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greatest business was to decide between Leibnitz and Newton. Madame du Châtelet at first declared for Leibnitz, and wrote a dissertation to explain his system. She did not attempt to enliven this philosophical work with the extraneous graces of style; her masculine and candid character was above this kind of affectation: clearness, precision, and elegance, were the marks of her style. If it were possible to make any thing of Leibnitz and his system, this book would have done it ; but we begin now-a-days to care mighty little about Leibnitz and his theories.
'Born for truth, she soon cast away all these systems and gave herself up to the discoveries of the great Newton. She translated his great work of the Principia into French, and subsequently, as she improved her mathematical knowledge, she added to this work, which few people are in a condition to understand, an algebraical commentary still more
'After we had passed six years in this retirement, we were obliged to go to Brussels, on account of an old and eternal law-suit which the family of Du Châtelet had with the house of Honsbrouk. I had the rare satisfaction of reconciling the parties who had been for sixty years ruining one another in costs; and I procured for Madame du Châtelet's husband 220,000 livres in full of all his claims.'
Such is Voltaire's sketch of his life and his companion-for though the poor husband lived in the house, he was taken as little notice of by his guests as by Voltaire in this extract; indeed, he is never seen but by accident, nor ever mentioned, except 'par parenthèse.' Let us now hear Madame de Grafigny's account; and first of her reception—
'At last I arrived; the nymph (Madame du Châtelet) received me very well. I staid a moment in her apartment and then hastened to rest myself in my own; when lo, who comes-your idol (Voltaire) with a little taper in his hand, like a monk. He was overjoyed, transported to see me; kissed my hands ten times over, and inquired about me with the tenderest interest; his next question was after you, then he spoke of Desmarets and St. Lambert, and then he retired and left me to write to you.
'You are surprised that I say so drily that the nymph received me well-why, 'tis all I have to say. No, I forget; the first thing she did was to talk to me of her law-suit, sans cérémonie; her clack is astonishing; I had forgotten it; she speaks extremely fast, and as I do when I take off a "Française"-You see I have corrected this word, it would be high treason here to spell it with an *o. She talks like an angel; that I confess; she had on a chintz gown, and an apron of black taffety; her hair is of deep black and very long, it is gathered up behind to the crown of her head and curled like a child's, which becomes her very much. As I have as yet seen nothing but her dress, I can tell
Voltaire introduced this natural and sensible system of orthography, which, however, even yet is not universally established.
you of nothing but her dress. As for your idol, I know not whether he powdered himself in honour of me, but he is as fine as he could be in Paris. The good-man (the husband) sets off to-morrow for Brussels; so that we shall be a trio, and nobody sorry for it-this is mutual secret which we have already told one another.'-p. 5.
The next letter gives us some description of the house, and particularly of Voltaire's gallery.
'Voltaire's apartment is in a wing attached to the old house, he has a little anti-room the size of one's hand; next comes his bedchamber, which is small, low, and hung with crimson velvet, the *niche the same velvet with gold fringe: this is the winter furniture. There is little tapestry, but a great deal of wainscot, with delightful pictures; great glasses; corner tables of admirable Boule-Chinamandarins; a clock, supported on strange Indian figures;-in short, an infinity of things of this kind-dear, recherchées-and above all, every thing so neat that one might kiss the floor; an open case with a complete service in silver of all those superfluities which are so absolutely necessary, such silver,-such workmanship! there is one case with twelve rings of intaglio, besides two of diamond. Thence we go into his little gallery, which is from 30 to 40 feet long. Between the windows are two very pretty little statues on pedestals of japan varnish, one is the Venus Farnese, and the other the Hercules; beyond the windows are two cases, the one for books, the other for philosophical instruments, between them a stove in the wall which gives the room the temperature of spring; in front of it is a large pedestal, with a statue, of considerable size, of Cupid† discharging an arrow, but this is not yet complete. They are now making a niche for the Cupid, who is to conceal all appearance of the stove. The gallery is wainscoted, and painted in light yellow clock, tables, desks, nothing is wanting. Two rooms beyond are still unfinished, one of which is for the instruments, which are therefore at present in the gallery. There is but one sopha, and no easy chairs; that is to say, what are there are good of their kind, but they are not comfortable; bodily ease is, it seems, not Voltaire's luxury. The pannels of the wainscoting are of the most beautiful Indian paper; the skreens of the same; there are writing-tables and China in all corners, and every thing indeed, and all in the best taste: there is a door in the middle which opens to the garden.'—p. 16.
