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Ambroise Paré and his times, 1510-1590 online

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Lucas, and Guillaume Parvys. In the same lot with
the house at Meudon were included ten vineyards,
and a small piece of land. Happy age, when one
could get the fourth part of two houses, with gar-
dens and vineyards, in exchange for a brother-in-
law's bad debt of eighty gold crowns.

A few years later, Ambroise bought the Maison
des Trois Maures, the house next on the right to
the Maison de La Vache : in 1561, he was Hving in
this new house : and in it he died. Behind it, was a
large open space, opening on to the Rue des Augus-
tins, now the Quai des Grands Augustins : part of
this space was occupied by a narrow slip of a house,
also Ambroise's property, where lived Francois
P6rier, brother-in-law of Jehan Par6 : another part
of it Ambroise gave to Guillaume Gu^au and his

Paris 1 79

wife, "pour la bonne amyti6 que ledict Pare a et
porte ausdits Gueau et sa femme, et aussy que ainsy
luy a pleu et plaist." The Gueaux built another
narrow slip of a house here, to match the P6riers*

In 1574, Ambroise gave to his niece, Jehanne Pare,
a house in the same block with the rest : " pour la
bonne amour naturelle qu' il a et porte k icelle Je-
hanne Pare, sadicte niepce, et aussi parce que tel est
sou vouloir." Jehanne and her husband, Claude
Viart, were thus within a few yards of him.

Ambroise also had a house in the Rue Garanci^re,
Faubourg Saint-Germain : and a property at Ville-du-
Bois, outside Paris. The house in the Rue Garanci^re
he left to two of his daughters. But it is the block of
houses at the end of the Pont Saint-Michel that I
love : the air of home, the sense of kinship, the quiet
compact old-worldly affection about them. Take the
sketch of them, adapted from Le Paulmier, and go
round about it. There is the Rue de La Huchette,
where Jehan Par6 lived : the church of Saint Andr6,
with a thousand memories in it, is just round the
corner. There are Ambroise's five houses, all for
him and his kinsfolk : at number 6, M^ry de Prime,
wine-seller, who also was one of the family : at num-
ber 7 lived Francois Pichonnat : at number 8, Charles
de Paris, master pastry-cook. Claude Viart, before he

i8o Ambroise Pare

married Jehanne Pare, lived, for no less than twenty
years, as Ambroise's pupil, in the same house with
him. Catherine, Jehanne Mazelin's only child that
lived, came home to the old Maison de La Vache, and
died there in 1616. By the labour of love of Lc
Paulmier, who has published every possible docu-
ment touching Ambroise's life, we possess a wealth
of materials for romancing over this story of the
houses in the Rue de L' Hirondelle.*

" Only the King's Surgeon."

It was Sully, himself only a King's minister, who
spoke thus of Ambroise Pare. He was surgeon to
four Kings, not counting the King of Navarre : to
Henri H., and his three sons in succession, Francois
n., Charles IX., and Henri III. Surgeon-in-ordinary
(1552) to Henri II. : surgeon-in-ordinary and valet-de-
chambre to Frangois II. : surgeon-in-ordinary, and
afterward (New Year's Day, 1562) premier surgeon
to Charles IX. : premier surgeon and councillor (1574)

* Eighteen years ago, M. Turner believed that he had discovered
Fare's house. "At the present day, in that part of the Rue de 1'
Hirondelle which has not yet been pulled down, there is a large
house that still catches your attention. It has been a great deal al-
tered : but the door has still the shape of the doorways of the Renais-
sance. The bit of carving over the low arch, and another carving in
the wall at the back of the courtyard, have an air of antiquity. But
no tradition concerning Pare is connected with it, and the present
owner believes that it must have belonged to Diane de Poitiers. I
am of opinion that it is really Ambroise Pare's house."

Paris i8i

to Henri III. He was still holding this appointment
in 1587, three years before he died. The deaths of
Henri H. and Francois H. must be noted here ; and
one or two stories, in lighter vein, how Par6 bore
himself toward great people.

