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ART. VII.-1. Mémoires touchant la Vie et les Ecrits de Marie de

Rabutin-Chantal, Dame de Bourbilly, Marquise de Sévigné, durant la Régence et la Fronde. Par M. le BARON WALCKENAER.—Deuxième Partie durant le Ministère du Cardinal Ma

zarin et la Jeunesse de Louis XIV. Paris: Firmin Didot. 1843. 2. Les Historiettes de Tallemant des Reaux. Seconde Edition. Pré

cédée d'une Notice, &c. Par M. MONMERQUÉ. Paris: Delloye.

1840. In the memoirs by the Baron de Walckenaer we observe the influence of the historical novel upon the writing of history. The events selected are vivified by local colouring; scenery and costume are painted with fidelity; and the principal personage of the book, the celebrated Madame de Sévigné, is a heroine worthy of the pen

of novelist or historian. Nor is a half wicked hero wanting. We see her path beset by the Lovelace of the

age,

her own cousin, Bussy-Rabutin, against whose seductive wiles her high animal spirits, gay laugh, unrestrained speech, and pure heart, are more potent defences than were the graver graces of the less fortunate Clarissa. And these are but the central figures of a series of groups who represent the private history and public events of a remarkable period. The connexion, certainly, is often of the slightest. We understand the relation of Madame de Sévigné to the history of the Hôtel de Rambouillet, but we do not readily discern the pretext her name should afford for a lengthened episode, embracing in all their complex details the intrigues and combats of the Fronde. But M. de Walckenaer is not writing a formal life of Madame de Sévigné. He is filling a broad canvass with figures; the heroine only occupies, as of right, the first place in the foreground; and as he has much to do before his work is brought to a termination, we shall perhaps act most fairly if we refrain from passing judgment upon his plan until we find ourselves in a position to estimate its entire effect. One of his episodes will suffice for our present purpose; and we select it because to us it seems the most curious and interesting, and generally is the least known. We take the Hôtel de Rambouillet.

Madame de Rambouillet was of Italian extraction. Her father, the Marquis of Pisani, represented Henry the Third at the court of Rome under the pontificate of Sextus the Fifth. During his embassy the queen mother, Catherine de Medicis, lost a favourite Italian lady ; and, to afford her consolation, it was communicated to the French ambassador that he must espouse, and bring to court, one of the family of the Strozzi to which the late favourite belonged! The queen named a charming young widow of the

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noble Roman family of the Savelli, nearly related to the Strozzi, and although the Marquis of Pisani was sixty-three years of age, he had so distinguished himself in war and in politics, and retained yet so much manly grace, that the marriage, promptly agreed upon, was solemnized within three days from the first interview, and the accomplished Italian borne away to the court of France. Subsequently the Marquis attached himself to Henri Quatre, and of his conduct and character the famous De Thou has left the brief, but expressive memorial, that he did not know of a life more worthy to be written.

Madame de Rambouillet was the only child of this marriage. From her mother, a woman of talent, she received an excellent education, having learned from her to speak the Italian and French languages with equal facility. The daughter, like her mother, was married to a man much older than herself, and that at the age of twelve years. Her elderly husband appears to have regarded her with passionate fondness, which she returned with reverential respect, such as is due rather from a child to a parent than from a beloved wife to a tender companion. The early years of her married life were passed at the court of Henri Quatre, at whose death she was twenty-two years old, and of whom she seems to have received and retained a most unfavourable impression. Her friend, Tallemant des Reaux, who has left even in his laconic Historiettes' the fullest details of her habits, tells us that from the period of her twentieth year she used to shut herself in her room, and feign indisposition, that she might so avoid appearing at the assemblies of the Louvre: strange conduct,' he adds, • for a young lady, handsome and of quality! That she had been accustomed to special marks of favour is certain ; for at the coronation of the queen she was 'une des belles qui devoiente être de la cérémonie. Nor did repugnance to the court arise, as it will occur to us to show, from any indifference to pleasure, or disregard of elegant splendours and tasteful magnificence. But she preferred solitude and the study, as we learn, of the classic authors of antiquity, to sports too rude for a mind whose refinement was in advance of the court society of that day. Her health, indeed, giving way before such hardy studies, obliged her, a little later, to content herself with the easier conquest of Spanish. Yet was she not a prude nor a pedant ; not stiff, harsh, or unamiable ; though she did disrelish the joyous Henri Quatre.

