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Josephine at Malmaison - Harper's


THE Palace of Malmaison, though not built on a large scale, became, with the additions afterward made, a most princely residence. The hall, the billiard-room, the reception-rooms, the saloon, dining-room, and Napoleon's private apartment, occupied the ground floor, and are described as having been very delightful. The gallery was appropriated to the noblest specimens of the fine arts; it was adorned with magnificent statuary by Canova and other celebrated artists, and the walls were hung with the finest paintings. The pleasure-grounds, which were Josephine's especial care, were laid out with admirable taste; shrubs and flowers of the rarest and finest growth, and the most delicious odors were there in the richest profusion. But there is an interest far deeper than the finest landscape, or the most exquisite embellishments of art could ever impart—an interest touchingly associated with the precincts where the gifted and renowned have moved, and with the passions and affections, the joys and sorrows by which they were there agitated. It is, indeed, an interest which excites a mournful sympathy, and may awaken salutary reflection. Who, indeed, could visit Malmaison without experiencing such?

The vicissitudes experienced by some individuals have been so strange, that had they been described in a romance, it would have lost all interest from their improbability; but occurring in real life, they excite a feeling of personal concern which forever attaches to the name with which they are associated. Of this, the eventful life of Napoleon furnishes a striking example. There can not be found in the range of history one who appears to have identified himself so much with the feelings of every class and every time; nay, his manners and appearance are so thoroughly impressed on every imagination, that there are few who do not rather feel as if he were one whom they had seen, and with whom they had conversed, than of whom they had only heard and read. Scarcely less checkered than his, was the life of Josephine: from her early days she was destined to experience the most unlooked-for reverses of fortune; her very introduction to the Beauharnais family and connection with them, were brought about in a most unlikely and singular manner, without the least intention on her part, and it ultimately led to her being placed on the throne of France. The noble and wealthy family of Beauharnais had great possessions in the West Indies, which fell to two brothers, the representatives of that distinguished family; many of its members had been eminent for their services in the navy, and in various departments. The heirs to the estates had retired from the royal marine service with the title of chefs d'escadre. The elder brother, the Marquis de Beauharnais, was a widower, with two sons; the younger, the Vicomte de Beauhrnais, had married Mademoiselle Mouchard, by whom he had one son and two daughters. The brothers, warmly attached to each other from infancy, wished to draw still closer the bonds which united them, by the marriage of the Marquis's sons with the daughters of the Vicomte; and with this view, a rich plantation in St. Domingo had never been divided. The two sisters were looked on as the affianced brides of their cousins; and when grown up, the elder was married to the elder son of the marquis, who, according to the prevalent custom of his country, assumed the title of Marquis, as his brother did that of Vicomte. M. Renaudin, a particular friend of the Beauharnais, undertook the management of their West India property. The Marquis, wishing to show some attention in return for this kindness, invited Madame Renaudin over to Paris, to spend some time. The invitation was gladly accepted; and Madame Renaudin made herself useful to her host by superintending his domestic concerns. But she soon formed plans for the advancement of her own family. With the marquis's permission, she wrote to Martinique, to her brother, M. Tacher de la Pagerie, to beg that he would send over one of his daughters. The young lady landed at Rochefort, was taken ill, and died almost immediately. Notwithstanding this unhappy event, madame did not relinquish the project which she had formed, of bringing about a union between the young vicomte and a niece of her own. She sent for another—and Josephine was sent. When the young creole arrived, she had just attained her fifteenth year, and was eminently attractive; her elegant form and personal charms were enhanced by the most winning grace, modesty, and sweetness of disposition. Such fascinations could not have failed in making an impression on the young man with whom she was domesticated. His opportunities of becoming acquainted with his cousin were only such as were afforded by an occasional interview at the grating of the convent, where she was being educated; so no attachment had been formed; and he fell passionately in love with the innocent and lovely Josephine. She was not long insensible to the devotion of a lover so handsome and agreeable as the young vicomte. Madame Renaudin sought the good offices of an intimate friend, to whose influence with the young man's father she trusted for the success of her project. In a confidential interview the lady introduced the subject—spoke of the ardent attachment of the young people, of the charms of the simple girl who had won his son's heart, and urged the consideration of the young man's happiness on his father, assuring him it rested on his consent to his marriage with Josephine. The marquis was painfully excited; he loved his son tenderly, and would have made any sacrifice to insure his happiness; but his affection for his brother, and the repugnance which he felt, to fail in his engagement to him, kept him in a state of the most perplexing uneasiness. At length, stating to his brother how matters stood, he found that he had mortally offended him; so deeply, indeed, did he resent the affront, that he declared he could never forget or forgive it—a promise too faithfully kept.

The affection and confidence of a whole life were thus snapped asunder in a moment. The vicomte insisted on a division of the West Indian property; and, with feelings so bitterly excited, no amicable arrangement could take place, and the brothers had recourse to law, in which they were involved for the rest of their days.

The marriage of the young people took place, and the youthful Mademoiselle Tacher de Pagerie became Vicomtesse de Beauharnais.

It is said that her husband's uncle took a cruel revenge for the disappointment, of which she had been the cause, by awakening suspicion of the fidelity of Josephine in the mind of her husband. The distracting doubts he raised made his nephew wretched; to such a degree was his jealousy excited, that he endeavored, by legal proceedings, to procure a divorce; but the evidence he adduced utterly failed, and after some time, a reconciliation took place.

