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A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times
Louis Xiv., Literature And Art.
by Guizot, M.


It has been said in this History that Louis XIV. had the fortune to find himself at the culminating point of absolute monarchy, and to profit by the labors of his predecessors, reaping a portion of their glory; he had likewise the honor of enriching himself with the labors of his contemporaries, and attracting to himself a share of their lustre; the honor, be it said, not the fortune, for he managed to remain the centre of intellectual movement as well as of the court, of literature and art as well as affairs of state. Only the abrupt and solitary genius of Pascal or the prankish and ingenuous geniality of La Fontaine held aloof from king and court; Racine and Moliere, Bossuet and Fenelon, La Bruyere and Boileau lived frequently in the circle of Louis XIV., and enjoyed in different degrees his favor; M. de la Rochefoucauld and Madame de Sevigne were of the court; Lebrun, Rigaud, Mignard, painted for the king; Perrault and Mansard constructed the Louvre and Versailles; the learned of all countries considered it an honor to correspond with the new academies founded in France. Louis XIV. was even less a man of letters or an artist than an administrator or a soldier; but literature and art, as well as the superintendents and the generals, found in him the King. The puissant unity of the reign is everywhere the same. The king and the nation are in harmony.

Pascal, had he been born later, would have remained independent and proud, from the nature of his mind and of his character as well as from the connection he had full early with Port-Royal, where they did not rear courtiers; he died, however, at thirty-nine, in 1661, the very year in which Louis XIV. began to govern. Born at Clermont, in Auvergne, educated at his father's and by his father, though it was not thought desirable to let him study mathematics, he had already discovered by himself the first thirty-two propositions of Euclid, when Cardinal Richelieu, holding on his knee little Jacqueline Pascal, and looking at her brother, said to M. Pascal, the two children's father, who had come to thank him for a favor, "Take care of them; I mean to make something great of them." This was the native and powerful instinct of genius divining genius; Richelieu, however, died three years later, without having done anything for the children who had impressed him beyond giving their father a share in the superintendence of Rouen; he thus put them in the way of the great Corneille, who was affectionately kind to Jacqueline, but took no particular notice of Blaise Pascal. The latter was seventeen; he had already written his Traite des Coniques (Treatise on Conics) and begun to occupy himself with "his arithmetical machine," as his sister, Madame Perier calls it. At twenty-three he had ceased to apply his mind to human sciences; "when he afterwards discovered the roulette (cycloid), it was without thinking," says Madame Perier, "and to distract his attention from a severe tooth-ache he had." He was not twenty-four when anxiety for his salvation and for the glory of God had taken complete possession of his soul. It was to the same end that he composed the Lettres Provinciales, the first of which was written in six days, and the style of which, clear, lively, precise, far removed from the somewhat solemn gravity of Port-Royal, formed French prose as Malherbe and Boileau formed the poetry. This was the impression of his contemporaries, the most hard of them to please in the art of writing. "That is excellent; that will be relished," said the recluses of Port-Royal, in spite of the misgivings of M. Singlin. More than thirty years after Pascal's death, Madame de Sevigne, in 1689, wrote to Madame de Grignan, "Sometimes, to divert ourselves, we read the little Letters (to a provincial). Good heavens, how charming! And how my son reads them! I always think of my daughter, and how that excess of correctness of reasoning would suit her; but your brother says that you consider that it is always the same thing over again. Ah! My goodness, so much the better! Could any one have a more perfect style, a raillery more refined, more natural, more delicate, worthier offspring of those dialogues of Plato, which are so fine? And when, after the first ten letters, he addresses himself to the reverend Jesuit fathers, what earnestness, what solidity, what force! What eloquence! What love for God and for the truth! What a way of maintaining it and making it understood! I am sure that you have never read them but in a hurry, pitching on the pleasant places; but it is not so when they are read at leisure." Lord Macaulay once said to M. Guizot, "Amongst modern works I know only two perfect ones, to which there is no exception to be taken, and they are Pascal's Provincials and the Letters of Madame de Sevigne."

Boileau was of Lord Macaulay's opinion; at least as regarded Pascal. "Corbinelli wrote to me the other day," says Madame de Sevigne, on the 15th of January, 1690: "he gave me an account of a conversation and a dinner at M. de Lamoignon's: the persons were the master and mistress of the house, M. de Troyes, M. de Toulon, Father Bourdaloue, a comrade of his, Despredaux, and Corbinelli. The talk was of ancient and modern works. Despreaux supported the ancient, with the exception of one single modern, which surpassed, in his opinion, both old and new. Bourdaloue's comrade, who assumed the well-read air, and who had fastened on to Despreaux and Corbinelli, asked him what in the world this book could be that was so remarkably clever. Despreaux would not give the name. Corbinelli said to him, 'Sir, I conjure you to tell me, that I may read it all night.' Despreaux answered, laughing, 'Ah! sir, you have read it more than once, I am sure.' The Jesuit joins in, with a disdainful air, and presses Despreaux to name this marvellous writer. 'Do not press me, father,' says Despreaux. The father persists. At last Despreaux takes hold of his arm, and squeezing it very hard, says, 'You will have it, father; well, then, egad! it is Pascal.' 'Pascal,' says the father, all blushes and astonishment; 'Pascal is as beautiful as the false can be.' 'False,' replied Despreaux: 'false! Let me tell you that he is as true as he is inimitable; he has just been translated into three languages.' The father rejoined, 'He is none the more true for that.' Despreaux grew warm, and shouted like a madman: 'Well, father, will you say that one of yours did not have it printed in one of his books that a Christian was not obliged to love God? Dare you say that that is false?' 'Sir,' said the father, in a fury, 'we must distinguish.' 'Distinguish!' cried Despreaux; 'distinguish, egad! distinguish! Distinguish whether we are obliged to love God!' And, taking Corbinelli by the arm, he flew off to the other end of the room, coming back again, and rushing about like a lunatic; but he would not go near the father any more, and went off to join the rest of the company. Here endeth the story; the curtain falls." Literary taste and religious sympathies combined, in the case of Boileau, to exalt Pascal.

The provincials could not satisfy for long the pious ardor of Pascal's soul; he took in hand his great work on the Verite de la Religion. He had taken a vigorous part in the discussions of Port-Royal as to subscription of the formulary: his opinion was decidedly in favor of resistance. It was the moment when MM. Arnauld and Nicole had discovered a restriction, as it was then called, which allowed of subscribing with a safe conscience. "M. Pascal, who loved truth above all things," writes his niece, Marguerite Perier; "who, moreover, was pulled down by a pain in the head, which never left him; who had exerted himself to make them feel as he himself felt; and who had expressed himself very vigorously in spite of his weakness, was so grief-stricken that he had a fit, and lost speech and consciousness. Everybody was alarmed. Exertions were made to bring him round, and then those gentlemen withdrew. When he was quite recovered, Madame Perier asked him what had caused this incident. He answered, 'When I saw all those persons that I looked upon as being those whom God had made to know the truth, and who ought to be its defenders, wavering and falling. I declare to you that I was so overcome with grief that I was unable to support it, and could not help breaking down.'" Blaise Pascal was the worthy brother of Jacqueline; in the former, as well as the latter, the soul was too ardent and too strong for its covering of body. Nearly all his relatives died young. "I alone am left," wrote Mdlle. Perier, when she had become, exceptionally, very aged. "I might say, like Simon Maccabeus, the last of all his brethren, All my relatives and all my brethren are dead in the service of God and in the love of truth. I alone am left; please God I may never have a thought of backsliding!"

Pascal was unable to finish his work. "God, who had inspired my brother with this design and with all his thoughts," writes his sister, "did not permit him to bring it to its completion, for reasons to us unknown." The last years of Pascal's life, invalid as he had been from the age of eighteen, were one long and continual torture, accepted and supported with an austere disdain of suffering. Incapable of any application, he gave his attention solely to his salvation and the care of the poor. "I have taken it into my head," says he, "to have in the house a sick pauper, to whom the same service shall be rendered as to myself; particular attention to be paid to him, and, in fact, no difference to be made between him and me, in order that I may have the consolation of knowing that there is one pauper as well treated as myself, in the perplexity I suffer from finding myself in the great affluence of every sort in which I do find myself." The spirit of M. de St. Cyran is there, and also the spirit of the gospel, which caused Pascal, when he was dying, to say, "I love poverty, because Jesus Christ loved it. I love wealth, because it gives the means of assisting the needy." A genius unique in the extent and variety of his faculties, which were applied with the same splendid results to mathematics and physics, to philosophy and polemics, disdaining all preconceived ideas, going unerringly and straightforwardly to the bottom of things with admirable force and profundity, independent and free even in his voluntary submission to the Christian faith, which he accepts with his eyes open, after having weighed it, measured it, and sounded it to its uttermost depths, too steadfast and too simple not to bow his head before mysteries, all the while acknowledging his ignorance. "If there were no darkness," says he, "man would not feel his corruption; if there were no light, man would have no hope of remedy. Thus it is not only quite right, but useful, for us that God should be concealed in part, and revealed in part, since it is equally dangerous for man to know God without knowing his own misery, and to know his own misery without knowing God." The lights of this great intellect had led him to acquiesce in his own fogs. "One can be quite sure that there is a God, without knowing what He is," says he.

In 1627, four years after Pascal, and, like him, in a family of the long robe, was born, at Dijon, his only rival in that great art of writing prose which established the superiority of the French language. At sixteen, Bossuet preached his first sermon in the drawing-room of Madame de Rambouillet, and the great Conde was pleased to attend his theological examinations. He was already famous at court as a preacher and a polemist when the king gave him the title of Bishop of Condom, almost immediately inviting him to become preceptor to the dauphin. A difficult and an irksome task for him who had already written for Turenne an exposition of the Catholic faith, and had delivered the funeral orations over Madame Henriette and the Queen of England. "The king has greatly at heart the dauphin's education," wrote Father Lacoue to Colbert; "he regards it as one of his grand state-strokes in respect of the future." The dauphin was not devoid of intelligence. "Monseigneur has plenty of wits," said Councillor Le Gout de Saint-Seine in his private journal, "but his wits are under a bushel." The boy was indolent, with little inclination for work, roughly treated by his governor, the Duke of Montausier, who was endowed with more virtue than ability in the superintendence of a prince's education. "O," cried Monseigneur, when official announcement was made to him of the project of marriage which the king was conducting for him with the Princess Christine of Bavaria, "we shall see whether M. Huet (afterwards bishop of Avranches) will want to make me learn ancient geography any more!" Bossuet had better understood what ought to be the aim of a king's education. "Remember, Monseigneur," he constantly repeated to him, "that destined as you are to reign some day over this great kingdom, you are bound to make it happy." He was in despair at his pupil's inattention. "There is a great deal to endure with a mind so destitute of application," he wrote to Marshal Bellefonds; "there is no perceptible relief, and we go on, as St. Paul says, hoping against hope." He had written a little treatise on inattention, De Incogitantia,—in the vain hope of thus rousing his pupil to work. "I dread nothing in the world so much," Louis XIV would say, "as to have a sluggard (faineant) dauphin; I would much prefer to have no son at all!" Bossuet foresaw the innumerable obstacles in the way of his labors. "I perceive, as I think," he wrote to his friends, "in the dauphin the beginnings of great graces, a simplicity, a straightforwardness, a principle of goodness, an attention, amidst all his flightiness, to the mysteries, a something or other which comes with a flash, in the middle of his distractions, to call him back to God. You would be charmed if I were to tell you the questions he puts to me, and the desire he shows to be a good servant of God. But the world! the world! the world! pleasures, evil counsels, evil examples! Save us, Lord! save us! Thou didst verily preserve the children from the furnace, but Thou didst send Thine angel; and, as for me, alas! what am I? Humility, trepidation, absorption into one's own nothingness!"

It was not for Bossuet that the honor was reserved of succeeding in the difficult task of a royal education. Fenelon encountered in the Duke of Burgundy a more undisciplined nature, a more violent character, and more dangerous tendencies than Bossuet had to fight against in the grand-dauphin; but there was a richer mind and a warmer heart; the preceptor, too, was more proper for the work. Bossuet, nevertheless, labored conscientiously to instruct his little prince, studying for him and with him the classical authors, preparing grammatical expositions, and, lastly, writing for his edification the Traite de la Connaissance de Dieu et de soi-mime (Treatise on the Knowledge of God and of Self), the Discours sur l'Histoire Universelle (Discourse on Universal History), and the Politique tiree de l'Ecriture Sainte (Polity derived from Holy Writ). The labor was in vain; the very loftiness of his genius, the extent and profundity of his views, rendered Bossuet unfit to get at the heart and mind of a boy who was timid, idle, and kept in fear by the king as well as by his governor. The dauphin was nineteen when his marriage restored Bossuet to the church and to the world; the king appointed him almoner to the dauphiness, and, before long, Bishop of Meaux.

Neither the assembly of the clergy and the part he played therein, nor his frequent preachings at court, diverted Bossuet from his duties as bishop; he habitually resided at Meaux, in the midst of his priests. The greater number of his sermons, written at first in fragments, collected from memory in their aggregate, and repeated frequently with divergences in wording and development, were preached in the cathedral of Meaux. The dauphin sometimes went thither to see him. "Pray, sir," he had said to him, in his childhood, "take great care of me whilst I am little; I will of you when I am big." Assured of his righteousness as a priest and his fine tact as a man, the king appealed to Bossuet in the delicate conjunctures of his life. It is related that it was the Bishop of Meaux who dissuaded him from making public his marriage with Madame de Maintenon. She, more anxious for power than splendor, did not bear him any ill-will for it; amidst the various leanings of the court, divided as it was between Jansenism and Quietism, it was to the simple teaching of the Catholic church, represented by Bossuet, that she remained practically attached. Right-minded and strong-minded, but a little cold-hearted, Madame de Maintenon could not suffer herself to be led away by the sublime excesses of the Jansenists or the pious reveries of Madame Guyon; the Jesuits had influence over her, without her being a slave to them; and that influence increased after the death of Bossuet. The guidance of the Bishop of Meaux, in fact, answered the requirements of spirits that were pious and earnest without enthusiasm: less ardent in faith and less absolute in religious practice than M. de St. Cyran and Port-Royal, less exacting in his demands than Father Bourdaloue, susceptible now and then of mystic ideas, as is proved by his letters to Sister Cornuau, he did not let himself be won by the vague ecstasies of absolute (pure) love; he had a mind large enough to say, like Mother Angelica Arnauld, "I am of all saints' order, and all saints are of my order;" but his preferences always inclined towards those saints and learned doctors who had not carried any religious tendency to excess, and who had known how to rest content with the spirit of a rule and a faith that were practical. A wonderful genius, discovering by flashes, and as if by instinct, the most profound truths of human nature, and giving them expression in an incomparable style, forcing, straining the language to make it render his idea, darting at one bound to the sublimest height by use of the simplest terms, which he, so to speak, bore away with him, wresting them from their natural and proper signification. "There, in spite of that great heart of hers, is that princess so admired and so beloved; there, such as Death has made her for us!" Bossuet alone could speak like that.

He was writing incessantly, all the while that he was preaching at Meaux and at Paris, making funeral orations over the queen, Maria Theresa, over the Princess Palatine, Michael Le Tellier, and the Prince of Conde. The Edict of Nantes had just been revoked; controversy with the Protestant ministers, headed by Claude and Jurieu, occupied a great space in the life of the Bishop of Meaux. He at that time wrote his Histoire des Variations, often unjust and violent, always able in its attacks upon the Reformation; he did not import any zeal into persecution, though all the while admitting unreservedly the doctrines universally propagated amongst Catholics. "I declare," he wrote to M. de Baville, "that I am and have always been of opinion, first, that princes may by penal laws constrain all heretics to conform to the profession and practices of the Catholic church; secondly, that this doctrine ought to be held invariable in the church, which has not only conformed to, but has even demanded, similar ordinances from princes." He at the same time opposed the constraint put upon the new converts to oblige them to go to mass, without requiring from them any other act of religion.

