actress; a decision which does
not meet with my approval. Conceal her for me in some little corner of
your convent, until I have had an opportunity of speaking to the King.”

To which the discreet abbess replied: “Princess, salvation is possible
in every profession. I cannot bring myself to thwart the wishes of the
King, to whom I owe my abbey. Go and see the abbesses of Saint-Antoine
and Val-de-Grâce: perhaps, in this matter, they will have more courage
than myself.”

Madame de Conti tried Saint-Antoine and Val-de-Grâce; but at both she
received the same answer as at Panthémont; and was reluctantly forced to
the conclusion that further attempts in the same direction offered but
very small prospect of success.

There remained, however, another way of escape: marriage. Sophie had an
admirer--a devoted and, what was more to the point, an eligible
admirer--a certain Chevalier de Malézieux, who asked nothing better than
to give her the protection of his name. In his day, M. de Malézieux had
been a noted _vainqueur de dames_, but that day, alas! was long past,
and though he strove manfully to repair the ravages of time by the aid
of an ingenious toilette, the only result of his efforts was to give him
the appearance of a majestic ruin.

Madame de Conti had, at first, regarded this veteran dandy’s attentions
to her _protégée_ with scant favour, and, meeting the old gentleman one
day at the Arnoulds’ house, charitably related for his benefit the story
of a prince of her own family, who had imprudently contracted a marriage
at the age of eighty, and had died the same night. Still, a day or two
later, she told Sophie that she might do worse than take charge of the
chevalier and his infirmities, provided that he would agree to settle
his whole fortune upon her; and after the arrival of the _lettre de
cachet_ from Versailles, and her abortive attempts to secure the girl’s
admission to a convent, actually proposed to send for M. de Malézieux,
and have the marriage celebrated there and then.

Madame Arnould, however, did not altogether approve of such haste, while
Sophie shed tears enough to melt the heart of the sternest parent; and
the matter, therefore, remained in abeyance. Nevertheless, the
chevalier, encouraged by Madame de Conti, pressed his suit with ardour,
dyed his eyebrows, rouged his cheeks, “shaved twice a day,” and, one
fine morning, presented himself at the Arnoulds’ house, bearing the
draft of a marriage-contract, in which the whole of his property,
amounting to some 40,000 livres a year, was settled upon Sophie.

The prospect of so advantageous a settlement in life for her daughter
was a temptation greater than any self-respecting mother could be
expected to resist, and though M. Arnould declined to force the girl
into a marriage which was distasteful to her, his wife lost no
opportunity of sounding the praises of M. de Malézieux--or rather of M.
de Malézieux’s income--in Sophie’s reluctant ear. That young lady,
however, only pouted, and when her antiquated admirer strove to soften
her heart towards him by citing the example of Madame de Maintenon, who,
when a young and beautiful girl, no older than Sophie herself, had
espoused the crippled poet Scarron, replied, laughing: “I will make a
similar marriage to-morrow, on condition that my husband will begin by
being a cripple, and end by being a king.”[5]

And so poor M. de Malézieux’s contract was never signed, and no
alternative now remained for Madame Arnould but to allow Sophie to enter
the Opera, trusting that, for some time to come, her services would only
be required for the Concerts of Sacred Music which were given during
Lent. This hope, however, was not realised, for the directors of the
Opera happened to be just at that time on the look-out for some novelty
to divert the attention of their patrons from the mediocrity of the
pieces with which they had lately been provided, and, accordingly, on
December 15, 1757, the young singer was called upon to make her first
bow to the public.

It was a very modest _début_--merely the singing of an air introduced
into an opera-ballet by Mouret, entitled _Les Amours des Dieux_.[6]
Nevertheless, restricted as were the girl’s opportunities on this
occasion, she quickly became a public favourite; indeed, the eagerness
to see and hear her was so great that on the evenings on which she
appeared, the doors of the theatre were besieged, and Fréron
sarcastically observed that “he doubted whether people would give
themselves so much trouble to enter Paradise.”

“Mlle. Arnould,” says the _Mercure de France_ of the following January,
which was but the feeble echo of the enthusiasm of the public,
“continues her _début_ in _Les Amours des Dieux_, with great and
well-deserved success. She attracts the public to such an extent that
the Thursday has become the most brilliant day at the Opera, altogether
effacing the Friday. The second air which she sings affords her more
scope for the display of her talent than the first. She possesses at
once a charming face, a beautiful voice, and warmth of sentiment. She
is full of expression and of soul. Her voice is not only tender, but
passionate. In a word, she has received all the gifts of Nature, and, in
order to perfect them, she receives all the resources of Art.”

At the beginning of the New Year, Sophie appeared in a second piece,
called _La Provençale_, in which she confirmed the favourable impression
she had created in _Les Amours des Dieux_. “Mlle. Arnould,” says the
_Mercure_, “sang the _Provençale_ with the ingenuous charm of her age.
In this rôle she had only one important song. It is the monologue (‘_Mer
paisible_’...), into which she threw all the expression that it
demanded. The crowded houses which have followed it up to Lent are
proofs of the pleasure which she gives the public.”

In the following April the young actress reaped the reward of her
success by receiving her first important part, that of Venus in _Énée et
Lavinie_, a tragic opera in five acts by Fontenelle, music by
Dauvergne.[7] The confidence reposed in her was not misplaced, and she
received as much applause as she had previously obtained in ariettas and
pastorals. Such was her success indeed that she was speedily promoted to
the principal rôle, and the admiring critic of the _Mercure_, who had
already spoken in high terms of the new singer’s rendering of Venus,
consecrated to her the following article:

“On Tuesday, April 13, Mlle. Arnould played the rôle of Lavinie for the
first time. Her success was complete. The tragic indeed seems to be the
_genre_ most suited to her. It is, at any rate, that in which she has
appeared to most advantage. Her gestures are noble without arrogance and
expressive without grimaces. Her acting is vivacious and animated, and
yet never departs from the natural. This excellent actress has already
partially corrected herself of a kind of slowness, which is only
suitable to the arietta. Bad examples had led her astray. We invite her
to pay heed to no one but herself, if she wishes to approach nearer and
nearer to perfection.”

“So great a success renders it almost needless for us to observe that
Mlle. Arnould has retained this rôle; that she has brought back the
public to the Opera; finally, that she has adorned _Énée et Lavinie_
with an appearance of novelty.”

Some months later the _Mercure_ returns to the subject of _Énée et
Lavinie_, and observes that Mlle. Arnould played the latter part “with
that intelligence, that dignity, those natural and touching graces which
enchant the public.” “Happily,” continues the critic, “she has depended
upon her own impulses before allowing herself to be intimidated by all
the little prejudices of the art. Model as a _débutante_, she reanimates
the lyric stage and appears to communicate her soul to those who have
the modesty and the talent to imitate her.”

Towards the end of June of that year, Sophie created a trio of small
parts in an opera-ballet in three acts, entitled _Les Fêtes de
Paphos_.[8] Collé, that most exacting of critics, is very severe on
this piece, but, at the same time, has nothing but praise for Sophie,
who appears to have covered herself with glory. “At the first
representation,” he writes, “the music of this ballet was thought
pitiable, and it would not have survived six, if it had not been for a
young actress who made her first appearance this winter, and who, in
four months, has become the queen of the theatre. Never have I seen
combined in the same actress more grace, more truth of sentiment,
dignity of expression, intelligence, and fire. Never have I seen grief
more charmingly expressed. She can depict the deepest horror without her
countenance losing one feature of its beauty. She would be twice as
great an actress as Mlle. Le Maure,[9] if she only possessed two-thirds
of her voice, and Mlle. Le Maure will always be regarded as a great
artiste. I speak of Mlle. Sophie Arnould, who is not yet nineteen years

The voice of Sophie Arnould was very far from being a powerful one.
“Nature,” she says in her _Mémoires_, “had seconded this taste [the
taste for music] with a tolerably agreeable voice, weak but sonorous,
though not extremely so. But it was sound and well-balanced, so that,
with a clear pronunciation and without any defect save a slight lisp,
which could hardly be considered a fault, not a word of what I sang was
lost, even in the most spacious buildings.”

She might have added, without fear of contradiction, that her voice was
infinitely sweet and that she possessed the gift of imparting to it
wonderful pathos and expression. “She brought to harmony, emotion, to
the song, compassion, to the play of the voice, sentiment. She charmed
the ear and touched the heart. All the domain of the tender drama, all
the graces of terror, were hers. She possessed the cry, and the tears,
and the sigh, and the caresses of the pathetic.... What art, what
genius, must there have been to wrest so many harmonies from a
contemptible voice, a feeble throat.”[11]

Another important factor in Sophie’s success is to be found in the fact
that she was not only a great singer, but an accomplished actress, which
great singers rarely are. When Madame Arnould had found that she had no
alternative but to allow her daughter to enter the Opera, she had, like
a sensible woman, decided that, since to the Opera Sophie must go,
nothing which could possibly make for her success in her profession
should be neglected, and had sent her to take lessons in singing from
Mlle. Fel, and in acting from Mlle. Clairon. The girl had not failed to
benefit by the teaching of the famous _tragédienne_, and her command of
facial expression and the dignity and grace of her movements would have
reflected credit on a veteran member of the Comédie-Française, while for
a _débutante_ of the lyric stage they were little short of

And yet, with all her vocal and histrionic talents, it may be doubted
whether Sophie would so speedily have attained the dazzling position in
the estimation of both the public and the critics which was now hers,
had she not been fortunate enough to possess physical attractions of a
high order. If we are to judge of her appearance solely by her portraits
by La Tour and Greuze, she must have been a very pretty woman. In the
former, which the excellent engraving by Bourgeois de la Richardière has
helped to popularise, Sophie is depicted at the moment when she is about
to sing. Her lips are parted; her eyes, fine and full of expression, and
surmounted by arched eyebrows, are turned imploringly heavenward; while
her face, which is oval in shape, with small and regular features, wears
a look at once charming and pathetic. In the Greuze portrait--now in the
Wallace Collection at Hertford House--the actress is dressed in white,
with a large black hat decorated with a white plume. Her elbow rests on
a chair, her chin on the back of her hand; her expression is nonchalant
and slightly _ennuyé_.

These portraits, as we have already remarked, are those of a very pretty
woman; but it should be added that the pen-portraits which some of her
contemporaries have left of Sophie are not altogether in accord with the
crayon of La Tour or the brush of Greuze--nor yet with the description
which the lady gives us of her own charms[12]--and we are, therefore,
inclined to think that both artists have rather idealised their subject,
a practice not uncommon with portrait-painters in the eighteenth
century or, for that matter, in much later times. Collé and Grimm, it is
true, both speak of Sophie as beautiful, though without condescending to
particulars; but, on the other hand, Madame Vigée Lebrun asserts that
the beauty of her face was spoiled by her mouth, while one of the
inspectors of the Lieutenant of Police describes her skin as “black and
dry.” That curious work _L’Espion anglais_ confirms the artist and the
inspector: “To tell the truth, there is nothing remarkable about her;
her face is long and thin; she has a villainously ugly mouth, prominent
teeth, standing out from the gums, and a black and greasy skin.” The
writer adds, however, that she possessed “two fine eyes,” a feature
which also impressed Madame Lebrun, who says that they gave their owner
“a piquant look,” and were “indicative of the wit which had made her

But two fine eyes, as one of her biographers very justly observes, count
for much, especially when animated by the intelligence, the feeling, and
the passion which belonged to Sophie; and no sooner did she appear upon
the stage than a host of _soupirants_ gathered about her. For some
months, however, they sighed in vain. The guardian of the Golden Fleece
was not more vigilant or more awe-inspiring than Madame Arnould. Every
evening she escorted her daughter to the theatre, remained in her
dressing-room while the mysteries of her toilette were being performed,
accompanied her to the corner of the stage, and then waited in the wings
until the young actress made her exit, when she again took charge of
her. She seemed to have as many eyes as Argus himself. If an admirer
bolder than the rest ventured to approach Sophie, before he had uttered
half a dozen words down would swoop the watchful mother, with a
freezing: “_Allons! laissez la petite en repos, s’il vous plait,
Monsieur!_” before which the luckless gallant fled incontinently. If a
_poulet_ were despatched, it was invariably intercepted and returned to
the sender, with a message which made him feel supremely foolish. “She
is not a woman at all,” exclaimed the indignant Duc de Fronsac, after
one of these rebuffs; “she is a veritable watch-dog!”

But even the most intelligent of watch-dogs cannot always discriminate
between friend and foe. The danger came from a quarter whence the poor
mother least expected it. She herself admitted the wolf into the

For some time past, matters had not gone well with the Arnoulds; M.
Arnould had become involved in some disastrous speculations, which had
swallowed up the greater part of his fortune, and a long and serious
illness had made further inroads upon his resources. Accordingly, about
the time that Sophie made her _début_ at the Opera, he removed from the
Rue du Louvre to the Hôtel de Lisieux, Rue
Fossés-Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, and converted his new residence into
an inn, where “persons from the provinces were accommodated at thirty
sols a night.”[13] To this inn there came, one fine day in the spring of
1758, a handsome young man of about five and twenty, who informed the
Arnoulds that his name was Dorval, that he was an artist by profession,
and that he had just arrived from Normandy, to study painting and get a
play produced. M. Dorval was a model guest. He never grumbled about his
food or his wine, never questioned the amount of his bills, never
returned home with an unsteady gait or accompanied by undesirable
acquaintances, as did so many young provincials who aspired to imitate
the vices of the fine gentlemen of the capital. And then he was so
ingenuous, so friendly, and had such charming manners. He knew nothing
of the ways of Paris, he said, but, _morbleu!_ he had heard that it was
a terribly wicked place and full of snares and pitfalls for unwary
youth. Would M. Arnould do him the favour of taking care of his purse?
Would Madame have the complaisance to do the same for his lace? Ah! it
was indeed a fortunate hour which had led him to the Hôtel de Lisieux!

The good people might have thought it a little singular that a young man
with so well-filled a purse and such fine lace should have selected so
unpretentious a hostelry as theirs for a lengthy stay; also that,
although he never looked askance at the menus of the Hôtel de Lisieux,
he was constantly receiving hampers containing fish, game, truffles, and
choice wines, which, he said, came from his fond parents in Normandy,
and begged his hosts and their daughter to share with him. But M. Dorval
quite disarmed suspicion--if any existed--by reading the letters he
received from home to the sympathetic Madame Arnould, and, besides,
innkeepers have more important matters requiring their attention than
the investigation of the private affairs of their guests, particularly
those who give no trouble, pay regularly, and are so agreeable and
open-handed as was this young Norman.

M. Dorval overwhelmed Madame Arnould with attention; he had literary
tastes, and recognised in her a kindred soul. To Sophie he was also
attentive, though not more so than good-breeding required. In a short
time he had become quite a friend of the family, dining and supping
with them, escorting the ladies to the Opera and home again at the
conclusion of the performance, and spending the rest of the evening in
their company. One night, after playing a couple of games of backgammon
with M. Arnould, Dorval pleaded an insupportable headache and retired to
his modest apartment. Soon afterwards a man in a lackey’s livery entered
the house by means of a false key, knocked at his door, and informed him
that all was ready. Dorval emerged from his room, and was joined by
Sophie. The pair crept noiselessly down the stairs, across the courtyard
and into the street, at the corner of which a coach was awaiting them.
Dorval helped the girl in and took his seat beside her; the driver
cracked his whip; the coach rolled away. Sophie was carried off!

Terrible was the consternation at the Hôtel de Lisieux the following
morning. Madame Arnould was like one distraught; M. Arnould, who had not
yet fully recovered from his recent illness, had a serious relapse. As
for the Chevalier de Malézieux, when the news was communicated to him he
took to his bed and never left it again, dying of grief--or, perhaps, of
wounded vanity. In Paris, nothing else was talked of but the elopement
of the queen of the Opera, and many were the wagers made about the
identity of the fortunate individual who had borne away the coveted
prize. All uncertainty was soon at an end. Two days later a letter was
brought to the Hôtel de Lisieux, signed Louis, Comte de
Brancas-Lauraguais, in which the writer offered his apologies to M. and
Madame Arnould for the deception he had been obliged to practise upon
them, and concluded by a formal promise to espouse their daughter--if he
should ever become a widower!

Madame Arnould dried her tears; M. Arnould’s illness took a favourable
turn. Since Sophie had been carried off, it was at least some
consolation to learn that her abductor was a man of rank and wealth, and
not a mere middle-class libertine; one, too, who, without doubt, was
only prevented from giving his name and all that went with it to the
object of his affection by the unfortunate circumstance that he was
already provided with a wife. The worthy pair quite forgot their
disgrace as they thought of the brilliant future which awaited their
daughter, when the earth should have closed over poor, delicate Madame
de Lauraguais--she lived till 1793, and her career was ended by the
guillotine--and the count’s father, the old Duc de Lauraguais, should
have gone the way of all flesh. Why, if the Fates were kind, ere many
months had passed Sophie might be a countess--nay, a duchess! And so
when, in due course, the prodigal daughter came, in a magnificent coach,
to pay a visit of courtesy to her parents, she found, instead of tears
and reproaches, caresses and pardon. Such was the moral code of the year
of grace 1758!

       *       *       *       *       *

Louis Léon Félicité de Brancas, Comte de Lauraguais, the first lover of
Sophie Arnould, was a singular creature. “He has all possible talents
and all possible eccentricities,” wrote Voltaire, while Collé describes
him as “the most serious fool in the kingdom.” His conceit was
stupendous, his extravagance unbounded, his energy and versatility truly
astonishing; he dabbled in everything and confidently believed that he
excelled in whatever he might choose to undertake. Now he was composing
tragedies intended to eclipse the masterpieces of Corneille and Racine;
now making experiments in chemistry or anatomy which were to completely
revolutionise those sciences; anon writing treatises in favour of
inoculation, or endeavouring to bring about reforms in the theatre,[14]
or riding in horse-races.[15] The violence with which he advocated his
own views and his unsparing denunciations of all who ventured to differ
from him, no matter how highly placed they might be, were perpetually
bringing him into collision with the authorities, and he was several
times exiled or imprisoned, only to resume his eccentric career the
moment his punishment was at an end. The stories about him are

On one occasion he wrote a comedy, entitled _La Cour du Roi Pétaud_, and
coaxed his unsuspecting father to persuade the Comte de Saint-Florentin,
the Minister of the King’s Household, to direct the Comédie-Italienne to
produce it. The order was on the point of being sent, when one of
Saint-Florentin’s secretaries, happening to glance through the play,
discovered, to his horror, that it was nothing less than a clever and
biting satire on certain idiosyncrasies of his Most Christian Majesty
Louis XV. himself, which, had it been represented, would most certainly
have entailed banishment or the Bastille on all concerned in its

On another, he appeared, at four o’clock in the morning, at the lodging
of two poor but talented young chemists, hustled them into a coach which
was in waiting, and carried them off to Sèvres, where he had a little
house, in which he was in the habit of conducting his chemical
experiments. Leading his companions to the laboratory, he addressed them
as follows: “Messieurs, I wish you to make certain experiments; you will
not leave this house until they are completed. Adieu; I shall return a
week hence; you will find here everything you require; the servants have
orders to attend to your wants; set to work.” So saying, he locked them
in and went away. When he returned, the young chemists communicated to
him the result of their labours, a discovery of some little importance,
upon which he offered them a sum of money if they would agree to
surrender to him the credit of having made it. “You,” said he, “have
genius, and you want money. I have money, and I want genius. Let us
strike a bargain. You shall have clothes to wear, and the glory shall be
mine.” The young chemists consented, and Lauraguais went about boasting
everywhere of the discovery he had made; and such, says Diderot, who
tells the story, was his conceit that he soon succeeded in persuading
himself that it was he to whom the credit really belonged, and that the
young men had done nothing, except render him some merely mechanical

A third story of this extraordinary man is even more amusing than the
preceding one. He appears to have had a theory that it would be possible
for a person to support life entirely on a diet of forced fruit,
provided that they were kept in the same temperature as was required for
the production of what they consumed. He, therefore, persuaded one of
his mistresses to allow herself to be shut up in a green-house and fed
upon grapes, pine-apples, and so forth. This regimen, as may be
supposed, did not agree with the lady, who soon declared that she was
starving. “Ungrateful girl!” exclaimed the disgusted count. “Can you
complain of not having sufficient to eat--a trivial matter at
best--while you are thus abundantly supplied with the luxuries that
every one longs for?”

So eccentric a character as Lauraguais was hardly calculated to make any
woman happy, whether wife or mistress, and Sophie declared long
afterwards that the count “had given her two million kisses and caused
her to shed four million tears.” Nevertheless, the _liaison_ was a
tolerably long one, and, for the first three years, in the course of
which the actress presented her lover with two children, we are assured
that they were a most affectionate couple. By the police-reports of the
time, Sophie is represented as an extravagant, grasping and avaricious
woman, who cared for the count only so long as he was able and willing
to gratify her innumerable caprices. Extravagant she no doubt was, but
in regard to the other and graver charge, she would appear to have been
maligned, that is to say, if we are to place any reliance in the
following anecdote related by Diderot:

“For some days past a rumour has been current that Mlle. Arnould is
dead, but it requires confirmation. In the meanwhile, the Abbé Raynal
has made me her funeral oration, by relating to me some fragments of a
conversation which passed between her and Madame Portail [the wife of a
president of the Parliament of Paris], in which, it appears, the latter
played the part of a wanton, and the little actress that of an honest

“‘Is it possible, Mademoiselle, that you have no diamonds?’

“‘No, Madame, nor do I think them necessary for a little _bourgeoise_ of
the Rue du Four.’

“‘Then, I presume, you have an allowance?’

“‘An allowance! Why should I have that, Madame? M. de Lauraguais has a
wife, children, a position to maintain, and I do not see that I could
honourably accept the smallest part of a fortune which legitimately
belongs to others.’

“‘Oh, _par ma foi_! If I were in your place, I should leave him.’

“‘That may be, but he likes me, and I like him. It may have been
imprudent to take him, but, since I have done so, I shall keep him.’

“I do not recollect the remainder of the conversation, but I have an
idea that it was as dishonourable on the part of the president’s wife as
honourable on the part of the actress.”[18]

If Lauraguais really was so generous a protector as the police-reports
and those writers who accept them would have us believe, it is certainly
rather surprising to find on November 13, 1759, when the count’s passion
for his mistress was undoubtedly at a very high temperature, the sieur
Jean Baptiste Delamarre, tipstaff to the Châtelet de Paris, acting on
behalf of the sieur Jean Baptiste Desper, perruquier, requiring the
attendance of a commissary of police to witness an execution upon the
goods of the demoiselle Madeleine Sophie Arnould, residing on the first
floor of a house in the Rue de Richelieu. The said demoiselle, it
appeared, had, twelve months before, taken the apartment in question, on
a lease for three, six, or nine years, at an annual rental of 2400
livres; but the perruquier had not as yet seen any part of that sum. The
goods seized were left in the charge of one Chevalier, fruiterer of the
Rue Traversière, parish of Saint-Roch, from whom, we may presume, Sophie
or Lauraguais subsequently redeemed them.[19]

       *       *       *       *       *

After her elopement with the Comte de Lauraguais, Sophie became more
than ever the idol of the public, and, for the next few years, might
without exaggeration have parodied the famous _mot_ of _le Grand
Monarque_ and exclaimed: “_L’Opéra, c’est moi!_” Never, declared both
public and critics, had the heroines of lyrical tragedy: the Psychés,
the Proserpines, the Thisbés, the Iphises, and the Cléopâtres, found so
worthy a representative, and, no matter how insipid the opera which
related the story of their woes might happen to be, the young singer was
always sure of an enthusiastic reception. The patrons of the
Palais-Royal seemed indeed as if they could not have enough of her; the
directors, who owed to her popularity their increased receipts, were at
her feet; every one adored her, or pretended to do so, and every one
trembled before her epigrams.

For side by side with her reputation as a singer and actress, Sophie was
building up another reputation, and one which was to endure long after
her stage triumphs had been forgotten: that of a _diseur de bons mots_,
and of _bons mots_ of a peculiarly caustic kind. Few indeed were the
wits of her time--and they were plentiful enough in the eighteenth
century--who cared to cross swords with her, and such was the dread
which her sharp tongue inspired that people imagined they detected a
sarcasm lurking even in her most innocent remark, as the following
incident will show.

It was the custom of the Royal Family of France to dine in public (_au
grand couvert_) on certain days of the week, and any respectably dressed
person was permitted to view his Most Christian King partaking of his
soup or his venison. In the days of Louis XIV., who, if his
sister-in-law, the Princess Palatine, is to be believed, was in the
habit of disposing at a single meal of as much as would suffice an
ordinary person for at least three,[20] a dinner _au grand couvert_ must
have been a spectacle worth going a long way to see; but as “the
Well-Beloved” had no pretensions to emulate the gastronomic feats of his
predecessor, the ceremony was now shorn of much of its former interest.
Sophie, who had never yet enjoyed a near view of her sovereign,
expressed one day a desire to attend one of these dinners, and a noble
admirer, accordingly, conducted her to Versailles and into the Salon de
Grand Couvert, where he placed her exactly opposite the King. His
Majesty was in the act of raising his glass to his lips when he caught
her eye. At the same moment Sophie remarked, half-involuntarily, to her
companion: “The King drinks!” Louis, who had heard much of the young
lady’s biting wit, was apparently under the impression that these simple
words were intended as a covert jest at his expense, and became so
embarrassed that every one present noticed it. Finally, he motioned to
Sophie to withdraw, which she did, reflecting that a reputation as a wit
sometimes has its drawbacks.

To appreciate the witticisms of Sophie Arnould as they deserve, they
must be read in the language in which they were uttered, for, when
translated, the point of many of them--plays upon names and so forth--is
lost. Not a few, too, of her most pungent sayings will scarcely bear
reproduction in a modern work, for her wit was essentially the wit of
the _coulisses_, whose frequenters were seldom at any pains to curb
their tongues, even in the presence of the highest in the land.
Fortunately, however, there still remain a considerable number of _mots_
which may be rendered into English with tolerable fidelity and without
injuring the susceptibilities of even the most fastidious of readers.

Sophie was an inveterate punster, a form of wit more appreciated in the
eighteenth century than it is to-day. Here is one, however, which most
of us will find it hard not to forgive.

The Duc de Bouillon became so enamoured of the charms of a young singer
named Mlle. Laguerre that, in the course of three months, he was
reported to have squandered upon her no less a sum than 800,000 livres.
This prodigality greatly exasperated the creditors of the duke, who
complained to the King himself, with the result that the infatuated
nobleman received orders to retire to his country-seat. A few days
later, some one, meeting Sophie, happened to inquire after the health of
Mlle. Laguerre. “I do not know how she is at present,” was the reply;
“but for the last month the poor child has been living entirely on soup

This same Mlle. Laguerre created the principal rôle in Piccini’s
_Iphigénie en Tauride_, produced on January 22, 1781. At the first
performance she sang admirably and contributed largely to the
enthusiastic reception it received; but on the second evening her
efforts were but too obviously inspired by wine. “_Mon Dieu!_” exclaimed
Sophie. “This is not Iphigenia in Tauris; it is Iphigenia in Champagne!”

Mlle. Laguerre was only one among many of Sophie’s colleagues to suffer
from the sharpness of that lady’s tongue. She was particularly severe
upon the famous _danseuse_ Mlle. Guimard, the subject of our next
sketch, whose many wealthy conquests would appear to have excited her
jealousy. Mlle. Guimard, though the very embodiment of grace and
elegance upon the stage, was slender almost to attenuation, and Sophie
dubbed her “_la squelette des Grâces_.” Seeing her one evening
performing a _pas de trois_ with two male dancers, she declared that it
put her in mind of a couple of dogs quarrelling over a bone. On another
occasion, when the _danseuse’s_ well-known _liaison_ with Jarente,
Bishop of Orléans, the holder of the _feuille_ of benefices, happened to
be the subject of conversation, she remarked: “I cannot conceive why
that little silk-worm is so thin; she lives upon such a good leaf

Another butt of her sarcasm was Mlle. Beaumesnil, who, after gallantries
innumerable, married a singer of the Opera, named Belcourt. By that time
her charms were on the wane, and, making a virtue of necessity, she
became a model wife. One day, some one speaking of her early career,
observed that she had then been like a weather-cock, veering round to a
new lover every day. “Just so,” answered Sophie, “and very like a
weather-cock in this also, that she did not become fixed till she was

But Sophie was very far from confining her witticism to her comrades of
the Opera; no one was safe from her shafts. When the intriguing old Duc
de la Vauguyon, the Dauphin’s governor, who had done his best to sow
dissension between that prince and Marie Antoinette, died, he was
regretted by no one. The day after his death, the opera of _Castor et
Pollux_ was played. In this piece there was a ballet of devils, which on
this particular evening went all wrong, whereupon Sophie observed that
the devils were so much upset by M. de la Vauguyon’s arrival among them
that their heads were turned.

M. de Boynes, who succeeded the Duc de Choiseul-Praslin as Minister of
Marine, in 1760, was an honest and well-meaning man, but entirely
ignorant of the duties of that important post. One evening he appeared
at the Opera, where the scene on the stage represented a ship on a
stormy sea. “Oh, how fortunate!” exclaimed Sophie. “He has come here to
get some idea of the Navy.”

Better perhaps was her remark about the Abbé Terrai, the detested
Comptroller-General of Finance, whose expedients for raising money
excited so much indignation in the last years of Louis XV. The abbé, who
suffered from a defective circulation, was seen, one bitter winter’s
day, with his hands hidden in a huge muff. “What need has he of a muff?”
asked the actress. “Are not his hands always in our pockets?”

The Ministers, indeed, seem to have been very favourite objects of
Sophie’s sarcasm. On being shown a snuff-box, with the head of the Duc
de Choiseul on one side, and that of Sully, the great Minister of Henri
IV. on the other, she exclaimed: “_Tiens!_ they have put the receipts
and the expenses together.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The _liaison_ between Sophie and the Comte de Lauraguais was, as might
be expected, from the singular character of the latter, not untroubled
by storms. The count, though honestly attached to his mistress, was
jealous, suspicious, headstrong, and passionate, always full of some new
and frequently wild project or other, with which he expected her to
sympathise, while the slightest opposition to his wishes was sufficient
to throw him into such paroxysms of rage that it was dangerous to
approach him.[21] At times, he led poor Sophie a terrible life, and over
and over again she was on the point of leaving him. At last, in the
autumn of 1761, after their irregular union had lasted about three
years, it came temporarily to a close.

Lauraguais had written a tragedy on the not very novel subject of
Iphigenia in Tauris.[22] He had dedicated it to Voltaire, and, so soon
as it was completed, set out for Ferney, to read it to the Patriarch. It
would appear that, for some time past, the count’s vagaries had been
more than usually difficult to endure--possibly the labours of
composition had not been without their effect upon his temper. Any way,
Sophie resolved to profit by this moment of liberty, and no sooner had
her tyrannical lover left Paris, than she ordered her coach--a present
from the absent Lauraguais--threw into it pell-mell everything portable
that she had ever received from him: jewellery, plate, lace, porcelain,
and so forth, placed the two children whom she had borne him on the top,
and despatched the whole cargo to the Hôtel de Lauraguais, Rue de Lille,
with a note for Madame de Lauraguais, in which she stated that “having
resolved to recover her freedom, she did not wish to retain anything
which might serve to remind her of her unhappy love-affair.”[23] Madame
de Lauraguais, who was a good and long-suffering woman, accepted the
children, “regretting very much that they were not her own,” but sent
back the coach and the rest of its contents.

At the same time, Sophie wrote to Ferney the following letter:

“_Monsieur, mon cher ami_,--You have written a very fine tragedy, so
fine that I can no more understand it than your other proceedings. You
have gone to Geneva, to receive a crown of the laurels of Parnassus from
the hands of M. de Voltaire, leaving me alone and abandoned to myself. I
profit by my liberty, that liberty so precious to philosophers, to leave
you. Do not take it ill that I am weary of living with a madman who
dissected his coachman, and who wished to act as my _accoucheur_, with
the intention of dissecting me also. Allow me, therefore, to remove
myself out of reach of your philosophic bistoury.”[24]

When the Comte de Lauraguais received the aforegoing epistle he was so
overcome that he clutched his valet by the shoulder, exclaiming:
“Support me, Fabien; this blow is more than I can bear!” Then, bidding a
hasty adieu to Voltaire, he posted off to Paris and tried, by promises,
threats, and every means he could think of, to induce his mistress to
return to him. All his efforts were, however, fruitless, and soon
afterwards Sophie placed the _comble_ upon his misery by “coming to an
arrangement” with M. Bertin, a wealthy financier.[25]

The gallantry of the eighteenth century, it should be understood, had
its etiquette, which was strictly observed by all who wished to be
thought men of honour. Before even approaching Sophie on the matter, M.
Bertin wrote to the Comte de Lauraguais, to inform him that, having been
given to understand that all was at end between the count and Mlle.
Arnould, he proposed to take the lady in question under his protection,
if she were willing to honour him by accepting it. Sophie consented, on
certain conditions; Lauraguais sorrowfully withdrew, and M. Bertin gave
a supper-party, at which he formally presented Mlle. Arnould to his

M. Bertin was not only rich and generous, but easy-going, good-tempered,
and practical; in fact, the very antithesis of his erratic predecessor.
He had lately been cruelly deceived by Mlle. Hus, a star of the
Comédie-Française, his admiration for whom is said to have cost him
something like a million livres, and his heart positively yearned for
sympathy and affection. But alas! Sophie had none to give him. It was in
vain that he paid her debts; that he provided a handsome dowry for one
of her sisters; that he commissioned a celebrated coachbuilder of the
singular name of Antechrist to construct for her an equipage which was
the envy and admiration of all the ladies in Paris; that he loaded her
with diamonds. The actress soon decided that poor M. Bertin was dull,
wearisome, altogether insupportable, and began to look about for fresh

She had not far to look. So soon as it was known that the adorable Mlle.
Arnould was no longer inaccessible, all the admirers whom the jealous
transports of Lauraguais had kept at a respectful distance flocked
around her, and Sophie, having broken with the man who had possessed her
heart, threw scruples to the winds, and bestowed her favours upon
several gallants, varying in social position--or, at least, so M. de
Sartines’s inspectors reported--from the Prince de Conti to a handsome
young _friseur_, who called daily to dress the lady’s hair.

But, in spite of these “_passades_” and the lavish generosity wherewith
her titular protector sought to gain her affections, love for Lauraguais
still smouldered in Sophie’s breast, and, at the beginning of the
following year, only a few days after the enamoured M. Bertin had
bestowed upon her the sum of 12,000 livres, by way of a New Year’s gift,
all Paris was astonished to hear that she had thrown over the financier
and returned to the count.

At first, the public was inclined to applaud what it was pleased to
consider the rare disinterestedness of the lady in preferring a
comparatively poor admirer to an exceptionally wealthy one. But when it
became known that poor Bertin’s brief reign had cost him over 100,000
livres, exclusive of the New Year’s gift mentioned above, it veered
round, and Bachaumont reports that the general impression was that the
financier had been very hardly treated. He himself expresses the opinion
that the favoured lover was in honour bound to indemnify the abandoned
one for the very large sums he had expended on the capricious Sophie,
and that, as this had not been done, Mlle. Arnould must be held to have
gained the affection of tender and susceptible hearts on false
pretences, and must therefore--morally at least--“be relegated to the
crowd of women from whom she had been drawn.”[26]

It is only fair to Lauraguais to say that, very soon after this was
written, he gave the lie to the rumour that Sophie’s _liaison_ with
Bertin had been nothing but an ingenious speculation on the part of that
lady, by refunding to his discomfited rival all that he had disbursed on
her behalf, so that, in the end, the financier “lost nothing except the
most charming woman in Paris.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The second stage of the liaison between Sophie and Lauraguais was not
less stormy than the first; in fact, it might quite as appropriately be
called a renewal of hostilities as a renewal of love. A week or two of
bliss, and then their quarrels recommenced, more frequent and more
violent than before. After what had passed, the count felt that he had
the right to be suspicious, and he took the fullest advantage of it.
Almost every day there were angry accusations, indignant denials, bitter
reproaches, and floods of tears, followed by apologies, vows of
amendment, and reconciliation. Never was there a more singular pair of
lovers. They seem to have been perpetually separating and coming
together again, for, though life with one another was intolerable, they
were even more unhappy apart; while if any misfortune happened to befall
either of them, however strained their relations at the time might be,
all grievances were straightway forgotten. An instance of this occurred
towards the end of the following year.

The practice of inoculation for the small-pox, which had been introduced
into England by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu early in the eighteenth
century, had hitherto made but little progress in France,
notwithstanding the fact that it had had several distinguished
advocates, including Voltaire and Jean Jacques Rousseau. Towards the
year 1763, however, a strong movement in its favour took place, in
consequence of which the Parliament of Paris, on the requisition of the
Advocate-General, Joly de Fleury, passed a decree prohibiting
inoculation until the Faculties of Medicine and Theology should have
pronounced a definite opinion on the subject.

The decree roused the indignation of Lauraguais, who was one of the
warmest supporters of the innovation, and his indignation vented itself
in a _Mémoire sur l’inoculation_, wherein M. Joly de Fleury was very
roughly handled. This memoir he read before the Académie des Sciences,
of which he was a member, and demanded permission to print it. The
Academy at first demurred, but ultimately gave its consent, on the
understanding that the references to the Advocate-General should be
expunged. Apparently this condition was not observed, for the
publication of the memoir was followed by an acrimonious correspondence,
ending with a _lettre de cachet_, which directed that M. le Comte de
Lauraguais should be conveyed to Metz and imprisoned in the citadel
during his Majesty’s pleasure.[27]

On learning of the arrest of her lover, Sophie was in despair. She
closed her salon and put on mourning. The few friends who were permitted
to intrude upon her sorrow found her dissolved in tears, and went about
declaring that nothing so pathetic had ever been seen before. The Abbé
de Voisenon wrote to the imprisoned count, describing in touching
language the actress’s grief, and felicitating him on having found a
faithful mistress at the Opera; a piece of good fortune, said the abbé,
so remarkable that it ought to go far to console him for his captivity:

    “Ne te plains pas de ton malheur,
     Du cœur de La Vallière il te fournit la preuve,
     On assure qu’Arnould se souvient d’être veuve
     Et que de sa constance elle fait son bonheur.”

Lauraguais’s family and friends did everything in their power to procure
his release; but both Louis XV. and Choiseul had come to regard that
nobleman as a public nuisance, and turned a deaf ear to their appeals.
And so the count remained for some four months at Metz, and might have
remained a good deal longer, had not a fortunate chance enabled Sophie
to intervene on his behalf.

On November 2, the opera of _Dardanus_ was played before the Court, at
Fontainebleau, Sophie taking the part of the heroine Iphise, one of her
most successful impersonations. On this occasion she appears to have
surpassed herself, and even the bored King was moved to something like
admiration. Profiting by the impression she had created, without waiting
to doff the robes of Iphise, she begged for a few minutes’ conversation
with the Duc de Choiseul, and, throwing herself at his feet, besought
him to release her lover. “The heart of the gallant and all-powerful
Minister was touched, and he had not the courage to refuse to this
beautiful and tearful Iphise the return of her Dardanus.”[28]

Lauraguais returned more infatuated than ever. Gratitude had redoubled
his love for his mistress; never had she appeared to him more adorable.
Declaring that it was his intention to consecrate to her alone the
liberty which he owed to her, he installed himself at Sophie’s house, as
in the early days of their _liaison_, and refused even to see his
unfortunate wife, whom he unjustly suspected of having been a trifle
lukewarm in her efforts to obtain his release. This was a little too
much for the endurance even of that long-suffering lady, and, soon
afterwards, she sought and obtained a judicial separation.

His few months’ imprisonment at Metz would appear to have exercised a
chastening effect upon the volatile count, as, for the next three or
four years, though quarrels were still of frequent occurrence, there was
no open rupture between the lovers. During this period, two more
children were born to them: a son, Antoine Constant, who subsequently
entered the army, rose to be colonel of a regiment of cuirassiers, and
was killed at the battle of Wagram; and a daughter, Alexandrine Sophie,
of whom we shall have something to say later on.

Perhaps the comparative harmony which now reigned between this singular
pair was the result of a tacit understanding that they should forgive
and forget. At any rate, they were very far from being all in all to one
another during these years. Some doubt seems to have existed as to
whether Alexandrine Sophie, born March 7, 1767, had not the right to
claim an even more illustrious descent than that of the Brancas; for,
though M. de Lauraguais recognised the child as his, the assiduous
attentions paid by the Prince de Conti to her mother rendered it quite
possible that she had royal blood in her veins. On his side, the count
indulged in several “_passades_,” one of which, with a certain Mlle.
Robbi, a colleague of Sophie, threatened to develop into a more
permanent connection. Finally, in the spring of 1768, the union was
again dissolved, Lauraguais being, on this occasion, the one to sever
the knot.

On February 26 of that year, a young German _danseuse_, Mlle. Heinel by
name, who had already achieved a reputation in Vienna, made her
appearance at the Opera, and created a great sensation. “Mlle. Heinel,”
says Grimm, “afflicted with seventeen or eighteen years, two large,
expressive eyes, and two well-shaped legs, which support a very pretty
face and figure, has arrived from Vienna and made her _début_ at the
Opera in the _danse noble_. She displays a precision, a sureness, an
aplomb, and a dignity of bearing comparable to the great Vestris. The
connoisseurs of dancing pretend that, in two or three years, Mlle.
Heinel will be the first _danseuse_ in Europe, and the connoisseurs of
charms are disputing the glory of ruining themselves for her.”[29]

In a letter written some months later, Grimm becomes quite ecstatic over
the beauty and talent of his young compatriot:

“Her grace and dignity make of her a celestial creature. To see her, I
do not say dance, but merely walk across the stage, is alone worth the
money that one pays at the door of the Opera.”[30]

The charms of this “celestial creature” proved more than the
susceptible heart of M. de Lauraguais could withstand, and we read in
the _Mémoires secrets_, under date March 28, 1768:

“Her (Mlle. Heinel’s) attractions have so captivated M. le Comte de
Lauraguais as to cause him to forget those of Mlle. Arnoux (sic). He has
given her, as a wedding-present _à l’Allemand_, 30,000 livres, 20,000
livres to a brother, to whom she is much attached, an exquisite set of
furniture, a coach, and so forth. It is computed that the _première_
cost this magnificent nobleman 100,000 livres.”

Sophie appears to have been anything but heart-broken at the desertion
of her eccentric lover--probably she was as anxious to be rid of him,
for a season, as he was to leave her--and, less than a year later, we
find her corresponding with him in the friendliest manner. By that time
the count had had more than enough of the society of Mlle. Heinel,
concerning whom Sophie has many spiteful things to say. She herself, she
informs him--perhaps with a view of exciting his jealousy--is receiving
great attention from the Prince de Conti, who often invites her,
together with other past, present, and potential members of his
seraglio,[31] to his box at the Opera, where he invariably greets her
with a kiss upon the chin.[32]

Sophie’s life at this period affords us very little that is edifying to
contemplate, and much that is the reverse. Her apartment in the Rue du
Dauphin was the rendezvous of many wits and men of letters: Marmontel,
Crébillon _fils_, Dorat, Voisenon, and the Abbé Arnaud; but it was also
frequented by nearly all the fashionable libertines of the day, and “her
table was an altar of free life and free love.” “Foreign Ambassadors
covered her with diamonds, Serene Highnesses threw themselves at her
feet, dukes and peers sent her carriages, and Princes of the Blood
deigned to have children by her.”[33] Unlike the majority of her
colleagues, who clung tenaciously to the few poor shreds of reputation
that were left them, Sophie appears to have been perfectly indifferent
to public opinion, and jested cynically with comparative strangers on
the depraved life she was leading.

In the spring of 1770, we find her accepting a new _amant en titre_, in
the person of Charles Alexander Marc Marcellin d’Alsace, Prince d’Hénin
et du Saint-Empire. The Prince d’Hénin was a dull, pompous man,
nicknamed, by a play on his title, “_le prince des nains_,” who seems to
have taken the actress under his protection merely because it was the
mode in those days to keep a mistress, and the more notorious the lady,
the greater the distinction she conferred upon her lover. His chief
recommendations, so far as Sophie was concerned, were that he was very
rich and disposed to allow her to do pretty much as she pleased, so
long as the admirers whom he chanced to encounter on his visits to her
house behaved towards him with the deference which he considered due to
his exalted rank.

Her apartment in the Rue du Dauphin not being large enough to
accommodate all the distinguished persons who desired to pay homage to
her, Sophie, about this time, removed to a more commodious one in the
Rue des Petits-Champs. This, in its turn, becoming too small for her
requirements, she made up her mind to have an hôtel built, and selected
a site in the Chaussée-d’Antin, immediately adjoining the hôtel of Mlle.
Guimard--the “Temple of Terpsichore,” as it was called--the erection of
which had half-ruined more than one of the adorers of “_la squelette des

In the Bibliothèque Nationale may be seen a drawing of the façade of the
proposed house, and plans of the _rez-de-chaussée_ and the first and
second floors. The drawing of the façade bears the following

“Façade of a projected house for Mlle. Arnould in the Chaussée-d’Antin.
The house to be constructed side by side with that of Mlle. Guimard, and
to be of the same dimensions.--Bélanger.”

On the portico, which is supported by two Doric columns, may be seen the
figure of the Muse Euterpe, with the features of Sophie Arnould. The
plan of the second floor is inscribed: “Plan of the second floor of
Mlle. Arnould’s projected house, in which there are to be four small
rooms for the accommodation of the children.”

This palace never got beyond the paper stage, for Sophie fell in love
with the architect and the architect with her, in consequence of which,
we may presume, the Prince d’Hénin, or whatever wealthy admirer was to
have defrayed the expenses, declined to have anything further to do with
the scheme.

François Joseph Bélanger, the architect in question, was a charming man.
He was then about thirty years of age, handsome, good-tempered, witty,
and one of the most rising members of his profession.[34] Sophie loved
him dearly--for a time at least--though this did not prevent her
indulging in various passing fancies. Once, when he was temporarily out
of favour, she sent him his _congé_, and, at the same time, wrote to an
actor named Florence, inviting him to take the vacant place in her
affections. Bélanger, however, happening to call at her house at a time
when she was not at home, found the two letters on her desk, read them,
and promptly changed the envelopes. The result was that Florence
received the _congé_, instead of the avowal of love, and naturally
became very cold in his manner towards Sophie, who, deeply mortified,
turned for consolation to her faithful architect.

At one time a rumour was current that Sophie was about to become Madame
Bélanger, and, when questioned on the matter, the lady replied: “What
would you have? So many people are endeavouring to destroy my reputation
that I need some one who can restore it. I could not make a better
choice, since I have selected an architect!” The marriage, however, did
not take place, though that would not appear to have been the fault of
Bélanger. Notwithstanding the fact that a lady with so romantic a past,
and three fine children to prevent people forgetting it, was hardly the
kind of wife for a rising professional man, the architect would have
been only too willing to regularise their connection. But Sophie had no
mind to marry any one who was unable to satisfy all her caprices; and it
is probable that the rumour referred to was started and circulated by
her with the object of giving the lie to another, which was occasioning
her intense annoyance.[35]

Sophie’s insolence and pride in this the heyday of her prosperity knew
no bounds. She insulted the Lieutenant of Police and was, in
consequence, placed under arrest for twenty-four hours; she made biting
epigrams about Ministers and other distinguished persons, which, no
doubt, duly reached her victims’ ears; she behaved with such “unexampled
audacity” and “essential want of respect” towards Madame du Barry, on
the occasion of a performance before the Court, at Fontainebleau, that,
but for the intervention of the injured lady--the most sweet-tempered
left-hand queen who ever degraded a throne--she would have spent the
next six months as a prisoner in the Hôpital,[36] and she drove the
unfortunate directors of the Opera to the verge of distraction with her
whims and caprices.

The race of prime donne is proverbially a capricious one; the
profession of an impresario one of the most trying which can fall to the
lot of man. Yet, it may be doubted whether any queen of song since opera
was invented can have occasioned her managers anything approaching the
anxiety and annoyance caused by Mlle. Sophie Arnould. She knew she was
necessary, well-nigh indispensable, and she abused her position. Dearly
did the administration pay for the increased receipts which her
popularity brought them. Every day she had some new grievance, some
unexpected whim. She wished to sing and she did not wish to sing, she
retired and she reappeared. Sometimes she would create a part in an
opera, sing divinely to crowded houses for three or four nights, then
suddenly discover that it was unsuited to her or made too great demands
upon her strength, and insist upon another singer taking her place for
the remainder of the run of the piece. A few evenings later, jealous
perhaps of the applause which her successor was receiving, she would
come down to the theatre and announce her intention of resuming her
part, only to throw it up again so soon as she considered that she had
asserted her superiority.

To revive an opera in which she had scored a success was often as risky
a venture as to produce a new one, since it might, and very often did,
happen, that Mlle. Arnould--who, it should be mentioned, unlike the
majority of public performers, cared very little for applause--would be
indisposed, that is to say, indisposed to exert her full powers, with
the result that the once popular piece would be received in comparative
silence. In February 1769, _Dardanus_ was revived. Iphise, the heroine,
was one of Sophie’s greatest rôles, but on the first night she either
could not or would not sing, and the opera became, in consequence,
“almost a burlesque.”

It is only, however, fair to say that she made ample atonement on the
following evening. Thinking perhaps, as one of her biographers suggests,
that any one was good enough to sing with a voiceless prima donna, the
management entrusted the part of Dardanus to a new tenor named Muguet,
“who had neither voice, figure, nor expression.” The audience not
unnaturally resented the experiment, and M. Muguet and the opera with
him were in a fair way to be hissed off the stage, when Sophie came to
the rescue and, by superb singing and impassioned acting, restored the
house to good humour and converted a complete failure into something
approaching a success.

Seeing that the ladies of the Opera were the King’s servants in the
literal sense of the phrase, and that misbehaviour on their part was
wont to be construed as disobedience to his Majesty’s commands and
punished accordingly, why, it may well be asked, was such conduct
tolerated? Why did not the chief of the King’s Household intervene with
one of those _lettres de cachet_ which were generally so efficacious in
bringing contumacious artistes to their senses? The answer is that
Sophie had so many noble admirers always ready to espouse her cause that
to punish her as she deserved could not have failed to create a great
deal of unpleasantness; for which reason, though the directors appealed
again and again to the Comte de Saint-Florentin to exercise his
authority, their representations were without effect. Here is an

On March 24, 1772, Sophie, who was announced to take the part of
Thélaïre, in Rameau’s _Castor et Pollux_, had not arrived when the time
came for the opera to begin, and her place was, therefore, taken by her
understudy, Mlle. Beaumesnil. As no intimation of her inability to
appear that evening had reached them, the directors naturally concluded
that she had been suddenly taken ill, and their astonishment and
indignation may be imagined when they presently espied the lady in a
box, laughing and talking with several of her admirers, and, seemingly,
in the best of health and spirits. A message demanding an explanation of
what she meant by appearing in the front of the house when she was
“billed” to play a part produced the impertinent reply that she had come
to take a lesson from Mlle. Beaumesnil! The angry directors thereupon
appealed to the chief of the King’s Household and begged him to send the
recalcitrant actress to For l’Évêque. But the Prince d’Hénin, or some
other influential adorer, interceded on her behalf, and the only
punishment she received was “a severe reprimand.”

Such misplaced leniency, Bachaumont tells us, was highly displeasing to
a certain section of the Opera’s patrons, and when, an evening or two
later, Mademoiselle did condescend to appear, a number of people came to
the theatre “with the intention of humiliating her by hissing.” Sophie,
however, perhaps desirous of making atonement to the public for its
previous disappointment, put forth all her powers and sang and acted so
admirably that the malcontents’ courage failed them, and, finally,
forgetting the object which had brought them thither, they joined
heartily in the general applause.[37]

Owing to the cares of maternity and other causes, chief of which would
seem to have been a pronounced antipathy to hard work, Sophie’s
appearances at the Opera were very irregular, and sometimes her name did
not find a place in the bills for several months together. Thus, she was
absent from October 1761 to the following February; again from November
1766 to August 1767; while in 1770 she does not appear to have sung at
all. A less popular actress, or one whose life outside the theatre was
less notorious, might have incurred some risk of finding herself
forgotten. But Sophie’s admirers were numerous and faithful, and when
she had a part which suited her, and was in the humour to do herself
justice, her singing and, more especially, her acting were so superior
to her rivals that the house was invariably crowded. Among her triumphs
may be mentioned: Thisbé, in _Pyrame et Thisbé_; Oriane, in _Amadis de
Gaule_;[38] Aline, in _Aline, Reine de Golconde_,[39] “which,” says
Bachaumont, “she endowed with all the delicate graces of sentiment,
beauty, and talent”; Psyché, in _L’Amour et Psyché_; Iphise, in
_Dardanus_, and Thélaïre, in _Castor et Pollux_, when the critic of the
_Mercure_ declared that she was “not a character of the piece, but
Thélaïre herself, and that the feelings she depicted passed
involuntarily into the souls of the spectators.”[40]

       *       *       *       *       *

Although Bélanger was Mlle. Arnould’s _amant de cœur_, the Prince
d’Hénin remained her titular protector. The prince was an exceedingly
dull and fatuous person, with the most absurdly exaggerated idea of his
own importance, and bored the lady insufferably, although financial
considerations compelled her to tolerate him. At the same time, she was
at no pains to conceal from her friends the _ennui_ which his visits
occasioned her, and when, at the beginning of the year 1774, the Comte
de Lauraguais, with whom she still maintained friendly relations,
returned from a lengthy visit to England, she hastened to pour her
troubles into his sympathetic ear. Perhaps Lauraguais would have been
not unwilling to resume his connection with Sophie, had there been no
Prince d’Hénin in the way, and cherished a grudge against that nobleman
for taking the place which had so long been his own. Perhaps he had some
other grievance against him, for the prince was by no means universally
beloved. Any way, he determined to have a little diversion at his
expense. We read in the _Mémoires secrets:_

“February 19, 1774.--The Comte de Lauraguais, that amiable nobleman,
whose inextinguishable gaiety is so marvellously seconded by his lively
imagination, after having amused London, has come to enliven this
capital with his sallies and ingenious pleasantries, of which one
relates a charming instance: Some days ago, he summoned four doctors of
the Faculty of Medicine to a consultation, in order to know whether it
were possible for any one to die of _ennui_. They replied in the
affirmative and, after a long preamble, setting forth the reasons for
their decision, signed a paper to that effect, in all good faith. The
family of Brancas is so generally composed of lunatics, hypochondriacs,
hysterical and melancholy persons, and so forth, that they imagined that
the question put to them concerned some relative of the consultant, and
agreed that the only means of effecting a cure was to remove out of the
patient’s sight the object which occasioned this condition of inertia
and stagnation.

“Armed with this document duly signed and witnessed, the facetious
nobleman proceeded to lay it before a Commissary of Police and, at the
same time, to lodge a complaint against the Prince d’Hénin, who, by his
continual _obsession_ of Mlle. Arnoux (_sic_), would infallibly cause
that actress to perish of _ennui_, and the public to lose one whom it
valued highly, and whom he especially desired to preserve.”

Needless to say, the commissary did not issue the warrant demanded; but,
equally needless to say, he related the jest to every one he happened to
meet that morning, with the result that, in a very few hours, this
“charming instance of the inextinguishable humour of the Comte de
Lauraguais” was the talk of Paris, and was voted the best comedy that
had been played for many a long day. The Prince d’Hénin naturally did
not look at the matter in quite the same light, and talked about
sending the count a challenge. According to one account, he actually did
so, and a bloodless duel followed. But since, as we shall presently see,
he was a nobleman by no means remarkable for his courage, it is more
probable that he ultimately decided to pocket the affront.

In the course of that same month, Sophie Arnould determined to withdraw
altogether from the Opera and, accordingly, sent in her resignation,
giving as her reason the unsatisfactory state of her health. The Duc de
la Vrillière, however, declined to accept it, at the same time assuring
her, in a courteous letter, that, “under no circumstances would more be
required of her than her strength would permit of her undertaking.”
Although it would appear that Sophie was really somewhat out of health
at that time--so that Lauraguais’s charge against the poor Prince
d’Hénin was not without a basis of truth--her resolution to quit the
scene of her many triumphs was dictated by a very different reason. The
fact of the matter was that the Sophie Arnould of 1774 was not the
Sophie Arnould of 1758--not the singer who had charmed all Paris in _Les
Amours des Dieux_ and _Énée et Lavinie_. Her voice, always more
expressive than powerful, was becoming perceptibly weaker. Her beauty,
though she was still very attractive, had lost its freshness. Her
frequent absences, her endless caprices, her arrogance and insolence, so
long tolerated, had begun to weary not only the long-suffering directors
of the Opera, but the public and the critics who influenced it. Where
there had been applause, there was now silence. Where there had been
praise, there was now criticism, and criticism sometimes of a peculiarly
galling kind. In a word, Sophie’s long reign was drawing to a close. And
Paris was eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new composer. Gluck, who
was to revolutionise opera in France, was coming, at the invitation of
Marie Antoinette, to give a series of “musical dramas”--as he himself
called them--reconstructed from those which had delighted Vienna and
Italy. Supported as he would be by the young Dauphiness and the Court,
his success was a foregone conclusion. What unthinkable humiliation for
her if, when the principal parts came to be allotted, she should be
passed over in favour of one of her youthful competitors: Mlle. Laguerre
or, worse still, Rosalie Levasseur, the mistress of Mercy-Argenteau, the
Austrian Ambassador, between whom and herself the bitterest rivalry
existed! Rather than incur such a risk, she would retire of her own
accord, while her laurels were still untarnished, while her sovereignty
was still acknowledged.

[Illustration: GLUCK

After the painting by N. F. DUPLESSIS]

But, as we have just seen, her resignation was not accepted, and when
Gluck arrived in Paris, he appears to have had little difficulty in
deciding to entrust the title-part in his _Iphigénie en Aulide_ to her,
though his choice was probably influenced more by Sophie’s histrionic
than her vocal capabilities, for while her voice was neither so powerful
nor so fresh as those of the two ladies mentioned above, her acting was
immeasurably superior to theirs.

We are inclined to think, however, that even if Sophie had been much
less fitted than she was to undertake the difficult rôle of Iphigénie,
Gluck would still have hesitated before passing her over, since to have
done so would have been certain to arouse a storm of hostile criticism,
a singularly inauspicious opening to his Paris campaign. As matters
stood, his position was, at first, far from an easy one. The musical
world of Paris was the most critical and contentious of any capital in
Europe, and the advent of a foreign operatic troupe or a new composer
was invariably the sign for the amateurs of music to range themselves
into hostile camps and to discuss the merits and demerits of the
innovation with as much warmth as, in the present day, rival schools of
politicians might debate a question of international importance. Just as
in 1752, when an Italian troupe came to perform the _Serva Padrona_ of
Pergolese and other works of the Italian buffo order, all musical Paris
was divided into Buffonists and anti-Buffonists; so now, immediately on
Gluck’s arrival, two parties were formed, one prepared to laud to the
skies everything the master might compose, the other resolved to uphold
the traditions of the old French opera at all costs and to drive the
daring reformer from the field.[41]

Gluck found the task of producing _Iphigénie_ the most difficult of any
which he had yet undertaken. What he saw and heard at the Palais-Royal
disgusted as much as it astonished him; orchestra, singers, chorus,
ballet--all were lamentably inefficient, and it was obvious that a
course of the most rigorous training would be required ere they would be
competent to do his work anything like justice. The state of the Paris
Opera at this time was indeed almost incredible. “Disorder, abuse,
caprice, routine, inertia,” says Desnoiresterres, “were despotically
enthroned there, without a protest from any one. If reform were urgent,
so many persons were interested in the _statu quo_ that there was
scarcely any hope of obtaining from the administration, from this
ignorant and prejudiced crowd, any improvement that was at all
practical. In the midst of all the pomp and expenditure was a
carelessness, an anarchy, a disorder past all belief. Actors and
actresses pushed indecency to such a point as to appear outside the
_coulisses_, the latter in white camisoles with a _culotte d’argent_ and
a band across the forehead; the former in a simple peignoir. It was not
an infrequent sight, while the foreground was occupied by Jupiter or
Theseus, to see, through the scenes, the dancers moving and fluttering
about, they having actually chosen the background of the stage to
practise their steps and make their _jetés-battus_.”[42] The choruses
drew themselves up in a semi-circle, impassive, without a gesture, like
grenadiers on guard, and evinced not the slightest interest either in
the words they had to sing or in the action of the principal performers.
The latter went to the opposite extreme. “One sees the actresses, almost
in convulsions, violently tear the yelps out of their lungs, their fists
clenched against their chest, the head thrown back, the face inflamed,
the veins swollen, the stomach heaving; one does not know which is the
more disagreeably affected, the eye or the ear; their exertion gives as
much pain to those who see them as their singing does to those who hear

The orchestra, which in winter was in the habit of performing in gloves,
is compared by Mercier, the author of _Le Tableau de Paris_, to “an old
coach drawn by consumptive horses and led by one deaf from his birth,”
and besides being careless and indifferent, was continually at variance
with the singers on the question whether the latter should follow the
musicians or the musicians follow them. Grétry relates the following
conversation, which took place between Sophie Arnould and Francœur,
the conductor of the orchestra, during a rehearsal of his own opera of
_Céphale et Procris_, in 1773:

“What is the meaning of this, Monsieur? The orchestra seems in a state
of rebellion?”

“What do you mean by rebellion, Mademoiselle? We are all here for the
service of the King, and we serve him zealously.”

“I should like to serve him also, but your orchestra puts me out and
spoils my singing.”

“Nevertheless, Mademoiselle, we play in time.”

“In time! _Quelle bête est-ce là?_ Follow me, Monsieur, and understand
that your accompaniment is the very humble servant of the actress who is

As the Goncourts point out, under the apparent insolence of her claim,
Sophie was here asserting the rights of the dramatic vocalist before the
musical revolution, of which Gluck was the pioneer, when opera-singers
were regarded merely as men and women reciting musical tragedy with
intonations indicated by a musician. Until then they had enjoyed the
most complete independence as to the manner of presenting their phrases.
Until then they had been at liberty to hurry or slacken the time, to
pause on or shorten any particular note, according to the inspiration of
the moment, or even as they felt more or less fatigued, the orchestra
following as best it could. “‘_Quelle bête est-ce là?_’ Sophie had but
little doubt when she uttered these words that _cette bête_ was on the
eve of reducing her talent and reputation to nothing.”[44]

The pretension, however, was one which a composer, like Gluck, “who took
the trouble to note not only the inflections of the voice, but also the
long notes and the short ones, the accent and the time,” could not for
one moment tolerate; and his insistence on its abandonment was the
cause of endless wrangling at rehearsals, where the principal vocalists
roundly declared that, if he refused them the liberty which had so long
been theirs, their talent would become superfluous and they would be
reduced to the level of mere chorus-singers.

These disputes were chiefly with the lady members of the troupe, though
the male singers did not fail to occasion the composer an infinity of
trouble. Legros, who had been cast for the part of Achilles, had an
admirable voice, but his singing was totally lacking in expression,
while his movements on the stage were stiff and awkward; and though
Gluck laboured unceasingly to remedy these faults, it was some months
ere he succeeded. Larrivée, to whom had been entrusted the rôle of
Agamemnon, was even more difficult to deal with, being so obstinate and
self-opinionated that to remonstrate with him seemed almost waste of
breath. Once the composer was forced to tell him that he seemed to have
no comprehension of his part, and to be unable to enter into the spirit
of it. “Wait till I put on my costume,” answered the singer
complacently; “you won’t recognise me then.” At the general rehearsal
Gluck took his seat in a box. Larrivée reappeared, in the costume of
Agamemnon, but his interpretation remained the same. “Ah, my friend!”
cried the composer, “I recognise you perfectly!”[45] Finally, Gluck had
to contend with the ballet, and, in particular, with its chief, the
celebrated Gaetano Vestris--“_le dieu de la danse_”--who once observed
that there were only three great men in Europe: Frederick II., Voltaire,
and himself! Vestris naturally considered the dancing by far the most
important feature of an opera, and, although there were already several
ballets in _Iphigénie_, wanted yet another. Gluck angrily refused.

“_Quoi!_” stammered Vestris; “_moi! le dieu de la danse!_”

“If you are the God of Dancing, Monsieur,” replied the composer, “dance
in heaven, not in my opera!”[46]

When, some months later, _Orphée_ was being rehearsed, the ballet-master
asked Gluck to write him the music of a chaconne. The latter, who had
strongly objected to the introduction of any dancing whatever into
_Orphée_, being of opinion that it would interfere with the seriousness
and pathos of the general action, was horrified.

“A chaconne!” he cried. “Do you suppose, Monsieur, that the Greeks,
whose manners I am endeavouring to depict, knew what a chaconne was?”

