Memoirs of Josef Boruwlaski - CHAP. I.
Apology -- Birth; Some account of my family -- Visit to the Starostin de Caorlix; cause of my leaving that noble lady, and my residence with the Countess Humiecka -- Visit to the Pacha of Hochim -- Arrival at Vienna; introduction to the Queen of Hungary -- Journey to Munich and Luneville; introduction to Stanislaus, King of Poland -- Visit to the Queen of France at Versailles -- Arrival at Paris; affectionate attention of the Duke of Orleans; anecdote of the Duchess of Modena, &c. &c.
IT is so uncommon to find reason and sentiment, with noble and delicate affections, in a man whom nature, as it were, seemed unable to make up, and who in size has the appearance of a child, that, being persuaded no body would ever take the trouble to cast an eye upon these Memoirs, I began to commit to paper some of the principal events of my life, merely by way of memorandums, for my own use only, to remind me of the different situations I had been in, and to recall to my memory scenes too interesting, and emotions too strong, to be suffered to perish in oblivion. As the reflections which I shall have occasion to make can be interesting only to those who delight in following nature through all her varieties, and who consequently may be curious to see a being like me assimilate himself to creatures of a common size, as to his ideas, pursuits, sentiments, and passions, and as persons of my description are apt to be looked upon by the multitude as sunk far beneath other men, both in body and mind, I should not have taken the liberty of presenting them to the public, had not persons, to whom I ought not to refuse any thing, imposed it upon me as a duty. May I be so happy in offering them this tribute of my gratitude, as to convince them how deeply sensible I am of the interest they have taken in my concerns.
I was born in the environs of Chalicz, the capital of Pokucia, in Polish Russia, to which place my father had retired with his family, in consequence of the loss of his estate near the Borosthenes. My mother was of the middle size, and from her account my father was of the same: I do not recollect him, as he was killed during my infancy. They had six children, five sons and one daughter; and by one of those sports of nature for which it is impossible to account, or perhaps to find another instance of in the annals of the human species, three of those children grew to above the middle stature, whilst the two others, like myself, reached only that of children in general at the age of four years. I am the third of this family. My eldest brother was near three inches taller than I am, and constantly enjoyed a robust constitution. My second brother was of a handsome figure, but delicate in his constitution: he was killed in battle with my uncle at the age of twenty-six, and was at that time six feet four inches high. Those who came into the world after me were alternately tall and short. Among them was a sister, who died at the age of twenty. She was at that time only two feet four inches high, and to a lovely figure united an admirably well-proportioned shape. It was easy to judge from the very instant of my birth that I should be extremely short, being at that time only eight inches in length, yet notwithstanding this diminutive proportion, I was neither weak nor puny; on the contrary, my mother has often declared that none of her children gave her less trouble. I walked and was able to speak at the same age as other infants, and my growth was slowly progressive till the age of thirty years, when I was three feet three inches high. This is the size at which I remained fixed. My brother, as well as myself, grew till thirty years of age, and at that period ceased to grow. I had scarcely entered my ninth year when my father died, and left my mother with six children, and a very small share of the favours of fortune; a circumstance which may account for the part I have since acted in the world. Had it not been for this, I should ,undoubtedly have passed my days in a province on the banks of the Dniester, where I might have experienced more happiness.
