Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal: François Bernier, Marguerite de la Sablière, and Enlightening Conversations in Seventeenth-Century France 9781487516123

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Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal: François Bernier, Marguerite de la Sablière, and Enlightening Conversations in Seventeenth-Century France
 9781487516123

Table of contents :
Contents
Acknowledgments
Note on Translations
Introduction
1. Worldly Encounters: Communities and Conversation
2. Salons, Seraglios, and Social Networking
3. Penser autrement: Fables, Philosophy, and Diversity
4. Indian Taste, A Taste for India
Afterword
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

VERSAILLES MEETS THE TAJ MAHAL

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Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal François Bernier, Marguerite de La Sablière, and Enlightening Conversations in Seventeenth-Century France

FAITH E. BEASLEY

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO PRESS Toronto Buffalo London

© University of Toronto Press 2018 Toronto Buffalo London utorontopress.com Printed in the U.S.A. ISBN 978-1-4875-0284-3 Printed on acid-free paper. Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Beasley, Faith Evelyn, author Versailles meets the Taj Mahal : François Bernier, Marguerite de La Sablière, and enlightening conversations in seventeenth-century France / Faith E. Beasley. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-4875-0284-3 (cloth) 1. French literature – 17th century – History and criticism.  2. Bernier, François, 1620-1688.  3. La Sablière, Marguerite de, 1640?-1693.   4. ­Orientalism – France – History – 17th century.  5. Salons – France – History – 17th century.  6. Enlightenment – France – History.  7. France – Intellectual life – 17th century.  8. India – Civilization – Influence.  9. Orientalism in literature.  10. India – In literature.  I. Title. PQ241.B43 2018   840.9’004   C2017-906960-8 University of Toronto Press acknowledges the financial assistance to its publishing program of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

Funded by the Financé par le Government gouvernement du Canada of Canada

In loving memory of my mother-in-law, Leela Sundaram, and our enlightening conversations

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Contents

Acknowledgments  ix Note on Translations  xv Introduction  3 1 Worldly Encounters: Communities and Conversation  29 “Un esprit extraordinaire”  32 Food for Conversation: Bernier’s Travels  48 Conversing with/about Colbert  71 Remapping the Mind: Landscapes and Cultural Relativism  81 2 Salons, Seraglios, and Social Networking  91 Engaging the Salon Public: Bernier’s Particular History  103 Nur Jahan  111 Jahanara and Raushanara: Mughal Models  119 The Zenana: “Plus indispensable qu’on ne saurait presque croire”  125 “Une canne des Indes fort extraordinaire”  135 Dryden’s Aureng-Zebe: A Different Conversation  158

3 Penser autrement: Fables, Philosophy, and Diversity  170 Religious Diversity and French Thought  174 Inspiring Thought: Bernier and Diversity  184 La Fontaine: Deriving Wisdom from Diversity  195 Fontenelle: A Conversation between and of Different Worlds  211 4 Indian Taste, A Taste for India  222 Importing Taste: Le goût féminin et la guerre des étoffes  233 Transforming Taste: Diamonds and Political Capital  250 Directing Taste: Molière’s Le Bourgeois gentilhomme  259 Reflecting Grandeur: Mirroring India  265 Afterword  269 Notes  275 Bibliography  325 Index  339 Colour plates follow page  176

Acknowledgments

More than any other book I have written, Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal is a work that illustrates the generative and creative power of conversation and collaboration. The initial idea for this book was inspired by my personal experiences in India and France, and by my own internal scholarly conversations with the texts and histories of two cultures and with a time period that has fascinated me for as long as I can remember: the seventeenth century. But over the decade that it has taken to complete this book, many people have added to that original, cerebral, personal conversation, reshaping this book, enriching it through their different voices and opinions. Numerous people have said to me that only I could have written Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal. While it is deeply rooted in my life and scholarly interests, this book is above all the product of the many illuminating encounters and relationships I have had with generous colleagues, friends, and family. This work would not exist without them. I wish to first thank my husband Anant Sundaram and my children Christopher Suri and Anjali Marie. They have been patient interlocutors and collaborators on this project, never complaining when I compelled them to visit Versailles over and over again or searched for the traces of the seventeenth-century encounter between France and India in modern day France and India. Anjali and Christopher have grown up with this book. Their questions as they negotiated their own lives between France, India, and the United States often led me to see the world with the fresh perspective children and young adults can offer. Anant’s excitement about this work, which he has shared with countless people over the years, kept me going and made me feel that this cultural encounter, separated from the present by over 300 years, was a story worth telling.

x Acknowledgments

My personal life thus informs this scholarship in a way that it has not before. Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal is dedicated to Leela Sundaram, my inspirational mother-in-law, who sadly left us before I could complete this book. I am convinced, however, that she, like my husband and children, has accompanied me throughout the journey of discovery that this book recounts. From the moment I first set foot in India, before this project ever began, Amma welcomed me and we began a conversation that even her death has not managed to silence completely. I used to spend hours conversing with her, learning about India and understanding the world from an Indian perspective. She transformed the space around her into a kind of salon that my French salonnières would have found as exhilarating as their own ruelles. This book is infused with her knowledge, her infectious love of people and life, and those conversations I will always treasure. My Indian family has sustained and prolonged the conversations that started with Amma. I wish to thank Usha and Kannan Tyragarajan in particular for always welcoming me into their home, as well as for their patience with my many questions. Usha’s deep spirituality has allowed me to understand Hinduism and the place of belief systems in India, as well as the world at large. Kannan’s fascinating stories and his knowledge of history, especially of the artistic and cultural realms, enriched my understanding and appreciation of India’s rich heritage in countless ways. My two other Indian sisters, Chitra Sundaram and Sadhana Nayak, have gone out of their way to teach me the intricacies of Indian traditions, as well as to indulge my fascination with Indian fabrics. I wish to thank Shivanand Nayak who with Sadhana has always welcomed us into their home, which for years has served as the hub for the whole Sundaram family. My experiences and conversations in India united with those I had with friends and colleagues in France and the United States. Very early in the genesis of this book, many colleagues expressed interest in the questions I was asking and invited me to present this research: Stephen Nichols at Johns Hopkins; John Lyons at the University of Virginia; Claire Goldstein at Miami University; Derval Conroy at University College Dublin; Susan Suleiman, Christie McDonald, Sylvaine Guyot, and Vera Conley at Harvard; the French department at Catholic University; Lewis Seifert at Brown; Lawrence Kritzman at the Institute for French Cultural Studies at Dartmouth; Timothy Hampton at Berkeley; Stephen Shapiro at Bennington; Harriet Stone at Washington University, as well as at a conference she organized in Lisbon; Jean-Vincent Blanchard at

Acknowledgments xi

Swarthmore; and Neelima Skukla-Bhatt at Wellesley. The conversations that these events sparked informed and shaped this book. I am very grateful to all the colleagues who attended these lectures as well as others such as at the Huntington and Folger Libraries and at numerous conferences, for their questions, for sharing their expertise, and for constantly pushing me in creative ways that substantially improved my work. This book recreates the seventeenth-century social and intellectual networks that produced some of France’s most intriguing and influential cultural artefacts. Researching these networks has underscored for me how crucial collaborative thinking is for any creative and intellectual endeavour. I am blessed to have a wonderful network of academic colleagues and friends who joined my family interlocutors to help me put seventeenth-century France and India in dialogue with each other. I would like to thank my colleagues at Dartmouth, in particular Keith Walker and our dear friend and mentor, the late and much-missed John Rassias. For the past ten years I have been constantly interrupting Keith to try out ideas and share written work. His enthusiasm for this project has been indefatigable. A model scholar, teacher, and colleague, Keith even gave up a week of his sabbatical to help me proofread the entire manuscript. John was always my greatest source of support at Dartmouth. He believed in me much more than I have ever believed in myself. Our frequent lunch conversations kept this book on track. I am fortunate to have Kathleen Wine as my Dartmouth colleague. Lawrence Kritzman was a valuable interlocutor in the early phases of the work. Having been in this profession for over thirty years, my scholarly network has become multigenerational. This book has benefited from the original members of that network of seventeenth-century specialists, namely Harriet Stone, Michèle Longino, Elizabeth Goldsmith, Katharine Ann Jensen, John Lyons, and Richard Goodkin. Their inspirational work encourages me to think beyond traditional boundaries, a way of reflecting that is the driving force behind this book. My initial core group of interlocutors has been joined over the years by other voices whose exciting work has breathed new life into seventeenth-century French studies. Allison Stedman has been a constant source of intellectual stimulation as well as inspiration ever since our first meeting at Dartmouth two decades ago. Her keen intellect and probing questions have energized me in countless ways. I would like to thank Katherine Ibbett, Claire Goldstein, Juliette Cherbuliez, and Chloé Hogg for their

xii Acknowledgments

unfailing support for this project and for my work in general. In the most difficult of times their encouragement sustained me. Fascinating conversations with Pierre Léglise-Costa, most recently in his beloved Lisbon as we explored its encounter with India, enriched my thinking considerably. With his “vaste culture,” an expression that does not have an English equivalent, he would have occupied a privileged place in seventeenth-century salon culture. I regret that I cannot include the names of many other colleagues whose voices resonate in the pages that follow; they, too, have my profound gratitude. Any project that spans so many years inevitably has periods when it seems as though the story has already been told better by others, or simply moments of self-doubt when one wonders if one is the person best equipped to tell this fascinating story. I had many of these moments. I believe I might have renounced the project altogether had the John C. Guggenheim Foundation and its outside evaluators not confirmed that Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal was indeed a story worth pursuing. Receiving the Guggenheim Fellowship breathed new life into the project and allowed me the time to pull together the disparate threads of research spanning several years and to reflect on and reformulate the work for publication. I was humbled to receive the award and continue to be profoundly grateful to the Guggenheim Foundation and its evaluators for giving me the confidence to pursue this work. I wish also to thank Dartmouth College, in particular for the David Bloom and Leslie Chao Fellowship and a Dartmouth College Faculty Grant for International Research that allowed me to pursue this work in France. In recent years, my students at Dartmouth and at Harvard for a semester were a wonderful sounding board for the ideas I explore throughout this book. I would like to thank them for their enthusiasm and for their questions. My three undergraduate research assistants were always eager to track down the most obscure sources and willing to engage in discussions as I shaped these materials into a narrative. I wish to acknowledge in particular Katherine Dutko, Brooke Elmlinger, and Pilar Britto for their hard work on this project. Priya Krishna and Brian Reigh, exemplary students and cherished interlocutors, always reminded me why I do this work. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Suzanne Rancourt, my editor at the University of Toronto Press, first for taking a chance on this project, and then for her enthusiasm and expertise, and for securing three wonderful outside evaluators for the manuscript. The knowledge and suggestions that these anonymous readers imparted through their generous, detailed readings greatly improved

Acknowledgments xiii

the final product, proving to me again that collaboration and conversation are essential to the scholarly mission of creating and transmitting new knowledge. I am very grateful for Kara Caputo’s expertise in securing the images and permissions, which saved me hours of frustration. I am also indebted to Marionne Cronin for her expert copyediting. Some of this material has appeared elsewhere in different forms. I would like to thank Narr Publishing, Columbia University Press, and Classiques Garnier for permission to include material that first appeared in Lendemains: Etudes comparées sur la France, Networks, Interconnection, Connectivity, edited by Michèle Longino and Ellen Welch; French Global: Une nouvelle perspective sur l’histoire littéraire, edited by Christie McDonald and Susan Rubin Suleiman; and “Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal” in French Global: A New Approach to French Literary History, edited by Christie McDonald and Susan Suleiman. Finally, I would like to thank my dear friend, Janice Candela, who has shared my passion for French culture and literature. I am very grateful to Maryanne Ahern Donald who has been a constant source of friendship, support, and calm since our college days. There have been many times when this book has taken precedence over people and events. I wish to thank my late father, William DeFord Beasley, and my siblings Melanie, John, and Bill for their patience and understanding throughout this endeavour. My dear mother, Joann Rush Weis, did not live to see this culmination of the love for France, literature, and the power of strong women that she instilled in me, having passed away as this book was in press. I will be forever grateful for her unfailing love and support. Her spirit is the guiding force behind these pages. Hanover, November 2017

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Note on Translations

All translations are my own, unless otherwise indicated. They are intentionally literal in order to convey the meaning that the original seventeenth-century French public might have obtained when encountering these texts. I have also chosen to translate most of the texts myself in order to consistently render terms such as esprit, or génie, words whose complex meanings are difficult to convey in one English word, in order to illustrate how the authors treated here use them collectively. I wish to recreate the conversations that happened around and across texts, so the word choice and word play is especially important to recognize and convey.

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VERSAILLES MEETS THE TAJ MAHAL

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Introduction

“L’Inde de qui toute la terre a besoin, et qui seule n’a besoin de personne.” Voltaire, Essai sur les moeurs et l’esprit des nations1

In 1932, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Morbihan region in Brittany, France, approached local artist Pierre Cadre (1884–1972) and commissioned a work for its offices in Lorient. Cadre’s grandiose forty-square-metre painting pays homage to a glorious Breton past as it evokes a story that has been almost buried in the sands of time. “Madame de Sévigné débarquant à Lorient” (Madame de Sévigné arriving in Lorient, Plate 1) highlights one of Brittany’s most well-known daughters, placing her at the centre of the bustling commercial port that was Lorient in the seventeenth century. She is surrounded by huge sailing ships as she steps from her elegant barge onto the quay. In the right foreground a French courtier examines fabric offered for inspection by a turbaned foreigner, while dark-complexioned workers entice the potential buyer with a porcelain plate. The left side of the painting is occupied by an impressive male figure sporting a vaguely Arab costume who carries two baskets containing exotic birds. Bananas, pineapples, and what look to be possibly mangoes or oranges cascade over a table next to piles of fabrics. In another corner of the painting a European captain is welcomed home by his wife and children. Other elegantly dressed women and men survey the scene with interest from surrounding promontories. The overall ambiance is one of excitement and refinement, as Ancien Régime France, embodied by the marquise de Sévigné, encounters the products and people of foreign lands.

4  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

This depiction of Lorient’s glorious past is a testament to Cadre’s historical acumen, and perhaps to his desire to inspire his twentieth-­ century contemporaries to explore an intriguing but little-known encounter between France’s Grand Siècle and the world evoked by the address of the Lorient’s Chamber of Commerce, the quay des Indes. Cadre’s scene is grounded in history; he was no doubt inspired by a letter Sévigné wrote to her daughter in August of 1689 when the marquise, who would become France’s most famous letter writer, arrived at Lorient by sea from the nearby town of Port Louis. She writes of the fabrics and porcelain on the pier, of being greeted by the head of the recently resurrected French Compagnie des Indes orientales, Claude Céberet du Boullay, and of dining with M. Céberet and his wife.2 Cadre’s painting depicts Lorient as the vibrant port it was at the end of the seventeenth century, a port founded in the early years of the Sun King’s reign specifically to welcome ships from “the Orient,” and to serve as the headquarters for the Compagnie des Indes orientales established by Jean-Baptiste Colbert in 1664. Today most people who stumble upon this painting, especially visitors to the now sleepy provincial towns of Port Louis and Lorient, might be intrigued by the figure of Sévigné in this setting, but would most likely consider the painting pure fiction or at the very least an exaggeration of France’s encounter with “les Indes.” Is this really an accurate representation of the encounter between East and West during what has been termed France’s “Splendid Century”? The impressive mural raises more questions than it answers. How did Sévigné and her seventeenth-century compatriots actually engage with the worlds evoked by the products strewn on the quays, especially the porcelain and fabrics from China and India? Cadre’s suggestive painting inspires further interrogations into this particular moment in French history, when one of Europe’s most powerful and influential cultures opened its markets and minds to the products and people of distant worlds. This meeting between Sévigné and the Compagnie des Indes at Lorient depicted by Cadre was not the first time Sévigné engaged with “les Indes,” nor was her attraction to “les Indes” unique among her contemporaries. Almost twenty years before arriving in Lorient, Sévigné wrote to her daughter about indiennes, the painted cottons from India that were immensely popular from the beginning of Louis XIV’s reign.3 These references to toiles peintes or indiennes identify Sévigné’s exotic encounter as specifically Indian, as opposed to vaguely “oriental.” And Sévigné’s letters are not the only narratives of this period that

Introduction 5

Figure 0.1  Drawing of Nemours spying on the princess at Coulommiers by Jules Garnier, engraved by A. Lamotte, from Lafayette, The Princess of Clèves, trans. Thomas Sergeant Perry (Boston: Little, 1891), vol. 2 frontis. Author photo.

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contain traces of seventeenth-century France’s encounter with India. Sévigné’s closest friend, Marie-Madeleine Pioche de La Vergne, comtesse de Lafayette, inserts an elusive and suggestive line in her famous novel, La Princesse de Clèves. In what is often called the reverie scene, the female protagonist contemplatively winds ribbons around a “canne des Indes fort extraordinaire” (“a very extraordinary Indian cane”) while gazing adoringly at the portrait of the man she loves, the duc de Nemours, who, unbeknownst to the princess, is hiding in the shadows and watching this intimate moment (Fig. 0.1). This daring scene has kept critics and commentators busy for centuries. Not surprisingly, the cane itself has been the subject of speculation and Freudian interpretation, but the noun that specifies its provenance, “des Indes,” has not come under scrutiny. Why “une canne des Indes”? What exactly is this “canne des Indes”? Why would Lafayette specifically use a “canne des Indes” as a prop for her princess’s most creative, introspective, and provocative moment? These curious allusions in the texts of two of France’s most celebrated writers inspire a re-examination of France’s past, and its relationship to another culture half a world away. Was Sévigné’s contact with India simply that of a consumer, as depicted by Cadre’s portrait? Or do these allusions to India present in Lafayette’s and Sévigné’s texts indicate a more profound connection between the cultures at a time when each produced the wonders so admired today, Versailles and the Taj Mahal? Unexpected encounters such as noting curious resonances between texts or stumbling upon a painting or even those that occur in the realms of the mind have the powerful potential to open pathways to new knowledge. My own encounter with the visual representation of Sévigné’s engagement with “les Indes” propelled me to explore the possibility that somewhere in the shadows of the past Sévigné and her friend Lafayette had perhaps reflected on and conversed about what for them would have been a very foreign culture. The textual vestiges of Lafayette’s and Sévigné’s contact with India suggest that this encounter was perhaps more than mercantile in nature. In describing her visit to Lorient, Sévigné relates to her daughter how “nous fîmes bien conter au mari [M. Céberet, head of the Compagnie des Indes] son voyage, qui est fort divertissant.” The encounter with the East involved more than merchandise; merchants and travellers added to this encounter through their conversations and narratives, and these images and ideas became traces such as those in Sévigné’s letters and Lafayette’s novel. These traces of a conversation specifically

Introduction 7

about les Indes orientales surface in other texts and artefacts of Le Grand Siècle. If one is attuned to the possibility of such conversations, one can perceive the threads of a complex intellectual tapestry woven in response to France’s encounter with India. Sévigné and Lafayette were not the only ones drawn to these conversations centred on India. They were joined by their friend, Jean de La Fontaine. The second volume of La Fontaine’s Fables, one of the most recognizable and beloved works of the French literary corpus, contains curious allusions to India. The fact that this volume of Fables appeared in 1678, the same year as Lafayette’s novel, indicates that India was invading the mental space that these seventeenth-century writers were occupying at this particular moment in French history. La Fontaine deliberately distinguishes this second volume from the first volume of Fables he published ten years earlier, stating in his preface that he turned for inspiration to a new source, the Indian fable writer “Pilpay,” instead of Aesop and other Western writers. From the opening pages of this second volume, La Fontaine instructs his readers to read differently, to interpret through the new lens of India, stating, j’ai jugé à propos de donner à la plupart de celles-ci un air et un tour un peu différent de celui que j’ai donné aux premières, tant à cause de la différence des sujets, que pour remplir de plus de variété mon ouvrage … je dirai par reconnaissance que j’en dois la plus grande partie à Pilpay sage indien. Son livre a été traduit en toutes les langues. Les gens du pays le croient fort ancien, et original à l’égard d’Esope. I judged it to be appropriate to give most of these [fables] an air and a turn a bit different from what I gave to the first ones, as much because of the difference in the subject matter as to fill my work with more variety … I will say with gratitude that I owe most of these to Pilpay, the wise Indian. His book has been translated into every language. Indians [“les gens du pays”] believe it to be very ancient, and to predate Aesop.4

Sévigné’s letters, Lafayette’s celebrated novel, and La Fontaine’s Fables all bear the traces of an encounter with India that was beginning to permeate seventeenth-century French culture. While literally hundreds of works have explored this period of French history, and an equally impressive number have been devoted to India’s Mughal Empire, which reached its apogee during the same period, few scholars have tried to elucidate this encounter between

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two great cultural entities and to date no one has explored the specific impact the encounter with India in the seventeenth century by France’s worldly public had on the history of French thought.5 When we do hear about France’s engagement with India during this period, figures such as Sévigné and Lafayette are absent from the discussion. La Fontaine’s relationship to his Indian source material has been the subject of study but has been examined as an example of intertextuality. But these traces of India point to another fascinating story, one that enriches our understanding of one of the most influential periods of European history as it changes the way we perceive of the relationship between East and West. Sanjay Subrahmanyam, the eminent historian of cross-cultural encounters specifically during the early modern period, has lamented what he terms the “literary turn” that studies of these encounters between East and West have taken. In Mughals and Franks, Subrahmanyam writes, One result of the literary turn can be that historical actors disappear, as it were, into a textual miasma, in which process the most banal procedures of historical discipline also fall by the wayside. To be sure, not all literary scholars are equally susceptible to naïve ahistoricism, but a sufficiently large number of instances have now been accumulated (including from some of the better-known practitioners such as Stephen Greenblatt or Tzvetan Todorov) for a genuine unease to have set in on this front. Here we stand then, between the Scylla of overblown literary analysis of texts produced by European expansion, and the ever-present Charybdis of reading these materials at face value, to which their very mass, to say nothing of their congealed power of seduction, draws the archivallyoriented scholar.6

Subrahmanyam’s remarks inspire an interrogation of the role literary scholars can play in the production of the history of ideas. Both the historian and the literary critic who wish to enlighten a twenty-first-century public about a past that occurred over 400 years previously work under the same constraint: the past is accessible to the present through texts. Words that make up narratives are what convey how merchants and travellers experienced India, and it is through these words that they conveyed these experiences to their various publics. These texts, these words, allow us to comprehend what these past experiences were, but it is only by interpreting these words that we can

Introduction 9

begin to understand what the public took away from reading and discussing such accounts and thus gain access to the effect these accounts had on the mindset of a given culture. In reconstructing the history of thought, historians and literary scholars bring their own expertise, as well as their own weaknesses and limitations, to the treatment of this textual material in this complex enterprise of reconstitution. In the case of France’s encounter with India during the reign of Europe’s most influential monarch, historians have had a tendency to read the texts that convey this encounter in a narrow context, one that excludes a portion of the public, specifically, I will argue, the female-dominated salon public, that influenced the history of ideas and impacted how India was seen by their contemporaries as well as by future generations. To read the texts that came out of European expansionism solely for their content adds one thread to intellectual history, but that thread is only one strand in a complex tapestry. Literary scholars can contribute threads that are equally valuable by revealing that how a text is constructed – its language but also its methods of production and reception – can reveal different aspects of the story conveyed by its content. The actual language of a text, be it historical or literary, is another thread that the literary critic is especially well positioned to explore. Reading seventeenth-century French texts in the language in which they were produced, as opposed to in translations, reading a text in its entirety as it was consumed by a contemporary public, as opposed to reading excerpts chosen by a random editor often decades later, adds another valuable thread to intellectual history. Language both is a product of a specific historical context and has an impact on the reception of a text. Even more important, words are the building blocks of knowledge and the means by which knowledge is conveyed to posterity. Understanding this process is thus as important to the creation of the narrative of history as the actual content of the texts we use to establish this narrative. To uncover the story that can explain Lafayette’s, Sévigné’s, and La Fontaine’s engagement with India we must thus adopt a different perspective and an alternative methodology than that used thus far by most historians, as well as by literary critics. We must identify and interrogate the references to India and the traces of this encounter that run through these texts and can be found in the cultural fabric of France’s Grand Siècle, and most importantly, we must pay attention to gender and to the voices that have been relegated to silence by traditional historical methods, approaches, and values. Key to uncovering this new intellectual history is focusing on the context in which texts

10  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

that described India were produced. In the case of France’s engagement with India, this context is composed of more than the players and social and intellectual spaces that figure in traditional history. Above all, attention must be paid to the worldly culture that united writers such as Lafayette, La Fontaine, and Sévigné, and the physical space where they gathered, the ruelles, or what are now termed salons, that are unique to French culture during this period. Salon culture is a distinguishing characteristic and even the hallmark of seventeenth-century France’s intellectual and culture landscape, and the ruelles or salons were the female-dominated, although not feminocentric, equivalents and sometimes rivals to the exclusively male academies. In Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal I explore how mondain, or worldly, figures interacted with texts about India and with travellers and merchants who shared their experiences in collaborative conversations within this particular cultural space. Throughout Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal I will use the word “salon” to refer to the mondain or worldly gatherings that were developed by French women in the seventeenth century, although this is actually an anachronistic term given that it was not coined until the nineteenth century. In the seventeenth century salons were known as ruelles, or sometimes by the day of the week when habitués met, such as Madeleine de Scudéry’s samedis, or even by the physical location, as is the case for the marquise de Rambouillet’s famous chambre bleue. It is important to underscore that these salons were created by women, and women in the seventeenth century governed them, but they were not feminocentric. The art of conversation as practiced by habitués of these salons developed its own rules, references, and even artistic forms, such as memoirs and the novel. People from many different backgrounds and interests frequented the same salon, including merchants and travellers to India.7 In resurrecting these salon conversations, a new story comes to light, a new history of this seemingly well-trodden past. This cultural history does not emanate from within the traditional intellectual or courtly realms but from France’s salon culture. The threads and traces of India that surface in artefacts of the period raise provocative questions: How did the worldly seventeenth-century French public as exemplified by Sévigné, Lafayette, and La Fontaine encounter India? What inspired Lafayette to refer to India in the most provocative and creative scene of her novel? Did other authors of France’s Grand Siècle also engage with India, and if so, what was the nature of their engagement? What was the India they experienced and what effect did this encounter have on France’s imaginary? Was France’s view of les Indes

Introduction 11

orientales the same as seventeenth-century Britain’s, about which we know much more? Is “India” synonymous with the more general concept of “Orient” in French thought or should it be distinguished from today’s over-determined concept of the Orient? One particular cultural space that united Sévigné, Lafayette, and La Fontaine is at the centre of this intriguing story: the salon of Marguerite de La Sablière. During the 1670s, when all three were penning their various works, they could often be found at the rue Neuve des PetitsChamps. Marguerite is a fascinating figure who provides the key to understanding the impact France’s encounter with India had on French thought. She was the daughter of Gilbert Hessein, an influential bourgeois financier whose family had emigrated to France from Holland.8 Hessein founded a bank, which dealt with assets deriving in part from commerce with India, namely trade in saffron, diamonds, and precious gems. Growing up in this milieu, it is plausible that Marguerite heard tales from travellers who were actively engaged in trade with India at the time, as well as from intrepid early French explorers who might have visited her father, or even from her father himself. Marguerite married another Huguenot financier, Antoine de La Sablière, but in 1668 she separated from her husband and used her newly found independence to establish one of the most influential seventeenth-century salons, which had its zenith in the 1670s and early 1680s. La Sablière was considered by her contemporaries to be one of the most learned women of the century.9 In her salon she drew together an eclectic group of intellectuals, religious leaders, writers, politicians, and travellers, indeed some of the most recognizable names of the French seventeenthcentury cultural, political, and intellectual scene. The highpoint of the salon was the late 1670s, when La Fontaine as well as La Sablière’s close friends Lafayette and Sévigné composed their masterpieces. In the annals of literary and social history, La Sablière is known only in relation to La Fontaine, who actually lived with her throughout the 1670s at rue Neuve des Petits-Champs. But La Fontaine was not the only writer who resided with La Sablière and who animated this important salon. It is this second resident who provides the key to the references to India in the texts that emanated from La Sablière’s salon, and who arguably transformed the salon into one of the main conduits for knowledge about les Indes orientales. When the philosopher/traveller François Bernier returned from spending almost ten years in India and was searching for a place to live and a new patron, he accepted Marguerite’s invitation to join her and La Fontaine at rue Neuve des

12  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

Petits-Champs. For the next ten years, Bernier, known by his contemporaries as “le Mogol,” compiled, composed, and published his influential texts on India and regaled the group assembled in the salon with stories of his experiences. François Bernier is a fascinating figure who is usually identified as one of the most influential sources of knowledge about India in the early modern period, and certainly as the most well-regarded and authoritative expert on Mughal India in seventeenth-century France.10 He would not seem to have been predestined to become one of the most influential travellers of seventeenth-century France. Born in 1620 in Joué, like many provincial intellectuals Bernier left for Paris in the 1640s to pursue his studies.11 He was attracted to the philosopher Pierre Gassendi; Bernier and his friend Claude-Emmanuel Luillier (1626–86), known as Chapelle, studied under this intriguing and controversial figure.12 Gassendi was particularly well known for his ardent critique of Aristotelian dogmatism and the structure of the then popular system of thinking developed by Descartes. Gassendi and his disciples preferred the less doctrinaire and more supple thought of Epicurus.13 Often labeled as a libertine, Gassendi remained faithful to Christian doctrine. In Gassendi’s entourage Bernier met other freethinkers such as Gabriel Naudé and François de La Mothe Le Vayer. La Mothe Le Vayer would remain a close friend and would share in Bernier’s Indian experiences through an epistolary exchange. During his early years with Gassendi Bernier was particularly attracted to the study of natural phenomena. In 1652 and 1653 he accompanied his mentor to Provence where they experienced the lunar and solar eclipses. He would eventually nurture this love of natural science in India, as well as at La Sablière’s salon. It was during this period that Bernier obtained a doctorate in medicine at the Faculté de Montpellier, a degree that he would find especially useful when he arrived in India. Upon Gassendi’s death in 1655, Bernier gave into his passion for travel and visited Palestine, Egypt, Cairo, Persia, and Ethiopia. Bernier’s most recent editor, Frédéric Tinguely, recounts that Gassendi had long desired to travel to the Orient but had never been able to, suggesting that perhaps Bernier was fulfilling his mentor’s dream. Bernier travelled extensively in Egypt, and then on to Djeddah and Moka. He then opted to push his exploration beyond the Orient that was relatively well known to his contemporaries and continued on to India, which was much less familiar, especially to Bernier’s French contemporaries. Bernier arrived in Surat, India, at the end of 1658 or beginning of 1659, and remained in India until 1669.

Introduction 13

Bernier’s knowledge and experience of India was quite extensive. Unlike most of the seventeenth-century European travellers to India, Bernier travelled solely out of curiosity. He was an intellectual, not a merchant, and he was not sent on any diplomatic mission, as Thomas Roe had been for the English crown at the beginning of the century.14 When Bernier arrived in Surat he found himself in the middle of a war over the succession to the Mughal throne. He was briefly associated with Dara, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s oldest son, who had been chosen by his father to be his successor. Dara was overcome and eventually killed by his younger brother Aurangzeb, who ascended to the throne in 1659. In the annals of history Aurangzeb’s name usually evokes his cruel actions as he rose to power, specifically his imprisonment of his father, Shah Jahan, the creator of the Taj Mahal, and his orchestrated assassinations of his rival brothers.15 After such a tumultuous introduction to India Bernier might have been tempted to board the next ship home, but instead he decided to remain in India at the Mughal court. He ingratiated himself with Aurangzeb and became a prominent court figure, first as a doctor to the emperor and his court, and then in the service of Daneshmend Khan, a Persian who was the foreign affairs secretary and eventually the treasurer of the Mughal Empire. Khan was intellectually curious and employed Bernier to teach him about European discoveries in astronomy, physics, anatomy, chemistry, and logic. In return, Khan remunerated him monetarily, but also intellectually by instructing him in Indian civilization. Bernier travelled throughout India, often with the emperor Aurangzeb because of his connection to Danesmend Khan, and is considered to be the first European to visit Kashmir.16 When Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a merchant who specialized in precious gems, made his sixth visit to India in 1665, the two visited the Taj Mahal together and then travelled to Bengal. They separated at the beginning of 1666 and Bernier continued on to Golconda, the centre of the world’s diamond mines, which was not yet under Mughal control. Bernier thus had experience in South India, which was not yet under the control of the Mughals, as well as with the Mughal court. While in Golconda, Bernier learned of the death of Shah Jahan and most likely decided at that point to return to France.17 He remained in India, however, until 1668, leaving for Persia in the spring of that year, arriving in Constantinople in 1669, and was back on French shores in the fall of the same year. After disembarking in Toulon, he returned to Paris, where he rejoined his intellectual group of friends and settled into La Sablière’s mansion on the rue Neuve des Petits-Champs. After La Sablière’s salon

14  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

closed, and before dying in 1688, Bernier travelled to England where he became part of Hortense Mancini’s (Cardinal Mazarin’s niece, who was in exile) circle, joining the philosopher and moralist Charles de SaintEvremond.18 He also had a lengthy correspondence with Pierre Bayle while the philosopher was living in Holland. Bernier’s knowledge of India thus circulated through the most important literary, scientific, and philosophical circles of Europe, many of whose participants were united throughout the 1670s in La Sablière’s salon. Bernier maintained a lively correspondence with a number of intellectuals while he was in India. A few years after his return to France, Bernier published four volumes on India. The first volume was titled Histoire de la dernière révolution des états du Grand Mogol and offered a detailed account of the brutal civil war he had experienced upon his arrival in India. Later in the same year of 1670 he produced Les Evénements particuliers, which details the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s court, and Lettre de l’étendue de l’Hindoustan, which is addressed to Colbert. These texts constitute Bernier’s original second volume. The following year, in 1671, the Suite des Mémoires du Sieur Bernier sur l’empire du Grand Mogol was published by the same editor, Claude Barbin. Volume 1 of the continuation contains letters to La Mothe Le Vayer, Jean Chapelain, and Chapelle, and volume 2 contains the Relation du voyage fait en 1664…au royaume de Cachemire, which consists of nine letters to M. de Merveilles. At the end of this second volume, Bernier publishes answers to five questions posed to him by Melchisédech Thévenot, who was known for his editions and translations of European travel narratives. The fact that Bernier ultimately chose to publish an account of his experiences in India and not one devoted to his other travels, such as those in the Levant, underscores his desire to offer something new to his contemporaries. These detailed works on India, which were among the first French accounts of les Indes orientales and the first written by a European intellectual who travelled independently to India simply out of curiosity, were immensely popular from the moment of their publication. A nineteenth-century historian, Henri Castonnet des Fosses, remarks that their publication made Bernier famous and forever associated the intellectual with India. Des Fosses writes that with the publication of his texts on India, “la renommée de notre compatriote était désormais établie, et partout on le désignait sous le nom de Mogol”/“the reputation of our compatriot was forever established, and everywhere people called him Mughal,”19 Bernier’s texts were immediately translated into English, with an edition appearing in London

Introduction 15

Figure 0.2  Engraving from Voyages de François Bernier, Amsterdam: Paul Marret, vol. 2, 1710. Author photo.

in 1671–2 and in 1676. There was a Dutch translation published in 1672, as well as one in German in 1672–3, and also one in Italian in 1675.20 In 1699, eleven years after Bernier’s death, the editor Paul Marret in Amsterdam published all four volumes, together with illustrations, under the title Voyages de François Bernier (Fig. 0.2). Bernier’s texts on India enjoyed many editions through the eighteenth and into the nineteenth century. It is widely acknowledged that Bernier’s work was circulated throughout Europe and influenced the construction of the image of India shared by the French and European public. Indeed, Bernier’s texts arguably shaped the way Europe viewed India through the nineteenth century. But while Bernier’s narratives are essential for our knowledge of seventeenth-century India, they have not been read within Bernier’s own cultural context, and even more important for my purposes, no one has

16  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

read them in the salon context that Bernier frequented and in which his texts were produced.21 Bernier and his account are usually only associated with and interpreted in the context of the philosophical milieu and the libertine movement he was most affiliated with because of his work as the philosopher Pierre Gassendi’s secretary and then disseminator of the philosopher’s work. In fact, most histories only mention Bernier’s relationship to La Sablière’s milieu in passing and identify her salon only with La Fontaine. For example, in her monumental study of conversation in early modern France, Bernadette Craveri refers to Bernier as a member of La Sablière’s salon, but she only cites his philosophical works and does not refer to his texts on India, with which he is much more identified today and which were arguably more influential.22 Bernier did compose his L’abrégé de la philosophie de Gassendi and later his Doutes during his time as a member of La Sablière’s salon and dedicated his Doutes to her, but only after he had compiled his texts on India. Like Craveri, in his history of salon culture and his detailed description of La Sablière’s salon and its influence, André Halleys also identifies Bernier only with his philosophical writings. Halleys does offer a more precise description of Bernier’s relationship to La Sablière than Craveri, however, stating that he “habitait dans l’hôtel de la rue Neuve des Petits-Champs, comme La Fontaine, avec lequel il devait s’entendre à merveille”/“lived in the mansion located on the rue Neuve des Petits-Champs, like La Fontaine, with whom he must have gotten along marvellously.”23 One would surmise that he also got along well with Marguerite de La Sablière and the other members of this salon, but Halley’s remark underscores the erasure of La Sablière and her salon from Bernier’s intellectual context and specifically any relationship between Bernier’s knowledge of and writing about India and this salon context. Thus, not only have historians ignored the majority of Bernier’s interlocutors, they have eliminated the association between salon culture and the compilation and publication of Bernier’s texts on India, arguably the most influential texts on India produced during the early modern period. Yet as we shall see, it is by interrogating these ellipses in the historical narrative and in literary history that a more complete story of the impact of France’s encounter with India emerges. Bernier’s involvement with La Sablière’s salon helps to explain Lafayette’s cryptic reference to India in La Princesse de Clèves, and La Fontaine’s shift from Aesop to Pilpay as the inspiration for his second volume of Fables. As a fellow salonnier, Bernier could not only share his texts as he composed and compiled them, he could also converse with

Introduction 17

fellow salon habitués. Lafayette, Sévigné, La Fontaine, and a whole host of other intellectuals, philosophers, and writers of France’s classical past who were united at La Sablière’s salon did not just encounter Bernier’s texts; they engaged with Bernier himself. This milieu was not the esoteric philosophical and scholarly world with which Bernier is usually associated, but rather the worldly milieu that produced many of the classics of French literature. As Bernier compiled his texts on India, he was surrounded by these influential thinkers and writers. This intricate web of interlocutors engaged with Bernier as he compiled his texts, and conversations about India became an integral part of this cultural space. Bernier’s influence thus goes far beyond the academic and philosophical circles we recognize today. Throughout his time in India Bernier was in constant contact with these intellectual circles at home, and by extension, the larger networks dedicated to constructing and advancing knowledge. In Orientalism in Seventeenth-Century France, Nicholas Dew reconstructs the scholarly networks that received knowledge about India, as well as a more general “Orient” composed of the Levant and elsewhere, from merchants, travellers, and missionaries, and then disseminated these ideas to their fellow intellectuals. As Dew relates, a figure such as Melchisédech Thévenot was critical to the creation of knowledge of the Orient, even though he himself never ventured outside Europe. Thévenot compiled the narratives of travellers, merchants, and missionaries, as well as the letters, memoirs, and travel journals of his fellow Frenchmen, and also translated those of other Europeans.24 His compilations circulated throughout Europe and had a profound effect on the construction of the early modern European imaginary with respect to the Orient. Thévenot published excerpts from a few of Bernier’s letters to his contemporaries even before the philosopher’s return to France. As Dew’s wide-ranging and insightful study underscores, Thévenot’s volumes illustrate the critical role texts played in the construction of knowledge about the Orient and India during this period. Many scholars and intellectuals were drawn to these accounts and used them to supplement their impressions generated from contact with the physical merchandise arriving from India and elsewhere. But texts such as those compiled by Thévenot were influential not just because they could be devoured by the intellectual, literate public. In many ways Thévenot’s compilations, which underwent many different permutations and editions, are indicative of one of the particular ways knowledge was created in seventeenth-century France. This process was one that required

18  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

the participation of a group, a network, rather than one that emanated from one individual. Thévenot did not first come across Bernier the traveller by reading his actual correspondence; in fact, Thévenot was not acquainted with Bernier at all until a mutual friend, Jean Chapelain, talked about his own correspondence with the traveller. Thévenot then asked Chapelain to furnish him with Bernier’s letters. In seventeenthcentury France intellectual networks and their mode of communication, conversation, served as the medium for the transmission as well as the actual composition of texts. Conversations among individuals and across networks did more than alert editors like Thévenot to the existence of texts and purveyors of knowledge. Conversations supplemented the narratives themselves and influenced thought across the cultural spectrum. Written narratives contain only a fraction of the information that circulated about les Indes orientales. Other ideas and concepts were part of the web of conversation, especially that of the worldly salon public. In seventeenthcentury France, conversation was an art form and a vital component in the actual creation of knowledge, not just in its dissemination, and salon culture was where conversation became this art form.25 Bernier, his texts, and his involvement with La Sablière’s salon illuminate how knowledge was produced differently during this period. Texts were but one thread of the intellectual tapestry. Conversations about texts such as Bernier’s, in academic circles but particularly in the worldly salons unique to France, were equally if not more important to knowledge creation. In order to determine the influence contact with India had on the French imaginary, it is thus necessary to resurrect these conversations, which were born out of a uniquely French concept of intellectual engagement or sociability. Whereas other cultures had academies or learned gatherings of male intellectual elites, only France offered the worldly public access to serious contemplation and discussion of the world of ideas through the gender normally excluded from such pursuits. Beginning in the 1620s, before the founding of the celebrated French Academy, the marquise de Rambouillet received male and female guests from across the cultural, political, and literary spectrum. By mid-century Paris could boast of over fifty such gatherings, and even the provinces imitated the capital. Salon habitués gathered to read texts together, to critique them, to discuss them, and also to create them. As Roger Chartier explains, “entre le XVIe et XVIIe siècle, c’est souvent autour du texte lu à haute voix, du livre deuilleté et discuté que se constituent les diverses formes de la sociabilité intellectuelle:

Introduction 19

celle du salon, celle mieux réglée de l’académie, cette toute familière de la visite inopinée”/“between the sixteenth and eighteenth century, people often gathered around a text, read aloud, discussed. It was here that the various forms of intellectual sociability were formed: that of the salon, that more regulated of the academy, and that less formal one of the unexpected visit.”26 Most scholars characterize salon sociability as “passe-temps et divertissement”/“leisure time and entertainment,” to use Chartier’s terms.27 But La Sablière’s salon, especially in its rapport with Bernier, illustrates that salon sociability was as strongly implicated in knowledge creation as the various academies. This study argues that the worldly salon milieu diffracted the image of India from Bernier, and this image was then disseminated throughout the French imaginary. The reception of a text is as important as the written record itself; it is the synergy between text and public that created a conception of India that was specific to this seventeenth-century French context and that resonated in a particular manner with seventeenth-century French thinkers and writers. Reconstructing the conversations that left textual traces can help reveal how French culture was experiencing and interpreting Bernier’s description of a world that was relatively unknown to his contemporaries. A particular vision of India, which is both a product of the seventeenth-century French cultural context and a force that affected that context, is most evident when one recreates conversations among the literary works, correspondences, philosophical texts, novels, fables, and memoirs that emanated from the salon milieu, specifically from the salon of Marguerite de La Sablière. In Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal, I explore how intellectual and social networks, including the salon culture that united worldly figures such as Lafayette, La Fontaine, and Sévigné, engaged in these conversations and shaped the way India was portrayed and understood. Resurrecting these encounters between people and texts and recreating the conversations among people across continents, the traces of which surface in the textual vestiges of the period, not only sheds new light on Bernier’s texts and on salon culture, this approach offers a new intellectual history that incorporates voices lost through the passage of time and alters our understanding of the relationship between France and India in the early modern period. Scholars have traditionally identified the beginnings of France’s engagement with India as occurring in the eighteenth century and have usually cited the Enlightenment as the moment when French culture first developed a sustained interest in les Indes orientales. In a recent study on the cultural impact of India on France, Gérard Le Bouëdec expresses

20  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

this attitude when he writes that “au XVIIIe siècle, l’intrusion de l’Asie dans l’univers mental des Français modifie leur représentation du monde. L’Asie fait éclater les limites du connu, offre des perspectives à ceux qui croient à leur destin outre-mer, introduit une rupture dans la perception du temps. … Surtout elle est à l’origine de l’innovation en matière de goût avec le développement de l’exotisme”/“In the eighteenth century, Asia’s intrusion into the mental universe of the French modifies their representation of the world. Asia explodes the limits of the known, offers possibilities to those who believe their destiny lies elsewhere, introduces a rupture in the perception of time. … Above all, [this intrusion] is at the heart of the innovations in matters of taste, due to the development of exoticism.”28 But as we resurrect the conversations in La Sablière’s salon and their ramifications it becomes clear that this “intrusion” into the French mindset is already a part of Louis XIV’s world. Pondicherry was established at the end of the seventeenth century, although it is important to note that it would not become a French colony until almost a century later. While it is true that Louis XIV never sent any official ambassadors to India, nor did he receive any emissaries, as he did from the Levant or from Siam, India was exerting a particular influence on the French mindset during the glorious reign of the Sun King. This “intrusion” into French thought that occurred on a variety of levels across French society had unexpected and surprising consequences. Moreover, the conversations that resulted from the mapping of knowledge and new ideas about India onto the particular landscape of seventeenth-century France were very different from the conversations produced by the encounter between les Indes orientales and other countries such as England and Holland. When one follows the traces of knowledge of and interest in India that emanate from La Sablière’s salon, it becomes clear that les Indes orientales were not conflated with a more general “Orient” and certainly were distinguished from les Indes occidentales. One might justifiably ask why intellectual history does not reflect this apparent interest in India on the part of France’s Grand Siècle. The silence surrounding what I am metaphorically calling the encounter between Versailles and the Taj Mahal can be attributed to many causes in addition to the privileging of the eighteenth century over the seventeenth. The Western scholarly world has had a tendency to elevate and idealize Louis XIV and seventeenth-century French culture as novel and unique. Yet seventeenth-century India and especially the Mughal court of the same period was a world that had many affinities to Louis’s

Introduction 21

Grand Siècle. Such parallels have been obscured by the West’s inability to view India in the postcolonial period as anything but an inferior, colonized other with little to offer the West and presumably everything to learn from a country such as France. The influence of British colonialism on the construction of history is as profound as it is distorting. Much of what we know of seventeenth-century India and even of figures such as Bernier has been filtered through this nineteenth-century British control of historical knowledge of India. Until very recently, for example, the only available English translations of Bernier’s influential text were done at the height of British colonialism and were used to advance its objectives. In his preface to one of the most well-known and utilized nineteenth-century English translations of Bernier’s text, the editor/translator Irving Brock uses Bernier’s text to justify Britain’s colonialist project: In many points of view, the memoirs of Bernier may be considered a valuable fragment of Mughal history. … The details given of the sufferings of more than a hundred million of the human species placed within the horrid glare of a muhammedan sceptre, will excite peculiar interest in the English reader, when he reflects that they refer to a period very little antecedent to our first establishment in India. Duly to appreciate the blessings of British government and influence in the vast regions of Hindostan, we should, by an attentive perusal of a writer of such unquestionable authority as Bernier, become conversant with their state of debasement and thraldom before the ruthless domination of the Moguls [Mughals] was succeeded by the mild and beneficent sway of Great Britain. … The degrading superstitions and unhallowed rites of the Hindoos … the juggles of the lustful and profligate Brahmins – the immolations, often compulsory, of females, – the drowning of the sick and dying, – all these abominations form the subject of another portion of the work.”29

Brock posits Bernier’s text as one that confirms “that the government of the British in India has been a prodigious, an incalculable blessing to the Indian people.”30 The dominant British colonialist narrative has also overshadowed France’s own unique encounter with India as it changed the timeframe associated with Europe’s meaningful engagement with India to correspond to the beginnings of Britain’s hegemony. Bernier compiled his texts on India during a time of heightened curiosity about les Indes orientales, but one in which preconceptions of India were very different than those emanating from a postcolonial world.

22  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

The India seventeenth-century Europe encountered was not an inferior “Other” that needed or wanted to be colonized; such an image would not have been remotely part of the imaginary of a seventeenth-century European. From the beginning of the century, stories focused on India’s wealth and culture circulated throughout Europe, propagated by travellers and merchants from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Holland, and England. Missionaries, too, added to descriptions of this faraway land. The vast majority of travellers whose accounts served as the foundation for Europe’s imaginary with respect to India were merchants or emissaries such as Thomas Roe, who was sent by the English East India Company to negotiate trade with the Mughal Empire at the beginning of the seventeenth century. By the middle of the seventeenth century, India was exerting an unparalleled magnetism on merchants as well as on the imagination, and many French merchants and financiers recognized the fortune to be made in trade with India, and through India, with China and other countries of the East. From the beginning of Louis XIV’s reign they began urging Colbert to establish a French Compagnie des Indes to rival those especially of the Dutch and the British. Merchandise emanating from British and Dutch trade with India was flooding the French market; Colbert was determined to ensure a part of this lucrative and highly desirous trade for France. In 1664 Colbert founded la Compagnie des Indes orientales and convinced Louis XIV to devote resources to this project. It is clear from Colbert’s initial documents establishing la Compagnie that the minister was primarily interested in the financial and cultural benefits to be derived from trade with India. He hired the academician Charpentier to create a kind of publicity campaign to encourage trade with India, resulting in Charpentier’s Discours d’un fidèle sujet du roi touchant l’établissement d’une Compagnie française pour le commerce des Indes orientales, adressé à tous les Français.31 The brief work gives a good sense of how France was perceiving this foreign land and conceiving of its relationship with it: Entre tous les commerces qui se font dans toutes les parties du monde, il n’y en a point de plus riche, ni de plus considérable que celui des Indes orientales. C’est de ces pays féconds qu’on rapporte ce qu’il y a de plus précieux parmi les hommes, et ce qui contribue le plus, soit à la douceur de la vie, soit à l’éclat et à la magnificence. C’est désormais une nécessité indispensable de faire venir de toutes ces choses. … Unissez-vous donc, généreux Français, pour

Introduction 23 vous ouvrir une route glorieuse, qui vous conduira à des biens innombrables, et qui se multiplieront encore entre les mains de vos enfants.32 (my emphasis) Of all the trade that is done all over the world, none is richer nor greater than that with India. It is from this rich country that we bring back what is most precious among men, and what most contributes either to the sweetness of life or to its brilliance and magnificence. Thus it is a necessity to have these things come to us. … Unite, generous Frenchmen, to open a glorious route that will lead you to innumerable good things that will multiply in the hands of your children.

