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There I have had to reveal to the world what was known to myself alone; in wandering among that [Pg xxxi] vanished company I have met only remembrances and silence: of all the persons I have known, how many are alive today? The inhabitants of Saint-Malo applied to me, on the 28th of August , through the medium of their mayor, on the subject of a floating dock they wished to build.

This encountered some difficulty, owing to the opposition of the military engineering authorities.

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At last, on the 27th of October , I received a letter from the mayor, M. He said:. A sad thought is mingled with this task. Ah, may the monument remain long unoccupied! But honour and glory survive all that dies upon earth. I quote these beautiful words of M. Hovius with gratitude; there is but one word too much: "glory. I shall therefore rest on the shore of the sea which I have loved so well. If I die out of France, I hope that my body will not be brought back to the land of my birth until fifty years shall have been completed since my first burial. Let my remains be spared a sacrilegious autopsy; let not my chilled brain and my dead heart be searched for the mystery of my being.

Death does not reveal the secrets of life. A corpse riding post fills me with horror; bones, bleached and light, are easily moved: they will be less fatigued by this last journey than when I dragged them hither and thither, laden with the burden of my cares.

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The sandy and uneven ground attached to this house consisted of a sort of wild orchard, at the end of which was a ravine and a coppice of chestnut-trees. This narrow space seemed to me fitted to contain my long hopes: spatio brevi spem longam reseces [3].

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The trees which I have planted here are thriving. They are still so small that I can shade them by placing myself between them and the sun. One day they will give me shade and protect my old age as I have protected their youth. I have selected them, in so far as I could, from the different climes in which I have wandered; they recall my travels and foster other illusions in my heart. If ever the Bourbons reascend the throne, I will ask from [Pg 4] them no greater reward for my loyalty than that they should make me rich enough to add to my fee-simple the skirts of the surrounding woods: I have grown ambitious, and would wish to expand my walks by a few roods.

Knight-errant though I be, I have the sedentary tastes of a monk: I doubt whether, since taking up my abode in this retreat, I have thrice set foot without my boundary. This spot pleases me; it has taken the place of my paternal acres; I have bought it with the price of my dreams and my vigils; I owe the little wilderness of Aulnay to the vast wilderness of Atala; and I have not, in order to acquire this refuge, imitated the American planter and despoiled the Indian of the Two Floridas [5].

I am attached to my trees; I have addressed elegies to them, sonnets, odes. There is not one of them which I have not tended with my own hands, which I have not rid of the worm attached to its roots, the caterpillar clinging to its leaves; I know them all by their names, as though they were my children: they are my family, I have no other, and I hope to die in their midst. This 4th day of October , the anniversary of my saint's-day [6] and of my entrance into Jerusalem, [7] tempts me to commence the history of my life.

The man who today is endowing France with the empire of the world only so that he may trample her under foot, the man whose genius I admire and whose despotism I abhor, that man surrounds me with his tyranny as it were with a new solitude; but though he may crush the present, the past defies him, and I remain free in all that precedes his glory. The greater part of my feelings have remained buried in the recesses of my soul, or are displayed in my works only as applied to imaginary beings. To-day, while I still regret, without pursuing, my illusions, I will reascend the acclivity of my happier years: these Memoirs shall be a shrine erected to the clearness of my remembrances.

Let us commence, then, and speak first of my family. This is essential, because the character of my father depended in a great measure upon his position and, in its turn, exercised a great influence upon the nature of my ideas, by determining the manner of my education [8]. I am of noble birth. In my opinion I have improved the hazard of my cradle and retained that firmer love of liberty which belongs principally to the aristocracy whose last hour has struck. Aristocracy has three ages: the age of superiority, the age of privilege, the age of vanity; issuing from the first, it degenerates in the second to become extinguished in the third.

They were reproduced for my presentation to Louis XVI. My name was first written "Brien," and then "Briant" and "Briand," following the invasion of French spelling. Guillaume le Breton says "Castrum-Briani. What is the spelling of Du Guesclin? About the commencement of the eleventh century, the Briens gave their name to an important Breton castle, and this castle became the burgh of the Barony of Chateaubriand.

He was taken prisoner at the battle of the Mansourah [14] , but returned, and his wife Sybil died of joy and surprise at seeing him.

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The Chateaubriands were divided, soon after their origin, into three branches: the first, that of the Barons of Chateaubriand, was the stock of the two others, and commenced in the year in the person of Thiern, son of Brien, grandson of Alan III. At this period, the middle of the [Pg 7] seventeenth century, great confusion prevailed in the order of the nobility.

Names and titles had been usurped. Louis XIV. Christopher, upon giving proofs of his ancient nobility, was confirmed in his title and in the ownership of his arms, by judgment of the Chamber instituted at Rennes for the reforming of the nobility of Brittany. This judgment was issued on the 16th of September , and ran as follows:.

The said judgment signed Malescot. This judgment declares that Christophe de Chateaubriand de La Guerrande was descended in the direct line from the Chateaubriands, Lords of Beaufort; the Lords of Beaufort were connected through historical evidences with the first Barons of Chateaubriand.

The Chateaubriands de Villeneuve, du Plessis and de Combourg were younger branches of the Chateaubriands de La Guerrande, as is proved by the descent of Amaury, brother of Michel, the said Michel being the son of the Christophe de La Guerrande whose descent was confirmed by the above-quoted decree of the reforming of the nobility of 16 September After my presentation to Louis XVI.

There was but one practical means of doing this, since I was a layman and a soldier, and that was to have me received into the Order of Malta. My brother sent my proofs to Malta, and soon after, he presented a petition, in my name, to the Chapter of the Grand Priory of Aquitaine, held at Poitiers, with a view to the appointing of a commission to declare urgency.

