On July 3, 1790, Mirabeau kissed Marie-Antoinette’s hand in a leafy corner of the park at Saint-Cloud and, like some badly dressed knightvaliant, promised: “Madame, the monarchy is saved.” Though the Queen had once said that “our situation could never be so desperate as to have to resort to Mirabeau,” she managed not to flinch as the pitted face bent over her arm. She had even rehearsed a suitable way of flattering the ogre. According to Mme Campan, she opened by remarking that “in the presence of an ordinary enemy who had sworn the destruction of the monarchy… I should be taking the most ill-advised step, but in the presence of a Mirabeau…”
For his part, Mirabeau was touched by the pallid woman with wispy gray hair, not exactly the Messalina of the pornographic satires circulating in Paris. He was also impressed by her fortitude and intelligence, especially when he compared it with the King’s hapless irresolution. “The King has only one man” on whom he could depend, he remarked, “– his wife.” Afterwards, in cool reflection, his impulsive gesture may have reminded him of Lafayette’s tactical gallantry on the balcony of Versailles on the bloody morning of October 6. How embarrassing to have repeated the beau geste of someone Mirabeau so heartily despised as a self-important mediocrity; worse, a self-important inarticulate mediocrity! At least there had been no crowds on hand, though he worried that two grenadiers had recognized the two strollers in the park.
Saint-Cloud was a summer retreat where the royal family could escape the relentless daily scrutiny at the Tuileries, and the stinging abuse of the Paris press. For two months now Mirabeau had been taking the King’s money. But he had been doing so with a clean conscience, never supposing he had been bought off, but rather that he was being paid for offering advice to the King on how to reestablish his authority. It was counsel that Mirabeau fervently believed was indispensable if the monarch was to be rescued from both counter-revolution and democratic nullity.
Not that the rewards for the “treaty” he had signed with the court in May were paltry. The ink was hardly dry when his debts, all 208, 000 livres of them, were suddenly taken care of, effaced, gone. The two millstones of his life – his father and his creditors – were now both lifted from his neck. His father Victor, the apoplectic old tyrant, that self-designated “Friend of Mankind,” had died two days before the fall of the Bastille, still jeering at his older son, whom he had imprisoned so many times and whom he now disinherited in favor of his younger son, the ultra-royalist. That fat dimwit was a constant thorn in Mirabeau’s side, relishing his notoriety as a contributor to the counter-revolutionary journal The Acts of the Apostles the better to embarrass his elder brother. He was lampooned in the patriot press as “Mirabeau-Tonneau” (Mirabeau the Barrel), but somehow the nickname implicated Gabriel’s own sobriquet “Mirabeau-Tonnerre” (Mirabeau the Thunderer) in its absurdity. His contribution to restoring order in the army had been to steal flags and tassels from his own regiment of Touraine quartered at Perpignan when he found that the rank and file were in revolt against their officers. Caught with the regimental standards in his trunk, he was arrested and only his elder brother’s intervention on the grounds of the personal inviolability of a deputy to the Assembly secured his release. His gratitude took the form of emigration to the Rhineland, where he attempted to organize a brigade of “Death-Hussars” before impaling himself on the sword of another officer with whom he had picked a drunken quarrel.
With a monthly allowance of six thousand livres, Mirabeau aîné couldat last afford to live in the manner which his own sense of magnificence had always required. He moved out of the apartment rented from Talma’s actress friend Julie Carreau and into a handsome townhouse on the rue de la Chaussée d’Antin. He commanded a chef with whose culinary splendors he managed to take the edge off the wrath of even leading zealots like Camille Desmoulins. (Some thought the food overspiced. “I almost spat blood when I dined with Mirabeau,” recalled one woman guest with a tender palate.) There was a valet who laid out those suits with the jeweled buttons that, to Mirabeau’s delight, raised eyebrows at the Jacobins. Best of all he had a secretary, paid for by the court, with the perfect name (for an amanuensis) M. Comps, who dutifully transcribed an immense number of his memoranda and speeches. And he was damned if long-faced bougres like the Lameth brothers were going to rob him of innocent vanities like dressing his flunkies in livery and sporting the family arms on his shiny new carriage. Finally, he at last became a landowner, acquiring (though never paying for) a pretty seventeenth-century house and park once owned by the philosophe Helvétius, at Argenteuil.
