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Early Modern French Autobiography
 2021000334, 9789004424418, 9789004459557

Table of contents :
Contents
Introduction
1. The Memoir Tradition
1 The First Readers of Memoirs
2 Testimony and Rhetoric
3 Compilation-Memoirs
4 Collections of Memoirs and Collective Memory
2. Philippe de Commynes (1447–1511) and His Memoirs
1 Models and Competing Genres
2 Courtly Autobiography
3 Commynes as Historian and Political Thinker
4 Commynes’s Modernity
4. Louise de Savoie (1476–1531) and Her Diary
1 From Notes to Diary
2 Contents of the Diary
3 François De Moulins and His Role in Making Louise’s Diary
4 Jean Thenaud and Christian Astrology at the French Court
5 Failed Predictions and Uncertainties
6 Making Sense
4. Philippe Hurault de Cheverny (1528–1599) and His State Memoirs
1 Cheverny and His Printed Memoirs
2 Cheverny’s Personal Papers and Manuscripts
3 Network, Editors, and Possible Motivation
4 Collective Self-Writing
5. François de Bassompierre (1579–1643) and the Diary of His Life
1 The Purpose and Genre of Bassompierre’s Diary
2 The Diary
3 Bassompierre’s Other Works
4 From Autobiography to Literature
Conclusion
Bibliography
Manuscript Sources
Primary Printed Sources
Secondary Sources
Index

Citation preview

Early Modern French Autobiography

Egodocuments and History Series Edited by Arianne Baggerman (Erasmus University Rotterdam and University of Amsterdam) Rudolf Dekker (Center for the Study of Egodocuments and History, Amsterdam) Michael Mascuch (University of California, Berkeley) Advisory Board James Amelang (Universidad Autónoma Madrid) Peter Burke (Emmanuel College Cambridge) Philippe Lejeune (Emeritus, Université de Paris-Nord) Claudia Ulbrich (Freie Universität Berlin)

volume 12

The titles published in this series are listed at brill.com/egdo

Early Modern French Autobiography By

Nicolae Alexandru Virastau

leiden | boston

Cover illustration: Les Aages des enffans de Messire Philippes Hurault, comte de Cheverny, MS français 16963, fol. 9r, Bibliothèque nationale de France. Chapter Three has been published as “Philippe Hurault de Cheverny (1528–99) and the Making of Memoirs in Early Modern France.” French Studies. April 2021. The Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available online at http://catalog.loc.gov LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2021000334

Typeface for the Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic scripts: “Brill”. See and download: brill.com/brill-typeface. issn 1873-653X isbn 978-90-04-42441-8 (hardback) isbn 978-90-04-45955-7 (e-book) Copyright 2021 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Brill Hes & De Graaf, Brill Nijhoff, Brill Rodopi, Brill Sense, Hotei Publishing, mentis Verlag, Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh and Wilhelm Fink Verlag. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. Requests for re-use and/or translations must be addressed to Koninklijke Brill NV via brill.com or copyright.com. This book is printed on acid-free paper and produced in a sustainable manner.

Contents Introduction 1 1

The Memoir Tradition 21 1 The First Readers of Memoirs 25 2 Testimony and Rhetoric 30 3 Compilation-Memoirs 38 4 Collections of Memoirs and Collective Memory 47

2

Philippe de Commynes (1447–1511) and His Memoirs 53 1 Models and Competing Genres 58 2 Courtly Autobiography 61 3 Commynes as Historian and Political Thinker 73 4 Commynes’s Modernity 80

3

Louise de Savoie (1476–1531) and Her Diary 87 1 From Notes to Diary 90 2 Contents of the Diary 94 3 François De Moulins and His Role in Making Louise’s Diary 100 4 Jean Thenaud and Christian Astrology at the French Court 106 5 Failed Predictions and Uncertainties 113 6 Making Sense 116

4

Philippe Hurault de Cheverny (1528–1599) and His State Memoirs 120 1 Cheverny and His Printed Memoirs 121 2 Cheverny’s Personal Papers and Manuscripts 131 3 Network, Editors, and Possible Motivation 133 4 Collective Self-Writing 140

5

François de Bassompierre (1579–1643) and the Diary of His Life 142 1 The Purpose and Genre of Bassompierre’s Diary 145 2 The Diary 149 3 Bassompierre’s Other Works 158 4 From Autobiography to Literature 162

Conclusion 170 Bibliography 177 Index 201

Introduction All of us must, in different contexts, recount our lives. We do this in cover ­letters, or vitae, and some of us, and not necessarily the most famous, compose lengthier works usually entitled autobiography, diary, or memoir. This is far from natural, as we most often look for models and we abide by codes that determine the content, style, and tone of our writing. The very words that we employ to describe our life-stories have a history. “Memoirs” was first used in French to denote a story told from the perspective of an eyewitness, and by extension his or her life-story, during the mid-­sixteenth century. “Autobiography” is a late-eighteenth-century English coinage. Nor is there an agreement as to what these terms signify. Some scholars have argued that it is meaningless to speak about autobiography before the eighteenth century: at best, we should read previous texts as part of a “prehistory of autobiography.”1 Others have protested that the absence of a word for autobiography in previous times did not signify the nonexistence of the “thing” that we call autobiography.2 This was one of the main points of contention between Philippe Lejeune and Georges Gusdorf during the 1970s. This was also a dispute between disciplines (literary theory and philosophy, respectively), and generations (Lejeune was born in 1938, while Gusdorf was a veteran of the Second World War). Lejeune tried to define, and in the process excluded works that did not fit his definition, a corpus and a conceptual framework for the study of autobiography, which had been, to that point, largely neglected in French theoretical discourse. The dominant literary theory in France was epitomized by Roland Barthes’s famous essay from 1967 on the “Death of the Author,” which castigated traditional literary criticism for explaining a literary text through the author’s intention: the text, argued Barthes, is always a blend of more or less conscious quotations from different sources and a medley of significations that eschew the intention of the author (or rather the “scriptor”), and acquire their true meaning only in the reader’s mind.3 Soon, the author would become a “function” of discourse, in Michel Foucault’s essay on “What is an Author?” (1969), which presents a broad history of authorship, characterizing one century after another, leaping from one piece of anecdotal evidence to 1 Philippe Lejeune, Autobiographie en France (Paris: Armand Colin, 1971), 44. 2 Georges Gusdorf, “De l’autobiographie initiatique à l’autobiographie genre littéraire,” Revue d’histoire littéraire de la France, 75: 6 (1975), 957–1002. 3 Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author,” transl. Richard Howard, Aspen 5–6 (1967), no pages. © koninklijke brill nv, leideN, 2021 | DOI:10.1163/9789004459557_001

2

Introduction

another, and concludes that asking questions about the authenticity of a text and the identity of its author is irrelevant.4 Curiously, Foucault starts his essay by denouncing critics who misunderstood his intention in his Order of Things (1966).5 Should not then readers follow Foucault’s own advice and meet his protests with a “murmur of indifference” since “what matter who’s speaking?”6 In the face of such theoretical propositions, autobiography, with its heavy emphasis on the author’s life and intentions, was in a most unfortunate position when Lejeune sought to reinstate it as a respectable field of study. Lejeune, too, insisted that the reader played an important role in the definition of autobiography, but he did not reduce the author to a mere discursive function among others. Instead, Lejeune emphasized that, in order for a text to be called an autobiography, the author and his readers need to agree, explicitly or tacitly, that the text strives to tell the essential truth about the author’s life: Lejeune called this agreement “the autobiographical pact.”7 At least in the early phases of his lengthy scholarly career, however, Lejeune took a common dictionary description of autobiography and transformed it into a normative definition: “an autobiography is a retrospective narrative in prose that someone makes of his own existence, when he emphasizes his own life, particularly the history of his personality.”8 According to Lejeune, autobiography began in France with Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions, published in 1782, four years after the author’s death, and all previous texts that resembled modern autobiography were part of its prehistory. The latter point and Lejeune’s overall structuralist phraseology in his Autobiography in France piqued Gusdorf, who published an essay, “From Initiatory Autobiography to Autobiography as a Literary Genre,” in which he condemned Lejeune’s ignorance of the so-called “prehistory” of autobiography, and the literature professor’s abusive appropriation of autobiography as a literary genre. Gusdorf pointed out that Georg Misch (1878–1965) had written a History – not a prehistory – of Autobiography, which goes back to Antiquity and runs to several volumes without reaching Lejeune’s proposed timeframe for the beginning of autobiography. Gusdorf argued that just because Gerolamo Cardano 4 Michel Foucault, “What is an Author?” (1969) in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, transl. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), 113–138. 5 Foucault (1996), 114: “I had no intention of describing Buffon or Marx or of reproducing their statements or implicit meanings, but, simply stated, I wanted to locate the rules that formed a certain number of concepts and theoretical relationships in their works.” 6 Foucault (1977), 138. 7 Lejeune (1971), 24. 8 Lejeune (1971), 14.

Introduction

3

(1501–1576) did not use the word autobiography it does not mean that he did not write one.9 Gusdorf also rightly highlighted the existence of a vast number of quietist and pietist autobiographies from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which were widely read and translated across Europe before they simply stopped being edited or studied because they did not correspond to modern literary taste. Gusdorf mocked Lejeune’s facile connection between the advent of the bourgeoisie, with its emphasis on individualism, and the emergence of autobiography: Undoubtedly, the particularly competent insider could surely establish an intelligible connection between Rousseau’s Confessions and the metallurgical production of his day, between Chateaubriand’s Memoirs from Beyond the Grave and the dividends of the Suez Company.10 Gusdorf’s criticism, which borders on denigration, stems from a very particular understanding of autobiography that is itself reductionist and historically inaccurate. Referring to the works that Lejeune gave as examples of prehistory of autobiography, namely the personal narratives of Guibert de Nogent (c. 1055–1124), Pierre Abélard (c. 1079–1142) and Alix Le Clerc (1576–1622), ­Gusdorf noted that these were not autobiographies in the modern sense but works of edification written by Churchmen and Churchwomen for small private circles, and that they appeared posthumously.11 Gusdorf himself simplified the historical picture: among the authors that he cited as having written autobiographies before Rousseau is also Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592), whose Essays were far from meant for the religious preoccupations of a small private circle, and began to be printed during his lifetime.12 Prior to the modern times, according to Gusdorf, autobiography was “a ­privileged form of self-quest, a spiritual experience,” while after Rousseau it has become “a literary genre open to everyone, a first-person narrative, whose author is also the main character” (one of Lejeune’s numerous and ­questionable definitions); far from marking the advent of autobiography, Rousseau actually “consecrated its decadence.”13 Nevertheless, there was still hope, rejoiced Gusdorf, as the best modern autobiographies from Goethe to 9 10 11 12 13

Gusdorf (1975), 962–963; Georg Misch, Geschichte der Autobiographie, 8 vols. (Frankfurt: Schulte-Bulmke, 1949–1969); Gerolamo Cardano, De propria vita liber (Paris: Villery, 1643). Gusdorf (1975), 964. All translations, unless otherwise specified, are mine. Gusdorf (1975), 960–961. Michel de Momtaigne, Essais (Bordeaux: Milanges, 1580). Gusdorf (1975), 966.

4

Introduction

Gide were still forms of “self-quest as a matter of salvation and the stake of existence,” although Rousseau brought two new tendencies to autobiography: the desire to become more famous, and to make money.14 Gusdorf acknowledged that Rousseau himself was already famous before the Confessions and that he could not have received money for a work published after his death, but insisted that his imitators would do precisely that: tell their life-stories for glory and money, without a profound drive for self-quest. Gusdorf’s sophistry is obvious: authors whose autobiographies sell well are usually already famous and often affluent. During the decade when their dispute took place, successful writers like Jean-Paul Sartre and Georges Perec published experimental autobiographies that became masterpieces of French literature.15 Autobiography was thriving, after the author had been pronounced dead, while Lejeune and Gusdorf disagreed on the best resuscitation methods. Evidently, distinctions should be made between scholarly views, almost always normative with their emphasis on definition and selection criteria, and the reality of book publishing, governed by market interests and the readers’ taste: autobiographies, memoirs, and diaries have continued to grow in number ever since the invention of the printing press. While different forms of self-writing existed in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, it is with their printing that we can actually observe how they slowly became objects of theoretical inquiry, dictionary entries, and widespread writing practices, unrestricted to the elite of deeply religious men and women in search of their center, as Gusdorf wants us to believe. It is a truism that there was no overarching concept of autobiography before the eighteenth century, but Gusdorf was right to suggest that the linguistic deficiency does not indicate the absence of such texts. Conversely, the same type of argument can be applied to Gusdorf’s attack against literature and literary genres: just because the word “literature” did not have the same meaning in medieval and the early modern times as today, it does not follow that works of literature did not exist or that there were no exchanges between autobiography and literature. Professorships of medieval and early modern literature are still advertised (in ever decreasing numbers) in respectable academic job markets, and it would be impractical to replace the term “literature” (with an ­all-encompassing neologism?), just because there is no medieval or early modern word that could cover the same extension as the modern concept of literature.

14 15

Gusdorf (1975), 966. Jean-Paul Sartre, Les Mots (Paris: Gallimard, 1963); Georges Perec, W, ou le Souvenir ­d’enfance (Paris: Denoël, 1975).

Introduction

5

For my own modest research, I still find useful Lejeune’s idea of an “autobiographical pact,” or better “truth pact,” probably the only concept that the scholar has retained throughout his prolific scholarly output since Autobiography in France.16 All early modern autobiographical texts, regardless of their specific title and subgenre, purport to tell the truth and engage the reader to accept the discourse as non-fictional, whether in prologues, in the organization of the discourse, or even in the practical purpose of the works. An account book is meant by definition to tell the truth about the numbers it gives, and by extension also about the personal information that it might contain. Early modern autobiographical works refer mostly to verifiable facts, with occasional distortions and embellishments. Latin humanist autobiographies, in particular, were prone to distort or invent facts to make them correspond to classical literary models.17 For Petrarch and his imitators, autobiographical writing was a means of self-legitimation and of creating a filiation to classical authors, but also of literary experimentation, as there were not many available models for writing about oneself. Experimentation was also a defining trait of the French early modern autobiographical tradition. By the mid-sixteenth century, however, authors of autobiographical writings unmistakably distanced themselves from rhetoric. Their early modern readers regarded with suspicion borrowings from classical literature in autobiographical writing and expressedly demanded authenticity from their authors, as we shall see. French authors and editors of lives, commentaries, and memoirs would occasionally distort (auto)biographical facts, often about the family pedigree, as social status was a major drive for self-memorialization. But early modern readers, historians, and other authors of autobiographical writing would also often condemn omissions and false additions. Factual truth was a matter of interest for the early modern autobiographical tradition, and this is still the only criterion that we have to distinguish it from fictional literature. Borderline cases are the pseudo-memoirs that proliferate starting with the end of the seventeenth century, and imitate the style of authentic memoirs to the point of non-distinction. A very careful, scholarly investigation can undeceive readers, although some traits (such as the numerous digressions or the focus on little-known historical actors) are internal indications that the reader is in the presence of fictional literature.18 Fortunately, my task is easier, since 16 Lejeune, Le Pacte autobiographique (Paris: Seuil, 1975) and Signes de vie (Paris: Seuil, 2005). 17 Karl A. E. Enenkel, Die Erfindung des Menschen: die Autobiographik des frühneuzeitlichen Humanismus von Petrarca bis Lipsius (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2008), 15–26. 18 René Démoris, Le Roman à la première personne: du Classicisme aux Lumières (Paris: Colin, 1975).

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I concentrate my research on the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, when autobiographical works started to be printed and gained in popularity to the extent that they seemed to be a unitary genre to their earliest readers. I have found equally compelling Gusdorf’s criticism of the treatment of autobiography as literature.19 When theorists write about autobiographical genres, they mean “literary genres.”20 This has had pernicious effects for the understanding of the history of autobiography, because the adjective “literary” usually implies an aesthetic judgment: only those autobiographies that fit a certain modern aesthetic idea of literature are worth studying or, worse, are worthy of the name. Since aesthetic values are hard to define, the easiest criterion for the immortal value of a work is its success beyond its time of conception: Saint-Simon’s memoirs are still read today because they survived the test of time; they still appeal to their readers, they are worth teaching, and they are included in textbooks of French literature (or is it precisely their selection and incorporation in textbooks and anthologies that explains their endurance?). Conversely, a large group of initially successful autobiographical works, to which Gusdorf alludes in his essay, simply disappeared from sight and remained interesting only to a handful of antiquarians. An even more insidious problem with formulating the topic of autobiography and its relation to literary genres is that of misreading. Evidently, it can be argued that interpretation is infinite anyway, and we can always invoke the death of the author rendering the concept of misreading nonsensical, but then we must also somehow answer Gusdorf’s dilemma: The young Turks of literature and philosophy have indeed made us enter the age of books without an author, except that one wonders whether they took the logic to its extreme and refused their copyright claims for their brilliant essays.21 The history of early modern autobiographical works in relation to literary genres has led to falsifications of the works themselves. For instance, most autobiographical works from early modern France have been published and 19

20 21

For a discussion of the disciplinary presuppositions between historians and literary scholars in the study of autobiography, see James Amelang, “La autobiografía moderna entre la historia y la literatura,” Chronica nova: Revista de historia moderna de la Universidad de Granada, 32 (2006), 143–157. Jean-Marie Schaeffer, Qu’est-ce qu’un genre littéraire ? (Paris: Seuil, 1989). Gusdorf (1975), 958.

Introduction

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collected in multi-volume books as memoirs, even when they were not originally conceived as such. Modern definitions of memoirs as a literary genre see them as self-narratives written by great noble men and women, who, dissatisfied with official historiography, want to tell their own version of it.22 As it happens, not all authors were noble, and, when they were, their motivation was not always that of challenging official historiography.23 I would even argue that most so-called memoirists did not stray at all from official historiography. It is important then to take into consideration the history of the reception and misreading (or creative reading) of these works. Similar attempts have been made based on Hans Robert Jauss’s reception theory.24 But little to nothing has been done from the point of view of the composition of the texts, the editorial practices in which they were embedded, and the authors’ intentions. We read about the horizon of expectation, works that challenge it, and impose themselves as new models, which then create new literary genres and new horizons of expectation, but we learn almost nothing about how they were actually written, for whom, and to what purpose. Instead, we find some generalizations about the development of autobiography as a symptom of the emergence of the individual during the Renaissance (Lejeune might have been wrong by a couple of centuries).25 I believe that the study of pre-modern autobiography (and literature, for that matter) is important not only for what the texts, written in distant times, still have to tell twenty-first-century readers, but also for what they meant to signify within the horizon, in which they appeared. While most of us read pre-modern works only very rarely, and then usually only those that seem to confirm our expectations, or seem (usually falsely) to anticipate some current preoccupation, the task for historians is to test our modern expectations against what, in the texts themselves, resists our most common narratives. Hans-Georg Gadamer was certainly right to posit that the interpretation process entails replacing old prejudices with new ones, but he surely did not mean that all prejudices are equal, that all interpretations are evenly biased, and that

22 23 24 25

Marc Fumaroli, “Les Mémoires, ou l’Historiographie royale en procès” [1971] in La Diplomatie de l’esprit (Paris: Hermann, 1994), 217–246. Christian Jouhaud, Dinah Ribard, and Nicolas Schapira, Histoire, littérature, témoignage: Écrire les malheurs du temps (Paris: Gallimard, 2009). Hermann Kleber, Die französischen Mémoires: Geschichte einer literarischen Gattung von den Anfängen bis zum Zeitalter Ludwigs XIV (Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag, 1999). Nadine Kuperty-Tsur, Se dire à la Renaissance: Les Mémoires du XVI e siècle (Paris: Vrin, 1997).

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Introduction

the author’s intention is completely irrelevant.26 Our u ­ nderstanding of the texts, of their authors and of ourselves widens and gains nuances through careful interpretation mediated by biographical knowledge and source criticism. In his well-known essay on Paul Celan’s poetry, Gadamer at first dismisses the poet’s intention as irrelevant for the interpretation of the lyric, simply because “all that matters is what the poem actually says, not what its author intended and perhaps did not know how to say.”27 But then, interpreting a lyrical reference to a mulberry tree, Gadamer explains that “here is undoubtedly the emblem of germinating energy,” because the mulberry tree “produces fresh leaves not only in the spring, but throughout the entire summer,” and Paul Celan knew this, as “Heidegger told [Gadamer] that up in the Black Forest, Celan knew more about the plants and animals than [Heidegger, who lived there] did.”28 Taken out of context, Gadamer’s apparent contradiction between his theory and practice of interpretation gives the unintended image of Celan as an ignorant poet and a knowledgeable botanist. Yet, reading Celan’s poetry for its scientific insights into the life of plants and animals is very likely a misreading of the author’s intention. Maybe Celan chose the word Maulbeerbaum for its sound qualities, a repetition of nasal and plosive consonants, against a beautiful alliterative sequence made of mostly sibilant consonants.29 I do not claim that Critical Plant Studies and Animal Studies could not be fruitfully applied to poetry, but that, in this particular case, it seems to me that Celan’s intention was not that of transmitting scientific facts about mulberry trees, and that it is perfectly legitimate to ask what the poet intended, even when he did not know how to say it. My defense of the author’s intention as a legitimate hermeneutical inquiry is consonant with “the return of the author” during the last three decades.30 Equally important for interpretation is taking 26 27 28 29

30

Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, transl. Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. ­ arshall (London; New Dehli; New York; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2013 [1960]), especially M chapter 4, ­279–397. Hans-Georg Gadamer, “Who am I and who are you?” and Other Essays, transl. Richard ­Heinemann and Bruce Krajewski (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997 [1973]), 68. Gadamer (1997), 71. Paul Celan, Atemwende: Vorstufen, Textgenese, Endfassung, eds. Christiane Wittkop and Heino Schmull (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2000), 6: “Du darfst mich getrost/ mit Schnee bewirten: / sooft ich Schulter an Schulter mit dem Maulbeerbaum schritt durch den Sommer,/ schrie sein jüngstes/Blatt.” (transl. Richard Heinemann and Bruce Krajewski: “Consoled you may/ welcome me with snow:/ whenever I strode through the summer,/ shoulder to shoulder with the mulberry tree,/ its youngest leaf/ screamed”). Seán Burke, The Death and Return of the Author: Criticism and Subjectivity in Barthes, ­Foucault, and Derrida (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1993); Antoine

Introduction

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into consideration the discursive genres that the authors choose for their texts. Plants in a poem, as Gadamer himself suggests, are emblems for something else (the basic meaning of a figure of style). Unwilling to accept this minimal poetic convention, Charles Baudelaire found that poems praising trees and insects had “je ne sais quoi de shocking [sic],” and concluded: “I shall never believe that the soul of gods inhabits plants, and even if they did, I would care little, and I would consider my own soul of far higher value than the souls of sanctified vegetables.”31 Autobiographers are intent on communicating something objective or practical about the real world. Should the autobiographer use alliteration, the attentive reader would recognize a sign of literature. The problem with literature in its relation to autobiography is not the word “literature” itself but the understanding of genres as essentially literary, with all the ideological connotations that this entails.32 Before they became literary, genres were, originally, broad rhetorical distinctions (genera dicendi) that referred to the style of the discourse: humble, medium, and grand.33 The point is not to replace modern literary theory with humanist pedantry, but to understand that such distinctions, together with other rhetorical categories (demonstrative, judicial, deliberative discourses) and discourse anatomy (invention, arrangement, style, memory, and, to a lesser extent, delivery) were still highly operative during the early modern era. Early modern authors had different levels of education and understanding of classical literature, but it should not be a surprise that a minimal grasp of such distinctions was available to anyone who knew how to read and write. Therefore, I propose to approach the texts discussed in this book through the categories that were immediately available to the authors themselves, their editors, and first readers, instead of projecting on to them anachronistic, profoundly ideological narratives about literature, autobiography, and individualism. My skepticism towards literary genres does not amount to a complete rejection of discursive genres and reception theory. Any text, regardless of when it was written, resembles to a certain extent previous models, sometimes even

31 32 33

­Compagnon, Literature, Theory, and Common Sense, transl. Carol Cosman (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), 29–68. Charles Baudelaire, “Lettre à Fernand Desnoyers” [1854] in Correspondance, eds. Claude Pichois et Jérôme Thélot (Paris: Gallimard, 2000), 85. Christian Jouhaud, Dinah Ribard, and Nicolas Schapira, “La Littérature pour politique: ­Étudier les Mémoires,” Les Temps modernes, 611:5 (2010), 85–97. Rhetorica ad Herennium, transl. Harry Caplan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press; ­London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1968).

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Introduction

plagiarizes them, but also introduces new elements. Complete originality would be incomprehensible, and discursive genres always mediate our interpretation.34 Depending on their level of education, readers recognize d­ ifferent codes and, sometimes, originality. The most widely employed term for autobiographical works that appeared in print in early modern France was “memoirs” (Mémoires).35 But some autobiographical works were still published under the inconspicuous titles of “chronicle,” “history,” and “commentaries,” or the more modern sounding “diary” (journal) and “life” (vie). None of the more modern sounding terms were linguistic innovations nor did they initially possess their modern meaning. Initially, memoirs designated a draft, an aide-memoire, useful in a legal inquiry and, by extension, the inquiry into the past called history.36 Journal (diary) often referred to the account books of merchants, where they noted daily transactions.37 Vie (life), translating the Latin Vita, was usually reserved for encomiastic biographies of great men and virtuous women, although, as Katherine MacDonald has shown, the early modern biographers used their subjects as a means of self-promotion, and, therefore, the boundary between biography and autobiography was fluid.38 My case studies will also show the widespread practice of employing professional writers (similar to g­ hostwriters) 34 35

36 37 38

Antoine Compagnon, Théorie de la littérature: la notion de genre (https://www.fabula.org/ compagnon/genre.php: Web, 28 June 2020). Pierre Nora, “Les Mémoires d’État: De Commynes à De Gaulle,” in Les Lieux de mémoire, vol. 2 La Nation. Le Territoire (Paris: Gallimard, 1986), 355–400; Marie-Madeleine Fragonard, “Une mémoire individualisée. Éditions et rééditions des acteurs et témoins des guerres” in La Mémoire des Guerres de Religion: La concurrence des genres historiques (XVI e–XVIII e siècles), eds. Jacques Berchtold and Marie-Madeleine Fragonard (Geneva: Droz, 2007), 29–86. Jean Nicot, Thresor de la langue française (1606) (https://www.lexilogos.com/nicot.htm: Web, 28 June 2020): “Memoires et instructions, en matiere de proces et autres choses, ­Commentarius.” Nicot (1606): “Et de là vient que Journal, qu’on dit aussi papier journal, se prend pour le livre du marchand ou banquier, auquel il enregistre par chacun jour sa negotiation en recepte et mise, vente et achapt. ” Dictionnaire de l’Académie françoise (Paris: Coignard, 1694): “Vie se dit aussi de l’histoire, de la religion et du recit des choses remarquables de la vie d’un homme. Les Vies des hommes illustres, escrites par Plutarque, les vies des saints, il a escrit la vie d’un tel prince, il a escrit ­luy-mesmes sa vie, il nous a raconté toute sa vie.” Katherine MacDonald, Biography in Early Modern France (1540–1630): Forms and Functions (London: Legenda, 2007); Marc ­Fumaroli, “Des ‘Vies’ à la biographie: le crépuscule du Parnasse,” Diogène, 7:1 (1987), 3–30; Peter France and William St. Clair, eds., Mapping Lives: The Uses of Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Alan Stewart, The Oxford History of Life-Writing, Volume 2: The Early Modern (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 5.

Introduction

11

by quite a few authors of life-writing, as well as the presence of posthumous interpolations and refashioning of the original manuscript in its passage to the printing press. The meaning of all these terms changed only gradually starting in the mid-sixteenth century, to describe something more akin to modern autobiography, an authentic discourse drawn from the author’s life experience. Memoirs, the most popular and widely glossed upon term, were defined as non-fictional discourse, with their authors and early editors striving to convince their readership, as we shall see, that they did not use rhetoric and that their narrative was truly grounded in personal testimony. Nevertheless, as I will try to prove here, the other, older meanings (from legal notes to account books) never completely disappeared during the entire period under study, nor were rhetorical conventions completely cast away. Rather, modern historians have overemphasized the autobiographical element that corresponded to their expectations, even when such autobiographical details were not necessarily the most interesting to early modern authors and their intended readers. My entire demonstration strives to dismiss the facile teleological history of autobiography that sees a continuous progression of individual self-expression from the Renaissance to the Romantic era. Today, memoirs are defined in contrast to autobiography. Memoirs, we are told, are written by public personalities who attempt to insert their “individual life stor[ies] into a larger context of public or historic consequence,” while autobiography “centers on the psychic and personal development of the individual.”39 Scholars often make an additional chronological distinction: memoirs focusing on the author’s public career appeared first in the sixteenth century and gradually came to integrate descriptions of private life and adopt a more inward-looking stance, especially after the translation of Augustine’s Confessions into French in the mid-seventeenth century.40 When applied to an early modern context, however, these common distinctions are far from evident. Even though there is no term for autobiography in European languages before the eighteenth century, some early modern authors did write about their “personal development,” although they certainly

39 40

Christiane Lahusen, “Memoirs,” in Handbook of Autobiography/Autofiction, ed. Martina ­ agner-Egelhaaf, vol. 3 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019), 626. W Marc Fumaroli, “Les Mémoires du XVIIe siècle au carrefour des genres en prose,” XVII e ­Siècle 94 (1971), 7–38; Marc Fumaroli, “Mémoires et Histoire: le dilemme de l’historiographie humaniste au XVIe siècle,” in Les valeurs chez les mémorialistes français du XVII e siècle avant la Fronde, eds. Noémi Hepp and Jacques Hennequin (Paris: Klincksieck, 1979), 21–45; Pierre Courcelle, Les “Confessions” de saint Augustin dans la tradition littéraire: Antécédents et postérité (Paris: Études augustiniennes, 1963).

12

Introduction

possessed neither the narrative techniques nor the psychological vocabulary available to modern writers.41 Moreover, there are numerous works of early modern self-writing that do not fall within the modern, normative definitions of either autobiography or memoirs: they bore different titles and were meant sometimes for very specific purposes, such as horoscope casting. Evidently, our current, self-evident understanding of memoirs and autobiography does not serve well their early modern antecedents. However, the early modern tendency to lump together all autobiographical works as “memoirs” should not lead us to renounce any attempt to make distinctions and to identify different historical strands and genres of autobiography. There are works of secondary literature that simply refuse to delve into genre and reception theory, leading to questionable conclusions. Yuval Noah Harari, for instance, has written a book on Renaissance Military Memoirs that actually extends to cover both the Middle Ages and the twentieth century, in which he has set out to prove that military memoirs have always existed everywhere, an early sign of the author’s Faustian ambition to cover the entire history of humanity and answer its big questions.42 The answers to smaller questions, however, do not fill the bill. Harari uses mostly nineteenth-century editions, which are almost always faulty, and never discusses the titles of the texts that he analyzes, and how they were rebaptized in subsequent editions. Lebensbeschreibung, Reisebuch, Chronik, Relación, Memorias, Comentarios, La vida y hechos, etc. are all treated under the same umbrella of “military memoirs” based on some structural similarities between texts coming from different cultures, languages, and written for different purposes. Making broad analogies is quite legitimate, but we learn nothing about the manuscripts, if they existed, how they circulated and how they were initially read. For instance, Harari mentions the Memorias of Fernando Álvarez de Albornoz (b. 1336), as proof that memoirs existed in Spanish before it was adopted in French.43 Albornoz’s “memoirs” was originally a very short untitled text, written on the flyleaf of an imposing manuscript that contained Gratian’s Decretum, the most important medieval legal textbook.44 It was modern scholars who gave the text names

41 42 43 44

See, for instance, Théodore Agrippa d’Aubigné, Sa vie à ses enfants, ed. Gilbert Schrenck (Paris: Nizet, 1986). Yuval Noah Harari, Renaissance Military Memoirs: Wars, History, and Identity, 1450–1600 (Woodbridge; Suffolk, Rochester: Boydell Press, 2004). Harari (2004), 188–9. Covadonga Valdaliso and Rodrigo Furtado, “El escrito autobiográfico de Fernando Álvarez de Albornoz y la guerra civil castellana (1366–1371),” in Estudios de Historia de España, vol. 15 ­(Buenos Aires: Universidad Católica Argentina, 2013), 75–104.

Introduction

13

such as memorias or autobiografía.45 Instead of presenting the text as exemplary memoirs, it would have been much more helpful to hypothesize on the chosen place for the original text (the flyleaf), the author’s motivation, similar autobiographical practices, and the history of the reception and manipulation of this text into an independent autobiography. Harari’s neglect of the original context of each of the works to which he refers in his dissertation has inevitably led to some very probable mistakes: Timur or Tamerlane (1336–1405), for instance, is quoted as having written his memoirs in the early fifteenth century.46 Scholars have long cast doubt on the authenticity of these so-called memoirs, which first surfaced more than two centuries after Timur’s death; the work did then enjoy great popularity in India and Central Asia.47 Far from rejecting forgeries and misreading as such, I argue in this book that they played probably the most important role in the way in which we imagine the history of autobiography today. My argument is not that autobiographical practices did not exist prior to the sixteenth century outside of France, but that the task of historians is to establish provable textual filiations and map out meaningfully such practices. Modern genre theory can be profitably used if we make explicit what we mean by “genre.” Jean-Marie Schaeffer has rightly observed that the meanings of “genre” depend on the classifying criteria used. He describes four: the “exemplification of a property” – Madame de La Fayette’s La Princesse de Clèves is a narrative; the “application of a rule” – Baudelaire’s Le parfum is a sonnet; a “genealogical relation” – Lucian of Samosata’s True Histories clearly influenced Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels; and an “analogical relation” – a seventeenth-century Chinese story might resemble a European novella, without direct influence.48 Unknowingly, Harari overemphasizes an analogical criterion, and rarely manages to establish a textual genealogy. The genre criteria that I find meaningful in the study of autobiographical genres, from a historical perspective, are the “genealogical relation” and “the application of a rule.” This book is interested in how early modern French autobiographical works were written, circulated, established conventions, and how they were imitated, read, and misread.

45 46 47

48

Valdaliso (2013), 81. Harari (2004) 188. Edward Granville Browne, A Literary History of Persia, vol. 3: A Tartar Domination: 1206– 1502 (Bethesda: Iran Books, 1997 [1920]), 183–184; Gergely Csiky, “The Tuzukat-i Timuri as a Source of Military History,” Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarium Hungariae, 59: 4 (2006), 439–491. Schaeffer (1989), 180–181.

14

Introduction

Aside from misunderstandings concerning literary genres, a particularly misleading topic for the study of autobiography is its relationship to some historical changes in social structures. This stems from a type of cultural history that more recent historians have often challenged, yet still has a powerful grip on both the wider readership and a significant segment of the scholarship. The most common grand narrative about autobiography comes from the nineteenth century, and was most famously formulated in Jacob Burckhardt’s Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, which placed the birth of autobiography during the Renaissance in the context of the “discovery of the individual,” and the “awakening of the self.”49 The historian opposed the Renaissance conception of the individual to a medieval mentality, in which people were always thought of as members of hierarchical collectivities such as the family, the race, or the guild. Three typical developments have emerged from the dialogue with Burckhardt’s narrative about autobiography. One was formulated, as we have seen, by Philippe Lejeune in his earlier works, although he placed the emergence of the individual two centuries later: autobiography as a genre narrates the development of a personality, entailing the representation of an inward-­ looking subjectivity.50 The second scholarly narrative, derived from Burckhardt’s gratuitous assertion, seeks to show that early modern memoirs are the forefathers of modern autobiography; that they do express an individuality, although through indirect means and sporadically, as individualism as a value was only in its infancy.51 The third type of scholarly discourse comes from specialists of the Middle Ages, who, not content with Burckhardt’s insight that their own cherished authors could not express themselves outside a collective mentality, protest that medieval authors actually had a highly developed sense of individuality.52 Systems theorist Niklas Luhmann developed a more sophisticated version of the individualist story, distinguishing between pre-modern and modern individuality, the first understanding itself through “inclusion” in a traditional 49 50 51 52

Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, transl. S.G.C. Middlemore (London: Swan Sonnenschein; New York: Macmillan, 1904), 129; Kuperty-Tsur (1997). Lejeune (1975), 14. Kuperty-Tsur (1997). Caroline Walker Bynum, “Did the Twelfth Century Discover the Individual?” Journal of ­Ecclesiastical History, 31:1 (1980), 1–17; Brigitte Miriam Bedos-Rezak and Dominique IognaPrat, eds., L’individu au Moyen Age: Individuation et individualisation avant la modernité (Paris: Aubier, 2005); Colin Morris, The Discovery of the Individual: 1050–1200 (London: SPCK, 1972); Michel Zink, La subjectivité littéraire autour du siècle de saint Louis (Paris: PUF, 1985).

Introduction

15

stratified society, the latter by “exclusion” from a “functional” modern ­society.53 Briefly put, a pre-modern man understood himself as a person primarily with regard to his social status given at birth (nobleman, smith, monk, etc.), while modern men understand themselves through or rather have difficulties understanding their place as they are forced to play constantly different roles in ­society (at work, as members of a club, of a political party, etc.), and none of the roles can give full meaning to their identity.54 I do not see a fundamental difference between Burckhardt and Luhmann’s theories, except for the change in mood and phraseology: Luhmann’s theory is certainly more pessimistic about the modern individual, and is reminiscent, in Luhmann’s obscure language, of Erasmus’s pamphlet Julius Excluded from Heaven, in which the bellicose pope Julius II (1443–1513) tries to convince Saint Peter to grant him access to Heaven, and, being rejected, threatens to send the papal army and excommunicate the gatekeeper.55 But maybe pre-modern men did not exactly live in a holistic heaven, and modern men are not ­completely decentered. Words such as “race” defining social status at birth appear in French in the late-fifteenth century.56 It does not mean that social status did not matter previously, but it corroborates the fact that attempts to define social status legally are more typical of the sixteenth and seventeenth century rather than being a self-evident medieval idea.57 As I will show, some of the most modern-looking autobiographies of the sixteenth century are deeply preoccupied with proving the author’s good social standing, precisely because it was in question. The reality of medieval and early modern social orders was much more unstable, heavily based on violence and playing the part, than the usual nineteenth-century picture that still has a hold on our imagination would have it.58

53 54 55 56 57 58

Niklas Luhmann, “Individuum, Individualität, Individualismus,” in Gesellschaftsstruktur und Semantik: Studien zur Wissenssoziologie der modernen Gesellschaft, vol. 3 (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1989), 149–258. Franz-Josef Arlinghaus, ed., Forms of Individuality and Literacy in the Medieval and Early ­Modern Periods (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015). Erasmus of Rotterdam, Dialogus viri cujuspiam eruditissimi festivus sane ac elegans, quomodo Julius II., p. m., post mortem coeli fores pulsando, ab janitore illo D. Petro itromitti nequiverit (Paris: Jean de Gourmont, c. 1518). Trésor de la Langue Française (http://atilf.atilf.fr/: Web, 28 June 2020) gives c. 1480 for family ascendants, and c. 1500 for hereditary traits. Arlette Jouanna, Ordre social: mythes et hiérarchies dans la France du XVI e siècle (Paris: Hachette, 1977). George Huppert, Les Bourgeois Gentilshommes: Essay on the Definition of Elites in Renaissance France (Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press, 1977).

16

Introduction

Conversely, family and social status still played a major role in the lives of the modern sociological popes of rationalism and individualism. Nineteenth-­ century sociologists considered that kinship structured pre-modern societies and was no longer operational for modern times. But many modern sociologists, including Max Weber, still led their own lives “in the same cousin marriages that [were] stated to be typically indigenous, and that [were] in fact specific for nineteenth-century bourgeois sociability.”59 Gregor Rohmann refreshingly observes that modern social sciences appeared in Burckhardt’s time against the background of the “political rivalry of bourgeois liberalism and working-class socialism,” and the biased conceptual differences between individualism and collectivism were then projected into broad comparisons between the modern times and the Middle Ages.60 The notion of the individual, in these scholarly narratives, is highly ideological (the rise of individualism parallels the rise of the West, with all the exclusions that it entails). Rarely challenged here is the supposed intrinsic connection between individualism and autobiography. It seems almost natural that whenever authors write about themselves they must surely be actuated by a desire to express their individuality as either exemplary or just different. Except, there is nothing natural about writing an autobiography. More recent cultural historians and social historians have made significant advances. They have looked at neglected forms of self-writing that do not fit modern definitions of the literary genres of autobiography.61 They have uncovered persistent forms of self-testimony going back to the Middle Ages: family books, account books, semiliterate diaries, and astrological almanacs. These texts were often written by nobles, merchants, burghers and even members of the lower classes, sometimes over several generations by multiple writers. Highly heterogeneous, such texts seldom reveal much of their authors’ subjective thoughts and emotions, focusing instead on the authors’ families, possessions, loans and debts, or events both historical and local that the authors witnessed. They do not fit our post-romantic expectations, and literary historians have only exceptionally given them consideration. Deeming the word “autobiography” to carry a teleological and literary overload that hinders the understanding of such texts, Dutch historians have 59 60 61

Gregor Rohmann, in Arlinghaus (2015), 203; D. W. Sabean and S. Teuscher, eds. Kinship in Europe: Approaches to Long Term Development: 1300–1900, ed. D. W. Sabean et alii (New York and Oxford, 2007), 1–32 and 301–313. Gregor Rohmann, in Arlinghaus (2015), 202. Claudia Ulbrich, Kaspar von Greyerz, and Lorenz Heiligensetzer, eds. Mapping the “I”: Research on Self-Narratives in Germany and Switzerland (Leiden: Brill, 2014).

Introduction

17

proposed Jacques Presser’s neologism “egodocuments” for such forms of self-writing.62 Egodocuments are supposed to refer to self-writing in all its forms, regardless of their aesthetic value or their relation to individualism: from account books and letters to memoirs and autobiography. Some scholars have, however, raised concerns about this “general, catch-all category.”63 First, not all forms of self-writing refer to an ego or “I”: there are numerous self-writings in the third-person and even in the second.64 Moreover, for the early modern era in particular, many personal documents “shed no light at all on the inner workings of an ego.”65 “Self-testimonies” (Selbstzeugnisse), the term that has had most currency in German research on self-narratives, seems more suitable.66 However, both “self-testimonies” and “egodocuments” have the disadvantage of being scholarly neologisms that have found no place in most dictionaries (certainly not in French). The coined terms might also suggest that some exceptionally literary autobiographies, memoirs, diaries, and lives of the early modern period were different in content, form, and purpose, from, for example, unrefined almanac notations, or personal accounts of political negotiations, where the author’s life story plays an insignificant part. Consequently, it has been extremely easy to term the first genres “literary” and the others underdeveloped documents, a sort of “reptilian brain” of the former.67 This is precisely what I should like to challenge in this book on early modern autobiography in France by showing that the supposed gap between high literary autobiographical oeuvres and underdeveloped notes is quite often an illusion and an accident of the transmission of the texts. In reality, a minimal research into the most literary autobiographical texts shows that, far from suggesting an aesthetic consciousness concerned with genre purity, they are extremely hybrid, combining different genres, and serving diverse ends. Moreover, most of the early modern autobiographical texts that were printed during 62 63 64 65 66 67

Jacques Presser, “Memoires als geschiedbron,” Winkler Prins Encyclopedie VIII (Amsterdam: Elsevier), 208–210; Rudolf Dekker, “Jacques Presser’s Heritage: Egodocuments in the Study of History,” Memoria y Civilización, 5 (2002), 15–37. James S. Amelang, “Spanish Autobiography in the Early Modern Era,” Ego-Dokumente. Annäherung an den Menschen in der Geschichte, ed. Winfried Schulze (Berlin: 1996), 69. Maximilien de Béthune de Sully, Mémoires des sages et royales oeconomies d’Estat, domestiques, politiques et militaires de Henry le Grand… (Amstelredam [1640]). Kaspar von Greyerz, “Ego-Documents: The Last Word?” in Von Menschen, die glauben, schreiben und wissen: Ausgewählte Aufsätze, eds. Kim Siebenhüner und Roberto Zaugg (­Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2013), 190. Andreas Bähr, Peter Burschel, Gabriele Jancke, eds., Räume des Selbst: Selbstzeugnisforschung transkulturell (Köln: Böhlau Verlag, 2007). Frédéric Charbonneau, Les silences de l’histoire: Les Mémoires français du XVII e siècle (Sainte-Foy, Québec: Presses Universitaires de Laval, 2000), 13.

18

Introduction

the sixteenth and the seventeenth century have been heavily interpolated and mangled to a degree that sometimes makes it impossible to decide who wrote what and to what purpose. I propose here to employ the more common word “autobiography,” as an all-encompassing, inclusive term for self-writing. As to its definition, I would like to hold on to Lejeune’s autobiographical pact of truth, avoid further restrictive criteria, and recover the voice of the original texts, instead of superimposing modern narratives upon them. Autobiography has the advantage of being present in all modern languages, and widely used outside of the scholarly community. More fundamentally, we can challenge normative and ultimately impoverishing definitions of autobiography by bringing under this common term forms of self-writing such as early modern memoirs, medieval account books, Renaissance astrological diaries, etc., which do not fit modern, unreflective presuppositions about selfhood, individualism, private and public life, or literature. This is also the meaning of the chosen title for Adam Smyth’s brilliant book Autobiography in Early Modern England, focusing on almanacs, financial recordkeeping, commonplace books, and parish registers.68 Burckhardt’s insight was not entirely wrong, because the early modern period was truly a time of increased “interest in finding ways in which subjectivity might leave a trace.”69 The invention of the printing press and the progress of literacy favored new forms of self-expression. In early modern France, a large group of autobiographical works bearing the title “Mémoires” emerged in print during the second half of the sixteenth century, first in French, and gradually in most European languages.70 Unlike account books, almanacs, and astrological diaries, memoirs now occupy a privileged position in the history of French literature, and have been regarded as a high literary genre ever since the early nineteenth century, at least, when numerous new editions and collective volumes of early modern memoirs appeared in print in France. These modern editions were often based 68 69 70

Adam Smyth, Autobiography in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). Smyth (2010) 19. Oxford English Dictionary (www.oed.com: Web, 28 June 2020) gives 1661 for the usage of the term memoirs meaning biography, 1680 for a person’s own life story, and 1810 for biography and autobiography. The Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache (Berlin: De Gruyter 2015) gives the eighteenth century for the appearance in German of Memorien with its autobiographical meaning. Autobiographical works bearing the title Memorias surface in the seventeenth century in the Spanish language, according to Victoria Ayuso de Vicente, Consuelo García Gallarín and Sagrario Solano Santos, Diccionario de Términos Literarios (Madrid: Akal, 1997), 235.

Introduction

19

upon faulty texts, and on romantic assumptions about individuality, history, and self-writing that do not resist closer examination. This book focuses on early modern autobiographical works that appeared in print. While works that remained in manuscript are extremely important for understanding the history of autobiography, their cultural impact is more difficult to assess. Printed works have the advantage of rapid and easy proliferation, and historians can have a good idea of their success from the number and quality of their editions. Central to my approach is, however, a systematic comparison of these editions with their manuscript tradition, whenever such tradition exists and has been poorly studied. Almost always, as I shall show, the manuscript tradition and the print culture of the same texts exhibit different logics and purposes. Very simply put, manuscripts served a variety of local and practical interests, while their printing rendered them uniform at the expense of their original form, content, and purpose, and made them look like other vaguely similar works published during the same time. Publishers were shaping and responding to the tastes of their readers by employing a standardized, proven formula. Evidence for this is a common phraseology in prefaces and the systematic use of the title “memoirs,” even for works that their original authors called something else or did not entitle at all. The differences between manuscript tradition and printing culture do not, however, overlap with our more common distinction between private and public spheres. Manuscripts circulated and their authors had a wider audience in mind than their immediate family, as they often claimed in their prologues. It can be argued, following James Amelang’s study of popular autobiography, that: “Many authors saw [their] supposedly private and familial writing as a means of intervening in debate within a wide range of (invariably local) public spheres. Precisely because of their sense of entitlement, of belonging to the city, they undertook ‘personal’ writing as an act of citizenship.”71 It seems crucial, then, to start with this printing culture and the way it first shaped the reception of autobiographical works. In the first chapter, I survey the editorial history of early modern autobiographical works published between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, usually under the title Memoirs. The autobiographical works to which I refer date originally from the early sixteenth century to the 1640s. Since works written during the second half of the seventeenth century have been amply studied in secondary literature, it would have been redundant to analyze them here. With the translation of

71

James Amelang, “Popular Autobiography in Early Modern Europe: Many Questions, a Few Answers,” Memoria y civilización, 5 (2002), 101–118.

20

Introduction

Augustine’s Confession into French by the mid-seventeenth century and the growing body of spiritual autobiography in Protestant culture, models of a more inward-looking subjectivity present themselves and decisively influence the appearance of modern autobiography, while parallel forms of early modern autobiography (from almanacs to family books) did not exactly disappear, but have attracted less modern scholarly interest.72 The subsequent chapters will explore the works of authors representing different generations and discursive genres. Commynes is often credited with the creation of the memoir genre, while his work bears the mark of the experimental character of late-medieval chronicles. The so-called “diary” of Louise de Savoie is useful for understanding astrological preoccupations as one of the sources of the modern diary. The State Memoirs of Cheverny show the importance of family books for the history of autobiography.73 Finally, Bassompierre’s Diary of [his] Life enjoyed an impressive reception in European literature and invites us to reconsider the relationship between autobiography and literature. Far from exhausting all the variety of early modern autobiographical genres, the chapters are meant to prompt future research into the many ways early modern French authors wrote about themselves and their interests, and further the dialogue between scholars from the fields of literary, historical, and social sciences. A generous fellowship of the Volkswagen Stiftung and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation made possible the writing of this book. I would like to thank the Dahlem Humanities Center of the Free University of Berlin for hosting and supporting me. A significant part of my research was undertaken during my doctoral work at Columbia University. I would like to thank Professors Sylvie Lefèvre, Pierre Force, Anthony Grafton, Alan Stewart, and Phillip John Usher for their guidance and suggestions. My gratitude goes to Maria Wenglinsky for carefully reading my manuscript. I am also greatly indebted to my colleagues and friends: Gabriela Badea, Adrian Pirtea, and Dan Siserman. 72 73

D. Bruce Hindmarsh, The Evangelical Conversion Narrative: Spiritual Autobiography in Early Modern England (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005). An earlier version of this chapter appeared as “Philippe Hurault de Cheverny (1528–1599) and the Making of Memoirs in Early Modern France,” French Studies, 2021.

CHAPTER 1

The Memoir Tradition The most widely employed term for works of self-writing that appeared in print in early modern French was Mémoires. They are defined today as individual life stories that emphasize the author’s public career as opposed to autobiographies that concentrate on the intimate life of the author.1 The problem with this definition is that it assumes that memoirs are and have always been a unitary genre. The assumption comes from a long history of editing and reading nearly all French autobiographical works as memoirs, a tradition that this chapter aims to explore. By tradition, I mean the way these texts were transmitted, printed, and presented to the reading public. Most texts also circulated in manuscript form, but it is difficult to gauge their cultural impact. Therefore, I shall explore here the print culture of early modern memoirs, while their r­ elation to manuscript tradition will be discussed in more detail in the ­following chapters. The term can be related to Jan Assmann’s concept of “cultural memory,” and certainly this has been a fruitful angle of approach for other French texts of the same period.2 I prefer the term “tradition,” because it was familiar to the authors under study here, and because Pierre Nora coined the expression “memoir tradition” (“la tradition des Mémoires”) in an influential essay more than three decades ago.3 His “State Memoirs from Commynes to De Gaulle” starts with a disenchanted observation: even if memoirs continue to be published in abundance today, they are mostly written by common people because democracy, psychoanalysis, and a certain idea of history have “atomized in everyday life the unity of an august and almost solemn genre.”4 According to the French historian, the new democratic memoirs are no longer interesting, unlike the noble early modern ones that gave the world some of the masterpieces of French literature, an opinion that has raised reasonable objections.5 1 Lahusen (2019), 626. 2 Jan Assmann, Cultural Memory and Early Civilization: Writing, Remembrance, and Political Imagination (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011); Nicolas Russell, “How Memory Constitutes Nations in Louis Le Roy’s Vicissitude” in Memory and Community in Sixteenth-Century France, eds. David P. LaGuardia and Cathy Yandell (Farnham, Surrey; ­Burlington, VA: Ashgate Publishing, 2015), 149–160. 3 Nora (1986), 356. 4 Nora (1986), 357. 5 Jean-Louis Jeannelle, Écrire ses Mémoires au XX e siècle: Déclin et renouveau (Paris: Gallimard, 2008); Jouhaud (2009), 23–88. © koninklijke brill nv, leideN, 2021 | DOI:10.1163/9789004459557_002

22

CHAPTER 1

Nora believes that the tradition was formed during the last years of the restored Bourbon monarchy (1814–1830) and the beginning of the July ­Monarchy (1830–1848), when large collections of memoirs were published. The editors gave them a philological apparatus that made them look like critical editions, and eliminated from the texts what they thought were either extraneous additions or digressions that did not befit a certain idea of memoirs that was taking shape in the same process. The goal of these collections was to create a national memory based on the accumulation of all the personal testimonies of the great men who made the history of France. Nora rightly points out that the memoirs printed before this period were published in “generally ill-controlled editions,” often printed outside of France, in London, Cologne, or Amsterdam.6 Nevertheless, Nora’s reasons for dismissing earlier collections are not altogether clear. The collections prepared by Claude-Bernard Petitot (1772–1825), Jean-Louis Monmerqué (1780–1860), Alexandre Bouchon (1791–1846), Jean-­ Joseph Poujoulat (1808–1880), and Jean-François Michaud (1767–1839), which supposedly created the memoir tradition, were also generally ill-­controlled, the introductions and footnotes notwithstanding. Few texts were printed on the basis of original manuscripts and even fewer respected the text of the editio princeps. Furthermore, many collections of memoirs had been published much earlier, in the seventeenth century. Even the addition of footnotes, giving collections an air of philological erudition, was full-blown during the eighteenth century, with deep roots in humanist commentaries on classical authors, the tradition of ecclesiastical history, the refinement of antiquarianism, and the development of history as a science, distinct from rhetoric, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.7 Additionally, the emergence of memoirs written by commoners and a tendency to memorialize authors of obscure social origin is traceable back at least to the early eighteenth century.8 In other words, the tradition of memoirs has a longer and more complex history than it has been supposed, and it, therefore, deserves reevaluation.9 It has been argued that the tradition begins with the word Mémoires, first defined by the lexicographer Antoine Furetière in a French dictionary

6 Nora (1986), 356. 7 Anthony Grafton, The Footnote: A Curious History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997). 8 Louis François Joseph de La Barre, ed., Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire de France et de Bourgogne contenant un journal de Paris (Paris: Jules Michel Gandouin et Pierre-François Giffart, 1729). 9 Marie-Paule Weerdt-Pilorge and Jean-Jacques Tatin-Gourier, La Réception des Mémoires d’Ancien Régime (Paris: Le Manuscrit, 2009), Marie-Paule Weerdt-Pilorge and Jean-Jacques Tatin-Gourier, Mémoires et Journaux sous l’Ancien Régime (Paris: Le Manuscrit, 2012).

