I subscribe, nevertheless, to your observation, “that the late long war and short peace, with the enslaved state of the Press on the Continent, would occasion a chasm in the most interesting period of modern history, did not independent and judicious travellers or visitors abroad collect and forward to Great Britain (the last refuge of freedom) some materials which, though scanty and insufficient upon the whole, may, in part, rend the veil of destructive politics, and enable future ages to penetrate into mysteries which crime in power has interest to render impenetrable to the just reprobation of honour and of virtue.” If, therefore, my humble labours can preserve loyal subjects from the seduction of traitors, or warn lawful sovereigns and civilized society of the alarming conspiracy against them, I shall not think either my time thrown away, or fear the dangers to which publicity might expose me were I only suspected here of being an Anglican author. Before the Letters are sent to the press I trust, however, to your discretion the removal of everything that might produce a discovery, or indicate the source from which you have derived your information.
Although it is not usual in private correspondence to quote authorities, I have sometimes done so; but satisfied, as I hope you are, with my veracity, I should have thought the frequent productions of any better pledge than the word of a man of honour an insult to your feelings. I have, besides, not related a fact that is not recent and well known in our fashionable and political societies; and of all the portraits I have delineated, the originals not only exist, but are yet occupied in the present busy scene of the Continent, and figuring either at Courts, in camps, or in Cabinets.
Paris, August, 1805.
My lord:—I promised you not to pronounce in haste on persons and events passing under my eyes; thirty-one months have quickly passed away since I became an attentive spectator of the extraordinary transactions, and of the extraordinary characters of the extraordinary Court and Cabinet of St. Cloud. If my talents to delineate equal my zeal to inquire and my industry to examine; if I am as able a painter as I have been an indefatigable observer, you will be satisfied, and with your approbation at once sanction and reward my labours.
With most Princes, the supple courtier and the fawning favourite have greater influence than the profound statesman and subtle Minister; and the determinations of Cabinets are, therefore, frequently prepared in drawing-rooms, and discussed in the closet. The politician and the counsellor are frequently applauded or censured for transactions which the intrigues of antechambers conceived, and which cupidity and favour gave power to promulgate.