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On my arrival in Paris at our house in the Rue Gros Chenet, M. Lebrun, my brother, my sister-in-law, and her daughter were awaiting me when I alighted from my carriage; they were all weeping for joy, and I, too, was deeply moved. I found the staircase lined with flowers, and my apartment in complete readiness. The hangings and curtains of my bedroom were in green cloth, the curtains edged with yellow watered silk. M. Lebrun had had a crown of gilt stars put over the bedstead, the furniture was all convenient and in good taste, and I felt altogether comfortably installed. Although M. Lebrun made me pay dearly enough for all this, I nevertheless appreciated the pains he had taken to make my place of abode agreeable.

The house in the Rue Gros Chenet was separated by a garden from a house facing the Rue de Cléry, which also belonged to M. Lebrun. In this second house was a great room where very fine concerts were given. I was taken there the evening of my arrival, and as soon as I entered the place everybody turned in my direction, the audience clapping their hands, the musicians rapping on their violins with their bows. I was so touched by this flattering testimony that I gave way to tears. I call to mind that Mme. Tallien was at this concert, radiant with beauty.

My first visitor, next day, was Greuze, whom I found unchanged. You would even have said that he had never undressed his hair, for the same locks waved at each side of his head – just as before my departure. I was grateful for his attention, and very glad to see him again. After Greuze came my good friend, Mme. de Bonneuil, as pretty as ever; the dear creature was preserved in a truly wonderful manner. She told me that her daughter, Mme. Regnault de Saint-Jean-d'Angély, was to give a ball the following night, and that I must come unfailingly. I answered that I had no ball dress, and then showed her that famous piece of Indian stuff given me by Mme. Du Barry, which had gone through such great adventures since being in my possession. Mme. de Bonneuil declared it admirable, and sent it to Mme. Germain, the celebrated dressmaker, who immediately made me a fashionable gown, which she brought me that very evening. So I went to Mme. Regnault de Saint-Jean-d'Angély's ball, and I saw the handsomest women of the period, first among them Mme. Regnault herself, and next Mme. Visconti, so remarkable for her beauty of both figure and face. While amusing myself with looking over all these lovely ladies, some one sitting in front of me turned round. She was so exquisite that I could not help exclaiming, "Oh, how beautiful you are!" It was Mme. Jouberthon, then portionless, who afterward married Lucien Bonaparte. I also saw a number of French generals at this ball. Macdonald, Marmont and several others were pointed out to me. In fact, this was a new society.

A few days after my return Mme. Bonaparte called upon me one morning. She spoke of the balls at which we had been together before the Revolution; she was most cordial, and even invited me to dinner at the First Consul's. However, the date of this dinner was never mentioned.

My friend Robert soon paid me a visit, and so did the Brongniarts, and Ménageot. I was very deeply touched with the joy testified by the friends and acquaintances who crowded to see me every day. But the pleasure of greeting them all was bitterly mingled with sorrow at learning of many deaths I was ignorant of, for not an individual came who had not lost a mother, a husband, or some relation.

And I had another trial to undergo, worse than all the rest. Good manners demanded a visit to my odious stepfather. He still lived at Neuilly, in a small house bought by my father, where I had often been in my early youth. Everything in the place reminded me of my poor mother and my happy days with her. I found her work basket just as she had left it. In short, the visit was the more sad for me as I was mournfully inclined. Going to Neuilly, I for the first time recrossed the Louis XV. square, where I still seemed to see the blood of a host of noble victims. My brother, who was with me, reproached himself for not having made our carriage take a different route, since I was suffering beyond belief. At this very day I never pass that square without calling up the horrors it has witnessed – I cannot control my imagination.

The first time I went to the play the house looked exceedingly dull to me. Accustomed as I had been, in France and abroad, to see every one powdered, those dark heads and those men in dark clothes made a melancholy picture. You would have thought the audience had assembled to go to a funeral.

In general, Paris had a less lively appearance to me. The streets seemed so narrow that I was tempted to believe double rows of houses had been built. This was no doubt due to my recent impressions of St. Petersburg and Berlin, where the streets, for the most part, are very wide. But what displeased me far more was still to see "liberty, fraternity or death" written on the walls. These words, sanctified by the Terror, aroused the saddest thoughts in me touching the past, and inspired me with some fears for the future.