The Memoir Tradition

23

published in 1690.10 Furetière carefully distinguished between two meanings. The first, mémoire is a written summary serving as an aid to memory, whereas the second “Mémoires, in the plural, is said about books of historians, written by those who have taken part in the events or who have been eyewitnesses, or containing their life and principal actions.”11 The difference was not always obvious because “mémoire” with the meaning of summary account was also widely-employed in the plural, and, quite often, authors of independently published memoirs stated clearly in their prologues that they laid down their eyewitness testimonies to help professional historians compose more complete, erudite, and ornate history. In other words, many memoirs were originally still intended as aide-memoires for historians. Furetière also gave some examples of “memoirs in the plural”: the Memoirs of the Duke of Sully (1559–1641), those of Secretary of State Villeroy (1543–1617), of Principal Minister Richelieu (1585–1642), or of the Marshal of Bassompierre, among others. These public figures had been active between the mid-sixteenth and the mid-seventeenth century, and their personal accounts appeared in print usually one or two generations after their authors’ deaths to avoid a­ rousing possible resentments.12 “Mémoires” were not thought of as being a new form of life-writing: Furetière added that they “correspond to what Latins called commentaries,” by which he meant ancient unadorned accounts of ­historical events, in which the author was also an actor such as Caesar’s De bello gallico.13 Early modern readers of history would also consider as belonging to the memoir tradition medieval chronicles composed by eyewitnesses.14 Most modern historians accept Furetière’s definition and place the birth of the memoir genre (“le genre des Mémoires”) during the period 1550–1650.15 What was new about sixteenth-century memoirs? Striking, first, is their number: a list of more than thirty or forty autobiographical works can hardly be

10 11 12

13 14 15

Fumaroli (1979). Antoine Furetière, Dictionnaire universel, contenant généralement tous les mots françois tant vieux que modernes, et les termes de toutes les sciences et des arts (The Hague: Leers, 1690). The posthumous character of the vast majority of early modern memoirs is summed up by Saint-Simon in his Mémoires, ed. Yves Coirault, vol. 1 (Paris: Gallimard, 1983), 16: “Il faudrait donc qu’un écrivain eût perdu le sens pour laisser soupçonner seulement qu’il écrit. Son ouvrage doit mûrir sous la clef et les plus sûres serrures, passer ainsi à ses héritiers, qui feront sagement de laisser couler plus d’une génération ou deux et de ne laisser paroître l’ouvrage que lorsque le temps l’aura mis à l’abri des ressentiments.” Furetière (1690). Cristian Bratu, ‘Je, auteur de ce livre’: L’affirmation de soi chez les historiens, de l’Antiquité à la fin du Moyen Age (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2019). Kuperty-Tsur (1997); Kleber (1999).

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compiled from the entirety of the Middle Ages and Antiquity combined, let alone printed and reprinted numerous times, as early modern memoirs were within the span of a century in France between 1550 and 1650.16 Secondly, virtually all early modern memoirs referred to each other, or claimed to have followed a distinguished model, usually Caesar or Commynes. The latter’s Memoirs were published with this title at least seven times in France alone during the second half of the sixteenth century, the period of the first French vogue of printing autobiographical works. Commynes’s bestseller certainly inspired others to produce similar works, but it was also a symptom of its time. The progress of literacy and print technology also favored the spread of self-narratives. Even more importantly, a new scholarship interested in personal historical accounts emerged in early modern France, and editors of memoirs borrowed its rhetoric in presenting the new works to their readers. The editors of this first group of early modern autobiographical works, printed roughly between 1550 and 1650, employed a specific phraseology that they borrowed from the historical scholarship of their day, and they also created certain expectations among their readers.17 Marc Fumaroli has masterfully related the advent of these memoirs to the emergence in sixteenth-century France of a new historical scholarship chiefly preoccupied with the goals and methods of reading and writing history, in which eyewitness accounts played a leading role.18 However, Fumaroli and most scholars of sixteenth-­century memoirs assumed an implicit teleological vantage point from which they trace the evolution of memoirs as a continuum from sixteenth-century works focusing on the author’s public deeds and historical dealings to late-­seventeenthcentury memoirs in which authors open up about their private lives and reflect on their subjectivity.19 As obvious as this evolution from historical memoirs to personal autobiography might seem, it considers neither the original purpose of the texts nor their numerous modifications from manuscript to print, from one edition to another, and from one generation to another. As we shall see in the following chapters, the inward-looking autobiographical works of the early modern period are at times mere accidents of their manipulation, and textual transmission, rather than the conscious “awakening” of the individual, with

16 17

18 19

Fragonard (2007), 29–86. There is a wealth of bibliography on the history of reception and genre theory. See Hans Robert Jauss, Literaturgeschichte als Provokation der Literaturwissenschaft (Constance: Universitätsverlag, 1967); Hans-Robert Jauss, “Littérature médiévale et théorie des genres” in Poétique, I (1970), 79–101. Fumaroli (1979). Kuperty-Tsur (1997); Kleber (1999).

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which we are familiar from Jacob Burckhardt’s master narrative. The question of the reception of memoirs is therefore far from settled. 1

The First Readers of Memoirs

Among the first and the most influential readers of memoirs were their editors: they chose the title, and put these texts in relation to previous models. They created the semblance of a genre and referred it to a prestigious ancient tradition. Editors also had a tremendous influence in promoting a rhetoric of plain style and truthfulness, constantly employed in describing these texts. This does not correspond to the modern understanding of authenticity, because it responded specifically to some particular ideas of the time about history writing. The French historian in the service of King Henri II, Denis Sauvage (c.1520–c.1587) first used the title “Mémoires” in 1552 for his edition of Philippe de Commynes’s first-person chronicle of the reigns of Louis XI and Charles VIII.20 Sauvage justified his choice of title by pointing out that Commynes himself referred to his writing in general as memoires. While Sauvage’s observation was true, the precise meaning of the word “memoirs” for Commynes, and his intended title for this specific work, composed between 1490 and 1501, are unknown. Judging by the number of medieval French chronicles that Sauvage reviewed, published, and republished throughout his career, it seems that he was intent on popularizing vernacular histories of the French monarchy, and this is the context of his interest in Commynes.21 Sauvage’s prologues repeatedly assure their readers of being presented with the best available texts while lashing out against other editors and copyists’ corrupted versions. Cristian Bratu ­attributes this gesture to the rise of print culture, and to the Protestant emphasis on 20

21

Denis Sauvage, ed., Les Memoires de Messire Philippe de Commines, Chevalier, Seigneur d’Argenton: sur les principaux faicts et gestes de Louis onziéme et de Charles huictiéme son fils, Roys de France (Paris: Galliot du Pré, 1552); Catherine Emerson, “A Question of Paternity: Denis Sauvage, Philippe de Commynes and Olivier de La Marche,” in Essays in later medieval French Literature. The legacy of Jane H. M. Taylor, ed. Rebecca Dixon (­Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2010), 161–173; Catherine Emerson, “Denis Sauvage: Renaissance Editor of Medieval Manuscripts,” in Authority in European Book Culture: 1400 - 1600, ed. Pollie Bromilow (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013); Cristian Bratu, “Denis Sauvage: The Editing of Medieval Chronicles in Sixteenth-Century France,” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History, 3rd Series, 7 (2010), 255–278. For a bibliography see Bratu (2010), 275–276.

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reading the correct text of Scripture.22 But, as Bratu and Jean Dufournet have observed, Sauvage’s respect for the authentic texts of his editions was more of a rhetorical stance than an actual editing principle, because Sauvage’s modifications went beyond the original intention of the author.23 In order to facilitate the reading of Commynes’s work, he divided it into books and chapters, he rearranged the text, modified its spelling, made marginal comments, and gave it a name that it never had before: “Mémoires.” Scholars often distinguish the early modern print culture, when published books tended to reflect the “final” word of the author, from a medieval manuscript culture of copying and modifying texts with much less regard for the author’s intention.24 In reality, such broad distinctions have limited applicability. Early modern editorial choices varied from one editor to another, and also depended on the author’s degree of involvement in the publishing process. On the subject of early modern autobiography, when books tended to appear in print only after the authors’ deaths, we shall see that there was a significant gap between “the author’s hand and the printer’s mind,” contrary to our modern expectation of reading an authentic lived-experience in a text free of interpolations.25 In christening Commynes’s book Mémoires, Sauvage took his inspiration from a previous Latin edition. Earlier French publications of Commynes’s work bore the typical medieval title Chronicle, or History, but the first Latin translation employed the title Commentarii in reference to Caesar’s account of his own feats of arms.26 Sauvage’s Mémoires was the closest French equivalent of the Latin commentarii, which Johannes Sleidan (1506–1556) proposed in 1545 as title for his Latin translation of Commynes’s work.27 Sleidan would then use the same title for his own history of Protestantism.28 22 23

Bratu (2010), 266–277. Bratu (2010), 270; Jean Dufournet, “Denis Sauvage et Commynes. La première édition critique des Mémoires,” in Convergences médiévales: Épopée, lyrique, roman: mélanges offerts à Madeleine Tyssens, ed. Nadine Henrard (Louvain-La-Neuve: De Boeck, 2001), 299–310. 24 Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (New York, 1982), 131; Bratu, (2010), 267. 25 Roger Chartier, The Author’s Hand and the Printer’s Mind, transl. Lydia G. Cochrane (­Cambridge: Polity Press, 2014). 26 Cronique & hystoire faicte et composée par feu messire Phelippe de Commines chevalier seigneur d’Argenton contenant les choses advenues durant le règne du roy Loÿs unziesme tant en France Bourgogne Flandres Arthois Angleterre que Espaigne et lieux circonvoisins (Paris: Galliot du Pré, 1524). 27 Commynes, De rebus gestis Ludovici, eius nominis undecimi, Galliarum Regis, et Caroli, ­Burgundiae Ducis Commentarii, ed. Johannes Sleidan (Paris: Christian Wechel 1545). 28 Johannes Sleidan, De statu religionis et reipublicae Carolo Quinto, Caesare, commentarii (Strasbourg: Wendelin Rihel, 1555).

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27

Although a German Protestant, Sleidan studied Law in France, and worked for a while as a secretary to the Cardinal Jean du Bellay (c. 1492–1560), a leading figure of French diplomacy who tried to reach out to German Protestants for an alliance against their common enemy, Emperor Charles V. Aside from his diplomatic negotiations between French and German leaders, between Catholics and Protestants, Sleidan also embarked on a historiographical career. Like Sauvage and unlike most humanists who preferred to edit ancient sources, Sleidan chose to work on recent medieval chronicles of the French monarchy. He was interested in the recent past that explained the genesis of contemporaneous events. For instance, Sleidan translated into Latin an abridged version of a chronicle by Jean Froissart (c. 1337–c. 1410).29 Having dedicated the translation to Jean du Bellay, it might seem at first that the dedicatee also commissioned the work with the goal of making the history of France available to an educated Latin-reading public. But Sleidan continued to work on Latin translations of French chronicles well after he left Du Bellay to return to G ­ ermany. In fact, Sleidan was interested in Froissart’s historical method, because the medieval chronicler often made claims of having travelled and talked to eyewitnesses or reliable third parties. Sleidan would use the same phraseology in the presentation of his Latin translation of Commynes’s memoirs or rather commentarii. In his dedicatory epistle to German Protestant Leaders Philip of Hesse and John Frederic of Saxony, Sleidan commended Commynes’s commitment to truth and asked his German patrons for their support in writing a history of Protestantism following the same truth protocols as Commynes did. Clearly, Sleidan was concerned with models for history writing that satisfied certain criteria for truth. His preface is a disquisition on truthful history. He first highlights Commynes’s nobility and political experience in the service of the potentates of his day: Charles the Bold (1433–1477), Louis XI (1423–1483), and Charles VIII (1470–1498). Next, he states that the history of recent events is less susceptible of straying from the truth because their memory is still fresh for contemporaries who can always contradict inaccurate or false accounts. Moreover, Commynes was both an actor and a spectator (“spectator et actor ipse fuisset”), who wrote aptly, elegantly, and pithily (“apte et concinne tamque sententiose scripsit”), even though he was wanting in erudition (“cum ­nullam eruditionis partem attigisset”), with the sole aid of his felicitous nature, good intellect, and practical knowledge (“naturae felicitas, et ingenii bonitas, et rerum experientia”).30 In his opinion, Commynes meticulously depicted the great, with both their qualities and shortcomings, unlike paid historians 29

Jean Froissart, Historiarum opus omne, iam primum et breviter collectum et latino sermone redditum (Paris: Simon de Colines, 1537). 30 Sleidan, Praefatio, in Commynes (1545), 5.

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who only eulogized their masters, and monks without any political or military experience who wrote uninsightful chronicles on such topics. From the past, Sleidan extols historians such as Thucydides, Caesar, Polybius, Sallust, and Tacitus, among others, who had all had distinguished political careers before writing on such matters. Among the moderns, Commynes stands out for comparison with the ancient with regard to both his practical wisdom (“prudentia”) and commitment to truth.31 Sleidan does not explain here his choice of title commentarii, which could mean in Latin both notes serving as aide-memoire and historical accounts by men who took part in the events narrated, the two meanings that Furetière also assigned to mémoires. As mentioned earlier, Sleidan used the same title (commentarii) for his own history of Protestantism, and, this time, he gave a more formal definition of commentaries: they were devoid of figures of style, written in plain language, foreign to the rhetoric of praise and blame, dispassionate, and objective.32 Commentaries and Memoirs, then as they were understood during the sixteenth century, could mean both eyewitness historical accounts authored by men who took part in the events narrated, or just a way of writing history in plain style zealously careful about original sources, with a marked preference for the testimony of eyewitnesses and experienced men. Fumaroli has rightly observed how the early humanist ideal of a history that tried to be truthful but more importantly eloquent in the style of Paolo Emilio (c. 1455–1529) and Paolo Giovio (1483–1552) came under heavy criticism by the middle of the sixteenth century: ceremonial eloquence, ripe with flowers of rhetoric, invented speeches, and praise-and-blame oratory was no longer compatible with an ideal of history whose sole realm was truth.33 The superior truth-value associated with commentaries and memoirs explains the proliferation of the title for different histories, annals, and political pamphlets, during the time of the spread of Protestantism and the subsequent Wars of Religion in France, a time of great social unrest, when long-established

31 Sleidan, Praefatio, in Commynes (1545), 8. 32 Sleidan (1555), fol. 4v: “Haec omnia, nude, simpliciter, et bona fide, prout quaeque res acta fuit, recito: nec enim de meo quicquam addo, nec nullum interpono iudicium, sed id lectori liberum relinquo. Nulla etiam utor rhetoricatione, nec in ullius hominis invidiam aut gratiam aliquid scribo, stylum accommodo solum, meisque verbis utor, ut perpetua et aequabilis ubique sit oratio, et in suum quaeque locum digero, sicut ordine consecuta sunt.” 33 Fumaroli (1979), 21.

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29

facts, beliefs, and allegiances were put to test.34 Everything suggests that the autobiographical memoirs of the sixteenth century were promoted as a type of historiography that placed a strong emphasis on objectivity. This type of history dealt with events that were still fresh in collective memory, and which could therefore be confirmed or challenged by eyewitnesses. Ideally, an author should have been an eyewitness himself. But even more important was the author’s character and experience of public affairs. Once these first editors launched a set of notions about memoirs and commentaries, they would be endlessly reproduced by both new editors and authors of memoirs. François de Rabutin (d. c.1582) published his C ­ ommentaires in 1555, the first French autobiographical chronicle to borrow Caesar’s title.35 In his introduction, Rabutin replicated some of the criteria for a truthful history that Sleidan associated with his and Commynes’s commentaries: Not knowing how to represent vividly the praise and the blame, I wish to be judged on the basis of my previous presumption, and to be excused for my simplicity, as I have neither made use of rhetorical devices nor enriched my style in writing my history in order to please refined ears, which delight in ornaments of language, for I was constrained to write about public affairs plainly, as they really happened, in the pursuit of truth, the end and soul of history.36 Neither Rabutin nor the succeeding authors of commentaries and memoirs seemed to be aware that they were doing something new. They would invoke Caesar’s model, and quote Commynes, but also medieval chroniclers. For instance, in the dedicatory epistle to King Charles IX, René du Bellay (d. 1606) places his relatives Martin du Bellay (1495–1559) and Guillaume du Bellay’s posthumous memoirs alongside the histories of Thucydides and Caesar, from 34

35 36

For instance: Jacques de Meyer, Commentarii sive Annales rerum Flandricarum Libri ­septendecim (Antwerp: Steelsius, 1561); Jean du Tillet, Les Memoires et Recherches...­ Contenant plusieurs choses memorables pour l’intelligence de l’estat des affaires de France (Rouen: Philippe de Tours, 1578). François de Rabutin, Commentaires (Paris: Vascosan, 1555). Rabutin (1555), Proeme de l’autheur: “Par ainsi, le default mien de ne sçavoir bien au vif representer la louenge et le blasme, je desire estre jugé par la presumption precedente, et ma simplicité estre excusée, si en escrivant mon histoire je n’ay usé d’artifices ny enrichy mon stile, pour plaire à plusieurs oreilles delicates qui se delectent en l’ornement de langage; parce que suivant la verité, qui est la fin et l’ame de l’histoire, j’ay esté constraint d’escrire les affaires nuëment, comme elles sont advenuës.”

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the ancients, and the books (“livres”) written by the “captains” Joinville, Olivier de la Marche, and above all (“surtout”) those by Philippe de Commynes, but René du Bellay also highlights the rarity of such noble eyewitness historians, and urges his contemporaries to follow his example.37 Although Commynes, Rabutin, and Martin and Guillaume du Bellay’s commentaries and memoirs centered on military affairs, and the authors typically claimed to be wanting in erudition, the formulaic prefaces and classical authorities cited therein suggest that the authors, the secretaries who helped them, and their editors were far from inattentive to “refined ears.” What type of text did these commentaries and memoirs resemble most in classical rhetoric? A cursory survey of humanist responses to printed autobiographical works will prove that they were read as testimonies, a category that had a special place in basic textbooks of rhetoric that the editors of memoirs, but also their authors or the authors’ secretaries seem to have studied. By secretaries, I mean the educated ghostwriters, scribes, and co-writers, who helped many authors of memoirs write their life-discourse. This topic will be discussed in more detail in the following chapters, but it is beyond any doubt that many authors of memoirs, especially military commanders, did in fact possess a limited literacy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 2 Testimony and Rhetoric Joël Blanchard and Isabelle Pantin discovered the copy of Commynes’s memoirs, on which Sleidan made annotations for his Latin translation.38 The annotations rarely concern Commynes’s own life-story nor do they delve into the exactitude of Commynes’s chronology or rendition of facts. In other words, the editor is neither interested in autobiography nor in history, or rather our ­modern conception of history as a narrative depicting how things really happened. Instead, Sleidan makes comments on passages from Commynes that concern the nature of princes, their relationship to counselors, and the best practices that the latter should adopt if they wanted to succeed at court.

37 38

René du Bellay, Au roy, in Les Memoires des Mess. Martin du Bellay …et quelques fragments des Ogdoades de Mess. Guillaume du Bellay…son frere (Paris: Pierre L’Huiller, 1569), fol. a iiv. Joël Blanchard and Isabelle Pantin, “Les débuts de la fortune éditoriale de Commynes: l’exemplaire annoté par Sleidan – les premières éditions des Mémoires,” Bulletin du Bibliophile 1 (1998), 37–61; Philippe de Commynes, Cronicque et hystoire (Paris: Alain Lotrian, c. 1528).

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His reading is mostly moral and political. Blanchard and Pantin have justly remarked that Sleidan “simplified” Commynes’s lengthy developments.39 In fact, Sleidan was merely employing a certain conception of testimony that was familiar to humanist readers. He parsed Commynes’s testimony through commonplaces of the broadest applicability to a variety of historical examples coming from other sources. For instance, on the topic of heavy taxation imposed on the populace, dear to Commynes’s political philosophy, Sleidan first sums up the passage (“he [Commynes] paints those who flatter tyrants”), then generalizes (“tyrannical regimes always stir up intestine wars”), and links Commynes’s passage to a classical example (“here, it is worth referring to the tyrant Dyonisius’s saying”).40 Sleidan’s reading is rooted in classical rhetoric. Cicero expounds on the notion of testimony most prominently in his study on invention, the part of rhetoric meant to find arguments. Invention, in this technical sense, contains two “regions” (sedes) of “places” (loci) for arguments: those internal to the nature of the subject matter, such as definition and etymology, and external ones, “brought in from without” (extrinsecus), such as testimonies.41 Cicero also calls a testimony an “extra-technical argument” (inartificialis argumentum) because it is not produced by the art or technique of rhetoric, and its persuasive force rests on authority based on experience.42 On the contrary, “artful” arguments were wrought by language experts – orators or dialecticians – on a number of internal places (loci) – like definition, cause, effect, etymology, etc. – and their persuasive force rested on their “logical ratiocination.”43 External and internal topics had relative values, depending also on the domain of application, but it was their effective combination that brought about persuasion and permitted the establishment of truth, in matters that depended on human faith. When sixteenth-century editors lauded authors of memoirs and commentaries for their political or military experience and for their artless testimonies, they included memoirs within the rhetorical paradigm of external places for 39 40

Blanchard and Pantin (1998), 44. Sleidan in Commynes (c. 1528), fol. 112v: “depingit eos qui tyrannos adulant… tyrannide sepius excitantur intestina bella… hic licet referre Dionysii tyranni dictum”; Blanchard and Pantin (1998), 44, n. 7. 41 Cicero, De inventione. De optimo genere oratorum. Topica, transl. H.M. Hubbel (­Cambridge: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, 1976), 386–7. 42 Cicero (1976), 396: “Quae autem assumuntur extrinsecus, ea maxime ex auctoritate ­ducuntur.” 43 Richard Serjeantson, “Testimony and Proof in Early-Modern England,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 30:2 (1999), 202–3.

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extra-technical arguments. But persuasion in a truly humanist sense could be achieved only by passing the extra-technical argument through the grid of logical reasoning. In a way, a testimony is a form of incomplete discourse that awaits evaluation and comparison with other testimonies, because a witness, regardless of his degree of expertise, can only see the development of a battle, for instance, from a particular side, and cannot produce a faithful, complete picture. A testimony can also be subjected to partisanship and passions. A complete historical discourse should strive to put together all partial eyewitness accounts, compare them, and tell the entire story as it really happened. Conceptually, individual testimonies are not in themselves finished discourses: this accounts for the ambiguity between the two meanings of memoires and commentarii that remains fairly constant in early modern French. It also explains the somewhat ambiguous reception of memoirs in the sixteenth century: they were both praised for their lack of rhetorical embellishments, and suspected for their partial, incomplete point of view. One of the authors who best sums up the rhetoric of memoirs, their testimonial character, and their place in history writing was Michel de Montaigne: The only good histories are those written by men who were actually in charge of affairs or who played some part in that charge, or who at least were fortunate enough to have been in charge of others of a similar kind. Such were virtually all the Greek and Roman historians. For, with several eye-witnesses having written on the same subject (as happened in those days when greatness and learning were commonly found together), if an error were made it must have been wonderfully slight, or concern some incident itself open to great doubt.44 Montaigne recalls how Asinius Pollio, for instance, criticized Caesar for his lack of prudence in ignoring some of his troops’ movements because of his limited point of view, and for his ready acceptance of unreliable accounts, that is, his inability to consult other testimonies to complete his discourse. Therefore, in order to establish truth in history it is insufficient to accept at face value a firsthand testimony: one has to confront, in the manner of a judicial investigation (“à la mode d’une information judiciare”), several testimonies. Carefully avoiding rhetorical jargon, Montaigne clearly envisaged firsthand narratives as

44

Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays, ed. Michael Screech, bk. 2, ch. 10 (London: ­ enguin, 1987), 1306–7. P

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extra-technical arguments needing confrontation and ratiocination in order to ascend to general causes and extract valuable military and political lessons. Montaigne was not necessarily interested in the unique autobiographical experience contained in a history, nor did he consider that the testimony of an experienced witness carried any value on account of its authenticity. This is why, among the moderns, he eulogized (with some moral reservations) ­Francesco Guicciardini (1483–1540), for having written truthful histories in which many a time the author himself fared honorably, and praised Commynes – one of Montaigne’s favored authors – for his naiveté and truthfulness, for his objectivity and lack of demonstrative rhetoric, all of which revealed a man of noble birth and an experienced statesman. Montaigne reproduces a number of stock phrases that, as we have seen, are already present in Sleidan’s dedicatory epistle, and that are only partially aligned with our present ideas about autobiographical works in general, and memoirs in particular. He conflated autobiographical memoirs with a specific type of history written by experienced politicians. Evidently, Montaigne did not consider it necessary for the author to have participated in all or most of the events narrated nor that the author tell his life-story. The essayist freely paired Guicciardini’s History of Italy, which we would hardly classify as memoirs today, with Commynes’s memoirs. In each case, the author’s credibility derived from his experience in public affairs. Ideally, the experienced author was also an actor – Sauvage’s definition of memoirs. But the autobiographical element was of secondary importance, because experienced authors were also good readers of other testimonies that they could compare in order to reconstruct the probable facts. Gentlemen seeking to learn valuable and truthful lessons from the past were therefore encouraged to read memoirs, commentaries, and histories “written by men who were actually in charge of affairs,” from multiple points of view. This is one of the reasons why, early on, as we shall see, the memoirs of the author who appeared on the cover page tended to include letters, archival documents, and even memoirs attributed to other authors. The theory behind reading sources from multiple points of view and privileging those of authors with practical wisdom came from Antiquity. Polybius (c. 208–c. 125 BC) advocated for a universal history based on the comparison of particular testimonies.45 His work was extremely popular among early modern scholars of history, and amateurs of history like Montaigne.46 45 Polybius, The Histories, transl. Robin Waterfield (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 3. 46 Carlotta Dionisotti, “Polybius and the Royal Professor,” in Tria corda: Scritti in onore di Arnaldo Momigliano, ed. E. Gabba (Como: New Press, 1983), 179–200.

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The spread of autobiographical works in early modern France was therefore related to a wider interest in reading and writing history that expressed itself in numerous treatises on the art of history. The ars historiae or ars historica, first appeared as a genre during the fifteenth-century Italian Renaissance, came to the fore of European historical scholarship in the middle of the sixteenth century, and was canonized by 1579 with the spread of influential anthologies.47 Humanists initially considered the writing of history as a rhetorical matter, but, by the mid-sixteenth century, attention shifted to interpreting history: in the 1560s François Baudouin and Jean Bodin wrote artes historiae that dealt mainly with the question of how to read histories. The authors of the artes historicae were also among the first theorists of what we would label ­autobiographical works because of their potential use in the writing of history. A great admirer of Polybius, the highly original French legal scholar and historian François Baudouin (1520–1573) thought that it was preferable to read historians who had witnessed events and taken part in them.48 But Boudouin’s admiration for ancient authors was not unqualified. He advocated the adoption for historiographical purposes of the methods used in legal inquiry, and urged historians to consider new sources, such as travel narratives and maps, which previously had been geographically inaccurate, and were traditionally ignored by historians. According to Baudouin, the historian should investigate the veracity of sources in a fashion similar to that of a legal scholar. He would first verify the reliability of documents based on their historical proximity to the events narrated and he would carefully evaluate the credibility of the witnesses (­testes) by a comparison with other testimonies. The historian would privilege firsthand documents and primary authors (primi auctores) over copies and secondary sources (rivuli deducti), in the reconstruction of facts. Consequently, statesmen’s testimonies were of the highest interest. The Latin terms that Baudouin used to refer to eyewitness historical accounts by public officials were commentarii, and vita sua, which translated the French Mémoires and Vie. Baudouin also admired the classical vitae as models for such writing of history:

47 48

Anthony Grafton, What Was History? The Art of History in Early Modern Europe (­Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 21. François Baudouin, De Institutione historiae universae: libri II: et ejus cum jurisprudentia ­conjunctione (Paris: Wechel, 1561), 54: “Equidem optarem, ut scriptores ea demum narrent, quae viderunt, quibusque interfuerunt. Quod et Polybius profitetur.”

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I would truly praise the great dignity of History if I added three princes: Sulla, Caesar, Augustus, whom she celebrated to such an extent that she not only obliged them to herself, but herself to them with respect to benefits and to merits. I say those three greatest men – if anybody was ever great – in the greatest Republic, the noblest of men both because of their practical science and because of the glory of their deeds, wearing the gown with equal dignity as the armor, at home and abroad, the best in both genres, let’s acknowledge, I say, history as their teacher, with which they adorned themselves when they both brilliantly did what was to be written and wrote what was to be done.49 History obliges or binds herself to authors of histories who also acted as commanders and lawmakers for the value of their practical knowledge. Done correctly, history would become the best political science for the good administration of the state. François Baudouin believed history to be a royal science useful not only for kings, but for anybody taking part in governing the state.50 When Baudouin considered historians of the previous generation (“auorum nostrorum aetatem”), he mentioned first Philippe de Commynes whom French and Flemish knights (“equites Galli et Belgae”), esteemed worthy of comparison with ancient historians (“quem iactabant et gloriabantur cum veteribus historicis esse comparandum”), although Commynes’s legal scholarship was wanting.51 Jean Bodin further elaborated Baudouin’s program in his Method for the Easy Understanding of Histories, five years later. His ideal of a plain history solely concerned with truth and devoid of the rhetoric of praise and blame closely echoes the expectations regarding memoirs, commentarii, and vitae, which have prevailed ever since Sleidan and Sauvage brought Commynes to the 49

50 51

Baudouin (1561), 141: “Verum historiae magnum decus laudavero, si tres principes adiunxero, Sullam, Caesarem, Augustum, quos illa tantopere celebravit, non eorum minus erga se, quam suis erga illos beneficiis meritisque devincta: illos dico tres maximos in maxima Republica (si quis unquam magni fuerunt) viros, et admirabili rerum sive gerendarum scientia, sive gestarum gloria nobilissimos: ac quidem in toga non minus quam in sago: domi (inquam) et foris: quo magis in utroque genere magistram eorum agnoscamus, quam et illi vicissim exornarunt, cum quidem praeclare et facerent scribendam et scriberent ­facienda.” Baudouin (1561), 146. Baudouin (1561), 148: “Ego sincerae bonaeque fidei laude Cominaeum, alios literarum gloria excelluisse agnosco. Utinam vero maiorem in iis Jurisprudentiam laudare etiam possem.”

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attention of learned readers. The best historian, according to Bodin, took part in state affairs, and was both naturally prudent and trained in jurisprudence. The criteria perfectly suit the rhetoric of the first French memoirs. Marc Fumaroli considers that Bodin gave the three main defining criteria for good memoirs: the historian’s independence, his competence based on experience, and the separation of history from epideictic rhetoric and from moral philosophy.52 However, Bodin also warned against a pitfall of firsthand narratives: writing shortly after the events might influence the author to depict friends favorably and enemies unjustly. Thus, even if Bodin praised Commynes’s experience, he disproved of the author’s partisanship in portraying Louis XI and his animosity towards their enemy, Charles the Bold. Bodin also dismissed the Flemish historian Jacques de Meyer (1492–1553), who, in his Chronicle of Flanders (1531), disparaged Louis XI as a tyrant and Commynes as a traitor who left Charles the Bold to serve under Louis XI. Bodin instead praised a foreigner, Paolo Emilio, who, not having been born in France, and not having been directly involved in the events, satisfied Tacitus’s axiomatic summation of the criteria of historical neutrality.53 Necessarily entrenched in particular viewpoints, personal accounts were always open to suspicions of partisanship. They needed the judgment of a competent historian, who would treat them as legal depositions and compare them to other testimonies. Thus, by the 1560s, when memoirs and commentaries became fashionable in French, theorists of history encouraged their writing but considered them scientifically insufficient. As truthful as their lack of rhetoric made them seem, their point of view was necessarily partial and biased. Not all theorists of history believed that personal testimonies were incompatible with flowers of rhetoric. For example, the Huguenot historian Lancelot du Voisin de la Popelinière (1541–1608) believed that a complete history should be both eloquent and truthful. Additionally, La Popelinière insisted on the importance of writing a national history, whereas previously, Baudouin and Bodin explored the possibilities of a universal history of mankind. In La Popelinière’s opinion, there had been no good historical accounts of the French people because of previous historians’ incompetence. Most of them had been clergymen without military or political experience. Reprimanding noblemen, magistrates and even men of finance for neglecting to write histories appropriate to their social role and professional skill, the Protestant theorist nevertheless commended the clergy for its interest in history writing.54 52 53 54

Fumaroli (1971), 228. Jean Bodin, Methodus ad facilem historiarum cognitionem in Oeuvres philosophiques, ed. and transl. Pierre Mesnard, vol. 5 (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1951), 125. Lancelot Voisin de la Popelinière, Le dessein de l’histoire nouvelle des François, bk. 1, in L’Histoire des Histoires, vol. 2 (Paris: Fayard, 1989 [Paris: Marc Orry, 1599]), 271.

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In doing so, La Popelinière was referring to one of the classical criteria for good testimonies as external arguments, namely that the most authoritative were those given by those best-skilled in their own craft.55 La Popelinière also singled out Commynes for his objective description of Charles VIII’s Italian campaigns, and praised his nobility, but criticized his lack of eloquence, which contradicted Baudouin and Bodin’s view on this subject. La Popelinière also advocated for enlarging the scope of historical source material to include testimonies from all social strata in working towards the writing of a new national history. This was the logical consequence of viewing testimonies within the traditional topical paradigm of the “inartificial” external argument: the testimonies of the wise and of the experts in each art should prevail in informing a complete authoritative history. Eyewitness historical accounts occupy the highest rank in La Popelinière’s system of sources for an accomplished history, but their authority depends on the social rank of the author. Quite opposite to the Burckhardtian master narrative, the self-made man, free of social hierarchies, is absent from La Popelinière’s judgment of good character: A gentleman will be all the more trustworthy than a man of justice as the spur to honor will drive him to truth and duty more so than the man of justice, solely solicited by vile profit. And the latter more [trustworthy] than a physician and all others whose goal is only and entirely profit more than anything else.56 Historical examples abundantly prove this. Caesar, Augustus and Tacitus, men of distinguished public careers, were always preferable to Livy, who never held any government or military position. Among the moderns: Nobody would deny the preeminence of Sire de Joinville, Philippe de Commynes, Guillaume and Martin du Bellay, amongst the French, over Froissart, Monstrelet and others who followed them.57

55 56 57

Pierre du Moulin, Elementa logica (Leiden: Jan Paets, 1598), 154–5: “Ad humanam authoritatem haec pertinent: consuetudo, fama, antiquitas, testimonium peritorum in sua arte, iudicium sapientium, aut plurimum, aut meliorum”; Serjeantson (1999), 203. La Popelinière (1989), 140: “Comme le noble sera d’autant plus croiable que le Justicier, que l’eguillon d’honneur, l’aura plustost poussé à la verité et autre devoir que le Justicier, lequel n’aura esté solicité que d’un vil profit: Et cestui-cy que le Medecin.” La Popelinière (1989), 140: “aucun ne deniera l’advantage au sire de Jonville, à Philippes de Comines, à Guillaume et Martin du Bellay entre les François sur Froissard, Monstrelet et autres qui les ont suivy.”

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La Popelinière, like the best legal scholars of the previous generation, applied here a basic forensic principle: the witness’s good character mattered more than the testimony itself, but character depended on social rank (La P ­ opelinière was himself a nobleman).58 The great division among historians, as is clear from the binary examples that La Popelinière put forward, was between ­gentlemen and untitled men of letters: histories should consider testimonies from all social strata, but the weight of their authority was unequally distributed according to the social position of the witnesses. Virtually all sixteenth-century historians adhered to the practice of reading memoirs, commentaries, and lives – what we would call autobiographical works – as historiographical subgenres that belonged to the larger category of testimonies by eye-witnesses or by people with superior practical knowledge of their subject matter. They judged the credibility of the authors based on their good character, internal evidence, and comparison with other testimonies. 3 Compilation-Memoirs George Huppert has underlined how seventeenth-century historiography, in comparison to that of the previous century, marked a regression in matters concerning the attempt to transform historiography into a powerful scientific tool to wield against rhetorical embellishment.59 After the myth of the Trojan origins of the French monarchy had been debunked by the most authoritative historians of the sixteenth century, based on the study of primary sources, it was again resurrected in the seventeenth century together with the providential ­universal history typical of medieval historiography. After the French Wars of Religion and King Henri IV’s death in 1610, the new monarchy, in its effort to assert its authority, regarded with suspicion scholarly attempts to explain the institutions of the French monarchy based on historical evidence instead of the tradition of legends glorifying the French crown as shielded from peril by divine Providence. Huppert saw the symptom of this new conservatism in a work entitled Researches on the Researches and Other

58

59

Andrea Frisch, The Invention of the Eyewitness (Chapel Hill: The University of North ­ arolina Press, 2004); Nicolae Virastau, “L’Ethos du mémorialiste de Commynes à C ­Monluc et ­l’évolution du genre avant le XVIIe siècle,” in Fabula (https://www.fabula.org/ colloques/document2408.php: Web, 28 June 2020). George Huppert, The Idea of Perfect History: Historical Erudition and Historical Philosophy in Renaissance France (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1970), 170–182; Emmanuèle Lesne, La Poétique des Mémoires: 1650–1685 (Paris: Champion, 1996), 27–52.

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Works by Mr. Pasquier published anonymously in 1622 by the Jesuit Father Garasse (1585–1631).60 Garasse accused the highly innovative Étienne Pasquier (1529–1615) of libertinism, lack of patriotism, and disobedience to the French crown for daring to question legends about the history of the French monarchy. Garasse particularly disdained Pasquier’s innovative recourse to manuscripts and primary sources. Nevertheless, the erudite historians of the previous century, many of them Protestants or Gallicans, found their followers even in this Catholic absolutist climate, albeit that seventeenth-century historians still seemed “to turn away from large questions of general history,” preferring to produce compilations of glossaries, to edit medieval sources, and to examine coins: Huppert calls them antiquarians rather than historians.61 Unsurprisingly, some seventeenth-century theorists of history professed that there was no perfect French historian, and that France had only writers of diaries, gazettes, and memoirs.62 This would become an enduring cliché, as late as René de Chateaubriand’s The Genius of Christianity, which states peremptorily that the French had no distinguished histories that could rival the ancient ones because of their innate amour-propre and inability to generalize; instead, France has only memoirs, and most of them are “excellent.”63 These opinions were far from universal, however: the Jesuit Father Rapin was more optimistic and more traditional with regard to the feasibility of a truthful French history: he considered memoirs the primary sources that the historian needs to consult and evaluate.64 If history writing suffered a setback, the composition and printing of new memoirs also seems to have stagnated. Instead, many older memoirs dealing with the Wars of Religion (1562–1598) were printed or reprinted during this period. The reason lies in the tendency of the government under Richelieu (1624–1642) and Mazarin (1642–1661) to censor dissident accounts of recent history, particularly of the reign of Louis XIII (1610–1643).65

60 61 62 63 64 65

François Garasse, Les Recherches des recherches et autres œuvres de Me Estienne Pasquier, pour la defense de nos roys contre les outrages, calomnies et autres impertinences du dit autheur (Paris: Sébastien Chappelet, 1622). Huppert (1970), 178. Pierre Le Moyne, De l’Histoire (Paris: Thomas Jolly, 1670), 16–22. René de Chateaubriand, “Pourquoi les Français n’ont que des Mémoires,” Génie du christianisme, part 3, bk. 3, chapter 4 (Paris: Garnier, 1828), 342–326. René Rapin, Instruction pour l’Histoire (Paris: Cramoisy, 1677), 25 and 105; Lesne (1996), 32. André Bertière, Le Cardinal de Retz mémorialiste (Paris: Klincksieck, 1977), 29.

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Many memoirs – or rather works that appeared under this heading – of the Wars of Religion published during this period look like compilations: the ­Register-Diary of Pierre de l’Estoile, the Memoirs of Simon Goulart, Condé, Jeannin, or Castelnau. They usually consist of personal documents such as letters and instructions but also more elaborate first-person histories. The obsession with compiling and preserving documents has to do with the profession of the editors – many were legal scholars used to collecting and comparing documents – but also to the historical method inherited from the sixteenth century. As we remember, the historical arts demanded that historians compare, in the manner of legal scholars, primary sources, and particularly eye-witness testimonies, in order to reconstruct the past. As a result, many memoirs were published together with letters, and supporting documents that were neither written by the author who appeared on the cover page nor intended by the author to be included. André Bertière has called these writings “compilation-memoirs” (“Mémoires-compilations”), belonging not to the new genre of memoirs but rather akin to the old aide-memoirs, and which, as a consequence, should be “excluded on principle from literature” (“exclus par principe de la littérature”), because they are interesting only in as much as some of their textual procedures were also adopted by literary memoirists like Madame de Motteville (1621– 1689) and the Cardinal de Retz (1613–1679) who copied official documents, and integrated them in their own life-stories.66 The problem with this narrow interpretation is that the term “littérature” did not have the same meaning in early modern French, as in the twentieth century. Its use, therefore, is both anachronistic and normative. More fundamentally, as the present study will show, even texts that seem to be unitary early modern memoirs, representative for literary history, were actually composed as compilations of multiple discursive genres, from family books to testaments, even though the traces of their textual traffic are no longer immediately visible. Instead of excluding compilations from the realm of literature, I propose to consider them part of early modern writing practices, and put aside the question of what is and is not literature. Compilation tends to increase with each edition of a memoir. For example, the magistrate Tanneguy Basire du Mesnil (d. 1632) prepared an edition of the memoirs of Nicolas de Neufville de Villeroy (1542–1617), Counselor and Secretary of State, who had served under four kings: Charles IX, Henri III, Henri IV and Louis XIII.67 The work contains several loosely related ­documents. 66 67

Bertière (1977), 27. Nicolas de Neufville de Villeroy, Memoires servans à l’histoire de nostre temps (Paris: Pierre Chevalier, 1622).

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The first one is entitled Memoires, dated 8 April 1589, the second Apologie et ­Discours, followed by a lengthy erratum.68 The apology is addressed to Pomponne de Bellièvre (1529–1607), a friend of Villeroy who joined Henri de Navarre’s party and who would eventually become chancellor of France in 1599. The third document, entitled Advice of Monsieur Villeroy to the Duke of Mayenne, was supposedly written by Villeroy as an argumentative discourse on the possible actions to be taken after the assassination of Henri III in 1589: should Charles, Duke of Mayenne (1554–1611), leader of the rebellious Catholic faction in the Wars of Religion, accept the Protestant Henri de Navarre, who according to the Salic law was the successor to the French throne, as the rightful thing? Was this lawful in the eyes of God? Or should the French elect a new king? Is it permissible for Catholic Spain to interfere in French internal affairs?69 The Advice is followed by another circumstantial discourse intended to be delivered before the Assembly of the Estates-General in Paris.70 The topic is similar to that of the previous document. At the end of the discourse, an addedum informs the reader that the “harangue” was never delivered, due to unfavorable circumstances, but that Villeroy did write it on that occasion, and that Mayenne found inspiration in it.71 Additionally, two letters to Mayenne and Pomponne de Bellièvre precede a third-person document that tries to exculpate Villeroy from accusations that he was involved in the scandalous defection of one of his clerks to Spain.72 Finally, a table of the most remarkable things contained in the memoirs, listed in alphabetical order, intended to help readers find their way in this historiographical maze, closes the first edition of Villeroy’s memoirs. These various papers, bearing different titles (memoirs, apology, letters, harangue, and manifesto), written on various occasions and of dubious authenticity, were all meant to exculpate Villeroy from accusations of treason. The author had had a tumultuous career in the course of which he changed 68

69 70 71 72

Memoires in Villeroy (1622), 1–110; Apologie et discours de Monsieur de Villeroy pour monstrer la peine qu’il a pris [sic] de faire la paix, entre le Roy et Monsieur de Mayenne, et de sa continuelle poursuitte à la pacification de nos miserables troubles in Memoires servans à l’histoire in Villeroy (1622), 111–393. Advis … à Monsieur le Duc de Mayenne, publié à Paris après la mort du Roy sur la fin de l’an 1589 in Memoires servans à l’histoire, in Villeroy (1622), 349–429. Harangue … pour estre prononcee en l’assemblee des pretendus estats de Paris, in Villeroy (1622), 430- 505. Harangue, in Villeroy (1622), 399. Lettres … à Monsieur de Mayenne du deuxiesme jour de l’an 1594, in Villeroy (1622), 500–502; Lettre… à Monsieur de Bellièvre du 17 Mars, 1596, in Villeroy (1622), 503–505; Manifeste… sur l’evasion de l’Hoste son commis, 1607, in Villeroy (1622), 506–514.

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allegiances multiple times: in 1588, Henri III dismissed Villeroy from the office of Secretary of State for unknown reasons, Villeroy then joined the ultra-Catholic League opposed to the future King Henri IV, leader of the Protestant faction. Eventually, Villeroy accepted a position in Henri IV’s government. All of his writings therefore address the reasons that compelled him to make one choice or another. There are numerous manuscripts of these memoirs, apologies, and discourses, indicating that Villeroy himself, his family, and friends took great care in trying to create the immaculate image of a faithful civil servant. It was the first editor Basire du Mesnil who gathered these apologetic papers after the author’s death and gave them the title Memoirs serving the history of our time. He dedicated the book to Alexandre Faucon de Ris (1567–1628), president of the Parliament of Normandy, a former friend of Villeroy, and we might reasonably assume that all of these apologetic writings were meant to circulate within Villeroy and his descendants’ social network. In his preface, Du Mesnil, calls Villeroy’s papers “ces Memoirs,” with a capital letter, considering them representative of the best kind of history, namely that written by a Secretary of State who “has seen, known, and has been acquainted with secrets of State, princely counsels, and State affairs.”73 The reader recognizes the common rhetoric of memoir writing inherited from the sixteenth-century. Du Mesnil also added that Villeroy did not want his memoirs to become public and only intended them for two of his friends: Bellièvre and Pierre Jeannin (1540–1623), another influential statesman under Henri IV and Louis XIII. ­Seventeenth-century editors would frequently claim that the works published as memoirs were actually never meant for the public, but that they considered them of great value for gentlemen wishing to learn how to behave in public offices and to face adversity, while staying faithful to the French State. Villeroy’s so-called memoirs would be reedited, modified, and usually augmented throughout the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. In 1622, multiple publishers printed Villeroy’s text under titles ranging from Memoires de Monsieur de Villeroy servans à l’histoire de nostre temps to Memoires d’Estat par Monsieur de Villeroy.74 This is the first time, to my knowledge, that the title “State Memoirs” is used as if to signal some sort of a subgenre of memoirs or, on the contrary, to suggest that memoirs should only be written by State officers: from Secretaries of State like Villeroy to Chancellors of France like Cheverny, whose so-called State Memoirs would be published in 1636. What is lost in the process of classing a seemingly autobiographical text as a State memoir is the

73 Basire du Mesnil (ed.), Avant-propos, in Villeroy (1622). 74 Villeroy, Memoires d’Estat (Sedan: jouxte la copie imprimée à Paris par Jean Houzé, 1622).

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autobiographical element itself: the life-story of the individual author whose name appears on the cover will tend to occupy relatively little space in the final published work. In 1623, a year after the first edition, the printer Samuel Thiboust wrote a “continuation” (suite) of Villeroy’s State Memoirs.75 In his dedicatory letter to Constable of France François de Bonne, duke of Lesdiguières (1543–1626), Thiboust says that the continuation of the State memoirs contains a number of salutary advisory documents (“advis salutaires”) for maintaining the general peace, the concord of good French people, and the rights and liberties of the French monarchy. Then Thiboust describes their style as free from passion and flattery, representing the unadorned and pure truth, the typical rhetoric of eye-witness testimonies inherited from the sixteenth century. The continuation is a medley of documents about the constitution of France and the rights of succession to the throne of France, the separation of religion from State affairs, but also completely fictional discourses like the confession that Henri III allegedly made to an anonymous confidant. Editions from 1623 to 1723 would continue this tradition of compiling new documents and adding them to those that were actually or purportedly written by Villeroy himself.76 The compilation compulsion did not concern only apologetic papers. It was a widespread editorial practice by the middle of the seventeenth century. Jacques de Castelnau de La Mauvissière (d. 1647) published the memoirs of his father Michel Castelnau (1520–1592) in 1621.77 In his dedicatory letter, the author claimed to have left his writings for the private use of his son. The father’s letter is followed by the son’s letter to the reader, in which the son explained that he disregarded his father’s last wish at the request of his “particular friends, persons of quality, and great merit” and published a history written by a public official with an extensive political career who had firsthand experience of his subject-matter. Both preliminary letters reproduce the topical presentation of memoirs: plain style, inability to lie, contempt for historians who write from hearsay, and admiration for the great captains of the past who both made and wrote history (Sulla, Caesar, Commynes). An alphabetical table of “memorable 75

Memoires d’Estat recueillis, des divers manuscrits, en suite de ceux de Monsieur de Villeroy, vivant conseiller, Secretaire des commandemens des feuz Roys Charles IX, Henri III, Henry IV et Louis XIII à present heureusement regnant (Paris: Samuel Thiboust, 1623), 3 vols. 76 Villeroy, Mémoires d’Estat, 4 vols. (Paris: chez Nicolas et Jean de La Coste, 1634–1636); Villeroy, Mémoires d’Estat, 4 vols. (Paris: la Compagnie des libraires du Palais, 1665); Villeroy, Mémoires d’Estat, 7 vols. (Amsterdam: la Compagnie, 1723). 77 Michel de Castelnau, Les Memoires (Paris: Samuel Thiboust et Claude Chappelet, 1621). Except for the name of the librarian, this edition is identical to Michel de Castelnau, Les Memoires (Paris: Claude Chappelet, 1621).

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things contained in these memoirs” ends the book. Everything looks fairly similar to Villeroy’s memoirs, including its reeditions. Jean Le Laboureur (1623–1675), a courtier, a clergyman, and a historian, published a second edition of Castelnau’s “memoirs” in two folio volumes.78 Only one third of the first volume contained Castelnau’s own account of events that he had witnessed or heard about from credible sources (279 pages). The rest of the first volume (628 pages) and the following volume (125 pages) compiled, as per the edition’s lengthy title, “several commentaries and manuscripts, letters, instructions, treaties, as well as other secret and original fragments (“pieces”), serving to give the truth about the history of the reigns of François II, Charles IX and Henri III, and of the regency of the government of Catherine de M ­ édicis, with praises of kings, queens, princes, and other distinguished persons of both religions, under these three reigns, and the genealogical history of the House of Castelnau.” While modern readers under the spell of romantic ideas about individual self-expression as the essence of autobiography and of its forefather the memoir genre would expect the author’s life-discourse to constitute the main if not the sole part of the memoirs, the editorial choices tell a different story: with every edition of the memoirs, the individual life story is dwarfed by extraneous additions such as letters, instructions, and fragments of memoirs written by somebody else. Multiple reasons could account for this common editorial practice. We have seen that the compilation compulsion had to do with general ideas about recordkeeping and was also encouraged by sixteenth-century historical scholars who privileged archival documents and eye-witness testimonies. But the preoccupation fully developed in the context of the spread of Protestantism, and a general quest for authentic texts both biblical and historical. These compilation-memoirs start to be printed in France after the Wars of Religion that ended with the Edict of Nantes (1598), granting limited freedom of religion to Protestants, a relative religious tolerance that lasted until 1685. In this respect, the key-phrase in Le Laboureur’s lengthy title quoted above is that the additions belonged to distinguished persons of both religious parties: Catholic and Huguenot. In his preface, Le Laboureur claims to be doing something new and defends himself against possible accusations on account of its form. He anticipates that critics would consider the memoirs an amorphous mass of all things good and bad. Critics might say that it would have been better to read a more unitary history not necessarily truer, but more beautiful and resembling the 78 Castelnau, Memoires, 2 vols. (Paris: Pierre Lamy, 1659–1660).

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truth. Against such possible criticism, Le Laboureur reaffirms that the sole realm of history is truth. What better way to approach the truth, asks Le Laboureur, than presenting the readers with “the documents of every age” (“les Actes de chaque temps”) such as instructions and letters of kings, ministers, and statesmen to their ambassadors, where readers can see their undisguised sentiments? To these “authentic testimonies” (“tesmoignages authentiques”) one can add “the memoirs of some contemporaries of both the court and the Counsel,” but they should be read with circumspection because it is difficult to find “authors so sincere” that they cannot be suspected of particular passions, especially those who wrote during the troubled times of religious divide. Their accounts must be compared on every point with what others have said on the same topic. Le Laboureur insists that his readers be “extraordinarily circumspect in these encounters” (“merveilleusement circonspect en ces rencontres”), especially in the case of documents from the Wars of Religion coming from opposing parties. The injunction is far from unbiased: the additions and the commentaries will reveal, adds Le Laboureur, that the actors of the Wars of Religion were driven more “by the heat of interest than the zeal of religion, particularly those from the Huguenot side.”79 Le Laboureur deplores the interference of politics into religious debates in the previous century: “This is why France (“la France”), who never before had so many great Men, for the Council, for the Army, and for the Letters, was nevertheless all the more sorrowful and misfortunate.”80 Le Laboureur states that his goal in amassing all these papers was to reveal the ordinary motives of princes and great men. He also gives a lengthy historical genealogy of the House of Castelnau right before the beginning of the memoirs. The editor believes that genealogies are just as important to understanding the motives of historical agents as mathematics is to philosophy, because the divergent interests of particular noble families often engender great divisions in the State. Moreover, genealogies are equally important to record the rights and claims of great noble families because according to Le Laboureur: History is not just a simple narrative of actions and enterprises; it is the book of honor of one or more nations; the people have a right to it, and it has to be a summary of all State archives, if it is to be general. Therein, one should see the birth of Monarchies, the great Families (“Maisons”), the uses of surnames and arms, the first functions of great Officers, the

79 80

Le Laboureur, Preface in Castelnau (1659), fol. e iiv. Le Laboureur, Preface in Castelnau (1659), fol. e iiir.

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extent of their authority in every age … and [should] bring to ruins all fables, novellike origins of the most illustrious noble families (“races”), and ridiculous stories of the first Heralds of arms, with the aid of authentic titles and irreproachable testimonies.81 Admittedly, the collection of all these documents greatly exceeds the power of a single author, but everybody would agree, thinks Le Laboureur, that it would be better to have only one collective history, accompanied by all the documents of every age faithfully reported, instead of the extant imperfect histories that contradicted themselves. Le Laboureur is optimistic that historians could arrive communally at a more truthful history than the available general histories, and that everybody could judge for themselves which actors on the stage of French History were worthy of esteem. The knowledge of the history of meritorious actions would also diminish disorder in the distribution of public offices. Le Laboureur’s statement that he was doing something new should be regarded with circumspection given that we have seen Villeroy’s State ­Memoirs suffered a similar fate more than thirty years before. Still Le Laboureur’s remarks flesh out some of the assumptions that undergirded the editorial ­practices of previous compilation-memoirs. The generation that came after the Wars of Religion was interested in the life-discourses present in memoirs only in as much as they explained the history of France, understood as a ­struggle between noble families. Religious differences became mere pretexts meant to disguise the ambition of these families in their competition for supremacy. Few scholars today would downplay the importance of religious sentiments in the explanation of the lengthy civil wars that ravaged France during the second half of the sixteenth century. But Le Laboureur’s reductionist historical interpretation was quite common: often the memoirists of the Wars of Religion, especially from the Catholic and moderate sides, explain events in a similar reductionist manner because they lived in a period of State rebuilding. Le Laboureur’s bias against Protestants has to do with his education and career: he started as a courtier (“gentilhomme servant le roi”), became an almoner of the king, and received the Priory of Juvigné in exchange for his services.82 He was a friend of the Marshal of France Jacques de Castelnau-Bochetel (1620– 1658), Michel Castelnau’s grand-child and a high-ranked courtier. Therefore,

81 82

Le Laboureur, Preface, in Castelnau (1659), fol. e iiir. Roucher et alii, eds., Collection universelle de Mémoires Particuliers relatifs à l’Histoire de France, vol 41 (London; Paris: 1788), 166–167.

