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si incommode que je ne pense meshuy pouvoir jamais plus pointer les
armes. J'ay ceste obligation a ceste meschante arquebusade qui m'a
perce" etfroisse le visage, d'avoir este" cause que j'ay dicte"ces Commentaires,
lesquels, comme je pense, dureront apres moy. Je prie ceux qui les liront
de ne les prendre point comme escripts de la main d'ung escrivain, mais
d'ung vieux soldat, et encore gascon, qui a escript sa vie a la verite", el en
guerrier ; tous ceux qui pourteront les armes y prendront exempli
recognoistront que de Dieu seul procede l'heur et le malheur des hommes.
Et pour-ce que nous debvons avoir recours a luy seul, supplions-le nous
ayder et conseiller en nos tribulations, car ce monde n'est autre chose, et
dont les grands ont aussi bien leur part que les petits : en nani-

feste sa grandeur, veu qu'il n'y a roy ny prince qui en soit exempt, el qui
n'aye ordinairement besoing de luy et de son secours.

1 Ed. Ruble, 11. 3.

2 See Brantome's story of Lou ttaz Jc Rabastain, IV. 36.


Ne desdaignds, vous qui desires suivre le train des armes, au lieu de
lire des Amadis ou Lancellots, d'employer quelqu'heure a me cognoistre
dedans ce livre : vous apprendres a vous cognoistre vous mesmes, et a
vous former pour estre soldats et cappitaines, car il faut s^avoir obeir pour
sgavoir apres bien commander. Cecy n'est pas pour les courtisans ou
-ens qui ont les mains polies, ny pour ceux qui ayment le repos ; c'est
pour ceux qui par lechemin de la vertu, aux despens de leur vie, veulent
eterniser leur nom, comme, en despit de l'envie, j'espere que j'auray faict
celuy de Montluc 1 .

This was the original conclusion of the Commentaires when
Monluc laid down his pen in 1572, but in 1576 he took it up
again to relate how he was made a marshal of France by the
new king, Henry III, and how at the age of seventy-four he
was present at the siege of Gensac. This was his last fight
and the occasion of his last harangue. There was no part of
his body except his right arm which had not received a
wound in the course of his long career. It was time to hang
up his sword. He even thought of ending his days in a
priory on the Spanish frontier. The exact date of his death
is unknown, but he made a codicil to his will in August, 1577,
and he probably died soon afterwards. The Commentaires
were published with some alteration and suppressions by
Florimond de Raemond in 1592.

As might be expected from an old man trusting entirely
to his memory and restrained by no considerations of literary
form the Commentaires are full of digressions and repetitions
and tedious relations of unimportant incidents. But they are
instinct with life and movement, and the style is remarkable.
It is the style of a man who has had little or no intercourse
with books, but who has a natural gift for clear and expressive
speech. His thoughts shape themselves in language without
any effort. Those who hold the view that the language of
literature should be widely differentiated from that of speech
had better read Monluc, and then reconsider their position.

1 Ed. Ruble, III. 518, 9.


2. L'Estoile, Tavaiuies, Sully.

We have seen that Monluc, the only one of the five writers

hitherto discussed in this chapter who wrote true memoirs

for Margaret of Valois confined herself to certain carefully
arranged passages in her life— began his task in the year 1570.
In 1575 the diplomatist, Michel de Castelnau, followed in his
footsteps, while the memoirs of the parish priest, Claude
Haton, date from about the same year. There are indeed
earlier writings of the kind, which are included in the various
collections of French memoirs, such as the Commentaires of
Francois de Rabutin, the first books of which were published
in 1555, and the accounts of the sieges of Metz and St
Quentin by Salignac and Coligny respectively. But these,
like the Du Bellay memoirs, of which mention was made in
the first volume, are of the nature of contemporary history
rather than true memoirs. It is therefore from about the
beginning of the last quarter of the sixteenth century that the
fashion of memoir-writing, which has contributed to French
literature so many important and delightful works, may be
said to date. From that time down to the middle of the
seventeenth century it flourished with unabated vigour.

