The noble sentiments thrust down at the bottom of men's hearts revived. Napoleon flew out: one is less irritated by reason of the offense received than by reason of the idea one has formed of one's self. To despise his very glory; to brave for a second time the man at whose feet the universe lay prostrate! I will have him cut down on the Steps of the Tuileries! He gave the order to suppress the Mercure and to arrest me. My property perished; my person escaped by a miracle: [Pg 5] Bonaparte had to occupy himself with the world; he forgot me, but I remained under the burden of the threat.
My position was a deplorable one: when I felt bound to act according to the inspiration of my sense of honour, I found myself burdened with my personal responsibility and with the trouble which I caused my wife. Her courage was great, but she suffered none the less for it, and those storms successively called down upon my head disturbed her life.
She had suffered so much for me during the Revolution; it was natural that she should long for a little rest. The more so in that Madame de Chateaubriand admired Bonaparte unreservedly; she had no illusions as to the Legitimacy: she never ceased predicting what would happen to me on the return of the Bourbons.
He had been an officer of the buttery to the King, and what I did not eat up  he drank. At the end of November, seeing that the repairs to my cottage were not progressing, I determined to go and superintend them. We did not take the ordinary road, but went in through the gate at the foot of the garden. The soil of the drives, soaked through with rain, prevented the horses from going; the carriage upset. A plaster bust of Homer, placed beside Madame de Chateaubriand, dashed through the window and broke its neck: a bad omen for the Martyrs , at which I was then working.
The house, full of workmen laughing, singing, and hammering, was warmed by blazing shavings and lighted by candle-ends; it looked like a hermitage illuminated at night by pilgrims, in the woods. Delighted to find two [Pg 6] rooms made fairly comfortable, in one of which supper had been laid, we sat down to table. The next morning, awakened by the sound of the hammers and the songs of the husbandmen, I saw the sun rise with less anxiety than the master of the Tuileries. When striving, to-day, by force of memory to re-open the closed horizon, I no longer find the same, but I meet with others.
I lose myself in my vanished thoughts; the illusions into which I fall are perhaps as fair as their predecessors; only they are no longer so young: what I used to see in the splendour of the south, I now perceive by the light of the sunset. If, nevertheless, I could cease to be harassed by dreams! Bayard, summoned to surrender a place, replied:. My trees, being as yet small, did not gather the sounds of the autumn winds; but, in spring, the breezes which inhaled the breath of the flowers of the neighbouring fields retained it and poured it over my valley.
I made some additions to my cottage; I improved the appearance of its brick walls with a portico supported by two black marble columns and two white marble caryatides: I remembered that I had been to Athens. I defy fate now to fix me to the smallest morsel [Pg 7] of earth; henceforth I shall have for a garden only those avenues, honoured with such fine names, around the Invalides, along which I stroll with my one-armed or limping colleagues.
Now I give my arm only to time: it is very heavy! I worked with delight at my Memoirs, and the Martyrs made progress; I had already read some books to M. I had settled down in the midst of my memories as in a large library; I consulted this and then that, and next closed the register with a sigh, for I perceived that the light, in penetrating into it, destroyed its mystery. Light up the days of life, and they will no longer be what they are.
In the month of July, I fell ill and was obliged to return to Paris. The doctors rendered the illness dangerous.
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In the time of Hippocrates, there was a dearth of dead in the lower regions, says the epigram: thanks to our modern Hippocrates, there is an abundance to-day. This was perhaps the only moment at which, when near death, I felt a desire to live. When I felt myself lapsing into faintness, which often happened, I used to say to Madame de Chateaubriand:. I lost consciousness, but with great inward impatience, for I clung to God knows what. I also passionately longed to complete what I believed and still believe to be my most correct work.
I was paying the price of the fatigue which I had undergone during my journey to the Levant. Girodet  had put the finishing touches to my portrait. He made me dark, as I then was; but he put all his genius into the work. Denon  received the master-piece for the Salon  ; like a noble-hearted courtier, he prudently put it out of sight. When Bonaparte took his view of the gallery, after examining the pictures, he asked:. He knew that it must be there: they were obliged to bring the outlaw from his hiding-place. Bonaparte, whose [Pg 8] fit of generosity had evaporated, said, on inspecting the portrait:.