“Did they not?” rejoined the God of Dancing. “Then they are much to be

In those days it was the custom to attend the rehearsals of a piece
which happened to be arousing an unusual amount of interest, and the
demand for admission to those of _Iphigénie_ was so great that La
Vrillière wrote to the directors of the Opera, ordering them to take
special precautions to avoid any disturbance and to allow no one to
enter without a ticket signed by themselves. The desire to be present is
not difficult to understand, since to see Gluck at a rehearsal must have
been a sight not easily forgotten. Throwing off his coat and replacing
his wig by an old cotton night-cap, he would dart about the stage,
imploring Mlle. Arnould to follow his music, M. Larrivée not to sing
through his nose, M. Legros to endeavour to express something at least
of the dignity and nobility which one was accustomed to associate with
the great champion of the Greeks, and the chorus to endeavour to look
and move a little less like automata. “Look you, Mademoiselle!” he would
cry, purple with passion, when Sophie or some other actress proved more
than usually contumacious, “I am here to make you perform _Iphigénie_.
If you are willing to sing, nothing can be better. If you are not
willing to do so, do not trouble. I will go and see Madame la Dauphine
and tell her what you say. If it is impossible for me to get my opera
produced, I shall order my travelling-carriage and take the road to

This indeed was no idle threat, and had it not been for the support
accorded him by Marie Antoinette, there can be very little doubt that he
would have shaken the dust of Paris off his feet. But, with the
Dauphiness behind him, the malcontents, grumble as they might, had no
option but to obey this terrible man, whom they devoutly wished at the
bottom of the Seine.

The first performance was fixed for April 13, 1774, but almost at the
last moment Legros announced that he was too ill to appear. Gluck
immediately demanded the postponement of the opera. The management
pointed out that the Royal Family were to be present, and that all
arrangements had been made for their reception, and begged him to allow
another singer to take the place of the absent tenor. The composer
rejoined that, rather than see his work mutilated by an inferior
rendering of so important a part, he would throw it into the fire; and
the directors were compelled to give way.

The opera was eventually produced on April 19, amidst the most intense
excitement. From eleven o’clock in the morning the box-offices were
besieged by an immense concourse of people, and it was found necessary
to double and treble the ordinary guard, to prevent disorder. The public
interest was no doubt stimulated by rumours that the Anti-Gluckists were
planning a hostile demonstration; and Marie Antoinette, in great alarm
for the success of her _protégé_, sent orders to the Lieutenant of
Police to take measures to nip any such attempt in the bud. The
Dauphiness herself, accompanied by her obedient husband, the Comte and
Comtesse de Provence, the Duchesses de Chartres and de Bourbon, and the
Princesse de Lamballe, entered the theatre before the public was
admitted, and was followed by most of the Ministers and practically the
whole Court; indeed, but for the absence of Louis XV.--who scarcely ever
visited Paris during the later years of his reign--and Madame du Barry,
the spectators might have imagined themselves at Versailles or

The opera was very cordially received,[47] though, according to Grimm,
parts pleased more than the ensemble. Both he and the _Mémoires secrets_
are very severe upon the ballets, “the airs of which had been absolutely
neglected”; while the latter declare that “the decorations were
pitiable.” The second representation did not take place until three days
later, when the crowd was even greater than on the first night, and a
brisk and remunerative business was done by certain speculators, who had
bought up the two-franc _parterre_ tickets and retailed them at from
three to seven times their value.[48] During the interval, certain
improvements appear to have been made in the ballets, scenery, and
accessories, for the opera was now “applauded to the skies, and, when
the curtain fell, the calls for the author lasted for half an hour.”[49]
The author, however, did not appear, being ill in bed, a fact which,
considering all the worry and anxiety he had suffered during the past
few weeks, will hardly occasion much surprise.

All the leading performers distinguished themselves, and Sophie covered
herself with glory. “Mlle. Arnould,” says the _Mercure_, “charms as much
as she astonishes us in the rôle of Iphigénie, by her dignified and
sympathetic acting, by the animation and correctness of her singing, by
an expression always true and delicate; by her voice itself, which seems
in this opera to possess more variety, power, and extent.” Grimm, a far
less partial observer, where Sophie is concerned, than the musical
critic of the _Mercure_, is equally enthusiastic: “She renders the part
of Iphigénie as it has perhaps never been rendered at the
Comédie-Française, and she sings not only with all the charm that we
have found in her for a long time past, but with an infinite precision,
which is less common with her. It seems that the Chevalier Gluck has
exactly divined the character and range of her voice and has assigned to
it all the notes of her part.”[50]

_Iphigénie_ grew in favour with each repetition and soon became quite
the rage, as a proof of which may be mentioned the fact that the ladies
began to wear a “headdress in the form of a coronet surmounted by the
crescent of Diana, whence escaped a kind of veil that covered the back
of the head; it was called _à l’Iphigénie_.”

Encouraged by the success which had attended _Iphigénie_, Gluck at once
set to work to adapt _Orfeo_, the most successful of the operas he had
produced in Italy, for the Paris stage. A good many alterations were
necessary, as the title-part had originally been written for a
contralto, the celebrated Guadagni, and it had now to be cast for
Legros. That gentleman, whose head would appear to have been slightly
turned by the applause he had received as Achilles, when handed his
part, informed the composer that he should decline to sing it, unless he
had an opportunity of making a brilliant exit in the first act; and this
necessitated further alterations. However, the rest of the troupe were
by this time far more amenable to reason than they had been during the
rehearsals of _Iphigénie_, and by the end of July the opera was ready
for production.

It was while _Orphée_ was in preparation that an incident occurred which
was not without its effect upon Sophie Arnould’s connection with the
operas of Gluck. After her triumph in the part of Iphigénie, Sophie had,
of course, been entrusted with that of Eurydice, and had persuaded the
composer to hold some informal rehearsals in her apartment in the Rue
Neuve-des-Petits-Champs. Now, for some reason, the prima donna’s titular
protector, the Prince d’Hénin, had conceived a strong antipathy to Gluck
(Mr. Douglas supposes that he was displeased at the frequency of the
composer’s visits to his mistress’s house, though, as jealousy was
certainly not one of his failings, this seems to us hardly probable),
and had on several occasions let fall very disparaging remarks about the
German musician, which had in due course reached the latter’s ears. One
day, in the midst of a rehearsal, the Prince d’Hénin was announced. All
rose from their seats and bowed--all, that is to say, save Gluck, who
settled himself more firmly in his chair and took not the slightest
notice of the distinguished visitor.

“I was under the impression,” remarked the Prince, when he had recovered
from his first astonishment, “that it is the custom in France to rise
when any one enters the room, especially if it be a person of

Gluck sprang from his seat, walked up to the speaker, and, looking him
full in the face, replied: “It is the custom in Germany, Monsieur, to
rise only for those whom one esteems.” Then, turning to Sophie, he
added: “Since I perceive, Mademoiselle, that you are not mistress in
your own house, I leave you and shall return no more.” With which he
picked up his hat and stalked out.

Gluck wanted to challenge the prince to a duel, but, being assured that
such a step would be useless, as the latter would certainly shelter
himself behind his rank and refuse to fight with a musician, took
counsel with his friend and admirer the Duc de Nivernais. That nobleman,
whom Lord Chesterfield had once held up to his son as a model for him to
form himself upon, was now in his sixty-eighth year, notwithstanding
which he at once constituted himself the composer’s champion, and
informed M. d’Hénin that he must either apologise to Gluck or fight him
(the duke). In the meanwhile, the story had reached Marie
Antoinette--now Queen--who sent a peremptory order to the prince to make
reparation to her injured _protégé_, under pain of her displeasure. The
latter, reflecting that even if he escaped the sword of the duke, who
handled one as neatly as he composed verses, he would undoubtedly be
exiled, had no choice but to obey, and, with a very bad grace, called
upon Gluck and made the _amende honorable_.

_Orphée et Eurydice_ was produced on August 2 and met with a success
surpassing even that of _Iphigénie_. The same, unfortunately, cannot be
said of Sophie. The friendly critic of the _Mercure_ declares that “she
acted and sang with much soul, intelligence, and correctness”; but the
general opinion seems to have been that her display was decidedly
inferior to that which she had given in the previous opera. This
impression is, no doubt, partly to be accounted for by the fact that she
was on this occasion somewhat overshadowed by Legros, who, Grimm tell
us, “sang the principal rôle with so much fire, taste, and sentiment,
that it was difficult to recognise him.” At the same time, it is evident
that her voice was no longer equal to the strain of any very exacting
part, especially if, as was now very frequently the case, she happened
to be in indifferent health.

In the early days of January 1775, _Iphigénie_, in which Gluck had made
several alterations, was revived and received with even more enthusiasm
than on its first production. All the artistes resumed their old parts,
and Sophie’s rendering of the heroine was again loudly applauded. She
did not, however, enjoy her success for long, as, after a few
performances, she resigned her part to Mlle. Laguerre, who in March fell
ill and was, in her turn, replaced by Rosalie Levasseur.

Sophie’s health, at this time, would appear to have been far from
satisfactory. Any way, she did not sing again for more than ten months,
and thus took no part in _Cythère assiégée_, a light opera first
produced in 1759, and now reconstructed by Gluck, at the request of
Marie Antoinette. The libretto was by Favart, and the incongruity
between his light and playful style and the solemn and pathetic music of
the composer caused the piece to be very coldly received.

At the beginning of December, Sophie reappeared in the rôle of Adèle in
_Adèle de Ponthieu_, a part which she had successfully created three
years before, and might have repeated the triumph she had then secured,
but for an unfortunate incident which occurred on the first night.

Louis XVI.’s younger brother, the Comte d’Artois (afterwards Charles
X.)--a very different person in those days from the gloomy and
Jesuit-ridden old monarch of 1830--attended the performance, and, from
the shelter of his private box, proceeded, as was his wont, to ogle and
make signs to the actresses upon the stage. Presently he cast “a
benevolent glance” upon Mlle. Arnould, when that lady so far forgot the
respect due to the visitor’s exalted rank as to smile familiarly in his
direction, “exactly as she might have done to a comrade or a lover.” The
audience, the chronicler tell us, was inexpressibly shocked at the
lady’s behaviour, and “testified its indignation in a manner that was
humiliating to her.”[51]

Meanwhile, Gluck was at work upon his _Alceste_, and Sophie had every
reason to believe that, after her brilliant triumph in _Iphigénie_ and
her very successful rendering of the part of Eurydice, she would again
be cast for the principal rôle. But alas! a bitter disappointment was in
store for her.

We have mentioned that Rosalie Levasseur was the mistress of
Mercy-Argenteau, the Austrian Ambassador at the French Court. Shrewd and
capable though Mercy was in everything relating to his professional
duties--the manner in which he had succeeded in keeping the peace, and
all that it involved, between Marie Antoinette and Madame du Barry,
during the last years of the late King’s reign was a perfect masterpiece
of diplomacy--in love, he appears to have been as foolish as any of the
gilded youths who haunted the _coulisses_ of the Opera and the
Comédie-Française. The fair Rosalie exercised the most absolute
ascendency over him--a fact which was the more astonishing, as all Paris
knew that she had an _amant de cœur_, in the person of Nicolet, the
clown. Mercy, in fact, could deny her nothing, and even carried his
infatuation so far as to purchase for her a barony of the Holy Roman
Empire, with a considerable revenue; while, on another occasion, he
condescended to bribe Larrivée, whose singing in a certain opera the
young lady found was quite eclipsing her own, not to put forth his full

Now, Rosalie had set her heart upon supplanting Sophie and filling the
principal part in the forthcoming opera, and called upon her lover to
assist her to realise her ambition. First, she suggested--or persuaded
Mercy to suggest--that Gluck should take up his quarters in her house,
in the Rue des Fossoyeurs-Saint-Germain, and give her singing-lessons; a
proposal to which the composer, who, besides being an Austrian subject,
was under considerable obligations to the Ambassador, who, with Marie
Antoinette, had been mainly instrumental in bringing him to Paris,
readily consented. Next, she induced him to teach her the music of
_Alceste_ and took care to show herself a docile as well as an
industrious pupil. Finally, she hinted pretty plainly that he ought to
entrust her with the title-part when the opera was produced, pointing
out that, though she might lack the histrionic ability of Mlle. Arnould,
her voice was fresher and more powerful, to say nothing of the advantage
which the composer would derive from having the part rendered exactly as
he desired, whereas the elder actress would very probably insist on
rendering it in conformity with her own ideas.

These arguments were, it is needless to say, warmly seconded by Mercy;
and Gluck, who was anxious to please the amorous diplomatist, and in
whose mind the insult he had received from Sophie’s titular protector
perhaps still rankled, after some hesitation, yielded to their wishes.

“Gluck,” says the composer’s French biographer, Desnoiresterres, “was
wanting in gratitude towards Mlle. Arnould, so charming, so passionate
in _Iphigénie_, so pathetic still, though somewhat eclipsed by Legros,
in _Orphée_.” At the same time, he points out that Gluck would never
have superseded Sophie had he thought that the change would prejudice
his work, and that the event proved that he had not over-estimated the
talents of Rosalie Levasseur, who, in the part of Alceste, “displayed
much art and sensibility.”[53]

Poor Sophie seems to have borne her disappointment, notwithstanding that
she could hardly have failed to see in it the end of her own dramatic
career, with praiseworthy equanimity, merely observing when she heard
the news: “Rosalie ought certainly to have the part; she has the voice
of the people.” This remark was duly repeated to her triumphant rival,
who retaliated by a disgusting lampoon, composed by one of her admirers
named Guichard, copies of which were printed and circulated in the
theatre, while others were sent to Sophie’s friends. The injured lady,
however, was equal to the occasion; she sent certain copies which had
fallen into her hands to the journals, and turned the tables very
adroitly on Mlle. Levasseur and her ally, all decent-minded persons
combining to condemn such methods of warfare.

Although the dethroned prima donna wisely refrained from giving public
expression to her feelings, others were not prepared to imitate her
discretion. The Prince d’Hénin, who could be very bold indeed when there
was no likelihood of his being called upon to fight a duel, having heard
that there was some talk of giving Sophie’s dressing-room at the Opera
to Rosalie Levasseur, went down to the theatre and threatened to flog
the unfortunate directors within an inch of their lives, if they dared
to inflict such a slight upon a lady whom he honoured with his
protection; the few critics who still remained faithful to the waning
star condemned in unmeasured terms the selection of Mlle. Levasseur for
so important a rôle in place of an actress “who had so long been, and
still was, the delight of the Opera”; while the Anti-Gluckists, only too
delighted to find so stout a stick wherewith to belabour the composer,
raised a perfect howl of indignation.

[Illustration: SOPHIE ARNOULD

From an engraving by PRUD’HON after the drawing by CŒURÉ in the
Collection of M. Godfrey Meyer]

The result of all this was most unfortunate for Sophie. The contest
between the Gluckists and their opponents had now reached a very acute
stage, and it was the general belief of the composer’s admirers that the
partisans of the old school were prepared to employ the most
questionable methods in order to counteract the ever-increasing
popularity of the German. A rumour spread that a cabal had been formed
to ensure the failure of _Alceste_, and that Sophie and her friends had
joined it. There seems to have been little truth in this report, the
best refutation of it being the fact that, although _Alceste_ was
somewhat coldly received at first, its success grew with each
performance, and none at all, so far as it concerned Sophie, who, in a
letter to a theatrical journal, _Le Nouveau Spectateur_, in
acknowledgment of some sympathetic references to herself which had
appeared in a previous issue, expressly disclaimed all hostility to
Gluck or Rosalie Levasseur:

     “I await with impatience your judgment on the opera of _Alceste_,
     which is about to interest and divide all Paris. Your views will
     confirm those which I myself have formed from witnessing the
     rehearsals only. If the success which I obtained in _Iphigénie_
     might have predisposed me in favour of the authors, their want of
     consideration, I even venture to say their bad conduct, towards me
     might have served to alter my opinion of them. But I have too much
     respect for myself to join (as these gentlemen would have people
     believe) in any cabal which may be formed for or against the new
     work. Such things I have always considered beneath me; the former
     savours of _charlatanerie_, the latter of baseness. I have confined
     my vengeance to not asserting my right to the principal rôle.[54]
     But no personal reason will make me underrate genius, nor prevent
     me from rendering justice to that of M. Gluck. He is, I proclaim it
     aloud, the musician of the soul and master of all the modulations
     that express sentiment and passion, especially grief.

     “As to the author of the words, I leave to the public the task of
     judging him. If I belonged to the Académie-Française, my opinion
     would carry as much weight as that of any other of the Forty. But I
     belong to the Académie Royale de Musique. I acknowledge my
     incompetence and my motto is: _tacet_. I will merely permit myself
     to say that one does not always find subjects as interesting as
     Iphigenia, nor models as sublime as Racine.

     “In regard to the performers, if I may be allowed to speak of them,
     I should praise the acting of M. Gros [Legros], in the part of
     Admetus, and the singing of Mlle. Rosalie, in the part of Alceste.

     “I have the honour to be, very perfectly, Monsieur,

“Your very humble and very obedient servant,


The good effect which this letter might have produced was, unhappily,
entirely discounted by a series of bitter attacks upon _Alceste_, Gluck,
and Rosalie, which appeared in subsequent issues of the same journal. On
the day after the first performance of the new opera, the _Nouveau
Spectateur_ published an anonymous letter, containing the following
choice morsel of criticism:

“It seemed as if the music was being sung by invalids who had just
swallowed half a pint of emetic and were making futile efforts to

This was soon followed by a second letter reproaching Gluck for having
taken “a girl like Rosalie to play the part of Alceste,” and several
articles declaring that the opera was “more mournful than affecting,”
and that, in preferring Mlle. Levasseur to Mlle. Arnould, the composer
showed that he “misunderstood the taste of the nation in music as well
as in acting.”

These letters, there can be little doubt, were the work of Lefuel de
Méricourt, the editor of the journal in question, a libellous scribe of
the school of Pidansat de Mairobert.[55] But the admirers of Gluck and
the friends of Rosalie believed, or affected to believe, that, if not
written, they had, at any rate, been inspired by Sophie, and thirsted
for revenge.

Their opportunity arrived at the beginning of the following October,
when Sophie, in the vain hope of counterbalancing the success of Rosalie
in _Alceste_, created the part of Lyris in _Euthyme et Lyris_, an opera
by a very mediocre composer named Desormery. The theatre became the
battlefield of the contending factions. The Anti-Gluckists and the
personal friends of Sophie crowded to the Palais-Royal and loudly
acclaimed the singer; but the opposition came in even greater numbers,
and the applause was drowned in a tempest of groans, hisses, and

Marie Antoinette heard of the scenes which were nightly taking place at
the theatre, and, though herself an enthusiastic supporter of Gluck, was
indignant at the treatment accorded an actress whose talent she had
often admired. She determined to come to her assistance and, therefore,
visited the Opera on two or three occasions and warmly applauded Sophie.
On the evenings on which she was present the opposition was silent, but
the next the hissing and hooting broke out with redoubled violence,
rather intensified than otherwise by the Queen’s intervention. “To-day,”
we read in the _Mémoires secrets_, “the Queen being no longer present
to intimidate the pit, the partisans of the Chevalier Gluck arrived in
force and completely overwhelmed Mlle. Arnoux (_sic_) with the hisses
which they had spared her at the previous performance. She also sang
badly. One does not believe that she will dare to continue to present
herself to the eyes of the public, and especially to its ears; and
perhaps this humiliation will mark the period of a definite retirement,
to which the weakness of her voice ought to have determined her ere

The writer of the above paragraph was, no doubt, actuated by personal
hostility to the actress; but, at the same time, it was only too true
that Sophie’s voice was failing rapidly. Early in March 1777, _Iphigénie
en Aulide_ was again revived, and Sophie reappeared in the part which
she had created so brilliantly. She was now, however, manifestly unequal
to the effort required of her, and seemed to have altogether lost her
old power of holding the audience enthralled. “The public,” she had once
observed, “behaves to actresses like Love to warriors; it has no
consideration for an old soldier”; and she herself is a particularly
painful illustration of the truth of her own axiom, at least, so far as
it concerns the Parisian playgoers of the eighteenth century. Forgetting
the many triumphs of the woman who had for nearly twenty years been its
idol, the public seemed to see before it only a performer who had
committed the unpardonable offence of disappointing its expectations,
and joined with the Gluckists and the personal enemies of the actress in
expressing its disgust. Sophie was relentlessly hissed.[57]

Again the Queen attempted to stem the tide of public feeling by
attending the theatre and applauding the unfortunate singer. But Marie
Antoinette was now fast losing what popularity she had once enjoyed with
the Parisians, and even her presence and example “did not prevent the
malcontents from continuing their indecent manœuvres.”

It is not easy to understand why Sophie, who, in the heyday of her
success, had often absented herself from the theatre for months
together, merely from indolence or caprice, should have continued to
appear on the stage, in the face of these hostile demonstrations. The
only explanation which her biographers can find is that she had recently
concluded with the directors of the Opera a fresh arrangement, whereby,
in lieu of the regular salary which she hitherto received, she was to be
paid the sum of five louis for each performance, and that, since she is
known to have been at this time in pecuniary difficulties, she endured
the taunts of the public for the sake of the money.

For our own part, we are inclined to think that, though financial
considerations may not have been without their effect upon her decision,
her chief reason was a very different one. Sophie was a courageous and
high-spirited woman; she knew that the demonstrations against her were
prompted far more by personal animosity than by the failure of her
powers, and she was determined not to allow her enemies the satisfaction
of boasting that they had driven her from the stage.

The malice of her foes, however, pursued her even outside the theatre.
She was hissed while performing at a concert given by the Duc and
Duchesse de Chartres. She was driven, one day, from the garden of the
Palais-Royal, by an ill-bred youth, who, on recognising her, began to
sing the air from _Alceste_: “_Caron t’appelle, entends sa voix!_” Even
Lefuel de Méricourt abandoned her, and in an article in his precious
journal, “regretted the loss of a part of her physical gifts by an
actress who had been so long the idol of the public.”

At length, at the beginning of June 1778, Sophie decided to retire from
the stage. She continued to sing from time to time at the Concerts of
Sacred Music, at benefit performances, and in private theatres; but at
the Opera her name was definitely placed on the retired list. For her
services at the theatre, she received a pension of 2000 livres, and one
of the same amount in her quality as Court singer. This, as pensions
went in those days, must be considered liberal treatment and compares
very favourably with the lot of the actors and actresses of the
Comédie-Française, who, even after thirty years’ service, only received
a pension of 1500 livres. Mlle. Clairon, the greatest _tragédienne_ of
her time, on her retirement in 1766, after twenty-two years on the
stage, had to rest content with one of 1000 livres.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now began for Sophie Arnould a life very different from that to which
she had so long been accustomed. Youth, beauty, and fame were gone, and
with them her lovers too, for, soon after her retirement from the stage,
the Prince d’Hénin deserted her for Mlle. Raucourt, of the
Comédie-Française, whom Sophie had generously taken to live with her,
and endeavoured to protect against the hostility of the public.[58]

One thing, however, still remained to her--her wit, which, if it were
powerless to retain her wealthy and aristocratic admirers, sufficed to
draw to her salon men whose friendship was infinitely to be preferred.
Poets, philosophers, encyclopædists, dramatists were all at home in the
house of Sophie Arnould. Diderot and d’Alembert were among her most
frequent guests; Helvétius, who had once, for a brief period, been very
near and dear to her, remained one of her greatest friends; Beaumarchais
delighted in an _assaut d’esprit_ with his witty hostess; Rulhière came
and brought with him Jean Jacques Rousseau; Marmontel, Duclos, Favart,
Linguet, and a host of lesser lights made her salon one of their
favourite rendezvous; that most affable of literary noblemen, the Prince
de Ligne, seldom failed to make his appearance there whenever he
happened to visit the French capital, and Voltaire himself--King
Voltaire--when he came to Paris in 1778, to enjoy at last the triumph of
his renown at its centre--and to die--condescended to call upon Sophie.

The day and hour of the great man’s visit were duly notified to Sophie,
who, knowing what kind of a reception would please him, collected a band
of children, headed by her own little daughter, Alexandrine, who, the
moment Voltaire entered the room, sprang forward and proceeded to hug
and kiss him. The Patriarch was delighted. “You wish to kiss me,” said
he laughing, “and I have no face left!”

After conversing with Sophie for some time, the poet remarked: “Ah,
Mademoiselle! I am eighty-four years old, and I have committed
eighty-four follies.”

“A mere trifle,” replied Sophie consolingly; “I am not yet forty, and I
have committed a thousand!”

That same year, Mesmer visited Paris, professing to cure all diseases by
means of animal magnetism, and speedily became the doctor _à la mode_.
Some of Sophie’s friends advised her to consult him, but, as she did
not happen to have any need of his professional services herself, she
sent her lap-dog instead, declaring that, if he could cure that pampered
animal, who had been ailing for some time past, presumably as the result
of a too generous diet, she would believe in him. Mesmer, anxious to
prove that the success of his system was not dependent upon the
credulity of the patient, undertook the case, and, in a few days,
returned the dog, with the assurance that it was now in the best of
health. Sophie thereupon wrote him a letter of thanks, which the doctor
sent to the journals. He soon, however, had cause to regret this step,
for, four days later, the dog died, much to the joy of the sceptics, who
asked Sophie what could have induced her to give the German a
testimonial so little deserved. “I have nothing to reproach myself
with,” she replied; “the poor animal died in excellent health.”

When Sophie retired from the stage, she was apparently in possession of
what most members of her profession, in those days, would have
considered a very comfortable income, as from a packet of letters
published for the first time by M. Henri Gauthier-Villars, in _La
Nouvelle Revue_ (February 1897), we learn that her notary, a certain M.
Alleaume, was in the habit of paying her fifty louis a month, out of the
moneys she was supposed to lodge in his hands.[59] The maintenance and
education of her three children, however, seems to have involved her in
considerable expense, while during her long years of prosperity she had
acquired such extravagant habits that her income was quite inadequate
for her needs, and she was, in consequence, continually in pecuniary
difficulties. Her letters to Alleaume, indeed, are almost without
exception demands for money, in which she brings all her persuasive
powers to bear upon the stern man of business, in the hope of inducing
him to unlock his cash-box and advance her “her month.”

“Well, _petit père_ Alleaume,” she writes, “I never see you now, and I
ask myself why?--why this difference to poor Sophie?--for it is not kind
of you to avoid the poor people who love you. You will reply to that:
‘But it is you who never see me, unless you have something to ask.’

“Wait and see if I never ask for anything, unless I visit you. Here for
example: Will you please advance me my month? for I am absolutely
without funds.

“Will _petit père_ Alleaume remain inflexible for four days to the
request of Sophie?”

And again:

“I swear to you, though you may be somewhat incredulous as to the state
of my mind, that when you have put my little business clear and
straight--I promise you, on my word as a living being, that I will think
twice ere I incur the smallest expense. It is not possible for me to be
miserly--it is a disgusting vice.”

Then, in a third letter:

“Eh! _bon jour_, my good friend; it is an age since I saw you or
embraced you. When are you going to spend a morning with me? Do you know
that I have learned a good deal of sense since the beginning of the
year? Do you know that I intend to keep my word and commit hardly any
foolish extravagance; and you will see that you will be very satisfied
with poor Sophie. If you knew how many small debts I have discharged,
you would be well content with your Sophie. I have not yet got into my
den (at Port-à-l’Anglais), but so soon as I have, I should like to meet
you, and talk over all this business at our leisure. If, in the
meanwhile, you would like to come this evening and eat a truffled
turkey, much bigger and a thousand times more of a _dinde_ than I am,
you will be welcome.”

In spite of these promises of amendment, we find her, shortly
afterwards, writing to inform the worthy notary that an execution has
been levied upon her for non-payment of her capitation tax and other
dues, and to beg him to send her the sum of 196 livres to enable her to
get rid of the emissaries of the law.

As time goes on, the letters multiply, all full of entreaties, excuses,
promises, regrets, expostulations. She assures him that she cares
nothing for money--one can well believe that--but has an intense desire
to be free from debt. Then, when he shows a marked disinclination to
make any further advances, she declares that not even on the stage of
the Opera has she met with so inhuman, so hard-hearted, a monster. But
the notary, annoyed at finding that her promises are never kept, and
that, notwithstanding her protestations, she makes no change in her
extravagant way of living, shuts himself up in his office and turns a
deaf ear to her appeals. Sophie redoubles her entreaties, reiterates her
vows of amendment, sends him epistles bedewed with her tears. All is in
vain; _petit père_ Alleaume remains inflexible.

In November 1780, Sophie’s daughter, Alexandrine, married a certain
André de Murville, a young man of respectable middle-class family, who
dabbled in literature. Alexandrine was, at this time, only in her
fourteenth year; an ungainly, red-haired child, who seems to have
inherited both her mother’s biting wit and--or, at least, so scandal
asserted--her mother’s indifference to the conventions of morality.[60]
For which reasons, Sophie was probably glad to be rid of her. The
ceremony took place at Saint-Roch, and was attended by several worthy
bourgeois couples, relatives of Murville, who must have been
considerably shocked when Sophie, on being presented to them, remarked
upon the strangeness of the circumstance that the mother of the bride
should be the only unmarried lady present.[61]

For the next few years, we hear little of Sophie. She appears, like so
many women of her class, to have endeavoured to find consolation in
devotion, but soon gave up the attempt, protesting that the directors of
conscience were worse than the directors of the Opera. By the bankruptcy
of the Prince de Guéménée, in 1782, she lost a considerable part of her
fortune--how we are not told--a disaster which probably accounts for the
fact that she soon afterwards quitted Paris and took a little house at
Clichy-la-Garenne, “with an acre of land, which, however, she did not
cultivate.” Here, in 1785, she was joined by her daughter, whose
marriage had turned out very unhappily, and who was now suing for a
separation, on the ground of her husband’s cruelty.

In her plaint, which bears date October 19, 1795, Alexandrine declares
that “since she had had the misfortune to espouse the sieur Murville,
she had never known a moment’s peace”; that he had “several times struck
her at the end of frightful scenes”; that she had been forced to make
over to him all the moneys that had been settled upon her, and that she
was now “sick, destitute, and in urgent need of medical assistance to
prevent the loss of an eye, which her husband had grievously injured at
the risk of killing her.”

In a second plaint, made the following year, she relates that, a few
days after the birth of her first child, towards whose support he now
refused to contribute, her husband had called her atrocious names,
seized her violently by the right arm, “with such force as to leave a
red mark,” and, finally, turned her out of the house, at one o’clock in
the morning.

About the same time, the unhappy Alexandrine applied to the Minister of
the King’s Household for admission to the Opera in the humble capacity
of a chorus-singer; but, for some reason, her request does not appear to
have been granted.

At Clichy, Sophie lived a very quiet life, though she seems to have been
fond of entertaining her humble neighbours. “I went sometimes to see
Mlle. Arnould, at Clichy,” writes Millin. “One day, I found her in the
midst of a large circle. There were twenty persons at table. I was on
the point of retiring, when she called me back and said to me: ‘Come in!
I am marrying the son of my cook to the daughter of my gardener. Both
families are my guests; we are celebrating the pleasures of Love and
Equality.’ In the evening, her two sons arrived. They wanted money. She
had none to give them. ‘Ah, well!’ said she, ‘each of you take a horse
from the stable.’ And they went away with the two horses.”[62]

The expenses of her family--she had now to support Alexandrine and her
two children, in addition to her sons--pressed heavily upon poor Sophie,
and, in January 1788, we find her writing to one of her old friends, a
financier of the name of Boutin, begging him to arrange for her a loan
of 24,000 livres, which she proposes to repay by four yearly instalments
of 6000 livres. As security, she offers a mortgage on her house at
Clichy, which, she declares, is worth 20,000 francs, and another on the
furniture of a house belonging to her in the Rue Caumartin, and assures
him that she will keep her promise to repay the money “with certainty,
honour, and probity.”

She appears to have obtained the accommodation she sought, but was
speedily in difficulties again, and compelled to apply for assistance to
some of her old friends, whom, when they sent her money, or even
“evinced an intention to oblige her,” she overwhelms with gratitude,
declaring that, if it be true, as learned men assert, that the soul
never perishes, her own will remember the obligation, even after death.

Yet, harassed though she was, she could sympathise with the distress of
others. On January 21, 1789, a young man of the name of Bompas was
arrested at the Barrière de Clichy, with three parcels in his
possession, containing a large quantity of lady’s underwear, “marked
with the letters S.A. in red cotton,” a porcelain mustard-pot, a green
morocco case holding two decanters and a crystal goblet, two pairs of
candlesticks, and various other articles. On being brought before a
commissary of police, he confessed that the above-mentioned articles
were the property of Mlle. Arnould, whose residence he had burglariously
entered the previous evening. Sophie caused inquiries to be made and,
finding that Bompas was a journeyman carpenter of hitherto
irreproachable character, who had been out of work for several weeks and
had been driven to the theft by necessity, generously declined to
prosecute, and the prisoner was accordingly released.

Several writers have stated that, in the early days of the Revolution,
Sophie’s salon became a political club and that she herself was an
enthusiastic advocate of republican doctrines. “There are beings,” wrote
Champcenetz, in the course of a brutal attack on the ex-singer which he
published in the royalist organ, _La Chronique scandaleuse_, “who would
not die content unless they had degraded themselves in every conceivable
way. Of this the aged Sophie Arnould is an example. After delivering
herself for forty years to every scoundrel of bad taste, she has now
turned demagogue, that she may receive at her house the dregs of the
human race. She has sent to study at the Jacobins the two children, with
whom a man of gallantry once presented her, through inadvertence.”[63]

That Sophie, in common with her old lover Lauraguais and others of her
aristocratic and literary friends, sympathised to a certain extent with
the Revolution--that is to say, with the Revolution in its earlier
phases--is probable enough. That, crippled as she was with debts, she
kept open house for all the turbulent spirits of her time, or carried
her partisanship so far as to endeavour to influence the opinions of
her sons, who were quite old enough to form them without any assistance
from their mother, as Champcenetz--an old enemy, by the way, of both
Sophie and Lauraguais--asserts, we beg leave to doubt. Any way, her
enthusiasm for the new order of things must have been very short-lived,
for, in 1789, her pension of 4000 livres was reduced to 2000, and from
1793 not paid at all, but, according to an entry in the Archives, “left

In 1790, Sophie sold her house at Clichy-la-Garenne and purchased, “for
a mere song,” an old disused priory at Luzarches. Her new residence she
christened Le Paraclet, though whether she derived much comfort from the
house itself is open to question, as it was in the last stage of
dilapidation, and she had no money to spare for even the most urgent
repairs. In an amusing letter, written in 1794 to Belanger, she
describes it as “only the carcase of a house, which waits for doors and
windows until it shall please God to send me the means,” and adds that
she is “camping provisionally in the dovecot of the ancient monks.”

Her surroundings, however, appear to have afforded her some compensation
for the ruinous condition of the building. “I have a beautiful park,
containing all that it is possible to desire whether for ornament or
use; superb kitchen-garden; a vineyard, which has yielded me this year
six hogsheads of wine; a forest, a wood, an orchard, a pond well stocked
with fish, fresh air, beautiful scenery, good land. This is the fourth
year that I have been here, and I remain in the greatest solitude. But
well! I have not felt one moment’s _ennui_ since I came.”

While at Luzarches, Sophie received a domiciliary visit from the local
revolutionary committee. She received them with a smiling face, though
she must have been quaking with fear, since her intimacy with the Prince
de Condé and other distinguished _émigrés_ was sufficient to have sent
her to the guillotine a dozen times over.

“I have always been a very active citizen,” said she; “I know the Rights
of Man by heart” (a remark which was certainly true), “and I have sung
twenty years at the Opéra-National for the pleasure of the Sovereign

The committee, however, were not satisfied with these assurances and
insisted on ransacking the house, in quest of compromising
correspondence and so forth. Presently they came across a bust of Gluck
and paused before it.

“It is Marat,” said Sophie, in a tone of the deepest veneration.

The worthy _sans-culottes_ uncovered, and convinced that they had just
been contemplating the august features of the father of the people,
whose sanguinary career the knife of Charlotte Corday had recently
brought to an abrupt termination, retired, with many apologies for
having doubted the patriotism of the Citoyenne Arnould.[64]

Sophie remained at Luzarches for seven years, “_tout à fait en
paysanne_.” She wore _sabots_, she planted cabbages, she gathered peas
and apples, and she reared, or tried to rear, poultry. Her daughter
Alexandrine lived with her for a couple of years, and then took
advantage of the new law of divorce to get rid of the estimable Murville
and replace him by the son of the local postmaster, “a stout boy, who
was quite unsuitable for her.” Sophie, though, as we have seen, by no
means strait-laced herself, strongly disapproved of her daughter’s
conduct, and made it the occasion of one of her most celebrated _bons
mots_. “Divorce,” she gravely observed, “is the sacrament of adultery.”

All this time the unfortunate woman was gradually becoming poorer and
poorer. Her pension had been discontinued; the greater part of what
money she had possessed apart from that seems to have been swallowed up,
with so many other fortunes, in the financial chaos which accompanied
the political one; while to apply to her friends for help was no longer
of any avail. Not a few of them, among whom was the Prince d’Hénin, had
departed to another world, by way of the Place de la Révolution; others,
like Lauraguais, were in exile; those who were still within reach of her
appeals were ruined. Of all her old friends and admirers the only one to
whom she could turn was Belanger, and it was but little that he could do
to assist his once-adored Sophie. He himself had been imprisoned and had
narrowly escaped the guillotine, and when he was released, to find that
everything portable belonging to him had been carried off by a faithless
servant, he was thrust, _bon gré mal gré_, into a miserably-paid
municipal office, which kept him hard at work from seven o’clock in the
morning until nearly midnight, and left him no time for practising his
profession. Moreover, he was now married, having, while in prison,
espoused a companion in misfortune, Mlle. Dervieux, of the Opera, who
had been a notorious courtesan, and, consequently, had no money to spare
for old friends in distress.

Nevertheless, the kind-hearted architect did all that was in his power.
He wrote to Sophie; he went to visit her; he entertained her at his
house, and acted as her intermediary with the Minister of the Interior,
in order to secure the restitution of the pension to which she was
entitled. And Sophie, on her side, makes him the confidant of all her
hopes and disappointments, and writes him long, affectionate letters,
beginning: “_Mon bel ange_,” and one of them superscribed, “_À mon
meilleur ami_.”

Once, learning that she was in sore distress, Belanger sent her a double
louis--probably all that the poor man could afford--which the grateful
Sophie acknowledges in the following letter:

“_8 Nivôse, Year_ viii. (_January 29, 1800_).

     “Ah, _mon bel ange_, my friend, you are always the same for
     goodness and generosity. What a good heart is yours! I would thank
     you sincerely, my poor friend, but what expressions can I
     employ?... They would always fall short of my gratitude, not for
     the money, but for the action. Ah! what good you have done my
     heart! Here are a hundred years of happiness for me, if I had them
     to live. Console yourself, my friend; I have still a few sous, and
     have no need of the two louis that you sent me, and of which you
     have deprived yourself for me; for I also know what your position
     is. But I will keep _this piece_ to wear upon my heart, and it
     shall not leave me until my death. I know the motto I shall put
     there; it shall be my relic. Good-bye, _mon bel ange_, my good
     angel, my true friend. Believe me there does not exist on earth a
     being who is more tenderly attached to you, and more inviolably
     attached to you, than your


     “On the 24th, I shall be with my good friends, with you and your
     wife, and shall devote that day to my happiness.”

In another letter, written eleven months later, we find her rejoicing
over the victory of Hohenlinden, in which “her son in the army, her
hussar, had well avenged them with the army of the Rhine against the
Austrians.” She has received details of the engagement from Constant
himself, who sends many affectionate messages to his “good and tender
mother” and the Belangers, and desires to be remembered to “the amiable
ladies of their circle.” The hastily-scribbled notes of the hussar, who
seems to have been both a good son and a brave and capable officer--he
rose, as we have mentioned elsewhere, to the rank of colonel and fell at
Wagram--seem to have been one of the chief consolations of poor Sophie’s

When the first of the above letters was written, Sophie had been living
for some years in Paris. She had returned to the capital in 1797, and
had at first taken lodgings over a barber’s shop in the Rue du
Petit-Lion, from which, however, she had removed, a few months later, to
an apartment in the Hôtel d’Angivilliers. She still retained possession
of the old priory at Luzarches, and appears to have occasionally visited

From the Hôtel d’Angivilliers, we find her writing to Lauraguais, who,
though he had contrived to save his head,[65] was now almost as poor as
she herself was, and was living on a small farm which he had bought or
rented at Manicamp, in the department of the Aisne. He had invited her
to share his retreat, but Sophie felt obliged to decline the offer. She
had succeeded, not without great difficulty, in obtaining from François
de Neufchâteau, the Minister of the Interior, a pension of 200 livres a
month, and, as pensions were paid very grudgingly, she feared that her
leaving Paris might serve as an excuse for discontinuing it. Unable to
join Lauraguais in the country, she now invites him to come and live
with her, “as to end her days near him, to render him all the attentions
of friendship, of the most tender, the most constant attachment, is the
desire of her heart and will crown her happiness.” “One must have money,
you will say,” she continues, after pointing out that Paris will be the
safest place for him to be in, in the coming renewal of the faction
strife, which she believes to be close at hand. “But you have _a
little_, and I have _a little_ also. We shall not have any great
expenses to meet. No rent to pay; we must breakfast at home; for dinner
we can visit our friends; we will be moderate at their houses and very
moderate at our own. I have also some wood at Le Paraclet, a portion of
which I will have brought here.... As to our means of living; well, my
Dorval, we must help one another. We will take for our models Baucis and
Philemon. Dorval will write the great adventures of the Revolution; I
will transmit to posterity those of our youth. That is already a long
time ago, but one never forgets what has moved one deeply. The heart
alone, my Dorval, has imperishable recollections.... I shall prepare for
you all that I can procure for your needs and comfort. You shall have a
fine room, very large and airy and in a good position, where you will
be alone and free, with a staircase and door to yourself, a good bed,
chairs and commodes to match, a big table for your papers, writing
materials, &c. Finally, I hope you will not be uncomfortable. As for
other matters, I have all that is required. To assist me, I keep one
servant, a woman about thirty years of age, unmarried, and not too
intelligent, but who works well and is a great help to me. The
intelligent ones are only _intrigantes_, &c. We must avoid all that, and
for good reasons. But do not, my friend, be uneasy about yourself; I
shall always be at your service, and shall always say:

    “‘Ah! qu’on est heureux de déchausser ce qu’on aime!’

“Adieu. I will let you know when the lodging will be ready. That will
not be long; and do not send any excuses for not coming. Adieu.”

Lauraguais did not see his way to accept this invitation, but he appears
to have been residing in Paris, for some time at least, during the last
year or two of Sophie’s life, and to have done what little he could to
assist her.

The poverty in which poor Sophie spent the last years of her life was in
a great measure the result of her own goodness of heart. Soon after she
removed from Luzarches to Paris, her daughter Alexandrine died, leaving
behind her three children totally unprovided for. The ex-singer
heroically undertook the charge of her grandchildren, although she must
have been aware that the cost of their maintenance would leave her with
hardly sufficient to procure the barest necessaries. Still, by the aid
of the most rigid economy, she contrived to support both herself and
them until the summer of 1799, when François de Neufchâteau resigned
office, and the pension he had accorded her was discontinued. The
unfortunate woman was now almost penniless--it was at this time that
Belanger sent her the double louis which called forth the letter of
thanks we have already cited. Nevertheless, even when face to face with
starvation, her wit did not desert her, as will be seen by the following
letter, which she addressed to Lucien Bonaparte, the new Minister of the

PARIS, _I Pluviôse, Year_ viii. (_January 21, 1801_).

     “CITIZEN MINISTER,--I am called Sophie Arnould; a name perhaps
     quite unknown to you, but formerly very familiar to the Theatre of
     the Gods.

    ‘Je chantais, ne vous déplaise.’

...Since my earliest years, and without any other destiny than the
     chance which governs so many things, twenty years of my life have
     been consecrated to the Théâtre des Arts,[66] where some natural
     talents, a careful education, and the most artistic teaching were
     supported by the counsels of men of taste, scholars, artists, in a
     word, of persons justly celebrated. As for myself, I had then to
     recommend me, a suitable physique, an abundant youth, vivacity,
     soul, a bad head, and a good heart. These were the auspices under
     which I was fortunate enough to make my life illustrious, and to
     gain, together with a sort of celebrity, glory, fortune, and many
     friends. Alas! now Chance has turned against me. As for celebrity,
     my name is still cited with some praise in association with those
     of Psyché, Thélaïre, Iphigénie, Eglé, Pomone, in a word, at the
     Théâtre des Arts. As for the friends, I can only say that I so well
     deserved them that I have only lost those whom death has taken from
     me, and those of whom the decemviral axe has deprived me.

     There is thus only inconstant Fortune which, without rhyme or
     reason, has given me the slip ... and in what circumstances too!...
     When I am too old for Love and too young for Death. You see then,
     Citizen Minister, how cruel it is, after so much happiness, to find
     oneself reduced to so miserable a state, and, after having kindled
     so many fires, to be to-day without even a log to burn on my own
     hearth! For the fact is that, since the nation has placed me on its
     Pension List, I have nowhere to sleep and nothing to live on. I
     assuredly do not ask for riches, but only for enough to enable me
     to finish my life and to avoid an unhappy old age. I have heavy
     expenses, because, in my fortunate days, I was the support of the
     unfortunate members of my family. That had to be, but my poverty
     does not make them rich. Finally, Citizen Minister, I beg you to
     come to my assistance and to continue those benefits which my
     friend, François de Neufchâteau, when he became Minister, procured
     for me. I owe this testimony to his heart....


Lucien Bonaparte’s reply to this letter was to promise Sophie a free
benefit at the Opera. He subsequently, however, withdrew this
permission, at the same time announcing his intention to make her, by
way of compensation, a grant of 6000 francs. But, in the then depleted
state of the Treasury, many months frequently intervened between a
promise and its performance; and the poor woman could only obtain a
portion of the money. Her condition was now pitiable, since not only was
she living in extreme poverty, but her health was failing rapidly. An
accident which she had met with some time before had induced a malignant
growth which defied medical treatment, and occasioned her terrible
suffering. In her distress, she begged Belanger to write to the
Minister, and the architect addressed to Lucien Bonaparte the following
pathetic letter:

_11 Messidor, Year_ x. (_June 30, 1802_).

     “CITIZEN MINISTER,--I address this letter to you alone. It is
     written from the bedside of the celebrated Arnould, who is now on
     the point of death. [She did not die until four months later.] This
     woman is dying in want of the necessaries which her state of
     distress does not permit her to procure. You accorded her a benefit
     performance at the Théâtre des Arts, for which some obliging
     persons offered her 12,000 francs. You subsequently desired that
     this permission should be withdrawn and, in exchange, offered her
     6000 francs. She has only received 4000. The 2000 which are still
     due would be of the greatest service to her; but to whom am I to
     address myself to obtain the fulfilment of your promise? The
     treasurer of the Théâtre des Arts declares that he must have a
     special order from you, and that, without such order, he can hand
     over nothing. And this unhappy woman, of whom Gluck said: ‘Without
     the charm of the voice and elocution of Mlle. Arnould, my
     _Iphigénie_ would never have been accepted in France’--this
     unfortunate woman finds herself to-day deprived even of the means
     of prolonging her life, for want of assistance! What would the
     Moncrifs, the Rousseaus, the d’Alemberts, the Diderots, Helvétius,
     the Baron d’Holbach, and all those celebrated men who so courted
     her society (as you may find in their correspondence) have said to
     this? What would Voltaire himself have said? he who, at the age of
     eighty-four, had himself carried to her house, and inscribed these
     verses on her bust:

    “‘Ses grâces, ses talents ont illustré son nom;
      Elle a su tout charmer, jusqu’à la jalousie.
      Alcibiade en elle eut cru voir Aspasie,
      Maurice, Lecouvreur, et Gourville, Ninon.’

     “This woman, now so utterly forsaken, was once surrounded by men of
     learning. She lived to help the unfortunate; she lived to leave
     models and pupils to the stage, which she adorned and even created.
     Eminent men have immortalised her talents and her wit; and yet this
     woman is dying for want of means to procure remedies for the cruel
     sufferings which she is enduring.”[67]

It is believed that this letter was the means of shaming the Minister
into paying the remainder of the sum due. Let us hope that such was the
case, and that the money was able to procure poor Sophie some relief in
her last hours. She died on Vendémiaire 30, Year xi. (October 22, 1802),
having previously received the last Sacraments from the hands of the
curé of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois.

She was buried the following day; in what cemetery is uncertain. The
Goncourts think it must have been at Montmartre, because all persons at
this period who died in the Ier Arrondissement were interred there.
But, as Mr. Douglas suggests, it is quite likely that Belanger or
Lauraguais might have caused her to be buried elsewhere.



According to a report of a police-inspector named Marais, published for
the first time in the _Revue rétrospective_ (vol. viii.), the real name
of this famous _danseuse_ was Marie Morel, and she was the natural
daughter of a Jew named Bernard, who died at the Châtelet, where he had
been imprisoned for debt, and a girl named Morel, of good bourgeois
family. There is no truth in this report, however, save so far as the
illegitimacy of the lady is concerned, as, from the registers of the
parish of Bonne-Nouvelle de Paris, it appears that she was the daughter
of one Fabien Guimard, inspector of the cloth manufactories at Voiron,
in Dauphiné, and of Marie Anne Bernard, and that she was born in the Rue
de Bourbon-Villeneuve, December 27, 1743.[68] The _acte de naissance_
describes Marie Anne Bernard as the _wife_ of Fabien Guimard, but,
though she called herself by the name of the father of her child, they
were, as a matter of fact, never married, as M. Campardon discovered in
the Archives Nationales a deed legitimating the _danseuse_, bearing date
December 1765, without doubt consented to by Guimard, in order to secure
his daughter’s succession to his property.[69]

In this deed, the demoiselle Marie Madeleine Guimard, making profession
of the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman religion, declares that she was
born of the illegitimate connection which formerly existed between the
sieur Fabien Guimard, inspector of the cloth manufactories at Voiron,
and the deceased Anne Bernard, her father and mother being both then
free and unmarried; but that, in the misfortune of her birth, she has
had the good fortune to be educated with great care, and that her father
being desirous of continuing the marks of tenderness and personal
affection that he has always manifested for her, and wishing to assure
her his property, has consented, in conjunction with his brother, priest
and canon of the diocese of Orléans, to accord to her letters of
legitimation, for the purpose of effacing the stain of her birth and
giving her the enjoyment of the privileges and advantages of legitimate

And Louis XV., by his special grace, full power, and authority,
legitimates the said demoiselle Guimard, and, in the impressive language
of the ancient monarchy, declares that it is his royal will and pleasure
that she shall bear the name of Marie Madeleine Guimard, that she shall
be held, considered, and reputed, as he holds her, legitimate, that she
shall never be reproached with her birth and that she shall enjoy, in
the said quality, the same honours, prerogatives, rights, privileges,
franchises, and advantages as are enjoyed by his other legitimate

In the above declaration, Madeleine speaks of her good fortune in being
educated with great care, and of the marks of tenderness and personal
affection she had received from her father. It would appear, however,
that the act of legitimation was a tardy act of reparation on M.
Guimard’s part, very probably dictated by the approach of death, for his
neglect of the duties of a father, since no trace is to be found of his
having exercised any supervision over his daughter’s early years; and
the girl’s education, or at least the choregraphic part of it, seems to
have been undertaken at the expense of a M. d’Harnoncourt and the
Président de Saint-Lubin, two elderly roués, whose practice it was to
defray the education of young girls who happened to have caught their
fancy, with a view to making them their mistresses when they should have
reached a suitable age.

Whether either of these amiable old gentlemen received anything in
return for his trouble is problematical, for Madeleine Guimard was ever
fastidious; but, according to that highly unedifying work, _La Police
devoilée_, the president did not sigh altogether in vain.

       *       *       *       *       *

In those days there was a _corps de ballet_ attached to the
Comédie-Française, some of the performances of which, notably _La Mort
d’Orphée, ou les Fêtes de Bacchus_ (June 1759), and _Vertumne et Pomone_
(April 1760), enjoyed a vogue comparable to the most successful ballets
of the Opera itself; and it was in this corps that Madeleine Guimard, in
virtue of the double protection of M. d’Harnoncourt and the Président de
Saint-Lubin, made her first appearance on the stage in 1758. She was
then in her sixteenth year, and is described, in the report of the
police-inspector Marais already referred to, as “_bien faite et déjà en
possession de la jolie gorge du monde, d’une figure assez bien, sans
être jolie; l’œil fripon, et portée au plaisir_.”

Of her professional career at the national theatre we have,
unfortunately, no details; the brilliant talents which made her so
celebrated in later years were probably as yet undeveloped, or, at any
rate, she was afforded no opportunity of displaying them. On the other
hand, we have a good deal of information, of a somewhat unedifying
nature, in regard to her private life. Her mother appears to have
exercised over the young _coryphée_ a commendable vigilance;
nevertheless, in September 1760, the girl was detected in an amorous
correspondence with a dancer of the Opera named Léger, whom, we learn
from a _Plainte rendue par la mère de Mlle. Guimard, danseuse à la
Comédie-Française, contre un sieur Léger, qu’elle accusait de vouloir
séduire sa fille_, had introduced himself into the house, under the
pretext of giving his inamorata lessons in her art.

The result of this _liaison_, if we are to believe the scandal-loving
scribes of the time, was a child, to which the _danseuse_ gave birth in
a barn, in the midst of winter, “_sans feu et sans linge_.”[70] The
story of the child is very probably apocryphal; at any rate, we hear
nothing further about it, though, of course, it may have died in
infancy. But there can be no doubt that Madeleine Guimard did live for a
time with Léger, and in great poverty too; for some years later, when
she had risen to fame and opulence, the poet Barthe, in his _Statuts
pour l’Opéra_, alludes to the episode in the following verses:

    “Que celles qui, pour prix de leurs heureux travaux,
     Jouissent à vingt ans d’un honnête opulence,
           Ont un hôtel et des chevaux,
     Se rappellent parfois leur première indigence
     Et leur petit grenier et leur lit sans rideaux.
           Leur defendons, en conséquence,
           De regarder avec pitié
           Celle qui s’en retourne à pié;
           Pauvre enfant dont l’innocence
           N’a pas encore réussi,
           Mais qui, grâce à la danse,
           Fera son chemin aussi.”[71]

The “widow” Guimard--the lady gave out that she was a widow, to account
for the non-appearance of the inspector of cloth manufactories--was not
nearly so ferocious a guardian of her daughter’s honour when the
_soupirant_ did not happen to be a poor devil of a dancer; and when, not
long afterwards, the wealthy financier, M. Bertin, of whose unfortunate
connection with Sophie Arnould we have spoken in our study of that
singer, appeared upon the scene and offered to furnish, for Mlle.
Madeleine’s accommodation, a handsome apartment near the
Comédie-Française, the fond mother seems to have regarded his advances
with complacency, if not with a warmer feeling.

In 1761, Mlle. Guimard quitted the Comédie-Française and accepted an
engagement at the Opera, to double Mlle. Allard, at the very modest
salary of 600 livres a year. Here, on May 9, 1762, she made her first
appearance, in the part of Terpsichore, in the prologue of the _Fêtes
Grecques et Romaines_, and obtained a great success. Her nimbleness and
her grace, though at that time perhaps a little affected, gained her
loud applause, which never failed her during the twenty-seven years of
her theatrical career.

The year which followed her _début_, Mlle. Guimard secured a genuine
success at a performance of _Castor et Pollux_ before the Court, at
Fontainebleau. “This young person,” says the _Mercure de France_,
“already known and applauded on the Paris stage, has given before the
Court, at Fontainebleau, agreeable proofs of her progress, and
particularly in the ballets of this opera, where she danced several _pas
de deux_.”

Every year Mlle. Guimard continued to grow in favour, with both the
habitués of the Opera and at the Court. As Eglé in _Les Fêtes d’Hébé, ou
Les Talents lyriques_, by Mondorge and Rameau, as Flore in _Naïs_, as an
Amazon in _Tancrède_, and as the statue in _Pygmalion_, she was received
with ever-increasing applause, and after her appearance in the
last-named part, she was generally admitted to be one of the most
brilliant _danseuses_ who had ever appeared on the Paris stage.

The dance of Mlle. Guimard has been described by Noverre as the poetry
of motion. It was a very simple one, consisting merely of a variety of
little steps, but every movement was characterised by such exquisite
grace that the public soon came to prefer her to any other performer.
What, however, chiefly distinguished her from her colleagues was the
fact that to her talents as a _danseuse_, she united all the qualities
of an excellent actress; her countenance, her attitude, her gestures all
spoke, and her dance seemed to be only the faithful and very animated
expression of the sentiments which she experienced.[72] But let us cite
on this subject, a passage from a very interesting letter written, some
three years after her death, by her husband, Jean Étienne Despréaux, to
a friend, who had asked him for some information about his wife and the

“There are three kinds of grace: grace of form, grace of attitude, and
grace of movement. Grace of form is the gift of Nature; it is rare. That
of attitude is a choice of positions of the body, which good taste
chooses and indicates. That of movement consists not merely in passing
from one attitude to another, in following the cadence of the music, but
it requires the expression to be in conformity with the _genre_ that it
represents, especially in the _danse terre-à-terre_, which is very
different from the _danse sautée_. It is in the _danse terre-à-terre_
that Mlle. Guimard charmed, for more than twenty-five years, a critical
public, in the gavottes of _Armide_ and in two hundred other dances. She
was always new; I do not speak only of her feet, they count for little
in comparison with the charm of body and head. It is that which is the
perfection of the picture. She played perfectly both comedy and
_opéra-comique_. Her expressive face depicted easily all the feelings
that she experienced, or was believed to experience. That was why she
displayed the most perfect pantomime in _Médée et Jason_, in the ballet
of _Ninette_, in _Myrza_, and in many other ballets. She was always
perfect, because grace never forsook her.

“She knew how to distinguish the trivial from what was really comic, and
joined to the charm of grace and of harmony of movement facial

“...She did not approve of the present fashion of raising the foot as
high as the hip. These exaggerated movements dislocate the body, and are
the enemies of grace. Attitudes of this kind have no other effect than
to astonish the _parterre_.”[73]

Madeleine Guimard was not beautiful, she was not even pretty; her
complexion was unpleasantly sallow; her thinness so extreme as to earn
from her charitable colleagues of the Opera the sobriquets of “the
spider,” “the skeleton of the Graces,” and so forth. But she more than
atoned for these natural disadvantages by an indescribable charm of
manner, which conquered the minds and hearts of all with whom she came
in contact. “Love,” says one of her biographers, “is not blind for
nothing, and Madeleine Guimard possessed more than any other woman of
her time the art of placing a bandage over the eyes of those who
regarded her.”

Her triumphs in the sphere of gallantry rivalled those which she
obtained upon the stage. Not one among her contemporaries succeeded in
achieving a similar notoriety. Princes of the Blood and dancers of the
Opera, great noblemen and men of letters, financiers, painters, and--_O
tempora! O mores!_--bishops, nay, even an archbishop![74]--none could
resist this nameless charm; all, in turn, were at her feet.

In the early years of her career at the Opera, the reports of the
inspectors of the Lieutenants of Police provide us with abundant
information in regard to the amorous adventures of the _danseuse_. To M.
Bertin, who, poor man! probably bored Mlle. Guimard as much as he had
Sophie Arnould, succeeded M. de Boutourlin, the Russian Ambassador to
the Court of Spain, who, during a visit to Paris, lived with her for
some time, but, finally, had the bad taste to leave her for Mlle. Lafond
of the Comédie-Italienne. Mlle. Guimard, however, speedily turned the
tables upon the “Italians,” by detaching the Comte de Rochefort from
Mlle. Collette of that theatre, a triumph which enriched her jewel-case
by “a diamond collar of great price,” and other acquisitions. In the
meanwhile--for the lady, like Mlle. Clairon, was quite capable of
carrying on two or three love-affairs at once--a connection of a more
durable nature had been formed between the _danseuse_ and the
farmer-general Jean Benjamin de la Borde, first _valet-de-chambre_ to
Louis XV.

Jean Benjamin de la Borde, celebrated by those two verses of his friend

    “Avec tous les talens le destin l’a fait naître
     Il fait tous les plaisirs de la société,”

was an ideal lover. He was at this time about thirty years of age, an
accomplished courtier, a musician of some little talent, and possessed
of considerable literary gifts,[75] and “a frank, loyal, modest,
generous, and kind-hearted man.”

From this _liaison_, in April 1763, was born a daughter, baptized as the
child of a father and mother unknown, but formally acknowledged by her
parents seven years later. In May 1778, at the age of fifteen, this
daughter, who bore her mother’s baptismal name of Marie Madeleine,
married one Claude Drais, a goldsmith and jeweller of the Quai des
Orfèvres. The girl did not go to her husband empty-handed, for the
marriage contract, which is given by M. Campardon, in his _L’Académie
royale de Musique au XVIIIe siècle_, makes provision for a dowry of
125,000 livres; “100,000 livres in cash, which the demoiselle Guimard
engages to pay in _écus_ of six livres, within the space of two years,”
and 25,000 livres, composed of a trousseau, furniture, diamonds,
jewellery, clothes, linen, and lace. The marriage was a sad one, as the
young bride died a year later, to the great distress of her mother, who
was so prostrated by grief that it was some months before she was able
to appear again upon the stage.

One might have supposed that the possession of a lover like M. de la
Borde, who, in addition to his many amiable qualities, was a wealthy
man, would have satisfied Mlle. Guimard. Such, however, was not the
case, as, in 1768, we find her the mistress--or rather one of the
mistresses--of the Maréchal Prince de Soubise, whom the favour of Madame
de Pompadour promoted to the command of the French troops so
disastrously defeated in the Battle of Rossbach.

The seraglio of the Prince de Soubise rivalled that of the Prince de
Conti; but, whereas the latter’s included ladies of every station in
life, that of the former seems to have been mainly recruited from the
Opera, and the pensions paid by him to _danseuses_ who had ceased to
find favour in his eyes must alone have represented a considerable

The prince was generosity itself. He made Mlle. Guimard a monthly
allowance of 2000 écus, surrounded her with every luxury that the heart
of woman could desire, and loaded her with costly gifts. The faithful La
Borde, who, though no longer the lady’s official protector, was
graciously permitted to remain her _amant de cœur_, continued to
contribute in a rather more modest manner to the expenses of his
beloved, and the toilettes, and equipages, and diamonds, of Mlle.
Guimard surpassed even those of Mlle. Deschamps, whose magnificence had
up to that time never been approached.

At the fashionable drive to Longchamps, on the Wednesday, Thursday, and
Friday of Holy Week 1768, a function always much patronised by the
“_haute impure_” of the capital, the equipage of Mlle. Guimard was the
centre of attraction. “The Princes and Grandees of the realm,” say the
omniscient Bachaumont, “were present in the most imposing and
magnificent equipages, and the courtesans were conspicuous, as they
usually are. But Mlle. Guimard, ‘_la belle damnée_,’ as M. Marmontel
calls her, drew upon her the attention of all by a chariot of exquisite
elegance, very worthy to contain the Graces and the modern Terpsichore.
What has particularly engaged the attention of the public are the
significant Arms that this celebrated courtesan has adopted. In the
midst of the shield one sees a mark of gold, from which springs a
mistletoe. The Graces serve as supporters, and Cupids crown the design.
The whole emblem is most ingenious.”[76]

Every week Mlle. Guimard gave three supper-parties. To the first came
the most distinguished noblemen of the Court and other persons of
consideration; the second was a _réunion_ of authors, artists, and
savants, a company not unworthy of comparison with that which assembled
in the salon of Madame Geoffrin; while the third, says Bachaumont, “was
a veritable orgy, to which were invited the most abandoned courtesans,
and where luxury and debauchery were carried to their furthest limits.”

But what were these suppers compared with the entertainments which the
_danseuse_ gave at her superb country-house at Pantin, in which, she
had constructed a charming miniature theatre, built in the form of two
demi-ellipses? The _salle_ was 157 ft. 9 in. in length, and 21 ft. 8 in.
in breadth, while the distance from the bottom of the orchestra to the
ceiling was 22 ft. It had seating accommodation for two hundred and
thirty-four spectators, exclusive of the accommodation provided by the
boxes, of which there were six. Several of these boxes were protected by
grills, in order that exalted personages might enjoy the performances
without being recognised.

Here, in 1768, was performed Collé’s _Partie de Chasse de Henri IV._,
before a distinguished company, for all aristocratic Paris disputed for
invitations to Mlle. Guimard’s entertainments, and people spoke of
“going to Pantin” as they spoke of going to Versailles.

The success of this comedy was so great that two other performances were
to have been given at the following Christmas; but the public had begun
to murmur at the frequent absences of the best actors and actresses of
the capital, and the representations were forbidden by an order from the
Gentlemen of the Chamber, which prohibited the members of the
Comédie-Française and the Comédie-Italienne from performing anywhere,
save in their own theatres.


