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suddenly transported in imagination into the past, I again revisited those scenes where I had so often heard the same sweet song. Then, whilst listening to it, I had the feeling of melancholy which I experienced now, but the former sentiment arose from that vague desire of happiness common to the inexperienced heart; that which I now felt was caused by having proved and judged of the value of human life. The voice of the bird in the woods of Combourg, presented to my mind a vision of happiness which I hoped to attain ; the same voice in the park at Montboissier, recalled to memory the days lost in the pursuit of that unseizable happiness. I have no longer any thing to learn ; I have travelled faster than others, and have made the tour of life. Time flies and drags me onward ; I cannot even reckon on being able to finish these Memoirs. How often have I begun to write them, and where shall I finish them? How many times shall I approach the entrance of the forest ? Let me profit by the short time which remains ; let me hasten to paint the days of my youth, whilst yet the prospect is distinct : as some navigator, in leaving for ever an enchanted region, writes his journal in view of that shore which fades from his sight, and will soon disappear.
COLLEGE OF DINAN-BROUSSAIS-I RETURN TO MY PARENTS' HOUSE.
I HAVE spoken of my return to Combourg, and how I was welcomed by my father, mother, and sister Lucile. It has not, perhaps, been forgotten that my other three sisters were married, and lived amongst their new connexions in the neighbourhood of Fougères. My brother, whose ambition already began to show itself, was much more in Paris than at Rennes. He had purchased the situation of Judge in the Court of Requests, but sold it again, in order to commence a military career, and entered a regiment of Horse-Guards. He then attached himself to an embassy, and went with the Count de la Luzerne to London, where he met André Chénier; he was on the point of being sent as Ambassador to Vienna, when our disturbances broke out; he then wished to go in the same capacity to Constantinople, but had a formidable rival in Mirabeau, to whom the post had been promised, as the reward of his return to the Court-party. My brother had but just left Combourg, when I came to reside there.
My father, entirely occupied by his private affairs, no longer left home, not even during the meeting of the States. My mother spent six weeks at Easter, every year, at St. Malo; she looked forward anxiously to the time, for she detested Combourg. Fully a month before the journey, it was spoken of as a rather hazardous affair ; preparations were begun for its accomplishment, and the horses were put in training. On the evening before setting out, every one went to bed at seven o'clock, in order to be able to rise at two the next morning; and my mother, to her infinite satisfaction, was en route at three o'clock, and occupied the whole day in going twelve leagues.
Lucile, who had become a Canoness at Argentière, was soon to go from that place to Remiremont; meantime, she remained buried in the country.
As for me, after my escapade to Brest, I declared my willingness to enter the Church; the truth is, I only wanted to gain time, for I did not well know what I wished for. I was sent to College, at Dinan, to finish my Latin studies : I was better acquainted with Latin than my teacher, but I began the study of Hebrew. The Abbé de Rouillac was then Principal of the College, and the Abbé Duhamel was my tutor.
Dinan, surrounded by old trees and towers, is built in a picturesque situation, on a high hill, at the foot of which flows the Rance, on its way to the sea ; it commands a fine view of sloping valleys, beautifully wooded. The mineral waters of Dinan are rather celebrated. This city is of historical celebrity, and was the birthplace of Duclos; amongst its antiquities, is shewn the heart of Du Guesclin : the heroic dust, disturbed during the Revolution, narrowly escaped being used by a painter, in mixing his colours ; perhaps it would have been employed in representing victories gained over the enemies of his country!
M. Broussais, my fellow-countryman, studied at Dinan with me. The students were sent to bathe every Thursday, just as Pope Adrian I. used to send the priests, or every Sunday, like the prisoners in the reign of the Emperor Honorius. One time, I thought of drowning myself; another time, M. Broussais was taken in by some of his imprudent acquaintances. Dinan is equally distant from Combourg and Plancouët. I went alternately to visit my uncle de Bedée, at Monchoix, and home to Combourg. M. de Chateaubriand thought it economical to keep me at home, and my
mother wished very much that I should enter the ecclesiastical profession, but was unwilling to press me on the subject ; they, therefore, no longer insisted upon my residing in the College, and, by degrees, I became settled under the paternal roof.