I was taken to see a great review by the First Consul in the square of the Louvre. I stood at a window in the museum, and recollect that I refused to acknowledge the tiny man I saw to be Bonaparte; the Duke de Crillon, who was beside me, had all the difficulty in the world to convince me. Here, as in the case of Catherine II., I had depicted such a famous man in the shape of a giant. Not long after my arrival Bonaparte's brothers came to view my works; they were very civil toward me, and said the most flattering things. Lucien, especially, inspected my "Sibyl" quite minutely, and proffered me a thousand praises on account of it.

My first visits were to my good old friends, the Marquise de Grollier, Mme. de Verdun and the Countess d'Andlau, whose two daughters I saw at the same time, Mme. de Rosambeau and Mme. d'Orglande, both worthy of their mother in mind and good looks. I likewise went to see Mme. de Ségur. I found her lonely and dejected; her husband had no post, and they were living in straitened circumstances. Later, when I came back from London, Bonaparte made the Count de Ségur Master of Ceremonies, which gave them an easy life. I remember how, about this time, going to see the Countess Ségur toward eight in the evening, and finding her alone, she said to me: "You would scarcely believe I have had twenty people to dinner. They all went after the coffee." I was, indeed, rather surprised, because before the Revolution most of the guests you had to dinner would remain with you until evening, which I thought much more proper than the new method.

At the same time Mme. de Ségur invited me to a large musical party at which all the notables of the day came together. Here I had occasion to observe another innovation, which seemed to me no better than the first. I was astonished, when I entered the room, to find all the men on one side and all the women on the other – like hostile forces, you would have said. Not a man came over to our side excepting the master of the house, the Count de Ségur, impelled by his old habits of gallantry to pay the ladies a few compliments. Mme. de Canisy was announced, a very handsome woman, with the figure of a painter's model. And then we lost our only knight, for the Count went to lay himself at the feet of this beauty, and did not leave her the whole evening.

I was seated next to Mme. de Bassano, who had been praised highly to me, and whom I had thus been anxious to see. She seemed very much wrapped up in the diamond monogram given me by the Queen of Naples when I bade that Princess farewell. Moreover, considering me probably as an interloper, since I was neither a minister's wife nor a lady of the court, she spoke not a single word to me, which did not, however, prevent me from looking at her repeatedly and judging her extremely pretty.

The first artist I went to see was M. Vien, who had formerly been created first painter to the King, and whom Bonaparte had recently nominated Senator. He was then eighty-two years old. M. Vien may be regarded as heading the restoration of the French school. After this visit I went to M. Gérard's, already famous for his pictures, "Belisarius" and "Psyche." He had just finished a fine portrait of Mme. Bonaparte reclining on a sofa, which was to add yet more to his reputation in this style of painting. Mme. Bonaparte's portrait made me wish to see that which Gérard had done of Mme. Récamier. So I went to that lovely woman's house, delighted with the chance of making her acquaintance.

One woman there was who rivalled Mme. Récamier in respect of beauty. This was Mme. Tallien. Besides her great beauty, she had great goodness of heart; in the Revolution a host of victims condemned to death owed their lives to the influence she exercised upon Tallien. The rescued ones called her "Our Lady of Good Help." She received me most graciously. Later, after marrying the Prince de Chimay, she inhabited a palatial house at the end of the Rue de Babylone, where she and her husband diverted themselves with giving plays. They both acted very well. She invited me to see one of these pieces, and came to several of my evening parties. I had the felicity, too, at this time, of knowing Ducis, whose admirable character equalled his rare talent. The ease and simplicity of all his ways contrasted so well with the splendid imagination with which Heaven had gifted him that I have never known a more lovable man than this excellent Ducis. The sole regret of his friends was that they were unable to induce him to settle in Paris. But he disliked the city, and the author of "Oedipus" and "Othello" demanded shepherds and pastures to make his life agreeably consistent. The solitary mode of existence he rejoiced in caused me a surprise, or rather a fright, which I shall never forget.