That monarch, with his many excellent qualities, was no doubt better fitted for popular love, than to win the homage of the Marquise de Rambouillet. The wars of the League, amidst which he passed so many of his early years, experiencing reverses in every shape, among evils more prominently recognised had the

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effect of arresting civilization. Intercourse of that nature which supposes the easy undisturbed and unalarmed presence of elegant women, was stopped. The men ever in the camp or in the field, fell into rude camp manners; and the women left to themselves and subjected to the agitations of the times, had but little leisure or inclination for refined

pursuits. To the absence of the cultivation which can alone command respect, was also added a source of positive degradation in the example of Catherine de Medicis. It is not the least of the crimes which lie

upon
the
memory

of that queen, that she filled her court with corrupt women, themselves the devoted instruments of her treacherous policy. Wherever she travelled a body-guard of sirens accompanied her, and many were the fatal secrets won in moments of lulled suspicion. These causes combined may serve to explain the character of Henri Quatre's female associates, and of Madame de Rambouillet's repugnance not only for such acquaintances, but for the monarch whose notions of woman were derived from such a school. Henry the Fourth was amiable, but, like many very amiable men, shared amply the vices of the society by whom he was surrounded. The most partial of his biographers, Perifexe, unconsciously paints him in manners as but a jovial, boisterous boon companion, who loved his bottle, his mistress, and his bon mot, and took part with vigour and address in all manly sports and diversions. He was fond of dancing, ' but to tell the truth,' adds the good old bishop, 'he danced with more gaiety than grace.' True it is that no man ever sat upon a throne possessed of more endearing qualities. In qualities of mind and heart, and in his estimation of solid virtues, he had few equals in his age. But to such a woman as the Marchioness of Rambouillet no amount of good disposition will atone for gross manners.

If Henri Quatre sinned upon the side of jollity, Louis the Thirteenth fell into the opposite extreme. He was a moody anchorite, from whose court gaiety and grace were banished. Ruled by the inflexible Richelieu, he was forced to exile his own mother, and to resign himself submissively into the hands of the minister master, who denied him friend or favourite from among that turbulent nobility which he had determined to bend to the throne. Mazarin, more pliant, and making up by address and subtlety what he wanted in will, never lost sight of his predecessor's principle : his sense of the importance of which was quickened by the wars of the Fronde, and was left by him as a legacy of council to his royal pupil, Louis the Fourteenth. Between Henri Quatre corrupted by the League, and Louis the Fourteenth taught by the Fronde, lies an interval, which in respect of all that is elegant, accomplished, and refined in society,

would have presented a dreary waste but for the Hôtel de Rambouillet, and the several literary reunions created by its example. As the absence of refinement caused by the first civil war suggested the necessity of a school for which the court afforded no place, so the second civil war was in a large degree fatal to the work which it had found accomplished.

Throughout the troubles of the Fronde the chief characters were distinguished women. If their conduct was not in all respects irreproachable

, it must be allowed that the talents displayed and the more than womanly courage exhibited by the Longuevilles and the Montpensiers, proved an extraordinary advance in the course of but half a century. Its origin may be plainly traced to the Hôtel de Rambouillet, to whose accomplished mistress it is time we should return.

