Page images

her own part, and with greater satisfaction to her hearers. She has been advised to take the recumbent posture, her face being turned towards the heavens. She performs her nightly devotions with a constancy and fervour wholly unexampled for a human being in a state of somnium. Her body and limbs are motionless; they stir no more than the trunk and extremi. ties of a statue; the only motion the spectator perceives is that of her organs of speech, and an oratorical inclination of the head and neck, as if she were intently engaged in performing an academical or theological exercise. She commences and ends with an address to the Throne of Grace, consisting of proper topics of acknowledgment, submission, and reverence, of praise and thanksgiving, and of prayer for herself, her friends, the church, the nation, for enemies, and the human race in general. Between these, is her sermon or exhortation. She begins without a text, and proceeds with an even course to the end; embellishing it sometimes with fine metaphors, vivid descriptions, and poetical quotations.

“ There is a state of body like groaning, sobbing, or moaning, and the distressful sound continues from two minutes to a quarter of an hour. This agitation, however, does not wake her; it gradually subsides, and she passes into a sound and natural sleep, which continues during the remainder of the night. In the morning she wakes as if nothing had happened, and entirely ignorant of the scenes in which she has been an actor. She declares that she knows nothing of the nightly exercises, except from the information of others. With the exception of the beforementioned agitation of body and exercise of mind, she enjoys perfect health.”

In October 1814, Miss Baker was brought to New York by her friends, in hopes that her somnial exercises, which were considered by some of them as owing to disease, might, by the exercise of a journey, and the novelty of a large city, be removed. But none of these means produced the desired effect. Her acquaintances stated that her somnial exercises took place every night"regularly, except in a few instances when interrupted by severe sickness, from the time they commenced in 1812. In September 1816,

however, these nightly exercises were interrupted by medical treatment, particularly by the use of opium.- Barber's History and Antiquities of the Northern State of America.




". It appears to me as if it were but yesterday, and it was nevertheless in the beginning of the year 1788, we were at the table of a brother Academician, who was of the highest rank, and a man of talents. The company was numerous and of all kinds,-courtiers, advocates, literary men, academicians, etc. We had been, as usual, luxuriously entertained, and at the dessert the wines of Malvoisie and the Cape added to the natural gaiety of good company that kind of social freedom which sometimes stretches beyond the rigid decorum of it. In short, we were in a state to allow of anything that would produce mirth. Chamfort had been reading some of his impious and libertine tales, and the fine ladies had heard them without once making use of their fans. A deluge of pleasantries on religion then succeeded ; one gave a quotation from the Maid of Orleans, another recollected and applauded the philosophical distich of Diderot

Et des boyaux du dernier prétre
Serrez le cou du dernier roi.
And the last priest's entrails form the string
Around the neck of the last king.

[ocr errors]

A third rises, and with a bumper in his hand: “Yes, gentlemen,” he exclaims, “I am as sure that there is no God, as I am certain that Homer is a fool.”

The conversation afterwards took a more serious turn, and the most ardent admiration was expressed of the revo

[ocr errors]

lution which Voltaire had produced; and they all agreed that it formed the brightest ray of his glory. “He has given the ton to his age, and has contrived to be read in the chamber as well as in the drawing-room.” One of the company mentioned, and almost burst with laughter at the circumstance, that his hair-dresser had said, whilst he was powder. ing him, “Look you, Sir, though I am nothing but a poor journeyman barber, I have no more religion than another man.” It was concluded that the revolution would soon be consummated, and that it was absolutely necessary for superstition and fanaticism to give place to philosophy. The probability of this epoch was then calculated, and which of the present company would live to see the Reign of Reason. The elder part of them lamented that they could not flatter themselves with the hope of enjoying such a pleasure ; while the younger part rejoiced that they should witness it. The Academy was felicitated on having prepared the ground-work, and being at the same time the stronghold, the centre, the moving principle of freedom of thought.

There was only one of the guests who had not shared in the delights of this conversation; he had even ventured in a quiet way to start a few pleasantries on our noble enthusiasm. It was Cazotte, an amiable man of an original turn of mind, but unfortunately infatuated with the reveries of the Illuminati. He renewed the conversation in a very serious tone, and in the following manner: Gentlemen,” said he, “ be satisfied; you will all see this grand and sublime revolution. You know that I am something of a prophet, and I repeat that you will all see it." He was answered by the common expression, “ It is not necessary to be a great conjurer to foretell that.”

