Page images

"Go it, greasers," "aint them cocoa-nut chaps a pitchin' it « into 'em," -cried the crowd of on-lookers as they watched the Belmont Factory Cricket Match ; may it not, has it not, come to pass, that in more refined language, many a thoughtful man now repeats the hearty sentiment of admiration thus expressed. *


BALSAMO, OTHERWISE COUNT CAGLIOSTRO. The Memoirs of a Physician. By Alexander Dumas.

London: Simms and M'Iutire. 1852.

There are few works of fiction have had more readers than the two novels from the pen of Alexander Dumas, under the respective titles of The Memoirs of a Physician, and The Count de Monte Christo. Although in every page, the author leaves the bounds of probability, nay of possibility, far behind, and indulges in the most exaggerated spirit of Romance, his readers feel no disinclination to accompany him, and turn his pages with all the interest that could be felt in the perusal of an awful, but strict reality. We fear that in the instances which Romance affords of heroes taken from the ordinary or inferior classes, a searching investigation would disclose much ridiculous insignificance and very humble pretensions magnified into importance, of which the originals themselves never dreamed, and occasionally low vulgarity and rufianism exalt. ed into a dignity to which in fact it would form the strongest contrast. We suspect that but for the exercise of imaginative power, Rob Roy would be a homely, rough cattle-stealer, Jack Sheppard and Dick Turpin would find but slight sympathy on their way to the gallows, and Claude Duval would never be recognized as a rival to Charles the Second in courtly manner and in the favor of Nell Gwynn. To the examination of such subjects it is intended to devote some future occasions, but at present it is proposed to offer to the reader a few particulars connected with the genuine history of the man whom Dumas has invested with such wonderful interest to his read

• In connexion with the subject of this paper, see "Temperance as Affecting the Interests of Employers and Employed." By Archibald Prentice, Esq., Manchester. The Eleventh of the Edinburgh Series of Temperance Tracts.

ers, as Joseph Balsamo, but who will be better known under the designation to which he answered before the parliament of Paris in 1785–Alexander, Count de Cagliostro.

Dumas introduces Joseph Balsamo to his readers during the progress of Marie Antoinette to ber ill fated marriage in 1770, and describes the astonishment and dismay of the Dauphiness at having her ultimate fate mirrored to her by the arch magician in a decanter of spring water : he subsequently presents Balsamo as facilitating the introduction at court of Madaine du Barri, anticipating all her wishes, and by means of a Clairvoyante, reading the secrets of Ministers of State, and enabling their enemies to effect their overthrow. He speaks to old noblemen of occurrences which happened fifty years previous, and convinces them that he was an eye-witness, although apparently not forty years of age.

But it is useless to recapitulate the wonders ascribed by the novelist to his hero ; it is our object to shew how very small indeed was the lock of wool which he spun into such a lengthened yarn.

We are not about to enter upon the strict details of that extraordinary and never thoroughly elucidated affair of " The Diamond Necklace.” Dumas has not adverted to it, but as it was the transaction which introduced Joseph Balsamo, or rather the Count de Cagliostro, not merely to a French, but to an European celebrity, we shall briefly notice it. Cardinal Louis de Rohan, whose family occupied the first rank amongst the ancienne noblesse of France, and whose ecclesiastical titles and dignities imparted immense rank, power and emolument, was at the commencement of 1785 excluded from court favor and influence, which he attributed to the personal dislike of the queen, towards whom it has been insinuated, he entertained sentiments of an amatory character. Having heard that her Majesty had expressed great admiration for diamond necklace helonging to Messrs Bohwer and Bassanges, jewellers, the cardinal conceived the idea, that if he either procured the magnificent ornament for her majesty, or aided her essentially in its acquisition, such a service would effect his restoration to favor, and establish for him a paramount influence with the queen. In the adoption of this course he was stimulated by the suggestions of an unprincipled woman, the wife of an officer of gendarmerie, and who assumed the rank of a countess, pretending a connection with the royal family of France through the house of Valois. This Madame


Jeunne de Saint Reney de Valois, Countess de la Motte, persuaded the Cardinal that she was a protege of the Queen, to whom she pretended to have frequent access; she assured him of her Majesty's anxiety to possess the necklace, induced hiin to become its purchaser and to undertake the payment of one million four hundred thousand livres (£56,000 sterling) in certain instalments, and having procured from him the written stipulation entered into by the jewellers, she returned it marked “approved” and signed "Marie Antoinette de France.” She subsequently induced her dupe to believe that the Queen was desirous to afford him a personal interview at Versailles-in the garden, and at midnight : she managed to substitute for the royal personage a young woman of similar figure and complexion, who received the Cardinal, muttered soine complimentary phrases, gave him a note and a rose, and was accepting the homage of the enraptured courtier, who had sank to his knee to salute the queenly land, when a preconcerted alarm, given by some confederates of Madame de la Motte, produced a precipitate retreat. Matters remained in an unsettled state as regarded the necklace, the jewellers had been informed that it was for the Queen, they had even seen her alleged approval of the terms, and when the period for payment of the first instalment had passed, they forwarded a statement of their claim to the King, who actuated by every feeling of just resentment, both as a sovereign and husband, directed a searching investigation, from which a prosecution eventuated.

