Charles William Stubbs.

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Copyright 1901,





Copyright, 1901,



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Death of Louis XIII Frontispiece

Photogravure after Mercier.

Reception by Cardinal Richelieu 205

Photogravure after A. Moreau.


Louis XIV. and Moliere Frontispiece

Photogravure after Gerome.


Louis XIV. and La Valli^re Frontispiece

Hand-painted Photogravure after Morion.


To THE Memoirs of Saint-Simon

/// 3B


WHILE still a youth, but with a mind well stored with
French history from reading the numerous mem-
oirs from Villehardouin down to his own con-
temporary Cardinal Retz, Saint-Simon decided that he
would leave to posterity an account of those events in
which he himself took part either as an eyewitness or
as an actor.

No one was better able than he, no one better en-
dowed by nature to relate to us, in their minute detail,
the thousand little incidents, which taken together form
the history of the latter part of the reign of Louis XIV.
and that of the Regency.

Son of a former favorite of Louis XIIL, having as
sponsors at his baptism, at the palace of Versailles, King
Louis XIV. and Queen Maria Theresa, Saint-Simon first
appears at court in the year 1692 and seems destined for
a brilliant career. His early life is auspicious; at the age
of twenty, he is already a captain in the cavalry ; married
to the daughter of his superior officer, Marshal de Lorges,
he is given an apartment in the palace of Versailles.

Ambitious, he longs for fame. At Ginesheim-on-the-
Rhine, where he is in command, he begins the writing
of his memoirs on which he was to work during sixty

Destined for great things, his life was passed in a nar-
row sphere, for this brilliant young officer, offended by
an appointment which he considered unjust, it having
been made by an underling of the Ministry, threw up
his commission in the army and for a long time was
satisfied to remain a simple courtier.



He, who boasted of his descent from Charlemagne
when in reality he was nothing more than the son of an
equerry of Louis XIII , shows us in this an instance of his
unbounded arrogance — that arrogance which was the key-
note to his character and which influenced every act of
his life, and which we find on every page of his memoirs
as he writes: "Duke and peer as he is, with wife and
children, he could not serve in the army like any up-
start, or be thrown in contact with a different social class
than his own, those holding office or commanding regi-

Upon his return to Versailles, to the apartment which
royal favor had retained for him, he took up his resi-
dence at the Court upon which he will henceforth spy
without mercy. He filled a unique position at Court,
being accepted by all, even by the King himself, as a
cynic, personally liked for his disposition, enjoying con-
sideration on account of the prestige of his social connec-
tions, inspiring fear in the more timid by the severity
and fearlessness of his criticism ; he was also treated with
respect by those who saw in him a man destined to make
his mark in the world's history.

Neither courtier, statesman, minister, or friend read
those notes which Saint-Simon wrote from day to day,
closeted in his study where he lived over again the events
which had just transpired, and where safe from prying
eyes, he intrusted to paper the gossip which he had
heard and that which his all-unconscious associates in
spying had brought him. For he understood the art of elicit-
ing the confidence of those holding high positions in life,
making them repeat interesting conversations and racy
anecdotes. Among the friends whose help he thus ob-
tained were the Duke of Orleans, the future Regent,
Cabinet Ministers Chamillart and de Pontchartrain, the
Duke of Beauvilliers and of Chevreuse, Bontemps, first
gentleman-in-waiting to the King, Mardchal, head sur-
geon, and Mesdames de Lauzan, de Levis, de Nogaret,
and the Duchess of Lorges. The latter was especially
useful to him, he tells us. Each evening, he says, she
repeated to him the gossip she had picked up through
the day. Whenever the author relates to us happenings


in which he took no part he is very careful to give us
the source from which he obtained his knowledge. "Con-
cerning things I have not seen or experienced myself, I
wish always to state where and by whom I secured my
information." Nor ought we to forget that under all cir-
cumstances Saint-Simon loves and seeks the truth.

Time and again he draws attention to the fact and
quite properly takes pride in it. "It is," he writes, "this
love for truth which has stood in the way of my suc-
cess in life, I have often realized this, but I have pre-
ferred the truth to all things and could not bring myself
to stoop to deceit. I have cherished truth even when by
so doing, I stood in my own light.'"