Pontois was at the time archivist, vice-chancellor and genealogist of the Order of Malta at the Priory. The petition was allowed at the sittings of the 9th, 10th, and 11th of September It is stated, in the terms of admission of the "Memorial," that I deserved the favour which I solicited "by more than one title," and that "considerations of the greatest weight" made me worthy of the satisfaction which I claimed.

And all this took place after the fall of the Bastille [18] , on the eve of the scenes of the 6th of October [19] , and of the removal of the Royal Family to Paris.

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And at its sitting of the 7th of August in this same year , the National Assembly had abolished titles of nobility! How could the knights, the examiners of my proofs, find that I deserved "by more than one title the favour which I solicited" and so forth, I, who was nothing more than a petty sub-lieutenant of Foot, unknown, without credit, interest or fortune? My brother's eldest son I add this in to my original text, written in , the Comte Louis de Chateaubriand, married Mademoiselle d'Orglandes, by whom he had five daughters and one son, the latter called Geoffroy.

Christian, Louis' younger brother, the great-grandson and godson of M. He became a Jesuit in Rome. The Jesuits supply the place of solitude in proportion as the latter vanishes from the earth. Christian died recently at Chieri, near Turin: old and ailing as I am, I should have preceded him; but his virtues summoned him to Heaven before me, who have yet many faults to deplore. In the division of the family patrimony, Christian had received as his share the property of Malesherbes, and Louis the estate of Combourg. Christian did not look upon an equal division as just, and on retiring from the world, determined to disburden himself of a property which did not belong to him and restore it to his elder brother.

To judge from my parchments, it would but rest with myself if I inherited the infatuation of my father and brother, and believed myself to represent a younger branch of the Dukes of Brittany, descending from Thiern, grandson of Alan III. With respect to the Royal House of Spain, we find Brien, a younger brother of the ninth Baron of Chateaubriand, who would seem to have married Joan, daughter of Alphonsus, King of Aragon.

Tiphaine Du Guesclin, grand-daughter of Bertrand's brother, made over the property of the Plessis-Bertrand to Brien of Chateaubriand, her cousin and heir. The Dukes of Brittany send records of their assizes to the Chateaubriands. The Chateaubriands become grand officers of the Crown and illustres in the Court of Nantes; they receive commissions to defend the safety of their province against the English. Brien I.

Guy of Chateaubriand is one of the lords whom Arthur of Brittany appoints to accompany his son upon his embassy to the Pope in I should never come to an end if I finished stating all that of which I intended to give only a brief summary: the note [23] which I have at last determined to write, from consideration for my two nephews, who doubtless do not hold these bygone trifles as cheaply as I do, will supply the place of my omissions in the text. Still, nowadays we go too [Pg 10] much to the other extreme; it has become the custom to declare that one comes of a stock liable to villain service, that one has the honour to be the son of a man bound to the soil.

Are these declarations as proud as they are philosophical? Is it not taking the side of the strongest? Are the marquises, the counts, the barons of the present day, who have neither privileges nor furrows, three-fourths of whom are starving, blackening one another, refusing to recognize each other, mutually contesting each other's birth: are these nobles, whose very names are denied them or only allowed with reserve, able to inspire any fear? For the rest, I ask pardon for being obliged to stoop to this puerile recital, in order to account for my father's dominant passion, which forms the key to the drama of my youth.

As for myself, I neither boast nor complain of the old or the new society. Monsieur my father would readily, like a certain mighty land-owner of the Middle Ages, have called God "the gentleman on high" and surnamed Nicodemus the Nicodemus of the Gospels "a holy gentleman. To trace backwards the line of the Chateaubriands, consisting, as it did, of three branches: after the two first had failed, the third, that of the Lords of Beaufort, represented by a branch, the Chateaubriands of the Guerrande, grew poor, as the inevitable result of the law of the land; the eldest sons of the nobility received two-thirds of the property, by virtue of the custom of Brittany, while the younger sons divided among all of them one-third only of the paternal inheritance.

The degeneration of the frail stock of the latter worked with a rapidity which became the greater as they married; and as the same distribution into two-thirds and one-third existed in the case of their children, these younger sons of younger sons soon came to dividing a pigeon, a rabbit, a duck or two, and a hound, although they did not cease to be "high knights and mighty lords" of a dove-cote, a toad-pool and a rabbit-warren.

In the old noble families we see a number of younger sons; we follow them during two or three generations, and then they disappear, descending gradually to the plough or absorbed by [Pg 11] the labouring classes, no man knowing what has become of them.

The head in name and blazon of my family at the commencement of the eighteenth century was Alexis de Chateaubriand, Seigneur de La Guerrande, son of Michel, the said Michel having a brother named Amaury. Michel was the son of the Christophe confirmed in his descent from the Lords of Beaufort and the Barons of Chateaubriand in the judgment above-quoted. Alexis de La Guerrande was a widower and a confirmed drunkard, spent his days in rioting with his maid-servants, and used his most precious family documents as covers for his butter-jars.


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At the time of her husband's death, she was living in the manor of the Villeneuve, in the neighbourhood of Dinan. My grandmother's whole fortune did not exceed 5, livres a year, of which her eldest son took 3, livres, leaving 1, livres a year to be divided among the three younger sons, of which sum the eldest again first took the largest share. He had a passion for poetry; I have seen a goodly number of his verses. The jovial character of this sort of high-born Rabelais, the cult of the Muses practised by this Christian priest in his presbytery, aroused no little interest He gave away all he possessed and died insolvent.


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  • My father's fourth brother, Joseph, went to Paris and shut [Pg 12] himself up in a library: every year his younger son's portion of livres was sent to him.