Arthur Augustus Tilley.

The literature of the French renaissance (Volume 2) online

. (page 18 of 34)
Online LibraryArthur Augustus TilleyThe literature of the French renaissance (Volume 2) → online text (page 18 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Apophtegmes, and Escraignes dijonnoises with a portion "f Lei Touchet
were first published together at Lyons in 1603. (See Turner cat. »nd part,
no. 3953.)



lS.} THE FOLLOWERS OF RABELAIS [CH.

of epigrams not without merit, which he entitled Les Touches
dii Seigneur des Accords.

Of the writers visibly inspired by Rabelais the first in the
field and the first in merit was Noel du Fail, a gentleman of
Brittany, who lived partly on his property, nine miles from
Rennes, and partly at Rennes itself first as advocate and then
as judge 1 . After studying at Paris, serving as a volunteer in
Italy (1543 — 1544) an d reading law at various French uni-
versities, Angers, Poitiers, Bourges, etc., he published in 1547
and 1548 respectively under the name of Leon Ladulphi (an
imperfect anagram of his name) two little books entitled
Propos rustiques and Baliverneries. Estienne Pasquier, writing
to Ronsard in 1555, speaks of him as a singe de Rabelais' 1 .
This is an uncritical remark, for, though Du Fail is an evident
admirer of Rabelais and frequently refers to him in his book,
his style is his own and only resembles that of his master in a
few peculiarities. The chief of these is a certain coquetry in
the choice of his words and in the construction of his periods,
apparently with the object of giving to his language that air
of exuberance and gusto which is characteristic of Rabelais.
In Du Fail's case this often leads to obscurity, which is
increased by the frequent allusions to provincial customs.
Sometimes however the effect is happy enough. The following
account of a certain Robin Chevet will give an idea of the
style :

Voulentiers apres souper, le ventre tendu comme vn tabourin, saoul
comme Patault, iazoit le dos tourne" au feu, teillant bien mignonnement du
chanure, ou raccoustrant, a la mode qui couroit, ses bottes (car a toutes
modes dordinaire saccoustroit Ihomme de bien), chantant bien melodieuse-
ment, comme honnestement le scauoit faire, quelque chanson nouuelle,
Iouanne sa femme de lautre coste qui filloit, luy respondant de mesmes.
Le reste de la famille ouurant chascun en son office, les vns adoubans les
courroyes de leurs fleaux, les autres faisans dents a Rateaux, bruslans
hars pour lier (possible) laixeul de la charrette, rompu par trop grand faix,
ou faisoyent vne verge de fouet de mesplier, ou meslier 3 .

He was born according to F. Frank at the end of 1526 or the beginning of
1527. (See Baliverneries, ed. Courbet, I. p. li.) He died in 1591.
2 Lettres, 1. viii.
'■'• Propos rustiques, ed. A. de la Borderie, p. 36.






XXII] THE FOLLOWERS OF RABELAIS ^5

But Du Fail's merit lies less in his style than in his realistic
pictures of country life and his sketches of country character.
In his next volume, Baliverneries on contes nouveaux dEutrapel^
a larger part is given to the conte, but even here his chief
preoccupation is the portrayal of country life and the quasi-
dramatic presentation of character. The description of a
peasant's cottage in the fourth chapter is excellent, and the
story which follows of Dame Goute and M lle Hyraigne
(Araigne) is told with great liveliness. In this book the
setting is furnished by the friendly meetings of Eutrapel
(Noel du Fail), Polygame (his elder brother Francois) and
Lupolde, a lawyer (Colin Briant), the gay and impetuous
character of Eutrapel being contrasted with the calm good
sense of the grave Polygame.

