« PreviousContinue »
tion, and his Reply.' Whether we shall return to them again, and how soon, will depend on the occasion which we see for laying before the public, more fully even than we have yet done, proofs of his utter incompetence to the task of a biblical translator. We pledge ourselves, at any time when it may be thought necessary, to produce ten, or twenty times as many instances of blunders and mistranslation equally gross and glaring.
Mr. Bellamy speaks, we observe, (Reply, p. 47.) of testimonials of decided approbation' received from many of our learned clergy,' and of the warm approbation of the public;' but unfortunately he forgets to mention in what manner, and from what individuals this approbation has been received. He forgets equally to mention, what he knows, perhaps, a little better, how much decided reprobation of his work has been expressed, and from what quarters. As far as relates to ourselves, he may depend on one thing ; which is, that, as long as we find him, or any one else, acting on a system which must tend to degrade the Holy Bible in public estimation, so long we shall feel it our duty to use our utinost exertions to maintain inviolate its sacred truths.
Art. XII.-1. Abrégé des Mémoires ou Journal du Marquis de
Dangeau, avec des Notes Historiques et Critiques, et un Abrégé de l'Histoire de la Régence. Par Mad. de Genlis. 4 vols. 8vo.
Paris. 1817. 2. Essai sur l'Etablissement Monarchique de Louis XIV. précédé
de Nouveaux Mémoires de Dangeau, avec des Notes Autographes curieuses et anecdotiques ajoutées à ces Mémoires par un Courtisan de la même Époque. Par Edouard Pierre Lémontey. Paris.
Paris. 1818. Svo. pp.'484. MEMOIRS may, we think, be called the most instructive of
the amusing and the most amusing of the instructive departments of literature: they combine individual characters and feelings with public transactions—dignifying the levity of private anecdotes, and enlivening the gravity of historical events.
The whole of the seventeenth century is rich in memoirs; it was then a kind of fashion to keep a journal, and it was, we think, a happy fashion for posterity--we should else know but little of what passed during that interesting period. We have not received from our immediate ancestors much of this species of information, and we apprehend our posterity will be still less indebted to us. The incentives to memoir-writing are greatly diminished by the number of newspapers which have of late inundated Europe : the regularity with which they relate all public events, and the minute and often indelicate accuracy with which they record the lighter topics of curiosity, leave too little unsaid to repay the diligence of a private journalist; and the curious, instead of writing the memoirs of their own time, now content themselves with filing and preserving the Morning Post. It is true that these diurnal records are always hasty, often inaccurate; and that they therefore supply very ill, or rather not at all, the place of authentic and wellfounded memoirs; but they nevertheless anticipate so much of what the private collector of anecdotes would have to relate, that he is discouraged from the task altogether. Nor can we believe that the publicity which state-papers now so generally, and sometimes so strangely, receive, tends-as much as would at first sight appear-to supersede the assistance of authentic memoirs; because it has a natural tendency to indispose statesmen from placing on record all the real grounds of their proceedings :-—they are obliged to consider not so much what is forcible in expression, cogent in argument, or accurate in fact, as what is fit to be published; and accordingly diplomatic papers have been growing, for the last thirty years, drier and drier. We see that the greatest affairs of our own day are transacted in personal conferences, and of the motives of many of the most important events it is to be feared that no recorded explanation will survive: (we hold for nothing the unofficial and intentionally-meagre protocols of conferences.) Nor can we hope that the private papers of ministers of state, occupied as they are with public duties, will furnish many instances of historical memoirs ; and, however paradoxical it may seem, we see some reason to apprehend that this' writing, printing, and publishing age of ours' will leave behind it as few materials for political history, and fewer for the history of manners than any of its predecessors since the revival of learning.
The Memoirs of the Marquis of Dangeau, which have led us to these observations, are curious, and certainly include a great deal of valuable information; although we are not disposed to rate them so highly in this point of view as either of the editors. Before we begin our examination of them, we shall lay before the reader some account of their author, which Madame de Genlis has done too scantily, and M. Lémontey not at all.
