Portraits Of The Seventeenth Century Historic And Literary  

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{{Template}} Portraits Of The Seventeenth Century Historic And Literary[1] is an English language collection of writings by French critic Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, translated by Katherine Prescott Wormeley and George Burnham Ives. The original French essays were published in Causeries du Lundi, the Portraits de Femmes, and the Portraits Littéraires.

Excerpt:

The best definition is example: as soon as France possessed its Louis the Fourteenth century, and could consider it from a little distance, she knew what a classic was, better than any statements could tell her. The eighteenth century added to this idea by noble works due to its four great men. Read the "Age of Louis XIV" by Voltaire, the "Grandeur and Decadence of the Romans" by Montesquieu, the " Epochs of Nature " by Buffon, the "Savoyard Vicar," and certain fine pages of revery and description of nature by Jean-Jacques, and say if the eighteenth century did not, in those memorable works, combine tradition with freedom of development and independence.

Full text of one volume[2]

Tlranslator's flote« 

In the following volumes — ^taken from the Causeries du Lundi, the Portraits de Femmes, and the Portraits Littéraires, — ^some passages have been omitted ; these relate chiefly to editions that have long since passed away, or to discussions on style that cannot be made clear in English. Also, where two or more essays on the same person have appeared in the different series, they are here put together, omitting repetitions.


Contents

CMAmn

I. — Cardinal de Richelieu (i 585-1642) . . i

His Letters and State-papers.

II. — Henri, Due de Rohan (i 579-1638) . . 45

The Protestant Leader.

III. — Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661) . . 99

And his Nieces.

IV. — pRANgois, Due DE La Rochefoucauld

(1613-1680) 127

Author of the Maxims.

V. — Anne-Genevi^ve de Bourbon (1619-1679) 157

Duchesse de Longueville.

VI.— Cardinal de Retz (1614-1679) . . 195

Instigator of the Fronde.

VII. — Mademoiselle de l'Enclos (1616-1706) . 243

(Ninon de PEndos.)

VIII. — ^Tallemant des R£aux and Bussy-Rabutin

(I6I9-I693) (I6I8-I692), . . 269

The Bourgeois Scandal-monger, and the Scan- dal-monger of Quality.


vi Contents

CHATTR PAGB

IX. — ^The Abb6 de Ranc£ (1627-1700) . 291

Rcfonner of La Trappe.

X. — ^Anne- Genevieve de Bourbon (1627- 1693) 3n

  • ' La Grande Mademoiselle."

XI. — Marie -Madeleine de La Vergne (16^-

1693) 349

Comtesse de La Fayette.

XII.— Henrietta Anne of England (1644-1669) 387

" Madame/' Duchesse d'Orl^ans.

XIII. — Louis XIV (1643-17 1 5) .... 409

His Memoirs by Himself.

XIV. — ^Louise de la Beaume Le Blanc( 1644-17 10) 435

Duchesse de La VaUi^re.


IllustrattotiB

PAGE

Henri, Due de Rohan . . FromHspuu

From a steel engraving.

Cardinal de Richelieu .... 4 Cardinal Ma:(arin . . . .102

From an old engraving.

Marie Mancini, Princesse Colonna . 116

From a steel engraving.

Hortense de Mancini, Duchesse de Ma:(arin 120

From an engraving from her portrait by Sir Peter Ldy.

Franfois, Due de La Rochefoucauld . 130

From a steel engraving.

Anne-Genemdve de Bourbon, Duchesse de Longueville . .160

Anne de Gon^ague, Princesse Palatine . 1 70

From a steel engraving.

Cardinal de Ret:( . . .198


viii fllnatratioits

PAGB

Mademoiselle de VEnclos . . .246

From a steel engraving.

Comte de Bussy-Rabutin . . .272

From a steel engraving of the period.

Armand'Jean le Bouthillier de Ranee . 294

From a steel engraving.

Duchesse de Montba:(on . . .298

From a steel engraving.

La Grande Mademoiselle . . . 320

From a sted engraving.

Marie Madeleine de La ^ergne. Com- tesse de La Fayette . . .352

Henrietta Anne of England. Madame, Duchesse d' Orleans . . 390

From a steel engraving.

Louis Xiy in 1661 .412

From an illustration, based on an old print, in Philippson's Das Zeitalier Ludwigs Xl^.

Louise de La Baume Le Blanc, Duchesse

de La Vallihre . . . .438

From a steel engraving.


I.

(CarMnal be mcbelietu Ibis Xetta» axUb State papers*


CarMnal fie VtcbeUetu Dto Xettet0 and State Dapcta*

THE fiite of Cardinal de Richelieu as a man whose pen or whose dictation produced important works is singular. As such he was long ig- nored or depreciated. When his "Testament Pol- itique " appeared in 1687, men of judgment recognised the stamp of the master:

"Open hb Political Testament," says La Brayere, "digest that work: it b the picture of hk mind; his whole soul is there developed; there we discover the seaet of his conduct and of his actions; there we find the source and the fore-shadowing of the many and great events which appeared under his administration; there we see without difficulty that a man who thought with such virility and accuracy must have acted safely and with success, and that he who achieved such great things either never wrote, or must have written as he has done."

In spite of such testimony, well justified on the reading, Voltaire persisted in regarding that same "Testament Politique" as nothing more than a col- lection of futilities or commonplaces. The learned Foncemagne, who applies himself to refute Voltaire with all sorts of good and demonstrative reasons, has

3


4 Cardinal be VicbeUetu

not forgotten that of brilliancy of style and literary tal- ent, tilings so essential in France! Voltaire continued to triumph apparently, or at least to cast trouble into the minds of even the least ordinary readers. Far from considering this memorable treatise and the maxims of State which it contains as emanations of the aus- tere and serious mind and meditative genius of the cardinal, those who attributed such qualities to him regarded the work as a derogation, and the great Frederick, so fitted to appreciate him, wrote, out of complaisance to Voltaire:

" The wisest minds may meet edipse: Rich^u made his Testament, And Newton his Apocalypse.

As for the other works, political and historical, of Richelieu, their fiite was more singular still. In 1730, appeared, under the odd title of "History of the Mother and the Son," meaning Marie de Medicis and Louis XIII, a fragment of history beginning at the death of Henri IV, which was attributed to the his- torian Mdzeray, simply because the manuscript was found after his (Mdzeray's) death among his papers. But as in more than one part of the narrative Cardinal de Richelieu spoke in his own name and in his own per- son, critics took upon themselves to suppose that M6ze- ray in his youth, out of gratitude for the cardinal's benefits, chose, in this work, to assume his personality and mask himself under Richelieu's name; and they thought to explain by this disguise the various in-



CARDINAL DE RICHELIEU.


CacMnal be Vfcbelfeiu 5

amgruides of the work. Though the style, at first sight, is more pompous and flowery than that which M6zeray usually employed, which at times has a tone of the/fioiutoifrand the republican, there was no cause for wonder, they said, because the author for once had disguised himself as a courtier and wished to be feith- ful to the spirit of his part. A few good judges were not taken in by such poor reasoning; they recognised the hand of Richelieu himself in more than one pas- sage. Nevertheless, the question was not wholly cleared up till 1823, when M. Petitot obtained per- mission to publish the cardinal's own Memoirs which had long lain buried in the archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and now form no less than ten vol- umes of the Petitot Collection.

All was then made plain: Richelieu's thoughts, of which mere fragments had hitherto appeared, now came together, his words assumed their true tone and all their authority: his style was recognised; for he had a style, such a man could not fail to have one. It was seen that in addition to the glory of doing great things he had conceived the ambition to write of them in detail and extensively, and to compose, not so much his Memoirs properiy so-called, as a body of history and of annals: "I own,'* he said, speaking of this work of selection and dictation on which, amid so many other imperative duties, he had spent his vigils, '*! own that although there is more satisfaction in furnishing the matter for history than in giving history


6 CarMnal fie IRfcbelfeiu

its form, there is no little pleasure to me in represent- ing tliat which was done with so much trouble."

While he was tasting the "sweetness of that toil " his illness and the weakness of his constitution, even more than the pressure of affairs, forced him to inter- rupt his work; it was then that he wrote the " Suc- cinct Narrative" which forms the first chapter, or rather the introduction to the " Political Testament" This narrative is, as he says himself, a "shortened picture," a fine and noble abridged discourse, in which he relates to the king all the great actions of the king, from the time of his (Richelieu's) second en- trance to the ministry in 1624 until 1641. In thus at- tributing everything to his master and affecting to efface himself he does not fear that posterity will be misled and &il to recognise the man who was the principal instrument of great designs so gloriously executed.

Therefore, whoever desires to-day to know and have in hand all the political and historical writings of Riche- lieu (1 am not speaking of his controversial writings as bishop and theologian in his diocese), it is necessary to have: ist his "Political Testament," preceded by the " Succinct Narrative." and, his Memoirs printed in the Petitot Collection, and later in that of MM. Michaud and Poujoulat; and, 3rd, the collection of his Letters and State-papers, the first volume of which wiU appear, by the efforts of M. Avenel, in a few weeks, to be foUowed by four other volumes in quarto.


CarMnal De Kfcbelieiu 7

Richelieu usually wrote little with his own hand; he dictated; but in this sort of transmission he never allowed a secretary to write as he pleased. His secretaries, among whom one named Charpentier held first rank, were no more than copyists and tran- scribers. Never was any thing written in his name if he were absent He did not sign what were called " office-letters."

'* Richelieu/' says M. Avenel, '* had, near his person day and night, several private secretaries, but he had no bunaux [departments]. The secretaries of State, wh& were no more than head-derlcs, came to take his orders and executed, each in his own office, the work agreed upon, submitted it, when necessary, to the prime-minister, but signed it themselves. Richelieu signed only what was written in his own cabinet."

Many of his letters are dated in the night; he rose when an idea seized him and called a night secretary, who wrote it instantly.

Not only did Richelieu never sign a letter he had neither written nor dictated, but this prime-minister, whose spirit chose to be everywhere present, often dictated letters, instructions and dispatches that he did not sign; these were signed by the secretaries of State or their agents. In a word, Richelieu was apt to do the work of others rather than let any one encroach upon his, or upon his absolute authority. In this im- mense cabinet labour the part of the secretaries was, as we see, almost nothing and purely material. That of Richelieu was not only chief, but continual and sovereign.


8 Cat&tnal De IRicbelietu

It is a pleasure to approach and study the great man through these new and complete documents which show him to us at his origin and in all the stages of his fortune. Richelieu, bom September % 1 585, the youngest son of an ancient family of Poitou, was at first destined to be a soldier. But one of his brothers who was appointed to the bishopric of Lu^on having made himself a Carthusian monk, Richelieu was obliged to take the cassock rather than let the bishopric escape his family. Henri IV named him for it, and negotiated the appointment through his am- bassador in Rome. Richelieu was at that time only a few months over twenty years of age; he was forced to make many appeals before he received the pope's sanction, and went in person to Rome, where he was consecrated April 17, 1607. After his return we fmd him in his diocese, which had long been without a bishop; for Richelieu's brother had never resided there, and, in fact, had never been consecrated, nor had his predecessor resided there. The young bishop, arriving in a region full of Protestants and where there had long been much discord, took his episcopal func- tions seriously, informed himself as to his rights, and did his duty. The town of Lu^on was little more than a village, the poor inhabitants of which were crushed by taxes; he writes to obtain some lessening of the burden. In these first letters of Richelieu we are not made conscious of the heart of a pastor, but there does appear a spirit of order and equity which


CatMnal &e iRicbeUen* 9

requires that justice and proportionate burdens shall exist around him. He does not fear, in one place, to compare the load laid upon the common peo- ple to that of the beasts of burden, which ought to be proportioned to their strength. "It is the same thing," he adds, "with subsidies in regard to the common people; if not moderate, even though useful to the public they will not fail to be unjust."

In all that 1 have to say of Richelieu I shall endeavour to speak with truth, without bias, and with no idea of disparagement; the public mind has abandoned, through experience, that idea, which tended to mis- conceive and undervalue in him one of the most cour- ageous artizans of the grandeur of France. I shall nevertheless avoid the other extreme, which might go to systematic apotheosis; I shall try to restrain ad- miration in all that concerns him within the limits of good sense and humanity. He will help me him- self to do this, if I may venture to say so, for more than one of the sayings with which he judged of other men can, if turned upon himself, show wherein lay too much passion and harshness.

This powerful being, destined to hold France at his feet and make Europe tremble, began by being very poor and in great straits. He writes as fol- lows to a certain Mme. de Bourges in Paris, who usually did his household commissions and had lately bought the decorations of which his church was in need:


10 CarMnal De IRfcbelietu

"Aprn, 1609.

" Madame, I have received the copes you sent me, which came ex- tremely apropos ; they are very handsome, and have been received as such by the company to whom 1 owed them. . . . I am now in my barony, beloved, so they try to make me think, by every one ; but I can only tell you so now, for all beginnings are fine, as you very well know. I shall not want for occupation here, I assure you ; all is so ruined that much energy will be required to restore it. 1 am extremely ill-lodged ; I have no place where 1 can make a fire on account of smoke ; you can imagine that 1 do not long for the depth of win- ter ; and there is no remedy but patience. 1 can assure you that I have the worst bishopric in France, the muddiest, the most disagree- able ; 1 leave you to think what the bishop is. There is no place here to take a walk ; neither garden, nor alley, nor anything whatever; so that my house is a prison.

    • I leave this topic to tell you that we could not find among my

clothes a tunic and a white silk dalmatic that belonged to the white damask trimmings which you had made for me ; and thb makes me think they were left behind. . . ."

A number of letters to Mme. de Bourges treaty in this way of his household and his domestic affairs, about which he jokes rather pleasantly. In his jour* neys to Paris, whither he came sometimes to preach and to breathe Court air, he feels he wants an abiding place, a house of his own, for convenience and deco- rum, instead of merely hiring furnished rooms. He consults this same Mme. de Bourges, a good household economist.

    • If you will give me good advice," he writes, *' you will oblige me very

much, for 1 am very irresolute, principally about a house, fearing the quantity of furniture that may be needed. On the other hand, being of your humour, that is to say, rather vain-glorious, I should like, as 1 am more at my ease, to make a better appearance, which I could do more conveniently in a house of my own. Poor nobility is quite pitiful, but there is no remedy; against fortune keep good heart."


(EarMnal De Vfcbetteiu n

Among these early letters, where, as I need not re- mark, we are still amid the language of the sixteenth century, there are some in which Richelieu assumes the bishop, the consoler, and, occasionally, the director of souls. He is adequate and seemly, but little at ease in these rdles. The letters of consolation that he ad- dresses to persons who have lost their nearest and dearest are over-strained, subtle, and suggest even less the contemporary than the pretentious and rather antiquated forerunner of Balzac' To the Comtesse de Soissons, on the occasion of the death of her husband, he says, strangely enough and as if to persuade her that she had gained rather than lost: 'Mfyou desire your welfare it is better to have an advocate in heaven than a husband on earth." On one occasion, giving inward and wholly spiritual counsel to a devout soul tried by discouragements and difficulties in prayer, he attempts the language of mystical science in which he is easily surpassed by the F6nelons and Saint-Francois de Sales. We find him more in character and in the tone that comes easily to him in the following letter, written to one of his grand-vicars who has taken, he

thinks, too much liberty:

" 1610.

" Monsieur, I have read the letter you have written me touchii^ the differences between the Sieur de La Coussaye and youndf. I cannot do otherwise than blame them, desiring that those who handle the affairs of my diocese should live peaceably with one another. I write the same to the Sieur de La OxMsaye, and I so inform you, in order

  • Jean-Loub de Balzac, 1594-1654; one of the creators of Fiench

prose.


la CarMnal &e IRicbelietu

that you may each arrange to live in peace. You are both my grand- vicars, and as such you ought to have no other object than to carry things along to my satisfaction, which can be done, provided it be also to the glory of God. It seems, from your letter, that you were in bad humour when you took your pen; as for me, I like my friends so well that I desire to know only their good humour, and it seems to me that they ought not to show me any other. If a gnat stings you you ought to kill it, and not try to make those who, by the grace of God, are so far saved from such pricking, feel the sting. I know, God be thanked, how to govern myself, and I know, moreover, how those who are under me ought to govern themselves. ... I think it right that you should warn me of disorders which may exist in my diocese; but it is necessary to do so more coolly; there being no doubt that heat would, in these days, anger those who have hot blood, like me, if they had no means of warding it off. . . ."

The stage is still narrow. Richelieu in his relations with the outside world is obliged to pay many civil- ities» practice much suppleness* and bow low before the powers of the day. But wherever he felt himself master he already applied his method and made the stamp of his character felt

I perceive this no less in another letter addressed to a certain M. de Pr^au, in which, after speaking of threatened troubles in the interior of France (1612) and omens of war without, he adds, hopefully : " The wise conduct, affection and fidelity of many good servitors guarantee us from ills within. As for those without, I shall baptise them with another name if they bring us opportunity to enlarge our borders and cover our- selves with glory at the cost of the enemies of France." There we hear the instinctive cry of that soul of cour- age and virtue, which, in its ambitions, was patriotic and French above aU else, and was destined in future


to fu&t lis pensonsd passions in tiie gnsmdeur irf its pid)itc purpose. There is a aying of Montesquieu "wrtucti j&eems to diow such ^ssolute mtsconceiition thail I iave difiicutty in uiiiipiehending bow it came from so greact a inind: "Tlie most mssdiievDus [m^ /^iuuits] litizens of Fiaiux/' iie says in one of iiis " Pensees/' were Rididieu and Louvois." We will Kt aside Louvois, wIid is not in question here; but Ridieiieu, a bod i: itiiien of Fiaiux ! To wtiat a point must Montesquieu iaw been imlnied with the old pii lis I iientary spirit, or wttti the modem philosophic idea, on tlie liay wlsn that saying fAi'j|>rii him ! A cttnen is pcecisely wlat Ridiekeu was; a patriot, ar- dem far tlie public gondeur of tile State; as much so, at the very least, as tlie two Pitts wrere gnat patriots and dtizeos of Bi^iand.

We see dawmng in Richeiteu's Letteis tiK ficst gleanis of liisirraorat Court, vdthout, however, team- ing much more about it tlun tie teSs us in fats Memoirs. His first political act, pr ope rly so-called, was the liar- aague he pronannced in presenting the report of ins Outer at the cbsnre of the States-Genend, F eb rua ry 23, 161S. He was duaen as ocator, and acquitted Umadf with faooour and MppkunBe. A tone of iiigh aeotbority and reason malses itsdf fdX throi^ the pomposity of the speech in certain places. He Icnew the queen, Marie de Medids personally, and liad already •««"«^*^ faimsdf into iter confidence. It was alxist Mas time that he first saw the Marechal d' Aaae.


14 Cardinal De IRicbelieiu

" I won hb heart," he says, " and he formed an esteem for me the first time we conferred together. He told some of his familiars that he had a young man in hand who was capable of teaching a lesson to iuUi bcrboiri. The esteem lasted always; but his goodwill diminished wholly; first because he found oppositions in me which he did not ex- pect; secondly, because he noticed that the queen's confidence leaned wholly to my side.> ..."

What was the state of the kingdom when Riche- lieu, then thirty-one years of age, became minister for the first time P Although this first and rather obscure ministry, separated from the glorious second by an interval of seven years, lasted only five months (Oct. )i, 1616 to April 24, 1617) we already discover, by looking closely into it, the distinctive features of Richelieu's policy, the vigorous application of his principles to the same evils he was later to cure, and the dawning efficacy of the same remedies which were on the point of taking effect when the murder of Mar^chal d'Ancre stopped all and threw everything into abeyance. Richelieu's great career was destined to begin twice before succeeding: " There are times," he says, energetically, "when Fortune begins but cannot complete her work."

France, after the death of Henri IV, had fallen from the most flourishing and prosperous condition and government into a miserable state of things. The queen-regent, Marie de Medicis, lazy, obstinate, and without fixed views, was still surrounded by the chief

^The Italian adventurer, Condni; favourite and prime-minbter of the queen*regent, Marie de Medids, assassinated at the instigation of the Due de Luynes in 1617.


(EarMnal De IRicbelieiu 15

councillors of Henri IV, Vilicroy, Jeannin, the chan- cellor Sillery, but the hand of the master was hence- forth lacking to them. The princes and nobles were lifting their heads on all sides and taking arms; the Protestants seized the occasion to confederate and form a State within the State and against the State. The country had been, since 1610^ beneath a con- tinual, and in some sort a chronic Fronde, a Fronde the more dangerous because it was nearer to the League, and chiefly because the great fomenters of trouble had preserved intact their elements of power. In the royal succession, so suddenly brought about by murder, the crown conquered by Henri IV was held, as in the later Fronde, by the hand of a woman on the head of a child. Richelieu, in his Memoirs, has admirably pictured the misery of this period anterior to his coming into office, and what he calls the cow- ardice and corruption of hearts:

" The times were so irasenble," he says, " that the ablest among the nobles were those who were most industrious in causing quarrek; and the quarrek were such, and there was so little safety in estab- lishing anything, that the ministers were more occupied in finding the necessary means to preserve themsdves than the means that were necessary to govern the State."

Thus these ministers, the queen's councillors, men trained and perfected in the old policy, now presented to imminent dangers and the growing exigencies of princes and nobles, nothing better than compromises, delays, and, finally, concessions over which they merely tried to haggle as much as possible. On the morrow


i6 (EarMnal de IRicbelfeiL

of the death of Henri IV, the queen might have seen the weakness of her councillors. It was a question of publishing a Declaration in the name of the late king immediately proclaiming her Regent Villeroy, the boklest among them» offered to draw up the docu- ment and sign it; the chancellor Sillery» "who had a heart of wax," says Richelieu, would not seal it, giv- ing as a reason that if he did so the Comte de Soissons would be furious with him and kill him. He ought, on such an occasion," cries Richelieu, to have de- spised his life for the safety of the State — ^but God does not give that grace to every man." He often recurs to this idea: that the courage which undertakes wise and just things for the public good is a special gift of God; and this is not in him a form of words; evi- dently he believed it. Speaking of the vain and fruit- less ending of the States-General in 1 6 14 he adds:

" The whole work of this Assembly had no other effect thin to overburden the provinces with the tax to be paid to their deputies, and to show to the world that it is not enough to know evib if there b no win to remedy them; the which win God gives, when it pleases him to make the kingdom prosper, and the great corruption of the ages does not hinder."

Richelieu is not a philosopher; his lofty mind, which is, above all, a sound mind armed with a great char- acter, pays tribute to the ideas and prejudices of his day. In many places he speaks as if he believed in omens, horoscopes, and sorcery; he is superstitious; but also he is sincerely religious; he believes in the gift of God extended over certain men destined to be


OatDtnal de IttobeUeik 17

the instruments of public salvation; if the wrongs committed against public persons seem to him of quite another order from those committed against private individuals, the wrongs done by those public persons themselves seem to him graver and of heavier weight in view of their responsibility and the far extent of consequences. It was he who wrote, on the last page of his Political Testament, Many could save themselves as private individuals who damn them- selves in fiict as public personages."

Let Voltaire laugh if he likes at these maxims and see therein the trace of a small mind! For all that, they give the only superior morality which serves as guarantee in public personages, which saves them from pure Machiavellianism; we rejoice when we find the sign of this religious spirit under one form or an- other, this sacred sentiment of divinity invoked and recognised by all great heads and founders of States and leaders of peoples. In some it is but a vain and hollow formula proclaimed on occasions and ceremo- nies; but in others in whom this basis of belief is real the accent never deceives; we feel it readily.

At sight of the ruin of the kingdom and the weak- ness of councillors during these years of the re- gency, Richelieu suffered greatly, asking himself if an avenger would not appear. The queen had no fixed views, and let herself be led sometimes by one and sometimes by another of her ministers, according as she thought herself the better or the worse for the


i8 (EarMnal De IRicbelieiL

last advice: which is, remarks Richelieu, "the worst thing in politics, where nothing is so needed to pre* serve reputation, strengthen friends, and terrify ad- versaries, as unity of mind and continuance of the same purposes and means." It was then that he began to take part himself, in the character of con- fidant, at first secretly, as an unseen counsellor; but, after a certain day, we are conscious, in the actions of the queen, of a persistence and vigour in which they were hitherto lacking.

She had signed the Peace of Loudun, May 3, 1616, for which the rebellious princes made her pay dearly; but what she had done for these pretended reformers and champions of the public weal had whetted rather than sated their insatiable appetites. Returning to Paris with the young king, she found herself com- pelled to share authority with the Prince de Condd; the mansion of the latter was besieged by the crowd of courtiers and became the true Louvre; the other Louvre being left to solitude. Richelieu, very inti- mate with Barbin, steward of the queen's household and a man of good judgment, who had just been appointed secretary of State, must have acted and made his influence felt through him at this decisive moment. The queen, listening to the energetic coun- sels then given to her, and perceiving the growing intrigues of the Prince de Cond6 and his allies, the Bouillons, Venddmes, and others, who, under pre- text of rising against the Mar6chal d'Ancre, were


Cardfiial de WOMol 19

consfHring against herself and her son, decided to have the Prince de Condd arrested in the Louvre. She chose for the execution of this order Thymines, of whom Henri IV had said to her: He is a man who wiU recognise nothing but the quaKty of royalty, and will obey nought else " — 2. characteristic then be- coming rare indeed! Richelieu, who unravels for us all these intrigues and paints them with more than one stroke of Tacitus, adds that Thymines, who ar- rested the Prince de Condd, if he did well was fully aware of it, for from that day he was never satisfied, no matter what rewards the queen heaped upon him:

"She made him marshil of France, gave him one hundred and some thousand crowns in ready money, made his ddest son captain of her guards, gave to Laugi^res, his second son, the office of first equeny to Monsieur; and yet, with all that, he stSl whined and complained: so deariy do men sell the little good that is in them, and so small a value do they put on the benefits they receive fixxn their masters."

Richelieu the historian is full of such strokes of a consummate moralist who has gone, by experience, to the depths of the hearts of men.

As soon as the Prince de Cond6 was arrested (Sep- tember I, 1616), the whole aspect of things changed; the crowd of courtiers who had deserted the Louvre returned to it instantiy; each desiring to show him- self and testify thus to his fidelity:

" Some did it smcereiy,'* says Ridietieu, " some with intentions and desires quite the contraiy; but there were none who did not approve of what her Migesty had done; many even declared that they envied the kick of the Sieur de Themines, who had had the good fortune to be


•o CarMnal De IRlcbelfeiL

employed on the enterprise: but the fiict was, the G>urt wis tt this time so corrupt that it would have been hard to find any other man capable of saving the State by his fidelity and courage.

The great seigneurs, accomplices of the Prince de Cond^, seeing him taken, escaped and left Paris in- stantly. Pretence was made of pursuing a few, M. de Venddme for instance; but the desire they had to escape was much greater than the desire to capture them in those sent to do so. Unfaithfulness and disloyalty were betrayed on all sides. The Prince de Cond6 was hardly arrested before, in order to ransom himself out of prison, he offered to reveal all and betray the secrets of his party and his cabal: which did not show as much generosity and courage," re- marks Richelieu, "as a man of his condition ought to have/'

It was then that the queen saw herself in the way to form a Council of ministers decisively, having already made certain changes: for the new situation a new i)olicy was needed. The old councillors, Vil- leroy and Jeannin, were set aside, or nearly so; the Keeper of the Seals, Du Vair, self-styled philosopher and a man of renown in letters, had succeeded Sillery as chancellor, in which office he made a poor figure, and was good only at shackling public business. The very day of the arrest of the Prince de Cond6, all the old councillors, including Sully, reappeared at the Louvre to make representations to the queen on this coup d' £tat, of which they did not appreciate the


necessity and wrtiich threw them ttensfiire mto con* stemotion.

tt vfss ubaux this moment that Richdiau was called to the Council, where tiis friends BaAin and Maiq;ot had preceded him. He lud been employed for aome time in confidential negotiations and was designated to go as andsassador extiaoidiiiary to Spain. That mis- sion suited liim well; but tiie proposal of the queen to enter her Council, which was brought to tiim by Man&dial d'Ancie, carried ttie day: Besides ttie fact that I was not honound>ly permitled/' he says, " to deliberate on tiiis occasion, in which tlie will of a superior power seemed to me absolute, 1 admit that there are few young men wtio could rtXast ttie splendour of an office that promised both fiivour and employment." On enterii^ tlie Council tie became, from the very first day, its most important personage. He had, as he tells us, tlie portfolios of War and of Foreign afbirs, also precedence over his coUeagues as bidiop; and all tint at thirty-one years of age ! He was tlie soul of this first little ministry, composed of rather olsscure men, though firmly united with one anotiier; a vigorous and energetic Cabinet, to which nothing iacked fir the accomp lishm e nt of great tliii^ but time to last, and not to have been bom under the shadow of Mar6dial d'Ancre's p atro n ag e, a banner that made it unpopular.

Sully, jealous and hurt, expressed himself as much scandalised. We find in his Memoirs a letter to the


22 CarMnal be IttcbcUcxu

young king in which a good Frenchman (a personage whom Sully does not disavow) speaks indignantly of seeing Mar^chal d'Ancre, his wife, and Mangot, "those three creatures with their Lu^on [Richelieu] ruling the whole kingdom, presiding at the Councils of State, dispensing the dignities, arms, and moneys of France." The old minister of Henri IV misconceives and rejects the successor who was destined to main- tain and enlarge the work of Henri IV. From the depths of his grumbling retreat facing toward the past. Sully will never do justice to Richelieu; but, in these first moments, the error is perhaps permissible; for Mar6chal d'Ancre still masked him.

Richelieu, in some very fine historical and moral pages, defining for us the character of this mar^chal who was, above all else, vain and presumptuous and who clung to appearing powerful rather than to being so in fact, shows distinctly in what this ministry, sup- posed to be wholly given over to the favourite, was not his vassal; and we are admirably made to feel that if Luynes had not intervened, if the mar^chal had lived, a struggle between Richelieu and him for the sole favour of the queen-mother would quickly have come about. Richelieu making himself more and more useful and necessary, and affecting, as he always did in all circumstances of which he was not the master, to withdraw and keep aloof, the queen would have had to choose between the two.

The great seigneurs in the provinces continued


CarMnal De IRtcbeUen* 33

their intrigues and their appeal to arms. One of them, the Due de Bouillon, had the boldness to write to the king to make complaints. The king returned an answer in which, for the first time, is seen the fmger, the lion's claw of Richelieu. This vigorous act of Louis Xlll which "showed more of royal majesty than his past conduct," was nevertheless not received by the body of the people as it should have been, on account of Mar6chal d'Ancre. That which would have been recognised as advantageous to the service of the king and the good of the State if the favourite had not been there, was taken in bad part by the peo- ple, and envenomed by the malcontents; such was the rock, the wrecking-point of Richelieu's first min- istry, and he himself knew it to be so.

Nevertheless he worked to enlighten opinion; he thought of Europe and dispatched three ambassadors extraordinary, one to England, one to Holland, and M. de Schomberg to Germany. We have the In- structions that he gave to Schomberg; they form an historical summary of the situation of Prance as strong as it is skilful, a justification of the measures of his government, and a first tracing out of the new policy. They begin with these words:

" The chief thing that M. de Schomberg must keep before hb mind b that the object of his mission to Germany is to disperse the factions that may be formed there to the prejudice of France, to put forward the name of the King as much as he can, and establish powerfully his authority.

The nobles in the provinces spring to arms for the


iMffthtine. The kiog puts forth a Deckralion; aiK|» as wofds sigoify nattUQg if they are not supported hy arms^ Richelieu raises and organises three armies at once: one that marches into Champagne^ a second into Berry and the Nivemais» and a tbird in the he^de* France. Thanks to tbese prompt and enerfettc meas* ures» to whkh they were not hitherto accustomed* the nobles disperse and take reiiige in towns and fort* ified places^ where they are soon reduced to capitu- late. Affurs were in this state» and the party of the princes *'as low'* as possible* when aU was changed in tiie twinkH^g of an eye by the death of Marshal d'Ancre, who was killed April a4» 161 7» by order of the king at the instigation of the Due de Luynea. The fiivourite of the ki^g caused the killing of the fiivourite of the queen-mother. The ministry, of which the martchal was more the apparent than the real head» Richelieu being its already efficacious in- spirer, was overthown by the same blow.

Richelieu relates that he was paying a visit to a rector of the Sorbonne when they brought him the news of the death of the martehal. He returned to the Louvre after having conferred a moment with his colleagues: "Continuing my way/' he says, *M met divers bees which having smiled upon me two hours earlier no longer recognised me; many also who made me feel no change for the change of fortune."

He was the only member of the ministry whom Luynes seemed at first to spare and to wish to except


CatMnal be nicbelieu* 25

from dismissal and public vengeance. In his descrip- tion of the scenes that followed the murder of the mar^chal» Richelieu proves himself a great painter of history. He shows us oronically the king, whom Luynes puts upon a billiard-table, that he may be seen more easily by the guilds of the city and by the depu- ties from the States who came to congratulate him. " It was/' says Richelieu, 'Mike a renewal of the an- cient custom of Frenchmen who carried their kings at their accession on shields around the camp." He points to Luynes as the most dangerous enemy of the Mar^chal d'Ancre because he was less so of his person than of his fortunes : '* He bore him the hatred of envy, which is the most malignant and most cruel of all. He makes us see the insolence which, on this death of a favourite, merely changes its object. Richelieu, who will one day be considered cruel and pitiless himself— and who is so at times, though his chief vengeances mingle with State interests — considers, Apropos of the murder of the mardchal, that it was done " through hasty advice, unjust, and of evil example, unworthy of the royal majesty and virtue of the king." He thinks it would have been enough to make him a prisoner and send him back to Italy; and he blames so sanguinary a beginning of the new government.

It is to be remarked that Richelieu, when writing, though inflexible, is never inhuman. When he shows us Marie de Medicis forced to quit the Louvre, accom- panied by her servants, all with sadness painted on


86 CatMnal be ntcbeUeiu

their faces: "There was scarcely a person/' he takes pleasure in noting, "who had so little the sentiment of humanity that the sight of this almost funeral pro- cession did not move to compassion." Speaking of the odious and even barbarous treatment inflicted on the wife of the mardchal, and of her execution after she was condemned as a sorceress to have her head cut off on the scaffold, and her body and head burned to ashes, he uses words of extreme pity :

    • On leaving her prison and beholding the great multitude of peo-

ple crowding to see her pass: * How many persons/ she said, 'have gathered to watch a poor, afflicted woman go by! ' And presently, seeing some one to whom she had done an ill turn with the queen, she asked his pardon; so much did the true and humble shame she felt before God for having injured him take from her all shame before men. And so marvellous an effect did the blessing of God upon her have, that, by a sudden change, all those who were present at that sad spectacle became quite other men, drowning their eyes in tears of pity for this desolate woman. . . ."

I suppress a few touches of bad taste. He ends by remarking that what he says is not the result of par- tiality; it is the simple truth itself that compels him to speak thus: "For there is no one, however odious, who, ending their days in public with resolution and modesty, will not change hatred to pity, and draw tears from those who, at an earlier moment, have desired to shed their blood."

I like to set these words of Richelieu, so worthy of a great soul, against what was cruel and pitiless in his later conduct, by which he exceeded, on certain occa- sions, the necessities of even the most austere policy.


C«r^tllal ^e KtcDdteiu 07

During his first ministry we find hin), in those few months, doing all he could to break down the revolt of the princes and nobles and to re-establish the royal authority at the point from which it ought never to have &llen. We can perceive, even in that short time, his distinct intention to raise France abroad, and not suffer her to fall away from the rOle and title of ** um- pire of Christianity " which Henri IV had won to the crown. In his Instructions to M. de Schomberg, ambassador to Germany, and also in the letters writ- ten in the king's name to M. de B^thune, ambassador to Italy, Richelieu never ceases to claim that glory, and almost that function which belonged of right to France as being the "heart'* of all Christian States. The republic of Venice was quarrelling with the Arch- duke of Grdtz; Louis XIII, by Richelieu's advice, de- sired that the affair be appealed to him; and as the war in Piedmont was being prolonged in spite of all efforts on the spot to arrest it, Louis XIII also desired that the Due de Savoie should send an envoy to Paris to negotiate with the Spanish ambassador accredited there, believing that the affair could be better settled near his own person. With this view he dispatched an ambassador to Spain to obtain the agreement of the Catholic King. When Venice, playing a double game» made terms with the Archduke of Grdtz through the channel of Spain only, Louis XIII took offence; he complained of being defrauded of one of his noblest rightSi that of holding the scales: "It seems," he


38 Cat^tnal be ntcbeUeu.

writes, " that they [the republic of Venice], falling into voluntary ingratitude, desire, exempting themselves from gratitude to me, to deprive me of the glory that is due me for the accomplishment of so good a work by transferring it to others." In that we see the finger of Richelieu and his seal on foreign affairs during his five-months' rule in the ministry, and in the midst of civil troubles that seemed to compromise the very ex- istence of the State. He is tenacious of showing to Europe, from the very first, what he nobly expresses in his Instructions to Schomberg: "Never vessel will resist so great a tempest with less of damage than will be seen in ours."

Richelieu, fallen from his first ministry, accompa- nies Queen Marie de Medicis in her exile to Blois (May, 1617). Soon, however, his presence in that little Court gives umbrage to his enemies; calumny impli- cates him in various intrigues, from which his common sense sufficed to keep him aloof. He himself asks the king to send him back to his diocese ; he is taken at his word, and for some time we see him in his priory of Coussaye playing the bishop, even the recluse,

  • ' reduced to a little hermitage," and apparently re-

solved to let time flow gently onward among books and neighbours." It was during this interval that he wrote a book of controversy against Protestants, seeming to be solely occupied with the duties of his bishopric.

In placing a certain confidence in the letters which


CarMnal be Vicbelteiu 29

we have of Richelieu we must not forget that we do not possess them all; that the most important were in cipher and have not come down to us. Neither have we his secret letters, those in which he talked to his intimates from a full heart — d cceur saoul, as he says himself. In all that he reveals to us of his life at divers periods there is always an undercurrent of negotiations that escapes us. Suffice it therefore to discern his general line of conduct.

He was not left tranquil in his retreat very long; he was still too near the queen ; calumny riddled him at Court, and he himself was the first to instigate a sort of exile; he requests that he may be ordered to some other place "where he can live without calumny^ being, as he is, without fault and without just blame." Thereupon he receives an onder to go to Avignon (April, 1618); he remains there nearly a year in retirement. Meantime the queen, escaping from the castle of Blois by night (February, 1619), took refuge with the Due d'fipernon. Luynes, then ruler, feared that in obeying the influence of that old seigneur and the mischief- makers by whom she would be surrounded, she would become a great danger. It was then that Richelieu's active friends, Pdre Joseph, Bouthillier, and others, be- stirred themselves, and fixed attention upon him as the most suitable negotiator to recall and soften the mind of the queen, to whom he had never ceased to be agreeable. Richelieu reappears in that delicate r61e, as semi-avowed agent. He leaves Avignon ; is


30 CatMnal be Htcbetteiu

arrested on his way by some too-zealous servants of the king, who think him still in disgrace, but soon make haste to excuse themselves. He reaches AngouI£me on the Wednesday of Holy Week (March 27, 1619), and there, where he thought to enter port, he found, he says, "the greater tempest." He is received with an evil eye by all the other councillors who fear his influence towards moderation and his wise counsel. The queen dissimulates; he and she understand each other. He lets us be present at some of the bicker- ings of the little Court Soon he becomes the neces- sary man, and concludes the negotiation that reconciles the mother with the son. That treaty made, he ar- ranges the interview which is to seal the reconcilia- tion, at Cousidres near Tours. The favourites, the Luynes, are present with an eye on everything and keeping watch over the emotions of nature between mother and son. Richelieu, nevertheless, attains his end, he fulfils his mission, and from that day the king, to reward the good service, asks the pope on his be- half for the cardinal's hat; which, however, he did not receive until three years later. Thus it was that at the very moment when Richelieu's fortunes seemed irretrievably ruined they were suddenly repaired, and henceforth insensibly rose and broadened without further check.

Nevertheless, the years that immediately followed left him still in a secondary position, in which he had need of all his insinuation, suppleness, and patience.


CatMnal be Ittcbelien. 31

The Due de Luynes triumphed at Court, and reigned throughout the kingdom. Richelieu remained at- tached to the queen-mother in her government of Anjou; he is the superintendent of her household, and, correctly speaking, the minister of this semi-ex- ile; for, in spite of the meeting and the embraces at Cousidres, evil passions interposed and worked at sow- ing fresh discord between mother and son. The Prince de Cond6, whom Marie de Medicls had put in prison solely in the king's interests, was released, and that prince of the blood became her active enemy, serv- ing all the evil purposes of Luynes. Richelieu was strongly of opinion that the queen, to thwart these intrigues, ought to go straight to Court, make Nature speak for her in the heart of the king, and boldly drive into nothingness this malignancy. But other counsellors of the queen thought otherwise, support- ing their opinion with plausible reasons. Fearing to lose the confidence of his mistress, Richelieu, out of prudence, felt himself obliged to adopt their opinion, "imitating wise pilots who yield before tempests. There being no advice so judicious," he reflects, "that it may not have a bad issue, one is often obliged to follow opinions that we least approve." Even when he reveals to us the many hindrances and dis- appointments that barred his fortunes, Richelieu's style is never irritaUe and shows neith^ anger nor vexation. The power and the pretensions of Luynes and his


39 CatMnal Oe ntcbetteiu

brothers keep on increasing and rouse universal repro- bation. Greedy of honours and possessions, and with- out the slightest patriotic ambition, they monopolise ail governments, offices, fortified places, and castles; they buy up for themselves and cheapen the royal companies and the pick of all others; the taxes levied on the people are appropriated to these private sales: " In a word," says Richelieu, " if the whole of France were for sale they would buy Prance from France it- self." Richelieu is in the Opposition, as we should now say; he is too patriotic at this time not to be, but he is so in a manner of his own.

The nobles and the seigneurs, whom he had for- merly combated are now, it seems, rising on his side, and in the name of the queen-mother; they surround the latter with intrigues, and under pretence of deliv- ering the kingdom from the favourite, they are think- ing only of their private interests. Seeing them arrive at Angers, Richelieu effaces himself and takes no part in their deliberations. Between two papers drawn up in the queen's name, one more moderate, more pru- dent, and not tending to civil war, the other bitter, violent, in short a manifesto of hostility, he is of opin- ion to choose the first, all the more because they have not force enough to support the second. He fears to give pretext to these powerful and turbulent allies who "after ruining the varlets" will next, out of ambition, attack the masters. He thinks that " there is no peace so bad that it is not better than civil war." Luynes


CarMital Oe KfcbeUeiL 33

advances into Maine with the king's troops; all the seigneurs and captains grouped around the queen- mother at Angers make countless plans that interfere with one another. Every one prays for the queen: she has all hearts, she has even many arms, and yet she is about to be vanquished in the twinkling of an eye. "God permits it, as 1 think," says Richelieu,

  • ' to make it plain that the peace of States is of such

great importance in his sight that he often deprives of success enterprises that would trouble it, however just and legitimate they are."

Speaking of the part taken by Richelieu at this crit- ical moment some men of the period accused him of having betrayed the interests of the queen-mother and the confederates. The Due de Rohan, that fomenter of civil war, accuses him of having intentionally ad- vised the queen to make " a trembling defence/' No; Richelieu gave then, even to the men of war, the best counsel, which was not followed; but the true ex- planation, in my opinion, is that he was not in heart with the confederates. Richelieu remuined the past and the liiture minister of the monarchy even under dismissal and exile; he is conscious of his coming destiny; he does not belie his future.

Nothing can be more piquant than the portrait he draws of the principal leaders in the affray and rout that goes by the name of the Pont-de-C6 " (August 7, 1620) : it was a panic. The boasters, the cowards,

the brave (in smaU number), each and all have their

a


34 Cardinal be KicbeUeu*

place. It is an ironical picture such as Philippe de Commynes might have painted, and he ends it by considerations worthy of him, worthy of the man who remained, at all times, royalist:

    • I learned on this occasion that any party composed of various bodies

having no other bond than that their excitability gives them ... has no great subsistence; that whatever is maintained only by precarious authority has no great duration; that those who combat legitimate power are semi-defeated by their imagination; thoughts come to them that not only are they exposed to the loss of their lives in battle but, what is worse, by the arm of the law if captured; they think of the executioner as they face the enemy, rendering the fight very unequal; for there is little courage stiff enough to rise above such considerations with as much resolution as if they were not aware of them."

Such Richelieu is still at heart when he finds himself reluctantly involved in armed revolt and sedi- tion. It is he who, on the morrow of the defeat at Pont-de-C6, contributes most to healing matters and to bring about a peace which Luynes the victor did not, for once, abuse to his own advantage.

So long as Luynes governed the king, there was no great place possible for Richelieu. About this time the favourite had a passing fancy to form connection with the queen ; he seems to have even sought alliance with Richelieu, and the niece of the one married the nephew of the other. But the two men were incom- patible, and Richelieu had then no other real security than the goodwill and confidence of the queen- mother. To all the hazardous advice that was given to the latter he urged the opposition of consistent prudence and patience. Seeing the excessive good


CatMital Oe KfcbeUetu 35

fortune and the poor discretion and conduct of the adversary, he felt with his sound good sense that it behoved them only to wait and hold fast: " It is not in Prance as in other countries," thought he; "in France the best remedy we can have is patience. . . ." And he expresses, skpropos of our light- mindedness, so fruitful of reverses, distressing ideas that would be too discouraging if he himself, man of authority and organisation, did not come erelong to oppose and correct them by his own example. But for those who seek to find cause against our nation in his words let me add that, according to him, this French levity often bears its own remedy within itself; for, if it sometimes casts us down frightful pre- cipices it does not leave us there, but ** pulls us up so quickly that our enemies, unable to take right measures on such frequent variations, have no leisure to profit by our faults."

While Richelieu takes patience and waits, war be- gins in the south of France against the Protestants who have organised themselves into churches and chosen for leader and generalissimo the Due de Rohan (1621). Rebellion is manifest; the king goes down there in person, full of courage; but Luynes ill knows how to prepare the ground and afford him occasions for acting. Before Montauban, for instance, Luynes relies too much on information he obtains from a traitor. He plans the advance of the king, who is repulsed: "It is well," says Richelieu, 'not to neglect


36 CatMnal be Hicbelfetu

small advantages; but it is dangerous to depend upon them, especially for a great prince who ought rather to win than to filch victories." How noble and how well said that is! Richelieu has his system of the way a devoted prime-minister ought to bring forward and put in relief a courageous king; he suffers in see- ing that Luynes knows nothing of that art, nor of the jealousy for the honour of his master's arms that he ought to have.

If Luynes had lived, Richelieu's fortunes would have been long delayed, perhaps for ever. When he disappears, carried off by a sudden illness (December 14, 1621), in the midst of this very campaign which he had undertaken without ability to bring it to an end, Richelieu, in describing his death, his character and his person, has flashes of colour and passion such as Saint-Simon, a century later, might have given. Luynes, in the midst of his other defects, had one which, in Prance, would spoil even the best qualities, he was not personally brave. At the siege of Montau- ban. Constable of France as he was, he never ap- proached the town within cannon-shot. He amused himself by sealing, filling the office of Keeper of the Seals, while others fought: a good Keeper of the Seals in war-time, people said, and a good constable in times of peace. At the height of his cowardice," cries Richelieu, " he never ceased to talk as if he were rid- dled with wounds and covered with the blood of the enemy ..." The height of his cowardice "


Oatdfiial b€ Ittcbelieiu 37

is one of those involuntary expressions whicii charac- terise a great and brave historian.

The whole portrait of Luynes is one of extreme beauty; it should be read as a whole; I can note only a few salient points which reflect the character of Richelieu himself. He is bent on showing Luynes as little fltted for the height to which &vour had lifted him; a height that merely made him giddy and inso- lent: " Such minds," he says, "are capable of every fault; especially when men come, as tbis one did, to favour without having passed through public offices; men who see themselves suddenly above rather than in public affairs, and are masters of the Council with- out ever having entered it"

" He had," he says again, " a mediocre and timid mind, little €uth, no generosity; too feeble to stand firm under the rush of great fortunt . . . He wished to be Prince of Orange, G>unt of Avignon, Duke of Albert,' King of Austrasia,* and would not have refused more had he seen his way to it. Flattery carried him to such a point that he thought alt the laudations l>estowed upon him were trae, and that the grandeur he attained was the least of his merits. ... He was full of fine words and promises that he never kept faithfully; when he gave his most positive word persons felt the most certain that he would not keep it; and when he promised his affection it was then that its object had reason to doubt it: so faithless was he without shame, measuring hon- our solely by utility."

Richelieu reproaches Luynes for seeking to apply to France the narrow and tyrannical policy that is practi- cable only in the lesser provinces of Italy, where all

' Ancre in the department of the Somme.

  • Eastern part of the empire of the Merovingian kings: — ^Ta.


38 CarMiial be IRicbeUeti.

the subjects are immediately under a hand they fear: "It is not the same in France," he says, *'a great, spacious country, parted by many rivers, with pro- vinces very &r from the seat of the king." In this whole picture Richelieu indirectly reveals to us his private thoughts; in representing to us the odious favourite it is evident that he is feeling how he him- self would differ from him. Richelieu, for example, does not think himself tyrannical in the same manner as the predecessor whom he scathes:

    • He, on the contrary," he says, " having the power in hand, scorned

to gratify any one, believing that it sufficed him to hold their persons by force, and that he had no need to attach their hearts. But in that he was greatly mistaken; for it b impossible that a Government can exist under which none are satisfied and all are treated with violence. Se- verity is very dangerous where no one is content ; laxity where there is no satisfaction b dangerous also; the only means by which it can exist b by uniting severity with just satisfaction to those who are governed; which win end in the punishment of the bad and the reward of the good."

Richelieu's theory is in those words; it is true, as he tells us elsewhere, that where it is absolutely necessary to choose, he considers punishment more necessary than reward, and he puts it in the front rank.

Machiavelli said: " It is not the violence that repairs but the violence that destroys which should be con- aemned." It is best, however, that in all that is per-

anent, all that is founded to last, the idea of violence should fiide away; and Richelieu, in his government, never attained to this course of regular, almost impas- sive, action. He was certainly of the race of royal


CarDtnal be iRicbeUetu 39

souls, but he was not born king. It was the resist- ance and effort he had to make to maintain the royalty he held as a loan that made him sometimes tyrannical in action and manner. Montesquieu said of Louis XIV:

    • He had a soul that was greater than his mind." In

Richelieu the mind was as great as the soul and seemed to fill it but never to overflow it.

Richelieu does not enter the ministry immediately on the death of Luynes; the ministers at Court dread him, knowing that he is full of ideas and of force of judg- ment; they retard as much as they can the moment when the king will take particular notice of him, fear- ing to see him at once at the head of affairs: " 1 have had this misfortune/' he says, that those who had power in the State have always wished me ill, not for any harm that 1 had done them, but for the good they believed was in me." Do what they would, how- ever, in vain did they oppose fate and sink deeper daily into wastefulness and blunders; the moment ap- proaches — it has come — and Richelieu henceforth is inevitable.

We will leave him to reign. But it is essential, that I may not fall below my own idea, to say a few more words about that Political Testament In which he laid down, in a rather sententious form, the summing up of his experience and the ideal of his doctrine.

Among the objections that Voltaire raised against the authenticity of that work, there is one, among others, that strikes me by its weakness and even its


40 CarMnal De mcbeUetu

misconception: Admit," he says, addressing M. de Foncemagne, admit that after all you do not believe there is a single word from the cardinal in this Testa- ment: in good faith, do you think that Sir Robert Walpole would ever have thought of writing a polit- ical catechism for George 1?" But Richelieu is precisely the contrary of Robert Walpole: he is a man who believes in God, In the nature of kings, in a certain moral grandeur in public affairs, in virtue be- longing to each Order of the State — lofty rectitude in the Qergy, generosity and purity of heart in the Nobles, integrity and gravity in the Parliaments; all this is what he desires at any cost to maintain or re- store. Richelieu likes and prefers honest men; in what memorable terms does he speak in his Memoirs of the heroic gravity of Achille de Harlay and of the prud'homie of President Jeannin!

In the Political Testament there is a remarkable chapter entitled: "On Letters"; that is to say, on classical literature and on education. In it Richelieu explains his ideas about a wise administration and dispensation of literature, and, considering the date at which he wrote, it proves his lofty foresight. One might really think he had the eighteenth century and something of the nineteenth before his eyes.' He cannot admit that in a State every one, without differ- ence, should be brought up to be learned. "Just as a body which had eyes in every part of it would be a

> The French Academy was founded by Richelieu in 1635 : — Tk.


CatMnal De iRicbelieiu 4^

monster/' he says, "so would a State be if all its sub«  jects were learned men; we should see little obedience, while pride and presumption would be common." And again: ** If Letters were degraded to all sorts of minds, we should see more men capable of forming doubts than of solving them, and many would be more fitted to oppose truths than defend them." He cites in support of his opinion Cardinal Du Perron, that friend of fine literature, who would have liked to see less colleges established in France on condition that they were better, supplied with excellent professors, engaged with worthy studies only, fit to preserve in its purity the fire of the temple. The rest of the young manhood would naturally go, he thought, to the mechanical arts, to agriculture, commerce, the army; whereas by applying them all indifferently to studies without the capacity of their minds being first examined, nearly all remain with a mediocre tinge of Letters and fill France with disputers [chicaneurs]." This opinion of Richelieu, coming after the inundation of the sixteenth century and before the deluge of the eighteenth, is Bonald's legislation unadulterated; and, on whichever side we look at it, expressed at that time and with that precision, it bears witness to the profound insight of a statesman.

This rdle of statesman, which, at every social crisis, is the chief and the most actual, is not the only rdle; two forces in conflict govern the world. While Richelieu was expressing these forecasts and fears.


42 CarMnal tc IRicbeUeti*

Descartes was preparing free access for all minds not only to Letters but to the Sciences by teaching mathe- matical doubt. There is much to meditate upon in those two names.

On superficial reading, the Political Testament may seem to be composed of rather trite and commonplace maxims: but read it carefully, and you will always fmd the statesman and the experienced moralist In all the reforms that he proposes, Richelieu shows himself full of moderation ; he takes account of accom- plished £sicts; and even in correcting evils he desires to proceed with gentleness and caution. He is one of those architects who prefer to remedy the faults of an old building, and bring it by their art to satisfactory symmetry, rather than pull it down on pretence of building another quite perfect and complete. How- ever ardent may have been Richelieu's nature and his fire of ambition, it remains evident that his mind in its foundation was essentially just and temperate. In his moral descriptions, and in the examination of con- ditions that he exacts from men chosen to be political councillors, he certainly had in view this one or that one of those whom he had known; and his observa- tions are so just and strong that merely in trans- cribing them here it seems as though we could put the right names beneath both virtues and defects:

" The greatest minds/' says Richelieu, " may be more dangerous than useful in the management of affairs; if they have not more lead than quicksilver, they are worth nothing to the State."


CarMiial 5e IRicbeUetu 43

" Some are fertile in invention and abundant in thoughts, but so variable in their designs that those of evening and those of morning are always different; and such men have so little persistency in their resolutions that they change the good ones as often as the bad ones and are constant to none.'*

"1 can say with truth, knowing it from experience, that the levity of some men is not less dangerous in the administration of public affairs than the malice of others. There b much to fear from minds whose vivadty is accompanied with little judgment, and, even if those who excel in judgment have no great force they may nevertheless be useful to the State."

" Presumption is one of the great vices that men may have in public office; if humility is not required of those who are called upon to lead States, modesty is absolutely necessary."

" Without modesty great minds are so in love with their opinions that they condemn all others, better though they be; the pride of their natural characters joined to their authority soon rendm them in- tolerable."

Such are the counsels, or rather the specifications of experience given by a man who did not pass for modest, but who certainly was still less presumptu- ous. In reading carefully Richelieu's State maxims, a doubt has possessed me at times: I ask myself whether, in the historical judgment formed upon him» too much of the unpopularity that easily attaches to strong powers in periods of public relaxing, has not been allowed to enter; and whether, from afan we do not now judge him, even in his glory, too much through the imputations of the enemies who survived him. Richelieu was vindictive; was he as much so as was said of him P He certainly did not think so when he said: "Those who are vindictive by nature, who follow their passions rather than reason, cannot


44 CarMiial ^e iRicbettetu

be considered to have the requisite integrity for the management of the State. If a man is subject to re- venge, to put him in authority is to put a sword in the hand of a madman."

Such words show that the mind of Richelieu was far from tending to violent extremes. I leave these divers problems, these apparent contradic- tions between some of his thoughts and his acts, for future historians to agitate; the fame of Richelieu (and fame, he said, is the sole payment of great souls) can only increase with the years and the centu- ries; he is of those who have most contributed to give consistency and unity to a great nation which, in itself, has too little of them ; he is, under that head, one of the most glorious political artisans that ever existed, and the more the generations are battered by revolutions and ripened by experience the more will they approach his memory with circumspection and respect


n.


4S


Denrf, IHic tt iRobaiu Sbe ptote0biiit aca^et•

THE sixteenth century, which produced so great a number of good captains and writers of the sword, had, as it were, a last sdon in the Due de Rohan, who, under that double aspect, made himself illustrious during the first third of the follow- ing century. He is the last great man the Reformed religion produced in France; and it is the right of the historians of that party to study him with compla- cency and peculiar admiration. For us, who content ourselves with feeling his force, his merit — merit always thwarted and obscured by certain shadows — he attracts us chiefly as a writer, and it is on that side that I wish to render account of him to myself in presence of my readers, adding nothing to the idea, very lofty already, that we ought to form of him, and exaggerating nothing.

The fact is, we are at the present time in the habit of exaggerating many things. The study of the past, where great talents have lighted beacons that attract

47


43 Denrft Bnc De IRobaiu

all sorts of minds, is becoming a fashionable enthusi- asm and a snare. It is time for criticism, if it still dares to be critical, to lay upon this enthusiasm certain re- strictions and to remind it of some salutary rules. In France, we do things too often by fits and starts; the fever of the present day is to rehabilitate all that comes to hand or within the reach of every one. A few old papers found, which often, if read carefully (but noth- ing is more difficult than to read carefully, especially if the words are not in print), tell us nothing more than we knew before; a few unpublished documents which, in every case, ought to combine with notions already acquired and positive, these are the pretexts for an up- setting; accepted judgments are reversed, reputations are made anew, we all blow our trumpets for the dis- coveries we think we have made, and in our eager- ness to succeed we readily grant all to our neighbour so that in return he may grant all to us. I see many hod-carriers who pretend to be architects, and copyists saying to themselves: 'M, too, am a painter." — ^But this is not the time and place to treat of so grave and delicate a question. Happily the Due de Rohan is not in need of rehabilitation; he needs only to be studied, and we have only to study him.

He came of a proud, strong race, descended from the ancient dukes and kings of Brittany, allied by descent and marriage with the principal sovereign fiimilies of Europe. "I shall content myself," writes one of his earliest biographers, by merely saying one rather


Denrft IHic te iRobaiu 49

fine and rather peculiar thing: to whatever part of Europe he went he was related to those who reigned there." We all know the speech of his sister, re- plying to a gallant declaration from Henri IV, "I am too poor to be your wife, and too well-born to be your mistress." *

Born at the castle of Blein in Brittany in 1579, Henri de Rohan, the eldest of his family, was brought up with great care by his widowed mother, Catherine de Parthenay, who fixed upon him from childhood her pride and hopes. He was proficient in all exercises that made part of the education of a noble and a man of war; and he likewise applied himself to things of the mind, especially history, geography, and mathematics, which he said was the true science of princes. It was told that he neglected the ancient languages, Latin and Greek, being more eager after things than words. However that may be, it would not have injured him to know Latin, fond as he was of studying ancient authors and of annotating Cssar, of whom he was to make, in his leisure hours, a sort of breviary. He read also, like Henri IV, Amyot's translation of Plutarch, and kindled with enthusiasm for the Greek and Roman heroes; Epaminondas and Scipio being his models. In short, he received from his excellent mother a hardy and virile education, which his own

  • It b singular that Sainte-Beuve does not here mention the proud

motto of the Rohans: Roi tu p^ux, princs m viux, Rohan ># i " King I cannot [be], prince I will not [be], Rohan I am."— Tk.


so Dentit S)uc ^e IRoban.

nature welcomed and the austerity of his religious communion confirmed : his youth was ardent, frugal, and serious.

Henri IV distinguished him among all the young nobles and loved him. As Vicomte de Rohan, he made his first campaign under the king's eye at the siege of Amiens, when sixteen years of age. This was his first school of war. The peace of Vervins (1598), which was to give France years of repose and a national felicity long unknown, made the warlike zeal of the young man useless, and he resolved to travel. His first idea was to push on to the East and see the empire of the Turks: "not from superstition," he says, like most of those who go to visit Jerusalem, but to instruct himself during the active years of his novitiate and to study the diversities of peoples and countries. Circumstances thwarted this first intention, and he fell back on travelling through European Christ- endom (1600-1601). He has left a narrative of his journey, dedicated to his mother, and written to pre- serve his own recollections and to please his friends. This coup-d'ml of a tourist of twenty years of age through France, Germany, Italy, Holland, and Great Britain, shows plainly the qualities and the solid in- clinations of a mind that was preparing itself to play a great part. He notes everywhere, as a future com- mander and statesman, the site of fortresses, fortifica- tions, commerce, the genius of nations, the form of governments. For a man who was said to have no


Denrft Buc &e Vobait. 51

taste for classical study, he takes such interest in an- tiquities and quotes so much Latin that we must believe his first biographer exaggerated his repugnance and his ignorance in that respect.

Venice impressed him keenly by its originality of aspect, its arsenal, its fme police, its palaces, even its pictures and its fantastic magnificences.

" In a word/' he says, " if I tried to note down all that b worthy of it paper would fail me : content thyself, therefore, my Memory, in remembering that having seen Venice thou hast seen one of the col- lections of the marvels of the world, from which I depart as enrap- tured and content at having seen it as I am sad at having stayed so short a time ; for it deserves, not three or four weeks but a century to study it to the level of its merits."

He stays longer in Florence and from there makes a trip to Rome and Naples. Though he stayed but a week in Rome, and seems to have ransacked at fiill speed her curiosities and ruins, he is not too unjust or too calvinistic in his remarks upon her.

But after Venice he finds nothing more interesting nor more admirable than Amsterdam and the govern- ment of the United Provinces; he prefers the latter to that of Venice. He likes Holland, even that which is rather sad about her, even her difficulties, even that long war she had successfully maintained against powerful Spain for her independence as a country. Holland, under the illustrious princes of Nassau, was always the ideal land of Reformed religionists. He ends his joumeyings in England and Scotland where, more even than elsewhere he is received with


5a f>enrit S>ttc &e Hobaiu

distinction and hospitality by the sovereigns of the two countries. Qyeen Elizabeth calls him her " Knight; and James VI, treating him as a cousin, invited him to be godfather to his son, just born, afterwards the unfortunate Charles I of England. In concluding his narrative, Rohan draws a species of parallel between the genius of the different peoples and their govern- ment. What he says of the good qualities and de- fects of the French nation in comparison with the English shows him to be a judicious and impartial observer. As for the nobility and aristocracy of France, he considers them (without enough reason perhaps) far more fortunate than those across the Channel: " As much," he says, " because the latter pay taxes like the people, as for the rigour of the law, which is so constantly exercised against them that some hold it as an honour, and rest the grandeur of their families on the number of th^eir forbears who have had their heads cut off; which is very rare among us." Here speaks the young man, and before the days of Richelieu. He sees only the agreeable advantages he then enjoyed: "the privileges of the nobility in France, its liberty, the familiarity with which the king treats it, in place of the superstitious reverence that the English pay to their king"— all things well fitted to seduce even so solid a mind as that of young Rohan. It was not until the day of Louis XIV that the fatal levelling of the nobility was really felt; it was permissible amid the gracious sallies and smiles of Henri IV to mistake its


actual position. Nevertheless, one year ktter, the haul of Biron was to fidL

Henri IV had a true friendship for young Rohan; in him he saw a pupil, a fiiture lieutenant for his military projects; doubtless he also discerned a head capable of upholding and leadmgthe Reformed party in future years, and of opposing his own better views to the perpetual intrigues of the Mar^chal de Bouillon. He desires to confirm him in grandeur and makes him duke and peer ( 1602) : his first idea was to marry him to a princess of Sweden, but this project did not take shape. Rohan married the daughter of Sully, becom- ing the son»in-law of the man who was daily gaining more importance in ti^ State and more credit with its master. Rohan himself received the office of colonel- general of the Swiss Guard. He served in this ca- pacity in 1610, and was one of the princi|»d leaders in the army that awaited Henri IV for that great and mysterious enterprise of which, to all appearance, the siege of Juliers was to l>e the signal He was thirty-one years of age, and the noblest and most bril- liant career lay open before him; when suddenly the knife of Ravaillac, taking from France a great king, took also from all generous hearts thefr true guide.

" If ever/* says Rohm, '* I had reason to join my i^grets to thoae of France, it was at the unhappy death of Henri the Great, so fiill of gloom and tital results for us ; yet for him it may, perhaps, be redconed, iiom a workDypoint of view, as fortunate. . . . Ater his accession to tlie throne (1589) be employed eight years in bri^g- ing the Idqg d om to obedience ; and tfaeM yean, thoqgh tofliowc.


54 Denrit Buc be Hobam

were the happiest of his life ; for, in augmenting his reputation he augmented his State : the true happiness of a magnanimous prince does not consist in long possessing a great empire, which may serve to plunge him into pleasures only, but in having from a little State made a great State, and satisfied not his body but his spirit. One often sleeps worse among delights on good mattresses than on ga- bions, and there is no such rest as that which is acquired through labour."

Rohan thinks (and this judgment is characteristic of him) that those eight laborious and victorious years — victory so contested and bought by such perils and vigils — were happier to Henri IV than the twelve years of peace and felicity, during which he gov- erned his kingdom without further struggle. Rohan is, in his way, a hero, but a thwarted hero, who will always have a burden to bear upon his shoulders; one might almost think from those words of his that he found more pleasure than resignation in bearing it; he loved effort.

He foresees ail the evils that will follow the king's death, all the ambitions that already are whetting their appetites.

" In his lifetime he [Henri IV] restrained evil-doers by his authority; by his death all fear in evil-doing is removed, Uberty seems given to worthless men. The still recent memory of hb name bears with it some respect, but every day that carries us away from it is a sure step into the path of disobedience. Those who witnessed the reign of Charles IX, with the consequent evils that France suffered after it, can easily judge of the danger she is now in. ... I regret in the loss of our invincible King, that of France. I mourn his person, I deplore the lost opportunities, and I sigh in the depths of my heart over the manner of his death. Experience will teach us in a short time the legitimate cause we have to regret and mourn him. The people already shudder and seem to foresee their misery; the cities


tKXtU IMic De Volban. 55


jve gimded as if they expected a sM^; the nobles look fo ! to ttie most iinpurtmt in ttMr own body^ but find flieni al ds* united; there is evciy o ccig o n far fear and none ior security, in short, one most cither not lie a fnenchman, or r^^et the loss of the hapfiincss of France. I mown in Mm ttie loss of his courtesy, his famffiuity , his good humour, hb pleasant conversation. The honoor fliat he dU me, the good cheer with which he frvoured me, the admittance that he gave me to his most pnvale places, oM%r me not onfy to mouni him but ^dso to no longer fike myself where I was accustomed to see faioL I mourn far the nob l es t and most gjfcaious enterprise that was ever spofccn of ... an oppoituMty I sfaaB never see agam; certainly not under so g^e^ a captam, nor with the same desne on my part to serve i/t and leani my pn^- fiession. ... k it not, for me, a suiifect of g^e^ Rgni to lose tile only opportunity that ever came to me to prove to my kn^ — and O God, what a king! — my courage, my a ffect io n , my fiddity? Surely when I think ctf it my heart breaks. A bnce-tiuust gpven in hB presence wmdd have phased me more than now to win a battle. I shoukllttve more esteemed one word of pnne from him inttis profession, of which he was the greatest master in his time, than those of al other living captams. . • . I part my life in two, and cal the first, tint which I tone now lived, happy, because it served the g^e^ Hem, and ttat which I have to five I it m rcg^etbng, moumn^g, conqifauiu^g, and !


Rohan did not pass the rest of his Bfe mounung and sighing, nor even in serving inviohUy (as he vows to do at the end of this paper) France, tfie young king and his mother. But he had good reason to consider his career as cut in two by King Henri's deaA. instead of the way lying open before him, that of a great captain of generous and loyal French- men, beneath the great man of whom he would have been the illustrious fieutenant and second, he was henceforth to find himself engaged, by force of dr- cumstances, in a Bfe of faction, of struggle in aD


56 Dentft Zhic be Hobafu

directions, of disputes at every step, wrangles with his own people and with the envious orators of his own party, in rebellion before the armies and the person of the king, and continually in alliance with foreigners. He was now to train and consume his faculties as an able statesman and a skilful soldier on manoeuvres in which selfish interests and personal ambitions made, with the names, perpetually invoked, of God and conscience, a most equivocal mixture that even those assiduously given to it found difficulty in distinguishing apart.

His MAnoires, which cover, from his point of view, the whole history of France from the death of Henri IV to the end of the third war against the Reformers, when La Rochelle fell (1610-1629), exhibit the compli- cation of events and the obstructions to the writer. The first religious civil war seems to have been begun, in 1 62 1, against Rohan's will, although he became its instrument and most energetic champion. There hap- pened to him that which so often happens to leaders of party : it is the parties and the Assemblies that lead them. The Assembly of Protestants, convoked at La Rochelle, believing that the guarantees to their Churches were threatened, even by the conditions of the Edict of Nantes, and excited by the Vicomte de Favas, pushed forward to a rupture. Rohan's pru- dence made him see the peril ; the point of honour and the instinct of a soldier made him brave it. Most of the nobles of the Reformed religion, who seemed


Dentf, Zhic ^ Hobam 57

at first to take the same course, made terms, little by little, and withdrew. Rohan, with his brother Sou-> bise, was left to bear the brunt of the defence. His governments in Poitou fell into the power of the royal armies. He organised the resistance in the South, and succeeded in throwing succour into Montauban, in spite of the vicinity of the two royal armies. His plan was to act in the true military manner: to dismantle the small places he could not hold, and to fortify the large ones, Ntmes, Montpellier, Uzts: "We had," he says, "a sufficient number of men to make a lively resistance; but the shortsightedness of the people and the private interests of the governors of the towns caused my advice to be rejected, for which they after- wards repented sorely."

Leader of a league, and that a religious league, Ro- han had to struggle against all the disadvantages of that position : fanatical forebodings and denunciations from within, popular violence, excesses and crimes to punish, self-willed and headstrong troops, difficult to collect or retain under the flag. He got along as best he could, sometimes for three months, with unpaid troops, holding his own against the armies of the enemy, laying several sieges; but, after all, being forced to desist from what he was on the point of attaining, as much through the ill-humour of his colonels as because the harvests were beginning, which is a time when the poor of lower Languedoc earn much money."


s^ Denti, 2>uc &e Hobatu

These are but glimpses, but they give an idea of the nature of the genius and the firmness required to make as good a show as Rohan did in such a style of war; I leave it to others to admire him for it. Great occasions were lacking, but he ennobled as much as he coukl the lesser ones. There is one place in his narrative where the Due de Luynes (the favourite in power, who had married his cousin), asks for a con- ference with him at a league from Montauban ; Rohan trusts himself to him, and gives us the details of the interview and of their speeches, — that of Luynes and his own reply :

" I should be my own enemy/' says Rohan to Luynes, " if I did not desire the good graces of my King and your friendship. I shall never refuse the gifts and honours of my master, nor your good offices as an ally. I have fully considered the peril in which 1 am; but I ask you to also consider your own. You are universally hated, because you alone possess that which every man desires to have. The ruin of those of the Reformed rdigion is not so near that malcontents will not have time to form parties. Reflect that you have already harvested an that promises, mingled with threats, can ever obtain for you, and that all who now remain to us are fighting for the religion they beUeve in. . . .'*

He ends by refusing to lend himself to any personal conclusion that would separate him from the general interests. For these religious wars, having once be- gun, even against his will, it is to Rohan's honour that he never put his hand to private negotiations, nor sacrificed his party. It is for this, as much as for his talents as a commander, that he is distinguished from the other seigneurs who, sooner or later, deserted


Denrft 2>ttc be Hobafu S9

their party, and he deserves that the French Protestant cause shall remain for ever identified with his name.

After the death of Luynes, and after many similar parleys, mingled with various bold attacks, Rohan, who sees the people to be weary of war, and that forage for his much-diminished cavalry will last only eight days longer, and who, moreover, has lost all hope of succour from foreign co-religionists, confers with the new conn^table, Lesdiguidres, to draw up a treaty (October, 1622) which saved and maintained the principal points necessary to the Reformed party, and in which his own interests were not altogether forgotten. After which, he is not only pardoned by the king, but he has a dazzling moment of favour at Court. Richelieu, then approaching power with slow step, had not yet reached it; when he did so, pacifi- cations were conducted differently.

But this peace, obtained by bargaining, was ill- kept. The Due de Rohan was forced to submit at Montpellier to an affront from the governor, M. de Valen^ay, and to a species of imprisonment. Be- sides which, he had to defend himself in his own party against censors who, for the most part, had kept their arms folded during the war, and to "justify his good intentions blamed and his best actions ca- lumniated." We begin now to see the thankless and difficult part he had to play, which was destined to become far more so in his two following wars, with Richelieu in power.


6o Denrtt S>ttc ^e Vobam

There is a race of briUiant, favoured warriors and fortunate heroes: Rohan is not of it He is of those to whom adversity serves as a continual school, and even as a strengthener; men who snatch glory bit by bit, in fragments only. He is not of that group of Captains — the Cond^s, the Luxembourgs, the Villars, the Saxes — of whom we may say that fortune smiled upon them like Venus, like a woman. He is of the race of grave men, thwarted men, morose men; whose very brilliancy is darkened and sombred; who have more merit than opportunity or luck, esteemed though often defeated; and who do the utmost that they can with a dismembered and rebellious cause; he is, in short, of the race of the Colignys, and of William of Orange; less French, perhaps, than foreign in physi- ognomy. In place of the lightning-flash of the French nature, the Reform has placed upon his brow its thoughtful seal, its frown, proclaiming less the inspired warrior than the reasoning soldier.

We may follow and study closely the narrative that M. de Rohan has written of the religious civil wars under Louis XIII and the noted part that he played in them, but we cannot, even by placing ourselves at the most neutral point of view and avoiding all questions of the Church, — ^we cannot, I say, take a strong interest in him, or desire at any moment his success and the triumph of his arms. He is definitively against France ; he fights against the nation; he conspires against its grandeur, and makes common cause with the foreigner.


I desire, in this mpid outline and wfaik stating the principal iicts, to shock no true and noble feeBng, to sli^t no claim of tiie human conscience; and ydt, 1 must maintain the line wMch is ever tiie most direct, tile only French line, that oTtiie broad and royal road. The question, so sacred to us, of toferance and respect for all convictions and professions of sincere iaith compatible with social order, had in that day not been evolved. A few men who had enough wisdom and firmness of judgment to understand it and to forestall its solutions, spoke to deaf ears; and when they tried, like FHdpital, to introduce moderation puUidy by edicts, they merely lent immediate arms to passions. In that heated atmosphere, which had not been suffi- ciently worked over in every direction, which had not yet vented all its storms, and where tiie numer- ous currents of indiffisrence had not as yet worked their way, how coukl there be tolerance? Satisfiu> tion, &11 and exclusive, dominion, the upper tuind, was what they wanted.

Henri IV was the only man who was able to cafan this spirit; he did it by his skill, his justice, his force so wisely tempered by dexterity. He died too soon; and when he was gone it was difficult indeed for the ill-appeased fermentations, sthred up afresh by the air without, not to burst once more into flames. The Due de Rohan fielt, from the moment of that death, that his party was released frxmi tutelage; ttie Refonners lost with Henri IV then* guardian, and


63 f>enti, HHic de Hobafu

also the powerful hand that restrained them. Their policy ought to have been to fortify themselves in the places of safety they had preserved, and to re- cover others that they had lost; in a word, in order to make themselves respected they ought to have made themselves more feared than ever.

'* I know," said Rohm to the Assembly of Saumur (i6i i), " they win oppose us if we ask more than we possessed in the time of the late king; I know that we ought, in order to insure peace during the in^ncy of thb reign, to content ourselves with the same treatment. To that it may be answered that the change of things causes apprehension. . . . How many alarms have we not re- ceived since the unhappy day of the parridde of our Henri the Great! The law of States changes with the times; no one can give positive maxims; what b useful to one king is hurtful to another."

The princes of the blood, the Cond£s, by their con- version to Catholicism had not, Rohan thought, weak- ened the position of the Reformers; for those princes, if they supported the party, had to be supported by it, and often carried on their own affairs to its injury. What is certain is that, in default of the princes, it was the higher nobles who took their place, who took the initiative and the command of the armed rebels; and the house of Rohan was in the front rank of this active rdle. It gave itself to the common cause with a devotion that cannot be contested; neither the Mar6chal de Bouillon, whose career was ending and who had long been only a consulting power, nor the old Lesdiguidres, who was thinking of being converted and returning to his former breth-


Denrtt Site ^e Sobnu 63

ren, nor the Tr6mouyies, the La Forces, the CfattOloiis, whose resohitions were never long-breathed, — not one of tiiese attempted in the new uprising to dispute tiie supremacy of the Rohans.

Without liere spealdng of his mother, a strong woman, of vieUle roche, the inspirer and soul of all resistance, to whom we shall presently return; with- out spealdng of his wife, — the daughter of Sully, a dainty and charming beauty, the most volatiie of wives, but Ssdthftii politically and an active and de- voted auxiliary, — ^Rohan had for his second a brother, Benjamin de Rohan, known under the name of Sou- bise, a sailor, high admiral of the Reformed Church just as Rohan was the generalissimo ashore and in the mountains. During the first war, of 1621, Ro- han, not willing to let himself be shut up in his town of Saint-Jean d'Angely, left that place in charge of Soubise, who held out against tiie army of the king, received with doffed hat the royal summons to sur- render, and replied with these words in writing, which have come down to us: "1 am the very humble servant of the king, but the execution of his commands is not within my power. [Signed:] Benjamin de Rohan/* Forced to surrender after a siege of twenty-four days in virtue of a capitulation which took the form of letters of pardon, Soubise, although in issuing from the town he had asked for- giveness of the king on his knees, went straight into the same war that same year and continued the work


64 f>enti, 2>iic de Hobafu

of resistance and rebellion, in which he never slack- ened. He thought he had in the depths of his con- conscience (such are the sophistries of the spirit of faction) that which released him from the engage- ment he had taken and absolved him in the last resort. Taking refuge in England, during the truces, returning with English vessels, which he strove to take into the port of La Rochelle, leader and pilot of foreigners to our shores, his whole conduct in those years casts a sorry light on the most vulner- able side of the policy of Rohan, that elder brother with whom he was so fully in accord, so unanimous, planning in concert with him at all times, and willing to be disavowed for appearance' sake when the oc- casion demanded. Soubise, unsubdued and unsub- duable, in whom the idea of duty towards the sovereign of France did not exist, determining, in the last ex- tremity, to make a piratical war rather than submit to his king, represents very well the Frenchman who forgets himself and who is to a certain point denat- uralised, or, at least (for 1 would not say an unjust thing of a vanquished man), denationalised.

M. de Rohan had more prudence: prudence and obstinacy are the two distinctive traits of his charac- ter. He claims, through it all, to remain a good Frenchman; he has always the air of taking arms ag'ainst his wiU, in self-defence, and because he could not in honour do otherwise without failing in his duty to the Reformed Church. But, arms once taken.


he never hys them down until there are no means left to prolong ibt struggle; and there ane no ex^ pedients he does not employ to force his people to Hsitflte him and follow faun to the end« His Me- moirs, very good to read* are fur from being a com- plete narrative to which we can trust implicitly; he conceals where it suits him to do so. Orator, man of discussion and persuasion as nmcb ub he was a warrior, a whole very important side [of his talent and of the part he played has disappeaned from dght fa] fais faarangue before the town-coundl of Mon- tauban during tiie first war, he said: "I beg you to believe that I will never abandcm you, no nurtter what happens. When there are but two persons left to the Religion, I shall be one of tiie two." He kept HisL promise throughout the wars and re- nounced it only when all had failed him. No senile witfiheld him from making terms eiflttrwitti the King of England (that was natural) or witii foreign co- religionists, witti tile Due de Savoie, or even widi the King of Spain, uiiose succour he had long hoped for, expecting a std^sidy from him as a last resource. The Spanish doublooiB and the CatkaUcan, tiie sub- ject of so much sarcasm against tiie League, would have seemed to Rohan purified by passing tiirough his hands.

A double reading is i nter e sting to make here : that of the Memoirs of Rohan in comparison witt the Memohs of Richelieu. What a different policy !

5


66 Denrt, S)ttc De Vobatu

what a conflicting game I what opposing views and sentiments, reflected in their very manner of speech and expression! Let us guard against forget- ting that those who did not succeed have against them many equivocal appearances and beginnings, which might have quite another air had the issue been otherwise: a ray of sunshine falling at the right moment changes the landscape. But because/' says Rohan somewhere, " histories are made by the victorious only, we usually find none esteemed but the children of fortune. '* That is true. Nevertheless, it is Richelieu who is right in this struggle, who has on his conscience the great cause he serves, the noble mon- archy he continues, the incomparable France he is perfecting. Words and language tell it; through im- ages his thoughts gleam; Rohan envelops himself where Richelieu develops.

It was not until the second civil war that Rohan came face to face with the supremacy of the haughty cardinal, in whom, up to that time, he had seen only one £ivourite the more:

" To that man's favour/' he says, speaking of the Marquis de LaVieuvine, "succeeded that of Cardinal de Richelieu, introduced by La VieuviHe into public affairs; that is how all those favourites serve one another laithfuny. . . • The support that the Girdinal gets from the queen-mother [Marie de Medids] has made his favour last much longer than that of others, and has also made him more insolent*'

Rohan seems to have been some time in perceiving that he had encountered in Richelieu his great and fatal adversary.


Hiesecond wxr was b^im by Soubiae, wfa> gmie tbe signal far it Qanuary, 162^) by an audacious act. Fediiig that La RodieUe, tiat bulwark of the Protest- ant cause, was becoming moie and more blockaded by Fort Louis and from the direction of the islands of Rf and Oltnm, and that the dty wouM stifle if it did not have free connnunication with the aea, Soidiiae went to Biavet (Port Louis ), sdzed sl number of laige vessels that were being equipped, and, after various adventures, succeeded in bringii^ avray tiis prises. Master of the sea, he gave hope and courage to the Rochelie people, who at first bad pretended to dis- avow him. Rotian, ttu>ugh concurring with him on every point, had hitherto not chosen to take up arms, even lending himself to a semUance of negotiation with the Court; he now began to declare himself, constrained to do so," he says, ^'to diow that tt was not his inability, as people imagined, that pre- vented it, but his desire to pacify all things.'*

He had already gone through many of the towns, accompanied by a great number of ministers, har- anguing, saying prayers, and having a Bible carried before him, £iithfill to his double r61e of Captain and servant of the Religion. On the 1st of May, 1625, he bcgaxi his armed enterprises, £dled in his attack on Lavaur, but made all the towns on his way declare themselves. Usually, he had only to show himself to give courage to his allies within tiie walls, to the good inhabitants" who swept in the others; for


68 DentU S)nc be Hoban.

sheriffis and magistrates, more circumspect and al- ways men of middle courses, needed to have the people in the streets take part and force their hand. Castres and Montauban were his principal points of support The C^vennes were fiivourable to him, and thence he drew his soldiers. The whole was done with accompaniment of assemblies, and the holding of conferences, as befitted a republican enterprise, which rests not only on the consent but the emotion of the people.

Mar^chal de Thymines commanded the army of the king; he appeared before dstres, where the Duchesse de Rohan, who had left her husband, with a Council or committee of the Assembly, took upon herself (her councillors being perplexed), to issue orders, and ris- ing, by force of circumstance, above her usual self, that mundane but courageous little person sufficed for all. The martehal, who had the advantage in numbers, held the country, ravaged the low lands and seized Saint-Paul; the only rather notable action that Rohan in his Memoirs attributes to him; dimin- ishing it however, as much as he can, and represent- ing It as more easy than perhaps it was. On the other hand, Rohan takes delight in extolling the heroic action of seven soldiers of Folx, who, being shut up in a paltry little town near Carlat, stopped the martehal and Ms whole army for two days, and after killing forty of his men, made their escape to the number of four; three of the seven, all near relatives, choosing to


i»nain .and be saciiftced Iwcause one of ttwm wsb wounded and umbfe to ^t a way: •*Thefourothcis," ssiys ^Rohm, '^at the solicitation oi the thtee, .uniter XDwr of the n^fht, and after rembcadi^ one another, fled; and the three that w»e left stood at the {(ale, toauied their arquefatges, awaited patiently thecomios of dayl^t, and received their enemies vabantly and, after kfltaig sevnai, died fee men, That is the sofe flash of :«motion in Rohan's narrative; he wanted to secixce to the names of those hmve soldiers an im^ momiitv' of which he has not pnnced the dis|ieiiier; for certain special echoes, which ane not found twice, have aloRe ^neen us tlte ^rious names that immoF- laiise ThennopyiK.

After this, iie is ofai^sd to relate the defott of Soulsise in axonfiict with the foices of the iaag at the isknd of fi£, liis Tssistnice moce or IsBsdsspeniee, and his fl^tit to Si^and with wliat voseis he could savse. A peace was then imBained for and conduded; fttche- lieu, now at the heginnii^ of his .great des^ns, did not nuioe it too dfficult, and the amtaasBadois f nnn S^ j ia n d and iioUxnd, two powers then aBied to Inanoe, imperiously admed tiie Reformers to accept it. Roiian in his Memoirs has an air of thumpiuag nrore than is becoming. He complains, however, of ercnrbody:

'nrhis is wfasttosk place/' hesays ushecondudcs, "in that second vai, where Rohan md Sonbase had lurnnst thoai all the chief noMts of the Rdsion in Fnmcr, other ^om ieakmy or waat 4>f nal,4il


70 Dentin S>nc be Vobati.

the Idngs on account of their avarice, and most of the prindpal men in the towns, won over by the enticements of the Court. . . .When we are no longer men of property God will assbt us more powerfully."

By this peace the Reformers obtained what to their eyes was the essential thing, namely : the maintenance of the new fortifications which they had constructed in nearly all the small towns of the South of France; in other words, facilities for renewing the war.

From this period of his narrative we may note Rohan's frequent complaints of the versatility, the impatience, the lack of justice in the common people, the ingratitude "which is the usual reward for serv- ices done to them/' and their temper "that leads them to be as insolent in prosperity as they were cringing in adversity." He says this again and again in a score of places. "He who has to do with a people who find nothing difficult in undertaking an enterprize but in its execution foresee and provide for nothing, is greatly hindered." He wishes that those who come after him "may have as much affection, fidelity, and patience as he has had, and meet with peoples more faithful, more zealous, and less miserly." That proud soul, that energetic Captain, bom to com- mand, that aristocratic nature, ambitious of great designs but shackled at every step, must have suffered much!

Another point must here be mentioned, though rather delicate and one it seems strange to dwell upon in speaking of a great warrior who died of wounds received in battle. Rohan, and also his brother Sou-


Denrft IHic be Vobaiu 71

bise, have been accused of sparing themselves in military engagements and of not always putting them- selves at the head of their troops or into the thick of the battle, sword in hand. At R€, at the most decis- ive moment of the effort against the king's troops Soubise appears to have not done with his person and his arm what he might have done; and at Viane, while Mar6chal Thtaiines was attacking and burning a suburb, driving out the troops who opposed him, the Due de Rohan was seen on a bastion of the town, whence he was observing the action cane in hand." Nevertheless, to neither should be offered the insult of asking whether they were brave or not brave. They were the leaders of the party; they were bound to preserve themselves for the Giuse; moreover, as others have judiciously remarked, they had to fear, not to die the death of a soldier, sword in hand, but to be taken prisoners and finish their days as^rebels on a scaffold.

Let us now open the Memoirs of Richelieu where he speaks of the same circumstances. The tone is different, the mists dear away, the flags are hoisted; we fed at every step the advantage of defined situa- tions and of a genius tiiat treads its native way. The XVlth book of the Cardinal's Memoirs thus describes the opening of the second dvil war:


  • ' This year ( 1 635 ) saw at its b^gimiiifig the ouOireak of an in

nbdI&M d[ our heretics, which was plotted by Soubne, from vdioai no one looked for such tieacheiy.


72 Dentt, S)tic be Vobam

" He was noted among the rebels as having been the first who dared present himself to forbid an entrance into one of his towns to the king.

" Coming out of Saint-Jean-d*Angely by capitulation, he swore never to take up arms again against His Majesty.

" In defiance of his oath he did not refrain, shortly after, from seiz- ing the dunes of Olonne; but seeing that the king was about to swoop down upon him, he retired to La Rochelle, tike those timid birds who hide in the hollows of a rock when an eagle pursues them. There he was pardoned a second time by His Majesty.

" But, as the gratitude of tnfideb is as faithless as themselves, these favours descended so little into his heart that no sentiment or memory of them remained, and his rebellion, as fruitful as the Hydra, was bom again.

" He set fire to the kingdom while the king was engaged in the defence of his allies, as Eratostratus set fire to the temple of Diana whOe she was giving her attention to promote the birth of Alexander. . . ."


Let us not ask of Richelieu the correct and sober taste that belongs to Rohan: Richelieu has imagina* tion and he shows it; he has literature and he afFects it. H!s style loves the plumed hat, and the plumed hat does not misbecome him, any more than it does the nation that he guides and represents. His bad taste has something in common with that of Chateau- briand; it is a bad taste which seduces and, at mo- ments, carries us away far more than cold reason; it waves the oriflamme.

While Richelieu, already strong in the confidence of Louis XIII, was preparing his grand European design — the lowering of the power of Spain and the house of Austria — for which he expected to use a new and close alliance with England, he found himself


Henri, Stac be IManu 73

suddenly stopped short by this uprising in the interior which cut in two the kingdom.

ThisrevoiV he says, energetically, " came so unseason^y for the King, at a tune wben he had many afiiairs with fore^ countries, that most of his Council lost their heads so that sometimes they waisted lom to make an ignominious peace with Spain, and some- times they were wiDing to giant the Huguenots more than they


"The cardinal, on the contrary, looking with a firm heart on all Uhs tempest, said to the King. . . /'

Here follows one of those indirect, expounding dis- courses, such as tiie cardinal likes to put on paper, in which he develops all considerations in every direc- tion, not without a certain complacency and an ear to his own words, but with clearness, loftiness, breadth, and accuracy. His conclusion is that so long as the Huguenots have a foothoki in France the king will never be master within the Kingdom or be able to undertake any gk>rious action without " ; that there is no way of dmng two important things at once; that the internal evil, be it least in itself, is the worst now, and the one to be looked to before all else. He had the idea, very bold and original, to make use for that purpose of the help of allies, and those the very ones who belonged to the Religion of the rebels; for France at that time had no navy; she had not even a single ship to oppose to Soubise, now triumphant on the seas since his capture of vessds. Richelieu resolutely insisted that the number of aux- iliary ships which the king was compelled to obtain


74 Dcnrit S)uc be Vobam

for these new wars must be exacted from the English and Dutch, — twenty from Holland, seven or eight from England; he also desired to stipulate, so as to make sure that these vessels should operate efficaciously and not against the object for which they were ob- tained, that French captains should be put on board, and French crews, either wholly or in part. In advis- ing the king to make, imperiously and even with threats (if necessary), these rather singular demands on his Protestant allies to defeat his Ptotestant sub- jects, the cardinal, whose instinct told him that all could be obtained, knew very well that he was run- ning a great risk with his master in case of refusal:

" Had he considered himself,*' he says, with a feeling of noble pride, "he might not have taken this course which, t)eing the best for public interests, was not the safest for those who proposed it; but, knowing that the first condition for him who takes part in the gov- ernment of States is to give himself wholly to the public and not to think of himself, he passed over all considerations that might stop him, liking better to ruin himself than to fail in any necessary thing to save the State, of which it may be said that the base and cowardly pro- ceedings of the late minbters had changed and tarnished its whole fiu:e."

This naval armament, so boldly collected, to which England contributed by vessels only, and Holland by ships and men, had all the success and effect that Richelieu expected to get from it In short, and as we have already seen by Rohan's narrative, after the defeat of Soubise at the island of R6, peace was made, but not altogether such as Rohan desired. The cardinal, no doubt, knowing, as he says, that "pru-


dent poficy consists in taking the most advantag- eous occasion that can be liad to do what we wish,*' and feeling tliat the great and various affairs tiie king tiien luul upon his hands demanded more or less deky, dissimulated and aUowed the Reform party to believe tliat tie was not their adversary: For peace l^eing made/' lie says, tiiere was means of waiting for a more convenient time to reduce them to ttie terms all subjects should i>e under in a State ; tint is to say, tiiat no separate body dial! I>e formed witliin it independent of tlie will of tlie sovereign." At any rate, by tliis treaty of Fetmiary 5, 1626, ttie king, already more a king tiian before, gave peace to his sid>jects, but did not receive it; on ttie side of La RociieUe he expressly reserved Fort Louis, bs a citadel taken from tlie town, and tbe islands of R^ and Ql6ron, two other fortified i^ces, "which did not make a bad circumvaUation."

Rdian in his Memohis (mtended in a way to be read as an apology) asserts that he was satisfied with this provisional peace. His letters and confidential missives, some of whidi were intercepted and con- veyed to the cardinal, ^ow much less satisfiiction, and this treaty, so disadvantageous to the Protestants, threw the two brothers into sudi despair," says Richdieu, "that Mme. de Rohan, not knowing what other advice to give Soubise, tried to peraiade him, in an intercepted letter, to join the Moorish corsairs and retire to the Barbary coast " rather than resign himself


76 tentlf S>uc 5e Vobati.

to the law of the victor. It is worth while to read how Richelieu exclaims, not as a politician only, but as a theologian and fervent Catholic, at the thought of such advice.

Such a state of things, in which one part of the nation was engaged in curbing the other part, which, in turn, held it in check, could not last without the greatest detriment to the monarchy and to France, which, in face of Europe and of the general recon- stitution of modem political forces then going on, needed unity and collected strength within its borders. The honour of Richelieu is that he felt this with ardent energy and an indomitable genius for execu- tion: the misfortune of Rohan (that of his position) is not to have been able to feel it; to have been the natural and as if necessary ally of the foreigner, of who- ever was then the enemy of his country; to have continued to think upon it as an old-fashioned feudal seigneur become a republican by chance who, stirred by a peculiar religious conviction, used all means of defence, unaware of what he was about to shock in the breast of that other moral and religious senti- ment, the patriotic sentiment, then on the point of becoming universal.

The third war began in 1627; it is useless to seek for the pretexts or the causes, which each party bandied with the other; it was certain to break forth; the peace of 1626 having been submitted to by one side and conceded by the other with all sorts of men-


tal -rKenotions on both sides and stress of neces- sity. A :greflt cabal was formed at Court of which Monsieur, the king's brotlwr, was the ostensible head. England, this time, appeared as an enemy; a gentleman was sent by the Kii^ of Great Britain to solicit the Due de Rohan from whom, says the latter,

  • ' the desertions and unfaithfulness he had met with

in the two precedii^ wars Isad taken all desire to lenew the game.*' Nevertheless, he dared not assume the responsibility of a refusal, and he pmed the party with tliat sense of diiRculty and noTh-success which constituted iiis £ite. " 1 considered what a burden 1 was taking on my shoulders fiir the third time; I raninded myself of the inconstancy of our people, of the unfaithfiitness of the principal men, of the com- pact parties that ttie king iiad in all our communities, the poverty of tiie country, ttie avarice of the towms, and, above all, tftt irreligion of every one."

By "irreligion" we must understand merely the weakening of that exalted leligiois principle, un- known till the sixteenth century, which drove ife adiieients to every sacrifice of life and fortune for the fiitii; a weakening derived aheady from ttie modem spirit, in virtue of which many estimable Reform- ers prefe rre d commerce to war. Tius was not the Teckoning of Roium and tiie feudal chiefs. Such weakening, or gradual relaxing (as much in morafe as in belfefe), made itself more and more felt after the d e c api ta ti on of ttie party by Rictielieu; and this


78 DenrU S>uc Oe Vobam

condition of minds, wisely appreciated by Mazarin in what he called "the little flock/' must have been still further understood by Louis XIV, who followed the idea and the practice, where possible, of tolerance.

After the perplexities and diversities of mind which M. de Rohan himself acknowledges that he had at the beginning of the third war we can understand the severe and angry judgment that Richelieu pronounced upon him :

" That miserable Soubise," he cries with indignation (for he never separates the two brothers), *' whose misfortune, capacity, and courage are equally decried, having no other art to cover his past shames than to prepare for fresh ones, is soliciting in England. The Sieur de Rohan, more fitted to be an attorney in a law court than leader of a party, the benefits of which must be procured by courage in war and by frankness and ingenuousness in peace . . . continues his practices, and by a thousand fictions makes known to every one that he is doing as much during peace to bring on war, as he did during war to bring peace. In peace, his mind has no repose, just as In war his person was little risked. He keeps up intelligence with all the factious within the kingdom and all the mischief-makers without"

Let us here allow for passion's share in these words and free the thought from the insult. Richelieu was the first to show that at heart he judged better of Rohan when, later, he intrusted him with an army corps to enter the Valtelline, and in a letter he then ad- dressed to the victorious general he said: " He would always very willingly be his surety with the king that he [Rohan] would preserve all the acquired advantages and lose no occasion to increase them." But, in this moment of cruel war, they are two spirits, two rival


Deittit IHic be Itobaiu 79

and antagonistic souls, struggling against each other, and an the defects, aH the complications, all tiie en* tanglements in tiie conduct and r61e of Rohan were uppermost in the cardinal's mind; he imputes them to his character, he expresses them with exaggeration, with injustice, no doubt, but also with discernment of the weak point and in terms unforgettable. The hour was decisive for the very fortune and grandeur of Richelieu himself. To suppose that he would have embaiiced on his great designs for foreign combina- tions leaving La Rochelle open to the English, and in communication with the C^vennes ill-subdued, and with Languedoc half-rebellious, is not to know him. Rohan, the ablest and most tenacious of the two lead- ers who were seeking to maintain a sort of federal republic in the heart of the kingdom, was not his least stumbling-block. The latter had promised the King of England to take up arms again whenever the Eng- lish army should make its descent on the island of R6, and he kept his word.

It is not for me to try to write the history of those memorable exploits in the much-disputed channels, or of that siege of La Rochelle and the taking of the place after more than a year's blockade and three naval expe- ditions of Englishmen powerless to succour it The constancy, the obstinacy, the intrepid Cuth of Richelieu in his own wise counsel and in the fortune of France triumphed over all, even the elements. On the other hand, the heroism and moral resignation of the besieged


8o Dentf, Bnc de Vobati.

and famished population exceeds all that is known of the longest and most trying sieges. This two- fold, conflicting sentiment, as strong in the besieged as in the besiegers, is pictured with fidelity in the pages of Richelieu and Rohan alike; the latter, who at the time was carrying on the campaign in the South and limited to holding the king's troops occupied by a series of skirmishes and small affairs, felt but too well that the brunt of the action was taking place where he was not, and that the fate of the Cause was being decided without him.

Richelieu's ardour in this perilous enterprise, the eagerness that he feels in the affair, and which con- sumes him, break forth in a thousand fiery flashes in his narrative:

" Nevertheless, he says in one place, " though the Cardinal em- ployed all the mind that God had given him in making the siege of La Rochelte redound to the divine glory and the good of the State, working harder than the bodily strength that God had bestowed upon him warranted, one would have said that the wind and the seas, fnends of the English and the Isles, forced themselves into the en- counter and opposed his designs/'

To take La Rochelle before all else, promptly and without mercy this time, such was his fixed idea; it was, according to him, the best remedy for every- thing; and all means, all imaginable inventions must be employed, not omitting a single one, to bring it about, because " on the taking of La Rochelle depends the safety of the State, the repose of France, the wel- fare and authority of the King for ever."