A friend of my mother, the Starostin de Caorlix, who had shown me much affection, and had often solicited my parents to commit my education to her care, now availed herself of the embarrassed circumstances of our family to repeat her kind offers to my mother, who, painful as the separation must have been, yielded to the desire of making me happy, and consented, though not without tears, to part with me; and the lady took me to her estate, which was not far from my mother's abode. We had no sooner arrived there, than the Starostin, eager to fulfil her promises to my mother, bestowed upon me all the care that my age required. I lived with her a little time; and the fondness of my benefactress no way diminishing, I was likely to be fixed for ever with her, when an unexpected event changed the face of things. Lady de Caorlix was a widow, somewhat advanced in years, but still blooming and graceful, and mistress of a large fortune. The Count de Tarnow, who had been drawn by business to the neighbourhood, paid his court to her, and I soon perceived that she highly distinguished him above all the persons who composed her society. She became pensive and absent, and seemed to be no longer amused with my little prattle, so that I was not surprised at soon after beholding Hymen unite these two lovers. I was not unconscious of the alteration my situation would experience by their marriage. I perceived that my protectress, by taking a husband, had procured herself a master, and that, should I chance to displease him, I was in danger of being grievously embarrassed, as my family affairs, which were totally deranged, left me no resource. However, young as I was, I considered it to be my duty to be more than ever assiduous in my efforts to please, that I might render myself agreeable to the husband of my benefactress; and I think I should have succeeded, had not a new event given rise to other projects. This happy couple were congratulated on the event of their marriage by all their friends, among whom they numbered the Countess Humiecka.
This lady, who was descended from one of the most ancient families in Poland, was held in the highest esteem in that country, not more for her birth and wealth, than for her personal attractions. Her estate being situated near the seat of the Starostin, she had frequent opportunities of seeing me, and seemed to have some affection for me, as she often expressed what pleasure she should feel if I would come and live with her at Rychty. My answers to her obliging offers gained me her friendship more and more, and she immediately wrote to my mother, to beg she would give me leave to go and live with her, mentioning the marriage of the Starostin as a circumstance that might deprive me of my happiness in future. My mother was pleased with her request, and allowed me to be under her protection. After this favourable answer from my mother, the Countess Humiecka formed the resolution to ask me of the Countess de Tarnow, and only waited for a favourable opportunity, which soon after presented itself. The circumstance of the Countess de Tarnow, my protectress, being likely to become a mother, furnished the Countess Humiecka with a pretext. Being one day with the married pair, she artfully insinuated, that maternal love would prevent the Countess from sharing her tenderness with me when the infant should be born, and concluded by offering to take one home with her, promising faithfully the greatest care of my little person, and of my future welfare. Whether they feared that the new object of their tenderness might impede their attention to my future education, or whether they were unwilling to disoblige the Countess, they made but a slight opposition, and declared that they left it to me, and to my mother's decision. I was absent: the servant who came to fetch me informed me of what had passed. I entered the apartment quite prepared with my answer, and assured the Countess, that if the Lady de Tarnow, whose bounty rendered her the mistress of my fate, deigned to grant me her consent, I should deem myself happy to live under the protection of the Countess, and would follow my inclination, as much as my duty, in earnestly endeavouring to deserve her kindness. The Countess Humiecka seemed overjoyed at my consent. "I am very glad," said she, my dear Joujou" (for so they called me), "to see you have no reluctance to come and live with me." Then addressing the Count and Countess de Tarnow, "You cannot retract," she said, "I have your word, and that of Joujou and his mother, to whom I wrote before." The remainder of the visit passed in compliments, and our departure was fixed for the next day.
Great as were the obligations I was under to the Countess de Tarnow, yet being at that time but a child, and not having arrived at that maturity of mind, which might enable me to reflect on her benevolent disposition, I was easily reconciled to my separation from her, having my head filled with the lively picture my protectress had given me of the pleasures I should enjoy at her house. She carried me to her estate at Rychty, in Podolia, where we stayed some time, and where she received a visit from a Pacha of Hochim, a Turkish city near Rychty. This Turkish grandee, not more eminently distinguished by his rank of Pacha, than by his amiable, polite, and affable manners, invited my benefactress to visit his palace at Hochim. I was present at his invitation, and with great pleasure heard him politely request that I might accompany the Countess, declaring that a sight of the seraglio would afford me entertainment. I went with the Countess, and on our arrival we were received with all the honours due to the rank of my protectress. As for me, I felt quite happy, and was much caressed in the palace, where they had been apprised of our coming. We were served, amongst other entertainments, with an elegant collation after the Turkish fashion, in which the sherbet was not spared. I was highly delighted with the expectation of being admitted into the seraglio, of which I had heard the Pacha speak, but I had no idea of it at that time, my benefactress having merely told me that they were grand apartments, which contained many pretty things. How agreeably was I surprised when I beheld about twenty beautiful women, all graced with manners the most polite, and a behaviour the most tender and affectionate! Yet notwithstanding all the dazzling lustre of eastern beauty, had Mahomet, proud as he was of those enchanting females, who served him as models from whence to furnish his fictitious paradise with Houries, been fortunate enough to behold those exquisite specimens of beauty of which England, Scotland, and Ireland so justly boast, he must have bent his knee in humble acknowledgment of their superiority. I shall not enter into a particular description of the seraglio, as it exactly resembled those so often described by travellers, of whom, however, none have been admitted like me by special favour within the interior apartments, the smallness of my stature having procured me this very particular honour.
