The Secret of Kings: A Monograph

The second reference to this stay in England may be found in Read’s Weekly Journal or British Gazetteer, May 17th, 1760, and is as follows:

“The author of the Brussels’ Gazette tells us that the person who styles himself Comte de St. Germain, who lately arrived here from Holland,

[p. 35]

was born in Italy in 1712. He speaks German and French as fluently as Italian, and expresses himself pretty well in English. He has a smattering of all the arts and sciences, is a good chemist, a virtuoso in musick, and a very agreeable companion. In 1746 [1745 according to Walpole], he was on the point of being ruined in England. One who was jealous of him with a lady, slipt a letter into his pocket as from the young Pretender (thanking him for his services and desiring him to continue them), and immediately had him taken up by a messenger. His innocence being fully proved on his examination, he was discharged out of the custody of the messenger and asked to dinner by Lord H. [Probably William Stanhope, Earl of Harrington, who was Secretary of the Treasury and Treasurer of the Chamber at this date; he died 1760.] Those who know him will be sorry (says M. Maubert) to hear that he has incurred the Christian king’s displeasure.”

This last paragraph alludes to what occurred at a later period.

After this date, 1745, it seems that M. de St. Germain went to Vienna, and spent some time, in that city, [*1] and in 1755 went to India, for

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the second time, as we gather from a letter of his written to the Graf von Lamberg, to which we shall refer again later on.

“I am indebted,” he writes, “for my knowledge of melting jewels to my second journey to India, in the year 1755, with General Clive, who was I under Vice Admiral Watson. On my first journey I had only a very faint idea of the wonderful secret of which we are speaking; all the attempts that I made in Vienna, Paris and London, are worthless as experiments; the great work was interrupted at the time I have mentioned.”

Every writer, adverse or favourable, mentions and lays stress on the wonderful power of improving precious stones that was possessed by M. de St. Germain. Indeed almost every sort of art seems to have been more or less known to him, judging by the many testimonies that we have on these points.

Our next date, 1757, brings us to the period which is best known to the public. M. de St. Germain was introduced at Paris by the then Minister of War, Marechal and Comte de Belle-Isle;

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but as we have seen from the records already cited, neither M. de St. Germain nor his family were unknown to Louis XV. Hence we do not wonder at the cordial and gracious reception with which he met, nor can we be astonished that the king assigned him a suite of rooms at his royal Chateau of Chambord. Here there was a laboratory fitted up for experiments, and a group of students gathered round our mystic. Among these we find the Baron de Gleichen, and Marquise d’Urfe and also the Princess of Anhalt-Zerbst, mother of Catherine II. of Russia. Madame de Genlis, [*1] speaking of him at this period, says:–

“He was well acquainted with physics, and was a very great chemist. My father, who was well qualified to judge, was a great admirer of his abilities in this way. . . . He had discovered a secret respecting colours which was really wonderful, and which gave an extraordinary effect to his pictures. . . . M. de St. Germain never would consent to give up his secret.” Madame du Hausset relates in her memoirs an interesting instance of his knowledge of precious stones.

“The King,” says she, “ordered a middling-sized diamond which had a flaw in it, to be

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brought to him. After having it weighed, his Majesty said to the Comte: ‘The value of this diamond as it is, and with the flaw in it, is six thousand livres; without the flaw it would be worth at least ten thousand. Will you undertake to make me a gainer of four thousand livres?’ St. Germain examined it very attentively, and said, ‘It is possible; it may be done. I will bring it to you again in a month.’

“At the time appointed the Comte de St. Germain brought back the diamond without a spot, and gave it to the King. It was wrapped in a cloth of amianthos, which he took off. The king had it weighed immediately, and found it very little diminished. His Majesty then sent it to his jeweller by M. de Gontaut, without telling him of anything that had passed. The jeweller gave him nine thousand six hundred livres for it. The King, however, sent for the diamond back again, and said he would keep it as a curiosity. He could not overcome his surprise, and said M. de St. Germain must be worth millions, especially if he possessed the secret of making large diamonds out of small ones. The Comte neither said that he could or could not, but positively asserted that he knew how to make pearls grow, and give them the finest water. The King paid him great attention, and so did Madame de Pompadour. M. du Quesnoy

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once said that St. Germain was a quack, but the King reprimanded him. In fact, his Majesty appears infatuated with him, and sometimes talks of him as if his descent were illustrious.”