This India is not the destitute, colonized entity whose image in ingrained in our minds as a result of the activities in the centuries after Charpentier’s and Colbert’s decree. The India seventeenth-century French men and women encountered was in many ways equal to or even superior to its European counterparts. Throughout the seventeenth century, India needed or wanted very little from France or from anyone else. India was exporting much more than it imported.33 In fact, the only thing France or Europe had that India desired was gold and silver, which led to mumblings among Europeans that all its precious metals were ending up in India. Bernier even describes Hindustan as “un abîme d’une grande partie de l’or et de l’argent du monde, qui trouve plusieurs moyens d’y entrer de tous côtés et presque pas une issue pour en sortir”/“an abyss for a large quantity of the world’s gold and silver, which finds many ways to enter [India] and almost no way to leave it.”34 India provided spices to Europe, but even more important and lucrative was the trade in textiles, especially cottons, and precious gems. By the end of the seventeenth century, India controlled a quarter of the world trade in textiles.35 Until the early eighteenth century, Indian diamond mines, particularly the Golconda mines near Hyderabad, were the world’s only source of this coveted gem.36 India was primarily rural, as was France, and was quite populated. By the end of the sixteenth century, India was supporting more than one hundred million people and its agriculture was on a par with Europe’s.37 The period of Mughal rule saw the development of palaces and tombs, such as the Taj Mahal, that could rival Versailles, when Versailles itself was still a mere hunting lodge. In the sixteenth and first half of the seventeenth century, the Mughal emperors Akbar (1556–1605), Jahangir (1605–25),

24  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

and Shah Jahan (1625–58) developed a world that equalled and in some ways surpassed what Europe could envision at the time with respect to wealth and culture. The Indian economy had a huge surplus. In the second half of the seventeenth century, Aurangzeb’s annual revenues were actually ten times those of Louis XIV. Through the early eighteenth century, India had almost 23 per cent of the world’s GDP.38 This is the India that Bernier encountered in 1658. As Gucharan Das explains, “Indian methods of production and of industrial and commercial organization could stand comparison with those in vogue in any other part of the world. It had developed an indigenous banking system. Merchant capital had emerged with an elaborate network of agents, brokers, and middlemen. Its bills of exchange were honored in major cities of Asia. It is not surprising, then, that English travelers to India found an economy that was dynamic and commercial, not stagnant or backward.”39 The encounter between this India and Ancien Régime France, with its absolutist ruler who wanted his own culture to be the consummate model for the arts and civilization, is much more intriguing, interesting, and complicated when one views India as Bernier’s seventeenth-century contemporaries did, that is, as an equal or even as a possible rival rather than as an inferior “Other” yearning for approbation from the French. Not only did seventeenth-century French travellers encounter a different India than what we might expect, they themselves were to be distinguished from most of their European counterparts. In contrast to the British and Dutch, French travellers to India until the 1660s went of their own accord; they were not part of an organized trading company and not sponsored by the state. Most went simply out of a sense of adventure or curiosity.40 The French were late arrivals to this world of commerce with India, and their efforts would never have the success of their English and Dutch rivals. But while the French engagement with India did not result in significant economic gain for the state or for the French Compagnie des Indes orientales, it would leave an important imprint on the European mindset. Bernier was not the first Frenchman to spend a period of time in India; there were many missionaries already spread out throughout the country, as well as a few independent traders such as Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, who would eventually join Bernier at La Sablière’s salon and also pen an account of his experiences in India. But it is important to reiterate that Bernier was the first intellectual to make the long voyage simply out of curiosity. His desire to engage with India specifically underscores the fact that France’s encounter with India had another important dimension

Introduction 25

in addition to trade: the French cultural milieu, academic as well as worldly, was attracted to other ways of living and thinking and wished to delve into the more nebulous world of mindsets, customs, and beliefs. Many French thinkers and writers seized upon Bernier’s taste for travel to learn about les Indes orientales from someone they considered a competent and trustworthy intellectual equal. We begin our story of France’s worldly encounter with India in chapter 1 by recreating the networks that were engaged in producing knowledge about India, in particular the networks associated with what can be considered a nexus of France’s contact with India: Marguerite de La Sablière’s salon. Bernier’s narratives were Europe’s principal textual entry into the world of les Indes orientales throughout the nineteenth century. But the image of India ascribed to Bernier’s text, the image that has been transmitted to posterity, and thus our notion of how France viewed India, has been misconstrued because we have not read Bernier’s texts in the worldly, salon context in which he was thoroughly engaged when he produced these texts. Nor have we read the texts Bernier compiled and published together as one narrative, preferring instead to reduce all of Bernier’s perceptions of Mughal culture to his letter to Colbert, which is only a fraction of his writings on India. Bernier’s depiction of India was born out of a conversation, implicit and real, that Bernier had with his readers, especially the worldly salon culture that has been erased from considerations of Bernier’s writings. Bernier compiled and published his texts on India while a member of this intellectual group. His texts not only inspired conversations, but the reverse process also occurred: conversation within the salon and the worldly network it embodied impacted the actual composition of Bernier’s influential texts. This particular context not only influenced Bernier’s text stylistically, but also shaped how it had an impact on the concept of India that entered the French imaginary during this period. In chapter 1 I also explore how France’s engagement with India can be distinguished from its relationship with a more general concept of “the Orient.” An analysis of Bernier’s texts and their reception in this context compels us to dismantle a globalizing notion of “Orient” as well as recognize that not every Eastern country elicited the same response from every Western country. France had a particular social structure that influenced the way India was received and perceived, and this encounter between France and India occurred at a specific moment in France’s history. The resulting story suggests that our twenty-first century reliance on Said’s concept of orientalism has perhaps obscured our

26  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

understanding of other modes of interactions between West and East at different periods in history.41 After having recreated the vibrant milieu of La Sablière’s salon, and specifically its interaction with Bernier the “Mughal,” I turn to an examination of how the engagement with India impacted conversations and French thought in the years leading to the Enlightenment. In chapter 2 I examine the impact of this encounter with India on the literary imagination, specifically on the genre most associated with salon culture, the novel. As we read these texts and account for their reception I draw upon the useful insights and methodologies of recent historians of print culture and reading. Over the past thirty years, Roger Chartier, Henri-Jean Martin, and D.F. McKenzie, leaders among an innovative group of historians of print culture, have developed a new history of reading and of the book in an effort to reconstruct the histoire des mentalités of the early modern period. As the work of such historians cogently reminds us, in the seventeenth century there were modes of interacting with texts and books that we no longer have. While an individual confronting and enjoying a text alone and silently was becoming more common, the intellectual figures that peopled La Sablière’s salon would have been more likely to encounter texts in small groups, reading passages aloud together as they composed them, circulating letters that would find their way into travel narratives, expounding on the ideas provoked by philosophical texts such as those by Descartes and Gassendi. Today we have the texts themselves, but the animated discussions they inspired and that inspired them have been silenced. In chapter 2, I reconstruct these conversations about India, looking for the traces of conversation that collaborative reading and discussions left on the literature of this period and on the French imagination in general. La Fontaine’s Fables is the most clearly identifiable literary product of the contact between La Sablière’s salon and India. In chapter 3 I go beyond an intertextual approach to explore how the Fables is a product not just of La Fontaine’s contact with an Indian source text, but with conversations about India inspired by Bernier’s texts as well as by his presence as a fellow resident of La Sablière’s home and as a member of La Sablière’s eclectic salon. I read the Fables as a literary product of the contact with India, but more importantly as an example of the philosophical ideas that were in part inspired and were certainly influenced by this encounter with India. Bernier and La Fontaine were joined by another philosopher at La Sablière’s gatherings, Fontenelle, and like Bernier and La Fontaine, Fontenelle produced a text while a member

Introduction 27

of this group, his Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes. Fontenelle’s text has never been read in conversation with Bernier or in the context of the author’s engagement with members of La Sablière’s salon, even though the fictional marquise who is his protagonist has been identified as La Sablière’s daughter. My reading of Fontenelle’s Entretiens as the product of the conversations inspired by Bernier illustrates how the encounter with India was changing the way people thought, as well as how they constructed knowledge. The first three chapters illustrate the many different threads of the conversation between France and India that occurred in La Sablière’s salon and the impact of this engagement with India on French thought. In chapter 4 I turn to an actual physical thread: indiennes, the Indian textiles that provide tangible, visual evidence of India’s presence and influence during this period. La Sablière among others used indiennes to decorate her salon (see Plates 3 and 9). Bernier describes in great detail these fabrics that infiltrated the European market at every level. I examine how contact with India changed the material world of seventeenth-century France and how this change in taste was part of the shift in the French mindset seen in the philosophical texts of chapter 3. In addition to textiles, two other components of material culture that have associations with India, diamonds and mirrors, also became contested terrains as Louis XIV sought to control the encounter with India that fabrics, mirrors, and diamonds represent. This power struggle is played out in Molière’s Le Bourgeois gentilhomme. Molière’s play, like Lafayette’s novel, La Fontaine’s Fables, and Fontenelle’s Entretiens, can be read as a product of conversations such as those emanating from La Sablière’s salon. Read together, these literary texts on India and the traces the conversations they inspired left on French culture enrich our understanding of the impact India exerted on France’s Grand Siècle and on the European imagination. In his Essai sur les Moeurs, Voltaire characterizes India as a country “de qui toute la terre a besoin, et qui seule n’a besoin de personne.” This sweeping statement characterizing India as the “only country that the entire earth needs” and simultaneously as “the only country that needs no one” can strike a modern reader as curious or even unbelievable. How could such an eminent philosopher living in what was considered by eighteenth-century Europe as one of the West’s most highly developed and enviable cultures regard a foreign, eastern, non-Christian land with such respect and admiration? In order to understand Voltaire

28  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

we must return not to eighteenth-century France but rather to a period one hundred years prior, when France first developed a strong and sustained interest in les Indes orientales. Understanding seventeenth-­ century France’s engagement with India provides the key to understanding Voltaire. The traces that exposure to India left on the cultural artefacts and mindset of “Le Grand Siècle” and the early Enlightenment offer an intriguing portrait of India that illuminates Voltaire’s seemingly incomprehensible statement. A particular vision of India, which is both a product of the seventeenth-century French cultural context and a force that affected that context, is most evident when one recreates conversations among the literary works, correspondences, philosophical texts, novels, fables, and memoirs of France’s Grand Siècle, and especially when one listens to the voices, texts, and institutions that have been relegated to the margins of history.

Chapter One

Worldly Encounters: Communities and Conversation

“…cette savante et incomparable Sablière” Bernier, Abrégé de la Philosophie de Gassendi, 16841

Of all the encounters that occurred during the opening years of the Sun King’s reign, one of the most intriguing and influential, but at the same time the least explored and the most forgotten, is the one that united François Bernier with Marguerite de La Sablière. Their story does not attract the attention of those interested in love intrigues or other salacious affairs, for it is a relationship founded on a mutual attraction to the pleasures of intellectual discovery. Affairs of the mind, not those of the heart, occupied these figures, who were celebrated and admired during their lifetime for their ability to engage with their contemporaries and create a vibrant intellectual space in which to explore new ideas and forge alternative ways to interpret the world. Upon his return from ten years in India, Bernier was especially welcomed by La Sablière, as she sought to expand the horizons of her own mind and to add to the conversations of the illustrious and diverse community she assembled and received in her salon at the rue Neuve des Petits-Champs. In this chapter I will revive the vibrant milieu of La Sablière’s salon and explore its interaction with the voyager François Bernier and the texts he compiled and published while surrounded by this particular public. I will focus on how this particular encounter allows us to see how ideas, in this case about India, circulated and how knowledge was constructed in seventeenth-century French society. The case of La Sablière’s salon and its encounter with India through Bernier underscores the particular function worldly society played in this circulation of ideas,

30  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

and the crucial role of the preferred vehicle for this knowledge creation: conversation. The idea of India took a particular form in France because it was a product of conversation, specifically worldly conversation exemplified by the intellectual and social space of La Sablière’s salon. As Roger Chartier reminds us, texts and the conversations they engendered were the lifeblood of sociability during the early modern period. The sharing of texts, especially by reading aloud, was an essential part of elite and popular culture, even as the solitary enjoyment of a text was gaining popularity among the elite. Chartier explains: “La lecture, elle aussi, peut nouer un lien social, rassembler autour du livre, cimenter une relation de convivialité, mais à condition d’être ni solitaire ni silencieuse”/“Reading can also create social bonds, unite people around a book, solidify social bonds, but only if it is neither solitary nor silent.”2 The group assembled in La Sablière’s salon most likely encountered Bernier’s texts as he read them aloud, much as they were introduced to the fables of his fellow resident La Fontaine. Bernier’s interaction with this salon public, which is inscribed in the text itself, and the salon habitués’ reception of his text that we will explore, illustrates that this salon public was not considered by Bernier or his fellow authors as a passive receptacle silently listening to a purveyor of knowledge such as Bernier. One of the hallmarks of salon activity in seventeenth-century France was the critique of literature, not just its consumption. Salon participants actively engaged with a text and its ideas, as well as with its author as it was read aloud, as we see in Molière’s satirical portrayal of salon culture in Les Femmes Savantes. The salon public often served as the first public for a work before it was published. Authors took the response of this public seriously, often reworking texts to conform to the tastes of this female-dominated public.3 When viewed as emanating from this salon milieu, Bernier’s texts on India illustrate the author’s engagement with a public conceived of as an active, thinking, and creative body, a group that not only was affected by his texts on India, but also one that had an impact on Bernier’s conception of India. To assert that literary creation and consumption was a collaborative process is of course not a very polemical observation in the context of seventeenth-century France. Women writers of Le Grand Siècle, in particular, are routinely viewed as having benefited from their male colleagues; La Rochefoucauld and Huet, for example, are frequently identified as Lafayette’s assistants without whose aid she could not have produced her impressive novels. But this collaboration in the creative

Worldly Encounters  31

process took other forms as well. Narratives of many different genres were not just the products of collaborative writing, but were also shaped by the collaborative reading and conversations of the public, especially in salons.4 Conversation exerted an effect on the narratives of a traveller/philosopher as well as on those of the women writers with whom he socialized at La Sablière’s salon. Seventeenth-century France in particular marks the pinnacle of the art and influence of conversation, associated primarily with the salons. In his recent opus detailing the history of conversation, Emmanuel Godo characterizes the seventeenth century as the time when conversation reigns supreme.5 Conversation took myriad forms during this period: scholarly and exclusively male gatherings, as in the academies; written forms exemplified by philosophical treatises as well as novels; and of course, worldly conversation among men and women in the context of salons. The latter manifestation is commonly portrayed as more egalitarian, as it is accessible to a public that is not necessarily educated in the traditional sense. Worldly conversation has its own conventions and values, and is often associated more with sociability than with the production of knowledge, which would seem to be the domain of the academy. However, when we examine Bernier’s texts in relation to and as engaged with La Sablière’s salon, it becomes clear that the boundaries between the academy and the salon are not at all distinct during this period. The differences between academic conversations in an erudite cercle and a salon’s worldly conversations differ often only in the gender of the interlocutors, since women were for the most part excluded from the academies.6 Godo characterizes conversation during the seventeenth century as a “feminine art,” one that is practiced by women and men alike, but one in which women are considered the masters and men are encouraged to emulate them. Godo explains that women’s conversation, with its emphasis on a natural yet refined elegance, becomes the model for conversation among the cultured and even the educated public.7 But what is distinctive about conversation in the salons of seventeenthcentury France is not just the refinement of language; rather it is that conversation is a product of the interaction between men and women from milieus that today we would tend to imagine as separate entities. Whereas other cultures, such as Italy or even England to an extent, had intellectual gatherings at court, for example, or among the nobility, the ruelles developed by women in seventeenth-century France were unique among such social spaces due to the fact that men and women

32  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

gathered together, often across classes. The development of the art of conversation in France during this period also benefited from the fact that people from a variety of backgrounds and with different interests gathered together in ruelles such as those created by the marquise de Rambouillet, Madeleine de Scudéry, and Marguerite de La Sablière, to name just a few.8 La Sablière’s salon was representative of a number of such gatherings in that there was a blurring of the distinctions between “academic” circles, such as those described by Nicholas Dew in Orientalism in Louis XIV’s France, all exclusively male, and what can be termed “worldly” salon culture, where what it meant to be “learned” was conceived of differently, and where a wider variety of voices participated in the creation of knowledge than what could be found in the all-male academies.9 Many academicians circulated freely between their academic circles and the worldly salons. Conversation in France was a product of this cross-fertilization of ideas and had an effect on the production as well as the reception of works such as Bernier’s texts on India, shaping France’s encounter with India during the reign of the Sun King. “Un esprit extraordinaire”10 So who was Marguerite de La Sablière and what was her foyer for conversation that helped shape the discourse about India? Who were the interlocutors in this circle, one of the most highly regarded foyers of conversation in seventeenth-century France? Marguerite’s personal story explains her attraction to François Bernier and his experiences in India.11 While she may have been attracted to philosophical inquiry and thus Bernier, as Gassendi’s disciple, intrigued her as a potential tutor and conversationalist, Marguerite would have been equally drawn to Bernier because of his knowledge of and experiences in India. Marguerite’s father founded the bank Hessein-Nolleau in 1637, and developed his fortune by negotiating in saffron, diamonds, and precious stones. He also dealt with dye merchants, or “teinturiers,” and acquired a major interest in a business that imported natron (“le carbonate de soude”) from the Middle East, primarily from Cairo and Alexandria. Such business ventures would have brought Marguerite’s father into contact with merchants and possibly travellers from the Middle East and even India, especially given the fact that the world’s diamonds at that point in time were almost exclusively found in India. Marguerite

Worldly Encounters  33

was thus part of a milieu that was open to the world beyond France’s and even Europe’s borders. In addition to being exposed to foreign lands, Marguerite also had the good fortune to be part of a lively intellectual milieu. On her mother’s side, Marguerite descended from a prominent Huguenot family originally from Champagne, the Menjot family. Her early biographer Samuel Menjot d’Elbenne evokes an intellectual climate that was part of the mainstream of seventeenth-century French thought while at the same time maintaining its affiliation with Calvinism. When Marguerite’s mother died, various members of the Menjot family took care of their young relative, in particular Marguerite’s cousin, the marquise de SaintAignan, who provided her an entry into aristocratic circles. Marguerite’s maternal uncle, Antoine Menjot, a leading intellectual, took charge of her education. Menjot found his niece to be very intelligent and so he set about cultivating this exceptional young woman. Marguerite received an education that, while not the norm, was not unheard of for a woman at the time.12 Guided by his own interests, Antoine Menjot directed her studies towards philosophy, religion, science, and math, as well as Greek and Latin, instructing her himself as well as hiring tutors to advance her learning. Marguerite continued to pursue her quest for knowledge throughout her life, with her uncle remaining her constant confidant, friend, and mentor. At the age of fourteen Marguerite left the family home and was married to a cousin, Antoine de Rambouillet, seigneur de La Sablière, whose father, like Marguerite’s, was a successful financier.13 Antoine de La Sablière was also educated and had even spent some time in Italy; he became a fairly successful poet.14 Friends with Valentin Conrart (1603– 75), a leading intellectual but also salon habitué, Antoine frequented the various salons and other intellectual circles in the 1650s and 1660s.15 He would prove, however, to be a less than desirable mate for Marguerite. Their marriage, which lasted from 1654–68, was reportedly happy at the beginning; the couple produced three children almost immediately and in rapid succession. Anne de Rambouillet was born when Marguerite was barely fifteen, followed by Nicolas, and then Marguerite, the future Mme de La Mésangère, whom we will encounter again in chapter 3. The couple had an active social life; visitors to Paris often asked to be presented to Marguerite de La Sablière.16 But life changed with the death of Marguerite’s father in 1661. Antoine de La Sablière had expected that his wife would receive a large inheritance;

34  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

instead the couple learned the bank was in debt and that Gilbert Hessein had left a financial mess. Antoine opted to take his disappointment out on his young wife and literally turned against her. He became abusive to the point that finally, in 1667, Marguerite left the family home, or rather was obliged by her husband to leave, and entered what Menjot d’Elbenne qualifies as a “hospice conventuel,” which is to say, a type of open convent.17 Even more shocking, in 1668 Antoine forced his wife to sign a séparation de biens et d’habitation, a legal separation, and another contract granting him full custody of their three young children, then nine, eleven, and twelve years of age, whom he purportedly hoped to use to extort more money from Marguerite’s dowry. Throughout this trying period, Marguerite had the full support of her extended family, especially of her uncle and his many contacts.18 While Marguerite’s friends and family appear to have found Antoine’s behaviour inexplicable as well as unforgiveable, there was little they could do legally to change his mind or alter his despicable behaviour. Marguerite had to resign herself to losing her old life and to starting anew. Supported by her friends, her brother Pierre Hessein, and particularly by her uncle, Marguerite took up residence alone in a house located on rue Neuve des Petits-Champs in the parish of Saint-Eustache in 1669 at the age of twenty-nine. In 1673 she moved to another house on the same street, but in the parish of Saint-Roch. In both residences she quickly attracted a group of interesting people and created a vibrant salon that reflected the brilliance of its founder. Her contemporaries describe her as vivacious and intelligent, as well as beautiful. Pierre Mignard, the leading portraitist of the day, painted La Sablière’s portrait (Plate 2).19 . Perhaps what most distinguishes Marguerite de La Sablière’s salon from those of her contemporaries is the diversity of people who attended her gatherings and the intellectual tenor of her salon. Thanks to her cousin, the marquise de Saint-Aignan, those associated with the aristocracy were as attracted to her salon as their bourgeois counterparts.20 Marguerite was admired by Nicolas Fouquet and his family, for example, and remained loyal to them even after the fiasco of Vaux-leVicomte and the finance minister’s disgrace.21 Menjot D’Elbenne states that “il faut reconnaître à la gloire de Marguerite que la vieille aristocratie rencontra chez elle celle de la science et des lettres, et que leur union fut toujours l’honneur de son salon”/“we must acknowledge, to Marguerite’s credit, that the old aristocracy met the new aristocracy of science and letters at her salon, and that their union was the highlight

Worldly Encounters  35

of her house.”22 His biography provides an extensive list that attests to the diversity of Marguerite’s salon habitués and gives an idea of how lively and interesting the conversations there must have been.23 Among the participants we find various worldly luminaries such as the comte de Lauzun, who would eventually marry Louis XIV’s famous cousin, Mlle de Montpensier; the counts of Lude, Rochefort, Brancas, and Brienne; as well as various other nobles who held posts as ambassadors. Philippe de Courcillon, the marquis de Dangeau, who kept a famous journal that was widely circulated, was a frequent guest, as was Jean Sobiesky, who would later become the King of Poland.24 There were many academicians such as Claude-Emmanuel Luillier, known as Chapelle.25 While the French Academy itself did not elect women to its illustrious cohort of “forty immortals,” its members were often active habitués of the most well-known salons from the chambre bleue of Catherine de Vivonne, the marquise de Rambouillet, from the beginning to the middle of the century, and continuing through to Madeleine de Scudéry’s samedis and the gatherings created by Lafayette and La Sablière, among many others.26 Marguerite figures in her contemporaries’ history of the French Academy: Paul Pellisson and Joseph Thoulier d’Olivet relate that Marguerite “aimait la poésie, plus encore la philosophie, mais sans ostentation”/“liked poetry, and philosophy even more, but without ostentation.’27 In her salon La Sablière also welcomed Molière and Racine, who were good friends of her brother and uncle, and the leading intellectual and writer Charles Perrault, who would also be elected to the French Academy. Today Perrault is best known for his fairy tales, although in the seventeenth century these were probably considered the least representative products of his considerable intellect.28 Fellow academician Paul Pellisson, who was the centre of Madeleine de Scudéry’s samedis through the 1660s, also joined the group at La Sablière’s, as did a young Bernard le Bouyer de Fontenelle, who was already exhibiting his talent for philosophy as well as science.29 Other intriguing figures included the chevalier de Méré, author of a well-known work on honnêtêté, as well as one on conversation, and the writer Isaac de Benserade.30 Numerous intellectuals connected to the Catholic Church were drawn to La Sablière’s salon, among whom l’abbé Testu, l’abbé Tallemant, brother of Tallemant des Réaux, the author of the Historiettes, and le père Bouhours and le père Rapin, who were authors of theoretical works on literary composition and language, as well as lighter fare.31 Some of the most revered figures

36  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

in science also joined this group, notably Gilles Personne de Roberval and Joseph Sauveur.32 Together with Fontenelle these learned figures instructed many of the female salon habitués, in mathematics and science in particular. Marguerite was especially well known for her interest in astronomy. John Conley states, “several histories of science cite Mme de la Sablière’s pioneering role as a woman astronomer.”33 She even had a telescope installed on her roof. Another well-known figure drawn to La Sablière’s gatherings was Pierre-Daniel Huet, the bishop of Avranges (1630–1721) and member of the French Academy, who was also a writer and a close friend and tutor to the comtesse de Lafayette.34 As we have seen, Lafayette herself could also often be found at the rue Neuve des Petits-Champs along with her best friend the marquise de Sévigné. They were often joined by Mme Scarron, the future Madame de Maintenon who would become the clandestine second wife of Louis XIV, and a young Anne Thérèse de Marguenat de Courcelles, the marquise de Lambert (1647–1733), who became one of the most prominent female intellectuals and created her own salon at the dawn of the Enlightenment. Mme Scarron/de Maintenon’s close friend, Ninon de Lenclos, whom history characterizes as a courtesan and libertine but who was regarded by her contemporaries as much more, also frequented this group and was a lifelong friend of Marguerite. Other women included Mmes de Bouillon, de Coulanges, de Castelnau, and de Monglas, and even Queen Christina of Sweden.35 Around 1673 Marguerite invited Jean de La Fontaine to live with her; he would eventually also be elected to the French Academy. Little did La Sablière know at the time that his name would eclipse those of all her other guests in literary history. For Marguerite, the fabulist was one of many interlocutors, although he was clearly among her favourites. One contemporary reports her as saying towards the end of her life that all that remained of her former household were “moi, mon chat, mon chien et mon La Fontaine”/“me, my cat, my dog, and my La Fontaine.”36 The possessive adjective attests to her fondness for the writer. La Fontaine would reside in her home for over twenty years, moving with her as she changed residences, and remaining there even when Marguerite herself decided to spend much of her time at a convent called Les Incurables after converting to Catholicism when Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1684.37 Even though she closed her salon in the early years of the 1680s, La Fontaine, Bernier, and others continued to visit Marguerite at her home or at Les Incurables and corresponded with her until her death in 1693.

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La Sablière’s salon was thus one of the most exciting and vibrant places for the intellectual and worldly community throughout the 1670s, as well as one of the most prolific. Marguerite not only had a gift for assembling interesting people, she knew how to inspire conversation. La Fontaine underscores this learned woman’s active role in her salon by choosing to call her “Iris,” “the goddess who inspired the first philosophers to speculate on philosophy,” as Bernadette Craveri explains.38 The influence of this salon extended beyond the walls of La Sablière’s abode and even beyond Paris’s and France’s borders. For example, Charles de Saint-Evremond, who was in exile in London, refers to La Sablière in his correspondence.39 François Bernier was also a link between La Sablière and Saint-Evremond; Bernier left France and joined Saint-Evremond in London in 1685. Saint-Evremond was close friends with Hortense Mancini, Mazarin’s niece, who had escaped her tyrannical husband and created her own salon in London in an effort to mirror the salon culture that she had been a part of across the channel.40 The famous philosopher Pierre Bayle (1647–1706) even speaks of La Sablière with reverence and as an intellectual who could rightly take her place among the most learned of her generation.41 He describes her as “une dame qui connaît le fin des choses, et qui est connue partout pour un esprit extraordinaire, il fallait ou se surpasser en la louant, ou s’exposer au blame de tout le monde”/“a woman who knows the best of everything, and who is known everywhere for her extraordinary mind (esprit), it was necessary either to praise her to the heavens or risk a reprimand from everyone.”42 Only one voice during this period tried to criticize Marguerite’s passion for erudition as part of his general effort to rid the world of learned women, or at least to try to shame them into leaving it. After La Sablière’s death, Nicolas Boileau published his tenth “Satire,” in which he openly mocked Marguerite’s erudition, especially her passion for math and astronomy: D’où vient qu’elle a l’oeil trouble et le teint si terni? C’est que, sur le calcul, dit-on, de Cassini, Un astrolabe en main, elle a dans sa goûtière, A suivre Jupiter passé la nuit entière. How is it that her eyes are so blurry and her complexion is so dull? They say it is because she spent the entire night focusing on Cassini’s figures, and following Jupiter from her rooftop with an astrolabe in her hand.43

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Boileau’s satire, which was motivated by his embarrassment at having been corrected years earlier by La Sablière when he misused the word “astrolabe,” did not enjoy the success he predicted. Boileau was criticized for attacking her, and especially for waiting until after her death to do so. Boileau’s fearful attempt to avoid a reprisal from La Sablière herself is testimony to her status in the intellectual milieu and to the importance of her salon. For La Sablière’s contemporaries, she remained an intellectual luminary. “Esprit” is the word most frequently attributed to Marguerite. Upon her death, Dangeau wrote that “Madame de la Sablière mourut hier à Paris; c’était une femme qui avait une grande réputation pour son esprit, et qui depuis longtemps était retirée aux Incurables, où elle menait une vie fort austère et fort exemplaire”/“Madame de La Sablière died yesterday in Paris; she was a woman who was renowned for her mind [“esprit”], and who had for quite some time been retired to les Incurables, where she led an austere and exemplary life.”44 The leading newspaper of the period, the Mercure Galant, published her obituary and placed the emphasis even more strongly on her worldly influence than on her departure from society: Elle était veuve de M. de La Sablière-Rambouillet. Son mérite n’est ignoré de personne. Elle s’était fait dans le monde une grande réputation d’esprit, et on ne croit pas qu’il reste encore dans Paris trois personnes de son sexe qui en aient une pareille. Aussi avait-elle un charme particulier dans la conversation et un don de plaire qu’on ne saurait exprimer. Elle avait pour amis les gens de la plus grande qualité et du goût le plus exquis. Quelques années avant sa mort, elle avait entièrement rompu avec le monde, et elle s’était fait aux Incurables une espèce de retraite et de solitude où elle ne s’occupait qu’à des oeuvres de piété.45 She was the widow of M. de La Sablière-Rambouillet. Her merit is not ignored by anyone. She had a great reputation because of her esprit, and we don’t believe there remain three people of her sex who have such a mind. She had a particular charm when she conversed and an ability to please that was indescribable. Her friends were of the highest quality and possessed the most exquisite taste. A few years before her death, she had completely broken with the world, and she retreated to the Incurables where she focused entirely on pious works.

The seventeenth-century portrait elaborated in the Mercure Galant is thus of an remarkable woman possessing an exceptional mind, a “particular

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charm in her conversation,” and the ability to attract people “of the highest quality” and of “the most exquisite taste.” It is into this milieu that François Bernier was welcomed upon his return from India in 1668. The exact date when La Sablière invited him into her home is not known, but it was most likely very close to this time.46 Menjot d’Elbenne specifies that La Sablière not only gave Bernier shelter, she facilitated meetings between Bernier and Barthélemy d’Her­belot, the famous orientalist, as well as with the other habitués of her salon. Bernier nourished La Sablière’s inquisitive scientific nature, teaching her natural history and anatomy, as well as engaging her philosophically by discussing Descartes and Gassendi.47 He also taught her astronomy and the annals of history list the two friends visiting Cassini at the newly built Observatoire in Paris.48 Bernier always kept Marguerite abreast of all the scientific movements of the time, as, for example, when he wrote to her just before his own death in 1688 about Louis XIV’s project to unite the Mediterranean and the Atlantic with a canal, the future canal du Midi.49 Even when La Sablière closed her salon and spent part of the year at Les Incurables doing works of charity, Bernier continued to correspond with her. As one historian remarks, La Sablière remained the “soul” of Bernier’s writings.50 Bernier was not just La Sablière’s principal entry into the philosophical and scientific world; he also enriched her mind and those of her salon habitués with descriptions of his experiences in India. In fact, the first works Bernier compiled upon his return and as a new resident of La Sablière’s salon were these texts on India. In addition to writing about India while a member of La Sablière’s salon, Bernier also introduced his fellow traveller, whom he met in India, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, to the habitués of La Sablière’s salon. Tavernier thus joined Bernier and added to the conversation about India.51 Tavernier was a merchant who dealt primarily in precious gems, especially diamonds, which he procured during his frequent voyages to India. In 1670, Marguerite’s estranged husband, Antoine de La Sablière, had invested in a company owned by Pierre and Jean Tavernier that did business in Persia and in India, so it is likely that Marguerite had perhaps already encountered the merchant even before Bernier’s introduction of his friend to the salon. Tavernier would eventually write his own account of his experiences in India from the perspective of a merchant.52 La Sablière’s intellectual salon thus provided a fertile environment for Bernier to compile his thoughts on India and produce his texts. Bernier’s most recent French editor, Frédéric Tinguely, contends that, upon his return to France, Bernier wanted to make public his memoirs and letters

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written during his time in India, copies of which he had in his baggage.53 Bernier did maintain a lively correspondence with a number of intellectuals while he was in India and so he may have had some texts to choose from when he decided to compile an official publication. Louis de Lens has argued however, in contrast to Tinguely’s interpretation, that Bernier actually wrote very little while he was in India, with the exception of letters to Jean Chapelain and to Chapelle. Lens argues that “Bernier écrivit peu pendant son séjour au Mogol. Ses mémoires se composent d’un petit nombre de récits et de dissertations, la plupart … revetus de la forme épistolaire, paraissent avoir été rédigés après coup. … Ses amis de France avaient donc rarement de ses nouvelles. … La plume de ses correspondants est plus active”/“Bernier wrote very little during his stay at the Mughal court. His memoirs consist of a few narratives, mostly … in the epistolary form, and appear to have been composed after his return. … His friends in France rarely had news from him. … His correspondents’ pens were more active.’54 It is feasible, and indeed probable, that upon his return Bernier added to the fragments and letters he might have already written while in India, and then developed these works as a member of this salon milieu. He chose which letters to publish and composed the two non-epistolary narratives. The four volumes that he eventually published from 1670–1 would, in this scenario, represent a collaboration with the worldly public of La Sablière’s salon. Bernier’s choice of a publisher for his texts on India corroborates this interpretation of the genesis of these texts. In 1670 Bernier published his first work, Histoire de la dernière révolution des états du Grand Mogol, with the publisher Claude Barbin.55 Barbin was known for publishing the century’s most well-known authors, such as Boileau, La Fontaine, Racine, and Lafayette, in editions that were destined for the court and the worldly milieu, as opposed to the scholarly world. Bernier was clearly hoping to pique the interest of his worldly salon public, not just the scholarly public with which he is associated today. He continued to work with Barbin to publish the rest of his texts on India. The four volumes can at first glance seem disjointed and fragmented, but a certain logic can be discerned if we view them as a product of Bernier’s desire to respond to the tastes of this diverse salon public. The lengthy descriptive titles Bernier assigned to the various components of his four-volume work published over the course of a year give a good sense of what Bernier felt would be of particular interest to the worldly public who represented Barbin’s principal clientele, and

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who were represented particularly well by Bernier’s entourage at La Sablière’s salon. Bernier chose to develop and publish particular letters and unite them with his history of the most recent war of succession in the Mughal Empire. It is worth examining Bernier’s packaging of his writings on India for publication because his methods of compilation illuminate how the traveller/philosopher initially desired his text to be received, as well as the principal public he was addressing. Succeeding editions of his texts obscure the fact that this is a compilation composed of specific, discreet texts that Bernier opted to publish together over the period of a year. The Amsterdam edition published in two volumes in 1699 after Bernier’s death, for example, unites these texts under the singular title of Voyages de François Bernier, Docteur en médecine de la faculté de Montpellier, Contenant la description des états du Grand Mogol, de L’Hin­doustan, du royaume de Kachemire, etc. Où il est traité des richesses, des forces de la justice et des causes principales de la décadence des Etats de l’Asie, et de plusieurs événements considérables. Et où l’on voit comment l’or et l’argent après avoir circulé dans le monde passent dans L’Hindoustan, d’où ils ne reviennent plus. Le tout enrichi de cartes et de figures ... Travels of François Bernier, Doctor of medicine from the university of Montpellier, which contains a description of the states of the Great ­Mughal, of Hindustan, the realm of Kashmir, etc. In which the author describes the riches, the forces of justice and the principal causes of the decadence in the states of Asia, and many important events. And in which one can perceive how gold and silver, after having circulated throughout the world, end up in Hindustan, where they never leave. The whole volume enriched by maps and drawings ...

This edition allies the work with other travel narratives circulating at the time in order to capitalize on the general public’s interest in travel narratives. The editor attracts readers by underscoring that Bernier’s work explains the riches readers associate with the Mughal Empire, as well as the “principal causes of the decadence” of Asian empires. It should be noted that this Amsterdam edition became the most accessible and widely circulated, and was used as the base text for the nineteenth-century English editions that most scholars rely on today. Frédéric Tinguely bases his French edition of Bernier’s works on India

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on the original Barbin editions of 1670–1, but follows the lead of the Amsterdam publishers by giving the work a provocative title to entice readers: Un Libertin dans l’Inde moghole: Les Voyages de François Bernier (1656–1669). This title both unites the disparate texts under the generic term “Voyages” and identifies Bernier as a libertine, thus associating him with one particular milieu, one that might presumably draw the most interest from today’s readers. Bernier’s initial public, including the habitués of La Sablière’s salon, did not, however, first encounter Bernier’s texts unified under the generic term “Voyages.” Bernier did not opt to align his texts with other travel narratives such as those published by Melchisédech Thévenot. His descriptive titles and his careful choice of what to publish, and when, with Barbin, as opposed to Thévenot, indicates Bernier’s intent to distinguish himself and his texts from other narratives, as well as to create a particular rapport with a specific public. Bernier’s first text is titled not “Voyages” but Histoire de la dernière révolution des Etats du grand Mogol, dédiée au Roy, par le Sieur F. Bernier médecin de la Faculté de Montpellier/“History of the recent revolution in the states of the Great Mughal, dedicated to the King, by Sieur F. Bernier, doctor from the faculty at Montpellier.” Bernier does not specify in this title that he has any ties to India, nor that he has even travelled there. By titling his work Histoire as opposed to “Voyages,” he posits himself more as a learned scholar of the Mughals who intends to instruct his readers about the “latest revolution,” rather than as a traveller who can offer his subjective account founded on personal experiences. Bernier’s lack of allusion to the fact that the Histoire is based on his on travels and witnessing of this “latest revolution” suggests that he does not consider such precisions to be necessary, believing perhaps that he is already known to the public that will be drawn to Barbin’s edition. Considered in this light, Bernier’s original publication could be viewed as the written prolongation of the discussions and conversations he was already having with his chosen public since returning from India. Bernier’s choice of Histoire to characterize his work further identifies this public as the worldly public such as that gathered at La Sablière’s salon.56 Bernier knows that this public was especially attracted to works with this particular title during this period. He does not feel the need to specify that his Histoire is grounded in his personal experience in India because his primary public already knows him as the authoritative member of their milieu. For his second volume, which appeared soon after the Histoire, Bernier again eschews the title “Voyages,” choosing “Evénements particuliers”

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to characterize his work as an authoritative narrative rather than a personal travel account. The full title of the second volume is Evénements particuliers. Ou ce qui s’est passé de plus considérable après la guerre pendant 5 ans ou environ, dans les Etats du Grand Mogol, Avec une lettre de l’étendue de l’Hindoustan, circulation de l’or et de l’argent pour venir s’y abîmer, richesses, forces, justice, et cause principale de la décadence des Etats d’Asie/“Particular events. Or the most important events that occurred during the five years or so after the war, in the States of the Great Mughal, with a letter on Hindustan, and on how gold and silver end up in Hindustan, the riches, strengths, justice, and principal cause of the decadence of the states of Asia.” Bernier’s public would have been attracted to the title “Evénements particuliers”: “particuliers” had the connotation of secret history or the “inside story.” By using this term, Bernier identifies himself with the worldly public attracted to such “histoires particulières,” or particular histories, and as an author who responds to and nourishes his public’s curiosity, piqued by his first Histoire. The second volume can possibly be viewed as a response to questions raised by his initial Histoire, comments and queries developed in conversation with the public that surrounded him as he compiled his thoughts and texts on India. Bernier’s initial public would know that “pendant 5 ans ou environ” refers to the time Bernier was in India; this rather imprecise and cryptic precision is thus designed to augment Bernier’s own authority among this initiated public, as it reminds those who know him already that he was an eyewitness to these “événements particuliers.” Bernier also uses this remark in his title to associate himself and his text with a specific community of readers. These readers can supplement his texts with what they have learned about their author, such as the fact that he was an eyewitness to these events, and recall as well their conversations with Bernier about these experiences that he is now offering in written form. Like the “five years or so” used to qualify the Evénements particuliers, the title of the second part of the second volume, “une lettre  de l’étendue de l’Hindoustan,” is also intentionally vague. The second half consists of “une lettre,” which Bernier then qualifies as one discussing the “riches, strengths, justice, and principal cause of the decadence of Asian states.” Bernier chooses not to specify in the title that this is the letter to Colbert. Instead he associates this letter with the previous “events” he is publishing, indicating that the texts should be read together. Readers in the know might already be aware that this letter is the one addressed to Colbert. Bernier could be reminding them of

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conversations about this letter, which had circulated before its actual publication. While the title page does not specify that the letter is addressed to Colbert, upon opening this second volume the reader encounters the minister’s name immediately at the head of the letter: “Lettre à Monseigneur Colbert,” with the rest of the title. Bernier’s decision to exclude Colbert’s name from the title page indicates his desire to attract the worldly public to his text, and not simply publish the text as a political favour. One could also interpret this omission as an effort on Bernier’s part to have this letter understood and read in light of the Histoire and the Evénements particuliers that precede it in the volumes, and not be granted particular status because it is addressed to Colbert. We will return to the ramifications of such a contextualization later. Bernier’s first two volumes on India can be seen as referring to and prolonging in written form conversations he had with the worldly public who is arguably the principal recipient Bernier has in mind for his texts on India. When Bernier published the final two volumes on India the following year, in 1671, he chose another title: Suite des mémoires du Sieur Bernier sur l’empire du Grand Mogol/“Continuation of the memoirs of Sieur Bernier on the empire of the Great Mughal.” Like the word histoire, the worldly public was especially drawn to memoirs, so Bernier is perhaps again underscoring his desire to attract this particular public. But his use of memoirs and his own name without the identifying “médecin” found on the first volume also indicates that Bernier is taking ownership of these texts. Mémoires is more personal than Histoire or Événements particuliers; the term can be used to sell these last two volumes because Bernier has already established his authority as a reliable conveyor of knowledge about India through his previous volumes, as well as in his conversations about India. Interestingly, these last two volumes are not actually in memoir form, but rather are a compilation of letters. Bernier uses “mémoires” to unite individual letters, which could be considered as written conversations. Each of these letters addresses specific aspects and issues associated with India that particularly interested Bernier and that undoubtedly sparked further conversations. The descriptive titles assigned to each of the letters within the volumes serve to awaken the interest of the reading public, as well as perhaps reflect back on conversations that have already occurred and inspire new conversations in the future. In the third volume, the title of the first letter to La Mothe le Vayer reads “Lettre à Monsieur de la Mothe le Vayer, Ecrite à Delhi le 1er juillet 1663. Contenant la description

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de Delhi et Agra, villes capitales de l’Empire du Grand Mogol, avec quelques particularités qui font connaître la cour et le génie des Mogols et des Indiens”/“Letter to Monsieur de La Mothe le Vayer containing a description of Delhi and Agra, the capital cities of the Empire of the Great Mughal, with some particularities that make known the court and the character (le génie) of the Mughals and the Indians.” Bernier uses this letter to paint a visual picture of India for his contemporaries and to offer his thoughts on cultural relativism and the “génie” associated with various civilizations. The second letter in volume 3 is addressed to Jean Chapelain and delves into the thought processes Bernier tried to understand while in India. Bernier gives this letter the title “Lettre à M Chapelain, envoyée de Chiraz en Perse, le 4 octobre 1667. Touchant les superstitions, étranges façons de faire et doctrine des Hindous ou Gentils de l’Hindoustan. D’où l’on verra qu’il n’y a opinion si ridicule et si extravagante dont l’esprit de l’homme ne soit capable”/“Letter to  M. Chapelain, sent from Chiraz in Persia. Explaining the superstitions, strange actions, and the doctrine of the Hindous of Hindustan. Where one will see that there is no opinion so ridiculous or so extravagant for the mind of man to be able to conceive.” Bernier follows this philosophical treatise with a final letter to Chapelle, composed on his way home from India and titled “Lettre envoyée de Chiraz en Perse, le 10 juin 1668 à M. Chapelle. Sur le dessin qu’il a de se remettre à l’étude sur quelques points qui concernent la doctrine des atomes et sur la ­nature de l’entendement humain”/“Letter sent from Chiraz in Persia, 10 June 1668 to M. Chapelle. Concerning his project to resume studying some aspects concerning the doctrine of atoms and the nature of human understanding.” This short letter is less a direct contribution to Bernier’s “mémoires” on India than a contemplative product of his encounter with India. Bernier’s decision to include it in his memoirs on India indicates perhaps his desire to illustrate the kinds of conversations he was having that were inspired by his experience in India. In the fourth and final volume, Bernier returns to his actual experiences in India. These are the only texts that he qualifies as travel narratives, perhaps because they are accounts of his voyages with the Mughal court to Kashmir. Bernier groups these letters, all addressed to M. de Merveilles, under the title Relation du voyage fait en 1664 à la suite du Grand Mogol Aurangzeb, allant avec son armée: De Delhi, capital de l’Hindoustan, à Lahore; De Lahore à Bhimbar et de Bhimbar au royaume de Cachemire que les Mogols appellent ordinairement le paradis terrestre des Indes/“An account of the voyage made in 1664 with the Great Mughal Aurangzeb

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and his army: From Delhi, the capital of Hindustan, to Lahore; From Lahore to Bhimbar and from Bhimbar to the realm of Kashmir, which the Mughals usually refer to as paradise on earth.” Bernier ends this final letter to Merveilles by referring to a letter he received from him in which he included five questions from Melchisédech Thévenot.57 Bernier answers these questions in an appendage to his final letter to M. de Merveilles, and these responses constitute the final pages of the fourth volume of Bernier’s texts on India. The titles indicate Thévenot’s wide-ranging interests as well as the interests of Bernier’s public, since he presumably includes them in his compilation out of a desire to respond to or to please his public. The last volume also includes a brief essay on the Mughal emperor’s revenues, which, Tinguely argues, was originally supposed to appear in 1670, probably with the Colbert letter in which Bernier explains the financial workings of the Mughal court.58 The four volumes of Bernier’s texts on India thus illustrate the ways in which his accounts were collaborative in nature; they were born out of an exchange, an epistolary conversation with his correspondents while he was in India, as well as through real conversations with his interlocutors in La Sablière’s salon as he compiled these texts upon his return. Bernier designed these volumes to reflect these collaborative encounters, as well as to inspire new conversations. Most critics have read each of Bernier’s letters separately, or focused exclusively on the Histoire. The letter to Colbert, in particular, has received sustained attention and is usually used to determine Bernier’s “true opinion” of India.59 Without their publication history and context Bernier’s texts appear disjointed and fractured, and the modern reader can be overwhelmed and even confused. Tinguely remarks that the reader can be “troubled” when first approaching Bernier’s work by the “multiplicité et la diversité des textes réunis dans les Voyages”/“the multiplicity and the diversity of the texts united in the Voyages.”60 Tinguely mitigates this criticism by complimenting Bernier for producing a text with “innombrables facettes de cet ensemble polymorphe qui reflète à la fois les intérêts encyclopédiques de l’élève de Gassendi … et sa capacité à jouer d’une riche palette de destinataires”/“innumerable facets contained in this polymorphous ensemble that reflect the encyclopedic interests of this student of Gassendi … and his ability to attract a rich palette of addressees.”61 Tinguely identifies these “destinataires,” or readers/public, as “les hautes sphères du pouvoir,” or the upper echelons of power, in the case of the first two volumes. The history and the letter to Colbert are, in this reading, designed primarily for consumption by

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the monarch and his finance minister, Colbert. The Suite des mémoires composed of letters to La Mothe le Vayer, Chapelain, M. de Merveilles, and Chapelle is destined primarily for “le monde savant”/”the scholarly world,” in Tinguely’s words. In identifying the political and academic world, entirely male, as the primary recipient of Bernier’s text, Tinguely is reiterating a view of this work that is in agreement with conventional literary and historical approaches. In “The Philosopher as Traveller: Bernier’s Orient,” Peter Burke describes Bernier’s work as “at once one of the most important and one of the most opaque early modern Western accounts of the Orient as ’Other,’ indeed as the opposite of ’us’.”62 He argues that to understand the text we need to read it as possessing multiple layers and subtexts. Like Tinguely, Burke argues that Bernier addresses different publics. While critics and historians thus acknowledge Bernier’s engagement with his contemporaries, they are unanimous in leaving the worldly public out of the conversation or any consideration of the construction or meaning of Bernier’s texts. The complexity of these texts can, however, be accounted for differently. Another understanding of this influential work is possible if we interpret the publication as an engagement with La Sablière’s salon. Bernier, influenced by the milieu in which he compiled the work, conceivably wanted to create a conversation among the various texts that constitute the four volumes, just as he desired to use the text to nourish the conversations of his fellow salon habitués. Viewed from this perspective Bernier composes his work not only to report on what he witnessed and experienced in India, but to provoke discussion among the diverse milieu in which he was living and working. The text itself reflects the many interests and areas of expertise of the habitués of La Sablière’s salon, which, as we have seen, brought together an eclectic group, male and female, from the various political, religious, academic, and worldly milieux. The “riche palette de destinataires”/“rich palette of addressees” that Tinguely and others identify as a hallmark of this work should, and indeed must, include those primarily associated with salon culture, particularly as exemplified by La Sablière’s salon. And as we shall see in detail, this salon milieu was not just the recipient of Bernier’s text; it also influenced the composition of the work, and even of the letters usually considered as having been composed before Bernier’s return. In fact, before actually living at La Sablière’s, Bernier was in conversation with this world, which engaged constantly with the more frequently acknowledged spheres of influence, the academic and political worlds. Bernier’s text

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is a product of worldly conversation as it also seeks to provoke conversation. Bernier’s narratives on India that these first interlocutors would have encountered most likely were supplemented by Bernier himself in conversation. It is by paying attention to this characteristic of the work, its ties to sociability and conversation, that we can get a clearer understanding of what Bernier was conveying to his contemporaries and what he contributed to their collective imaginary about India. Food for Conversation: Bernier’s Travels Bernier does not conceive of his text as merely a vehicle to transmit knowledge about India. He seeks to engage his reader and make him/ her reflect; his narratives on India were designed to inspire and create new knowledge. Running through his various published texts is a call for collaborative conversation that can incite this new knowledge. Bernier specifically draws upon the knowledge and interests of the salon public to create something new, to generate ideas collaboratively. These new perceptions, as we shall see, arise out of a synergy between Bernier and his pubic. They are the thoughts and ideas that are the result of the encounter between the public, these texts, and Bernier’s personal experience. Bernier addresses multiple publics and intends for his publics to read across the various letters and narratives. The four volumes offer a conversation on India that in turn elicits conversations about the world. It is clear that Bernier is very aware of his various publics from the first pages of his published volumes. The first volume he published, the Histoire de la dernière révolution, includes a dedication to Louis XIV. Most commentators interpret the “Au Roi” simply as a conventional effort to curry favour with the monarch in hopes of receiving a pension. Later editions, including the Amsterdam edition, do not even include the “Au Roi” because such dedications are so perfunctory and common.63 If Bernier’s principal goal in writing was to obtain a pension, however, one would think that he would have made more of an effort to characterize his work as vital to the King’s interests and would have elevated himself as a unique and essential purveyor of knowledge about India. Instead, Bernier begins his dedication by stating that Indians believe that a man’s mind needs to be entertained from time to time and that one cannot always be serious. From what he has heard about Louis XIV, Bernier writes, he believes this maxim might not be

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applicable to his own great monarch, but nevertheless, he offers his “histoire”/“history/story” as an account that will above all entertain Louis XIV: “je ne laisserai pas de me hasarder de lui présenter cette histoire, parce qu’il me semble qu’elle serait capable de donner quelques heures de divertissement à un roi qui voudrait se relâcher quelquefois de ses sérieuses occupations”/“I will permit myself to present this history to him, because it seems to me that it would be capable of giving a few hours of entertainment to a king who occasionally would like some respite from his serious occupations” (39).64 Bernier posits his narrative more as a pleasurable version of history, allying it with the fictional historical accounts that were so popular during this period as he, like the novelists who were Bernier’s contemporaries, profits from the ambiguity of the French term histoire, which means both history and story. Rather than offering Louis XIV a report on the Mughal court, Bernier presents his text as a narrative to entertain the king in his moments of leisure. But in case Louis XIV might be tempted to brush the work off as unworthy of even his spare time, Bernier specifies that the subject of this particular Histoire is indeed deserving of the monarch’s attention. … c’est une tragédie que je viens de voir représenter tout fraîchement sur un des plus grands théâtres du monde, … elle se trouve diversifiée de plusieurs incidents grands et extraordinaires, et qui touchent une famille royale des plus illustres de l’Asie. (40) … it is a tragedy that I have just seen played out on one of the greatest stages of the world, … it contains many great and extraordinary events, and concerns one of the most illustrious royal families of Asia.

