Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

quaintances " (vol. i. p. 230), alluding to one of the chief difficulties of Count D'Orsay's social position in England, and the anomalies in the constitution of fashionable society there, says :-“And yet it was in England, that Count D'Orsay, while a mere boy, made the fatal mistake of marrying one beautiful woman, while he was, without daring to confess it even to himself, madly in love with another, still more beautiful, whom he could not marry-because, I say, under these circumstances, and discovering his fatal error when too late, he separated himself from his wife almost at the church door, he was, during the greatest part of his social career in England, cut off from the advantages of the more fastidious por. tion of high female society, by the indignant fiat of its heads and leaders.”

A man in his twenty-seventh year can hardly be designated as a mere boy, nor can the circumstance of his separation from his wife “ almost at the church door," be accounted for in any manner that will appear excusable to the friends of the young deserted wife, or the fastidious portion of high female society in England or elsewhere. This marriage was not only a great misfortune for those who were married, but a great crime on the part of those who promoted that marriage, and were consenting to it.

If any comment must be made on this unfortunate union and its results, might it not be better to summon courage, and taking counsel of Montesquieu, to speak out a solemn truth, on an occasion that can be best dealt with by its bold enunciation ?

Religion, good or bad, is the only test we have for the probity of men.

There is no dependence to be placed in probity or purity of life, without the protection of religion. Human honour is inadequate to the security of either. There is an amount of indigence, at which honour, long resisting, will stagger in

VOL. I.

BB

the end; there is a degree of temptation, at which Honour having heedlessly suffered vice to approach her in the guise of innocent freedom, will dally with it, till guilt itself may become familiar to her bosom. But respectable folks, who figure in good society, solemn-faced sages and even intellectual celebrities, will

say

it is false, honour is alone sufficient to regulate the minds of educated men, and to prevent all disorders in society. It will be held to libel honour, to say that it is sufficiently strong, to bind respectable members without religion, and that the latter is only needful for the happiness of people in another world. Nevertheless, there are few who speak thus, who do not know that their own experience will not bear out the opinion they profess to hold. The larger the experience of life is, the more strong must be the conviction that there is no dependence on any man's probity, or any woman's virtue, whose reliance is not placed in religion.

Nothing more can be said with profit or advantage on this subject, except that it is deeply to be lamented this marriage was forced on Count D'Orsay, and that he consented to contract a marriage with a young lady for whom he entertained no sentiments of love or kindness.

It would be very unjust to D'Orsay, with all his errors, to place him in the same category with his profligate countryman De Grammont, and still more unjust to set him down on the same list with the Dukes of Buckingham, Wharton, and Queensberry, and the more modern antiquated libertine of exalted rank and vast possessions—the Marquis of Hertford.

In one very essential matter he differed from most of them though practically not living in the world of fashion under the restraints of religion, all the influences of an early recol. lection of its sacred character were not lost; and these which in the midst of a wild and thoughtless career, sufficed at least to shew that all respect for that character had not been wholly

abandoned, and that they were still faintly perceptible in some of the noble qualities possessed by him, at the close of life were strongly manifested, and made the mode of his departure from it, the best, the only consolation indeed, that could be given, to a sister eminently good and spiritually minded.

The close of that career, and the ministrations on it, form a strong contrast with the termination of a life of an English Duke, and the attendance on a death bed, of which Sir N. Wraxall, in his Memoirs, has left a remarkable description.

“When Queensberry lay dying, in December, 1810, his bed was covered with billets and letters to the number of at least seventy, mostly indeed addressed to him by females of every description and of every rank, from duchesses down to ladies of easiest virtue. Unable, from his attenuated state, to open or peruse them, he ordered them as they arrived to be laid on his bed, where they remained, the seals unbroken, till he expired.

If the sordid homage paid to the wealth of the expiring debauchée had been offered only by the ladies of easiest virtue, there might be little to be surprised at; but what is to be said or thought of the ladies of reputed virtue, of exalted rank, who manifested so much sympathy for the old libertine of enormous wealth, and still more enormous wickedness?

Society suffers little from charity towards its erring members, but morality suffers a great deal, when habitual vice and dissoluteness of life, of persons in high places or regal station, evil courses which never have been abandoned, or repented of, find sycophants and slaves to pander to them, and people forgetful of the dignity of their position, or their pursuits, to lend their services to palliate them.

Count Alfred D'Orsay died in Paris, the 4th of August, 1852, in his fifty-second year, having survived the Countess of Blessington three years and two months. His remains were laid in the same sepulchral chamber in which hers were deposited. The monument erected to her memory at Chambourcy had been hardly finished, when it became the restingplace of all that is left of the accomplished, highly-gifted, generous-hearted Alfred D'Orsay.

Pulvis et umbra, nomen, nihil.

373

APPENDIX.

No. I.
CORRESPONDENCE OF COUNT D'ORSAY.

LETTERS FROM COUNT D'ORSAY TO W. S. LANDOR, ESQ.

“Rome, December 8, 1827. “ MON CHER MR. LANDOR,

“Nous avons tous été obligés d'aller à Naples, pour faire le mariage Protestant, car la première insinuation que l'on donna au Duc de Laval, fut qu'il étoit préferable que cela eut lieu avant la cérémonie Catholique, ainsi voilà ce grand imbécille de ministre confondu. Son ignorant entètement est prouvé. Je viens de lui écrire, pour lui dire que lorsqu'on est complètement ignorant des devoirs de son ministère, on doit alors en place d'entetement se rapporter à l'opinion des autres, et que malgré tout l'embarras que nous avions eu à cause de lui, d'entreprendre ce voyage, nous avions été à même de juger de F-, qui comprend tout aussi bien les devoirs de son ministère, que la manière de recevoir les personnes de distinction.

J'espère qu'il prendra mal ma lettre, car j'aurois grand plaisir, de lui couper le bout de son Bec. Je vous écris ces détails car je sais même par Hare, qu'en véritable ami, vous avez pris chaudement notre parti; je ne m'en étonne pas, car il suffit de vous connaitre, et de pouvoir vous apprécier, pour être convaincu que tout ce qui n'est pas sincère, n'a rien de commun avec vous. Toute la famille vous envoye mille amitiés, nous parlons et pensons souvent de vous.

“ Votre très affectionné,

“ D'ORSAY."

« PoprzedniaDalej »