From an engraving by GERVAIS after the painting by BOUCHER]

All the pieces performed at Pantin were not nearly so unobjectionable in
character as Collé’s charming comedy; indeed the dialogue, songs, and
dances of the majority of them were exceedingly free, and in some cases
disgracefully licentious[77]; while the farewell address pronounced
from the stage, at the temporary closing of the theatre in September
1770, was one of the most outrageous pieces of _double entendre_ ever
uttered in public.[78]

Mlle. Guimard’s house at Pantin has long since disappeared; even its
site is a matter for conjecture, and no contemporary description of it
unfortunately exists. Some of its contents, however, have come, from
time to time, into the market, from which we know that it must have been
one of the most charmingly-appointed houses of the time, with its
painted wainscots, its marble floors, its fluted pilasters, and its
exquisitely decorated panels; a house worthy for a queen to inhabit
instead of a _danseuse_.

The generosity of the Prince de Soubise and the devoted La Borde, lavish
though it was, failed to suffice Mlle. Guimard, who, to meet her
ever-increasing expenditure, found herself reluctantly compelled to
associate with them a third lover.[79] This time she turned in the
direction of the Church; M. de Jarente, Bishop of Orléans, was the happy

It was a prudent choice; M. de Jarente held the “_feuille des
bénéfices_” which meant that he controlled the greater part of the
ecclesiastical patronage of the realm. How he had discharged that
important trust previous to his _liaison_ with the notorious ballerina
we are unable to say. How he discharged it after he had succumbed to her
charms is but too well known: the _feuille des bénéfices_ became “the
fief of the Opera”; the ante-chamber of Mlle. Guimard was crowded with
ecclesiastics soliciting the honour of an audience, and abbeys,
priories, and chapels were knocked down to the highest bidder. And the
_danseuse_, reclining gracefully on her _chaise longue_, was heard to
inquire ironically of a friend about to present to her a young abbé who
had come to ask for a benefice: “Is this man of good moral character?”

       *       *       *       *       *

But, with all her faults and follies, Madeleine Guimard was not without
redeeming qualities. Of her, as of Madame du Barry, it might be said
that, if her wealth was ill-gotten, it was not always ill-spent. No more
charitable woman breathed; her purse was always open to the necessitous,
and she was never happier than when relieving the wants of others. Grimm
relates that during the terrible January of 1768, when whole families of
the poorer inhabitants of Paris were perishing from cold and hunger,
Mlle. Guimard begged the Prince de Soubise to give her her New Year’s
gift in money, instead of the jewellery which was his customary offering
to his enchantresses. Then, one evening, she left her house, alone and
simply dressed, taking with her the 6000 livres which that good-natured
libertine had sent her,[80] and distributed the money, together with a
considerable sum from her own pocket, among her indigent neighbours,
visiting the most squalid and miserable dwellings, in order to discover
the cases most deserving of assistance. This generous act, it appears,
was accomplished with the most profound secrecy, and until the inquiries
of the police had penetrated the mystery, not even the objects of her
bounty had the slightest clue to the identity of their benefactress.

Mlle. Guimard’s benevolence is commemorated by a rare engraving of the
time, without the name of the draughtsman or the engraver, bearing the

                        _Terpsichore Charitable
                         Mademoiselle Guimard
                        visitant les Pauvres._

In this engraving one sees an old woman lying on a pallet in a barn,
and, advancing towards her, a lady wearing a hood, followed by a troupe
of Cupids, bearing bread, soup, and wine.

The ballerina’s liberality was far from being confined to the poor. Her
purse was open to all, no matter how little claim they might have upon
her. Struggling tradesmen in the grasp of usurers, clerks out of
employment, and even gamblers unable to discharge their obligations came
to knock at the door of her hôtel, and few went empty away. Once, an
officer came to ask for the loan of a hundred louis, wherewith to pay a
debt of honour, and offered to sign a document in acknowledgment.
“Monsieur,” replied Mlle. Guimard, “your word is quite enough for me. I
imagine that an officer will have at least as much honour as an

Her house at Pantin did not long content Mlle. Guimard; and she,
accordingly, conceived the idea of building herself an hôtel in Paris;
not an ordinary hôtel, be it understood, but a veritable palace, a
palace such as no divinity of the stage had ever before inhabited, save
in her dreams. The will of the _danseuse_ was law to her adorers; the
prince, the bishop, and the farmer-general hastened to disgorge the
necessary funds, and the “Temple of Terpsichore,” as it was called by
the Parisians, began to rise. The site chosen was in the Rue de la
Chaussée-d’Antin, not far from the spot where stood the hôtel of a rival
courtesan, Mlle. Dervieux. Le Doux, the architect of Madame du Barry’s
pavilion at Louveciennes, drew up the plans.

A charming coloured sketch, in imitation of a water-colour of the time,
has preserved to us the appearance of the hôtel of Mlle. Guimard. The
porch is adorned by four columns, above which is an isolated group, in
Conflans stone, 6 ft. in proportion, representing Terpsichore being
crowned by Apollo. This was the work of the sculptor Le Comte, who is
also responsible for a beautiful bas-relief, 22 ft. in length, and 4 ft.
in height, where he has executed the triumph of the Muse of dancing, who
is shown seated in a chariot, drawn by Cupids, preceded by Bacchantes
and Fauns, and followed by the Graces of choregraphy.

Two little windows enable us to obtain a glimpse of the interior. One
shows us the ante-chamber and the _salle-à-manger_, the latter of which
is decorated with vases of gushing water, borne by groups of Naiads.
The other introduces us into the theatre, an imitation in miniature of
the _salle_ at Versailles, with a ceiling painted by Taravel, and
accommodation for five hundred spectators.[81]

This little palace, built and embellished under the supervision of the
adoring La Borde, was a jewel of architecture, a marvel of decorative
taste. “Picture to yourself,” says a brochure of the time, “picture to
yourself the happy and most brilliant assemblage of all the arts: they
meet here to surpass themselves.

“The exterior is charming. The intention of the architect has been to
represent the Temple of Terpsichore in the façade of the entrance side;
it would have been impossible to be more successful.

“In a little space, this delightful residence offers every conceivable
advantage and charm, and what is not presented by truth is supplied by
prestige. There is nothing, even to the garden, which does not charm and
astonish by its wholly novel taste. The apartments seem to owe their
different charms to magic; riches without confusion, gallantry without
indecorum; they show us the interior of the Palace of Love, embellished
by the Graces. The bedchamber invites repose; the salon, pleasure; the
_salle-à-manger_, gaiety; the forms are ingenious, without, however,
there being any recourse to the extravagance of contrast, which is so
often abused. A hothouse in the interior of the apartment takes the
place in the winter of a garden; it is furnished with a similar
taste.[82] The design is soft, without injury to the effect; the
trellis is in accordance with the best architectural taste; the
arabesques have nothing fantastic about them; the execution of all these
different marvels appears to be the work of the same hand. Delicious
harmony, which puts the _comble_ upon the reputation of the architect,
since it proves him to have recognised the importance of the choice of
the artists who have seconded his efforts, and the importance of
impressing them with his own ideas. We find here a little ballroom,
whose style of decoration renders it enchanting and perhaps unique. One
finds also a miniature theatre, which may be regarded as a
_chef-d’œuvre_ of its kind....”[83]

Two interesting anecdotes, both relating to famous painters of the
eighteenth century, attach to the adornment of the “Temple of
Terpsichore.” Mlle. Guimard often came to visit her palace and supervise
the decorations of the interior. One day, she remarked a young artist
who was painting the arabesques on the walls, and, observing that he
seemed sad and dispirited, questioned him and learned that he was
studying under Vien, but that poverty compelled him to earn his bread by
undertaking commissions of this kind, and prevented him from devoting
himself to the studies necessary to enable him to compete with success
for the Prix de Rome. The kind heart of the _danseuse_ was touched by
the young man’s story; she immediately told him to abandon his work in
the Chaussée-d’Antin and return to his studies, and sent him each month
two hundred livres for his expenses. Thanks to her generosity, Vien’s
pupil was able to take full advantage of his master’s lessons, and,
studying with unremitting ardour, carried off the coveted prize. This
young artist was none other than Jacques Louis David, the painter of
_Socrates_, _Brutus_, _The Sabines_, and _Leonidas_.

The other story relates to Fragonard. Fragonard had been chosen by Le
Doux to paint the principal panel of the grand salon, a repetition in
painting of the sculpture of the façade, that is to say, the
representation of Mlle. Guimard as Terpsichore, and “surrounded by all
the attributes which were able to characterise her in the most seducing
manner.” The work was still unfinished, when a quarrel arose between the
lady and the painter, which ended in the latter being sent away and the
completion of the task entrusted to another artist. One day, curious to
see how his work had fared in the hands of his successor, Fragonard
found means to introduce himself into the house, and made his way to the
salon without encountering any one. Here, the sight of a palette and
colours gave him the idea of a very piquant revenge. In four strokes of
the brush, he effaced the smile from the lips of Terpsichore, and
imparted to them instead an expression of anger and fury, taking care,
however, to make no other alterations in the portrait. This done, he
took his departure as stealthily as he had entered.

As ill-luck would have it, not long afterwards, Mlle. Guimard herself
arrived on the scene, accompanied by a party of friends, who had come to
pass judgment on the work of the new painter. Her indignation and
disgust at finding herself thus disfigured may be readily imagined, but
the more angry did she become, the more striking was the resemblance
between herself and the portrait, a fact upon which, we may be very
sure, the wittier members of the party did not fail to comment.

The little theatre, of which we have already spoken, was inaugurated on
December 8, 1772, before even the house itself was completed. The pieces
selected for the occasion were _La Partie de Chasse de Henri IV._, and
that exceedingly gay comedy, _La Vérité dans le vin_, both by Collé,
Mlle. Guimard’s favourite dramatist; and great was the competition in
fashionable circles to obtain tickets of admission. It will be
remembered that the performance of the former play by the members of the
Comédie-Française, at Pantin, at Christmas 1768, had been forbidden by
the Gentlemen of the Chamber; but now, thanks to the good offices of the
Prince de Soubise, the prohibition, though repeated, was annulled by
Louis XV. himself. A new difficulty, however, arose, through the
opposition of Christophe de Beaumont, the austere Archbishop of Paris,
who objected to the opening of the theatre, on account of the licentious
character of _La Vérité dans le vin_, and, to pacify the metropolitan,
it was found necessary to substitute for this comedy a pantomime
entitled _Pygmalion_, a parody of Collé’s little play of that name. On
the great night, Mlle. Guimard must have been a proud woman indeed,
since the most distinguished members of the _beau monde_ and the
_demi-monde_ had congregated in the “Temple of Terpsichore,” to do
honour to its mistress: two Princes of the Blood, the Duc de Chartres
and the Comte de Lamarche, and a select assortment of the most
fascinating courtesans in Paris, “all radiant with diamonds.”

In June 1773, the Prince de Soubise, ordinarily the most complacent of
lovers, who had, up to that time, accepted with an almost marital
indifference the division of Mlle. Guimard’s favours between M. de la
Borde and himself, suddenly developed a violent attack of jealousy and
insisted on the lady giving the farmer-general his _congé_. Poor La
Borde was in despair and straightway fell into a condition of the
deepest melancholy, which even his beloved music was powerless to
dissipate. At length, he determined to act on his own maxim: “_On combat
l’amour par la fuite et la colère par le silence_,”[84] and departed on
a course of foreign travel, visiting, amongst other places, Ferney, with
a commission from Madame du Barry to kiss its owner on both cheeks.

Nothing seems to have delighted Mlle. Guimard more than scandalising the
devout, and it must be admitted that the entertainments which she gave
in her two theatres at Pantin and the Chaussée-d’Antin contributed very
effectively to that end. In the early spring of 1776, she conceived the
idea of organising “a picnic of scandalous immorality, a picnic such as
French society had never yet beheld.” There was to be a play, needless
to say of a very free and easy kind, in which Mlle. Guimard herself was
to take part, and the famous courtesan, Mlle. Duthé, to dance. Then
Mlle. Dervieux was charged to order from a fashionable _traiteur_ a
sumptuous supper. And the play and the supper were to be followed by a
ball, gambling for colossal stakes--it is to be presumed the ladies did
not intend to risk their own money--and “everything which could
accompany an orgy of this nature.”

The fête, originally fixed for the Carnival, had been postponed to the
first Thursday in Lent, in order, say the _Mémoires secrets_, to render
it more singular and more celebrated.

All was arranged, the play staged, the supper prepared, when, on the
complaint of Mlle. Guimard’s enemy, the Archbishop of Paris, the King
interfered and sent an order prohibiting play, ball, and supper. The
Comte d’Artois and the Duc de Chartres, both of whom were to assist at
the entertainment, did everything in their power to obtain a reversal of
the order, but without success; and the commandant of the watch received
instructions to post men in the streets leading from the _traiteur’s_
shop to the Chaussée-d’Antin, to intercept the supper on its way to
Mlle. Guimard’s hôtel.

Under these circumstances, the _danseuse_ and her friends decided that
the only thing to be done was to abandon the proposed entertainment, and
send the supper to the curé of Saint-Roch, for distribution among the
sick poor of his parish. And, as each of the subscribers to the
prohibited picnic had contributed the sum of five louis, the wits named
it, “_le repas des Chevaliers de Saint-Louis_.”

Nevertheless, in spite of the archbishop and the _dévots_, the theatre
of the Chaussée-d’Antin continued to flourish and to number amongst its
patrons Princes of the Blood, _grands seigneurs_ of the Court, and
courtesans of the highest distinction. The parody of _Ernelinde_,
composed by the dancer Despréaux, performed there in September 1777,
enjoyed an immense success, and was commanded to be represented before
the Court at Choisy, the following month, when the young King, who had
hitherto shown but little taste for the theatre, laughed so immoderately
throughout the three acts, that he bestowed a pension on the dancer.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mlle. Guimard’s life of gallantry and extravagance did not cause her to
neglect her profession. No more assiduous student of her art ever
pirouetted across a stage, and her career was a series of almost
unbroken triumphs. In the ballet of _La Chercheuse d’esprit_, by Gardel
the elder, played before the Court in 1777, and produced at the Opera
the following year, her dancing and pantomime, in the part of Nicette,
were generally allowed to have been inimitable.

“The difficulty of pantomime,” writes Lefuel de Méricourt, in his
journal _Le Nouveau Spectateur_, “is the power of expressing by means of
gesture what seems to require the assistance of words. It was difficult,
for example, in the person of the _Chercheuse d’esprit_ to supply it in
the verse,

    ‘Allez chercher de l’esprit,’

which forms the _nœud_ of the piece. But the acting of the Guimard
leaves nothing to be desired at this interesting moment.”

The critic of the _Mercure de France_ is still more eulogistic: “One
cannot praise too highly the talent of Mlle. Guimard, in the rôle of
Nicette. It is necessary to see her to confess that never has one
rendered a simpleton (_niaise_), at the same time simple and
mischievous, more gracefully than this charming _actrice-danseuse_, who,
in her art, is always what one would desire her to be.”

And Grimm, in his _Correspondance littéraire_, after declaring that the
talent of Mlle. Guimard has caused one to overlook the faults of the
ballet, praises the _danseuse_ in these terms: “She has imparted to the
rôle of Nicette, a gradation of shades, so fine, so correct, so
delicate, so piquant, that the most ingenious poetry would be powerless
to render the same characters with more wit, delicacy, or truth. All her
steps, all her movements, are soft and harmonious, and exhibit a meaning
both sure and picturesque. How naïve is her simplicity, and yet how
devoid of silliness! How well does her natural grace conceal itself
without affectation! How gradually does her character expand, and how
much she pleases, without exerting herself to please! How she comes to
life in the sweet rays of sentiment! It is a rosebud which one sees
expand, to escape slowly from the fetters which envelop it, to tremble
into bloom. We have never seen, in this kind of imitation, anything more
delicious or more perfect.”

Some months later, in _Ninette à la Cour_, she played the part of
Ninette “in a way which stupefied the spectators.” “One was really
confounded to see this artiste, admired hitherto for the grace of her
acting, transform herself of a sudden into a maladroit, awkward
creature, overcome with astonishment at the novel sights which meet her
eyes, and depicting in a striking manner the impressions of a peasant
leaving her village for the first time. The following circumstance is
able to convey some idea of the difficulties which Mlle. Guimard had
overcome in this rôle. It was remarked that at the time of the minuet
that Nicette dances before the King and his Court, she made great
efforts to dance out of time, and that generally, in spite of herself,
the sensibility of her ear forced her to dance correctly.”[85]

Other scarcely less brilliant triumphs awaited Mlle. Guimard in the
ballets of _Les Caprices de Galathée_, composed expressly for her by
Noverre, _Médée et Jason_, _Myrza_, _La Rosière_, and _Le Premier
Navigateur, ou le Pouvoir de l’amour_. Her success in the last-named
piece, produced on July 26, 1785, four years before her retirement from
the stage, was celebrated by the poet Dorat in the following pretty

    “Quelle nymphe légère, à mes yeux se présente!
     Déesse, elle folâtre et n’est point imposante,
     Son front s’épanouit avec sérénité,
     Ses cheveux sont flottants, le rire est sa beauté.
     D’un feston de jasmin, sa tête est couronnée,
     Et sa robe voltige, aux vents abandonnée.
     Mille songes légers l’environnent toujours;
     Plus que le printemps même, elle fait les beaux jours.
     Des matelots joyeux, rassemblés auprès d’elle
     Détonnent à sa gloire une ronde nouvelle,
     Et de jeunes pasteurs, désertant les hameaux,
     Viennent la saluer aux sons des chalumeaux.
     C’est l’aimable gaîté; qui peut la méconnaître,
     Au chagrin qui s’envole, aux jeux qu’elle fait naître?
     Fille de l’innocence, image du bonheur,
     Le charme quite suit, a passé dans mon cœur.
     Sur ce gazon fleuri qu’elle a choisi pour trône,
     Pasteurs, exécutons les danses qu’elle ordonne.

           *       *       *       *       *

     Fuyez, arrêtez-vous, suspendez votre ivresse;
     Comme Guimard enfin appelez les désirs,
     Et que vos pas brillants soient le vol des plaisirs.”[86]

It is hardly necessary to remark that such an artiste was appreciated as
she deserved by the administration of the Opera, to whom she rendered so
many services. Unfortunately, she not seldom abused the position which
her talent and her intimate relations with the most distinguished
personages of the time gave her, and occasioned the unfortunate
directors almost as much trouble and anxiety, in her way, as did Sophie
Arnould. Thus, in the spring of 1772, she, with her lover, the dancer
Dauberval, organised a mutiny against Rebel, who had just been
appointed “Directeur-général de l’Académie royale de Musique”--a mutiny
which was only quelled by the personal interference of the Minister of
the King’s Household, who summoned the malcontents before him and
threatened them with severe pains and penalties if they continued
contumacious. Six years later, we find her at the head of the opposition
to Devismes, who, appointed director of the Opera at Easter 1778, had
introduced various innovations, which, though popular with the patrons
of the theatre, were strongly resented by the artistes. The principal
“insurgents” held what they called a “Congress” at Mlle. Guimard’s
hôtel, and Auguste Vestris, with characteristic modesty, compared his
position with that of Washington. The revolt ended in the town of Paris
cancelling Devismes’s appointment and taking upon itself the management
of the theatre, Devismes receiving a large sum by way of

A memoir sent by Antoine Dauvergne, the then director of the Opera, in
1781, to La Ferté, Intendant des Menus, shows us Mlle. Guimard supreme
in the _coulisses_ of the theatre. All the affairs of the Opera, he
says, are treated of in private committees held at Mlle. Guimard’s
hôtel, and the orders of the administration are ignored whenever they
happen to clash with the wishes of the lady, to whom every one--dancers,
vocalists, composers, scene-painters, and so forth--is subservient. A
little later, Dauvergne complains that the demoiselle Guimard refuses to
have an understudy in the _ballets d’action_, in consequence of which,
whenever she is unable to appear, there can be no ballet; also that she
has quarrelled with Noverre and proscribed his ballets. “Not only does
she refuse to dance in them herself, but she is unwilling for other
persons to dance in them.”[88]

There exists a curious document, dated 1783, drawn up by La Ferté, for
the information of the Minister of the King’s Household, on the talents,
faults, habits, characters, and so forth of the singers and dancers of
the Opera. And here is what the Intendant des Menus says of Mlle.

“Dlle. Guimard.--_Première danseuse de demi-caractère._ Her talent is
known to every one; on the stage she still retains a very youthful
appearance; if she has not a great deal of execution in her dancing, she
possesses, by way of compensation, much grace; she is very good in
_ballets d’action_ and in pantomime; she has much zeal and works hard;
but she is an enormous expense to the Opera, where her wishes are
followed with as much respect as if she was its director. Following her
example, the other actresses demand the most costly dresses and

But enormous expense or not, the directors of the Opera seemed to have
been possessed by an ever-present dread lest Mlle. Guimard should take
it into her head to retire or transfer her services to some foreign
stage. After the destruction of the Opera by fire in June 1781, and
while the new Opera of the Porte Saint-Martin was in course of erection,
the minds of many of the homeless singers and dancers “turned towards
the shores of Great Britain and the guineas of Drury Lane,” and, in
spite of the most stringent precautions on the part of the Government,
several of them succeeded in emigrating.[89] Although Mlle. Guimard’s
fortune placed her in a position, where, according to the expression of
La Ferté, “she had very little need to trouble herself about England,”
the anxious Intendant was only half-reassured and wrote to the Minister
of the King’s Household, begging him to use every inducement possible to
keep the lady in France.

Mlle. Guimard remained faithful and reaped the reward of her fidelity in
the spring of the following year, when she demanded and obtained a
pension of 2500 livres, which, with an annual _gratification_ of 1500
livres and her salary of 2000 livres, brought her professional income up
to 6000 livres.

In the fire at the Opera-house, referred to above, Mlle. Guimard had a
very narrow escape of her life. The fire broke out at the end of the
third act of _Orphée_, happily after the majority of the audience had
quitted their seats. Mlle. Guimard was in her _loge_ at the time, and,
not daring to leave it, would probably have been stifled, had not a
scene-shifter come to her assistance and, wrapping her in the
curtains--for she was half-undressed--carried her through the smoke and
flames to a place of safety.

This was not the only time the _danseuse_ was in danger during the
course of her professional career. In June 1784, while appearing at the
Opera-house in the Haymarket, in London, then under Gallini’s
management, the theatre was completely destroyed by fire. Boaden, in his
Life of John Kemble, thus alludes to the catastrophe:

“On the 17th of June 1784, I was, on my return from a visit, crossing
the Park from Buckingham Gate to Stable Yard, St. James’s, when this
most tremendous conflagration burst upon me; it seemed to make the long
line of trees wave in an atmosphere of fire.... The fire had commenced
in the flies and burst through the roof in a column of confirmed
fierceness, that evinced its strength to have been irresistible, even
when it was first perceived. In the theatre, about two o’clock, they had
been rehearsing a ballet, and the first alarm was occasioned by the
sparks of fire which fell upon the heads of the dancers. Mme. Ravelli
was with difficulty saved by one of the firemen; Mme. Guimard lost a
slipper, but escaped in safety.”

A few years after her first appearance at the Opera, an accident
occurred which might have been attended with serious consequences to
Mlle. Guimard. One night in January 1766, during a performance of _Les
Fêtes de l’Hymen et de l’Amour_, a heavy piece of scenery fell upon her,
throwing her to the ground and breaking her arm. Had it struck her upon
the head, she would certainly have been killed.

At the end of the year 1782, came the bankruptcy of the Prince de
Guéménée, whose wife, _gouvernante_ to the children of Louis XVI., was
the daughter of the Prince de Soubise: a catastrophe which involved more
than three thousand people, many of whom were completely ruined. Mlle.
Guimard’s tender relations with the Prince de Soubise had come to an end
some years earlier--she had been succeeded in his affections and the
enjoyment of the two thousand écus a month, by her niece and pupil,
Mlle. Zacharie, a damsel of fifteen summers--but she still remained on
excellent terms with her former lover and received a handsome pension,
as the reward of her not very faithful services. This pension she now
determined to renounce, in favour of the creditors of the Prince de
Guéménée, and having persuaded several other ladies of the ballet, who,
like herself, had once basked in the smiles of the “Sultan of the Opera”
and had been similarly provided for, to follow her example, they met one
day in her dressing-room and drew up a letter to the prince setting
forth their wishes, copies of which they caused to be distributed among
the habitués of the theatre.

         _Letter of_ MLLE. GUIMARD _and other danseuses of the
                  Opera to_ M. LE PRINCE DE SOUBISE.

     “MONSEIGNEUR,--Accustomed, my comrades and myself, to have you in
     our midst at each performance of the Théâtre-Lyrique, we have
     observed with the most bitter regret, that not only were you weaned
     from the pleasures of the play, but that none of us have been
     summoned to those frequent _petits soupers_, at which we had, in
     turn, the happiness of pleasing and amusing you. Rumour has only
     too well informed us of the cause of your retirement and of your
     just grief. Up to the present, we have feared to trouble you,
     making our sensibility yield to our respect; we should not even
     dare to break silence, without the pressing motive which our
     delicacy is not able to resist. We flattered ourselves,
     Monseigneur, that the bankruptcy (for one must needs employ a term
     with which the _foyers_, the clubs, the gazettes, France, and the
     whole of Europe resound), that the bankruptcy of M. le Prince de
     Guéménée would not be on so enormous a scale as was announced. But
     the derangement of his affairs has reached such a point that no
     hope remains. We have come to this conclusion from the generous
     sacrifices to which, following your example, the principal chiefs
     of your illustrious house have resigned themselves.

     “We should believe ourselves guilty of ingratitude, were we not to
     imitate you, in seconding your humanity; were we not to return the
     pensions which your munificence has lavished upon us. Apply these
     revenues, Monseigneur, to the relief of the many suffering military
     men, the many poor men of letters, the many unhappy servants, whom
     M. le Prince de Guéménée drags into the abyss with him. As for
     ourselves, we have other resources; we shall lose nothing,
     Monseigneur, if we retain your esteem for us. We shall even be the
     gainers if, in refusing your benefits, we compel our detractors to
     confess that we were not altogether unworthy of them.

                  “We are with profound respect, &c.

     “_In the dressing-room of Mlle. Guimard, this Friday, December 6,

In August 1783, Mlle. Guimard was attacked by small-pox, to the great
alarm of the patrons of the Opera, who feared that, even if she were to
recover, the priests might succeed in persuading her to renounce her
profession. Happily, however, the attack was a mild one, and on August
29 a fête was held at the _danseuse’s_ hôtel, “to render thanks to her
lovers for the care they had taken of her.”

In the following year, however, Mlle. Guimard did announce her
intention of retiring, whereupon La Ferté wrote in hot haste to the
Minister of the King’s Household, begging him to promise her an addition
of one thousand livres to her retiring pension, if she would reconsider
her decision. As the ballerina had already demanded this favour, it is
probable that the announcement of her approaching resignation was merely
a ruse on her part to force the Minister’s hand.

The Minister replied the same day to La Ferté, that, “although a favour
accorded to one person opens the door to a whole crowd of pretensions,”
in consideration of her long services, he promised to assure to her,
when she should retire, the additional thousand livres which she
demanded; but on condition that she should preserve the most profound
secrecy in regard to this favour.

In the early part of the year 1785, Mlle. Guimard fell into financial
difficulties and was obliged to sell the “Temple of Terpsichore,” in the
Chaussée-d’Antin. Instead of putting it up to auction or inviting
private offers, she decided to adopt the somewhat novel expedient of
disposing of it by lottery, and, having succeeded in obtaining the
permission of the authorities, or at any rate a promise that they would
not offer any opposition to the scheme, caused the following prospectus
to be circulated:

“_Prospectus of a lottery of the house of Mlle. Guimard, of which the
draw will take place in public, May 1, 1786, in a room of the Hôtel des
Menus, Rue Bergère, in the presence of a public official._

“This house is situated at the entrance of the Chaussée-d’Antin, and
consists of a building, with a court on one side and a garden on the
other. The side facing the court is adorned by a peristyle; the
_rez-de-chaussée_, which is raised on eight steps, is divided into an
ante-chamber, dining-room, bedchamber, boudoir, a large room lighted
from above, to serve as a picture-gallery, dressing-room, bathroom, &c.,
all richly decorated.

“Above are also private apartments very commodious, and likewise very
richly decorated.

“A building facing the street contains stables and coach-houses, and
above is a theatre with all its accessories.

“The garden is adorned with covered bowers. The greater part of the
furniture remains in the house, having been made for the place.

“The lottery will consist of 2500 tickets, at 120 livres a ticket, of
which one will be the winner.

“Immediately after the lottery has been drawn, Mlle. Guimard will
transfer the contract of the sale of the house and the furniture, to the
benefit of the owner of the winning lot.”

The drawing of the lottery, originally fixed for May 1, 1786, was, for
some reason, postponed until the 22nd of the month, when it took place
in a tent erected in the garden of the Hôtel des Menus. There were two
wheels, in one of which had been placed 2500 numbered tickets, and in
the other 2499 blank tickets and one bearing the word _Lot_. The draw
began at ten o’clock in the morning; but it was not until late in the
afternoon, and after 2267 tickets had been drawn, that the winning one
was forthcoming, when it was found that Mlle. Guimard’s hôtel had become
the property of the Comtesse de Lau, who had only purchased a single
ticket. That lady subsequently sold the hôtel to the banker Perregaux,
for 500,000 livres.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mlle. Guimard was growing old; the fatal epoch when beauty is usually
compelled to renounce its rights had come; but, like the wicked old
Maréchal de Richelieu, she seemed to have drunk of the fountain of
eternal youth, and on the boards of the Opera, environed by her cloud of
gauze, she appeared as young and fresh and charming as ever. What was
her secret? According to the actor Fleury it was an ingenious one. At
twenty years of age, he tells us, she had had her portrait painted by a
faithful hand, and now, each morning in her boudoir, with this picture
on one side and her mirror on the other, she worked to assimilate the
face she saw reflected in the latter to the work of the painter, nor did
she desist from her labours until she felt certain of a perfect
resemblance. Her admirers, it is scarcely necessary to observe, were not
admitted to this function.[90]

Mlle. Guimard visited London on several occasions during the season to
dance at the Opera House in the Haymarket or at Covent Garden. Three
letters, two written respectively on June 20, 1784, and April 16, 1789,
to the banker Perregaux, the third bearing date May 26 (probably 1787),
contain some interesting details about her sojourn in England. From the
first, we learn that she was engaged at a salary of 650 guineas, half of
which seems to have been paid in advance and the balance on the
termination of her engagement. The latter instalment she complains that
she had just seen devoured by a fire which had reduced the theatre to
ashes. She graciously says that she has no complaint to make of the
inhabitants of London; but the Italians of the Opera--“_Ah, les
coquins!_” They are everything that is bad. And the rest of the letter
is chiefly taken up with an account of her dispute with Gallini as to
whether or not her articles had been dissolved by the destruction of
the theatre.

The second letter, in order of date, is more interesting. “Since my
arrival in this town,” she writes, “the people have not left me a single
moment to myself. I am overwhelmed by the kindness of all the great
ladies and principally of the Duchess of Devonshire. I pass all my time
with her, when I am not engaged at the theatre. In truth, my dear little
good friend, the manner in which I am everywhere received is so
flattering that a less sensible head than that of your little good
friend might be turned by it.” She goes on to say that she has just been
given a benefit performance, which has realised 950 guineas, and has
concluded an engagement for the last five weeks of her stay in England.
For this she is to receive 650 guineas, “which makes a very pretty sum
for me to bring back to Paris.” “This journey has not been so
unprofitable, _hein!_ What think you about it? They love me to
distraction, these good English! _Voilà ce que c’est que le mérite!_”

The third letter shows us that in London the ballerina was regarded as
the very glass of fashion: “For the ball [a ball at Drury Lane organised
by the Duchess of Devonshire and other ladies] one must have dresses,
and the English ladies are as coquettish as the French. The moment I
alighted from my carriage on my arrival, I was besieged by _marchandes
des modes_ and tailors, who had come to beg me, on the part of the
ladies, to give my opinion on their costumes. You know well that I did
not make the fashions.”

Of Mlle. Guimard’s visits to England there exists a weird souvenir in
the form of a coloured etching entitled:

“The Celebrated Mademoiselle G----rd, or Grimhard, from Paris.
_Published by Thomas Humphrey, May 26, 1787._”

The leanness of the ballerina, of which we have spoken elsewhere, seems
to have increased with years, and was the theme of jests innumerable at
her expense and that of her lovers, most of them, however, good-natured
enough, for Madeleine Guimard had few enemies, and even the chroniclers
of contemporary scandal generally have a good word to say for her.

In the etching in question one sees, under a toque with sky-blue plumes,
a woman, with a death’s head crowned with false hair, and a bony neck,
raising in the air a consumptive leg and waving her arms, at the ends of
which are phalanxes of little bones in place of fingers.[91]

On her return to Paris, from England, in the summer of 1789, Mlle.
Guimard married Jean Étienne Despréaux, the dancing-master and poet, who
had been for some years an intimate friend, though not, it would appear,
a lover.[92] The marriage took place on August 14, at the church of
Sainte-Marie du Temple, the age of the bride being forty-six and that of
her husband thirty-one. The _acte de mariage_, cited by Jal, states that
the two had received the nuptial benediction, “after having renounced
their profession,” and, to the great sorrow of her countless admirers,
the Opera knew Madeleine Guimard no more.

It is not altogether easy to determine the reasons which induced Mlle.
Guimard to take this step; a step which, as we have mentioned, entailed
the renunciation of her profession. Certainly it could not have been any
interested motive, since Despréaux was in far from affluent
circumstances, while the _danseuse_ was in possession of a comfortable
little fortune, as fortunes went, in theatrical circles, in those
days.[93] Nor is it at all likely that she was consumed with any very
violent passion for the dancing-master, who, on his own confession, was
insignificant of figure and remarkably plain of face.[94] The
probability is that she was by this time heartily tired of the stage
and of a life of gallantry, and desired to spend the remainder of her
days in retirement and the odour of sanctity, with a man who, if he had
no physical attractions to boast of, “possessed all the little agreeable
talents calculated to assure the affection of a woman of pleasure whose
youth was dead.”[95]

However that may be, the _ménage_ appears to have been a happy one, and
that notwithstanding the fact that the _danseuse_ and her husband were
very far from enjoying the life of comfort and tranquillity to which
they had looked forward. For the Revolution had begun; and the
Revolution meant to themselves and hundreds of other pensioners of the
State an abrupt descent from comparative affluence to poverty. Their
circumstances were, of course, superior to most of their colleagues, as
Madeleine Guimard had saved money, a very small proportion, it is true,
of the enormous sums which had passed through her hands, but still
sufficient to save them from actual want.

When, in 1792, the municipality entrusted the management of the Opera to
Celerier and Francœur, Despréaux was nominated by them a member of
the administrative council and stage-manager. These posts would have
more than compensated him for the loss of his pensions, but,
unfortunately, the directors were shortly afterwards accused of
embezzlement and arrested; and in September 1793, Despréaux, perhaps
fearful of sharing their fate, resigned.

He and his wife now retired to a little house on the summit of
Montmartre, to reach which, he tells us, it was necessary to traverse a
road so steep that the Jacobin patrols neglected to ascend it, and they
were, in consequence, left undisturbed. Here they appeared to have
lived for some three years, and it was here that Despréaux composed most
of the poems which he published later, under the title of _Mes
Passe-Temps_. “I composed these _chansons_,” he says, “to find some
distraction from the terrible evils that beset us, and as a little
surprise for my wife, whom I adored.”[96]

Notwithstanding the disparity in years between them, there can be no
doubt that Despréaux was devoted to his wife, and in a poetical
“_bouquet_” entitled _Un Bon Ménage_, published in 1806, he informs the
world of the profound happiness which he has found in his union with the

           *       *       *       *       *

    “Ah! mon Dieu! combien j’étais fou!
     Je redoutais le mariage;
     Et j’avais lu, je ne sais où:
     ‘Le bonheur n’est pas en ménage.’
     Erreur! ta bonté, ta raison
     M’ont enfin prouvé le contraire,
     Et je vois, dans l’heureux garçon
     L’heureux imaginaire (_bis_).

     Magdelaine aime ma gaîté
     Et moi sa tournure m’enchante,
     Elle fait ma félicité
     Elle est en verité, charmante!
     Elle prouve depuis vingt ans
     Par sa grâce qui m’est si chère,
     Qu’on a l’art d’arrêter le temps,
     Quand on a l’art de plaire (_bis_).”

In 1807, Despréaux was appointed inspector of the theatres of the Opera
and the Tuileries. Having religiously preserved the traditions of the
ancient Court, he was often consulted in regard to the ceremonial to be
observed at the fêtes of the new Court of Napoleon. He became, in fact,
a kind of unofficial master of the ceremonies, and, in this capacity,
assisted at all the solemn functions of the Empire, notably at the
marriage of Napoleon and Marie Louise, of which event he has left an
interesting account in his _Souvenirs_. When the Empire fell, he found
himself out of employment; but in 1815 received the appointments of
inspector-general of Court entertainments and professor of dancing and
deportment at the École Royale de Musique.

The _ménage_ Despréaux-Guimard resided, in these last years, in the Rue
de Ménars, where the _ex-danseuse_ surrounded herself with a large
circle of friends. Often the conversation turned on the past triumphs of
Mlle. Guimard, when the younger members of the company would express
their regret that it was impossible for them to form an idea of that
marvellous talent which, for a whole generation, had so enchanted the
patrons of the Opera, and would beg their hostess to give them a few
steps of the ballets in which she had achieved her greatest successes.
At first, the ballerina refused, on the score of her age and the decline
of her physical powers. But the ingenious Despréaux erected in the salon
a theatre, the curtain of which was so arranged as to reveal only the
knee and the legs of the actors. And here he and his wife, concealing
thus all the ravages that time had wrought upon face and figure, danced
with legs and feet which seemed to the delighted spectators to have
preserved all the grace and suppleness of youth.

Later, when increasing years and feeble health had caused her to retire
altogether from society, if one of the few intimate friends who were
still admitted to the house happened to refer to her glorious past at
the Opera, the old artiste would sometimes offer to amuse her visitors
with what she called her theatre. With that, she would draw from under
her fauteuil a little drum, which she would place between her feet on a
foot-stool. Then she would join two of her fingers, bow, lift the
curtain, announce some ballet, and, by a marvel of memory and agility of
hand, dance with her two fingers all the steps of this ballet--her own
steps, and the steps of those who preceded, and of those who had doubled
her--with such correctness as to make her audience appreciate the
superiority of her own dancing.[97]

       *       *       *       *       *

On May 4, 1816, Madeleine Guimard--or rather Madame Despréaux--died at
the age of seventy-three; the death of the famous _danseuse_ of the
eighteenth century passing almost unnoticed in this Paris of the
Restoration, which seemed to have already forgotten her dazzling
triumphs of yesterday.



Several versions have at different times been current in regard to the
origin of Mlle. Raucourt. According to the one which, until
comparatively recent years, found almost general acceptance, her
baptismal name was Françoise Marie Antoinette Clairien; she was born at
Dombasle, on November 29, 1753, and was the daughter of “a poor barber
overwhelmed with children,” who consigned her to the care of the village
postmaster, a person called François Saucerotte, by whom she was
adopted.[98] That a child of that name was born at Dombasle, on the
above-mentioned date, is true enough; but she was not the future
_tragédienne_. The actress in question was born in Paris, on March 3,
1756; François Saucerotte was her own, and not her adopted, father, and
she was baptized at the church of Saint-Severin, by the name of Marie
Antoinette Joseph, as witness the _acte de naissance_, given by Auguste
Jal, in his invaluable _Dictionnaire de Biographie et d’Histoire_:

“Wednesday, March 3, 1756.--Marie Antoinette Joseph, born to-day,
daughter of François Saucerotte, bourgeois of Paris, and of Antoinette
de la Porte, his wife, residing Rue de Vieille-Bouclerie. The godfather
was Julien Mérel, labourer, the godmother, Marguerite Lancelin, _fille
majeure_, both residing Rue du Bac. The godmother has declared herself
unable to sign her name. (Signed) Mérel, Saucerotte.”

What occupation was followed by François Saucerotte at the time of his
daughter’s birth is uncertain--_bourgeois de Paris_ being a trifle
indefinite. But, a few years later, he was seized with an ambition to
become an actor and, accordingly, applied for and obtained an _ordre de
début_ at the Comédie-Française, where he appeared under the name of
Raucourt. The _début_, however, was not a success; and the pit intimated
its sense of M. Raucourt’s shortcomings in so unmistakable a manner
that, after his second appearance, that gentleman prudently decided to
seek fame and fortune before a less critical audience. He accordingly
retired to the provinces, and from thence migrated to Spain, as a member
of a French travelling company, taking his little daughter with him. The
latter, who early decided to follow her father’s profession, amply
atoned for any lack of ability on his part, and showed such
extraordinary precocity that at the age of twelve she was already
playing with success in several tragedy parts.

From Spain the Raucourts--to give them the name by which they were
henceforth known--appear to have journeyed to St. Petersburg; but,
towards the end of the year 1770, returned to France, where the girl
obtained an engagement at Rouen, the conservatoire of the Paris
theatres. Here she acted with such success, notably as Euphémie in De
Belloy’s _Gaston et Bayard_, that the fame of her talent soon reached
the capital and she received an order from the Gentlemen of the Chamber
to make her _début_ at the Comédie-Française.

Mlle. Raucourt and her father arrived in Paris in the spring of 1772,
where they rented a modest apartment in the Rue Saint-Jacques, for
though rich in hopes, their purses were light. Provincial players in
those days gained abundant experience, but very little money.

The young actress’s first appearance at the Comédie-Française was
preceded by some months of study, under the direction of Brizard, who
was as excellent a teacher as he was an actor, and, delighted with his
pupil’s intelligence and industry, did not rest content until he had
taught her everything he knew. In the course of a few weeks, she is said
to have mastered no less than nineteen important tragedy parts. From
Brizard’s hands, and at his suggestion, she passed to those of Mlle.
Clairon; and the celebrated _tragédienne_, partly out of a real liking
for the girl and partly out of a desire to set up a rival to Madame
Vestris, with whom her relations were at that time very strained, spared
no pains to put the finishing touch to the actor’s work.[99]

At length, towards the end of the year, Mlle. Raucourt was deemed worthy
to challenge the verdict of the Parisians, and, on December 23, 1772,
she made her _début_, as Dido, in Le Franc de Pompignan’s famous
tragedy, being then within rather more than two months of completing her
seventeenth year.

And what a _début_ it was! Never in the whole history of the theatre had
so young an actress secured so brilliant, so extraordinary, a triumph.
“Before the tragedy began,” says Grimm, “Brizard himself harangued the
pit, demanded its indulgence for a budding talent, and assured it that
his pupil, formed by the criticisms of the public, would one day be its
work. The pit, which loves to the point of folly actors to address it,
particularly when they call it the arbiter of tastes and of talents,
warmly applauded the harangue of Achates Brizard.[100] But when it
beheld the most beautiful and the most noble creature in the world
advance, in the character of Dido, to the edge of the stage; when it
heard the sweetest, the most flexible, the most harmonious, the most
impressive of voices; when it remarked a style of acting full of
dignity, intelligence, and the most subtle and delicate shades, the
enthusiasm of the public knew no bounds. They raised cries of admiration
and applause; they involuntarily embraced one another; they were
perfectly intoxicated. When the play was over, the enthusiasm spread to
their houses. Those who had been present at _Didon_ dispersed to their
various quarters, arrived like men demented, spoke with transports of
the _débutante_, communicated their enthusiasm to those who had not seen
her, and at every supper-table in Paris nothing was heard save the name
of Raucourt.”[101]

Mlle. Raucourt had risen that morning unknown, at least so far as Paris
was concerned; she retired to bed a celebrity, the idol of the playgoing
public. All the gazettes, all the journals, all the correspondence of
the time, resounded with her praises. “Nature,” wrote the dramatic
critic of the _Mercure_, “appears to have lavished its gifts upon her:
she is beautiful, she is impressive in all her rôles, she possesses a
kind of innate aptitude for tragedy, and the most triumphant means of
giving expression to its energy, its sentiment, and its passion; a voice
flexible, sonorous, and well-modulated; a physiognomy which depicts the
affections of the heart in all their variations; a look eloquent and
expressive, the art of speaking to the eyes and of investing her by-play
with interest. This young actress has received everything from
beneficent Nature, and study and experience have had little to do with
perfecting and completing her talents.”[102] Grimm predicted that she
would be the “_gloire immortelle_” of the French stage. Another critic
declared the annihilation of the British fleet alone could have aroused
a deeper enthusiasm than her acting; while the _Mémoires secrets_ hailed
her as a veritable prodigy: “It is impossible to describe the sensation
she has created; nothing like it has been seen within the memory of
living man. She is only sixteen and a half; she is a study for a
painter. She has the most noble, the most dramatic face, the most
enchanting voice, a prodigious intelligence; she did not make a single
false intonation. Throughout the whole of her very difficult part, she
did not commit the slightest error, not even an inappropriate gesture. A
little stiffness and embarrassment in the movements of her arms is the
only fault people have been able to find in her.”[103]

Let us here remark that all this eulogy was very far from being
deserved, and that the critics ere long found reason to modify their
enthusiasm. Mlle. Raucourt was unquestionably a very handsome girl, and
certainly possessed many of the qualities attributed to her by her
admirers; but she never attained anything like the standard of
excellence of Adrienne Lecouvreur, or Mlle. Dumesnil, or Mlle. Clairon.
“With a little sensibility,” remarks one of her colleagues of the
Comédie-Française, “she might have been the greatest of _tragédiennes_;
but that quality, so invaluable on the stage, was wanting.” She was
wanting also in versatility; her acting was, so to speak, all of a
piece; she sinned in excess of force and energy, and never mastered the
art of varying her intonations, what Mlle. Clairon called “the eloquence
of sounds.” No one knew better than did she how to give expression to
the great passions: hatred, jealousy, revenge. She was admirable in the
Agrippine of _Britannicus_, inimitable in the Jocaste of _Œdipe_. But
the more human, the more tender passions: pity, tenderness, love, were
unknown to her. Thus her rendering of Phèdre, the greatest character of
the classic répertoire, was never more than moderately successful, and
compared very unfavourably with that of Mlle. Dumesnil.[104]

However, the public having with one accord decided to place the new
actress on a pedestal and fall down before her, was, for the time being,
blind to her shortcomings. Its enthusiasm increased with each
performance, until it reached a veritable frenzy. On the days on which
she was to appear, the box-office of the theatre was literally besieged
from an early hour in the morning. Servants sent by their employers to
secure places discharged their mission at the risk of their lives;
several were carried away in an unconscious state, and one is said to
have died, as the result of the injuries he received. Tickets for the
pit, costing twenty-four sous, were sold for nine or ten francs apiece,
in the court of the Tuileries, by persons who had been intrepid enough
to secure them; the prices of the other places rising in the same
proportion. The days of the Rue Quincampoix seemed to have returned.

When the time for the performance drew near, the scene almost baffled
description. All the approaches to the Comédie-Française were so blocked
with people that the actors themselves could with difficulty persuade
their excited patrons to make way for them. An enormous crowd surged
round the theatre, forced the doors, and struggled and fought for the
best places in the pit. Those who, by good fortune or superior physical
strength, emerged triumphant from the _mêlée_, arrived panting for
breath, with their clothes nearly torn from their backs, dishevelled
hair, and faces streaming with perspiration. “Do you think,” inquired an
old lady, in Grimm’s hearing, one evening, “that if it had been a
question of saving their country, these people would have exposed
themselves like this?”

The enthusiasm of the town spread to the Court, and, on January 5, the
new actress was commanded to appear at Versailles, where she seems to
have created a similar sensation. Louis XV., despite his indifference to
tragedy, sat out _Didon_ to the end, sent for Mlle. Raucourt and, after
warmly complimenting her, presented her to the Dauphiness, as the Queen
of Carthage. He also made her a present of fifty louis, and gave orders
that she should be received as a member of the Comédie without being
required to give any further proofs of her talent. Madame du Barry
hastened to follow his Majesty’s example, and offered the young actress
the choice of three dresses for her private use, or a _robe de théâtre_.
To which the girl replied that she would prefer the stage costume,
“since, in that case, the public would profit by Madame la Comtesse’s
goodness as well as herself.”[105]

After appearing four times in _Didon_, Mlle. Raucourt played the parts
of Émilie, in _Cinna_, Monime, in _Mithridate_, Idamé, in Voltaire’s
_Orphelin de la Chine_, Hermione, in _Andromaque_, and, finally, that of
Pulchérie, in _Héraclitus_, in all of which rôles, Grimm tells us, “she
showed the happiest dispositions and announced the greatest talents.”
The _furore_ she excited, so far from diminishing, continued to
increase, and not a day passed without some persons being more or less
seriously injured in the struggle at the doors of the theatre. The
climax of absurdity seems to have been reached a few evenings after her
visit to Versailles, when her admirers in the pit clamoured for “a
benefit performance for the new actress,” and refused to allow the play
to proceed until the management had announced their willingness to
accede to their patrons’ wishes, provided the Gentlemen of the Chamber
would accord them permission.

In the meanwhile, the triumphs of Mlle. Raucourt, the ovations of which
she was every evening the recipient, had begun to arouse the alarm and
jealousy of her colleagues. The two leading actresses of the company,
Madame Vestris and Mlle. Sainval the elder,[106] had been for some time
mortal enemies; but, in the presence of this newcomer, who had in a
single night relegated them both to secondary places in the affections
of the fickle public, they recognised the wisdom of forgetting their
differences for the nonce and making common cause against the
interloper. They organised a cabal; they filled the pit with their
personal friends and with hired agents, instructed to interrupt the
finest tirades of Mlle. Raucourt with jeers and hisses, and, behind the
scenes, they did everything in their power to render their young rival’s
life a burden to her. Their intrigues were fruitless, nay more, they
recoiled upon their own heads. The voices of the malcontents were
drowned in the bursts of applause, which increased in volume and
frequency the moment it became known that an opposition was at work. So
indignant were the audience that any shortcomings on the part of its
idol were at once attributed to the machinations of her jealous rivals.
One evening, when playing Monime, she forgot her part. “It is all the
fault of those Sainvals,” said the indignant _parterre_. On another, a
cat happened to stray on to the stage and interrupted the performance
with plaintive cries. “I will wager that that cat belongs to Madame
Vestris!” cried a wag in the pit; and the sally was followed by a roar
of derisive laughter.[107] The intriguers found themselves covered with
ridicule; while Mlle. Raucourt’s position grew stronger every day.

       *       *       *       *       *

The extraordinary popularity of Mlle. Raucourt with the playgoing
public was enhanced by an unsullied reputation off the stage. “I
understand,” writes Grimm, “that this charming creature, so imposing on
the stage, is very simple in private life; that she has all the candour
and innocence of her age, and occupies with girlish amusements the time
not set apart for study. Many dissertations have been written with the
view of discovering metaphysically by what power a girl so young and
innocent can represent with so much power on the stage the transports
and the fury of love.” He adds that so determined was her father to
defend her chastity that he invariably carried two loaded pistols “in
order to blow out the brains of the first who should make an attempt on
the virtue of his daughter.”[108]

M. Raucourt indeed followed his talented daughter about like her shadow;
to the theatre, on her shopping expeditions, to the private houses to
which she was invited. During the performances, he mounted sentinel in
the wings, to be ready to place himself at her side the moment she made
her exit. People compared him to a jealous lover keeping watch over a
flighty mistress.

All these precautions, however, were quite unnecessary. Mlle. Raucourt
was virtuous, or rather she was virtue itself. “In vain was her heart
besieged like the box-office of the theatre on the evenings on which she
was to appear; in vain her adorers prostrated themselves before her. She
turned a deaf ear to the most brilliant propositions; she repulsed with
horror the most tempting offers.”

Soon the virtue of Mlle. Raucourt became as celebrated as her talent; it
was the talk of the town; the memoirs and correspondence of the time
are full of it. “The virtue of the new actress still keeps up.” “The
virtue of the new actress resists the numerous assaults to which it is
subjected.” “The new actress has begun to give _petits soupers_, which,
it is hoped, may lead to what she has hitherto escaped.” And so forth.

It cannot be said that the young woman lacked encouragement to persevere
in a course which, for an actress in those days, was as laudable as it
was novel. Every evening the theatre resounded with acclamations, which
were intended to be as much a tribute to her exemplary conduct as to her
beauty and talent. Devout ladies of the Court vied with one another in
giving her good advice and in enriching her wardrobe; and all manner of
flattering epithets were bestowed upon her. She was “Jeanne d’Arc at the
Comédie-Française,” “the Wise Virgin in the midst of the foolish ones,”
“Diana with the features of Venus.”

Nor was material encouragement wanting, as the following anecdote will

“January 20, 1773.--Mlle. Raucourt continues to create the greatest
sensation. It is reported that the other day a man entered her
dressing-room, who informed her that she could judge from his age and
his appearance that he was not prompted by any unlawful motive, but that
he was guided solely by a profound sentiment of admiration for her
talent; that he entreated her not to be offended with one who, in his
enthusiasm, desired to give her proofs of his esteem by a little tribute
which he would lay upon her toilette-table; and forthwith deposited
there two rouleaux of one hundred louis each.” Mlle. Raucourt, the
chronicler adds, graciously replied that it was impossible for her to
refuse a gift offered in such terms, and the gentleman departed,
without making himself known.[109]

A few days later, the lady received an anonymous offer of 12,000 francs
a year, “for so long as she remained chaste.” The writer went on to say
that if she decided not to do so, and would grant him the preference,
the pension should be doubled. The _Nouvelles à la main_, which reports
this incident, informs its readers that it is not yet known which offer
Mlle. Raucourt had decided to accept; but since the anonymous
“benefactor” was commonly understood to be none other than a Prince of
the Blood, the Duc de Bourbon to wit, it would be scarcely reasonable to
expect her to continue inflexible.

The young actress, nevertheless, would accept nothing from the duke, and
her refusal placed the _comble_ upon her fame. Her enemies declared that
she must be “not a woman at all, but a monster”; her idolators could
find no words in which to express their admiration.

Voltaire was the first to besmirch the spotless reputation of Mlle.
Raucourt. It is said that so much fuss about the virtue of an actress
irritated him, and that he was annoyed because the girl’s successes in
the classic répertoire had caused the production of his _Lois de Minos_,
from which he expected great things, to be indefinitely postponed. As,
however, Voltaire, with all his faults, was incapable of deliberately
slandering a woman, it is probable that he acted in good faith, prompted
by a desire to unmask a hypocrite. Circumstance sometimes obliged the
Patriarch to play the hypocrite himself; but he hated hypocrisy in
others; and the news that a young _débutante_, solely on account of an
undeserved reputation for virtue, was being exalted above his beloved
Adrienne Lecouvreur and his favourite interpreter, Mlle. Clairon, may
well have filled him with righteous indignation.

However that may be, he wrote to his friend, the Maréchal de Richelieu,
that he was informed, on excellent authority, that, while in Spain, the
supposed immaculate Raucourt had been the mistress of a gentleman from
Geneva, who had been travelling in that country.

As ill-luck would have it, when the letter arrived, Mlle. Raucourt was
dining at Richelieu’s house, chaperoned, it is hardly necessary to
observe, by her vigilant father; young ladies who valued their
reputations did not go unprotected to visit that evergreen sinner.
D’Alembert, the Princesse de Beauvau, and Mlle. Clairon’s sometime
adorer, the Marquis de Ximenès, were also present. As every one was
anxious to know what the great man had to say, Richelieu, without
opening the letter, handed it to Ximenès, with a request that he would
read it to the company. The marquis complied, and proceeded until he had
uttered the fatal sentence, when he stopped abruptly and began mumbling
apologies. Terrible was the commotion which ensued. Mlle. Raucourt
promptly swooned away; her father drew his sword, swearing that he would
proceed to Ferney and run the Patriarch through the body; the Princesse
de Beauvau called the maladroit marquis a fool; while wicked old
Richelieu, we may presume, looked on choking with suppressed mirth.

On the morrow, the story was all over Paris. The first feeling was one
of incredulity--people are always slow to believe that idols of their
own creation have feet of clay--and both Court and town took the side of
the outraged actress, and declared that she had been grossly
calumniated. D’Alembert reported the scene at the marshal’s house, and
the feeling which his accusation had aroused, to Voltaire, who, perhaps
alarmed for the future reception of his tragedies, hastened to pour the
balm of his flattery upon the wound which he had inflicted: “I am the
aged Æson, and you the enchantress Medea.” “I have scarcely left to me
eyes to see, a soul to admire, a hand to write to you.” And then he
breaks forth into verse:

    “Raucourt, tes talents enchanteurs
     Chaque jour te font des conquêtes,
     Tu fais soupirer tous les cœurs,
     Tu fais tourner toutes les têtes.

           *       *       *       *       *

     L’art d’attendrir et de charmer
     A paré ta brillante aurore,
     Mais ton cœur est fait pour aimer,
     Et ce cœur ne dit rien encore.”

But the mischief was done: no amount of epistles or madrigals could
repair it. Gradually people began to think that there might have been
more truth in the story about the Genevese lover than they had at first
supposed; Voltaire, they reflected, lived close to Geneva, and was
probably well informed. Mlle. Raucourt’s many adorers took courage; they
redoubled their attentions; they refused any longer to believe her
indignant protestations. Nothing, as the actor Fleury observes, is more
dangerous to virtue than such incredulity, nothing more disheartening
than to make sacrifices in which the world does not believe. Whether
Voltaire’s accusation was true or not, certain it is that Mlle. Raucourt
ere long came to the conclusion that she had made sacrifices enough, and
one fine day the town “learned with stupefaction” that at Compiègne,
where the troupe of the Comédie-Française was giving a series of
performances before the Court, the impregnable virtue of its idol had at
length succumbed.

It was at first reported that the fortress had surrendered to no less a
person than the King himself. “No one expected this _début_,” writes a
Parisian staying at Compiègne, “which is not likely to meet with the
success of _Didon_. But she has an excuse. What woman can resist her

Soon, however, this rumour was contradicted. It was not his Most
Christian Majesty, but his Prime Minister, the Duc d’Aiguillon, who had
triumphed over the resistance of the lady. A more unfortunate choice for
an actress who wished to retain her popularity with the Parisians could
not have been made. Next to the Chancellor, Maupeou, and the
Comptroller-General, the Abbé Terrai, d’Aiguillon was the best-hated man
in France.

Mlle. Raucourt’s intimacy with the Minister lasted but a very short
time; it was merely a _galanterie_. But, in March 1774, we learn that
she is living openly under the protection of the Marquis de Bièvre, a
young officer of Musketeers, with some literary pretensions,[110] who
had paid her debts, amounting, it was said, to 40,000 livres, made a
settlement upon her, and allowed her a handsome sum per month, for
current expenses.

The once modest and retiring young actress, as if resolved to atone for
the strict decorum she had formerly imposed upon herself, now lived a
life of the utmost luxury and extravagance. She had ten or twelve horses
in her stables, rented two or three houses, and kept fifteen servants,
while her toilettes were the envy and despair of all feminine Paris. On
Good Friday, she drove to the Abbey of Longchamps, in the train of Mlle.
Duthé and Mlle. Cléophile, the inamorata of the Spanish Ambassador, two
of the most extravagant courtesans of the time, “in a pompous equipage
drawn by four horses.” “The carriage was of an apple-green colour,
encrusted with different coloured stones, the mountings of the harness
were of silver, and the reins of crimson silk.” The chronicler adds that
it is common belief that M. de Bièvre is not the only person who pays
for these luxuries.

Soon M. de Bièvre was discarded and, “after some excursions into the
Court and financial circles,” Mlle. Raucourt accepted the protection of
another marquis, de Villette, the dissipated husband of Voltaire’s
“_Belle et Bonne_.” M. de Villette’s reign was even shorter than that of
his predecessor in the lady’s affections, and far from a tranquil one.
Not content with doing her very best to ruin him by her extravagance,
his mistress tried to inveigle him into a duel with the architect
Belanger, over some epigram which Sophie Arnould had made at her
expense, and was highly indignant when poor Villette, who was of a
peace-loving disposition, declined to humour her. After a few weeks,
they quarrelled violently over money matters and parted on very bad
terms, but not before the marquis had, by a letter to the gazettes,
taken the whole town into his confidence in regard to the way the lady
had treated him.


From an engraving by RUOTTE after the painting by GROS in the Collection
of Mr. A. M. Broadley]

Mlle. Raucourt’s conduct grew worse and worse; soon she had become
perfectly reckless. Women like Camargo, Clairon, Guimard, Gaussin, and
Sophie Arnould had been lax enough in their morals; but, at least, they
had been capable of more or less disinterested attachments, and had,
moreover, generally contrived to cast a veil over their worst
irregularities. Mlle. Raucourt seemed as heartless as she was
indifferent to public opinion. She passed from gallantry to gallantry;
she ruined foolish young men and then laughed at their folly, cynically
observing that “women were the most expensive of all tastes”; she
flaunted her profligacy in the face of all Paris, and contracted immense
debts, which there was no possibility of her being able to discharge.
“In the space of a few months,” writes Grimm, “she astonished Court and
town, as much by the excess of her irregularities as she had by the rare
prodigy of her innocence. She scandalised even those who were least
susceptible to scandal.”

The day of reckoning was not long in arriving. Her renown as a
_tragédienne_ disappeared with her reputation for virtue; and this
actress who, at the time of her _début_, had been vaunted as the
superior of Dumesnil and Clairon, was soon to become one of the most
striking examples in theatrical history of the fickleness of the mob.
The public decided that it had been the dupe of an unscrupulous
hypocrite and burned with righteous indignation. Soon detractors arose:
they declared that the young actress had no soul, no sensibility; that
her delivery was stilted and artificial; that she indulged too freely in
gesticulation; that her acting lacked restraint, and that her
voice--that “sweetest, most flexible, most harmonious, most enchanting
of voices”--was harsh and unpleasant. They found fault with her figure:
her waist was too long, her arms too thin. Finally, they even denied the
beauty of her face, on the ground that it was too masculine. “It was as
though a bandage had fallen from the eyes of the public.”

There can be very little doubt that Mlle. Raucourt’s acting was now
distinctly inferior to what it had been at the time of her first
appearance at the Comédie-Française. A dissipated life does not conduce
to success in any profession, and it would appear that, so far from
making any progress, she had neglected her studies to the point of
forgetting much of what Brizard and Mlle. Clairon had been at such pains
to teach her. Still, as we have said elsewhere, her talents had been
absurdly overrated, and a reaction was bound to set in sooner or later.
That it came so quickly, however, and assumed so violent a form was the
result of circumstances entirely unconnected with her art.

Her reception as Hermione, in _Andromaque_, in March 1774, was the first
sign of the coming storm. According to the _Mémoires secrets_, the
acting all round on this occasion left a good deal to be desired; but
the public, who had just learned that Mlle. Raucourt was living openly
with the Marquis de Bièvre, concentrated its resentment upon her, and
she was loudly hissed.

The hostile demonstrations grew more frequent and more pronounced in
proportion as the actress’s irregularities became more notorious.
Nevertheless, so long as there was nothing worse than innumerable
gallantries with which to reproach her, she was not without supporters
in the pit, whose acclamations served to counteract, if not entirely to
drown, the cries of the malcontents. Presently, however, ugly rumours
began to spread--rumours which attributed to the young _tragédienne_ the
shameful vices of ancient Greece, and which, there is reason to believe,
were but too well justified.[111] Every one now turned against her;
those who had been loudest in chanting her praises were now foremost in
ridicule and abuse, and such was the general odium which she had
contrived to excite that she counted herself fortunate if her appearance
on the stage was received in silence. “Never,” wrote Grimm, “was idol
worshipped with more infatuation; never was idol broken with more

There was, however, a slight reaction in her favour when, on October 30,
1775, she appeared as the Statue, in the _Pygmalion_ of Jean Jacques
Rousseau. “She was truly beautiful in this pose,” says the critic of the
_Mémoires secrets_. “It is considered the most successful part she has
yet undertaken.” And La Harpe writes: “This rôle, which would be
suitable for so few women, is precisely that which is most becoming to
Mlle. Raucourt. The only thing required of her is to be beautiful, and
in that she is a complete success. It is impossible to imagine a more
seductive vision than this actress, as she poses on her pedestal at the
moment when the veil which has hitherto covered her is drawn aside. Her
head was that of Venus, and her leg, half-discovered, that of

But this was, after all, only a respite. Soon her humiliations
recommenced. Her rivals, Madame Vestris and the elder Mlle. Sainval,
powerless, as we have seen, to injure her, so long as she retained her
popularity, had not been slow to take advantage of the change in public
feeling. A cabal was formed against her at the theatre; she was
systematically entrusted with parts quite unsuited to her style of
acting, and sometimes called upon, at a few hours’ notice, to appear in
characters which she had only partially studied. Thus, during a revival
of _Britannicus_, Mlle. Dumesnil, happening to fall ill, the luckless
young actress found herself suddenly compelled to play Agrippine, a rôle
which, though in later years one of her most successful impersonations,
was at this time almost unknown to her. Before the play began,
d’Auberval, who by no means approved of the proceedings of the cabal,
came before the curtain, informed the pit of Mlle. Dumesnil’s
indisposition, and begged its indulgence for her substitute. His request
was of no avail; and poor Mlle. Raucourt met with such a reception that
she fainted and had to be carried off the stage.