The events Bernier will relate occurred in “one of the greatest/­largest stages of the world” and are “great and extraordinary.” The repetition of “grand,” which means both large and great, mirrors Bernier’s characterization of Louis’s own actions, “les grandes choses” to which Bernier refers in the preceding lines. This royal family, among “the most illustrious of Asia,” is deserving of Louis’s attention because it is on a par with Louis’s own lineage. Bernier underscores his own status as eyewitness, “that I have just seen,” in order to elevate his text as history. Bernier thus plays a subtle game in his dedication, on the one hand characterizing the Histoire as just light reading composed for entertainment, a pastime for the king in his few moments of leisure, and on the other hand as an

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account of one of the greatest political arenas of the world belonging to one of Asia’s most illustrious families and thus more than deserving of his own great monarch’s serious consideration. Bernier invites Louis to decipher his text, which he offers to him as recompense for having been away from France for so long: “et que d’ailleurs j’ai été bien aise de ne venir pas de si loin tout à fait les mains vides devant Sa Majesté, prétendant de commencer par là à Lui rendre quelque espèce de compte de ma vie de tant d’années que j’ai été hors de Son royaume”/“I was happy to not come from so far away empty-handed to appear before his Majesty, to begin this way to give him some accounting of my life during the many years I was outside of his kingdom” (40). It is interesting to note that, in this dedication, Bernier does not explicitly compare the two realms or even elevate Louis XIV above his Mughal counterparts, as one would expect from an author trying to obtain a pension. Indeed there is little flattery in this short dedication. Bernier ends by assuring his king that, even though he has been away for years, he always remembered that “j’avais un maître à qui j’étais comptable”/“I had a master to whom I was accountable” (40). He does not even take the opportunity here to qualify this “master to whom he is accountable” with a flattering adjective. The entire dedication, which appears rather perfunctory, gives the impression that the king is not the primary reader Bernier hopes to attract. If the “Au Roi” appears tepid and uninspired, it is perhaps because Bernier intended for his text to be read, digested, and discussed by a much larger public than simply the monarch. Viewed from this perspective, the “Au Roi” is a perfunctory gesture rather than a meaningful attempt to engage the king as benefactor/reader. This possibility is born out by the fact that immediately following his dedication to the king, Bernier addresses this more general public in a brief, but more tantalizing “Au Lecteur.” He begins with a curious negation: “Je ne dirai point expressément quels sont les moeurs et les coutumes, le génie et les intérêts des Mogols et Indiens”/“I won’t directly say what the mores, customs, character, and interests of the Mughals and Indians are” (40). Bernier specifies that his Histoire will not resemble the typical narratives penned by travellers, in which the traveller transmits his personal experiences and impressions of a foreign place, imposing his point of view on the reader.65 Rather, Bernier exhorts his readers to develop their own impressions of India as they read his account. He explains that he will not directly relate the customs and mores, but that instead

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he will try “de les faire connaître par les actions et par les événements, en décrivant premièrement une guerre civile et une révolution où tous les principaux membres de l’Etat ont agi”/“to make them [customs and mores] understood by relating actions and events, by first describing a civil war and a revolution in which all the principal members of the state participated” and by “rapportant quelques-unes des choses les plus considérables qui se sont passées depuis la fin de la guerre jusques à mon départ”/“recounting a few of the most important things that happened from the period after the war ended until my departure” (40). Readers are thus encouraged to interpret what they read, and perhaps even discuss their encounter with a foreign culture facilitated by Bernier’s narrative. In addition to the Histoire and “the most noteworthy things,” Bernier states in the “Au Lecteur” that he is including a letter which he also expects his public to use in order to get a sense of India. His reference to this letter is rather cryptic and suggestive. He says he will also try to “make known” the Mughals and the Indians “par le moyen d’une lettre qui m’a semblé nécessaire pour mon dessein”/“by means of a letter that I considered necessary for my purpose” (40). The letter’s recipient is not mentioned, nor does Bernier expound on why he feels the letter is “necessary for his purpose,” nor what exactly this “purpose” is. This sentence is especially curious when one sees to whom this letter is addressed. The complete title of the letter is, we will remember, “Lettre à Monseigneur Colbert. De l’étendue de l’Hindoustan, circulation de l’or et de l’argent pour venir s’y abîmer, richesse, forces, justice, et cause principale de la décadence des états d’Asie.” Of all Bernier’s publications on India, this is the letter that has drawn the most attention. Scholars have usually read it separately from the other texts that were published with it. But it is clear from Bernier’s “Au Lecteur” in the first volume that this letter is one of three narratives that are to be read together in order to understand “les moeurs et les coutumes, le génie et les intérêts des Mogols et Indiens.” The letter to Colbert appears in the second volume published in 1670; by referring to it in the “Au Lecteur” of the first volume Bernier indicates that the volumes that contain the Histoire, the Evénements, and the letter to Colbert form a united text. Bernier instructs his readers through the “Au Lecteur” to create a conversation between these three works as they seek to understand not just his personal vision of les Indes orientales, but to create their own perception of this world derived from their readings and conversations.

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The “Au Lecteur” can also be interpreted as directed specifically at his contemporaries in La Sablière’s salon whom he exhorts to interact with his texts collectively, to compare the Histoire and the Evénements with the letter to Colbert, and even to ask the author to expound upon his written text in conversation. This creation of a portrait of India thus extends beyond the pages of the published text and is composed of the voices and thoughts of a public to whom Bernier is particularly attuned and with whom he is engaged as he compiles his texts. These conversations will produce a particular portrait of India using the ideas generated by Bernier’s texts but not simply mirroring its content. Bernier ends the “Au Lecteur” by promising to publish more letters should he have “succeeded” in his enterprise. Apparently he felt that his volume was received as he had intended because volumes 1 and 2 were followed a few months later by two more volumes containing letters to Chapelain, La Mothe le Vayer, and Merveilles.66 In the “Au Lecteur” Bernier also promises to translate from Persian a history of Kashmir “qui a été fait par le commandement du roi Jahangir, fils de ce grand Akbar, qui sut adroitement s’emparer de ce royaume”/“which was written at the command of Jahangir, the son of that great Akbar, who so competently took over this kingdom” (40). This last text was never made public, but Bernier’s mention of its possibility is strategic. He refers to his own personal knowledge of Persian, which elevates his credibility as a narrator/author for the rest of his work. He also reveals his knowledge of Indian history, by referring to Jahangir and “ce grand Akbar,” his father, both of whom reigned long before Bernier arrived in India. Bernier thus invites readers to extend the conversation beyond his own eyewitness account and perhaps delve into who these emperors were and how Akbar could merit the qualification “grand,” an adjective that has particular resonances for his seventeenth-century French public and their monarch, Louis le Grand, and that even harkens back to Bernier’s dedication to the king that precedes the “Au Lecteur.” His use of the demonstrative pronoun “ce” indicates that the name “Akbar” is most likely known to his public and already part of the conversation about India swirling among his seventeenth-century contemporaries. Bernier uses his “Au Lecteur” to add to his reputation as a well-known intellectual, and invites his public to actively engage with his text on India instead of simply accepting his own written perceptions as the only knowledge conveyed by the text. As these paratexts thus clearly illustrate, Bernier designed his works to create knowledge, not simply to transmit it.

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Faire connaître le génie et les intérêts des Mogols et Indiens So what knowledge about les Indes orientales does Bernier transmit and what conversations does he hope to inspire through engagement with his texts? Most historians and editors have sought to “master” Bernier, seeking to know what he personally thought about the Mughal Empire and Indian life and customs in general, which they then project onto the whole of French society. Bernier has been cast as the expert who passed his knowledge based on his experience in India on to Colbert and Louis XIV, and then went back to his true calling in life, philosophy. But if these texts are examined in light of each other, and read as a conversation and as efforts to spark new conversations, a very different Bernier appears, and India becomes not the “exotic other” that elicits curiosity about a different culture, but rather a civilization that Bernier uses to engage his various publics to think in new ways about a world they most likely will never encounter personally, as well as about the world they currently inhabit. Although Bernier states in the “Au Lecteur” that he has decided not to “openly tell” his reader about India, but rather let her/him deduce her/his own impressions from his account, Bernier’s “I” is a constant presence throughout all four volumes, mirroring his role in La Sablière’s salon. Bernier takes centre stage to orchestrate the conversations about India generated by his texts and by his personal interactions with his public. In the opening pages of the Histoire Bernier explains how he was first inspired to go to India, stating that it was his “désir de voir le monde”/“desire to see the world” (41) that compelled him to embark first for Palestine and Egypt, and then pass through the Middle East and Ethiopia before arriving in Surat in 1655. While seemingly vague, this opening explanation actually sets a distinctive tone for what is to follow. Unlike most travellers to India at the time, Bernier travels alone and simply out of curiosity. In contrast to Thomas Roe, for example, he is not in the service of a higher power, nor is he drawn to India out of a desire for economic gain, as most traveller merchants, notably his contemporary Tavernier, were at the time. He recounts that he was immediately accepted into the entourage of the Mughal emperor: … la fortune et le peu d’argent qui me restait de diverses rencontres de voleurs, et de la dépense d’un si long voyage après quarante-six jours de chemin qu’il y a depuis Sourate jusqu’à Agra et Delhi, villes capitales de l’Empire, m’avaient obligé de m’engager à la solde du Grand Mogol

54  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal en qualité de Médecin, et peu de temps après, par une autre aventure, sous Daneshmend Khan, le plus savant homme de l’Asie, qui avait été bakchis, ou grand maître de la cavalerie, et qui était un des plus puissants et des plus considérés omrahs, ou seigneurs de la cour. (45) Fortune and the fact that I had little money left after encountering robbers and having spent so much money on such a long voyage of forty-six days between Surat and Agra and Delhi, the capital cities of the Empire, obliged me to enter into the service of the Great Mughal as a physician, and a bit later, following another adventure, into that of Daneshmend Khan, the most knowledgeable man in Asia, who had been the head of the cavalry, and who was one of the most powerful and most respected noblemen of the court.

Bernier establishes his own credibility as a privileged eyewitness who has been accepted into the Mughal court because of his personal abilities, serving as the “Great Mughal’s” doctor, and then received into the entourage of Daneshmend Khan, ’the most knowledgeable man in Asia.” The reader can infer from such precisions that Bernier is to be trusted, that he is knowledgeable, and that his worthy goal is simply to transmit what he learned out of “curiosity.” Not an outsider like Thomas Roe or many others before him, Bernier posits himself as an accepted member of the inner circle, and someone even the “most knowledgeable man in Asia” desires to frequent. Throughout his texts on India Bernier often underscores that he derives his knowledge directly from Indian sources, thus underscoring his privileged position not only as an eyewitness but as an insider who receives his information from the Mughals and the Indians themselves. And having learned Persian, he is not at the mercy of translators, as Roe was before him.67 The first volume, the Histoire, is structured as a detailed account of the war of succession that was occurring just as Bernier arrived in India. Bernier uses these exceptional events to give structure to his portrayal of the “moeurs”/“manners,” “coutumes”/“customs,” and “génie”/“character or spirit” of the civilization he encountered in les Indes orientales. While in the dedication to the king Bernier characterizes his narrative as a “tragédie,” the form he chooses to convey the events resembles a novel, an Histoire, more than the dramatic genre so popular with his seventeenth-century public. We will explore the implications and importance of Bernier’s generic choice in more depth in the next chapter. Bernier thus structures his texts to be in dialogue with and to engage an eclectic public such as the one that surrounded him as he

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compiled his texts. Amidst the battles, certain descriptions in particular are designed to catch the attention of his seventeenth-century public and identify this “tragédie” as Indian. For example, Bernier never misses an opportunity to describe the elephants ridden by the principal combatants (81–2). Readers would also be transported beyond their own frame of reference by the impressive number of combatants that Bernier evokes, as when he describes the army of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s son, Dara: … je ne sais si l’on vit jamais dans l’Hindoustan une plus belle armée; l’on tient qu’il n’y avait guère moins de cent mille chevaux et plus de vingt mille hommes de pied, avec quatre-vingts pièces d’artillerie, sans compter ce nombre incroyable de valets et ces gens de bazar, ou marché, qui sont nécessaires pour la subsistance des armées dans la paix et dans la guerre, et que les historiens mettent à mon avis bien souvent au nombre des combattants quand ils parlent de ces épouvantables armées de trois à quatre­cent mille hommes dont leurs livres sont pleins. Quoique celle-ci fût très belle et très leste, et assez forte pour en tailler en pièces deux ou trois comme celle d’Aurangzeb, qui n’avait que trente-cinq ou quarante mille hommes en tout … on ne voyait presque personne qui conçût rien de bon pour Dara.” (75–6) I don’t know if a more impressive army had ever been seen in Hindustan; People say there was not less than one hundred thousand horses and more than twenty thousand men on foot, with eighty pieces of artillery, without including the vast number of servants and people who accompany the army whose services are necessary in times of peace and war, and that historians in my opinion include among the combatants when they talk about these incredible armies of three or four hundred thousand men. Their books are full of these. While this army was impressive and agile, and strong enough to defeat two or three like Aurangzeb’s, which only had thirty-five or forty thousand men … no one had much hope for Dara.

Bernier draws upon his personal experience – he was associated with Dara when he first arrived in India – to correct previous accounts, while at the same time depicting a world with numbers that would have been unimaginable in France. He uses the war of succession, in which the current emperor Aurangzeb defeated his father Shah Jahan and his three brothers, to give his readers a sense of the huge scale of the Mughal Empire.

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One of the distinguishing characteristics of Bernier’s Histoire is the interweaving of the present events related to the war of succession with the author’s knowledge of and experience with India’s general culture as well as its past history. One particularly striking example of the narrative tapestry Bernier weaves is to be found in his description of Dara’s, Shah Jahan’s eldest son and choice to succeed him, disgrace at the hands of his brother, Aurangzeb. Bernier writes that Aurangzeb decided to parade his brother through the streets of Delhi on an elephant: Ce n’était plus un de ces superbes éléphants de Ceylan ou de Pegu qu’il [Dara] avait accoutumé de monter, avec des harnais dorés et des couvertures en broderie, et des sièges avec leurs dais tout peints et dorés pour se parer du soleil; ce n’était qu’un vieil et misérable animal tout sale et tout vilain. (121) It wasn’t one of those superb elephants from Ceylon or Pegu that Dara was accustomed to riding, with golden harnesses and brocade coverings, with seats that were painted and gilded to reflect in the sunlight; it was only an old, miserable animal, all dirty and ugly.

Bernier’s decision to contrast the decorated, fabulous elephant that usually carried Dara with the pitiful creature his brother chose for this occasion underscores that the Frenchman’s knowledge of India goes beyond the events of the revolution that he is relating as an eyewitness. He uses this contrast to inform his readers of the splendour of the Mughal court, dividing their attention between what was and the events he is depicting. Bernier employs the same technique when he describes Dara himself: “on ne lui voyait plus ce collier de grosses perles que les princes ont accoutumé de porter au col et ces riches turbans et cabaïes, ou vestes en broderie; il n’avait pour tout vêtement qu’une veste de grosse toile blanche toute sale et un turban de même, avec un misérable châle ou écharpe de Cachemire sur la tête comme un simple valet”/“he no longer wore the necklace of big pearls that the princes normally wear around their necks or the rich turban or brocade vest; as his only clothing he had a vest of unrefined white cloth, completely filthy, with a turban made of the same cloth, and a decrepit cashmere shawl over his head like a simple valet” (121). This description allows the reader to visualize the disgraced Dara; at the same time Bernier conveys the magnificence that usually surrounds Mughal princes. The reader associates Mughal splendour with decorated elephants, large

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pearls, rich turbans, and embroidered vests, all physical trappings that surface intermittently throughout all four volumes to evoke India and its particular materiality. The evocation of Dara’s capture ends with Bernier focusing inward, away from appearances, to try to convey the people’s reaction to his pitiful march through the streets: Véritablement, toutes les terrasses et toutes les boutiques rompaient de monde qui pleurait à chaudes larmes et l’on n’entendait que cris et que lamentations, qu’injures et malédictions qu’on donnait à ce Jiwan Khan [Aurangzeb’s official leading Dara’s elephant]. Et, en un mot, hommes et femmes, grands et petits (comme les Indiens ont le coeur fort tendre) fondaient en larmes et témoignaient grande compassion; mais pas un qui osât remuer, pas un qui osât tirer son épée. (122) Truly all the terraces and stores were filled with people who were sobbing, and one could only hear cries and lamentations, with people yelling invectives and curses at Jiwan Khan [Aurangzeb’s official leading Dara’s elephant]. And, in short, men and women, old and young (Indians have tender hearts) broke down in tears and showed great compassion; but not one dared intervene, not one dared raise his sword.

This melodramatic scene underscores Dara’s defeat at the hands of his brother, as well as Aurangzeb’s total control over the people. At the same time, Bernier uses the event that he witnessed to evoke the general character of Indians, whom he states are naturally tender-hearted and compassionate. In this narrative, the “génie,” “moeurs,” and “coutumes” are revealed to be an intriguing mix of exotic qualities and emotions similar to those that arise in Bernier’s own readers as they read or listen to the Histoire. The “terraces” and “boutiques” also serve to ally exotic India with seventeenth-century France. Here and throughout these texts, Bernier invites his readers/interlocutors to interrogate the “génie”/“spirit” of Indians, not simply to see this world as “Other,” but rather as similar to their own culture. The second volume published in 1670, the Evénements particuliers, is less organized and less generically pure than the Histoire: it is a hodgepodge of observations and commentary on the Mughal court in the years after Aurangzeb came to power and can be viewed as a conversation itself. With a less precise focus than the Histoire de la dernière révolution, this account offers a more diverse and detailed portrait of the Mughal court and India based on Bernier’s experiences and observations. There is a

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distinctive pedagogical tone that surfaces throughout the Evénements, clearly revealing that the author’s goal is to both please and instruct, following the Aristotelian doctrine that all compositions were compelled to follow in seventeenth-century France. Bernier begins this continuation of his account of India with a description of the manner in which the emperor Aurangzeb received the Tartar ambassadors. At first glance, this might appear to be an odd choice of subject to nourish the minds of his readers. Why would he believe this account of a diplomatic mission of one distant foreign court to another foreign court would be of interest? Throughout the Evénements there are numerous references to other similar ceremonial moments. Bernier seems especially keen on teaching his readers how emissaries are received, what they bring, the varying degrees of honour bestowed on foreign dignitaries, and what the Mughal emperor offers in exchange for their homage. This emphasis on diplomacy can be explained by more than Bernier’s personal interests or the fact that he was witness to many of these encounters. Bernier knows that his audience of 1670, when he is publishing the Evénements, would find much to discuss and to ponder because they have just had the experience in France of a notorious diplomatic mission, one that proved to be embarrassing to the Sun King and showed the unease and indeed ineptitude of Louis XIV when faced with Eastern customs. Bernier designs his text to resonate and be in conversation with this infamous event. Many contemporaries, historians, and scholars have recounted and analysed this encounter between France and the Ottoman Empire, and unanimously agree that it did not go well and indeed was a diplomatic nightmare for the French court and Louis XIV in particular. In the fall of 1669, the Ottoman grand vizier sent an envoy, Soliman Ferraca, to France in an effort to improve the strained relations between the two countries. This, however, was not a complete capitulation on the part of the powerful, proud ruler of the Ottoman Empire. As the story goes, the person who was sent was of dubious status, and was not necessarily worthy of the rank of official diplomat. Members of the French delegation sent to meet him in Marseille and accompany him to the French court were unable to determine Ferraca’s exact rank, and as a result did not know in what manner he should be received and how much access he should be given to the king. Questions swirled around this curious figure as the entourage made its way to Paris. Should Ferraca be allowed to give a letter to Louis XIV directly or should he only have the right to deliver a letter to a French official who in turn could

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communicate its contents to the Sun King? Etiquette was a central tenet of Louis XIV’s court and was used very judiciously as an instrument of power and control. To grant an unworthy emissary access to Louis would be seen as tantamount to admitting that the grand vizier had duped the French king and compelled him to break his own rules governing hierarchy. To complicate matters even further, all negotiations had to be done through interpreters, who proved in this instance not to be up to the task. The interpreter on the French side, however, was supposedly sufficiently adept as to be able to relay a comment by this emissary that has gone down in the annals of history. Reportedly, Ferraca, upon seeing Louis bedecked in every jewel he owned, commented that horses in the Ottoman Empire were more elegant and wore more jewels than the Sun King was proudly sporting.68 These remarkable events were then placed in the forefront of the French public’s mind in 1670 when Molière presented Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, a play commissioned by Louis XIV himself as a response to this botched diplomatic occurrence.69 In this play, Molière satirized the Turks, denigrating in particular Islamic culture. The fact that Bernier decides to open his Evénements, published a few months after Molière’s play, with Aurangzeb’s reception of the Tartar ambassadors would not seem to be coincidental. Rather, Bernier intends to play off the interest surrounding the Turkish diplomatic debacle and his friend Molière’s dramatic representation, inviting his readers to create a dialogue between his own account of diplomacy “à l’indienne” and these current events.70 Bernier’s emphasis on Indian diplomacy underscores how his texts on India are designed to reflect and nourish the conversations of those around him. In order to fully understand Bernier’s portrait of India, it is essential to recreate the conversation with his contemporary public. Bernier entices his readers to his narrative depicting Indian diplomacy, stating that, as an eyewitness, he can relate details “with certitude”: … comme j’étais présent lorsqu’ils furent admis à l’audience devant Aurangzeb, j’en puis rapporter les particularités avec certitude. Ils firent de fort loin le salam, ou salut à l’indienne, mettant trois fois la main sur la tête et l’abaissant autant de fois jusques en terre. Ils s’approchèrent ensuite de si près qu’Aurangzeb eût bien pu prendre leurs lettres immédiatement de leurs mains et, néanmoins, ce fut un omrah qui les prit, qui les ouvrit et qui les lui donna. Il les lut en même temps d’un air fort sérieux, leur fit donner à chacun une veste de brocart, un turban et une écharpe

60  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal ou ceinture de soie en broderie qui est ce qu’on appelle communément ­ser-apah. (134) As I was there when they were admitted to the audience before Aurangzeb, I can relate the details with certainty. From afar they did the salaam, or the Indian greeting, touching their hand to their head three times and bending to the ground three times. Next they approached Aurangzeb so closely that he could have taken their letters directly from their hands, and yet, it was a nobleman who took them, opened them, and gave them to him. He read them with a serious expression, gave each of them a brocade vest, a turban, and a scarf or belt made out of brocade silk that is called here a ser-apah.

Bernier’s choice of “particularities” to include is intriguing, and underscores his desire to inspire conversation among his French public. First, he accentuates the fact that the Tartar ambassadors paid homage to Aurangzeb by following the rules established by the Mughal monarch, performing the “salaam” and giving their letters to the nobles serving the emperor, instead of insisting that the emperor himself receive them. Such detailed protocol was precisely what had posed a problem with Louis’s reception of the Turkish emissary. Because Louis was unable to determine if Ferraca really merited a proper French reception, he decided to receive him dressed as an Ottoman and as he imagined the Ottoman emperor received ambassadors. This theatrical representation was not designed to make the emissary feel comfortable but rather was created with the intention of letting him know that he was not considered worthy of the official French reception normally accorded to ambassadors. Moreover, there was constantly a question regarding what to do with the letter sent by Constantinople for Louis XIV. Ferraca insisted that he had to give it to Louis himself. Louis, however, refused and would only receive it from one of his nobles because he was not sure the emissary was an official ambassador. Bernier’s description thus seems designed to bring this embarrassing event back into the minds of his readers, as he draws parallels between the Mughal court and that of Louis XIV. Bernier focuses attention on the “salaam” and the letter by commenting on the Tartar ambassadors’ reaction to the audience: Ils sortirent fort joyeux et contents de cette audience, car ils ne s’étaient guère mis en peine de ce qu’ils étaient obligés de faire le salam à l’indienne, quoiqu’il ressente un peu l’esclave, et ne s’étaient guère piqués de ce que

Worldly Encounters  61 le roi ne prit pas leurs lettres de leur main. … il est vrai qu’en vain ils ­eussent prétendu de ne saluer qu’à la façon de leur pays et de donner euxmêmes leurs lettres au roi en main propre, car cela n’appartient qu’aux ambassadeurs de Perse et on ne leur accorde même cette faveur qu’avec beaucoup de difficulté. (135) They left very happy and contented from this audience, because they were not bothered by the fact that they had been obliged to bow like the Indians, even though it might make them appear subservient, and they were not disturbed that the king didn’t take the letters from them himself. … it is true that they didn’t really have a choice for only Persian ambassadors can give letters directly to the king and this favour is only given to them with a great deal of reluctance.

This commentary on the Tartars’ behaviour would seem to be a condemnation of the Turkish emissary’s comportment while in France. But this passage would also resonate differently with some of Bernier’s readers who might be aware of the behaviour of two French emissaries sent by Colbert to Aurangzeb. This passage in the Evénements echoes Bernier’s instructions in a document he wrote in 1668 to the directors of the Compagnie des Indes regarding how business should be conducted in India. Given the similarities in context, one can imagine Bernier referring to this account and the events it depicts in his conversations with the readers/interlocutors of Les Evénements. As Bernier was waiting for passage on a ship to return to France, François Caron arrived in Surat as an emissary sent by Colbert to negotiate for the French East India Company.71 Upon meeting Bernier, Caron realized that the traveller was a gold mine of experience and questioned him about India, the Mughal court, and how business should be conducted, among other subjects.72 Caron compelled Bernier to compose a detailed document, in which Bernier urges the directors of the French company to forget, and to try to make the Indians forget, what he calls the Beber and La Boulaye affair, stating, je serais d’avis qu’on n’en parlât pas du tout et que même on désapprouvât fort en général toute leur conduite de gens qui ne savaient pas bien les choses, qui étaient trop jeunes et outrepassaient les ordres qu’on leur avait donnés, quoique en effet ce soit peut-être le contraire. … il faudra dissimuler adroitement et s’en tenir toujours à dire en général qu’ils se sont mal conduits.73

62  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal I would be of the opinion that we don’t speak about this at all, and that we condemn their entire behaviour which can be attributed to the fact that they didn’t know how to behave, they were too young, and they didn’t obey the orders they had been given, although in reality the situation was perhaps exactly the opposite. … We should cover this over and maintain that they behaved badly.

Bernier was referring to the visit in 1665 of La Boulaye and Beber, who arrived as emissaries of the newly created Compagnie des Indes with the desire to establish trading relations with the Mughal Empire. La Boulaye insisted that he be received by the emperor Aurangzeb himself and that he be allowed to give him the diplomatic letter directly. Both men also considered themselves too dignified and of too great importance, given that they were there at the demand of the great court of Louis XIV, to perform the “salaam.” Bernier and Tavernier both condemned this behaviour and felt that it had the potential to severely damage the relations between the two countries. Due to their long experience at the Mughal court, they had developed an attitude that encouraged compliance to local custom rather than the arrogant demeanour embodied by La Boulaye and his entourage. In detailing the actions of the Tartar ambassadors, Bernier is thus offering a lesson on how the French should have behaved at the Mughal court, a lesson that comes out of the conversation between Bernier, his readers, and their particular context. India is portrayed in such a way as to underscore the similarity between its protocols and those of Bernier’s native court. In his instructions on how to conduct business in India, Bernier thus brings up the two faux pas of the to-be-forgotten emissaries: their insistence on giving the letter directly and their refusal to perform the salaam. In both instances Bernier suggests following Indian protocol and specifies that the only foreigners who do not are the Persian ambassadors, and that is because they are not trying to obtain something from the Mughal emperor, like the French and other Europeans are, but rather are simply there “par honneur.”74 The relationship between Persia and India is elevated above that between France and les Indes orientales. Even more striking, France in this description merits no special consideration from an India that is as revered by Persia as France hopes to be by the world. Bernier uses his various texts to instruct future negotiators to adhere to Mughal and Indian diplomatic custom and to not think that they should be exempt simply because they come from the court of Louis XIV. He also conveys a particular attitude

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towards the Mughal court. Through reading and discussing Bernier’s Evénements, readers/interlocutors understand this Mughal court to be on a par with the French court. While Bernier could never say such a seditious remark openly, he constructs his text to be in dialogue with his other narratives, as well as with his salon conversations, thus creating a particular image of India that is the product of his interaction with his seventeenth-century public. In the Evénements, Bernier also describes at great length the gifts that are offered to the Mughal emperor. In other texts Bernier and Tavernier refer to the embarrassing faux pas committed by La Boulaye who, much to Bernier’s and Tavernier’s horror, did not bring anything, somehow believing that the mere fact that he, an emissary of France’s Sun King, would deign to present himself at the Mughal court was more than sufficient.75 In the Evénements, Bernier meticulously enumerates the gifts offered by the Tartars: boxes of lapis lazuli, long-haired camels, numerous beautiful horses, camels laden with fresh fruits such as apples, pears, grapes, and melons, and others with dried fruits such as prunes from Bukhara, apricots, kichmiches, which Bernier specifies are seedless grapes, and other types of raisins. Bernier describes the emperor’s reaction, stating that Aurangzeb “ne manqua pas de leur témoigner qu’il était très satisfait de la générosité des khans”/“Aurangzeb didn’t forget to express to them that he was very satisfied with the generosity of the noblemen” (134–5). The ambassadors stay at court for four months. When they leave Aurangzeb gives them presents to take back to their country gifts that Bernier again carefully details: Le roi, en présence de tous les omrahs, leur fit présent de deux riches sera­ pahs à chacun et ordonna qu’on leur portât à leur maison huit mille roupies, ce qui montait à près de deux mille écus pour chacun. Il leur donna aussi pour présenter aux khans, leurs maîtres, de très beaux serapahs, quantité de brocarts des plus riches et des mieux travaillés, quantité de fines toiles et d’a’lachas, ou étoffes de soie à raies d’or ou d’argent, quelques tapis et deux poignards couverts de pierreries. (135–6) The king, in the presence of the noblemen, gave them each two rich “seraphs” and ordered that 8,000 rupees be delivered to their house, which amounted to almost 2,000 écus each. He also gave them for their masters, beautiful “serapahs,” many richly worked brocades, a large quantity of fine fabrics and silks with gold and silver threadwork, some carpets and two daggers covered with precious gems.

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Bernier’s description of the gift exchange is not simply to instruct his countrymen how to behave in India. He is inspiring a critique of Louis XIV’s diplomatic ventures in India as well as on his own turf. Bernier uses his description of the diplomatic scene at the Mughal court to give a sense of the opulence of the Mughal court and a precise rendering of Indian material culture. Throughout all his texts, the luxurious fabrics that were so coveted by Europeans at the time are constantly present, as are references to the precious gems that were also in abundance (Plate 9). Bernier depicts an air of refinement that permeates India and its various cultures, and that finds expression in its fabrics, jewels, and customs. Whereas the Histoire primarily focused on the politics and often cruelty of the war of succession, the Evénements complements this evocation of India as Bernier experienced it by giving a sense of the mores, customs, and way of life at the Mughal court and in India in general. Bernier can thus be interpreted as using his expertise to subtly inform the French public as well as his monarch how Eastern diplomacy works. But Bernier’s careful detailing of diplomatic rituals at the Mughal court is perhaps also designed to show that this court is as sophisticated and cultured as Louis’s own court, and must be treated with respect. Bernier invites his readers to reflect on these Mughal diplomatic scenes and read them in light of those of the French court. The Mughal court appears to resemble their own in many respects, and certainly is presented as being equally worthy of their attention and interest. Bernier subtly instructs his contemporaries how to ingratiate themselves with the Mughal emperor, instead of simply allowing Louis to impose his customs and his will on this foreign court. Even more startling, Bernier seems to suggest that while the Ottoman Empire can and is treated differently by the Mughals, as shown by their ability to hand a letter directly to the emperor, Louis XIV should not expect such treatment. To Aurangzeb, Louis XIV is no different from the numerous other monarchs trying to establish relations with the Mughal court. Such a thought must have provoked a startled reaction from Bernier’s French public, and could have inspired a reconsideration of France’s position in the world order. As the French public consumed Bernier’s narrative and used it to develop their own perceptions, one thing would have been clear: India was not an uncivilized world with nothing in common with European civilization, nor one that could necessarily benefit from European influence. If one attempts to read the Evénements as Bernier’s contemporaries might have, certain elements, such as his detailed attention to

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diplomacy and fabrics, stand out as particularly worthy of mention or as original when compared to the accounts of other European travellers at the time. Descriptions of textiles do not figure as prominently in the narratives penned by Roe, Manucci, or Tavernier, to name only a few. Such characteristics reflect Bernier’s awareness of his particular public and reflect the conversations he plausibly experienced in La Sablière’s salon as he compiled his texts. Other distinguishing characteristics of Bernier’s texts can be seen as deriving even more directly from his interaction with La Sablière’s salon. In Bernier’s narratives, for example, the political realm is not entirely male. Mughal princesses exert considerable political influence not only within the confines of the harem but even in what would be considered the important political events that constitute the official historical record. In the Evénements, for example, Bernier relates how Aurangzeb’s sister, Raushanara, took over for him when he was ill. The emperor even granted her the official seal in order to make decrees in his place (138–9). His other sister, who had been an ally of their defeated brother, Dara, and who remained at their father’s, Shah Jahan’s, side when Aurangzeb imprisoned him upon coming to power, is pardoned by Aurangzeb when their father dies and reenters the emperor’s good graces, as Bernier relates in the following passage: … j’appris à Golconde la mort de Shah Jahan et, en même temps, qu’Aurangzeb en avait été sensiblement touché et avait fait paraître toutes les marques de douleur qu’un fils peut avoir de la perte de son père; que dès l’heure même il prit la route d’Agra; que Begum Saheb [Jahanara] fit tapisser de riches brocarts la mosquée et un lieu particulier où il devait d’abord s’arrêter avant que d’entrer dans la forteresse; qu’à l’entrée du sérail, ou appartement des femmes, elle lui présenta un grand bassin d’or où étaient toutes ses pierreries et toutes celles de Shah Jahan; et qu’enfin elle le sut recevoir avec tant de magnificence et le traiter avec tant d’adresse et de souplesse qu’elle obtint son pardon, entra depuis dans sa confidence et eu part à ses bonnes grâces. (195–6) … I learned in Golconda of Shah Jahan’s death, and at the same time that Aurangzeb had been very moved and had shown all the marks of sadness that a son might have upon the death of his father; that he immediately left for Agra; that Jahanara had had the mosque covered with rich brocades as well as the place where he was to stop before entering the fortress; and that at the entry to the seraglio, or the women’s apartments, she had presented

66  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal him with a huge basin made of gold which contained all her jewels and those of Shah Jahan; and that finally she had received him with such magnificence and had treated him so adroitly and easily that she had obtained his pardon, and had since entered into his confidence and good graces.

Bernier’s decision to highlight women in his account can be explained in part as reflecting his desire to interest his French public in particular, and specifically the salon public that was established and dominated by women. In the conversation that can be created between this public and Bernier’s text, a particular vision of India emerges. In this reading of these texts as a conversation, Bernier’s description of Aurangzeb’s treatment of Jahanara, and her own efforts to reconcile with her brother, mitigate, for example, some of the impressions conveyed by the Histoire that he was a ruthless, cruel, uncaring emperor. Indeed, immediately after explaining how Jahanara was returned to favour, in a rare moment of explicit commentary and effort to influence the reader’s/­interlocutor’s interpretation, Bernier anticipates his readers’ possibly negative response to Aurangzeb’s coup and makes an effort to inspire his readers to view the Mughal emperor in a positive light. Au reste, je ne doute point que la plupart de ceux qui auront lu mon histoire ne trouvent les voies qu’Aurangzeb a tenues pour s’élever à l’empire fort violentes et fort terribles; je ne prétends pas le disculper, mais je les prie seulement, avant que de le condamner tout à fait, de faire réflexion sur la malheureuse coutume de cet Etat qui, laissant la succession de la couronne indécise faute de bonnes lois qui la règlent comme chez nous en faveur des aînés, l’expose à la conquête du plus heureux et du plus fort. (196) I don’t doubt that most people who read my story will find that the ways Aurangzeb took over the throne were violent and terrible; I don’t pretend to excuse him, but I would only ask [readers], before completely condemning him, to reflect on the regrettable custom of this realm, which leaves the succession to the crown unclear because there are not good laws that regulate it, as we do in favour of the oldest, and thus subject the succession to the conquest of the luckiest and the strongest.

Bernier urges his readers/interlocutors to “reflect” on the existence of different laws that compelled Aurangzeb to act as his did. Unlike France, with its relatively precise laws of succession, Mughal tradition obliged possible successors to fight one another for the throne. Bernier’s initial

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public would no doubt recall that France had recently emerged from a civil war known as La Fronde (1648–52) that occurred when Louis XIII died and Louis XIV was too young to rule. Anne of Austria became the regent for her son and ruled with her first minister, Jules Mazarin. But despite these clear rules of succession, war broke out. Some of the habitués of La Sablière’s salon, such as La Rochefoucauld and Mlle de Montpensier, were active participants in La Fronde.76 France could thus not be said to be superior to India with respect to the laws of succession, nor could England in the seventeenth century. England’s queen, Henriette of England, took refuge at the French court when her husband was assassinated. Her daughter, Henrietta, was married to Louis XIV’s son, the dauphin, and so also resided in France and was acquainted with many of the people who frequented La Sablière’s salon. Mme de Lafayette, for example, was with her through the 1660s and even composed her memoirs. Bernier asks that his readers interpret events in their foreign context rather than judging Aurangzeb according to French standards. In asking readers to “reflect,” Bernier is perhaps also inviting them to remember that succession to the throne in France, or other European countries, has not been without its own history of violence, in spite of the supposedly clear laws. Bernier thus uses his text to inspire conversation about his own culture as well as a foreign one. It is intriguing to note that Bernier ends the Evénements by doing precisely what he said he would not do in the “Au Lecteur”: he instructs readers on how to interpret his text and what impression they should have of Aurangzeb in particular and his “génie”/“character”: “en tout cas, je m’assure que tous ceux qui feront un peu de réflexion sur toute cette pièce ne le considéreront point comme un barbare, mais bien comme un grand et rare génie, comme un grand politique et comme un grand roi”/“in any case, I am sure that all those who reflect on this even a bit will not consider him to be a barbarian, but rather a great and rare genius, a great political mind and a great king” (196). After reflecting and reading “toute cette pièce,” the reader is to come away not only with a positive impression of Aurangzeb, but with the knowledge that he is “un grand et rare génie” and “un grand roi,” perhaps even worthy of comparison with their own monarch. This last sentence of the Evénements expresses a theme that Bernier weaves throughout the Histoire and the Evénements: India may be different, but it is not an inferior culture ruled by a despotic tyrant of interest to the French only as an object of curiosity.77 Indeed Bernier suggests that in the comparisons with their own world that his readers would inevitably make, in their

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own minds or in conversation with others, France would not always tower above les Indes orientales. Rather, one can learn from “reflecting” on this culture, its similarities and its differences. Bernier thus offers his narrative to inspire reflection, to please and instruct his readers. His texts are not simply personal reminiscences designed to highlight the particular experience of one traveller. In fact, Bernier distinguishes between the texts he offers, this carefully constructed account, with his “memoirs” that he might one day publish (152). These personal memoirs never did see the light of day, at least in print, though it is possible that they circulated, as did many memoirs of the period. But what did appear in print seems to have been designed to impart and inspire an intriguing, complex, and positive portrayal of the “moeurs et les coutumes”/“manners and customs” of les Indes orientales. The portrait of the Mughal monarch is especially provocative and designed to inspire conversation. Aurangzeb’s portrait conveyed in the Evénements is positive even before Bernier’s final statement. As we saw with the various accounts of the reception of ambassadors, Aurangzeb is courteous as well as generous. In the event that Bernier’s readers are tempted to assimilate him with the oriental rulers who are more familiar to them, specifically those in the Ottoman Empire, Bernier is careful to distinguish the two empires. When relating how Aurangzeb received the Persian ambassadors, Bernier elevates the Mughal court over its more familiar Persian counterpart: “Je croirais bien plutôt (et je ne suis pas seul de mon sentiment) que la Perse n’est guère en état de faire d’entreprise sur l’Hindoustan. … On connaît ses forces et ses richesses, elle ne produit pas tous les jours de ces grands Shah Abbas”/“I believe (and I’m not the only one who is of this opinion) that Persia has nothing over India. …We know its forces and wealth, it doesn’t produce a great Shah Abbas everyday” (158). In Bernier’s account, Aurangzeb is the more powerful ruler due to his “génie” and political acumen. Bernier also humanizes Aurangzeb and dispels some of the stories that had begun to circulate, notably that he was mistreating his father, Shah Jahan, whom he had imprisoned. In Bernier’s account, Shah Jahan did not lack for anything even though he was in captivity: “rien ne lui a manqué de ce côté-là”/“he was lacking nothing in this respect” (169). Father and son even discussed in writing how best to govern. In Bernier’s account, their relationship was not filled with the strife that others depicted, nor was Aurangzeb’s coup a complete reversal of all that had come before. Bernier depicts a sense of continuity, even as he also shows how the empire was changing.

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It is in the context of Bernier’s description of the rapport between Aurangzeb and his father that the author alludes to a letter Aurangzeb wrote to Shah Jahan regarding his philosophy of governance, a letter that Bernier says he himself knows “de très bonne part qu’il lui écrivit un jour à peu près en ces termes”/“from a good source that he wrote to him one day in approximately these words”: Vous voulez que je suive indispensablement ces anciennes coutumes et que je me porte héritier de tous ceux qui sont à ma solde avec cette rigueur accoutumée; un omrah et même un de nos marchands n’étant pas plutôt mort (et quelquefois n’étant pas encore) que nous faisons sceller ses ­coffres, nous nous emparons de ses biens et nous faisons une recherche exacte de ce qu’il peut avoir, faisant emprisonner et maltraiter les officiers de la maison pour les contraindre à nous découvrir tout, jusques aux moindres joyaux. Je veux croire qu’il y ait quelque politique en cela, mais on ne saurait aussi nier qu’il n’y ait bien de la rigueur et bien souvent de l’injustice. … (170) You want me to follow these old customs and that I inherit everything with the accustomed rigor; a nobleman and even one of our merchants is no sooner dead (and sometimes is not even dead) than we obtain his treasure, we take over his fortune, and we find out exactly what he possesses, imprisoning and mistreating the officers of his house so that they will tell us everything, down to the last jewel. I want to believe that there is some political reason for this, but one can’t deny that there is also a lot of harshness and often a lot of injustice. …

Bernier inscribes Aurangzeb’s own commentary about a characteristic of Mughal rule that inspired a lot of discussion in Bernier’s own culture and through the centuries, specifically the notion that there is no private property in the Mughal Empire, that everything reverts to the emperor upon the death of an omrah, the equivalent of a nobleman. In this letter to his father, Aurangzeb seems to be reevaluating this policy as he contemplates change. In this instance Bernier portrays Aurangzeb as a thoughtful monarch who merits the place he forcefully took from his father and brothers.78 Throughout his account, Bernier explores the various facets of the emperor Aurangzeb and his reign in order to give a sense of Mughal and Indian culture in general. For example, he often refers to fact that astrology plays a prominent role at court and in society at large, as

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when he remarks that “la plupart des Asiatiques sont tellement infatués de l’astrologie judiciaire qu’ils croient que rien ne se fait ici-bas qui ne soit écrit là-haut … dans toutes leurs entreprises, ils consultent les astrologues”/“most of these Asiatics are so infatuated with astrology that they believe that nothing happens on earth that is not predetermined in the heavens … in everything they do, they consult astrologers” (165). References to this reliance on astrology surface throughout Bernier’s texts on India. Bernier himself rejects this belief system, but his references to its importance to Indian culture invite the reader to consider why such a great civilization would be drawn to astrology as a guiding belief system. One explanation for Bernier’s accent on astrology is that he uses the attraction to astrology to illustrate a larger point: the reliance on astrology foregrounds this foreign court’s acceptance of diverse belief systems and points of view. Astrology was primarily associated with Hinduism. The fact that the Muslim Mughal court incorporated astrology into its own political and social practices underscores the fusion of these cultures and the acceptance in Mughal and Indian society of different religious beliefs and practices that many travellers remarked upon.79 Throughout his texts Bernier characterizes Mughal and Indian society as religiously diverse, and more importantly, as accepting of a religious pluralism. Bernier relates that Shah Jahan was somewhat less open to a plurality of religious views than his father Jahangir, whom Bernier states “ne haïssait pas le christianisme”/“did not hate Christianity” (178), but was still known for a court that united Hindus, Shia and Sunni Muslims, Sikhs, and Jains, and for the most part allowed Christian missionaries to preach their beliefs and build churches. In a similar vein, Bernier relates that the Hindu ruler Shivaji “respecta la maison du révérant père Amboise, capucin missionnaire, et donne ordre qu’elle ne fût pillée, ’parce que,’ disait-il, ’je sais que les padrys franguis sont gens de bien’”/“respected Père Amboise’s, the Capuchin missionary’s, house, and ordered that it not be looted ’because,’ he said, ’I know that padrys franquis are good people’” (187–9). Bernier’s readers would have found much to reflect upon, and to discuss in the salon where they may well have been reading the text aloud. Memories of their own wars of religion pitting Protestants against Catholics were still very much a part of the social fabric. A country in which numerous beliefs were allowed to flourish could have appeared quite puzzling but also intriguing. Bernier’s decision to discuss religious diversity at length can be attributed to his desire to engage with La Sablière’s salon public in particular. As we have

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seen, La Sablière herself was Protestant, but she was known for uniting people of various beliefs. Bernier’s attention to religion in India and his particular accent on religious pluralism mirrors his salon public’s concerns. Such interests thus affected Bernier’s text and, consequently, France’s perception of the Mughal court. Conversing with/about Colbert The intriguing and provocative assessment of the Mughal Empire offered by Bernier at the end of the Evénements also serves another purpose: to suggest a particular reading of the letter than follows the Histoire and the Evénements, the letter to which Bernier alludes in the “Au Lecteur.” The only letter Bernier decided to publish with the Evénements, the one addressed to Colbert, is a particularly provocative example of how Bernier uses his texts on India to stimulate conversation. Bernier invites or, I would argue, demands that his readers interpret this letter in light of the texts that precede it and what they already know of India through other texts and conversations generated by his texts and his presence. Critics and commentators through the centuries, particularly those who see Bernier as merely an informant for Louis XIV and Colbert, have frequently focused exclusively on this letter more than any other of Bernier’s texts on India because it is addressed to Colbert. According to the standard interpretation of this letter, in an effort to curry favour and obtain a pension, Bernier criticizes the Mughal Empire and advances that it could never be as great as France because there is no concept of private property. Many critics use this letter to discredit Bernier, asserting that he really did not understand the working of the Mughal court. Others find his portrayal of the practice’s economic underpinning, as explained to Colbert, simply confusing. Voltaire, who used Bernier as his source for his own discussion of India in the Essai sur les moeurs et l’esprit des nations, for example, is among those who has difficulty reconciling some of what Bernier says in the Colbert letter with other things he has learned about India. When reading Bernier, as well as other texts, Voltaire writes, “In India, says Bernier, there are none but great lords and poor wretches. How is this to be reconciled with the opulence of those merchants, who, as Tavernier says, are worth so many millions of livres.”80 As we have seen, Tavernier is not the only one who portrays the opulence of merchants in India. Bernier, too, describes others besides the emperor himself as possessing great wealth. In fact, Bernier’s portrayal of India in

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his letter to Colbert is in many ways at odds with what he says about India in his other writings. Bernier’s salon public in particular would have interpreted the Colbert letter very differently from readers today, especially given that they would have read it in the context Bernier constructed for it. Rather than reading the Colbert letter on its own as a singular, definitive assessment of the structure of the Mughal Empire, Bernier’s seventeenth-century readers would have interpreted this text in light of the two lengthy narratives that precede it. When they encountered the name Aurangzeb, for example, they would have been drawn back to the descriptions of the emperor and his actions strewn throughout the Histoire and the Evénements. In order to obtain a more complete understanding of this complex letter and Bernier’s motivations for writing and publishing this missive, it is necessary to interpret the Colbert letter as an addition to the conversation about India that Bernier creates with his other texts. What are some of the conversations that we can construct that could have been inspired by this letter to Colbert when it was read or discussed as an integral component of the textual corpus with which it was published? Bernier begins his letter to Colbert by extolling the minister’s virtues and explaining that, following the customs he adopted while in India, he offers gifts to his monarch just as he did to the emperor Aurangzeb and his ministers. The gift he offers Colbert and Louis XIV is his experience and his knowledge of India. Bernier chooses to begin his account to Colbert by evoking the wealth of Hindustan and the Mughal Court. After the obligatory compliments to Colbert, Bernier launches into his description of India, immediately compelling Colbert to see the grandeur of this unknown land: “Vous avez déjà pu voir par les cartes d’Orient, Monseigneur, combien est grande en tous sens l’étendue de l’empire du Grand Mughal, qu’on appelle communément les Indes ou l’Hindoustan“/“You have already seen on the maps of the Orient, sir, that the Empire of the Great Mughal, which we generally refer to as India or Hindustan, is great in every sense” (198). In French “grand” connotes large, but also impressive, and Bernier, by adding “en tous sens/in every sense of the word,” clearly implies that he views India as both. He describes the fertile lands which, he writes, exceed those of Egypt, not only in agricultural productivity but in terms of manufactured products: “ces vastes étendues de terre … surpassent celles de l’Egypte non seulement à raison de l’abondance des riz, des froments et de toutes les autres choses nécessaires à la vie, mais encore à raison de toutes ces marchandises si considérables que l’Egypte ne

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connaît point, comme les soies, les cotons, l’indigo et tant d’autres que les relations marquent assez”/“these vast expanses of land … surpass those of Egypt not only in terms of the abundance of rice, grains, and everything that is essential for life, but also in terms of all the merchandise that Egypt doesn’t know at all, such as silks, cottons, indigo, and so many other things that other accounts describe” (198–9). It is interesting to note that Bernier here and elsewhere in his texts often evokes Egypt as a counterpoint to India. Egypt, as another ancient civilization, was a point of reference for westerners attempting to understand the “Orient” or the East. In Bernier’s texts, India always surpasses the more familiar Orient of the Middle East. Bernier’s comparisons invite a reconceptualization of the world order. He lends credence to his own observations by referring to other accounts – “que les relations marquent assez” – inviting Colbert and other readers to recall what they have already heard or read about India. Products from India have already flowed into Europe, and Bernier uses his readers’ experience as he portrays India by referring to the work of Indian artisans, the “tapis, brocarts, broderies, toiles d’or et d’argent, et à toutes ces sortes de manufactures de soie et de coton dont on se sert dans le pays ou qui se transportent ailleurs”/“rugs, brocades, embroideries, fabrics with threads of gold and silver, and all these other silks and cottons that are used in the country and that are transported elsewhere” (199). These descriptions of India’s material wealth and culture also harken back to Bernier’s evocation of Mughal culture through visual means in the Histoire and the Evénements. In the letter, as well as in his other texts, Bernier underscores that fabrics were India’s principal export, but they were not produced simply for European consumption. Sumptuous fabrics illustrate material wealth, but more importantly, the sophistication and civilization of les Indes orientales. As we saw in the Evénements, Aurangzeb used them as a diplomatic tool. Bernier implies that the India he experienced was on a par with the France he left behind. While Bernier’s opening lines in his letter to Colbert create a parallel between Indian and European taste for goods and even productivity, in the paragraphs that follow this opening Bernier places India far above Europe with respect to material wealth: “Vous [Colbert] pourrez même encore observer comme l’or et l’argent, faisant ses tours sur la surface de la terre, vient enfin s’abîmer en partie dans cet Hindoustan”/“You can also observe how gold and silver, travelling all over the surface of the earth, end up in large measure in Hindustan” (199). Bernier explains that, while Hindustan may purchase goods such as “cuivre, de girofle,

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de muscade, de cannelle, d’éléphants … chevaux”/“copper, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, elephants, and … horses,” and Indians obtain fresh fruit from Persia and the Maldives in the winter, as well as musk and porcelain from China, in reality Hindustan needs very little, and many of the things it imports “il se pourrait absolument bien passer”/“they could absolutely do without” (200–1). As a result, Bernier describes India as “un abîme d’une grande partie de l’or et de l’argent du monde, qui trouve plusieurs moyens d’y entrer de tous côtés et presque pas une issue pour en sortir”/“an abyss for most of the world’s gold and silver, which find many ways to enter from all sides and almost not a single way to exit” (201). Bernier reiterates an observation that is a common thread uniting European accounts of India. The wealth apparent in India and that was displayed in a particularly spectacular way by Mughal emperors was already legendary in Europe. India had the reputation throughout Europe as a place that possessed what the West desired, hence the foundation of the numerous East India companies established to satisfy this desire, but that needed little to nothing from anyone else. It was a civilization that swallowed the gold and silver it obtained from Western merchants who were blinded and overwhelmed by the opulence of the Mughal court and hungry with desire to possess some of these wonders. As we have seen, Colbert himself was responsible for the creation of the French Compagnie des Indes. Bernier’s accent on India’s wealth in the Colbert letter can, on the one hand, be viewed as the author’s attempt to congratulate Colbert on his economic acumen as reflected in his creation of the Compagnie. Bernier composes his letter to Colbert to draw on this image of India propagated by his own texts as well as by those of other travellers. He does not feel the need to go into too much depth because he knows he can rely on the written narratives that are already circulating about les Indes orientales, and also supplement his written observation with conversation. Bernier’s texts thus say more about how India was viewed by the French and what knowledge they had of India than his actual words convey. In addition, he expects his readers of the Colbert letter, for example, to recall his other descriptions of the remarkable material culture of India. The Evénements as well as the Histoire are filled with references to jewels and fabrics, and the manner in which they are evoked often shows that Bernier does not feel that he is necessarily imparting new information to his public, but rather confirming the prevailing image of India. For example, in the Evénements he refers to precious gems that were going to be added to “ce fameux trône”/“this famous

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throne” (140), clearly expecting his readers to identify this throne as the famous “Peacock Throne” created by Shah Jahan to display some of his immense wealth.81 Such references, combined with descriptions of India as “an abyss” for the world’s gold and silver, thus draw from the prevailing images of les Indes orientales even as they also confirm the image of India as, at the very least, a culture comparable to any in Europe. Bernier goes even farther and suggests that this is a world that surpasses the known universe of European courts, at least in terms of material wealth. But Bernier’s glorification of India’s wealth could also be provocative at the court of the Sun King. Bernier’s decision to begin the letter to Colbert by portraying India as self-sufficient and immensely wealthy, and “le Grand Mughal” as possessing “des revenus et richesses immenses”/“immense revenues and wealth” (201) is curious and indeed rather enigmatic. Why would he believe that the minister and his master, Louis XIV, would find such a description of another powerful court desirable or acceptable, or see it as the “gift” that Bernier says his narrative is designed to be? Bernier does attempt to allay any fears that Colbert or Louis XIV may develop in response to his description that suggests that India is somehow superior to France. Bernier moves from his account of the wealth of Hindustan to an examination of the political and economic structure he witnessed in India and to a general reflection on state power. In the letter to Colbert Bernier explains that the Mughal emperor’s wealth is not only derived from the fact that India itself is such an “abîme” for the world’s gold and silver. Aurangzeb is also immensely wealthy because “toutes les terres du royaume sont en propre à lui”/“all the land belongs to him.” He explains that whenever a “seigneur” or omrah dies, his land and belongings revert to the emperor. In addition to this implied lack of private property, the equivalent of the nobility is required to give lavish presents to the emperor annually (209). When read on one level, Bernier suggests to Colbert that India’s system is not worthy of emulation, in spite of its wealth. Private property is desirable in the French context, and the requirement to offer gifts is a burden. The Mughal emperor may be rich, but, Bernier goes on to explain, there are many mitigating circumstances that “balancent ces richesses”/“offset this wealth” (201). Bernier writes that much of India does not even belong to the Mughal Empire. The emperor must contend with hundreds of rajas who govern their own lands and even have their own armies (202–3, 207, 215). Not only must Aurangzeb coexist

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with them, he often is required to hire their rajpoutes, or soldiers, to defend his own empire (205). Given the precarious state of the Mughal Empire, surrounded as it is by many other powerful states, the emperor must maintain a huge army. Bernier explains that even he has not be able to determine the exact cost of maintaining these people in the emperor’s service, but that it is very great indeed, especially given the fact that the emperor supports not just the soldier himself, but his entire family.82 In addition, the emperor must maintain the harem, “cette incroyable dépense de ce sérail plus indispensable qu’on ne saurait presque croire”/“this incredible expense of the seraglio which is more indispensible than one can hardly believe” (216). These expenses compel Bernier to believe that the emperor may be rich, but he is not as wealthy as some have depicted him in “ces contes si extravagants qu’on en fait”/“the outlandish stories that have been told” (216). It would seem that Bernier’s explanation to Colbert is perhaps meant to lull the minister into believing that India is not as wealthy, cultured, or prosperous as it has been portrayed, either by himself or by others. But in a curious move, just after stating that he does not believe that the Mughal emperor is as fabulously rich and powerful as he has been depicted by others, Bernier gives his personal opinion of what makes a monarch rich: Pour moi, je tiendrais un roi effectivement riche qui, sans fouler et appauvrir trop ses peuples, aurait des revenus suffisants pour entretenir une grande et superbe cour à notre manière ou autrement, et une milice suffisante pour la garde de son royaume et pour soutenir une guerre médiocrement forte plusieurs années contre ses voisins, pour exercer si l’on veut ses libéralités, faire quelques superbes et royaux bâtiments et de ces autres dépenses que les rois ont accoutumé de faire … et qui … pourrait mettre en réserve dans son trésor d’assez grandes sommes pour soutenir ou entreprendre une grande guerre pendant quelques années. (217) As for me, I consider a king rich who, without taking too much from his people and making them impoverished, would have enough revenue to maintain a great and superb court in our sense or in another, and an army sufficient for his safety and for that of his kingdom, and to carry on a fairly robust war for many years against his neighbours, [would possess enough revenue to] be able to bestow favours, to create some superb and royal buildings, and to spend on other things that kings are accustomed to

Worldly Encounters  77 … and who … could put in reserve in his treasury the considerable sums necessary to sustain or to undertake a significant war for a few years.