Denrft IHic de Sobaiu si

SlKNikl there be a Stmte within tfie State, a natural and permanent aOy of the foreigner among us, a port and an open door on the flank of the kingdom? that was the supreme question. He vowed himself to settle it with a zeal as chivabous ss it was politic The spmi of a crusade was in his ardour. The keys of La Rodidle, when he held them, were worth in his eyes those of tiie Cabinets which he could not force until then, nor drag ss he wished into the sphere of action of the noblest monarchy in the woild. Such were tiie noble and frank thougtits tiiat he put in action and pursued beneath hb purple; while Rohan in his C^vennes, not daring to risk aU in a headlong venture (as the great Ven- dtens were to do in their day), exliausts himsdf in hurrying from town to town, endeavouring to organ- ise in France a comtUer-France. The disproportion of the two r61es is seen at a glance, and it is so crushing for him who does not play the nobler part that it would be unjust to dwell too much upon it

Tlie conscience of the vanquished, however, when sincere feelings and true beliefs are behind it, and also a portion of tiie right involved, has inward strength, deep, invisible springs, of which we must speak only with respect Something of that austere and sad- dened sentiment is reflected in tiie following words, in which M. de Rohan, after relating the surrender of La Rochelle (October a8, 1628), adds in the tone of firmness and pride that becomes him:

6


32 1>enti, S)nc &e Hobatu

" The mother of the Due de Rohan and his sister [Anne de Rohan, unmarried], refused to be named personally in the capitulation, in order that no one could attribute the surrender to their persuasion in that respect ; believing, however, that they would share like all the others in it. But as the interpretation of capitulations b made by the victors, the Council of the king decided that they were not m- duded, inasmuch as they were not named : unexampled rigour! that a person of her rank, seventy years old (and ovtr), coming out from a siege during which she and her daughter had lived for three months on horse-flesh and four to five ounces of bread per day, should be held captives without the exercise of their religion, and so closely that they had but one servant to wait upon them. This, nevertheless, did not shake their courage or their accustomed zeal for the welfare of their party ; and the mother sent word to the Due de Rohan, her son, that he must not give heed to her letters, for she might be made to write them by force, and that no consideration for her miserable condition ought to make him relax to the injury of his party, no matter what evils they might make her suffer. Truly a Christian resolution, that did not belie the whole course of her Kfe, which, having been a tissue of continual afflictions [her first husband was massacred on the Saint-Bartholomew], had so fortified her with the assistance of God, that she has the benediction of all right- nrinded persons, and will be to posterity an illustrious example of unexampled virtue and wonderful piety. See how that poor city, for- meriy the retreat and delight of King Henri IV, has since become the wrath and the boas^ of his son. Louix XIII. It has been attacked by Firenchmen and abandoned by Englishmen ; it was buried in a bitter and pitiless limine, yet in the end has acquired by its constancy a longer fife in fame through centuries to come than those who prosper to-day in this present century."

Here again the Memoirs of Richelieu throw the light of a direct reflection on those of Rohan. In them we find that, during the siege, Mme. de Rohan in a letter which was intercepted, proposed to her son a motto, which she said was that of the Qyeen of Navarre (no doubt Jeanne d'Albret, Henri IV 's mother) : Paix as-- surie. victoire entiire, et tnart honnitel ("Assured


ticntU 2>iic &e IRobatu 83

peace, complete victory, honourable death! ") Sent a prisoner to Niort, they tried to work upon her during the following year to make her write to her son and induce him to return to his duty; they put forward third parties, who, without using the name of the king, exhorted her, as if from themselves, and as if they were moved solely by consideration for her interests and those of her children :

" But that woman, malignant to the last degree,** says Richelieu, " would not even condescend to send messages to her son, by letter, giving as a pretext that such means were not sufficiently powoful and that it was necessary that she should go hersdf, which His Majesty refused, knowing that she desired it only to make the evil more irremediable, and to strengthen her son and those of his party in rebellion to the last extremity."

Such was the invincible mother who bore in defence of her £iith the soul of the Portias, the Cornelias, and the ancient Romans. She it was who could not bring herself to approve of Henri IV as king, and who re- sisted, under his reign, the fortune he was desirous of bestowing on her son.

Our reservations thus made against the methods and the object of the Due de Rohan, we have the right to call attention to his firmness and constancy. The capture of La Rochelle, which seemed as if it must surely take all hope from the party, was to Rohan a reason for redoubling his efforts and his zeaL He was of those whom adversity inspires. Prince Thomas of Savoie having sent him word that if he were in the same humour as in the past, and would come nearer


S4 Denrl, 2>iic De IRobam

to him, he, Prince Thomas, would make a diversion into Dauphin6, Rohan replied that he was "in better humour than ever/' and ready to march at the first news he should receive of the prince. The politician and the statesman in him (for he was a statesman) contributed at that moment to sustain and embolden the soldier. He told himself that the King of England, after his contracted engagements, could not in honour abandon the Reformers, and that he would bestir him- self to support them in war, or, if there were a peace, to have them included therein. He believed that Louis XIII, then about to cross the Alps, had occupa- tion enough in the direction of Savoie and Italy, and other rocks to scale than those of La Rochelle; that Spain's interest in fomenting divisions in the heart of France would lead her before long to assist the Reform- ers with her gold. At an Assembly convoked at Ntmes, he made his belligerent resolutions prevail, reviving the courage of his adherents. Nothing short of the glories of the Pass of Suza, where it may be said of Louis XIII as of Oesar, "he came, he saw, he conquered," could convince him of his mistake.

Even then, Rohan would not admit himself cast down ; he did not believe, after the victory of Suza, in the peace of Italy, in a solid peace that would allow the king to turn with all vigour upon him. He was not enlightened on the gravity of the situation until he saw the king in person seize Privas, and the King of England at the same moment sign a peace


DentU IHicde Vobnu 8$

that did not include the Pratestiuits. This last news, together with the taking of Privas and the severities there exercised on the vanquished, made him, at last begin "to lower his horns," says Richelieu; and then, foreseeing the coming end of the struggle, he brought forth all his resources and expedients, he redoubled in activity and multiplied fine skirmishes to end at least decently, to be reckoned with to the very last, and thus obtain as many guarantees as he could for the bulk of his party. There were no less than six royal armies, in all more than fifty thousand men and fifty carmon, acting against various {daces in the South at the same time. From all sides came a cry for suc- cour; many places weakened and capitulated; Rohan threw himself on all sides, where he could. He ex- celled in a war of that kind; at any rate he did enough to compel consent to n^otiations for a general peace. "I let the Court (meaning the king's head- quarters) know that I would gaUy die with the greater part of my people rather than not obtain a general peace; I told them it was dangerous to take all hope of safety from persons with arms in their hand, and that I woukl never negotiate for myself only. ..."

The king listened with pleasure to the propositions; but the cardinal conficsses in his Memoirs that he hesitated long at this time as to the advice he should give his master; everything convinced him they would soon get the better of the rebels and their


86 Denttt 2>uc tc IRobatu

leader by force (which was much more to his taste), and the latter would then be reduced, after their in- fallibly approaching defeat, to cry for mercy. Pru- dence, however, carried the day against temper; and the idea that Rohan was for once sincere in his proposals for peace induced the cardinal to consent to negotiate. Finally, the edicts conformed in all essential things to what we now call tolerance; but the bastions and fortifications of the rebellious cities, those in the C^vennes in particular, which during the war had been seized with a species of mania and had, one and all, fortified themselves d la Huguenote, as was then said, were ordered to be rased at the expense and by the hand of the very inhabitants who had built them. From that day forth a belt of little republics across France no longer existed : there was but one France with subjects under one king.

The era of war and of rivalry with mailed hand was over; a new regime began, a regime that ought to have been one of civil policy, legality, firm reason, gentle action, and of conquest by speech only. Riche- lieu, keen as he was on religion, shows that he was not far from understanding the matter thus in idea; but, on both sides, how new they were at this new state of things I how slow and laborious was the transition that now took place! and before it was fairly established in our modem order, what changes, what waverings, what errors still!


Denrft 2>iic be IRobam 87

The Due de Rohan, by an article of the treaty, or rather of the "grace" (that was the title given to it), obtained in all that concerned himself a general royal pardon and forgetting of the past; he also obtained the return of his property and 100,000 crowns as indem^ nity for the losses he had incurred (he owed more than 80,000) and he was made to leave the kingdom. He wrote to the king, who was then at Ntmes, asking that a man of rank, authorised by His Majesty, should conduct him to Venice, the place appointed for his retreat, fearing, or pretending to'fear some danger on the road from the Italian princes; he probably desired to shelter himself in this way from all suspicion of further intrigues. They gave him M. de La Vallette to accompany him, and he embarked at Toulon, July 20, 1629.

Venice was a place of predilection for Rohan; we have seen how he was struck and as if in love with it in his youth. During the last war he had negotiated with Venice through his wife, who was there in com- pany with the Due de Candale, recently converted by her to Calvinism, and who served her as attendant. The Duchesse de Rohan and her daughter had offered to remain as hostages to give security to Venice that the money furnished should be duly employed as stip- ulated. The policy of Venice suited Rohan, always full of reflections and views, and, in the matter of a republic, much more likely to accommodate himself to one of an aristocracy than to one of burgher or popular


ss Denrf, S>ttc &e Hobmu

councils. He was appointed general of the troops of the republic, with a pension and all sorts of honours.

He passed the first period of his retirement (1630) in composing his Memoirs on the religious wars, which were not published until later (1644) under the supervision of Sorbidre. During a stay he made at Fadua he wrote "The Perfect Giptain, otherwise an Abridgment of the Wars of the Gauls and the Commen- taries of Caesar, with some Remarks"; this he dedicated to Louis Xll. Another work: "For the Interests of Princes and States in Christianity," dedicated to Cardi- nal Richelieu, seems to have been composed during a visit of some months to Paris in 1634. These writings, which were not printed until about the time of his death, no doubt reached their destination much earlier in manuscript; they were the visiting-cards the Due de Rohan sent to Court to show that he was still capable of action, and to prove he was no longer an enemy. These works, much liked when they appeared, the second of which was translated into Latin, are of little worth to-day and are not attractive to read.

But a new career was now to begin for Rohan. The king, by the advice of Cardinal Richelieu, believed him the right man to conduct his affairs beyond the Alps, on account of his various qualities as negotiator, as captain, greatly in renown with foreigners, able to act as if for himself, his actions not to be acknowledged until the right time came. The Grisons, allied with the Sv^ss cantons, possessed in Italy the Valtelline, a


Denri, Due ^e IRobatu 89

country of importance from a military point of view, inasmuch as it forms a passage between Germany and the Milanais, and might serve as a junction between the two arms of the House of Austria. Spain had done her best to get possession of it and had succeeded, the Valtelline having revolted, hoping to get free from the yoke. The Imperials thus found the way open for a descent upon Italy: they built forts to maintain it

The Grisons complained of France (at all times their protector) because, by a treaty with Spain, she had seemed to acquiesce in the situation as it now was. France, on her side, had an interest in the Grisons again becoming masters of the Valtelline and of the keys to the passage. It was important to find a per- sonage to push them on and guide them; " adroit in managing a populace, and agreeable to the Grisons (most of whom were Protestants)" ; fitted to " recover this people little by little, and re-engrave on their minds the devotion they were beginning to lose for Frenchmen, and one who was of such weight that he would be regarded in that country as voucher and surety for his master," without the name of that mas- ter being too much put forward at first. Above all, it was necessary to find some one in whom the republic of Venice could place confidence, and whom she esteemed.

Rohan was the Uving embodiment of the very complex man who was needed at that moment in that country. The king wrote to him, and made his


90 Denri, S>ttc ^e IRobatu

ambassador, M' Avaux, urge him. Rohan was pleased to see that they were placing confidence in him, and that coming services might hasten forgetfulness of the past He did not leave Venice without making sure of the Senate's agreement with the mission on which he was about to embark. Reaching Coire, the capital of the Grisons, December 4, 1631, he was very well received and soon declared general of the three Leagues. It seemed as if he had only to act; but it was not until the spring of 1635, that is to say, after three years of delay and ambiguities of all kinds, and when France at last decided openly for war, that Rohan had the chance to distinguish himself. He was sent at first into Upper Alsace, where he held his own against Duke Charles of Lorraine; but his real object, which it was important to mask to the end, was to take possession of the Valtelline. The manner in which he crossed Switzerland without notifying the Gintons until the moment came — hav- ing already entered that country before it was evi- dent that he meant to go through it; the rapidity and precision of his march, the accuracy of his plans and calculations, all were in keeping with his reputa- tion for skill. His army entered the Valtelline April 24, 1635, and the campaign opened under happy auspices. . . .*

I Then foOows a rather minute account of that local war, which has so litUe lustorical interest in the present day that it is here omitted : — Tr.


Dcnrit S>ttc &e IRobam 9<

The last battle of the campaign, that of Morbegno, the most glorious of the four that Rohan fought, crowned to his honour this fine campaign of 1635, ^^ which, thanks to him, the king's arms, less fortunate in all other places, obtained in the Valtelline a steady success. It seemed as though he was about to triumph over fate, that he did so by force of merit, and that fortune at last would smile upon him. Let him obtain a little aid from France, reinforce him with infantry and cavalry to guard the passes, above all, succour him with money, that sinew of war, more needful than ever in the country of the Grisons, let the Due de Savoie stand ready to back him, and Rohan, at the head of 4000 foot soldiers and 500 cavalry, his ideal of a small army, would have entered the Milanais with plans matured, seized Lecco and Como, made himself master of the whole lake, de- stroyed the fort of Fuentes, which is the gateway to the Valtelline, and condemned the Germans to have no other road than the pass of the Saint-Gothard by which to enter Italy.

Glorious and too fleeting moment! the secretary of War, des Noyers, writing to d* Em6ry, ambassador of France to Savoie, says that it was "indeed a won- derful thing how M. le Due de Rohan with a handful of soldiers, without cannon or ammunition, did, each day, some signal action and carried terror everywhere, while the army of the Federals, so flourishing, so well fed and well paid, remained inactive." A little


93 Denrf, S>uc ^e IRobam

more and history might have cited him as a model of good fortune. The Gazette was filled with bulletins of his exploits.

But the thwarting star that so many times already had crossed and darkened Rohan's career, baffled him agaki; once more we meet its malign influence which from this time never ceases. The Due de Savoie, in spite of the victory of the Ticino, did not take a single step toward Rohan, who had then advanced to Lecco (June 2, 1636), and the well laid plans of the latter failed. Believing that he had done enough to acquire honour, he was unwilling to risk more, according to his maxim that "it is better not to go too fast and know where one is going, than be obliged to retreat ignominiously or perish." He returned to the Val- telline, where the difficulties of his situation, without money and in presence of mutinous populations re- turned upon him. He sent his private secretary and confidant, Priolo, to represent them strongly at Court; but he himself fell seriously ill at Sondrio of an illness diagnosed as a "profound lethargy," so that the rumour of his death was noised about, in his own army, who mourned him, and in that of the enemy, who rejoiced.

On his revival, and after his convalescence, either because Rohan was not altogether the same man, or that matters were growing worse, he saw no means of reconciling the orders he had received from the king with imperious necessities that pressed him on all


Denrf, Shic be Hobatu 93

sides. Pestilence and famine ravaged his troops; the Grison colonels and captains, angry at receiving no pay, quitted their posts; the Council of the Leagues thought of new alliances: no money, no Grisons: "Not a week passes/' writes Rohan to M. des Noyers, "since the month of July, that I have not written you about the state of this country, and I am not even told that you have received my letters, which makes me suppose you have never taken the trouble to read them."

These bitter complaints from the depths of the Val- telline reached Paris just as the Spaniards took Corbie and threatened the capital; we can easily conceive, therefore, that they were scarcely heeded. He had no sooner recovered, than he wrote to Richelieu, thanking him for the interest he had shown for him in his ill- ness:

" As for me, monsieur/' he says, " I shall hold out as long as I can, according to what 1 promised you; but it is intolerable to me to see that which 1 have so far preserved about to perish. In God's name take care that a person who breathes only for your service, may not see the reputation of the king's arms blasted in a r^on where, until now, he has maintained them glorious; I would rather have died of my illness than see that."

I could not avoid being tedious in dwelling at such length on the details of this sad affair, so brilliantly begun, so badly finished, and in trying to find the clue to the "labyrinth" into which the Due de Rohan found himself plunged without resource. On Riche- lieu's part and on his we find nothing but conflicting


94 Denrft 2>nc &e Hobatu

recriminations, so grave, so definite, that doubt alone at this distance of time remains to us: Richelieu re- proaches Rohan for having increased the discontent of the Grisons by his bad government, his extortions, and his illicit profits, of which he goes so far as to name the intermediaries and agents ; and, in stigma- tising in the harshest terms the final capitulation of March 26, 1637, which was consummated May 5, by which, yielding to the revolted Grisons, Rohan re- turned to them the Valtelline, contrary to the king's orders, Richelieu also accuses him of having been seized with a ** panic terror":

" It is certain/' says the Cardinal, ** that he had, until then, borne gloriously to a high point the aflEiadrs of the King in the Valtelline; but his last act not only ruined in an instant all that he had well done in prececUng years, but brought more dishonour to the arms of His Majesty than all the past had given them glory. This shame was such that it could never be repaired and, whatever excuse he might offer for his fault, the most favorable name it received from even those who were most friendly to him was that of a lack of courage."

The Due de Rohan in his "Apologies" seems to have strong reasons to refute so harsh a condemnation. He ought to know better than any one the points of difficulty. The affair, according to him, was desperate, and to continue it longer was impossible without ex- posing himself to disaster. The Comte de Gu6briant, sent at the last moment to the spot, seems to have been of Rohan's opinion. On the other hand, M. de Ldques, one of the latter's best lieutenants, was of a contrary opinion, and wished to try force, having no


Denti, 2>ttc de IRobam 95

doubt it would succeed. I say again, it is best to doubt and abstain from judging; my only conclusion is that one of the traits in Rohan's character was circum- spection, even in his courage; that is to say, a disposi- tion that is a very little French. He was not a man to risk all for all. He thought of too many things at once.

After this, Rohan, although he still held the position of general of the king's army, retired to Geneva and refused to lead the army back through Franche- Comt6; he distrusted the cardinal, whose orders he had failed to follow. In this, the Due de Rohan paid the penalty of his past; in vain had he behaved during these last years with all possible loyalty and lustre, his conscience was not clear, nor his memory free; he attributed to others designs that those suspicions on his part may, perhaps, have suggested; and he could only see France from a distance through a sombre vista of the Bastille and a scaffold. He always remembered that the Parliament of Toulouse had con- demned him to be drawn and quartered by four horses and hung in effigy.

Moreover, he belonged, through his female relatives, to the party of the dames brouillonnes de la Cour — the mischief-making ladies of the Court, as Richelieu called them (thinking of the Duchesse de Chevreuse) ; and he no doubt feared to be implicated in their in- trigues more than he wished. Certainly, pretexts against him would not have been lacking.

It was while he was in this suspicious frame of mind


96 DcntU S>nc ^e IRobatu

that he received a letter from the king commanding him to retire to Venice; he thought it a trap. For greater safety, and distrusting even a group of horse- men who were seen about Versoix at the time, he crossed the lake of Geneva, passed through Switzer- land on the Berne side and joined the army of the Duke of Weimar, then besieging Rheinfeldt. Jean de Welt was preparing to succour the place and a battle was on the eve of taking place. Rohan decided with a sort of joy to make himself a simple soldier and fight hand to hand— he who until then had fought so long with his head. Fighting valiantly on the right wing (February 28, 1638) he received two musket balls, one in the foot, the other in the shoulder, and was instantly made prisoner, but rescued before the close of the day. He died of his wounds, April 13, 1638, at the abbey of KOnigsfelden, in the canton of Berne. His body was buried with great pomp in the church of Saint Peter at Geneva. During the interval between his wound and his death, he received a letter from the king ex- pressing interest in his condition.

The Due de Rohan was small in height, and, it is said, ill-looking. The portraits that we have of him indicate a haughty mien. He had from childhood a lock of white hair which was held to be a family dis- tinction. Though so often maltreated by fate, lead- ing none of his enterprises to fmal success, he has, nevertheless, left an illustrious idea of himself. It was said of Turenne that "he had in all things certain ob-


DenxU IHic de Kobaiu 97

scurities that were never cleared up except on special occasions, but which never were cleared up except to his honour." M. de Rohan often stopped at two- thirds of his way ; and he did not, to our eyes, triumph over all the obscurities that resulted from the many re- cesses in his character quite as much as they did from the conspiring of circumstances. Two or three times he was obliged to begin his career over again; he had not that celerity of ardour, that suddenness of decision that carries a man flying to his end. Still, he was in- contestably a great personage; negotiator in camp, man of the sword in council, man of the pen and of noble words. It has been said of his prose, that it savoured of his rank and his quality; it is, above all, excellent in sense, very sound and judicious. We can see that in daily practice he must have had great vivacity of mind and eloquence. There is a letter from him to the Prince de Condd (November, 1628), in reply to an insulting letter from that versatile prince, which is a masterpiece of vigour and irony. Skilful captain rather than great general, his measure in that respect is difficult to take, and I should prefer to leave it to the men of his profession. To express it in modem fashion, which is always hazardous in view of the extreme difference of methods in use in different centuries, he gives me the impression of having been, as a soldier, something between Gouvion Saint-Cyr and Macdonald, nearer to the former because of his

thoughts.

7


9S Denri, 2>nc be nobaiu

However that may be, he \s, by the rare conjunction of his merits, one of the original figui^s in our history; and when, to distinguish him from others of his name, and to characterise him (the last male of his race), some people continue from habit to call him " the great Due de Rohan," there is nothing to wonder at In study- ing him closely and without bias in his labours and his vicissitudes, I doubt whether that term would come to-day to the lips of any one; but, finding it consecrated we accept it, we respect it, we see the completion and, as it were, the ideal reflection of his great qualities in the imagination of his contemporaries ; an exaggeration natural enough, which does justice, perhaps, to many things that have escaped us in that far distance, and for which no claim has been made.


III. CarMnal nDasarItt


99


nL


To Cardinal Mazafin, so fortimale in aU iMf^ during his iifettme, a very great misficMtime happenfid soon after his dfiathr that man, widioiit friendships, wiliKNat hatreds, had but one en- emy to whom lie was not reconciled and whom he never foigave: Cardinal ^ Retz; and the btler, in writing his immortal Memoirs, has left of his enemy , of htm in whom he saw a fortunate rival, a poftraut so gay, so keen, so amusing, so withering, that the best historical reasons can scarcely hold their own ^^^ainst the impression conveyed, and will never succeed in triumphing over it

On the other hand, Maaarin has met with various pieces of good fortune since his death, and it is in our day especially that his reputation as a great statesman has found studious, competent appreciators and aven- gers. M. Mignet was the first, in the Introduction to his volume on the Spanish Succession (1833), to do him sigiud justice in a grand, full-length, historical por- trait that will last About the same time (i8j6)

lOI


I02 CarMnal /Dasattn*

M. Ravenel published for the Historical Society of France the "Letters of Mazarin/' written during his retreat out of France, to the queen, the Princess Pala- tine, and other persons in his confidence, which prove, at least, that at a time when there were few hearts truly French among the factious, he was a better Frenchman than all others in his political views, and in his wholly reasonable ambition. Later (1842) M. Bazin, in the two volumes he devoted to the "His- tory of France under the Ministry of Cardinal Mazarin, has taken pains to free the historical account from the seductive errors cast into it by the pictures of Cardinal de Retz, even at the risk of quenching a little of its vivacity and interest Last of all comes M. de Laborde, who has put, as it were, a final touch to the work of rehabilitation in his Palais Mas^arin, the palace built by the cardinal in the rue de Richelieu, where for one hundred and twenty-five years [dating back from 1850] the Bibliothdque du Roi, now the Bibliothdque Nationale, has been kept.

It is indeed a fact that Mazarin properly seen, looked at closely as though we were his contemporaries, pos* sessed those gifts which, as soon as they came into play, made it difficult to escape his charm. "He was insinuating," says Mme. de Motteville; " he knew how to use his apparent kindness to his own advantage; he had the art of charming others, and of making him- self beloved by those to whom fate subjected him." h is true that in difficulties where he had the under



CARDINAL MAZARIN. From an old engraving.


OndiiMl IBasartiu 103

side he used the gifts of flsttery and words of honey with which Nature had provided the cautious and readily perfidious race of the Ulysses. We never im- agine Mazarin to ourselves as other than old, gouty, moribund under his purple; let us try to see him as . he was in the days when he founded and secured his fortunes. He was handsome, magnificent in deport- ment and of cheerful countenance. Bom in 1602, he was only twenty-nine years of age when he gave the measure of his capacity, his boldness, and his luck during the war in Italy. Man of the sword, and the right arm of the Nuncio, the Signore Giulio Mazarini (as he then was) stopped short, before Casale, the Spanish and French armies then on the point of attack- ing each other. Leaving the Spanish camp and bear- ing the conditions he had wrung from the Spaniards, he shouted to the French, already advancing: Halt! halt! peace! " pushing his horse to a gallop and mak- ing signs with his hat to stop. The French army, already in movement and on the point of firing, an- swered back: "No peace! no Mazarin!" But he, redoubling his pacific gestures, came on, passing through, as he came, a few musket-shots. The leaders listened to him and suspended the attack. That wave of the hat, by which he stopped and held spellbound two armies, ought to win him, people said, the cardinal's hat.

Richelieu valued him from that day and won him over to the service of France. He seems to have


104 CatMnal Aasaritu

reUshed from the first that skilful genius, facile yet laborious, frank yet insinuating, of a nature other than his own, of an order in some respects inferior, but, for that very reason, not unpleasing to him, in whom he was not sorry to recognise, perhaps on account of these differences, a successor. The first time he presented him to the queen [Anne of Austria],

    • Madame," he said, ** you will like him much ; he has

Buckingham's air." If he really permitted himself to make that speech, he little thought how truly he pre- dicted. As long as Richelieu lived, Mazarin's capacity was, in a way, buried in the privacy of the cabinet; he was closely allied with none but Chavigny, who had the heart and soul of Richelieu, whose son he was secretly reported to be. On the death of the great minister and on that of the king there came a very critical moment for Mazarin: designated by them tor the first place in the Council, he believed himself rather on the eve of dismissal, and was already, so it was said, making his preparations to return to Italy, when his adroitness and his star carried him, at a stroke, to the summit

Although there was something of Buckingham about him, it does not appear that he had any private relations with tAe queen before the year 1643. If we believe La Rochefoucauld, it was during the short interval that elapsed between the death of Richelieu and that of Louis XIII, that Mazarin began to open avenues into the mind and heart of the queen, to


CarMnal Aasattiu 105

justify himself in her eyes through his friends, and to contrive, perhaps, a few secret conversations of which she herself made mystery to her old servitors. Anne of Austria was about to become queen-regent; but would she be as all-powerful in her own right as she wished, or only through the medium of the Council as the king had intended? Mazarin, who would surely be the soul of that Council, took pains to let the queen understand that it mattered little on what con- ditions she received the regency provided she had it with the consent of the king; and that afterwards, that point secured, she would not lack for means to free her authority and govern alone. This was letting her feel that henceforth she would have no enemy in him. It is permissible to suppose that in these first approaches Mazarin, still young, only forty years of age, did not neglect to use his personal advantages and put forth those refinements of demonstration of which he was so capable on occasion, and which are sovereign with all women but especially with a queen so much a woman as Anne of Austria.

Brienne has very well narrated the decisive mo- ment when, thanks to the queen, Mazarin tied anew and more tightly than ever the knot of his fortunes. That moment must be long among the first of the regency, or perhaps to the last days of Louis Xlll's illness. The Bishop of Beauvais, then the principal minister, was incapable; the queen needed a prime- minister, but whom could she choose ? She consulted


io6 aarMnal Aasartn*

two men who had her confidence. President de BaiUeul and the old secretary of State, Brienne. The latter, who relates the details of the conversation to his son, spoke after de BaiUeul, who gave his opinion first and began by excluding Mazarin as the creature of Richelieu. "But 1," says old Brienne, who had more than once perceived the secret leaning of the queen to his emi- nence, thought I ought to speak with more reserve." The fact is, the queen had reached the point where consultation is held merely to hear advice that is secretly desired and to prompt it in the direction to which the heart inclines. The consultation ended, the queen had made her choice; nothing remained but to make sure of the cardinal Calling her head valet-de- chambre, Beringhen, and telling him what had just been said : Go at once," she added, " and repeat it to the cardinal; pretend to have overheard it by chance. Spare that poor President de Bailleul, who is a good servant; praise to the cardinal the good office Brienne has rendered him; but, above all, discover what the cardinal's sentiments for me are; and let him know nothing of my intentions until you know, in the first place, what gratitude he will show for my kindness." Beringhen acquitted himself of his errand. He found the cardinal with G>mmander de Souvrd who had given him a dinner on that day. The cardinal was playing cards with Chavigny and some others. When he saw Beringhen enter the room, he divined a message, and leaving his cards to be held by Bautur


Cardinal /Dasariiu 107

he passed into the next room. The conversation was long. Beringhen spoke at first with extreme precaution as to the good intentions of the queen. The cardinal, faithful to his habit of dissimulation, showed neither pleasure nor surprise. But when Beringhen, driven at last by the reserve he encoun- tered, said positively that he came from the queen, the effect was that of a magic wand:

'* At these words," continued Brienne, " the sly Italian changed his behaviour and language, and passing at once from extreme reticence to extreme effusion of heart: ' Monsieur,' he said to Beringhen, ' 1 place my career without conditions in the hands of the queen. All the advantages that the king gave me in his declaration 1 abandon from this moment. I feel troubled in doing so without informing M. de Chavigny; but I venture to hope that her majesty will deign to keep this matter secret, 9S I will, on my side, religiously.' "

These words were explicit; but Beringhen inti- mated that he desired some more precise pledge to prove the success of his errand. The cardinal, taking at once a pencil-case, wrote as follows on Beringhen's tablets:

" * I shall never have any will but that of the queen. I resign, from this moment and with all my heart, the advantages that the king's dedaratkm promised me; 1 abandon them without reserve, with all my other interests, to the unexampled goodness of her majesty. Written and signed by my own hand.' [Lower down was written]: ' Of her majesty the very humble, very obedient, and veiy fruthftd subject, and very grateful aeature,

'Jules, Cardinal MazarinL'"

Mazarin's cleverness consisted in seizing this unique nioment ; in divining that, in the instability of things


io8 CarMnal AasarUu

and alliances at Court, there was for him no plank safer or more solid on which to launch himself than 'the heart of that Spanish princess, romantic and faith- ful; and that that vessel, reputed so frail by sages, would, for this once at least, resist all tempests.

From that day forth he was master and might have taken for his motto: Whoso has the heart has all." Chavigny, to whom he owed everything, and with whom he had been in part allied up to that time, was sacrificed without regret or shame. Politicians are not stopped, or, if you choose, were not then stopped by the trifles that hamper men of honour in the ordinary walks of life. The first influences of this mighty rise of Mazarin are admirably depicted by his enemy, by Retz, who, in an incomparable page, makes us feel the skill, luck, and hidden prestige, so to speak, of this insinuating new grandeur. When Mazarin, to bring to reason the former friends of the queen who were becoming too importunate and too important, and claiming her power as a spoil that was due to them, arrested the Due de Beaufort, every one admired and bowed down to him. The moderation that the cardinal showed on the morrow of that act of vigour was regarded by all as clemency. The comparison then made between this power, suddenly so firm but not terrible, which continued gentle and even habitually smiling, with that of Cardinal de Richelieu charmed all minds for a time, and £iscinated imaginations. The cardinal, who had still much to


OatMnal A«3«rtiu 109

win, put aD his cleverness into seconding his luck, in short»" says Retz, he managed so well that he found himself on the heads of every one when every one thought him still at their side."

It must not be thought that I am insensible to the persuasive graces of Mazarin; but where I separate a little from his ingenious apologisers is in the general admiration of his personality and character. Why should we admire so vehemently men who have so greatly deqiised otter men, and have believed that tile greatest art in governing ttiem was to dupe them? is it not enough to recognise their merits and be just to their memory ? Mazarin was certainly a great min* ister; but I think it was chiefly as a negotiator with foreign countries, as the man who brougtrt about the treaty of Munster and concluded the Peace of the I^enees. It is as a fine diplomatic player that he has his assured place, absolutely beyond attack, in history* As for the interior of France, its administration and finances, he seems to have had no views of general improvement, no thought of the public good; so far from that, he never ceases to sordidly pursue his own gain and profit Though he knew men so well, there was always a point of French genius tliat escaped him; a point on which he was not French, either in tone, feeling, or intelligence. 1 forgive him for being ignaranUssime in matters of tlie old magistracy and of the parliaments, but he did not fed that inward, po- tential mainspring of our monarchy, Jkwwwr, and all


lis Cardinal Aasarfiu

them down. There is true literature in this fact He is a man to undertake, not to succeed, but to give himself the emotion and pride of enterprise, the pleas- ure of the game rather than the winnings and the profit, which never come to him. He is in his ele- ment in the midst of cabals; he feels his affinity and swims among them, in idea, all through the vivid description he writes of them. Such men, gifted with the genius of the writer, always have, without fully accounting for it to themselves, an inward reser- vation, a final resource: that of writing their history and indemnifying themselves for all they have lost on the side of actuality. Those who listened to Retz in his years of retirement remarked that he loved to re- count the adventures of his youth, which he exagger- ated and embellished with a few marvels: "The truth is," says the Abb6 de Choisy, "Cardinal de Retz had a little pea in his head." That "little pea" [petit grain\ is precisely what made the man of im- agination, the writer and the painter of genius, the man of incomplete practicality, who was destined to miscarry against the common-sense and cold patience of Mazarin, but was equally certain to pay him off and take his revenge upon him, pen in hand, before posterity.

1 do not answer, and no judicious reader will an- swer for the historical truth and accuracy of many of the tales offered to us in Retz's Memoirs; but what is evi- dent and strikes the eye at once, is something for us


(EatMnal Atisarfiu 113

superior to mere accuracy of detail: I mean the moral truth, the fidelity, human and living, of the whole. For example, read that first scene of the Fronde, when, after the imprisonment of Counsellor Broussel, the coadjutor (that is, Retz, bishop*s assistant) decides to go to the Palais Royal and represent to the queen the excitement in Paris and the imminent danger of an uprising. He meets on his way the Mar6chal de la Meilleraye, a brave soldier, who offers to second him and support his testimony at Court What a scene of comedy, admirably described, is that at which Retz makes us actually present! The queen, incredulous and angry; the cardinal, who as yet has no fear, smiling maliciously; the sycophants, Bautru and No- gent, cracking jokes; and the others each in his rdle: M. de Longueville, exhibiting sadness, but in the greatest joy at this beginning of the business "; M. le Due d'Orl^ns, playing the eager and ardent in speak- ing to the queen, "though I never heard him whistle so idly as he did while talking for half an hour in the little grey room with Guerchi " ; Villeroy, the mar6- chal, assuming gaiety in order to pay court to the cardinal, "and owning to me in private, with tears in his eyes, that we were on the brink of a precipice." The scene described by Retz goes on in this way with all sorts of variations until Chancellor S6quier enters the room: " He was so weak by nature that he never until this occasion had spoken a word of truth;

but now compliance yielded to fear. He spoke

t


XI4 OarMnal Aasarfiu

out, and said just that which all he had seen in the streets dictated to him. I noticed that the cardinal seemed much nettled at the liberty taken by a man whom he had never seen take one before." But when, after the chancellor, the lieutenant of the guard can^ in, paler than an actor in Italian comedy, oh! then it was decisive, and fear, which all had been re- sisting, came to the surface in every soul. This whole comedy should be read in Retz. The scene is true; it must be, for it is true to human nature, to the na- ture of kings, ministers, and courtiers in these extrem- ities: it is the scene of Versailles while the Bastille is being taken, or that of the eve of October 5th; it is the scene, so often repeated, of Saint-Cloud, or the Tuileries, on the morning of riots that sweep away dynasties.

These are the aspects that Retz has marvellously caught and comprehended; the characteristics of men, the masking and acting of personages, the general sit- uation, and the instigating influence of events; on all these sides he is superior and beyond attack in the way of thought and moral description, as much as Mazarin himself will ever be in history as the maker of the Peace of the Pyrenees.

When we come to judging great personages, men of action, general family traits will be seen to show out distinctly and are easily identified. For instance, Mirabeau is not well known until we see the source from which he sprang— that original and robust race,


CafMiud iBasKfiL us

already eloquent of £ecther, uncle, and grand&ther. Great as he was, the tribune of '89 only brought to the surEure that which his kin had within them, and worked it at wilL Napoleon, in the composition of his character, in the combination of primitive elements that were in it and to which his genius gave meaning and a soul, is certainly better known when, before following his whole career, we look around the circle of his brothers and sisters. In the case of Mazarin, although the group of relatives is not in direct Une with him, it is by no means useless to look it over in order to define and circumscribe the original nature of the cardinal-minister and make it understood.

The children of his sisters show plainly the strongly constituted race, predestined to action, from which he issued. Nearly all his nieces reveal that race in what it had of unadulterated and genuine, as the English say, in the sacred force of blood, as the Greeks would have said, in natural nobleness combined with the ter- rible instincts of adventurers. These new-comers, whom he risked introducing at the Court of France, where so many malicious taunts and scoffs awaited them, did not shame him, although at times they caused him great embarrassment. The uncle was not obliged to say much to make them take wing; they took it of themselves, they soared, they aimed at thrones and coronets, and lowered their pretensions scarce at all ; they were chips of the old block. Blood never lies. Nearly all of them had beauty,


ii6 CarMnal Aasarfm

force of character, hardihood, adroitness, and few scruples — although there were among their number (let us not forget it) two virtuous women and one saint'

In bringing them to France their uncle had not ill- speculated for the aggrandisement of the family and for the pleasure of French society. He re-enlivened that fine society (though it did not then stand in much need of it) by this little Roman-Sicilian invasion; with his Olympe, his Marie, his Hortense, he sowed dazzling varieties of splendid existences and furrowed social life with unexpected and &ntastic caprices. Among them there was, indeed, one true Christian, an ad-

' Mazarin's five most noted nieces were the four daughters of his sister, Mme. Mandni, and one daughter of another sister, Mme. Martinozzi. The names of the first four were (i) Olympe Mandni, married to a prince of the blood, the Comte de Soissons, son of the Due de Savoie and Marie de Bourbon. Being compromised with her sister, the Duchesse de Bouillon, in the trial of Mme. La Voisin, who sold poisons called Poudns de Sucassicn (Inheritance Powders), she fled from France, and ai%er leading with her daughters a wander- ing life, died at Brussek in 1708. She was the mother of the famous Prince Eugene, (a) Marie Manctni, who was Louis XIV*s first love: he fell upon his knees to his mother, imploring to k)e allowed to marry her. Mme. de Motteville gives all the particulars. She subsequently married the Roman Prince Colonna. (3) Hortense Mandni, married to the son cfS Marshal de la Meilleraye, who took the name of Mazarin and was made a duke. After the cardinal's death, the Duchesse de Mazarin lived in England, where she became the devoted friend of Saint-^vremond. (4) Mariana Mandni, married to the Due de Bouillon, was involved with her sister, the G>mtesse de Soissons, in the poison* ing case, and was exiled from France.

The daughter of the other sister, Anne Martinozzi, married Armand, Prince de Conti, brother of the Great Cond£ and of Mme. de Longue> viOe; she is the saint mentioned in the text.^Ta.



-miMtEMimsmu mmmceas of


™»We penitent, who «>m«^w * ^ othc. Anne ^i^c^^^:^ ^*» /^-^ «>r What pagans were al, Tre t^T.^'l^ "- word, those terrible nieces a simrtl ^ """^

to depK,rethe death of thaTdLlSe^^r ^^ «y •« m itself a funeral omtion-^H?! ! '^'*" they said: llestcreoe! ^ ^ "'^t'"

Their brilliant minds. »& »««« , ^ turned, with insdnc^e tl^eT. *^°'^' ^"^ the n.c»t natural and thelirc^;*^-^,'^--. of their day; they became ^ 1^^^ .^"^^ patrons. The Duchesse de Ma^ ^^"^ ^"** her philosopher, Saint-^vrem^ *^°°* ^"^ fr*"" de Bouillon from U Fo„rnT '."^^ "^^ ^^^^esse Their brother, the Due de ^1"'; '*" °' *^*^-

easy suppers to Chaulieu and La'p*'"** ***"*•***"' «"«* prior of Venddme, all liberUnes in 1*'*" T** ** *""**■ Who Skirted the great ^Zl^C.^^' it, awaiting the Regency Fran ^'*^^9,m to

the activity of these nieces of Maztri?' "^ """" ^°^ carried to neighbouring Courts and " ' '°'"* *"' "*"" breaks and their error!; wi^out , •"°"'-

the great position to wiich te;^!^:! '"""""«  which they had naturaUsed them's^^^ "Z. T " e.gns^ M. Amedee Renee. in his " Ni^oT^ has charm nglv strung fnr ,.• ®***<^'W«a«rin," vlolcn. and vS^^":: *" *"^ ->»«■««.


ii8 CatMnal flbasarfiu

Duchesse de Mazarin, and the Duchesse de Bouillon. He introduces us to the choice company of the H6tel de Nevers, that mysterious household "which com- bined the graces of the Mortemarts with the Mancini imagination."

I shall here permit myself, in my quality of critic, to ask M. Rente in his next edition to mark more dis- tinctly the contrast of one of the figures, that of the Princesse de Conti, the eldest of the Martinozzi, to her brilliant sisters and cousins who lived for pleasure, adventure, folly, and orgies of intellect and wit. She was not only a pure-souled woman, that Princesse de Conti; her life, though clothed with a tinge of severity, has nothing veiled about it; it can be studied in the history of Port-Royal, where she has her place as friend and benefactress. She was born with all the qualities that fit a person of her sex for the world; she had the gift of beauty; with it she was serious, gentle, tranquil from childhood, but always full of feeling; firm, intrepid, but nevertheless cautious, and taking care to establish a reputation beyond attack. But this modesty, this exterior propriety made of her, as she said herself, only a worthy heathen." She was concerned solely to be happy and glorious on earth and to make a lofty marriage. This ambition, great as it was, seemed more than satisfied when she found herself at the age of seventeen married to Armand de Bourbon, Prince de Conti, who was sincerely enamoured of her. Yet, amid the grandeurs and


CatMnal Aasadiu 119

dignities that now environed her, something was still lacking; her heart felt a void within that remained unfilled.

A deep, internal agitation smouldered within her; at eighteen years of age, beneath a calm exterior, the most contradictory thoughts disturbed her. Rather confusedly instructed in the truths and spirit of Christ- ianity, she had seen enough to make her wish to get rid of it wholly, in order not to be hampered by it. She made efforts to extinguish the feeble remains of her languishing faith, hoping in that way to calm her uneasiness : "but God did not permit her to succeed." She did not find relief from such sadness by affect- ing doubt and an indifference that she did not feel. Secret infirmities warned her in low tones that the hour of eternity might not be as far from her as her youth seemed to promise. Her converted husband lost no occasion for repeating to her "all that charity could make him say on the greatest of subjects to the person in the world to whom it was most important and whom he loved best." She received with the ut- most gentleness what he said to her; but all these persuasions at bottom only importuned her and em- bittered her against piety, which she regarded as her enemy and her rival in the heart of the prince. It was in this condition of a long-standing inward struggle, that she one day found herself suddenly, and without knowing how, turned to God, convinced of the truths of faith, and burning with a desire to rise


ito CatMiud Aasattiu

upward to the divine source. Her iieart was changed, and not half-changed; in this she showed the great- ness of that heart

From this moment she walked, without ever turn- ing aside, in the paths of practical piety and charity; there was no question henceforth of aught but the de- grees by which she grew to the light She took a con- fessor who had been given to the prince, her husband, by the Bishop of Aleth, Pavilion; she guided her whole conduct by the stern principles of the gentlemen of Port-RoyaL h became a question which of the two, she or her beautifiil sister-in-law, the Duchesse de Longueville, made most progress in the narrow way. Naturally proud, rather inclined to avarice, she con- troDed her inclinations, cared for the poor and the sick, gave consMerable alms with discernment and intelli- gence, not forgetting justice even in charity. Left a widow at twenty-nine years of age, she redoubled her care and vigilance in ruHng her househokl rightly, and in bringing up in a Christian manner her sons, to whom she had given Lancelot, of Port-Royal, as tutor. Much respected by Louis XIV, she never abandoned to please him those whom he thought too austere. One Sunday in Advent, 1670, when Bour- daloue had preached on "severity of penitence," making a very cutting allusion to the supposed exces- sive doctrines of Port-Royal, of M. Amauld, and of his friends, the princess, who was present at the sermon, expressed her displeasure so loudly that the celebrated



HORTEN8IA DE MANCINI, DUCHE8SE DE MAZARIN. From an engraving from her portrait by Sir Peter Lely.


CstMnsI Anjattiu i2z

Jesuit thought it best to go and give her an explana* tion. She listened to him, but did not conceal that she was &r from edified by that part of his discourse. Such she Uved and died. Her sons, those brilliant and dis- solute Conti, who answered so ill to her prayers and to the hopes of their early education, raised a monu- ment to her in the Church of Saint-Andr6-des-Arcs, with this epitaph, in which is no word that is not true:

" To the glory of God, and to the eternal memory of Anne-Marie Martinozzi, Princesae de Conti, who, disiUusioned of the world at the age of nineteen, sold all her jewels to feed, during the famme of 1662, the poor of Berry, Champagne and Picardie ; practised all the auster- ities her health would allow ; was left a widow at twenty-nine years of age, and devoted the remainder of her life to bringing up the princes, her sons, as Christian princes, and in maintaining the laws temporal and ecclesiastical on her estates : she reduced herself to a very modest expenditure ; restored property, the acquisition of which seemed doubtful to her, to the amount of eight hundred thousand francs ; distributed all her savings to the poor on her estates and else- where, and passed suddenly into Eternity, after sixteen years of per* •everance on the 4th of February, 1672, aged thirty-five years."

Here, assuredly, is one of Mazarin's nieces, who, in her black frame, does not resemble any of her famous cousins, and who cannot be too carefully distinguished from them. Let us think for a moment of all there was so reflective, so profound, so enlightened in the Christ- ian sense, in this piety that felt the need of expiating and atoning for others — ^for her husband, the instigator of civil war and the cause of disaster to so many villages and cottages ; for her uncle, the cardinal, the grasping and uiiscrupulous acquirer of countless pos- sessions. From whichever side we look at her we find


133 CatMnal Aasatfiu

ourselves in presence of a rare inspiration, of a noble spirit of sacrifice that fills us with sovereign respect.

What further have I to say of Mazarin that has not been said already ? If I am asked in what manner he loved the queen» and what was the nature of his affec- tion, I answer that there will always be some doubt on that subject; not on the question of love, for love it was, assuredly; true love on her part, and love, more or less simulated so long as he needed her support, on Mazarin's. The letters that we have from him to the queen leave no doubt as to the vivacity of the pas- sionate demonstrations he permitted, or rather, com- manded himself to write; but it would appear, if we rely on the testimony of Brienne and his virtuous mother, that this love was restrained to sufficiently platonic terms, that the mind of the queen was espe- cially charmed with the "beauty of the cardinal's mind," and, in short, that it was a love of which she could speak to a confidant in her oratory and on the relics of saints without having to blush too much or to reproach herself.

Such really appears to have been up to a certain day the true state of the queen's feelings. If later Mazarin passed beyond (as is not impossible) and triumphed over the scruples of the queen to complete possession, it was because he saw in that the surest means of government.

The same Brienne who initiates us into these secrets of the cabinet and the oratory has related the last


Cardfiua Aasarfiu itj

yens and the end of Mazarin in a manner that recalls the pages of Commines when that £uth(ul historian relates the end of Louis XL Mazarin died at fifty-nine years of age. It was time his end came, for the king as well as for the queen. In his last years he had wounded the latter by his harshness and his negli- gence, after he once felt himself secure from all attack. According to the testimony of his niece Hortense : ' * No one ever had such gentle manners in public or such rude ones in domestic life." But Louis XIV, who, as a child, had little liking for Mazarin and felt galled by him not only as king but as a son (for sons instinctively dislike the too-tender friends of their mother), had of late understood and appreciated the extent of his serv- ices, though at the same time he was impatient for the hour to sound when he should reign for himself. Mazarin, with his sagacious eye, had divined Louis XIV from childhood, and was more concerned to retard him as king than to push him; but the moment came when delay was no longer possible. Death then served the fortunate Mazarin by removing him in the height of prosperity and the maturity of human power. After a consultation of physicians, the celebrated Gu6naud declared to him plainly that he was mortally ill and had barely more than two months to live; he then began to think seriously of his end, and he came to it with a singular mixture of firmness, parade, and pettiness. He clung to life, holding to it by stronger ties than those of greater hearts ; I mean by the


124 CatDinal Aasattm

thousand bonds of the vulgar possessor who clings

to life on account of the property he has amassed:

"One day," relates Brienne, *' I was walking through the new rooms of his palace (I mean the great gallery that runs along the Rue de Richelieu and leads to his library); 1 was in the little gallery where there is a tapestry all in wool representing Scipio and executed from the designs of Giulio Romano ; the cardinal had nothing finer. I heard him coming by the noise of his slippers, which he dragged along the ground like a man very feeble and just issuing from a severe illness. I hid behind the tapestry and heard him say: ' I must leave all that! ' He stopped at every step; he was very feeble and held himself up first on one side and then on the other; casting his eyes on an object that met hb sight he said again from the depths of his heart: ' 1 must leave an that!' Then turning, he added: 'And that! What pains I took to acquire these things! how can I abandon them without regret ? I shall never see them more where I am going ! . . .' I heard those words very distinctly; they touched me, perhaps more than he was touched himself. 1 gave a great sigh which I could not restrain; he heard it: ' Who is there ?' he said, ' who is there ? Mt is I, mon- seigneur, I am waiting the moment to speak to your Eminence.' ' Come here, come here,' he said in a dolorous voice. He was naked under hb camlet dressing-gown, lined with squirrel-skin, and had his ntght-cap on his head. He said to me: ' Give me your hand; I am very weak, I have no strength.' 'Your Eminence should sit down.' I wished to bring him a chair. ' No,' he said,' no; I am glad to walk about, and I have something to do in my library.' I offered him my arm and he leaned upon it. He would not let me speak to him of business: ' I am no longer in a state to listen to it,' he said; ' speak to the king, and do what he tdk you; I have other things now in my head.' Then, returning to his thought, he said: 'See, my friend, that beautiful picture by Correggio, and that Venus of Titian, and that incomparable Deluge by Annibale Caned, for I know you k>ve pictures, and you understand them very wdl; ah! my poor firiend, I must quit all that! Farewell, dear pictures I have loved so well and which have cost me so much! ' "

Hearing these words and seeing this scene, so dramatic, so unexpected, reminding us of the Ode of Horace: linquenda tellus et damns, we are touched


CatDinal Aasarftu 135

like Brienne; but take notice that there is in this regret at quitting beautiful things and beautiful pict- ures, characteristic of Italian passion and of a noble amateur, still another sentiment: if the first words are those of a lover of art the last are those of a miser.

Is it as an artist, is it that he loves these pictures for themselves that their master regrets them ? No; it is because they have cost him dear; he loves them and clings to them because of the price he paid for them : there we reach the depths of Mazarin's soul.

Another trait, that we also owe to Brienne, and which Shakespeare would not have omitted in a Death of Maiarin, is of great vigour and of awful truth. One day, Brienne, entering softly into the cardinal's chamber at the Louvre, found him dozing in his arm-chair by the fire; his head swayed forward and back with a sort of mechanical swing, and he was murmuring, as he slept, unintelligible words. Brienne, fearing he might fall into the fire, called the valet-de-chambre, Bernouin, who shook his master rather roughly: '* What is the matter, Bernouin ?" he said, waking up, " what is it ? Guinaud said sol" The devil takeGudnaud and his saying 1" replied the valet; "you are always talking of it." "Yes, Bernouin, yes; Guinaud said it! he said but too true, I must die! 1 cannot escape! Guinaud said it — Guinaud said it!" Those words he had been saying mechanically in his sleep, though Brienne at first did not distinctly hear them.


ia6 CatDtnal Aasarftu

A complete and anecdotal life of Mazarin would be very curious and interesting to make; nearly all the elements are at hand* M. de Laborde has col- lected a great number in his Notes to the Palais Maiarin. He often quotes from Mazarin's Garnets and gives several of the notes written by him, in Italian as well as in French, on subjects that pre- occupied his mind and about which he intended to speak to the queen. We find in these Garnets maxims of State, excellent judgments on men, the minor topics of the day; in short, everything, 1 imagine, except things of grandeur. M. de Laborde succeeds in his apology for Mazarin in the sense that, after reading him, we have obtained a very vivid idea of the mind of the cardinal-minister and of his amiable and potent qualities which is quite equal to what we already thought of him. Nevertheless, 1 could desire that in another edition he would confine his quota- tions and notes to signifying no more than they can prove; and that he would never advance any- thing that impartial and strict criticism cannot justify. 1 could also desire that he had treated Retz, Saint- fivremond, and all the cardinal's adversaries with less levity; also that he did not despise so heartily what he calls thfe ** silly Memoirs" of La Porte. La Porte was a valet-de-chambre who left Memoirs not by any means those of a man of intellect, but certainly those of an honest man; and no Memoirs of a valet are ever silly for posterity.


IV.

ZXk Due t)e la Itocbetoucaul^


127


IV.

ftan^iBf S>uc be %a Kocbetoucatat)* Htttbor ot tbe Aasfma.

A MAN should know how to catch the spirit of his age and the fruit of his season. There comes a moment in life when La Rochefoucauld pleases us, and in which we think him more true than perhaps he really is. The disappointments of enthusi- asm bring disgust Mme. de S^vignd thought it would be charming to hang the walls of her cabinet with the backs of cards; her amiable thoughtlessness saw only the amusing and piquant side of it But the fact is that on a certain day all those beautiful queens of hearts, those noble and chivalrous knaves of diamonds, with whom we were playing so confidently, turn about; we fell asleep trusting in Hector, in Bertha, in Lancelot; we wake up in Mme. de S6vign6's cabinet and their backs alone are visible. We feel beneath our pillow for the book of the night before; it was Elvire and Lamartine, and lol in its place we find La Rochefoucauld. Well, let us open him; he consoles, for the reason that he is gloomy like ourselves; he amuses. These thoughts of his which, in days of

.a.


I30 jfrancof0t Buc 5e %a Vocbefoucault)*

youth revolted us as too false, or annoyed us as too true, and in which we saw nothing but book- morality, now appear to us, for the first time, in all the freshness of novelty on the uphill of life, they, too, have their spring-tide; we discover it: "How true that isl" we cry. We cherish the secret insult; we suck the bitterness with pleasure. But this very excess has something reassuring. Enthusiasm for those thoughts is a sign that already we are passing beyond them and beginning a cure.

It is permissible to conjecture that M. de La Roche- foucauld himself softened toward the end, and cor- rected in his heart certain too positive conclusions. During the course of his delicate and lasting intimacy with Mme. de la Fayette it can be said that he often seemed to abjure them, certainly in practice; and his noble friend had some right to congratulate herself on having reformed him, or, at any rate, in having comforted his heart

The life of M. de La Rochefoucauld, before his great intimacy with Mme. de la Fayette, falls naturally into three divisions, of which the Fronde is only the second: his youth and his first exploits antedate it. Bom in 1613 and entering the world at the age of sixteen, he never studied, and merely added to his vivacity of mind a natural good sense, masked, how- ever, by a great imagination. Before the discovery, in 1817, of the true text of his Memoirs, which gives on this early period a mass of particulars withheld by



FRANCOIS, DUG DE LA ROCHEFOUCAULD. From a steel engraving.


fvanqoiSf Buc 5e %a Kocbefoncanlt). 131

the author in the version known until then, no one suspected the degree of romantic chivalry to which the young Prince de Marsillac was carried. Bucking- ham and his royal adventures seem to have been the object of his emulation, just as Gitiline was that of the young de Retz. Such early misleadings bar many a life. All La Rochefoucauld's noble fire was then consumed in his devotion to the unhappy queen (Anne of Austria), to Mile. d'Hautefort, and Mme. de Chevreuse. In taking this path of devotion he turned, without thinking of it, his back to fortune. He dis- pleased the king, he irritated the cardinal: what matter ? the fate of Chalais, of Montmorency, of all those illustrious beheaded-ones seemed only to spur him on. At a certain moment (in 1637, when he was twenty-three or twenty-four years of age) the persecuted queen,

" abandoned by every one/' he tells us, ** and daring to confide in none but Mile. d'Hautefort and me, proposed to me to abduct them both and take them to Brussels. Whatever difficulty and danger 1 saw in the project I can truly say it gave me more joy than I had ever had in my life. I was at an age when one delights to do extraordinary and dazzling things, and I thought nothing could be more so than to carry off the queen from her husband and from Cardinal de Richelieu who was jealous of her, and take Mile. d'Haute- fort from the king who was in love with her."

All these fabulous intrigues ended for him, on the flight of Mme. de Chevreuse, by eight days in the Bastille, and an exile of two or three years at Verteuil (1639-1642). This was getting off on easy terms


132 ftangoiBf Due de %a HocbctoncmVb.

with Richelieu; and the rather weary exile was agreeably diversified, he owns, by family joys (he had married Mile, de Vivonne), the pleasures of country life, and, above all, the hopes of the coming reign, when the queen-regent would surely reward his faithful services.

This first part of the Memoirs is essential, it seems to me, to throw light on the Maxims, and to enable us to measure the height from which this chival- rous ambition had fallen before it burrowed into human nature as a moralist; the Maxims were the revenge of the Romance.

From this first period (now better known) it appears that Marsillac, who was in fact over thirty-three years old when his alliance with Mme. de Longueville be- gan, and thirty-five at his entrance into the Fronde, was already at this latter period a disappointed man, irritated, and, to tell the truth, much perverted. This, without excusing him, does explain in part the detestable conduct he then exhibited. We see him tainted from the start He does not conceal from himself the motives that cast him into the Fronde. " I did not hesitate, " he says ; ' ' 1 felt great pleasure that in whatever position the harshness of the queen and the hatred of Cardinal Mazarin had placed me, I still had the means of revenging myself upon them." Ill- rewarded for his early devotion, he was fully resolved not to be caught in that way again.

The Fronde is therefore the second period of La


jTrangofs, S>uc 5e %a Kocbefoncaul^* 133

Rochefoucauld's life; the third comprises the ten or a dozen years that followed the Fronde, during which he recovered as best he could from his bodily wounds, and avenged himself, amused himself, and raised his tone to the moral plane of the Maxims. His intimate friendship with Mme. de la Fayette, which softened and truly consoled him, came later.

We may give to each of the four periods of M. de La Rochefoucauld's life the name of a woman, just as Herodotus gave to each of his books the name of a muse. These four women were Mme. de Chevreuse, Mme. de Longueville, Mme. de Sabl6, Mme. de la Fayette; the first two, heroines of intrigue and ro- mance: the third, a moralising and converting friend; the last, reverting, though unconsciously, to the her- oine type by a tenderness tempered with reason, blending their tints and illuminating them as if by a last sun.

Mme. de Longueville was the brilliant passion: was she a sincere passion ? Mme. de S6vign6 writes to her daughter (October 7, 1676): "As for M. de La Rochefoucauld, he went, like a child, to revisit Ver- teuil, and the places where he had hunted with so much pleasure; 1 do not say where he had been in love, for I cannot believe that he has ever been what is called in Icroe." He himself (according to Segrais), said he had never found love except in novels. If his Maxim is true, "There is only one sort of love, but a thousand different copies of it," that of M. de La


134 ftwxsoiB, Due ^e Xa 1^ocbetottcattl^.

Rochefoucauld and Mme. de Longueville may very

well be thought merely a flattering copy of the real

thing.

Marsillac, at the moment when he attached himself

to Mme. de Longueville, was anxious, above all, to

advance himself at Court and avenge the neglect in

which he had been left, and he judged her suitable for

his purpose. He has told us how he negotiated for

her, as it were, with Miossens, afterwards Mardchai

d' Albret, who had precedence in her regard :

I had reason to think that I could make better use of the friend- ship and confidence of Mme. de Longueville than Miossens ; I made him admit this himself. He knew the position in which I stood at Court; I told him my views, but added that consideration for him would always hold me back, and that I would not attempt to take up an intimacy with Mme. de Longueville, unless he permitted it. I own that I embittered him against her in order to obtain her, but without telling him aught that was not true. ... He gave her up to me wholly— but he repented it."

Attraction counted for something, no doubt, im- agination and desire assisting. M. de La Rochefou- cauld loved great passions and thought them necessary to the making of a man of honour. What more noble object could there be on which to practise them ! Nevertheless, all this, in its origin at least, was done in cold blood.

On the side of Mme. de Longueville, there is not less to reason about and discriminate. We do not fear to subtilise on sentiment with her, for she herself was subtile beyond measure. In the matter of devo- tion we have her secret examinations of conscience at


faanQotB, 9nc tc %m mocbebmcnB). 135

Port-Royal, in which iht r^nements of her scruples pass all conception. In love, in gallantry, the same thing— less the scruples. But her life and portrait must not be lightly touched in passing; she deserves a place apart, and she shall have it Her fate has such contrasts and such harmonies throughout its whole tissue that it would be a profanation to diminish its lights and shades. She is of those, moreover, of whom it is in vain to speak ill; reason loses all rights; it is with her heart as it was with her beauty, which, in spite of many defects, had a radiancy, a languorous habit, in short, a charm that attached every one.

Her twenty-fifth year had already passed when her liaison with M. de La Rochefoucauld began. Until then she had mingled very little in politics ; though Miossens had tried to initiate her. La Rochefoucauld applied himself to the task, and succeeded in giving her activity rather than skill, to which, indeed, he himself only half attained.

The natural taste of Mme. de Longueville was for that which has been called the style of the H6tel de Rambouillet. She liked nothing so well as gay and gallant conversations, discussions on sentiments, deli- cate distinctions that testified to the quality of the mind. She sought, above all things, to show the re- finement within her, to detach herself from whatever was common, and to shine in all that was exquisite. When she came to believe herself a political personage she was not displeased to be thought less sincere,


136 ftangoiB, Bnc &e la 1RacbetoiicanI&« 

imagining that it made her seem the shrewder. Petty considerations of this kind decided her on great occa- sions. Chimeras, fancies, notions of false glory, and also what we baptise by the name of poesy, were in her; she was always outside of the real. Her step- daughter, the Duchesse de Nemours, who was never, herself, out of it, an Argus of little charity but very clear-sighted, shows her to us in Memoirs so just that we could wish them at times less rigorous. La Rochefoucauld, in his turn, does not say otherwise, and he, well placed as he was to know her, complains of the ease with which she allowed herself to be gov- erned — a weakness he used too much and of which he did not continue the master. "Her fine qualities were less brilliant," he says, "because of a blemish that was never before seen in a princess of her merit, which was, that far from giving the law to those who had a particular adoration for her, she transformed her- self so completely into their sentiments that she no longer recognised any of her own." At all times it was M. de La Rochefoucauld, or M. de Nemours, or (at Port-Royal) M. Singlin who governed her. Mme. de Longueville used her own mind less than she did that of others.

In order to guide her in politics M. de La Rochefou- cauld was not firm enough in them himselt " There was always a something I know not what in M de La Rochefoucauld," says Retz. And in a wonderful page, where the old enemy effaces himself and seems


ytansofBt S>uc ^e la 1Rocl)efoncanI&« 137

to be only the malignant friend, he develops that "I know not what '* into the idea of something irresolute, insufficient, incomplete in action amid so many great qualities. " He was never a warrior, though very sol- dierly. He was never of himself a good courtier, though he had full intention to be one. He was never a man of party, though all his life he was bound to party." He dismisses him, however, as the most hon- ourable of men in private life. On one single point I venture to contradict Retz, he denies imagination to La Rochefoucauld who, as I think, had a very great one. He began by practising romance in the days of Mme. de Chevreuse; under the Fronde he tried history, politics, and failed. Vengeance and vexation drove him into them more than serious ambition, and the noble remains of romance came back with ill-for- tune; private life and its peaceful idleness, in which his days were to end, already called him. He was hardly embarked on an enterprise before he showed his impatience to be out of it; his inmost thought was not there. Now, with Mme. de Longueville's disposition to be swayed, let us reflect on what her course would naturally be as soon as this something I know not what " in M. de La Rochefoucauld became her guiding star; and grouped around that star, like so many moons, were her own caprices.

It would be undertaking too much to follow the pair. With regard to M. de La Rochefoucauld it would often be too painful and too humiliating for those who


X38 fxmi^iBf Bnc ^ la 1RacberoticanI&« 

admire him to accompany him. The outcome with him is better than the way to it. Let it suffice to say here that during the first Fronde and the siege of Paris (1649) his ascendency over Mme. de Longue- ville was complete. When, after the arrest of her brothers (the Prince de Cond6 and the Prince de Conti) she fled by sea to Holland and thence to St6^ nay, she was weaned from him somewhat. After her return to France and the struggle was renewed we find her still ruled by M. de La Rochefoucauld, who now gives her better advice in proportion as he him- self becomes more disinterested. But she finally es- capes him altogether (1652) and lends her ear to the amiable Due de Nemours; who made himself especi- ally pleasing by sacrificing to her claims the Duchesse de Chitillon.

"Persons have great difficulty in breaking apart when they no longer love each other." They had reached that difficult point: M. de Nemours cut through it, and M. de La Rochefoucauld joyfully seized the opportunity to be free by playing the in- jured party : "When we are weary of loving we are very glad when the other side is faithless to us and so releases us from our fidelity."

He was very glad, but not without some mixture and return of bitter feelings. "Jealousy," he says, " is bom with love, but does not always die with it." The punishment of such aUiances is that it is equal suffering to bear them or break them. He wanted to


fvanqqiBf Bnc &e Xa 1RacberoiicanI&« 139

avenge himself, and manoeuvred so well that Mme. de Chitillon recovered M. de Nemours from Mme. de Longueville, and, flushed with triumph, she also made the latter lose the heart and confidence of the Prince de Cond6. Between Mme. de Chl^tillon, M. le Prince, and M. de Nemours, La Rochefoucauld* who was the soul of the intrigue, congratulates himself cruelly. Sight and wound of threefold bitter- ness to Mme. de Longuevillel

Shortly after, M. de Nemours was killed in a duel with M. de Beaufort, and (whimsicality of heart!) Mme. de Longueville mourned him as if she still possessed him. Her ideas of repentance followed closely on his death.

M. de La Rochefoucauld was soon punished for his vile action; he received, at the battle of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, that musket-shot in the face which blinded him for some time. For him it was the end of his active errors. He was nearly forty years old, gout had already gripped him, and now he was nearly blind. He retreats into private life and buries himself in the easy-chair he was never again to leave. As- siduous friends surround him and Mme. de SabI6 pays him every attention. The accomplished man of hon- our begins; the moralist declares himself.

M. de La Rochefoucauld makes it felt that he is a wise man from the moment that he becomes disin- terested. Such are men: wisdom on one side, action on the other. Good sense is at the summit when


I40 ftanQoiBf smc &e la 1RocbetoncanK>*

they have nothing more to do than to judge those who have none.

The "something, I know not what/' of which Retz sought the explanation, reduces itself, so &r as I can define it, to this: that La Rochefoucauld's true vocation consisted in being an observer and a writer. This was the end to which all the rest of his life served him. With his divers attempted caUings as warrior, statesman, and courtier he was never wholly in any of them : there was always an essential cor- ner of his nature that kept aloof and displaced the equilibrium. His nature, without his then suspecting it, had an arrHre-pensie in all enterprises, and that hidden thought was an instinct to reflect upon the enterprise when it was over. All adventures were to finish with him in maxims. What would seem to be fragments collected by experience after shipwreck, composed the true core, found at last, of his life.

A slight but very singular sign seems to me to indi- cate still further in M. de La Rochefoucauld this par- ticular destination of nature. For a man so much in the world he had (Retz tells us) a strange air of shy- ness and timidity in civil life. He was so embarrassed in public that if he had to speak on official matters before six or seven persons his courage &iled him. The dread of a solemn harangue kept him always from entering the French Academy. Nicole was the same, and could never have preached or maintained an ar- gument A characteristic of the moralist is secrecy


ftmnQOiSf S>ttc &e la iRocbefottcauU)* 141

of observation, communication with others in a low voice. Montesquieu says of him, somewhere, that if he had had to get his living as a professor he could not have done it. Maxims are things that cannot be taught; half a dozen persons before whom to recite them are too many; the maker of them will be ad- mitted to be right only in a t£te-^-t£te. Mankind in the mass need a Jean-Jacques or a Lamennais.

The RdJleocUms au Sentences et Maximes Morales appeared in 1665. Twelve years had elapsed since the adventurous days of M. de La Rochefoucauld, and the musket-shot, his last misfortune. In that interval he had written his Memoirs, which an indiscretion had divulged (1662), and to which he was forced to give a denial that proved nothing. A copy of the Maxims also got about and was printed in Holland. He parried this by giving them to Barbin to publish in Paris. This first edition, without the author's name, although he is plainly indicated, contains a Note to the Reader very worthy of the book, and a discourse, much less worthy, attributed to Segrais, which replies to objections already current by many quotations from classical philosophers, and from Fathers of the Church. The short Note to the Reader makes a far better answer in a single sentence : ' ' Take care; there is nothing more fitted to establish the truth of these RiflexUms than the heat and subtlety shown in combating them.

Voltaire, judging La Rochefoucauld's Maxims in his


142 fran^oto, Buc ^e la 1Rocbefoncanl&*

light-hearted and charming way, says that no book had contributed more to form the taste of the nation: People read the little volume eagerly; it accus- tomed them to think, and to inclose their thoughts in a lively, precise, and delicate form. This was a merit no one had had before him in Europe since the re- nascence of letters." Three hundred and sixteen thoughts, forming one hundred and fifty pages, had this glorious result. In 1665, 1^ ^^ ^^^^ years since the appearance of the Lettres Provinciales ; Pascal's Pens^es were not published until five years later, while La Bruydre's CaracUres came twenty years later still. The great prose monuments, the eloquent oratorical works which crowned the reign of Louis XIV, did not issue until after 1669, beginning with the funeral oration over the Queen of England. In 1665 France was on the very threshold of the great cent- ury, on the first landing of the portico, on the eve of Andromaque; the staircase of Versailles was inaugur- ating the f£tes: Boileau, accosting Racine, was mount- ing the steps; La Fontaine, in sight, was forgetting to mount; Molidre was already at the top, and Tariuffe, under its original form, was producing itself clandes- tinely. At this decisive moment of universal ardour, M. de La Rochefoucauld, who had little love for lofty discourse and liked only brilliant talk, said his word: a great silence fell; he found he had spoken for all the world, and each word was lasting. Here was a courteous, insinuating, smiling mis-


fvan^tBf V>nc &e Xa 1Rocbefoncattl&. 143

anthrope, preceding by very little and delightfully pre- paring the way for that other Misanthrope,

In the history of the French language and literature. La Rochefoucauld comes in date in the first rank after Pascal, and even precedes him as a pure moralist. He has the clearness and conciseness of phrase that Pascal alone, in that century, had before him; which La Bruy^re caught; which Nicole could not keep; which was destined to become the sign-manual of the eighteenth century, the perpetually easy triumph of Voltaire.

Though the Maxims may seem at their inception to have been merely a relaxation, a social game, a sort of wager of men of wit playing at proverbs, how com- pletely they detach themselves by their result and assume a character above their occasion! Saint-£vre- mond, Bussy, who have been compared to La Roche- foucauld for wit, bravery, and loss of favour, are also writers of social quality: at times they charm, and yet they have I know not what that is corrupt; they fore- tell the Regency. The moralist in La Rochefoucauld is stem, grand, simple, concise; he attains to the noble; he belongs to the pure Louis XIV period.

La Rochefoucauld cannot be too highly praised for one thing : in saying much he does not express too much. His manner, his form is always honourable to the man, even when the matter is little so.

In correctness he belongs to the school of Boileau, but fiir in advance of the j4rt Poitique. Some of his


144 fransoiB, SHic &e la IRocbetoncanK)*

Maxims he rewrote thirty times, until he reached the necessary expression; nevertheless, there seems no torturing effort. The original little volume in its primitive arrangement (afterwards broken up) offer- ing its three hundred and sixteen thoughts, so brief, and framed between general considerations oiself-^Ujve in the beginning and reflections on contempt of death at the end, expresses to me even better tl an succeeding editions an harmonious whole in which each separ- ated detail arrests the eye. The modem perfection of style is there: it is aphorism sharpened and polished. If Racine is to be admired after Sophocles, La Roche- foucauld maybe read after Job, Solomon, Hippocrates, and Marcus Aurelius.

So many profound, solid or delicate intellects have spoken in turn of the Maxims that it is almost temerity in me to add my word. None have so far better treated of their philosophy than M. Vinet in his Essais de Philosophie Morale. He is rather of the opinion of Vauvenargues, who says: La Bruydre was a great painter and was not, perhaps, a great philosopher. The Due de La Rochefoucauld was a great philosopher and no painter." Some one else has said, with the same meaning: "In La Bruydre thought often resembles a woman who is better dressed than beautiful; she has less person than style.*' But, without detracting at all from La Bru- ydre, we shall find in La Rochefoucauki an angle of observation that is wider, a comprehensive glance


ftflt goes deeper. I even ttwnk that he had more sys- tem and unity oT prindple tium M. Vinet is willing to allow, and that in ^ttiis way he &lty justifies the title of phQoBopiier which that ingenious critic so eiqmssfy giants him. Ttie ** often," "sometimes," ** nearly always," usually," with wliich ht moderates his grievous conclusions, may be taken for polite pre- cautions. While putting his finger on tiie mainspring he pretends to step back a little; it is enough, he tiiinks, not to let go. After aO, the moral philosophy of La Rochefoucauld is not much opposed to that of his century; he profits by the propinquity to dare to be fivnk. fiscal, Molidre, Nicole, La Bruydre, can hardly be said, 1 imagine, to flatter mankind; some tell the evil and its remedy; otiiers tell the evil only; tiiere lies the whole difference.

Vauvenargues, who was one of the first to begin tile reludiilitation of tiie race, has remarked this very m^elL '* Mankind," he says, *' is just now in disgrace with aQ tiiose who think; they vie with one anotlier to load it with vices; but perhaps this only shows that it is on the point of rising again and compel- ling the restitution of all its virtues . . . and far more." Jean-Jacques took upon himself the fid- more"; he pushed it so fin*, that we might consider it exhausted. But no; there can be no stopping in so good a road; tiie proudstream flows and swells; num is so rehabilitated in our day that we scarcely dare to say or write the things tluit passed for truths in the


146 fvangoiSf SHic &e la 1Racl)efoncanI&« 

seventeenth century. This a characteristic trait of our times. Many a rare mind when talking is not less satirical than La Rochefoucauld; the same men as soon as they write or speak in public put on a tone of sentiment and begin to exalt human nature. They proclaim in the tribune the noble and the grand at which they laugh in the recess of a window, or sacri- fice to a flash of wit around a green table. Philosophy practises self-interest, and preaches a pure ideal.

La Rochefoucauld's Maxims do not in any way contradict Christianity, although they do without it His man is precisely the fallen man, if not as Francois de Sales and F6nelon understood him, at any rate such as Pascal, Du Guet, and Saint-Cyran consider him. Take from the Jansenist doctrine redemption and you have pure La Rochefoucauld. If he seems to forget in man the exiled king that Pascal recalls, and the broken particles of his diadem, what is that but the insatiable pride that he denounces, which, by force or craft, seeks still to be sole sovereign ? But he limits himself to satire; it is not enough, says M. Vinet, to be mortifying, he should be usefuL La Rochefou- cauld's misfortune is to think that men do not correct themselves. "We give advice," he said, "but we cannot inspire behaviouc." When it was a ques- tion of finding a tutor for the dauphin, he was thought of for a moment; I cannot but think that M. de Mon- tausier, less amiable and more doctoral, was better suited to the place.


fvmcolBf Bnc be la IRocbefoncattU)* 147

La Rochefoucauld's moral reflections seem true, ex- aggerated, or false, according to the humour and the situation of the reader. They please whoever has had his Fronde and a musket-shot between the eyes. The soured celibate treasures them. The fortunate worthy man, father of a family, attached to life by sacred and prudent ties, cannot accept them without qualifying them, or he thinks them odious. A mother suckling her child, a grandmother whom all revere, a noble, pitying father, devoted and upright hearts not sub- tilised by analysis, the lifted foreheads of young men, the pure and blushing foreheads of young girls, — ^these direct recalls to frank, generous, and healthy nature bring back the vivifying hour in which all subtlety of reasoning disappears.

In La Rochefoucauld's own time, and around him, the same objections and the same replies were made. Segrais and Huet thought he had more sagacity than equity; and the latter even remarked, very acutely, that the author had brought certain accusations against mankind for the sole purpose of not losing some witty or ingenious expression he meant to apply to them. However little of an author we may pique ourselves in being as we write, we are always one at some point. If Balzac and the "academists " of that school had ideas only through phrases. La Rochefoucauld himself, the strict thinker, sacrifices to the word. His letters to Mme. de Sabl6 during the time when the Maxims were in making, show him to us full of ardent


143 ftangoiSf SHic be Xa 1Rocl)eroticaiil5*

imagination, but of literary preoccupation as well; there was rivalry between her and himself and M. Esprit and the Abb6 de La Victoire. '* I know that they dine with you without me," he writes to her, " and that you show them maxims I have not made, about which they will not tell me anything. ..." And again, from Verteuil, not Sir from Ahgoul^me, where he was staying: "1 do not know if you have noticed that the desire to make phrases is as catching as a cold in the head; we have here some disciples of M. de Balzac who have caught the infection and will do nothing else." The fashion of "maxims " was succeeding that of "portraits." Later, La Bruyftre took both and united them.

The postscripts of La Rochefoucauld's letters are filled and seasoned with these "sentences," which he jots down, retouches, and inclines to keep back even when sending them; "for I may regret them," he says, "as soon as the postman has gone." "1 am ashamed to send you such works," he writes to a person who has just lost a quarter of his income from the H6tel-de-Ville. "In earnest if you find them ridiculous, return them to me without showing them to Mme. de Sabl£." But the friend did not fail to show them, as he knew very weU. Put thus into circula- tion before printing, these "thoughts" excited con- tradiction and criticism. There was one on Mme. de Schomberg, formerly MUe. d' Hautefort, the object of Louis XIII's chaste love, of whom Marsillac, in the '


ftangoiSf Staic be Xa IRocbeCoiicaitId* 149

days of his eariy chivalry, had been the devoted friend and servitor: "Oh! who would then have believed it," she may have said to him, "Can it be that you have grown so perverted ?"

These "thoughts" were also blamed for obscurity; Mme. de Schomberg does not think them obscure; she complains instead of understanding them too welL Mme. de S6vign6 writes to her daughter in sending her the edition of 1672: "Some of them are divine, and, to my shame, there are some that I cannot under- stand." G>rbinelli commented on them. Mme. de Maintenon, to whom they went earlier, writes in March, 1666, to Mile, de TEnclos, "Offer, I b% you, my congratulations to M. de La Rochefoucauld, and ten him that the book of Job and the book of Maxims form my sole reading."

Success, opposition, and praise were not confined to sodal interviews and correspondence; the news- papers took part in them. When I say "news- papers," I mean the Journal des Savants, the only one then founded, which had been in existence for only a few months. The matter here becomes piquant and I shall venture to divulge it alL In turning over, my- self, the papers of Mme. de Sabl6 I came upon the draft of an article intended for the Journal des Savants and written by that witty lady. Here it is:

" This is a treatise on the emotions of the heait of man, which we may say was unknown until now even to the heart that Mt them. A seigneur as great in mind as he b by birth is the author. But neither


ISO fianqois, Buc be la 1Rocbetoncanl&*

his mind nor his rank has prevented very different judgments being formed of it.

" Some think it an outrage on men to make so terrible a picture of them, And that the author can have found the original only in himself. They say that it is dangerous to bring such thoughts to the light, and that having been so plainly shown that good actions are only done from bad motives, most persons will believe that it is useless to look for virtue, inasmuch as it is impossible to have any except in idea; that, in short, it is upsetting morality to show that the virtues it teaches us are mere chimeras because they come to none but bad ends.

" Others, on the contrary, find the treatise very useful because it re- veals to men the false ideas they have of themselves, and shows them that without religion they are incapable of doing right; it is always well, they say, to know ourselves as we are, even though there may be no other advantage in doing so than that of not being deceived in the knowledge of ourselves.

  • ' However that may be, there is so much wit in this woric, and

such great penetration in perceiving the true state of man, in considering only his nature, that all persons of good sense will find here an in- finity of things of which they might, perhaps, have remained igno- rant all their lives if this author had not drawn them from the diaos of the heart of man and set them in the light, where all the worid may see them and comprehend them without difficulty.

In sending this draft of her article to M. de La Roche- foucauld, Mme. de SabI6 adds the following little note, dated February 18, 1665:

" I send you what I have been able to draw out of my head to put into the Journal des Savants. 1 have put in the side to which you are so sensitive. . . . I did not fear to put it in, because I am certain that you will not allow it to be printed even if the rest pleases you. I assure you, also, that I shall be more obliged to you if you will use it as a thing of your own, by correcting it, or by throwing it into the fire, than if you did it an honour it does not deserve. We great authors are too rich to mind the loss of our productions."

Let us note aU this carefully: Mme. de Sabl6, now


fran^ote, S>uc ^e 3U Vocbefoucauld. 151

devout, who, for several years, had had a lodging in the Faubourg Saint-Jacques, rue de la Bourbe, in the buildings of Port-Royal of Paris, — ^Mme. de Sabl6, greatly occupied, even at this time, with the persecu- tions to which her friends the nuns and the recluses were subjected, is not less concerned in the cares of the world and the interests of literature. These Max- ims, known to her in advance, which she had caused to be copied, and had lent, under the rose and with great mystery, to a number of persons, gathering for the author the various opinions of society, she is now to aid before the public in a newspaper; she xvarks at their success. On the other side, M. de La Rochefoucauld, who dreads of all things to play the author and allows it to be said of him in the Dis- course at the beginning of the book: "He would not feel less vexation in knowing that his Maxims were made public than he felt when the Memoirs attributed to him were published " — M. de La Roche- foucauld, who had meditated so long on man, is now to review his own praise written for a newspaper and take out those parts which displease him ! The arti- cle Was inserted in the Journal des Savants of March 9, and if compared with the draft, we shall see that the part to which Mme. de Sabl6 thinks M. de La Rochefoucauld will be sensitive" has disappeared; nothing remains of the second paragraph, beginning "Some think it an outrage* on men." At the end of the first paragraph, where it is a question of the


152 ftanqoiBf SHic Oe Xa Vocbefoncann)*

different judgments formed on the book, the article, as printed, skips suddenly to the third paragraph, with these words: We may nevertheless say that this treatise is very useful, because," etc. M. de La Rochefoucauld left all as it was, except the least agreeable paragraph. The first literary journal that ever appeared had existed only three months, but already authors were arranging their articles them- selves! As journals improved, the Abb^ Prevost and Walter Scott wrote theirs at greater length.

The part that Mme de Sabl6 had in the composition and publication of the Maxims, that rdle of moralising and semi-literary friendship which she filled during those important years to the author, would give us the right to speak of her here more fully, if it were not that we ought above all to study her in connec- tion with Port-Royal: a charming, coquettish, yet solid mind; a rare woman, in spite of some absurdi- ties, to whom Amauld sent the manuscript of his Discourse on Logic, saying to her: "It is only per- sons Uke yourself whom we desire to judge us  ; and to whom, almost at the same moment, M. de La Rochefoucauld wrote: " You know that 1 trust none but you on certain subjects and especially on the recesses of the heart" She forms the true link be- tween La Rochefoucauld and Nicole.

1 shall say only one word on her own Maxims, which are printed; they serve to measure the little that betongs to those of her illustrious friend. She


jmwspfe* ^Btac tie Xa WxbeStmcsoSt^ 153

iras hB counsellor, but nothing dse: La Rochefou- cauld remans the sole auflior of his work, fai the eighty*one thoughts of Mme de Sable that I have read I could scarcely quote one that stands out m rdief ; then base is either Clirstian nuTraltty, or pure civility and ismgt of tiie world; but the form is especially defective; h is lengthy, long-drawn-out; nothing comes to a conclusion, nottiing listens on tlie mind. The mere comparison makes us better under- stand the manner in vdiich La Rochefoucauld is a wfittr,

Mme. de La Fayette, of wluim tliere is little ques- tion until now in the life of M. de La Rochefoucauld, became his intimate friend immediately after the pid>lication of the Maxims, and applied herself, in a way, to correct tiiem in his iiearL Ttien two exist- ences were never, henceforth, separated. I will relate dsewiiere, in speaking of her, ibt grave comfort given, the aflSictions tenderly consoled, during those last fifteen years. Fortune as well as friendship seemed at last to smile on M. de La Rochefoucauld: he had fimie; the favour of his fortunate son raised him at Court, and even brou^t him back there; there were times when he never quitted Versailles, detained by the king whose chiUhood he had spared so little. Family joys and sorrows found htm incomparable. His mother did not die until 1672: " I have seen him weep, writes Mme. de Soigne, " with a tenderness that made me adore him." His great grief, 2s we


154 fvangoiBf SHic Oe Xa VocbetoucauU)*

know, was that " hail of fire ** at the passage of the Rhine, where he had one son Icilled and the other wounded. But the young Due de Longueville, an- other of the victims, born during the first Fronde, was dearer to him than all else. The youth had made his entry into society about the year 1666, the year of the Maxims: the bitter book, the young hope — two children of the Fronde I In the well-known letter in which Mme. de S6vign6 relates the effect of this death on Mme. de Longueville, she adds im- mediately : " There is a man in the world who is not less moved. I have it in my head that if the two could meet in these first moments, with no one pre- sent, all other feelings would give way to sobs and tears, shed, and doubly with all their hearts : this is a vision."

No death, so say all the contemporaries, ever caused so many tears, and such noble tears, as that of this young man. In M. de La Rochefoucauld's room in the hdtel de Liancourt, above a door, hung a portrait of the young prince. One day, shortly after the fatal news, the beautiful Duchesse de Brissac, coming to pay a visit and entering by a door opposite to the portrait, recoiled at the sight; then, after standing a moment motionless, she made a little curtsey to the company and went away without a word. The unexpected sight of the portrait had wakened all her sorrows, and being no longer mistress of herself she could only withdraw.


jTran^tB, S>uc ^e Xa IRocbefoucaul^ 155

In his advice and solicitude about the graceful loves of the Princesse de Cldves and the Due de Nemours La Rochefoucauld doubtless thought of that flower of his youth mown down; finding, perchance through tears, something not quite imaginary in the portrait. But were it not so, the sight of the now aged moral- ist bending with tenderness over the story of those romantic and charming beings is more fitted to touch us than surprise us. When minds are upright and hearts are sound at their source, after many experi- ments in taste men revert to the simple; after many aberrations in morality they come back to virginal love, if only to contemplate it

It is from Mme. de S6vign6 that we obtain an account of his fatal illness and his supreme last mo- ments, his sufferings, the anguish of all around him, and his constancy ; he looked fixedly at death.

He died March 17, 1680, before the end of his sixty-seventh year. Bossuet assisted him in his last moments; from which fact one of his biographers, M. de Bausset, has drawn certain religious deductions very natural in such a case. Another, M. Vinet, seems less convinced: "Persons," he says, "can make what they like of the following passage from Mme. de S^vign^, a witness of his last moments  :

" I fear," she writes, '* that we must lose M. de La Rochefoucauld; his fever continues; he received Our Lord yesterday; but his state is a thing worthy of admiration. He is well settled as to his conscience; that is done, . . . Believe me, my daughter, it was not useless that he made reflections all his life; he approached


is6 ftam^olef Vnc ^e Xa 1locbet<MicanI5»

Mf lait mommts in such a way that they have brought nothing new or itrange for him."

"It is permissible to conclude from these words/' adds M. Vinet» " that he died, as was said later, with decency."


V.

JSbc Ducbedee ^e Xongueville.


157


V.

Unnc^Ocnivilvc de XourDom

THE name of Mme. de Longueville, as well as that of Mme de La Fayette, is bound to that of M. de La Rochefoucauld by all sorts of attractive re- lations, conventions, and reverberations more or less mysterious. Her life, divided into two opposing parts, one of ambition and gallantry, the other of repentance and devotion, too often had witnesses who were solely concerned with one aspect of it. Mme de S6vign6 alone, in a memorable letter, has thrown light upon her portrait at its most pathetic moment. To me, who have met her at the very centre and heart of a subject on which I was writing [the "History of Port-Royal "] the opportunity has been given to fol- low her and to have the honour of frequenting her presence in hours of retreat and through her hidden experiences. She came before me as the most illus- trious penitent and protectress of Port-Royal during many years. On her, and on her presence in that monastery, depended solely, towards the end, the

159


i6o XTbe S>ttcl)e00e ^e Xongnepille.

preservation of "the peace of the Church"; her death broke it up. Without pretending to paint a life so varied and so elusive, there was duty and pleasure for me in rightly catching the expression of a countenance to which an immortal enchantment clings, and which, even beneath its doubled veils, came smiling to me from the depths of that austere monastery. 1 detach it to place it here.

Anne-Gen6vidve de Bourbon, daughter of a very beautiful mother, Charlotte de Montmorency, whose beauty, so coveted by Henri IV, came near causing a war, was very young when she appeared at Court beside her mother, Mme. la Princesse [de Cond6] still loftily brilliant, bringing with her, says Mme. de Motteville: the first charms of that angelic face, which later had such dazzling lustre, a lustre followed by so many grievous events and salutary sufferings."

Her earliest and tenderest thoughts turned to piety; her end only recovered and realised the mystical dreams of her childhood. She often accompanied Mme. la Princesse to the Carmelite convent in the Faubourg Saint-Jacques; there she spent long hours that later were painted with an ideal halo in her azure imagina- tion, and revived in living colours at last when the whirlwind had gone by. She was thirteen years old (1632) when her uncle Montmorency was immolated at Tours to the vengeance and the policy of Richelieu; the young niece, wounded in her pride as much as in her tenderness by so sharp a blow, would fain have



ANNE-QENfvikVE DE BOURBON, DUCHE88E DE LONQUEVILLE,


tEbe Vncbctfae Oe XongaevtUc i6i

imitated the august widow, and vowed herself to moum in conventual perpetuity. Her mother began to fear this marked inclination for the worthy Carmelites; she thought she saw that the blonde, angelic face was not making ready to smile upon the brilliant wortd which was about to judge it on its first appearance. To this. Mile, de Bourbon replied, with an instinctive flattery that already belied such fears: " You have such touching graces, Madame, that as I go out only with you and am seen after you, no one finds any in me." The turn of Mme. de LongueviDe's spirit and mind is early seen in that one saying.

It is told that on the occasion of her first ball, to which she went in obedience to her mother, a great council was held among the Carmelites, at which it was decided, in order to conciliate nutters, that before exposing herself to the danger, she should be armed beneath her ball dress with a little cuirass, called a hair-shirt That done, all was felt to be safe, and Mile, de Bourbon might think only of nuking herself beautifuL She had hardly entered the ball-room be- f^e a murmur of universal admiration and flattery rose around her; her smile, which her mother had doubted for a moment, responded, and ceased no more; delightful perversion! the prickles of the hair- shirt were blunted, and from that day those good Carmelite sisters were in the wrong.

But she thought of them still, at intervals; in the midst of her greatest dissipations she kept up an


i62 TLbc S>ucbe0de de Xonoueirtlle.

intercourse of letters; she wrote to them after each blow, each sorrow; she returned to them in the end and divided her time between their convent and Port- Royal. She was with them in the Faubourg Saint- Jacques when she died; she was there when Mile, de la Vallidre came, and among the agitated spectators of that arrival she was remarked for the abundance of her tears. The life of Mme. de Longueville is full of those harmonious symmetries, those returns upon herself that make her easily poetical, and by which the imagination allows itself, in spite of everything, to be seduced. It was thus (I omitted to say) that she was born in the castle of Vincennes during the imprisonment of her father, the Prince de Condd (1619); in that Vincennes where her brother, the Great Cond6, a captive, was one day to cultivate pansies; in that Vincennes of Saint-Louis fated to bear upon its stones in after days the stains of the blood of the last Cond6.

She frequented, with her brother, at that time Due d'Enghien, the hdtel de RambouiUet, then in its first prime; and we have letters to her from M. Godeau, Bishop of Grasse, all full of myrtles and roses. This sort of influence was serious upon her, and her thoughts, even after her repentance, always felt it. At this period, and before politics came into her life, she and her brother and the young cabal (already de- cided to be a cabal) merely aimed, it is said, to show off the brilliancy of their wits in gay and gallant con-


lEbe S>ucbe0Be ^e Xononepille. 163

versations, in discussing and refining till point was lost on the delicacies and intricacies of the heart That was the test, to their minds, of men of honour. Whatever had an air of solid conversation seemed to them coarse and vulgar. With them it was a resolu- tion and a pledge to be distinguished, as it was called sixty years later; superior, as we should say to-day: but then they called it pricieux.

Mile, de Bourbon was twenty-three years old when they married her (1642) to the Due de Longueville, then forty-seven, and widowed of a princess of more virtue than mind who was closely allied with the Mothers of Port-Royal during the period called that of the Institution of the Holy Sacrament and of M. Zamet The duke had a daughter, seventeen years old at the time of his second marriage who, before she was Duchesse de Nemours, lived for some time with her young step-mother, noted all her transgres- sions, and fmally, in her Memoirs, spares her the record of none of them.

The Due de Longueville was the greatest seigneur of France, but, coming after the princes of the blood, he was somewhat beneath Mile, de Bourbon. Her father, M. le Prince, forced her into the marriage; on which, however, she put a good face. In the first days of it a great scandal excited and also flattered her passionate pride and brought out the vanities of her heart.

One day, during a "circle" at the Duchesse de


1 64 Vbe IHicbesse be SonoueptUe.

Montbazon's, some one picked up a dropped letter, without address or signature, but in a woman's hand, writing tenderly to some one she did not hate. The letter was read and reread, they all tried to guess the writer, and soon decided that it must be the Duchesse de Longueville, and that the letter had undoubtedly fallen from the pocket of the Comte de Coligny, who had just left the room. It seems that really, whether intentionally or not, they were mistaken. This attack was the first yet brought against the repu- tation of the young duchess. The malicious tale was told everywhere, without much credence being given to it. At the first rumour that reached the ears of the insulted lady, she, knowing that the story was false (though she may have intended to make it true), thought it best to keep silence. But her mother, Mme. la Princesse, would not allow her to do so, and in the tone of a person proud of having entered the House of Bourbon she exacted formal reparation. Her com- plaint became a State affair. This was in the first year of the regency [of Anne of Austria]; Mazarin tried his power; it was his first opportunity to dis- entangle Court intrigues, and to set aside the friends of Mme. de Montbazon, Beaufort, and the 'Mmport- ants." Mme. de Motteville tells all this to perfection. The composition of the words of apology was de- bated and decided in the little cabinet of the Louvre, in presence of the queen, and written down on the tablets of the cardinal, who was playing his own


ITbe HHicbtase 5e Xongneptlle* 165

game under cover of this comedy. The apology was then copied on a little piece of paper which Mme. de Montbazon listened to her fan. At a fixed hour she went to Mme. la Princesse and read the paper; but she did so in a haughty tone that seemed to say:

    • l ridicule it." Soon after this, Coligny, in conse-

quence of this pretended letter, called out" the Due de Guise, who took the part of Mme. de Montbazon. They fought on the Place-Royal; Coligny received a wound, of which he died; it was said at the time that Mme. de Longueville was hidden behind a win- dow to watch the fight At any rate, all this uproar about her delighted her; it was the hdtel de Ram- bouillet in action. Coligny might have found his reward had he lived.

Was it before or after this event that Mme. de Longueville was attacked by the smallpox ? Proba- bly before; she had it the year of her marriage, and her beauty came out of it with little damage; the eclipse was ttansient * ' As for Mme. de Longueville, " says Retz, "the smallpox took away the first flavour of her beauty but left her nearly all its brilliancy; and that brilliancy, joined to her rank, her wit, and to her langour, which in her was a peculiar charm, made her one of the most charming persons in France." M. de Grasse thought himself more faithful to his character as bishop in writing to her, as soon as she recovered :

" I praise God for preserving your life. ... As for your face, others Uian I will rejoice with more seemliness that it is not injured;


x66 xi;be S)ucbe09e be Xonguet^lle*

MDe. Paulet sent me word of thb. I have such good opinion of your wisdom that I think you would have been easily consoled if your ill- ness had left its marks. They are often marks engraven by the divine Mercy, to show to persons who love their complexion too well that it b a flower liable to fade before it fully blooms, and consequently does not deserve to be placed in the rank of things that may be loved."

The courteous bishop dwells so complacently on these marks of mercy only because Mile. Paulet has assured him they do not exist!

Mme. de Motteville goes farther; after the illness she describes to us this beauty, which consisted more in certain incomparable tones of the complexion than in any perfection of feature; those eyes, less large than soft and brilliant, of an admirable blue, the blue of turquoise; and the silvery blonde hair, like that of an angel, adding its profusion to the other charms. And with them all a perfect figure, the nameless some- thing that is called air, elegance in her whole per- son, and at every point a style supreme. No one approaching her ever escaped the desire to please her; her irresistible charm extended even over women.

The Due de Longueville, descendant though he was of Dunois, had little that was chivalrous about him ; he was a great seigneur, magnificent and pacific, with- out humour, rather clever in negotiations, as much so as an undecided man can be. They sent him to com- plete those of Munster; Mme. de Longueville did not join him there for two years (1646), by which time the Prince de Marsillac had made upon her the impression that he himself had received.


Xi;be S)iidDe09e 5e Xonanevttle* 167

The diplomatic world and the honours of which she was the object left her IndiflTerent and rather re- flective; she thought then, as she did on another occasion when she yawned over Chapelain's Pucelle which she was asked to admire: "Yes, it is very fine, but it is very wearisome."

" Would it not be better, Madame," writes the careful M . de Grasse, " if you returned to the hOtel de Longueville, where you are even more plenipotential than you are at Munster? Every one wishes for you there thb winter. Monseigneur, your brother, has returned, laden with palms; return yourself covered with roses and myrtles, for it seems to me that olive branches are not sufficient for you."

She reappeared in Paris in May, 1647. '^^^^ y^r of absence had increased her value; her return put the crown to her success. All desires sought her. Her ruelle it is said, became the scene of choice dis- cussions, of the famous duel of the two sonnets, and also of graver preludes. To speak the language of M. de Grasse, myrtles hid blades.

Her brother the victorious, hitherto so united with her in feeling, now, little by little, separated from her; this irritated her. On the other hand, her second brother, the Prince de Conti, became more and more bound to her, and Marsillac seized the tiller of her heart decisively.

To follow the life of Mme. de Longueville at this epoch, through budding rivalries, through intrigues, through the wars of the Fronde, would be to con- demn ourselves to winnow the Memoirs of the time (pleasant as that task might be) ; but especially


i68 Ube S)ncbe09e &e KmguepiUe*

should we have to register the caprices of an ambi- tious yet tender soul in which the heart and mind were incessantly duping each other. One might as well attempt to follow step by step the airy foam on each mocking wave: in vento et rapida scribere opor- tetaqua. Let us rather concern ourselves with her character.

La Rochefoucauld, who more than any one was qualified to judge her, has told us his judgment, and I give the passage because it is too essential to her portrait to be omitted here:

"This princess had all the advantages of mind and beauty in so high a degree and with such chann, that it seemed as if Nature had taken pleasure in forming in her person a perfect and complete work; but these fine qualities were less brilliant because of a blemish which was never before seen in a person of her merits; namely, that instead of giving the law to those who had a particular adoration for her, she transferred herself so comfMely into their sentiments that she no longer recognised her own."

