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ing in the Rue St. Honoré, at the corner of the Rue de l'Ecbelle. A me
lancholy darkness spread around me—all was still—nevertheless, a low and
uncertain sound soon arose. All of a sudden, I perceived at the bottom of the street, and advancing towards me, a troop of cavalry, the men and horses however, all flayed. The men held torches in their hands, the red flames of which illumined faces without skin, and bloody muscles. Their hollow eyes rolled fearfully in their vast sockets, their mouths opened from ear to ear, and helmets of hanging flesh covered their hideous heads. The horses dragged along their own skins in the kennels, which overflowed with blood on both sides. Pale and dishevelled, women appeared and disappeared alternately at the windows, in dismal silence; low, inarticulate groans, filled the air, and I remained in the street alone, petrified with horror, and deprived of strength sufficient to seek my safety by flight. The horrible troops continued passing in a rapid gallop, and casting frightful looks on me. Their march, I thought, continued for five hours; and they were followed by an immense number of artillery waggons, full of bleeding corses, whose limbs still quivered; a disgusting smell of blood and bitumen almost choked me. At length, the iron gate of the prison shutting with great force, awoke me again. I made my repeater strike; it was no more than midnight, so that the horrible phantasmagoria had lasted no more than two or three minutes; that is to say, the time for relieving the sentry and shutting the gate. The cold was severe, and the watch-word short. The next day, the turnkey confirmed my calculations. I, nevertheless, do not remember one single event of my life, the duration of which I have been more exactly able to calculate, of which the details are more deeply engraven on my memory, and of which I preserve a more perfect consciousness.”—vol. i. p. 32.
The history of the early life of Lavalette consists of little more than details of detached scenes in which he was engaged, and which were immediately connected with the breaking out of the revolution. His evidence tends to throw into still stronger relief than ever, the savage cruelty by which the French populace was at that period characterized. He relates that in a journey from Paris to the country, he stopped at a village in his way to Autun, which was situated in the midst of woods, and the inhabitants of which obtained their livelihood by making wooden shoes. The villagers had only two days before murdered a bishop and two of his grand vicars for the sake of their money, and having once experienced the advantages of plunder, they seemed resolved to make it a permanent occupation. When Lavalette and his party entered the village, they were instantly set down by a little hunehbacked attorney as very promising victims. They were all accordingly forced to the municipality, where the attorney having taken the chair, determined as a measure of prudence and necessity, that the gentlemen's knapsacks ought to be examined. The audience applauded the decree, and were proceeding to carry it into effect, when D'Aubonne, one of Lavalette's fellow travellers, mounted the table. He was a tall man, very clever at making verses, and had the whole slang dictionary at his fingers’ ends. He commenced by
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a bold invective, which greatly surprised his hearers, then raised his style, and rung the changes on country, liberty, sovereignty of the people, so that the termination of his speech was followed by unanimous applause. D'Aubonne, not satisfied with the impression which he made, ordered the other fellow traveller of himself and Lavalette to get upon the table. This was Le Clerc de la Ronde, a man of the most grotesque shape, and as dark as an African. D’Aubonne then said to the assembly, “You shall soon know whether or not we are republicans coming from Paris,” and turning to his companion, he desired him to answer the republican catechism, “what is God? what are the people 2, what is a king?”. The other, who appears to have been a capital mimic, answered with a contrite air, a nasal voice, and winding himself about like a Harlequin, “God is nature, the people are the poor; a king is a lion, a tiger, an elephant, who tears to pieces, devours, and crushes the poor people to death.” This speech was decisive. The travellers were applauded and caressed; it became a point of rivalship between the inhabitants at whose house the strangers should be lodged, and it was finally not without difficulty that they got away from the village.
