Selections from Saint-Simon
CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
C. F. CLAY, Manager
LONDON: FETTER LANE, E.C. 4
NEW YORK: G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
|MACMILLAN AND CO., Ltd.|
TORONTO: J. M. DENT AND SONS, Ltd.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
ARTHUR TILLEY, M.A.
FELLOW AND LECTURER OF
KING’S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE
AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS
It is not every lover of French literature who has theleisure or the courage to read the whole of Saint-Simon’sMémoires, the text of which fills eighteen and a halfvolumes of the edition of MM. Chéruel and Ad. Régnierfils. Nor is it all of equal interest. I thought, therefore,that a selection might prove acceptable to the busy orfaint-hearted reader, and perhaps even whet his appetitefor the work itself. In making the selection I havepractically confined myself to the first two-thirds of theMémoires, that is to say, to the reign of Louis XIV, andI have chosen the passages with a view to illustratingthat reign during the period of its declining splendour.In the first four chapters we have the Roi-Soleil and Mmede Maintenon presented to us in their daily life. Therefollows the account of the review at Compiègne, whichgives us some measure of Louis’s boundless extravagance,and the greater part of the famous chapters on thedeath of Monseigneur, surely one of the greatest thingsin literature. Lastly there are thirteen portraits, includingsuch masterpieces as Conti, Cardinal d’Estrées,Fénelon, the Duke and Duchess of Burgundy, and theDuke of Orléans. In my notes I have confined myselfto the modest task of illustrating Saint-Simon fromhimself, and of supplying such other biographical detailsvias seemed necessary. No one can annotate Saint-Simonwithout being indebted to M. de Boislisle’s masterlyedition now in progress, but for my purpose the fulland careful index of MM. Chéruel and Régnier has beenof even greater service. The index to vols. I.-XXVIII. ofM. de Boislisle’s edition appeared after my work waspractically finished.
|II.||MME DE MAINTENON||42|
|III.||THE DAILY LIFE OF LOUIS XIV||69|
|IV.||MADAME AND MME DE MAINTENON||90|
|V.||THE REVIEW AT COMPIÈGNE||93|
|VI.||THE DEATH OF MONSEIGNEUR||106|
|1.||Achille de Harlay||140|
|2.||Mme de Castries||142|
|7.||Le Prince de Conti||157|
|8.||Le Duc et la Duchesse de Bourgogne||160|
|13.||Le Duc d’Orléans||191|
|VIII.||THE ABBÉ DUBOIS AND THE SEE OF CAMBRAI||210|
|APPENDIX A. The Councils and the Secretaries of State||215|
|APPENDIX B. Extracts from Vauban, Projet d’une dîme royale||217|
|Index of Persons mentioned in the Notes||219|
|Plan of the Château de Versailles||66|
“People who are old enough to write memoirs haveusually lost their memory.” This epigrammatic remarkwith which a recent writer, not old enough to have losthis memory, opens his reminiscences, has considerabletruth in it. Historians now recognise that “memoirs donot supply the certainty of history,” for if the writershave dim memories, they have also lively imaginations.Saint-Simon, the prince of memoir-writers, did not, it istrue, begin to transcribe his memoirs till he was well pastsixty, but from the age of twenty he had collected materialsand made systematic notes. His memoirs were notmerely the pastime of his old age but the serious businessof his whole life. The result is that he has left us a pictureof the Court of Versailles at the close of the seventeenthcentury and the beginning of the eighteenth which isunsurpassed in interest. This interest is above all thingshuman. The men and women who fill his canvas are vividlyalive. With a few powerful and incisive strokes he firstsketches their lineaments and then with merciless penetrationproceeds to lay bare their souls. But his memoirs arealso coloured by his own alert and energetic personality.They not only portray his age, but they reveal himself; tojudge of the fidelity of the picture, we must know somethingof the man.
Saint-Simon came of an ancient stock, being descendedin the direct male line from Matthieu de Rouvroy, surnamedLe Borgne, who fought at Crécy and Poitiers, andMarguerite de Saint-Simon. His immediate ancestors, abranch of the family which dropped the name of Rouvroyfor that of Saint-Simon, if not exactly illustrious, followedtheir monarchs loyally in war and administered theirestates successfully in peace. His father, Claude de Saint-Simon,xwho was born in 1607, chiefly owing to his addressin the hunting field rose into high favour with Louis XIII,who created him a duc et pair in 1636. But he fell intodisgrace soon afterwards and was ordered by Richelieu toretire from the Court to the fortress of Blaye on theGironde, of which he was governor. His vacillatingattitude on the outbreak of the Fronde made him acceptableneither to Mazarin nor to the rebellious princes, andhe did not return to Paris till after the troubles were over.In 1672 he married as his second wife Charlotte de l’Aubespine,by whom he had an only son, born on January16, 1675, and christened Louis after his royal godfather.At the age of seven, the young Vidame de Chartres,according to the custom of many noble families, wasput under the charge of a governor, but his character andopinions were largely moulded by his father and mother.The latter, a highly virtuous woman of method and goodsense, applied herself assiduously to the development ofhis mind and body. From his father he imbibed a profoundantipathy for Mazarin, the families of Lorraine, Bouillon,and Rohan, and all Secretaries of State.