One fact in this Parisian period must not be omitted; it appears from statements made by Madame du Hausset, [*1] Herr von Barthold and the Baron de Gleichen, that a young Englishman, at that time resident in Paris, Lord Gower by name, used to amuse himself and other idle people by passing himself off as M. de St. Germain, so that most of the silly and foolish tales about him, which ran riot in the gossiping “salons” of the period, originated in the sayings of this idle young fellow. Various details of his doings are to be found, but they are not worth further notice, beyond the fact that M. de St. Germain had to bear the blame for utterances which did not originate with him. Says Heer van Sypesteyn: [*2] “Many of the wild stories had probably nothing to do with M. de St. Germain and were invented with the object of injuring him and making him ridiculous. A certain Parisian wag, known as ‘Milord Gower,’ was a splendid mimic, and went into Paris salons to

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play the part of St. Germain–naturally it was very exaggerated, but very many people were taken in by this make-believe St. Germain.

Meanwhile our philosopher worked on with those whom he was able to help and teach in various ways. In 1760 we find him sent by Louis XV. to the Hague on a political mission: the circumstances are variously told by different writers. In April, 1760, we find M. de St. Germain passing through East Friesland to England. [*1] Next, in The London Chronicle of June 3rd, 1760, we have a long account of a “mysterious foreigner,” who had just arrived on England’s shores. It is also said by one writer that he was well received at Court, and many papers of the period mention him as a “person of note” to whom marked attention was paid. [*2] [p. 41]

In the British Museum there are pieces of music composed by the Comte de St. Germain on both his visits, for they are dated 1745 and 1760. It was said everywhere, by enemies as well as by friends, that he was a splendid violinist; he “played like an orchestra.”

There is one most interesting souvenir of M. de St. Germain, which we have had the good fortune to see. It is preserved in the library of the grand old castle of Raudnitz in Bohemia, the property of Prince Ferdinand von Lobkowitz.

Amongst the MSS. wad other treasures of that rare collection we found a book of music composed by M. de St. Germain, from which, by the gracious permission of the present Prince, we have had traced the inscription and autograph. It runs thus:–

“Pour le Prince de Lobkowitz, Musique Raisonee, selon le bon sens, aux Dames Angloises qui aiment le vrai gout en cet art.

“Par . . . de St. Germain.”

The first letter, or letters, of the signature are quite undecipherable, although they have been most carefully traced for us by the librarian at Raudnitz.

We next have to pass on to St. Petersburg where, according to the words of the Graf Gregor Orloff to the Margrave of Brandenburg-Anspach,

[p. 42] [paragraph continues] M. de St. Germain had “played a great part in their revolution.” [*1]

He is mentioned as having been in St. Petersburg by another writer, or rather in an anonymous book, the translation of the title of which runs:

“A few Words about the First Helpers of Catherine II.” (xviii. Bk. 3, p. 343, 1869).

The writer has other details in her possession, but as they are at present unverified and come rather as fragments, it is better to wait for more accurate information, which she hopes to procure. Various hints, however, lead us to suppose that M. de St. Germain passed some time in Russia. As we have noticed already the Princess of Anhalt-Zerbst, the mother of Catherine II., was very friendly to him; indeed he passed much time at her house in Paris.

In 1763, however, we get a deeply interesting account of our philosopher in the shape of a letter from the Graf Karl Cobenzl to the Prince Kaunitz, the Prime Minister. The details it gives are so interesting that it is better to quote it in full:–

“BRUSSELS, April 8th, 1763.


