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literary celebrities of the day. In Paris he contrived to gain admittance to Louis Racine, the son of the great poet, and himself a poet of no small talent. Racine had a valuable and extensive library. Among these works was a collection of letters, partly genuine partly copied at St. Cyr, from Madame de Maintenon to one of her intimates, together with a series of anecdotes mostly taken from the memoirs of Mademoiselle d'Aumale or from what he had heard at St. Cyr, where naturally the son of Esther' and of Athalie' was a persona grata. To all these Racine had added a notice of Madame de Maintenon's life, and he treasured the whole with a view of some day publishing his humble tribute to the memory of one he so cordially admired. When La Beaumelle called he was naturally shown this interesting collection; and quickly appreciating all the benefits to be derived from their early publication, he induced Louis Racine, with much difficulty, not only to lend him the manuscripts, but also to barter them in exchange for : books, curiosities, tea, and furs' from Holland. In 1751 La Beaumelle proceeded to Berlin, where he called on Voltaire, and, apparently with somewhat cool impudence, endeavoured to get from him a sight of his manuscript letters of Madame de Maintenon; but the crafty philosopher was not the timid Racine, and at once took umbrage. I remembered,' he wrote, • that a certain manuscript of the letters of Madame de
Sévigné, which had been lent to hiin (La Beaumelle) by · Thiériot, had found itself printed at Troyes. I therefore * refused him mine with all the politeness imaginable, and as if I had not recollected this anecdote.'
By way of revenge, La Beaumelle, a few days later, sent Voltaire a book of his which was creating some stir, and was entitled “Mes pensées. On opening the volume Voltaire read as follows: There are greater poets than Voltaire, • but there never were any so well rewarded.' enough to ensure Voltaire's enmity for ever, and while La Beaumelle soon felt the brunt of it by being ignominiously expelled from Berlin, it followed him to Paris, where his appearance in 1753 was the signal for his imprisonment in the Bastille. But in the meanwhile La Beaumelle had had time to publish his first series of Madame de Maintenon's letters, together with an incomplete notice of her life, owing to the dilatoriness of Louis Racine in sending him replies to the numerous questions he had addressed to him. After a time, however, La Beaumelle made good the delay by inventing letters or adding to those he had whenever his
purpose required it; and we can imagine his delight on hearing the powerful Voltaire's early comment on their appearance before the literary world : ‘Fortunately these letters confirm what I have said of her. Had they not done so, 'my work was lost.' Voltaire himself, the great historian and critic, lent La Beaumelle's inventions the authority of his name, judgement, and approval. That authority was quite sufficient to secure the popularity of the book, even though Voltaire might pertinently inquire: How is it
that a certain La Beaumelle, preacher at Copenhagen, since academician, buffoon, gambler, rascal, possessed of • cleverness however, has been the possessor of such a • treasure ?'
Voltaire's astonishment was perfectly justified, for in 1752 neither the memoirs of St. Simon, nor those of Madame de Caylus, nor those of the Maréchal de Noailles had yet appeared. The memory of Madame de Maintenon, as Lavallée observes, was still tainted by the calumnies of the • Dutch writers of fiction, by those with which the pamphlets
of the Protestants teemed, and by those of which the songs at Court were full. No one dared or ventured to take her part. Even her own family preferred keeping silent to encountering public opinion. Much had to be done before the chaff could be separated from the wheat. Voltaire had grasped the fact, and had, by the aid of a few documents, made an admirable beginning. He had understood how necessary it was for the historian to discover such authentic and undoubtedly genuine documents as would set aside for ever the utterances of a Princess Palatine which hatred and jealousy alone had suggested, or those of a Duc de St. Simon which could only be the reflection of the envy of disappointed courtiers; but he could not make out how a total stranger like La Beaumelle should have become possessed of valuable and apparently genuine documents which he himself had been unable to procure. He therefore set to work to find out, and was able very soon to write: 'I * always had a notion that this La Beaumelle had stolen • those letters. He is the most audacious scoundrel I ever knew.'
A copy of La Beaumelle's book fell into the hands of Louis Racine, who had not much difficulty in recognising his own property, which however had considerably increased in bulk since it left his hands. He therefore carefully perused the work, and became at once aware that his manuscripts had been grossly tampered with. He made an infinite number of marginal notes, and this copy, in the possession of the Noailles family, has proved the basis of that rehabilitation of a great character upon which so many have now worked, and few more successfully than M. Geffroy, the able author of the volumes under consideration.
In Racine's copy of La Beaumelle's edition of the letters there are marginal notes showing that out of 298 letters published only 163 have a claim to qualified authenticity; that sixty letters addressed to Madame de St. Géran, Madame de Frontenac, and Madame de Fontenay were pure inventions, and that seventy-five others were wholly unknown to Louis Racine, who had never heard of them. As an illustration of La Beaumelle's trust in the credulity of his readers, M. Geffroy justly points out that Madame de St. Géran was exiled in 1697 on account of her light conduct; and that it seems, if it were not even actually proved to be so, an impossibility that a prudent, wise, and religious woman like Madame de Maintenon could have selected so frivolous a person to confide to her the secrets of her intercourse with the King, when it is known and regretted that she took such immense pains to obliterate every trace of her exalted position as his wife. In an authentic letter to the Duc de Noailles, Madame de Maintenon writes: Madame de St. Géran, with whom I had not spoken for years, requested an audience, assuring me that she intended to reform. I spoke to her with
great frankness as to her conduct. Yet, asks M. Geffroy, are there two or three books at the utmost which in the present day abstain from heaping on Madame de Maintenon calumnies invented by La Beaumelle ? and has not the time arrived when safe and authentic information should be furnished to the historian of an epoch wittily described as ‘ plus célébrée que connue'? or an end be put as concerns Madame de Maintenon to vague and uncertain opinions, mostly founded on shameful falsifications of facts, which still command ridiculous credence ?
