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Although I had come to England with the intention of remaining but five or six months, I had now stayed nearly three years, held, not solely by my interests as a painter, but also by the kind treatment bestowed upon me. I have often heard it said that the English are lacking in hospitality, but I am far from sharing that opinion, and harbour grateful memories of the cordiality I met with in London. Though receiving more social invitations than I could possibly accept, I nevertheless succeeded – and this was said to be very difficult – in forming an intimate circle to my taste. I achieved it through allying myself with Lady Bentinck and her sister, the Villiers young ladies, Mme. Anderson, and Lord Trimlestown, who, an accomplished amateur in the arts, cultivates painting and literature with taste and talent, and who, now in Paris, keeps his friendship for me. I should, therefore, not have decided to return to France so soon had I not learned that my daughter had arrived at Paris. I keenly longed to see her again, the more as I was secretly informed that her father allowed her to form connections that to me seemed improper for a young woman, and hence I hastened my departure. It surely needed a deep motive to resist the appeals which friends and even acquaintances were kind enough to make. As at this period Bonaparte, who had proclaimed himself Emperor, prohibited all English people in France, after the rupture of the Peace of Amiens, from leaving, Lady Herne, well known for her artistic proclivities, said that I ought to be kept back as a hostage.

At the moment I was to get into the post-chaise that was to convey me to the inn near my place of embarkation, the charming Mme. Grassini appeared on the scene. I thought she had simply come to bid me farewell, but she declared she wished to take me to the inn, and made me get into her carriage, which I found full of pillows and packages. "What is all this for?" I inquired. "You are not aware, then," she replied, "that you are going to the worst inn of the world? You may have to wait there a week or more if the wind is not favourable, and I have made up my mind to stay with you." I can hardly say how moved I was at this token of affection. The beautiful woman was leaving the pleasures of London and her friends, to say nothing of the host of admirers always in her train, merely to keep me company. To me this seemed lovable, and I have never forgotten it.

It was a great joy to me to see my friends once more, and especially my daughter. Her husband, whom she had accompanied to France, was charged by Prince Narischkin with the mission of engaging musical artists for St. Petersburg. He left a few months later, but alone – for love, alas! had long since vanished – and my daughter remained, to my great satisfaction. To her misfortune and mine, my child had a very quick temper; besides, I had not been able to instil into her completely my own distaste for bad company. Add to this that – whether through my own fault or not – her power over my mind was great, and I had none over hers, and it will be understood how she sometimes made me shed bitter tears. Still, she was my daughter. Her beauty, her gifts, her cleverness rendered her as fascinating as possible, and, though I mourned because I could not persuade her to come to live with me, since she persisted in seeing certain people I would not receive, I at any rate saw her every day, and that in itself was a great blessing.

One evening I arranged some living pictures of a kind which had won warm approval in St. Petersburg, and, being careful to place behind the gauze none but handsome men and pretty women, the result was charming. Another day I painted on a screen several head-dresses of historic characters, making holes under them for the insertion of a face. The conversation passing with those who put in their heads amused us vastly. Robert, who took part in all our gaieties like a schoolboy, put his face under Ninon's head-dress, which made us laugh like mad. All these particulars may seem childish to-day, when evening parties are taken up with talking politics or playing cards, but some of us had not yet lost the habit of enjoying ourselves, and the fact is, we enjoyed ourselves very much. After all, these pleasures were well worth the cards of Parisian and the stifling routs of London drawing-rooms.

One of the first people I met, upon my return from London, was Mme. de Ségur, and I frequently went to see her. One day her husband told me that my journey to England had displeased the Emperor, who had curtly remarked, "Mme. Lebrun went to see her friends." But Bonaparte's resentment against me could not have been violent, since, a few days after speaking thus, he sent M. Denon to me with an order to paint his sister, Mme. Murat. I thought I could not refuse, although I was only to be paid 1,800 francs – that is to say, less than half of what I usually asked for portraits of the same size. This sum was the more moderate, too, because, for the sake of satisfying myself as to the composition of the picture, I painted Mme. Murat's pretty little girl beside her, and that without raising the price.