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Le Laboureur’s interpretation of history reflected the official view on history in France by the mid-seventeenth century. The second half of the seventeenth century marked a steady increase in the writing of new memoirs. The style of the new generations of memoirs was heavily indebted to French classicism with its emphasis on moderation and orderliness. Theorists of history-writing from Rapin to Voltaire (1694–1778) recommended a style that seemed both natural and simple. As a result, history came progressively to be written in the style of memoirs to the point of non-distinction. By the first half of the eighteenth century, the terms memoirs and history were used almost interchangeably. Saint-Simon, for example, referred to his memoirs as a particular history, a historical account limited to the time and country of the historian, affording great detail and circumstance; he opposed it to general history, a historical account spanning several centuries and across multiple nations that was by definition more schematic.83 Historically, the new wave of memoirs follows the defeat of the Fronde (1648–1653), the last serious threat to the authority of the sovereign before the French Revolution. While many of the newer memoirs served as apologies like those written after the Wars of Religion, many more became, this time, classics of French belles-lettres, and were imitated in fictional memoirs and ­first-person novels. The taste for vraisemblance peculiar to French classicism, the development of the psychological novel, the increasing influence of Augustine’s Confessions, etc. can all account for the interest in writing memoirs and their incredible success after the mid-seventeenth century.84 However, the tendency to compile and explain a life by placing it in a network of other lives did not simply disappear during the following century. Instead, it changed its methods and aims. The catalogues of lives and memoirs published during the eighteenth century strike the reader with their attempt to normalize life-discourses. Editors would clearly distinguish between an author’s life-discourse and other documents serving to illuminate an epoch. They would also often decide what was relevant or not in a memoir. 4

Collections of Memoirs and Collective Memory

Early modern memoirs find their distinguished place in great collections of documents pertaining to the history of France, which were made during the 83 84

Bertière (1977), 38. Marie-Thérèse Hipp, Mythes et réalités: enquête sur le roman et les mémoires: 1660–1700 (Paris: Klincsieck, 1979).

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eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. When compared to the tradition of compilation-memoirs, the new collections seem more scientific, because the texts are accompanied by abundant footnotes, a rather exceptional device in ­previous early modern works. For instance, The Collection of Historians of Gaul and France, started by the Benedictine priest Martin Bouquet in 1738, interrupted, continued and reedited by several scholars until the early twentieth century, puts on display chronicles, memoirs, biographies, annals, archival documents, but also poems and epitaphs.85 The items are ordered chronologically, while footnotes explain faulty passages and guide the reader to other sources. The presence of footnotes and introductions suggests that the collections of the Enlightenment were more concerned with the possibility of cross-­ examining sources than were previous compilation-memoirs. An air of erudition characterized the new vogue for large collections that seemed to fulfill Le Laboureur’s dream of a complete and infallible history of France based on primary sources. As we have seen, Le Laboureur’s ideals represented official ideology about the history of France. For instance, the Royal Printing Press, founded by Richelieu in 1640, also published great scholarly collections of historical items: from dictionaries of old French to the 47 volumes of Byzantine Writers of History that appeared between 1648 to 1711.86 The most complete collection of early modern memoirs before the nineteenth century was the Universal Collection of Particular Memoirs Related to the History of France that numbered sixty-six volumes published between 1785 and 1790.87 Based on the readers’ subscription, the collection was supposedly printed in London and sold in Paris by anonymous editors. Bibliophiles have identified the royal censor Alexandre-Claude Bellier du Chesnay (1739–1810) as director of the editorial enterprise that also comprised his brother-in-law the historian Louis Dussieux (1744–1805), the poet Jean-Antoine Roucher ­(1745–1794), and the librarian Albert-Antoine Perrin (d. 1803).88 These editors also collaborated in the creation of an even larger collection of mostly literary

85 86 87 88

Martin Bouquet et alii, eds., Recueil des Historiens de Gaules et de France (Paris: libraires associés, 1738–1904). Pierre Marot, “Les Grandes collections savants et l’historiographie depuis Louis XIV,” in L’Art du livre à livre à l’Imprimerie nationale (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1973), 223–244. Alexandre-Claude Bellier-Duchesnay et alii, eds., Collection universelle des mémoires particuliers relatifs à l’histoire de France, 66 vols. (London: 1785–1790). These 66 volumes will be continued in 1806–1807 with an additional 5 volumes. Biographie universelle ancienne et moderne. Supplément, vol. 60 (Paris: Michaud frères, 1836), 589.

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and moral texts, entitled Universal Library for Ladies, meant for the general education of women.89 For their Universal Collection of Particular Memoirs, the editors wrote an introduction in which they underlined their two goals: to instruct “men of ­letters” (“l’homme de lettres”) and to amuse “socialites” (“l’homme du monde”).90 The first will find in chronological order all of the historical monuments needed to compose a modern general or particular history. The latter will find alongside historical facts also “national anecdotes,” normally absent from the “lifeless” narratives of scholarly historians; “our ancestors” (“nos dévanciers”), insist the editors, used a “simple and naïve style” and depicted the true traits of their historical character.91 The editors recycle the centuries old phraseology: memoirs are supporting documents in the trial of History, and should be used to correct the exaggerations and excesses of historians who often use of declamation, antithesis, and the art of the portrait to charm the reader.92 But they also display a new faith in the power of the printing press and journal subscription to combat manipulation and make knowledge available to the public. The editors praise the form of the collection because it serves as an everyday textbook (“ouvrage manuel et comme journalier”) that bestows upon the modern readers an unprecedented power to challenge official, dithyrambic history.93 In the future, every reader will become a “judge” with the ability to “absolve” or “condemn” historians, and will not have to wait for the opinion of a small number of historians to form public opinion (“l’opinion de tous”).94 The commitment to truth and love for the monuments of history notwithstanding, the editors decided to cut out “cold and useless digressions” and put them at the end of the work; many of the “supporting documents” that we have seen growing in the edition of Villeroy and Castelnau’s memoirs are either suppressed or reduced. In other words, the editors eliminate or displace both extraneous additions and authentic papers, according to a narrower definition of memoirs that is absent from previous compilation-memoirs.

89 90 91 92 93 94

Alexandre-Claude Bellier-Duchesnay et alii, eds., Bibliothèque universelle des dames, 156 vols. (Paris: 1785–1797). Discours des éditeurs in Collection universelle, vol. 1 (1785), v. Discours des éditeurs in Collection universelle, vol. 1 (1785), vi: “ces traits propres et charactéristiques, qui ne permettent jamais à l’oeil de les confondre.” Discours des éditeurs in Collection universelle, vol. 1 (1785), vi. Discours des éditeurs in Collection universelle, vol. 1 (1785), viii. Discours des éditeurs in Collection universelle, vol. 1 (1785), ix.

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For instance, the editors acknowledge that medieval chroniclers like Froissart and Monstrelet were at times called memoirists, but they wrote from third party accounts (“sur les rapports d’autrui”).95 We remember that Froissart was one of Sleidan’s favored authors, and that Montaigne and La Popelinière considered the author’s experience and social status more important than the actual participation in the events narrated. The eighteenth-century editors decided therefore to limit memoirs to eyewitnesses irrespective of social status and gender. They start with Joinville but then continue with Christine de Pizan, and even the so-called Diary of a Bourgeois From Paris.96 The life-discourses tend to occupy the center of the stage now, as contemporary readers would expect. The entire undertaking is furnished with a philological apparatus that marks a shift in the conception of history as a science towards nineteenth century positivism, but it also has consequences for life-writing. The new editors migrate references to footnotes, add erudite observations and additions at the end of each volume, and eliminate what they considered irrelevant digressions. They exhibit a need to confine the textual traffic so typical of previous editorial practices, and to make the life-narrative a more unitary discourse. At the end of the eighteenth century, the discourse on memoirs has also changed profoundly. The authors of memoirs are required to have been actual eye-witnesses and the veracity of their accounts no longer rests on the spurs to honor. Similar processes are at work in the conception of life-writing more generally during the same period. The proclivity toward mass serialization also affected biographical genres, and more particularly the so-called Vies (“Lives”), made popular in France after the translation of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives by Jacques Amyot (1513–1593), but also by the late publication of the Memoirs by Pierre de Brantôme (c. 1540–1614).97 The collection of lives thrived in the eighteenth century. The Lives of the Famous Men of France from the Beginning of the Monarchy, created by Jean du Castre d’Auvigny (1712–1743) and continued by Gabriel-Louis Perau (1700–1767) and François-Henri Turpin (1709–1799), numbered twenty-six volumes.98 The example of great men, states Auvigny in his 95 Discours des éditeurs in Collection universelle, vol. 1 (1785), xx. 96 Discours des éditeurs in Collection universelle, vol. 1 (1785), xxiv. 97 Plutarque, Les Vies des hommes illustres, ed. Jacques Amyot, 2. vols (Paris, 1558); Pierre de Brantôme, Memoires, 8 vols. (Leiden: Jean Sambix, 1665–1666). Paolo Giovio, Gli Elogi degli uomini illustri: letterati, artisti, uomini d’arme, ed. Renzo Meregazzi (Roma: Istituto poligrafico dello Stato, 1972); Patricia Eichel-Lojkine, Le Siècle des Grands Hommes: Les recueils des vies des hommes illustres avec portraits du XVI e siècle (Louvain; Sterling: Peeters, 2001). 98 Jean du Castre d’Auvigny et alii, eds., Les Vies des hommes illustres de la France, depuis le commencement de la monarchie jusqu’à présent, 26 vols. (Amsterdam: Knapen; Paris: Le Gras, 1739–1768).

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introduction, can incline readers to “heroism.”99 By “heroes,” however, Auvigny means something new: not just military commanders but lesser state officials, clergymen, judicial authorities, and the most famous scientists and artists of their time. In reality, collections of lives of artists was far from new.100 The editor shows a preference for non-violent social progress that is truly a symptom of an enlightened ideology: “Far from diminishing the value of peaceful virtues, the greatest of all men is he who can best bring happiness to his fellow men.”101 At the end of the sixteenth century, as we remember, La Popelinière had also proposed that history take inspiration from the best representatives of each social and professional category, but he had in mind a clear hierarchy of veracity based on social rank, the highest being knighthood, whose virtues were eminently military. By the eighteenth century these ideas had become obsolete. The other salient trait of later collections is the increased interest in the control of sources and references. The Lives of the Famous Men, like most other collections of the eighteenth century, swarms with footnotes that identify sources, and explain obscure passages. Obviously, the author’s good ­character no longer sufficed to lend credence to a life-discourse. The collections of the Enlightenment inspired and are very close in tone to the great series of the nineteenth century studied by Pierre Nora. They too were meant to create a national memory that justified the present by reimagining the past. Therefore, the memoir tradition has a lengthy history that changes mainly with the shifts in ideas about history writing. The author’s own ­life-narrative is rarely an object of interest. More important is the author’s credibility based on good character. Initially heavily depending on social position, it later tended to lean towards the other classical criterion for testimony: expertise and excellence in the subject at hand. The meaning of individual memoirs was secondary to their collective values. Published together and mirroring each other, the discourses of various individuals could mute disagreements about the history of the French nation. The ensuing historical memory was far from unbiased. The texts were not necessarily based on autograph manuscripts, even when they were available, their edition was far from truly critical, the selection criteria were not clear, and the Huguenot discourses were not given the same credence as the Catholic ones. The compilation-memoirs of the late-sixteenth and seventeenth centuries brought together belligerents of the Wars of Religion, and imagined their 99 D’Auvigny, Preface, in Les Vies (1739), vol. 1, i. 100 Fumaroli (1971). 101 D’Auvigny, Preface, in Les Vies (1739), vol. 1, viii: “Loin de mettre les vertus paisibles en un rang inférieur, le plus grand de tous les hommes, est celuy qui sçay le mieux faire le bonheur de ses semblables.”

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ethnic and religious disputes as family feuds. The memory of the past atrocities was effectively diluted by the accumulation and the heavy editing of different versions of history: we can find scarcely any lengthy and trustworthy ­representation of the Saint-Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of Protestants (1572) in this entire French memoir tradition. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the corpus of memoirs grew larger due to new developments in print technology and the emergence of the nation-state in need of a national history. These publications created the impression of a unitive national memory. The memory that emerges from the ever-growing collections of memoirs truly involved, in Ernest Renan’s famous definition of what is a nation, both remembrance and willful oblivion.102 More accurate critical editions based on original manuscripts appear during the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1870 for instance, the savant Society of the History of France authorized a new edition of Bassompierre’s Diary made “according to the original manuscript” (“conforme au manuscrit ­original”).103 It was not entitled Mémoires as it had been upon its first publication in 1665, and in successive editions, but Diary of [His] Life, the title that appeared in the original manuscript. The new edition also corrected many errors in the previous editorial history of Bassompierre’s “memoirs.” Paradoxically, the interest in the correct text of the author’s life-discourse, manifest in such c­ ritical editions, parallels the rise of positivistic history, in which autobiographical narratives were no longer considered valid historical sources because of their apologetic and biased nature.104 Leopold von Ranke distrusted especially French memoirs, and many other historians warned again the novellike elements of autobiography in general.105 Having lost their pragmatic thrust, their capacity to describe how things really happened, memoirs became ‘literature,’ a term that acquired its modern meaning during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when another term related to our inquiry, ‘autobiography,’ also appeared.106 Literature and autobiography became part of an aesthetic nexus of writings with limited practical, referential value. 102 103 104 105 106

Ernest Renan, “Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?” in Œuvres complètes, vol. 1, ed. Henriette Psichari (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1947), 887–906. François de Bassompierre, Journal de ma vie: Mémoires, ed. Marquis de Chantérac, 4 vols. (Paris: Renouard, 1870–1877). Nora (1986), 362. Leopold von Ranke, Aus Werk und Nachlass, vol. 4, ed. Walther Peter Fuchs and ­Theodor Schieder (Munich; Vienna: Oldenbourg, 1964–1975), 112; Hans Glagau, Die moderne ­Selbstbiographie als historische Quelle: eine Untersuchung (Marburg: Elwert, 1903). Ann Jefferson, Biography and the Question of Literature in France (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 1.

CHAPTER 2

Philippe de Commynes (1447–1511) and His Memoirs While Philippe de Commynes is largely considered the founder of the memoir genre, we have seen in the previous chapter that the unity of this genre is problematic and its relation to autobiography is based on normative assumptions with limited application to early modern self-writing.1 Commynes is unquestionably one of the most printed, translated, and widely read French authors in early modern Europe.2 Between 1544 and 1643, his work was translated in ten languages.3 The extraordinary popularity of his work must be related to the way in which it addressed new expectations regarding self-writing. On closer examination, Commynes memoirs prove to be a work of composit nature, written at different times with sometimes contradictory goals, at the crossroads of late-medieval genres of history and personal writings. Instead of striving to highlight the unity of the work and its modernity, as does most secondary literature on the subject, the purpose of this chapter is to investigate the diverse strands of Commynes’s memoirs, detail their eclecticism, and show how they responded to the varied interests of their readers. Born around 1447 in Renescure in Flanders, Commynes was raised by his cousin Jean de Commynes, after his father Colard de la Clyte, bailiff of ­Flanders, died in 1453, leaving an inheritance burdened by debt.4 Commynes’s memoirs start with the year 1464, when he joined the court of his godfather, Philip the Good (1396–1467), duke of Burgundy. He came under the patronage of Philip’s son, Charles, count of Charolais, later Charles the Bold of Burgundy (1433–1477). Commynes’s introduction to the court of Burgundy coincided with the beginning of the League of the Public Weal (1465), which pitted great 1 Fumaroli (1979); Fumaroli (1994); Jean Dufournet, Philippe de Commynes: Un Historien à l’aube des temps modernes (Brussels: DeBoeck University, 1994), 17–33; Joël Blanchard, Commynes l’Européen: L’Invention du politique (Geneva: Droz, 1996), 337–415. 2 Dufournet (1994), 145–191. 3 Kenneth Dreyer, “Commynes and Machiavelli: A Study in Parallelism,” Symposium, 5:1 (May 1, 1951), 38–61, 38; Michael Jones, “The Reception of the Memoirs of Philippe des Commynes in Britain,” in Joël Blanchard, 1511–2011. Philippe de Commynes. Droit, écriture: deux piliers de souveraineté (Geneva: Droz 2012), 301–342. 4 Michael Jones, “Philippe de Commynes: a Courtly Middle-Man,” History Today, 39:3 (March 1, 1989), 34–41. © koninklijke brill nv, leideN, 2021 | DOI:10.1163/9789004459557_003

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feudal nobles led by Charles against the authoritarian king of France Louis XI (1423–1483). Commynes followed Charles against the royal army in the disorderly and inconclusive battle of Montlhéry (July 1465), and to the siege of Paris that ended with the Treaty of Conflans (5 October 1465), forcing Louis XI to make significant concessions to the leaguers. The leaguers’ apparent success was short-lived because Louis XI was merely temporizing and driving wedges between his enemies, before eventually regaining control. Commynes also followed Charles in his punitive expedition against the unruly principality of Liège. Commynes’s memoirs recounts how Louis XI foolishly met Charles the Bold in person at Péronne in October 1468, and put his life in the hands of his foe. As Charles’s chamberlain, Commynes appeased his master and was influential in saving Louis XI’s life, for which the French sovereign would later show his appreciation.5 Commynes also played a diplomatic role in the Wars of the Roses, in which Burgundy helped Edward IV regain his throne in 1471. The following year, on 7 August 1472, Commynes left his suzerain Charles the Bold and came under the protection of Louis XI. Commynes’s properties in Flanders were immediately seized, but his new patron Louis XI recompensed him with French titles and lands, some of uncertain legal status, since they came by way of confiscation from French subjects who fell out of the king’s favor. After Louis XI’s death, Commynes would spend the rest of his life in endless trials unsuccessfully trying to protect these illegitimate claims. Commynes’s knowledge of Charles the Bold and his diplomatic experience made him extremely useful to Louis XI. He attended the private meeting between Louis XI and Edward IV, and he played a leading role in negotiating the Treaty of Picquigny (August 1475), which forestalled an English invasion of France by generous gifts to Edward IV and his men. Charles tried to gain new lands and transform his rich duchy into an independent kingdom. In the process, Charles attracted many enemies, eventually suffering a series of crushing defeats that ended with his death in 1477, facing the combined forces of the Swiss and Lorraine at the siege of Nancy. Commynes was no longer needed in Burgundy, and Louis XI sent him on various embassies to Italy. Commynes’s fortunes waned after Louis XI’s death in 1483. The former ­Burgundian diplomat now supported the Estates General assembled in 1484 to reform the authoritarian policies of Louis XI, particularly with regard to tax 5 Philippe de Commynes, Mémoires, ed. Joël Blanchard (Geneva: Droz, 2007), 125–126.

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increases and the selling of public offices. Commynes joined the rebellious princes of Orleans, Brittany, and Lorraine, against the regent Anne de Beaujeu (1461–1522). The rebellion failed and Commynes was briefly imprisoned. After his release, he was exiled to his estate at Dreux, where he started writing his memoirs, or rather dictating them to his secretaries, as his own writing was, as he admitted, illegible.6 In 1490, he was recalled to the court of Charles VIII (1470–1498), Louis XI’s son. The young king employed Commynes’s expertise in foreign relations with Italy to further his ambitions in the peninsula. Commynes served principally as ambassador to the Republic of Venice during Charles VIII’s invasion of Italy in 1494. By the following year a powerful league formed by the emperor ­Maximilian I (1459–1519), Ferdinand of Aragon (1452–1516), and Pope ­Alexander VI (1431–1503) forced the French into retreat. Commynes’s efforts to break the league were fruitless, and his services were no longer needed after 1495. This is when Commynes added the last two books of his memoirs recounting the Italian expedition. The resulting work circulated in manuscript form until it was first partially published in 1524, thirteen years after the author’s death, and nine years after the death of King Louis XII (1462–1511), the former leader of the rebellious faction on account of which Commynes was imprisoned. Louis, as Commynes informs his readers, “did not remember him much” once he became king of France in 1498.7 Commynes wrote his memoirs in periods of duress when he experienced imprisonment, estrangement from the court, and legal disputes over his possessions. In the prologue, he dedicates his book to Angelo Cato (d. c. 1495), archbishop of Vienne, who had served Louis XI as doctor and astrologer.8 It was at Cato’s request that Commynes recorded his memories of the deeds of Louis XI (“faictz du roy Loys unzeisme”), their common lord, hoping that the Italian astrologer would use the materials for a work (“oeuvre”) in Latin, the language of erudition and ornate historiography.9 Only towards the end of the prologue does Commynes hint at the context of his writing. Having been Louis XI’s closest advisor, he is singularly suited to the task at hand, and, given the “losses and sufferings” (“pertes et douleurs”)

6 Blanchard (1996), 382. 7 Commynes (2007), 734: “Quant j’euz couché une nuyt a Amboyse, allay devers ce roy nouveau [Louis XII], de qui j’avoye aussi esté privé que nulle aultre personne, et pour luy avoye esté en tous mes troubles et pertes; toutesfoiz pour l’heure ne luy en souvint point fort.” 8 Benedetto Croce, “Il personaggio italiano che esortò il Commynes a scrivere i Mémoires,” La Critica, 31 (1933), 53–64. 9 Commynes (2007), 1–2.

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that he has endured since Louis XI’s death, he relishes remembering the favor that Louis XI had once bestowed upon him.10 Commynes does not specify the nature of his tribulations. Instead, he attributes his misfortune to general political laws: after the death of a powerful prince, there are always great changes, when some profit, and others, like himself, lose. Although, there is an undeniable apologetic motivation behind Commynes’s writing, the author systematically avoids the detailed description of his personal situation. For instance, in the passage quoted above, where Commynes reproaches Louis XII for no longer remembering him once he became king, the author does not expand upon his own precise role and motivation in the faction. In other words, Commynes only alludes to his personal misfortunes, effaces all details about their specific causes and development, refers to their outcome in general terms (loss, suffering, and ingratitude), and he attributes them to universal historical laws ­affecting everybody not just himself. If the autobiographical element is dealt with in general terms, the author’s personal voice is heard on every page. Commynes often digresses on the nature of princes, their relationship to mignons, their suspicious character, the intervention of God in history, etc. Such digressions contradict the prologue, where Commynes set out to write a summary account of events he had witnessed: it should have been up to Angelo Cato to transform the testimony into a coherent royal biography that would have bound singular events to general causes in an embellished Latin prose befitting a great historical subject. But Commynes’s prologue only refers to the history of Louis XI, when in fact he continued his account into the reign of the following king of France, Charles VIII, well after Angelo Cato’s death. He further departed from the initial project by addressing his memoirs directly to a distinguished readership of princes and courtiers.11 Clearly, Commynes’s initial project changed in the process of writing. The nature of the new project is not altogether clear. The extant work resembles some traditional genres, such as first-person chronicles, royal biographies, political conduct books, and family books meant to keep a record of the author’s career, network, and social memory.12 He refers to his writing numerous times as “my memoirs,” and, as mentioned above, most critics consider that Commynes eventually conceived an independent work and inaugurated a new memoir genre. However, Commynes never rewrote the prologue to address his 10 11 12

Commynes (2007), 3. Commynes (2007), 210: “Et aussi faiz mon compte que bestes ne simples gens s’amuseroient point a lire ces ‘Memoires,’ mais princes ou gens de court y trouveront de bon advertissemens, a mon advis.” Blanchard (1996), 344.

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new self-conception as a unique author and his memoirs as an independent work. Although he imagined that his memoirs would be read by gentlemen, it is not evident that he understood memoirs in Furetière’s second sense of “books written by historians.” An admirer of scholars like Cato, who did not live to write an ornate history of Louis XI, probably in imitation of Ciceronian rhetoric, Commynes himself could not read Latin and rarely quoted other learned historians. The excuse for ignoring letters could have also been disguised self-praise as French knights traditionally restricted their role to warfare, and, in all likelihood, Commynes did not fail to exploit this noble ideology, although he genuinely detested war. He did criticize some historians and a certain type of encomiastic rhetoric in history: chroniclers, in his opinion, only wrote eulogies, kept silence on certain matters, and sometimes blatantly ignored the truth.13 He must have been referring to the vernacular chronicles that were traditionally associated with the Abbey of Saint-Denis, where, in 1274, the monk Primat chronicled the glory of the French monarchy, a work that was to be continued and enlarged until the late Middle Ages. By Commynes’s time, the Abbey of Saint-Denis had lost its monopoly over French history writing.14 Louis XI was not particularly interested in promoting official historiography, while Charles VIII gave the title of royal historiographer to the Italian humanist Paolo Emilio, who would eventually write a history of the French people in the new humanist style.15 The style and narrative structure of medieval chronicles and humanist historiography certainly differed, but they both shared eulogistic ends and a lack of interest, other than declarative, in source criticism. For example, both the chronicles from Saint-Denis and Paolo Emilio’s history recount the fictitious reign of the first king of France Pharamond. This is not in itself surprising as the legendary origins of the French monarchy were considered historical fact. Perplexing is, however, the use of the same genealogy from Pharamond to Louis XII at the

13

14

15

Commynes (2007), 371–2: “Les chroniqueurs n’escripvent que les chouses a louenges de ceulx de qui ilz parlent, et taisent plusieurs chouses, ou ne sçavent par aulcunes foiz a la verité; et je me delibere de ne parler de chose qui ne soit vraie et que je n’ay veue ou sceue de si grans personnaiges qu’i soient dignes de croire, sans avoir regard aux louenges.” Heidrun Baumann, Der Geschichtsschreiber Philippe de Commynes und die Wirkung seiner politischen Vorstellungen in Frankreich um die Mitte des 16. Jahrhunderts (Munich: Minerva Publikation, 1981), 103; Charles Samaran, “Notes sur Jean Castel, chroniqueur de France,” in Mélanges Antoine Thomas, 1927, 395–404; Charles Samaran, “Mathieu Levrien, chroniqueur de Saint-Denis à la fin du règne de Louis XI,” Bibliothèque de l’École des chartes, 99 (1938), 125–131. Paolo Emilio, De rebus gestis Francorum (Paris: Josse Bade, 1517).

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end of Commynes’s own memoirs.16 Not only does Commynes contradict his own claims that he was writing only about events that he witnessed or that he has heard from credible gentlemen, but his epilogue resembles that of the chroniclers that he criticizes. Already, in the sixteenth century, Denis Sauvage had expressed doubts, in a marginal note, about the authenticity of Commynes’s chronology of the kings of France, but there is no reason to suspect that Commynes ignored or disbelieved this late-medieval historiographical banality.17 In doubting the authenticity of Commynes’s closing paragraphs, Sauvage betrays his own assumption that Commynes consciously created a new genre based on eyewitness testimony, and a unitary work distinct from the available medieval historiography. As we have seen in the previous chapter, Sauvage justified his change of the old title (“Chronicle and History”), with which Commynes’s work was endowed in previous editions, to the new one (“Memoirs”) by noting that Commynes was the “father and godfather” of the new genre because the author himself called his work “memoirs” in several places.18 But Commynes’s references to his writing, goals, and methods vary from place to place, making his memoirs far from suggestive of an accomplished unitary work. Similar hesitations are present in other contemporary histories and they bespeak the experimental character of late-medieval historiography and autobiography. The loss in prestige of the great chronicles of France from Saint-Denis, the rediscovery of ancient models for history writing, and the progress of literacy among gentlemen, who wanted to leave traces of themselves, gave rise to a wealth of late-medieval histories that eschew facile classifications. 1

Models and Competing Genres

The Memoirs of Olivier de la Marche (c. 1425–1502) are often quoted in relation to Commynes’s writing. In fact, they are the second text after Commynes’s that Sauvage published with the title “memoirs.”19 A captain of Charles the Bold’s guard, then maître d’hôtel to Charles’s daughter Marie de Bourgogne ­(1457–1482) and her husband Emperor Maximilian, La Marche was also a prolific writer 16 17 18 19

Commynes (2007), 735–736. Sauvage in Commynes (1552), fol. clxixv: “Je pense que tout le reste n’est point de l’Auteur. Mais, de qui que ce soit, je lui laisse avoir son opinion, pourveu qu’il ne se contredise point.” Sauvage in Commynes (1552), fol. a iiv. Olivier de la Marche, Les Mémoires (Lyon: Guillaume Rouillé, 1562).

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who began his memoirs in 1473. Sauvage, printed the work in a different order, starting with a general “Preface and Introduction,” which La Marche wrote much latter, between 1488 and 1491, and dedicated it to the young Philip (1478– 1506), Charles the Bold’s grandson.20 In this late “Preface and Introduction,” La Marche calls his work “abridged memoirs,” and expresses his hope that the ten-year-old Philip would read them as a “useful mirror and doctrine.”21 This later addition, therefore, conflates the meaning of memoirs as a summary account useful for history writing with the genre of mirrors for princes, political conduct books for rulers, usually composed of idealized historical examples worthy of imitation, the best known and the least representative being Machiavelli’s Prince.22 In the same general introduction, La Marche expresses his intention of dividing his memoirs into three parts: the first part would describe the origins and genealogy of Philip’s noble ancestors, the second one would show the vicissitudes of their fortunes, and the third part would deal with “all things worthy of memory” (“toutes les choses dignes de memoire”) from the author’s own time.23 The difference between the earliest and latest prefaces is striking. In the early preface from 1473, Olivier de la Marche adopts the rhetoric of the eyewitness testimony that will characterize the tradition of early modern memoirs: I have undertaken the deed and labor to make and compile some ­volumes in the manner of memoirs that will contain everything that I have seen during my time, worthy of being written down and remembered. I do not intend to write or touch upon matters heard from or reported by others. Instead, I will only refer to what I have seen, known, and experienced myself.24 In contrast, in the text written in the late 1480s, La Marche draws, in the fashion of medieval chroniclers, a glorious genealogy of Austrian rulers back to 20 21 22 23 24

Catherine Emerson, The Rhetoric of Fifteenth-Century Historiography: The “Mémoires” of ­ livier de la Marche, (PhD Thesis: University of Hull, 2001), 12. O La Marche (1562), a iiv. Hans Hubert Anton, Fürstenspiegel des frühen und hohen Mittelalters (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2006); Wilhelm Berges, Die Fürstenspiegel des hohen und späten Mittelalters (Stuttgart: A. Hiersemann, 1952 [1938]). La Marche (1562), a iiir. La Marche (1562), 73: “ay emprins le fais et labeur de faire et compiler aucuns volumes par maniére de Memoires: ou sera contenu tout ce que j’ay veu, de mon temps digne d’estre escript et ramenteu, et n’enten pas de escrire, ou toucher de nulles matieres par ouir dire, ou par rapport d’autruy: mais seulement toucheray de ce, que j’ay veu, sçeu et experimenté.”

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a fictional descendant of Priam, king of Troy. In short, La Marche wrote his memoirs during a long period, in different contexts that altered the content and goal of his writing, a process that resembles the composition of Commynes’s own eclectic memoirs. The reader of Sauvage’s edition is confronted with a composite work that looks like an aide-memoire, an eyewitness testimony, a grand chronicle, and a mirror for princes, to name only a few of the possible categories that could describe La Marche’s Memoirs. Added to the hybrid nature of the text is La Marche’s problematic self-representation as an author of a truly autonomous work. In the general introduction, for instance, La Marche regrets not being endowed with the polished style of Georges Chastellain (c. 1415–1475) and his successor as historiographer at the court of Burgundy, Jean Molinet ­(1435–1507), but he hopes that more eloquent historians may use parts of his unflowery memoirs for their “great and solemn oeuvres” (“haultes et solempnelles oeuvres”).25 Evidently, the slight value attached to his work is also a r­ hetorical strategy. While it is unclear whether Commynes knew of La Marche’s unpublished memoirs, the same sort of hybridity, resulting from experimentation, is apparent in much of late-medieval historiography: Jean de Haynin (1423–1495), Jacques du Clercq (b. c.1424), and Pierre le Prestre (1419–1442), among others, wrote works at the junction of history and autobiography.26 Blanchard believes that this branch of Burgundian historiography, centered on the author’s personal experience, developed on the margins of official historiography celebrating princes and cities, which itself underwent a renewal under the influence of classical models.27 Haynin, Du Clercq, and Le Prestre narrate historical events, while giving details about their lives, and often expand upon their genealogy, something rare in official histories, but frequent in family books, another highly eclectic genre that flourished first in Italy and then throughout early modern Europe.28 Blanchard asserts that this new type of subjective history writing largely corresponds to what we would call memoirs, if it were not for their focus on narrow, local events, and their lack of a “deliberate and consciousness

25 26

27 28

La Marche (1562), a iiiv. Jean de Haynin, Mémoires, ed. R. Chalon, 2 vols. (Mons: E. Hoyois, 1842); Pierre le Prestre, Chronique, ed. René de Belleval, in Mémoires de la société d’Émulation d’Abbeville, vol. 14, third series (1873–1879); Jacques du Clercq, Mémoires, ed. F. de Reiffenberg, 4 vols. (­Brussels: Arnold Lacrosse, 1823). Blanchard (1996), 344. Giovanni Ciappelli, Memory, Family, and Self: Tuscan Family Books and Other European Egodocuments (14th–18th centuries), transl. Susan Amanda George (Leiden: Brill, 2014).

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esthetic” (“esthétique consciente et délibérée”) that fully developed only in Commynes’s Memoirs; this is why Blanchard labels the Burgundian production “­pre-memoirs” (“pré-mémoires”).29 The choice of words is reminiscent of Lejeune’s “pre-history of autobiography” and betrays the teleological assumptions that characterize the most common narrative about the history of autobiography as an awakening of individual consciousness, albeit limited to esthetic choices here. 2 Courtly Autobiography Commynes’s intended readers are, as we have seen, the king’s learned doctor Angelo Cato, and courtiers and princes. The fact that Commynes wrote his memoirs, when he was estranged from court, imprisoned, exiled, or simply out of favor, and still dedicated them to other courtiers, indicates that the court was the central preoccupation of his life. His memoirs completely ignore his infancy and private family ties: he starts his narrative “at the end of [his] childhood, when [he] was able to ride a horse,” and then was taken to the court of Charles, duke of Burgundy.30 His prologue already depicts him as a prominent courtier in the service of Louis XI, this time: from the time when I came into his service until the hour of his passing, where I was present, I had resided with him continuously for longer than anybody else in the position in which I was serving him, which was at least that of a chamberlain or employed in his greatest affairs.31 The royal office of chamberlain allowed Commynes to sleep in the king’s room, a privilege that singled him out amongst the courtiers. Milanese ambassadors noted in 1476 that Commynes was the only one to govern and sleep with Louis XI.32 All of the French monarch’s daily activities, including eating and sleeping, were public events, and participating in them constituted a sign of

29 30 31

32

Blanchard (1996), 344. Commynes (2007), 4: “au saillir de mon enfance, et en l’eage de pouvoir monter a cheval.” Commynes (2007), 1: “depuis le temps que je vins en son service, jusques à l’heure de son trespas, où j’estoye present, ay fait plus continuelle residence avec luy, que nul autre de l’estat à quoy je le servoye, qui, pour le moins, a tousjours esté de chambellan, ou occupé en ses grandes affaires.” See Joël Blanchard, Commynes et les Italiens: Lettres inédites du mémorialistes (Paris: Klincksieck, 1993), 18.

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great favor: sleeping in the same room or sometimes in the same bed with the sovereign was the greatest privilege, and an expression of familiarity that often appalled Italian ambassadors who had very different standards of civility at court.33 Commynes was undoubtedly a court favorite, or a mignon.34 The word “mignon” appeared in French during the fifteenth century.35 The competing term “favori” was introduced later, during François I’s reign, in the first half of the sixteenth century. While the social reality of the court favorite preexisted its nomenclature, the appearance of a new term indicates an increased awareness regarding this social type by the mid-fifteenth c­ entury.36 Commynes employs the term only once in his memoirs in the context of a meeting between Louis XI and Henry IV of Castile (1425–1474), king of Spain.37 Louis XI grew to despise Henry IV because he could not make a decision by himself, relied exclusively on his court favorites, in short, he was politically impotent (“ne povoit gueres”), probably an allusion to his alleged sexual impotence.38 Louis XI sought and obtained the friendship of Henry’s favorites, whom he learned to appreciate. Notable, in this episode is the lack of negative connotation attached to the word mignon, and the positive image of court favorites: Louis XI befriends them and only condemns the Castilian king, for his lack of initiative. This is striking because the available literature about court favorites during the late Middle Ages is predominantly negative. Ellery Schalk has noted how the first French treaties offering a neutral or positive image of the courtier appeared 33

34 35 36

37 38

Marc Smith, “Familiarité française et politesse italienne au XVIe siècle: Les diplomates italiens juges des manières de la cour des Valois,” Revue d’Histoire diplomatique, 3–4 (1988), 193–232. See also: Joachim Bumke, Courtly Culture: Literature and Society in the High Middle Ages, transl. Thomas Dunlap (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1991); Nicolas Le Roux, Le Roi, la Cour, l’État: De la Renaissance à l’absolutisme (Seyssel: Champ Vallon, 2013); Robert Knecht, The French Renaissance Court: 1483–1589 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2008). Jean Dufournet, La vie de Philippe de Commynes (Paris: SEDES, 1969), 54. Philippe Contamine, “Pouvoir et vie de cour dans la France du XVe siècle: les mignons,” Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 138:2 (1994), ­541–554. Arlette Jouanna, “Faveur et favoris: l’exemple des mignons de Henri III,” in Henri III et son temps. Actes du colloque international du Centre de la Renaissance de Tours, ed. Robert Sauzet (Paris: Vrin, 1992), 155–165; Jean Bérenger, “Pour une enquête européenne: le problème du ministériat au XVIIe siècle,” Annales, 29:1 (1974), 66–92. Commynes (2007), 127: “Aussi y estoient le conte de Lodesme, son mignon, en grand triumphe.” The count of Ledesma could be either Beltrán de la Cueva y Alfonso de Mercado (c. 1443–1492) or Juan Pacheco, marquis of Villena (1419–1474). David D’Avray, Papacy, Monarchy and Marriage: 860–1600 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 122–130.

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only during the early seventeenth century, although, by the fifteenth century, the court of Burgundy had become one of the most sophisticated and refined in Europe, and court societies would continue to develop throughout early modern Europe.39 Defining the court favorite poses some difficulties because it does not neatly correlate to any official position at court. One way to approach the topic would be to define its components, but court and favor are also highly elusive notions because they are irreducible to formal, institutional relationships: The court… comprised all those who at any given time were within ‘his grace’s house’; and all those with a right to be there were courtiers to whom the fact, and the problems, of the court constituted a central ­preoccupation in their official lives and in the search for personal ­satisfaction.40 But what does it mean to be in the good graces of a prince? Again, there is no formal tie that governs the mechanism of court patronage. Nicolas Le Roux considers favor “an informal power relation that rests on neither social status nor official position but rather on a preferential link that stems from a voluntary and affective relationship.”41 Commynes only refers to the princely favor that he had enjoyed in a few brief passages. Most significantly, he claims to be writing to compensate for his loss of favor at court. He defines his case as illustrating a larger natural-political law, because he firmly believes that the death of a powerful ruler always engenders great “mutations” at court.42 The term mutations comes from astrological world history, a fashionable field of study at the end of the fifteenth century, in which astrologers, such as Angelo Cato, put planetary motions, God’s secondary causes, into accord with historical turning points, such as dynastic 39

40 41 42

Ellery Schalk, “The Court as a ‘Civilizer’ of Nobility: Noble Attitude and the Court in France in the late Sixteenth and early Seventeenth Centuries,” in Princes, Patronage, and the Nobility. The Court at the Beginning of the Modern Age c. 1450–1650, eds. Ronald G. Asch and Adolf M. Birke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 245–264; Werner Paravicini, “The Court of the Dukes of Burgundy. A Model for Europe?” Princes, Patronage and the Nobility, eds. Ronald G. Asch and Adolf M. Birke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 69–102. Geoffrey R. Elton, ‘Tudor government: the points of contact: III The court,’ in Studies in Tudor and Stuart Politics and Government. Vol. III. Papers and Reviews 1973–1981 (Cambridge: C ­ ambridge University Press, 1983), 45. Nicolas Le Roux, La faveur du roi. Mignons et courtisans au temps des derniers Valois: vers ­1547–vers 1589, (Seyssel: Champ Vallon, 2000), 11. Commynes (2007), 3.

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changes, wars, the appearance of new religious sects, etc.43 Although men possess f­reewill, they live in a corrupt world that limits their agency. Evidently, Commynes employs this astrological vocabulary to minimize his faults. The term that Commynes uses to refer to favor is “grace(s).” By it, Commynes means a gift from God, often unrelated to merit.44 God’s grace or lack thereof quite often mean material riches and desolation, respectively: Commynes attributes the downfall of the House of Burgundy after Charles’s death to Burgundians forgetting that divine grace was the true source of the ­dynasty’s former prosperity.45 It is this theological vocabulary with materialistic connotations that Commynes transfers to his description of court patronage. He employs it in the Prologue, for instance, when he remembers the “graces that [he] received” from Louis XI, bitterly reminding himself that “goods and honors are not imparted according to the desire of those who asked for them.”46 Commynes also uses the term “favor” when referring to money, riches, titles, and similar material benefits. For instance, the duke of Lorraine manages to raise an army against Charles the Bold with the “favor and money” from Louis XI.47 Goods, honors, favors, and graces are all related to material benefits that a prince (or God) bestows upon a subject, regardless of personal merit, and often in disregard of social status. Conversely, disfavor or the fall out of grace entails material loss that often ends with the physical destruction of the concerned individual. Commynes readily acknowledges his indebtedness to Louis XI in terms of “honor, great familiarity, and benefits.”48 If honor and benefits are the expression of courtly favor, and were manifest in the donations and titles that Louis XI gave Commynes, the “great familiarity,” of which the author boasts, is more evasive. The original expression “grans privaultez” most certainly means here sharing secrets and voicing opinions freely, privileges that are not 43

44 45 46

47 48

Jean-Patrice Boudet, “Prévision de l’avenir et connaissance du passé: les relations entre astrologie et histoire à la fin du Moyen Age,” in Pratique de la culture écrite en France au XVe siècle, ed. Monique Ornato et Nicole Pons (Louvain-la-Neuve: Fédération Internationale des Instituts d’Études Médiévales, 1995), 299–312. Commynes (2007), 107–108: “et luy proceda de la grace de Dieu seullement, contre toute raison… Et, au jugement des hommes, receut tous ces honneurs et biens pour la grace et bonté dont il avoit usé envers ses ostaiges.” Commynes (2007), 14: “[the subjects of the House of Burgundy] did not recognize well that all these graces proceeded from God, who imparts them however he pleases.” Commynes (2007), 3: “les graces que j’ay receues de luy, combien que c’est chose accoustumee que, aprés le decés de si grant et puissant prince, les mutations sont grandes, et y ont les ungs perte et les aultres gaigne, car les biens et les honneurs ne se despartent point a l’apetit de ceulx qui les demandent.” Commynes (2007), 349. Commynes (2007), 2: “obligation d’honneur et grans privaultez et bienfaictz.”

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immediately apparent outside of Commynes’s text. The great privacy to which Louis XI admitted Commynes constitutes the main source of legitimacy for Commynes as a historian and a biographer, but it is also a construct of the same memoirs. For instance, during the peace talks at Picquigny, in August 1475, when Louis XI met personally with Edward IV on an improvised bridge, Louis XI asked all of his men to leave because he wanted to talk more privately to Edward. During their discussion, Louis XI called Commynes over and asked Edward whether he recognized his servant. The English monarch immediately identified the former courtier of the duke of Burgundy, and recalled the times that they had met. The discussion between the two sovereigns then revolved around the inclusion or not of the duke of Burgundy in the peace treaty, and Commynes’s presence might have been required for his knowledge of B ­ urgundian affairs. But the author does not elaborate upon his role in the private discussion: much more important for him is to show his readers that he was invited to the private meeting of great political import. The episode substantiates Commynes’s claims of access to the greatest of state affairs. Furthermore, Louis XI had the habit of having one of his followers dress exactly like him, and on that particular day the “king’s pleasure” was that Commynes do so.49 The gesture has of course a double meaning: Louis XI was certainly using a doppelgänger to protect himself against possible assassination attempts, but Commynes claims it was a sign of favor, which certainly was also the case, since such “mimetic practices” of dress were quite common between the sovereign and his favorite courtiers until at least the late-sixteenth century.50 Commynes’s self-representation as a wise courtier begins even earlier in the memoirs, before he left Burgundy, when he served as chamberlain to Charles the Bold. In 1468, Louis XI came to meet Charles at Péronne for peace talks, while the French king’s men were inciting the inhabitants of Liège to rebel against the Burgundian oppressor. Charles was swiftly informed about the agitation and its French origin. He ordered that all the gates of town and castle be shut and retired to his room bristling with anger against his guest, Louis XI. As Charles’s chamberlain, Commynes had unrestricted access to Charles’s room and often slept there.51 Commynes tried, with the help of two other valets, to appease Charles. The French king might have been lost that day, claims 49 50 51

Commynes (2007), 289. Le Roux (2000), 271. Commynes (2007), 125: “le servoye de chambellan et congnoissoiye en sa chambre quant je voulloye, car telle estoit l’usance de ceste maison.” The verb “congnoissoiye” (“knew”) is ­probably wrong here. Other editions give “couchoye” (“slept”), a much more plausible variant.

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Commynes, had he not soothed Charles’s destructive impulse. Important for the author was again to show his soft power and preeminence at the court of Charles. In placating his Burgundian suzerain, Commynes was probably already pursuing his own private interests, which would culminate with his flight to Louis XI’s camp. The Péronne scene emphasizes the courtier’s knowledge of and control over his prince’s emotions: “we did not embitter the matter further, but tried to soften it as much as possible.”52 Commynes thought of his role at the court as a screen that checked the prince’s disorderly passions. After Commynes left him and in the absence of other wise court favorites, the duke’s impulsiveness and penchant for anger attracted new enemies and ended in his death. In Commynes’s political psychology, princes are naturally prone to outbursts of violence because of their lenient upbringing. Lacking authoritative figures in their early education and being surrounded by sycophants, they might never develop the ability to temper their impulses. This is why, Commynes attaches the utmost importance to the quality of courtiers, whose role is to appease the prince’s passions, bring him to reason, and advise him in the direction of the best interests for the body politic. The image that Commynes paints of courtiers in this scene is striking because it shows the positive influence and even the necessity of wise courtiers in the prince’s entourage in a context in which the dominant literature, during the Middle Ages and the early modern period, evinces a tone of utter condemnation and mockery towards court favorites. Admittedly, Commynes’s memoirs share many ideas with this anti-courtier literature, which portrayed courtiers as effeminate parasites, ambitious men of no faith, and imposters, in such works as the allegorical romances Reynard the Fox (cycle started in the twelfth century), the Roman de Fauvel (fourteenth century), but also in pseudo-autobiographical epistolary literature, such as Alain Chartier’s De Vita ­curiali (c. 1427). The impious and manipulative courtier posing great danger for the body politic was also quite topical for medieval political textbooks, especially in mirrors for princes, although such thematizations rarely, if ever, went beyond direct moral condemnation, as Pauline Smith observes in her study of anti-courtier literature in sixteenth-century France. 53 Commynes’s views are much more nuanced, given his own role as court favorite to both Charles and Louis XI. There is, however, a court favorite towards whom the memoirist does not hide his contempt: Louis XI’s barber, 52 53

Commynes (2007), 126: “Nous ne aigrismes riens, mais adoulcismes a nostre pouvoir.” Pauline Smith, The Anti-Courtier Trend in Sixteenth-Century French Literature (Geneva: Droz, 1966), 47–48.

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Olivier le Daim (c. 1428–1484), a commoner from a village close to Ghent, whom the French monarch raised to the ranks of nobility, and sent on diplomatic missions. After the death of Charles the Bold, Louis XI set his eyes on the seemingly defenseless rich Duchy of Burgundy. He sent Olivier to Ghent to try to bring the city under his obedience, although Commynes warned Louis XI that Olivier was not the right person for the task. Olivier’s official mission was to talk to Marie de Bourgogne, Charles’s daughter, and try to convince her to accept Louis’s protection. But this mission was just a pretext, since Olivier and his master knew that Marie would never accept the proposition: Olivier’s secret charge was to incite the people of Ghent to rebel against Burgundian rule. Once in Ghent, Olivier demanded to speak privately to Marie, an unheard privilege given that she was an unmarried princess. Furthermore, Olivier, notes Commynes, was dressed well above his rank, and he attracted the mockery of the people of Ghent, who recognized in Olivier, now a royal ambassador, the humble barber from the nearby village. On hearing that the inhabitants of Ghent were planning to drown him for his insolence, Olivier fled and thus failed in his mission. Commynes’s malice towards the barber is conspicuous: he calls him a “small character, inapt (“inutile”) to master such a great matter.” 54 Nevertheless, he praises Olivier for managing to bring the neutral city of Tournai under the king’s control, after his flight from Ghent. What irked Commynes was Olivier’s ascension to offices that should have remained inaccessible to him on account of his birth: Commynes contemptuously remarked that Olivier “now called himself count of Meulan.”55 Clearly, Commynes like most gentlemen of his day believed that social ranks were based on natural order, and courtly favor, although not based on merit, should not override birth rights. The memoirist was also drawing on the popular discontent that erupted after Louis XI’s death when the ennobled barber was tried and hanged on fabricated charges. Olivier was seen as a parvenu who had masterminded Louis XI’s authoritarian policies, and this is how he was overwhelmingly depicted in other memoirs, chronicles, and even in the poetry of his day.56 Commynes does not recount the barber’s fall from favor after Louis XI’s death, but he fully exploits the motif of courtly disfavor in many other passages. In fact, the author’s courtly disgrace, as a condition for writing memoirs, would become a cliché of the memoir tradition: many authors and readers 54 55 56

Commynes (2007), 378. Commynes (2007), 376. Jean-Patrice Boudet, “Genèse et efficacité du mythe d’Olivier le Daim,” Médiévales, 10 (1986), 5–16.

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imagine self-writing as an activity belonging to gentlemen who fell from their princes’ good graces, who suffered imprisonment, or, even, those who became isolated from the court on account of old age.57 Certainly, we can find many counterexamples in the history of memoirs: some authors were not courtiers, while others did not experience a loss of favor.58 But the more general topic of courtly favor and disfavor, service and princely reward had such a rich cultural history that it was at times difficult for the educated reader to distinguish between authentic experience and learned quotation. A powerful maxim in Commynes’s Memoirs attracted Montaigne’s attention: “We should be wary of doing such great services to our master that we render him unable to reward them justly.”59 Montaigne traced Commynes’s maxim back to Tacitus, Seneca, and Cicero. The essayist remarked that the beauty and force of a writer’s soul shines mostly in the words and thoughts that belong to the author, and, if the thought is borrowed, then in the way the author selects, integrates, and refashions the subject. Montaigne therefore commended ­Commynes’s discovery of the topic but not Commynes himself. In fairness, Commynes never claims to have come up with the maxim himself. He actually lets his readers know that he heard it from Louis XI, who was quoting an author, whose name he no longer remembers; Louis XI thought that the saying was an appropriate maxim for courtiers, further adding, in indirect speech: Moreover, he [Louis XI] told me that, in his opinion, to be successful at court, it is more beneficial for a gentleman if the prince whom he serves has bestowed upon him some great good even though he does not deserve it, on account of which he would remain very much obliged, than if he actually provided such a great service that the prince would remain too much obliged towards him; and that he [Louis XI] liked more naturally those who depended on him than those on whom he depended.60 57 58 59 60

Fumaroli (1994), Nora (1986), Kuperty-Tsur (1999). Jouhaud (2009). Montaigne (1987), 2302 (bk. 3, ch. 8). Commynes (2007), 237: “Me dist davantaige que, a son advis, pour avoir bien en court, que c’est plus grand eur a ung homme quant le prince qui sert luy a faict quelque grant bien a peu desserte, pour quoy il y demoure fort obligé, que ce ne seroit s’il luy avoit faict un si grand service que ledict prince luy en fust tres fort obligé; et qu’il ayme plus naturellement ceulx qui leur sont tenuz que ne font ceulx a qui ilz sont tenuz.” I propose to translate “homme” with “gentleman,” and not with the more modern “man,” as “homme” also meant a vassal, a meaning that I believe to be more appropriate in this feudal context.

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Commynes’s indirect quotation describes the asymmetric relationship between princes and courtiers as the natural norm (“il ayme naturellement”). Any attempt to challenge this relationship results in personal misfortune and, potentially, death. The passage also shows how Commynes came to envision his memoirs as an advice book for courtiers, composed of real-life examples, on how to succeed at the court. The example that occasioned Commynes’s indirect quotation of Louis XI was the beginning of the downfall of Louis de Luxembourg (1418–1475), count of Saint-Pol and constable of France, a vassal to both Charles the Bold and Louis XI, who eventually fell from the good graces of both. Saint-Pol’s fate occupies a central place in Commynes’s memoirs. His brief trial on accusations of lese-majesty and the beheading of such a grand officer of the crown left a lasting impression in late-fifteenth-century French chronicles.61 Saint-Pol enters the stage of Commynes’s memoirs on the occasion of the War of the Public Weal, when he was principal adviser to Charles and general commander of his army at the battle of Montlhéry against Louis XI’s troops in 1465. During the ensuing peace talks, Charles pressured Louis XI to name SaintPol constable of France, a humiliating experience for the French king who was thus forced to name as commander-in-chief of the army a leader of the mutinous faction. Saint-Pol controlled border cities (most notably Saint-Quentin), heavily disputed between Louis XI and Charles the Bold, and used them to further the enmity between his two masters, which, he thought, would further his personal interests of autonomy and maybe even independence. Saint-Pol offered to hand over Saint-Quentin to Edward IV of England to abet his planned invasion of France; Edward, however, made peace with Louis XI and then cruelly sent to the king of France Saint-Pol’s self-incriminating letters. But it was Charles the Bold, tired of Saint-Pol’s duplicity, who actually delivered Saint-Pol to Louis XI. On a more general note, Saint-Pol was a victim of the changing ideology regarding the relationship between the monarch and his subjects. During his trial, Saint-Pol constantly referred to his honor as a valid principle of action, and affirmed the vassal’s right to shift his

61

Joël Blanchard, Commynes et les procès politiques de Louis XI: du nouveau sur la lèsemajesté (Paris: Picard, 2008); Yves Lallemand, “Le procès pour trahison du connétable de Saint-Pol,” in Yves-Marie Bercé, ed., Les procès politiques XIV e–XVII e siècles (Rome: École française de Rome, 2007), 145–155; Werner Paravicini, “Peur, pratiques, intelligences: Formes de l’opposition aristocratique à Louis XI d’après les interrogatoires du connétable de Saint-Pol,” in Bernard Chevalier and Philippe Contamine, eds., La France de la fin du XV e siècle. Renouveau et apogée (Paris: Éditions du CNRS, 1985), 183–196.

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allegiance to another lord, when his liege failed to live up to his part of the feudal contract. On the contrary, Louis XI, and his jurists, reinvented the concept of ­lese-majesty, taken from Roman law, and affirmed that all inhabitants of the kingdom were the French monarch’s subjects, bound to obedience, especially officers of the crown, such as the constable of France.62 Other great nobles also suffered trials similar to Saint-Pol’s in Louis XI’s quest for unchallenged authority.63 The fall of Saint-Pol exemplifies a case of hubris, because the constable wanted to alter the asymmetric relationship between himself and his masters. Saint-Pol, in Commynes’s judgement, made the mistake of trying to instill fear into Louis XI, knowing that, in his struggles against his powerful rebels, the French monarch depended on Saint-Pol’s border strongholds, military capabilities, and connections. Unfortunately, Saint-Pol misread the character of his masters: To continue my account of the constable, who perhaps wanted the king to fear him, or at least that is what I think, for I would not wish to accuse him and I speak about it to warn those, in the service of great princes, who have various understandings of worldly affairs, I would advise a friend, if I had one, to try his best to make himself loved by his master, not feared, for I never saw a gentleman, who had great authority over his lord, by means of holding him in fear, to whom misfortune did not befall, and that with his master’s consent.64 In order to express the downfall of a servant who unwisely wants to be feared by his master, Commynes uses the impersonal verb “mescheoir,” meaning a misfortune that befalls somebody. Etymologically, the verb is derived from the Old French “cheoir,” to fall, which gave the noun “chance.” Commynes’s phrasing oscillates between personal responsibility – Saint-Pol’s hubris – and impersonal forces – chance – in explaining the causation of his political downfall. 62 63 64

Lallemand (2007), 150. Simon Cuttler, The Law of Treason and Treason Trials in Later Medieval France (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981). Commynes (2007), 236: “Pour continuer mon propos de monsr le connestable, qui par adventure desiroit que le Roy le craignist, ou au moins je le cuyde, car je ne le vouldroys pas charger, et n’en parle sinon pour advertir ceulx qui sont aux services des grands princes, qui n’entendent pas tous d’une sorte les affaires de ce monde, je conseilleroye a ung mien amy, si je l’avoys, qu’il mist peyne que son maistre l’aymast, mais non point qu’il le craignist; car je ne veyz oncques homme ayent grand auctorité avecques son seigneur par le moyen de le tenir en craincte, a quil ne mescheut, et du consentement de son maistre.”