Such an object is of course desirable, but can it be obtained ? The only letters that could help the historian are said to be destroyed. All her correspondence with Louvois, with the Duc du Maine, with M. le Rageois, with Madame de Montespan, with the King, appears to be hopelessly lost, and all that remains bears upon her private relations with her personal friends. Had M. Geffroy attempted a complete biography on the very lines he sets forth, he would have made a valuable present to the world; whereas 'a choice selec* tion of letters, in order that the reader may find presented
to him all the aspects of a character more varied than • is generally believed, only makes the reader wish that more ample materials were before him.
We would gladly also have hailed a less apologetic tone when speaking of the two great events in Madame de Maintenon's life: her acceptance of the charge of Madame de Montespan's children on conscientious grounds, and her supplanting that lady in the King's affections. Though a great character, she was yet a woman; and to our mind one of the chief charms of her letters is that they all betray a little feminine weakness amidst a flood of wisdom.
The blot upon her memory is undoubtedly her presumed fanaticism in the persecution and conversion of the Huguenots. M. Geffroy's defence of her action appears to us very weak-weaker even than Voltaire's somewhat satirical exclamation, 'Why do you tell me that Madame de Maintenon
had much to do with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes? • She had no part in it at all. That is a certain fact. She
never dared contradict Louis XIV.' * For while he insists on her great influence for good upon the King, and shows that imperiousness was not foreign to her character in some of the aspects of it, which he is anxious to present to our eyes, he does not exonerate her otherwise than by casting blame on St. Simon. After she embraced the Catholic religion she undoubtedly professed it with undiscriminating fervour and intolerance. Yet it is curious to remark how much of the austerity of the Huguenot party clung to her throughout life, and perhaps em bittered her feelings against her former friends.
Madame de Maintenon's life is soon told, and no one can describe it more tersely than Ste.-Beuve.
* She was thrown young and poor into the world, with no gifts but beauty and her title of demoiselle. Exposed in childhood to the persecutions of bigoted people—who found it difficult to convert her-she became later on, as the wife of the libertine Scarron, the object of the attention of very great people, who were altogether unable to seduce her.'
The misery of her early life, the severe religious training she received at the hands of her Huguenot aunt, the ridicule she saw herself exposed to, though young and pretty, as the wife of such a buffoon as Scarron, all acted powerfully on her sensitive nature, and created in succession a feeling of gratitude to those who showed her kindness, a desire to
January 17, 1753.
† Premiers Lundis.'
return the kindness when she had the power, and, when age and opportunity had disappeared, an anxious wish to leave the world behind her. This feeling existed in the same degree in regard to her spiritual conduct: gratitude to God for coming safely out of her worldly troubles, a wish to make others feel the same gratitude, and, lastly, an overwhelming desire to die in a state of grace and quiet preparation for the world to come. The misery of her early days made her appreciative of kindness received and of the value of kindness bestowed. The use of religion as a consolation in affliction, coupled with the strict Calvinistic notions of respect, propriety, and reverence she imbibed in her early education, led her practical mind to cultivate piety as a necessity of humanity, while her upright nature coloured the necessity with the halo of self-sacrifice in return for never-ending benefits. Her whole life was spent within these lines, and it is interesting to mark them in the letters before us. It is psychologically interesting to note how at every age her powers of observation were keen, just, and direct; how at all times she was scrupulously attentive to‘les convenances ;' how after her secret marriage she was able, by a close attention to small details, to hide the equivocal nature of her own position. Her life, as Ste-Beuve says, was one long fight against herself; her prudence was never at fault; her devotion to her husband's will amounted to superstition;' and the fear of displeasing her great benefactor made her reticent where a word from her lips might have saved Racine from disgrace. That word also might have irritated her husband; she could not bring herself to pronounce it. All this does her honour; but if she could be submissive to authority she insisted on submission where she was the one to command. If she was taught to be pious, she would teach others to be the same; if she had to practise economy, she would preach economy. And therein lies a special feature not specially noticed before in her character, that no experience did she ever learn that she did not immediately turn to instructive account.
Granddaughter of Agrippa d’Aubigné, the celebrated Calvinistic companion of Henry IV., and daughter of Constant d'Aubigné, whose gambling propensities and debauched habits caused him to be disinherited by his father, Françoise d'Aubigné was born in the prison of Niort in 1635. Although baptised a Catholic, she was educated by her Huguenot aunt, the Marquise de la Villette, previously to going out to Martinique; though her letters scarcely ever refer to a