La Rochefoucauld could not at first complain of this defect inasmuch as he led her into it

It was love that awakened ambition in her soul, but awakened it so quickly that henceforth the two were indistinguishable. Singular contradiction! The more we consider the political career of Mme. de Longueville, the more it blends and is confounded with the caprices of her love; yet if we search closely into that love it seems (and she herself avows it later) it was only the disguise of ambition, the de- sire to shine anew.


Ube S)ucbe09e be Xonouepille* 169

Her character, therefore, lacked stability and a will of her own. And her mind,— note this well,— brilliant and acute as it was, had nothing that opposed itself directly to this weakness of character. We may see the right thing, and yet not have the force to do it. We may have reason in the mind but not in the conduct; between the two the character gives way. But here the case was different. Mme. de Longueville's mind was not pre-eminently reasonable; it was delicate, quick, subtile, ingenious, full of recesses; it followed her nature, which was fluctuating; it shone in evasions and in the tangle of cross-purposes before it con- sumed itself finally in scruples. There was much of the h6tel de Rambouillet in a mind like hers.

"The minds of most women serve to strengthen their folly rather than their reason." The author of the Maxims said so, and Mme. de Longueville with all her metamorphoses must have been present to his mind when he said it She, the most feminine of women, could offer him the best epitome of woman- kind. On the other hand, while he observed, evi- dently through her, she, in turn, seems to have drawn her conclusions from him. Mme. de Longue-r ville's final confession, which we shall presently read, will seem to us little else than a Christian translation of the Maxims.

Retz, less involved in this subject than La Roche- foucauld, but who would fain have been as much so, has spoken marvellously of Mme. de Longueville; my


170 Xi;be WncbcsBC be XonouevfUe.

own portrait has no other glory than to gather and present these several pictures:

" Mme. de Longuevillc, he says, " has by nature, a solid foundation of mind, but she has even more subtlety and cleverness. Her capacity, which is hampered by her laziness, has not been carried into those af- fairs to which her hatred for M. le Prince [her brother, the Great Cond^ enticed her, and in which gallantry maintained her. She had a languor of manner, more affecting than the brilliancy of others who were more beautiful; she had the same in her mind, which charmed, be- cause of its surprising and luminous awakenings. She would have had few defects if gallantry had not given her many. As her passion compelled her to make public affairs secondary in her conduct, from being the heroine of a great party she became the adventuress. The Grace of God restored what the world could not give back to her.**

As, in the Fronde, we see Mme. de Longueville superior in mind to Mme. de Montbazon, for exam- ple, or to Mile, de Chevreuse (which is saying too little), or even to La Grande Mademoiselle, so we find her inferior to her friend the Princess Palatine [Anne de Gonzague], a true genius» firm, possessing the secrets of all parties, and ruling all, advising them with loyalty and coolness; not the adventuress, no! but the statesman of the Fronde: I do not believe that Qyeen Elizabeth had greater capacity to guide a State," says Retz, speaking of the Princess Palatine.

Why did not Bossuet do honour to Mme. de Longueville as he did to that other repentant princess, whose funeral oration he pronounced in the church of these very drmelites in the Faubourg Saint-Jacques P The Prince de Cond6, who had asked for his eloquent services in memory of La Palatine, never thought, it


ilij uLi*Jnmi I II I f ^wi


n^^mmwwt^^n



ANNE DC QONZAGUE, PRINCESS PALATINE. From a steel engraving.


JOk S)ticbe09e de XongueptUe* 171

appears, of expressing the same wish, some years earlier, in regard to his sister. Did he consider its ac- complishment impossible from those resounding lips ? The difficulties, in fact, were great; even in her re* pentance Mme. de Longueville retained something that seemed rebellious. Bossuet could not say as he did of the Princess Palatine: Her faith was not less simple than artless. In the famous questions that have troubled, in so many ways, the peace of our times, she openly declared that she took no other part than that of obeying the Church." Port-Royal would ^ve been a more perilous rock to strike than the Fronde; vague allusions might have been allowed in the dim distance to M. de La Rochefoucauld or to M. de Nemours, but never to M. Singlin.

But consider how a few words of the potent orator would have fixed for ever, in its gracious majesty, that figure of dazzling languor, that character of seductive and skilful weakness— weakness that was never more actively effectual than when it was most subjugated! How admirably would he have drawn her upon that background of tempests and civil whirlwinds, on which he first threw and then detached the other princess! We all know that grand page on the Fronde, which cannot be read too often; I refer my readers to it. He would not have written it less grandly for this lacking oration on Mme. de Longueville which is one of my regrets.

In default of that magnificent painting, the chronicle


i7> tn)e JDucbcBsc De XonouetrtUe*

of Memoirs is here to help us. In using the key that those of La Rochefoucauld supply, I have already told (in my portrait of the latter) how the influences di- recting Mme. de Longueville were quite other before the imprisonment of the princes to what they were after it. During the first period, that is to say, during the siege of Paris (1648), having quarrelled with the Prince de Cond6, she followed only the interests and sentiments of M. de La Rochefoucauld; she followed them still after peace was signed (April, 1649), when, she urged and obtained for him patents and privileges at Court, and when, after the arrest of her brothers (January, 16^0), she fled, through all sorts of perils in Normandy, by sea to Holland, arriving at last, very proud of herself, at St6nay, where she negotiated with the Spaniards and troubled Turenne.

On her return to France, after the release of the princes, and during the preliminaries of the return to arms, she seemed to follow the same sentiments though with a less decided yielding to them. We see her in council with the Prince de Cond6 at Saint Maur, when she seems to wish sometimes for peace, because La Rochefoucauld desired it, and sometimes for rupture, because war would keep her away from her husband, "whom she had never loved," says Retz, "but was now beginning to fear." And he adds, " this constitution of minds with which M. le Prince had to do would have hampered Sertorius." Strange and sorry omen ! aversion to the husband


Xi;be TDtubcBBC ^e XoitgnepiUe* 173

struggling against the interests of the lover, while for the latter not to triumph was to forfeit all. Be- fore long M. de La Rochefoucauld's sentiments ceased to be Mme. de Longueville's compass; she seemed to accept without reluctance the homage of M. de Nemours; losing it not long after through the in- trigues of Mme. de ChAtillon, who recovered that homage as her own property and at the same time found means to obtain that of the Prince de Cond6, then escaping once more from intimate relations with his sister.

It was M. de La Rochefoucauld whose policy and vengeance plotted this thrice irritating revenge on Mme. de Longueville. She had already openly quar- relled with her second brother, the Prince de Conti, whom, up to that time, she had governed absolutely, and even subjugated. She lost before long the last remains of hope to recover M. de Nemours, who was killed in a duel with the Due de Beaufort; and from that moment her anger, her hatred against him turned to tears, as if he were just torn from her. About this time peace was finally concluded (Oc- tober, 1662); the Court and Mazarin triumphed; youth had fled; doubtless beauty was beginning to follow; all things failed at once, or were about to &il for Mme. de Longueville. Being at Bordeaux in a con- vent of the Benedictines where she had gone to lodge when peace was evidently approaching, she wrote to her dear Carmelites in the Faubourg Saint-Jacques,


174 Xl^be JDncbcsBC de Xonouevflle.

with whom, even in the midst of her greatest dissi- pations, she had never quite broken:

" 1 desire nothing with so much ardour now as to see thb war at an end, that I may fling myself among you for the rest of my life. ... If 1 have had attachments in this world, of whatever nature you can imagine, they are now broken off and even shattered. This news will not be disagreeable to you. ... I desire, in order to give me sensibility towards God (which I have not as yet, but without which 1 shall still do as 1 have told you if peace comes) that you will do me the favour to write to me often and confirm me in the horror that I have for this age. Send me word what books you advise me to read."

Anterior to this time we have letters from her to the same sisters; every misfortune, as I have said, brought her thoughts involuntarily back to them; she wrote to them when she lost a little daughter, and when her mother, the Princesse de Cond6, died. The latter death occurred while the duchess was at St6nay. From there, in answer to a letter of condolence from the convent, she writes a touching request to the Mother-superior for particulars about the death:

  • ' It is in being afflicted that I ought to find comfort, she writes.

" The tale will have a sad effect, and that is why 1 ask you for it; for you see plainly that it is not repose that ought to follow a sorrow like mine, but secret and eternal torture: for which, indeed, I prepare myself, to bear it in the sight of God and in view of those of my crimes that have laid His hand upon me. Perhaps He will find ac- ceptable the humiliation of my heart and the long series of my deep miseries. . . . Adieu, my dear Mother; tears are blinding me; if it were the will of God that they should cause the end of my life they would seem to me more the instruments of my good than the effects of my evil."

M. de Grasse, also, continued to write to her, and


XTbe S)ucbes6e ^e Xonguepille* 175

he did so on the occasion of this death with a sort of eloquence. Thus were preserved, even through periods of prodigal delirium, the secret heart-treasures of Mme. de Longueville; her tears, abundant and renewed from time to time, kept them from drying up at their source.

Nevertheless, a new life was about to begin. She was thirty-four years of age. She quitted Bordeaux under an order from the Court and went to Montreuil- Bellay, a domain belonging to her husband in Anjou, and from there to Moulins. In the latter town she stayed with the Filles de Saint Marie, and visited the tomb of her uncle, the Due de Montmorency, whose tragic death had so moved her at the age, still pure» of thirteen, and was now a solemn lesson to her, coming, vanquished herself, from civil factions. Her aunt, the widow of M. de Montmorency, was su- perior of the convent. The example of such chaste and pious consistency acted more than all else on her imagination, always so easily stirred, on her soul still adrift, still drenched by the shipwreck. One day, at Moulins, in the midst of some religious reading,

" a curtain was drawn back," [it is she herself who is speaking] from the eyes of my mind; all the charms of truth, gathered into one object, came before me; Faith, which had remained as it were dead and buried beneath my passions, awoke. I felt like a person who, after a long sleep in which she had dreamed that she was great, fortunate, honoured, and esteemed by all the world, wakens suddenly to find herself loaded with chains, pierced by wounds, weary with languor, and locked in a dark prison."


176 JSbc S)iici>es0e t>e XonottCPiUe.

After ten months' stay at Moulins she was joined by the Due de Longueville, who took her, with all sorts of attentions, to his government of Normandy. New trials were added daily to the old ones; the mere announcement of some success of the Prince de Cond6, who had gone over to the Spaniards largely at the suggestion of his sister, revived her remorse and prolonged the ambiguity of her relations to the Court She was reconciled during these years to her brother, the Prince de Conti, and was closely allied with her sister-in-law, Anne Martinozzi, Princesse de Conti, niece of Mazarin, who redeemed that suspicious blood by noble virtues; these three, the brother and sister and the former's wife, soon became the envy of all emulators in the path of conversion.

Nevertheless, Mme. de Longueville was still in need of direction; with her style of character, with that habit of following adopted sentiments and of ruling herself only by some chosen will, she, above all others, needed a firm guide. She wrote from Rouen to ask advice of her aunt, Mme. de Mont- morency, and from an intimate friend. Mile, du Vigean, sub-prioress of the Carmelites of Paris,' also of others. She questioned the Abb6 de Camus, after- wards Bishop of Grenoble and a cardinal, recently

' Mile, du Vigean had been beloved by the Uien Due d*Enghien, be- fore the Fronde; he even wished to break his marriage in order to marry her. Their love, thwarted by Mme. de Longueville, who warned M. le Prince, her firther, had, on the lady's side, the cloister for a tomb.


TIDe Z>ncbe65e be Xonouo^iUe* 177

converted himself, who replied: "God will lead you farther than you think, and will ask of you things of which it is not yet time to speak to you. When we examine our conduct by the principles of the Gospel we find fearful voids." But the enlightened physi- cian who could take in hand this vacillating and aching soul did not appear. Then it was that the advice of M. de Bernidres, possibly of M. le Nain (head of Mme. de Longueville's council), given very certainly at the instigation of Mme. de Sable, turned the mind of this anxious inquirer to Port-Royal and its directors.

Under date of April, 1661, we fmd a letter from Mdre Angdlique to Mme. de Sabl6, telling her that she had seen Mme. de LongueviUe, and found her mind more solid, more natural, than she had been led to expect: '*AII that 1 saw of the princess in that short time seemed to me pure gold." M. Singlin, [director of Port-Royal] already obliged to conceal himself to evade the Bastille, consented to go and see Mme. de LongueviUe; he was the first to en- lighten and regulate her repentance.

1 fmd a letter from Mile, de Vertus to Mme. de Sabl6, which is as follows (1 give it because, to my mind, all details relating to persons so lofty, so deli- cate, and finally so worthy, have a value) :

" I received last night a note from the lady '* [Madame de Longue- viUe]. " You are entreated to do what you can to induce your friend, M. Singlin, to come here to-morrow. In order that he may have no


173 Ube Z>ttcbe06e be XongueirtUe*

uneasiness lest he be seen in the quarter, he can come in a chair and send away the porters; I will lend him mine to take him t>ack where he pleases. . . . If he would like to come to dinner they shall put him in a room where no one whom he knows can see him; and it would be better, 1 think, that he should come rather early, that is to say between ten and eleven at the latest. ... 1 am very anxious that this should be done, for this poor woman has no peace. Have many prayers offered to God I entreat you. If I could see her in such good hands I should, 1 own, be very joyful; it seems to me I should be like those persons who see their friend provided for and have no more to do than to rest in that. The truth is, this lady makes strange troubles for herself which she will not have when her mind is settled. 1 am much afraid that your friend will be too harsh. However, we must pray to God and commend the afiiaur to him.'*

M. Singlin, once introduced, returned frequently. He paid his visits disguised as a physician, with the enormous wig then worn by that profession; he said, in justification of this disguise, that he was indeed a physician of souls. He remained for some time hid- den at M6ru, an estate belonging to the princess. Is it refining too much to think that these mysteries, these various concerted precautions in behalf of re- pentance had for Mme. de Longueville a last charm of romantic imagination at the entrance of the narrow way?

We possess her Examination of Conscience, writ- ten by herself after her first confession to M. Singlin, November 34, 1661. It is a document to put beside that other confession of the Princess Palatine, written by her on the advice of the Abb6 de Ranc6, and so magnificently paraphrased by Bossuet. They should be read without scorn and with a simple heart; in the


tCbe Dncbesse ^e Xonouet^lle* 179

papers themselves there is nothing agreeable or flat- tering. But considered humanly, so to speak, and from the single point of view of psychological obser- vation, such papers merit consideration — respectus. If they reveal to us the human heart in its most minute pettiness, it is because pettiness is the ordinary foun- dation of it; they follow it, they prove its smallness, its meanness, through all degrees of its depth. Mme. de Longueville regarded this new birth as the first step for her in a truly penitent life:

" I had long been searching (so it seemed to me) the path that led to life; but I always felt I was not in it, without knowing precisely what my obstacle was; I felt that there was one between myself and God, but I did not know it, and 1 felt as though I were not in my right place. I had a certain anxiety to be there, without knowing where it was, nor where I ought to seek it. It seems to me, on the contrary, since I have put myself under the guidance of M. Singlin that I am in the right place which I was seeking, namely: the true entrance to the path of Qiristian life, on the outskirts of which I have hitherto been."

It is to be remarked in this Examination of Mme. de Longueville, and also in her manuscript letters, of which 1 have seen a quantity, that the style is super- annuated and much less elegant than we might have expected; much less vivid and clear, for instance, than that of the divine letters and Reflections of Mme. de La Vallidre, published in one volume by Mme. de Genlis. This is chiefly because there is twenty-five years' difference in the ages of the two illustrious women : Mme. de La Vallidre was the exact contem- porary of La Bruydre, almost of P6nelon; Mme. de


i8o Vbe S>ucbe06e be XonouevfUe*

LongueviUe's style was formed before the period of Louis XIV. But go to the depths and end of her long-drawn-out sentences, and delicate refinement will be found. Moreover, Mme. de La Vallidre's style has been slightly corrected in the later editions.

Before listening to her general confession and thus engaging himself to direct her conduct, M. Snglin wished to know, from her, whether she felt willing to quit the world in case she was one day able to do so. She answered in all sincerity, " Yes." This ac- knowledgment and this pledge obtained, he exacted that she should continue to occupy herself with ex- ternal affairs as long as it was necessary to do so, and without permitting herself to call them "miserable."

Skilful physician and practitioner of the soul that he was, M. Singlin showed her, after his first glance, her capital defect, namely: that pride of which she herself, she says, was quasi-ignorant for so many years. This pride is also what the Duchesse de Nemours, in her Memoirs, denounces in a hundred ways. It is curi- ous to see how the denunciations of the latter, the indications of M. Singlin, and the sincere avowals of Mme. de Longueville fit into one another and agree:

  • <The things that it" [her pride] "produced," she writes,

" were not unknown to me, but I dwelt only on its effects, which I thought great imperfections; but now, from what has been shown to me, 1 see that 1 did not go to their source. It was not that I did not recognise that pride was the principle of my errors, but I did not think it as living as it b; I did not attribute to it all the sins that I committed; yet I now see plainly that they M drew their origin from it.'*


TCbe S>ticbe09e ^e XononcpfUe* iSi

She recognises that in the days of her most criminal errors the pleasures that touched her were those of the mind, which come of self-love; "the others naturally did not attract her." These two miserable emotions, pride and pleasure of the mind, which are but one, entered into all her actions and were the soul of her conduct:

" I have always found my pleasure, which I sought so much, in that which flattered my pride and offered to me what the Devfl offered to our first parents: 'You shall be as gods I' And that saying, which was an arrow that pierced their hearts, so wounded mine that the blood still flows from that deep wound and will flow long, if Jesus Christ by hb grace does not stanch its flux. . . .*'

The discovery, which she first owed in its full ex- tent to M. Singlin, of this vast stratum in her nature, on which he made her lay her finger and follow in all its ramifications, and which now seemed to her to comprise the whole substance of her soul, alarmed her and led her to "the very edge of the temptation to discouragement" She fears henceforth to find pride in all things; and even this docility, apparently the only sound spot in her soul, becomes suspicious to her; she dreads lest she be docile in appearance only, and merely because by obeying she pleased others and regained the esteem she had lost. In a word, she seems to see in this docility her pride "transforming itself, if I may say so, into an Angel of light, in order to have something to live upon." Terrified, she stops short, and can only cry to God, with her face to earth and after long silence: Sana me et sanabor.


i82 Ubc ZHicbesse be Xonouet^Ue*

But a letter from M. Singlin which she receives and reads after praying, comforts her by proving that this servant of God does not despair of her nor of her trials. I might, if this were the place, multiply ex- tracts and reveal without sparing her, in all their naive subtilty and old-fashioned negligence of style, these delicacies of conscience in a mind once so ele- gant and haughty, now so humble and, so to speak, engulfed. She knows herself henceforth; she bares her soul and analyses it In one place her descrip- tion falls in with that of Retz and responds to it pre- cisely. We remember how he describes to us her laziness and languor, interrupted suddenly by flashes of light. Here follows her Christian and rigorously moral representation of that apparently charming trait. Once more I ask pardon for the carelessness of its style; poor as it is, when we plunge to the depths of what it says, we are tempted to exclaim with Bossuet (speaking of the dream of the Princess Palatine), "I take pleasure in repeating these words, in spite of fastidious ears; they eclipse the most magnificent dis- courses; I would I spoke only such language ":

  • ' On receiving the letter of M. Singlin, which seemed to me very

thick and on that account made me hope for many things on the sub- ject which now occupies me, I opened it rapidly, for my nature leads me always to follow whatever fins my mind; Just as, on the contrary (I say this to make myself known), it gives me great coldness and n^ligence for whatever b not my then occupation, which is always very strong and single in me. Tl^s is what makes some persons think me vehement and impetuous, because they have seen me in my pas- sk>ns, or merely in my petty inclinations and tendencies; while to


Vbe S>iicbe«0e ^e XonoiteviUe« 183

others I seem slow and lazy, even dead, if I may use tbe word, be- cause they have never seen me moved by what I once was either in evil or in good. That is also why I have been defined as if I were two perMQs of opposite tempers; so that sometimes I was called sly and sometime s fidde In humour; which was not so, neither the one nor the otiber; but it came from the different situations in which they saw me. For I was dead, dead as death, to all that was not in my head, and all alive to the slightest atom of things that touched me. I stin have the diminuthw of this humour, and I let myself be ruled by it too much. So it was thb that made me open the letter so rapidly."

She goes on in this strain, and adds many avowals of her hasty dislikes, her mobility of temper, her brusque asperity to others if she did not guard herself against it 1 find therein an incredible number of testimonies to that spirit, so acute, so unfettered, which now has only its own labyrinth to unravel. She says in closing:

A thought has come to me about myself, which is that I am veiy glad, from self-love, that I have been ordered to write all this; because I like above everjrthing to occupy myself and occupy others about myself; for self-love makes us like better to say evil of ourselves than to say nothing at all. I expose this thought, and submit it in exposing it, as I do all the rest."

1 have copies of several manuscript letters written by Mme. de LongueviUe, all equally full of scruples and anxieties over some action that she thinks had a worldly motive, over some forgotten sin, over an ab- solution received with a clouded conscience. She practised repentance and mortification by continual vigilance and anguish of mind, even more than by hair-shirts.


i84 tCbe Z>ttcbe69e 5e Xonguevttle*

By the advice of M. Singlin, Mme. de Longueville concerned herself especially with restitutions and the giving of alms in the provinces ravaged, through her fault, by civil war. On the death of M. Singlin, she passed under the direction of M. de Sach When the latter was sent to the Bastille, she had M. Marcel, rector of Saint-Jacques, and others equally safe. She wrote very assiduously to the saintly Bishop of Aleth (Pavilion) and followed his replies in detail as though they were oracles.

The Due de Longueville having died in May, 1663, she was henceforth free to enter without delay upon the path of penitence that claimed her wholly. The troubles of the Church at this period alone kept her in the world. She was very active in behalf of Port-Royal during those difficult years. The revision of the New Testament, called that of Mons, was com- pleted at the conferences held at her house. After 1666, she kept Amauld, Nicole, and Lalane hidden there. Several anecdotes are told, wfth an appear- ance of truth, which must have enlivened the weari- ness of that retreat

Amauld was one day attacked by fever. The prin- cess sent for Dr. Brayer and asked him to take partic- ular care of a nobleman who had lately come to stay with her, Amauld having assumed the secular gar- ments, wig and sword, and other paraphemalia of a noUe. Brayer went up to see him, and after feeling his pulse, began to tell him about a new book that


JSbc Ihicbesse ^e Xongno^UIe* 185

was making a great noise and was attributed to the gentlemen of Port-Royal: "Some," he said, '*give it to M. Amauld, others to M. de Saci; I don't think it is by the latter, for he can't write so welL" On which Amauld, forgetting the rdle of his coat and shaking his ample wig, cried out: " What 's that you say, monsieur ? my nephew writes better than I do." Brayer came down laughing and said to Mme. de LongueviUe: "Your nobleman is not very ill; never- theless, 1 advise you to keep him from seeing peo- ple, and above aU, not to let him talk." Such in truth, with his simple ingenuousness, was the great plotter and leader of a party, Antoine Amauld.

We see (in the " History of Port-Royal " by Racine) that Nicole was more to Mme. de Longueville's taste than Arnauld, as being more polished, more attentive. In their evening meetings, the worthy Arnauld, pre- paring to go to sleep beside the fire and going head- foremost into Christian equality, would gently "untie his garters before her; which made her suffer a little." Nicole had more of the customs of the worid, but even he, coming in one day with an absent mind, laid his hat, gloves, cane, and muff on the princess's bed! She accepted all such things as part of her penance.

Mme. de LongueviUe contributed more than any of the prelates to the Peace of the Church. Those con- flicting negotiations, so often broken off and resumed, their secret activities, at the centre of which she was,


i86 Ube Bncbesse be Xonouepttle*

renewed for her the Fronde, the only Fronde now per- missible, and gave her back a few of the same emo- tions for a good purpose, and in all security of conscience. Learning one morning (about 1663) of one of the ruptures, which was imputed to the Jesuits, she said, with a flash of her old wit: *'l was simple enough to believe that the Reverend Fathers were acting sincerely — it is true I have only believed it since last night." Finally, however, seri- ous negotiations began. M. de Gondrin, Archbishop of Sens, concerted everything with her. She wrote to the Pope to justify the accused persons and guar- antee their faith; she wrote also to Cardinal Azolini, secretary of State, to interest him in bringing matters to a conclusion. She deserves, with the Princesse de Conti, to be saluted by the title of Mother of the Church.

Peace concluded, she caused to be built at Port- Royal-des-Champs a detached building, or small house, communicating by a gallery with the church. From the year 1672 she divided her time between this retreat and that of her faithful Carmelites in the Faubourg Saint-Jacques; where she already had an apartment. Very sorrowful trials from without pushed her finally into these two havens: first, the death of her sister-in-law, the Princesse de Conti, then the imbecility and misconduct of her eldest son, the Comte de Dunois; but, above all, the death of her cherished son, the Comte de Saint-Paul, then


Xi:be S>ucbes9e ^e XonguevUIe* 187

Due de Longueville. She never quite left the hdtel de Longueville until after this last cruel death, so well known to us through the admirable letter of Mme. de S6vign6. The young duke was killed immediately after the passage of the Rhine by flinging himself with imprudent valour upon a body of the flying enemy; and with him perished a crowd of young noblemen. The news had to be told to Mme. de Longueville. Lest I tell it incompletely I repeat here the whole of that immortal page:

'* Mile, de Vertus," writes Mme. de Sevigne, June 20, 1672, " had returned two days earlier to Port-Royal where she usually is; they sent to fetch her with M. Amauld to tell this terrible news. Mile, de Vertus had but to show herself; her sudden return was sign enough of something fatal. As soon as she entered : 'Ah I mademoiselle, how is my brother?' [ the Great Condi]. Her thoughts dared not go ftfther. ' Madame, he is recovering from his wound.' ' Then there has been a battie ! and my son ? ' They made her no answer. ' Ah ! mademoiselle, my son, my dear child ! answer me, is he dead ? ' ' Madame, I have no words to answer you.' ' Ah ! my dear son ! did he die instantly ? did he not have a single moment ? Ah ! my God ! what a sacrifice I And with that she fell upon her bed, and all that the sharpest sonrow could do, by convulsions, faint- Ings, by deathly silence and by stifled cries, by bitter tears, by appeals to heaven, by tender plaints and pitiful — all these she underwent She sees certain persons, she takes some broth, because God wills it; she has no rest; her health, already very bad, is visibly ^ling. For my part, I wish her death, not comprehending how st^ can live after such a loss."

And seven days after the above letter she writes again:

" I have at last seen Mme. de Longueville; chance brought me near to her bed; she sent for me to come nearer and spoke to me first; as for


i88 Vbe SHicbesse 5e Xongnet^lle*

me, I knew not what words to say on such an occasion. She told me that she did not doubt that I felt pity for her; that nothing was lacking to her misfortune; she spoke of Mme. de La Fayette and of M. d'Hacqueville as those who woukl pity her most; she spoke to me of my son, and of the friendship her son had for him. 1 will not repeat my answers; they were what they ought to have been, and, in tnith, I was so touched that 1 could not speak amiss. The crowd drove me away. But the circumstance of the peace is a sort of bitterness that wounds me to the heart when I put myself in her place; when I keep in my own I praise God, since it preserves to me my poor Sevign6 and all my friends."

It was discovered (compliantly perhaps) that before starting for the war M. de Longueville was secretly converted: he had made a general confession (the gentlemen of Port-Royal had brought it about), he had distributed immense alms, and, in short, that, in spite of his mistresses and a natural son, he was a quasi- saint. This was a sort of final comfort, very permissi- ble under the circumstances; the inconsolable mother was credulous. As soon as the first flood of condo- lences had abated, Mme. de Longueville went to Port- Royal-des-Champs, where her house was ready, and there she lived in solitude; leaving it from time to time and returning to stay with the Carmelites. In the latter convent she saw the passing, lilce a funeral procession, of the grandeurs of her time: Mme. de La Vallidre taking the veil, and, shortly after, the arrival of Turenne's heart — ^that heart which she had, alas ! so troubled.

Her austerities, joined to her pangs of mind, hast- ened her end; a change took place in her during


tCbe SHicbesee ^e XonguepiUe* 189

her last illness, and she had, as it were, a foretaste of calm. She died at the Carmelites' on the 13th of April, 1679, aged fifty-nine years and six months. Her body was buried in the convent, her entrails at Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-P^; her heart was taken to Port-RoyaL One month after her death, the Arch- bishop of Paris, M. de Harlay, went to Port-Royal in person to command the nuns, by order of the king, to send away their pupils and postulants, and forbid them to return in future. The death of the princess had been awaited to begin the final blockade under which the celebrated nunnery was fated to succumb. There was no longer a Palladium in Uion.

The funeral oration of Mme. de Longueville was pronounced one year after her death, not by Bossuet, I regret to say, but by the Bishop of Autun, Roquette, supposed to be the original of Tartuffe, and of whom it was said that his sermons were undoubtedly his own, inasmuch as he bought them. Mme. de S6- vign6, in a letter dated April 12, 1680, praises in a singular manner, and not without sharp points of irony, this oration which was never allowed to be printed. What was far more eloquent than the words of the Bishop of Autun on this anniversary of Mme. de Longueville's death, was the presence of the Miles, de La Rochefoucauld in mourning for their father, of Mme. de La Payette, whom Mme. de S6vign6 went to see after the ceremony and found in tears; for Mme. de Longueville and M. de La


I90 Vbe Shicbesee ^e Xononeirtlle*

Rochefoucauld died in the same year: There was much to dream of in those two names/'

Our worthy historians of Port-Royal have said many commonplaces and much pettiness about Mme. . de Longueville; the title of Serene Highness dazzled them. When they speak of her, or of Mile, de Vertus, or of M. de Pontchiteau they are inexhaustible; in the very legitimate plenitude of their gratitude we must not ask them for discernment of character. We see by a little fragment at the end of Racine's Abridgment, which he did not have time to recast and conceal in his narrative, that if Mme. de Longue- ville kept into the last years of her life, the grace, elegance, and what Bossuet calls the insinuating manners " of those who have retired from the world, she had also kept her touchiness, her dislikes, her readiness to take umbrage; "she was sometimes jealous of Mile, de Vertus, who was more equable and winning." But why be surprised ? even to the coU shelter of a cloister, even to the funeral slabs on which she pressed her face she brought herself; the sphere was purer, but the enemies were the same, and the same inward struggles continued.

The true crown of Mme. de Longueville during those years, that which we must the more revere because she did not perceive it, covering it with both hands, — Chiding it, as it were, in a tabernacle, is the crown of humility. That is her Christian glory which inevitable defects ought not to obscure. Many touch-


Ube S>ncbe09e be Xonguet^lle. 191

ing traits are told of it. She had her enemies, persons who were jealous of her; wounding and even in- sulting speeches came to her ears; she bore them all, saying to God: "Strike on!" Once, going in a chair from the Carmelites' to Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas, she was approached by an officer who asked her for some favour — 1 know not what. She answered that she could not do it, and the man thereupon flew into a passion and spoke in the most insolent terms. Her servants were about to fling themselves upon him. "Stop!" she cried, "do nothing to him; I have deserved much more." If I point out beside this grand chief trait of humility some persistent petti- nesses it is far less to invalidate a repentance so deep and so sincere than to expose to their end the ob- stinate hidden failings and evasions of these elegant natures.

Lemontey, in a witty notice, but flimsy and sharp, did not fear to call her a "theatrical and conceited soul." Who will dare, after having gone with me so near to her repentance, to call her aught else than a poor, delicate, anguished being ?

Nicole, that spirit also so delicate, who frequented her presence for many years, has judged her very well. He had always had a good understanding with her. She thought him right in the various little quar- rels of Port-Royal. He said pleasantly that after her death he had sunk in public estimation; "I have even" he said, "lost my abbey; for no one now


19^ JSbc S>ttcbe06e ^e Xongue^IIe.

calls me M I'Abbd Nicole, but simply M. Nicole." In vol. xii of the Ouvrages de Morale et de Politique by the Abb6 de Saint-Pierre, we find the following testimony as to the class of mind and intellectual capacity of Mme. de Longueville; a place where we should little have thought of looking for it; its quaint- ness is none the less piquant

" 1 asked M. Nicole one day what was the character of Mme. de LonguevQle's mind; he told me she had a very keen and very delicate mind in knowledge of the character of individuals, but that it was very small, very weak, very limited on matters of science and reason- ing, and on all speculative matters in which there was no question of sentiment ' For example,' added he, ' I told her one day that I could bet and prove that there were in Paris at least two inhabitants who had the same number of hairs upon their head, though I could not point out who were those two persons. She said i could not be cer- tain of it until I had counted the hairs of the two persons. Here is my demonstration/ i said to her: M lay it down as a fact that the best-fiimbhed head does not possess more than aoo,ooo hairs, and the most scantily furnished head b that which has only i hair. If, now you suppose that aoo,ooo heads all have a different number of hairs, they must each have one of the numbers of hairs which are between i and aoo,ooo; for if we suppose that there were 2 among these 200,000 who had the same number of hairs, I win my bet But suppose these 200,000 inhabitants all have a different number of hairs, if I bring in a single other inhabitant who has hairs and has no more than 200,000 of them, it necessarily follows that this number of hairs, whatever it b, win be found between 1 and 200,000, and, consequently, b equal in number of hairs to one of the 200,000 heads. Now, as instead of one inhabitant more than 200,000, there are, in all, nearly 800,000 in- habitants in Paris, you see plainly that there must be many heads equal in number of hairs, although I have not counted them.' Mme. de LonguevOle still could not understand that demonstration could be made of thb equality in number of hairs, and she always maintained that the only way to prove it was to count them. "

This proves to us that Mme. de Longueville who


xnoe SHKbesee ^e Xonone^Ue. 193

had such affinity with Mine, de Sabi6 in refinements and titiliations of the mind was very different from her on one point. Mme. de SabI6 liked and could follow dissertations and was a good judge of them; but Amauld would never have thought of making Mme. de Longueville read his Logic of Port Royal " to interest her and to obtain from her a competent opinion.

She belonged by nature to those esprits fins which Pascal contrasts with the geometric minds: "those delicate, refmed minds that are only refined; which* being accustomed to judge of things by a single and rapid glance, are quickly repeUed by detailed definl* tions seemingly sterile, and have no patience to come down to the first principles of speculative things, and things of the imagination, which they have not seen in the world and in its customs."

But, geometry apart, her knowledge of the world and her rapid coup d'cnl, her subtlety, her elegance, the blood of a princess in all her veins, a soul feminine in its every recess, her vocation, the point of honour to please, which is victory in itself, great passions, great misfortunes, the halo of a saint in dying, the supreme intertwining around her of those consummate names: Cond6, La Rochefoucauld, Port-Royal — ^all this suffices to bestow on Mme. de Longueville a lasting distinc- tion, and to secure to her in French memory a very flattering part that no renown of heroine can surpass; no fame, even that of superior women, can efface.


194 XCbe SHicbesse ^e XonottepfUe.

What more shall 1 say ? If, from the bosom of that world which she has entered, she can smile at the effect, the charm her name produces on those who judge her, she is smiling now.


VI.

CarMnal ^e Vetj.


195


VI.

CacDfiuil ^e IRets^ f ii0tf0ator of ti>e ymiDe*

THE Memoirs of Cardinal de Retz appeared for the first time in 17 17, under the regency of Philippe d'Orl£ans. When it was known that a copy of them was furtively being printed and about to appear, the Regent asked the lieutenant of police, d'Argenson, what effect the book would pro- duce.

" None that need trouble you, monseigneur," replied d'Argenson, who knew the wofk; " the manner m which Cardinal de Retz speaks of himself, the frankness with which he exhitnts his own character, ad- mits his faults, and informs us of the ill-success of hb imprudent actions, will encourage no one to imitate him. On the contrary, hit misfortunes are a lesson to all mischief-makers and rash minds. I cannot conceive how that man could have left behind him that con- fession in writing. . . ."

Nevertheless the effect was wholly different from the one foretold by d'Argenson. One might as well have said on the eve of the production of the Con- fessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, that they would ruin the authority of philosophy. Errors and wrong- doings may be so well confessed that they instantly

197


ips (Eat&fnal be nets.

become contagious for the human imagination. ' ' This book," said the honest Brossette (the most pacific of men), speaking of the Memoirs of Retz, " makes me a leaguer, a frondeur, and almost seditious by conta- gion." The Regent knew something of this shortly after the publication ; the conspiracy of Cellamare in 1 718 was in its way a counterfeit and summary of the Memoirs of Retz. In all the periods of our civil strug- gles they have been emergent and have roused fresh interest. Benjamin Constant said, during the Di- rectory, that he could no longer read any books but two: Machiavelli and Retz. We are to-day [1837] at a propitious moment to re-read these Memoirs and draw from them a few lessons — ^if lessons of this kind are ever useful. In speaking of them to-day, I do not seek to make any political application, nor to work out any perspective according to the views of the moment; 1 prefer to consider them in a more general, more impartial manner; more in themselves only.

Retz belongs to that great and strong generation before Louis XIV, of which were also, more or less, and a few years apart. La Rochefoucauld, Moli6re, Pascal, a generation which Richelieu had found too young to crush; which revived, or rose on the mor- row of his death, and signalised itself in thought and language (when action was denied it) by a free, bold outpour, to which the distinguished men who came through the long regime of Louis XIV were too much unaccustomed. This is so true as to the



CARDINAL DE RETZ.


CatMnal ^e IRets. 199

thought and the language that when the Memoirs of Retz appeared one of the reasons alleged or stam- mered against their authenticity by a few fastidious minds was the language itself of those admirable Memoirs — ^that vivid, familiar, superlative, and negli- gent touch that betrays the hand of a master and shocks those it does not enrapture. Our language under Louis XIV acquired many fine qualities, and fixed them at the beginning of the eighteenth century with a seal of conciseness and precision, but it lost I know not what of breadth and the air of grandeur.

It was precisely that air of grandeur that Retz prized most, and of which, from the start, he was ambitious in everything, in his words, his actions, carrying it into all his projects. But if he sought for glory he had in him many qualities of the first order well calculated to form its basis. Born in October, 1614, of an illus- trious family, destined against his will for the Church,

    • with a soul as little ecclesiastic as was ever, per-

haps, in the universe," he tried to get out of the pro- fession by duels and affairs of gallantry; but the obstinacy of his family, and his star, prevented these first scandals from producing their effect and casting him back into secular life. He then chose his course, and set himself to study with vigour, determined, like Ciesar, to be second in nothing, not even at the Sor- bonne. He succeeded; he held his own in the fmal competitions and in the yictes of the great School, against an abb6 protected by Richelieu, and carried


aoo catMiua ^e iRets^

off the victory in a signal manner, not caring whether he provoked the powerful cardinal, who " wanted to be master everywhere and in everything." About this time, a copy of the "Conspiracy of Fiesque/' the first secular work of the Abb6 de Retz, came into the hands of Richelieu, who saw in it to what point the young man caressed the ideal of a grandiose and seditious conspirator, and he said: "There's a dan- gerous mind." It is asserted that he said on another occasion to his groom of the chambers, speaking of Retz: " There 's a face for the gibbet."

Retz was short, ugly, dark, rather ill-made and near-sighted; qualities little fitted to make a man of gallantry, though they did not hinder his being one, and with success. Sober in eating and drinking, he was extremely licentious ; but being, above all, am- bitious, he led everything abreast — his passions, his views, even his schemes, into which there entered, in some degree, regard for the public weal. Possessed by a burning desire to make himself talked of, and to reach the grand, the extraordinary, at a time when he entered the world under the reign of a despotic minister he had no resource except in the idea of conspiracy ; and to that side he turned his first pre* dilections; just as, in other times, he might have turned them elsewhere. In spite of his turbulence and his impetuosity, Retz was very capable of self> control when the interests of his ambition required it In Italy, at Rome, during a journey that he made


CatMital be lRet3* ^ox

there in 1638, when twenty-four years of age, he resolved to give no cause for complaint against him and to acquire at all risks a good name at the ecclesi- astical Court. Retz tells us this, and Tallemant des R6aux, who accompanied him, expressly confirms it: " We must praise him for one thing," he says : " neither in Rome nor in Venice did he see a woman ; or if he did, it was so secretly that we could discover nothing of it/' At the same time he tool^ pains to relieve the modesty of the journey by great expense, fine liveries, a very jaunty equipage ; and one day, to maintain the point of honour and not yield the ground in a game of tennis, he came very near drawing swords with his handful of friends against the whole escort of the Spanish ambassador.

He was much to the fore in all the conspiracies against Richelieu, in fact, he staked his head during the last years of that minister. He details the scheme of one of these conspiracies, in which it was proposed that at the first news of a victory by the Comte de Soissons, Paris should be stirred to insurrection, and a sudden attack made in combination with the princi- pal prisoners in the Bastille, Mar6chal de Vitry, Cramail, and others. The scheme was novel. The governor of the Bastille was made prisoner by his own garrison, of which the conspirators had made sure. They also seized the Arsenal which was close by. In short, it was " Mallet's Conspiracy," organised by Retz against Richelieu. It all &iled ; but it might


202 Catdfiuil 5e Vets*

have succeeded. How many great things in history hang by a thread !

Richelieu dead, and Louis XIII having followed him closely, the Regency came ; certainly at first the most easy-going ever seen. Retz obtained, in a trice, the appointment of coadjutor [assistant to a bishop or archbishop, with the right to succeed him] to his uncle, the Archbishop of Paris ; and henceforth, to use his own language, he ceased to "be in the pit, or even in the orchestra playing and joking with the violins " ; he mounted the stage. We may observe throughout his Memoirs, where he speaks of himself with so little concealment, that he perpetually uses the expressions and images of the "stage" the "comedy " ; he seems to consider everything in the light of a play, and there are moments when, speaking of the princi- pal personages with whom he has to do, he takes account of them and arranges them absolutely as a stage-manager would do with his star-actors. In relating one of the first scenes of the Fronde, in Parliament (January ii, 1649), and telling of the manner in which he managed to take away the com- mand of the troops from the Due d'Elbeuf to bestow it on the Prince de Conti, he shows us M. de Longueville, then M. de Bouillon, then the Mar6chal de la Mothe, entering the hall, one after the other, each, in turn, beginning anew to declare adhesion to the choice of the Prince de Conti, and joining hands in what concerned them : "We had arranged," he


CarMnal be TRets. 203

says "to bring these personages on the stage one after the other, because we considered that nothing so touches and stirs the people, and even the Companies, who always stand by the people, as variety in the scene." In all such passages Retz openly shows him- self as a dramatic author or a skilful impresario who mounts his piece. He was even then of the race of those who in the matter of turmoils and revolutions like the play better than the denouement; great artists in intrigues and influences take delight in them ; whereas, the more ambitious men, the more true, the more practical, look to the object and aspire to results. There are places where, while reading these Memoirs of Retz through the charming scenes so well marshalled under his pen, he seems less at war with Mazarin than in harmony with Molidre.

Nevertheless, let us not exaggerate this view to the point of overlooking what there was of real and seri- ous policy in the projects and views of Retz. And let us never forget this: Retz, after all, did not triumph; he failed in the purpose he pursued, which was to drive out Mazarin and himself replace him beside Anne of Austria. We know him to the full as agi- tator, frondeur, conspirator; but we do not know what he might have been as minister, or what he would have done in that new r6le. It would not have been the first time that a superior nature trans- formed itself on obtaining power and in using it; and it may even be that such a nature is not wholly


204 CatMnal ^e IRets*

superior unless it has in it that which transforms and renews it, that which suffices for great situations. In Retz, as in Mirabeau, we see only the ardent strug- gle, the vast intrigue, and the plot that is torn in twain. The man of the second epoch had, in both of them, no career in which to develop himself Retz, in this comparison, has the disadvantage of having survived; of being, as it were, present at the miscarriage of all his hopes, — present as the de- moralised, lowered, and defeated party, as may well happen to the strongest natures who let their aim escape them. Seeing the battle lost, base diversions lay hold upon them in their hours of exile. It is in his last years only that Retz recovers some dignity in a retirement nobly borne; that he conveys an idea of honesty by the complete payment of his vast debts; and redeems himself to our eyes in the realm of mind by the composition of his incomparable Memoirs. But, in his Memoirs, Retz abandons action and practica- bilities, and is, more and more, simply a writer, a painter, a great artist; it is impossible for him hence- forth to be anything else; and we arm ourselves easily against what he was or might have become in other days, with this last quality, which will for ever make his fame.

1 wished to slip in this observation because I always wonder at the way that narrow and negative natures hasten to say to all superior genius : ' ' Thou hast never done more than this in thy life, up to the present;


CatMnal de Hetj* 905

fortune has prevented thee from trying thyself in a broader and freer career, consequently, thou couldest not have done more than thou hast done." Such persons have need to receive, from time to time, a few flat contradictions, like that, for instance, given them by Dumouriez in the defiles of the Argonne.

As for Retz, there are, unfortunately, too many reasons to assume that in him the adventurer, the audacious Umiraire, as Richelieu called him, was the essential part and even the foundation of his nature; and that it would at all times have compromised the statesman, whose ideas he entered into with his mind only. He belongs to those in whom humour rules character; love of his own pleasure, licentiousness, intrigue for intrigue's sake, a taste for disguises and masquerades, a little too much Figaro, if 1 may so express it, corrupted his serious aims, and de- stroyed, in practice, designs that his fine and im- petuous genius was so capable of conceiving. Many a time, he recognised this himself, he lacked good sense in his purposes; there were times when he blamed himself for not having "a grain of it"; he was liable to be dazzled, to have flights of imagina- tion from which men whose thoughts are to guide and govern empires know how to protect themselves. His contemporaries tell us this, and he himself says it was so. When a La Rochefoucauld paints Retz, and Retz agrees with him by recognising the chief


ao6 CarOtnal t>e nets*

features of the portrait, we can only be silent, poor observers from afar, and bow low.

The second volume of Retz's Memoirs is the one that shows him to most advantage in the elevation of his political thought and in the charm of his pic- tures. There is no finer and no more truthful paint- ing (I say truthful, for it is redolent of life itself) than that of the opening of the Regency of Anne of Austria and of the establishment, almost imperceptibly and by means of insinuation, of the power of Mazarin. The gentleness and facility of the first four years of the Regency, followed suddenly, and without apparent cause, by smothered discontent and the growl of a tempest, are described and interpreted on these pages in a manner to defy and baffle all future historians. I do not understand why M. Bazin, in reading them, did not instantly recognise and salute Retz as a mas- ter, confuting him, of course, in many cases where there was necessity. But any historian who meets at the start, on the subject of which he is treating, with such an observer and painter in a predecessor, and only finds ground to belittle and obliterate what he has left behind him, seems to me to give proof of an aggravating and cavilling spirit which excludes him from the broad road of the vocation. Observe that Retz, while painting, explains; the political and pro- found reason of things glides into the stroke of his brush.

After those first four years of the Regency, during


CacMnal be Vzti. 307

which the impulsion given by Richelieu continued to send onward the vessel of State without the necessity arising for any fresh instigation, — after those four years of perfect quiet, of smiles and indulgence, they en- tered, without at first perceiving it, new waters; a new breeze little by little made itself feh: the gust of reforms, of revolutions. Whence came it ? What occasioned it ? What were the slender grounds that brought about so violent a shaking up? This is what Retz excels in telling us, and those pages of his Memoirs (which could well be entitled How Revolutions begin") remind us, by the elevation of their tone and their firmness, both of Bossuet and of Montesquieu.

  • ' It is more than twelve hundred years that Prance

has had kings," says Retz, "but these kings have not always been absolute to the point at which they now are." Then, in a rapid and brilliant summary, he seeks to show that, although the French monarchy was never ruled and limited by written laws, or by charters, like those of England and of Aragon, there had always existed in former times a "wise me- dium " [sage milieu] " placed by our fore&thers be- tween the license of kings and the licentiousness of peoples." That wise and golden mean, which in Prance has always been more a condition of desire, of regret or hope, than a state of actual reality, had a certain shadow and effect of custom in the power attributed to Parliament; and Retz shows all the wise


so8 (tatOtnal De nets*

kings — Saint-Louis, Charles V, Louis XII, Henri IV, — seeking to moderate tlieir own power and sur* round it by the limits of law and justice. To the contrary of this: all that we now call in the language of to-day tendency to centralisation, all the efforts of Louis Xi, of Richelieu which were about to be consummated under Louis XIV, all that would render the monarchy sole master, seemed to Retz the road to despotism. We cannot deny that it was pure despotism until oneness in administration was joined and combined, after '89 and after 1814, with a con- stitutional regime and liberty.

When the work was only half way, and done on one side only, as in the time of Retz on the morrow of Richelieu's death, this invasion without check of the royal and ministerial power was surely des- potism if ever there were any; and there is nothing surprising that, in the interval of respite between Richelieu and Louis XIV, the thought occurred to oppose it and build, as it were, a dam with a sort of constitution. That was the first serious thought from which issued the Fronde; a thought which pro- duced itself in the Parliaments only on occasions of special grievance, and was then quickly swept aside in the whirlwind of intrigues and personal ambi- tions. But Retz expresses it clearly in the beginning, and Parliament confirmed it formally in its Declaration of October 24, 1648 (a true Charter in embryo) which it would be frivolous to misunderstand.


(tatOtnal De Vets* 909

A man of much intelligence, and, what is even better, of sound and judicial mind, M. de Sainte- Aulaire, has made this view the leading idea of his History of the Fronde." He has sought to disengage, in a way, the constitutional element, too often masked and perverted at the pleasure of fac* tions. It seems sometimes as if M. Bazin had con- structed his work on the same period of our history with the sole purpose of counteracting, step by step, the point of view of M. de Sainte- Aulaire. The opin- ions the two historians express on Retz are diametri- cally opposite. While M. Bazin leads us to see in him merely the wittiest, most selfish, and boastful of plotters, M. de Sainte-Aulaire seeks in his conduct and through all the tangle of detail a clue that is not solely that of a frivolous and factious ambition:

" Although," says M. de Sainte-Aulaire, " in writing his book Retz did not escape the influences I have just pointed out " [the reigning influences and the changes introduced into opinion by the establish- ment of Louis XlV's regime] "we find, nevertheless, the proof that he had seen all and comprehended all; that he had measured the dangers to which despotism was about to expose the monarchy, and that he sought to prevent them. My admiration for thb great master has inaeased in copying the pictures drawn by his hand. . . ."

If this favourable judgment has its justification, it is more especially at the beginning of the Memoirs, at the origin of the Fronde.

Richelieu's rule had been so strong and so abso- lute, the prostration which it caused in the whole

<4


3IO CatOtnal &e V€t$.

body-politic was such, that no less than four or five years were needed for the reaction to be felt, for the public organs he had repressed to resume their office and seek to recover strength; and even then they did so, as usually happens, only on occasions of special measures that irritated them personally. Ma- zarin, a foreigner in France, a skilful negotiator out- side of it, but with no idea of our political rights and maxims, followed, with slow steps, the path marked out by Richelieu; but he followed it without sus- pecting that it was "edged with precipices on all sides." He believed, above all else, in French levity, and saw nothing logical or consistent in it He did not perceive that the peace of the first four years of the Regency was not real health; instead of husband- ing means and preparing by remedies for the morrow, he continued in the old course; which aggravated disturbances and the sufferings of the interior of France: *' The ill grew worse and worse," says Retz; "the head awoke; Paris felt itself, and sighed; no notice was taken of its sighs; it fell into frenzy. Let us now come to details." Do you not admire this opening, worthy of Bossuet, or, if you prefer it, of Montesquieu ?

There are, as we know, certain moments when physical diseases of like nature break forth at once in various lands; this is true of moral epidemics as well. The news of the revolution at Naples, that of the revolution in England, sent, as it were, a wind


of sedition to French minds. The vague humours of public discontent are very quick, in hours of crises, to be caught by emulation, ktting the example of a neighbour decide them, and taking the particular form of malady that reigns and circulates. Retz un- derstands and makes us understand all that admira- bly. Do not suppose that he understands seditions and riots only; he comprehends and divines revohi- tions. He describes as an observer gifted with an exquisite sensitiveness of tact, their period of on- coming, so brusque sometimes, so unforeseen, and yet so long in preparation. 1 know no finer page of history than that in which he paints the sudden passage from the discouragement and supineness of minds, making them believe that present evils can never end, to the contrary extreme where, br from considering revolutions as impossible, they think them, in a moment, simple and easy:

    • And this disposition alone," he adds, " is sometimes capable of

making them. . . . Whoever had told us three months before the liUU daw of trattbUs, that a revolution could be born in a State where the royal htvSty was perfectly united, ¥4iere the Court was the dave of the minister to whom the provinces and the capital were equally submissive, ¥4iere the armies were victorious, where the Guilds appeared at all points to be impotent — whoever had told us that would have been thought insane, I do not say in the minds of common people, but in those of the Ertr€es and the Seneterres " —

that is to say, the ablest of those who stood high at Court

That which follows takes us, as though we were present, through all the degrees of that unexpected


ais OarOtnal t>e nets.

awakening, soon to change to terror, consternation, and (iiry. He is like an inquiring physician writing down all the symptoms of the disease, the very disease he has always desired to study closely: evi- dently he would rather watch it than cure it.

" There seems a little sentiment," he says, in speaking of the de- pressed condition of the State, " a gleam, or rather a spark of life; and that sign of life, almost imperceptible in its beginnings, is not given by Monsi$ur, b not given by M. le Prince, is not given by the Nobles of the Kingdom, k not given by the Provinces; it is given by Parliament, which, until our day, had never begun a revolution, and which certainly would have condemned the bloody Decrees it made itself, if any others than itself had made them. It grumbled over the Edict of the Tariff (1647); and no sooner had it merely murmured than everybody waked up. They searched about, gro|>- ing, as they woke, for the laws; they could not find them; they were alarmed, they shouted, they demanded them; and, in thb agitation, the questions to whidi their excitement gave birth, from obscure as they were and venerable through their obscurity, became pro- Uematkral; and hence, in the opinion of half the country, odious. The people entered the sanctuary; they raised the veil which should always cover whatever can be said and whatever can be believed about the rights of the people and the rights of kings, which never accord so well together as they do through silence. The hall of the Pidais profiuied these mysteries. Let us now come to particular fiicts that win make you see this matter with your eye.

Those are the exordiums that count for much in history. The man who under Louis XIV, at the age of fifty-eight, wrote these things in solitude, in priv- acy, addressing them by way of pastime to a woman among his friends, had certainly in his mind and in his imagination serious ideas of the essence of so- cieties, and a grandeur of political conception. He had too often changed them and tarnished them in


(tarMnal De nets. 313

practice; but pen in tiand, as often happens to writers of geniuSy he grasped them again with clearness, brilliancy, and amplitude.

With all historical personages we should fasten first upon their great aspects; I know not if I shall have time to note all the weaknesses, all the infirmities, all the shames even, of Retz and brand them; but I should blame myself If I did not from the start point out in him the manifest signs of superiority and force which capture admiration the more we approach him. I have not yet reached the end of them.

Retz, who to us, because we know his life and his confessions, seems a most scandalous ecclesiastic, did not seem such in his lifetime to those of his cloth, or to his flock. He explains, with a frankness that no- thing equals, the means he took to procure respect among the clergy and favour among his people, not only as a man of party but in his quality as archbishop, without in the least retrenching his secret vices and weaknesses. Astonishing as this may seem, we are forced to recognise that respect and consideration re- mained with him as long as he lived and in spite of all he did to impair it. Learned man, or skilful enough to make himself appear so, careful administrator, al- ways ready to defend the rights and prerogatives of his Order, excellent and eloquent preacher, prodigal in alms for all purposes, he had a dual reputation, and his adventures of every kind, in politics and intrigues, were never able, thanks to the incomplete publicity


214 CarMnal 5e Vets*

of those days, to shake his good fame in the tle*Saint- Louis nor yet in the quarter of Saint-Jacques. The Jansenist party, then flourishing, was very favourable to him: "I had much esteem for devout persons/' he says, "and in their eyes, that is one of the great points of piety." There was no hypocrisy properly so called in this; for that is a degrading vice; but he profited by the disorder of the times, the dispensations of an ex- traordinary situation, relying at the same time on preju- dices that walled in minds. It may even be believed, as he has very well explained to us, that in peaceful times, his reputation of archbishop would have been more damaged, for he would then have found it dif- ficult to conceal his vices and irregularities, whereas they were lost in the inevitable confusion of civil war.

The fact from which we augur that Retz could never have been any thing than what he was, is the enthusiasm with which he allowed himself to be swept, from the very first days of the troubles, into the r61e of popular leader. He was persuaded "that greater qualities are needed to form a good leader of a party than to make a good emperor of the uni- verse." That title "Leader of a party" was what he had always most honoured in " Plutarch's Lives"; and when he saw that matters were becoming em- broiled to the point of allowing him to come naturally into the rdle, he felt a tickling of his feelings, an emo- tion of vainglory, which seem to indicate that he con-


OarOfnal be nets* 215

ceived of nothing nobler or more delightful. He was about to swim in his element.

When Saint-Simon, in his day, describes to us the delights and thrillings he experienced in being able to observe the faces and expressions of the courtiers un- der the great circumstances that lay bare secret pas- sions and intentions, he does not express himself with a keener sense of delectation than does Retz when he shows us his joy at the thought of seizing the rdle so coveted. We may well conclude that one was in his element as observer, the other as agitator; both artists in their own way, and consoled, after all, by their imaginations when the opportunity came to them to relate their past pleasure and describe it.

In the second volume of the Memoirs there is an admirable conversation between Retz and the Prince de Condd who, returning victorious from Lens, was really the arbiter of the situation. The double rdle of restorer of the public weal and preserver of the royal authority tempted, at first, the lofty and luminous mind of Condd; but Retz, in a wonderful manner, makes us understand how the prince could not hold to it, being too impatient. "Heroes have their de- fects; that of M. le Prince was that there was not enough persistency in one of the finest minds in the world." Then, going farther, Retz points out to us in what that lack of persistency consisted. On the return of the army, finding Parliament in a struggle with the Court, the glory of "restorer of the public


2i6 CatOfnal t>e Vets.

weal" was the first idea of the Prince de G)nd6, that of '* preserver of the royal authority " was the second. But, while seeing both things equally, he did not feel them equally. Balancing between the two ideas, and even seeing them together, he could not weigh them together. He passed from one to the other: thus, that which seemed to him on one day to be the light- est seemed the weightiest on the morrow. The ex- alted manner in which Retz estimates the Prince de Condd at that moment and his first intentions before they deflected and were embittered in the struggle deserves that we apply the same form of judgment to himself. He says at every turn enough evil of that self to make us believe in his sincerity when he shows himself in another light.

Wishing to convince the Prince de Cond6 that there was a great and incomparable rdle to play in this crisis between the magistracy and the Court, wishing to temper his impatience and his wrath in regard to Parliament, and to prove to him that, prince of the blood and victor as he was, he could, with a little address, handle and insensibly govern the great As- sembly, Retz in a conversation he held with him at the hdtel de Condd (December, 1648) rises to the highest views of statesmanship, to views which outran the times, while at the same moment he keeps in sight that which was practicable then. The Prince, irritated by the opposition he meets at every step in the deliberations and resolutions of the Assembly, was


OatOfnal be Vets. 217

returning to his instincts, that were very slightly par- liamentary, and threatening to bring to reason those square caps/' as he did the populace, with mailed hand and force. To which Retz replied, with a pro- phetic instinct of '89:

" Is not Partiament the idol of the people ? 1 know that you count them for nothing because the Court is armed; but I beg you to let me tell you that thi^ ought to he counted for much each time that they count themselves as all. They are now at that point. They are beginning themselves to count your armies for nothing; and the mis- fortnm is that their strength consists in their imagination: and it me^ with truth he said that, unlihe all other powers, they can, when they have arrived at a certain point, do all they thinh they can do,"

drdinal de Retz, we see, knew as much and as far on the strength of Tiers-fitat as the Abbd de Sieyds. Looking back to former ages and to the spirit that then existed, he defines in singularly happy terms the an- cient and vague Constitution of France which he calls " the mystery of the State." " Each monarchy has its own" he says, "that of France consists in the reli- gious and sacred silence in which is buried, while obeying, nearly always blindly, the kings, the right the people will not believe they have to dispense with kings, except on occasions when it is not their duty even to please them." He makes us see how latterly, on the Court side, they had, with signal clumsiness, put Parliament under the necessity of defining the cases in which it might disobey, and those in which it could not do so. "It was a miracle that Parlia- ment did not at last lift that veil, and did not lift it


3i8 OarOtnal t>e nets*

formally and by Decree; which would have been far more dangerous and more fatal in its consequences than the freedom of the people have taken of late to look through it."

The conclusion of this memorable speech is an endeavour to reconcile Condd with the Parliament, without absolutely separating him from the Court and the proposal of a useful, innocent, and needed rdle, which should make him the protector of the public and of the sovereign guilds, and would in- fallibly eliminate Mazarin : in this he reckoned with- out the queen's heart. However that may have been, it was a noble dialogue carried on with frank- ness by the two speakers, about to become adver- saries. The parts of the two men, the characters and language are kept distinct. Condd and Retz parted, each holding his own opinion but with esteem for the other; one, for the Court, deciding, after weighing all, to defend it; the other remaining Coadjutor and, above all, the defender of Paris.

Many quarrels, treacheries, insulting outrages hap- pening later lowered the nobleness of this first ex- planation and soiled its memory; nevertheless, one takes pleasure, when reading it, in thinking that those great minds, those impetuous and misguided hearts, were not originally as evil-intentioned nor as given over to their selfish and perverse ends as they seemed to be later, when the passions and cupidities of each were unchained. One of the greatest evils of civil


CarOfnal &e Vets* 219

war is to corrupt even the best and most generous of those who enter upon them. That was true of the Prince de Cond6; that was true of even Retz.

He himself has taken care to point out to us the precise moment, very near to this conversation, when he determined to deliver himself wholly up to his passion and to his hatred of Mazarin (January, 1649): "When I saw,'* he says, "that the Court would not accept even good except in his way, which was never good, I thought of nothing but of how to do him harm; and it was not until this moment that I made a full and complete resolution to attack Mazarin personally/' From that day, all means were good to him to win success — arms, pamphlets, calumnies. Here begins the gala; henceforth, he thinks of nothing but of continuing "master of the ball" as Mazarin himself very aptly said.

It was at this moment that Retz, artist that he is pen in hand, considering that he has issued from the preamble or vestibule of his subject, gives himself free way, and, having up to that time sketched his per- sonages only in profile, he now shows them full face and full length, as if in a gallery. He makes no less than seventeen portraits in a series, all admirable for life, brilliancy, delicacy, and resemblance; even im- partiality is there when he paints his enemies. Among these portraits, of which not one is less than a masterpiece, we note, above all, those of the queen, of Gaston, Due d'0rl6ans, of the Prince de Cond6,


820 Cardinal be Kets*

M. de Turenne, M. de La Rochefoucauld, Mme. de Longueville and her brother the Prince de Conti, Mme. de Chevreuse, Mme. de Montbazon, and finally, Mathieu Mold. This gallery, the portraits of which, repeated and reproduced a hundred times, fill all our histories, are the glory of the French brush ; and we may say that, before Saint-Simon, nothing else had been written more vivid, more striking, more marvel- lously lifelike. Even in comparison with Saint-Simon, nothing pales in this gallery of Retz; we admire the difference of manner, something more concise, more clear, freer perhaps in colour, but not less penetrating into the quick of souls: M. le Prince, to whom "na- ture had given a mind as great as his heart, but whom Fortune did not allow to show the one to its fiiU extent as plainly as he did the other, and who was never able to fulfil his awn merit "; M. de Turenne, to whom no fine qualities were lacking but those he had never thought of," and to whom we should deny none, " for who knows ? he had in everything, even in his speech, certain obscurities which only developed as opportunity offered, and then developed only to his glory"; Mme. de Longueville, whose

    • languor of manner touched more than the brilliancy

of those who were more beautiful. She had the same in her mind, which charmed, for it had awakenings both luminous and surprising." I should like to quote all, to repeat all in these pictures of a touch both strong and captivating.


CatMnal ^e Ketj* s>i

Coming after the fine and statesmanlike conversa- tion with the Prince de Condd, after the marvellous scenes of comedy in the first days of the Barricades, after the grand and lofty considerations that precede them, these portraits form an introduction to his subject, and a unique exposition which will last even if the rest of the pieces fade.

Retz's style is that of our finest language; it is full of fire, and the spirit of everything circulates through it The language itself is of that manner, slightly anterior to Louis XIV, which unites to grandeur a supreme air of elegance that makes its grace. The expression is readily gay, picturesque as it flows, always true to French genius, yet full of imagination, and sometimes of magnificence. Speaking of an im- prisoned magistrate whose release the insurrection- ists demanded from the Court, and who was set at liberty: "They would not lay down their arms," says Retz, till their object was secured; even Parliament did not give a Decree to lay them down, until it saw Broussei in his place. He returned to it on the morrow, or rather he was borne to it on the heads of the people with incredible acclamations." I do not inquire whether the expression is propor- tioned to Broussel's importance; but how faithfully it renders the impression, the enthusiasm of the mo- ment! Retz, as you can well suppose, is not the dupe of it; and immediately showing us Paris after its Broussei is restored to it, as "more tranquil than


222 CatMnal ^e Hets.

I ever saw it on a Good Friday " he makes us feel the contrasting absurdity without expressing it.

"The Court felt itself hit in the very pupil of its eye/' he says, ikpropos of the suppression of intendants, discussed in the collective assembly of the Courts of Parliament; he is full of such lively and perceptive expressions. At other times he ex- pands his images agreeably. He excels in giving to words their fiill value of meaning, all their quality, and he sometimes makes it better felt in thus de- veloping it After having said that President M0I6 was all of a piece," a good but common expression, he adds: "President de Mesmes, who was at least as well intentioned to the Court as he, but who had more insight, more jointure^ whispered in his ear. . . ." There is an instance of how a new ex- pression is legitimately created, how it is drawn from some ordinary term. Retz*s pen does many such things without taking heed of them, without even thinking of them. He had the gift of speech, and that which pictured itself in his mind made but one bound on to his paper. I ought to add that there are many inequalities in his volumes. The last are languid; the first are strewn, even to affectation (the only instance of it) with political maxims that Ches- terfield said were the only just and the only practical ones he had ever seen printed. They would teach experience, if experience were ever learned from books. They at least recall it, and sum it up in


CatMnal &e Kets* 223

a striking manner for those who have seen and lived.

1 am astonished that many ^persons find in these Memoirs of Retz instigations to civil disorders and seditious intrigue. Rightly read, they are more likely to give a disgust for them. But every man reads with his own humour and his own imagination even more than with his judgment. What is well told is seductive, though the thing told may be detestable, and the relator, after the first moment of enthusiasm is past, may not attempt to embellish it.

We will not confine ourselves to the opening of the Memoirs, as so many people do; let us go farther and follow the skilful rebel beyond that honeymoon of the Fronde. What hindrances! what impossi- bilities! what meannesses! what shame! On the morrow of the Barricades, the queen-regent, the young king, with Mazarin and the Court having fled from Paris (January, 1649), what will the Coadjutor, the tribune of the people, the master of the pavements do ? he, having for ally on one side Parliament, that machine so little easy to guide, and on the other those princes of the blood and the nobles of the kingdom (the Bouillons, the Contis, the Longue- villes), who had joined the faction with personal objects only.

Among the numerous pamphlets published at this date, one is rather curious, with an official character, and has for its title: "Contract of Marriage between


3S4 CarMnal ^e Kcts.

Parliament and the City of Paris." It is a species of Charter under the form of contract and in the style of a notary. We read in it the aspiration and the pro- gramme of the opening moments of the Fronde: '*ln the name of God the Creator/' it is declared that *' the wise and illustrious seigneur, the Parliament of Paris, takes for wife and legitimate spouse the powerful and good dame, the City of Paris, as likewise the said dame takes etc, etc., to be, the said seigneur and dame, joined and united perpetually and indissolubly." The couple pledge themselves to be henceforth one and in common as to all their desires, actions, passions, and interests whatsoever," for the greatest good of the State and for the preservation of the king and the kingdom. Then follows a list of the principal clauses agreed upon by the contracting parties:

" That God shall be always served and honoured, feared and loved as he should be.

" That an atheists, ungodly, licentious and sacrilegious persons shall be punished in an exemplary manner, and exterminated wholly.

'* That vices, crimes, and scandals shall be corrected as much as pos- sible, etc.

" That the good of the State and the preservation of the king and the kingdom shall be," etc.

I abridge. But behind these first articles which are merely for show and blazon, come others far more essential, for instance: that in view of the tender age of the young king the Parliament of Paris shall select for the government of the State illustrious persons, drawn from the three classes, clergy, nobles, and mag-


<EatMiua de lRgt$. SS5

isCiates, who shall be, after the princes of the blood, the natural councillors and ministers of the Regency. In short, the effect of all the articles is, that Parliament should govern during the minority; that when it de» manded the dismissal of any minister or councillor there should be no opposition; that an exemplary reform be introduced into the management of the finances, into the distribution of benefices, into ap- pointments to the various offices, into the levying and collecting of taxes; in short, that the poor people shall be effectively and really relieved, that order in all things shall be restored, and the reign of justice fully re-established in all the provinces of the kingdom/'

The conclusion and the end to which the whole necessarily comes is that Girdinal Mazarin was in- compatible with this golden age, this reign of Justice upon the earth, and that "he shall be incessantly prosecuted until he be brought under the arm of the Law to be publicly and exemplarily executed."

The final clause is thus worded :

" For thus have promised and sworn the said sdgneur Parliament and the said dame City of Paris on the Holy Gotpds and before the church of Notre-Dame, in the month of January in the year one thou- sand six hundred and forty-nine, and is signed," etc.

It was Retz himself who, in his character of Co- adjutor, gave the benediction to this famous marriage which presented itself under such magnificent aus- pices. But what did he think of it himself?

During the first weeks we can see the idea he had

IS


296 OarDinal de Vets*

of the real state of affairs in the shrewd and very serious conversations he held with the Due de Bouillon, Tu- renne*s elder brother, and the best head among the nobles who had joined the faction. Retz, who knows his Paris better than any one, lays bare to the Due de Bouillon all the divisions and the probable causes of ruin: The bulk of the people that are firm," he says, " keeps us from perceiving as yet the dislocation of parties." But he himself feels this dis- location, disunion, to be very near if care is not taken, and he lays his finger upon it better in his words than by his acts. Less than six weeks after the breaking out of the first Fronde, he said, energetically:

" A people are weary some time before they perceive that they are so. The hatred against Mazarin sustained and covered that weariness. We divert thdr minds by our satires, our verses, our songs; the blare of trumpets, drums and cymbab, the sight of flags and banners rejoice the diops in the streets, but, after all, are the taxes paid with the same punctuality as at first ? "

The taxes — there 's the delicate point to which one must always return if one wants to organise any kind of order on the morrow of a revolt; and the first cry of a revolt is that it is made in behalf of a relief that is often impossible to grant

Retz reveals to the Due de Bouillon his whole policy under the first Fronde, and we must do him this justice: if he was seditious, he was only half so. In concert with the Due de Beaufort, he made him- self master of the populace, he held it in his hand


Cardinal de Kets* 227

and it proved but a phantom ; he is the idol of the churches as the duke was of the markets. But he will not abuse "this mania of the people/' he says» "for M. de Beaufort and for me." He resists firmly the idea of doing without the Parliament, of crushing it by the people, of "purging it" violently, as some advised. Such proceedings of the days of the League horrify him ; he leaves such things to the Seize and to sanguinary ambitions. He has no less horror of them than of Cromwell, whose advances he repulsed, just as he objected at all times to a close and complete union with Spain.

It was not that he concealed from himself the hidden intentions of Parliament or the proceedings of its companies; in spite of the fine words that are said on great occasions, "the foundation of the spirit of Parliament is peace, and it never gets far from it except by fits and starts," which are quickly followed by returns. He knows that that Assembly, the slave to rules and formulas, understands no way of making war except by Decrees and by bailiffs; that the loud- est thunders of its eloquence end in nothing more than inquests and edicts; that nothing can prevent it from adjourning when midday and five o'clock, the sacramental hours for dinner and supper, strike. In vain may Retz have "the lanterns" (the tribunes of those days) for him; in vain does he have the young heads in Parliament, and the bench of Inquests at his feet; that "holy mob," as he calls it, which knows


238 OatMnal De ttets.

so well how to shout when the word of command is given, can do nothing in Parliament, where President Mol6 is not to be led.

What Retz would fain have had, to act upon the mind of that Assembly, to excite it sufficiently with- out oppressing it, was an army, not in Paris but out- side of Paris; an army, a veritable army in the service of the Fronde; he could have cried, like the Abb6 Sieyds: "Oh for a sword 1" At one moment he thought he had that of M. de Turenne; he might have chosen worse; but it failed him. According to his idea, an army at some distance and a general of renown would act upon Parliament and give him needed energy without threatening it; whereas the action of the populace of Paris is too dangerous, too immediate. Retz, who has it at his disposal, fears to employ it, for such blind forces are apt to strike with- out warning. That is the fate and the misfortune of popular powers," he remarks; "they are not be- lieved in till they make themselves felt; and it is very often to the interest and even to the honour of those in whose hands they are to make them less felt than believed in."

The other evils of the civil war that he himself had lighted Retz confesses without reserve. One of the first articles of the Contract of Marriage between Parliament and the City of Paris was, as we have seen, that atheists and licentious persons shoukl be repressed and punished; but one of the actual effects


CatMnal ^e Kets^ 229

of the Fronde was to let loose licentiousness, a mor- tal injury to any state of things that seeks to establish and consolidate itself. Speaking of the debauchery of FontraiUes, Matha, and other free-thinkers:

" Their table songs," he says, " did not always spare the good God; I cannot express to you the trouble such follies gave me. President M0I6 knew very well how to put them in evidence, the people did not really think them good in any way, the dergy were scandalised to the last degree. I could not cover them, I dared not excuse them, and the odium fell, of course, on the Fronde."

Farther on he says: "We had an interest in not stifling the libels and ballads that were made against the cardinal, but we had no less an interest in sup- pressing those against the queen, and sometimes against religion and the State. No one can imagine the trouble the heated minds of the people gave us in this matter." This was how they kept to the flrst article of their Contract of Marriage! In short, every page of the Memoirs only confirms this truth: the greatest misfortune of civil war is that we are re- sponsible for the evil that we do not do."

But, once committed, they are compelled to do it In more than one case, Retz finds himself com- promised and just escapes being discredited with the people and with the hot-heads in Parliament by op- posing absurd measures or acts of rapine and vandal- ism, such as the sale of Cardinal Mazarin's library. He is quickly obliged to repair these good promptings by himself proposing some folly; this is what shows very naturally, he says, "the extravagance of such


330 OatDtnal ^e Vets.

periods, when all the fools go mad and it is no longer possible for people of sense to speak or act wisely."

After the first Fronde was pacified and before the second broke out, Retz seems to have had, at mo- ments, a sincere intention to reform and become once more an honest man and a faithful subject; but his past reputation weighed upon him, also his acquired habits, and before long he was again involved in the ways of sedition. They distrusted him at Court, and this suspicion provoked him in the end to justify anew that distrust. In all his relations with Qyeen Anne of Austria there happened to Retz what hap- pened to Mirabeau in his relations with Queen Marie Antoinette. He felt there was no reliance placed upon him; that he was taken solely from a necessity of the occasion. He was a man who would have felt a wholly generous treatment by the queen, or even by Mazarin, and one of his keenest grievances against the latter was that, with plenty of mind, he was absolutely lacking in generosity and soul, and that, supposing others to be like himself, he never believed they would give him advice with good intentions.

Like Mirabeau, Retz could render services to the queen only by maintaining his credit with the multi- tude; and to maintain that credit he had to do os- tensibly certain acts and make certain speeches that savoured of sedition, and seemed the exact opposite of the engagements he had just taken. It was only


CarMnal ^e Vets. 331

too easy to make cause against him at Court and to present him as a traitor and renegade, at the very moment when he was merely employing the means at his command for a secret end that was honourable.

At the time of the multiplied conferences that he had at night with the queen in the Palais-Royal and elsewhere, it is to be supposed that in those mysteri- ous oratories where she received him in order to confer more freely, he tried to interest the woman in the queen; that he looked often at her beauti- ful hands, of which Mme. de Motteville tells us, that at times he replied with a dreamy, abstracted air to questions of even policy; but the queen's coquetry was not caught by such wiles; her heart was fixed. Retz felt he could never displace Mazarin. But he was not, it would seem, quick enough in feeling it, and he continued to act outside as if he still had hope of getting the cardinal finally sent away. A jest which he allowed to escape him against the queen and which came to her ears (he called her Suissesse) irritated her as a woman and contributed more, per- haps, to her final vengeance than the political infidel- ities of the man could have done.

He always denied that he aspired to the ministry, and the reasons he gave are energetic enough to strike us, if not to convince us. To one of these advances, true or false, that were made to him, he replied that *' he was very incapable of the ministry for all sorts of reasons, and that it was even not for


2rj2 CarMnal De tlcts.

the queen's dignity to raise to that post a man who was still hot and smoking, so to speak, with faction. " Elsewhere, he opens himself on this point with a tone of sincerity even more fitted to convince us; this was at the close of the second Fronde, in which he pursued a very different line of conduct from that he followed in the first; nevertheless that first repu- tation as an ambitious man with a mailed hand fol- lowed him always.

" Is it possible," people said, ascribing to him a yearning for the ministry, is it possible that Cardinal de Retz is not content with being at his age " (he was thirty-seven) " cardinal and archbishop of Paris? And how did he get into hb mind that the first place in the king's council is to be conquered by force of arms?" — "1 know," he adds, " that even to-day the miserable gazettes which treat of that period are fiiH of these ridiculous ideas "; and he speaks of those ideas as being very far from his; *' I do not say this by force of reason only, but I say it from my own inclination, which leads me with such eagerness to pleasure and to fame. . . ." And he concludes that the ministry was even less to his taste than within his reach: " I do not know if I am making my excuses to you," he writes, addressing Mme. de dumartin; *'at any rate, I do not think that I am writing you my eulogy."

This fame, this point of honour, of which Retz speaks so often, and which he felt after his fashion, lay in winning a certain popular reputation, the favour and love of the public; in being faithful to his prom- ises to friends; in seeming never to yield to direct self-interest Towards the end, his whole doctrine of resistance seems to have been Uttie more than a wager of honour against Mazarin.

The second Fronde (i6;o-i6;2) broke out, as we


CatMnal &e 1tet3« 233

know, in the name of the princes of Condd, whom Mazarin had put in prison and was presently obliged to release. In this second period of the troubles Cardi- nal de Retz, far from being an agitator and a firebrand, as too generally believed, was rather a negotiator and moderator, barely listened to. Monsieur ^ Gaston, Due d'Ori6ans, lieutenant-general of the kingdom, was seized with a sudden confidence in him, and made him his intimate counsellor. But when we reflect on what Monsieur was, timid, distrustful, dissimulating, changing his opinion many times a day, whistling when he did not know what to say, and employing his whole mind in hiding his cowardice by inventing creep-holes, we can readily explain to ourselves the perplexity and daily embarrassments of Retz. The weakness of Monsieur had various degrees and "stages," he tells us, and he makes us measure and count them, one by one. " In him, fancies and will, will and resolution, resolution and choice of means, choice of means and their application were very far apart But what was more extraordinary, it happened quite often that he stopped short in the middle of the application."

Placed between a prince of this nature and Parlia- ment (that other complicated machine, not less dis- heartening to influence) ranked in the party by the Prince de Cond6, then his enemy, and whose triumph he could not desire, Retz consumed himself dur- ing two years in parleys, expedients, the perpetual


334 CarMnal ^e 1tet3« 

attempts of an impotent third party to come to birth, resulting always in miscarriage. What wise maxims he strews, to no purpose, along the way! What penetrating glances on the truths of the situation and the wretchedness of parties! How many times did he not have occasion to cry out as he quitted the sessions of Parliament: "Nothing is more mob than these Assemblies! . . . The wisest among' them seem as mad as the populace, and the populace seems to me more mad than ever." The gaiety of certain parts of his narrative covers very incompletely his dis- gust at this anarchic, inconsistent regime, which those who had plunged into it could not, from a too com- mon optical illusion, perceive.

Retz, whom nothing escapes, is nauseated by it, again and again. We ask ourselves, in reading him, how it was that some fine morning, a good sentiment, a rush of energetic sound sense, of integrity, were it even no more than a fit of impatience and weariness, did not decide him to break, once for all, with that inextricable complication of intrigues, henceforth without object and without issue. Here it is that the vices of the man come into line and find their profit. Retz, while judging the depth of the things he de- spises, did not dislike the game nor the gambling. He had brought himself to a disorderly and licentious manner of living. Every evening, the hdtel de Chev- reuse, or some other clandestine amusement, consoled him for his daily annoyances and for the ruin of the


Cat5iiial be Vets* ^ss

State. Such, in men of superior minds, is the evil of vices; they quench good aspirations at their source and prevent them from coming to birth. The time came at last when Retz, retiring, toward the end of the troubles, into his cloister of Notre-Dame, with- drawn into the shadow of his cathedral towers, sheltered, as he says, by the hat, hesitated, with all his lights and his worldly generosities, to do a public act that would hasten the issue and put an end to the universal suffering. He brought himself to do it, however, and was one of the chief negotiators for the return of the Court to Paris.

For this he was poorly thanked; his past reputation clung to him, not without cause, and he was treated solely on political grounds; that is to say, having used him in the first moments they imprisoned him in the next.

His imprisonment, his flight, his stay in Rome, his journeys, his career of dissipation in divers regions, his obstinacy to the last in retaining his see of the archbishopric of Paris, supply us with too many aspects of his frailties and the weaker side of his nature. One of his counsellors and servants, Gui Joly, has given us in his Memoirs very shameful details, which may be true as to material facts, but which are false inasmuch as they are solely base, which Retz was not. He had in him certain gener- ous parts that never perished, and of which he gave proof in his old age, after his return to France. His


2s6 CatDfnal &e nets.

peace made, and his pardon obtained, he had permis- sion, after a rather long stay in his seigneurie in Lor- raine, to reappear in Paris and at Fontainebleau (1664). There he once more met all his friends and many of his enemies, with whom he reconciled himself frankly. We now fmd a Cardinal de Retz quite different (save for beauty of mind) to what he had hitherto appeared. " If he lived like a Catiline in his youth," says Voltaire, "in his old age he lived like Atticus."

It is Mme. de S6vign6 who best enables us to know Cardinal de Retz after his return and makes us like him. She is inexhaustible on that subject Retz had won her by showing an especial affection for Mme. de Grignan. If he came to Paris without seeing her he was not to be comforted: "You make him wish for the Pope's death," writes Mme. de Sevignd. When the Pope died, Cardinal de Retz did not fail to go to the Conclave to sedulously serve the interests of Louis XIV, and, as he passed through Provence, he was able to see Mme. de Grignan. Though not of advanced age, being still under sixty, he was much worn out in health. Mme. de S6vign6 worked with all her might to entertain him:

" We tiy to amuse our good cardinal," she writes (March 9, 167a).

    • G>meille read him a play that is to be acted before long; it reminded

him of the classics; Moliere b to read him Trissotin on Saturday, which b a very amusing thing; Despr^ux [Boileau] is to give him his Lutrin and hb PoiHqui ; that b all we can do to serve him/'

Incomparable and for ever blessed age, in which the


CatUnal &e 1Ret3« 337

iUustrious shipwrecked in politics had» by way of consolation, in one week a Comeille, a Boileau and a Moli^re in the flesh, their works in hand, and Mme. de S6vign6 above all to tell of it!

This man who, as 1 have said, had never been more than half-seditious, and by no means a Catiline, as Voltaire calls him, and who, in his greatest rebellion, had always respected (in all that regarded the royal authority) what he called the claim of the sanctu- ary," had now become the most reconciled and the most zealous of the French cardinals for the interests of Louis XIV. In spite of his increasing infirmities, he made three journeys to Rome (in 1667, 1669, and 1676) to support and make effective in the G)nclav6 the intentions of the king.

In 1675, he was seized with an idea which seemed extraordinary, and caused great wonder among his contemporaries : it was to renounce the hat, and strip himself of the dignity of cardinal, to go and live in Lorraine in absolute solitude. The policy of Rome and that of France united to oppose a sort of renun- ciation which might have become a precedent and, in the future, a political means in the hands of the pow- ers. Retz was forced to resign himself to keep the hat and to remain for his friends the "very good cardinal." He reduced his expenses by a great deal with the laudable object of paying all his debts, on which he staked his honour. This last and brusque idea of a solemn humility which looked like


338 CatMiial de Vets*

repentance, gave rise to much talk and various opinions:

" I see none, thank God," writes Mme. de Sevign^ Quly 24, 1675), " but those who view his action in all its beauty, and who love him as we do. Hb friends do not wish him to nail himself at Saint- Mihiel; they advise him to go to Commercy and sometimes to Saint- Denb. He will keep hb equipage for the honour of the purple; and I gaily persuade that hb life b not ended/'

Every one, on this occasion, wrote to him to com- pliment him on the grandeur of his action. The exiled Bussy-Rabutin, who judged that action more philosophically, wrote him, nevertheless, a letter full of eulogy. Mme. de S6vign6 advised her daughter to write to him on the subject and renew their correspondence by that means: In writing to him this first letter, do not, believe me, feel too con- strained; if some nonsense flows off the tip of your pen he will be as charmed as with things more serious: the solid foundation of religion does not for- bid such little trimmings/'

Better or worse than trimmings were the Memoirs in which the cardinal took secret delight, and which, at this date, he had just completed in obedience to Mme. de Caumartin, who asked him for the nar- rative of his life. It is difficult to admit that the man who wrote them was the least in the world touched by a single religious thought And yet, as it is supposed that the last parts were written to- wards this period, 1675-1676, it would be rash to say that thoughts of that kind did not end by germi-


Cat&fnal de 1Ret3* 339

nating in the soul of Cardinal de Retz. Suffice it that several of his contemporaries, those who ap- proached him closely, seem to have believed in his final persuasion of Christianity and a future life, enough, at any rate, to impose upon us respect and reserve on that vital point

Towards the end, Retz amused his leisure at Com- mercy by conversing and discoursing on the philo- sophy of Descartes, then in its greatest vogue. A certain Dom Robert Desgabets, prior of the abbey of Breuil, situated in a faubourg of Commercy, was a semi-emancipated Carthusian who assumed to rectify nature. Dom Hennezon, abb6 of Saint-Mihiel, three leagues distant, disapproved of these pretended rectifications of Dom Desgabets. Hence a regular philosophical dispute, in which the disputants took the good cardinal as umpire. M. Cousin has pub- lished the very judicious and prudent dedsion of Retz. His conclusion on the fundamental question of this metaphysic was, all points being carefully ex- amined, that " no one knew anything about it. ' ' This gteaX frondeur yiXiOy in his youth, had tried in vain to hold the scales between all parties, between Monsieur, the Parliament and the Court, and who, in default of scales had taken the sword, and taken it even against the Prince de Cond4 came in his old age to this innocent arbitrament.

The retirement of Cardinal de Retz into Lorraine did not last long; he returned to his abbey of Saint-Denis.


240 Carfrfiuil de lRet3« 

The scoffers tattled, and tried to see in this return an infraction of his great design. Mme. de Sevign6 has amply justified him :

" You know/' she writes to Bussy, who asked nothing better than to be one of the scoffers (June 37, 1678), " you know that he has paid off eleven hundred thousand crowns. He received from no one this example, and no one will follow it. In short, we must trust him in order to maintain our wager. He is much more regular than he was in Lorraine. Those who want to be rid of him can be so as much at Saint-Denis as if he had stayed at Commercy."

He died August 24, 1678, tenderly regretted by Mme. de S6vign6, and praised by her in terms that are the finest of funeral orations, leaving us an idea of the most amiable of men, of easy intercourse, a delightful and perfect friend. Thus ended, with sweetness and dignity, one who never had within him that which was necessary to make him a com- plete revolutionist; and one who, in his boldest schemes, always stopped half-way on this side of Cromwell or Machiavelli. I mark this as being at once a defect and a claim to eulogy.

An idea has entered my mind within the last few minutes, — ^I cannot resist expressing it. We are reaching an epoch of desires and prayers; I will offer mine —

May all fiictious persons, all agitators, all those who have passed their lives in stirring up parliaments and people, end them as sweetly and decently as did Car- dinal de Retz; may they range themselves, as he did, under the law of necessity and of their period; play,


CatMiial de nets* 141

like him, at whist when growing okL at the philo- sophy of their time (if there be still a philosophy); continue, or become again, perfectly amiable; converse with the S6vign6s, if they meet any; and, in writing their Memoirs, fill them, as he did, with the maxims of experience, rendering them piquant, amusing, in- structive, but not so captivating that they instil a desire to imitate and renew their follies.


VIL

fl>abemoi0eUe ^e r£ncIo«»


243


VIL


THERE is no beiCter introducer to Ninon than Saint-£vremond, an amiiMe wise man, a mind of tiie first quality for good sense, and one tiiat can enter into all ibt graces. His natunl character is one of easy superiority; I cannot define iiim better tiian by calling him a sort of softened Montaigne. His mind is distmguished alike for its firmness and its delicacy; tiis soul is never forced out of itself or its lud^its. He feh the passions, hektthem come to birdi; up to a certain point, he nurtured them, but he never blindly gave way to them; even in yielding he did so with discernment and restraint In his youth he had been, like all tiie flower of the Court, in Ninon's train, her lover a little, and much her friend; he corresponded with her at times tiiroug^out his long exOe; the small number of authentic ktlers ftat we have by Ninon are addrcned to Saint-fivie. mond, and they make us know her on the mental side, the only side on which she deserves to survive.

^45


246 AaDetnofselle be IXncIod*

Saint-^vremond requires a Study on himself alone; to-day all I ask of him is the favour of being introduced into the intimacy of a woman, who, through a long life, renewed her charm so many times, and whose mind continued to perfect itself even to the end.

Saint-^vremond, born in 1613, was three years older than Ninon, who was born in 1616; he died in 1703 at an age of over ninety, and she in 1705 at the same age, less a few months. His life divides itself into two very distinct halves. Until he was forty- eight he led, in France, at Court, with the army, a brilliant and active existence, esteemed by all the great generals, and on the road to some distinguished military fortune. A long letter of his, very witty and very malicious, on the Treaty of the Pyrenees and against Cardinal Mazarin, found among the papers of Mme. Duplessis-Bellidre at the time of Fouquet's arrest, irritated Louis XIV, who gave orders to put the writer in the Bastille. Warned in time, Saint-£vre- mond left France, took refuge in Holland, then in England, where he lived, forty-two years longer, the life of an observer and philosopher; much enjoyed and sought by the highest society, seeing all that was best in foreign lands, and bearing his exile with real pride and apparent indifference. A thing that contributed much to soften it was the arrival in England of the beautiful Duchesse de Mazarin, Hortense Mancini, the niece of the very man who was the original cause of his misfortune. He attached himself to her, and loved



MADEMOISELLE DE L'ENCLOS. Fnnn a steel emiavigg.


Aabemofdelle &e V^ncU». ^^^

her for her mind and her soUd qualities as much as for her beauty. AU the nieces of the cardinal had the singular gift of charm; a msLgic, as it were. "The source of their charm is in the Mazarin blood," said Ninon, The Duchesse de Mazarin was an essential part of Saint-6vremond's life; more essential than Ninon herself.

The greatest pleasure of Saint-fivremond, that which he most delighted in from his youth, during the age of passions, and which grew dearer to him daily as he aged, was conversation: "Whatever pleasure 1 take in reading," he said, "that of conversation will always be to me the keenest Intercourse with women would be to me the sweetest if the pleasure we find in their amiability did not involve the pain of forbidding ourselves to love them." And he points out of what sort and in what spirit the ordinary inter- course with women should be in order to please them:

  • 'The first merit in the eyes of women, is to love them; the second

is to enter into the confidence of their inclinations; the third, to in- geniously putail they have that is most charming in its best l^ht. If nothing leads us into the secret places of the heart, we must at least win their minds by praises; for, in default of lovers to whom all is yielded, he will please best who gives them the means of pleasing themselves most."

The precepts that he lays down for pleasing and in- teresting women in conversation are the result of the most consummate experience:

" In conversation, remember, never aUow women to become indif*


S4S iDa^emof0eIIe be ViBnclos.

ferent; thdr soul b inimictble to such languor; either make yoursdf loved, or flatter them on what they love, or lead them to find within them something that shaD make them love themselves more; for, after all, what they want is love, of whatever nature it may be; their heart is never void of that passion.'*

If that is the ordinary condition of women, even the most intellectual, their merit is all the greater when they are able to emancipate themselves from the ha- bitual moving springs of their sex, without losing anything of their grace. Saint-£vremond had met with such rare women, and we can readily divine that he thought of them when he wrote :

" Some we find, truly, who gain esteem and tenderness even with- out love; some are as capable of seaesy and strict confidence as the most £dthful of our male friends. I have known some who have not less mind and discretion than charm and beauty; but they are ex* ceptions that nature, by design or caprice, takes pleasure in sometimes giving us. . . . These unusual women seem to have borrowed the merit of men; perhaps they do a spedes of infidelity to their sex in passing thus from their natiual condition into the true advantages of ours."

In an ideal Portrait that he makes of "the Woman who is never found," he finds pleasure in uniting on the head of an £milie of his own invention all the qualities most difficult to combine and most opposite:

" Thb is the Portrait, he says, as he ends, " of the Woman who is never found and never will be found, if a portrait can be made of a thing that is not. It is, rather, the idea of a perfected bong. I do not look for it among men, because there always lacks in their inter- course a something, I know not what, of gentleness, which we find fai that of women. I think it less impossible to find in a woman the sound, strong reason of men, than to find in men the charm and the natural graces of woman.


Aabemoidelle be IXncIos* 249

That sound reason, that sensible mind, joined to sportiveness and charm, he had found in Ninon, and this feature in the Portrait of fimilie was not by any means a purely imaginary idea.

Let us now see what this Ninon, so celebrated, was; and let us look at her on the side that gives her, justly, a place in the history of Letters and of French society. Let us see her^profane that I am, I was about to say, let us study her — in the species of influ- ence by which she corrected the tone of the h6tel de Rambouillet and the Pr^cieuses, and seconded the judicious action of Mme. de La Fayette.

I have sometimes heard it asked why I like to busy myself so much about these amiable and clever women of the past, and take such pains to put them in their true light. Without counting the disinterested pleas- ure there is in resuscitating for a while in idea that choice company, I shall make answer in the words of Goethe, the great critic of our age :

" It would be," he said, speaking of Mme. de Tencin, ** most in- teresting to follow her history and that of the celebrated women who presided over the different societies of Paris in the eighteenth century: such as Mme. Geoffrin, Mme. du DefTand, Mile, de Lespinasse, etc. ; we should gather details useful to a knowledge of the French character and mind in particular, and of human nature in general; for such de- tails would connect themselves with other times equally honourable to both."

I try, according to my capacity, to carry out, in a way, this programme of Goethe ; for if he said that of the eighteenth century, I can say it with even


250 Aabemofaelle be IXncIos*

stronger reason of the seventeenth, in which there was, on the part of the celebrated women who influ- enced it, still more initiative and personal originality. In the matter of polite society and conversation the eighteenth century had only to expand, regulate, and perfect that which the seventeenth had previously founded and established.

Before coming to be, in the end, a personage almost respectable, Ninon had one or two anterior epochs on which I shall merely touch. Mile. Anne de I'Enclos (for Ninon is only a diminutive), born in Paris, May 15, 1616, of a father who was a nobleman, duellist, intriguer, free-thinker, musician, and man of pleasure, and of a mother strict and severe, was left an orphan at fifteen years of age, and much inclined to enjoy her liberty with a boldness, seasoned with wit and tem- pered by taste, which was soon to recall the existence of the courtesans of Greece.

There was in France at that period a school of epi- cureanism and scepticism represented in science by Gassendi and La Mothe Le Vayer; in Letters and in society by Des Yveteaux, Des Barreaux, and many others. Montaigne and Charron were the authors in vogue, and their spirit aided this liberty of opinion. Ninon was among the first of the women to emanci- pate herself, to profess that there is at bottom one and the same morality for men and women; that in re- ducing, as was done by society, all the virtues of women to one single virtue, her sex was depreciated,


iKirBKai& 25a

jmtl MTDTig and injuni* wasr^ done Id it ]tw BBsnung Ip dexdude tl totaDv Inini the pTBHtiis of uttagaJOf — -that Tnafe jnui imi^nsrsa] virtue whu± imnihinA idl othsiK; flta) that nttsirnty k ziDinpttdbk in b WDnum with the infiBCtioTi of Mrhot Bocifity agrss to mil the one virtue. "The virtue nf wmnsn is the fmcst in^mntton of TRen *' : thttt ^ii^ulflr sayinir of a 'witty imse of our day SHHTS Ktoten frnni Ninon. 1^ e can tatoe in At £ fiance that whote code of .mocaltty, which is much 1^ novel in these days when it hs faeomie b nsther viilpaT nonnnonplBzx. Jn tic days of Vmon, it woe still only an audacity, an ea ccgpliun wimlh* individual, a darir^ wager siie made it b duly to sustain, aU tiie whiie iriving iieiBeif up to incoistanr}* and variet>* in iur Ukings. TA'iiat did site, or laticBr wiiat did siie Turt do in thise days? Wiuct did sitt not permit iwr- self in thoK wild moments ? Wbal caprioe did sie ever deny iieiBelT? The list of iter conquests goes cverywitsTty and however kn^ we make it, it still is left mcompiete.

Tiiat Nnum, rival und iieiraBs of Marion Detorme, is not to detain us hsne. I send ini)uinsTB to history, to faqgends, to all tiiat wns said, invented, and em- bn>uiei£d upon Ihat topic ** If this mania contin- ufis/* wrote Vobahs, we shall soon iuve as many Histories of Kinon s of Louis XIV.'* Taliemant des R^doux gi^flSB the xrhronide in its nudity, and with very j ci r u inm ai ttial details. M. Walckenaer, in %rDbnnes i and iv of his excellem Memoirs of Mme. de S6vign6,


252 Aabemofaelle be r£ncIo&

has very well established what may be called the "Chronology of Ninon." The succession of her lov- ers has been discussed and regulated very much as that of the Assyrian or Egyptian kings. What is certain is» that in the midst of this license, where she allowed the passions to have so large a part, she imposed certain limits upon herself, and governed herself up to a certain point. Her reason gave proof of its solidity in her judgments; her wildest sallies often covered a sound good sense. She reflected at an age and in a way of life where others are scarcely able to think at all; and she, who remained young to old age, through her mind, was matured by that mind in her youth.

Nevertheless, there were moments when very little hindered her capricious and violent existence from running upon the rocks on which her sisterhood are usuaUy shipwrecked and from which the most skilful find no return. The time came, under the Regency of Anne of Austria, when Ninon's laxity, encouraged by that of the times, passed all bounds and was on the point of causing a public scandal. In those days nothing was needed but a pretext, a chance event, for society and public morality, defied in its principles, its most respectable prejudices, to rise at last and begin reprisals, often brutal but in part deserved. The queen-regent was solicited to take severe action against the sinful woman. It was no small service to Ninon that in this conjuncture the Prince de Cond£,


»5S

ier lover and her liieiid ahwqfs, inte rp oMe d in person to give her at Court and elsewhere pvbhc pTDofis of interest. On one occasion, meeting her in her carriage, he stopped his own, got out, and went, hat in hand, to salute her in presence of ibt aston- idled crowd. Sudi marks cf consideration were still aD-powerfid.