The unlikely rapprochement between Mirabeau and the court had been brought about by his friend the Comte de La Marck, a Belgian aristocrat who had settled in France, bought land and been elected to the Estates-General. La Marck had insisted to the Austrian Ambassador Mercy d’Argenteau, the Queen’s closest confidant, that Mirabeau was burning to be of service to the King, and in March 1790 the signal was sent from the other end to sound him out. By the end of May Mirabeau, duly signed up, fought his first battle in the Constituent, for the right to preserve some part for the monarchy in decisions of war and peace.
It was imprudent for Mirabeau to be on the monarchy’s payroll at the precise moment when the publication of the Livre Rouge (Red Book), exposing the secret pensions of the old regime, was causing so much uproar. His suddenly improved life-style could hardly escape general attention, especially when it coincided suspiciously on May 21 with a passionate speech arguing for the retention of royal powers in declaring war. Soon after, a pamphlet written by Lacroix circulated in Paris claiming to have discovered his “Treason.” Mirabeau’s recklessness can only be explained by the fact that he believed his conduct to be quite pure – that he had received a fee for advice tendered disinterestedly and in complete accordance with the political principles he had always held.
At the core of those principles was the establishment of a constitutional monarchy that accepted the conquests of 1789 but without resigning itself to being a passive instrument of the will of a legislature. Mirabeau was, as he wrote to La Marck, in favor of “the establishment of order, not of the old order.” The premise of his policy, then, was that the monarchy should eschew any flirtation with counter-revolution; should wave adieu to any thought of restoring a society of orders with corporate institutions like Parlements. Free, socially blind justice and a free press were also, in his view, irreversible. The crown should, moreover, embrace the Civil Constitution of the Clergy as the logical extension of Gallicanism and the absolutely indispensable means of avoiding bankruptcy. At the same time, however, it had to be a genuine executive, free to appoint ministers – and despite the Assembly’s decree of November 7, 1789, Mirabeau still urged that they be accountable to and chosen from the legislature to avoid a constant battle between the two arms of the constitution. Unless the crown took urgent steps to recover some meaningful powers of government, he argued, the quasi-autonomous sovereignty of the legislature would become an accomplished fact. “The people would end by becoming accustomed to another type of government, and royalty, entirely null, steadily vilified but nonetheless very costly, would soon appear to be only a phantom.”
These positions, as well as their immediate political and tactical implications, Mirabeau set out in two documents, one in October 1790 and the other in a much fuller memorandum for Montmorin, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, on December 23. The long “Aperçu” is an extraordinary work not for any great theoretical profundity but for its astonishingly modern understanding of the nature of revolutionary power. Before Lenin, Mirabeau was the most intelligent analyst of the machinery of tactics in revolutionary situations, able to see with the utmost clarity what lay below the rhetoric of which most revolutionary discourse was composed. When he came to discuss what he called the irritabilité of the National Assembly – its propensity to thwart decisive government in factious debate – he explained this as a natural outcome of posturing theatricality (to which, of course, he had himself unforgettably contributed). “It has its orators, its spectators, its theater and its parterre, its lobby and its galleries, it applauds talent when it serves its purposes and humiliates it if it contradicts it.” He also appreciated the need for a successful government to have its own organs of press propaganda, cheaply priced and widely circulated so as to avoid surrendering the field to perpetual oppositions.
Mirabeau listed the other obstructions to the recovery of royal authority. He started with the King’s own indecisiveness; the limitations placed on the Queen’s action; the constant threat of physical intimidation in Paris and the demagoguery which incited it. To set the King on his own feet he needed able and determined ministers (like himself) and perhaps Talleyrand, Le Chapelier, Thouret. Necker, whom Mirabeau had never been able to abide, had finally resigned at the end of September, fatally lamed by his inability to deliver on his promises of fiscal magic or to live up to the Messiah-like publicity that had greeted his recall to office. But Neckerites like Saint-Priest and de La Tour du Pin were still in office, and Mirabeau urged a much cleaner break. Indeed, in a daring and canny move, Mirabeau recommended appointing ministers from among the zealots of the Jacobins, drawing the sting of their opposition. If they were in power, he guaranteed (with great prescience), the objective needs of the state were so compelling that they would neutralize their ideology. “Jacobins in the ministry,” he commented, “would not be Jacobin ministers.”
