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CHAMIER—CHAMISSO

whom he assisted with money and influence, and one at least of whose speeches—that on the Academies—he wrote.

The outbreak of the Revolution made a profound change in the relations of Chamfort’s life. Theoretically he had long been a republican, and he now threw himself into the new movement with almost fanatical ardour, devoting all his small fortune to the revolutionary propaganda. His old friends of the court he forgot. “Those who pass the river of revolutions,” he said, “have passed the river of oblivion.” Until the 31st of August 1791 he was secretary of the Jacobin club; he became a street orator and entered the Bastille among the first of the storming party. He worked for the Mercure de France, collaborated with Ginguené in the Feuille villageoise, and drew up for Talleyrand his Adresse au peuple français.

With the reign of Marat and Robespierre, however, his uncompromising Jacobinism grew critical, and with the fall of the Girondins his political life came to an end. But he could not restrain the tongue that had made him famous; he no more spared the Convention than he had spared the court. His notorious republicanism failed to excuse the sarcasms he lavished on the new order of things, and denounced by an assistant in the Bibliothèque Nationale, to a share in the direction of which he had been appointed by Roland, he was taken to the Madelonnettes. Released for a moment, he was threatened again with arrest; but he had determined to prefer death to a repetition of the moral and physical restraint to which he had been subjected. He attempted suicide with pistol and with poniard; and, horribly hacked and shattered, dictated to those who came to arrest him the well-known declaration—”Moi, Sebastien-Roch-Nicolas Chamfort, déclare avoir voulu mourir en homme libre plutôt que d’être reconduit en esclave dans une maison d’arrêt”—which he signed in a firm hand and in his own blood. He did not die at once, but lingered on until the 13th of April 1794 in charge of a gendarme, for whose wardship he paid a crown a day. To the Abbé Sieyès Chamfort had given fortune in the title of a pamphlet (“Qu’est-ce que le Tiers-État? Tout. Qu’a-t-il? Rien”), and to Sieyès did Chamfort retail his supreme sarcasm, the famous “Je m'en vais enfin de ce monde où il faut que le cœur se brise ou se bronze.” The maker of constitutions followed the dead wit to the grave.

The writings of Chamfort, which include comedies, political articles, literary criticisms, portraits, letters, and verses, are colourless and uninteresting in the extreme. As a talker, however, he was of extraordinary force. His Maximes et Pensées, highly praised by John Stuart Mill, are, after those of La Rochefoucauld, the most brilliant and suggestive sayings that have been given to the modern world. The aphorisms of Chamfort, less systematic and psychologically less important than those of La Rochefoucauld, are as significant in their violence and iconoclastic spirit of the period of storm and preparation that gave them birth as the Réflexions in their exquisite restraint and elaborate subtlety are characteristic of the tranquil elegance of their epoch; and they have the advantage in richness of colour, in picturesqueness of phrase, in passion, in audacity. Sainte-Beuve compares them to “well-minted coins that retain their value,” and to keen arrows that “arrivent brusquement et sifflent encore.

An edition of his works—Œuvres complètes de Nicolas Chamfort—Was published at Paris in five volumes in 1824–1825. Selections—Œuvres de Chamfort—in one volume, appeared in 1852, with a biographical and critical preface by Arsène Houssaye, reprinted from the Revue des deux mondes; and Œuvres choisies (2 vols.), with a preface and notes by M. de Lescure (1879). See also Sainte-Beuve, Causeries du Lundi.


CHAMIER, FREDERICK (1796–1870), English novelist, was the son of an Anglo-Indian official. In 1809 he entered the navy, and was in active service until 1827. He retired in 1833, and was promoted to be captain in 1856. On his retirement he settled near Waltham Abbey, and wrote several nautical novels on the lines popularized by Marryat, that had considerable success. These were The Life of a Sailor (1832), Ben Brace (1836), The Arethusa (1837), Jack Adams (1838), Tom Bowling (1841) and Jack Malcolm’s Log (1846). He wrote a number of other books, and edited and brought down to 1827 James’s Naval History (1837).


