Short summary - Letters to Mrs. Calandrini
Charlotte Aisse - Charlotte Aïssé
Letters to Aissa are a recognized "little masterpiece" of French prose. The fate of their author is surprising. In the spring of 1698, the French diplomat, Count Charles de Ferriol, bought a four-year-old Circassian girl, taken prisoner during one of the Turkish raids, for one thousand five hundred livres at the Istanbul slave market. They said that she was from a noble family. In France, little Gaide was baptized and named Charlotte-Elizabeth, but they continued to call Gaide or Aide, which later turned into Aissa. For several years, the girl was brought up in the house of the wife of the diplomat's younger brother - the smart, active, domineering Maria-Angelica de Ferriol, née Guerin de Tansen. But then a diplomat returned to France, treating the young Circassian woman with fatherly tenderness and the ardor of a lover, and Aissa was forced to stay with Ferriol until his death (1722), rotating, however, in a brilliant circle of noble and talented people. Having found freedom, Aissé never left the house of Madame de Ferriol, which became almost her own, until the end of her life.
In dissolute, immoral Paris, Aissa in 1720 meets the celibate knight of the Order of Malta, Blaise-Marie d'Edi (c. 1692-1761). They are bound for life by a strong and lasting feeling, which they keep in deep secrecy. The birth in 1721 of their daughter Celini, who later became Viscountess de Nantia, is also surrounded by mystery. In 1726, Aissé met the 58-year-old wife of an eminent and wealthy citizen of Geneva, Julie Calandrini (c. 1668-1754); the firm moral principles of this lady make the deepest impression on the "beautiful Circassian woman", and for the last seven years of her life, Aissa has been in correspondence with Mrs. Calandrini, confiding in her older friend all her thoughts and feelings. Aissé died of consumption in 1733. Shaken by the Chevalier d'Edie, until the end of his life, he remained faithful to his love, raising his daughter in the appropriate spirit. But Aissé's name was saved from oblivion not by a touching family cult, but by 36 letters discovered after the death of Madame Calandrini and published in Paris in 1787.
In the most refined expressions, Aissé describes her feelings for Madame Calandrini: “I love you with the most tender love - I love you, like your mother, like your sister, daughter, in a word, how you love everyone to whom you owe love. Everything is in my feeling for you - respect, admiration and gratitude. " Aisse is happy that those around her love her older friend for the wonderful qualities of her soul. After all, usually “valor and merit ... are valued only when a person is also rich; and yet everyone bows his head before the true virtues. " And yet - “money, money! How much you suppress ambition! How many proud people you do not humble! How many good intentions you turn into smoke! "
Aissé complains about her own financial difficulties, debts and the complete uncertainty of her financial situation in the future, complains about her deteriorating health, describing her sufferings in a very naturalistic way (“... after all, health is our main asset; it helps us to endure hardships Sorrows affect him destructively ... and do not make us richer. However, there is nothing shameful in poverty when it is a consequence of a virtuous life and the vicissitudes of fate. Every day it becomes clearer to me that there is nothing higher than virtue like this earth, and in the other world ”),
Aissé irritably talks about domestic troubles, about the absurdity and avarice of Madame de Ferriol and the rudeness of her dissolute and cynical sister, the brilliant Madame de Tansen. However, "I feel ashamed of my complaints when I see around so many people who are worth more than me, and much less unhappy." The woman warmly mentions her friends - the sons of Madame de Ferriol, the Comte de Pont de Velay and the Comte d'Argenteale, as well as the lovely daughter of Madame Calandrini herself, speaks fondly of her servant, the devoted Sophie, whom she is trying with all her might to provide materially.
Describes Aissé and Parisian life, creating a vivid picture of the life and customs of the French aristocracy. Gossip, scandals, intrigues, marriages of convenience ("Ah! What a fertile country do you live in - in a country where people marry when they are still capable of loving each other!"), Constant adultery, serious illnesses and untimely deaths; a complete decline in morals (for example, the story of the son of a nobleman, who fell into robbers), quarrels and conspiracies at court, wild antics of the depraved nobility (“Madame Bouillon is capricious, cruel, unbridled and extremely dissolute; her tastes extend to everyone - from princes to comedians ", - characterizes Aissa the lady who was suspected of poisoning the actress Adrienne Lecouvreur), boundless hypocrisy (" Our beautiful ladies indulge in piety, or rather, diligently show it ... all as one began to build a saint out of themselves ... they gave up blushing that does not paint them at all "), the complete lack of rights of ordinary people (the sad story of the poor abbot, who is forcibly forced to give Lecouvreur poison; and after the unfortunate man warns the actress, he is put in the Bastille, from where he comes out thanks to the troubles of his father, but then without a trace disappears).