To the intrigues of her rivals and the insults of the pit were now added
the importunities and threats of her creditors. In the four years she
had been a member of the Comédie-Française she had, besides spending
immense sums belonging to her infatuated admirers, contrived to run into
debt to the extent of something like 300,000 livres, and went in hourly
fear of arrest. At length, the situation became intolerable, and she
resolved to seek safety in flight. “It was intended to produce the
_Zuma_ of M. Le Fèvre,” writes Grimm, “when the compulsory disappearance
of Mlle. Raucourt, who was to have played one of the principal parts,
caused the rehearsals to be suddenly interrupted. Sudden as was her
disappearance, it has occasioned little surprise.”

Nothing was heard of the fugitive for six weeks, during which, it was
subsequently ascertained, she had been hiding in the neighbourhood of
Paris, disguised as a dragoon. A good-natured farmer, who mistook her
for a young officer in trouble about a duel, had given her shelter. At
the end of that time she returned, to find that her name had been struck
off the books of the Comédie-Française, and her place given to Mlle.
Sainval the younger, who, received with enthusiasm on her _début_, had
been subsequently altogether eclipsed by Mlle. Raucourt, and, for some
time past, had been playing at Lyons.[113]

At first, Mlle. Raucourt took refuge in the Temple, the sanctuary of
insolvent debtors, while some of the few friends still left to her
negotiated with her creditors, with a view to obtaining a reprieve.
Perhaps the creditors thought that, if time were given to her, the lady
might contrive to secure some wealthy admirer, by whom their claims
would be settled. Any way, they consented to accord her a few months’
grace, and, in the autumn, Mlle. Raucourt left the Temple and went to
live with a Madame Souck, “a German woman of horribly depraved morals,”
in the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis. Madame Souck, it transpired, had
introduced Mlle. Raucourt into the house in the temporary absence of the
landlord, who, on his return, found her established in a vacant suite of
apartments, which she firmly declined to vacate. When he ventured to
remonstrate, Madame Souck’s servants threatened him with “_coups de
bâton et autres violences_,” and also maltreated one of his tenants, who
would appear to have taken the landlord’s part. So threatening, indeed,
did the attitude of the two ladies and their domestics become that the
poor landlord declared, in a complaint he lodged before a commissary of
police, that he dared not even sleep in his own house, “for fear of

Madame Souck’s finances, like those of her friend, were in a parlous
state, and, in the following spring, a firm of silk-merchants of the Rue
Saint-Honoré levied an execution upon her premises, and placed one
Thomas Philippe Violet and another bailiff in possession. Madame Souck,
however, was not a lady to submit tamely to such inconvenience, and, on
March 27, we find Thomas Philippe Violet appearing before a commissary
of the Châtelet to lodge a complaint and demand protection against the
dame Souck, the demoiselle Raucourt, and other persons, “their
accomplices, abettors, and adherents.” In this document, he declares
that, on the night of the 25th to 26th inst., at two hours after
midnight, the said dame Souck and the said demoiselle Raucourt, “both
dressed in men’s clothes,” arrived, accompanied by the said accomplices,
abettors, and adherents, and, after creating a terrible uproar and
“swearing by the Holy Name of God,” proceeded with blows and kicks to
force the doors, and ejected both him and his colleague into the

That same day, Mlle. Raucourt was arrested, at the suit of a usurer, who
had grown tired of waiting for his money, and conveyed to For l’Évêque.
Fortunately for her, she contrived to obtain her release before the news
of her arrest had been noised abroad, in which case she would have had
any number of detainers lodged against her, and might have remained
under lock and key for an indefinite time. The Prince de Ligne, who had,
or had formerly had, tender relations with Madame Souck, happened to be
in Paris and, at the instance of that lady, intervened on the actress’s
behalf. He appears to have settled the usurer’s claim and also to have
encouraged a belief that he intended to pay all Mlle. Raucourt’s debts.
By this means the _tragédienne_ obtained a fresh respite, which she
employed in endeavouring to gain readmission to the Comédie-Française.
In this she failed and, finding that her creditors were again on the
point of taking up arms, she once more took to flight, and this time
left the country, accompanied by her devoted friend, Madame Souck.

The movements of Mlle. Raucourt during the next two years are shrouded
in mystery. All that is known for certain, is that she exploited North
Germany, Poland, and Russia, and passed some time in Berlin and Warsaw.
In July 1778, the _Nouvelles à la main_ report that, at Hamburg, both
she and Madame Souck had been arrested on a charge of swindling, and,
having been whipped and branded, expelled from the city. This, however,
was no doubt only malicious gossip spread about by the young actress’s
enemies, determined to keep not only the Comédie-Française, but France
itself closed against her; and there was probably more truth in a story
from Holland, to the effect that Mlle. Raucourt had become the mistress
of a wealthy Russian nobleman and had “squandered in a very short time a
large fortune.”

       *       *       *       *       *

In the meanwhile, great events were taking place in Paris. The alliance
between Madame Vestris and Mlle. Sainval the elder, which their common
jealousy of Mlle. Raucourt had called into being, had lasted only so
long as the total discomfiture of that lady had rendered necessary. Its
object accomplished, it was dissolved, and the parties turned their
weapons against each other. Counting upon the support of her lover, the
Duc de Duras, who, in his capacity as First Gentleman of the Chamber,
exercised a not altogether judicious control over the affairs of the
Comédie-Française, Madame Vestris appropriated certain characters of the
classic répertoire which Mlle. Sainval had hitherto regarded as her
exclusive property. The latter angrily protested, and the matter was
referred to the Gentlemen of the Chamber, who, at the instance of the
Duc de Duras, decided in favour of Madame Vestris. This decision was
followed by open war between the two actresses and their respective
partisans; nothing else was talked of in the green-rooms, the cafés, and
the salons of Paris, and very hard knocks were given and received.

Madame Vestris wrote to the _Journal de Paris_, to justify the course
she had taken; Mlle. Sainval promptly replied; but the editor returned
her letter, with an intimation that he had received instructions from a
high quarter that no reply was to be inserted. Indignant at such
injustice, the lady thereupon expanded her letter into a pamphlet, “in
which M. de Duras was insulted, and the Queen even mentioned in a manner
far from respectful.”[116] Marie Antoinette, who, Madame Campan tells
us, was accused, by implication, of leading the King by the nose, seems
to have been rather amused than otherwise; but the duke was furious. The
pamphlet had contained several of his private letters, and while all
playgoing Paris was indignant at the partiality which these revealed,
all literary Paris was making merry at the expense of an Academician who
could not write his mother-tongue with even an approach to accuracy.
The angry nobleman insisted that condign and exemplary punishment should
be meted out to the offender, and poor Mlle. Sainval was expelled from
the Comédie-Française, prohibited from performing in any provincial
theatre, and exiled to Clermont, in Beauvoisis.[117] This high-handed
action was bitterly resented by the public. Mlle. Sainval had been far
more popular than her rival, whose relations with the Duc de Duras had
caused her to be regarded as a minion of the Court, and the habitués of
the pit now, almost to a man, declared in her favour. Madame Vestris’s
appearance on the stage was the signal for a storm of hisses; while, on
the other hand, the younger sister of the disgraced actress was received
with tumultuous cheering, and when, one evening, in the character of
Aménaïde, in _Tancrède_, she pronounced the line,

    “L’injustice à la fin produit l’indépendance,”

the applause absolutely shook the theatre. “Nothing was heard but cries
of ‘Sainval! Sainval! _les deux_ Sainval!’ The presence of the guard had
no effect; the pit that night would have opposed a regiment.”

Alarmed by these demonstrations, the Gentlemen of the Chamber decided to
mitigate the punishment inflicted upon the elder Sainval, who was,
accordingly, granted permission to leave Clermont and to play in the
provinces. Everywhere she was received with frantic enthusiasm. At
Bordeaux, at the conclusion of the play, two cupids descended from a
cloud to crown her with laurels, and the audience pelted her with
flowers until the stage resembled a flower-garden.

By far the wisest course would have been to reinstate Mlle. Sainval at
the Comédie-Française and thus deprive the turbulent patrons of that
institution of any further excuse for demonstrations in her favour and
against her rival. But, since the Gentlemen of the Chamber were of
opinion that this would be too great a concession to popular clamour, it
was decided to endeavour to direct public attention from Mlle. Sainval
and her wrongs by recalling Mlle. Raucourt.

Madame Vestris herself seems to have been the first to suggest this
step. She was, of course, well aware that if, by any chance, Mlle.
Raucourt were to recover the place she had once held in the affections
of the public, she herself would be completely overshadowed. But, since
her own eclipse would undoubtedly be shared by Mlle. Sainval, whom she
now hated far more than she ever had the younger actress, she was
prepared to regard that eventuality with complacency.

Mlle. Raucourt, then at Berlin, was accordingly invited to return, and
accepted the invitation readily enough, though it may be doubted whether
she would have done so at all, could she have foreseen the kind of
reception which awaited her. Her creditors, acting doubtless on a hint
from an influential quarter, showed no disposition to molest her; but
the scandals with which her name had been associated had not been
forgotten. Every door was closed to her; no one could be persuaded to
have any dealings with this “most compromising of women.”

Friendless and without resources, she knew not where to go, when the
good-natured Sophie Arnould offered her hospitality. It was a courageous
act on the ex-singer’s part, since her own and Mlle. Raucourt’s enemies
did not hesitate to attribute it to the most shameful motives. The same
abominable charge which had been brought against the _tragédienne_ was
now openly levelled at her.

Sophie, however, cared very little what people might say about her. Not
content with extending her hospitality to the proscribed actress, she
did everything in her power to interest her friends in favour of her
_protégée_. To please his mistress, the Prince d’Hénin became one of
Mlle. Raucourt’s warmest partisans, and used all his not inconsiderable
influence to break down the social quarantine to which she was

Mlle. Raucourt’s reinstatement at the Comédie-Française was more easily
proposed than accomplished. The majority of her former colleagues
opposed it most strenuously, on the ground that their statutes
prohibited the readmission of a player who had been excluded by a vote
of the _sociétaires_, and that the misconduct of the actress in question
had injured the company in the estimation of the public. The Gentlemen
of the Chamber, however, turned a deaf ear to their remonstrances. Marie
Antoinette, a great admirer of Mlle. Raucourt’s acting, and ever ready
to take the part of any of her sex whom she considered to have been
hardly treated, espoused her cause, and even talked of paying her debts,
and on September 11, 1779, the _Journal de Paris_ contained the
following announcement:

“Comédie-Française.--We understand that the demoiselle Raucourt, absent
from this theatre for three years, will reappear there this evening, in
the rôle of Dido.”

Dido, it will be remembered, was the part in which the actress had made
her sensational _début_, seven years before; and the recollection of the
triumph she had secured on that occasion had doubtless influenced her
choice of this rôle. Now, as then, the doors of the theatre were
besieged, and the _salle_ crowded to its utmost capacity. But alas! how
different were the feelings which animated the expectant audience! Mlle.
Raucourt had been thrust upon the town in defiance of feelings which
ought to have been respected; night after night the pit had clamoured
for Mlle. Sainval, and, in her stead, it had been given--Raucourt! And
to make matters worse, it was an open secret that the Court intended to
pay her debts “out of the people’s money.”

Long before the curtain rose, angry murmurs heralded the coming storm,
and the moment Dido appeared, it burst in all its fury. The uproar was
indescribable. Hisses, groans, and cat-calls came from all parts of the
pit. The grossest epithets, the most shocking abuse, were showered upon
the unfortunate actress. “It was impossible,” says one account, “to hear
a single word of her part. The other actors were allowed to speak, but
so soon as her turn arrived, the clamour began again. It is suspected
that the partisans of the demoiselles Sainval are no strangers to this

Even more violent was the hostility displayed when, two nights later,
Mlle. Raucourt appeared as Phèdre. All who are familiar with Racine’s
famous tragedy know that the part of the hapless heroine contains many
lines which may be readily applied to her impersonator by a hostile
audience, and, in electing to play it, Mlle. Raucourt furnished her
enemies with weapons of which they did not fail to make the very fullest
use. The well-known lines once addressed by Adrienne Lecouvreur to her
rival and would-be assassin, the Duchesse de Bouillion:

                    “Je sais mes perfidies,
    Œnone, et ne suis pas de ces femmes hardies,
    Qui, goûtant dans la crime une tranquille paix,
    Ont su se faire un front qui ne rougit jamais,”

were greeted with cries of dissent and uproarious laughter. The words,

    “De l’austère pudeur les bornes sont passées...”

were answered with shouts of “_C’est vrai! c’est vrai! il y a
longtemps!_” While when she came to the passage in which Phèdre, in an
agony of remorse, exclaims,

    “Et moi, triste rebut de la nature entière...”

the ironical cheering, La Harpe tells us, seemed as if it would never
cease. “Neither her beauty nor her sex,” writes Grimm, “could protect
her any longer, and never did the public go so far in forgetfulness of
its own dignity.”

For these disgraceful scenes, the Duc de Duras seems to have been, in no
small measure, responsible. In his anxiety to secure a hearing for Mlle.
Raucourt, this well-meaning but maladroit nobleman had foolishly
endeavoured to overawe the opposition by trebling the guard and “filling
the pit with policemen,” who pounced upon and conducted to prison the
most prominent of the disturbers. Such tactics naturally had the effect
of exasperating the malcontents to the last degree and of alienating
many whose sympathies had hitherto lain with the persecuted actress.
“While the Comte d’Estaing is fighting the English, to make them
recognise the independence of America,” it was bitterly said, “the Duc
de Duras imprisons Frenchmen for refusing to applaud Raucourt!”

Nevertheless, fair-minded persons appear to have been practically
unanimous in condemning the conduct of the pit. “Nothing,” writes La
Harpe, “can prove more clearly that the spirit of the _parterre_ is
changed. The excesses in which it indulges, unknown until now, show how
badly composed it is. Never would an assembly of respectable persons
permit itself to say to a woman, whatever she might be, that she was
‘_le rebut de la nature entière_.’ One can decline to listen to her, but
it is shocking and abominable to go to such lengths as this.” He adds
that, in his opinion, the disturbance was organised by the elder Mlle.
Sainval, “who knows better than any one how to set to work the crowd of
venal ruffians who compose to-day a third of the _parterre_, and
sometimes make themselves its masters”; and declares that so disgusted
is he with the cabals and acrimonious quarrels which divide the
theatrical and literary worlds, that he has determined to abandon
dramatic criticism altogether, and has, accordingly, resigned his post
on the _Mercure_.[118]

In the face of such bitter hostility as she was called upon to
encounter, Mlle. Raucourt might well have been pardoned if she had
withdrawn a second time from the stage. That she declined to bow to the
storm proves her to have possessed courage and pertinacity of an
unusually high order. Indeed, her firmness on the night of Phèdre, when,
at each hostile manifestation, she had slowly and deliberately repeated
the line which had evoked it, had undoubtedly contributed to exasperate
the baser kind of her persecutors. A little reflection, however,
sufficed to assure her that, if she wished to regain the indulgence of
the public, she must have recourse to other methods, and, accordingly,
she addressed to the _Journal de Paris_ the following letter:

“_September 13, 1776._

     “Unusual circumstances having placed me in the position of
     occupying at the Comédie a different _emploi_ from the one I
     intended for myself, permit me, through the medium of your journal,
     to inform the public that I have no other ambition than to fill it
     to the best of my ability; that I do not purpose playing parts of
     any other kind, except when it is absolutely indispensable for the
     service of the Comédie; that, far from desiring to deprive my
     comrades of anything, my only wish is to understudy them; too happy
     if, by my zeal, my exactitude, and my efforts, I succeed in
     convincing the public of my respect and of my anxiety to please

“I have the honour to be, &c.,


This diplomatic epistle seems to have been not without its effect, and,
though her reception at the Comédie-Française still left much to be
desired, no attempt was made to repeat the violent scenes which had
marked her two first performances. On the other hand, her creditors,
urged on by her personal enemies, had again taken up arms and left her
not a moment’s peace. In order to avoid imprisonment, she was once more
on the point of expatriating herself, when a royal edict appeared which
“rendered free from all seizures, confiscations, or stoppages the wages
and appointments of the players and other persons attached to the
theatre, up to the amount of two-thirds, apart from the necessary
expenditure for board and lodging.”

It was common belief that this edict had been inspired by the Queen,
who had seen in it an economical method of settling the debts of her
favourite actress, and its appearance, while saving Mlle. Raucourt from
the necessity of choosing between imprisonment and flight, exposed her
to a fresh storm of invective. A score of pamphlets and leaflets, some
in prose, some in verse, were launched against her, in which she and her
supporters, the Duc de Duras, the Prince d’Hénin, Sophie Arnould, Madame
Vestris, and Brizard, were assailed in the most violent manner. A few
passages from one of these effusions, entitled _La Vision du prophète
Daniel_, will convey a good idea of the methods employed against
unpopular personages in the eighteenth century:

The Old Satrap [the Duc de Duras], having banished Mlle. Sainval, “to
punish her for having more talents than his concubine [Madame Vestris],”
announces his intention of recalling the Harlot of Babylon [Mlle.
Raucourt], “whom all nations have rejected,” and forcing the people whom
he governs to receive her.

“And one heard a cry: ‘Way, way for the Prince des Nains [the Prince

“And I looked, expecting to behold at the head of a troop of pigmies an

“And I saw a tall, thin man, with a foolish eye and a silly smile,
affecting an air of importance; and what was my surprise to see, through
his transparent body, that, in place of blood, a black and poisonous mud
circulated in his veins...!”

“And his corrupt heart was falling into rottenness. And one saw there
none of those feelings which characterise the nobility; cowardice,
poltroonery, debauchery, infamy, deceit, avarice, and duplicity, shared
what remained of this gangrened heart.”

“And he made his way through the crowd, leading by the hand a woman,
whom I took for a man, from her impudent demeanour, her loud voice, and
her gigantic stature [Mlle. Raucourt].

“She cast around her lascivious glances.... And a voice cried: ‘Behold
her; the woman who has gone beyond all the abominations wherewith the
nations of the earth are soiled.

“‘And she is about to renew here the scenes of debauchery and
extravagance which she has given elsewhere.’”[119]

At the beginning of the following year, the _Nouvelles à la main_
announce that Mlle. Raucourt has repaid the hospitality and protection
received from Sophie Arnould by “an act of frightful ingratitude,
unhappily but too common among women,” namely, by stealing away from her
the Prince d’Hénin, “in order to rivet her fetters upon him.” The writer
adds that Sophie is furious, and that the guilty pair, fearful of the
consequences of their treachery, have fled to Bagatelle and taken refuge
with the Comte d’Artois, who is credited with a desire to participate in
the good fortune of the Prince d’Hénin.

The report that the prince had taken Mlle. Raucourt under his
protection, in the technical sense of the term, was true; but, so far
from having sought refuge with the Comte d’Artois, at Bagatelle, he
appears to have rented the château from its royal owner. Sophie Arnould,
if she cherished any animosity against the offenders--which is open to
question, the probability being that she and the prince were by this
time heartily tired of one another--would have been far more likely to
revenge herself by some biting _bon mot_ than by personal injury.

Paris and Versailles, we are told, laughed over this adventure till its
sides ached, for a whole week. Mlle. Raucourt’s conduct was considered
despicable, but there was little pity for Sophie, who, one writer
declares, was justly punished “for having welcomed a woman who was the
opprobrium of her sex.”

It is to be hoped that the Prince d’Hénin found in Mlle. Raucourt’s
society sufficient compensation for being dragged through the same
gutters as the _tragédienne_ by the scribes who delighted to assail her,
and for the fact that it was now his privilege to deal with the horde of
creditors who were “perpetually howling at her skirts.” To do him
justice, meanness was not one of his failings; but adversity had not
taught the lady wisdom, at least so far as financial matters were
concerned, and no sooner did her unfortunate lover discharge one debt
than she appears to have straightway contracted another. Under date
September 16, 1781, we read in the _Mémoires secrets_:

“Queen Melpomene is more than ever ruined by debt. The Prince d’Hénin,
to aid her to escape the pursuits of her creditors, has taken over all
the furniture and effects of this actress. But he is summoned to declare
upon oath, before the Civil Lieutenant of Paris, whether his ostensible
ownership is not simulated.”

It would be interesting to know what course the prince adopted under
these somewhat embarrassing circumstances; but, unfortunately, the
chroniclers do not tell us.

In the meanwhile, Mlle. Raucourt was seeking consolation for her many
troubles in the cultivation of the Muses. She was at work upon “a drama
in three acts and in prose,” entitled _Henriette_, adapted, it would
appear, from a play which she had seen at Warsaw, some years before. The
plot was briefly as follows:

A Prussian colonel, Stelim by name, wounded in a duel, is carried to the
house of Henriette’s father and nursed by the lady, who falls deeply in
love with her patient. The colonel recovers and returns to his duty, all
unconscious of the passion which he has inspired. The lovelorn Henriette
resolves to follow him, runs away from home, dressed as a man, and
enlists in her colonel’s regiment. One day, she surprises her beloved in
the act of kissing the hand of a strange lady, upon which, unaware that
the latter is only his sister, she is so overcome by jealousy and
mortification that she deserts. She is pursued, recaptured, tried by
court-martial, and condemned to be shot; but, at the last moment, her
secret is discovered, and all ends happily.

_Henriette_ did not reach the stage of the Comédie-Française without
encountering many difficulties. In the Warsaw play, Frederick the Great
and his army had been treated with very scant respect; and the Prussian
Ambassador now demanded that Mlle. Raucourt’s adaptation should be very
strictly scrutinised, and that “all passages calculated to wound the
King his master eliminated.” As there seem to have been a good many of
these, it was feared, at first, that the play would be mutilated beyond
recognition, even if it were not prohibited altogether. But the Prince
d’Hénin left no stone unturned to rescue his mistress’s work from the
claws of the censor, and, after many conferences and much
correspondence, it was finally decided to spare those passages “in which
the impertinence towards the King of Prussia was more remarkable for its
intention than for its effect.”

The play was produced on March 1, 1782, before a densely crowded house,
which the authoress, by a very adroit manœuvre, had taken care to
predispose in her favour. It was then the custom on first nights to
reserve a large number of the _parterre_ tickets for distribution among
the author’s friends, who, of course, applauded enthusiastically, no
matter how coldly the production might be received by the general
public. But Mlle. Raucourt refused to avail herself of this privilege,
declaring that “if her drama were a good one, it would succeed on its
own merits”; a decision which, we are told, was received with universal

On the whole, the verdict of the public was favourable. “The first act,”
say the _Mémoires secrets_, “was thought cold, but the second excited
long, frequent, and sincere applause. The third act was also applauded,
though with less enthusiasm.”

The critics were, however, anything but kind. Grimm describes the
subject as “monstrous”; La Harpe stigmatises the work as “an absurd and
foolish rhapsody,” a striking proof of “the decadence of talents and the
corruption of taste”;[121] while the _Mercure_, after declaring that the
play possesses many faults and advising Mlle. Raucourt “to treat of
subjects with a truer and worthier moral end,” declines to say any more.
“The author is a woman, and we do not wish to play with her the part of

But whatever opinions they may have held in regard to the merits of the
work itself, every one agreed that Mlle. Raucourt was charming in the
uniform of a Prussian soldier; and La Harpe states that people went two
or three times solely to see her masquerading as a man.

Her success in _Henriette_ encouraged Mlle. Raucourt to undertake a real
masculine part, and, two years later (March 1784), she secured a genuine
triumph, as a captain of dragoons, in a play by Rochon de Chabannes,
called _Le Jaloux_. The ease with which she wore the uniform appears to
have been particularly admired, a circumstance which is not surprising
when we remember that, when in hiding, in the summer of 1776, she had
worn a very similar dress for more than six weeks.

“What an _actor_ that Raucourt is!” remarked the younger Sainval, who
enjoyed a not undeserved reputation as a wit. “And what a pity she
persists in wishing to play women’s parts!”

Little by little the hostility of which Mlle. Raucourt had so long been
the object subsided. Slowly but surely the _tragédienne_ recovered the
ground she had lost, until, in 1786, we find the _Mémoires secrets_
declaring that “she will soon take rank with the greatest actresses,”
and that “the most critical amateurs were fain to confess that she had
made prodigious improvement.”

This happy result seems to have been due partly to a genuine love of her
art, which led her to devote far more time to serious study than had
been the case in earlier years, and partly to the exercise of a good
deal of tact--willingness to understudy her former rivals, to condescend
to the parts of nurse and confidante, and, in short, to do almost
anything that was required of her--which had disarmed the jealousy of
her colleagues and rendered her an almost popular member of the troupe.
It was certainly not attributable to any change in her morals, for if
scandal were no longer busy with her name, it was from no lack of
material. In the years immediately preceding the Revolution, however,
people had more important matters to discuss than the amours of

       *       *       *       *       *

The Revolution very nearly proved fatal to Mlle. Raucourt. The questions
which were agitating the public mind were very far from leaving the
national theatre undisturbed. “Even our little green-room,” writes
Fleury, “was not exempt from the invasion of the moment. Melpomene and
Thalia had the mortification to see their sacred altars profaned by the
party pamphlets of the day, their venerated sanctuary converted into a
political club.” The house of Molière, in fact, was divided against
itself. Mlle. Raucourt, Molé, Fleury, and Louise Contat had tasted too
many of the sweets of Court favour not to deplore deeply the fall of the
old régime; while, on the other hand, Talma, Madame Vestris, Dugazon,
and Mlle. Deschamps espoused the popular side with the fervour of rooted
conviction. Of the remainder, the majority were either Royalists or
moderate constitutionalists.[123]

This divergence of political opinion soon led to angry recriminations
and thence to an open rupture, and, in the spring of 1791, Talma and his
friends, finding their position growing intolerable, withdrew from the
company, to found, at the Palais-Royal, the Théâtre-Français de la Rue
de Richelieu, which, in the following year, became the Théâtre de la

Having purged itself of its Republican members, the Comédie threw itself
boldly into the political strife, and, throughout the terrible winter of
1792-93, allowed no opportunity to slip of advocating the restoration of
order and security. On January 3, 1793, during the King’s trial, it
produced a play, by Jean Laya, entitled _Les Amis des Lois_, in which
Robespierre (under the name of Nomophage), Marat, and other Montagnards
were held up to ridicule and odium. How such a play contrived to escape
the vigilance of the Republican censors is not easy to understand, since
so thinly veiled were the allusions that almost every passage was
punctuated by the cheers and hooting of an excited audience. It was, of
course, speedily suppressed, and from that moment the doings of the
Comédie were closely watched by the sanguinary faction now rising to
supremacy in the State, which only awaited an opportunity of closing the
theatre and arraigning the whole company before the Revolutionary Court.

An adaptation of “Pamela,” by François de Neufchâteau, afterwards
Minister of the Interior, which contained not a little material
calculated to awaken regret for the proscribed nobility, provided the
Jacobins with the pretext they desired, and, on September 3, the whole
of the players, with the exception of Molé, who had contrived to effect
his escape, and Des Essarts, who was taking the waters at Baréges, were
arrested and conveyed to the Madelonettes, in the Quartier
Saint-Martin-des-Champs, and Sainte-Pélagie, in the Rue de la Clef; the
men being assigned to the former prison and the women to the latter.

That the players, or at any rate those of them who held the most
pronounced counter-revolutionary opinions, were doomed, was the opinion
of even their most sanguine friends. The Revolutionary Court, which had
been created in the previous March, to judge without appeal conspirators
against the State, still retained all the forms of justice--it was not
until June 1794 that the hearing of counsel and calling of witnesses
were dispensed with--but its proceedings were, in the great majority of
cases, a hollow farce. The judges were appointed from the ranks of the
most ruthless Terrorists; the jurymen, nominated by the Convention, were
all “_gens d’expédition_”; while, as to give evidence on behalf of an
accused person was to incur the danger of sharing his fate, witnesses
for the defence could with difficulty be induced to come forward.

For some cause which is not quite certain, but was probably, as Fleury
suggests, the fear of disseminating the small-pox, at that time
prevailing in the Madelonettes, the case of the imprisoned players was
not dealt with for more than nine months. At length, on Messidor 8, the
Committee of Public Safety deliberated upon their fate; and Collot
d’Herbois sent to Fouquier-Tinville the accusatory documents against
Dazincourt, Fleury, Mlles. Raucourt, Louise and Émilie Contat, and
Lange, who were considered the most culpable, accompanied by the
following letter:

“Herewith I send you the documents relating to the actors of the
Comédie-Française. In common with all patriots, you know how
counter-revolutionary their conduct has been. You will bring them before
the Court on Messidor 13. With regard to the others, there are some
among them who may be punished with banishment. But we will see what can
be done with them after the others have been tried.”

And on the margin of each of the six _dossiers_, Collot d’Herbois, in
his own hand, had traced a capital G in red ink. For the docile
Fouquier-Tinville that capital G signified: “_Guillotinez!_”

The trial was fixed for Messidor 13, and, on the following day, it was
intended that Mlle. Raucourt and her five colleagues should make their
final bow to the public, on the Place de la Révolution.

However, neither trial nor execution ever took place, for, on the
morning of the 13th, it was found that the six _dossiers_ had
mysteriously disappeared, and all efforts to recover them proved

Let us see what had become of them.

In conformity with the usual practice, the papers had been sent by
Fouquier-Tinville to the Bureau des Pièces Accusatives at the dismantled
Tuileries. Now, in this department there was a clerk named Charles de
Labussière, who had accepted the post as a means of securing his own
safety, and who at heart was a devoted Royalist. Through Labussière’s
hands passed all the documents relating to prisoners awaiting trial and,
whenever he could do so with but little fear of discovery, he did not
hesitate to destroy them. At first, he observed great caution and
confined himself to abstracting a few pages from the portfolios; but, so
soon as he became aware of the reckless disorder which characterised the
proceedings of the fatal committee, he enlarged the scope of his
operations and is said to have saved some hundreds from the guillotine,
among whom was no less a personage than Joséphine de Beauharnais, whom
Fate subsequently raised to the imperial throne of France. The method he
adopted was an ingenious one. As it was then summer and exceedingly hot
weather, and the lighting of a fire might have attracted attention,
instead of burning the papers, it was his practice to soak them in
water, until the bulky parchments had become balls of soft paste, which
could be stowed away in his pockets, and to await a favourable
opportunity of throwing them into the Seine.

On the night of Messidor 9, Labussière abstracted the papers relating to
the imprisoned actors and carried them off. He had, however, a very
narrow escape of detection. On his way to the river, his movements
aroused the suspicion of a patrol, by whom he was arrested; and he would
undoubtedly have been searched and the papers discovered, but for the
timely arrival of an official of the Committee of Public Safety, who
recognised him and ordered his release.[124]

Thus the players were saved, for before a new brief could be prepared,
came “that happiest and most genial of revolutions, the Revolution of
the 9th Thermidor,” which brought the Terror to a close and freedom to
so many hundreds of prisoners.

Three weeks later, the members of the Comédie-Française reappeared at
their theatre in the Faubourg Saint-Germain, now called the Théâtre de
l’Égalité. _La Métromanie_ and _Les Fausses Confidences_ composed the
programme, and the players, notwithstanding the reactionary views they
were known to hold, had a great reception from an immense audience,
though, remarked Louise Contat sarcastically, nothing like so large a
one as there would have been to see them guillotined.

The players, however, did not remain many months in their old home. The
Faubourg Saint-Germain, so long the centre of rank and wealth, was being
abandoned in favour of more central spots, while, as a result of the
existing free trade in theatrical matters, there were now several
playhouses within a narrow radius of the Palais-Royal, whose advantage
of situation rendered them formidable competitors. In January 1795,
accordingly, the members of the Comédie-Française, not, as may be
supposed, without many regrets, migrated to the Théâtre Feydeau, a house
which had been erected, some years before, for a company of Italian
_farceurs_, and was now under the control of a speculative gentleman
named Sageret.

To be the paid servant of Sageret, who does not appear to have borne the
best of reputations, seemed to Mlle. Raucourt a kind of degradation--the
arts and humanity, she declared, cried out against the subjection under
which they had been led to place themselves; and, in the following
December, that lady withdrew from the company, followed by Larive, Mlle.
Joly, Saint-Prix, and several others, and took possession of a theatre
in the Rue de Louvois, intending apparently to make it the central point
of a reunion of the entire company.

The flower of the Comédie-Française was now divided between three
playhouses: the Théâtre de la République, the Théâtre Feydeau, and the
Théâtre de Louvois. Of these the latter, which was inaugurated on Nivôse
5, Year v. (December 25, 1796), with _Iphigénie_ and a little play by
Laya, entitled _Les Deux Sœurs_, was for a time the most successful;
Mlle. Raucourt securing a great personal triumph in another masculine
part--that of the hero in Legouvé’s _Laurence_. Laurence, it may be
explained, was the young gentleman who became enamoured of Ninon de
Lenclos without knowing that he was her son.

The Directory, however, like the despotism which it had succeeded, kept
a jealous eye on the theatres, and was in the habit of closing them,
temporarily or altogether, upon the slightest provocation; and an
incident which took place during the performance of _Les Trois Frères
rivaux_ ruined all the hopes of Mlle. Raucourt. One of the characters,
addressing his _valet-de-chambre_, by name Merlin, exclaims:

“Monsieur Merlin, you are a scoundrel! Monsieur Merlin, you will end by
being hanged!”

Now Merlin de Douai, the Minister of Justice, was just then in very bad
odour with the public; and the audience applied the speech to him and
cheered vociferously for several minutes.

A few days later (September 9, 1797), at the moment when the curtain was
about to rise on a performance of the _Barbier de Seville_, an order
arrived forbidding all further representations at the Théâtre de

Mlle. Raucourt made every effort to obtain a revocation of the order,
but to no purpose. However, she was not long without a theatre, as, at
the beginning of the following year, she contrived to secure possession
of the former seat of the Comédie-Française, in the Faubourg
Saint-Germain, henceforth to be known as the Odéon, which she opened
with a performance of _Phèdre_. Shortly afterwards, the Théâtre de la
République shared the fate of the Théâtre de Louvois, the political
opinions of Talma and his associates being too advanced to please the
Government. The enterprising Sageret thereupon induced the homeless
players to join forces with their former colleagues at the Théâtre
Feydeau, and took over the management of the Odéon from Mlle. Raucourt,
his intention being that the actors under his command should appear at
either theatre in turn. But Sageret became bankrupt and disappeared;
the Odéon was completely destroyed by a fire, the cause of which was
never discovered, and Paris found itself without a temple of the
legitimate drama.

This unfortunate condition of affairs, however, lasted but a short
while. François de Neufchâteau, the author of the _Paméla_ which had
proved so fatal, was now Minister of the Interior and honestly desirous
of doing everything in his power to promote the interests of the drama.
Through his influence, in May 1799, a wise measure of the Consular
Government reunited in a single society the scattered members of the old
Comédie-Française, and placed at its disposal the _salle_ of the
Palais-Royal (formerly the Théâtre de la République), which it has not
ceased to occupy to this day.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mlle. Raucourt, to her honour be it said, never made any secret of her
monarchical sympathies. During the Directory, she was a bright and
shining light of what was known as “_Le petit Coblentz_,” an association
of Royalists which held its meetings at a house in the Boulevard des
Italiens and strove, by force of jests, sarcasms, and epigrams, to upset
the Republic. She wore on her spencer eighteen buttons, “a delicate
allusion to Louis XVIII., the legitimate sovereign.” And when she fanned
herself, it was with one of those famous weeping-willow fans, the folds
of which formed the face of Marie Antoinette.

Nevertheless, Mlle. Raucourt had, personally, but little cause to
complain of the Directory. Her antagonism to the Government did not
extend to its agents, through the good offices of some of whom she
contrived to make a considerable fortune, by judicious speculation in
assignats, army contracts, and confiscated estates. She now discharged
her debts, and bought “a palace” in the Rue Royale, with a spacious
garden attached, where she gave sumptuous fêtes, to which all
fashionable Paris was invited. Nothing so delightful as her boudoir, we
are assured, had ever been seen before; the fittings were of green and
gold, and the chimney-piece of blue marble.

After the establishment of the Empire, Napoleon, who was a great admirer
of Mlle. Raucourt’s acting, accorded her a handsome pension and engaged
her to organise a troupe of French players, to travel through Italy and
give performances in the principal towns, with the idea of extending
French influence in that country. In Italy, Mlle. Raucourt remained
several years, paying, however, occasional visits to Paris, when she
appeared at the Comédie-Française, generally in the parts of mothers or
queens, and always with great success. Madame Vigée Lebrun tells us that
she remained to the last a great _tragédienne_, but that, with advancing
years, her voice became so harsh that, when not looking at her, people
might have imagined themselves listening to a man.[125]

Mlle. Raucourt retired from the stage in 1814, her farewell appearance
at the Comédie-Française being as Catherine de Medicis, in the _États de
Blois_ of Raynouard. On January 15 of the following year, she died,
after a short illness, “thanking God that she had been permitted to
salute the return of her legitimate King.”

The funeral, which took place two days later, was the occasion of a
painful scandal. From the earliest days of the Restoration, the clergy,
relying on the support of the new Government, had shown themselves as
intolerant towards the actor as had those of the old régime. Mlle.
Raucourt’s house was in the Rue du Helder, that is to say, in the parish
of Saint-Roch, and it was in that church that the service should have
been held. The curé, however, flatly refused to celebrate it. “Actors,”
said he, “are excommunicated, and the time has come to revert to the
rigorous execution of the canons of the Church.” It was in vain that he
was reminded of the never-failing charity of the deceased woman towards
the poor of his parish, and the generous gift which he himself had
received each year for the needs of his church. He remained deaf to all
representations and entrenched himself behind the orders of the
Archbishop of Paris.

To obtain justice, the members of the Comédie-Française addressed a
petition to the King, but the morning of the interment came without
bringing an answer from his Majesty. In the meanwhile, the news of the
refusal of the curé of Saint-Roch to accord ecclesiastical burial to the
remains of the great actress had become common knowledge and had aroused
widespread indignation. An enormous crowd, numbering fully 15,000
persons, assembled in the Rue du Helder and the adjoining streets, among
which might be observed several actors of the Comédie in the uniform of
the National Guards. At the moment when the cortège left the house, the
police gave the order to proceed directly to the cemetery; but the crowd
interfered and compelled the hearse to drive towards Saint-Roch. On
entering the Rue de la Michodière, a police-officer rushed to the
horses’ heads, to turn them in the direction of the boulevard, but was
roughly pushed aside; and the procession, growing in size every moment,
pursued its way towards Saint-Roch.

When the church was reached, the principal door was found closed, a
circumstance which threw the mob into a frenzy of anger. Some proposed
to break down the door, others to carry the corpse to the Tuileries or
the archbishop’s palace; while cries of “_Le curé à la lanterne!_” were
raised, and if that intolerant ecclesiastic had had the temerity to show
himself, it is to be feared that he would have been very roughly

The actors in the procession, alarmed at all this uproar, the blame for
which, they feared, would be laid upon them, took advantage of a moment
when the more violent section of the crowd was occupied in endeavouring
to force the great door of the church, to make the cortège resume its
progress towards Père-Lachaise. The mob, however, gave chase, overtook
the hearse at the top of the Rue Traversière, and brought it back in
triumph to Saint-Roch.

In the meanwhile, a deputation had started for the Tuileries; Louis
XVIII. consented to admit it to his presence, and Huet, an actor of the
Opéra-Comique, harangued the monarch with so much eloquence, that, some
days later, he received an intimation that a course of foreign travel
might not be without benefit to his health. However, his representations
had the desired effect; for the King promised to interfere without
delay, sent orders to the curé to receive the body, and, for greater
security, despatched his own almoner to read the service.

The orders of the King arrived only just in time to prevent a serious
affray between the infuriated mob and the troops who had been summoned
to quell the disturbance. The great door was then opened, and the
coffin, borne on the shoulders of the crowd, was carried to the foot of
the altar, where the people themselves lighted the candles. The almoner
of the Court arrived, accompanied by two choristers, and performed the
service, at the conclusion of which an immense concourse of people
followed the cortège as far as Père-Lachaise.[126]



When, at the close of the year 1774, Justine Favart retired from the
stage of the Comédie-Italienne, to die alas! a few months later, she
left behind her, in the person of a young girl of nineteen, a worthy
successor, whose budding talents she had been one of the first to
recognise and encourage.

Louise Rosalie Lefèvre, known to fame as Madame Dugazon, was born, at
Berlin, on June 18, 1755, of French parents. Her father, François Joseph
Lefèvre, was a dancing-master, formerly of the Comédie-Italienne, and
when, in 1767, the little Louise, who had been from a very early age
destined for the stage, made her first appearance on the boards of that
theatre, it was as a _danseuse_ in a _pas de deux_ introduced into the
_Nouvelle École des femmes_, a comedy in three acts and in prose, by

It was not, however, as a _danseuse_ that Louise Lefèvre was to attain
her immense reputation. Ere long her grace, refinement, and command of
facial expression attracted the attention of the composer Grétry, who
after some conversation with her, promised her a part in his next opera.
He was as good as his word, and when, in 1769, he produced his _Lucile_,
it was for the little Lefèvre that he composed the pretty air:

    “On dit qu’à quinze ans.”

The grace, charm, and _naïveté_ with which she rendered it decided her
future. Pleased at finding his previsions confirmed, the composer
advised her to devote herself seriously to the study of music, promising
that he would bear her in mind; and from that day the girl “divided her
time between dancing, which was her duty, and the study of music, which
was her passion.”[127]

She was fortunate in her teachers, particularly in Madame Favart, who,
with a magnanimity far from common on the stage, did all in her power to
aid and encourage the young aspirant. The lessons were not thrown away,
nor was the pupil wanting in gratitude; for even in her old age, when
she had retired from the theatre, Madame Dugazon could not mention the
name of Justine Favart without tears in her eyes.

At length, on June 19, 1774, Mlle. Lefèvre was promoted to a definite
part, that of Pauline, in _Sylvain_, words by Marmontel, music by
Grétry. Her success was instantaneous, unprecedented. At a single bound,
she attained the highest rank, an elevation from which she never
afterwards descended. Never in the history of the Comédie-Italienne had
such talent been exhibited by so young an actress, and never had talent
been so keenly appreciated by its patrons. It sufficed for her to
undertake the principal part in any new work to ensure for it a
favourable, if not a triumphant, reception. _Les Événements imprévus_,
_l’Amant jaloux_, _Les Amours d’été_, and many other pieces owed the
vogue which they enjoyed entirely to her masterly impersonations.

Four days after her appearance in _Sylvain_, Mlle. Lefèvre was received
_à l’essai_, with a salary of 1800 livres, which, in the following
April, was increased to 2400 livres. But promotion was slow in those
days, even for the most brilliant talents, and it was not until April
7, 1776, that she became a _sociétaire_.[128]

But long before this--almost, indeed, from the evening on which she had
first played Pauline--the public had taken her to its heart. People
seemed never tired of lauding “her sympathetic voice, her exquisite
sensibility, her gaiety, which was so contagious, her acting, which was
so tender and impassioned.” Some enthusiasts even went so far as to
declare that such remarkable talent must be the product of some divine

Mlle. Lefèvre was not strictly beautiful, but “adorably pretty,” dainty,
and refined. She had delicate features, a mobile face, “and an
expressive mouth, sometimes mocking, sometimes pouting.” But her
greatest charm seems to have been her splendid eyes, fringed with long
lashes, which, in turn, “shone with mischief and gaiety, or closed in
order to allow the soft tears to flow.” Her figure, we are told,
“without being tall, was well-proportioned, and all her movements were
characterised by a peculiar charm.”

Naturally, she was speedily surrounded by a throng of adorers. No
actress of the time was so sought after, courted, adulated. “Jupiters of
all conditions solicited the honour of descending at her feet in a
shower of gold.” The most brilliant propositions were made to her:
furnished hôtels, gorgeous equipages, ravishing toilettes, parures of
diamonds, together with the hearts, if not the hands, of the noblest in
the land, were at her disposal. She repulsed them all; she had decided
to marry--to marry in her own profession. And her choice fell upon
Dugazon, of the Comédie-Française.

A singular character was this Dugazon. Born at Marseilles, in 1749, he
made his first appearance on the Paris stage in 1771, and at once
succeeded in ingratiating himself with his audience. Handsome and well
made, he united to a profound knowledge of his art and a wealth of
humour, a physiognomy of extraordinary flexibility, which he could so
change at any moment that it seemed as if he had put on a mask. “By the
play or the contraction of certain muscles of his face, he possessed the
faculty of disfiguring himself instantly and so completely as to become
unrecognisable.” There can be no question that he was a great comedian,
though his style was in the spirit of farce rather than of comedy, and
by the side of Préville, who, with all his vivacity, never condescended
to what was low or trivial, he must have appeared a mere caricaturist.
But in broad comedy he was unsurpassed, and in the farces of Scarron and
Le Grand, as Scapin in the _Fourberies_, Monsieur Jourdain in the
_Bourgeois Gentilhomme_, Mascarille in _l’Étourdi_, and Sganerelle in
_Don Juan_, no actor of the time could even approach him.

But if the actor was excellent, the man was altogether insupportable. In
the café or the tavern, a quarrelsome braggart, as ready with his sword
as with his tongue. In the salon--for, in his character of privileged
buffoon, he was admitted into the highest circles--a rude jester, who
respected neither age nor sex, and who took the most outrageous
liberties with every one who did not make him keep his distance. Many
are the stories told of his eccentricities, one at least of which will
bear repetition here.

One day the actor received a summons to Versailles, from Louis XVI.
himself. Wondering much what his sovereign could require of him, he
repaired thither, and, on his arrival, was ushered into the King’s
cabinet, where he found his Majesty alone. The King bade him be seated,
and then informed him that he required his assistance in a matter
closely concerning the dignity of the Royal Family. He was, said he,
extremely displeased at her Majesty continuing to attend the balls at
the Opera, in the face of his oft-expressed disapproval of these
gatherings. He had therefore bethought him of a means of curing her of
this deplorable weakness for mixed society. Dugazon must attend the next
ball, in disguise, treat the august lady as if she were nothing but a
common _bourgeoise_, and so shock and disgust her that she would never
care to attend another.

Dugazon obeyed with alacrity; the commission entrusted to him was one
after his own heart. At the next ball he appeared disguised as a
fishwife, a veritable virago of the Halles, foul of tongue, unkempt and
dirty, and, taking the Queen aside, behaved to her--it was the King’s
express command, be it remembered--with such outrageous coarseness and
familiarity that the spectators were absolutely horrified.

Next morning, the King slyly inquired how her Majesty had enjoyed
herself the previous evening.

“Never,” answered Marie Antoinette, laughing heartily, “never was I so
much diverted as yesterday!”

       *       *       *       *       *

The marriage between Louise Lefèvre and Dugazon was celebrated at
Saint-Eustache on August 20, 1776. It was not a happy one. The husband
was bad-tempered, exacting, and jealous; the wife pleasure-loving,
coquettish and self-willed. Before the honeymoon was well over, they
were quarrelling like cat and dog. Before a year had passed, their
domestic differences were the talk of Paris. Madame’s marriage vows
weighed very lightly upon her, and she made but small attempt to
disguise her amours; Monsieur went about, complaining to every one whom
he could persuade to listen to him of his wife’s conduct, and boasting
of the terrible retribution he intended for her lovers.

In 1778, there was a grave scandal. A certain M. de Cazes, a young
_maître des requêtes_, fell madly in love with Madame Dugazon, who
condescended to reciprocate his passion. In order to conceal their
intrigue and, at the same time, facilitate their interviews, M. de Cazes
presented the Dugazons to his father, a wealthy farmer-general, who
invited them to his house, where actor and magistrate often performed
scenes from popular comedies for the entertainment of the company. Their
most diverting performance, however, took place in private, a fact to be
regretted, since it must have been worth going a very long way to see.

Dugazon had for some time suspected the motive of his introduction to
this family and the very cordial reception which had been accorded him.
But the guilty pair had observed so much discretion that he had not a
particle of evidence to justify his interference and was, therefore, at
a loss how to proceed. Jealousy, however, prompted him to a bold move.
One morning, M. de Cazes was in his cabinet, dreaming of his inamorata,
when Dugazon entered unannounced, and, locking the door behind him, drew
a pistol from his pocket, held it to the young man’s head, informed him
that he knew everything, and that he would blow out his brains on the
instant, if he did not immediately deliver up his wife’s portrait and

[Illustration: MADAME DUGAZON

From an engraving by MONSALDI after the painting by JEAN BAPTISTE

The unfortunate gallant believed that Madame Dugazon had made a
confession to her husband or that in some way he had been betrayed, and,
in fear and trembling, handed over both portrait and letters to his
assailant, who retired, enchanted with the success of his expedition.

No sooner, however, had the actor and his pistol departed, than M. de
Cazes’s alarm gave way to indignation, and he followed in pursuit,
shouting: “Thief! Assassin! Stop the villain!” And the servants, roused
by his cries, came running to the spot.

Dugazon, who was leisurely descending the stairs, turned round, and, in
no way disconcerted, coolly replied: “Perfect, Monsieur; admirably
played! The scene is excellent! The servants would be quite deceived by
it, were they not accustomed to our farces.” Then, without quickening
his pace, he passed through the astonished lackeys--who, uncertain
whether it was a comedy or not, did not dare to lay hands on him--gained
the door, made the discomfited magistrate a profound _congé_, and
swaggered off.

Some days later, M. de Gazes happened to be on the stage of the
Comédie-Italienne, at the conclusion of the performance, and was there
espied by Dugazon, who could not resist the temptation to read his
wife’s admirer a second lesson. Accordingly, he waited until the crowd
had dispersed and he was unobserved, and then, stealing up behind the
_maître des requêtes_, dealt him four or five sharp cuts across the
shoulders with a cane.

The luckless young man turned round, furious with rage and pain, and,
perceiving his “rival,” poured forth a torrent of abuse and threats.

The actor, quite unmoved, begged him to explain himself and inquired,
with a bland smile, if he were rehearsing a tirade from some play.

The infuriated magistrate rejoined by calling Dugazon “an assassin,” and
asserting that he had just dealt him several blows with a cane.

The latter assumed an air of injured innocence, assured M. de Cazes that
he must be labouring under some extraordinary delusion, and inquired how
he could possibly imagine that a poor player like himself should have
been guilty of so shocking an outrage.

As there were no witnesses to the assault, and M. de Cazes had no mind
to give the actor, who was an expert swordsman, the satisfaction of
running him through the body, the affair went no further. Dugazon,
however, did not fail to boast everywhere he went of the thrashing he
had inflicted on madame’s lover; conduct which, the _Mémoires secrets_
tell us, “revolted honourable men.”

If Dugazon had taken upon himself to detect and punish all his wife’s
infidelities, it is to be feared that he would have had but little time
to devote to his professional duties. “The singing-bird had taken flight
and returned but seldom to the conjugal nest.” However, for a time, he
did his best, and, in the course of the following year, had an affray at
the house of Sallé, the director of the winter Vauxhall, with the
Marquis de Langeac, who had succeeded M. de Cazes in the actress’s

Dugazon had written an angry letter to his wife, reminding the lady of
her numerous escapades and bitterly reproaching her with having accepted
the homage of M. de Langeac, to whom he alluded in terms of the most
unmitigated contempt. This letter Madame Dugazon promptly handed to the
marquis, who, talking the matter over with his friend Sallé, announced
his intention of subjecting the actor to “a hundred blows with his
cane,” on the very next occasion on which they should chance to meet.
Scarcely were the words out of his mouth, when the object of his
resentment, who had been an unseen auditor of all that he had said,
stood before him, and, with a profound bow, intimated that he was
entirely at Monsieur le Marquis’s service.

The marquis replied with a blow from his fist; the actor returned the
compliment with interest, and an Homeric combat was in progress, when
the bystanders interfered and separated the parties.

This adventure had no more consequences than the other. Dugazon, who, to
do him justice, was no coward, would have been only too ready to
continue the battle in the manner prescribed by the etiquette of that
day. But M. de Langeac, a notorious poltroon--he had, some time before,
taken, without any attempt at retaliation, a severe thrashing from
Guérin, the Prince de Conti’s surgeon--sheltered himself behind his rank
and declined to cross swords with an actor.

His affray with the Marquis de Langeac appears to have been the last
occasion on which Dugazon attempted to avenge his honour. He resigned
himself to the situation; and when, soon afterwards, the “singing-bird”
flew away altogether and established herself in a gilded cage prepared
for her by a rich financier of the name of Boudreau, received the news
with fashionable complacency. From that time, husband and wife never
lived together again, and, when the Revolution came, both hastened to
avail themselves of the law permitting divorce.

Madame Dugazon had barely remained long enough in the gilded cage to
take stock of all the marvels of art and decoration which the amorous
financier had provided for her benefit, when she fell in love with a
foreign count, whose name the chroniclers of scandal, with a discretion
very uncommon with them, forbear to mention, and left poor M. Boudreau
to meditate upon the inconstancy of woman. This last affair would appear
to have been a serious one, on the lady’s part, at any rate; but it was
of very brief duration, as the count was suddenly recalled to his own
country, and she saw him no more.

Consolation, however, was not long in forthcoming. Her lover’s departure
happened to synchronise with the arrival from Bordeaux of a handsome
youth of eighteen, “with the most interesting face conceivable, and the
most surprising, the most wonderful voice possible to imagine.” Without
knowing a single note of music, he could imitate the voice of every
singer of the Opera and the sound of every instrument in the orchestra,
so perfectly as to deceive even the most experienced ear. By himself, it
was said, he could imitate an entire opera. This prodigy, Garat by name,
aroused a perfect _furore_ in fashionable, as well as in musical
circles, and after Marie Antoinette had sent a coach and six to fetch
him to Versailles, the enthusiasm of the ladies was raised to the
highest pitch; they literally fought for him. Madame Dugazon bore away
the prize, and is believed to have given the youthful singer lessons in
his art as well as in love. But she could not long retain possession of
“this brilliant butterfly, who had only to open his wings to alight upon
the most beautiful flowers,” and, for the first time in her life, was
fated to taste something of the mortification which she had so often

From these discreditable gallantries, it is a relief to turn to Madame
Dugazon’s professional career, which, happily, seems to have been no
more affected by the irregularities of her private life than those of
Mlle. Clairon and Madeleine Guimard. The enthusiasm with which even the
most fastidious of her contemporaries acclaim her talent is truly
remarkable. “I have often,” writes Bouilly, “admired Madame
Saint-Huberty, at the Opera, in lyric tragedy, Mlle. Raucourt in the
masterpieces of our French stage, and the brilliant Mlle. Contat in
comedy; but not one of these celebrated women united, in my opinion,
that variety of perfections, that incomprehensible medley of pathos and
gaiety, of nobleness and simplicity, of finesse and naturalness, which
made Madame Dugazon admired in the different rôles wherein, in turn, she
showed herself princess and peasant, soubrette and tender mother,
_ingénue_ and coquette, wealthy woman and poor one. She seized with an
admirable fidelity upon all the shades of Nature, all the movements of
the human heart, all the inspirations of the most eager imagination....
One was, in turn, moved, ravished, transported; from tears the most
abundant one passed to laughter the most irrepressible, from terror to
gaiety the most natural and the most infectious; one passed, in a word,
through all the windings of the human heart; one experienced all the
sensations which leave a perfect remembrance. And this was the work of
one woman, whose admirable intelligence did not cease to be the
interpreter of Nature, whose talent, flexible and always natural, was
cited by authors and friends of the art as the most perfect model
possessed by our lyric stage.”[129]

And Madame Vigée Lebrun says:

“And now I come to her whose dramatic career I have followed from
beginning to end, to the most perfect actress ever possessed by the
Opéra-Comique, to Madame Dugazon. Hers was a natural talent, which owed
nothing apparently to study. Noble, naïve, graceful, piquant, she had
twenty faces, and always suited her accent to the person she represented
at the time. Her voice was somewhat weak, but she adapted it equally
well to tears, laughter, and every situation.”[130]

That Madame Dugazon was far greater as an actress than as a vocalist
there can, we think, be no question. The father of French
_opéra-comique_, Grétry, gives it as his opinion that she was not a
singer at all, but “an actress who _spoke song_ with the truest and most
passionate expression.” And Boïeldieu, the author of _La Dame Blanche_,
says much the same. “What an astonishing woman!” he exclaimed, after the
first performance of _Le Calife de Bagdad_. “They say that she does not
understand music; yet I never heard any one sing with such taste and
expression, such nature and fidelity.”[131]

Madame Dugazon’s voice indeed, though limited in range, was pure and
flexible and of an enchanting tone, and, as was the case with Garat, her
natural endowments far outweighed the disadvantages of a deficient
musical education.

To recall all the successes of this charming actress, it would be
necessary, as M. Campardon very truly remarks, to cite practically the
whole répertoire of the Comédie-Italienne, and we will, therefore,
confine ourselves to those of her “creations” upon which contemporary
writers have left us the fullest information.

An opera called _Blaise et Babet_, libretto by Monvel, music by
Desaides, produced on June 30, 1783, marks the commencement of the most
brilliant period of her career. This little work provided Madame Dugazon
with a magnificent triumph. “What fine and delicate shades,” writes
Grimm, “does the voice of Madame Dugazon impart, in this rôle of Babet,
to the most simple expressions! There is not one of her inflections,
there is not a movement in her acting, which does not add to the
movement of the scene, and does not vary it with as much truth as
grace.”[132] And the critic of the _Mercure_ writes: “It is difficult to
describe all the shades of talent that Madame Dugazon has developed in
the rôle of Babet. Natural, comical, naïve, intelligent, sensible, she
has not allowed one of the traits which make up the character of the
person whom she represents to escape.”

The third performance of _Blaise et Babet_ was graced by the presence of
the Queen, who was so enchanted with the part played by Madame Dugazon
that she forthwith resolved to act it herself, and soon afterwards the
piece was presented at the royal theatre at Trianon, with Marie
Antoinette as Babet. Madame Dugazon and Fleury were summoned to Court to
preside over the rehearsals and aid the Queen with their counsels. Nor
were their pains thrown away, for, if we are to believe the Fleury
_Mémoires_, her Majesty’s rendering of Babet almost equalled that of the
actress herself:

“She was a thousand times to be applauded, when she was vexed, crushed
her flowers, threw them into the basket, and exclaimed, with the most
charming toss of her head: ‘_Tu m’as fait endêver... endêve...

“It was such a delightful medley of pouting and sentiment, of tears and
vexation, of anger and love, that I saw proud courtiers moved by it,
and, courtiers though they were, forget to applaud, because they were

The comedy entitled _Alexis et Justine_, by the same authors, produced
on January 17, 1785, was for Madame Dugazon, who played the part of
Justine, the occasion of another triumph, which Grimm records in these

“Madame Dugazon has just developed a new kind of talent in the rôle of
Justine. It was difficult to unite to this degree the most lively and
the most passionate sensibility with a _naïveté_ the most sweet and the
most attractive. This charming actress has been truly eloquent in the
scene of the second act with M. de Longpré. Our best _tragédiennes_
could not render with more energy and with variations more just and more
profound all the sentiment of this part, one of the most pathetic that
has ever been seen on the stage.”[133]

In November of the same year, was produced _La Dot_, a comedy in three
acts by Desfontaines, music by Dalayrac, in which Madame Dugazon gave so
charming a rendering of the part of the heroine Colette, that a poet,
who elected to remain anonymous, but who, M. Campardon thinks, was, in
all probability, the author of the piece himself, thanked her in the
following verses for the pleasure she had given him:

    “Dis moi donc par quelle magie,
     Ne changeant au plus que de nom,
     Tu fais, à la voix de Thalie,
     Changer de maintien et de ton?
     Babet m’avoit semblé parfaite,
     Je l’admirerois a chaque trait,
     Et depuis que j’ai vu Colette,
     Je songe un peu moins à Babet.
     Plus naturelle et plus sublime,
     Par un mot, un geste, un soupir,
     Tout à la fois Colette exprime
     Le sentiment et le plaisir.
     Partout c’est la vérité pure,
     Que Colette prends sur le fait,
     Et pour dot la simple nature
     Lui fit présent de son secret.”[134]

Madame Dugazon now found herself at the apogee of her talent, and it
appeared hardly possible that she could soar any higher, when, in May
1786, her creation of the part of Nina, in _Nina, ou la Folle par
amour_, a drama in one act, by Marsollier de Vivetières, music by
Dalayrac, exhibited her in a new light and excited among the Parisians
an enthusiasm almost unprecedented.

The genesis of this piece is interesting. It was suggested to Marsollier
by a touching anecdote of a young girl who had lived in the
neighbourhood of Sedan. On her wedding morning, the maiden had preceded
her lover to the church where the ceremony was to be performed. On
nearing it, she was met by a friend, who informed her that the young man
had been seized with a sudden attack of illness and was dead. The grief
of the unhappy girl was such that she lost her reason. Thenceforth,
until her own death, ten years later, she walked daily more than two
leagues to the spot where she had arranged to meet her lover, and, on
arriving there, would sit down and wait for him the entire day. At
length, when the shades of evening were falling, she would rise and
retrace her steps, exclaiming: “Let us go. He has not yet arrived; I
will return to-morrow.”

When he had completed the libretto, Marsollier sent it to Dalayrac, who,
quick to recognise the splendid possibilities it offered for musical
effect, gladly promised his co-operation. The score was soon written,
but, for some little time, the authors hesitated to submit it to the
Comédie-Italienne, fearing that their attempt to depict madness on the
stage was too hazardous, and might expose them to the risk of a
disastrous failure.

While they were still in doubt, Mlle. Guimard offered them the use of
her private theatre, in the Chaussée-d’Antin, for an experimental
performance. They gratefully accepted, and it was on the erotic stage of
the Temple of Terpsichore, “on those boards whereon the _coryphées_ of
the _fricassée_ had so many times bounded,” that Madame Dugazon created
the part of Nina, before the usual mixed audience of noblemen, _grandes
dames_, and courtesans. The result was a prodigious, an astonishing
success, and, on May 15, 1786, the curtain of the Comédie-Italienne rose
on _Nina, ou la Folle par amour_.

The creation of Nina dominates Madame Dugazon’s whole career and
eclipses all her earlier triumphs. Never within the memory of man, says
M. Campardon, had there been a like success. The actress threw into the
part her whole soul, and it was very often remarked that on the days on
which she had been playing Nina, she retained throughout the remainder
of the evening the haggard eyes and singular gestures of the unhappy mad
woman whom she had just been impersonating. “She played the part,”
writes Bouilly, “with a perfection impossible to describe; one must have
seen and heard her to form a correct idea of that penetrating voice, of
that frenzy, heartrending and yet full of charm, of that energy of
expression which thrilled every heart.”[135] Grimm pronounces her in
this piece superior to herself and to all the actresses that are the
most applauded at the other theatres. “Never,” says he, “was there
displayed a sensibility more exquisite and more profound. Never did any
one know how to assume more happily the most diverse tones. Never did
any one vary them with more correctness. It is the sensibility of her
acting that decided essentially the success of the work, for the tears
which she has caused to flow do not prevent one from perceiving that it
leaves much to desire.”[136]

But whatever the shortcomings of _Nina_ may have been, the public seemed
resolved to ignore them, and the enthusiasm with which the work and its
“inspired interpreter” were received passed all bounds. “When one beheld
her, her hair unbound, her eyes staring, a bouquet in her hand, advance
towards the grassy bank near which she awaits her ‘_bien-aimé_,’ when
the plaints of the poor distracted girl were translated by the naïve and
tender music of Dalayrac, it seemed as if emotion had reached its
limits. One wept for Nina, as one wept for Garat, Miss Billington, Todi,
Maillard, or Saint-Huberty.”[137]

The tears, the applause, baffled all description. Six times at the
conclusion of the play was the “sublime lunatic” recalled. The public
could not applaud enough, and at each performance the enthusiasm
increased; it seemed inexhaustible. Every evening the doors of the
theatre were besieged by an enormous crowd. “Men went thither to be
moved by the sorrows which were able to cause such abandon, women to
seek emotions and the secret of tears.” Not an evening passed without
some lady in the audience swooning with emotion.

Madness became on a sudden the fashionable disease. In the salons a host
of young women found occupation in playing the part of Nina, and some of
them appeared to have worked themselves into a condition bordering on
lunacy. The critics essayed in vain to combat this ridiculous
infatuation. They pronounced the subject monstrous, the libretto
insipid, the music detestable, and loudly bewailed the decay of art upon
the stage. They might have saved their paper and ink. The public
continued to applaud and to weep, and the receipts of the
Comédie-Italienne to increase. “It seemed,” remarks one of the lady’s
biographers, “that each spectator was of the opinion of an enthusiast
who, on the evening of the first representation, improvised the
following verses in honour of Nina-Dugazon:

    “‘Tous les cœurs sont émus à tes divins accords,
      On ne sait qu’admirer, ton génie ou tes charmes.
      Tu pleures, aussitôt tu fais couler mes larmes:
      Qui donc resterait froid à tes brûlants transports?
      Mais la toile se baisse et la pièce est finie,
            Aussitôt cesse ta folie,
      Mais moi, d’amour pour toi perdre la raison.’”[138]

The provinces, in their turn, desired to witness this wonderful work and
to applaud the idolised actress; and Madame Dugazon, accordingly, paid a
visit to Lyons, where a magnificent reception awaited her. Such was the
enthusiasm she evoked that her admirers would have liked to raise a
triumphal arch in her honour, but, as the city authorities did not quite
see their way to gratify this desire, they were fain to content
themselves with composing verses in her praise, which were read upon the
stage, crowning her with flowers, and applauding until the rafters rang.

