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safe publication, drove many to the composition of those Journals and Memoirs, which, after a time, were published to amuse the world, and now serve to instruct it-a remarkable instance of the truth, that the feelings of mankind, if dammed up in the more obvious channels, will always find or force some other outlet. These documents have disenchanted the reign of Louis XIV., which splendid victories and flattering eloquence had surrounded with false glory, and of which the colours were, in the
last generation, freshened by the brilliant work of Voltaire. The publication of the Memoirs of the Duc de St Simon, in the year 1788, first materially forwarded this severe þut salutary process. That singular man, full of family pride, and an enemy to arbitrary power, a Jansenist (or, as we should now speak, an Evangelical) in religion, and yet the bosomfriend of the Regent, has preserved much from personal observation in the latter part of that reign, and many traditions of its earlier and more glorious period, which are of great vaĮue, though they be more strongly coloured by his antipathies than his partialities, and which have a strong hold on the reader, by his incorrect but often animated and picturesque diction. The Letters of the Princess Palatine (Dutchess of Orleans), the niece of the Princess Sophia, to Caroline, afterwards the Queen of George II., have still more torn aside the veil which concealed the depravity of a Court where many disdained to stoop so low as the practice of common and natural vices. In the first edition of this Correspondence, published about the same time with St Simon, the most abominable passages were suppressed. Even in the late republication, there is some reason to believe that sacrifices have been made to decency or to policy; but enough remains, in the nature of the facts related, and in the freedom of the narrative, to place the book on a footing with Suetonius. Nothing but irresistible proof could justify us in imputing to the lowest and most infamous of women, the passages in which this lady, the first Princess of the blood-royal of France, describes the vices of the Duc de Vendome, and the almost prodigious effrontery of the Abbess of Maubuisson, who was her own aunt. The Journal of the Marquis de Dangeau has been published since the Restoration by Madame de Genlis, who, however, thought fit to suppress, without notice, about a thousand articles-forming the only instructive part of that equally dull and trifling diary, The suppressed passages, since published by M. Lemontey, contribute also not a little to unmask Louis XIV.
* A writer of considerable ability, who, in the reign of Napoleon, long enjoyed a free access to the French archives, for the purposes of his HisAll these books, it is true, like every other secret history, require to be read with more than ordinary caution, and with a constant regard to the prejudices of the writer: But taken together, after every due deduction is made, they form a body of evidence which is supported by other trust-worthy writers, where that can be expected-and is seldom at variance with any testimony not tainted by adulation. They sufficiently show, that the Court of Louis XIV, differed more in show than in substance from the society of the Regent and the vulgar rule of Madame Dubarry. Under Louis, the public indeed were less inquisitive, and the Court submitted to somewhat more hypocrisy. The King lived in a perpetual violation of every moral duty. But during his effective reign of fifty-five years, he never ate meat on a fast day, but when ill; and never was absent å single day from mass, but once, on a very long march of his army!
Justice and mercy' were not, it should seem, numbered by him among the weightier matters of the law.' The head fared as ill as the heart
. The very stupid person called, with ludicrous adulation, the Great Dauphin, was the pupil of Bossuet, who composed eloquent works for his improvement. But after his education he never read a syllable of print, but the births and deaths in the Paris Gazette !
Of the two books of which the names are placed at the head of this Article, the first is the genuine production of the principal actor in his Court and councils, during his last thirty years; and the second will afford a short but decisive proof that, in spite of the example of a regular and domestic Prince, Versailles maintained its ancient character, till its inhabitants were dispersed by the tempest of the Revolution. For the intermediate period, the excesses of the Regency are well known; and the Memoirs of Mad. DuHausset, the attendant of Mad. de Pompadour, is of itself sufficient to characterize the middle part of the reign of Louis XV.
tory of Louis XV. On his recent death, the Government is said to have seized on his work, on pretext that, as it contained extracts from the Archives, it was the property of the State! If this suppression of historical truth has really occurred, and proves finally successful, it will leave the negligent public still at the mercy of Lacretelle, one of the most shallow and slavish of rhetoricians. It will also be peculiarly unfortunate for English History; as M. Lemontey was accustomed to boast that he possessed evidence of a very extraordinary nature respecting the means by which the peace of 1762 was obtained from England.
* St Simon, I. Memoires de L'Abbe de Choisy-a good-humoured and lively writer, perhaps the most amusing of his very amusing class.
The French Court, which was the model of all others, may be taken as a specimen of them. Direct evidence of their moral condition might easily be collected, in every case when their insignificance does not elude inquiry. The general dissolution of manners in Spain and Italy is too well known to leave the least doubt as to the state of their Courts-even if the recent history of Madrid and Naples were less notorious. The coarse licentiousness of the smaller Courts of Germany is exemplified, almost beyond belief, in the life of the firsť Saxon King of Poland ; it is fully displayed in the Memoirs of the Margravine of Bareuth; and would, indeed, be sufficiently at-, tested, if we had no other proof of it, by the contents and style of the correspondence between two German Princesses of such high rank as the Dutchess of Orleans and Queen Caroline.