Naturally all the memoirs of our period do not belong to
literature. Some are so entirely devoid of charm or indi-
viduality that, whatever their importance for the political
historian, they can find no place in a history of literature.
But there are others which, while they lack the genius for
expression which marks the style of the five writers noticed in
the first section of this chapter, or exhibit it only at spasmodic
intervals, yet succeed in interesting the reader by the talisman
of a distinct personality. For provided a writer can stamp
his work with the seal of his own individuality, provided
he can give it, so to speak, an atmosphere of its own, he
has assured for it a place, however modest, on the roll "I



Such a place we may certainly grant to the Memoires-
Joumaux of Pierre de L'Estoile. Grandson of the distin-
guished jurist of the same name, and son of a president of
the Court of Enquctes in the Paris Parliament, he himself
purchased a post in the Paris Chancery. But his real
business in life was the collection of engravings, medals, and
books, and especially of pamphlets and broadsides. He also
made a practice of noting down every interesting event,
whether trivial or important, and the Journal which he thus
kept for thirty-seven years, from 1574 to 1611 1 , is of singular
importance for the student of the social and political life of
his day. If he was too ready to accept unauthorised gossip,
he was at least an honest and fair-minded man, with no strong
political bias except a sincere hatred of the League. Though
he has no pretentions to style, writing, as he said, mihi non
aliis, he often puts things in a humorous way, so that the book
is an amusing one to read in, if not one to read continuously.
He can tell a story with spirit, as for instance that of the death
of Bussy d'Amboise 2 , which, like other passages in his Journal,
has furnished Dumas with hints for his Homeric narrative.
The cream of the Journal is the portion which covers the
period of the League from the death of Henry III to the
entry of Henry IV into Paris 3 . Happily both for himself and
for us L'Estoile was able during these years of gloom and
terror to see the humorous side of things. His Journal is a
perpetual illustration of the Satire Menippee. He made it his
particular business to attend or get reports of the various
sermons which the League preachers thundered forth every
Sunday, and they furnish a good deal of amusement. He
does not tell us much about himself and his own affairs, and
the statement which he makes at the beginning of one of his
manuscripts that we shall see him {com me dit le s" de Montaigne
en ses Essais, parlant de soy) tout nud et tel que je suis is a
disappointing one. But the character he gives himself — mon

1 The last entry is on Sept. 27, 161 1, a week before his death. He was born
in 1546.

2 I- 321.

3 Vol. v. and part of VI.


ante litre et tonte mienne, accoiistume'e a se conduire a sa mode,
non toittesfois mescliante ne maligne, mats tvop portce a une
vaine curiosite et liberte—xs, faithfully borne out in his Journal.
From this time, however (July 1606), it becomes rather less
interesting, being chiefly an account of his purchases of books,
or in his own words, le Magazin de mes curiosites. But there
is an interesting entry on July 16 10, in which he tells us that
he is a lover and constant reader of Montaigne. He died in
the following year, the close of his life having been clouded by
ill-health and poverty.

Jean de Saulx, seigneur de Tavannes, is a sixteenth
century Saint-Simon 1 . His memoirs are nominally a history
of France during the life-time (1 509-1573) of his father,
Gaspard de Saulx, who distinguished himself at the battle of
Renty (1554), was created a marshal ( 1571), and was one of
the four — the only Frenchman among the number — who with
Charles IX and his mother formed the fatal council which
decided on the massacre of St Bartholomew. The memoirs,
for which Jean de Tavannes used his father's papers and
therefore called by his father's name, were written to correct
for the benefit of his family the view taken by historians of
his father's services, but they are interspersed with numerous
long digressions consisting partly of his own reminiscences
and partly of moral reflexions 2 . Begun in 1601, but written
for the most part between 16 16 and 1621, they carry us far
beyond the limits of our period ; but just as Saint-Simon, in
spite of his date, belongs to the seventeenth century, so
his prototype, Jean de Tavannes, is of the sixteenth. Like
Saint-Simon he is a frondeur and a pessimist, and like
Saint-Simon he is a champion of the privileges and purity of
the French nobility. His style too, though without the
genius of Saint-Simon's, recalls it both in its disregard of
ordinary rule and usage and in its brusque and dogmatic
tone. The moral reflexions which he sows so plentifully are

1 Born 1555, made his will in 1629.

2 Ce sujet remarqiiable m'a portc a des considerations <■! conceptions ■//"■ fay
trouve a propos cf escrire ; et y ay entremesli atuunesfois </i<f/,/i<. moy
mesme. Preface.

T. II. ' '



often mere truisms, but the whole book is at once a valuable
picture of the age and the unconscious portrait of an honest
and high-minded man, who on the great question which
divided France into two camps was on the side of toleration.
La religion gist en creance qui ne pent estre forcee que par raison,
et non parflammes. His elder brother Guillaume 1 wrote about
the same time (between 1620 and 1625) dull memoirs relating
to events from 1560 to 1596.

