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NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW.
NEW SERIES, NO. XVII.
Art. I.—Mémoires sur la Vie privée de Marie Antoinette,
Reine de France et de Navarre ; suivis de Souvenirs et
This work was intended, in part, as a defence of the character of the late unfortunate queen of France against the calumnies that were circulated respecting her at the opening of the French revolution. Madame Campan apprehended, that the libellous pamphlets of that time had made a lasting impression upon public opinion in and out of France. On this head we are inclined to think that her fears were greatly exaggerated. Whatever may have been the weaknesses or the faults of the royal family in their days of prosperity the atrocities perpetrated upon them by the revolutionary cannibals, and the heroic virtues, which they displayed in their hour of trial, very justly and naturally excited a strong feeling in their favor. If there is now any error in the general estimate of their characters, it is not probably on the adverse side. This is more particularly true of the queen, who exhibited throughout higher qualities than the king; and, as an elegant and accomplished female, excited a deeper sentiment of interest and pity.
New Series, No. 17. 1
Since the return of the family, she has been all but cannonized in France. In England a single passage from the eloquent pen of Burke had conferred upon her, long before, a sort of rhetorical apotheosis. We shall have occasion to remark hereafter how singularly her situation, at the time when she was seen by this great orator, contrasted with the description which he has given of it. Under these circumstances a formal defence of the queen is not only unnecessary, but might be expected to operate rather injuriously than otherwise, since any detailed account of her life, however partially colored, has the effect of bringing down to the touchstone of real fact the poetical image, which remains upon the mind after the contemplation of her unparelleled misfortunes, and of the magnanimity with which she supported them. Nevertheless, Madame Campan has executed her task with so much good taste and skill, that the effect of her work will probably be very favorable to the queen's reputation. She judiciously avoids entering into a direct refutation of any of the calumnies upon her illustrious patroness, which are now all forgotten ; and contents herself with giving a simple narrative of the queen's life, from the time of her arrival at Paris, up to the terrible tenth of August, when the author was compelled to leave her. The situation of Madame Campan, as the confidential attendant of Marie Antoinette, gave her the best opportunity of collecting materials for a work of this kind ; and although she has exercised a proper discretion in drawing up her story, it contains much interesting matter, and many important historical facts before wholly unknown.
Madame Campan was the daughter of Mr Genet, for a long time principal under secretary in the department of foreign affairs; and sister to the well known citizen Genet, formerly minister plenipotentiary from the French Republic in this country. We shall extract hereafter a passage, in which she gives an account of her brother's political life, previously to his appointment to that post. The father was a person of great merit and talent, and attended carefully to the education of his children. Henrietta, the daughter, seems to have been in her childhood a very lively girl, and to have possessed a great facility at acquiring knowledge. At the age of fourteen she was already familiar with Italian