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affirm the fierce invective of the French ambassador, and to say that Venice was indeed a 'venenosissima ac resurgens
vipera. Nor can we admit the plea of justificationthe justification of necessity, which compelled Venice to adopt in self-defence means condemned by the conscience of mankind, though not absolutely in contravention of the ethical standard of that time. · Unhappily the curse which attends the employment of immoral and criminal means for political ends is not confined to the mediæval centuries or to the Secret Councils of Venice and Rome. It is the same detestable motive, and the same perversion of the moral sense, which at this moment arm the Irish peasant to murder his neighbour and obtain for him the approval of the population and the absolution of his Church; it is the same diabolical ingenuity which arms the American dynamiter with his fearful weapon against the security of London. It is the same fanaticism of crime which within the last few years has caused the murder of two Presidents of the United States and of Alexander II. of Russia, whose successor is pursued by the insatiable ferocity of the gang of assassins called Nihilists. In all these cases an attempt is made to draw a distinction in favour of political assassination, as if it were less criminal than ordinary murder. No refinements of sophistry, no evasions of truth, can palliate these execrable offences against the laws of God and man, and the only safe rule of policy and justice is that they should always and everywhere be denounced, condemned, and punished with the utmost severity. Those who hope to profit by such practices, and who suffer them to be employed for their benefit, are even more guilty than the wretched instruments who are tempted by money or by fanaticism to commit the crime,
ART. III.-1. Madame de Maintenon. D'après des documents
authentiques. Par A. GEFFROY, Membre de l'Institut.
Paris : 1887. 2. Correspondance Générale de Madame de Maintenon. Par
THÉOPHILE DE LAVALLÉE. Paris: 1865. In the literary correspondence of Grimm we find at the
date of August, 1756, a criticism of M. de la Beaumelle's "Letters of Madame de Maintenon,' which had been published at Amsterdam in the previous year, in which the writer ventures on the following predictions
*People are right in saying that we are now at the right time when the life and the letters of Madame de Maintenon can interest us. Had a few more years been allowed to elapse before their publication, no one would have looked at them. The anecdotes of the reign of Louis XIV. interest us because we are so near his own time; but in twenty or thirty years the peculiarities of his Court will have no more charm for us than have those in the present day which concern Louis XIII. As long as there are men on this earth, two things only will make them live in our recollection, genius and virtue. To relegate Madame de Maintenon to the class of mere anecdotes is to condemn her; it means that, however extraordinary was the part she played, her memory is not worth preserving, and this is the truth.' It is interesting to note how the second of Grimm's professed titles to celebrity-i.e.'virtue '—is precisely the ground upon which M. Geffroy is, as it seems to us, justified in publishing a fresh life and a selected choice of letters from Madame de Maintenon in the present year—that is to say, one hundred and thirty-seven years after Grimm's declaration that'her memory was not worth preserving.'
We lay some stress on this point because it is a fact that as time goes on and conflicting passions are gradually less loudly heard, we find at every progressive stage of historical inquiry greater justice rendered to the woman whom Voltaire called 'la femme la plus décente et la plus • polie en Europe;' whose mind Madame de Sévigné described as amiable and marvellously straight;' of whom a foreign envoy at the Court of Louis XIV., Count Spanheim, said that no one possessed more virtue, more cleverness without * affectation, more honesty, more piety;' of whom on his death-bed the King himself declared to the Duke of Orleans, his nephew, that he had never received from Madame de
* Correspondance de Grimm, vol. iii. pp. 263-4.
Maintenon any but good advice;' and to whom Valaincour, the successor of Racine at the Academy, was able truly to write: 'You are of those whom great occupations do not • lead to forgetfulness of the small ones ... who seem to • have no other object in this world than to prevent all the
evil that can be prevented, and to do all the good that • can be done.'
It would seem as if history were renewing with Madame de Maintenon the very part Louis XIV. played in regard to her. Having begun by hating her, he ended by marrying her, and predeceased her after thirty-two years of conjugal happiness. At first he could not bear her,' says St. Simon; what he sometimes gave her, which was always very little, was only by an excess of goodnature, and with an evident 'feeling of regret he took no pains to disguise.'*
In the same way, jealousy and other causes made her hated by her contemporaries, who, if they bestowed praise upon her, did so reluctantly and sparingly; and yet little by little the notion has arisen that justice has not been fully rendered to this remarkable woman, and efforts are now made to give her with a lavish hand the praise so grudgingly dealt before.