The uncle died, and his daughter had in the mean time married the Marquis de Baral. So all went well with the young couple. They met with the most flattering reception at court. The vicomte, who was allowed to be the most elegant dancer of his day, was frequently honored by being the partner of the queen. And as to Josephine, she was the admired of all admirers; she was not only considered one of the most beautiful women at court, but all who conversed with her were captivated by her grace and sweetness. She entered into the gayeties of Versailles with the animation natural to her time of life and disposition.

But the sunshine of the royal circle was, ere long, clouded, and the gathering storm could be too well discerned; amusement was scarcely thought of. The States General assembled, and every thing denoted a revolutionary movement.

Josephine was an especial favorite with the queen; and in those days, dark with coming events, she had the most confidential conversations with her; all the fears and melancholy forebodings which caused the queen such deep anxiety, were freely imparted to her friend. Little did Josephine think, while sympathizing with her royal mistress, that she would herself rule in that court, and that she, too, would be a sufferer from the elevation of her situation. Her husband, the Vicomte de Beauharnais, was then called to join the army, as war had been unexpectedly declared. He distinguished himself so much, that he attained the rank of general. But in the midst of his successful career, he saw the danger which was impending, and he could perceive that not only were the days of Louis's power numbered, but he even feared that his life was not safe. His fears were unhappily fulfilled; and he himself, merely on account of belonging to the aristocracy, was denounced by his own troops, and deprived of his commission by authority, arrested, brought to Paris, and thrown into prison. It was during his imprisonment that the vicomte had the most affecting proofs of the attachment of Josephine: all the energies of her mind and of her strong affection were bent on obtaining his liberty; no means she could devise were left untried; she joined her own supplications to the solicitations of friends, to whom she had appealed in her emergency; she endeavored, in the most touching manner, to console and cheer him. But the gratification of soothing him by her presence and endearments was soon denied, for she was seized, and taken as a prisoner to the convent of the Carmelites. A few weeks passed, and the unfortunate vicomte was brought to trial, and condemned to death by the revolutionary tribunal. Though natural tears fell at thoughts of parting from his wife and children, and leaving them unprotected in the world, his courage never forsook him to the last.

When the account of his execution reached Josephine she fainted away, and was for a long time alarmingly ill. It was while in prison, and every moment expecting to be summoned before the revolutionary tribunal, that Josephine cut off her beautiful tresses, as the only gift which she had to leave her children, for all the family estates in Europe had been seized, and the destruction of property at St. Domingo had cut off all supplies from that quarter. Yet, amidst her anxieties, her afflictions, and her dangers, her fortitude never forsook her, and her example and her efforts to calm them, to a degree supported the spirits of her fellow-prisoners. Josephine herself ascribed her firmness to her implicit trust in the prediction of an old negress which she had treasured in her memory from childhood. Her trust, indeed, in the inexplicable mysteries of divination was sufficiently proved by the interest with which she is said to have frequently applied herself during her sad hours of imprisonment to learn her fortune from a pack of cards. Mr. Alison mentions, that he had heard of the prophecy of the negress in 1801, long before Napoleon's elevation to the throne. Josephine herself, Mr. Alison goes on to say, narrated this extraordinary passage in her life in the following terms:

"One morning the jailer entered the chamber where I slept with the Duchesse d'Aiguillon and two other ladies, and told me he was going to take my mattress, and give it to another prisoner.

"'Why,' said Madame d'Aiguillon, eagerly, 'I will not Madame de Beauharnais obtain a better one?'

"'No, no,' replied he, with a fiendish smile, 'she will have no need of one, for she is about to be led to the Conciergerie, and then to the guillotine.'

"At these words, my companions in misfortune uttered piercing shrieks. I consoled them as well as I could; and, at length, worn out with their eternal lamentations, I told them that their grief was utterly unreasonable; that I not only should not die, but live to be Queen of France.

"'Why, then, do you not name your maids of honor?' said Madame d'Aiguillon, irritated at such expressions, at such a moment.

"'Very true,' said I; 'I did not think of that. Well, my dear, I make you one of them.'

"Upon this the tears of the ladies fell apace for they never doubted I was mad; but the truth was, I was not gifted with any extraordinary courage, but internally persuaded of the truth of the oracle.

"Madame d'Aiguillon soon after became unwell, and I drew her toward the window, which opened, to admit through the bars a little fresh air. I then perceived a poor woman who knew us, and who was making a number of signs, which I could not at first understand. She constantly held up her gown (robe); and, seeing that she had some object in view, I called out robe; to which she answered, yes. She then lifted up a stone, and put it into her lap, which she lifted a second time. I called out, pierre. Upon this, she evinced the greatest joy at perceiving that her signs were understood. Joining then the stone to her robe, she eagerly imitated the motion of cutting off the head, and immediately began to dance and evince the most extravagant joy.

"This singular pantomime awakened in our minds a vague hope that possibly Robespierre might be no more.

"At this moment, while we were vacillating between hope and fear, we heard a great noise in the corridor, and the terrible voice of our jailer, who said to his dog, giving him at the same time a kick, 'Get in, you cursed Robespierre.'"

This speech told them they were saved.

