صور الصفحة
PDF
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

villa of Malmaison, to which she now occasionally retired. Here she began to embellish the garden with rare and expensive plants, cultivated her taste for botany, and occupied her time in acquiring a variety of useful knowledge. Napoleon has himself explained the circumstance which first brought about his acquaintance with Josephine. While he commanded in Paris, and shortly after the disarming of the sections in October, 1795, a fine youth, about twelve years of age, prescrited himself to the staff, to solicit the return of a sword which had belonged to his father, a general in the service of the republic, who had been murdered by Robespierre. This youth was Eugene Beauharnais. Bonaparte caused the request to be complied with; and the tears of the boy on beholding the relic excited his interest. He treated him so kindly, that next day his mother, Josephine, waited on the general to thank him. Napoleon was struck with the singular gracefulness of her manners: the acquaintance became intimate and tender; and on the 6th of March, 1796, they were married. Josephine was one of those who put faith in presentiments and prophecies. There is a tradition at Martinique, that during her childhood it was predicted by a celebrated negro sorceress, named David, that she would one day rise to a dignity higher than that of a queen, and yet outlive it.* A lady of rank, who resided for some time in the same convent at Paris where Josephine was also a pensioner, or boarder, heard her mention the prophecy, and told it herself to Sir Walter Scott just about the period of the Italian expedition;# and after Josephine became the wife of Bonaparte, she frequently assured him, that her heartbeat high when she first heard Eugene describe him, and that she then caught a glimpse of her future greatness, and the accomplishment of the prediction respecting her.f On his marriage with Josephine, Napoleon promised to adopt her children, and treat them as his own; and it is well known with what fidelity he adhered to the engagement. The dowry of the bride has generally been supposed to have been the command of the army of Italy; but Louis Bonaparte, the ex-king of Holland, in a recent publication, pronounces this to be “an

absurdity gathered from various libels of the

time.” Napoleon quitted his wife ten days after the marriage. Some of the letters which he wrote to her during his absence in Italy have been published, and present a curious picture of a temperament as fiery in love as in war. The following is an extract from one of them:— “By what art is it that you have been able to

* Description de Martinique, par M. Traversay. f Life of Napoleon, vol. iii. p. 82. f Las Cases, vol. ii. p. 300. ” § Response a Sir Walter Scott, p. 18.

[ocr errors]

Josephine.

[ocr errors]

*A 2 1 a

captivate all my faculties, and to concentrate in

yourself my moral existence? It is a magic, my

sweet love, which will finish only with my life. To live for Josephine—there is the history of my life. I am trying to reach you—I am dying to be near you. Fool that I am, I do not perceive that I increase the distance between us. What lands, what countries separate us! What a time before you read these weak expressions of a troubled soul in which you reign l Ah! my adorable wife, I know not what fate awaits me, but if it keep me much longer from you, it will be insupportable. I stop, my sweet love: my soul is sad-my body is fatigued—my head is giddy—men disgust me—I ought to hate them—they separate me from my beloved. “I am at Port Maurice, near Oneille; to-morrow I shall be at Albegno; the two armies are in motion. We are endeavouring to deceive Victory to the most skilful. I am pretty well satisfied with Beaulieu. If he alarm me much, he is a better man than his predecessor. I shall beat him in good style. Do not be uneasy —love me as your eyes—but that is not enough —as yourself, more than yourself, your mind, your sight, your all. Sweet love, forgive me—I am sinking. Nature is weak for him who feels strongly—for him whom you love '''|| Having rejoined her husband in August, at the commencement of the campaign against Wurmser, Josephine witnessed at Verona the first shots that were fired. When she returned to Castel Nuovo, and saw the wounded as they passed, she was desirous of being at Brescia, but found herself stopped by the enemy. In the agitation of the moment, she was seized with fear, and wept bitterly on quitting Napoleon, who exclaimed“Wurmser shall pay dearly for the tears he causes you to shed ''” In December, she was at Genoa, where she was received with studied magnificence by those of that ancient state who adhered to the French interest. After settling the affairs of Venice and establishing the new Ligurian republic, Napoleon took up his residence at the beautiful palace of Montebello; where ladies of the highest rank, as well as those celebrated for beauty and accom. plishments, were daily seen paying their homage to Josephine, who received them with a felicity of address which excited universal admiration. In December, 1797, Napoleon returned to Paris, and took up his abode in the same modest house which he formerly occupied in the Rue Chantereine. To lessen the influence which Josephine possessed from the love of her husband, more than one of his brothers endeavoured to excite his jealousy; and they so far succeeded, that previously to his departure for Egypt in the May following, his distrust of her had shown itself on several occasions. He nevertheless continued passionately fond of her. To enjoy

each other.