But however much Saint-Simon may object to falsity
or to slander knowingly, it does not follow that we are
to believe his word implicitly. Often he is mistaken, and
is blinded by passion, or by his worship of ducal
grandeur or by his private animosities. At times he is
well aware of the lack of moderation in his views and
feels the necessity of apologizing for his weakness in
this respect. "We delight," he writes, "in honest and
true persons, but we are irritated by those knaves who
hang about a court, and how much more annoyed are
we by those persons who have done us an injury. The
stoic is a beautiful and noble creature of the imagina-
tion. I do not pride myself upon my freedom from
prejudice — impartiality, — it would be useless for me to
attempt it."

Saint- Simon, according to his own picturesque expres-
sion, submits everyone to a (microscopic) close examina-
tion, taking their measure as it were, and he sees from
afar off, thanks to his alert mind and his clearer vision,
those transformations of a special order, which are actually
taking place in the very heart of society.

He was the first to perceive that event which was to
be the most important of all others during the reign
of Louis XIV., that of the accession to power of the
middle classes, by the enforcement of civil rights and by
the administration of the public treasury. This explains
his opposition to royalty, whom he felt was preparing the
way for the Revolution, the advent of which he predicted.


Champion of the titled class, he struggled valiantly to
make this class a political factor.

He would have the nobles in the Ministry with all the
dignity and authority which are their prerogatives, even
at the expense of the clergy and lawyers, in order to
drive from the higher positions those plebeians, he would
place government patronage under the control of the
nobility. For a brief moment he dreamed of triumph
and this on the day the will of Louis XIV. was annulled
when the legitimized princes were humiliated at that his-
toric seance of the Bed of Justice

His delight bordered on delirium. ' ' Yet, as for me, I
was dying with joy. I was so oppressed that I feared
I should swoon; my heart dilated to excess, and no
longer found room to beat. ... I had triumphed,
I was revenged; I swam in my vengeance; I enjoyed
the full accomplishment of desires the most vehement
and the most continuous of all my life." But alas,
Saint-Simon relapsed afterward into the bitterest disap-

He, who, upon the accession of the Regent, expected
to become the master and direct the affairs of France, is
no longer listened to, but is replaced by Cardinal Dubois.
So he leaves the Court, discouraged, to live in retire-
ment, when the Duke of Bourbon comes to the throne.

The remainder of Saint-Simon's life was passed be-
tween the castle of Verte-Vidame, near Chartres and
his house in the Rue de Crenelle, St. Germain, Paris.
For ten years he devoted his time to the final revision
of his memoirs, making use of annotations he had put
in the Journal of Dangeau and emplojnng the great
quantity of notes he had collected in his "workshop" at
Versailles. This autograph manuscript entailed an im-
mense labor; the writing was almost free from erasure
and remarkable for its distinctness and legibility. It
amounted to no less than 2,300 pages in folio.

After the death of Saint-Simon, his memoirs were
found with a large quantity of other papers, and the
Duke de Choiseul, fearing revelations from their publica-
tion, hastened to have them seized and placed in the
archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under the


pretext that the author, once having been Ambassador
to Spain, was interested in matters of State.

For sixty years a few privileged persons only were al-
lowed to read these memoirs or publish extracts from them,
until General de Saint-Simon finally obtained from Louis
XVIIL the freedom of the ** Bastille prisoner," that is to say,
the restitution of the manuscript to the heirs of the Duke.

Of these memoirs, Madame Du Demand, in her letters
to H. Walpole, writes "that they give exquisite pleasure
and one loses oneself in their perusal."

Saint-Beuve finds in them a comprehensive breadth of
view, an amount of information, social relation, manner
of expression, and local coloring, which make them the
most precious collection of memoirs extant. Master
painter of history, Saint-Simon excels in depicting the in-
dividual as well as groups of persons, of conveying the
general impression as well as the minute detail, dual ef-
fect of parts and the whole.