"When the emperors imposed a like obligation on the Donatists," he wrote to the Bishop of Mirepoix, "it was on the supposition that they were converted, or would be; but the heretics at the present time, who declare themselves by not fulfilling their Easter (communicating), ought to be rather hindered from assisting at the mysteries than constrained thereto, and the more so in that it appears to be a consequence thereof to constrain them likewise to fulfil their Easter, which is expressly to give occasion for frightful sacrilege. They might be constrained to undergo instruction; but, so far as I can learn, that would hardly advance matters, and I think that we must be reduced to three things; one is, to oblige them to send their children to the schools, or, in default, to find means of taking them out of their hands; another is, to be firm as regards marriages; and the last is, to take great pains to become privately acquainted with those of whom there are good hopes, and to procure for them solid instruction and veritable enlightenment; the rest must be left to time and to the grace of God. I know of nothing else." About the same time Fenelon, engaged upon the missions in Poitou, being as much convinced as the Bishop of Meaux of a sovereign's rights over the conscience of the faithful, as well as of the terrible danger of hypocrisy, wrote to Bossuet, telling him that he had demanded the withdrawal of the troops in all the districts he was visiting: "It is no light matter to change the sentiments of a whole people. What difficulty must the apostles have found in changing the face of the universe, overcoming all passions, and establishing a doctrine till then unheard of, seeing that we cannot persuade the ignorant by clear and express passages which they read every day in favor of the religion of their ancestors, and that the king's own authority stirs up every passion to render persuasion more easy for us! The remnants of this sect go on sinking little by little, as regards all exterior observance, into a religious indifference which cannot but cause fear and trembling. If one wanted to make them abjure Christianity and follow the Koran, there would be nothing required but to show them the dragoons; provided that they assemble by night, and withstand all instruction, they consider that they have done enough." Cardinal Noailles was of the same mind as Bossuet and Fenelon. "The king will be pained to decide against your opinion as regards the new converts," says a letter to him from Madame de Maintenon; "meanwhile the most general is to force them to attend at mass. Your opinion seems to be a condemnation of all that has been hitherto done against these poor creatures. It is not pleasant to hark back so far, and it has always been supposed that, in any case, they must have a religion." In vain were liberty of conscience and its inviolable rights still misunderstood by the noblest spirits, the sincerity and high-mindedness of the great bishops instinctively revolted against the hypocrisy engendered of persecution. The tacit assuagement of the severities against the Reformers, between 1688 and 1700, was the fruit of the representations of Bossuet, Fenelon, and Cardinal Noailles. Madame de Maintenon wrote at that date to one of her relatives, "You are converted; do not meddle in the conversion of others. I confess to you that I do not like the idea of answering before God and the king for all those conversions."

At the same time with the controversial treatises, the Elevations sur les Mysteres and the Meditations sur l'Evangile were written at Meaux, drawing the bishop away to the serener regions of supreme faith. There might he have chanced to meet those Reformers, as determined as he in the strife, as attached, at bottom, as he, for life and death, to the mysteries and to the lights of a common hope. "When God shall give us grace to enter Paradise," St. Bernard used to say, "we shall be above all astonished at not finding some of those whom we had thought to meet there, and at finding others whom we did not expect." Bossuet had a moments glimpse of this higher truth; in concert with Leibnitz, a great intellect of more range in knowledge and less steadfastness than he in religious faith, he tried to reconcile the Catholic and Protestant communions in one and the same creed. There were insurmountable difficulties on both sides; the attempt remained unsuccessful.

The Bishop of Meaux had lately triumphed in the matter of Quietism, breaking the ties of old friendship with Fenelon, and more concerned about defending sound doctrine in the church than fearful of hurting his friend, who was sincere and modest in his relations with him, and humbly submissive to the decrees of the court of Rome. The Archbishop of Cambrai was in exile at his own diocese; Bossuet was ill at Meaux, still, however, at work, going deeper every day into that profound study of Holy Writ and of the fathers of the church which shines forth in all his writings. He had stone, and suffered agonies, but would not permit an operation. On his death-bed, surrounded by his nephews and his vicars, he rejected with disdain all eulogies on his episcopal life. "Speak to me of necessary truths," said he, preserving to the last the simplicity of a great and strong mind, accustomed to turn from appearances and secondary doctrines to embrace the mighty realities of time and of eternity. He died at Paris on the 12th of April, 1704, just when the troubles of the church were springing up again. Great was the consternation amongst the bishops of France, wont as they were to shape themselves by his counsels. "Men were astounded at this mortal's mortality." Bossuet was seventy-three.

A month later, on the 13th of May, Father Bourdaloue in his turn died. A model of close logic and moral austerity, with a stiff and manly eloquence, so impressed with the miserable insufficiency of human efforts, that he said as he was dying, "My God, I have wasted life; it is just that Thou recall it." There remained only Fenelon in the first rank, which Massillon did not as yet dispute with him. Malebranche was living retired in his cell at the Oratory, seldom speaking, writing his Recherches sur la Verite (Researches into Truth), and his Entretiens sur la Metaphysique (Discourses on Metaphysics), bolder in thought than he was aware of or wished, sincere and natural in his meditations as well as in his style. In spite of Flechier's eloquence in certain funeral orations, posterity has decided against the modesty of the Archbishop of Cambrai, who said at the death of the Bishop of Nimes, in 1710, "We have lost our master." In his retirement or his exile, after Bossuet's death, it was around Fenelon that was concentrated all the lustre of the French episcopate, long since restored to the respect and admiration it deserved.

Fenelon was born in Perigord, at the castle of Fenelon, on the 6th of August, 1651. Like Cardinal Retz he belonged to an ancient and noble house, and was destined from his youth for the church. Brought up at the seminary of St. Sulpice, lately founded by M. Olier, he for a short time conceived the idea of devoting himself to foreign missions; his weak health and his family's opposition turned him ere long from his purpose, but the preaching of the gospel amongst the heathen continued to have for him an attraction which is perfectly depicted in one of the rare sermons of his which have been preserved. He had held himself modestly aloof, occupied with confirming new Catholics in their conversion or with preaching to the Protestants of Poitou; he had written nothing but his Traite de l'Education des Filles, intended for the family of the Duke of Beauvilliers, and a book on the ministere du pasteur. He was in bad odor with Harlay, Archbishop of Paris, who had said to him curtly one day, "You want to escape notice, M. Abbe, and you will;" nevertheless, when Louis XIV. chose the Duke of Beauvilliers as governor to his grandson, the Duke of Burgundy, the duke at once called Fenelon, then thirty-eight years of age, to the important post of preceptor.

Whereas the grand-dauphin, endowed with ordinary intelligence, was indolent and feeble, his son was, in the same proportion, violent, fiery, indomitable. "The Duke of Burgundy," says St. Simon, "was a born demon (naquit terrible), and in his early youth caused fear and trembling. Harsh, passionate, even to the last degree of rage against inanimate things, madly impetuous, unable to bear the least opposition, even from the hours and the elements, without flying into furies enough to make you fear that everything inside him would burst; obstinate to excess, passionately fond of all pleasures, of good living, of the chase madly, of music with a sort of transport, and of play too, in which he could not bear to lose; often ferocious, naturally inclined to cruelty, savage in raillery, taking off absurdities with a patness which was killing; from the height of the clouds he regarded men as but atoms to whom he bore no resemblance, whoever they might be. Barely did the princes his brothers appear to him intermediary between himself and the human race, although there had always been an affectation of bringing them all three up in perfect equality; wits, penetration, flashed from every part of him, even in his transports; his repartees were astounding, his replies always went to the point and deep down, even in his mad fits; he made child's play of the most abstract sciences; the extent and vivacity of his wits were prodigious, and hindered him from applying himself to one thing at a time, so far as to render him incapable of it."

As a sincere Christian and a priest, Fenelon saw from the first that religion alone could triumph over this terrible nature; the Duke of Beauvilliers, as sincere and as christianly as he, without much wits, modestly allowed himself to be led; all the motives that act most powerfully on a generous spirit, honor, confidence, fear and love of God, were employed one after the other to bring the prince into self-subjection. He was but eight years old, and Fenelon had been only a few months with him, when the child put into his hands one day the following engagement:—

"I promise M. l'Abbe de Fenelon, on the honor of a prince, to do at once whatever he bids me, and to obey him the instant he orders me anything, and, if I fail to, I will submit to any kind of punishment and disgrace."

"Done at Versailles the 29th of November, 1689.

"Signed: Louis."

The child, however, would forget himself, and relapse into his mad fits. When his preceptor was chiding him one day for a grave fault, he went so far as to say, "No, no, sir; I know who I am and what you are." Fenelon made no reply; coldly and gravely he allowed the day to close and the night to pass without showing his pupil any sign of either resentment or affection. Next day the Duke of Burgundy was scarcely awake when his preceptor entered the room. "I do not know, sir," said he, "whether you remember what you said to me yesterday, that you know what you are and what I am. It is my duty to teach you that you do not know either one or the other. You fancy yourself, sir, to be more than I; some lackeys, no doubt, have told you so, but I am not afraid to tell you, since you force me to it, that I am more than you. You have sense enough to understand that there is no question here of birth. You would consider anybody out of his wits who pretended to make a merit of it that the rain of heaven had fertilized his crops without moistening his neighbors. You would be no wiser if you were disposed to be vain of your birth, which adds nothing to your personal merit. You cannot doubt that I am above you in lights and knowledge. You know nothing but what I have taught you; and what I have taught you is nothing compared with what I might still teach you. As for authority, you have none over me; and I, on the contrary, have it fully and entirely over you; the king and Monseigneur have told you so often enough. You fancy, perhaps, that I think myself very fortunate to hold the office I discharge towards you; disabuse yourself once more, sir; I only took it in order to obey the king and give pleasure to Monseigneur, and not at all for the painful privilege of being your preceptor; and, that you may have no doubt about it, I am going to take you to his Majesty, and beg him to get you another one, whose pains I hope may be more successful than mine." The Duke of Burgundy's passion was past, and he burst into sobs. "Ah! sir," he cried, "I am in despair at what took place yesterday; if you speak to the king, you will lose me his affection; if you leave me, what will be thought of me? I promise you. I promise you . . . that you shall be satisfied with me; but promise me . . ."

Fenelon promised nothing; he remained, and the foundation of his authority was laid forever in the soul of his pupil. The young prince did not forget what he was, but he had felt the superiority of his master. "I leave the Duke of Burgundy behind the door," he was accustomed to say, "and with you I am only little Louis."

God, at the same time with Fenelon, had taken possession of the Duke of Burgundy's soul. "After his first communion, we saw disappearing little by little all the faults which, in his infancy, caused us great misgivings as to the future," writes Madame de Maintenon. "His piety has caused such a metamorphosis that, from the passionate thing he was, he has become self-restrained, gentle, complaisant; one would say that that was his character, and that virtue was natural to him." "All his mad fits and spites yielded at the bare name of God," Fenelon used to say; "one day when he was in a very bad temper, and wanted to hide in his passion what he had done in his disobedience, I pressed him to tell me the truth before God; then he put himself into a great rage and bawled, 'Why ask me before God? Very well, then, as you ask me in that way, I cannot deny that I committed that fault.' He was as it were beside himself with excess of rage, and yet religion had such dominion over him that it wrung from him so painful an avowal." "From this abyss," writes the Duke of St. Simon, "came forth a prince affable, gentle, humane, self-restrained, patient, modest, humble, and austere towards himself, wholly devoted to his obligations and feeling them to be immense; he thought of nothing but combining the duties of a son and a subject with those to which he saw himself destined."

"From this abyss" came forth also a prince singularly well informed, fond of study, with a refined taste in literature, with a passion for science; for his instruction Fenelon made use of the great works composed for his father's education by Bossuet, adding thereto writings more suitable for his age; for him he composed the Fables and the Dialogues des Morts, and a Histoire de Charlemagne which has perished. In his stories, even those that were imaginary, he paid attention before everything to truth. "Better leave a history in all its dryness than enliven it at the expense of truth," he would say. The suppleness and richness of his mind sufficed to save him from wearisomeness; the liveliness of his literary impressions communicated itself to his pupil. "I have seen," says Fenelon in his letter to the French Academy, "I have seen a young prince, but eight years old, overcome with grief at sight of the peril of little Joash; I have seen him lose patience with the chief priest for concealing from Joash his name and his birth; I have seen him weeping bitterly as he listened to these verses:—
         'O! miseram Euridicen anima fugiente vocabat;
          Euridicen toto referebant flumine ripx.'"



The soul and mind of Fenelon were sympathetic; Bossuet, in writing for the grand-dauphin, was responsive to the requirements of his own mind, never to those of the boy's with whose education he had been intrusted.

Fenelon also wrote Telemaque. "It is a fabulous narrative," he himself says, "in the form of an heroic poem, like Homer's or Virgil's, wherein I have set forth the principal actions that are meet for a prince whose birth points him out as destined to reign. I did it at a time when I was charmed with the marks of confidence and kindness showered upon me by the king; I must have been not only the most ungrateful but the most insensate of men to have intended to put into it satirical and insolent portraits; I shrink from the bare idea of such a design. It is true that I have inserted in these adventures all the verities necessary for government and all the defects that one can show in the exercise of sovereign power; but I have not stamped any of them with a peculiarity which would point to any portrait or caricature. The more the work is read, the more it will be seen that I wished to express everything without depicting anybody consecutively; it is, in fact, a narrative done in haste, in detached pieces and at different intervals; all I thought of was to amuse the Duke of Burgundy, and, whilst amusing, to instruct him, without ever meaning to give the work to the public."

Telemaque was published, without any author's name and by an indiscretion of the copyist's, on the 6th of April, 1699. Fenelon was in exile at his diocese; public rumor before long attributed the work to him; the Maximes des Saints had just been condemned, Telemaque was seized, the printers were punished; some copies had escaped the police; the book was reprinted in Holland; all Europe read it, finding therein the allusions and undermeanings against which Fenelon defended himself. Louis XIV. was more than ever angry with the archbishop. "I cannot forgive M. de Cambrai for having composed the Telemaque," Madame de Maintenon would say. Fenelon's disgrace, begun by the Maximes des Saints touching absolute (pure) love, was confirmed by his ideal picture of kingly power. Chimerical in his theories of government, high-flown in his pious doctrines, Fenelon, in the conduct of his life as well as in his practical directions to his friends, showed a wisdom, a prudence, a tact which singularly belied the free speculations of his mind or his heart. He preserved silence amid the commendations and criticisms of the Telemaque. "I have no need and no desire to change my position," he would say; "I am beginning to be old, and I am infirm; there is no occasion for my friends to ever commit themselves or to take any doubtful step on my account. I never sought out the court; I was sent for thither. I staid there nearly ten years without obtruding myself, without taking a single step on my own behalf, without asking the smallest favor, without meddling in any matter, and confining myself to answering conscientiously in all matters about which I was spoken to. I was dismissed; all I have to do is to remain at peace in my own place. I doubt not that, besides the matter of my condemned work, the policy of Telemaque was employed against me upon the king's mind; but I must suffer and hold my tongue."

Every tongue was held within range of King Louis XIV. It was only on the 22d of December, 1701, four years after Fenelon's departure, that the Duke of Burgundy thought he might write to him in the greatest secrecy: "At last, my dear archbishop, I find a favorable opportunity of breaking the silence I have kept for four years. I have suffered many troubles since, but one of the greatest has been that of being unable to show you what my feelings towards you were during that time, and that my affection increased with your misfortunes, instead of being chilled by them. I think with real pleasure on the time when I shall be able to see you again, but I fear that this time is still a long way off. It must be left to the will of God, from whose mercy I am always receiving new graces. I have been many times unfaithful to Him since I saw you, but He has always done me the grace of recalling me to Him, and I have not, thank God, been deaf to His voice. I continue to study all alone, although I have not been doing so in the regular way for the last two years, and I like it more than ever. But nothing gives me more pleasure than metaphysics and ethics, and I am never tired of working at them. I have done some little pieces myself, which I should very much like to be in a position to send you, that you might correct them as you used to do my themes in old times. I shall not tell you here how my feelings revolted against all that has been done in your case, but we must submit to the will of God and believe that all has happened for our good. Farewell, my dear archbishop. I embrace you with all my heart; I ask your prayers and your blessing. —Louis."

"I speak to you of God and yourself only," answered Fenelon in a letter full of wise and tender counsels; "it is no question of me. Thank God, I have a heart at ease; my heaviest cross is that I do not see you, but I constantly present you before God in closer presence than that of the senses. I would give a thousand lives like a drop of water to see you such as God would have you."

Next year, in 1702, the king gave the Duke of Burgundy the command of the army in Flanders. He wrote to Fenelon, "I cannot feel myself so near you without testifying my joy thereat, and, at the same time, that which is caused by the king's permission to call upon you on my way; he has, however, imposed the condition that I must not see you in private. I shall obey this order, and yet I shall be able to talk to you as much as I please, for I shall have with me Saumery, who will make the third at our first interview after five years' separation." The archbishop was preparing to leave Cambrai so as not to be in the prince's way; he now remained, only seeing the Duke of Burgundy, however, in the presence of several witnesses; when he presented him with his table-napkin at supper, the prince raised his voice, and, turning to his old master, said, with a touching reminiscence of his childhood's passions, "I know what I owe you; you know what I am to you."