Through the influence of Barras, a portion of her husband's property, in which Malmaison was included, was restored to Josephine. In this favorite abode she amused herself in exercising her taste in the embellishment of the grounds, and in the pursuit of botany; but her chief enjoyment was in the society and instruction of her children, to whom she was passionately attached. Their amiable dispositions and their talents were a source of the most exquisite pleasure to her, not, however, unmingled with regret at finding herself without the means of conferring on them the advantages of which they were so deserving. However, a better time was to come. Madame Tallien and several of Josephine's friends, after a time, prevailed on her to enter into society, and the fair associates became the principal ornaments of the directorial circle. Through their influence, revolutionary manners were reformed, and all the power which their charms and their talents gave them was exerted in the cause of humanity.

Napoleon's acquaintance with Josephine arose from the impression made on him by her son Eugène Beauharnais, then a little boy. He came to request that his father's sword, which had been delivered up, might be restored to him. The boy's appearance—the earnestness with which he urged his request, and the tears which could not be stayed when he beheld the sword, interested Napoleon so much in his favor, that not only was the sword given to him, but he determined to become acquainted with the mother of the boy. He visited her, and soon his visits became frequent. He delighted to hear the details which she gave of the court of Louis.

"Come," he would say, as he sat by her side of an evening, "now let us talk of the old court—let us make a tour to Versailles." It was in these frequent and familiar interviews that the fascinations of Josephine won the heart of Napoleon. "She is," said he, "grace personified—every thing she does is with a grace and delicacy peculiar to herself."

The admiration and love of such a man could not fail to make an impression on a woman like Josephine. It has been said, that it was impossible to be in Napoleon's company without being struck by his personal appearance; not so much by the exquisite symmetry of his features, and the noble head and forehead, which have furnished the painter and the sculptor with one of their finest models; nor even by the meditative look, so indicative of intellectual power; but the magic charm was the varying expression of countenance, which changed with every passing thought, and glowed with every feeling. His smile, it is said, always inspired confidence. "It is difficult, if not impossible," so the Duchess of Abrantes writes, "to describe the charm of his countenance when he smiled;—his soul was upon his lips and in his eyes." The magic power of that expression at a later period is well known. The Emperor of Russia experienced it when he said, "I never loved any one more than that man." He possessed, too, that greatest of all charms, an harmonious voice, whose tones, like his countenance, changing from emphatic impressiveness to caressing softness, found their way to every heart. It may not have been those personal and mental gifts alone which won Josephine's heart; the ready sympathy with which Napoleon entered into her feelings may have been the greatest charm to an affectionate nature like hers.

It was in the course of one of those confidential evenings that, as they sat together, she read to him the last letter which she had received from her husband: it was a most touching farewell. Napoleon was deeply affected; and it has been said that that letter, and Josephine's emotion as she read it, had a powerful effect upon his feelings, already so much excited by admiration.

Josephine soon consented to give her hand to the young soldier of fortune, who had no dower but his sword. On his part, he gave a pledge that he would consider her children as his own, and that their interests should be his first concern. The world can testify how he redeemed his pledge! To his union with Josephine he declared he was indebted for his chief happiness. Her affection, and the interchange of thought with her, were prized beyond all the greatness to which he attained. Many of the little incidents of their every-day life can not be read without deep interest—evincing, as they do, a depth of affection and tenderness of feeling which it is difficult to conceive should ever have been sacrificed to ambition. They visited together the prison where Josephine had passed so many dreary and sad hours. He saw the loved name traced on the dank wall, by the hand which was now his own. She had told him of a ring, which she had fondly prized; it had been the gift of her mother. She pointed out to him the flag under which she had contrived to hide it. When it was taken from its hiding-place and put into her hand, her delight enchanted Napoleon. Seldom have two persons met whose feelings and whose tastes appeared more perfectly in unison than theirs, during the happy days of their wedded life. The delight which they took in the fine arts was a source of constant pleasure; and in their days of power and elevation, it was their care to encourage artists of talent. Many interesting anecdotes are related of their kind and generous acts toward them. In Josephine's manner of conferring favors, there was always something still more gratifying than the advantage bestowed—something that implied that she entered into the feelings of those whom she wished to serve. She had observed that M. Turpin, an artist who went frequently to Malmaison, had no conveyance but an almost worn-out cabriolet, drawn by a sorry horse. One day, when about to take his leave, he was surprised to see a nice new vehicle and handsome horse drawn up. His own arms painted on the panels, and stamped on the harness, at once told him they were intended for him; but this was not the only occasion on which Josephine ministered to the straitened means of the painter. She employed him in making a sketch of a Swiss view, while sitting with her, and directed him to take it home, and bring the picture to her when finished. She was delighted with the beautiful landscape which he produced, and showed it with pleasure to every visitor who came in. The artist no doubt felt a natural gratification at finding his fine work appreciated. Josephine then called him aside, and put the stipulated price in bank-notes into his hand.

"This," said she, "is for your excellent mother; but it may not be to her taste; so tell her that I shall not be offended at her changing this trifling token of my friendship, and of the gratification which her son's painting has given me, for whatever might be more acceptable."

As she spoke, she put into his hand a diamond of the value of six thousand francs.

Josephine attended Napoleon in many of his campaigns. When she was not with him, he corresponded regularly with her, and no lover ever wrote letters more expressive of passionate attachment.