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Although Commynes advises courtiers on how to avoid kindling the ire of princes, he also suggests that, in the end, all science on how to behave at court cannot eliminate the element of chance. The motif of impersonal forces governing court society will reemerge towards the end of the fourth book of the memoirs, when Commynes recounts Saint-Pol’s last days. Drawing on the rich iconography of the goddess of luck as two-faced, Commynes initially says that Fortune regarded the once rich and powerful constable with her “evil face,” but then immediately amends the employment of this literary trope by explaining that “Fortune is a painted fiction,” and that Saint-Pol suffered his terrible fate probably because God left him on account of his role in the prolongation of the state of war between Charles and Louis XI.65 If it were not for Saint-Pol’s fall from God’s grace, how else, asks the narrator, could two powerful princes like Charles and Louis XI, who never agreed on anything, concur in wanting the constable’s death? Even Edward IV, with whom the constable had strong family ties, agreed to SaintPol’s pitiful fate. Besides, Saint-Pol received countless hints that his end was being sentenced, yet he accepted at face value Charles’s promises of safety, and he refused to flee, sufficient proofs that God clouded his judgement. Commynes suggests that there is always limited room to maneuver for the servant whose master plots his destruction, just as there is also divine retribution for a dishonest prince, such as Charles the Bold was when he promised safe-­conduct to the desperate Saint-Pol. Charles’s misfortunes would start immediately after Saint-Pol’s arrest in 1475, and he would meet his own death two years later. In truth, more than self-interested servants like Saint-Pol or parvenu court favorites like Olivier, Commynes criticizes princes who are unable to judge for themselves what is in their best interest, but follow blindly the advice of their mignons, as did Henry IV of Castile, and also Louis XI’s brother, Charles de France, duke of Berry (1446–1472). The latter had joined Charles the Bold in the War of the Public Weal, but took all of his important decisions only on the advice of Odet d’Aydie (c. 1425–1490), his favorite courtier. Louis XI exploited his brother’s vulnerability and promised Odet a great fortune if he persuaded his brother to accept Guyenne and La Rochelle as apanage. Charles

65

Commynes (2007), 307–308: “Que dirons nous icy de Fortune?... Il fault respondre que Fortune n’est riens fors seullement une fiction paincte, et qu’i failloit que Dieu l’eust abandonné…je diroye que ce que raisonnablement devoit avoir esté cause de sa punition estoit que tousjours avoit travaillé de toute sa puissance que la guerre durast entre le Roy et ledict duc.” See Florence Buttay-Jutier, Fortuna: Usages politiques d’une allégorie morale à la Renaissance (Paris: PUPS, 2008), and Yasmina Foehr-Janssens and Emmanuelle Métry, eds., La Fortune: Thèmes, représentations, discours (Geneva: Droz, 2003).

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the Bold wanted his ally to take possession of Champagne and Brye, because this would have united their interests more closely, and together they could have better protected themselves against Louis XI. Odet convinced instead Charles de France to accept Louis XI’s proposition. By accepting his court favorite’s advice without judging what was better for himself, Charles de France effectively isolated himself from the duke of Burgundy, and his position of power was weakened. Commynes does not here criticize Odet, whom he considers a man of exceptional intelligence, but Charles de France, who did nothing by himself and was “governed and led in everything by others even though he was t­ wenty-five years of age or more.”66 Commynes does not castigate the courtiers’ personal interests; quite the contrary: all successful political men in his narrative are those who understand and fulfill their own best interest regardless of their temporary social ties, such as the bond between a servant and his lord, which could be broken at any moment. When Odet sensed that Charles de France was about to die, he offered his services to François II, duke of Brittany, an ally of Charles. Judging that Odet’s qualities coupled with François’s military power would be a threat to his kingdom, Louis XI acted quickly and brought Odet to his court by offering him enticing titles and material advantages. Although everything looked like a transaction, Commynes notes that Louis XI had a good opinion of the c­ haracter of Odet (“bon jugement de la personne”), and did not fear rewarding him too much, because he appreciated him as a “man of honor,” who did not help the English nor had he consented to give them places in Normandy, against the best interests of the French kingdom.67 In other words, Odet pursued his own agenda, the interests of his master, the king’s brother , and did not harm the French body politic in the process: all interests remained in equilibrium. Odet accepted Louis’s offer and would “remain a good and loyal servant.”68 Nothing in Odet’s portrait is negative even though he passed into the service of his former master’s enemy and negotiated his newfound loyalty for a hefty pension and many other sources of revenue. The text abounds here in lofty words such as honor, wisdom (“sense”), and loyalty, but everything looks like a bargain, and Commynes (and Louis XI, for that matter) expresses no moral strictures. Besides, this would have been dissonant with Commynes’s own situation: he passed in the service of Louis XI a few months after Odet, 66 67 68

Commynes (2007), 160: “Charles estoit homme qui peu ou riens faisoit de luy, mais en toutes chouses estoit manyé et conduict par autre, combien qu’il fust aagé de vingt cinq ans ou plus.” Commynes (2007), 227. Commynes (2007), 228.

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and, although Commynes does not list the titles and honors that he received in exchange, he underwent the same process of negotiating material riches for his loyalty and expertise.69 Such transactions might seem iniquitous to a modern reader, but Commynes was not a moral philosopher wielding abstract notions; as we have seen, his understanding of honor, titles, and favor is inseparable from very concrete, material rewards. Such transactions evince the fleeting nature of court relations and the absence of stable institutional ties that could protect a public servant from the vicissitudes of power. It is this utilitarian side of political transactions in the memoirs that has often been read as a sign of modernity. But already during the sixteenth century Commynes’s work was deemed ­positively modern. 3 Commynes as Historian and Political Thinker Sauvage lauded Commynes’s innovative work, although novelty was rarely a praiseworthy quality in medieval and early modern culture because of its perceived “disruptive potential.”70 We have also noted how Sleidan, in a fashion more typical of the humanist predilection to think of innovation as a renovation of an ancient genre, entitled Commynes’s work Commentarii. Ever since its earliest readings, Commynes’s memoirs have been regarded as a factual historical source and as a reservoir of political norms anchored in reality rather than in the moral idealizations present in both the historiography and the political manuals (chiefly mirrors for princes) of the Middle Ages. Starting with the early sixteenth century, the growth of both a historiography critical of its sources and an unidealized political literature parallels the rise of the religious divide in Europe with its need to distinguish between historical fact and fiction in Biblical studies, but also between politics and religion, and to draw valuable lessons for the survival of the crippled body politic. Commynes’s narrative style and certain of his views singled him out from the group of Burgundian memoirs, with which his work shared, otherwise, many compositional, structural and formal similarities. In terms of narrative technique and style, for instance, critics have remarked that Burgundian memoirists such as La Marche often offer a static and heroic

69 70

Dufournet (1969), 51–70. Sara Warneke, “A Taste for Newfangledness: The Destructive Potential of Novelty in Early Modern England,” The Sixteenth Century Journal, 26:4 (1995), 881–896.

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representation of their main characters.71 Charles’s deeds exemplify for La Marche ideas of prudence, courage, force, and temperance, the four traditional virtues associated with an ideal prince. By comparison, Commynes states at the beginning of his memoirs that his depiction of rulers is not always flattering because princes are men like us. After all, Commynes experienced not only Charles’s wrath after he left his camp, but also Louis XI’s abandonment, when, on his deathbed, the French monarch expressed his wish that Commynes’s illegitimately-held properties be returned to their rightful owners.72 Commynes had no reason to idealize or excessively celebrate his former patrons in a manuscript work that first circulated amongst his descendants.73 In terms of social values, the difference between the two Burgundian memoirists is also salient. Imbued with a chivalric culture, La Marche takes pleasure in recounting heraldic history, hunting, jousting, and knightly tournaments. Commynes, on the other hand, mentions Charles VIII and his entourage participating in endless jousts and tournaments during their Italian campaign as a sign of immaturity and dangerous idleness at a time when their enemies were regrouping.74 While chivalric values did not disappear in the sixteenth century, especially in France, where they had a powerful grip on the aristocratic imagination, they had little to do with the military revolution happening around the same time.75 Commynes was much more concerned with the latter, and early modern readers did not fail to recognize this interest in useful information over chivalric dithyrambs. Blanchard has aptly emphasized Commynes’s penchant for profitable action and political expediency, sometimes in contravention of morality.76 Early modern readers conceived of history as a source of useful examples for political behavior. They craved political doctrines that emphasized usefulness over unrealistic moral ideals, and they found in Commynes’s memoirs ample material to illustrate practical moral-political norms. Commynes attracted early on the interest of some of the most prominent Italian historians of the first half of the sixteenth century, such as Francesco Guicciardini and Paolo Giovio.77 Having seen Commynes’s history in the hands of the Emperor Charles V (1500–1558), François I of France (1494–1547), 71 72 73 74 75 76 77

Baumann (1981), 116. Blanchard (1996), 51. For a study of the manuscript tradition, see Blanchard in Commynes (2007), XXI–XXXVIII. Commynes (2007), 711. Geoffrey Parker, The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, ­1500–1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988). Blanchard (1996), 231–333. Franco Simone, “La prima fortuna di Commynes nella cultura italiana del Rinascimento,” Studi in onore di Carlo Pellegrini (Turin: Società Editrice Internazionale, 1963), 109–118.

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and Pope Clement VII (1478–1534), the Italian historian Paolo Giovio was so impressed by Commynes’s “beautiful, well-wrought, fair, and grave” writing that he asked Nicolas Raince (d. c. 1551) to translate it into Italian for the satisfaction and usefulness (“utilità”) of his Italian patrons.78 A former secretary of the French embassy in Rome, Nicolas Raince added to the second edition of this translation a lengthy address to his readers detailing the history of the troubled relations between the kings of France and the dukes of Burgundy.79 In the opening paragraph of the address, Raince praises the “usefulness” (“utilita”) of Commynes’s history for those who “are moderately well-versed in civil matters” (“ogni uno che sia mezanamente ammaestrato nelle cose civili”) because it contributes greatly to the knowledge of contemporary history (“ella fa assai per la cognitione delle cose di questi tempi ne’ quali noi siamo”).80 Raince lauds Commynes as a distinguished historian of the recent past and also designates his ideal readers: civil servants. This is a well-known conception of the usefulness of history that humanist could f­ ollow back to Polybius: But in fact it is hardly an exaggeration to say that all of my predecessors… have made this central to their work… by claiming not only that there is no more authentic way to prepare and train oneself for political life than by studying history, but also that there is no more comprehensible and comprehensive teacher of the ability to endure with courage the vicissitudes of Fortune than a record of others’ catastrophes.81 Commynes himself must have been aware of this humanist theme, because he came to hope, as we have seen above, that his own memoirs would be read by princes and courtiers. The political usefulness of Commynes’s Memoirs was being fully exploited by the late sixteenth century. Thomas Maissen links Commynes’s penchant for profitable action and political expediency, sometimes in contravention of morality, to the rise in humanist interest in Tacitus, the historian of the Roman 78

Paolo Giovio, Letter from 13 June 1545 to Stefano Colona, in Lettere volgari, ed. Lodovico Domenichi (Venice: Battista and Sessa, 1560); Simone (1963), 115. 79 Emile Picot, Les Français italianisants au XVI e siècle, vol. 1 (Paris: Champion, 1906), 79–94. 80 Commynes, La Historia famosa… delle guerre di Ludovico XI, re di Francia, transl. Nicolas Raince (Venice: Gironimo Giglio, 1559). The first edition appeared in 1544: Commynes, La Historia famosa… delle guerre e costumi di Ludovico undecimo, re di Francia, transl. Nicolas Raince (Venice: Tramezino, 1544). 81 Polybius (2010), 3.

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Empire, whose reading gave gave early modern scholars the possibility of discussing Machiavelli’s dangerous theses without directly quoting the Florentine author, who had been put on the Index of forbidden books by 1557.82 The historical accuracy of Commynes’s representation, the details of his biographies of Louis XI, Charles the Bold, and Charles VIII faded in the background. Political thinkers were interested in Commynes’s opinions on the behavior of princes, advisers, and courtiers, but also in Commynes’s views on institutions, chiefly his discussion of the legitimacy of assembling the Estates General and, thus, limiting royal power. The historical event that kindled the discussion on the nature and limits of royal authority in France was the Saint-Bartholomew’s Day massacre of thousands of Huguenots, first in Paris, and then in the rest of France in 1572. Numerous political treatises ensued with ideas ranging from the more traditional possibility of checking royal authority through representative institutions to the revolutionary thesis that tyrants could be lawfully overthrown. In his Francogallia, the Huguenot jurisconsult François Hotman (1524–1590) traces the history of the French monarchy (going back to the description of the body politic in ancient Gaul) to prove that the ultimate source of sovereignty in the history of the French polity had always rested with the assembly of the Estates General, which could rightfully oust an unjust monarch.83 He quotes Commynes with regard to the formation of the noble opposition to Louis XI’s authoritarian rule: “at the constant request of the people, nobles decided to raise armies to foster the public weal and protest against the king’s ruinous administration of the body politic (these are Ph. de Commynes’s words in bk. I ch. 2).”84 Hotman’s description of Louis XI as “very cunning” (“versutissimus”) in comparison to his predecessor is not far from Commynes’s description, except that Commynes does not attach a negative connotation to Louis XI’s versatility.85 Nor does Commynes support the idea that the nobles assembled on account of the common good were actually representing the grievances of the tax-burdened populace, as Hotman suggests. On the contrary, Commynes says that the ensuing war was waged “under the color of saying

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Thomas Maissen, “Le ‘commynnisme’ italien: Louis XI, héros de la Contre-Réforme,” ­ ibliothèque d’Humanisme et de Renaissance, 58: 2 (1996), 313–349. B François Hotman, Francogallia (Geneva: Jacob Stoerius, 1573); Baumann, 180–185. Hotman (1573), 140–141: “proceres regni assiduis plebis querimoniis et expostulationibus incitati, manus cogere exercitusque comparare instituerunt ut bonum publicum procurare, et regi perditam Reipublicae administrationem (verba sunt Philippi Comini lib. I cap. 2).” Hotman (1573), 140.

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(‘soubz couleur de dire’) that it was done for the public good of the kingdom,” but that it would not take much for it to become the private good of a few.86 Another Huguenot jurist, Innocent Gentillet (c. 1532–1535) published anonymously, in 1576, a more moderate Discourse on the Means of Good Government, known later as the Anti-Machiavelli.87 The work is an exercise in misreading and xenophobia: Gentillet puts forward a series of maxims that allegedly summarize Machiavelli’s thought in order to refute them, and he blames the Italian circle around the queen-mother Catherine de Médicis (1519–1589) for importing into France the Machiavellian maxims that supposedly led to the massacre. Gentillet believes that the French monarch, although otherwise above the law, could not issue decrees going against divine law and the three fundamental laws of the kingdom: the Salic law of succession to the throne of France, the legitimacy of the Estates General, and the inalienability of the crown’s territory.88 Gentillet asserts that only gentlemen with rich political experience should write books on political science. Aware of his own inconsequential career, Gentillet states that he is not composing so much a treatise on the best government as a refutation of the “tyrannical science” of Machiavelli, another author of minor political experience who dared give his opinions on grave political matters.89 Not only was Machiavelli’s political experience insubstantial, but, in Gentillet’s opinion, Machiavelli was also a poor reader of historians. Gentillet posits Commynes as an example of an experienced “knight and chamberlain” with an understanding of the government of a great kingdom far superior to that of Machiavelli, his Florentine contemporary, who could not have governed well even a “petty castellany.”90 Gentillet quotes and glosses Commynes at more length for his take on the Estates General with the exact book and chapter number of the reference given in the margins.91 Commynes believed that it was perfectly legitimate to 86 87

88 89 90

91

Commynes (2007), 10. Innocent Gentillet, Discours sur les moynes de bien gouverner… Contre Nicolas Machiavel Florentin (Geneva: Jacob Stoer, 1576); Antonio D’Andrea, “The Political and Ideological Context of Innocent Gentillet’s Anti-Machiavel,” Renaissance Quarterly, 23:4 (Winter, 1970), 397–411. Baumann (1981), 187–193. Gentillet (1576), 3. Gentillet (1576), 13: “…Philippe de Commines Chevalier et Chambellan du Roy Louis XI qui a vescu du mesme temps que Machaivel, lequel entendoit mieux comment il faut gouverner les affaires d’un grand Royaume que Machiavel, lequel n’entendit jamais comment il faut gouverner les affaires d’une simple chastellenie.” Gentillet (1576), 47.

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a­ ssemble the Estates, and that sovereigns should always consult the Estates General before waging a new war and imposing new taxes because the people were directly affected by the cost of war, and doing otherwise was a sign of “tyranny and violence.”92 Among all the governments that he knew about, Commynes singled out England, where the power of the king was checked by representative bodies.93 Gentillet retains Commynes’s basic point but then amplifies it in a scholastic manner by distinguishing between “absolute” and “civil power,” terms that are absent from Commynes’s political vocabulary, which never reaches such a level of abstraction nor does it make such implicit distinctions.94 Both Hotman and Gentillet quote Commynes by carefully giving the book and chapter numbers of their references. Sometimes, they retain the substance of Commynes’s opinions, but they have no qualms in systematically tweaking and distorting the author’s intention, when it does not fit their own political agenda. Gentillet’s contrasting treatment of Commynes and Machiavelli prefigures, nevertheless, the parallels typically drawn between the two authors in later centuries.95 Commynes’s memoirs would often suffer a fate similar to Machiavelli’s works: they would be reduced to abstract political maxims with no consideration for their historical background and Commynes’s intention. For instance, the Protestant theologian Lambert Daneau (c. 1530–1595) extracted a series of political maxims for the good government from ancient Greek and Latin historians but also from Commynes, the only modern author included in Daneau’s political anthology.96 Commynes’s precepts follow those of Tacitus.97 The precepts are numbered, and each is followed by the chapter and sometimes book number, while their original historical context is eliminated. For example, Daneau writes: “Wars between powerful princes are easily kindled, they are difficult to appease. Commynes ch. 33.”98 No attention is given to the context in which Commynes expressed this opinion. There is another modern author whom Daneau mentions: Machiavelli, but the Florentine humanist is lambasted and excluded from the list of acceptable 92 93 94 95 96 97 98

Commynes (2007), 408. Commynes (2007), 409. Gentillet (1576), 47. Dreyer (1951), 38. Lambert Daneau, Politicorum Aphorismorum Silva (Antwerp: Christophe Plantin, 1583); Maissen (1996), 318. Daneau (1583), 403–430. Daneau (1583), 406: “Bella inter Principes potentes facile excitantur, difficile inter eosdem sedantur. Comminius cap. 33.”

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political authorities. The presence of Commynes alongside Tacitus and the ritualistic disparagement of Machiavellian politics seem to substantiate Maissen’s claim that Commynes and Tacitus were substitutes for a discussion of Machiavellian themes. However, most precepts that Daneau chooses to display respect Commynes’s more traditional interventionist views, according to which, for instance, God punishes unjust princes.99 The secularization of political theory was not a straightforward process, but the presence of historians such as Tacitus and Commynes, with their disenchanted and morally neutral portraits of cunning rulers, gradually opened up the field of political thought beyond traditional providential views. The tendency to transform Commynes’s memoirs into a reservoir of political maxims was generalized by the beginning of the seventeenth century. Pierre Matthieu, for instance, also collected a series of political precepts from Commynes’s Mémoires in his own History of Louis XI, which ends with a table of “Political maxims, judgements and observations of Philippes de Commynes, seigneur d’Argenton, on the life, reign, and deeds of Louis XI and other different occurrences.”100 Commynes’s own memoirs were often edited with similar tables of political maxims.101 Early modern readers were less and less interested in the accuracy of the account, and looked to Commynes’s memoirs for moral-political maxims supported by examples. If the first French readers such as Bodin, Hotman and Gentillet were preoccupied mostly with the possibility that representative institutions check royal power, Italian political thinkers preferred Commynes’s description of the prince’s means of government, his “individual ethics.”102 Virtually no early modern reader showed any interest in the vagaries of ­Commynes’s personal life. Adrianna E. Bakos considers that Commynes’s enormous posthumous success was due to his “ambiguous views on constitutional issues” that allowed for theorists of both absolutism and constitutionalism to quote him, but also to his political “pragmatism.”103 Commynes considered monarchs who levied taxes without consulting their subjects to be tyrants, but he also held the “naïve” assumption that the Estates General would not refuse to help their prince.104

99 Daneau (1583), 407: “Principum fraus punitur a Deo.” 100 Pierre Matthieu, Histoire de Louys XI roy de France (Paris, 1610), 573–604. 101 Commynes, Le Memorie, transl. Lorenzo Conti (Brescia: Fontana, 1612); Maissen (1996), 321. 102 Maissen (1996), 331. 103 Adrianna E. Bakos, Images of Kingship in Early Modern France: Louis XI in Political Thought (1560–1789) (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), 18. 104 Bakos (1997), 18.

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Commynes did not consider the role of the Estates General as limiting, but merely consultative. Unlike his late sixteenth-century readers, Commynes does not venture into a historical analysis of representative institutions nor does he employ the technical distinctions between absolute and civil power, which Gentillet, for instance, made. If sovereigns behaved tyrannically, Commynes firmly believed that God, not the power of institutions, would humble them by raising powerful enemies.105 But Commynes’s ubiquitous invocation of God as the supreme cause in history does not stem from a strict and ­consistent moral stance. The author appreciated Louis XI’s wisdom, but the meaning he attached to the word “wise” (“saige”) revolves around military experience, ruse, subtlety, and dissimulation, quite different from Christian moral virtues.106 Commynes’s concrete, materialistic moral-religious notions permitted early modern readers to interpret his political opinions in quite divergent ways. 4 Commynes’s Modernity Most modern critics still consider Commynes as a forerunner of modern political science. Sainte-Beuve called Commynes a “softer Machiavelli” (“un Machiavel en douceur”), suggesting that he anticipated the Florentine political thinker’s amoral mirror for princes first published posthumously in 1532.107 At times, Commynes views honor in strictly utilitarian terms. In his opinion, Charles the Bold met his death because, among other mistakes, he wanted posterity to remember him alongside the great men of Antiquity, of whom he had learned from books of history. In the end, notes Commynes, everything he did turned out completely otherwise, to his shame, “for those who win always get the honor.”108 Commynes uses here a well-known proverb.109 But its presence in the memoirs with regard to the death of one of the most powerful princes in late-fifteenth-century Europe is significant. The saying immediately brings 105

106 107

108 109

Commynes (1997), 49–50: “…car quant les princes ou royaulmes on esté en longues prosperités et richesses et ilz ont mescongnoissance dont procede telle grace, Dieu leur dresse ung ennemy ou ennemithié dont nul ne se doubteroit, come vous pouvéz veoir par ces roys nomméz en la Bible.” Blanchard (1996), 222. Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, Causeries du lundi, vol. 1 (Paris: 1857), 250; Jean Liniger, Philippe de Commynes: ‘Un Machiavel en douceur’ (Paris: Perrin, 1978); André Stegmann, “Commynes et Machiavel,” Studies on Machiavelli, ed. Piper Myron Gilmore (Florence: Sansoni, 1972), 265–283. Commynes (2007), 357. Blanchard in Commynes (2007), 1119.

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to mind and contradicts the Ciceronian dichotomy between the useful and the honorable (utile-honestum), advanced most notably in the work On Duties, arguably the most influential text for the political literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Commynes probably knew or heard about Cicero’s treatment of the useful and the honorable indirectly from the vernacular political literature of his day, which was largely a Christianized version of Ciceronian ideals. In Cicero’s view, both humans and animals are endowed with a natural instinct for self-preservation. This is why both are self-centered and seek what is beneficial, or useful (utile), to them. But humans, unlike animals, cannot live happily outside of a just society. Hence, they need to lead a moral life (­honestum), and the highest moral value is thus social justice. Consequently, what is useful should also be honorable, and it is one’s duty to put society and justice ahead of personal interests. Cicero rarely discussed the possibility that following moral precepts could sometimes threaten the republic and that expediency might save it.110 When evaluating Charles the Bold’s fate, Commynes distances himself from Ciceronian ideals, and comes very close to Machiavelli’s much more elaborate reasoning.111 But the memoirist’s ideas were not always clear and certainly not immutable. As noted above, Commynes considered the outcome of wars as ultimately depending on God. Therefore, winning or losing a battle and thus gaining honor or shame can never be devoid of a moral meaning that ordinary people might not immediately understand. Besides, Commynes himself expresses, on other occasions, his preference for the honestum over the utile. For instance, after the death of Charles the Bold, Louis XI planned to dismantle the Duchy of Burgundy and portion it out among his friends. Louis judged this course of action “more useful for his kingdom” (“plus utile à son royuaulme”) than trying to put an end to the enmity between France and Burgundy through

110 Cicero, De officiis (3.81), transl. Walter Miller (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1913), 352–354; Richard Tuck, Philosophy and Government: 1572–1651 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 1–30. 111 Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 54–55 (ch. XV, ed. Quentin Skinner and Russell Price): “But because I want to write what will be useful… it seems to me better to concentrate on what really happens rather than on theories and speculations. For many have imagined republics and principalities that have never been seen or known to exist. However, how men live is so different from how they should live that a ruler who does not do what is generally done, but persists in doing what ought to be done, will undermine his power rather than maintain it. If a ruler who wants always to act honorably is surrounded by many unscrupulous men his downfall is inevitable. Therefore, a ruler who wishes to maintain his power must be prepared to act immorally when this becomes necessary.”

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some peaceful, legal solution like marrying his son to the heiress of the House of Burgundy.112 Commynes notes that, in terms of worldly affairs, Louis XI’s intention of dividing Burgundy seemed wise, but, “with regard to conscience,” it was not.113 Here the dichotomy useful-conscience falls within the more traditional view on the subject. Commynes’s political notions, therefore, vary with the context, the people involved, and their application: Charles’s obsession with honor over practicality and Louis XI’s recourse to usefulness over conscience are ultimately both detrimental because they are excessive. Many of the political men present in Commynes’s memoirs are driven by amoral or even immoral, self-centered motives that Commynes does not clearly condemn. For instance, Commynes evaluates the peace meeting between Edward IV of England and Louis XI of France as a site of lies and insincere promises: “Few of the promises made there were kept. They made efforts to dissimulate and did not go to war again (also the sea was between them), but they were never good friends.”114 The image of princes endeavoring to make false promises and hide their real intentions does not fit well with the more theological notion that they hold their offices by divine right nor with the late-medieval context of largely oral societies where the given word was one of the highest values and dissimulation a shameful vice condemned without reservation in most of the political and moral literature of the day.115 Commynes neither eulogizes nor condemns the two dissimulating sovereigns; instead he extracts a more general political law: princes should never meet in person because such meetings most often generate enmity. It is this type of morally neutral insights that has led modern scholars to describe Commynes’s narrative as a “destruction of myths,” his portraits of sovereigns and politics as “desacralization,” his moral stance as “relative,” or “skeptical,” etc.116 Such proofs of Commynes’s modernity presuppose the notion of a

112 113 114 115

116

Commynes (2007), 370. Commynes (2007), 370–317: “Quant au monde, il y avoit grand apparence en ce que ledict seigneur disoit; mais quant a la consicence me sembloit le contraire.” Commynes (2007), 131: “Il se tint peu de choses qui y furent promises. Ilz besongnerent en dissimulation et n’eurent plus de guerre (aussi la mer estoit entre deux), mais parfaicte amytié n’y eust il jamais.” For a comprehensive bibliography on dissimulation see Jean-Pierre Cavaillé, “Bibliographie: Mensonge, tromperie, simulation et dissimulation,” Les Dossiers du Grihl. Les ­dossiers de Jean-Pierre Cavaillé. Secret et mensonge. Essais et comptes rendus, 2012 (http:// journals.openedition.org/dossiersgrihl/2103: Web, 28 June 2020). Blanchard (1996), 231–283; Liniger (1978), 40–66; Irit Ruth Kleiman, Philippe de Commynes: Memory, Betrayal, Text (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013), 4; Dufournet (1966), 13.

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diminished Christian faith. How, then, to account for the constant invocation of God in the memoirs? Is it just a rhetorical stance devoid of commitment? Commynes employs a language that is neither very precise nor abstract. Religion is not an exception. All Christians of Commynes’s time were perfectly aware that the purpose of life was salvation, that this is implied the redemption of sins, and that deliverance was attained through confession. Individual confession at least once a year became a universal Christian requirement after the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), and manuals on how to confess proliferated thereafter.117 The link between the development of confessional literature and the appearance of an inward-looking subjectivity has long been proposed.118 But Commynes confesses none of his sins in his memoirs, and does not follow the narrative patterns available in the confessional manuals so widespread during his time in both Latin and the vernacular.119 The French-Burgundian author modeled his autobiographical work on different narrative models that had weak connections to confessional literature: in the rare instances when he quotes authorities, they are mostly historians, not theologians or Church fathers, and certainly not Augustine’s Confessions. Nonetheless, he does refer to confession in a particular moment of his narrative: the last years of his benefactor Louis XI. Three years before his death, Louis XI had a stroke and lost his power of speech for a few days. He called Commynes to serve him as chamber valet, a sign of “great honor,” adds Commynes who also claims to have been the ­servant who best understood Louis’s broken speech, and whom Louis used as his ­interpreter during his illness.120 Commynes also translated Louis’s confession to his priest, although, observes Commynes, Louis did not have much to say because he had confessed just a few days before, as he had touched people who suffered from scrofula; the custom required that French sovereigns confess before performing this weekly miracle, of which Commynes had the ­highest opinion.121 117 118 119 120 121

Michael E. Cornett, The Form of Confession: A Later Medieval Genre for Examining ­Conscience, PhD Dissertation (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2011). Michel Foucault, Histoire de la sexualité, vol. 1 (Paris: Gallimard, 1976), 79; Matthew Senior, In the Grip of Minos: Confessional Discourse in Dante, Corneille and Racine (Columbus: Ohio University Press, 1994), 28–29. Cornett (2011), 205–721. Commynes (2007), 461. Commynes (2007), 461: “Il n’avoit pas grans parolles a dire, car il s’estoit confessé peu de jours par avant, pour ce que, quant les roys de France veullent toucher les mallades des escrouelles, ilz se confessent, et nostre roy n’y faillit jamais une foiz la sepmaine. Si les aultres ne le font, ilz font tres mal, car tousjours y a largement malades.”

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Commynes’s comment about over-confession shows that he had a very quantitative approach to this sacrament. Louis’s desire to confess was in fact not atypical for a late-medieval layman. By the end of the Middle Ages there was widespread concern about dying unshriven and thus missing salvation by accident, as it were.122 Moreover, the nature and range of sins increased in complexity and nuance especially after the Fourth Lateran Council, when the attention of penitential literature shifted from actual deeds to intention.123 Louis’s anxiety on his deathbed was therefore quite understandable for a Christian man, but Commynes refers to it as an example of a general law: the fearful nature of princes and their torments before death, especially those princes like Louis XI who wanted, throughout their lives, to be feared and obeyed.124 Commynes comment about Louis XI confessing too much clearly betrays an economic view of spirituality as a transaction, an exchange: sins are strictly correlated to deeds and they can be redeemed in full through penitence and confession; there is no need to confess once a week, since not enough sins can be committed in such a short time span. Commynes’s memoirs and maybe his entire mental universe was alien to the relatively new Christian anxieties related to the impenetrable, deep-seated soul, teeming with uncontrollable thoughts and desires that only God knows, a part of the soul, theorized in post-thirteenth-century penitential literature, that seems to anticipate the modern unconscious.125 Far from suggesting a diminished faith and religious skepticism, Commynes’s concrete, quantitative notions of confession and religious behavior are perfectly in accordance with his view of successful political men, who make profitable transactions and find points of equilibrium between different interests. Rather than a sign of modernity, understood as secularization, the memoirs’ view of religion was that of the courtly universe that was all too familiar to Commynes. This courtly context does not align well with its typical caricature found in anti-curial literature as a site of immorality and faithlessness. On the contrary, Commynes disproves of irreverence towards holy men, for instance. He disagrees with the people who, mimicking Louis XI, mockingly called “holy man,” the hermit Francis of Paola (1416–1507) from Calabria, reputed for his God-given wisdom unaided by education, whom Louis XI invited to France 122 Peter von Moos, “Occulta cordis: Contrôle de soi et confession au Moyen Âge (II),” Médiévales, 30 (1996), 117–137. 123 Gabriela Badea, “Confessio Cordis and Landscapes of the Heart in Henry of Lancaster’s Livre des Seyntz Medicines,” Reading Medieval Studies, 43 (2017), 1–29. 124 Commynes (2007), 498–511. 125 Von Moos (1995), 131–140.

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with great pomp to beg him to pray for the prolongation of his life.126 Commynes accuses the scoffers of ignoring Louis XI’s wisdom and knowledge about Francis of Paola; the memoirist admits himself that “never [has he] seen a living person of such a saintly life,” as if the “Holy Ghost spoke through his mouth.”127 In fact, Francis of Paola produced a lasting impression on other high ranked French nobles, particularly, Louise de Savoie, who would successfully obtain Francis of Paola’s sanctification in 1519, as we shall see in the next chapter. In short, Commynes’s religious beliefs were quite in tune with the courtly mentality of the late-fifteenth century. Commynes’s courtly autobiography, therefore, has few points of contact with modern Christian devotion, but also modern autobiography and subjectivity, the substance of the most recent literature on Commynes. Since open self-reflection is uncharacteristic of Commynes’s writing, contemporary interest and discussion of subjectivity in his memoirs has essentially focused on Commynes’s representation of his personal ties (or, in Irit Kleiman’s words, Commynes’s “narrative of self-through-subjection”), particularly with Charles the Bold and Louis XI.128 The main point of contention on this topic has been whether Commynes betrayed or not his first master Charles the Bold. For Dufournet, the memoirs omit and distort facts that might incriminate the author, whose main motivation in writing was to exculpate himself from possible accusations of treason.129 Among early modern readers, only a Flemish historian, Jacques de Meyer condemned Commynes for leaving his Burgundian lord and for having written lies.130 This story only reemerged during the Enlightenment, in Voltaire’s works.131 This is why Blanchard insisted on placing the question in historical context. In truth, changing allegiances was quite common at the end of the fifteenth century when feudal bonds became weak; besides, Commynes left Charles the Bold for Louis XI, who was Charles’s sovereign: it is highly unlikely that the burden of betrayal bothered Commynes too 126

Commynes (2007), 473. Christine Bousquet-Labouérie, “François de Paule et les c­ hroniqueurs français de la fin du xve siècle,” in Saint François de Paule et les Minimes en France de la fin du XV e au XVIII e siècle, eds. André Vauchez and Pierre Benoist (Tours: Presse Universitaire François Rabelais, 2010), 37–47. 127 Commynes (2007), 472–473. 128 Kleiman (2013), 4. 129 Jean Dufournet, La Destruction des Mythes dans les ‘Memoires’ de Philippes de Commynes (Geneva: Droz, 1966). 130 Meyer (1561), 366; Frédéric de Reiffenberg, “Notice sur Jacques Meyer, historien belge,” ­Bulletin de la Société de l’histoire de France, 2: 1 (1835), 222–226. 131 Voltaire, Essai sur les moeurs, ch. 94, in Œuvres complètes, vol. 7 (Paris: Hachette, 1859), 515; Kleiman (2013), 40.

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much, or that it constituted the hidden motif of his memoirs.132 Kleiman proposes to leave aside the question of truth in discussing betrayal, and focus on its representations and interpretations.133 She points out that, in a way, Louis XI also betrayed Commynes, when, on his deathbed, the French sovereign asked for the Talmont property, which he had previously donated to Commynes, to be returned to its rightful owners, the La Trémoïlle family.134 Evidently, questions of betrayal and treason are far from univocal. In this chapter, I have suggested that such questions as trust and betrayal need to be understood as particular topics of a more general theme: princely favor and disfavor, so characteristic of the court society in which Commynes had lived, and for which he wrote his memoirs. By doing so, I have sought to avoid the modern psychological overload of the word betrayal, and better approximate the courtly stakes of Commynes’s memoirs. 132 133 134

Joël Blanchard, “Commynes n’a pas ‘trahi’: pour en finir avec une obsession critique,” Revue du Nord, 2: 380 (2009), 327–360. Kleiman (2013), 45. Kleiman (2013), 15.

CHAPTER 3

Louise de Savoie (1476–1531) and Her Diary The so-called Diary of Louise de Savoie has interested historians for its invaluable information about the early years of her son François I’s reign. Since Louise expresses criticism of religious orders in her diary, scholars have mostly probed her notes for her beliefs and their influence on the attitude of the royal ­family towards Reform of the Church in France as Lutheranism began to spread. They have argued either that Louise was actively engaged in pre-Reformation movements, or, on the contrary, that she did not stray away from Catholicism, and, in the latter case, they have sought to pinpoint her position with regard to the struggle for preeminence between the Gallican Church and the Holy See.1 A vexing point in the secondary literature on the diary is Louise’s habit of giving dates with precise hours and minutes for many of the events narrated. All scholars concur in explaining the chronometric strictness through Louise’s interest in astrology: she was “superstitious.”2 Yet most scholars also strive to reduce the importance of astrology in the diary or simply avoid the topic altogether, probably fearing the stigma of pseudo-science associated with this early modern system of beliefs. Thus, we do not know what the preoccupations of Louise’s astrologers were around 1522, when the last line of the diary was written. My argument is that the so-called diary was a collaborative work written in response to specific events that reflect both Louise and her astrologers’ interests resting on their deep-seated belief in the existence of a rational order of time. The separation between early modern astrology and religion is artificial. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, they still formed a nexus with a long medieval tradition that Pierre Duhem has rightly called “Christian ­astrology.”3 Most theologians and humanists agreed upon its core tenets: that God worked through secondary causes (the stars and planets); that the heavens influenced the bodies under the moon (not without room for contingency); and that they had no power over the human soul (even though they shaped one’s temperament). 1 Gordon Griffiths, “Louise of Savoy and Reform of the Church,” The Sixteenth Century Journal, 10:3 (1979), 28–36; Marie Holban, “Le journal de Louise de Savoie et François de Moulins,” Revue roumaine d’histoire, 28:4 (1989), 451–464; Anne-Marie Lecoq, François Ier imaginaire: Symbolique et politique à l’aube de la Renaissance française (Paris: Macula, 1987), 90 and 101. 2 Henri Hauser, “Le Journal de Louise de Savoie,” Revue historique, 86: 4 (1904), 298, 302. 3 Pierre Duhem, Le Système du monde, vol. 8, ch.13 (Paris: Hermann, 1958), 347–442; William Lilly, Christian Astrology (London: Partridge and Blunden, 1647). © koninklijke brill nv, leideN, 2021 | DOI:10.1163/9789004459557_004

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I propose to explore Louise’s diary in connection with the work of her astrologers, for whom such very precise chronological notation was crucial for casting horoscopes. Louise’s case was not singular: some of the oldest extant autobiographies were originally conceived as astrological diaries, and one of the most famous autobiographies of the sixteenth century, Gerolamo Cardano’s Life (1576), followed the traditional divisions of astrological houses.4 Remarkable in Louise’s diary is the degree of collaboration between Louise and her astrologers, which makes it impossible to state clearly who the real author of the diary notes was. Unlike Cardano, Louise herself was not an astrologer, and she relied on the knowledge of her court astrologers; the diary notes reveal these astrologers’ own personal preoccupations, which, in turn, actively shaped the form and contents of Louise’s notes and worldview. The original purpose of the notes was forgotten in the passage from the manuscript tradition to the printing press. The first editors gave the text its initial title, which in turn suggested a genre and an apparent unity that the so-called diary never in fact had. For the purpose of my general argument, Louise’s case shows one of the most important and widely ignored reasons for diary writing in Europe: astrology. Louise de Savoie was born 1476 in Pont-d’Ain and, aged eleven, was married to Charles d’Orléans (1459–1496), who belonged to a cadet branch of the Valois dynasty.5 According to a legend made famous by Hilarion de Coste (1595–1661), a friar of the Order of Minims, after several years without being able to bear a child, Louise de Savoie consulted Francis of Paola (1416–1507), the Italian hermit reputed for his piety and miracles, who founded the Order of Minim Friars with the support of kings Louis XI and Charles VIII. Francis prophesized that Louise would have two children, and that the boy would become king of France. Louise vowed to name the boy after Francis of Assisi, Francis of Paola’s patron saint.6 Part of the prophecy having come true with the birth of her daughter 4 Carlos Steel, Steven Vanden Broecke, David Juste and Shlomo Sela, eds., The Astrological Autobiography of a Medieval Philosopher: Henry Bate’s Nativitas: 1280–81 (Leuven: ­Leuven ­University Press, 2018); Girolamo Cardano, De Propria vita liber (Paris: J. Villery, 1643); Anthony Grafton, Cardano’s Cosmos: the Worlds and Works of a Renaissance Astrologer (­Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999); Darin Hayton, The Crown and the Cosmos: Astrology and the Politics of Maximilian I (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015); Nancy Siraisi, ­History, Medicine, and the Traditions of Renaissance Learning (Ann Arbor: ­University of ­Michigan Press, 2007), 106–133. 5 Robert J. Knecht, Francis I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 3. 6 Hilarion de Coste, Les éloges et les vies reynes, princesses et dames illustres en piété, en courage et en doctrine (Paris: Cramoisy, 1630), 380; Marie-Ange Boitel-Souriac,“François de Paule, intercesseur pour la prospérité du couple royal ?” in Saint François de Paule et les Minimes en France de la fin du XV e au XVIII e siècle, eds. André Vauchez and Pierre Benoist (Tours: Presse Universitaire François Rabelais, 2010), 27–36.

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­Marguerite in 1492, and of her son François in 1494, she started to believe that the throne of France would indeed come to her son. Important to note here is that Louise was fifteen years old, when she gave birth to Marguerite, and, therefore, the story of her lengthy infertility and the need to consult Francis of Paola for intermission is a pious lie made to glorify the founder of the Order of the Minims.7 At the most, Francis of Paola might have made an educated guess that Louise would bear a male child that would become king of France, but certainly performed now miracle against infertility. After the death of his wife Anne de Bretagne (1477–1514), Louis XII betrothed his daughter Claude to Louise’s son, François, who became king of France in January 1515. Shortly after his coronation, François I named Louise regent as he was preparing the expedition to Italy, which culminated with the capture of Milan. François named initially the Constable Charles de Bourbon (1490–1527) governor in Milan, a decision that he would change in March 1516 in favor of the more manageable Odet de Foix, viscount of Lautrec (1485–1528). Charles de Bourbon’s disconsolation would only grow once he returned to France. His wife, Suzanne, the duchess of Bourbon, died in 1521. Louise set her eyes on the Duchy of Bourbon, and claimed that, as the nearest relative, she had legal rights over it. Louise is rumored to have first made a marriage proposal to Charles to unite their fortunes, which Charles refused, citing the age difference (he was fourteen years younger).8 Louise sought legal adjudication of her claims over the duchy from the Parliament of Paris. Seeing no hope in winning the trial against such a powerful foe, the constable began courting the alliance of Emperor Charles V (1500–1558) and Henry VIII of England (1491–1547). In 1523, Charles de Bourbon fled France, and came into the service of Charles V: together they would defeat and capture François I at the Battle of Pavia in February 1525. Louise served again as regent during her son’s captivity in Madrid until his release in March 1526, though, among other humiliations, his two sons would be held hostage until 1529, when the “Paix des Dames,” negotiated and signed by Louise de Savoie and Charles V’s aunt, Marguerite of Austria (1480–1530), effectively put an end to François I’s ambitions in Italy. Louise would die in ­September 1531. Almost a century later, the biographer Hilarion de Coste emphasized, in his eulogy of Louise, the generosity, which, in appreciation of Francis of Paola’s spiritual guidance, she had showed towards the mendicant order.9 The belief in prophecy, the intercession of saints, portents, and 7 Pierre Bayle, Dictionnaire historique et critique, vol. 6 (Paris: Desoer, 1820), 561–562 and ­ 578–579. 8 Coste (1630), 381; Pauline Matarasso, Queen’s Mate: Three Women of Power in France on the Eve of the Renaissance (Aldershot; Burlington; Singapore; Sydney: Ashgate, 2001), 288. 9 Coste (1630), 384.

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astrology were a constant preoccupation in Louise’s life and, as I will show, the main focus of her diary, or rather the notes that initially accompanied her book of prayers and were then collected into a separate text conventionally called ­Journal or Mémoires. Let us examine the complicated history of this text, as this question is far from settled and promises to broaden our knowledge of diary keeping in general. 1

From Notes to Diary

The text of Louise’s diary is preserved in three versions (two manuscripts and a printed text), most probably independent copies of the same original manuscript, which is now lost.10 The earliest copy, judging by its late sixteenth-early seventeenth-century handwriting belonged Philibert de la Mare (1615–1687), who collated Louise’s text and described the original manuscript: “Extracted from the memoirs written at the end of each month of the calendar of [a] certain [book of] hours very well written by hand on small leaves of clear and clean vellum that are believed to have belonged to Louise de Savoie, King François I’s mother.”11 This manuscript bears no title: the “memoirs” that de La Mare mentions mean simply aides-memoires. Entitled Diary of Louise de Savoie, duchess of Angoulême, of Anjou and of Valois, and countess of Maine, mother to François I, called the Great, the second copy was made between 1646 and 1660.12 The scribe wrote that he had copied the “memoir” from a manuscript of Claude Hardy (c. 1600–1678), royal counsellor at the Châtelet, who had bought it from the library of Nicolas le 10 11

12

Marie Holban writes about four copies, but, as is her wont, she does not give any reference. Cf. Holban (1989), 451–464. Bibliothèque et Archives du Musée Condé, Chantilly (hereafter BC), MS 1048, fols. 1–8; Henri Hauser, “Comment Louise de Savoie a rédigé son Journal,” Revue du Seizième siècle, 1 (1913), 50–54. Hauser claims that De la Mare copied the manuscript, when, in fact, he merely added it into a new volume comprising seven documents in distinct handwritings. Chloé Pardanaud, who seems to ignore Hauser’s latter study, thinks that the copy of the Journal in the MS 1048 was written during Louise’s life. I disagree: while the handwriting resembles many other sixteenth-century manuscripts, the spelling is more typical of the seventeenth century, and, in any case, unusual for the first half of the sixteenth century. Cf. Chloé P ­ ardanaud, “L’histoire dans le mystérieux Journal de Louise de Savoie,” in Sylvie Steinberg and Jean-Claude Arnould, eds., Les Femmes et l’écriture de l’histoire: 1400–1800 ­(Mont-Saint-Aignan: Publications des Universités de Rouen et du Havre, 2008), 41–55. I should like to thank the Madame Hélène Jacquemard and Monsieur Florent-Picouleau, from the Chantilly Library for their invaluable help. Hauser (1904), 290.

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Fèvre (1544–1612), preceptor of Louis XIII (1604–1643) and of the “late” Prince of Condé (1588–1646).13 The third copy of Louise’s diary appears in the Genealogical History of the House of Savoy published by Samuel Guichenon (1607–1664).14 Guichenon relied upon a copy that Hilarion de Coste had made after an original manuscript from the royal counselor Claude Hardy’s library; this copy was made sometime before 1630, when Coste published the first edition of his Eulogies and Lives of Queens, in which he employed a formulation borrowed from ­Louise’s diary, without mentioning his source.15 Clearly, the manuscripts from the Chantilly and Arsenal Libraries, and the text edited by Guichenon were made after the same original manuscript: the three copies display variants, each omits information found in others, and were thus made independently.16 The three extant complete versions are presented as excerpts. The earliest copy indicates the source of the excerpts: a book of hours, a devotional book of prayers that usually contained a calendar of major religious feasts. It was quite common for owners of books of hours to annotate them with personal information and miscellanies.17 Louise either wrote herself or dictated to a secretary personal notes at the end of each month of her book of hours; these notes were then transcribed into a new manuscript most likely by somebody else. This would explain the shuffling between Louise’s first-person narrative and the second person: each new month of the diary is preceded by the vocative “Madame,” clearly indicating that the scribe is addressing­ ­Louise, who oversees his writing.

13 14 15

16

17

Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Paris (hereafter BA), MS 3435, fols. 70–71. Louise de Savoie, Journal, in Samuel Guichenon, Histoire généalogique de la Royale Maison de Savoye, livre IV contenant les Preuves (Lyon: 1660), 457–464. Compare to Coste (1630), 379–380: “Dieu qui ne delaisse jamais les vefves et les orfelins, estant leur pere et leur protecteur, aida et protegea Madame d’Angoulesme aux tristes jours de la viduité” with Louise de Savoie (1660), 457: “Dieu protecteur des femmes veufves et defenseur des orphelins, prevoyant les choses futures, ne me voulut abandonner cognoissant que si cas fortuit m’eust si soudainement privé de mon amour, j’eusse esté trop infortunée.” Cf. Hauser (1904), 284. Hauser (1904), 291. Nadine Kupterty-Tsur states without evidence that the Arsenal manuscript 3435 is the earliest copy (“La copie manuscrite la plus ancienne, conservée à la ­Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal”), and that Guichenon established his text after this manuscript (“curieusement, seule la première édition imprimée, réalisée par l’historien savoyard Samuel Guichenon lui a été fidèle,”) in “Le Journal de Louise de Savoie: nature et visées,” in Louise de Savoie: 1476–1531, eds. Pascal Brioist, Laure Fagnart, Cédric Michon (Tours: Presses Universitaires François Rabelais, 2015), 263–276. Virginia Reinburg, French Books of Hours: Making an Archive of Prayer, c. 1400–1600 ­(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 53–83.

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The origin of the personal notes in a book of hours explains the form of the diary: the narrative does not follow a yearly chronology, and is divided into twelve sections corresponding to the months of the calendar year. For each month, however, the text lists the events in a yearly order, although, even within these monthly segments, there are quite a few chronological displacements.18 It is possible that the latter mistakes were made during the copying of the personal notes from the book of hours into the initial original manuscript, now lost. When was this original manuscript, from which all extant copies descend, made? Wolfe and Zacour discovered that an anonymous untitled manuscript advising François I on how to reform the finances of his kingdom, datable between 1522 and March 1523, directly quote a strange fragment that also appears at the end of Louise’s diary: The year 1515, 1516, 1517, 1518, 1519, 1520, 1521, and up to the year 1522, my son and I have constantly been robbed by the financiers, without being able to do anything about it.19 This is also Louise’s last note of her diary, and refers to the huge deficit of 2 500 000 livres for the year 1522 that the acquisitive Louise and her spendthrift son blamed on their intendant of finance, Jacques de Beaune, Sire of Semblançay (c.1465–1527), who repeatedly tried to check their immoderate requests and ended up tried and executed for alleged embezzlement.20 The fragment, in the first-person, identical to the one in Louise’s diary, appears at the end of the financial advice manuscript, but it does not accord well with the impersonal third-person instructions of the rest of the manuscript; a late interpolation is excluded since the entire manuscript displays the same ­uniform humanist handwriting. It seems, therefore, that the scribe who wrote the financial recommendations had access to Louise’s notes, probably not in their initial form of Louise’s private book of hours, but more likely in a separate manuscript into which the notes must have been copied. I surmise that this was the original complete manuscript containing all of Louise’s known notes and that it was written somewhere between the end of 1522 and the beginning of 1523. This lost 18 19 20

Holban (1989), 457–458. University of Pennsylvania Libraries (hereafter UP), MS Codex 849; Martin Wolfe and ­Norman Zacour, “The Growing Pains of French Finance, 1522–1523,” The Library Chronicle, 22:2 (1956), 58–83. Wolfe (1956), 59.

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manuscript must have been the basis for the fragment found in the financial advice to François I, and for the three surviving complete copies of Louise’s diary discussed above. Unfortunately, there is no modern critical edition of the diary, and all later editions reproduce a faulty text that the Abbot Lambert published in 1753, adapted from Guichenon’s 1660 edition. Lambert’s new version abandoned the monthly division and rearranged the diary in a yearly chronology, resembling, in form at least, modern diaries.21 Louise’s diary was now part of a collection of memoirs in seven volumes related to François I’s reign, containing the testimonies of Martin du Bellay (1495–1559) and his brother Guillaume (1491–1543), as well as those of Robert de la Marck, Seigneur de Fleurange (1491–1534), followed by a collection of documents such as letters and observations made to clarify, support or challenge what these eye-witness memoirists wrote. Since Lambert was only interested in the facts of François I’s reign, he had no qualms in unpacking and reordering what he perceived as Louise’s confused text, a form of textual rearrangement not untypical of the memoir tradition, as we have seen in the first chapter. All eighteenth- and nineteenth-century editions of the diary follow ­Lambert’s corrupted text. Their editors refer to the text interchangeably as “diary” ­(journal) and “memoir” (mémoire) or “memoirs” (Mémoires).22 They agree that the diary is too short and has little historical value. They cite ­Louise’s qualities as regent and mother to the king as motivation for their decision to publish the diary. The text is naïve, they claim, and therefore readers are encouraged to judge Louise’s character directly, and decide whether history was right to depict her as an ambitious widow, who indulged in love affairs at court. The editors of the 1786 edition admit that her enemies’ hatred might have fueled and exaggerated the rumors about Louise’s penchant for galanterie, but they do not exclude the possibility that she had been truly in love with the Constable of Bourbon, despite the age difference, unable to admit to herself that her beauty had faded with age, as “that is the last hope that a woman renounces.”23 The diary itself does not mention anything about the constable, 21 22

23

Claude-François Lambert, ed., Memoires de Martin et Guillaume du Bellai-Langei…Les Memoires du Marechal de Fleuranges, et Le Journal de Louise de Savoye, vol. 6 (Paris: Nyon, 1753), 173–202. Jean Antoine Roucher, Antoine Perrin, and Louis Dussieux, eds., Collection universelle des mémoires particuliers, vol. 16 (London, 1786), 409–434; Claude-Bernard Petitot, ed., Collection complète des Mémoires, vol. 16 (Paris: Foucault 1820), 383–408; Jean-Alexandre Buchon, ed., Choix de chroniques, vol. 9 (Paris: 1836); Joseph-François Michaud and JeanJoseph-François, eds., Nouvelle Collection des Mémoires, vol. 5 (Paris: Didier, 1857), 83–93. Roucher (1786), 405.

