« PreviousContinue »
pour vérifier sa folie, c'est qu'il dit qu'il a l'honneur d'être proche parent du roi, à qui il veut écrire et se plaindre du traitement que je lui fais. Je ne lui ai point voulu donner du papier ni de l'encre pour cela, ne le voyant pas dans son bon sens.'
This conduct afforded a reason or a pretext for aggravating his punishment by placing him in the same room with a Jacobin friar who was really insane. For several days the Italian believed this person to be a spy.
Matthioli,' writes St. Mars," who is almost as mad as the Jacobin, walked up and down with large strides, holding bis. mantle to his face and saying that he was no dupe; that he knew more than he would speak of. The Jacobin sat on his couch as usual, resting his elbows on bis knees, and looked at the other gravely, without attending to what he said. Signor Matthioli was at last convinced that his companion was no
spy, when the Jacobin one day got out of his bed quite naked, and began to preach, with all bis might, things that were neither rhyme nor reason. My lieutenant and I saw all their manoeuvres through a hole over the door.'
When the Sieur became intemperate in his language and scribbled libels on the wall with coals, an officer of St. Mars was directed to threaten him with the cudgel like an ordinary lunatic; a proceeding quite in the spirit of Louvois' commands, " J'admire votre patience,' he writes to the governor,' et que vous attendiez un ordre pour traiter un fripon comme il le mérite, quand il vous manque de respect.' L'Estang received castigation meekly: for in
few days he presented a valuable ring to the officer who had menaced him; it was delivered to the governor, and by him laid aside, to be restored with the rest of the prisoner's effects, if ever the king should set him at liberty. The same respect to property was usual at the Bastille.
In 1681, St. Mars was removed to the command of Exiles, a few leagues from Pignerol, but Matthioli and his companion were not suffered to pass into the hands of a new gaoler; St. Mars carried them with him. They travelled in a litter and under military escort. Their new lodging was prepared with the most anxious attention to secrecy; two soldiers of St. Mars's own company watched the tower in which they lay; passengers were not allowed to linger in its neighbourhood; and the governor could observe the sentinels from his own window. A lieutenant slept above the prisoners, and received from the servants whatever was brought for their use; their physician never spoke to them but in St. Mars's presence; a permanent screen was contrived, so that the priest who said mass to them did not see their persons, and their confessor was un homme de bien et fort vieux,' who was commanded never to ask their names or inquire into their former condition, to receive no message or writing
from them, and never to talk of them en nulle manière du monde.'
In December, 1685, we find the governor announcing that his prisoners continue sick, du reste ils sont dans une grande quiétude.' In 1687, his report is of one prisoner only. The correspondence as disclosed by the present pamphlet affords no actual demonstration that this person was. Matthioli; the defect of proof is inconsiderable, but it still is a chasm, of which some þardy disputant may hereafter take notable advantage. The knights-errant of hypothesis have often marched horse and foot through as small a breach.
St. Mars was made governor, in 1687, of that island on the coast of Provence, in which Voltaire fixes the abode of his unknown. Matthioli, whose companion had died, according to M. Delort, in the unwholesome prison of Exiles, was removed from that place in a chair borne by men, and covered with oilcloth, so that he was invisible even to the soldiers who closely surrounded him. The unfortunate captive fell sick on the way, for want of air; St. Mars hastened his journey, but still kept his prisoner from all men's view, of course exciting, by his precautions, a general eagerness to know who the concealed person was. His bed, furniture and table linen (which can hardly have been such as Anne of Austria loved) were left behind as not worth transportation and sold for thirteen crowns.
