As luck would have it, a revolution was unnecessary to place him on the throne, for the king died in 1763, and gave place to Prince Poniatowski, who was chosen king on the 6th of September, 1776, under the title of Stanislas Augustus I. He had reigned two years at the time of my visit; and I found Warsaw in a state of gaiety, for a diet was to be held and everyone wished to know how it was that Catherine had given the Poles a native king.
At dinner-time I went to the paladin's and found three tables, at each of which there were places for thirty, and this was the usual number entertained by the prince. The luxury of the Court paled before that of the paladin's house. Prince Adam said to me,
"Chevalier, your place will always be at my father's table."
This was a great honour, and I felt it. The prince introduced me to his handsome sister, and to several palatins and starosts. I did not fail to call on all these great personages, so in the course of a fortnight I found myself a welcome guest in all the best houses.
My purse was too lean to allow of my playing or consoling myself with a theatrical beauty, so I fell back on the library of Monseigneur Zalewski, the Bishop of Kiowia, for whom I had taken a great liking. I spent almost all my mornings with him, and it was from this prelate that I learnt all the intrigues and complots by which the ancient Polish constitution, of which the bishop was a great admirer, had been overturned. Unhappily, his firmness was of no avail, and a few months after I left Warsaw the Russian tyrants arrested him and he was exiled to Siberia.
I lived calmly and peaceably, and still look back upon those days with pleasure. I spent my afternoons with the paladin playing tressette an Italian game of which he was very fond, and which I played well enough for the paladin to like to have me as a partner.
In spite of my sobriety and economy I found myself in debt three months after my arrival, and I did not know where to turn for help. The fifty ducats per month, which were sent me from Venice, were insufficient, for the money I had to spend on my carriage, my lodging, my servant, and my dress brought me down to the lowest ebb, and I did not care to appeal to anyone. But fortune had a surprise in store for me, and hitherto she had never left me.
Madame Schmit, whom the king for good reasons of his own had accommodated with apartments in the palace, asked me one evening to sup with her, telling me that the king would be of the party. I accepted the invitation, and I was delighted to find the delightful Bishop Kraswiski, the Abbe Guigiotti, and two or three other amateurs of Italian literature. The king, whose knowledge of literature was extensive, began to tell anecdotes of classical writers, quoting manuscript authorities which reduced me to silence, and which were possibly invented by him. Everyone talked except myself, and as I had had no dinner I ate like an ogre, only replying by monosyllables when politeness obliged me to say something. The conversation turned on Horace, and everyone gave his opinion on the great materialist's philosophy, and the Abbe Guigiotti obliged me to speak by saying that unless I agreed with him I should not keep silence.
"If you take my silence for consent to your extravagant eulogium of Horace," I said, "you are mistaken; for in my opinion the 'nec cum venari volet poemata panges', of which you think so much, is to my mind a satire devoid of delicacy."
"Satire and delicacy are hard to combine."
"Not for Horace, who succeeded in pleasing the great Augustus, and rendering him immortal as the protector of learned men. Indeed other sovereigns seem to vie with him by taking his name and even by disguising it."
The king (who had taken the name of Augustus himself) looked grave and said,--
"What sovereigns have adopted a disguised form of the name Augustus?"
"The first king of Sweden, who called himself Gustavus, which is only an anagram of Augustus."
"That is a very amusing idea, and worth more than all the tales we have told.