|| Published in a Tour through the Netherlands, Holland, Germany, and France, in the years 1821 and 1822, by Charles Tennant, Esq., member of Parliament. Autographs of the letters are given, and there is no doubt whatever of their authenticity.

*

* ...

[graphic]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

the pleasure of her society up to the last moment, he took her with him to Toulon, and nothing could be more affecting than their parting. While Napoleon was at Cairo, his jealousy was again powerfully excited by the reports of Junot, who pretended to have received from Paris positive accounts of Josephine's coquetry. “I know not what I would give,” he said one day to Bourrienne, “if what Junot has been telling me should be untrue, so greatly do I love that woman. If Josephine be really guilty, a divorce shall separate us for ever. I will not submit to be the laughing-stock of the imbeciles of Paris. I will write to. Joseph.” He accordingly did write to Joseph on the 25th of July; but the letter, instead of reaching its destination, was intercepted by the British fleet under the command of Lord Nelson. The following extract from it shows the agitated state of Napoleon's mind at this time. Like all his writings, it abounds in errors of orthography:“Je pense etre en France dans 2 mois. Je te recomande mes interets. J’ai beaup, beaup de chagrin domestique, cor le voile est entierement levee. Toi seul me reste sur la terre; ton amitie m'est bien chere: il ne me reste plus pour devenir misantrope qu'a te perdre, et te voir me trair. C'est ma triste position que d’avoir a la fois tous les sentimens pour une meme personne dans son coeur. Tu m'entend Fais ensorte que j’aye une campagne a mon arrivee, soit pres de Paris ou en Burgogne: je compte y passer l'hiver et m'y enserrer. Je suis annue de la nature humaine! j’ai besoin de solitude et disolement: la grandeur m’annue, le sentimen es deseches, la gloire est fade: a 29 ans j’ai tou epuise; il ne me reste plus qu'a devenir bien vraimant egoiste. Adieu, mon unique ami, je n'ai jamais ete injuste envers toi! tu m'entend "4 On Napoleon's return to France in October, 1799, he received Josephine with studied severity and an air of cold indifference; but after three days of conjugal misunderstanding, a complete reconciliation was brought about, and from that hour their happiness was never disturbed by a similar cause. • Josephine had, however, one great failing,

* “I think of being in France in two months. I recommend my interests to thee. I have much, much domestic chagrin, sor the veil is entirely removed. Thou only remainest to me on earth: thy friendship is ever dear to me. To make me a mere misanthrope nothing more is wanting but to lose thee, and see thee betray me. It is my sad position to have at the same time all the sentiments for the same person in my heart. Thou understandest me ! Arrange it so that I may have a country-seat at my arrival, either in the neighbourhood of Paris or in Burgundy. I reckon on passing the winter there, and shutting myself up. I am weary of human nature : I have need for solitude and retirement. Grandeur is irksome; feeling is dried up; glory is insipid; at nine-and-twenty years of age, I have exhausted everything; it only remains for me to become in sad sincerity a creature wrapped up in selfishness. Adieu, my old friend! I have never been unjust towards thee! Thou understandest me !”

The original of this very singular production, endorsed with the words, “Found on the person of the Courier,” in the handwriting of Lord Nelson, is in the valuable collection of Dawson Turner, Esq.

o JosephrNE, - ... . . .