Such was the gentleman's apartment; and making allowances for Madame de Grafigny's provincial wonderment (she had not been yet at Paris,) the scene appears to be more splendid, and in a higher style than we should have expected, either from the situation, the times, or the pecuniary means of the parties: in truth,
* French beds stand generally in niches in the bed-rooms.
This was the Cupid under which Voltaire wrote the well-known inscription-
Il l'est, le fut, ou le doit être!
we may here observe, en passant, that Voltaire's early, and everincreasing affluence, appears to us an enigma which none of his biographers have satisfactorily explained.
The lady's apartment, comme de raison, is still finer:
'Her own room is wainscoted, and painted in a pale yellow varnish, with mouldings of light blue; the niche has the same mouldings, but is lined with the most beautiful Indian paper; the bed itself is of watered blue silk, and the whole is so matched that every thing, chairs, desks, writing-tables, stands, down to the basket for her little dog, is pale yellow and light blue; the mirrors are in silver frames, and of dazzling splendour: a great glass door-of plate glass, observe-leads to the library, which is not yet finished: it is carved like a snuff-box, nothing is so handsome; there are to be large glasses, pictures by Paul Veronese, &c. On one side of the niche is a little boudoir, where one is ready to kneel down and worship; the walls are blue, and the ceiling painted by a pupil of Mantins; on the pannels are eight pictures by Watteau; ah, such pictures, &c.'-p. 20.
After having visited her apartment, we sat chatting; she told me the whole history of her law-suit, from its origin, eighty years ago, down to the present day. This little talk lasted an hour and a half, yet, wonderful to tell, did not tire me. She talks so well that ennui has not time to get in. She shewed me her jewel box; it is more magnificent than the Duchess of Richelieu's. I cannot recover from my astonishment; for when I knew her at Craon, not long ago, she had not even a tortoiseshell snuff box, and now she has twenty of plain gold, or with jewels, or lacquered, or enamelled, which latter is a new and very costly fashion; shuttles* of the same material each richer than the other; watches set round with diamonds; rings upon rings of all the precious stones in the world, and trinkets without end and of all kinds.-In short I do not comprehend it, for they never were rich.'—pp. 19, 20.
Here the editor interferes, and gravely asks, in a note, whether it is not possible that all this étalage was the result of Voltaire's gallantry? Who doubts it?—but we would have thanked him if he had told us whence Voltaire was enabled to meet these boundless expenses. He had little or no patrimony-no visible means of gain but his writings, and even about them he was always, it is said, singularly generous; but even supposing that he did at last grow rich by authorship, he had at this time not published the most popular and profitable of his works:-like Madame de Grafigny, we do not comprehend it.
But while the hosts themselves were so splendidly lodged and equipped, their guests saw the other side of the picture.
My room,' says Madame de Grafigny, shivering with cold, my room is for height a perfect hall, through which all the winds of heaven
* For knotting. A fashionable apology for employment among the ladies of those days. disport
disport themselves, finding entrance from a thousand cracks round the window, which however, if heaven spares me life, I shall surely stop. This wilderness of a room has but one window, divided into three in the old fashion, without either curtain or blind, but instead of these conveniencies three pair of bare shutters. The ceiling is fortunately whitewashed, which contributes a little to light the room which is almost masked by the approach of a rocky hill to the window. The tapestry represents, doubtless, some great personages, to me unknown and not worth inquiring after. The niche is adorned with the trimmings of old clothes, very magnificent no doubt, but ill-matched and rather out of place. A chimney so wide that you could turn a coach and six-It devours I know not what quantities of wood, but never thinks of giving the least little heat in return. The furniture is of a piece with the room itself: some old arm-chairs; a commode; one night table, the only thing like a table, by the way, in the room—nothing more; a closet and a dressing-room, (through the walls of which I can see the sky,) to match the rest. To all this you climb by a very fine looking staircase, which however is, on account of its antiquity, not easy of ascent; and, finally, every thing that does not belong to the lady's own apartment, or Voltaire's, is of the most disgusting filth.'-p. 23.