On her return to Paris, Madame Dugazon found herself, if it were
possible, more the rage than ever, and so completely did her popularity
eclipse that of her rivals, that, on the evenings on which she did not
appear, the directors of the Comédie-Italienne--that nursery of pretty
women--had the mortification to see the boxes empty and their theatre a
desert. Their consternation, therefore, may be imagined when, towards
the end of that year, the lady, without a moment’s warning, set out for

It was at first believed that she had been enticed away by magnificent
offers from London managers, but it subsequently transpired that love
and not money had drawn her to England; that she had gone thither in the
company of a young man with whom she had fallen desperately in love,
whether an Englishman or one of her own countrymen contemporary
chroniclers do not tell us.

The directors were in despair and wrote letter upon letter,
commanding--for she had departed without obtaining the necessary
_congé_--requesting, finally imploring her to return. But the actress
replied that she was very content where she was and that they might
dispose of her rôles. In vain they attempted to replace her. In vain the
beautiful Madame Pitrot, the pretty Lescot, and the charming Colombe
tried their fascinations upon the audience. The public would have none
of them; scarcely could they obtain a single plaudit. And night after
night the curtain rose upon empty benches.

At length, Madame Dugazon, wearying of London or of love--or of
both--condescended to return, and, with her, came Fortune once more to
the Comédie-Italienne. The empty boxes, the deserted _parterre_, filled
as if by magic, the theatre once more rang with applause, and the
directors, who had lately seen ruin staring them in the face, were all
smiles and good-humour as they complacently regarded their swelling

Advancing years brought no decline in the popularity of Madame Dugazon.
Unlike the great majority of actresses, who persist in clinging to the
very last to the _genre_ in which they first attained celebrity, she was
quick to realise the incongruity of a woman whose youth was long past,
and whose figure had begun to show a decided tendency to _embonpoint_,
continuing to impersonate juvenile heroines, and, accordingly, resolved
to devote herself to the representation of young matrons. Anxious to
retain the services of an actress who assured the success of every work
in which she appeared, the directors of the Comédie-Italienne readily
entered into her views, and provided her with the parts she desired. Her
success in the matronly style was phenomenal, and her triumph in
_Camille, ou le souterrain_ almost equalled that which she had obtained
in _Nina_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Notwithstanding the laxity of her morals, Madame Dugazon, in private
life, possessed many amiable qualities. Gay, light-hearted, and witty,
though without a spark of malice, she was as popular off the stage as
upon it; while, if she were faithful neither to husband nor lover, she
was, nevertheless, a staunch friend, who endeared herself to a very
large circle of acquaintances. All the authors and composers who worked
for her seemed to have held her in the highest esteem: Grétry, Sedaine,
Étienne, Marsollier, Dalayrac, Laujon, and many others remained to the
last sincerely attached to her. Always sympathetic and ready to oblige,
her advice was never sought in vain, and more than one young writer was
indebted for his first success to the hints which he had received from
the experienced actress. Bouilly, who cherished for her the most lively
gratitude and affection, declared that he owed everything to her.[139]

Although never wealthy, for not even the most talented actress or singer
of those days could hope for more than a modest competence, while none
of her numerous love-affairs, if we except the very brief one with M.
Boudreau, seem to have been prompted by any mercenary consideration, she
was charitable to the utmost limit of her means, and was ever ready to
relieve those in distress. It was at her instigation that, during the
severe winter of 1784, special performances were organised for the
benefit of the suffering poor and a very large sum realised, which was
duly handed over to the Church for distribution. The Church, we are
told, was very grateful for this timely assistance. But, with her usual
intolerance where the theatrical profession was concerned, she decided
that the curés must not be permitted to touch money which came direct
from the hands of persons without her pale and, therefore, gave
instructions that the alms should be purified by being made to pass
through the exchequer of the Lieutenant of Police. This pretty piece of
casuistry inspired a wit to the following epistle, supposed to be
addressed by St. Augustine to Madame Dugazon and her colleagues:

    “Salut à la troupe italique,
     A ce comité catholique
     Dont le cœur loyal s’attendrit
     Sur la calamité publique,
     C’est le fils de sainte Monique,
     C’est Augustin qui vous écrit.
     Oui, mes amis, par cette épître,
     J’abjure maint et maint chapitre
     Où j’ai frondé votre métier
     Comme un tant soit peu diabolique.

           *       *       *       *       *

     Oui, sans être garant de rien,
     Je croirais qu’un comédien
     Risque, s’il est homme de bien,
     D’être sauvé tout comme un autre.
     Un mime, en face d’un apôtre,
     C’est un scandale, dira-t-on;
     Saint Paul à côté de Rosière,
     Trial vis à vis de saint Pierre,
     Et bienheureuse Dugazon,
     Aux pieds d’un diacre ou d’un vicaire,
     Le paradis serait bouffon.
     Tant pis pour qui s’en scandalise:
     Allez au ciel par vos vertus
     Et laissez clabauder l’Église.”

A Royalist to the core, Madame Dugazon, when the Revolution came, viewed
with feelings of indignation and regret the downfall of the King and
Queen, the latter of whom had treated her with marked kindness.[140]
Nor did she lack the courage of her opinions, as an unsigned letter
once in the possession of Mrs. Elliot, the lady who inspired the “First
Gentleman in Europe” with so lively a passion, will testify:

“After the 20th of June, 1792, those who wished well to the Royal Family
urged the Queen to show herself occasionally in public with the Dauphin,
an interesting and beautiful child, and her charming daughter, Madame

“She went therefore to the Comédie-Italienne, with her children, Madame
Élisabeth, the King’s sister, and Madame de Tourzel, _gouvernante_ of
the ‘children of France.’ This was the last time that the Queen appeared
in public. I was in my box, exactly facing that of the Queen; and, as
she was much more interesting than the play, I kept my eyes fixed upon
her and her family.

“The piece represented was the _Événements imprévus_, and Madame Dugazon
played the soubrette.

“Her Majesty, from the moment she entered the theatre, seemed very sad.
She was much affected by the applause of the public, and I saw her
several times wipe the tears from her eyes. The little Dauphin, who sat
the whole evening upon her knees, appeared anxious to know the cause of
his unhappy mother’s tears. She was seen to caress him, and the audience
seemed moved by the cruel situation of this unhappy Queen.

“There is a duet in this opera sung by the soubrette and the valet, and
Madame Dugazon had to say:

    “‘J’aime mon maître tendrement,
      Ah! combien j’aime ma maîtresse!’

“As, in singing these verses, she placed her hand on her heart and
looked at the Queen, every one perfectly understood the allusion.

“Immediately, a number of Jacobins who were among the audience sprang
upon the stage, and, if the actors had not concealed Madame Dugazon,
they would certainly have killed her. They then drove the poor Queen and
her suite from the theatre, and it was all that the guard could do to
place them safe and sound in their carriages.

“In the meanwhile, the Queen’s party had joined battle with the
Jacobins; but the soldiers intervened and the broil had no serious

Shortly after this incident, Madame Dugazon temporarily retired from the
Comédie-Italienne, on the plea of ill-health; but really, according to
Madame Lebrun, because the public, in a spirit of revenge, had
endeavoured to make her sing a revolutionary song upon the stage.[141]
In 1795 she reappeared and was received with all the old enthusiasm. At
the time of her return, she was merely a pensioner; but, in 1801, when
the two Opéra-Comiques were united in a single troupe at the
Théâtre-Feydeau, she was admitted a _sociétaire_ and given a seat on the
administrative council.

No one was more rejoiced at the Restoration than this most ardent
Royalist. “I feel,” she observed to one of her friends, “that now I
shall die more happy.” She started at once for Saint-Ouen, and was one
of the first to whom Louis XVIII. granted an audience. On being admitted
to the royal presence, her emotion overcame her, and she threw herself
at the King’s feet, bathed in tears.

The monarch, himself much moved, raised her up. “You have not forgotten
me,” said he, kindly, “and I shall always remember the pleasure you gave
me at Versailles. I am very grieved that the state of your health has
compelled you to retire from the stage. I should be enchanted to see you

After her interview with Louis XVIII., we hear little of Madame Dugazon.
She lived a very retired life in the midst of a little circle of
intimate friends. All her affection was centred in her son Gustave, a
young composer, who, at an early age, showed remarkable promise, which,
however, does not seem to have been quite fulfilled.[142] Such was her
anxiety for his success that when he had an opera in rehearsal, she is
said to have invariably fallen ill and not to have recovered until after
the first performance.[143]

She died on September 21, 1821, after a long and painful illness, and
was buried in Père-Lachaise. The cortège was followed by a large crowd,
and Bouilly, her devoted friend of twenty years, pronounced a funeral



About the year 1770, a bright-eyed and lively little girl might
frequently have been seen to steal behind the scenes of the
Comédie-Française, and then, placing herself in some obscure corner,
gaze with mingled awe and admiration at the great players as they made
their entrances and exits. The father of little Louise Contat--for that
was the child’s name--seems to have had some employment at the
theatre,[144] and she had already gained some distinction in amateur
performances. At the age of eleven, it was intended to send her out on
tour with a wandering theatrical troupe, but, fortunately, she had
already attracted the notice of the Prévilles, who adopted her, and the
famous actor himself undertook to train her for the stage.[145] “Never,”
says Fleury, “did pupil prove more worthy of such a master. The young
actress did not master intuitively the secrets of an art which cannot be
taught; but the great comedian, charmed with her precocious talent,
facilitated her acquirement of those elements of diction, the _solfêggi_
of speech, so indispensable to a career on the stage.”[146]

On February 3, 1776, at the age of fifteen and a half, Louise Contat
appeared at the Comédie-Française, as Atalide, in _Bajazet_. Her face
and figure pleased the critics, but her talent made but little
impression. “Mlle. Contat, has just made her _début_,” writes La Harpe,
“with a pretty face, but no voice and little talent.” Nor was Grimm more
favourable. “She is mediocre in tragedy,” writes he, “and her gestures
are affected; but she has an agreeable face and intelligent eyes.”
Subsequently, she played Zaïre and Junie, in _Britannicus_, but with
hardly more success. In truth, she had no talent for tragedy, and it was
only in compliance with the regulations of the theatre that she
undertook such parts. When, however, she came to play comedy,
particularly comedy of the light, vivacious kind, there was a different
tale to tell. Then the careful lessons she had received from Préville,
the greatest comedian of his time, bore fruit in several delightfully
clever impersonations, which drew upon her the favourable attention of
all lovers of really fine acting, and showed that nothing but experience
was needed to make her a worthy successor to Mlle. Dangeville.

But, for some years, the girl’s opportunities for distinction were very
limited, since no sooner did her rare talents begin to be suspected,
than a cabal was organised to obstruct her progress. To begin with, her
jealous rivals pitted against her Mlle. Vadé, the daughter of the poet
who had bestowed upon Louis XV. the title of “_le Bien-Aimé_,” a young
lady who had made her first appearance on the same evening as Mlle.
Contat herself. Mlle. Vadé, however, had few pretensions to beauty, and
still fewer to histrionic fame, and Mlle. Contat showed marked
superiority to her opponent, even in the _jeunes princesses_; a
circumstance which Préville took advantage of to secure for his pupil
admission as a regular member of the company.

Nevertheless, the cabal, far from being discouraged by this rebuff,
continued their machinations, and availed themselves of their seniority
to exclude the young actress from every part which might afford her a
chance of distinction. But, though the poor girl frequently quitted the
stage in floods of tears, after the chilly reception which had been
accorded her impersonation of some rôle utterly unsuited to her talents,
in the end the malignity of her enemies defeated its own purpose. “It
stimulated her,” says Fleury, “to prove how much she had been wronged.
She exerted herself to give importance to the insignificant parts
allotted to her, and this kind of feeling is a never-failing spur to the
young artiste.”

And the time was now at hand when the administration of the
Comédie-Française could no longer afford to ignore the claims of the
younger members at the bidding of a group of jealous women, several of
whom might be regarded as lights of other days. The Comédie-Italienne
was now no longer Italian in anything but name; it had become the rival
of the national theatre. This rivalry, which had begun in a very humble
spirit--the “Italians” gave out that they wished merely to glean in the
vast field wherein their brothers of the Comédie-Française reaped so
abundantly--gradually developed into one of a very serious character.
The “Italians” issued an address, announcing that Thalia, who heretofore
had not dared to present herself on the boards of their theatre, except
under the auspices of the goddess of harmony, had decided to assert her
rights, reinforced their company by some excellent performers, amongst
whom was Madame Verteuil, a lady who had earned a high reputation in the
provinces, and produced some excellent comedies, whose success excited
the gravest apprehension in the green-room of the Comédie-Française.

To present a bold front to this formidable attack, the administration of
that theatre found themselves compelled to bring into the field all
their forces and to give every encouragement to new talent. But the
opposition to Mlle. Contat was so strong, that it was not until July
1782 that she was afforded an opportunity of exercising her abilities to
the full and realising the promise which Préville had seen in her as a

So far back as the spring of 1775, Palissot had submitted to the
Comédie-Française a play called _Les Courtisanes_. The actors rejected
it, ostensibly on the ground that it was indelicate, but really, the
author suspected, because he was the enemy of their friends, the
philosophers. In reply to the ostensible reason, he applied for and
obtained the approbation of the censor, Crébillon _fils_, not perhaps
the person best fitted to discriminate between delicacy and indelicacy,
since he was the author of some of the most licentious romances of the
time, one of which, called _Le Sopha_, had so outraged Madame de
Pompadour’s sense of propriety that she had caused the writer to be
exiled from Paris. Nevertheless, the company held to their previous
decision, at the same time addressing to the dramatist an impertinent
letter. Out of consideration, for his feelings, they said, their first
refusal had been based on the indelicacy of the piece. But the
_Courtisanes_ possessed faults of another kind. It might, however, be
performed, if M. Palissot could contrive to invest it with: (1) action;
(2) interest; (3) taste; (4) a plot. In spite of this rebuff, the author
had the play printed and, seven years later, through the mediation of
the Archbishop of Paris, whom he had succeeded in persuading that his
work would promote the cause of morality, Louis XVI. gave orders that it
should be put into rehearsal, after suggesting some alterations in the

The play was a success, a result largely due to Mlle. Contat’s admirable
impersonation of the heroine, the courtesan Rosalie, for more than one
of the situations was decidedly “risky,” while the fact that Sophanès,
the villain of the piece--and a particularly odious villain--was a
philosopher and man of letters by no means commended itself to many of
the habitués of the pit.[147]

“Mlle. Contat,” wrote Grimm, “secured in the part of Rosalie a success
which she had never yet obtained. The situation in the second act
appeared to be carried a little further than stage decorum seems to
permit of. But the situation is material to the plot, and, thanks to the
charming figure of the heroine, it would have been difficult not to
accord indulgence to the tableau. Moreover, it was tolerated, though not
without some murmuring.”

From the performance of this comedy we may date the opening of Louise
Contat’s theatrical career. In the following December, she secured
another triumph as the heroine of Dubuisson’s _Vieux Garçon_, and Grimm
wrote: “Mlle. Contat who makes every day fresh progress, appeared
charming in the part of Sophie. At Easter 1783, on the retirement of
the accomplished and virtuous Mlle. d’Oligny, the object of the eulogy
of Fréron which excited Mlle. Clairon to so much indignation,[148] she
succeeded to her _emploi_,” and secured daily fresh successes.[149]

But it was in the part of Suzanne in Beaumarchais’s immortal comedy, _Le
Mariage de Figaro_, that Louise Contat was to attain celebrity. This
play had been completed in 1781; but to write it was one thing, to get
it produced was quite another. Louis XVI. read the manuscript himself
and, though his political insight was none of the keenest, could not
fail to recognise its dangerous tendencies. He pronounced it
“detestable” and “unactable,” and, for more than two years, no argument
could induce him to permit its being performed. It was in vain that
Beaumarchais stimulated public curiosity to fever heat by frequent
readings of his play, at his own house or in various fashionable salons.
It was in vain that his friends at Court, headed by the Comte de
Vaudreuil, one of the most prominent members of the Queen’s social
circle,[150] allowed no opportunity to slip of extolling the merits of
the work. The King remained adamant. Once indeed it seemed to the
dramatist that the battle had all but been won. Thanks to the efforts of
Vaudreuil, who had succeeded in gaining over Marie Antoinette to his
side, the players suddenly received orders from Versailles to rehearse
the play in secret for a private performance. Beaumarchais, after
reading his piece to the assembled company, determined to consult Mlle.
Contat as to the cast, the result being that Dazincourt was set down for
Figaro, Molé for Almaviva, the same character which he had so
successfully represented in the _Barbier de Seville_, Mlle. Sainval for
the Countess, and pretty Mlle. Olivier for the Page; while Préville,
who, conscious of failing memory and sprightliness, had refused the part
of the Barber, contented himself with the comparatively unimportant rôle
of Brid’oison. Finally, Mlle. Contat was entrusted with the
all-important part of Suzanne, a choice which caused considerable
astonishment, as, admirable though the young actress was as an
_amoureuse_, she had never yet attempted anything of this kind. Mlle.
Fanier, the senior soubrette, protested warmly against the nomination
and claimed Suzanne for herself. But Beaumarchais, who had early
recognised the high qualities of Mlle. Contat and had every confidence
in her versatility, had from the first intended the part of the heroine
for her, and would listen to no remonstrance. Nor had he any reason to
regret his decision.

Everything being in readiness, it was decided that the performance
should be given at the Théâtre des Menus-Plaisirs, where the Comte de
Vaudreuil’s influence was paramount, on June 13, 1783. The interest it
excited was intense. As the appointed hour drew near, the approaches to
the theatre were blocked by hundreds of coaches; all the fashionable
world seemed determined to be present. The consternation, therefore, may
be imagined when a rumour began to spread that there would be no play
that evening; that the King had forbidden the performance. At first, the
gaily-dressed crowd was inclined to be incredulous. But a notice posted
on the doors of the theatre confirmed the rumour, and sent them away,
complaining bitterly of the “oppression” and “tyranny” of the King, who
at the eleventh hour had sent orders, through his Minister of the
Household, the Baron de Breteuil, prohibiting the representation of _Le
Mariage de Figaro_ under pain of disobedience, and, the next day, caused
the players to be summoned before the Lieutenant of Police, when the
prohibition was repeated in a form employed by the royal authority only
on the gravest occasions.

But Beaumarchais was not the man to despair. He withdrew to London,
ostensibly on commercial business, but really, no doubt, to be out of
the way the while Vaudreuil solicited and obtained the King’s consent to
the _Mariage de Figaro_ being performed in the course of a fête which
the count intended to give at his country-house at Gennevilliers. “The
Comte d’Artois,” wrote the Duc de Fronsac to Beaumarchais from that
place, “is coming to hunt here about the 18th (September), and the Duc
de Polignac with his party to sup. Vaudreuil has consulted me as to
giving them a play, as we have a capital room. I told him that he could
not find a more charming one than the _Mariage de Figaro_. The King has
given his consent, have we yours?”

Beaumarchais, on his return to Paris, duly gave his “consent,” but only
on condition that the play should be re-examined. The royal veto, said
he, had exposed his work to the charge of immorality, and until that
stigma had been removed from it by a formal approbation, on no
consideration would he allow it to be played. It was a masterly move,
for while no censor would be likely to forbid an entertainment
sanctioned by the King, the desired approbation, besides stimulating the
curiosity of the public, would have the effect of covering his Majesty’s
opposition to the piece with ridicule. One would have supposed that the
authorities would have been sufficiently alert to detect the trap laid
for them, but they walked into it without hesitation, and sent the
manuscript to the historian Gaillard,[151] who reported to the
Lieutenant of Police as follows:

“Allow me, Monsieur, to inform you of my opinion with regard to the
comedy entitled _La Folle Journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro_. I have
heard it read and read it myself with all the attention of which I am
capable, and I confess that I see no danger in allowing it to be
performed, when corrected in two places, and when some _mots_ have been
suppressed, of which a malicious abuse or a dangerous and wicked
application might be made. The piece is a very gay one; but when the
gaieties, although approaching what are called ‘_gaudrioles_,’ are not
indecent, they amuse without doing harm. Gay people are not dangerous,
and State troubles, conspiracies, assassinations, and all the horrors we
read of in history of all ages show us that they have been conceived,
ripened, and executed by reserved, sad, and sullen people. The piece is
besides called _La Folle Journée_, and Figaro, the hero of that piece,
is known in the comedy of the _Barbier de Seville_, of which this is a
continuation, as one of those intriguers of the lower class, whose
examples are not dangerous for any man of the world. Besides, I think
that by raising objections to things of little importance, as if they
were dangerous, a value is imparted to them which they themselves do not
possess, and foolish or ill-natured people are inspired with a fear or
suspicion of danger, which has no reality.”

Then, after having proposed two suppressions, one of the word
“minister,” the other of a passage alluding to the judgment of Solomon,
Gaillard concludes thus:

“This piece appears to be well written. The personages speak as they
ought, according to their station, and I think it very likely to attract
more spectators to the Comédie and, consequently, what it most
requires--large receipts.”[152]

       *       *       *       *       *

Gaillard’s suggestions, which left untouched practically the whole of
the sarcasms levelled at the Government, were readily agreed to by
Beaumarchais, who lost no opportunity of exaggerating their importance
in the eyes of the world, and succeeded in extracting from the
Lieutenant of Police a promise that henceforward the comedy should be
“deemed the property of his Majesty’s players,” _i.e._, put in the way
of being represented at the theatre.

The _Mariage de Figaro_ was then played in the large room at
Gennevilliers, apparently, as a favour somewhat reluctantly conceded by
the author, and was received with enthusiastic applause by the
distinguished company, though, if Madame Vigée Lebrun is to be believed,
every one was surprised that the Comte de Vaudreuil should have
permitted a play which contained so many sarcastic allusions to the
Court to be performed before an audience which consisted almost entirely
of courtiers, with “our excellent prince,” the Comte d’Artois, at their
head. According to the same authority, the favourable reception accorded
his comedy quite turned Beaumarchais’s head. “He rushed about like a
madman, and, on some one complaining of the heat, he would not allow
time for the windows to be opened, but broke all the panes with his
cane.”[153] “_Il a doublement cassé les vitres_,” it was remarked.

The very day after the performance at Gennevilliers, Beaumarchais,
sensible of the advantage he had gained, formally applied to the
Lieutenant of Police for permission to have his play brought out. But
that official replied that the King’s prohibition, given the day of the
performance at the Menus-Plaisirs, was still in force, and that he must
refer the matter to his Majesty. The latter, though alarmed by the
ferment he had raised, for all Paris and Versailles were now loudly
clamouring for the production of the _Mariage_, could not make up his
mind to allow the production of a piece which he considered both
dangerous and immoral, and resolved to postpone the evil day so long as
he possibly could. In this decision, it appeared, he was influenced
largely by the Baron de Breteuil, who was exceedingly prejudiced
against the play, and to conciliate that nobleman all Beaumarchais’s
efforts were henceforth directed. The baron was devoted to the Queen and
the Comte d’Artois, and was himself by no means insensible to courtly
seduction; and the dramatist, aware of this, succeeded not only in
obtaining the influence of the Comte d’Artois, but even on prevailing on
Marie Antoinette to say a word on his behalf. Both the Queen and the
prince assured the Minister that, in addition to the corrections
required in the _Mariage de Figaro_ by Gaillard, the author was prepared
to make still further alterations, if such were considered necessary.
Breteuil thereupon assumed a more friendly attitude, but declared that
before he could interest himself in the fate of the piece, he must hear
it carefully read, in the presence of some literary men of his own

“On the day appointed,” says Fleury, “Beaumarchais proceeded with his
manuscript to the baron’s residence, where he found assembled, besides
the master of the house, MM. Gaillard, Champfort, Rulhière, Madame de
Matignon, the Minister’s daughter, and several other ladies, her
friends. Beaumarchais began by declaring that he would submit without
reserve to all corrections and omissions which the ladies and gentlemen
present might deem requisite. He began reading, he was stopped; some
remarks were made, and a little discussion arose. At every interruption,
Beaumarchais yielded the point in dispute. But when the reading was
ended, he went over the whole ground again, defending the smallest
details with so much address, such forcible reasoning, and such
captivating pleasantry, that he completely silenced his censors. They
laughed and applauded, and, at length, all declared that the play was
‘a most original and unique production.’ Instead of omissions, additions
were proposed. Every one of the party was eager to interpolate a word or
two. M. de Breteuil suggested a _bon mot_, which Beaumarchais thankfully
accepted. ‘This will save the fourth act,’ said he. Madame de Matignon
chose the colour for the Page’s ribbon. The colour was approved; it
would become quite the rage. ‘Who would not be proud to wear Madame de
Matignon’s colours?’ said Beaumarchais. ‘But M. de Breteuil’s _bon mot_
would not be heard, the elegant ribbon would not be seen, if the second
Figaro were not permitted to appear on the stage.’ That _he_ must appear
was eventually the unanimous opinion.”[154]

The astute dramatist completely succeeded in throwing dust in the eyes
of the Baron de Breteuil, and, though Louis XVI. contrived to defer his
inevitable surrender for some months longer, by declaring that the play
must be re-examined and causing six censors to be appointed for that
purpose, on April 27, 1784, the bills of the Comédie-Française, posted
up in every quarter of Paris, triumphantly announced the production that
evening of

                         “Le Mariage de Figaro
                          La Folle Journée.”

The description of the first performance of Beaumarchais’s masterpiece
is to be found in every history of the period. It is one of the
best-known souvenirs of the eighteenth century. Let us, however, borrow
the account given in the _Mémoires_ of Mlle. Contat’s colleague and
friend, the actor Fleury:

“Many hours before the opening of the ticket-office I verily believe
that half the population of Paris was at the doors. Here was a triumph
for Beaumarchais! If he sighed for popularity, he had gained it. Persons
of the highest rank, even Princes of the Blood, besieged him with
letters imploring to be favoured with the author’s tickets. At eleven
o’clock in the forenoon, the Duchesse de Bourbon sent her valet to the
office to wait until the distribution of the tickets, which was to take
place at four o’clock. At two o’clock, the Duchesse d’Ossun laid aside
her accustomed dignity and hauteur and herself solicited the crowd to
allow her to pass; Madame de Talleyrand, doing violence to her
parsimonious disposition, paid triple price for a box. _Cordons bleus_
were seen elbowing their way through the crowd, jostled by Savoyards;
the guards were dispersed, the doors forced open, the iron bars broken
down, and an inconceivable scene of confusion and danger ensued. One
half of the people had been unable to procure tickets, and threw their
admission money to the doorkeepers as they passed, or rather, as they
were carried along. But, whilst all this was happening outside, the
disorder which prevailed within the theatre was, if possible, still
greater. No less than three hundred persons who had procured tickets at
an early period dined in the boxes. Our theatre seemed transformed into
a tavern; nothing was heard but the clattering of plates and the drawing
of corks. Then, when the audience were assembled, what a brilliant
picture presented itself! The _élite_ of the rank and talent of Paris
was congregated there. What a radiant line of beauty was exhibited by
the first tier of boxes.”[155]

The success of the piece was immense, incredible, surpassing even the
fondest hopes of the author and actors. From the opening scene the
comedy carried the audience along with it, and each of the pointed
allusions to State abuses was greeted with vociferous and prolonged
applause, which was by no means confined to the _parterre_. All the
principal performers distinguished themselves. Dazincourt played Figaro
with all his characteristic humour and sprightliness, at the same time
relieving the character from any appearance of vulgarity; Molé was an
elegant and dignified Almaviva; Mlle. Sainval, whose efforts had
hitherto been mainly confined to tragedy, displayed in the part of the
Countess an aptitude for high comedy which surprised as much as it
delighted the audience; Mlle. Olivier threw the most enchanting archness
and _espièglerie_ into the rôle of the Page; while old Préville rendered
Brid’oison a masterly character.

But the gem of the whole performance was undoubtedly Mlle. Contat’s
impersonation of Suzanne, wherein she more than justified Beaumarchais’s
confidence in her versatility, and astonished even her most devout
admirers by the gaiety and _entrain_ with which she sustained the part.
As soon as the curtain fell, Préville ran up to her, and, embracing her,
warmly exclaimed: “This is my first infidelity to Mlle. Dangeville!”

The verdict of the public was confirmed by the critics. “Mlle. Contat,
in the rôle of Suzanne,” says the _Mercure_, “has established fresh
claims to the applause of connoisseurs, by a performance frank,
intelligent, and humorous.” “The demoiselle Contat,” says the _Journal
de Paris_, “rendered Suzanne with the most piquant grace.” And--highest
tribute of all--that most captious of critics, La Harpe, declared that
she “rendered the part of Suzanne to perfection.”

From that evening Louise Contat stood forth as one of the brightest
stars of the Comédie-Française and as a truly great actress.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the time when she created the part of Suzanne in the _Mariage de
Figaro_, Louise Contat was twenty-four years of age and in the zenith of
her beauty. Without being tall, her figure was admirably proportioned,
and “her whole person breathed an air of supreme distinction.” Her face,
a charming oval, was illumined by a pair of beautiful eyes, “by turns
languishing or flashing with mischief.” An exquisite mouth, perfect
teeth, and a ravishing smile completed the picture, and enslaved all
with whom she came in contact.

Yet her beauty was not perfect. “She is an admirable Venus,” says a
pamphlet of the time, “cut by some great sculptor from a block of the
purest marble. Only he had not time to finish his work, and entrusted
the hands and feet to one of his workmen.”[156] Fortunately, she knew
how to conceal these imperfections, and on the stage they passed

It is hardly necessary to remark that so fascinating and talented a
young woman did not lack for both noble and wealthy adorers. But Mlle.
Contat, in the early stages of her career, was of a romantic
disposition, and her first lover possessed neither qualification. This
much-envied individual was a certain Chevalier de Lubsac, an officer of
the Royal Household, whose handsome face and ready wit more than atoned,
in the lady’s eyes, for his empty purse and the brevity of his

[Illustration: LOUISE CONTAT

After the painting by DUTERTRE]

Soon, however, the actress had cause to regret her choice. M. de Lubsac
not only, on occasion, drank a great deal more wine than was good for
him, but he was a confirmed and most reckless gambler, who would
cheerfully stake everything he possessed on the turn of a card. One
evening, when on the point of starting for a fête, Mlle. Contat went to
her jewel-case. To her consternation, it was empty; rings, brooches,
pendants, earrings, necklaces--all had disappeared! Supposing that
thieves had been at work, the distracted lady gave orders that the
police should be summoned, when Lubsac, who was present, intervened and,
falling on his knees, confessed that he was the culprit and entreated
her pardon. Yielding to a sudden temptation, he had carried off and
pledged the whole of the missing property, in order to obtain the sinews
of war. But alas! his luck had been execrable; he had lost every sou.

The indignation of the actress and the despair of the unhappy lover may
be imagined.

“Ah!” cried he, wringing his hands, “had I but a few louis, I could
speedily repair the injury I have done you.”

“How so?” inquired Mlle. Contat, who perceived a ray of hope.

“Yes,” resumed the contrite Lubsac, “I feel that I am in the vein this
evening. But I have nothing to stake, nothing whatever.”

The repentance of the criminal touched the actress’s heart. Smiling
through her tears, she produced two louis--the last she had in the
world--and handed them to the chevalier, who hurried off to the
gaming-table. In less than an hour he returned, transported with joy.
Fortune had smiled upon him; he brought with him all the jewellery he
had pledged, and had still a few louis in his pocket.

The _affaire_ with M. de Lubsac lasted but a few months, at the end of
which Mlle. Contat had had enough of him and his vagaries and gave him
his _congé_. A wealthy financier aspired to the vacant place in the
lady’s affections, became an assiduous frequenter of the Comédie, and
professed his readiness to lay his heart and his money-bags at her feet.
But the actress would have nothing to say to him, and intimated in
unmistakable terms that neither his heart nor his money-bags had any
attraction for her. Nevertheless, Plutus continued to prosecute his
suit, and one evening, while Mlle. Contat, was standing in the wings,
talking with the Duc de Laval, he approached and, “after having reminded
her that he had already adored her for a long while, inquired if his
turn to be loved had not arrived.” The actress indignant at such
presumption, angrily retorted that “if he were ten times richer than he
was, she would not recognise his right to behave with such
impertinence”; and, with that, turned her back upon him.

It must not be supposed, however, that Mlle. Contat was indifferent to
riches, when the person who possessed them had other claims to her
regard; and, some months after the above episode, we find her
squandering right merrily the patrimony of the Marquis de Maupeou.

The Marquis de Maupeou was very rich and very much in love; never could
actress have desired a more generous admirer. He furnished a house for
her, loaded her with presents, and decked her with magnificent diamonds.
Moreover, he was as submissive as a slave, and obeyed without a murmur
her slightest caprice. But Mlle. Contat must have been even more
difficult to please than the generality of her sex, since even this
paragon of lovers did not long satisfy her. Perhaps his very devotion
and readiness to submit to her will constituted a fault in her eyes. Any
way, she dismissed him, and, though the lovelorn marquis “became so
distracted through grief, that he proposed to Mlle. Contat to marry her
and take her away from France,” she declined the offer.

For the lady had higher views. She had just made a conquest of the
second gentleman in the land after the King, Madame Lebrun’s “excellent
prince,” the Comte d’Artois, to wit. What woman could resist a Prince of
the Blood? Certainly not an actress of the Comédie-Française. To have
done so would have been to render herself guilty of _lèse-majesté_.

Mlle. Contat was a proud woman indeed. Nevertheless, there were days
when she regretted the time when the bottomless purse of the Marquis de
Maupeou had been at her disposal. For the liberality of her royal lover
was very far from being in accordance with what one might have expected
from so great a personage. If his revenues were large, he told her, his
expenses were enormous--it is probable that Mlle. Contat only possessed
a fraction of the august heart--and often he was hard put for even a
handful of louis.

The actress received these excuses in good part; but, being privately of
opinion that it was the will and not the means which the prince lacked,
had recourse to a little ruse, in order to stimulate his generosity.

On a piece of stamped paper she forged a judgment-summons, requiring her
to pay a sum of 10,000 livres, and left it, as if by accident, on her
chimney-piece. Soon afterwards, his Royal Highness, happening to call
upon his inamorata, caught sight of the paper and wished to read it.
Mlle. Contat begged him not to do so, and pretended to snatch it from
him; but, at length, with much apparent reluctance, permitted him to
satisfy his curiosity.

The prince read the document, said that the actress was very wrong not
to have taken him into her confidence in regard to her embarrassments,
and, having promised to take the debt upon himself, carried the summons
away with him. Next day, he sent her a letter, which she eagerly opened,
only to find, instead of the expected 10,000 livres, another legal
document, which provided that the warrant which she had been at such
pains to fabricate should not be put in force for twelve months.

Great was the lady’s disgust at the failure of her little scheme. For a
moment, she was almost resolved to forsake the parsimonious prince for a
less distinguished but more open-handed adorer. However, her indignation
did not last very long, as the following morning the Comte d’Artois, who
had only intended to indulge in a little joke at his mistress’s expense,
sent her, by way of compensation for her disappointment, a magnificent

It was easy for a Prince of the Blood to be generous, in those days,
without untieing his purse-strings. Thus the count obtained for his
charming mistress an authorisation to play the prohibited game of
_biribi_ at her house, a privilege which the actress ceded to the keeper
of a tennis-court for the sum of one hundred louis a month. This
agreeable addition to her income, however, was not of long duration,
since, at the end of a few months, the Parliament of Paris made one of
its periodical onslaughts upon gambling-houses, and that of Mlle.
Contat was closed by orders of the Lieutenant of Police.

Misfortunes seldom come singly. Soon after the closing of the
gambling-house, Mlle. Contat presented the Comte d’Artois with a pledge
of her gratitude and affection in the shape of a little daughter. But,
by this time, the relations between the actress and the prince had
become somewhat strained. Perhaps, the latter had grown tired of the
lady’s extravagance and caprices; perhaps he had his doubts as to
whether he was the sole tenant of her heart, or possibly he was troubled
by retrospective scruples. However that may be, he forgot his promises
and declined to recognise the child, about whom we shall have something
to say hereafter.

After this, it is hardly surprising to learn that Mlle. Contat’s
connection with her august admirer came to a close, M. Desentelles, the
Intendant des Menus-Plaisirs, becoming the official successor of the
prince. We say _official_ successor, as it was rumoured in the _foyer_
of the Comédie-Française that the actor Fleury was by no means
indifferent to the charms of his fair colleague, and that he did not
sigh in vain.

Mlle. Contat’s rupture with the Comte d’Artois plunged the actress into
a sea of financial troubles. During their connection, she had, of
course, maintained an establishment befitting the mistress of the King’s
brother, and had contracted debts on a proportionate scale. So long as
there seemed a reasonable prospect of the prince taking these
liabilities on himself, her creditors had been complacent enough. But,
the moment they learned that the _liaison_ was at an end, they became
clamorous for payment and threatened executions and other unpleasant
methods of recovering their due. M. Desentelles and Fleury did their
best to pacify them, but that was little enough; and, in her despair,
Mlle. Contat was compelled to humiliate herself so far as to apply for
assistance to her former adorers: to the Marquis de Maupeou, whom she
had discarded, to the Comte d’Artois, who had discarded her. The marquis
and the prince responded nobly to the appeal, the latter sending her no
less than three thousand louis; and the most troublesome claims were

The favour of M. Desentelles lasted but a short while, and, after his
dismissal, Mlle. Contat seems to have had enough of gallantry, or, at
least, of official lovers. Fleury, however, remained always her faithful
and devoted friend, and speaks of her in his _Mémoires_ as a “good and
excellent sister.” He had done much to encourage her in the days when
jealous intrigues had relegated her to the background, and, in return,
he was indebted to her for the part which made his reputation as an
actor. With the piece which provided him with this opportunity Mlle.
Contat had become acquainted in rather a romantic way.

One afternoon, in the winter of 1788-1789, the actress was driving in a
whisky, a kind of vehicle then much affected by ladies of fashion.
Unfortunately for the safety of pedestrians, she held the reins with
considerably more grace than skill, and about the middle of the
Pont-Neuf narrowly escaped knocking down a middle-aged gentleman, who
was crossing the road. “Monsieur,” she exclaimed, pulling up sharply,
“pray what do you mean by running against my horse in that fashion?”
“Madame,” was the reply, “I really think that the horse ran against me.”
“Impossible, Monsieur. My horse is quite under control. Besides, I
called out ‘_gare!_.’ You never looked up.” “Madame,” said the
gentleman, with a profound _congé_, “you have more reason to cry
‘_gare_’ now that I do look up.”

Convinced, from his courtly manners and distinguished air, that the
stranger must be a personage of high rank, Mlle. Contat made several
attempts to ascertain his identity, but without success, and had
well-nigh forgotten the adventure, when one night, at the theatre, about
a month later, a note was brought to her. It was to the effect that the
gentleman who had had the privilege of a few moments’ conversation with
her on the Pont-Neuf wished to know whether, as a great favour, the
“modern Thalia” would devote a leisure hour to a rehearsal, at the
Comédie-Italienne, of a two-act piece in which he was greatly
interested. “Henri” was the signature.

Mlle. Contat at once repaired to the theatre mentioned; but found that
the author of the only play in preparation there was a comparatively
young man, a certain Baron Ernest von Manteufel, a relative of the last
Grand Duke of Courland. “_Ma foi!_” exclaimed she, to the composer
Dezède, who presented him to her, “I must explain my error in coming
hither.” And the letter was produced. The baron, on reading it, seemed
much moved. “Henri,” he cried, “ever noble, generous, and true!” “And to
me unknown,” remarked the actress, smiling. “Unknown, Mademoiselle? Why
all the world knows him!” “Nay, Monsieur, there is at least one person
in the world who is not in the secret, and that person is myself.” “Can
you possibly be unaware, Mademoiselle, that he is Prince Henry of
Prussia [brother of Frederick the Great].” “I breathe again,” said
Mademoiselle Contat. “Brother of a king and a hero into the bargain! I
pardon him for the sake of his _coup de théâtre_.” “And for the sake of
his recommendation,” the author continued, “I hope you will befriend

He then explained that he was in a serious difficulty. The success of
his first act depended upon the impersonation of a tavern-hostess. This
part he had, of course, intended for Madame Dugazon; but that lady had
declined it, on the ground that it was unworthy of her talents; and the
actress who was now studying it was plainly unequal to the task. Would
Mlle. Contat use her good offices to induce Madame Dugazon to reconsider
her decision.

Mlle. Contat declared such a negotiation impossible; to take a part from
an actress in possession of it, and force it upon one who had rejected
it would be a breach of the etiquette of her profession. But she sat out
the rehearsal, and saw at once that the piece, which was a _comédie à
ariettes_--music by Dezède--written round a pleasing little incident in
the life of Frederick the Great, which had very probably been related to
the author by Prince Henry of Prussia, might prove an immense success at
the Comédie-Française, and, moreover, provide her friend Fleury with one
of those “creations” which, when they succeed, establish the reputation
of an actor.

She accordingly talked the matter over with the author and Dezède, the
result being that the piece, which was entitled _Auguste et Théodore, ou
les Deux Pages_--it is known to fame by its sub-title--was transferred
from the “Italians” to the Comédie-Française, where it was produced on
March 6, 1789, Fleury playing the principal part, with Mlle. Contat as
the hostess of the tavern.

The anticipations of the actress were fully verified. _Les Deux Pages_
was received with the most unbounded enthusiasm; Fleury made of the
warrior king a masterpiece which placed him in the very front rank of
his profession;[157] while she herself, we are assured, was
“irresistible, her beauty and frank gaiety carrying all before them.”

But we are anticipating. Between the _Mariage de Figaro_ and the
production of _Les Deux Pages_ four years had elapsed--years in which
Louise Contat had confirmed the great reputation which her creation of
Suzanne had secured for her by a series of masterly impersonations. In
high comedy, indeed, she was supreme and without a rival. “In her hands
the fan became a sceptre. No one comprehended Molière better; no one
knew how to interpret more naturally the spirit of Marivaux. She was
reproached with a certain amount of affectation; but she knew how to
combine the haughty disposition of Célimène with the intelligent
vivacity of Dorine. Seductive voice, eloquent eye, charming smile,
infinite tact, amiable dignity, perfect knowledge of
situations--everything in her combined to enchant an audience. None of
the characteristics which distinguished the society of the old régime
had escaped her, and ‘from head to foot she was _grande dame_.’”[158]

Her triumphs were not confined to the capital. She made provincial
tours--tours which were one long series of ovations, in which crowns of
laurels were showered upon her, and thousands of complimentary verses
composed in her honour. Once, when playing with Molé, at Marseilles, the
following madrigal was addressed to them:

        “Hier un enfant d’Hélicon
    D’un secret important m’a donné connaissance.
        Ami, les neuf sœurs d’Apollon
    N’ont pas toujours été si chastes que l’on pense;
    Thalie (ah! qui l’eût cru), sans bruit et sans éclat,
        À deux enfants donna naissance,
        L’un est Molé, l’autre est Contat.”

Like nearly all the members of her profession, Mlle. Contat was
exceedingly charitable, and this fact no doubt contributed not a little
to the immense popularity which she enjoyed with the playgoing public.
At Lyons, on one occasion, she gave a performance for the benefit of the
poor of the city, which realised between three and four thousand livres.
At Toulouse, where the ten performances originally arranged for had
failed to satisfy the enthusiasm of the public, she gave an eleventh,
and distributed the proceeds amidst the poor of Baréges, whither she was
proceeding to take the waters. Once, when visiting an asylum for persons
who had been born blind, to converse with the inmates and inscribe her
name on the list of benefactors, she was the recipient of a pretty
compliment from a blind poet, who improvised a quatrain, in which he
gallantly informed her that she should not so much pity those who had
lost their eyes, as those who had been made wretched by the lustre of
her own:

          “Digne soutien de l’amiable Thalie,
          Sur notre sort pourquoi vous attendrir,
    S’il est quelques mortels qui maudissent la vie,
    Ce sont que vos yeux ont réduits à souffrir...”

By right of her beauty, her talent, and her successes, Mlle. Contat
believed herself invested with the right of imposing her will upon her
comrades and dramatic authors. With the latter she was frequently at
variance. During the rehearsals of Alexandre Duval’s _Edouard en
Écosse_, she demanded some alteration in one of the scenes. The author
refused, declaring that the alteration in question would upset all his
combinations, and, on the actress insisting on his compliance with her
views, appealed to the other players, who, however, maintained a
discreet silence, having no mind to contradict their imperious comrade.
Beside herself with passion, the latter threw her part at the author’s
head, “swearing by all her gods that nothing should induce her to act in
any piece of his.” Duval, thereupon, took his manuscript from the hands
of the prompters, and stalked out of the theatre, coldly observing that
unless the piece was to be played as he had written it, it should not be
played at all. A reconciliation between actress and author was
subsequently effected, and the play produced, but, some time later,
Duval offended the lady beyond all hope of forgiveness, by daring to
offer to Madame Talma a part which she had marked for her own.[159]

Mlle. Contat’s jealousy, indeed, caused her to be anything but beloved
by her fair comrades at the Comédie-Française. Like Madame Saint-Huberty
at the Opera, she could not endure a rival on the stage. She absolutely
refused to be doubled, and, even when illness prevented her appearing,
it was only with the greatest difficulty that she could be persuaded to
allow any one to replace her.

Moreover, she not infrequently abused her position as queen of the
theatre, and her endeavours to push the fortunes of her sister, Émilie
Contat, to whom she was always deeply attached, at the expense of more
deserving young actresses, was a fruitful source of dissension. Émilie,
who had made her _début_, in the autumn of 1784, as Fanchette, in the
_Mariage de Figaro_, was very far from the “deplorable actress” which
Gaboriau declares her to have been[160], and in her rendering of the
soubrettes of Molière acquired some little distinction. At the same
time, she had no pretensions to be the equal of Mlle. Vanhove, who had
made her first appearance at the same time; and Mlle. Contat’s efforts
to secure precedence for her sister were strongly resented not only in
the theatre but outside it, and drew upon her many violent reproaches in
both prose and verse. Marie Antoinette herself intervened on behalf of
Mlle. Vanhove, whom she had taken under her protection, and secured for
her a part which Louise Contat had intended for her beloved Émilie. When
the all-powerful actress learnt that her wishes had been subordinated to
those of royalty, she exclaimed: “This Queen has a great deal of

Nevertheless, Mlle. Contat was sincerely attached to the Royal Family,
and to Marie Antoinette in particular. One day, the Queen, who intended
to be present at a representation of the _Gouvernante_, sent her word
that she should like to see her play the principal rôle. The part was
suited neither to the age nor the talent of the lively actress, and was,
besides, a long and difficult one. She might, therefore, have fairly
begged to be excused, but, eager to please the Queen, she at once began
to study it. In less than two days, she had mastered the five hundred
verses of which it consisted, and obtained a great success. Writing to
one of her friends soon afterwards, she observed, in allusion to this
_tour de force_: “I was ignorant where the seat of memory lay; I know
now that it is in the heart.” This letter, found in 1793 among the
papers of a suspected person, was made one of the charges against Mlle.
Contat, when, in September of that year, she was arrested, with nearly
all the members of the Comédie-Française, but, thanks to the courage of
Labussière, she escaped the guillotine[161].

On her release from Sainte-Pélagie, Mlle. Contat returned to the
Comédie-Française, now called the Théâtre de l’Égalité, from which, in
June 1795, she migrated, with her colleagues, to the Théâtre-Feydeau.
After the bankruptcy of Sageret and the dispersal of the company he had
formed, she accepted an engagement at the Bordeaux theatre, whither
Fleury accompanied her. Here she not only acted, but frequently took
part in _opéra-comique_, and, having an agreeable and well-trained
voice, greatly delighted her audiences. The enthusiasm of the Bordelais,
both inside and outside the theatre, reached such a pitch as to become
positively dangerous for its object. Crowds gathered at the stage door
to witness her departure at the end of a performance. They surrounded
her, and followed her with such transports of delight that, at once
flattered and alarmed, she would press close to Fleury’s side and say,
with an air of comic gravity: “My friend, these people enchant me. Had
we not better call the guard?”

On the reconstitution of the Comédie-Française, in May 1799, Mlle.
Contat resumed her place in the company, and speedily regained all her
old popularity. Under the Directory and Consulate, indeed, she was more
than ever adored by the public and particularly by the youth of the
capital, “who, in their anxiety to applaud her, forgot to pay their
tailors’ bills.”

In these later years, Mlle. Contat, having become too “majestic” for the
Elmires and Célimènes, had been compelled to abandon the _emploi_ in
which she was still without a rival, to play young matrons. If she had
been admirable in her former répertoire, in her new rôles she is said to
have been absolutely inimitable, and, as Madame de Volmar, in the
_Mariage secret_, Julie, in the _Dissipateur_, and Madame Evrard, in the
_Vieux Célibataire_, to have reached the very perfection of her art.

       *       *       *       *       *

The irregularities of Mlle. Contat’s youth, and the fact that she had a
daughter and two sons--the paternity of at least one of whom seems to
have been very much a matter of opinion--to remind the world of her
lapses from the path of rectitude, did not deprive her of the friendship
and esteem of many whose friendship and esteem were worth possessing.
That this should have been the case was due to two reasons: first, to
the fact that she had always been careful to observe some degree of
decorum in her gallantries and to cause herself to be regarded rather as
the victim of an excessive sensibility--a kind of Adrienne Lecouvreur,
in fact--than as a lady of easy virtue; and, secondly, to the very high
social qualities which she undoubtedly possessed--qualities in which she
was surpassed by few of her contemporaries.

In truth, Louise Contat was a species of _grande dame_, whose salon
partook of the appearance of the salons of former times; one of those
delightful rendezvous where the exquisite courtesy and tact of the
hostess never failed to place every member of the company, from the
highest to the lowest, immediately at his ease. To see the actress in
the midst of her guests must have been a useful object-lesson for any
lady who aspired to social popularity. “With what art she knew how to
talk to some the language of the Court of Marie Antoinette, to the
generals of their victories, to the orators, to the financiers, of their
ambitions or their affairs; to salute a marquis of thirty-six
quarterings with a sweeping courtesy, to carve an epigram, to improvise
a quatrain, to analyse a play!... So many qualities attracted,
conquered, and retained the most rebellious.”[162]

Mlle. Contat’s early education had been somewhat neglected, but she had
contrived to atone for its deficiencies by reading and conversation, and
by “that precious faculty of assimilation, of transforming in the
crucible of an original nature the knowledge and the talent of others
into her own.” Her conversation was always charming and witty, though
her wit was untinged by malice--“the irony of Voltaire tempered by
feminine sweetness.” On occasion, however, she could be very severe upon
those who blasphemed her idol--good taste. One day, a hunchbacked duke,
a well-meaning, but somewhat maladroit person, was ill-advised enough
to remind her of the days, now alas! long past, when she had possessed
the most exquisite figure in Paris. Mlle. Contat, though furious at the
pleasantry, dissembled her indignation, but bided her time; and when,
the conversation happening to turn upon hunchbacked people, the duke
observed that Nature, by way of compensation, almost invariably endowed
those so afflicted with intelligence of an unusually high order,
exclaimed: “_Ah! Monsieur le Duc, vous n’êtes que contrefait!_”

Yet she was quite incapable of bearing malice, and more than once gave
proof of rare magnanimity. Placed under surveillance in her
country-house at Ivry during the Terror, she saved the life of one of
her persecutors, who, proscribed in his turn, threw himself upon her
compassion. For some days, she concealed him in her room, bringing him
his food with her own hands. Then, learning that search-parties were
scouring the neighbourhood, and that it was no longer safe for him to
remain, she took the gardener’s wife into her confidence, dressed
herself in the woman’s clothes, disguised her guest as the gardener’s
boy, and drove him in a cart laden with vegetables and milk to
Choisy-le-Roi, whence he was able to make his escape to
Villeneuve-Saint-George and the Forest of Senart.

“Men of letters and actresses,” remarks M. du Bled, “have always
possessed an attraction for one another; interest, end, character, all
create between them affinities which result in gallantry, in friendship,
and in love; the former invent, the latter execute; glory, gain,
success, and failure are their common lot; common also the place of
triumph, the judge who awards the palm and the hisses.”[163] Mlle.
Contat had many friends in the Republic of Letters, and her salon was
one of the most brilliant literary resorts in Paris. Thither came Vigée,
author of the successful comedies, _Les Aveux difficiles_, _La Fausse
Coquette_, and _L’Entrevue_; Desfaucherets, the improviser of proverbs,
whose play _Le Mariage secret_ was ascribed by the sycophantic courtiers
of the Restoration to Louis XVIII., just as they ascribed to him
Arnault’s _Marius à Miturnes_ and Lemierre’s pretty quatrain for a fan:

    “Dans les temps de chaleurs extrêmes
     Heureux d’amuser vos loisirs,
     Je saurai près de vous amener les Zéphirs,
     Les Amours y viendront d’eux-mêmes.”

--Maisonneuve, the author of _Roxelane et Mustapha_; Arnault, whose once
applauded tragedies have long since been forgotten, but whose
_Souvenirs_ are still read with pleasure, one of the intimate friends of
Bonaparte during the Directory and a confidant of the _coup d’État_ of
the 18th Brumaire; and, finally, Lemercier, one of the most original
figures of his time--Lemercier, with his half-paralysed body and
brilliant wit[164] and feverish energy, perpetually indulging in the
wildest pranks and attempting with equal ardour every branch of
literature: poems, plays, fiction, and philosophy; a courageous and
honest man, too, who declined to bow the knee to Napoleon and saw, in
consequence, his works--his chief source of income--spitefully
interdicted by the Imperial censors, and the doors of the Academy closed
against him.

Under the Empire, the reputation of Mlle. Contat rose, if possible,
still higher. Napoleon greatly admired her acting, and she frequently
played the leading parts in the theatrical troupe which followed his
victorious armies and gave performances in the towns which he had

On January 26, 1809, Mlle. Contat married Paul Marie Claude de Forges
Parny, a retired captain of cavalry, brother--and not nephew, as
Gaboriau and several writers state--of the poet, Evarest Désiré Parny.

A few weeks later, yielding to the solicitations of her friends, she
decided to retire from the stage, after a career of thirty-four years.
It is believed that the attacks made upon her by the critic Geoffroy
were not altogether unconnected with this determination. Her last
appearance was on March 6, 1809, as the tavern-hostess in _Les Deux
Pages_, on which occasion the whole of the takings were devoted to her
benefit. The bill that evening was a triple one. First, Ducis’s
adaptation of _Othello_[165] was presented, with Talma as the Moor.
Then came _Les Deux Pages_; and the entertainment concluded with a grand
ballet composed by Gardel, for which all the leading performers of the
Opera gave their services. The Emperor and Empress assisted at the
representation, which, says the _Journal de Paris_, was “one of the most
brilliant that had taken place at the Théâtre-Français for thirty
years.” “The prices,” continues the same journal, “were more than
tripled, but, to judge by the eagerness with which the ticket-offices
were besieged, one may believe that, even if they had been _quintupled_,
it would not have prevented the theatre from being filled. Mlle. Contat
was several times called before the curtain; and all the spectators were
unanimous in demanding her reappearance after the performance, which did
not conclude until a very late hour.”[166]

After her marriage, Mlle. Contat sold her country-house at Ivry, where
she had for many years past spent a good deal of her time, and took up
her residence permanently in Paris, where her house became the resort of
some of the most agreeable society in the capital, for, as we have seen,
she was no less brilliant in private life than on the stage. Unhappily,
she did not live long to enjoy her well-earned leisure. She was already
suffering from that terrible disease, cancer, and she soon learned--by
an accident--that her doom was sealed. “She had been for some time
suffering from violent pain in her breast,” says Fleury. “Her medical
attendant, alarmed by her increasing illness, recommended her to consult
the celebrated Dubois,[167] which she accordingly did. After some
conversation with her, Dubois said: ‘Madame, I will prescribe a course
of treatment for you, which you must scrupulously follow. Call on me
again in about three days’ time, and, in the meanwhile, I will see your
doctor.’ On the appointed day, Contat repeated her visit to Dubois. He
received her in his private cabinet and, after a little conversation, he
left the room, saying he should be with her again in a few moments.
Casting her eyes on the doctor’s writing-table, near which she was
seated, Contat saw her own name written on a slip of paper. It was
merely a medical prescription and, after glancing at it, she laid it
down again. But beside it lay a sheet of paper concealed, on which
Contat also saw her name written. Unfortunately, she took it up and read
it. It was a letter which Dubois had been writing to her doctor. The
first few lines over which she cast her eye declared that the patient
was doomed, and that it would be useless to subject her to a painful
operation, which could not possibly save her. Contat fainted. Dubois, on
his return, perceived that she had perused the fatal paper. He bitterly
reproached himself with having caused, though innocently, a state of
mental despondency calculated to hurry the patient to the grave more
speedily even than the disease itself, certain as was its fatal
termination. The kind-hearted man paid her the most assiduous attention
and sought to cheer her by a faint ray of hope. But in vain; the blow
had been struck.

“Contat, however, behaved with no want of fortitude. At the first shock,
she was naturally staggered. She afterwards became almost indifferent to
her situation. Her mind was cheerful, and she retained her grace and
good-humour to the last. When in the midst of her family and friends,
she successfully concealed her pain and anxiety. In this manner, she
lived two years from the time she so strangely gained the knowledge of
her real condition; and it was only within a fortnight before her death
that she began to complain. Thus died (March 9, 1813) one of the most
brilliant actresses of which the French stage has ever been able to

       *       *       *       *       *

Amalrie Contat, Mlle. Contat’s daughter, presumably by the Comte
d’Artois, adopted her mother’s profession and made her _début_, in 1805,
as Dorine in _Tartuffe_, and the soubrette, in _Le Cercle_, with immense
success. Unfortunately, the great hopes then formed of her were very far
from being fulfilled; and when, three years later, she retired from the
stage, in order to make a rich marriage, she ranked as an actress of
only moderate ability.



On a certain afternoon, early in September 1777, a rehearsal of Gluck’s
_Armide_ was about to begin at the Opera. The stage was crowded with the
artistes of both sexes, their friends and their admirers, for, as we
have said elsewhere, in those days it was the fashion to attend the
rehearsals of any new opera or play which happened to be arousing
unusual interest, and the fame of the little German composer was at its

It was a brilliant assembly; youth, beauty, talent, rank, and wealth
were all represented there. The women especially were in full force, the
queens of song and the stars of the dance: Duranceray, Beaumesnil,
Sophie Arnould, Rosalie Levasseur, Laguerre, Heinel, Guimard, Peslin,
Allard, Théodore, and a bevy of minor divinities, the demoiselles of the
ballet and the ladies of the chorus, many of whose names, though unknown
to dramatic fame, were already writ large in the annals of gallantry:
the two Lilys, the blonde and the brunette; Lolotte, who had the finest
horses in Paris; Droma, whose extravagance had so completely ruined a
rich merchant of the Rue Saint-Honoré that nothing was left for the
unfortunate man but to hang himself, and Rosette, for whose favours two
abbés had recently fought.

A brilliant assembly and a bravely-dressed one too; for even the
_figurante_ drawing her eight hundred or a thousand livres a year seemed
to find no difficulty in patronising the establishments of M. Pagelle,
of _Les Traits Galants_, or M. Bertin, of the _Grand Mogol_. There was,
however, an exception. In a remote corner sat a young woman alone, whose
pale, drawn face bore the marks of cruel struggles and long suffering,
and whose simple, black gown, patched in more than one place, afforded a
striking contrast to the gorgeous toilettes around her. No one spoke to
her, no one heeded her; the gay throng was too much occupied with its
own affairs to have a thought to bestow on so insignificant a person,
until a movement on her part happened to arrest the attention of a
gorgeously-attired damsel, who, with a mocking smile, exclaimed: “_Ah,
tiens! voilà Madame La Ressource_.”[168]

At these words, Gluck, who was talking with the conductor of the
orchestra, abruptly terminated his conversation, and, turning round,
exclaimed, in a voice which could be heard by all: “You have well named
her Madame La Ressource, for one day she will be the resource of the

This speech would appear to have been nothing more than a jest on the
part of the composer; since never could he have even suspected, at that
time, how fully his prediction was to be verified; never could he have
foreseen the astonishing triumphs which awaited this humble _coryphée_,
still confined to the rôles of confidante and secondary divinity. For
the young woman, “thus derided by vice, thus defended by genius,” was
none other than Anne Antoinette Cécile Clavel, known to fame as Madame

The life of Antoinette Clavel had been a peculiarly sad one; one long
course of privation, misfortunes, disappointments, and disillusions.
Born at Strasburg, on December 15, 1756, she was now in her twenty-first
year. Her father, a musician, formerly a member of a French troupe in
the service of the Elector Palatine, and, at the time of Antoinette’s
birth, attached to the Strasburg theatre, had commenced his little
daughter’s musical education before she was well out of the nursery. The
child, like Sophie Arnould, early gave promise of exceptional talent. At
the age of twelve, she sang to her own harpsichord accompaniment, “with
so much taste and sweetness that she excited the admiration of all who
heard her.” The fame of her precocious talent quickly spread abroad, and
the managers of several foreign and provincial theatres offered her
engagements. But her father and mother, “cherishing in her the germ of
those virtues with which they had inspired her, had no mind to deliver
her youth into distant towns, to the danger of seduction by those
amiable and opulent men who delight in the criminal victories they
achieve over innocence,” refused to allow her to appear, except at the
Strasburg theatre, where “they were able to direct at its outset a
career so slippery for a young and inexperienced girl.”

Here she had the good fortune to attract the attention of the leader of
the orchestra, Lemoine, a French composer who was later to achieve
success in Paris. Lemoine, a kind-hearted and excellent man, gave the
girl lessons and allotted her a part in a little piece of his own, _Le
Bouquet de Colinette_. Never was there a more grateful pupil. In after
years, Madame Saint-Huberty made the most heroic efforts to assure the
success of the somewhat mediocre works of her first professor, of whose
kindness to her when she was a child she could never speak without tears
in her eyes.

“I used to go to his house in the morning,” she related to one of her
friends. “As it was cold and he was not well off, he remained in bed
until the morning rehearsal, in order to save wood. When I arrived to
take my lesson, I used to find him rolled up in his blankets, with a
great woollen night-cap on his head, which reached to his eyes. ‘Ah!
there you are, little one,’ he would say to me, and would throw me one
of the blankets, in which I wrapped myself as well as I could. Then I
used to sing, beating time with my feet with all my strength, in order
to keep them warm.

“In the evening, I accompanied my father to the theatre. Often I was a
_figurante_, and Lemoine, who knew that we made but poor cheer at home,
always contrived to give me some tit-bits, off which I might make a good

“My father was indebted to him for several pupils, who paid him fairly
well. Finally, he presented us to Count Branicki, an immensely wealthy
nobleman, at whose house plays were frequently performed.”[169]

Antoinette Clavel had been engaged two or three years at the Strasburg
theatre when there arrived in the city a man who described himself as
director-general of the “Menus-Plaisirs” of the King of Prussia, and
stated that the object of his visit was to seek for fresh talent for the
French troupe at Berlin. In his presumed official capacity, he had no
difficulty in procuring admission to the _coulisses_ of the theatre,
where he soon became on terms of friendly intimacy with the actors and
actresses, and with Antoinette in particular. Claude Croisilles de
Saint-Huberty, for by that high-sounding name was the gentleman known,
was still young, but had seen much of the world, of good appearance, and
a fluent talker, whose honeyed words were well calculated to excite the
imagination of inexperienced women, for whom he had all the attraction
of the successful adventurer.

He made such magnificent promises to Antoinette, and held out to her the
hope of such a brilliant career, that, one fine day, in the spring of
1775, the young girl resolved to leave her parents secretly and follow
M. Croisilles de Saint-Huberty to Berlin. Here disillusion awaited her.
The pretended director of the “Menus-Plaisirs” of the King of Prussia
proved to be merely the stage-manager of the French troupe, who could
only very partially carry out the conditions of the engagement which had
induced Mlle. Clavel to quit the paternal roof.