After the publication of the Baliverneries Du Fail devoted
himself to the duties of the legal profession, and it was not till
the close of the year 1585, when he was on the point of
resigning his post of councillor in the Parliament of Brittany,
that he published Les contes et discours d' Eutrapel. Con-
siderably longer than the two works of his youth, it is also,
in spite of some coarse stories, much graver in tone. We are
again introduced to Eutrapel and his friends, and their con-
versation turns, not as before on local customs, but on general
topics of the day. The reformation of the judicial system and
the church is what the writer has most at heart, and it is
interesting to find him approving of the proposal to secularise
all church property which was put forward by the Third
Estate at Orleans in 1560, and which he here ascribes to the
celebrated jurist Charles du Moulin 1 . Like his earlier books
the Contes d y Entrap el throws considerable light on the manners
and general life of the day, and there is frequent mention of
contemporaries. From the purely literary point of view it
must be confessed that the book often suffers from two
common faults of sixteenth-century literature, pedantry
and want of proportion. There is however considerable
charm in the chapter entitled Du temps present et pa
(c. xxii). The stories too are told with much liveliness and
1 C. ix. and see c. i. {De la justice). C xxxiv. is a defence ■>! < Ihristianity.



lS6 THE FOLLOWERS OF RABELAIS [CH.

a considerable sense of humour, as for example the fable
of the clay pot and the iron pot (c. ii), the story of Eutrapel
and the Fiddler (c. xviii), that of the bishop who could not
bear any mention of death, and the well-known one from
Plutarch of the senator whose wife could. not keep a secret
(both in c. xxxiii). Many of the stories are extremely coarse
both in thought and language, but however much we may
regret this, it serves to remind us that in Du Fail's day such
licence was compatible with grave and enlightened views of
society, and with genuine religious feeling.

Though on the title-page of the book the author is
described as the late Seigneur de la Herissaye, this seems
to have been merely a whimsical allusion to his contemplated
retirement, for as a matter of fact he lived nearly six years
longer, dying in 1 591.

The publication of Du Fail's last volume was perhaps due
to the success of Montaigne's Essais and it is noteworthy that
about this time several works were published, which, while in
many features they bear traces of Rabelais's influence, yet by
their miscellaneous and desultDry character shew a decided
affinity to Montaigne. Thus in the year 1585, the year of
the publication of the Contes d' Eutrapel, a certain Seigneur
de Cholieres, about whom very little is known, but who was
apparently a native of Maine 1 , published a volume entitled
Les neuf matinees, which was followed in 1587 by Les
Apresdisnces. He was a follower of Rabelais and a man of
some erudition, of which he makes a considerable display in
his books. They are in the form of conversations, which turn
on law, medicine, philosophy, astrology, and other less
important subjects.

There are few stories, and these are told very briefly ; in
spite of the attempt at gaiety the general tone is heavy and
commonplace. The writer was evidently a lover of style and

1 In another work the dramatist Robert Gamier is described as his compatriot
(P. Lacroix, (Envres, I. iv.), and in the Apresdisnies one of the speakers says
' Notre voisin de Touraine ' (n. 41 ). Lacroix points out that the statements that he
was an advocate of the Parliament of Grenoble and that his Christian name was
Nicolas are both devoid of authority.



xxn ] THE FOLLOWERS OF RABELAIS iS"

language, and though Rabelais is his obvious model he cannot
be reproached with following him slavishly. But his power of
playing with words is a long way inferior to his master's, and
he is never able to shake off the appearance of effort. His
favourite poet seems to have been Du Bartas, whom he not
unfrequently quotes.

Similar in title to Les Apresdisnces are the Series of
Guillaume Bouchet, the worthy bookseller whom we have
met before as forming one of the literary group of Poitiers.
He was older than his friends, having been born in 15 13. The
first book of the Serees appeared in 1584, but the complete
work in three books, with considerable additions to the first
book, was not published till 1608, fourteen or fifteen years
after his death 1 . He makes no attempt to imitate Rabelais,
writing in an unaffected familiar style. But he frequently
refers to him as well as to Montaigne, Bodin, Ronsard, and
Pibrac. The stories are very numerous — there must be some-
thing like eight hundred altogether — and they are told with
great brevity and no attempt at artistic presentation. The Series
are in short a kind of commonplace book, the result of the
author's discursive reading, arranged in thirty-six chapters or
serees, the titles of which correspond very fairly well to their
contents. For unlike Rabelais and Montaigne, Bouchet had
an orderly mind. His book attained considerable popularity,
fresh editions being published down to 1635. It is a book
to read in, rather than to read continuously, and that not for
its artistic merit, but for the light that it throws on sixteenth-
century thought and society.