Till quite recently the memoirs of Francois de Scepeaux,
Marshal de Vieilleville 2 , purporting to be written by his
secretary, Vincent Carloix, held in the eyes of both historians
and literary critics a position equal, if not superior, to those of
Tavannes. But it has been shewn by the Abbe Marchand
that the writer of these memoirs on the one hand attributes
to Vieilleville various important acts with which according
to trustworthy contemporary writers he had nothing to do,
and on the other omits some of his distinctions and is
otherwise imperfectly informed as to his career. M. Marchand's
almost certain conclusion is that the memoirs, which in other
respects betray ignorance of the court and of affairs, are
the work, not as they pretend to be of Vincent Carloix,
but of some one, probably a chaplain, attached to the house-
hold of the Marshal's son-in-law, the Marquis d'Espinay, who
composed them about the year 1590, basing his narrative on
family traditions and personal reminiscences, and filling in the
details with the help of such histories and memoirs as he
found in his patron's library 3 .

This overthrow of Vieilleville's memoirs as an historical
authority should not necessarily discredit them as a literary
work. For they are written in an easy and lively if negligent
style, and with some power of dramatic presentation. But the
knowledge that they are neither genuine fact nor honest
fiction decidedly diminishes their interest, while the apparent

1 1551— 1637.

2 Vieilleville died on the last day of November, 1571, while Charles IX was
on a visit to him at his chateau of Durtal in Anjou. His baton was at once given
to Tavannes, already a supernumerary marshal, the appointment being dated on
the same day.

3 Marchand, Vieilleville, esp. pp. 11—47.



naivete of the writing, with its love of old words and ex-
pressions, considerably loses its charm when one realises that
it is modelled on that of Le Loyal Serviteur and that thus in
style as well as in matter the whole book is more or less of a
pastiche 1 .

The idea of fathering these memoirs on Vincent Carloix
was not a bad one, for it was common in those days for an
unlettered soldier or even politician to employ his secretary to
write an account of his memorable actions. To this practice
we owe the memoirs of Jean Choisnin, the secretary of Jean
de Monluc, Bishop of Valence (a younger brother of Blaise),
who has left an account of his patron's mission to Poland, and
those of Francois de Boyvin, Baron du Villars, the secretary
of the Marshal de Brissac, who wrote a diffuse and tiresome
but fairly trustworthy account of that general's campaigns
against the imperialist forces in Piedmont from 1550 to 1559.
Much better written, in a simple unaffected style, though with
the usual tendency to long and cumbrous sentences, are the
Commentaires, already mentioned, of Francois de Rabutin, an
ancestor of Bussy-Rabutin and of the same family as M"' e de
Sevigne, who had served in the Netherland campaigns of the
same period in the company formed by the Due de Xevers.
Reference has also been made to the contemporary accounts
of two important events in these campaigns, that of Un-
successful defence of Metz against Charles V, written by
Bertrand de Salignac de la Motte-Fenelon, a great-uncle of
Fenelon'-, and that of the unsuccessful but heroic defence of
St Quentin against overpowering numbers by Coligny,
written by Coligny himself. The latter is simp!}- written.
without any pretensions to style, and is interesting as the
personal record of a great man.

One of the most important authorities for the events which

1 They were first published in 1757 by the Jesuit father, Henri Griffet. An
abridgement had previously been given by the Dominican father, Du Paz, in his
Hist, genialogique de plusieurs maisons illustres de Bretagne, 16 19.

- Le Siige de Metz, 1552.

3 First published in i6 4 ? in a volume with the French translation of the
Latin lite.

1 I !



led to the wars of religion and for the first two wars is the
diplomatist Michel de Castelnau, whose memoirs, written in
England between 1575 and 1585, cover the period from 1559
to 1 569 1 . But though they are on the whole well-written,
and though the writer confines himself to his own experiences,
callin"- his work Disconrs des choses que fay veues ct maniees,
the lack of colour and passion which makes them valuable to
the historian renders them uninteresting as literature 2 .

The personal note which is absent from Castelnau's
memoirs gives interest to those of Jean de Mergy, a
Protestant gentleman of Champagne in the service of the
Comte de La Rochefoucauld, with whom he was taken
prisoner at St Quentin 3 . He fought at Dreux and Montcon-
tour, and was at Paris during the massacre, when his master
was murdered. He relates his experiences in a simple, un-
affected fashion, writing when he was an old man of seventy-
seven. The memoirs are very short and only mention a few
events later than 1572.