Her Ladyship now determined to visit Germany, France, and other countries, and being desirous to have me with her, I felt the greatest pleasure in the flattering idea which I entertained of these travels. The requisite preparations being completed, we set out for Vienna. After a very fatiguing journey of some days, we reached the neighbourhood of Zurawno, where we stopped some months. We there saw a manufactory of gunpowder, and the lake of Zurawno, which is in length three Polish miles, and in breadth one. We observed that the boat at this lake was made very broad, and high in proportion, to prevent the vast numbers of fish which abound there from leaping into it, and oversetting it, as many accidents have happened from their voracious disposition. This lake belongs to the great General of Lithuania, Count Oginski. After a long and dull stay in this retired spot, we proceeded to Vienna, where the report of our arrival was no sooner spread, than we were visited, invited, and entertained with the utmost eagerness. Soon after we had the honour to be presented to her Imperial Majesty the Queen of Hungary, who was graciously pleased to say that I exceeded by far all that she had heard of me, and that I was one of the most astonishing beings she had ever seen. At that time this great Princess was engaged in a war with the King of Prussia, and by her firmness, courage, and wisdom, had rendered herself no less terrible to her enemies than dear to her subjects. I had the honour to be one day in her apartment, when her courtiers were complimenting her on a victory obtained by her army, of which every one extolled the advantageous consequences, so that, according to their account, the King of Prussia was likely to be soon reduced to the last extremity. The Empress, near whom I was standing, asked me how the King of Prussia was looked upon in Poland, and what opinion I entertained of that Prince. "Madam," I answered, "I have not the honour to know him; but were I in his place, instead of losing my time in waging a useless war against you, I would come to Vienna, and pay my respects to you, deeming it a thousand times more glorious to gain your esteem and friendship, than to obtain the most complete, victories over your troops." Her Majesty seemed much pleased with my reply, clasped me in her arms, and said to my benefactress, she esteemed her very happy in having so pleasing a companion in her travels. At another time when, according to her desire, I had performed a Polish dance in the presence of this Sovereign, she took me on her lap, and after having fondly caressed me, and asked me many questions, how I spent my time, she wished to know what I found at Vienna most curious and interesting. I answered, I had seen there many things worthy of a traveller's admiration, but nothing seemed to me so extraordinary as what I beheld at this moment.
And what is that?" said her Majesty. "It is," replied I, "to see so little a man on the lap of so great a woman." This answer gained me new caresses. The Empress had on her finger a ring, upon which her cypher was set in brilliants with the most exquisite workmanship. My hand being by chance locked in hers, I happened to look upon the ring attentively, which she perceived, and asked whether the cypher was pretty. "I beg your Majesty's pardon," replied I, "it is not the ring I admire, but the hand which I beseech you give me leave to kiss;" and with these words I took it to my lips. The Empress seemed charmed at this little gallantry, and would have presented me with the ring which had caused it; but the circle proving too wide, she called to a young Princess about six years old, took from her finger a very fine brilliant she wore, and put it on mine. This young Princess was the unfortunate Queen of France, wife of Louis XVI.
