THE LIBERAL (1860-1869)
HAM. Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me. You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass; and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak.
Hamlet, III, ii
FROM the dahabieh on which she voyaged up the Nile in November 1869 Eugenic wrote long letters home. 'My dearest Louis (says one), I am writing on my way up the Nile . . . I get news of you and Louis (the Prince Imperial) every day by telegraph. It is a wonderful happiness for me to be in touch with a friendly shore by this thread which binds me to all I love . . . I was worried all yesterday by knowing that you were in Paris without me; but I see from your message that all went off well. I think that there is no reason for discouragement. Of course I am too far away and too ignorant of the business to speak so; but I am deeply convinced that a consistent policy is the only real strength. I have no fondness for impulsive acts (à-coups), and I am convinced that one cannot have two coups d'état in one reign . . . One must keep one's mental character in repair (refaire un moral) as one does an enfeebled constitution: a fixed idea ends by impoverishing the best organized brain. I have experienced this myself; and I would wish to put out of my memory everything in my life which has tarnished the bright colours of my illusions. My life is over, but I can live again in my son, and I think the truest joys are those which come through his heart into my own. . . .'
All the tragedy of Eugénie's disappointed hopes is in this letter, and more than one would have expected, perhaps, of the strength which she supplied, during the last years of the Empire, to Louis' enfeebled body and will. She has come to put his idée constante on a par with her own illusions. The Bonapartist plan of coups d'état, the reliance upon inspired à-coups, has proved a failure. The only safe course is la suite dans les idées, that is, the gradual introduction of liberal and constitutional changes which will preserve the Empire for their son.1