[ocr errors]

which led to many violentreproaches on the part of her husband; and this was incurable. It was impossible to regulate her expenditure. She plunged into debt without at all reflecting how that debt was to be discharged; and thus there was always a grand dispute when the day of payment came. At one time, during the consulate, she owed no less than 1,200,000 francs (£50,000); but, fearing her husband's violence, she would not allow the secretary to mention more than half that sum. “ The anger of the First Consul,” says Bourrienne, “may be conceived. He said, ‘Take the 600,000 francs, but let that sum suffice; let me be pestered no more with her debts. Threaten the creditors with the loss of their accounts, if they do not forego their enormous profits.” These accounts Madame Bonaparte laid before me. The exorbitant price of every article was incredible, and many were charged which had never been delivered. In one bill, for instance, thirty-eight hats of a very high price were supplied in one month; the feathers alone were eighteen hundred francs. I asked Josephine, whether she wore two hats aday; she said, ‘It must be an error.’ I followed the consul’s advice, and spared neither reproaches nor threats; and I am ashamed to say, that the greater part of the tradesmen were satisfied with one-half of their bills.” At a later period she had quite a passion for shawls, and at one time possessed no fewer than one hundred and fifty, all extremely beautiful and high-priced. When after her death they were disposed of by auction at Malmaison, nearly all Paris went to the sale. But whatever might be Josephine's failing on this score, the First Consul was really attached to no other woman; and she answered with her whole heart to the fondness of her husband, and constantly proved herself his sincerest friend. Whenever she could, she would accompany Napoleon on his journeys. Neither fatigue nor privation could deter her from following him. If he stepped into his carriage at midnight, to set out on the longest journey, he found her all ready prepared. “But,” he would say, “you cannot possibly go; the journey will be too fatiguing for you.”—“Not at all,” she would reply.—“Besides, I must set out instantly.”—“Well, I am Quite ready.”—“But you must take a great deal of luggage.”—“Oh, no; every thing is packed up;” and Napoleon was generally obliged to yield. Josephine could talk on any subject, and on all agreeably. Napoleon used to call her his memorandum-book; and, in relating an anecdote, would frequently pretend to have forgotten the date, in order to give her an opportunity of correcting him. She was known for a peacemaker upon all occasions, and frequently restored har-, mony in a domestic circle too often agitated by

the slightest preference shown by its chief. Her

gentle and engaging manners generally succeed

, ed in reconciling the pretensions and interests of

all parties. She was a great patroness of the fine arts. All the fashions emanated from her, and every thing she put on appeared elegant. Her husband used to say, that she was grace personified. “If I gain battles, it is she who wins hearts.” She hated every kind of restraint and ostentation, and Would often say, “How all this fatigues and annoys me! I have not a moment to myself.” Nor was this simplicity of character confined to matters of etiquette: she manifested the same unaffected modesty and good sense in restraining the encroachments of power, and appears to have been kept in continual alarm by the projects at this time in agitation for declaring Napoleon Chief Consul for life. As far back as the explosion of the infernal machine in 1800, she observed that “those were Bonaparte's worst enemies who wished to inspire him with ideas of hereditary succession.” While these discussions were pending she fluttered about, trembling with apprehension, listening to every breath, and uttering her dissatisfaction and doubts to all whom she could interest in her behalf. She seemed to shrink instinctively from this new and pathless career, of which she only saw the danger, and held her husband from it as from the edge of a precipice. Her kindness and condescension to every one remained the same after she became empress. She was profuse of her bounties, and bestowed them with such good grace, that the partakers of them would have deemed it an act of incivility to refuse her. Charity was, indeed, the brightest trait in her character; but she took so much pains to conceal her acts of benevolence, that the greater part are buried in 95livion. Her maid of honour, Madame de la Astochefaucault, superintended the application of them; while two honest and respectable men were appointed to seek out deserving objects, and to inquire into the situation of those who solicited relief. A small sum thus judiciously dealt out, has restored many a family to life and happiness. Partyspirit never stood in the way of her relieving the distressed: her very enemics found in her a protectress. On the discovery of Georges' conspiracy, she exerted her interest in savour of Prince Polignac and his brother; and when the sentence of death was pronounced, she obtained a commutation of the punishment to imprisonment. Rapp, Savary, De Bourrienne, Montgaillard, all agree, that but for Josephine's intercession the late prime minister of France would have ended his days on the scaffold in 1804. At times she suffered much from Napoleon's ill temper, kindled in consequence of her remonstrances against his violent measures: till at last the courage of goodness, which she long maintained, gave way, and she became afraid to apply to him. The murder of the Duke d'Enghien was a blow which she seems never to have recovered. It was Fouche who first ventured to touch the fatal string of the imperial divorce. One Sunday, at Fontainbleau, he drew Josephine aside into a recess of a window, and, after dwelling on the necessities of the empire, gave the hint of a separation; which he represented as the most sublime of sacrifices. Josephine instantly ordered him