This history is a fresco after the manner of Rubens,
dashed in with an ardor which does not permit of his
working with care, or drawing in his figures before paint-
ing; but the characters, as numerous as they are, only
stand out the more clearly in relief. The work is like a
vast historical Kermesse, the scene of which is laid in
the palace of Versailles.

Villemain, on the other hand, who was the master of
French criticism at the time of the publication of these
memoirs, declared their author to be the most original of
geniuses of our literature, the foremost of prose satirists;
inexhaustible in details of manners and customs, a word
painter like Tacitus; the author of a language of his
own, lacking in accuracy, system, and art, yet an admir-
able writer.

Poitou, also, praised that priceless chronicle which, go-
ing back into the past, embraces almost the extent of
half a century, in which, at the same time, the genera-
tion which he has seen growing and that of which he
made a part, lives over again ; a historic fresco, immense,
prodigious, which, perhaps, has not its equal in the world
in brilliancy, richness, and variety ; where, in spite of age,
the artist's touch does not betray the weight of years,


nor the weariness of work; where one feels everywhere
the enthusiasm of youth and the fire of passion.

Before Saint-Simon's time French literature already
counted more than one eminent work in the nature of
memoirs. Saint- Simon has gone far ahead of his precur-
sors. By force of genius, he has raised personal recollec-
tions to the dignity of history.

These memoirs are rich in chefs-d'oeuvre^ the mere
choice of which is difficult.

As a good illustration, however, take the portraits of
President Harlay, the Duchesses of Berry and of Bour-
gogne; those of Dangeau, of Fenelon, of Marshal Lux-
embourg, or of Madame de Maintenon, you will catch
instantly the life and character of these personages, for
Saint- Simon is a true artist, who fascinates by the charm
of his pictures.

He replaces the painter's brush by pen and handwrit-
ing. As a writer Saint- Simon cannot be compared to any
of his contemporaries. He has an individuality, a style
and a language solely his own. If he must be given a
place in literary chronology, one is tempted to rank him
among the writers of the beginning of the 17th century,
whose audacity he recalls. The "little fury," as the songs
of his day called Saint- Simon, possessed a genius which
rode rough-shod over all obstacles. What did he care for
gTammar? He had a contempt for it when it crossed his
path. And .language, he treated it like an abject slave.
When he had gone to its farthest limit, when it failed
to express his ideas, or feelings, he forced it — the result
was a new term, or a change in the ordinary mean-
ing ' of words, sprang forth from his pen. With this
was joined a vigor and breadth of style, very pronounced,
which makes up the originality of the works of Saint-
Simon and contributes toward placing their author in the
foremost ranks of French writers.

Translated from the French of L6on Vallee.


THE " Memoirs ** of the Duke of Saint-Simon, an
abridgment of which is here presented to the public,
occupy now by common consent a very high position in
French literature. No work of a similar kind has ever
probably been so popular; and in many respects it de-
serves its reputation. It forms a perfect panoramic pic-
ture, highly finished in all its details, of the Court of
Louis XIV., during the last twenty years of his reign,
and of the period of the Regency. Saint-Simon was, to
a certain extent, an actor in the intrigues he describes,
— at any rate, always sufficiently near to see their de-
velopment and be acquainted with their promoters.
Keen criticism, stimulated by the family pride of per-
sons of whom he has spoken ill, has detected in him a
few errors, — inevitable in so vast an undertaking; but
none that are willful, or calculated to disturb him from
his place as an authority.

Saint-Simon was the son of a duke and peer of France,
and early became a duke and peer himself. He says
scarcely anything about his childhood, and we never
seem to feel the omission. He gives us the idea of
never having been young. There is a gravity and ear-
nestness even in his most trivial recitals, — except when
he allows his strong natural humor to break forth, — that
appear to belong to a character ripe and mature from
the very first. He does, indeed, talk of having played
with the Due de Chartres; but if the young prince
played, we may be sure the future memoir writer even
then noted his movements and counted his steps.