It would not surprise us if the next time Madame de Maintenon's merits are discussed in these pages it is for the purpose of assenting to the proposition laid down by some future historian, that, her virtue' being established, she has also a claim to be remembered on the score of genius ;' and we are certainly prepared even now to believe that her memory will in all likelihood rival that of the great sovereign of whom she was so long the consort. The very pages of this Journal are witnesses of the gradual change which has come over the minds of impartial reviewers of her life and works. In 1814 an article on M. de Levis' book entitled * Souvenirs et Portraits, 1780-1789, contains the following comment on St. Simon's description of Madame de Maintenon as “le Sully d'un tel roi:'
* This connexion was more fatal to the King than even his earlier and more sensual indulgences; and it is impossible not to observe that whilst he indulged in the voluptuous embraces of Madame de Mon. tespan, he left to Colbert the management of his happy and flourishing kingdom; but once become the slave of this “female Sully" and the crafty confessors in her suite, he consented to religious persecutions, to the extermination of the Protestants, to the dishonour of his own name, and to the commercia! ruin of his kingdom.'
* St. Simon, vol. xiii. p. 12, 1857. VOL. CLXVI. NO. CCCXXXIX.
In 1826, however, a review of Madame de Maintenon's letters to the Princesse des Ursins, just published in Paris, summed up her character more correctly, and did her more justice.
Though her life was a romance, her character was prosaic. It cannot be supposed, indeed, that she was not a most uncommon
But her superiority consisted not in rare qualities, but in the possession of a high degree of those which are common to the majority of sensible persons. . . . She set a just and therefore the highest value on a good namie, on the cultivation of the understanding, the moderation of the desires, on the government of the temper, on 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.' If to these flattering observations we add her favourite precept to the ladies of St. Cyr—'On ne sait pas combien il est
habile de n'avoir rien à craindre'-and M. Geffroy's pertinent remark that to understand Madame de Maintenon 'she 'must not be separated from the times in which she lived, that is, from the seventeenth century, when there existed
une dévotion sincère et exacte”-it will be conceded that the way is not ill paved which leads us to the conception of a highly virtuous woman.
That the exceptional circumstances which attended and surrounded her advent to power have done much to heighten our interest in her acts and utterances it is needless to deny; but that her very rise and her demeanour when in the height of power never once altered the even tenor of her calm and virtuous disposition, is a fact in itself so striking, and at the same time so rare, that it deserves to attract notice, while the continued revelation of her good deeds in the midst of a corrupt Court must add to the lustre of her great reputation.
Three persons are responsible for that reputation having ever been attacked, and many causes contributed to her not being appreciated as she deserved by her contemporaries. The Princess Palatine, second wife of Monsieur, brother of Louis XIV., was incessant in her loud complaints against the woman whom she styled “the King's concubine,' and filled Germany as well as the Court with her vituperative remarks against one who had risen from such humble beginnings to so exalted a station, and who had been instrumental in bringing about the marriage of her own son, the Duc de Chartres, with the king's second daughter by Madame de Montespan-Mademoiselle de Blois.
St. Simon's hostility was based on nothing more tangible than the gossip of antechambers, where, if anywhere, he must have heard, as M. Auger forcibly puts it, the clamour of • disappointed ambitions and of that numberless class to 'whom all greatness is irritating and who are specially * annoyed at the sight of sudden success. It is also deserving of remark that as St. Simon was born in January, 1675, and was therefore forty years younger than Madame de Maintenon, he cannot have been more than nine years of age when the King married her, and that this disparity in age with the lady he so persistently reviles explains how he never had an opportunity, until quite in the later days of her married life, either of seeing or appreciating her at her real value. The fact, also, that he irritated the King in 1702, when, at the age of twenty-seven years, he resigned his commission in the army on account of some slight which he believed himself to have received as `Duc et pair de France, and brought upon himself Madame de Maintenon's judgement that he was 'vainglorious, fault-finding, and full of
crotchets,' explains how, unable to visit his wrath on the sovereign, St. Simon naturally poured his resentment on the being whom he knew to have most influence on the King. His testimony, therefore, being so biassed, loses much of its weight and importance.
But of the man who has done her reputation most harm, and oddly enough without any malicious intention of doing harm—of La Beaumelle—it is less easy to speak with equanimity, for, in the publication of what he was pleased to call the letters of Madame de Maintenon, his sole object appears to have been to promote his own interests by investing his work with a character of romance sufficient, as Grimm remarked, to condemn for ever that celebrated person. La Beaumelle's history is curious. Born in 1726, in Languedoc, of a Protestant family, he studied at the college of the Jesuits of Alais previously to preparing himself at Geneva, in 1745, for the Calvinistic ministry. At the end of a few months La Beaumelle gave up his theological career to proceed to Copenhagen as tutor to a young Danish nobleman. A year later he obtained from the King of Denmark the foundation of a professorship of French literature in the University of Copenhagen, and was appointed to its chair. Clever, ambitious, and especially quick at making use of opportunities, he conceived a project of issuing a complete edition of French classics, and made this an excuse for visiting Paris and becoming acquainted with the noted