"By what art is it," he says, in one of them, "that you have been able to captivate all my faculties. It is a magic, my sweet love, which will finish only with my life. To live for Josephine is the history of my life. I am trying to reach you. I am dying to be with you. What lands, what countries separate us! What a time before you read these lines!"

Josephine returned her husband's fondness with her whole heart. Utterly regardless of privation and fatigue, she was ever earnest in urging him to allow her to accompany him on all his long journeys; and often, at midnight, when just setting out on some expedition, he has found her in readiness.

"No, love," he would say, "no, no, love, do not ask me; the fatigue would be too much for you."

"Oh, no," she would answer; "no, no."

"But I have not a moment to spare."

"See, I am quite ready;" and she would drive off, seated by Napoleon's side.

From having mingled in scenes of gayety from her earliest days, and from the pleasure which her presence was sure to diffuse, and perhaps, it may be added, from a nature singularly guileless, that could see no evil in what appeared to her but as innocent indulgences, she was led into expenses and frivolous gratifications which were by no means essential for a mind like hers. Dishonest tradesmen took advantage of her inexperience and extreme easiness, and swelled their bills to an enormous amount; but her greatest, and far most congenial outlay, was in the relief of the distressed. She could not endure to deny the petition of any whom she believed to be suffering from want; and this tenderness of heart was often imposed on by the artful and rapacious. Those who, from interested motives, desired to separate her from Napoleon, felt a secret satisfaction in the uneasiness which her large expenditure occasionally gave him. To their misrepresentations may be ascribed the violent bursts of jealousy by which he was at times agitated; but he was ever ready to perceive that there was no foundation to justify them. It was during one of their separations, that the insinuations of those about Napoleon excited his jealousy to such a degree, that he wrote a hasty letter to Josephine, accusing her of coquetry, and of evidently preferring the society of men to those of her own sex.

"The ladies," she says, in her reply, "are filled with fear and lamentations for those who serve under you; the gentlemen eagerly compliment me on your success, and speak of you in a manner that delights me. My aunt and those about me can tell you, ungrateful as you are, whether I have been coquetting with any body. These are your words, and they would be hateful to me, were I not certain that you see already they are unjust, and are sorry for having written them."

Napoleon's brothers strove to alienate his affections from Josephine; but the intense agony which he suffered when suspicion was awakened, must have proved to them how deep these affections were. Perhaps no trait in Josephine's character exalts it more than her conduct to the family who had endeavored to injure her in the most tender point. She often was the means of making peace between Napoleon and different members of his family with whom he was displeased. Even after the separation which they had been instrumental in effecting, she still exerted that influence which she never lost, to reconcile differences which arose between them. Napoleon could never long mistrust her generous and tender feelings, and the intimate knowledge of such a disposition every day increased his love; she was not only the object of his fondest affection, but he believed her to be in some mysterious manner connected with his destiny; a belief which chimed in with the popular superstition by which she was regarded as his good genius—a superstition which took still deeper hold of the public mind when days of disaster came, whose date commenced in no long time after the separation. The apparently accidental circumstance by which Josephine had escaped the explosion of the infernal machine was construed by many as a direct interposition of Providence in favor of Napoleon's Guardian Angel.

It was just as she was stepping into her carriage, which was to follow closely that of the First Consul to the theatre, that General Rapp, who had always before appeared utterly unobservant of ladies' dress, remarked to Josephine, that the pattern of the shawl did not match her dress. She returned to the house, and ran up to her apartment to change it for another; the delay did not occupy more than three minutes, but they sufficed to save her life. Napoleon's carriage just cleared the explosion; had Josephine's been close behind, nothing could have saved her. In the happy days of love and confidence, Malmaison was the scene of great enjoyment: the hand of taste could be discerned in all its embellishments. Napoleon preferred it to any other residence. When he arrived there from the Luxemburg or the Tuileries, he was wild with delight, like a school-boy let loose from school—every thing enchanted him, but most of all, perhaps, the chimes of the village church-bells. It may have been partly owing to the associations which they awakened. He would stop in his rambles if he heard them, lest his foot-fall should drown the sound—he would remain as if entranced, in a kind of ecstasy, till they ceased. "Ah! how they remind me of the first years I spent at Brienne!"

Napoleon added considerably to the domain of Malmaison by purchasing the noble woods of Butard, which joined it. He was in a perfect ecstasy with the improvement; and, in a few days after the purchase was completed, proposed that they should all make a party to see it. Josephine put on her shawl, and, accompanied by her friends, set out. Napoleon, in a state of enchantment, rode on before; but he would then gallop back, and take Josephine's hand. He was compared to a child who, in the eagerness of delight, flies back to his mother to impart his joy.