The correspondence continued, with confidence and deference on the part of the prince, with tender, sympathetic, far-sighted, paternal interest on the part of the archbishop, more and more concerned for the perils and temptations to which the prince was exposed in proportion as he saw him nearer to the throne and more exposed to the incense of the world. "The right thing is to become the counsel of his Majesty," he wrote to him on the death of the grand dauphin, "the father of the people, the comfort of the afflicted, the defender of the church; the right thing is to keep flatterers aloof and distrust them, to distinguish merit, seek it out and anticipate it, to listen to everything, believe nothing without proof, and, being placed above all, to rise superior to every one. The right thing is to desire to be father and not master. The right thing is not that all should be for one, but that one should be for all, to secure their happiness." A solemn and touching picture of an absolute monarch, submitting to God and seeking His will alone. Fenelon had early imbued his pupil with the spirit of it; and the pupil appeared on the point of realizing it; but God at a single blow destroyed all these fair hopes. "All my ties are broken," said Fenelon; "I live but on affection, and of affection I shall die; we shall recover ere long that which we have not lost; we approach it every day with rapid strides; yet a little while, and there will be no more cause for tears." A week later he was dead, leaving amongst his friends, so diminished already by death, an immeasurable gap, and amongst his adversaries themselves the feeling of a great loss. "I am sorry for the death of M. de Cambrai," wrote Madame de Maintenon on the 10th of January, 1715; "he was a friend I lost through Quietism, but it is asserted that he might have done good service in the council, if things should be pushed so far." Fenelon had not been mistaken, when he wrote once upon a time to Madame de Maintenon, who consulted him about her defects, "You are good towards those for whom you have liking and esteem, but you are cold so soon as the liking leaves you; when you are frigid your frigidity is carried rather far, and, when you begin to feel mistrust, your heart is withdrawn too brusquely from those to whom you had shown confidence."

Fenelon had never shown any literary prepossessions. He wrote for his friends or for the Duke of Burgundy, lavishing the treasures of his mind and spirit upon his letters of spiritual guidance, composing, in order to convince the Duke of Orleans, his Traite de l'Existence de Dieu, indifferent as to the preservation of the sermons he preached every Sunday, paying more attention to the plans of government he addressed to the young dauphin than to the publication of his works. Several were not collected until after his death. In delivering their eulogy of him at the French Academy, neither M. de Boze, who succeeded him, nor M. Dacier, director of the Academy, dared to mention the name of Telemaque. Clever (spirituel) "to an alarming extent" (faire peur) in the minutest detail of his writings, rich, copious, harmonious, but not without tendencies to lengthiness, the style of Fenelon is the reflex of his character; sometimes, a little subtle and covert, like the prelate's mind, it hits and penetrates without any flash (eclat) and without dealing heavy blows. "Graces flowed from his lips," said Chancellor d'Aguesseau, "and he seemed to treat the greatest subjects as if, so to speak, they were child's play to him; the smallest grew to nobleness beneath his pen, and he would have made flowers grow in the midst of thorns. A noble singularity, pervading his whole person, and a something sublime in his very simplicity, added to his characteristics a certain prophet-like air. Always original, always creative, he imitated nobody, and himself appeared inimitable." His last act was to write a letter to Father Le Tellier to be communicated to the king. "I have just received extreme unction; that is, the state, reverend father, when I am preparing to appear before God, in which I pray you with instance to represent to the king my true sentiments. I have never felt anything but docility towards the church and horror at the innovations which have been imputed to me. I accepted the condemnation of my book in the most absolute simplicity. I have never been a single moment in my life without feeling towards the king personally the most lively gratitude, the most genuine zeal, the most profound respect, and the most inviolable attachment. I take the liberty of asking of his Majesty two favors, which do not concern either my own person or anybody belonging to me. The first is, that he will have the goodness to give me a pious and methodical successor, sound and firm against Jansenism, which is in prodigious credit on this frontier. The other favor is, that he will have the goodness to complete with my successor that which could not be completed with me on behalf of the gentlemen of St. Sulpice. I wish his Majesty a long life, of which the church as well as the state has infinite need. If peradventure I go into the presence of God, I shall often ask these favors of Him."

How dread is the power of sovereign majesty, operative even at the death-bed of the greatest and noblest spirits, causing Fenelon in his dying hour to be anxious about the good graces of a monarch ere long, like him, a-dying!

Our thoughts may well linger over those three great minds, Pascal, Bossuet, and Fenelon,—one layman and two bishops; all equally absorbed by the great problems of human life and immortality. With different degrees of greatness and fruitfulness, they all serve the same cause. Whether as defenders or assailants of Jansenism and Quietism, the solitary philosopher or the prelates engaged in the court or in the guidance of men, all three of them serving God on behalf of the soul's highest interests, remained unique in their generation, and without successors as they had been without predecessors.

Leaving the desert and the church, and once more entering the world, we immediately encounter, amongst women, one, and one only, in the first rank—Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, marchioness of Sevigne, born at Paris on the 5th of February, 1627, five months before Bossuet. Like a considerable number of women in Italy in the sixteenth century, and in France in the seventeenth, she had received a careful education. She knew Italian, Latin, and Spanish; she had for masters Menage and Chapelain; and she early imbibed a real taste for solid reading, which she owed to her leaning towards the Jansenists and Port-Royal. She was left a widow at five and twenty by the death of a very indifferent husband, and she was not disposed to make a second venture. Before getting killed in a duel, M. de Sevigne had made a considerable gap in the property of his wife, who, however, had brought him more than five hundred thousand livres. Madame de Sevigne had two children: she made up her mind to devote herself to their education, to restore their fortune, and to keep her love for them and for her friends. Of them she had many, often very deeply smitten with her; all remained faithful to her, and, she deserted none of them, though they might be put on trial and condemned like Fouquet, or perfidious and cruel like her cousin M. de Bussy-Rabutin. The safest and most agreeable of acquaintances, ever ready to take part in the joys as well as the anxieties of those whom she honored with her friendship, without permitting this somewhat superficial sympathy to agitate the depths of her heart, she had during her life but one veritable passion, which she admitted nobody to share with her. Her daughter, Madame de Grignan, the prettiest girl in France, clever, virtuous, business-like, appears in her mother's letters fitful, cross-grained, and sometimes rather cold. Madame de Sevigne is a friend whom we read over and over again, whose emotions we share, to whom we go for an hour's distraction and delightful chat. We have no desire to chat with Madame de Grignan; we gladly leave her to her mother's exclusive affection, feeling infinitely obliged to her, however, for having existed, inasmuch as her mother wrote letters to her. Madame de Sevigne's letters to her daughter are superior to all her other letters, charming as they are. When she writes to M. de Pomponne, to M. de Coulanges, to M. de Bussy, the style is less familiar, the heart less open, the soul less stirred. She writes to her daughter as she would speak to her; it is not letters, it is an animated and charming conversation, touching upon everything, embellishing everything with an inimitable grace. She gave her daughter in marriage to Count de Grignan in January, 1669; next year her son-in-law was appointed lieutenant- general of the king in Provence; he was to fill the place there of the Duke of Vendome, too young to discharge his functions as governor. In the month of January, 1671, M. de Grignan removed his wife to Aix: he was a Provencal, he was fond of his province, his castle of Grignan, and his wife. Madame de Sevigne found herself condemned to separation from the daughter whom she loved exclusively. "In vain I seek my darling daughter; I can no longer find her, and every step she takes removes her farther from me. I went to St. Mary's, still weeping and still dying of grief; it seemed as if my heart and my soul were being wrenched from me; and, in truth, what a cruel separation! I asked leave to be alone: I was taken into Madame du Housset's room, and they made me up a fire. Agnes sat looking at me without speaking: that was our bargain. I staid there till five o'clock, without ceasing to sob: all my thoughts were mortal, wounds to me. I wrote to M. de Grignan, you can imagine in what key. Then I went to Madame de La Fayette's, who redoubled my griefs by the interest she took in them. She was alone, ill and distressed at the death of one of the nuns; she was just as I could have desired. I returned hither at eight; but when I came in, O! can you conceive what I felt as I mounted these stairs? That room into which I used always to go, alas! I found the doors of it open, but I saw everything disfurnished, everything disarranged, and your little daughter, who reminded me of mine. The wakenings of the night were dreadful; I think of you continuously: it is what devotees call an habitual thought, such as one should have of God, if one did one's duty. Nothing gives me any distraction. I see that carriage, which is forever going on and will never come near me. I am forever on the highways; it seems as if I were afraid sometimes that the carriage will upset with me. The rains there have been for the last three days reduce me to despair; the Rhone causes me strange alarm. I have a map before my eyes, I know all the places where you sleep. This evening you are at Nevers; on Sunday you will be at Lyons, where you will receive this letter. I have received only two of yours; perhaps the third will come; that is the only comfort I desire: as for others, I seek for none." During five and twenty years Madame de Sevigne could never become accustomed to her daughter's absence. She set out for the Rochers, near Vitry, a family estate of M. de Sevigne's. Her friend the Duke of Chaulnes was governor of Brittany. "You shall now have news of our states as your penalty for being a Breton. M. de Chaulnes arrived on Sunday evening, to the sound of everything that can make any in Vitry. On Monday morning he sent me a letter; I wrote back to say that I would go and dine with him. There are two dining-tables in the same room; fourteen covers at each table. Monsieur presides at one, Madame at the other. The good cheer is prodigious; joints are carried away quite untouched, and as for the pyramids of fruit, the doors require to be heightened. Our fathers did not foresee this sort of machine, indeed they did not even foresee that a door required to be higher than themselves. Well, a pyramid wants to come in, one of those pyramids which make everybody exclaim from one end of the table to the other; but so far from that boding damage, people are often, on the contrary, very glad not to see any more of what they contain. This pyramid, then, with twenty or thirty porcelain dishes, was so completely upset at the door, that the noise it made put to silence the violins, hautbois, and trumpets. After dinner, M. de Locmaria and M. de Coetlogon danced with two fair Bretons some marvellous jigs (passe pipeds) and some minuets in a style that the court-people cannot approach; wherein they do the Bohemian and Breton step with a neatness and correctness which are charming. I was thinking all the while of you, and I had such tender recollections of your dancing and of what I had seen you dance, that this pleasure became a pain to me. The States are sure not to be long; there is nothing to do but to ask for what the king wants; nobody says a word, and it is all done. As for the governor, he finds, somehow or other, more than forty thousand crowns coming in to him. An infinity of presents, pensions, repairs of roads and towns, fifteen or twenty grand dinner-parties, incessant play, eternal balls, comedies three times a week, a great show of dress, that is the States. I am forgetting three or four hundred pipes of wine which are drunk; but, if I did not reckon this little item, the others do not forget it, and put it first. This is what is called the sort of twaddle to make one go to sleep on one's feet; but it is what comes to the tip of your pen when you are in Brittany and have nothing else to say."

Even in Brittany and at the Rochers, Madame de Sevigne always has something to say. The weather is frightful; she is occupied a good deal in reading the romances of La Calprenede and the Grand Cyrus, as well as the Ethics of Nicole. "For four days it has been one continuous tempest; all our walks are drowned; there is no getting out any more. Our masons, our carpenters keep their rooms; in short, I hate this country, and I yearn every moment for your sun; perhaps you yearn for my rain; we do well, both of us. I am going on with the Ethics of Nicole, which I find delightful; it has not yet given me any lesson against the rain, but I am expecting it, for I find everything there, and conformity to the will of God might answer my purpose, if I did not want a specific remedy. In fact, I consider this an admirable book; nobody has written as these gentlemen have, for I put down to Pascal half of all that is beautiful. It is so nice to have one's self and one's feelings talked about, that, though it be in bad part, one is charmed by it. What is called searching the depths of the heart with a lantern is exactly what he does; he discloses to us that which we feel every day, but have not the wit to discern or the sincerity to avow. I have even forgiven the swelling in the heart (l'enflure du coeur) for the sake of the rest, and I maintain that there is no other word to express vanity and pride, which are really wind: try and find another word. I shall complete the reading of this with pleasure."

Here we have the real Madame de Sevigne, whom we love, on whom we rely, who is as earnest as she is amiable and gay, who goes to the very core of things, and who tells the truth of herself as well as of others. "You ask me, my dear child, whether I continue to be really fond of life. I confess to you that I find poignant sorrows in it, but I am even more disgusted with death; I feel so wretched at having to end all this thereby, that, if I could turn back again, I would ask for nothing better. I find myself under an obligation which perplexes me: I embarked upon life without my consent, and I must go out of it; that overwhelms me. And how shall I go? Which way? By what door? When will it be? In what condition? Shall I suffer a thousand, thousand pains, which will make me die desperate? Shall I have brain-fever? Shall I die of an accident? How shall I be with God? What shall I have to show Him? Shall fear, shall necessity bring me back to Him? Shall I have no sentiment but that of dread? What can I hope? Am I worthy of heaven? Am I worthy of hell? Nothing is such madness as to leave one's salvation in uncertainty, but nothing is so natural; and the stupid life I lead is the easiest thing in the world to understand. I bury myself in these thoughts, and I find death so terrible, that I hate life more because it leads me thereto than because of the thorns with which it is planted. You will say that I want to live forever then: not at all; but, if my opinion had been asked, I should have preferred to die in my nurse's arms; that would have removed me from vexations of spirit, and would have given me Heaven full surely and easily."

Madame de Sevigne would have very much scandalized those gentlemen of Port-Royal, if she had let them see into the bottom of her heart as she showed it to her daughter. Pascal used to say, "There are but three sorts of persons: those who serve God, having found Him; those who employ themselves in seeking Him, not having found Him; and those who live without seeking Him or having found Him. The first are reasonable and happy; the last are mad and miserable; the intermediate are miserable and reasonable." Without ever having sought and found God, in the absolute sense intended by Pascal, Madame de Sevigne kept approaching Him by gentle degrees. "We are reading a treatise by M. Namon of Port-Royal on continuous prayer; though he is a hundred feet above my head, he nevertheless pleases and charms us. One is very glad to see that there have been and still are in the world people to whom God communicates His Holy Spirit in such abundance; but, O God! when shall we have some spark, some degree of it? How sad to find one's self so far from it, and so near to something else! O, fie! Let us not speak of such plight as that: it calls for sighs, and groans, and humiliations a hundred times a day."

After having suffered so much from separation, and so often traversed France to visit her daughter in Provence, Madame de Sevigne had the happiness to die in her house at Grignan. She was sixty-nine, and she had been ill for some time; she was subject to rheumatism; her son's wildness had for a long while retarded the arrangement of her affairs; at last he had turned over a new leaf, he was married, he was a devotee. Madame de Grignan had likewise found a wife for her son, whom the king had made a colonel at a very early age; and a husband for her daughter, little Pauline, now Madame de Simiane. "All this together is extremely nice, and too nice," wrote Madame de Sevigne to M. de Bussy, "for I find the days going so fast, and the months and the years, that, for my part, my dear cousin, I can no longer hold them. Time flies, and carries me along in spite of me; it is all very fine for me to wish to stay it, it bears me away with it, and the idea of this causes me great fear; you will make a pretty shrewd guess why." Death came at last, and Madame de Sevigne lost all her terrors. She was attacked by small-pox whilst her sick daughter was confined to her bed, and died on the 19th of April, 1696, thanking God that she was the first to go, after having so often trembled for her daughter's health. "What calls far more for our admiration than for our regrets," writes M. de Grignan to M. de Coulanges, "is the spectacle of a brave woman facing death, of which she had no doubt from the first days of her illness, with astounding firmness and submission. This person, so tender and so weak towards all that she loved, showed nothing but courage and piety when she believed that her hour was come; and we could not but remark of what utility and of what importance it is to have the mind stocked with good matter and holy reading, for the which Madame de Sevigne had a liking, not to say a wonderful hungering, from the use she managed to make of that good store in the last moments of her life." She had often taken her daughter to task for not being fond of books. "There is a certain person who undoubtedly has plenty of wits, but of so nice and so fastidious a sort, that she cannot read anything but five or six sublime works, which is a sign of distinguished taste. She cannot bear historical books; a great deprivation this, and of that which is a subsistence to everybody else. She has another misfortune, which is, that she cannot read twice over those choice books which she esteems exclusively. This person says that she is insulted when she is told that she is not fond of reading: another bone to pick." Madame de Sevigne's liking for good books accompanied her to the last, and helped her to make a good end.