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and the editors’ “observations” reveal more about their limited imagination. Age difference and love were certainly never real issues in sixteenth-century noble marriages, almost always contracted as strategic alliances. The most conspicuous picture that the diary reveals is that of a calculating, although not rational by modern standards, mother, deeply spiritual, albeit unsophisticated, and absorbed by the will to aggrandize her son and family. Since the personal notes were jotted down in the monthly sections, they seem to have been originally very close to the events they describe. However, their transcription into a separate notebook also entailed some modifications: many short descriptions sum up several years, others anticipate events that took place much later. For instance, the first diary entry starts with January 1501, when the young François almost lost his life in a riding accident. L­ ouise refers to François as “[her] King, [her] Lord, [her] Caesar, and [her] Son.”24 Although the seven-year old François was in the line of succession to the throne of France, it was not obvious that he would acquire the crown, since Louis XII could still have had a son of his own, still less that François might become emperor (Caesar). Clearly, Louise wrote this passage after January 1515, once her son actually became king of France. Many other similar examples could be adduced to show that the initial notes in the book of hours were made at various points in time, and they do not simply record events as they happened. The complete textual transfer of the notes into a new manuscript occurred during or shortly after 1522, the last year mentioned in the diary. 2

Contents of the Diary

Relatively brief, written in Louise’s first-person, with the exception of the invocation of “Madame” at the beginning of each calendar month, the diary is mostly concerned with accidents that befell her and her son, events that endangered François’s life, hindered or favored his ascent to the throne of France, his military successes, Louise’s own illnesses, travels, political and religious affairs, births, marriages, and deaths. Frequently, Louise notes the emotions that she felt when her son’s safety was threatened. She expresses her feelings mostly in superlative form and leaves no room for doubt: she is “all too unfortunate” (“trop infortunée”), “very devasted” (“bien desolée”), “lost” (“femme perdue”), “very concerned” (“fort ennuyée”), “very afflicted” (“bien marrie”), etc.25 Less 24 25

Louise de Savoie (1660), 457. Louise de Savoie (1660), 457, 458, 462, 464. For an introduction to history of early modern emotions, see: Susan Broomhall, ed., Early Modern Emotions: An Introduction (­London:

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often, she also notes the emotions of other people: on 29 May 1522, the herald of England, “trembled with fear” in front of François I, to whom he was sent to declare that the king of England has become his sworn enemy; François replied so “coldly and pointedly” that all the audience was “joyful and, nevertheless, astonished by his [François’s] clear eloquence.”26 As this scene shows, the expression of emotions respects social hierarchies: the herald of arms is a foreign servant of little courage, susceptible to fear, whereas François, as head of the body politic, exudes a calm rationality. Most often though, Louise just notes down events without giving her opinion. Whenever she intervenes to voice her contentment or disappointment, it is usually related to the outcome of affairs in which she placed high hopes: On July 1519, Charles V of this name, son to Philip Archduke of Austria, was, after the [throne of the] Empire had been vacated for five months, elected king of the Romans in the city of Frankfurt; may God have wished that it had been vacated for longer, or rather that it had been left for ever in the hands of Jesus Christ, to whom it belongs and no other.27 Louise had strongly believed in François I’s chances of success in the competition against Charles of Habsburg over the imperial throne because her court astrologers had been predicting it, and she believed in portents, as her diary suggests. For instance, Louise remembers how, on 28 August 1514, she “started to predict by celestial forecast that [her] son would one day do great exploits against the Swiss,” after she had seen in the sky a “terrible celestial impression” in the form of a comet.28 Louise claims after the fact that she immediately saw in the comet a sign of her son’s success against the Swiss in Italy, and invokes

26 27 28

Routledge, 2016); Richard Meek and Erin Sullivan, eds., The Renaissance of Emotion: Understanding Affect in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015); Gail Kern Paster, Katherine Rowe and Mary Floyd-Wilson, eds., Reading the Early Modern Passions (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004). Louise de Savoie (1660), 459. Louise de Savoie (1660), 460–461. Louise de Savoie (1660), 461: “Le 28. D’Aoust 1514 je commencé à predire par celeste prevision que mon filz seroit une fois bien en grand affaire contre les Suysses; car ainsy que j’estois apres soupper en mon bois à Romorantin entre 7 et 8 heures, une terrible impression celeste ayant figure de Comete s’apparut en Ciel vers Occident, et je feus la premiere de ma compagnie qui m’en apperceu, mais ce ne fut sans avoir grand peur; car je m’escriay sy haut que ma voix se pouvoit estandre, et ne disois autre chose, sinon helas Suisses, les Suisses, les Suisses ! Adonc estoient avec moi mes femmes. Et d’hommes n’y avoit que Regnault de Refuge, et le pauvre malheureux Rochefort sur son mulet gris, car aller a pié ne lui estoit possible.”

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her witnesses, naming, in a particularly endearing way, François de Moulins de Rochefort (c.1470– 1526), her son’s tutor, and, among many other roles, family astrologer. Such emotional expressions are not necessarily typical of personal notes found in books of hours, family books, and account books, the genres with which Louise’s diary shares most similarities. Besides, most of the feelings are not described extemporaneously but many years after the actual events. Therefore, they are rhetorically mediated and create a certain image of Louise and her son. They depict Louise as a loving, loyal, and sympathetic mother. Even minor events, of no apparent historical import, fulfil this purpose. For example, the diary informs us that Louise’s little dog Hapeguay, who “loved well and was loyal to his mistress,” died on 24 October 1502.29 This event is unrelated to the general content of the notes. In late-medieval culture, the pet was supposed to epitomize the owner’s essential traits: usually loyalty, and aggressiveness for men, while loving devotion and companionship were more commonly associated with noble women’s pets.30 Louise’s own capacity for affection and devotion is mirrored in her pet’s qualities. Louise’s self-image is also gendered. Although she had been regent of France since September 1515, when her son was fighting the Swiss army in Italy, she does not explicitly mention her regency. Instead she recounts an accident that foretold her future position: on 8 July 1514 the floor of her room crumbled and she almost died; she considers that it was a “sign” that “this entire house” had “to recline” on her and that by “divine permission” she would take charge of the household.31 The house is a metaphor for the French kingdom that she would govern the following year when her son invaded Italy. Given that the Salic law permitted only male heirs to reign in France, positions of power were associated with men. The popular mentality associated female regencies with greed, cunning, and divisiveness bringing disobedience and social unrest: during her regency, libels accused Louise of rapacity and over-taxation.32 In her diary, Louise suggests therefore that God had signified her regency, not personal ambition. In fact, Louise’s regency was extraordinary in the history

29 30 31 32

Louise de Savoie (1660), 462. Kathleen Walker-Meikle, Medieval Pets (Woodbridge; Rochester: The Boydell Press, 2012), 32. Louise de Savoie (1660), 460. Ludovic Lalanne, ed., Journal d’un bourgeois de Paris sous le règne de François Premier: ­­1515–1536 (Paris: Renouard, 1854), 44; Jonathan A. Reid, King’s Sister – Queen of Dissent: Marguerite of Navarre (1492–1549) and Her Evangelical Network (Brill: Leiden, 2009), 228.

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of the French monarchy, since female regencies had been given before only to wives, not mothers of kings. This in itself indicates, on the contrary, that Louise was quite actively trying to have a hold on the government of the kingdom.33 If Louise only alludes to her political role, she explicitly describes situations meant to highlight her and François’s religious sentiments, starting with the form of the diary: whenever possible, the events are correlated to dates of religious feasts. The accident near Amboise from 1501 that opens the diary happened on 25 January, the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle (incidentally the same date when her son was crowned fourteen years later); on 6 January 1521, Three Kings’ Day, François was hit by a log; on the Feast of the Corpus Christi, François I met the king of England between “six and seven and eight during the afternoon,” etc.34 Quite often, Louise also mentions not only the hours but also the exact minute of births, marriages, or deaths. The preoccupation with the religious calendar and horoscopy betrays a strong desire to foresee the future for practical, decision-making purposes. Astrological ­prediction based on astronomical calculations and divinely inspired prophecy were, in theory, distinct. In practice, however, astrological tracts often quoted ancient and medieval prophets, who supposedly corroborated their predictions.35 In a later work, as we shall see, a court astrologer predicted that François I would have a son who would become the Last World Emperor, whose reign would usher the End of the World, another widespread medieval prophecy and astrological world history. Louise was interested in such visions of the future and she handsomely rewarded her diviners: in her diary, Louise famously boasted that she managed in 1519 to obtain from Pope Leo X the canonization of Francis of Paola, the “fifth evangelist,”, or rather that she “paid the fee.”36 On the whole, Louise’s religious ideas seem to accord well with dominant Catholic belief, but it is highly doubtful that she had in mind and abided by a clear and distinct list of articles of faith, which simply did not exist in France 33 34 35 36

Aubrée David-Chapy, Anne de France, Louise de Savoie: inventions d’un pouvoir au féminin (Paris: Garnier, 2016). Louise de Savoie (1660), 460. Jean-Patrice Boudet, “Simon de Phares et les rapports entre astrologie et prophétie à la fin du Moyen Âge,” Mélanges de l’École française de Rome. Moyen-Age, 102:2 (1990), 617–648. Louise (1660), 461; Gallia Christiana, vol. 7 (Paris: Royal Printing Press, 1744), 158; Gallia Christiana, vol. 8 (Paris: Royal Printing Press, 1744), 1509; Chevalier Bernard, “La canonisation de saint François de Paule. Analyse comparative des procès de Calabre et de Tours” in Saint François de Paule et les Minimes en France de la fin du XV e au XVIII e siècle, eds. André Vauchez and Pierre Benoist (Tours: Presse Universitaire François Rabelais, 2010), 49–60.

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before January 1543 when the Sorbonne issued one.37 Obviously, she strongly believed that saints and heavenly portents such as comets actively signified the outcome of battles. She mentions how her family went often on pilgrimage on foot to various chapels and churches to thank or pray for the help of saints in this and the after-life, sufficient proof that she did not anticipate in any way the Protestant attack against intercession and the excessive cult of relics and religious objects that started to characterize evangelical movements in France around the same time.38 She describes the punishment of a certain Pierre Piefort, who was burned at stake on 26 September 1522, for having stolen the chalice, from the chapel of the Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle and hidden it in Nanterre.39 The chalice was then taken back to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and François accompanied the procession: he went on foot, bareheaded, and held a torch in his hand, all signs of piety which brought “tears of pity and joy” to the beholders.40 However, a few diary notes seem to place Louise in the camp of the more reform-oriented Christians. On 5 July 1521, the king received news from Guyenne that the French army was losing ground. Louise notes that “in war, long Lord’s prayers and muttered prayers (“oraisons murmuratives”) are not good; for this is a burdensome merchandise (“marchandise pesante”) that does not serve anybody, except people who do not know what to do with it.”41 The note might seem to refer to the new Evangelical wave that would enchant her daughter Marguerite, who would become its greatest supporter in France. Evangelicals wanted, among many other things, to reform the way Christians prayed: they should insist less on the outward meaningless repetition of prayers and more on their inner thoughtful expression.42 The mindless muttering was, of course, associated with mendicant friars, whose main purpose in life was to pray and preach the Gospel, and who were often depicted as uneducated, social parasites. As Lutheran ideas spread, more radical authors condemned friars as “enemies of the Cross, whose end will be death, whose God is the ­belly.”43 ­Louise, too, had some unkind words for the mendicant orders: 37 38 39 40 41 42 43

Francis M. Higman, Censorship and the Sorbonne: A Bibliographical Study of Books in French Censured by the Faculty of Theology of the University of Paris: 1520–1551 (Droz: Geneva, 1979), 55. Louise de Savoie (1660), 462, 463, Lalanne (1854), 158. Louise de Savoie (1660), 462. Louise de Savoie (1660), 461. Reid (2009), 113. François Rabelais, Oeuvres complètes, ed. Mireille Huchon (Paris: Gallimard, 1994), 675: “ennemis de la croix du Christ, des quelz Mort sera la consommation, des quelz Ventre est le Dieu.”

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In the year 1522, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, my son and I started to recognize hypocrites, white, black, gray, hazy, and of all colors, against whom God, in his infinite mercy and goodness, may preserve and defend us, for, if Jesus Christ is not a liar, there is no other more dangerous kind in all human nature.44 This is the closing paragraph of the month of December, the last month of the diary, immediately after the attack against the men of finance who had been robbing her and her son for many years. The friars, who claiming to reform the Church but were driven by irreligious interests, are signified by reference to the color of the habits. In this passage, Marie Holban has identified the “inspiration” of François de Moulins de Rochefort, François I’s tutor, abbot of Saint-Maximin, who authored many didactic works for both Louise and her son.45 Specifically, the attack against friars resembles De Moulins’s Treatise on Cardinal Virtues written before 1515: in both the diary and the treatise, the author refers to friars by the color of their habits, and criticizes their hypocritical claims for religious reform, while all of their deportment betrays ambition and interests contrary to true religion.46 Such attacks appear often in other works that De Moulins dedicated to Louise and her children. The presence of other stylistic peculiarities and his personal interest in Louise’s diary suggests that he played a major role in its composition. De Moulins himself wrote or asked for experts to write many pedagogical treatises, lives of saints, and astrological tracts for Louise and her children, and an insight into both De Moulins’s work and that of his entourage sheds light upon the context of Louise’s diary.

44 45

46

Louise de Savoie (1660), 464. Gallia Christiana, vol. VIII, 1536; Marie Holban, “François du Moulin de Rochefort et la Querelle de la Madeleine,” Humanisme et Renaissance, 2: 1 (1935), 26–43, and 2:2 (1935), 147–171. Note that Gallia gives the year 1522 for De Moulins’s receiving the abbey of Saint-Mesmin. But Holban believes that De Moulins has received the benefice in 1518. Bibliothèque Nationale de France (hereafter BNF), MS français (hereafter MS fr.) 12247, fol. 7v: “Celluy ou celle est bien temeraire qui ne scet congnoistre la finesse et la flaterie des ypocrites gris blans noirs et de toutes couleurs, qui pretendent soubz espece de Religion et de Caritat decevoir tout le monde. Et en faisant directement contre leur veu. Ne font difficulté de sortir du cloistre pour raporter, barbouller et entreprandre congnoisssance des choses prophanes et totallement contraires a vraye religion.” Compare with Louise de Savoie (1660), 464: “L’an 1522. mon filz et moy par la grace du sainct Esprit commençasmes à cognoiſtre les ypocrites blancs, noirs, gris, enfumez, et de toutes couleurs, desquels Dieu par sa clemence, et bonté infinie nous veuille preserver, et deffendre. Car, si Jesus-Christ n’est menteur, il n’est point de plus dangereuse generation en toute nature humaine.”

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François De Moulins and His Role in Making Louise’s Diary

François de Moulins belonged to a family of office-holders. Being the second child, he was destined for a church career. He became a canon of the churches of Saint-Pierre and Sainte-Radegonde in Poitiers, before joining, by 1501, L­ ouise’s court as preceptor to her son. By 1511, he had become François I’s ordinary almoner. De Moulins also became abbot of Saint-Mesmin at Micy-sur-Loire somewhere between 1517 and 1520.47 In 1519, De Moulins reached the pinnacle of his career, when François I appointed him Grand Almoner of France, a prestigious and lucrative position, in which he was officially ­supposed to supervise the reform of the hospitals and infirmaries of France. He was known to his contemporaries as a person of no little influence on François I’s finances.48 It is reasonable to suppose that the financial advice manuscript made in 1522 or 1523, which reproduces a passage of Louise’s diary, was supervised by De ­Moulins at Louise’s order, but he most likely did not compose it directly.49 As preceptor to Louise’s son, De Moulins wrote short tracts for the education of the young François. He aptly adjusted his moral precepts to circumstances. One of his earliest works in the form of a dialogue, dating from 1505, castigates the young François for his addiction to flux (or flush), a popular card game. The boy having relapsed since his last confession, De Moulins went out of his way to frighten the eleven-year old: miniatures depicting devils and personifications of vices accompany his autograph manuscript, and De Moulins warns his pupil that betting brings loss of self-control, short-lived joy, cries, anguish, and even homicide.50 Louise seems to have even threatened to chase the youngster away should he continue to play cards day and night, as was his inclination. De Moulins here calls Louise “Dame Prudence,” an association with the first cardinal virtue that he would often employ elsewhere and that would grow popular with other writers of the time. Betting games were typical of the education of gentlemen (Bassompierre, the author that we shall study last, was an expert player both at the court and in prison at the Bastille), but the young François seems to have over-done it.51 47 48 49 50 51

In 1520, Albert Pigghe refers to the “referend father” De Moulins as abbot of Saint-Maximin, in his dedicatory epistle to the De Aequinoctiorum Solsticiorumque Inventione (Paris: Conrad Rensch, 1520). Charlotte Bonnet, “Louise de Savoie et François Demoulins de Rochefort,” in Louise de Savoie: 1476–1531, Pascal Brioist, Laure Fagnart, Cédric Michon, eds. (Tours: Presses Universitaires François Rabelais, 2015), 253–262. The spelling and contents of the UP MS cod. 849 differ from De Moulins’s other ­manuscripts. BNF, MS fr. 1863, 9r. Jean-François-Paul de Gondi, Cardinal de Retz, Mémoires in Oeuvres, eds. Marie-Thérèse Hipp and Michel Pernot (Paris: Gallimard, 1984), 152.

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As it became more and more evident that the young François de Valois would inherit the throne of France, De Moulins multiplied his production of conventional works on the moral education of a future monarch in the genre of ­mirror for princes.52 The Treaty on Cardinal Virtues, chastising hypocritical f­riars, belongs to this period. De Moulins wrote it shortly after the young François joined Louis XII’s court in 1508. De Moulins followed his pupil and kept Louise informed especially of Queen Anne’s pregnancies, since Louise feared that the royal couple might have a male child that would shatter her hopes of seeing her son king of France. When Anne gave birth to a stillborn child on 21 January 1512, feast of Saint Agnes, De Moulins voiced François and Louise’s thanksgiving to God in an ode that quotes Psalm 30 (“Lord, I have set my hope in Thee”).53 The manuscript also contains a miniature depicting François kneeling in front of the cross, with Saint Agnes watching over him, while, on the other side of the cross, a gallic rooster perches on top of a lion lying in front of Saint Peter seated on his throne. Patron saint of chastity and, by extension, of chaste widows like Louise, Agnes embodies De Moulins and Louise’s belief that the saint actively intervened in maintaining intact their hopes for the throne. After François I defeated the Swiss in Marignano in September 1515 and conquered the Duchy of Milan, Louise, her daughter Marguerite, and Queen Claude went to meet the king in the South of France. On their way, the female trio went on pilgrimage to the sites dedicated to Mary Magdalene, Mary Jacobi, and Mary Salome. Louise asked De Moulins to write for her a Life of Magdalene, which he completed in 1517.54 He also requested the help of Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples (c. 1455–1536), a humanist and leading figure of the Evangelical movement in France, who would then print his own life of the Magdalene.55 Lefèvre d’Étaples’s findings, which De Moulins adopted, showed that tradition had confused three different Maries in the figure of Mary Magdalene. Conversely, Saint Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary, had not been married three times and given birth to three daughters, as Church tradition had it. While De Moulins’s lives of Magdalene and Anne went to her patron in manuscript form, Lefèvre 52 53 54

55

BNF, MS fr. 1383; BNF MS fr. 1892. Although unsigned, the latter is in De Moulins’s ­handwriting. BNF, MS latin (hereafter MS lat.) 8396. BNF MS fr. 24955; Barbara J. Johnston, “The Magdalene and ‘Madame’: Piety, Politics, and Personal Agenda in Louise of Savoy’s Vie de la Magdalene,” in Mary Magdalene: Iconographic Studies from the Middle Ages, eds. Michelle Erhardt and Amy Morris (Boston: Brill, 2012), 269–293. Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples, De Maria Magdalena Triduo Christi Disceptatio (Paris: Henri Etienne, 1517); Guy Bedouelle, “Attacks on the Biblical Humanism of Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples” in Biblical Humanism and Scholasticism in the Age of Erasmus, ed. Ericka Rummel (Leiden; Boston: Brill 2008), 117–141.

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d’Étaples printed his booklet.56 A host of conservative theologians, including Noël Béda (1470–1537), professor of theology at the University of Paris and champion of anti-Humanism in France, responded with defenses of Mary Magdalene’s unicity and Saint Anne’s fertility.57 De Moulins asked for Louise’s intervention on his friend’s behalf. Strangely enough, De Moulins requested that Louise send Lefèvre d’Étaples’s booklet to the Holy See for examination: should the pope judge that Lefèvre d’Étaples erred, De Moulins had no objection to have the booklet burned.58 While Louise must have sheltered D’Étaples from prosecution, it is doubtful that she was interested in all the nuances of the scholarly debate between scholastic and humanist methods of Béda and D’Étaples, respectively. In her questions about Mary Magdalene, as De Moulins reproduced them in his manuscript, she asked De Moulins to list all the miracles that Madeleine supposedly performed – piously, De Moulins expressed his skepticism and kindly refused –, and she wanted to know more about the saint’s personal items, to which she probably attached healing properties, questions unrelated to nuances of biblical hermeneutics, but common forms of popular devotion. The attacks against religious orders in her diary echo the debates between humanists and scholastics, favoring the former, De Moulins’s side. Many other stylistic choices and phrases point to the active intervention of De Moulins in the writing of the diary. While most of the notes are quite factual and dry, the narrator of the diary adopts at times the style of the grands rhétoriqueurs, an early French humanist fashion, used mostly by court poets, 56 57

58

Lefèvre D’Étaples (1517), fol. 36r-v; Sheila M. Porrer, Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples and the Three Maries Debates (Geneva: Droz, 2009). Noël Béda, Scholastica declaratio sententiae et ritus ecclesiae de unica Magdalena (Paris: Josse Bade 1519); Noël Béda, Apologia pro filiabus et nepotibus beatae Annae (Paris: Josse Bade, February 1520); Noël Béda, Restitutio in integrum benedictionis caerei paschalis (Paris: Josse Bade, August 1520); Mark Crane, “A Scholastic Response to Biblical Humanism: Noël Beda Against Lefèvre d’Etaples and Erasmus (1529),” Humanistica Lovaniensia, 59 (2010), 55–81; James K. Farge, “Noël Beda and the Defense of the Tradition,” Biblical Humanism and Scholasticism in the Age of Erasmus (2008), 143–164; Sam Kennerley, “­Students of history, masters of tradition: Josse Clichtove, Noël Beda and the limits of historical criticism,” Renaissance Studies. 35:1 (2021). BA, MS 4009, fol. 4r-v: “ et que facez escrire le roy a nostre sainct Pape pour y adviser. Et s’il se treuve que Fabri ayt bien escript, je requiers comme procureur de Fabri sans avoir procuration de luy que la celebration et solennité de la Magdalene soit changee, au moins que Marie sœur de Marthe, par ung tas de papelars, asnez, hipochrytez, prescheurs, ne soit plus tant apaillardee. Si aussi il se treuve que la commune opinion de l’eglise soit bonne que le livre de Fabri soit bruslé et que jamais n’en soit nouvellez.”

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characterized by a highly figurative and experimental use of language to encomiastic and didactic ends, typical of De Moulins’s other writings.59 For instance, ­personifications creep in unexpectedly in Louise’s diary: “humility kept me company, and patience never abandoned me” and “true love compelled me to suffer such pain.”60 An inexplicable didactic urge takes over the author, who glosses, in pedantic humanist manner, on learned etymologies: when François arrives in Ardres to meet Henry VIII of England, who was in ­Calais, the savant diarist comments that in Latin, these places were called Ardea, and, as Caesar teaches us in the fifth book of his Commentaries, Caletum or portus Itius, respectively.61 Incidentally, De Moulins had just finished a French adaptation of the Gallic Wars in the form of a dialogue between François and Caesar (1519–1520).62 De Moulins is mentioned several times in Louise’s diary usually, as reminding, as to herself, the benefices and clerical positions that were promised or given to De Moulins by the king (usually at the request of Louise), but De Moulins was a relatively minor courtier, whose mention in the diary is strange. De Moulins particularly coveted the episcopal see of Condom that the king had promised to him to no effect.63 Understandably, he was bitter that his church career stagnated even with the help of the most powerful patron in the kingdom: this is the meaning of a passage in the diary condemning the trafficking of ecclesiastic benefices (“fricassee of abbeys”) in 1519.64 It is unlikely that De Moulins’s craving for bishoprics and financial stimulation absorbed Louise de Savoie so much as to write them down herself in her book of hours. Besides fricassee is close to another pejorative expression ­(“fricasseur de court”) that De Moulins uses in his autograph, signed works.65 Louise’s religious sentiments are, therefore, filtered through De Moulins’s problems with his own church career. Even the attacks against mendicant orders 59

60 61 62 63 64 65

Henry Guy, L’école des rhétoriqueurs, in Histoire de la poésie française au XVIe siècle, vol. 1 (Paris: Champion, 1910); Paul Zumthor, Le Masque et la Lumière: La poétique des grands rhétoriqueurs (Paris: Le Seuil, 1978); Sylvie Lefèvre, “Rhétoriqueurs,” Dictionnaire des lettres françaises: le Moyen Âge, ed. Geneviève Hasenohr et Michel Zink, (Paris: Fayard, 1992), 1263–1265; François Cornilliat, Or ne mens: couleurs de l’éloge et du blâme chez les “grands rhétoriqueurs” (Paris: Champion, 1994). Louise de Savoie (1660), 457 and 460. Louise de Savoie (1660), 459. British Library (hereafter BL), MS Harley 6205; BNF, MS français 13429; BC, MS 1139. Louise de Savoie (1660), 459 and 463. Louise de Savoie (1660), 463. BNF, MS fr. 1194, fol. 21r.

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are linked to De Moulins’s situation: the latter was not a friar himself, certainly not a Franciscan as some scholars wrongly assert.66 He was not only the young François’s tutor, but also his confessor and, later, the abbot of a Benedictine monastery.67 The frequent calls for reform of religious orders and the criticism of religious benefices in De Moulins’s works are grounded in a long history of distrust towards and competition with mendicant orders, and, in this particular case, they stem from De Moulins’s own professional and financial ­complications in his lifelong goal of capturing a hefty ecclesiastical office. The presence of De Moulins’s stylistic peculiarities and professional preoccupations in Louise’s diary makes him the best candidate for the secretary who transcribed and adapted to his own interests Louise’s personal notes in the original manuscript, now lost, which constituted the basis for all the three extant complete copies from the seventeenth century and of the fragment that crept into the financial advice manuscript from late 1522 or early 1523. There is little room for doubt that he also executed the book of hours, now lost, in which Louise initially jotted down or dictated to him the initial notes that would become her so-called diary. In fact, De Moulins also made a book of hours for Louise’s daughter, Marguerite, and he also relished reminding his readers that he used to read “the hours” with François I.68 This is not to say, as Myra Orth has suggested, that De Moulins had ghost-written the entire diary. The initial notes may well have been written or dictated by Louise: but their current form is heavily indebted to De Moulins, and his circle. In other words, the diary is the fruit of collaboration between Louise and her protégé at her court. The frequent description of pilgrimages, and the notation of exact dates, hours, and minutes of many events are clearly indicative of a work grounded in Christian astrological beliefs, possibly written over many years, but most ­probably collected the first time in late 1522 or early 1523, in a time of financial and military difficulties, when the optimism of the first years of François I’s reign faded and gave way to anxieties about the future. 66 67 68

Myra Orth, “Francis du Moulin and the Journal of Louise of Savoy,” The Sixteenth Century Journal, 13:1 (1982), 55–66. François Parot and Thibaud Fourrier, “François de Moulins de Rochefort, Maître d’école de François Ier, ” Mémoires de la Société des Sciences et Lettres de Loir-et-Cher, 7: 67 (2012), 39–56. BNF, MS nouvelles acquisitions latines (hereafter MS nal.), 83; BNF, MS fr. 1194, fol. 3: “Je souloys estre celuy Rochefort que vous avez veu avec Monsieur dire les heurez”; Marie Holban, “Autour du Livre d’Heures de Marguerite de Valois,” In Memoria lui Vasile Pârvan (Bucharest: Asociația Academică ‘Vasile Pârvan’ a Foștilor Membri ai Școalei Române din Roma, 1934), 168–180; Holban, “Quelques remarques critiques sur François de Moulins,” Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance, 1:52 (1990), 23–36.

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De Moulins’s interest in astrology is visible throughout his work, even in tracts that are not meant for astrological prediction. After François became king of France, for instance, De Moulins wrote a panegyric in verse, calling on all the French people to praise their “frank” and “liberal” king, and he humorously listed friars according the color of their habits, as in Louise’s diary.69 De Moulins’s name does not appear in the manuscript, but the reader can easily recognize his handwriting, the usual allusions to Louise as Dame Prudence and Dame Concorde, and Latin adages (festina lente) that De Moulins recommended in his other known works to his distinguished dedicatee.70 Each time he mentions Louise, her son, and her daughter, Marguerite, De Moulins also draws, respectively, the astrological symbols of Jupiter, Mercury, and Saturn, a habit that we find in other treatises that he wrote for Louise and her children.71 In fact, very early in his writing career, De Moulins scattered astrological symbols and jargon through his texts. In the dialogue against playing cards mentioned above, De Moulins urged the eleven-year old future king to obey his unfaltering mother, Dame Prudence, who “through her horoscope and natural inclination shows joy in good things and displeasure in unprofitable operations.”72 Unsurprisingly, De Moulins wrote nativity charts for Louise’s family. On the occasion of Louise’s 35th birthday in September 1510, De Moulins cast horoscopes for Louise and her two children.73 The hours and minutes of the birth of Louise and Marguerite differ from the ones given in Louise’s diary.74 Precise knowledge of such details was rarely available at this time, and astrologers could use a variety of astrological methods to determine the ascendant degree.75 Besides it must have been convenient to blame unsuccessful predictions on the inexact available information. In his horoscopes for 1510, De ­Moulins predicts that Louise will experience some enmity from elderly people and churchmen, 69

70 71 72 73 74 75

BNF, MS fr. 2363, fol. 1r: “Abbé ventru, gros evesque cornu/ Riche plumet qui souloys estre nu,” and fol. 2 v : “Toy carme noir et toy gris cordelier/ Cler Jacobin, augustin authenticque/ Cousin germain du bon sainct Dominique/ Frere troteur et toy beaupere roux,/ Frere fumeur...” BNF, MS fr. 2088, fol. 10v. BNF, MS lat. 8396, fol. 2r: “haec est pulchra parens, foemina candida,” followed by the astrological symbol of Jupiter; BNF, MS fr. 24955, fol. 108r; BNF, MS 4009, fols. 34v, 58v; BNF, MS fr. 1993. Although unsigned, the latter is De Moulins’s autograph. BNF, MS fr. 1863, fol. 3r: “par son propre horoscope et naturelle direction prant esjouissance es choses bonnes et au contraire desplaisir es operations qui ne reviennent a nul prouffit.” BNF, MS fr. 2082; Lecoq (1987), 126. Holban (1990), 27. Steven Vanden Broecke, in Steel (2018), 95.

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but not from great noblemen and princes, who on the contrary will honor her greatly, that she will be eloquent and subtle, that she might suffer from a minor heart problem, and, as expected, experience only “great love and fondness towards her children.”76 The astrological interpretations are most often very general and positive, but some refer to very specific events that were of particular concern for ­Louise and her children. In the horoscope for Marguerite, aged 19 at the moment of the astrological forecast, De Moulins alludes to the complications that she might have on account of the trial between the Houses of Alençon, and Angoulême (Marguerite d’Angoulême had been married to Charles d’Alençon to settle a legal dispute between the two houses), and that the stars indicate little chance that she would conceive that year, unless God decides otherwise.77 Louise and her children are never named in the chart, as was customary for such nativity tracts: instead, De Moulins employs for Louise the term child (“enfant”) that improperly translates the more common Latin term for the subject of a nativity chart natus (the one born).78 Everything suggests an objective scientific tract, quoting distinguished Islamic authorities of astrology: “Albumasar” or Abu Ma’shar (787–886) and the eleventh century astrologer “Haly Abenragel” or Abu Ali ibn ar-Rigal.79 Christian astrology at the beginning of the sixteenth century was still largely an adaptation of medieval Arabic and Jewish developments of Ptolemaic astrology.80 This type of astrological eclecticism came under attack shortly after the time when De Moulins composed his first known horoscopes, as we shall see. 4

Jean Thenaud and Christian Astrology at the French Court

Holban rightly suggests that the phraseology of De Moulins’s astrological chart resembles the method of another court astrologer and De Moulins’s protégé 76 77 78 79 80

BNF, MS fr. 2082, fol. 7r: “Item pource que le lieu des enfans, et le lieu de la luna en la nativité, par la Revolution est desja revolu, en la premyere maison. Cela signifie amour grand et dilection avec les enfans et ligneez.” BNF, MS fr. 2082,15v. Laurent Ripart, “Les Mariages de Marguerite,” in Marguerite de Navarre: 1492–1992, eds. Nicole Cazauran and James Dauphiné (Mont-de-Marsan: Editions interuniversitaires, 1995), 59–83. Vanden Broecke (2018), 60. BNF, MS fr. 2082, fol. 5r; Albumasar, Liber introductorii maioris ad scientiam judiciorum astrorum, ed. Richard Lemay, 9 vols. (Naples: Istituto Universitario Orientale, 1995); Haly Abenragel, Liber in iudiciis astrorum (Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, 1485); Holban (1990), 26–27. Jean-Patrice Boudet, Entre science et nigromance: Astrologie, divination et magie dans ­l’Occident médiéval, XII e–XV e siècle (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2006).

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Jean Thenaud (c.1474–c.1542).81 The presence of blanks and mistakes in De Moulins’s autograph manuscript suggest that he copied and probably adapted astrological investigations that Thenaud initially made for De Moulins, who often resorted to experts whenever his patroness commissioned works that surpassed his expertise or research means: for his works on the lives of Saint Magdalene and Saint Anne, De Moulins asked for the help of Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples, as we have seen above. In astrological matters, De Moulins relied on Thenaud. Jean Thenaud was a Franciscan friar, born in Melle near Poitiers, and became a doctor of theology by 1508 (we do not know from what university), when he wrote for Louise de Savoie his first known work the Margarite de France, a chronicle (margarite translates as “pearl,” a common title for medieval chronicles) inspired by the fabricated sources of Giovanni Nanni (c. 1432– 1502), recounting the history of the French monarchy from Noah’s sons to Charles VIII of France. Around the same time, Thenaud wrote The Genealogy of ­Saturn (Lignée de Saturne), a textbook of classical mythology for François’s poetic compositions. From 1511 to 1513, Thenaud went to the Holy Land on pilgrimage and diplomatic missions for Louise and her son, documented in the only work that he published during his lifetime, his Travel Overseas, printed between 1523 and 1531.82 Thenaud was rewarded with the position of guardian of the F­ ranciscan convent of Angoulême in 1514. At the request of Louise de Savoie three years later, he offered François I the first volume of his master work, Triumph of Virtues, continued with a second volume in 1518, an encyclopedic mirror for princes on the four cardinal virtues, written as an allegorical quest for the sources of the four rivers flowing from the Garden of Eden. Between 1518 and 1521, Thenaud also wrote two popularizing works on the Cabala, an art in which he did not much believe, but which greatly interested his patron, François I, who probably intervened in Thenaud’s promotion to abbot of ­Saint-John of Mélinais, an office for which the Franciscan friar needed a papal dispensation, in 1529. He also became the king’s almoner around the same time.83 After being in the service of Louise at Angoulême, Thenaud acquired François I’s protection for having correctly predicted as early as 1517 the birth of his three male children at a time when the royal couple only had daughters, and no heir to the throne.84 Thenaud would not fail to remind François 81 82 83 84

Holban (1990), 27. Jean Thenaud, Le voyage d’Outremer, ed. Charles Schefer (Paris: Leroux, 1884). Joseph Engels, “Notice sur Jean Thenaud,” Vivarium, 8 (1970), 99–122; 9 (1971), 138–156; 10 (1972), 107–123. Russian National Library (hereafter RNL), MS Fr. F. v. XV, fol. 3v; Lecoq (1987), 102.

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I of his successful prediction.85 But Thenaud was also a deeply religious friar, and he clothed his astrological prediction in medieval prophecies, which failed to materialize, and for which he would have to give some explanations later. Namely, he believed that the Dauphin would become not just Holy Roman Emperor, but the Last World Emperor of ancient prophecies about the end of time.86 The earliest interest in this topic dates from 1514, when Thenaud contributed to an astrological prognostication about the seven ages of the world. The prognostication has survived only in a copy containing a nativity chart made for François I’s first son, shortly after his birth on 28 February 1518, but not later than 21 September 1518, when François I’s first daughter Louise, mentioned in the horoscope, died.87 Holban has attributed the manuscript containing the horoscope for 1518 and the prognostication for 1515 to Jean Thenaud.88 If the method, many phrases, and references are identical to Thenaud’s other astrological tracts, the handwriting, the many errors, and incomplete phrases suggest interpolations. The spelling and the vocabulary partly resemble De Moulins’s other works. Thenaud also had the habit of submitting his works to the “censorship” of De Moulins.89 The author of the horoscope for 1518 admits

85

86 87 88 89

BNF, MS fr. 443, fol. 2v: “car c’est sans faulte luy et son superillustre filz duquel tant de glorieuses propheties qui par ci davant estoient attribuees à ses predeccesseurs ont eté escriptez. C’est le roy terrestre duquel parloit le roy de Gotz Athanaric, de la proesse duquel deppend la conservacion de la foy, le trosne du pape, l’union de l’eglise, la liberté ou servitude du peuple et disposition de la terre.”; Thenaud, Triumphe des Justice in Triumphe des Vertuz, ed. Titia J. Schuurs-Janssen, vol. 3 (Geneva: Droz, 2007) 4: “ En monstrant premierement comment le tresflorissant floron de son sacré liz, monsieur le daulphin, le chier tresor, la claire perle et le pris sans pris de France, duquel avoie predict par espoir desireux on prologue du premier ­volume la tant desiree et heuree naissance, parviendra avecques palme de victoire … au throsne de Justice heroïque ou legalle, pour presider a tous heroes justiciers preteritz et futurs.” BNF, MS fr. 443, fol. 3r: “En monstrant commant il doibt estre enseigné, instruict affin qu’il parvienne a cil tant et tresexcellent empire universel que ma desireuse esperance luy promect” BNF, MS fr. 5106. BNF, MS fr. 5106, fol. 32v; Marie Holban, “Le vrai Jean Thenaud,” L’Humanisme français au début de la Renaissance (Paris: Vrin, 1973), 193–205. BL, MS Additions (hereafter Add.) 13969, fol. 7v: “la supletion, correction et tout amendement d’icelluy [livret] humblement soubzmectz a la moderacion et treseminente discretion principallement d’icelle abissale fontaine de lettres (…) et eloquence tresseante en sa treshonorable et digne personne de mon precepteur et irradiateur en tous endroitz et de tous temps Monseigneur maistre Françoys de Molins.”

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that he worked “under the benevolent correction of men of science.”90 In short, the manuscript from 1518 containing the nativity chart with the seven ages of the world can be attributed to Thenaud, although De Moulins might have also played a part in its creation. François I likely requested the horoscope: the final work was dedicated to him, and the French monarch was known for his interest in astrological predictions, an interest inherited from his mother.91 An investigation into this and similar works will shed light on the climate, in which most of the diary notes were written and then collected. Throughout my analysis, I will refer to the author of the prognostication for 1515 and the horoscope of 1518 as Thenaud, since he seems to have been the expert who provided the main matter for the surviving manuscript. An impressive meteorological event triggered the prognostication for the year 1515: three suns pierced by a white cross appeared on the French sky in January and February 1514.92 Thenaud interpreted this as a divine sign that great changes were going to happen, but insisted that its meaning could be further investigated with the help of astrology. In fact, the portent was a common natural phenomenon: mock suns or parhelia, caused by refractions of sunlight by ice crystals, had been explained quite well already by Aristotle.93 Instead, Thenaud insisted that this was a rare sign that God sent to signify special events like the birth of an emperor. Drawing on a long tradition going back to Augustine’s City of God and especially pseudo-Methodius’s Apocalypse, the author of this particular prognostication for 1515 postulates that the world was to last for seven thousand years, and that it had reached its seventh millennium. Christian medieval astrologers conjugated Pseudo-Methodius’s Apocalypse with the astrological world history first elaborated during the eighth and ninth centuries in the Abbasid Caliphate that the twelfth-century Latin translation of Albumasar’s On the

90 91 92 93

BNF, MS fr. 5106, fol. 32v: “entendu l’incapacité de mon petit entendement, que je n’ose en faire diffinition fors soubz la benivole correction des gens de science, ausquelz je supplie estre benignement supporté.” Jean Dupèbe, “L’Aegloga de Monarchia de Jacques Gohory,” Le poète et son œuvre: de la ­composition à la publication, ed. Jean-Eudes Girot (Geneva: Droz, 2004), 322. BNF, MS fr. 5106, fol. 32v: “Et pour entrer en matiere, il a pleu a la divine sapience envoyer au ciel l’an passé esdictz moys de janvier et fevrier ung signe de troys soleilz, dont parmy l’un d’iceulx apparut une croix blanche passant a travers.” Robert W. Scheller, “‘Dazzle my eyes …’ The Parhelion in Art and History,” in Manuscripten en miniaturen: Studies aangeboden aan Anne S. Korteweg bij haar afscheid van de Koninklijke Bibliotheek, ed. Jos Biemans (Zutphen: Warburg Press, 2007), 337–354; Orth (1982).

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Great Conjunctions then popularized in the West.94 According to this literature, the alignment or conjunction of the great planets, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars, and the changes of astrological triplicities (three zodiac signs belonging to the same element) directly affect world history. The intersection of these theological and astrological notions gave rise to a rich medieval eschatological astrology that Thenaud sums up in his small tract about the seven ages of the world, without much attention to chronological facts. In Thenaud’s narrative, the stars are crowded in the first degree of Aries at the beginning of the world, and when they start moving, nature comes to life. The seven liberal arts are created. The sun being the ruling planet of this first age, philosophers have commonly called this period, which ended with the Flood, the golden age. The second millennium, assimilated to silver, falls under the rulership of Venus. God creates the rainbow, nobility and serfdom appear naturally according to virtues and vices, Nimrud builds the Tower of Babel, Zoroaster invents magic, and the age ends with the destruction of Sodom and Gomora. Abraham is born in the third great cycle, Moses frees his people from serfdom, Troy falls, and Brutus moves from Italy to England. The moon rules over the fourth age that starts with the advent of King David. Rome is born and Nebuchadnezzar destroys Jerusalem. Saturn dominates the fifth millennium, Babylon falls, and Rome grows. Great prophets like Esdras and Malachi appear, among whom Thenaud places ancient philosophers such as Socrates and Empedocles. The Gauls march on Rome, Jerusalem is rebuilt, and three suns appear in the heavens announcing the sixth millennium and prefiguring the Holy Trinity. Augustus’s empire extends over the three known continents, the Christian religion and its martyrs start preaching the word of God, and, at the end of this period, the first schism pesters the Church. Mars is the ruler of the seventh and last age of the world. Prodigies and marvelous signs appear and signify the success of Islam and the coming of the Antichrist. Christian rulers will unite under a unique emperor who will destroy Gog and Magog. The apparition of the sign of the cross in the sky in 1514 signifies the corruption of the militant Church, the end of the natural world, and the coming Judgment Day. In his prognostication, Thenaud attaches particular importance to a false theory about the movement of the stars known in the Middle Ages as the motion of trepidation, which, most astrologers believed, occurred over a period of 7000 years, and long associated with the duration of the world. But the astronomical model used here is a confusion of several incompatible 94 Albumasar, De magnis conjunctionibus et annorum revolutionibus ac eorum profectionibus (Augsburg: Erhardt Ratdolt, 1489); Albumasar, The Great Introduction to Astrology, ed. K. Yamamoto and Ch. Burnett, 2 vols. (Leiden: Brill, 2000).

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theories.95 It is doubtful that Thenaud, De Moulins or whoever else was involved in the production of the tract understood the astronomical model on which it relied. Unlike Thenaud’s other astrological tracts, the prognostication for 1515 carefully avoids any explicit yearly reckoning or comparisons of biblical and non-biblical chronologies: any serious inquiry into precise dates and years would have cast strong doubt on the round figure of 1000 years for each age, and their prophetic symbolism.96 He does refer to one precise year: in 1524, the presence of multiple planetary conjunctions in the sign of Pisces will signify the end of the Muslim sect, and the end of the world will draw nearer.97 In fact, more than a hundred astrological disputations appeared in print in Europe, mostly after 1518, on the topic of the great planetary conjunctions of February 1524.98 All Christian astrologers invariably dismissed the possibility that the conjunctions in a water sign would bring a second universal flood, which seems to have been a widespread popular fear. Thenaud does not fear any flood, and predicts an end of the world through fire, in better concord with Christian tradition. Thenaud copied the prognostication into his nativity chart for the birth of François I’s son and heir to the throne of France, which survives only in the manuscript dating from 1518. Another portent forged the link between world astrological history and individual natal investigation: a bright star or light appeared near the sun at noon in Paris at the time of the Dauphin’s birth. Thenaud considers that this was a supernatural sign indicating that the Dauphin would leave his mark on world history as did Caesar and Charlemagne. The prologue presents a Christian vision of a profoundly hierarchical world, in which the monarch rules over his kingdom, as God over his Creation. The sovereign is endowed with the gift of prescience from the Holy Ghost through the agency of angelical orders, a theme that Thenaud will gloss over again

95 96

97 98

Nicolae Virastau, “Calendar Reform and World Chronology: Pierre de Lille’s Tria Calendaria Parva (1529),” Isis, 110: 3 (2019), 441–459. Charles de Bovelles, Aetatum mundi septem supputatio (Paris: Josse Bade, 1521). Bovelle’s treatise on the seven ages of the world, dedicated to De Moulins, is based on more accurate biblical chronology, and the seven ages are highly dissimilar in length. A friend of Lefèvre d’Etaples who distrusted astrology, Bovelles does not correlate historical events to astrological causes. BNF, MS fr. 5106, fols. 10r and 42v. Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1941), vol. 5, 178–233; Paola Zambelli, “Fine del mondo o inizio della propaganda? Astrologia, filosofia della storia e propaganda politico-religiosa nel dibattito sulla congiunzione del 1524,” in Scienze, credenze occulte, livelli di cultura (Florence: Olschki, 1982), 291–368; Paola Zambelli, ed., “Astrologi hallucinanti”: Stars and the End of the World in Luther’s Time (Berlin; New York: Gruyter, 1986).

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in a later manuscript.99 An instrument of power, astrology is, for Thenaud, a ­science befitting prudent Christian ruler. Present in the same manuscript, and addressed to François I, the Horoscope for 1518 follows in twenty-six small chapters the system of projections from the moment that the Dauphin was conceived in his mother’s womb.100 Thenaud invokes his usual authorities Ptolemy and Haly Abenragel. The astrologer details, in his habitual manner, the almost always positive effects of planets on the life of the Dauphin, according to the places they occupy in astrological houses. At the same time, the astrologer claims that he has also considered the slow motion of the fixed stars, an unusual procedure for nativity charts, and more typical of world astrology. Thenaud claims that the appearance of a luminous heavenly body at noon on the day of the Dauphin’s birth happened by divine intervention, and the astrologer urges the king to consult his previous Treatise on the Seven Ages of the World from 1514, in which he predicted the advent of a great emperor of the world in 1524. The astrologer predicts that the Dauphin will have ­quasi-prophetic knowledge of the future. However, the Dauphin might suffer from illnesses associated with Mars, namely acute and choleric fevers. The sun inclines him to be just and to hear popular disputes. Mercury suggests that he will love occult sciences. He will marry an older woman from the North. The last is undoubtedly a retrospective prediction: Thenaud was certainly aware of the projected marriage between the Dauphin and Henry VIII’s daughter, concocted after the Dauphin’s baptism in April 1518. This gives us further insight into the context of these wondrous predictions. Soon after François I became king of France in January 1515, Louise de Savoie sent trusted negotiators to imperial electors in Germany to convince them to elect her son emperor, should the then-reigning Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, die.101 At the same time, Pope Leo X, fearful of the advancement of 99

100 101

National Austrian Library (hereafter NAL), MS codex (hereafter MS cod.) 2645, fol. 4r and 12v: “Je vy en oultre le dictateur des roys et l’auguste des empereurs, a qui par droit naturel et grace divine apartenoit celuy delicieux jardin, en l’esprit duquel les benoistz seraphz influoyent charité et grace surceleste, les cherubz sapience, les throsnes equité et justice, les potestes magnanimité et prouesse, les principautez foy et religion, et les dominations perseverance et stabilité … Pour ce donne loz et graces a Dieu pour l’amour qui est en France entre l’invictissime auguste François et son peuple, et pour la prompte servitude aussy obeissance a laquelle le peuple luy est et sera astrainct, parquoy de plus en plus il le supportera s’il plaist a sa royalle majesté.” Horoscope is the title that modern librarians gave to the manuscript, which is untitled originally. It was rare in the sixteenth century. Thenaud prefers the term “genealitic.” See below. Jean Barrillon, Journal: 1515–1521, vol. 1, (Paris: Renouard, 1897), 60–61.

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the Ottoman empire in Eastern Europe, urged Christians to make peace and prepare for a crusade.102 François I’s military success in September 1515, when he conquered the Duchy of Milan, strengthened the French monarch’s conviction that he was destined to be the Christian emperor who would crush the enemies of the faith.103 He sought to make peace with all the major powers in Europe. In 1516, he signed a Concordat with Pope Leo X that significantly weakened the autonomy of the Gallican Church, while increasing the power of both the pope and the king of France over religious matters within the French kingdom. In August 1516, he promised to marry his firstborn daughter to Charles, then only king of Spain, and in April 1518 he was negotiating with the English ambassadors to arrange the marriage of his firstborn son to Henry VIII’s daughter Mary Tudor (1516–1558), the woman from the North, two years older than the Dauphin, to whom the horoscope from 1518 alludes. We clearly see that the nativity chart and its prognostication, which I attribute with minor reservations to Thenaud, correspond closely with the interests and hopes of the French king and his mother. But did such astrological predictions, packed with prophetic symbolism, have any influence on François I’s actions? Did he believe in them? In his instructions to the ambassadors sent to England to negotiate the marriage of his son, François I reminds his English interlocutor that he wants “universal peace” to prepare for war against the enemies of faith, a goal towards which he “had been naturally inclined since his youngest age.”104 The use of an astrological phraseology (“naturally inclined”), even metaphorically, in a diplomatic instruction suggests that the French monarch did pay attention to astrologers, and that he had consulted nativity charts and yearly prognostications predicting crusades and universal peace, ever since he was a child. Louise started to haunt imperial electors as soon as François became king of France, and tracts like Thenaud’s might have played a role in her political machinations. Now, François’s son, the Dauphin, was subject to similar astrological interpretations. 5

Failed Predictions and Uncertainties

In June 1519, Charles, king of Spain, was elected emperor, and nothing came of the projected crusade. Devastated, François I gave up his plans for world 102 Georges Guiffrey, ed., Chronique du Roy Françoys Premier de ce nom (Paris: Renouard, 1860), 25. 103 Barrillon (1897), 250. 104 Jean Barrillon, Journal: 1515–1521, vol. 2 (Paris: Renouard, 1899), 90.

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domination, and retired for two months to Fontainebleau, where he chased away his melancholy by hunting, his favorite pastime after card games.105 Surprisingly, he did not chase away his astrologers. As we remember, Christian astrology claims to be conjectural: the stars incline but they do not bind, and astrologers admit they can naturally err. Another way for astrologers to defend themselves is to refer to as many astrological authorities and theories as possible, even if they are incompatible and lead to inconsistencies. A beautiful presentation manuscript from the beginning of 1519 contains a horoscope, in De Moulins’s unmistakable handwriting, for ­Louise de Savoie’s forty-third birthday: its high quality suggests it was a gift to L­ ouise.106 De ­Moulins quotes the usual Islamic authorities, Haly Abenragel and ­Albumasar.107 But, in the manuscript, the horoscope follows some ephemerides for the year 1519 that De Moulins had simply translated from a work that the Flemish astronomer Albert Pigghe (1492–1542) published in mid-April of the same year in Paris: Defense Against the Crowd of Astrologers Who Publish Annual Predictions.108 In this tract, Pigghe vehemently criticized Arabic astrologers, particularly ­Albumasar, their planetary conjunction theories, and the sort of world history that Thenaud was dabbling in. Pigghe was particularly adamant against the apocalyptic prognostications for the year 1524. De M ­ oulins only translated the third, non-polemical part of Pigghe’s defense, which contains an astrological calendar and general weather predictions for 1519, omitting the first two sections, in which Pigghe attacked precisely the Islamic authorities that De Moulins quoted in his own horoscope for ­Louise. It is impossible to tell what astronomical model and astrological theory De ­Moulins actually believed in. De Moulins was Pigghe’s patron during the latter’s stay in Paris between ­1517–1522, as Pigghe acknowledges in a dedicatory epistle.109 But Thenaud was also De Moulins’s protégé, and an older acquaintance, who was deeply influenced by medieval Islamic astrology, but was also ready to change his ideas as circumstances dictated. Thenaud had at hand a task fraught with difficulties, since he was the most likely originator of the astrological prediction about the Last World Emperor, discussed above. Once the nineteen-year old Charles became emperor in June

105 106 107 108

Barrillon (1899), 147. BNF, MS fr. 1347. The library notice wrongly attributes this manuscript to Gaspard de Laet. The autograph horoscope is at fols. 19–20v. Albert Pigghe, Adversus prognosticatorum vulgus, qui annuas praedictiones edunt, et se astrologos mentiuntur, Astrologiae defensio (Paris: Henri Etienne, 1519). Pigghe might have handed De Moulins his ephemerides before he actually published his work. 109 Dedicatory epistle of Pigghe, De Aequinoctiorum Solsticiorumque Inventione (Paris: ­Conrad Rensch, 1520).

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1519, the chances that François’s son might become a universal ruler by 1524 surely sounded preposterous. By 1521, François was at war against nearly all the false allies with whom he had previously desired to make a universal Christian peace. In fact, the unity of the Catholic church was in question: on 15 April 1521, the Faculty of Theology in Paris, published an official condemnation of Lutheran theses.110 Around the same time, Jean Thenaud wrote a strange new manuscript for Louise de Savoie: Three Resolutions and Sentences, That Is of the Astrologer, the Poet, and the Theologian, on the Great, Mean, and Small Conjunctions that Occur in the Sign of Pisces in 1524.111 The work is divided into three parts: one translates, without quoting the source, Agostino Nifo’s attack, based on Albert Pigghe’s theories, against astrological predictions about the flood in 1524; the middle part is a humorous satire against astrologers and a masterful adaptation of two dialogues by Lucian of Samosata; the last part plagiarizes M ­ arsilio Ficino’s vision of Saint Paul’s rapture.112 Thenaud seems here to retract his prediction for 1524 of a Last World Emperor, although he never directly expresses a mea culpa, preferring to use fiction and borrow other authors’ texts. He even quotes the “profound, consummate and irrepressible physician and astronomer [his] Lord master Albert,” an undeniable reference to Pigghe, suggesting that he has parted ways with Islamic astrology, and, if he has not completely abandoned astrology, he would follow to the letter Pigghe’s purely Christian Humanist astrology devoid of Islamic references.113 While it is true that Thenaud remained silent on astrological matters for a while, his last work, made for François I in 1533, is an impressive nativity chart analyzing in depth the yearly revolutions of the king’s life, past and future, lavishly quoting, as respectable authorities, the best Islamic and Jewish astrologers of the Middle Ages.114 110 111

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Determinatio theologicae Facultatis Parisiensis super Doctrina Lutheriana (Paris: 1521) NAL, MS Cod. 2645; Anne-Marie Lecoq, “La grande conjonction de 1524 démythifiée pour Louise de Savoie. Un manuscrit de Jean Thenaud à la Bibliothèque Nationale de Vienne,” Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et de Renaissance, 43:1 (1981), 39–60; Nicolae Virastau, “Jean Thenaud et François Rabelais,” Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et de Renaissance, 81:2 (2019), 345–357. Lucian of Samosata, De veris narrationibus, trad. Lilio Castellani (Napoli, 1475), and Icaromenippus seu Hypernephelus, trad. Erasmus of Rotterdam (Paris: Gilles Gourmont, 1516); Agostino Nifo, De Falsa diluvii prognosticatione, quae ex conventu omnium planetarum qui in piscibus continget anno 1524 (Naples: 1519); Marsilio Ficino, De raptu Pauli ad tercium coelum et animi immortalitate cuius capita subduntur in Epistolae, lib. 2 (Venice: Capcasa, 1495), fols. LIr–LXIIIv. NAL, MS Cod. 2645, fol. 10r: “le tres profond, consommé et irreprehensible medecin et astronome monseigneur maistre Albert m’avoyt hyer conforté.” BC, MS 420. In “Portrait de François Ier en saint Thomas” (n. 1, p. 82), Anne-Marie Lecoq wrongly surmises that the Genealitic was written between 1535–1537. Thenaud clearly

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Making Sense

The picture that emerges of the Christian astrological works belonging to ­Louise’s court protégés is quite variegated. While the connections through courtly relationships of patronage and migration of ideas and texts are apparent, there is no close circle of people united by a coherent set of beliefs. Even though everybody agreed on the major tenets of Christian astrology summed up at the beginning of this chapter, specific ideas about valid authorities and predictive methods vary from author to author, and from manuscript to manuscript, sometimes even within the same manuscript. Such variability results from the interplay between the authors’ personal beliefs, their patrons’ interests, and the threatening gaze of the conservative Faculty of Theology in Paris. It is impossible to gauge how much Louise and François understood and cared about the abundant theoretical debates on the limits of influence and astrological possibilities of predicting the end of the world. But it is clear that they requested and consulted these manuscripts and that De Moulins and Thenaud did not just write them spontaneously. Some of these manuscripts of Christian astrology are very elegant and, therefore, costly. Their ideas were also sensitive and the authors needed protection: in December 1516, the Fifth ­Lateran Council issued a conclusion of its proceedings with a general condemnation of predictions concerning the end of the world.115 While De Moulins and Thenaud were generally spared official condemnation as their work was not printed during their lifetime (except for Thenaud’s Overseas Travel) and had powerful patrons, some of their friends, particularly D’Étaples, did experience the wrath of the Faculty of Theology in Paris, when they questioned details about the lives of saints.

