Duke of Saint-Simon

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Stevenson, R. Wells, H.

Warner, et al. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.

Saint Simon on Louis XIV 1755

Critical and Biographical Introduction. I give you my word for it.


This conversation occurred in , when Louis de Rouvroy, the famous Duke of Saint-Simon, had been dead for over sixty years. The existence of this astonishing mass of historical material had not been entirely ignored. Marmontel and Duclos obtained access to it, and gleaned many extracts for their own histories. Voltaire had read it, in part at least. Much of it had been read aloud to Madame du Deffand, as she sat old and blind in her arm-chair. Brilliant gossip herself, she wrote enthusiastically to her friend Horace Walpole of this unrivaled gossip of an earlier generation.

We know just how they looked, those leather portfolios fourteen inches long by nine and a half wide, with the Saint-Simon coat of arms in gilt on the outside. A garbled three-volume edition of extracts had appeared in ; but it was not until that a reliable edition, revised and arranged in chapters, appeared in forty volumes. It created a stir. The critics fell upon its erratic French, its solecisms, its unconscionable digressions; but all readers admitted the charm of the vivid narrative and keen description.

Titillating tidbits from the court of the Sun King

In various abridged and unabridged forms it has been popular ever since, and widely read and quoted by the French nation. No other work affords such a revelation of life at the court of Louis XIV. Macaulay found material in it for more than one of his historical sketches.

Customer Reviews

The King enriched him, made him duke and peer, and in return received his lifelong devotion. At nineteen he entered a company of the musketeers, and served honorably in several campaigns; witnessing the siege of Namur, and active in the battle of Neerwinden. But with his lifelong propensity to consider himself slighted, he resented his lack of advancement, and retired from the army after five years.

The jealous courtier had a strongly domestic side, as is shown in his devotion to his mother and in grateful tributes to his wife. His marriage in to a beautiful blonde, eldest daughter of the Marshal de Lorges, was purely a marriage of convenance, but proved a delightful exception to the usual family intrigues of the period.

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Then feeling himself morally purged for the time being, he returned to his usual life with apparently never a thought of changing his conduct or avoiding the faults he had just confessed. Like his fellow courtiers who could quarrel over questions of precedence at the communion table, he made no clear distinction as to the relative value of religious feeling and religious observances.

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He was primarily a courtier, and frankly self-seeking; but too tactless to win royal favor. Louis XIV. He did his best to reform the profligate prince, and in return was offered the position as governor of young Louis XV. He had entered upon public life very young, and most of his early associates who were older died before him.


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