The Serees and the Apresdisnees are mild Symposia, but
Le Moyen de parvenir is rather of the nature of a debauch.
Alike in form and in substance it is a caricature of the- Liceru e
which characterises so much of the writing of the French
Renaissance. The men and women who take part in these
unbridled conversations are drawn from all ranks and all
ages, but their remarks make no pretence at being characteristic
of the distinguished persons who are supposed to utter them.
The book is a satire on the human race, but such wit and

1 He died, aj,'ed So, in 1593 or 1594.



[88 THE FOLLOWERS OF RABELAIS [CH.

wisdom as it contains lie so deeply buried in rubbish and
filth that few people at the present day are likely to be at the
pains of searching for them. Moreover, to use Rabelais's
metaphor in the famous prologue to Gargantua, the marrow
in this case is hardly worth the trouble of sucking the bones.
The author, Francois Beroalde de Verville, as he pleased to
style himself, was the son of Matthieu Beroald 1 , a native of
Picardy and a zealous Protestant, who at one time kept a
school at Paris, Agrippa d'Aubigne being one of his pupils.
The son, stimulated by his father, acquired a mass of ill-
digested learning on many subjects, including alchemy.
Already in 1584, when he was only twenty-eight, he figures
in La Croix du Maine's bibliography as the author of many
works 2 . These he continued to produce in abundance, but
only Le Moyen de parveiiir, which was published between 161 2
and 1620, has attained any celebrity.

The excessive licence of thought and language which
disfigures the book was now fast becoming an anachronism.
By 1620 M me de Rambouillet had rebuilt her hotel, and was
conducting in her famous blue chamber her campaign against
grossness. Though the old practices lingered on in baccha-
nalian songs and burlesque plays it ceased to be possible for a
man of genius to roll in filth. Woman avenged herself on
Rabelais. He had almost banished her from his book. She
almost banished him from polite society.

1 He had been educated at the expense of his mother's relative, Francois
Vatable, the great Hebrew scholar. His real name was Brouart, but he called
himself Beroald to please Vatable ; his son added an e to the name.

2 I n !5 8 3 ne published a poem entitled L'idee de la rSpublique.



XXII] THE FOLLOWERS OF RABELAIS 189



BIBLIOGRAPHY.
Editions.

Jacques Yver, Le Printemps d' Yver, 1572; in the Pantheon
litte'raire {Les vieux couteurs francais), 1841.

ESTIENNE TABOUROT, Les Bigarrures die Seigneur des Accords, 1 5 13
(Brit. Mus. ; Picot, II. no. 1777). Les escraignes dijonnoises, 1588 (Arsenal
library) ; 3 vols. Brussels, 1866 (this includes the Escraignes and the
Apophtegmes du Seigneur de Gaulard and Colletet's Life of Tabourot).
Les Touches du Seigneur des Accords, 1585 (in three books); reprinted in
Raretes bibliographiques, Brussels, 1863 ; the fourth and fifth books were
published in 1588. An English translation of the Apophtegmes by J. B.
of Charterhouse was printed for private circulation at Glasgow in 1884
from a manuscript in the possession of F. W. Cosens of about the date of
1660. It was entitled Bigarrures or the pleasant, witlesse and simple
speeches of the Lord Gaulard of Burgundy.

Noel du Fail, Propos rustiques, Lyons, 1547 (Picot, II. no. 1776;
only three copies known) ; ed. A. de la Borderie, 1878. Balivemeries ou
contes nouveaux d'Eutrapel, 1548 (only two or three copies are known ;
one is in the possession of M. Alfred Dupre, and another which was
formerly in the possession of Ch. Nodier was sold at the Ruble sale
(no. 490) ; there is a charming reprint by the Chiswick Press, 1S15, made
possibly from a third copy). Les contes et discours d'Eutrapel, Rennes,
1585 ; ed. C. Hippeau, 2 vols., 1875. Les balivemeries et les contes
d'Eutrapel, ed. E. Courbet, 2 vols., 1894.