I could not conceivably describe all the annoyances, all the torments I underwent in painting this picture. To begin with, at the first sitting, Mme. Murat brought two lady's maids, who were to do her hair while I was painting her. However, upon my remark that I could not under such circumstances do justice to her features, she vouchsafed to send her servants away. Then she perpetually failed to keep the appointments she made with me, so that, in my desire to finish, I was kept in Paris nearly the whole summer, as a rule waiting for her in vain, which angered me unspeakably. Moreover, the intervals between the sittings were so long that she sometimes changed her mode of doing her hair. In the beginning, for instance, she wore curls hanging over her cheeks, and I painted them accordingly; but some time after, this having gone out of fashion, she came back with her hair dressed in a totally different manner, so that I was forced to scrape off the hair I had painted on the face, and was likewise compelled to blot out a brow-band of pearls and put cameos in its place. The same thing happened with her dress. One I had painted at first was cut rather open, as dresses were then so worn, and furnished with wide embroidering. The fashion having changed, I was obliged to close in the dress and do the embroidering anew. All the annoyances that Mme. Murat subjected me to at last put me so much out of temper that one day, when she was in my studio, I said to M. Denon, loudly enough for her to hear, "I have painted real princesses who never worried me, and never made me wait." The fact is, Mme. Murat was unaware that punctuality is the politeness of kings, as Louis XIV. so well said.

Delivered of the vexations arising from Mme. Murat's portrait, I resumed the peaceful life I was accustomed to, but my desire for travel was not yet stilled: I had never seen Switzerland. I therefore resolved to leave Paris once more, and soon was making for the mountains.

In the period succeeding my Swiss travels I at length acquired an inclination for rest. This, together with a taste I had always had for the country, prompted me to leave for Louveciennes before the breaking of the first buds, and consequently I was established there by the time the allies were making their second descent upon Paris. It is well known that the villages fared much worse than the towns at the hands of the foreign troops. I shall never forget the night of March 31, 1814.

Ignorant that danger was so near, I had not as yet considered flight. It was eleven o'clock in the evening, and I had just gone to bed, when Joseph, my Swiss man servant, who spoke German, entered my room, in the belief that I should need protection. The village was being invaded by the Prussians, who were sacking all the houses, and Joseph was followed by three soldiers with villainous faces, who approached my bed with brandished swords. Joseph tried to fool them by saying in German that I was Swiss and an invalid. But paying no attention to him, they began by taking my gold snuff-box, which was on my night-stand. Then they felt under my quilt, to find out whether I had any money concealed, one of them calmly slicing off a piece of the quilt with his sword. Another, who seemed to be French, or at least spoke our language perfectly, said, "Give her back the box"; but far from acceding, his companions went to my desk and seized upon everything it contained. Afterward, the soldiers pillaged my cupboards. At last, after putting me through four hours of mortal fright, these terrible people quit my house. Nor was this my only experience of the kind. With the return of the foreigners in 1815, some English came to Louveciennes. They robbed me of a number of articles, among them a magnificent large lacquer box that I sorely regretted losing, since it had been given me in St. Petersburg by my old friend, Count Strogonoff.

After the nocturnal visit by the Prussians I wanted to go to Saint Germain, but the road was not safe enough, so I took refuge with a good person living at Marly, near Mme. Du Barry's pavilion. Other women, frightened like myself, had already chosen this place. We all dined together and slept six in a room – as far as sleep was possible. The nights went by with continual alarms, and I felt the liveliest anxiety for my poor servant, to whom I owed my life. The faithful fellow had insisted on staying in my house to hold the soldiers in check. I had the greatest fears on his account, as the village was entirely given up to plunder. The peasants camped in the vineyards and slept on straw in the open air, after being robbed of all their possessions. Several of them sought us out, lamenting their misfortunes, and these mournful tales were recited in Mme. Du Barry's splendid garden, near the "Temple of Love," amid flowers and under the brightest of skies! I was so appalled by their stories and by the incessant cannonading and fusillading that one evening I attempted to go down into a cellar and stay there. But I hurt my leg, and was obliged to come up again.

The last affair happened at Roquencourt. There was also fighting near Mme. Hocquart's house, very near the place where I was. We learned that after the combat the Prussians had sacked from top to bottom the house of a very Bonapartist lady, who during the fighting screamed from her terrace to the French, "Kill all those people!" The victors, having heard her, broke into the house, and smashed all the mirrors and the furniture as well, while the lady, in her chemise and without shoes, was fleeing to Versailles, where she found shelter.

