Autobiography of Madam Guyon


WE WENT INTO THE COUNTRY where I committed many faults. I thought I might do it then because my husband diverted himself with building. If I stayed from him he was dissatisfied. That sometimes happened as he was continually talking with the workmen. I set myself in a corner, and there had my work with me, but could scarcely do anything by reason of the force of the attraction which made the work fall out of my hands. I passed whole hours this way, without being able either to open my eyes or know what passed; but I had nothing to wish for, nor yet to be afraid of. Everywhere I found my proper center, because everywhere I found God.

My heart could then desire nothing but what it had. This disposition extinguished all its desires; and I sometimes said to myself, "What wantest thou? What fearest thou?" I was surprised to find upon trial that I had nothing to fear. Every place I was in was my proper place.

As I had generally no time allowed me for prayer but with difficulty, and would not be suffered to rise till seven o'clock, I stole up at four, and kneeling in my bed, I wished not to offend my husband and strove to be punctual and assiduous in everything. But this soon affected my health and injured my eyes, which were still weak. It was but eight months since I had the smallpox. This loss of rest brought a heavy trial upon me. Even my sleeping hours were much broken, by the fear of not waking in time. I insensibly dropped asleep at my prayers. In the half hour that I got after dinner, though I felt quite wakeful, the drowsiness overpowered me. I endeavored to remedy this by the severest bodily inflictions, but in vain.

As we had not yet built the chapel, and were far from any church, I could not go to prayers or sacrament without the permission of my husband. He was very reluctant to permit me, except on Sundays and holidays. I could not go out in the coach, so that I was obliged to make use of some stratagems, and to get service performed very early in the morning, to which, feeble as I was, I made an effort to creep on foot. It was a quarter of a league distant. Really God wrought wonders for me. Generally, in the mornings when I went to prayers, my husband did not awake until after I was returned. Often, as I was going out, the weather was so cloudy, that the girl I took with me told me that I could not go; or if I did, I should be soaked with the rain. I answered her with my usual confidence, "God will assist us." I generally reached the chapel without being wet. While there the rain fell excessively. When I returned it ceased. When I got home it began again with fresh violence. During several years that I have acted this way, I have never been deceived in my confidence. When I was in town, and could find nobody, I was surprized that there came to me priests to ask me if I was willing to receive the communion, and that if I was they would give it to me. I had no mind to refuse the opportunity which Thou thyself offered me; for I had no doubt of its being Thee who inspired them to propose it. Before I had contrived to get divine service at the chapel I have mentioned, I have often suddenly awoke with a strong impulse to go to prayers. My maid would say, "But, madam, you are going to tire yourself in vain. There will be no service." For that chapel was not yet regularly served. I went full of faith and at my arrival have found them just ready to begin. If I could particularly enumerate the remarkable providences which were hereupon given in my favor there would be enough to fill whole volumes.

When I wanted to hear from, or write to Mother Granger, I often felt a strong propensity to go to the door, there to find a messenger with a letter from her. This is only a small instance of these kind of continual providences. She was the only person I could be free to open my heart to, when I could get to see her, which was with the greatest difficulty. It was through providential assistance; because prohibited by my confessor and husband. I placed an extreme confidence in Mother Granger. I concealed nothing from her either of sins or pains. I did not now practice any austerities but those she was willing to allow me. My interior dispositions I was scarcely able to tell because I knew not how to explain myself, being very ignorant of those matters, having never read or heard of them.

One day when they thought I was going to see my father, I ran off to Mother Granger. It was discovered, and cost me crosses. Their rage against me was so excessive, that it would seem incredible. Even my writing to her was extremely difficult. I had the utmost abhorrence of a lie, so I forbade the footman to tell any. When they were met they were asked whither they were going, and if they had any letters. My mother-in-law set herself in a little passage, through which those who went out must necessarily pass. She asked them whither they were going and what they carried. Sometimes going on foot to the Benedictines, I caused shoes to be carried, that they might not perceive by the dirty ones that I had been far. I dared not go alone; those who attended me had orders to tell of every place I went. If they were discovered to fail, they were either corrected or discharged.

My husband and mother-in-law were always inveighing against that good woman, though in reality they esteemed her. I sometimes made my own complaint and she replied, "How should you content them, when I have been doing all in my power for twenty years to satisfy them without success?" For as my mother-in-law had two daughters under her care, she was always finding something to say against everything she did in regard to them.

But the most sensible cross to me now was the revolting of my own son against me. They inspired him with so great a contempt for me, that I could not bear to see him without extreme affliction. When I was in my room with some of my friends, they sent him to listen to what we said. As he saw this pleased them, he invented a hundred things to tell them. If I caught him in a lie, as I frequently did, he would upbraid me, saying, "My grandmother says you have been a greater liar than I." I answered, "Therefore I know the deformity of that vice, and how hard a thing it is to get the better of it; and for this reason, I would not have you suffer the like." He spoke to me things very offensive. Because he saw the awe I stood in of his grandmother and his father, if in their absence I found fault with him for anything, he insultingly upbraided me. He said that now I wanted to be set up over him because they were not there. All this they approved of. One day he went to see my father and rashly began talking against me to him, as he was used to doing to his grandmother. But there it did not meet with the same recompense. It affected my father to tears. Father came to our house to desire he might be corrected for it. They promised it should be done, and yet they never did it. I was grievously afraid of the consequences of so bad an education. I told Mother Granger of it, who said that since I could not remedy it, I must suffer and leave everything to God. This child would be my cross.

Another great cross was the difficulty I had in attending my husband. I knew he was displeased when I was not with him; yet when I was with him, he never expressed any pleasure. On the contrary, he only rejected with scorn whatever office I performed. He was so difficult with me about everything, that I sometimes trembled when I approached him. I could do nothing to his liking; and when I did not attend him he was angry. He had taken such a dislike to soups, that he could not bear the sight of them. Those that offered them had a rough reception. Neither his mother nor any of the domestics would carry them to him. There was none but I who did not refuse that office. I brought them and let his anger pass; then I tried in some agreeable manner to prevail on him to take them. I said to him, "I had rather be reprimanded several times a day, than let you suffer by not bringing you what is proper." Sometimes he took; at other times he pushed them back.

When he was in a good humor and I was carrying something agreeable to him, then my mother-in-law would snatch it out of my hands. She would carry it herself. As he thought I was not so careful and studious to please him he would fly in a rage against me and express great thankfulness to his mother. I used all my skill and endeavors to gain my mother-in-law's favor by my presents, my services; but could not succeed.

"How bitter and grievous, O my God, would such a life be were it not for Thee! Thou hast sweetened and reconciled it to me." I had a few short intervals from this severe and mortifying life. These served only to make the reverses more keen and bitter.