Ninon was said about tins time to lie on tiie eve of departure for Cayenne, where a great number of emi- grants of all classes were induced to go. It is per- missiMe to suppose tiiat in her case tiiis was only a pretence to quiet tiie anger of her enemies and give a signal to iier fiiends to assist her. She did not go; die continued the same life, digtitfy mud era ling its tone. From tlie Marais, where she lived at first, slie had moved totiie FaulKHng Saint-Germain, where slie spent tiie period of her greatest license. She now returned to tiie Maiais, and there, surrounded by friends, lived as she pleased; but, warned by the air frtmi without and the reigning influence of Louis XIV, she r^^ulated iier life and reduced it, little iiy little, to the honourable footing on which it ended, so ftax even tile severe Saint-Simon said of her:

'* Ninon had Ihstiious liiends of all sorts, and to much waidligBoet hendf that ahe kept them all, and fadd them uDflted wfth one another, or at any rate without dashing. Evei j ^ lhiug at her house was oci»> ductod with areapect and ontwaid decency that many of the highcrt princeases rardy aurtamed witiMNit finfave. She had in this way as friends the dioioest and most distinguished persons at Court; so that it became the fashion to be received by her; and people had reaaon to deaire it on account of the ntmacies Uiere faimed. Never any cavds,


954 AaDemoteeUe ^e rBiiclM.

or loud laughter, or disputes, or discussions of rdigion or government; much wit and graceful talk, news of the past and modem news, sodal news of gallantries, etc., but always without opening the door to malice or evil-speaking; all was ddicate, lightsome, restrained, form- ing conversations she knew weD how to sustain by her wit and by what she knew of events of all periods. The consideration — strange fact! — which she had acquired, the number and distinction of her friends and acquaintance, continued to attract society to her when charms were past and when the proprieties of life forbade her from any longer mingling body with mind. Her conversation was charming; Disinterested, fiuthful, discreet, safe to the last degree; and, frailty apart, she may be said to have been virtuous and fiill of integrity. . . . These things gave her reputation, and a respect that was altogether singular.**

To use a comparison that is not disproportionate, and to which that term integrity so often applied leads naturally, we may say that Ninon kept, through- out her intrigues and gallantries, something of that frankness, that uprightness, which the Princess Pala- tine was able to preserve through the Fronde in the midst of so many political factions.

Tallemant des Riaux says a remarkable thing about Ninon,— that she never had much beauty, but, above all, she had charm." Somaize in his Dictiannaire des Pricieuses says about the same thing: *'As for beauty, though we know she has enough to give love, we must admit that her mind is more charming than her fiice, and that many would escape her chains if they merely saw her." As soon as she spoke all were captured and enchanted; it was her mind, her wit that completed her beauty and gave it its ex- pression and power. The same in music when she


AademofBdle 5e TEndos^ 255

played the lute; she preferred a touching expression to the most scientific execution: "Sensibility/' she said, 'Ms the soul of song."

So many Portraits have been written of Ninon that I shall content myself with mentioning one that shows her to us in her youth, in her most favourable and decent light It is that of Mile, de Scudery who, in her novel of CUlie, must surely have painted Ninon under the mask of Qarice. The resemblance in many of the essential features makes me believe that the true key of this Portrait, so little known, is the one I indicate:

" The amiable Clarice is, undoubtedly, one of the most charming persons in the worid, whose spirit and humour have a very particu- lar character; but before engaging mysdf to depict them to you, I must tell you something about her beauty. Clarice has a very beautiful figure, of agreeable height, capable of pleasing every one by a certain free and natural air which gives her good grace. She has hair of the finest chestnut ever seen, her &ce is round, the cono- plexion bright, the mouth agreeable, the lips rosy, a little dimple on her chin becomes her well, the eyes are black and brOliant, fidl of fire, smiling, and the countenance refined, gay, and very intelligent. . . . As for mind, Clarice undoubtedly has much, and she has even a certain style of it of which few persons are capable ; for with her it is gay, diverting, and accommodates itself to all classes of people, principally to people in society. She ^>eaks readily ; she laughs easily; she makes a great pleasure of a trifle; she Iflces to make innocent war upon her friends. . . . But, amid all this inciiruition tiiat she has for )oy, we must say that this amiable, sprightly being has the good qualities of melancholy persons who are wdl brought up ; her heart is feeling and tender; she knows how to weep with afflicted friends ; she knows how to quit her pleasures when friendship requires it ; she is faithful to her friends ; she is capa- ble of secrecy and discretion ; she never nudces a quarrel with any one, no matter who ; she is generous and constant in her feelings;


2s6 A>a^emoi0eUe ^e IXnckw*

and she is so lovable that she is beloved by all the best persons of the Court of both sexes, by persons who do not resemble one another in condition, in temper, in spirit, in interests, but who all agree, nevertheleas, that daiice b very charming, that she has int^ect, veritable kindness, and many other qualities worthy of being in* finitely esteemed."

There is Ninon young; such as she may have appeared to friendship in the days when she fre- quented the society of the Pricieuses; she, who was so little like them; she who, talking with Qyeen Christina, defined them so well in a word: "The Pricieuses " she said, "are the Jansenists of love." But, with a mind all the more apart from theirs be- cause it was her very own, she knew how to ac- commodate herself to all, so that she found grace> at need, and favour even in the eyes of the hdtel de Rambouillet, and paid Molidre in his own coin when he consulted her about Tartuffe.

Mile, de Scud6ry's Portrait of Ninon may give us, perhaps, too softened and weakened an idea of her; she had, on the contrary, great animation, gushes of wit and piquancy. Joy was the basis of her soul, and the expression, as it were, of the health of her mind; it was she who wrote to Saint-fivremond:

  • 'Thc joy of the spirit shows its strength." They

said of her that at table she was drunk from the soup " so gay and merry was she, drunk with bright humour and sallies, for she herself drank nothing but water, and drunkards, even though their names were Chapelle or Venddme, were never welcomed in her


abtbcmotBeUc 5e l^Bndos. 357

house. It was one of her maxims that 'Mn life we should make provision for food only, never for pleasures, but take them day by day ms tiiey came "; and she used to declare that wrinkles woukl be much more in place under heel than on the £tu:e." She had a keen sense of the ridiculous, she caught people at a glance and described them in a word. She said of Mme. de Choiseul who dressed her hair absurdly: She is as like the sprii|g-time of an inn as two drops of water." ' She said of the poor little Chevalier de S^vign^ who, between Ninon and the actress Champmesl^, had engaged himself to more than he could well perform: He is a pumpkin fricasseed in snow." And her merry exclamation: "Oh ! leban billet qu'a la Chdtre !" has passed into a proverb. To the Comte de Qioiseul, who annoyed her a little and whom she saw one day after a G>urt promotion, admiring himself with all his orders in a mirror, she said, before the whole company: "Take care, M. le comte, if I catch you at 4iat again I will name to you your comrades"; the promotion of unworthy persons at the same time with htm having

' Pfimimmps d*h6kXUfU, These jokes are incomprehensible in English. The one that fdOows is based on the loUowing story: Her lover, the Marquis de la Chitre, being obliged to leave her and go abroad on a mission, insisted that she should give him, in vrriting, a promise to be futhful to him. Ninon signed the paper, and then forgot it ; but something bringing it to her mind later, she exdaimed: "O*/ U b<m hilUt qu*a la CkAnr and the saying has pasMd into the Fr nch language, meaning a worthless guanmtoe. — Larchey's D uii o mmai rg d* argot.


35S iDademoiselle de rsnclcw*

been deplorable. Attacked in her youth by a serious iUness, and her life being despaired of, lamentations were made around her; every one declared that he wished to die, and she, teasing them a little even while trying to comfort them, exclaimed : " Bah ! I shall leave only dying men behind me." Her gift of repartee was quick, irresistible; it was delicate, sparkling, piquant. She never quoted for the sake of quoting, but only what came into her mind at the moment, applying it with freshness to the circumstance. Imagination was even in her memory; it showed itself in her narratives: " what were called tales from the lips of others, from hers were perfect scenes, to which, for resemblance of characters and witty turns, nothing was lacking."

It was by all these amiable and brilBant qualities, borne upon a strong foundation of solidity and security in friendship, that she won the suffrages of those who knew her; making some forget that she was grow* ing old, and others that she once was young without ever ceasing to be sa La Fare, that fiistidious volup* tuary, said:

" 1 never saw Ninon in her beiuty ; but at the «ge of fifty, and even tiB she was over sixty she had lovers who adored hor, and the most honourable men in France for friends. Unta she was ninety she was sought by the best society of her time. She died with aB her senses, and with the charms of her mind, wittch was the best and most lovable I have ever known in a uroman.**

Mme. de Maintenon, very intimate with Ninon in her


Aa^emoi^eUe be IXncIos* 259

youth, but now on a footing at Court and in the highest favour, writes to her (Versailles, November, 1679) recommending her brother: " Continue, Mad- emoiselle, to give good advice to M. d'Aubignd; he has great need of lessons from Leontium " [friend of Epicurus: a philosophic nickname given to Ninon] the advice of an amiable friend persuades better than that of a stern sister."

The letters of Ninon, simple, original, and quite in the tone of her conversation, are very few in number; I know of only a dozen that are authentic, and those are addressed to Saint-fivremond. When he left France in 1 66 1 she seems to have owed him one hundred pistoles. Eight years later she still owed them. Saint- £vremond, then in Holland, seems annoyed at the delay: "Her good faith is strong" (he writes to a M. d'Hervart whom he had seen at The Hague and who had since returned to Paris), " but my absence is long, and after eight years nothing is easier than not to remember people when remembrance would cost a hundred pistoles. Perhaps 1 am wrong to sus- pect her of that human weakness." He was wrong. Ninon had proved her integrity by returning to Gour- ville, after many years, the famous strong-box that the latter had left in her care, interference with which she denied to more than one lover, successor to Gour- ville, who would have been glad enough to be his heir in all things. At the first reminder of her debt Ninon sent word to Saint-fivremond that he could


36o Aademoiselle de rBnclo&

have fifty pistoles whenever he pleased. Fifty pistoles instead of one hundred were not the reckoning of the exiled philosopher; he thought it was treating him too like a lover, — ^that is to say, with semi-un- faithfulness, — ^and not as a friend. He made some joke on the subject which was not very well received. There was, in fact, a misunderstanding, Ninon having promised to pay the rest of the sum at a certain date. Before the time expired she paid the whole, and plumed herself on being more punctual than Marcus Aurelius, emperor and philosopher, who never paid his debts in advance: That spurs courage," she wrote to Saint-^vremond; "and when you have thought it all over you will see that you should not be sarcastic with a blameless banker. ... I told you my charms were changed into solid and serious qualities, and you know it is not permissible to joke with such a personage."

This was just at the moment when Ninon, ceasing to be the Ninon of the Fronde, of the Regency, and of her first gallantries, was becoming MUe. de TEnclos and passing into the " personage " she perfected more and more and sustained thenceforth to the end of her life.

Saint-fivremond, proved in the wrong, and a little ashamed, no doubt, of his unfair jest, hastens to atone for it, and writes Ninon a letter in which he praises her as she deserves, and shows her natural self to us at this moment of transition and metamorphosis. I will


Aa^emof6eIIe ^e rstickw* 261

quote a part of this letter, which is very little known and is not to be found in his " Works : "

"In spite of that old dreamer who thought no one happy till after death, 1 hold you, full of life as you are, to be the happiest aeature that ever was. You have been loved by the most honourable men in the world, and you have loved as long as was needed to leave no pleasure untasted, and just so far as was needed to prevent the dis- gusts of a wearisome passion. Never has happiness been carried farther by your sex. There are few princesses in the world whom you do not cause to feel the hardness of their fate through jealousy of yours; there are few saints in convents who would not willingly change the tranquillity of their minds for the charming troubles of your soul. Of all the tortures, you have felt none but those of love, and you know better than any one that in love no other pleasures are worth ' its pains.' To-day, when the flower of your great youth has passed (the words are rough, but you have written them to me so often, that I only quote them) you retain such good looks on your face and such charms in your mind that, if it were not for the fastidiousness of your choice as to the persons you receive, there would be as great a crowd without selfish interests in your house, as there are Courts where fortunes are made. You mingle virtues with your charms, for at the moment when a lover reveals to you his passion, a friend may confide to you his seaets. Your word is the safest bond on which we can rely. , . ."

Ninon's correspondence with Saint - fivremond through such divers events and wars was not very punctual or well sustained, and the few letters that have been preserved belong to only the last years of their life. They are then decidedly old, very old both of them, and their greatest pleasure is to talk of the past with regret, and to jest of old age very pleas- antly. Ninon regrets her friend and wishes he were near her: "I should have liked to pass what remains to me of life with you; if you had thought as I do


262 iDaDemofselle t)e rBncIO0« 

you would be here now." At that date, nothing pre- vented Saint-£vremond from returning to his own country if he chose. But she says pleasantly that per- haps it is a finer and more meritorious thing to re- member the absent after so many years of separation. '* Perhaps this separation of bodies is intended to embellish my epitaph/' she says.

Saint-^vremond gives a letter of introduction to Ninon to a M. Turretin, a very distinguished Gene- vese minister and preacher. Ninon at once pro- cures for the learned Gdvinist all the resources at her command: ** He has found here a number of my friends who think him worthy of the praises you gave him. If he will profit by the worthy abb6s who remain to us during the absence of the Court, he shall be treated as a man whom you esteem." These abb£s of distinction were, in fact, very numerous, toward the last in Ninon's circle. She adds: I read your let- ter before him with spectacles; but they are not unbe- coming to me; I have always had a grave face. If he loves the merit that they call here distinguished per- haps your wish wiU be acopmplished; every day people try to console me for my losses with that fine word." Since then the word distinguished has been much abused; we catch it here at its origin, or at least in its earliest acceptation. To console Ninon for old age they told her she was a woman of distin- guished merit In the seventeenth century the word had not hitherto been employed so absolutely. Per-


Aademofdelle Oe rEnclos* 363

sons were said to be distinguished for one quality or for another; but to he distinguished was left for the eighteenth, and especially the nineteenth century to bring into general circulation. Everybody nowa- days is distinguished, just as everybody wears the ribbon of the Legion of Honour in his buttonhole.

The few letters exchanged between Ninon and Saint-6vremond give occasion for many remarks both literary and ethical. They are perfectly sincere, and human nature is under no disguise, and affects no- thing; one might, indeed, wish at moments for a few efforts to keep its tone higher. In vain does Saint- fevremond tell Ninon: "Nature will begin to show by you that it is possible never to grow old," in vain he tells her: "You are of all countries, — ^as much esteemed in London as in Paris ; you are of all times, and when I cite you to do honour to mine the young men claim you instantly as the honour of theirs ; thus you are mistress of the present as of the past. . . ." In spite of all these fine words Ninon grows old; she has her moments of sadness, and her manner of evad- ing them seems saddest of all :

    • You used to say in other days," she writes, " that I should die of

reflections; I try to make no more, and to forget on the morrow the day that I have lived to-day. Every one tells me that I have less rea- son to complain of time than others. However that may be, had any one foretold me such a life I would have hung myself. And yet one clings to a vile body as if it were an agreeable one; one likes to feel ease and repose; appetite is a thing that 1 still enjoy. . . ."

That idea of appetite often comes up between them.


264 AaDemofaeUe De rEnclo&

and mingles rather naively with the warm tenderness of friendship. "How I envy those who go to Eng- land! " writes Ninon; "what pleasure 1 should have in dining with you once more! Is it not coarseness to wish for a dinner ? The mind has great advantages over the body, and yet the body supplies us with various little tastes that reiterate themselves and soothe the soul under sad reflections."

To hold to life only by the body and to feel that body shrinking and withering day by day is the main idea that pervades the correspondence of these two old persons, and it ends in painfully affecting the reader. We feel more than they did what is lacking to them in the order of higher hopes. They perceive it themselves at the moment when they lose their friends. Ninon sees Charleval die, her old and most faithful friend; Saint-Evremond loses the Duchesse de Mazarin, his sole resource and prop. Ninon tries to comfort him by a letter of feeling and good sense, which she cannot prevent herself from ending with these words: "If one could think like Mme. de Chevreuse, who believes that by dying she will go and converse with aU her friends in another workii it would be sweet to think it"

In reading these pages one cannot help desiring some other motive, some other impulse, be it only an illusion, in these two amiable old people. Their groveUing ethics distress us, their horizon low- ers at every step. Saint-fivremond does not believe


in a future, joid all his hopes, fike all his joys, end for him in the next or the presait moment: "Ido not regard reputation/* iie says. ** I look to a more essential thing; 1 mean life; eight days of wfaidi are worth far more than eight centuries of £nne when dead. . . . There is no one who thinks more of youth than 1 do. . . . Live; life is good when it lias no pain."

fiixt, as there must always be a motive more or less near and a recompense, in de&uh of posterity and a fiiture the two friends gave each other praises and compliments letter after letter.

" Would to God that you thoi^gtat of me as you say you do! '^ writes UmoR/'md I wffl do without tiie pnise of other nations. Your last letter is a masterpiece, it has made the subject of every convenation hdd in my rooms for a month. You have returned to jrouth ; you do i^ght to love it. Philosophy goes wdl with diarms of the mind. It is not cnoHgh to be win, one must also please; and 1 see that ytm wiD ahMQTs pleiK so long as you think as you do. Few persons le- ast age. I believe 1 have not yet allowed mine to attsii me."

h was thus that they gave themselves, through in- tellect at least and by delicate flattery, then* last pleasures.

It is time to simi up my remarks upon Ninon and to mark distinctly the oidy side on which 1 have viewed her. Her salon collected a £eir greater variety of personages than the hotel de RambouiUet, and it comprised many sorts. It united with the best of the great world the best of the good Parisian bomrgeoisie. Mme. de La Fayette had attempted for a moment the


366 AaOemofaelle Oe TEnclos^

same rdle (in which Mme. de Sabl6 had preceded her)* " to whom," says Gourviile, "all the young men were accustomed to show great attentions, because, having trained them a little, she gave them a claim to enter society. But Mme. de La Fayette's health and her inclination to take her ease kept her from con- tinuing this rdle very long. In a great measure it was that of Ninon. For it, she had much more gaiety than Mme. de La Fayette, and more solidity than that other brilliant woman of the same date, Mme. de La Sablidre. It was therefore in her salon and through her that young men made their entrance into society. In her rooms people conversed : cards were not played. Mothers sought to introduce their children. Mme. de S6vign6, who had such reason earlier in life to complain of Ninon in respect to her husband and her son, saw, without anxiety, her grandson, the Mar- quis de Grignan, pay her much attention. Fashion joined in, and, public consideration covering all, the women ended by seeking Ninon sedulously. "The women are all running after Mile, de TEndos," said Mme. de Coulanges, "just as other people used to run after her formerly." Whereupon Mme. de S6vign6 wrote to M. de Coulanges: "Corbinelli tells me mar- vels of the good company of men he meets in the house of Mile, de TEnclos; so, in her old days, she gathers them all in, men and women, whatever Mme. de Coulanges may say." No book shows us better what the salon of Mme.


Aa^emofselle &e IXnclos. 267

de FEnclos really was than the "Dialogue on the Music of the Ancients " by the Abb6 de Ch^teauneuf ; it gives a conversation at her house, in which we find her speaking with taste, with judgment and ac- curacy, excellent musician that she was. Leaving her salon the interlocutors continue to talk of her and they recount to one another her various good qualities. The Abb6 Fraquier has also painted her on a very true page; and the Abb6 d'Olivet — (good heavens! what a collection of abb6s Apropos of Ninon!) — in a Eulogy in Latin on Fraquier, representing the latter at the moment when he wished to write in French and to train himself to the best style of our language, says:

    • For this purpose, he put his education into the hands of two

Muses; one was the celebrated La Vergne (Mme. de La Fayette) and the other was called Leontium (Ninon). Both of them held at that time the sceptre of intellect and were thought the arbiters of elegance. . . . The latter was so fashioned by nature that she seemed a Venus in beauty, and a Minerva in mind. But when Fraquier first knew her, age had long withdrawn what was dangerous in her, assur- ing him of that only which was profitable and salutary."

"Do you know," said a merry jester to whom I read the above passage in Latin, "that from the the way in which your Abb6 d'Olivet writes, I con- clude that in the seventeenth century Mme. de La Fayette and Mile, de I'Enclos, through their function of oracles of taste to the world, were the two first vicars of Boileau." It was in terms such as these, or approaching them, that the later contemporaries of


26S Aademoidelle &e IXnclod.

Ninon spoke of her. Is it necessary to recall the fact that the Abb6 de Ch^teauneuf presented to her one day his godson, Francois Arouet (Voltaire) then thir- teen years old and already a poet? She seems to have foreseen what that child would become, for she bequeathed him 2000 francs in her will to buy books.

From Montaigne and Charron to Saint-^vremond and Ninon, and from Ninon to Voltaire there is but a handVbreadth, as we see. Thus it is that in the stretch of time certain spirits make a chain.

And now, when one has spoken of Ninon and her charm with justice and without too deeply entering into what was shameful, even debased at a certain period, and baneful during the disorders of her early life, we must never forget that such a career, singular and unique as it was, cannot be run twice; that it came of incomparable luck, aided by a quite peculiar genius for conduct; but that all women who, follow- ing her example, should attempt to treat love with license and afterwards turn it into sacred friendship, would run great risk of being left by the wayside, and of withering the one sentiment within them without rendering themselves worthy of the other.


VIII.

an^ £ttd0i^'RaDutin.


969


vm.

XCallemant 5e9 veatis atU) XoBBfi^llabntfiu

tSbc Sotttdcofa ScnnbuWmonQ€t mb the ScanOaU monger of QiiaU ts*

WITHOUT aiming at a parallel, I am tempted to bring together the names of these two writers, and to say something of their class of Memoirs, wholly anecdotical, which, under different forms, succeed still in making themselves read and in pleasing, after the lapse of many years.

The Histoires amoureuses of Bussy and the Histortettes of Tallemant, though belonging, each of them, to the class of chronicles more or less scandalous, cannot be ranked on the same line, nor ascribed to the same spirit. Bussy is a satirist, Talle- mant is merely a teller of tales. In Bussy himself there are various personages who complicate and foil one another, while at the same time they mar the perfect candour of his words. We have the lover and the man d bonne fortunes, the wit and the academician, the ambitious soldier and the man who will miss the marshal's bMon: all these conflicting

271


a7> Uallemant ^es V^anK and Xii00iy1talmtiiu

dements may impair his sincerity a little, even in backbiting, and turn his sharp pen one way or an- other; he is susceptible of envy, or of bitterness; he has his secret leaven, he is affronted, he takes revenge.

Tallemant has nothing of all this; he obeys a sin- gle taste, a single humour. Witty after the style of our fathers, inquisitive as no man shoukl be, on the watch for all that is said and done about him, in- formed to the lowest detail of the incidents and the tittle-tattle of sodety, he registers everything, though not so much the foul things as the drolleries and gaieties. He writes what he hears for the pleasure of writing it with the salt of his language, which is always good, and joining thereto his judgment, which is natural and shrewd. Such as he was and thus trained he is, in his line, inimitable and incom- parable. Whoever had told Bussy, the wit, the bril- liant pen of the army and the G>urt, that he had, in his own day, a rival and a master of pungent and naive narration in that bourgeois scandal-monger, encountered everywhere in society and out of place nowhere, he would certainly have been much aston- ished and would not have believed it

From aO that we read, especially from things already classic we may draw certain serious remaiics, or, at any rate, a few notions on the manners and customs of a time that is no more. I open the HisUnre mmaureuses des Gaules, and at once 1 am struck with what gave the author the idea of writing such a



COMTE DE BUaaV-RABUTIN. Fntm a Med cngnTiag of the period.


book. Bussy, forty-two years old, Iieuteiuuit*g«iend and commander of the light-horse cavalry, having twenty-six years of good and glorious service behind him, aspiring to the cordon bleu and to the office of marshal of France, fidls in love with Mme. de Mont- glat, and during a month's absence sets about writing down, in order to amuse her, the histories of Mes- dames so-and-so, wiiich she had asked him to tell her. Mme. de Montglat. a brilliant and graceful beauty, loved music and poetry; she even composed rather prettily herself, and could sing better than any woman in France of her rank; also she spoke and wrote with surprising fiidlity and all the naturalness in the woild. She admired intellect; much admired just then, little as they had of it, for society was in process of freeing itself from a brutality and coarseness of manners still prevalent and widi which comparison was readily made. Mme. de Montg^t had in Bussy a man of intellect all her own, and she wished to employ him as she chose. The resuk was the ruin of his career.

For us, speaking frankly, the first pages of Bussy's chronicle respond very little to the expectation given by his much-vaunted reputation. There is no art of composition in the book; nothing is connected; all is successive and haphazard. We come upon the name of a man or a woman, quick, a portrait ! The portrait begins with a description that reminds us of a pass- port: face round, nose well formed, etc Patience ! the finer traits are coming; they do come. But all this

iB


XCallemant bcs ndaus and 33ttssi3«>1lal>utfiu 273

book. Bussy, forty-two years old, lieutenant-general and commander of the light-horse cavalry, having twenty-six years of good and glorious service behind him, aspiring to the cordon bleu and to the office of marshal of France, falls in love with Mme. de Mont- glat, and during a month's absence sets about writing down, in order to amuse her, the histories of Mes- dames so-and-so, which she had asked him to tell her. Mme. de Montglat, a brilliant and graceful beauty, loved music and poetry; she even composed rather prettily herself, and could sing better than any woman in France of her rank ; also she spoke and wrote with surprising facility and all the naturalness in the world. She admired intellect; much admired just then, little as they had of it, for society was in process of freeing itself from a brutality and coarseness of manners still prevalent and with which comparison was readily made. Mme. de Montglat had in Bussy a man of intellect all her own, and she wished to employ him as she chose. The result was the ruin of his career.

For us, speaking frankly, the first pages of Bussy's chronicle respond very little to the expectation given by his much-vaunted reputation. There is no art of composition in the book; nothing is connected; all is successive and haphazard. We come upon the name of a man or a woman, quick, a portrait ! The portrait begins with a description that reminds us of a pass- port: face round, nose well formed, etc. Patience ! the

fmer traits are coming; they do come. But all this 18


274 Znllemant dee Vdaiis an^ XusB^VBbattn.

gives the impression of very elementary art Some- thing of the same kind appears in regard to the toilet of the personages about whom Bussy remarks that they are " clean " or they are " dirty " ; which does not always tell us whether persons dressed well or not; it means that they took care, or did not take care of their person, and we are left to suppose there was a certain medium of cleanliness which was not the common and required usage There was no middle course between delicacy and neglect. So with the mind; some had it wholly refined: others, at their elbow, were still coarse or barbarous. At the be- ginning of the reign of Louis XIV, and before the fu- sion of manners and tone was completed, we are very much struck by these contrasts and this crudity side by side with refinement. We see the remains of barbarism still existing in the beautiful morning, already begun, of civilisation ; we might think our- selves, from certain details, in a land of savages, when, suddenly, we are in the midst of exquisite things. Bussy's book gives this mingled impression very plainly.

How did a gentleman on service live in those days ? The king spent the summers on the frontier, where the armies fought hard. He then returned, usually, to Paris, where amusements were in season: cards, billiards, tennis, hunting, theatres, masquerades, lot- teries, whatever complete idleness engenders, but above all love. One might say that such is, more or


dC9lKaiC«llbattaBV-1triNltflk t|5

less, the history of all poiods; but love at that period had its own particular stamp. Speaking of M. de Candale, one of the beaux who was most in vogue at tiuit time, Bussy defines him thus:

" Hk mind was medfocre ; but in his fnt love he leB into tt» haids €f a }Mdf who had inlinile nitd%enoe, and as thty loved each other ve^f much, she took such pams to foini him, and he sudi pains to please the beauty, that art surpassed nature, and he was realijr a better appearii^ man [pirns k mmii komtm ' ] than a thousand others who had more mind than he.**

Mme. de Chatillon, receiving with marked favour the declaration of M. de Nemours and letting him see she had a good opinion of his merits, drew forth the reply: '* Ah, madame, it rests with you to make me seem the best-bred man in France." The Marquis de S6vign6, who left his charming wife for Ninon, was convinced " that a man could not be an honnSte homme [civil, polished, well-appearing man] unless he were always in love,"

That which took place at Court during the winters was not merely the noisy and heedless amusements of young warriors; there was much emulation among those who piqued themselves on being men of good breeding, and many wagers like the following :

" The Due de Candale," says Bussy, " who was the best*trained man at Court, thought that nothing was wanting to his reputation than to be loved by the handsomest woman in the kingdom. He

■ The term honnHe komms did not then mean exclusively or chiefly, a man of integrity and honesty — but a man who conformed to good- breeding, good manners, propriety and honour. — ^Ta.


276 xi;allemant bcs titans ant) Busas-illabiitfn^

therefore resolved at the army, three months after the campaign, that he would be in love with her (Mme. d'Olonne) as soon as he met her; and he showed by the great passion he then had for her, that they [such passions] are not always strokes of heaven or fate.*'

Both sexes embarked by fixed intention with some man or some woman, in order to do honour to them- selves in society and be talked about, " because wo- men gained for men as much esteem as arms." They owed it to themselves, therefore, to make love in some place of renown. Vanity in love, and as the principle of love, became a sign of the times, and it is still, in a general way, that of French gallantry, into which passion, at the beginning, enters for very little. " To embark" was the consecrated term habitually em- ployed. Thus the Chevalier de Grammont takes a fancy to attach himself to Mme. d'Olonne " about the same time that Marsillac embarked with her." Beu- vron, formerly in love with the same lady, now keeps aloof from her because "the levity she showed in all things made him fear to embark himself with her." The Abb6 Fouquet, brother of the Superintendent, intriguer of the first water, man of the sack and rope, whose conduct was the fiirthest possible from his profession, embarked at first on loving more for fiune than for love"; but the taste came to him by degrees, and soon we hear of nothing but his "em- barkations." During the time that he tyrannised over Mme. de ChitiUon, a friend of the latter, Vineuil, wrote to her as follows, to shame her: " You have


lEiUctinnit Iks ttteis BMt UnntnMBahniln 277

become the continual subject of all conversations. Your embarkation is described as the lowest and most abject ever seen in a person of your quality. It is said that your friend exercises a tyrannical empire over you and over all that you approach. . . .'*

Thus they embarked; and are said sometimes to re-embark" with the same person, to repair, if possible, the injury done to their reputation by a first rebuff. In this quantity of embarkations, most of them are made from points of honour, or from "reason," rather than fi-om inclination; from the head far more than from the heart. The heart, however, some- times ends in taking part in the afEair. We look in vain for charm in Bussy's narrative; there is neither sweetness nor ardour; but he has the art of keen, delicate, and piquant malice.

In two places Bussy betrays both bad taste and inexperience. He quotes letters, and inserts them in his narrative. These letters apparently seem to him piquant. To understand how they could seem so to him or to others, we must remember that the period was one when the art, the epistolary genius, that was about to shine and sparkle in the correspondence of Bussy*s charming cousin, Mme. de S6vigne, was still to be essayed and formed. The letters that he quotes, and perhaps fabricates, were not worth the trouble of invention ; they are those of a writing-master. Bussy also loves to quote, on occasion, verses, couplets, madrigals of his own making, and such verses 1


373 Uallemant bes Vdatis and BuBSs-iltabntiiu

Many of the writers of his century and of the next, distinguished for intellect and very agreeable in their prose writings, had a species of infirmity for believ- ing that they added to the charm of a thought by composing, and putting in some place where it was least to be expected, a worthless couplet. They wrote well, they jested with grace, with point, they shot their well-aimed, well-steeled arrows, and then, all of a sudden, without any one's knowing why, a little mania, self-styled poetical, seizes them, they catch up a village violin and make, for a minute or two, a dreadful fiddling that rasps the ears. False taste in wit, in epigram, in cold gallantry, derived from the last troubadours and utterly opposed to true imagination and the genius of poesy 1 How far the classics were from work like thisl In Petronius, whom Bussy imitates and translates now and then (the model of a style he affects too much), there are verses also, mingled with the prose and making a conglomerate composition; but they are the verses of a poet, they sparkle, they are white as Parian marble, they have the cool greenery of Italian groves:

" Emicuere rosK vioUeque et molle cyperon, Albaque de viiidi riscnint Itlia prato;

Candidiorque dies seaeto fiiTit amori"

The classics were licensed for poesy and for the painting of natural objects. Even at the period when corruption began, they kept the measure of great


Uallemant des veatis ant) SuBss-iVabuttm 279

things and the clear sight that saw all beauty; they had Virgil before their eyes and Homer on the horizon. As for Bussy, he thinks he is a poet when he makes a wretched couplet to a jig tune.

It is not known whether all is Bussy's own in this satirical painting, which he partly disavowed. If the conversation between Mme. Cornuel and Mme. d'Olonne is by him, he has not escaped one of the improprieties and defects of his day: pedanticism and dogmatism in gallantry. It was not worth while to introduce Mme. Cornuel, that person of so much spice and sarcasm, merely to make her profess a code of decent love, and preach a sort of sermon under three heads. The passage is very little worthy of Mme. Cornuel and would come better from the pen of the Chevalier de M6r6 than from that of Bussy.

But now, all being said, and the wrongs done by betrayal and indiscretion having long passed away, we are, involuntarily, grateful to Bussy (at this dis- tance) for showing us in action all this fme society, nobles, gentlemen, and great ladies; for producing them to us in a state of nature, as it were, in an originality of disorderly living which makes one re- flect on the degree of civilisation and decency that belongs to different ages and might serve to bring to reason the enthusiasm of historians and the makers of funeral orations. Bussy's polite diction, his sim- plicity of phrase, brings out distinctly certain funda- mental points. There are, however, charming traits.


a8o Uallemant Des Hiam an^ Susas-iltabtttiiu

and delicate, in his narrative; his portrait of Mme. de S6vign6 is one of the most lifelike and most carefully worked-up in its malignity; in it he actually sur- passed himself and summoned all his treachery against such a model. He makes us think, by this malignant portrait, of those of Hamilton, although he has not the light touch of the latter nor his almost imper- ceptible fme irony. However that may be, Bussy has given in the Histoire amoureuse des GauUs a dish of his own concoction, a rabutinade, which has a particular relish for palates that want something else than the meats of the golden age.

Saint-Svremond judged Bussy well when he said of him :

" What are we to think on the subject of M. de Bussy that every- body has not already thought? He b a man of quality; he has al- ways had much wit, and in former days I saw him in a position to hope for high fortune, to which have since succeeded many men who were his inferiors.

" He preferred to his advancement in life the pleasure of writing a book and making the public laugh; he has chosen to make a merit of his liberty; he affects to speak frankly and undisguisedly, but he has not always sustained that character to the end.

After twenty years of exile he returned to a humiliating situation, without office, without employment, without consideratk>n among courtiers, and without any reasonable grounds for hope.

When one has renounced fortune by one's own fiiuH, and when one has chosen to do what M. de Bussy dkl deliberately, one ought to pass the rest of one's days in retirement, and support with a sort of dignity the sorry rdle with whkdi one burdened oneself."

I ought to quote all that follows. Saint-l&vremond» in speaking thus of a man who had more than one af-


iMlcmant dee titans ant) BusssiilRabuttm aSx

finity with himself in talents as well as in exile, enables us, nevertheless, to perceive their differences. Both destroyed their fortunes by an indiscretion, by indulg- ing a wit more satirical than propriety allowed; their military careers were broken, and both were driven into a long exile, to which Bussy could never recon- cile himself, while Saint-^vremond bore his to the end with fortitude, even disdaining at the last to return to France when he might have done so. Saint-^vremond at bottom is an epicurean, and he is that before all. Had circumstances turned otherwise, he would doubtless have been a very different person- age, but he had in him, essentially, the stuff of a philosopher of indifference and pleasure, of a smiling and firm observer, who appreciates the real value of things and detaches himself from them as much as possible. Provided he spent his afternoons and even- ings in talking with Mme. de Mazarin he felt he had not lost his day and was content.

Bussy, on the contrary, was an ambitious man, and a courtier who had imprudently barred his own for- tune, who felt it and suffered from it; his was a vain, uneasy soul which did not find within itself resources of consolation. Imagine a soldier of courage and talent, who has in him, perhaps, the stuff to win ten battles, to make himself illustrious when he reached the highest post, but who, by an incurable perversity, has created for himself all sorts of shackles and im- possibilities. Man of war, lieutenant of Turenne, but


283 Zullcmant bcB IRiatis ant) Bus6s»1tabntttu

complicated with the spirit of a Maurepas, he found means to give umbrage to his general and to alienate him by the fear he had of his squibs. A courtier, all ready, if need were, to crawl before Louis XIV pro- vided he were employed, he found means, at the opening of the glorious reign, by a scandalous folly to get himself treated as a libellist and his pen broken, he, whose sword was eager for action and impatient of the scabbard. To give himself the pleasure of writing a book worthy of the Regency and the Di- rectory, and which was wholly of the date when Fouquet made a collection of his billets-doux and wrote out a list of the great ladies who were his mistresses, Bussy missed the great century, missed the war in Flanders, missed that in Franche-G>mt6, when the army passed almost before his windows, all his former companions in arms being with it Ten thousand men have just passed my gates" (the gates of his chilteau de Bussy), he writes; "there was not an officer however little out of the common, who did not come to see me; many of the Court people slept here." Quick! he writes to the king, asking to serve in this campaign; and the impassible king replies: " Let him have patience; not yet, not this time." And the other time never comes. This was enough, we must allow, to enrage a gentleman of good family and lead him to eat his heart out; and that, in fiict, was what Bussy spent the rest of his life in doing.


Uallemant bes IR^tis and Su55s^1Rabutin* 383

In Tallemant we have to deal with a man of an- other nature, another condition, another temperament. He thinks himself well off where he is ; he has found his level at once, he is angry with no one. If he per- mits himself a grain of malice, he at least puts no rancour into it, nor any secret bitterness. Of the same age as Bussy (Tallemant was born about 16 19, and Bussy in 1618), son of a rich financier, nurtured in bourgeois joviality and opulence, he keeps us in- formed about all the fme passions of his youth; he, too, writes his histoire amoureuse, but how different its tone! While still a schoolboy he had read ** Ama- dis " and adored it. When he went from the Place Maubert to the rue Montorgueil to see a certain widow who had favours for him, and, in order to arrive less muddy before her (sedan-chairs and galoshes, a re- source some years later, were not yet invented) he hired a horse, people cried out, when they met him, " Where are you going, Sir Knight ? " But what sort of knight was he ? there was much of Sancho in his chivalry.

At one time he came very near entering, for one of his girl-cousins, into grand sentiments and languish- ing airs: "A fool of a comrade whom I had in col- lege," he remarks, " who was a bit romantic, managed to spoil me; we took sentiment askew, both of us." This crookedness did not last long. Even when he was melancholy, it was " gentle melancholy which never prevented him from being gay when he wished."


284 Ti;aUemant des IRtava ant) Susas-iVabutftu

He began again, at the first chance, to jump, and joke, and play tricks and laugh. At eighteen years of age he and two brothers were sent with the Abb6 de Gondi (the future Cardinal de Retz) to make a jour- ney into Italy ; passing through Lyons, he fell in love with the daughter of a friend with whom they lodged, and he carried away with him the promises, and the bracelets, of his beauty with the intention to be sad; he believes himself a lover after the fashion of Am* adis. He, a hero of romance, the deuce! — ^he does n't support that rdle very long: This did not prevent me," he says, "from diverting myself much in Italy — so fine a thing is youth."

Tallemant's father would have liked to make him a counsellor at the Parliament of Paris; but the young man did not feel the slightest vocation for the magis- tracy. To set himself completely at liberty he mar- ried his cousin-german, a Rambouillet. Tallemant's mother was a Rambouillet of the financial family of that name which had no connection with the noble Rambouillet d'Angennes but, together with money, had wit and intellect for its patrimony. We know very little of Tallemant's life. He seems to have filled some financial office — controller-provincial of regiments in Lower Brittany, they called it He bought the estate of Plessis-Rideau in Touraine about the year 16^0, and obtained the right to change its name to " des R6aux," which henceforth became his own name. He dis- tinguished his identity in this way from that of his


1IMiemntta$1BeaiicaribSiis0B4taiwtta. aSs

younger brother, the Abbd Taliemant, the acade- mickn; just as Boiieau des Pr^aux distinguished him- self from his elder brother Gilles Boiieau. That Abb6 Taliemant, known to us as the dry translator of the French of Amyot, did not like our Taliemant and was envious of him. Between them there may have been family jars and no doubt antipathies of taste; Talie- mant is certain to have sneered at purists. Also he made verses equal to those of his brother; but those we have of him are insipid enough, or very flat We have an epistle of his in verse to Pere Rapier, in which there is not the least tittle word to raise a smile.

Bom and brought up in the Reformed religion Talie- mant was converted in oki age; we are not told if this took place on the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. He reached his seventy-third year and died in Paris in his own house, rue Neuve Saint-Augustin, November lo, 1692.

But what need is there for insignificant details as to the life of this easy-going, happy man ? He shows himself to us in his Historiettes; there we see him naked and undisguised. He finished writing them in 1657, during the years when Bussy's pen was tak- ing its license. Taliemant to<^ his, but without pay- ing much heed to it Going everywhere in society, on good terms with persons of the highest rank, and specially allied with men of intellect; loving to hear aO, record all, and make good stories out of it; a bom anecdotist, as La Fontaine was a bom £ibulist, his


386 ICallemaitt des tbtans and BiiBSifi'llatmtitu

friends were constantly saying to him: "Write that down." He did so, and we profit by it Without Tallemant and his indiscretions, many special studies on the seventeenth century would to-day be weii-nigh impossible. Through him we belong to all coteries, all quarters; we know all the masks, even to their stripping off. Are we to pin our faith on what Tal- lemant tells us? By no means. He tells what he hears; he records current talk; he does not lie, but he gossips with delight and joy of heart Never- theless, what he tells is always very worthy of consideration, because he is natural and judicious, veracious and shrewd, without any conceit or any pretension. Of Henri IV, Sully, Richelieu, of all who were okler than himself and were beyond his reach in every way, he picked up only the crumbs (yet they fell from good tables); he should in their case be listened to as an echo and collector of rumours; but on the persons he has seen and frequented, whose measure he had himself taken, he counts for as much as any one; he has read physiognomies, and he imparts them to us. He holds the red pencil, bnisque, expressive, violent in colour, of our old sketchers lodging near the Halles. He makes a speak- ing sketch. We must not treat Tallemant lightly, nor contradict him without proof. Burrow into many places and you will find confirmation of what he said as he ran. And it is not only in the bourgeois class that he excels; not only when he exhibits and


XCallemant bcs H€mt an^ Bnasg^HalmtifL 287

spreads before us Mme. de. Cavoye, Mme. Pilou, or Mme. Comuel in all the originality and copiousness of their sallies; Tallemant is also the best witness we have to the hdtel Rambouillet and its refined society; he judges it with the French spirit of the good old times, as becomes a friend of Patru and a man who has in him something of La Fontaine in prose, and something of Maucrois in Gallic atticism that has passed through the Place Maubert Much has been said of M. de Montausier; but in truth, his portrait was made long ago. What could give it better than this page of Tallemant ?

" M. de Montausier is a man all of a piece; Mme. de Rambouillet said he was crazy by dint of being wise. Never was there any one who had more need to sacrifice to the Graces. He shouts, he is rude, he attacks everyone to his (ace, and when he grumbles at a man he sets before tus eyes his past iniquities. No man ever helped me so much to cure myself of a humour for disputing. He wanted two dtadds built in Paris, one above and one bdow the river, saying that a king, provided he made good use of them, could not be too absolute — as if that * provided ' were an in£dlible thing! Unless he were convinced that a man's life depended on it he would not keep his secret. His wife helps him nughtDy in the provinces; with- out her, the nobles would not visit him. He rises at eleven o'clock, as he does here, and shuts himself up to read; for he does not like hunting, and has nothing popular about him. She is just the reverse of him. He makes wit and intellect too much of a profession for a nuui of rank, or, at any rate, he does it too seriously. He goes to the Saturdays veiy often [Mile, de Scudery's day for receiving]. He makes translations; but just see the fine author he has chosen! He turns Persius Flaccus into French verse! He talks of almost nothing but books, and sees M. Chapelain and M. Conrart more regularly than any one. He takes iandes, and of pretty bad taste; he likes Ckuidian better than Viigil. He wants pepper and spice. Neverthe- less, as we have said elsewhere, he relishes a poem that has neither


a88 Vallemant des Vdaiis ant) Bii00s»>1lalmttiu

salt nor sage, ' La PuceOe ' ; and that is solely because Chapelain wrote it. He has a fine library at Angouleme."

If that is not a masterpiece of truth and likeness, where shall we find one ? We have a choice of such pages in Tallemant; open him anywhere; all is gay, clear-cut, smiling, well set-up; never involved or twisted. I much prefer the good Tallemant to Bussy. When Bussy has said a pretty thing he is afraid of losing it Of the two, it is always the nobleman whose inkstand we see the most.

Tallemant continues without effort the race of tale- tellers and authors of fabliaux; a vein of Rabelais runs through him. He uses excellent language, of great precision of meaning, full of idioms, familiar, Parisian in its essence. His style agrees very ill with the tnie reign of Louis XIV; we cannot imagine Tallemant at Versailles. The scandal-monger of those coming years will have their amplitude and grandeur: that scandal-monger of genius is to be Saint-Simon. The social world that Tallemant shows us is that of the Town, properly so called; of Paris in the days of Mazarin, before and after the Fronde, and under the minority of Louis XIV (corresponding more or less to the period of the first satires of Boileau) ; the Paris in which was stirring in all directions a rich, bold, and free bourgeoisie, the types of which are in Molidre, the physician of which is Gui Patin, and, at a future period, Regnard. That is the framework within which Tallemant plays his play. He swims in his element


ymicmmtt bcs H^attt and SttSd^^Rabattiu 289

After this we need not be surprised if writers pr<rfit by TaUemant's p^ges but do not cite him honour- ably, or if they often rob him without saying much about it, and even with an air of saying, Fie" ! A TaUemant is not a Tacitus. He writes in a style that is little elevated, that seems easy, and is only modenHeiy booouiaUe. But every man gives what he can.

>9


IX.


I 991

I


IX.

xn>e Ubbe 5e «anc6 Vetocmer of Xa Vrapue*

WHO and what was Ranc6 in the world ? A wonderful mind, brilliant, eager for all knowledge and all diversions, seeking ever the honey of the poets; eloquent and winning of speech, generous and magnificent of heart; an ardent soul, impatient, intemperate, exhausted with fatigue yet never in repose; a soul that nothing could fill, grasped in the midst of successes and pleasures by an infinite melancholy, obsessed at times by the idea of death, the image of eternity; rejecting, at a certain moment, that which seemed to it incomplete, and im- molating itself finally at the foot of the Cross in a passionate hatred of life." For it is with life as it is with one beloved — ^there is no great distance between passionate love and passionate hatred; it is precisely because we have loved too much, dreamed too ideally of this passing life, clasped, in rare and unique mo- ments, too much, that the soul, when it is great, gives itself obstinately to disgust and to relinquishment

293


294 XTbe W)1)i be IRancL

With Rznc€ the sacrifice was complete, was lasting; the gleam from on high not only fell, but the lightning fell with it, and consumed the holocaust: the forehead of the repentant man beneath the ashes remains for ever stamped with the sacred stigmata.

Armand-Jean Le Bouthillier de Ranc6, bom in 1626, son of a president of the Cour des Comptes, nephew of a superintendent of finance, nephew also of the Bishop of Aire and the Archbishop of Touraine, cousin-ger- man of Chavigny, minister of State, was tonsured while still a child, loaded with benefices, and destined to receive the ecclesiastical heritage of his uncle of Tours. Meantime, he was put to studies both sacred and profane, and delivered, still a youth, to the whirl of society. At twelve years of age (1639) ^^ Pub- lished an edition of Anacreon, with table-songs [scolie] and comments in Greek of his own making. Much has been said of the contrast between this pre- cocious edition and the future destiny of the child A visitor to La Trappe mentioned it one day to the abb^:

" He answered me that he had burned all the copies that remained except one, and that one he had given to M. Pellisson when the latter came to La Trappe after Ids conversion; not, he said, as a good book but merdy as a very clean and well-bound volume: he said, also, that during the first two years of his retreat, before he became a monk, he had wished to re-read the poets; but it only served to recall his okl ideas; for there was in sudi readiiig a subtle poison hidden be- neath the flowers that was very dangerous; so that finally he had to quit aH that."

The most conflicting studies excited the restiess cu- riosity of young Ranc^; at one time he gave himself



ARMAND JEAM L£ BOUTHlLL£R 0£ BANCS.. From a steel engraving.


dCSMO^. 295

up to astrology. Theology, however, was not n^- lected; he did well in it, obtained his degree, and preached eloquently. If not in politics, at least in the variety of his dissipations he seemed to follow closely in the footsteps of Retz, his elder by twelve years, and he, too, in his way, was a rotU of the first Regency; never stnring, Saint-Simon tells us, from the hdtel de Montfia2on, a friend of all the personages of the Fronde, and sharing the great hunting parties of the Due de Beaufort, the leader of the "Importants." An el^;ant biographer, the Abb6 de MaisoUier, pictures him to us at this time with a sort of complacency :

'* He was in the flower of \m age, beiqg tiien about twenty-five years old. His figure was above middle height, wdl set up and wdl praportioned; his cmmtmanoe was happy and intellectual; he had a lofty forehead, a large noae, well defined but not aquiliiie; his eyes were fidl of fire, his mouth and all the rest of his Uot had every charm one could wish for in a man. With it all, a certain air of gentleness and of grarukur which predisposed in his fivour and made him both beloved and respected."

Compare this portrait of the young man with that of the old man given to us by Saint-Simon forty years later, when the latter tricked him into posing uncon- sciously for his portrait by Rigaud :

"The reaemblanoe [of the portrait] is absolutely exact," Saint- Simon says: '*the gentleness, the serenity, the mafesty of his face; the noble fire, keen and pierdr^, of his eyes (so difficult to render), the deUcacy, the intdlect and the grandeur expressed in his counte- nance; that candour, that wisdom, that interior peace of a rruui who pofsirs his soul — ^aU was rendered, even to the charm which had not left his attenuated fKe, worn by penance^ age, and suffering."


2^ JSbt Wafbt bt Vance*

AU the visitors of that day agree in speaking of the refined and delicate countenance" and the "noble air" of M. de La Trappe which contrasted with the harshness of his life.

With a very delicate constitution people hardly un- derstood how he could suffice for his various exer- cises; for at that time his activity about iQcongruous things had the same excessive and indefatigable ardour that afterwards impelled him along a single furrow. Often, after hunting all the morning, he would come twelve or fifteen leagues by post to preach at the Sorbonne at a given hour, as if the effort were a mere nothing. His speech," says his biographer, M. de Chateaubriand, "had torrent, like that of Bourdaloue later, but Ranch's touched more, and he spoke less rapidly." His violence of passion was, at all times, masked by a perfect politeness. He knew Bossuet in early youth and was intimate with him while both were at school, and Bossuet, as we shall see later, claims for himself the happiness and honour of sitting beside Ranc^, that man of whom he never spoke without betraying a reverent admiration.

Ardent, active, practical, Ranc6 was ever going for- ward, never turning back. When he was in the world, as later, when he was out of it, he did nothing by halves. Hunting, sermons, pleasures, business, intrigues, he was equal to all. Closely in touch with the Coadjutor de Retz, that most stirring of party leaders, tenderly allied with the Duchesse de Mont-


faazon, the most beautiful woman of her day and by no means a dreamer, Ranc^ boldly played his part as a man-of-the-worid-abb6, and a man of gallantry.

But this tumultuous life received at times certain warnings that struck his mind and caused him to tiiink. One day, for example, he had gone with his gun to a barren piece of land behind the church of Notre-Dame, intending to fire at some bird of pas- sage, when the steel buckle of his game-bag was struck by a ball fired from the other side of the river; the buckle deflected the shot, but he keenly realised the danger, and exclaimed: "What would have be- come of me alas! had God called me to him at this moment!" Thus, at that epoch (more fortunate in this respect than ours), and even in those dissipated souls in the height of their license, belief existed; whatever may have been the surface of the waves or the swelling of the storm, below was faith: souls returned in time, and the great souls rose high. To-day, almost universally, even when the appear- ance is of honourable and philosophically avowable belief, the undercurrent is doubt, and our great souls make no return upon themselves, tiiey think there is no need of it In a word, there was £siith even in the license of tiiose days; in ours, scepticism has glided into our philosophical belie& and — why not add? — into our Christian professions; 1 speak of those that are sincere.

Bdbre the moment of his conversion Ranc€ was


39^ Zbc Wibi 5e Vanc^

deputy of the second order to the Assembly-general of the Clergy held in the years 1655-1657. He took a somewhat active part and one of opposition to the Court, at any rate in all that concerned the interests of Cardinal de Retz, his friend, whom Court and clergy were trying to dispossess. He mingled less in the other conflicts of that day, and remained aloof from the Jansenist strife, although he was one of tiiose who refused to sign the censure of Amauld at the Sorbonne. In all these affairs, even the ecclesi- astical ones, his conduct was that of a gallant man of the worid who makes it a point of honour to be fiiithfiil to his friends in misfortune.

This was the state of his affairs when the death of Mme. de Montbazon (1657) struck him the blow of which so much has been said, which the public imagination has delighted to adorn with a romantic legend, — as it did for the history of Abelard and Heloise, — but about which he himself was more silent than the grave. It was told that, being in the country when the death of this most beautiful woman who preferred him to all others took place, he returned without being informed of it, and going to her apart- ment, to which he had secret access, he found his idol not only dead but headless; for the surgeons had, so it was said, detached that beautiful head to put the body into the cotRn which was too short for it The imagination of the tellers of this tale did not stop in so romantic a path, and it cost nothing to add



DjChESSE de montbazon.

Fxjv. sfc. tngraMU^.


tliit liie head, that dear head, carried away by Racic^, became in after years the object of his meditations ^ La Tnppt, the sign transformed and present at all hours of his repentant worship.

The tacts are (as Saint-Simon being well-informed relales tiiem, and I see no reason to doubt him) that Mme. de Montbaaon died of nneasles after a very few days' iUness, tint M. de Ranc€ was beside her, never kft her, made her receive the sacraments and was present at her death. Shortly after, he started for his beautiftd estate of V^etr in Touraine, where he be- gan to tiiink more and more seriously of his irrepara- id>Ie loss; but retirement only increased his sorrow and a black melancholy took the place of his former joy. His pious biographers are extremely chary of details at this crisis; at most they risk a few veiled statements that ' 'one cause or another, such as the death of certain persons of consideration who were among his best friends, struck him and recalled him to God."

But Rancd was a strong soul, a great soul; he comprehended from the first day that he had lost something he couU never recover; that to begin a maimed life on the ruins of the past was unworthy of even a noble human ambition. While he said these things to himself aloud an inward voice spoke to his soul m lower tones, and that voice had for him a name. Happy those for whom that voice preserves Its name, distinct and efficacious, calling itself simply the grace of Jesus Christ !


300 JCbc nbbt De Kaitcd

The death of Gaston, Due d'Orldans, whose chap- lain he was, came, soon after, to impress upon him still more strongly the nothingness of man and the one existing truth of Eternity. All the lesser reasons that have been given from time to time, and even down to our day, to lower in its essence the reso- lution of this repentant man vanish before this one idea of Eternity fully comprehended. Where hidden springs and secondary motives escape us it is right to dwell on the dominant and manifest inspiration. That inspiration rose and resulted from the whole life and the whole soul of Ranc6, and we should do wrong to ourselves if we did not perceive it in con- sidering him. " What have you done during these forty years ? " was once asked of a Chartreux in the hour of his death : " Cogitavi dies antiquos, et annos aternos in mente habui/* he replied, — "I have had in my thoughts the eternal years."

That was Ranch's object, his overmastering occu- pation from the hour of his awakening, the aim that gave him fortitude and led him, more and more, into the steep and rocky paths of repentance. That idea of Eternity — (let us think upon it!) is such that if a man looks upon it fixedly without having any gleam of im- mortal hope, there is enough in it to make him rush headlong to the abyss and kill himself in despair! What did Lucretius in his delirium ? What did Em- pedocles on Etna ? What might not Pascal have done had he set himself to consider (as he did, but without


Vbc Wbbt te WbmoL 501

residt) "llie short duration of his Me absorbed in the Eternity tint preceded and followed it " — measuring wiStk terror the two infinities witiiout believii^ or iK>ping anytiung ?

Ranee wastixirty-one years old at the time of Mme. de Montbazon's death in 1637. Six years elapsed be- fore he took the cowl and began his novitiate in 1663, during wliich time his purpose widened, strengthened and attained maturity. Living secluded, nearly the whole time on his estate of V^retz, he employed himself in breaking his many ties, in selling his patri- mony for the benefit of the poor, in evading the ec- clesiastical ambitions of his uncle, the Archbishop of Tours; and, so doing, he passed six years in slowly advancing towards the cloister. "My thoughts," he says in one of his letters, "went at first no farther tiian to lead an innocent life in the country-house which I had chosen for my retreat; but God made me know tliat more was needed, and that a gentle, peace^ fill state, such as 1 had pictured to myself, did not be- come a man who had spent his youth amid the ideas, the errors, and the maxims of the world."

He feh at first a great repugnance to the cloister; he kept his prejudices as a man of the world and a man of rank against the frock. The most respected men whom he consulted (Choiseul, Bishop of Comminges, the Bishop of Chilons, and tiie saintly Pavilion, Bishop of Aleth) did not advise it ; on the contrary, they urged htm to foUow, even in his repentance, "that wise


302 JCbc Vbbe De IRance.

medium course which is always the character of true virtue. " But a medium course was precisely that which was most contrary to his nature and most intolerable to his thoughts. The scruple of expiation in view of eternity, the ardent desire for penance were upon him; in vain did moderate reason seek to mitigate them; in great repentant hearts something else cries aloud; conscience seeks its punishment and cannot be consoled so easily. Such souls, once captured, cannot away with a sweet, false happiness in the bosom of which they would feel themselves eternally desolate.

Having decided to become a regular abb6 instead of the secular one he already was, it does not appear that Ranc6 ever looked back. Closing his ears to clamour and even to advice, he entered the monastery of Per- seigne, under the strict Cistercian rule, June 13, 1663; and the following year, July 13th, he was consecrated abb6 in the church of Saint Martin, at S6ez. On the 14th he went to La Trappe, the one poor benefice he had retained for himself; crossing thus the threshokl of that high career in which he was henceforth to advance untrammelled, guiding others. He was thirty- eight and a half years old, and God granted him thirty- six years more of life — the time to accomplish many designs.

The poor abbey needed repairs and reformations of every kind. Already, in a stay which he made there the previous year (1662), Ranci had been forced to purge the place of the presence of the monks, six in number,


Vbt Wbbt U WamoL 503

who had inerdy the name and titles of religion and were living in the utmost debauchery. Thieatened by them and at the risk of being stabbed or thrown into a pond, he held firm, even refusing the assist- ance offered by M. de Saint-Louis, a cavalry colonel living in the neighbouiiiood, an honourable soldier whose diaracter Saint-Simon has transmitted to us. The bad monks finally consented to retire on pay- ment of a pension, and six monks from Perseigne were brought to take tiieir place. Besides this, materials had to be provided; the buildings, fidling into ruins, needed to be rebuilt, the cattle and night- birds driven away, the fences set up. At last, thanks to these first efforts, the Abbey of Notre-Dame of the Maison-Dieu of La Trappe became a house of prayer and silence, in that valley made for it, as it seemed, expressly; encircled by forests and hillsides and watered by its nine ponds.

The history of the Monastery of La Trappe during the following years is that of gradual, silent, and hidden progress; the rumours that came to the out- side world told of the least part of its work and often of the part that was least worth being known. The austerity of the rule became erelong an irresistible attraction to some; they came from neighbouring monasteries as to a hive of more celestial honey. Ranc6 might call himself a winner of souls, and some- times he had to dispute for tiiem with other mon- asteries that sought to get them back. Such were the


304 Vbe Bbb^ De Kanc^

chief events, the quiet contentions, that brought diver- sion to the early simplicity of the work. About the year 1672 La Trappe had reached its highest perfection, its full monastic fame, and one original monument the more was added, in shadow, to the wondrous splendour which illumined that period of Louis XIV.

If it is permissible, without pro&ning anything, to grasp the ensemble and place all things at their true value in the picture, I must say that this period of 1672 was, beyond a doubt, the most complete of a marvellous reign. Never did maturity more bril- liant, more fruitful, offer more diverse masterpieces, or bring more considerable personages into view. The group of poets had not diminished: Boileau cele- brated the passage of the Rhine; Racine in mid- career, was taking breath with Bija^tt; La Fontaine mingled with new fables certain tales that were de- corous. This was the year of the "Femmes Sa- vantes" before the last hours of Molidre; Lulli took in hand the Opera; M. de Pomponne was entering as minister on Public affairs, and lending to the noble good sense of the monarch the elegance of an Ar- nauld's pen. Bossuet, glorious orator through his first Orations, and proved a learned man by his "Exposition of Faith," was devoting himself to the Dauphin's education. Port-Royal, in these sincere years of the " peace of the Church," was flowering and fructifying afresh with the abundance of a late autumn. And afiu-, in the hidden byways of the


ICbe HMe ^e 1tnioe» 305

Pterche. somethii^ angelic, I scarce know what, was operating fil^e an early springtide. People per- ceived," says M. de Chateaubriand, that fragruice was coming from an unknown land and they turned to inhale it"

It was Bossuet who induced Ranc6 to publish his book on " The Holiness and Duties of Monastic Life." Reading the book in manuscript on his return fr^om the Assembly of 1682, he writes to Ranc6: "I own that, coming from the shameful laxities and impurities of casuists, I need to be comforted by these heaverdy ideas of the life of hermits and solitaries." Rancd's style, when he is not engaged in a simple discussion which he wants to cut short and finish (as often hap- pens to him), and when he applies it to treatises on doctrine and edification, has compass and beauty: " I know of none," says a contemporary, "more equal, more natural, more polished. The thoughts are full, the images well managed, the words appropriate and choice, the expressions clear, and the periods har- monious."

As the century advanced, the Abbey of La Trappe gained more and more authority in the eyes of the world ; also it inherited the influx and concourse of pos- tulants no longer divided among other saintly houses now suspected and inaccessible. Ranc6 became the sole oracle of the desert; converts and the virtuous of other lands went to him. The Princess Palatine [Anne de Gonzague] consulted him and foUowed


3o6 Ubc Bbb^ De ItancL

his directions; the King of England, to console him- self for the loss of a throne, came to him yearly to talk of God; the Duchesse de Guise, daughter of Gaston d'Orl6ans, made retreats to La Trappe two or three times a year, lodging in the neighbourhood; the Mar6chal de Bellefonds was always within reach, having a house near by. We know of the frequent visits of the Due de Saint-Simon, who has given us much private information about that austere interior, on which he throws so vivid a light that he makes us enter it He never mentions that rigorous penitent without tenderness.

Feeling, more and more, the weight of years, Rancd desired to give up his office as head of the monastery and see with his own eyes his successor. Louis XIV consented. Dom Zozime, whom Ranc6 had desig- nated, was appointed, but died in a few months (1696). His second choice was unfortunate. Dom Gervaise came near ruining everything. Saint-Simon has related the details, long kept secret and truly sin- gular, which led the new abb6 to a forced resignation ; Saint-Simon was himself too long employed at Court in this affair to allow us to doubt the circumstances he affirms, and which he had no interest, it would seem, in exaggerating. At last, however, Ranci had the satisfaction of seeing the abbey placed in good hands under the management of Dom Jacques de La Cour (1698), and from that moment he thought only of death. He died in the arms of his bishop,


Vbe nbU de TRanct. 307

M. de S€tz, on the 27th of October, 1700, in the sev- enty-fourth year of his age.

Shortly after his death, Bossuet laid down (;ertain rules and traced a course for Ranch's biographer such as he himself conceived to be necessary; after doing homage to him living he gave this judgment on him dead:

" I shall state my feeling on the monastery of La Trappe with much irankness, as a man who has no other view than that God be glorified in the most saintly House there is in the Church, and in the life of the most perfect director of souls ever known in monastic life since Saint* Bernard. If the history of this saintly personage is not written by an able hand and a head as much above all human views as heaven b above earth, all will go ill. In some directions they would want to pay court to the Benedictines, in others to the Jesuits, in others again to Monks in general. ... All parties wish to draw to them- sdves the saintly abbe. ... If he who undertakes so great a work does not fed strong enough to have no need of counsel, the mixture b to be feared, and through it a species of d^jadation in the work. . . . Simplicity ought to be its sole ornament. I should prefer a simple narrative, sudh as Dom Le Nain could make, to laboured eloquence. . . ."

It had been proposed to Bossuet to write the life himself; he alone, under the conditions he laid down, was strong enough to do it; but he was unable on account of his multifarious occupations. His chief thought was that every party would seek "to draw the saintly abb6 to itself"; whereas, on the contrary, his own conduct in holding himself, as he had done, aloof from all parties should be imitated.

To-day things are changed: we are more prepared to accept, such as he offers himself, that sublime


3o3 Vbe Vbbi be ttanoL

ibh€, that monk worthy of Syria, or of the primitive Clairvaux, ardent, impetuous, impatient, man of ac* tion and of deeds rather than of discussion or doc- trine, but a great intellect all the same; a true monk by race, as de Maistre would say; indomitable to all but God himself. We might even be disposed to take him too much in this sense only, and to create a Ranc6 of a single pattern, which no man ever was, not even he. To picture to ourselves the true Ranci an atom of the world must be introduced, a moral spring must be touched, a secret fibre reached, which the orthodoxy of contemporaries never sought and would not have admitted.

In the "Letters of Ranc6" collected and published by M. Gonod, librarian of Clermont-Tonnerre, we have the veritable man himself, speaking in person, simply, gravely, with monotonous sadness or with a smileless joy that resembles sadness and never bright- ens. We feel, in reading those equable words and in approaching closer to the individual, how little there was, in the very real and practical religion then pre- vailing, of the poesy which we have since introduced to adapt religion to the taste of to-day and to re- cover belief by imagination. Even in Rancd's time there were men of the worid zealous enough and inquiring enough to go of their own volition and spend twenty-four hours at La Trappe simply as an act of piety. They would be very ready to do so in our day; men would willingly make a pilgrimage


JLbc Bbl^ Oe VanoL 309

that would long be talked-of» and about which they could tell the public the slightest circumstances and "impressions"; but in the mere idea of duration at- tached to such a life there is something that alarms them, chills and repulses them. Now, that something is felt inevitably on every page of the letters of the reformer of La Trappe. Nothing could be less poetic, I assure you, nothing less literary in the modern sense of the word, and I will add, almost as an immediate consequence, nothing more truly humble and sincere.

The letters collected by M. Gonod are of different dates and are addressed, excepting a very small num- ber, to three persons: the Abb6 Favier, his former tutor; the Abb6 Nicaise, of Dijon, one of the most active correspondents of the seventeenth century, who took the place to Ranc6 of a gazette or the Jouf'- nal des Savants; and lastly, the Duchesse de Guise, daughter of Gaston d'Orldans one of the souls from without who placed themselves under the guidance of the austere abb6.

Though the letters addressed to the Abb6 Favier are, at least in the beginning, of a much earlier date than the conversion and reform of Ranc6, we may search them in vain for any trace of his worldly dissi- pations and his brilliant errors. The young abb6 was contented, during those fiery years, to obey his passions without parading them in letters; moreover, they are not the things that a young man is accus- tomed to relate to a former tutor. The latter had


3X3 Vbe Bbb^ ^e IRancd

few monks who remained there were living scanda- lously. '* To put reformers there," wrote Rancd, " is no longer possible; reformers are so decried; and, partly from the bad conduct of the monks, people will not allow them to be introduced where they are not already. It is our sins that have caused this." Thus the great century, the century of Louis XIV, which we at a distance imagine to be so devout, had done with monks, and that, by the confession of the saintliest and purest monastic reformer of the age.

" We live," he writes to the Abb* Nicaise, " in times more prudent and wise — I speak of the wisdom of this world and not of that of Jesus Christ" Since then, two centuries and over have only increased that human prudence and wisdom, and the anachronism of the saintly reformer is not less crying. This is a re- flection that cannot be stifled in reading him, and it leads to many others.

The letters of Ranc6 to the Abb6 Nicaise, without being of much interest to read, have a very real value for the literary history of that time. The Abb£ Nicaise was, as everybody knows» the most unde&tigable writer of letters, the newsmonger par excellence, and the officious go-between of the learned men of all countries. He could not resist the idea of knowing so celebrated a man as M. de La Trappe, and of keeping up an intercourse with him. Once in relation with the recluse he never let him go, and the latter was compelled to continue a correspondence in which curi-


JOk UVbi be IRanc^. 3x3

osity did violence to charity. However, if the Abb6 Nicaise drew his grave and sombre correspondent into more than one difficulty by the indiscretions he com- mitted, he did him in return a variety of good offices; if Ranc6, for instance, wished to inform the world of his true sentiments on such or such a point in litiga- tion, he had only to state them to the abb6.

Nevertheless, that worthy man, always on the watch with his nose to the wind, puts the patience of the saint to the proof, and tries again and again to excite his curiosity. Most of the news on which he com- ments and the books he extols, 'wishing to know Ranch's opinion of them, never reach La Trappe, and Ranc6 exhausts himself in saying, gently and quietly:

    • We have neither seen nor heard of any of the books

you mention. The republic of letters does not spread to places where it knows it has none but enemies, who are incessantly occupied with unlearning and for- getting what curiosity made them know, that they may give all their application and their study to the one book of Jesus Christ." Each time that the incor- rigible Nicaise returns to the charge Ranc6 reiterates this profession of forgetfulness: "None of the books of which you speak to me reach us; we regard them as lost and flung into a pit whence nothing ought ever to return." But the good abb6 is not discouraged; in default of the works of others he sends his own, hop- ing at least to hear what is thought of them. On one occasion he takes it into his head to compose a


314 Vbe UWft De Itmci.

"Dissertation on Syrens, a Discourse on their Face and Form," and straightway sends his manuscript to l^ Trappe. Oh! this time Ranc6 cannot restrain a smile; we catch that movement on his countenance (in him so rare) through the simple lines of his an- swer: "I have cast my eyes over your work on Sy- rens, but I own to you that I have not dared go farther into the matter. All the fabulous species feel them- selves awakened, and I recognise that I am not as dead as I ought to be. That is a thought which has been followed by many reflections — this is how we may profit by everything."

The letters to the Duchesse de Guise are all edifying, noble, sufficiently expansive, but sober nevertheless. This last characteristic is found everywhere in Ranch's correspondence; even when he takes a pen he goes straight to his object, he cuts mere phrases short. Speaking of the death of M. de Noc6, a penitent of rank and one of the hermits living near La Trappe, he writes to Mme. de Guise, who has questioned him : "There were no brilliant circumstances, Madame, in the death of that hermit His passing was peaceful and tranquil. Struggle he had none, and we only per- ceived that he had ceased to live because he breathed no longer. God willed that he should say nothing re- markable in order to abridge the Record." Abridge, shorten all passing things; that is Ranch's permanent sentiment; he never sees a useless branch without in- stantly producing his axe or his shears.


XTbe Bbb^ &e IRanc^. 315

Though the mere reading of these letters of Ranc6 may, if we are not on our guard, seem monotonous, all of them being more or less alike, yet we may draw from them a great quantity of beautiful and noble thoughts. I have already given some, detaching them intentionally, because they are so imbedded on a som- bre background that it is almost necessary to present them alone in order to have them noticed. What more lofty thought, for instance, than this, which might serve as the epigram and the motto of the life of the great reformer: "We should do those works and those actions which exist independently of the differ- ent passions of men. " And what delicacy in this other saying, which reveals a tenderness of soul surviving beneath the hard exterior: *' It would be a very sweet thing to be so entirely forgotten that we lived only in the memory of friends." Notice that this profound forgetting on the part of the world, joined to faithful recollection on the part of friends, is the perfect con- cordance embraced by the hermit's hope.


X.

la (Btanbe flDabemoieene.


3»7


te


ONE of the most original %ures> the roost smguiar, and at the same time the most natural of the seventeenth century is certainly La Gcmde Mademoiselle, daughter of Gaston, Due d'Orteans, niece of Louis XllI and cousin^german of Louis XIV. In every epoch, a certain type is in £sisfaion, a certain romantic phantom occupies im- aginations and floats, as it were, upon the clouds. At the dose of the reign of Louis XIII and at the b^;innii^ of that of Louis XIV this type, this model, was chiefly formed from the heroes and heroines of ComeiUe, also from those of Mile, de Scud^ry. La Grande Mademoiselle, a person of imagination, £incy, and high temper, vnth little judgment, embodied much of tins type in herself; to it she added all that bdonged to the prejudices of her race and to the superstitions of her royal birth. The result was the most fantastic of compositions, the most vainglorious,

319


320 Xa Oran&e AaDemofaeHe*

the least reasonable, and her whole life showed the effects. Though she held the sword for some time as an amazon, she also produced, pen in hand, a great deal; for not only did she leave interesting and very truthful Memoirs (of which it was said that " they are sufficiently ill-written to assure us they were written by herself"), but we also have, of her making. Portraits, Letters, and short Romances. In short, Mademoiselle was not only a very extraordinary princess, she was an author as well. As such, she belongs to us of right, and it is justice to assign to her the place and date she ought to occupy in the series of literary fashions and varieties.

She was bom in the Louvre, May, 1627. Having lost her mother in infancy, she was brought up by an estimable and pious governess but with all the respect due to a granddaughter of Henri IV. Nat- urally, she grew accustomed to consider herself of different blood from that of other men, even noble- men, and on a par with kings and queens. This idea, which to her was a religion, dictated to her on all occasions speeches of the frankest and most naTve vanity, and imposed upon her sentiments that aimed at grandeur and certainly did not derogate from dignity. Her father, Gaston, Due d'Orl6ans, endowed with a thousand tine qualities of the mind and not one of the heart or character, was the soul of all the intrigues against Richelieu, compromis- ing incessantly his followers and friends, whom he



LA GRANDE MADEMOISELLE. From a steel engraving.


Xa Otan{>e Aa&emoideUe. 3^1

afterwards abandoned. MademoiseUe from her earli- est childhood showed more pride and more honour. Having witnessed at Pontainebleau the ceremony of degrading two knights of the Order (the Due d'EI- beuf and the Marquis de La Vieuville) she asked the reason; being told it was because they had been of Monsieur's party, she burst into tears and wished to withdraw, declaring that she could not witness that act with decency.

In a period when Richelieu ruled and "tyranny reigned so haughtily over even royal personages she kept intact within her a worship and lofty idolatry of her race. Her childhood and her first youth were passed in frivolities, in a round of Court, of ceremo- nial and idle amusements, balls, comedies, collations, with no one to tell her there was anything in life more serious. She went one day on a visit to the con- vent of Pontevrault, the abbess of which was her aunt, a natural daughter of Henri IV, and began by getting tired of it at once. But the young girls of her suite having discovered a crazy woman locked up in a dungeon, quick! they called Mademoiselle to amuse her with the sight of her antics: " I took my course to the dungeon," she says, " and did not leave it till evening." The next day the abbess, seeing her taste for it, '* regaled her with another crazy woman "; " as there was not a third for the next day," she adds amusingly, it was all so wearisome that 1 went away, in spite of my aunt's entreaties." This is the


322 %a aratiDe AabemofaeUe*

tone in which human wretchedness was treated by one who was kind at heart; but no one, I say again, was there to warn and enlighten her. When the Fronde began, the same thing happened. Mademoi- selle at first saw nothing in it but a subject of curiosity and amusement: "All these novelties delighted me . . . no matter what importance an affair might have, if it served only to amuse me I thought of nothing else all the evening." Such was Made- moiselle at ten years of age, such at twenty, such at thirty, such nearly all her life, until a tardy passion taught her what it was to suffer.

The first pages of her Memoirs are filled with ex- terior details only. She went to all the hunting parties of Louis XIll in the days of his amour with Mile, de Hautefort. Enumerating the young ladies she had in her suite: "We were all dressed in colour," she says, " and mounted on fine ambling horses richly caparisoned; and to guard us from the sun each had a hat trimmed with quantities of feathers." That paints her to us already, proud and of haughty mien, tall of her age and wearing the white plumes from the helmet of her grandsire of Navarre. What mat- ters it that Mademoiselle, at this period, was only ten years old ? her mind, in many respects, remained at that age, and never matured. They began even then to talk of marrying her, either to the king, or to the cardinal-Infant, brother of the queen-mother, or to the Comte de Soissons; they amused her with it


%a OtanDe ObUbcmotscXIc. 323

For thirty years more they talked to her of such projects ad infinitum; she talked about them herself uicessantly, but like a chiU, unable to resolve upon the step, without perceiving that in the end that eternal indecision would become a jesL She, who called herself Mademoiselle par excellence could not bring herself to cease to be so, and this lasted until nature, so long set aside, recovered its rights and spoke, once for all, in her heart. But we have not reached that point as yet.

She showed at an eariy date a taste for things of the mind, wit, spirit, shrewdness, all that serves for conversation. Her father excelled in this; she relates how at Tours, every evening, she loved to listen to Monsieur, who told her his past adventures, "and that very agreeably, like the man in the worid who had most grace and natural faculty for talking welL" It is rare to find a child so perceptive of that sort of charm. Mademoiselle, in the letters she addressed to Mme. de Motteville in 1660, speaks to her of con- versation as being "to your taste and mine, the greatest pleasure in life and almost the only one I care for." It was by that means, even more than by his fine air that Lauzun first insinuated himself into her confidence: "I found in him," she says, "methods of expression that I heard from no one else."

Richelieu dead, Gaston, whom his last intrigues had sent into exile, made peace with the Court; he returned to Paris and went to his daughter's residence:


324 Xa aranOe Aa^emofdelle*

'*He supped with me, where we had twenty-four violins/' says Mademoiselle: he was as gay as if MM. de Cinq Mars and de Thou had not been left by the way. I own I could not see him without thinking of them, and in my joy I felt that his gave me pain." Mademoiselle's good qualities show al- ready; she has humanity in spite of her pride of race, fidelity to friends through their varied fortunes, and dignity. Her father laughs more than once at her pretensions to chivalry and heroism, but in those respects as in others she was worth more than he.

The time that elapsed between the death of Louis XllI and the first Fronde (i 643-1648) was a brilliant moment for Mademoiselle. She was sixteen to twenty years of age, and shone at Court in the first rank and in all the pride of hope. There was no alliance that did not seem worthy of her. Not at all gallant in temperament, in no way coquettish, so cold that she was long compared to the virgin Pallas, she saw nothing in marriage but the means to reach a great part and a glorious destiny; and, romantic as she was, she liked almost as well to nurse the idea as to accomplish it. Should she be Qyeen of France by marrying the young King, Louis XIV, eleven years younger than herself? Should she be Qyeen of Eng- land by marrying the Prince of Wales, then in exile but who could not fiiil to be restored ? Or shoukl she be an empress by marrying the Emperor of Germany, lately become a widower ? It seemed as if she had


Xa OtanDe AiiDemoteeUe* $2$

only to choose; and no one can show her proud perversity better than she does herself ilpropos of a ftte given at the Palais-Royal during the winter of 1646, for which the queen-mother was anxious to adorn her:

" They were three whole days ammging my attire; my gown was loaded with diamonds, and scarlet and black and white tasseb; I had upon me all the crown-jewels, and those of the Queen of England, ¥rho still had some left in those days. No one was ever seen better nor more magnificentiy adorned than I was that day, and I did not haH to find many persons to tell me, rather apropos, that my fine figure, my good countenance, the whiteness of my dcin and the splen- dour of my blonde hair did not adorn me less than all the riches that shone upon my person. . . .**

They danced in the great theatre, brilliantly lighted. At one end was a throne raised three steps and sur- mounted by a dais:

"The King (Louis XIV) and the Prince of Wales (afterwards Charies II), would not seat themselves on the throne; I sat there alone, so that 1 saw at my feet those two princes and all the princesses who were then at GMirt. I did not fed embarrassed in that position . . . AH present did not €ul to tell me that I had never seemed less constrained than I did on that throne, and that, as I came of a race to occupy it, when 1 was in possession of one on which I should sit longer thm merely at a ball, 1 should do so with more ease still. While 1 was there and the prince was at my feet, my heart looked down upon him as well as my eyes; I had it in mind just then to marry the emperor. . . . 1 no longer regarded the Prince of Wales as anything but an object of pity.'*

Such was this romantic princess, who tells every- thing about herself naturally, sincerely, with a sort of bravura in her sincerity, and a frankness which at times is hearty even in her pride.


326 Xa Oraii{>e Aa5ctitof6eUe« 

The beauty, to which she is the first to do justice, was real at that period of her first youth. Brilliancy, freshness "which, of Lilies, kept their candid inno- cence," said the poets, fine eyes, blonde hair, a beau- tiful figure, all this concealed what was wanting in her of delicacy and grace; she had the air of a great beauty," says Mme. de Motteville. Neverthe- less, her teeth, that were not good, and her large, aquiline nose showed the rather common defects of the Bourbon race. Years gave to her features and to her shape more stiffness, without taking from her the quickness and petulance of movement, which never allowed her to have dignity.

When the Fronde broke out, and the good sense inclosed in each head was put to the roughest proof in that brusque civil tempest. Mademoiselle was already known for impetuosities and caprices of temper, which sometimes thwarted and overcame her real feelings to the point of injuring her fortune and even of less- ening the consideration paid to her. She could not decide on her choice of a husband and, in her desire for a crown, she allowed opportunities that were un- der her hand to escape her in order to grasp at dis- tant impossibilities. She was on particularly bad terms with the queen [Anne of Austria] and with Girdinal Mazarin; and for that reason as little dis- posed to be wise and sensible in the dawning trou- bles as any one at Court

The first Fronde, that of 1648, gave her no occasion


to come forward herself; her action was limited to giving way to prejudices that she did not take the pains to conceal: " As 1 was not much satisfied with the queen, or with Monsieur at that time/' she says, '* it gave me great pleasure to see them embarrassed." When the queen and the G)urt left Paris, by Mazarin's advice, and went to Saint-Germain during the night of January 6, 1649, ^^^ made it her duty to accom- pany them, though she was very far from sharing their thoughts and intentions: "1 was all excited with joy at seeing they were about to commit a blunder, and in being spectatress of the troubles it would cause them ; this avenged me a little for the persecutions I had suffered." The levity, disorder, and bustle of the Court at Saint-Germain are painted to admiration by a person as thoughtless and frivolous as any of them, but who is veracious and tells all. Mademoi- selle had great satisfactions to self-love during that sojourn. "The people of Paris," she says, "have always loved me because 1 was born and brought up there; that has given them a respect for me, and a greater inclination than that they usually feel for persons of my quality." It resulted from this excep- tion in her favour on the part of the Parisians, that they allowed her carriages and horses to leave for Saint-Germain; and while the queen and king lacked everything, she had all she wanted and lacked nothing. All this, however, was but a prelude to the part she was to play in the second Fronde: "I did not then


328 %a arande Aa^emofdelle*

foresee/' she says, "that I should find myself con- cerned in a considerable affair, where I could do my duty and avenge myself at the same time; neverthe- less, in doing that sort of vengeance we sometimes avenge ourselves much against ourselves."

That little final touch of repentance does not hinder Mademoiselle from being very proud and very vain- glorious of what she did in 1652, when she was able both to obey her father and to give herself up to her instincts for adventure. She was twenty-five years old at this second epoch, the finest age for an amazon. The idea of marriage, which was always flitting in perspective before her eyes, was then suggesting to her a possible union with either the Prince de Cond€ in case he became a widower (she never shrank from that species of supposition), or with the king if she made herself formidable and necessary. Meanwhile she obeyed, without much consistency, her romantic and grandiose tastes, and, converting her former aversion for the Prince de Cond6 into sudden friendship, she was fired with a desire to signalise herself for the common cause by some dazzling service.

An occasion presented itself. Her father, Monsieur, was in Paris, which he thought he could not quit without serious inconvenience. He was much needed at Orleans, which belonged to his appanage, and where a rather considerable party wished to open the gates to the royal army, then advancing from Blois. Hence it became of the utmost importance that


Sa Oonte Aal»cnoi6elie. 3^9

Die dty of Orteaas sliouhi stand firm for the Fronde, ofterwise tbe whole line of the Loire was cut, and liie Prince de Conde, coming from Guyenne, would find the enemy master of the position. Mademoiselle of- fered to go in person to Orleans and hold the town. Her father distrusted her and her judgment: " Such chivalry would be very ridiculous/' he said on the day she started, if the good sense of Mmes. de Fiesque and de Frontenac did not support her/' Those were the two ladies who accompanied her and who were called, partly in courtesy and partly in derision, her "field-marshals."

So Mademoiselle started, with joy in her heart on finding herself, at last, on the way to do some extra- ordinary action and achieve lame. An astrologer pre- dicted it to her on the morning of her departure, and she made no manner of doubt that he was right As soon as she reached the plains of Beauce, she mounted her horse and put herself at the head of the armies of the Fronde, which were then in that neighbourhood. A council of war was held before her at which it was agreed that nothing should be done except by her or- der. The difficulty was to enter Orl^ns ; for, pressed hard on either side between the summons of the Keeper of the Seals, M0I6, on the part of the king, and that of the Frondeurs, the gentlemen of file H6tel-de- ViUe had a strong desire to remain neutial. Impatient at tbe parleys, which were much prolonged, Made- moisdle marched up and down before the ramparts,


330 xa ®ran^e AademofseUe*

exciting the people behind them by her gestures and words. Then, finding she could rely more on the pop- ulace than on the comfortable bourgeois, she sprang into a boat which some sailors offered her, crossed the moat and ordered a gate that opened on the quay and was ill-guarded to be battered in. When two planks were down, she passed through the hole, and there she was! followed afar by her ladies, carried in triumph by the people, and mistress of the place in the twinkling of an eye : '* for," she says to the governor and sheriffs, who were not a little astonished, " when persons of my quality enter a town they are its mistresses, and with justice: 1 ought to be so here, as the place belongs to Monsieur — on which, a good deal frightened, they made me their compliment. . . . When I reached my house, I received the harangues of all the public bodies and the honours that were due to me." Not content with being harangued, she improvised a speech before the Hdtel-de-Ville, and acquitted herself no worse than other orators and public speakers in a like crisis.' These first days were the finest. People did not fail, of course, to compare Mademoiselle to the Maid of Orldans. The Qyeen of England, whose son she

  • Mademoiselle's insatiable vanity led her in after years to have her

portrait painted in militaiy costume, to commemorate thb glorious taking of Orleans, and also her really splendid conduct on the day of the battle of Saint-Antoine, when she saved the life of the Prince de Cond£ and turned the guns of the Bastille on the king's army— an ex- ploit that Loub XIV never, in his heart, foigave. The picture b a small one painted on vellum, and b now in the cofledion of the " Portraits Nationaux. "— Ta.


Xa Ocanbe AaDemoidelle. 331

had refused for a hushand, said of her, satirically, that it was "very right for her to save Orleans like the Maid, having begun by driving away the English." The Prince de Condd, hurrying from Agen, incognito and disguised, arrived at this crisis, fortunately, and took command of his army near Orleans. Thence he writes a letter to Mademoiselle to thank her and con- gratulate her on her prowess : " It is a deed the glory of which belongs to none but you, and it is of the ut- most importance." A report having been rendered to him of a council of war at which she was present and gave her opinion, she remarks: " M. le Prince says that the resolutions taken at the council at which 1 was good enough to be present ought to be followed, even if they were not wise, but in fact they were such that the King of Sweden (Gustavus Adolphus) could not have taken better, and that he himself would have done so even if I had not ordered them." Mademoiselle ac- cepts and repeats such praises in solemn earnest. When she returned, shortly after, to Paris, all the peo- ple came out to meet her; she was the heroine of the moment The Prince de Cond6 assured her that he wished for nothing so passionately as to see her queen of France, and that he would make no terms of peace in which she was not included. In her credulous ex- altation she was, indeed, at the most brilliant moment of her existence.

Reverses came, and she took part in them valiantly. Aloof from intrigues, incapable of politics, the affairs


332 Xa ®ran^e Aa^emoidelle*

of the Fronde were already in dissolution, and negotia- tions were begun on all sides before she suspected it On the 2nd of July, 1652, when the bloody battle of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine was fought, where the Prince de Cond6, after prodigies of valour, was about to be crushed with all his men by Turenne if the gates of Paris were not opened to his exhausted army, it was Mademoiselle who, wrenching consent from Mon- sieur, already half a traitor, flew to the Hdtel-de-Ville and forced the undecided and unwilling municipals to open them. To the Mar^chal de V Hdpital, who resisted as long as he could, she said these noble words: "Reflect, monsieur, that while you are all amusing yourselves by disputing over useless things M. le Prince is in peril within your suburbs. What sorrow and what shame it will for ever be to Paris if he perishes for want of succour! You can give it to him; then give it to him quickly! " It is told, that as he still hesitated she said to him that if he did not hasten she would " drag him by the beard and he should die by no hand but hers." Hastening from there to the Bastille, armed with full powers, she gath- ered up as she went the wounded, nearly all men of mark, whom she recognised with pity. She paints to us with expressive strokes the moment when, in one of the intervals of the action, she met the Prince de Cond6:

'* He was in a pitiable state ; he had a mass of dust upon his free, hb hair was thick with it ; his coHar and his shirt were full of blood,


%a ettBribt maUmetBiOc. $33

Umigh be had not been wounded ; hb oiinss wis denied ¥fith blows, and he held his naked sword in his hand, having lost the scabbard ; he gave it to my equenry. He said to me : ' You see a man in despair ; 1 have lost all my tends; Messieurs de Nemours, de La Rodiefoucaidd, and Qincfaamps are mortally wounded.' 1 assured him they were in better condition than he tiioi^ght. . . . That rejoiced him a little ; he was deeply afflicted. When he entered heflu^g himself on a dnir and wept ; he said to me : ' Pardon the grief in wtiidi I am.' After that, let no one tdl me that he loves nothing ; for my part, 1 have always known him tender for his friends and for those he loves."

h is to be remarked here that G>nd6 loved and wept as a soldier for friends whom he might have seen die in other ways without much regret, perhaps. On a day of battle he recovered his good qualities, his humanity, and his other virtues; he was in his element, and, like all great hearts at such times, he was kind.

Mademoiselle ordered a few volleys from the cannon of the Bastille, which manifested plainly the attitude of flie people of Paris and warned the troops of the king that the hour had not come to enter the city. Mazarin said that those cannon-balls, fired by order of Made- moiselle, had " killed her husband," meaning that she could never henceforth hope to marry the king; but it is very doubtful if she could ever have nuuried him. However that may be, she had, on this day of the Bastille, the satisfaction of having done, not, as at Orleans, a dashing stroke, but an act of courage and humanity. She blushed for her father and for the pro- longed indecision from which she had been compelled to wrench him; she tried to excuse him as well as she could, and to save him the shame of not having


334 Xa Orange AademofseUe*

mounted his horse and done the deeds that she did; but heart and courage were hers, not his.

On a third occasion she again supplied his de- ficiency. Two days later (July 4th) during the mas- sacre at the Hdtel-de-Ville, by which the Prince de Cond6 repaid so grievously his welcome by the Parisians, and which Gaston, according to his habit, favoured, to say the least, by his inaction. Mademoi- selle offered to go and save those who were being massacred and curb the populace. Starting from the Luxembourg she could not at first enter the Hdtel- de-Ville; she was more fortunate on a second attempt and reached the place very late, much too late, but soon enough, nevertheless, to do some acts of pro- tection and humanity.

The Fronde was at an end and every one was seeking to make his peace. The rumour ran that Gaston had come to terms with the Court by separat- ing his interests from those of the Prince de Cond6. President Viole spoke of it to Mademoiselle, who was reduced to replying: "You know him; I will not answer for what he does." When she went to her base Cither to ask if he had orders to quit the Luxem- bourg, and, if so, what she was to do herself, he re- replied that he should not mix himself up in what concerned her; and he disavowed all that she had done in his name:

" Do you not think. Mademoiselle,'* he said, with the cowardly and contemptuous irony that was common with him, " that the affair of


Xa Gimte fl frfl ^ ft ft ^ fffttf, 335


-Antoine miBt liavc infund jkni at Court? You have been very pleased to pfaty the heraioe, and to be told 3rou werethatof our party; tiiat you saved it twice. Whatever happens to you, you wiD console yoiindf by thinking of the piaises people gave you."

She answered proudly and with dignity:

"1 do not think 1 did you ffl-service at the Porte Saint^ntoine, any more than at Orleans. Those two inepiaadttble actions I did 1^ your order; if they were to do over ^gain, I should do them ^gain, because my duty would oUige me to do so. It is better to do as I did than be humiliated ior having done nothing. I do not know what being a heroine is. I am of a birth that does nothing that is not great and lofty. People can call that what they choose; as ior me, I call it following my inclination and gomg my way; I was bom not to take that of others."

Ttiere is, of course, some pomposity and a little swagger in that utterance, we feel it of course; but we cannot fail to recognise also an echo, as it were, of the "Cid," and certain Comeillian accents. Made- moiselle, during the Fronde, was in love with £alse grandeur, she sought a false glory; but at least she remained disinterested, generous, and put no stain upon her name.

In the years that followed she had to make the king forgive her, and in the long run she succeeded. During the sojourns, more or less enforced, that she made on the estates of her appanage she acquired a taste for literature and its cultivation. She began at that time to write her Memoirs, which have lately been re-edited by M. Ch6ruel from the autograph manuscript in the Bibliothdque Nationale. The mod- em editors (M. Petitot and M. Michaud) neglected to consult that manuscript and have continued to print


336 Xa Orange AyaOemofseUe.

their editions in which the text has been much touched up, and where various mistakes occur in proper names, and some omissions. All such errors have been repaired in M. Ch6ruel's edition. The Abb6 Terrasson said of ajansenist translation of the Bible that the scandal of the text was preserved in all its purity." We may equally say that in this good edi- tion of Mademoiselle's Memoirs her style is given in all the purity of its natural incorrectness.

One of her gentlemen and household attendants was the poet Segrais. Through him she knew Huet (the future bishop) who, then young, served her some- times as reader during her toilet. She liked novels above all else. She composed one or two about this period (1658), also society Portraits, the &shion of which had just been introduced. She had a whole volume of them printed at Caen in 1659, under the supervision of Huet, with a small number of copies; nearly all these Portraits being written by herself. In short, she made literature much as she had made civil war and played the amazon, at a venture, heed- lessly, offhand, but not without a certain capacity.

We find her again in 1660, making part of the Court during the Conferences of the Peace of the Pyrenees, and giving herself up once more to her imagination, no longer under the form heroic; now it was the form pastoral One day, being at Saint-Jean-de-Luz in the chamber of Cardinal Mazarin, and standing at a win- dow with Mme. de Motteville, admiring the beauty of


Xa Ovan^ Aademofselle* 337

the scenery, Mademoiselle began to imagine a plan of retirement and solitude, and to moralise on the happy life it would offer. Coming away, full of her pro- ject, she wrote a long letter to Mme. de Motteville, who replied in turn. This correspondence, which is quite agreeable to read, marks very well a certain moment in French literature. It represents and char- acterises the Spanish pastoral element that was in vogue from the novels of d'Urf^ to those of Mile, de Scud6ry, and to which the good sense of Louis XIV, aided by Boileau, put an end.

Mademoiselle imagined, in a meadow, near a forest, in view of the sea, a society of the two sexes, com- posed wholly of amiable and perfect beings, delicate and simple, who watched their flocks on sunny days and for their pleasure, and visited the rest of the time, from one hermitage to another, in chair, caliche or coach; who played the lute and the harpsichord, read poesy and new books, united the advantages of civil- ised life with the easy habits of rural life (not forget- ting the virtues of Christian life) ; and who all, celibates and widowers, polite without gallantry and even without love, lived honourably together, and felt no need to have recourse to the vulgar remedy of marriage. Observe that a convent of Carmelites is at hand in the forest, and the company does not fail to go there for edification at stated times; for one must, even when leading the gentle life, think also of salvation.


33^ Xa Orange Aa{>emof0eUe.

Mme. de Motteville, while replying with all sorts of compliments, and calling Mademoiselle in turn the "illustrious princess" and the "beautiful Amelinta," laughs at her slily for the article interdicting matri- mony, which was meant to be the great novelty of this Code of the Sheepfold, and she tries to insinuate a little reality, a little common sense into the scheme of thisplatonic. Christian, and, withal, gallant republic She points out that as it would be difficult to suppress gallantry and love altogether, it might perhaps be bet- ter to " return to the very common error that an old custom has made legitimate, which is called marriage/' The pair expatiate on that topic from one to the other, and Mademoiselle gives proof in the discussion of a romantic spirit rather elegant and distinguished, even elevated now and then. But, on the whole, here, as in the Fronde, it is the sentiment of reality, it is common sense, a sense of the fitness of things, that is always lacking in her.

I shall not follow her through her various compo- sitions and literary rhapsodies (Portraits, Romances of Society, and what not), but come at once to the great event of her life which completes her picture. Made- moiselle was forty-two years of age; she had missed so many and such great marriages that there seemed nothing else for her but to continue in the free and inde- pendent position of the richest princess of France, when she began to notice M. de Lauzun, afiivourite of the king, and younger than herself by several years. Still cold


Xa Ocairi^e Afl5eiiiof0eUe. 339

and pure, never having loved until then, she now, for the first time, felt love with an extreme youth- fulness, or, as one might say, childlikeness of heart; she describes it to us with the nalvet6 of a shep- herdess.

She perceived one day that this little man, captain of the guards, a Gascon with haughty mien and satir- ical, witty air, had a nameless something about him that she had never yet remarked in any one. The first time he went on duty as captain of the guards, and "took his baton," as they say " he did his functions with a grand and easy air, fiill of attentions without eagerness. When I made him my compliment," she relates, "he replied that he was very sensible of the honour I did him in taking part in the kindness that the king had for him." That simple speech enchanted her: *' 1 began from that time to regard him as an ex- traordinaty man, very agreeable in conversation, and I sought very willingly for occasions to speak to him." She began to be vaguely annoyed when she did not see him. "That winter," she says (1669), " without quasi knowing why, I could not endure Paris nor to leave Saint Germain." Every day that she succeeded in conversing with him in the embrasure of a window (a thing not so easy to do because of etiquette and her rank) she found more and more intellect and accom- plishments in him. When she held him thus, she for- got herself for hours. She took pleasure in discovering all sorts of distinctions about him, an elevation of


340 Xa OraiiDe Aa{>emofdeUe.

soul above the common, and " a million singularities " that charmed her.

After dreaming thus for some time, she ended by fixing her mind resolutely; and as she was very hon- ourable and very lacking in foresight, and as, more- over, the idea of love without marriage never entered her head, she thought that the shortest way would be to make the grandeur of the gentleman and wed him. The difficulty was to make him understand this, for the respect behind which Lauzun intrenched himself left her no access to him. It has been re- marked that "in friendship as in love princesses are condemned to take all the first steps, and that the respect which surrounds them often obliges the proudest and most virtuous to make advances that other women would not dare to permit themselves." Mademoiselle was compelled to take all these steps. Lauzun's strategy consisted in adding to and raising higher these barriers of respect, already so high, in still further intrenching himself behind them, and getting out of sight. It was all low bows, assur- ances of submission without end, but he turned a deaf ear to every tender word; and not only did he per- sistently follow this course , but Baraille, officer of his company and his confidential man, did the same: '* Every time I met him (Baraille)," says MademoiseUe, " I bowed to him, to give him a desire to approach me; he always pretended to think I was bowing to some other person, and while he made me profound


Xa Orange Ayademofselle* ^i

bows on one side he was going away on the other; at which I was in despair." These were Lauzun's tac- tics and order of the day. If Mademoiselle had not had any idea of marriage in her head he would have led her and constrained her to it by his conduct; so careful was he not to lend himself to any overture that was simply tender and wooing. The man of bonnes fortunes became for the nonce a man of principle; he played the virtuous and the chaste to get himself married.

Poor Mademoiselle, as much of a novice as a school girl, and without a confidant, did not know what to invent to reveal to this conceited coxcomb what he knew very well already. She sent for the Works of G>meille and re-read them, looking for images of her own fate in order to take lessons; she counted on the secret sympathy of souls: Lauzun would see nothing. She pretended to consult him on the vari- ous marriages proposed to her, hoping that he would declare himself and give her the opportunity to make her own confession. But Lauzun was strictly, cruelly respectful, respectful to excess. Always homage, never presumption. She had made him, as if in spite of himself, her counsellor, her confidant; she wished to marry, she told him,— to marry in France, to make the fortune of some one who deserved it; to live with that honourable man and friend in perfect es- teem, with sweetness and tranquillity; it was only a question of finding some one worthy of that choice.


342 %a OcanDe ObabcmoiscUe.