Madame de Rambouillet was only thirty-five years of age when she was attacked with a peculiar malady, the nature of which the medical science of the day could not determine, nor its skill alleviate. She dared not approach the fire, even on the coldest day of winter, without immediate suffering, nor could she in summer stir abroad unless the weather happened to be cool. Thus she was, for the most part of the year, a prisoner in her own house ; and in winter obliged, for sake of warmth, to keep her bed even when in good general health. But the infirmities of Madame de Rambouillet tended to her celebrity. Among her many tastes of presumable Italian origin, she had a talent for architecture which she brought to aid in this necessity ; for she to whom her house was an unchanging scene, resolved to beautify this prison ; and even her bed, instead of sustaining a solitary invalid, was by ingenious contrivance made a portion of the salon furniture, and so picturesquely as to be destined to general imitation and consequent fame. Not to be debarred the pleasure of society, Madame de Rambouillet borrowed from the Spaniards the idea of an alcove, where was placed this bed: occasionally concealed from the salon by means of a simple screen. Here, with legs wrapped up in warm furs, she received by turns her intimate friends: or, the screen being withdrawn, enjoyed the general conversation. When the Hôtel de Rambouillet became the vogue, fashion imitated infirmity. An alcove and a ruelle, for so the space between the bed and the wall was called, became essential to the happiness of the fashionable belle. Ladies attired in the most coquettish morning costumes, reclining upon pillows of satin fringed with deep lace, gave audience to their friends singly or by two's. Here were whispered the anecdotes of the day, and people repeated stories of the ruelles as they now do of the salons or the clubs. The Hôtel itself was proReading of a Tragedy by Corneille.

139 nounced such a model of good taste, that Mary de Medicis ordered the architect of the Luxemburg to follow its designs.

Having said thus much of the famous Hôtel, we will take a view of the interior upon one of those occasions when the best society of the day were there assembled. M. de Walckenaer draws aside the curtain. The time stated is the autumn of the year 1644, and the object for which the society meets is to hear a tragedy read by the great Corneille. There are present the élite of the town and of the court ; the Princess of Condé and her daughter, afterwards the famous Duchess de Longueville, and a host of names then brilliant but since forgotten which we pass for those whom fame has deemed worthy of preserving. There were the Duchess of Chevreuse, one of that three (we have already named a second) whom Mazarin declared capable of saving or overthrowing a kingdom; Mademoiselle de Scudery, then in the zenith of her fame; and Mademoiselle de la Vergne, destined under the name of Lafayette to eclipse her. There were also present Madame de Rambouillet's three daughters: the celebrated Julie, destined to continue the literary glory of the house of Rambouillet, and her two sisters, both religieuses yet seeing no profanity in a play. At the feet of the noble dames reclined young seigneurs, their rich mantles of silk and gold and silver spread loosely upon the floor, while to give more grace and vivacity to their action and emphasis to their discourse, they waved from time to time their little hats surcharged with plumes. And there, in more modest attire, were the men of letters: Balzac, Ménage, Scudery, Chapelain, Costart (the most gallant of pedants and pedantic of gallants), and Conrart, and la Mesnardière, and Bossuet, then the Abbé Bossuet, and others of less note. By a stroke of politeness worthy of preservation, Madame de Rambouillet has framed her invitation in such wise that all her guests shall have arrived a good half-hour before the poet: so that he may not be interrupted while reading, by a door opening, and a head bobbing in, and all eyes turning that way, and a dozen signs to take a place here or there, and moving up and moving down, and then an awkward trip, and a whispered apology, the attention of all suspended, the illusion broken, and the poor poet chilled ! The audience is tolerably punctual

. All are arrived but one, and who is he that shows so much indifference to the feelings of such a hostess? Why who should he be, but an eccentric, whimsical, impracticable, spoiled pet of a poet: who but Monsieur Voiture, the life, the soul, the charm of all? He at last comes, and Corneille

may enter. But a tragic poet moves slowly; Corneille himself has not arrived; and a gay French company cannot endure the ennui of waiting. Time must pass agreeably; something must

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