We have the account of another Protestant's escape from
the massacre in M me du Plessis-Mornay's life of her husband.
But in spite of the important part that Mornay played in
the political and theological arena this narrative of two
singularly noble lives is disappointing. It is too staid and
unemotional. Even the account of how the writer and her
future husband escaped from the massacre has little life in
it. Moreover the style, with its long involved sentences, is
heavy and often obscure. M me de Mornay had not the pen of
a Mrs Hutchinson.

Yet another Protestant, Maximilien de Bethune, Baron de
Rosny, Due de Sully 4 , has told the tale of how he was saved
on the day of St Bartholomew, being then only a boy of

1 He succeeded Salignac as ambassador.

2 The memoirs of Claude Haton of Provins (ed. F. Bourquelot in the Coll.
des Doc. inedits, 2 vols. 1857) are valuable to the historian of the religious wars as
representing the point of view of a provincial priest, and as giving much in-
formation for the district in which the writer lived, but neither the style nor the
manner of presenting the facts entitles them to be regarded as literature.

3 Michaud and Poujoulat, IX. ; Petitot, XXXIV. ; Buchon.

4 1560—1641.


twelve. Of all the memoirs noticed in the second part of this
chapter his are the most interesting. Yet the form he gave
to them might well have proved fatal to their success. Instead
of being written, like most memoirs, in the first person, or
even in the third, he has made his secretaries, four in number,
relate to him by way of reminder his own actions — and his
own virtues. As for instance :

De ce pas vous en allastes voir mademoiselle de Courtenay, envers
laquelle vous et vos gentils-hommes fistes si bien valoir ce que c'estoit
passe, que cette belle et sage fille vous prit en affection, et peu apres vous
l'espousastes : l'amour et gentilesse de laquelle vous retint toute l'annee
1584 en vostre nouveau mesnage, ou vous commencastes a tesmoigner,
comme vous avez desja bien fait auparavant en toute vostre vie, en la
conduite de vostre maison, une ceconomie, un ordre et un mesnage

Another stumbling-block in the path of the reader is the
enormous length of the sentences. I have come across one
of five hundred and seventy-six words, and another which
fills exactly a whole double-column page in Michaud and
Poujoulat's edition, and must contain at least nine hundred
words. And these are genuine sentences, the length of which
does not depend merely on punctuation. Happily the
memoirs are not written entirely in this fashion. At an earl)'
stage in his career Sully evidently began to write down records
of important events in which he had played a part by the side
of his master, and these, with letters and other documents,
formed the basis of the first draft which his secretaries made
under his directions and superintendence between his retire-
ment in 161 1 and the year 1617. Thus the accounts of his
most stirring experiences, such as the siege of Cahors or the
battles of Coutras and Ivry, have a ring of reality which, in
spite of their somewhat grotesque form, impresses them upon
the imagination. As Henry IV said, Sully's style sent son
soldat, et son homme d'Etat 1 . Moreover his conversations

1 Quoted by Sainte-Beuve, Cattseries, vm. 192. We have an undoubted
specimen of Sully's style in c. vi, which the secretaries copied from a papei in In-


with Henry IV and various scenes in which either the King
or his minister plays a part are given in the form of dialogue,
and are admirably done. Sully, like his fellow-Huguenot,
D'Aubigne, is an excellent raconteur, and as he says himself
is fond of introducing a petit conte pour rirc an milieu de tant
de choses sinenses. One of his best stories is the inimitable
conversation between M. de Roquelaure and the Archbishop
of Rouen, the King's illegitimate brother, who had some
scruples about marrying the King's sister, Catharine, who was
a Protestant, to the Due de Bar 1 .

In spite of Sully's egregious vanity he is not the hero of
his memoirs ; that part is reserved for Henry IV. With
such a hero the book could hardly fail to be interesting, but
it should be remembered in Sully's favour as a writer that
the firm hold which the Bearnais has taken of the imagina-
tions and affections of the French people is in a large measure
owing to Sully's presentment of him. Had the portrait been
drawn by the hand of a courtly flatterer it would have failed
of its effect ; but it convinces by its fidelity and its realism-.
The portrait which Sully has left of himself is a less pleasing
one. We see him vain, pompous, arrogant, and rough, jealous
of his colleagues, greedy of honours and money, but able,
intelligent, abounding in energy and common sense, fearless
morally as well as physically, and above all things a loyal
servant, loyal to his King, loyal to France.