Lauzun discussed the matter with her at length; he weighed the advantages and the disadvantages of such a step, taking very good care not to seem to divine that he himself was in question. There were days, however, when he seemed to be beginning to understand; but he always escaped in time "by respectful manners full of witty sense/' which only inflamed the innocent princess more and more.

She loved like Dido, like Medea, like Ariadne, but twenty years too late. She did things that would have been quite charming in a very young girl. Dur- ing a journey into Flanders where M. de Lauzun com- manded as general, on a day when it poured with rain he came often to the side of the king's carriage, bare- headed and hat in hand. Mademoiselle at last could not contain herself and said to the king: " Make him put on his hat ! " At Saint-Germain, where the Court then was, being, for the hundredth time, on the point of naming to Lauzun the man she had chosen to render happy, about whom she consulted him perpetually, without having the courage to articulate the name, she said to him: "If 1 had an inkstand and paper I would write it down for you"; then pointing to a mirror beside her, she added: "I have a mind to breathe upon it and write the name in big letters that you might read it plain."

One thing is remarkable, and it is, as it were, a stamp of the times; namely that the idea of the king, the official worship and idolatry vowed to him, forms


Xa Orange Aa&emof9eUe« 343

a third in the whole affair. It is in the king's name and as if under his invocation that they love each other and dare, in the end, acknowledge it: The king has always been and is my first passion, M. de Lauzun the second/' writes Mademoiselle; and Lau- zun, on his side, says he would not flatter himself to have pleased Mademoiselle definitely and have touched her heart, except by reason of the respect and "true tenderness" that he felt for the person of the king. As soon as the marriage is decided we find him stipulating that he is not to leave the king for a single instant, that he is to continue to do all the duties of his oflfice, first at the lever and last at the coucher; and quite resolved not to give up sleeping in the Louvre. The first use he intends to make of Mademoiselle's enormous wealth is to put his com- pany of the guards into new uniforms to ** pay court to the king." In her letter to the king, asking per- mission to marry Lauzun, Mademoiselle is careful to clang very loud that chain of servitude, which, to her eyes, is more honourable than all else and in which she claims her share: 'M say this to Your Majesty," she writes, "to prove to you that the more we have of grandeur the more worthy we are to be your servants [domestiques ]." There was one thing for which Lauzun cared more than to be the husband of Mademoiselle, Due de Montpensier, and the great- est noble of the kingdom, and that was to stand well, with his master. I note expressly the reigning form


344 Xa (BtatiDe Aa^emoi^elIe*

of grovelling in those days: let us not flatter our- selves that we escape it in ours.

The rest is well known. Louis XIV consented, at first, to the marriage. They were very unwise not to profit by the permission within twenty-four hours, and give him no time for reflection. The marriage, consented to the evening before, was announced on Monday, December 15, 1670, and held good till the following Thursday. The king then withdrew his permission abruptly. Mademoiselle was thrown into a state we can well suppose, but without daring, as yet, to blaspheme against the king. Lauzun received the blow like an accomplished courtier and as if he had said: "The king gave, and the king has taken away, I can only thank and bless him." He seemed for a moment, on the point of increasing in fiivour. Nevertheless, for reasons that have always remained obscure, he was arrested a year later (November 25, 1671) and imprisoned in the castle of Pignerol. His captivity lasted no less than ten years.

Mademoiselle, during those years, had no thought that was not of him ; she did everything she could to obtain his deliverance, and she bought it at the price of enormous sacrifices of property, the gift of which Mme. de Montespan drew out of her in behalf of her son, the Due du Maine, the king's bastard. She passed through all they put upon her in order to see once more the man she loved. She was ill-rewarded.

When Lauzun left prison he was no longer the


XltfOMfcC ahiiy « OiflCfl t> S4S

hooourdde man, the gaDaat man, 'die pdidied man who bad so cfaanned her; tiie courtier alone survived, the rabid courtier, who had no peace because he did not recover footing and a patdiing up of favour with the master; in other re s pects, hard, openly selfish, covetous, daring to reproach Mademoiselle for the sacrifices of property she had ma<fe to deliver him! fanprisonment had only forou^ out defects of charac- ter and of heart v^ch he had known how to hide in his splendid years. Besides which, marriage (for it seems tisat a secret marriage really took place at this time) relieved him henceforth fixrni the necessity of lestiaming himself.

Mademoiselle came late to a knowledge of life, but she ended by knowing it and by passing, too, through all stages of trial; she had the sfow suffering tint wears out love in the heart, the contempt and indignation that break it, and she came at last to the indiflference that has no cure and no consolation other than God. It is a sad day that, on which we discover that the one po-son we have delighted to adorn with all perfections and crown with all g^fts is so worthless a thing. Mademoiselle had several years to meditate on that bitter discovery. She died in March, 1693, at sixty-six years of age.

Her obsequies, celebrated with great magnificence, were disturbed by a singular accident The urn that contained her embalmed entrails, which were badly embalmed, exploded in the middle of the ceremony


346 Xa Ovaribc Aat)emof0eUe*

with a loud noise and sent all present flying. It was written above that a little absurdity should mingle in all that concerned Mademoiselle, even her funeral.

What was lacking in her life, in her character, and in her mind was grace, reasonableness, fitness ijustesse), those qualities, in short, which were to mark the best epoch of Louis XIV. With her ten years more than the king, Mademoiselle was always a little behind the age and an echo of the old Court. She belonged, by her turn of imagination, to the literature of the last years of Louis XllI and the Regency, to the literature of the hdtel Rambouillet, a literature that did not come under the reform of Boileau nor that of Mme. de La Fayette. There was always a sort of pell-mell in her admirations; she valued CorneiUe highly; she had Tartuffe played before her, but she received the Abb6 Cotin: "I like verses, no matter what kind they are," she said. But, above all, she loved grandeur, she loved glory; she often mistook it, but at all times she had emotions of pride, honour, and goodness that were worthy of her race. The days on which she is at her best she is conscious of the neighbourhood of Comeille. Her conduct on the day of Saint-Antoine ought to be reckoned in her favour. Her Memoirs, also, have most durable claims; they are truthful and faithful Memoirs, in which she tells everything about herself and about others, naively, and openly, and according to what comes into her mind. Persons of good sense who read them and who enjoy, as a lost


Xa Grai^ Aa{)eiiiof0eUe. 347

singularity, such amazing confessions and her princely fashion of seeing things, can supply without effort the reflections and the morality that she herself does not put into them.


XI.


349


im


XL

Cbe Comtesse bela


949


352 Ube ComtcBse &e Xa J'afiette.

century, where they present, one with another, so balanced a mixture.

A recent attempt has been made, in rehabilitating the hdtel Rambouillet, to show its perfected and tri- umphant heiress in the person of Mme. de Maintenon; a saying of S6grais decides the matter far more in favour of Mme. de La Fayette; showing the direct af- filiation, from which all the pricieux has disappeared. After a rather prolonged portrait of Mme. de Ram- bouillet, he adds incontinently: Mme. de La Payette had learned a good deal from her, but Mme. de La Fayette's mind was more solid.'* This perfected heiress of Mme. de Rambouillet, this friend for ever of Mme. de Sdvignd, and of Mme. de Maintenon for many years, has her rank and her assured date in our literature, inasmuch as it was she who reformed the novel, and applied a part of the "divine reason" that was in her to treating gently and fixing within its due limits a school of tenderness, the excesses of which had been great, but which she had only to touch to make it find grace once more in minds of serious mould who seemed disposed to abolish it.

For, this secondary class of literature where ele- gance and a certain interest sufficed, but where no genius (if any there be) is out of place; a class that the Aft PUHqiu does not mention, which Prevqst, Le Sage, and Jean-Jacques have consecrated, and which, in the days of Mme. de La Fayette, was con- fined, at least in its higher reaches, to the affecting



MARIE MADELEINE DE LA VERQNE, COMTE88E DE LA FAYETTE.


TEbc Oomtesee &e Xa J'asette. 355

gave to it the particular tone that conciliates to a certain point the ideal with the actual and the ob- served, it may also be said that she was the first to give an example altogether illustrious of those attach- ments, lasting, decent, legitimate, and sacred in their constancy of every day, every minute, through years till death, that came of the manners and morals of the old society and were well-nigh extinguished with it. The Princesse de CUves and her attachment to M. de La Rochefoucauld are the two almost equal titles of Mme. de La Fayette to serious and touching fame; they are two points that mark the literature and the society of Louis XIV.

I should have left the pleasure of recomposing this existence, so simple in events, to the imagination of the readers of Mme. de S6vign6 if a little unpublished document, but a very private one, had not invited me to make a frame in which to set it.

The father of Mme. de La Fayette, a general and the governor of Havre, had, it is said, some merit, and he took great pains with the education of his daughter. Her mother {n^e de P6na) came from Provence, and counted a certain troubadour-laureate among her ancestors. Mile. Marie-Madeleine Pioche de La Vergne had, at an early age, more reading and study than many persons of the preceding generation, even intellectual ones, ever had in their youth. Mme. de Choisy, for example, had amazing natural wit in con- versation or in letters, but she could not spell correctly.


356 Ubc Comtesse be %a faiscttc.

Mme, de S6vign6 and Mme. de La Fayette, the latter younger by six or seven years than her friend, added to an excellent foundation a perfect culture. We have for direct testimony as to their education the raptures of Manage, who ordinarily, as we know, fell in love with his beautiful pupils. He celebrated, under every form of Latin verse, the beauty, the grace, the elegance in speaking well and writing well of Mme. de La Fayette or rather Mile, de La Vergne, Laverna, as he called her. Later, he presented to her his friend, the learned Huet, who became to her a literary counsellor. S6grais, who, with Mme. de S6vign6, suffices to make Mme. de La Fayette known to us, says :

" Three months after Mme. de La Fayette began to learn Latin she knew more of it than M. Menage and Pere Rapin, her masters. One day, in making her translate, they had a dispute themselves about the meaning of a passage, and neither would give way to the sentiment of the other. Mme. de La Fayette said to them: 'Neither of you understands it/ and she gave them the right explanation of the pas- sage; they agreed then that she was right. It was a poet she ex- plained, for she did not like prose, and had never read Cheron; but she took great pleasure in poesy, reading Virgil and Horace specially; and as she had a poetic mind and knew all that belonged to that art, she entered without difficulty into the meaning of those authors."

A little &rther on he refers again to the merits of M. Mdnage: "Where shall we find such poets as M. Manage, who can make good Latin verses, good Greek verses, and good Italian verses? He was a great personage, whatever jealous people chose to


iCbe (Eomtesse &e Xa jTasette* 357

say. Yet he did not know all the delicacies of poesy; but Mme. de La Fayette knew them well" The woman who preferred poets to all other writers and felt their truth* was she who proved herself true " par excel- lence as M. de La Rochefoucauld tokl her, using that expression, which has lasted until now, for the first time: "Poetic spirit, true spirit! — her merit, like her charm, is in that alliance."

She lost her father when fifteen years of age. Her mother, a good woman, Retz tells us, but rather foolish and very bustling, remarried, soon after, with the Chevalier Renaud de S6vign6, much mixed up in the intrigues of the Fronde, and who was one of the most active in rescuing the cardinal from the castle of Nantes. We read in the cardinal's Memoirs, ikpropos of that imprisonment at Nantes (1633), and the amusing visits he received there:


" Mme. de La Veigne, who had married for her second husband M. le Chevalier de S6vign6, and who lived in Anjou with her hus- band, came to see me and brought her daughter, Mile, de La Vergne, now Mme. de La Fayette. She was very pretty and very amiable, and had much the air of Mme. de Lesdiguieres. She pleased me much, and the truth is, I did not please her at all, either because she had no indination for me, or because the distrust that her mother and step-father had sedulously put into her, even in Paris, on account of my various amours and inconstancies, had put her on her guard against me. I consoled myself for her cruelty with tiie ease that was natural to me. . . ."


Mile, de La Vergne, then twenty years old, needed nothing more than her own good sense to take small


35^ XCbe Comtesee be %a J'avette.

account of this idle and trivial caprice of the daring prisoner, so quickly consoled.

Married in 1655 to the Comte de La Fayette, what was probably the most interesting fact about the marriage and the most in accordance with imagina- tion, was that she thus became the sister-in-law of M£re Ang^lique de La Fayette, superior of the con- vent of Chaillot, formerly maid of honour to Anne of Austria, whose perfect love with Louis XIII made so chaste and simple a romance, resembling those described in the Prtncesse de CUves. Her husband, after giving her the name that she was to make il- lustrious, effaces himself and disappears, so to speak, from her life; we hear nothing more by which to distinguish him. She had two sons by him, whom she deeply loved; one, a soldier, whose advance- ment in life occupied her greatly, and who died shortly after her, and another, the Abb6 de La Fayette, pro- vided with good abbeys, of whom we chiefly know that he carelessly lent his mother's manuscripts and lost them.

Mme. de La Fayette was introduced while young to the hdtel Rambouillet and learned a great deal from the marquise. M. Roederer, who is anxious that none of Moliire's mockery shall touch the hdtel Ram- bouillet, depopulates it and brings it to a close much sooner than is accurate. Mme. de La Fayette went there before her marriage and profited by its intercourse, as did Mme. de S6vign& M. Auger, in the notice, correct


Ube Comtesse Oe Xa J'asette. 359

and interesting but dry in tone, that he gives to Mme. de La Fayette, says: "Introduced early to the society of the hdtel Rambouillet the natural correctness and solidity of her mind might not, perhaps, have re- sisted the contagion of bad taste of which that house was the centre, if her reading of the Latin poets had not given her a preservative."

The preservative ought to have acted on Mdnage first of all. The above is most unjust to the hdtel Rambouillet, and M. Roederer is completely right in protesting against that manner of speaking ; but he, himself, is assuredly misled when he makes that hotel the cradle of good taste and shows us MUe. de Scu- d^ry as being more tolerated there than extolled and admired. He forgets that Voiture, as long as he lived, ruled the roast in that company, and we know very well, in the matter of taste, as well as of in- tellect, what Voiture was. As for MUe. de Scuddry, it is enough to read Sdgrais, Huet, and others to see what was thought at the hdtel Rambouillet of that incomparable spinster, of her lllustre Bassa and Grand Cyrus, and of her verses "so natural, so tender," disparaged by Boileau but to which, never- theless, " he could never attain himself." What S6- grais and Huet admired in such terms as these was not likely to be judged more severely in a company of which they were the final oracles.

Mme.de La Fayette, whose mind was solid and acute, came out of that intercourse, as did Mme. de Sdvignd, by


36o XLbc ComteBse de Xa jf avette^

simply taking its best In age she belonged whoUy to the young Court; even with less solidity of mind she would not have failed to possess its appropriate elegancies. From the first days of her marriage she had occasion to see frequently at the Carmelite con- vent of Chaillot the young Princess of England with her mother. Queen Henrietta, who, being in exile, had retired there. When the young princess be- came Madame [Henrietta Anne, Duchesse d'Orldans] and the most lively ornament of the Court, Mme. de La Fayette, though ten years her elder, was still admitted totheirold familiarity, hadher private ^ff /r^5^ and might have passed for Madame's favourite. In the charm- ing sketch she has drawn of the brilliant years of the princess, speaking of herself in the third person, she judges herself thus:

" Mile, de La Tremouflle and Mme. de La Fayette were of this number " (the number of those who frequently saw Madame). " The first pleased her by her goodness and by a certain ingenuousness in telling all that was in her heart, which had something of the simpli- city of early youth ; the other was agreeable to her by her happi- ness, for, although she thought she had merit, it was a sort of merit so serious in appearance that it seemed hardly likely to please a princess as young as Madame. "

So, at thirty years of age, Mme. de La Fayette was at the centre oi the politeness, good-breeding, and gallantry of the flourishing years of Louis XIV; she was present at all Madame's parties at Fontainebleau; a spectator rather than an actor; having no share, she tells us, in Madame's confidence on certain affairs;


XCbe Comtedse &e Xa jfavette. 3^1

but after those affairs had taken place and were a

little noised abroad she heard them from her lips and

wrote them down to please her. "You write so

well," Madame said to her: " write, and I will supply )

you with good memoirs." — **It was rather difficult

work," says Mme. de La Fayette, "to turn the truth

of certain matters in a way to make it known and

yet not let it be offensive or disagreeable to the

princess."

One of these "certain matters," among others, which set Mme. de La Fayette's delicacy on edge and excited Madame's laughter at the pains the amia- ble writer was giving herself, must have been, I fancy, the following:

" She [Madame] became intimate with the G)mtesse de Soissons . . . and thought only of pleasing the king as a sister-in-law. I think that she pleased him in another way; I think also that she thought he pleased her as a brother-in-law, though, perhaps, he pleased her much more; in short, as they were both infinitely charm- ing and both were bom with dispositions to gallantry, and as they saw each other daily in the midst of pleasures and diversions, it appeared to the eyes of every one that they felt for each other that attraction that usually precedes great passions."

Madame died in the arms of Mme. de La Fayette,

who did not leave her in her last moments. The

narrative she has left of this death equals the finest

that we have of the most affecting deaths; it has

expressions, as it were by the way, that light up the

whole scene:

  • ' I went up to her. She told me she was vexed; but the ill-

humour of which she spoke would have made the good-humour of


362 XLbc Comtesae be Xa jf asette^

other women, so much natural sweetness had she, and so little was she capable of bitterness or anger. . . . After dinner she lay down upon the floor ... she made me sit beside her, so that her head was partly on me. . . . During her sleep she changed so considerably that 1 felt much surprised, and I thought it must be that her mind contributed greatly to embellish her &ce. . . . I was wrong, however, in making that reflection, for 1 had seen her asleep many times, and never did I see her less lovdy.'*

And, farther on:

" Monsieur was beside her bed; she kissed him, and said gently, with an air capable of wooing the most barbarous heart: 'Alas! Monsieur, you ceased to love me long ago; but that b unjust; I have never wronged you.' Monsieur seemed much touched, and all who were in the room were so aflected that no- thing was heard but the noise of persons weeping. . . . When the king had left the room, 1 was beside her bed and she said to me: 'Madame de La Fayette, my nose is already sunken,' I an- swered her only by tears. . . . She tailed steadily."

On the 30th of June, 1673, Mme. de Lafayette wrote to Mme. de S6vign6: "It is three years to-day since I saw Madame die; I received yesterday many of her letters; I am all full of her."

For the space of ten years in the midst of that brilliant and gallant society, was Mme. de La Fayette, still young, with nobility and charm of face, if not beauty, — ^was she only an attentive observer, without active interest of heart other than her attachment to Madame? was she without any single and secret choice of her own? Towards the year 1665, as I conjecture and will explain £irther on, she had chosen out of the vortex M. de La Rochefoucauld, then about fifty-two years of age, to be her friend for life.


XCbe ComteBae &e Xa jTasette. 363

Mme. de La Fayette wrote while still young from taste, but always with sobriety. It was the day of "Portraits." She wrote one of Mme. de S6vign6, (1659), supposed to be written by a stranger: ** It is better than myself," said the latter, finding the Portrait, in 1675, among the old papers of Mme. de La Tr6mouille: "but those who loved me sixteen years ago might find some resemblance." It is under these youthful features, for ever fixed by her friend, that Mme. de S6vign6 still appears to us immortal When Madame, inviting Mme. de La Fayette to set to work, said to her: "You write well," she had doubtless read the Princesse de Montpensier, the first short novel of our author, printed in 1662. For ele- gance, and vivacity of narration, it detaches itself from all the other novels and historiettes of its day, and shows a spirit of correctness, accuracy, and reform. Mme. de La Fayette's imagination in com- posing turned willingly back to the polished and brilliant epoch of the Valois, to the reigns of Charles IX or Henri II, which she idealised a little, and em- bellished in the same direction as that in which the graceful and discreet tales of Qyeen Marguerite shows them to us. The Princesse de Montpensier, The Princesse de Clives, and Lui Comtesse de Tende do not belong to those reigns, whose vices and crimes have, perhaps, too much eclipsed to our eyes their intellectual culture. Madame's Court, for wit, for intrigues, for vices also, was not without affinity to


364 XLbc Comtcsec be Xa jfasette*

that of the Valois; and the history Mme. de La Fayette has made of it recalls more than once the Memoirs of Qyeen Marguerite, so charming in her day, but who is not to be believed at all times. The perfidious Vardes and the haughty de Guiche are figures that have their counterparts at the Court of Henri II; and at Madame's Court the Chevalier de Lorraine was not wanting. Mme. de La Fayette held in that society a rdle of authority, as it were exercising on its tone a sort of wise criticism. Two months before the unhappy death of Madame, Mme. de Montmorency wrote to M. de Bussy, by way of a joke (May i, 1670):

" Mme. de La Fayette, Madame's fiivourite, has had her skull broken by a chimney cornice that did not respect a head so bril- liant with the glory given by the favours of a great princess. Be- fore this mishap I read a letter from her, which has been given to the public, in ridicule of what are called words a la modi, the use of which is worthless. I send it to you."

Here follows the letter, which is composed in a bur- lesque jargon by which she meant to correct the absurdities of the great worid; it purports to be from a jealous lover to his mistress. Boileau, in his line, could not have done better. In ikct she is, by one degree softened, a species of Boileau to the manners of the Court

Mme. de La Fayette never knew, I think, those passions that rend the soul with violence; she gave her heart voluntarily. When she made choice of M. de La Rochefoucauld and allied herself with


XTbe Comtesde be Xa jTasette. 365

him she was, as I have said, thirty-two or thirty- three years old; he was fifty-two. She had seen him and known him no doubt for a long time, but it is of their particular intimacy that I now speak. We shall see by the following letter, hitherto un- published, which is one of the most confidential ever written, that about the time of the publication of the Maxims and of the Comte de Saint-Paul's first entrance into society, there was talk of the liaison of Mme. de La Fayette and M. de La Roche- foucauld as of something quite recently established. Mme. de La Fayette writes the letter to Mme. de Sable, an old friend of M. de La Rochefoucauld, the same who had so much share in the making of the Maxims, and who, for some time past, was wholly given up to Port-Royal, more, it would seem, from intention to reform and in fear of death than from any complete conversion. Here is the letter:

" Monday evening; I could not reply to your note yesterday, because I had company; and 1 think I may not ref^y to it to-day, because it b too kind. I am ashamed of the praises you give me; on the other hand, I like you to have a good opinion of me, and 1 wish not to say anything to contradict what you think. There- lore, I will only answer by telling you that M. le Comte de Saint- Paul has just left me, that we talked of you for one hour, as you know well 1 should talk.

" We also talked of a man that 1 always take the liberty of putting on a par with you for charm of mind. 1 do not know whether that comparison will offend you; but if it would offend you on the lips of others, on mine it is great praise, if all tki^ say is true. 1 saw plainly that the Comte de Saint-Paul had heard talk of those sayings, and I entered slightly into the matter with him. But I fear he may take too seriously what I said to him. 1 conjure you, the first time you see


366 xcbe Comtesse be la jf asette^

hiin, speak to him yourself about those rumours. It can come about easfly, for I gave him the JMaxims, of which he will speak to you no doubt. But 1 beg you to speak to him in the right way to put into hfe head that the whole thing is merdy a jest. 1 am not certain enough of what you think yoursdf to be sure that you will say the right thing; and i believe I must begin by convincing my ambassadress. Never- theless, i must rely on your skill; it is above all ordinary maxims. But do convince him. I do hate like death that young men of his age should think I have gallantries. They think those who are older than themselves a hundred years old, and they are quite astonished that there should still be any question of them; besides which, he will be- lieve more readfly what is told him about M. de La Rochefoucauld than about others. In short, I do not want him to think anything, unless it is that he is one of my friends; and I beg you also not to forget to get it out of his head, if it is in it, that I forgot your message. It is not generous to remind you of one service by asking another.

(On tk4 margin,) '* I must not forget to tell you that I found a terribly clever mind in the Comte de Saint-PauL"

To add to the interest of this letter, the reader must kindly remember the exact situation: M. de Saint- Paul, son of Mme. de Longueville and, probably, of M. de La Rochefoucauld, coming to see Mme. de La Lafayette, who is thought to be the object of a last tender passion, and who wants to have him undeceived — or deceived — on that score. The "terribly clever mind " of the young prince went straight, I imagine, to the heart of Mme. de Longueville, to whom the postscript at least, and the rest of the letter probably, was certain to be quickly shown. There is a charm- ing sentence in the letter that all belated lovers should meditate upon: "I do hate like death that young men of his age should think 1 have gallantries." It is the counterpart of the following thought in the Princesse de O&oes:


XTbe Comtesee de Xa jTasette* 367

    • Mme. de Cl&ves, who was at that age when it is

not believable that a woman can be loved if she is more than twenty-five years of age, regarded with extreme astonishment the king's attachment to the Duchesse de Valentinois/' That idea, as we see, was £imiliar to Mme. de La Fayette. She feared above all to seem to inspire, or feel, the passion that at that age others affect Her delicate reasonableness became a chastity.

1 hold the more to the conclusion that the intimate and declared relations between M. de La Rochefou- cauld and herself did not begin until this period, because it seems to me that the influence of this af- fectionate friend upon him was directly contrary to the Maxims; that she would have made him correct and cut out some of them if she had influenced him before as she did after their publication; and that La Rochefoucauld, the misanthrope, who said he had never found love except in novels and that as for himself he had never felt it, is not the man of whom she said later: "M. de La Rochefoucauld gave me a mind, but 1 have reformed his heart"

In a little note written by her to Mme. de Sabl6, (unpublished), who had herself already composed Maxims, she says:

'* You win cause me the greatest vexation in the world if you do not show me your Maxims. Mme. Du Plessis has given me an extreme desire to see them; and it is just because they are virtuous and rea* sonable that I have that desire; they will convince me that all persons of good sense are not so sure of the general oomiption as M. de La Rochefoucauld is.**


368 Ubc Comtesse be Xa jTasette^

It is this idea of general corruption that she set her- self to combat in La Rochefoucauld, and which she rectified. The desire to enlighten and soften that noble spirit was, no doubt, an allurement of reason and beneficence leading her to the borders of the closer relation.

The former Knight of the Fronde, now become bitter and gouty, was not in other respects what might have been expected from his book. He had studied little, Segrais tells us, but his marvellous per- ception and his knowledge of the world stood him in place of study. Young, he had plunged into all the vices of his time, and had come out of them with more health of mind than of body, if one can call any- thing healthy that was so soured. This did not interfere in any way with the sweetness of his inter- course and his infinite charm. He was good-breed- ing itself, perfect, unfailing; he gained more and more each day by being better known; but he was a man for private intercourse and conversation; a wider au- dience did not suit him; if he had been obliged to speak before five or six persons rather solemnly strength would have failed him; the harangue that must be made before the French Academy deterred him from seeking to enter it. One evening in June, 1672, when word was brought to him of the death of the young Due de Longueville (Comte de Saint-Paul) that of the Chevalier de Marsillac, his grandson, and of the wound of the Prince de Marsillac, his son.


XTbe Comtesse be la ^asette* 3^9

when all this hailstorm fell upon him, he was won- derful, says Mme. de S6vign6 "in his sorrow and his firmness. ... 1 saw his heart uncovered," she adds, "at that cruel moment; he is in the front rank of all that I have ever seen of courage, merit, tender- ness, and reason." Not long after this she said of him that he was patriarchal, and felt almost as strongly as she did the parental feeling. There is the real La Rochefoucauld as Mme. de La Fayette reformed him.

It was not until after the death of Madame, and after Madame de La Fayette's health had begun to fail, that the liaison, such as Mme. de S6vign6 shows it to us, was completely established. The letters of that incomparable friend, which continue uninterrupt- edly precisely from that period, permit us to follow all its circumstances, even to the happy monotony of its tender and rooted habit:

"Their 91 health," she writes, "made them necessary to each other, and . . . and gave them lebure to taste their good qualities, which is not the case in other liaisons, ... At Court, people have no leisure to love; that vortex, so violent for others, was peace- ftd for them, and gave great space to the pleasure of an intercourse so delightful. I believe that no passion can exceed in strength such an intimacy. . . ."

I shall not quote all that could be extracted from, I might say, every letter of Mme. de S6vign6, for there are few in which Mme. de La Fayette is not men- tioned, and many were written or closed in her house, with the compliments of M. de La Rochefoucauld

X5


370 tCbe Comtesse d$ la jfa^ette.

" now present." On the good days, the days of toler- able health and of dinners en lavardinage au bavardi- nage, all is graceful enjoyment, roulades of mischievous gaiety on that goose of a Mme. de Marans, on the manoeuvring of Mme. de Brissac and M. le Due. Some days are more serious but not less delightful, when, at Saint-Maur for instance, in the house that the Prince de Condd had lent to Gourville, and which Mme. de La Fayette willingly enjoyed, the Po6tique of Boileau was read to a choice company who de- clared it a masterpiece. Another time, in default of Boileau and his Po^Hque they took to LuUi, and at certain parts of the opera of "Cadmus" they wept: " I am not alone in being unable to bear them," writes Mme. de S6vign6, "Mme. de La Fayette is much agi- tated." That agitated soul was sensitiveness itself.

There were also days when Mme. de La Fayette went to pay little visits at Court; and the king took her in his caldche with other ladies to show her the beauties of Versailles, as any private individual might have done; and such a trip, such success furnished Mme. de La Fayette on her return, wise as she was, with a topic for very long conversations and even, though she did not like to write them, for letters less short than usual; Mme. de Grignan at a distance is a little jealous; so she is again, ilpropos of an inkstand in mahogany that Mme. de Montespan presents to Mme. de La Fayette. But Mme« de Sdvign^ smooths such nutters over by compliments and sweet mes-


XCbe domtesse be Xa ^asette* 371

sages, which she arranges and exchanges constantly between her daughter and her best friend. Even when Mme. de La Fayette no longer went to Ver- sailles and no longer embraced the king's knees, weeping with gratitude, even when M. de La Roche- foucauld was dead, she maintained her influence and the consideration shown to her. "Never did a wo- man without leaving her own place, says Mme. de S6vign6, manage so many good af&irs." Louis XIV liked her always as the favourite of Madame, a witness of her touching death, and of the beautiful years with which she was associated in his memory. But Versailles, and Boileau's Poitique, the operas of Lulli, and the gaieties on Mme. de Marans are often interrupted by the wretched health which with its tertian fever never allowed itself to be forgotten and became, little by little, their principal occupation. In her flne and vast garden of the rue de Vaugirard, so verdant, so balmy ; in Gourville's house at Saint-Maur, where she made herself frankly at home as a friend; at Fleury-sous-Mendon, where she went to breathe the air of the woods, we can follow her, ill and melancholy; we see that long and serious face grow thinner, consuming its own vitality. Her life, for twenty years, was converted into a little fever, more or less slow; and the bulletins read thus:

Mme. de La Fayette goes tomorrow to the small house at Mendon where she has been already. She will spend a fortnight there, to be, as it were, suspended betwixt earth and heaven; she will not think,


Z12 Ube Comtesdc de Xa jfasettc

speak, answer, or listen; she b weary of saying good evening and good morning; she has fever every day and repose would cure her; repose therefore she must have. 1 shall go and see her sometimes. M. de La Rochefoucauld is in that chair that you know. He is un* utterably sad; one understands very well what is the matter with him."

What was, no doubt, the matter with M. de La Rochefoucauld, besides the gout and his ordinary ailments, was missing Mme. de La Fayette.

The sadness that such a state naturally nurtured did not prevent the return of smiles and pleasures at slight intervals. Among the various nicknames that society bestowed, — Mme. Scarron being *' Thaw " Colbert "North," M. de Pomponne, "Rain,"— Mme. de La Fayette was called "Mist"; the mist rose sometimes and then there were charming horizons. A gentle, resigned, melancholy reason, attracting yet detached, reposeful in tone, strewn with striking and true sajrings easily remembered, such was the habitual course of her conversation and of her thought. " It is enough to be," she said of herself, accepting her inactive existence. That saying, which describes her fully, is from the woman who said also, ikpropos of Montaigne, that it would be a pleasure to have a neighbour like him.

An extreme sensitiveness, often full of tears, ap- peared at moments and suddenly athwart this steady reason, like a spring gushing from a tract of level land. We have seen her "agitated " by the emotion of music. When Mme. de Sdvign^ leaves Paris for


XCbe Comtedse be Xa jfa^ette* 373

Les Rochers or for Provence she must not bid her farewell or let the visit appear to be the last; Mme. de La Fayette's tenderness could not support the de- parture of such a friend. One day, when they were talking before her, M. le Due [de Bourbon] being pre- sent, of the campaign that was to open in another month, the sudden idea of the dangers M. le Due was about to run brought tears to her eyes. These ef- fusions of feeling had the greater charm and the more value as coming from so judicious a woman and so calm a mind.

Her attention, in the retirement of her feeble life, was none the less given to essential things; without stirring from her place she watched over all. If she reformed the heart of M. de La Rochefoucauld she also improved his business affairs. She was well informed as to lawsuits; she prevented him from losing the finest part of his property by supplying him with the means of proving that it was entailed. We can conceive from that why she wrote few letters and those only necessary ones. This was her one stormy point with Mme. de S6vign6. The few letters that she did write to her friend are nearly all to say that she can say only two words, and would say more only she has a headache. Even M. de La Fayette makes his appearance one day in person, arriving from I know not where, as an excuse for not writing. The pretty letter should be read: " There! there! my dearest, why are you screaming like an eagle ? " etc..


374 XIDe ComtesBC de Xa faiscttc

to understand fuUy Mme. de La Fayette's way of life, and to catch the difference in tone between her and Mme. de S6vign6. Here we find those words so often quoted: " You are in Provence, ma belle; your hours are free, your head still more so; the taste for writing to everybody still lasts with you; with me it has gone by; if 1 had a lover who wanted a letter from me every morning, 1 should break with him."

Mme. de La Fayette was very **true" and very frank; " her word was to be believed." " She would not have given the slightest freedom to any one if she had not been convinced that he deserved it ; and this made some persons say that she was stiff; she was only upright." Mme. de Maintenon, with whom Mme. de La Fayette had close relations, was also marvellously upright in mind, but her character was less frank; as judicious but less true; and this differ- ence must have contributed to the cooling of their friendship. In 1672, when Mme. Scarron was se- cretly bringing up Louis XlV's bastards in the Fau- bourg Saint-Germain near to Mme. de La Fayette's house, the latter was still intimate with her; she heard from her, as did Mme. de Coulanges, and she must have visited her. But Mme. Scarron's confidence be- ing withdrawn by degrees, there resulted the usual words reported and conjectures made that cause trouble between friends : ' ' The idea of entering a con- vent never came into my mind," writes Mme. de Maintenon to the Abb6 Testu; " pray reassure Mme.


XCbe Comtesae t>e Xa fasette. 375

de La Fayette." Giving her brother a lecture on econ- omy, she writes in 1678: If I had fifty thousand francs a year, I would not keep up the style of a great lady, nor have a bed trimmed with gold lace like Mme. de La Fayette, nor a valet-de-chambre like Mme. de Coulanges; is the pleasure they get out of it worth the ridicule they incur ? " I know not if Mme. de La Fayette's gold-lace bed did lend itself to ridicule, but lying in it, as too often happened, she was, by all odds, more simple than her friend in that

    • dead leaf" mantle she affected to wear to the very

end.

All friendship finally ceased between them, Mme. deMaintenon declares it: I am not able to preserve Mme. de La Fayette's friendship; she puts its contin- uation at too high a price. I have at least shown her that I am as sincere as herself. It is the Duke who brought about our quarrel We had others formerly about trifles." In Mme. de La Fayette's Memoirs, Apropos of the "Comedy of Esther," we find:

" She (Mme . de Maintenon) ordered the poet to make a comedy but to choose a pious subject: for, as things are now, outside of piety there is nosalvationatCourt, nor in the other world. . . . The comedy represents, in some sort, the fall of Mme. de Montespan, and the rise of Mme. deMaintenon; all the difference being that Esther is a little younger and less affected in the matter of piety."

In quoting these words of two illustrious women, I certainly take no pleasure in bringing out the bitterness that spoiled a long affection. In truth, Mme. de


376 XLbc Oomtesse &e Xa I'asette*

Maintenon and Mme. de La Fayette were powers too considerable, and the claims of each were too high, not to produce in the end a coolness between them. Mme. de Maintenon, coming last to grandeur, must have changed by degrees to Mme. de La Fayette, who remained what she ever was; it was, perhaps, this uniformity of conduct that Mme. de Maintenon would fain have changed a little when her own for- tunes changed.

In July, 1677, one year before the appearance of the Princesse de Clives, we see that Mme. de La Fay- ette's health was at its worst, although she was to live fifteen years longer, dying by degrees without a respite, being of those who drag their miserable ex- istence to the last drop of oil" Nevertheless, it was in the following winter that M. de La Rochefoucauld and she busied themselves finally with the charming novel which was published by Barbin, March 16, 1678. Segrais tells us, in one place, that he has not taken the trouble to reply to criticisms made on the book; and in another place he says that Mme. de La Fayette disdained to reply to them, so that a doubt might be raised, if we chose, about the degree of his co-operation. But, as to that, I shall not discuss it; the novel is too superior to all that he ever wrote to admit of hesitation. No one, moreover, mistook the author; confidential readings had spread the news and the book was received by society as the work of Mme. de La Fayette atone.


TCbe ComtesBC de Xa #aectte. 377

As soon as the Princesse thus heralded appeared, she became the subject of all conversations and cor- respondences. Bussy and Mme. de Sevigne wrote to each other; everywhere persons were on the qui-vive to discuss her; they met in the great alley of the Tuil- eries and questioned one another. Fontenelle read the novel iour times over. Boursault turned it into a tragedy, as nowadays we should make it into vaudevilles. Valincourt wrote, quite incognito, a little volume of criticism which was attributed to Pere Bonhours, and an Abbe de Charnes replied by another little volume that was attributed to Barbier d' Ancourt, a noted critic and adversary of the witty Jesuit. The Princesse de Cleves has survived the vogue she well deserved and still remains among us as the first in date of interesting novels.

It is touching to think of the peculiar situation in which were born these beings so charming, so pure, these noble, spotless personages, their sentiments so fresh, so perfected, so tender; to think, too, how Mme. de La Fayette put into them all that her loving and poetic soul held in reserve of early dreams long cherished; how M. de La Rochefoucauld took pleas- ure, doubtless, in finding in M. de Nemours that flower of chivalry that he himself had misused, an embellished reflection, as it were of his own romantic youth. Thus the two friends, grown aged, went back in imagination to the flrst beauty of their youth when they did not know, but might have loved each


378 Ube ComtcBsc t>e Xa I'asette.

other. The ready blush of Mme. de Cldves, which at first is almost her only language, marks well the thought of the writer, which is to paint love in all it has of freshest, purest, most adorable, most troub- lous, most undecided, most irresistible, — most itself, in short At every moment we are made to see "that joy which first youth joined to beauty gives, that sort of trouble and embarrassment in every action that love produces in the innocence of early youth," in short, all the emotions that are farthest from her and from her friend in their tardy union.

In the tenor of her life, she was, above all, sensible; she had a judgment greater even than her wit, so they told her, and that praise flattered her more than all the rest. But here, in her novel, poesy, inward sen- sibility, recovered their rights, though reason was not wanting either. Nowhere have the contradictions and the delicate duplicities of love been so naturally expressed as in the Princesse de CUves. We love even its colour, a little faded; the moderation of its paintings that touch so lightly; the manner, every- where restrained, that gives so much to dream of; a few willows beside a brook where the lover passes; and all description of the beauty of the princess: '* her hair loosely knotted " ; *' eyes enlarged by tears a little"; and, at the last, "a life that was short enough," a final impression, itself moderated. The language is equally delightful, exquisitely choice, with negligences and irregularities that have their grace.


JSbc (Comtease be %sl favcixc. 379

and which Valincourt notes in detail as being de- nounced by a grammarian, though with some shame at putting too direct a blame on the author.

As she advanced in the composition of the Prin- cesse de Oives the thoughts of Mme. de La Fayette, after this first flight backward toward youth and its joys, return to gravity. The idea of duty increases and bears her along. The austerity of the end shows us that sight so far and yet so near of death which makes the things of this world and of these present eyes seem so different from those we see in health." She herself had felt this from the summer of 1677, when, as Mme. de Sevigne indicates, she turned her soul toward the end. Her disillusion as to all things is shown in the fear she gives to Mme. de Cleves that marriage will be the grave of the prince's love, and open the door to jealousies ; these fears turn the princess's mind against a marriage with her lover as much as the scruple of duty. In completing their ideal romance, it is dear that the two friends, M. de La Rochefoucauld and she, came to doubt what there would have been of imaginary bliss for their dear personages, and so turned to their own gentle and real relation as the most consoling and the safest.

They did not enjoy it long. On the night of March 16, 1680, two years to a day after the publication of the Princesse de Clives M. de La Rochefoucauld died:

" I have had my head so fiill of this misfoftune, and of the atBidion of our poor friend," writes Mme. de Sevigne, *' that I must tell you


38o xcbe Oomtesse De Xa fvscttc.

of It all. . . . M. de MaisiUac b in a state of affliction that cannot be described; and yet, my daughter, he will return to the king and Court; all the family will return to their place in the world, but where will Mme. de La Fayette find another such friend, such society, such gentleness, pleasantness, confidence, and consideration for her and for her son ? She is infirm, she is always in her chamber, she never goes into the streets. M. de La Rochefoucauld was sedentary also; this made them necessary to each other, and nothing could be com- pared to the confidence and charm of their friendship. Think of it, my daughter, and you will see it was impossible to have met with a greater loss and one that time can less console. I have not quitted my poor friend through all these days; she did not go into tiie crowd around that ^mily, so that she needed some one to have pity on her. Mme. de G>ulanges has done well also; and together we shall continue it for some time longer. . . ."

And in all her following letters she says again: " Poor Mme. de La Fayette does not know what to do with herself. . . . Every one will be consoled* except her. . . . That poor woman cannot draw the threads together so as to fill the place." Mme. de La Fayette did not seek to fill it; she knew that nothing could repair such ruins. Even the tender friendship of Mme. de S6vign6 did not suffice, — she felt this but too well; too many shared it If we need to be con- vinced of the insufficency of such friendships, even the best and the dearest, we have only to read Mme. de La Fayette's letter to Mme. de S6vign6, dated Oc- tober 8, 1689, so perfect, so imperious, so, from its very tenderness, without ceremony, and then read Mme. de S6vign6'$ comments upon it in writing to her daughter, and we shall comprehend that too much must not be asked of friendships that are not single and unshared, inasmuch as the most delicate of


Ube Gomteeee De Xa fasette. sSi

women judged thus. After love, after absolute friend- ship without reservation, without change, a friend- ship entire, in which the other is the same as ourselves, there is nothing but death or God.

Mme. de La Fayette lived thirteen years longer; the slender details of her exterior life during those desert years will be found in Mme. de S6vign6's letters. A lively beginning of intimacy with young Mme. de Schomberg awakened some jealousy in other and older friends; but it does not appear that this effort of a soul to recover its hold on something lasted long. Perhaps it was from the same restless need that she built during the first months after her loss, an addition on the garden side to her house, already too vast, alas! in proportion to her diminish- ing existence. Also, to fill the hours, Mme. de La Fayette spent her time on various writings, some of which went astray and were lost The CamUsse de Tende dates from that period. The severest criti- cisms of Bussy and society in general on the Princesse de CUves turned on the extraordinary confession that the heroine makes to her husband: Mme. de La Fayette, by inventing another analogous situation which led to a still more extraordinary confession, thought that she thereby justified the first. She suc- ceeded in the CamUsse de Tende, though with less development than was needed to give the Princesse de CUves a sister comparable to herself. We feel that the writer had her object and rushed upon it


382 Ube QomtcBsc De Xa fa^ctte.

Mme. de La Payette had, as I said, more than one affinity with Boileau in uprightness of mind and irre- futable criticism, and she was, in her way, an orade of good sense in her society. Her sayings d la Bai-- leau that have been preserved are numerous; I have quoted several, but others should be added, for instance: "Whoso puts himself above others, no matter what his mind may be, puts himself beneath himself." Boileau, conversing one day with d'Olivet said:

" Do you know why the classics have so few admirers ? It is because at least three fourths of those who have translated them are fools. Mme. de La Fayette, the woman who had the most mind m Fiance and wrote the best, compared a foolish translator to a footman whom his mistress sends to give her compliment to some one. What she gave him in terms polite, he offers in a vulgar way, he maims it; the mote delicacy there was in the compli- ment the less well the footman acquits himself. And there, in a word, is the most perfect tnuige of a bad translator."

Boileau seems, in this remark, to certify himself to the resemblance, the harmony between them that I have indicated. M. Roederer is a thousand times right when, speaking of the relations of Moliire to the social word of Mmes. de S6vign6 and de La Payette, he shows that Les Femmes SavanUs did not relate to them in any way. As for La Fontaine, it is certain that at one time he was on terms of much familiarity with Mme. de La Fayette; we have some very affectionate verses that he addressed to her on sending her a little billiard table. This must have


Wdc Comteeee tc Xa fa:settc. s^s

been about the time that he dedicated a fable to the author of the Maxims, and another to Mme. de S6vign6. After the death of M. de La Rochefoucauld Mme. de La Fayette's thoughts turned more and more to religion; we have a precious testimony to this in a long and beautiful letter to Du Guet, written by her. She had chosen him as her director. Without being actually connected with Port-Royal, she inclined that way, and the hyprocrisy of the Court drove her more and more into it. Her mother, as we have seen, gave her for step-father the Chevalier Renaud de Sevignd, uncle of Mme. de S6vign^, and one of the benefactors of Port-Royal-des-Champs, the cloisters of which he had rebuilt. He did not die till 1676. Mme. de La Fayette knew Du Guet, who was be- ginning to take a great spiritual part in the direction of consciences, and had, in connection with the de- cadence of Port-Royal, very just and well-informed views on that subject, in which there was nothing contentious or narrow. Here are a few of the stem words this priest of the mind addressed to the re- pentant woman who had asked for them :

" 1 have thought, madame, that you ought to employ useMly the early moments of the day when you cease to sleep, and begin to dream or muse. I know that such are not connected thoughts, and that often you have striven not to have them; but it is difficult to keep from yielding to our nature when we are willing it should be our master; and we return to it without difficulty, having had so much in quitting it. It is important, therefore, that you be fed on food more solid than thoughts that have no aim, the most innocent of which are useless; and 1 believe you cannot better employ such tranquil moments than


384 XCbe Oomtesse be Xa fvBcttc

in rendering account to yourself of a life already very long, of which nothing now remains to you but reputation, the vanity of which you know better than any one.

" Until now the douds with which you have tried to cover religion have hidden you from yourself. As it is in relation to rdigion that we ought to examine and know ourselves, by affecting to ignore it you have merely ignored yourself. It is time to leave everything in its place, and to put yourself in yours . Truth wiD judge you; you are in the world solely to follow it, not to judge of it In vain do we defend ourselves against it, in vain do we dissimulate; the veil b torn from our eyes as life and its cupidities vanish, and we become convinced that we must lead a new life just as we are not permitted to live longer. We must therefore begin by a sincere desire to see ourselves as we are seen by our judge. The sight is crushing, even to those persons who are the most outspoken against concealment. It takes all our virtues from us, and even all our good qualities and the self-esteem they had acquired for us. We feel that we have lived until then in illusions and falsehood; that we have nourished ourselves on painted flesh, have judged virtue by its garments and its jeweb, neglecting the foundation because that foundation b the ascription of all to God and to hb salvation; it b to despise self in all things, not from a wiser vanity, not from pride more enlightened and of better taste, but from a feeling of its wrongfulness and its misery."

The rest of the letter is equally admirable and in the same suitable and pressing tone: " Therefore, you who have dreamed, cease your dreams. You who esteem yourself true among others, and whom the world flatters that you are so, you are not so; you are only half so and falsely so; your virtue without God was only good taste." And &rther on I find a sen- tence on those years **for which you have not yet sincerely repented because you are still astray enough to excuse your weakness and to love that which caused it"

One year before her death, Mme. de La Fayette


wfole Mme. de SMg^ a HtUe no4e which describes her iBness without rqiose n^ht or day and her res^- nation to God, endiiig with these words: Believe, my very dear one, that you tit the person I have most truly loved.'* The ottier affection that she did not name and counted no kM^er, was it buried, con- sumed at last in sacrifice ?

Her life haraionises to the end and is then consum- mated. Mme. de Sevign6 writes to Mme. de Gui- tand, June 3, 1693, two or three days after the £tfal day, deploring the loss of a friend of forty years:


" Her iofinmties for Uie last two yews had beoone 4 teded her alwajrs, for people said she was caay in not beiiig wffliqg to go out. She was deathly sad. ' Another folly ! ' they said, for was she not the hidciest woman in the woild ? But I said to those people so hasty in their judgments: ' Madame de La Fayette b not aazy*; and I kept to that. Alas ! madame, the poor woman is more than justified now. . . . She had two poljrpuscs in her heart, and the point of her heart ¥fas writhered. Was not thb enough to cause the desol a tions of which she complained? She was reasonable in her life, she was reasonable in her d^th, never was she without that di- vine reason which was her principal quality. . . . Shewasuncon- scious during the four days of her last illness. . . . God did her, for our consolation, a special grace which shows a true predestination: it b that she conlbsedon the day at the little Fete-Dieu, with scru- pulous exactitude, and with a sentiment that could come only from him, and received our Lord in the same manner. Therefore, my dear madame, we regard this communion, which she was accustomed to make on Whit-Sunday as a mercy of God, who desired to console us for her not being in a state to receive the viaticum."

Thus lived and died, in a mingling of sad sweetness and sharp suffering, of wisdom according to the world and of repentance before God, the woman

as


386 xcbe Oomtease De Xa fssettc

whose ideal production stiD enchants us. What more can be added as matter for reflection and instruction ? The letter to Mme. de Sabl6» the Princesse de Clives, and the letter of Du Guet, are they not the whole record of aUfe?


xn. flDadame, "SnuSKeae VQtiitmB,


387


ZIL

Denrfetta Bnne of JEnoIanft^ AaDame, Ducbeeae b*9tUmB.

TWO volumes written by Daniel de Cosnac, a man of Louis XIV's century and of whom Mme. de S6vign6 said, "He has much in- telligence/' cannot be read with too much attention. At first, these Memoirs please but slightly, and seem to respond imperfectly to the reputation of the author: it is only little by little, as we advance, and after we have finished them, that we perceive how much they have increased our knowledge and enriched our judg- ment on many points. To-day, I take pleasure in detaching their most beautiful and most interesting figure, that of Madame, to whom Cosnac had the honour of devoting himself of his own free choice, and for whom he had the glory to suffer. The portrait he makes of her does not pale beside even the greatest and the most affecting that we possess; it can be read with pleasure after Bossuet's Funeral Oration, and it adds much to what Mme. de La Fayette, Choisy, and La Fare have said of her.

389


390 AadamCt TDvbcbcsec VOtlims.

Mme. de La Fayette has given a most charming history of Madame Henriette such as every woman of delicacy, a bom princess in heart, must desire. It is a narrative written down from a confidence, and intended for her who gave it, who smiled at seeing herself so justly, so airily painted, and took, at mo- ments, pen in hand to retouch the sketch. Madame, after her dinner, liked to lie upon the floor, near to Mme. de La Fayette, so that her head was almost upon the tatter's knees; and in that familiar and charming position, she related the details of her heart, or listened to those already written, looking at her- self in the mirror that her friend offered her. Read- ing to-day this history so delicate, so flowing, so lightly touched, so timely stopped, we have need of some gift of imagination to catch all its grace and recreate its enchantment. Something is there, like the Mght down on fruits in their first freshness, which melts if you touch it

The young Princess of England, daughter of Oiarles 1 and granddaughter of Henri IV, brought up in France during the troubles of her family, was des* tined to marry Monsieur, the king's brother, as soon as the young king, Louis XIV, had married the In- fanta of Spain, which took place about the time that Charles II was restored to the throne of his Others. Going whh her mother to London on a visit to her brother during the first days of his Restoration she inflamed all hearts and made essay of her charms.



HENRIETTA ANNE OF ENOLANa MADAME, DUCHE88E D»ORL^N& From a steel engraving.


being then, at most seventeen years okL She had," says Choisy, black eyes, Uvely and full of contagious fire, that men could not fixedly look at without feeling the effect; her eyes seemed them- selves affected with the desire of those who looked into them. Never was there so touching a princess." On her return to France, she became the object of all imaginable assiduities, including those of Mon- sieur, "who paid her, until their marriage, attentions in which only love was lacking; but the miracle of inflaming the heart of that prince was granted to no woman in the world."

Near to Monsieur, was a young seigneur who, in those days, was his fiivourite. This was the Comte de Guiche, the handsomest young man at Court, the best-made, bold, proud, with a certain air of assump- tion that is not displeasing to young women, and perfects to their eyes a hero of romance. The Comte de Guiche, in all respects, was perfect. Monsieur, without being in love, was jealous, which is not rare. But he was not so at first of the Comte de Guiche, whom he introduced into the privacy of the young princess, making him admire charms that of themselves were sufficiently felt and irresistible. Those years (i 661-1662) were unique seasons of freshness and youth which may properly be called the spring- tide of Louis XlV*s reign. All things opened them- selves to joy, to gallantry, to thoughts of glory and of love; and intellect also bore its part; for, no


392 Aadame» Stacbesse d'(Prieati9« 

sooner was Madame married and separated from the queen, her mother, who had kept her until then at her side, than a new discovery was made of her mind which was as lovable as all the rest"

Sometime after her marriage, Madame came to live with Monsieur in the Tuileries, which she did not quit until she went some years later to the Palais- Royal ; so that she became in reality a Parisian prin- cess. Monsieur himself, indolent as he was, piqued himself on being liked in Paris. When the G)urt was elsewhere, he was fond of making little trips and sojourns in the capital; he even put a sort of malice to the king, whom he thought these trips displeased, into making them :

" But the truth is," says Gisnac, " they gave him the joy of having a Court of hb own; he was enchanted when he saw a great influx of fine people at the Palais-Royal, coming there for love of him, he said, though it was wholly for Madame. He neglected nothing to cajole each one, and it was visibly remarked that he was more or less gay according as a small or a laige Court appeared at his house. Never- theless, as I could not see that these trips produced the effect he de- sired, on the contrary, I judged from what he himself told me, that though in the begitming they might have vexed the King, His Majesty ended by laughing at them. I did not have the compliance to applaud such conduct I told Monsieur I did not think it was prudent to give small displeasures to those who could so easily give him great ones. But Monsieur was so pleased at being able, every time he went to Paris, to ask ten or a dozen persons privately, ' Well, did you see what a large company I had to-day ? ' that it was only opposing one's Mtf to his pleasures to tell him these truths; and his pleasures always carried the day in his mind over the most important matters."

Thus Monsieur, that fiither of the Orleans branch, a father so feeble and so little worthy, had this in


$9$

xsanaaan wstb liis sucoessors, that he liked to hold his Court in the Palais-<Royal, to be well thought of in Pars, and to make a sort of rivalry to the kii\g; nullity Htstt he was, vanity in him forestalled and di- vined policy.

But I kave this forward glance and preside, which would be an anachronisni in all that concerns Madame and the wholly ideal charm of her b^innings (1661). She installed Imiself m the Tuileries and made choice of her ladfissand her friends, whom Mme. de La Fayette enumerates :

" All tiwse persons," siystite pleasvit bistorian, passed thdraf- tcTDoens with Madame. Tfaey had tlie booour to follow ber on ber difves; trtnrB i Bg , tbe party supped with Monsieur; jfter supper, 4II the men of tbe Court arrived, and the evening was passed in the pi easM Pc s of cards, comedies, violins ; in short, they amused them- siivcs with efveiy imaginahle dtveision, and without tbe rJightfit miatare of gnevances. "

Ona trip to Fontamehteau that was made soon after, Madame carried joy and pleasure with her. Tbe ktog who, previously, had not smiled upon tbe idea of marrying her, "found when be came to know ber better how unjust he had been in not thinking ber tbe most beautifial person in the worU." Here begins the romance, or rather many romances in one. Ma- dame becan^e the queen of tbe moment, and that mo- ment lasted till her death ; she gave the tone to the young Court, was the cause of all parties of pleasure,

    • which were made for her, and it seemed as if the King had no

pbasure in them except through that which they gave to her. It was


394 OMbamCf Shicbesse V^tUans.

then the middk d sumiMr. Madame went to bathe eveiy day; she started in a coach on account of the heat and returned on horseback, foflowed by all her hdies gracefully dressed, with many teatheis on their heads, and accompanied by the King and all the young noUes of the Court After supper, they entered caldches, and to the music of violins, drove, for a part of the night, around the canal."

Mme. de La Fayette, who gives us thus the frame- work of the novel, puts also into our hands some of the threads that entangled and agitated these young hearts: the king, more touched than a brother-in-law should be; Madame, more affected, perhaps, than a sister-in-law should be; La Valli^re dawning, and coming at the right instant to break the spell; the Compte de Guiche, at the same moment, making as much way with Madame as La Vallidre was making with the king. Jealousies, suspicions, rivalries, con- cealments, confidants thrusting themselves forward and playing the traitor — in short, the eternal his- tory of all groups young and amorous when left to themselves at leisure beneath the leafage* But here it was royal youth, glittering in the morning of a splen- did reign; history has crystallised them; literature, in default of poesy, has consecrated them; a woman's pen has told their tale in polished language full of per- missible negligences; posterity glances back upon them with envy.

To explain to ourselves how, in the midst of the pitfalls and perils among which she played, Madame did not succumb and could say sincerely to Monsieur on her death-bed: '^ Monsieur, je ne vaus at jamais


SncbeMC b*^htanB. 395

manqui " P have never wronged you], we must re- member her situation, always so watched, also her youth with the sort of innocence that accompanies tiie imprudence of early years. To me, all these great and these semi--passions, such as Mme. de La Fayette shows them to us in her History, and such as 1 believe them to have been, can be explained by first youth only. When the Comte de Guiche was ex- iled in 1664, Madame, just twenty, had become more prudent: "Madame," says Mme. de La Fayette, "did not choose that he should bid her iarewell, because she knew she should be observed, and she was no longer at the age when that which is dangerous seemed to her so agreeable." Therefore, all her amia- ble pledges, adventures, entanglements of fancy and intrigues of heart belong to those early years before she was twenty.

These amours and the exile of the Comte de Guiche gave rise to scandal, and the result was one of those libels printed in Holland to which Bussy-Rabutin has the sad honour of having set the example by his HisMres Amaureuses. Madame, informed in time, and dreading the effect on Monsieur, requested Cosnac to inform the prince and forestall his displeasure. What particularly distressed her was the printing of the libel; Cosnac undertook to stop it He sent an intelligent man to Holland, M. Patin, son of Gui Patin, with orders to go to all the publishers who might have the book in hand.


39^ Aadamet SHicbCMC Vf^tUms.

" So well did he accomplish his enand," says Cosnac, '* that he obtained from the State's government a prohibition to print it, and withdrew eighteen hundred copies already printed, which he brought to me in Paris, and I gave them, by Monsieur's order, to Merille, head valet-de-chambre. This af&dr cost me much trouble and money, but hr from regretting either I considered myself too well paid by the gratitude Madame showed to me."

This affair bound Cosnac more closely than before to Madame, and from that moment we see him on all occasions espousing her interests and serving them. This was the period when he acted zealously on the mind of Monsieur to induce him to become a prince worthy of esteem and of his lofty birth. He failed. The influence of the Chevalier de Lorraine at the close of the campaign of 1667 ruined all his efforts; and that unworthy favourite, who saw in Cosnac a natural enemy, neglected nothing to destroy and send him into exile.

1 shall say nothing of the miserable domestic In- trigues through which, at this epoch, the soul of Madame, so delicate^ so elevated, was forced to struggle. Cosnac fills up here a gap left unfilled in Mme. de La Fayette's History, and he takes us into all the wretchedness, while the latter gives us only the romance. This attachment to Madame is certainly the finest and most honourable part of Cosnac's life. When he was exiled to his diocese (he was Arch- bishop of Aix) Madame never ceased to write to him and wish for him; she asked for his recall, and her insistence even went contrary to the king's will:


iDadame, DucbesBC &*®rieanB. 397

" The king," says Cosnac, ** thought Madame could not pre- serve so violent and constant a desire for my return unless we had some great bond together which made me necessary to her; and thb bond, from ideas that were given to him, seemed to him some fixed cabal, which could not be too carefully de- stroyed."

There was no cabal, but Madame, had discovered among the persons attached to her husband one capable man, a generously ambitious man of merit, and she acquired him for herself; she wished to make him serve in the accomplishment of her own views, which were becoming more serious with age. In the wicked libel that Cosnac recovered in Holland, there was one phrase, among others, that was not ill-turned: "She has," it was said of Madame, "a certain languishing air, and when she speaks to any one, as she is very amiable, she seems to be asking for their heart no matter what indifferent thing she may be saying." This tenderness in Madame's look had operated on the rather insensible soul of Cosnac, and, without mingling therewith the slightest tinge of gallant sentiment, he had let his heart be captured by her who asked for it so sweetly and so sovereignly.

While Cosnac was in exile at Valence, Madame found herself chosen by Louis XIV, who appreciated her more and more, as mediatrix with her brother. King Charles II, whom it was desirable to detach from the alliance with Holland, and also to induce him to declare himself a Catholic. Louis XIV, however, held much less to the second point than to the first. The


S9» iMbmnc, snicbesse ^'•rl6m&

afEur was so advanced, and even on the most delicate point the declaration of catholicity, Madame supposed it so near conclusion, tiiat she thought she could in- fbnn Cosnac of a great present and surprise she was preparing for him. He received a letter from her dated at Saint Cloud, June lo, 1669, which said:

" In the sorrow you surdy fed Jt the iniiBtice dent you, there OMMt be some comfort in thinking that your fiicnds se devisii^ con- fofations whidi might aid you in bearing your misfortunes. Mme. de Saint-Ghaumont " (govemeas to the Orl6ms diildrcn), " and I have fcsohred, in order to do this, that you shall have a cafdinaTs haL That thoiq;ht, i am certain, wiD seem to you visionary at firrt, seeing that those on whom such £nrours depend are so fiv from giving them to you; but, to dear up the cnignia, you must know that, among the multipfidty of matters that are treated of t>et% i recn Fiance and England, thb last one win, in a short time, be made of such conse- quence in Rome, where they wili be so glad to oblige the khig my brother, that 1 am quite certain they win idiise him nothing; and I have made advances to him so that he would adc for a cardinal's hat without naming for whom; the which he has promised me; and it win be for you; therefore you can count upon if

This cardinal's hat, which she shows thus unexpect- edly as about to fall upon the head of a man in dis- grace, has an odd effect, and we remain convinced, even after reading her letter, that there was something a little visionary and £inctful about it, such as women of the best minds are apt to mingle with their politics. We must do G>snac the justice to say that he did not allow himself to be dazzled by it; and that he chiefly saw in the idea, what we see to-day, a noble testi- mony to Madame's esteem for him: However am- bitious the world may have thought me/' he says, I


AaOmne, RneiMMe vmyme. 399

can say with siacerity that what jBnU/ered me the most in tills i^ter, was to Bet the iacre^ise of Madame's friendship. This was, si>eaiung with truth, the one honour that 1 felt the most.' He was on these terms of friendship and close correspondence with the noble princess in the spring of f67o, and was receiving from her all sorts of new proofs of affection and of sym- pathy for his unfortunate misadventure in Paris. During a jetiroey to Uover^ whither she went to see the king, her brother, and brkig him to s^n the treaty with Louis XIV (June ist) she thought of that poor M. de Valence." On her return from that journey, four days before her death on the a6th of June, she wrote to him :

  • ' I am not «ur{msed at the joy you tell me you ieel at my journey

to En^nd; it hasbeea v«ry jigreeable; ^d however much 1 wa& con- vinced of the irieiuUhip of the king my brother, 1 louod it gf^aier ttwn I couki have hoped. Also, 1 Umnd in all the things that depended on him as much iviUiogness is 1 could wish. The king also, on my setuni, showed me agreat deal of kiodneiisi but as for Monsieur, no- thix^ can equal his implacable determination to complain of me. He did me the honour to tell me that 1 was all-powerlul and thai 1 could do what 1 choose; and, coose^uently, if 1 dkl not bring back the Chevalier" (ihe Chevalier de Loriaine, then ejuled by order of the king) 'M did not care to pleaae him, and to that he added threats for the time to come. 1 represented to him how little that return de* pended on nie; and how little 1 could do what 1 wished inasmuch as you were where you are. Instead of seeing the truth of what 1 said and being sofleoed by it, he took this occasion to do you harm v^th the King, and to do me an ill turn also/'

This letter aii^o gives expression to a sorrow that to a mother was very keen. G>snac had written a little letter to Madame's daughter, then about e^ht years


400 Aadaitie» IHicbesBe d'9rieati9»

old, for whom he had taken a fancy when seeing her with Mme. de Saint-Chaumont, her governess. This letter, which was delivered with a sort of mystery, had produced a bad effect, and Madame adds to the above letter :

" I have several times blamed the tenderness you have for my daughter; in God's name give it up. She is a child who b incapable of feeling about it as she ought; and she b being brought up to hate me. Content younelf with loving those who are as gratetiil as I am, and who feel as keenly as I do the grief of not being in a position to draw you from that in which you are."

Three days after the writing of this letter, on the 29th of June, about five in the afternoon, Madame, being at Saint-Cloud, asked for a glass of iced chicory water; she drank it, and nine or ten hours later, at half-past two in the morning of June 50th, she died in all the agony of a violent colic. We have the de- tails of her slightest actions and words during that interval. Throughout this sudden attack, when death took her, as it were, by the throat, she kept her presence of mind, thought of essential things, of God, of her soul, of Monsieur, of the king, her &mily, her fnends; addressing to all simple and true words, charming in restraint and, if 1 may say so, supreme in their decorum.

In the first moments they sent for the learned Peuillet, canon of Saint-Cloud, a stem rigorist; he did not spare the princess; he spoke to her harshly; let us listen to his own account of it :" At eleven o'clock


Aadamct Wncbcesc V^lims. 401

at night she sent to call me in a great hurry. Having arrived at her bedside, she made all present retire and said to me: 'You see, Monsieur Feuillet, the state in which I am.' ' In a very good state Madame/ 1 replied, 'for now you will confess that there is a God, whom you have known very little during your life.'" He goes on to tell her that all her past confessions counted for nothing, that her whole life had been nought but sin; he helped her, as much as time per- mitted, to make a general confession. She made it with reelings of great piety. A Capuchin, her usual confessor, being with M. Feuillet beside her bed, the good man wished to speak to her, and wandered into long discourse. She looked at Mme. de La Fayette, who stood by, with a mixture of pity and distress; then, turning to the Gipuchin: "Let M. Feuillet speak, my father," she said with wonderful gentle- ness (as if she feared to hurt him), " you shall speak in your turn." Nevertheless, M. Feuillet said to her, in a loud voice, the harshest words: "Humble yourself, Madame; behold all your deceitful grandeur annihil- ated beneath the heavy hand of God. You are nought but a miserable sinner, an earthen vessel, about to fall and be broken to pieces; of all this grandeur not a trace will remain." " It is true, O my God! " she ex- claimed, accepting all with submission from the lips of a deserving but rough priest, giving in exchange, what was unalterable in her, something kind and

gentle.

36


402 OMbamc, SHicbease &*9riean5« 

They had sent to Paris in all haste for M. de G>n- dom, Bossuet. The first messenger could not find him: they sent a second, then a third. She was dying, and had just taken a last potion when he ar- rived. Here the account of the stem Feuillet changes in tone and is sensibly affected: She was as glad to see him/' he says, as he was afflicted at finding her at the last gasp. He prostrated himself upon the ground and made a prayer which charmed me; he mingled in it acts of faith, of confidence, and of love."

Prayer of Bossuet prostrate by the death-bed of Ma- dame, natural and instant effusion of that great, tender heart ! you were the inward treasury whence he drew the touching grandeurs of his Funeral Oration; that which the world admires is but the echo of the accents that gushed forth then and were lost in the bosom of God with groans from the plenitude of the spirit

As Bossuet ceased speaking, the head waiting- woman came forward to give the princess something that she needed; taking advantage of the occasion, Madame said to her in English, so that Bossuet could not understand, keeping until death all the delicacy of her actions and the courtesy of her spirit: Give M. de G>ndom, when 1 am dead, the emerald I have had made for him." This was what Bossuet remembered in his Funeral Oration when he said: "That art of giving agreeably, which she had practised through- out her life, followed her» as I know, into the arms of death."


Was Madame pcMSoned? It is iigreed to-day to deny it; and it seems to be a settled thing to say tiiat slie died of choiera-morbus. The official autopsy, required* in part, by |xdicy, appears to declare it; much stress was also laid on constitutional lesions which were covered by that graceful exterior. The feeling, or rather the inward sensation of Madame, was that die had been poisoned. She said so before Monsieur, requesting that the water she had drunk should be examined. Mme. de La Fayette says:


'M WIS in the iloove, nev to aiooseur, ind, 1lioi«h 1 1 wrjr incapable of flich a crime, a bewidennent as to human i

uuKiVL uuii WW I anennon. ne was n e w mm mo¥Uiy by Madame's opinion; he saal the water murt be | to a dog; and he i^greed with Madame that oil and coimter-poinn should be leot far, to take from Madane's mmd so painfid a


h is in such temperate and circumspect words that Mme. de La Fayette justifies Monsieur. The letter written to Cosnac in June showed us Monsieur more

    • implacaUe " than ever against Madame, and " threat-

ening her in the future." In another letter, written on the eve of her journey to England, April 18, 167a, Madame expressed her fears and her sad forebodings in very energetic and very precise language: Mon- sieur is still too bitter about me, and I must expect many troubles when 1 return from this journey. . . . Monsieur insists that 1 shall have the Chevalier brought back, or he will treat me as the lowest of creatures." Observe that as soon as she was dead


404 Aadamet Bncbesee d'iPrl^na*

the Chevalier reappeared at Court. But it does not appear that Cosnac drew any precise induction from the letters addressed to him, or that he gave them any evil meaning. He expresses no suspicion of his own. He simply let his sorrow find vent, and here I ask permission to quote at length a page that does honour to him who wrote it, and which nobly com- pletes the circle of funeral orations of which Madame was the subject

" I shall not attempt," he says, " to express the state in which I was on hearing of her death. Inasmuch as there have been persons who died of grief, it is shameftd in me to have survived mine. AD that respect, esteem, gratitude, ambition, self-interest could inspire of dreadful reflections passed a thousand times throi^ my mind. My constitution resisted it, I was not even ill; but my mind became so grieved, so languid, that I was hardly better than tf I had been dead. As for the loss of my fortunes, I was not veiy conscious of that; I had never been able to persuade myself that the hopes held out to me were solid, though, to judge by all appearances, success was indubitable; but to lose so great, so perfect, so good a princess, a princess who could repair the harm my 611 had done me — no, if I had had a truly ddlcate and feeling heart it must have cost me my life. To justify my devotion to thb princess, and for my own oonsolation, I trace here a slender idea of her virtues. • . ."

Here follows a formal Portrait in the style of the day:

" Madame's mind was solid and ddicate; she had good sense, knowledge of choice things, a soul lofty and just, enlightened on an she ought to do, but sometimes not doing it, either from natural indolence, or ftoro a certain haughtiness of soul, which came of her or%:in and made her look upon duty as a degradation. She mingled with all her conversation a gentleness that is never found in other royal personj^ges; it vfas not that she had less majesty, but that she knew how to use it in an ea^and touching


il>a{Miiiie» SHicbesse &'9rKaii& 405


so that with qialtties that woe wMlr dhrine die never ceased to be the most human of beii^. One might say that she ap- propriated hearts instead of leaving tiiem in common; and it was that that gave rise to the belief that she liked to please eveiry- body and to win the Ifldng of all sorts of persons.

" As for the features of her fiice, we seldom see any so complete; her eyes were keen without being rude, the mouth admirable^ the nose peiiect, — a me thing ! for nature, to the contmy of art, makes norly all eyes wdl and nearty all noses badly. Her skin was white and smooth beyond expression, her figure mediocre, but refined. One might say that her mind as wdl as her soul animated her body; she had it even in her fiBet and danced better than any woman in the worid.

" As for that j€ tu sais qutri so talked about, and given in pure wantonness to so many unworthy persons, that ' I know not what ' which goes at once to the bottom of all hearts, persons of delicacy agreed that while in others it was copy, in Madame it was originaL Whoso approached her remained convinced tliat no one more perfect could be seen.

'* 1 have nothing more to say of this princess, except that she would have been the glory and the honour of her century, and that her centuiy would have ad red her, had it been worthy of her.

" With thb princess I lost the desire and the hope of my return, and, utteriy disgusted with the worid, I turned all my aims to my ministiy/'

The event of Madame's death brought a crisis to many lives. La Fare relates that on that day he brought back from Saint-Qoud M. de Tr6ville, a par- ticular friend of Madame, one of those she most ap- preciated for his elegant mind, somewhat subtile and extremely accomplished: "Tr6ville, whom I brought back that day from Saint-Cloud and kept to sleep at my house, so as not to leave him a prey to his sorrow, left the worid and gave himself up to devotion, which he has always continued ever since." Mme. de La Fayette herself, after losing Madame, retired from the


4o6 (MMbsmCf 3BHicbe06e &'^l6m0« 

G>ui% and lived with M. de La Rochefoucauld that more private life which she never afterwards quitted.

Dying at twenty-six years of age, having been for nine years the centre of charm and of pleasures, Madame marks the finest, or at least the most grace- ful period of the G>urt of Louis XIV. After her, at that Court, there was, perhaps, more splendour, more imposing grandeur, but less of distinction and refine- ment Madame loved intellect, distinguished it for itself, went in search of it, awakened it in the older poets, Comeille, for instance, favoured it and embold- ened it in the younger, such as Racine; she wept at Andromaque, when the young author first read it to her: Pardon me, Madame," wrote Racine in the preface to his tragedy, 'Mf 1 dare to boast of that for- tunate beginning of its destiny." In all the Courts which had but recently preceded that of Madame, at Chantilly, at the hdtel Rambouillet and its surround- ings, there was a mingling of taste already past and about to become superannuated: with Madame be- gins, properly speaking, the modem taste of Louis XIV's reign; she contributed to fix it in its purity.

Madame naturally calls for comparison with that other interesting princess of the last years of Louis XIV, the Duchesse de Bourgogne. Without pre- tending to sacrifice the one to the other, let us merely note some differences. The Duchesse de Bourgogne, cherished pupil of Mme. de Maintenon, whom she sometimes distressed by disobedience, belonged to


AMAamCt IHicbesK ^'•rieaii& 407

the generation of young women who loved pleasure, cards, and at times the table, immoderately; in short she was well fitted to be fte mother of Louis XV. Madame who, had she come in the days of the Duchesse de Bourgogne, might, perhaps, have loved all those things, did, in point of fact, love the things of the mind; solidity and good sense mingled insen- sibly with her graces; decency and good manners never deserted her. Louis XIV, in allying himself to her with a true friendship that conquered love, seems' to have desired to regulate that happy nature and to give it some of his own good qualities; he made her in a short time one of the most finished persons in the world." In the few days she spent at Saint- Qoud, on her return fi'om England, and just before her death. La Fare pictures her to us enjoying the beauty of the weather and the conversation of her firiends, "such as M. de Turenne, M. de La Roche- foucauld, Mme. de La Fayette, Tr6ville, and several others. That is not, 1 imagine, the circle that the Duchesse de Bourgogne, more giddy and fi-olicsome, would have chosen and grouped around her.

The letters of Madame, written to G>snac, are short, friendly, sufficiently well-turned, but with no- thing remarkable; evidently she had not the imagina- tion that can reach to a distance; hers was one of those light and blessed spirits that we must catch and adore at their source. Literature has nothing here to do except to record the testimony of contemporaries


4o8 AadamCt Bucbesse d'^Iiana*

and, in a way, to cut them out from the pages of other days. That is what 1 have tried to do Mdth as much simplicity and as little effort as possible, asking indulgence of my readers, for we too, servants of the public, are sometimes tired out ourselves.


XUI.

Kmi0 XIV.


409


UNDBR the improper titk of Wtnte/' tbew exist six most intor«ittfi£ mui tnosit aiitbentk: volumes whkii it wouU Mve been more cor- t«t toentiUe the ** Memoirs of Loais XIV." Tbey aw in rt^iity true memoirs of ^ reign mA of bis priocipal actions, which be woidertook to wriie ior tbe instnic- tion of bis son. Tbe -narriative is often iolerruptod by moral and royal rfflectioas tbat ai^ very judicious. Tbe six or sevw years after tbe 4ealb of Cardiaal Mazarin, which constitute tbe first ^ipoch of Louis XIV's reign {i66i-i668> are exhibittad and reJiUfld con- secutively in abnost umoterrvpl^d ^t^iiiil. TUc (qlWw- iog years, till 1694, ai:e{epj^eMiBtad in a series of lellers which concern, more especially, tbe campaigQs and miliary operatioBs. A number of privaie leUers, rdadiBg to all tbe epochs of his reign are added thereto; tbe whole forming a body of documents, n<^es, and instructions emanating directly from Louis XIV himself, and ca^i^ tbe strongest light both on his aclioas and on tbe spirit that presided over them.

421


412 XOttfS XIV.

One day, in 17 14, the old king, near his end, sent the Due de Noailles to his deslc to bring him the papers that were written by his own hand: " At first he burned several that concerned the reputations of various persons; he was then about to bum the rest, notes, memoirs, fragments of his own composition on war or policy. The Due de Noailles begged him earnestly to give them to him, and obtained that favour." The originals, deposited by the Due de Noailles in the Bibliothdque du Roi, are preserved there. From those manuscripts the publication was made, in 1806, of the six volumes of which I speak; to which, I know not why, the public has never done justice or given them the attention they deserve. The volumes have long been for sale at a very cheap price. It is but a few years since the same could be said of the nine volumes of Napoleon's authentic Memoirs. As for those of the great Frederick, there is such mixture in them that it is not surprising the fine historical parts that form their basis should long have been hidden under the literary rubbish that at first sight covers and compromises them. Nothing of the kind appears in the Memoirs of Louis XIV, nor in those of Napoleon; they are pure history, the reflections of men who speak of their art, and the greatest of arts, that of reigning. Our levity shows here: the worst fiivolous political pamphlets were read by everybody, yet many distinguished and seri- ous minds never troubled themselves even to know



i.Ogi8XIV. IN 1661.

Ffom an iuuctcauoo, hated oo ao old print, in PhilipiHon^s

^as ZeiUUlrr iMdwigx XJl '.


XontB XIV. 4x3

whether it would be well to read those writings, attached to great names, where, on every page, they could have verified the stamp of their genius or their good sense- Louis XIV had nothing more than good sense, but he had a great deal of it. The impression made by the reading of his writings, especially those that date from his youth, is well fitted to double our respect for him. The smile that we cannot restrain in certain places, where be superabounds with the idea of his glory, soon dies upon our lips and gives place to a higher feeling when we remember that an inward spring is necessary to all souls, and that a prince who doubted himself, a king sceptical of his greatness would be the worst of kings. The wheel of history, ever turning, has brought us back to the point of view that is necessary to comprehend better what a royal and sovereign nature is, and of what use it is in a so- ciety. Let us give ourselves the pleasure of consider- ing it in Louis XIV, in its purity and its hereditary exaltation, and before the days of Mirabeau.

From childhood Louis XIV was remarkable for peculiar traits and serious graces that distinguished him from others of his age. The virtuous and sen- sible Mme. de Motteville has drawn some charming portraits of him in his early years; of a ball that took place in Cardinal Mazarin's apartments while he was still a child, she says:

  • 'The king woie a coat of black satin with gokl and silver


414 XOUfS XIV.

embroJdoy of which the blade showed only enough to set off to ad- vantage tiie embroidery. Carnation-coloured plumes and ribbons completed his adornment; but the beautiful features of his face, the gentleness of his eyes joined to their gravity, the whiteness and bril- liancy of his skin, together with his hair, then very blond, adorned him much more than his dothes. He danced perfectly; and though he was then only eight years old, one could say of him that he was the one of the company who had the best air, and assuredly the most beauty."

Speaking elsewhere of his intimacy with the young Prince of Wales (afterwards Charles II) who was then in France, she says: The king, whose beauty had charm, though young, was very talL He was grave; in his eyes we saw a serious look that marked his dignity. He was even prudent enough to say nothing for fear of not speaking well."

About this time (1647) the king fell ill of the small- pox; his mother felt the keenest anxiety, for which he showed her a tender and touching gratitude:

" In this illness he showed himself to all who ap- proached him a prince full of gentleness and kindness. He spoke humanely to all who served him, saying witty and obliging things to them, and was docile to all that the doctors desired. The queen received from him marks of affection that touched her keenly."

These first traits are essential to remark. One of the severest contemporaries of Louis XIV, Saint- Simon, who never saw or knew him till the last twenty-two years of his life, says, in the midst of the penetrating analyses he made of him on all skies:

" He was bom virtuous, moderate, discreet, master


Xouis XIV. 4x5

of his motions and of his tongue. Will it be believed P he was bom good and just; God had given him enough to be a good king, perhaps, even a fairly great king."

That there was in Louis XIV an early foundation of kindness, gentleness, and humanity, which disappeared too often in the idolatry of supreme rank, Saint-Simon recognises and, surprised though he was, bears wit- ness to it. Mme. de Motteville makes us see it as the natural character of the child-king, and more than one saying of Louis XIV in the sincere pages of his youth will confirm it to us.

Gravity and gentleness, all contemporaries agree to note those two manifest traits, though the gentleness gave place more and more to gravity. *'l often noticed with astonishment," says Madame de Motte- ville "that in his games and in his amusements the king never laughed." We have a letter of his in which he asks the Duke of Parma (July, 1661) to send him a Harlequin for his Italian troop; he asks it in terms of the utmost seriousness, without the least little word of gaiety. If he was at a ball, if he danced, Mme. de S6vign6, who watched him with anxiety during Fouquet's trial, applied to him Tasso's words, showing that even in a ballet he had, like Godefroyde Bouillon "a countenance that induced more fear than hope." " He was/' she says, "amiable in his person, civil and easy of access to every one, but with a grand and serious air that impressed respect and fear on the


4i6 XOUiS XIV.

public, and prevented those whom he most esteemed from feeling free with him even in private; although he was familiar and lively with ladies." The gentle- ness that mingled in his speech is singularly certified and depicted to us in this fine passage of Bossuet:

" Whoso would like to know how far reason presides in the councils of this prince has only to lend an ear when it pleases him to explain hb motives. 1 could here call to witness the wise ministers from foreign Courts, who found him as convincing in his discourse as he was for- midable in arms. The nobleness of his expressions came from the nobleness of his sentiments, and his precise words are the image of the accuracy that reigns in his thoughts. While he speaks with so much force, a surprising gentleness opens to him all hearts and gives, 1 know not how, a new splendour to the majesty it tempers."

That passage would be the best epigraph to put at the head of the writings of Louis XIV; it would be found, in part at least, justified as we read them.

In choosing, at twenty-three years of age, to reign wholly by himself, Louis XIV placed in the number of his necessary occupations and duties that of noting down in writing his principal actions, rendering an account of them to himself, and, later, making them the ground of instruction to his son in order to train him in the art of reigning. The idea of glory, inseparable from Louis XIV, mingled in this work, and as history would some day concern itself with his actions, as the passion and genius of many writers would be exercised upon them, he wishes that his son should find in his work that which would correct history wherever it might be mistaken.


XoiUs xiv. 417

Louis XIV, with little knowledge of Letters, and whose early education was much neglected, had, nevertheless, received that far superior instruction which a just and upright mind and a lofty heart de- rive from events the play of which they have known from childhood. Mazarin, who during his last years understood the king, gave him in conversing the counsels of a statesman, which the young man grasped and comprehended better than minds reputed more cultivated and more acute might have done. Mazarin declared to some who seemed to doubt the future of the young king, that " they did not know him; for he had the stuff in him to make four kings and one honest man."

In these Papers or Memoirs, Louis XIV has ex- hibited the first idea that he himself had of things, and the first interior education that gradually worked through his mind, his first doubts in view of diffi- culties, and his reasons for waiting and deferring, "because," he says, preferring, as I do, to all things and to life itself a lofty reputation, if I can acquire it," he comprehended at the same time that his first proceedings would lay its foundations or else make him lose for ever even the hope of it; so that the sole and same desire for glory which urged him forward restrained him almost equally:

"Nevertheless," he says, " I did not cease to practioe and test mysdf, in seaet and without a confidant, reasoning alone and within myself on all the events that happened ; fiilt of hope and Joy when


4i8 XOUfS XIV.

I discovered sometimes that my first thoughts were the same as those arrived at in the end by able and accomplished persons; and convinced in my heart that I had not been put and preserved upon the throne with so great a passion for doing right without being able to find the means of doing it"

Mazarin dead, there was no longer any motive for Louis XIV to delay:

" I began, therefore, to cast my tyts upon the different par- ties in the State; and not with indiffeient eyes, but with the eyes of a master, keenly touched by not seeing one that did not invite me and urge me to lay my hand upon it; but observ- ing carefully what time and the arrangement of things might per- mit me."

Louis XIV, religious as he is, believes that there are lights proportioned to situations, and particularly to that of kings: "God who will make you king," he tells his son, "will give you the lights that are necessary to you, so long as you have good inten- tions." He believes that a sovereign sees, by nature, the objects that present themselves in a more perfect manner than the common run of men. Such a con- viction we feel is dangerous; it will soon mislead him. Nevertheless, reduced and understood in a certain sense, that idea is a just one: "I do not fear to tell you," he writes, "that the higher the position the more it has objects that cannot be seen or known until we occupy it."

Saint-Simon, whom 1 shall venture to contradict and refute on this point, says:

" Bom with a mind bdow mediocrity, but a mind capable of fbrming itself, correcting and refining itself, of l>orrowiim; fh>m oth*


Xonfs XIV. 419

en without imitatioii, and without jmvkwaidfMSS, he pcofited iin» mensdy by hiving, all his Hfe, lived with persons who, of afl the world, had the best minds, and the most varied sorts of mfaids, both men and women, of all ages, all styles, all diaracten."

He returns quite frequently to this idea, that Louis XIV's mind was below mediocrity," but that he was very capable of acquiring, and of forming him- self and appropriating what he saw in others. There was one thing, however, that Louis XIV did not need to borrow from any one, and which is very original to himself, I mean state; that true function of sov- ereignty, which no one at that time about him had any idea of, which the troubles of the Fronde had allowed to perish in the minds of all, and which Mazarin, even after the restoration of power, had very poorly restored to public reverence. Louis XIV had the instinct within him, and revealed, perceptibly to all, its character. Nature had made him for it physic- ally by giving him a unique mixture of decorum and majesty. Wherever he might be, he would at once have been distinguished and recognised as we re- cognise "the queen among the bees." His solid qualities, the laborious application of his mind, the feelings of his heart, responded to this intention of Nature and to the rdle of his destiny. Later, and soon, he overpassed it; but in the beginning he simply fulfilled it to perfection and with majestic propriety.

Saint-Simon, who came toward the close of the


420 XOUfS XIV.

reign and at an epoch when the spirit of opposition was reappearing, has not sufficiently recognised this first period of pure and integral royal originality in Louis XIV. His long reign was beginning to weary the people of France; everywhere they were aspir- ing to some respite. But the true answer to Saint- Simon is that of Louis XIV himself in terms that are worthy of both of them:

" We scarcely notice/' says the sensible king, " the wonderfiil order of the universe, and the course, so regulated and useful, of the sun until some irr^iularity of the seasons, or some disorder apparent in the system, obliges us to give it a little more reflection. So long as everything prospers in a State we may forget the infinite blessings produced by royalty, and envy «nly those that royalty possesses: man, naturally ambitious and proud, never finds in himself why another should rule him until his personal need makes him feel it. But to that need, as soon as it has a constant and regular remedy, custom renders him insensible. It is only extraordinary events tlttt make him consider how much that is useful he daily d^ves from it, and that without such rule he would be a prey to the strongest, and find in this worid neither justice, nor reason, nor security for what he possesses, nor resource for what he may lose; and it is in this way that he comes to love obedience as much as he loves his life and his tranquillity."

That is what Louis XIV wrote. Saint-Simon has related to us at great length two or three audiences that he obtained with him, and has vividly conveyed to us the impression of respect, submission, and grateful joy that he brought away with him. Su- perior as he himself is as an observer, he felt his master on approaching him, and the detail with which he relates the matter proves it The page I


Xonfs XIV. 42X

have just quoted leads me to believe that if (by im- possibility) a political conversation had taken place between them, Louis XIV, simple in tone and with easy good sense, would have kept, on all essential points, his sovereign superiority. Let us give to each the name that correctly designates him: Saint-Simon was a great painter and a great moralist; Louis XIV was a king. He wished to show to the whole earth (and it is he himself who says it) that there was still a king in the world."

In the reforms of all kinds that Louis XIV under- took and carried on, in finances, in law and just- ice, in military regulations, in affairs with foreign countries, he never shows undue eagerness. He examines, he listens, he consults; then he decides for himself: " Decision," he says, " needs the mind of a master." This last point was always the great concern of Louis XIV : not to let himself be gov- erned; to have no prime minister. It has been re- marked that this was more an appearance than a reality; he had head-clerks who, by art and flattery, were able to make him adopt as if by his own impulse what they themselves desired. But at the start, and during the first seven or eight years of his youth, Louis XIV certainly escaped that reproach. The form of his mind was judicial and reasoning; it was a practical mind, liking business, finding pleasure in utility, and taking account of facts in the greatest detaiL *' Every man who is illinformed," he remarks,


422 Xcmfs XIV.

cannot prevent himself from arguing badly"; and he adds shrewdly in a conclusion worthy of a moralist: I believe that whoso should be well in- formed and well convinced of things as they are would do only as he ought to do."

He takes true pleasure in diligent application and in gaining information; he enjoys unravelling matters that are obscure. "I have already begun/' he writes on the day of Fouquet's arrest, "to taste the pleasure there is in working oneself at the finances; having, in the little application 1 have given to them this after- noon, observed important things of which 1 had pre- viously seen nothing; and it cannot be doubted that I shall continue to do so." He makes us feel at every moment the sort of charm there is in the exercise of good sense. He thinks that good sense, put to the test of practice and experience, is the best counsellor and the surest guide; and he is sometimes tempted to regard written counsel as useless, and hold to that only which he gives his son. But he instantly revises that opinion, and considers it profitable for all good minds to be put on their guard in advance and be cautioned against error. Regretting that he came so late to the study of history, he considers that " the knowledge of the great events produced by the world through many centuries, digested by solid and active minds, will serve to fortify the reason in all important de&berations."

Note the words, "solid and active minds," clothe


llieDiwith majesty ind qsfendoiir, and tliei^ fou have tbc best definitioa tiiat can be giveo of hin in tke days of his yotith. His wholly royal soid kept its equiiifariam even when it soared the highest; his greatest heigiits have somettong Ihat is modeiate in their principle. He seeks to elevate ttut heart of his son, not to swell it; he says: If 1 can explain to you my thought, it seems to me that we ought to be humble as to oursdves and, at the same time, proud for the place we occupy."

Some of these first pages set forth dispositions of mind more extended, more varied titan tie was able to maintain. " He had a soul greater than his mind," says Montesquieu. He desires tliat princes who are really able should know how to transform and re- makt themselves to fit conjunctures. It does not suffice a prince, in order to be great, tiiat he be bom a4>ropos. " There are several in the world," hesays, who have obtained a reputation for ability tiirough the sole advantage of having been bom at a time when the general state of public aflhirs was in exact proportion to their capacity," but as for him, he aspires to something better; he desires to l>e of those who suffice through then- minds for all situations, even contrary ones: For it is not an easy thing to transpose oneself at aU times into the right way," and "the face of the world is subject to such different revolutions tiiat it is not in our power to keep long to the same measures." In reading tiiis passage it


424 XOUfS XIV.

seems as though Louis XIV foresaw the rock on which, in after years, his pride was to strike. He was not of those whose minds can grasp the renewals of the age, and his final policy was only an exaggera* tion of his first policy in the midst of public circum- stances that were incessantly being modified.

When we read these notes, written day by day, these reflections drawn from each event, when we join to that a reading of the diplomatic instructions he was, at the same time, addressing to his ambassadors and agents at various Courts, we cannot help admir- ing, in the midst of his carrousels and files, the in- dustrious, solid, prudent, and persevering character of this ambitious young man. How little levity, how little rash enthusiasm he has! How he reasons out a thing I how he disputes the ground foot by foot, and argues each advantage bit by bit! Then, too, how much secretiveness and discretion he possesses — ^royal qualities as necessary to success as they are to respect and reverence, the mere absence of which casts so many men in politics aside: "for great talkers," he remarks, "often talk great nonsense." He prefers, as he does in everything, the slowest but the safest course. In treaties, above all, he thinks there should be no spurring on:

"He who tries to go too quickly," he says, " is lia- ble to make many false steps. It is no matter in how much time, but with what conditions a negotiation ends. Better conclude an affair much later than ruin


%OVii» XIV. 496

it by haste; and it happens often that we retard by our own impatience what we tried to hurry on."

This procedure served him at the peace of Aix-la- Chapelle (1668). The young king has those pre- cepts of safe, deliberate slowness that belonged to Philippe de Commynes, and come naturally to the pupil of Mazarin.

I think 1 find a wonderful relation between Louis XIV's manner of seeing and doing and that of the distinguished men of his time. Boileau advised doing work over and over a score of times, and he taught Radne to make with difficulty very easy verses. Louis XIV gives to his son precisely the same, or analo- gous precepts on politics ; he advises him to turn a thing over in his mind twenty times before pro- ceeding to execute it; he wishes to teach him to find slowly the easy method in each affair. Also> in many a moral reflection that he mingles with his policy, Louis XIV shows himself a worthy con- temporary of Nicole and of Bourdaloue.

Even in affairs of war and in the sieges that he undertook, he yielded to the difficulties put before him, "convinced," he says, "that whatever desire one may have to signalise oneself, the safest road to glory is always that which shows the most rea- son." I do not say that in his conduct he did not, many a time, derogate from this early resolution ; it suf- fices roe, in order to characterise him, that he proposed it to himself amid the first fire of his ambition.


436 XOUfS XIV.

When he feek a leading and ruling passion, how- ever noble it may be, Louis XIV endeavours not to listen to it alone, but to counterbalance it by others which shall be equally for the good of the State: "Variety is needed in glory, as in all things else, and more in the glory of princes than of private persons; for whoso says 'great king,' says nearly all the talents of his most excellent subjects com- bined." There are talents, however, in which he thinks a king ought not to excel too much; it is good and honourable in him to be surpassed in them by others; but he ought to appreciate them all. Knowledge of men, discernment of minds, the selection of each for the employment for which he is best fitted and can be most useful to the State, that is properly the great art and perhaps the chief talent of a sovereign. Some princes have good reason to fear allowing themselves to be approached too closely, and communicating freely with others; he believes that he is not of them; sure as he is of himself and lending himself to no surprise, he thinks he gains by this easy communication the power to penetrate more deeply into those with whom he speaks, and to learn for himself who are the honest men of his kingdom.

It has been said that Louis XIV made the monarchy despotic and Asiatic: that was never his thought Having recognised that "liberty, gentleness, and, so to speak, facility of the monarchy had passed ali


proper inuts dmiog his minority, and tfaie trouUes of Hie Stale, and had become license, coofu^oo ^oid fisorder,*' he beheved it his duty to restriun these ratrffssfis by endeavourtnf in tjhe first place to pre* aerve to the mooarcfay its humane and affectionate doncter, to gather persons of qualKy about him 2D an *' honotmble funttiaiity/' and to keep in con> mmriration with the peopk by pleasures and spec- tacles cooformfid to their minds. In tiiis, Louis XIV tmly hair succeeded; evidently, he forced the cfaarao- ter of tile French monarchy in his pomps and i;k>ries, ai^, as he grew an old man, he ceased to be in harmony witti tiie pidilic spirit of the nation. Nevec- theiffis, te did not see it thus m his youth.

He thou^, and te expressly says it to his son, that "empires are preserved only as they are ac^ quifed, tint is to say, by vigour, by vigilance, by toll." Wten a wound is inflicted on the body of the State it is not enough to repair the evil if we do not add more good than theie was before." He wishes that his son, instead of stopping on the road and looktf^ around hhn and ben^th him on those who are worth least, should turn hiseyes higher :

'^Tliiak ralber of tbote whom we have inost leaaon to «sloem aod admire «n past ^(^; who from private liie or veiy moderate f)ower, by the sole force of thdr merit, have iiomikd gieat ompircs, pasMd like Hghtmegfiaabesfromoaehaifoftbeworidlo the other, charmed dl the oailh by their gmt giitfities, and kft, through many iong ages, an olcrBal oiemoiy of thcmadves, which mems, imlead of ktis^ de- stroyed, only to iocKaae and atreogthen with the lapee of time."


428 XOUfS XIV.

The misfortune of Louis XIV's descendants is never to have meditated on that thought. The condition of hereditary kings was about to become more and more like that of founders of empires; they needed, for preservation, the same genius and the same cour- age which had been needed to create and to acquire. 1 leave aside Louis XV and the base unworthiness of his reign; but it may be said that the good, honest, moderate, respectable Bourbons who succeeded hini were not any more at the height of their circum* stances; they did not know how to fulfil the hope and the counsel of their great ancestor. Therefore, the empire went to those " who passed like lightning flashes from one part of the world to the other."

Judicious and sensible as Louis XIV usually was, and desirous as he showed himself to foresee all and apply his reason to all, he felt there were moments when, as king, it was absolutely necessary to risk and devise at a venture, under pain of failing in wisdom it- self. The religious thought that was joined to this in his mind adds rather than takes away from what this royal maxim has that is politically remarkable; it is in such parts as these that we recognise in Louis XIV the true man of talent in the difficult art of reigning:

" Wisdom," he says, " requires that in certain junctures we leave much to chance; reason itsdf then counsels us to follow 1 know not what blind instincts or impulse, above reason, which seem to come from heaven, known to all men, and more worthy of consideration in those whom heaven itself has placed in the first rank. To say when we ought to deny tbem and when abandon ourselves to them,


XoniB XIV. 429

no one is able; neither books, nor rules, nor experience will teach it; a certain exactitude, a certain boldness of mind will always find it, and, without comparison, more freely in him who owes account of hb ac- tion to no one,"


"Exactitude and boldness of mind"; do you not admire the excellent choice and happy conjunction of those words and the grand and noble style he carries naturally into simple sayings ?

It may be said that the text of these Memoirs was written out by a secretary from the king's notes, but whoever that secretary may have been, Pellisson or some other, I find nothing in these pages that does not show, from beginning to end of them, the presence and dictation of the master. All is simple and worthy of him who said: "We notice almost al- ways a difference between the letters which we give ourselves the trouble to write, and those that our secretaries, even the most skilful, write for us; we discover in the latter a something, I know not what, that is less natural, and the uneasiness of a pen that fears eternally to say too much or too little." I find nothing of that uneasiness, nothing of that rhetoric, or that affected simplicity in the pages that form the his- toric Memoirs of Louis XIV. All is there unfolded with calmness, continuity, and perfect clearness, which answers completely to what contemporaries (Mme. de Caylus, Mme. de Motteville, Saint-Simon) have told us of the unique appropriateness, the easy nobility of the king's words: " His commonest speech was


430 Xoaf0 XIV.

never without a natural and obvious majesty." One day, during Louis XIV's youth, Brienne was reading to the queen-mother in her chamber a draft of the Letters-patent for the removal of the relics of Sainte- Madeleine. He had made M. d'Andilly, well known for his piety, write them. The king chanced to enter the room, requested that the reading might begin again, and then interrupted it by saying: "You make me talk like a saint and I am not one." Brienne told him the Letters were written by one of the ablest men in France for style and eloquence. "Who is that able fool ? " asked the king. Being told it was M. d'Andilly, "Very well," he said, "but all that does not suit me at all," and tearing up the Letters he threw them to Brienne, saying: "Write others, and make me speak like a king, not a jansenist."