The husband of Madame de la Motte was inculpated by the accusation, he fled the kingdon- The defendants who were amenable were the Cardinal de Rohan, Madame de la Motte, Alexander de Cagliostro, Marie Nicole le Guay, otherwise d'Oliva or Dessigny (the girl who had personated the Queen) and Louis Marc-Antoine Retaux de Villette, a retired Gendarme. The process was instituted the 5th September 1785, and concluded the 4th July 1786.

Cagliostro had been intimate with the Cardinal, and had certainly possessed a considerable share of his confidence; Madame de la Motte sought to shift the culpability imputed to herself entirely upon Cagliostro and his wife, and insisted that various phrases, such as “la petite comtesse” used by the Cardinal, were applied to Madame de Cagliostro; she describes Cagliostro himself as a sharper who derived bis subsistence

from preying on the pusillanimous credulity of the Cardinal ; she proceeds to state, as to the age of Cagliostro, that one of his attendants declares " he knows not what his master's age may be, but that as for himself, he has been one hundred and fifty years in his service ; that his master has frequently asserted he was present at the marriage of Cana in Galilee and witnessed the miraculous transformation of the water into wine." Madame then indignantly asks as to his country, and replies to her own question by designating bim a Portuguese Jew, a Greek, or an Egyptian from Alexandria, whence he has introduced affected mysteries and soothsayings, that he pretends to cabalistic lore, and to hold familiar converse with elementary beings, with the distant and the dead, that illuminated by Rosicrucian philosophy he understands all human sciences, and is an adept in the transmutation of metals ; that in the seeming spirit of philanthropy he devotes his medical acquire. ments gratuitously to the indigent, whilst he exacts large sums from the rich, to whom he professes to administer the elixir of immortality.

Even in these assertions there may be found a grain or two of the malleable material which the imaginative novelist knows how to beat out until it becomes a mere extensive superficies; but Madame de la Motte does not stop here, she proceeds to inform the court that in the previous April, the Cardinal thus addressed her, “You must be aware that the public are impressed with the absurd idea that I am ruining myself through the means of M. de Cagliostro, whilst in fact he is the greatest of created beings-a godlike man. Write to me that you wish to see him, do not assign a motive of curiosity, but that you simply wish to see him. Urge your request warmly and you shall witness what he is capable of doing; no one knows the amount of his fortune, none can tell who he is, or whence he comes,-young after living centuries. Bring, if you choose, that your confidence may be perfect, a child of seven or eight years, intelligent, for if she is not intelligent she will see nothing.” Madame then states that she brought the demoiselle de la Tour, her husband's niece, who was sojourning with her.—Twenty wax tapers were lighted in the Cardinal's bed chamber, a screen was placed before the bed, a table before the screen, with other lights, and a decanter of the clearest water. Cagliostro drew his sword, placed it on the head of the kneeling child, and entered into a conversation, respecting which


he had previously given her a lesson behind the screen. Madame de la Motte here remarks that this need not surprise the court except so far as it proves the utter weakness of the Cardinal's mind and his absurd credulity in Cagliostro's powers. The affair commenced with the child-I command


she said to Cagliostro, in the name of Michael and of the grand Copht, the last name inscribed on the cabalistic roll, I command you to bring before my eyes all that I wish to behold. Cagliostro replies; dear child, what see you now?-nothing—he stamps his foot, what see you ? nothing: he stamps vehemently, see you not a stately lady clad in white ? know you not the Queen ? do you not see her, do you not recognize her : yes monsieur, I see the Queen-Look to her right, sce you not an angel who wishes to embrace you ? embrace that angel warmly. Madame de la Motte and also the Cardinal heard the sounds of kisses as from fervent lips.-Look now at the point of my sword, beneath the screen, see you not that I am speaking to God, that I am ascending to Heaven, do you see? No. Well then stamp your foot and I command by the grand Copht and by Michael &c. do you behold, do you behold

the Queen ? yes, monsieur, I see her. But when the ceremony was concluded, the young demoiselle confessed to Madame de la Motte that she had received her lesson behind the screen," and when you, aunt, heard me kiss the angel, it was mine own hand I kissed, as M. le Comte had directed me;" nevertheless the child was convinced that he had some extraordinary qualities, which impression was the result of her tender and excited imagination, as she declared That when he had removed the decanter of spring water, she had really seen the Queen.Her“ Memoire” continues, "meanwhile the Cardinal was in raptures, he knelt at the feet of the magician, kissed his hands and raised his own towards heaven.-Behold, he exclaimed to Madame de la Motte, this great man can achieve anything, but if you indiscreetly speak of his mysteries he is equally potent for evil as for good, had the Cardinal faith in him? or did he rather wish to make Madame de la Motte a believer in his powers ? yes, such was his object, and she soon was initiated in a magical rite (un Sabat) the object of which was the last disposition of the diamonds."

“This profanation consisted in placing the Countess de la Motte opposite to a table covered with crosses of every descrip

« PreviousContinue »