N. DE CHOLIERES, Les Neuf Matinees, 1585. Les Aprks disnees, 1587.
QLuvres, ed. E. Tricotel with a preface by P. Lacroix, 2 vols., 1879.

Guillaume Bouchet, Les screes, i re livre, Poitiers, 1584; en trots
livres, 1608 ; ed. C. E. Roybet (Ch. Royer and E. Courbet), 6 vols.,
1873— 1882.

Francois Beroalde de Verville, Le Moyen de parvenir [between
1612 and 1620]; ed. Ch. Royer, 2 vols., 1896. See Viollct le Due,
Bibliotheque politique, 2nd part, 1847, pp. 169 — 172.



TO BE CONS! I.'l l D.

F. Frank, Noel du Fail in L amateur d' autograph, s, 1876; E. and E.
Haag, La France Protestauie, 2nd ed. s.v. Beroalde. I •'.. Cougny, /■'
de Verville in Mem. de la SOciCte 1 tics sciences morales, des 1, tires et a
de Seine et Oise, XII. 1880 (pub. separately as £tudes tuf

For the relations of Du Fail, Tabourot, and B. de Verville to Rabelais
see Schneegans, Geschichte der grotesken Satire, pp. 282 -289, Strasburg,
1894.



CHAPTER XXIII

MEMOIRS AND LETTERS

I. Brantome, Margaret of Valois, Henry IV, Monluc,
La None.

I HAVE suggested that some of the books discussed in the
last chapter, published as they were in the years 1584 and
1585, and written for the most part by country gentlemen who
were also lawyers, were prompted not only by frequent
reading of Rabelais but by the signal success which attended
Montaigne's Essays. It is also possible that the same success
may have prompted another gentleman of Perigord, M. de
Brantome, to engage in a similar undertaking 1 . It is at any
rate pretty evident from the only two passages in which
Brantome mentions Montaigne that he regarded him and his
Essays with a certain dislike and jealousy. It especially
vexed him that the order of St Michael should have been
conferred on one who had worn the lawyer's gown 2 .

Yet the two gentlemen of Perigord had a good deal in
common. Like Montaigne, Brantome pretended to be careless
of literary fame, but in reality took every pains to secure it ;
like Montaigne he loved digressions, gaillardes escapades, from
his main theme ; like Montaigne he has drawn for us, though
in his case unconsciously, a portrait of himself ; like Montaigne
he was curious of information, fond of travel and books. But
these points of similarity are after all superficial ; the difference
is fundamental. While Montaigne tested the world and

1 This idea has occurred to Prof. Saintsbury, from whom I may have un-
consciously borrowed it.

2 CEuvres, ed. Lalanne, v. 92 : see also vi. 497.



CH. XXIII] MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 191

society by the light of his shrewd common sense, Brantome
accepted them without question or reflexion. Montaigne
was essentially a thinker, Brantome was merely a reporter ;
Montaigne was a moralist, for Brantome the word morality
had no meaning. Montaigne criticised his age, Brantome
reflected it. That indeed is Brantome's chief value, that he
reflects his age like a mirror, but it must be added that he
reflects chiefly its more trivial, not to say its more scandalous
side. He is the Suetonius of the French Renaissance.