On June 29, 1.559, Henri H., in the fortieth year of
his life, and the twelfth of his reign, was present with
the Queen at a three-days tournament : the lists were
set at the end of the Rue Saint Antoine, near the
Bastille. It was the last day, and the King was
minded to break a lance with Gabriel de Lorges,
Comte de Montgomery, captain of the Scotch Guard ;
who would have refused, but the King compelled
him. It should be the last time ; he must do it as a
favour to the King. They met and broke their
lances in the approved fashion ; but Montgomery, by
accident or design, did not let drop his broken shaft :
it struck the King's helmet, lifted its vizor, and
wounded him above the right eye :

" The muscular skin of the forehead, over the bone,
was torn across to the inner angle of the left eye, and there
were many little fragments or splinters of the broken
shaft lodged in the eye ; but no fracture of the bone.
Yet because of such commotion or shaking of the brain,
he died on the eleventh day after he was struck. And
after his death, they found on the side opposite to the
blow, toward the middle of the commissure of the oc-
cipital bone, a quantity of blood effused between the

1 82 Ambroise Pare

dura mater and the pia mater : and alteration in the
substance of the brain, which was of a brownish or yel-
lowish colour for about the extent of one's thumb : at
which place was found a beginning of corruption : which
were causes enough of the death of my Lord, and not
only the harm done to his eye."

" Five or six surgeons," says Carloix, " the most
skilful in France, diligently did their best to probe
the wound, and to search for the way into the brain
where the splinters of the broken shaft might have
gone. But it was impossible for them to find it ;
even though for four days they anatomised four
heads of criminals, that had been cut off at the Con-
ciergerie of the Palace and the prisons of the Grand

Par6 was only one of many surgeons in attendance.
After the King's death, he put the case into his book
on Wounds of the Head ; and in the dedication to
Chapelain, he says, " On every occasion when the
appointed physicians and surgeons were assembled
to remedy the King's wound, and you, Monsieur, as
premier and chief of all, were usually present, to
hear the consultations and to give your judgment
and advice, what it was necessary to do in so dan-
gerous an evil — sometimes you did me the honour
to ask me my opinion." . . . Among the sur-
geons was Vesalius, come from Brussels by order
of Philip of Spain.



Paris 183

Fran9ois II. died within a year and a half of his
father, on December 5, 1560, at Orleans, aged seven-

" When one was least expecting it," says the author
of a Life of Coligny, published in 1686, " the King sud-
denly felt a great pain in his head, and took to his bed.
Men thought Conde's trial would now be put off ; but
the Guises, seeing how things would change if they lost
hold of Conde, so pressed sentence against him that he
was condemned to lose his head. When Coligny heard
this, he sent for Ambroise Pare, the King's surgeon ;
pretending he was ill. And as Pare was one of the num-
ber of his friends, and Coligny knew he secretly pro-
fessed the same religion as himself, he asked him
privately what he thought of the King's illness. Par^
said the King was in great danger, but he had not once
dared to say so, for fear of doing harm at the Court.
The Admiral answered he had done a great wrong, for
he would have prevented the condemnation of Conde ;
let him therefore go at once and spread the news, or their
religion would lose the strongest of its supports. Pare
promised to amend his fault, and did it at once ; all
the Court were astonished, having believed the King's
illness was nothing, especially as it had begun to dis-
charge from the ear, which made them think Nature had
found a way out. . . . But the King died in a few
days ; and all the intrigues during his illness made men
believe his end had been hastened. Pare was suspected
of having put poison in his ear while he was dressing it,
by command of the Queen-mother."

The lives of the Queen-mother and of Pare touched

184 Ambroise Pare

again and again, but there is nothing to show that
she was ever his patient. They came to Paris about
the same time, the King's strange Italian wife, and
the barber-surgeon's apprentice: they died, one in
1589, the other in 1590; they were together at Rouen,
at Moncontour, and on the long journey to Bayonne ;
she saw the curiosities of surgery that he showed at
Court ; she bade him write the treatise on the
plague : he must have spoken with her hundreds of
times. One scrap of talk has come down to us:
" M. Pare, do you believe you will be saved in the
next world ? " — " Surely, madame ; for I do what I
can to be a good man in this world ; and God is merci-
ful, giving ear well to all languages, and alike satis-
fied whether one prays to Him in French or in Latin."
But there is no record that she was ever in need
of surgery * ; and even Ambroise might have faltered
in his skill, with such a life entrusted to him ; like
the doctor who stands helpless and talks with the

* L'Estoile says that once she was ill of a surfeit, and once (only
once, in such a life ?) her nerves gave way, and she saw a ghost.
On December 26, 1574, at Avignon, died Charles de Guise, Cardinal
of Lorraine. According to his own people, he made a good end ;
but the Huguenots said he died cursing and swearing and calling on
devils. The day that Catherine heard of his death, she was talking
of it at dinner ; as they gave her glass into her hands, she began to
tremble, and let it fall ; — " Jesus ! There is Monsieur the Cardinal of
Lorraine : I can see him." For some nights following, she had the
same vision.