Nothing could be more agreeable than the society at Malmaison. Napoleon disliked ceremony, and wished all his guests to be perfectly at their ease. All his evenings were spent in Josephine's society, in which he delighted. Both possessed the rare gift of conversational powers. General information and exquisite taste were rendered doubly attractive by the winning manners and sweet voice of Josephine. As for Napoleon, he appeared to have an intuitive knowledge on all subjects. He was like an inspired person when seen amid men of every age, and all professions. All thronged round the pale, studious-looking young man—feeling that "he was more fitted to give than to receive lessons." Argument with him almost invariably ended by his opponent going over to his side. His tact was such that he knew how to select the subject for discussion on which the person with whom he conversed was best informed; and thus, from his earliest days, he increased his store of information, and gave infinite pleasure by the interest which he took in the pursuits of those whom chance threw in his way. The delightful flow of his spirits showed how much he enjoyed the social evenings. He amused his guests in a thousand ways. If he sat down to cards, he diverted them by pretending to cheat, which he might have done with impunity, as he never took his winnings. He sometimes entertained them with tales composed on the moment. When they were of ghosts and apparitions, he took care to tell them by a dim light, and to prepare them by some solemn and striking observation. Private theatricals sometimes made the entertainment of the evening. Different members of Napoleon's family, and several of the guests, performed. The plays are described as having been acted to an audience of two or three hundred, and going off with great effect—every one, indeed, endeavored to acquit themselves to the best of their ability, for they knew they had a severe critic in Napoleon.

The amiable and engaging manners of Napoleon and Josephine gave to Malmaison its greatest charm. The ready sympathy of Josephine with all who were in sorrow, or any kind of distress, endeared her to every one. If any among her domestics were ill, she was sure to visit the sick-bed, and soothe the sufferer by her tenderness. Indeed, her sympathy was often known to bring relief when other means had failed. She was deeply affected by the calamity of M. Decrest. He had lost his only son suddenly by a fatal accident. The young man had been on the eve of marriage, and all his family were busy making preparations for the joyful occasion, when news of his death was brought. The poor father remained in a state of nearly complete stupor from the moment of the melancholy intelligence. All attempts to arouse him were unavailing. When Josephine was made acquainted with his alarming state, she lost not a moment in hurrying to him; and leading his little daughter by the hand, and taking his infant in her arms, she threw herself, with his two remaining children, at his feet. The afflicted man burst into tears, and nature found a salutary relief, which saved his life. In such acts Josephine was continually engaged. Nothing could withdraw her mind from the claims of the unfortunate. Her tender respect for the feelings of others was never laid aside; and with those who strove to please her she was always pleased. On one occasion, when the ladies about her could not restrain their laughter at the discordant music made by an itinerant musician, who had requested permission to play before her, she preserved a becoming gravity, and encouraged, and thanked, and rewarded the poor man. "He did his best to gratify us," she said, when he was gone: "I think it was my duty not only to avoid hurting his feelings, but to thank and reward him for the trouble which he took to give pleasure."

Such were the lessons which she impressed upon her children. She often talked with them of the privations of other days, and charged them never to forget those days amid the smile of fortune which they now enjoyed.

Josephine saw with great uneasiness the probable elevation of the First Consul to the throne. She felt that it would bring danger to him, and ruin to herself; for she had discernment enough to anticipate that she would be sacrificed to the ambition of those who wished to establish an hereditary right to the throne of the empire. Every step of his advancing power caused her deep anxiety. "The real enemies of Bonaparte," she said to Raderer, as Alison tells, "the real enemies of Bonaparte are those who put into his head ideas of hereditary succession, dynasty, divorce, and marriage. I do not approve the projects of Napoleon," she added. "I have often told him so. He hears me with attention; but I can plainly see that I make no impression. The flatterers who surround him soon obliterate all I have said." She strove to restrain his desire of conquest, by urging on him continually a far greater object—that of rendering France happy by encouraging her industry and protecting her agriculture. In a long letter, in which she earnestly expostulates with him on the subject, she turns to herself in affecting terms: "Will not the throne," she says, "inspire you with the wish to contract new alliances? Will you not seek to support your power by new family connections? Alas! whatever these connections may be, will they compensate for those which were first knit by corresponding fitness, and which affection promised to perpetuate?" So far, indeed, from feeling elated by her own elevation to a throne, she regretted it with deep melancholy. "The assumption of the throne," she looked on as "an act that must ever be an ineffaceable blot upon Napoleon's name." It has been asserted by her friends that she never recovered her spirits after. The pomps and ceremonies, too, attendant on the imperial state, must have been distasteful to one who loved the retirement of home, and hated every kind of restraint and ostentation.

From the time that Napoleon became emperor he lavished the greatest honors on the children of Josephine. Her daughter Hortense received the hand of Louis Bonaparte, and the crown of Holland. Eugène, his first acquaintance of the family, and especial favorite, obtained the rank of colonel, and was adopted as one of the imperial family; and the son of Hortense and Louis was adopted as heir to the throne of France. The coronation took place at Notre Dame, with all the show and pomp of which the French are so fond. When the papal benediction was pronounced, Napoleon placed the crown on his head with his own hands. He then turned to Josephine, who knelt before him, and there was an affectionate playfulness in the manner in which he took pains to arrange it, as he placed the crown upon her head. It seemed at that moment as if he forgot the presence of all but her. After putting on the crown, he raised it, and placing it more lightly on, regarded her the while with looks of fond admiration. On the morning of the coronation, Napoleon had sent for Raguideau the notary, who little thought that he had been summoned into the august presence to be reminded of what had passed on the occasion of their last meeting, and of which he had no idea the emperor was in possession. While Napoleon had been paying his addresses to Josephine, they walked arm-in-arm to the notary's, for neither of them could boast of a carriage. "You are a great fool," replied the notary to Josephine, who had just communicated her intention of marrying the young officer: "you are a great fool, and you will live to repent it. You are about to marry a man who has nothing but his cloak and his sword." Napoleon, who was waiting in the ante-chamber, overheard these words, but never spoke of them to any one. "Now," said Napoleon, with a smile, addressing the old man, who had been ushered into his presence: "now, what say you, Raguideau? have I nothing but my cloak and sword?" The empress and the notary both stood amazed at this first intimation that the warning had been overheard.