Ultimately, Louis XVIII. entered Paris, ready to forgive and forget. I went to see him pass on the Quai des Orfèvres. He was in a carriage, seated beside the Duchess d'Angoulême. The constitution he had announced had been greeted with joyful acclamation; the delight of the people was great and universal. Flags hung from all the windows on the line of march. Cries of "Long live the King!" rose to the skies, and were so loud and heartfelt that I was moved beyond anything I can say. In the Duchess d'Angoulême's face was to be read in turn her pleasure at such a welcome and the painful memories assailing her. Her smile was sweet but sad – a most natural thing, because she was following the road her mother had followed in going to execution, and she knew it. However, the exultation evoked by the King's appearance and hers went far to console that afflicted heart. The plaudits pursued them to the Tuileries, where the crowds filling the gardens gave vent to the same transports. They sang, they danced in front of the palace, and when the King showed himself at the window of the large balcony and kissed his hands over and over again to the people, their joy knew no bounds. That evening there was a grand court reception at the Tuileries; an immense number of women attended. The King spoke to them all most graciously and to some of them even recalled various incidents creditable to their families.

Possessed of an extreme desire to get a close view of Louis XVIII., I mingled with the crowd that gathered on Sunday in the corridor to see him go by on his way to mass. I was opposite the windows, with the rest, so that the King could easily distinguish me. When he did, he stepped over to me, gave me his hand in the most affable manner, and said a thousand flattering things about the pleasure he felt in meeting me once more. As he remained thus holding my hand for several moments and addressing none of the other women, the onlookers must no doubt have taken me for a very great lady, because, no sooner had the King passed than a young officer, seeing that I was alone, offered me his arm, and would not leave me until he had escorted me to my carriage.

Most of the people who came back with our Princes were either friends or acquaintances of mine. It was very sweet, after all those years of exile, to meet again in the country of our birth. But, alas! This happiness endured only a few months, for, while we were rejoicing at our lot, Bonaparte was landing at Cannes. At midnight, on the 19th of March, 1815, Louis XVIII. and the whole royal family left Paris. Napoleon entered the next day, at eight of the evening, resuming possession of the Tuileries, the troops filling the courtyards, giving our Princes' palace the aspect of a castle taken by assault. Without offense to the memory of a great captain and the brave generals and soldiers who helped him to win such fine victories, one may well ask what Bonaparte's victories have led to, and whether an inch of the ground remains to us that cost us so much blood. What proves how tired the people were of those eternal wars was their lack of enthusiasm during the Hundred Days. The King returned to Paris on the 8th of July, 1815, amid almost unanimous rejoicings, since, after all our misfortunes, Louis XVIII. brought back peace.

Henceforth it was seen how this Prince combined wisdom and ability with his more brilliant mental qualities. Times were critical, and Louis XVIII. was assuredly the ruler to suit the period. With much courage and coolness he united elevation of soul and great subtlety of mind; all his ways were royal. He gave readily and liberally; he was fond of patronising art and letters, which he himself cultivated; his features were by no means devoid of beauty, and so noble was their expression that, infirm though he was, the first sight of him called forth involuntary respect. His favourite recreation was talking about literature with clever people. In his youth he had written very pretty verses, and his style was that of an accomplished man of letters. Knowing Latin perfectly, he liked to converse in that language with our most learned Latinists. His memory was prodigious; he could always repeat the most striking passages of a book read rapidly, of a piece seen once. Ducis, who before the Revolution had occupied a post in Monsieur's household, came out from his retreat at Versailles to present his homage to the King. Louis at once recognised him, welcomed him warmly, and recited the best lines of his "Oedipus," scarcely remembered by the aged author.

His Majesty was himself the author of several political writings and an account of a "Journey to Coblentz." There are also attributed to him the text of the opera "The Caravan" and "The Lutenist of Lübeck," a prose play in one act, given at the Théâtre Francais. He had a strong attachment for the Théâtre Francais. He often went to that playhouse, and especially admired the acting of Talma. Whenever that great actor, happening to be on duty for the week, carried a torch before the King to his box, Louis would regularly stop to talk with him a long time. These conversations were in English, spoken by both as well as their own language. It was reported to me that Talma had said, "I prefer Louis XVIII.'s courtesy to Bonaparte's pension."

