Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/397

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Chapter XXI.


Charles Mathieu Isidore Decaen was born at Caen, the ancient and picturesque capital of Normandy, on April 13th, 1769. Left an orphan at the age of twelve, his education was superintended by a friend of his father, who had been a public official. At the end of his schooldays he studied law under an advocate of local celebrity, M. Lasseret. Though his juristic training was not prolonged, the discipline of the office gave a certain bent to his mind, a certain lawyer-like strictness and method to his mode of handling affairs, that remained characteristic during his military career, and was exceedingly useful to him while he governed Ile-de-France. Very often in perusing his Mémoires* the reader perceives traces of the lawyer in the language of the soldier.[1]

Thus, when during the campaign of the Rhine he found that his superior officer, General Jourdan, was taking about with him as his aide-de-camp a lady in military attire, Decaen, with a solemnity that seems a little un-French under the circumstances, condemned the breach of the regulations as conduct "which was not that of a father of a family, a legislator and a general-in-chief." As for the lady, "les charmes de

  1. The Mémoires et Journaux du Général Decaen were prepared for publication by himself, and the portion up to the commencement of his governorship has been printed, with notes and maps, by Colonel Ernest Picard, Chief of the Historical Section of the Staff of the French Army (2 volumes Paris 1910). Colonel Picard informed me that he did not intend to print the remainder, thinking that the ground was sufficiently covered by Professor Henri Prentout's admirable book ''L'Ile de France sous Decaen. I have, therefore, had the section relating to Flinders transcribed from the manuscript, and used it freely for this book.