Paris 185

waiting-woman, while Lady Macbeth is washing the
smell of the blood from her hands.

There is a tradition that Mary Stuart liked him,
and often talked with him ; and one or two stories,
of no great value, have been preserved about his
Hfe at the Court. They had best be put on a string
here. Once, the King sent for Ambroise, and Am-
boise, Seigneur de Bussy, went by mistake instead
of him ; and when they laughed at him, he declared
that if he had not been Amboise, he would wish to be
Ambroise ; for there was nobody at the Court whom
he admired more. Once, the King's dogs were ailing,
and the King said that Ambroise must see them.
He would not ; he sent one of the servants from the
royal kennels, and went home in a rage ; the King
heard of this, but still addressed him next day as
" my dear Ambroise." Once, Chapelain the Queen-
mother's physician was suspected of treason against
Charles IX., and the young King told his suspicions
to Ambroise ; who answered him : " No, Sire, his
accusers are the real criminals, who would rob you of
one of the best of your servants." And the last
story is that the magnificent young gentlemen at the
Court gave the name of " ambrosia " to Ambroise's
decoctions; to be under his treatment was called
** living on ambrosia " : surely a very little joke to
come such a very long way.

1 86 Ambroise Par6

There is yet another story, and to his discredit ;
he tells it against himself, with some remorse, but
not enough ; the horrible story of the Cook and the
Bezoar-stone. A gentleman at the Court showed to
Charles IX. a bezoar-stone, as was the fashion then
to show all sorts of odd things to Royalty, and told
him it was a universal antidote to all poisons. The
King asked Par6 if this were possible ; who said it
was not; each poison must have its own contrary for
its antidote ; but it would be easy to try it on a con-
demned criminal.

" Then the King sent for M. de La Trousse, his Pro-
vost, and asked him if he had anyone who deserved
hanging. He said that he had in his prisons a cook,
who had stolen two silver dishes in his master's house,
and was to be hanged to-morrow. The King said he
wished to make trial of a stone which they said was
good against all poisons ; let them ask the said cook,
now he was condemned, if he would take a certain poi-
son, and forthwith they would give him an antidote,
and if he recovered he should keep his life. The cook
very willingly agreed, saying he would far rather die of
poison in prison than be hanged in the sight of the peo-
ple. Then an apothecary gave him a certain poison to
drink, and forthwith the bezoar-stone. Having these
two fine drugs inside him, he began crying out he was on
fare, calling for water to drink, which was not refused
him. , . . An hour later, having heard of it, I asked
M. de La Trousse to let me go and see him, and he sent me
thither with three of his archers. I found the poor cook



Paris 187

on all fours, going like an animal, his tongue out of his
mouth, his eyes and his face flaming red. ... I
made him drink about half a sextier of oil, thinking to
save his life ; but it was of no service, being given too
late, and he died miserably, crying out he had better
have died on the gallows : he lived about seven hours." *

The evil that we do lives after us. Years later,
the faculty attacked Par6 over this bad business of
the bezoar-stone ; here is his lame defence (i575) of
himself and of the King :

" Those who consider the end for which the poison
was given, may see my action was neither detestable, nor
defamatory of the King's memory, but rather praisewor-
thy, that I let them poison the thief, fearing for the love
of the service I bore my master that if he himself were
secretly poisoned he might trust such an antidote. And
I do not consider I defamed the memory of his name by
citing him in the story, no more than Matthiolus defamed
the memory of Pope Clement VII., telling a similar
story ; who commanded that poison should be given to
two robbers, for testing the virtue of an oil said to be
antidotal to all poisons. Moreover, the thief took the
poison of his own free will, preferring to die in prison,
having hope of escape, rather than end his days in pub-
lic with a halter."

* A bezoar-stone is a concretion found in the intestines of some
herbivorous animals. The poison given to the poor man was proba-
bly corrosive sublimate.

For an earlier instance of experiments on condemned criminals,
January, 1474, see the story of the Archer of Meudon ; page 154 of
Malgaigne's Introduction to Fare's Works.

1 88 Ambroise Pare

The Saint Bartholomew's Massacre.

