“Homere etait aveugle et jouait du hautbois.”
(Homer was blind and played on the hautboy.)
[This lively repartee of the Duchesse de Polignac is a droll imitation of a line in the “Mercure Galant.” In the quarrel scene one of the lawyers says to his brother quill: ’Ton pere etait aveugle et jouait du hautbois.’]
The Queen found this sort of humour very much to her taste, and said that no pedant should ever be her friend.
Before the Queen fixed her assemblies at Madame de Polignac’s, she occasionally passed the evening at the house of the Duc and Duchesse de Duras, where a brilliant party of young persons met together. They introduced a taste for trifling games, such as question and answer, ‘guerre panpan’, blind man’s buff, and especially a game called ‘descampativos’. The people of Paris, always criticising, but always imitating the customs of the Court, were infected with the mania for these childish sports. Madame de Genlis, sketching the follies of the day in one of her plays, speaks of these famous ‘descampativos’; and also of the rage for making a friend, called the ‘inseparable’, until a whim or the slightest difference might occasion a total rupture.
The Duc de Choiseul had reappeared at Court on the ceremony of the King’s coronation for the first time after his disgrace under Louis xv. in 1770. The state of public feeling on the subject gave his friends hope of seeing him again in administration, or in the Council of State; but the opposite party was too firmly seated at Versailles, and the young Queen’s influence was outweighed, in the mind of the King, by long-standing prejudices; she therefore gave up for ever her attempt to reinstate the Duke. Thus this Princess, who has been described as so ambitious, and so strenuously supporting the interest of the House of Austria, failed twice in the only scheme which could forward the views constantly attributed to her; and spent the whole of her reign surrounded by enemies of herself and her house.
Marie Antoinette took little pains to promote literature and the fine arts. She had been annoyed in consequence of having ordered a performance of the “Connstable de Bourbon,” on the celebration of the marriage of Madame Clotilde with the Prince of Piedmont. The Court and the people of Paris censured as indecorous the naming characters in the piece after the reigning family, and that with which the new alliance was formed. The reading of this piece by the Comte de Guibert in the Queen’s closet had produced in her Majesty’s circle that sort of enthusiasm which obscures the judgment. She promised herself she would have no more readings. Yet, at the request of M. de Cubieres, the King’s equerry, the Queen agreed to hear the reading of a comedy written by his brother. She collected her intimate circle, Messieurs de Coigny, de Vaudreuil, de Besenval, Mesdames de Polignac, de Chalon, etc., and to increase the number of judges, she admitted the two Parnys, the Chevalier de Bertin, my father-in-law, and myself.