The other major figure from whom Louis had to be rescued was Mirabeau’s arch-bugbear, the insufferable “Gilles César,” Lafayette. It had been particularly galling to Mirabeau to see the Fédération stage-managed for the General’s exclusive benefit and with the King deliberately reduced to an auxiliary role. Had Louis taken the oath at the altar – in the focal center of the proceedings – it might have set a perfect symbolic seal on his acceptance of the Revolution. Instead his part had been made shadowy and ambiguous and had not quieted the talk that the King was really still a grudging participant in the ceremonies. The National Guard, then, had to be reorganized and placed more firmly under government control if the King was not always to be a hostage to a Parisian army.
Since nothing at all could be done about the political effervescence of Paris, the best thing was to let it have its head. The more outrageous it became and the greater its appetite for anarchy and militancy, the wider would be the breach with the provinces which it presumed to govern in the name of “the Nation.” As the conduct of government became paralyzed by threats from Parisian insurrections, the provinces would be persuaded that stronger public power was needed and would resent the monopoly of the capital. This turned out to be one of Mirabeau’s most prescient forecasts, all the more impressive since it was made at a time when the sovereign fiction of a united nation had just been consummated on the Champ de Mars.
A similar solution to the truculence of the Assembly suggested itself. Let the Assembly be discredited by becoming hopelessly polarized between fatuous counter-revolutionaries on the one hand and impossible zealots on the other. When it had finally succeeded in making government impossible, the King might, in a bold move, call another election for a replacement legislature empowered to revise what for Mirabeau was a dangerously unworkable constitution. Here too he had a shrewd tactical move to recommend that would not be open to imputations of counterrevolution. Deputies to the new assembly, he argued, should only be eligible for the constituencies in which they currently resided, thus, he supposed, precluding the militants of the Paris clubs from standing as representatives of, say, Arras or Marseille. Pending its change of location, that second assembly should be provided with its own military force to release it from dependence on the Paris National Guard.
There was great wisdom and great craziness in Mirabeau’s projects. On the one hand the notion of a Jacobin ministry proposing the replacement of the Constituent seems wholly fantastical. But on the other hand, Mirabeau saw with clear-eyed acumen the issues that would determine allegiance in a revolutionary era. Taxes, for example, would be one matter where “the veil will be torn asunder,” for
the people have been promised more than can be promised; they have been given hopes that it will be impossible to realize; they have been allowed to shake off a yoke which it will be impossible to restore and even if there should be fine retrenchments and economies… the expenses of the new regime will actually be heavier than the old, and in the last analysis the people will judge the revolution by this fact alone – does it take more or less money? Are they better off? Do they have more work? And is that work better paid?
The perspicacity of this judgment was all the more impressive coming from someone who was the acknowledged master of revolutionary rhetoric, but someone who evidently was not also bewitched by his own hyperbole. Mirabeau lent enormous passion to his defense of the mandatory use of the tricolor flag on naval vessels because he understood that what was at stake was not merely “a bagatelle” but (in another uncanny anticipation of twentieth-century concerns) what he called “the language of signs.” That, he insisted, was everywhere the most potent symbolic code, denoting solidarity or conspiracy, loyalty or defiance. If naval officers were permitted to fly the white flag – that is to say, the color of counter-revolution – it would be a brazen announcement of their contempt for the Revolution. “Believe me, do not slumber in a dangerous sense of safety,” he told the Assembly, “for your awakening will be terrible.” Finally, Mirabeau foresaw that the imposition of a Parisian definition of revolutionary purity on the rest of the country would break open deep rifts that, unless managed by a solicitous government, would make civil war a certainty.
And even though his vision of a responsible monarchy, with ministers accountable to a legislature, seems hopelessly optimistic, given the nature of the historical players in 1791, it was not, of itself, an implausible scenario for France. With the periodic alternation of kings, emperors and presidents, most of French history in the two centuries that followed fully vindicated his vision.