Following these criteria, Bernier concludes by saying, “ Or, je voudrais bien croire que le Grand Mughal aurait à peu près ces avantages”/“I would like to believe the Great Mughal has these advantages” (217). It seems safe to speculate that Colbert might have been somewhat puzzled about how he and, by extension, Louis XIV were supposed to interpret such a passage. Perhaps Bernier intentionally creates this ambiguity because of his underlying desire to compose a text that can be read on multiple levels by a diverse coterie of readers. When one reads the Colbert letter in its historical context and in light of what Bernier writes in his other texts on India, it is evident that this letter in particular is designed to be read on a variety of levels and in conversation with the other texts Bernier publishes with it. A seventeenth-century French aristocratic reader would inevitably compare Bernier’s conception of what constitutes a “rich monarch” to the luminous example that is currently creating Versailles and waging various wars with his neighbours. In this comparison to the Mughal emperor, Louis  XIV comes up a bit short, although of course Bernier is very careful not to say such a seditious thing openly. While Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, to mention only the most recent Mughal emperors, had all the means necessary to build the Taj Mahal and renovate the Agra fort/palace, as well as wage war in in the Deccan and elsewhere in Hindustan, Louis XIV was constantly being reminded by Colbert that his revenues were finite and indeed that his extravagant expenditures on Versailles and war could have disastrous consequences.83 Louis was certainly not putting money away for any future conflicts, one of the attributes Bernier considers proof that a monarch is “rich” and one that the Mughal emperor fulfills. Even when Bernier turns to what he portrays to be the greatest problem hindering Hindustan, the lack of a concept of private property, his discussion is opaque and designed to raise questions rather than give a definitive explanation of this policy’s effect on India. It should be noted that the first mention in the letter to Colbert of the lack of private property is used by Bernier to explain why the emperor is so wealthy. This is immediately followed by a depiction of the diversity one finds in Hindustan and the fact that the Mughal emperor does not rule the entire Indian subcontinent. The concept of private property might not

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exist in the Mughal court, but it does in other “nations” that inhabit the Indian subcontinent. Bernier remarks that in India, “dans cette même étendue de pays, il y a quantité de nations dont le Mughal n’est pas trop le maître, ayant encore la plupart leurs chefs et souverains particuliers, qui ne lui obéissent et ne lui paient tribut que par contrainte, plusieurs que fort peu de chose, quelques-uns rien du tout, et quelques-uns même qui en reçoivent de lui”/“in this same expanse of land, there are many nations over which the Mughal is not the master, and that still for the most part have their own leaders and sovereigns, who don’t obey him and only pay tribute to him because they’re forced to, many giving very little and some nothing at all, and some even receive money from him” (202). The concept of private property clearly exists elsewhere in India. Indeed, Bernier himself must have known that the concept was not rigorously applied even by the Mughal emperors themselves. Many omrahs in service at the Mughal court did pass on their land and belongings to their descendants. This one seemingly detrimental policy of Hindustan thus is not a doctrine that definitively governs les Indes orientales. This fact does not impede Bernier from expounding on the concept of private property in his letter to Colbert. However, in the letter Bernier deviates from his emphasis on India and wanders into a much more nebulous terrain composed of “ces pays” that consist not only of Hindustan, but of Mesopotamia, Anatolie, Palestine, Antioch, Turkey, Persia and even Egypt (222, 226). Bernier the philosopher takes over from Bernier the traveller. He postulates that without the concept of private property there is no incentive for people to work, the arts cannot flourish, people are unhappy, the land is abandoned, and countries fall into ruin. Bernier puts Turkey, Persia, and Hindustan in the same category in this respect: Ces trois Etats, Turquie, Perse et l’Hindoustan, comme ils ont tous ôté ce mien et ce tien à l’égard des fonds de terre et de la propriété des possessions, qui est le fondement de tout ce qu’il y a de beau et de bon dans le monde, ne peuvent qu’ils ne se ressemblent de bien près; ils ont le même défaut, il faut de nécessité que tôt ou tard ils tombent dans les mêmes inconvénients qui en sont des suites nécessaires, dans la tyrannie, dans la ruine et dans la désolation. (226) These three states, Turkey, Persia, and Hindustan, as they all have taken away the notion of private property, which is the foundation of everything

Worldly Encounters  79 that is good and beautiful in the world, must all resemble each other; they all have the same fault, and sooner or later they will all have the same problems that necessarily result from this fault, [they will fall] into tyranny, ruin and dissolution.

However, Bernier’s remarks in the Colbert letter do not seem to reflect the overall portrait of India that he has given in the Histoire and the Evénements. From everything that Bernier has written about India before this passage in the Colbert letter, a reader would have a difficult time believing that India was on the verge of “tyranny,” “ruin,” and “desolation.” Moreover, in the Evénements, Bernier had previously included Aurangzeb’s writings to his father in which he questioned this practice. So why does Bernier feel compelled to offer such a negative assessment to Colbert? What is he adding to the conversation and why? On the one hand, this critique of Mughal rule, which is focused on the concept of private property, can be read as an effort to deflect the minister’s attention away from any positive portrayal of India that is embedded in Bernier’s other narratives. If a pension were ultimately what Bernier was seeking, a glowing portrait of a foreign land that surpassed his own would hardly inspire this generosity from Louis XIV’s minister. Bernier’s decision to publish the letter to Colbert with his two lengthy narratives underscores his broader purpose in making his texts public. A pension is not the principal motive: rather, he compiles his texts and inscribes other diverse publics to provoke conversations about India and inspired by India. Bernier’s worldly public would not have read the Colbert letter as Colbert did. La Sablière was already supporting Bernier so he was not obliged to write to please her or to obtain a pension, but rather to inform her, and to grant her the knowledge of a foreign world that she and others in her entourage were seeking. Bernier was publishing the letter to Colbert, as well as his other texts, to inspire La Sablière and others to reflect. Viewed from this perspective, Bernier devotes so much of his letter to the notion of private property because he wants to warn of the dire consequences when such a value is menaced. Bernier is not writing to condemn the Mughal Empire, but rather out of a sense of duty to his own countrymen. The French state machine, with Louis  XIV and Colbert at its helm, was trespassing more and more on its subjects, taking over their property, requiring long residences at court and thus separation from their lands, even taking their

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libraries.84 Many in La Sablière’s salon had been close friends with the disgraced minister Nicolas Fouquet who lost his masterpiece Vaux-le-Vicomte to Louis  XIV and was still in prison when Bernier was publishing his narratives on India.85 La Fontaine, Sévigné, and Lafayette, who had witnessed first-hand their friend Fouquet’s disgrace, would certainly have been thinking of Fouquet’s fate as they read and discussed Bernier’s commentary on the need for private property.86 Bernier couches this warning about power and property in his description of India in order to deflect attention from his potentially seditious commentary on his own French monarchy. In many ways the text can be read as a challenge to the political and cultural supremacy Louis XIV was trying to establish in Europe.87 Even in the Colbert letter, Bernier does not depict India as a negative counterpoint to France’s idyllic political system. While India may have its flaws, it also has intriguing characteristics that merit scrutiny and debate, especially within the context of seventeenth-century French society. The two principal characteristics of India that Bernier highlights and expounds upon in his letter to Colbert are the country’s wealth and prosperity and its diversity. As we have seen, Bernier does not limit his portrayal to the Mughal court itself, but goes beyond what was actually a small part of this immense land. He enumerates all the different ethnic and religious groups and their various rulers, even noting that, while the Mughal ruler and his family are Sunni Muslims, many in his court are Shia Muslims originally from Persia. Diversity is a value that Bernier elevates above almost all others, and one that is abundantly apparent in India. The end of his letter to Colbert is a celebration of diversity in general, one he sees embodied by Hindustan: Celui qui jettera les yeux sur les divers pays et royaumes, prenant bien garde à tout ce qui suit de cette propriété des souverains ou des particu­ liers, il aura trouvé la première source et la cause principale de cette diversité si grande que nous voyons dans les divers Etats et empires du monde et reconnaîtra que c’est, pour ainsi dire, ce qui change et ce qui diversifie la face de toute la terre. (231) Whoever considers the many different countries and kingdoms through this lens of the property rights of rulers and individuals will find that [property rights] are the premier source and the principal cause of the great differences we find among the various states and empires of the world, and

Worldly Encounters  81 will recognize that [property rights] are what change and diversify the face of the whole world.

Writing as the subject in a monarchy that was becoming less and less diverse, and more and more absolute, Bernier felt the need to extoll this quality that he and his contemporaries could witness disappearing. Bernier is especially attuned to diversity in India and highlights this characteristic in his narrative in order to generate conversations among his readers/interlocutors. India becomes a source of inspiration for those who actively engage with his texts. Remapping the Mind: Landscapes and Cultural Relativism A few months after publishing the Histoire, the Evénements, and the Colbert letter, Bernier provided his contemporaries with two additional volumes comprised of letters to François La Mothe le Vayer, ClaudeEmmanuel Luillier, known as Chapelle, Jean Chapelain, and François Boysson, M. de Merveilles. It is not clear when Bernier first composed these missives, but the fact that he chose to publish them together as a continuation of or addition to his first two volumes indicates that he intended them to be read by the same general public and in light of his previous publications on India. The appearance of these additional tomes also suggests that Bernier’s first two volumes were well received, capturing the imagination and interest of Bernier’s contemporaries. Bernier’s editor, Barbin, clearly sought to capitalize on the popularity of these works by producing these additional volumes. The decision to publish these particular letters can be viewed as a reflection of the conversations provoked by the first two volumes. Their context thus sheds light on how Bernier’s public received the first two volumes, what they considered interesting and what they desired to know about India. In these letters to his friends, Bernier develops certain characteristics about India that he had presented in his first two volumes. He tailors his portrait of “les Indes” to the tastes and interests of his readers/interlocutors, responding implicitly to their requests for additional knowledge. These letters thus allow us to perceive how a particular portrait of India was being created in this French context, and how this portrait derived from the interaction between Bernier, his eclectic public, and his experiences in India and the narrative of those experiences.

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The first letter in the third volume is devoted to a description of Delhi and “quelques particularités qui font connaître la cour et le génie des Mogols et des Indiens”/“a few specific details that will make known the court and the character of the Mughals and the Indians” (235). While Bernier states that this letter was composed while he was still in India, the fact that he decided to publish it upon his return suggests that he considered it to be a response to general queries and thought it would be of interest to a broader public and not just to his philosopher friend La Mothe le Vayer. Bernier associates it with his first volumes by stressing, as he did in the “Au Lecteur,” that he will use this portrait to “[faire] connaître ... le génie des Mogols et Indiens”  (40). We will recall that in the “Au Lecteur,” Bernier specifically stated that he would reveal the “moeurs et les coutumes, le génie et les intérêts des Mogols et Indiens.” As in his initial volumes, he is thus demanding active readers who will engage with his words to produce knowledge of les Indes orientales. In this particular letter Bernier focuses on creating a visual portrait of India for his curious readers. Bernier’s observations serve to advance the philosophical foundation of this particular letter, cultural relativism.88 As with his previous texts, Bernier’s depiction of India in this letter can be read as deriving from and responding to his salon context. Bernier opens this letter by evoking his understanding of his public’s interests and curiosity: “Je sais qu’une des premières demandes que vous me ferez, quand je serai de retour en France, sera si Delhi et Agra sont des villes aussi belles, aussi grandes et aussi peuples que Paris”/“I know that one of the first things you’ll ask me when I return to France is if Delhi and Agra are as beautiful, as big, and as populated as Paris” (235). “Vous” in this published letter, refers not only to the singular addressee, La Mothe le Vayer, but to a broader, collective “you” consisting of “nos Européans” mentioned in the following sentence. Bernier responds to their curiosity with detailed descriptions of Indian cities and landscapes, even as he also challenges the preconceptions that he knows his readers hold. He juxtaposes what he sees in India with French landmarks and landscapes familiar to his readers, particularly Parisian edifices, in order to advance his principal point: Nos villes, sans contestation, ont de grandes beautés, mais ce sont des beautés qui leur doivent être particulières et accommodées à un climat

Worldly Encounters  83 froid. Delhi, de même, peut avoir les siennes qui lui soient aussi particulières et qui soient accommodées à un climat très chaud.” (235–6) Without a doubt, our buildings have many beautiful qualities, but those are qualities that are particular to them and must conform to a cold climate. Delhi, likewise, can have its own qualities that are particular to it and that conform to a very hot climate.

Over the course of this long letter, almost eighty pages in the modern edition, Bernier describes in minute detail the palaces, houses, streets, gardens, bazaars, urban landscapes, and geographies that make up les Indes orientales. This verbal portrait complements the descriptions Bernier offers in his first two volumes as it adds depth to his readers’ knowledge. As in the first two volumes, Bernier also details the “moeurs”/­ “manners” of those who inhabit these spaces as part of his overall effort to evoke the “génie des Mogols et des Indiens.” When describing one particular square in Delhi, for example, he expounds upon the place of astrology, inspired by the gatherings of various types of astrologers in this “grande place”/“large square” (239–40). Bernier uses the physical properties of India to evoke the different ways of life and various mindsets of the Mughals and Indians. Understanding that his aristocratic French public in particular is interested in architecture, Bernier devotes many pages to descriptions of the homes of the “omerahs” or Mughal aristocracy. He uses these descriptions to inspire his readers to reflect on more than the physical details, inspiring conversations on what can be considered beautiful. In describing India’s equivalent to the hôtels particuliers of salon gatherings, he adopts a pedagogical tone, stating … vous saurez que dans ces pays chauds, pour qu’une maison soit appellée belle, on veut qu’elle soit bien commode, qu’elle soit située en quelque endroit bien aéré … qu’elle ait des cours, des jardins … avec de petits jets d’eau dans les salles. … On veut même encore pour la beauté d’une maison qu’elle soit située au milieu de quelque grand parterre. … On veut enfin qu’elle ait des terrasses élevées où l’on puisse dormir pendant la nuit. … Pour ce qui est du dedans d’une belle maison, il faut que tout le pavé soit couvert d’un matelas de coton épais … les plafonds doivent être peints et dorés. (243–4)

84  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal You should know that in these hot countries, for a house to be considered beautiful, it must be practical, it must be situated in a very well ventilated place … it must have courtyards, gardens … with little fountains in the rooms. … It is necessary for a house to be beautiful that it be situated in the middle of a garden. … It is necessary finally that it have elevated terraces where one can sleep at night. … As for the inside of a house, the whole floor must be covered by a mattress of thick cotton … the ceilings must be painted and gilded.

The repetition of “beautiful” and “beauty” embedded in this exotic description of Mughal mansions forces Bernier’s readers to reflect on what actually constitutes beauty. The physical characterization of India is developed throughout by an implicit collaborative conversation between Bernier the philosopher/traveller and his worldly French public. Bernier describes the boutiques in Delhi, comparing them to “nos rues Saint-Denis.” He evokes food, especially melons, mangoes, and other delicacies that would have ben exotic for a French palate (245–50). Bernier observes that “on vit ordinairement bien plus sainement qu’on ne fait chez nous”/“people observe a healthier lifestyle than they do at home” (25). He describes his experiences with music, another interest of his ­salon public. As in his other descriptions of food or architecture, Bernier stresses that it is different but he does not reject it and has even grown to find it “majestueux”: En vérité, cette musique dans le commencement me pénétrait et m’étou­ dissait tellement qu’elle m’était insupportable; néanmoins … il y a déjà longtemps que je la trouve très agréable, et la nuit principalement que je l’entends de loin dans mon lit de dessus ma terrasse, elle me semble avoir quelque chose de grave, de majestueux et de fort mélodieux. (254–5) In truth, at the beginning this music grated upon me and confused me so much that it was unbearable; but … I have now for a long time found it to be very pleasant, and especially at night when I hear it from afar while I’m in bed on my terrace, it seems to possess something serious, majestic, and very melodious.

As he did in his previous texts, in his letter to La Mothe le Vayer Bernier feeds his public’s interest in court ceremonies. He mentions the

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famous Peacock Throne (264) and describes the splendid dress of the court figures, reflecting his readers’ attraction to the Indian fabrics that were flooding the European market. Bernier’s description of the zenana, especially the yearly markets, are among the most precisely detailed of any Western accounts (268–71). In fact historians and others, from the seventeenth century to the present, continue to rely on Bernier’s depictions for their own portrayals of seventeenth-century Mughal and Indian cultural practices. In addition to responding to his public’s curiosity regarding the geography and architecture of les Indes orientales, Bernier also satisfies their desire to know about the social distinctions and culture of the people. He devotes a few pages to the question that he imagines La Mothe le Vayer will pose, or in hindsight to a question he has already heard since his return: “… j’ajouterai un mot à raison de cette demande que vous ne manquerez pas de me faire, si dans Delhi il y a autant de people et d’aussi beau monde que dans Paris”/“ … I would add to this question that you will not doubt ask me, if in Delhi there are as many people and people of quality as in Paris” (278). Bernier uses his response to advance his principal premise: India may be different, but it is not inferior; in fact India and France have much in common: “Disons néanmoins toujours la vérité sans trop exagérer les choses, que dans Delhi, aussi bien que dans Paris, on rencontre très grande quantité de gens bien faits, bien lestes, bien montés, bien vêtus et bien accompagnés”/“Let’s say truly without exaggerating that in Delhi, as in Paris, one can find very attractive people, well turned out, well dressed, and surrounded by people of quality” (279). Readers can rely on Bernier’s judgment. He establishes his authority by including his opinion that Paris, the beloved capital of his readers, is “la plus belle, la plus riche, la première ville du monde”/“the most beautiful, the richest, the premier city in the world” (283). His taste has not changed; it has simply become more elastic and open to difference, which is the effect he perhaps wishes his texts to have on his readers. Bernier constructs his letter to La Mothe le Vayer to respond to his various publics’ queries, and to inspire them to ponder larger questions such as the nature of beauty and cultural relativism. In salons such as Mme de La Sablière’s, such conversations were the hallmark, as evidenced by the subjects of the volumes of conversations produced by Madeleine de Scudéry a few years after the publication of Bernier’s texts. This letter to La Mothe le Vayer, like the texts that precede its

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publication, is as much a product of Bernier’s particular French context as it is an account of his personal experience in India. The portrait of India that emerges emanates from this encounter between traveller and public, between India and France, and thus has a particular hue not seen in accounts such as those by Thomas Roe or even Bernier’s contemporary, the merchant Tavernier. The second letter Bernier chooses to publish with his letter to La Mothe le Vayer is addressed to Jean Chapelain, one of the most important figures of the seventeenth century.89 The title indicates Bernier’s desire to respond to questions again raised in his salon milieu due to the composition of the group: he says he will address “les superstitions, étranges façons de faire et doctrine des Hindous ou Gentils de l’Hindoustan … l’on verra qu’il n’y a opinion si ridicule et si extravagante dont l’esprit de l’homme ne soit capable”/“the superstitions, strange actions and the doctrine of Hindus of Hindustan … it will be apparent that there is no opinion that is so ridiculous or so outlandish that man’s mind can’t entertain it” (301). Just as he did in the Evénements, Bernier focuses on religious practices in order to reflect the interests of his diverse public. As we have seen, La Sablière’s salon was known for its religious pluralism. This letter can be considered a continuation of the exploration of religion begun in the Evénements. Here the focus is on Hinduism, a faith that was not at all familiar to Bernier’s seventeenth-century French public. Bernier stresses the diversity of the various practices, describing the practice of sati, but also the fakirs and yogis who would appear equally foreign to his seventeenth-century audience. When placed in dialogue with the texts that precede this letter to Chapelain, it is clear that Bernier considers religious and philosophical beliefs essential to understanding “le génie des Mogols et des Indiens.” Like his seventeenth-century public, Mughals and Indians are shaped and moulded by these beliefs, however different they may be. Bernier emphasizes that a civilization’s “génie” is grounded in such belief systems. The major difference between Indian and French society lies in the fact, consistently underscored by Bernier, that India is a world that encompasses a wide variety of beliefs, whereas the expression of France’s religious diversity is limited to an exceptional gathering such as La Sablière’s salon. A few years after the publication of Bernier’s texts, even such a gathering of different Christians will no longer be possible, as Louis XIV imposes a rigid Catholicism when he revokes the Edict of Nantes, the edict passed by his grandfather, Henri

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IV, granting Protestants the right to practice their faith after the tumultuous years of the Wars of Religion. The penultimate letter Bernier publishes would seem to add little to his readers’ knowledge of India. This letter to M. Chapelle on “l’entendement humain”/“human understanding” does not add specifically to his public’s comprehension of the “génie des Mogols et des Indiens,” but it does indicate the larger purpose Bernier hopes to accomplish by compiling and publishing his texts on India. Léon Petit notes that Chapelle attended La Sablière’s salon, which suggests that by including this particular letter in his volume on India, Bernier was perhaps indicating the effect his works were having on this salon public. All his texts are designed to add to “human understanding”. The final letters that close this last volume offer a detailed description of Bernier’s trip to Kashmir, “le paradis terrestre des Indes”/“India’s paradise on earth”; as the first westerner to visit Kashmir and write about it, Bernier is very aware of his unique potential to add to “l’entendement humain”/“human understanding or knowledge.” Many of the characteristics already associated with India in the previous letters and in the Histoire and the Evénements resurface here. Women frequently take centre stage, as, for example, when Bernier opens the first letter to Merveilles by attributing the whole enterprise to Aurangzeb’s sister Raushanara’s desire to “respire[r] un air plus libre que celui du serail et de paraître à son tour dans l’armée pompeuse et magnifique”/“breathe an air that is more free than that of the seraglio, and to take her turn accompanying the magnificent and pompous army” (368). In these letters Bernier takes care to describe in detail how women in particular travelled and details the beauty of Kashmiri women (412–13). This is not a nomadic, rustic assemblage, but rather a cultured court on the move, one that is displacing itself for pleasure and with pleasure. Bernier describes the evenings spent with his “nabob ou agha,”/“nobleman,” Daneshmend Khan, who “ne peut non plus se passer de philosopher tout l’après-dîner sur les livres de Gassendi et Descartes, sur le globe et sur la sphère ou sur l’anatomie”/“couldn’t pass up the chance to philosophize the entire time after dinner about books by Gassendi and Descartes, and to discuss the globe, the earth, and anatomy” (369). This court is as cultured and intellectually ­curious as Bernier’s own entourage in France. At each stop during the journey to Kashmir, elaborate tents are erected using the beautiful fabrics Bernier describes in all his texts (381) (Plate 13). Like the French

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court, the Mughal court enjoys the sport of hunting, even as it travels to Kashmir. Bernier describes these activities in detail in an effort to interest his readers, but also to underscore the parallels with his own culture. The prey may be different – Bernier lists gazelles, leopards, nilgauts, grey cattle (“boeufs gris”), grues, and lions as the primary targets – but the order of the hunt and the pleasure derived from subduing these wild creatures resembles that of his French contemporaries. The “génie”/“character” of the Indians has traits in common with that of the French. Bernier encourages his readers to discuss differences but not to reject them as simply too foreign to provide fodder for a presumably enlightened Western court like Louis’s Versailles. When he arrives in Kashmir itself and its capital, he focuses attention on the luxurious gardens and fountains, as well as the food, especially the fruit. While Bernier draws parallels with his own milieu in order to inspire conversation, he also offers his readers a meticulously crafted account that nourishes the imagination of his contemporaries with elements that can defy comprehension. For example, Bernier shares his amazement at the sheer number of people accompanying the court as it travels from Delhi to Kashmir. The army alone on this trek is composed of a hundred thousand “cavaliers”/“horsemen” and more than 150,000 horses, mules, and elephants; fifty thousand­camels and cattle carry provisions. Bernier remarks that “il faut s’ima­giner que c’est tout Delhi, la ville capitale, qui marche”/“one has to imagine that the entire capital city of Delhi is on the move” (393–4). The organization required for such a trip defies comparison with anything his readers have experienced or can even imagine. Bernier uses his description of the seraglio and the Mughal court in general to underscore the civilized nature of the Mughal Empire, even as it wends its way for six months to Kashmir. The lodgings may be tents, but they are as luxurious as any palace, and represent an order and grandeur that are in no way inferior to that embodied by European royalty: On concevra aisément que ce quartier du roi doit être quelque chose de grand et de royal et qu’il fait beau voir de quelque lieu éminent tout ce grand amas de tentes rouges au milieu de l’armée quand elle est placée dans quelque belle et rase campagne où l’on a pu garder tout l’ordre et toute la disposition qui se doivent observer. (379) One can easily imagine that the king’s quarters must be something outstanding and royal, and one can see from elevated positions this great

Worldly Encounters  89 gathering of red tents in the middle of the army when it is encamped in the beautiful and flat countryside, where one can maintain all the order and arrangements that should be observed.

This passage underscoring the “order” and the “royal” nature of the encampment immediately follows a description of the exotic animals that are part of the expedition and used for hunting: the elephants, leopards, lions, rhinoceros, gazelles, and Bengal buffalo (379). The juxtaposition of the exoticism evoked by the animals and the familiarity of what would be considered “ordered” and “royal” illustrates one of the main tenets of Bernier’s narrative: India may be different, but it is not inferior and is equally civilized. Bernier thus uses these final letters devoted to the voyage to Kashmir and his description of this “earthly paradise”/“le paradis terrestre des Indes” to attract his readers even further to India. Admitting that he is “un peu charmé de Cachemire,”/“under the charm of Kashmir,” he categorically states, “je pretends qu’il n’y a peut-être rien au monde de pareil, ni de si beau pour un petit royaume”/“I maintain that perhaps there is nothing else like it in the world, nor anything so beautiful for such a little kingdom” (10). *** When we take the milieu in which Bernier compiled and composed his text into account in our interpretation, we create a new entryway into understanding the encounter between France and India during this crucial and fascinating period. Bernier is not simply describing a foreign land; he is imparting his experience to inspire his readers to reflect, converse, and even debate. Of all the narratives produced by merchants and travellers during this period, Bernier’s is the only one that engages its readers in this profound way. In the chapters that follow we will develop three plausible conversations about and inspired by India that we can recreate by following the traces left in works emanating from La Sablière’s salon, and examine in detail how the collaborative conversations about India generated in this salon impacted French thought and literary and artistic production. In each chapter we will focus on one of the three characteristics particular to Bernier’s texts that have surfaced in the preceding discussion: the conversation regarding women and their place in society, the theme of diversity that we will see imprinted on La Fontaine’s Fables and Fontenelle’s Entretiens, and the impact of

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material culture exemplified by, but not exclusive to, Indian fabrics. As we shall see, ideas about les Indes orientales that eventually surface in other texts that arise out of these conversations cannot always be traced back to specific passages in Bernier’s texts, influential as they were, or even to the works of other travellers to India. Rather, I  will argue that these ideas, these attitudes to les Indes orientales, can be seen as the product of the collaborative conversations, such as those in La Sablière’s salon. Sociability, conversation, and texts combine to create new knowledge, the traces of which then surface in other works. These traces point to the fact that these texts were not just the products of collaborative writing, but also were shaped by the collaborative reading and conversations that resulted from the enlightening encounters facilitated in unique ways by salon culture.

Chapter Two

Salons, Seraglios, and Social Networking

Il vit qu’elle en faisait des noeuds à une canne des Indes, fort extraordinaire, qu’il avait portée quelque temps … La Princesse de Clèves 1678 Marie Madeleine Pioche de La Vergne, comtesse de Lafayette

Jean Chapelain, one of France’s leading intellectuals and Colbert’s main advisor on all things literary, was thrilled that finally a fellow Frenchman whom he could consider an intellectual equal was exploring India. Already in his sixties when he learned that François Bernier had set sail for les Indes orientales, Chapelain knew that he had little chance of experiencing this intriguing culture himself, so he decided to live vicariously through this philosopher and intellectual. A prolific letter writer, Chapelain was one link in a complex and intricate chain of social ties that served as Bernier’s intellectual lifeline to France during his twelve years in India. But unlike other interlocutors, Chapelain was not just the passive recipient of Bernier’s missives. Chapelain strove to guide Bernier’s vision and the encounter “le joli philosophe,” as Bernier was known, with the Mughal court, and to shape the future written account of his experience. Chapelain’s correspondence with Bernier not only reflects the kind of intellectual relationship that could develop between two figures and the influence Chapelain exerted on Bernier, it also illustrates the unique make-up of French society in the mid-seventeenth century, at the advent of Louis XIV’s reign.1 Chapelain is the perfect example of what made the French intellectual climate unique. He, like many of his contemporaries, circulated freely between the various cultural venues

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and was involved in everything literary from the 1620s until his death in 1674.2 Regarding him as a well respected scholar, Richelieu chose Chapelain as one of the original “immortals” of his French Academy in 1635, charging him and his fellow academicians to purify and codify the French language and set the standards for all literary production. Chapelain was so highly valued by Richelieu that he was the first secretary of the nascent French Academy. He penned official pronouncements such as the Academy’s critique and condemnation of Corneille’s controversial and innovative tragi-comedy, Le Cid.3 As Richelieu’s porte-parole, he strove to create the strict classical models for literature that would best serve the state, complying with Richelieu’s vision that it was not sufficient to rule by arms, but that one must also seek to rule minds with words. The written word had a crucial role to play in this political vision, one that Richelieu’s protégé, Louis XIV, would adopt wholeheartedly. Colbert continued in Richelieu’s footsteps, using pensions and honoraria, for foreign as well as French writers, as incentives to induce writers to participate in the creation of Louis XIV’s absolutist agenda. From the beginning of Louis XIV’s reign, Chapelain was the point person in this process. It was he who informed Colbert who was worthy of recognition and the coveted protection of the state.4 But Chapelain was no ordinary, traditional academician or political pawn. He was at ease with the learned men of the French Academy and the political forces represented by Richelieu and later Colbert, and often considered a leader in the traditional scholarly world. But as his correspondence attests, he was equally at home with the worldly milieu of the salons, frequenting, for example, la chambre bleue, the marquise de Rambouillet’s famous salon established in the 1620s, as well as what was considered to be the most literary of the ruelles, Madeleine de Scudéry’s samedis.5 Chapelain corresponded with many of the leading worldly intellectuals and writers of the seventeenth century, including La Mothe le Vayer, Sévigné, Madeleine de Scudéry, Huet, Ménage, Huyghens, Vossius, Spanheim, Thévenot, Fléchier, Rapin, La Fontaine, and Colbert, among others. Georges Collas characterizes Chapelain’s correspondents as “everyone who counted in the literary and scientific world … and his influence was not confined to France but shown throughout Europe.”6 His voluminous correspondence underscores his role as mediator between the various intellectual spheres and illustrates how these spheres were often peopled by many of the same figures. Indeed, Chapelain is the quintessential seventeenth-century intellectual figure. He wrote the rules for the French Academy and contributed

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to its dictionary project, but he also wrote La Pucelle, a multivolume epic poem about Joan of Arc and France, inspired by the contemporary salon literature of the mid-century.7 As the century advanced, Chapelain also became more than an active intellectual and writer; he developed into the king’s and Colbert’s servant and even a political agent, to use Collas’s characterization.8 What is clear from Chapelain’s correspondence is that he was a ­crucial link in the chain that Louis XIV and Colbert developed to tightly bind Louis’s political agenda to the world of letters and cultural production. Throughout the 1660s Chapelain had control over who would receive a pension from Louis XIV, compiling lists of possible recipients, which he then submitted to Colbert. He was also at the heart of Louis XIV’s academies – the Académie des sciences, des inscriptions, and the Académie française – used to gather knowledge as well as shape it.9 But throughout his political career, Chapelain remained deeply involved in the worldly Republic of Letters. It is possible that Chapelain frequented La Sablière’s salon, although he was ill and approaching the end of his life when it began. What is certain, however, is that he was close friends and often in frequent contact with many of the habitués of what we have seen to be the most diverse and intellectual of the seventeenthcentury ruelles, as well as with Bernier. Chapelain’s letters to Bernier underscore the existence of a network of worldly intellectuals and scholars intrigued by Bernier’s exploration of the relatively unknown world of South Asia and conversing about it based on the letters Bernier was able transmit back to his friends in France. These letters did not stay in a limited circle but rather, as Chapelain’s correspondence makes clear, were read aloud in official settings such as in the French Academy, as well as in informal gatherings.10 For example, in his first, most detailed letter to Bernier in 1661, Chapelain informs him of the success the traveller’s letters had when Chapelain shared them with colleagues: “M de La Motte le Vayer m’a entendu lire vos deux lettres en notre assemblée chez M le Chancelier et les a admirées avec toute la compagnie, et depuis il les a relues luimême avec autant d’admiration”/“M. de La Motte le Vayer heard me read two of your letters in our assembly at M. le Chancelier’s, and admired them as did the rest of the gathering, and since then he has reread them himself with just as much admiration.”11 In seventeenth-century France, letters did not belong to the private realm. They were often recopied and circulated, and were frequently read aloud to inspire conversation in gatherings across the intellectual

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and worldly spectrum, in addition to being read privately by the intended recipient or others who might receive the missive. There were often multiple copies that circulated simultaneously.12 Chapelain’s correspondence reveals that he tried to add his epistolary voice to others who were writing to Bernier by taking advantage of times when he heard that a particular contemporary was about to send a packet of letters and other provisions to Bernier. Conversely, a letter writer such as Bernier knew that his letters sent from India could also be published, even without his expressed permission, and thus reach an even wider audience than his intended recipient. He certainly expected them to circulate. In fact, Chapelain uses his first letter to introduce Bernier to Melchi­ sédech Thévenot, who at the time was publishing many accounts of travellers and who was delighted to publish some of Bernier’s letters when they arrived in France, beginning in 1661, while Bernier was still at the Mughal court. Thévenot had one of the most famous cabinets de curiosités, a kind of private museum, of the century. Chapelain uses his first letter to Bernier to connect these two intellectuals: M. Thévenot … est un de mes amis intimes, très homme d’honneur, très savant, homme qui n’ignore aucune des langues de l’Europe qu’il a courue dix ans durant, et qui a rapporté mille curiosités de livres et d’arts, dont son cabinet est rempli. Je vous ai concilié cette excellente personne; et pour vous le témoigner, il vous écrit et par quelques questions, indications dont sa lettre est remplie, il vous donne moyen de faire voir que vous êtes un bon observateur. Il vous envoie aussi quelques bijoux et quelques bagatelles de peu de conte de delà, mais qui pourront servir à vous faire votre cour delà auprès des personnes de qualité curieuses. Il lui faudra montrer gratitude de sa générosité par votre réponse, et lui complaire en ce qu’il désira de vous, surtout pour cette colonne antique, prochaine de Delhi d’une lieue, et que les mémoires anglais comptent entre les merveilles du monde. (2: 170–1)13 M. Thévenot … is one of my closest friends, a very honourable and learned man who does not ignore a single language of Europe, which he has explored for the past ten years, and who has brought back thousands of interesting books and curiosities that fill his study [cabinet]. I recommended you to this excellent person; and to prove this to you, he has written to you with some questions, with which his letter is filled, and he thus gives you the possibility to show that you are a good observer. He also sends you some jewels and a few baubles, that you can use to court some

Salons, Seraglios, and Social Networking 95 intriguing people of quality. You should show your gratitude to him by responding, and by doing what he asks of you, especially regarding that antique column, near Delhi, the one that English memoirs count among the marvels of the world.

As is clear from the above, Chapelain uses his letter to Bernier in part to create a new intellectual circle of people in France interested in India and to find ways to disseminate the first-hand knowledge that Bernier can offer them. Chapelain, as the hub of an elaborate wheel of intellectuals and interested mondains, even instructs Bernier as to where to send his missives. “Quand vous nous écrivez”/“when you write to us,” he says, send your letters to M. de Monmor, M. Thévenot, and/or M. de La Cambrae.”14 Addressing his package to numerous recipients will ensure that at least one will reach its destination. He encourages Bernier to accept his none-too-subtle invitation to contribute his knowledge to this circle – Bernier seems to have little choice but to accept the renowned academician’s proposition – by informing Bernier that Thévenot is sending Bernier gifts that he can use at the Mughal court, “auprès des personnes de qualité curieuses.” These material goods are offered in exchange for knowledge: Bernier can use these “bagatelles” to ingratiate himself with “people of quality” who in turn can help him learn about India and thus allow him to satisfy the curiosity of people such as Thévenot about things such as “cette colonne antique” mentioned in “mémoires anglais.”15 Reading Chapelain’s correspondence, one is plunged into a stimulating milieu that is intensely curious about les Indes orientales and very excited to have someone of Bernier’s distinction and calibre whom they can trust to get to the truth of these “merveilles du monde” that figure in other accounts such as the “mémoires anglais” to which Chapelain refers. As is clear from his first letter to Bernier, Chapelain does not know the philosopher and explorer personally. The academician and Colbert’s literary advisor, as well as active salon habitué, inserts himself into the conversation and attempts to direct it by virtue of his own standing in the world of ideas and his ties to people such as M.  de Merveilles, to whom Bernier’s first letters were addressed. This is a world that is already receiving information about India. Chapelain refers repeatedly, and often disparagingly, to other accounts such as those by Thomas Roe and those of “marchands ignares”/“ignorant merchants” and “missionnaires intéressés”/“self-interested missionaries” (2: 221; 20 April 1662). As Chapelain often reminds Bernier, his

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correspondents and the intellectual and worldly milieu in general are expecting something new from the traveller/philosopher because of who he is. Chapelain sees Bernier as a unique opportunity to get the “real” story about this fabled place and court, and he uses his letters to flatter Bernier and impress upon him that it is indeed his duty as a fellow intellectual not only to share his experiences but also to write his correspondence for circulation so that his letters can be compared with what others whom Chapelain considers as less qualified have said. Chapelain hopes that Bernier’s account, as the work of a truly worthy intellectual, can emerge as more trustworthy, objective, disinterested, and truthful.16 Chapelain’s first letter to Bernier opens with a long, flattering description of Chapelain’s view of this particular traveller and his activities in India. Chapelain compliments Bernier for his courage, particularly for having undertaken this hazardous journey purely for the sake of knowledge: Je vous dirai avant toutes choses que, par dessus vos talents naturels et vos sciences acquises qui vous font tenir un rang honorable parmi les lettrés, je mets la noblesse de votre courage d’avoir entrepris une si noble course accompagnée de tant de perils et d’incommodités, dépourvu de tous moyens, sur la seule foi de votre vertu, par un motif non pas d’un gain sordide qui de tout temps a fait courir les marchands del Indos, mais pour celui de connaître, comme Ulysse, mores hominum et urbes, et de profiter de cette marchandise illustre qui est si négligée par le commun des hommes et si estimée par les gens de sens et d’honneur. Il est assez beau que la seule passion du savoir vous ait embarqué dans les mêmes peines et les mêmes souffrances que vont chercher dans ces lieux si reculés ceux des nôtres qui se proposent, pour le faire, le salut des âmes et la conquête du Ciel. (2: 167–8; 1661) I will tell you above all that, even more than your natural talents and your acquired knowledge that ensure that you hold an honourable rank among the educated, I admire your noble courage at having undertaken such a noble path accompanied with so many perils and hardships, without having any means, guided only by your virtue, and not out of a desire for personal gain, which has always guided the merchants of the Indies, but out of a desire to know, like Ulysses, mores hominum et urbes, and to profit from this illustrious merchandise [the desire for knowledge] that is so neglected by average men and so esteemed by honourable and sensible people. It is

Salons, Seraglios, and Social Networking 97 quite laudable that only the passion for knowledge has inspired you to take on the same difficulties and the same sufferings those among us who go to these distant lands seek to save souls and attain heaven propose.

In Chapelain’s eyes, Bernier’s merit resides in the fact that he went to India because of his “passion for knowledge,” unlike missionaries and merchants who are motivated by “le salut des âmes,”/ “saving souls,” a somewhat noble aim, or a less worthy “gain sordide”/“sordid financial gain” which “gens de sens and d’honneur”/“thoughtful and honourable people” like Chapelain disdain.17 In all his letters to Bernier, Chapelain cannot contain his excitement that someone he considers to be among such “gens de sens et d’honneur” can tell him and his contemporaries about India. Chapelain considers Bernier unique; an underlying current in his instructional missives to the travelling philosopher is that he owes it to his fellow intellectuals to profit as much as possible from his time in India, and to learn all that he can: Puisque vous y êtes donc et que personne de votre sorte et de vos inclinations n’ira peut-être jamais, prenez la patience nécessaire pour vous satisfaire et vos amis de tout point. Ramassez sur le pied que je vous ai marqué, composez, et à mesure que vous avancerez, envoyez-nous une copie de ce que vous aurez appris et remarqué, gardant l’original par devers vous; et vous aurez tous les ans occasion par les Compagnies de Hollande et d’Angleterre. (2: 170; 1661) Since you’re there, and because no one else of your nature and of your inclinations [or with your motivations] will probably ever go there again, take the necessary time to satisfy your curiosity as well as that of your friends on all points. Gather the responses to the questions I asked you, write, and as you compose, send us a copy of what you will have learned and remarked, keeping the original for yourself; and you will have the chance to send them to us every year by the Dutch and English companies.

Chaplain urges him to take his time and exhorts him not to return until he has immersed himself in the intellectual climate of India and has learned about every aspect of this world. As a worldly intellectual, Bernier is uniquely positioned to enlighten his French cohorts: … vous représentant toujours que vous serez peut-être le seul de cette qualité qui aura été et qui ira jamais en ces pais si peu connus avec la

98  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal capacité nécessaire pour en donner des relations sensées et fidèles, afin de n’en perdre pas l’occasion qui peut-être ne s’offrira jamais si favorable; ce qui vous pourrait faire résoudre à un plus long séjour dans cet Empire-là que vous ne vous proposiez, pour n’en pas partir avec une lumière imparfaite. (2: 172; 1661) … always keep in mind that you will perhaps be the only person of your quality who will have been and who will ever go to these unknown countries with the ability to give a faithful and well-thought-out account, in order to not miss the chance, which perhaps will never occur again; perhaps you could resolve yourself to spending even longer in that Empire than you had thought in order to not leave with an imperfect understanding.

If Bernier takes Chapelain’s advice, the esteemed academician assures him that he will be forever known by posterity for having brought true, valuable, knowledge about India, “capable de vous donner l’immortalité”/“and thus achieve immortality” (2: 264; 9  November 1662). Chapelain expresses his unbounded excitement for this new knowledge about India when he learns in 1669 that Bernier has returned to France. Writing to him in Marseille, where Bernier was staying with his friend, M. de Merveilles, Chapelain urges him to rejoin his fellow intellectuals in Paris as quickly as possible so as to continue à vive voix the conversation initiated by the correspondence: M Chapelle avait écrit trois duplicta de la sienne aussi, où il vous témoignait beaucoup de désir de vous avoir pour compagnon de vie et de logement à votre descente à Paris. Il est présentement aux champs pour sa santé. Je ne vous souhaite pas moins ici que lui, pour apprendre mille choses qu’il n’y a que vous en Europe qui nous puissiez solidement enseigner. Venez donc le plus tôt que vous pourrez. (2: 641, 26 April 1669) M Chapelle also wrote three copies of his [letter], in which he expressed his desire to have you for a friend for life and offered you lodging when you come to Paris. Presently he is in the country due to his health. I want you here as much as he does, in order to learn thousands of things that only you in all of Europe can teach us. Come as soon as you can.