Before proceeding to Mad, de Maintenon's Letters, it may be convenient to remind our readers of a few particulars of her remarkable history. Frances D’Aubigné, who became so well known as Marquise de Maintenon, was born, in 1635, in the prison of Niort, where her father was confined, seemingly for debt. Her family, though thus impoverished, was that of a respectable country gentleman. Her grandfather, Theodore Agrippa D’Aubigné, was one of the chiefs of the French Protęstants, and the historian of the civil wars, by which that ill requited body placed the House of Bourbon on the throne of France. Her first four years were spent in prison; the next six at a little plantation in Martinique, where her unfortunate father died. One of her aunts educated her for some time as a Calvinist;-her mother, a zealous Catholic, by importunity, and at last by severity, extracted from her an abjuration of heresy, to which one of her objections was, that she could not bring herself to believe that her kind aunt would be damned ! Scarron, a deformed and distempered buffoon, poor, though of good family, and then known by his parodies and burlesque writings, purely from a generous wish to give her a station in society, offered his hand to her, which the young beauty was compelled thankfully to accept. In this situation, she guarded herself against bold advances, by a parade of austerity often in Lent, eating a single salted herring at dinner, and" instantly retiring to her chamber. • The desire,' she afterwards said, 6 of making a name was then my passion.' The death of her husband, left her, at twenty-five, in the splendour of her beauty, admired for her talents and manners, and without daily bread. She was surrounded by lovers, of whom one was Barillon, afterwards ambassador in England. Her passion for a name seems to have supported her; and she obtained a small
pension, as a decayed gentlewoman, from Anne of Austria, at whose death she was once more plunged into hopeless poverty. • After Scarron's death,' says St Simon, s she was indeed re
ceived in houses of distinction, but not on a footing of equa
lity. She was sent out of the drawing-room, sometimes to • order firewood, sometimes to call a carriage, sometimes to • ask if dinner was ready, and on a thousand other little er(rands, which the use of bells has since made needless.' Louis XIV., who had resisted all applications in her favour, was at length persuaded by Mademoiselle de Montespan to grant a pension to Scarron's widow, who, at his command, some time after undertook the education of his children by that lady. In the course of this education, which was at first conducted with mysterious secrecy, Mademoiselle de Montespan sometimes brought her to the King, who conceived a strong prejudice against her, as a Precieuse, or as we should now say, a Blue. The natural good sense of that Prince concurred with his extreme ignorance, in disposing him to dread women of superior attainments, which were then seldom unattended with pedantry. But she gradually softened his dislike by quiet and submission ;-she stole with patient and wary steps imperceptibly into his good opinion ;-he unconsciously began to take refuge in her sensible conversation and modest demeanour from his haughty and capricious mistress, who was first displeased, then made jealous, and at length incensed by the growing favour of her humble friend, while she disgusted him by furious eruptions of jealousy, and contributed to the advancement of her new rival by every fresh insult. Such were the prudence and moderation of Madame de Maintenon, that she ingratiated herself at the same time with the Queen, who died in her arms in July 1683. Her exertions to reclaim the King from his habitual vices, which were probably well intended, and proceeded from a sincere regard to his welfare, by a singular fortune contributed to the ruin of her rival, and to her own extraordinary elevation. Religion estranged the King from the mistress; and she who converted him became gradually the object of a grateful and tender friendship. Agitated by remorse, and flying from licentious love, he sought an aid to his penitence, and a substitute for his decaying passions, in a calmer and more pure affection for his instructresş. Her ambition was then awakened. • At forty-five,' says she to a correspondent, a woman can no longer inspire love. But he gives me • the fairest hopes. I send him away always in sorrow, but
* Memoire de Choisy.
never in despair.' At length, after many struggles, the proudest monarch in Europe, in the year 1685, secretly married the widow of a buffoon, born in beggary, to whom he had a few years before refused alms, when he was in the forty-seventh, and she in the fiftieth year of her age !
Though her life was a romance, her character was prosaic. It cannot, indeed, be supposed that she was not a most uncom
But her superiority consisted, not in rare qualilities, but in the possession of a high degree of those which are common to the majority of sensible persons. Manners, temper, judgment, consideration, aided by a singular concurrence of favourable circumstances, were the means of an elevation little less remarkable than that to which a very few men have risen, by the combination of original genius with energetic character. Her general conduct is an excellent exemplification of that which, according to the various preposessions of mankind, is called the selfish, or the prudential, or the rational system of morals. She seems more uniformly to have regulated her choice by the distinct and deliberate consideration of the influence of her actions on her general well-being, than almost any other
person whose character is so well known to us. Had she confined her views, in the application of this principle, to the lower and grosser interests of life, she would have been a very unfair specimen of her class, against whom all reasonable followers of the like maxims would justly protest as disqualified to be their representative. But she must be allowed to have comprehended every object which can be brought within the scope of the most enlarged and enlightened prudence. She set a just, and therefore the highest value on a good name, on the cultivation of the understanding, the moderation of the desires, and on the government of the temper, on the peace of mind, on the approbation of conscience, on the prevalence of that benevolence which constantly cheers and sweetens the mind. Her religious principles, though merely prudential, were sincere. They consisted in the same regard to her own ultimate interest, which ruled every part of her nature. Her cool judgment taught her to seek every means of avoiding the disquiet and disgrace which, in the end, are the usual consequence of participation in acts of baseness or cruelty. Her mind was neither elevated by enthusiasm, nor disturbed by passion, nor melted by tenderness. She performed no acts of hazardous virtue, and knew the art of skilfully and decently releasing herself from inconvenient friendships. She did not perhaps betray her benefactress Mad. de Montespan, but she willingly profited by the excesses of that favourite, and quietly took her