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THE PHILANTHROPISTS DO NOTHING,
Charenton, and lastly the horrors of Bicêtre, wherein any other' would have perished.
What makes the accusation heavy, overwhelming, and without appeal, is, that this man, good or bad, after escaping twice, twice surrendered himself by his own acts. Once, from his hiding-place, he wrote to Madame de Pompadour, and she caused him to be seized again! The second time, he goes to Versailles, wishes to speak to the king, reaches his antechamber, and she orders him again to be seized. What! In not even the king's apartment a sacred asylum?
I am unfortunately obliged to say that in the feeble, effeminate, declining society of that period, there were a great many philanthropists, ministers, magistrates, and great lords, to mourn over the adventure; but not one stirred. Malesherbes wept, and so did Gourgues, and Lamoignon, and Rohan,-they all wept bitterly.
He was lying upon his dunghill at Bicêtre, literally devoured by vermin, lodged under ground, and often howling with hunger. He had addressed one more memorial to some philanthropist or other, by means of a drunken turnkey. The latter luckily lost it, and a woman picked it up. She read it, and shuddered;
she did not weep, but acted instantly.
Madame Legros was a poor mercer who lived by her work,by sewing in her shop; her husband was a private teacher of Latin. She did not fear to embark in that terrible undertaking. She saw with her firm good sense what others did not, or would not, see that the wretched man was not mad, but the victim of a frightful necessity, by which the government was obliged to conceal and perpetuate the infamy of its old transgressions. She saw it, and was neither discouraged nor afraid. No heroism was ever more complete: she had the courage to undertake; the energy to persevere; and the obstinacy to sacrifice every day and every hour; the courage to despise the threats, the sagacity, and saintly plots of every kind in order to elude and foil the calumny of the tyrants.
For three consecutive years, she persevered in her endeavours with an unheard-of obstinacy; employing in the pursuit of justice and equity that singular eagerness peculiar to the huntsman or the gamester, and to which we seldom resort but for the gratification of our evil passions.
MADAME LEGROS RESOLVES TO SAVE HIM.
All kinds of misfortunes beset her; but she will not give up the cause. Her father dies; then her mother; she loses her little business, is blamed by her relations, nay, subjected to villanous suspicion. They tax her with being the mistress of that prisoner in whom she is so much interested. The mistress of that spectre, that corpse, devoured with filth and vermin!
The temptation of temptations, are these complaints, these unjust suspicions about him for whom she is dying and sacrificing herself!
Oh! It is a grand sight to see that poor woman, so illdressed, begging from door to door, courting the valets to gain admittance into the mansions, pleading her cause before grandees, and demanding their assistance.
The police are furious and indignant. Madame Legros may be kidnapped, shut up, lost for ever; everybody gives her warning. The lieutenant of police sends for her, and threatens her; he finds her firm and unalterable; it is she who makes him tremble.
Happily, they manage to get her the protection of Madame Duchesne, a femme de chambre to the princesses. She sets out for Versailles, on foot, in the depth of winter; she was in the seventh month of her pregnancy. The protectress was absent; she runs after her, sprains her foot, but still runs on. Madame Duchesne sheds many tears, but alas! what can she do? One femme de chambre against two or three ministers ;-it is a difficult game! She was holding the memorial, when an abbé of the court, who happened to be present, tore it out of her hands, telling her that it was all about a miserable madman, and that she must not interfere.
Nothing more was wanting to freeze the heart of MarieAntoinette, who had been made acquainted with the matter. If she had tears in her eyes, and they joked her, all was over.
There was hardly a better man in France than the king. At length they applied to him. Cardinal de Rohan (a debauchee, but charitable after all) spoke three times to Louis XVI., who thrice refused to interfere. Louis XVI. was too good not to believe M. de Sartines. He was no longer in power, but that was no reason for dishonouring him, and handing him over to his enemies. Setting Sartines out of the
THE KING REFUSES-MADAME LEGROS PERSISTS.
question, we must say that Louis XVI. was fond of the Bastille, and would not wrong it, or injure its reputation.
The king was very humane. He had suppressed the deep dungeons of the Châtelet, done away with Vincennes and created La Force to receive prisoners for debt, to separate them from criminals.
But the Bastille ! the Bastille! That was an old servant not to be lightly ill-treated by the ancient monarchy. It was a mystery of terror, what Tacitus calls, "Instrumentum regni.
When the count d'Artois and the Queen, wishing to have Figaro played, read it to him, he merely observed, as an unanswerable objection, "Then must the Bastille be suppressed?"
When the Revolution of Paris took place, in July '89, the king, indifferent enough, seemed to be reconciled to the matter. But when he was informed that the Parisian municipality had ordered the demolition of the Bastille, he seemed as if he had been shot to the heart; "Oh!" said he, "this is awful!"
