Project Gutenberg's Memoirs of the Court of St. Cloud, Volume 1, by Lewis Goldsmith
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Title: Memoirs of the Court of St. Cloud, Volume 1 Being Secret Letters from a Gentleman at Paris to a Nobleman in London
Author: Lewis Goldsmith
Release Date: December 4, 2004 [EBook #3892]
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Produced by David Widger
MEMOIRS OF THE COURT OF ST. CLOUD
By Lewis Goldsmith
Being Secret Letters from a Gentleman at Paris to a Nobleman in London
The present work contains particulars of the great Napoleon not to be found in any other publication, and forms an interesting addition to the information generally known about him.
The writer of the Letters (whose name is said to have been Stewarton, and who had been a friend of the Empress Josephine in her happier, if less brilliant days) gives full accounts of the lives of nearly all Napoleon's Ministers and Generals, in addition to those of a great number of other characters, and an insight into the inner life of those who formed Napoleon's Court.
All sorts and conditions of men are dealt with—adherents who have come over from the Royalist camp, as well as those who have won their way upwards as soldiers, as did Napoleon himself. In fact, the work abounds with anecdotes of Napoleon, Talleyrand, Fouche, and a host of others, and astounding particulars are given of the mysterious disappearance of those persons who were unfortunate enough to incur the displeasure of Napoleon.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
At Cardinal Caprara's
Episode at Mme. Miot's
A Grand Dinner
SECRET COURT MEMOIRS.
THE COURT OF ST. CLOUD.
PARIS, November 10th, 1805.
MY LORD,—The Letters I have written to you were intended for the private entertainment of a liberal friend, and not for the general perusal of a severe public. Had I imagined that their contents would have penetrated beyond your closet or the circle of your intimate acquaintance, several of the narratives would have been extended, while others would have been compressed; the anecdotes would have been more numerous, and my own remarks fewer; some portraits would have been left out, others drawn, and all better finished. I should then have attempted more frequently to expose meanness to contempt, and treachery to abhorrence; should have lashed more severely incorrigible vice, and oftener held out to ridicule puerile vanity and outrageous ambition. In short, I should then have studied more to please than to instruct, by addressing myself seldomer to the reason than to the passions.
I subscribe, nevertheless, to your observation, "that the late long war and short peace, with the enslaved state of the Press on the Continent, would occasion a chasm in the most interesting period of modern history, did not independent and judicious travellers or visitors abroad collect and forward to Great Britain (the last refuge of freedom) some materials which, though scanty and insufficient upon the whole, may, in part, rend the veil of destructive politics, and enable future ages to penetrate into mysteries which crime in power has interest to render impenetrable to the just reprobation of honour and of virtue." If, therefore, my humble labours can preserve loyal subjects from the seduction of traitors, or warn lawful sovereigns and civilized society of the alarming conspiracy against them, I shall not think either my time thrown away, or fear the dangers to which publicity might expose me were I only suspected here of being an Anglican author. Before the Letters are sent to the press I trust, however, to your discretion the removal of everything that might produce a discovery, or indicate the source from which you have derived your information.
Although it is not usual in private correspondence to quote authorities, I have sometimes done so; but satisfied, as I hope you are, with my veracity, I should have thought the frequent productions of any better pledge than the word of a man of honour an insult to your feelings. I have, besides, not related a fact that is not recent and well known in our fashionable and political societies; and of ALL the portraits I have delineated, the originals not only exist, but are yet occupied in the present busy scene of the Continent, and figuring either at Courts, in camps, or in Cabinets.
PARIS, August, 1805.
MY LORD:—I promised you not to pronounce in haste on persons and events passing under my eyes; thirty-one months have quickly passed away since I became an attentive spectator of the extraordinary transactions, and of the extraordinary characters of the extraordinary Court and Cabinet of St. Cloud. If my talents to delineate equal my zeal to inquire and my industry to examine; if I am as able a painter as I have been an indefatigable observer, you will be satisfied, and with your approbation at once sanction and reward my labours.
With most Princes, the supple courtier and the fawning favourite have greater influence than the profound statesman and subtle Minister; and the determinations of Cabinets are, therefore, frequently prepared in drawing-rooms, and discussed in the closet. The politician and the counsellor are frequently applauded or censured for transactions which the intrigues of antechambers conceived, and which cupidity and favour gave power to promulgate.
It is very generally imagined, but falsely, that Napoleon Bonaparte governs, or rather tyrannizes, by himself, according to his own capacity, caprices, or interest; that all his acts, all his changes, are the sole consequence of his own exclusive, unprejudiced will, as well as unlimited authority; that both his greatness and his littleness, his successes and his crimes, originate entirely with himself; that the fortunate hero who marched triumphant over the Alps, and the dastardly murderer that disgraced human nature at Jaffa, because the same person, owed victory to himself alone, and by himself alone commanded massacre; that the same genius, unbiased and unsupported, crushed factions, erected a throne, and reconstructed racks; that the same mind restored and protected Christianity, and proscribed and assassinated a D'Enghien.
All these contradictions, all these virtues and vices, may be found in the same person; but Bonaparte, individually or isolated, has no claim to them. Except on some sudden occasions that call for immediate decision, no Sovereign rules less by himself than Bonaparte; because no Sovereign is more surrounded by favourites and counsellors, by needy adventurers and crafty intriguers.
What Sovereign has more relatives to enrich, or services to recompense; more evils to repair, more jealousies to dread, more