Bernier is the only one in Europe, according to Chapelain, whose knowledge of India can be trusted, used, and disseminated. He must

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employ his experience at the court of the Grand Mughal to “donner au monde des lumières certaines de choses si obscures et si confusément rapportées par ceux qui [lui] ont précédés dans ce voyage, faute de sincerité ou de capacité”/“give to the world sure insights into obscure things that have been so confusingly transmitted by travellers who have preceded him, due to a lack of either sincerity or ability” (2: 223, 25 April 1662). Chapelain offers Bernier even more incentive to return and to join the conversation, explaining that he found one of Bernier’s writings “une des plus curieuses et des plus exactes que j’ai jamais veues”/“one of the most curious and accurate that I have ever seen.” He passed it to M. de La Mothe le Vayer to read and plans to “la faire passer jusqu’à M Colbert, pour le disposer à désirer vous voir lorque vous serez ici, et ensuite à vous présenter au Roi, puisque vous en avez envie”/“to give it to M. Colbert, in order to dispose him to want to see you when you’re here and then to present you to the King, since that is your desire” (2: 663, 25 September 1669). Chapelain’s correspondence illustrates that Bernier’s unique experience of India was destined to circulate from intellectual circles to worldly salons to the court. Chapelain not only tries to manage this intellectual network, in his correspondence with Bernier – in particular his first, detailed letter, which he sent numerous times via various routes in an effort to make sure it reached its destination – Chapelain also attempts to manage Bernier’s experience and vision of les Indes orientales. He wants him to experience India the way Chapelain himself would were he to have such an opportunity. Chapelain’s perspective is multifacetted, reflecting his own eclectic milieu and his position as a member of so many different intellectual and social networks. Chapelain urges Bernier to diversify his own perspective: “enrichissez vous y de toutes les lumières qui vous sera possible, soit concernant l’état politique de ce grand Empire, soit concernant celui de la nature et des arts qui y sont différents des nôtres”/“learn everything you can about the political realm of that great Empire, as well as about nature and the arts that are different than ours” (2: 168; 1661). The “lumières”/“knowledge” that Chapelain, through Bernier, hopes to use to shed light on India concern, above all, intellectual matters, reflecting Chapelain’s own social context. Conforming to his role as a member of the French Academy, Chapelain urges Bernier to learn the language, which he “believes to be Persian,” an act that Chapelain tells Bernier will be useful to him and will make him quite well viewed upon his return to France (2: 168; 1661). On a few occasions in the correspondence Chapelain asks Bernier to bring

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back the books that are the most important and the most highly valued by Indians, because, as he explains, such books will allow his compatriots to see “toutes leurs sortes de connaissances”/“all their knowledge” (2: 168–9). Such books would be considered a “trésor”/“treasure” in Europe, according to Chapelain. These remarks show that India already had the reputation of being an advanced civilization whose culture had the potential to be very valuable among European, even French, intellectuals. India’s value did not lie solely in the material goods merchants were importing. Chapelain asks Bernier to be attentive to language and to writers, and to get a sense of the “génie”/“character” of this foreign nation that possesses a “grande cour”/“great court” not dissimilar to the court Bernier left.18 Chapelain’s description of the literary scene he imagines Bernier to be encountering is not dissimilar to his own: Quant à cette langue-là, que pouvez-vous faire de mieux que de l’apprendre à fond, puisqu’elle a des auteurs classiques et que c’est celle de la cour du monde oriental qui est la plus polie? … Il serait bon de plus, quand vous reviendrez, de rapporter avec vous les meilleurs écrivains de cette nation, historiens, poètes, philosophes, que le roi pourrait acheter chèrement pour en orner sa bibliothèque.” (2: 225, 25 April 1662) As for the language there, what would serve you better than to learn it in depth, since there are classical authors who use it and since it is the language of the most polite court in the oriental world? … It would also be good, when you return, to bring back the texts of the best authors of that nation, historians, poets, philosophers, that the king can buy at a high price and use to embellish his library.

The Mughal court already has the reputation of being the most “polite” of all oriental courts. Chapelain’s expectations of what Bernier might find and report implies that Indian culture values knowledge and the arts and possesses a degree of civilization that equals that of France. Chapelain’s inventory of what would be interesting to a seventeenthcentury French public underscores the diversity of this public and the way the intellectual and social spheres were enmeshed. Academics as well as the worldly public of the salons are embodied in Chapelain’s dictates when he asks Bernier to report literary and philosophical activity, as well as how Indians reason, how far they have pushed their “connaissances”/“understanding of the world,” what morality they serve, their religion, nature, medicine, astronomy, geography, military

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strength, customs and laws, allies, enemies, and how they teach the young and prepare them for war and for the Republic of Letters.19 When Bernier exhausts what books can teach him, Chapelain instructs him to learn from his own experience, to observe carefully, and then to meticulously describe “leurs arts méchaniques, labourage, bâtiments, manufactures, charpenterie, menuiserie, orfevrerie, taille d’habits, fabriques d’armes, fonte de canons, cuisinerie, boulangerie, jardinage, trafic et navigation”/“their mechanical arts, farming, buildings, manufacturing, woodworking, silversmiths, tailors, the fabrication of weapons, canons, cooking, baking, gardening, trade and navigation” (2: 169; 1661). If Bernier follows Chapelain’s advice, the academician assures him that his account will be original, authoritative, and will please the diverse public that constituted the French intellectual and political scene as Louis XIV came to power. Nowhere is the diversity of this pubic and the inclusion of Chapelain’s affiliation specifically with salon culture more apparent than when he urges Bernier to not forget the women: Cela me fait souvenir de ce qui m’avait échappé, de la manière dont on traite là les femmes; si elles y sont en plus grande considération que dans la Turquie et dans la Perse, et si elles y reçoivent les visites d’autres que de ceux de leur maison, car cela sert fort à rendre les langues polies, à cause qu’on leur veut plaire, et à cause que, dans la communication avec elles, les hommes apprennent à adoucir la rudesse de la prononciation, que la mollesse naturelle des organes des femmes ammollit et facilite insensiblement. C’est encore un article à ne pas laisser sans le toucher. (2: 169; 1661) That reminds me of something that almost slipped my mind: don’t forget to examine the way they treat women; see if they are in greater consideration than in Turkey and Persia, and if they receive the visits of people other than those in their family, because this makes languages more polite, because we want to please women, and because, in communicating with them, men learn to soften their rough pronunciation, which the natural softness of women’s organs does imperceptibly. That is also something that you can’t leave out.

Just a few years after Chapelain’s remarks to Bernier, his friend Huet, philosopher, writer, and salonnier, penned a history of the novel in which he made the same claim: the free interaction between men and women, which is the hallmark of salon culture and one of the

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distinguishing characteristics of France in the seventeenth century, is part of the civilizing process and renders a country and its language more “polite.”20 Given India’s reputation as a great court, Chapelain thus naturally seeks an explanation for this civility in the position of women, basing his reasoning on his personal experience. In encouraging Bernier to attend to the status and role of women, Chapelain also reflects the interests of one of his primary intellectual constituencies, the salon milieu that he frequented throughout his life and with whom he corresponded just as he did with the now more recognized male intellects of his day. In fact, just three days after he penned his first lengthy, pedagogical letter to Bernier, Chapelain wrote to the marquise de Sévigné, an action that underscores the degree to which his social and intellectual networking cut across spheres that today we tend to view as distinct and separate, male and female, intellectual and social.21 Chapelain’s world, the world that interacted with Bernier in India and that received him upon his return, would not have conceived of their various social groups as so starkly separate and uncommunicative. As Chapelain’s correspondence illustrates exceedingly well, the French encounter with India in the mid-seventeenth century was unlike that of any other European country due in part to the particular influence women and salon culture exerted on French culture and politics. Travellers such as Bernier were formed by this intellectual atmosphere that swirled around and infiltrated even what we might characterize today as the most seemingly male bastions such as the academies and Louis XIV’s inner political circle. Figures now recognized as the foundation of French classical thought circulated freely from the salons to the academies to Louis XIV’s entourage, sharing ideas through conversation, making connections, exchanging texts, writing letters that made their way to the far corners of the known world and receiving others in return. In no other European country did women participate in these exchanges among intellectuals, religious leaders, politicians, and writers in such numbers. Madeleine de Scudéry, Marie-Madeleine de Lafayette, Marie de Sévigné, and Marguerite de La Sablière, among many others, were not confined to their “hôtels particuliers,” content or obliged to converse solely with other women. They, like their male counterparts, circulated from salon to salon, from the salon to the court, from semi-private gatherings to court audiences. Works penned by men and women alike were discussed in the academies, at court, and in the salons. This intellectual sociability came to be viewed as a distinctly

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French characteristic.22 France, particularly Paris but also the provincial cities, was a stimulating environment that, when it encountered new fodder for conversation, processed it differently. Women, their style of intellectual sociability, and their experience counted. Bernier was very conscious of this fact as he compiled his texts, as well as keen to attract the interest not only of Colbert but of the salon milieu in which he was living. Chapelain’s correspondence thus sheds light on how ideas circulated but also on how Bernier was influenced and guided by Chapelain and others while he was in India. The unique intellectual culture of seventeenth-century France inspired him to experience India in ways that other travellers had not conceived of, ways that were shaped in particular by a French cultural sphere that had a strongly gendered component. Engaging the Salon Public: Bernier’s Particular History In Orientalism in Louis XIV’s France, Nicolas Dew remarks upon a change in the relationship between Bernier and his French public upon his return, writing that “in the transition from the manuscripts circulated among his friends – which are now lost – to the printed text of the Voyages, certain decisions were taken which affected the way the text was presented and received.”23 Dew explains that Bernier ultimately decided to identify “his book with the galant literary milieu, based in polite salons like those of Mme de La Sablière. … It seems clear from Bernier’s career after 1670 that he took his vocation as a salon guest seriously.”24 According to Dew’s reconstruction of the genesis of Bernier’s published text, Bernier “opted for eloquence over erudition.”25 He changed allegiances as he chose salon culture over erudition. But it is possible to reconstruct a different history, one according to which Bernier’s published text was generated out of a milieu in which eloquence and erudition were always connected because intellectuals like Chapelain and Bernier were enmeshed in both worlds, the savant and the salon milieus. In this perspective, Bernier opted to valorize the salon public because his texts were created in conversation with this public, in particular that of La Sablière’s salon where erudition and “politesse” were united as nowhere else. Texts that were addressed to the erudite public alone did not survive. Some argue that they barely existed. Bernier’s texts were generated out of a worldly milieu first influenced by Chapelain and his worldly ties and then by La Sablière and her group.

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It is clear from the first text that Bernier decided to publish when he returned to France, his Histoire de la dernière révolution, that he engages the worldly salon public immediately. Bernier most likely began to conceive of or even compose this project before his return to France and before joining La Sablière’s salon. It is interesting to remark that this traveller made the conscious choice not to position himself as the traditional eyewitness historian and instead composed a narrative that took into account Chapelain’s advice and appealed to all facets of the academician’s intellectual persona, as well as a broad public representing a variety of intellectual spaces. As Chapelain’s correspondence informs us, Thévenot published a small part of Bernier’s work in his compilation Relation de divers voyages curieux. Dew specifies that “these early letters occupied only two pages in part one of Thévenot’s collection. After that, no other pieces of Bernier’s appeared in Thévenot’s series.”26 It is thus striking that when Bernier decided to publish his own work upon his return, he chose not to go through Thévenot but instead chose Claude Barbin as his publisher. This conscious and deliberate choice reflects Bernier’s intention to appeal to and to engage and inform not just a scholarly or political public but to specifically address the worldly salon public.27 Claude Barbin was one of the principal publishers of the worldly literature produced in the salons, especially the new genre of the historical novel. In fact, eight years after producing Bernier’s works, Barbin published the most popular and controversial novel of the seventeenth century, Mme de Lafayette’s La Princesse de Clèves, composed while its author was frequenting La Sablière’s salon and thus in contact with Bernier himself. One wonders if Lafayette could have suggested Barbin to Bernier, given that he had already published her other historical novels. What is certain is that Bernier composed his Histoire to appeal to the same public that sought out Barbin’s novelistic publications. Drawing on Alain Viala’s elaboration of a “galant” literary sphere, Nicolas Dew remarks that Bernier’s “style of language, the epistolary format, and the way the text is presented in the dedications and other paratext can be identified with galanterie, and thereby with a social group and a particular ethos of intellectual activity.”28 Bernier’s choice of publisher and the style and content of his texts are designed not just with the intention to attract the salon public. Bernier uses his texts to advance the literary values espoused by this public. The composition of his texts reflects these values, but also illustrates that the salon public influenced the way he perceived India, as well as the manner in which he wrote about it. Bernier’s engagement with the worldly public is

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evident from the beginning of his published texts. Bernier’s Histoire de la dernière révolution bears many of the hallmarks of the nouvelle historique genre developed in the salons. This Histoire very much conforms to the literary taste of the worldly, salon public and shares many characteristics with the works of salonniers and especially salonnières such as Chapelain’s friend, Madeleine de Scudéry, Villedieu, and Lafayette. Bernier begins, for example, with a verbal portrait gallery that resembles the opening of La Princesse de Clèves and other novels of the period. He focuses on the characters of the principal actors at the Mughal court and looks for reasons behind historical events. Even his word choice in these portraits draws upon the novelistic conventions familiar to his worldly public. For example, Bernier writes that “Aurangzeb n’avait pas cette galanterie d’esprit … mais au reste il était beaucoup plus judicieux”/“Aurangzeb didn’t have this gallant turn of mind … but on the other hand he was much more judicious.”29 Bernier’s language in the Histoire as well as throughout many of his letters, often resembles that of the fictional works emanating from the worldly milieu that surrounded him as he compiled his texts. Even more striking than the vocabulary of these texts is Bernier’s approach to the telling of history. In one sense his account shares traits with the narratives of Mughal court historians, who also composed their histories as stories designed to show the inner workings of the court. It is possible that Bernier was influenced by this style of history writing while he was in India, especially given that he learned Persian and so could access these accounts. But his desire to use this style, and to publish his works with Barbin, must also be attributed to his intention to engage with the salon public with whom he was living. In adopting a style similar to the French historical novels, Bernier pays homage to the French writers, especially the women, who surrounded him in Paris. Unlike France, India did not have the fictional equivalent of court histories, so Bernier’s stylistic choice had a particular meaning and resonance for his seventeenth-century French public, who were not only consumers of historical fiction but the creators of the genre.30 Bernier uses his texts on India to create a unique rapport with the seventeenth-century French worldly milieu exemplified by La Sablière’s salon. He validates and valorizes the concept of histoire particulière, or what I have termed elsewhere “particular history,” a concept that was at the foundation of historical fiction beginning in the 1660s with the publication of Lafayette’s novel La Princesse de Montpensier. Novelists such as Lafayette and Villedieu composed their fictions by taking

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well-known events in French history and writing a story inspired by these well-known facts, carefully weaving imaginary events and occasionally characters in between the lines of the official narrative. These nouvelles historiques explored a hypothetical but not implausible universe of emotions, particularly passion, that motivated people’s actions, a universe that rarely if ever figured in actual official historical accounts. These authors did not simply include history to entertain. They proposed a new approach to writing history itself, insisting that “particular history” was essential for understanding the events of “true” or “official” history. In defending Lafayette’s novel, La Princesse de Clèves, the premier example of the genre, in 1678, the abbé de Charnes refers to this creative process, which had become the literary topos par excellence, stating that new historical fictions such as La Princesse de Clèves recount “les ressorts secrets des événements mémorables que nous avons appris dans l’Histoire”/“the secret motivations for the memorable events we have learned about from history.”31 Novelists were required to use history as the basis for their fiction in order to adhere to the dictates of the classical canon that required works of the imagination to be “vraisemblable,” that is morally believable. The best way to ensure verisimilitude with a moral bent was to pass fiction off as history. The fiction was often so close to history that it was mistaken for history, a characteristic that sparked its own debates. These writers thus transformed a necessity into a method to advance not just a new form of fiction, but a new vision of what history should be. No longer confined to the male-centred universe of the battlefield or to political decrees, these writers imagined the motivations and personalities of the people, male and female, behind these well known events. In fact, the “particular history” that characterized French novels beginning in the mid-seventeenth century had a strong gender component; not only were women writers recognized as the best practitioners of the new genre, but women figured prominently as actors in the fictional events of the particular histories as recounted by these authors. In 1684, echoing other commentators, Saint-Evremond, the worldly philosopher, salon habitué, and the friend Bernier joined in England when La Sablière’s salon closed, described the gendered nature of this perspective on history: “Venons maintenant à ce qui regarde les cours, et faisons reflexion sur les effets que les passions y produisent. En quelle cour les femmes n’ont-elles pas eu du crédit, et en quelles intrigues ne sont-elles pas entrées?”/“Let us now turn to the royal courts, and reflect upon the effects that passions produce there. In what court have women not

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had favour; and in which intrigues were they not involved?”32 Whereas women rarely figure prominently in official history, particular history highlights women as motivating forces. Novelists advanced the argument that only by including this other perspective could the reader truly understand the world’s events. Writing at approximately the same time as Saint-Evremond, Lenglet Dufresnoy identifies historical novels by women as the best examples of this approach to history and fiction: L’imperfection de l’Histoire doit faire estimer les Romans. Les femmes, quoique mobiles essentiels des grandes affaires, paraissent à peine dans l’Histoire…Disons-le encore à notre honte, ce sont ordinairement les femmes qui les [romans] portent à un plus haut degré de perfection. History’s imperfection makes novels more valuable. Women, even though they are essential forces in important matters, hardly appear in History. … Let us again say it to our shame, it is usually women writers who raise novels to the highest degree of perfection.33

These fictions thus served as a way to engrave women into historical memory.34 Bernier’s texts on India, especially the Histoire, validate this concept of histoire particuliere and include women as agents of history. This emphasis on women’s agency at the Mughal court distinguishes Bernier from Mughal court historians as well as from other Western visitors to India.35 In contrast to other accounts, Bernier identifies women as the forces behind “particular history” in the same way that Lafayette, Villedieu, and others do in their historical fictions. Bernier even highlights his particular approach to historical writing in the Histoire. After describing the principal participants at the Mughal court and the war for succession, he explains, Voilà ce que j’ai cru devoir dire dans ce commencement … J’ai cru même ne devoir pas oublier ces deux princesses, [Jahanara and Raushanara,] parce qu’elles ont été des plus importants personnages de la tragédie, les femmes dans les Indes ayant fort souvent, … la meilleure part dans ce qui se passe de plus grand quoique bien souvent on n’y prenne pas garde et qu’on se rompe la tête à en checher d’autres causes.” (53) This is what I believed I needed to say in this opening. I believed I should not forget these two princesses, because they were the most important

108  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal figures of this tragedy; women in India often play the major role in the most important events, even though one often doesn’t pay attention to [their actions] and then one struggles to find other causes [for historical events].

Given the similarity of the vision of history expressed here, Saint-­Evre­ mond’s remarks could have been inspired by Bernier’s text as easily as by the historical novels to which Saint-Evremond was ostensibly referring. Both types of narratives rely on the same perspective on history. Throughout his Histoire, Bernier explains relationships at court in detail, and includes women and their titles. In his description of Shah Jahan, for example, Bernier inscribes the emperor’s two daughters: “Des deux filles, l’ainée s’appelait Begum Saheb, c’est à dire la princesse maîtresse, et la cadette, Raushanara Begum, qui vaut autant que la princesse lumineuse ou la lumière de princesse”/“His eldest daughter was called Begum Saheb, which means the governing princess, and the youngest one was called Raushanara Begum, which means the luminous princess or the light of the princess” (45). He writes of Mumtaz Mahal and the Taj Mahal, the mausoleum Shah Jahan built for her from 1630 until approximately 1653. Bernier’s Histoire de la dernière révolution is thus concerned with much more than its title would suggest.36 Instead of focusing on the latest revolution in which Aurangzeb overthrew his father Shah Jahan to take the throne, Bernier embellishes his account of the war of succession that he witnessed by relating historical events that occurred decades before, with special attention paid to women’s roles in these events. Moreover, he posits women’s activities as essential to understanding the war itself. Bernier’s echoing and validation of the concept of histoire particulière allies him creatively and emotionally with his seventeenth-century salon public, especially the women novelists like Lafayette who penned the most celebrated examples of the genre. His text illustrates especially well that in seventeenth-century France the boundaries between the various intellectual milieus were blurred or non-existent. Bernier’s account of India was nourished by all these intellectual forces, which accounts for the eclectic nature of Bernier’s publications on his travels and experiences in India. In particular, Bernier’s desire to pay attention to women in India, following the advice of his self-proclaimed “mentor” Chapelain, results in an account that would have fuelled conversations in intriguing and original ways among his French public, particularly those who gathered in salons such as that of Mme de

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La Sablière. Bernier’s adoption of this perspective also suggests that he was inspired by worldly genres such as the historical novel as he composed his own texts. Even more important, Bernier’s experiences in India that he transcribed into narrative were the product of his cultural milieu, in which the salons shaped thought. In addition to underscoring female agency through the perspective he adopts on Indian history, Bernier specifically inscribes women into his narrative, thus transmitting a vision of India that has a gendered twist not seen in other accounts. Critics, especially nineteenth-century editors and translators, have often limited their discussion of Bernier’s portrayal of Indian women to his description of the practice of sati.37 But Bernier’s references to women and their roles in Indian society are more varied and are not solely intended to negatively emphasize India’s alterity. It can be argued that Bernier includes descriptions of women’s activities, their spaces, and women’s influence on the cityscapes of India and on its culture in order to create a particular rapport with European, specifically French, worldly culture. From this perspective, Bernier’s inclusion of Indian princesses and empresses and the seraglios they inhabit emphasizes their similarity to the exceptional French women and the feminocentric spaces he frequents in La Sablière’s salon, women who have created a particular intellectual fabric in seventeenth-century France. His text is thus not merely designed to inform his public of an exotic “Other”; rather, he hopes to create new knowledge by sparking conversations about an “Other” that is equal to but different from his own culture. Bernier’s seventeenth-century portrait of India, especially his depictions of women, challenges the orientalist portraits that will later emerge. Indian women and the harems or seraglios in Bernier’s texts defy colonialist stereotypes. Bernier’s texts underscore a fact that many critics and historians ignore even today: Indian and Mughal women are not synonymous with the better-known Ottoman women of the early modern period. The notion of the “oriental woman” is drawn from Middle Eastern culture, not India. While it is true that the Mughal Empire was related to Persian culture in some ways, it differed significantly from its more well-known Ottoman counterpart from its founding in the sixteenth century through the apogee of its power and the period of interest here, the seventeenth century. The Mughal court was arguably more influenced by its Hindu surroundings than it was by its Persian ancestry. Bernier frequently underscores the differences between the Levant, which he himself had visited, and the world of

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Mughal India, which was much less familiar to his European public. And many of these differences concern the role of women in seventeenth-century Indian society. As we have seen, Bernier’s first references to women in the Histoire do not portray them as exotic captives in Mughal seraglios. They, like many of their French counterparts during the French civil war known as the Fronde, are powerful forces of history. Bernier specifically names some of the most important women at the Mughal court, inscribing them into history as he also invites his readers/interlocutors to question him about these intriguing figures. The three principal women who are inscribed here and who appear again in the letters Bernier chooses to publish while a member of La Sablière’s salon are Jahanara, the sister of the emperor Aurangzeb and the eldest and favourite daughter of the previous emperor, Shah Jahan; Jahanara’s younger sister Raushanara, who was their brother Aurangzeb’s ally during the war and thus became his favourite; and Nur Jahan, the wife of the present Mughal emperor’s grandfather, Jahangir (Plate 4). Nur Jahan would seem to be a surprising inclusion in Bernier’s text given that she died years before he even arrived in India. The incorporation of Nur Jahan into Bernier’s portrait of India indicates the traveller/philosopher’s desire to inspire particular conversations about this foreign world, conversations that would distinguish it from its supposed counterpart, the Ottoman Empire. Conversely, Bernier would seem to also wish to create a tie with his own specifically French culture. The choice of these three female figures is deliberate. All three illustrate the particular roles Mughal women occupied. Each story evoked by the name is a thread in the rich narrative tapestry that Bernier hopes to create for his public, not only through the written word but through the conversations sparked by his text and in the salons. Remnants of these conversations will appear in literary works inspired by this complex, diverse tapestry. Bernier’s inclusion of Nur Jahan, Jahanara, and Raushanara is a response to Chapelain’s request to describe: “la manière dont on traite là les femmes; si elles y sont en plus grande considération que dans la Turquie et dans la Perse”/“the way they treat women; if they are considered more highly there than in Turkey and Persia” (169). His treatment of these figures reveals how Bernier nourished the minds of his contemporaries, but also suggests some of the knowledge about India circulating at the time, knowledge that Bernier draws upon as he constructs his texts to develop the European imagination.

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Nur Jahan Nur Jahan provides the ultimate proof that women at the Mughal court are indeed “en plus grande considération” in les Indes orientales than in “la Turquie et dans la Perse.” While a few female figures of the Ottoman Empire were known by Europeans to have exerted some political power, the figure of Nur Jahan was in many ways unique in the seventeenth century, which is perhaps why Bernier was inspired to include references to her even though she exercised her power almost thirty years before Bernier arrived in India (Plate 5) Bernier uses Nur Jahan and other female figures to create a particular portrait of Mughal court culture and Indian society. Reading his texts and analyzing his inscription of women, one also has the sense that what is conveyed through the written word of these texts is just one thread of a larger conversation circulating about India. Bernier calls upon his readers and interlocutors to draw upon these thoughts and ideas and to contribute to the perceptions generated by his words, even as he uses his own text to generate knowledge through its interaction with his public. Since the seventeenth century, Nur Jahan’s exceptional life story has inspired works of fiction and nonfiction, curiosity and condemnation.38 More than one historian has attempted to untangle the truth of her complex, often contradictory, narrative from the many myths and legends it inspired. Ellison Banks Findly’s Nur Jahan: Empress of Mughal India is the most exhaustive and detailed history dedicated to the empress. Findly’s extensive bibliography, which includes many primary sources, illustrates the attention generated by Nur Jahan during her lifetime and beyond, and the fact that she was probably often the object of conversation in India even years after her death, so Bernier would have encountered this figure when he arrived in 1658. Other European travellers before him, such as England’s Thomas Roe, had also described this powerful figure and these texts were translated and published by Thévenot, among others, so Bernier could no doubt draw upon a number of sources for his own text. Bernier’s evocation of Nur Jahan is designed to supplement and play off this existing knowledge of the legendary empress that was embedded in the seventeenth-century French mindset and that was circulating in conversation. Bernier first mentions Nur Jahan at the beginning of his Histoire in the historical portrait gallery he gives of the Mughal court. Describing how women and men often received honorific names, he explains,

112  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal C’est la coutume du pays de donner de semblables noms aux princes et aux princesses. Ainsi la femme de Shah Jahan, si renommé pour sa beauté et pour avoir un tombeau … se nommait Mumtaz Mahal, c’est-a-dire la Couronne du Serail, et celle de Jahangir, qui a si longtemps gouverné l’état pendant que son mari ne s’amusait qu’à boire et à se divertir, s’appelait premièrement Nur Mahal, et depuis Nur Jahan Begum, la Lumière du Serail, la Lumière du Monde. (45–6) It is the custom of this country to give such names to the princes and the princesses. Thus Shah Jahan’s wife, so renown for her beauty and for having a tomb … was called Mumtaz Mahal, which means the Crown of the Seraglio, and Jahangir’s wife, who governed the state for so long while her husband only amused himself with drink and entertainment, was first called Nur Mahal, and then Nur Jahan Begum, the Light of the Seraglio, the Light of the World.

Later, in his letter to La Mothe le Vayer, Bernier again returns to the past as he describes Delhi and the Mughal courts. He evokes Nur Jahan in the same way he did in the Histoire when he offers the following portrait of Jahangir, the father of Shah Jahan and grandfather of the reigning emperor Aurangzeb: ce Jahangir … n’a jamais songé qu’à bien prendre la tasse et à se réjouir, laissant le maniement de son Etat entre les mains de sa femme, cette fameuse Nur Mahal ou Nur Jahan Begum, qu’il savait avoir assez d’esprit pour ­gouverner l’empire. (271). This Jahangir … only thought about drinking and pleasure, leaving the governance of his state in the hands of his wife, that famous Nur Mahal or Nur Jahan Begum, whom he knew had enough of a mind [“esprit”] to govern the empire.

It is interesting to note the way Bernier chooses to phrase Jahangir’s abdication of power: he put the reins of governing in the hands of “his wife,” rather than writing more precisely and accurately “in the hands of one of his wives.” This has the effect of making the Mughal court appear less foreign to a European public. What could be termed a process of familiarization continues when Bernier explains Jahangir’s reasoning behind his decision. According to Bernier, Jahangir judged his

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wife to have “assez d’esprit,” or enough of a mind/judgment, enough intelligence to rule. Esprit is a complex term that is frequently used in seventeenth-­century descriptions and is especially associated with the salon milieu. Furetière’s seventeenth-century definition of esprit illustrates the way the concept encompasses a number of spheres and goes far beyond what is implied by “wit,” the English translation often used: “se dit aussi des raisonnements, des fonctions de l’âme agissant diversement par les organes, le jugement, l’imagination et la mémoire”/“also refers to reasoning, the way the soul functions a­ cting through organs, judgment, the imagination and memory.”39 Esprit is often associated in the salons with the ability to judge literary quality; in this formulation women are often viewed as more capable of judging using esprit than their male counterparts.40 Bernier’s deliberate phrasing legitimizes Nur Jahan’s political power: Jahangir himself judged her capable and gave her this exceptional control and influence. Bernier chooses to include this fact and allies the empress with salon women known for their esprit. Jahangir gave his twelfth wife the name Nur Mahal, or “light of the palace,” and later endowed her with the name Nur Jahan, “light of the universe,” in recognition of her increasing influence and dominion. Bernier calls upon his readers to reflect on what they might have already heard about this figure by referring to her as “cette fameuse Nur Mahal.” If a reader/interlocutor was unaware of this central figure, Bernier’s intriguing reference and characterization piques his reader’s/interlocutor’s curiosity and compels him or her to seek out further information. Inspired by his texts, what might his contemporaries have known or discovered about Nur Jahan? What ideas might have nourished the conversation at La Sablière’s salon? The basic lines of her biography certainly circulated thanks to the narratives of the earliest westerners to visit India. Nur Jahan was born in Kandahar in 1577 and named Mehrunnisa. She was the daughter of Mirza Ghiyas Beg who fled his native Persia with his family when Mehrunnisa was still an infant.41 Her father became an important advisor to the emperor, Akbar (1556– 1605), and then served as the equivalent of prime minister for Akbar’s son, Jahangir, who ruled from 1605–27. The future Nur Jahan was thus raised at the Mughal court at Fatehpur Sikri and then Agra. She, like many women of the Mughal nobility, was well educated. At seventeen she was married to Ali Quli Beg Sher Afgan, an adventurer and warrior in the service of the future emperor, Jahangir. Sher Afgan was sent

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to conquer Rajput princes in Bengal, where he died mysteriously in 1607. Mehrunnisa, who had produced a daughter, Ladli, fathered by Sher Afgan, returned to the court to be with her family. She was appointed a lady in waiting to the dowager empress, Ruqayya Begam. In 1611 Jahangir saw her during the yearly fair held in the seraglio, fell in love with her, and married her two months later. He immediately gave her the title “Nur Mahal” and five years later he increased her prestige by naming her “Nur Jahan.” What is particularly surprising is that Mehrunnisa was already thirty-four years old when she became Jahangir’s twelfth wife. Even more striking is the fact that she never bore Jahangir any children. Often the most powerful wives in the seraglio were the ones who produced the heirs to the throne or who nurtured the male offspring of other wives in the seraglio.42 Yet Nur Jahan was undeniably the most powerful woman from 1611 until Jahangir’s death in 1627; her power was not derived from these customary roles.43 This fact, and her age, distinguishes Nur Jahan from any of the Ottoman princesses and queens who might have been viewed as her powerful equivalents.44 Contemporaries, as well as foreign visitors to the Mughal court, often remarked upon her beauty, but since she was thirty-four this was not the sole source of her power. Bernier never refers to Nur Jahan’s beauty. These contemporary historical records, as well as accounts of foreign travellers to the court during Jahangir’s reign, also all underscore the surprising political power Nur Jahan exercised almost from the very beginning of her marriage.45 In 1623, for example, the Italian traveller Pietro della Valle observed that Jahangir “hath one Wife, or Queen, whom he esteems and favours above all other Women, and his whole empire is governed at this day by her counsel.”46 Amina Okada relates, following Findly, that the Mughal historian Mu’tammad Khan, who left the record of Jahangir’s reign, confirmed such observations, writing that, Day after day, her influence and dignity increased […]. No grant of lands was conferred upon any woman except under her seal. Sometimes she would sit in the balcony of her palace while the nobles would present themselves and listen to her dictates. Coin was struck in her name […]. [and] on all imperial edicts and decrees (farman) also receiving the Imperial signature, the name of “Nur Jahan, the Queen Begam” was jointly attached. Until at last, her authority reached such a pass that the King was such only in name.47

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In addition to empowering Nur Jahan to sign decrees and to have coins minted in her name, Jahangir also allowed Nur Jahan to have her own court orchestra and kettle drums play music directly after the imperial music was played for the emperor.48 She also arranged royal marriages, such as the one between her daughter and Jahangir’s youngest son, Shahryar, whom she hoped would succeed his father. Nur Jahan’s brother, Asaf Khan, was aided by his sister and, like his father before him, held a powerful position under Jahangir. Nur Jahan’s niece, the daughter of her brother Asaf Khan, married Jahangir’s rebellious son, Khurram, who would eventually succeed his father as the emperor Shah Jahan. This niece is well known today as Mumtaz Mahal, the beloved wife for whom the Taj Mahal was built. Asaf Khan and Nur Jahan did not always find themselves on the same page politically, especially when Jahangir died and both backed different sons in the war of succession, but as long as Jahangir breathed, her brother knew that he had to acquiesce to his sister’s demands. Bernier’s references to Nur Jahan’s position at court indicate that he was aware of the history of this particular figure. He could have supplemented his written text with more information, adding, for example, the fact that Nur Jahan’s power was not only political. She was very wealthy and owned vast amounts of land given to her by Jahangir. She was active in trade, using her brother as her agent for her shipping empire.49 In particular, she dealt in indigo and in textiles, the two most important products craved by Europe through the seventeenth century. She “ruled” the city of Surat, which was the primary port for the European trade in cottons, for the British and the Dutch as well as the French. Nur Jahan, like many Mughal noblewomen, had a whole contingent of officials who took orders directly from her and managed trade out of Surat.50 Thomas Roe, England’s first official ambassador who was sent to India by James II in 1615 to try to negotiate trade, was quite frustrated by the fact that his attempts were often thwarted by Nur Jahan herself. He complains about her in his account and accused her of prejudicing Jahangir against English interests. Roe seems especially perturbed by having to deal with a woman, one that he is never allowed to set eyes on, much less meet personally. He recounts in his memoirs, which were composed to serve as a record of his accomplishments, or rather as an explanation of his failure to establish trade, “but I fear he [Jahangir] will not long stay anywhere, whose course is now directed by a woman and is now as it were shut up by her [Nur Jahan] so that all justice or care of anything or public affairs of state either

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sleeps or depends on her, who is more inaccessible than any goddess, or mystery of heathen impiety.”51 Roe lays the blame for many of his failures on Nur Jahan’s power. In contrast to Roe, Bernier underscores her power but does not couch it in negative terms. European accounts of the period often mention that Nur Jahan wielded exceptional power politically, but these accounts also depict a world where female agency, especially among the nobility, was not uncommon. Nur Jahan was one of many women involved in trade, particularly textiles. Dating back to Akbar’s reign, other women owned ships and were not only involved in commercial trade, but were also very active in the business of pilgrimages to Mecca that took place yearly. This involvement had important consequences for all the countries engaged in trade with India. The Portuguese, for example, learned this difficult lesson when they intercepted and sunk a ship belonging to Jahangir’s mother that was on its way to Mecca. Nur Jahan and other women boycotted Portuguese ships for their own shipping after that fateful event, turning to British and Dutch traders instead.52 The Portuguese were never to regain the commercial status they enjoyed before this blunder. Another specific reference that Bernier makes to Nur Jahan points to an activity women in the Mughal court enjoyed: building edifices and creating gardens. In his letters to M. de Merveilles that describe his travels with the Mughal court to Kashmir, known as “le paradis sur terre”/“paradise on earth,” Bernier recounts with wonder his visit to the fabled garden of Archibal, which was created by Nur Jahan.53 His detailed description is a veritable verbal painting designed to allow his reader to share his magical experience, and is worth quoting at length in order to recreate the atmosphere Bernier’s text must have produced among his public, especially the resonances his salon entourage would have perceived in the name Nur Jahan as conveyed by Bernier’s text and allusions perhaps to other similar accounts. En revenant de Send-brary, je me détournai un peu du grand chemin pour aller coucher à Achibal, qui est un lieu de plaisance des anciens rois de Cachemire, et à present du grand Mogol. Ce qui en fait la principale beauté, c’est une fontaine dont l’eau se disperse par-dehors de tous côtés à l’entour du batiment qui n’est pas laid et dans les jardins par cent canaux. Elle sort de terre comme si elle remontait et rejaillissait du fond d’un puits avec violence et bouillonnement, et en telle abondance qu’on la pourrait plutôt appeler rivière que fontaine. L’eau en est admirablement bonne et est tellement froide qu’on n’y peut presque souffrir la main. Le

Salons, Seraglios, and Social Networking 117 jardin est très beau par ses allées, par la grande quantité d’arbres fruitiers, pommiers, poiriers, pruniers, abricotiers et cerisiers, et par quantité de jets d’eau de plusieurs sortes de figures et de réservoirs pleins de poissons, et enfin par une espèce de cascade fort haute qui, en tombant, fait une grande nappe de trente ou quarante pas de long dont l’effet est admirable, particulièrement la nuit, lorsque l’on a mis par-dessous cette nappe d’eau une infinité de petites lampes qui s’ajustent dans des trous faits exprès dans la muraille, ce qui est d’une très grande beauté. D’Archibal, je me détournai encore un peu de mon chemin pour passer par un autre jardin royal qui est aussi très beau, et dans lequel on trouve les mêmes agréments qu’à celui d’Achibal; mais il a ceci de particulier que l’on trouve dans l’un de ses canaux des poissons qui viennent quand on les appelle et qu’on leur jette du pain, dont les plus grands ont des anneaux d’or au nez avec des inscriptions autour, qu’on dit que leur fit attacher cette fameuse Nur Mahal, la femme de Jahangir, l’aieul d’Aurangzeb. (420–1) Returning from Send-brary, I took a slight detour to spend the night at Achibal, which is one of the retreats of the former kings of Kashmir, and that currently belongs to the Great Mughal. What makes it particularly beautiful is a fountain that spouts water all around a building that itself isn’t unattractive and flows into the gardens by a hundred canals. It [water] comes out of the earth as though from a deep well bubbling and gurgling violently, and with such abundance that one could almost call it [the water] a river rather than a fountain. The water is delicious and so cold that one can hardly bear to touch it. The pathways in the garden are very beautiful due to the large quantity of fruit trees such as apple trees, pear trees, plum, apricot, and cherry trees, and due to the many fountains of all kinds and reservoirs full of fish, and finally due to a kind of very high waterfall which, as it falls, creates a sheet of water that is thirty or forty feet long, and whose effect is admirable, especially at night when a large quantity of little lamps that are placed in the holes in the wall reflect on the water; the effect is quite beautiful. From Achibal, I took another detour in order to see another very beautiful royal garden, in which one finds the same pleasing elements as in Achibal’s garden, but which has one additional particularity. In the canals of this garden one finds fish that come when you call them and throw bread to them. The largest among them have rings in their noses that have inscriptions. It is said that the famous Nur Mahal, the wife of Jahangir, Aurangzeb’s forbearer, attached them to the fish.

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Through such descriptions the name Nur Mahal/Jahan becomes associated not only with power but with artistry and creativity. Indeed Nur Jahan was also known for her expertise in fashion and decoration, launching styles that were copied and followed even a century after her death.54 She also wrote poetry in Persian, encouraged other women to write and granted them her support, and even organized poetry contests in the zenana, much as La Sablière and other salonnières did in France. Nur Jahan marked the landscape of the Mughal Empire not only with her gardens, but also with the construction of caravanserails and, most memorably, the tombs she designed and had built for her husband Jahangir in Lahore and, earlier, for her father and mother just outside Agra. The tomb for her parents, called I’timad ud-Daulah’s tomb, referring to the honorific title Jahangir granted her father, predates the Taj Mahal but displays many of the same innovations and artistry that Shah Jahan later used to construct the tomb for his wife (Plate 6). Like the Taj Mahal, Nur Jahan’s monument to her parents is entirely encased in white marble, with intricate inlay work both inside and outside. The encrustation of semiprecious stones followed a tradition of inlaid stone that went back centuries in India (Plate 7). During the Mughal Empire, Mughal lapidaries adopted this artistic technique and refined it, fusing Persian techniques such as “parchin kari” and Persian taste with those of their new homeland. Nur Jahan’s creation is the ultimate expression of this artistic fusion, which builders of the Taj Mahal would continue to develop and refine.55 Bernier’s references to Nur Jahan thus evoke the story of this intriguing and multifacetted woman, a figure who defies today’s stereotypes associated with the life of women in “oriental” harems and those of the “oriental” woman in general. The presence of Nur Jahan in many seventeenth-century accounts of India underscores the fact that the seventeenth-century public receiving these narratives and developing them in conversations were constructing a very different notion of les Indes orientales than the one imagined in later centuries dominated by a colonialist and orientalist vision. When Lafayette or Sévigné imagined the lives of their seventeenth-century female counterparts in India, they would not have only conjured up the reclusive, private spaces inhabited by veiled women who existed solely for the sexual pleasure of the emperor.56 India and the women who inhabited that foreign world entered the French imaginary differently due to Bernier’s texts in particular. Nur Jahan is not the only woman who enlivens Bernier’s accounts. In an effort, perhaps, to ensure that Nur Jahan not be considered as an

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exception in her cultural context, and to stress that he is not founding his portrait on hearsay nor simply repeating myth, Bernier describes the two princesses that played a role when he was actually in India: Jahanara and Rauchanara, Aurangzeb’s two sisters. In both instances, Bernier’s references continue to eschew the typical image of the exotic, “oriental” woman common in eighteenth and nineteenth-century European fiction and historical accounts. Jahanara and Raushanara: Mughal Models When Bernier first arrived at the Mughal court, he served as a doctor for the reigning emperor, Shah Jahan, and his court, and in this capacity he was even allowed into the zenana to treat women, albeit blindfolded. He thus would have had the occasion to learn about Jahanara in particular, given her position as the head of the seraglio after the death of her mother, Mumtaz Mahal (Plate 8).57 Bernier evokes Jahanara more frequently than any other woman and would have had first-person knowledge to add to his account in the conversations he and his texts inspired. In the opening pages of the Histoire, Bernier first mentions Jahanara among the six children of Shah Jahan’s that he describes. He then gives long portraits of each child, composing the longest for Jahanara. Bernier was clearly intrigued by this particular princess, whom he sees as playing a very important role during the war of succession. Bernier was attached to her brother Dara when he first arrived in India. Jahanara supported Dara during the uprising and was very close to him. Bernier was thus very familiar with her and had also heard stories about her, which he recounts in order perhaps to associate his text with the genre of the nouvelle historique developed in the salons. As we have seen, his description of Jahanara uses the same terms that describe seventeenthcentury French women in works such as novels but also La Grande Mademoiselle’s (the Princesse de Montpensier’s), famous published portrait galleries:58 Begum Saheb était très belle, avait beaucoup d’esprit, et son père l’aimait passionnément. … [Shah Jahan] avait si grande confiance en elle qu’il l’avait préposée pour veiller à sa sûreté et pour avoir l’oeil sur ce que l’on servait à sa table; aussi, elle savait parfaitement bien ménager l’esprit de son père et, dans les plus grandes affaires même, le faire pencher du côté que bon lui semblait. Elle était extrêmement riche des grandes pensions

120  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal qu’elle avait et des grands présents qu’elle recevait de toutes parts pour les affaires où elle s’employait, et faisait beaucoup de dépense, étant très libérale et très généreuse. (49–50) Begum Saheb was very beautiful, had a lively mind [esprit], and her father loved her passionately. … [Shah Jahan] had so much trust in her that he appointed her to watch over his safety and to monitor whatever he was served at table; thus, she knew how to manage her father’s mind and, even in the most important affairs, to convince him of whatever she wanted. She was extremely rich due to the pensions she possessed and the great gifts that she received from everyone for the affairs in which she was involved, and she spent a lot, being very open-minded and generous.

According to Bernier’s account, like her aunt Nur Jahan, Jahanara was an influential political presence who could determine the course of events. In her portrait Shah Jahan, however, is not depicted as the weak ruler prone to drink and drugs. He simply has “grande confiance”/“great confidence” in his daughter, which in turn allows her to influence the course of history, “les plus grandes affaires”/“the most important affairs.” Bernier’s description of Jahanara mirrors his characterization of Nur Jahan. Both women exercise their power legitimately, having been chosen for their esprit and the confidence the two emperors had in their abilities. Jahanara, who was still living when Bernier returned to France, is elevated over her aunt because her father as well as her brother Aurangzeb are not portrayed as weak in any sense, unlike Jahangir. Bernier is careful to avoid attributing their power merely to blind amorous infatuation in order to instil in his readers the concept that women at the Mughal court were not the hidden, unknown playthings that an emperor kept locked in his harem.59 Jahanara, like Nur Jahan, was active not only politically but also economically. As Bernier states, she was extremely wealthy; merchants and traders often had to deal with her just as they had negotiated with her aunt, giving her presents, to which Bernier refers, and paying taxes in order to use the ports and comptoirs or trading posts that were under her jurisdiction. Bernier uses his portrait of Jahanara and other references to her activities during the war as the basis of his opinion that women often are behind the most important events of history. In Bernier’s Histoire, Jahanara joins forces with her brother Dara, whom Shah Jahan had chosen to be his successor, against their brother Aurangzeb, who wanted to

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take his brother’s place.60 Bernier relates that Raushanara plays a similar role vis-à-vis their brother, Aurangzeb, siding with him against her siblings, Jahanara and Dara.61 This younger daughter of Shah Jahan, however, occupies a less sympathetic role than her sister in the Histoire and in Bernier’s other texts. Bernier recounts that it was she who demanded that Dara be killed when Aurangzeb’s victory was assured: “Mais cette Raushanara Begum, suivant ses mouvements de haine contre son frère, incita fort Aurangzeb à le faire mourir sans se hasarder à le conduire à Gwalior”/“But this Raushanara, inspired by her hatred for her brother [Dara], incited Aurangzeb to have him killed without running the danger of having him transported to Gwalior” (122). The actions of both sisters add to the general premise behind Bernier’s depiction of the Mughal court according to which women’s activities and influence are not contained within the walls of the zenana, but rather radiate out to affect the course of political history. Such political actions of Mughal princesses force the reader/interlocutor to reassess his/her conception of the status of women in Muslim society. Bernier’s inscription of women seems designed to inspire conversations about women’s power and agency, and to perhaps encourage his readers to learn more about the figures behind the exotic names. Rather than describing the emperor’s presence in the zenana, for example, Bernier instead relates how both Jahanara and Raushanara brought men into the harem for their own pleasure. In the case of Jahanara, Shah Jahan discovered her actions on two occasions and had the lovers killed, illustrating, as Bernier says that “ce ne sont pas des amourettes comme les nôtres, qui n’ont que des aventures galantes et comiques: elles sont toujours suivies de quelque chose d’horrible et de funeste”/“these are not trivial love affairs like ours, which are just gallant and comic adventures: these are always followed by something horrible and funerial” (50).62 The ending of such attempts may not illustrate female agency, but the fact that women had enough power to go against the emperor’s will and try to satisfy their own desires paints a different picture of life in a seraglio, or at least a different facet of it that was usually not found or certainly not highlighted in depictions of the harem. In addition to including examples of women’s agency in politics as well as in the seraglio, Bernier’s depiction of women in his narratives also points to the way they influenced the landscape of India. As we have seen, Nur Jahan was a great builder, and Bernier’s references to this figure might have inspired conversations about her architectural activities. He explicitly describes ways Jahanara similarly used her

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wealth for the public good. In his letter to La Mothe le Vayer, he describes the caravanserail Jahanara built in Delhi: La seconde chose que j’avais oubliée à vous faire remarquer dans la ville, c’est un bâtiment qu’on appelle le caravansérail de la princesse, parce que ç’a été Begum Saheb, cette fille aînée de Shah Jahan dont j’ai tant parlé ailleurs, qui le fit bâtir à ses dépens, voulant contribuer de sa part à l’embellissement de la ville, comme faisaient à l’envi tous les omerahs pour complaire à Shah Jahan. … Ce sérail est le rendez-vous des grands mar­ chands persans, ouzbeks et autres étrangers qui y trouvent ordinairement des chambres vides assez commodes où ils peuvent demeurer quelque temps en très grande sûreté, la porte fermant tous les soirs. S’il y en avait une vingtaine comme cela dans divers endroits de Paris, les étrangers qui arrivent de nouveau ne se trouveraient pas si embarrassés, comme ils sont bien souvent, pour trouver où se loger en lieu de sûreté. (277) The second thing that I had forgotten to tell you about in the city, is a building that they call the princess’s hostel, because Begum Saheb, that eldest daughter of Shah Jahan that I have talked so much about elsewhere, had it built with her money, wanting to herself contribute to the beautification of the city, which all the nobles do in order to please Shah Jahan. … This building is where important merchants meet, Persian, ouzbeki, and other foreigners who usually find comfortable rooms where they can stay for a period in complete safety, since the doors are closed nightly. If there were twenty or so of these throughout Paris, foreigners would not find it so difficult, as they often do, to find a safe place to stay.

Jahanara was known for her buildings such as this hostel as well as mosques, gardens, schools for girls, and bazars.63 Bernier does not mention these actions explicitly in his texts, but given his expressed interest in Jahanara “dont j’ai tant parlé ailleurs,” one can imagine that he embellished his salon conversation with such information about the princess and may have told his public that she also had her own tomb constructed, complete with an inscription in Persian, which was part of the sanctuary of the Sufi mystic Nizamuddin Auliya. She was a devout follower of Sufism. Like her brother Dara and her ancestors Akbar and Jahangir, she believed one could and should learn from other religions. Jahanara’s devotion to Sufism underscores one of the characteristics that distinguishes the Mughal harem from the more well-known version of the Ottomans: women of different faiths inhabited the Mughal

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harem. Moreover when a Mughal emperor married a Hindu woman, often to create a political alliance, she was allowed to continue to follow her own religious practices. The Mughal harem, and especially women’s roles and the concept of women in society, thus took on a different hue than that of its entirely Muslim cousin in the Middle East. Aurangzeb himself was the most fundamentalist of all the Mughal emperors; this, however, did not stop one of his daughters, Zeb-un-nissa, from practicing Sufism like her aunt Jahanara. Jahanara’s inscription on her tomb indicates another of her activities that defined her, but also illustrates the female agency at the Mughal court that permeates Bernier’s narrative and that plausibly characterized his conversations with his contemporaries. Jahanara was also a writer, composing poetry as well as a biography of Mulla Shah, who began the Sufi order of Qadiriyya, among other works.64 She also corresponded with various rajas, thus serving as a kind of epistolary diplomat first for her father, Shah Jahan, and then for her brother Aurangzeb, who pardoned her after Shah Jahan’s death, thus enabling her to play an important role in his own court until her own death in 1681.65 Bernier describes Aurangzeb’s pardon and Jahanara’s own active role in reentering the political realm at the end of the Evénements particuliers: La septième, que lorsque je fus parti de Delhi pour m’en revenir, j’appris à Golconde la mort de Shah Jahan, en même temps, qu’Aurangzeb en avait été sensiblement touché et avait fait paraître toutes les marques de douleur qu’un fils peut avoir de la perte de son père; que dès l’heure même il prit la route d’Agra; que Begum Saheb fit tapisser de riches brocarts la mosqué et un lieu particulier où il devait d’abord s’arrêter avant que d’entrer dans la forteresse; qu’à l’entrée du sérail, ou appartement des femmes, elle lui présenta un grand bassin d’or où étaient toutes ses pierreries et toutes celles de Shah Jahan; et qu’enfin elle le sut recevoir avec tant de magnificence et le traiter avec tant d’adresse et de souplesse qu’elle obtint son pardon, entra depuis dans sa confidence et eut part à ses bonnes grâces. (195–6) The seventh day, when I left Delhi, I learned in Golconda of the death of Shah Jahan, and at the same time that Aurangzeb had been very moved and had shown all the marks of sadness that a son can have at the loss of his father; and that at that very hour he had left for Agra; that Begum Saheb had the mosque decorated with rich brocades, and another place where [Aurangzeb] was supposed to stop before entering the fortress; at

124  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal the entrance of the seraglio, or the women’s apartments, she presented a huge gold basin to him in which were all her jewels and all those of Shah Jahan. She received him with such magnificence and such competency and such easiness that she obtained his pardon, entered into his confidence and was in his good graces.