Whether Antoinette was Saint-Huberty’s mistress, or only, as she herself
asserted, an ambitious young artiste decoyed away by the promise of an
advantageous engagement is uncertain. But, however that may be,
Saint-Huberty was exceedingly anxious to become her husband; nor is his
motive difficult to understand. So far from having any right to the
aristocratic patronymic he bore, he was the son of a merchant at Metz,
named simply Croisilles, and had left home in order to gratify a passion
for the stage. A needy and unscrupulous adventurer, he foresaw for the
young singer a successful, and possibly a brilliant, career, upon the
emoluments of which he might levy toll; while if, by chance, her success
was not in accordance with his expectations, he would always be able to
obtain the annulment of a marriage contracted in a foreign country and
without the consent of the parents of either party. And so from morning
until night he importuned Antoinette to marry him, expatiating upon the
vast possessions of the house of Saint-Huberty--possessions well-nigh as
boundless as his love for her--which, he declared, would one day be his,
the brilliant future he could assure his wife, and so forth. Nor did he
plead in vain. At the end of four or five months, the poor girl, alone
in a foreign city, friendless, and almost penniless, had the weakness to
consent; and the marriage was celebrated on September 10, 1775, in the
parish of St. Hedgwig, the so-called Saint-Huberty being described as
“native of France, stage-manager of the French troupe of his Majesty the
King of Prussia,” and Antoinette as “Jungfrau Maria Antonia, native of
Strasburg, actress.”[170]

The young bride was very speedily enlightened as to her husband’s real
character and the motives which had led him to make her his wife. “The
third night of our marriage,” she says, in a memoir which she
subsequently drew up for an annulment of the union, “was marked by the
grossest language on the part of the sieur Croisilles, accompanied by a
pair of sound boxes on the ear, because the counterpane was more on my
side than his.” And, a few weeks later, Saint-Huberty secretly quitted
Berlin, carrying off everything of value that his wife possessed.

From Berlin, whence the too-pressing attentions of his creditors had
been the cause of his abrupt departure, M. Saint-Huberty made his way to
Warsaw, from which city he presently wrote to his wife, informing her
that he had just formed an operatic company, whose first performance
had been warmly applauded at the Polish Court, and that her assistance
alone was wanting to make it worthy to perform before the sovereigns of
the North.

The rascal’s pen must have been as persuasive as his tongue, since
Antoinette at once decided to rejoin her husband. She arrived at Warsaw,
only to find that the company which was supposed to have already
achieved such great things had, as a matter of fact, never given
anything but rehearsals. Finally, however, it gave its first performance
in public and, thanks to the efforts of the young singer, appears to
have made a very favourable impression.

Intoxicated with his success, Saint-Huberty determined to extend the
scope of his operations and establish his troupe on a permanent basis.
With this end in view, he started for Hamburg, “in search of suitable
recruits,” after which he had the imprudence to visit Berlin. It was to
venture into the lion’s den. Scarcely had he set foot in the town, than
he was recognised, arrested, and thrown into prison, where his creditors
announced their intention of keeping him until he should have paid the
uttermost pfenning.

The troupe which he had left at Warsaw, deprived of its director and its
salaries, for we may presume that M. Saint-Huberty had taken most of its
available cash with him, found itself in a parlous condition. In the
meantime, however, Antoinette had scored a great personal triumph in the
opera of _Zémire et Azor_, when the reception she met with must have
exceeded her fondest anticipations. Warsaw, in those days, was
essentially a city of pleasure; and its upper classes prided themselves
on following the manners and modes of Paris. The Opera was especially
high in favour, and, as the public was not very discriminating and
lavishly generous to those who earned its approbation, artistes of very
mediocre talent, who in Paris would have been accounted fortunate to be
received in nothing worse than silence, found themselves lauded to the
skies and loaded with gifts. The enthusiasm evoked by Madame
Saint-Huberty’s singing found vent in numerous valuable presents being
made to the artiste, who was thus enabled to realise a sum of 12,000
livres, wherewith she proceeded to release her worthless husband from
his Prussian dungeon. That gentleman, accordingly, returned to Warsaw;
but his creditors in the Polish capital, encouraged by the success which
had attended the proceedings of their fellow victims in Berlin, assumed
so threatening an attitude that, after a brief period of repose, he
judged it expedient to resume his travels, and, one fine night, suddenly

According to his custom, M. Saint-Huberty did not depart with empty
hands. This time he had carried off not only all his wife’s ready money,
but even the contents of her wardrobe, including the costumes which she
wore upon the stage, leaving her without resources and almost without
clothes. Happily, a wealthy and generous Polish lady, the Princess
Lubomirska, took compassion upon the unfortunate actress, refurnished
her wardrobe, and gave her shelter for three months in her own palace.

Soon, however, difficulties arose with her husband’s numerous creditors,
who endeavoured to fix upon her the responsibility for the debts which
the fugitive impresario had contracted; and, in order to free herself
from all responsibility in connection with his liabilities, Madame
Saint-Huberty was obliged to obtain from the authorities at Warsaw a
formal separation, in regard to property. And here is the declaration
which she made on this occasion, bearing date March 17, 1777:

“Before the notaries and public officers of the ancient town of Warsaw,
appearing in person, the noble dame Antoinette de Clavel, wife of the
nobleman Philippe de Saint-Huberty, assisted for the present deed by the
counsel of the nobleman Georges Godin, present and called by her to this
effect: The said Antoinette de Clavel, being of sound mind and body, of
her own full accord has freely and expressly declared and does declare
by the present act: that having learned that the nobleman Philippe de
Saint-Huberty, her husband, had quitted Warsaw, on account of the great
number of debts by which he was overwhelmed, and being ignorant even of
the place to which he had retired, and unwilling to be bound in any
manner by the debts of her husband, which he had contracted without any
participation on her part, she separates herself from all the goods and
property generally of her said husband, excepting, nevertheless, the
goods which she has acquired and brought with her; and the said dame de
Clavel declares, moreover, by a formal declaration, that she makes no
claim whatever to the said property, and approving entirely of the
present separation from the goods of her husband, she has signed the
present deed with her own hand.--Antoinette de Clavel, by marriage
Saint-Huberty, J. Godin, as witness.”[171]

In the meanwhile, the “nobleman” referred to in the aforegoing document
had settled in Vienna, from which city he wrote to his wife, to inform
her that he had arranged to open an opera-house, which he was confident
would be the means of assuring him an ample fortune, and to urge her to
join him without delay. As may be supposed, after her sad experiences,
the poor lady was inclined to regard these assurances with some
suspicion; and, on the advice of the Princess Lubomirska, she, for some
time, declined to leave Warsaw. But Saint-Huberty pleaded so eloquently
in the letters which he continued to send her that ultimately she
relented, and, in spite of the remonstrances of her kind-hearted
patroness, took the road to Vienna.

Here she quickly found that the opera-house and the brilliant prospects
had no existence, save in the imagination of M. Saint-Huberty, who was
reduced to such straits as to be actually in want of bread, and had only
sent for his wife in order to save himself from starvation. Happily,
almost so soon as she arrived, circumstances compelled the impresario to
quit Vienna in the same manner as he had quitted Berlin and Warsaw.

The young singer now found herself without an engagement, and free to go
wherever she might choose. Like almost every operatic artiste, her
thoughts had often turned towards the Académie Royale de Musique, where
Gluck was now supreme, and she, accordingly, solicited an _ordre de
début_. This was easily obtained, the Opera being just at that time
sorely in need of fresh talent to fittingly interpret the master’s
works, and, in April 1777, she set out for Paris. Arrived in the French
capital, she lost no time in obtaining an introduction to the great
composer, who, quick to recognise ability wherever he found it, promised
to give her lessons himself,[172] and recommended her for a part in his
forthcoming opera.

On September 23, 1777, Madame Saint-Huberty made her _début_ in the
small part of Mélisse, in _Armide_, and the _Mercure de France_ referred
to her performance in the following terms:

“She has an agreeable voice. She sings and acts with much delicacy of
expression. She appears to be an excellent musician, and needs only a
little stage experience in order to acquire greater development for her
voice and greater ease for her acting.”

In spite of this encouraging notice,[173] the newcomer appears to have
attracted but little attention, in the midst of an event of such
importance as a new work by Gluck. Who, after all, was this modest
_débutante_, beside such stars as Legros, Larrivée, Gélin, Rosalie
Levasseur, and Mlle. Duranceray?

On first arriving in Paris, Madame Saint-Huberty had lodged in the Rue
Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie, at the house of a dame Sorel, after
which we find her residing successively at the Hôtel de Genève, the
Hôtel de Bayonne, and the Hôtel des Treize-Provinces.[174] At all these
places she lived alone, for, though her worthless husband had followed
her to Paris, she very prudently refused to receive him back, until she
was assured that he had mended his ways. As, however, he had no means of
livelihood, and she could not allow him to starve, she obtained for him,
through the good offices of Gluck, the post of wardrobe-keeper at the
Opera, which, as one of her biographers very sensibly remarks, was
scarcely a proper appointment for a gentleman with a weakness for
carrying off other people’s garments and raising money upon them. M.
Saint-Huberty was, as a matter of fact, very speedily discharged, upon
which he revenged himself by hawking about the streets and “reading
aloud in the cafés and even in certain private houses to which he was
admitted,” a libellous pamphlet against the authorities of the Opera,
composed by a confederate named Dodé de Jousserand. In order to keep
himself in funds, he paid frequent visits to his unhappy wife, from whom
he did not hesitate, when argument failed, to extort money by threats
and even blows; while, when she had nothing to give him, he would seize
upon any saleable article which happened to catch his eye, and carry it
off. One day, while Madame Saint-Huberty was at the theatre, he swooped
down and made a clear sweep of all the portable property of the luckless
singer, who was compelled to lay a complaint against him before the
commissary of police of her quarter. Here is the text of this document:

“In the year seventeen hundred and seventy-eight, Friday, the
thirty-first of July, at nine o’clock of the evening, in the hôtel, and
before us Joseph Chesnon _fils_, advocate to the Parliament, counsellor
of the King, commissary to the Châlelet of Paris, appeared demoiselle
Anne Antoinette Clavel, called Saint-Huberty, King’s pensioner at the
Opera, who informed us that the sieur de Saint-Huberty, who claims to be
married to her, in virtue of a pretended act of celebration in Berlin,
has abused the confidence of the complainant for nearly three years, in
order to install himself in her abode and to remain there in spite of
her; to make himself master there, and even to maltreat her. He,
nevertheless, several times left the house, but always carried away with
him jewels and other property of the complainant, which he pledged and
sold. He would again force his way in, but with empty hands, and the
complainant was unable to do anything against such persecution, being
without her papers.[175] Finally, this same day, while she was at the
Opera, the sieur Saint-Huberty has again taken advantage of her
confidence and her absence to carry off the goods, papers, and music of
the complainant, including even music which belongs to the Opera.

“She finds herself in the greatest embarrassment, and the sieur
Saint-Huberty is cunning enough to ask her, by a letter, dated
Wednesday, the twenty-ninth of this month, for papers and goods which he
has already taken the precaution to carry off. For which reasons, and in
order that she may enjoy peace at home, of which the sieur
Saint-Huberty has for a long time deprived her, and to force the said
Saint-Huberty to restore to her her property, papers, and music, and, in
particular, that which belongs to the Opera, she has come to lodge the
present plaint against the sieur Saint-Huberty, requiring from us the
act which we have given her and signing the minute in our

On an order from the Lieutenant of Police, a portion of the stolen
property was subsequently restored; but if Madame Saint-Huberty
flattered herself that she was safe from further depredations, she was
speedily undeceived. On August 10, she removed to a little apartment in
the Rue de l’Arbre Sec, in the house of Gourdan, one of the King’s
_valets-de-chambre_, for which she paid a rental of 490 livres and had
furnished herself. Three weeks later, at seven o’clock in the morning,
she was sleeping peacefully, dreaming perhaps of the time not far
distant when all the musical world would be at her feet, when she was
abruptly awakened by the entrance of four men, amongst whom she at once
recognised the scoundrelly Saint-Huberty. That worthy, pointing to a
person attired in the black garb of a commissary of police, to indicate
that he had legal authority for what he was about to do, cried: “The
pockets, Messieurs; search her pockets.” The hapless woman was then
dragged from her bed, and, while the man in black held her in his arms,
her husband showered blows upon her, after which he took a pair of
scissors and cut the ribands of the pockets of her night-dress,
inflicting several severe scratches in the process. Next, having
possessed himself of her keys, he opened all the drawers and cupboards
in the apartment, and proceeded to ransack them, at the same time
addressing to his wife the most shocking language. Finally, a fifth
person, also clad in black, entered, who announced himself as the
procurator of the husband, but, like his fellows, only laughed at the
poor actress’s distress, and declined to answer when she demanded to see
his authority. When her husband and his confederates had taken their
departure, Madame Saint-Huberty found that she had been robbed of a
packet of twenty-two letters, “which, at first sight, appeared to be
love-letters,” and a pair of diamond shoe-buckles of the value of six

This outrage was, of course, made the subject of a complaint by its
victim, of which the aforegoing account is a summary. But, as
Saint-Huberty had really had legal authority for his proceedings, having
had the audacity to declare to the police that his wife had “secretly
quitted their common abode and carried away with her numerous effects
belonging to him,” no steps could be taken against him. When, however,
Madame Saint-Huberty threatened to retire from the Opera, “unless her
personal safety were guaranteed,” she received an assurance that she
need no longer fear the visits and assaults of her husband.

But, if the unhappy woman had contrived to secure herself against
personal molestation, she was not yet free from trouble of another kind.
Some weeks before the adventure which we have just related, she had
succeeded in obtaining from Saint-Huberty, in return, we may be sure,
for some pecuniary consideration, a formal renunciation of all claim to
her professional earnings, whether derived from the Opera or from
engagements at private concerts or other entertainments. By the law,
however, she still remained answerable for his debts, and the cunning
scoundrel now determined to obtain the money he required through the
claims of fictitious creditors. On the demand of a certain demoiselle
Guérin, who declared herself to be a creditor for the sum of 489 francs
against the sieur Saint-Huberty and his wife, a formal objection was
lodged to the payment of the dame Saint-Huberty’s salary; and, on
October 2, 1778, the Châtelet declared this opposition good and valid,
and made an order for the directors and treasurers of the Opera to
deliver over to the sieur Saint-Huberty all sums due to his wife, until
the debt should be liquidated.

Poor Madame Saint-Huberty was in despair. It was in vain that she
protested that she knew nothing of the demoiselle Guérin, and had never
been called upon by her, previous to the legal proceedings, to pay any
debt. The officials of the Opera assured her that they were powerless in
the matter. Deeply as they sympathised with her, they could pay her
nothing, until she had obtained a recession of the order of the court.

This she, accordingly, endeavoured to procure. But the machinery of the
law worked even more slowly in those days than at the present time, and
it was not until March 19, 1779, that the appeal came on for hearing
before the Parliament of Paris. Then, at last, Fortune declared itself
on her side; for the judges, carried away apparently by the eloquence of
the plaintiff’s advocate, Maître Mascassies, who, in a speech of several
hours’ duration, traced the history of the stage from its origin to the
middle of the eighteenth century, with special reference to the
influence of the fall of Constantinople on the “Mysteries,” and the
relative merits of the operas of Lulli and Rameau, reversed the decision
of the Châtelet, ordered the authorities of the Opera to hand over to
the singer her arrears of salary, and condemned Saint-Huberty and his
confederates to pay all the costs of the proceedings.

Madame Saint-Huberty followed up this victory by another and more
important one. Six months later, she instituted proceedings for a formal
dissolution of her marriage on the following grounds:

(1) Omission of the publication of the banns in the parish of the father
and mother of the bride.

(2) Absence of the curé of the bride’s parish.

(3) The fact that the marriage had been performed without the consent of
the bride’s parents.

(4) Rape and seduction, which, without the employment of force, but
merely “_par mauvaises voyes et mauvaises artifices_,” were held to be
sufficient to invalidate a marriage.

The action was supported by Saint-Huberty’s father, the Metz merchant,
an honest man, who appears to have been genuinely distressed by the
misery which his son had brought upon this unfortunate girl; and, the
husband himself having been induced to leave the matter to “the wisdom
of the court,” on January 30, 1781, the marriage was finally

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, undeterred by her domestic troubles--troubles which might
well have ruined the career of a less resolute and less courageous
woman--Madame Saint-Huberty had been steadily working her way into the
very front rank of her profession. Without friends, without a protector,
but proud in her distress and sustained by an all-devouring ambition,
she lived alone in her humble lodging, which she never left, save to go
to the theatre for rehearsals and performances. “From morning till night
she worked, studied, practised unceasingly. In time, her voice became
more supple and perfectly under her control. She taught herself to move
her long, thin arms with grace; she accustomed her countenance to
reflect her passionate sensibility, to render her lively impressions.
Finally, she got rid of her deplorable Alsatian accent.”[178]

Recognition, however, was slow to come. In 1778, the _Mercure_ only
mentions her as singing in unimportant parts in three or four operas,
although she appears to have greatly pleased the musical critic of that
journal by her rendering of an Italian arietta of Gluck, at a “_concert
spirituel_” in December. During the whole of the following year, when
the theatre was under the direction of Devismes, there is no reference
to her whatever, except in a letter of Devismes’s successor, Dauvergne,
in which he speaks of the young singer as weeping with despair, because
she had not been allotted a part; and she seems, about this time, to
have had serious thoughts of leaving the Opera altogether.[179] However,
her perseverance was not wasted, for, towards the end of that year, she
was received as a permanent member of the company, though less, it is
believed, on account of her talent, than her willingness to do whatever
was required of her. This was a great step gained, and, at length, in
November 1780, she reaped the reward of all her labours and self-denial
by being entrusted with the part of Angélique in the _Roland_
(_Orlando_) of Piccini.

No one seems to have expected this opera to succeed. The composer
himself believed its failure inevitable. The evening of the first
representation, when he was about to start for the theatre, his family
refused to accompany him, and, aware of his extremely sensitive nature
used every persuasion to induce him to remain at home. His wife, his
children, his friends were in tears. “One would have imagined that he
was on his way to the scaffold.”

Piccini endeavoured to reassure them. “My children,” said he, “we are
not in the midst of barbarians, but of the politest people in the world.
If they do not approve of me as a musician, they will at least respect
me as a man and a foreigner.” And he tore himself away.

A delightful surprise awaited him. _Roland_, so far from being a
failure, was an unqualified triumph, and, at the conclusion of the
performance, Piccini was escorted home by an enthusiastic crowd of
admirers. This happy result was undoubtedly due, in the first instance,
to Madame Saint-Huberty’s admirable rendering of the part of Angélique.
“Where is Saint-Huberty? where is she?” cried the grateful composer, as
the curtain fell to the accompaniment of round upon round of applause.
“I wish to see her, to embrace her, to thank her, to tell her that I owe
to her my success!”

The critic of the _Mercure_ expresses himself as follows on the acting
and singing of Madame Saint-Huberty in this her first important part:

“Having spoken of _Roland_, we shall seize this opportunity to say
something of Madame Saint-Huberty, whose progress, every day more
marked, merits a special mention. We have seen her with pleasure in the
rôle of Angélique, in which she has, in many respects, acquitted herself
very well. We invite her only to be careful of her articulation; she
neglects it so far as to cause us to lose part of what she says. The
fault is common to foreign singers or to those trained abroad.”

And the critic concludes by recommending her to be less prodigal of her
gestures and not to raise her arms higher than was necessary.[180]

A month later, the singer gained another success, as Lise, in _Le
Seigneur bienfaisant_, an indifferent work by Rochon de Chabannes and
Floquet, when she rendered with such fiery energy the despair of the
heroine that she fell ill from excess of emotion and was absent from the
theatre for several weeks.

On her return, fresh triumphs awaited her. After successfully
impersonating Églé, in the _Thésée_ of Quinault, which had been set to
music by Gossec, she replaced Rosalie Levasseur in the name-part in
Gluck’s _Iphigénie en Tauride_ (March 10, 1782),[181] in which, the
_Mercure_ declares that “she acquitted herself very well and deserved
the praise which she received.” Next, she created the rôle of Laurette,
in _l’Inconnue persécutée_, “with as much taste as intelligence,” and
made an heroic, though unsuccessful, attempt to secure a favourable
reception for the _Électre_ of her old master Lemoine, the one-time
conductor of the Strasburg orchestra.

Not content with doing her utmost on the stage on her old friend’s
behalf, Madame Saint-Huberty employed the influence she was beginning to
possess in the _coulisses_ to compel the administration of the Opera to
prolong the run of this very indifferent work, notwithstanding the
unfavourable verdict of the public and the disastrous results such a
course was likely to have upon the receipts. The administration resolved
not to yield to such a preposterous demand, but, at the same time,
unwilling to offend an actress who was becoming every day more necessary
to them, had recourse to stratagem. They represented that they were
perfectly willing to oblige Madame Saint-Huberty by continuing the
representations of _Électre_; but, since the opera was not in itself a
sufficient attraction to secure a full house, it would be advisable to
wait for a few days, until the ever-popular ballet of _Ninette à la
Cour_, in which Mlle. Guimard, it will be remembered, secured one of her
greatest triumphs, could be given with it. Madame Saint-Huberty
consented to the postponement, and the administration made use of the
respite granted them to induce the Minister of the King’s Household, the
supreme authority in matters concerning the Opera, “to order that the
opera of _Électre_ should be absolutely withdrawn from the

In those days, it was the fashion at the Opera to frequently present
entire pieces composed of acts extracted from various works. These
performances, called “_Fragments_,” were very popular with the patrons
of the theatre, since they constituted but little strain upon the
imagination, while the variety of their subjects and music provided an
agreeable change. On September 24, 1782, four “fragments” were performed
at the Opera, the most important of which was a new act by Moline and
Edelmann, entitled _Ariane dans l’Île de Naxos_. Madame Saint-Huberty,
who played the part of Ariane, had always had a strong predilection in
favour of historical accuracy in stage costume, and, on the advice of
the painter Moreau, who held similar views and had designed the dresses
for this opera, she resolved to make a move in the direction of reform.

“We have seen, for the first time, on the stage,” says the _Journal de
Paris_, “in the principal personage, the costume rigorously observed.
These designs have been made on the advice of M. Moreau _le jeune_,
favourably known in artistic circles by the number, the variety, and the
continual beauty of his works.”

Levacher de Chamois, in his work on theatrical costume, has traced a
description of the costume worn by Madame Saint-Huberty on this

“One saw this actress appear habited in a long linen tunic, fastened
beneath the bosom; the legs bare and fitted with the ancient buskin.
From the head descended gracefully several plaits of hair, which played
about her shoulders. This costume, a novel one for the spectators and
both true and elegant, was applauded with a kind of frenzy. But, in
spite of the approval of the public, there arrived orders which one
called ‘ministerial,’ forbidding Madame Saint-Huberty to appear in this
beautiful costume, and at the second representation of the work she was
obliged to resume the heavy and ridiculous accoutrements of our
coquettes and prudes.”[183]

Notwithstanding this mortification, the actress had no reason to be
dissatisfied with her performance of Ariane. It was indeed, for her, a
veritable triumph. “As for Madame Saint-Huberty,” says the _Journal de
Paris_, “we do not know which serves her the best, her face, her voice,
or her acting; she knows how to give to each song inflections which
occasion the most lively emotions.” And the musical critic of the
_Mercure_ writes: “Madame Saint-Huberty, in the opera of _Ariane_, has
added yet further to the idea that one has always entertained of her
intelligence and her talent. She played in a manner always animated and
interesting, and sang with the greatest expression the music constantly
loud and passionate of a long and difficult rôle.”

Guinguéné, in his notice on the life and works of Piccini, declares that
Madame Saint-Huberty owed to the protection of the celebrated composer
the fact that her name was not erased from the books of the Opera after
her brilliant rendering of the part of Ariane, since she had shown on
this occasion views too independent and a talent too original to suit
the views of the authorities of that institution. “The success which she
had obtained in it excited the petty passions of the _coulisses_. They
were prepared to drive her from the Opera, and Piccini alone sustained
her. He recalled to those who were the powers of the State the witty and
sensible _mot_ of Gluck; he predicted that they would speedily have need
of her, and that they would be only too happy to have her. His selection
of her for the interesting part of Sangarede and the superior manner in
which she rendered not only the music, but the scenes as well, moved the
entire public in her favour and gave her a settled position on the stage
of which she was for ten years the glory.”[184]

The revival of _Atys_ had taken place at the beginning of the year 1783,
when Madame Saint-Huberty played the heroine with an enthusiasm which
gave a new lease of life to that fine opera. “Thus,” says M. Jullien,
“she found herself dividing her sympathies between the two hostile
camps, and lending, in turn, the assistance of her great talent to the
two rival composers: to Gluck, who had given her her first opportunity
at the Opera, to Piccini, who had helped her to retain her position


From an engraving by COLINET after the drawing by LE MOINE]

A little time before, on November 27, 1782, the actress had given proof
of a talent of rare versatility by rendering with much gaiety and charm
the part of Rosette, in Grétry’s _l’Embarras des Richesses_.[186] This
piece, notwithstanding some delightful music and Madame Saint-Huberty’s
successful impersonation of the heroine, failed, mainly through the
ineptitude of the libretto--the production of one Lourdet de Sans-Terre,
surnamed by the wits Lourdeau Sans-Tête--which contained some of the
most amazing anachronisms ever perpetrated by a presumably educated
writer. Thus, the inhabitants of Athens, in the time of Pericles, are
made to fast during Lent, flirt with opera-girls, and pay their debts
in louis d’or; while, in the ballet, dances are executed by American
savages! Bad though it was, however, _l’Embarras des Richesses_ is still
remembered, having been rescued from well-merited oblivion by the
following amusing epigram:

    “Embarras d’intérêt,
     Embarras dans les rôles,
     Embarras dans ballet,
     Embarras de paroles,
     Des embarras en sorte
     Que tout est embarras,
     Mais venez à la porte,
     Vous n’en trouverez pas.”

On February 28, 1783, Sacchini’s _Renaud_ was produced, with Rosalie
Levasseur in the part of Armide. Her rendering of the part, however, was
not considered satisfactory, and, at the fourth representation, she was
replaced by Madame Saint-Huberty, who was thus enabled to set the seal
upon her reputation. For where Rosalie had been found wanting, she
succeeded and succeeded brilliantly, and, by her conversion of a
threatened failure into a complete triumph, saved at one stroke the poor
musician and the honour of the Opera, which, in cancelling its agreement
with Sacchini--about which there had been some talk after the cool
manner in which _Renaud_ had been at first received--would have lost the
composer’s two masterpieces, _Dardanus_ and _Œdipe à Colone_.[187]

       *       *       *       *       *

Madame Saint-Huberty was not a pretty woman. She had neither the
beautiful eyes nor the willowy grace of Sophie Arnould. She was short
and thick-set, with long, thin arms, a large mouth and a “_nez de
soubrette_”; in a word, an “ignoble figure,” as the ungallant art critic
of the _Mémoires secrets_ calls her, in his notice of Madame Vallayer
Coster’s portrait of the actress, as Dido, exhibited at the Salon of

But it was quite another Madame Saint-Huberty who appeared on the boards
of the Opera. “That metamorphosis, that transformation on the stage,
which some actresses obtain in a fashion so marvellous, the
Saint-Huberty pushed beyond the bounds of imagination, thanks to
incredible labours, thanks to victories achieved every day over her
unpleasing person, thanks to acquisitions apparently impossible, thanks
to a remarkable intelligence, thanks to a very wide knowledge of the
theatre and all its effects, thanks to a profound study of the
characters she represented, whose sentiments and emotions of the soul
she rendered, so to speak, ‘in a palpable manner,’ thanks, finally, to
what her talent possessed of her heart and of the passion which dwelt in
her. And she succeeded in effecting a well-nigh physical transformation;
in giving to her figure nobility, elegance; in moving with gestures of
pride or of touching grace. And she appeared seductive and desirable to
the amorous eyes of the audience.”[188]

       *       *       *       *       *

The great services which Madame Saint-Huberty had already rendered to
the Opera, and the wonderful talent which she had displayed in the
various difficult rôles entrusted to her, made the administration keenly
alive to the importance of definitely attaching to the theatre an
artiste of such exceptional ability, whose value to them was immensely
enhanced by the approaching retirement of Mlle. Laguerre and the decline
of Rosalie Levasseur. During the year 1782, Madame Saint-Huberty had
only received 5500 livres, a very inadequate remuneration for the
attraction which she exercised over the public; and, fully aware of her
own value, she had been at no pains to conceal her dissatisfaction. On
November 22, 1782, La Ferté, the Intendant des Menus, wrote to Amelot,
the Minister of the King’s Household, pointing out the importance of
having the matter settled without delay. “She (Madame Saint-Huberty) is
a very troublesome person,” he says; “but we cannot dispense with her,
in view of the indifferent services and the unwillingness of the
demoiselle Levasseur. All that we can hope for is that the dame
Saint-Huberty will make the conditions as little onerous as possible,
and I suppose there will be no hesitation in according her the Court
pension of 1500 livres destined at first for the demoiselle Laguerre.”

After some further correspondence on the subject, the prima donna was
invited to formulate her demands. They were as follows:

(1) 3000 livres ordinary salary.

(2) Payment of firing, lights, and so forth.

(3) An annual _gratification extraordinaire_ of 3000 livres.

(4) A pension of 1500 livres on the musical establishment of the King.

(5) A _congé_ of two months every year, including the Easter recess.
This was, of course, to enable her to “star” in the provinces.

(6) None of her rôles to be entrusted to any other actress, save at her
own request.

La Ferté agreed readily enough to four of these proposals; indeed, the
first two had already been accorded, while, as we have just seen, he
himself had recommended the granting of the fourth. But he annotated the
third: “To promise it when circumstances permit”; and he declared the
sixth “impossible, as being contrary to the regulations.”

Madame Saint-Huberty’s reply was to temporarily retire from the Opera,
on the plea of ill-health, and to announce that she contemplated leaving
the stage altogether.

Then La Ferté submitted to Amelot an arrangement whereby the sum of 8000
livres a year was assured to the singer, independently of allowances for
firing, lights, and so forth, and of a pension of 1500 livres on the
musical establishment of the King, which would give her an annual income
of 9500 livres. She was also to be permitted to give two private
concerts every year, the expenses to be borne by the administration of
the Opera. These, it was calculated, would bring her another 3000
livres. Finally, she was to be granted the _congé_ she demanded, on
condition that she should not take it at a time when her services were
particularly necessary to the Opera or during the visit of the Court to

On February 27, 1783, the Minister wrote to Madame Saint-Huberty, to
inform her of these proposals, as follows:

“Rendering to your talents and your zeal, Mademoiselle, all the justice
that they deserve, I afforded myself the pleasure to give an account of
them to his Majesty, who, in consequence, has willingly consented to
authorise me to announce to you that he has placed you on his musical
establishment for the sum of 1500 francs, to begin from January 1, 1782,
which gives you the benefit of a year in advance. Secondly, to complete
by a _gratification_ an annual salary of 8000 francs at the Opera; that
is to say that, supposing your place of first subject should only
produce, for example, 7000 francs, then the Court would give you 1000
francs to make up the 8000 francs. You will also be accorded every year
a _congé_ of two months. Finally, his Majesty consents to your giving
every year, if that be agreeable to you, two concerts for your own
benefit. His Majesty’s intention is that ‘these particular favours
should remain entirely secret.’ I am very pleased at having been able to
contribute towards securing them for you. You will kindly advise me
promptly of the receipt of this letter.”

To this letter Madame Saint-Huberty vouchsafed no reply; and, after
waiting until the middle of March, the Minister wrote again:

“The King inquired this morning, Mademoiselle, what reply you had made
to the letter which he authorised me to write to you. His Majesty was
not a little surprised when I informed him that I had not yet received
it. He charges me to demand of you a positive reply as promptly as
possible. I do not doubt that it will be such as the King has the right
to expect.”

But this letter, like the first, remained unacknowledged.

In the face of the obstinate silence of the actress, supported by public
opinion, which now began to declare itself in her favour, the Minister’s
position became so embarrassing that La Ferté counselled him, on the
occasion of a concert given at his hôtel, in which Madame Saint-Huberty
was to take part, to have recourse to the following little stratagem.
He advised Amelot to speak privately to the singer before the concert
began, and, in the event of his failing to obtain a satisfactory reply,
all the Minister’s personal friends, by previous arrangement, should
demand of Madame Saint-Huberty, after she had concluded her song,
whether she had definitely decided to remain at the Opera, and that
Amelot should then announce that he had done everything in his power to
retain her services. The luckless Intendant des Menus saw in this
species of public explanation the only way of giving the lie to the
report spread everywhere by the actress that she was leaving the Opera,
because she found it impossible to obtain adequate remuneration.

Finally, on March 20, 1783, the Minister, the Intendant, and the
administration of the Opera were forced to capitulate and to submit to
all the conditions imposed by the singer, stipulating only that Madame
Saint-Huberty should maintain the strictest secrecy concerning the
matter, lest the jealousy of her colleagues might lead them also to
demand higher salaries, and that she should engage to remain at the
Opera for eight years.[189]

And at the bottom of the letter in which Amelot announced their
surrender, the triumphant prima donna wrote as follows:

     “In conformity with the arrangements made in this letter, I engage
     myself to remain at the Opera for the space of eight years, to
     begin from the first of January, 1784.


     _Executed this 22 March 1783._

Eight months after her victory over the authorities of the Académie
Royale de Musique, Madame Saint-Huberty reached the apogee of her fame
by her impersonation of Dido, in Piccini’s celebrated opera of that

When he had accepted the engagement which the Baron de Breteuil, the
French Ambassador at Naples, had offered him, Piccini had fondly
imagined that he would find a position at once honourable and tranquil.
He came to Paris, and had no sooner arrived, than he perceived that
those who had summoned him thither had been prompted by no other motive
than that of pitting him against the composer who was then
revolutionising the French lyric stage. The poor musician was naturally
much troubled by this discovery, but all arrangements were concluded,
and he had no option but to accept the situation.

Naturally amiable and modest, Piccini was the last man in the world to
engage of his own free will in this miserable war, which would doubtless
have speedily ceased, had it not been for the conduct of the
philosophers and men of letters, many of whom knew scarcely anything of
music and cared even less, but who, infected by the mania for
disputation so prevalent in the eighteenth century, rushed into the
contest with a violence as ridiculous as it was disastrous to the
interests of Art, and envenomed it by their epigrams and
recriminations.[190] That the labours of Piccini were adversely effected
by the false position in which he found himself there can be little
doubt, and his success, under such circumstances, is, therefore, all the
more deserving of admiration.

_Roland_ and _Atys_ had succeeded, in spite of the efforts of the
Gluckists, who had combated their success by every means in their power;
but _Iphigénie en Tauride_ failed. The struggle was unequal: Piccini,
though capable of contending with Gluck, was unable to conquer him.
Mortified, discouraged, eager only for rest and tranquillity, he
resolved to compose no more, but he had counted without his librettist
and faithful ally, Marmontel. The Maréchal de Duras, Gentleman of the
Chamber in waiting that year, had demanded of Marmontel an entirely new
opera, to be played before the Court during its annual sojourn at
Fontainebleau. Marmontel replied that he could promise nothing, unless
Piccini would consent to collaborate with him again, and suggested that,
in order to arouse the composer from the state of dejection into which
he had fallen, the marshal should persuade the Queen to change the
annual _gratification_ which the Italian had hitherto received into a
perpetual pension. And this the marshal readily promised to do.

“He asked for and obtained it,” continues Marmontel, “and when Piccini
went with me to thank him: ‘It is to the Queen,’ said he, ‘that you must
show your gratitude, by composing for her this year a fine opera.’

“‘I do not ask anything better,’ said Piccini, as he left us, ‘but what
opera shall it be?’

“‘We must compose,’ said I, ‘the opera of _Didon_. I have long been
revolving the plan of it. But I forewarn you that I mean to unfold my
ideas at length; that you will have long scenes to set to music, and
that in these scenes I shall require a recitative as natural as simple
repetitions. Your Italian cadences are monotonous; the accents of our
language are more favourable and better supported. I beg you to mark it
down in the same manner as I repeat it.’

“‘Well,’ said he, ‘we shall see.’

“In this manner we formed the design of bestowing on recitative that
ease, that truth of expression which was so favourable to the
performance of the celebrated actress for whom the character of Dido was

“The time was short: I wrote the poem with great rapidity, and, in order
to withdraw Piccini from the distractions of Paris, I invited him to
come and compose with me in my country-house, for I had a very agreeable
one, where we lived as a family during the summer months. On his arrival
there, he set to work, and when he had completed his task,
Saint-Huberty, the actress who was to play the part of Didon, was
invited to come and dine with us. She sang the part, at night, from
beginning to end, and entered into the spirit of it so thoroughly that I
fancied she was on the stage. Piccini was delighted.”[191]

At the moment when Marmontel and Piccini judged it advisable to put
_Didon_ into rehearsal, Madame Saint-Huberty was entitled to the annual
_congé_ which she had stipulated for and obtained some months
previously; and she had made arrangements for a tour in Provence. She
took her part with her, however, telling the authors that they could
rehearse the opera without her, as they could rely upon her knowing her
music quite thoroughly before she returned, and probably before any one
else would be ready.

The rehearsals began at Fontainebleau, the part of the heroine being, as
a rule, taken by a chorus-singer, who, without attempting to sing Madame
Saint-Huberty’s music from beginning to end, read the part and did her
best to replace the prima donna in the concerted pieces. On two or three
occasions, however, Mlle. Maillard, a young actress, for whom the
Intendant La Ferté had a very pronounced _tendresse_, was entrusted with
the principal rôle.

The real Dido, meanwhile, was making a high successful tour in Provence,
where she was everywhere received with enthusiasm. At Aix, she caught
such a severe cold that for a time she lost her voice, but had,
fortunately, fully recovered its use by the time she returned to Paris.
“The part of Didon,” she wrote to one of her friends in Provence,
“having been composed for me, for my voice, and being the only very
interesting part in this piece, it will be impossible to give it
anywhere without me. This looks like conceit on my part, but I will
explain the matter to you. The part of Didon is _all acting_. The
recitative is so well composed that it is impossible to sing it.

“An immense number of persons had attended the early rehearsals of
_Didon_, and had come to the conclusion that it was one of Piccini’s
worst productions. But Piccini consoled himself by saying: ‘Wait till my
Didon comes!’ At the first rehearsal, which took place with myself in
the part, every one said: ‘Ah! he has recomposed the greater part of his
opera!’ And yet only four days had elapsed since the previous rehearsal.
Piccini heard it and remarked: ‘No, Messieurs, I have altered nothing in
the part. But until now _Didon_ was being played without Didon.’”

From which letter it will be gathered that undue modesty was not one of
Madame Saint-Huberty’s failings.

The day of the first representation drew near. The great singer resolved
to carry out a radical change in her costume. She held, as Mlle. Clairon
had held, that in order to faithfully represent the personages of
antiquity, it was absolutely essential to investigate their manners and
their characters, and to ascertain exactly the garments which they were
in the habit of wearing.[192] She regarded the theatre as a picture
which cannot hope to produce illusion, save by the fortunate accord of
all its elements, and she was far from meeting with this accord in
tragedy, in which the verse transported the audience to Rome or Sparta,
but in which one saw appear Greeks wearing brocaded robes, with turbans
on their heads, and Roman ladies with long trains borne by pages.[193]

This time she succeeded better than in _Ariane_, and went to the extreme
of simplicity. She announced that the costume she proposed to adopt was
an exact copy of a design by Moreau _le jeune_, sent from Rome, where
the artist then was. The tunic was of linen, the buskins laced on the
bare foot, the crown encircled by a veil, which fell down her back, the
mantle of purple, the robe fastened by a girdle below the bosom.

We may imagine the astonishment of the committee of the Opera, of La
Ferté, and of Amelot, when Madame Saint-Huberty, with Moreau’s design in
her hand, insisted that a costume exactly resembling it should be
forthwith ordered for her. “She thus dared to patronise new ideas and to
introduce to the Opera a costume designed by this reformer, whom they
believed they had conquered.”[194] All the authorities were up in arms
against these exorbitant pretensions, but the actress’s genius had
rendered her all-powerful; her wishes could no longer be ignored, and
they were obliged to yield. But every day the lady became more exacting
in her demands, and poor La Ferté was driven to his wits’ end to satisfy
them. “I have just ordered Madame Saint-Huberty’s robe,” he writes to
Amelot; “but it is terrible!” And again: “I have endeavoured to satisfy
Madame Saint-Huberty’s caprices in making her decide to content herself
with some changes in her robe for the part of Didon!” Unhappy Intendant!
The actress was now indeed taking an ample revenge for the rebuff she
had sustained in _Ariane_.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Didon_ was at length presented on October 16, 1783. It was a dazzling
triumph for both composer and actress. Never had such enthusiasm been
witnessed at the Court. Louis XVI., though, as a rule, he did not care
for opera, was delighted and declared that “this opera had given him as
much pleasure as a fine tragedy.” To mark his satisfaction, he at once
decided that a pension of 1500 livres should be bestowed on the
principal actress, and sent the Maréchal de Duras to compliment her and
inform her of the pleasure she had afforded him.

“This,” writes one who was present, “was the finest scene of the
evening. When the Maréchal de Duras arrived behind the scenes, followed
by a crowd of courtiers in gala dress, Madame Saint-Huberty had not yet
had time to change her costume. She was standing up, the crown on her
head, draped in the purple mantle of the Queen of Carthage. Marmontel
and Piccini, intoxicated with joy, had thrown themselves at her feet and
were kissing her hands. One would have called them two criminals, whose
lives she had just spared. They only rose when M. de Duras approached to
repeat what the King had said. The actress listened to the marshal, and
her countenance, still animated by inspiration, became illumined with
the joy of this new triumph. The blush of pride rose to her forehead.
She had so much grandeur, nobility, and majesty in her bearing, with
these men at her feet, that better even than when upon the stage she
conveyed the idea of the Queen of Carthage. All the great nobles present
had the appearance of being only her courtiers.”

Métra describes this scene in the ironical tone characteristic of him.
He represents Piccini precipitating himself at the feet of the singer,
and amorously squeezing her hand. He shows us Marmontel, although more
slow to bend the knee, employing vows and the most tender expressions to
assure her that she arouses in his heart the most novel and the most
lively emotions. And he concludes: “What a pleasing contrast to picture
to oneself in this scene Saint-Huberty, still clothed in the purple of
Didon, receiving with dignity the incense of great noblemen and men of
letters, and to behold her, as a voluptuary of the time found her, two
days later, in Paris, playing a game of piquet with her page, at the
end of a table covered with a coarse and dirty dishcloth!”

In Paris, the opera and the singer obtained an even greater triumph than
at Fontainebleau. The evening of the first representation (December 1,
1783) was “an evening of transports and delirium.” The public could not
find means to express its admiration. At the conclusion of the
impressive song,

    “Ah! que je fus bien inspirée,”

the audience rose in a body and interrupted the performance with
frenzied applause. At the touching air,

    “Ah! prends pitié de ma faiblesse,”

there was not, we are assured, a dry eye in the whole house. “What more
glorious triumph,” writes one of the actress’s biographers, “could this
poor artiste in her days of toil and misery have ever dreamed of!”[195]

Among the critics, not a dissentient voice was heard; all joined in a
chorus of praise of _Didon_ and the great lyric _tragédienne_. “Madame
Saint-Huberty,” wrote the _Mémoires secrets_, “played the part with the
highest talent. She excelled even herself, and showed herself not less a
great actress than an accomplished singer.” “It is the voice of Todi; it
is the acting of Clairon!” cries Grimm. “It is a model which has not
been seen on the stage for a long time, and will not soon be seen

And Guinguéné, in his valuable study of the life and works of Piccini,
writes: “The talent of this sublime actress has its origin in her
extreme sensibility. An air might be better sung, but it would be
impossible to give to any air, to any recitative, a truer, more
passionate expression. No action could be more dramatic than hers, no
silence more eloquent. One still recalls her terrible dumb-show, her
tragic immobility; and the awful expression of her countenance during
the long ritornello of the chorus of the priests, towards the end of the
third act, and while the chorus is being sung.

“At the performance she did no more than replace herself in the position
in which she had naturally found herself at the first general rehearsal.
Some one spoke to her of the impression she had seemed to feel, and
which she communicated to the whole audience.

“‘I really experienced it,’ she answered. ‘After the tenth bar, I felt
as if I were dead.’[196]

“This reply,” remarks Gaboriau, “reveals the whole secret of the great
lyric _tragédienne’s_ talent. An actress of genius, she knew how to keep
her head, but she surrendered her whole heart, her whole soul. She
really suffered the grief which she expressed in so heartrending a
manner; she really felt as if she were dying. And to such a point was
this true that, after each performance, she was so ill and exhausted
that she needed several hours to recover herself.”[197]

It has been said that Madame Saint-Huberty was an infinitely better
actress than she was a singer. This, however, was certainly not the
case. Castil-Blaze declares her to have been the first vocalist worthy
of the name who appeared at the French Opera; while one of her
biographers points out that Piccini would never have composed for her so
difficult an air as that beginning: “_Ah! que je fus bien inspirée_,”
had he not known her to possess a cultivated voice, full of charm and

But the best proof that she really could lay claim to exceptional vocal
as well as dramatic talent, and was not merely “an actress who spoke
song”--to borrow Grétry’s definition of Madame Dugazon--is the success
which attended her appearance at the “Concerts Spirituels,” where she
took her place beside Mara and Todi, and acquitted herself so well that
some critics went so far as to speak of her as a formidable rival to
these eminent singers.

The success of _Didon_ continued unabated. At each performance, Madame
Saint-Huberty “seemed to add something to the purity of tone, to the
truth of expression, to the profundity of sensibility which she had
displayed on the first evening.”[198] At each performance a fresh
ovation awaited her. On January 14, 1784, at the twelfth representation
of the Opera, she was the recipient of an honour which up to that time
was absolutely without precedent in France.

“At the end of the second act,” writes Grimm, “which terminated with the
pathetic trio between Énée, Didon, and her sister, a crown of laurel,
badly aimed, fell into the orchestra. The person at whose feet it fell
placed it on the edge of the stage. The public, with loud cries,
demanded that it should be placed on Didon’s head, which was done, by
the demoiselle Gavaudan, to the accompaniment of unanimous and
prolonged applause. The actress, surprised and almost overwhelmed with
confusion, experienced a shock so great that it was, for the moment,
feared that she would be unable to finish her part.... This crown of
laurel was tied with a white ribbon on which was embroidered these
words: _Didon et Saint-Huberty sont immortelles_.”[199]

Apropos of this coronation, La Ferté wrote to Amelot:

“Another trouble, Monseigneur. I do not know whether you have been
informed that on Friday evening last a crown, bearing the inscription:
‘_À la immortelle Saint-Huberty_,’ was thrown upon the stage. The
actress who was playing with her picked it up and placed it on Madame
Saint-Huberty’s head. This episode, apparently the result of an
arrangement concerted with the demoiselle Saint-Huberty, cannot be
ignored; for those who in this manner give crowns (an incident hitherto
without example in the theatre in connection with an actor) might
equally accustom themselves to throw baked apples and oranges, as
happens in England, at an actor who does not meet with their
approbation. The confusion would then be beyond remedy!”

The Intendant then goes on to say that the honour paid her had not
rendered Madame Saint-Huberty more accommodating, since she had refused
to play on the following Tuesday, and, as the receipts for that evening
would inevitably show a great decrease, if _Didon_ were not performed,
he suggests that the prima donna should be replaced by Mlle. Maillard,
whom, as we have mentioned elsewhere, M. de la Ferté honoured with his
favours. The old Intendant must have been very much in love or
exceedingly deaf, for he actually goes so far as to assure Amelot that
Mlle. Maillard’s voice is one which may well excite the envy of Madame

Mlle. Maillard secured the appearance she coveted, though Madame
Saint-Huberty protested vigorously against her being allowed to play the
part, on the ground that it was an infringement of the last clause of
the agreement of the previous March, which provided that no other
actress should be allowed to play any part which she had created, save
at her own suggestion. But the young lady must have regretted her
misplaced ambition, for the public, learning of its idol’s feeling in
the matter, accorded her anything but a flattering reception.

       *       *       *       *       *

The acclamations of Court and capital did not content Madame
Saint-Huberty; she desired the applause of the whole of France, and she
received it. The enthusiasm of the provinces indeed reached the point of
absurdity; a royal progress could hardly have been more splendid.

At Marseilles, the first city of importance which she visited, and where
she gave no less than twenty-three representations, it was resolved to
organise a magnificent fête in her honour. Cannon thundered salutes, the
vessels in the harbour were decorated with flags, and, in the evening,
the entire city was illuminated. An eight-oared gondola, lined
throughout with satin and furnished with velvet cushions, had been
prepared for the occasion, in which the prima donna embarked, arrayed in
a Greek costume of the most extravagant richness, the gift of the ladies
of Marseilles. The gondola was then rowed out to sea, escorted by more
than one hundred vessels of various kinds, including several barges
filled with musicians. Aquatic sports were held, the victors in which
had the felicity of being crowned by the heroine of the day.

On her return to land, the cannon again fired salutes; the whole
population had flocked to the quays. The diva was conducted, through an
avenue of illuminated pavilions, to a pleasure-house, where she rested
for a while in a salon of verdure lighted by coloured lanterns. Then she
entered a tent, in which a temporary theatre had been constructed, where
an allegorical play was performed in her honour, and Apollo crowned her
with laurel as the “tenth” Muse. A ball followed, during which Madame
Saint-Huberty occupied a seat on a daïs between Melpomene and Thalia.
Finally, a splendid supper, to which sixty of the principal inhabitants
of Marseilles sat down, was served in a room protected by a wooden
grill, to guard the idol against the too-pressing attentions of her
worshippers. At dessert, Madame Saint-Huberty sang several couplets in
the Provençal patois, the people joining in the chorus. The enthusiasm
of the city on this memorable night was indescribable, and spread far
into the country.

When, at length, the prima donna contrived to tear herself away from her
admirers at Marseilles, an extra horse had to be harnessed to her
post-chaise, to draw the trophies of her twenty-three performances,
which included more than a hundred crowns.

At Toulouse, if the fêtes were less splendid, there was no diminution in
the enthusiasm of the public. In the third act of _Didon_, the
performance was suddenly stopped, while twelve young girls, dressed in
white, advanced towards Madame Saint-Huberty. They carried a basket of
flowers surmounted by a crown, which their leader begged the singer to
accept, as “the tribute of a grateful country.”

At Strasburg--her birthplace and the town where she had made her first
appearance on the stage--which she visited in the summer of 1787, the
ovations continued. There, amongst a thousand other compliments in
verse, of various degrees of merit, she received the following gallant

    “Romains qui vous vantez d’une illustre origine,
     Voyez d’où dépendait votre empire naissant:
       Didon n’eut pas de charme assez puissant
     Pour arrêter la fuite où son amant s’obstine;
     Mais si l’autre Didon, ornement de ces lieux,
       Eût été reine de Carthage,
     Il eût, pour la servir, abandonné ses dieux,
     Et votre beau pays serait encore sauvage.”

These verses have been ascribed by Edmond de Concourt, Gaboriau, and
several other writers to no less a personage than Napoleon Bonaparte,
then a young officer of artillery. But they are in error, for M. Adolphe
Jullien, who has carefully investigated the matter, points out that
Napoleon passed the whole of the year 1787 not at Strasburg, but in

       *       *       *       *       *

Space forbids us to give more than a very brief account of the remaining
triumphs of this truly great artiste, who, no matter how unfavourable
the verdict of the public and the critics might be in regard to some of
the works in which she appeared, was always herself assured of applause
and commendation. In the title-part of the _Chimène_ of Sacchini, as
Délie, in the _Tibulle et Délie_ of Fuzelier and Mlle. de Beaumesnil, as
Hypermnestre, in that superb opera of the _Danaïdes_, which made the
name of Salieri worthy to rank with those of Gluck, Piccini, and
Sacchini, she astonished and delighted the musical world scarcely less
than she had in Piccini’s masterpiece. And such was her passionate love
of her art and her amazing capacity for hard work that all these four
most difficult and most varied rôles--Didon, Chimène, Délie, and
Hypermnestre, of which three at least are among the most beautiful
figures to which the lyric art has lent life--were studied, mastered,
and represented within the space of some seven months: from October 16,
1783 to April 26, 1784.[200]

Two years after the great success of their _Didon_, Marmontel and
Piccini reappeared on the stage of the Opera with _Pénélope_.
Unfortunately, the vogue which the preceding work had obtained had
aroused too many expectations in regard to this new essay--author and
composer, so to speak, were the victims of their own excellence--and
though _Pénélope_ was, in its way, a fine opera, it was received in
comparative silence. All the critics, however, were agreed that Madame
Saint-Huberty, in the part of the virtuous wife of Ulysses, was superb,
and that she had seldom been heard to more advantage than in the two
airs: “_Je le vois, cette ombre errante_,” and “_Il est affreux, il est
horrible_,” and in the scene where Telemachus comes to announce the
return of her husband.

It was Madame Saint-Huberty again who, in May, 1786, rescued from
complete disaster the _Thémistocle_ of Philidor, which, after a
tolerably good reception by the Court, had been greeted, at first, by
the town with marked disfavour; and it was not one of her least
successes to have invested with life the inanimate figure of the
heroine, Mandane.

In November of the same year, the singer was able to discharge the debt
of gratitude which she owed to her first master, Lemoine. Lemoine, it
will be remembered had, some years before, produced an _Électre_, which
had failed, in spite of the heroic efforts of his former pupil. Now,
however, he had composed a far more important work on the subject of
Phædra, from which he expected great things; and Madame Saint-Huberty
exerted all her influence to secure it precedence over the _Œdipe_ of
Sacchini, who was also impatiently awaiting his turn.

Unhappily, she succeeded. Sacchini had the Queen’s promise that his work
should be the first to be performed before the Court, at Fontainebleau;
but one day Marie Antoinette approached him, and said, with tears in her
eyes: “M. Sacchini; it is said that I show too much favour to
foreigners. I have been so earnestly solicited to allow the _Phèdre_ of
M. Lemoine to be performed, in place of your _Œdipe_, that I could
not refuse. You see my position; forgive me.”

The poor Italian was so bitterly disappointed at the indefinite
postponement of the work, upon which he had based so many hopes, that he
fell ill that same evening and died, three months later, without having
been able to assist at the production of the masterpiece which was to
render his name immortal.[201]

Lemoine’s _Phèdre_, the precedence for which had been so dearly
purchased, was coldly received by the Court, and still more coldly by
the town; and it was in vain that Madame Saint-Huberty called to her aid
all her genius to save the work of her old master. At the third
performance the theatre was almost empty. Ultimately, however, it proved
a success, thanks to the ingenious intervention of a friend of the

This friend was Quidor, the police-inspector who had been charged with
the pursuit of the dancer Nivelon.[202] Quidor had under his
professional supervision a great number of ladies of easy virtue, whom
he invited, “in a manner which did not permit of any refusal,” to attend
and to make their friends attend the performances of _Phèdre_. The
theatre, deserted at the third representation, was crammed to
suffocation at the fifth; dazzling toilettes appeared in all the boxes,
while the applause was positively deafening; for the ingenious inspector
had filled the pit and galleries with police in plain clothes, with
orders not to spare their hands or voices.

This strategy was attended with complete success. The performers
recovered their spirits, which had been naturally much damped by having
to sing to empty boxes, and rendered full justice to what was really an
admirable work; at the tenth representation the true public began to
arrive, found the music charming, and joined heartily in the

       *       *       *       *       *

The character of Madame Saint-Huberty was far less agreeable than her
talent. Dauvergne, the director of the Opera, declared that she was the
most abandoned woman in his theatre--which was to say a good deal--and,
in a letter to Amelot, cited by Edmond de Goncourt, in his monograph on
the actress, charges her with the most revolting vices--the same of
which Sophie Arnould and Mlle. Raucourt had formerly been accused.
Moreover, she was insolent and exacting, and wearied the administration
with her caprices and pretensions.

“She is a great musician,” writes La Ferté, in 1784, to Amelot,
“abounding in talent and essential to the Academy. If Nature had not
lavished upon her all the necessary qualifications, Art would have
created a prodigy in her favour. This artiste is too well aware that she
is necessary to the Opera, in default of persons who can replace her
with advantage. She is full of pretensions; she has intelligence, but a
bad disposition. She must be humoured, but not spoilt, otherwise she
will make herself, so to speak, the sovereign arbitrix of the

During a visit to Lyons, in 1785, where she was received with the same
enthusiasm as elsewhere in the provinces, Madame Saint-Huberty conceived
a violent fancy for the local tenor, one Saint-Aubin by name, who took
the part of Énée in _Didon_, and did not rest content with making love
to him on the stage. When her _congé_ expired, nothing would satisfy her
but that the fascinating tenor should follow her to Paris, and no sooner
had she returned to the capital than she persuaded the administration to
engage him for the Opera, and an _ordre de début_ was accordingly
despatched to Lyons:

“_De Par Le Roi_:

“The sieur Saint-Aubin, tenor of the Lyons theatre, is directed to come
immediately to Paris, to make his _début_ on the stage of the Opera.

“Executed at Paris, etc.”

In vain did the management of the Lyons theatre represent that the
services of the sieur Saint-Aubin could not possibly be dispensed with;
that there was no one to replace him; that he had anticipated his salary
to the extent of 3433 livres, 4 sols.; that the theatre, already in a
bad way financially, would be completely ruined by his departure, and so
forth. The authorities in Paris, spurred on by the amorous prima donna,
were inexorable, and the sieur Saint-Aubin had to obey. He made his
_début_ on December 9, 1785, as Atys, in Piccini’s opera of that name,
and was pronounced by the critics a tolerably good singer, but far too
stout for a lover--at least on the stage.

After a year of love duets with Madame Saint-Huberty, the passion of the
stout tenor began to cool. The husband awoke in him; he remembered that
he had left at Lyons a young and charming wife and two pretty children,
and manifested a strong inclination to rejoin them. Fearful of losing
her lover altogether, the prima donna resigned herself to sharing him
with another, and a second imperious summons, in the King’s name,
brought to Paris the young wife and the two children. And that is how
Madame Saint-Aubin, afterwards a great attraction at the Opéra-Comique,
was introduced to the Paris stage.

The arrogance and caprices of Madame Saint-Huberty increased every year;
the letters of Dauvergne to La Ferté and Amelot teem with complaints in
regard to her conduct. On May 22, 1785, the lady had promised the
director to sing the following evening in _Armide_, and that opera had
duly been announced. But, at eleven o’clock the next morning, a message
came that Madame Saint-Huberty was not fit to sing, that she had
temporarily lost her voice; but that she was about to try a remedy which
she had never yet known to fail, and would let him know definitely at
two o’clock whether she would appear or not. An hour later, a friend of
the singer called upon Dauvergne to inform him that the remedy had not
yet had the desired effect, but that, if at four o’clock the lost voice
had returned, its owner would “make an effort.” Finally, almost at the
last moment, Madame Saint-Huberty sent a servant to announce that it was
absolutely impossible for her to appear that evening; and an actress,
who was only very imperfectly acquainted with the part--for, since no
one was allowed to replace the imperious prima donna, save with her own
consent, it was worth no one’s while to understudy her--was compelled to
sing the difficult rôle of Armide, and to be soundly hissed for her

A few days later, Madame Saint-Huberty started for her annual tour in
the provinces. On the eve of her departure, there was a terrible scene,
in the green-room, between the actress and Dauvergne, because the latter
had very properly declined to allow the lady to carry away with her ten
costumes, the property of the theatre, the removal of which would have
rendered it impossible to play any of the operas for which they had been
designed until Madame Saint-Huberty returned or fresh ones had been

The arrogance and insolence of the prima donna seem to have reached a
climax in the year 1787. On January 13, at a general meeting of the
company, called for the purpose of examining the accounts, Madame
Saint-Huberty rising from her seat, “not like a reasonable woman, but
like a Fury,” denounced Vion, the conductor of the orchestra, who had
apparently declined to allow her to take liberties with the time, as
incapable of holding the bâton, and demanded his immediate dismissal,
vowing that if he appeared again in the orchestra, she would, no matter
what might be the result, refuse to sing her part.

At the end of the following March, some days before the annual closing
of the theatre, and without troubling to ask permission, the actress
started off for Alsace, with the view of singing at the Strasburg
theatre. She was, however, speedily followed by a courier, with a letter
for the director at Strasburg, forbidding him to allow her to appear,
and orders for the lady to return immediately to Paris.

She obeyed, burning with indignation and resolved no longer to submit to
such humiliations, and wrote to the long-suffering Dauvergne the
following letter:

“The trouble, the disgust and the vexation occasioned me by the
reprimands and threats which your continual complaints bring upon me
from the Minister (Amelot), far from increasing my courage, affect my
health and strength, and will end by bringing about what is so ardently
desired: the renunciation of my engagement, which it is wished to annul,
and my definite retirement from the theatre; for it is impossible for me
to support any longer such vexations. You know, Monsieur, that I am not
ignorant how much you hate me, and that I expect to feel all the effects
of your hatred.”

However, in spite of this letter, Madame Saint-Huberty did not actually
retire from the Opera until more than three years later.

Not only did Madame Saint-Huberty treat the wishes of the authorities of
the Opera with contempt, but she encouraged others to follow her
example. In September 1786, a certain Mlle. Gavaudan, one of her
particular friends, relying on her support, refused to sing in a now
forgotten opera called _Le Toison d’Or_, presumably because she
considered the rôle of Calliope, for which she had been cast, unworthy
of her talents. Thereupon, Dauvergne, according to the custom in such
cases, obtained a _lettre de cachet_, in virtue of which the
recalcitrant actress was carried off to the prison of La Force, where
she would appear to have been treated as a first-class misdemeanant.
Madame Saint-Huberty was furious at the punishment meted out to her
_protégée_; threatened the director that she would employ all the
influence at her command to have him driven ignominiously from his post,
and demanded that Mlle. Gavaudan should be permitted to leave the
prison, in order that she might dine with her and sing her part in
Sacchini’s _Œnone_, before the general rehearsal. This request was
granted; but the pleasure of the two friends was somewhat marred by the
fact that a police-agent was deputed to accompany the young lady to the
prima donna’s house and escort her back to prison afterwards. Madame
Saint-Huberty then wrote an impertinent letter to La Ferté, insisting on
the immediate and unconditional release of her friend; but failed to
obtain any satisfaction in that quarter; and, shortly afterwards, Mlle.
Gavaudan, having been threatened with a period of solitary confinement,
if she continued contumacious, decided to capitulate, and sang the
despised part of Calliope very charmingly, notwithstanding the fact that
she was in a state of semi-intoxication at the time.

A prolific source of dispute between Madame Saint-Huberty and the
administration of the Opera, and one in which the singer is certainly
entitled to every sympathy, was her determination to wear the costumes
appropriate to the parts she played. The chief objection on the part of
the authorities to gratify her wishes in this respect was on the score
of expense, for never was theatre conducted with such sordid, such
cheeseparing, economy as the Paris Opera. In 1784, a special general
meeting of the committee was considered necessary to examine the design
of a costume which Madame Saint-Huberty desired for the part of Armide,
and to decide whether she should be permitted to have it. “The
committee,” says the report on the subject addressed to Amelot,
“considering that this part, in which Madame Saint-Huberty has not yet
been seen, might give to the work the charm of novelty and procure for
the Opera advantageous receipts during several representations, believes
that they ought to give to Madame Saint-Huberty the satisfaction she
deserves, the more so since she has no objection to sharing the part
with Mlle. Levasseur, it having been arranged that, in case she should
be indisposed, the dress should be worn by the actresses who replace

In the margin of this report, the Minister writes as follows: “Good for
this time only, and without the establishment of a precedent. All the
members, without distinction, must wear the costumes provided for them
by the administration, so long as they are in a fit state to be

But the authorities were seldom so complacent. Two years later, there
was a sharp difference of opinion in regard to the necessity of certain
costumes which Madame Saint-Huberty had demanded for the operas of
_Pénélope_ and _Alceste_; and La Ferté wrote to the singer the following

“It is not M. de la Laistic, Madame, who decides what dresses are to be
made for the performances before the Court, but the persons appointed by
the King to supervise the costumes and the expenses. I cannot disguise
from you that at Fontainebleau there was much displeasure about the
dress which you exacted, and which, almost on your sole authority, you
had caused to be made for the part of Pénélope, which appeared in no way
suitable either to the position of that princess, so long afflicted, or
to the magnificence of the period, fabulous though it was. You must have
noticed that it was not thought becoming for you to wear it in Paris....
To-day, you demand a simpler dress for Alceste.... Finally, I am going
to send your letter to M. Bocquet,[206] that he may consult with M.
Dauvergne and cause what is necessary to be done. You must be convinced
of our desire to satisfy you in all reasonable things, and to be
agreeable to you. But, at the same time, you ought to understand that
you are obliged to conform, like all your comrades, and those who played
the first parts before you, to the regulations and to the costumes
selected for them. For, if each one desired to dress according to
individual taste, the result would be inextricable confusion, and an
expenditure both useless and ruinous for the King and the

Then, in September 1788, we find Dauvergne writing to La Ferté that
fresh complications had arisen, because Madame Saint-Huberty had
demanded two new dresses for the part of Chimène, in Sacchini’s opera of
that name, and one for each of her four attendants. He finds comfort,
however, in the reflection, that, in the event of the lady refusing to
sing, owing to her request not being acceded to, he has provided himself
with no less than four substitutes.

About the same time, there was a good deal of friction between Madame
Saint-Huberty and the administration on the subject of a _chignon_,
which the prima donna had taken upon herself to order, without
apparently consulting the committee. The bill for this _chignon_, the
design for which had been submitted to a number of experts, was
pronounced by the committee “horribly dear,” and they unanimously
decided that in future none must be ordered, unless the sketch and the
estimate had first been approved by themselves.

