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passion for study is well exemplified by the following anecdote. Happening to find an old treatise on heraldry, and doubtless pleased with the coloured engravings, she mastered its contents in an extremely short time; and one day she surprised her father, who was wholly unconscious of her newly-acquired knowledge, by telling him that a seal, which he was then engraving, was executed in violation of heraldry. On consideration, he found she was correct, and from that moment she became his guide on this subject.
After finishing these preliminary studies, she was placed in a convent for twelve months; and in the quietness of this retreat, her mind was matured by the care and kind attentions of the instructors with whom she daily associated. The succeeding twelve months she spent with her grandmother; after which she returned to the parental home. Her time was now divided between reading and superintending some of the household con
Her favourite authors appear to have been Tasso, Thomson, Fenelon, and Plutarch. Of the last, which she read when only eight years of age, she confesses that she was passionately fond; and it was doubtless from the glorious examples of ancient patriotism and virtue recorded by that writer, that she imbibed many of the feelings and opinions which she afterwards possessed. The education which she received was, upon the whole, far more solid than brilliant; and if Manon was somewhat de ficient in frivolous talents, she was well-versed in ancient and modern history, astronomy, metaphysics, mathematics, and philosophy. She was as remarkable for modesty and an amiable disposition as for learning: hence she endeared herself to all who knew her. Her personal appearance was prepossessing. She was tall in figure, but with a countenance more fascinating than beautiful. Several years of her life passed thus away in peace and happi
Her chief recreation was going out with her parents on pleasure excursions in the beautiful vicinity of Meudon, a small village near Paris; but, with the exception of this relaxation, she lived in complete retirement. She received several advantageous offers of marriage, but refused them all. The impaired health of her mother was the only cause of grief which disturbed her happiness: this gave her serious uneasiness; and although there seemed no immediate cause for fear, she always felt unwilling to leave her alone. One day this beloved parent, who was then to all appearance well, persuaded her to go and see her old friend, Sister Sainte-Agathe. Manon reluctantly complied: on her return, she found her mother dying. She had been suddenly struck with paralysis, was already speechless, and almost unconscious. In a few hours she breathed her last.
The shock was so severe, that Manon was thrown into a violent fever, which for a long time threatened to terminate fatally; and though eventually she recovered, an extreme languor afflicted
her for several months. However, she continued her studies; and she even wrote a few philosophical treatises, but merely for her own amusement, and without any intention of ever publishing them. The unsettled state of her father's affairs induced her to leave his house, and to reside in the convent of which she had formerly been an inmate, and where she found her old friend Sister Sainte-Agathe. This was almost her only comfort; for her reduced means did not allow her to board in the convent, and the privations which she was called to endure were severe. About this time Monsieur Roland de la Platière, a gentleman of an ancient and honourable family, in easy though not affluent circumstances, and with whom she had been acquainted for some years, renewed an offer of marriage which he had formerly made to her, and to which, without giving him a positive refusal, she had delayed returning an answer. A correspondence existed between them, but had been discontinued by the desire of her father. Monsieur Roland was twenty years her senior; his manners were austere; but, being a man of rigid honesty and principle, he was fully able to appreciate Manon's merit. She was now twenty-five years of age, and had long felt an esteem for him, which his disinterested offer in her straitened circumstances only increased; she consequently consented, and in a short time became Madame Roland. This union, which took place in 1781, proved happy. She was much beloved by her husband, and ever testified for him the most tender regard and affection.
Monsieur Roland was inspector of several important manufactories, notwithstanding which he spent the first year of his married life in Paris, engaged in the publication of different commercial works. It was then that Madame Roland beganwhat she ever afterwards continued to do--to work with him, and assist him in his literary compositions. Her only relaxation from what proved a laborious task, was attending lectures upon natural history and botany. Four years she also spent with her husband at Amiens, where she gave birth to her only child, a daughter, whom she refused to give out to nurse, according to the general custom, but insisted on bringing her
herself. It was, indeed, a great characteristic of Madame Roland, that neither her literary nor political occupations made her forget her domestic duties. From Amiens they went to Lyons, in the neighbourhood of which they settled, at Ville Franche, in the family mansion of Monsieur Roland, where his aged mother and elder brother already resided. On the death of the former, they removed to Thezée, where Madame Roland spent many happy hours, being perfectly idolised by the inhabitants, to whose wants and illnesses she assiduously administered. Her mode of life she playfully describes in a letter to a friend, written by the fireside during a heavy fall of snow. Her husband is writing, her daughter knitting, and she occasionally pausing in her epistle to speak to the one and superintend the work of the other. But this happy period of her life was not to be of long duration. The Revolution of 1789 broke out, and with it both the elevation and misfortunes of that celebrated woman, who, after spending so many years of her life in obscurity, was destined to enact a striking part in the leading events of the day.
MINISTRY OF ROLAND.
Louis XVI., a benevolent but somewhat weak-minded man, was the reigning monarch of France, and though he at first showed himself favourable to the principles of the Revolution, he possessed neither the firmness nor courage necessary to control its excesses. The Legislative Assembly, which consisted of the representatives of the people, and sent to act for them from every part of France, was divided into three distinct parties—the Girondins, the Montugnards, and the Plaine. The first took their name from the department of the Gironde, whence most of them came : they professed an ardent love of freedom, tempered by a noble, generous feeling of humanity. They were young; for the greater part clever, heroic, and eloquent; but rash, inexperienced, and too confident in the justice of their cause. Brissot, of whom it was recorded that, after having lived like Aristides, he died like Sidney; the handsome and noble-minded Barbaroux ; the eloquent Vergniaud, Valazé, Louvet, Gensonné, were the principal men amongst them. The Montagnards, or Mountaineers-so named from the elevated benches on which they sat in the Assembly-were undisguised republicans, proclaiming the absolute sovereignty of the people, and asserting that all restraint was but slavery. Marat, Robespierre, Danton—all the fiercest democrats of France-were its firm supporters. The Plaine, or Plain—thus termed in opposition to the Mountaineers, and on account of its occupying the floor of the place of Assembly-was a moderate but weak party, of little influence.