Given Bernier’s keen interest in Jahanara, as expressed by his numerous references to her, one can surmise that those who encountered the traveller and his texts, such as those gathered at La Sablière’s salon, would have become well acquainted with this particular Mughal princess and would perhaps have seen her as representing the status of Mughal women in general, especially given that the other women Bernier mentions also occupied similar roles. Other women of the Mughal court who were associated with Jahanara could also have become part of the conversations around Bernier, his texts, and his experiences. This salon public could have learned, for example, that Mughal emperors from the sixteenth century on believed that women should be educated, actively hired female tutors for the seraglio, and also enabled the foundation of schools for girls. Although today Aurangzeb is considered the most fundamentalist of all the Mughal emperors and the least tolerant of other religions, his two daughters were known for their learning and writing. Zeb-un-nissa in particular was a famous patron of writers and even held a kind of salon in the seraglio. She possessed a large library and employed poets, scholars, and scribes to produce works for her collection.66 Her sister, Zinat-unNissa, was renown for her learning and particularly for her poetry. Aurangzeb himself reportedly supervised her education.67 Like most Mughal princesses, she never married; she devoted her life to writing, building, and to political activities, serving as a mediator between Aurangzeb and her brothers, for example, and also between the emperor and the Marathas.68 It was rumoured that Zinat-un-Nissa used her dowry to build a mosque in Delhi called the Zinat-ul-Masjid, or the “ornament of mosques.” She had her own tomb built in the mosque during her lifetime.69 In Bernier’s account, and likely in the conversations his experience inspired, the Mughal seraglio was thus not a separate space cut off from the world but rather a hub of artistic and political activity. Women did practice purdah and could not be looked upon by men who were not family members, but this did not mean that they were not active participants in the world outside the seraglio as well as within.70 Travellers

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such as Bernier, as well as European merchants, felt their active presence and influence on political and economic matters and could see the results of their interest in the arts in the various edifices and monuments that changed the urban landscape of the Mughal Empire. Accounts of the Mughal seraglio thus did not define this space uniquely in sexualized terms. This female space requires a reconceptionalization of the notion of “private” and “public,” much as the seventeenth-century French salon does. Located in the particular space in between these concepts, the Mughal princesses in these accounts and the conversations they might have inspired offer an alternative perspective on the seraglio and “oriental” female agency. The Zenana: “Plus indispensable qu’on ne saurait presque croire”71 In addition to inscribing specific female figures into his account, Bernier also describes the seraglio itself in order to inspire discussions among his salon contemporaries. Bernier offers two lengthy descriptions of the Mughal zenana. In his letter to Colbert, Bernier depicts the luxury of the zenana and posits it as a financial liability, using its existence to suggest to Colbert that the Mughal emperor is perhaps not as extravagantly wealthy as other accounts would have one believe because he is obligated to spend so much on his military and on the seraglio: Ajoutez encore, si vous voulez, cette incroyable dépense de ce sérail plus indispensable qu’on ne saurait presque croire: cet abîme de toiles fines, de toiles d’or, de brocarts, d’étoffes de soie, de broderies, de musc, d’ambre, d’huiles de senteur et de perles. Ajoutez, dis-je, toutes ces choses, les joignant avec tout ce que nous avons dit et, après avoir balancé toutes ces infinies dépenses, auxquelles il est de toute nécessité obligé, avec les revenus que vous pouvez conjecturer qu’il peut avoir, juger s’il est si infiniment et si effectivement riche comme on le fait. Pour moi, je sais bien qu’il en a plus lui tout seul que le Grand Seigneur et le roi de Perse ensemble. Mais de croire aussi ces contes si extravagants qu’on en fait, c’est ce que je n’ai jamais pu faire … . (216) Add to these expenses the incredible cost of the harem, which is more indispensable than one can hardly believe: this abyss of fine cloth, fabrics of gold, brocade, silks, embroideries, with musk, amber, fragrant oils, and pearls. Add all these things, I tell you, to what I have already listed, and after having balanced these incredible expenditures, which [the emperor]

126  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal is obligated to do, with the revenues that you can imagine he must have, judge if he is as rich as people say he is. For myself, I know well that he himself possesses more than “le Grand Seigneur” and the king of Persia together. But to believe the extravagant stories that people tell, however, is something I have never been able to do.

It is interesting to note that Bernier evokes the splendour of the zenana primarily through the description of luxurious fabrics in order to enable his public, as well as Colbert, to visualize its luxury as fabrics were the primary export from India and were flooding the European market at the time Bernier published his letter to Colbert.72 The zenana is a political necessity. It is not a waste of money. Bernier does not directly state that the political obligation to maintain the harem results in the emperor being rich only in appearance. Bernier only asks Colbert to “judge if he is as rich as people say he is,” and disagrees only with those accounts that raise the Mughal emperor’s worth to astronomical and mythical heights. Wishing to appear more trustworthy, Bernier simply suggests that, after taking into account the emperor’s expenditures, he has come to the conclusion that the emperor “possesses more than ’Le Grand Seigneur’ and the King of Persia together.” He leaves it up to Colbert to infer what he wants from this assessment. Another description of the zenana is found in Bernier’s letter to La Mothe le Vayer, a fellow philosopher who was also a friend of the diamond merchant, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier. Bernier’s letter to La Mothe le Vayer is a very detailed account of the actual physical appearance of Mughal India in which Bernier offers a minute analysis of the cities and monuments, especially the Taj Mahal. In his description of the zenana he makes clear that he actually experienced it because he visited it a few times when the “Roi n’était pas à Delhi”/“when the King was not in Delhi.” He then supplements this account with descriptions made to him by the eunuchs who guarded it, given that he was not allowed to set eyes upon the harem and was forced to put a shawl over his head as he entered: à présent de vous pouvoir faire promener dans le sérail comme j’ai fait dans le reste de la forteresse. Mais qui est le voyageur qui en peut parler pour avoir vu? J’y suis entré quelquesfois lorsque le roi n’était pas à Delhi et, ce me semble, assez avant à l’occasion d’une grande dame qui était si malade qu’on ne la pouvait pas apporter vers la porte selon la coutume, mais j’avais toujours un châle de Cachemire sur ma tête qui me pendait

Salons, Seraglios, and Social Networking 127 comme une grande écharpe jusques aux pieds et un eunuque me conduisait par la main comme un aveugle, de sorte que je ne saurais vous décrire en détail ce que c’en est. Seulement vous puis-je dire en général, selon ce que j’en ai appris de quelques eunuques, qu’il y a là-dedans de très beaux appartements séparés les uns des autres, plus ou moins grands et magnifiques selon la qualité et les pensions des femmes; qu’il n’y a presque [aucune] chambre qui n’ait à la porte son petit réservoir d’eau courante; que ce n’est que parterres, que belles allées, qu’ombrages, que ruisseaux, que jets d’eau, que grottes, que grandes caves pour se garantir de la cha­ leur pendant le jour et que grands divans et terrasses bien élévées et bien aérées pour dormir la nuit au frais; qu’enfin on ne sait là-dedans ce que c’est que chaleur. Ils vantent sur toutes choses une petite tour qui regarde sur la rivière, parce qu’elle est, disent-ils, couverte de plaques d’or, comme ces deux qui sont à Agra, et le dedans tout or et azur, belles et riches peintures et miroirs. (263) I would like to lead you through the harem as I have done for the rest of the fortress. But who is the traveller who has seen it? I went into [the harem] a few times when the king was not in Delhi, and also when one of the ladies was sick and could not be brought to the door, as was the custom, but I always had a cashmere shawl over my head, which hung from my head to my feet like a big scarf. A eunuch led me by the hand as he would a blind man, so I can’t really give you much detail. In general I can tell you, from what I learned from some eunuchs, that inside there are lots of beautiful rooms separated from each other, that vary in size and magnificence according to the rank of the women who inhabit them; almost every room has its own reservoir of running water; and throughout there are flowerbeds, beautiful walkways, shady paths, small streams, fountains, grottos, and large enclosed spaces to protect from the heat during the day, and large couches and elevated terraces that are well ventilated in order to sleep in the cool air comfortably at night; in fact, in the harem they don’t even know what heat is. They boast especially of a little tower that overlooks the river because it is, they say, covered in gold, like the two that are in Agra, and inside it is covered in gold and azure, with beautiful paintings and mirrors.

In contrast to his emphasis on fabrics in his letter to Colbert, here Bernier evokes the architectural space, focusing especially on the mastery of the seraglio’s creators over the heat and aridity of the physical environment. No doubt when visiting the seraglio Bernier could hear

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the running water in the fountains and feel the cool ambiance, thus marvelling at the fact that “on ne sait là-dedans ce que c’est que la chaleur”/“they don’t know what heat is” in a world that would have been stifling for a European visitor not used to such temperatures. Power over the natural environment connotes luxury and an advanced civilization as much as the sumptuous fabrics do. Bernier ends with a reference to gold, rich paintings, and mirrors, which he might have observed personally during his visit and about which he could have been informed by the eunuchs he interviewed. He could also have seen depictions of the harem in the Mughal miniature paintings, an art form that was highly developed beginning in Akbar’s reign in the sixteenth century. These miniatures lend credence to Bernier’s description of the Mughal court and participate in the creation of a particular vision of India among Bernier’s seventeenth-century French contemporaries. Some of these intricately detailed miniatures show not just the grandeur of the official Mughal court, but also the interior of the seraglio (Plate 5). In addition to miniatures that depict life at court and in the zenana itself, there are portraits of Mughal princesses and empresses and other female members of the court. These artistic renditions of spaces and people would have added to Bernier’s texts and conversations. Women actually posed for these portraits, an act that stands in sharp contrast to artistic depictions of women in the Ottoman empire. Mughal rulers, perhaps influenced by Hindu artists and their approach to the human figure, actively promoted the depiction of everyday life, including women. In contrast, the paintings we have of Ottoman seraglios are largely imagined and drawn by European visitors. The Mughal miniatures thus have a truth-value that could in many ways be equated with that of the Dutch realists painting during the same period. The art from seventeenth-century India that could have found its way into France enabled the French public to visualize narratives such as Bernier’s, thus endowing these accounts with more truth since an author’s narrative depiction of India often corresponded to the artistic renditions created by Indians themselves, Mughal as well as Hindu. Bernier’s attention to women and their spaces is a narrative thread that extends through all four volumes of his published accounts. The last series of letters addressed to M. de Merveilles depicts his lengthy travels with the court to Kashmir. The title of the narrative gives a precise description of this official trip: “Relation du voyage fait en 1664 à la suite du grand Mogol Aurangzeb, allant avec son armée: de Delhi,

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capitale de L’Hindoustan, à Lahore; de Lahore à Bhimbar et de Bhimbar au royaume de Cachemire que les Mogols appellent ordinairement le paradis terrestre des Indes”/“Account of a voyage made in 1664 in the entourage of the Great Mughal Aurangzeb, with his army: from Delhi, capital of Hindustan, to Lahore; from Lahore to Bhimbar and from Bhimbar to the kingdom of Kashmir which the Mughals commonly call the earthly paradise of India” (367). The months-long excursion to India’s earthly paradise offers Bernier the occasion to again highlight female agency, which he identifies as the driving force behind the emperor’s decision to leave Delhi: Depuis qu’Aurangzeb commence à se porter mieux, le bruit a toujours couru qu’il irait à Lahore et de là à Cachemire pour changer d’air et éviter les chaleurs de l’été prochain, de crainte de quelque rechute. Mais les plus sensés avaient peine à se persuader que tandis qu’il tiendrait Shah Jahn prisonnier dans la forteresse d’Agra, il osât s’écarter si loin. Néanmoins, on a vu que la raison politique a cédé à celle de la santé et aux conseils des médecins, ou plutôt aux intrigues de Raushanara Begum, qui meurt d’envie de respirer un air plus libre que celui du sérail et de paraître à son tour dans l’armée pompeuse et magnifique, comme faisait autrefois son aînée Begum Saheb [Jahanara] durant le règne de Shah Jahan. (367–8) Ever since Aurangzeb has been feeling better, rumour has had it that he would go to Lahore and from there to Kashmir for a change of scene and to avoid next summer’s heat, for fear of a relapse. But the most logical people didn’t really believe that he would dare go while he was holding Shah Jahan prisoner in the Agra fort. Nevertheless, political logic gave way to his health and his doctors’ orders, or more likely he gave in to the desires of Raushanara Begum, who is dying to breathe more freely than she can in the harem and to take her turn appearing in the magnificent and ceremonial army, as her older sister, Begum Saheb, did during the reign of Shah Jahan.

According to Bernier, the desires of the emperor’s sister trump political logic as well as the emperor’s own health concerns. While Bernier’s main purpose in writing this account is to describe the passage of the emperor’s huge entourage to Kashmir and to describe this earthly paradise that no other European had yet visited, he carefully adopts a perspective and inscribes elements that he knows will attract the salon audience among whom he is assembling his narrative on India.

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His description again challenges stereotypes we hold today regarding the influence of “oriental” women and their role in society. Women are not confined to luxurious private spaces. They often accompany armies. Seraglios in all their splendour are ambulatory, as Bernier’s narrative illustrates. Bernier describes in detail the entire entourage accompanying the emperor on his voyage composed of luxurious tents, animals, the army, and, of course, the seraglio. This seraglio is as necessary when the court moves as when it is ensconced in Delhi or Agra. The Mughal emperors were known for taking their wives and indeed the entire harem with them as they travelled or even fought. The seraglio often figures in depictions of these grandiose movements in Mughal miniatures. Bernier’s description of the travelling zenana is designed to transport his readers to an exotic, foreign world, while at the same time impressing upon his readers that, while different, this world also exudes a “royalty” and splendour of at least the same magnitude as the French court familiar to his public. Bernier’s lengthy description enables his reader and potential conversational interlocutors to experience and visualize the solemn, magnificent procession to Kashmir from the perspective of women: Les princesses et les grandes dames du sérail se font aussi porter de plusieurs façons. Les unes comme le roi sur les épaules des hommes dans un tchaudoule qui est une espèce de tact-ravan peint et doré, et couvert d’un grand et magnifique rets de soie de diverses couleurs, enrichi de broderie, de frange et de grosses houppes pendantes. Les autres dans de très beaux palekys fermés qui sont aussi peints et dorés, et couverts de ce ma­ gnifique rets de soie. Quelques-unes dans de grandes et larges litières portées par deux puissants chameaux ou par deux petits éléphants au lieu de mules. C’est ainsi que j’ai vu quelquefois marcher Raushanara Begum et j’ai même (une fois entre autres) remarqué sur le devant de sa litière, qui était ouvert, une petite esclave bien vêtue qui lui chassait les mouches et la poussière avec une queue de paon qu’elle tenait à la main. Les autres enfin se font porter sur des éléphants richement enharnachés avec leurs couvertures en broderie et leurs grosses clochettes d’argent. (385–6) The princesses and the noblewomen of the harem are transported in a variety of ways. Some, like the king, on the shoulders of men in a tchaudoule, which is a kind of painted and gilded tact-ravan, covered with a magnificent

Salons, Seraglios, and Social Networking 131 silk awning of many colours, decorated with embroidery, fringe, and large hanging drapes. Others travel in beautiful closed palekys which are also painted and gilded, and covered with magnificent silk awnings. Others are transported in large litters carried by two strong camels or by two little elephants instead of mules. That is how I have seen Raushanara Begum travel, and I have even seen, at the front of her litter, which was open, a little female slave, very well dressed, who chased away the flies and dust with a peacock feather that she held in her hand. Others are carried by elephants that are richly adorned with embroidered coverlets and silver bells.

“Like the king,” the women of the court travel in luxury. Bernier evokes the exoticism of the procession by referring to the elephants and camels that carry the royalty and by carefully inscribing the actual Persian words, which help to transport his reader to this foreign world. While a seventeenth-century French reader would not have had personal experience with either camels or elephants, she or he could no doubt equate Bernier’s sensorial description of the colours and textures adorning the procession with what she or he associated with luxury in her or his own context. The enumeration of adjectives and nouns such as “painted,” “gilded,” “large” “magnificent,” “silk,” “of many ­colours,” “embroidered,” and “richly” connote the same luxury embodied by Louis XIV and his court. Bernier’s reference to the “little slave” who fans Raushanara with a peacock feather serves the same purpose as his juxtaposition of elephants and camels with terms that connote luxury in the Western, French context. While his audience would find exotic the thought of slaves and peacocks, they would accept the desire to avoid flies and dust as a natural part of a civilized court. Thus, while Bernier is clearly describing an exotic scene, he is at the same time training his readers to view this court as civilized, refined, and as equally “royal,” in seventeenth-century French terms, as the Versailles court they knew so well. While women may be in a seraglio, their fate is not to be lamented so much as perhaps admired. At the very least Bernier invites readers to reevaluate their preconceptions of “oriental” women and their status and influence in Indian society. In the above passage, Bernier underscores that Raushanara’s mode of transport is “open” and that he was able to perceive this little slave with her peacock feather. Even though she is the highest ranking woman in the procession, she is not entirely hidden from the view of even

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a foreigner such as Bernier. As we saw with Nur Jahan and Jahanara, Mughal women, like their Hindu counterparts in India, cannot be equated fully with the more familiar image of the oriental woman of the Levant. As he does elsewhere, with his description of the travelling zenana Bernier creates a narrative that is specifically designed to distinguish India from other “orients.” He guides his reader to appreciate and admire the Mughal court, as opposed to classifying it as “Other” and as something that cannot or should not be emulated. He interrupts his description of the procession of the seraglio to express his own pleasure at having witnessed the sight: “Je ne saurais m’empêcher de vous dire que dans ce voyage j’ai pris un singulier plaisir à considérer cette pompeuse marche du sérail”/“I can’t help but tell you that during this trip I took great pleasure in watching the ceremonial march of the ­harem,” (386) and then continues his description: En effet, on ne peut concevoir rien de plus superbe que de voir Raushanara Begum marcher la première, montée sur un grand éléphant de Pegu dans un mikdember tout éclatant d’or et d’azur, suivie par cinq ou six éléphants avec des mikdembers presque aussi éclatants que le sien, pleins de principales officières de sa maison, quelques eunuques des plus importants bien vêtus et montés à l’avantage à ses côtés, la canne à la main, une troupe de servantes tartares et cachemiries autour d’elle. … En suite de Raushanara Begum on voyait passer une des principales dames de la cour, montée et accompagnée à proportion comme elle; et après celle-ci, une troisième de même et puis une autre, et ainsi jusques à quinze ou seize, toutes plus ou moins magnifiquement montées et accompagnées à proportion de leur rang, de leur paie et de leur office. (386) In reality, one can’t conceive of anything more superb than to see Rau­ chanara Begum leading the procession, mounted on a great Pegu elephant in a mikdember that dazzles with gold and azure, followed by five or six elephants with other mikdembers almost as dazzling as hers, filled with the most important female officers of her court, the important eunuchs well dressed and standing by her side, a cane in hand, and a group of Tartar and Kashmiri servants around her. … Following Raushanara Begum one could see pass by one of the most important ladies of the court, accompanied as she was in proportion to her importance, and after her, a third accompanied in the same way, and then another, and many more, up to fifteen or sixteen, each magnificently carried and accompanied according to their rank, their salary, and their position.

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Such order and luxury is not limited to the person of Raushanara Begum, but extends to her whole court. Bernier again stresses the civilized and organized nature of the procession, even more striking as it is travelling hundreds of miles over a period of months. He concludes his description by emphasizing the “royal” quality of this court, a “royalty” that, despite the travel and the elephants, differs little if at all from the royalty of a Western, even French, court: Certainement, cette longue file d’éléphants au nombre de cinquante ou soixante (ou davantage) et qui marchent ainsi gravement et comme à pas comptés avec tout ce train et tout cet équipage pompeux, représentent quelque chose de grand et de royal; et si je n’eusse regardé cette magnificence avec une espèce d’indifférence philosophique, je ne sais si je ne me serais pas laissé à ces sentiments extravagants de la plupart des poètes indiens qui veulent que tous ces éléphants portent autant de déesses ­cachées. (388) Certainly this long line of elephants, which numbered fifty or sixty (or even more), and that marched solemnly and in step, with this majestic array of people, depicts something that is great and royal; and if I hadn’t looked at this magnificence with a kind of philosophical indifference, I don’t know that I wouldn’t have given into the extravagant feelings that are expressed by most Indian poets, who say that all these elephants are carrying hidden goddesses.

After reading Bernier’s description, it is difficult to accept that he experienced this “magnificence” with “philosophical indifference.” One can perhaps explain this curious phrase as an effort to endow his description with more truth value by crafting himself into an impartial, outside observer. At the same time, after reading his detailed account, one has the impression that he does indeed share the “extravagant sentiments” of Indian poets as he marvels at this “magnificent” and “royal” procession. Bernier ends his depiction of the seraglio “en voyage” with a discussion of the “hidden” quality of the “déesses cachées” evoked by Indian poets. He comments that “il est vrai que difficilement on peut les voir et qu’elles sont presque inaccessibles aux hommes”/“it is true that it is hard to see them and they are almost inaccessible to men” (388). But “with difficulty” and “almost inaccessible” both leave open the possibility that these women of the Mughal court are not as sequestered

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and hidden as his French public might have imagined, a fact that is confirmed by Bernier’s own lengthy description that precedes this remark. While “ce serait un grand malheur à un pauvre cavalier, quel qu’il pût être, de se trouver en campagne trop proche d’elles à leur rencontre”/“it would be a great calaminty for a poor horseman, whoever he may be, to find himself too close to them” (388), Bernier stresses that “néanmoins, à ce que j’entends, il est bien moins dangereux ici qu’en Perse, car il y va là de la vie à se trouver en campagne en vue des eunuques qui les accompagnent, quand on serait éloigné d’une demi-lieu. Il faut que tout ce qu’il y a d’hommes dans les villages et bourgades par où elles passent abandonent et se retirent bien loin de là”/“however, from what I understand, it is much less dangerous here than in Persia, for there it is a matter of life and death to even be seen by the eunuchs who accompany them. Men in the villages and towns they pass through must leave and go far away [as they pass through]” (388–9). In Bernier’s account, women in India, unlike Persia, influence society and do not inhabit a feminized space that cannot be approached or even viewed by men. Just as women at the Mughal court often pull the strings behind public events, as Raushanara herself does by urging her brother to travel to Kashmir, their presence is constant and should not be ignored or underestimated. This concept of female agency is one particularly striking element of the body of knowledge about India transmitted by Bernier through his text. His decision to devote such attention to women can be viewed as the result of the conversations he created about India in the salon milieu in which he compiled his text. When one reflects on how his account could have resonated with his contemporaries and the conversations it could have provoked, it becomes clear that the India that entered the French imaginary cannot be conflated with an “Orient” based on Middle Eastern culture of the Ottoman empire. The description of Turkish women offered by baron François de Tott in 1784 stands in stark contrast to what the seventeenthcentury French public might have conceived of women in India. Tott writes “On voit déjà que les femmes turques, celles qu’on ne peut se procurer sans les épouser, et qu’on ne peut connaître avant, sont également réduites à ne vivre qu’entre elles … Sans aucune occupation que la jalousie qui les anime les unes contre les autres, sachant à peine lire et écrire, et ne lisant que le Coran; exposés dans des bains d’étuves à tous les inconvenients d’une transpiration forcée … indolentes par orgueil …”/ “Turkish women, those that one cannot procure without marrying them, and that one cannot get to know beforehand, are also reduced to

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living only among themselves … with no other occupation than jealousy that pits them against each other, barely knowing how to read or write, and only reading the Koran; exposed in the baths to all the problems associated with forced transpiration … lazy out of haughtiness.’73 In contrast, Bernier’s audience used his very different portrayal of India to reflect on their own society, to imagine new realities. “Une canne des Indes fort extraordinaire”74 To judge by her literary production, one of François Bernier’s interlocutors at La Sablière’s salon was particularly intrigued by the India evoked by this “joli philosophe.” In 1678, Marie-Madeleine Pioche de La Vergne, comtesse de Lafayette, published a novel that provoked the most heated and extensive literary debate of the century, a quarrel that centred on the question of female agency.75 Lafayette had applied for permission in 1673 to publish this groundbreaking novel under the title “Le Prince de Clèves.” She then spent the next five years composing her historical fiction, eventually producing what is considered to be the first modern psychological novel, which she retitled La Princesse de Clèves. Even before the novel appeared, Paris’s newspaper, Le Mercure Galant, began a publicity campaign designed to whet the public’s appetite for the exceptional story that was to come. The editor asked readers to comment upon a scene that they would discover when they read the novel, asking them if a woman should admit to her husband that she was in love with another man. Readers from all over France wrote in to give their opinion about such an unlikely scenario. Once the novel was published, this scene and other such original events in the novel, judged implausible by seventeenth-century French standards, became the subject of intense conversation and provoked written responses from leading intellectuals and courtiers. In a particularly detailed critique, the abbé de Valincour went through the novel line by line in an effort to prove that it was “invraisemblable,” that is, was not acceptable because it was not morally realistic and ultimately could inspire less than desirable behaviour among its readers, especially its supposedly vulnerable female ones. A response attributed to the abbé de Charnes was then published and offered a line-by-line rebuttal of the charges.76 Both these texts were twice as long as the novel itself. Throughout the year following the novel’s publication, the French public, both in Paris and in the provinces, continued to devour the novel and debate its merits in newspapers and letters. Lafayette’s exceptional and inimitable

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heroine not only challenged the standards governing female behaviour, her story changed the way authors would use their imaginative faculties to explore alternative ways of being and influence society’s ways of thinking. At first glance, Lafayette might seem to be an unlikely figure to have been such a rabble-rouser and visionary. Born in Paris in 1634, MarieMadeleine was the oldest of three sisters in a noble family and the only one to escape the convent. After her father’s death in 1649, her mother married Renaud René de Sévigné, who was Marie de Rabutin de Sévigné’s uncle by marriage. In 1655 Marie-Madeleine married François, comte de Lafayette, who was from an important family in Auvergne. The couple split their time between Auvergne and Paris from 1655–60 and had two boys. By 1660, however, the countess no longer desired to make the difficult trek down to Auvergne. Her husband, in a move that was rather exceptional for the time, allowed her to establish her residence on the rue de Vaugirard in Paris while he returned to Auvergne. The two stayed on good terms, but saw each other rarely from that time on. Marie-Madeleine devoted herself to raising her sons in Paris and establishing them in society. She had always been a prominent figure in the salon world, frequenting first the marquise de Rambouillet’s salon and then the more literary milieu of Madeleine de Scudéry, often accompanied by the marquise de Sévigné, who was her closest friend. She was equally at home at court and became a close friend of Henriette d’Angleterre, who was the exiled daughter of the late Charles I and who had married Louis XIV’s son and heir to the French throne. Lafayette even wrote the princess’s memoirs in which she detailed Henriette’s untimely death. Lafayette was an active participant in the most productive and esteemed intellectual and worldly circles in seventeenth-century France. Like many of her contemporaries, she delighted in learning and employed tutors such as Pierre Daniel Huet and Gilles Ménage to teach her Latin and philosophy. Her entourage included the leading intellectuals and writers of the period. Like many salonnières, Lafayette was not content to passively acquire knowledge; she actively discussed and debated works by authors such as Descartes and Pascal.77 She also was compelled to use her knowledge gleaned from books and conversation to write, especially works in the new genre of the nouvelle historique, or historical novel, that became popular in the 1660s. Her first novel, titled La Princesse de Montpensier, was one of the first examples of the genre that weaved a fiction around the events of recent French history.

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Her second novel, Zayde, which had a lengthy preface on the origin of novels penned by her friend and esteemed academic Huet, appeared in 1670. Lafayette did not sign either of these works; indeed, the only literary text she openly acknowledged writing during her lifetime was a portrait of Sévigné, which she contributed to a volume put together by the princesse de Montpensier, Louis XIV’s formidable cousin. Like most members of the nobility during this period, Lafayette felt that it was beneath her to be known as a professional author. Lafayette’s entourage, however, knew she was an author and viewed her as such throughout her life, although they willingly kept her anonymity. And while Lafayette refused to openly acknowledge her literary creations by signing them, she did not hesitate to have Henriette d’Angleterre explain her choice of Lafayette to compose her memoirs, giving as her reason that she knew Lafayette to be a good writer.78 In many ways, Lafayette was thus a typical member of the worldly salon milieu. Her entourage included a wide array of people from various walks of life: religious figures, intellectuals, writers, philosophers, courtiers, and even princesses. Through the 1660s she was in personal contact and corresponded with those who created the vibrant intellectual and social milieu at the beginning of Louis XIV’s reign, many of whom became regulars at Mme de La Sablière’s salon in the 1670s. Given Lafayette’s ties to these same people, it was natural that she and La Sablière would not only meet, but would become friends. Lafayette frequented La Sablière’s salon through the 1670s and thus came into contact with François Bernier as he compiled his narratives on India while she herself worked on what would become her masterpiece, La Princesse de Clèves. When read against the backdrop of Lafayette’s milieu, and especially in the context of the specific setting of La Sablière’s salon, La Princesse de Clèves can be interpreted as a product of the conversations in the salon inspired by Bernier and his texts. To judge by Lafayette’s masterpiece, Bernier’s encounter with India, as transmitted through his texts as well as through salon conversation, had a profound effect on those around him. For Lafayette this influence most likely began before the traveller and the novelist even met at La Sablière’s. Through the 1660s, Lafayette was in contact with the same people who were writing to Bernier while he was at the Mughal court. It is entirely plausible that Huet, for example, related what he learned from Chapelain to his friend, Lafayette, as Lafayette was writing Zayde and Huet was composing his preface to the work. We know that Lafayette often asked Huet, among others

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such as Ménage and Segrais, to read her work and to comment upon it. One can imagine that their conversations could have feasibly turned to India and the texts that were circulating in the form of correspondence, as well as those narratives published by Thévenot. Always desirous to expand her horizons, Lafayette was, like her entourage, attracted to the material objects that were coming from India, as well as to the ideas conveyed through the travel narratives. In a letter to Lescheraine in 1680, Lafayette conveys her society’s strong attraction to anything Indian, writing, “j’ai déjà mandé à Mme Royale que nous aimions ici tout ce qui vient des Indes, jusques au paper qui fait les envelopes. Mandiez à quelque de votre cour, de ceux qui accompagnent le M. de Droné, qu’il ne méprise rien de ce qui vient des Indes et qu’il vous apporte de petites boites de bois verni et de terre sigelée et de semblables bagatelles: je vous en saurai plus de gré que je ne serais de l’or des Indes”/“I already told Mme Royale that we like everything that comes from India here, even the paper that the envelopes are made of. Tell someone from your court, among those who are accompanying M. de Droné, that he shouldn’t reject anything that comes from India, and tell him to bring you those little wooden boxes and terre sigelée and other such trifles: I would be more beholden to you than if you brought gold from India.”79 In another letter to the same correspondent, she accepts to be in charge of the duchesse de Savoie’s wardrobe and desires only “des petits pots et des petites boîtes des Indes”/“little bowls and boxes from India” in recompense.80 India and its luxurious products, as well as its original “bagatelles,” were part of the conversation and influenced the way French contemporaries viewed this civilization. La Princesse de Clèves is not only a reflection of such hypothetical but plausible conversations, it also allows us to enter into this conversation about India and see the effect these conversations were having on the French imaginary. The ideas that had been circulating about India since the 1660s surface in this, the most popular and controversial novel of the period, and illustrate how Bernier’s account in particular was influencing the creativity and imagination of those around him. References to India appear at some of the most important moments of the novel, creating a particular ambiance that invites interpretation. When La Princesse de Clèves is read in conjunction with Bernier’s narratives on India it becomes apparent that both texts are products of conversation, a conversation that was characterized by a desire to interpret this new encounter with les Indes orientales.

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We have already seen how Bernier’s Histoire is allied stylistically with the genre of the historical novel as practised by Lafayette, among others. Lafayette’s La Princesse de Clèves opens with a portrait gallery that resembles Bernier’s opening to the Histoire. Lafayette employs the same technique to plunge her reader into the court of Henri II by describing the various prominent personalities.81 The king himself is not immune to this alternative historical perspective. Lafayette writes in her opening lines that La magnificence et la galanterie n’ont jamais paru en France avec tant d’éclat que dans les dernières années du règne de Henri second. Ce prince était galant, bien fait et amoureux; quoique sa passion pour Diane de Poitiers, Duchesse de Valentinois, eût commencé il y avait plus de vingt ans, elle n’en était pas moins violente, et il n’en donnait pas des témoignages moins éclatants. (69)82 Never has France seen such a display of courtly magnificence and manners as in the last years of the reign of Henri II. The king was chivalrous, nobly built, and amorously inclined; although his passion for Diane de Poitiers, the Duchesse de Valentinois, had begun more than twenty years earlier, it was none the less violent and he advertised it no less openly. (3)83

If we return to Bernier’s text, we see that his depiction of the emperor Shah Jahan and his sons places the same emphasis on their sociability and personalities, as opposed to simply depicting them as omniscient rulers having little resemblance to common humanity: Je trouvai encore à mon arrivée que ce Roi du Monde, Shah Jahan, âgé de plus de soixante-dix ans, avait quatre fils et deux filles; … Dara ne manquait pas de bonnes qualités. Il était galant dans la conversation, subtil en rencontres, très civil et extrêmement libéral, mais il avait trop bonne opinion de lui-même, se croyant seul capable de tout et ne se pouvait qu’à peine imaginer qu’il y eût personne qui lui pût donner conseil. … Sultan Suja était à peu près de l’humeur de Dara, mais il était plus secret et plus fermé … mais il se laissait un peu trop aller à ses plaisirs avec ce nombre extraordinaire de femmes qu’il avait, et quand il était une fois parmi elles, les jours et les nuits se passaient à boire, à chanter et à danser. … Aurangzeb n’avait pas cette galanterie d’esprit ni cet abord surprenant qu’avait Dara; il paraissait plus sérieux et plus mélancolique, mais au reste

140  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal il était beaucoup plus judicieux. … Il était secret, rusé et dissimulé au possible. … Murad Bakhsh, qui était le plus jeune de tous, était aussi le moins adroit et le moins judicieux. Il ne songeait qu’à se réjouir et à passer le temps à boire, à chasser et à tier de l’arc; néanmoins, il avait quelques bonnes qualities. Il était très civil et très liberal. (45–9) I found when I arrived that this King of the World, Shah Jahan, who was more than seventy years old, had four sons and two daughters; … Dara was not without good qualities. He was gallant in conversation, subtle in meetings, very civilized and very open, but he had too high an opinion of himself, and felt that he could accomplish anything on his own and could barely imagine that there was anyone who could give him advice. … Sultan Suja was like Dara, but he was more reserved … but he gave into his pleasures too easily, and gave himself to women. When he was with them, entire days and nights were spent drinking, singing, and dancing. … Aurangzeb was not as gallant (chivalrous) nor was he as personable as Dara; he appeared to be more serious and melancholy, but he was much more judicious. … He was secretive, crafty, and dissembling. … Murad Bakhsh, who was the youngest, was also the least skilled and the least judicious. He only wanted to be entertained, and he passed his time drinking, hunting, and practicing archery; yet he also had some good qualities. He was very courteous and open.

The similarities in style and tone in Bernier’s and Lafayette’s narratives underscore the fact that both were aiming to attract the same worldly public embodied by La Sablière’s salon. Even though Bernier presents his text as history and makes an effort to guarantee the veracity of his works by inscribing a strong first person voice that emphasizes his personal experience in India, his portrait of the Mughal court uses much the same vocabulary as employed by Lafayette in her historical novel. As a novelist, Lafayette is attempting to pass off the fiction she is creating as true history. While her perspective with its interiorized point of view differs from that of official historians, she nonetheless wants her readers to see the text as “historical truth.”84 Bernier’s adoption of this same perspective used by Lafayette, as well as by many other novelists of the period, is more surprising, and indicates that, while he dedicates his narrative to the king, he is most interested in conveying his impressions of les Indes orientales to the worldly public he is engaging with upon his return.

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Lafayette’s and Bernier’s opening portrait galleries not only resemble each other stylistically, they both portray courts in which women are the often the guiding forces determining public events. We have already seen how Bernier highlights women’s actions both at the beginning of his narrative and throughout his texts. Nur Jahan, Jahanara, and Raushanara are not portrayed as silent, passive inhabitants of a seraglio but rather as women who exerted considerable influence on their culture at large. In Lafayette’s depiction of the sixteenth-century French court, women also take centre stage. From the second paragraph of the novel the king’s mistress, the duchesse de Valentinois, also known as Diane de Poitiers, rules over everyone, male and female, at a court that Lafayette describes as primarily interested in “des parties de chasse et de paume, des ballets, des courses de bagues, ou de semblables divertissements”/“hunting parties, tennis games, ballets, tilting at the ring, and other similar diversions”(69; 3). … les couleurs et les chiffres de Madame de Valentinois paraissaient partout, et elle paraissait elle-même avec tous les ajustements que pouvait avoir Mademoiselle de La Marck, sa petite-fille, qui était alors à marier. La présence de la Reine autorisait la sienne … L’humeur ambitieuse de la Reine lui faisait trouver une grande douceur à régner; il semblait qu’elle souffrît sans peine l’attachement du Roi pour la duchesse de Valentinois … mais … la politique l’obligeait d’approcher cette duchesse de sa personne, afin d’en approcher aussi le roi. Ce prince aimait le commerce des femmes, même de celles dont il n’était pas amoureux; il demeurait tous les jours chez la Reine à l’heure du cercle, où tout ce qu’il y avait de plus beau et de mieux fait de l’un et de l’autre sexe ne manquait pas de se trouver … … Mais ceux que la faveur ou les affaires approchaient de sa personne [du Roi] ne s’y pouvaient maintenir qu’en se soumettant à la Duchesse de Valentinois, et, quoiqu’elle n’eût plus de jeunesse ni de beauté, elle le gouvernait avec un empire si absolu que l’on peut dire qu’elle était maîtresse de sa personne et de l’Etat. (70–2) … Mme de Valentinois’s colours and monogram were to be seen everywhere, and she took care to adorn herself no less brilliantly than Mlle de La Marck, her granddaughter, who was at that time of an age to be married. Her appearance at court was sanctioned by the Queen’s presence …

142  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal The Queen had an ambitious nature and delighted in her royal rank. She seemed to suffer the King’s attachment to the Duchesse de Valentinois lightly, and she never showed any jealousy, but she had such a profound capacity for dissimulation that it was difficult to guess her true feelings; political self-interest obliged her to keep Mme de Valentinois close to her person in order to draw the King himself closer. The King enjoyed the company of women, even of those he was not in love with. Every day, at the hour when the Queen held her circle, he was to be found in her apartments, where the flower of court society, both men and women, gathered without fail … … but those whom favour or the affairs of state brought close to the King’s person could only retain their position by deferring to the Duchesse de Valentinois; although she was now neither young nor beautiful, she governed the King with a power so absolute that one may say she was mistress both of his person and of the State. (3–6)

Both Bernier and Lafayette thus make the conscious choice to narrate historical events through the lens of what I have called “particular history,” focusing on and revealing the motivations behind the wellknown events of official history, and highlighting women’s place in what most at the time would have considered to be two very different cultures. Experiencing Bernier’s narratives on India and Lafayette’s novel together, as their contemporaries would have done, these cultures do not appear to be as radically different from each other as one might expect. Depicted using the perspective of particular history, India and France actually share similarities, especially with respect to female agency. Lafayette’s description of the duchesse de Valentinois evokes the memory of Nur Jahan, a figure who also was chosen by the emperor when she was already past the age that most would consider the prime of a woman’s beauty and was someone who wielded great power over her husband as well as over the entire court. Like Bernier’s account of the Mughal court, Lafayette’s portrayal of the court of Henri II stresses female influence on the ambiance of the court as well as on the political events that unfold. Lafayette, and even Bernier to a certain extent, like all authors in seventeenth-century France, had to conform to the guidelines governing artistic production of the day: even fictional narratives could not simply entertain; they were also required to instruct. Indeed “plaire et instruire”/“please and instruct” was at the heart of the creative

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enterprise during the reign of Louis XIV and authors adopted various strategies to comply with these duelling purposes. Lafayette’s and Bernier’s approaches to their narration of history provide a lesson in how to entertain while at the same time informing their public. One lesson that can be gleaned from both narratives is that even two civilizations separated by thousands of miles have points in common, and thus one can learn from the “Other.” These similarities in the way both authors construct their histories teach us today that these two salon contemporaries were not only hoping to please and instruct the same public, they were also potentially conveying a particular attitude about difference and diversity, one developed through conversation. They were also both determined to inflect history with female agency. Through Bernier India enters the French imagination as a culture that intrigues, inspires, and offers examples of female agency that resemble what could be found in France’s salon culture. When we read La Princesse de Clèves as a product of conversations in which Bernier and his texts were centre stage, it is apparent that Lafayette perceived India as a place of inspiration and drew upon the knowledge of India conveyed by Bernier as fuel for her imagination. She inscribes this perception of India in her text, subtly, almost imperceptibly, as though she hopes to revive and continue the conversations she experienced as a member of La Sablière’s milieu, conversations that nourished this remarkable fiction. Lafayette weaves a subtle Indian thread into the fabric of her fiction, choosing some of the most important narrative moments to evoke India in the thoughts of her readers. Lafayette’s contemporaries, particularly those who were present in La Sablière’s salon and who engaged with Bernier and his texts, would have perceived these allusions much more easily than readers in succeeding centuries, especially given that the intimate connection between Bernier and this creative salon has been buried by the sands of time. Rereading Lafayette’s masterpiece through Bernier’s texts and in light of the conversations he plausibly inspired endows this celebrated novel with new meaning, illustrating how India was viewed by the luminaries of French culture in the age of Versailles. The first intriguing allusion to India is found when the princess makes her first public appearance in Paris and catches the eye of her future husband, the Prince de Clèves: Le lendemain qu’elle fut arrivée, elle alla pour assortir des pierreries chez un Italien qui en trafiquait par tout le monde. Cet homme était venu de

144  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal Florence avec la Reine, et s’était tellement enrichi dans son trafic que sa maison paraissait plutôt celle d’un grand seigneur que d’un marchand. Comme elle y était, le Prince de Clèves y arriva. … Il voyait bien par son air, et par tout ce qui était à sa suite, qu’elle devait être d’une grande qua­ lité. Sa jeunesse lui faisait croire que c’était une fille, mais, ne lui voyant point de mère, et l’Italien, qui ne la connaissait point, l’appelant Madame, il ne savait que penser, et il la regardait toujours avec étonnement. (77) The day after she arrived, she went to match some stones at the house of an Italian who traded in jewels throughout the world. This man had come from Florence with the Queen and had become so rich through his trade that his house looked more like a lord’s than a merchant’s. While she was there, the Prince de Clèves came in. … Her manner and the attendants who surrounded her told him clearly enough that she must be a person of the noblest rank. Her youthful appearance led him to believe that she was unmarried; yet her mother was not present, and the Italian, who was not acquainted with her, called her “Madame,” so that he did not know what to think and continued to regard her with amazement. (10–11)

The reader learns in the few pages preceding this entrance that Mlle de Chartres was raised away from the court by her mother, who has given her an exceptional education, inculcating in her especially that virtue is a woman’s greatest glory and that she must do everything to remain virtuous. The narrator relates that “elle [Madame de Chartres] lui [Mlle de Chartres] faisait voir aussi combien il était difficile de conserver cette vertu, que par une extrême défiance de soi-même et par un grand soin de s’attacher à ce qui seul peut faire le bonheur d’une femme, qui est d’aimer son mari et d’en être aimé” (76) /“she also taught her how difficult it is to preserve virtue except by an extreme mistrust of one’s own powers and by holding fast to the only thing that can ensure a woman’s happiness: to love one’s husband and to be loved by him” (10). This maternal pedagogy, which itself is exceptional in a time of arranged marriages when extramarital affairs were not only common but were largely accepted, has produced a young woman with beliefs that run counter to what she will find at court, where love and marriage are usually considered to be oxymorons. Her visit to the jewellers as constructed by Lafayette is also an exceptional act. Her protective mother allows her to go to a jewellers, whom she doesn’t know, all alone to “assortir des pierreries”/“choose gems.” The Prince de Clèves’s reaction accentuates how exceptional such an action would appear: he “did

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not know what to think,” and can only stare at her “with amazement.” The Prince is not simply reacting to her beauty. He is unable to reconcile the fact that a young unmarried woman who seems to be “of the noblest rank” is alone with a male jeweller, who doesn’t know who she is, and is allowed to choose gemstones. Lafayette’s seventeenth-century public picked up on the exceptional nature of this scene. In the debate following the novel’s publication, Lafayette was criticized for creating such an improbable setting for the first encounter between the heroine and the man she would eventually marry. Lafayette’s main detractor, Valincour, states that no one would ever permit a young woman of sixteen, newly arrived at the court, to venture out alone in public to buy precious gems: Les femmes habiles soutiennent qu’on n’a jamais laissé à une fille de seize ans, le soin d’assortir des pierreries; que tout ce que l’on peut faire à cet âge-là, c’est de choisir des rubans, et des garnitures; qu’on assemble toutes ses amies, et toutes ses connaissances, lors qu’il s’agit de pierreries, principalement de la conséquence de celles dont il en fallait à Mlle de Chartres; et qu’en fin cela n’est pas vray-semblable.85 Women in the know maintain that a young girl of sixteen is never allowed to choose gemstones; that the most one can allow her to do at that age is to choose ribbons and accessories; and that she would gather together all her friends and all her acquaintances if it was about choosing gemstones, especially those of such value that Mlle de Chartres needed; and finally that this is not plausible.