The following year, the magnificent coronation at Milan took place, surpassing, if possible, in grandeur that at Paris. Amidst the gorgeousness of that spectacle, however, there were few by whom it was not forgotten in the far deeper interest which the principal actors in the scene inspired. Amidst the blaze of beauty and of jewels, and the strains of music, by which he was surrounded, what were the feelings of Napoleon, as he held within his grasp the iron crown of Charlemagne, which had reposed in the treasury of Monza for a thousand years, and for which he had so ardently longed. Even at that moment, when he placed it on his own head, were the aspirings of the ambitious spirit satisfied?—or were not his thoughts taking a wider range of conquest than he had yet achieved? And for her, who knelt at his feet, about to receive the highest honor that mortal hands can confer—did the pomp and circumstance of that scene, and the glory of the crown, satisfy her loving heart? Ah, surely no! It was away in the sweet retirement of Malmaison—amidst the scenes hallowed by Napoleon's early affection. And how few years were to elapse ere the crown just placed on the head of Josephine was to be transferred to another!—when the place which she, the loving and beloved, occupied by her husband's side was to be filled by another! Though doubts had arisen in her mind—though she knew the influence of those who feared the sceptre might pass into the hands of another dynasty—still, the hope never forsook her, that affection would triumph over ambition, till Napoleon himself communicated the cruel determination. With what abandonment of self she was wont to cast her whole dependence on Napoleon, may be seen in a letter addressed to Pope Pius VII. In it she says: "My first sentiment—one to which all others are subservient—is a conviction of my own weakness and incapacity. Of myself I am but little; or, to speak more correctly, my only value is derived from the extraordinary man to whom I am united. This inward conviction, which occasionally humbles my pride, eventually affords me some encouragement, when I calmly reflect. I whisper to myself, that the arm under which the whole earth is made to tremble, may well support my weakness."

Hortense's promising child was dead; Napoleon and Josephine had shed bitter tears together over the early grave of their little favorite; and there was now not even a nominal heir to the throne. The machinations of the designing were in active motion. Lucien introduced the subject, and said to Josephine that it was absolutely necessary for the satisfaction of the nation that Napoleon should have a son, and asked whether she would pass off an illegitimate one as her own. This proposal she refused with the utmost indignation, preferring any alternative to one so disgraceful.

On Napoleon's return from the battle of Wagram, Josephine hastened to welcome him. After the first warm greetings and tender embraces, she perceived that something weighed upon his mind. The restraint and embarrassment of his manner filled her with dread. For fifteen days she was a prey to the most cruel suspense, yet she dreaded its termination by a disclosure fatal to her happiness. Napoleon, who loved her so much, and who had hitherto looked to her alone for all his domestic felicity, himself felt all the severity of the blow which he was about to inflict. The day at length came, and it is thus affectingly described by Mr. Alison:—

"They dined together as usual, but neither spoke a word during the repast; their eyes were averted as soon as they met, but the countenance of both revealed the mortal anguish of their minds. When it was over, he dismissed the attendants, and approaching the empress with a trembling step, took her hand, and laid it upon his heart. 'Josephine,' said he, 'my good Josephine, you know how I have loved you; it is to you alone that I owe the few moments of happiness I have known in the world. Josephine, my destiny is more powerful than my will; my dearest affections must yield to the interests of France.'

"'Say no more,' cried the empress. 'I expected this; I understand and feel for you, but the stroke is not the less mortal.' With these words, she uttered piercing shrieks, and fell down in a swoon.

"Doctor Corvisart was at hand to render assistance, and she was restored to a sense of her wretchedness in her own apartment. The emperor came to see her in the evening, but she could hardly bear the emotion occasioned by his appearance."

Little did Napoleon think, when he was making a sacrifice of all the "happiness which he had known in the world," that the ambitious views for which it was relinquished would fade away ere five years ran their course. What strange destinies do men carve out for themselves! what sacrifices are they ever making of felicity and of real good, in the pursuit of some phantom which is sure to elude their grasp! How many Edens have been forfeited by madness and by folly, since the first pair were expelled from Paradise!

It was not without an effort on her part to turn Napoleon from a purpose so agonizing to them both, that Josephine gave up all hope. In about a month after the disclosure, a painful task devolved on the imperial family. The motives for the divorce were to be stated in public, and the heart-stricken Josephine was to subscribe to its necessity in presence of the nation. In conformity with the magnanimous resolve of making so great a sacrifice for the advantage of the empire, it was expedient that an equanimity of deportment should be assumed. The scene which took place could never be forgotten by those who witnessed it. Napoleon stood pale and immovable as a statue, showing in the very stillness of his air and countenance a deep emotion. Josephine and Hortense alone appeared divested of every ornament, while those about them sparkled in all the splendor of court costume. Every eye was directed to Josephine, as with slow steps she reached the seat which had been prepared for her. She took it with her accustomed grace, and preserved throughout a dignified composure. Hortense stood weeping behind her chair, and poor Eugène was nearly overcome by agitation, as the act of separation was read; Napoleon declared that it was in consideration of the interests of the monarchy and the wishes of his people that there should be an heir to the throne, that he was induced "to sacrifice the sweetest affections of his heart." "God knows," said he, "what such a determination has cost my heart." Of Josephine he spoke with the tenderest affection and respect. "She has embellished fifteen years of my life; the remembrance of them will be forever engraven on my heart."