       *       *       *       *       *

The amours of the great actresses, _danseuses_, and singers of the
eighteenth century occupy almost as much space in the memoirs and
correspondence of the time as their professional triumphs. With a
regularity and a wealth of detail which would be beyond all praise, if
applied to some more worthy subject, the Bachaumonts and Métras recount
day by day the private history of these courtesan-artistes, register the
births and deaths of their fleeting attachments, and give us without
interruption the long succession of noble and wealthy admirers who
succumbed to their charms. But the career of Madame Saint-Huberty seems
to have provided the chroniclers of contemporary scandal with singularly
little which they deem worthy to be transmitted to posterity. Possibly,
as one of the biographers suggests, this is to be accounted for by the
humble social position occupied by those whom she honoured with her
favours; for the _Vol plus haut_ credits the queen of the Opera with
tender relations with several third-rate financiers and obscure
concert-singers, to whom, of course, must be added the tenor
Saint-Aubin. However, that may be, the only lover of any social
distinction that we hear of is the Marquis de Louvois,[208] until,
during the last years of her career at the Opera, the singer developed a
sincere and lasting attachment for the Comte de Launai d’Antraigues.

Louis de Launai d’Antraigues--a very handsome man, according to Madame
Vigée Lebrun--was born about 1755, at Ville-Neuve-de-Berg, in Le
Vivarais. He claimed descent from the celebrated d’Antraigues, the
companion-in-arms of Henri IV., to whom that monarch wrote, in 1588:
“...I hope that you are by this time recovered of the wound that you
received at Coutras, fighting so valiantly by my side; and, if it be as
I hope, do not fail (for by God’s aid, in a little while, we shall have
fighting to do, and, consequently, great need of your services) to start
immediately to rejoin us.” Later, when the count was sitting in the
States-General, as the representative of Le Vivarais, this claim, which
would have entitled him to certain privileges, was contested; but he was
indisputably of good family, and his mother was a Saint-Priest, sister
to the Minister of that name. He appears to have begun life in the army
in the Regiment du Vivarais, which, however, he soon quitted, according
to one account, because he had declined to fight a duel. Afterwards, he
spent several years in foreign travel, and on his return to France,
divided his time between his country-seat and Paris, where he frequented
the society of philosophers and men of science, among whom were Jean
Jacques Rousseau and the Montgolfiers.

An ardent politician and possessed of considerable literary gifts, he,
in 1788, made his _début_ as a publicist by a _Mémoire sur les états
généraux, leurs droits et la manière de les convoquer_, which showed a
marked predilection for republican government, and created no small
sensation. However, his opinions underwent a sudden and startling
transformation soon after he had taken his seat in the States-General,
and thenceforth he combated with warmth the very doctrines of which he
had once been the ardent advocate. So complete a _volte-face_ naturally
excited the ridicule and contempt of his former political friends, and
Mirabeau, in a published letter addressed to him, compared him to a
weather-cock; but that he was animated by sincere conviction there can
be no question.

At what period began the connection between the count and the singer,
which was to end in so tragic a manner, is uncertain. But, according to
a letter written by d’Antraigues to his wife, after their secret
marriage in 1790, their first relations went back to 1783. However that
may be, d’Antraigues did not immediately become the lady’s lover, for
his early letters, several of which were in the possession of Edmond de
Goncourt, at the time when he wrote his monograph on the actress,
reveal him as still in the character of a _soupirant_, and a very humble
one at that. “I beg you,” one of these epistles concludes, “to continue
your kindness towards me, and to be well assured of the esteem and
attachment with which you have inspired me.”

Gradually, however, the esteem and attachment develop into a warmer
feeling, and we find him imploring her not to forget “a man who loves
her heart and her virtues,” though two hundred leagues separate them.
One of these later letters, written in answer to some complaints of
Madame Saint-Huberty in regard to the envious and jealous persons by
whom she was surrounded, is of interest, since it shows that at the
height of her fame the great singer still led a simple life, and that,
even if she were the abandoned woman that Dauvergne declared her to be,
she did not stoop to venal amours:

“I have heard them (her enemies), it is true, seek to turn you into
ridicule, accuse you of loving to save money, jeer at your simplicity,
and laugh at you for driving about Paris in a hackney-coach. But I have
also seen honest and excellent men love and admire you on account of
this very simplicity. Do you think that one can see, without sympathy,
without enthusiasm, an amiable and celebrated woman leave her house in a
hackney-coach, when it would be easy for her to be drawn in the gilded
chariot of vice and infamy? It is beautiful, it is noble, to exhibit
honesty and virtue in the haunt of baseness, greed, and the most abject
passions. It is sweet to see talent in all its brilliancy associated
with the virtues of a noble soul. It is delightful, for those who can
appreciate it, to be able to yield to the most true enthusiasm. It is
glorious for the woman who inspires it not to excite in the heart of her
admirers that regret which is occasioned by the sight of a sublime
talent exercised by a man or woman who personally, is

Madame Saint-Huberty, on her side, was far from insensible to the
count’s devotion. Writing from Bordeaux, in September 1784, she informed
him that she keeps his bust in her room, and that all the crowns she
receives in the theatre from her enthusiastic admirers she places on his
head. And, at length, three years later, comes a very tender and
charming letter, which shows us that the thin dividing line between
friendship and love has already been passed:

“Endeavour to make Cabanis love me a little, in order that he may cure
me.[210] I fear to die, since thou hast told me that thou dost believe
that thou canst love me always. I believe thee, so far as it is in me to
believe that which does not depend on ourselves. See what it is to love
people for themselves or their virtues. For myself, I am well assured
that I shall love thee always, whatever may happen, because before I
loved thee, I desired for thee all thy good qualities.... My beloved,
when I think that nothing stands in the way of our happiness, my heart
thrills with pleasure; but this thought does not render the present
moment very agreeable. I am working to become independent, and I am
killing myself.

“If I have lost, by the constant labours and fatigues which I have
undergone, the freshness of youth, in which coarse-grained men find
pleasure, I hope that, in forming my heart on that of the one I love,
it will take the place of all that another than thyself might desire. I
love thee with passion, and it is not blind; thou canst not change thy
nature, and that is all that interests me in thee.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Madame Saint-Huberty’s assertion that she was “killing herself” was
merely a figure of speech; but, at the same time, there was no disputing
the fact that the immense amount of work she voluntarily imposed on
herself during her provincial tours had told heavily upon her, and was
gradually destroying the freshness of her voice, so that she now never
sang more than twice a week, and had been compelled to abandon several
of her most famous rôles, which she dared no longer attempt.
“Yesterday,” writes Dauvergne to La Ferté, “the demoiselle Saint-Huberty
appeared to the public to have lost much of her voice. I predicted to
you that this woman would not last another two years. I am persuaded
that, if she makes another provincial tour, she will finish herself
altogether.” Nevertheless, she still retained her hold on the affections
of the public, and, on the evenings on which she was announced to sing,
all Paris flocked to the Boulevard Saint-Martin.

It was well for the administration of the Opera that, in the splendid
houses which Madame Saint-Huberty never failed to draw they were able to
find some compensation for the lady’s insolence and insubordination
which, in these later years, passed all bounds. At the beginning of
October 1789, she, as usual at the eleventh hour, declined to sing the
part of Chimène, in Sacchini’s opera of that name, on the ground of
feeling too fatigued. The authorities, aware that this was merely an
excuse, insisted on her appearing, when she replied that she would
“make an effort,” on condition that an employé of the theatre, named
Parisis, who had recently been discharged for drunkenness and insolence,
should be at once reinstated. This, however, was too much even for the
long-suffering Dauvergne to submit to; and the threat of mulcting her in
a month’s salary saved the situation.

At the weekly meetings of the company, at which it was customary to
settle the répertoire for the ensuing week, and where the administrative
correspondence was read, Madame Saint-Huberty never failed to create
some unpleasantness or other. Now, she would encourage some unruly
actress or _danseuse_ to resist the authority of the director; now, she
would punctuate the reading of the comminatory letters of La Ferté with
bursts of derisive laughter (no wonder that the old Intendant alludes to
her, in writing to Dauvergne as “_une impudente coquine_”); anon, she
would object to the arrangements for the week. How was it possible, she
would inquire, for her to sing Alceste on Friday, after singing Didon on
Tuesday? Did they wish to kill her? Dauvergne would innocently suggest
that another actress should sing Didon, and that Madame Saint-Huberty
should rest, that her voice might be fresh for Alceste. What! Allow
another actress to sing Didon!--her own rôle!--her own creation! No one
but herself should sing it, so long as she remained a member of the

Finally, the unfortunate administration, for the sake of peace and
tranquillity, agreed that the lady should not be required to sing more
than once a week, that is to say on Fridays, the fashionable night at
the Opera.

In March 1790, the Comte d’Antraigues openly accused of apostacy,
denounced by the revolutionary Press to public vengeance, and the
recipient, every day, of violent anonymous letters threatening
assassination, deemed it prudent to quit France. On April 3, Madame
Saint-Huberty obtained a passport to Geneva and, accompanied by her
_femme de chambre_ and two men-servants, set out for Switzerland, where
she joined the count in the environs of Lausanne.

The two lovers remained for nearly three months at Lausanne, and then
removed to a château, near Mindrisio, belonging to the Count Turconi,
and here, on December 29, they were secretly married in the neighbouring
church of Saint-Eusèbe.

For grave reasons known to himself, the Bishop of Como, in whose diocese
the marriage took place, had granted to the officiating priest
permission to perform the ceremony without inquiries or proofs, at
whatever date, hour, or place the parties might select.

The day after the marriage, the count addressed to his wife the
following letter:

“I may die, my dear wife, and cannot acquit myself too soon of the most
sacred of duties.

“It is possible that there may be wanting to our union some of the
formalities, which, according to the law of France, are required for the
legalisation of marriages, and imperious circumstances may prevent me
from fulfilling them for some time to come.

“If I happen to die before that time, I wish you to render to my memory
the honour which you owe it, by rendering to yourself that which is due
to you.

“I declare then that, after seven years of mutual confidence, I have
united by marriage to my destiny the woman who has had the courage to
wish to share my misfortunes; that, on December 29, 1790, after having
obtained from the Bishop of Como a dispensation for the publication of
banns, and permission for us to marry at any time and place that might
please us, I married you in the Château of Castel San-Pietro, in the
presence of two priests as witnesses.

“With several reasons for keeping this marriage secret, I did not
conceal from you the most imperative of all: the grief it would cause my
worthy and venerable mother. But I knew her; if she had only tears to
give to my memory, she would forgive our secret union, and would see
only the wife of her son in the woman who watched over his destinies,
who softened their rigour, and who received the last sighs of his

       *       *       *       *       *

Towards the end of the following year, the Comtesse d’Antraigues became
_enceinte_. The marriage having been kept secret, the count was anxious
that the birth of the child should not be known in the neighbourhood;
and it was at a little village on the outskirts of Milan that, on June
26, 1792, the ex-singer presented him with a son, baptized two days
later, under the names of Pierre Antoine Emmanuel Jules, born of the
illustrious Emmanuel Louis Alexandre Henri de Launai, Comte d’Antraigues
and of the dame Antoinette Clavel. So soon as the countess was
sufficiently recovered to travel, she, with her husband and infant son,
returned to Mindrisio.

From this quiet corner of Italian Switzerland, where he lived with the
former queen of the Opera, the Comte d’Antraigues combated the men and
things of the new France, in a series of very able brochures, wherein
he constituted himself the speaking-trumpet of the counter-Revolution.
But he was very far from being content with this warfare of the pen. He
became the devoted servant of the Bourbons, the intermediary between
them and the Courts of St. James’s, Madrid, Berlin, and Vienna, and
rendered material assistance in weaving that network of secret intrigue,
which, in spite of the successes of the French armies, for long rendered
doubtful the establishment of the new order of things.[211]

In discharge of these diplomatic missions, he travelled incessantly,
accompanied everywhere by his wife, who shared his fatigues and dangers,
and received, in return, his full confidence. The count and countess
were at Venice, in May 1795, when the city was occupied by the French
troops. The count, who was at the time specially attached to the Russian
legation, left with the Minister and his suite, accompanied by his wife
and child; but at Trieste the party was stopped by orders of Bernadotte,
who commanded the French there, and d’Antraigues arrested.

On being told that he was to be sent to Milan, the count begged the
Russian Minister to take charge of Madame Saint-Huberty--for by that
name she was still known--but the ex-singer insisted on sharing his

Touched by so much devotion, d’Antraigues explained to his captors that
the lady was his lawful wife, and obtained permission for her to
accompany him to Milan. “I declared at once to my tyrants,” he says,
“that I was married, that I had a son, and that I desired to see him.
They acceded to my request. She came, with that dear child of five years
old, who threw himself upon me. That moment, which made her mine for
ever, caused me to forget my foes, my persecutors, the future and the
present. I owe that to my persecutors. To say how much I was indebted to
my wife in these frightful circumstances is beyond my power. Never did
there exist a courage more firm, a soul more mistress of itself, a
character stronger in adversity; never did one behold more
self-confidence in misfortune.”

At Milan, the count was at first imprisoned in a convent, where
prisoners of war were confined, but, soon afterwards, taken to the
citadel, and there placed in a dungeon, twelve feet long by six broad.
Thanks, however, to the urgent representations of his wife, he was, some
weeks later, liberated on parole, the understanding being that he was
not to leave the city or even change his residence. But, in the early
hours of the morning of August 25, he broke his parole and escaped, his
flight, thanks to the ingenuity of his wife, who gave out that he was
ill in bed, and went about the house preparing broth and other remedies,
not being discovered till some days later.

It has been suggested that, for reasons of their own, the French
authorities at Milan connived at the count’s escape; but it seems more
probable that he fled through fear of being sent to Paris, where he
would certainly have been brought to trial and very possibly executed.
Such was undoubtedly the opinion in Royalist circles, and, to recognise
the countess’s courage and devotion and her services to the “cause,” the
Comte de Provence, in his theoretical character of King of France, sent
her the order of Saint-Michel.[212]

Successively we find the adventurous couple at Vienna, Berlin, and
Dresden, in which last-named city they seemed to have passed the greater
part of the year 1804, the whole of the year 1805, and the first months
of the year 1806, the count, who had been nominated a Counsellor of
State by the Emperor Alexander of Russia, corresponding with Sweden,
through Alopeus, the Swedish Minister in London, and working generally
to bring about a European coalition against Napoleon. In September 1806,
driven from Dresden by Napoleon’s victories, and unable to find an
asylum on the Continent, they quitted Germany and established themselves
in England. Here they resided in a pretty cottage at Barnes, and lived
in good style on the various pensions which they had received. The count
lost no time in entering into negotiations with the English Government,
to whom he is said to have communicated the articles, real or imaginary,
of the Treaty of Tilsit, though how he contrived to obtain particulars
of a treaty drawn up with so much privacy is somewhat difficult to

However, that may be, it is certain that d’Antraigues was employed by
the Foreign Office in certain delicate negotiations and that he received
a pension in return for his services; and it was this which, according
to a legend which still finds acceptance with some French writers,
brought about the tragic end of both himself and his wife, on the
morning of July 22, 1812.

The story went that Fouché, desirous of discovering what was going on
between d’Antraigues and the English Government, despatched two trusted
agents to London, with orders at all costs to intercept the
correspondence. The agents succeeded in bribing the count’s Piedmontese
servant Lorenzo, to tamper with the letters which passed between his
master and the Foreign Office; and that this man, finding that his
treachery was certain to be discovered, through a visit which the count
was on the point of making to Canning, in a moment of frenzied despair,
assassinated both his master and mistress, and then took his own life.
From the evidence given at the inquest, however, it would appear that
Lorenzo committed the crime, in a fit of frenzy, due simply to his
having received notice to leave the count’s service.

The _Times_ of July 23, 1812, contained the following account of the

“The Count and Countess d’Antraigues, French noblesse, and distantly
related to the unfortunate family of the Bourbons, resided on Barnes
Terrace, on the banks of the Thames. They lived in a style which, though
far from what they had formerly moved in, yet was rather bordering on
high life than the contrary. They kept a carriage, coachman, footman,
and a servant out of livery. The latter was an Italian or Piedmontese,
named Lawrence, and it is of this wretch that we have to relate the
following particulars. The Count and Countess, intending to visit London
as yesterday, ordered the carriage to be at the door by eight in the
morning, which it accordingly was; and, soon after that hour, they were
in the act of leaving the house to get into it, the Countess being at
the door, the Count coming downstairs, when the report of a pistol was
heard in the passage, which, it has since appeared, took no effect, nor
was it then ascertained by whom it was fired. Lawrence was at the time
in the passage, and, on the smoke subsiding, was seen to rush past the
Count and proceed with great speed upstairs. He almost immediately
returned, with a dirk in his hand, and plunged it up to the hilt into
the Count’s left shoulder; he continued his course and made for the
street door, where stood the Countess, whom he instantly despatched by
plunging the same dirk into her left breast. This last act had scarcely
been completed when the Count appeared also at the door, bleeding, and
following the assassin, who made for the house and ran upstairs. The
Count, though extremely weak and faint, continued to follow him; but so
great was the terror occasioned that no one else had the same
resolution. The assassin and the Count had not been upstairs more than a
minute when the report of another pistol was heard, which satisfied
those below that Lawrence had finally put an end to the existence of his
master. The alarm was now given, and the cry of ‘Murder, murder!’
resounded from every mouth. The Countess was still lying at the front
door, by which the turnpike road runs, and at length men of sufficient
resolution were found to venture upstairs, and, horrible to relate, they
found the Count lying across his own bed, groaning heavily and nearly
dead, and the bloodthirsty villain lying by his side a corpse. He had
put a period to his own existence by placing a pistol that he found in
the room in his mouth and discharging its contents through his head.
The Count only survived about twenty-five minutes after the fatal blow,
and died without being able to utter a single word.

“The Countess had by this time been brought into the house; the wound
was directly on her left breast, extremely large, and she died without
uttering a single word. The servants of the house were all collected
last night; but no cause for so horrid an act was at that time known;
all was but conjecture.

“The following circumstance, in so extraordinary a case, may be, however
worth while relating. The Count it appears, always kept a brace of
pistols loaded in his bedroom, and a small dirk. About a month ago the
Countess and the servants heard the report of a pistol upstairs, and
were, in consequence, greatly alarmed; when one of the latter, a female,
went upstairs and looked into her mistress’s room, it was full of smoke
and she screamed out. On its clearing away, she saw Lawrence standing,
who told her nothing was the matter: he had only fired one of his
master’s pistols. It afterwards appeared that he had fired into the
wainscot; it was loaded with ball, and the ball from the pistol is yet
to be seen.

“The Count and Countess were about sixty years of age. The latter was
highly accomplished, a great proficient in music, and greatly admired
for her singing in fashionable parties. There is no reason whatever to
believe that Lawrence was insane. Only about ten minutes previous to his
committing this deed of blood, he went over to an adjoining public-house
and took a glass of gin. He had lived only three months in the family,
and, report says, was to be discharged in a few days.

“The Count and Countess had resided in Barnes for four or five years,
and have left an only son, who, we understand, is at present in this
country, studying the law.

“Besides his house on Barnes Terrace, Count d’Antraigues had a town
establishment, No. 7 Queen Anne Street, W. He was fifty-six, and the
Countess fifty-three years of age. The Count had eminently distinguished
himself in the troubles which have convulsed Europe for the past
twenty-two years. In 1789, he was actively engaged in favour of the
Resolution, but during the tyranny of Robespierre he emigrated to
Germany, and was employed in the service of Russia. At Venice, in 1797,
he was arrested by Bernadotte, who pretended to have discovered in his
portfolio all the particulars of the plot upon which the 18th Fructidor
was founded. The Count made his escape from Milan, where he was
confined, and was afterwards employed in the diplomatic mission of
Russia at the Court of Dresden. In 1806 he was sent to England, with
credentials from the Emperor of Russia, who had granted him a pension,
and placed great dependence upon his services. He received here letters
of denization, and was often employed by the Government. The Countess
was the once celebrated Madame Saint-Huberty, an actress at the
Théâtre-Français.[213] She had amassed a very large fortune by her
professional talents.”[214]

And the same impression of the _Times_ contained this other account:

“The Count d’Antraigues, a very eminent political character, formerly a
deputy of the nobility of Vivarais to the States-General, author of many
eloquent tracts, who had married the celebrated singer and actress of
the Royal Academy of Music at Paris, Madame Saint-Huberty, was murdered
yesterday morning at seven o’clock, along with his lady, in their summer
residence on Barnes Terrace, by one of their servants named Lorenzo, a
Piedmontese, aged twenty-five years, who had been only a few months in
their service, and whom they had no reason to suspect of such a
diabolical design.

“Both the Count and Countess d’Antraigues were preparing to come to
town, as they usually did every Wednesday. The Count had an appointment
(as we understand) with his particular friend Mr. Canning, to meet him
at ten o’clock, and had actually taken his papers in his hat and
proceeded down the staircase from his bedroom, his lady, who went
before, being at the door waiting, and calling for the servant to open
the carriage. Lorenzo at that moment took from the bed of his master a
pistol and a most superb Turkish poignard, which the Count d’Antraigues
had brought with him from Constantinople. He discharged the pistol at
his master, at six paces distance, on the staircase, and missed him, the
ball passing between the Count and Countess.

“The murderer, seeing that the ball had not taken effect, took to the
poignard, and stabbed his master in the shoulder. Though the blow was
mortal, the Count had still strength to walk to his room. The servant
then ran to the Countess, who was shrieking, and plunged, in the most
audacious manner, the poignard into her breast. She fell, and died
instantly, without any groans, saying only, ‘Lorenzo! Lorenzo!’

“It appears that the Count died, as soon as he re-entered his room, from
an effusion of blood in his chest. The murderer, bewildered and frantic
after his ferocious deed, came to the room where his master was lying,
and, seizing on another of the four pistols which the Count kept
constantly for his protection at his bedside, with the poignard, under
the presentiment that one day or other his life would be attempted,
discharged the contents into his mouth, and shattered his head in the
most fearful manner. He died on the spot, and fell dead by the side of
his master.[215]

“The alarm was given by the coachman, who was standing at the door, and
the other servants. Two professional men came instantly, but no
assistance could prevail. The house was besmeared with blood, and
presented a most shocking spectacle, the three bodies being extended in
such a small space. The coachman drove to town to fetch the doctor and
the lawyer who was generally employed by the Count, and to convey the
melancholy tidings to the house of the deceased in Queen Anne Street,
W., where a great crowd of people were collected during the whole of the
day. Dr. Chavernac of Gerrard Street, the surgeon, and Mr. Trickey, the
solicitor, both the intimate friends of the deceased, went post-haste to
Barnes Terrace. The papers, jewels, and other effects of the Count and
Countess were put under seal in their presence, and in that of a
magistrate and several respectable neighbours. A coroner’s inquest is to
take place this day at Barnes on the three bodies.

“No cause is yet known for the atrocious act which has deprived of life
two persons, who, by their talents, knowledge, amiable manners, and
powerful connections, ranked very high in society. The Count was a man
of colossal stature and imposing countenance, only fifty-eight years of
age, and his lady fifty-two.

“Mr. Vansittart, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the particular friend
of the Count, was informed of the lamentable event early yesterday, and
Lord Sidmouth commissioned Mr. Brooks of the Alien Office to take,
conjointly with the Count La Châtre, Commissary of his Majesty Louis
XVIII., the proper measures to secure the papers and property of the
deceased, who had been formerly Commissary of his Most Christian Majesty
in Italy, and till his death an agent and correspondent of the Emperor
of Russia.”


     (From the _Times_, July 24, 1812.)

     “An inquest was held yesterday at the ‘White Hart,’ Barnes Terrace,
     before Charles Jemmett, Esq., Coroner for the County, after a view
     of the bodies of the Count and Countess d’Antraigues, and of
     Lawrence, who murdered them.

     “Susannah Black, the first witness, deposed that, on July 22nd
     inst., she was ordered by the Countess, about eight o’clock in the
     morning, to take some books, &c., to the carriage door; that she
     followed the Countess to the door, and saw Lawrence near the
     carriage with his face to the door, and ordered him to open the
     carriage door for his mistress, instead of which he walked into the
     house, and as he passed her mistress a pistol was fired, but she
     did not know who discharged it. She saw the Count on the stairs,
     and Lawrence going up the stairs. Did not see anything in his
     hand. She afterwards saw Lawrence coming downstairs with a pistol
     in his right hand, and his left hand behind him, but could not see
     whether he had anything in it or not; that she ran into the garden
     alarmed; and that, on her return into the house by the hall, she
     went to the front door and saw her mistress lying on the ground, in
     the footpath of the street, near the carriage. She called for
     assistance, and another servant and the coachman, David Hebditch,
     came to her, and they took the Countess into the house. There was a
     great deal of blood about her, and she was alive, though
     speechless. Mr. Ball, a surgeon, was sent for, who attended
     immediately. But her mistress died in a few minutes after the same.
     Witness stated that one day, about three weeks ago, when the Count
     was absent, she was with the Countess in her bedroom, when they
     heard a loud report, and she ran downstairs, thinking it was a rap
     at the door. But finding no one there, she called ‘Lawrence,’ but
     no one answered. She then returned upstairs. The Countess met her
     at the door of the bedroom, and said it was the report of a pistol.
     Witness ran upstairs to the Count’s room, and on coming to the
     door, she saw some smoke issue from it, and saw Lawrence in the
     room. She asked him what he was doing and he answered, ‘Nothing.’
     She then went to her mistress, and told her Lawrence had fired off
     a pistol. The Countess went upstairs, and witness followed her, and
     heard her talk to Lawrence very coolly, but could not tell what she
     said, as she spoke French or Italian; but the Countess told her
     afterwards that he said he had been handling the pistol and it went
     off. When Lawrence came to the kitchen, she asked him how he dared
     to meddle with his master’s pistols in his absence, and he
     answered it went off by chance as he was handling it. She never
     knew of any quarrel or anger between the Count and Lawrence. Said
     Lawrence was a sober man, but latterly had been more passionate
     than before. Yesterday morning, the wind having blown the parlour
     door to with a great noise, the Count spoke rather sharply to
     Lawrence, thinking he banged it, and would wake his mistress.
     Lawrence had lived in the family about three months. Believed the
     dagger produced to be her master’s, having many times seen it
     hanging in his room.

     “Elizabeth Ashton, another servant of the Count and Countess,
     deposed that when the Countess came first downstairs, she was
     standing at the street door to wait on her mistress. The carriage
     was at the door. Her mistress passed her and went towards the
     carriage--the Count was coming downstairs. Witness heard the report
     of a pistol, was stunned by it, said she was a dead woman, turned
     round and said, ‘Lawrence! Lawrence!’ When, looking up, she saw
     Lawrence coming downstairs, with a pistol in one hand, and a dagger
     in the other. She screamed out, and ran into the street, crying
     ‘Murder murder!’ went over to the public-house to give the alarm
     and, on her return, found her mistress lying on the footpath of the
     street near the carriage, and, being so affected that she found she
     could not give any assistance, she went away.

     “David Hebditch, coachman to the Count and Countess, deposed that
     he received orders from Lawrence to have the carriage ready
     yesterday morning, July 22, at five minutes before eight; that he
     was at the door with the carriage before the clock struck eight;
     that, as soon as he arrived there, Lawrence came to the coach,
     opened the door, and put into the carriage a tin can filled with
     oil; that he then went into the house, and soon afterwards
     returned; that when the Countess came down and was proceeding to
     the carriage, Lawrence went into the house, and soon after he
     passed his mistress, the report of a pistol was heard; that the
     Countess asked him, the coachman, what was the matter, and he
     answered it was from the inside of the house, that in a few minutes
     afterwards, as he was sitting on his box before the door, he saw
     Lawrence come downstairs, and, with a sharp instrument he held in
     his hand, which the witness believed to be a dagger, strike it into
     the shoulder of the Count--he saw the dagger under his shoulder;
     that Lawrence then passed the Count and proceeded towards the
     street-door; that he, the coachman got off the box as quickly as he
     could, and, as he was going towards his master, the Countess passed
     him, going towards the carriage, and, on turning round, to follow
     her, he saw her staggering, and she fell, exclaiming: ‘It was
     Lawrence! it was Lawrence!’ He saw blood about her, and some on the
     ground, but could not tell exactly what part it came from. Did not
     see Lawrence afterwards, but in about three minutes more heard
     report of another pistol, which appeared to come from upstairs.
     Soon after the Count came to the door, and blood ran out of his
     sleeve. Left him there, and went to assist the Countess into the
     house. On surgeon coming and desiring her to be stripped, went out
     of the room to look after his master, and found him sitting on the
     bed in his own room, in a reclining posture, with his feet on
     floor. Was then alive, but speechless. At the same time, saw
     Lawrence, with his face lying on the floor, apparently dead, with
     some blood near his mouth. Mr. King, a surgeon, then came and
     desired the Count might be stripped. Witness assisted to do so, and
     held him while they got a sponge and some water, and washed the
     wound. After that he went away and drove carriage to town. Believed
     Lawrence was sober. He spoke very correct to him, the coachman,
     when he gave him his order, and did not appear at all mentally

     “William Hitchin, master of the ‘Sun’ public-house, at Barnes,
     deposed that yesterday morning, about eight o’clock, coming along
     the street, he saw Lawrence put a tin can into the Count’s
     carriage, and return into the house. When he got opposite the door,
     he heard the report of a pistol. Turned immediately round, and saw
     the Count and Countess just within the door. The Countess said
     something to the coachman, who answered, ‘It is indoors, my lady.’
     The Count and lady returned into the house. He then heard some
     persons screaming, and was going to get some weapon, but coachman
     begged him not to go, and he did not. The coachman and he were
     going into the house, when the Countess came out of the house,
     passed them and fell down. Thought she had only fainted, and, while
     standing by her, saw the Count come out of the house, with blood
     streaming from his shoulder. The Count instantly returned into the
     house, and immediately afterwards witness heard the report of a
     pistol in one of the upper rooms; this report occurred before the
     Count could possibly get to his own room. Some people came up, and
     he accompanied them into the house. The first thing he saw on the
     floor of the passage was a dagger, bloody and with some silk on it,
     as if it came from a shawl; on desiring a person to go upstairs
     with him, he refused without having a weapon, on which witness
     gave him the dagger, and himself took a poker. The coachman
     followed, and the witness desired him to go first into the room,
     which he did. On entering the room, he saw the Count sitting on a
     bed, alive, but speechless, and Lawrence lying on the floor dead,
     with a brass double-barrelled pistol close to him.

     “Matthew Ball, Surgeon, of Barnes, deposed that, about a quarter
     past eight o’clock in the morning, a woman came to his house, and
     desired him to come immediately to Count d’Antraigues, for the
     Count and Countess were both murdered; immediately went, and when
     he came into the house, saw the Countess lying on the floor of the
     parlour, and a great deal of blood both on the floor and on her
     clothes. Then examined and found a large lacerated wound on her
     right breast, made by a sharp instrument, which had passed through
     the third and fourth ribs to the cavity of the chest, from which a
     great effusion of blood had proceeded. As soon as he found the
     wound was mortal, and that she could not live many minutes, witness
     went up to the Count, to assist Mr. King, a surgeon, who had
     previously gone up to dress his wound, and found the Count had
     received a wound on the shoulder from a sharp instrument, which had
     penetrated four inches. He was motionless and speechless, and died
     in about a quarter of an hour after his (Mr. B.) seeing him. Saw
     two small leaden bullets in the string-board of the stairs, which
     appeared to have been shot from a pistol. When he entered the
     Count’s room, saw Lawrence lying on the floor on his belly, with a
     quantity of blood under his face; on examination, found a loaded
     pistol had been discharged into his mouth, the contents of which
     had very much lacerated and torn his mouth, and from which wound he
     had instantly died, the bullet being still lodged in the vertebra
     of the neck.

     “The Coroner then told the jury that, as they had not only heard
     what the witnesses had sworn, but also the depositions read over to
     them, it was unnecessary for him to go into a recapitulation
     thereon. He should, therefore, leave them to determine whether,
     from the evidence they had heard, they believed, first that
     Lawrence had murdered the Count and Countess; and, secondly,
     whether he had committed suicide, being in his senses.

     “In about five minutes, the jury returned a verdict that Lawrence
     had murdered the Count and Countess, and had afterwards committed
     suicide, being in his senses.”

“Thus perished,” says M. Adolphe Jullien, “the greatest lyric
_tragédienne_ whom France has possessed. But she did not wholly die: the
recollection of her remains graven in the mind of her admirers, and she
left behind her a luminous trace of her passage across the stage of the
Opera. Her generous influence continued to make itself felt throughout
long years; her triumphs excited many ambitions, inflamed many
resolutions. She remained an object of admiration and emulation for all
the artistes, for those who had seen her, as for those who, in later
times, knew her only by renown. She united, in fact, in the highest
degree, two qualities usually disconnected: the rarest talent of the
singer and the greatest art of the _tragédienne_. She was in every sense
of the word an artiste of genius.”[216]



_Adèle de Ponthieu_, incident during a representation of, 69

Aiguillon, Duc d’, his _galanterie_ with Mlle. Raucourt, 159

_Alceste_, Gluck’s, 69-75, 78

Alembert, d’, 4, 79, 96, 159

_Alexis et Justine_, Madame Dugazon’s appearance in, 210

Allard, Mlle, (_danseuse_), 105, 265

Alleaume (notary), Sophie Arnould’s letters to him, 80-82

Alopeus (Swedish Minister in London), 330

Amelot (Minister of the King’s Household), 292, 294,
 300, 305, 312, 313, 315, 322

_Amis des Lois, les_, scene during the performance of, 183

_Amours des Dieux, les_, Sophie Arnould’s appearance in, 15

Antraigues, Comte d’, his ancestry, 320;
  his early life, 321;
  his political writings, 321;
  changes his politics, 321;
  his relations with Madame Saint-Huberty, 322;
  his letter to her, 322;
  takes refuge in Switzerland, 326;
  joined by Madame Saint-Huberty, 326;
  marries her secretly, 327;
  an active agent of the counter-revolution, 328 and note;
  arrested at Trieste, 328;
  escapes from Milan, 329;
  establishes himself with his wife in England, 330;
  employed by the Foreign Office, 330;
  assassinated, with his wife, by their Piedmontese servant, Lorenzo, 331-337;
  inquest upon, 337-343

Antraigues, Comtesse: d’, _see_ Saint-Huberty, Madame

_Ariane dans l’Île de Naxos_, Madame Saint-Huberty’s appearance
 in, 286, 287, 299, 300

_Armide_, Gluck’s, 107, 266, 275, 313, 317

Arnaud, Abbé, 46

Arnault, 257

Arnould (daughter of Sophie Arnould), Alexandrine Sophie, birth, 43;
  marries André de Murville, 82, 83;
  her character, 83 and note;
  ill-treated by her husband, 83, 84;
  wishes to join the Opera, 84;
  divorces her husband and marries again, 89

Arnould, Jean (father of Sophie Arnould), a worthy man, 4;
  declines to force his daughter to marry M. de Malézieux, 13;
  in financial straits, 21;
  takes the Hôtel de Lisieux, 21;
  deceived by the Comte de Lauraguais, 21-23;
  reconciled to his daughter after her elopement, 24

Arnould, Madame (mother of Sophie Arnould), affects literary society, 4;
  takes her daughter to visit Madame de Pompadour, 9;
  dreads Sophie joining the Opera, 11;
  favours the suit of the Chevalier de Malézieux, 13;
  sends Sophie to take lessons from Mlles. Fel and Clairon, 18;
  a vigilant guardian, 20, 21;
  deceived by the Comte de Lauraguais, 21-23;
  in despair at her daughter’s elopement, 23;
  reconciled to her dishonour, 24

Arnould, Sophie, birth and parentage, 3 and note, 4;
  education, 4;
  taken by the Princesse de Conti to live with her, 5;
  sings in the choir of the Ursulines of Saint-Denis, 5;
  receives a letter from Voltaire, 5, 6;
  sings at the Abbey of Panthémont, 7;
  visits Marie Leczinska, 8, 9;
  and Madame de Pompadour, 9-11;
  appointed a singer of the Queen’s Chamber, 11;
  ordered to join the Opera, 11;
  receives an offer of marriage from the Chevalier de Malézieux, 12-14;
  her _début_ at the Opera, 12-14;
  her success in _La Provençale_, 15;
  in _Énée et Lavinie_, 15, 16;
  and in _Les Fêtes de Paphos_, 16, 17;
  her voice, 17, 18;
  her acting, 18;
  her personal appearance, 19 and note, 20;
  surrounded by _soupirants_, 20, 21;
  her elopement with the Comte de Lauraguais, 21-24;
  her _liaison_ with him, 28, 29;
  the idol of the public, 30;
  her wit, 30-34;
  leaves Lauraguais, 35-37;
  “comes to an arrangement” with the financier Bertin, 37, 38;
  bestowing her favours freely, 38;
  discards Bertin and returns to Lauraguais, 39;
  stormy character of their relations, 40;
  procures Lauraguais’s release from prison, 43;
  has a daughter by him, 43;
  supplanted in his affections by Mlle. Heinel, 45;
  receiving great attention from the Prince de Conti, 45 and note;
  leading an unedifying life, 46;
  accepts the “protection” of the Prince d’Hénin, 46, 47;
  her projected hôtel in the Chaussée-d’Antin, 47;
  falls in love with the architect Belanger, 47, 48;
  insults the Lieutenant of Police, 49;
  behaves with “unexampled audacity” towards Madame du Barry, 49 and note;
  her caprices a source of much tribulation to the
    administration of the Opera, 49-52;
  her triumphs as a singer, 53, 54;
  insufferably bored by the Prince d’Hénin, 54, 55;
  wishes to retire from the Opera, 56;
  her vocal powers and popularity declining, 56, 57;
  chosen by Gluck for the name-part in _Iphigénie en Aulide_, 57;
  claims the right to take liberties with the time when singing, 59-61;
  her success in _Iphigénie en Aulide_, 65;
  quarrel between Gluck and the Prince d’Hénin at her house, 66;
  her performance in _Orphée_, 68;
  shocks the audience during a performance of _Adèle de Ponthieu_, 69;
  passed over by Gluck in favour of Rosalie Levasseur, 70-72;
  believed to have joined a cabal to ensure the failure of _Alceste_, 72, 73;
  her letter to the _Nouveau Spectateur_, 73, 74;
  the object of hostile demonstration at the Opera, 75, 76;
  interference of Marie Antoinette in her favour, 75, 76;
  refuses to bow to the storm, 77;
  insulted in the garden of the Palais-Royal, 77, 78;
  retires from the stage, 78;
  her house a rendezvous for men of letters, 78;
  Voltaire’s visit to her, 79;
  failure of Mesmer to cure her dog, 79, 80;
  her letters to the notary Alleaume, 81, 82;
  marriage of her daughter Alexandrine, 82, 83;
  goes to live at Clichy-la-Garenne, 83;
  her life there, 84, 85;
  in financial difficulties, 85;
  declines to prosecute a burglar, 85, 86;
  attack of Champcenetz upon her in _La Chronique scandaleuse_, 86, 87;
  removes from Clichy to Luzarches, 87;
  her description of her new home, 87;
  receives a domiciliary visit from the local revolutionary
    committee, 87, 88 and note;
  her _bon mot_ on
  the occasion of her daughter’s second marriage, 89;
  becoming poorer and poorer, 89, 90;
  befriended by Belanger, 90;
  her letter to him, 90, 91;
  returns to Paris, 91;
  her letter to Lauraguais, 92, 93;
  her generosity the cause of her poverty, 93;
  her letter to Lucien Bonaparte, 94, 95;
  in a pitiable condition, 95;
  Belanger’s letter to Lucien Bonaparte on her behalf, 96, 97;
  her death, 97;
  her kindness to Mlle. Raucourt, 170, 171;
  deserted by the Prince d’Hénin for that actress, 177

Artois, Comte d’, casts a “benevolent glance” on Sophie Arnould, 69;
  credited with a desire to participate in the favours of Mlle. Raucourt, 177;
  witnesses the performance of the _Mariage de Figaro_, at Gennevilliers, 235;
  become the _amant en titre_ of Mlle. Contat, 243;
  indulges in a practical joke at her expense, 244;
  obtains for her an authorisation to play _biribi_ at her house, 244;
  refuses to recognise his daughter by her, 245;
  sends her three thousand louis to pay her debts, 246

Ashton, Elizabeth, her evidence at the inquest upon
    the Comte and Comtesse d’Antraigues, 339

_Atys_, Piccini’s, 288, 313


Bachaumont, 319;
  (cited) 49 note, 52, 53, 111

_Bajazet_, Mlle. Contat’s appearance in, 226

Balbatri (musician), 6

Ball, Matthew (surgeon), his evidence at the inquest
    on the Comte and Comtesse d’Antraigues, 342, 343

_Barbier de Seville_, Beaumarchais’s, 188, 231

Beaumarchais, a visitor at Sophie Arnould’s house, 79;
  his manœuvres to stimulate public interest in his _Mariage de Figaro_, 230;
  enables the Comte de Vaudreuil to win a wager, 230 note;
  chooses Mlle. Contat for the part of Suzanne, 231;
  performance of his _Mariage de Figaro_ at Théâtre
    des Menus-Plaisirs forbidden by Louis XVI.;
  his diplomacy, 233;
  his play performed at Gennevilliers, 235;
  reads it to an audience selected by the Baron de Breteuil, 236, 237;
  production of the _Mariage de Figaro_ at Comédie-Française, 237-240

Beaumesnil, Mlle, (singer), 33, 52

Beaumesnil, Christophe de (Archbishop of Paris) objects to the opening of
    Mlle. Guimard’s private theatre in the Chaussée-d’Antin, 121;
  persuades Louis XVI. to forbid a fête at her hôtel, 121, 122

Beauvau, Princesse de, 152 note, 157

Bélanger (architect), designs an hôtel
    for Sophie Arnould in the Chaussée-d’Antin, 47;
  becomes her _amant de cœur_, 48;
  his practical joke at the expense of the actor Florence, 48;
  wishful to marry Sophie, 48;
  narrowly escapes the guillotine, 89;
  marries Mlle. Dervieux of the Opera, 89;
  his kindness to Sophie Arnould during her last years, 90;
  her letters to him, 90, 91;
  his letter to Lucien Bonaparte on her behalf, 96, 97

Bernis, Abbé (afterwards Cardinal) de, 4

Bernard, Marie Anne (mother of Mlle. Guimard), 101, 102, 104, 105.

Bertin (farmer-general) “comes to an arrangement” with Sophie Arnould, 37;
  presents her to his friends, 38;
  his generosity powerless to gain her affection, 38;
  discarded by Sophie, 39;
  indemnified by the Comte de Lauraguais, 39;
  furnishes a handsome apartment for Mlle. Guimard, 105;
  supplanted in her affections by M. de Boutourlin, 108

Berton (director of the Opera), 53 note

Bièvre, Marquis de, first _amant en titre_
    of Mlle. Raucourt, 159 and note, 160

Billington, Miss (singer), 213

Black, Susannah, her evidence at the inquest
    on the Comte and Comtesse d’Antraigues, 337-339

_Blaise et Babet_, Madame Dugazon’s performance in, 209, 210;
  played at Trianon by Marie Antoinette and her friends, 209, 210

Boïeldieu (cited), 208

Bompas, commits a burglary at Sophie Arnould’s house at Clichy, 85;
  pardoned by her, 86

Bonaparte, Lucien, Sophie Arnould’s letter to him, 94, 95;
  promises her a benefit performance at the Opera, 95;
  Belanger’s letter to him on her behalf, 96, 97

Boucher (painter), 10

Boudreau (financier), lover of Madame Dugazon, 205, 206

Boufflers, Chevalier de, 53 note

Bouillon, Duc de, 32, 320 note

Bouilly, 217, 221, (cited) 207, 212

Bourbon, Duc de, his offer to Mlle. Raucourt, 156

Boutin (financier), lends money to Sophie Arnould, 85

Boutourilin, M. de, lover of Mlle. Guimard, 108

Boynes (Minister of Marine), Sophie Arnould’s _bon mot_ at his expense, 34

Brancas, Constant de (son of Sophie Arnould and Comte de Lauraguais), 91

Brizard (actor), trains Mlle. Raucourt for the stage, 147 and note;
  his speech on the evening of her _début_ at the Comédie-Française, 148;
  attacked by the enemies of the actress, 176

Breteuil, Baron de, opposed to the production
    of Beaumarchais’s _Mariage de Figaro_, 235;
  his opposition overcome by Beaumarchais’s tact, 235, 236;
  engages Piccini to come to Paris, 295

Burney, Dr. (cited), 44 note


Cabanis (physician), 323

_Camille, ou le souterrain_, Madame Dugazon’s success in, 216

Campan, Madame (cited), 168

Campardon, Émile (cited), 101, 109, 124, 208, 210, 212

Canning, George, 331

_Caprices de Galathée, les_, Mlle. Guimard’s triumph in, 124

Castil-Blaze (cited), 3 note, 91, 304

_Castor et Pollux_, Rameau’s, 33, 51, 52

Cazes, M. de, lover of Madame Dugazon;
  compelled by Dugazon to surrender his wife’s letters and portrait, 202, 203;
  caned by Dugazon at the Comédie-Italienne, 203, 204

Champcenetz, his attack on Sophie Arnould in _La Chronique scandaleuse_, 86

Champfort, 236

Chasse (singer), 6

Chartres, Duc de, 64, 120

Chartres, Duchesse de, 64

Chesterfield, Earl of, 67

Chevalier, Mlle. (singer), 6

_Chimène_, Sacchini’s, 308

Choiseul, Duc de, Sophie Arnould’s _bon mot_ about him, 34;
  releases Lauraguais from prison on her petition, 42

Choiseul-Praslin, Duc de, 34

Clairon, Mlle., gives Sophie Arnould lessons in acting, 18;
  her pension compared with that of Sophie Arnould, 78
  trains Mlle. Raucourt for the stage, 147 and note

_Clytemnestre_, Comte de Lauraguais’s, 35 note

Cléophile, Mlle., 160

Colasse (composer), 15 note

Collé, 112, 120, (cited) 17, 24, 26 note

Collette, Mlle., 108

Contat, Amalrie (daughter of Louise Contat and the Comte d’Artois), 245, 261

Contat, Émilie, 252

Contat, Louise, her parentage, 225 and note;
  adopted and trained for the stage by the Prévilles, 225;
  her _début_ at the Comédie-Française, 226;
  her success in comedy, 226;
  cabal formed against her at the theatre, 226, 227;
  her success as Rosalie in _Les Courtisanes_, 228, 229;
  and as Sophie in _Le vieux garçon_, 229, 230;
  chosen by Beaumarchais for the part of
    Suzanne in his _Mariage de Figaro_, 231;
  her triumph in this part, 239, 240;
  her personal appearance, 240;
  her _liaison_ with the Chevalier de Lubsac, 240-242;
  rejects the advances of a wealthy financier, 242;
  squandering the patrimony of the Marquis de Maupeou, 242, 243;
  discards him in favour of the Comte d’Artois, 243;
  her ruse to stimulate the latter’s generosity, 243, 244;
  authorised to play _biribi_ at her house, 244;
  has a daughter, 245;
  abandoned by the Comte d’Artois, 245;
  her relations with Desentelles and the actor Fleury, 245;
  in financial difficulties, 245, 246;
  adventure with Prince Henry of Prussia, 246-248;
  her success in _Les Deux Pages_, 248, 249;
  inimitable in high comedy, 249, 250;
  her triumphs in the provinces, 250;
  verses addressed to her by a blind admirer, 251;
  her imperious character, 251;
  her quarrel with Alexandre Duval, 251;
  unable to endure a rival on the stage, 251, 252;
  her efforts on behalf of her sister Émilie Contat, 282;
  her attachment to Marie Antoinette, 252, 253;
  escapes the guillotine, 283;
  enthusiasm aroused by her at Bordeaux, 253, 254;
  her popularity in society, 254, 255;
  her qualities as an hostess, 255;
  her wit, 255, 256;
  her magnanimity, 256;
  her attraction for men of letters, 256-258;
  Napoleon an admirer of her acting, 258;
  her marriage, 258;
  her last appearance, 258, 259;
  her illness and death, 259-261;
  her daughter Amalrie Contat, 261

Conti, Prince de, pays assiduous attentions to Sophie Arnould, 43;
  invites her to his box at the Opera, 45;
  “wishes her to be entirely his own,” 45 note;
  gives her a pension, 80 note

Conti, Princesse de, takes Sophie Arnould to live with her, 5;
  suggests that she shall sing at the Abbey of Panthémont in Holy Week, 7;
  embarrassed by Madame de Pompadour’s desire to see Sophie, 9;
  endeavours to conceal Sophie in a convent, 11, 12;
  encourages the suit of the Chevalier de Malézieux, 12, 13

_Cour du Roi Pétaud, la_, Comte de Lauraguais, 25, 26 and note

_Courtisanes, les_, anecdote about its
    rejection by the Comédie-Française, 228, 229;
  Mlle. Contat’s performance in, 229

Crébillon _fils_, 46


Dalayrac (composer), 210, 211, 212, 213, 217

_Danaïdes_, Salieri’s, 308, 309

Dangeville, Mlle., 226, 239

_Dardanus_, Sophie Arnould’s performance in, 42, 50, 51

Dauberval (dancer), one of the lovers of Mlle. Guimard, 113 note

Dauvergne (director of the Opera), 126, 127, 311, 313, 315, 318, 322, 324, 325

David, Jaques Louis (painter), Mlle. Guimard’s kindness to him, 118, 119

Dervieux, Mlle., 90, 116, 121

Desentelles (Intendant of the Menus-Plaisirs), 245

Des Essarts (actor), 183

Desfaucherets, 257

Despréaux, Jean Étienne, his parody of _Ernelinde_ performed
    at Mlle. Guimard’s hôtel in the Chaussée-d’Antin, 122;
  and before the Court at Choisy, 122;
  receives a pension from Louis XVI., 122;
  marries Mlle. Guimard, 136, 137;
  his career, 136 note;
  loses his pensions at the Revolution, 138;
  becomes stage-manager at the Opera, 138;
  resigns his post, 138;
  his _Passe-Temps_, 139;
  celebrates his wife’s charms in verse, 139;
  appointed inspector of the Opera and the theatre of the Tuileries, 139;
  dances with his wife, 140

Desnoiresterres, Gustave (cited), 58, 71

_Devin du Village_, Sophie Arnould’s performance in, 54 note

Devismes (director of the Opera), 282

Devonshire, Elizabeth Cavendish, Duchess of,
    her friendship for Mlle. Guimard, 135

_Deux Pages, les_, 246-249

Dezède (composer), 247, 248

Diderot, 4, (cited) 27, 28, 35, 36

_Didon_, Le Franc de Pompignan’s, 148, 149, 151, 152, 171, 172

_Didon_, Piccini’s, 296-306, 307, 308, 309, 312

Douglas, Mr. R. B. (cited), 14, 54, 66, 88, 97

Dodé de Jousserand, libels the administration of the Opera, 276

Dorat (poet), 46, 124, 125

Drais, Claude (goldsmith), marries the daughter
    of Mlle. Guimard and La Borde, 109, 110

Du Barry, Madame, “unexampled audacity” of
    Sophie Arnould towards, 49 and note;
  does not attend the first performance of _Iphigénie en Aulide_, 64;
  compared with Mlle. Guimard, 114;
  sends two kisses to Voltaire, 121;
  presents Mlle. Raucourt with a _robe de théâtre_, 152

Dubois, Antoine (surgeon), 260

Ducis, his adaptations of Shakespeare, 258 and note

Duclos, 79

Du Hausset (_femme de chambre_ to Madame de Pompadour), 9

Dumesnil, Mlle., 150, 161

Duplant, Mlle., 73 note

Duranceray, Mlle., 266, 277

Duras, Duc de, his quarrel with Mlle. Sainval the elder, 169, 170;
  causes those who hiss Mlle. Raucourt to be arrested, 173;
  satirised in _La Vision du prophète Daniel_, 176

Duthé, Mlle., 121

Duval, Alexandre, his quarrel with Mlle. Contat, 251

Dugazon, Gustave (son of Madame Dugazon), 22, 121 and note

Dugazon, Louis (actor), marries Louise Lefèvre, 199;
  his singular character, 200;
  insults Marie Antoinette at an Opera-ball, 201;
  quarrels with his wife, 202;
  forces M. de Cazes to surrender his wife’s letters, 202, 203;
  canes him at the Comédie-Italienne, 203, 204;
  his affray with the Marquis de Langeac, 205;
  resigns himself to his wife’s infidelity, 205;
  his conduct during the Revolution, 219 note;
  his death, 219 note

Dugazon, Madame, birth and parentage, 197;
  makes her _début_ at the Comédie-Italienne, 197;
  attracts the attention of Grétry, 197;
  receives lessons from Justine Favart, 198;
  her gratitude to her, 198;
  her success in _Sylvain_, 198;
  other successes, 198;
  idolised by the public, 199;
  surrounded by adorers, 199;
  marries Dugazon, of the Comédie-Française, 199;
  quarrels with her husband, 201, 202;
  her _liaison_ with M. de Cazes, 202-204;
  with the Marquis de Langeac, 204, 205;
  with the financier Boudreau, 205;
  and with Garat, 206;
  her talent, 207;
  greater as an actress than a singer, 208;
  her success in _Blaise et Babet_, 209;
  in _Alexis et Justine_, 210;
  and in _Le Dot_, 210, 211;
  her brilliant triumph in _Nina, ou la Folle par amour_, 211-214;
  receives a magnificent reception at Lyons, 214, 215;
  goes to England, 215, 216;
  returns to the Comédie-Italienne, 216;
  abandons juvenile heroines for young matrons, 216;
  her amiable qualities, 216, 217;
  her generosity, 217, 218;
  a Royalist to the core, 218, 219;
  incident during a performance of
    _Les Événements imprévus_, in 1792, 219, 220;
  retires temporarily from the Comédie-Italienne, 220;
  returns to the stage, 220;
  her joy at the Restoration, 220;
  her audience of Louis XVIII. at Saint-Ouen, 221;
  her affection for her son Gustave, 221;
  her death, 221


Edwards, Mr. Sutherland (cited), 37 note, 145

_Électre_, Lemoine’s, 285

Elliot, Mrs., 219

_Embarrass des richesses, l’_, Madame
    Saint-Huberty’s success in, 288 and note;
  its ridiculous libretto, 288, 289

_Énée et Lavinie_, Sophie Arnould’s appearance in, 15, 16

_Espion Anglais, l’_, (cited) 20

_Euthyme et Lyris_, Sophie Arnould’s appearance in, 75

Étioles, Alexandrine d’, 10


_Fausse Lord, le_, incident during a performance of, 302 note

Favart, Charles Simon (cited), 37 note

Favart, Justine, gives lessons to Madame Dugazon, 190

Fleury, not indifferent to the charms of Mlle. Contat, 245;
  attempts to pacify her creditors, 245;
  always her faithful and devoted friend, 246;
  his masterly impersonation of Frederick the
    Great in _Les Deux Pages_, 249 and note;
  arrested and imprisoned in the Madelonettes, 184;
  saved by Labussière, 184-186;
  plays with Mlle. Contat at Bordeaux, 254;
  (cited), 134, 158, 182, 184, 225, 227, 236, 237, 238, 249 note, 259-261

Fontenelle, 4, 15 and note

Forbes, Lord, 25

Fouché, 337

Fouquier-Tinville, 184, 185

Fragonard (painter) plays a practical joke on Mlle. Guimard, 119

Francœur (musician), 59, 138

Frederick the Great, 179, 248, 249

Fréron, 14, 230

Fronsac, Duc de, 21, 232


Gaboriau Émile, (cited) 114, 148, 198, 232, 282, 288, 303, 308

Gaillard, Gabriel Henri, his report to the
    Government on Beaumarchais’s _Mariage de Figaro_, 233, 234

Garrick, David, anecdote of, 230 note

Gauthier-Villars, M., 80

Gavaudan, Mlle. (singer), 316

Geoffrin, Madame, 111

Geoffroy (critic), his criticisms of Mlle. Contat’s acting, 258

Gluck, invited to Paris by Marie Antoinette, 57;
  chooses Sophie Arnould for the name-part in _Iphigénie en Aulide_, 57;
  difficulties with which he has to contend, 57-62;
  his quaint behaviour at rehearsals, 62, 63;
  refuses to consent to a postponement of _Iphigénie_, 63;
  success of his opera, 66;
  adapts _Orfeo_ for the Paris stage, 66;
  his quarrel with the Prince d’Hénin at Sophie Arnould’s house, 66-68;
  production of his _Orphée_, 68;
  failure of his _Cythère assiégée_, 68, 69;
  gives lessons in singing to Rosalie Levasseur, 70;
  chooses her for the part of Alceste in preference to Sophie Arnould, 71, 72;
  is “the musician of the soul,” 73;
  attacked in _Le Nouveau Spectateur_, 75;
  disgraceful treatment of Sophie Arnould by his supporters, 75, 76;
  his tribute to Sophie Arnould’s talent, 96;
  his prediction concerning Madame Saint-Huberty, 266;
  gives her lessons, 274, 275 and note;
  obtains a post for her husband, 276;
  his contest with Piccini, 295, 296

Goncourt, Edmond and Jules de, (cited) 18, 60

Grétry (composer), 197, 198, 288;
  (cited) 59, 60, 208

Greuze (painter), his portrait of Sophie Arnould, 19

Guadagni (singer), 66

Grimm (cited), 43, 44, 65, 68, 114, 123, 148, 149, 152 and note, 154,
    161, 163, 164, 173, 180, 209, 210, 213, 229, 302 and note, 304

Guéménée, Prince de, 130, 131

Guichard, lampoons Sophie Arnould, 71, 72

Guimard, Fabien (father of Mlle. Guimard), 101, 102

Guimard, Marie Madeleine, birth and parentage, 101, 112;
  education, 103;
  joins the _corps de ballet_ of the Comédie-Française, 103;
  her _liaison_ with the dancer Léger, 104, 105;
  and with the financier Bertin, 105;
  makes her _début_ at the Opera, 105;
  her success in _Castor et Pollux_, 105, 106;
  growing in favour, 106;
  her dancing “the poetry of motion,” 106, 107;
  her personal appearance, 107, 108;
  her adorers, 108;
  her _liaison_ with La Borde, 108, 109;
  marriage of her daughter by him, 109, 110;
  accepts the “protection” of the Prince de Soubise, 110;
  unrivalled in magnificence, 110, 111;
  her appearance at Longchamps, 111;
  her suppers, 111;
  her theatre at Pantin, 112, 113;
  Jarente, Bishop of Orléans, becomes her lover, 113;
  and allows her to control the _feuille des bénéfices_, 114;
  her generosity, 114-116;
  her hôtel in the Chaussée d’Antin, 116-118;
  befriends Jacques Louis David, the painter, 118, 119;
  Fragonard’s practical joke at her expense, 119;
  inauguration of her private theatre in the Chaussée d’Antin, 119;
  compelled to give La Borde his _congé_, 120, 121;
  fête at her hôtel forbidden by Louis XVI., 121, 122;
  her triumph in _La Chercheuse d’esprit_, 123;
  and in _Ninette à la Cour_, 124;
  other successes, 124;
  Dorat’s verses to her, 124, 125;
  the cause of much trouble to the administration of the Opera, 125-128;
  receives a pension, 128;
  has a narrow escape of her life, 128;
  in the fire at the Opera-House in the Haymarket, 129;
  has her arm broken, 129;
  resigns the pension allowed her by the Prince de Soubise, 129-131;
  disposes of her hôtel in the Chaussée-d’Antin by lottery, 132, 133;
  her visits to England, 134, 135;
  caricature of her, 136;
  marries Jean Étienne Despréaux, 136-138;
  loses her pensions during the Revolution, 138;
  goes to live at Montmartre, 138, 139;
  her charms celebrated by her husband in verse, 139;
  her last performance, 145;
  her “theatre,” 140, 141;
  her death, 141

Guimard, Marie Madeleine the younger, her birth, 109;
  acknowledged by her parents, 109;
  her marriage, 109, 110;
  her mother’s grief at her death, 110


Hawkins, Mr. Frederick (cited), 145 note, 258 note

Hebditch, David, his evidence at the
    inquest on the Comte and Comtesse d’Antraigues, 320-341

Heinel, Mlle. (_danseuse_), her _début_ at the Opera, 43;
  Grimm’s enthusiasm for her, 44;
  her visit to England, 44 note;
  mistress of the Comte de Lauraguais, 45

_Henriette_, Mlle. Raucourt’s, 178-181

Henry of Prussia, Prince, Mlle. Contat’s adventure with him, 246-248

Hitchin, William, his evidence at the
    inquest on the Comte and Comtesse d’Antraigues, 341, 342

Holbach, Baron d’, 96

Huet (actor), harangues Louis XVIII.
    on the day of Mlle. Raucourt’s funeral, 192

Hus, Mlle., 38

Hénin, Prince d’, becomes _amant en titre_ to Sophie Arnould, 46;
  bores her insufferably, 54;
  a victim of the “inextinguishable humour”
    of the Comte de Lauraguais, 54, 55;
  his quarrel with Gluck at Sophie Arnould’s house, 66-67;
  compelled to apologise to the composer, 67, 68;
  threatens the directors of the Opera with corporal punishment, 72;
  guillotined, 89;
  one of Mlle. Raucourt’s warmest partisans, 171;
  deserts Sophie Arnould for her, 177, 178;
  assists her to outwit her creditors, 178;
  bitterly attacked in _La Vision du prophète Daniel_, 176


_Iphigénie en Aulide_, Gluck’s, 57, 58, 62-66, 68, 69, 73 and note, 76, 96

_Iphigénie en Tauride_, Piccini’s, 32, 284 and note, 296


Jal, Auguste (cited), 145, 226

Jarente, Bishop of Orléans, his _liaison_ with Mlle. Guimard, 33, 113, 114

Jéliotte (singer), 6

Joly, Mlle., 187

Joly de Fleury (advocate-general),
    his dispute with the Comte de Lauraguais, 40, 41

_Journal de Paris, le_ (cited), 171, 259, 286

Jullien, M. Adolphe (cited), 308, 309 note, 343


La Borde, Jean Benjamin de, makes
    alterations in the music of _Amadis de Gaule_, 53 note;
  lover of Mlle. Guimard, 109;
  his character, 109;
  his _Pensées et Maximes_, 109 note;
  his daughter by her, 109;
  supplanted as titular protector by the Prince de Soubise, 110;
  but remains her _amant de cœur_, 110;
  given his _congé_, 120, 121;
  goes to visit Voltaire, 121

Labussière, Charles de, destroys the accusatory documents relating
    to the imprisoned actors of the Comédie-Française, 184-186

La Ferté (Intendant of the Menus Plaisirs),
    127, 132, 291, 292, 300, 305, 306, 312, 313, 324, 325

Laguerre, Mlle., her _liaison_ with the Duc de Bouillon, 32 and 320;
  Sophie Arnould’s _bons mots_ about her, 32

La Harpe (cited), 76 note, 163, 168, 173, 174, 180

Lalande (composer), 7

Langeac, Marquis de, lover of Madame Dugazon, 204;
  his affray with her husband, 204, 205

Larive (actor), 187

Larrivée (singer), 61, 70, 275

La Tour (painter), his portrait of Sophie Arnould, 19

Lau, Comtesse de, 133

Lauraguais, Comte de, takes up his residence,
    under an assumed character, at the Arnoulds’ hôtel, 21, 22;
  elopes with Sophie Arnould, 23;
  his letter to her parents, 24;
  his eccentric character, 24, 25;
  anecdotes about him, 25-27;
  his _liaison_ with Sophie Arnould, 28, 29;
  discarded by her, 35, 36;
  her letter to him, 36, 37;
  resumption of their relations, 39, 40;
  his _Mémoire sur l’inoculation_, 40, 41;
  imprisoned at Metz, 41, 42;
  his release procured by Sophie Arnould, 42;
  separated from his wife, 42, 43;
  indulging in “_passades_,” 43;
  purchases the favours of Mlle. Heinel, 45;
  “a charming instance of his inextinguishable humour,” 52-54;
  in exile, 89;
  Sophie Arnould’s letter to him, in 1797, 92, 93;
  befriends her in her poverty and old age, 93

La Vauguyon, Duc de, Sophie Arnould’s _bon mot_ about him, 33, 34

La Vrilliére, Duc de, 37, 62

Lebrun: _see_ Vigée Lebrun

Le Doux (architect), 119

Legouvé, Ernest, 187; (cited) 257 note

Legros (singer), 61, 63, 68, 71, 74, 275

Le Maure, Mlle, (singer), 17 and note

Lemercier, 257 and note

Lemierre, 257

Lemoine (composer), his kindness to Madame
    Saint-Huberty when a child, 267, 268;
  her efforts on behalf of his _Électre_, 285;
  his _Phèdre_ given precedence over Sacchini’s _Œdipe_, 310;
  ruse by which its success is secured, 311