[ocr errors][merged small]

poleon whether the minister had any authority for this proceeding. The emperor answered in the negative; but when Josephine went on to ask the dismissal of Fouche, he refused to comply. From that hour she must have been convinced that her doom was fixed. “The apartments of Napoleon and those of his wife, at the Tuileries, had communication by means of a private staircase: it was the custom of the emperor to signify by a tap on the door of her sitting room his desire to converse with her in her cabinet, and it was not unusual for them to remain shut up for hours. Soon after his return from Schoenbrunn the ladies in attendance remarked that the emperor's knock was heard more frequently than it had used to be, and that their mistress did not obey the signal with her accustomed alacrity. One evening Napoleon surprised them by carrying Josephine into the midst of them, pale, apparently lifeless. She was but awaking from a long swoon into which she had fallen, on hearing him at last pronounce the decree which terminated their connexion.” This was on the 5th of December, 1809. On the 15th Napoleon summoned the imperial council, and announced to them, that at the expense of the sweetest affections of his heart, he, devoted wholly to the welfare of the state, had resolved to separate from his well-beloved consort. Josephine then appeared among them, and, in a speech which was interrupted by her repeated sobs, expressed her acquiescence. A decree of the senate assured to her the rank of empress during her life, and a dowry of two millions of francs, to which Napoleon added a third million out of his privy purse, that she might feel no incqnvenience from those habits of expense which had by this time become quite incurable. On the following morning she withdrew from the Tuileries to her villa of Malmaison; and in quitting the court she drew the hearts of all its votaries after her, for she had endeared herself to all by a kindness of disposition almost without parallel. -But, notwithstanding the attractions with which she was surrounded, the ex-empress was a prey to grief. To change the scene she took a journey to Navarre, where she had a noble residence that had been presented to her by Napoleon; and as it was out of repair, he advanced her a million of francs to cover all expenses. This sum, in addition to her revenue, enabled her to do much good. Every thing speedily assumed a new aspect at the ancient domain of the house of Bouillon. She directed the roads of the forest of Evreux to be repaired, raised many plantations, caused the marshes to be dried up, public buildings to be erected, and, by procuring employment for the peasantry, substituted a state of comfort for that of frightful misery which had previously prevailed. 3. - . Napoleon treated the ex-empress with great respect after the divorce. He never came back

* Napoleon Bonaparte, vol. ii.-Family Library, No.y.

[graphic]

from his wars without paying her a visit, and he uniformly bade her farewell before he set out. He used to grasp her arm familiarly and say— “Come along and show me your pictures;” which request he knew would afford her pleaSłłI'C. Josephine saw Napoleon for the last time in May, 1812, previous to his departure for Moscow. On his reverses all her affection for him seems to have returned. The disasters of the Russian expedition, and still more the melancholy termination of the Saxon campaign, made her tremble for his fate. On the approach of the allies in March, 1814, she retired to Navarre; but being assured of their friendly protection, returned to Malmaison. On expressing herself much gratified by a visit from the Emperor of Russia, he replied, that it was a homage gratifying to his feelings, for that in entering every house and cottage he had heard the praise of her goodness. When she was made acquainted with Napoleon's abdication her distress was unspeakable. Alexander endeavoured to soothe her affliction; but the reverses of “her Achilles,” “her Cid,” as she now again called Napoleon, had entered deep into her heart. Her interests were amply attended to in the treaty of Fontainbleau; but, as if the prophecy of the sorceress of Martinique was to be accomplished, she did not survive to reap any benefit from its provisions. On the 24th of May she became indisposed with a sore throat. The King of Prussia dined with