Monsieur Roland and his wife showed themselves, from the commencement, ardent partisans of the changes introduced. Roland was one of the first members elected for the new municipality of Lyons; and his wife, in her letters to a friend in Paris, recall. ing those days of her youth when she often wept at not having been born a Spartan or Roman maiden, enthusiastically added, that now,
her country had nothing to envy in the republics of antiquity. In another letter she alludes, with equal ardour, to the dawn of freedom; and although conscious that she could never behold its great and real blessings, she rejoices in them for the sake of future generations. This enthusiastic mood soon gave way to gloomy and well-founded apprehensions. In the early part of 1791 she accompanied her husband to Paris, whither he had been sent to the National Assembly by the city of Lyons. She became an auditor of the legislative meetings, and from what she saw there, her fears only increased. She left Paris in September for Ville Franche, impressed with a deep sense of coming evil. Both she and Roland, however, soon returned to Paris, which they found in the greatest imaginable confusion.
It was in this state of things, towards the beginning of 1792, that thoughts began to be entertained of choosing Roland for one of a new ministry, which was to consist chiefly of men belonging to the Girondin party. Roland had the deserved reputation of being strictly honest, and he was known by several clever works on political economy, which showed him to be perfectly qualified for the post to which he was destined. All these considerations, without any solicitation on his part, influenced those in power to bestow on him the post of Minister of the Interior. Most people, notwithstanding Roland's well-acknowledged merit, were astonished at this nomination; for the simplicity of his manners and appearance offered a striking contrast with that of the courtiers of the still gay and punctilious court of Louis XVI.; and Madame Roland relates how her husband, on his first presentation at court, threw the master of the ceremonies into the greatest consternation by appearing with a round hat, and strings instead of buckles to his shoes.
Roland conducted himself with great prudence and integrity in his new situation; but notwithstanding his many eminent qualities, it must be confessed that his wife--so far his superior in mental qualifications—had an equal share with him in government. Her influence extended from that which she exercised over her husband's mind, to the entire Girondin party. She had selected for her own use, in the vast hotel then inhabited by Roland, the smallest drawing-room: it was very simply furnished — books, a scrutoire, and a few chairs, were almost all that it contained.' The greater number of those persons who came to converse with Roland on affairs of state, and who had any intimacy with him, chose to speak to him there, and in Madame Roland's presence, rather than in his own study. She was thus not only made conversant with the most important occurrences of the times, but was also well acquainted with the persons of the actors in them. The ministry of Roland was short; and, singularly enough, his wife was the instrument, though not the cause, of his dismissal. The Girondins, who foresaw the dangers which threatened Louis XVI., were anxious to see him abandon his mistaken policy of endeavouring to conciliate all parties for firmer and more direct principles of action. Roland, from his situation, was the fittest person to intrust with this delicate office of expostulation and advice, and it was resolved that he should write to the king. Madame Roland was the author of the letter, which was couched in bold, but firm and respectful language. Had the hapless monarch known how to profit by the advice it contained, many misfortunes might have been avoided. It was sent on the 11th of June (1792), and on the same day Roland was
A few weeks after, on the 10th of August, the first step to anarchy was taken. A violent outbreak took place; the king was, with his family, imprisoned in the Temple, and deposed. Monarchy was declared to exist no longer in France, which now took the name of a Republic; whilst the Legislative Assembly, though consisting of the same members, received the appellation of National Convention. The Girondin ministry was recalled, and Roland resumed his post. For once the two opposite parties of the Mountain and the Gironde were united in acts and principles; and the names of Brissot, Barbaroux, Robespierre, and Danton, were amongst the most popular of the day. But whilst the Girondins thus indulged, with Madame Roland, in fancied security and dreams of national freedom, the Mountaineers met at the club of the Jacobins, and there organised one of the most dreadful plots which ever disgraced humanity: we allude to the massacres of September. These massacres, in which the unfortunate beings then shut up in the different prisons of Paris were literally butchered, and also the slaughter of the king, whom the Girondins vainly endeavoured to save by proposing an appeal to the people, effectually, and for ever, separated the two parties. The Girondins indignantly declared that they would never again act in concert with men capable of approving of such atrocities; and two days after the king's execution, Roland resigned his post of minister. The death of Louis XVI. (21st January 1793) was, for the Girondins, the forerunner of their fall. They felt this to be the case; and from that moment the struggle between them and the Mountaineers became incessant and desperate. Madame Roland saw that the cause of freedom was lost. are under the knife of Robespierre and Marat,” said she to a friend, in one of her letters bearing date 5th September 1792. In another letter of the 9th of the same month, and addressing the same person, she expresses herself thus : “ You knew my enthusiasm for the Revolution; well, I am now ashamed of it. It has been sullied by monsters; it is hideous.”
THE MOUNTAINEERS AND THE GIRONDINS. The Mountaineers, or Jacobins, as they were now more generally called, who aimed at supreme power, determined first to get rid of all their antagonists, and began with the Girondins. As the mass of the people still looked upon their representatives with much respect, and as at that time any attempt made on their safety would have assuredly failed, the Jacobins did not resort to the plan of openly accusing them of treason, so as to procure their arrest, but came to the horrible resolve of murdering them while assembled in the Convention. The night of the 10th of March was fixed for executing this plan ; but the Assembly, though ignorant of the precise nature of the danger by which it was threatened, got some intimation of the plot, and held permanent sittings. On the evening of the 10th of March, the wife of