General Brune has bought landed property for nine millions of livres—and has, in different funds, placed ready money to the same amount. His own and his wife’s diamonds are valued by him at three millions; and when he has any parties to dinner, he exhibits them with great complaisance as presents forced upon him during his campaign in Switzerland and Holland, for the protection he gave the inhabitants. He is now so vain of his wealth and proud of his rank, that he not only disregards all former acquaintances, but denies his own brothers and sisters,—telling them frankly that the Fieldmarshal Brune can have no shoemaker for a brother, nor a sister married to a chandler; that he knows of no parents, and of no relatives, being the maker of his own fortune, and of what he is; that his children will look no further back for ancestry than their father. One of his first cousins, a postilion, who insisted, rather obstinately, on his family alliance, was recommended by Brune to his friend Fouche, who sent him on a voyage of discovery to Cayenne, from which he probably will not return very soon.
Paris, September, 1805.
My lord:--Madame de C------n is now one of our most fashionable ladies. Once in the week she has a grand tea-party; once in a fortnight a grand dinner; and once in the month a grand ball. Foreign gentlemen are particularly well received at her house, which, of course, is much frequented by them. As you intend to visit this country after a peace, it may be of some service to you not to be unacquainted with the portrait of a lady whose invitation to see the original you may depend upon the day after your arrival.
Madame de C——n is the widow of the great and useless traveller, Comte de C——n, to whom his relatives pretend that she was never married. Upon his death-bed he acknowledged her, however, for his wife, and left her mistress of a fortune of three hundred thousand livres a year. The first four years of her widowhood she passed in lawsuits before the tribunals, where the plaintiffs could not prove that she was unmarried, nor she herself that she was married. But Madame Napoleon Bonaparte, for a small douceur, speaking in her favour, the consciences of the juries, and the understanding of the judges, were all convinced at once that she had been the lawful wife, and was the lawful heiress, of Comte de C——n, who had no children, or nearer relatives than third cousins.
Comte de C——n was travelling in the East Indies when the Revolution broke out. His occupation there was a very innocent one; he drew countenances, being one of the most enthusiastic sectaries of Lavater, and modestly called himself the first physiognomist in the world. Indeed, he had been at least the most laborious one; for he left behind him a collection of six thousand two hundred portraits, drawn by himself in the four quarters of the world, during a period of thirty years.