The army was the first scene of Saint- Simon's worldly
experience. When very young he entered the King's
Musketeers, and in time rose to the command of a regi-
ment. He served in more than one campaign, and ap-
pears to have discharged his duties conscientiously and
■well. While still in the camp he began to note down in
I (I)


a journal the events that were occurring around him,
incited to do so by the pleasure he had received in read-
ing the Memoirs of the Marechal de Bassompierre. Even
at this early time it is evident that he was endowed with
a rare power of observation, and good natural sagacity;
and with a certain rigidity of opinion which prevented
him from much sharing the vices with which he came in

Saint-Simon't, / \ilitary career did not last long. He
had served no more than five years when the peace of
Ryswick was signed ; and the field never saw him again.
The great war of the Spanish Succession began in 1702,
and nearly all Europe was involved in it, until the Treaty
of Utrecht decided the question at issue ; but Saint-Simon,
being deprived of the promotion he thought himself en-
titled to, resigned his rank. In this, doubtless, he acted
wisely. He seems to have had no special predilection for
a military life — never speaks of his interrupted career
with soldierly regret — does not even imply that he had
talent in that direction. The Court, not the camp, claimed
him. He was formed to move, not amid helmets and
plumes, but amid powdered wigs and gold-headed canes,

— to wander observant amid fans and hoops, not tents
and trenches. In that sphere, looking on at the intrigues
and schemes that thickened or dispersed around him,
joining in them himself when a friend was to be served,

— for Saint-Simon was evidently capable of friendship, —
or an enemy to be thwarted, — he was equally capable of
enmity; — maintaining himself in intimacy with most of
the courtiers whose views were in harmony with his own,
and with many whose views were very different; fighting
for the rights and dignity of his order with the tenacity
of a man who regards them almost as passports to eter-
nal salvation, and who sees that in the confusion of new
grades and unusual privileges arising, he and his fellows
are counting for less and less every day; criticising the
plans of government in operation, and drawing up new
plans of his own; noting with a sort of prophetic cun-
ning all political and diplomatic changes threatened, the
struggles to gain power and the struggles to preserve it;
and all the while keeping his ear open to reports of all


domestic occurrences at the Court, — the love affairs, the
scandals, the marriages, the tragedies in this direction,
the comedies in that ; — such being his position and occu-
pation, we need not be surprised at the vast extent and
varied nature of his ^^Memoirs. '* A more active and public
mode of life, in which he would have been forced to
find work for the critics rather than play the critic him-
self, would not have suited him so well ; and would have
injured the interests of posterity. W.' see this plainly
in the review of his career.

During the lifetime of Louis XIV., Saint-Simon en-
joyed much indirect favor from his popularity with the
leading personages of the Court and the Government;
but the King, displeased with him in the first instance
for his retirement from the army, and afterward for his
determined stand in support of the most petty privileges
of the order to which he belonged — to say nothing of
his pedantic and meddling disposition — never bestowed
much notice upon him, and sometimes evinced marked
coldness. It was not until the government fell into the
hands of the Due d'Orl^ans, the Due de Chartres of
Saint-Simon's childhood, that his position changed.
With the Due d'Orl6ans he had always been on good
terms. He had stood by him in fair weather and in
foul; and now, to a certain extent, reaped the reward of
his devotion. He became a member of the Council of
State; and had nominally a voice in deciding the affairs
of the nation. But he was not meant by nature to be a
statesman any more than he was meant to be a soldier.
Abler and more unscrupulous intriguers got hold of the
helm; and Saint-Simon, despite his intimacy with the
Regent, never had any sensible influence on great affairs,
and continued to jot down notes of what he knew of the
manners and character of the Court.

The *^ Memoirs '^ of the Due de Saint-Simon extend over
a period corresponding to his Court life, which ended
about 1723. Every circumstance, however important or
however trivial, that occurred at the French Court during
this period, seems to be set down in them. They give
us the most varied and the most curious information re-
specting the members of that Court; and are especially


successful in introducing Louis XIV. to us in undress,
without his crown, even without his wig, the plain, un-
sophisticated thing, the lean and slippered pantaloon,
who by the huge efiEorts of flattery has been introduced
to posterity with the title of Great. The most criminal
act that literature has committed has been to affect grati-
tude to this pitiful old gentleman; and it is agreeable to
find one literary man, though a noble, painting him in
his true colors. We seem to be present at the melan-
choly death of Hawthorne's Feathertop; or, after having
watched the brilliant course of a rocket through the air,
to be picking up the miserable stick round which the
splendor clung.