And “everything that happens in this state foreshadows its doom. How reasonable are you all, that you do not deviate from the rules and laws, but strictly observe them! Hence the purity of morals. And every day I am more and more amazed at the multitude of bad deeds, and it is difficult to believe that the human heart is capable of this. "
Aissa also writes a lot about art, which people of her circle are keenly interested in - about the decoration of interiors, about literature (he mentions several times, for example, the novelty - "Gulliver's Travels" by J. Swift, cites Rousseau's epigram, appends to his message the verse correspondence of the Marquis de la Riviera and M. Desulière), but mainly talks about the theater: new plays and performances, scenery, the skill of actors (“An actress playing the role of a lover must show modesty and restraint,” says Aissé. “Passion should be expressed in intonation and the sounds of voices. Excessively harsh gestures should be left to men and sorcerers "). But bad manners also reign in the theater: behind-the-scenes intrigues, rivalry between actresses, their scandalous romances with nobles, backbiting and gossip ... Several times Aissé touches on politics. The woman is shocked by the frivolous attitude of the nobility to the impending war; "Circassian" sends her friend a copy of the letter of the Marquis de Saint-Ouler to Cardinal de Fleury. "The glory of the conqueror is nothing before the glory of the peacemaker ... through justice, honesty, confidence, loyalty to your word, you can achieve more than with the help of cunning and intrigue of the previous policy," the Marquis says. And Aissé dreams that France will finally find a king and first minister who really care about the welfare of their people.
Real life plunges Aissa, wholesome and pure nature, into deep sadness. "Circassian" never gets involved in any intrigues; she is “just as little inclined to preach virtue as she is to support vices,” admires people who have “the most important spiritual qualities” - intelligence and self-esteem, cares about her friends much more than about herself, does not want from anyone to depend and above all else puts the fulfillment of his own duty. “Nothing will make me forget everything I owe” to Madame de Ferriol, “and my duty to her. I will repay her a hundredfold for all her cares about me, even at the cost of my own life. But ... what a big difference it is - to do something only out of a sense of duty or at the behest of the heart! " "There is nothing more difficult than doing your duty towards someone you neither love nor respect."
Aisse does not want to deal with “evil and false people - let them swarm in their mud. I firmly adhere to my rule - honestly do my duty and not slander anyone. " "I have many faults, but I am committed to virtue, I honor it." It is not surprising that libertines and schemers are afraid of Aissa; most of the acquaintances treat her with respect and love. “My doctor is amazingly attentive to me; he is my friend ... everyone around me is so affectionate to me and so helpful ... "" All the time that I was in danger ... all my friends, all the servants were crying bitterly; and when the danger had already passed ... everyone ran to my bed to congratulate me. "
Improving health in the village and leading an idyllic life in the bosom of nature ("... I live here as if at the end of the world - I work in the vineyard, weave yarn from which I will sew my shirts, I hunt birds"), Aissé dreams of getting to her friend - Mrs. Calandrini to Switzerland. “How different is your city from Paris! There you have common sense and good morals, here they have no idea about them. " As for the inhabitants of Paris, “there is nothing in them - neither your adamant honesty, nor wisdom, nor kindness, nor justice. All this people have one appearance - the mask now and then falls off them. Honesty is nothing more than the word with which they adorn themselves; they talk about justice, but only in order to condemn their neighbors; under their sweet speeches, barbs are hidden, their generosity turns into wastefulness, kindness - lack of will. " Still, “whom I happened to meet in Geneva corresponded to my initial ideas of life experience. I was almost the same when I entered the light, not knowing bitterness, sorrows and sorrow. " Now, "I would like to learn to be a philosopher, to be indifferent to everything, not to be upset about anything and try to behave rationally just in order to satisfy myself and you." Aisse sadly acknowledges the corrupting influence of the mores prevailing in society. “She belongs to those persons, spoiled by light and bad examples, who were not lucky enough to avoid the nets of debauchery,” the woman writes about her friend Madame de Parabert. "She is warm, generous, she has a good heart, but she was early plunged into the world of passions, and she had bad mentors." And yet, Aissé sees the root of evil in the weakness of human nature: "... you can behave with dignity by staying in the light, and this is even better - the more difficult the task, the greater the merit to fulfill it." The “Circassian woman” tells with admiration about a certain impoverished nobleman who, having settled in a modest room, spends the morning reading his favorite books, after a simple, hearty dinner walks along the embankment, does not depend on anyone and is completely happy.