Pierre de Courcillon, Marquis of Dangeau, was born in 1638, and was about a year younger than Louis XIV.; his family was protestant, but he himself early in life became a Roman Catholic: he served, as all French gentlemen then did, in the army, and served with distinction. In 1665 he was made Colonel of the king's own regiment, which, however, he, some years after, resigned, to attach hinself to the personal service of his master : he was employed by him in several negociations, one in England for the second marriage of
James Duke of York with Mary of Modena; he was governor of the province of Touraine; first . Menin' to the first Dauphin; Chevalier d'Honneur to two dauphines successively, Counsellor of State, a Knight of the St. Esprit
, and Grand Master of the Order of St. Lazare. He had,' says Fontenelle, 'a very agreeable countenance, and a large share of natural talents, even to the writing very agreeable verses.'—He succeeded Scuderi as a member of the French Academy, but is better known to the literary world as the patron of Boileau, who addressed to him the celebrated satire on Nobility. The sour and inaccurate St. Simon sneers a little at Daugeau's family; but, if its honours were not well vouched from other sources, it would be sufficient to substantiate them, that a writer of the nice taste and admirable good sense of Boileau selected him from all the grandees of France, for the apostrophe with which his poem opens
La noblesse, Dangeau, n'est pas une chimère
Suit, comme toi, la trace où marchoient ses aïeux.' St. Simon, who seems to have loved a calumny even better than a joke, and both far beyond truth, represents Dangeau as ridicuJously vain and self-important. That Dangeau was vain and consequential in his manner we can easily believe. It was the fashion of the time. The example of the king infected and inflated all his courtiers, and M. de Montausier and one or two other originals are quoted with wonder in all the memoirs of the time, as exempt from this general bombast-exceptions so rare as to prove the general character of the court, and to render venial the airs of Dangeau.
Dangeau's chief vanity, however, was of an inoffensive and amiable kind; he was vain of his wife and her family.-She was of the family of Lowenstein,* and was, by one of those German alliances called a left-handed marriage, nearly allied to the house of Bavaria, to which the Dauphine belonged, and on the strength of this affinity, Mademoiselle de Lowenstein signed herself, as Madame de Sévigné informs us, Sophie de Bavière. The dignity, however, of the Dauphine was mortally wounded by such pretension. Mademoiselle de Lowenstein was obliged to retract her claim and cancel her unlucky signature;+ and on no other condition could Louis XIV.
The French always blunder in foreign names; Dangeau calls his wife before their marriage, Levestein. St. Simon's orthography is more correct.
† Madame de Caylus, a great friend of Dangeau's, says, that the Dauphine was convinced of her error, and that the signature was not altered ; a mistake, probably wilful, wlii the Genevese editor corrects by explaining the mezzotermine by which ihe king appeased the contending parties, namely, that the signature Sophie de Bavière Lowenstein' was changed into ·Sophie Lowenstein de Bavière'!
re-establish peace in his court, which he goodnaturedly had interfered to effect.
Madame de Dangeau, however, was worthy of any rank; and her graces and virtues are remembered when so many of her cousins of Bavaria are forgotten. Trivial as the event may be which gives rise to such reflexions, we ruminate with awe on the instability of human affairs and the vanity of human pride, when we see one princess of Bavaria so haughtily abjuring all relationship with Sophie de Lowenstein, and another degraded into the step-daughter of Mary Joseph Rose Beauharnois, alias Joséphine Buonaparte.