When it was Josephine's turn to speak, though tears were in her eyes, and though her voice faltered, the dignity of all she uttered impressed every one who was present. "I respond to all the sentiments of the emperor," she said, "in consenting to the dissolution of a marriage which henceforth is an obstacle to the happiness of France, by depriving it of the blessing of being one day governed by the descendants of that great man, evidently raised up by Providence to efface the evils of a terrible revolution, and restore the altar, the throne, and social order I know," she went on to say, "what this act, commanded by policy and exalted interest, has cost his heart; but we both glory in the sacrifice which we make to the good of our country. I feel elevated by giving the greatest proof of attachment and devotion that ever was given upon earth."

It was not till Josephine heard the fatal words which were to part her from the object of her affection forever, that her courage seemed for a moment to forsake her; but hastily brushing away the tears that forced their way, she took the pen which was handed to her, and signed the act; then taking the arm of Hortense, and followed by Eugène, she left the saloon, and hurried to her own apartment, where she shut herself up alone for the remainder of the day.

It is well known that, notwithstanding the courage with which the imperial family came forward before the public on this occasion, they gave way to the most passionate grief in private. Napoleon had retired for the night, and had gone to his bed in silence and sadness, when the private door opened, and Josephine appeared. Her hair fell in wild disorder, and her countenance bore the impress of an incurable grief. She advanced with a faltering step; then paused; and bursting into an agony of tears, threw herself on Napoleon's neck, and sobbed as if her heart were breaking. He tried to console her, but his own tears fell fast with hers. A few broken words—a last embrace—and they parted. The next morning, the whole household assembled to pay the last tribute of respect to a mistress whom they loved and revered. With streaming eyes, they saw her pass the gates of the Tuileries never to return.

The feelings with which Josephine took up her residence at Malmaison, amidst the scenes so dear to her, may be conceived; but true to the wishes of the emperor, and to the dictates of her own elevated mind, she bore up under her trying situation with exemplary dignity; but grief had done its part; and no one could look into her face, or meet the sweet melancholy smile with which she welcomed them, without being moved. Happy days, which she had enjoyed amidst these scenes with many of those who waited on her, were sadly contrasted with her forlorn feelings; and though she strove to speak cheerfully, and never complained, the tears which she tried to check or to conceal would sometimes force their way. The chief indulgence which she allowed her feelings was during those hours of the day when she shut herself up alone in Napoleon's cabinet; that chamber where so many moments of confidential intercourse had passed, and which she continued to hold so sacred, that scarcely any one but herself ever entered it. She would not suffer any thing to be moved since Napoleon had occupied it. She would herself wipe away the dust, fearing that other hands might disturb what he had touched. The volume which he had been reading when last there lay on the table, open at the page at which he had last looked. The map was there, with all his tracings of some meditated route; the pen which had given permanence to some passing thought lay beside it; articles of dress were on some of the chairs; every thing looked as if he were about to enter.

Even under the changed circumstances which brought Josephine back to Malmaison, her influence over Napoleon which had been always powerful, was not diminished. No estrangement took place between them. His visits to her were frequent, though her increased sadness was always observed on those days when he made them. They corresponded to the last moment of her life. The letters which she received from him were her greatest solace. It is thus she alludes to them in writing to him: "Continue to retain a kind recollection of your friend; give her the consolation of occasionally hearing from you, that you still preserve that attachment for her which alone constitutes the happiness of her existence."

The nuptials of Napoleon and Marie Louise took place a very short time after the divorce was ratified. Whatever the bitter feelings of Josephine might have been, they were not mingled with one ungenerous or unjust sentiment. No ill-feeling toward the new empress was excited in her bosom by the rapturous greetings with which she was welcomed on her arrival. "Every one ought," said she, "to endeavor to render France dear to an empress who has left her native country to take up her abode among strangers."

But however elevated above all the meaner passions, the affections of Josephine had received a wound from which they could never recover, and she found it essential for any thing like peace of mind, to remove from scenes of former happiness. She retired to a noble mansion in Navarre, the gift of Napoleon; and as he had made a most munificent settlement on her, she was able to follow the bent of her benevolent mind, and to pass her time in doing good. So far from feeling any mortification on the birth of his son, she unfeignedly participated in the gratification which the emperor felt, and she ever took the most lively interest in the child. She was deeply affected when his birth was announced to her, and retired to her chamber to weep unseen; but no murmur mingled with those natural tears.

It is rare to meet an example of one like Josephine, who has escaped the faults which experience tells us beset the extremes of destiny. In all the power and luxury of the highest elevation, no cold selfishness ever chilled the current of her generous feelings; for in the midst of prosperity her highest gratification was to serve her fellow creatures, and in adverse circumstances, unspited at the world, such was still her sweetest solace. She was, indeed, so wonderfully sustained throughout all the changes and chances of her eventful life, that it needs no assurance to convince us that she must have sought for support beyond this transitory scene.