All the women who had been writers in her time died before Madame de Sevigne. Madame de Motteville, a judicious and sensible woman, more independent at the bottom of her heart than in externals, had died in 1689, exclusively occupied, from the time that she lost Queen Anne of Austria, in works of piety and in drawing up her Memoires. Mdlle. de Montpensier, "my great Mademoiselle," as Madame de Sevigne used to call her, had died at Paris on the 5th of April, 1693, after a violent illness, as feverish as her life. Impassioned and haughty, with her head so full of her greatness that she did not marry in her youth, thinking nobody worthy of her except the king and the emperor, who had no fancy for her, and ending by a private marriage with the Duke of Lauzun, "a cadet of Gascony," whom the king would not permit her to espouse publicly; clever, courageous, hare-brained, generous, she has herself sketched her own portrait. "I am tall, neither fat nor thin, of a very fine and easy figure. I have a good mien, arms and hands not beautiful, but a beautiful skin and throat too. I have a straight leg and a well-shaped foot; my hair is light, and of a beautiful auburn; my face is long, its contour is handsome, nose large and aquiline; mouth neither large nor small, but chiselled, and with a very pleasing expression; lips vermilion; teeth not fine, but not frightful either. My eyes are blue, neither large nor small, but sparkling, soft, and proud, like my mien. I talk a great deal, without saying silly things or using bad words. I am a very vicious enemy, being very choleric and passionate, and that, added to my birth, may well make my enemies tremble; but I have also a noble and a kindly soul. I am incapable of any base and black deed; and so I am more disposed to mercy than to justice. I am melancholic; I like reading good and solid books; trifles bore me, except verses, and them I like, of whatever sort they may be, and undoubtedly I am as good a judge of such things as if I were a scholar."

A few days after Mademoiselle, died, likewise at Paris, Madelaine de la Vergne, Marchioness of La Fayette, the most intimate friend of Madame de Sevigne. "Never did we have the smallest cloud upon our friendship," the latter would say; "long habit had not made her merit stale to me, the flavor of it was always fresh and new; I paid her many attentions from the mere prompting of my heart, without the propriety to which we are bound by friendship having anything to do with it. I was assured, too, that I constituted her dearest consolation, and for forty years past it had always been the same thing." Sensible, clever, a sweet and safe acquaintance, Madame de La Fayette was as simple and as true in her relations with her confidantes as in her writings. La Princesse de Olives alone has outlived the times and the friends of Madame de La Fayette. Following upon the "great sword-thrusts" of La Calprenede or Mdlle. de Scudery, this delicate, elegant, and virtuous tale, with its pure and refined style, enchanted the court, which recognized itself at its best, and painted under its brightest aspect; it was farewell forever to the "Pays de Tendre." Madame de La Fayette had very bad health; she wrote to Madame de Sevigne on the 14th of July, 1693, "Here is what I have done since I wrote to you last. I have had two attacks of fever; for six months I had not been purged; I am purged once, I am purged twice; the day after the second time, I sit down to table. O, dear! I feel a pain in my heart; I do not want any soup. Have a little meat then. No, I do not want any. Well, you will have some fruit. I think I will. Very well, then, have some. I don't know, I think I will have something by and by; let me have some soup and a chicken this evening. Here is the evening, and there are the soup and the chicken: I don't want them. I am nauseated; I will go to bed; I prefer sleeping to eating. I go to bed, I turn round, I turn back, I have no pain, but I have no sleep either. I call, I take a book, I shut it up. Day comes, I get up, I go to the window. It strikes four, five, six; I go to bed again, I doze till seven, I get up at eight, I sit down to table at twelve, to no purpose, as yesterday. I lay myself down in my bed again in the evening, to no purpose, as the night before. Are you ill? Nay. I am in this state for three days and three nights. At present I am getting some sleep again, but I still eat merely mechanically, horse-wise, rubbing my mouth with vinegar otherwise I am very well, and I haven't even so much pain in the head." Fault was found with Madame de La Fayette for not going out. "She had a mortal melancholy. What absurdity again! Is she not the most fortunate woman in the world? That is what people said," writes Madame de Sevigne; "it needed that she should be dead to prove that she had good reason for not going out, and for being melancholy. Her reins and her heart were all gone was not that enough to cause those fits of despondency of which she complained? And so, during her life, she showed reason, and after death she showed reason, and never was she without that divine reason which was her principal gift."

Madame de La Fayette had in her life one great sorrow, which had completed the ruin of her health. On the 16th of March, 1680, after the closest and longest of intimacies, she had lost her best friend, the Duke of La Rochefoucauld. Carried away in his youth by party strife and an ardent passion for Madame de Longueville, he had at a later period sought refuge in the friendship of Madame de La Fayette. "When women have well-formed minds," he would say, "I like their conversation better than that of men; you find with them a certain gentleness which is not met with amongst us, and it seems to me, besides, that they express themselves with greater clearness, and that they give a more pleasant turn to the things they say." A meddler and intriguer during the Fronde, sceptical and bitter in his Maximes, the Duke of La Rochefoucauld was amiable and kindly in his private life. Factions and the court had taught him a great deal about human nature; he had seen it and judged of it from its bad side. Witty, shrewd, and often profound, he was too severe to be just. The bitterness of his spirit breathed itself out completely in his writings; he kept for his friends that kindliness and that sensitiveness of which he made sport. "He gave me wit," Madame de La Fayette would say, "but I reformed his heart." He had lost his son at the passage of the Rhine, in 1672. He was ill, suffering cruelly. "I was yesterday at M. de La Rochefoucauld's," writes Madame de Sevigne, in 1680. "I found him uttering loud shrieks; his pain was such that his endurance was quite overcome without a single scrap remaining. The excessive pain upset him to such a degree that he was sitting out in the open air with a violent fever upon him. He begged me to send you word, and to assure you that the wheel-broken do not suffer during a single moment what he suffers one half of his life, and so he wishes for death as a happy release." He died with Bossuet at his pillow. "Very well prepared as regards his conscience," says Madame de Sevigne again; "that is all settled; but, in other respects, it might be the illness and death of his neighbor which is in question, he is not flurried about it, he is not troubled about it. Believe me, my daughter, it is not to no purpose that he has been making reflections all his life; he has approached his last moments in such wise that they have had nothing that was novel or strange for him." M. de La Rochefoucauld thought worse of men than of life. "I have scarcely any fear of things," he had said; "I am not at all afraid of death." With all his rare qualities and great opportunities he had done nothing but frequently embroil matters in which he had meddled, and had never been anything but a great lord with a good deal of wit. Actionless penetration and sceptical severity may sometimes clear the judgment and the thoughts, but they give no force or influence that has power over men. "There was always a something (je ne sais quoi) about M. de La Rochefoucauld," writes Cardinal de Retz, who did not like him; "he was for meddling in intrigues from his childhood, and at a time when he had no notion of petty interests, which were never his foible, and when he did not understand great ones, which, on the other hand, were never his strength. He was never capable of doing anything in public affairs, and I am sure I don't know why. His views were not sufficiently broad, and he did not even see comprehensively all that was within his range, but his good sense,—very good, speculatively,—added to his suavity, his insinuating style, and his easy manners, which are admirable, ought to have compensated more than it did for his lack of penetration. He always showed habitual irresolution, but I really do not know to what to attribute this irresolution; it could not, with him, have come from the fertility of his imagination, which is anything but lively. He was never a warrior, though he was very much the soldier. He was never a good partyman, though he was engaged in it all his life. That air of bashfulness and timidity which you see about him in private life was turned in public life into an air of apology. He always considered himself to need one, which fact, added to his maxims, which do not show sufficient belief in virtue, and to his practice, which was always to get out of affairs with as much impatience as he had shown to get into them, leads me to conclude that he would have done far better to know his own place, and reduce himself to passing, as he might have passed, for the most polite of courtiers and the worthiest (le plus honnete) man, as regards ordinary life, that ever appeared in his century."

Cardinal de Retz had more wits, more courage, and more resolution than the Duke of La Rochefoucauld; he was more ambitious and more bold; he was, like him, meddlesome, powerless, and dangerous to the state. He thought himself capable of superseding Cardinal Mazarin, and far more worthy than he of being premier minister; but every time he found himself opposed to the able Italian he was beaten. All that he displayed, during the Fronde, of address, combination, intrigue, and resolution, would barely have sufficed to preserve his name in history, if he had not devoted his leisure in his retirement to writing his Memoires. Vigorous, animated, always striking, often amusing, sometimes showing rare nobleness and high-mindedness, his stories and his portraits transport us to the very midst of the scenes he desires to describe and the personages he makes the actors in them. His rapid, nervous, picturesque style is the very image of that little dark, quick, agile man, more soldier than bishop, and more intriguer than soldier, faithfully and affectionately beloved by his friends, detested by his very numerous enemies, and dreaded by many people, for the causticity of his tongue, long after the troubles of the Fronde had ceased, and he was reduced to be a wanderer in foreign lands, still Archbishop of Paris without being able to set foot in it. Having retired to Commercy, he fell under Louis XIV.'s suspicion. Madame de Sevigne, who was one of his best friends, was anxious about him. "As to our cardinal, I have often thought as you," she wrote to her daughter; "but, whether it be that the enemies are not in a condition to cause fear, or that the friends are not subject to take alarm, it is certain that there is no commotion. You show a very proper spirit in being anxious about the welfare of a person who is so distinguished, and to whom you owe so much affection." "Can I forget him whom I see everywhere in the story of our misfortunes," exclaimed Bossuet, in his funeral oration over Michael Le Tellier, "that man so faithful to individuals, so formidable to the state, of a character so high that he could not be esteemed, or feared, or hated by halves, that steady genius whom, the while he shook the universe, we saw attracting to himself a dignity which in the end he determined to relinquish as having been too dearly bought, as he had the courage to recognize in the place that is the most eminent in Christendom, and as being, after all, quite incapable of satisfying his desires, so conscious was he of his mistake and of the emptiness of human greatness? But, so long as he was bent upon obtaining what he was one day to despise, he kept everything moving by means of powerful and secret springs, and, after that all parties were overthrown, he seemed still to uphold himself alone, and alone to still threaten the victorious favorite with his sad but fearless gaze." When Bossuet sketched this magnificent portrait of Mazarin's rival, Cardinal de Retz had been six years dead, in 1679.

Mesdames de Sevigne and de La Fayette were of the court, as were the Duke of La Rochefoucauld and Cardinal de Retz. La Bruyere lived all his life rubbing shoulders with the court; he knew it, he described it, but he was not of it, and could not be of it. Nothing is known of his family. He was born at Dourdan in 1639, and had just bought a post in the Treasury (tresorier de France) at Caen, when Bossuet, who knew him, induced him to remove to Paris as teacher of history to the duke, grandson of the great Conde. He remained forever attached to the person of the prince, who gave him a thousand crowns a year, and he lived to the day of his death at Conde's house. "He was a philosopher," says Abbe d'Olivet in his Histoire de l'Academie Francaise; "all he dreamt of was a quiet life, with his friends and his books, making a good choice of both; not courting or avoiding pleasure; ever inclined for moderate fun, and with a talent for setting it going; polished in manners, and discreet in conversation; dreading every sort of ambition, even that of displaying wit." This was not quite the opinion formed by Boileau of La Bruyere. "Maximilian came to see me at Auteuil," writes Boileau to Racine on the 19th of May, 1687, the very year in which the Caracteres was published; "he read me some of his Theophrastus. He is a very worthy (honnete) man, and one who would lack nothing, if nature had created him as agreeable as he is anxious to be. However, he has wit, learning, and merit." Amidst his many and various portraits, La Bruyere has drawn his own with an amiable pride. "I go to your door, Ctesiphon; the need I have of you hurries me from my bed and from my room. Would to Heaven I were neither your client nor your bore. Your slaves tell me that you are engaged and cannot see me for a full hour yet; I return before the time they appointed, and they tell me that you have gone out. What can you be doing, Ctesiphon, in that remotest part of your rooms, of so laborious a kind as to prevent you from seeing me? You are filing some bills, you are comparing a register; you are signing your name, you are putting the flourish. I had but one thing to ask you, and you had but one word to reply: yes or no. Do you want to be singular? Render service to those who are dependent upon you, you will be more so by that behavior than by not letting yourself be seen. O man of importance and overwhelmed with business, who in your turn have need of my offices, come into the solitude of my closet; the philosopher is accessible; I shall not put you off to another day. You will find me over those works of Plato which treat of the immortality of the soul and its distinctness from the body; or with pen in hand, to calculate the distances of Saturn and Jupiter. I admire God in His works, and I seek by knowledge of the truth to regulate my mind and become better. Come in, all doors are open to you; my antechamber is not made to wear you out with waiting for me; come right in to me without giving me notice. You bring me something more precious than silver and gold, if it be an opportunity of obliging you. Tell me, what can I do for you? Must I leave my books, my study, my work, this line I have just begun? What a fortunate interruption for me is that which is of service to you!"

From the solitude of that closet went forth a book unique of its sort, full of sagacity, penetration, and severity, without bitterness; a picture of the manners of the court and of the world, traced by the hand of a spectator who had not essayed its temptations, but who guessed them and passed judgment on them all,—"a book," as M. de Malezieux said to La Bruyere, "which was sure to bring its author many readers and many enemies." Its success was great from the first, and it excited lively curiosity. The courtiers liked the portraits; attempts were made to name them; the good sense, shrewdness, and truth of the observations struck everybody; people had met a hundred times those whom La Bruyere had described. The form appeared of a rarer order than even the matter; it was a brilliant, uncommon style, as varied as human nature, always elegant and pure, original and animated, rising sometimes to the height of the noblest thoughts, gay and grave, pointed and serious. Avoiding, by richness in turns and expression, the uniformity native to the subject, La Bruyere riveted attention by a succession of touches making a masterly picture, a terrible one sometimes, as in his description of the peasants' misery:

"To be seen are certain ferocious animals, male and female, scattered over the country, dark, livid, and all scorched by the sun, affixed to the soil which they rummage and throw up with indomitable pertinacity; they have a sort of articulate voice, and, when they rise to their feet, they show a human face; they are, in fact, men. At night they withdraw to the caves, where they live on black bread, water, and roots. They spare other men the trouble of sowing, tilling, and reaping for their livelihood, and deserve, therefore, not to go in want of the very bread they have sown." Few people at the court, and in La Bruyere's day, would have thought about the sufferings of the country folks, and conceived the idea of contrasting them with the sketch of a court-ninny. "Gold glitters," say you, "upon the clothes of Philemon; it glitters as well as the tradesman's. He is dressed in the finest stuffs; are they a whit the less so when displayed in the shops and by the piece? Nay; but the embroidery and the ornaments add magnificence thereto; then I give the workman credit for his work. If you ask him the time, he pulls out a watch which is a masterpiece; his sword-guard is an onyx; he has on his finger a large diamond which he flashes into all eyes, and which is perfection; he lacks none of those curious trifles which are worn about one as much for show as for use; and he does not stint himself either of all sorts of adornment befitting a young man who has married an old millionaire. You really pique my curiosity: I positively must see such precious articles as those. Send me that coat and those jewels of Philemon's; you can keep the person. Thou'rt wrong, Philemon, if, with that splendid carriage, and that large number of rascals behind thee, and those six animals to draw thee, thou thinkest thou art thought more of. We take off all those appendages which are extraneous to thee to get at thyself, who art but a ninny."

More earnest and less bitter than La Rochefoucauld, and as brilliant and as firm as Cardinal de Retz, La Bruyere was a more sincere believer than either. "I feel that there is a God, and I do not feel that there is none; that is enough for me; the reasoning of the world is useless to me. I conclude that God exists. Are men good enough, faithful enough, equitable enough to deserve all our confidence, and not make us wish at least for the existence of God, to whom we may appeal from their judgments and have recourse when we are persecuted or betrayed?" A very strong reason and of potent logic, naturally imprinted upon an upright spirit and a sensible mind, irresistibly convinced, both of them, that justice alone can govern the world.

La Bruyere had just been admitted into the French Academy, in 1693. In his admission speech he spoke in praise of the living, Bossuet, Fenelon, Racine, La Fontaine; it was not as yet the practice. Those who were not praised felt angry, and the journals of the time bitterly attacked the new academician. He was hurt, and withdrew almost entirely from the world. Four days before his death, however, "he was in company. All at once he perceived that he was becoming deaf, yes, stone deaf. He returned to Versailles, where he had apartments at Conde's house. Apoplexy carried him off in a quarter of an hour on the 11th of May, 1696," leaving behind him an incomparable book, wherein, according to his own maxim, the excellent writer shows himself to be an excellent painter; and four dialogues against Quietism, still unfinished, full of lively and good-humored hostility to the doctrines of Madame Guyon. They were published after his death.