He was no doubt a disagreeable and difficult colleague,
but during those years of misrule which intervened between
the death of Henry IV and the accession of Richelieu to
power (1624) it was a grave misfortune for France that she
should have been deprived, except on rare occasions, of Sully's

1 Petitot, in. 269 ff. ; Michaud and Poujoulat, XVI. 306 ff.

2 As a supplement to Sully's memoirs should be read those of Claude Groulard,
first president of the Parliament of Rouen from 1585, a scholar who had a notable
library of Greek classics, and who was a thoroughly honest and high-minded man.
His account of his various visits to the Court and of his interviews with Henry IV
help one to realise the extraordinary faculty which that monarch had of making
himself agreeable to people of every sort and condition. Groulard was about the
same age as the King and died two and a half years before him. His memoirs
occupy about half the 49th volume of Petitot's collection.


counsels 1 . But though he survived his master for thirty-one
years he lived chiefly in retirement at one of his numerous
chateaux, ordering his household with a pomp and magni-
ficence which would not have discredited Louis XIV s . He
spent much of his time in editing his memoirs with the help
of his four secretaries, but it was not till the year [638 that the
first instalment, in two volumes, was issued from his private
press at the chateau of Sully. The third and fourth volumes
were published at Paris in 1662, twenty-one years after his
death, under the supervision of Le Laboureur. In [745 the
Abbe de l'Ecluse des Loges brought out an edition, arranged
and expurgated for the use of eighteenth century readers and
good Catholics. It is an agreeable book and has the advan-
tage of being written in the first person, but it is not Sully's
memoirs 3 .

Though Sully's memoirs were not published even in part
till long after the close of our period, like those of Tavannes
they belong emphatically to the sixteenth century. This is
equally the case with the admirable Vie a ses enfants of
Agrippa d'Aubigne, which he did not begin to write till the
year 1623, four years after his fellow-Protestant. Henri, Hue
de Rohan, had begun the reminiscences which may he said to
inaugurate the series of seventeenth-century memoirs. Hut
I shall reserve the consideration of D'Aubigne's book for a
later chapter devoted to the whole work of that remarkable

1 In January, 161 1, he resigned the ministry of finance and tin- government
of the Bastille, but retained the superintendence of the artillery, fortificati
roads, and the government of Poitou and La Rochelle.

2 See Supplement aux mimoires de Sully at the end of tin- Abbe" de I'l

edition. Sully's surgeon told his son that <>n ■ occasion lie had eight)

among the servants at Villebon, Sully's favourit il 'de.

without noticing anything amLs with the service.

a 3 vols. London (Paris!, 1745 ; 8 vols. ib. 1747.




Pierre de Bourdeilles, Abbe de Brantome, Memoires^ 8 vols.
Leyden, chez Jean Sambix le Jeune, 1665-66 (a defective and incomplete
edition, published at the Hague by Jean and Daniel Steucker, without the
Discours sur les duels, first published in 1722, and the Rodomontades, first
published in the 15 vol. edition of 1740. See Willems, Les Elzevier,
no. 1369). (Euvres completes [ed. Monmerque"], 8 vols. 1822-24 ; 13 vols.
1858-95 {Bib. Elze'v.) ; ed. L. Lalanne for the Societe de Fhistoire de
France^ 11 vol. 1864-82. Baroness James de Rothschild has recently
presented to the Bib. Nat. 13 vols, of the MS of Brantome's first draft.

Marguerite de Valois, Memoires, ed. Auger de Mauleon, 1628.
Mimoires et lettres, ed. F. Guessard for the Soc. de Phist. de France, 1842.

Henri IV, Recneil de lettres missives {Documents ine'dits), ed. Berger
de Xivrey, 9 vols. 1843-76 ; Lettres intimes, ed. L. Dussieux, 1876.

Blaise de Monluc, Commentaire, ed. Florimond de Raemond,
Bordeaux, 1592 ; Commentaires et Lettres, ed. A. de Ruble for Soc. de
I' hist, de France, 5 vols. 1864-76.

FRANCOIS DE LA NOUE, Discours politiqites et militaires, Basle, 1587.
Discours xxvi has often been published separately under the title of
Memoires de La None.

Pierre de l'Estoile, Me'moires-Journaux, edd. G. Brunet, A.
Champollion, E. Halphen, P. Lacroix, Ch. Read, Tamizey de Larroque,

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