Louis XIV's style has not the quick, brusque brevity that characterises the original writings of Napoleon, what Tacitus calls itnperatoria brevitas. That in- cisive character of the conqueror and the despot, that short, hasty, staccato rhythm, beneath which we feel the genius of action and the demon of battles palpitat- ing, differs wholly from the more tranquil style, the fuller and, in a way, hereditary style of Louis XIV. When this monarch forgets himself and is negligent his sentences are long, like those that have since be- come the appanage of the Younger Branch, and of which we see no end: it is there that Louis XIV comes when he slumbers. But usually, in his habit-


%OniB XIV. 431

ual manner, his style has the good proportions, the accuracy, the golden mean of the sanest of languages. Henri IV, the first Bourbon king, had in his vivid style something warlike and Gascon which Louis XIV was without The pitiable Louis XIV, who was not with- out intelligence, a few pregnant sayings of his being quoted, was, in his habitual conversation, long-winded and given to eternal repetitions; that was the Bourbon style in what was already its weakness and enerva- tion. Louis XIV alone presents to us that style in its true plenitude and perfection, its veritable and regal stature.

It was said of Louis XIV that no one related things better than he: he could tell a story better than any man in the world, and also a narrative." He put into it infinite grace and a noble or shrewd turn of phrase that was all his own." We have a specimen of his manner of describing and painting in his letter written from Montargis to Mme. de Maintenon on the arrival in France of the Duchesse de Bourgogne, but narrative, properly so called, or tale of his we do not possess.

Pellisson, who was a little the Fontanes of those days, and whom Louis XIV took out of the Bastille [he had been Fouquefs secretary] to attach him to his service and make him his rhetorician in ordinary, transmits to us a conversation, or rather a discourse, which he took down from the lips of the king himself at the siege of Lille, August 23, 1667. It is a discourse


43' %0VAB XIV.

on glory* and on the motives that filled the king's soul at that moment. He had exposed his life in an affair two days earlier, and, being reproached for it, he gives his reasons with naive solemnity. This course lays bare to us the young king in his first magnificence of ambition: " It seems to me," he says, "that they strip me of my glory when they can have any without me." That word "glory " is ever on his lips, and he ends by perceiving this himself: " But it would ill- become me to say more of my glory to those who witness it" In this beginning of exultation and apotheosis we find him better and more worthy than he is later; he has certain words of sympathy for the friends, the servitors, who expose and devote them- selves before his eyes: "There is no king," he says, " provided his heart is in the right place, who can see so many brave men throwing away their lives like refuse in his service, and yet remain with his arms crossed." That is why he decided to leave the trenches and expose his life under fire in the open; above all, on an occasion, he says: "When all ap- pearances were that we should have a fine action where my presence should do all, I believed that I ought to make visible in open daylight something more than buried valour."

Louis XIV was little of a soldier; but he had the pretension of being one; and nothing shows his foible better than this discourse, this extraordinary apology which he thinks he ought to make because he went


XonfB XIV. 433

once into the trenches, and another time in front of them.

If we pursue him in the direction of vain-glory it would be only too easy to grow frivolous and irreverent towards him. In his own discourses we find him, from time to time, stopping short to con- gratulate himself with reason and reflection; he takes himself to be naturally the type and figure of the per- fect prince; he sees himself in that attitude and at full length before posterity. But it is more useful to insist on the lofty impulses that underlaid this faith and this royal consciousness and made him say, in the midst of political dangers: "But at least, whatever be the outcome, I shall always have within me all the contentment that a brave soul should have when it has satisfied its own virtue."

Speaking of these six volumes of Memoirs when they appeared, M. de Chateaubriand judged them very rightly in saying:

" The Memoirs of Loius XIV increase his renown: they disclose no meanness, they reveal none of those shameful seaets that the human heart too often hides in its abysses. Seen more dosely and in the privacy of life, Loub XIV does not cease to be Louis the Great; one is charmed to find that so fine a tnist has not an empty head, and that the soul responds to the exterior nobleness.

This feeling is that which rules the reader and triumphs over all criticisms and all. restrictions that a just mind may rightly make.

Since it is here a question of Louis XIV as a writer and one of the models of our speech, I shall, in concluding.


4J4 %OUiB XIV.

point out a direct benefit affecting the whole order of literature which we owe to him. 1 have enumer- ated elsewhere the men of letters grouped around Fouquet and flourishing in rivalry under his auspices. If we suppose for an instant that Fouquet had re- mained in power and firmly established, Louis XIV leaving him to do as he would, we cannot help per- ceiving the elements and spirit of the literature that would then have prevailed; it would have been a literature freer in every sense than it actually was under Louis XIV; the eighteenth century would have been in part forestalled. We should have had La Fontaine without restraint, Saint-Svremond, Bussy, the Scarrons, the Bachaumonts, the Hesnaults; many libertines and epicureans would have glided into the front rank. This first literature of the morrow of the Fronde and before Boileau and Racine, not being restrained by the eye of the master, would have de- veloped, and become more and more emancipated under a less rigid Maecenas. It was all ready, as we can now see; licentiousness and wit would have been the double danger; a foundation of corruption was already laid. The young king came, and he brought, he gave rise to his young literature, he put a corrective to the old and, save for certain shining infractions, he impressed upon the body of the productions of his time a character of solidity and finally of morality, which is also that which reigns in his own writings and in the habit of his thought.


XIV.


43S


XIV.

Xonfse ^e Xa Bauttie Xe Slanc

MME. DE LA VALLI6RE is one of those subjects and those names that are ever youthful, ever fresh; she represents the ideal of the loving woman, with all the qualities that we delight in giv- ing to it — unselfishness, fidelity, unique and delicate tenderness; and no less does she represent in its perfection a touching and sincere repentance. Seen close by and in its actuality her life answers well to the idea we formed of it from a distance and through its halo; the person herself resembles at all points the charming memory she has left to us. Without pre- tending to discover anything new about her, let us give ourselves the pleasure of considering her for a moment.

Fran^oise-Louise de la Baume Le Blanc de La Val- lidre was baptised in the parish church of Saint- Saturnin at Tours August 7, 1644, having probably been born on the preceding evening. She lost her father early; her mother, who married for her second husband a man who had an office at Court, placed her

437


43^ Ube Ihicbesde ^e Xa lOalUite*

as maid of honour to Madame, daughter of Charles II, when the latter married Monsieur, brother of the king (1661). The &)urt of Madame was all youth, wit, beauty, amusement, and intrigue. Mile, de La Val- liSre, then seventeen years old, seemed at first merely

  • 'very pretty, very gentle, and very artless." The

young king was more occupied than he should have been with Madame, his sister-in-law. The queen- mother, Anne of Austria, jealous of her son's friendship which Madame was taking from her, found much to say, in the name of propriety, against that intimacy. In order to carry it on and cover it it was agreed be- tween Madame and the king that he should feign to be in love with some one of Madame's maids of hon- our, and thus have a pretext for being at all her parties and for going to see her at all hours. They chose to take three of these make-believe loves, the better to hide their own game; and the three selected were Mile, de Pons, Mile, de Chemerault, and Mile. de La Vallidre. The latter was particularly the one whom the king chose to seem in love with. But while in bringing forward the pretty young girl he thought only of putting society on the wrong scent and of dazzling the eyes of the public with her, he dazzled himself and became in love with her seriously. Mile, de La Vallidre's beauty was of a nature, a quality, tender and exquisite, about which there is but one voice among contemporaries. The engraved portraits and the painted portraits give us no just idea



LOUISE DE LA BAUME LE BLANC, DUCHES8E DE LA VALU^RE. From a steel engraving.


Ube Bncbesse ^e Xa ValUtee. 439

to-day of the sort of charm that belonged to her. Freshness and brilliancy, a delicate brilliancy with shaded tones and sweet, made an essential part of it. "She was lovable, "writes Mme. de Motteville, "and her beauty had great charm from the whiteness and rosiness of her skin, from the blueness of her eyes which were very gentle, and from the beauty of her flaxen hair [cheveux argentis] which increased that of her face." These charms were accompanied by a touching tone of voice that went to the heart; all things blended in her harmoniously. Tenderness, which was the soul of her person, was tempered, visibly, by a foundation of virtue. Modesty, grace — a simple, ingenuous grace — ^an air of chastity that won respect, inspired and controlled all her motions de- lightfully: " Though she was slightly lame she danced extremely well." A little slow in walking, she could suddenly, when necessary, And wings. Later, in the cloister, one of her greatest annoyances and mortifi- cations concerned her shoes, which were made, in the world, to fit fier slight infirmity. Very slender, and even a little thin, a riding-habit became her well. The close-fitting corsage showed to advantage the slimness of her waist, while " cravats made her seem rather fatter." On the whole, it was a touching, rather than a triumphant beauty, one of those beau- ties that are not complete in themselves, that are not demonstrated to the eye solely by the perfections of the body, but need that the soul be mingled in them


440 Ube S>nci>e80e ^e Xa VaUldre*

(and with her the soul was ever mingled) ; she was of those of whom no one could keep from saying at once and at a glance: '* There is a face and soul to charm."

The king loved her, and during several years solely and very warmly. As for her, she loved nothing in him but himself, the king not the royalty, and the man still more than the king. Bom modest and virtuous, she had great distress in her love even while yielding to it; and she resisted as much as she could all the testimonials of distinction and fiivour that tended to declare it Louis XIV lent himself to this and conspired in the secrecy as long as the queen- mother lived. We have in a note from Colbert a circumstantial account of the birth of Mme. de La Vallidre's first two chiklren. Colbert was charged to provide for everything in the greatest secrecy. These children, two boys, lived only a short time, and were presented for baptism by old servants, poor people, one a parish pauper. But what is more surprising is that in October, 1666, at the time of the birth of Mile, de Bk)is (afterwards Princesse de Conti) Mme. de La Valli6re, who was then at Vincennes in attendance upon Madame, concealed everything so carefully up to the last moment, that she passed almost from the salon of the princess into the hands of the midwife, who was in hiding close by, and on the very evening of her confinement she reappeared in Madame's apart- ment before aU the company, in ball-dress, as if no*


1


thing had happened. We may conjecture from this what she morally suffered, since shame compelled her to put such constraint upon herself. As the queen-mother was dead at that time, nothing sub- jected her to this degree of suffering but her own shame. The mistresses of the king who succeeded her did not constrain themselves as much.

Referring one day to Mile, de Fontanges, that rather silly and boastful mistress, Mme. de S6vign6 wrote, comparing her to Mme. de La Vallidre: "She is always languid, but so affected by grandeur that you must imagine her the very opposite of that little violet hiding under the leaves, who was so ashamed of being mistress, mother, and duchess; there wiU never be another of that mould."

From the very first period of her connection with the king Mme. de La Vallidre had thoughts of the cloister; twice she took refuge there before her last retreat which was final The first time she fled to it was during the early and most beautiful days of her love. The Court of Madame was, as 1 have said, a labyrinth of intrigues and tangled gallantries. Mme. de La ValliSre had learned, through a friend's con- fidence, something about the manoeuvres of Madame with the Comte de Guiche; she said nothing of it to the king. But, being too simple and too naturally straightforward to be able to dissimulate long, the king perceived that she was hiding something from him, and he flew into a passion. La Valli6re was


44^ Ube Itaicbesse ^e Xa VaUitte.

frightened, but, having promised secrecy to her friend, she continued to keep silence, on which the king left her, more and more irritated. '* They had agreed many times," says Mme. de La Fayette, that what- ever quarrel they might have together they wouU never sleep without writing to each other and being reconciled." The night passed without news or message; in the morning, Mme. de La Vallidre, who thought that all was over, left the Tuileries in despair and went to hide herself in a convent, not at Chaillot this first time, but at Saint-Cloud. The king was beside himself when told that no one knew what had become of her. He instituted a search in person, and, soon learning where she was, he rode at full speed to Saint-Cloud to bring her back instantly; ready to burn the convent down if she was not restored to him.

Such efforts were not needed; he found La Valliftre tying on the ground, broken-hearted, in the parlour outside of the convent, to which she had been re- fused admittance. The king said to her, bursting into tears: " You do not love me; you do not care for those who love you." Louis XIV at this period was madly in love with her, to the point of being jealous of the past and of making himself uneasy lest he was not the first to have a place in her heart, fearing that she might have had in the provinces some early inclination for a M. de Bragelonne.

The second flight of Mme. de La ValUdre to a con-


TSbc WnOKSSt he Sa WDfisc


443

vent took place under very diffisrent circiiiUKtmiCTB* The years of happmess had passed. Mme. de Mod- tespon, witty, haughty, dozzimg, had ti^en her place and ^was eiiUu uiung herself more and more hi the heart of the master; the poor La Vallieie paled. On the Sirove-Tuesday of 1671, there was a ball at Court, at which she did not appear, h was kamed that she had gone fior refuge to ttie convent of Sainte-Mane at Ctuiiliot. ThB time the king did not fly to bring her back himself; he sent Lauzan and Colbert to do so. h is said tiiot he wept, but hk tears were few, and the last. Mme. de La Valliere returned, no longer in triumph, but as a victim. The three years longer that she stayed at Court were to her mind only a long trial and punistnnent.

She often said to Mme. de Maintenon, during this interval when she was nerving herself and arranging all for her lost retreat: "When 1 have pahiful things to bear at the Carmelite I shall remember what those people" (the king and Mme. de Montespan) "have nsade me sufEer here."

She suffered, from a rival, what she herself, gentle and kmd as she was, had mode anotiier sufEnr. The queen, Marie Th^r&se, wife of Louis XIV, hod felt very kaenly the fevour shown to Mme. de La ValUdre, which began so little time after her marriage; and she shed more tears than persons thought possibk from her apparent coldness. " Do you see that girl with the diamond earrings ? " she said one day to


444 tnie Shicbesse de Xa VaUfere;

Mme. de Motteville, pcMiiting to MUe. de La Vallidre, who was just then crossing the room. 'Mt is she whom the king loves." The queen's heart, at that moment, was only suspicious of the king's infidelity; but when she was informed of it later beyond a doubt the certainty made her shed many bitter tears. In May, 1667, the king, before departing for the army, had sent an Edict to parliament, with a preamble (said to have been written by the fine pen of Pellis- son) by which he acknowledged a daughter he had had by Mme. de La Valli^re and conferred upon the mother the title and honours of a duchess. The queen and the ladies of the Court went to pay a visit to the king, then in camp with the army in Flanders. Mme. de La Vallidre, though confused and distressed by her new grandeur, was carried away by her love; she arrived at the same time as the queen, almost in spite of herself and without being summoned by her Majesty. When the party came in sight of the camp, Mme. de La Valli^re, in spite of the queen's express command that no one should precede her, couU restrain herself no longer, but ordered her carriage to be driven at full speed across the fields. '* The queen saw it, was tempted to have her arrested, and flew into a frightful passion." That the modest La Vallidre allowed herself to do such an act in view of the whole Court, shows how true it is that the shyest and most timid are so no longer when their passions, once unchained, get the better of them.


T!;be JDncbcsec be Xa ValU^re. 445

Did she not have good reason to say in after years, accusing herself in her " Reflections on the Mercy of God/' that her glory and her ambition (we must understand here her ambition and joy in being loved and preferred) had been "like furious horses drag- ging her soul to the precipice." That sentence has been thought too strong for the gentle La Valli6re«  I think I see its justification in the above circum- stance.

Among the ladies who proclaimed themselves scan- dalised by this unusual audacity of Mme« de La Val- li£re one, especially, was remarked, who said: "God preserve me from ever being mistress of the king! but if I were so unfortunate I should never have the effrontery to present myself before the queen." That scrupulous lady who talked so loudly was Mme. de Montespan, she, who from that moment, sought in every way, by all the charms of coquetry and the sallies of her brilliant wit to supplant the poor La Vallitee in the master's favour.

It is time to come to the feelings of sorrow and repentance which have purified the passion of Mme. de La Valli^re and given to the thirty-six last years of her life a consecration, without which she would have been no more than a mistress of a king, rather touching, but ordinary.

When she returned to Court in 1671, after her flight to the convent of Chaillot, there was much jeering. All the women in society, all the women


446 JSbc Shicbe06e de Xa Valttte&

of wit and intelligence, even Mme. de S6vign6 her- self, thought she lacked dignity. The fact is, dignity and love will not go together; and so long as we love, so long as we hope, small as that hope may be, all the rest counts for nothing. So society laughed at Mme. de La Valli^re and her religious fancies that came to nought: "With regard to Mme. de La Vallidre," writes Mme. de S6vign6 to her daughter, February 27, 1671, '* we are in despair at not being able to get her back to Chaillot; but she stands better at Court now than she has for a long time; so we must bring ourselves to leave her there." We read in the Memoirs of Canon Maucroix, on the occasion of a journey he made to Fontainebleau in August, 1671:

  • ' Having seen the carriages of His Majesty in the Oval G>uit, I

waited neariy an hour; and at last 1 saw the king get into his caleche; JMme. de La VaUite was placed first, then the king, and then Mme. de Montespan; all three sat on the same seat, for the cal^he was very wide. The king was very well dressed in a brown stuff with much gold trimming; his hat was edged with the same; he was rather red in the fiice. La Valliere seemed to me very pretty, and fatter than I had been told she was. I thought Mme. de Montespan very handsome, espedally her complexion which was wonderful. They all disappeared in a moment."

Again Mme. deS6vign6 writes (December 15, 1673): "Mme. de La Vallidre no longer talks of retreat; it was enough to have talked about it" We see the poor immolated woman figuring not only at Court but in the train of her rival: "Mme. de Montespan, abusing her advantages," says Mme. de Caylus, af-


XCbe BucbesBC De Xa Vallf^te. 447

fected being served by her, gave her many praises, declaring that she could not be satisfied with her toilet unless she put the last touches to it. This Mme. de La Vallidre did with all the zeal of a waiting- maid whose fortune depends on the charms she can give to her mistress."

Such was the talk of society which loves to hum- ble and disparage all that once was brilliant, ready to pity later the very object of its rigour, and thus play all the chords of emotion for the benefit of conversa- tion. Must we believe what Madame, mother of the Regent says, when she tells us with her Germanic frankness:

" The Montespan, who had more wit, ridiculed her publicly, treated her very badly, and obliged the king to do the same. It was neces- sary to go through La Valliere's room to reach that of the Montespan. The king had a pretty spaniel named Malice. At the instigation of the Montespan he took the little dog and tossed it to the Ouchesse de La Valliere, saying: ' There, Madame, there is your company, and it is enough.* This was all the harder, because, instead of remaining with her, he only passed through to go to the Montespan. However, she bore it patiently." *

What was passing, during that time, in the sincere and tender soul, the repentant soul, which drank thus willingly the bitterness of the cup that she might let herself be punished in the way that she had sinned ?

'No; for itb to be remembered that Madame, in her delightfully amusing daily letters to her German relatives, wrote down all the malicious Court gossip and news that was brought to her. The present incident is not characteristic of Louis XIV, one of whose strongest personal points was decorum and a sense of what was out- wardly due to others. — Tr.


448 xcbe Z>iicl>e00e be Xa VaUttee.

She herself has recorded the secret feelings of her heart in a series of " Reflections on the Mercy of God/' which she wrote during these years, after her recovery from a serious illness.

That little writing, which appeared for the first time in 1686, during Mme. de La Vallidre's lifetime, has often been reprinted; but I warn all readers who think they know it from any of the later editions, that the style has been continually altered and weakened, so that they have not in their hands the true and pure con- confession of Mme. de La Vallidre.

She compares herself, in the beginning, to three great sinners, the Canaanitish woman, the woman of Samaria, and the Magdalen. Speaking of the first, she cries out: "Lord help me, look upon me sometimes as I approach thee like that poor stranger, that poor dog, who thinks herself too fortunate to gather of the crumbs that fall from the table where thou dost feed thine elect" The expression is frank to crudity, but it is sincere, and in reproducing the text of Mme. de La Valli^re, nothing should be suppressed.

Side by side with this we find sweet thoughts more in keeping with the idea that we form of this delicate and shrinking soul: "For, alas I I am so weak, so changeable, that my best desires are like the flowers of the field of which thy Prophet-king has said that they blossom in the morning and are withered before night" To save herself from these relapsings, these weaknesses, " from the sweet poison of pleasing this


JOx "Dncbesec be Xa ValUte& 449

world and loving it/' she invokes the bestowal of one of those blows of mercy " that afflict, humiliate, and, at the same time, turn back the soul to God. That word "mercy," which is on the title-page, re- curs at every instant; it overflows her lips, it is her cry; it is also the name under which she entered the religious life: Soeur Louise de la Mis6ricorde — Sister Louise of God's mercy. Lately, there has been some attempt to doubt if the little paper was really written by Mme. de La Vallidre, but that one word Mercy, thus placed with manifest intention does it not be- come, as it were, her signature P

We find, and we divine allusions more or less cov- ered to her sufferings, her humiliations:

" If to impose upon me," she says, " a penance in some way suited to my offences thou wiliest, O my God ! that, for indispensable duty, I renudn in the world to suffier on the scaffold where I have so much offended thee, if thou wilt draw from my sin itself my punishment, in making those I had made idok my toiturers: Paratum eor m$um, Dius^fAy heart is ready, Lord."

While awaiting the great stroke she hopes for, she makes a resolution to profit by the slightest internal succour to advance in the path of return:

" I win not wait, O my God, tin I come out oi my dangerous slothfidness, till the fun sun of thy righteousness be risen. So soon as the dawn of thy grace begins to break I win begin to act, to labour at the woik of my salvatkm. . • . Contenting myself to advance and grow in thy love, Uke the dawn, softly and imperceptibly."

It is natural to compare these words with those of 99


4SO XCbe JDucbesec be Xa Vallftee.

Bossuet writing on the subject of Mme. de La Valli&re on the eve of her complete conversion: 'Mt seems to me/' he says, that she advances a little in her own manner, quietly and slowly. " Thus her habitual bear- ing and progression, even in the path of salvation, was gently slow, and as if with an air of soft indif- ference until the moment came when love, the divine love, gave her wings to rise.

"Whoso loves, runs, flies, and rejoices; he is free, nothing can stop him." The "Imitation of Jesus Christ" says that. Mme. de La Vallidre, who had so deeply felt it in the order of hiiman feelings, was now to say them to herself in the path of her heavenward progress.

We perceive, toward the end of the "Reflections," eager soarings of a tender love about to transform itself into a divine passion, and into charity. The "semi-repentant woman," as she calls herself, is wholly occupied in persuading her soul to transport, to transpose her love; that soul must turn and render to God alone that which it had wasted on a god of earth: "It loves thee, O Lord, with a keen and loving sorrow for its past unfaithfulness, and with all the respect and religious trembling that is due to thy sovereign Majesty."

In estimating a writing of this simplicity, talent and imagination, properly so-called, cannot fiiirly be brought into the question. Two or three passages alone give a rather figurative and vivid impression:


T!;be JDvitibesec be Xa ValUir& 451

  • ' If it b true, Lord, that the prayer of a Carmelite who has retired

into solitude and no longer does ought but fill herself with thee, is like a sweet perfiime-box which needs only to be held to the tire to give forth Its fragrant odour, that of a poor creature who is still attached to earth, and who can only creep in the path of virtue is like those muddy waters that must be distilled Uttle by little to make a useful liquor of them.

The letters of Mme. de La Valli^re to the Mar6chal de Belief onds, and those of Bossuet to the same mar6- chal on the subject of Mme. de La Vallidre, complete the interior picture of her conversion. The Mar^chal de Bellefonds, a man of worth and piety, had a sister who was a nun in the Carmelite convent of the Fau- boug Saint-Jacques, where Mme. de La Valli^re had a project of retiring. He exhorted and strengthened, as best he could, that poor distressed soul, as Bossuet sustained and incited it on his side:

'* I have seen M. de Condom [Bossuet] and I have opened to him my heart," writes Mme. de La Valliere to the mar^chal, November ai, 1673; " he admires the great mercy of God to me, and urges me to execute at once his holy will; he is even convinced that 1 shall do it sooner than I think. For the last two days the report of my retreat has been so spread about that my friends and relatives now speak of it to me. They are very pitying, in advance, upon my fate. I know not why they speak of it, for I have not done anything to show it. I l>elieve it is God who permits this talk to draw me to him more quickly."

We do not find in her letters one word that is not natural, humble, and kind; with lively gratitude to those who wish her well, and perfect indulgence for all others. "My affairs do not advance," she writes (January ii, 1674), "and 1 find no help in


4$2 XTbe mitibcsec be Xa Vallfice*

persons from whom I might expect it: I must have the mortification of importuning the master; and you know what that is for me. . . ." And else- where she says: "To quit the Court for the cloi- ster does not cost me anything; but to speak to the king, oh! that is my torture." The sight of her daughter, Mile, de Blois, moved her, but did not shake her: "I own to you that 1 felt joy in seeing how pretty she is; but at the same time 1 had a scruple; 1 love her, but she cannot hold me back a moment; I see her with pleasure and I shall leave her without pain ; make that accord as you please ; but I feel it just as I tell it to you. " These struggles, these last difficulties dragged on, and were prolonged for some time, until persevering resolution prevailed and one morning the tone of deliverance breaks forth:

" At last I quit the world,*' she cries, March 19, 1674, " without re- gret, but not without pain; my weakness has kept me here long with- out pleasure, or, to speak more truly, with a thousand griefii. You know the greater part of them; you know how sensitive I am; that feeling has not diminished; 1 am conscious of it daily; I see that the future will not give me any more satisfaction than the past and the present. You judge rightly that according to the worid I ought to be content, and according to God I ought to fed transported. I do feel myself warmly urged to respond to the grace that He has done me, and to abandon mysdf wholly to Him.

" Everyone leaves here the last of April; I leave too, but it b to take the surest way to heaven. God grant that I may advance in it, as 1 must, if 1 would ol)tain the pardon of my sins. I fed within me indinations so sweet and so cnid and, at the same time, so decided (accord that opposition that is within me as you can) that the persons to whom I open my heart admire more and more the extreme mercy that God is diowing to me.


T!;be JDtxtibcsec 5e Xa VaUtete. 453

Speaking of Bossuet she says: " As for M. de Con- dom, he is an admirable man for his mind, his good- ness, and his love of God." And, in truth, when we read at the same time Bossuet's letters relating to Mme. de La Valli&re, we are struck with the qualities of kindness, perfect charity, and even humility in the great director and the sublime orator. He had begun by thinking that she advanced rather slowly: "A nature a little stronger than hers would have made more way," he writes, "but we must not bind her to more than she is able to carry on." Her final resolution, when declared, did not lack opposition and, above all, ridicule. Mme. de Montespan, particularly, scoffed at the project of the Carmelites, and it was feared that the king would forbid it: it was necessary to con- duct the matter cautiously. Bossuet followed the alter- nations of delay and progress with fatherly solicitude. "It seems to me," he said of the humble convert, "that without her making any movement her affair is advancing. God never quits her, and, without violence he is breaking her bonds." Then, suddenly, when the last tie is worn through and breaks, when the dove takes her flight, he is full of the joy of triumph, of wonderment in his turn:

•* I send you," he writes to the Mar^chal de Bcllcfonds, " a letter from Mme. la Duchesse de la Valliere, which will make you see that by the grace of God, she is about to execute the intention that the Holy Spirit put into her heart. The whole Court is edified and astonished at her tranquillity and her joy, which increase as the time approaches. In truth, her feelings have in them something so divine that 1 cannot


454 tl^be 2)ucbed6e de Xa ValUttc

think of them without being in a state oi continual thanksgiving. The mark of the finger of God is in the strength and the humility which accompany all her thoughts; that is the work of the Holy Spirit . . . that transports me, and confounds me; I speak, she acts; I discourse, she does the work. When I consider these things I feel a desire to be silent and hide myself . . . poor channel through which the waters of heaven pass, and which can hardly retain a few drops."

Thus spoke and thought about himself with touch- ing simplicity the great bishop, the oracle of his times, the greatest of mankind through his talent.

The evening before the day on which she quitted the Court Mme. de La Vallidre supped with Mme. de Montespan ; she chose to drink the cup to its last dregs and to taste the rejection of the world/' as Bossuet said, to the last remains of its bitterness. The next day, April ao, 1674, she heard the mass of the king who was starting for the army; leaving the mass she went to ask pardon on her knees of the queen for her offences; then she got into her carriage and went to the convent of the Carmelites in the Faubourg Saint-Jacques, where a great crowd of people lining the way awaited her. Entering, she threw herself on her knees before the superior and said: '* My mother, I have always made so bad a use of my will that I come to place it in your hands." Without waiting for the end of her novitiate, on the very day of her entrance into the Cloister, she made them cut off her hair, "the admiration of all those who have spoken of her person," making haste to despoil herself of her last earthly crown. Mme« de La Valli&re, when she entered the Qoister, was thirty years old.


JItoc SHicbesse De Xa VaUf^te. 45s

Bossuet could not preach the sermon for the viiure^ or taking of the habit, which took place in June, 1674; but he did for that of the profession, that is to say, the irrevocable vow, which was taken in June of the fol- lowing year. Mme. de La Valli^re, then become Sister Louise de la Mis6ricorde, solemnly received the black veil from the hands of the queen. We can judge of the strain of such an occasion: That beautiful and courageous person/' writes Mme. de S6vign6, "did this action, like all the others of her life, in a noble and winning manner; her beauty surprised every one ; but what will astonish you is that the sermon of M. de Condom [Bossuet] was not as divine as was hoped for." When we read that sermon to-day we comprehend and, 1 must own, share a little in the impression of Mme. de S6vign6; we say to ourselves that we expected something else. So much the worse for those who had that expectation, and for usl Bossuet, before being an orator was a religious man, a true bishop, and, on the present occasion, he felt to what a point it behoved him to be grave and not lend himself in any way to a smile, nor to an illusion, nor to the secret malice of hearts that would have taken pleasure in certain memories, certain descriptions. He transported his audience at once into higher and purer regions. He took for his text the words of Him who is seated on the throne in the Apocalypse: "Behold, I make all things new," and he applied it to the present case. The more he had


456 XCbe 2Hicbes6e de la VaUitre*

seen of Mme. de la Vallidre during the time of her novitiate the more he had been struck with her strength, with the soaring of her spirit, and her entire renewal of heart. What he desired above ail in preaching before her was to bear to that soul a good word, and not to shine in the eyes of worldlings by one of those miracles of eloquence which were to him so easy and so familiar:

" Take notice, Messieurs, that we must here observe more carefuHy than ever the precept given us by the Preacher: ' The wise man listens to the wise word, lauds it, and applies it to himself.' He looks neither to the right nor to the left to see whom it may fit; he applies it to himself, and finds his profit in it. ' My sister,' he added, turn- ing toward the new nun, " ' lipom among the things I have to say to you, you will know bow to distinguish those that apply to you. Do you likewise. Christians. . . . "

It was in these simple terms, cutting short all vain and alien curiosity, that Bossuet approached his sub- ject and applied himself to describe the two loves, profane and divine; the love of self pushed to con- tempt of God," and "the love of God pushed to contempt of selt"

Having entered the path of prayer and penitence, Mme. de La Valfi6re never looked back for a single instant She was visited sometimes by the queen, and by Mme. de Montespan herself; but she withdrew as much as possible from communication with the outside. When Mme. de Montespan asked her one day, whether, really and truly, she was as glad as people said she was, she replied, with a tact that the


JLbc S>ucbe6se be la Vallitee. 457

mind borrowed from the heart, "No, I am not glad, 1 am content." Content is, in truth, the Christian word, the one that expresses tranquillity, peace, sub- mission, joy without effusion, something contained withal.

Mme. de La Valliere on entering the convent had two children living. Her son, the Comte de Verman- dois, died in the flower of his age (1633), tainted already by the vices of the young Court. Bossuet was charged with announcing to the mother her painful loss. At first she could answer only with tears, but as soon as she was in a flt state to reply, the penitent within her rose above all, and she said : " I have wept enough for a son whose birth I have not mourned enough. Her daughter. Mile, de Blois, who married the Prince de Conti, was a model of grace; it was of her that La Fontaine said, describing her light and as it were atrial step : A blade of grass could bear her; a flower would scarce have bent beneath the imprint of her feet." When she married the Prince de Conti people hastened from all parts to congratulate the mother, who bore this last homage of the world, which to her was humiliation, with a modesty, a good grace, and a perfect decorum, which have been much celebrated. Mme. de S6vign6 began by jesting about it. as even the best persons in society did not refrain from doing: "They say that she [Mme. de La Vallidre] has adapted her style to her black veil perfectly, and seasons her tenderness as a


45^ XTbe S>ucbe66e ^e Xa IDaUiere.

mother with that of the spouse of Jesus Christ." But when she went herself to the convent grating and saw with her own eyes Mme. de La Vallidre, she has only a cry of admiration for a simplicity so truly humble and yet so noble:

" What an angel appeared to me at last! . . . To my eyes, there were all the charms we used to see in other days; I found her neither bloated nor yellow; she is less thin and more content; she has the same eyes, the same glance; austerely bad food, and little sleep have not hollowed nor dulled them; that strange garb takes nothing from her grace, nor from her elegance; as for modesty, it is no greater than when she gave birth to a Princesse de Conti, but that is enough for a nun. She said many kindly things to me, and spoke to me of you [Mme. de Grignan] so well, so appropriately, all that she said was so in keeping with herself that, as I think, nothing could be better."

And she ends this strain of eulogy by the following very mundane reflection: 'Mn truth, that garb and that retreat give her great dignity/'

Mme. de La Valli^re was certainly not thinking of making them into a dignity. Completely given up to the calmness and the consolations of her hidden life, she thought she could not sufficiently purchase them by austerities and mortifications which she im- posed upon herself with ardour and a species of subtlety. Those who have written the narrative of her penitent life have taken pleasure in producing some singular examples of it, which would move us very little to-day; but the principle that inspired them, the end that she approached by such means, are for- ever worthy of respect in all ages and from whatever point of view we look at them: " I hope, I believe, I


XEbe zmcbeBae de Xa ValUdre« 459

love," she said; "it is for God to perfect his gifts." "Faith and hope are two great virtues; but those who have not charity have nothing; they are like sterile plants that the sun never shines upon."

This beautiful soul, realising henceforth in her own being the qualities of divine love, considered herself to the end one of the lowest in God's eyes. "1 do not ask him," she said, "for those great gifts which are only put into the great souls he sends into the world to enlighten it; I could not contain them: but I do ask him to incline my heart, according to his promise, to seek his law and meditate upon it night and day." Such desires of the soul, no matter in what form they wrap themselves, are for ever precious; they lead in all ages to the great moral heights.

Mme. de La Vallidre died on the 6th of June, 1710^ after thirty-six years of cloistered life. Louis XIV had seen her enter the convent with a dry eye. He retained for her, Saint-Simon says, "esteem and a dry consideration." Here is dryness enough, but, even so, it tells too little. He had long ceased to love her; but when she proved to him that she coukl tear herself from him and prefer another to him, even though that other were God himself, she entirely de- tached and alienated him from her, and he never for- gave it " She has often said to me," relates Madame, mother of the Regent, "that if the king came to the convent she should refuse to see him and would hide herself where he could not find her. She has been


4^0 Zbc Z)iicbe00e de Xa VMlittc

excused from that trial, for the king has never gone there. He has forgotten her as much as if he had never known her."

Of the three women who veritably occupied the mind of Louis XIV and divided his heart and his reign among them, Mme. de La Vallidre, Mme. de Montespan, and Mme. de Maintenon, the first remains by far the most interesting; the only one truly inter- esting in herself. Much inferior to the two others in mind she is incomparably their superior in heart: one may say that in this respect she inhabits another sphere which those two women of intellect (the latter, moreover, a woman of judgment) could never reach. Whenever we try to make for ourselves the image of a perfectly loving woman, we think of La Vallidre. To love for the sake of loving, without pride, without coquetry, without arrogance, without one secret thought of ambition, of self-interest, of narrow calculation, without a shadow of vanity— rand tfien to suffer, to make herself of no account, to sac- rifice even her dignity so long as there was hope, to allow herself, when hope was gone, to be humiliated as an expiation; and, when the hour came, to immo- late herself courageously in a higher hope, to find in prayer and in the presence of God treasures of energy, of a new tenderness; to persevere, to ripen and strengthen at every step, to arrive at the plenitude of her soul by her heart — such was her life, the last part of which developed resources of vigour and


XTbe Bncbesse ^e Xa OaUftee. 461

Christian heroism which were not to have been ex- pected from her eariy fragility. As a loving woman she recalls Heloise, or even the Portuguese Nun, but with less violence and flame; for they had not only the genius of passion but also its transports and its madness; La Valli^re had its tenderness only. Soul and beauty delicate and sweet, she had more of Berenice than the other two. As a nun, a Carmelite, daughter of Saint Teresa, it is not for us to seek comparisons for her here. Let us only say, in our least profane tone, that when we read that wonder- ful fifth chapter of the Third Book of the " Imitation " in which are shown the effects of divine love, which in that chapter is the ideal of the other love, Mme. de La Vallidre is one of the living figures that explain it to us in their person, and are its best commentary.


Full text of another volume

PORTRAITS OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

Historic and Literary

BY C. A. SA1NTE-BEUVE


Uniform with "Portraits of the Seventeenth Century" Two Tarts. 8. W ith about }o illustrations. Sold sepa- rately. Each, $2.50 net


'PART ONE

TRANSLATED BY

KATHARINE P. WORMELEY

Duchesse du Maine Marquise du Deffand

Mme. de Staal-Delaunay Earl of Chesterfield

Le Sage - Benjamin Franklin Montesquieu Mme. GeorTrin

Adrienne le Couvreur Abbe Barthe'lemy

Voltaire Louis XV.

TART TWO

TRANSLATED BY GEORGE BURNHAM IVES

Prevost Buffon

Mme. de Lambert Saint-Pierre

Mme. Necker Frederick the Great

Diderot Wilhelmina, Margravine of Rousseau Baireuth

Grimm Beaumarchais

Mme. d'Epinay Necker Marie-Antoinette


G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS NEW YORK LONDON



FRANCOIS DE SALIQNAC DE LA MOTHE FENELON. Frontispiece From a steel engraving.


il C

of the



Historic and Literary

By

C A,

Translated by Katharine P. Wormeley


History of the French Academy CorneiUe Mademoiselle de Scudery Moliere La Fontaine Pascal Madame de Se- vignd Bossuet Boileau Racine Madame de Caylus Fenelon Comte Antoine Hamilton The Princesse des Ursins


G. P.

New York and London tlbe Knickerbocke 1909


COPVRIGHT, 1904 BY

G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS


Ube fmtcfcetbocfca preaf, Hew lorn


Contents

CHAPTER PAGE

I. HISTORY OF THE FRENCH ACADEMY (1629-) i \l CORNEILLE (1606-1684) . . . . 29* If!, MADEMOISELLE DE SCUDERY (1607-1701) . 55 IV. MOLIERE (1622-1673) . . , . 85

V. LA FONTAINE (1621-1695) . . .1411 VI. PASCAL (1623-1662) . . . 167

Vli. MADAME DE SEVIGNE (1626-1696) . .189 V!U. BossuET (1627-1704) .... 217

I \; BOILEAU (1636-1711) .... 245

X, RACINE (1639-1691) . . . .28?

XI. MADAME DE CAYLUS (1673-1729) . . 315

XII, FNELON (1651-1715) . 343

XIII. COMTE ANTOINE HAMILTON (1646-1720) . 385

XIV. THE PRINCESSE DES URSINS (1642-1722) . 405


Illustrations

PAGE

Franoois de Salignao de la Mothe Fe-

nelon .... Frontispiece From a steel engraving.

Corneille 32

From an engraving of the painting by Lebrun.

Mademoiselle Madeleine de Soudery . 58

From an old print.

Moliere 88

From a steel engraving.

La Fontaine 144

From a steel engraving.

Blaise Pascal 1 70

From a steel engraving.

Madame de Sevigne . . . ,,192

From a steel engraving.

Comtesse de Grignan .... 208

From a steel engraving.


Illustrations


PAGE


Jacques Benigne Bossuet . . .220

From a steel engraving.

Nicolas Boileau ..... 248

From a steel engraving.

Racine 286

From a steel engraving.

Madame de Cay Ins . . . .318

After the painting by G. Staal.

Comte Antoine Hamilton . . .388

From an old print.

Princesse des Ursins . . . . 408

Frorn an old print.


I.

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I.

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THE short history that M. Pellisson has given of the beginning of this Association, in the form of a te Letter to a Friend, " is in reality one of the most finished and most agreeable essays in our lan- guage, a rare and perfect example, that shows better than all definitions what it is to write with elegance and purity in French. There are, and there were in the days of Pellisson, two sorts of elegance and ur- banity in conversing and in writing: one lively, more natural, easier, more familiar, also more coloured; de- rived from commerce with the great world and the Court by those who were born and bred to them from infancy, that, for instance, of Saint 6vremond, Bussy, Clerembault, La Rochefoucauld, Retz: the other more studied, formed in the library and by reading, or by assiduous attendance in certain brilliant circles, and by intercourse with the best-qualified literary personages; this last form of urbanity is that of Con- rart and Vaugelas ; in it Pellisson excels, and is, above all others, the perfect model of his time.

If, after reading some natural and living work of that period, the Memoirs of Cardinal de Retz for example,

3


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Pellisson Is immediately taken up," what I mean to say will be understood. We have to do with an ex- cellent writer in him, but a writer of another species, of a wholly different stamp, of another origin and genus. He is not of those who, like Retz, have seen all and essayed all in action, and, daring all, risk say- ing all, making to themselves a language in their own likeness, which they alone can speak with a certain air, well assured as they are of being 'always of a good school and a good race. Pellisson is one of those authors by profession who, having begun by the pen, never lose it from sight, and would prefer to cut themselves short, like Fontanes, of ideas or inci- dents to relate, if they thought they could not gather and present them with absolute correctness and perfect elegance.

Born at Beziers in 1624, of a Protestant family very distinguished in the law, he was educated in the South, and was twenty-six years of age when he came to Paris, where he was introduced into the lit- erary world under the auspices of Conrart. It was then that he composed, under the form of a "Letter to a Friend/' this Narrative, or History of the French Academy, which he was admitted to read before it in full assemblage. The approbation the paper won was so great that the first vacant place in the Associa- tion was voted to Pellisson, and, meanwhile, he was allowed to be present at the meetings in the capacity of "supernumerary"; which has never happened ex-


tbfstorg of tbe iftencb Hca&emg* 5

cept to him. He thus found himself the object of a unique exception; he was the only man of letters to whom the Academy did not fear to make a promise in advance.

He was thus placed under the very best conditions to write this narrative; beside the Academy but not as yet of it, and in the confidence of the best-informed witnesses. It is thanks to him that we are able to know the Golden Age, the Evander age, of this much- lauded Association, which was soon to have its Louvre and its Capitol.

During the first half of the seventeenth century nu- merous efforts were made in France for the culture and perfecting of the language, natural and spontane- ous efforts of little societies, or coteries, grammatical and literary. After the coming of Malherbe a general impulse in this direction was felt. One of these little societies, that of MM. Conrart, Godeau, de Gombauld, de Malleville, de Serisay, de Cerisy, Habert (Chapelain came a little later), assembled weekly at Conrart's, whose lodging was the most central They read to one another the works they composed; these they criticised or encouraged. "The conferences were followed sometimes by a promenade, sometimes by a collation." During three or four years the meet- ings continued thus in perfect obscurity and freedom.

" When they talk to-day of that first period of the Academy/' says Pellisson, u they speak of it as a Golden Age during which, in all the innocence and freedom of the first centuries, without noise or pomp,


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without other laws than those of friendship, they enjoyed together all that association of minds and reasonable living can give that is sweetest and most charming."

Secrecy was pledged and kept: Quisapitin tacito gaudeat ille sinu. One of them (M. de Malleville) was the first to infringe it; he spoke rather indis- creetly of the conferences and of what was there discussed to Faret, author of the Honnete Homme, who brought his book to him, then just printed. Faret talked to others. Des Maretz and Boisrobert were informed of the meetings, and asked to be admitted. The members could not refuse Boisrobert, a great favourite of Cardinal Richelieu and his chief amuser. As the latter well knew that rather jovial tales and literary news were most likely to amuse his patron, he did not fail to entertain him with the proceedings of the little company; and gave him so favourable an idea of it, that Richelieu conceived u scheme to adopt the association and constitute it into a formal body, for use as the literary decoration of the reign.

For Richelieu (let us in our turn and after so many others, do him this homage), had in him that flame, that religion of Letters which Pericles, the Augustuses, and the Maecenases had in their day to so high a degree; he believed that truly noble and great things would not continue to be regarded as such for ever, except in so far as they were consecrated by that religion; and that the genius of Letters is the neces-


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sary and indirectly auxiliary ornament, the magnifi- cent and most honourable decoration of the genius of States. If he had less taste than the great men of Greece and Rome whom I have just cited, that came of the hindrances of his epoch, of his education, and of a vice of his mind which was given to a species of pedantry; but though he transgressed in the minor detail he was not mistaken in his public view of litera- ture, nor in 'the value of the institution he sought to establish for the service and pleasure of all.

After having subdued and decapitated the nobles, checkmated the Protestants as a party in the State, foiled and humbled the factions in the royal family; after making head throughout all Europe against the House of Austria, counteracting its prominence by several armies in the field and on the sea, he had the intelligence to comprehend that there was something to do for the French language, to polish, adorn, au- thorise it, render it "the most perfect of modern lan- guages," transport into it that empire, that universal ascendancy once possessed by the Latin language, and which, since then, other languages had seemed to usurp transiently, rather than actually possess. The Spanish language at that time was usurping this sem- blance of authority; so that even on that ground he would still combat the House of Austria. But for the execution of such an idea he needed choice auxiliaries; a happy chance threw them, already collected, in his way. He stretched forth his hand and said to that


8 1bf9ton> of tbe f rencb Sca&em$.

little gathering which thought itself so obscure: "I adopt you; belong to me, belong to the State! "

On the other side, it is piquant and almost touching to see how this offer of protection and aggrandisement alarmed, at first, those worthy men, sincere lovers of private life and studious leisure; they were strongly tempted to decline so great an honour. But the wise and prudent Chapelain remarked"that inasmuch as, unfortunately, their conferences had come to light, they no longer had liberty of choice; that this honour- able offer of protection, coming from such a height, was an order; and to withdraw from the good inten- tions of the Cardinal would be to incur his enmity: Spretoeque injuria formes. The reasons presented on this occasion, and those produced in other and pri- vate discussions are given by Pellisson in little indi- rect discourses imitated from those of Livy, and not less suitable. The Cardinal was therefore thanked, surprise and gratitude mingling in the reply, and the little company placed itself at his disposition. This took place early in 1634.

It is unfortunate that the history of the Academy has not been continued on the plan and in the detail of Pellisson. That history, as I conceive it, is now rather difficult to write, for want of sufficient private documents; nevertheless, I do not think it impossible. I speak, of course of the old Academy, destroyed in 1793; as to the new Academy, documents and re- collections abound. The important point would be


Ibistors of tbe frencb Hca&em$, 9

to mark carefully the different periods, the different ages, and the various influences which the Association has undergone or has exercised, the currents of mind that have reigned within it, and through which it has found itself more or less in harmony and in commu- nication with the tone and opinion of the outside.

It has proved an almost general rule that the Acad- emy, after a period" when it was completely on the level of exterior literary opinion, and represented the aspects most in view and most flourishing, has low- ered its level or retarded its progress. This came of the duration and longevity of its members. For ex- ample, under Richelieu and from its origin, it was composed, naturally, of all that was best and most highly considered among men of letters, Balzac at their head, and Chapelain. But, by the very fact that Chapelain lived on and survived himself, there came a moment under Louis XIV, and at the finest period of his reign, when we note in the breast of the Acad- emy a slightly old-fashioned and behind-the-age spirit. Not only were Moliere and La Fontaine not of it, but Boileau was not, until Louis XIV, having asked him a question on the subject, heard with amazement of his absence.

For the very reason that the school of Chapelain and Des Maretz lived out its course of nature and prolonged itself by its choice of successors, Boileau was never completely at home in the Academy; he was never satisfied with it, and could not speak


io f&istorg of tide fftencb Hca&emg*

of it without an epigram ; he was almost of the opin- ion of Mme. de Maintenon, who was reproached for not regarding it as "a serious body." The fact is, the old academicians, against whom Boileau in the beginning had contended, lived long enough to admit much younger academicians who, from the start, were opposed in their turn to Boileau, already old and mature. I know, of course, that there were grand classic days, when Racine solemnly eulogised Cor- neille, when La Bruyere was received ; but the or- dinary routine of the Academy was the reading of a poem by Perrault, a dissertation by Charpentier, an idyll by Fontenelle, and, after a while, a fable or a translation in verse by La Motte. The latter, as soon as he belonged to the Academy, became, by his assiduity, his politeness, his amiable, social spirit, one of the most essential members, and the dearest to the heart of the company. Through him, and through Fontenelle, the Academy found itself once more well in advance, and at the head of all literary questions under the Regency.

But after that, and until the middle of the eighteenth century, time and effort were needed to raise the Academy from the selections made under the stag- nating influence of Cardinal Fleury, and to bring it once more into harmony and true alliance with the literary and philosophical powers active in the world. Voltaire did not belong to the Academy until 1646, that is, very late, like Boileau ; but once in it, though


Ibfstorg of tbe jftencf) Eca&emg. n

absent and living out of the country, he ruled and governed it, which Boileau never did. Duclos first, and then d'Alembert were his chief prime-ministers.

M. Paul Mesnard, in a "History of the Academy," (which has no other fault than that of being too much abridged), has sketched these epochs and these in- terior divisions very well. He indicates a chapter that ought to be written about the influence of women on the elections to the Academy Mme. de Lambert, Mme. de Tencin, Mme. Geoffrin, Mile, de Lespinasse, etc. there is another that ought also to be written, on the imperceptible directing influences of the perpetual secretaries. A good perpetual secre- tary, without making much stir in its interior, gives motion to the machine and enables it to go as if of itself. We still have some of that kind; and we notice very quickly when, by chance, they are absent or lacking. The saddest period of the Academy in the eighteenth century was that of the insignificant perpetual secre- taries Dacier, Du Bois, Houtteville, Miraba-ud. In their day the company slumbered or drifted.

In spite of the brilliant role that the Academy was able to play in the second half of the eighteenth century, which made it a sovereign organ of opinion, especially about the time of the accession of Louis XVI until 1788, I do not think that it has ever, altogether and at all points, fulfilled the hope of its founder, Richelieu; it has done both more and less than he desired. Let me explain :


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It is not on the Letters Patent of his institution that I lay the blame; and besides, I do not assume to lay any blame at all, but merely to state facts accurately and draw conclusions. The Letters Patent of 1655 and the project which preceded them explained, in very clear terms, the name of the studies and the ob- ject of the work of the Academy, namely:

(< The hope that our language, more perfect already than any other living language, may succeed to Latin, as Latin did to Greek, if more care be taken than has been hitherto of elocution ; which is not, in truth, the whole of eloquence, but a very good and very important part of it"; and, for that object, it was necessary "to establish cer- tain rules, and, primarily, to establish a certain usage of words, and to regulate terms and phrases by an ample Dictionary and a precise Gram- mar, which would give to the language a part of the ornaments that it lacked, so that later it might acquire the rest through a Rhttorique and a Poetique, that should be composed to serve as regulators to those who wished to write in verse or prose: that, in this way, the French language might be rendered not only elegant, but capable of treating of all Arts and Sciences, beginning with that most noble of all the arts, eloquence," etc., etc.

Of all this and of the other articles of its first pro- gramme, the Academy accomplished nothing but its Dictionary. Add to that, if you like, Vaugelas's Rgmarques which the Academy publicly adopted, and perhaps also the French grammar of Regnier Desmarais, its perpetual secretary, who made it semi- officially. This was enough, rightly viewed ; and in that direction the Academy has done, in course of time, what it was commissioned to do. As for the Rhetorique and the Pottiqiie, it prudently confined


Distort of tbe ftencb Bca&emi?* 13

itself to the Letter of Fenelon, which it could show to friends and enemies as a charming series of questions and projects, every one being allowed to build and dream as he chose on the engaging words of the least dogmatic of masters.

But Richelieu meant that his French Academy should be something more; he meant to make it the judge of all the noted works that appeared ; to constitute it a grand jury, as we say now, a high liter- ary tribunal, expected to give its judgment on all the important current productions that came before the public. I imagine to myself a living and ever-present Richelieu: he would ask the Academy its opinion on Phedre for example, on Athalie the morning after the first representation of those famous plays, in the very quick of the discussions they excited. He would ask the same on all the great poetic works that led to schism and controversy (I am supposing a per- manent and immortal Richelieu) ; he would, in short, exact that learned men should speak out; not waiting for the verdict of time, but forestalling it, regulating it to some extent, and giving their reasons; leading the tide of public opinion and not following it. Was this possible ? was it desirable ? That is another question, and when I say that the Academy in this has not fulfilled its vocation and has not acted in the direction indicated by its founder, I am not blaming it. No one does things of that sort unless they are not only authorised but forced and constrained to do them.


14 tbtetors of tbe jftencb

No one plunges, from mere gaiety of heart, into the melee of contemporaneous discussions, even if he flatters himself he can rule them. Men are not so ready to confer upon themselves such extraordinary commissions, always thorny, and which look like usurpation, if they are not imposed as a duty. I shall merely remark in defence of Richelieu's idea (of which there are others to tell the objections and difficulties), that it was a truly French idea in the rnind of the great minister, like all the many others that came to him in the course of his glorious patriotic tyranny.

For in France note this well we are not, above all, desirous of being amused or pleased by a work of art or intellect, nor even of being touched by it; we want to know if we are right in applauding and in being amused and touched. We fear to be compromised, to make ourselves ridiculous; we turn about, we question our neighbour; we like to meet an authority, to find some one, man or Association, before whom we can lay our doubts. In this is a double process of the French mind. It has impulse, ardour, a dashing spirit, but criticism is close beside it, rules and regula- tions are felt on the morrow of what has seemed rashness. I therefore suppose that the Academy, which began by giving its judgment rather pertinently on the "Cid," might have kept fairly well to its opening promise if it had found itself obliged to do so. Let us suppose a judgment, with reasons assigned, pronounced by the Academy within six months on


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every leading work in literature; which judgment (due allowance being made for difference of periods and customs) should not be inferior for sound sense, impartiality, and moderation to that early verdict on the "Cid." Such judgments would to-day form a very memorable series, and a critical jurisprudence, so to call it, that would certainly not be without its action on the vicissitudes and variations of the public taste. But I perceive that this view presupposes and demands a series, or at least a frequent recurrence of Richelieus historically impossible.

In all this, I have only tried to make it felt in a rather salient way, what the great founder intended on this point. The Academy, I repeat, has done less and has done more than he expected of it; and, on the whole, if he could reappear on one of our fete-days, he would not blush too much for his creation; he might grumble a little, but he would also quiver with fatherly pride at the sight of his emancipated offspring.

Since I am on the subject of the Academy, one of the most national subjects in France, and about which everybody talks, I ask to be allowed to recall a few facts, and make a few observations without much connection as they occur to me.

People always speak of the academic fauteuils (arrn-chairs). Originally, and when the Academy held its sessions at the Louvre, there were but three, for the officers of the company, the director, chancellor,


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and perpetual secretary. It was on the election of La Monnoye (December, 1713) that this feature was changed. La Monnoye was a man of letters, witty, educated, commonplace as to talent, but universally liked and esteemed in person; a laureate grown grey in competitions, one of those happy medio-critics that make a desirable candidate; he was unanimously received; Louis XIV, whom he had celebrated many a time in verse, showing special satisfaction. La Monnoye, writing to a friend, relates his reception by the Academy as follows :

  • ' There is no example of an Academician received with greater dis-

tinction. I arn careful not to attribute this to my own merit, which is slight; it is due solely to the influence of Cardinal d' Estrees and his nephew. . . . Something quite memorable happened at the Academy on this occasion. None but the three officers of the Com- pany had fauteuils ; the cardinals who were not allowed any unless they were one of the officers, refused in consequence to be present at the sessions. The embarrassment of Cardinal d'Estrees was great, he being unable to give me his vote without going in person to the Academy; but this he could not resolve to do on account of not having a fauteuiL The two other cardinals who were members of the Academy, Cardinal de Rohan and Cardinal de Polignac, having con- ferred with him, laid the matter before the King, who ended the diffi- culty by ordering that henceforth all the Academicians should have fauteuils."

Such is the authentic history of the academical arm- chairs. Now those forty fauteuils of the old Acad- emy were not transmitted to the new. To satisfy inquisitive persons and those who want to know by the card what is real in a metaphor, I will state that at our sessions there are no fauteuils only comfortable scats.


ibistotg of tbe Jftencb Hca&emg* 17

Sometimes a list of academicians is given by fauteuils ; on the election of each new member it is customary to say that he occupies the fauteuil of such and such illustrious men, going back to the origin of the Academy. All that is chimerical. The old Academy having been suppressed in 1793, its affairs became muddled and confused. Later, when the Institute was created, and in the bosom of that Institute a class that corresponded fairly well to the original French Academy was formed, there was no direct relation established from one to the other; those of the old academicians who were appointed were so -under new rights, and not as a recovery of possession. The genealogy of the fauteuils coming down to our day, which was invented some thirty [now eighty] years ago, by a certain professor of history, who thought it had a good effect in a synoptical table, is as false as most genealogies. Nevertheless, the pub- lic believes in it and, in spite of what I say, will probably continue to believe in it

The Dictionary of the French Academy, not that in common use, which is already in the hands of every one, and which will suffice awhile longer until newly revised, but an historical Dictionary, begun about fifteen years ago an important addition very com- plete, very rich in citations, and very interesting to read (a rare thing in a dictionary) is about to appear with a preface by the learned editor, M. Patin; this first addition, important as it is, is only preliminary,


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and will be presented in a few days to the Minister of Public Instruction. On this side the Academy shows itself faithful in extending rather than limiting its first mission. 1

What is a classic? a delicate question to which divers answers might be given according to ages and seasons. A man of intellect put it to me to-day, and I will try, if not to solve it, at least to examine and sift it before my readers, to induce them to answer it themselves, and throw light, if I can, on their idea and mine. Why not, from time to time, risk treating critically subjects that are not personal, which con- cern, not some one, but some thing; subjects of which our neighbours, the English, have succeeded so well in making a whole category under the modest title of Essays. It is true that to treat such subjects, which are always a little abstract and moral, we need to speak in tranquillity, to be sure of one's own atten- tion and that of others, to seize, in short, one of those half-hours of silence, moderation, and leisure that are so rarely accorded to our lively France, whose

1 Since the above was written (1859), M. Emile Littre, of the French Academy, was charged with the duty of revising and enlarging the original Dictionary, until now it stands as a great monument to the French language in many volumes. An historical, biographical, geo- graphical, mythological section has been added by M. Beaujean, in- spector of the French Academy, and the collaborator of M. Littre* An abridged edition of the whole, in one small volume, has been published, under the sanction of the Minister of Public Instruction, by Hachette et Cie., which is quite invaluable for daily and constant use. TR.


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genius is impatient of them, even when she tries to be wise and to make no more revolutions.

A classic, according to the ordinary definition, is an ancient author, already consecrated by admiration, and an authority in his own class. The word classic, used in this sense, first appears among the Romans. They termed classicinot all citizens of diverse classes, but those of the first class only, who had a revenue of, at least, a certain specified sum. All who pos- sessed an inferior revenue came under the denomina- tion of infra classem, beneath the class par excellence. Figuratively, the word classicus is used in Aulus Gellius, and applied to writers: a writer of value and note, classicus assiduusque scriptor, a writer of ac- count, who has property, and is not to be confounded with the crowd of proletaries. Such an expression supposes an age advanced enough to have some- thing like a census and classification of literature.

As for moderns: in the beginning, the true and only classics were, naturally, the ancients. The Greeks, who, by singular good fortune and an easy buoyancy of mind, had no other classics than them- selves, were, at first, the only classics of the Romans, who took pains and strove to imitate them. The Romans, after the noble ages of their literature, after Cicero and Virgil, had classics of their own, which became, almost exclusively, those of the succeeding centuries. The Middle Ages, which were not as ignorant of Latin antiquity as was thought, but which


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lacked both judgment and taste, confounded ranks and orders : Ovid was treated on a better footing than Homer; Boetius was thought a classic equal, at the least, to Plato. The renascence of Letters, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, cast light into this long confusion, and then at last admirations were graduated. The true and classic authors of the double antiquity were henceforth detached upon a luminous background, and grouped themselves harmoniously on their respective heights.

Meantime, the modern literatures were born, and a few of the most precocious, the Italian for instance, had already an antiquity of their own. Dante had appeared; and posterity had early saluted him as a classic. Italian poesy may since have dwindled, but when it chooses it can recover and preserve the im- pulsion and the echo of that high origin. It is no in- different thing for a poesy to have such a point of departure, a classic source in such high regions, and to come down from a Dante rather than issue lamely from a Malherbe.

Modern Italy had its classics and Spain had every right to feel that she had hers, while France was still without them. A few writers of talent gifted with originality and exceptional warmth of fancy, a few brilliant efforts, isolated and without sequence, im- mediately broken off and needing ever to be renewed, did not suffice to endow our nation with the solid and imposing foundation of literary wealth. The idea


Distort of tbe JFtencb Bca&emg, 21

of a classic implies, in itself, something that has se- quence and consistency, which makes a traditional whole, which creates itself, transmits itself, and lasts. It was not until after the great years of Louis XIV that the French nation felt, with a quiver of pride, that such happiness had come to her. All voices told it then to Louis XIV with flattery, with exaggeration and emphasis, and yet with a certain assured feeling of its truth. A singular and piquant contradiction then appeared: the men who were most enchanted by the marvels of this age of Louis the Great, and who even sacrificed the ancients to the moderns, these men, of whom Perrault was the leader, brought about the exaltation and consecration of the very ones who were their most ardent adversaries and opponents. Boileau avenged and angrily maintained the ancients against Perrault, who extolled the mod- erns, that is to say: Corneille, Moliere, Pascal, and the eminent men of his day, including among the first of them Boileau himself. The kind La Fon- taine, taking part in the quarrel on behalf of the learned Huet, did not perceive that he himself, in spite of his careless habits, was about to wake up and find himself a classic.

The best definition is example: as soon as France possessed its Louis the Fourteenth century, and could consider it from a little distance, she knew what a classic was, better than any statements could tell her. The eighteenth century added to this idea by noble


22 ibiston? of tbe jfrencb Hca&ems,

works due to its four great men. Read the " Age of Louis XIV" by Voltaire, the " Grandeur and Decad- ence of the Romans " by Montesquieu, the " Epochs of Nature " by Buffon, the t( Savoyard Vicar," and certain fine pages of revery and description of nature by Jean-Jacques, and say if the eighteenth century did not, in those memorable works, combine tradition with freedom of development and independence. But at the beginning of the last century (the nine- teenth) and under the Empire, in presence of the first attempts of a literature decidedly novel and rather adventurous, the idea of the classic shrank and narrowed strangely in certain resisting minds, more grieved than severe. The first Dictionary of the Academy (1694) defined a classic author simply as ' ' an ancient author much approved, who has authority in the matter of which he treats." The Dictionary of the Academy of 1835 takes that same definition and makes it, from being rather vague as it was, precise and even narrow* It defines classic authors as those "who have become models in any language"; and in the articles that follow, the expressions, <( model " " rules established for the composition of style " "strict rules of the art to which writers must con- form," recur continually. This definition of the classic was evidently made by the respectable Aca- demicians, our predecessors, in presence and in view of what was then called the romantic, that is to say, in view of the enemy. It is time, I think, to re-


Tfoistorg of tbe frencb Bca&em$ 23

nounce such restrictive and timid definitions, and to enlarge our minds.

A true classic, as I should like to hear it defined, is an author who has enriched the human mind, who has really augmented its treasury, who has caused it to take a step in advance, who has discovered some moral truth that is not equivocal, or some eternal passion in the heart where all seemed known and explored; who has rendered his thought, observation, or invention under any form, no matter what if it be broad and grand, refined and rational, healthful and beautiful in itself; who speaks to all in a style of his own, which is felt to be that for all the world, a new style without neologisms, new yet ancient, easily contemporaneous with all epochs.

Such a classic may be for a moment revolution- ary; or rather, he may seem so at first, though he is not so; he has never violently attacked that which was around him, he has overthrown that which hindered him only to re-establish, as soon as possible, the equilibrium to the profit of the orderly and the beautiful.

My readers can put, if they like, many names under this definition, which I have tried to make grandiose and plastic, or, to express it better, open and gene- rous. I should put there, in the first instance, Cor- neille, the Corneille of Polyeucte, Ctnna, and Horace. I should put Moliere, the most complete, the fullest poetical genius we have had in France.


24 Distort of tbe f rencb HcaDems,

"Moliere is so great," said Goethe, that king of critics, "that he astounds us each time that we read him. He is a man apart; his comedies touch the tragic, and no one has the courage to try to imi- tate them. ... In a play for the stage each action must be im- portant in itself, and lead up to an action more important still. Tartuffe is, in this respect, a model ... it is all that there is of finest. Every year 1 read a play of Moliere, just as, from time to time, 1 con- template some engraving from the great Italian masters."

I do not conceal from myself that the definition I have just given of the classic is rather outside of the idea that usually accompanies that title. Conditions as to regularity, wisdom, moderation, reason, domi- nating and controlling all else, prevail in that idea. In this sense the classics par excellence must be writ- ers of the second order; correct, intelligent, elegant, always clear and precise; of noble passion still, but its force slightly veiled. The characteristic of this theory, which subordinates imagination and sensibil- ity to reason (of which Scaliger gave perhaps the first signal among moderns), was, properly speaking, that of the Latin theory, and it long remained the preference of the French theory. It has truth, if used only in the right way, and provided that word reason is not abused. It is evident, however, that it is abused, and that if reason is to be confounded with poetic genius, and to make one with it in a moral homily, it cannot be the same thing as that genius so varied, so diversely creative in its expression of passions in the drama or the epic. Where will you find reason in the fourth book of the y^neid and in the transports of


fbistorg of tbe jfrencb HcaSems* 25

Dido ? Where will you find it in the madness of Phedre ? The spirit that dictated that theory leads to putting in the first rank writers who control their imagination, rather than those who yield themselves up to it; who put Virgil before Homer, Racine before Corneille. The masterpiece that this theory loves to quote, which unites, in truth, all its conditions of pru- dence, force, gradual audacity, moral elevation and grandeur, is Athalie. Turenne in his last two cam- paigns and Racine in Athalie those are the great ex- amples of what the prudent and the wise can do when they take possession of the full maturity of their genius.

Racine's Athalie and Bossuet's " Discourse on Uni- versal History," are the highest masterpieces that the rigorously classic theory can offer in France to its friends as to its enemies. But in spite of what is admirably simple and majestic in the accomplishment of such unique productions, we ought, in practising the art, to broaden that theory a little, and show that there are ways of widening it without going so far as relaxing it. Goethe, whom I like to quote on such a matter, says:

" I call the classic healthy and the romantic sickly. To me the poem of the ' Niebelungen ' is as classic as Homer; both are health- ful and vigorous. The works of the present day are not romantic because they are new, but because they are feeble, sickly, or diseased. The works of the ancients are not classic because they are old, but because they are energetic, fresh, buoyant. If we consider the ro- mantic and the classic from these two points of view we shall soon agree."


26 tristors of tbe yrencb Hca&emj?*

In France we have had no great classic anterior to the age of Louis XIV; the Dantes and the Shake- speares, those primal authorities, to whom sooner or later we return in days of emancipation, are lacking to us. We have had mere skeletons of great poets, like Mathurin Regnier, like Rabelais, without ideal of any kind, without passion or serious aim to conse- crate them. Montaigne was a species of premature classic, of the genus of Horace, but he gave himself like a prodigal, for want of worthy surroundings, to the libertine fancies of his pen and his temperament It results that we, less than all other nations, have among our ancestral -authors that which enables us boldly to lay claim to literary liberties and franchises. Still, with Moliere and La Fontaine among our classics of the great century, we have enough that nothing legitimate can be refused to those who will dare and know all.

The important thing to-day seems to me to main- tain the idea and the worship of the classic, while enlarging both. There is no receipt for making clas- sics; that point at least ought to be evident. To believe that by imitating certain qualities of purity, sobriety, correctives, and elegance, independently of nature and its plane, we can become classic, is to believe that after Racine himself there is room for Racine's sons. More than that; it is not good to appear too soon and to contemporaries as a classic; such men stand great chance of not remaining so to


tbfstorg of tbe ffrencb Hca&emg* 27

posterity. Fontanes, in his day, seemed a classic to his friends; and see the pale colour that he has at a distance of twenty-five years! How short a time these precocious classics, made so by the moment, last! We turn about some morning and we are amazed not to find them erect behind us they were only fora "breakfast in the sun," as Mme. de Sevigne would gaily say. In the matter of classics the most unex- pected are always the best and the greatest; ask those virile geniuses born immortal and perennially in vogue. The least classic, apparently, of the four great poets of Louis XIV's era was Moliere; he was applauded then far more than he was rightly esti- mated; people enjoyed him without knowing his value. Next to him, the least classic seemed to be La Fontaine; and see, after two centuries and a half, what has happened for both of them ! Much before Boileau, before even Racine, are they not unanimously recognised to-day as the richest, the most fruitful, in their gift of universal moral truth ? Let us content ourselves with feeling them, penetrating them, ad- miring them; as for us, coming at this late day, let us at least try to be ourselves ; let us have the sin- cerity and the natural instinct of our own thoughts, our own feelings. This can always be attained; add to it (which is more difficult) elevation, direction, if possible, toward some high-placed aim; and while we speak our language, and are subject to the condi- tions of the age in which we live and from which we


28 Ibfstors of tbe f rencb

derive our strength as well as our defects, let us ask ourselves, from time to time, looking upward to the summits, and fastening our eyes upon those venerated groups : "What would they say of us ? "

But why speak always as an author, and of writ- ing ? There comes an age, perchance, when we write no more. Happy they who read, who re-read ; they who can follow their free inclinations among their books! There comes a season in life when, all work done, all experiences over, the keen joys remain of studying, of going to the depths of the things we know, the things we feel, just as we see, and see again with relish the friends we love: pure delights of the heart and of the taste in their maturity! Then it is that the word classic takes its true mean- ing, and defines itself for every man of taste by his own irresistible predilection and choice. The taste is formed by that time, formed and definite; good sense, if it ever comes, has come, and is consummate. There is no time now to make trials, no desire to start out upon discoveries. We hold fast to our friends, to those whom we have tested by long inter- course old wine, old books, old friends!


II. JMerre Corneille,


II. IPferre Gorneflle.

AS a matter of criticism and literary history, there is no reading, it seems to me, more enter- taining, more delectable, and at the same time more fruitful of instruction of all kinds than good biographies of great men: not shallow and dry biographies, scanty yet pretentious notices, in which the writer thinks only of shining, and of which each paragraph is sharpened with an epigram; I mean broad, copious, and sometimes even diffuse histories of the man, and of his works : biographies that enter into an author, produce him under all his diverse aspects, make him live, speak, move, as he must have done in life; follow him into his home, into his domestic manners and customs, as far as possible; connect him on all sides with this earth, with real existence, with those every-day habits on which great men depend no less than the rest of us; in short, the actual foundation on which they stand, from which they rise to greater heights at times, and to which they fall back constantly.

3*


32 Pierre Gorneilie*

The Germans and the English, with their complex nature of analysis and poesy, understand and take great pleasure in these excellent biographies. Walter Scott declares that, for his part, he knows no more interesting work in English literature than Boswell's " Life of Johnson." In France we are beginning to es- teem and to require studies of this sort. In our time, the great men of Letters, if they were even less eager than they are to come forward with personal revela- tions in their memoirs and poetical confessions, may be very certain that they will not lack after death for demonstrators, analysts, and biographers. It was not always thus; so that when we come to inquire into the life, especially the childhood and the first be- ginnings of our great writers and poets of the seven- teenth century, it is with difficulty that we discover a few traditions, little authentic, a few doubtful anec- dotes dispersed among the Ana. The literature and the poesy of those times were not personal; authors did not entertain the public with their own senti- ments or their own affairs; biographers imagined, I know not why, that the history of a writer was wholly in his writings, and their superficial criticism never went to the man below the poet Moreover, as in those days reputations were very slow in mak- ing, it was not until much later, in the old age of the great man, that some ardent admirer of his genius a Brossette, a Monchesnay bethought him of making his biography. Or perhaps this biographer



CORNEILLE.

From an engraving of the painting by Lebrun.


HMerre CorneUIe* 33

was a pious and devoted relative, too young to have known the youth of his author like Fontenelle with Corneille, and Louis Racine with his father. Hence, in the nephew's history of Corneille, and the son's history of Racine, much ignorance, many inaccuracies catch the eye at once; and, in particular, we find a rapid hurrying over of the first literary years, which are, nevertheless, the most decisive.

When we begin by knowing a great man in the full force of his genius only, we imagine that he has never been without it; and this seems to us so natural that often we never trouble ourselves to explain to our own minds how it came about; just as, on the other hand,' when we know such a man from the first, and before his fame, we usually do not suspect what he will some day become; we live beside him without think- ing to watch him; we neglect to take account in him of that which it was most important we should know. Great men themselves often contribute to strengthen this twofold illusion by their manner of acting ; young, unknown, and obscure, they efface them- selves, keep silence, elude attention, and affect no position because they want but one, and the time is not ripe to lay their hand upon it; later, bowed down to by all; and famous, they cast into the shade their beginnings, usually rough and bitter; they do not willingly relate their own formation, any more than the Nile reveals its sources.

And yet, the essential point in the life of a great

VOL. II. 3.


34 Pierre Corneilie,

writer, a great poet, is just this: to seize, grasp, analyse the whole man at the moment when, by a concurrence more or less slow or easy, his genius, his education, his circumstances accord in such a way that he has given birth to his first masterpiece. If you comprehend the poet at this critical moment, if you unravel the knot to which all within him will henceforth be bound, if you find, so to speak, the key to that mysterious ring, half iron, half diamond, which links his second existence, radiant, dazzling, and solemn, to his first existence, obscure, repressed, and solitary, the very memory of which he would often- times fain destroy, then it may be said of you that you possess and know your poet to the depths; you have entered with him the darksome regions, as Dante with Virgil; you are worthy to accompany him, side by side and without fatigue, through his other marvels. From Andrmnaque to Athalie, from the " Cid " to Nicomede, the initiation is easy; the thread of the labyrinth is in your hand; you have only to unwind it.

It is a glorious moment for the critic and for the poet when each, in his own special meaning, can exclaim with the old philosopher: "I have found! }> The poet has found the region where he can henceforth live and develop; the critic has found the inspiration and the law of that genius. If the sculptor, who, in his way, is a noble biographer, fixing for the eye in marble the idea of the poet,- if he could always choose the


perre Gorneflle* 35

moment when the poet is most like unto himself, there is no doubt that he would seize it at the day and hour when the first ray of fame and glory came to illumine that powerful and sombre forehead. At that unique moment in life, genius, for some time past adult and virile, existing uneasily, sadly, within its own consciousness, restraining itself with difficulty, is suddenly called forth by the voice of acclamation, and expands to the aurora of triumph. With time, that man of genius may become more calm, more reposeful, more mature; but also he will lose in naivete of expression; he will make himself a veil which must be lifted before we can reach him; the freshness of personal sentiment will be dimmed on his forehead; the soul will be careful not to reveal itself; a studied countenance, or at least a more mechanical one, will have taken the place of that first free, eager attitude.

Now what the sculptor would do if he could, the critic-biographer, who has under his hand the whole life and all the moments of his author, ought, with still greater reason, to do; he ought to turn into living reality, by his sagacious and penetrating analysis, that which the artist instinctively figures under the form of symbol The statue once erected, the type once found and expressed, nothing remains to do but to reproduce it, with slight modifications, during the successive developments of the life of the poet, as if in a series of bas-reliefs.


36 perte Gorneflle.

I know not if this theory of mine, half poetic, half critical, is here made clear; but I believe it to be very true; and so long as the biographers of great poets do not keep it before their mind, they will make useful and correct books, estimable no doubt, but not works of the higher criticism and of art; they will collect anecdotes, determine dates, lay bare literary quarrels; but readers will be left to extract the essence, to breathe vitality into the men; they will be chroniclers, not sculptors; they will keep the records of the temple, but they will not be the priests of the god, I The general state of literature when a new author appears, the special education that author has received, and the individual genius which nature has bestowed upon him, those are three influences which it is im- portant to distinguish in his first masterpiece, giving to each its part and determining clearly what belongs of right to pure genius. Now, when Corneille, born in 1606, reached the age when poesy and drama began to occupy his mind, when he saw things at first in the bulk, and at a distance in the depths of his pro- vince, the names of three great poets (to-day very un- equally famous) appeared to him above all others; Ronsard, Malherbe, and Theophile: Ronsard, long dead, but still in possession of a vast renown, and representing the poesy of an expired century; Mai- herbe, living but already old, opening the poesy of the new century, and placed beside Ronsard by those who do not look closely into the details of literary


flMerre Gotneille* 37

disputes; Theophile, young, adventurous, ardent; seeming, in the splendour of his advent, about to equal his predecessors. As for the stage, that was already occupied for a score of years by a single man, Alexandre Hardy, who never even signed his plays on the posters, so notoriously was he the dramatic poet par excellence. His dictatorship, it is true, was about to cease; Theophile, by his tragedy of Pyrame et Thisb6 had struck the first blow, and Mairet, Rotrou, and Scudery were just appearing on the scene. But all these lesser reputations, scarcely born as yet, which made the pedantic topic of the fashionable alcoves, of that crowd of beaux esprits of the second and third class, who swarmed around Malherbe below Maynard and Racau, were lost upon the young Cor- neille, who lived in Rouen, and there heard only the echoes of the loudest public fame. Ronsard, Mal- herbe, Theophile, and Hardy composed, therefore, the whole, or nearly so, of his modern literature.

Brought up at a Jesuit college, he had there obtained a sufficient knowledge of antiquity; but the study of the law, to which his father destined him, and which he pursued until his twenty-first year (1627), must have retarded the development of his poetic tastes. Nevertheless, he fell in love ; and without admitting here an improbable anecdote related by Fontenelle, and especially rejecting that writer's ridiculous con- clusion that to this love we owe the great Corneille, it is certain, by Corneille's own avowal, that this first


40 Ipferte dcrneiile*

sketched-out in the provinces. I He put himself into connection with the wits and poets of his time, espe- cially with those of his own age, Mairet, Scudery, Rotrou: he learned then what he had not known hitherto, that Ronsard was a little out of fashion, that Malherbe, dead within a year, had dethroned him in public opinion; that Theophile, also dead, had disap- pointed all hopes and left but a questionable memory behind him; that the stage was growing nobler and purer under the care of Cardinal de Richelieu; that Hardy was no longer by any means its sole supporter, fora troop of young rivals were judging him, to his great displeasure, rather freely, and disputing his her- itage. Above all, Corneille learned that there were rules of which he had never dreamed in Rouen, but about which the brains of Paris were keenly excited: such as keeping five acts in one place or getting out of it; to be, or not to be within the space of twenty- four hours, etc. The learned men and the rule-lovers made war on these points against the lawless and the ignorant. Mairet held with the former; Claveret declared against them; Rotrou cared little; Scudery discussed emphatically.

I In the various plays that Corneille composed during mis space of five years, he applied himself to under- stand thoroughly the habits of the stage and the taste of the public;! I shall not try to follow him in this ten- tative course. He was quickly accepted by the city and the Court; the cardinal took notice of him, and


Pierre Cornetlle. 4*

attached him to his service as one of five authors; his comrades cherished and extolled him. With Rotrou, in particular, he contracted one of those friendships, so rare in literature, which no spirit of rivalry could ever chill. Younger than Corneille, Rotrou had, nevertheless, preceded him on the stage and, in the beginning, had helped him with advice. Corneille was grateful to the point of calling his young friend "father"; and certainly, if we must indicate at this period of his life the most characteristic trait of his genius and his soul, we should point to this tenderly filial friendship for the worthy Rotrou, just as, in the preceding period, it was his pure and respectful love for the woman I have mentioned. In it there was, as I think, truer forecast of sublime greatness than in Meliie, Clitandre, La Veuve, La Galerie du Palais, La Place Roy ale, L' Illusion; and fully as much as in Medee.

During this time, Corneille made frequent excur- sions to Rouen. In one of these journeys he visited the house of a M. de Chalons, former secretary of the queen-mother, now retired from old age:

" Monsieur," the old man said to him, "the style of comedy which you have taken up can give you only ephemeral fame. You can find among the Spaniards subjects which, if treated according to our taste by hands like yours, would produce great effects. Learn their lan- guage, it is easy; 1 offer to teach you all I know of it, and, until you are able to read for yourself, I will translate to you parts of Guillen de Castro."

This meeting was great good luck for Corneille;


42 Pierre Gorneille*

no sooner had he set foot into the noble poesy of Spain than he felt at ease, as if in a country of his own. Loyal spirit, full of honour and morality, walk- ing with uplifted head, he could not fail to feel a sud- den and deep affection for the chivalrous heroes of that brave nation. His impetuous warmth of heart, his childlike sincerity, his inviolable devotion in friend- ship, his melancholy resignation in love, his religion of duty, his nature wholly unveiled, naively grave and sententious, noble with pride and pmd'homie all inclined him strongly to the Spanish style. He em- braced it with fervour, adapted it, without much con- sidering how, to the taste of his nation and his age ? and created for himself a unique originality in the midst of the commonplace imitations that were being made around him. No more tentatives, no slow pro- gressive advance, as in his preceding comedies. Blind and rapid in his instinct, he went at one stroke to the sublime, the glorious, the pathetic, as if to things famil- iar; producing them in splendid, simple language that all the world can understand, and which belongs to him alone. (From the night of the first representation of "The Cid" our theatre was truly founded; France possessed the great Corneille; and the triumphant poet, who, like his own heroes, spoke openly of him- self as he thought, had the right to exclaim, without fear of denial:

"I know what I am; I believe what is said of me/" The dazzling success of *' The Cid " and the very le~


Pierre Corneflle. 43

gitimate pride felt and shown by Corneille raised all his past rivals and all the authors of tragedy, from Clav- eret to Richelieu, against him. I shall not dwell here on the details of this quarrel; which is one of the best- illuminated spots in our literary history. The effect -produced on the poet by this outbreak of criticism was such as might be expected from the character of his talent and his mind. ; Corneille, as I have said, was a pure, instinctive, blind genius, of free, spontane- ous impulse, and well-nigh devoid of those medium qualities which accompany, and second efficaciously, the gift divine in a poet. He was neither adroit nor skilful in details, his taste was little delicate, his judg- ment not sure, his tact obtuse, and he gave himself small account of his methods as an artist; he piqued himself, however, on his shrewdness and reserve. Between his genius and his good sense there was nothing, ! or nearly nothing; and that good sense, which did not lack subtlety or logic, had to make strong efforts, especially if provoked, to goad itself up to the level of the genius, to grasp it in hand, com- prehend it, and train it. If Corneille had come earlier, before the Academy and Richelieu, in place of Alex- andre Hardy, for example, he would doubtless not have been exempt from falls, errors, and mistakes; perhaps, indeed, other enormities might be found in him than those against which our present taste revolts in certain of his worst passages; but at least his fail- ures would have been solely according to the nature


44 Dferte

and trend of his genius; and when he rose out of them, when he obtained sight of the beautiful, the grand, the sublime, he would have rushed to it as into his own region, without dragging after him the baggage of rules, cumbersome and puerile scruples, and a thousand petty hindrances to a vast and soaring flight The quarrel of " The Cid," arresting him at his first step, forcing him to return upon himself and con- front his work with rules, disturbed for the future that prolonged growth, full of chances, that sort of potent, unconscious vegetation, so to speak, for which nature seemed to have destined him. He took umbrage, he was indignant at first at the cavillings of criticism; but he inwardly reflected on the rules and precepts im- posed upon him, and ended, finally, by adapting him- self to them, and believing them,

The mortifications that followed closely on the tri- umph of "The Cid" carried him back to his family in Rouen, which place he did not leave again until 1639, when he returned to Paris with Horace and Cinna in hand. To quit Spain the instant he had set foot in it, to push no farther that glorious victory of "The Cid," to renounce, in gaiety of heart, all those magnanimous heroes who stretched their arms to him, and turn aside to fasten upon a Castilian Rome on the faith of Lucan and Seneca, Spanish burghers under Nero, was, for Corneille, not to profit by his advantages and to misinterpret the voice of his genius at the very mo- ment when it spoke so clearly. But at that time


pierte (Eorneille, 45

fashion, vogue, carried minds more toward ancient Rome than toward Spain../ Besides the amorous gal- lantries and noble, conventional sentiments attributed to those old republicans, special occasion was given, by producing them on the stage, to apply the maxims of State, and all the political and diplomatic jargon that we find in Balzac and in Gabriel Naude, and to which Richelieu himself gave currency. Probably Corneille allowed himself to be seduced by these rea- sons of the moment; nevertheless, out of his very error came masterpieces.

I will not follow him through the various successes that marked his career during its fifteen finest years. Polyeucte, Pompee, Le Menteur, Rodogune, Heraclius, Don Sanche, and Nicom&de are its enduring landmarks. ( He returned to imitation of the Spanish in Le Menteur, a comedy in which the comic (which Corneille did not understand) is much less to be ad- mired than the imbroglio, the movement, and the fancy. Again he returned to the Castilian genius in Heracliits, but above all in Nicomede and Don Sanche, those two wonderful creations, unique upon our stage, which, coming in the midst of the Fronde, with their singular mixture of romantic heroism and familiar irony, stirred up innumerable malignant or generous allusions, and won universal applause. ' Yet it was shortly after these triumphs, in 1653, that Corneille, wounded by the non-success of Pertharite, and touched perhaps by Christian sentiments and remorse,


4 6 perre Gorneflle*

resolved to renounce the theatre. He was then forty-seven years of age ; he had just translated in verse the first chapters of the "Imitation of Jesus Christ/' and he desired henceforth to devote the remainder of his vigour to pious subjects.

Corneille had married in 1640, and in spite of his frequent journeys to Paris he lived habitually in Rouen with his family. His brother Thomas and he had married two sisters, and lived in adjoining houses. Both took care of their widowed mother. Pierre had six children; and as in those days plays brought more to the actors than to their authors, and as, moreover, he was often not upon the spot to watch his interests, he scarcely earned enough to support his numerous family. His nomination to the French Academy did not take place till 1647. He had promised, before he was appointed, to arrange to live in Paris the greater part of the year; but it does not appear that he did so. He did not establish him- self in the capital till 1662, and until then he derived none of the advantages that assiduous attendance at the sessions procures for academicians.

The literary morals of the time were not like ours: authors felt no scruple in asking and receiving gratu- ities from princes and seigneurs. Corneille, on the title-page of Horace, says that he " has the honour to belong to his Eminence; gentlemen in those days boasted of being the domestiques of a prince or a seigneur. This explains to us, and excuses in our


Ipierre Corneflle, 47

illustrious poet, his singular dedications to Richelieu, to Montauron, to Mazarin, to Fouquet, which so unfairly scandalised Voltaire. About the same period in England the condition of authors was no better, and we find very curious details on this subject in Johnson's "Lives of the Poets" and Samuel Pepys's " Diary." In Malherbe's correspondence with Peiresc there is hardly a letter in which the famous lyric poet does not complain of receiving from King Henri more compliments than money. These morals still existed in Corneille's time; and even if they were passing a little out of usage, his poverty and his family burdens must have prevented his emancipating himself from them. No doubt he suffered at times; and he some- where deplores "this feeling, I know not what, of secret abasement " to which a noble heart can scarcely stoop; but with him necessity was stronger than delicacy. Let me say it again: Corneille, outside of his sublimity and his pathos, had little skill and tact He carried info all the relations of life something awkward and provincial; his speech on his reception at the Academy, for instance, is a model of bad taste, insipid praise, and pomposity. Well! we must judge in the same way his dedication to Montauron, much attacked and ridiculed even at the time it ap- peared. (The worthy Corneille lacked the sense of fitness and propriety; he persisted heavily where he ought to have glided; he like in heart to his heroes, solid in soul, but broken by fate he bowed too low


48 BMetre Gorneille,

in salutation, and struck his noble forehead on the earth.' 1

Corneille imagined, in 1653, that he renounced the stage. Pure illusion! That withdrawal, could it have been possible, would no doubt have been better for his peace of mind, and perhaps for his fame. But he had not the kind of poetic temperament that could impose upon itself at will a continence of fifteen years as Racine did later. Encouragement and a gratuity from Fouquet sufficed to bring him back to the stage, where he remained a score of years longer, till 1674, waning, day by day, under numberless mistakes and cruel griefs. Before saying a few words of his old age and death, let us pause a moment to sum up the chief traits of his genius and his work.

Corneille's dramatic form has not the freedom of

fancy that Lope de Vega and Shakespeare gave them- selves; neither has it the exactly regular severity to which Racine subjected himself. If he had dared, if he had corne before d'Aubignac, Mairet, or Chape- lain, he would, I think, have cared very little for graduating and marshalling his acts, connecting his scenes, concentrating his effects on a single point of space and duration; he would have written hap- hazard, tangling and untangling the threads of his plot, changing the locality as it suited him, delaying on the way, and pushing his personages pell-mell before him to marriage or death. " In the midst of this confusion beautiful scenes, admirable groups


pfetre Gorneille* 49

would have detached themselves here and there; for Corneilie understands grouping very well, and, at essential moments, he poses his personages most dramatically. He balances one against the other, defines them vigorously with a brief and manly say- ing, contrasts them by cutting repartees, and pre- sents to the spectator's eye the masses of a skilful structure. ; But he had not a genius sufficiently artistic" 1 to extend over an entire drama that concentric con- figuration which he has realized in places; at the same time, his fancy was not free or alert enough to create for itself a form, moving, undulating, diffuse, multi- plied, but not less real, less beautiful than the other, such as we admire in certain plays of Shakespeare, such as the Schlegels admire so much in Calderon. Add to these natural imperfections the "influence of a superficial and finical poetic art, about which Corneilie overconcerned himself, and you will have the secret of what is ambiguous, undecided, and incompletely reckoned in the making of his tragedies. His Discours and his Examens give us numerous details on this point, in which we find revealed the most hidden recesses of his great mind. We see how the pitless unity of place frets him, and how heartily he would say to it: " Oh! you hamper me! " and with what pains he tries to combine it with "decorum." He does not always succeed. "Pau- line," he writes, " comes to an antechamber to meet Severus whose visit she ought to await in her private

VOL. II. 4.


so pierte Gorneflle*

apartment." Pompey seems to disregard the pru- dence of the general of an army, when, trusting to Sertorius, he goes to confer with him in a town where the latter is master; "but it was impossible/" says Corneille, "to keep the unity of place without making him commit this blunder." But when there was absolute necessity for the action to be carried on in two different places, the following is the expedi- ent that Corneille invents to evade the rule:

" These two places have no need of different scenery, and neither of the two should ever be named, but only the general region in which both are situated, such as Paris, Rome, Lyons, Constantinople, etc. This will help to deceive the audience, who, seeing nothing to mark the diversity of place, will not perceive it unless by malicious and critical reflection, of which few arc capable ; most of them attending eagerly to the action they see represented before them."

He congratulates himself like a child on the com- plexity of Htraclius because "that poem is so in- volved it requires marvellous attention "; and requests us to notice in Othon that "never was a play seen in which so many marriages were proposed and none concluded/'

. Corneille's personages are grand, generous, valiant, frank, lofty of head, and noble of heart Brought up for the most part under austere discipline, the maxims by which they rule their lives are for ever on their lips; and as they never depart from those maxims we have no difficulty in recognising them; a glance suffices: which is almost the contrary of Shake- speare's personages and of human beings in life. The


pferre GorneUle. S 1

morality of his heroes is spotless: as fathers, lovers, friends, or enemies, we admire and honour them ; in pathetic parts their tone is sublime, it lifts the soul and makes us weep. But his rivals and his husbands have sometimes a tinge of the ridiculous j so has Don Sancho in "The Cid," also Prusias and Pertharite. His tyrants and his step-mothers are all of a piece like his heroes, wicked from one end to the other; neverthe- less, at sight of a fine action it sometimes happens that they face about suddenly to virtue, like Grim- oald and Arsinoe.

Corneille's men have formal and punctilious minds: they quarrel about etiquette; they argue at length and wrangle loudly with themselves, even in their passions. There is something of the Norman in them. Auguste, Pompee and others seem to have studied logic at Salamanca, and to have read Aristotle with the Arabs. His heroines, his "adorable furies," nearly all resemble one another; their love is subtle, over- refined, with a purpose; coming more from the head than the heart. We feel that Corneille knew little of women. Nevertheless, he succeeded in expressing in Chimene and Pauline that virtuous power of self T sacrifice that he himself had practised in his youth. Strange as it may seem, after his return to the theatre in 1659, and in all the numerous plays of his decad- ence Attila, Btrtnice, Pulclierie, Surena, Cor- neille had a mania for mingling love in everything, just as La Fontaine had for introducing Plato. It


52 pferre Cotneille,

seems as though the successes of Quinault and Racine enticed him to that ground, and that he wanted to read a lesson to ct those tender ones " as he called them. He imagined that in his day he had been still more gallant and amorous than those "young flaxen wigs/' and he never spoke of other times without shaking his head like an elderly swain.

"Corneille's style is, to my thinking, the merit by which he excels. Voltaire, in his commentary, ex- hibits on this point, as on others, a sovereign injust- ice, and also what may be called great ignorance of the origins of our language. He blames his author at every turn for having neither grace nor elegance nor clearness; he measures, pen in hand, the height of the metaphors, and when they exceed somewhat he calls them gigantic. He translates and disguises in prose Corneille's lofty and sonorous phrases, which suit so finely the bearing of his heroes, and asks if that is speaking and writing French. He churlishly calls solecism" what he ought to describe as "idiom " namely the construction, or form of speech peculiar to a special language; a thing that is com- pletely lacking to the narrow, symmetrical, abbrevi- ated French language of the eighteenth century, Corneille's style, with all its negligences, seems to me one of the greatest manners of the century that had Moliere and Bossuet The touch of the poet is rough, severe, vigorous. I compare him to a sculptor, who, working the clay to express heroic portraiture,


ftferre Gorneflle, 53

employs no instrument but his thumb, and, kneading thus his work, gives it a supreme character of life itself with all the jostling incidents that accompany and complete it; but all such proceeding is incorrect, it is not polished, not "proper," as they say. There is little painting or colour in Corneille's style; it is warm rather than brilliant; it turns willingly to- the abstract; imagination and fancy give way to thought and to reasoning. It ought to please statesmen, ge- ometricians, soldiers, and others who enjoy the styles of Demosthenes, Pascal, and Caesar.

In short, Corneille, pure genius but incomplete, with his lofty aspects and his defects, gives me the impression of those great trees that are bare, rugged, sad, monotonous as to their trunk, with branches and sombre foliage at their summit only. They are strong, powerful, gigantic, with little verdure; sap in abun- dance rises; but expect neither shelter, shade, nor bloom. They leaf out late, their leaves fall early, yet they live on, half-despoiled; but when their hoary brow has cast its last leaves to the autumn wind their perennial nature puts out, here and there, belated branches and green twigs. And when at last they die, their groans, the cracking of their fissures, remind one of that armoured trunk to which Lucan compared the great Pompey.

| Such was the old age of our great Corneille; a rbined, furrowed, bald old age, dropping piece by piece, but of which the heart was the last to die. He


54 pferre GoruefUe.

had put his whole life and all his soul into the theatre. Outside of it he was worth but little; brusque, heavy, taciturn, and melancholy, his grand wrinkled forehead was never illuminated, his dulled, veiled eye never sparkled, his voice, harsh and toneless, had no em- phasis unless he spoke of the drama, and especially his own. He did not know how to converse, he was out of place in society, and only saw M. de La Rochefoucauld, Cardinal de Retz, and Mme. de Sevigne for the purpose of reading to them his plays. He became with age more unhappy and morose. The success of his younger rivals troubled him; he seemed distressed and nobly jealous of it, like a vanquished bull or an old athlete. When Racine parodied this line in "TheCid"

u The wrinkles on his brow engrave his deeds " Corneille, who could not understand a jest, exclaimed, naively: t h it a young man's business to come here and turn people's verses into ridicule?' 1 On another occasion he said to Chevreau: (< l have taken leave of the drama; my poesy has gone with my teeth."

Corneille had lost two sons, and his poverty scarcely enabled him to provide for his other children. A delay in the payment of his pension brought him almost to want on his deathbed: we know the noble conduct of Boileau on that occasion. The old man died on the night of September 30, 1684, in the rue d'ArgenteuI, where he lodged. Charlotte Corday was the great-grand- daughter of one of Pierre Corneille's daughters.


III. flDabemolselle be Scube'ni,


III. fffira&emoiselle &e

THIS is not a rehabilitation that I am about to attempt; but it is well to put correct ideas to certain names that recur frequently. The books of Mile, de Scudery are no longer read; but her name is still cited; she serves to designate a literary class, a fashion of intellect, and the cultivation of belles-lettres at a celebrated period: it is a medal that has almost passed into circulation and become a coin. What is its value and its charm ? Let us do with Mile, de Scudery as she herself was so fond of doing with others: let us examine, distinguish, and analyse. This young woman, " of extraordinary merit/' as they said of her, was born at Havre, in 1607, under Henri IV; she did not die until 1701, at ninety-four years of age, toward the close of the reign of "Louis quatorzime," as she liked to call him. Her father was from Provence; he removed to Normandy and married there, not without transmitting to his child- ren something of his southern temperament The son, Georges de Scudery, is celebrated for his pompous

57


s 8 fBDabetnoiselle be Scu&erg*

verses, his braggadocio, and his rhodomontades, in which he one day had the misfortune to meet and affront Corneille; for which posterity has never for- given him. Mile. Madeleine de Scudery was far more sensible than her brother; Normandy, if 1 may ven- ture to say it, was much more apparent in her; she reasoned, she discussed, she argued on matters of mind like the cleverest lawyer or pettifogger. But she, too, had her share of family vanity; she always said: "Since the overthrow of our house"; "You would really think she was talking of the overthrow of the Greek empire," says the malicious Tallemant des Reaux. The Scuderys claimed, in fact, to have issued from a very noble, very ancient, and "ever warlike " family of Neapolitan origin, but established for centuries in Provence. In transforming into her novels the persons of her acquaintance under the guise of heroes and princes, Mile, de Scudery felt her- self among her own kind.

Having lost her parents while very young, she was brought up in the country by an uncle, a well-in- formed and worthy man, who gave great care to her education, which was, in fact, much better than young girls were accustomed to receive in those days. Writing, spelling, dancing, drawing, painting, needle- work, she learned them all, says Conrart, and she divined for herself what they did not teach her.

"As she had," continues Conrart [first secretary of the French Academy], "a prodigious imagination, an excellent memory, an ex-



MADEMOISELLE MADELEINE DE SCUDERY.


From an old print.


5e


59


quisite judgment, a lively temper, naturally inclined to understand all she a w done that was curious, and all she heard said that was laud- able, soon taught herself other things: such as related to agriculture, gardening, household management, country life, cookery, the causes and effects of illness, the composition of many remedies, perfumes, fragrant waters, and useful or delectable distillations for necessity or pleasure. She had a fancy to know how to play the lute, and took some lessons with fair success."

But the lute took too much time, and, without re- nouncing it wholly, she preferred to turn more par- ticularly to occupations of the mind. She learned Italian and Spanish perfectly; her principal pleasures were reading and choice conversation, of which she was not deprived in her neighbourhood. The pic- ture that Conrart gives us of her early education reminds us of that of Mme. de Genlis in Bourgogne; and I will say at once that in studying Mile, de Scudery closely, as I have just done, she seems to me to have had much of Mme. de Genlis in her, with virtue added. To learn all, to know all, from the properties of simples and the making of preserves to the anatomy of the human heart; to be, from her earli- est years, on the footing of a marvel of perfection; to draw from all she saw in society matter for novels, portraits, moral dissertations, compliments, and les- sons; to combine a mass of pedantry with extreme delicacy of observation and a perfect knowledge of the world, these are traits common to both of them; the differences, however, are not less essential to note. Mile, de Scudery, who had "a very good ap- pearance" and a rather grand air, had no beauty:


60 flfcaOetnoiseile &e

"She is a tall, thin, dark person, with a very long face/* says Tallemant. She was gifted with moral qualities which have never been denied. Respect and esteem were, to her, inseparable from the idea of celebrity and fame. In a word, she was a Genlis of the date of Lous XIII, full of force and virtue, who stayed a virgin and an old maid until she was ninety- four years of age.