Courtesy, in fact, is the greatest charm of princes; it doubles the value of the slightest favour. In this regard His Highness the Count d'Artois was in no way behind his brother. By no means forgotten are the innumerable apt sayings, bearing the corner-mark of kindness, with which he won men's hearts. After his accession to the throne – upon the death of Louis XVIII. – I chanced to be at the Louvre the day he was giving medals to the painters and sculptors. Before presenting them he said, in the most sympathetic manner, "They are not encouragements, but rewards." All the artists were touched by the delicate compliment implied in these words.

As for the Duke de Berri, if he had not quite the same courtesy as his father, he was as clever, especially in that timely quickness of wit so useful to princes. I select one example out of a thousand. The first time he reviewed some troops he heard a few cries from the ranks of "Long live the Emperor!" "Quite right, my friends," was his immediate remark; "every one must live." Upon which the same soldiers exclaimed, "Long live the Duke de Berri!"

His goodness of heart went so far that not only did he interest himself in everything that concerned his friends, but behaved toward the domestics of his household as the father of a family might have done. He was worshipped by his servants, and employed his influence to encourage them in good conduct and in making whatever savings they could. One day, as he was about to enter his carriage, a little kitchen scullion came running up to him with, "Your Highness, I have saved fifteen francs this year!" "Well, my boy, that makes thirty," said the Duke, giving him the sum the boy had mentioned. The Duke de Berri kept his revenues in good order; his heaviest expenses were occasioned by his taste for the arts, a predilection shared by his amiable wife. The Duchess de Berri was fond of encouraging young artists; she would buy their pictures and often order more. Her liberality in paying never made her forget the duty of politeness incumbent upon rank. She showed model civility in all her dealings with men of talent.

Of the Duchess d'Angoulême I would not venture to speak. What could I say that would not fall short of the truth? The merits of this Princess are known to the whole world, and I fear I should but weaken the future verdict of history. It is equally well known that fate united her with a Prince whose high soul worthily appreciated her.

Such was the family brought back to us by the Restoration. It is for politicians to explain how so many virtues and excellencies were insufficient to preserve the throne to them – my grateful heart cannot but regret them.

Under Bonaparte, the large portrait I had made of the Queen and her children had been relegated to a corner of the palace of Versailles. I left Paris one morning to take a glance at it. Arrived at the royal gate, a guard escorted me to the room which contained the picture, and which was forbidden the public. The custodian who admitted us recognised me from having seen me in Rome, and exclaimed, "Oh, how glad I am to welcome Mme. Lebrun here!" He hastened to turn my picture round, which was facing the wall, since Bonaparte, after learning that many came to look at it, had ordered its removal. The order, as is plain, was very badly obeyed, since the exhibition of the picture continued, and this to such a degree that the custodian, when I wanted to give him a trifle, persisted in declining it, saying that I had earned him enough money. When the Restoration came, this picture was reëxhibited at the Salon. I was keeping for myself another picture representing the Queen, done during the reign of Bonaparte. I had painted Marie Antoinette ascending to heaven; to her left, on some clouds, are Louis XVI. and two angels, symbolising the two children he had lost.

As soon as the peace of my country seemed assured, I abandoned all thoughts of leaving it again, and divided my time between Paris and the country. My liking for my pretty house at Louveciennes was undiminished. I spent eight months of the year there, and in those surroundings my life flowed as smoothly as possible. I painted, I busied myself about my garden, I took long, solitary walks, and on Sundays I received my friends. So fond was I of Louveciennes that, wishing to bequeath the place something to remember me by, I painted a picture of Saint Genoveva for the church. Mme. de Genlis was good enough to dedicate a poem to me in acknowledgment. If I gave away pictures, some were given me, and that in the heartiest manner. I had frequently expressed a desire that my friends should commemorate themselves on the panels of my drawing-room at Louveciennes. One fine summer's morning, at four o'clock, while I was asleep, the Prince de Crespy, the Baron de Feisthamel, M. de Rivière and my niece, Eugenia Lebrun, set silently to work. By ten o'clock each frame was filled. My surprise may be imagined when, upon coming down to breakfast, I entered the room and found it adorned with these delightful paintings as well as with garlands of flowers. It was my birthday. Tears came into my eyes – the only thanks I was able to offer.