Now for a view of their occupations.
'About half-past ten or eleven o'clock we are summoned to coffee, (breakfast,) which is always served in Voltaire's gallery; that lasts till twelve or one, according as we have assembled earlier or later. At noon precisely, the coachmen, to use their own phrase, go to dinner. These coachmen are the Lord of the castle, the fat lady, (Madame de Chambonin, a cousin and spy of Voltaire's), and her son, Voltaire's amanuensis, who never appears but to copy. We-that is, the Lady, Voltaire and I-stay together about half an hour, when he makes us a low bow and dismisses us. About four we lunch. I seldom come on this occasion unless sent for, which does not always happen. At nine we sit down to supper, and remain at table till midnight.-Good heaven, what suppers! Every kind of pleasure is collected; but the shortness of the time and the necessity of separating is the sword of Damocles. The Lord of the Castle (M. du Châtelet) sits down to table, eats nothing, but sleeps, and consequently does not talk much, and disappears with the dishes." -p. 83.
In the intervals between these meetings Voltaire gave his fair friend, from time to time, several of his unpublished works to read. Some evenings he read to them parts of the Pucelle d'Orléans, and Madame de Grafigny listened with delight, and even repeats to her friend with enthusiasm the outline of one canto of the piece, which we are confident no Englishman would sit by and hear read. By this act of indiscretion and bad taste, Madame de Grafigny, as we shall see by and bye, lost the comforts of Cirey and the friendship of its owners; and here we must observe, that this sprightly lady's notions and expressions are, on many occa
sions, of no very nice delicacy: she talks a language which, in these times, would not be tolerated in a housemaid; and there are in her letters, her letters to a man, which are wholly unfit to be read.
But the most important of their amusements was rehearsing and acting Voltaire's own plays; and indeed it was not improbable to some theatrical talent that Madame de Grafigny chiefly owed. her welcome; but she was punctual in paying for her entertainment in another and more current coin. As no flattery was too gross for Voltaire's appetite, so no slight was so trivial as not to call down his vengeance; and Madame de Grafigny seems to have suspected that the morbid appetites of Voltaire and his mistress induced them to descend to the incredible meanness of prying into the letters which their guests sent or received, for the purpose of discovering what was said about them. She never fails to desire her correspondent to be cautious what he writes; to be sure to answer her in the same tone which she uses; to slip into all his letters little compliments to the gentleman and the lady; for God's sake not to mention a word of what she writes, and, above all, to ask no questions. On one occasion M. Devaux had sent her a little piece of his own composition. Madame de Grafigny dared not show it at Cirey till she had interpolated it with a couple of dozen of wretched verses of her own making, in praise of the idol; and these saved the piece. Sometimes, however, in spite of her idolatry she lets us see, though obscurely, the personal bigotry, the persecuting jealousy, the cruel and tyrannical vanity of this great enemy of bigotry, persecution, and tyranny; and it is not, as we have already hinted, the least instructive part of her work which shows that the bad passions-all that Voltaire in his rage or his pleasantry attributes to priests and kings-actually raged in his own breast, and were limited only by his power of vengeance, whenever his personal vanity or personal interests were affected.
In his inordinate presumption, Voltaire seems to aspire at even more than literary despotism; and he exacted something like royal respect from his attendants.
'His own valet never quits his chair at table, and the other servants hand to him whatever the master wants, just as the king's pages do to the king's gentlemen; but all this is done naturally, and without any air of grandeur; so true is it that good sense always knows how to maintain its proper dignity without subjecting itself to the ridicule of affectation.'-p. 145.
So true is it that easy impudence often appears to do things quite naturally, which are in the abstract ridiculously impertinent; and so true it is, that poor Madame de Grafigny was under the hard necessity of thinking, or at least of representing every thing that