It is easy to conceive that the kind notice with which the Empress honoured me, procured me the attention of other Courts of Europe. We stayed at Vienna, to the best of my recollection, only six months, during which time, my benefactress availed herself of the opportunity of having me taught dancing by Mr. Angelini, the ballet master to the Court, who has since by his eminent talents in the art, and his taste for literature, rendered himself so famous. Being obliged to depart, I could not improve under his care so much as I wished: yet my protectress could not forbear expressing to him with raptures, her thanks for what she was pleased to call my great progress, before we set off for Bavaria. Arriving at Munich, we were most graciously welcomed by his Electoral Highness; and it seemed I excited no less curiosity there than at Vienna. The Princess Christiana, and two other Royal Polish Princesses, who were with the Electress their sister, on account of the war between Saxony and Prussia, honoured me with their attention, and engaged me in their hunting party. During our stay, which was not long, and which presented nothing particular, we spent our time in pleasure and entertainments.
On leaving Munich, we repaired to Luneville, where Stanislaus Lesczinski, the titular King of Poland, held his Court. I could not help being filled with respect, admiration, and astonishment, at seeing this venerable Prince, who, after such an agitated life, after having undergone the most fatal reverses of fortune, still preserved, at the age of eighty years, all the faculties of his soul, and employed them with so much energy to promote the happiness of his new subjects. I was struck with his noble aspect, his mild and affable look, his serene and dignified deportment. I immediately recollected the impression he made at first sight upon Charles the Twelfth. It is known that this extraordinary Monarch, after having conversed with him for a quarter of an hour, said to the Generals who composed his retinue, "This is the man who shall be King of Poland!" It is also known how Charles kept his word; how Stanislaus, after the disgraces of his friend, saw himself stripped of that crown to which he had aspired, only from his consciousness of the good he might do to his own country; how, when he was recalled to the throne, an adverse faction, supported by foreigners, rendered the efforts and hopes of the soundest part of the nation useless and vain. The dangers are likewise well known to which he was exposed, and the disguises to which he was obliged to submit, in order to effect an escape from his enemies. It is known, too, that at last peace having secured him the tranquil possession of the Dukedoms of Lorraine and Bar, he carefully employed himself to make those people lose the remembrance of their ancient masters. Need I tell here all that he did for that purpose? I will only say, that his buildings at Nancy and Luneville appeared to me far superior to all that I had seen in other countries. On our arrival, this Monarch received us with that bounty and affability which gained him the affection of every heart; and being of his own country, we were by his order lodged in his palace.
With this Prince lived the famous Bebe, till then considered as the most extraordinary creature, for the smallness of his stature, that was ever seen. He possessed indeed a perfectly proportioned shape, with very pleasing features, but (I am sorry to say it, for the honour of our species) had in his mind and way of thinking, all the defects commonly attributed to us. He was at that time about thirty, and on our being measured, it appeared that I was much less in size. At our first interview he shewed much fondness and friendship towards me; but when he perceived that I preferred the company and conversation of persons of sense to his own, and above all, when he saw that the King took pleasure in my company, he conceived a most violent jealousy, and I saw fury sparkle in his eyes. It was during my stay at Luneville, that I had the honour to cultivate an acquaintance with the celebrated Count de Tressan, who was come to reside there a little while. He took much notice of me, and it was he who made mention of me in the Encyclopaedia. After having seen and admired all that King Stanislaus had done to embellish Nancy and Luneville, we took leave of this amiable Prince, who gave my benefactress letters for the late Queen of France, his daughter, and repaired to Paris.
I need not say, that the first care of the Countess Humiecka was to go to Versailles, where, as a native of Poland, she easily obtained admittance to the Queen, to whom she delivered the letters with which the King had honoured her. This Princess, who had preserved much affection for every thing belonging to her own country, received her Ladyship most graciously. Her Majesty, being informed that I was along with my benefactress, wished to see me. She was astonished at my appearance, the smallness of which she had no idea of; and after having asked me many questions concerning the King her father, Bebe, and Poland, and our travels, she seemed pleased with my answers, and did me so much honour as to add that I was a little prodigy; that from what she had seen or been told, she had, till then, deemed the individuals of my species to be ill-treated by nature, as much in mind and intellectual faculties as in body, but that I had undeceived her in a very advantageous and pleasing manner. After these obliging words, the Queen, addressing the Countess Humiecka, was so kind as to engage her often to repeat her visits, desiring that she would bring me with her, and gave orders to admit us whenever we desired it.