It is true that these * Memoirs "^ refer chiefly to the latter
days of Louis XIV., when he had become tied to the
apron strings of that stately intriguer, so pious and yet
so bitter, Madame de Maintenon; but I do not think this
is the reason he appears so mean. He was always mean;
and never meaner than in his young days, when he had
beautiful mistresses, some of whom were not so con-
temptible as others. We know the promises he made
that he did not perform; and the offensive word that
exists to describe such conduct. But this is not the place
to discuss the general character of this smirking, grimac-
ing old dancing master, who has given his name (among
the French) to a literary and artistic age — because he
patronized Lebrun, and could not understand Lesueur,
Claude Lorrain, and Poussin — because he gave Moliere
the smallest pension accorded to any poet of his day,
wasted the genius of Racine in composing his panegyric,
and corrupted the taste and morality of France, by forcing
its writers, even the best, to indulge in the most ignoble
and loathsome laudations of the most ignoble and loath-
some of persons. The reader is requested to compare the
character of Monseigneur as described with unerring ac-
curacy in these *^ Memoirs ^^ with the following disgusting
paragraph printed in small capitals in the midst of one
of the masterpieces of French Literature: La Bruy^re's
* Characters " :

"f/« jeune prince, d'une race anguste, V amour et Vespir-
ance des peuples, donnd du del pour prolonger la fHicit^ de


la terre^ plus grand que ses aieux, fils d'un h^ros qui est son
modele^ a d^j'a montr^ a Vunivers^ par ses divines qualit^s et
par une vertu anticipee, que les enfants des h^ros sont plus
proches de litre que les autres homines?'*

If we compare this bombastical unmeasured style with
the way in which chosen men used to speak, say even of
Henri IV., we shall be able to estimate the degree to
which taste suffered under Louis XIV. Language may have
become purer and more correct: it would have gone on
improving, perhaps entered on a better path, under any
other governor or form of government; but style is not
diction and requires to be assisted toward perfection by
moral qualities which could not develop in the pestilential
atmosphere of Versailles. That was, at any rate, an age
of phrases, not an age of ideas; and, with the exception
of Moliere and Pascal, produced few men whose reputa-
tion is not in some manner conventional.

Although Saint- Simon reveals all the pitifulness of the
Court, because it was pitiful, we must not suppose that
he does so with any ulterior views. He was no revolu-
tionist, no reformer. No man could have a more genuine
belief in kingly power than he. Instead of seeing that
England owes its rank among nations to the execution of
Charles I., he says that execution will be its * eter-
nal shame. '^ William of Orange is always a ^^ usurper*
in his eyes. He would probably have parted with his
life to uphold the throne of France, while painting the
members of the royal family as stained with every vice
which our vocabulary can name, or refuses to name.

There is no reason to doubt that Saint-Simon's portrait
of Louis XIV. is true in all essential particulars. And
what a portrait it is! How finished by a succession of
touches, put on when the artist was in his best mood,
that gradually gave life to the eye, and color to the
cheek! There is a victory, for example, to be gained.
The French troops, Louis XIV. at their head, are en-
camped at Gembloux. The Prince of Orange is close at
hand. The position of the French is such that they can
count upon a victory. The position of the enemy is such
that they can count upon nothing but defeat. The
French are more numerous than the allies; all promises


a great triumph. But time flies and nothing is done ; on
the contrary, an order for retreat is given. The King,
worked upon by Madame de Maintenon, is tired of being
a hero, and impatient for the comforts of Versailles.
Amidst the laughter of the army, of France, and of
Europe, he joins ^^ the ladies *^ and returns to luxurious
ease. At another time, Lille being taken by the enemy,
a minister proposes an excellent plan for its recovery,
but, as the plan includes leaving the ladies behind, re-
quests that it shall not be communicated to Madame de
Maintenon. The King promises, breaks his promise, and
suffers himself once more to be cajoled. The unchaste

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