[ocr errors]

her, and advised her to keep her room, but she persisted in doing the honours of the table, and retired late, as there was an evening party. QP the 26th the Emperor Alexander paid her a visit. On the 27th a blister was applied, but it was too late. M. Redoute, the celebrated flower-painter: having called, she insisted on seeing him, but told him not to approach her bed, as he might catch her sore throat. She spoke of two plants which were then in flower, and desired him to make drawings of them, expressing a hope that she should soon be well enough to visit her green" house. On the 29th, at ten in the morning, her English housekeeper, Mrs. Edat, who had lived with her many years, came into the room with Josephine's favourite little dog, which she caressed, and desired it might be taken great care of. A few minutes before twelve this benevolent and accomplished woman breathed her last. On the 2d of June her funeral took place with great pomp in the parish church of Ruel. Her two grandsons walked as chief mourners; and in the procession were Prince Nesselrode, Generals Sachen and Czernicheff, several other generals of the allied army, some French marshals and generals, and many private individuals who had formerly been in her service, or who considered themselves under personal obligations to her. The body has since been placed in a magnificent tomb of white marble, erected by her two children, with the simple inscription, “EUGENE ET Hon TENsh: A Joseph INE.”

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

HAving repudiated Josephine, Napoleon bent his thoughts upon forming a fresh union, which would be the means of drawing closer the ties of an alliance productive of advantages to France, and might at the same time present him with an heir. There was not at this period any princess of a marriageable age among the great reigning families of the Continent, except the grandduchess, sister to the Emperor of Russia, and her imperial highness the Arch-duchess Maria Louisa of Austria. * On the 1st of February, 1810, Napoleon summoned a grand council to assist him in the selection of a new spouse; and at the breaking up of the meeting, Eugene, the son of the ex-empress, was commissioned to propose to the Austrian ambassador a marriage between Napoleon and Maria Louisa. Prince Schwartzenberg had already received his instructions on the subject; so that the match was proposed, determined, and adjusted in the space of four-and-twenty hours. On the 27th Napoleon communicated his determination to the senate. “The shining qualities,” he said, “which distinguish the arch-duchess have secured her the affections of the people of Austria. They have gained our regard. Our subjects will love this princess out of affection to us, until, after witnessing all those virtues that have

placed her so high in our esteem, they love her for herself.” Maria Louisa, the eldest daughter of the Emperor of Austria and Maria Theresa of Naples, was born on the 12th of December, 1791. From her earliest infancy she was distinguished for modesty, sweetness of disposition, and every amiable quality. When, in the war of 1809, Vienna was bombarded by the French, the archduchess, being too ill to be removed, was the only member of the imperial family who remained in the capital. Of this circumstance Napoleon was informed, and he immediately issued orders for the firing to be discontinued in the direction of her residence.* He made constant inquiries respecting her, and it is not improbable that he thus early revolved in his mind the possibility of her one day replacing Josephine on the throne of France. The espousals of the imperial pair were celebrated at Vienna on the 11th of March. The person of the bridegroom was represented by his favourite marshal, Berthier; and a few days after the youthful bride set out for France. At Bran

nau she was met by Napoleon's sister, the queen

of Naples, where the ceremony took place of

* De Bourrienne, tom. viii. p. 190.