On our return to Paris, the curiosity I excited drew many visitors to my protectress, so that I became like Gulliver with his master the farmer; for in less than a week every person of high rank at court, and every person of fashion in town, waited upon her. I cannot help expressing how infinitely I was flattered by this warm enthusiasm, and by the numberless civilities with which I was honoured. The Duke of Orleans, father to him who ?unfortunately lost his life, having given my protectress the most elegant entertainments, evinced a particular regard for me, and loaded me with caresses. I can even say that, during our stay at Paris, this amiable Prince did not pass a single day without giving me fresh testimonies of his politeness. The ecstasy I excited, and the frequent conversations which passed about my figure, gave rise to an incident which, had not the Queen interposed, might have proved of disagreeable consequence to the Polish ladies who travelled in France, as you will see.
It happened by chance that the Duchess of Modena, a Princess of the blood royal of France, had not been at any of the entertainments to which I had been invited. However, her Grace had heard much of me, and all that she had been told excited a strong curiosity to see me. Her rank not permitting her to pay the first visit to the Countess Humiecka, she determined to write to her, and request her company at a rout which she gave; and as I was the principal person she desired to see, she added in the card, "especially, do not forget to bring Joujou." The Countess Humiecka, who possessed all the sentiments correspondent to her illustrious birth, and whose rank, beauty, and wealth, had drawn on her, everywhere, the most flattering distinctions, was greatly offended at such an invitation; and not thinking proper to gratify a curiosity disclosed in so awkward and impolite a manner, answered that she was very sorry she could not comply with her Grace's commands: she was engaged on that day and the following, so that she could not say when she might have the honour. The Duchess of Modena, who understood perfectly the meaning of this answer, was very much incensed, and complained of it to every one she met. She even went so far as to carry her complaints to the Queen; imagining that her Majesty, being a Polander, would blame my benefactress for it. I am inclined to believe that the Queen, who had a great regard for persons of her own nation, inwardly thought that the Countess was right. However, wishing to settle this trifle, which she was afraid might terminate in causing some uneasiness to my benefactress, she sent for her, and engaged her to pay a visit to the Duchess of Modena. The Duchess answered, that from respect for her Majesty's orders, she would go, but certainly would not take Joujou with her; upon which, the Queen, foreseeing that such a visit might only widen the breach, dropped the conversation, and before they parted invited the Countess to come and breakfast with her Majesty two days after, and to bring me with her. She sent afterwards another invitation to the Duchess, for the same day, without making known to either of these ladies that they were to meet. On the appointed day we waited upon the Queen, and arrived first. But what a surprise was it to us, when some minutes after, we heard the name of the Duchess of Modena announced! This Princess, who was at first no less astonished than the Countess, came, however, to herself very soon; and after she had paid her duty to the Queen, she and the Countess saluted each other with the usual compliments, and, as if nothing had happened, reciprocally declared the pleasure they had in seeing, and the desire they felt to know, each other. The Duchess even went so far as not to take notice of me for some minutes; but soon banishing this constraint, the caresses, praises, and attentions of this respectable old Princess proved how great was her enthusiasm.
We continued to be visited and entertained by the most considerable amongst the nobility and financiers. The celebrated Mr. Bouret especially, who was Farmer General, gave an entertainment, in which, to show that it was given for my sake, he caused every thing, even the plates, spoons, knives, and forks to be proportioned to my size; and the eatables, consisting of ortolans, beccaficos, and other small game of that kind, to be served upon dishes suitable to them. We spent, in this agreeable manner, more than a year at Paris, enjoying ail the pleasures which that capital offers to foreigners: and the lively humour, the cheerfulness, and politeness Of its inhabitants, made our stay delightful.