Lavalette joined the army of the Rhine in 1796, when it was pursuing its victorious career over the allied enemy. He gives graphic sketches of a few of the generals by whom that army was conducted; Kleber, who lost his life in Egypt afterwards, was one of the most famous of these leaders. His stature was gigantic, his voice sonorous, and his whole appearance was sufficient to call to the mind of the beholder the figure of one of the heroes of the Iliad. He was, of all the generals in the army, the man whom the soldiers remembered with the most affection, for he always sympathized with them, and consoled their privations or sufferings with his good humour. The description of Desaix, another premature victim to the expedition to Egypt, is well drawn. This general is said to have looked more like a savage from Oroonoko, than the commander of civilized troops; his appearance was awkward, and he always betrayed the greatest degree of bashfulness and want of knowledge of the world. But this account applies only to the exterior of Desaix, who was besides a man of the purest mind, and the utmost simplicity of manners. Lavalette declares that this leader was totally exempt from the faults so common with the frequenters of camps: he was never known to utter an indecent word, or even a vulgar expression. He scarcely ever appeared in the uniform of his rank, but usually wore a blue coat divested of all ornament, and so short and spare as to justify the raillery of the officers about him. Desaix frequently mounted his horse to visit the outposts, completely unarmed. The impolicy of this practise was impressed upon his mind on one occasion, nearly at the sacrifice of his life.
‘One night,’ writes Lavalette, ‘having ordered an attack on the convent of Marienborn, near Mentz, which the enemy occupied in force, he suddenly found himself without arms in the midst of a surprized body of infantry, which was defending itself with the bayonet amongst the vines. Desaix, perceiving that he had forgot his sword, pulled a vine-prop out of the ground, and continued fighting as if he had had Orlando's sword in his hand. Savary, who was then his aid-de-camp, threw himself before him just in time to save his life, and killed a Hungarian grenadier that was about to pierce him with his bayonet.'—vol. i. p. 161.
The account which Lavalette gives us of General St. Cyr is interesting not only from the nature of the materials themselves, but also from the circumstance of that venerable warrior having taken a large share in transactions which are so recent, as to be familiar to every one in the present day. St. Cyr began his career as the captain of a body of the Parisian mob, who volunteered to join the army of the Rhine, for the purpose, they contemptuously declared, of teaching the army the right step. This corps consisted of all the vagabonds from the purlieus of Paris. They proceeded with their leader to the camp, where General Custines had them surrounded and disarmed. St. Cyr then remained without employment, but having been an artist in his youth, and still fond of his pencil, he set himself one day to sketch the position of Oekheim, near Mentz. While engaged in this employment, General Custines perceived him, and as St. Cyr wore the uniform of the disbanded corps, the general rode up in great wrath, and tore the paper from the hands of the artist. He was struck with the draught, and upon examining it carefully, he found it to contain proofs of merit, such as deserved his protection. The result was, that St. Cyr was appointed an officer of the staff, and in a few months afterwards was made a general of division. He ever afterwards was left in charge of the centre of the army, and was always regarded as its shield. In speaking of the character of the generals of the time to which he is alluding, (the early period of the French republic,) Lavalette gives us a most amiable picture of the simplicity of their lives, and the frank cordial terms of their intercourse! Jealousy and intrigue were unknown amongst them, their only ambition being to excel in their profession. He vindicates those leaders from the charges which have been often repeated against them, that they were obscure and uneducated persons, and that they could not possibly have obtained the necessary acquisitions which they were supposed to possess, during the time that they had at their command for that purpose. Lavalette assures us that most of these generals had studied the military art early in life, and that their education had been as well attended to as that of the nobility. The patience and fortitude which these men exhibited under their privations at the commencement of the republican war, prove them to have been possessed of no ordinary share of intellectual discipline. The commonest enjoyments were placed beyond their reach—they were miserably poor—the amount of their pay, which happened universally to be the extent of their whole income, being no more than eight francs a month. This was the nominal sum, but as the officers were paid in assignats, the eight francs were reduced to a miserable trifle indeed. Lavalette presents us with a most forcible description of the state of Paris in 1794, when he had revisited it after an absence of two years. The people, he observes, were no more than a vile rabble, destitute of energy, and shrinking beneath the scourge that chastised them. Throughout the morning, wretched women and children presented themselves in thousands