In two matters alone – albeit ones of the utmost importance – Mirabeau’s habitual shrewdness failed him. In the first place he flattered himself that by becoming a retainer of the court he was also becoming its political educator. He was not so naive as to suppose that Louis was ready to act on the lengthy and subtle instructions he was receiving. One wonders, in fact, if the King, who was steadily becoming more immobilized by helplessness and depression, actually read them. But in any event Mirabeau thought it his duty to articulate his plan for the salvation of the state and believed that the memoranda would have a cumulative effect in gradually showing Louis that there was an alternative to either capitulation or counter-revolution. The reality at court, however, was much less promising. The more Mirabeau deluded himself into believing he was the monarchy’s tutor, the more the circle around the Queen rejoiced at having tethered a formidable opponent. The more he barked at the increasing number of his enemies to the left in the Jacobins, the better the court liked him for dividing its foes.
Even so, success at reeducating the King was not out of the question. Throughout 1790 Louis remained genuinely uncertain about his political direction and much less committed to counter-revolutionary intervention than the Queen was. What finally moved him to abandon any further thought of managing the Revolution along the lines recommended by Mirabeau was the religious question. In this all-important matter it is hard to know whether Mirabeau was obtusely incomprehending or actually ultra-Machiavellian. He had eagerly agreed to deliver the first salvo in the Assembly in November 1789 in support of Talleyrand’s plan and, as the legislation to create a state church had become more detailed, had lent enthusiastic support at every stage. In Provence he saw the large Protestant population – well endowed, well disciplined and conspicuous for its civic and economic virtues – as a bulwark of the new regime. In the Jews of Bordeaux and Avignon he saw yet another commercial and erudite culture that made the dogma of Catholic monopoly a reprehensible absurdity. His own favorite banker in Paris, Panchaud, seemed to be half Protestant, half Jew.
And all other questions aside, the issue of the Civil Constitution was as much one of national integrity as social utility and philosophical humanity. The moral institutions of France should not, Mirabeau believed, be determined by dumb allegiance to a glorified Italian bishop who based his authority on the demonstrably risible claim of the succession to St. Peter. That issue of allegiance had become more serious when the Archbishop of Aix, Boisgelin, published his Exposition of the principles on which Pope Pius VI rejected all collaboration with the Constitution, and in effect threatened excommunication for all those who collaborated in the election of bishops and priests. Things became still more acute in November 1790, when the deputy Voidel described clerical resistance to the Civil Constitution as a kind of conspiracy involving priests urging troops to attack National Guardsmen and defy local authorities. (Indeed, revolutionary prints of the riots in the south commonly show priests holding up crosses to bless crowds attacking National Guardsmen in the manner of the Cardinal of Lorraine blessing the daggers in Chénier’s Charles IX.) To force the issue Voidel proposed that all clergy be made to swear an oath of undivided loyalty to the Constitution within eight days. In the debate of November 26 that deadline was extended to the end of the year, but it represented a brutal determination on the part of the state to test to the limit its enforceable sovereignty.
Mirabeau seemed to be single-minded on the matter. He denounced the episcopal deputies to the Assembly (forty out of forty-four of whom had rejected the Constitution) as hypocrites for claiming to want to prevent schism but urging their flocks to resist the laws of the state. To the AbbéMaury’s insistence that bishops received their immediate authority from God through his vicar on earth, Mirabeau retorted that the division of the Church into units like dioceses was simply a matter of “ecclesiastical police” and administrative convenience with nothing sacred about it. For that matter papal authority was merely such a political jurisdiction writ large. The more withering his ridicule, the louder the applause, and his comments were entirely in keeping with his convictions and those of spiritual co-citizens like the Abbés Grégoire and Lamourette (who had written much of the speech). But, as Mirabeau noted in his private letters to La Marck, if the King was looking for an issue that would create disaffection from the Assembly out in the provinces, this was an ideal opportunity.
It was difficult, though, for Louis XVI to endorse Mirabeau’s tactical cynicism. After much agonizing he had been persuaded by liberal bishops like Champion de Cicé of Bordeaux and the Archbishop of Vienne to sign the Civil Constitution. But the strictures from Rome increasingly troubled his conscience, especially since they were very eloquently defended not only inside the Assembly by Maury and Boisgelin but outside in newspapers and broadsides. He still liked to think of himself as the Rex Christianissimus anointed with the holy ampule at Reims: the sworn upholder of the apostolic faith. It was with the gravest misgivings, then, that he signed into law the Assembly’s decree giving the traditional clergy of France – constituting perhaps half of the Assembly’s own number and in certain regions like the west, southwest and Alsace-Lorraine an even greater proportion – a choice of being rebels or heretics, disfranchised or excommunicated.