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indicates that he wrote the tract right before François I became forty-one years of age, and that he sent the horoscope with a letter to the admiral Chabot on 1 August 1533. Nothing in the passsage quoted by Lecoq indicates otherwise: “Cestuy Mars a ses ans majeurs, moyens et mineures. Les majeurs sont soixante et six, les moyens sont quarante et demy, et les mineurs xv. Et comme ainsi soit que graces a Dieu il aye passé les ans mineurs en joye et felicité, et qu’il aye a passer [my bold characters] en honneur et gloire les moyens qui sont le quarantiesme an et demy de son eage, Dieu aydans, il verra les ans majeurs qui sont de soixante six ou plus.” (BC, MS 420, fol. 2r-v). See also Pierre Gasnault, ‘Une lettre autographe de Jean Thenaud,’ Vivarium 10: 1 (1972), 103–106. Sacrum Lateranense concilium novissimum sub Iulio II et Leone X celebratum (Rome: Iacobus Mazochius, 1521), fol. clxxiv: “Tempus quoque praefixum futurorum malorum, vel Antichristi adventum, aut certum diem iudicii praedicare vel asserere nequaquam praesumant, cum veritas dicat non esse nostrum nosse tempora vel momentaquae Pater posuit in sua potestate.”

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Even in very conservative devotional tracts in honor of saints made for the members of the royal family, we can find surprising echoes of astrology, prophecy, and calls for crusade, present also in the works of Louise’s astrologers. For instance, Holban and later Michael Alan Anderson have attributed to Thenaud a devotional office in honor of Saint Anne, dedicated to Louise’s daughter, Marguerite.116 While their arguments for the attribution are unconvincing, there are quite a few peculiarities that single out this Mass for Saint Anne from numerous similar devotional texts.117 Although the story of Saint Anne is not only very conservative, presenting the view that Saint Anne was the mother of three daughters by three husbands who had seven children, the anonymous author still urges Marguerite to submit the mass to the papal nuncio: “I humbly beg you my Lady that it please you to ask the most reverend monseigneur my lord the legate that his pleasure be to have the Mass approved by apostolic authority.”118 Submitting an orthodox view of Saint Anne to papal censorship makes no sense, unless the author is fully aware of the scandal surrounding D’Étaples’s published ideas about the lives of Mary Magdalene and Saint Anne. We remember that De Moulins had also proposed to Louise, in his Small Treatise in Honor of Saint Anne, written between late 1518 and early 1519, that ­D’Étaples’s heterodox booklet be sent to the pope for censorship and that he was ready to accept the condemnation of the booklet. The anonymous author of the Mass for Saint Anne contained in MS fr. 1035 must have written it shortly after Béda’s criticism of D’Étaples’s Life of the ­Magdalene, in early 1519. The mass was also most probably written before the imperial election of July 1519: the author mentions the peace proceedings between two Christian monarchs as a model for a peace amongst Christian

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BNF, MS fr. 1035; Michael Alan Anderson, St. Anne in Renaissance Music: Devotion and Politics (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 245; Holban (1973), 193–205. Holban might refer to another Mass for St. Anne made for Anne de Bretagne, but as usual Holban gives no call number for the manuscripts she quotes. Compare with BNF, MS fr. 1224, dedicated to Charles de Bourbon, on the occasion of the birth of his first son in 1517. BNF, MS fr. 1035, fols. 3r–4v: “Je vous supplie treshumblement ma dame qu’il vous plaise prier monseigneur reverendissime mon seigneur le legat que son plaisir soit de aprouer ladicte messe d’auctorité apostolicque.” Anderson wrongly transcribes “Je vous supplie tres humblement ma dame qu’il vous plaise prier monseigneur reverendissime mon seigneur le legat que son plaisir soit de aproner ladicte messe d’auctre apostolicque,” which he translates nonsensically: “I humbly beg you my Lady that it please you to ask the most reverend monseigneur my lord the legate that his pleasure be to recommend this Mass to apostolic others [other churches]” (Anderson, St. Anne in Renaissance Music, 312).

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princes and a prerequisite for the crusade against the Turks.119 This is a clear reference to the peace talks between Henry VIII and François I, following the birth of the Dauphin in February 1518. The ideas of universal peace and crusade against the infidels are overarching themes of Jean Thenaud, as well. What really tips the attribution scale in favor of Thenaud are the references to Mars’s evil influence in current world affairs.120 Even though Mars was a common poetic fiction to denote violence and war, the presence of a pagan god and an iniquitous planet in the prologue of a Mass is more typical of the kind of Christian astrology that Thenaud championed at the French court around the same time, and in which Mars was the ruling planet of the seventh and last millennium of the world. If Thenaud really composed the Mass, his conservative views about Saint Anne are at odds with the innovative theories of his friend and patron, De ­Moulins. But theirs was a complicated relationship. We have seen that De ­Moulins was ready to abjure his and D’Étaples’s innovations in saintly biography if religious authorities, particularly the Holy See, required this. Besides, Thenaud himself was a versatile friar, not so different fundamentally from the sort that De Moulins satirized in many of his writings. To complicate things further, Thenaud was also a doctor of Theology, and he did express his admiration for the “profound Parisian Sorbonne,” the most prestigious college of the Faculty of Theology in Paris, and the source of D’Étaples’s sorrows.121 Although we lack concrete evidence, it is not unlikely that Thenaud was a doctor of the same Faculty. Briefly put, the Mass of Saint Anne echoes many references to themes and obsessions typical of the type of Christian astrology meant to support François I’s claims to the imperial title. Louise’s notes were collected into a diary after the loss of the imperial throne, when the French kingdom was on the verge of bankruptcy, Lutheranism was spreading, and her son was facing wars on all fronts. Rather than renouncing her beliefs in portents, saintly intercession, 119

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BNF, MS fr. 1035, fol. 4v: “Car par la bonne alliance de paix qui doibt estre maintenant confermee entre les deux nobles et puissans roys tous aultres roys et princes pourront estre au moyen d’iceulx aliés et unis dessoubz l’obeissance de la tressaincte et sacree Romaine eglise.” BNF, MS fr. 1035, fol. 5r “Meilleur moyen n’y a dessoubz les cieulz/pour obtenir le riche et precieux/tresor de paix. Et eviter l’oultrance/ de Mars pervers cruel ambitieux/ que contempler de cueur devocieux /l’escript present, l’hystoire et la substance” and fol. 6r: “Croyez de vray si l’escripture ne erre/ Mars vuydera aussi tost que tonnerre/ Sans excerser extermination, / sauf sus la faulce extere nation.” Jean Thenaud, Traicté de la cabale, ed. Ian R. Christie-Miller (Paris: Champion, 2007), 365.

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and the power of astrological prediction, Louise wanted to make sense of what was happening, and better prepare for the uncertainties of the future. With the help of De Moulins, she gathered (auto)biographical notes that could have served another astrological investigation. The survey of the manuscripts and their possible authors has shown that there are considerable differences between writers who undoubtedly belonged to the same network. Some of these differences are attributable to the authors’ responses to political and religious changes. Much of their work now seems incoherent. Read in the light of this variable courtly network and the vagaries of textual transmission outlined in this chapter, Louise’s Diary proves to be a circumstantial work, created initially for practical astrological purposes with the help of De Moulins and possibly Thenaud. This initial context g­ radually was forgotten in successive recopying of the original manuscripts, and the notes gained, eventually, a life of their own as a typical early modern diary.

CHAPTER 4

Philippe Hurault de Cheverny (1528–1599) and His State Memoirs Historians of French memoirs consider the Memoires d’Estat (State Memoirs) of Chancellor Philippe Hurault de Cheverny (1528–1599) to be a stepping stone in the history of self-writing because it seems to mark a transition from first-person narratives focusing on the author’s public persona to a self-­ writing that emphasizes the author’s private life; that is, to something more akin to modern autobiography.1 Certainly, unlike most printed autobiographical works in France, Cheverny’s memoirs integrate details about the author’s private life and family affairs into the more common first-person chronicle of the author’s public career and of the military and political events that he witnessed. A closer examination reveals, however, that multiple practices of self-writing are at work in Cheverny’s book, and that its apparent originality in the history of memoirs and their relation to autobiography more generally is an effect of editorial changes made after the author’s death. While in the first chapter, I discussed the various ways in which early modern and mostly modern editors disregarded the original texts and their meaning to fit their ideas of history- and self-writing, Cheverny’s case is interesting because there is no original unitary autobiographical work to begin with. It can be argued that the entire memoirs were from the outset a patchwork. His memoirs resemble ­Louise’s diary in this respect, but also differs from them, in that Cheverny did not have any control as to the fate of his papers, while Louise’s diary is a conscious collaborative work. I should like to show that Cheverny’s so-called “memoirs” are a medley of texts of uncertain origin and authorship. The chapter supports the general argument of this book that similar practices of collective writing and editing were widespread in the early modern history of personal documents. The practice of publishing early modern memoirs only after their authors’ death, with very few exceptions, favored such editorial interventions.2 While I focus on works that were written before the 1650s, the classical memoirs of the late 1 Driss Aïssaoui, “Les Mémoires: un genre errant,” Dalhousie French Studies, 62 (Winter 2002), 12–26. 2 Rare exceptions are: Rabutin (1555), Sully ([1640]), and possibly Jean de Saulx-Tavannes, Mémoires (NP, ND). © koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2021 | doi:10.1163/9789004459557_005

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seventeenth century present similar practices of posthumous editing and ­rearrangement.3 They are far from isolated cases. Throughout this chapter, I will focus on the first edition published in 1636.4 I will briefly discuss, besides the so-called memoirs, also two treatises on the instruction of Cheverny’s son and daughter, and a genealogy of the Hurault-­ Cheverny family, contained in the same first edition. I will compare this edition to extant manuscripts and surmise on the actors and motives behind this complicated editorial process. 1

Cheverny and His Printed Memoirs

Cheverny’s memoirs were first published thirty-seven years after the author’s death, following the success of a growing body of similar books entitled Mémoires that first appeared in French by the mid-sixteenth century, and then gradually in most European languages, as we have seen in the first chapter. Coming from a distinguished line of French nobles who held mostly judicial and financial offices (noblesse de robe longue), Philippe Hurault, count of Cheverny, reached the highest offices of the French crown: he became keeper of the seals of France in 1578, chancellor of France between 1583 and 1588, and again from 1590 until his death in 1599. He married Anne de Thou (1546–1584), sister of the famous historian Jacques Auguste de Thou (1553–1617). In 1588, Cheverny’s career suffered a major setback: Henri III (1551–1589) released him from his duties for reasons that are not yet fully known, but might be related to Cheverny’s close ties with prominent members of the Catholic League that opposed Henri III’s rapprochement with the protestant king of Navarre Henri (1553–1610), and heir to the throne of France. The latter ­reinstated Cheverny as chancellor of France in 1590 in the context of the protestant king’s endeavors to gain legitimacy following Henri III’s assassination in 1589. A moderate Catholic, Cheverny’s entire career unfolded during the French Wars of Religion, as he tried to keep to the middle ground between the radical Catholic and Protestant factions that threatened to destroy the French state. 3 Hipp (1976), 230–247. 4 Philippe Hurault de Cheverny, Les Memoires d’Estat … avec une Instruction à Monsieur son fils, ensemble La Genealogie de la Maison des Huraults, dressée sur plusieurs Titres, Arrests des Cours Souveraines, Histoires et autres bonnes preuves (Paris: Pierre Billaine, 1636). The dictionary entry for the author is Hurault de Cheverny, but to his contemporaries the author was known as Cheverny, and this is the form that I will employ throughout this book.

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His memoirs were first published in 1636, and recount mostly his career and events that he witnessed or that he heard about. Although parts of Cheverny’s printed memoirs are recognizable in a few earlier manuscripts, there is no complete original manuscript or an earlier copy of the entire work. The disregard and even destruction of manuscripts after their printing is a well-known early modern practice.5 Cheverny’s first edition starts with eulogistic extracts, in both prose and in verse, from the Latin texts of humanist historians and poets, who were closely related to the deceased chancellor either through family ties or patronage: his brother-in-law Jacques-Auguste de Thou, and the poets, whom the chancellor had protected, Scévole de Sainte-Marthe (1536–1623), Germain Audebert ­(1518–1598), and Nicolas Rapin (1535–1608).6 A letter dated 7 July 1635 granting a royal privilege to print follows these eulogistic extracts, and informs the reader that a “beloved” (“nostre bien aymé”) herald of arms of Louis XIII obtained the privilege, after having “recovered” (“recouvert”) a book called The Memoirs of Messire Philippes Hurault, count of Cheverny, Chancellor of France: Together with Three Treatises for the Instruction of his Children.7 For unknown reasons, the privilege letter refers to the herald, who recovered the manuscript, only with the acronym I.D.M.S.D.L.M., whose possible identity will be discussed below. The privilege letter also demands that a copy of the printed edition be sent to Pierre Séguier (1588–1672), chancellor of France, before selling the book to the general public. The same herald of arms sold his privilege to the bookseller Pierre Billaine (d. 1639) who printed the book on 12 February 1636. Receiving a royal privilege meant that the bookseller had exclusive printing rights (for nine years in this case), and that the book passed official censorship. The latter fact is significant because it distinguishes Cheverny’s memoirs from other similar works printed abroad or in clandestine printing presses precisely to avoid censorship. Consequently, the notion that memoirs somehow opposed royal historiography is not substantiated. 8 Everything suggests that Cheverny’s text was official history.

5 François Moureau, “Du bon usage des manuscrits et des autographes littéraires: le cas du XVIIIe siècle,” Le Manuscrit littéraire: Son statut, son histoire, du Moyen Age à nos jours, ed. Luc Fraisse (Paris: Klincksieck, 1998), 195–212. 6 Pierre Ronzy, Un humaniste italianisant: Papire Masson (1544–1611) (Paris: Champion, 1924), 105–107 and 135. 7 Cheverny, Memoires d’Estat (1636), fol. c ii. 8 Fumaroli (1971).

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This first edition actually starts with a lengthy genealogy of the Hurault-­ Cheverny family completed in 1636, well after Cheverny’s death.9 The author of the genealogy is not named, but he worked from original papers, receipts, documents, and memoirs, which he carefully references. It is unlikely that the bookseller Pierre Billaine undertook this arduous task, and everything suggests that Cheverny’s direct descendants paid for a specialist to draw the genealogical tree, which highlights the family pedigree, and its merits in serving the French state. Since the office of herald of arms presupposed expertise in noble genealogies and heraldry, specifically for proving one’s nobility, it is highly likely that the author was the same herald of arms who sold the printing ­privilege: I.D.M.S.D.L.M. After the Genealogy, the first edition gives Cheverny’s Memoires d’Estat, which begin quite typically for both autobiographical and literary essays: the life-discourse starts in a time of rest (otium), on 2 November 1586.10 Significantly, the narrative begins on All Souls’ Day, and adopts the tone of a last will and testament. Having contemplated the brevity and uncertainty of this strenuous life and fearing the illnesses that threaten to cut it short, Cheverny wants to pass down to his children (“nostre posterité”) the contents of his past life, his thoughts, and his last wishes.11 This proximity between life-discourses and testaments is quite common in other similar narratives, most famously His Life to His Children by Agrippa d’Aubigné (1552–1630).12 As befits a testament, Cheverny praises the Lord for all the honor bestowed upon His unworthy subject and urges his family to bury him in the chapel of the Cheverny castle together with his ancestors. In short, Cheverny initially conceived of this part of the printed work as a last will, and he ceremoniously placed its inception on the Day of the Dead.

9 10 11

12

Genealogie in Cheverny (1636). See Virginia Krause, Idle Pursuits: Literature and ‘Oisiveté’ in the French Renaissance (Newark: University of Delaware Press; London: Associated University Presses, 2003). Cheverny (1636), 1: “Aujourd’huy deuxiesme jour de Novembre mil cinq cens quatre vingts six, me trouvant en quelques jours de relasche & repos des affaires du monde, pendant les Festes de Toussaints & des Morts, en l’absence du Roy Henri III, mon Maistre, qui les est allé passer en ses devotions au bois de Vincennes, m’estant representé en moy mesme la brieveté de cette penible vie, et l’incertitude de nos jours; & combien souvent les maladies laissent peu de pouvoir & de relasche pour l’alteration qu’elles apportent à nos meilleurs sens et esprits, de declarer lors de nostre mort, & tesmoigner a nostre posterité quel a esté le cours de nostre vie, & quelles sont nos dernieres pensees et volontez.” Aubigné (1986). For the MS with autograph notes, see Bibliothèque publique et universitaire, Geneva (hereafter BPU), MS Tronchin 156.

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He borrowed from the many prologues of sixteenth-century memoirs the ideal of a “pure, naïve and truthful” discourse, free from embellishments, and forbade his family from ever making it public.13 In truth, Cheverny’s discourse is far from “pure and naïve”: composed of long sentences with many subordinate clauses imitating the Latin period, replete with double epithets and Latinisms, the style reveals the work of a humanist. The confessional tone of the incipit is misleading. Cheverny does not quote Augustine’s Confessions, nor does his testament unfold as a recapitulation of a life of sin and quest for redemption. Cheverny’s memoirs describe mostly the honorable offices that he held and the distinguished people that he met, served, and who trusted him. The writing serves the purpose of reinforcing the author and his family’s social position, while religious sentiments are muted, probably because of the rapid changes in religious allegiances during the lengthy French Wars of Religions. The life-discourse then chronicles briefly the history of his ancestors: the Huraults came from Brittany and many of them served as honorable knights in the civil wars of Brittany such as that between Charles de Blois and the Count of Montfort in the fourteenth century. The story of the noble men and women from the branches of Hurault and Cheverny ends with Raoul (1470–1528), the narrator’s father, controller of finances under François I. Raoul died during the French army’s siege of Naples (1528), while his wife was pregnant with Philippe. Although Cheverny does not address the rumors here, some malicious observers did question the strength of this last genealogical bond.14 To preserve the integrity of the family estate, Philippe was initially educated to join the Church, but his ecclesiastical benefactors died before they could intervene on his behalf, and he was sent to study law in Poitiers and Padua. In 1553, Cheverny joined the Parliament of Paris in lieu of Michel de ­L’Hospital (1507–1573), who became chancellor of Marguerite de France (1523– 1574), King Henri II’s sister.15 Cheverny climbed the parliamentary ladder and joined the Grand-chambre, the highest judicial body of the French Parliament. He soon became master of requests of the Hostel du Roy, a judicial officer working under the Chancellor of France. He gradually made his name known at the French court. He gained the trust of the Cardinal de Lorraine (1524–1574) who introduced him to Queen Catherine de Médicis (1519–1589), mother of 13

14 15

Cheverny (1636), 2: “laquelle declaration je fais pure, naïfve et veritable, comme ne devant sortir de ma famille et maison, pour la continuer jusques à ma mort, s’il luy plaist, y employant tout le temps que je pourray sauver des embarras & affaires publiques, ausquelles je me suis tres-honorablement employé. ” BNF, MS fr. 20252, fol. 59. Cheverny (1636), 9.

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the young King Charles IX (1550–1574). For his good service in the negotiations between Catholics and Huguenots during Charles IX’s grand tour of France (1564–1566), Catherine named Cheverny chancellor to Henri d’Anjou, the future King Henri III, Charles IX’s younger brother. The author then lists his diplomatic missions on behalf of Henri d’Anjou, the battles that he witnessed, and also gives a brief account of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.16 Suddenly, the narrative shifts back to Cheverny’s family and more particularly to the birth of his son. The transition is abrupt, and consists of a place and date for his son’s birth (Paris, 24 September 1572), the list of distinguished participants in his baptismal ceremony, including Henri d’Anjou and Henri de Navarre, and his son’s premature death.17 The narrative switches again without transition back to the aftermath of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, focusing on Henri d’Anjou and his army’s siege of the Protestant fortress-city of La Rochelle. Cheverny’s memoirs are punctuated several times by similar brief, factual accounts of family baptisms and deaths until they reach the year 1584, when Cheverny’s wife died shortly after giving birth to their last child. These interruptions have little to do with the rest of the narrative and are inconsequential for either Cheverny’s own career or the history of the French monarchy. These sudden changes are the result of editorial interventions after Cheverny’s death, as we shall discover in the following section of this chapter. Sometimes, the shifts are less abrupt, as for instance, when Cheverny reports the news of the birth of his second child while he was accompanying Henri d’Anjou. The latter became in 1574 king of Poland, and, upon the death of his brother Charles IX, fled back to France to occupy the French throne as Henri III. At this narrative juncture, the text transitions to Cheverny’s private life: After the said Majesty had sojourned a few days in Turin, where Monsieur de Savoie honored him infinitely with the highest magnificence, during the first day on the French side, on our way to Lyon, one of the king’s secretaries and a friend of mine came to my post to inform me that my wife gave birth to our daughter on Saturday, 21 August 1574, in Paris. The 16 17

Cheverny (1636), 24. Cheverny (1636), 25: “Le xxiiii. jour de Septembre ensuivant audit an soixante & douze, la Dame de Cheverny ma femme accoucha de son premier fils à Paris, qui fut baptizé à S. ­Germain de Lauxerrois, tenu sur les Saincts Fonds de Baptesme par mondict Seigneur le Duc d’Anjou frere du Roy, par le Roy de Navarre, & Madame la Duchesse de Lorraine sœur du Roy: II fut nommé Henry, qui fut le premier Baptesme où jamais avoit assisté le Roy de Navarre en l’Eglise Catolique, en laquelle il s’estoit remis & reduict depuis la Sainct Barthelemy seulement. Mondit fils appellé le Sr d’Eguemont mourut à Vibraye en l’âge de 18. mois.”

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name Marguerite was given to her by Madame de Vibraye and Monsieur the first President, and Mademoiselle de Bonneval. On 16 June 1583, she would become engaged to and, in 1585, marry, Monsieur the Marquis de Nesle from the house of Laval.18 Cheverny goes on the enumerate chronologically all the major political negotiations, and battles, but also royal family matters such as the queen’s miscarriage in 1575, of political import since the lack of offspring would only further fuel the civil wars. Probably the most traumatic experience in Cheverny’s public career occurred on 3 September 1588, when Henri III sent identical letters to the first and principal members of his ordinary council. The letters asked the officers to retire to their estates. None of those concerned, including Cheverny, were given any clues as to what triggered their fall from the king’s good graces. Cheverny lists all the eminent persons that were given similar letters, suggesting that none of them had any fault. Meanwhile, Henri III orchestrated the assassination of his archenemy the ultra-Catholic duke of Guise. Cheverny recounts the scene as if he were an eyewitness and he heard the direct speech of Henri III: And shortly afterwards, the King, having seen through the door the end and execution of his order, left his office, and, seeing the said Lord of Guise dead, said that he was surely now the only King, and that he had no more rivals.19 Cheverny then proceeds to reproduce in direct speech Henri III’s dialogue with his dying mother, details about the Parisian revolt, and the Sorbonne’s declaration of rightful civil disobedience against Henri III. Cheverny upholds the truth protocol associated with eyewitness chronicles by claiming that his 18

19

Cheverny (1636), 36–37: “Apres que ladite Majesté eut sejourné quelques jours audit Thurin, ou Monsieur de Savoye luy rendit infinis honneurs, avec tres-grandes magnificences à la première journée au deça pour venir à Lyon, un de mes amis Secretaires du Roy me vint trouver en poste pour m’apporter nouvelles que ma femme estoit accouchée le Samedy vingt & uniesme jour d’Aoust audict an soixante et quatorze d’une fille, à Paris, qui fut depuis nommée Marguerite par Madame de Vibraye & Monsieur le premier President, & Madamoiselle de Bonneval, laquelle depuis en l’année mil cinq cens quatre vingt trois, le seiziesme juin, fut fiancée, & en quatre vingt & cinq mariée avec Monsieur le Marquis de Nesle de la maison de Laval.” Cheverny (1636), 83–84, “Et bien tost apres le Roy ayant veu a travers de ladite porte, la fin et l’execution de son commandement, partit de sondit cabinet, et voyant ainsi ledit Sieur de Guise mort, dit qu’il estoit lors assurement Roy, et qu’il n’avoit plus de compagnon.”

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friends at the court visited him on his estate in Éclimont and reported all of this faithfully. On 1 August 1589, a Dominican friar fatally wounded Henri III, who died the following day. In lieu of a funeral eulogy, Cheverny draws an unapologetic portrait of his former sovereign. He attributes Henri III’s wrong decisions and eventual downfall to his love for two court favorites or mignons, Anne de ­Batarnay, Duc de Joyeuse (1560–1587) and Jean Louis de Nogaret de la Valette, Duc d’Épernon (1554–1642), who so held sway over him that he raised them to ranks and titles far beyond their merit and birth. Henri III somehow inherited this fault through his bloodline. Cheverny sketches a history of the “Valois race,” the cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty that came to the throne of France in 1328 and ended with Henri III; the chancellor shows how every Valois king excessively favored some courtiers, whom they eventually disgraced, or disgraced themselves.20 At work in this portrait is a typical noble ideology that limits the individual’s personal responsibility and ascribes to the concept of “race” not only physical but also hereditary moral traits.21 This stance serves Cheverny well: he, too, had been a court favorite and was ousted because of the atavistic behavioral pattern of the Valois sovereigns. Cheverny’s method of deflecting personal responsibility and blame his downfall on impersonal forces, such as race is a commonplace of what I would call the literature of disgrace, following Nicolas Le Roux’s felicitous expression “pedagogy of disgrace,” which refers to the way in which French monarchs instrumentalized the ousting of their servants.22 Such commonplaces can be found in the life-discourses of Henri de Mesmes (1532–1596) and Jean de Saulx-Tavannes (1555–c.1530), for instance.23 At the invitation of Henri de Navarre, the rightful heir to throne of France, Cheverny took back the seals of France only after Henri promised publicly but also in private (“et à moy particulierement”) that he would convert to Catholicism: the old chancellor states that his conscience was clear.24 Together with Henri IV, the chancellor promoted a political agenda based on reconciliation, 20 21 22 23 24

Cheverny (1636), 98–104. Arlette Jouanna, L’Idée de race en France au XVIe siècle et au début du XVIIe siècle (1498– 1614), 3 vols. (Paris: Champion 1976). Le Roux (2000), 417–457. BNF, MS fr. 729, fol. 31v, Tavannes (NP, ND), 2–4. Cheverny (1636), 121: “ma conscience, mon honneur, et mon serment au vray interest et conservation de cette Monarchie, me porterent et obligerent à la meilleure resolution, qui estoit de servir le Roy que Dieu m’avoit donné pour Maistre, par vraye et legitime succession, veu mesme que ce scrupule de la religion, qui seul retenoit beaucoup de gens de bien, estoit comme couvert par l’assurance que sa Majesté donnoit à tout le monde, et

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tolerance, and clemency. Former enemies of Henri de Navarre were given back their offices and ranks, and even Henri’s conversion to Catholicism was a “just necessity” dictated by “reason of state.”25 Cheverny continued the saga of Henri IV’s reconquest of the kingdom, conversion, divorce from Marguerite de Valois, and preparations for his marriage with Marie de Médicis up to 1599. In his account of the summer of that year, he tells his readers that he took the decision to give up his position as a chancellor and to retire from public life. He thought of passing the seals to André Hurault de Maisse (1539–1607), a former ambassador to England, whom he considered extremely competent besides being a relative. He asked the king to allow him to visit his estate. On his way, the chancellor met his second son, the abbot of Pontlevoy (1579–1620), to whom he “declared everything that he decided to do, and [everything] that [he] wanted him to do, all of which he accepted willingly.”26 Cheverny’s own “memoirs” end at this point. The following paragraph constitutes a clear external intervention: “This is where the minutes and memoirs found amongst the best papers of Monsieur de Cheverny end.”27 The paragraph in the third person is meant to introduce Pontlevoy’s own continuation of his father’s memoirs on the next page. Striking in this transition is that Cheverny’s decision to retire immediately precedes the last line of his memoirs and that he chose to communicate his last intentions only to Pontlevoy. As we remember, Cheverny’s testament started at a time of rest, free from public duties, as

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à moy ­particulierement qu’il vouloit se faire instruire à la religion catholique, mais non qu’il fust dit, que l’on luy eust forcé.” Cheverny (1636), 151: “Comme chacun veid les affaires du Roy prosperer ainsi de tous costez, force Ligueurs & mauvais François commencerent à chercher l’occasion, & minuter quelque honneste retraite à leur devoir & retour en leurs charges souz l’obeïssance de sa Majesté, à laquelle je conseillay de ne refuser personne, ce qu’elle trouva bon, & ainsi accordasmes par Lettres patentes force restablissemens d’Officiers, & bien que les Cours Souveraines en fissent grande difficulté nous fismes passer & verifier les meilleurs & plus importans: par raison d’Estat l’on commença aussi fort alors à parler de la conversion du Roy, & qu’il estoit nécessaire qu’il fust instruict en la Religion Catholique; sur quoy l’on fit infinis discours de toutes façons, concluant tous à cette juste nécessité, hormis que les francs Huguenots & desesperez Ligueurs craignans de là leurs ruines, ne peurent s’empescher de descrier cette conversion.” Cheverny (1636), 336: “telement que mon dit fils de Pont-Leuoy, estant arrivé à Orleans prés de moy, & luy ayant déclaré tout ce que j’estois résolu de faire, & ce que je voulois qu’il fist, à quoy je le trouvay tresdisposé.” Pontelvoy in Cheverny (1636), 336: “Voila où finissent toutes les minuttes & memoires qui se sont trouvez parmy les meilleurs papiers de mondict Sieur le Chancelier.”

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a meditation on the brevity of life; the memoirs end in a similar manner, with the desire to retire from public life, as if the old chancellor sensed his own end and the end of his life-narrative. Or maybe it was the abbot of Pontlevoy himself who composed this literary ending of his father’s memoirs. Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell where Cheverny’s writing ends and where Pontlevoy’s begins. The textual arrangement of the printed book (made after Cheverny’s death) indicates that Pontlevoy officially takes over the narrative on the next page. His first-person text is entitled Continuation and End of the Life of the Said Chancellor Cheverny, Faithfully Added Here at the End of the Memoirs by Monsieur the Abbot of Pont-Levoy, his Second Son.28 The abbot describes in minute detail the progress of his father’s illness, his last confession, and death. But he also recounts the story of the making of Cheverny’s memoirs: after their father’s death, the abbot and his older brother Henri Hurault (1575–1648) found their father’s “last memoirs of his life,” all written in their father’s own hand, and decided to put them together with papers on the “same subject” from the library of Éclimont.29 Pontlevoy assures his readers that he faithfully reproduces these “memoirs” (“memoires”) and “drafts” (“brouillons”) and he only added “a few linking words to better explain the discourse, in parts where he [his father] did not have the time to speak and explain himself according to his intention.”30 It is difficult to gauge the scope of Pontlevoy’s involvement in writing his father’s memoirs. As we shall see, even Pontlevoy’s own intervention was abridged by a third party. Pontlevoy’s Continuation is followed by Cheverny’s lengthy Instruction to His Son, a compendium of moral teachings left to his eldest surviving son Henri Hurault.31 Quoting heavily ancient authorities (Plato, Xenophon, Cicero, ­Tacitus, etc.), with historical examples both ancient and modern, the instruction to Cheverny’s son aims principally to form a perfect courtier: an important portion deals with distinguishing between flattery and honesty, and learning to maintain composure and obey rulers regardless of how capricious they 28 Pontlevoy, Suite et fin de la vie de Mondit Sieur le Chancelier de Cheverny fidellement, adjoustée ici au bout de ces Memoires in Cheverny (1636), 338–364. 29 Cheverny (1636), 338: “nous trouvasmes parmy les principaux papiers dudit sieur le Chancelier, une partie des derniers Memoires de sa vie, tous ecrits de sa main; lesquels je serray pour les reprendre & remettre avec les autres, qui se trouverent à mesme sujet dans sa Bibliotheque à Esclimont, laquelle par sa volonté me devoit demeurer.” 30 Cheverny (1636), 339: “quelques mots pour la liaison du discours et pour plus claire explication d’iceluy, en d’autres endroits qu’il n’avoit eu le loisir de redire et expliquer selon son intention.” 31 Instruction… a Monsieur son fils in Cheverny (1636), 365–574.

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might be. Cheverny himself was a courtier and he wanted his son to succeed at the French court.32 The instruction must have been written after 2 August 1589 and probably in the early 1590s while Cheverny’s eldest son Henri Hurault was still a child, because Cheverny refers to Henri III’s death and his treatment of court favorites. This text has little to do with Cheverny’s memoirs, yet fragments and ideas migrate from the memoirs to the instructions: for instance, the Instruction reproduces the same narrative, found in the memoirs, that the Valois kings were prone to elevate courtiers to great offices only to disgrace them later.33 Evidently, the editor(s) of the volume intended that the genealogy, memoirs, and instructions to form a whole. The final piece published with Cheverny’s memoirs is another instruction written for his eldest daughter Marguerite Hurault de Cheverny (1574–1614).34 Significantly shorter and less scholarly, the text advises Marguerite to follow the virtuous example of her deceased mother, to obey the church, avoid bad company, serve her husband faithfully, and take care of their children.35 The Genealogy that precedes the memoirs mentions that Marguerite became Marquise de Nesle in 1585 through marriage with Guy de Laval (1565–1590), also count of Maillé, who fought in Henri IV’s camp and died on the battlefield at Ivry, and that Marguerite would remarry twice: in 1593 to Anne d­ ’Anglure baron of Givry, who also died on the battlefield in 1594, and Arnaud le Dangereux (d. 1659), Seigneur de Beaupuy, with whom she had only one son, François

32 33

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The most famous court conduct book of the Renaissance is Baldassare Castiglione’s Il ­Cortegiano (Venice: Aldus, 1528). Cheverny (1636), 480 “et entr’autres comme les Rois et tous les hommes aussi, encore qu’ils ayent de bonnes et grandes perfections, si est-ce que quelquesfois, comme la nature ne peut estre parfaite, sont accompagnez de quelques imperfections, et entr’autres ceux de la maison de Valois, qui ont esté nos derniers Rois, ils ont tousjours esté cognus Princes pleins de courage et valeur, avec beaucoup d’autres belles parties; mais ayant quelque deffaut qui a esté sujet de tomber, à tous ceux de la famille, qui est la presomption et la legerté, dont en monstra le premier exemple Philippes de Valois, qui fut le premier de la branche et de la maison.” Autre instruction faite par Monsieur le chancelier à Madame la Marquise de Nesle sa fille aisnée in Cheverny (1636), 575–584. For the condition and education of women in early modern France and Europe, see: ­Évelyne Berriot-Salvadore, Les Femmes dans la société française de la Renaissance (Geneva: Droz, 1990); Colette Nativel, ed., Femmes savantes, savoirs des femmes: Du Crépuscule de la Renaissance à l’aube des Lumières (Geneva: Droz, 1999); Katheleen Wilson-Chevalier and Eliane Viennot, eds., Royaume de fémynies: Pouvoirs, contraintes, espaces de liberté des femmes, de la Renaissance à la Fronde (Paris: Champion, 1999); Barbara J. Whitehead, Women’s Education in Early Modern Europe: 1500–1800 (New York: Garland, 1999).

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(c.1612–1678).36 The dates for Arnaud Le Dangereux and his son are not originally given in the Genealogy, probably because whomever ordered the Genealogy did not want to draw attention on the Hurault’s relations to this side of the family. Following a lengthy trial that started at the end of Marguerite’s life, Arnaud lost the county of Maillé to Charles d’Albert de Luynes (1578–1621), Louis XIII’s favorite.37 Obviously, the fortunes of this side of the Hurault family had been waning after Cheverny’s death. 2

Cheverny’s Personal Papers and Manuscripts

An examination of Cheverny’s surviving manuscripts will show that the editors of the first edition from 1636 composed the memoirs from several of Cheverny’s manuscripts by diverting their original meaning and form. The printed memoirs do not mention any manuscript. As a result, the extant scholarship on Cheverny’s memoirs has considered them a unitary text, although the abrupt stylistic and content changes should have raised some questions. The private fragments that list the birth of Cheverny’s children, dispersed throughout the printed memoirs, sometimes without any transition, appear in several manuscripts as an independent, continuous short text called The Ages of the Children of Messire Philippes Hurault, Count of Cheverny, Chancellor of France, and of Dame Anne de Thou, his Wife, Dame of Chanteville and St. ­Maurice.38 The Ages ends with a couple of paragraphs, following the description of Anne de Cheverny’s death after her last childbirth in 1584. The paragraphs refer strictly to the year 1588, when Henri III dismissed Cheverny together with his entire royal council, and to the year 1589 when the same king was assassinated. Cheverny must have written this family account during this period of disgrace. The style of the Ages of Cheverny’s Children suggests that this text was meant as an independent domestic document in the form of a list with little narrative content, whose purpose was to recapitulate the most important courtly and family connections in the life of Cheverny’s family. This independent text was

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Cheverny (1636), 22–23; Patrick Bordeaux, “Maillé (Luynes) au temps des guerres de religion. Une situation originale ?” Bulletin de la Société archéologique de Touraine Société archéologique de Touraine, 50 (2004), 215–220. Patrick Bordeaux, De Maillé à Luynes: Genèse et identités d’une ville de Touraine à l’âge moderne, 4 vols. (PhD thesis, Sorbonne University, 2020), 108–121 of vol. 1. I would like to thank the author for granting me access to his erudite thesis. BNF, MS Cinq Cents de Colbert 500, fols. 19–20; BNF, MS français, 16963, fols. 9–10.

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then split into sequences that were inserted chronologically into the text that was first printed in 1636 as Cheverny’s memoirs. The Ages is stylistically a unitary text in the form of a report of family events typical of books of reason (early forms of account books), or family books. These forms of private writing appear in France in the late Middle Ages, and were extremely popular throughout the early modern period.39 They are often collections of non-narrative sequences of family events, while texts published as memoirs are usually bound to a narrative mode, where the author generally strives to connect different chronological moments causally and meaningfully. Account books and family books, the usual titles given to such texts, served as aides-memoires for a particular household and were written often by family patriarchs, sometimes over generations, with the principal aim to pass down to descendants practical information about the history of their household and social network. Highly diverse in content, they usually refer to changes in family properties such as sales and purchases; they often record family births, marriages, and deaths, but also political events that the author deemed worthy of transmission. Such family books circulated in manuscript and were meant for the internal usage of the family.40 It was only during the nineteenth century that scholars took interest in these papers for their value in depicting rural and private life. According to Giovanni Ciappelli, the “common denominator” of family books is the family as “recipient” and as “the primary inspiration for writing.”41 Cheverny’s Instruction to his son is also present in several manuscript copies and circulated among office holders, some of whom closely related to Cheverny and his family.42 For instance, BNF MS Cinq Cents de Colbert 28,

39

40

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Sylvie Mouysset, Papiers de famille: Introduction à l’étude des livres de raison: France XV e– XIX e siècle (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2007); James Amelang, The Flight of Icarus: Artisan Autobiography in Early Modern Europe (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998). For the sixteenth century, see Nicolas Versoris, Livre de raison, ed. Gustave Fagniez (Paris: Société de l’histoire de France, 1885). For Cheverny’s time, see Jean Pussot, Journalier, eds. Stefano Simiz and Jérôme Buridant (Villeneuve d’Ascq: Presses universitaires du ­Septentrion, 2008 [first edition 1858]). Ciappelli (2014). BNF, MS fr. 19917 contains only the “Instruction que Monsieur le Chancellier de Cheverny a faicte a Monsieur le conte de Cheverny son fils aisné estant en sa maison d’Esclimont pendant sa digrace de la Cour 1589.” The Instruction is also found in BNF, MS Cinq Cents de Colbert, fols. 21–26, collated to instructions to ambassadors, pamphlets, and satirical tracts. BNF, MS fr. 16963 contains several papers belonging to the Cheverny family: A treatise on the “Instruction of a Counsellor of State,” dedicated to Philippe de Cheverny

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containing Cheverny’s instruction to his son, belonged to Jacques-Auguste de Thou, Cheverny’s brother-in-law. 43 3

Network, Editors, and Possible Motivation

As we have seen above, Cheverny’s printed memoirs contain a relatively short Continuation written by his son Pontlevoy, who claimed to have put his father’s papers in order, and added some linking words, but this does not entail that he has ghostwritten entirely his father’s memoirs. Most likely, Pontlevoy had indeed gathered several papers, which his father has written on different occasions for different purposes such as the family book of the Ages of his Children, and the Instructions to his children. Pontlevoy must have made some changes, and added some linking words, as he claimed. The resulting memoirs, as they are found in the first edition, are a stylistic composite, with clear changes in tone and focus that the son did not manage to hide entirely. Most of the original papers that chancellor Cheverny has originally written are now lost, because they circulated in manuscript and were probably destroyed, but manuscripts containing Cheverny’s family book, the Ages of his Children and Instructions did survive, as we have seen. Pontlevoy decided which of his father’s papers were worth selecting for the composite work, and the abbot took an active role in compiling and rewriting the whole to fit his idea of his father’s memory. This compilation must have resulted in a manuscript, now lost, that served as basis for the 1636-printed edition. But Pontlevoy’s own Continuation as it was reproduced in the princeps edition of Cheverny’s Memoires d’Estat is incomplete. In fact, the continuation was part of Pontlevoy’s own projected memoirs, which survived in a manuscript copied in 1646.44 Pontlevoy’s started writing his own memoirs on 4 January 1620. Having died on 27 May of the same year, he only managed to write about the years 1599 to 1601 of his life. Pontlevoy’s own memoirs, which were not printed in the first edition, survive in a manuscript copy of 1646. The inclusion with this

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(fol. 1–9), the “Ages of Cheverny’s Children” (fols. 9–10r), and the incomplete copy of Cheverny’s “Instruction to his son” (fols. f.10v–14). “Coppie de l’Instruction faicte par Mgr le chancellier, comte de Cheverny,... à Mr le comte de Cheverny, son fils aîné,” BNF, Cinq Cents de Colbert 28. Fol. 77 is signed Jac. Augusti Thuani. BNF, MS Dupuy 615. Pontelvoy’s complete memoirs were first published in Collection complète des Mémoires relatifs à l’Histoire de France, depuis le règne de Philippe-Auguste jusque au commencement du dix-septième siècle, ed. Claude-Bernard Petitot, vol. 36 (Paris: Foucault, 1823), 401–501.

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manuscript of an engraving dedicated in 1652 to the memory of Marguerite, Anne and Catherine, chancellor Cheverny’s daughters, indicates that the manuscript circulated for some time within the family.45 The manuscript of Pontlevoy’s memoirs deals with rights of succession, and primarily with the author’s success at the court of Henri IV after Philippe de Cheverny’s death. Although, unlike his father, he never occupied any position of import, he regularly entertained the king and his mistresses on his estate, and even accompanied Henri IV on diplomatic missions. Pontlevoy insists on his familiarity with Henri IV for strategic purposes. His father, Philippe de Cheverny, insisted that after his death his eldest son Henri Hurault was to attend the court and preserve the good memory of his father, the honor, and reputation that he left to his children. But, Pontlevoy claims that his brother Henri Hurault preferred to spend his time at his home with his friends, and the abbot decided to “sacrifice [himself] for the common good of [their] house by embarking at the Court rather than lose the honor and friends that late Monsieur the Chancellor [their] father left [them] after having acquired them through fifty years of continuous service.”46 Pontlevoy stresses that his father wanted that either one of his sons attend the court and further their family interests there. The exact motives for Philippe de Cheverny’s injunction are not known: most likely he wanted for his family to have a broker at the French court. Pontlevoy’s endeavor to collect his father’s personal papers and his own continuation bear the mark of the same courtly ambition: they highlight the good fortunes of the Hurault-Cheverny family at the French court, and are meant to preserve their good memory within the highest circles of the French state. Pontlevoy, baptized Philippe like his father, became abbot of Chartres and of Pontlevoy by the age of twelve. He would further accumulate another three abbeys in his lifetime, clear evidence of the fathomless material appetite of the Hurault-Cheverny clan.47 Pontlevoy was rarely present in his ecclesiastical 45 46

47

BNF, MS Dupuy, fol. 80 bis. Pontlevoy in Petitot (1823), 424: “Mais voyant mondist frere resollu à passer son temps avec ses amys en sa maison … je jugé que je devois plustost me sacrifier pour le bien general de nostre maison en m’embarquant à la Cour, qu’y laisser perdre l’honneur et les amys que feu M. le Chancellier nostre père nous y avoit laissés appres nous les avoir acquis par cinquante années de continuels services, outre que je tenois de luy par une des dernieres instructions qu’il me donna, que nous laissant d’assez notables biens et de grandes charges et grands benefices en nostre maison, il estoit necessaire par la prudence du monde que nous fussions appres luy, mon frere ou moy, bien à la Court et pres du Roy pour nous maintenair en estime, et nous y conduire de telle sorte que l’envie ne pust nuire a sa memoire, ny alterer l’honneur et la reputation qu’il nous laissoit.” Gallia Christiana, vol. 8 (1744), 1191.

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fiefs, preferring to attend the court of Henri IV and, then, Louis XIII.48 The latter, however, ordered Pontlevoy to go back to his diocese in 1619 and accomplish his religious duties: Pontlevoy would die the following year from apoplexy, and, according to the malevolent historian Jean-Baptiste Souchet (1589–1654), out of the displeasure of having been sent away from the court to fulfill his ecclesiastical obligations for which he felt no calling.49 This means that at the moment of Pontlevoy’s death, there was no prominent family member attending the royal court to act as its broker, and Pontlevoy himself, like his father in 1588, suffered a minor disgrace.50 Pontlevoy’s death in 1620 must have been the reason why his memoirs were printed only in a very short, non-autobiographical form, after his father’s memoirs in 1636.51 Pontlevoy himself had no legitimate descendants, who could have had an interest in printing his memoirs in their entirety. Pontlevoy’s manuscript memoirs of his own life, evoking at length Henri IV’s extramarital love affairs, were no longer relevant and maybe even detrimental to the preservation of the Hurault-Chevernys’ good reputation at the French court. Therefore, they were printed only in a very abridged form with the first edition of Chancellor Cheverny’s memoirs, sixteen years after Pontlevoy’s death. Besides, Henri Hurault was still alive, and he might have disproved of his younger brother’s depiction of his indolence and distaste for the French court. Moreover, the introductory letter of the first edition of Cheverny’s Memoires d’Estat granted a privilege for printing the memoirs “Together with Three Treatises for the Instruction of his Children.”52 But the same first edition contains only two instructions: one for Henri Hurault and the other one for ­Marguerite Hurault. In all likelihood, Cheverny had also written a third instruction for the ecclesiastic career of his second surviving son, the abbot of Pontlevoy, an instruction that the publisher Billaine, probably at the request of his sponsor, decided not to append to the volume. Whatever the case might have been, the edition of 1636 shows traces of multiple interests and editorial interventions that shatter the formal unity of the work. 48

Robert Sauzet, Les Visites pastorales dans la diocèse de Chartres pendant la première moitié du XVII e siècle: Essai de sociologie religieuse (Rome: Istituto per le ricerche di storia sociale et di storia religiosa, 1975), 23–24. 49 Jean-Baptiste Souchet, Histoire du diocèse et de la ville de Chartres, vol. 4 (Chartres: Garnier, 1873), 336. 50 See Sharon Kettering, Patrons, Brokers, and Clients in Seventeenth-Century France (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986). 51 Pontlevoy, Suite et fin de la vie de Mondit Sieur le Chancelier de Cheverny fidellement, adjoustée ici au bout de ces Memoires in Cheverny (1636), 338–364. 52 Cheverny (1636), fol. c ii.

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It is not clear what was Henri Hurault’s role in the publication of his father’s memoirs, as he is only mentioned in the genealogy preceding the memoirs themselves, and in the instruction that follows them. Henri Hurault buried his younger brother Pontlevoy in Cheverny. In 1622, two years after Pontlevoy’s death, the Cheverny family library, which contained many rare and precious manuscripts, was examined by a group of bibliophiles, then partially bought and integrated into the royal library.53 Cheverny’s personal papers did not pass into the royal library. They must have remained with the family, most likely in the hands of Henri Hurault. The latter is most famous for allegedly murdering his first wife Françoise and her lover in 1602, and for rebuilding the splendid Château de Cheverny together with his new wife Marie, who died peacefully in 1635.54 There is no evidence about legal proceedings concerning Henri Hurault’s murder of his first wife. The legend is found in later genealogies of the Hurault-Cheverny family.55 The genealogy found in Cheverny’s first edition does not mention it. On the contrary, it states that Henri Hurault continued the “posterity of the House,” and lists all the titles that he held: captain by royal ordinance of one hundred men-at-arms, governor of the cities Chartres and of the Pays de Chartrain and Blaisois, lieutenant general of the Government of Orleans, bailiff of Chartres, who served in battles both Henri IV and Louis XIII, and had six children at this time.56 Henri Hurault’s portrait as it appears in the Genealogy, Memoirs, and Instruction of the first edition is that of a respectable nobleman of good social standing, with an outstanding military career. According to the memoirs of Pontlevoy however, Henri Hurault disliked the court and, contrary to his family’s wishes, preferred to live on his family estate.57 Since Pontlevoy, who was an active courtier, was sent away from the court and died shortly afterwards, one can assume that Henri Hurault, employed in provincial military offices, sought to preserve at the court the memory of his father, the most prominent member of his family. Unlike Philippe de Cheverny who had a legal training as we have seen above and Pontlevoy, who was an abbot 53 54 55

56 57

Marie-Pierre Laffitte, “Une acquisition de la Bibliothèque du roi au XVIIe siècle: les manuscrits de la famille Hurault,” Bulletin du Bibliophile, 2 (2008), 42–98. Dufort de Cheverny, Mémoires sur les règnes de Louis XV et Louis XVI et sur la Révolution, vol. 1 (Paris: E. Plon, Nourrit et Cie, 1886), 336–7. Père Anselme, Histoire généalogique et chronologique de la Maison de France, vol. 1 (Paris: Compagnie des Libraires Associés, 1712), 448: “Henri Hurault… epousa en premieres nôces le 27 février 1588… Françoise Chabot… qui mourut de mort violente [my bold characters] sans enfants en 1602.” Genealogie in Cheverny (1636), 21 and 25. Pontlevoy in Petitot (1823), 424.

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and thus received a formal education, Henri Hurault preferred to live nobly on his estate: this means that his education was informal at best, as, traditionally, the first born of a noble family was destined to a military career, and had little formal education, although the noble distaste towards letters started to change at the end of the sixteenth century, as we shall see in the next chapter.58 We remember that the first edition of Cheverny’s memoirs contains a letter granting a printing privilege to a herald of arms, who is named only under the acronym I.D.M.S.D.L.M. This must have been Hector Le Breton (d. 1652), ­Seigneur de la Doinneterie, king of arms (roy d’armes), the highest ranked herald, bearing the heraldic title of Montjoie-Saint-Denis, since 1615.59 Le Breton became king of arms in 1615 replacing his cousin, Denis II le Breton (d. c. 1615). He was the author of several treatises on coats-of-arms, and owned numerous books on topics related to heraldry and genealogy.60 He must have also been the author of the lengthy genealogy preceding the text of the so-called memoirs of Cheverny. The exact nature of the relationship between the Hurault-Cheverny and Le Breton families is unclear, but they both held court offices of unequal rank. Besides serving as chancellor of France, Cheverny was also appointed chancellor of the order of the Holy Ghost, created in 1578 by King Henri III, who would honor all of his court favorites with this title.61 As a roy des armes (“king of arms”), Le Breton was one of the minor officers of the order, who verified the proofs of nobility of the new members.62 Although there is a chronological gap between Philippe de Cheverny and Hector le Breton’s careers, the offices at court were passed down among family members and friends who were bound by court relations based on patronage and favor. It was most likely Henri Hurault who pressed Le Breton to compose 58

59 60

61 62

John H. Hexter, “The Education of Aristocracy in the Renaissance,” The Journal of Modern History 22 (1950), 1–20; Mark Edward Motley, Becoming a French aristocrat: The Education of the Court Nobility: 1580–1715 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990); Norbert Conrads, Ritterakademien der frühen Neuzeit: Bildung als Standesprivileg im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1982). Eugène Griselle, Écurie, vénerie, fauconnerie et louveterie du roi Louis XIII (Paris: É ditions de documents d’histoire, 1912), 15; Louis-Pierre d’Hozier and Antoine-Marie d’Hozier de ­Sérigny, Armorial général des registres de la noblesse de France (Paris: Dentu, 1867), 181. For instance: Hector Le Breton, “Blazon et figures d’armoyries et de tout ce qu’elles se peuvent et doibvent conpozer, ” BNF, MS fr. 24922; Hector Le Breton, “Armorial,” Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, Paris (hereafter BSG), MS 1801; René I d’Anjou, “Traité de la forme et devis comme on peut faire les tournois,” BNF, MS fr. 2693, fol. 2 contains a letter from Hector to his son François. Nicolas le Roux (2000), 201. Marc Vulson de la Colombière, De l’office des Roys d’armes, des Herauds, et des Poursuivans (Paris: Cramoisy, 1645), 78

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the genealogy and secure the privilege for printing Cheverny’s memoirs. Le Breton must have worked on the compilation of Cheverny’s personal papers that Pontlevoy had made, as he states in his Continuation, although this original compilation manuscript is now lost. Pontlevoy’s version was further edited, since the so-called Continuation, stemming from Pontlevoy’s own projected memoirs, appear in the 1636-edition only in a very short form. All this suggests, that there must have been several manuscripts with different states of Cheverny’s memoirs that circulated initially among family members and office-holders, particularly those pertaining to the chancellery. Besides Le Breton, Pierre de l’Estoile (1546–1611), for instance, seems to have been acquainted with Cheverny’s personal papers. A passage that appears in a few editions of De l’Estoile’s Memoirs-Diaries give credence to this hypothesis. When Henri IV gave back to Cheverny the royal seals in September 1590, the newly crowned king held a speech, in which, in De l’Estoile’s rendering, he drew a parallel between seals and fire weapons: Mr. Chancellor, here are two handguns [the seals], with which I desire that you serve me, and which I know that you can handle quite well. You have harmed me many a time with them, but I forgive you, as it was out of duty and obeisance to the late King my brother.63 A similar direct speech with the same extended metaphor appears in Cheverny’s printed memoirs.64 De l’Estoile’s “diary” was first published only partially in 1621, and the story of Cheverny receiving back his seals appears only in later eighteenth and nineteenth century editions. Pierre de l’Estoile was a grand hearer (grand audiencier) and royal secretary in the chancery during Cheverny’s office.65 Pierre de l’Estoile either copied Henri IV’s speech from Cheverny’s personal papers or one of the editors of Cheverny’s memoirs used De l’Estoile’s manuscript. Pierre de l’Estoile’s own Memoirs-Diaries are a hybrid difficult to summarize: diary, record, chronicle, memoir, commonplace book, compilation of poetry (mostly invective), etc., written and rewritten over

63 64 65

Pierre de l’Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux: Journal de Henri IV, 1589–1593, ed. G. Brunet et alii, vol. 5 (Paris: Librairie des Bibliophiles, 1878), 289. Cheverny (1636), 127: “Messieurs, ces deux pistolets que je baille à M. le chancelier ne font pas tant de bruit que ceux de quoy nous tirons tous les jours, mais ils frappent bien plus fort et de plus loing, et le sçais par experience par les coups que j’en ay receus.” See Tom Hamilton, Pierre de l’Estoile and his World in the Wars of Religion (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).