The standard of moral qualities for Aissa is Mrs. Calandrini. “You, with your tolerance, with your knowledge of the world, for which, however, you do not hate, with your ability to forgive, in accordance with the circumstances, having learned about my sins, did not despise me. I seemed to you worthy of compassion and although guilty, but not fully aware of my guilt. Fortunately, my love passion itself gave birth to a striving for virtue in me. " "If the object of my love were not filled with the same virtues as you, my love would have been impossible." "My love would die if it were not based on respect."
It is the theme of deep mutual love between Aissé and Chevalier d'Ely that runs through the letters of the “beautiful Circassian woman” as a red thread. Aissa is tormented by thoughts about the sinfulness of this extramarital affair, the woman is trying with all her might to wrest the vicious passion from her heart. “I will not write about the remorse that torments me - they are born of my mind; the Chevalier and the passion for him drown them out. But "if the mind was not able to defeat my passion, it is because only a virtuous person could seduce my heart." The Chevalier loves Aissé so much that she is asked what charm she has cast on him. But - "my only charm is my irresistible love for him and the desire to make his life as sweet as possible." “I don’t abuse his feelings. People tend to take advantage of the weakness of another. This art is unknown to me. I can only do one thing: to please the one I love so that only the desire will keep him near me - not to part with me. " D? Edie begs Aissa to marry him. But “no matter how great the happiness it would be to be called his wife, I should love the Chevalier not for myself, but for him ... How would the world treat his marriage to a girl without family without a tribe ... No, his reputation is too dear to me and at the same time I'm too proud to let him do this stupid thing. What a shame it would be for me all the rumors that would go about this! And how can I flatter myself with the hope that he will remain unchanged in his feelings for me? He may someday regret that he has succumbed to a reckless passion, and I will not be able to live, realizing that it is my fault that he is unhappy and that he has stopped loving me. "
However - “to cut through the living such a hot passion and such tender affection, and, moreover, so deserved to them! Add to this my feeling of gratitude to him - no, it's terrible! This is worse than death! But you demand that I overcome myself — I will try; only I'm not sure that I will get out of this with honor and that I will stay alive. ... Why is my love impermissible? Why is she sinful? " “How I wish that the struggle between my reason and my heart would cease, and I could freely surrender to the joy that only the contemplation of it gives me. But, alas, this will never happen! " “But my love is irresistible, everything justifies it. It seems to me that she was born with a feeling of gratitude, and I must maintain the Chevalier's affection for the dear baby. She is the link between us; this is what makes me sometimes see my duty in love for him. "
With great affection he writes to Aissa about her daughter, who is being brought up in a monastery. The girl is "reasonable, kind, patient" and, not knowing who her mother is, considers the "Circassian woman" her beloved patroness. The Chevalier is madly in love with his daughter. Yet Aissé is constantly worried about the baby's future. All these experiences and a fierce internal struggle soon finally undermine the fragile health of the unfortunate woman. She quickly melts, plunging her beloved into despair. “Never before has my love for him been so fiery, and I can say that it is no less on his part. He treats me with such anxiety, his excitement is so sincere and so touching that everyone who happens to be witnesses to it, tears well up in their eyes. "
And yet, before her death, Aisse breaks with her beloved. “I cannot express to you what the sacrifice I have made is worth to me; she is killing me. But I trust in the Lord - he must give me strength! " The Chevalier humbly agrees with the decision of his beloved. “Be happy, my dear Aissa, I don’t care how you achieve this - I will reconcile with any of them, as long as you do not expel me from your heart ... As long as you allow me to see you, As long as I can flatter myself with hope, that you consider me the most devoted person in the world to you, I do not need anything else to be happy, ”he writes in a letter that Aissa also sends to Mrs. Calandrini. The "Circassian" herself touchingly thanks her older friend, who made so much effort to guide her on the right path. “The thought of imminent death saddens me less than you think,” Aissé admits. - What is our life? Like no one else I should have been happy, but I was not. My bad behavior made me unhappy: I was a toy of passions, which ruled me at my own whim. Eternal torment of conscience, sorrow of friends, their remoteness, almost constant ill health ... The life that I lived was so miserable - did I know at least a moment of genuine joy? I could not be alone with myself: I was afraid of my own thoughts. Remorse did not leave me from the minute my eyes opened and I began to understand my delusions. Why should I fear separation from my soul, if I am sure that the Lord is merciful to me and that from the minute I leave this wretched flesh, happiness will be revealed to me? "