Pierre de Bourdeille, " reverend father in God, abbe de
Brantome," belonged to a noble and ancient family of
Perigord 1 . The precise date of his birth is uncertain, but it
must be placed somewhere between 1539 and 1542. He spent
his childhood with his grandmother, Louise de Vivonne, wife
of the seneschal of Poitou, at the court of Margaret of
Navarre, and after studying first at Paris and then at Poitiers,
travelled for more than a year in Italy, returning to France at
the beginning of 1560, when he made his first appearance at
the Court. Though he already held other benefices besides
the abbey from which he took his title, he was not in orders.
The next fourteen years were spent by him either in fighting
on the Catholic side in the religious wars, or in attendance at
the Court, or in travel. In 1574 his military career came to
an end, for his duties as gentleman of the chamber, to which
post he had been appointed in 1568, kept him at Court,
frivolous, idle, and discontented. At last the refusal of
Henry III to bestow on him the promised post of governor
of Perigord filled him with such fury that he determined t<>
enter the service of Spain. But a fall from his horse, which
kept him in bed for four years (i 583—1 587), saved him from
being a renegade to his country and turned him into ;i man <>t
letters 2 .

For it was during this forced inactivity, apparently in 1 584,
that he began his literary labours, which he continued for the

1 Brantome is 9 miles north of P^rigueux and Bourdeille is 4 oailti l '"""
Brantome.

2 See his preface I. 4 and v. 211. Brantdme wrote an autobiography which
was still in existence at the beginning of the 17th century. [Rev. cThist.lUl. IV. :*;.)



[Q2 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS [CH.

next thirty years, most of which he spent on his estate. He
died in 1 614, leaving a will of portentous length, in which,
among other things, he charged his heirs to have his works
printed en belle et grand lettre et grand volume. The charge
was neglected, and it was not till 1665- 1666 that an incomplete
and defective edition was published at Leyden, in the Elzevir
form. Previous to this, however, several copies had been
made of his manuscripts, and Le Laboureur in his edition of
Castelnau's Memoirs, published in 1659, had printed long
extracts.

Brantome was a disappointed man when he wrote his
memoirs. He had been an assiduous courtier for a quarter
of a century and had gained nothing by it, while he had seen
men whose merits he believed to be inferior to his rise to
wealth and honour 1 . But though he had the love of frivolity
and the moral indifference of a true courtier, he had not his
pliability. " He was violent," says Le Laboureur, "difficult to
live with and of a too unforgiving spirit 2 ." Perhaps the best
thing that can be said in his favour is that among his most
intimate friends were two of the most virtuous characters of
their time, Teligny, the son-in-law of Coligny, whom he calls
his frere d'alliance, and Teligny' s brother-in-law, Francois de
la Noue. Among his other friends were Louis de Berenger,
seigneur du Guast, who was assassinated by order of
Marguerite de Valois, and above all Filippo Strozzi, the son
of Piero Strozzi, who was his friend for over twenty years 3 ,
and who exercised over him considerable influence.

The names by which Brantome's writings are generally
known are not those which he himself gave them. Thus
the titles Dames illustres and Dames galantes are an inven-
tion of the Leyden publisher for the Premier et Second
livre des Dames. The other main division of his writings,
Homines, consisted in Brantome's manuscript of two volumes,

1 (Envres, v. 306.

2 Quoted by Lalanne, Brantome, p. 331.

3 Je fay pratique" fort familierement I'espace de trente ans ou plus. But Strozzi
was killed in 1582, and it is very doubtful whether Brantome made his ac-
quaintance before 1560.






XXIII] MEMOIRS AND LETTERS



193



the first containing the Grands capitaines, French and Spanish,
and the second Les couronnels, Discours sur les duels, Rodo-
montades espagnoles, and a separate account of La Noue. His
original manuscript was completed while Margaret was still
the wife of Henry IV, that is to say before November 1599,
but some time after her divorce he made a carefully revised
copy. It is upon this copy that the text of M. Lalanne's
edition is based for the first five volumes (Hommes) 1 .