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a long period of time with a complicated posthumous editorial history that still raises many questions of authenticity and authorship. Cheverny’s memoirs are a similar patchwork, albeit of lesser magnitude. The probable motive behind the publication of Cheverny’s memoirs has to do with the family pedigree. It was most likely Cheverny’s direct descendants, who urged Le Breton to draw the genealogical tree, which highlights the Hurault-Cheverny noble origins, and the merits of the family in serving the French crown. The Hurault-Cheverny clan was de iure a noble family, but its members held mostly administrative offices, financial in particular. The rapid growth of recently ennobled office-holders and merchants, and the absence of a clear legal framework for controlling the entry into the ranks of nobility, during the sixteenth century, vexed the traditional French mentality that viewed nobility as a knightly virtue inherited through bloodline and proven on the battlefield.66 Besides, Philippe de Cheverny ascended too rapidly to the highest office of the French crown in the eyes of his contemporaries who would circulate libels, immediately after his appointment as chancellor, ­accusing him of being a parvenu whose sole purpose was to enrich himself and his family at the expense of the people.67 Cheverny’s own strategy, like that of so many other “bourgeois gentilshommes,” was to embellish his humble origins and to omit some details about his “good, noble and ancient family … who gave many remarkable and honorable knights.”68 Among these knights, he suggests at the beginning of his memoirs, was also his father Raoul Hurault, who died during the siege of Naples in 1528. What Cheverny does not mention is that Raoul was not a knight but a controller of finances who died unheroically of a disease quite common for the time (plague), while in the service of Odet de Foix de Lautrec (1485–1528), Marshal of France, commander of the French military expedition.69 Cheverny himself and his descendants had, therefore, a vested interest in whitewashing their unknightly origins and justifying their rapid upward social mobility.

66 67 68 69

Huppert (1977); Arlette Jouanna (1977); Ellery Schalk, From Valor to Pedigree: Ideas of Nobility in France in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986). Pierre de l’Estoile, Registre-Journal du Règne de Henri III: 1576–1578, vol. 2, ed. Madeleine Lazard and Gilbert Schrenk (Droz: Geneva, 1996), 214 Cheverny (1636), 6. Nicolas Le Roux, “L’Épreuve de la vertu: Condition nobiliaire et légitimation de l’honorabilité au XVIe siècle,” in La légitimité implicite, ed. Jean-Philippe Genet (Paris: Edition de la Sorbonne; Rome: Ecole française de Rome, 2015), 57–72.

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Collective Self-Writing

The successive editors of Cheverny’s Memoires d’Estat disposed of the text in the usual way in which they approached pretty much all early modern so-called memoirs.70 Seventeenth- and eighteenth editors eliminated the Latin eulogies and the Genealogy from the first edition but kept Pontlevoy’s Continuation, and two Instructions. It was nineteenth-century editors such as Petitot, and his followers Michaud and Poujoulat, who clearly distinguished between Cheverny and Pontlevoy’s memoirs, and they eliminated not only the Genealogy but also the Instructions that they thought irrelevant to the memoir genre.71 In other words, modern editors kept only the autobiographical part of the entire book of Cheverny’s State Memoirs: the word autobiography had just been created, signaling a watermark in the reception of self-writing. What is left in these modern editions, however, is not a controlled critical edition of Cheverny’s autobiographical memoirs, and it is doubtful that such a critical edition could ever be satisfactorily reconstructed. Even if these nineteenth-century editors eliminated the heterogenous texts of the genealogy and instructions, they did not notice that the remaining memoirs lack internal unity and are interrupted, as we have seen, in several places by fragments of at least one work that Cheverny envisaged for other purposes. While the exact actors and motives behind the edition of Cheverny’s memoirs published in 1636 are unknown, the book shows clear traces of multiple posthumous interventions that shatter the formal unity of the work, as it was presupposed by all readers of this text. The creation of Cheverny’s Memoirs is far from an isolated case. François de Rabutin (d. 1582), author of the first French commentaries/memoirs after the publication of Commynes’s work, admits to having asked for the help of at least four professional writers, among whom the famous historian Pierre Paschal (1522–1565): the nature of their interventions remains unclear: in Rabutin’s own words, they made stylistic adjustments and “other things.”72 Rabutin’s case is exceptional because his commentaries where published during his lifetime and he names the people that he consulted. Most early modern printed memoirs appeared after their authors’ deaths, rendering at times impossible the clear identification of the actors involved and their motivation. But 70 Cheverny, Memoires d’Estat (Paris: François Mauger, 1664); Cheverny in Petitot (1823), 3–398; Cheverny, in Joseph-François Michaud and Poujoulat (1838), 458–576; Pontlevoy in Petitot (1823), 399–510; Pontlevoy in Michaud and Poujoulat (1838), 576–614. 71 Cheverny in Petitot (1823), 3–398; Cheverny in Michaud and Poujoulat (1838), 458–576; ­Pontlevoy in Petitot (1823), 399–510; Pontlevoy in Michaud and Poujoulat (1838), 576–614. 72 Proeme de l’autheur in Rabutin (1555).

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many of these texts show clear traces of collective composition.73 Added to this confusion regarding the real authors, compilers, and editors of Cheverny’s memoirs printed in 1636 is the early modern widespread practice of the social elite to employ secretaries to write down their lives. Famous examples are the semi-literate knight Blaise de Monluc (c. 1502–1577), but also of the highly-educated “bourgeois gentilhomme” and man of letters Agrippa d’Aubigné (1552– 1630).74 We have seen in the previous chapter, that Louise de Savoie’s so-called diary, often referred to as memoirs, was composed with the help of at least one of her courtiers, François de Moulins de Rochefort. These collective self-writing practices call for a careful reassessment of the memoir tradition, particularly for the earliest lesser studied memoirs, written between the mid-sixteenth and mid-seventeenth centuries. The same ­compositional trends continued during the second half of the seventeenth century, when, for instance, Pierre-Thomas du Fossé (1634–1698) wrote in the first-person the Memoirs of Louis de Pontis (1583–1670).75 By the first half of the nineteenth century, the process will lead to the creation of an extensive corpus of completely fictional memoirs, attributed to authors who never existed or never wrote any memoirs.76 Cheverny’s memoirs are relevant for the historiography of autobiography because they seem to make a historical transition from memoirs focusing on the author’s public career that appeared in the sixteenth century to modern autobiographies that adopt a more inward-looking stance. The ensuing picture complicates our understanding of the history of both memoirs and autobiography more generally. Cheverny’s printed memoirs are a medley of heterogeneous documents: a genealogy, a testament, a family book or a book of accounts, a courtly instruction, a moral instruction, fragments of his son’s memoirs, and a typical first-person chronicle. They now occupy a necessary chapter in the early history of memoirs and autobiography, a history still largely made up of ­obliviousness and retrospective projections of our ­post-Romantic assumptions. 73 74 75 76

Paul Courteault in Blaise de Monluc, Commentaires (Paris: Gallimard, 1964), 81–82; Saulx-Tavannes (NP, ND); Villeroy (1622), or even Pierre de l’Estoile, Memoires-Journaux, discussed above. Blaise de Monluc, Commentaires (Bordeaux: Millanges, 1592); Gilbert Schrenk in Aubigné (1986), 18. Pierre-Thomas du Fossé, Mémoires du sieur de Pontis, 2 vols. (Rouen; Paris: Desprez, 1676); Vivienne Mylne, The Eighteenth-Century French Novel: Techniques of Illusion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 34. Damien Zanone, Écrire son temps: les Mémoires en France de 1815 à 1848 (Lyon: Presses ­universitaires de Lyon, 2006).

CHAPTER 5

François de Bassompierre (1579–1643) and the Diary of His Life François de Bassompierre’s Diary of [His] Life is probably the first French autobiographical text to have been associated from its creation with the type of imaginative writing that we would call literature. Although the concept of literary autobiography did not exist, I should like to show how something very similar to our understanding of literature attracted the interest of Bassompierre’s readers early on. Born in the castle of Haroué in the Duchy of Lorraine on 12 April 1579, François de Bassompierre claimed descent from the German House of Ravensberg, but his family origins can only be traced back to the thirteenth-century German knight Olry de Dompierre, who acquired the village of Betstein (the German name for Bassompierre) through marriage.1 His ancestors served ­German emperors and the dukes of Burgundy and of Lorraine. His father Christophe de Bassompierre (1547–1596) fought under the duke of Guise in the French Wars of Religion and married a wealthier French gentlewoman, Louise Le Picart de Radeval (d. 1615), with whom he had five children, François being the eldest male child. Christophe took great care of his children’s education and hired several tutors to teach them reading, writing, dancing, and music. Christophe’s children studied first in Nancy and Freiburg, then in 1592 at the Jesuit University of Pont-à-Mousson, and in 1594 at the University of Ingolstadt, where they gained knowledge of the liberal arts, before heading out for Italy, where they took equitation lessons. Aged nineteen, two years after his father’s death, Bassompierre went to the court of France. He met Henri IV at a ballet, and rapidly became one of the French monarch’s favorite courtiers. Together they indulged in the typical 1 Théodore de Puymaigre, Poètes et romanciers de la Lorraine (Paris: Pagnerre and Lecou, 1848), 355. See also: Émile Badel, Les Gloires militaires de la Lorraine: Le Maréchal de France, François de Bassompierre (Nancy: Crépin Leblond, 1897); Paul-Martin Bondois, Le Maréchal de Bassompierre: 1579–1646 (Paris: Albin Michel, 1925); Jean Castarède, Bassompierre (1579–1646), maréchal gentilhomme, rival de Richelieu (Paris: Perrin, 2002); Mathieu Lemoine, La Faveur et la Gloire: Le Maréchal de Bassompierre mémorialiste, 1579–1646 (Paris: Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2012); Hugh Noel Williams, A Gallant of Lorraine: François, ­Seigneur de ­Bassompierre, Marquis d’Harouel, Maréchal de France, 1579–1646, 2 vols. (New York: Dutton and Company, 1921). © koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2021 | doi:10.1163/9789004459557_006

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gentlemanly activities at the French court: ballets, courting ladies, visiting brothels, jousts, betting, hunting, drinking, and waging war. In 1600, Bassompierre experienced his baptism of fire during Henri IV’s expedition against the duke of Savoie over the possession of the Marquisate of Saluzzo. Then, with France at peace, Bassompierre sought military employment further east. In 1603, he joined the emperor’s army in the war against the Ottomans in Hungary. The campaign reached a stalemate in the winter of 1603, and, after having put his life in danger and distinguishing himself in the army, ­Bassompierre accompanied Hermann Christof of Russwurm (c. 1565–1605), the general of the imperial army, to Bohemia, where he had a successful love affair and participated, unwillingly yielding to Russwurm’s invitation he claims, in an unsuccessful rape attempt. Finally, the emperor granted him an audience in Vienna. The emperor assured him that he knew of his exploits and of the service of his noble family to the German Empire, and wanted Bassompierre to become an officer in his army. Bassompierre accepted the offer, and returned to Lorraine and then to Paris, where he was received so well that he withdrew from his engagement in the imperial army. He fell in love with Marie de Balzac d’Entragues (1588–1664), sister of Madame de Verneuil (1579–1633), Henri IV’s mistress, but this did not restrain him from having other affairs. In fact, Bassompierre was hoping for an advantageous marriage with the young Charlotte Marguerite de Montmorency (1595–1650), daughter of the Constable of France, Henri de Montmorency (1534–1614). In 1608, after all parties had agreed to the marriage, the lascivious Henri IV fell in love with Marguerite, and decided to have her marry Henri de Bourbon (1588–1646), prince of Condé, whom the French monarch wrongly believed would be more willing than Bassompierre to allow his young wife to become his mistress. Bassompierre also embarked on a diplomatic career: he went to England twice, and, more importantly, he was also sent to his native Lorraine to inquire into the possibility of marrying the daughter of the duke of Lorraine to the Dauphin, the future Louis XIII (1601–1643), which would have potentially resulted in the incorporation of the Duchy of Lorraine into the Kingdom of France. Bassompierre failed in his mission for reasons that were not in his power to control. His military career, however, bloomed: he became colonel of the light cavalry, counsellor of State, and received a pension from Henri IV. After Henri IV’s assassination in 1610, his wife Marie de Médicis (1573–1642) obtained almost immediately the regency of the kingdom from the Parliament of Paris, as Henri IV’s son, Louis XIII (1601–1643), was only eight years old. Many of Henri IV’s officers and servants were estranged, but Bassompierre’s fortunes waxed: he became colonel-general of the Swiss on 12 March 1614, a

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coveted title usually given only to descendants of the dynastic line of succession to the throne of France, the so-called princes of the blood. In October, Louis XIII’s majority was declared but Marie de Médicis continued to rule de facto until her favorite and principal minister Concino Concini (c. 1570–1617), Marquis d’Ancre and Marshal of France, was assassinated on the orders of Louis XIII, who, on the advice of his own favorite Charles d’Albert de Luynes, decided to take over the government of France from his mother. Luynes was given the French possessions confiscated from the unfortunate Concini and was soon as hated by the grandees as his predecessor had been. Bassompierre’s fortunes continued to rise under Louis XIII and, in 1619, he became knight of the Order of the Holy Ghost. Exiled at Blois, Marie de Médicis escaped and formed a party that threatened to topple the new government. Civil war ensued, ending with the Treaty of Angers, signed in August 1620, when the queen mother’s adviser, Armand Jean du Plessis (1585–1642), Bishop of Luçon, future Cardinal de Richelieu, played a leading role. Marie de Médicis was declared innocent and her condition improved, but power was now firmly in the hands of Louis XIII and Luynes. Bassompierre was sent on an embassy to Spain in February 1621 to settle the dispute about Valtellina in Lombardy; the Treaty of Madrid was signed in April, but Spain never observed it. Meanwhile, a new civil war erupted in France, when the Huguenots took up arms to strengthen their position against the dominant Catholic party. ­Bassompierre distinguished himself and was made Marshal of France in O ­ ctober 1622, just a month after Richelieu was created cardinal. Bassompierre had little difficulty distinguishing himself, given that the new Constable of France, Luynes, had no military experience, and his leadership of the French army at the siege of Montauban was disastrous. Luynes died of fever during the campaign. In April 1624, at the request of Marie de Médicis, Richelieu was admitted to the royal council and would soon become Louis XIII’s principal minister. In 1625, Bassompierre was sent on an embassy to Switzerland to reinforce the unsteady alliance with the cantons, then to London to settle a dispute concerning the French household of the queen of England, Henriette Marie de France (1609–1669), Henri IV’s daughter. Meanwhile, Bassompierre had an affair with Louise de Lorraine (1588–1631), Princesse de Conti, who gave him a natural son, François de la Tour (d. 1648), and a daughter Louise (1615–1652). Rumors circulated that Bassompierre secretly married the princess. In 1627, Bassompierre led a contingent at the lengthy siege of the Protestant fortress of La Rochelle. After the city surrendered because of starvation and the failure of the English troops to reinforce it, the French army crossed the Alps to counter the Spanish intervention in Northern Italy, but soon another Huguenot rebellion necessitated its return to Languedoc.

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Meanwhile, Marie de Médicis allied with Gaston d’Orléans (1608–1660), Louis XIII’s brother, fomented Richelieu’s downfall. Initially Louis XIII seemed to accept his mother’s desire to oust Richelieu, but, on 11 November 1630, he decided to support the cardinal and eliminate his mother’s party. That day, when this reversal happened, is known in French history as the Day of the Dupes, in reference to the thwarted hopes of Marie de Médicis and her partisans.2 Allied to the Princesse de Conti, from the Guise family, which was in turn deeply involved in the upheaval against Richelieu, Bassompierre was arrested and imprisoned in the Bastille on 25 February 1631; he would spend the next twelve years there. Bassompierre’s disgrace was far from singular. Among many others, whose fortunes were reversed in one way or another, were: Marie de Médicis, who died in exile; Michel de Marillac (1560–1632), keeper of the Seals of France, who died in prison; and his brother, Louis (1572–1632), marshal of France, who was beheaded. Bassompierre and the other “dupes” of the Bastille would only be released after Richelieu’s death in December 1642. The old ­marshal died in his sleep on 12 October 1646, leaving an estate mired in debt. 1

The Purpose and Genre of Bassompierre’s Diary

While in prison, Bassompierre wrote, among several other papers, an autobiographical work. In 1665, twenty-two years after the author’s death, the fictional editor Pierre Marteau printed this work in Cologne under the title Memoirs of Marshal Bassompierre. This edition, teeming with errors, was reprinted several times during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, allegedly in Cologne or Amsterdam.3 Such clandestine printing, without French royal imprimatur, was generally to avoid censorship of either politically or morally sensitive issues. However, Louis XIII and Richelieu had been dead for two decades, and the so-called Memoirs neither contested the political status quo nor offended too 2 Christian Jouhaud, Richelieu et l’écriture du pouvoir: autour de la Journée des Dupes (Paris: Gallimard, 2015). 3 François de Bassompierre, Mémoires… contenant l’histoire de sa vie et de ce qui s’est fait de plus remarquable à la cour de France pendant quelques années, 2 vols. (Cologne: Pierre M ­ arteau, 1665); François de Bassompierre, Mémoires…, 3 vols. (Cologne: Pierre Marteau, 1665); François de Bassompierre, Mémoires…, 2 vols. (Cologne: Pierre Marteau, 1666); François de Bassompierre, Mémoires…, 2 vols. (Cologne: Pierre Marteau, 1692); François de Bassompierre, Mémoires…, 2 vols. (Amsterdam: Hoogenhuysen, 1692); François de Bassompierre, Mémoires…, 2 vols. (Cologne: Sambix, 1703); François de Bassompierre, Mémoires…, 4 vols. (Amsterdam: Deroubec, 1721); François de Bassompierre, Mémoires…, 4 vols. (Amsterdam: at the expense of the Company, 1723).

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seriously moral standards. The editorial enterprise seems to have been driven by the commercial success of the mass of memoirs printed during the 1660s, discussed in the first chapter. The collections of memoirs published during the nineteenth century reproduce the same faulty text from 1665, until Audoin de Chantérac (1812–1904) produced a more correct critical edition, based on autograph manuscripts.4 But Chantérac also modernized the spelling and rendered uniform the proper names that were variously spelled in the original manuscripts. Although the text follows a yearly and monthly chronology in the form of a diary, most of the events narrated were not described until long after they had happened, while the marshal was in prison in the Bastille (1631–1643). Chantérac observes that there are very few corrections and additions.5 These are sufficient proofs that Bassompierre wrote the manuscripts in a short span of time (although possibly after several attempts), sometime during his prison years. Contrary to the editorial transmission of his text as Memoirs, Bassompierre himself refers in his original manuscripts to his work as “a diary of [his] life,” written at the request of an unnamed intimate friend to serve as “artificial memory,” in which he wishes to remember both “public and private” deeds, people that he has known, and remarkable events that he has “seen or heard,” because he believes that this kind of memory is both useful and pleasant.6 Since he has not made such a record in his youth, he relies on his “excellent memory,” an affirmation that we can also find, for instance, in Blaise de ­Monluc’s Commentaries, and that served the conventional claims to truth associated with first-person narratives purporting to serve history, the most ­common type of narrative found in early modern French memoirs.7 4 Bassompierre (1870–1877), based on the original MSS fr. 17478–17479 of the BNF, Paris. On Pierre Marteau, see: Léonce Janmart de Brouillant, La Liberté de la presse en France aux XVII e et XVIII e siècles: Histoire de Pierre du Marteau imprimeur à Cologne (Paris: Quantin, 1888); Olaf Simons, Marteaus Europa oder Der Roman, bevor er Literatur wurde: Eine Untersuchung des deutschen und englischen Buchangebots der Jahre 1710 bis 1720 (Amsterdam, Atlanta: Rodopi, 2001). 5 Chantérac in Bassompierre, Journal, vol. 1 (1870), vi–vii. 6 Bassompierre, vol. 1 (1870), 1: “Je souhaiterois, pour mon contentement particulier, d’avoir receu, au commencement de ma jeunesse, le conseil (que vous me donnés apres qu’elle est presque terminée) de faire un papier journal de ma vie; il m’esut servi d’une memoire artificielle, non-seumeùet des lieux ou j’ay passé lors que j’ay esté aux voyages, aux ambassades, ou a la guerre, mais aussy des personnes que j’ay pratiquées, de mes actions privées et publiques et des choses plus notables que j’y ay veues et ouïes, dont la connoissance me seroit maintenant utile, et le souvenir doux et agreable.” 7 Bassompierre, vol. 1 (1870), 1; Monluc (1964), 143: “il m’en souvient comme s’il n’y avoit que trois jours. Dieu m’a donné une grande memoire en ces choses dont je le remercie; car encore

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Bassompierre claims that his beloved friend asked him to provide the “matter” that a more professional writer would transform into a biography, in a manner reminiscent of Commynes’s project. But the marshal explicitly refuses to lend his notes to a biographer, modestly asserting that his life is not illustrious enough to be deserving of an exemplary biography. He proposes an autonomous text, in which he will narrate “lowly, risible, and useless” matters that will serve only its author and his friend, whom he calls an alter-ego (“un second moy mesme”).8 He does not want to write a history, which he considers an “indecorous ostentation” but an aide-memoire for himself and his friend.9 There have been a number of speculations about the identity of this unnamed friend. The first editors of the memoirs posit that he was the duke of Créquy, a distant relative of Bassompierre, others the count of Cramail, a grand-child of Blaise de Monluc, or one of Bassompierre’s nephews, based on the assumption that Bassompierre wrote his “memoirs” for the education of his descendants.10 There is no evidence for such intimations. On the contrary, ­Bassompierre never mentions the fact that he was a father, and only very briefly mentions his nephews and their careers. Had he wanted to write m ­ emoirs as instructions to his son, Bassompierre would not have lacked respectable models: Cheverny’s first editors added instructions and a learned family genealogy to the author’s so-called State Memoirs printed with royal imprimatur, precisely while ­Bassompierre was in prison. It is quite possible that Bassompierre’s addressee was a fictitious character. The friend who asked for Bassompierre’s diary appears only in the prologue, specifically as somebody who encouraged Bassompierre to write down notes that a professional writer would transform into a biography. In reality, Bassompierre’s refusal to follow this advice amounts to an interdiction addressed to potential biographers: Bassompierre wanted to have complete control over his self-representation; understandably, since he was in prison, where, as Christian Jouhaud has rightly posited, the marshal suffered a process of “social degradation,” to which he had no response other than his writing.11 8 9 10

11

ce m’est grand contentement, à present qu’il ne me reste rien plus, de me resouvenir de mes fortunes pour les descrire au vray, sans rien adjouster; car, soit le bien, soit le mal, je le veux dire.” Bassompierre, vol. 1 (1870), 2. Bassompierre, vol. 1 (1870), 38. Mathieu Lemoine, “Des manuels d’éducation des pères pour leurs fils: étude de quelques Mémoires de la génération de Bassompierre,” in Jeunesse(s) et élites: Des rapports paradoxaux en Europe de l’Ancien Régime à nos jours, eds. Christine Bouneau and Caroline Le Mao (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2009), 27–37. Christian Jouhaud, “Les ‘mémoires’ du Maréchal de Bassompierre et la prison,” Les Cahiers du Centre de Recherches Historiques, 39 (2007), 95–106.

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One of Bassompierre’s early biographers, the malicious Gédéon Tallemant des Réaux (1619–1692) says that Bassompierre was never considered particularly “brave,” although he acknowledges that the marshal indeed had some military merit, but then transcribes in a note some satirical verses, written for a ballet, in which Bassompierre’s great lustfulness is pictured as inversely proportional to his martial inclination.12 Although Tallemant des Réaux’s irreverent portrait was written after the marshal’s death, it is very likely that such pamphlets already circulated during Bassompierre’s imprisonment. In his prologue, then, Bassompierre approximates the genre of his diary as a private narration serving as an aide-memoire, and distinguishes it from both biography and history, which he deems highly rhetorical genres meant to praise and blame their distinguished subjects. In delimiting himself from works infused with demonstrative rhetoric, the author borrows from the common phraseology of the French memoirs of the sixteenth century, and like them, Bassompierre first narrates the family origins, lists its possessions, and finally tells the story of his life starting with his infancy. This is probably why the first editors could present Bassompierre’s text as “memoirs.” The term “diary” (papier journal) was vaguer than “memoirs” and much less employed in print. As we have seen with Louise de Savoie’s so-called diary, the style, contents, principles of composition, and goals of diary writing were far from regularized in early modern life-writing practices. We remember that Louise de Savoie’s diary had an obvious astrological purpose that Bassompierre’s text lacked. Bassompierre did give the precise hour of his birth, and he also wrote that one of the motives for writing his life-narrative was to remind himself which days had been sinister or fortunate, but his belief in portents and astrological literature is anecdotal and plays an insignificant part in his diary. When compared to the most successful journal published during Bassompierre’s life, Pierre de ­l’Estoile’s Diary of Memorable Things Under Henri III, King of Poland and France, Bassompierre’s text differs sharply, with its focus on the author’s own life and its stylistic unity: the two works seem completely unrelated.13 An overview of the contents of Bassompierre’s diary, and a discussion of his other writings will shed more light on the nature of his autobiographical work, his motivation, and originality. 12 13

Gédéon Tallemant des Réaux, Les Historiettes, eds. Louis de Monmerqué and Paulin Paris, vol. 3 (Techener: Paris, 1862), 34: “Sortir d’un tambour,/Gallant Bassompierre,/ Aimer tant l’amour/ Et fuyr tant la guerre…” Pierre de L’Estoile, Journal des choses mémorables advenuës durant tout le règne de Henri, roy de France et de Pologne, ed. Pierre Dupuy (NP: 1621).

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The Diary

After listing his family’s origins, alliances, and possessions, Bassompierre proceeds to an “ample narrative about his life, without affectation or vanity.”14 Quite atypically for noble warriors writing their life-story, Bassompierre lists his tutors and his love of letters and philosophy, particularly Aristotle: he was so absorbed in his studies that his preceptor had to intervene to distract him.15 Clearly, the days, when Monluc disparaged learned men, in order to better highlight his knighthood solely dedicated to war, were over. So too was the negative representation of the court: Bassompierre represents himself as an active courtier, who even refused lucrative provincial positions to remain at the French court and engage in leisurely pursuits, such as ballets and plays. Ballets, carnivals, and love affairs occupy a large part of Bassompierre’s focus, and distinguish it from previous courtly autobiographies of the sixteenth century which were more concerned with warfare and political negotiations, indicating a changed mentality concerning decorous subjects in life-writing. We remember that Commynes had already introduced a positive image of the role of the courtier as a wise adviser, but he could hardly contain his contempt for knightly jousts and useless leisure activities associated with court life. The presence of positive depictions of all things belonging to court society does not exclude the more traditional heavy emphasis on warfare in Bassompierre’s noble self-representation. He describes in countless pages the movement of troops and his bravery on the battlefield. For instance, while studying in Italy, together with his brother and other young knights he planned to go to Hungary to fight the Ottomans, but then the group of young nobles changed their mind, for the voyage would have been too long and they lacked resources, then they offered to fight in the pope’s army against Cesare d’Este (1562–1628), an ally of France, but soon realized this was contrary to their interests and family ties.16 Bassompierre narrates this anecdote to show how fortune changes opinions. But the readers might justly observe that neither Bassompierre nor his noble friends were actuated by the immediate utility of their deeds, and that the real motive behind their action was acquiring a good reputation as warriors, a very commonly imagined characteristics of the war nobility. His military success notwithstanding, it is clear that the most important ingredient

14 15 16

Bassompierre, vol. 1 (1870), 38. Bassompierre, vol. 1 (1870), 45. Bassompierre, vol. 1 (1870), 51–53.

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of social success is the way in which the author manages to curry favor with the rulers of the day, while avoiding the ire of competitors. Bassompierre joined the court of Henri IV in 1598, where he would be able to unite his two main goals in life: pleasure and glory. Again, the motive behind choosing France over Spain is not rooted in any careful, rational assessment: Bassompierre was influenced by the “great kindness and privacy” that Henri IV showed him, even introducing him to his favorite mistress.17 The following year, in a private discussion, Henri IV sounded out Bassompierre as to his intentions. The young German knight admitted that he came to the court of France undecided as to whom he was going to offer his services, but that Henri IV charmed him so much that he would gladly serve under him. Henri IV embraced the young gentleman and assured him that he could hardly find a better master than himself. On that day, Bassompierre started considering himself a “Frenchman,” and he reveals to his readers that he found in Henri IV “so much kindness, familiarity, and testimony of good faith that his memory will be forever profoundly engraved into [his] heart.”18 Like Commynes, Bassompierre was a foreigner whose entire fortune depended on remaining in the good graces of his majesty, but this was a voluntary servitude that offered him some autonomy. His new service to Henri IV notwithstanding, he decided to leave France for a while and fight the Turkish occupiers of Hungary because his German family urged him to prove himself on the battlefield, and his family history continued to haunt him throughout his career. Once in Austria, he learned that Russwurm commanded the imperial army. Russwurm had been a lieutenant under his father, and during that time he ravished and abused a young woman with false promises of marriage. Christophe de Bassompierre wanted to have him hanged, but Russwurm escaped and completed a brilliant military career, marred by frequent episodes of violence against the powerless. Bassompierre eventually gained Russwurm’s respect and even friendship, by showing his prowess on the battlefield. After the military experience acquired on the Eastern front, Bassompierre chose to return to France, and continue his extravagant courtly life, where he started his thorny relationship with Marie de Balsac d’Entragues. Bassompierre never gives many details about his love affairs, but he ­mentions them with assertive pride. He even notes, en passant, the birth of a son to his mistress: “Entrague gave birth on 17 August [1510].”19 He does not reveal the sex of the child nor that this was his illegitimate son, Louis de 17 18 19

Bassompierre, vol. 1 (1870), 62. Bassompierre, vol. 1 (1870), 69. Bassompierre, vol. 1 (1870), 284.

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­Bassompierre (1610–1676), who would become bishop of Saintes. It was not opportune to reveal such information, as D’Entragues’s mother brought the author to justice to compel him to marry her daughter on account of a letter, in which Bassompierre foolishly promised to do so. Bassompierre sternly refused and defended himself successfully in court, because his own mother had written a will, in which she emphatically disinherited him should he marry Marie Charlotte d’Entragues.20 Had the diary been intended strictly for his own and his friend’s private use, as he claimed in his prologue, Bassompierre could have expanded freely upon his relationship to his natural son. Probably because being involved in many love affairs was a desirable trait in his self-representation as a gallant courtier, a mixture of military and sexual prowess, Bassompierre does mention in his diary the letter containing his promise of marriage and the judicial travail that it caused him. By contrast, he never acknowledged his fatherhood nor his mother’s testamentary provisions. Such strategic writing indirectly confirms that Bassompierre meant his diary for a wider audience and that he feared legal complications that might have ended in his complete material degradation. Still, Bassompierre’s open and proud avowal of many love affairs contrasts sharply with the strategy of previous diarists and memoirists. Cheverny, for instance, mentions only once, very briefly, a mistress that he had, because of the danger in which the liaison put him and his family. His mistress was Isabeau Babou (c. 1551–1625), the aunt of the more famous Gabrielle ­d’Estrées (1573–1599), mistress to Henri IV, who, against all customs, tried to impose her as queen of France. Gabrielle d’Estrées died because of an unfortunate pregnancy, and the old Cheverny now feared that his family would suffer immensely because he had “participated” more in the king’s “loss” and “displeasure” than any other courtier.21 He had strategically started a love affair with Isabeau ­hoping to improve his fortunes, but now, with Gabrielle’s death, the alliance was not only useless but could prove detrimental, since Gabrielle had m ­ anaged to attract quite some hostility. Generally, authors of autobiographical works from the late fifteenth to the early seventeenth century did not write about extramarital love affairs, not because they were infrequent, quite the contrary, but because they contradicted imagined social norms that few of them actually observed, and, more importantly, because such transgressions could have caused material losses; this was clearly so in Bassompierre and Cheverny’s cases. 20 21

Chantérac in Bassompierre, vol. 1 (1870), 399–400, and Bassompierre, vol. 2 (1873), 404–407. Cheverny (1636), 329.

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Nevertheless, by the end of the sixteenth century, the tension between ideal (self)representation, more typical of traditional chronicles, and the engagement to write only the truth present in Renaissance first-person chronicles, memoirs and other autobiographical works could hardly be contained. An avid reader of memoirs, Montaigne expressed his disappointment with Du Bellay for avoiding the topic of François I’s infatuation with his mistress Madame d’Estampes (1508–1580), a matter not only of consequence for the government of the kingdom but also notorious enough not to be overlooked.22 Bassompierre chose a middle-ground solution between ideal and realist self-writing: he neither apotheosized too much himself and his subjects (the grandees of his day) nor gave too many details that could yield unwanted consequences. Not only does Bassompierre mention his love affairs, but he also depicts himself in unflattering terms, a strategy highly unconventional for early modern life-writing, which almost always served apologetic ends. In recounting the enjoyable time spent at the hot springs of Plombières in 1605, Bassompierre remembers the good friends from the court who accompanied him there, played music together, and enjoyed “all of the amusements that a wealthy, debauched and spendthrift (‘mauvais mesnager’) young man could desire.”23 The apparent flaws are, of course, also desirable social traits for a nobleman, as they highlight Bassompierre’s liberality and contempt for money. Honor is probably the most salient trait of his self-portrait, but it is not exempt from ambiguity. Resting on glory acquired on the battlefield, honor was undoubtedly the most flaunted quality associated with nobility.24 In ­Bassompierre’s work, honor often translates into pride and a certain obsession with titles and formalities that border on disobedience and are damaging ­Bassompierre’s immediate interests. In the siege of La Rochelle, for instance, Louis XIII gave Monsieur d’Angoulême the general lieutenancy of the army alongside the two Marshals of France, Schomberg and Bassompierre, who alone should have normally commanded. Bassompierre felt insulted: Monsieur d’Angoulême, a bastard son of Henri IV, had conspired against his father on several occasions, and even suffered imprisonment. Bassompierre stubbornly refused to share the leadership of the army with a former traitor, who also lacked an official military background for such a position. Initially opposed, Schomberg finally gave in and accepted Monsieur d’Angoulême’s lieutenancy, even trying to convince Bassompierre to bend under the circumstances, and be 22 23 24

Michel de Montaigne, Les Essais, eds. Jean Balsamo, Michel Magnien, and Catherine Magnien-­Simonin, bk. 2, ch. 10, (Paris: Gallimard, 2007), 441. Bassompierre, vol. 1 (1870), 170. Lemoine (2012), 354–408.

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a “good courtier”: Bassompierre replied, in the third person, that although the king his master abandoned him and Schomberg betrayed him as a friend, “Bassompierre would never abandon, betray, or leave himself, preferring infamy to losing his honor.”25 Finally, Richelieu and Louis XIII appeased Bassompierre by giving him a separate command, besieging the fortress from the opposite side of the canal than the other two marshals. Of course, in the description of the long siege, Bassompierre pictures himself as the best commander, while the poor D’Angoulême and Schomberg act as amateurs without thorough knowledge of warfare. Central to Bassompierre’s representation of himself and of the court society, which he loved so much, is the interpretation of signs of favor and disgrace. After the death of Henri IV, Queen Marie de Médicis became regent, and shortly afterwards “discredited” the deceased king’s ministers.26 Bassompierre means that, even though they kept their official positions, they were denied any actual authority except what court favorites permitted them. With Bassompierre’s support, the ministers regained favor, but then started to make alliances with others in greater favor with Marie de Médicis, forgetting and even trying to harm Bassompierre. The ungrateful ministers then influenced the principal minister Concini and, through the latter, Marie de Médicis, to believe that Bassompierre was dissatisfied with the distribution of offices at the court and that he was fomenting a rebellion. Marie de Médicis started looking for signs of conspiracy in Bassompierre’s deportment. Watching through the widow a small reunion in the garden between Bassompierre and his friends embracing each other, the queen, incited by Concini, concluded that the gentlemen were forming an alliance against her. She openly reprimanded Bassompierre, who then asked for an audience with her, threatening to leave the kingdom, and made a speech declaring his innocence. Bassompierre convinced her, and he was invited to remain at the court. Bassompierre’s diary is replete with similar quid-pro-quos, tittle-tattle, and long exculpatory speeches about duty and honor that testify to the degree to which fortunes were made and unmade at the court based on hearsay. They also point to Bassompierre’s own belief in the power of words to change his own fortune.27 Since his diary, as we have seen, was by no means actually 25 26 27

Bassompierre, vol. 3 (1875), 315. Bassompierre, vol. 1 (1870), 310. Mariette Cuénin-Lieber, “L’expérience de la disgrâce sous Louis XIII et sous la Régence,” in La Cour au miroir des mémorialistes 1530–1682: Actes du colloque du Centre de philologie et de ­littérature romanes de Strasbourg, 16–18 novembre 1989 (Paris: Klincksieck, 1991), 111– 122; Kristen B. Neuschel, Word of Honor: Interpreting Noble Culture in Sixteenth-Century France (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1989).

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meant for private usage, Bassompierre must have invested in it a similar belief that it could actually hasten his release from prison. After Concini’s assassination, Louis XIII successfully took over the government from his mother, but wars continued to ravage France, especially on account of the Huguenots’ discontent about their diminishing liberties. ­Bassompierre distinguished himself in these wars, and attracted Louis XIII’s recognition and praise. Far from improving his position at court, Bassompierre experienced a backlash, because Luynes, Louis XIII’s favorite courtier, grew jealous of him. Soon, Bassompierre noticed that Louis XIII and Luynes treated him “coldly” (“froydement”).28 He learned from his friends at court that Luynes was complaining of how Bassompierre tried to bypass Luynes’s friendship and ingratiate himself with Louis XIII, but “the king’s favor could not be shared, and [Bassompierre] having overshadowed [Luynes], [the latter] could not suffer to see [Bassompierre] at the court anymore.”29 It is through the same intermediary courtiers that some sort of dialogue ensues between Bassompierre and Luynes, which looks like a clash of argumentative discourses trying to settle their respective positions within the hierarchy of royal favor. Aware that he could not outshine Luynes in the good graces of Louis XIII, Bassompierre agreed to an honorable resolution: he was going to accept an office that temporarily estranged him from the court, without amounting to an official disgrace. This is why Bassompierre went on an extraordinary embassy to Spain. Bassompierre blemished Luynes’s views on favor with traditional anti-courtier tropes built on homosexuality and effeminacy.30 Luynes allegedly admitted to Bassompierre that he felt like “a man who feared being cuckolded and could not stand that another man should court his lady,” that he otherwise appreciated Bassompierre, on condition “that he should not make sweet eyes to his mistress.”31 Although the nature of the relationship between Louis XIII, metaphorically called here a “lady” and a “mistress,” and his male favorites did raise questions among contemporaries, noble male friendship was often described in similar erotic language, because the emotional language for friendship and love was undifferentiated.32 Bassompierre borrows briefly the homosexual commonplaces about court favorites but does not develop the topic further. After all, although he could not openly admit it, he, too, had aspired throughout 28 29 30 31 32

Bassompierre, vol. 2 (1873), 215. Bassompierre, vol. 2 (1873), 216. Schalk (1991), 261. Bassompierre, vol. 2 (1873), 225–226. Jonathan Dewald, Aristocratic Experience and the Origins of Modern Culture: France, 1570– 1715 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 110; Maurice Lever, Les Bûchers de Sodome (Paris: Fayard, 1985).

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his career at the type of favor and power that Luynes enjoyed. Bassompierre could have attracted similar homoerotic pamphlets himself. According to Bassompierre, Luynes, too, soon experienced a downward slope: Louis XIII started to take umbrage at the arrogant deportment of his favorite, who pretended to govern in his place. Bassompierre tried to warn Luynes, and asked him to show more gratitude towards the source of his favor, but Luynes assured him that he knew Louis XIII’s innermost heart, and that he had learned how to preserve himself there. Bassompierre, in a moralizing tone reminiscent of Commynes, writes that he recognized then in Luynes the typical court favorite, who thinks that his favor is everlasting and cannot foresee his imminent disgrace.33 Luynes did not live to see his planned disgrace. Shortly after Luynes’s death in December 1621, Louis XIII named as ­Marshal of France the Huguenot Jacques-Nompar de la Force (1558–1652), although Bassompierre and Schomberg were the better candidates on account of their service. Bassompierre displayed no resentment, but Louis XIII learned of his potential discontent and had a discussion with him, explaining that he meant the nomination as a political move in the context of the struggle to appease the Huguenots. Bassompierre writes that “at this time, [he] had never aspired, nor thought of the office of Marshal of France, and that [he] did not absolutely desire it, for in [his] opinion this was an office suited for an elderly man, and [himself he] only wanted to play the court gallant for a few years.”34 The terms of this exchange suggest that Bassompierre and his contemporaries distinguished between favor and official positions, and that the former was actually preferable to the latter. In fact, around the same time, Condé started to take offense at Pierre Brûlart (1583–1640), the secretary of State, who seemed to occupy the place that Luynes did in Louis XIII’s entourage. The secretary of State, allegedly, undertook negotiations by himself and every decision made in the royal council had to receive his approval before it was implemented. Condé remarked that such an attitude was “tolerable” in a court favorite, but completely unbecoming a mere secretary of State, and that given Louis XIII’s penchant for raising favorites it was more appropriate that Bassompierre, a “brave man of high extraction” (“un brave homme de condition relevée”), knowledgeable in the “arts” of both peace and war, should become the principal court favorite.35 Condé promised ­Bassompierre full support in becoming Louis XIII’s new favorite courtier on condition that he worked to oust Brûlart, and helped Condé preserve his 33 34 35

Bassompierre, vol. 2 (1873), 385–387. Bassompierre, vol. 3 (1875), 54. Bassompierre, vol. 3 (1875), 57.

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influence. Favor in Condé’s opinion should only be granted to nobles of good old families, and not to ministers of relatively recent nobility with no military experience. But as we have seen already with Commynes and his representation of Olivier le Daim, in reality, French monarchs chose their mignons ­arbitrarily, without respect for social hierarchies, and this is also what made court favorites so widely hated. Bassompierre followed an intricate line of reasoning: Condé and his clique were not good friends of his, and they would have no qualms in ruining him in the same way they were working against the secretary of State . Bassompierre responded that favorites were not made by official decrees, and that Louis XIII remained free to choose them. Finally, Bassompierre revealed that he was not interested in great favor and fortune, that, more than utility, glory had actuated him all of his life, and that, besides, Brûlart was his friend.36 The differences between Bassompierre and Condé notwithstanding, it is clear that both envisaged favor as a position of great power and influence, for which it was not necessary to occupy an official post in the government. Although Bassompierre assured the prince that he was not interested in favor and fortune, his thoughts reveal something else: he refused Condé’s offer because he would have lost old alliances, his friendship with Brûlart, to uncertain new alliances (the dubious promises of support from the prince) that could have estranged him from Louis XIII. Bassompierre’s prudence paid off: in October 1622 he was named marshal of France. Two years later, however, Brûlart and his father were ousted following the machinations of Charles de la Vieuville (c.1582–1653), the new court favorite after Luynes. La Vieuville also worked against Schomberg and Bassompierre. Namely, La Vieuville produced false evidence that Bassompierre received a pension from Spain, a serious accusation of treason that could have cost the marshal his life. When Richelieu joined the royal council, he immediately started to undermine La Vieuville’s position, promising Bassompierre friendship and protection. Louis XIII dissimulated until the last minute that La Vieuville had his entire trust, before suddenly removing him from his position and imprisoning him. Luckily, La Vieuville managed to escape a year later.37 The incident mirrors Louis XIII’s behavior towards Bassompierre six year later: the French monarch temporized in the same cruel and cunning way Bassompierre’s arrest, after having repeatedly assured him that he was his friend and nothing was being concocted against him. Unlike La Vieuville and like the imprudent court

36 37

Bassompierre, vol. 3 (1875), 59. Bassompierre, vol. 3 (1875), 193.

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favorite that he once saw personified by Luynes, Bassompierre would refuse to flee, believing that the king’s favor could not be shaken. Bassompierre portrays Louis XIII in mostly laudatory terms, but also reserves some unflattering remarks for his master. According to the diarist, Louis XIII tended to listen to the people he held in favor, without verifying their claims, especially when it came to his finances, as he had a penchant for avarice. But Bassompierre immediately amends his characterization by recourse to a very common virtue associated with kingship: Louis XIII was more generous than all other monarchs before him in great things pertaining to his kingdom.38 Throughout his narrative, Bassompierre employs a similar strategy towards the agent of his downfall, Cardinal Richelieu, who always showed “restraint,” “not opening himself up,” and was disinclined towards irresponsible, hasty, and imprudent behavior.39 After his imprisonment, however, the author shows how the haughty Richelieu cruelly mocked Bassompierre’s repeated supplications to be released from prison. Bassompierre fell out with Richelieu for reasons that he claims not to understand. Their relationship had been good. Bassompierre felt himself a collateral victim of Marie de Médicis’s failed attempt to remove Cardinal Richelieu from the government that backfired on 11 November 1630, when Louis XIII decided to arrest all of the people suspected of siding with the queen mother. Bassompierre would only be arrested in February 1631, after ignoring many warnings from his friends. For instance, Épernon offered to give him a loan to flee the country, having inside knowledge that both his and Bassompierre’s fate had been sealed. Bassompierre replied that his “conscience and honor” was more important than life to him, and he risked losing them should he undertake such a cowardly act.40 The day before his arrest, Bassompierre burned six t­ housand “love letters,” fearing that his house would be searched.41 In the Bastille, the diarist enjoyed relative freedom: he kept two valets and a cook, and had his own separate room. Initially, he thought that he would not spend much time in prison, and repeatedly sent messengers to Richelieu to negotiate his release. He would spend twelve long years, in false hope of release, while his lands in Lorraine were being devastated by all parties involved in the Thirty Years’ Wars (1618–1648). Bassompierre recounted this material losses, and the many friends and family members that died during his prison years. The narrative stops short in 38 39 40 41

Bassompierre, vol. 3 (1875), 165. Bassompierre, vol. 3 (1875), 165. Bassompierre, vol. 4 (1877), 132. Bassompierre, vol. 3 (1875), 134.

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1640, with the death of Charles de Lorraine (1571–1640), duke of Guise, “one of the most noble, brave, and best princes that [he] had known,” a man who loved Bassompierre dearly, and was in exile in Italy, following the Day of the Dupes.42 This is probably when his diary started circulating, and this is also probably why he did not continue it: he was waiting for reactions and comments. We know of other writings that he composed in prison, which circulated and were read outside of the Bastille. 3

Bassompierre’s Other Works

Many of Bassompierre’s other writings, including some of his letters, survived only in manuscript form.43 His Chronology of the Swiss Leagues (1250–1621), supposedly written in preparation for his embassy in Switzerland, exists in several copies, and, since this is the result of sustained historical research, it is not unlikely that Bassompierre collaborated with a secretary.44 More personal notes, mostly in his own hand, have survived in several notebooks, known as his Repertoire, albeit the manuscripts themselves are untitled.45 The notebooks group together excerpts from ancient authors, but also Bassompierre’s own thoughts, without a clear structure or purpose. Bassompierre’s notes range from bons mots to bawdy pleasantries. For good reasons, Mathieu Lemoine has hypothesized that the notebooks date from 1619 to the end of his life, or that Bassompierre started jotting them down during the years of his imprisonment.46 Regardless of which hypothesis is correct, the notebooks clearly did not belong to Bassompierre’s school years. More likely, the author must have acquired the practice of compiling commonplaces while studying under the Jesuits as a school boy, and he seems to have never abandoned this ­habit.47 An excellent conversationalist according to several sources, he probably used notes to work up witty rejoinders, and, since many of them were written during his imprisonment, where the art of conversation did have much scope, the notes must have had a comforting psychological effect.48 Although rarely referring to himself in the first-person, some of the thoughts present in 42 43 44 45 46 47 48

Bassompierre, vol. 4 (1877), 341. For a more complete bibliography of Bassompierre’s work see Lemoine (2012), 549–558. See Lemoine (2012), 32. BNF, MSS lat. 14224–14227 and MS fr. 15225. Lemoine (2012), 446–447. Ann Moss, Printed Commonplace-Books and the Structuring of Renaissance Thought (Oxford; New York: Clarendon Press, 1996). Tallemant des Réaux (1862), 34: “he was accused that he would have rather lose a friend than a bon mot.”

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the notebooks seeped into the diary, and Bassompierre must have envisaged the notebooks also as an aide-memoire for his autobiographical work.49 Bassompierre’s manuscript production also includes a number of orations called Academic Discourses, exercises in demonstrative and deliberative rhetoric. Their title suggests that Bassompierre meant them for the French Academy that Richelieu had founded in 1635.50 While Bassompierre had a solid education, some academic discourses attributed to him clearly belonged to other distinguished writers.51 Nevertheless, he might have made the copies for himself, as yet another pastime in prison. Several other papers attributed to Bassompierre were printed. At least one speech dedicated to the king was published during his lifetime.52 But most of them were printed well after Bassompierre’s death. Such was the case with his discourse on the manner of conducting and defending against sieges.53 All the published works pertain to Bassompierre’s successful public career as a counselor and as a military commander, and as a diplomat: in 1668, the same fictional Pierre du Marteau in Cologne printed accounts of Bassompierre’s various embassies.54 The reports of his missions in Spain, Switzerland, and England usually inform the reader about the subject and motive of his commissions, the letters that he exchanged during the embassies, the instructions that he received from the king, and the treaties that were concluded. Although the reports do not amount to a narrative of his life, they do highlight the most consequential of Bassompierre’s dealings, and he must have collected the papers himself or worked with a secretary to put the diplomatic papers in order, as the reports highlight his importance in foreign affairs. France had ordinary ambassadors in all of the countries that Bassompierre visited, but his missions were those of an extraordinary ambassador sent to settle urgent points of contention. Usually, such extraordinary ambassadors were of high rank representing the French monarch more directly, and having authority over ordinary ambassadors.55

49 50 51

Lemoine (2012), 458–459. BNF, MSS fr. 19195–19196. See Paulin Paris, Les Manuscrits françois de la Bibliothèque du roi, vol. 5 (Paris: Techener, 1842), 270. 52 Bassompierre, Harangue… ou vœux du Roy (NP: 1629). 53 Bassompierre, Discours des sieges des places, et de leur secours (Paris: Sercy, 1655). 54 Bassompierre, Ambassade… en Espagne, l’an 1621 (Cologne: Pierre du Marteau, 1668), Ambassade… en Suisse, l’an 1625, 2 vols. (Cologne: Pierre du Marteau, 1668), and Negociation du mareschal de Bassompierre, envoyé ambassadeur extraordinaire en Angleterre de la part du Roi tres-Chrestien, l’an 1626 (Cologne: Pierre du Marteau, 1668). 55 Lemoine (2012), 388.

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Finally, a curious collection of Bassompierre’s Remarks appeared in 1665 with royal printing privilege.56 Bassompierre set out to correct the volumes on the history of Henri IV and Louis XIII authored by Scipion Dupleix ­(1569–1661), an official historian of France and a counselor of State.57 Bassompierre’s Remarks had previously circulated in manuscript form during Bassompierre’s life, as he referred to them in his diary, claiming that a friar had collected and modified his original notes into a manuscript, whose authorship he now contested because Dupleix, after having read this allegedly forged manuscript, complained to Louis XIII’s ministers that Bassompierre had also shown in his remarks that he was dissatisfied with the royal government.58 Bassompierre thus feared that his libel, written as a personal vendetta, could now result in a prolongation of his imprisonment. This is why he contested the authenticity of the Remarks in his diary. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that Bassompierre was their real author: the Remarks are simply too harsh, even for the low early seventeenth-century standards of civil dialogue, not to have been authored by a person of high rank and full of resentment, Bassompierre’s own situation in the Bastille in 1635. More than reasserting factual truth, often about trifles, Bassompierre relishes execrating Dupleix, calling him, time and again, a “fool,” “ignorant,” “impudent liar,” “rascal,” and “animal,” among many other epithets.59 As we have seen, Dupleix soon learned about the remarks and could hardly contain his fury, producing a new book in the form of a veiled attack against Bassompierre.60 The royal historiographer had himself written a collection of his own remarks on the errors of a previous historian, and now he got his comeuppance.61 More generally, the sixteenth century historical arts, discussed in the first chapter, invariably consisted of reviews of previous historians and their errors of fact and method, sometimes in quite coarse language, but they were disputes among scholars of history, rarely disparaging a living historian directly and so harshly.62 56 Bassompierre, Remarques… sur les Vies des Roys Henry IV et Louys XIII de Dupleix (Paris: ­Cardin Besongne, 1665). 57 Scipion Dupleix, Histoire de Henri le Grand, IV e du nom, roi de France et de Navarre (Paris: Sonnius, 1632) and Histoire de Louis le Juste, XIII e du nom, roy de France et de Navarre (Paris: Sonnius, 1635). 58 Bassompierre (1877), 232–234. 59 Bassompierre (1665), 143, 144, 148, 226. 60 Scipion Dupleix, Philotime, ou Examen des notes d’Aristarque, sur l’histoire des rois Henry le Grand et Louis le Juste (Paris: C. Sonnius, 1637). 61 Scipion Dupleix, Inventaire des erreurs, fables et déguisements remarquables en “l’Inventaire général de l’histoire de France” de Ian de Serres (Paris: L. Sonnius, 1625). 62 Fumaroli (1971), 20–22.

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Bassompierre’s method is to quote an excerpt from Dupleix (for instance that Henri IV “was an excellent swimmer”), and then contradict it based on common knowledge or his own experience (“the king never learned how to swim, a thousand people who have seen him bathe in Paris could testify”).63 Bassompierre usually accuses Dupleix of writing from hearsay, giving unnecessary and indecorous details, and, worst of all, bad style. Bassompierre certainly did not lead by example in terms of grand style in either his Remarks or his Diary. Lemoine considers that Bassompierre attacked Dupleix because the latter was Richelieu’s protégé.64 The hypothesis may be correct, but Richelieu supported, throughout his career, many men of letters and artists that Bassompierre did not attack.65 The marshal undoubtedly took umbrage at Dupleix’s not mentioning him enough in his history, failing to highlight his importance in the events, and, probably most of all, Dupleix’s impolite representation of the causes for his imprisonment: Marshal Bassompierre found himself so embarrassed by the lightness of his language, and his leniency towards the Princesse de Conti that after the separation of the queen-mother and the king, His Majesty judged that the Bastille was the proper place to learn to speak with more restraint.66 In his Remarks, Bassompierre replied to this topic only that Dupleix ignored the true reason of his imprisonment, but did not elaborate further. The freedom of speech was one of the most essential imagined qualities of true n ­ obility: Bassompierre represents himself in his diary numerous times voicing his discordant opinion even at the risk of triggering his sovereigns’ anger.67 Countless other noble memorialists used this rhetorical figure, known since Antiquity

63 64 65 66

67

Bassompierre (1665), 153 Mathieu Lemoine, “Dupleix, Aristarque et Philotime: Une polémique à trois vois ou comment le Maréchal de Bassompierre conçoit le métier d’historien,” Dix-septième siècle, 239:2 (2008), 195–221. Louis Delavaud, Quelques collaborateurs de Richelieu (Paris, 1915); Jean-Claude Boyer, Barbara Gaehtgens et Bénédicte Gady, eds., Richelieu, patron des arts (Paris: Maison des sciences de l’homme, 2009). Dupleix (1635), 397: “Le Mareschal de Bassompierre s’y trouva tellement embarrassé par la légereté de sa langue, et par complaisance envers la Princesse de Conty, qu’après la séparation de la Royne mère et du Roy, Sa Majesté estima que la Bastille estoit un lieu propre pour y apprendre à parler avec plus de retenue.” See for instance how Bassompierre angered Louis XIII on the subject of the manner to receive Genovese ambassadors in Bassompierre (1877), 30–33.