We pass from prose to poetry, from La Bruyere to Corneille, who had died in 1684, too late for his fame, in spite of the vigorous returns of genius which still flash forth sometimes in his feeblest works. Throughout the Regency and the Fronde, Corneille had continued to occupy almost alone the great French stage. Rotrou, his sometime rival with his piece of Venceslas, and ever tenderly attached to him, had died, in 1650, at Dreux, of which he was civil magistrate. An epidemic was ravaging the town, and he was urged to go away. "I am the only one who can maintain good order, and I shall remain," he replied. "At the moment of my writing to you the bells are tolling for the twenty-second person to-day; perhaps to-morrow it will be for me; but my conscience has marked out my duty. God's will be done!" Two days later he was dead.

Corneille had dedicated Polyeucte to the regent Anne of Austria. He published in a single year Rodogune and the Mort de Pompee, dedicating this latter piece to Mazarin, in gratitude, he said, for an act of generosity with which his Eminence had surprised him. At the same time he borrowed from the Spanish drama the canvas of the Menteur, the first really French comedy which appeared on the boards, and which Moliere showed that he could appreciate at its proper value. After this attempt, due perhaps to the desire felt by Corneille to triumph over his rivals in the style in which he had walked abreast with them, he let tragedy resume its legitimate empire over a genius formed by it. He wrote Heraclius and Nicomede, which are equal in parts to his finest masterpieces. But by this time the great genius no longer soared with equal flight. Theodore and Pertharite had been failures. "I don't mention them," Corneille would say, "in order to avoid the vexation of remembering them." He was still living at Rouen, in a house adjoining that occupied by his brother, Thomas Corneille, younger than he, already known by some comedies which had met with success. The two brothers had married two sisters.
               "Their houses twain were made in one;
               With keys and purse the same was done;
               Their wives can never have been two.
               Their wishes tallied at all times;
               No games distinct their children' knew;
               The fathers lent each other rhymes;
               Same wine for both the drawers drew."—[Ducis.]


It is said, that when Peter Corneille was puzzled to end a verse he would undo a trap that opened into his brother's room, shouting, "Sans-souci, a rhyme!"

Corneille had announced his renunciation of the stage; he was translating into verse the Imitation of Christ. "It were better," he had written in his preface to Pertharite, "that I took leave myself instead of waiting till it is taken of me altogether; it is quite right that after twenty years' work I should begin to perceive that I am becoming too old to be still in the fashion. This resolution is not so strong but that it may be broken; there is every, appearance, however, of my abiding by it."

Fouquet was then in his glory, "no less superintendent of literature than of finance," and he undertook to recall to the stage the genius of Corneille. At his voice, the poet and the tragedian rose up at a single bound.
         "I feel the selfsame fire, the selfsame nerve I feel,
          That roused th' indignant Cid, drove home Horatius' steel;
          As cunning as of yore this hand of mine I find,
          That sketched great Pompey's soul, depicted Cinna's mind,"—


wrote Corneille in his thanks to Fouquet. He had some months before said to Mdlle. du Pare, who was an actress in Moliere's company, which had come to Rouen, and who was, from her grand airs, nicknamed by the others the Marchioness,
               "Marchioness,"  if Age hath set
               On my brow his ugly die;
               At my years, pray don't forget,
               You will be as—old as I.

               "Yet do I possess of charms
               One or two, so slow to fade,
               That I feel but scant alarms
               At the havoc Time hath made.

               "You have such as men adore,
               But these that you scorn to-day
               May, perchance, be to the fore
               When your own are worn away.

               "These can from decay reprieve
               Eyes I take a fancy to;
               Make a thousand, years believe
               Whatsoe'er I please of you.

               "With that new, that coming race,
               Who will take my word for it,
               All the warrant for your face
               Will be what I may have writ."


Corneille reappeared upon the boards with a tragedy called OEdipe, more admired by his contemporaries than by posterity. On the occasion of Louis XIV.'s marriage he wrote for the king's comedians the Toison d'or, and put into the mouth of France those prophetic words:—
     "My natural force abates, from long success alone;
     Triumphant blooms the state, the wretched people groan
     Their shrunken bodies bend beneath my high emprise;
     Whilst glory gilds the throne, the subject sinks and dies."


Sertorius appeared at the commencement of the year 1662. "Pray where did Corneille learn politics and war?" asked Turenne when he saw this piece played. "You are the true and faithful interpreter of the mind and courage of Rome," Balzac wrote to him; "I say further, sir, you are often her teacher, and the reformer of olden times, if they have need of embellishment and support. In the spots where Rome is of brick, you rebuild it of marble; where you find a gap, you fill it with a masterpiece, and I take it that what you lend to history is always better than what you borrow from it. . . ." "They are grander and more Roman in his verses than in their history," said La Bruyere. "Once only, in the Cid, Corneille had abandoned himself unreservedly to the reality of passion; scared at what he might find in the weaknesses of the heart, he would no longer see aught but its strength. He sought in man that which resists and not that which yields, thus giving his times the sublime pleasure of an enjoyment that can belong to nought but the human soul, a cherished proof of its noble origin and its glorious destiny, the pleasure of admiration, the appreciation of the beautiful and the great, the enthusiasm aroused by virtue. He moves us at sight of a masterpiece, thrills us at the sound of a noble deed, enchants us at the bare idea of a virtue which three thousand years have forever separated from us." (Corneille et son temps, by M. Guizot.) Every other thought, every other prepossession, are strangers to the poet; his personages represent heroic passions which they follow out without swerving and without suffering themselves to be shackled by the notions of a morality which is still far from fixed and often in conflict with the interests and obligations of parties, thus remaining perfectly of his own time and his own country, all the while that he is describing Greeks, or Romans, or Spaniards.

There is no pleasure in tracing the decadence of a great genius. Corneille wrote for a long while without success, attributing his repeated rebuffs to his old age, the influence of fashion, the capricious taste of the generation for young people; he thought himself neglected, appealing to the king himself, who had ordered Cinna and Pompee to be played at court:—
     "Go on; the latest born have naught degenerate,
     Naught have they which would stamp them illegitimate
     They, miserable fate! were smothered at the birth,
     And one kind glance of yours would bring them back to earth;
     The people and the court, I grant you, cry them down;
     I have, or else they think I have, too feeble grown;
     I've written far too long to write so well again;
     The wrinkles on the brow reach even to the brain;
     But counter to this vote how many could I raise,
     If to my latest works you should vouchsafe your praise!
     How soon so kind a grace, so potent to constrain,
     Would court and people both win back to me again!
     'So Sophocles of yore at Athens was the rage,
     So boiled his ancient blood at five-score years of age,'
     Would they to Envy cry, 'when OEdipus at bay
     Before his judges stood, and bore the votes away.'"


Posterity has done for Corneille more than Louis XIV. could have done: it has left in oblivion Agesilas, Attila, Titus, and Pulcherie; it preserved the memory of the triumphs only. The poet was accustomed to say with a smile, when he was reproached with his slowness and emptiness in conversation, "I am Peter Corneille all the same." The world has passed similar judgment on his works; in spite of the rebuffs of his latter years, he has remained "the great Corneille."

When he died, in 1684, Racine, elected by the Academy in 1673, found himself on the point of becoming its director; he claimed the honor of presiding at the obsequies of Corneille. The latter had not been admitted to the body until 1641, after having undergone two rebuffs. Corneille had died in the night. The Academy decided in favor of Abbe de Lavau, the outgoing director. "Nobody but you could pretend to bury Corneille," said Benserade to Racine, "yet you have not been able to obtain the chance." It was only when he received into the Academy Thomas Corneille, in his brother's place, that Racine could praise to his heart's content the master and rival who, in old age, had done him the honor to dread him. "My father had not been happy in his speech at his own admission," says Louis Racine ingenuously; "he was in this, because he spoke out of the abundance of his heart, being inwardly convinced that Corneille was worth much more than he." Louis XIV. had come in for as great a share as Corneille in Racine's praises. He, informed of the success of the speech, desired to hear it. The author had the honor of reading it to him, after which the king said to him, "I am very pleased; I would praise you more if you had praised me less." It was on this occasion that the great Arnauld, still in disgrace and carefully concealed, wrote to Racine: "I have to thank you, sir, for the speech which was sent me from you. There certainly was never anything so eloquent, and the hero whom you praise is so much the more worthy of your praises in that he considered them too great. I have many things that I would say to you about that, if I had the pleasure of seeing you, but it would need the dispersal of a cloud which I dare to say is a spot upon this sun. I assure you that the ideas I have thereupon are not interested, and that what may concern myself affects me very little. A chat with you and your companion would give me much pleasure, but I would not purchase that pleasure by the least poltroonery. You know what I mean by that; and so I abide in peace and wait patiently for God to make known to this perfect prince that he has not in his kingdom a subject more loyal, more zealous for his true glory, and, if I dare say so, loving him with a love more pure and more free from all interest. That is why I should not bring myself to take a single step to obtain liberty to see my friends, unless it were to my prince alone that I could be indebted for it." Fenelon and the great Arnauld held the same language, independent and submissive, proud and modest, at the same time. Only their conscience spoke louder than their respect for the king.

At the time when Racine was thus praising at the Academy the king and the great Corneille, his own dramatic career was already ended. He was born, in 1639, at La Ferte-Milon; he had made his first appearance on the stage in 1664 with the Freres ennemis, and had taken leave of it in 1673 with Phedre. Esther and Athalie, played in 1689 and 1691 by the young ladies of St. Cyr, were not regarded by their author and his austere friends as any derogation from the pious engagements he had entered into. Racine, left an orphan at four years of age, and brought up at Port-Royal under the influence and the personal care of M. Le Maitre, who called him his son, did not at first answer the expectations of his master. The glowing fancy of which he already gave signs caused dismay to Lancelot, who threw into the fire one after the other two copies of the Greek tale Theayene et Chariclee which the young man was reading. The third time, the latter learnt it off by heart, and, taking the book to his severe censor, "Here," said he, "you can burn this volume too, as well as the others."

Racine's pious friends had fine work to no purpose; nature carried the day, and he wrote verses. "Being unable to consult you, I was prepared, like Malherbe, to consult an old servant at our place," he wrote to one of his friends, "if I had not discovered that she was a Jansenist like her master, and that she might betray me, which would be my utter ruin, considering that I receive every day letter upon letter, or rather excommunication upon excommunication, all because of a poor sonnet." To deter the young man from poetry, he was led to expect a benefice, and was sent away to Uzes to his uncle's, Father Sconin, who set him to study theology. "I pass my time with my uncle, St. Thomas, and Virgil," he wrote on the 17th of January, 1662, to M. Vitard, steward to the Duke of Luynes; "I make lots of extracts from theology and some from poetry. My uncle has kind intentions towards me, he hopes to get me something; then I shall try to pay my debts. I do not forget the obligations I am under to you. I blush as I write; Erubuit puer, salva res est (the lad has blushed; it is all right). But that conclusion is all wrong; my affairs do not mend."

Racine had composed at Uzes the Freres ennemis, which was played on his return to Paris in 1664, not without a certain success; Alexandre met with a great deal in 1665; the author had at first intrusted it to Moliere's company, but he was not satisfied and gave his piece to the comedians of the Hotel de Dourgogne. Moliere was displeased, and quarrelled with Racine, towards whom he had up to that time testified much good will. The disagreement was not destined to disturb the equity of their judgments upon one another. When Racine brought out Les Plaideurs, which was not successful at first, Moliere, as he left, said out loud, "The comedy is excellent, and they who deride it deserve to be derided." One of Racine's friends, thinking to do him a pleasure, went to him in all haste to tell him of the failure of the Misanthrope at its first representation. "The piece has fallen flat," said he; "never was there anything so dull; you can believe what I say, for I was there." "You were there, and I was not," replied Racine, "and yet I don't believe it, because it is impossible that Moliere should have written a bad piece. Go again, and pay more attention to it."

Racine had just brought out Alexandre when he became connected with Boileau, who was three years his senior, and who had already published several of his satires. "I have a surprising facility in writing my verses," said the young tragic author ingenuously. "I want to teach you to write them with difficulty," answered Boileau, "and you have talent enough to learn before long." Andromaque was the result of this novel effort, and was Racine's real commencement.

He was henceforth irrevocably committed to the theatrical cause. Nicole attacking Desmarets, who had turned prophet after the failure of his Clovis, alluded to the author's comedies, and exclaimed with all the severity of Port-Royal, "A romance-writer and a scenic poet is a public poisoner not of bodies but of souls." Racine took these words to himself, and he wrote in defence of the dramatic art two letters so bitter, biting, and insulting towards Port-Royal and the protectors of his youth, that Boileau dissuaded him from publishing the second, and that remorse before long took possession of his soul, never to be entirely appeased. He had just brought out Les Plaideurs, which had been requested of him by his friends and partly composed during the dinners they frequently had together. "I put into it only a few barbarous law-terms which I might have picked up during a lawsuit and which neither I nor my judges ever really heard or understood." After the first failure of the piece, the king's comedians one day risked playing it before him. "Louis XIV. was struck by it, and did not think it a breach of his dignity or taste to utter shouts of laughter so loud that the courtiers were astounded." The delighted comedians, on leaving Versailles, returned straight to Paris, and went to awaken Racine. "Three carriages during the night, in a street where it was unusual to see a single one during the day, woke up the neighborhood. There was a rush to the windows, and, as it was known that a councillor of requests (law-officer) had made a great uproar against the comedy of the Plaideurs, nobody had a doubt of punishment befalling the poet who had dared to take off the judges in the open theatre. Next day all Paris believed that he was in prison." He had a triumph, on the contrary, with Britannicus, after which the, king gave up dancing in the court ballets, for fear of resembling Nero. Berenice was a duel between Corneille and Racine for the amusement of Madame Henriette. Racine bore away the bell from his illustrious rival, without much glory. Bajazet soon followed. "Here is Racine's piece," wrote Madame de Sevigne to her daughter in January, 1672; "if I could send you La Champmesle, you would think it good, but without her, it loses half its worth. The character of Bajazet is cold as ice, the manners of the Turks are ill observed in it, they do not make so much fuss about getting married; the catastrophe is not well led up to, there are no reasons given for that great butchery. There are some pretty things, however, but nothing perfectly beautiful, nothing which carries by storm, none of those bursts of Corneille's which make one creep. My dear, let us be careful never to compare Racine with him, let us always feel the difference; never will the former rise any higher than Andromaque. Long live our old friend Corneille! Let us forgive his bad verses for the sake of those divine and sublime beauties which transport us. They are master-strokes which are inimitable." Corneille had seen Bajazet. "I would take great care not to say so to anybody else," he whispered in the ear of Segrais, who was sitting beside him, "because they would say that I said so from jealousy; but, mind you, there is not in Bajazet a single character with the sentiments which should and do prevail at Constantinople; they have all, beneath a Turkish dress, the sentiments that prevail in the midst of France." The impassioned loyalty of Madame de Sevigne, and the clear-sighted jealousy of Corneille, were not mistaken; Bajazet is no Turk, but he is none the less very human. "There are points by which men recognize themselves, though there is no resemblance; there are others in which there is resemblance without any recognition. Certain sentiments belong to nature in all countries; they are characteristic of man only, and everywhere man will see his own image in them." [Corneille et son temps, by M. Guizot.] Racine's reputation went on continually increasing; he had brought out Mithridate and Iphigenie; Phedre appeared in 1677. A cabal of great lords caused its failure at first. When the public, for a moment led astray after the Phedre of Pradon, returned to the master-work of Racine, vexation and wounded pride had done their office in the poet's soul. Pious sentiments ever smouldering in his heart, the horror felt for the theatre by Port-Royal, and penitence for the sins he had been guilty of against his friends there, revived within him; and Racine gave up profane poetry forever. "The applause I have met with has often flattered me a great deal," said he at a later period to his son, "but the smallest critical censure, bad as it may have been, always caused me more of vexation than all the praises had given me of pleasure." Racine wanted to turn Carthusian; his confessor dissuaded him, and his friends induced him to marry. Madame Racine was an excellent person, modest and devout, who never went to the theatre, and scarcely knew her husband's plays by name; she brought him some fortune. The king had given the great poet a pension, and Colbert had appointed him to the treasury (tresorier) at Moulins. Louis XIV., moreover, granted frequent donations to men of letters. Racine received from him nearly fifty thousand livres; he was appointed historiographer to the king. Boileau received the same title; the latter was not married, but Racine before long had seven children. "Why did not I turn Carthusian!" he would sometimes exclaim in the disquietude of his paternal affection when his children were ill. He devoted his life to them with pious solicitude, constantly occupied with their welfare, their good education, and the salvation of their souls. Several of his daughters became nuns. He feared above everything to see his eldest son devote himself to poetry, dreading for him the dangers he considered he himself had run. "As for your epigram, I wish you had not written it," he wrote to him; "independently of its being commonplace, I cannot too earnestly recommend you not to let yourself give way to the temptation of writing French verses which would serve no purpose but to distract your mind; above all, you should not write against anybody." This son, the object of so much care, to whom his father wrote such modest, grave, paternal, and sagacious letters, never wrote verses, lived in retirement, and died young without ever having married. Little Louis, or Lionval, Racine's last child, was the only one who ever dreamt of being a writer. "You must be very bold," said Boileau to him, "to dare write verses with the name you bear! It is not that I consider it impossible for you to become capable some day of writing good ones, but I mistrust what is without precedent, and never, since the world was world, has there been seen a great poet son of a great poet." Louis Racine never was a great poet, in spite of the fine verses which are to be met with in his poems la Religion and la Grace. His Memoires of his father, written for his son, describe Racine in all the simple charm of his domestic life. "He would leave all to come and see us," writes Louis Racine; "an equerry of the duke's came one day to say that he was expected to dinner at Conde's house. 'I shall not have the honor of going,' said he; 'it is more than a week since I have seen my wife and children who are making holiday to-day to feast with me on a very fine carp; I cannot give up dining with them.' And, when the equerry persisted, he sent for the carp, which was worth about a crown. 'Judge for yourself,' said he, 'whether I can disappoint these poor children who have made up their minds to regale me, and would not enjoy it if they were to eat this dish without me.' He was loving by nature," adds Louis Racine; "he was loving towards God when he returned to Him; and, from the day of his return to those who, from his infancy, had taught him to know Him, he was so towards them without any reserve; he was so all his life towards his friends, towards his wife, and towards his children."

