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CHATEAUBRIAND'S FIRST LOVE.

The author of Le Génie du Christianisme, who boasted that he restored religion to France while Napoleon was restoring order, was a man of many love affairs, all of them subsequent to his marriage.

As a bachelor he was shy and timid. Women alarmed him, whether they were of high or of low degree. He once shared a carriage with a milliner, all the way from Rennes to Paris, not because he wished to do so, but because an elderly relative had so arranged things for him, and the lady was disappointed with his behaviour, just as the maid Merceret was disappointed with the behaviour of Jean-Jacques Rousseau when she took him for a walking tour. She wondered, he relates, why he kept to his own corner of the conveyance, instead of trying to sit as close to her as possible, and she "seemed much relieved to get rid of her fool of an escort." Arriving in Paris, be called upon a married lady, who received him, lying in her bed, and gave him her hand to kiss, telling him that he was a wild creature, but that she would tame him. “But I did not kiss her hand,” he writes. "I withdrew, full of embarrassment." His hour was not yet come.

Nor had it come when Mademoiselle Monet, the daughter of the mine manager, took him to the theatre. "I do not know,” he writes, "whether I was in love with her or not. I do know that I was afraid of her. Sometimes, however, I used to call, in a great state of nervousness, and take her for a walk. She took my arm, and I think I sometimes squeezed her hand.'

No more than that. Chateaubriand was still in the very early days of his apprenticeship. He had got little further when, landing at Saint-Pierre on his way to the United States, he made the acquaintance of a fisher girl, and wandered with her on the shores of the Atlantic. His boldness reached its climax when he proposed to make the young woman a present of a new corset of Parisian style and cut. The maiden not only blushed, but turned and fled from the tempter, and the tempter did not venture to pursue.

And that was all. Chateaubriand had no serious love affair until after he had married a wife, and left her, and come to England.

His marriage may or may not have been de convenance; there are two versions of the story.

The union, according to his own account, was purely a measure of finance. It was his duty as a Breton-his duty far more than

VOL. LXXXIV. N.S.

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his desire-to join the Army of Condé then mustering at Coblentz for the purpose of invading France and restoring the authority of the King, and he had no money to defray the expenses of the expedition :

“This conjunction of circumstances” (he continues) responsible for the most serious of all the events of my life. My relatives married me in order to furnish me with the means of going to get killed in defence of a cause to which I was indifferent."

He hardly knew the bride who was proposed for him; he did not feel that he possessed "any of the qualifications of a husband.” But he yielded to pressure---especially to the pressure of his favourite sister, Lucile. “Very well," he said. "Have it your own way.”

That is his own story; but another is told by Sainte-Beuve on the authority of Viennet. Chateaubriand, Sainte-Beuve suggests, had “compromised” Mlle. de Lavigne, with the result that an angry uncle called on him one day with a priest and a pair of pistols, and insisted, with threats, that the marriage should take place there and then. That story, given his proud and sullen temper, would explain his instant desertion of his wife quite as well as his desire to fight the battles of a King for whom he felt no enthusiasm ; but the proofs are inconclusive, and the mystery must be left unsolved. All that is certain is that Chateaubriand started for the frontier almost immediately after his marriage, and did not see Madame de Chateaubriand again until several years had elapsed.

He fought at the siege of Thionville, and did enough for honour. He caught small-pox, yet managed to drag himself to Brussels and to Ostend, whence he crossed to Jersey, where an uncle and some of his cousins had taken refuge. He stayed with them, gradually recovering his health, for about four months. At the end of that time he took the packet for England, landing at Southampton in 1793 with thirty louis in his purse. And in England he first fell into destitution, and then fell in love.

It was the time when the Terror raged in France, and many of Chateaubriand's relatives were numbered among its victims. His mother was imprisoned in Paris, and his wife and his sister were imprisoned at Rennes, until the counter-Revolution of Thermidor released them. His brother and his brother's wife were taken to the Place of the Guillotine in the same tumbril with his aged friend, M. de Malesherbes, “who defended Louis and could not speak, like a grey old rock dissolving into sudden water.” “One young Chateaubriand alone,” writes Carlyle, “is

wandering amid the Natchez,' by the roar of Niagara Falls ” ; but that is one of Carlyle's mistakes. The young Chateaubriand had returned from America more than a year before, and was starving-or very nearly so-in a Holborn garret-so obscure that one hardly finds a mention of him in the memoirs of any of the other émigrés, such as Madame de Boigne; so poor that, when he returned to Paris seven years later—“almost a personage,” as he says-his first act was to ask for a loan of five-andtwenty louis, to tide him over the hard times still in front of him.

In Holborn he occupied a furnished lodging, let to him by Baylis, the printer, at a rent of a guinea a month. He earned what he could by literary hack work-chiefly translation from the Latin and the French-and began, at the same time, to write what he hoped might prove a “magnum opus” : his Essai sur les Révolutions. The work was very hard, and the pay was very poor; his prospects were black, and his distress was deep. He dined, as long as he could afford to do so, at a shilling ordinary at a tavern. Presently he had to cut his dinner money down to sixpence. A little later there were days -several consecutive days-on which he had nothing to drink but water, and nothing to eat but bread. At the same time, his health was in a bad way, and he was spitting blood. He had, as he graphically puts it, “his tombstone for a writing-desk.”