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as parrhesia, the license to speak about everything without (self)censorship.68 In the memoir tradition, noble authors almost invariably mocked professional historians, pictured as ignoble men paid for their servility, unable to speak their mind. Bassompierre, too, explained that Dupleix pretermitted the ­marshal’s exploits at the siege of Montauban, praised by the king and all the French army, because Bassompierre had not been “paying him to write.”69 Dupleix’s exposition of the reason for Bassompierre’s imprisonment was actually not entirely false. In fact, to this day, historians explain Bassompierre’s disgrace by his entanglement with the Princesse de Conti and her Guise relations’ opposition to the cardinal. What must have ruffled Bassompierre’s dusty feathers was that a paid historian, with no military experience, should give his opinion about holding his tongue to a Seigneur de Bassompierre, Counselor in both State and Private Councils of the king, Knight of the Order of the Holy Ghost, General Colonel of the Swiss Guard, Marshal of France, and Ambassador Extraordinary, titles that Bassompierre often flaunted. It is this belief in the power of language and the special freedom of speech that nobles entertained or imagined they entertained that constitutes, I contend, the main impetus behind Bassompierre’s diary project. The same belief in freedom of speech must also account for certain liberties that Bassompierre takes with regard to previous early modern forms of life-writing. 4

From Autobiography to Literature

Bassompierre’s diary differs from previous autobiographical works in particular with regard to his highly positive depiction of court life, in which the author’s personality, sometimes morally flawed, finds its natural place. The general impression is that of an increased realism, on condition that we do not confound realism with the aesthetic concept developed only during the nineteenth century in reaction to romanticism.70 A realist writing could also be defined more broadly and neutrally as a document that refers to the world as it is, free from embellishments and fiction, something that we could call with Lejeune, in application to a self-narrative, the “autobiographical pact,” the commitment to truth that virtually all early modern autobiographers make.71 68 69 70 71

Michel Foucault, Le Courage de la vérité (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2002). Bassompierre (1655), 355. Pam Morris, Realism (London: Routledge, 2003). Jonathan Culler, Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); Thomas Pavel, Fictional Worlds (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986).

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At least two stories in Bassompierre’s diary, however, contradict this overall impression of realism. One concerns Bassompierre’s genealogy and looks like a fairy tale. The other recounts a love story that, while not immediately fictional, serves no purpose in the narrative economy of his diary, and looks like a literary anecdote or even a novella. This love story actually gained an autonomous life after Bassompierre’s death. Both stories are highly unusual for the self-narratives of the time, and inaugurate a transfer of autobiographical works into the type of imaginative writing that would later be called literature. As we have seen in the first chapter, many works belonging to the memoir tradition are now considered masterpieces of French literature, and Bassompierre’s diary in particular has been extremely influential in the history of the confusion between autobiography and literature, judging by its reception. While the modern concept of literature is a complex subject and the word had a different meaning in the seventeenth century, I employ it neutrally to refer to imaginative works, written mainly for the writer and reader’s pleasure, with no immediate practical end.72 The seventeenth-century terminology for our concept of literature is much more imprecise, although not entirely absent, as we shall see. Bassompierre’s recourse to fairy tale occurs at the beginning of his diary in an unusual place, where most autobiographers would normally multiply their claims to truth: his family genealogy. One of Bassompierre’s ancestors, Simon de Bettstein married in 1469 the elder daughter of a certain count of Ogervillier or Angeweiller. Ogervillier bequeathed his fortune to his three daughters. Aside from the usual type of inheritance that would normally be passed down in such circumstances, the count gave his daughters as marriage gifts three objects: a spoon (to Simon’s wife), a goblet (to Ogervillier’s second daughter), and a ring (to the youngest daughter). The diarist writes “it is said about these three objects that they were given to the Seigneur d’Ogervillier, father of these young women, by a fairy, who was in love with him and who came to see him every Monday in a summer house.”73 This improbable relationship lasted for two years, until Ogervillier’s wife came to the summer house one Monday morning to find her husband in bed with a beautiful woman. She placed a bonnet at the sleeping lovers’ feet, and left. When the fairy woke up and noticed the bonnet, she cried and declared that she could not see the count anymore. The fairy left the three objects to Ogervillier’s three daughters, assuring her lover that the objects would protect their families, as long as they kept them. 72 73

The topic of what literature is has a rich bibliography that cannot be summarized here. For an overview, see Antoine Compagnon (2004). Bassompierre (1870), 6–7.

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Early modern authors of life-writings, both biographical and autobiographical, often tended to embellish their and their subjects’ pedigrees. Chroniclers and early memoirists would link French monarchs to heroes of the Trojan saga, or invent links to distant ancestors, and they either strongly believed themselves, or wanted their readers to accept, the reality of such dubious connections. Bassompierre’s story, however, belongs to the fairy tale genre to which no early modern historian, certainly none of the historians trained in the French humanist historiography of the sixteenth century, would have lent any credence. Originating in a pre-Christian stratum of beliefs, myths, and legends, similar stories are known in German folklore, and they must have widely circulated in popular culture well before Bassompierre’s time.74 The presence of magical objects and of a supernatural being were entirely alien to scholarly historiography and unusual for early modern French life-writing, particularly published under the title diaries, memoirs, or lives. Everything looks as if Bassompierre undermined his own truth claims. Admittedly, early modern readers had access to the faulty edition of ­Bassompierre’s memoirs, where the word “fairy” (fée) had wrongly been transcribed as woman (femme). This might have been an intentional strategy from the part of the editors who probably noticed the inappropriateness of this preternatural element in a so-called “memoir.” But the reference to three magical objects in a work that claimed to be moored to lived experience must have raised some eyebrows: Tallemant des Réaux recounts the story, which he calls a “pleasant fable,” and correctly refers to the character as a fairy.75 Bassompierre himself crammed the eerie story of the origin of the three amulets in the left-margin of his manuscript, as a later addition, which in turn suggests that the author himself had initial doubts about integrating this fairy tale into his diary.76 Contrary to the common early modern rhetoric of first-person chronicles, memoirs, lives, and diaries, in which authors protested to use a plain style devoid of flowers of rhetoric, Bassompierre’s personal writing morphed here into fable. The fable did not serve any of the practical purposes associated with early modern life-writing. Similarly, Bassompierre’s much more famous account of his love affair with a seamstress was early on perceived as something more akin to literature than autobiography. 74 75 76

Lucien Gerschel, “Sur un schème trifonctionnel dans une famille de légendes germaniques,” Revue d’histoire des religions, 150:1 (1956), 55–92. Tallemant des Réaux (1862), 30. BNF, MS 17478, fol. 4r.

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Bassompierre was himself conscious that the story stood out from his usual narration, and announced to his readers that he wanted to tell them “an adventure that happened” to him, of “no consequence” but “extravagant.”77 “Adventure” means an accident, an unforeseen event, while “extravagant” denotes either a digression or something bizarre.78 Thus, the author framed this episode as serving no purpose (no consequence) and then highlighted its esthetic quality (extravagant). The story is set in June 1606, when Bassompierre was to leave France for an extraordinary embassy to England. He left the court at Fontainebleau for Paris. Bassompierre noticed that every time he crossed the Petit-Pont, known later as Pont-Neuf, a beautiful woman of low social extraction greeted him and followed him with her eyes. On this occasion, the woman introduced herself to him as his humble servant. The same day, Bassompierre sent one of his lackeys to ask whether she wanted a private audience with him. She replied that she gladly accepted to meet him anywhere on condition that they slept together (“coucher entre deux draps avec moy”).79 The lackey suggested that they should meet in a brothel. Bassompierre went there in the evening, and found the beautiful woman in her twenties, barely dressed. Bassompierre writes that he never again met a prettier woman that gave him so much pleasure in one night. They agreed to meet the following Sunday, but the seamstress wanted to change the place of meeting, protesting that she was no prostitute and that she met him in a brothel only once, being deeply in love with him. She swore that she had given herself only to her husband and to Bassompierre. Instead, she invited him to a house on rue du Bourg-l’Abbé that belonged to one of her aunts. On Sunday evening, Bassompierre arrived at the agreed place but found the door locked and noticed a great light on all the three floors of the house. He knocked and a man answered. Surprised, Bassompierre withdrew. Burning with desire, he returned shortly after. The door was now open, and he climbed to the second floor, where he was supposed to meet his mistress. Instead, he found the bed straw burning and two bodies lying on a table. Astonished, ­Bassompierre retreated and met, on the way, two plague doctors who asked him what he was looking for. Bassompierre unsheathed his sword, and made his way back to his lodging, where he drank several glasses of wine, “a German

77 78 79

Bassompierre (1870), 184. Nicot (1606); Le Dictionnaire de l’Académie françoise (1694). Bassompierre (1870), 185.

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remedy against the plague.”80 Bassompierre left Paris the following morning. Later, he tried to learn what had happened to his mistress, and even went to her house, but she no longer lived there. Bassompierre affirms that he recounted this “adventure” in his diary because “although she was a person of humble condition, she was so pretty that he always regretted her and would have much desired to see her again.”81 Early after the first publication of Bassompierre’s so-called memoirs, readers did not fail to single out this story. In a letter from 16 august 1671 addressed to Madeleine de Scudéry (1607–1701), Roger de Bussy-Rabutin (1618–1693) complained about Bassompierrre’s tendency to recount “useless bagatelles,” instead of focusing on information of political consequence such as the king’s orders and letters.82 In other words, Bussy-Rabutin thought of Bassompierre’s diary as failed historical memoirs because they digressed too much and did not confine themselves to narrating events of historical import, a very basic and widespread definition to which Bussy-Rabutin adhered in his own memoirs. In the absence of information relevant to grand history, Bussy-Rabutin would have wanted to read more of the type of stories such as the one between Bassompierre and the seamstress, calling it an “extraordinary adventure,” and regretting that Bassompierre did not write more of the same “curious” bagatelles.83 Bussy-Rabutin operated a distinction between memoirs, supposed to be historically useful, and “bagatelles,” particular stories that pleased the reader and had no other apparent purpose, or what the modern reader would call literature. In 1788, François-René de Chateaubriand (1768–1848) went to visit the place of the failed meeting between Bassompierre and the beautiful woman, but found a modern house and the memory of the former inhabitants gone. In his own Memoirs, Chateaubriand wonders about the causes of the end of Bassompierre’s story. Were the plague-ridden bodies on the table that of the woman and her husband or another man? The writer then observes that the imagination can “easily find matter for exercise in such a subject as this,” and describes the entire adventure as a “superb melodrama.”84 The memory of Bassompierre’s story surfaces in Chateaubriand’s memoirs in a significant 80 81 82

Bassompierre (1870), 187. Bassompierre (1870), 187–188. Roger de Bussy-Rabutin, Correspondance, ed. Ludovic Lalanne, vol. 2 (Paris: Charpentier, 1858), 8–11; Bussy-Rabutin in Bassompierre (1870), XXVIII–XXIX. 83 Bussy-Rabutin (1858), 11. 84 Chateaubriand, Mémoires d’outre-tombe, vol. 1 (Leipzig: Brockhaus and Avenarius, 1849), 136.

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place. He had just arrived in Paris, and his brother was to introduce him to the most brilliant court in Europe. While wondering on the streets of Paris, Chateaubriand experienced disgust and horror at seeing the “flock of prostitutes” trying to lure their clients, and criticized Jean-Jacques Rousseau for having written about his adventures with Venetian sex workers.85 Chateaubriand then plunged into his reading memories about a more distant past before the bourgeois society in which Rousseau and himself lived, and painted a picture of the early modern “imperfect civilization” characterized by “superstitious beliefs and strange half-barbarian customs,” with streets swarming with criminals, when a lover could only obtain a rendezvous with his mistress in peril of his life.86 It is within this romantic coloration of the past that Chateaubriand summons Bassompierre’s figure, with whom he identifies, and quotes extensively the episode of love in the time of plague.87 It is not the facts about Louis XIII’s court that interest Chateaubriand, but Bassompierre’s capacity to pierce the opacity of distant times, and still inspire modern readers. Bassompierre’s story and, by extension his diary, have become monuments of literature that have endured the test of time and remained relevant. In 1795, Goethe translated into German, with minor modifications, Bassompierre’s love story, together with the fairy tale, but Goethe’s narrator terms the fairy a “beautiful woman” (“eine schöne Frau”) and Ogervillier appears only as “one of his ancestors” (“von einem seiner Vorfahren”); although Goethe obviously had access only to the faulty printed editions of Bassompierre’s so-called Memoirs, one of Goethe’s characters immediately recognizes the pattern of a fairy tale (“Märchen”).88 In 1900, Hugo von Hofmannsthal reworked Goethe’s translation of the seamstress love story into a more complex novella, setting it in winter, not in summer as in the original, adding many a suggestive detail, and skillfully enhancing the suspense, although many of his borrowings from Goethe bordered on plagiarism.89 Finally, in 1997, Bassompierre’s story became 85 86 87 88 89

Chateaubriand (1849), 132–133. Chateaubriand (1849), 133. Chateaubriand (1849), 133: “In 1788, I would have never followed a starving wretch who would entreat me to her shed under the surveillance of the police, but probably I would have lived an adventure of the sort that Bassompierre recounted so well.” Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten, in Werke, vol. 6 (­Hamburg: Wegner, 1963), 161–166. Hugo von Hofmannstahl, Das Erzählerische Werk (Frankfurt: Fischer, 1979), 84–94; Alain Montandon, “Anecdote et Nouvelle: De Bassompierre à Hofmannstahl,” in L’Anecdote, ed. Alain Montandon (Clermont-Ferrand: Ass. des Publications de la Faculté des Lettres et ­Sciences Humaines, 1990), 211–226.

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an autonomous novella in an anthology of so-called Seventeenth-­Century French Novellas in the prestigious Pléiades series.90 Jouhaud has noticed that Bassompierre’s love story is at the crossroads of several literary models: the short novella genre of the late Middle Ages, the tragic histories of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, and adventure fiction.91 The passionate affair between a common woman and a nobleman, against the backdrop of disease and death, and the mystery surrounding the fate of the beloved woman are certainly evocative literary motives that account for the extraordinary fortune of the adventure that occupies only a couple of pages in the four-volume edition of Bassompierre’s diary prepared by Chantérac. There is no reason to suspect that Bassompierre has completely made up this story. On the contrary, most of the love stories that he proudly mentions in his diary concern women of high rank. While Bussy-Rabutin thought highly of the narrative rendering of the “extraordinary” and “curious” adventure, he did note that the story did not “honor” Bassompierre much.92 In other words, it actually harmed Bassompierre’s self-representation as a noble courtier because he brought to light relationships with women of lesser social condition. ­Bassompierre abandoned his pose and the undeniable apologetic purpose of his self-narrative. The pleasure of recounting his most cherished memories, although socially degrading, carried him away. With the exception of Commynes, Bassompierre was one of the early modern authors most often quoted as a model for life-writing, particularly those under the title memoirs. Unlike Commynes, whose fortune depends on his influence on modern political literature, Bassompierre’s extraordinary reception rests on the aesthetic quality of his prose. Aside from the French and German Romantic authors quoted above, Saint-Simon fondly remembers how he received the impulse for writing his own memoirs in 1694 from the “pleasure” that he ­experienced reading those of Bassompierre.93 By the beginning of the nineteenth century, Bassompierre’s name was synonymous with success, and was borrowed for some New Memoirs that he never wrote.94 The most likely author of the forgery was Antoine Sérieys (1755–1819),

90 91 92 93 94

Raymond Picard and Jean Lafond, eds., Nouvelles du XVIIe siècle (Paris: Gallimard, 1997). Christian Jouhaud, “Fiction, histoire, mémoire: Contextualiser Bassompierre,” in Comment la fiction fait histoire: Emprunts, échanges, croisement, ed. Noriko Taguchi (Paris: Champion, 2015), 11–21. Bussy-Rabutin (1858), 11. Saint-Simon (1983), 186. Nouveaux Mémoires du Maréchal de Bassompierre (Paris: Locard, 1802).

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who claimed to have transcribed them from manuscripts that the academician Charles Hénault (1685–1770) had collected.95 Sérieys is a known polygraph: the style, tone, and ideology of the New Memoirs differ sharply from Bassompierre’s known work. At the beginning of the New Memoirs, for instance, the author addresses a general public that “knows” (“chacun sait”) well the queen of Navarre’s “scandalous” (“chacun était scandalisé”) love affairs in 1582.96 But, as we have seen, Bassompierre mentions numerous love affairs, including his own, as proud achievements for gentlemen and quite normal for women, far from considering them scandalous. The latter epithet is more typical of a bourgeois mentality and a modern public opinion entirely alien to Bassompierre and the court that he frequented. 95 96

Antoine-Alexandre Barbier, Dictionnaire des ouvrages anonymes, vol. 3 (Paris: Daffis, 1875), 533. Nouveaux Mémoires (1802), 1–2.

Conclusion The novella-like episodes multiplied in the memoirs of the second half of the seventeenth century, leading to a growing body of fictional memoirs in a genre that lasted well into the nineteenth century.1 This is also the usual timeframe given for the birth of the modern novel, and the evolution of both genres is intimately related.2 At the beginning of his memoirs, Pierre de la Porte (1603–1680) states his initial intention of giving an “account of all the adventures that happened to [him] at the court,” but deplores that memory fails him. More than seventy years after his death, La Porte’s Memoirs appeared in print, abroad, in Geneva, without a book-seller’s name, and preceded by an unsigned preface that recycles some commonplaces of the memoir tradition: the naïve style, the ­manuscript found among the papers of a deceased person, and the anonymous editor’s minor additions to better explain the intention of the deceased author.3 They mix historical narratives with anecdotes, impossible to verify, and are clearly driven by a desire to create suspense and surprise the reader.4 As it happens, La Porte also provoked the discontent of Richelieu, who ordered his imprisonment in the Bastille between August 1637 and May 1638. There, La Porte met among other prisoners, Bassompierre, about whom he writes: “with age, he lost his memory, so much so that time and again he was telling his love stories to the same people.”5 Bassompierre, who, in 1637, was immersed in writing his diary, based, as he boasted, on his prodigious memory, does not mention La Porte. The latter or one of his editors must have read ­Tallemant des Réaux’s anecdote about the decrepit courtier telling the story of his amorous conquests. La Porte’s memoirs appeared in print after almost seventy years of flourishing pseudo-memoirs, if we consider the Memoirs of the Sieur de Pontis, written in the first-person of Louis de Pontis (1583–1670) by Pierre-Thomas du Fossé (1634–1698), as the most visible starting point of the new printing fashion of

1 Zanone (2006). 2 Démoris (1975), 128. 3 Pierre de la Porte, Mémoires… contenant plusieurs particularités des régnes de Louis XIII et de Louis XIV (Geneva: 1755), 3–4. BNF, MS Nouvelles acquisitions françaises 14286 (1) containing La Porte’s account of his adventures is not autograph. 4 Jacques Berchtold, Les Prisons du roman (XVII e–XVIII e siècle): Lectures plurielles et intertextuelles de “Guzman d’Alfarache” à “Jacques le fataliste” (Geneva: Droz, 2000), 467–471. 5 La Porte (1755), 194. © koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2021 | doi:10.1163/9789004459557_007

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complete confusion between fictional and authentic (auto)biography.6 Gatien de Courtilz de Sandras (1644–1712) was the most prolific figure of this new fashion at the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.7 He is remembered today as the real author of the pseudo-memoirs of D’Artagnan, which Alexandre Dumas (1802–1870) reworked in his Three Musketeers (1844) and its sequels. After a lengthy and very real career as a musketeer, Courtilz quit the sword for the quill, and lived by writing novellas, historical works, directing journals, and, most importantly, pseudo-memoirs composed in the first-person and attributed to more-or-less real historical characters. His clandestine publications cost him his freedom, and he was imprisoned in the Bastille between 1693 and 1699. He was a successful writer with a wide readership, and managed to amass a small fortune, although his identity as the real author was revealed only in 1716 after his death.8 In his first pseudo-memoirs, issued in 1687 with the familiar fictional publisher Pierre Marteau, the anonymous editor (Courtilz himself), poses as a friend of the alleged author of the memoirs, M.C.L.D.R. or Charles César de Rochefort. According to Courtilz, Charles César had explicitly asked that the memoirs be destroyed after his death, but the editor thought they contained useful lessons and were too amusing (“fort divertissants”) to deprive the readers of them.9 Courtilz tries to convince his readers that the novelistic elements of the memoirs are actually verisimilar, and that they are a testament to the alleged author’s “goodwill of wanting to recount thus things about his family that other authors would have silenced.”10 In fact, the memoirs start with an unflattering story of the pseudo-author’s father, a nobleman and an incurable dupe of love, who, after the death of his first wife, Charles César’s mother, married a young woman of apparent good social standing, who claimed to be the heiress of a noble Protestant family that had just converted to Catholicism. Upon discovering, on the back of his new wife, the mark of a fleur-de-lis, the sign of a convicted criminal (like Dumas’s character Milady), the husband realizes that he has been deceived and after further legal investigations, which

6 7 8 9 10

Du Fossé (1676). Benjamin Mather Woodbridge, Gatien de Courtilz, Sieur du Verger: Étude sur un précurseur du roman réaliste en France (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press; Paris: PUF, 1925); Jean ­Lombard, Courtilz de Sandras et la crise du roman à la fin du Grand Siècle (Paris: PUF, 1980) Carole Atem in Courtilz de Sandras, Mémoires de M. L.C.D.R., ed. Carole Atem (Paris: ­Champion, 2018), 12; Démoirs (1975), 200. Courtilz de Sandras (2018), 33. Courtilz de Sandras (2018), 32.

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proved that she was a commoner, annulled the marriage. Soon after, he would almost marry another young woman, whom he would also repudiate after painfully discovering that she was a prostitute. The irresponsible father having married yet another woman, Charles César felt neglected, left home at eight years of age, and joined a band of Bohemians, with whom he travelled across Europe and survived by stealing poultry. Nothing could be further than the authentic memoirs of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, in which the authors, as Courtilz rightly noted, tried to silence anything disreputable about their families. The density of similar quid pro quos and sudden turns of events surely signaled its readers that the memoirs were fictional. Even ignoring Courtilz’s identity, contemporary scholars noticed immediately that the cycle of pseudo-memoirs were written by the same forger: It is a pity that, exhibiting such a fertile spirit and the gift of writing with an extraordinary ease and great liveliness, this man should have not have taken better intended measures to employ his talents. Had he attached himself to the study of the great models of Antiquity and the laws, which so many masters of the historical art have nobly explained, he could have become a very good historian.11 The polymath Pierre Bayle (1647–1706) rightly noted that the author sought to gain readers by claiming that he was an eyewitness, and filled his texts with anecdotes and adventures with the purpose of surprising the reader.12 The critic further observed the forger’s habit of transitioning from one digression to another, with the simple adverb “however,” without respect to chronological order and causal chain.13 Bayle held on to an ideal of truthful history and of ­testimonial memoirs that had been amply theorized more than a century before. Conversely, critics started to sift through authentic memoirs to find borrowings from fictional literature, while some authors found themselves compelled to write authentic memoirs to correct fictional ones attributed to them by professional forgers.14 It is within this culture of confusion between authentic memoirs and ­fictional ones, that the concepts of “autobiography” and “literature” were first coined. With the advent of Romanticism, the notions were colored in the ­language of subjectivity and the primacy of individual expression. 11 12 13 14

Pierre Bayle, Oeuvres diverses, vol. 3 (The Hague: Husson, 1727), 551. Bayle (1727), 551. Bayle (1727), 548. Démoirs (1975), 98–262.

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In the early modern period, autobiography did not exist as a word, while literature meant mostly book-learning. Yet, authors did write about ­themselves and consciously created fictions, and, sometimes, even blended the two modes of writing to varying degrees. The taxonomy that authors, editors, and readers used varied greatly, but by the second half of the sixteenth century the term Memoires clearly imposed itself as the privileged title for printed works that most closely resemble modern autobiographies. The term “autobiography” came to designate a subgenre of memoirs, more preoccupied “with the men themselves than the events,” during the second half of the nineteenth century.15 The memoirs themselves emerged during the sixteenth-century as a subgenre of history, namely as eyewitness accounts purporting to tell the truth about the past and serve as a reservoir of examples for future moral-political conduct and military action. In the prologues with which authors and their early modern editors accoutered memoirs, rhetoric, with its embellishments and contrived design, received the harshest criticism as the sign of a deceitful or, as we would call it, fictional discourse. Authors or editors of memoirs strove, therefore, to convince their readers that they were not presenting them with fictitious stories. Incidentally, rhetoric and literature could still pass for synonymous and retain their pejorative meaning at the end of the nineteenth century.16 The pejorative connotations of rhetoric, however, were grounded on different institutional realities. While throughout the early modern period rhetoric was the essence of a formal education in France, and memoirists were either trained in or their secretaries and editors employed rhetorical concepts in their writing (the claims in their prologues notwithstanding), the art of eloquence was effectively removed from the educational curriculum in France at the beginning of the twentieth century following an entire host of Romantic and post-Romantic attacks against commonplaces and the conventionalism associated with classical rhetoric.17 Literature emerged as a field of study out of the ruins of the older rhetoric.18

15 16 17

18

Pierre Larousse, Grand Dictionnaire universel du XIX e siècle (Paris: Administration du Grand Dictionnaire universel, 1866–1879); Zanone (2006), 105–136. Paul Verlaine, Oeuvres poétiques complètes (Paris: Gallimard, 1962), 327: “Et tout le reste est littérature.” Antoine Compagnon, La Troisième République des lettres, de Flaubert à Proust (Paris: Seuil, 1983); Claire Bompaire-Evesque, “Le procès de la rhétorique dans l’enseignement supérieur français à la fin du XIXe siècle,” Revue d’Histoire littéraire de la France, 102: 3 (2002), 389–404. Gérard Genette, “Enseignement et rhétorique au XX e siècle,” in Annales, Économies, Sociétés, Civilisations, 21: 1 (1966), 292–305.

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Banished from positivistic history as unreliable sources and unscientific models of history writing, some non-fictional early modern memoirs, distinguished by the apparent aesthetic qualities of their writing or rather the qualities that responded to modern tastes, have become works of literature. It would be difficult to imagine a history of French literature today, without reference to the memoirs of Saint-Simon and of Cardinal de Retz. But the vast majority of early modern autobiographical works simply stopped being reedited after the nineteenth century. In fact, with the exception of Commynes, there are no new scientific critical editions of any of the authors studied in this book. While Louise de Savoie still attracts the interest of historians for the insights that her diary is thought to give about the religious ideas of the royal family, Cheverny’s memoirs are only cursorily studied in general histories of French memoirs as having inflected the memoir genre towards private writing. Bassompierre, on the other hand, frequently appears in both monographs and, for instance, in the scholarship on the history of nobility and the French court. If we extend our inquiry to other works, stemming from the period 1450 to 1650, the picture is far from positive. With the exception of great French writers, such as Agrippa d’Aubigné, most authors of French early modern autobiographies are rarely reprinted in critical or in pocket editions. Clearly, the powerful grip of the Romantic notions of autobiography and literature has influenced, decisively and negatively, the appeal of the earliest modern French autobiographical works to modern readers. Nearly all autobiographical works, which were reprinted in countless, faulty editions from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, bore, at one point or another, the title “memoirs,” irrespective of their original context. These texts now suffer on account of their initial appeal: they were read as unflowery authentic documents useful for the study of history. Bassompierre’s Diary partially avoided this fate, precisely because he also recounted extravagant adventures of little interest for history, a violation of the memoir tradition in the opinion of his nearest contemporaries, and a thing of beauty for his later Romantic admirers. I have attempted to lift from early modern autobiography the heavy romantic veil, which hindered my own understanding of the subject at the beginning of my research, when my main preoccupation was to establish a clear-cut corpus of autobiographical works, and explain why and how men and women actually wrote about themselves, their lives, and their acquaintances. Early on, it became evident that many of the texts that have come down to us as memoirs, diaries, or lives (the most typical titles for printed discourses about the authors’ lives) had undergone centuries of interpolations and textual rearrangements to the extent that some of the works, such as Cheverny’s State

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Memoirs and Louise de Savoie’s Diary, simply do not exist outside of this creative tradition. I am convinced now that the attempt to expunge the interpolations in quest for an authentic document stems from a misunderstanding of the transmission of these texts, grounded on some problematic ideas about the birth of the individual and of the author in Renaissance print culture. The individual author seems, in fact, the least interesting topic in the eyes of early modern editors. The autograph manuscripts almost always have disappeared, and, when some manuscript copies did survive, they prove to have served different ends than what the printed works suggest. I do not claim that all Renaissance authors had no sense of individuality or that they were not preoccupied with the editorial fate of their books. Some exceptional writers choose their editors carefully and took great care in the spelling and grammar of their printed works.19 But this is far from applicable to or representative of the memoir tradition, where, by virtue of its truth claims, modern readers would legitimately expect a sacrosanct respect for the authors’ intention. Scholars have hitherto probed early modern forms of life-writing as some pre-history of individuality and subjective expression, but the evidence of the massive collective intervention of secretaries, editors, and family members in the life-discourses attributed to one author or another made it clear that such an approach had little meaning. Instead, I have striven to recover the categories that early modern authors and readers of these texts used themselves to wrestle with something that they perceived as modern for their time. They called this “memoirs,” an all-encompassing term that does not exactly fit our neat contemporary definition. Necessarily and somewhat counterintuitively, given their claims, early modern authors and readers employed rhetorical categories. The endless conversations about testimony and character, in both the autobiographical texts themselves and the discussions about the historical arts come from classical rhetoric. The ambiguous place of testimony, at the same time a desirable form of history writing and an unrefined discourse, together with the understanding of character as good reputation and social status, rather than what a person became and achieved – “the history of their personality” –, might also explain why these texts were so easily manipulated, with little regard to their authors’ actual intentions and wording. The picture that emerges confirms, for early modern French culture, Adam Smyth’s thesis on early modern English autobiography as embedded in a “culture of textual transmission and revision that encouraged the movement of

19

Mireille Huchon, Rabelais grammairien: de l’histoire du texte aux problèmes d’authenticité (Geneva: Droz, 1981).

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materials from text to text.”20 The examination of the original form of these texts and their editorial history revealed that they appeared at the crossroads of well-known forms of writing, such as medieval chronicles and humanist ­historiography, on the one hand, and, on the other, practical account books, family registers, and astrological literature, which have only recently drawn more scholarly attention. There is now a wide scholarly consensus that the old grand-narrative of the emergence of the individual in the Renaissance deserves reevaluation.21 Account books, family registers, and astrological life-writing pre-existed Renaissance autobiographical works. This is not to say that the individual awoke much earlier. The concept of what is an individual, when it appeared, and its relationship to the West is hotly debated and ideologized.22 What we do observe, during the period under scrutiny, is the growing popularity of terms like “memoirs,” “diary,” “register,” and “life” in early modern print culture. This state of facts testifies to an increasing need of individuals, their families and peers to memorialize themselves. The vast majority of early modern printed autobiographical works were written either from the perspective of a (former) courtier or of somebody closely associated with the elite, and almost always addressed to other courtiers. Since my focus was on printed autobiographical works, it might have seemed more reasonable to entitle my subject “courtly autobiography,” but this choice would have effectively separated my chosen texts from their commerce with non-courtly autobiographical works, which did not meet the printing press until the modern times. Herein lies also the essential contribution of this book, I hope, to the secondary literature on ego-documents, self-narratives, self-testimonies, autobiographical writings, the usual neologisms designed to describe a field of study free from Burckhardtian misconceptions. The form and compositional principles of the more literary and the less refined autobiographies of the early modern era were, in fact, not only similar, but blended to various degrees. Our task as historians should be to highlight this intertwining of various discursive genres, instead of continuing to select a small number of texts and profess peremptorily that they best express what autobiography was and ought to be. The great variety of early modern life-writing, blended with account books, astrological diaries, or commonplace books (a large continent, whose surface I have not even scratched in this book), etc., belongs to the history of autobiography as such, and not to an unrefined prehistory of modern literary autobiography. 20 21 22

Smyth (2010), 209. See Claudia Ulbrich, Kaspar von Greyerz, and Lorenz Heiligensetzer’s “Introduction” in Ulbrich (2014), 1–12. Arlinghaus (2015).

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Index Abélard, Pierre 3 Abraham 110 account book 5, 10, 11, 16–18, 96, 132, 176 book of reason 132, 141 adventure 165–168, 170, 172, 174 Albumasar 106, 109, 114 Álvarez de Albornoz, Fernando 12 Amelang, James 19 Amyot, Jacques 50 Anderson, Michael Alan 117 anecdote 49, 163, 170, 172 d’Anglure, Anne 130 d’Angoulême, Charles de Valois 152, 153 Anne de Beaujeu 55 Anne de Bretagne 89, 101 Antichrist 110 Aristotle 149 Assmann, Jan 21 astrology 16, 18, 20, 55, 63, 64, 87, 88, 90, 95–97, 99, 104–119, 148, 176 almanac 16–18, 20 horoscope 12, 88, 97, 105, 106, 108, 109, 112–114 prognostication 108–111, 113 world history 63, 97, 109–111, 114 d’Aubigné, Théodore Agrippa 123, 141, 174 Audebert, Germain 122 Augustine of Hippo 11, 20, 47, 83, 109, 124 Augustus 35, 37, 110 authenticity 2, 5, 11, 13, 25, 26, 33, 41, 44–46, 49, 58, 68, 75, 139, 160, 171, 172, 174, 175 author 1–9, 11–17, 19–24, 26, 29–38, 40–47, 50–53, 55–60, 64–68, 76–78, 80, 83, 85, 88, 98–100, 103, 108, 109, 115–117, 119–121, 123–125, 132, 134, 137, 140, 141, 145, 147, 148, 150, 151, 157, 158, 160, 162, 164, 165, 168–175 authority 30, 31, 37, 38, 46, 47, 51, 66, 70, 76, 79, 83, 106, 112, 114–118, 129, 153, 159 authorship 1, 120, 139, 160 autobiography 1–7, 9–21, 23, 24, 26, 29, 30, 33, 34, 38, 42–44, 52, 53, 56, 58, 60, 61, 66, 83, 85, 88, 120, 123, 135, 140–142, 145, 148, 149, 151, 152, 159, 162–164, 172–176

d’Auvigny, Jean du Castre 50, 51 d’Aydie, Odet 71, 72 Babou de la Bourdaisière, Isabeau 151 Bakos, Adrianna  79 Balzac d’Entragues, Marie Charlotte de 143, 150, 151 Barthes, Roland 1 Basire du Mesnil, Tanneguy 40, 42 Bassompierre, Christophe de 142, 150, 152 Bassompierre, François de 20, 23, 52, 100, 142–170, 174 Bassompierre, Louis de 151 Bassompierre, Louise de 144 Baudelaire, Charles 9, 13 Baudouin, François 34–37 Bayle, Pierre 172 Beaune, Jacques de 92 Béda, Noël 102, 117 Bellier du Chesnay, Alexandre-Claude 48 Bellièvre, Pomponne de 41, 42 Bertière, André  40 Bettstein (Bassompierre), Simon de 163 Billaine, Pierre 122, 123, 135 biography 5, 10, 48, 50, 56, 76, 118, 119, 147, 148, 164, 171 Blanchard, Joël 30, 31, 60, 61, 74, 85 Bodin, Jean 34–37, 79 Bouchon, Alexandre 22 Bouquet, Martin 48 Brantôme, Pierre de 50 Bratu, Cristian 25, 26 Brûlart, Pierre 155, 156 Brutus 110 Burckhardt, Jacob 14–16, 18, 25, 37, 176 Bussy-Rabutin, Roger de 166, 168 Caesar, Julius 23, 24, 26, 28, 29, 32, 35, 37, 43, 94, 103, 111 Cardano, Gerolamo 2, 88 Cardinal de Lorraine, Charles 124 Castelnau-Bochetel, Jacques de 46 Castelnau, Jacques de 43 Castelnau, Michel de 40, 43, 44, 46, 49 Catherine de Médicis 44, 77, 124–126, 134

202 Catholicism 27, 39, 41, 42, 44, 46, 51, 87, 97, 115, 121, 125–127, 144, 171 Cato, Angelo 55–57, 61, 63 Celan, Paul 8 Chabot, Françoise (Hurault de Cheverny) 136 Chantérac, Audoin de 146, 168 Charlemagne 111 Charles d’Alençon 106 Charles de Blois 124 Charles de Bourbon 89, 93 Charles de France 71, 72 Charles d’Orléans 88 Charles IX 29, 40, 44, 125 Charles the Bold 27, 36, 53, 54, 58, 59, 61, 64–67, 69, 71, 72, 74, 76, 80–82, 85 Charles V 27, 74, 89, 95, 113, 114 Charles VIII 25, 27, 37, 55–57, 74, 76, 88, 107 Chartier, Alain 66 Chastellain, Georges 60 Chateaubriand, François-René de 3, 39, 166, 167 Cheverny, Henri Hurault de 121, 129, 130, 134–137 Cheverny, Marguerite Hurault de 121, 130, 131, 135 Cheverny, Philippe Hurault de 20, 42, 120–141, 147, 151, 174 Cheverny, Raoul Hurault de 124, 139 Christine de Pizan 50 Ciappelli, Giovanni 132 Cicero 31, 57, 68, 81, 129 Claude de France 89, 101 collection 22, 46–52, 93, 132, 146, 160 commonplace 18, 31, 127, 144, 154, 158, 170, 173, 176 Commynes, Philippe de 20, 21, 24–31, 33, 35–37, 43, 53–58, 60–86, 140, 147, 149, 150, 155, 156, 168, 174 compilation 38–40, 43, 44, 46, 48, 49, 51, 59, 133, 138, 158 Concini, Concino 144, 153, 154 Condé, Henri II de Bourbon 91, 143, 155, 156 Condé, Louis de Bourbon 40 Conti, Louise de Lorraine de 144, 145, 161, 162 Coste, Hilarion de 88, 89, 91 court 30, 44–46, 53, 55, 56, 60–69, 71–73, 75, 76, 84–86, 88, 93, 95, 97, 100–104, 106, 116, 118, 124, 127, 129, 130, 134–137, 141–143, 149–156, 162, 165, 167–170, 174, 176

index favor 54, 56, 61–68, 71–73, 86, 127, 130, 131, 137, 150, 153–157 mignon 56, 62, 71, 127, 156 Courtilz de Sandras, Gatien de 171, 172 Cramail, Adrien de Monluc de 147 Créquy, Charles de 147 Daneau, Lambert 78, 79 D’Artagnan 171 David 110 De Gaulle, Charles 21 De Meyer, Jacques 36, 85 De Moulins de Rochefort, François 96, 99–109, 111, 114, 116–119, 141 diary 1, 4, 10, 16–18, 20, 39, 40, 50, 52, 87, 88, 90–100, 102–105, 109, 118–120, 138, 141, 142, 145–149, 151, 153, 158–164, 166–168, 170, 174–176 digression 5, 22, 49, 50, 56, 165, 172 Du Bellay, Guillaume 29, 30, 37, 93, 152 Du Bellay, Jean 27 Du Bellay, Martin 30, 37, 93 Du Bellay, René 29, 30 Duc de Savoie, Charles Emmanuel 143 Du Clercq, Jacques 60 Du Fossé, Pierre-Thomas 141, 170 Dufournet, Jean 26, 85 Duhem, Pierre 87 Dumas, Alexandre 171 Dupleix, Scipion 160–162 Dussieux, Louis 48 edition 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 18, 19, 21, 22, 24–27, 29–31, 39, 40, 42–44, 46–52, 58, 60, 75, 91, 93, 94, 120–123, 125, 130, 131, 133, 135–141, 145–148, 164, 167, 168, 170, 171, 173–176 Edward IV 54, 65, 69, 71, 82 Emilio, Paolo 28, 36, 57 Empedocles 110 d’Épernon, Jean Louis de Nogaret de la Valette 127, 157 Erasmus of Rotterdam 15 Esdras 110 d’Estampes, Anne de Pisseleu Heilly 152 d’Este, Cesare 149 d’Estrées, Gabrielle 151 eyewitness 1, 16, 23, 24, 27–30, 32, 34, 37, 38, 44, 50, 56, 58–60, 96, 120, 122, 125, 126, 172, 173

203

index fairy 163, 164, 167 family 5, 14, 16, 19, 42, 45, 46, 52, 61, 71, 86, 87, 94, 96, 98, 100, 105, 117, 120–126, 131–139, 142, 143, 145, 147–151, 156, 157, 163, 171, 172, 174–176 domestic 131 family book 16, 20, 40, 56, 60, 96, 132, 133, 141 Faucon de Ris, Alexandre 42 Ferdinand of Aragon 55 Ficino, Marsilio 115 Foix-Lautrec, Odet de 89, 139 Foucault, Michel 1, 2 Francis of Assisi 88 Francis of Paola 84, 85, 88, 89, 97 François de France (Dauphin) 108, 111–113, 118 François I 62, 74, 87, 89, 90, 92–101, 103–105, 107–109, 111–113, 115, 116, 118, 124, 152 François II 44 François II, duke of Brittany 72 Froissart, Jean 27, 37, 50 Fumaroli, Marc 24, 28, 36 Furetière, Antoine 22, 23, 28, 57 Gadamer, Hans-Georg 7, 8, 9 Gaillard, Marie (Hurault de Cheverny) 136 Gallicanism 39, 87, 113 Garasse, François 39 Gaston d’Orléans 145 genealogy 13, 44, 45, 57, 59, 60, 91, 107, 121, 123, 124, 130, 131, 136–139, 140, 141, 147, 163 genre 2–7, 9, 10, 12–14, 16–18, 20, 21, 23, 25, 34, 35, 38, 40, 42, 44, 50, 53, 56, 58–60, 73, 88, 96, 101, 140, 145, 148, 164, 168, 170, 173, 174, 176 Gentillet, Innocent 77–80 Gide, André 4 Giovio, Paolo 28, 74, 75 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 3, 167 Goulart, Simon 40 Gratian 12 Guibert de Nogent 3 Guicciardini, Francesco 33, 74 Guichenon, Samuel 91, 93 Guise, Charles de Lorraine, duc de 158 Guise, Henri I, duc de 126, 142 Gusdorf, Georges 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 Haly Abenragel 106, 112, 114 Harari, Yuval Noah 12, 13

Hardy, Claude 91 Haynin, Jean de 60 Heidegger, Martin 8 Hénault, Charles-Jean-François 169 Henriette Marie de France 144 Henri II 25, 124 Henri II, Duc de Lorraine 143 Henri III 40–44, 121, 125–127, 130, 131, 137, 148 Henri IV 38, 40–42, 121, 125, 127, 128, 130, 134–136, 138, 142–144, 150–153, 160, 161 Henry IV of Castile 62, 71 Henry VIII 89, 103, 112, 113, 118 history 1–3, 5–7, 10–14, 16, 18–40, 42–53, 56–61, 63, 65, 68, 73–80, 83, 85, 87, 90, 91, 93, 96, 97, 104, 107, 109, 111, 114, 120–122, 124, 125, 127, 129, 132, 135, 139–141, 145–148, 150, 158, 160–164, 166, 168, 170–176 annals 28, 48 chronicle 10, 20, 23, 25–29, 36, 48, 50, 56–60, 67, 69, 107, 120, 124, 126, 138, 141, 152, 164, 176 chronology 11, 30, 48, 49, 58, 88, 92, 93, 110, 126, 132, 137, 146, 158, 172 commentaries 5, 10, 23, 26–36, 38, 44, 45, 73, 103, 140, 146 historiography 5, 7, 27, 29, 34, 38, 41, 47, 55, 57, 58, 60, 73, 120, 122, 141, 160, 164, 174–176 prehistory 1–3, 176 Hofmannsthal, Hugo von 167 Holban, Marie 99, 106, 108, 117 Hotman, François 76, 78, 79 humanism 5, 9, 22, 27, 28, 30–32, 34, 57, 73, 75, 78, 87, 92, 101–103, 115, 122, 124, 164, 176 Huppert, George 38, 39 Hurault de Maisse, André 128 identity 2, 15, 122, 147, 171, 172 individualism 3, 4, 7, 9, 11, 14–19, 21, 24, 32, 43, 44, 51, 61, 64, 79, 83, 111, 127, 172, 175, 176 intention 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 11, 23, 25, 26, 40–42, 59, 61, 78, 82, 84, 128–130, 150, 151, 170, 172, 175 Jean de Montfort 124 Jeannin, Pierre 40, 42

204 Jesus Christ 95, 99 John Frederic of Saxony 27 Joinville, Jean de 30, 37, 50 Jouhaud, Christian 147, 168 Joyeuse, Anne de Batarnay, duc de 127 Kleiman, Irit Ruth 85, 86 La Clyte de Commynes, Colard 53 La Clyte Commynes, Jean de 53 La Fayette, Marie-Madeleine de 13 La Force, Jacques-Nompar de 155 La Marche, Olivier de 30, 58, 59, 60, 73, 74 La Marck, Robert de 93 La Mare, Philibert de 90 Lambert, Claude-François 93 La Popelinière, Lancelot du Voisin de 36, 37, 38, 50, 51 La Porte, Pierre de 170 La Tour, François de 144 La Vieuville, Charles de 156 Le Breton, Denis II 137 Le Breton, Hector 137–139 Le Clerc, Alix 3 Le Daim, Olivier 67, 71, 156 Le Dangereux, Arnaud 130, 131 Le Dangereux, François 130 Lefèvre d’Étaples, Jacques 101, 102, 107, 116, 117, 118 Le Fèvre, Nicolas 91 Lejeune, Philippe 1–5, 7, 14, 18, 61, 162 Le Laboureur, Jean 44–48 Lemoine, Mathieu 158, 161 Le Picart de Radeval, Louise 142 Le Prestre, Pierre 60 Le Roux, Nicolas 63, 127 Lesdiguières, François de Bonne 43 L’Estoile, Pierre de 40, 138, 148 letter 1, 17, 33, 38, 40, 41, 43–45, 49, 69, 93, 122, 126, 135, 137, 151, 157–159, 166 L’Hospital, Michel de 124 life 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11, 16–18, 21, 23, 24, 30, 38, 43, 47, 50, 51, 54, 60, 61, 63, 69, 75, 79, 81, 83–85, 90, 91, 94, 98, 99, 101, 107, 110, 112, 115–117, 119, 120, 124, 125, 128, 129, 131–133, 135, 141, 143, 146–150, 156–160, 162, 164, 167, 174 life-discourse 30, 44, 46, 47, 50–52, 123, 124, 127, 175

index life-narrative 50, 51, 129, 148 life-story 1, 4, 30, 33, 40, 43, 149 life-writing 11, 23, 50, 148, 149, 152, 162, 164, 168, 175, 176 vie 10, 34, 50 vita 1, 10, 34, 35, 66 literature 1, 2, 4–7, 9, 12, 18–21, 40, 48, 52, 62, 66, 84, 127, 129, 142, 148, 162–164, 166–168, 172–174, 176 Livy 37 Louis de Luxembourg, count of Saint-Pol  69–71 Louise de France 108 Louise de Savoie 20, 85, 87–107, 109, 112–120, 141, 148, 174, 175 Louis XI 25, 27, 36, 54–57, 61, 62, 64–72, 74, 76, 79–86, 88 Louis XII 55–57, 89, 94, 101 Louis XIII 39, 40, 42, 91, 122, 131, 135, 136, 143–145, 152–157, 159–162, 167 Lucian of Samosata 13, 115 Luhmann, Niklas 14, 15 Lutheranism 87, 98, 115, 118 Luynes, Charles d’Albert de 131, 144, 154–157 MacDonald, Katherine  10 Machiavelli, Niccolò 59, 76–81 Maissen, Thomas 75, 79 Malachi 110 manuscript 11, 12, 19, 21, 22, 24, 26, 39, 42, 44, 51, 52, 55, 74, 66, 90–92, 94, 100–102, 104, 105, 107–109, 111, 112, 114–116, 119, 121, 122, 131–136, 138, 146, 158–160, 164, 169, 170, 175 Marguerite de France 124 Marguerite de Navarre 89, 98, 101, 104–106, 117 Marguerite de Valois 128 Marguerite of Austria 89 Marie de Bourgogne 58, 67, 82 Marie de Médicis 128, 143–145, 153, 157, 161 Marillac, Louis de 145 Marillac, Michel de 145 Marteau, Pierre 145, 171 Mary Jacobi 101 Mary Magdalene 101, 102, 107, 117 Mary, mother of Jesus 101 Mary Salome 101 Mary Tudor 112, 113

205

index Matthieu, Pierre 79 Maximilian I 55, 58, 112 Mayenne, Charles de Lorraine 41 Mazarin, Jules 39 memoir 1, 3, 4–7, 10–14, 17–36, 38–62, 65–69, 71, 73–75, 78–80, 82–86, 88, 90, 93, 101, 120–125, 128–141, 145–148, 152, 162, 163, 164, 166–176 memoirist 7, 40, 46, 50, 66, 67, 73, 74, 81, 85, 93, 151, 173 pseudo-memoir 5, 170–172 memory 9, 21, 22, 23, 27, 29, 47, 51, 52, 55, 56, 59, 133, 134, 136, 146, 150, 166–168, 170 Mesmes, Henri de 127 Michaud, Jean-François 22, 140 Milady 171 Misch, Georg 2 Molinet, Jean 60 Monluc, Blaise de 141, 146, 147, 149 Monmerqué, Jean-Louis 22 Monstrelet, Enguerrand de 37, 50 Montaigne, Michel de 3, 32, 33, 50, 68, 152 Montmorency, Charlotte Marguerite de 143 Montmorency, Henri de 143 Moses 110 Motteville, Françoise Bertaut de 40 Nanni, Giovanni 107 narrative 2, 3, 7, 9, 11–14, 16, 18, 25, 30, 32, 34, 36, 37, 45, 49, 52, 57, 61, 72, 73, 82, 83, 85, 91, 92, 110, 120, 123, 125, 130–132, 146, 149, 157, 159, 162, 168, 170, 176 self-narrative 7, 17, 24, 162, 163, 168, 176 Nebuchadnezzar 110 Nesle, Guy III de Laval-Montmorency, marquis de 126, 130 Nifo, Agostino 115 Nimrud 110 nobility 7, 15, 16, 21, 27, 30, 33, 35–38, 42, 45, 46, 54, 55, 57, 58, 59, 67, 68, 70, 72, 74, 76, 77, 85, 94, 96, 100, 106, 110, 117, 121, 123, 124, 127, 136, 137, 139, 143, 149, 150, 152, 153, 154, 156, 158, 161, 162, 168, 169, 171, 174 Nora, Pierre 21, 22, 51 novella 13, 163, 167, 168, 170, 171 Ogervillier 163, 167 Olry de Dompierre 142

Orth, Myra 104 Pantin, Isabelle 30, 31 Paschal, Pierre 140 Pasquier, Étienne 39 Perau, Gabriel-Louis 50 Perec, Georges 4 Perrin, Albert-Antoine 48 Petitot, Claude-Bernard 22, 140 Petrarch 5 Pharamond 57 Philip I of Castile 59, 95 Philip of Hesse 27 Philip the Good 53 philosophy 1, 6, 31, 36, 45, 149 Piefort, Pierre 98 Pigghe, Albert 114, 115 Plato 129 Plutarch 50 Pollio, Caius Asinius 32 Polybius 28, 33, 34, 75 Pontis, Louis de 141, 170 Pontlevoy, Philippe Hurault, abbé de 128, 129, 133–136, 138, 140 Pope Alexander VI 55 Pope Clement VII 75 Pope Julius II 15 Pope Leo X 97, 112, 113 Poujoulat, Jean-Joseph 22, 140 Presser, Jacques 17 Priam of Troy 60 Primat de Saint-Denis 57 print 3, 4, 6, 10, 11, 17–19, 21–26, 30, 39, 40, 42, 43, 44, 48, 49, 52, 53, 59, 88, 90, 101, 102, 107, 111, 116, 120, 121, 122, 123, 129, 131–133, 135, 137, 138, 140, 141, 145–148, 159, 160, 167, 170, 173–176 private 3, 11, 18, 19, 24, 43, 54, 61, 65, 66, 67, 77, 92, 120, 125, 127, 131, 132, 146, 148, 150, 151, 154, 165, 174 Protestantism 20, 25–28, 36, 39, 41, 42, 44, 45, 46, 51, 52, 76–78, 87, 98, 118, 121, 125, 144, 154, 155, 171 Pseudo-Methodius of Olympus 109 Ptolemy 112 public 11, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24, 27, 29, 33, 34, 37, 42, 43, 46, 49, 53, 55, 61, 69, 73, 76, 77, 120, 122, 124, 126, 127, 128, 129, 141, 146, 159, 169

206

index

Rabutin, François de 29, 30, 140 race 14, 15, 46, 127 Raince, Nicolas 75 Ranke, Leopold von 52 Rapin, Nicolas 122 Rapin, René 39, 47 reader 1–7, 9–14, 19, 21, 23–27, 30, 31, 33, 34, 36, 41–45, 47–51, 53, 55–57, 59–61, 65, 67, 68, 70, 73–76, 77, 79, 80, 85, 93, 104, 105, 122, 128, 129, 140, 142, 149, 150, 152, 158–160, 163–167, 170–175 reception theory 7, 9, 12, 13, 19, 20, 25, 32, 140, 163, 168 Renan, Ernest 52 René II, duke of Lorraine 64 Retz, Jean François Paul de Gondi 40, 174 rhetoric 5, 9, 11, 22, 24–26, 28–36, 38, 42, 43, 57, 59, 60, 83, 96, 148, 159, 161, 164, 173, 175 deliberative 9, 159 demonstrative 9, 33, 148, 159 invention 9, 31 judicial 9, 32 style 1, 5, 9, 25, 28, 29, 43, 47, 49, 57, 60, 73, 99, 102, 104, 124, 131–133, 140, 148, 161, 164, 169, 170 Richelieu, Armand du Plessis de 23, 39, 48, 144, 145, 153, 156, 157, 159, 161, 162, 170 Rochefort, Charles César de 171, 172 Rohmann, Gregor 16 Roucher, Jean-Antoine 48 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques 2, 3, 4, 167 Rudolf II 143 Russwurm, Hermann Christof of 143, 150

Scudéry, Madeleine de 166 Séguier, Pierre 122 self-writing 4, 12, 16, 17–19, 21, 53, 68, 120, 140, 141, 152 Seneca 68 Sérieys, Antoine 168, 169 Sleidan, Johannes 26–31, 33, 35, 50, 73 Smith, Pauline 66 Smyth, Adam 18, 175 Socrates 110 Souchet, Jean-Baptiste 135 Sulla, Lucius Cornelius 35, 43 Sully, Maximilien de Béthune de 23 Suzanne de Bourbon 89 Swift, Jonathan 13

Saint Agnes 101 Saint Anne 101, 102, 107, 117, 118 Sainte-Beuve, Charles-Augustin 80 Sainte-Marthe, Scévole de 122 Saint Paul 97, 115 Saint Peter 15, 101 Saint-Simon, Henri de 6, 47, 168, 174 Sallust 28 Sartre, Jean-Paul 4 Sauvage, Denis 25–27, 33, 35, 58, 59, 60, 73 Schaeffer, Jean-Marie 13 Schalk, Ellery 62 Schomberg, Henri de 152, 153, 155, 156

Verneuil, Catherine Henriette de Balzac dEntragues, Marquise de 143 Villeroy, Nicolas de Neufville de 23, 40–44, 46, 49 Voltaire 47, 85

Tacitus 28, 36, 37, 68, 75, 78, 79, 129 Tallemant de Réaux, Gédéon 148, 164, 170 Tavannes, Jean de Saulx de 127 testimony 11, 16, 17, 22, 23, 28, 30–34, 36–38, 40, 43–46, 51, 56, 58–60, 93, 150, 172, 175, 176 Thenaud, Jean 106–119 Thiboust, Samuel 43 Thou, Anne de (Hurault de Cheverny) 121, 131 Thou, Jacques-Auguste de 121, 122, 133 Thucydides 28, 29 Timur 13 trepidation 110 truth 2, 5, 18, 25, 27–29, 31–33, 35–37, 39, 43–46, 49, 57, 86, 124, 126, 146, 152, 160, 162–164, 172, 173, 175 autobiographical pact 2, 5, 18, 162 Turpin, François-Henri 50

Weber, Max 16 Wolfe, Martin 92 Xenophon 129 Zacour, Norman 92 Zoroaster 110