Boileau had undertaken the task of reconciling his friend with Port-Royal. Nicole had made no opposition, "not knowing what war was." M. Arnauld was intractable. Boileau one day made up his mind to take him a copy of Phedre, pondering on the way as to what he should say to him. "Shall this man," said he, "be always right, and shall I never be able to prove him wrong? I am quite sure that I shall be right to-day; if he is not of my opinion,—he will be wrong." And, going to M. Arnauld's, where he found a large company, be set about developing his thesis, pulling out Phedre, and maintaining that if tragedy were dangerous, it was the fault of the poets. The younger theologians listened to him disdainfully, but at last M. Arnauld said out loud, "If things are as he says, he is right, and such tragedy is harmless." Boileau declared that he had never felt so pleased in his life. M. Arnauld being reconciled to Phedre, the principal step was made next day the author of the tragedy presented himself. The culprit entered, humility and confusion depicted on his face; he threw himself at the feet of M. Arnauld, who took him in his arms; Racine was thenceforth received into favor by Port-Royal. The two friends were preparing to set out with the king for the campaign of 1677. The besieged towns opened their gates before the poets had left Paris. "How is it that you had not the curiosity to see a siege?" the king asked them on his return: "it was not a long trip." "True, sir," answered Racine, always the greater courtier of the two, "but our tailors were too slow. We had ordered travelling suits; and when they were brought home, the places which your Majesty was besieging were taken." Louis XIV. was not displeased. Racine thenceforth accompanied him in all his campaigns; Boileau, who ailed a great deal, and was of shy disposition, remained at Paris. His friend wrote to, him constantly, at one time from the camp and at another from Versailles, whither he returned with the king. "Madame de Maintenon told me, this, morning," writes Racine, "that the king had fixed our pensions at four thousand francs for me and two thousand for you: that is, not including our literary pensions. I have just come from thanking the king. I laid more stress upon your case than even my own. I said, in as many words, 'Sir, he has more wit than ever, more zeal for your Majesty, and more desire to work for your glory than ever he had.' I am, nevertheless, really pained at the idea of my getting more than you. But, independently of the expenses and fatigue of the journeys, from which I am glad that you are delivered, I know that you are so noble-minded and so friendly, that I am sure you would be heartily glad that I were even better treated. I shall be very pleased if you are." Boileau answered at once: "Are you mad with your compliments? Do not you know perfectly well that it was I who suggested the way in which things have been done? And can you doubt of my being perfectly well pleased with a matter in which I am accorded all I ask? Nothing in the world could be better, and I am even more rejoiced on your account than on my own." The two friends consulted one another mutually about their verses; Racine sent Boileau his spiritual songs. The king heard the Combat du Chretien sung, set to music by Moreau:—
               "O God, my God, what deadly strife!
               Two men within myself I see
               One would that, full of love to Thee,
               My heart were leal, in death and life;
               The other, with rebellion rife,
               Against Thy laws inciteth me."


He turned to Madame de Maintenon, and, "Madame," said he, "I know those two men well." Boileau sends Racine his ode on the capture of Namur. "I have risked some very new things," he says, "even to speaking of the white plume which the king has in his hat; but, in my opinion, if you are to have novel expressions in verse, you must speak of things which have not been said in verse. You shall be judge, with permission to alter the whole, if you do not like it." Boileau's generous confidence was the more touching, in that Racine was sarcastic and bitter in discussion. "Did you mean to hurt me?" Boileau said to him one day. "God forbid!" was the answer. "Well, then, you made a mistake, for you did hurt me."

Racine had just brought out Esther at the theatre of St. Cyr. Madame de Brinon, lady-superior of the establishment which was founded by Madame de Maintenon for the daughters of poor noblemen, had given her pupils a taste for theatricals. "Our little girls have just been playing your Andromaque," wrote Madame de Maintenon to Racine, "and they played it so well that they never shall play it again in their lives, or any other of your pieces." She at the same time asked him to write, in his leisure hours, some sort of moral and historical poem from which love should be altogether banished. This letter threw Racine into a great state of commotion. He was anxious to please Madame de Maintenon, and yet it was a delicate commission for a man who had a great reputation to sustain. Boileau was for refusing. "That was not in the calculations of Racine," says Madame de Caylus in her Souvenirs. He wrote Esther. "Madame de Maintenon was charmed with the conception and the execution," says Madame de La Fayette; "the play represented in some sort the fall of Madame de Montespan and her own elevation; all the difference was that Esther was a little younger, and less particular in the matter of piety. The way in which the characters were applied was the reason why Madame de Maintenon was not sorry to make public a piece which had been composed for the community only and for some of her private friends. There was exhibited a degree of excitement about it which is incomprehensible; not one of the small or the great but would go to see it, and that which ought to have been looked upon as merely a convent-play became the most serious matter in the world. The ministers, to pay their court by going to this play, left their most pressing business. At the first representation at which the king was present, he took none but the principal officers of his hunt. The second was reserved for pious personages, such as Father La Chaise, and a dozen or fifteen Jesuits, with many other devotees of both sexes; afterwards it extended to the courtiers." "I paid my court at St. Cyr the other day, more agreeably than I had expected writes Madame de Sevigne to her daughter: listened, Marshal Bellefonds and I, with an attention that was remarked, and with certain discreet commendations which were not perhaps to be found beneath the head-dresses' of all the ladies present. I cannot tell you how exceedingly delightful this piece is; it is a unison of music, verse, songs, persons, so perfect that there is nothing left to desire. The girls who act the kings and other characters were made expressly for it. Everything is simple, everything innocent, everything sublime and affecting. I was charmed, and so was the marshal, who left his place to go and tell the king how pleased he was, and that he sat beside a lady well worthy of having seen Esther. The king came over to our seats. 'Madame,' he said to me, 'I am assured that you have been pleased.' I, without any confusion,' replied, 'Sir, I am charmed; what I feel is beyond expression.' The king said to me, 'Racine is very clever.' I said to him, 'Very, Sir; but really these young people are very clever too; they throw themselves into the subject as if they had never done aught else.' 'Ah! as to that,' he replied, 'it is quite true.' And then his Majesty went away and left me the object of envy. The prince and princess came and gave me a word, Madame de Maintenon a glance; she went away with the king. I replied to all, for I was in luck."

Athalie had not the same brilliant success as Esther. The devotees and the envious had affrighted Madame de Maintenon, who had requested Racine to write it. The young ladies of St. Cyr, in the uniform of the house, played the piece quite simply at Versailles before Louis XIV. and Madame de Maintenon, in a room without a stage. When the players gave a representation of it at Paris, it was considered heavy; it did not, succeed. Racine imagined that he was doomed to another failure like that of Phedre, which he preferred before all his other pieces. "I am a pretty good judge," Boileau kept repeating to him: "it is about the best you have done; the public will come round to it." Racine died before success was achieved by the only perfect piece which the French stage possesses,—worthy both of the subject and of the sources whence Racine drew his inspiration. He had, with an excess of scrupulousness, abandoned the display of all the fire that burned within him; but beauty never ceased to rouse him to irresistible enthusiasm. Whilst reading the Psalms to M. de Seignelay, when lying ill, he could not refrain from paraphrasing them aloud. He admired Sophocles so much that he never dared touch the subjects of his tragedies. "One day," says M. de Valicour, "when he was at Auteuil, at Boileau's, with M. Nicole and some distinguished friends, he took up a Sophocles in Greek, and read the tragedy of OEdipus, translating it as he went. He read so feelingly that all his auditors experienced the sensations of terror and pity with which this piece abounds. I have seen our best pieces played by our best actors, but nothing ever came near the commotion into which I was thrown by this reading, and, at this moment of writing, I fancy I still see Racine, book in hand, and all of us awe-stricken around him." Thus it was that, whilst repeating, but a short time before, the verses of Mithridate, as he was walking in the Tuileries, he had seen the workmen leaving their work and coming up to him, convinced as they were that he was mad, and was going to throw himself into the basin.

Racine for a long while enjoyed the favors of the king, who went so far as to tolerate the attachment the poet had always testified towards Port-Royal. Racine, moreover, showed tact in humoring the susceptibilities of Louis XIV. and his counsellors. "Father Bonhours and Father Rapin (Jesuits) were in my study when I received your letter," he writes to Boileau. "I read it to them, on breaking the seal, and I gave them very great pleasure. I kept looking ahead, however, as I was reading, in case there was anything too Jansenistical in it. I saw, towards the end, the name of M. Nicole, and I skipped boldly, or, rather, mean-spiritedly, over it. I dared not expose myself to the chance of interfering with the great delight, and even shouts of laughter, caused them by many very amusing things you sent me. They are both of them, I assure you, very friendly towards you, and indeed very good fellows."

All this caution did not prevent Racine, however, from displeasing the king. After a conversation he had held with Madame de Maintenon about the miseries of the people, she asked him for a memorandum on the subject. The king demanded the name of the author, and flew out at him. "Because he is a perfect master of verse," said he, "does he think he knows everything? And because he is a great poet, does he want to be minister?"—-Madame de Maintenon was more discreet in her relations with the king than bold in the defence of her friends; she sent Racine word not to come and see her 'until further orders.' "Let this cloud pass," she said; "I will bring the fine weather back." Racine was ill; his naturally melancholy disposition had become sombre. "I know, Madame," he wrote to Madame de Maintenon, "what influence you have; but in the house of Port-Royal I have an aunt who shows her affection for me in quite a different way. This holy woman is always praying God to send me disgraces, humiliations, and subjects for penitence; she will have more success than you." At bottom his soul was not sturdy enough to endure the rough doctrines of Port-Royal; his health got worse and worse; he returned to court; he was re-admitted by the king, who received him graciously. Racine continued uneasy; he had an abscess of the liver, and was a long while ill. "When he was convinced that he was going to die, he ordered a letter to be written to the superintendent of finances, asking for payment, which was due, of his pension. His son brought him the letter. 'Why,' said he, 'did not you ask for payment of Boileau's pension too? We must not be made distinct. Write the letter over again, and let Boileau know that I was his friend even to death.' When the latter came to wish him farewell, he raised himself up in bed with an effort. 'I regard it as a happiness for me to die before you,' he said to his friend. An operation appeared necessary. His son would have given him hopes. 'And you, too,' said Racine, 'you would do as the doctors, and mock me? God is the Master, and can restore me to life, but Death has sent in his bill.'"

He was not mistaken: on the 21st of April, 1699, the great poet, the scrupulous Christian, the noble and delicate painter of the purest passions of the soul, expired at Paris, at fifty-nine years of age; leaving life without regret, spite of all the successes with which he had been crowned. Unlike Corneille with the Cid, he did not take tragedy and glory by assault, he conquered them both by degrees, raising himself at each new effort, and gaining over, little by little, the most passionate admirers of his great rival. At the pinnacle of this reputation and this victory, at thirty-eight years of age, he had voluntarily shut the door against the intoxications and pride of success; he had mutilated his life, buried his genius in penitence, obeying simply the calls of his conscience, and, with singular moderation in the very midst of exaggeration, becoming a father of a family and remaining a courtier, at the same time that he gave up the stage and glory. Racine was gentle and sensible even in his repentance and his sacrifices. Boileau gave religion the credit for this very moderation. "Reason commonly brings others to faith; it was faith which brought M. Racine to reason."

Boileau had more to do with his friend's reason than he probably knew. Racine never acted without consulting him. With Racine, Boileau lost half his life. He survived him twelve years without ever setting foot again within the court after his first interview with the king. "I have been at Versailles," he writes to his publisher, M. Brossette, "where I saw Madame de Maintenon, and afterwards the king, who overcame me with kind words; so, here I am more historiographer than ever. His Majesty spoke to me of M. Racine in a manner to make courtiers desire death, if they thought he would speak of them in the same way afterwards. Meanwhile that has been but very small consolation to me for the loss of that illustrious friend, who is none the less dead though regretted by the greatest king in the universe." "Remember," Louis XIV. had said, "that I have always an hour a week to give you when you like to come." Boileau did not go again. "What should I go to court for?" he would say; "I cannot sing praises any more."

At Racine's death Boileau did not write any longer. He had entered the arena of letters at three and twenty, after a sickly and melancholy childhood. The Art Poetique and the Lutrin appeared in 1674; the first nine Satires and several of the Epistles had preceded them. Rather a witty, shrewd, and able versifier than a great poet, Boileau displayed in the Lutrin a richness and suppleness of fancy which his other works had not foreshadowed. The broad and cynical buffoonery of Scarron's burlesques had always shocked his severe and pure taste. "Your father was weak enough to read Virgile travesti, and laugh over it," he would, say to Louis Racine, "but he kept it dark from me." In the Lutrin, Boileau sought the gay and the laughable under noble and polished forms; the gay lost by it, the laughable remained stamped with an ineffaceable seal. "M. Despreaux," wrote Racine to his son, "has not only received from heaven a marvellous genius for satire, but he has also, together with that, an excellent judgment, which makes him discern what needs praise and what needs blame." This marvellous genius for satire did not spoil Boileau's natural good feeling. "He is cruel in verse only," Madame de Sevigne used to say. Racine was tart, bitter in discussion; Boileau always preserved his coolness: his judgments frequently anticipated those of posterity. The king asked him one day who was the greatest poet of his reign. "Moliere, sir," answered Boileau, without hesitation. "I shouldn't have thought it," rejoined the king, somewhat astonished; "but you know more about it than I do." Moliere, in his turn, defending La Fontaine against the pleasantries of his friends, said to his neighbor at one of those social meals in which the illustrious friends delighted, "Let us not laugh at the good soul (bonhomme) he will probably live longer than the whole of us." In the noble and touching brotherhood of these great minds, Boileau continued invariably to be the bond between the rivals; intimate friend as he was of Racine, he never quarrelled with Moliere, and he hurried to the king to beg that he would pass on the pension with which he honored him to the aged Corneille, groundlessly deprived of the royal favors. He entered the Academy on the 3d of July, 1684, immediately after La Fontaine. His satires had retarded his election. "He praised without flattery; he humbled himself nobly" says Louis Racine; "and when he said that admission to the Academy was sure to be closed against him for so many reasons, he set a-thinking all the Academicians he had spoken ill of in his works." He was no longer writing verses when Perrault published his Parallele des anciens et desmodernes. "If Boileau do not reply," said the Prince of Conti, "you may assure him that I will go to the Academy, and write on his chair, 'Brutus, thou sleepest.'" The ode on the capture of Namur,—intended to crush Perrault whilst celebrating Pindar, not being sufficient, Boileau wrote his Reflexions sur Longin, bitter and often unjust towards Perrault, who was far more equitably treated and more effectually refuted in Fenelon's letter to the French Academy.

Boileau was by this time old; he had sold his house at Auteuil, which was so dear, but he did not give up literature, continuing to revise his verses carefully, pre-occupied with new editions, and reproaching himself for this pre-occupation. "It is very shameful," he would say, "to be still busying myself, with rhymes and all those Parnassian trifles, when, I ought to be thinking of nothing but the account I am prepared to go and render to God." He died on the 13th of March, 1711, leaving nearly all he had to the poor. He was followed to the tomb by a great throng. "He had many friends," was the remark amongst the people, "and yet we are assured that he spoke evil of everybody." No writer ever contributed more than Boileau to the formation of poetry; no more correct or shrewd judgment ever assessed the merits of authors; no loftier spirit ever guided a stronger and a juster mind. Through all the vicissitudes undergone by literature, and spite of the sometimes excessive severity of his decrees, Boileau has left an ineffaceable impression upon the French language. His talent was less effective than his understanding; his judgment and his character have had more influence than his verses.