I went upstairs, entered my room, and saw something enormous asleep; shaking that mass, I cried:. The mass gave a start and sat up. Its head was covered with a woollen cap; it wore a smock and trousers of spotted wool, all in one piece; its face was smeared with snuff, and its tongue hung out.
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It was my cousin Moreau! I had not seen him since the camp at Thionville. He was back from Russia and wanted to enter the excise. My old cicerone in Paris went to die at Nantes. Thus disappeared one of the early characters of these Memoirs. I hope that, stretched on a couch of daffodils, he still talks of my verses to Madame de Chastenay, if that agreeable shade has descended to the Elysian Fields.
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The Martyrs appeared in the spring of It was a conscientious piece of work. I had consulted critics of taste and knowledge: Messieurs de Fontanes, Bertin, Boissonade  , Malte-Brun  ; and I had accepted their judgment. Hundreds and hundreds of times I had written, unwritten and rewritten the same page.
Of all my writings, this is the most noted for the correctness of the language. I had made no mistake in the scheme of the book: at present, when my ideas have become general, no one denies that the struggles of two religions, one ending, the other commencing, afford one of the richest, most fruitful and most dramatic subjects for the Muses.
I thought, therefore, that I might venture to cherish some all too foolish hopes; but I was forgetting the success of my first book: in this country you must never reckon on two close successes; one destroys the other. If you have some sort of talent for prose, beware of showing any for poetry; if you are distinguished in literature, lay no claim to politics: such is the French spirit and its [Pg 9] poverty.
The self-loves alarmed, the jealousies surprised by an author's good fortune at the outset combine and lie in wait for the poet's second publication, to take a signal vengeance:. Tous, la main dans l'encre, jurent de se venger . Alas, they need not have taken such pains to rob me of that which I myself did not think that I deserved! If I had delivered Christian Rome, I asked only for an obsidional crown  , a plait of grass culled in the Eternal City.
The executioner of the justice of the vanities was M. Hoffmann  , to whom may God grant peace! It was imputed to me as a crime that I had changed Tacitus' German druidess into a Gallic woman, as though I had wanted to borrow anything beyond an harmonious name!
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And behold, we see the Christians of France, to whom I had rendered such great services by setting up their altars again, stupidly taking it into their heads to be scandalized on the gospel word of M. The title of the Martyrs had misled them: they expected to read a martyrology, and the tiger who tore only a daughter of Homer to pieces seemed to them a sacrilege. And it was M. Alas, he must realize that to-day his zeal is wanted for very different contests!
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Montesquieu  , with his defense of the Esprit des lois , encouraged me. I was wrong. Authors who are attacked might say the finest things in the world, and yet excite merely the smiles of impartial minds and the ridicule of the crowd. They place themselves on a bad ground: the defensive position is antipathetic to the French character.
When, in reply to objections, I pointed out that, in stigmatizing this or that passage, they had attacked some fine relic of antiquity, beaten on the facts, they extricated themselves by next saying that the Martyrs was a mere "patchwork. I believed in good faith that the work had fallen flat; the violence of the attack had shaken my conviction as an author. Some of my friends consoled me; they maintained that the proscription was unjustified, that sooner or later the public would pronounce another verdict: M.
His persuasion in this regard was so deep-rooted that it inspired him with some charming stanzas:. Le Tasse, errant de ville en ville, etc. The Martyrs has, in fact, retrieved itself, has obtained the honour of four consecutive editions, and has even enjoyed particular favour with men of letters: appreciation has been [Pg 11] shown me of a work which bears evidence of serious study, of some pains towards style, of a great reverence for language and taste.
Criticism of the subject-matter was promptly abandoned. To say that I had mixed profane with sacred things, because I had depicted two cults which existed side by side and which had each its beliefs, its altars, its priests, its ceremonies, was equivalent to saying that I ought to have renounced history. For whom did the martyrs die?
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For Jesus Christ. To whom were they immolated?