Importance of Marie Antoinette in the Revolution.—Value of her Correspondence as a Means of estimating her Character.—Her Birth, November 2d, 1755.—Epigram of Metastasio.—Habits of the Imperial Family.—Schoenbrunn.—Death of the Emperor.—Projects for the Marriage of the Archduchess.—Her Education.—The Abbe de Vermond.—Metastasio.— Gluck.
The most striking event in the annals of modern Europe is unquestionably the French Revolution of 1789—a Revolution which, in one sense, may be said to be still in progress, but which, is a more limited view, may be regarded as having been, consummated by the deposition and murder of the sovereign of the country. It is equally undeniable that, during its first period, the person who most attracts and rivets attention is the queen. One of the moat brilliant of modern French writers has recently remarked that, in spite of the number of years which have elapsed since the grave closed over the sorrows of Marie Antoinette, and of the almost unbroken series of exciting events which have marked the annals of France in the interval, the interest excited by her story is as fresh and engrossing as ever; that such as Hecuba and Andromache were to the ancients, objects never named to inattentive ears, never contemplated without lively sympathy, such still is their hapless queen to all honest and intelligent Frenchmen. It may even be said that that interest has increased of late years. The respectful and remorseful pity which her fate could not fail to awaken has been quickened by the publication of her correspondence with her family and intimate friends, which has laid bare, without disguise, all her inmost thoughts and feelings, her errors as well as her good deeds, her weaknesses equally with her virtues. Few, indeed, even of those whom the world regards with its highest favor and esteem, could endure such an ordeal without some diminution of their fame. Yet it is but recording the general verdict of all whose judgment is of value, to affirm that Marie Antoinette has triumphantly surmounted it; and that the result of a scrutiny as minute and severe as any to which a human being has ever been subjected, has been greatly to raise her reputation.
Not that she was one of those paragons whom painters of model heroines have delighted to imagine to themselves; one who from childhood gave manifest indications of excellence and greatness, and whose whole life was but a steady progressive development of its early promise. She was rather one in whom adversity brought forth great qualities, her possession of which, had her life been one of that unbroken sunshine which is regarded by many as the natural and inseparable attendant of royalty, might never have been even suspected. We meet with her first, at an age scarcely advanced beyond childhood, transported from her school-room to a foreign court, as wife to the heir of one of