Boileau had survived all his friends. La Fontaine, born in 1621 at Chateau-Thierry, had died in 1695. He had entered in his youth the brotherhood of the Oratory, which he had soon quitted, being unable, he used to say, to accustom himself to theology. He went and came between town and town, amusing himself everywhere, and already writing a little.
    "For me the whole round world was laden with delights;
     My heart was touched by flower, sweet sound, and sunny day,
     I was the sought of friends and eke of lady gay."


Fontaine was married, without caring much for his wife, whom he left to live alone at Chateau-Thierry. He was in great favor with Fouquet. When his patron was disgraced, in danger of his life, La Fontaine put into the mouth of the nymphs of Vaux his touching appeal to the king's clemency:—
    "May he, then, o'er the life of high-souled Henry pore,
     Who, with the power to take, for vengeance yearned no more
     O, into Louis' soul this gentle spirit breathe."


Later on, during Fouquet's imprisonment at Pignerol, La Fontaine wrote further,—
    "I sigh to think upon the object of my prayers;
     You take my sense, Ariste; your generous nature shares
     The plaints I make for him who so unkindly fares.
     He did displease the king; and lo his friends were gone
     Forthwith a thousand throats roared out at him like one.
     I wept for him, despite the torrent of his foes,
     I taught the world to have some pity for his woes."


La Fontaine has been described as a solitary being, without wit, and without external charm of any kind. La Bruyere has said, "A certain man appears loutish, heavy, stupid; he can neither talk nor relate what he has just seen; he sets himself to writing, and it is a model of story-telling; he makes speakers of animals, trees; stones, everything that cannot speak. There is nothing but lightness and elegance, nothing but natural beauty and delicacy in his works." "He says nothing or will talk of nothing but Plato," Racine's daughters used to say. All his contemporaries, however, of fashion and good breeding did not form the same opinion of him. The Dowager-duchess of Orleans, Marguerite of Lorraine, had taken him as one of her gentlemen-in-waiting; the Duchess of Bouillon had him in her retinue in the country; Madame de Montespan and her sister, Madame de Thianges, liked to have a visit from him. He lived at the house of Madame de La Sabliere, a beauty and a wit, who received a great deal of company. He said of her,
         "Warm is her heart, and knit with tenderest ties
          To those she loves, and, elsewise, otherwise;
          For such a sprite, whose birthplace is the skies,
          Of manly beauty blent with woman's grace,
          No mortal pen, though fain, can fitly trace."


"I have only kept by me," she would say, "my three pets (animaux): my dog, my cat, and La Fontaine." When she died, M. and Madame d'Hervart received into their house the now old and somewhat isolated poet. As D'Hervart was on his way to go and make the proposal to La Fontaine, he met him in the street. "I was coming to ask you to put up at our house," said he. "I was just going thither," answered Fontaine with the most touching confidence. There he remained to his death, contenting himself with going now and then to Chateau-Thierry, as long as his wife lived, to sell, with her consent, some strip of ground. The property was going, old age was coming:—
          "John did no better than he had begun,
          Spent property and income both as one:
          Of treasure saw small use in any way;
          Knew very well how to get through his day;
          Split it in two: one part, as he thought best,
          He passed in sleep—did nothing all the rest."


He did not sleep, he dreamed. One day dinner was kept waiting for him. "I have just come," said he, as he entered, "from the funeral of an ant; I followed the procession to the cemetery, and I escorted the family home." It has been said that La Fontaine knew nothing of natural history; he knew and loved animals; up to his time, fable-writers had been, merely philosophers or satirists; he was the first who was a poet, unique not only in France but in Europe, discovering the deep and secret charm of nature, animating it, with his inexhaustible and graceful genius, giving lessons to men from the example of animals, without making the latter speak like man; ever supple and natural, sometimes elegant and noble, with penetration beneath the cloak of his simplicity, inimitable in the line which he had chosen from taste, from instinct, and not from want of power to transport his genius elsewhither. He himself has said,
         "Yes, call me truly, if it must be said,
          Parnassian butterfly, and like the bees
          Wherein old Plato found our similes.
          Light rover I, forever on the wing,
          Flutter from flower to flower, from thing to thing,
          With much of pleasure mix a little fame."


And in Psyche:
         "Music and books, and junketings and love,
          And town and country—all to me is bliss;
          There nothing is that comes amiss;
          In melancholy's self grim joy I prove."



The grace, the naturalness, the original independence of the mind and the works of La Fontaine had not the luck to please Louis XIV., who never accorded him any favor, and La Fontaine did not ask for any:—
         "All dumb I shrink once more within my shell,
          Where unobtrusive pleasures dwell;
          True, I shall here by Fortune be forgot
          Her favors with my verse agree not well;
          To importune the gods beseems me not."


Once only, from the time of Fouquet's trial, the poet demanded a favor: Louis XIV., having misgivings about the propriety of the Contes of La Fontaine, had not yet given the assent required for his election to the French Academy, when he set out for the campaign in Luxemburg. La Fontaine addressed to him a ballad:—
         "Just as, in Homer, Jupiter we see
          Alone o'er all the other gods prevail;
          You, one against a hundred though it be,
          Balance all Europe in the other scale.
          Them liken I to those who, in the tale,
          Mountain on mountain piled, presumptuously
          Warring with Heaven and Jove.  The earth clave he,
          And hurled them down beneath huge rocks to wail:
          So take you up your bolt with energy;
          A happy consummation cannot fail.

         "Sweet thought! that doth this month or two avail
          To somewhat soothe my Muse's anxious care.
          For certain minds at certain stories rail,
          Certain poor jests, which nought but trifles are.
          If I with deference their lessons hail,
          What would they more?  Be you more prone to spare,
          More kind than they; less sheathed in rigorous mail;
          Prince, in a word, your real self declare
          A happy consummation cannot fail."


The election of Boileau to the Academy appeased the king's humor, who preferred the other's intellect to that of La Fontaine. "The choice you have made of M. Despreaux is very gratifying to me," he said to the board of the Academy: "it will be approved of by everybody. You can admit La Fontaine at once; he has promised to be good." It was a rash promise, which the poet did not always keep.

The friends, of La Fontaine had but lately wanted to reconcile him to his wife. They had with that view sent him to Chateau-Thierry; he returned without having seen her whom he went to visit. "My wife was not at home," said he; "she had gone to the sacrament (au salut)." He was becoming old. Those same faithful friends—Racine, Boileau, and Maucroix —were trying to bring him home to God. Racine took him to church with him; a Testament was given him. "That is a very good book," said he; "I assure you it is a very good book." Then all at once addressing Abbe Boileau, "Doctor, do you think that St. Augustin was as clever as Rabelais?" He was ill, however, and began to turn towards eternity his dreamy and erratic thoughts. He had set about composing pious hymns. "The best of thy friends has not a fortnight to live," he wrote to Maucroix; "for two months I have not been out, unless to go to the Academy for amusement. Yesterday, as I was returning, I was seized in the middle of Rue du Chantre with a fit of such great weakness that I really thought I was dying. O, my dear friend, to die is nothing; but thinkest thou that I am about to appear before God? Thou knowest how I have lived. Before thou hast this letter, the gates of eternity will, perchance, be opened for me." "He is as simple as a child," said the woman who took care of him in his last illness; "if he has done amiss, it was from ignorance rather than wickedness." A charming and a curious being, serious and simple, profound and childlike, winning by reason of his very vagaries, his good-natured originality, his helplessness in common life, La Fontaine knew how to estimate the literary merits as well as the moral qualities of his illustrious friends. "When they happened to be together," says he, in his tale of Psyche, "and had talked to their heart's content of their diversions, if they chanced to stumble upon any point of science or literature, they profited by the occasion, without, however, lingering too long over one and the same subject, but flitting from one topic to another like bees that meet as they go with different sorts of flowers. Envy, malignity, or cabal had no voice amongst them; they adored the works of the ancients, refused not the moderns the praises which were their due, spoke of their own with modesty, and gave one another honest advice when any one of them fell ill of the malady of the age and wrote a book, which happened now and then. In this case, Acanthus (Racine) did not fail to propose a walk in some place outside the town, in order to hear the reading with less noise and more pleasure. He was extremely fond of gardens, flowers, foliage. Polyphile (La Fontaine) resembled him in this; but then Polyphile might be said to love all things. Both of them were lyrically inclined, with this difference, that Acanthus was rather the more pathetic, Polyphile the more ornate."

When La Fontaine died, on the 13th of April, 1695, of the four friends lately assembled at Versailles to read the tale of Psyche, Moliere alone had disappeared. La Fontaine had admired at Vaux the young comic poet, who had just written the Facheux for the entertainment given by Fouquet to Louis XIV.:—
              "It is a work by Moliere;
               This writer, of a style so rare,
               Is nowadays the court's delight
               His fame, so rapid is its flight,
               Beyond the bounds of Rome must be:
               Amen! For he's the man for me."


In his old age he gave vent to his grief and his regret at Moliere's death in this touching epitaph:—
         "Beneath this stone Plautus and Terence lie,
          Though lieth here but Moliere alone
          Their threefold gifts of mind made up but one,
          That witched all France with noble comedy.
          Now are they gone: and little hope have I
          That we again shall look upon the three
          Dead men, methinks, while countless years roll by,
          Terentius, Plautus, Moliere will be."


Moliere and French comedy had no need to take shelter beneath the mantle of the ancients; they, together, had shed upon the world incomparable lustre. Shakespeare might dispute with Corneille and Racine the sceptre of tragedy; he had succeeded in showing himself as full of power, with more truth, as the one, and as full of tenderness, with more profundity, as the other. Moliere is superior to him in originality, abundance, and perfection of characters; he yields to him neither in range, nor penetration, nor complete knowledge of human nature. The lives of these two great geniuses, authors and actors both together, present in other respects certain features of resemblance. Both were intended for another career than that of the stage; both, carried away by an irresistible passion, assembled about them a few actors, leading at first a roving life, to end by becoming the delight of the court and of the world. John Baptist Poquelin, who before long assumed the name of Moliere, was born at Paris in 1622; his father, upholstery-groom-of-the-chamber (valet de chambre tapissier) to Louis XIV., had him educated with some care at Clermont (afterwards Louis-le-Grand) College, then in the hands of the Jesuits. He attended, by favor, the lessons which the philosopher Gassendi, for a longtime, the opponent of Descartes, gave young Chapelle. He imbibed at these lessons, together with a more extensive course of instruction, a certain freedom of thinking which frequently cropped out in his plays, and contributed later on to bring upon him an accusation of irreligion. In 1645 (?1643), Moliere had formed, with the ambitious title of illustre theatre, a small company of actors, who, being unable to maintain themselves at Paris, for a long while tramped the provinces through all the troubles of the Fronde. It was in 1653 that Moliere brought out at Lyons his comedy l'Etourdi, the first regular piece he had ever composed. The Depit amoureux was played at Beziers in 1656, at the opening of the session of the States of Languedoc; the company returned to Paris in 1658; in 1659, Moliere, who had obtained a license from the king, gave at his own theatre les Precieuses ridicules. He broke with all imitation of the Italians and the Spaniards, and, taking off to the life the manners of his own times, he boldly attacked the affected exaggeration and absurd pretensions of the vulgar imitators of the Hotel de Rambouillet. "Bravo! Moliere," cried an old man from the middle of the pit; "this is real comedy." When he published his piece, Moliere, anxious not to give umbrage to a powerful clique, took care to say in his preface that he was not attacking real precieuses, but only the bad imitations.

Just as he had recalled Corneille to the stage, Fouquet was for protecting Moliere upon it. The Ecole des Mans and the Facheux were played at Vaux. Amongst the ridiculous characters in this latter, Moliere had not described the huntsman. Louis XIV. himself indicated to him the Marquis of Soyecour. "There's one you have forgotten," he said. Twenty-four hours later, the bore of a huntsman, with all his jargon of venery, had a place forever amongst the Facheux of Moliere. The Ecole des Femmes, the Impromptu de Versailles, the Critique de l'Ecole des Femmes, began the bellicose period in the great comic poet's life. Accused of impiety, attacked in the honor of his private life, Moliere, returning insult for insult, delivered over those amongst his enemies who offered a butt for ridicule to the derision of the court and of posterity. The Festin de Pierre and the signal punishment of the libertine (free-thinker) were intended to clear the author from the reproach of impiety; la Princesse d'Elide and l'Amour medecin were but charming interludes in the great struggle henceforth instituted between reality and appearance. In 1666, Moliere produced le Misanthrope, a frank and noble spirit's sublime invective against the frivolity, perfidious and showy semblances of court. "This misanthrope's despitefulness against bad verses was copied from me; Moliere himself confessed as much to me many a time," wrote Boileau one day. The indignation of Alceste is deeper and more universal than that of Boileau against bad poets; he is disgusted with the court and the world because he is honest, virtuous, and sincere, and sees corruption triumphant around him; he is wroth to feel the effects of it in his life, and almost in his own soul. He is a victim to the eternal struggle between good and evil without the strength and the unquenchable hope of Christianity. The Misanthrope is a shriek of despair uttered by virtue, excited and almost distraught at the defeat she forebodes. The Tartuffe was a new effort in the same direction, and bolder in that it attacked religious hypocrisy, and seemed to aim its blows even at religion itself. Moliere was a long time working at it; the first acts had been played in 1664, at court, under the title of l'Hypocrite, at the same time as la Princesse d'Elide. "The king," says the account of the entertainment in the Gazette de Loret, "saw so much analogy of form between those whom true devotion sets in the way of heaven and those whom an empty ostentation of good deeds does not hinder from committing bad, that his extreme delicacy in respect of religious matters could with difficulty brook this resemblance of vice to virtue; and though there might be no doubt of the author's good intentions, he prohibited the playing of this comedy before the public until it should be quite finished and examined by persons qualified to judge of it, so as not to let advantage be taken of it by others less capable of just discernment in the matter." Though played once publicly, in 1667, under the title of l'Imposteur, the piece did not appear definitively on the stage until 1669, having undoubtedly excited more scandal by interdiction than it would have done by representation. The king's good sense and judgment at last prevailed over the terrors of the truly devout and the resentment of hypocrites. He had just seen an impious piece of buffoonery played. "I should very much like to know," said he to the Prince of Conde, who stood up for Moliere, an old fellow-student of his brother's, the Prince of Conti's, "why people who are so greatly scandalized at Moliere's comedy say nothing about Scaramouche?" "The reason of that," answered the prince, "is, that Scaramouche makes fun of heaven and religion, about which those gentry do not care, and that Moliere makes fun of their own selves, which they cannot brook." The prince might have added that all the blows in Tartuffe, a masterpiece of shrewdness, force, and fearless and deep wrath, struck home at hypocrisy.

Whilst waiting for permission to have Tartufe played, Moliere had brought out le Medecin malgre lui, Amphitryon, Georges Dandin, and l'Avare, lavishing freely upon them the inexhaustible resources of his genius, which was ever ready to supply the wants of kingly and princely entertainments. Monsieur de Pourceaugnac was played for the first time at Chambord, on the 6th of October, 1669; a year afterwards, on the same stage, appeared Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, with the interludes and music of Lulli. The piece was a direct attack upon one of the most frequent absurdities of his day; many of the courtiers felt in their hearts that they were attacked; there was a burst of wrath at the first representation, by which the king had not appeared to be struck. Moliere thought it was all over with him. Louis XIV. desired to see the piece a second time. "You have never written anything yet which has amused me so much; your comedy is excellent," said he to the poet; the court was at once seized with a fit of admiration.

The king had lavished his benefits upon Moliere, who had an hereditary post near him as groom-of-the-chamber; he had given him a pension of seven thousand livres, and the license of the king's theatre; he had been pleased to stand godfather to one of his children, to whom the Duchess of Orleans was godmother; he had protected him against the superciliousness of certain servants of his bedchamber, but all the monarch's puissance and constant favors could not obliterate public prejudice, and give the comedian whom they saw every day on the boards the position and rank which his genius deserved. Moliere's friends urged him to give up the stage. "Your health is going," Boileau would say to him, "because the duties of a comedian exhaust you. Why not give it up?" "Alas!" replied Moliere, with a sigh, "it is a point of honor that prevents me." "A what?" rejoined Boileau; "what! to smear your face with a mustache as Sganarelle, and come on the stage to be thrashed with a stick? That is a pretty point of honor for a philosopher like you!"