before the doors of the bakers’ shops, waiting their turn to receive a dearly-bought morsel of bread. More than half the population of Paris lived on potatoes: confusion reigned every where—all distinctions of rank were confounded, or perhaps, more properly, were inverted, for the fashions were led by persons whose native vulgarity only rendered themselves ridiculous. During this moral interregnum, however, the class of artists seem to have been in a situation of favourable contrast with their countrymen. The thirst for amusement, and excitement, of every kind, called into activity all the ingenious minds which had been devoted to the arts. But even here the taste for licentiousness, the predominant passion of the day, asserted its empire. The young men dressed their hair en victimes, that is, raised up at the back of the neck, as the executioner arranges it for the victim immediately before the dreadful catastrophe. The women outdid their rivals of the other sex, in the extravagance of their contempt for all decency. After a vehement but just invective against the conventional assembly, to which he attributes the origin and promotion of all these disgraceful disorders, Lavalette concludes his observations on that body with the following impressive reflections: “Of all the lessons given by the history of human passions, there is one especially on which the moralist must insist with force. I mean the impossibility, which the most honourable men will ever experience, of stopping, if once their passions draw them into the path of error. Surely, if, a few years before so many crimes were committed, they could have been pictured before the eyes of the most barbarous among their perpetrators, I fear not to say, that all, even Robespierre himself, would have recoiled with horror. Men begin by caressing theories—heated imagination presents them as useful and easy of execution: they toil, they advance unconsciously from error to faults, and from faults to crimes, till the contaminated mind corrupts sensibility, and adorns, by the name of state policy, the most horrible outrages.'—vol. i. p. 177. Lavalette admits that the convention in some measure had a right to consider itself justified in the sanguinary course which it pursued, since the historians of the country, in all ages, have been prone to waste the most unbounded praises on the great scourger of mankind. He blames Bossuet for the enchanting aspect which that eloquent orator impressed on the character of Cromwell—Montesquieu, too, defended the crimes of Richelieu. No wonder then, that in a nation where such examples were held up to admiration, mumerous and determined imitators of them should be found. Lavalette confirms the statement, which appears now to rest on very adequate authority, that Buonaparte was only accidentally engaged in the French service, just as he was about to quit Paris perhaps for ever. Napoleon, after having been dismissed the service, notwithstanding the conduct he displayed at the siege ofToulon, proceeded to Paris, where he solicited in vain for his re-establishment. Disgusted and vexed with disappointment, he sought permission to accompany a troop of cannoniers to Turkey, to teach the Mahometans the use of artillery. Just as he was about to depart, Barras sent for him, the committee to which the latter belonged being then in some difficulty. At the interview to which Buonaparte was admitted, he displayed so much information and resolution, that he was left master of all the arrangements for the defence of Paris. As soon as order was established, which was chiefly the work of Buonaparte, the citizens of Paris were commanded to give up their arms. No favour seems to have been shewn to any person on this occasion, a circumstance which gave rise to an incident of no limited influence on the fortunes of Napoleon. The widow of General Beauharnais, then in the capital with her son, Eugene, who had scarcely attained his thirteenth year, was about to deliver up to the commissioner the sabre of her late husband. The spirited boy seized the weapon, and resolutely declared, that whoever would take that sword should first take his life. The commissioner referred them to the general in chief, who was no other than Buonaparte. “Eugene flew to his house: the deep emotion the child evinced, his name, his interesting appearance, the ardour and simplicity with which he expressed his wishes, touched the general. He embraced him, allowed him to keep the dearly beloved sword, and visited Mad. Beauharnais. She was young, amiable, and more than pretty. He fell in love with her, and soon after married her: so that their union, which was so long a happy one, had its origin in an amiable trait of filial piety.”—vol. i. p. 195. Lavalette has a right to be considered as an unexceptionable witness on this point, for he was an aid-de-camp to Napoleon in Italy, where the general was under the necessity of spending the honey-moon after his marriage. It was at Milan, that the celebrated portrait of Buonaparte on the bridge of Lodi, was painted by Gros. The artist, it seems, could never obtain a sitting beyond a few minutes’ duration, and Lavalette has been present at three sittings, when the general could only be kept quiet by being held by Madame Buonaparte in her lap. Amongst the eminent persons who figured in the scenes of the French revolution, we find some mention of the Prince Talleyrand, the waywardness of whose political life forms so curious a fact in