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

delivering up the arch-duchess by the officers whom her father had appointed to accompany her. As soon as she had been attired in the garments brought in the wardrobe from Paris, she passed over the frontier, and took an affectionate leave of those who had accompanied her from Vienna. Of all her Austrian retinue she retained only her governess; and of her new household she did not know a single individual. At Munich, Augsburg, Stuttgard, Carlsruhe, and Strasburg, she was received with great splendour and enthusiasm. So many hopes were interwoven with the marriage, that her arrival was sincerely greeted by all. Napoleon had gone as far as Compeigne to receive the new Empress. From this chateau he wrote to her every day by a page who went off at full speed with his letters, and as quickly returned with her replies. . Maria Louisa daily manifested more and more interest in reading his billets-doux. She looked for them with impatience; and if any circumstance retarded the arrival of the page, she repeatedly asked what accident could have detained him. In the mean while Napoleon burned with impatience to behold his bride, and really appeared love-stricken. On the day upon which she was expected he had directed his brother Louis to go and meet her. The latter accordingly repaired to Soissons; but while he was stopping in that city, Napoleon, unable to conquer his impatience, set out in a calash, passed his brother, and travelled on the road between Soissons and Rheims, until he met the carriage of Maria Louisa, whereupon he alighted, ran up to the door, opened it himself, and rushed rather than stepped into it. The first compliments being passed, a moment of gazing and silence succeeded, which the empress interrupted in a way highly complimentary to the emperor, by saying, “Your Majesty's picture has not done you justice.” They proceeded to Compeigne, where they arrived in the evening, and where Napoleon, following the precedent of Henry IV., on his marriage with Mary de Medicis, passed the night with his bride.* The entry of the princess into Paris took place on the 1st of April. The day was unusually beautiful. Nothing could be more magnificent, nor could anything exceed the respect, the enthusiasm exhibited universally on the occasion. The court set off immediately to St. Cloud, where the civil ceremony was gone through, and on the following day the nuptial benediction was given by Cardinal Fesch. The most splendid illuminations, concerts, and festivals ensued. All Paris for a time appeared to revel in a delight bordering upon phrenzy; but, in the midst of these rejoicings, the fete given by Prince Schwartzenberg in the name of the Emperor of Austria presented a sinister omen. The dancing-room, which was temporary and erected in the garden, unhappily took fire, and several persons perished, among whom was the sister-in-law of the ambassador. The melancholy conclusion of this

* Memoires du Duc de Rovigo, tom. iv. p. 196: S

festival, given to celebrate the alliance of two nations, struck a damp on the public mind, and did not fail to recal the catastrophe which had marked the fete on the occasion of the marriage of Louis XVI. with Marie Antoinette. The most unfortunate presages were drawn from this occurrence; and Fouche says, that Napoleon himself regarded it with a superstitious dread. At this period Maria Louisa was little more than eighteen years of age. Her stature was sufficiently majestic, her complexion fresh and blooming, her eyes blue and animated, her hair

light, and her hand and soot so beautiful that they

might have served as models for the sculptor. Her person would by some have been deemed rather too much en-bon-point, but that defect speedily disappeared after her arrival in France.

The ceremonies being all over, Napoleon took the empress on an excursion to Belgium, where her singular modesty of demeanour won every heart; and the emperor's assiduous attentions to her were the theme of general admiration. The journey was one continued triumph; and they returned surfeited with pleasures and public ceremonics. From the following occurrence, which took place in the course of it, it would appear that Maria Louisa had some turn for humour. A mayor of a small town between Mons and Brussels having placed the following inscription on a triumphal arch of turf erected on the high road—

“En epousant Marie Louise,
Napoleon n’a as fait une sottise,”-

she was so amused with its simplicity that she would not allow Napoleon a moment's rest until he had consented to bestow the cross of the Legion of Honour on the author.

The empress now began to familiarize herself with a country in which the present was to her a flattering augury of a long life of uninterrupted enjoyments. She was already inspiring the French with a warm attachment to her person, and it was a source of congratulation to all that they had a sovereign free from the influence of intrigues, disposed to think well of every one, and deaf to all idle court-gossip. Those who only appeared now and then at court, and who therefore saw less of her character, mistook for a frigid disposition that natural timidity which never left her while she remained on the French soil. Another circumstance which contributed to heighten this timidity was, that she spoke French less fluently at this early period than she afterwards did. “She never discovered,” says the Duke of Rovigo, “how greatly this slight but visible embarrassment enhanced the graces of her person in the eyes of every beholder.”

On one occasion Maria Louisa made a very amusing Inisapplication of a French term. About a twelvemonth after her marriage a conversation took place respecting some measures adopted by the Austrian court, which not exactly meeting the views of Napoleon, he, in his hasty manner, called the Emperor Francis “un ganache," " stupid old blockhead. As the empress happened not to understand the expression, she requested

[merged small][merged small][graphic][graphic]
« السابقةمتابعة »