It was surely this act which divided Louis’ conduct into a public mask and a private confession. Encouraged by Marie-Antoinette, who regarded the ordination of constitutional bishops (by Talleyrand, who had already resigned his bishopric) as a blasphemous farce, Louis increasingly turned to private chaplains for confession. But in February 1791 the issue could no longer be kept from the public when his ancient aunts, Adelaide and Victoire, openly signified their dissent from the law by announcing their intention to go to Rome for Holy Week. Mirabeau strongly advised the King to forbid their journey since, he said, not only would it look as though he were condoning the infraction of his own laws but the trip would be taken as a rehearsal of his own emigration. Already journalists like Desmoulins and Fréron were insisting that theaunts renounce the million livres they enjoyed from the civil list if they wanted to consume it at Rome. The tocsins of the Paris sections were rung and meetings gathered to debate ways to prevent, if necessary with force, the departure of the tantes. The King, however, did nothing to prevent the journey and the two pious old ladies, sublimely indifferent to much of this agitation, set off with their usual modest retinue of twenty, accompanied by the commander of the Versailles National Guard, Berthier. Bellerive, their château, was overrun by crowds of angry poissardes, but it was at Arnay-le-Duc that their carriages were stopped on the orders of a zealously patriotic mayor.
For Mirabeau, their departure was a matter of the greatest political imprudence, but he felt strongly that the Revolution had established as absolute the right of freedom of movement (something that had been frequently denied to him by his father’s use of lettres de cachet). If the aunts had not actually violated any law there should be no reason to deny them that basic liberty, and he succeeded in persuading the Assembly to agree. On February 28 that issue became even more acute when the Assembly debated a law regulating the movement of suspected émigrés. The proposal was for a committee of three, appointed by the Assembly, to determine the right of anyone to exit and enter France, and to identify suspect absentees and to command their return on pain of being declared rebels.
Mirabeau understood intuitively that this was a moment of truth for the Revolution. His deepest conviction, expressed to the Assembly, was that such restrictions were irreconcilable with the liberty of movement guaranteed by the Declaration of Rights and the Constitution. But his debating tactics were maladroit. Trying to preempt discussion and even to avoid a reading of the proposal, he insisted on reading a letter he had written to the King of Prussia on the same matter declaring that men could not be forcibly tied to territory since they were not things – “fields or cattle.” While he did not deny the validity of some sort of police, he was adamant in his insistence that its activities had to be conducted strictly through due process of law. Anything else would, he predicted, lead to dictatorship. As for the proposed law, it was “barbaric.”
In a twentieth-century representative democracy it is impossible to read Mirabeau’s speech (and the several further interruptions by which he tried to dominate the proceedings) without bearing witness to the irrefutable truth of his remarks and the moral nobility with which they were expressed. He was absolutely right. It was indeed the turning point of the French Revolution – the moment at which, less than two years after the opening of the Estates-General, it licensed itself as a police state. Mirabeau was not so naive as to close his eyes to genuine conspiracies and counter-revolutionary plots, especially thick on the ground in the Midi. That very same day, February 28, a group of army officers had been discovered in the King’s apartments in the Tuileries with concealed swords and daggers, worn, they said, “to protect the King.” But none of this, in Mirabeau’s view, came remotely close to justifying the new regime appropriating powers for itself that might have shamed the old.
The debate degenerated into a procedural brawl between supporters of the original motion and Mirabeau, who wanted it replaced by a declaration on the unconstitutionality of any laws restricting freedom of movement. At one point he was accused of dictating to the Assembly, to which he responded rather self-righteously by proclaiming that “all my life I have fought despotism and I will continue to fight it all my life.” When there was further murmuring on the left, he shouted like an irate schoolmaster, “Silence, the thirty voices!” The reproof was particularly mortifying to Barnave and the Lameths since it shrank their claims to represent the People into the head count of an unimpressive faction.
Mirabeau was not forgiven for this public dressing-down. That evening he was turned away from the house of the Duc d’Aiguillon, an old friend, with whom he had been bidden to dine. Later, Adrien Duport was astonished to see him calmly walk through the doors of the Jacobin club just as Duport was giving the society an account of the infamy of a fellow member. “The men most dangerous to liberty are not far from here,” he announced, “indeed they are with us now, men in whom we have placed the greatest hopes.” Fingers pointed at Mirabeau, shouts of “traitor” rained down on his head. “Yes, M. de Mirabeau,” said Alexandre de Lameth, beside himself with rage, “we are not the thirty of this morning but a hundred and fifty that will never be divided.” Mirabeau was accused of wanting to destroy the Jacobins over whom he had presided the previous November; of defaming and belittling his brother members; of betraying the Revolution itself.