I should delight in recalling the remembrance of my parents, if it were only from affectionate respect; but I shall produce the painting the more willingly, as it will seem like a vignette to this manuscript of my middle-age: between this time, and that which I intend to describe, ages have elapsed.
Montboissier, July, 1817.
Looked over in December, 1846.
MANNER OF LIFE AT COMBOURG-DAYS AND EVENINGS.
On my return from Brest, four masters (my father, my mother, my sister, and myself) inhabited the Château of Combourg. A cook, a housemaid, two footmen, and a coachman, formed the domestic establishment; and a hound, and two old mares, were confined in a corner of the stable. These twelve living beings were quite lost in a place where there was ample room for a hundred knights, with their ladies, squires, and pages, and the steeds and hunting packs of King Dagobert.
During the whole of the year, no stranger came to the château, except two gentlemen, the Marquis of Monlouet, and the Count de Goyon-Beaufort, who requested our hospitality, on their way to Parliament. They came in winter, on horseback, with pistols at their saddle-bows, hangers by their sides, and followed by a valet, also on horseback, and having behind him a large portmanteau.
My father, who was always very ceremonious, went bareheaded to receive them at the door, in the midst of the wind and rain. The guests recounted their adventures during the wars in Hanover, their family affairs, and the history of their law-suit. At night they were conducted to the Northern tower, to the apartment of Queen Christina, a room of state furnished with a bed seven feet every way, with double curtains of green gauze and crimson silk, and supported by four gilt cupids. The next morning when I was going down to the parlour and looked through the windows at the country either flooded or covered with hoar-frost, I could see only two or three travellers on the solitary road by the fishpond ; they were our guests riding along towards Rennes.
These strangers knew but little of the world, but still our view was extended by their means a few leagues beyond the horizon of our own woods. As soon as they were gone, we were reduced, on working-days, to a family téte-à-tête, and on Sundays, to the society of the people of the village and a few neighbouring gentlemen.
On Sunday, when the weather was fine, my mother, Lucile and I went to church across the little mall, along a country road; when it rained, we went through the abominable street of Combourg. We did not go, like the Abbé de Marolles, in a light chariot drawn by four white horses taken from the Turks in Hungary. My father only went to church once a year, at Easter, to receive the Sacrament; the rest of the time he attended Mass in the chapel of the château. Seated in our pew, we performed our devotions opposite to the black marble tomb of René de Rohan, contiguous to the altar ; image of human honours ! a few grains of incense before a coffin !
The dissipations of the Sunday concluded with the day; they did not even return regularly. During the severe weather, entire months passed without any human creature knocking at the gate of our fortress. If the solitude was oppressive on the heath around Combourg, it was still more so in the château ; one felt on passing under its arches the same sensation as on entering the Chartreuse at Grenoble. When I visited the latter in 1805, I crossed a desert which seemed ever increasing. I supposed it would terminate at the monastery; but I was shown within the convent walls, the gardens of the Chartreuse still more desolate than the woods. At last, in the centre of the building, I found, enveloped in these solitudes, the burying-ground of the monks; a sanctuary from whence eternal silence, the divinity of the place, extends his power over the mountains and forests round about.
The sombre quietude of the Château of Combourg was augmented by the taciturn and unsociable disposition of my father. Instead of collecting his family and people about him, he had scattered them to the four winds throughout the building. His bedroom was in the little tower at the east, and his study in the little tower at the west. The furniture of this study consisted of three chairs covered with black leather, and a table covered with deeds and papers. A genealogical tree of the Chateaubriand family hung over the mantel-piece, and in the recess of a window were to be seen all sorts of arms, from a pistol to a blunderbuss. My mother's apartment was immediately above the great dining-hall, between the two little towers : it was inlaid and adorned with Venetian mirrors. My sister had a little room opening into my mother's. The housemaid's room was some distance off, in the wing with the large towers. As for me, I had nestled myself in kind of little isolated cell, in a tower at the top of the staircase which led from the inner court to different parts of the château. At the foot of this staircase my father's valet and the other man-servant slept in a vaulted cellar ; and the cook kept guard in the great tower to the west.
My father rose at four o'clock in the morning, winter and summer : he went into the inner court to awake his valet, at