On the Friday (August 22, 1572,) before the mas-
sacre, CoHgny, leaving the Louvre and busy reading
a letter, was shot by Maurevel, from the window of
a house close to Saint Germain LAuxerrois. His
left arm was wounded, and tv/o fingers of his right
hand were broken ; but he walked home to his
house. Par4 amputated the two fingers, and made
one or more incisions in the arm. He had come in
haste ; his instruments were ill chosen, and he did
not do the operation well ; but Coligny did not
flinch, and whispered to one of those round him
that Merlin, a minister of the Reformed Church in
Paris, was to give a hundred gold crowns to the
poor. It was feared the shot was poisoned : he
said, " That will be as it shall please God ; pray
Him to give me the gift of patience." On the Sun-
day morning early, he was woke by the tumult
round his house and the firing of shots in the court-
yard. He rose, steadied himself against the wall, and
said to Merlin, " Pray for me ; I commend my soul
to the Saviour." One of his gentlemen, named Cor-
naton, came into the room ; Pare, who was watch-
ing by Coligny's bed, asked what had happened.
Cornaton answered to Coligny, " Monseigneur, it
is God who calls us to Him." Coligny said, " I
have been ready to die this long time ; but you.




Paris 189

my friends, save yourselves if you still can." They
went up to the top of the house, and escaped
through a window in the roof.
Of the King, Brantome says :

" He kept crying out, ' Kill, kill,' and never had a
wish to save one of them, except Master Ambroise
Pare ; and he sent for him to come that night into his
chamber, commanding him not to stir out of it ; and
said it was not reasonable that one who was worth a
whole world of men should be thus murdered, and he
would not urge him, no more than he would urge his
old nurse, to change his religion,"

Sully, who was twelve years old at the time of
the massacre, and came in danger of death during
it, says :

" Of all those round the King, not one had so much of
his confidence as Ambroise Pare. This man, who was only
his surgeon, had become so familiar with him that on the
day of the massacre, when the King told him that every-
body must now turn Catholic, Pare coolly answered him,
* By the light of God, Sire, I think you remember your
promise never to command these four things of me : To
enter again into my mother's womb, to look after my-
self in battle, to leave your service, and to go to Mass.'
The King took him aside, and disclosed the misery he
felt overwhelming him. ' Ambroise,' he said, ' I do not
know what has come over me these last two or three
days, but I find myself, mind and body, as much shaken
as if I had the fever. It seems to me at every moment,

190 Ambroise Pare

sleeping or waking, these massacred bodies keep show-
ing me their frightful blood-stained faces. I can only-
hope that among them are none that were witless, none
that Avere innocent.' "

When the killing was all done, the Queen-mother,
pour repaistre ses yeux, went to see CoHgny's body
hanging on the gallows at Montfaucon. On the
evening of the Sunday of the massacre, pour se
refraischir un peu et se donner plaisir, she walked
with her ladies to see the dead bodies in the
streets ; and was pleased to make some particu-
larly obscene pathological observations on one of
those that were naked. She could take an interest
in pathology without Park's help this time : and he
must have been wishing himself with the dead. He
saw his country running blood, the poor taxed past
endurance, and every office under government to
be had for money : his friends were dead in the
streets, at the bottom of the Seine, on the gallows.
Worse things were yet to come ; but already, look
which way he would, he could not see the salvation
of France.




" I am so determined not to hide the talent it has pleased God to
give me in Surgery, which is my calling in this brief life, that the
more my days pass away, so much the more I feel driven to work yet
harder while they last, to help, if I can, those who shall have to do
with me, while God is pleased to leave me in this world." — Preface of
the Book of the Plague, 1568.

ON Wednesday, November 4, 1573, Jehanne
Mazelin died, aged fifty-three, and was buried
that same day at Saint Andr^. Ambroise was left
alone with their only surviving child, Catherine, who
was thirteen years old. He had also the care of Je-
hanne Par^, his brother Jehan's daughter. Jehan had
died some time before 1560, and his second wife, Je-
hanne's mother, had died before 1577. Ambroise
and his wife seem to have adopted Jehanne Par^,
that the little Catherine might have a companion. In
1560, they set aside a dowry for her; in 1574, Am-
broise gave her a yearly allowance, and the house


192 Ambroise Pare

where she and Claude Viart lived after their marriage
in 1577.

Children and Grandchildren.

Thus left with the care of the two girls — a hard
matter to combine with his work — Ambroise married
again, in what looks like indecent haste. And it is
to be noted, as evidence of a good understanding
between Ambroise and his young daughter, and of a
strong centripetal force in the family, that father and
daughter married sister and brother. Ambroise
married Jacqueline Rousselet ; Catherine, seven years
later, married Francois Rousselet.