In 1819 His Highness the Duke de Berri signified his wish to buy my "Sibyl," which he had seen in my studio at London, and although I perhaps prized this most of all my works, I speedily complied with his request. Some years later I painted Her Highness the Duchess de Berri, who gave me sittings at the Tuileries with the politest punctuality, and besides showed me a friendliness than which none could have been greater. I shall never forget how, while I was painting her one day, she said, "Wait a moment." Then, getting up, she went to her library for a book containing an article in my praise, which she was obliging enough to read aloud from beginning to end. During one of these sittings the Duke de Bordeaux brought his mother a copybook in which his master had written "Very good." The Duchess gave the boy two louis. The little Prince, who might have been about six, began to jump for joy, shouting, "This will do for my poor – and for my old woman first of all!" When he was gone the Duchess told me that her son referred to a poor soul he often met when he went out and of whom he was particularly fond.

While the Duchess sat for me I would become irritated at the number of people who came to make calls. She took note of this and was so considerate as to say, "Why did you not ask me to pose at your house?" Which she did for the two final sittings. I confess that I never could think of such affecting warmth of heart without comparing the time I devoted to this genial Princess with the melancholy hours Mme. Murat had made me spend. I painted two portraits of the Duchess de Berri. In the first she is wearing a red velvet dress, and in the other one of blue velvet. I have no idea what has become of these pictures.

I must now speak of the sad years of my life during which, in a brief space, I saw the beings dearest to me depart this world. First, I lost M. Lebrun. True that for a long time I had entertained no relations whatever with him, yet I was none the less mournfully affected by his death. You cannot without regret be separated forever from one to whom so close a tie as marriage has bound you. This blow, however, was far less than the cruel grief I experienced at the death of my daughter. I hastened to her as soon as I heard of her illness, but the disease progressed rapidly, and I cannot tell what I felt when all hope of saving her was gone. When, going to see her the last day, my eyes fell upon that dreadfully sunken face, I fainted away. My old friend Mme. de Noisville rescued me from that bed of sorrow; she supported me, for my legs would not carry me, and took me home. The next day I was childless! Mme. de Verdun came with the news, and vainly tried to soften my despair. All the wrong-doing of the poor little one vanished – I saw her again, I still see her, in the days of her childhood. Alas! she was so young! Why did she not survive me?

It was in 1819 that I was bereft of my daughter, and in 1820 I lost my brother. So many successive shocks plunged me into such deep dejection that my friends, grieving for my state, urged me to try the distraction of a journey. I therefore decided to visit Bordeaux. I did not know that town, and hence the anticipation changed the current of my thoughts. Nor was I disappointed. My health benefited by the journey, and I returned to Paris less dark in spirit.

From that day to this I have travelled no more. After my return from Bordeaux I resumed my daily habits and my work, which of all distractions I have always found the best. Although having had the misfortune to lose so many dear ones, I did not remain forsaken. I have mentioned Mme. de Rivière, my niece, who, through her affection and her ministrations, is the blessing of my life. I must also speak of my other niece, Eugenia Lebrun, now Mme. Tripier Le Franc. Her studies at first prevented me from seeing her as often as I should have liked to, for since her earliest youth her disposition, her mental qualities, and her great gift for painting had promised to be a joy to me. I took pleasure in guiding her, in lavishing my counsels upon her, and in watching her progress. I am well rewarded to-day, when she has realised all my hopes by her lovely character and her very remarkable talent for painting. She has followed the same course as myself in the adoption of portrait painting, and is earning success merited by fine colouring, by great sincerity, and, particularly, by perfect resemblance. Still young, she can but add to a reputation which in her diffidence and modesty she has scarcely ventured to foresee. Mme. Tripier Le Franc and Mme. de Rivière have become my daughters. They bring back all of a mother's feelings to me, and their tender devotion spreads a beautiful charm over my existence. It is among these two dear creatures and the friends who have been spared me that I hope to end peacefully a wandering and even a laborious but honest life.


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