Taken aback by the violence of the accusations, Mirabeau defended himself as best he could, professing in the end devotion to the Jacobins as well as to the Revolution, his differences with them on this issue notwithstanding. Two years later that kind of publicly expressed difference (especially with Robespierre) would be literally fatal. But Mirabeau, apparently at the height of his powers, shrugged it off. His standing in the Assembly remained high. He had been an exemplary President in January, taking care to be impartial, and his intervention against the emigration law meant that he had real influence on the monarchist right. His latest Genevan scriptwriter-collaborator, Solomon Reybaz, was proving to be inspired, and Mirabeau was full of grand projects, none more important than an ambitious law on national education he had prepared with Talleyrand.
A month later he was dead.
On March 25 he had spent the night with two dancers from the Opéra, but whatever struck him with violent intestinal cramps two days later at Argenteuil was more than the penalties of sexual excess. He endured a journey to Paris to defend his friend La Marck’s concession with the great Anzin coal mines in the Pas-de-Calais against the claim that the mineral rights belonged “to the nation.” Reybaz had written an extraordinary panegyric to the intrepidity of the industrial entrepreneur, full of smoking mineshafts and heroic millions sunk into the greedy earth. Racked with pain and looking terrible, Mirabeau arrived at La Marck’s house and promptly collapsed on the floor. You must not go, said his friend. I must and shall, said the tribune, and, fortified by a bottle of Esterhazy Tokay, managed to get to the Assembly and deliver the speech. His colleagues saw a phantom Mirabeau: white-faced, greasy with sweat, his frizzy hair gone lank and straight with sickness. The great baritone was now muted into a chesty growl. “Your case is won,” he told La Marck afterwards, “and I am dead.”
It was no exaggeration. A few days’ rest at Argenteuil made him feel well enough to return to Paris, and he even tried an evening at the Italiens to listen to the diva Morichelli. He left halfway through the performance, shivering, refusing to wait in a café until a carriage could be found, and staggering home. His friend and physician, Cabanis, found him prostrate, coughing blood. Just what was wrong with him was disputed then and has been since. Fréron, of course, and other enemy journalists impliedhe had finally been struck down by sexual disease. After an autopsy to investigate whether he had been poisoned, he was declared to have died of lymphatic pericarditis, complicated by inflammations of the liver, kidneys and stomach. But whatever the final cause, Mirabeau knew that he was dying and was determined to go in a style appropriate to his oversized life. Despondent crowds milled around his house as a stream of visitors passed through. One was Talleyrand, freshly excommunicated by the Pope and telling everyone delightedly about it. “A worthy confessor,” said one wag. They talked for two hours with the elegant banter and intellectual purpose that had always formed the syntax of their peculiar friendship. “Conversation is supposed to be bad for the sick,” said Mirabeau, “but one could live very well surrounded by friends and even die agreeably.”
Talleyrand later commented, somewhat unkindly, that Mirabeau “had staged his own death.” Perhaps he recalled his friend’s remark on hearing the sound of cannon: “Have they already begun the funeral of Achilles?” But the deathbed was for the stoic neoclassicists of the late eighteenth century an exemplary art form, celebrated in David’s great canvases of the deaths of Seneca and of Socrates. Mirabeau, too, wanted to depart with his affairs in order, surrounded by friends and acolytes, having made proper farewells. He urged La Marck to remove or burn any compromising papers and, though still more indebted than endowed, settled twenty-four thousand livres on his illegitimate son by Yet-Lie, Coco.
In the room below, his secretary, Comps, possessed by a fit of romantic melancholy, knifed himself in an attempt to follow his master. Oblivious to the melodrama, propped up against great puffy bolsters with the spring sunshine pouring in from his garden courtyard, Mirabeau announced to Cabanis on the morning of April 2 that he would like a shave, since, “My friend, I will die today. When one has come to that, all one can do is be perfumed, crowned with flowers, enveloped in music and wait comfortably for the sleep from which one will never awake.”