Levacher de Charnois, (cited) 286

Levasseur, Rosalie, a bitter rival of Sophie Arnould, 57;
  infatuation of Mercy-Argenteau for her, 69, 70;
  receives lessons from Gluck, 70;
  persuades him to entrust her with the part
    of Alceste in preference to Sophie Arnould, 70, 71;
  causes a disgraceful lampoon to be circulated about Sophie, 71, 72;
  attacked in _Le Nouveau Spectateur_, 74;
  not satisfactory as Armide in Sacchini’s _Renaud_, 289;
  her talent on the wane, 291;
  doubles Madame Saint-Huberty as Armide, 317

Ligne, Prince de, a visitor at Sophie Arnould’s house, 79;
  secures the release of Mlle. Raucourt from For l’Évéque, 166

Louis XIV., his gastronomic feats, 30, 31 and note

Louis XV., satirised by the Comte de Lauraguais
    in _La Cour du Roi Pétaud_, 25, 26 and note;
  fears Sophie Arnould’s wit, 31;
  regards Lauraguais as a public nuisance, 41;
  admires Sophie Arnould’s singing in _Dardanus_, 42;
  compliments and rewards Mlle. Raucourt, 151;
  reported to have enjoyed that lady’s favours, 159

Louis XVI., attends the first performance of _Iphigénie en Aulide_, 64;
  forbids a fête at Mlle. Guimard’s hôtel, 122;
  amused by Despréaux’s parody of _Ernelinde_, 122;
  “led by the nose” by Marie Antoinette, 168;
  orders Dugazon to insult the Queen at an Opera-ball, 201;
  pronounces the _Mariage de Figaro_ “detestable” and “unactable,” 230;
  forbids its performance at the Théâtre des Menus-Plaisirs, 232;
  causes six censors to be appointed to examine it, 237;
  delighted with Piccini’s _Didon_, 300

Louis XVIII., gives audience to Madame Dugazon at Saint-Ouen, 218

Lourdet de Sans-Terre, extraordinary anachronisms committed by him
    in the libretto of _l’Embarras des richesses_, 288, 289

Lubomirska, Princess, befriends Madame Saint-Huberty at Warsaw, 272, 274

Lubsac, Chevalier de, first lover of Mlle. Contat, 240;
  anecdote about him, 241, 242

Lulli (composer), 15


Maillard, Mlle., 305, 316

Maisonneuve, 257

Malézieux, Chevalier de, a suitor for Sophie Arnould’s hand, 12;
  his pretensions encouraged by the Princess de Conti, 13;
  offers to settle all his property on Sophie, 13;
  takes to his bed on learning of her elopement with Lauraguais, 23

Marat, 88 and note, 183

Marais (inspector of police), 101, 103

Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, invites Gluck to Paris, 57;
  supports him against the rebellious artistes of the Opera, 63;
  in great alarm for his success, 64;
  attends the first performance of _Iphigénie en Aulide_, 64 and note;
  commands the Prince d’Hénin to apologise to the composer, 67;
  intervenes on behalf of Sophie Arnould, 75, 77;
  Mlle. Raucourt presented to her, 151;
  espouses the cause of this actress against her enemies, 171;
  plays in _Blaise et Babet_ at Trianon, 209;
  incident during her last appearance at the play, 219;
  supports Mlle. Vanhove against the Contats, 252;
  Mlle. Contat’s attachment to her, 252, 253;
  gives Lemoine’s _Phèdre_ precedence over the _Œdipe_ of Sacchini, 310

Marie Leczinska, Queen of France, Sophie Arnould’s visit to her, 8, 9;
  makes Sophie one of the singers of her chamber, 11

Marivaux, 249

Marmontel, a visitor at Sophie Arnould’s house, 79;
  writes the libretto of _Sylvain_, 198;
  secures a pension for Piccini, 298;
  writes the libretto of Piccini’s _Didon_, 297;
  Madame Saint-Huberty sings her part at his country-house, 297;
  kneels at her feet after the first performance of _Didon_, 301;
  writes the libretto of _Pénélope_, 309

Maupeou, Marquis de, lover of Mlle. Contat, 242, 243, 246

Marsollier (dramatist), 212, 217

_Mémoires secrets, les_, (cited) 45, 54, 64,
    75, 114 note, 121, 149, 163, 167, 178, 180, 181, 260, 290, 302

Mercier (cited), 59

_Mercure de France, le_ (cited), 14, 15, 16, 53, 54 note, 65,
    68, 105, 106, 123, 149, 163, 229 note, 275, 284, 288 note

Mercy-Argenteau, Comte de (Austrian Ambassador
    in Paris), his infatuation for Rosalie Levasseur, 69, 70;
  persuades Gluck to give her lessons in singing, 70;
  and the part of Alceste in preference to Sophie Arnould, 71

Merlin de Douai, 188

Mesmer fails to cure Sophie Arnould’s dog, 79, 80

Métra, 319;
  (cited) 65, 301, 320

Mirabeau, 321

Miromesnil, M. de, his wager with the Comte de Vaudreuil, 230 note

Molé (actor), 183

Molière, 182, 249

Moreau _le jeune_ (painter), 286, 299, 300

Mouret (composer), 14


Napoleon I., Emperor, sends Mlle. Raucourt
    to Italy with a troupe of French players, 190;
  an admirer of Mlle. Contat’s acting, 258;
  attends her benefit performance, 259;
  verses incorrectly ascribed to him, 308

Neufchâteau, François de, gives Sophie Arnould a pension, 92;
  resigns his post as Minister of the Interior, 93;
  the production of his _Paméla_ causes the
    arrest of the players of the Comédie-Française, 183;
  persuades the Consular Government to reorganise the Comédie-Française, 189

_Nina, ou la Folle par amour_, Madame Dugazon’s success in, 211-214, 216

_Ninette à la Cour_, 124, 285

Nivelon (dancer), 128 note, 311

Noverre (cited), 108


_Œdipe_, Sacchini’s, 310

_Orphée et Eurydice_, Gluck’s, 66, 68


Pallisot, his _Courtisanes_, 228, 229

Parny, Paul de Forges, marries Mlle. Contat, 258

_Pénélope_, Piccini’s, Madame Saint-Huberty’s success in, 309

Pergolese, his _Serva Padrona_ performed in Paris, 58

Perregaux (banker), becomes the owner
    of Mlle. Guimard’s hôtel in the Chaussée d’Antin, 133;
  her letters to him from London, 134, 135

_Phèdre_, Lemoine’s, secured, by Madame
    Saint-Huberty, precedence over Sacchini’s _Œdipe_, 310;
  ruse by which its success is assured, 311

_Phèdre_, Racine’s, Mlle. Raucourt’s hostile reception in, 172-174

Piccini, production of his _Roland_, 283, 284;
  his gratitude to Madame Saint-Huberty, 284;
  saves her from being expelled from the Opera, 287;
  his contest with Gluck, 295, 296;
  receives a pension, 296;
  agrees to compose his _Didon_, 296, 297;
  its brilliant success, 300-305;
  failure of his _Pénélope_, 309

Pompadour, Madame de, Sophie Arnould’s visit to her, 9-11

Portail, Madame, her conversation with Sophie Arnould, 28, 29

Préville, superior to Dugazon as a comedian, 200;
  adopts Louise Contat and trains her for the stage, 225;
  secures her admission as a regular member of the Comédie-Française, 227;
  anecdote about him and Garrick, 230 note;
  plays Brid’oison in _Mariage de Figaro_, 239

_Provençale, la_, Sophie Arnould’s success in, 15

_Pygmalion_, Mlle. Raucourt’s success in, 163


Quidor (inspector of police) pursues the dancer Nivelon to Belgium, 128 note;
  ingenious ruse by which he secures the success of Lemoine’s _Phèdre_, 311


Rameau (composer), 51

Raucourt, François (father of Mlle. Raucourt),
    his unsuccessful _début_ at the Comédie-Française, 146;
  goes with his daughter to Spain, 146;
  accompanies her to Paris, 147;
  a jealous guardian of her honour, 154;
  utters terrible threats against Voltaire, 157

Raucourt, Mlle., birth and parentage, 145 note, 146;
  goes to Spain with a French troupe, 146;
  plays at Rouen, 146;
  comes to Paris with her father, 147;
  studies under Brizard and Mlle. Clairon, 147 and note;
  astonishing success of her _début_ in
    Le Franc de Pompignan’s _Didon_, 148, 149;
  her talent greatly overrated, 150;
  becomes the idol of the town, 150, 151;
  plays before the Court at Versailles, 151;
  presented by Madame du Barry with a _robe de théâtre_, 151;
  frantic enthusiasm evoked by her acting, 152;
  a cabal formed against her at the Comédie-Française, 152, 153;
  her popularity enhanced by her reputation for virtue, 154-156;
  her reputation attacked by Voltaire, 156-158;
  his verses to her, 158;
  her _galanterie_ with the Duc d’Aiguillon, 159;
  becomes the acknowledged mistress of the Marquis de Bièvre, 159;
  leads a life of luxury and extravagance, 160;
  her _liaison_ with the Marquis de Villette, 160;
  “astonishes Court and town by her irregularities,” 161;
  loses her popularity, 161;
  hissed when playing Hermione in _Andromaque_, 162;
  accused of shameful vices, 162 and note, 163;
  her success as the Statue in _Pygmalion_, 163;
  intrigues against her at the theatre, 163;
  swoons after meeting with a hostile reception in _Britannicus_, 164;
  persecuted by her creditors, 164;
  flies from Paris and goes into hiding, 164;
  expelled from the Comédie-Française, 165;
  her adventures with Madame Souck, 165, 166;
  arrested, 166;
  released through the intervention of the Prince de Ligne, 166, 167;
  leaves France, 167;
  recalled to Paris, 170;
  befriended by Sophie Arnould, 170, 171;
  reappears at the Comédie-Française in _Didon_, 171, 172;
  meets with a violently hostile reception, 172;
  disgracefully treated on her appearance in _Phèdre_, 172, 173;
  declines to bow to the storm, 174;
  her letter to the _Journal de Paris_, 175;
  attacked in _La Vision du prophète Daniel_, 176, 177;
  commits “an act of frightful ingratitude,” 177;
  still in financial difficulties, 178;
  her play _Henriette_ produced at the Comédie-Française, 178-181;
  her success in a masculine part in _Le Jaloux_, 181;
  regaining her popularity, 181, 182;
  sympathises with the Royal Family in the Revolution, 183;
  arrested and imprisoned in Saint-Pélagie, 183;
  saved from the guillotine by Labussière, 184-186;
  takes the Théâtre de Louvois, 187;
  her success in Legouvé’s _Laurence_, 187;
  her theatre closed by the Directory, 188;
  takes the Odéon, 188;
  makes no secret of her monarchical sympathies, 189;
  growing rich, 189, 190;
  her “palace” in the Rue Royale, 190;
  takes a French troupe to Italy, 190;
  her last appearance, 190;
  her death, 190;
  scandalous scenes at her funeral, 190-193

_Renaud_, Sacchini’s, 289

Richelieu, Maréchal de, 156, 157

Rochefort, Comte de, enriches Mlle. Guimard’s jewel-case, 108

_Roland_, Piccini’s, 283

Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 163, 321


Sageret (theatrical manager) induces the members of
    the Comédie-Française to migrate to the Théâtre-Feydeau, 187;
  brings the expelled members of the
    Théâtre de la République to the same theatre, 188;
  takes over the Odéon from Mlle. Raucourt, 188;
  goes bankrupt and disappears, 189

Sacchini, Madame Saint-Huberty’s success in his _Renaud_, 289;
  and in his _Chimène_, 308;
  Lemoine’s _Phèdre_ given precedence over his _Œdipe à Colone_, 310;
  his death, 310

Saint-Aubin (singer), object of a
   violent fancy on the part of Madame Saint-Huberty, 312, 313

Saint-Aubin, Madame, 313

Saint-Huberty, Claude Croisilles de, visits Strasburg, 268;
  persuades Antoinette Clavel to accompany him to Berlin, 269;
  and to marry him, 269, 270;
  ill-treats and deserts her, 270;
  persuades her to rejoin him at Warsaw, 271;
  arrested at Berlin and thrown into prison, 271;
  his release procured by his wife, 272;
  decamps from Warsaw with all her belongings, 272;
  persuades her to rejoin him in Vienna, 274;
  deserts her for the third time, 274;
  appointed wardrobe-keeper at the Paris Opera, 276;
  persecutes and robs his wife, 276;
  her complaint to the Châtelet against him, 277;
  his outrageous treatment of her, 278, 279;
  lays claim to her professional
    earnings through fictitious creditors, 279, 280;
  his marriage with her dissolved, 281

Saint-Huberty, Madame, Gluck’s prediction concerning her, 265, 266;
  her birth and parentage, 267;
  her early years at Strasburg, 267;
  Lemoine’s kindness to her, 267, 268;
  meets Saint-Huberty, 268, 269;
  accompanies him to Berlin, 269;
  marries him, 270;
  ill-treated and deserted by him, 270;
  rejoins him at Warsaw, 271;
  her success in _Zémor et Azor_, 271;
  procures her husband’s release from prison, 272;
  deserted and robbed by him, 272;
  befriended by the Princess Lubomirska, 272;
  obtains a separation from her husband in respect of property, 273;
  rejoins him in Vienna, 274;
  deserted by him for the third time, 274;
  obtains an _ordre de début_ at the Paris Opera, 275;
  receives lessons from Gluck, 274, 275 and note;
  makes her _début_, 275;
  persecuted and robbed by her husband, 276;
  lodges a complaint against him before the Châtelet, 277, 278;
  shamefully ill-treated by him, 278, 279;
  her professional earnings claimed by him through fictitious creditors, 280;
  obtains judgment in her favour, 280;
  and a dissolution of her marriage, 281;
  steadily making her way to the front, 281, 282;
  becomes a permanent member of the Opera, 283;
  her triumph as Angélique in Piccini’s _Roland_, 283, 284;
  further successes, 284;
  her efforts on behalf of Lemoine’s _Électre_, 285;
  endeavours to promote the reform of theatrical costumes, 286;
  her success in _Ariane dans l’Île de Naxos_, 287;
  saved by Piccini from being expelled from the Opera, 287;
  her success in Grétry’s _l’Embarras des richesses_, 288, 289;
  and in Sacchini’s _Renaud_, 289;
  her personal appearance, 289, 290;
  “effects a well-nigh physical transformation on the stage,” 290;
  her dispute with the authorities
    of the Opera over her salary and privileges, 290-294;
  all her demands conceded, 294;
  sings her part in Piccini’s _Didon_ at Marmontel’s country-house, 297;
  goes on a provincial tour, 297;
  modesty not one of her failings, 298;
  insists on a radical change in costume, 299, 300;
  her brilliant triumph in _Didon_, 300-306;
  extraordinary enthusiasm aroused by her in the provinces, 306;
  her receptions at Marseilles, Toulouse, and Strasburg, 306-308;
  fresh successes in Paris, 308, 309;
  obtains precedence for Lemoine’s _Phèdre_
    over the _Œdipe_ of Sacchini, 310, 311;
  her character less agreeable than her talent, 311, 312;
  her passion for the tenor Saint-Aubin, 312, 313;
  her arrogance and capriciousness, 313-315;
  goes to Strasburg without permission, 315;
  encourages the younger members of the Opera in insubordination, 317-319;
  her disputes with the administration over her costumes, 317-319;
  her private life comparatively free from scandal, 319, 320;
  her relations with the Comte d’Antraigues, 320-323;
  her charming letter to him, 323, 324;
  her health undermined by her exertions, 324, 325;
  leaves Paris and joins the Comte d’Antraigues in Switzerland, 326;
  secretly married to him, 326, 327;
  bears him a son, 327;
  acknowledged as his wife by the count, 328;
  assists him to escape from Milan, 329;
  receives the Order of Saint-Michel from the Comte de Provence, 329, 330;
  and a pension from the Emperor of Austria, 330 note;
  accompanies her husband to England, 330;
  assassinated with him by their servant Lorenzo, 331-343;
  “the greatest lyric _tragédienne_ whom France has ever possessed,” 343

Sainval, Mlle. the elder, intrigues against Mlle. Raucourt, 153;
  her quarrel with Madame Vestris, 167, 168;
  insults the Duc de Duras, 168, 169;
  expelled from the Comédie-Française and exiled, 169;
  indignation which her punishment arouses, 169;
  received in the provinces with frantic enthusiasm, 169;
  believed to be responsible for the hostile
    demonstrations against Mlle. Raucourt, 174;
  her _bon mot_ about Mlle. Raucourt, 181

Sainval, Mlle. the younger, takes the place
    of Mlle. Raucourt at the Comédie-Française, 165;
  adversely criticised, 165 note;
  scene during her impersonation of Aménaïde in _Tancrède_, 169

Sedaine, 217

Salieri, his _Danaïdes_, 309

Sully, Duc de, Sophie Arnould’s _bon mot_ about him and Choiseul, 34

Soubise, Prince de, _amant en titre_ of Mlle. Guimard, 110;
  his predilection for the ladies of the Opera, 110;
  his liberality, 110;
  gives Mlle. Guimard a New Year’s gift of 6000 livres, 114;
  compels her to give La Borde his _congé_, 120, 121;
  replaces her by Mlle. Zacharie, 129, 130;
  the pensions which he allows her and other
    _danseuses_ resigned by them, 130, 131


Talma sympathises with the Revolution, 182;
  withdraws from the Comédie-Française and
    founds the Théâtre de la République, 182;
  joins the Théâtre-Feydeau on the closing of his own theatre, 188

Talma, Madame, 251

_Tancrède_, incident during a performance of, 169

Taravel (painter), 117

Terrai, Abbé, Sophie Arnould’s _bon mot_ about him, 34


Vallayer Coster, Madame, her portrait of Madame Saint-Huberty, 290

Vandreuil, Comte de (dancer), his wager with M. de Miromesnil, 230 note;
  his efforts on behalf of the _Mariage de Figaro_, 230, 231, 232

Vestris, Auguste (dancer), 126

Vestris Gaetano (dancer), 61, 62

Vestris, Madame, disobliges Mlle. Clairon, 147 note;
  organises a cabal against Mlle. Raucourt, 153;
  her quarrel with Mlle. Sainval the elder, 167-170;
  urges the reinstatement of Mlle. Raucourt at the Comédie-Française, 170;
  attacked in _La Vision du prophète Daniel_, 176

_Vision du prophète Daniel, la_, satire on
    Mlle. Raucourt and her friends, 176, 177

Vigée Lebrun, Madame (cited), 208, 220, 235

Voisenon, Abbé de, 41

Voltaire, a friend of Madame Arnould, 4;
  his letter to Sophie Arnould, 5, 6;
  visited by Lauraguais at Ferney, 35;
  his pretended admiration of Lauraguais’s _Clytemnestre_, 35 note;
  visits Sophie Arnould, 79;
  Madame du Barry’s message to him, 121;
  besmirches the spotless reputation of Mlle. Raucourt’s 156-158;
  pours the balm of his flattery upon the wound he has inflicted, 158


Wallace Collection, the, 19

Walpole, Horace (cited), 44 note, 117 note


Ximenès, Marquis de, 157


Zacharie, Mlle. (_danseuse_), replaces
    Mlle. Guimard in the affections of the Prince de Soubise, 129, 130

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 protector as {pg 29}

Duc de Choiseul-Praslin as Minister of Marine, in 1670=> Duc de
Choiseul-Praslin as Minister of Marine, in 1760 {pg 34}

Princesse de Beauveau=> Princesse de Beauvau {pg 157}

Marie Antoniette=> Marie Antoinette {pg 168}

which brough the Terror=> which brought the Terror {pg 186}

Notwishstanding the laxity=> Notwithstanding the laxity {pg 216}

that a Bouvelard=> that a Boulevard {pg 230, n.}

occurred on the Bouvelards=> occurred on the Boulevards {pg 230, n.}

Moniseur=> Monsieur {pg 246}

Hereux=> Heureux {pg 257}

Castil-Blaize=> Castil-Blaze {pg 304}

serait encor sauvage=> serait encore sauvage {pg 308}

Bouvelard Saint-Martin=> Boulevard Saint-Martin {pg 324}

had pentrated four inches=> had penetrated four inches {pg 342}

overcome by Beaumerchais’s=> overcome by Beaumarchais’s {pg 348}

has a narrow escape of his life, 128;=> has a narrow escape of her life,
128; {pg 352}

       *       *       *       *       *


 [1] At the time when they wrote their monograph on the singer,
 Sophie’s _Mémoires_ were in possession of the Goncourts; it is
 uncertain where they now are.

 [2] Here is her _acte de naissance_, which also disposes of
 Castil-Blaze’s assertion that her real name was Anne Madeleine,
 and that she had adopted that of Sophie “as being more sweet and

 “The year one thousand seven hundred and forty, 14th of February,
 Magdeleine Sophie, daughter of Jean Arnould, here present, and of Rose
 Marguerite Laurent, his wife, born yesterday, Rue Saint-Louis in this
 parish, has been baptized.

 “Godfather: Louis Le Vasseur, manager of the King’s farms, Rue
 Coq-Héron, parish Saint-Eustache; godmother: Magdeleine Chevalier,
 spinster, Rue du Mail, of the above-mentioned parish.”

 [3] When the Opera-house was burned down in April 1763, a lady of the
 Court asked Mlle. Arnould if she could give her any particulars about
 CETTE _terrible incendie_. “All that I can tell you, Madame,”
 replied Sophie, “is that _incendie_ is a masculine noun.”

 [4] E. and J. de Goncourt, _Sophie Arnould_, p. 10.

 [5] E. and J. de Goncourt, _Sophie Arnould_, p. 23.

 [6] The song, it may be mentioned, began with the words, “_Charmant
 amour_,” a not inappropriate omen, remarks the lady’s latest
 biographer, Mr. Douglas, for one who was to become notorious for her

 [7] The opera, or rather its libretto, was an old one, having been
 first produced so far back as 1690, with music by Colasse, a pupil of
 Lulli. Fontenelle, who lived to be nearly a hundred, was still alive
 when Dauvergne informed him of his intention to write fresh music for
 the opera. “Monsieur,” he replied, “you do me too much honour. It is
 now well-nigh sixty years since that opera was first performed; it was
 a failure, but I never heard that that was the fault of the composer.”

 [8] The music was by one composer, Mondonville, the choirmaster of
 the royal chapel at Versailles, but the three acts, which, as was not
 infrequently the case at this period, had little or no connection
 with one another, were by as many different pens; the first, entitled
 _Vénus et Adonis_, being by Collet; the second, called _Bacchus et
 Érigone_, by La Bruère; while the third, the title of which is not
 given, was believed to be the work of the Abbé de Voisenon.

 [9] Catherine Nicole Le Maure (1704-1783). She made her _début_ in
 1724, in _l’Europe galante_, and at once took high rank as a singer.
 To an admirable voice she joined unusual talent as an actress,
 although she had received hardly any dramatic training. In 1743 she
 was imprisoned in For l’Évêque, for having refused to sing when
 ordered to do so, and, out of pique, quitted the stage, though she
 consented to reappear for a few evenings during the festivities in
 honour of the Dauphin’s first marriage in 1745.

 [10] _Journal et Mémoires_, ii. 147.

 [11] E. and J. de Goncourt, _Sophie Arnould_, p. 33.

 [12] “As for my figure, truth compels me to admit that I am not tall,
 though I am slender and well-proportioned. I have a graceful frame,
 and my movements are easy. I have a well-formed leg and a pretty foot;
 hands and arms like a model; eyes well-set, and a frank, attractive,
 and intellectual face.”

 [13] Jeze, _L’État ou le tableau de Paris_, 1760, cited by E. and J.
 de Goncourt.

 [14] The Comédie-Française owed to him an improvement, the importance
 of which can hardly be over-estimated. He it was who first proposed
 the abolition of the custom of allowing the _gens à la mode_ to occupy
 seats upon the stage itself, a custom which not only interfered with
 the movements of the actors, but was utterly destructive of all scenic
 illusion. The reconstruction of the auditorium which this change
 rendered necessary occupied nearly two months, and cost 40,000 livres,
 towards which the count himself subscribed 12,000 livres.

 [15] Lauraguais, who affected Anglomania among his other
 eccentricities, may be said to have introduced horse-racing into
 France. The first race was run on February 28, 1766, on the Plaine
 de Sablons, at Neuilly. It was a match between Lauraguais and
 Lord Forbes, the former riding his own horse, and was witnessed
 by an immense crowd, which had the mortification of seeing the
 French champion vanquished. The contest led to a great deal of
 unpleasantness, for, a few days later, the count’s horse died, and
 the surgeons whom the disconsolate owner called in to dissect it
 declared that the animal had been poisoned. The English visitors were,
 of course, suspected, and so great was the outcry against them that
 another match, which had been arranged between the Prince of Nassau
 and Mr. Forth, was forbidden by the King.

 [16] Collé, _Journal et Mémoires_, iii. 47 _et seq._ Collé declares
 that there was a scene in this play worthy of Molière himself. King
 Pétaud appears dressed as a cook, with a white cap on his head and a
 knife by his side. He has just made some _pâtés_, which he hands round
 to his obsequious courtiers, who pronounce them divine, delicious,
 inimitable, and so forth. One grey-haired old gentleman however
 refrains from joining in the general chorus of admiration, and when
 the King, piqued by his indifference, inquires the reason, replies:
 “Pardon me, Sire; the _pâtés_ are indeed excellent. But, if your
 Majesty will permit me to speak without flattery, I would venture to
 observe that the woodcock-pie which you made the day before yesterday
 appeared to me infinitely superior to them.” Thereupon the King’s brow
 clears, and, clapping the astute old man on the shoulder, he exclaims:
 “That is right; I always like people to tell me the truth.” Louis XV.,
 as every one knows, was very fond of preparing dishes with his own
 royal hands, and decidedly vain of his culinary skill, and no one with
 any acquaintance with the Court could possibly have missed the point
 of the satire.

 [17] Diderot, _Mémoires et Correspondance_, ii. 62.

 [18] _Mémoires et Correspondance_, ii. 42.

 [19] Campardon, _Académie Royale de Musique au XVIIIe siècle_:
 Article, “Arnould.”

 [20] Here, according to that princess, was one of _le Grand
 Monarque’s_ feats in gastronomy: “Four platefuls of different soups,
 a whole pheasant, a partridge, a plateful of salad, mutton hashed
 with garlic, two good-sized slices of ham, and afterwards fruit and

 [21] Some writers declare that, in his passions, he would destroy
 everything breakable within his reach; others, that he went so far as
 to strike and even, occasionally, to _bite_ the unfortunate Sophie.

 [22] He had previously written a _Clytemnestre_, which Diderot, having
 had the privilege of hearing the author read it, tells us contained
 some very fine verses, the work, however, not of the count, but
 of a “ghost” in his employ, named Clinchant. This play Lauraguais
 endeavoured to prevail upon the Comédie-Française to produce. The
 actors found themselves in a somewhat embarrassing position, as the
 count had just subscribed the 12,000 livres already mentioned towards
 the alterations in the theatre necessitated by the removal of the
 seats on the stage, and, from motives of gratitude, they did not like
 to refuse. On the other hand, the tragedy was so utterly opposed to
 all the canons of dramatic art that to produce it would be to court
 not only failure but ridicule. Eventually, however, they persuaded
 him to withdraw his offer. Notwithstanding its rejection by the
 Comédie-Française, Lauraguais thought so highly of his _Clytemnestre_
 that he caused it to be printed, and sent a copy to Voltaire, who
 wrote back that his own _Oreste_ was but “_une plate machine_” in
 comparison with M. le Comte’s superb masterpiece. The noble author,
 says Diderot, took the poet quite seriously, and his delight and pride
 knew no bounds.

 [23] Diderot, _Correspondance et Mémoires_, ii. 69. Diderot, who had a
 high opinion of Sophie and was also a friend of Lauraguais, was much
 distressed by her conduct. Under date October 7, 1761, he writes to
 Mlle. Voland: “This affair displeases me more than I can tell you.
 This girl had two children by him (Lauraguais); he was the man of her
 choice; there had been no constraint, no self-interest, none of those
 things which go to make ordinary engagements. If ever there was a
 sacrament, this was one; so much the more so, since it is not in the
 nature of a man to espouse only one woman. She forgets that she is
 married. She forgets that she is a mother. It is not only a lover; it
 is the father of her children whom she is leaving. Mlle. Arnould is
 something more in my eyes than a little baggage.”

 [24] Favart, _Mémoires et Correspondance_, i. 195. Several writers
 refuse to accept this letter as genuine, believing that Favart
 invented it. It must be admitted, however, that its dry humour is very
 characteristic of Sophie.

 [25] Mr. Sutherland Edwards, in his “Idols of the French Stage” (vol.
 i. p. 181), falls into a singular error. He states that, on his return
 to Paris, Lauraguais found that Sophie “had placed herself under the
 protection of M. de Saint-Florentin, for whom, however, she had no
 affection.” Sophie did certainly place herself under the protection
 of Saint-Florentin; but it was not his private but his official
 protection, as Minister for Paris and Chief of the Police; a not
 altogether unnecessary precaution, since Lauraguais had threatened to
 poison her.

 [26] _Mémoires secrets de la République des Lettres._

 [27] Grimm, _Correspondance littéraire_, iii. 297.

 [28] _Arnoldiana._ According to another account, Choiseul came to
 Sophie’s dressing-room, on the conclusion of the performance, to
 compliment her and assure her of the great pleasure she had afforded
 the King. “Ah well!” she replied, “tell his Majesty that, if he is
 satisfied with Iphise, he should restore to her Dardanus!”

 [29] _Correspondance littéraire_, v. 431.

 [30] _Correspondance littéraire_, vi. 145. Mlle. Heinel seems also
 to have made a very favourable impression upon Horace Walpole, who
 mentions her several times in his letters, and always in terms of
 admiration. After seeing her for the first time, on the occasion of
 his visit to Paris, in 1771, he writes to the Earl of Strafford:
 “There is a finer dancer [than Mlle. Guimard], whom M. Hobart is to
 transplant to London; a Mademoiselle Heinel, or Ingle, a Fleming. She
 is tall, perfectly made, very handsome, and has a set of attitudes
 copied from the classics. She moves as gracefully slow as Pygmalion’s
 statue when it was coming to life, and moves her leg round as
 imperceptibly as if she was dancing in the Zodiac. But she is not
 Virgo.” The lady came to London that same winter, and danced for some
 months at Covent Garden, where she created as much enthusiasm as in
 Paris. On April 21, 1772, Walpole writes again: “I am just going to
 the Opera to hear Milice sing. I do not believe he will draw such
 audiences as Mlle. Heinel has done. The town has an idle notion
 that she made so much impression upon a very high heart, that it is
 thought prudent to keep it out of her way. She is the most graceful
 figure in the world, with charming eyes, beautiful mouth, and lovely
 countenance; yet I do not think we shall see a Dame du Barri on this
 side the Channel.”

 The staid Dr. Burney was another of Mlle. Heinel’s admirers, and
 informs us that, besides the six hundred pounds salary she received
 from the management of Covent Garden, she was “complimented with a
 _regallo_ of six hundred more from the Macaroni Club.”

 [31] This prince is said to have had sixty acknowledged mistresses,
 besides occasional and “imperceptible” ones.

 [32] In her _Mémoires_, Sophie writes: “The prince had, for a moment,
 the idea of devoting himself to me. But he wished me to be entirely
 his own, without any distraction or reserve. I never had any taste for
 exaggerated grandeurs, and am of the opinion of that philosopher who
 said that happiness is only to be found in moderation.”

 [33] E. and J. de Concourt, _Sophie Arnould_, p. 70. According to the
 _Chronique scandaleuse_, Sophie had a daughter by the Prince de Condé,
 who afterwards married the Comte de R***.

 [34] He was the architect of Bagatelle, in the Bois de Boulogne,
 which he built for the Comte d’Artois, and designed the gardens of
 the Château de Meréville (Seine-et-Oise) and of Belœil, in Belgium,
 the seat of the Prince de Ligne. Extant specimens of his work are the
 hôtel built for Mlle. Contat, at the corner of the Rue de Berri, in
 the Champs-Elysées, and the dome of the old Halle aux Blés, now the
 Bourse du Commerce.

 [35] One which accused her of practising the shameful vices of
 antiquity. _See_ E. and J. de Goncourt’s _Sophie Arnould_, p. 86 _et

 [36] Madame du Barry was, however, amply avenged. Sophie’s comrades
 of the theatre, scarcely one of whom but had suffered from her
 sarcastic tongue, were not slow to avail themselves of so excellent
 an opportunity of paying their tormentor back in her own coin, and,
 for some time afterwards, never failed to let fall the odious word
 “_Hôpital_” whenever Mlle. Arnould happened to be within earshot; a
 proceeding which, Bachaumont tells us, “no doubt greatly humiliated
 that superb queen of opera.”

 [37] _Mémoires secrets_, vi. 136.

 [38] Eighteenth-century composers appear to have been continually
 tinkering with this unfortunate opera, one of the most popular of
 the famous Lulli-Quinault series. When it was revived in January
 1759, La Borde, Louis XV.’s musical _valet-de-chambre_, made various
 alterations in the music, “which disgusted equally the partisans of
 the old and the new schools.” In November 1771, Berton, one of the
 directors of the Opera, substituted some very inferior melodies of his
 own, which, if possible, were even less to the taste of the audience,
 and, eight years later, Johann Christian Bach, the eleventh son of
 the celebrated master, tried his hand at the score, likewise without

 [39] This was one of the most successful of Sophie’s “creations.”
 The piece, the libretto of which had been adapted by Sedaine from a
 _conte_ of the Chevalier de Boufflers, published in 1761, was played
 twenty-six times in succession, an unusually long run in those days.

 [40] The _Mercure_ is lavish in its praise of Sophie’s rendering of
 Colin, the boy’s part, in Jean Jacques Rousseau’s _Devin du Village_,
 in which she appeared in December 1767. But Mr. Douglas thinks that
 her performance was less successful than that rather partial organ
 declared it to be. At all events, he says, she did not repeat the
 experiment, and was always extremely sarcastic if any of her fellow
 actresses undertook masculine parts. Mlle. Allard, whose innumerable
 _galanteries_ had astonished, and almost shocked, even the nymphs of
 the Opera, one day happened to remark, after playing such a part, that
 she believed that half the audience really thought she was a boy. “But
 the other half _knew_ you were not, _ma chère_,” observed Sophie.

 [41] Mr. Ernest Newman, “Gluck and the Opera,” p. 133.

 [42] _Gluck et Piccini_, p. 89.

 [43] Rousseau, _La Nouvelle Héloïse_.

 [44] E. and J. de Goncourt, _Sophie Arnould_, p. 119.

 [45] Desnoiresterres, _Gluck et Piccini_, p. 93.

 [46] Mr. Ernest Newman, “Gluck and the Opera,” p. 139.

 [47] The _Mémoires secrets_ attribute much of the applause to “the
 desire of the public to please Madame la Dauphine, who did not cease
 to clap her hands, and thus compelled the Comtesse de Provence, the
 princes, and all the boxes to do likewise.”

 [48] _Mémoires secrets_, vii. 185.

 [49] Grimm, _Correspondance littéraire_, viii. 322.

 [50] Métra, _Correspondance secrète_, i. 64.

 [51] _Mémoires secrets_, viii. 321.

 [52] Campardon, _L’Académie royale de Musique au XVIIIe siècle_:
 Article, “Levasseur.”

 [53] _Gluck et Piccini_, p. 132.

 [54] By the rules of the Opera, Sophie, as senior “_actrice chantante
 seule_” could have insisted, had she been so minded, on taking the
 part of Alceste. In 1774, Mlle. Duplant, who then occupied that
 position, claimed the title-part in _Iphigénie_, and considerable
 difficulty was experienced in persuading her to forego her claim, and
 be content with Clytemnestra.

 [55] In October of that year, two successive issues of this worthy’s
 organ were confiscated by the police, on account of the scandalous
 attacks upon certain members of the theatrical profession which they

 [56] _Mémoires secrets_, ix. 230.

 [57] La Harpe relates that in the scene where Iphigenia says to
 Achilles “_Vous brûlez que je sois partie_,” the pit applied the words
 to the actress and burst into ironical applause.

 [58] See p. 170 _infra_.

 [59] In addition to her pensions, she had 2000 livres a year from
 a settlement made upon her by Lauraguais, and owned a house at
 Port-à-l’Anglais, which she sold, some months after her retirement
 from the stage, for 20,000 livres. From a letter to Alleaume, written
 apparently during the winter of 1775-1776, we learn that she was then
 in receipt of allowances from at least two more of her noble lovers;
 4250 livres from the Prince de Conti, and 3250 from the Prince de
 Condé; but how long these payments were continued it is impossible to

 [60] The antiquary Millin, who annotated a copy of _Arnoldiana_ which
 afterwards came into the Goncourts’ possession, asserts that she had
 had tender relations with the Comte d’Artois and “my lord” Stuart.

 [61] Mr. R. B. Douglas, “Sophie Arnould: actress and wit,” p. 209.

 [62] Cited by the Goncourts, _Sophie Arnould_, p. 132.

 [63] _La Chronique scandaleuse_, No. 29, cited by E. and J. de
 Goncourt, _Sophie Arnould_, p. 149.

 [64] According to another account, to which the Goncourts and Mr.
 R. B. Douglas both give credence, it was a bust of Sophie herself,
 by Houdon, representing her as Iphigenia; and the agents of the
 revolutionary committee “mistook a sky-blue band on which was painted
 a quarter-moon and two stars for the scarf of Marat.” But is not this
 making rather a severe call upon our credulity?

 [65] According to Castil-Blaze, during the Reign of Terror, Lauraguais
 disguised himself as a coachman and drove a _fiacre_.

 [66] The official Republican name for the Opera.

 [67] Cited by E. and J. de Goncourt, _Sophie Arnould_, p. 302.

 [68] Campardon, _Académie royale de Musique au XVIIIe siècle_:
 Article, “Guimard.”

 [69] _Ibid._

 [70] _Arnoldiana._

 [71] Edmond de Goncourt, _La Guimard_, p. 18.

 [72] Castil-Blaze, _Histoire de l’Académie de Musique_, i. 267.

 [73] Cited by Edmond de Goncourt, _La Guimard_, p. 304 note.

 [74] The Archbishop of Sens.

 [75] He was the author of _Pensées et Maximes_, published some years
 after his death, a work in the style of La Rochefoucauld, which
 reveals him as a keen observer of life and particularly of woman. Here
 are some of his reflections:

 “Vouloir qu’on soit amoureux avec raison, c’est vouloir qu’on soit fou
 avec raison.”

 “Une femme qui sait mal est moins supportable qu’une femme qui ne sait

 “Le plaisir est comme une fleur, dont l’odeur est délicate, et qu’il
 faut sentir légèrement, si on veut toujours lui trouver le même

 “La plupart des femmes ressemblent à des énigmes qui cessent de
 plaire, dès qu’elles sont devinées.

 “Qui aime est bien plus heureux que d’être aimé.

 “On combat l’amour par la fuite et la colère par le silence.”

 [76] _Mémoires secrets_, iii. 383.

 [77] The titles of some of the pieces represented speak for
 themselves: _Junon et Ganymède, comédie érotique_; _La Vierge de
 Babylone, comédie érotique_; _César et les deux Vestales, pièce
 érotique en un acte_; _Héloïse et Abailard, comédie érotique en un
 acte_; _Ninon et Lachatre, scène érotique_; _Minette et Finette, ou
 les Épreuves d’amour_, and so forth.

 [78] It was composed by Armand, concierge of the Hôtel des Comédiens,
 and author of several dramas, at the instance of La Borde, who had
 recommended him to make it as salacious as possible.

 [79] Mlle. Guimard had, in point of fact, a third lover already, in
 the person of the dancer Dauberval; but he was a negligible quantity,
 so far as contributions to the lady’s revenues were concerned. A
 satirical print of the time entitled _Concert à trois_, shows us the
 ballerina holding a roll of music in her hand and about to sing,
 her chief protector, the Prince de Soubise, playing the violin, the
 _sous-entreteneur_, La Borde, beating time with the conductor’s bâton,
 and Dauberval playing the cornet.

 [80] The _Mémoires secrets_ attribute another source to the 6000
 livres: “This actress, very celebrated by her talents, having had
 a rendezvous in an isolated faubourg with a man whose robe exacted
 the most profound mystery, had occasion to witness the misery,
 grief, and despair of the people of this neighbourhood, on account
 of the excessive cold. Her heart was moved with compassion at such a
 sight, and of the 2000 écus, the fruit of her iniquity, she herself
 distributed a part and carried the balance to the curé of Saint-Roch,
 for the same purpose.”

 [81] Edmond de Goncourt, _La Guimard_, p. 89.

 [82] Walpole, writing to Sir Horace Mann, on September 9, 1771, says
 of the Hôtel Guimard: “The _salle-à-manger_ is to have _des serres
 chaudes_ (_sic_) round it, with windows opening into the room; that it
 may have orange-flowers and odours all the winter.”

 [83] Métra, _Correspondance secrète_, vol. viii. Edmond de Goncourt,
 _La Guimard_, p. 90.

 [84] See note, p. 109, _supra_.

 [85] Campardon, _L’Académie royale de Musique au XVIIIe siècle_:
 Article “Guimard.”

 [86] Edmond de Goncourt, _La Guimard_, p. 226.

 [87] Previous to this arrangement being arrived at, the Chevalier de
 Saint-George, the Creole, famous as a fencer and musician, offered,
 with the assistance of a society of capitalists, to undertake the
 direction of the Opera. But Mlle. Guimard, Sophie Arnould, and certain
 other nymphs, jealous of the honour of their profession, addressed a
 petition to the Queen, representing that their honour would not allow
 them to submit to the direction of a mulatto.

 [88] Campardon, _L’Académie royale de Musique au XVIIIe siècle_:
 Article, “Dauvergne.”

 [89] The dancer Nivelon, who escaped across the Belgian frontier,
 with the intention of making his way to England, was hotly pursued
 by a police-agent named Quidor, with orders to arrest him and bring
 him back to Paris. While, however, Quidor was endeavouring to obtain
 an extradition warrant from the authorities at Brussels, the dancer
 contrived to reach Ostende and escaped across the Channel.

 [90] _Mémoires de Fleury_, ii. 119.

 [91] Edmond de Goncourt, _La Guimard_, p. 254.

 [92] He was the son of a musician of the Opera, and was born on
 August 31, 1746. He became a dancer at the theatre in 1764, where he
 quickly distinguished himself by his skill in “_la danse haute_,” his
 performances in the ballets introduced into _Les Amours de Ragonde_
 (1773), _Iphigénie en Aulide_ (1774), _Philémon et Baucis_ (1774), and
 _La Chercheuse d’esprit_ (1778), being particularly admired. In 1781,
 owing to an injury to one of his feet, he retired from the active
 exercise of his profession, and was appointed _maître des ballets_.
 In the following year, he received from the King a pension of 1500
 livres, for his services as a dancer in ballets represented before the
 Court. A facile and graceful poet, Despréaux was the author of several
 parodies of operas: _Christophe et Pierre Luc_, parody of _Castor et
 Pollux_; _Momi_, parody of _Iphigénie_; _Syncope, reine de Mic-Mac_,
 parody of _Pénélope_, and _Berlingue_, parody of _Ernelinde_, which so
 pleased Louis XVI. when played before the Court, at Choisy, in 1777,
 that he granted the author a pension.--Campardon, _Académie royale de
 Musique au XVIIIe siècle_, i. 146.

 [93] The marriage contract states that the property of the bride
 consisted of (1) an annuity of 12,000 livres; (2) a pension of 2600
 livres on the King’s Privy Purse; (3) a pension of 6000 livres on
 the Royal Treasury; (4) a pension of 3000 livres on the treasury of
 the Opera; (5) a sum of 110,000 livres, partly in cash and partly in
 furniture, jewellery, linen, and wearing apparel.

 [94] In a manuscript collection of his _chansons_ preserved in the
 _Bibliothèque de l’Opéra_, he describes himself in the following terms:

    “Il faut que je vous désigne
     De ma taille la grandeur:
     Cinq pieds, trois pouces, neuf lignes,
     Voilà juste ma hauteur.
     Large front, bouche moyenne,
     Menton pointu, le nez long,
     Les yeux gris, figure pleine,
     Sourcils bruns, cheveux blonds.”

 [95] Edmond de Goncourt, _La Guimard_, p. 276.

 [96] A. F. Didot, _Souvenirs de Jean Étienne Despréaux_, p. 34.

 [97] Edmond de Goncourt, _La Guimard_, p. 301.

 [98] Among the writers who have fallen into this error may
 be mentioned: Lemazurier (_Galerie historique des acteurs du
 Théâtre-Français_), M. de Manne (_Galerie historique de la troupe
 de Voltaire_ and _Biographie générale_: Article, “Raucourt”), Émile
 Gaboriau (_Les Comédiennes adorées_), Mr. Sutherland Edwards (“Idols
 of the French Stage”), and Mr. Frederick Hawkins (“The French Stage in
 the Eighteenth Century”).

 [99] Mlle. Clairon subsequently wrote to Larive: “Mlle. Raucourt has
 made her _début_ with the greatest success. All Paris dotes on her,
 and, although Brizard may be her only recognised master, people name,
 at each verse which they hear her utter, the person of whom she has
 taken lessons. She is only sixteen and a half; she is beautiful as an
 angel, sensible, noble. She will be, I hope, a charming subject, and
 I dare believe that Madame Vestris will gnaw her fingers, more than
 once, at having disobliged me.... This woman is the first person whom
 I have really hated. Mlle. Raucourt is worthy of all the pains that I
 am taking to form her, but I confess that I find it very sweet, while
 serving her, to avenge myself for all the ingratitude and insolence of
 the other.” Cited by Edmond de Goncourt, _Mademoiselle Clairon_, p.

 [100] Brizard played the part of _fidus_ Achates in _Didon_.

 [101] _Correspondance littéraire_, Supplementary volume, p. 352.

 [102] _Mercure de France_, January 1773.

 [103] _Mémoires secrets_, vi. 288.

 [104] Gaboriau, _Les Comédiennes adorées_, p. 73. Manne, _Galerie
 historique de la troupe de Voltaire_.

 [105] Grimm writes: “The Princesse de Beauvau, the Princesse de
 Guéménée, and the Duchesse de la Vallière have also made her presents
 of superb dresses. The greater part of those which the ladies of
 the Court had had made for the Dauphin’s marriage will go to enrich
 the theatrical wardrobe of Mlle. Raucourt, which will soon be of
 considerable size.”

 [106] The name is frequently written Saint-Val.

 [107] _Mémoires secrets_, vi. p. 297.

 [108] _Correspondance littéraire_, Supplementary volume, p. 356.

 [109] _Mémoires secrets._

 [110] He was the author of a highly successful comedy, called _Le
 Séducteur_, produced at the Comédie-Française, November 8, 1783.

 [111] For further information concerning this unpleasant subject, into
 which we naturally do not care to enter, see Edmond de Goncourt’s
 _Maison d’un artiste_, ii. 60, and the same writer’s _Sophie Arnould_,
 p. 86. A similar charge was brought against Sophie Arnould, though,
 apparently, with less reason.

 [112] _Correspondance littéraire_, ii. 282.

 [113] The expelled actress may have derived some little consolation
 from perusing the following criticism of her successor in the
 _Nouvelles à la main_: “July 9.--Mlle. Sainval the younger made her
 first appearance yesterday, in _Zaïre_, on her return to the Comédie.
 She is ugly, and particularly hideous when she weeps, ungraceful,
 flat-breasted, and has a doleful and monotonous voice.”

 [114] Campardon, _Les Comédiens du Roi de la Troupe française_, p. 251.

 [115] _Ibid._ p. 255.

 [116] La Harpe, _Correspondance littéraire_, ii. 415.

 [117] Hawkins, “The French Stage in the Eighteenth Century,” ii. 250
 _et seq._

 [118] La Harpe, _Correspondance littéraire_, iii. 3 _et seq._

 [119] _Mémoires secrets_, xiv. 214 _et seq._

 [120] _Mémoires secrets_, xix. 103.

 [121] La Harpe, _Correspondance littéraire_, iii. 327. La Harpe states
 that a rumour was current that Mlle. Raucourt had only lent her
 name to the play, and that it was really the work of either Durosoy
 or Monvel. This rumour, however, is indignantly repudiated by the
 _Mémoires secrets_, which declare it to be nothing but a malicious
 invention of the lady’s enemies.

 [122] _Mercure de France_, March 1782.

 [123] Hawkins, “The French Stage in the Eighteenth Century,” 339.

 [124] _Mémoires de Fleury_, v. 228, _et seq._

 [125] _Souvenirs_, i. 82.

 [126] M. Gaston Maugras, _Les Comédiens hors la loi_, p. 460 _et seq._

 [127] Gaboriau, _Les Comédiennes adorées_, p. 151.

 [128] Campardon, _Les Comédiens du Roi de la Troupe italienne_:
 Article, “Dugazon.”

 [129] _Mes Récapitulations_, i. 124.

 [130] _Souvenirs_, i. 94.

 [131] Thurner, _Les Reines de Chant_, p. 66.

 [132] _Correspondance littéraire_, xi. 417.

 [133] _Correspondance littéraire_, xii. 261. At the conclusion of
 the piece on the first evening, Madame Dugazon was called before the
 curtain, “an honour,” say the _Mémoires secrets_, “which had never yet
 been accorded to any actress at this theatre or any other.”

 [134] Campardon, _Les Comédiens du Roi de la Troupe italienne_:
 Article, “Dugazon.”

 [135] _Mes Récapitulations_, i. 125.

 [136] _Correspondance littéraire_, xiii. 132.

 [137] Thurner, _Les Reines du Chant_, p. 65.

 [138] Gaboriau, _Les Comédiennes adorées_, p. 163.

 [139] Gaboriau, _Les Comédiennes adorées_, p. 165.

 [140] Madame Dugazon’s feelings were probably intensified by the fact
 that her husband had espoused the popular side with enthusiasm, and
 had been appointed aide-de-camp to the notorious Santerre. After the
 9th Thermidor, the actor was, for some time, the object of hostile
 demonstrations whenever he appeared on the stage. But he courageously
 refused to bow before the storm, and, little by little, the public
 forgave him. In 1807 he retired from the stage, and, two years later,
 died, “a raving madman,” on an estate which he had bought near Orléans.

 [141] _Souvenirs._

 [142] He composed three operas: _Marguerite de Waldemar_ (1812), _la
 Noce écossaise_ (1814), and _le Chevalier d’industrie_ (1818); and two
 ballets: _les Fiances de Caserte_ and _Alfred le Grand_. But none of
 these pieces seem to have been at all favourably received. He died in
 1826, five years after his mother.

 [143] Gaboriau, _Les Comédiennes adorées_, p. 170.

 [144] In Louise Contat’s _acte de naissance_, which bears date
 June 16, 1760, her father, Jean François Contat, describes himself
 as “_soldat de la maréchaussée et marchand de bas privilégié à
 Paris_.”--Jal, _Dictionnaire de Biographie et d’Histoire_, article

 [145] Hawkins, “The French Stage in the Eighteenth Century,” ii. 209.

 [146] _Mémoires de Fleury_, ii. 217.

 [147] The critic of the _Mercure_ wrote: “What respect can they (men
 of letters) hope to inspire, when they themselves become the first to
 denounce their own secret vices, and, to sum up all in one word, when
 their mind seems to make a jest of calumniating their heart?”

 [148] For an account of this affair, see the author’s “Queens of the
 French Stage,” p. 324 _et seq._

 [149] La Harpe, _Correspondance littéraire_, iv. 51.

 [150] The friendship between Beaumarchais and the Comte de Vaudreuil
 had its origin in the following incident. The latter had had a
 dispute, at one of the Court theatres, with a M. de Miromesnil, a
 distinguished amateur actor, as to the manner in which drunkenness
 should be depicted on the stage. Some of the company jestingly
 ascribed the count’s remarks to personal experience. “Nay,” answered
 Vaudreuil, “they are not my own. I borrow the lesson from the great
 Garrick, who gave it on the Boulevards to Préville, who acted upon
 it before a few working men, and caused them to take the mimicry for
 reality.” Miromesnil disputed the authenticity of the anecdote, and,
 on being assured that it was true, offered to lay a heavy wager that a
 Boulevard was not the place. Beaumarchais happened to be standing by.
 “Take the wager,” he whispered to the count; “it is yours.” Vaudreuil
 did so. Beaumarchais left the theatre, and shortly afterwards returned
 with a letter, in which Garrick himself stated that the incident
 occurred on the Boulevards. From that moment, the count evinced a warm
 interest in the dramatist’s fortunes.--Hawkins, “The French Stage in
 the Eighteenth Century,” ii. 291.

 [151] Gabriel Henri Gaillard (1726-1806). His chief works were:
 _L’Histoire de François Ier, dit le Grand Roi et le Père des
 Lettres_ (1766-1769); _L’Histoire de la Rivalité de la France et
 de l’Angleterre_ (1771-1777), which procured him admission to the
 Academy; and _L’Histoire de la Rivalité de la France et de l’Espagne_

 [152] Loménie, _Beaumarchais et son temps_, iv.

 [153] _Souvenirs_, i. 100.

 [154] _Mémoires de Fleury_, ii. 413.

 [155] _Mémoires de Fleury_, ii. 415 _et seq._

 [156] Cited by Gaboriau, _Les Comédiennes adorées_, p. 180.

 [157] And well he deserved his triumph, for surely never had actor
 been at more pains to secure a perfect resemblance to the character
 he was to impersonate! “In the first place,” he tells us, in his
 _Mémoires_, “I sought to imbue myself with the idea that my apartments
 were in Potsdam, instead of in Paris; and I resolved to retire to
 rest, to take my meals, to move, and speak, during two whole months,
 in the full persuasion that I was Frederick the Great. The better to
 identify myself with the character, I used every morning to dress
 myself in the military coat, hat, boots, &c., I had ordered for the
 part. Thus equipped, I would seat myself before my looking-glass, at
 one side of which hung Ramberg’s picture of the King. Then, with the
 help of hair pencils and a palette spread with black, white, red,
 blue, and yellow, I endeavoured to paint my face to the resemblance of
 the picture.”

 [158] Gaboriau, _Les Comédiennes adorées_, p. 191.

 [159] M. Victor du Bled, _Les Comédiens français pendant la
 Révolution_, _Revue des Deux Mondes_, vol. cxxiv.

 [160] _Les Comédiennes adorées_, p. 194.

 [161] See pp. 182 _et seq._, _supra_.

 [162] M. Victor du Bled, _Les Comédiens français pendant la
 Révolution_, _Revue des Deux Mondes_, vol. cxxiv.

 [163] M. Victor du Bled, _Les Comédiens français pendant la
 Révolution_, _Revue des Deux Mondes_, vol. cxxiv.

 [164] Many amusing anecdotes are told of Lemercier’s wit. Here is
 one, which Ernest Legouvé relates in his _Soixante ans de souvenirs_:
 “One evening, he (Lemercier) was seated on a low stool in the gangway
 of the first gallery of the Théâtre-Français. Enter a young officer,
 making a great deal of noise, slamming the door violently behind him,
 and taking his stand right in front of M. Lemercier. ‘Monsieur,’
 says the poet, very gently, ‘you prevent my seeing anything.’ The
 officer turns round and, staring from his towering height at the
 little, inoffensive-looking civilian, humbly seated on his low stool,
 resumes his former position. ‘Monsieur,’ repeats M. Lemercier, more
 emphatically, ‘I have told you that you prevent me from seeing the
 stage, and I command you to get out of the way.’ ‘You command!’
 retorts his interlocutor, in a tone of contempt; ‘do you know to whom
 you are speaking? You are speaking to a man who brought back the
 standards from the army of Italy!’ ‘That is very possible, Monsieur,
 seeing that it was an ass which carried Christ!’ As a matter of
 course, there was a duel, and the officer had his arm broken by a

 [165] Ducis’s adaptation--or distortion--of _Othello_, first produced
 on November 26, 1772, differed materially from the original play.
 “Iago’s villainy,” says Mr. Hawkins, in his “French Stage in the
 Eighteenth Century,” “was thought too deep and patent, especially
 for a Parisian audience. Pesare, as the ancient is called here, is
 accordingly transformed into something like an ordinary confidant,
 to all appearance full of sincere _bonhomie_, and with his devilish
 purpose hidden until he has been seen for the last time. Ducis, it has
 been well remarked, was extremely afraid of arousing too much emotion
 among his auditors. Another essential difference lay in Cassio being
 really in love with Desdemona (re-named Hédelmone).” Changes of minor
 importance were the substitution of a letter for the handkerchief, and
 a poniard for the pillow. Ducis also adapted--or distorted--_Hamlet_,
 _Romeo and Juliet_, _Macbeth_, and _Lear_.

 [166] _Journal de Paris_, March 7, 1809.

 [167] Antoine Dubois (1756-1837), the leading obstetric surgeon of the
 time. He assisted at the accouchement of the Empress Marie Louise,
 and was made a baron of the Empire. His son, Paul Dubois, was also
 a celebrated accoucheur, and the author of several able works on

 [168] A character in the _Joueur_ of Regnard.

 [169] Gaboriau, _Les Comédiennes adorées_, p. 207.

 [170] Edmond de Goncourt, _Madame Saint-Huberty, d’après sa
 correspondance et ses papiers de famille_, p. 12.

 [171] Cited by Edmond de Goncourt, _Madame Saint-Huberty, d’après sa
 correspondance et ses papiers de famille_, p. 14.

 [172] If one is to believe a little brochure of the time, bearing the
 title of _Chronique scandaleuse des théâtres, ou Aventures des plus
 célèbres actrices, chanteuses, danseuses, et figurantes_, the lessons
 given by Gluck to Madame Saint-Huberty were not entirely gratuitous.
 “In one of those moments of incontinency to which the greatest men
 often yield, the celebrated Gluck recognised in her talents which had
 not even been suspected and which attached him to her. He resolved
 to make of her an actress. In like manner, the famous Champmeslé was
 formed by the care and counsels of Racine. However, one ought not to
 compare the German Orpheus to the French Euripides. Gluck sought less
 to teach the sentiments of which he taught her the expression, than
 to inspire her with the fire of his genius, and, as he had always
 preserved the rusticity of his German manners, he did not often fail
 to commit himself to it in his lessons....”

 [173] All the critics were not so kind as the scribe of the _Mercure_,
 and one went so far as to declare that the _débutante_ was “very ugly,
 very bad,” and that “she could not possibly long retain her position
 on the lyric stage.”

 [174] Edmond de Goncourt, _Madame Saint-Huberty_, p. 20.

 [175] It is not clear what papers are referred to, but, in all
 probability, they were those relating to the separation of her goods
 from those of her husband which she had obtained at Warsaw, in March

 [176] Cited by Campardon, _L’Académie royale de Musique au XVIIIe
 siècle_: Article, “Saint-Huberty.”

 [177] Edmond de Goncourt, _Madame Saint-Huberty_, p. 42.

 [178] Émile Gaboriau, _Les Comédiennes adorées_, p. 210.

 [179] Edmond de Goncourt, _Madame Saint-Huberty_, p. 45.

 [180] This multiplicity and exaggeration of gestures appears to have
 been Madame Saint-Huberty’s principal fault in the early part of her
 career. On another occasion, she was reproached with her resemblance
 to a woman “persecuted by internal convulsions.”

 [181] Rosalie Levasseur had sung charmingly on the opening night; but
 on the second, she was so intoxicated as to be almost incapable of
 struggling through the part. At the conclusion of the performance she
 was arrested and conveyed to For l’Évêque.

 [182] Adolphe Jullien, _L’Opéra secret au XVIIIe siècle: Madame

 [183] _Recherches sur les costumes et sur les théâtres de toutes les
 nations_, i. 35.

 [184] Ginguéné, _Notice sur la vie et les ouvrages de Nicolas Piccini_.

 [185] _L’Opéra secret au XVIIIe siècle: Madame Saint-Huberty._

 [186] “Madame Saint-Huberty played the part of Rosette with an
 intelligence, a sensibility, and a fervour of expression, which proves
 the extent and the variety of her talent, equally well calculated
 to render every rôle and to sing all kinds of music.”--_Mercure de
 France_, December 1782.

 [187] Adolphe Jullien, _L’Opéra secret au XVIIIe siècle: Madame

 [188] Edmond de Goncourt, _Madame Saint-Huberty_, p. 5.

 [189] Edmond de Goncourt, _Madame Saint-Huberty_, p. 75 _et seq._
 Adolphe Jullien, _L’Opéra secret au XVIIIe siècle: Madame

 [190] Adolphe Jullien, _L’Opéra secret au XVIIIe siècle: Madame

 [191] _Mémoires de Marmontel_ (edit. 1804), iii. 224 _et seq._

 [192] See the author’s “Queens of the French Stage” (London: Harpers’;
 New York: Scribners’. 1905), p. 314 _et seq._

 [193] The train of an ordinary actress was held by a page dressed in
 black and white, but actresses representing queens were entitled to
 two trains and two pages, who followed them everywhere they went.
 “Nothing is more diverting,” writes a critic of the time, “than the
 perpetual movement of these little rascals, who have to run after the
 actress when she is rushing up and down the stage in moments of great
 distress. Their activity throws them into a state of perspiration,
 whilst their embarrassment and blunders invariably excite laughter.
 Thus a farce is always going on, which agreeably diverts the spectator
 in sad or touching situations.”

 [194] Adolphe Jullien, _L’Opéra secret au XVIIIe siècle: Madame

 [195] On December 6, which was an off-day at the Opera, Madame
 Saint-Huberty attended a performance of the _Fausse Lord_, music by
 Piccini, words by Piccini _fils_, at the Comédie-Italienne. At the
 conclusion of the piece, when she was leaving her box, the whole
 audience rose, and burst into a tumult of applause, shouting: “_Vive
 la reine de Carthage!_” If, remarks Grimm, the public had been aware
 that, on that very day, by the exercise of rare delicacy and tact, the
 artiste had succeeded in reconciling Piccini and Sacchini, who had
 long been at variance, their enthusiasm would have been, if it were
 possible, even greater.

 [196] _Notice sur la vie et les ouvrages de Nicolas Piccini._

 [197] _Les Comédiennes adorées_, p. 217.

 [198] Grimm, _Correspondance littéraire_, xii. 10.

 [199] Grimm, _Correspondance littéraire_, xii. 10.

 [200] Adolphe Jullien, _L’Opéra secret au XVIIIe siècle: Madame
 Saint-Huberty_. M. Jullien says “in less than five months.” He forgets
 that _Didon_, although not seen at the Opera until December 1 1783,
 had been performed at Fontainebleau in the previous October.

 [201] Adolphe Jullien, _L’Opéra secret au XVIIIe siècle: Madame

 [202] See p. 128 note, _supra_.

 [203] _Mémoires secrets_, December 20, 1786.

 [204] Cited by Campardon, _Académie royal de Musique au XVIIIe
 siècle_: Article, “Saint-Huberty.”

 [205] Cited by Edmond de Goncourt, _Madame Saint-Huberty_, p. 190.

 [206] The superintendent of the wardrobe of the Opera.

 [207] Cited by Edmond de Goncourt, _Madame Saint-Huberty_, p. 171.

 [208] It is true that Métra writes, under date March 24, 1783, as
 follows: “Mlle. Laguerre had been for a long time the mistress of the
 Duc de Bouillon. Madame Saint-Huberti has replaced her in the heart of
 this prince and in her rights on his fortune. He has just purchased
 her favours, so many times cheaply disposed of, by a contract of one
 hundred thousand écus.” But Edmond de Goncourt is inclined to think
 that Métra is here drawing upon his very vivid imagination with more
 than his usual freedom.

 [209] Cited by Edmond de Goncourt, _Madame Saint-Huberty_, p. 186.

 [210] Cabanis was the Comte d’Antraigues’s physician in Paris. Shortly
 before this letter was written, Madame Saint-Huberty had placed
 herself under his care and presumably he was still prescribing for her.

 [211] All sorts of legends have gathered round the Comte d’Antraigues,
 who is depicted as a kind of Royalist Marat, ready to demand, on the
 return of the Bourbons, “his four hundred thousand heads.” One story
 is to the effect that, when in Venice, he had been heard to boast that
 he had caused several agents of the French Republic to be poisoned.

 [212] This was not the only reward of her services which the ex-singer
 received. In 1804, the Emperor of Austria accorded her a pension of
 1000 ducats, “in memory of the services rendered by her to her late
 Majesty Marie Antoinette of France, as superintendent of the music
 of that august princess.” As for the Comte d’Antraigues, he was, for
 some years, in receipt of a handsome pension from the various European
 Courts, and, in May 1800, received from the king of the Two Sicilies
 the royal order of Constantine, together with a pension.

 [213] Madame Saint-Huberty had, of course, never appeared at the
 Théâtre-Français. Such is fame!

 [214] As a matter of fact, her savings only amounted to some 80,000
 francs, the whole of which had been lost during the Revolution.

 [215] The _Times_ of July 28, 1812, states that it had been
 ascertained that Lorenzo was an intimate friend of Sellis, who, after
 attempting to assassinate the Duke of Cumberland, committed suicide.

 [216] _L’Opéra secret au XVIIIe siècle: Madame Saint-Huberty._

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