Ambroise and Jacqueline Rousselet were married
at Saint S6verin, January 18, 1574; less than three
months after Jehanne Mazelin's death. Jacqueline
was the daughter of Jacques Rousselet, one of the
King's servants ; her dowry was five thousand livres
iourfiois, but Ambroise took two thousand and no
more; he settled on her, under certain conditions,
five hundred livres tournois per annum : at her death,
he was to keep not only his clothes and his surgical
instruments, but also his weapons and his horses.
The affluent air of this second marriage-contract is
very different from the poverty of his first marriage :
more money, but less romance. Jacqueline's wit-
nesses to the contract were well-to-do people, Gov-



















Paris 193

ernment officials, such as are " in Society " : Ambroise
was content to have an old friend and neighbour,
Hilaire de Brion, shopkeeper, master-apothecary, and
grocer, bourgeois de Paris.

Six children were born to them ; and some of
the godparents were very grand personages. It may
be well here to follow the fortunes of all his children
by both wives, and the fortunes of Jehanne Par6,
who may be counted as one of the family.

Of Jehanne Mazelin's children, the two boys, born
fifteen years apart, Francois and Isaac, died in early
childhood. Catherine, the only one of Fare's child-
ren who could remember the old times, was married,
on March 28, 1581, to Frangois Rousselet, her step-
mother's brother, treasurer and secretary to the
King's brother. They had eight children, three of
whom were born before Ambroise died. Unhappily,
a dispute arose between Ambroise and the Rous-
selets, as to money owing to Catherine from the
time of her minority. A law suit was threatened, but
was averted by friends of the family, and the matter
was arranged ; probably the quarrel was wholly the
fault of Frangois Rousselet. He died before Cath-
erine: she came back, in her widowhood, to the old
Maison de La Vache, and died there September 21,

Jehanne Par6 married Ambroise's pupil, Claude

194 Ambroise Pare

Viart, on March 27, 1577. He was for twenty years
Ambroise's pupil or assistant ; he had been in prac-
tice at Nantes, and had served in the army. He had
plenty of money ; Jehanne had the house, her dowry,
and her allowance, — all of them the gifts of Am-
broise ; who also gave Claude all his surgical instru-
ments, certain rights over his books, the plates for the
first edition of the Complete Works, — which had cost
more than a thousand crowns, — and his long black
robe with the velvet trimmings. Claude Viart died
about 1583 ; Jehanne made a second marriage with
Frangois Forest of Orleans, January 11, 1588 ; they
had a son, Francois, born 1589.

The children of Ambroise Par6 and his second
wife, Jacqueline Rousselet, were :

1. Anne, baptised at Saint Andr6, July 16, I575>
with godparents of exceptional splendour : Anne
d'Este, Duchesse de Nemours, and her son, Due
de Nemours, She was married July 4, 1596, to
Henri Simon, who became one of the King's
Council, and held a high position in the Gov-
ernment. In 1599, Anne nearly died in child-
birth. Her life was saved by Haultin, by a
method that her father had taught him. Anne
and her husband were alive, but without child-
ren, in 1616.

2. Ambroise, baptised May 30, 1576, died in in-

Paris 195

fancy. Grand godparents again : Charles, Comte
de Mansfeld, son of Park's old patient ; Charles,
Marquis d'ElbcEuf, one of the Guises ; and
Philippe de Montespedon, Princesse de La
Roche-sur-Yon, wife of another old patient.

3. Marie, baptised February 6, 1578.

4. Jacquehne, baptised October 8, 1579; died

5. Catherine, baptised at Saint Andr6, February
12, 1581. This is Catherine the second. She
was married at Saint Andre, September 29,
1603, to Claude Hedelin, advocate, poet, and
Government ofificial. They had twelve children,
one of whom, Francois, was the famous Abbe
d'Aubignac. Claude H6delin died in 1638.
Catherine died in 1659. The portrait of Am-
broise, in the beginning of this book, and many
documents relating to the family, are in the
possession of Mdme. la Marquise de Charron, a
descendant of the Hedelins.

6. Ambroise the second, baptised November 8,
1583 ; died August next year.

That is the history of Ambroise Park's nine child-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryStephen PagetAmbroise Paré and his times, 1510-1590 → online text (page 11 of 18)