“ Agreed; but perhaps it may be necessary to be something more, respecting what I am now going to tell you. Have you any idea what will result from this revolution ? What will happen to ourselves ; to every one now present ; what will be the immediate progress of it, with its certain effects and consequences ?”

• Oh,” said Condorcet, with his silly and saturnine laugh, “ let us know all about it; a philosopher can have no objection to meet a prophet.'



“ You, M. Condorcet, will expire on the pavement of a dungeon; you will die of the poison which you will have taken to escape from the hands of the executioner; of poison, which the happy state of that period will render it absolutely necessary


about At first, there appeared a considerable degree of astonishment, but it was soon recollected that Cazotte was in the habit of dreaming while he was awake; and the laugh was as loud as ever.

“M. Cazotte, the tale which you have just told is not so pleasant as your Diable amoureux. But what devil has put this dungeon, this poison, and these hangmen in your head ? What can these things have in common with philosophy and the


of reason ?" “ That is precisely what I am telling you. It will be in the name of philosophy, humanity, and liberty ; it will be under the reign of reason, that what I have foretold will happen to you. It will then, indeed, be the reign of Reason, for she will have temples erected to her honour. Nay, throughout France there will be no other places of public worship than Temples of Reason."

“In faith," said Chamfort, with one of his sarcastic smiles, you will not be an officiating priest in any of these temples.”

“I hope not; but you, M. Chamfort, you will be well worthy of that distinction, for you will cut yourselves across the veins with twenty-two strokes of a razor, and will nevertheless survive the attempt for some months.”

They all looked at him, and continued to laugh.

* You, M. Vicq d’Azyr, you will not open your veins yourself, but you will order them to be opened six times in one day, during a paroxysm of the gout, in order that you may not fail in your purpose, and you will die during the night. As for you, M. de Nicolai, you will die on the scaffold; and so, M. Bailly, will you; and so will you, M. Malesherbes."

Oh, heavens !” said Roucher: “it appears as if his vengeance were levelled solely against the Academy; he has just made a most horrible execution of the whole of it. Now tell me my fate in the name of mercy!"

6 You will die also on the scaffold.”

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

you will

[ocr errors]

“Oh!" it was universally exclaimed, “ he has sworn to exterminate us all.”

No, it is not I who have sworn it.” “ Are we then to be subjugated by Turks and Tartars ?” By no means. I have already told you,

that then be governed by philosophy and reason alone. Those who will treat you as I have described, will, all of them, be philosophers: you will be continually uttering the same phrases that you have been repeating for the last hour, will deliver all your maxims, and will quote, as you have done, Diderot and the Maid of Orleans."

Oh," it was whispered, “the man is out of his senses ;" for during the whole of the conversation his coụntenance never underwent the least change.

“Oh, no," said another, "you must perceive that he is laughing at us; for he always blends the marvellous with his pleasantries."

“Yes," answered Chamfort, “the marvellous with him is never enlivened with gaiety. He always looks as if he were going to be hanged. But when will this happen ?"

“Six years will not have passed, before all that I have told you shall be accomplished." .

“Here, indeed, are plenty of miracles,” (it was myself, says M. de la Harpe, who now spoke,)“ and you set me down for nothing."

“ You will,” replied Cazotte,“ be yourself a miracle as extraordinary as any which I have told; you will then be a Christian.”

Loud exclamations immediately followed. “Ah," replied Chamfort, “all my fears are removed; for if we are not doomed to perish till La Harpe becomes a Christian, we shall be immortal."

“ As for the women," said the Duchess of Grammont, “it is very fortunate that we are considered as nothing in these revolutions. Not that we are totally discharged from all concern in them, but it is understood that in such cases we are to be left to ourselves—our sex.”

“Your sex, ladies," said he, interrupting her, “ will be no guarantee to you in these times. It will make no difference whatever, whether you interfere or not. You will be treated precisely as the men; no distinction will be made between


« PreviousContinue »