Regarded strictly as biographies Brantome's lives have
slender merit, for the majority give one little or no idea of the
character of the persons treated. He is least successful with
those who had in them elements of real greatness, such as
Coligny and Conde 2 . Even the long life of Francois de
Guise 3 , though it contains some interesting and valuable
information, throws little light on Guise himself. But he drives
us good superficial portraits of Charles IX 4 , Catharine de'
Medici 5 , and the Constable de Montmorency 6 , while several of
the minor lives, such as Brissac and his brother Cossd 7 ,
Matignon 8 , and Mary of Hungary 9 , are not only amusing but
hit off the characters with considerable success. One of the
most entertaining is the unfinished account of his father".
On the other hand the account of Margaret of Valois, though
it contains some interesting details, is too ecstatic in its open-
mouthed admiration to have any value as a biography. The
conclusion of the account of Monluc may be quoted not only
for its reference to Monluc's conversational powers, but as
throwing light on Brantome's own character:

Or, pour fin de ce discours, M. de Montluc a estd un tres-grand,
brave et bon capitaine de son temps: et il le faisoit beau ouyr pari 1
et discourir des armes et de la guerre, ainsi que j'en ay faict l'expe'rien
moy ayant este sur la fin de ses jours un de ses grandz gouverm
et mesmes au siege de La Rochelle et a Lyon, Iorsqu'il fut fai< 1
Mareschal de France, j'estois fort souvent avec luy et m'aymoit fort,
et prenoit grand plaisir quand je le mettois en propos en entrain, et

1 This edition is divided as follows: Grands capitaines, [—IV. v. i 196;
Couromieh, rest of v.; Discours sur lcs duels. VI.; Rodomon

treatises, vn. 1—303 ; Dames, rest of VII. VIII. IX.; Opuscules, I
vol. also contains a glossary, and vol. XI. a full index.

2 (Euvres, I v. 3 ib. 4 v. 6 VII. •ill.
7 IV. 8 V. 9 VIII. '" X.

T. II. ' I



194



MEMOIRS AND LETTERS [CH.



luy faisois quelques demandes de guerre ou autres choses ; car je ne
suis jamais este" si jeune que je n'aye tousjours este fort curieux
d'apprendre ; et luy, me voyant en ceste voulonte, il me respondent de
bon coeur et en beaux termes, car il avoit une fort belle eloquance
militaire et m'en estimoit davantage. Dieu ayt son ame 1 .

Much of the interest of Brantome's book is to be found
in his numerous digressions, for which he is constantly
apologising-. Thus in the middle of the account of Mont-
morency we have a laudatory sketch of Michel de l'Hospital,
in that of Tavannes a digression on the order of St Michael,
in that of Bellegarde an account of his own treatment by
Henry III 3 . The digressions are frequently made occasions
for amusing stories, which, like Montaigne's, are distinguished
from such as Bouchet and Beroalde de Verville collected, in
that they generally illustrate some trait of human character.

Like Montaigne again, Brantome copies freely and without
acknowledgement from books. Whole pages are taken from
Le loyal serviteur, stories are borrowed from Rabelais,
Des Periers, and the Heptameron, as well as from most of the
writers dealt with in the last chapter. But Brantome, unlike
Montaigne, tries to conceal his thefts by judicious alterations,
or by pretending that he heard the story himself, or even that
he was a witness of the event related. J'ai any confer and
J'ai vu are frequently in his mouth 4 . He was doubtless
chiefly influenced in these endeavours to conceal his borrow-
ings by the same form of vanity as Montaigne, the desire
to be regarded, not as a man of letters, but as a gentleman
who amused himself by putting down his reminiscences on
paper. It is for this reason that he tries to give a negligent
and conversational air to his style. The result is that he is
often ungrammatical and sometimes obscure. Yet his style,
at any rate in the eyes of a foreigner, has considerable merit,
and chiefly from its power of vivid presentment. For
Brantome, like other Gascons, like Montaigne and Monluc
and Henry IV, saw things vividly and can make his readers

1 CEuvres, iv. 59.

2 See for a defence of his method, v. 337 and 347. s All in v.
4 See Lalanne, Brantome, p. 353 ff.



XXIII] MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 195

see them. He has a store of expressive words and phrases
such as un pen hommasse (of Mary of Hungary), arrondis
comme potirons (of stout men), une vraie pancarte des choses



Online LibraryArthur Augustus TilleyThe literature of the French renaissance (Volume 2) → online text (page 18 of 34)