At the time when he wrote out his recollections of these terrible experiences, he was French Ambassador-"a magnificent Ambassador,” he says-at the Court of Saint James, and had just sat next to Canning, and heard his health proposed in flattering terms at the annual dinner of the Royal Literary Fund. The memories evoked, and the thought of the contrast between the present and the past, had moved him to tears and generosity. When the collection was made, writes his secretary, M. de Marcellus, “he emptied both his purse and mine,” and when, after the feast was over, he and M. de Marcellus were driving home together, he lay back in the coupé and quoted Sunt lacrime rerum.” If the Royal Literary Fund had been in existence in 1791, he reflected, he would himself have been a worthy object of its benevolence, and the almoner of the society might have done worse than pay his doctor's bill.

As a matter of fact, the Royal Literary Fund did exist in 1794, having been instituted in 1790, and its administrators had always been willing to assist foreigners as well as Englishmen. Indeed, at the very dinner which Chateaubriand attended, the secretary reported that the Society had “discovered the venerable (1) Niagara and the Natchez ara at opposite ends of the United States

Bard of Iceland, where he patiently reclined beneath the shed of poverty.” It was still, however, in 1794 a very young and poor Society, and very likely Chateaubriand, even if he had been aware of its existence, would have been too proud to apply to it for a grant-just as he was, he assures us, too proud to apply for the shilling a day which the British Government allotted, by way of "outdoor relief," to all French émigrés who needed it, preferring to wander, hungry, through the streets, to lie indolently under the trees in Kensington Gardens, or to gaze with mournful eyes upon the monuments in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey. "The bust of an unknown man such as I am," he reflected sorrowfully in its aisles, “will never find a place among these illustrious effigies”; while, in the former resort, he indulged in more sentimental sighs and aspirations. “I wonder,” he writes, conjuring up the recollection, “whether any of the beautiful women there divined the invisible presence of René."

Probably none of them did ; there was no reason why any of them should. But Chateaubriand's first romance—the romance to which he was to owe at least a part of the inspiration of René -was, nevertheless, very near at hand, though not London, but Bungay, in the county of Suffolk, was to be the scene of it.

One of his friends in London was Peltier, the journalist, afterwards chargé d'affaires of the black King Christopher of Haiti, who paid him a good salary in bales of sugar, which he sold to the best advantage. Peltier came to Chateaubriand one day and showed him an advertisement which he had found in Yarmouth newspaper.

A Committee of Antiquaries, it appeared, at whose head was the vicar of Beccles,' had planned, and were preparing, a history of the county. They wanted a Frenchman to help them to decipher some twelfth-century French manuscripts in the Camden collection; they offered a suitable man two hundred guineas for his services. It was the very post for Chateaubriand, and Chateaubriand was the very man for the post. He applied for the appointment and got it, and he and Peltier celebrated his good fortune with a banquet of roast beef, plum pudding, and port wine. And so he went to his fate.

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(1) A Mr. Sparrow. Chateaubriand, curiously enough, omits all mention of his name.

(2) That is the story as he tells it. Local tradition remembers him not as an antiquary, but only as a teacher of French, who gave visiting lessons at Beccles, Bungay, and Halesworth. There are people still living who have known his pupils, who called him, it appears, “Mons. Shatterbrains.” Presumably he combined the two occupations, but only recalled the one which he esteemed the more dignified.

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The bracing air of the East coast restored his shattered
health. He was well received, and invited to many of the best
houses. One house in which he was made specially welcome
was that of Mr. Ives, the incumbent of Saint Margaret's,
Ikketshall, living at Bungay-about five miles from Beccles-
“a great Hellenist and mathematician,” we read, and one who
“drank in the old-fashioned English style.

Mr. Ives and his young French visitor used, in this old-
fashioned English style, to sit for two hours over their wine
after dinner, talking of Homer and Sir Isaac Newton and their
foreign travels 2 and the North-West passage. Then, when they
joined the ladies for tea in the drawing-room, Mr. Ives used
to go to sleep in his arm-chair, and Mrs. Ives to busy herself
with needle-work, while their daughter, Miss Charlotte Ives,
sang, and Chateaubriand turned over the leaves of her music
for her. Or else, when the melodies had lulled their elders to
their slumbers, the young people talked in whispers of France,
of literature, of themselves, of one another.

Chateaubriand had come to Beccles—and to Bungay--under the assumed name of M. de Combourg. He had acknowledged his real name when found in tears over the news of his brother's execution. But he had said nothing about Madame de Chateaubriand, then languishing in prison at Rennes. Nothing had happened to suggest the topic. No doubt it seemed irrelevant at a time when, as he says, he “felt the bashful charm of an attachment of the soul.” And so, for a season, he fleeted the time carelessly.

The next thing that happened was that Chateaubriand borrowed a horse, and the horse, as if collaborating with destiny, threw him at Mr. Ives' door. He was-he had to be-taken in and put to bed and nursed, and nothing could have pleased him better. “If any one,” he writes, "had told me that I was to spend the remainder of my days, unknown to the world, in the bosom of that solitary household, I should have died of joy.” So he continued to say nothing about Madame de Chateaubriand languishing in her prison, but accepted the good gifts

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(1) There is a local tradition to the effect that he once drank against the Duke of Norfolk for a wager. Bottle after bottle of port disappeared, and when the Duke was under the table, the clergyman rose, rang the bell, and called for a tumbler of brandy-and-water, “hot and stiff.” Mr. Rider Haggard tells the story in his Farmer's Year.

(2) Mr. Ives had himself travelled in America, and it was probably in his library that Chateaubriand found the books of travel from which he borrowed freely, without acknowledgment, in his narrative of his peregrinations.

(3) There exists a document in which we find M. de Combourg reading the characters of young ladies from their hand-writing.

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