The king, who was fond of appearing a zealous promoter of the Catholic faith, took her under his protection, and complimented her with a pension of fifteen hundred livres of Piedmont, which was a considerable appointment for a prince who never had the character of being generous; but finding his liberality made some conjecture he had an affection for the lady, he sent her to Annecy, escorted by a detachment of his guards, where, under the direction of Michael Gabriel de Bernex, titular Bishop of Geneva, she abjured her former religion at the Convent of the Visitation.
I came to Annecy just six years after this event; Madam de Warrens was then eight-and-twenty, being born with the century.Her beauty, consisting more in the expressive animation of the countenance than a set of features, was in its meridian; her manner, soothing and tender; an angelic smile played about her mouth, which was small and delicate; she wore her hair (which was of an ash color, and uncommonly beautiful) with an air of negligence that made her appear still more interesting; she was short, and rather thick for her height, though by no means disagreeably so; but there could not be a more lovely face, a finer neck, or hands and arms more exquisitely formed.
Her education had been derived from such a variety of sources, that it formed an extraordinary assemblage.Like me, she had lost her mother at her birth, and had received instruction as it chanced to present itself: she had learned something of her governess, something of her father, a little of her masters, but copiously from her lovers; particularly a M.de Tavel, who, possessing both taste and information, endeavored to adorn with them the mind of her he loved.
These various instructions, not being properly arranged, tended to impede each other, and she did not acquire that degree of improvement her natural good sense was capable of receiving; she knew something of philosophy and physic, but not enough to eradicate the fondness she had imbibed from her father for empiricism and alchemy; she made elixirs, tinctures, balsams, pretended to secrets, and prepared magestry; while quacks and pretenders, profiting by her weakness, destroyed her property among furnaces, and minerals, diminishing those charms and accomplishments which might have been the delight of the most elegant circles.
But though these interested wretches took advantage of her ill-applied education to obscure her good sense, her excellent heart retained its her amiable mildness, sensibility for the unfortunate, inexhaustible bounty, and open, cheerful frankness, knew no variation;even at the approach of old age, when attacked by various calamities, rendered more cutting by indigence, the serenity of her disposition preserved to the end of her life the pleasing gayety of her happiest days.
Her errors proceeded from an inexhaustible fund of activity, which demanded perpetual employment.She found no satisfaction in the customary intrigues of her sex, but, being formed for vast designs, sought the direction of important enterprises and discoveries.In her place Madam de Longueville would have been a mere trifler, in Madam de Longueville's situation she would have governed the state.
Her talents did not accord with her fortune; what would have gained her distinction in a more elevated sphere, became her ruin.In enterprises which suited her disposition, she arranged the plan in her imagination, which was ever carried to its utmost extent, and the means she employed being proportioned rather to her ideas than abilities, she failed by the mismanagement of those on whom she depended, and was ruined where another would scarce have been a loser.
This active disposition, which involved her in so many difficulties, was at least productive of one benefit as it prevented her from passing the remainder of her life in the monastic asylum she had chosen, which she had some thought of.The simple and uniform life of a nun, and the little cabals and gossipings of their parlor, were not adapted to a mind vigorous and active, which, every day forming new systems, had occasion for liberty to attempt their completion.
The good Bishop of Bernex, with less wit than Francis of Sales, resembled him in many particulars, and Madam de Warrens, whom he loved to call his daughter, and who was like Madam de Chantel in several respects, might have increased the resemblance by retiring like her from the world, had she not been disgusted with the idle trifling of a convent.It was not want of zeal prevented this amiable woman from giving those proofs of devotion which might have been expected from a new convert, under the immediate direction of a prelate.Whatever might have influenced her to change her religion, she was certainly sincere in that she had embraced; she might find sufficient occasion to repent having abjured her former faith, but no inclination to return to it.She not only died a good Catholic, but truly lived one; nay, I dare affirm (and I think I have had the opportunity to read the secrets of her heart) that it was only her aversion to singularity that prevented her acting the devotee in public; in a word, her piety was too sincere to give way to any affectation of it.But this is not the place to enlarge on her principles; I shall find other occasions to speak of them.