We should hear her speak of herself, whenever she can do so under a slight disguise. In most of the dialogues in which her personages converse, she finds means to make the one who replies remark after each pretty thing she produces: "All that you say is so well said" "That is marvellously thought out." Or, to use a word she affects: "That is admirably distinguished [dm8l6~]." This indirect compliment is addressed to herself again and again; she is inex- haustible in formulas for self-approval. In the tenth volume of Le Grand Cyrus she partly pictures herself in the personage of Sappho, and the name stayed by her, "The illustrious Sappho"; those who had read Le Grand Cyrus never called her otherwise. There are some passages of that Portrait, for which Mile, de Scudery had certainly examined herself. After speak- ing of the long line of ancestors of which her heroine could boast, she says:

" Sappho has also this advantage, that her father and mother had, both of them, much mind and much virtue; but she had the misfortune to lose them so early that she could receive from them


fIDaDemoiselle &e Scu&er^ 61

only the first inclinations to good, for she was six years old when they died. It is true that they left her under guidance of a female relative. . . ."

The uncle is here changed to a female relative, but the rest refers plainly to herself:

" In fact, madame," [this is a narrative which one of the person- ages is supposed to address to the Queen of Pontis], * c I think that in all Greece there is no one to be compared with Sappho. I will not stop to tell you, madame, what her childhood was, for she was so little of a child that at twelve years of age people began to speak of her as a person whose beauty, intellect, and judgment were already formed and were causing admiration to every one. I will merely tell you that never did persons observe in any one, no matter who, nobler inclinations or greater facility in learning all that she wished to know."

Facing courageously the question of beauty, she is still thinking of herself when she says :

" Though you hear me speak of Sappho as the most marvellous and most charming person in all Greece, you must not imagine that her beauty is one of the greatest beauties on earth ... As for complex- ion, hers is not of the utmost whiteness ; but it has such a fine glow that you may say that it is beautiful; but what Sappho has that is sovereignly agreeable is that her eyes are so fine, so lovely, so loving, so full of intelligence, that one can neither sustain their bril- liancy nor detach one's own eyes from them. . . . That which makes their greatest brilliancy is that never was there greater contrast than that of the white and the black of her eyes. Nevertheless this great contrast has nothing harsh about it. . . ."

We remark here the negligence of her style, the repetitions, etc. I abridge much (which Mile, de Scudery herself never did) ; I leave out as I go along a great many " but V and " for V and "evenso's." But from these few traits we can do more than merely


62 flBa&emofsetle &e SCU&&B.

perceive the ideal she wishes to present of her beauty, or, if you choose, the corrective of her plainness. Such the Sappho of the Marais may have appeared to friendly eyes when Chapelain, passing in those days for a great epic poet, compared her, intrepidly, to La Pucelle; and Pellisson, ugliest of beaux esprits, made her his passionate declaration.

In this same portrait of Sappho, which is precious to us, she comes at last to charms of mind, on which she enlarges with redoubled complacency:

' ' The charms of her mind surpass by far those of her beauty. In truth, she has it " [mind] " of such vast extent that we may say that what she does not understand cannot be understood by any one; and she has such a faculty to learn easily all she wants to know that, al- though one has seldom heard it said that Sappho ever learned anything, she nevertheless knows all things."

Then follows the enumeration of her talents poesy, prose, impromptu songs:

"She even expresses very delicately sentiments that are most diffi- cult to express, and she knows so well the anatomy of an amorous heart (if it is permissible to speak thus) that she can describe exactly all the jealousies, all the anxieties, all the impatience, all the joys, all the dislikes, all the murmurings, all the despair, all the hopes, all the rebellions, and all those tumultuous feelings that are never well known except by those who feel them or have felt them."

It was one of Mile, de Scudery's claims that she knew and could describe the most secret emotions of love without ever having felt them otherwise than by reflection; and it is true that she often succeeded in whatever was delicate and refined, in short, in all that was not the actual flame. "You explain that so ad-


/IDa&emoiselle be Scu&etg, 63

mirably," we might say to her, like a person of one of her dialogues, "that if you had done nothing all your life but be in love you could not express it better." " Though I never was in love," she would answer with her prettiest smile, "I have friends who have been so for me, and they have taught me how to speak of it." That is wit, and Mile, de Scudery had a great deal of it.

In this Portrait of Sappho she insists strongly that Sappho not only knows to the depths whatever re- lates to Iwe, but that she does not know less all that concerns generosity; and this marvel of knowledge and nature is crowned, according to her, with modesty:

" In fact, her conversation is so natural, so easy, so polite, that she Is never heard to talk in general conversation of any but those things that a person of intelligence might say without having learned all that she knows. It is not that persons who understand things do not Icnow very well that nature alone could not have opened her mind as it has been opened; but it is that she takes such care to remain always in the proprieties of her sex, that she almost always speaks only of that which ladies should speak of."

I leave the faults of grammar. But here we see a Sappho, both wise and modest, wholly of the seven- teenth century, and in accordance with the last good taste of the Place-Royale and the hdtel Rambouillet.

Mile, de Scudery made no delay in appearing there; provinces could not keep her long. Having lost her uncle, she hesitated between Paris and Rouen; but her brother, who was taking rank among dramatic


64 fIDaOemofselle De

authors and whose plays were succeeding at the hdtel de Bourgogne, persuaded her to settle in the capital. She appeared to advantage from the start; was greeted and extolled by the best society, and began to write novels ; without, however, putting her name to them, but hiding behind that of her vainglorious brother. Ibrahim ou I'lllustre Bassa began to ap- pear in 1641 ; Artamene ou Le Grand Cyrus, in 1650; and Clelie, in 1654.

The true date of Mile, de Scudery is in those years, the period of the Regency, the fine years of Anne of Austria, before and after the Fronde; and her fame lasted without check of any kind until Boileau attacked it, like the kill-joy that he was: "That Despreaux," said Segrais, "thinks of nothing but talking of him- self and criticising others; why should he speak ill of Mile, de Scudery as he does ?"

To understand fully the success of Mile, de Scudery and the direction that she gave to her talent, we must picture to ourselves the higher society of Paris such as it was before the period when Louis XIV began to reign for himself. For some years a taste for things of the mind, for literary bel esprit had existed ; into which entered more zeal and emulation than dis- cernment and knowledge. The novel of d' Urfe, the Letters of Balzac, the great success of plays, those of Corneille and other writers in vogue, the protection, slightly pedantic, but real and efficacious of Cardinal de Richelieu, the foundation of the French Academy


/IDa&eitioiselle &e Scu&etg, 65

all these causes had developed a spirit of inquiry, especially among women, who felt that the moment had come to bring society to their own level. People were freeing themselves from antiquity and the learned languages ; they wanted to know their mother-tongue, and they looked to the grammar- ians by profession. Men of the world made them- selves intermediaries between scholars, properly so-called, and the salons: they desired to please as well as to instruct. But mingled with these first efforts of a serious and polished society was great inexperience. To do Mile, de Scudery all the justice that is her due, and to assign her her true title, we ought to consider her as one of the instructors of society at this moment of transition and formation. It was her role and, in a great measure, her design.

In the Portrait and history of Sappho, which can be read toward the end of the Grand Cyrus, she shows to what a point she was filled with this design, and she brought to it more discrimination and tact than we, judging her afar off from her reputation, might have expected. Do not think her a professed bel esprit; she repudiates it from the start: "There is nothing more annoying/' she thinks, "than to be a bel esprit, or to be treated as being one when our heart is noble and we are of certain birth." She feels more than any one the impropriety of clever persons, especially women, being received by society on that footing; and she exposes it like a young woman of

VOL. II. 5.


66 fTOa&emofselle De SCU&&B.

good sense and a lady who has suffered from it. One of the greatest of these inconveniences, and the one that gives her the most annoyance, is that persons in society fancy they cannot approach bel esprits as they would other people but speak to them always in the grand manner :

"For I find men and women speaking to me sometimes with strange embarrassment, because they have taken it into their heads that I must not be talked to like other persons. In vain do I speak of the fine weather, the news of the day, and all the other things that make ordinary conversation ; they always return to their point; they are so convinced that I compel myself to speak thus, that they com- pel themselves to talk of other things that weary me so that I would gladly not be Sappho when this happens to me."

I beg pardon of my readers for all these " that's " in favour of the idea, which is a right one. Mile, de Scudery makes many objections addressed to herself on the inconveniences of being a female bel esprit and afemme savante. Long before Moliere she said more than one very sensible thing on this subject. But let us not forget the moment of social life and the sort of difficulties with which she had to do. She discusses very carefully the question of whether it would be well for women, in general, to be taught more than they then knew: "Though I am the de- clared enemy of all women who play the learned, I nevertheless think the other extreme very condemn- able, and I am often shocked to see many women of rank so grossly ignorant that, in my opinion, they dishonour our sex/'


/llBa&emoiselie &e Scttb&Tj. 67

There, indeed, was a defect that needed remedy at once. The education of persons of rank was at that date, 1641-1654, most defective. What ignor- ance, what strange negligence even in women of intelligence and fame! Mme. de Sable, the wise and witty friend of La Rochefoucauld could not spell.

"It is certain," says Mile, de Scudery, " that there are women who speak well and write ill, and who write ill purely through their own fault ... It is, as I think," she adds, "an intolerable error in women to wish to speak well and yet be willing to write badly . . , Most ladies seem to write with the intention not to be understood, so little connection is there between their words, and so fantastic is their spelling. Yet these very ladies, who boldly make such gross blunders in writing and lose all their minds when they begin to write, will laugh a whole day at some poor foreigner who may have said one word for another."

One of the corrections that Mile, de Scudery urged, and to which she contributed most, was that of bringing harmony between the manner of speaking and that of writing. She made persons of her own sex blush at their inconsistency. All her ideas on the education of women are very just and well-considered in theory:

" Seriously," she writes, " can there be anything more whimsical than the way the education of women is usually carried on ? They are not to be coquettish or gallant, yet they are permitted to learn care- fully all that appertains to gallantry, without allowing them to know anything that might fortify their virtue or occupy their mind. All those reprimands made to them in early youth, about not being clean, not dressing in good style, not attending sufficiently to the lessons that their dancing or their music-master gives them, do they not prove what I say ? And what is singular is, that a woman who can dance with propriety only five or six years of her life, spends ten or a dozen


68 flDaDemoiselle &e

in continually learning what she can use for only five or six; but this same person is obliged to have judgment till she dies, and to talk to her last breath, yet she is never taught anything to make her speak more agreeably and act with more decorum."

Her conclusion, which she gives with some reserve, (for in a matter, she says, that touches "diversity of minds" there cannot be "universal law"), her con- clusion, I say, is that in asking that women should know more than they do she does not wish that they should act or speak as learned women :

" I want it to be said of a person of my sex that she knows a hun- dred things of which she does not boast; that she has an enlightened mind, that she comprehends fine books, that she speaks well, writes correctly, and understands society; but I do not wish it to be said of her: ' She is a learned woman '; for the two characters are so differ- ent that they do not resemble each other in any way."

This is reason; of which there is a great deal in Mile. de Scudery's books; mingled, it is true, with far too much argument and dissertation, and drowned in what seems in these days romantic extravagance.

That which to us is extravagance was, neverthe- less, the very thing that caused instruction to pass from hand to hand, and reach more surely those to whom it was addressed. Tallemant tells us that in speaking she had a masterful and preaching tone that was not agreeable: this tone was disguised in her novels by passing through the lips of her personages, and to-day it requires some study to find her didacti- cism. Of real imagination and invention Mile, de Scudery had none at all; when she wanted to con-


mademoiselle 5e ScuDets, 69

struct or invent a tale she took some plot in use at the moment; she supplied herself freely from the shops and the wardrobes in vogue; she copied the plot of d'Urfe in Astree. So doing, she flattered her- self she allied fiction with history, art with actuality: " It is never permissible in a wise man," she said, " to invent things that cannot be believed. The true art of falsehood is to resemble truth." This was part of a conversation in Clelie where they discussed the " manner of inventing a tale and composing a novel." A little more and Mile, de Scudery would have preached observation of nature: she makes the poet Anacreon utter almost as good rules of rhetoric as we find in Quintilian. It is a pity she did not put them into practice.

To speak to-day of Mile, de Scudery's novels, and to analyse them would be impossible without calum- niating her, so ridiculous would they seem. Too much of what was really the absurdity of the times would be attributed to her. To rightly appreciate her novels as such, we must go back to the models that were set before her, and write the history of a whole section. What strikes us most at a first glance is the way she takes the personages of her acquaint- ance and her society and transforms them into Greeks, Romans, Persians, and Carthaginians, and makes them perform in the principal events very nearly the same rdle that is assigned to them in history; all the while making them think and talk precisely as she saw


70 jflDa&emofselle De

them in Paris. Hamilcar is the poet Sarasin; Her- minim is Pellisson; Conrart becomes Cleodamas and has, near Agrigentum, a pretty country-house, de- scribed at length, which is no other than that of Athys, near Paris. If she meets an historical person- age, she at once puts him on a level with the men of her acquaintance; she tells us of Brutus, for instance, he who condemned his own sons and drove out the Tarquins; that he was born with "the most gallant, gentlest, and most agreeable mind in the world " ; and of the poet Alczeus she remarks that he was " a clever lad, full of wit and a great intriguer." The actions and behaviour of all these personages (as she travesties them) are almost in keeping with her fac- titious method of presenting them; a glaze of falsity covers them all.

But how, you will ask, could such novels obtain so much vogue and credit? How could the youth of Mme. de Sevigne and Mme. de La Fayette have fed upon them ? In the first place, persons in those days had no real idea of the spirit of divers times, or of the profound differences in manners and morals through- out history. Besides which, nearly all the personages who figured in Mile, de Scudery's novels were living and contemporary beings, whose names were known, whose portraits and characters were recognised, from Le Grand Cyrus, thought to be the Great Conde, to Doralise, who was Mile. Robineau. All these per- sonages, even the most secondary, were known in


jfJDa&entofselle De Scii&ers* 71

society; the key was passed round, the masks were named; and even to-day, when we know the real names, we are not entirely without curiosity as we glance through her pages.

"You could not believe," says Tallemant, "how pleased the ladies are to appear in her novels, or, to speak correctly, to have their Portraits seen there ; for nothing but the character of the personages will be found, their actions not at all. Some, however, have complained of them. . . ." Among those who complained was one of the wittiest women of that period, who said many a good thing that has since come down to us. In the fourth volume of Le Grand Cyrus Mile, de Scudery gives the portrait of Mme. Cornuel under the name of Zenocrite, making her one of the most agreeable and most formidable satirists of Lycia. The Portrait is very exact. Mme. Cornuel justified the reputation given her of a bold satirist by saying of Mile, de Scudery, who was very dark- skinned, that "anybody could see she was des- tined by Providence to blot paper, for she sweated ink from every pore." Molire's Dorine could not have said more.

What is remarkable, and really distinguished in Mile, de Scudery's novels is the Conversations they contain, for which she had a singular talent, a true vocation. She made later, after her novels had gone out of fashion, extracts from these Conversations, which appeared successively in ten little volumes (ten


72 flDa&emoiseile 5e

was her number and she did not go beyond it) . ' ' Mile, de Scudery has just sent me two little volumes of "Conversations/" wrote Mme. de Sevigne to her daughter, September 25, 1680. "It is impossible that they should not be good when no longer sub- merged in her great novel." These little volumes, and others of the same kind which survive and do credit to Mile, de Scudery's old age, are still sought for by inquiring minds, and those to whom nothing that concerns the great century is indifferent. It is not uncommon to hear it said that Mile, de Scudery's novels are unreadable and detestable ; but it is not so with her " Conversations." It is well to know, how- ever, that the Conversations," certainly the first of them, are taken verbatim from Cyrus, Clelie, and her other novels.

One of the first subjects that she treats of is con- versation itself :

" As conversation is the social bond of all men, the greatest pleas- ure of honourable persons, and the usual means of introducing not only politeness into society, but also the purest morality, and a love of fame and virtue, it seems to me that the company cannot more agreeably or more usefully entertain itself" says Cilenie, one of her personages "than by examining what is called Conversation."

Whereupon they begin to inquire what conversation should be in order to be agreeable and worthy of a company of well-bred persons: it must not, they think, be too limited to family topics and servants, nor turned to futile subjects and to dress, which so


jflBa&emoiselle J>e Scu&ets, 73

often happens when women are by themselves. Are you not compelled to own," says one of the interlocu- tors, "that whoever would write down what fifteen or twenty women say to each other would make the worst book in the world?" And this, even when, among the fifteen or twenty, many were intelligent. But let a man enter, a single one and not even a dis- tinguished man, and the conversation at once rises and becomes, all of a sudden, more connected, more witty, more agreeable. In short, ^ "*

  • ' the most charming women in society, when they are together in

great numbers, without men, seldom say anything that is worth hear- ing, and feel more bored than if they were alone . But with men it is not so. Their conversation is, no doubt, less lively when no ladies are present, but, as a usual thing, though it may be more serious, it is also more reasonable; they can do without us better than we can do without them."

Those are shrewd remarks, which show experience of the world and almost of the heart This whole chapter "On Conversation" is very well thought out; after going over the different defects of conver- sation, Cilenie or Valerie, or rather the author, in a summary that has no other drawback than being too precise and methodical, concludes that in order not to be wearisome, but to be both charming and reasonable, conversation ought not to be confined to one object but to be made up of all :

" I conceive," she says, " that, speaking generally, it ought to con- sist more frequently of ordinary and gallant things than of great things; but I also think that there is nothing that may not enter


74 flDa&einoiseile &e

it; that it ought to be free and diversified according to the time, place and persons about us; I think that the secret is to speak nobly of low things, simply of high things, and very courteously of courteous things, without too much forwardness and without affectation."


But what was still more necessary to render it charm- ing is that " there be a spirit of politeness that shall banish absolutely all sharp and bitter jesting, and alsb all those things that may, ever so little, be offensive to modesty. . . . Also I desire that a certain spirit of joy may reign there." All that is well said, and as charming as it is judicious as one of the personages of the Conversation did not fail to remark.

Read, after that chapter, the one that treats of " The manner of writing Letters " (partly extracted from Clelie), and you will understand how it is that be- neath this novel- writing that seems to us so extrava- gant, there was in Mile, de Scudery a serious Genlis, a Miss Edgeworth; in short, shall I say it? an excellent schoolmistress for high society and the young ladies of rank of the seventeenth century.

On every possible social subject she proceeds thus: she gives a complete little course, too complete some- times, in which she combines the historical examples she has collected with the anecdotes she gathers in the society of her day. She analyses all, expatiates on everything; on perfumes, on pleasures, on desires, on qualities and virtues; once, she even makes observ- ations as a natural philosopher on the colour of wings and the flight of butterflies. She conjectures, she


flftabemofselle 5e Scu&er?* 75

refines, she symbolises ; she seeks and gives reasons for everything. Never was so much use made of the word car [for, because]. There are days when she is a grammarian, an academician, when she discourses on synonyms, and carefully elicits the meaning of words; in what, for instance, do joy and enjoyment differ; whether magnificence is not an heroic and royal quality rather than a virtue; for magnificence* is suitable for certain persons only, whereas virtues are suitable for all; how magnanimity includes more things than generosity, which usually has narrower lim- its, so much so that we may at times be very generous without being truly magnanimous. Some of her little Essays are charmingly headed, such as "Ennui with- out cause." In some of these " Conversations" Mile, de Scudery seems to us a Nicole among women ; with more refinement, perhaps, but with a background of pedantry and stiffness, which that ingenious theolo- gian never had. And, besides, Nicole sums up all in God and by thoughts of the final end; whereas Mile, de Scudery goes no farther than the laudation and apotheosis of the king; into which she puts an adroit- ness and special ingenuity that Bayle remarks upon, and which is slightly displeasing.

The fact is, this estimable woman, long ill-used by fortune, had early accustomed herself to pay compli- ments which were useful to her; a little wordly wis- dom was at the bottom of all her bad taste. More vapid laudation was never combined with a mania


76 /IDaftemoiselie &e

for correcting the little faults of the society around her. But what of that! She needed to sell her books and to place them under illustrious patronage. Besides which, to describe her friends and acquaintances at full length, their town-houses and their country- houses, all that served, while flattering their vanity, to fill pages and swell a volume. Sappho was not above these little reasons of trade. * ' Upon my word, " says Tallemant, "she needs to set all stones to work; when I think of it I forgive her." Little gifts, emolu- ments, pensions, she liked to add such positive proofs to the consideration she received, which never failed her. All this contributed to lower the moralist in her somewhat, and to restrict her sight to the narrow circle of the society of her day.

At certain points, however, we think we feel a firm and almost virile mind, which approaches lofty sub- jects with subtle reasoning, which comprehends their diverse aspects, and which, faithful always to con- secrated opinions, is, above all, guided by considera- tions of decorum.

Mile, de Scudery was approaching her sixtieth year when Boileau appeared, and began, in his first Satires (1665) to ridicule the great romances, and relegate Cyrus to the class of admirations no longer permiss- ible to any but country gentlemen. The war boldly declared by Boileau against a false style which had had its day, and existed only as a remaims of super- stition, gave it a mortal blow, and from that day Mile.


/IM&emoiselle be Scnfcen?. 77

de Scudery was to the new generation a superan- nuated writer. Mme. de La Fayette reduced her still further to the rank of venerable antiquities by publish- ing her little novels, especially that of the Princesse de Clews, in which she showed how it was possible to be succinct, natural, and delicate. In vain might we try to-day to protest against the irrefragable verdict, and to enumerate all the testimonials of con- solation given to Mile, de Scudery, the letters of Mascaron, Flechier, Mme, de Brinon, the directress of Saint-Cyr, the eulogies of Godeau, of Segrais, of Huet, Bonhours, and Pellisson. The latter, who distressed and supplanted Conrart, became, as we know, the proclaimed lover of Mile, de Scudery, her platonic adorer, whom he celebrated in a score of gallant verses under the name of Sappho. But if anything proves to me that Pellisson, in spite of his elegance and the purity of his diction, was never a true classic and for ever ignored the real Graces, it is precisely his declared taste for such an idol. We cannot conclude anything from the compliments addressed by Mme. de Sevigne and Mme. de Maintenon to Mile, de Scudery, then an old woman; those women of gracious demeanour and high breeding continued to respect in her, when they spoke to her, one of the admirations of their youth. As for the other names I have quoted (I except none) it is not, the reader will kindly remark, by good taste or sound and judicious taste that they shine; they have all


78 flDa&emoiselle &e

kept, more or less, a marked tinge of the hotel Ram- bouillet, and they are, in some respects, behind the age. The admiration for Mile, de Scudery is a touch- stone which tests them all and judges them.

The French Academy awarded for the first time in 1671 the prize for Eloquence, founded by Balzac. This prize, in its origin, was to be given to a dis- course or species of sermon on some Christian virtue. The first subject designated by Balzac was "On Praise and Fame." Mile, de Scudery wrote for it and obtained the prize, to the great applause of all that were left of the veteran academicians of the days of Richelieu. The Muse who thus carried off at a stroke the first crown, leading the procession of future laureates, was at that time sixty-four years of age.

She continued to grow old and to survive her re- nown, being literally annihilated in the outside world, though still enjoying fame in her chamber behind closed doors. Her worth and her estimable qualities won her, to the last, a little court of friends, who spoke of her as "the first unmarried woman of the world" and "the marvel of the age of Louis-le- Grand." When she died, June 2, 1701, the Journal des Savants of the following month registered these pompous eulogies. About the same time, in the same quarter of the Marais, lived and grew old, though nine years less aged than herself, a woman who was truly marvellous, who had really the grace,


/IDa&emofselle &e Scufcerp, 79

the easy urbanity, the freshness and virility of mind, the gift of rejuvenation all, in short, that Mile, de Scudery had not: I mean Ninon de FEncIos. There is a lesson in taste in the juxtaposition of those names.

However that may be, Mile, de Scudery deserves that just ideas should be attached to hers. Her novels obtained a vogue that marks a precise date in the history of manners and morals, and in the education of society. We shall always remember that a volume of Cyrus was sent to the Great Conde, when a prisoner at Vincennes, to amuse him; and to M. d'Andilly, hermit of Port-Royal, a volume of Cttlie, to flatter him with a description of his desert With her false apparatus of imagination and false historical paraphernalia, Mile, de Scudery was, after all, not more absurd than Mme. Cottin a few years ago. The masquerading attire was merely borrowed : what was really and essentially her own was her method of observing and painting the society about her, of seizing on the fly the persons of her acquaintance, and putting them, all alive, into her books, where she makes them converse with wit and shrewdness. It is on this side that I judge her, and while recog- nising much distinction andjingenious sagacity of analysis, much metal anatomy, I must add that the whole is abstract, subtile, the reasoning overdone, with too much of the thesis about it; lacking in buoyancy, without illumination, dry to the core, and


not agreeable. It resembles La Motte and Fontenelle, but with much less ease and freedom than either of them. She "distinguishes," she divides, she sub- divides, she classifies, she teaches. Never any fresh- ness; the delicacy itself soon becomes didactic and far-fetched. Even in her little summer-houses, amid the parks and gardens she describes, she is careful to put an inkstand. Such appears to me, in spite of all my efforts to represent her to myself as more agreeable, the geographer of the Pays de Tendre, the Sappho of Pellisson. If, therefore, I must come to some conclusion and reply to the question with which we started, I am compelled to attach to the name of Mile, de Scudery an idea, not of ridicule, rather of esteem, a very serious esteem, but not in the least an idea of attractiveness or grace.

A spinster of such great worth and no grace is, nevertheless, unsatisfactory to paint, and even pain- ful to point out ; one would so much rather put in all that was lacking in her!

M. Cousin has lately attempted to make a complete revolution in honour of Mile, de Scudery, and in favour of her Grand Cyrus. By the help of a printed key, known to exist in the Bibliotheque de 1' Arsenal, and of another key, in manuscript, in the Biblio- theque Mazarine, he has endeavoured to give to the novel a serious historical value in relation to the actions and deeds of arms of the Prince de Conde. The Abbe Lambert in his Histoire LitUraire du Regne


jflDabemofseile 5e Scuberp* 81


de Louis XI^ speaking of the immense vogue of Mile, de Scudery's writings, gives the following ex- plantion of it:

11 It is true that these novels, if we can call them by that name, must be regarded as a species of epic poems and true histories under disguised names. Such is Artamene on- Le Grand Cyrus, in which we find a considerable part of the life of Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Conde ; while Clelie contains a quantity of traits relating to all the illustrious personages then in France."

M. Cousin has given new and piquant and very precise proofs of the truth of this statement in all that concerns Le Grand Cyrus, but he goes too far when he attempts to make a military authority of Mile. de Scudery, and to attribute to her an importance she could not have in such matters. The fact is, that as soon as we see her Persian or Scythian personages unmasked, and their true names given by the help of a key, as M. Cousin has done with ease, but as no one had had the idea or the patience to do before him, we are convinced that Mile, de Scudery, to whom all was fish that came into her net, had re- ceived documents from the hotel de Conde which, under a slight disguise, she introduced bodily into her book: the battle of Rocroy, that of Lens, the siege of Dunkerque under the name of the siege of Cumae, are described with all their particulars; she printed her notes and extracts as she made them: this flattered the Condes, and spared her the trouble of invention; it "made copy" for the printer, a con- sideration we must never forget in speaking of Mile.

VOL. II. - 6.


82 flBa&emofseHe &e


de Scudery. She little thought she would some day furnish arguments for the military discussions of future Jominis, and become herself a staff authority! But the fact remains that, through her, we have the version of the Prince de Conde and his friends on his great deeds of arms, some points of which have been subjects of controversy. She is the faithful echo of the hotel de Conde in such matters, just as she was the echo of the h6tel de Rambouillet in matters of taste.

NOTE: Sainte Beuve omits to do justice to Mile, de Scudery on a point that gives true glory to her name. She was one of a small band who did a work for which France and the world can never be too grateful.

At the beginning of the seventeenth century France had no standard of national language ; spoken language v/as chiefly a variety of dialects; written language was chiefly a learned jargon. Polite manners and personal refinement did not exist. The nobles, who were the sole arbiters of manners, morals, and language, were soldiers trained to war and to the coarse habits of a camp. Women had little influence ; there was no such thing as the home ; the only places for social meeting were dark bedrooms so ill-furnished that the com- pany sat on the floor, or vast halls, like those at Blois, where half a regiment could be quartered.

Such was the state of society when a woman, quietly and without pretension, opened the way to as great a revolution and reform as his- tory can show. In 1608, Mme. de Rambouillet resigned a distin- guished place at Court to devote herself to her family, to study, to the cultivation of her mind by intercourse with other choice minds of men and women whom she attracted to her house in the rue Saint Thomas du Louvre. Such was the beginning of the far-famed hotel de Ram- bouillet, where the art of conversation was born, where women de- voted themselves to the pleasures of the intellect, where men of learning were sought and honoured, where persons of intelligence were received on equal terms without regard to their condition in life, where great lords learned to respect writers, while women held an ascendency over all which powerfully contributed to refine and polish both writers and warriors. The possibilities of the French language, and of a


fTOa&emoiselle De Scu&ets* 83

future literature were the chief topics of conversation but not the only ones; social manners, religion, politics were also discussed. Among the men who frequented that salon we find the Prince de Conde, Cardinal Richelieu, La Rochefoucauld, Corneille, Bossuet; among women, Mme. de Longueville, Mme. de La Fayette, Mme. de Sevigne, Mile, de Scudery, who may be called the historian of the coterie, for her novels are really a portrait-gallery of all these choice persons. It is true that her books are unreadable now and exasperating to literary taste; but we should remember that she made part of a great pioneer work, in which all the actors laid stepping-stones by which social life, literature, manners, refinement, the status of women, were to rise, and rise rapidly to higher things. With this before our minds we can overlook the Carte du Tendre (Map of the Country of Tenderness) which, by the way, was only a bit of private nonsense which her friends unwisely persuaded her to put into Clelie and turn to her solid advice to women, given in her Grand Cyrus:

li \ leave you to judge whether I am wrong in wishing that women should know how to read, and read with application. There are some women of great natural parts who never read anything; and what seems to me the strangest thing of all is that those intelligent women prefer to be horribly bored when alone, rather than accustom themselves to read, and so gather company in their minds by choosing such books, either grave or gay, as suit their inclinations. It is cer- tain that reading enlightens the mind so clearly and forms the judgment so well that without it conversation can never be as apt or as thorough as it might be. ... I want women to be neither learned nor ignorant, but to employ a little better the advantages that nature has given them, I want them to adorn their minds as well as their per- sons. This is not incompatible with their lives; there are many agree- able forms of knowledge which women may acquire thoroughly without departing from the modesty of their sex, provided they make good use of them. And I therefore wish with all my heart that women's minds were less idle than they are, and that I myself might profit by the advice I give to others."

These words, be it remembered, were written by a woman in the dawn of "culture."

In the history of the h6tel de Rambouillet the reader is referred to ML Charles Livet's Precieux et Precieuses; M. Victor Cousin's La SocUte Franpaise au XVIIe Sucle\ also to M. Auguste Brachet's Histoire de la Langue Franpaise. TR.


IV.

flDoHere*


IV.


IN poesy, in literature, there is a class of men beyond comparison, even among the very first; not numerous, five or six in all, perhaps, since the beginning, whose characteristic is universality, eter- nal humanity, intimately mingled with the painting of manners and morals and the passions of an epoch. Facile geniuses, strong and fruitful, their principal trait lies in this mixture of fertility, firmness, and frankness ; it is knowledge and richness at the found- ation; true indifference to the employment of means and conventional styles, every framework, every point of departure suiting them to enter upon their subject; it is active production multiplying through obstacles, the plenitude of art, obtained frequently without artifices or retarding apparatus.

In the Greek past, after the grand figure of Homer, who begins this class so gloriously and gives us the primitive genius of the noblest portion of human- ity, we are puzzled to know whom to take next Sophocles, fruitful as he seems to have been, human as he shows himself in the harmonious expression of

87


88 ffDoliere*

sentiments and sorrows, Sophocles stands so perfect in outline, so sacred, if I may use the word, in form and attitude, that we cannot take him in idea from his purely Greek pedestal. Famous comedians are lack- ing; we have only the name of Menander, who was perhaps the most pleasant in that class of genius; for with Aristophanes a marvellous fancy, so Athenian, so charming, injures his universality. In Rome I see no one but Plautus; Plautus ill-appreciated still, pro- found and varied painter, director of a troop of actors, actor and author himself like Shakespeare and like Moliere, whose legitimate ancestor we must count him. But Latin literature was too directly imported, too artificial from the first, copied as it was from the Greek, to admit of much unfettered genius. The most prolific of the great writers of that literature are also "literary men" and rhymers in soul Ovid and Cicero for instance. Nevertheless, it has the honour of having produced the two most admirable poets of all literatures of imitation, study, and taste those chastened and perfected types, Virgil and Horace.

It is to modern times and the Renaissance that we must turn for the men whom we are seeking. Shakespeare, Cervantes, Rabelais, Moliere, with two or three later of unequal rank, and that is all ; we can characterise them by their resemblances. These men had divers and thwarted destinies; they suffered, they struggled, they loved. Soldiers, physicians, come- dians, captives, they found it hard to live; poverty,



MOLllRE. From a steel engraving.


/IDoifcre, 89

passions, impediments, the hindering of enterprises, they endured all. But their genius rose above their shackles and, without resenting the narrowness of the struggle, kept its neck from the collar and its elbows free. You have seen true, natural beauty force itself to the light amid poverty, unhealthy air, and mean life; you have, though rarely, perhaps, encountered young girls of the poorer classes who seem to you formed and illumined, heaven knows how, with a grand per- fection of body, whose very finger-nails are elegant; such beings keep the idea of the noble human race, the image of the gods, from perishing. And thus these rare geniuses, of grand and plastic beauty, beauty inborn and genuine, triumph with an easy air under the most opposing conditions; they develop, they assert themselves invincibly. They do not de- velop merely by chance and at the mercy of cir- cumstances, like such secondary geniuses as Ovid, Dryden, or the Abbe Prevost, for instance. No: their works, as prompt, as numerous as those of minds that are chiefly facile, are also entire, strong, cohering to an end when necessary, perfected again and again, and sublime. But this perfection is never to them tha solicitude, sometimes excessive, the constantly chast- ened prudence of the studious and polished school of poets, the Grays, Popes, and Boileaus, poets whom I admire and enjoy as much as any one, and whose scrupulous correctness is, I know, an indispensable quality, a charm, and who seem to have taken for


9 o

their motto, Vauvenarque's admirable saying: " Clear- ness is the varnish of masters." In the very perfec- tion of the superior poets there is something freer, bolder, more irregularly born, incomparably more fertile, more independent of ingenious fetters; some- thing that goes of itself, that sports; something that amazes and disconcerts the distinguished contem- porary poets by its inventive resources, even In the lesser details of their profession. It was thus that Boileau, among his many natural causes for surprise, cannot refrain from asking Moliere where he " found rhymes."

Rightly understood, these excellent spirits hold a middle place between the poesy of primitive epochs and that of the civilised and cultivated centuries; be- tween the Homeric and the Alexandrine periods. They are the glorious, still mighty representatives, the distinct and individual continuators of the first epochs in the bosom of the second. In all things there comes a first blossom, a first and full harvest; these happy mortals lay their hand upon it and fill the earth, once for all, with millions of germs ; after them, around them, others strive and watch and glean. These teeming geniuses, no longer the divine old men, the blind of fable, read, compare, imitate like others of their day, but are not thereby prevented from creating as in the dawning ages. Their produc- tions are, no doubt, unequal, but among them we find masterpieces of the combination of the human


91

with art : they know art by this time ; they grasp it in its maturity and to its full extent, but without reasoning upon it as others do around them; they practise it night and day with an admirable absence of consciousness and literary fatuity. Often they die (a little as it was in the primitive epochs) before their works are all printed, or at any rate collected and made lasting, unlike their contemporaries the poets and litterateurs of the salons, who attend 4 to such matters early. Such is their negligence and their prodigality. They abandon themselves completely, especially to the good sense of the people, to the de- cisions of the multitude; of which, however, they know the chances and risk as well as any of the poets who scorn the common people. In a word, these grand individuals seem to me to come down from the very genius of poetic humanity, and to be tradition living and perpetuated an irrefutable embodiment

Moliere is one of these illustrious witnesses. Al- though he chiefly grasped the comic side, the dis- cordances, vices, deformities, and eccentricities of mankind, seldom touching the pathetic side, and then only as a passing accessory, yet, when he does so, he yields to none, even the highest, so much does he excel in his own manner and in every direction from freest fancy to gravest observation, so amply does he occupy as king all the regions of social life that he chooses for his own.

Moliere belongs to the age in which he lived by his


92 /IDoiiere.

picturing of certain peculiar odditities and the pre- sentation of customs and manners, but he is, in fact, of all ages; he is the man of human nature. To ob- tain the measure of his genius nothing serves better than to see with what facility he fastens to his century and detaches himself from it; how precisely he adapts himself to it and with what grandeur he can issue from it. The illustrious men, his contemporaries, Boileau, Racine, Bossuet, Pascal, are far more specially men of their time, of Louis XIV's epoch, than Moliere. Their genius (I speak of the greatest of them) bears the hall-mark of the moment when they came, which would, probably, have been quite other in other times. What would Bossuet be to-day ? What would Pascal write? Racine and Boileau fitted marvellously the reign of Louis XIV in all its youthful, brilliant, gal- lant, victorious, sensible parts. Bossuet dominated that reign at its apogee, before bigotry set in, but during a period already loftily religious. Moliere, who would, I think, have felt oppressed by that re- ligious authority, growing more and more stringent, and who died in good time to escape it, Moliere, who belonged like Boileau and Racine (though much older than they) to the first period, was far more independ- ent of it, although he paints it more to the life than any one. He adds to the lustre of that majestic aspect of the great century; but he is neither stamped by it, nor confined to it, nor narrowed to it; he proportions himself to it, he does not inclose himself within it.


flDolfere, 93

The sixteenth century had been, as a whole, a vast decomposition of the old religious, Catholic, and feudal society; the advent of philosophy into minds, and of the middle classes into society. But this incoming was done amid disturbances, disorders, an orgie of intellects and the fiercest material anarchy, chiefly in France and by means of Rabelais and the League. The mission of the seventeenth century was to repair this disorder, to reorganise society and religion ; from the time of Henri IV it thus proclaimed itself, and in its highest monarchical expression under Louis XIV its mission was crowned, and with pomp. I shall not attempt here to enumerate all the stern efforts that were made, from the beginning of the seventeenth century, in the centres of religion, by communities, endowed congregations, by reformed abbeys, and in the bosom of the University and of the Sorbonne, to rally the legions of Jesus Christ and reconstitute doctrine. In literature it is evident, and readily ex- plained.

To the Gallic, jovial, indecent, irreverent literature of Marot, Bonaventure, Desperiers, Rabelais, Regnier, etc., to the pagan literature, Greek, epicurean, of Ronsard, Baif, Jodelle, etc., philosophical and scepti- cal of Montaigne and Charron, succeeded one of a very different and opposite character. Malherbe, man of form, of style, of a caustic, even cynical mind (like M. de Buffonin the intervals of his noble work), Malherbe, a freethinker at heart, has nothing


94

Christian about his Odes except their exterior; but the genius of Corneille, father of Polyeucte and Pauline, was already profoundly Christian. So was that of d'Urfe. Balzac, vain and pompous bel esprit, learned rhetorician busy with words, has forms and ideas that hold firmly to orthodoxy. The school of Port- Royal was founded; the antagonist of doubt and of Montaigne, Pascal, appeared. The detestable poetic school of Louis XIII Boisrobert, Menage, Costar, Conrart, d' Assoucy, Saint-Armant, etc., did not enter the path of reform ; that school is not serious, scarcely moral, quite Italian, a mere insipid repetition of the literature of the Valois. But that which succeeds and smothers it under Louis XIV comes, by degrees, to faith and the observance of law witness Boileau, Racine, Bossuet. La Fontaine himself, in the midst of his good-humoured frailties and wholly of the six- teenth century as he was, had fits of religion when he wrote the Captivite de Saint-Male and the epistle to Mme. de La Sabliere, and he ended by repentance. In a word, the farther we advance in the period called that of Louis XIV the more we find literature, poesy, the pulpit, the stage, taking on a religious and Christian character; the more they evidence, even in the general sentiments they express, a return to be- lief in revelation, to humanity as seen in and by Jesus Christ This is one of the most characteristic and most profound features of that immortal literature. The seventeenth century rose en masse and made a


95

dike between the sixteenth and the eighteenth cen- turies, which it separates.

But Moliere, I say it without conveying either praise or moral blame, and simply as a proof of the freedom of his genius, Moliere does not come within this point of view. Although his figure and his work appear and stand forth more than all others in this ad- mirable frame of the great epoch of Louis the Great, he stretches and reaches forward, backward, with- out, and beyond; he belongs to a calmer thought, more vast, more unconcerned, more universal The pupil of Gassendi, the friend of Bernier, of Chapelle, and of Resnault is directly connected with the phi- losophy and literature of the sixteenth century; he had no antipathy against that century and what remained of it: he entered into no reaction, religious or literary, as did Bossuet, Racine, Boileau, and three-fourths of Louis XIV's century. He is of the posterity of Rabelais, Montaigne, Larivey, Regnier, of the authors of the Satyre Menippee; he has, or would have had, no difficulty in coming to an understanding with La- rnothe-le-Vayer, Naude, or even Gui Patin,that carping personage, doctor of medicine though he was.

Moliere is naturally of the society of Ninon, of Mme. de Sabliere before her conversion; he welcomes at Auteuil Des Barreax and a number of young seigneurs not a little libertine.

I do not, by any means, intend to say that Moliere, in his work or in his thought, was a decided free-


96

thinker; that he had any system on such subjects, or that (in spite of his translation of Lucretius, his free jesting, and his various liaisons) he did not have a foundation of moderate, sensible religion, such as ac- corded with the custom of the times, a religion which reappeared at his last hour, and had already burst forth with such strength from Cleante's lips in Tar- tuff e. No; Moliere the wise, an Ariste of calm pro- priety, the enemy of all excesses and absurdities of mind, the father of that Philinte whom Lelius, Eras- mus, and Atticus would have recognised, had nothing of the licentious and cynical braggadocio of the Saint- Amants, Boisroberts, and their kind. He was sincere in being indignant at the malicious insinuations which, from the date of the Ecole des Femmes, his enemies cast upon his religion.

But what I want to establish, and which character- ises him among his contemporaries of genius, is that he habitually saw human nature in itself, in its uni- versality of all periods; as Boileau and La Bruyere saw and painted it often, I know, but Moliere without mixture such as we see in Boileau's Epitre sur r Amour de Dieu, and La Bruyere's discussion on Quietism. He paints humanity as if it had no growth ; and this, it must be said, was the more possible to him, painting it, as he did especially, in its vices and blemishes: tragedy evades Christianity less easily. Moliere separates humanity from Jesus Christ, or rather he shows us the one to its depths without taking


fIDolfere. 97

much account of the other. In this he detaches him- self from his century. In the famous scene of the Pauper he gives, without a thought of harm, a speech to Don Juan which he was forced to suppress, such storms did it raise: "You spend your life in praying to God and you are dying of hunger; take this money; I give it you from love of humanity." The benefi- cence and the philanthropy of the eighteenth century, that of d'Alembert, Diderot, and Holbach, are in that saying. And it was Moliere who said of the Pauper when he brought back the gold piece that other say- ing, so often quoted, so little understood, it seems to me, in its gravest meaning, a saying that escaped from a habit of mind essentially philosophical: "Where must virtue needs go niche itself! " Ou la vertu va- t-elle se nicher ! No man of Port-Royal or its con- geners (note this well) would have had such a thought; the contrary would have seemed to him more natural, the poor man being, in the eyes of the Christian, an object of special mercies and virtues. It was he, too, who, talking with Chapelle of the phi- losophy of Gassendi, their common master, said, while disputing as to the theory of atoms, Never mind the morality of it." Moliere belongs simply, as I think, to the religion, I do not say of his Don Juan or of Epicurus, but of Chremes in Terence: Homo sum. We may apply to him in a serious sense Tar- tuffe's speech: "A man ... a man, in short!" This man knew frailties and was not surprised by

VOL. II. 7.


98

them; he practised good more than he believed in it; he reckoned upon vices, and his most burning indig- nation was uttered by a laugh. He considered this sad humanity as an old child now incurable, to be corrected a little, but, above all, to be soothed by amusing it

' To-day, when we judge of things from a distance and by clear results, Moliere seems to us much more radically aggressive against the society of his time than he thought he was : this is a danger we should guard against in judging him. Among the illustrious contemporaries I cited just now, there is one, only one, the one whom we should be least inclined to connect with our poet, but who, nevertheless, like him, and more than him, brought into question the principal foundations of the society of those days, and who looked in the face, without prejudices of any kind, birth, rank, and property. Pascal (for he is that audacious man) made use of the ruin he pro- claimed of all things about him solely to cling with terror to the pillar of the temple, to clasp more con- vulsively the Cross. They both, Pascal and Moliere, seem to us to-day the most formidable witnesses against the society of their times. Moliere, in a vast space reaching to the edge of the religious inclosure, foraging with his troop every corner of the field of the old society, delivering, pell-mell, to laughter and ridicule, titled conceit, conjugal inequality, captious hypocrisy, often alarming, by the same stroke, right-


flDoIfere, 99

eous subordination, true piety, and marriage: Pascal, at the very heart of orthodoxy, making the very arches of the edifice tremble, after his fashion, with the cries of anguish that he utters, and putting the strength of Samson into grasping the sacred pillar. But while accepting this connection, which has, I think, both novelty and accuracy, we must not as- cribe to Moliere more intention to overthrow than to Pascal; we must even grant him less calculation of the whole bearing of the matter. Had Plautus a sys- tematic reservation in his mind when he laughed at usury, prostitution, slavery, and all the other vices and motives of ancient society ?

The moment when Moliere came upon the scene was exactly that which suited the liberty that he had, and that which he gave himself. Louis XIV, still young, supported him in all his bold and free en- deavours, and protected him against whoever attacked him. In Tartuffe, and also in the tirade of Don Juan against advancing hypocrisy, Moliere foresaw with his divining eye the sad end of a noble reign, and he has- tened, when it was with great difficulty possible and when it seemed to be useful, to denounce with pointed finger the growing vice. If he had lived till 1685, till the declared reign of Mme. de Maintenon, or had he lived from 1673 to 1685, during that glorious period of the ascendancy of Bossuet, he would no doubt have been less efficaciously protected, and he might have been persecuted at the last. We ought fully to compre-


hend through understanding that universal, free, natural, philosophical mind, indifferent, at the least, to what they were seeking to restore the anger of the religious oracles of those days against Moliere, the cruel severity of expression with which Bossuet scoffs and triumphs over the actor dying on the stage, and even the indignation of the wise Bourdaloue in his pulpit after the production of Tartuffe Bourdaloue, friend of Boileau that he was! We can even conceive the naive terror of the Jansenist Baillet, who in his Jugements des Savants begins his article on Moliere with these words: " Monsieur de Moliere is one of the most dangerous enemies to the Church of Jesus Christ that this century or the world has produced/' etc. It is true, however, that some of the clergy, more liberal, more men of the world, were less severe upon him. Pere Rapin praised him at great length in his Reflexions sur la Poetique, and cavilled only at the carelessness of the winding up of his plots. Bonhours made him an epitaph in French verse both agreeable and judicious.

Moliere was so thoroughly man in the freest sense, that he obtained, later, the anathemas of the haughty and so-called reforming philosophy just as he had first won those of the ruling episcopacy. On four differ- ent counts V Avare, Le Misanthrope, Georges Dan- din, and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme Jean Jacques will not listen to wit, and spares him no more than Bossuet did.


/IBoliere,


IOI


All this is simply to say that, like Shakespeare and Cervantes, like three or four superior geniuses through the course of ages, Moliere is a painter of human nature to its depths, without acceptance or concern about worship, fixed dogma, or formal interpretation; that in attacking the society of his time he represented the life of the greater number; and that in the midst of established manners and morals, which he chastised to the quick, he is found to have written of mankind.

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin was born in Paris, January 15, 1622, not, as was long thought, under the columns of the Market, but in a house in the rue Saint-Honore, at the corner of the rue des Vieilles-Etuves. He be- longed, through^ mother and father, to families of upholsterers. His father, who, besides his trade, held the office of "valet-upholsterer" to the king, intended that his son should succeed him; and young Poquelin, apprenticed when a mere child in the shop, knew nothing at fourteen years of age but how to read, write, and cipher, the necessary knowledge for his trade. His maternal grandfather, who loved the theatre, took him sometimes to the hdtel de Bour- gogne, where Bellerose played high comedy, and Gautier - Garguille, Gros - Guillaume, and Turlupin played farce. After each evening at the theatre young Poquelin was more sad, more absent-minded at his work in the shop, more disgusted with the prospect of his trade. We can imagine what those dreamy mornings following a play were for the


102 jflDolfere,

adolescent genius before whom, in the novelty of apparition, human life was beginning to unroll itself like a perpetual stage scene. He at last confided in his father, and, supported by his grandfather who "spoiled" him, he obtained permission to study. He appears to have been boarded out and to have attended as a day-scholar the college of Clermont, afterwards that of Louis-Ie-Grand, managed by Jesuits. Five years sufficed him to complete the whole course of the studies, philosophy included; moreover, he made useful acquaintances in the school who had great influence on his future fate. The Prince de Conti, brother of the Great Conde, was one of his schoolmates and remembered him ever after. That prince, though at first, and as long as he remained under the direction of the Jesuits, ecclesiastically in- clined, loved the theatre and endowed it magnifi- cently. When converted later to the Jansenist side, he retracted his first liking to the point of writing against the theatre, but seems to have transmitted to his illustrious elder brother the care of protecting Mo- liere to the last. Chapelle was also a student friend of Poquelin and procured him the acquaintance and the lessons of Gassendi, his tutor. These private lessons by Gassendi were likewise shared by Bernier, the future traveller, and by Hesnault, known for his invo- cation of Venus ; they must have influenced Moliere's manner of viewing things, less by the details of the instruction than by the spirit that emanated from it,


fiDouere, 103

which all the young hearers shared. It is, in truth, remarkable how free and independent of spirit were all the men who came from this school Chapelle, the frank speaker, the practical and lax epicurean; Hesnault, the poet, who attacked the powerful Col- bert and delighted in translating all that was boldest in the choruses of Seneca's tragedies; Bernier, who roamed the world and came back knowing how, un- der diverse customs and costumes, man is every- where the same, replying to Louis XIV, when he asked him in which country life seemed to him best, that it was Switzerland, and deducing on all points philosophic conclusions in the select little circle of Mile, de L'Enclos and Mme. de La Sabliere.

It is also to be remarked how those four or five leading minds came of the pure bourgeoisie and of the people: Chapelle, bastard son of a rich magistrate; Bernier, a poor boy, associated out of charity in the education of Chapelle; Hesnault, son of a baker in Paris; t^oquelin, son of an upholsterer; and Gassendi, their master, not a gentleman (as Descartes stated), but the son of simple villagers. Moliere took the idea of translating Lucretius from these conferences with Gassendi ; he did it partly in verse and partly in prose, according to the nature of the topic; but the manu- script is lost Another comrade who forced himself into these lessons of philosophy was Cyrano de Ber- gerac, suspected, in his turn, of impiety by certain verses on Agrippina, but convicted, above all, of bad


taste. Moliere took, in after years, two scenes from Cyrano's Pgdantjoue which certainly did not disfigure Les Fourberies de Scapin; it was his habit, as he said on this occasion, to take his property wherever he found it.

On leaving school Poquelin had to take .the office of his father, then too old for service, as valet-uphol- sterer to the king. For his novitiate, he followed Louis XIII on the journey to Narbonne, in 1641, and witnessed on his return the execution of Cinq-Mars and De Thou; bitter and bloody sarcasm on human justice! Instead of continuing in the paternal office during the years that followed he seems to have studied law at Orleans, where he was admitted to the bar. But his taste for the theatre drew him to Paris, where, having haunted, it was said, the harlequin booths on the Pont Neuf and followed the Italians and their Scaramouche, he put himself at the head of a group of young actors in society, which became be- fore long a regular and professional troop.

The two brothers Bejart, their sister Madeleine, and Duparc, called Gros-Rene, formed part of this strolling company which called itself " The Illustrious Theatre." Our poet broke away at this time from his family and the Poquelins, and took the name of Moliere. He went with his troop through all the different quarters of Paris and then into the provinces. It is said that he played at Bordeaux a Thebatde, an attempt at seri- ous drama, which failed. Farces, Italian plots, and


UDolfere* 105

impromptus he did not spare, such as the Medecin 'volant and the Jalousie du Barbouille the original sketches of the Medecin malgre lui and Georges Dandin, which have been preserved. He travelled about haphazard; well received by the Due d'fiper- non at Bordeaux, by the Prince de Conti wherever they met, hired by d'Assoucy, whom he afterwards received and entertained like a prince himself; hospit- able, liberal, a good comrade, in love often, trying all the passions, playing on every stage, leading his train of youth like a joyous Fronde through the land, with a fine stock in his mind of original human char- acters. It was in the course of this wandering life that, in 1653 at Lyons, he brought out L'fyourdi, his first regular play. He was then thirty-one years old. Moliere, as we see, began his career by the practice of life and passions before painting them. But it must not be thought that his inward existence had two separate and successive parts, like that of many emi- nent moralists and satirists a first part, active and more or less ardent; then, the fire subsiding from ex- cesses or from age, a second part of sour, biting ob- servation, disillusion, in short, which harks back to motives, scrutinises, and mocks them. That is not at all the case with Moliere, or with any of the great men endowed, to his degree, with the genius that creates. Distinguished men who go through this double phase, reaching the second quickly, acquire, as they advance, only a shrewd, sagacious, critical talent,


106


like M. de La Rochefoucauld, for example; they have no animating impulse nor power of creation. Dra- matic genius, that of Moliere in particular, has this that is singular about it: its method of proceeding is wholly different and more complex. In the midst of the passions of his youth, of hot-headed, credulous transports like those of the mass of men, Moliere had, even then, in a high degree, the gift of observing and reproducing, the faculty of sounding and seizing hid- den springs which he knew how to bring into play to the great amusement of every one; and later, in the midst of his complete, sad knowledge of the human heart and its divers motives, from the height of his melancholy as a contemplative philosopher, he still preserved, in his own heart, the youth of active im- pressions, the faculty of passions, of love and its jealousies a sacred heart indeed! Sublime contra- diction, and one we love to find in the life of a great poet; an indefinable assemblage which corresponds with what is most mysterious in the talent of dramatic comedy; I mean the painting of bitter realities by means of lively, easy, joyous personages who all have natural characters; the deepest probing of the heart of man exhibiting itself in active and original beings, who translate it to the eye by simply being them- selves!

It is related that during his stay at Lyons Moliere, who was already rather tenderly allied with Madeleine Bejart, fell in love with Mile. Duparc (or the person


107

who became so by marrying the comedian Duparc) and also with Mile, de Brie, who were both members of another troop of actors. He succeeded, in spite, it is said, of the B6jart, in engaging the two actresses for his own troop, and, repulsed by the haughty Du- parc, he found consolations in Mile, de Brie, to which he afterwards returned during the miseries of his mar- ried life. Some have even gone so far as to find in the scene between Clitandre, Armande, and Henriette, in the first act of Les Femmes Savantes, the reminis- cence of a situation anterior by twenty years to the writing of the comedy. No doubt between Moliere, much inclined to love, and the young actresses whom he managed ties were formed, variable, tangled, often interrupted, sometimes resumed; but it would be rash, I think, to try to find any definite trace of them in his works, and what has been said on this particu- lar point, forgetting the twenty years* interval, seems to me not justified.

The Prince de Conti, who was not yet Jansenist, had made Moliere and his troop of the Illustre Thedtre act on several occasions at his house in Paris. Being in Languedoc, he summoned his former schoolmate, who came with his actors from Pezenas to Montpellier, where the prince was. There he made use of his most varied repertory,, and of his last play, UEtourdi, to which he added the charming comedy of the Depit amoureux. The prince, enchanted, wanted to en- gage him as his secretary in place of the poet Sarazin,


lately dead. Molire refused out of attachment to his troop, love of his profession, and of an independent life. After several more years of strolling in the South, where we find him bound by friendship to the painter Mignard at Avignon, he came nearer to the capital and settled for a time at Rouen, where he obtained permission not, as some have conjectured, through the protection of the Prince de Conti (who became a penitent under the Bishop of Alet in 1665), but through that of Monsieur, Due d'Orleans, to act in Paris before the king. This event took place, Octo- ber 24, 1658, in the guard-room of the old Louvre, in presence of the Court and of the actors of the hdtel de Bourgogne, a perilous audience, before whom Moliere and his troop risked representing Nicom&de. That tragi-comedy over, Moliere, who liked to speak as orator for the troop, and who could not on so de- cisive an occasion yield that rdle to any one, advanced to the footlights and after

" thanking his Majesty in very modest terms for the kindness he had shown in excusing his defects and those of his troop, who had trem- bled in appearing before so august an assembly, he said that his desire to have the honour to amuse the greatest king in the world had made them forget that his Majesty had in his service most excellent originals of which they themselves were feeble copies; but, inasmuch as his Majesty had been able to endure their country manners, he entreated him very humbly to allow him to give one of those little farces by which he had acquired a certain reputation in the provinces."

The Docteur amour euoc was the piece he selected. The king, pleased with the performance, allowed


109

Moliere's troop to establish itself in Paris under the name of the " Troop of Monsieur," and to act alter- nately with the Italian comedians on the stage of the Petit-Bourbon. When the building of the colonnade of the Louvre was begun, in 1660, on the site of the Petit-Bourbon, the Troop of Monsieur removed to the Palais-Royal. It became the Troop of the King in 1665; later, at Moliere's death, it was united first with the Troop of the Marais, then with that of the hotel de Bourgogne and became the Theatre Franfais.

After the installation of Moliere and his company, L'Etourdi and the Depit amour eux were given for the first time publicly in Paris, succeeding there no less than in the provinces. Though the first of those plays is only a comedy of intrigue imitated from the Italian imbroglios, what fire already in it! what flam- ing petulance! what reckless activity thrilling with imagination in Mascarille! whom the stage up to that time had never known. No doubt Mascarille, such as he first appears, is only the son in direct line of the valets of Italian farce and ancient comedy, one of the thousand of that lineage anterior to Figaro: but soon, in the Precieuses Ridicules, he will individualise him- self, he is Mascarille the marquis, a wholly modern valet in the livery of Moliere alone. The Depit am- oureux, in spite of the unlikelihood and commonplace conventionality of its disguises and recognitions, pre- sents, in the scene between Lucile and firaste, a situ- ation of heart eternally young, eternally renewed from


no

the dialogue of Horace and Lydia; a situation that Moliere himself renews in Tartuffe and in the Bourgeois Gentilhomme with success always, but never surpass- ing in excellence this first picture; he who knew best how to scourge and ridicule shows how well he knew love.

The Precieuses Ridicules, acted in 1659, attacked modern manners to the quick. In it Moliere aban- doned Italian plots and stage traditions to see things with his own eyes, to speak aloud and firmly, accord- ing to his nature, against the most irritating enemy of all great dramatic poets at their outset affected and finical pedantry, the shallow taste of the alcove, which is mere distaste. It is related that on the night of the first representation of the Precieuses, an old man in the pit, delighted with this novel frankness, an old man who had doubtless applauded Corneille's Menteur seventeen years earlier, could not restrain himself from calling out, apostrophising Moliere, who was playing Mascarille : " Courage! courage, Moliere! that is good comedy! " At this cry, which he divined to be that of the true public and of fame, at the universal and sonorous applause that followed, Moliere felt (Segrais tells us) his courage swell, and he uttered that saying of noble pride that marks his entrance upon his great career: "No longer need I study Plau- tus and pluck at the fragments of Menander; I have only to study the world/'

Yes, Moliere, the world is opening before you; you


UDolfere, m

have discovered it, and it is yours; henceforth you have only to choose your pictures. If you imitate still, it will be that you choose to do so, that you take your own wheresoever you find it; you will do it as a rival who fears no competitor, as a king to enlarge your empire. All that you borrow becomes for ever embellished and honoured.

After the rather coarse, but honest, spice of the Cocu intaginaire, and the pale but noble essay of Don Gar- de, Moliere returned, in the Ecole des Marts, to the broad road of observation and truth with gaiety. Sganarelle, whom the Cocu imaginaire showed us for the first time, reappears and is developed in the Ecole des Marts; Sganarelle succeeds Mascarille in Moliere's favour. Mascarille was still young and a bachelor; Sganarelle is essentially a married man. Derived probably from the Italian stage, employed by Moliere in the farce of the Medecin volant, introduced upon the regular stage in a role that has a little of the Scarron about it, he naturalises himself there as Mas- carille had done. The Sganarelle of Moliere in all his varied aspects, valet, husband, father of Lucinde, brother of Ariste, tutor, poetaster, doctor, is a person- age who belongs to Moliere, as Panurge to Rabelais, Falstaff to Shakespeare, Sancho to Cervantes; he is the ugly side of human nature embodied; the aged, crabbed side, morose, selfish, base, timid, by turns pitiful or humbugging, surly or absurd. At certain joyous moments, such as that when he touches the


nurse's bosom, Sganarelle reminds us of the rotund Gorgibus who, in turn, brings back the goodman Chrysale, that other jovial character with a paunch. But Sganarelle, puny like his forefather, Panurge, has left other posterity worthy of both of them, among whom it is proper to mention Pangloss, not forgetting Victor Hugo's Gringore. In Moliere, facing Sgana- relle at the highest point of the stage, stands Alceste: Alceste, in other words, all that there is most serious, most noble, loftiest in comedy; the point where ridi- cule comes close to courage, to virtue. One line more, and the comic ceases; we reach a personage purely generous, almost heroic and tragical. Sgana- relle possesses three-fourths of the comic ladder, the lower by himself alone, the middle he shares with Gorgibus and Chrysale; Alceste holds the rest, the highest Sganarelle and Alceste; in them is all of Moliere.

Voltaire says that if Moliere had written nothing but the Ecole des Marts he would still be an excellent writer of comedy. Boileau cannot witness the Ecole des Femmes without addressing to Moliere (then at- tacked on all sides) certain easy stanzas in which he extols the "charming naivete of the comedy, which equals those of Terence supposed to be written by Scipio." Those two amusing masterpieces were separated in their production by the light but skil- ful comedy-impromptu called Les Fdcheux, written, learned, and represented in fifteen days for the famous


flDolfere* 113

fete at Vaux. Never did the free, quick talent of Moliere for making verse show more plainly than in this satirical comedy, especially in the scenes of the piquet and the hunt. The scene of the hunt was not in the play at its first representation; but Louis XIV, pointing with his finger to M. de Soyecourt, a great huntsman, said to Moliere: " There is an original you have not yet copied." The next day the scene of the huntsman was written and acted. Boileau, whose own manner of writing the play of the Fdcheux pre- ceded and surpassed, thought of it, no doubt, when he asked Moliere, three years later, where he "found his rhymes." The truth is, Moliere never sought them; he did not habitually make his second line before the first, nor did he wait half a day or more to find in some remote corner the word that escaped him. His was the rapid vein, the ready wit of Regnier, of d'Aubigne, never haggling about a phrase or a word even at the risk of a lame line, a clumsy turn, or, at worst, an hiatus a Due de Saint-Simon in poesy; with a method of expression always looking forward, always sure, which each flow of thought fills out and colours.

Duringthe fourteenyears that folio wed his installation in Paris, and to the hour of his death in 1673, Moliere never ceased to produce. For the king, for the Court, and for fetes, for the pleasure of the public at large, for the interests of his company, for his own fame, and for posterity, Moliere multiplied himself, as it were,

\ 7 OL. II. 8.


and sufficed for all. Nothing hypercritical in him, nothing of the author in his study. True poet of drama, his works are for the stage, for action; he does not write them, so to speak, he plays them. His life as a comedian of the provinces had been somewhat that of the primitive popular poets, the ancient rhap- sodists, the minstrels and pilgrims of Passion; these went about, as we know, repeating one another, tak- ing the plots and subjects of others, adding thereto as occasion demanded, making little account of them- selves and their own individual work, and seldom keeping " copy " of that which they represented. It was thus that the plots and improvisations in the Italian manner which Moliere multiplied (we have the titles of a dozen) during his strolling years in the provinces were lost, with the exception of two, the Medecin volant and the BarbouUle. L'Etourdi and the Depit amour eux f his first regular plays, were not printed until ten years after their appearance on the stage (1653-1663); the Precieuses was printed during its first success, but in spite of its author, as the preface indicates, and this was no sham pretence of gentle violence, such as so many others have practised since. Molire's embarrassment in going reluctantly into print for the first time is plainly visible in that preface. The Cocu imaginaire, having had nearly fifty representations, was not to be printed, when an amateur of the stage, named Neufvillenaine, finding that he had learned the play by heart, wrote it down,


115

published it, and dedicated the work to Moliere. That M. de Neufvillenaine knew with whom he had to do. Moliere's carelessness was such that he gave no other edition of the play, so that the copyist ad- mitted (what would have been plain enough without his admission) that perhaps, in his copy, made from memory, a quantity of misplaced words might have slipped in. O Racine! O Boileau! what would you have said if a third party had thus presented to the public your cautious work in which every word has Its value ? In this we can see the inborn difference there is between Moliere and the sober, careful race, rather finical but with reason, of the Boileaus and La Bruyeres.

To guard against other thefts like that of Neuf- villenaine, Moliere was forced to think of publishing his plays himself in the height of their success on the stage. L'EcoU des Maris, dedicated to his protector, the Due d'Orleans, is the first work he published of his own free will; from that moment (1661) he came into constant communication with readers. Never- theless, we find him continually distrustful in that direction; he feared the bookstalls in the gallery of the Palais-Royal; he preferred to be judged "under the candles/' on the stage, by the decision of the multi- tude. It has been thought, from a passage in the preface to the Fcicheux, that he intended to print his remarks and almost his poetic theories with each play; but if that passage is better understood, it will


be seen that his promise, wholly out of keeping with the cast of his genius, is not serious, but rather on his part a jest against the great logicians after Horace and Aristotle. Besides which, his poetic theory, as actor and author, will be found complete in the Critique de I'Ecole des Femmes and in the Impromptu de Ver- sailles, where it is in action. In scene seventh of the Critique, is it not Moliere himself who says to us through the lips of Dorante:

" You are pretty people with your rules, by which you hamper igno- rant folk and bewilder us daily! It seems, to hear you talk, as if the rules of art were the greatest mysteries in the world; and yet they are only certain easy observations that good sense has made on what might mar the pleasure taken in this kind of poem : and the same good sense that formerly made those observations can make them again without the help of Horace and Aristotle. . . . Leave us to go in good faith to the things that take us by the soul, and don't seek to reason us out of finding pleasure."

To finish with this literary negligence which I have shown in Moliere, and which contrasts so strongly with his ardent prodigality as a poet, and his extreme care as actor and manager, I must add that no com- plete edition of his works appeared during his lifetime. It was his comrade and fellow-actor, La Grange, who collected and published the whole in 1682, nine years after his death.

Moliere, the most creative and the most inventive of geniuses, is the one, perhaps, who has imitated the most, and on all sides; this is still another trait which he has in common with the primitive popular poets


fIDolfere* 117

and the illustrious dramatists who followed them. Boileau, Racine, Andre Chenier, poets of study and taste, imitate also; but their method of imitation is much more ingenious, circumspect, and disguised, and it chiefly bears on details. Moliere's method of imitat- ing is far freer, fuller, and at the mercy of his mem- ory. His enemies attacked him for stealing half his works from the old bookstalls. He lived, during his first manner, on the traditional Italian and Gallic farce; after the Precieuses and the Ecole des Marts he became himself; he governed and overtopped his imitations, and, without lessening them much, he mingled them with a fund of original observation. The river con- tinued to float wood from its banks, but the current was wider and more and more powerful. What we must carefully recognise is that Moliere's imitations are from all sources and infinitely varied; they have a character of loyalty, free and easy as they are, some- thing of that primitive life where all was in common; although usually they are well worked-in, descend- ing sometimes to pure detail: Plautus and Terence for whole tales, Straparolo and Boccaccio for sub- ject matter, Rabelais and Regnier for characters, Boisrobert, Rotrou, and Cyrano for scenes, Horace, Montaigne, and Balzac for simple phrases all are there; but all is transformed, nothing is the same. In a word, these imitations are for us chiefly the fortunate summary of a whole race of minds, a whole past of comedy in a new, superior, and original type, as a


n8 /IDciiere,

child beloved of heaven who, with an air of youth, expresses all his forbears.

Each of MoliSre's plays, following them in the order of their appearance, would furnish matter for a long and extended history; this work has already been done, and too well done by others for me to undertake it; to do so would be merely copying and reproducing. Around the Ecole des Femmes, in 1662, and later around Tartuffe battles were fought as they had been round "TheCid" and were to be around Phedre; those were the illustrious days for dramatic art. The Cri- tique de r Ecole des Famines and the Impromptu de Versailles sufficiently explain the first contest, which was chiefly a quarrel of taste and art, though religion slipped in apropos of the rules of marriage given to Agnes. The Placets au Rot and the preface to Tar- tuffe show the wholly moral and philosophical charac- ter of the second struggle, so often and so vehemently renewed afterwards.

But what I wish to dwell on here is that, attacked by bigots, envied by authors, sought by nobles, valet to the king, and his indispensable resource in all his fetes, Moliere, troubled by passion and domestic jars, consumed with marital jealousy, frequently ill with his weak lungs and his cough, director of a company, an indefatigable actor himself while living on a diet of milk, Moliere, I say, for fifteen years was equal to all demands; at each arising necessity his genius was present and responding to it, keeping, moreover, his


flDoifere* 119

times of inward inspiration and initiative. Between the duty hurriedly paid at Versailles and at Chantilly, and his hearty contributions for the laughter of the bourgeoisie, Moliere found time for thoughtful works destined to become immortal. For Louis XIV, his benefactor and supporter, he was always ready ; L' Amour medecin was written, learned, and acted in five days; the Princesse d' Elide has only the first act in verse, the rest is in prose, for, as a witty contem- porary of Moliere said, "Comedy had time to fasten only one buskin, but she appeared when the clock struck, though the other buskin was not laced.'* In the interests of his company he was sometimes obliged to hurry work; as he did when he supplied his theatre with a Don Juan, because the actors of the hotel de Bourgogne, and also those of Mademoiselle, had theirs, and the statue that walked was a town marvel. But these distractions did not keep him from thinking of Boileau, of strict pledges, of himself, and of the hu- man race, in the Misanthrope, in Tartuffe, in the Femmes Savantes. The year of the Misanthrope is, in this sense, the most memorable and the most sig- nificant in Moliere's life.

Boileau, let us recognise it, although we may blame his reserves in his Art Poetique and his innocent and quite permissible surprise at Moliere's rhymes, Boi- leau was sovereignly equitable in all that concerned the poet, his friend, whom he called the Contemplator. He understood and admired him in the parts most


120 fIDoIiete,

foreign to himself; he delighted in being his assistant in the Latin macaronics of his merriest comedies; he furnished him with the malicious Greek etymologies of the Amour medecin; he measured in its entirety that manifold and vast faculty; and the day when Louis XIV asked him who was the rarest of the great writers who had honoured France during his reign, the rigorous judge replied without hesitation: "Mo- Here, sire." "I did not suppose it," said Louis XIV, "but you understand the matter better than I."

Moliere has been lauded in so many ways, as painter of manners and morals and human life, that I wish to indicate more especially a side which has been brought too little into light, or, 1 may say, ignored. Until his death, Moliere was continually progressing in the poesy of comedy. That he progressed in moral observation and in what is called high comedy that of the Misan- thrope, Tartuffe, and the Femmes Savantes is too evident a fact, and I shall not dwell upon it; but around and through that development, where reason grew firmer and still firmer, and observation more and more mature, we ought to admire the influx, every rising and bubbling, of the comic fancy, very frolicsome, very rich, very inexhaustible, which I dis- tinguish strongly (though the boundaries be difficult to define) from the rather broad farce and the Scar- ronesque dregs in which Moliere dabbled in the be- ginning. How shall I express it ? it is the difference between some chorus of Aristophanes and certain rash


121


outbreaks of Rabelais. The genius of ironical and biting gaiety has its lyric moments also, its pure mer- riment, its sparkling laugh, redoubled, almost causeless in its prolonging, aloof from reality, like a frolic flame that flutters and flits the lighter when the coarse com- bustion ceases a laughter of the gods, supreme, in- extinguishable. This is what many minds of fine taste, Voltaire, Vauvenargues, and others, have not felt in appreciating what are called Moliere's latest farces ; and Schlegel should have felt it more. He who mys- tically celebrated the poetic final fireworks of Calderon ought not to have been blind to these rockets of daz- zling gaiety, these auroras at an opposite pole of the dramatic universe. Monsieur de Porceaugnac, the Bourgeois Gentilhomme, the Malade imaginaire, wit- ness in the highest degree to this sparkling, electrifying gaiety which, in its way, rivals in fancy the "Mid- summer Night's Dream " and the " Tempest." Pour- ceaugnac, M. Jourdain, Argant, they are the Sganarelle element continued, but more poetic, freer from the farce of the Barbouille, often lifted, as it were, above realism.

Moliere, compelled by Court amusements to com- bine his comedies with ballets, learned to run riot and display in these dances, made to order, his droll and petulant choruses of lawyers, tailors, Turks, apothe- caries ; genius makes of each necessity an inspiration. This issue once found, Moliere's inventive imagination rushed headlong through it. The comedy-ballets of


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which I speak were not at all (we should be careful not to think it) concessions to the vulgar public, direct provocations to the laughter of the bourgeoisie, al- though that laugh was promoted by them; they were conceived and produced for the Court fetes. But Mo- Here soon took delight in them; he even made ballets and interludes to the Malade imaginaire of his own free will, without order from the king or intention to produce the play at Court. He flung himself into them, the great man, with a mixture of irony and gaiety of heart, in the midst of his daily sorrows, as if into an acrid and dizzy intoxication. He died in the midst of it, to the sharpest sounds of that gaiety rising to delirium. I find in Cizeron-Rival the following incident which illustrates this point:

" Two months before Moliere died, M. Despreaux [Boileau] went to see him and found him much troubled with a cough, and making efforts with his lungs that seemed to threaten approaching death. Moliere, rather cold naturally, showed more friendship than -usual to M. Despreaux. This encouraged the latter to say : * My poor M. Moliere, you are in a pitiable state. The continual application of your mind, the continual straining of your lungs upon the stage, ought to make you resolve to give up acting. Is there no one but you in your troop who can play the leading parts ? Content yourself with com- posing, and leave the stage work to some of your comrades; this will do you more honour with the public, who will regard the actors as your agents; moreover, your actors, who are not any too tractable with you, will feel your authority more.' ' Ah, monsieur,' replied Moliere, ' it is a matter of honour with me not to quit the stage.' f A pretty point of honour/ said the satirist to himself, ' which consists in blackening his face to make a moustache for Sganarelle and devoting his back to the bastinades! Think of it! this man, the first of our day for wit and for the sentiments of true philosophy, this skilful cen-


sor of human follies, has a folly more extraordinary than those he scoffs at daily! That shows us how small men are.' "

Boileau did not advise Moliere to abandon his com- rades nor to abdicate the management, which the leader of a troop of actors might well have refused out of humanity, and for many other reasons; he urged him only to quit the boards; it was the obstinate old comedian in Moliere that refused to do so.

Posterity feels otherwise; far from blaming, we love these weaknesses and contradictions in a poet of genius; they add to Moliere's portrait and give to his personality an air more in keeping with that of the mass of men. Again we see him such, and one of us all, in the passions of his heart, in his domestic tribu- lations. The comedian Moliere was born tender and easily moved to love, just as the tragedian Racine was born caustic and inclined to epigram. Without going outside of Moliere's works, we find proofs of this sensibility in the tendency he always shows toward the noble and the romantic. Plautus and Rabelais, those great comic writers, show also (in spite of their reputation) traces of a sensitive, delicate faculty which surprise us joyfully in them, but especially do they delight us in Moliere. There is all of Terence in him.

About the time when he was so gaily painting Arnolphe dictating the rules and regulations of mar- riage to Agnes, Moliere, then forty years old (1662), married the young Armande Bejart, younger sister


124 .

of Madeleine, and not more than seventeen years old. In spite of his passion for her, and in spite of his genius, he did not escape the misery of which he had given so many sportive descriptions. Don Gavere was less jealous than Moliere, Georges Dandin and Sganarelle less deceived. After the infidelity of his wife became apparent to him his domestic life was one long torture. Warned of the success attributed to the Due de Lauzun in his wife's good graces, he came to an explanation with her. Mademoiselle Moliere fooled him as to Lauzun, by avowing an in- clination for the Comte de Guiche, and got herself out of the crisis, says the chronicle, by tears and a fainting fit. Bruised and wounded by his misfortune, Moliere returned to his early love for Mile, de Brie, or rather he went to her with the tale of his sorrows, as Alceste is driven back to Eliante by the treatment of Celimene. At the time when he played the Misan- thrope, Moliere, having quarrelled with his wife, met her only on the stage, and it is difficult to suppose that between Armande, who played Celimene, and himself, representing Alceste, some allusion to their feelings and real situation did not occur. Add, by way of complicating the vexations of Moliere, the presence of the elderly Bejart, an imperious creature, it appears, with little compliance. The great man made his way among these three women, often as much harassed, Chapelle says of him, as Jupiter at the siege of Hion between the three goddesses. But I


flDoIfere, 125

will let a contemporary of the poet speak on the chap- ter of his domestic sorrows:

" It was not without doing great violence to himself that Moliere re- solved to live with his wife in a state of indifference. His reason made him regard her as a person whose conduct rendered her unworthy of the affection of an honest man; his tenderness made him dwell on the pain he should feel in seeing her daily without making use of the privi- leges of marriage. He was reflecting on this one day in his garden at Auteuil, when a friend of his, Chapelle, who chanced to be walking there, came up to him and, finding him more troubled than usual, asked him several times the leason. Moliere, who felt some shame at having so little firmness under a misfortune that was much in vogue, resisted as long as he could; but being in one of those fulnesses of heart so well known to persons who love, he yielded at last to the de- sire of relieving himself, and he owned in good faith to his friend that the manner in which he was forced to treat his wife was the cause of the depression in which he found him.

" Chapelle, who thought himself above all such things, laughed because a man like him, who knew so well how to paint the weak- nesses of others, fell into the very one he was ridiculing every day; and he showed him that the most ridiculous thing of all was to love a woman who did not respond to the tenderness felt for her. * As for me,' said Chapelle, ' I own to you that if I were so unlucky as to be in such a position, and was convinced that the woman I loved granted favours to others, I should have such contempt for her that it would infallibly cure rne of my passion. Besides, you have a greater satis- faction at hand than you would have if she were your mistress; ven- geance, which usually succeeds love in an outraged heart, will pay you for all the grief your wife has caused you, inasmuch as you have only to lock her up; that will be a sure means to set your mind at rest.'

  • ' Moliere, who had listened to his friend with some tranquillity,

here interrupted him, and asked him if he had ever been in love.

  • Yes,' answered Chapelle, * I have been in love as a man of good

sense should be; but I never should make a great trouble out of a thing my honour required me to do; and I blush for you to find you so vacillating.' 4 1 see plainly that you have never loved,' said Moliere,

  • you have taken the name of love for love itself. I will not detail to

you an infinity of examples that would make you see the power of that passion ; I will merely give you a faithful account of my trouble,


to make you understand how little a man is master of himself when love has obtained a certain ascendancy over him. To answer you as to the perfect knowledge that you say I have of the heart of man, and the portraits that I make of it daily, I grant that I have studied myself as far as I could to learn its weakness; but if my knowledge teaches me that peril should be shunned, my experience shows rne only too plainly that it is impossible to escape it; I judge daily by myself. I was born with the utmost disposition to tenderness, and as 1 thought that my efforts would inspire my wife, through habit, with feelings that time could not destroy, I neglected nothing to succeed in doing so. As she was very young when I married her, I did not perceive her evil inclinations, and I thought myself less unfortunate than others who make such marriages. Marriage did not lessen my eager atten- tions to her; but I soon found such indifference that I began to see that all my precautions were useless, and that what she felt for me was very far from what I had desired in order to be happy. I blamed my- self for a sensitiveness which seemed to me ridiculous in a husband, and I attributed to her temper what was really the effect of her want of affection for me. But I soon had too much reason to perceive my error, and the passion which she had, shortly after, for the Comte de Guiche made too much noise in the world to leave me in my apparent tranquillity. Finding it impossible to change her feelings, I spared nothing, from the first, to conquer myself. For that I employed all the strength of my mind; 1 summoned to rny help all that could con r tribute to my consolation. I considered her as a person whose whole merit had been in her innocence, and who, for that reason, had none after her infidelity. I then took the resolution to live with her as an honourable man who, having a light-minded wife, is convinced that, no matter what may be said, his reputation does not depend upon her bad conduct. But I have had the grief to find that a young woman without beauty, who owes the little intelligence men find in her to the education that 1 gave her, has been able in a moment to destroy my philosophy, Her presence makes me forget all my resolutions, and the first words she says to me in her defence leave me so con- vinced that my suspicions are ill-founded, that I beg her pardon for having been so credulous. And yet, all my kindness does not change her. I have therefore determined to live with her as if she were not my wife; but if you knew what 1 suffer you would pity me. My passion has reached such a point that it even enters with compassion into all her interests. When I consider how impossible it is for me to


/IDolfere, 127

conquer what I feel for her, I tell myself that she may have the same difficulty in conquering her inclination to be coquettish, and I find myself more disposed to pity her than to blame her. You will tell me, no doubt, that a man must be a poet to feel this; but, for my part, I think there is but one kind of love, and that those who have not felt these delicacies of sentiment have never truly loved. All things in the world are connected with her in my heart. My idea is so fully occupied with her that, in her absence, nothing can divert it from her. When I see her, an emotion, transports that may be felt but not described, take from me all power of reflection; I have no longer any eyes for her defects; I can see only all she has that is lovable. Is not that the last degree of madness? and do you not wonder that what I have of reason serves only to make me know my weakness without enabling me to triumph over it?' 'I confess to you,' replied his friend, ' that you are more to be pitied than I thought; but we must hope for better things in time. Continue to make efforts; they will take effect when you least think it; as for me, I will offer ardent prayers that you may soon obtain contentment.' He withdrew, leaving Moliere to muse still longer on the means to allay his grief."

This touching scene took place at Auteuil, in that garden more celebrated for another affair which the literary imagination has endlessly embroidered, the gaiety of which is more in keeping with the usual ideas evoked by Moliere's name. I mean the famous supper at which, while the amphytrion was ill in his bed, Chapelle did the honours of the feast and the cellar so well that all the guests, Boileau at their head, were rushing to drown themselves in the Seine in pure gaiety of heart, when Moliere, brought down by the noise, persuaded them to put off the immolation till the morrow and perform it under a glowing sky. Observe that this joyous tale obtained its vogue only because the popular name of the great comedian was


128


mingled in it. The literary name of Boileau would not have sufficed to make it national property in this way; such anecdotes would never be told about Racine. Legends of this kind obtain currency only when connected with truly popular poets.

Though Moliere did not, after the fashion of several great poets, leave sonnets on his personal feelings, his loves, his sorrows, the question arises, did he in- directly convey something of them into his comedies ? and if he did, to what extent? We find in his Life, by M. Taschereau, several ingenious connections made between his domestic circumstances and parts of his plays with which they correspond.

" Moliere," says La Grange, his comrade and the first editor of his complete works, "Moliere made admirable applications in his come- dies, in which, we may say, he made game of every one, inasmuch as in various places he jested about himself and his family affairs, and what happened in his own home; this was often noticed by his in- timate friends."

Thus in the third act of the Bourgeois Gentilhomme he has given a speaking likeness of his wife; in the first scene of the Impromptu de Versailles he puts a piquant reference to the date of his marriage; and in the fifth scene of the second act of the Avare he laughs at himself for, his cough and his catarrh. It is very probable, also, that in Arnolphe, in Alceste, he thought of his age, his situation, his jealousy; and that under the mask of Argan he gave vent to his antipathy to the Faculty.


JIDoiiere* 129

But an essential distinction must be made here, and we cannot reflect upon it too much because it reaches to the very bottom of dramatic genius. The traits above-mentioned bear only on rather vague and gen- eral conformities,, or very simple details; in reality, none of Moliere's personages are himself. The greater part of those very traits should be taken only as the tricks and little by-plays of an excellent actor, customary with comedians of all epochs and which incite to laughter. No less may be said of the so- called copies which Moliere is said to have made of certain originals. Alceste is said to be the portrait of M. de Montausier, the Bourgeois that of Rohault; the Avare that of President de Bercy, and so on: here it is the Comte de Grammont, there the Due de La Feuillade who takes the honours of the play. Dangeau, Tallemant, Gui Patin, Cizeron-Rival, all those amateurs of ana, plunge into discourse with in- genuous zeal, and keep us informed of their anecdoti- cal discoveries. It is all futile: Alceste is no more M. de Montausier than he is Moliere, than he is Boileau, of whom he reproduces certain features. Even the huntsman of the F&cheux is not M. de Soyecourt solely, and Trissotin is the Abbe Cotin only for a mo- ment in his verse. Moliere's personages, in a word, are not copies but creations. He invents, he engen- ders them; they may have an air, here or there, of resemblance to such or such an individual, but they are, as a total, themselves only. To view them other-

VOL. II. p.


wise is to ignore what is multiform and complex in that mysterious dramatic physiology of which the author alone has the secret; he alone knows the point to which the copy goes and where creation begins; he alone can distinguish the sinuous line, the knitting together, more learnedly, more divinely accom- plished than that of the shoulder of Pelops.

In that order of minds which includes, through divers ages and in divers ranks, Cervantes, Rabelais, Le Sage, Fielding, Beaumarchais, and Walter Scott, Moliere is, with Shakespeare, the most complete ex- ample of the dramatic and, properly so-called, creative faculty. Shakespeare has, above Moliere, pathetic touches and flashes of the terrible Macbeth, King Lear, Ophelia but Moliere redeems in some respects this loss by the number, the perfection, the continual and profound weaving together of his principal char- acters. In all these great men evidently, but in Moliere more evidently still, the dramatic genius is not an outside extension, expansion of a lyrical and per- sonal faculty, which, starting from its own interior sentiments, toils to transport them outwardly and make them live, as much as possible, under other masks (Byron in his tragedies, for instance) ; nor is it the pure and simple application of a faculty of critical, analytical observation, which carefully exhibits in the personages of its composition the scattered traits it has collected. There is a whole class of true dramatists who have something lyrical, in one sense almost


/IBoiiete, 131

blind, in their inspiration ; a warmth, a glow, born of an inward vivid sentiment, which they impart directly to their personages. Moliere said ofCorneille: "He has an elf that comes from time to time and whispers excellent verses in his ear; then it leaves him, saying:

  • Let us see how he will get on without me ' : he does

nothing good and the elf makes merry at him."

In truth, Corneille, Crebillon, Schiller, Ducis, old Marlowe, were each and all subject to elves, to sudden, direct emotions, in the crises of their dramatic impulse. They did not govern their genius with the fulness and consistency of human freedom. Often sublime and magnificent, they obeyed some mysterious cry of in- stinct, or some noble warmth of blood, like generous animals, lions or bulls; they knew not fully what they did. MoIiSre, like Shakespeare, does know ; like that great forerunner, he moves in a sphere more freely broad, and thus superior; he governs himself, he rules his fire, ardent in his work but lucid in his ardour.

This lucidity, nevertheless, his habitual coldness of nature in the midst of so stirring a work, do not aspire to the predetermined, icy impartiality, such as we have seen in Goethe, that Talleyrand of art such critical subtleties in the bosom of poesy were not as yet invented. Moliere and Shakespeare are two brothers of the primitive race; with this differ- ence, as I conceive, that in common life Shakespeare, poet' of tears and terror, would readily develop a more smiling and happier nature, while Moliere, the joyous


132 JlDoUere*

comedian, would yield himself more and more to melancholy and silence.

Mile. Poisson, wife of the comedian of that name, has left the following portrait of Moliere, which those painted by Mignard do not contradict as to physical traits, and which satisfies the mind by the frank, honest image it suggests :

" Moliere," she says, " was neither too fat nor too thin; his figure was tall rather than short, his bearing noble, his leg handsome. He walked gravely, had a very serious air, a big nose, a large mouth, thick lips, a brown skin, black, heavy eyebrows, and the movements he gave to them made his countenance extremely comical. With re- gard to his character: he was gentle, obliging, generous ; he liked to harangue; and when he read his plays to the comedians he wanted them to bring their children, that he might make conjectures from their natural emotions."

What is shown in these few lines of Moliere's manly beauty reminds me of a tale told by Tieck of the "very human face" of Shakespeare. Shakespeare, young, and then unknown, was waiting in the par- lour of an inn for the arrival of Lord Southampton, who was about to become his protector and friend. He was listening silently to the poet Marlowe, who, without taking notice of the unknown youth, was giving vent to a noisy enthusiasm. Lord Southamp- ton, having arrived in the town, sent his page to the inn: "You are to go," he said, "into the common room; there, you must look attentively at all the faces; some, remember this, will look to you like the faces of less noble animals, others will have the faces


133

of more noble animals; but search on farther till you tind a face that seems to you to resemble nothing but a human face. That is the man I want; salute him, and bring him to me." The young page hastened away; he entered the common room and examined the faces; after a slow examination, finding the face of the poet Marlowe the handsomest of all, he thought he must be the man and took him to his master. Marlowe's countenance was not without resemblance to the head of a noble bull, and the page, child that he still was, was struck by it. But Lord Southampton afterwards showed him his mistake, and explained to him how the human and fitly proportioned face of Shakespeare, less striking when first seen, was, never- theless, the more beautiful. What Tieck says of faces he means to apply, we feel sure, to the inward genius.

Moliere never separated dramatic works from their representation; he was equally director, excellent actor, and fine poet. He loved, as I have said, the boards, the stage, the public; he clung to his pre- rogatives as director, he liked to harangue on certain solemn occasions, and to face an audience that was sometimes stormy. It is told how he pacified by a speech a party of angry mousquetaires, whose right of entrance to the theatre had been withdrawn. As actor, his contemporaries agree in according him great perfection in comedy, but a perfection acquired through study and by force of will :


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" Nature," says Mile. Poisson, " had denied him those external gifts so necessary for the stage, especially for tragic roles. A muffled voice, harsh inflections, a volubility of tongue that made his declama- tion precipitate, rendered him on this side very inferior to the actors of the hotel de Bourgogne. But he did himself justice and confined his acting chiefly to a style in which his defects were more bearable. He had much difficulty, however, in succeeding, and he did not conquer his volubility, so contrary to fine articulation, without continual efforts that caused him a hiccough which he never lost to the day of his death and of which he knew well how to make use on occasions. To vary the inflections of his voice, he was the first to use certain un- usual tones, for which, in the beginning, he was accused of affectation, but to which people soon accustomed themselves. He gave pleasure not only in the roles of Mascarille, Sganarelle and Hali, but he excelled in those of the highest comedy, such as Arnolphe, Orgon, Harpagon. It was then that by truth of sentiment, by intelligence of expression, by all the delicacies of his art he fascinated the spectators to the point of no longer distinguishing the personage represented from the come- dian who represented him. He always took for himself the longest and most difficult parts."

Moliere was grand and sumptuous in his manner of living, possessing thirty thousand liwes a year, which he spent in liberalities, receptions, and benefactions. His domestic service was not confined to the good Laforest, the celebrated confidant of his verses, and people of rank, to whom he always returned their hos- pitalities, found nothing bourgeois and a la Corneille in his home. He resided, during the latter part of his life, in the rue de Richelieu, facing the rue Traversiere, about where No. 34 stands to-day.

Having reached the age of forty, at the summit of his art and apparently of his fame, strong in the king's regard, protected and sought by the nobles, frequently sent for by the Prince de Conde, going to the Due de


/IDolfete, 135

La Rochefoucauld to read his Femmes Savantes, and to the old Cardinal de Retz to read the Bourgeois Gentil- homme was Moliere (independently of his domestic discords), I will not say happy in his life, but satisfied with his position in the world ? or must we assert that he was not ? Stifle, attenuate, disguise the fact under all imaginable reserves, there was ever in Moli- ere's position, in spite of the brilliancy of his talent and his favour, something from which he suffered. He suffered in lacking at times a certain serious and lofty consideration; the comedian in him detracted from the poet. Every one laughed at his plays, but all did not esteem them enough; too many people took him as their best means of amusement, and he felt it deeply. Mme. de Sevigne speaks of sending for him to tickle and enliven "that good old cardinal/' Chapelle called him "great man," but his chief friends, Boileau among them, regretted in him a mix- ture of the buffoon. After his death, de Vise, in a letter to Grimarest, contests his right to be called "Monsieur"; and while his funeral procession was passing along the streets, a woman of the populace being asked whose it was, answered: "Only that Moliere." Another woman, who was at her window and overheard the remark, cried out: "How! You miserable woman! He is monsieur for such as you! " Moliere, clear-sighted and inexorable observer that he was, could have lost nothing of a thousand such mean and petty affronts which he swallowed with outward


136

contempt Certain honours were a poor compensa- tion, and sometimes a bitter one, I fancy; such as the honour of making, in the capacity of a servant, Louis XIV's bed. And again, when Louis XIV made him sit at his own table and said aloud, offering him the wing of a chicken: "Here am I giving supper to Moliere, whom my officers do not think good enough company for them."

Ten months before his death, Moliere, by the media- tion of mutual friends, was reconciled to his wife, whom he still loved, and even became father of a child which did not live. The change of habits, caused by this resumption of married life, increased the inflammatory state of his lungs. Two months before his death he received the visit from Boileau of which 1 have spoken. On the day of the fourth representation of the Malade imaginaire he felt more ill than usual; but here I will let Grimarest speak, he having received from the actor Baron the details of the scene, the plain naivete of which seems to me preferable to the more concise correctness of others who have reproduced it :

" Moliere, feeling more oppressed in his lungs than usual, sent for his wife, to whom he said in presence of Baron : ' My whole life has been equally mingled with pleasure and pain; I have thought myself happy; but to-day, when I am so overwhelmed with sufferings that I cannot count on a single instant of relief, I see that I must give up the game; I can bear up no longer against sufferings and vexations which give me not one moment's reprieve. But,' he added, after reflecting awhile, ' how much a man can suffer without dying! Still, I feel that I am coming to my end.' Mile. Moliere and Baron were deeply


/FDoliete, 137

touched by this address, which they did not expect, in spite of his condition, and they implored him, with tears in their eyes, not to act that evening, but to take some rest and recover. ' How can you wish me to do so ? ' he said ; i there are fifty poor workmen who have only their daily wages to live on ; what would they do if I did not act ? I should reproach myself for having neglected to give them bread unless I were absolutely unable to do so.' "

But he sent for the comedians and said to them that, feeling more uncomfortable than usual, he could not play that day unless they were ready to act at four o'clock precisely. "Otherwise," he said to them, "I cannot act and you must refund the money." The comedians had the chandeliers lighted and the curtain raised at four o'clock precisely. Moliere acted with great difficulty, and half the spectators noticed that in pronouncing the word Jure, in the ceremony of the Malade imaginaire, a convulsion seized him. Ob- serving himself that the audience had perceived it, he made an effort, and concealed by a forced laugh what had happened to him.

" When the play was over he took his dressing-gown and went into Baron's box and asked him what was said of the piece. M. Baron replied that his plays always had good success the closer they were ex- amined, and the more they were acted the more they were liked. * But,' he added, * you seem to us more ill than you were.' ' That is true,' re- plied Moliere, ' I am chilled to death. 7 Baron, after touching his hands, which he found like ice, put them in his muff to warm them; he then sent for Moliere's porters to take him home as quickly as possible, and did not himself leave the side of the chair, fearing that something might happen between the Palais-Royal and the rue de Richelieu, where Moliere lived. When he was in his room Baron wanted him to take some bouillon, of which Mile. Moliere always had a provision for her- self, for no one could take more care of themselves than she did.


138

  • Eh! no/ said Moliere, ' my wife's bouillons are strong as brandy to

me; you know all the ingredients she puts into them. Give me in- stead a little bit of Parmesan cheese.' Laforest brought him some; he ate it with a bit of bread, and had himself put to bed. He had not been there more than a minute when he sent to his wife for a pillow filled with a drug she had promised him to make him sleep. ' All which does not enter the body,' he said, ' 1 try willingly; but remedies taken internally frighten me; it would take very little to make me lose what remains to me of life.'

(l An instant later he was seized with an extremely violent cough. After spitting, he asked for a light, 'Here,' he said, Ms a change.' Baron, seeing the blood he had just thrown up, cried out in terror. 'Don't be frightened,' said Moliere, 'you have seen me throw up much more. Nevertheless/ he added, 'go and tell my wife to come up.' He remained in the care of two sisters of charity, of those who come to Paris to beg for the poor during Lent, and to whom he was in the habit of giving hospitality. They gave to him in this last moment of his life the edifying succour to be expected of their charity, and he made apparent to them the sentiments of a good Christian, and all the resignation that he owed to the will of the Lord. He rendered up his soul in the arms of these two good sisters; the blood that flowed in abundance from his mouth suffocated him, so that when his wife and Baron came up they found him dead."

It was Friday, February 17, 1673, at ten in the evening, one hour at the most after leaving the stage, that Moliere breathed his last sigh, at the age of fifty- one years, less a few days. The rector of Saint- Eustache, his parish church, refused him Christian burial, as not having been reconciled with the Church before death. Moliere's widow addressed a petition on the 20th of February to the Archbishop of Paris, Harlay de Champvallon. Accompanied by the rector of Auteuil, she went to Versailles and threw herself at the king's feet; but the good rector seized the occasion to free himself of a suspicion of Jansenism, and the


139

king silenced him. Besides which, if all must be told, Moliere, being dead, could no longer amuse Louis XIV, and the immense selfishness of the monarch, that hideous, incurable selfishness laid bare to us by Saint-Simon, resumed the upper hand. Louis XIV sent the widow and the rector abruptly away, at the same time writing to the archbishop to find some mid- dle course. On the 2ist of February Moliere's body, accompanied by two priests, was carried by night to the cemetery of Saint-Joseph, rue Montmartre. Two hundred persons followed it, each bearing a torch; no funeral anthem was allowed to be sung. On the day of the obsequies the crowd, always fanatic, assem- bled around Moliere's house with apparently hostile intentions; it was dispersed by flinging money to it The same Parisian crowd was less easily dispersed on the occasion of the funeral of Louis XIV.

Hardly was he dead, before Moliere was appreciated on all sides. We know the magnificent lines of Boileau, who rose in them to eloquence. Moliere's reputation has since shone ever higher and incontest- able. The eighteenth century did more than confirm it, it proclaimed it with a sort of philosophical pride. Our own young century, accepting that fame and never calling it in question, made use of it, at certain times, as an auxiliary, as an arm of defence or con- demnation. But later, comprehending it in a more equitable manner, comparing it, according to philoso- phy and art, with other renowns of neighbouring


140 fIDoliere*

nations, it has better understood and respected it Con- stantly enlarging in this way, Moliere's reputation (marvellous privilege!) has reached its true measure, has equalled truth, but has not passed beyond it. His genius is henceforth one of the ornaments, one of the claims of the genius of humanity itself. Among the great world-fames that survive and last there are many that maintain themselves afar, so to speak; whose names last better than their works in the memory of mankind. Moliere is of a smaller number, whose life and works are sharers in all the possible conquests of the new civilisation. Reputations, future geniuses, books, may multiply; civilisations may transform themselves hereafter, but five or six great works have entered inalienably the depths of human thought. Every coming man who can read is one reader the more for Moliere.


V.

la ffontaine.


