Item of the Day: The Green Box (1779)
Full Title: The Green Box of Monsieur de Sartine, found at Mademoiselle du The’s Lodgings. From the French of the Hague Edition. Revised and corrected by those of Leipsic and Amsterdam. London: Sold by a. Becket and R. Faulder, 1779.
[The English edition of Tickell’s La Cassette Verte, a political satire on the American Revolution and the Franco-American alliance.]
Ministers in all countries are very cautious, and very careless—In France as well as England, they lock up letters and state papers in Green boxes, but sometimes these boxes are not well taken care of—It was to this caution, and this carelessness, that I am indebted for the discovery of Monsieur De Sartine’s politics. For, about six weeks since, a brother Jacobin and myself, in our morning rounds, called at Mademoiselle Du The’s. Madamoiselle’s [sic] femme de chamber, a little arch brunette, whose eyes seemed to require absolution, having opened the door, engaged the attention of my companion; so that without any enquiries from the maid, I slipped up stairs, to be of equal service to the mistress. The toilet door being open, I walked in, in hopes of finding her there, but I soon saw my mistake; for upon one of the sophas [sic] I discovered a chapeau de bras and sword; which exciting my curiosity, I examined the room more closely, and, behind the veil of the glass, to my great delight, I perceived a Green box. In short, Monsieur De Sartine, who had come late from his Majesty, was at that moment in Madamoiselle [sic] Du The’s arms, while his Green box was in mine, and I leave you to think which of the two was the best pleased. I immediately snatched up this treasure of secrecy, and, hiding it under my gown, without disturbing my brother, who was occupied in devotion, I hastened home to study politics. I own, at first I had some scruples about opening the box, but I reflected how much it was the duty of my profession to discover all secrets; and I argued, that if it was profane even in kings to conceal their thoughts from their confessors, a minister who locked up his secrets must be an enemy to religion, and, if not himself, certainly his Green box should be put to the question. –But why reveal these secrets? It’s fair to discover, but not to disclose them. –To this I answer, that the papers themselves must be my defence [sic]—Possibly, some critics may at first be inclined to compare Sartine’s box to Pandora’s, and the editor to a second Epimetheus; but they will soon do me the justice to make some distinction between us. It was not till after he had opened his box that war and discord broke forth; but all the mischief was done in France, long before I opened M. Sartine’s. The fable says, Hope alone rested at the bottom: an allegory, very flattering to the Editor of the Green box.—In short, if these papers shew how little reason we have to depend on the French ministry, or the English opposition, I shall trust to the judgment of every friend of France to approve or condemn this publication.—O you, my countrymen, whom I love, and who ought to love me for flying my country for your sake,* will you not at last think and act like Frenchmen in true spirit?
*As soon as the Editor had determined to publish these papers, he thought it adviseable [sic] to retire to Holland.—The Bastille has never been a friend to the Liberty of the Press.