After my return from London I went to see him at Versailles, whither, as I was aware, he had retired. It was in the evening; I knocked at his door, and it was opened to me by Mme. Peyre, the architect's widow, candle in hand. I thought she had died long ago, and I uttered a scream. While I tried to collect my wits she related how she had lately been married to Ducis. At last I understood, and composed myself. She led me to her husband, whom I found alone in a little room on the top floor of the house, buried in books and manuscripts. Nothing in this abode seemed to me either pastoral or pleasant, but by the aid of his imagination Ducis turned this attic, which he called his "lookout," into a place of delight.

I met Mme. Campan again with much pleasure. She was then playing a somewhat important part in what was soon to become the reigning family. One day she asked me to dinner at Saint Germain, where her boarding-school was established. At table I sat near Mme. Murat, Napolean's sister, but we were so placed that I could see only her profile, particularly as she did not turn her head in my direction. In the evening the young ladies of the school gave us a performance of "Ester," in which Mlle. Augué, who afterward married Marshal Ney, enacted the leading rôle very well. Bonaparte was one of the spectators. He was seated in the first row, and I posted myself in the second, in a corner, but near enough to observe him conveniently. Though I was in a dark spot, Mme. Campan came to tell me, between two acts, that he had guessed who I was.

I was glad to notice a bust of Marie Antoinette in Mme. Campan's room. I felt grateful to her because of this, and she confided in me that Bonaparte approved of it, which I thought very proper on his part. It is true that at this period there seemed no need for him to have any fears relating either to the past or the future. His victories evoked enthusiasm from the French, and even from foreigners. He had many admirers among the English, especially, and I recall one day, when I went to dine with the Duchess of Gordon, she showed me Bonaparte's portrait, saying in French, "There is my zero." As she pronounced French very badly, I understood that she meant "hero," and we both laughed heartily over my explanation of "zero."

The large number of strangers I knew in Paris, and the desire to dispel an unconquerable melancholy, prompted me to give some evening parties. Princess Dolgoruki was anxious to meet the Abbé Delille. So I requested his presence at supper with several other people worthy of listening to him. Though this charming poet had gone blind, he had nevertheless kept his cheerfulness of disposition. He recited some of his beautiful lines to us, and we were all enchanted by them. On another occasion I arranged a supper at which all the great personages of the day were present, and among the ambassadors was M. de Metternich. Then I gave a ball, to which Mme. Hamelin, M. de Trénis, and other renowned dancers came. Mme. Hamelin was regarded as the best dancer in Paris society. Certainly she was exquisitely graceful and fleet of foot. I remember how, at this ball, Mme. Dimidoff danced the Russian waltz so entrancingly that we stood on our chairs to watch her.

Having a suitable room in my house on the Rue Gros Chenet, I conceived the idea of putting in a stage and giving plays. The spectators included all persons of distinction.

In all these gatherings I aimed at paying back the Russians and Germans in Paris a few of the favours they had so thoughtfully and amiably rendered me in their own country. Almost every day I saw Princess Dolgoruki, who had been such an angel to me in St. Petersburg. She enjoyed being in Paris very well. One evening I found the Viscount de Ségur at her house. I had often seen him before the Revolution; he was then young and fashionable, and made a thousand conquests through his personal graces. When I saw him again at the Princess's his face was expressionless and wrinkled; he wore a wig with symmetrical curls at each side, leaving his forehead bald. Another twelve years and the wig aged him so that I could barely recognise him excepting by his voice. Princess Dolgoruki came to see me the day of her presentation to Bonaparte. I asked her what she thought of the First Consul's court. "It is not a court," she replied, "but a power." The thing must of course have appeared to her in that light, being accustomed to the court of St. Petersburg, which is so large and brilliant, whereas at the Tuileries she found few women and a prodigious number of military men of all grades.

Among all the amusements that residence in Paris afforded me, I was none the less pursued by innumerable black thoughts, which assailed me even in the midst of pleasures. To put an end to such a painful state of mind, I determined to take a journey. More than once, while I was at Rome, the newspapers had had it that I was at London, but the fact was I had never seen that city. Accordingly, I resolved to go there.

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