Valincour writes: “I don’t know anyone who wasn’t surprised by this adventure at the jewellers.”86 He goes on to wonder why the princess’s mother didn’t go with her, and criticizes the author for not at least providing the mother with an excuse.87 Valincour’s reaction is a recognition of Lafayette’s deliberate effort to grant exceptional agency to her protagonist. The scene is indeed curious, and not only because of the princess’s autonomy. Valincour writes that he himself found the actual location of the first meeting between the princess and her future husband problematic and suggested that a church would have been more appropriate than a jeweller’s. Lafayette’s choice of an Italian jeweller is provocative and at first glance can seem gratuitous. Why do we need to know that this is an Italian who “trafiquait par tout le monde,” that he had

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come to France from Florence with the queen, Catherine de Medici, and that he was so rich that his home resembled that of a nobleman rather than a merchant? While Italians were perhaps travelling the world and trading in precious gems in 1558–9, the year in which the novel is set, Lafayette’s readers, and especially the members of La Sablière’s salon, might feasibly have been reminded of another jeweller in their midst, the Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Tavernier. Bernier’s travelling companion in India, Tavernier also “trafiquait par tout le monde”/“traded all over the world” and had returned from India in the late 1660s and sold diamonds to Louis XIV. Louis was so grateful to Tavernier that he ennobled him in 1669, so his home did resemble that of a nobleman more than a merchant. In 1669 Tavernier purchased the barony of Aubonne in Switzerland and constructed a luxurious castle, to which he retired after the Révocation de l’Edit de Nantes. Lafayette would have met Tavernier at La Sablière’s where he was welcomed as a friend of Bernier. La Sablière most likely also prized Tavernier for the knowledge about India that he could add to the salon conversations. He, like La Sablière, was also a Protestant. Tavernier was composing his own account of his travels just as Lafayette was writing La Princesse de Clèves, and perhaps added his experiences to conversations at La Sablière’s salon. Lafayette’s original readers would have most likely been reminded of Tavernier and, by association, India and the precious gems he procured from there. Why would Lafayette choose to evoke India in the mind of her readers at the beginning of her novel? Why would she associate her protagonist with the milieu of precious gems from other worlds? Lafayette spent over five years composing this novel and during that time her main entourage was encountering India, discussing this world, and developing narratives which were in turn circulated and discussed. Lafayette is not known for placing anything gratuitous in her fictions. She, like many novelists of the period, delighted in creating multiple layers in her narratives, inviting readers to hypothesize about meaning or find references to themselves or friends between the lines. Perhaps she is using this oblique reference to Tavernier and India to evoke the milieu in which she is composing her novel. Like Tavernier, La Sablière’s own provenance was not noble, yet her “maison” resembled that of a noblewoman. This scene at the very beginning of the novel underscores Lafayette’s desire to create a story that will not resemble any other. Her princess is constantly described as exceptional; her actions such as these at the jewellers are exceptional; her mother’s lessons are exceptional. La Sablière’s salon is likewise exceptional and

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Lafayette is indicating, perhaps, that she is inspired by the conversations she encounters there to create a new world, a world in which women are not compelled to adhere to traditional expectations. Her young princess can go alone and choose jewels. Bernier’s India exceeds the imaginary of his contemporaries. He makes them think, even about female agency. It would be easy to reject this reading of this scene as possibly alluding to India if there were not other examples of efforts by Lafayette to infuse her exceptional story with an Indian ambiance. The novelist could have chosen any time in recent French history as the setting for her fiction. Indeed novelists of the period were drawn to a variety of historical settings. But Lafayette chose the very last year of Henri II’s reign. Indeed, the first line of her fiction casts an onimous cloud over the “magnificence,” “galanterie,” and “éclat” of this court by announcing that these are “the last years of the reign of Henri II.” Lafayette inscribes the king’s death into the novel, using it to explain the reconfiguration of the court but also to justify the movements of her fictional characters. This death is thus not simply a reference inserted to ground the fiction in a particular year. Lafayette foregrounds it, drawing her readers’ attention to the king’s demise in more than one instance during the narrative. Why did Lafayette choose to organize her text around the death of this particular king? As Lafayette recounts in the novel, Henri II’s death was quite unusual. He was killed by accident in a tournament by one of his own noblemen. Even more extraordinary than his actual death was the fact that it was predicted years before it actually occurred, and it is this particular characteristic, I would argue, that might have attracted Lafayette to this moment of French history. Drawing from her numerous historical sources, Lafayette recreates a scene in which the king recounts this prediction in the “salon” of the queen and all those present debate its merits.88 The scene begins with the king joining the queen “à l’heure du cercle” (130)/“at the house when her circle gathered” (58). The conversation turns to “horoscopes” and “prédictions.” The narrator sets the scene by explaining that opinions were divided as to whether one could grant credence to such beliefs. La Reine y ajoutait beaucoup de foi; elle soutint qu’après tant de choses qui avaient été prédites, et que l’on avait vu arriver, on ne pouvait douter qu’il n’y eût quelque certitude dans cette science. D’autres soutenaient que, parmi ce nombre infini de prédictions, le peu qui se trouvaient véritables faisait bien voir que ce n’était qu’un effet du hasard. (130)

148  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal The Queen took them [beliefs] very seriously; she maintained that, after all the things that had been predicted and had been proved to be true, it was impossible to doubt that there was some degree of certainty in the science of prophecy. Others argued that so few of these countless predictions turned out to be correct that it was obvious such cases were the result of pure chance. (58)

The queen thus believes horoscopes and predictions based on astrology to be a “science” while others maintain that anything predicted in such a manner that did come to pass can simply be attributed to “hasard” or fate. In Lafayette’s rendition of this scene, the king enters the debate and firmly disagrees with his wife. Using first-person discourse, which is more persuasive than the words of an omniscient narrator, Lafayette has the king himself explain his reasoning: J’ai eu autrefois beaucoup de curiosité pour l’avenir … mais on m’a dit tant de choses fausses et si peu vraisemblables que je suis demeuré convaincu que l’on ne peut rien savoir de véritable. Il y a quelques années qu’il vint ici un homme d’une grande réputation dans l’astrologie. Tout le monde l’alla voir; j’y allai comme les autres, mais sans lui dire qui j’étais, et je menai Monsieur de Guise et d’Escars; je les fis passer les premiers. L’astrologue néanmoins s’adressa d’abord à moi, comme s’il m’eût jugé le maître des autres. Peut-être qu’il me connaissait; cependant il me dit une chose qui ne me convenait pas s’il m’eût connu. Il me prédit que je serais tué en duel. … Enfin nous sortîmes tous très mal contents de l’astrologue … il n’y a guère d’apparence que je sois tué en duel. (130–1) I used to have a great deal of curiosity about the future … but I have been told so many false and implausible things that I have remained convinced one cannot know anything for certain. Some years ago, a man with a great reputation as an astrologer came here. Everyone went to see him; I went, too, but without telling him who I was, and I took M. de Guise and d’Escars with me. I made them go ahead of me. The astrologer nevertheless turned to me first, as if he had judged me to be their master. Perhaps he recognized me; but he told me something which would have been inappropriate had he known who I was. He prophesied that I should be killed in a duel. …When we finally went out, we were all most displeased with the astrologer … it is hardly likely that I shall be killed in a duel. (58)

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The king’s account puts an end to the discussion about the possible merits of horoscopes and astrology. Although Lafayette does not say specifically if the queen changed her position, the narrator relates that “ceux qui avait soutenu l’astrologie en abandonnèrent le parti et tombèrent d’accord qu’il n’y fallait donner aucune croyance” (131)/“those who had previously supported astrology abandoned their position and agreed that one should not believe in it at all” (59). This belief system is soundly rejected, as the words “abandoned” and “not believe in it at all” convey. The king himself, the ultimate authority figure, restores rationality to the discussion, overriding the foreign queen’s, Catherine de Medici’s, “faith” in alternative ways to view or predict reality. But Lafayette does not end the discussion of the merits of astrology or horoscopes here, nor does she allow the king’s knowledge and opinion to prevail over the queen’s beliefs. Later in the novel Lafayette again reconstructs a verifiable, historical moment to use for the purposes of her fiction, in this instance a particular tournament in which the king is again the focal point. Lafayette uses the scene to reignite the discussion over the merits of astrology and horoscopes. The court is gathered together again, but this time in a public space as opposed to the queen’s private “circle.” They are attending a tournament in honour of the impending marriage between the king’s sister and Monsieur de Savoie. At the end of the day the king insists on jousting one last time. In Lafayette’s depiction of these verifiable historical events, the king begs the Comte de Montgomery to go up against him. Hesitant, the count asks to be excused and offers every excuse he can imagine. The king, however, “quasi en colère,” (195)/ “almost angrily,” (117) insists. Lafayette then focuses on the queen’s reaction to the scene: La reine manda au Roi qu’elle le conjurait de ne plus courir; qu’il avait si bien fait qu’il devait être content, et qu’elle le suppliait de revenir auprès d’elle. Il répondit que c’était pour l’amour d’elle qu’il allait courir encore et entra dans la barrière. Elle lui renvoya Monsieur de Savoie pour le prier une seconde fois de revenir; mais tout fut inutile. (195) The Queen sent a messenger to the King to ask him not to ride: he had performed so well, she said, that he ought to be content with his success, and she implored him to return to her side. He replied that it was for love of her that he was going to ride again, and he passed through the barrier. She sent M. de Savoie to beg him once more to return, but to no avail. (117)

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Lafayette’s readers know that the king should have listened to his queen. In the next line Lafayette writes succinctly that the king courut; les lances se brisèrent, et un éclat de celle du Comte de Montgomery lui donna dans l’oeil et y demeura. Ce prince tomba du coup. … Sitôt que l’on eut porté le Roi dans son lit, et que les chirurgiens eurent visité sa plaie, ils la trouvèrent très considérable. Monsieur le Connétable se souvint dans ce moment de la prédiction que l’on avait faite au Roi, qu’il serait tué dans un combat singulier; et il ne douta point que la prédiction ne fût accomplie. (195) He ran to his course; the lances broke, and a splinter form Montgomery’s lance entered his eye and lodged there. He instantly fell from his horse. … As soon as the King had been carried to his bed, the surgeons examined the wound. They found it to be very serious. M. le Connétable remembered then the prophecy that the King would be killed in single combat, and he had no doubt that it would be fulfilled. (117–18)

The court’s opinion regarding horoscopes and astrology is thus completely overturned in this scene. The king’s opinion is not only proven wrong, it is shown to be a mortal error not to have taken the prediction based on astrology seriously. The queen is not only vindicated, she is portrayed in Lafayette’s account as prescient as she implores the king, not once but twice, to stop jousting. It was not necessary for Lafayette to include the details of the king’s death, much less to depict the court involved in debating the merits of astrology and horoscopes. As in the scene at the jewellers, Lafayette is inviting her readers to look beyond the actual text of her fiction. She can be interpreted as again evoking the salon conversations that occurred in La Sablière’s salon and elsewhere around Bernier’s texts and discussion of India. The members of La Sablière’s entourage were drawn to philosophy and debated Descartes, Gassendi, and Pascal, among others. Bernier, as Gassendi’s disciple, added to these discussions. As we have seen, he even wrote an abridged version of Gassendi’s philosophy for La Sablière in an attempt to convince the Cartesian that there were other ways to consider the world. But Gassendi was not Bernier’s only contribution to such discussions. In his texts on India Bernier evoked Indian religions in great depth. He also stressed throughout his account that one of the hallmarks of the Mughal court was its belief in astrology and horoscopes. He constantly remarks, not always without

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some derision, that nothing is done at the Mughal court without first consulting the stars. The Mughals adopted this belief system from the dominant Hindu culture. This reliance on a Hindu perspective on life underscores another characteristic Bernier associates with India in general: an openness to other religions and willingness to explore other belief systems. This openness to another way of looking at the world, which most likely pervaded the conversations in La Sablière’s salon, is inscribed here in Lafayette’s novel through her valorization of astrology and horoscopes. While Catherine de Medici’s, the foreign queen’s, attraction to the “science” of prediction is historically verifiable, Lafayette’s inscription of the king’s death and the conversations regarding these alternative ways of viewing the world should not be attributed solely to a desire on the part of the novelist to lend verisimilitude to her novel. In the late seventeenth century, Lafayette’s readers would have associated astrology and horoscopes with the Indian court described by Bernier as much as with Catherine de Medici. Lafayette’s decision to weave her fiction through the events accurately predicted by astrologers valorizes different ways of thinking as it subtly reveals the influence of the conversations at La Sablière’s salon on her text. Difference, associated even more directly with India in this instance, is again portrayed as leading to knowledge. The inscription of the king’s death also enables Lafayette to again highlight female agency. Catherine de Medici is proven to be correct in her “faith” in horoscopes. Following her description of Henri II’s demise, Lafayette evokes another strong female presence who is at the core of the novel from the very beginning: Diane de Poitiers, the duchesse de Valentinois, the king’s mistress, whom Lafayette describes as the person everyone must go through to approach the king, the woman she characterizes as “mistress both of his person and of the state.” As the king lies dying, Catherine goes to her rival to demand the crown jewels and the seals Henri had given to her: “Cette duchesse s’enquit si le Roi était mort; et, comme on lui eut répondu que non: ’Je n’ai donc point encore de maître, répondit-elle, et personne ne peut m’obliger à rendre ce que sa confiance m’a mis entre les mains’” (197)/“Mme de Valentinois enquired whether the King was dead, and when the answer came that he was not, she replied: ’No one, then, can give me orders yet, and no one can oblige me to give back what he has entrusted to my keeping’” (119).89 Following upon the discussions of horoscopes, Lafayette’s reference to jewels, seals, and to a defiant female consort could have evoked Nur Jahan for her readers who were imbued with

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Bernier’s texts and transported by his conversations. India and female agency were again entwined in the readers’ imagination. Just a few pages after validating the Indian science of astrology, Lafayette makes her most direct reference to India in the novel. The fictional encounter between the heroine and M. de Clèves at the jewellers and the historically verifiable reference to astrology pave the way for a particular interpretation of what is considered, both today and in the seventeenth century, to be one of the most provocative scenes of the novel. This scene, often referred to as the “reverie scene,” occurs near the end of the novel. The princess has fallen in love with M. de Nemours, a man the narrator has described as “nature’s masterpiece” and the most sought-after bachelor at court. Unfortunately she encountered Nemours only after her mother had already married her off to M. de Clèves, and in light of what her mother has taught her – that her happiness resides in loving her husband – the princess refuses to give in to her passion and spends most of the novel trying to avoid Nemours. The two have never spoken nor been alone together when the reverie scene occurs. Nemours is equally infatuated with the princess and sees no reason not to pursue her because he does not view her married state as a moral obstruction to his own happiness. Mme de Clèves, in an effort to obey her mother’s deathbed wish not to “fall like other women” and to remain the exceptional woman Lafayette has portrayed her to be throughout the novel, has already intimated to her husband that she sees danger for their marriage if she remains at court and has begged her husband to allow her to retreat to their country estate at Coulommiers. That scene, usually referred to as the confession scene, along with the reverie scene in which we find the clearest reference to India, was judged the most implausible, and thus unacceptable, scene during the quarrel that erupted over the novel.90 Critics charged that no woman would admit to her husband that she was in love with another man. Similarly, the public viewed the reverie scene as “invraisemblable,” that is, as morally implausible. Seventeenthcentury French codes of conduct for women advocated silence over self-­expression, especially in matters of the heart. Following this logic, no woman should or would express her passion openly and not suffer disastrous consequences. Both scenes of female self-expression occur at Coulommiers, the Clèves’ country estate. This is a curious choice for a novelist who is so determined to pass her fiction off as true history in accordance with the laws of the genre.91 Coulommiers did not exist during the year

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Lafayette chose as the setting for her novel. Coulommiers was, however, very well known to Lafayette’s contemporaries and associated with powerful women.92 But there is another explanation for Lafayette’s choice of Coulommiers for the setting of her two most controversial scenes, an explanation that would invite her contemporary readers to read the scene through the lens of La Sablière’s salon. We will remember that, in addition to Bernier, La Sablière welcomed the fabulist La Fontaine into her home. La Fontaine lived with La Sablière during the 1670s and produced his second volume of Fables the same year as Lafayette published her novel. Interestingly, La Fontaine has a connection to the name Coulommiers. La Fontaine’s mother was the widow of a rich merchant from Coulommiers and La Fontaine’s father received land from Coulommiers as part of his second wife’s dowry.93 In addition to other reasons Lafayette may have chosen Coulommiers to situate the most important scenes of her novel, perhaps she is also pointing to La Fontaine, his Indian-inspired fables, and the conversations about India that occurred at La Sablière’s when both were composing their masterpieces. The princess considers Coulommiers her refuge from the court and the one place where she can control her own story. Lafayette depicts it as filled with “beautés” and as “admirable,” and describes the garden pavilion as an idyllic retreat. Lafayette specifies that the princess had decorated the pavilion with portraits of M. de Nemours that she had had copied from originals that Diane de Poitiers had commissioned to decorate her own château of Anet.94 The princess is thus intimately associated with the dominant figure of Diane de Poitiers for this crucial scene. She uses the painting to decorate this idyllic pavilion. Even more intriguing is the fact that the pavilion where the “confession” and the reverie scenes take place is entirely fictional; while Coulommiers as a town and as a chateau did exist, there was no garden pavilion, so Lafayette has her heroine enter an imaginary realm for her most controversial scenes. It is within this imaginary space that the princess writes her own exceptional story. The narrator describes the scene through M. de Nemours’s eyes. He is hiding in the bushes and spying on her, as he was during the “confession” scene. Il vit qu’elle était seule; mais il la vit d’une si admirable beauté qu’à peine fut-il maître du transport que lui donna cette vue. Il faisait chaud, et elle n’avait rien, sur sa tête et sur sa gorge, que ses cheveux confusément ­rattachés. Elle était sur un lit de repos, avec une table devant elle, où il y

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Figure 2.1  Woman on an elephant with a “canne des Indes,” carved in camel bone, India 2017. Author photo. These cannes were used in India to control elephants.

Salons, Seraglios, and Social Networking 155 avait plusieurs corbeilles pleines de rubans; elle en choisit quelques-uns, et Monsieur de Nemours remarqua que c’étaient des mêmes couleurs qu’il avait portées au tournoi. Il vit qu’elle en faisait des noeuds à une canne des Indes, fort extraordinaire, qu’il avait portée quelque temps et qu’il avait donnée à sa soeur, à qui Madame de Clèves l’avait prise sans faire semblant de la reconnaître pour avoir été à Monsieur de Nenours. Après qu’elle eut achevé son ouvrage avec une grâce et une douceur que répandaient sur son visage les sentiments qu’elle avait dans le coeur, elle prit un flambeau et s’en alla proche d’une grande table, vis-à-vis du tableau du siège de Metz, où était le portrait de Monsieur de Nemours; elle s’assit et se mit à regarder ce portrait avec une attention et une rêverie que la passion seule peut donner. (208–9) He saw that she was alone, and looked so wonderfully beautiful that he could scarcely control his rapture at the sight. It was hot, and on her head and breast she wore nothing but her loosely gathered hair. She was reclining on a day-bed with a table in front of her on which there were several baskets full of ribbons. She picked out some of these, and M. de Nemours noticed that they were of the very colors he had worn at the tournament. He saw that she was tying them in bows on a very unusual Malacca cane [“une canne des Indes fort extraordinaire”] which for a while he had carried around with him and which he had then given to his sister; it was from her that Mme de Clèves had taken it without showing that she recognized it as having belonged to M. de Nemours. She completed this task with such grace and gentleness that all the feelings in her heart seemed reflected in her face. Then she took a candlestick and went over to a large table in front of the painting of the siege of Metz that contained the likeness of M. de Nemours. She sat down and began to gaze at it with a musing fascination that could only have been inspired by true passion. (128)

The princess thus gives full expression to her passion, using the “canne des Indes” and the portrait to evoke a man to whom she has never spoken (see Figs 0.1 and 2.1). Like Coulommiers itself, the “canne” would have been anachronistic in 1658–9; the French were hardly a presence in India at that time and “extraordinary” canes were certainly not circulating around the country or being flaunted by noblemen such as Nemours. Lafayette can be interpreted as signalling her desire for this scene to be read as part of the conversations about India taking place, especially at La Sablière’s salon. Inspired by Bernier’s depiction of India, Lafayette uses India to fuel her imagination as she guides her readers

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to interpret the princess’s actions through the lens of India and offers an alternative narrative of female agency (Bernier mentions a “canne” when he describes the harem’s march to Kashmir). She has her fictional princess use this “canne des Indes” to create a world of passion that she herself can control. Inspired by Bernier’s depictions of Nur Jahan’s power over Jahangir as well as Shah Jahan’s exceptional love for Mumtaz Mahal, a love that is symbolized by his construction of the Taj Mahal as her final resting place, Lafayette offers the narrative of a princess who decides what gives her pleasure and decides to act in a way that will ensure that this pleasure will endure. This scene is an expression of female agency. One might even go so far as to suggest that the pavilion itself evoked the feminocentric space of the harem. Lafayette’s Indian-inspired retreat, like the harem in Bernier’s texts, is a space of strength and not solely under the control of men. Nemours himself remains outside this space. In the final pages of the novel the princess and Nemours finally speak openly to each other about their passion, but only because the princess has decided that this second “aveu” or avowal will not be followed by any action on her part to actually live out her feelings in the company of Nemours. She gives as her primary reason for rejecting Nemours her own fear that he will not remain faithful to her once they are married, explaining to Nemours that … la certitude de n’être plus aimée de vous comme je le suis me paraît un si horrible malheur que, quand je n’aurais point des raisons de devoir insurmontables, je doute si je pourrais me résoudre à m’exposer à ce malheur. Je sais que vous êtes libre, que je le suis, et que les choses sont d’une sorte que le public n’aurait peut-être pas sujet de vous blâmr ni moi non plus, quand nous nous engagerions ensemble pour jamais. Mais les hommes conservent-ils de la passion dans ces engagements éternels? Dois-je espérer un miracle en ma faveur. … Vous avez déjà eu plusieurs passions; vous en auriez encore; je ne ferais plus votre bonheur; … J’en aurais une douleur mortelle … (230–1) … what I fear is the certainty that one day the love you feel for me now will die. That certainty seems to me so dreadful that, even if the reasons imposed by my duty were not insurmountable, I doubt whether I could bring myself to face such unhappiness. I know that you are free, that I am free also, and that, in all the circumstances, the world would perhaps have no reason to blame either of us if we were to bind ourselves together for life. But how long does men’s passion last when the bond is eternal? Can

Salons, Seraglios, and Social Networking 157 I expect a miracle in my favor? … You have already had a number of passionate attachments; you would have others. I should no longer be able to make you happy … I should be mortally wounded at the sight … (148–9)

The princess wants to hold on to the feelings inspired by her reverie using the “canne des Indes.” She opts to continue to reside in a fictional narrative in which Nemours cannot fall for anyone else because she is entirely in control of the plot. The princess is not simply rejecting Nemours out of guilt because her husband died of jealousy, believing she had given into Nemours; rather, she is rejecting Nemours because she believes he would not remain faithful to her and she would thus lose control over her own emotional state. She would be forced to endure jealousy, which she portrays as a mortal poison. In this reading, the princess is not rejecting passion, as some have argued. She is writing her own imagined narrative of passion and seeking to have it last for eternity. She explains her decision at the end of her avowal to Nemours: Il est vrai … que je sacrifie beaucoup à un devoir qui ne subsiste que dans mon imagination. … Ayez cependant le plaisir de vous être fait aimer d’une personne qui n’aurait rien aimé, si elle ne vous avait jamais vu; croyez que les sentiments que j’ai pour vous seront éternels et qu’ils subsisteront également, quoi que je fasse. Adieu … (233) It is true … that I am sacrificing a great deal to a duty that exists only in my imagination … you may at least enjoy the pleasure of having won the heart of a woman who would have loved no one if she had never seen you; do not doubt that my feelings for you will exist eternally and unchangeably whatever I do. Farewell … (151)

In order to sustain this passion, the princess retreats from court, but unlike the end of most novels of the period, does not die immediately nor does she enter a convent. Conforming to her desire to make everything about this princess’s story exceptional, Lafayette has her heroine spend part of her time at home and part in a “maison religieuse.” The famous last lines of the novel elevate her to the most exceptional status: “sa vie, qui fut assez courte, laissa des exemples de vertu inimitables” (239)/“Her life, which was quite short, left inimitable examples of virtue” (156).95 Contemporary reactions to the princess’s decision at the end of the novel to reject Nemours even after the death of her husband confirm

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the fact Lafayette composed a narrative of female agency that was unheard of for the period.96 Contemporaries condemned her reasoning and accused the novelist of abusing poetic license to create “monstres et chimères”/“monsters and chimeras.”97 Clearly the princess’s narrative was not considered plausible according to seventeenth-century French standards. This was exactly what Lafayette had in mind. It can be argued that Lafayette actually provoked the quarrel; one can see this provocation inscribed throughout the text. When one reads the novel cognizant of the context that added fuel to Lafayette’s imagination it is possible to interpret Lafayette as using India to inflect meaning into her heroine’s narrative and to instruct her readers to interpret her actions as forceful acts of female empowerment. Inspired by the conversations about India initiated by Bernier, Lafayette teaches her readers that one must look outside the familiar for inspiration in order to create something exceptional and new. La Sablière’s salon served as the meeting place of these creative minds; the conversations that took place inspired Bernier to include a new perspective on a foreign culture, to be attentive to the women, as Chapelain advised him. Lafayette, in turn, uses her “canne des Indes” as a powerful tool that connotes female agency as it points to the existence of other worlds as well as alternative ways of existing in one’s own world. Dryden’s Aureng-Zebe: A Different Conversation Lafayette was not the only contemporary to be inspired by Bernier’s portrayal of India, especially his way of incorporating Mughal women into his narrative. On the other side of the English Channel, Bernier’s text was also a source of information and inspiration for writers and the British public. His texts were immediately translated into English and joined the popular corpus of travel writings penned by the numerous British merchants and emissaries who had been writing about their experiences in India since the beginning of the century. One of the most well-known English writers of the time who engaged with Bernier’s text immediately upon its publication was John Dryden. The 1671 English translation of Bernier’s text is widely acknowledged as the poet laureate and historiographer royal’s source for his 1675 drama Aureng-Zebe.98 But Dryden’s depictions of the Mughal court and its principal players deviate to such an extent from Bernier’s India that critics have struggled to define and explain the relationship between the two works. Given the circulation and influence of Bernier’s texts at

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the time of Dryden’s composition of his play, one can assume that the celebrated author expected his public to create a conversation between the narrative of France’s “joli philosophe” and his tragedy. An examination of this plausible conversation illustrates how Bernier’s texts could be received dramatically differently in these different contexts, due, I would argue, to the existence in France of a vibrant and influencial salon culture. Dryden’s use of Bernier is in stark contrast to Lafayette’s subtle and provocative engagement with India. Most critics who have examined Dryden’s Aureng-Zebe in relation to Bernier’s texts focus on the differences in the portrayals of the play’s titular character, Aurangzeb. Peter Craft, for example, argues that the play “presents a sanitized version of Aurangzeb to English theater goers … in order to avoid injuring England’s lucrative trade with the Mughal Empire.”99 Frederick Link attributes the vast historical differences between Dryden’s play and his supposed source to Dryden’s need to adhere to English values. Dryden had to transform Aurangzeb into a legitimate successor to the throne for an English audience still obsessed with questions of royal succession after having witnessed the murder of their own monarch.100 But Dryden’s Aurangzeb is not the only controversial use of his source. Even more striking is Dryden’s reconceptualization of what I have been arguing is one of the most distinctive characteristics of Bernier’s texts, namely his emphasis on female agency at the Mughal court. Bernier inscribes women into his texts and endows them with certain forms of agency, evoking powerful female forces such as Nur Jahan and Jahanara in response, in part, to Chapelain’s query and to respond to his French worldly public’s conception of particular history. Dryden’s Mughal women are transformed into or imagined as characters Bernier would not have recognized and his French public would not have found inspirational or even morally plausible. The differences between Bernier’s India and India as constructed by Dryden illustrate to an exceptional degree how Bernier’s texts were being received when they were first published and how the public was engaging with Bernier’s portrayal of India. Lafayette’s engagement with Bernier through her text reveals that she and her French worldly salon public picked up on Bernier’s inscription of women and female agency. India entered the French imaginary as an intriguing civilization that inspired, a culture that was appealing because, as described by Bernier, India provoked reflection and opened the mind to new ideas. Dryden’s reworking of Bernier’s image of India reveals that he interpreted

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Bernier’s portrait in similar ways to the salon culture across the channel. But rather than expand upon these possibilities and create new conversations as Lafayette does in La Princesse de Clèves, Dryden uses Bernier’s India to construct another Indian imaginary, an imaginary that is in many respects the opposite of what emanates from Lafayette’s novel. What is the vision of India produced by Dryden’s interaction with Bernier’s text? Dryden is clearly most interested in exploring monarchical power through the figure of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.101 Dryden’s desire to explore the question of kingship and specifically succession is not surprising given his own cultural context. England was just emerging from a civil war. In 1660 Charles II returned to England after spending nine years in exile in France after the execution of his father. Questions of who could lay claim to the crown and who should govern were thus foremost in the minds of Dryden’s contemporaries. But if Dryden’s primary desire was to explore the question of succession and present a model for his English public, his decision to use the Mughal court and Aurangzeb in particular as his titular character is curious, to say the least.102 Bernier’s narrative of the struggle for succession at the Mughal court and Aurangzeb’s rise to power does not provide an example of a legitimate succession according to Western standards. It is certainly not an example that could bolster an English son’s inheritance of the throne from his father. In order to make Aurangzeb acceptable to his English public, Dryden thus had to radically rewrite Bernier’s Histoire de la dernière révolution. In Bernier’s narrative, Aurangzeb does not offer an example of a morally acceptable transfer of power from father to son. In fact, Bernier relates a bloody, vicious battle for power during which all the male protagonists die, with the exception of Aurangzeb. Moreover, Aurangzeb, who is not the eldest son, has to fight his brothers for the throne. He imprisons his father, Shah Jahan, and then contends with his rival siblings, dispatching Dara, his older brother and his father’s choice for emperor, and killing his other brothers as well. Bernier, who was allied with Dara when he arrived in India, was sympathetic to that prince’s plight and, as we have seen, recounts in detail Aurangzeb’s vicious torture of his brother, particularly Dara’s downfall as he is paraded through the streets in disgrace on a pitiful looking elephant. Bernier’s overall portrait of the emperor occupying the throne is complex. He does not ultimately condemn Aurangzeb, describing him as “grand et juste.” Nor does he view Aurangzeb’s ascension to the throne as illegitimate, even though it does not follow European models of primogeniture. Bernier writes that

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succession at the Mughal court is always a battle because there are no laws governing succession; Shah Jahan himself had fought his brothers for the throne and was not his father Jahangir’s first choice. In Bernier’s account of the revolution, Aurangzeb does not come to power in ways that are morally satisfactory by English and French standards, although in the end he proves to be an acceptable and even praiseworthy emperor. Bernier composes his narrative with the desire to give an accurate, eyewitness account of the “latest revolution” in India and to offer a detailed, nuanced portrait of a distant court to his contemporaries. Aurangzeb would thus seem to be a strange figure for Dryden to choose as his protagonist if his primary objective was simply to explore the legitimacy of power and the rules governing succession. In an effort to explain this curious choice of protagonist, Craft argues that the publication of Bernier’s texts in English had added to Dryden’s contemporaries’ interest in India; Dryden responds to his public by offering a play about the reining monarch, whom he renders the legitimate heir in order to portray him in a positive light and to further England’s trading aspirations. In Dryden’s play, Aurangzeb is the loyal son who is the logical successor to his father, Shah Jahan. His brother Dara, who in Bernier’s Histoire and in accordance with historical fact, was the eldest son chosen by Shah Jahan, is dismissed in four lines: Darah, the eldest, bears a generous mind, But to implacable revenge inclined; Too openly does love and hatred show: A bounteous master, but a deadly foe.

(Act I, ll. 90–1)

Murad, another brother whom Aurangzeb had killed, is depicted as an unworthy, illegitimate rival. From the beginning of the play, Dryden absolves Aurangzeb of any of the moral defects present in Bernier’s initial portrait of the emperor before he came to power. But Aureng-Zebe, by no strong passion swayed Except his love, more temp’rate is, and weighed. This Atlas must our sinking state uphold; In council cool, but in performance bold. He sums their [the other brothers’] virtues in himself alone, And adds the greatest, of a loyal son; His father’s cause upon his sword he wears, And with his arms, we hope, his fortune bears. (Act I, ll. 101–9)

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Dryden’s Aurangzeb is direct and honest instead of duplicitous and hypocritical. He is the loyal son who deserves to be rewarded with love as well as power and can be admired as the paradigm of a ruler. Throughout the play he is victimized by his own father, Shah Jahan, and his stepmother, Nourmahal, yet he never loses his moral compass. One character marvels at his fortitude saying, “Sure Aureng-Zebe has somewhat of divine, / Whose virtue through so dark a cloud can shine” (Act III, ll. 329–30). The altered portrait of Aurangzeb not only offers an acceptable depiction of royal succession, it also transmits a positive portrait of the current political situation at the Mughal court. Dryden’s contemporaries would have left the theatre associating the name Aurangzeb, whom they knew as “The Great Mughal,” with legitimacy and the positive character traits of filial loyalty and reason.103 One could argue that Dryden rewrites Bernier in order to offer a more acceptable image of Aurangzeb, thus changing the image of India and using history to provide exempla for his seventeenth-century public.104 But, while Dryden’s audience may have had positive associations with his title character due to the dramatist’s reworking of Bernier’s Histoire, many of his other changes would not have produced the same effect. A prime example is the figure of Shah Jahan, whom Bernier presents as a worthy, albeit ill, emperor who becomes the victim of his sons’ desire for the throne. While Bernier does not ultimately condemn Aurangzeb as a ruler, explaining that succession usually takes this path in India, he does not denigrate Shah Jahan in order to justify the son’s imprisonment of his father. In contrast, Dryden creates a character with the name Shah Jahan who barely resembles the mighty “Great Mughal” who is usually portrayed as the most refined and enlightened of all the Mughal rulers, as symbolized by his construction of the Taj Mahal. Dryden’s Shah Jahan is incapable of governing his empire or his emotions. He is infatuated with a captive princess, Indamora, a character who is a product of Dryden’s imagination. The aging emperor’s pursuit of Indamora is made even more irrational and illegitimate by the fact that Dryden’s Aurangzeb is also love with her. Dryden’s Shah Jahan does not even keep his illicit passion a secret, stating to a courtier, “I look on Aureng-Zebe with rival’s eyes. / He has abroad my enemies o’ercome, / And I have sought to ruin him at home” (Act I, ll. 259–61). Shah Jahan endangers the empire by supporting Aurangzeb’s brother Morat, instead of the son whom Dryden portrays as the legitimate heir, because Shah Jahan is jealous of Aurangzeb’s love for Indamora. The interactions between Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb depict a son who is

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surprised by his father’s behaviour, but who remains loyal and obedient. He even blames his father’s weakness on the empress, Nourmahal, saying, “The best of kings by women is misled, / Charmed by the witchcraft of a second bed” (Act I, ll. 350–1). Dryden’s Aurangzeb is not perfect; he questions the fictional Indamora’s loyalty throughout the play. But this Aurangzeb is more reflective than Bernier’s. He interrogates the codes he lives by and ponders what it means to be a good ruler, stating, for example, that “Presence of mind and courage in distress / Are more than armies to procure success” (Act 2, ll. 555–6). Aurangzeb’s violent overthrow of Shah Jahan and his brothers as related by Bernier might illustrate “presence of mind,” but Bernier’s narrative primarily shows the power of Aurangzeb’s armies and the support he garnered from various conservative factions at the Mughal court. In Dryden’s account the Mughal Empire has been relieved of an irrational despot, Aurangzeb’s father Shah Jahan, who selfishly governs according to his emotions instead of out of a desire to serve his subjects. For some critics, Dryden’s response to and rewriting of Bernier’s text illustrates a burgeoning imperialist attitude toward India: Aurangzeb is rendered non-aggressive, someone who could even be overthrown.105 But such interpretations are reconstructions of the historical context refracted and even distorted by the lens of colonialism. The India Dryden is constructing through Bernier is not on the verge of being subsumed by a dominant Western culture, either British or French. In Bernier’s texts, the very idea that the Mughal Empire could be conquered is not even suggested, much less presented as a possibility. I would suggest that Dryden is drawn to the figure of Aurangzeb and to the Mughal court specifically because of Bernier’s gendered depiction of this world. Dryden creates a new image of India in order to counter the India evoked by Bernier’s texts, addressing especially his own female contemporaries who might have been attracted to that world. Shah Jahan is not the only figure whose reputation suffers under Dryden’s pen. Whereas Bernier takes considerable pains to inscribe female characters and agency in his depiction of the Mughal court, Dryden offers only characters who can advance a misogynist view of acceptable female behaviour. Indeed, to judge by the female figures in Dryden’s play, the dramatist would seem to be actively seeking to dismantle this association between India and positive images of female agency. Dryden consciously rewrites Bernier; he is cognizant of the differences between his female characters and the historical portraits of women and their actions in his source. In the “dedicatory epistle” to the

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play, Dryden devotes considerable effort to defending his main characters, Indamora and Melesinda, from the critiques of “the fair ladies” who did not find their actions in the final act “pleasing.” Dryden contrasts his female characters to protagonists in French heroic novels such as those penned by Madeleine de Scudéry (“the Cyrus was written by a lady”), and concludes that his characters are more realistic, “naturel,” and better models for the ladies of his own time, whom he characterizes as in need of the paradigms he imagines: I have made my Melesinda, in opposition to Nourmahal, a woman passionately loving of her husband, patient of injuries and contempt, and constant in her kindness to the last; and in that, perhaps, I may have erred, because it is not a virtue much in use. Those Indian wives are loving fools, and may do well to keep themselves in their own country, or at least to keep company with the Arrias and Portias of old Rome; some of our ladies know better things. (ll. 262–9)

Just as Dryden reworks the figure of Aurangzeb to offer a model of succession, one that conforms to Western values, so too does he rewrite the image of the women of Mughal history, as portrayed by his source, in order to offer what he considers an acceptable model of female virtue and comportment. While strong women such as those in Scudéry’s and Lafayette’s novels and, by association, Bernier’s texts may be acceptable to the French public, Dryden’s English public, the playwrite believes, requires more traditional models of comportment. From the beginning of the play, women’s involvement in the political realm, which Bernier uses to explain history, are denounced by Dryden’s Mughal courtiers. The character Fazel complains about women’s involvement and their machinations as he and the other courtiers set the scene for the action to follow: I well remember you foretold the storm When first the brothers did their factions form; When each, by cursed cabals of women, strove To draw th’indulgent king to partial love.

(Act I, ll. 17–20)

Dryden’s “Indian wives,” his “loving fools,” bear no resemblance to the powerful female forces in Bernier’s texts, whom Bernier described as having “la meilleure part dans ce qui se passe de plus grand” (53).

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Dryden’s Morat complains that “Women emasculate a monarch’s reign” (Act IV, l. 200). In addition to creating a fictional princess, Indamora, Dryden develops the character of Melesinda, the wife of the younger son, Morat, who in his play is vying for the throne. Melesinda does not figure at all in Bernier’s account. In Bernier, as in most historical accounts of Aurangzeb’s coming to power, Morat’s wives are not mentioned and the figure the character Morat is based upon, Aurangzeb’s youngest brother, Murad, illustrates Aurangzeb’s ruthlessness since he used his youngest brother first to defeat Dara, the supposed heir to the throne, and then imprisoned Murad and had him killed. In Dryden’s representation, Melesinda becomes the ideal wife who remains faithful to fickle husband Murat. When Murat dies she is so distressed that she commits sati, that is, she throws herself upon the funeral pyre of her husband because she has no further reason to live. Dryden’s destruction of Melesinda is especially noteworthy, and its inclusion particularly curious, due to its historical inaccuracy. Dryden’s seventeenth-century public may not have heard of Melesinda, but they would have heard of the practice of “sati,” descriptions of which appear in the majority of accounts of Mughal India, including in Bernier’s texts. Later writers lament this practice and cite sati as one of the main justifications for the colonialist project, offering the rationale that any civilization that encourages wives to hurl themselves upon the funeral pyre of their husband must require the moral guidance and control of more enlightened Western saviours. Dryden’s use of sati raises questions about the motives behind his depiction of women and the Mughal court in general, especially given that his source, Bernier, provides a very detailed and thoughtful consideration of the practice in his letter to Jean Chapelain. Bernier, consistent with other travellers, specifies that the practice was part of Hindu culture; the Mughal rulers condemned it, but did not outlaw it, primarily because they were of the opinion that sati was a religious practice and they did not impose Islam or its practices on their Hindu subjects. In Dryden’s play, Melesinda, portrayed as the devoted wife of Murat, a Muslim prince, chooses to kill herself in the same manner as a Hindu wife. Dryden thus gives the impression that sati was common practice not only among the Hindu faithful but throughout the Mughal Empire. In Dryden’s Aureng-Zebe, women in India wield little power and even turn to sati not out of a desire to adhere to religious practices but simply upon the death of their husband. Dryden’s seventeenth-century

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public would thus come away from his text with a very different impression of female agency in India than what they would have encountered in his source. They also would have been particularly surprised by Dryden’s reconceptualization of the most powerful woman of the Mughal period, Nur Jahan/Nur Mahal. Dryden’s public would, like Dryden himself, have associated the name of his character Nourmahal with the Nur Jahan of Bernier’s texts, especially given the fact that Bernier first introduces her as “Nur Mahal et depuis Nur Jahan Begum, La Lumière du Sérail, la Lumière du Monde”/“Nur Mahal who became Nur Jahan , the Light of the Seraglio, the Light of the world” (46). Bernier inscribes this powerful and intriguing figure even though he himself never encountered her, harkening back to the accounts of previous travellers such as Thomas Roe. Dryden’s decision to use the name Nourmahal for his empress would seem to be intentionally designed to call upon the images associated with this well-known figure of Mughal history. Critics have remarked that Nourmahal is clearly a reference to Nur Jahan and have pointed out Dryden’s chronological “error” in making Nourmahal the wife of Shah Jahan. But when examined in the context of Dryden’s other reworkings of Mughal female figures, his rewriting of the figure of Nur Jahan should be interpreted as more than a chronological error. In Dryden’s Aureng-Zebe, Nourmahal is a despicable figure. Unlike Jahangir, her real life husband who adored her and elevated her to power, Dryden’s Shah Jahan detests his wife and fears her. The fictional Indamora induces Shah Jahan to express his fear of this “fury”: Indamora: Remember, sir, your fury of a wife, Who, not content to be revenged on you, The agents of your passion will pursue. Emperor: If I but hear her named I’m sick that day; The sound is mortal, and frights life away. (Act II. ll. 145–9)

Nourmahal and Shah Jahan, as husband and wife, are enemies in this play, and their animosity comes through clearly in their biting language: Nourmahal: What you merit, have, And share at least the miseries you gave. Your days I will alarm, I’ll haunt your nights, And worse than age disable your delights. May your sick fame still languish till it die,

Salons, Seraglios, and Social Networking 167 All offices of pow’r neglected lie And you grow cheap in every subject’s eye. Then, as the greatest curse that I can give, Unpitied be deposed, and after live. Emperor: Stay! And now learn, How criminal soe’er we husbands are, ’Tis not for wives to push our crimes too far. Had you still mistress of your temper been, I had been modest and not owned my sin. Your fury hardens me, and whate’er wrong You suffer, you have canceled by your tongue. A guard there! Seize her! She shall know this hour What is a husband’s and a monarch’s pow’r. (Act II, ll. 314–30)

Shah Jahan even wants to have her killed, but Aurangzeb persuades his father to release her. Nourmahal thanks her stepson by promoting her own son, Murat, which again is historically inaccurate as Nur Jahan only had one child from her first marriage, a daughter, and she had no children by the Mughal emperor. She compounds this treason by admitting to Aurangzeb that she is in love with him. In addition to undermining the figure of Nur Jahan herself, Dryden uses the figure of Nourmahal to show how unbalanced and incapable of ruling Shah Jahan is, as is evident in Shah Jahan’s tirade, addressed to his son Aurangzeb: Emperor: Though Nourmahal I hate, her son shall reign; Inglorious thou [Aurangzeb] by thy own fault remain. Thy younger brother [Murat] I’ll admit this hour; So mine shall be thy mistress, his thy pow’r. (Act II, ll. 499–501)

The only resemblance between the “real” Nur Jahan and this fictional counterpart is that both are portrayed as politically influential and powerful. But whereas in other accounts such as Bernier’s texts Nur Jahan’s power is depicted without being undermined, in Dryden’s play Nourmahal is destroyed. When Nourmahal tries to seduce Aurangzeb, he rejects “Th’incestuous meaning which too plain you [Nourmahal] make” (Act IV, ll. 129). In this depiction of India Nourmahal is the product of a culture that does not obey the acceptable moral codes at the heart of English society. Nourmahal defends her incestuous love to Aurangzeb, explaining that

168  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal Custom our native royalty does awe; Promiscuous love is nature’s general law. For whosoever the first lovers were, Brother and sister made the second pair, And doubled, by their love, their piety.

(Act IVi, ll. 131–5)

Nourmahal’s love for Aurangzeb allies her with Racine’s Phèdre, but Dryden’s character surpasses her classical counterpart. Phèdre’s behaviour is explained in part as the work of cruel destiny. In contrast, Nourmahal is obeying “nature’s general law,” a law that Dryden’s contemporaries would never consider “natural.” There is nothing redeeming about Nourmahal, so when at the end she commits suicide on stage, the audience is meant to breathe a sigh of relief and feel that justice has prevailed, even though death was never supposed to occur on stage according to the rules governing dramatic composition. Nourmahal’s final lines are cathartic: “I burn! I more than burn; I am all fire! / See how my mouth and nostrils flame expire! / … Poor helpless I / See all, and have my hell before I die!” (Act V, ll 640–1 and 665–6) she exclaims as she “sinks down.” This empress is made to be so despicable that, in her case, Dryden can dispense with any rules governing theatrical composition in order to offer a more powerful moral lesson. What exactly is the lesson to be gleaned from the destruction of Nourmahal/Nur Jahan? What does Dryden hope to convey through his reworking of Bernier’s text? Dryden’s Aureng-Zebe is clearly not simply a play about kingship. Dryden capitalizes on his public’s interest in India to offer an alternative portrait of the Mughal Empire than the one his audience and readers could encounter in his source. We do not have records of the English public’s reaction either to Dryden’s play or to the English translation of Bernier’s texts, but we do know that editions of both works continued to be produced throughout the eighteenth century and nineteenth-century Britain witnessed the publication of new translations of Bernier’s texts that were abridged, but always included the more negative characteristics such as sati, thus continuing to propagate Dryden’s overall vision of an Indian society that was less than desirable.106 Dryden’s play was revived during the colonial period. Mita Choudhury emphasizes her interpretation of the play as proto-­imperialist, writing that, “in theory, the formula designed to repackage the foreign with all the trappings of proto-­ imperial desire was supposed to work, but not in the seventeenth and

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eighteenth centuries. Interestingly enough, the London theater records reveal that at a more propitious time, in a later life, the play did succeed. It was a huge success in 1934, quite noticeably toward the end of a colonial rule significantly threatened by an onslaught of resistance to foreign occupation.”107 In the seventeenth century, however, the conversation would have been very different. It is tempting to view the limited success of Dryden’s play as a rejection of his reformulation of Bernier’s conception of India. Reading Dryden’s play as a reaction to Bernier’s depiction of India rather than just as an adaptation highlights how different historical contexts encountered India differently, thus producing alternative images that nourished the imaginary of their respective artists and writers. Bernier’s texts generated different ideas about the Mughal court due, in large measure, to the power and influence Bernier’s female public enjoyed in the French Republic of Letters. Dryden offers a very different idea of India and uses his construction as a warning to those who might look favourably on female agency. Instead of generating possibilities with respect to female agency, Dryden’s Mughal court confines women to the traditional roles of abandoned wife, seductress, and powerless political pawn. The differences between Dryden’s and Lafayette’s uses and inscriptions of India as inspired by Bernier underscore how important Bernier’s salon context was to the shaping of India in the French imaginary. Dryden openly rejects the ties between Bernier’s text and its French cultural context, specifically its salon culture, as he rejects the type of narrative and public that Bernier seeks to create and attract. As a result, Dryden’s India does not resemble Bernier’s. Nor does it correspond to the India that will inspire other writers, such as La Fontaine and Fontenelle, as we will see in the next chapter. The India generated from the conversations around Bernier’s text in La Sablière’s salon and subsequently inscribed in the French imaginary is a place shaped by female influence and open to difference, a world that could be emulated and understood rather than rejected as too different to provide inspiration. When we turn to La Fontaine and Fontenelle we will see that they, like many other seventeenth-century French intellectuals, would agree with their fellow salon habitué, Lafayette: India can inspire creativity and new knowledge. They might even have been tempted to raise a metaphorical “canne des Indes fort extraordinaire” against Dryden and his transformation of their colleague Bernier’s India.

Chapter Three

Penser autrement: Fables, Philosophy, and Diversity

“Je soutiens qu’il faut de tout aux entretiens.” La Fontaine, “Discours à Mme de La Sablière”1

In 1678, the same year that his friend Marie-Madeleine, comtesse de Lafayette published La Princesse de Clèves, Jean de La Fontaine offered a second volume of his popular Fables to the French public. These new fables were not simply a continuation of the first six books of Fables that had appeared in 1668. In the opening lines of the “Avertissement” to Book 7, La Fontaine invites his readers to compare these new literary works to his previous ones, and to be especially attuned to difference, stating “j’ai jugé à propos de donner à la plupart de celles-ci un air et un tour un peu différent de celui que j’ai donné aux premières, tant à cause de la différence des sujets, que pour remplir de plus de variété mon ouvrage”/“I considered that it would be a good time to endow these fables with an air and a feeling that is a bit different than what I gave to the first fables, in part because of their different subject matter, but also to give more variety to my work.”2 La Fontaine stipulates in his “Avertissement” that the different “air” and “feeling,” the “different subject matter” that results in “more variety,” can be attributed to a new source of inspiration: “… je dirai par reconnaissance que j’en dois la plus grande partie à Pilpay sage indien. Son livre a été traduit en toutes les langues”/“… I will say out of gratitude that I owe most to Pilpay the wise Indian. His book has been translated into all languages.” Lafayette’s “canne des Indes” and La Fontaine’s “sage indien” can be seen as the textual traces reflecting these authors’ encounters with Bernier. Each text bears the imprint of the hallmark of La Sablière’s



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salon: its engagement with India. And in both cases, India is associated with diversity. Antoine Furetière, who produced the first modern dictionary of the French language in 1690, defines “diverse” as “terme qui marque la pluralité et la différence soit des temps, soit des lieux, des personnes, ou des choses. Il faut avoir eu affaire à diverses personnes et en ­divers temps pour connaître le monde”/ “a term that designates plurality and difference of time, place, people, or things. In order to know the world, one must have experience with diverse people at different times.”3 A friend of Bernier’s for decades, an acquaintance of many of the participants in La Sablière’s salon, as well as an occasional salonnier himself, Furetière’s conception of “diversité” reflects the values of this particular worldly milieu, which valorized diversity of experience and attitudes and viewed this concept of diversity as leading to new knowledge and wisdom. As we have seen, Marguerite de La Sablière attracted possibly the most eclectic group of writers, intellectuals, and worldly figures during Le Grand Siècle. La Sablière’s “joli philo­ sophe,” as Saint-Evremond characterized him, invited his fellow salon habitués to “know the world” in the way Furetière prescribed: through the encounter with “diverse people at diverse times.” This exploration included a desire to explore different ways of thinking. Salon discussions at rue Neuve des Petits-Champs frequently revolved around philosophical ideas of the period, especially the much-debated premises of René Descartes.4 La Sablière was known to be a follower of Descartes, but her resident traveller/philosopher was a disciple of Gassendi, the philosopher who interpreted Epicurus for seventeenth-century France; Bernier thus disputed many of Descartes’s premises. Bernier’s interactions with Marguerite in particular often involved debates that pitted the ideas of the two philosophers against each other.5 While living with La Sablière, Bernier even composed what might be considered to be a manual on Gassendi’s philosophy, the Abrégé de la philosophie de Gassendi, followed by another tome titled Doutes de M. Bernier sur quelques-uns des principaux chapitres de son Abrégé de la philosophie de Gassendi. Bernier dedicated this second volume to Marguerite. While it was common to dedicate literary works to patrons to garner their monetary support, in this instance Bernier can be seen as inscribing conversations that he had had with La Sablière and her group in writing; he was not simply trying to curry favour with the wealthy patron who was his benefactor. Even Pierre Bayle acknowledged that Bernier chose La Sablière for her keen intellect.6 It is clear from the correspondence he had with La

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Sablière after her salon had closed that Bernier considered her to be a worthy intellectual interlocutor who was interested in and knowledgeable about the most important philosophical and scientific questions of the day. In 1688 he addressed “Etrennes” to Marguerite in which he described some of the recent scientific advances he had witnessed, such as the creation of the Canal du Midi by Vauban. Bernier’s literary gifts attest to the intellectual curiosity of the woman who had given him shelter, and indicate the philosophical leanings of her gatherings at the rue Neuve des Petits-Champs. Marguerite inspired Bernier and others in her entourage to “think differently.” Bernier even attributed the idea for an essay he wrote in 1684 to a conversation he had with La Sablière.7 In what Bernier characterizes as a particularly stimulating conversation, one that was perhaps inspired by Bernier’s travels to India, Marguerite advanced that, in light of the many discoveries of different lands, it would be worthwhile to rethink how people were classified. This conversation then inspired Bernier to write an essay on the world’s various “races,” or peoples, and to propose different categories for distinguishing them.8 Bernier’s texts on India and other texts produced by writers such as Lafayette and La Fontaine who were part of La Sablière’s salon explore modes of thinking. A common theme that unites some of these explorations is the concept of diversity. In this chapter I will explore this interest in diversity as a product of the encounter between France and India as mediated through La Sablière’s salon. India becomes identified with diversity and becomes a privileged site for the exploration of this concept in seventeenth-century France. The textual traces of salon conversations suggest that Lafayette, La Fontaine, and Fontenelle joined Bernier on an intellectual journey that had them use India to challenge preconceived ideas and compelled them to value difference instead of containing, controlling, or even eliminating difference as their monarch hoped to do. The thread of diversity and its association with India is one of the principle products of the encounter between India, the participants of La Sablière’s salon, and France’s intellectual community at large. Bernier and many other travellers to India were especially intrigued by the diversity of this foreign land, a diversity that found its greatest and most surprising manifestation, particularly in the eyes of a French public, in its religious pluralism. Visitors to India often underscored how various diverse religious populations coexisted in India. This was especially intriguing to the French public of the 1670s as it was dealing not only



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with the imposition of Louis XIV’s absolutism but was also witnessing the erosion of any progress towards religious tolerance that had been acquired since Louis XIV’s grandfather, “le bon roi Henri IV,” had enacted the Edict of Nantes, which had guaranteed Protestants the right to practice their religion. French Protestants, joined by liberal-thinking intellectuals, were justifiably alarmed by Louis XIV’s increasing intolerance of diversity, religious and otherwise. In 1684 Louis XIV revoked his ancestor’s liberal edict, forcing many Protestants to flee the c­ ountry or to convert to Catholicism. La Sablière’s salon was particularly implicated in Louis’s imposition of religious uniformity. People from across the spectrum of religious beliefs and practices gathered at rue Neuve des Petis-Champs, invited by their Protestant host, Marguerite. They were naturally attracted to discussions of religion and its practices given that Louis’s policies affected many of them personally. Bernier fed this interest as he expanded their knowledge of religious pluralism through his experiences in India. Bernier’s texts add to a conversation about India that had developed decades before his visit. India’s diversity, which finds expression especially in its religious pluralism and tolerance, had long been recognized by European travellers and merchants. Knowledge of India was not conveyed to Europe simply by merchants and curious voyagers. Beginning in the sixteenth century, many of the accounts were composed by missionaries, who were naturally most interested in learning about what Indians believed in order to better convince them to believe otherwise. It is these accounts, along with a few composed by intrepid travellers and the occasional ambassador such as Thomas Roe, which circulated even before Bernier decided to venture to India, that shaped impressions of India for the seventeenth-century public, and most important for our purposes, provided Bernier’s public with additional information they could use to augment their conversations about Bernier’s texts and experiences. Given the atmosphere of intellectual inquiry and debate in La Sa­ blière’s salon in particular, it is not surprising to note that Bernier’s writings on India compiled when he was living rue Neuve des PetitsChamps often attempt to give readers and interlocutors a sense of how Indians think as well as how they live. For example, Bernier devotes one entire letter addressed to Jean Chapelain to the various religious belief systems he encountered in India. In deciding to publish this letter as part of his writings on India, Bernier indicates that he is aware that such discussions would be of interest to his seventeenth-century

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French worldly public. In addition, the letter reflects the discussions that were most likely pervading the intellectual world, especially circles such as La Sablière’s, regarding alternative ways of thinking and believing. Bernier went to India to satisfy his own intellectual curiosity, but he was acutely aware that his public also expected more from him than the traditional travel narratives they had thus far received. As we have seen, Jean Chapelain in particular had sought to inspire Bernier to do more than serve as a mirror of Indian society. He urged him to remember his abilities as an admired thinker and philosopher to delve below the surface of reality, to “enrich himself” “de toutes les lumières qui vous sera possible”/“with all possible insights” and to then enlighten his compatriots in France. The texts that Bernier put together and published with Barbin all attest to the fact that he saw himself as the conduit Chapelain urged him to be. Throughout his descriptions of Mughal history and of the court, his narrative recounting his trip to Kashmir, and his accounts of his other personal experiences, Bernier is especially attentive to the philosophical and religious underpinnings of this society, and is desirous of transmitting what he portrays as a vibrant, diverse tapestry of thought to his seventeenth-century contemporaries, as well as to posterity. Religious Diversity and French Thought We should remember that religion, specifically the European JudeoChristian tradition, provided the grid through which early modern Europeans viewed and interpreted the world. With the discovery of India in particular, this means of making sense of one’s existence became radically destabilized.9 To add to the uncertainty, many of the French travellers and merchants drawn to India, such as Tavernier and Chardin, were, like La Sablière and her family, Huguenots whose families had survived religious persecution in the sixteenth century and had been reintegrated into French society, although this reintegration was becoming very precarious and contested by the 1670s. These travellers were not only especially sensitive to the religious beliefs and practices they witnessed in India, they were also drawn to the descriptions composed by other travellers. By the time Bernier’s texts on India appeared, a plethora of travel narratives, letters, and missionary accounts had been circulating among European intellectuals for nearly 100 years. The majority of the earliest accounts were composed by Portuguese missionaries and merchants,



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followed by those of Italian Jesuits who were attempting to convert the Hindu “infidels” of South India to Christianity. The accounts of British and Dutch traders made their appearance in the early to midseventeenth century, followed by those of the French travellers we have been examining, such as Tavernier and Bernier. But, while the French may have been among the last to establish a strong trading presence in seventeenth-century India, their missionaries, like those of their Italian counterparts, had arrived soon after the Portuguese, and from the end of the sixteenth century they were meticulously recording their experiences in India. Jesuit practices, for example, required that missionaries submit detailed reports to their superiors regarding their ecclesiastical activities. Although most of these texts were in Latin, worldly travellers who were also well educated, voyagers such as Bernier, would most likely have been familiar with these accounts. They certainly encountered these missionaries personally or heard of them indirectly during their travels to the subcontinent. The appreciation of India’s diversity can in fact be traced back, in part, to these early missionary ventures. Today we are inclined to believe that all Christian missionaries in the early modern era violently imposed their religion on unwilling, heathen “Others.” The appreciation and acceptance of difference is perhaps not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of early Christian missionaries in India or elsewhere. Indian and western history books are filled with the horrors inflicted, for example, on the inhabitants of Goa by the earliest Portuguese missionaries. Hindu temples were raised and Goans and others were tortured into conversion. But this is only one facet of the history of Christianity in India, and, while it may be the most prevalent view, it should not eclipse a more intriguing and complex story of religious and philosophical encounters, a story that arguably exerted more influence on the worldly intellectual culture of late seventeenth-century France. When Christian missionaries arrived in India, they were not only met by Muslims and Hindus.10 While these inspired travellers would have been intrigued by the different belief systems of these non-Christians, they most likely were even more intellectually stimulated by the large number of their fellow Christians who were already residing in India, especially in the south, where they had been living for well over a millennium. As Robert Frykenberg points out, “many of those who think and write about India all too often forget, or else are unaware of the fact, that Christianity has always been, in some measure, a non-western religion; that in India this has always been so.”11 Indian Christians are

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not the product of one foreign power imposing its will and beliefs on another. Thus, instead of conflating missionary zeal and colonialism and believing that Western Europeans were imposing their religion on people who were ignorant of Christian beliefs and practices, it is more fruitful, and indeed more historically accurate, to view these missionary expeditions as primarily encounters with difference, whether these differences be pagan or Christian. Diversity was evident even among those groups who professed to hold the same Christian beliefs as the missionaries. Indian Christians have never been a monolithic group and indeed accept that diversity of practices, and to some extent beliefs, are not only engrained in Christianity, but also are a necessary part of its belief system.12 Some Indian Christians trace their roots back to St. Thomas, who it is believed travelled to India and eventually was buried there.13 Others are Orthodox (Syrian) Christians, while still others are Roman Catholic.14 Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European travellers and European missionaries to India could have encountered all these different Christians, in addition to learning about more unfamiliar faiths such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Sikhism, to name a few of the religious communities residing in the Indian subcontinent. 15 In many instances, the Christianity professed resembled Hinduism as much as it did Roman Catholicism, if not more. As Frykenberg explains, “these shoreline Christian communities retained their autonomy. Their religion, while Christian, remained conspicuously Hindu or Nativistic. Ceremonials, rituals, and social structures also remained jati (birth and caste) oriented.”16 This hardly corresponded to Roman Catholicism’s emphasis on equality among all believers. How did early missionaries contend with such fundamental differences? Their solutions proved to be as diverse as the communities they encountered. Some missionaries opted for hostile confrontation in an attempt to impose a “correct” Roman Catholicism upon Indian Catholics and the “infidels”. More inventive and more interesting were those such as Roberto de Nobili (1577–1656), an Italian Jesuit who arrived at the beginning of the seventeenth century and opted for assimilation. Nobili and others like him believed that Hinduism and Catholicism could coexist, not just as separate religions but could actually be combined. This radical acceptance of philosophical and religious diversity often led to fierce ideological battles within the community of European missionaries that Roman authorities were called upon to mitigate. Yet even when Rome ultimately condemned Jesuit practices of assimilation in the eighteenth century,

Plate 1  Pierre Cadre. Madame de Sévigné débarquant à Lorient, c. 1933. Pastel on canvas made in preparation for a mural for the Chamber of Commerce, Lorient, France. Image courtesy of G. Broudic, Musée de la Compagnie des Indes, Ville de Lorient.