“It was about three months ago that the

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person known by the name of the Comte de St. Germain passed this way, and came to see me. I found him the most singular man that I ever saw in my life. I do not yet precisely know his birth; I believe, however, that he is the son of a clandestine union in a powerful and illustrious family. Possessing great wealth, he lives in the greatest simplicity; he knows everything, and shows an uprightness, a goodness of soul, worthy of admiration. Among a number of his accomplishments, he made, under my own eyes, some experiments, of which the most important were the transmutation of iron into a metal as beautiful as gold, and at least as good for all goldsmith’s work; the dyeing and preparation of skins, carried to a perfection which surpassed all the moroccos in the world, and the most perfect tanning; the dyeing of silks, carried to a perfection hitherto unknown; the like dyeing of woollens; the dyeing of wood in the most brilliant colours penetrating through and through, and the whole without either indigo or cochineal, with the commonest ingredients, and consequently at a very moderate price; the composition of colours for painting, ultra-marine is as perfect as is made from lapis lazuli; and finally, removing the smell from painting oils, and making the best oil of Provence from the oils of Navette, of Colsat, and from others, even

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the worst. I have in my hands all these productions, made under my own eyes; I have had them undergo the most strict examinations, and seeing in these articles a profit which might mount up to millions, I have endeavoured to take advantage of the friendship that this man has felt for me, and to learn from him all these secrets. He has given them to me, and he asks nothing for himself beyond a payment proportionate to the profits that may accrue from them, it being understood that this shall be only when the profit has been made. As the marvellous must inevitably seem uncertain, I have avoided the two points which appeared to me to be feared, the first, the being a dupe, and the second, the involving myself in too great an expenditure. To avoid the first, I took a trusty person, under whose eyes I had the experiments made, and I was fully convinced of the reality and the cheapness of these productions. And as to the second, I referred M. de Zurmont (which is the name that St. Germain has taken) to a good and trustworthy merchant at Tournay, with whom he is working, and I have had advances made which mount up to very little, through Nettine, whose son, and the son-in-law of Walckiers, are the persons who will carry on these manufactures, when the profits of the first experiments place us in a position to establish

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them, without risking anything of our own. The moment for deriving the profit is already close at hand”. [*1]

From another source, also, we hear of de St. Germain at Tournay, namely, from the memoirs of Casanova.

“Casanova on the road to Tournay was informed of the presence of M. le Comte de St. Germain, and desired to be presented to him. Being told that the Comte received no one, he wrote him to request an interview, which was granted under the restriction of coming incognito, and not being invited to partake of food with him. Casanova found the Comte in the dress of an Armenian with a long beard.”

In this interview, M. de St. Germain informed Casanova that he was arranging a Fabrique for the Graf Cobenzl [*2].

From 1763, the date at which we have now arrived, up to 1769, we only get the details of one year in Berlin, and this account comes from the memoirs of M. Dieudonne Thiebault, who gives the following interesting sketch:

“There came to Berlin and remained in that city for the space of a year a remarkable man, who passed by the name of the Comte de St.

[p. 46] [paragraph continues] Germain. The Abbe Pernety was not slow in recognising in him the characteristics which go to make up an adept, and came to us with wonderful stories.”

The author then goes on to relate that the Princess Amelie went to call on him, and he also remarks that the old Baron Knyhausen was always addressed by M. de St. Germain as “my son.” Says our author:–

“Madame de Troussel was also anxious to see him. The Abbe Pernety arranged the matter for her, and the Comte came to her house one evening to supper. They chanced to make mention of the ‘Philosopher’s Stone,’ and the Comte curtly observed that most people who were in pursuit of that were astonishingly illogical, inasmuch as they employed no agent but fire, forgetting that fire breaks up and decomposes, and that consequently it was mere folly to depend upon it for the building up of a new composition. He dwelt much upon this, and finally led the conversation back to more general topics. In appearance M. de St. Germain was refined and intellectual. He was clearly of gentle birth, and had moved in good society; and it was reported that the famous Cagliostro (so well known for his mystification of Cardinal Rohan and others at Paris) had been his pupil. The pupil, however, never reached the level of his

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Methinks I am a conspiracy theorist. Art thou? Thou block, thou stone, thou worse than senseless thing, for whilst thou slept didst this become a badge of honor. Informed dissent shall always prevail, wherefore art thou worthy, or art thou this unwholesome fool in the group conformity experiment herein?

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