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Up to the time of the Du Barry the court of France had been the stage where the whole political and human drama of that country was enacted. Under Louis XV the drama had been transformed into parades--parades which were of as much importance to the people as to those who took part in them. The spectators, hitherto silent, now began to hiss and be moved. The scene of the comedy was changed, and the play was continued among the spectators. The old theatre became an ante-chamber or a dressing-room, and was no longer important except in connection with the Cardinal de Bernis and the Duc de Richelieu, or Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry.
The monarchy had still a step to take towards its downfall. It had already created the Parc aux Cerfs (Louis XV's seraglio), but had not yet descended to the Parisian house of prostitution. It made this descent leaning on the arm of Madame du Barry. Madame du Barry was a moral sister to Manon Lescaut, but instead of taking herself off to Louisiana to repent, she plunged into the golden whirlpool at Versailles as a finish to her career. Could the coaches of a King mean more than the ordinary carriage of an abandoned girl?
Jeanne Vaubernier--known in the bagnios by the name of Mademoiselle Lange--was born at Vaucouleurs, as was Jeanne d'Arc. Better still, this later Jeanne said openly at Versailles--dared she say otherwise?-- that she was descended in a straight line from the illustrious, the venerated, the august, sacred, national maid, Jeanne. "Why did Du Barry come to Paris?'" says Leon Gozlan in that account of the Château de Lucienne which makes a brilliant and learned chapter in the history of France. "Does one ever know precisely why things are done? She obeyed the magnet which attracts to Paris all who in themselves have a title to glory, to celebrity, or to misfortune. Du Barry had a pretty, provincial face, bright and charming, a face astonished at everything, hair soft and ash-colored, blue eyes, veiled and half open, and a skin fair with rose tints. She was a child of destiny. Who could have said, when she crossed the great town in her basket cart, which rolled lazily along on its massive, creaking wheels, that some day she would have equipages more beautiful than any of those which covered her with mud in passing, and on her arms more laces and diamonds than any of these ladies attended by footmen in liveries?"
When Jeanne left the provinces to come to Paris, she found her native country. She was granted the freedom of the city, and expanded in her joy like a delicate plant transplanted into a hothouse. She found herself at home for the first time; and felt that she could rule as a despot over all frequenters of the streets. She learned fashion and love at one and the same time. Gourdan had a hat made for her, and, as a reward, initiated her into the customs. But she was called to other destinies.
One day, when she was walking in the Tuileries, a lunatic--and lunatics have second sight--asked her favor when she should become queen. Du Barry said to herself: "This man is mad." But then she thought of the Pompadour, blushed--it was the only time-- and turned her eyes towards Versailles.
But Versailles was an unhoped-for shore to such a girl as this, a girl known to all Paris. Would the King care to be the lover of one who had ruled all his courtesans? Who could say? The King often wearied of what he had. Had not a poet already been found who compared her to Venus:
O Jeanne, thy beauty seduces
The poet, while not Voltaire, was no less a man than Bouffiers.
While the King was seeking a mistress--a nocturnal reverse of Diogenes, fleeing from the lanterns of the wise--he found Jeanne Vaubernier. He thought he could love her for one evening. "Not enough," said she, "you must love me until broad daylight." So he loved her for a whole day. What should one eat in order to be loved by royalty? Was it necessary to have a coat of arms? She had them in number, because she had been loved by all the great names in the book of heraldry. And so she begged the Viscount Jean du Barry to give her the title of viscountess. "Better still," exclaimed Jean, "I will give you the title of countess. My brother will marry you; he is a male scamp, and you are the female. What a beautiful marriage!"
So they were united. The newly made countess was solemnly presented at court by a countess of an ancient date, namely, the Countess de Bearn. King Voltaire protested, in a satire entitled "The Court of King Petaud" (topsy-turvy), afterwards denying it. The duc de Choiseul protested, France protested, but all Versailles threw itself passionately at the feet of the new countess. Even the daughters of the King paid her court, and allowed her to call them by their pet names: Loque, Chiffe, and Graille. The King, jealous of this gracious familiarity, wished her to call him by some pet name, and so the Bacchante, who believed that through the King she held all France in her hand, called him "La France," making him a wife to his Gray Musketeers.
Oh, that happy time! Du Barry and Louis XV hid their life--like the sage--in their little apartments. She honeyed his chocolate, and he himself made her coffee. Royalty consecrated a new verb for the dictionary of the Academy, and Madame du Barry said to the King: "At home, I can love you to madness." The King gave the castle of Lucienne to his mistress in order to be able to sing the same song. Truly the Romeo and Juliet de la main gauche.
Du Barry threw out her fish-wifely epithets with ineffable tenderness. She only opened her eyes half way, even when she took him by the throat. The King was enchanted by these humors. It was a new world. But someone said to him: "Ah, Sire, it is easy to see that your Majesty has never been at the house of Gourdan."
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Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry -by- Baron Etienne Leon Lamothe-Langon