Moliere might probably have followed the advice of Boileau, he might probably have listened to the silent warnings of his failing powers, if he had not been unfortunate and sad. Unhappy in his marriage, justly jealous and yet passionately fond of his wife, without any consolation within him against the bitternesses and vexations of his life, he sought in work and incessant activity the only distractions which had any charm for a high spirit, constantly wounded in its affections and its legitimate pride: Psyche, Les Fourberies de Scapin, La Comtesse d'Escarbagnas, betrayed nothing of their author's increasing sadness or suffering. Les Femmes Savantes had at first but little success; the piece was considered heavy; the marvellous nicety of the portraits, the correctness of the judgments, the delicacy and elegance of the dialogue, were not appreciated until later on. Moliere had just composed Le Malade Imaginaire, the last of that succession of blows which he had so often dealt the doctors; he was more ailing than ever; his friends, even his actors themselves pressed him not to have any play. "What would you have me do?" he replied; "there are fifty poor workmen who have but their day's pay to live upon; what will they do if we have no play? I should reproach myself with having neglected to give them bread for one single day, if I could really help it." Moliere had a bad voice, a disagreeable hiccough, and harsh inflexions. "He was, nevertheless," say his contemporaries, "a comedian from head to foot; he seemed to have several voices, everything about him spoke, and, by a caper, by a smile, by a wink of the eye and a shake of the head, he conveyed more than, the greatest speaker could have done by talking in an hour." He played as usual on the 17th of February, 1673; the curtain had risen exactly at four o'clock; Moliere could hardly stand, and he had a fit during the burlesque ceremony (at the end of the play) whilst pronouncing the word Juro. He was icy-cold when he went back to Baron's box, who was waiting for him, who saw him home to Rue Richelieu, and who at the same time sent for his wife and two sisters of charity. When he went up again, with Madame Moliere, into the room, the great comedian was dead. He was only fifty-one.

It has been a labor of love to go into some detail over the lives, works, and characters of the great writers during the age of Louis XIV. They did too much honor to their time and their country, they had too great and too deep an effect in France and in Europe upon the successive developments of the human intellect, to refuse them an important place in the history of that France to whose influence and glory they so powerfully contributed.

Moliere did not belong to the French Academy; his profession had shut the doors against him. It was nearly a hundred years after his death, in 1778, that the Academy raised to him a bust, beneath which was engraved,
          "O His glory lacks naught, ours did lack him."


It was by instinct and of its own free choice that the French Academy had refused to elect a comedian: it had grown, and its liberty had increased under the sway of, Louis XIV. In 1672, at the death of Chancellor Seguier, who became its protector after Richelieu, "it was so honored that the king was graciously pleased to take upon himself this office: the body had gone to thank him; his Majesty desired that the dauphin should be witness of what passed on an occasion so honorable to literature; after the speech of M. Harlay, Archbishop of Paris, and the man in France with most inborn talent for speaking, the king, appearing somewhat touched, gave the Academicians very great marks of esteem, inquired the names, one after another, of those whose faces were not familiar to him, and said aside to M. Colbert, who was there in his capacity of simple Academician, 'You will let me know what I must do for these gentlemen.' Perhaps M. Colbert, that minister who was so zealous for the fine arts, never received an order more in conformity with his own inclinations." From that time, the French Academy held its sittings at the Louvre, and, as regarded complimentary addresses to the king on state occasions, it took rank with the sovereign bodies.

For thirty-five years the Academy had been working at its Dictionnaire. From the first, the work had appeared interminable:—
          "These six years past they toil at letter F,
          And I'd be much obliged if Destiny
          would whisper to me, Thou shalt live to G,—


wrote Bois-Robert to Balzac. The Academy had intrusted Vaugelas with the preparatory labor. "It was," says Pellisson, "the only way of coming quickly to an end." A pension, which he had, not been paid for a long time past was revived in his favor. Vaugelas took his plan to Cardinal Richelieu. "Well, sir," said the minister, smiling with a somewhat contemptuous air of kindness, "you will not forget the word pension in this Dictionary." "No, Monsignor," replied M. de Vaugelas, with a profound bow, "and still less reconnaissance (gratitude)." Vaugelas had finished the first volume of his Remarques sur la Langue Francaise, which has ever since remained the basis of all works on grammar. "He had imported into the body of the work a something or other so estimable (d'honnete homme), and so much frankness, that one could scarcely help loving its author." He was working at the second volume when he died, in 1649, so poor that his creditors seized his papers, making it very difficult for the Academy to recover his Memoires. The Dictionary, having lost its principal author, went on so slowly that Colbert, curious to know whether the Academicians honestly earned their modest medals for attendance (jetons de presence) which he had assigned to them, came one day unexpectedly to a sitting: he was present at the whole discussion, "after which, having seen the attention and care which the Academy was bestowing upon the composition of its Dictionary, he said, as he rose, that he was convinced that it could not get on any faster, and his evidence ought to be of so much the more weight in that never man in his position was more laborious or more diligent."

The Academicians who were men of letters worked at the Dictionary; the Academicians who were men of fashion had become pretty numerous; Arnauld d'Andilly and M. de Lamoignon, whom the body had honored by election, declined to join, and the Academy resolved to never elect anybody without a previously expressed desire and request. At the time when M. de Lamoignon declined, the kin, fearing that it might bring the Academy into some disfavor, procured the appointment, in his stead, of the Coadjutor of Strasbourg, Armand de Rohan-Soubise. "Splendid as your triumph may be," wrote Boileau to M. de Lamoignon, "I am persuaded, sir, from what I know of your noble and modest character, that you are very sorry to have caused this displeasure to a body which is after all very illustrious, and that you will attempt to make it manifest to all the earth. I am quite willing to believe that you had good reasons for acting as you have done." The Academy from that moment regarded the title it conferred as irrevocable: it did not fill up the place of the Abbe de St. Pierre when it found itself obliged to exclude him from its sittings, by order of Louis XV.; it did not fill up the place of Mgr. Dupanloup, when he thought proper to send in his resignation. In spite of court intrigues, it from that moment maintained its independence and its dignity. "M. Despreaux," writes the banker Leverrier to the Duke of Noailles, "represented to the Academy, with a great deal of heat, that all was rack and ruin, since it was nothing more but a cabal of women that put Academicians in the place of those who died. Then he read out loud some verses by M. de St. Aulaire. . . . Thus M. Despreaux, before the eyes of everybody, gave M. de St. Aulaire a black ball, and nominated, all by himself, M. de Mimeure. Here, monseigneur, is proof that there are Romans still in the world, and, for the future, I will trouble you to call M. Despreaux no longer your dear poet, but your dear Cato."

With his extreme deafness, Boileau had great difficulty in fulfilling his Academic duties. He was a member of the Academy of medals and inscriptions, founded by Colbert in 1662, "in order to render the acts of the king immortal, by deciding the legends of the medals struck in his honor." Pontchartrain raised to forty the number of the members of the petite acadamie, extended its functions, and intrusted it thenceforth with the charge of publishing curious documents relating to the history of France. "We had read to us to-day a very learned work, but rather tiresome," says Boileau to M. Pontchartrain, "and we were bored right eruditely; but afterwards there was an examination of another which was much more agreeable, and the reading of which attracted considerable attention. As the reader was put quite close to me, I was in a position to hear and to speak of it. All I ask you, to complete the measure of your kindnesses, is to be kind enough to let everybody know that, if I am of so little use at the Academy of Medals, it is equally true that I do not and do not wish to obtain any pecuniary advantage from it."

The Academy of Sciences had already for many years had sittings in one of the rooms of the king's library. Like the French Academy, it had owed its origin to private meetings at which Descartes, Gassendi, and young Pascal were accustomed to be present. "There are in the world scholars of two sorts," said a note sent to Colbert about the formation of the new Academy. "One give themselves up to science because it is a pleasure to them: they are content, as the fruit of their labors, with the knowledge they acquire, and, if they are known, it is only amongst those with whom they converse unambitiously and for mutual instruction; these are bona fide scholars, whom it is impossible to do without in a design so great as that of the Academie royale. There are others who cultivate science only as a field which is to give them sustenance, and, as they see by experience that great rewards fall only to those who make the most noise in the world, they apply themselves especially, not to making new discoveries, for hitherto that has not been recompensed, but to whatever may bring them into notice; these are scholars of the fashionable world, and such as one knows best." Colbert had the true scholar's taste; he had brought Cassini from Italy to take the direction of the new Observatory; he had ordered surveys for a general map of France; he had founded the Journal des Savants; literary men, whether Frenchmen or foreigners, enjoyed the king's bounties. Colbert had even conceived the plan of a Universal Academy, a veritable forerunner of the Institute. The arts were not forgotten in this grand project; the academy of painting and sculpture dated from the regency of Anne of Austria; the pretensions of the Masters of Arts (maitres is arts), who placed an interdict upon artists not belonging to their corporation, had driven Charles Lebrun, himself the son of a Master, to agitate for its foundation; Colbert added to it the academy of music and the academy of architecture, and created the French school of painting at Rome. Beside the palace for a long time past dedicated to this establishment, lived, for more than thirty-five years, Le Poussin, the first and the greatest of all the painters of that French school which was beginning to spring up, whilst the Italian school, though blooming still in talent and strength, was forgetting more and more every day the nobleness, the purity, and the severity of taste which had carried to the highest pitch the art of the fifteenth century. The tradition of the masters in vogue in Italy, of the Caracci, of Guido, of Paul Veronese, had reached Paris with Simon Vouet, who had long lived at Rome. He was succeeded there by a Frenchman "whom, from his grave and thoughtful air, you would have taken for a father of Sorbonne," says M. Vitet in his charming Vie de Lesueur: "his black eye beneath his thick eyebrow nevertheless flashed forth a glance full of poesy and youth. His manner of living was not less surprising than his personal appearance. He might be seen walking in the streets of Rome, tablets in hand, hitting off by a stroke or two of his pencil at one time the antique fragments he came upon, at another the gestures, the attitudes, the faces of the persons who presented themselves in his path. Sometimes, in the morning, he would sit on the terrace of Trinity del Monte, beside another Frenchman five or six years younger, but already known for rendering landscapes with such fidelity, such, fresh and marvellous beauty, that all the Italian masters gave place to him, and that, after two centuries, he has not yet met his rival."

"Of these two artists, the older evidently exercised over the other the superiority which genius has over talent. The smallest hints of Le Poussin were received by Claude Lorrain with deference and respect; and yet, to judge from the prices at which they severally sold their pictures, the landscape painter had for the time an indisputable superiority."

Claude Gelee, called Lorrain, had fled when quite young from the shop of the confectioner with whom his parents had placed him. He had found means of getting to Rome; there he worked, there he lived, and there he died, returning but once to France, in the height of his renown, for just a few months, without even enriching his own land with any great number of his works; nearly all, of them remained on foreign soil. Le Poussin, born at the Andelys in 1593, made his way with great difficulty to Italy. He was by that time thirty years old, and had no more desire than Claude to return to France, where painting was with difficulty beginning to obtain a standing. His reputation, however, had penetrated thither. King Louis XIII. was growing weary of Simon Vouet's factitious lustre; he wanted Le Poussin to go to Paris. The painter for a long while held out; the king insisted. "I shall go," said Le Poussin, "like one sentenced to be sawn in halves and severed in twain." He passed eighteen months in France, welcomed enthusiastically, lodged at the Tuileries, magnificently paid, but exposed to the jealousies of Simon Vouet and his pupils. Worried, thwarted, frozen to death by the hoarfrosts of Paris, he took the road back to Rome in November, 1642, on the pretext of going to fetch his wife, and did not return any more. He had left in France some of his masterpieces, models of that, new, independent, and conscientious art, faithfully studied from nature in all its Italian grandeur, and from the treasures of the antique. "How did you arrive at such perfection?" people would ask Le Poussin. "By neglecting nothing," the painter would reply. In the same way Newton was soon to discover the great laws of the physical world, "by always thinking thereon."

During Le Poussin's stay at Paris he had taken as a pupil Eustache Lesueur, who had been trained in the studio of Simon Vouet, but had been struck from the first with the incomparable genius and proud independence of the master sent to him by fate. Alone he had supported Le Poussin in his struggle against the envious; alone he entered upon the road which revealed itself to him whilst he studied under Le Poussin. He was poor; he had great difficulty in managing to live. The delicacy, the purity, the suavity of his genius could shine forth in their entirety nowhere but in the convent of the Carthusians, whose cloister he was commissioned to decorate. There he painted the life of St. Bruno, breathing into this almost mystical work all the religious poetry of his soul and of his talent, ever delicate and chaste even in the allegorical figures of mythology with which he before long adorned the Hotel Lambert. He had returned to his favorite pursuits, embellishing the churches of Paris with incomparable works, when, overwhelmed by the loss of his wife, and exhausted by the painful efforts of his genius, he died at thirty-seven, in that convent of the Carthusians which he glorified with his talent, at the same time that he edified the monks with his religious zeal. Lesueur succumbed in a struggle too rude and too rough for his pure and delicate nature. Lebrun had returned from that Italy which Lesueur had never been able to reach; the old rivalry, fostered in the studio of Simon Vouet, was already being renewed between the two artists; the angelic art gave place to the worldly and the earthly. Lesueur died; Lebrun found himself master of the position, assured by anticipation, and as it were by instinct, of sovereign, dominion under the sway of the young king for whom he had been created.

Old Philip of Champagne alone might have disputed with him the foremost rank. He had passionately admired Le Poussin, he had attached himself to Lesueur. "Never," says M. Vitet, "had he sacrificed to fashion; never had he fallen into the vagaries of the degenerate Italian style." This upright, simple, painstaking soul, this inflexible conscience, looking continually into the human face, had preserved in his admirable portraits the life and the expression of nature which he was incessantly trying to seize and reproduce. Lebrun was preferred to him as first painter to the king by Louis XIV. himself; Philip of Champagne was delighted thereat; he lived, in retirement, in fidelity to his friends of Port-Royal, whose austere and vigorous lineaments he loved to trace, beginning with M. de St. Cyran, and ending with his own daughter, Sister Suzanne, who was restored to health by the prayers of Mother Agnes Arnauld.

Lebrun was as able a courtier as he was a good painter. The clever arrangement of his pictures, the richness and brilliancy of his talent, his faculty for applying art to industry, secured him with Louis XIV. a sway which lasted as long as his life. He was first painter to the king; he was director of the Gobelins and of the academy of painting. "He let nothing be done by the other artists but according to his own designs and suggestions. The worker in tapestry, the decorative painter, the statuary, the goldsmith, took their models from him: all came from him, all flowed from his brain, all bore his imprint." The painter followed the king's ideas, being entirely after his own heart. For fourteen years he worked for Louis XIV., representing his life and his conquests, at Versailles; painting for the Louvre the victories of Alexander, which were engraved almost immediately by Audran and Edelinck. He was jealous of the royal favor, sensitive and haughty towards artists, honestly concerned for the king's glory and for the tasks confided to himself. The growing reputation of Mignard, whom Louvois had brought back from Rome, troubled and disquieted Lebrun. In vain did the king encourage him. Lebrun, already ill, said in the presence of Louis XIV. that fine pictures seem to become finer after the painter's death. "Do not you be in a hurry to die, M. Lebrun," said the king; "we esteem your pictures now quite as highly as posterity can."

The small gallery at Versailles had been intrusted to Mignard. Lebrun withdrew to Montmorency, where he died in 1690, jealous of Mignard at the end as he had been of Lesueur at the outset of his life. Mignard became first painter to the king. He painted the ceiling of Val-de-Grace, which was celebrated by Moliere; but it was as a painter of portraits that he excelled in France. "M. Mignard does them best," said Le Poussin not long before, with lofty good nature, "though his heads are all paint, without force or character." To Mignard succeeded Rigaud as portrait painter, worthy to preserve the features of Bossuet and Fenelon. The unity of organization, the brilliancy of style, the imposing majesty which the king's taste had everywhere stamped about him upon art as well as upon literature, were by this time beginning to decay simultaneously with the old age of Louis XIV., with the reverses of his arms, and the increasing gloominess of his court; the artists who had illustrated his reign were dying one after another, as well as the orators and the poets; the sculptor James Sarazin had been gone some time; Puget and the Anguiers were dead, as well as Mansard, Perrault, and Le Notre; Girardon had but a few months to live; only Coysevox was destined to survive the king, whose statue he had many a time moulded. The great age was disappearing slowly and sadly, throwing out to the last some noble gleams, like the aged king who had constantly served as its centre and guide, like olden France, which he had crowned with its last and its most splendid wreath.

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