V.

ff ontafite*

IN these rapid essays, by which I endeavour to recall the attention of my readers and myself to pacific memories of literature and poesy, 1 have imposed no law upon myself; I have simply certain principles of art and literary criticism which I seek to apply, without violence and in a kindly spirit, to the illustrious authors of our two preceding cent- uries. Moreover, the impression that a recent and fresh reading of their works leaves upon me a simple, frank impression, quick and nai've is that which, above all, decides the tone and colour of my remarks; it is that which impels me to severity against Jean-Jacques, to esteem for Boileau, to admiration for Mme. de Sevigne, Regnier, and others. To-day it is La Fon- taine. Coming to him after so many panegyrists and biographers, I find myself condemned to say nothing fundamentally new and to do no more than reproduce in my own way, assigning other reasons at times, the same conclusions of praise, the same homage of a disarmed and loving criticism.

It must be said, however, that if La Harpe and Chamfort praised La Fontaine with intuitive sagacity,

143


144 3U f ontaine,

they detached him far too much from his century, which was much less known to them than to us. The eighteenth century, in fact, knew little of Louis XI V's epoch, except that part of it that continued and was prevalent under Louis XV. It ignored or disdained one whole portion, by which that reign looked back to precedents; a portion certainly not less original, which Saint-Simon unveils for us to-day. Those wonderful Memoirs, which until now have been thought to ruin the glorious prestige and grandeur of Louis XIV, seem to us in these days to restore to that memorable epoch a character of grandeur and power, hitherto unsus- pected, and to rehabilitate it loftily in public opinion, along the very lines that destroy the notions of super- ficial admiration. There will come, I think, as great variation in our judgment of Louis XIV's epoch as there has been in our ways of seeing and judging the things of Greece and the Middle Ages. For instance, men studied little, or, at any rate, they little under- stood the Greek theatre; they admired it for qualities it did not have ; then, casting a rapid glance upon it and perceiving that those qualities they considered indispensable were often lacking to it, they treated it lightly, witness Voltaire and La Harpe. Finally, studying it better, like M. Villemain, men began to admire it precisely for not possessing those qualities of false nobleness and stilted dignity which they thought they saw in the first instance, and, later, were disappointed not to find.



LA FONTAINE, From a steel engraving.


3La jfontaine, 145

Opinions have followed the same course on the Middle Ages, on chivalry, on the Gothic. To the golden age of fancy succeeded sterner studies, which cast some trouble into that first romantic region; then those studies, becoming stronger and more in- telligent, came at last to an age, not of gold but of iron, yet marvellous still; an age of simple priests and monks more powerful than kings, of mighty barons whose enormous bones and gigantic armour frighten us ; an art of granite and of stone, learned, delicate, aerial, majestic, mystical In like manner the mon- archy of Louis XIV, admired at first for the ostenta- tious and apparent regularity and order that Voltaire extols, then revealed in its real infirmity by the Memoirs of Dangeau and the Princess Palatine, and belittled intentionally by Lemontey, reappears to us in Saint-Simon vast, impeded, fluctuating, in a confu- sion that is not without grandeur and beauty ; with the running-gear of the old abolished constitution more and more useless, but with all that habit retains of form and motion even after the spirit and mean- ing of things have passed away; already subject to despotic good pleasure, but ill-disciplined for the supreme etiquette that was about to triumph.

This being clearly laid down, it becomes easy to put in their right place, and to see in their true light, the men native to the time who, in their conduct and in their works, have done much besides fulfilling the programme of the master. Without this general

VOL. II. TO.


f ontaine.

knowledge we run some risk of considering them too much apart, as beings aloof and accidental. This is what the critics of the last century did in speaking of La Fontaine; they isolated him, and they exag- gerated him in their portraits; they gave him a far more complete personality than was needed in regard to his works, and they imagined him, out of all pro- portion, a jovial fellow and fable-maker. They could explain to themselves Boileau and Racine far more easily, because they belonged to the regular and visible portion of the epoch and were its purest literary expression.

There were men who, following the general move- ment of their century, retain none the less a deep, in- delible individuality: Moliere is, perhaps, the most striking example. There are others who, without going in the direction of the general movement, and showing consequently a certain originality of their own, have less of it than they seem to have. In the style or manner that discriminates them from their contemporaries there is much imitation of the pre- ceding age; and in this striking contrast which they present to what surrounds them we ought to recog- nise and allow for what belongs of right to their predecessors. It is among the men of this class that La Fontaine must be ranked; he was, in fact, under Louis XIV, the last and the greatest of the poets of the sixteenth century.

Born in 1621, at Chateau Thierry in Touraine, his


%a ffontafne* 147

education was much neglected, and he early gave proof of his extreme inclination to let himself go in life and to obey the impressions of the moment A canon of Soissons having one day lent him a few books of piety, the young lad fancied he had a lean- ing to the clerical profession, and he entered the seminary. He was not long in leaving it; and his father, having married him, made over to him his office of Director of Waters and Forests. But La Fontaine, with his natural forgetfulness and laziness, accustomed himself by degrees to live as if he had neither office nor wife. He was not as yet a poet, however, or, at any rate, he did not know that he was one. Chance put him in the way of knowing it An officer who was in winter quarters at Chateau Thierry read to him one day an ode by Malherbe, the subject of which was an attempt on the life of Henri IV; and La Fontaine, from that moment, thought he was destined to write odes. He composed a number, it is said, and very bad ones ; but one of his relations, named Pintrel, and a schoolmate, Maucroix, dissuaded him from that style and urged him to study the classics. It was also about this time that he began to read Rabelais, Marot, and the poets of the sixteenth century, the basis of a provincial library at that period, In 1654 he published a translation in verse of the " Eunuch" of Terence; and one of his wife's rela- tions, Jannart, friend and deputy of Fouquet, took him to Paris to present him to the Superintendent himself.


i 4 s 3La f ontafne*

This journey and presentation decided La Fontaine's fate. Touquet took a liking to him, attached him to himself, and gave him a salary of one thousand francs on condition of his producing every quarter a piece of poetry, ballad or madrigal, dizain or sixain. These little pieces with the Songe de Vaux [Vaux being Fouquet's country-seat] are the first original produc- tions of La Fontaine that we possess; they belong wholly to the taste of that day, the taste of Saint- Evremond and Benserade, and to the marotisme of Sarasin and Voiture; but the inexpressible something of easy indolence and voluptuous revery characteristic of the delightful writer is already perceptible, though much overloaded with insipidity and bel esprit.

Fouquet's poet was greeted from his start in Paris as one of the most delicate ornaments of the polished and gallant society of Saint-Mande and Vaux. He was very agreeable in company, especially that of private life; his conversation, free, easy, and naive, was seasoned now and then with roguish wit, his absence of mind being checked in time to be only a charm the more. He was certainly less of the good- man in society than Corneille. Women, slumber, and the art of doing nothing shared in turn his homage and his devotion. He boasted of this sometimes, and talked readily of himself and his tastes to others with- out ever wearying them, though making them smile. Intimacy, especially, brought out his charm ; he gave it an affectionate turn, a tone of familiar good-breed-


3La jfcntaine, 149

ing: he let himself go to it like a man who forgets all else, and who takes seriously or with easy jesting every passing caprice. His acknowledged liking for the fair sex did not make him dangerous to women unless they wished it. In fact La Fontaine, like Regnier, his predecessor, liked best all "easy and little-defended loves." While he was addressing Climene, Iris, and the goddesses, on his knees with respectful sighs, employing what he thought he had learned from Plato, he was seeking elsewhere, and far lower, for less mystical pleasures which helped him to bear his fictitious martyrdom with patience. Among his bonnes fortunes soon after his arrival in Paris was the celebrated Claudine, third wife of Guillaume Colletet and his cook (Colletet always married his servant- women). Our poet often visited the good old rhymer at his house in the Faubourg Saint-Marceau, and courted Claudine while discussing the authors of the sixteenth century at supper with her master, who could give him good counsel thereon and reveal to him riches by which he profited.

During the first six years of his residence in Paris and until the fall of Fouquet, La Fontaine produced little; he gave himself up wholly to the pleasures of a life of enchantment and festivity, to the delights of a choice society which enjoyed his ingenuous talk, and appreciated his gallant trifling. But this dream vanished on the downfall of the enchanter. Matters were thus, when, the Duchesse de Bouillon, niece


1 50 Xa fontaine,

of Mazarin, having asked the poet for some tales in verse, he hastened to satisfy her, and the first collec- tion of Conies appeared in 1664. La Fontaine was then forty-four years old. Critics have sought to ex- plain this tardy first appearance of so facile a genius; and some have gone so far as to attribute his long silence to secret studies, to a laborious and prolonged education. But in truth, while La Fontaine never ceased testing and cultivating his talent in his leisure moments from the day Malherbe revealed it to him, I much prefer to believe in his laziness, his somno- lence, his absent-mindedness, all, in short, that was naive and forgetful in him, rather than admit that he ever went through the wearisome novitiate to which those critics have condemned him. Instinctive, heed- less genius, fickle, volatile, ever the sport of circum- stances, we have only to recall certain features of his life to know him and comprehend him: On leaving college, a canon of Soissons lends him a pious book behold him in the seminary; an officer reads him an ode of Malherbe, and lo 1 he is a poet; Pintrel and Maucroix turn him to antiquity, and he dreams of Quintilian and dotes on Plato while awaiting Baruch; 1 Fouquet orders dizains and ballads, and he makes them; the Duchesse de Bouillon, tales, and he tells them; another day it is fables for Monseigneur the dauphin, a poem on quinine for Mme. de Bouillon; again, an opera of Daphne for Lulli, the Captivite de Saint-Male at the request of Port- Royal; or else it


3La ffontafne* 151

may be letters, long, flowery, negligent letters, mix- tures of verse and prose, to his wife, to M. de Mau- croix, to Saint-Eivremond, to the Contis, to the Vendomes, to all, in short, who demand them. La Fontaine spent his genius, as he did his time and his fortune, without knowing how, and in the service of every one. If up to the age of forty he seems less prolific than he was later, it is because occasions were lacking to him, and his natural laziness needed to be overcome by gentle violence from without. No sooner did he meet at forty-three years of age with the style and manner that suited him that of conte and fable than it was quite natural he should give himself to it with a sort of effusion, and return to it again and again, of his own accord, from liking as well as from habit.

La Fontaine, it is true, was, in some respects, a little mistaken about his gifts; he piqued himself much on correction and labour; and his poetic art, which he mainly derived from Maucroix, and which Boileau and Racine completed for him, accorded ill with the natural character of his work. But this slight inconsistency, which he has in common with other great, ingenuous minds of his day, is not surpris- ing in him, and confirms, far more than it contradicts, the opinion I have of the facile and accommodating nature of his genius.

What La Fontaine is in tale, all the world knows; what he is in fable, the world also knows and feels ;


Fontaine*

but it is much less easy to explain it. Authors of in- telligence have tried the same style and failed; they have put in action, according to precept, animals, trees, men; hiding a sly meaning, a healthy moral under their little dramas; and then, to their surprise, they are judged inferior to their illustrious predecessor. The reason is that La Fontaine understood Fable in a differ- ent way. I except his first books, in which he shows timidity, holds closer to his little tale, and is not yet wholly at his ease in this form, which adapted itself less immediately to his mind than did the elegy or the conte. When the second collection appeared, containing five books (from the sixth to the eleventh included), con- temporary critics cried out, as they always do, that it was much below the first. Yet it is in that collection that we find, in its perfection, Fable, such as La Fon- taine invented it. He had ended, evidently, by finding in it a framework suited to thoughts, to sentiments, and to talk; the little drama at the base is made more important than before; the moral, four lines at the end, is still there from force of habit, but the Fable, freer in its course, turns and gathers on its way, now from elegy or idyll, anon from epistle or tale, here an anec- dote, there a conversation, a theme rising to fancy a mixture of charming avowals, gentle philosophies, and dreamy plaints.

~~" Nevertheless, in his first manner, at the close of the first book, in the CMne et le Roseau, he attained the perfection of the Fable, properly so-called; he found


3La ffontafne. 153

means to introduce into it grandeur and the higher poesy, without exceeding its limits by an iota; he was master already. In Le Meunier, son Fils et I' Ane, he jokes, he talks, he makes the masters, Malherbe and Racan, talk, and the apologue is merely an adorn- ment of the discourse. But his second manner begins more distinctly and declares itself, as I have said, in the second collection, seventh book, which opens with the fable of the animals ill of the plague. In his pre- face the poet himself acknowledges that he has di- verged a little from the pure fable of /Esop, and has " sought for other enrichment and has extended farther the circumstances of his tale."

t/When we take up the seventh book of the Fables and read it consecutively, we are enraptured; it has truly "a charm," as the poet says in his Dedication; little masterpieces succeed one another: Le Cache et la Mouche, La Laiitire et le Pot au lait, Le Cure et le Mort; scarcely one that we can call mediocre steps in (such as La Tete et Queue du Serpent). The Fable that ends Book VII, Un Animal dans la Lune, dis- closes in La Fontaine a philosophical faculty that his native nawete would scarcely allow us to suspect; the simple man, who might be thought credulous when you argued with him, because he always had an air of listening, to your reasons without thinking to give you his, proves a rival of Lucretius and of that elite of great poets who have thought. He treats of things of Nature with elevation of mind and firmness. In


i54 3ta jfontaine.

the physical world, not less than in the moral world, appearances do not mislead him. Speaking of the sun, he says in language that Copernicus or Galileo would not disavow:


" I see the sun : what figure doth it bear ? Its great mass here below seems scarce three feet; But did I see it at its own great height, 'T would seem to my eyes like the Eye of Nature. Distance enables me to judge its size, By angle and by outline I determine it : Ignorance thinks it flat; but round I deem it; I make it motionless; 'tis earth that moves."


Pascal himself, geometrician that he was, would not have dared to say more on the movement of the earth. Again, in his Fable of Democrite et Us Abdfritains, his thought is far above vulgar prejudices. No one in his day refuted more wittily than he Descartes and the Cartesians on the souls of animals, and those pre- tended mechanisms which the haughty philosopher knew no better than he knew the human being he flattered himself he explained. In the Fable, Les deux Rats, le Renard et I'CEuf, addressed to Mme. de La Sabliere, La Fontaine discusses and reasons on these subtle matters; he even offers his own explanation, but, wise man that he is, he is careful not to venture a conclusion. In Les Souris et le Chat-Huanthe returns to that philosophic subject; in Les La-pins, addressed to M. de La Rochefoucauld, he returns again and ar- gues it, but he enlivens his arguments with gaiety


3La Jfontaine, 155

after his fashion, sending through them, as it were, a fragrance of heather and of thyme.

At the end of the fable, Un Animal dans la Lune, La Fontaine enlarges on the happiness of England, which was then escaping the risks of war ; and in speaking of that first, full glory of Louis XIV, he gives voice to words of peace; he does it with delicacy and recognition of the exploits of the monarch, admitting that "peace is our desire, though not our prayer." Whenever he has to speak of the masters of earth, of the Lion, which represents them in his Fables, La Fontaine shows plainly that he is neither seduced nor dazzled by them. But in all that he has written against monarchs and lions it would be a mistake to conclude that he did it with a purpose, or was hostile to them in any way. To interpret him thus would be narrow and unpoetic; if, speaking of the great and the powerful, he did not withhold the lesson that es- capes him, still less did he intend to flatter the people, that people of Athens that he somewhere calls an "animal with frivolous heads."

I shall not presume here to classify La Fontaine's Fables; it would be to misunderstand their spirit and hamper their diversity. But foremost in the order of beauty we must place those grand moral fables, Le Berger et le Roi and Le Paysan du Danube, in which thefe is an eloquent sentiment of history and almost of statesmanship. Next come other fables which, taken together, form a complete picture, a rounded


156 %SL jfontafne*

whole, and are equally full of philosophy: Le t/ieil- lard et les trots Jeunes Honimes ; Le Savetier et le Fin- ancier ; the latter as perfect in itself as some grand scene, some compact comedy of Moliere. There are elegies, properly so-called, such as : Tirces et Ama- ranthe, and other elegies less direct but more enchant- ing, I0s Deux Pigeons, for example.

Though human nature is often treated with severity by La Fontaine, though he flatters the species in no way, though he says that childhood is " without pity," and that old age is " pitiless," still, in spite of all, he is not the calumniator of mankind; on the con- trary, he will ever remain its consoler in one respect, namely : that friendship has found in him so constant and so tender an interpreter. His Deux Amis is the masterpiece of that topic; but on all the other occa- sions when he speaks of friendship, his heart opens, his mocking observation dies; he has words of feeling that he feels, tones either tender or generous, as when he lauds in Mme. d'Hervart

" Nobility of soul, the talent to conduct

Affairs and men ;

A temper frank and free, the gift to be a friend In spite of Jupiter and stormy skies."

It is when we have read in a single day a chosen quantity of La Fontaine's Fables that we feel our ad- miration for him renewed and refreshed, and that we say with an eminent critic [Joubert], "There is in


2La ffontaine, 157

La Fontaine a plenitude of poesy that is found no- where else among French authors/' I La Fontaine is our only great personal, pensive, musing poet before Andre Chenier. He puts himself knowingly into his verse, he tells us about himself, his soul, his caprices, his weaknesses. Usually his tone breathes gaiety, roguish malice, mischief, and the jolly conteur laughs to us from the corner of his eye, wag- ging his head. But often, also, he has tones that come from the heart, a melancholy tenderness that brings him close to the poets of our own time. Those of the sixteenth century had already had some foretaste of revery ; but with them its individual inspiration was lacking. La Fontaine restored to it a primitive char- acter of vivid and discreet expression; he freed it of all it had contracted of commonplace and sensual ; on this side Plato did him the good he once did to Pe- trarch ; and when La Fontaine exclaims in one of his delightful fables :

41 Shall I feel no more the charm that holds me? Have I passed the time to love ? "

The word charm, thus employed in a sense indefinite and wholly metaphysical, marks a progress in French poesy that was, later, taken up and followed by Andre Chenier and his successors.

Friend of retirement, of solitude, and painter of the fields, La Fontaine has the additional advantage over his predecessors in the sixteenth century of giving to


Jfontaine.

his pictures faithful colours that render the region truly and, so to speak, the soil itself. Those vast plains of wheat, where the master walks early and the lark hides her nest; those bushes and copses and bracken where a whole little world is swarming; those pretty warrens, whose giddy inhabitants pay court to Aurora in the dew and perfume their banquet with thyme all is Beauce, Champagne, Picardy; I recognise the farms with their ponds, their poultry yards, their dove- cotes. La Fontaine had well observed those regions, if not as Director of Waters and Forests, at least as poet He was born there, he lived there long; and even after he was settled in Paris he returned every autumn to Chateau Thierry to visit his property and sell it piecemeal, for Jean, as we know, "spent capi- tal and revenue. "

When all La Fontaine's property was dissipated, and the sudden death of Madame [Henriette, Duchesse d'Orleans] deprived him of the office of gentleman- in-waiting which he held in her household, Mme. de La Sabliere invited him to her house and took care of him for twenty years. Abandoned in his habits, ruined in fortune, without abode or hearth, it was for him and for his genius an inestimable blessing to find himself maintained, under the auspices of an amiable woman, in the heart of a witty and well-bred society, and with all the comforts of opulence. He keenly felt the value of this benefit; and his inviolable friend- ship, familiar yet respectful, which death alone could


Xa fcntaine, 159

break, is one of the natural sentiments he succeeded best in expressing.

At the feet of Mme. de La Sabliere and of other dis- tinguished women whom he celebrated and respected, his rnuse, soiled at times, resumed a sort of purity and freshness, which his rather vulgar tastes, growing less and less scrupulous with age, tended too much to weaken. His life, thus orderly amid disorder, became dual; he made it into two parts: one elegant, ani- mated, intelligent, and open to the light; the other obscure and, it must be said, shameful, given over to those prolonged dissipations which youth embellishes with the name of "pleasures/' but which are vices on the forehead of old age. Mme. de La Sabliere herself, who rebuked La Fontaine, had not always been exempt from human passions and frailties; but when the unfaithfulness of the Marquis de La Fare left her heart free and empty, she felt that no other than God could henceforth fill it, and she devoted her last years to the most active exercise of Christian charity. This conversion, as sincere as it was glitter- ing, took place in 1683. La Fontaine was moved to think it an example he ought to follow; his frailty, and other intimacies that he contracted about that time, deterred him; and it was not until ten years later, when the death of Mme. de La Sablire gave him a second and solemn warning, that this seed of good thoughts sprang up within him to wilt no more. But, even in 1684, the year after her conversion, he


160 %a ffontafne,

wrote an admirable Discours en Vers, which he read before the French Academy on the day of his recep- tion, in which, addressing his benefactress, he shows her with candid truth the state of his soul:

" Of solid joys I follow but the shadow; I have abused the dearest of our boons Amusing thoughts, gay dreams, and vague discourses, Delights chimerical, vain fruits of leisure, Novels and cards, the curse of all republics, By which e'en upright minds may be misled, A foolish madness scoffing at the laws, With other passions by wise men condemned, Have plucked, like thieves, the flower of my years. To seek true good would still repair these ills; I know it yet I turn to false gods ever."

This is, as we see, a grave, ingenuous confession, in which religious unction and lofty morality do not quite prevent a lingering, loving glance toward those "chimerical delights " from which he was ill-detached. A simplicity of exaggeration enters into it; novels and cards that entice the sinner are "the curse of re- publics, a madness that laughs at laws " I

" What profit in these lines with care composed? Need I no other fruit than praise for them ? Little their counsels if I heed them not, And, at the close of life, do not begin to live. For live I have not; I have served two masters, An empty fame and love have filled my years. What, then, is living ? Iris, you could tell me! Your answer promptly comes; I seem to hear it:

  • Enjoy true good in sweet tranquillity,

Make use of time, and of thy leisure hours; Pay honour where 't is due to God alone;


3La jfontafne, 161

Renounce thy Phyllises in favour of thyself; Banish those foolish loves, those impotent desires, Like Hydras in our hearts incessantly reborn. 1 "

Sincere, eloquent, sublime poesy, of a singular turn, where virtue contrives to make terms with idleness, where Phyllis and the Supreme Being are side by side; poesy that gives birth to a smile in a tear! Alas! why did La Fontaine never know the "God of good men " ? It would have cost him less to be converted.

At first sight, and judging only by his works, art and labour seem to have had but little place in La Fontaine, and if the attention of critics had not been awakened on this point by a few words in his prefaces, and by certain contemporaneous testimony, we should probably never have thought of making a question of it. But the poet ' ' confesses " in the preface to Psyche that " prose costs him as much trouble as poesy." In one of his last Fables, written for the Due de Bour- gogne, he complains of "manufacturing under stress of time " verses that have less sense than the prose of the young prince. His manuscripts are full of erasures and changes ; the same pieces are copied several times, and often with very happy alterations. It is amusing to see the care that he gives to errata. "Several errors in printing have slipped in/' he says in the preface to his second collection: " I have made them make an errata, but that is a small remedy for a con- siderable defect. If the reader is to have any pleasure

VOL. II. II.


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in this work he must correct those errors with his own hand in his copy according as they are given in each erratum, as much for the first two parts as for the last"

La Fontaine read much, not only the moderns, French and Italian, but the classics, in the original or in translation; he plumes himself repeatedly upon it. His erudition, however, makes singular blunders and is charmingly confused in places. In his Vie d'Esope he says: "As Planude lived in a century when the memory of things that happened to /Esop had not yet faded, I think he knew by tradition what the latter left behind him." In writing thus he forgot that nine- teen centuries had elapsed between the Phrygian and his editor, and that the Greek monk lived barely two centuries before the reign of Louis the Great In an epistle to Huet in favour of the ancients over the mod- erns, and in special honour of Quintilian, he reverts to Plato, his favourite topic, and declares that among modern sages not one can approach that great phi- losopher:

u All Greece is swarming in his smallest corner."

He attributes the decadence of the ode in France to a cause that one would never have imagined :

" ... the ode, which doth expire, Needs patience, and our men have only fire."

In this remarkable epistle he protests against servile imitation of the ancients, and tries to explain the


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nature of his own imitation. I advise all those who are curious in such matters to compare this passage with the end of the second epistle of Andre ChSnier; the idea at bottom is the same, but the reader will see, on comparing the two expressions of it, the profound difference that separated a poet-artist like Chenier from a poet of instinct like La Fontaine,

That which is true up to this time of nearly all our poets except Moliere and perhaps Corneille, that which is true of Marot, Ronsard, Regnier, Maiherbe, Boileau, Racine, and Andre Chenier, is true also of La Fontaine: when we have surveyed his various merits we must end by saying that it is in style that he excels. With Moliere, on the contrary, with Dante, Shakespeare, and Milton, the style equals the inven- tion, no doubt, but never surpasses it; the manner of utterance reflects the depths below, but never eclipses them. As to La Fontaine's special manner, it is too well known and too well analysed elsewhere for me to recur to it here. Let it suffice to remark that there is in it quite a large admixture of gallant insipidities and false pastoral taste, which we should blame in Saint-Evremond and Voiture, but which we love in La Fontaine. In fact, those insipidities and that false taste cease to exist from the moment that they flow from his bewitching pen. La Fontaine needs longer breath and more consecutiveness in his compositions ; he has, as he goes along, frequent distractions which hamper his style and swerve his thought; his delicious


164 %a fontafne,

verses, flowing like a rivulet, slumber at times, or they wander away and lose themselves; but that, in itself, constitutes a manner; and it is with that manner, as with those of all men of genius, what would else- where seem poor and even bad, in them becomes a trait of character or a piquant grace.

The conversion of Mme. de La Sabliere, which La Fontaine had not the courage to imitate, left him solitary and unoccupied. He continued to live in her house; but she no longer received the company of other days, and she absented herself frequently to visit the poor and the sick. It was then, more es- pecially, that, to relieve his tedium, he gave himself up to the society of the Prince de Conti and of MM. de Vendome, whose morals we all know; and thus, without losing any of his powers of mind, he ex- posed to the eyes of every one a cynical and dissolute old age, ill-disguised under the roses of Anacreon. Maucroix, Racine, and his true friends were grieved at such licence without excuse; the austere Boileau ceased to see him. Saint-Evremond, who tried to attract him to England and to the Duchesse de Mazarin, received from Ninon a letter in which she said: " I have heard that you are wishing for L$ Fon- taine in England; here, in Paris, people enjoy him no longer; his head is much weakened. That is the fate of poets: Tasso and Lucretius met with it. I doubt if there is any philter of love for La Fontaine; he has never loved women who could pay the cost."


%a f ontaine, 165

La Fontaine's head was not weakened as Ninon thought; but what she says of his vile loves is only too true; he often received from the Abbe de Chaulieu gifts of money of which he made a melancholy use. Fortunately, a rich and beautiful young woman, Mme. d'Hervart, attached herself to the poet, offered him the attractions of her house, and became to him, by care and kind attention, a second La Sabliere. At the death of the latter, she took the old man to her home and surrounded him with friendship to his last moments. It was in that home that the writer of Joconde, brought at last to repentance, put on the sackcloth and ashes he never again put off. The de- tails of that repentance are touching: La Fontaine consecrated it publicly by a translation of the Dies Irce, which he read before the Academy, and he formed the design of paraphrasing the Psalms before he died.

But, apart from the chilling of old age and sickness, we may doubt if that task, often attempted by re- pentant poets, would have been possible to La Fon- taine, or to any one else in those days. At that epoch of ruling and traditional beliefs, it was the senses, not the reason, that led men astray: they had been licentious, they made themselves devout; they had passed through no philosophical pride or arid impiety; they did not linger in the regions of doubt, they were not made to feel a hundred times their failure in the search for truth. The senses charmed the soul for


166 %a fontafne*

themselves, for their own sake, and not as a be- wildering and fiery emotion, not from ennui or despair. Then, when licence and errors were ex- hausted, and men returned to the one supreme truth, they found a haven all ready for them, a confessional, an oratory, a hair-shirt that subdued the flesh; they were not, as in our day, pursued into the very bosom of reviving faith by fearsome doubts, eternal obscuri- ties, and an abyss ever yawning: I am wrong; there was one man, even in those days, who experienced all this and it well-nigh drove him mad: that man was Pascal.


VI.


I6 7


VI.

pascal*

IN writing a few pages upon Pascal, I am under the disadvantage of having formerly written a large volume (Histoire de Port-Royal) of which he was, almost exclusively, the subject. I shall endeavour, in speaking on this occasion of a book that ranks among our classics, to forget what I have hitherto written of it that was too minute for my present purpose, and limit myself here to what is likely to interest the gen- erality of readers.

Pascal had a great mind, and a great heart which great minds do not always have ; and all that he has done in the domain of mind and the domain of heart bears a stamp of invention and of originality which testifies to strength, profundity, and an ardent, even rabid, pursuit of truth. Born in 1623, of a family full of in- telligence and virtue, brought up without close re- straint by a father who was himself a superior man, he had received great gifts from Nature; a special genius for mathematical calculations and concepts, and an -exquisite moral sensibility which made him passionate for good and against evil, eager for happiness, but a happiness that was noble and everlasting. His dis-

169


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coveries in childhood are famous; wherever he turned his eyes he sought and found something new ; it was easier to him to find for himself than to study from others. His youth escaped the frivolities and licence which are its usual perils; his nature, however, was very capable of storms; he had them, those storms, and he spent their force in the sphere of knowledge, but, above all, in that of religious sentiment.

His excess of intellectual toil had early made him subject to a singular nervous malady, which still fur- ther developed a naturally keen sensibility. His meet- ing with the gentlemen of Port-Royal furnished food for his moral activity, and their doctrine, which was. something new and bold, became to him a point of departure, whence he sprang forward with his native originality towards a complete reconstruction of the moral and religious world. A Christian, sincere and impassioned, he conceived an apology, a defence of religion by a method and by reasons that no one had so far found, but which, as he believed, would carry defeat to the very heart of unbelief. At thirty-five years of age he turned to this work with the fire and precision that he put into everything; new and more serious disorders appearing in his health prevented its steady execution; but he returned to it in every inter- val of his sufferings ; and he cast on paper his ideas, his perceptions, his inspirations. Dying at thirty-eight years of age, in 1662, he could not put them into order as a whole, and his Pensees sur la Religion did



BLAISE PASCAL, From a steel engraving.


IpascaL 171

not appear till seven or eight years later, under the care of his family and friends.

What was that first edition of the Pensees ? What must it have been ? We can easily conceive it, even if the original manuscripts were not in existence to show it. The first edition did not contain all that Pascal left; only the principal jparts were given ; and of those, scruples of various kinds, either of doctrine or of grammar, caused corrections, modifications, ex- planations in certain places, where the excitability and impatience of the author were shown in statements too brusque, or too concise, or in a decisive manner, which on such subjects might be compromising.

In the eighteenth century Voltaire and Condorcet seized upon some of Pascal's Pensees very much as in war-time generals try to profit by the premature advance of an audacious and rash enemy. Pascal was audacious only, he was not rash; but since I have compared him to a general, I will add that he was a general. Killed in the very moment of his enter- prise, it was left unfinished, and in part unprotected.

In our day, by restoring Pascal's true text, giving his sentences in all their simplicity, their firm and pre- cise beauty, their boldness in challenging, and their familiarity, which is sometimes singular, we are brought back to a point of view that is far more just, and in no way hostile. M. Cousin was the first to suggest (in 1843) the work of completely restoring Pascal ; M. Fougere has the merit of executing it in


i72 pascal

1844. Thanks to him, we now have Pascal's Pensees in precise conformity with the original manuscripts. This is the text that a young professor, M. Havet, has just published, surrounding it with much necessary help in the way of explanations, comparisons, and commentaries; he has given us a learned edition, truly classic, in the best acceptation of that word.

Being unable, in this essay, to enter fully into an examination of Pascal's method, I wish merely to in- sist on a single point, and show how, in spite of all changes that have come about in the world and in ideas, in spite of the repugnance that is more and more caused by certain views peculiar to the author of the PenseeS; we are to-day in a better position to sympathise with Pascal than they were in the days of Voltaire; that which shocked Voltaire shocks us much less than the beautiful and heartfelt parts, which are one whole side of him, touch and transport us.

It is because Pascal is not merely a reasoner, a man who presses his adversary closely from every direc- tion, who flings a challenge to him on all the points that are commonly the pride and glory of the under- standing; he is at the same time a soul that suffers; he has felt, and he expresses, in himself, the struggle and the agony.

There were unbelievers in Pascal's time; the six- teenth century gave birth to quite a number, especially among the lettered classes ; these were pagans, more or less sceptical, of whom Montaigne is for us the


IPascal 173

gracious type, and we see the race continued in Char- ron, La Mothe Le Vayer, and Gabriel-Naude. But these men of doubt and erudition, or others, the mere liber- tines of wit and society, such as Theophile and Des Barreaux, took things little to heart. Whether they persevered in their unbelief, or were converted in the hour of death, we feel in none of them that deep un- easiness that marks a moral nature of a high order, and an intellectual nature sealed with the signet of the Archangel: in a word, and to speak after the manner of Plato, they are not royal natures. Pascal is of that primal and glorious race ; he has upon his heart and on his brow more than one sign of it; he is one of the noblest of mortals, but he is ill, he seeks a cure. He was the first to bring to the defence of religion the ardour, the anguish, the lofty melancholy that others have since carried into scepticism.

"I blame equally," he says, t( those who take the side of praising man, those who take the other side of condemning him, and those who merely divert them- selves; I can approve of those only who seek with groans/'

The method he employs in his Pensees to combat unbelief, and, above all, to stir the indifferent and put desire into their hearts, is full of originality and unex- pectedness. We know how he starts. He takes man in the midst of nature, in the bosom of the infinite; he considers him, by turns, in his relation to the im- mensity of the heavens and in his relation to atoms;


he shows him alternately grand and petty, suspended between two infinities, two abysses. The French language has no finer pages than the simple and se- vere lines of that incomparable picture. Then, fol- lowing man within himself, as he has followed him without, he strives to show that in the soul are two abysses, one straining upward towards God, towards a noble morality, a movement of return to man's illus- trious origin; on the other a descent, an abasement towards evil, a sort of criminal attraction towards vice. That is, undoubtedly, the Christian idea of original corruption and the Fall; but by the manner in which Pascal lays hold of it he makes it his own in a way, so far and so hard does he drive it to a conclusion : he makes man in the beginning a mon- ster, a chimera, something incomprehensible; he forms the knot and ties it indissolubly, in order that God alone, descending upon it like a sword, can cut it.

To vary my reading of Pascal, I have given myself the satisfaction of re-reading, side by side, certain pages of Bossuet and Fenelon. I took Fenelon in his treatise on the Existence de Dieu, and Bossuet in his treatise on the Connaissance de Dieu et de Sot-meme; and without seeking to fathom the difference (if there be any) in doctrine, I have felt, more especially, the difference in their value and their genius.

Fenelon, as we know, begins by obtaining his proofs of the existence of God from the general aspect


pascal. 175

of the universe, from the spectacle of the wonders that start forth in all orders the stars, the various elements, the structure of the human body; all are to him a path by which to rise to the contemplation of the work, and to admiration of the art and know- ledge of the workman. There is a plan, there are laws, therefore there must be an architect and a legis- lator. There are defined purposes, therefore there must be a supreme intention. After accepting with confidence this method of interpretation by external things, and the demonstration of God by Nature, Fenelon, in the second part of his treatise, takes up another class of proofs; he admits philosophic doubts on things external, and turns inward to man's self, reaching the same end by another road, and demon- strating God by the very nature of our ideas. But, while admitting the universal doubt of philosophers, he is not alarmed by the state of things; he describes it slowly, almost kindly; he is neither hurried, nor impatient, nor distressed, like Pascal; he is not what Pascal in his researches seems to us at first sight to be a bewildered traveller longing for shelter, who, lost without a guide in a dark forest, takes many a wrong path, returns upon his steps discouraged, sits down at a crossways in the forest, utters cries that no one answers, starts again in grief and frenzy, and, still lost, flings himself to earth, wanting to die, and attains his goal at last through terror and bloody sweat.


i ?6 pascal

Fenelon has nothing of all this in his easy, gradual, circumspect advance. It is very true that at the mo- ment when he asks himself whether all Nature is not a phantom, an illusion of the senses, and when, to be logical, he assumes this supposition of absolute doubt it is very true that he says to himself: " This state of suspension surprises and alarms me; it casts me into my inward self, into a deep solitude that is full of horror; it impedes me, it holds me, as it were, in air; it cannot last, I know that; but it is the only reason- able state."

At the moment when he says that, we feel very plainly, by the manner in which he speaks and his levity of expression, that he is not seriously alarmed. A little farther on, addressing reason and apostro- phising it, he asks it: "How long shall I remain in this doubt, which is a species of torture, and yet is the only use I can make of reason ? " This doubt, which is a " species of torture" for Fenelon, is never admitted as a gratuitous supposition by Pascal; it is its reality that seems to him cruel torture, the most revolting and intolerable to Nature itself. Fenelon, in putting himself into this state of doubt under the example of Descartes, makes sure previously of his own existence and the certainty of several primary ideas. He continues in this path of broad, agreeable, and easy deduction, mingled here and there with little gusts of affection, but without storms. We feel, as we read him, an airy, angelic nature, which has only


pascal. 177

to let itseli go, and it will rise of itself to its celestial origin. The whole is crowned by a prayer addressed to a God who is, above all else, infinite and kind; a God to whom he abandons himself with confidence, even if at times his words deny it: " Pardon my errors, O Kindness, that is not less infinite than all the other perfections of my God; pardon the stam- merings of a tongue which cannot abstain from laud- ing thee, and the failures of a mind that thou hast made to admire thy perfection."

Nothing can be less like Pascal's method than this smooth and easy way. Nowhere do we hear the cry of distress ; Fenelon, in adoring the Cross, never clings to it, like Pascal, as to a mast in shipwreck.

Pascal, in the first place, begins by rejecting all proofs drawn from Nature of the existence of God : " I admire," he says ironically, " the boldness with which these persons undertake to speak of God, addressing their discourse to unbelievers. Their first chapter is to prove Divinity by the works of Nature." Continu- ing to develop his thought, he insists that such dis- course, tending to demonstrate God from natural works, can have their true effect only on the faithful, and on those who already worship him. As for the others, the indifferent, and those who are destitute of living faith and grace,

" to say to these that they have only to look at the least things that surround them and they will see God plainly, and to point them, for all proof on this great and important subject, to the course of the


VOL. II. 12.


i?8 fiscal

moon or the planets is to give them good reason to think that the proofs of our religion are very weak; and I see, by reason and from experience, that nothing is more fitted to give birth to contempt."

We can judge clearly from that passage to what point Pascal neglected and even rejected with disdain all semi-proof; and yet in this he shows himself more critical than Scripture, which says in a cele- brated psalm, Casli enarrant gloriam Dei: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork." It is curious to notice that Pascal's rather contemptuous sentence: "I admire the boldness with which," etc., was printed in the first edition of his Pensees, and the Bibliotheque Nationale possesses a unique copy, dated 1669, in which the sentence appears verbatim. But presently friends, or the examiners and censors of the book, alarmed at so exclusive a proceeding, which was actually in con- tradiction to Holy Scripture, cancelled that passage before the book was offered for sale; they softened the language, and presented Pascal's idea with a pre- caution that that vigorous writer never took, even with regard to his friends and auxiliaries. The only point on which I desire to insist here, is the open op- position of Pascal to what was soon to be Fenelon's method. Fenelon, serene, confident, and without anxiety, beholds the wonderful system of the starry night, and says with the Magi, or the Prophet, or the Chaldean shepherd: "How almighty and wise must he be who made worlds as innumerable as the sands


f>ascaL 179

on the seashore, and who leads throughout the ages those wandering worlds as a shepherd his flock!" Pascal considers the same brilliant night, he feels be- yond it a void that the geometrician cannot fill, and he cries out: "The eternal silence of that infinite space terrifies me." Like a wounded eagle he flies from the sun, and seeks, without attaining, a new and eter- nal dawn. His plaint and his terror come of finding nought but silence and night.

With Bossuet the contrast of method is not so striking. Even if, in his treatise on Le Connaissance de Dieu, the great prelate were not addressing his pupil, the young dauphin, if he spoke to any reader whatever, he would not write otherwise than as he does. Bossuet takes the pen, and states with lofty tranquillity the points of doctrine the dual nature of man, his noble origin, the excellence and the immor- tality of the spiritual principle within him, his direct linking with God. Bossuet lectures like a truly great bishop, seated in his pulpit and leaning on it. He is not an anxious, sorrowful soul in search of some- thing; he is a master, indicating and warranting the way. He demonstrates and develops the whole line of his discourse and conception without contest or effort He makes no struggle to prove; in a way, he only recognises and promulgates the things of the spirit, like a man convinced who has not fought in- ward battles for a length of time; he speaks as a man of all authorities and all stabilities, who takes pleasure


i So pascal*

in beholding order everywhere, or in re-establishing it instantly, by his speech. Pascal insists on the dis- cord and disorder inherent, as he thinks, in all nature. Where the one extends and develops the august ad- vance of his instruction, the other exhibits his wounds and his blood ; but in all that Pascal has which is over- strained and excessive, he is like ourselves, and he touches us.

Not that Pascal puts himself completely on a par with those he reclaims and directs. Without being either bishop or priest, he is sure of his fact, he knows his object, he lets us see, plainly enough, his cer- tainty, his scorn, his impatience; he chides, he jeers, he handles roughly whoso resists or does not under- stand him; then, all of a sudden, charity or natural frankness gets the better of him; his despotic airs cease; he speaks in his own name, and in the name of all; he associates himself with the soul in trouble, making it his living image and ours also.

Bossuet does not reject the light or the help of an- cient philosophy; he never insults it; according to him, all that moves onward to the idea of the intellec- tual and spiritual life, all that aids the exercise and development of that higher portion of ourselves by which we are allied to the Supreme Being all is good; and every time our "illustrious truth" is made apparent to us, we gain a foretaste of that higher existence to which the reasoning human creature is predestined. Bossuet, in his magnificent language,


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loves to associate himself, to unite himself with great names ; to link, as it were, a golden chain by which the human understanding can attain to the highest summits. I must quote one passage of sovereign beauty:

" He who beholds Pythagoras transported at having found the squares of the sides of a certain triangle with the square of its base, and sacrificing a hecatomb in thank-offerings; he who beholds Archimedes, watchful of every new discovery, forgetting to eat or drink; he who sees Plato extolling the happiness of those who con- template the good and the beautiful, first in the arts, then in nature, and lastly in their source and essence, which is God; he who sees Aristotle lauding those happy moments when the soul is possessed solely by the perception of Truth, judging such life to be the only one worthy to be eternal, the life of God; but (above all) he who sees all saintly persons so transported with this divine exercise of knowing, praising, and loving God that they never quit it, and, in order to con- tinue it, extinguish throughout the whole course of their lives every sensual desire; whoso, I say, sees all these things, recognizes in their intellectual operations the principle and the exercise of the blessed eternal life."

That which carries Bossuet to God is the principle of human grandeur rather than the sentiment of man's misery. His contemplation rises gradually from truth to truth, it does not bend incessantly over each abyss. In the above words he has painted for us a spiritual enjoyment of the first order, which, beginning with Pythagoras and Archimedes, and passing Aristotle, rises to the saints on earth; he, himself, viewing him in this example, seems only to have mounted one step more to the altar.

Pascal never proceeds thus. He holds to marking


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distinctly, in an insuperable manner, the differences of the spheres. He refuses to see what there was of gradual advancement towards Christianity in the ancient philosophies. The learned and reasonable d'Aquesseau said, in the plan of a work he proposed to make from the Pensees: " If any one should under- take to make actual use of the Pensees of M. Pascal, he would have to rectify in many places the imperfect ideas he gives of pagan philosophy; true religion does not need to attribute to its adversaries or its rivals defects they have not." Brought into compari- son with Bossuet, Pascal may at first sight show a harshness and narrowness of doctrine that shock us. Not content to believe with Bossuet and Fenelon, and all other Christians, in an unseen God, he wants to insist on the mysterious nature of that obscurity; he takes pleasure in expressly declaring that God "has chosen to blind some and enlighten others. " At times he "obstinately strikes" (I use his own words) on rocks which it would be much wiser, from reason and even from faith, to go round, rather than discover and denounce them. He says, for example, of the prophe- cies quoted in the Gospels: "You believe they are quoted to make you believe No, it is to prevent you from believing." He says of miracles: "Miracles do not serve to convert, but to condemn." Like a too intrepid guide in mountain climbing, he skirts inten- tionally the precipices and crevasses; one would think he was braving vertigo.


183

Pascal, unlike Bossuet, has an affection for small churches, little flocks of the elect, which leads in the end to sect. "I like," he says, "worshippers un- known to every one and to the Prophets themselves." But, beside and through the hard asperities of his way, what piercing words! what cries that move us! what truths felt by all who suffer, all who desire, all who have lost and then refound the way, never will- ing to despair of it! "It is good/' he cries, "to be tired and weary from the fruitless search for the true good, for then we stretch out our arms to the Libera- tor." No one has ever made it better felt than Pascal what faith is, perfect faith, "God felt in the heart, and not by reason." "What distance there is," he says, "between the knowledge of God and loving him! "

This affectionate side of Pascal, in breaking through what is sour and stern in his doctrine and methods, has all the more charm and empire. The emotional manner in which that great, suffering, and praying spirit speaks to us of what is most private in religion, of Jesus Christ in person, is fitted to win all hearts, to inspire them with deep, mysterious feeling, and im- press upon them for ever a tender respect. We may remain sceptical after reading Pascal, but we find it not permissible to jest or to blaspheme; and, in that sense, it is true that he has vanquished, on one whole side, the spirit of the eighteenth century and of Vol- taire.

In a fragment, lately published for the first time,


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Pascal meditates on the death of Jesus Christ; on the tortures which that soul, absolutely heroic and firm when it chooses to be so, inflicted on itself in the name and for the sake of all men; and in these few verses, alternately of meditation and of prayer, Pascal penetrates into the mystery of Christ's suffering with a passion, a tenderness, a piety to which no human soul can remain insensible. He supposes a dialogue, in which the divine Sufferer says to his disciple:

" 'Console thyself; thou wouldst not seek me if thou hadst not found; thou wouldst not seek me if thou didst not possess me; therefore, be not anxious.

" ' I think of thee in my agony; I have shed my blood for thee. Wilt thou that the blood of my humanity be for ever shed whilst thou givest me no tears ? ' "

This writing should be read as a whole and in its place. Jean-Jacques Rousseau could not have heard it, I venture to believe, without breaking into sobs, and, perhaps, falling on his knees. It is by such pages, burning, passionate, in which the love divine is instinct with human charity, that Pascal has more hold upon us to-day than any writer of his time. In this trouble, this passion, this ardour, there is some- thing that redeems his harshness and his extrava- gances of doctrine. Pascal is for us more violent than Bossuet, but more sympathetic; he is more our con- temporary in feeling. We can read him on the same day that we read " Childe Harold " or " Hamlet," " Rene " or ' ' Werther, " and he holds his own against them ; or, rather, he makes us comprehend and feel a moral


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ideal and a beauty of heart that is lacking in all of them, and which, once perceived, is the despair of others. It is an honour to mankind to have despairs that come of such high objects.

Some searchers and erudites will continue to study Pascal; but the conclusion that to-day seems good and useful for simply serious minds and upright hearts, the counsel that I give them after a fresh reading of the Pensees in this last edition is not to attempt to penetrate too deeply into the personal and Jansenist Pascal; to be satisfied with divining him on that side and understanding him on certain essential points, and to limit themselves to the sight of the moral struggle, the storm and stress of that passion which he felt for Good, and for deserved happiness. Taking him thus, we can sufficiently resist his rather narrow, stubborn, and arbitrary logic; but our souls will open to that flame, that upward soaring, and to all else that is so tender and so generous in him ; we shall grasp without difficulty the ideal of moral perfection which he em- bodies in Jesus Christ; we shall feel ourselves lifted up and purified in the hours we spend tete-a-tete with this athlete, this martyr, this hero of the invisi- ble moral world Pascal for us is all that

The world goes on : it develops more and more in ways that seem the most opposed to those of Pascal; in the ways of practical self-interests, of physical na- ture trained and subdued, and of human triumphs through industry. It is well to find somewhere a


counterpoise; well that in some solitary chambers firm minds, generous, not bitter, and not assuming to pro- test against the movement of the age, should tell themselves what that age lacks, and in what way it might perfect and crown itself. Such reservoirs of high thoughts are necessary, that the habit of them be not wholly lost, and that the positive, the practical, may not consume the whole man. Human society, and, to take the clearest example, French society, seems to me sometimes like an indefatigable traveller, who takes his way and follows it under more than one cos- tume, changing his name and coat repeatedly. Since '89 we stand on our feet and we walk: whither? who can say ? but on we go, ceaselessly. Revolution, at the moment when, under one form, we thought it stopped, rises and appears under another: sometimes it wears the military uniform, sometimes the black coat of the deputy; yesterday it was the proletary, the day before it was the bourgeois. To-day it is in- dustrial before all else; the engineer is he who has the right of way and who triumphs. Let us not com- plain, but, at the same time, let us remember that other part of ourselves, that part which was so long the most precious honour of humanity. Let us go to London, and visit and admire the Crystal Palace and its marvels; let us enrich it and add to its pride with our products yes, but on the way, on our return, let us repeat these words, which should be carved upon its frontal:


fiscal 187

" All bodies, the firmament, the stars, the earth and its kingdoms, are not equal in value to the lowest human mind; for that knows all things and itself, too; but the bodies know nothing. All bodies together, and all minds together, and all their productions are not equal in value to the smallest impulse of charity : that is of an order infinitely higher,

" From all bodies put together not the slightest little thought can be obtained; that is impossible, and is of another order. Of all bodies and minds not a single impulse of true charity can be obtained; that, too, is impossible, it is of another order, the supernatural."

It is thus that Pascal expresses himself in his brief, curt Pens6es f written for himself only, rather abrupt, and issuing with a gush, as it were, from the living spring.


VII.

flDabame be SeviQne'.


VIL

be Set>tgne.

THOSE critics, and especially foreign critics, who, in these latter days, have judged our two literary centuries with severity, agree in recognising their ruling qualities, qualities that were reflected by them in a thousand ways, which gave them their brilliancy and distinction, namely: the spirit of conversation and of society, knowledge of the world and of men, a quick, acute sense of proprie- ties and absurdities, subtile delicacy of sentiment, grace, piquancy, and a perfected politeness of lan- guage. And, in truth, it is there with the reserves that we all make, and two or three names, like those of Bossuet and Montesquieu, understood it is there that, until about the year 1789, the distinctive charac- teristics, the signal traits of French literature, among the other literatures of Europe, will be found. That glory, which has been made almost a reproach to our nation, is fruitful and beautiful enough for whoso knows how to understand and interpret it

At the beginning of the seventeenth century our civilisation, and consequently our language and our literature, had nothing mature, nothing fixed. Europe,

191


192 jfflDa&ame &e

issuing from the religious troubles and passing through the phases of the Thirty Years' War, was laboriously giving birth to a new political system; France, within her borders, was working off the remains of her civil discords. At Court, a few salons, a few ruelles [al- coves * ] of wits and beaux-esprits were already in vogue; but nothing was yet born of them that was great or original; people were fed to satiety on Span- ish novels and the sonnets and pastorals of Italy. It was not until after Richelieu, after the Fronde, under the queen-mother and Mazarin, that suddenly, amid the fetes of Saint-Mande and Vaux, from the salon of the hotel de Rambouillet or the antechambers of the young king, there issued, as if by miracle, three choice minds, three geniuses diversely endowed, but all three of pure and nai've taste, perfect simplicity, easy productiveness, fed by their own native graces and delicacies, and destined to open a brilliant era of glory, in which none have surpassed them,

Molire, La Fontaine, and Mme. de Sevigne belong to a literary generation which preceded that of which Racine and Boileau were the leaders, and they are dis- tinguished from the latter by various traits, derived from the nature of their genius and the date of their coming. We feel, from the turn of their minds as much as by their circumstances, that they are nearer

1 Social life went on chiefly in dark, half-furnished bedrooms, until Mme. de Rambouillet instituted her famous blue salon; hence the use of the word ruelles } applied to social meetings. TR.



MADAME DE SEVlQNE.


5e Sepigne* 193

to the France that preceded Louis XIV, to the old French language and spirit; more commingled in them, so to speak, by education and study; and that if they are less appreciated by foreigners than certain later writers, they owe it to what is precisely more inward, more undefmable, more charming for French- men in their tone and manner. So that if to-day we attempt (and with reason) to revise or call in question many judgments delivered, twenty years ago, by scholastic professors; if we declare war pitilessly against a number of exaggerated fames, we cannot, on the other hand, venerate too much and uphold too firmly these immortal writers, who were the first to give to French literature its original character, and to secure for it to this day its unique place among the literatures of other nations. Moliere drew from the spectacle of life, from the living play of human eccen- tricities, vices, and absurdities, all that we can conceive of strongest and highest in poesy. La Fontaine and Mme. de Sevigne, on a less wide stage, had so delicate and true a sense of the things and the life of their time, La Fontaine nearer to nature, Mme. de Sevigne to society, and this exquisite sense they have ex- pressed so vividly in their writings, that they find themselves placed, without effort, beside, and very little below, their illustrious contemporary.

It is of Mme. de Sevigne only that I have now to speak. It seems as if all had been said about her; certainly the details are nearly exhausted; but I believe

VOL. II. 13.


that she has been until now regarded too much as isolated, which was long the case with La Fontaine, to whom she bears much resemblance. To-day, when the society of which she represents the most brilliant aspect in receding from us becomes more dis- tinctly defined to our eyes as a whole, it is easier, and at the same time more necessary, to assign to Mme. de Sevigne her rank, her importance, and her affinities. Doubtless it is through not making these remarks, and not allowing for difference of periods, that several distinguished minds in our day seem in- clined to judge with as much levity as rigour one of the most delightful geniuses that ever existed. I shall be glad if this article can help in removing some of those unjust prejudices.

The excesses of the Regency have been greatly stigmatised; but before the regency of Philippe d'Or- leans there was another, not less dissolute, not less licentious, and more atrocious from the cruelty that mingled in it a species of hideous transition between the debauchery of Henri III and that of Louis XV. The bad morals of the League, which lay low under Henri IV and Richelieu, revived, being no longer repressed. Debauchery became as monstrous as it had been in the days of the mignons, and as it was later in the days of the roues; but that which brought this period nearer to the sixteenth century and distinguished it from the eighteenth was, especially, assassinations, poisonings (Italian habits due to the Medici), and a


195

frenzy for duels, inherited from the civil wars. Such appears, to the impartial reader, the regency of Anne of Austria; such was the dark and bloody background upon which appeared, one fine morning, the Fronde, which people have agreed to call "a jest of mailed hands." The conduct of the women of those times, the women most distinguished for birth, beauty, and intelligence, seems fabulous; we need to believe that historians have calumniated them. But, as excess leads always to its opposite, the little band of those who escaped corruption flung themselves into senti- mental metaphysics, and became precieuses ; hence the hotel de Rambouillet. Here was the haven, the asylum of good morals, in the midst of the highest society. As for good taste, it found its place there, in tjh.e-end, inasmuch as Mme. de Sevigne was of it

Mile. Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, born in 1626, was the daughter of the Baron de Chantal, a frantic duel- list, who, on an Easter Sunday, left the holy table to serve as second to the famous Comte de Bouteville. Brought up by her uncle, the good Abbe de Coulanges, she received early in life a solid education, and was taught, under Chapelain and Menage, Latin, Italian, and Spanish. When eighteen years of age she mar- ried the Marquis de Sevigne, a man little worthy of her, who, after greatly neglecting her, was killed in a duel in 1651. Mme. de Sevigne, freed at that age, and left with a son and daughter, never thought of remar- rying. She loved her children to excess, especially


196 jflDa&ame &e

her daughter; all other passions were unknown to her. She was, personally, a smiling blonde, not at all sensual, very gay and frolicsome; the flashes of her wit sparkled in her changeful eyes and, as she ex- pressed it, in her mottled eyelashes." She made herself precieme; she went into society, was loved, sought, courted; sowing around her hopeless pas- sions, to which she paid little attention, but retaining generally as friends those whom she would not take for lovers. Her cousin, Bussy, her master, Menage, the Prince de Conti (brother of the great Conde), the Superintendent Fouquet, wasted their sighs upon her; but she remained inviolably faithful to the latter in his overthrow; when she relates his trial to M. de Pomponne it is worth while to notice with what tender feeling she speaks of "our dear unfortunate one."

Young still and beautiful, without pretension, she placed herself in society on the footing of devotion to her daughter, wishing for no other happiness than that of presenting her, and watching her shine. Mile, de Sevigne figured, after 1663, in the brilliant ballets at Versailles, and the official poet, Benserade, who filled at Court the place that Racine and Boileau were to hold after 1672, made more than one madrigal in honour of that "shepherdess/' and that "nymph," whom an idolising mother called "the prettiest girl in France." /fh 1669 M. de Grignan obtained her in marriage, and sixteen months later he took her to


197

Provence, where he commanded in the absence of M. Vendome. Separated henceforth from her daughter, whom she never again saw except after long and un- equal intervals, Mme. de Sevigne sought comfort for her loneliness in a daily correspondence, which lasted till her death in 1696, a period of twenty-five years, except for a few interregnums, when mother and daughter were briefly reunited. Before this separa- tion, in 1671, we have only a few letters of Mme. de Sevigne, addressed either to her cousin Bussy, or to M. de Pomponne on Fouquet's trial It is, therefore, from that date only that we know thoroughly her private life, her habits, the books she read, and even the smallest movements of the society in which she lived and of which she was the soul

From the very first pages of this correspondence we find ourselves in a wholly different world than that of the Fronde and the Regency; we perceive that what is called French society was at last constituted. No doubt (and, in default of the numerous memoirs of that time, the anecdotes related by Mme. de Sevigne would prove it), no doubt horrible disorders, dis- graceful orgies were prevalent among that young no- bility on which Louis XIV imposed, as the price of his favour, dignity, politeness, and elegance; no doubt, under that brilliant surface, that gilded glory, there were vices enough to overflow into another Regency, especially when the bigotry at the close of the reign set them all to fermenting. But at least a conventional


198 HDa&ame &e

decorum was observed; public opinion had begun to blast whatever was ignoble and debauched. More- over, while disorder and brutality were becoming less scandalous, decency and the employment of the intel- lect were gaining in simplicity. The qualification of predeuse had passed out of date; people remembered, with a smile, that they had once been that, but they were so no longer. No one descanted interminably, as they formerly did, on the sonnet of Job or of Uranie, on the Carte de Tendre, or the nature of the novel; but they talked, they conversed on Court news, recollections of the siege of Paris, or the war in Guienne; Cardinal de Retz related his travels, M. de La Rochefoucauld moralised, Mme. de La Fayette made heartfelt reflections, and Mme. de Sevigne interrupted them to quote a clever saying of her daughter, a prank of her son, an aberration of the worthy d'Hacqueville or of M. de Brancas.

We find it difficult in these days, with our habits of practical occupation, to represent to ourselves faith- fully this life of leisure and of talk. The world now moves so fast, so many things are brought upon the stage, that we find we have not the time to examine and grasp them. Our present days are spent in studies, our evenings in serious discussions; of agree- able conversations, interesting talks, we have few or none. The noble society of our day, which has pre- served to some extent the leisure habits of the two preceding centuries, seems to have done so on condi-


fIDabame &e Sepigne, 199

tion of keeping aloof from the ideas and the manners and morals of the present.

At the period of which I speak, conversation had not yet become, as it did in the eighteenth century in the salons under the rule of Fontenelle, an occupation, a business, an exaction; wit was not made necessarily an aim ; display, geometrical, philosophical, and senti- mental, was not demanded: but they talked, they conversed, of themselves and others, of little or of nothing. It was conversation, as Mme. de Sevigne herself says, ad infinttum : "After dinner," she writes somewhere to her daughter, " we went to talk in the most agreeable woods in the world; we were there till six o'clock, engaged in various sorts of conversa- tion so kind, so tender, so amiable, so obliging, both for you and for me, that I am touched to the heart by it" Amid a course of society so easy, so simple, so desultory, and so gracefully animated, a visit, a letter received, insignificant in itself, was an event in which all took pleasure and related eagerly. The least things became of value from the manner and form of telling; it was art which, without perceiving it, and very negligently, they put into life.

It is often said that Mme. de Sevigne gave minute care to her letters, and that in writing them she thought, if not of posterity, at least of the social world of her day, whose suffrages she sought That is false: the days of Voiture and Balzac were past. She wrote usually offhand, as the pen ran, and of all the things


200 flBabame be


she could; if time pressed, she scarcely read over her letters. " In truth," she says, "between friends one ought to let the pens trot as they like; mine always has the rein on its neck." But there are days when she has more time, or else she feels in better humour for writing; then, very naturally, she takes pains, she arranges, she composes very much as La Fontaine composed a fable: such, for instance, as her letter to M. de Coulanges on the marriage of Mademoiselle; or the one about poor Picard, dismissed because he would not spread the hay. Letters of this sort, brilliant in form and in art, in which there were not too many little secrets or slanders, made talk in society and every one desired to read them. "I must not forget to tell you what happened this morning," writes Mme. de Coulanges to her friend; " I was told: ' Madame, a lacquey from Mme, de Thianges is here'; I ordered them to bring him in. This is what he had to say to me : ' Madame, I am sent by Mme. de Thianges, who begs you to send her the horse letter of Mme. de Se- vigne, and also that of the meadow. ' I told the lacquey that I would take them to his mistress, and I have done so. Your letters make all the noise they de- serve; it is certain that they are delightful; and you are as much so as your letters."

Correspondence at that time had, like conversation, great importance ; but neither was composed; people simply put all their minds and all their souls into them. Mme. de Sevigne praises her daughter con-


fIDa&ame 5e Soigne* 201

tinually in the matter of letters: "You write incom- parable thoughts and effusions/ 5 and she adds that she reads "here and there " certain choice passages to per- sons who are worthy of them: "sometimes I give a little bit to Mme. de Villars, but she wants the tender parts, and tears fill her eyes."

If some deny to Mme. de Sevigne the spontaneous- ness of her letters, no one has ever questioned the sincerity of her love for her daughter; and there again they forget the period in which she lived, and how in that life of luxurious idleness persons may resemble fancies, just as manias may often become passions. She idolised her daughter, and had early established herself on that footing in society. Arnauld d'Andilly called her, in that respect, "a pretty pagan." Sepa- ration had only increased her tenderness; she had scarcely any other thing to speak of; the questions and compliments of those she met always brought her back to it; that dear and almost single affection of her heart ended, in the long run, by becoming her status, her posture, her demeanour, which she used as she did her fan. Mme. de Sevigne was perfectly sincere, frank, and an enemy to all pretence; to her, among the first, do we owe the saying that a person is true; she might have invented that expression for her daugh- ter if M. de La Rochefoucauld had not already found it for Mme. de La Fayette; she takes pleasure in apply- ing it to those she loves. When we have analysed, and twisted, and turned in all ways that inexhaustible


202 flDa&ame &e

mother-love, we come back to the opinion and expla- nation of M. de Pomponne: "It seems, you say, that Mme. de Sevigne loves Mme. de Grignan passionately; and you want to know what is at the bottom of it. Shall I tell you ? It is that she loves her passionately. * * It would, indeed, be very ungrateful to cavil at Mme. de Sevigne for this innocent and legitimate passion, to which we owe the opportunity to follow the wittiest and most intellectual of women through twenty-five years of the most charming period of the most delight- ful French society.

La Fontaine, painter of fields and animals, did not ignore society, and has often pictured it with dainty and malicious touches. Mme. de Sevigne, on her side, loved the fields; she made long stays at Livry with the Abbe de Coulanges, or on her own estate of Les Rockers in Bretagne; it is piquant to learn under what aspects she saw and has pictured Nature. We at once perceive that, like our good fabulist, she had early read Astree, and had dreamed in her youth beneath the mythological shades of Vaux and Saint- Mande. She loves to walk "by the rays of the beau- tiful mistress of Endymion"; to pass two hours 16 alone with the Hamadryads"; her trees are deco- rated with inscriptions and ingenious devices, such as passages from the Pastor fido and the Aminta: " Bella cosa far niente, says one of my trees; another an- swers : Amor odii inertes. * ' And elsewhere she says : "As for our sentences, they are not defaced; I go


6e Semite, 203

often to look at them; they are even increased, and two trees side by side sometimes contradict each other: La lontanan^a ogni gran piaga salda ; and then: Piaga d'amor non si sana moi."

These rather insipid reminiscences of pastorals and romances come naturally from her pen, and bring out very agreeably many fresh and novel descriptions that are wholly her own :

" I came here (Livry) to end the summer and say farewell to the leaves; they are still on the trees, they have only changed colour; in- stead of being green they are now aurora colour, and so many sorts of aurora that they compose a brocade of gold, very rich and mag- nificent, which we try to think lovelier than green if only by way of change."

And when she is at Les Rochers she cries out: "I should be very happy in these woods if I only had a leaf that sings : ah ! the pretty thing a singing leaf would be!" How she pictures for us " the triumph of the month of May"! when the "nightingale, the cuckoo, the white-throated warblers in the forest herald the spring/' How she makes us feel and al- most live in tl those beautiful crystal days of autumn, which are no longer hot and yet not cold " ! When her son, to pay for some foolish extravagance, cuts down the ancient woods of Buron, she is roused to emo- tion, she weeps with all those fugitive dryads, those evicted wood-nymphs.

Because we often find her in a gay and frolicsome humour, we should do wrong to consider Mme. de Sevigne either frivolous or shallow. She was serious,


204 /iDa&ante De

even sad, especially during the sojourns she made in the country ; revery held a great place in her life. But here it is necessary to come to an understanding: she did not dream in her long and sombre avenues like Delphine, or the mistress of Oswald; that style of revery was not invented in her day; it needed, as a preliminary, that Mme. de Stael should write her ad- mirable book on the Influence des Passions sur le Bonheur. Until then, dreaming was a much easier, much simpler, much more personal thing; yet it was one of which the dreamer rendered little account to herself: it was thinking of her daughter in Provence, of her son with the armies of the king, of her friends far away or dead; it was saying: "As for my life, you know it; it is passed with five or six friends whose society pleases me, and in duties to which I am compelled and which are no small matter. But what vexes me is, that in doing nothing the days go by, and our poor life is made up of such days, and we grow old and die. I think that hard."

Formal and precise religion, which governed life in those days, contributed much to temper the licence of sensibility and imagination, which, since then, has felt no curb. Mme. de Sevigne guarded herself care- fully from those thoughts over which she believed it "best to glide." She expressly desires that morals be Christian, and more than once she jokes her daugh- ter on being tainted with Descartism. As for her, amid the chances and changes of this world, she bows


/IDa&ame &e SonQite, 205

her head, and takes refuge in a sort of providential fatalism, which her relations with Port-Royal and her readings of Nicole and Saint Augustine had inspired in her. This religious and resigned tendency in her increased with age, without altering in any way the serenity of her temper; but it often communicated to her language something more strongly wise and a greater tenderness. In a letter to M. de Coulanges, on the death of the minister Louvois, she rises almost to the sublimity of Bossuet, just as at other times and in other places she attains to the comedy of Moliere.

M. de Saint-Sunn, in his excellent work on Mme. de Sevigne, has lost no occasion to contrast her with Mme. de Stael, and to place her above that famous woman. I believe there is interest and profit in thus comparing them; but it ought not to be done to the detriment of either. Mme. de Stael represents a com- pletely new society; Mme. de Sevigne a vanished society; hence vast differences, which one might be tempted at first sight to explain solely by the different turn of their minds and natures. Without pretending to deny the profound divergence of their two souls one of which knew only maternal love, the other knowing every passion, the most generous and even the most virile 1 find in both, looking closely at them, many weaknesses, many ordinary qualities, the divers developments of which were solely the result of the diversity of periods. What natural ease full of gracious light-heartedness, what dazzling pages


206 jflDa&ame de

of pure intellect in Mme. de Stael when sentiment does not interfere and she allows her philosophy and her politics to slumber! And Mme. de Sevigne, does she never descant and philosophise ? Why else should she make her daily reading in Saint Augustine? for this woman, called frivolous, read all and read well: "It gives/' she said, "such pale colours to the mind not to enjoy solid reading." She read Rabelais, Mon- taigne, and Pascal, the "Cleopatra" of Quintilian, Saint John Chrysostom and Tacitus, and Virgil, "not travestied, but in the grandeur of Latin and Italian." When it rained, she read folios in twelve days. Dur- ing Lent she made it a joy to give herself up to Bour- daloue. Her conduct toward Fouquet in his overthrow lets us imagine what devotion she would have been capable of in times of revolution. If she shows her- self a little vainglorious when the king, one evening, dances with her, or when, at Saint-Cyr, he pays her a compliment after the acting of Esther, who else of her sex would have been more philosophical? Did not Mme. de Stael put herself to great cost and trouble to obtain a word or a glance from the conqueror of Egypt and Italy ? Certainly a woman who, mingling from youth with Menage, Godeau, Benserade, and their like, preserved herself by the sole force of her good sense from their insipidities and punctilios; who evaded, as if playfully, the more refined and seduc- tive pretensions of Saint-Evremond and her cousin Bussy; a woman, friend and admirer of Mile, de


/IDa&atne &e SepfQne. 207

Scudery and of Mme. de Maintenon, who kept herself equally distant from the romantic sentiments of the one and the strait-laced reserve of the other; who, allied with Port-Royal, and feeding on the works of ces Messieurs, valued none the less Montaigne, and quoted none the less Rabelais, and who wished no other inscription on what she called her convent than the words: "Sacred Liberty/' or "Do what you like," as at the Abbey of Theleme such a woman may frolic and sport and "glide over thoughts/' and choose to take things by their familiar and diverting side, but, all the same, she gives proof of an inward energy, an originality, that was rare indeed.

There is one single instance in which we cannot help regretting that Mme. de Sevigne gave way to her light-hearted, bantering habit; an instance in which we absolutely refuse to share her jest, and for which, after seeking all its extenuating reasons, we find it hard to forgive her: it is when she relates so gaily to her daughter the revolt of the Bas-Breton peasantry, and the horrible severities that repressed it So long as she confined herself to laughing at the Assemblies, at the country-gentlemen and their giddy galas, at their enthusiasm for voting everything "'twixt midnight and one o'clock/' and the other after-dinner follies of her Breton neighbours, it is all very well; it is, in fact, a merry and legitimate pleasantry, recalling in places the touch of Moliere; but from the moment that M. de Forbin arrives with six thousand troops against the


flOa&ame 5e


malcontents, and those poor devils, perceiving from afar the soldiers, disperse among the fields or fall upon their knees, crying out, Mea culpa (the only French words they know) ; when, to punish Rennes, its parliament is transferred to Vannes; when they take, haphazard, twenty-five men and hang them; when they drive out and evict a whole street-full of people, women in childbed, old men and children, and forbid that any succour be given them on pain of death; when they torture on the wheel; when they quarter; and when, weary themselves of torturing and quartering, they hang in the midst of such horrors perpetrated upon innocent persons or poor, misguided creatures, we suffer in seeing Mme. de Sevigne jesting almost as usual; we wish she had shown indignation, a burning, bitter, heartfelt indignation; above all, we would like to erase from her letters such lines as these:

" The real rioters at Rennes ran away long ago, so the good have to suffer in place of the wicked; but I think it all very right, provided the four thousand soldiers who are at Rennes under MM. de Forbin and de Vins do not prevent me from walking in my woods, which are of a height and beauty that is marvellous. . . . They have captured sixty of the burghers, and begin to hang them to-morrow. This province will be a fine example to all the others; it will teach them to respect their governors and not to insult them and fling stones into their gardens. . . . You speak very humorously of our troubles; but we have no longer so many broken on the wheel; only one a week to keep justice going; the hangings seem to me now a refreshment."

The Due de Chaulnes, who instigated all these cruel- ties because stones were thrown into his garden



COMTESSE DE GRIQNAN.


&e Saoigne, 209

and insults were shouted to him (the most personal of them being "fat pig")> was not lowered one iota thereby in Mme. de Sevigne's estimation ; he remained for her and for Mme. de Grignan "our dear duke/' and later, when he is appointed ambassador to Rome and leaves Bretagne, she says the whole region is "left to sadness." Certainly there is matter here for reflection on the morals and the civilisation of the great century. We regret that on this occasion Mme. de Sevigne's heart did not rise above the prejudices of her time; it was fitted to do so, for her kindness and goodness equalled her beauty and her grace. There were times when she recommended galley-slaves to the mercy of M. de Vivonne or to M. de Grignan. The most interesting of her proteges was a gentleman of Provence, whose name has not been preserved. "The poor young fellow," she says, "was attached to M. Fouquet; he has been convicted of having been the means of conveying a letter to Mme. Fouquet from her husband, for which he is condemned to the galleys for five years ; it is a 'rather extraordinary case. You know that he is one of the most honourable young men you could find, and as fit for the galleys as to catch the moon by his teeth."

The style of Mme. de Sevigne has been so often and so intelligently judged, analysed, admired, that it would be difficult to-day to find eulogy both novel and suitable to apply to it; on the other hand, I do not find myself disposed to revive a worn-out topic by


&e


cavilling criticism. A single general observation will suffice: it is that we may connect the grand and beautiful styles of the Louis XIV period with two different systems, two opposite manners. Malherbe and Balzac founded in our literature the learned, polished, chastened, cultivated style; in the compo- sition of which they came from thought to expression, slowly, by degrees, and by dint of tentatives and erasures. This is the style that Boileau advised for all purposes; he would fain have a work returned twenty times to the stocks to be polished and re- polished constantly; he boasts of having taught Racine to write easy verses in a difficult manner. Racine is, in fact, the most perfect specimen of this style in poesy; Flechier was less successful in his prose. But, by the side of this style of writing, always some- what uniform and academic, there is another, widely different, free, capricious, variable, without traditional method, and wholly conformed to diversities of talent and genius. Montaigne and Regnier gave admirable samples of it, and Queen Marguerite a most charming one in her familiar memoirs, the work of her apres-dis- nees: this is the broad, untrammelled, abundant style that follows the current of ideas ; the style of the first thought, the prime-Sautter, as Montaigne himself would say; it is that of La Fontaine and Moliere, that of Fenelon, of Bossuet, of the Due de Saint-Simon, and of Mme. de Sevigne. The latter excels in it; she lets her pen "trot with the reins on its neck, " and, as it


5e Sepigne. 211

goes along, she scatters in profusion colours, compari- sons, images, while wit and sentiment escape her on all sides. She is thus placed, without intending or suspecting it, in the front rank of the writers of our language.

I ask myself how Mme. de Sevigne issues from a fresh study of her : She issues such as a first sight of her suggested, and more than ever like unto herself. I am confirmed, after study and reflection, in the idea that a first frank impression had given me of her. In the first place, the more we think of it the better we explain to ourselves her mother-love; that love which, for her, represented all the others. Her rich, strong nature, a nature sound and blooming, in which gaiety was chiefly the temperament with serious thought beneath it, never had a passion properly so- called. Left an orphan early, she never felt filial ten- derness; she never spoke of her mother; once or twice she even jested about the memory of her father, whom she never knew. As for conjugal love, she tried it loyally; it soon became bitter to her, and she had no chance to give herself up to it. Left a young and beautiful widow, with a free, intrepid spirit, had she, in that dazzling role of Celimene, some hidden weakness that lay concealed ? Did a spark ever fall upon her heart ? Was she ever in danger of an in- stant's forgetfulness with her cousin Bussy ? We never know what to expect of these smiling, brilliant creatures, and we should often be finely duped if we


212 jfTOaDatne be Sewgne,

fastened upon words which, said by others, would mean a great deal. The fact is that she resisted Bussy, her greatest peril, and though she may have liked him a little, she never loved him with passion. Passion she never felt for any one until the day when the accumulation of her treasures of tenderness fell upon the head of her daughter to be nevermore dis- placed. An elegiac poet has remarked that a love which comes late is often the most violent; all the arrears of feelings and emotions are paid at once:

" Scepe venti magnofcenore tardus amor, "

So of Mme. de Sevigne. Her daughter inherited all the savings of that rich and feeling heart, which had said to itself until that day, "1 wait" There is the true answer to those hypercritical minds who have chosen to see in Mme. de Sevigne's love for her daughter an affectation and form of posing. Mme. de Grignan was the great, the one only passion of her mother; and this maternal tenderness had all the characteristics of passion, enthusiasm, prejudice, and slight absurdity (if I may apply that word to such persons), with a naivete of indiscretion that makes us smile. Let us not complain of it Mme. de Sevigne's whole correspondence is illumined by this passion which came, at last, to add itself to the bril- liancy, already so varied, of her imagination and her delightful humour. 1

1 Mme. de Grignan's merits have been much discussed; her mother has done her some wrong in our eyes by praising her too much. The


flBa&ame >e Sepictne, 213

On this latter point, I mean temperament and humour, let us try to understand Mme. de Sevigne thoroughly. In speaking of her, we are speaking of grace itself, not a soft and languid grace, but a lively, overflowing grace, full of wit and intellect, and with- out the least touch of pale colour. She has a vein of Moliere in her. There 's a Dorine in Mme. de Sevigne, a Dorine of the great world and the best company, with very nearly the same vigour and raciness. A few words of Tallemant have very well characterised that charming and powerful feminine nature, such as it showed itself, quite young, in its abounding life. After saying that he thinks her one of the most amiable and most honourable women in Paris, he adds: "She sings, she dances, she has a very lively and agreeable wit; she is bntsque and cannot keep herself from saying what she thinks pretty, although quite often they are things rather free." That is a saying we should not lose sight of in thinking of her, covering it, however, with all the delicacy and courtesy that we like. There was joy in her. She verified in her person Ninon's saying: "The joy of the spirit shows its strength." She was of the race

son, who was somewhat of a libertine, appears to us more agreeable. It would seem as if Mme. de Sevigne's reason and gaiety, so charm- ingly mingled in her, were divided between her children ; the son having all his mother's grace but not her reason ; the daughter having the reason only, and with it a certain crabbedness, not tempered, and without either piquancy or charm. Certain tales of her insolence and ill- temper have come down to us.


214 flDa&ame be

of minds to which belonged Moliere, Ninon herself, Mme. Cornuel somewhat, and La Fontaine; a genera- tion slightly anterior to Racine and Boileau, and more full-blooded, more vigorously nourished. "You seem born for pleasures," Mme. de La Fayette said to her, "and pleasures seem made for you. Your pre- sence increases all amusments, and amusements in- crease your beauty when they surround you. In short, joy is the true state of your soul, and grief is more contrary to you than to any one else in the world." She said herself, recollecting an old friend: "I have just seen M. de Larrei, son of our poor friend Lenet with whom we laughed so much; for never was any youth so full of laughter as ours, and of all kinds."

Her rather irregular but real beauty became radiant at moments when she grew animated; her counten- ance was lighted by her mind, or, to quote a saying literally, "her mind even dazzled our eyes." One of her friends (the Abbe Arnauld), who had as little im- agination as it was possible to have, must have found some in order to describe her when he tells us : "I seem to see her still as she appeared to me the first time I had the honour of seeing her, seated in her car- riage all open, between monsieur her son and made- moiselle her daughter: all three such as the poets represent Latona with the young Apollo and the young Diana, such charm shone forth from the mother and children." We see her there, in her natural frame and


&e Sepfgne, 215

full expansion : beauty, mind, and grace unveiled and glowing in the sunshine.

I must note, however, one shadow. Her joyous- ness, real as it was, was not for all seasons, nor out of season, and as the years went on it lessened, though it was never extinguished. Speaking of a journey she made in 1672, during which she regretted not having the company of her amiable cousin de Cou- langes, she writes: "To feel joy we must be with joyous people. You know I am what people want me to be; I originate nothing." Which merely means that this charming spirit possesses all tones and could adjust itself to the notes of others. Certain it is that even amid sadness and vexations she continued the finest-tempered woman, with the most playful im- agination ever seen. She had a way of her own, a gift of sudden and familiar imagery with which she could clothe her thought unexpectedly, as, indeed, none but she could do. Even when that thought was serious, even when sensibility was at the bottom of it, she used words that play upon it and give the effect of gaiety. Her spirit could never divest itself of that vivacious sparkle, that gaiety of colour. She was just the contrary of her good friends the Jansenists; theirs was the sad style.

And, now, if what I have here said should seem to some critical minds to have pushed admiration for Mine, de Sevigne too far, will they permit me to ask them a question ? Have you read her ? By reading,


I do not mean running hastily over her letters, nor singling out two or three which enjoy an almost classic reputation such as those on the marriage of Mademoiselle, on the death of Vatel, on those of M, de Turenne and the young Due de Longueville but entering in and going with her, step by step, through the ten volumes of her letters, following all, winding through all (as she herself would say), doing for her as we do for Clarissa Harlowe" when we have a fortnight's rain and leisure in the country. After that not very terrible trial let any one find fault with rny admiration if he has the courage, and if, indeed, he remembers it


VIII.

Bossuet


217


vm.

Bossuet

THE fame of Bossuet has become one of the religions of France, it is recognised, it is pro- claimed, and men honour themselves in bring- ing to it daily fresh tribute, in finding new reasons for its existence and its growth ; they discuss it no longer. It is the privilege of true greatness to define itself more and more clearly as it recedes, and to command from a distance. What is singular, nevertheless, in this fate, this sort of apotheosis of Bossuet, is that he thus becomes greater and greater for us without, for all that, inducing us to think him necessarily right in certain of the most important controversies in which he was engaged. We love F6nelon, we cherish his graces, his noble and refined ingratiations, his chaste elegances ; we forgive him readily for what are called his errors ; but Bossuet combats them, not only forci- bly, but to excess, with a species of hardness. No matter! the great voice of the contradictor carries you away in spite of yourself, and forces you to bow your head regardless of your inward attachment to him he

219


220 Sossuet

is striking down. So with the long and obstinate pitched battles waged on the Gallican question. Whether you are Gallican or whether you are not, you applaud or you breathe a sigh over that spot of the careen but the illustrious course as a whole loses nothing of its grandeur and its majesty in your eyes,

1 shall venture to say the same thing of the relent- less war that Bossuet waged against Protestantism under all its forms. Every enlightened Protestant, making his reserves on points of history, will own, with respect, that he never encountered another such adversary- In politics also, however little of a partisan one may be of the consecration theory and the right divine such as Bossuet institutes and proclaims it, we should be almost sorry if that doctrine had not found so simple, so manly, so sincere an organ, and one so innately convinced. A God, a Christ, a bishop, a king there, taken as a whole, is the luminous sphere in which Bossuet's thought evolves itself and reigns; there is his ideal for the world.

Just as in ancient times there was a people apart, who, under the inspiration and guidance of Moses, kept clear and distinct the idea of a God, an ever- present Creator, governing the world directly, while all the neighbouring peoples wandered from that idea, confused to them in clouds of fancy, or smothered under phantoms of the imagination, or submerged in the exuberant luxury of nature, so Bossuet among



JACQUES BENIGNE BOSSUET. From a steel engraving,


Bossuet 221

moderns has grasped, more than any other, that sim- ple idea of order, authority, unity, of continual govern- ment by Providence, and he applies it to all things without effort, and as if by undeniable deduction. Bossuet is the Hebrew genius extended and fertilised by Christianity, open to all the acquisitions of the intellect, but retaining something of sovereign prohi- bition and closing his vast horizon precisely where, for him, light ends. In tone and gesture he belongs to the race of Moses. He mingles the bearing of the Prophet-King with the emotions of an ardent and sublime pathos; he is the eloquent voice par excel- lence, the simplest, the strongest, the most abrupt, the most familiar, yet resounding with sudden thun- der. Within the bounds of his rigid and imperious current flow treasures of eternal human ethics. It is through all these characteristics that he is still unique for us, and that, whatever use may be made of his words, he remains our model of the highest eloquence and the noblest language. "

Jacques Benigne Bossuet, born at Dijon, September 27, 1627, of a good and ancient bourgeois family of magistrates and members of parliaments, was brought up among books in the family library. His father, having entered, as dean of counsellors (a newly cre- ated office), the Parliament of Metz, left his children in care of his brother, who was counsellor to the Parliament of Dijon. Young Bossuet, who lived in his uncle's house, attended classes at the Jesuit college


222 UBossuet*

of the town. He distinguished himself early by a surprising capacity of memory and comprehension; he knew Virgil by heart, and a little later he knew Homer. His great pagan preference, if I may so ex- press it, was instinctively first for Homer, then for Virgil; Horace, to his taste and his judgment, came later. But the book which, above all, determined the genius and the vocation of Bossuet, and which be- came the regulator of all within him, was the Bible. It is related that the first time he read it he was, as it were, illumined and transported. He had found the source whence his own genius was to flow, like one of the four great rivers in Genesis.

Bossuet was destined in childhood for the Church: tonsured when eight years of age, he was barely thirteen when he was appointed to a canonry of the cathedral at Metz, His boyhood and his adolescence were therefore regular, pure, and wholly directed to- ward the Temple. He went to Paris for the first time in September, 1642. It is said that on the very day of his arrival he saw the entrance of Cardinal de Richelieu, in a dying condition, on his return from his vengeance on the south of France; the minister was borne in a movable chamber covered with scarlet cloth. To have seen, were it only once, Richelieu, all powerful in the purple, and soon after to see the Fronde, civil war un- chained, and anarchy, was for Bossuet a compendious course in politics, from which he drew the sound les- son: better one master than a thousand masters, and,


Bossnet. 223

better still, that the master be the king himself and not the minister.

Entering, for his course in philosophy, the college of Navarre, he distinguished himself in themes and addresses in public; he was a prodigy and a school angel before he became the eagle we admire. We all know that, being extolled at the hotel de Ram- bouillet by the Marquis de Feuquieres, who had known his father at Metz and extended his goodwill to the son, young Bossuet was taken there one even- ing to preach an impromptu sermon. In lending him- self to such singular exercises, exhibitions at which his person and his talent were challenged, treated like a virtuoso of intellect in the salons of the hotel de Rambouillet and that of de Nevers, it does not appear that Bossuet' s vanity was touched in the slightest de- gree; there is no other example of a precocious genius thus lauded and caressed by society and remaining as truly exempt from all self-love and coquetry.

He often went to Metz to repose himself in study and a sterner life after his successes and triumphs in Paris. He was there ordained, successively, subdea- con, deacon, archdeacon, and priest (1652). He even settled himself in Metz for six years to fulfil assidu- ously his functions as archdeacon and canon. It was then that he preached the first sermons that we have of his, and his first panegyrics; also he took up arms for the first time as a controversialist against the Protestants, who abounded in that province. In a


224 JSossuet

word, Bossuet conducted himself like a militant young Levite, who, instead of accepting at once an agreeable post at the centre of all things in the capital, preferred to inure himself and temper himself by bearing the arms of the Word where duty and danger called him, on the frontier.

Of Bossuet's earliest sermons, among those he preached at Metz in his youth, one has been spe- cially pointed out by the Abbe Vaillant; it is that for the ninth Sunday after Whitsunday. Bossuet seeks to show at one and the same time the kindness and the rigour of God, the tenderness and severity of Jesus. He begins by showing Jesus moved to pity when he enters the city that is about to betray him, and weeping over it; then he shows him irritated and implacable, avenging himself, or letting his Father avenge him on the walls and on the children of that same Jerusalem. This sermon preached, as Bossuet said in closing it, "as God has inspired it in me/' has something youthful, eager, bold in places, rash, and even strange. He tries to represent in the same discourse the merciful Saviour and the inexorable Saviour, the tender heart and the angry heart of Jesus: "Listen first," he says, "to the sweet, benign voice of this Lamb without spot, and then you shall hear the roarings of the victorious Lion born of the tribe of Judah: that is the subject of this discourse. ..."

More might be said on this first period of Bossuet' s life, both at Metz and in Paris. We might inquire,


Bossuet, 225

for instance, what his personal appearance was in his youth, at the age when he delivered these ser- mons, already so powerful, with a precocious au- thority through which shone a visible inspiration, embellished, so to speak, with a lingering naivete. We are told that Nature had endowed him with a noble face; the fire of his mind shone in his glance; the characteristics of his genius permeated his speech. It is sufficient to consult his portrait in the Louvre, painted in old age by Rigaud, from which to form a true idea of what he must have been in his youth. The Abbe Le Dieu, in his " Memoirs, etc., on the Life and Work of Bossuet," says that "his eyes were gentle, yet piercing; his voice seemed always to come from a passionate soul; his gestures in oration were modest, tranquil, natural/' But, better still, see his bust in the Louvre by Coysevox: noble head, splendid carriage, pride without assumption; fore- head lofty and full, the seat of thought and majesty; the mouth singularly agreeable, sensitive, speaking even in repose; a straight and most distinguished pro- file: the whole with an expression of fire, intelligence, and kindness a countenance most worthy of man- hood, whether he is made to speak to his fellows or to gaze into heaven. Take from that face its wrinkles,, shed over it the bloom of life and youth, dream of a young and adolescent Bossuet; but do not describe him too minutely to yourself, lest you miss the severity of the subject and the respect that is due to him.

VOL. II. 15.


226 Bossuet

When Bossuet quitted Metz to settle in Paris the effect was shown instantly in his eloquence; and to read his productions of that period is like passing from one climate to another. " In following Bossuet's discourses in their chronological order," says the Abbe Vaillant, "we see the old words fall succes- sively like the leaves in autumn." Antiquated or trivial expressions, repulsive images, lapses of good taste, which were less the fault of Bossuet's youth than of that whole epoch of transition which preceded the great reign, disappeared, leaving the new language free, unconstrained, sudden, unexpected, never to recoil, as he said of Saint Paul, "before the glorious degradations of Christianity," but ready to glorify magnificently its combats, its spiritual government, and its triumphs. Frequently called upon, after the year 1662, to preach before the Court, having also to speak in churches or before the great communities of Paris, Bossuet acquired immediately the language in use, all the while keeping and developing his own and stripping himself of that of the provinces. The provinces, however, through a discipline and practice of six years, had trained and inured him ; the Court merely polished him as much and no more than he needed. He was a finished orator at thirty-four years of age. During eight or nine years, from 1660 to 1669, he was the great preacher in vogue, and in renown.

Bossuefs talent was anterior in origin and formation


JBossuet. 227

to the period of Louis XIV, but he owed much of its completion and perfection to the young king. More than once attempts have been made to deprive Louis XIV of his species of useful influence and propitious ascendency over what is called his epoch; such at- tempts are unjust and exclusive. Bossuet in particu- lar, as I think, shows us a great and striking example of the sort of benefits that the epoch of Louis XIV owed to the young star of the king from the day of its rising* Treated with distinction by Anne of Austria, and becoming, towards the end, her chosen preacher, Bossuet at first indulged in certain luxuries of intellect, certain diffuse and subtile discriminations that belonged to the taste of the day. Delivering be- fore the queen-mother in 1658 (or 59) his " Panegyric of Saint Teresa," Bossuet, excited perhaps by the choice style of the Spanish saint, and carefully devel- oping a passage in Tertullian which says that Jesus, before dying, desired to "sate himself with the de- lights of patience," does not shrink from adding : " Would you not say, Christians, according to the words of that father, the whole life of the Saviour was a feast at which the meats were tortures? strange feast! but one which Jesus deemed worthy of his taste. His death sufficed for our salvation, but his death did not suffice to quench that marvellous ap- petite that he had to suffer for us*" There, assuredly, is the bel esprit in vogue during the Regency. But after he was summoned to preach before the young


228 HBossuet

king he quickly learned to correct such sayings and repress them.

When Louis XIV heard Bossuet for the first time he liked him much and did a charming thing for him, very worthy of a youthful monarch who still had his mother: he sent a letter to Bossuet's father at Metz, li to congratulate him on having such a son." Whoso does not feel that delicacy is not fitted to feel the sort of influence that the young king had over the vast imagination and sound mind of Bossuet. Louis XIV had, at all times, the fit and proper word, just as he had, they say, correctness and a sense of symmetry in the glance of his eye. He had in him, and he had about him, something that warned others not to be excessive, and to force nothing. Bossuet, speaking in his presence, felt that in the matter of elevated taste he had before him a regulator. I wish to say nothing but what is incontestable: Louis XIV, very young, was useful to Bossuet in giving him propor- tion and all itsjustesse, accuracy. The great and con- secrated orator continued to owe to himself alone and to the spirit that filled him his inspirations and his originality.

Here is a fact that can be verified: in the series of Bossuet's Sermons that have been classified, not in the chronological order in which he composed them, but according to the order of the Christian year, be- ginning with All Saint's day and the Advent and end- ing with Whitsunday, if you desire to put your hand


Bossuet 229

with certainty on one of the finest and most irre- proachable, take any one of those that are labelled : " Preached before the King."

It is true to say that in all the sermons or discourses delivered by Bossuet from 1661 to 1669 and later, there are wonderful passages, far more moving to readers of any class than the sermons of Bourdaloue so much read in these days. In the " Panegyric of Saint Paul/' how he takes possession of the subject in its depths, by its most secret and supernatural side! Paul is "the more powerful because he feels himself weak " ; it is his weakness that makes his strength. He is the Apostle, without art, of a hidden wisdom, an incomprehensible wisdom, that shocks and scandalises, but into which he will put no deceit or artifice:

" He goes into that polished Greece, mother of philosophers and orators; and, in spite of the resistance of that world, he there estab- lishes more churches than Plato gained disciples by an eloquence that was called divine. He pushes still farther his conquests; he casts down at the feet of the Saviour the majesty of the Roman fasces in the person of a pro-consul ; he forces Rome herself to hear his voice, and the day is coming when that mistress-city will feel herself more honoured by an epistle from Paul's hand addressed to her citizens, than by all the famous harangues she has heard from her Cicero.

" Whence comes it, Christian? It is because Paul has means for persuasion that Greece could never teach and Rome has never learned. A supernatural power, taking pleasure in lifting up that which the proud despise, instils itself and mingles in the majestic simplicity of his words. Hence it is that we admire in his wonderful Epistles a certain virtue, more than human, which persuades against all rules or rather which does not persuade so much as it takes captive the understand- ing: which flatters not the ear, but sends its blows straight to the


230 Bossuet

heart. Just as we see a great river restraining, as it flows across a plain, the violent and impetuous force it has acquired in the moun- tains whence it draws its origin, so this celestial power, contained in the writings of Saint Paul, preserves, even in the simplicity of that style, all the vigour it brought with it from the Heaven whence it came."

Let us now take other sermons preached before the Court: that on Ambition (1666), on Honour (1666), on the Love of Pleasures (1662); beauties of the same order shine throughout them. On ambition and on honour, he says, facing Louis XIV, all that could warn him of the present and future idolatry of which he was the object, if any warning could avail. He seeks to show by the examples of Nero and Nebuchadnez- zar, "what can be done in the human soul by the terrible thought of nothing being above his head. It is then," he says, "that immoderate desires grow daily more and more subtile, and double, if I may say so, their stake. Thence come unknown vices . . " And on the man, small in himself and ashamed of his smallness, struggling to increase him- self, to magnify himself, who imagines that he can incorporate within him all that he amasses and ac- quires: "Be he count, be he seigneur," he says, ( ' possessor of great wealth, master of many persons, minister of all the councils, and so on; let him mag- nify himself as much as he pleases, and yet it takes but one death to cast him down. ..." The characteristic of Bossuet is to seize at a first glance the great ideas that are fixed bounds and necessary


BoBBttefc 231

limits of things, suppressing the intervening spaces where the external childhood of man forgets and deludes itself.

Lest it be said that I seek in him only his lessons to the great and powerful, let me say that in that same sermon on Honour, where he enumerates and de- nounces the different sorts of worldly vanity, he does not forget the men of letters, the poets, those who, after their fashion, grasp at renown and empire:

  • ' They think themselves the wisest who are vain in their gifts of

intellect learned men, men of literature, the wits of the day. In truth, Christians, they are worthy to be distinguished from others, for they are the finest ornaments of the world. But who can endure them when, as soon as they are conscious of a little talent, they weary all ears with their deeds and their sayings, and because they know how to put words together, measure a verse, or round a period, think they have the right to make themselves listened to forever and sovereignly to decide all matters? O justness in life! O equality in manners and morals! O moderation in the passions! rich and true adornments of reasonable nature, when shall we learn to esteem you rightly ? "

Eternal art of Poesy, principle, maintainer, and higher law of true talents, here we behold you, es- tablished, as it were by the way, in Bossuet's sermon at the very moment when Boileau in his " Satires" is striving to find you. But how much higher up springs the source, and from what surer regions in Bossuet than in the Horaces and Boileaus!

During the first years of his life in Paris he began his subsequently famous series of Funeral Orations. We have the one he pronounced over Pere Bourgoing,


232 Bossuet

the general of the Oratoire, and over Nicolas Cornet, grandmaster of Navarre, and the cherished master of Bossuet in particular. There are beauties in both these discourses ; in that over Nicolas Cornet the question of Grace and Free Will, which were then agitating the Church under the names of Jansenist and Molinist, are admirably defined; and Bossuet, by the liberal manner in which he states them, shows to what point he is aloof from parties and soars above them. Bossuet needed ampler and loftier subjects; while awaiting them he magnifies and exalts those he treats, but we feel the disproportion. He thundered a little in the void on such occasions, or, rather, in two narrow a space: his voice was too strong for the building.

He must have been more at his ease and felt him- self more at large in speaking of Anne of Austria, whose Funeral Oration he pronounced in 1667; and here is a singular thing: that discourse in which Bos- suet must have given free course to the gratitude of his heart and to a display of historical magnificence, was never printed !

The death, in 1669, of the Queen of England [Henri- etta Maria, daughter of Henri IV and wife of Charles I] gave him the most majestic and grandiose of sub- jects. He needed the fall and restoration of thrones, the revolutions of empires, all fates collected in a single life and weighing down a single head, as the eagle needs the vast profundity of the skies and


Bossuet 233

beneath him the abysses and the storms of ocean. But let us here note another service done by Louis XIV and his reign to Bossuet. He might have found such great subjects during the disastrous epochs of the Fronde and the civil wars, but they would have come to him scattered and, in some sort, without limits. Louis XIV and his reign gave him the frame in which these great subjects were limited and fixed, but not dwarfed. In the august, well-defined epoch in the bosom of which he spoke, Bossuet, without losing aught of his own expanse, or of the freedom and boldness of his glance into the distance, found around him on all sides this point of support, this security, this encouragement, and also a subtile warn- ing of which talent and genius itself have need. No doubt Bossuet put his trust, first of all, in Heaven, but as an orator his authority and calm force were doubled by the sense that beneath him, and at the moment that he pressed it with his foot, the soil of France no longer trembled.

All those who have written on Bossuet have made ample and continual use of the Memoires et Journal sur la Vie et les Outrages de Bossuet, by the Abbe Le Dieu. A first and most natural inquiry is to know if those Memoirs answer to the expectation formed of them. I shall say at once that they do so only in part; but, such as they are, they will fix with truth, precision, and no exaggeration whatever, in the minds of all readers who will allow them to do so, the


234 Bossuet,

lineaments of that noble and upright figure of Bos- suet. Its greatness, towards the end, may suffer a little; I think it does, but its goodness gains.

Let us, however, distinguish a little: there are two divisions in Abbe Le Dieu's work on Bossuet: the Memoirs and the Journal. The Memoirs, written shortly after Bossuet's death, on the spur of the moment as it were, form a broad and animated narrative, a picture of the life, the talents, the virtues of the great bishop. In this work the Abbe Le Dieu takes pains; he writes as if in view of the public; his style is easy, it has development and happy turns of phrase; we feel the man who lived with Bossuet and who speaks of him worthily, with admiration, with emotion. In the Journal, on the other hand, written for himself alone and to serve merely as matter for recollection, the abbe shows himself al- ways filled with admiration and respect for the per- sonage to whom he belongs, but his language does not aid those ideas; his revelations are of all kinds and not chosen; they are full of trivialities and plati- tudes that we regret to see there. The Abbe Le Dieu was a worthy ecclesiastic, hard working, author him- self of several works on theological subjects; he was attached to Bossuet in the year 1684, and remained with him for twenty years (the last twenty years of the great prelate's life) in the capacity of private secre- tary, and with the title of canon of his cathedral church.


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Le Dieu's Memoirs, very different from the Journal, are easy to read and copious; they show us Bos- suet in his race and genealogy, his childhood and early education, his natural and continued growth. If any one ever seemed born to be a priest in the noblest and worthiest sense of