* Sophie de Lowenstein,'-says St. Simon, (whose bile evaporates in describing her,)— was beautiful as the day, formed like a nymph, with all the graces of the mind and body. Her mind was not indeed of a superior order, but it was the perfection of good sense; and her moral character was above all imputation. Her birth, her virtues, her beauty, her marriage, (more to the king's taste than her own, but in which she conducted herself like an angel); the rank of her uncle* and the station of her husband-all conduced to select her for the favourite of the court, and the selection was approved by every one.'-St. Simon, vol. ix. Madame de Sévigné, too, in relating (which she does, as she herself gaily confesses, rather maliciously) the affront of the Dauphine's refusal to recognize Madame de Dangeau, exclaims, Dangeau jouit à longs traits du plaisir d'avoir épousé la plus belle, la plus jolie, la plus jeune, la plus délicate, la plus nymphe de la cour: – Let. du S Av. 1687. And Madame de Caylus, in her Souvenirs, expatiates with affection on the “haute naissance, figure charmante et vertu si rare de Mademoiselle de Lowenstein,' to which she adds, that her taille de nymphe' was very much set off by a flamecoloured ribbon which she wore (as men wear the ribbons of orders) because she was a canonesse of some German chapter.
But however Dangeau may have been mortified at not being acknowledged by the electoral house; however proud he may have been of his wife, and however he may have aped (as St. Simon delights to tell us) bis royal master in the ceremonies of the order of St. Lazare, he is undoubtedly the most modest of all writers of Mémoires.
Throughout the whole of his voluminous work, not a trace of personal vanity or self-sufficiency is to be found; his own name is rarely mentioned, Madame de Dangeau's scarcely more frequently, neither, except when the fact absolutely requires it, and then in the slightest, and most unobtrusive manner. Considering their stations, there is scarcely a page in which they might not have figured with splendour and propriety; and the greatest fault we have to find with * Cardinal de Furstenberg.
Dangeau, Dangeau, is the tone of indifference in which he always mentions himself and his amiable wife; it serves however to excuse his coldness on other occasions, when we should have been indignant at his apparent want of feeling.
St. Simon finally accuses him of' fadeur,' or insipidity :-from the caustic pen of St. Simon this is praise—for, as he admits that Dangeau possessed 'good sense, knowledge of the world, a faculty of writing verses, and a kind of wit,' we may be satisfied that the quality which St. Simon considered as insipidity was really good nature—a quality which his acrid spirit must have despised. As the three foregoing topics were the only ones of blame which the gay malice of Madame de Sévigné and the gloomy severity of St. Simon could find, we may safely believe the
rest of their character of Dangeau,-confirmed by the unanimous voice of all his contemporaries--that to his good sense he added good conduct and pure morals, agreeableness in society, accurate probity and nice honour: and the internal evidence of his Journal gives us (as Madame de Genlis justly remarks) the most entire confidence in his veracity and in the accuracy of every event he relates, and almost of every word he writes.
The greatest defect in his character was what his contemporaries considered as one of his greatest merits—he played extremely deep, extremely well, and with great success :-a success, owing altogether, as we are told, “to his extraordinary powers of calculation, which enabled him,' says Grouvelle, 'to form the most scientific combinations without appearing to think about it;' and Fontenelle, in the éloge pronounced upon him in the Academy, celebrates this power of his mind, and gives a remarkable instance of it.
'He asked some favour of the king, which Louis promised, on condition that, during the game which they were about to play, Dangeau should compose one hundred verses- -exactly one hundred, not one more or less. After the game, at which he appeared as little occupied as usual, he repeated the hundred verses; he had made them, counted them and arranged them in his memory, and these three efforts of the mind had not been disturbed by the hurry of play.'
Madame de Genlis very shrewdly suggests that, as the king ha not bargained that the verses should be good, Dangeau, instead of these tliree mental operations, contented himself with extemporising the hundred verses after the game was over; which would not be very difficult to a professed versifier: but if--as St. Simon tells the story, and as seems to agree with the fashion of the times
- it was a set of' bouts-rimés des plus sauvages,' which Louis gave to be filled up, it would add to the difficulties already stated, and suppose a prodigious readiness in the poet.