He was unable, in 1781, to listen to a request that compromised the Bastille. He rejected also the one which Rohan presented to him in favour of Latude. But noble ladies insisted. He then made a conscientious study of the business, read all the papers; they were few, save those of the police and people interested in keeping the victim in prison until death. At length he decided that he was a dangerous man, and that he could never restore him to liberty.
Never! Any other person would have stopped there. Well then, what is not done by the king shall be done in spite of him. Madame Legros persists. She is well received by the Condé family, ever discontented and grumbling; welcomed by the young duke of Orleans and his kind-hearted spouse, the daughter of the good Penthièvre; and hailed by the philosophers, by the Marquis de Condorcet, perpetual secretary of the Academy of Sciences, by Dupaty, by Villette, Voltaire's quasi son-in-law, &c. &c.
The public voice murmurs louder and louder, like a flood, or the waves of the rising tide. Necker had dismissed Sartines; his friend and successor, Lenoir, had also fallen in his turn. Perseverance will presently be crowned. Latude is obstinately bent on living, and Madame Legros as obstinately bent on delivering Latude.
The queen's man, Breteuil, succeeds in '83: he wished to immortalize her. He permits the Academy to award the prize of virtue to Madame Legros,-to crown heron the singular condition, that the crown should not be required.
At length, in 1784, they force from Louis XVI. the deliverance of Latude.* And a few weeks after, comes a strange and whimsical ordinance enjoining the intendants never more to incarcerate anybody, at the request of families, without a wellgrounded reason, and to indicate the duration of confinement, &c. That is to say, they unveiled the depth of the monstrous abyss of arbitrariness into which France had been plunged. She already knew much; but the government confessed still
From the priest to the king, from the Inquisition to the Bastille, the road is straight, but long. Holy, holy Revolution, how slowly dost thou come!-I, who have been waiting for thee for a thousand years in the furrows of the middle ages,-what! must I wait still longer?-Oh! how slowly time passes! Oh how I have counted the hours!
Wilt thou never arrive?
All had foreNobody, at you see it;
Men believed no longer in its near approach. seen the Revolution in the middle of the century. the end, believed in it. Far from Mont-Blanc, when at its foot, you see it no more. "Alas! it is all over,' said Mably, in 1784; we have fallen too low; morals have become too depraved. Never, oh! never now will the Revolution appear!"
O ye of little faith, do you not see that as long as it remained among you, philosophers, orators, sophists, it could do nothing? God be praised, now it is everywhere, among the people and in women.-Here is one who, by her persevering, unconquerable will, bursts open the prisons of State; she has taken the Bastille beforehand.-The day when libertyreason, emerges from arguments, and descends into nature, into the heart (and the heart of hearts is woman), all is over. Everything artificial is destroyed.-0 Rousseau, now we
*Latude's admirable letters are still unpublished, save the few quoted by Delort. They refute but too well the vain polemics of 1787.
LONG EXPECTATION OF THE REVOLUTION.
understand thee; thou was truly right in saying, "Return to nature!
A woman is fighting at the Bastille. Women gain the 5th of October. As early as February '89, I read with emotion the courageous letter of the women and girls of Angers: "Having read the decrees of the male portion of our youthful community (messieurs de la jeunesse), we declare that we will join the nation, reserving to ourselves the care of the baggage and provisions, and such consolations and services as may depend on us; we will perish rather than abandon our husbands, lovers, sons, and brothers."
O France, you are saved! O world, you are saved!— Again do I behold in the heavens my youthful star in which I so long placed my hope,-the star of Joan of Arc. What matters, if the maid, changing her sex, has become a youth, Hoche, Marceau, Joubert, or Kléber!
Grand period, sublime moment, when the most warlike of men are nevertheless the harbingers of peace! When Right, so long wept for, is found at the end of ages; when Grace, in whose name Tyranny had crushed us, is found to be consonant, identical with Justice.
What is the ancient régime, the king and the priest in the old monarchy ? Tyranny, in the name of Grace.
What is the Revolution? advent of Eternal Justice. O Justice, my mother! one with God!
The re-action of equity, the tardy
Right, my father! ye who are but
Whom else should I invoke, I, one of the crowd, one of those ten millions of men, who would never have existed, but for our Revolution.
O Justice, pardon me! I believed you were austere and hard-hearted, and I did not perceive that you were identical with Love and Grace. And that is why I have been no enthusiast of the middle ages, which have ever repeated the word Love without performing the offices of Love.
But now, absorbed in deep reflection, and with all the ardour of my heart, I humbly crave forgiveness, O heavenly Justice of God.
For thou art truly Love, and identical with Grace.
And as thou art Justice, thou wilt support me in this book,