Matthioli passed eleven years of captivity in the Isle of Ste. Marguerite. His chamber is described in a topographical work as lighted by a single grated window on the north side, opening to seaward, in a wall nearly four feet thick. It is here that he is described by some writers as richly dressed, supplied with laces from Paris, served at table with silver plate, sometimes wearing a mask of iron, at others amusing himself in solitude by plucking out the hairs of his beard with steel pincers. Here too it is said that Louvois visited the captive and paid him so much respect as to remain standing in his presence. After the quotations we have made, it cannot be necessary to bestow much attention upon these tales ; St. Mars said that on the journey from Exiles he satisfied the inquisitive with · des contes jaunes;' and we may safely pronounce these to be of the same colour.
The romantic story of the writing picked up by a fisherman is plausibly accounted for by a communication of St. Mars. Two protestant ministers were consigned to his charge the year after his arrival in Provence; one of them endeavoured to publish his condition by singing psalms night and day; the other by writing sorry stuff (* des pauvretés') on his linen, and pewter vessels, signifying that he was imprisoned for the purity of his faith. They
received une grosse discipline' for their contumacy, but the seribbled pewter was transformed by gossips into a silver plate; with the inscription, · Louis de Vermandois, fils naturel de
• Louis XIV.'
It is remarkable that during Matthioli's residence in the Isle Ste. Marguerite, there were persons who knew what prisoner was confined there, and made disclosures on the subject, inaccurate in many points, but yet coming so near the truth as to show that they were not thrown out at random. A political work entitled Histoire Abrégée de l'Europe, printed at Leyden three or four months after Matthioli's removal from Exiles, contained a letter to the publishers, in Italian, relating, as strange but authentic news, the negociation for Casal, and the treacherous arrest of the duke of Mantua's secretary near Tutin, for having thwarted the designs of France; adding that the unfortunate man, after being conveyed to Pignerol, had at length been carried to the Isle Ste. Marguerite, where he then remained. M. Dutens, in his Correspondance Interceptée, and afterwards in his Mé moires d'un Voyageur, has quoted the statements of two persons employed by St. Mars while on the coast of Provence, who were evidently acquainted with the prisoner's quality, and knew something, though inaccurately, of the cause and manner of his arrest. We find, too, preserved in Muratori's annals, a tradition that Matthioli, being sent in a diplomatic character to Turin after the affair of Casal, permitted himself to be entrapped by the French, was carried by them to Pignerol, and there ended his days in prison. It was naturally to be supposed that the disappearance of this active and well-known politician would have given rise to investigations, and perhaps to a correspondence of state, some traces of which might still be extant. None, however, have been discovered. It is said, indeed, that in 1687, when the letter on Matthioli's imprisonment was published at Leyden, Ferdinand remonstrated with the French court, but was answered by a positive denial of the imputed treachery. If the account we have given of the duke's conduct and character be just, it appears scarcely probable that he should at any time have exerted himself seriously on this subject. Although he had possessed the requisite courage and perseverance, yet after the renewal of his engagements with France, when he excused his former tergiversation at the expense of Matthioli, it is not likely that he would assume with Pomponne or Louvois the high tone of an independent prince in behalf of his unfortunate and disavowed agent; on the other hand, there were several considerations which would tempt him to acquiesce in Matthioli's removal as conducive to his own quiet and security.
Seven years after the death of Louvois, St. Mars was promoted from the government of Ste. Marguerite to that of the Bastille,* and removed to Paris, still carrying with him his miserable burthen. The prisoner travelled this time in a litter; of the journey scarcely any thing is reported; but Voltaire says, that on one occasion when St. Mars halted at his own seignory of Palteau, the mysterious captive was seen coming out of his vehicle in a black mask, a circumstance still remembered in the neighbourhood. They entered the Bastille on the 18th of September, 1698, at three in the afternoon, and Matthioli, after remaining in a temporary place of confinement till night, was lodged in the third chamber, (on the middle floor of five,) in the tower' de la Bertaudière.' When the records of the Bastille were made public in 1789, the Register was in vain consulted for information respecting this prisoner; the leaf which should have contained it had been carefully removed. A journal kept by Dujonca, lieutenant of the fortress, and a paper subsequently drawn up by another officer named Chevalier, supply the only authentic notices on the subject, and these are very scanty. In the latter document the person brought in by St. Mars is thus described: Ancien prisonnier de Pignerol, obligé de porter toujours un Masque de Velours noir, dont on n'a jamais sçu le nom ni les qualités.' The mask, to which this unhappy being owed so much of his celebrity, may have been, as M. Delort supposes, adjusted to his head with strong whalebones fastened by a padlock behind, and further secured by a seal, but that his features were ever cased in iron is a tale unsupported by any respectable authority. In the Bastille, according to M, Chevalier, St. Mars treated him with great distinction. No other person saw him except Rosarges, major of the fortress, who had followed St. Mars to Paris, and was entrusted with the peculiar care of the prisoner, the governor himself providing his table. His long confinement and submissive demeanour, and perhaps the death of Louvois, may have caused some relaxation of the decree that he should have nothing which could render life agreeable.'