In December, 1691, when he was nearly seventeen, hewas formally presented to the King, and enrolled as acadet in the regiment of the Grey Musketeers. In thiscapacity he took part in the siege of Namur, which is thefirst event recorded in his memoirs. In 1693, having beengiven the command of a company of cavalry, he foughtat Neerwinden, and at the end of the campaign boughtthe colonelcy of a regiment. Shortly before this he hadsucceeded his father as governor of Blaye and Senlis. Hewas only nineteen, when he gave a signal proof of hisenergy and of the importance which he attached tomatters of precedence, by helping to organise a resistanceto the claim of the Maréchal de Luxembourg to take precedenceof all ducs et pairs except the Duc d’Uzès. TheDukes lost their case, largely, Saint-Simon alleges, owingto the partiality of the First President of the Parlement,Achille de Harlay.
xiIn the following year (1695) he married Gabrielle deDurfort, the eldest daughter of the Maréchal-Duc de Lorges,a nephew of Turenne. She was a blonde with a fine complexionand figure, and being a modest and excellent womanmade him an admirable wife. He on his side was a devotedhusband, and he always speaks of her in his Memoirs withthe greatest affection and esteem.
After the Peace of Ryswick (1697) his regiment wasdisbanded, and, on the outbreak of the War of the SpanishSuccession, five years later, failing to receive a nominationas Brigadier, he retired from the service on the plea ofill-health. “Voilà encore un homme qui nous quitte,” saidthe King, and he looked coldly on Saint-Simon in consequence.It was characteristic of the little Duke’s overweeningsense of his own importance that before takingthis step he held a solemn consultation with six distinguishedfriends, the Chancellor Pontchartrain, and fiveDukes, Lorges, Durfort-Duras, Choiseul, Beauvillier, andLa Rochefoucauld, of whom the first three were Marshalsof France.
The loss to the army was not irremediable, and thegain to literature was immense. Henceforth Saint-Simoncould devote himself with singleness of purpose to thereal business of his life. It was in July, 1694, in the campof Germersheim on the Old Rhine, that “he began towrite his memoirs,” by which expression we must understand,not that he began to write a continuous narrative,but that from this time he systematised his observationsand inquiries and made careful notes of the results. Welearn from a letter to his friend, M. de Rancé, the famousreformer of La Trappe, that his original intention was torelate in detail all personal matters and merely to touchsuperficially on general events. But he soon abandonedthis idea and in his account of the years immediately succeedinghis retirement from the army there is little mentionof himself.
His chief friends and allies at this period were all menconsiderably older than himself—the two inseparables,xiithe Duc de Beauvillier and the Duc de Chevreuse, whohad both married daughters of Colbert, the Maréchal deBoufflers, the Chancellor Pontchartrain, and Chamillart,the Secretary of State for War. It was through the goodoffices of Chamillart and Maréchal, the King’s surgeon,that “he became reconciled,” as he characteristicallyexpresses it, with Louis XIV. But he had his enemies aswell as his friends, and chief among them were the membersof the coterie which, as so often happens towards the endof a long reign, the common hope of favours to come hadattracted round the heir to the throne. An importantmember of this “Cabale de Meudon,” as Saint-Simoncalls it, was the Duc de Vendôme, and when in 1708Louis XIV made the mistake of associating his grandson,the Duc de Bourgogne, with him in the command of thearmy of Flanders, and dissensions arose between the twocommanders, the Cabal warmly espoused Vendôme’scause. Their unscrupulous intrigues against the Duc deBourgogne roused the wrath of Saint-Simon, who as theally of M. de Beauvillier, the young Prince’s formergovernor, was well disposed in his favour. Throughoutthe years 1708 and 1709 he threw himself into the contestwith his accustomed vigour, and in the following year hehelped to achieve a notable victory over the hated Cabalin another field, that of the marriage of the Duc de Berry,Monseigneur’s youngest son. The candidate of Monseigneur’sparty was Mlle de Bourbon, while the Duchessede Bourgogne, well served by Saint-Simon and his friends,favoured the daughter of the Duc d’Orléans. Saint-Simon’sorganisation of the “Cabale de Mademoiselle” was amasterpiece of skilful intrigue, and he conducted thecampaign with a passionate energy which is faithfullyreflected in his narrative. When, however, the coarse anddepraved character of the new Duchess revealed itself hebitterly regretted his success.
But the marriage had one