Mercy’s Correspondence with Empress.—Distress and Discontent pervade France.—Goldsmith predicts a Revolution.—Apathy of the King.—The Aunts mislead Marie Antoinette.—Maria Teresa hears that the Dauphiness neglects her German Visitors.—Marriage of the Count de Provence.—Growing Preference of Louis xv. for the Dauphiness.—The Dauphiness applies herself to Study.—Marie Antoinette becomes a Horsewoman.—Her Kindness to all beneath her.—Cabals of the Adherents of the Mistress.—The Royal Family become united.—Concerts in the Apartments of the Dauphiness.
Marie Antoinette was not a very zealous or copious letter-writer. Her only correspondent In her earlier years was her mother, and even to her her letters are less effusive and less full of details than might have been expected, one reason for their brevity arising out of the intrigues of the court, since she had cause to believe herself so watched and spied upon that her very desk was not safe; and, consequently, she never ventured to begin a letter to the empress before the morning on which it was to be sent, lest it should be read by those for whose eyes it was not intended. For our knowledge, therefore, of her acts and feelings at this period of her life, we still have to rely principally on Mercy’s correspondence, which is, however, a sufficiently trustworthy guide, so accurate was his information, and so entire the frankness with which she opened herself to him on all occasions and on all subjects.
The spring of 1771 opened very unfavorably for the new administration; omens of impending dangers were to be seen on all sides. Ten or twelve years before, Goldsmith, whose occasional silliness of manner prevented him from always obtaining the attention to which his sagacity entitled him, had named the growing audacity of the French parliaments as not only an indication of the approach of great changes in that country, but as likely also to be their moving cause. And they had recently shown such determined resistance to the royal authority, that, though in the most conspicuous instance of it, their assertion of their right to pronounce an independent judgment on the charges brought against the Duc d’Aiguillon, they were unquestionably in the right; and though their pretensions were supported by almost the whole body of the princes of the blood, some of whom were immediately banished for their contumacy, Louis had been persuaded to abolish them altogether. And Marie Antoinette, though she carefully avoided mixing herself up with politics, was, as she reported to her mother, astonished beyond measure at their conduct, which she looked upon as arising out of the grossest disloyalty, and which certainly indicated the existence of a feeling very dangerous to the maintenance of the royal authority on the part of those very men who were most bound to uphold it. There was also great and general distress. For a moment in the