She employed the peasantry about Navarre in making roads and other useful works. Ever prompt in giving help to those in want, she chanced to meet one of the sisters of charity one day, seeking assistance for the wounded who lay in a neighboring hospital. Josephine gave large relief, promised to put all in train to have her supplied with linen for the sick, and that she would help to prepare lint for their wounds. The petitioner pronounced a blessing on her, and went on her way, but turned back to ask the name of her benefactress; the answer was affecting—"I am poor Josephine."

There can be no doubt but that Napoleon's thoughts often turned with tenderness to the days that he had passed with Josephine. Proof was given of an unchanging attachment to her, in the favors which he lavished on those connected with her by relationship or affection. Among her friends was Mrs. Damer, so celebrated for her success in sculpture. She had become acquainted with her while she was passing some time in Paris. Charmed by Josephine's varied attractions, she delighted in her society, and they became fast friends; when parting, they promised never to forget each other. The first intimation which Mrs. Damer had of Josephine's second marriage was one day when a French gentleman waited on her; he was the bearer of a most magnificent piece of porcelain and a letter, with which he had been charged for her by the wife of the First Consul. Great was her astonishment, when she opened the letter to find that it was indeed from the wife of the First Consul; no longer Vicomtesse de Beauharnais, but her dear friend Josephine, who urged her with all the warmth of friendship, to pay her an immediate visit at Paris. "I do long," she added, "to present my husband to you." Such a tempting invitation was gladly accepted, and she was received with joy by Napoleon and Josephine. In after years, she constantly recalled to mind the pleasures of that visit, with mingled feelings of melancholy and delight. The domestic scene left a lasting impression. Napoleon, always so fascinating in conversation, made himself delightfully agreeable to her; he loved to talk with her of her art; and his originality, enthusiasm, and taste gave an interest to every thing he said. He had a great admiration for Fox, and expressed a wish to have his bust. When Mrs. Damer next visited Paris, she brought Fox's bust, but Josephine's place was occupied by another. The emperor saw her, and met her with all the cordiality and kindness which the recollection of former happy days, and her attachment to Josephine, were sure to inspire. At parting, he gave her a splendid snuff-box, with his likeness set in diamonds. The box is now in the British Museum.

It was in her retirement at Navarre that Josephine wept bitterly over the fallen fortunes of Napoleon. The Russian expedition caused her such deep inquietude that her health and spirits visibly declined; she saw in it a disastrous fate for Napoleon, and trembled, too, for the safety of Eugène, a son so dearly and so deservedly beloved, and who was, if possible, rendered still more precious, as the especial favorite of Napoleon, and as having been the means of introducing him to her. Josephine now scarcely joined her ladies, but would remain for the length of the day alone in her chamber, by the large traveling-desk which contained Napoleon's letters. Among these there was one that she was observed to read over and over again, and then to place in her bosom; it was the last that she had received; it was written from Brienne. A passage in it runs thus: "On revisiting this spot, where I passed my youthful days, and contrasting the peaceful condition I then enjoyed with the state of terror and agitation to which my mind is now a prey, often have I addressed myself in these words: I have sought death in numberless engagements, I can no longer dread its approach; I should now hail it as a boon. Nevertheless, I could still wish to see Josephine once more—" He again adds: "Adieu, my dear Josephine; never dismiss from your recollection one who has never forgotten, and never will forget you."

It would be needless to dwell on the rapid events which led to Napoleon's abdication, but it would be impossible, even in this imperfect sketch, not to be struck by the strange coincidences of Josephine's life—twice married—twice escaped from a violent death—twice crowned—both husbands sought for a divorce—one husband was executed—the other banished! One of Napoleon's first cares, in making his conditions when he abdicated, was an ample provision for Josephine; £40,000 per annum was settled on her.

It was after Napoleon's departure from the shores of France, that the Emperor Alexander, touched with admiration of Josephine's character, and with pity for her misfortunes, prevailed on her to return to Malmaison to see him there. The associations so linked with the spot that she had loved to beautify must, indeed, have been overpowering. It was there that Napoleon's passionate attachment to her was formed. How many recollections must have been awakened by the pleasure grounds adorned with the costly shrubs and plants which they had so often admired together; how many tears had afterward fallen among them when the hours of separation came. The Emperor Alexander used every effort to console her, and promised his protection to her children, but sorrow had done its part, and the memories of other times had their effect. Josephine fell sick; malignant sore throat was the form which disease took, during the fatal illness of but a few days. Alexander was unremitting in his attentions; he again soothed the dying mother by the renewal of his promise of care for her children, a promise most faithfully kept. It was in the year 1814 that Napoleon left France for Elba, and also that Josephine died. The bells to which they had loved to listen together tolled her funeral knell. Her remains rest in the parish church of Ruel, near Malmaison. They were followed to the place of interment by a great number of illustrious persons who were desirous of paying this parting token of respect to one so much loved and honored. Upward of eight thousand of the neighboring peasantry joined the funeral procession to pay their tribute of affection and veneration to her, who was justly called, "the mother of the poor and distressed." The tomb erected by her children marks the spot where she takes her "long last sleep." It bears the simple inscription—


Napoleon, too, paid a parting visit to the residence which he had preferred to every other. After his unsuccessful attempt to resume the sovereignty of France, he spent six days at Malmaison to muse over departed power and happiness, and then left the shores of France forever!