M. DE TALLEYRAND
That which determined M. de Talleyrand's vocation, was the deformity of his feet. His parents, finding him lame, decided that he should embrace the ecclesiastical state, and that his brother should become the chief of the family. Hurt, though resigned, M. de Talleyrand assumed the priestly garb as he would a suit of armour, and boldly entered upon his spiritual career, determined. to make the most of his profession.
Until the breaking out of the revolution, he was known only as a man of wit and gallantry. On becoming a member of the Constituant Assembly, he immediately joined the minority of the nobles, and took his station between Sieyes and Mirabeau. He was then perhaps sincere, for every man is sincere at some period of his life. Besides, in those days, there was a perfect concordance between opinion and interest.
To shine in the assembly, it was necessary to work hard. Now, M. de Talleyrand was most deplorably idle ; but he possessed a certain lordly talent of making others work.
When I saw him on his return from America, he was without fortune, was an object of suspicion to the government, and halted through the streets as he went to pay his court from one drawing-room to another. Yet, at this period, he had every morning upwards of forty persons waiting in his ante-chamber, and his levee resembled that of a prince.
He joined in the revolution merely from interested motives, and was not a little surprised when he found that the consequences of the revolution led to his proscription, and forced him to fly from France. From the deck of the vessel which carried him to England, he looked at the coast he had just quitted, and exclaimed, ' I will never again be caught making a revolution for the benefit of others.' And he has kept his word.
Unjustly driven from England, he took refuge in America, where he spent three years of ennui. His companion in exile and misfortune, was the Marquis de Blacous, also a member of the Constituant Assembly, a man of talent, but a determined gambler, who committed suicide on his return to Paris, because he was sick of his life and of his creditors. M. de Talleyrand went through all the American towns leaning upon the arm of his friend, because he was unable to walk alone.
When he afterwards became a minister of state, M. de Blacous, who had returned to France on his invitation, applied to him for a place worth six hundred francs a year. But he gave no answer to this application, and refused even to see Blacous, who then shot himself. One of their mutual friends, much moved at this catastrophe, bitterly reproached M. de Talleyrand, and said to him,' You are the cause of Blacous' death.' M. de Talleyrand listened quietly to these reproaches, as he leant against a mantel-piece, and then replied with a yawn, 'Poor Blacous!'
Whilst in America, having received the news of Madame de Stael's return to France, he begged his friends to urge her to pave the way for his recall from exile. To induce her to do so, was no difficult matter, for Madame de Stael is, of all women, the one who most delights in rendering kind services. She thinks that an act of kindness cannot be refused, as if there were anything in this world that could not be refused. She exerted herself in M. de Talleyrand's cause with the most admirable zeal, and, thanks to her, Chenier represented him to the Convention as one of the purest of republicans, and the sworn foe of monarchy at all times. The Convention, which, at this period, voted, in its fits of enthusiasm, equally the proscription of its members and the recall of its enemies, decreed the recall of M. de Talleyrand.
On his return, he aimed at getting into the ministry, and was again successful through the influence of Madame de Stael.
in THE ATHENAEUM, JOURNAL OF LITERATURE, SCIENCE AND THE FINE ARTS - LONDON - PUBLISHED BY J. FRANCIS - 1832