After an imprisonment of twenty-four years and a half, and in the sixty-third year of his age, the deliverance of Matthioli came upon him almost as suddenly as his loss of freedom. On a Sunday in November, 1703, he felt a slight illness at his departure
Constantin de Remnéville, who published an account of his imprisonment in the Bastille, under St. Mars's government, (Amsterdam, 1715,) represents him as a monster of tyranny, and relates of him the well-known story of the gaoler, who, perceiving that a solitary captive had found amusement in taming and feeding a spider, crushed the animal to death. But De Rennéville is an extravagant and evidently unscrupulous writer.
Fragmens sur l'Histoire. Art. 25. Œuvres, tom. xxviij.
from máss, and the next morning, without any. apparently serious attack of disease, he died, so unexpectedly that the sacraments could not be administered. He was buried the following day in the neighbouring churchyard of St. Paul, and is registered in the books of that parish as Marchiali, aged about forty-five years.' Persons who died in the Bastille were not unfrequently interred under fictitious names, nor was that an uncommon precaution which was adopted in the present instance, of scraping and whitewashing the late prisoner's chamber walls; but M. Chevalier relates that, on the decease of Marchiali, his keepers used the more extraordinary diligence of burning all his furniture, reducing to ashes even the doors and window-frames of his apartment, and melting down all the metallic vessels, whether of copper, pewter, or silver, which had been appropriated to his service.
The secret of the Masque de fer was long celebrated among those which have been most faithfully and successfully preserved. Marchiali had been dead alniost fifty years before any writer pretended to relate his story. Voltaire, not the first who handled, but the first who rendered it famous, was unable, with his acknowledged acuteness and boasted accuracy of information, to arrive at even a just conjecture on the subject. And yet, such at best is human precaution, this secret, so profoundly buried and religiously guarded, had already, when M. Delort made his recent discoveries, been twice or thrice betrayed by those entrusted with it, and as often penetrated by others. We have seen that it was not faithfully kept by the persons attending St. Mars, at the château de Sainte Marguerite; and, if we may rely on M. Dutens, Louis the Fifteenth was beguiled of it as Samson was of his riddle; for Madame de Pompadour, at the duke de Choiseul's instigation, drew from the king a disclosure that the prisoner with the mask had been minister to an Italian prince. The person whose letter was published in the Histoire Abrégée possessed similar information. A statement of the same kind is said to have been found among the papers of a Marquis de Pancalier de Prié who died at Turin in 1782 or 1783. There appeared twenty years later, in the same city, a work containing all the principal facts now verified by M. Delort; the mission of Matthioli to France; the disclosures made by him on his return, both at Turin and to the governor of Milan; the snare laid for him by the French ambassador; his arrest on the second of May, 1679, within the French territory; his successive imprisonments in Piedmont and France; the date of his death and the age he had then attained.* The author, M. Keth, announced an intention
an account of this work (which is unn iced by M. Delort) in the Nouveau Dictionnaire Historique of Chaudon and Delandine. Lyons. 1804. VOL. XXXIV. NO. LXVII.