CHAMILLART MICHEL (1652–1721), French statesman, minister of Louis XIV., was born at Paris of a family of the noblesse of recent elevation. Following the usual career of a statesman of his time he became in turn councillor of the parlement of Paris (1676), master of requests (1686), and intendant of the generality of Rouen (January 1689). Affable, of polished manners, modest and honest, Chamillart won the confidence of Madame de Maintenon and pleased the king. In 1690 he was made intendant of finances, and on the 5th of September 1699 the king appointed him controller-general of finances, to which he added on the following 7th of January the ministry of war. From the first Chamillart’s position was a difficult one. The deficit amounted to more than 53 million livres, and the credit of the state was almost exhausted. He lacked the great intelligence and energy necessary for the situation, and was unable to moderate the king’s warlike tastes, or to inaugurate economic reforms. He could only employ the usual expedients of the time—the immoderate sale of offices, the debasement of the coinage (five times in six years), reduction of the rate of interest on state debts, and increased taxation. He attempted to force into circulation a kind of paper money, billets de monnaie, but with disastrous results owing to the state of credit. He studied Vauban’s project for the royal tithe and Boisguillebert’s proposition for the taille, but did not adopt them. In October 1706 he showed the king that the debts immediately due amounted to 288 millions, and that the deficit already foreseen for 1707 was 160 millions. In October 1707 he saw with consternation that the revenue for 1708 was already entirely eaten up by anticipation, so that neither money nor credit remained for 1708. In these conditions Chamillart, who had often complained of the overwhelming burden he was carrying, and who had already wished to retire in 1706, resigned his office of controller-general. Public opinion attributed to him the ruin of the country, though he had tried in 1700 to improve the condition of commerce by the creation of a council of commerce. As secretary of state for war he had to place in the field the army for the War of the Spanish Succession, and to reorganize it three times, after the great defeats of 1704, 1706 and 1708. With an empty treasury he succeeded only in part, and he frankly warned the king that the enemy would soon be able to dictate the terms of peace. He was reproached with having secured the command of the army which besieged Turin (1706) for his son-in-law, the incapable duc de la Feuillade. Madame de Maintenon even became hostile to him, and he abandoned his position on the 10th of June 1709, retiring to his estates. He died on the 14th of April 1721.

Chamillart’s papers have been published by G. Esnault, Michel Chamillart, contrôleur général et secrétaire d’état de la guerre, correspondance et papiers inédits (2 vols., Paris, 1885); and by A. de Boislisle in vol. 2 of his Correspondance des contrôleurs généraux (1883). See D’Auvigny, Vies des hommes illustres (1739), tome vi. pp. 288-402; E. Moret, Quinze années du règne de Louis XIV (Paris, 1851); and the new edition of the Mémoires de St-Simon, by A. de Boislisle.


CHAMINADE, CÉCILE (1861–  ), French musical composer, was born at Paris on the 8th of August 1861. She studied in Paris, her musical talent being shown at the age of eight by the writing of some church music which attracted Bizet’s attention; and at eighteen she came out in public as a pianist. Her own compositions, both songs (in large numbers) and instrumental pieces, were soon produced in profusion: melodious and interesting, and often charming, they became very popular, without being entitled to rank with the greater style of music. Both in Paris and in England Mlle Chaminade and her works became well known at the principal concerts. In 1908 she visited America and was warmly welcomed.


CHAMISSO, ADELBERT VON [Louis Charles Adelaide de] (1781–1838), German poet and botanist, was born at the château of Boncourt in Champagne, France, the ancestral seat of his family, on the 30th of January 1781. Driven from France by the Revolution, his parents settled in Berlin, where in 1796 young Chamisso obtained the post of page-in-waiting to the queen, and in 1798 entered a Prussian infantry regiment as ensign.