July-December 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 30


TC TO ROBERT BROWNING ; 4 December 1855; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18551204-TC-RB-01; CL 30: 131-133


Chelsea, December 4, 1855.

Dear Browning,—I have not your address;1 but Forster engages to send you this Note, along with one of his own; and if I get answer within the next six weeks (which is a wide limit), business will not suffer by the delay, whatever other things may suffer. You permitted me to send you Queries, should such arise, fit for solution in Paris; and this seems to be of the number. Most small and insignificant-looking: only to be answered if you can manage it without too much trouble.

In the Books about the once famed and now forgotten war of the French, in Bohemia, &c. in 1740–'43, under Bellisle and Broglio,2 there occurs mention now and then of an Officer called Marquis du Châtelet;—for example, in the following Books, in reference to a bad adventure of his (bombarded at Dingelfingen in Bavaria, by Daun, not yet famous Daun), of date May 17, 1743:3

“Histoire de la dernière Guerre de Bohème” (à Franckfort, chez Paul Lenclume, 1745, 3 voll. small 12mo,—Brunet says it is by Mauvillon; which I doubt:4 but it is easily found) vol. ii., p. 226;—item:

“Journal Historique ou Fastes du règne de Louis XV.” (Paris, 1766, 2 voll. 12 mo), vol. ii., p. 402 (this Book dates it wrong, “May 9,”—or indeed does not seem to know the date well);—item, what is by far the best authority:

“Baron d'Espagnac: Vie du Maréchal de Saxe”5 (or some equivalent title, a well-known Book—of which I possess only the German Translations and therefore can only give you my own German page-cipher) vol. i., p. 186,—or Livre 6 (where it will be easy to find) under date May 17, 1743; with a reliable description of the affair.

Now I want very much to know (in a small way), Was this the Husband of Voltaire's Madam?6 I am nearly sure he was; but want to be perfectly sure. If you have an acquaintance in the least a good reader of History, he will be able to ascertain,—by many methods, open to him, and shut here. I add, by way of further ear-mark, That this du Châtelet, a General Officer seemingly, marched in Bellisle's Army (towards Austria, August 1741), and not in Maillebois's do (which went to Westphalia to smite George II);7 furthermore that he the said Du Châtelet had stood siege with Ségur in Linz (January 1742), and must have gone idle (in France probably) for a year after that adventure, such being the Capitulation Ségur and he made.8 These marks will abundantly identify him; and I think he will turn out to be as above said.— Now that my hand is in, let me add two other little Queries:

1. In the Fastes just cited (vol. ii.—or indeed by pages they are all one volume—Fastes, &c. p. 395bis) an Official Marquis de Breteuil dies, January 1, 1743:— How is this gentleman related to Madame du Châtelet? She, I remember, was a Breteuil;—niece to this man, or how?9

2. In d'Espagnac just cited (Livre 8, very near the beginning of it, ii. 26 of my German), a Marquis du Talleyrand and some others are blown up in the Trenches of Tournay, May 8–9 (night-time) 1745,—just before the Battle of Fontenoy. How related to the Talleyrand of our day;—his Uncle, or how?—(if the French had on their old Book-stalls any Book like our old “Collins's Peerage,” to be had for half a sovereign, and out of which you can fish all manner of things in the above kind— But, alas, they are almost sure not to have it!).10

Well, at any rate, this is all, dear Browning; and I will leave it with you,—calculating on forgiveness, if I give you labour in vain. I send many kind regards to the Lady and you: it is verily one of my sorrows and lasting regrets that you cannot be seen from night to night by me, but live on the other side of seas.— I got a glimpse of your “Men and Women”;11 and will not rest till I have read it; there! That old “corregidor12 is a diamond—unequalled since something else of yours I saw.

Courage ever, and stand to your arms!

T. Carlyle.