Plate 2  Pierre Mignard. Portrait of Madame de la Sablière, 17th century. Oil on canvas. Image courtesy Chateau Bussy-le-Grand, Bussy-le-Grand, France/ Bridgeman Images.

Plate 3  Anonymous artist. Detail of Dolls house of Petronella Dunois, c. 1676. Wood construction. Image courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Plate 4  India: Jahangir relaxing with Nur Jahan and Prince Khurram, Mughal miniature painting, c. 1620. Image courtesy Pictures from History/ Bridgeman Images

Plate 5  India: Empress Nur Jahan, wife of Emperor Jahangir, smoking a water pipe while fanned by a servant, Mughal miniature painting. Image courtesy Pictures from History/Bridgeman Images.

Plate 6  Tomb of I’timad ud-Daulah, 1622–8, Agra, India. Image courtesy Christopher Sundaram.

Plate 7  Detail of tomb of I’timad ud-Daulah, 1622–8, Agra, India. Author photo.

Plate 8  Mughal miniature painting of woman recently identified as Jahanara, c. 1631–3. Image © The British Library Board, Add.Or.3129, f.25v.

Plate 9  Kalamkari Hanging with Figures in an Architectural Setting, c. 1640–50. Mordant-painted and dyed cotton. Image from the collection of The Metro­ politan Museum of Art.

Plate 10  Jahangir Celebrates the Hindu Festival of Holi, c. 1635. Image © The Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. Image number: CBL In 07A.4A

Plate 11  Detail of Jahangir holding a picture of the Madonna, inscribed in Persian: Jahangir Shah, Mughal, 1620. Image courtesy National Museum of India, New Delhi, India/Bridgeman Images.

Plate 12  Shah Jahan on the Peacock Throne at Delhi receiving deputations. Image courtesy British Library, London, UK. © British Library Board. All Rights Reserved/ Bridgeman Images

Plate 13  A view of Tipu Sultan’s cotton chintz tent, c. 1725. Image © National Trust Images/Erik Pelham.

Plate 14  Interior of the Shish Mahal at Agra, built by Shah Jahan 1631-40; lit with candles held by a tour guide. Image © Freya Dowson.

Plate 15  View of the wall and ceiling inside the Shish Mahal, Amber Fort, c. 1623, Jaipur, India. Author photo.

Plate 16  Detail of interior of Shish Mahal, Amber Fort, c. 1623, Jaipur, India. Author photo.



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missionaries who had followed in Roberto de Nobili’s footsteps continued to exist and to evangelize according to his precepts. Roberto de Nobili is a fascinating figure who in many ways epitomizes the more open and accepting attitudes that would be cultivated in a space such as La Sablière’s salon, attitudes that would also be associated with India itself. Given that India had been characterized by religious pluralism and tolerance since the emperor Akbar, one could argue that Nobili’s actions were dictated in large measure by his Indian context.17 As Inès Zupanov explains, instead of joining the thriving missionary community in Goa, Nobili, like Francis Xavier a half century before him, went farther south. Nobili settled in Mandurai, one of India’s most important temple towns, where he sought to become part of the Hindu elite. While Nobili did not hold the heretical belief that Hinduism was equal to Christianity, he did believe that Hinduism had much in common with Christianity and that it even could be viewed as an earlier form of the same belief system.18 Nobili based his opinion on careful analyses of Hindu texts, especially the Vedas. He even learned Sanskrit and Tamil in order to ground his knowledge more convincingly on the original texts. Indeed, he is often referred to as the first European Sanskrit scholar.19 This approach allowed Nobili to accept, in good conscience, many Hindu religious practices as compatible with Christian ones. Not only did he not find fault with Indian Christians who embraced such rituals, he himself adopted such practices in an effort to better convert Hindus to Christianity. With the help of his guru, he became “Brahmanized,” even wearing the sacred thread and adopting the dress and eating habits of the Brahmins.20 He became known by the name Tattuwa-Bhodacharia Swami. Nobili’s Jesuit colleague in Madurai, Gonçalo Fernandes (1541–1619), who had arrived before him, was horrified by Nobili’s “going native” and denounced him to the Jesuit authorities.21 The practices initiated by Nobili in Madurai eventually caused a split in the Jesuit community in India. As Zupanov explains, “for the next two decades, this dispute would generate hundreds of letters and treatises, circulating from one Indian mission to another, and to Rome and Lisbon. Almost every Jesuit in India chose one or the other side, wrote ’opinions’ (pareceres) or condemnations, provided arguments pro or contra, and tried to use various networks at the Roman curia in order to persuade the Popes to approve, or destroy, Nobili’s ’new’ Madurai mission”.22 These disputes about how to deal with difference were inscribed in Jesuit texts, but they often found a wider audience beyond their initial

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addressees within the Jesuit brotherhood. By the end of the seventeenth century, there were collections of such letters translated from their original languages into English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Polish, to name a just a few. These letters, as well as the actual practices of Jesuits such as Nobili, served the broader purpose of making India and its religious and cultural practices better known to a general Western public.23 They informed the general intellectual debate over how to deal with the differences travellers and missionaries alike found in India. By attempting to assimilate to Indian society rather than impose Western values, missionary authors like Nobili, while privileging Christianity, nonetheless offered a less xenophobic approach to understanding the foreign. While the rationale governing Nobili’s acceptance of the differences he perceived in India differed from what we will see in the narratives of worldly travellers such as Bernier, his approach to India could plausibly have informed conversations about India in worldly salons. Nobili felt justified in assimilating to Hindu practices because he saw them as having the same foundation as Christian religious practices. If, for example, Hindus used perfumes and oils on their bodies, it was because, like Christians, they believed that a priest should ornament the body in order to better praise God. At the heart of Nobili’s assimilationist practices was an outlook of tolerance and regard for religious pluralism; despite different practices, the beliefs were ultimately the same.24 It is possible that travellers were inspired by figures such as Nobili and others to not reject these different beliefs but rather to explore and learn from them. The missionary records of these early encounters between Europeans and Indians nourished the curiosity Europeans felt when confronted with this religious diversity and informed conversations that disseminated these approaches to difference outside of the traditional ecclesiastic and academic circles. Another particularly interesting figure whose texts were disseminated widely throughout Europe was Père Pierre DuJarric (1566–1617). Père DuJarric never visited India himself, but he translated letters from the Jesuits who were at Akbar’s court. The portrait DuJarric paints of Akbar and his court as a whole underscores the openness that others also associated with this Mughal court and, by extension, India in general. It is especially interesting that his texts really began to circulate around 100 years after he composed them. As we have seen through Bernier’s texts, Louis XIV’s subjects were not only interested in contemporary India; Bernier’s texts include earlier Indian



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history, responding perhaps to his contemporaries’ interest in Indian culture from the beginning of the century. DuJarric describes in detail the debates Akbar staged between his own mullahs and the Jesuits he invited to his court. Throughout the letters Akbar appears to be very open-minded, in contrast to the priests, either Muslim or Catholic. He is not guided by blind faith but rather by a desire for knowledge. The Jesuits in these accounts appear in contrast less enlightened and more ethnocentric than Akbar. They continually denigrate many of the other religions, leading one to question who is actually the more enlightened, especially with respect to religion and knowledge in general. The missionary experience and the narratives associated with it are part of the vast web of conceptions of and discussions about India during this period and played a role in the construction of worldly impressions of Indian and Mughal culture. The Jesuits in DuJarric’s letters stand in stark contrast to Nobili and his desire to delve into religious differences and to understand belief systems. But what is clear is that these texts and the experiences of missionaries and travellers together offered an image of India in which the imposition of one belief system on an entire population was unfathomable. The mosaic of religious practices and beliefs that was composed of different religions came to characterize India in early modern Western minds. Not only did this diversity exist relatively peacefully, the Euro­ pean public often saw that diversity of practice was an accepted part of religious beliefs even within each religion. Travellers recounted how they had witnessed many different ways one could be Hindu, for example, as well as Christian. There is no doubt that, for those thinkers who were open-minded and inquisitive, such experiences would have altered the way they conceived of the world, the cosmos, and their place in both spheres. The incorporation of difference was a political tool at the Mughal court. In their interactions with this court, Europeans were confronted with alternative modes of dealing with profound difference. They were compelled to rethink their own assumptions. This openness to different ways of thinking, especially religious beliefs, was seen as a characteristic that distinguished the Mughal rulers from their Muslim counterparts in Persia.25 The majority of the population of India was Hindu, but there were also Christians, Jews, Parsis, and Jains, even within the Muslim Mughal court. In addition, while the Mughals were Sunnis, many of their advisors were Shias from Persia. Nur Jahan and her family, for example, were Shia as opposed to Sunni;

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this certainly did not hinder them from occupying powerful positions at court.26 India provided an example of an empire that drew its strength in large measure from this openness to others. Early modern Europeans might have expected the Mughal emperors, as foreign intruders in a Hindu-dominated space, to impose Islam on the territories they claimed and to use religion to unite the empire. However, this is not the behaviour Europeans read about or witnessed. In the earliest accounts in the sixteenth century, Europeans expressed their surprise at the fact that religious pluralism was as much a hallmark of the Mughal court as it was of India as a whole.27 Travellers such as Tavernier and Chardin comment particularly on the freedom of thought in the Mughal Empire, and discuss, often at length, different beliefs, such as reincarnation, as well as practices.28 In their descriptions of the Mughal court, travellers, missionaries, and merchants often remark how open the Mughal court was to new ideas. The Mughal emperors Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan, in particular, exhibited great intellectual curiosity and sought to learn about the foreigners arriving on their soil looking to establish trade. In her study of the Mughal Empire, Annemarie Schimmel describes Akbar’s intellectual curiosity, writing that “during Akbar’s fifteen years of residence in Fatehpur, he constructed the ibadat-khana, where religious debates were held on Thursday evenings, initially between Muslim theologians, then later also with Hindus and Parsis. In 1580 Jesuits also took part.”29 The India that Bernier and others encountered had the reputation of being much more open to difference than Bernier’s native France was becoming in the 1670s. The Mughal court was certainly more open to different religious beliefs in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century when Euro­ peans were first engaging with India in a sustained way and subsequently writing their experiences. These Europeans had left a Europe embroiled in the Wars of Religion. In contrast, Akbar in particular was known for his religious tolerance and acceptance of religious diversity.30 Schimmel describes Akbar’s approach to religion as a kind of pluralistic “fervour.” Akbar’s religious fervour encompassed all religions. He honoured the image of the Madonna in the chapel in the presence of Jesuits and also took an interest in the rites of the Parsis, particularly their cult of fire. Above all he strove for a profound understanding of Hinduism, and to this end he encouraged the translation of the most important Sanskrit texts.31 Hindus as well as Muslims peopled his government, as well as those of his successors, and throughout the Mughal



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period, each successive ruler (until Aurangzeb) did not discriminate on the basis of religious custom or belief; even Aurangzeb tread cautiously when dealing with his Hindu officers, whom he could not risk alienating.32 Schimmel underscores the diversity at Akbar’s court, identifying Akbar’s most trusted finance minister, Todar Mal, as a Hindu, and stating that the financial administration under the Mughals was primarily in the hands of Hindus.33 Akbar abolished the jizya, a tax that was always levied against non-Muslims in Muslim-ruled regions.34 He encouraged intermarriages between members of the imperial family and Hindu Rajput warrior clans, and even married the daughter of the Hindu Raja of Amber himself. Jahangir’s mother was this Hindu princess. Indeed Jahangir was the first Mughal ruler whose mother was not from a Turkish or Persian family.35 Akbar did not force these Hindu wives to abandon their religion once they entered the royal seraglio. The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin possesses a miniature that is ascribed to the painter Govardhan and dates from between 1615 and 1625 that offers a detailed portrait of Jahangir’s celebration of Holi in the zenana (Plate 10).36 Jahangir is surrounded by women who, in the tradition of the festival, are throwing colours at each other rather chaotically, while he himself sits apart from the general mayhem. The viewer is struck by the richness of the carpets, the colours, the jewels, particularly pearls, that adorn all the women, and the sumptuous fabrics. Especially noteworthy is the fact that the one male figure is clearly the emperor himself, as indicated by the halo that surrounds his head.37 The fact that he, a Muslim emperor, is not only present at this Hindu festival but is allowing the women to participate in it freely underscores one of the hallmarks of Mughal rule in India: a tolerance and indeed acceptance of different religious practices. In fact, courtiers were free to continue to follow their own religious practices in the seraglio and throughout the court, as well as to incorporate religious practices from other religions into their own religious expressions. His son Jahangir was known for having Hindu texts translated, and two of his nephews converted to Christianity. Jahangir and Shah Jahan were intrigued by Western art and particularly relished portraits of the Virgin Mary given to them by Europeans. Jahangir is one of few world rulers to ever have his portrait painted using the iconography of a religion other than his own. He had himself painted holding and contemplating a portrait of the Virgin Mary (Plate 11). While his son, Shah Jahan, who constructed the Taj Mahal, was less tolerant and followed a more orthodox form of Islam, he did not reinstitute the jizya. It is worth noting, however, that his

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children, especially his daughter Jahanara and his son Dara, were both drawn to Sufism, which Shah Jahan did not oppose, even though he himself practiced a less mystical form of Islam. Dara, who was Shah Jahan’s choice to succeed him, is an especially interesting figure for our purposes. Bernier was part of Dara’s entourage when he arrived in India and he thus had extensive interactions with this prince. Of all of Akbar’s successors Dara most resembled his great grandfather. Schimmel describes him as “drawn to mysticism. His goal was to achieve the ’confluence of the two oceans’, a mutual tolerance between Islam and Hinduism, and he wrote numerous works in Persian devoted to this end.”38 Amartya Sen recognizes Dara’s religious tolerance, explaining that Dara “had learned Sanskrit and studied Hindu philosophy extensively. In fact, the heir to the Mughal throne had himself translated into Persian some significant parts of the Upanisads, the ancient Hindu scriptures, and compared them-not unfavourablywith the Koran. It is this translation, which Dara did with the assistance of Hindu pundits, that gave many people in West Asia and Europe their first glimpse of Hindu philosophy.”39 In contrast, Dara and Jahanara’s brother, Aurangzeb, is viewed today as the most fundamentalist of the Mughal rulers. Conservative mullahs supported Aurangzeb over his brother and helped him ascend to the throne. Aurangzeb reinstated the tax on non-Muslims in the 1660s and led a much less lavish lifestyle than his forebearers. But India’s underlying religious tolerance did not disappear with Aurangzeb. As Sen remarks, “even though Aurangzeb certainly had much intolerance, it is interesting to note that he too had Hindu scholars and musicians in his court in positions of importance.”40 History has, in many ways and for a variety of reasons, often opted to elevate Aurangzeb as “the quintessential Muslim ruler of India,” to use Sen’s description. However, such a characterization erases the religious pluralism that so marked the early modern India encountered by Europeans, in addition to simplifying how this tradition continued under Aurangzeb. Recently historians have begun to interrogate this history, in particular the vilifying of Aurangzeb. As Sen implies, the intolerant Muslim Mughal Aurangzeb is a construction that conforms to the needs of certain historians of a given time period. The Aurangzeb with whom Bernier interacted would not have been interpreted in the same way. In fact, Castonnet des Fosses, a nineteenth-century historian who penned a number of studies of Bernier, describes Aurangzeb very differently. Des Fosses remarks upon this relative acceptance of religious difference even in Aurangzeb:



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”Les Mongols qui constituaient la race dominante étaient Musulmans, mais montraient une assez grande tolerance et chez eux on ne trouvait pas ce fanacisme qui malheureusement est la principale qualité des Turcs et des Persans. Le souveraine donnait lui-même l’exemple, en témoignant sa bienvaillance aux Chrétiens aussi bien qu’aux Gentils, et cette politique n’était pas personnelle à Aurangzeb. Son prédecesseur avait constamment agi de même.”/“The Mughals, who were primarily Muslims, showed a fairly great tolerance and one did not see that fanaticism that unfortunately is the principal quality of the Turks and the Persians. The monarch himself was an example by exhibiting his tolerance to Christians as well as Hindus, and these policies did not originate with Aurangzeb. His predecessor had always acted the same way.”41 He later adds that “Bernier nous signale la tolerance du gouvernement du Grand Mogol”/“Bernier points out the tolerance of the Great Mughal’s government.”42 Castonnet des Fosses is perhaps more in line with the conception of India that existed in Bernier’s own time, one that acknowledged the acceptance of religious differences as an Indian trait even under the rule of Aurangzeb.43 In an in-depth and provocative study of civility at the Mughal court, Rajeev Kinra also complicates our understanding of Aurangzeb as he contests the traditional portrait of this emperor as an intolerant and fundamentalist ruler. In “Handling Diversity with Absolute Civility,” Kinra writes, “in fact, it is increasingly clear from the historical record that many seventeenthcentury Europeans might have learned just as much about values like religious tolerance and respect for cultural diversity from their Mughal counterparts as the other way around.”44 Sens’s and Kinra’s revisionist studies compel us to reexamine our preconceptions of the India that Bernier experienced. The overall impression of India that French travellers encountered and transmitted to their contemporaries was one of religious plurality, diversity, and intellectual curiosity. This would be particularly the case with Bernier given his association with Dara. The Indian landscape was even marked by this religious pluralism and tolerance. In Agra, for example, Jesuits constructed a church as well as a school, which existed alongside the various Hindu temples and Muslim mosques. The religious diversity and openness that many European travellers came to associate with India would have resonated in profound ways with François Bernier, an intellectual philosopher living in a France that had been almost torn apart by religious divisions just decades earlier. In addition, as he composed and compiled his texts in the opening

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years of the Sun King’s reign, he was surrounded by individuals whose positions in French society were becoming ever more precarious. The truce between Protestants and Catholics was appearing more and more unstable and untenable to Protestants like Marguerite de La Sablière and other thinkers who frequented the rue Neuve des Petits-Champs. Bernier’s interests and the preoccupations of his entourage influenced his perception of the India he had just experienced, and left its trace on the texts he offered to his contemporaries. Inspiring Thought: Bernier and Diversity One of the most striking characteristics of Bernier’s texts is the way that the philosopher’s own compositions reflect the diversity of the experiences and mindsets of the India that he encountered. Frédéric Tinguely, Bernier’s recent editor, remarks upon Bernier’s “intégration subtile de la diversité du monde dans une pensée profondément cohérante”/“subtle integration of the world’s diversity into a profoundly coherent thought.”45 Bernier’s account may be “cohérante,” but it also illustrates diversity in terms of content and perspective. Bernier constructs his texts in order to make his readers and interlocutors reflect and come to their own understanding of India. We remember from the “Au Lecteur” that Bernier states that he will not say “expressément”/“openly” what the customs, “génie,”/“spirit” and interests of Mughals and Indians are; rather he will “try to make them known”/“tâcherai de les faire connaître,” thus demanding that his public actively engage with him and his texts. To this end, Bernier “nous propose différents éclairages sur les mêmes événements”/“proposes different explanations of the same events,” as Tinguely says, and shies away from giving one reading or interpretation of an event or a characteristic that he has witnessed. Bernier often adopts a relativistic stance when faced with describing this different world, rather than attempting to erase difference by offering his own interpretation or explanation. As Tinguely observes, Bernier combines the art of observation with the philosopher’s desire to speculate on the cause of events and different beliefs. Tinguely remarks that in Bernier’s narrative, “cette tentative de neutralisation de l’altérité indienne se heurte … à une conscience aiguë de la relativité des principes”/“this attempt to neutralize Indian difference comes up against … a strong sense of relativism.”46 At the same time, Tinguely points to Bernier’s often-ambiguous position. Bernier may suggest that we understand difference, such as architectural



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differences, by adopting a relativistic position, but he himself never fully assumes that position in his writings.47 He frequently offers alternative explanations, creating a text that mirrors the complexity and the diversity of the culture he is trying to convey to his interlocutors. Bernier’s position shows him to be a cultural interlocutor who is stimulated by the diversity he witnessed in India. He creates a narrative that, in it own diversity, replicates this intellectual excitement and stimulation for his readers as it provokes conversation about diversity, difference, and the merits, advantages, and disadvantages of a pluralistic society. Bernier encourages people to reflect; he wants people to think differently. Bernier thus eschews the efforts of critics and readers to pin him down regarding his opinions and interpretations in order to emphasize the concept of diversity itself, a concept he associates with India. Bernier is especially intrigued and attracted to what he and others view as one particular expression of diversity in India: its religious pluralism and tolerance. Bernier’s experience of India’s religious diversity in many ways serves as a prism through which he views Indian thought and “génie” in general. Bernier portrays Indian society as a diverse tapestry of people and ideas. While he may not always express his agreement with the various beliefs and practices he witnessed, he seems to admire the tolerance exhibited by Indians who adhere to these various beliefs and characterizes India positively as a place where competing beliefs can coexist on one complex subcontinent. He is drawn to describing instances in which this diversity is particularly apparent. In the context of Louis XIV’s absolutist France, Bernier’s emphasis on diversity would have resonated with his own French public, especially the eclectic group united in La Sablière’s salon, in ways that would not have been necessarily the case in other places in Europe that were not experiencing the same imposition of monarchical will. In turn, the meaning the French public would have ascribed to India, their perception of India, would have been affected in a particular way by Bernier’s writings and his exploration of diversity, especially through the lens of religion. From the beginning of the Histoire, Bernier characterizes the Mughal court, and India as a whole, as a diverse community open to difference, a theme he then carries through all his published texts on India. In the opening paragraph he paints a portrait of a country teaming with different people of different faiths and different histories. The Mughals in his portrait are,

186  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal étrangers qui gouvernent à présent l’Hindoustan, le pays des Hindous ou Indiens, quoique ceux qui entrent dans les charges et dignités, et même dans la milice, ne soient tous de la race des Mogols, mais que ce soient des étrangers et gens ramassés de tous pays, la plupart étant persans, quelquesuns arabes et d’autres turcs. (44) foreigners who at present govern Hindustan, the country of Hindus or ­Indians, although those who hold office and positions of power, even in the military, are not all from the Mughal race, but are foreigners and people from all countries, most being Persian, some Arab, and others Turks.

We have already seen that later, in the letter to Colbert, he does not ascribe complete political control to the Mughal emperor, but rather specifies that the various Hindu rajas govern their own territories. Even with respect to religion, Bernier gives the impression from the outset that, while religion is an essential part of the mindset in India, there are numerous approaches to its practice and often an acceptance of an individual’s desire to learn about other religions rather than blindly following the one into which one is born. In his opening portrait of Dara, Bernier stresses the prince’s open-mindedness, describing him as Muslim, but also “gentil avec les gentils et chrétien avec les chrétiens. Il avait toujours auprès de lui de ces pandits, ou docteurs gentils. … Il écoutait aussi très volontiers depuis quelque temps le révérend père Buzée, jésuite, et commençait fort à goûter ce qu’il lui disait”/“Gentile with Gentiles and Christian with Christians. He was always accompanied by pandits and learned Gentiles. … He welcomed the Jesuit Father Buzée and was beginning to appreciate what he had to say to him” (47). It would be difficult for Bernier’s French audience to conceive of a world in which the chosen heir to the throne would have been allowed such freedom of thought, especially with respect to religion. By focusing his description of Dara on this particular character trait, Bernier invites his readers to extend this acceptance of diversity to India in general. If this attitude is seen as acceptable for the future emperor, then it must be prevalent throughout society. Bernier adds other examples of this characteristic openness and plurality in his description of Dara by frequently pointing out other similar attitudes. He goes back in Indian history, for example, and explains that Jahangir, Dara’s grandfather, “ne haïssait pas le christianisme”/“did not hate Christianity” (178). In another instance Bernier relates how



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Akbar received the Jesuits in Agra (283), thus going back over almost a century in order to underscore that religious curiosity and openness is a defining characteristic of the Mughal court. Even though Bernier was not witness to these historical events, he chooses to refer to them and incorporates them into the portrait he develops of Indian culture, clearly believing that such attitudes are indicative of a particular mindset that he wants his public to understand and that they would find intriguing and provocative. Bernier’s desire that his public become acquainted with the mindset of the Indian people, with people’s various beliefs and ways of thought, is especially evident in the letter he addresses to Jean Chapelain in 1667 and publishes with his other texts in 1671. This letter, as its descriptive title indicates, is entirely devoted to describing Indian thought, specifically the religious beliefs of its most numerous population, the Hindus, and the practices based on these beliefs. The title of the letter is “Lettre à Monsieur Chapelain, envoyée de Chiraz en Perse, le 4 octobre 1667. Touchant les superstitions, étranges façons de faire et doctrine des Hindous ou Gentils de l’Hindoustan. D’où l’on verra qu’il n’y a opinion si ridicule et si extravagante dont l’esprit de l’homme ne soit capable”/“Letter to M. Chapelain, sent from Chiraz in Persia, on 4 October 1667. Concerning the superstitions, strange ways and doctrine of Hindus or Gentiles of Hindustan. From which it will be apparent that there is no opinion that is so ridiculous nor so extravagant that man cannot believe it” (301). This title also hints that Bernier’s purpose in writing this particular letter is not simply to describe Hin­ duism; rather, he will use his portrayal of Indian beliefs in order to inspire readers and interlocutors to reflect on “l’Homme”/“mankind” in general, and on the ways humankind is susceptible to the power of opinion, doctrines, and superstition. To underscore this dual purpose Bernier begins not by delving into his description of Hinduism as encountered in India, but rather by creating a parallel between the intellectual vulnerability of his own countrymen and the people he encountered in les Indes orientales. He opens by describing the two solar eclipses he witnessed, one in France and one in India: Quand je vivrais des siècles entiers, je ne sais si je pourrais oublier ces deux éclipses de Soleil, dont je vis l’une en France l’an 1654 et l’autre dans les Indes, à Delhi, en 1666, si j’ai bonne mémoire. Celle-là me semble très remarquable pour cette enfantine crédulité de notre populace et la terreur

188  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal panique qui lui avait saisi si fort le coeur. … Celle que je vis à Delhi me sembla aussi très remarquable pour les ridicules erreurs et superstitions des Indiens. (301–2) If I were to live for centuries, I don’t know if I could ever forget these two solar eclipses that I saw, one in France in 1654 and the other in India, in Delhi, in 1666, if my memory serves me. The former seems remarkable to me because of the childlike credulity of our population and the terror and panic that overcame them. … The latter that I saw in Delhi also seemed remarkable because of the ridiculous errors and superstitions of the Indians.

In deciding to begin his letter devoted to an explanation of a littleknown religion with a reminder of the similarities of the two peoples, Bernier sets a particular tone for what follows, rather than marking Hindus as solely foreign and different. He invites first Chapelain and then, for the published letter, the public more generally, to see themselves in what follows rather than dismiss these beliefs as foreign superstition that they, as supposedly “enlightened westerners,” would never be so gullible as to believe. It is entirely possible that Bernier’s original public did not see themselves at all as “enlightened westerners” with respect to Mughals and Indians. Bernier’s texts suggest in fact that such a perspective is anachronistic. He subtly encourages readers to reflect on the existence of all beliefs, and to examine how and why religions come to be, and why people opt to incorporate these beliefs into their mindsets and their ways of perceiving and understanding the world. Bernier does not immediately establish a hierarchy of civilized beliefs, with Westerners in a more advanced position. Rather, he creates parallels between East and West, a process that leads to a very different portrayal of Indian civilization than that propagated in the colonial and postcolonial centuries to follow. When read in the context of the rest of his published accounts on India, Bernier’s letter to Chapelain is designed, above all, to inform his public about this foreign culture in an effort to have them reflect and to create new knowledge inspired by this encounter with new ideas. Like the missive addressed to Colbert, this letter to Chapelain can be read on a variety of levels. As most Europeans in India had contact primarily with the Mughal court, few travellers to India encountered Hinduism directly or tried to explain it in any depth in their accounts. Bernier, however, was a different kind of voyager and was perceived as such by his peers, both in Europe and in India. His interest lay in ideas and



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thus his account is designed above all to transmit the ideas generated by his encounter with les Indes orientales. He actively sought to educate himself about Indian culture and frequently refers to the various people who served as his teachers, such as Daneshmend Khan, whom he qualifies as one of India’s most intelligent men. He also learned Persian in order to engage with Indians on a more direct and profound level and to not be dependent on translators. Bernier profits from his particular intellectual contacts in India who enable him to go below the surface of everyday life and delve into the mindset of the variety of individuals he encounters. His letter to Chapelain is above all an indepth exploration of some of the main tenets of Hinduism because few who came before him had had the intellectual curiosity or the linguistic ability, as well as the personal connections, to explore this little-known belief system in depth. Bernier is aware of these previous narratives and their omissions, and actively seeks to complete the picture of India as well as correct misconceptions. Previous travellers had discussed Hindu religious practices through the lens of one particular custom: sati, the practice of a widow throwing herself upon the funeral pyre of her husband. At the beginning of his letter Bernier also devotes a relatively large portion of his description of the Hindu faith to this practice because, as he says, everyone mentions it and everyone felt the need to comment upon it. Bernier, however, states immediately that, while he will discuss sati, he will not simply echo the accounts of previous travellers: “Pour moi, je m’en vais à mon tour vous en écrire comme les autres, vous faisant néanmoins remarquer d’abord qu’il n’en est pas tout ce qu’on en dit, et qu’il ne s’en brûle pas en si grand nombre qu’au temps passé”/“As for me, I will also write about [sati] as others have done, but I would nevertheless have you first remark that it isn’t at all as people have described, and that not as many burn themselves as in the past” (306). Bernier thus advises his readers to look for difference in his own account of sati. And his description does indeed differ from others, primarily because of his emphasis on his own varied experiences as an eyewitness observer of sati and someone who sought to understand the practice rather than be simply horrified by it. Instead of writing a philosophical, disembodied explanation of sati, Bernier emphasizes throughout that he has been a witness to such events numerous times. He organizes his analysis of sati around a series of precise events, with each illustration presenting different circumstances and individuals. Once again Bernier’s own writing practices incarnate the diversity he identifies with Indian society.

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In each instance Bernier tries to glean additional knowledge regarding the general practice of sati, and thus encourage his public to learn from these events rather than simply reject the practice as barbaric and foreign and indicative of a mindset that they should condemn. It is interesting to note that Bernier begins his analysis of sati by stating that it is on the decline because the Muslim Mughals, who control a large swath of India, “sont ennemis de cette barbare coutume et l’empêchent tant qu’ils peuvent”/“are against this barbaric custom and prevent it as much as they can” (307).48 Bernier explains that sati is not outlawed by the Mughals because they want to allow Hindus “le libre exercice de leur religion”/“the freedom to practice their religion” because they fear a revolt by the Hindu majority were they to curtail their religious practices. As we have seen elsewhere, however, Bernier does not always attribute religious tolerance to the Mughal’s fear of revolution, so this reference once again to the diversity of the Mughal court and its acceptance of different religious practices seems more designed to emphasize this tolerance than to explain why sati itself is still permitted. Bernier continues his narrative by describing the various ways the Mughal emperor tried to limit the practice of sati, obliging women, for example, to get permission in person from the governors of various territories under Mughal control. The first narrative of sati that Bernier chooses to relate illustrates the success of these Mughal efforts to contain and control sati. Bernier begins with the story of a woman whose husband was the principal writer for his “agha,” Daneshmend Khan. Upon the death of her husband, the woman made the decision to join the corpse in the funeral pyre. But Khan compelled the woman’s parents to have her reconsider. Bernier writes that Khan did not forbid her and casts further doubt on the pervasiveness of the practice by recording the opposition of the women’s relatives to this act. In his narrative, Bernier writes that even though her relatives consider her desire to perform sati a “généreuse et louable résolution”/“generous and praiseworthy resolution,” they told the woman she should refrain from killing herself because she had two young children who needed her. When her family was unable to convince the woman, Daneshmend Khan sent Bernier himself. Bernier then describes how he personally tried to change her mind. Finally out of frustration, Bernier writes that he yelled at the woman and told her that she might as well jump on the pyre with her children because they would die of hunger without her as he intended to tell Khan to withdraw his offer to support them. According to Bernier’s account,



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everyone then left, and Bernier writes that, meeting with her relatives later, they thanked him because with his help they had been able to convince her to not end her life (“qu’ils avaient enfin fait résoudre la femme à ne pas mourir”/“that they had finally been able to convince the woman to not die”) (307–9). This experience with sati – its narration and its intended effect on Bernier’s public – is interesting on many levels. First, Bernier opens not with a description of the horrific sight he says he witnessed so often, but rather with the story of a young woman who listened to reason. Rather than give the impression that Hindu women follow custom blindly and that there is only one way to practice one’s Hindu faith, Bernier continues to depict India, as he does the Mughal court in general, as a place of diverse practices and beliefs followed rationally and not simply out of adherence to custom. Even more striking is the fact that he includes the woman’s family in the discussion. Later Bernier will relate that often the woman’s family will force her to die in the name of family honour. This first story, however, shows that not always to be the case. By personalizing the story and recounting the situation of one particular individual, Bernier is able to strengthen his overall premise that India is not governed blindly by one faith. Nor are religious practices simply done without reflection. This particular widow and her family reason much like Bernier’s own audience: she puts the welfare of her children first. She thus is not that different from her French counterparts. She may have been tempted initially to follow custom, but she was then able to reject an “opinion si ridicule et si extravagante”/“such a ridiculous and outlandish belief.” After this initial encounter with sati, Bernier goes on to describe other instances when women actually committed the act. He focuses primarily on his own reaction to what he often terms “cette infernale tragédie”/“this hellish tragedy” as he tries to understand why women acquiesce to such an unfathomable practice. Rather than condemning the culture, though, Bernier explores these examples in an effort to glean insight into Indian culture, as well as into human nature as a whole. For instance, he offers the example of one woman whose servants followed her into the funeral pyre. Bernier writes: “j’appris incontinent que c’étaient cinq esclaves qui, voyant que leur maîtresse était extrêmement affigée de la maladie de son mari, et qu’elle lui avait promis de ne lui point survivre et de se brûler avec lui, se laissèrent aussi toucher de compassion et de tendresse envers cette maîtresse, et s’engagèrent de parole de la suivre dans sa résolution et de se brûler avec elle”/­

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“I learned that there were five slaves who, seeing their mistress so upset by her husband’s illness that she promised him to not live beyond his life and to burn with him, were also touched by compassion and tenderness towards this mistress and took an oath to follow her lead and to burn with her” (310–11). Instead of being a story about a barbaric religious practice unknown to the West, this example underscores traits of humanity, notably compassion, loyalty, love for one’s mate, and tenderness that Bernier’s readers can recognize. Bernier also portrays sati as “un artifice des hommes pour s’assujettir davantage leurs femmes, pour les obliger à prendre des soins particuliers de leur santé et pour empêcher qu’elles ne les empoisonnassent”/“a ruse that men use to make their wives more subservient and to make sure that [women] take care of them and prevent them from poisoning them [the husbands]” (312). The complexity of this belief is thus at the heart of his description. Rather than using sati to condemn the culture as a whole, as others had done and as later writers will do, Bernier seeks to understand its many facets as he also inspires readers to look for similar customs in their own culture that are blindly followed or are inflicted on the weaker by those in power. Bernier’s account of religious beliefs and practices is thus descriptive, but it is also an effort to interrogate the foundations of the culture he is experiencing, as well as his own. To this end, in the letter to Chapelain, Bernier describes the different beliefs inherent in Hinduism and its practices as he reflects on why individuals behave the way they do. In one particularly interesting passage, Bernier describes Hindu doctrine in one of the Vedas according to which one must pray three times per day and also bathe, preferably in “eau courante”/“running water,” three times per day (326). In his account of the discussion he had with Hindu priests, he relates that he asked how a Hindu could follow these precepts if s/he lived in a cold climate: Quand je leur disais sur cela que dans les pays froids il serait impossible d’observer leur loi pendant l’hiver, ce qui était un signe qu’elle n’était qu’une pure invention des hommes, ils me donnaient cette réponse assez plaisante qu’ils ne prétendaient pas que leur loi fût universelle. Dieu ne l’avait faite que pour eux, et c’étaient pour cela qu’ils ne pouvaient pas recevoir un étranger dans leur religion; au reste ils ne prétendaient pas que la nôtre fût fausse, il se pouvait faire qu’elle fût bonne pour nous, et que Dieu pouvait avoir fait plusieurs chemins différents pour aller au Ciel.



Penser autrement 193 Mais ils ne veulent pas entendre que, la nôtre étant générale pour toute la terre, la leur ne peut être que fable et que pure invention. (327) When I told them that in a cold climate it would be impossible to obey their laws during the winter, which was a sign that this doctrine was a pure invention of men, they gave me a rather amusing explanation, [stating] that they didn’t claim that their precept was universal. God had only made it for them, and it was for this reason that they could not accept a stranger [non-believer] into their religion; that in addition they did not claim that our beliefs were false, that it was possible that they were fine for us, and that God could have devised many different ways to go to heaven. But they did not want to believe that our beliefs were universal whereas theirs were purely myth and fiction.

Bernier seems to want to trap these Hindu priests; their religion must not be the “true” one if its practices cannot be followed in every climate in “toute la terre.” In contrast, Bernier opposes “our” religion to this seemingly localized belief system and its practices. “Ours” cannot be considered “fable” and “pure invention” because “our” practices can be generalized across the whole world. This would seem to be a rather weak argument to prove that one religion and its practices are more valid than another, so it is no wonder that the Hindus are not convinced; “they don’t want to hear or understand” that Christianity, since its practices are not dependent on climate, must be more valid than Hinduism. But why would they want to accept such a feeble argument? In this passage, and in much of the letter to Chapelain, Bernier appears to be less open to religious differences than his Hindu interlocutors, who here display an intriguing degree of acceptance of other points of view. While Bernier himself may have rejected the notion that Hinduism could be as valid as Christianity, his readers, especially his Protestant salon contemporaries, could perhaps have been more receptive and more similar to the Hindus in this regard. At the very least, passages such as this one in Bernier’s account disseminated these more accepting attitudes towards diversity and could have inspired others to consider religion and its practices differently, but also to perceive cultural practices in a new light. One could conjecture that some interlocutors might resemble Father Nobili and value India for its religious openness and overall diversity. With the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, many Huguenots were forced to choose between exile and

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conversion to Catholicism. A remark such as “Dieu pouvait avoir fait plusieurs chemins différents pour aller au Ciel,” attributed by Bernier to the Hindu priests, could have provided some consolation for those forced to abandon their beliefs and practices for the only one acceptable to the state, as Mme de La Sablière herself would do when Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes. Throughout the letter to Chapelain, Bernier appears rather cynical and judgmental as he describes Hindu beliefs and practices and frequently organizes his observations in terms of a polar “nous” and “ils,” opposing “us” and “them.” But at the same time, his portrait of Hin­duism does not lead his reader to condemn this religion entirely. By detailing different beliefs and practices and describing Indians, both Muslims and Hindus, as tolerant of this diversity, the overall impression Bernier gives of India is of a culture that accepts and values diversity, as exemplified by the coexistence of its varied religious beliefs and practices. The refrain that India is marked by the overall attitude that one is free to practice one’s religion, the “libre exercice de leur religion” (307), can be seen to trump the negativity Bernier identifies with some of the precise ways religion is practiced. Thus, while Bernier himself is often more judgmental than his Indian hosts, what stands out is the image of a diverse and tolerant India that he disseminates as he exposes his public to different ways of looking at and interpreting the world. Bernier concludes his letter to Chapelain by returning to the subject of human nature in general. Like the solar eclipse, the religious beliefs and practices he experienced in India ultimately illustrate his very cynical observation that “il n’y a opinion si ridicule ou si extravagante dont l’esprit de l’homme ne s’avise” (343). He subtly invites French readers to equate the Indian religious “opinions” with their own beliefs. After Bernier’s death, Jean de La Bruyère would criticize him, writing in his Caractères titled “Des Esprits forts,” that “quelques-uns achèvent de se corrompre par de longs voyages et perdent le peu de religion qui leur restait”/“some become corrupted by long voyages and lose the last bit of religion that they had left.”49 For La Bruyère, exposure to other cultures corrupts rather than enriches. La Bruyère’s admonition is a recognition of the role religion occupies in Bernier’s text. In contrast to La Bruyère, other writers, however, draw a different lesson from Bernier’s experiences with this foreign culture and his thought-proving narrative of the confrontation with difference. Two literary works in particular that evolved from La Sablière’s salon can be read in part as adding to the discussions of diversity and its association with India



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inscribed in Bernier’s texts: La Fontaine’s second book of Fables and Fontenelle’s Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes. When read through the lens of their fellow salonnier Bernier, both texts can be interpreted as adding to the conversations about India. It is this emphasis on diversity that I believe reveals most compellingly one of the principle influences that the encounter with India was having on the participants of La Sablière’s salon and France’s intellectual community at large. La Fontaine: Deriving Wisdom from Diversity When La Fontaine published his second book of Fables in 1678 he explicitly initiated a conversation between his public and this new work, urging them to look for differences between the second volume and the first, which he had published almost ten years earlier. Critics as well as La Fontaine’s contemporaries could immediately sense a change in inspiration as well as in the primary public La Fontaine addresses with his second book of Fables. In the first volume, La Fontaine writes as a traditional “Ancient,” drawing his inspiration from the classical Greek and Latin texts so revered by his fellow intellectuals of the period. The group with which he was most closely affiliated, known as “la petite académie,” consisted of writers such as Maucroix, Pellisson, Tallemant des Réaux, La Sablière (Marguerite’s estranged husband), Patru, and Conrart, most of whom had received a conventional education grounded in the Greek and Latin classics.50 Aesop’s fables would have been familiar to such scholars, as they would have encountered the fables, as well as those of Phèdre, when they were learning Greek and Latin. Indeed Aesop was even translated from Greek into Latin to provide further classical language instruction. La Fontaine dedicates his first volume to the Dauphin, inviting him to learn from the morality contained in these fables, thus adopting the same stance towards his intended readers as his classical sources. As has often been remarked, the originality of this first book of fables lies in the rendering of the classic tales into verse, more than in any revision of the content of the original fables. La Fontaine’s first volume proved to be very successful, due in no small measure to Chauvreau’s detailed illustrations for each fable. Chauvreau had his own impressive following as the illustrator of popular works such as Scudéry’s heroic novels Le Grand Cyrus and La Clélie. One could say that La Fontaine repackaged his primary sources for the enjoyment and edification of his seventeenth-century French

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public, allowing them to experience these ancient texts in a new way. No longer the domain of those conversant in Greek and Latin, under La Fontaine’s skilful pen Aesop and Phèdre’s texts take on new life in a new language. La Fontaine’s first volume of fables allows his ancient sources to be reborn, but this first volume cannot be considered as a naissance of something entirely new. While his contemporaries admired his linguistic virtuosity, they most likely would have compared the content of the fables to the original texts and gleaned few to no new lessons from their retelling. The novelty lay in experiencing the fables in verse and in relishing the elaborate illustrations. In this first volume La Fontaine was not intent on altering his sources or giving a different voice to these classic texts. An admirer of the Ancients, he pays homage to their genius as he reinvents the linguistic means to convey their teachings. The second book of fables published in 1678, however, is indeed a birth of something new designed to nourish the minds of La Fontaine’s intellectual and worldly contemporaries and was inspired by La Fon­ taine’s new experiences, as well as his expanded entourage. As we saw in the introduction to this study, La Fontaine explicitly associates this second volume with the Orient. We will remember that in the “Avertissement,” or preface, to the second volume, La Fontaine states that he turned to a different source for inspiration:” … je dirai par reconnaissance que j’en dois la plus grande partie à Pilpay sage indien. Son livre a été traduit en toutes les langues. Les gens du pays le croient fort ancien, et original à l’égard d’Esope”/“… I will say with gratitude that I owe most of these to Pilpay, the wise Indian. His book has been translated into every language. Indians [“les gens du pays”] believe it to be very ancient, and to predate Aesop.”51 Critics have remarked that the second volume is clearly the product of his experience in La Sablière’s salon. George Couton, for example, states that the “enrichissement intellectual” that La Fontaine found at rue Neuve des PetitsChamps when he took up residence there in approximately 1672 left an indelible mark on the second volume.52 Couton goes on to characterize this “intellectual enrichment” as, in part, a “taste for the Orient,” which he received from Marguerite herself, as well as from his encounter with François Bernier in her salon. Most critics explain La Fontaine’s reference to Pilpay in his “Avertissement” to the second volume as the result of his encounter with Bernier, who most likely introduced him to this oriental source. But the second volume of fables is not just different because La Fontaine turns to a different source. Nor does it exude an



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“oriental” influence simply because of this new source. Couton is correct when he suggests that La Fontaine’s encounter with the Orient is more than the discovery of a new literary source. As Couton explains, Bernier provides La Fontaine with a new expanded worldview, a new vision not just of the world of human experience, but also of the world of ideas.53 Indeed, at the end of the nineteenth century Castonnet des Fosses identified Bernier, and not just Pilpay, as the source of inspiration for La Fontaine. He explains that the presence of certain fables with an “oriental” flair can “only be explained by the conversations Bernier had with La Fontaine. This is how … [La Fontaine] developed a taste for things from the Orient.”54 But Bernier does not provide this new approach to the world to La Fontaine in a vacuum; the two are not discussing and discovering India alone. In La Fontaine’s second volume we see inscribed the encounter with India nourished by Bernier’s personal experience but facilitated and developed by the conversations with the diverse members of La Sablière’s salon. La Fontaine’s second volume of fables should thus be read not just in relation to his “oriental” source, but also through the conversations regarding the Orient that were created when La Sablière’s salon engaged with Bernier, “the Mughal,” his experiences, and his texts. But what exactly is “oriental” about fables such as “Le corbeau, la gazelle, la tortue et le rat,” aside from the fact that one finds a similar fable in the French translation of Pilpay’s work? I would suggest that La Fontaine’s second volume of fables, like Lafayette’s novel and some of the other works emanating from La Sablière’s salon, exhibits an “orientalism” as explored by Urs App in The Birth of Orientalism. This Orient goes far beyond Said’s conception based on the West’s rapport with the Middle East beginning in the eighteenth century. It is an “orientalism” centred on India, as opposed to a more general conception of an Orient that would encompass the entire Far East or the Ottoman Empire. La Fontaine points to the “oriental” influence of his second volume of fables not only by identifying Pilpay as his source, but by explaining this turn to an Indian source as deriving from his desire for variety, difference, and, most important, diversity: “Enfin j’ai tâché de mettre en ces deux dernières parties toute la diversité dont j’étais capable”/“Thus I tried to give these last two parts all the diversity that I was capable of giving.”55 In his preface to the second volume La Fontaine overtly invites the reader to pay attention to the Orient and identifies the new volume with a new, “oriental source.” But La Fontaine’s discussion of “diversity” ties his new fables to Bernier’s texts on India and the salon

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discussions that occurred around his texts, more than to La Fontaine’s supposed source, “Pilpay.” Pilpay is actually not the principal source of the fables in books 7 through 11, the books published in 1678. Out of a total of 116 fables (including those that now compose volume 12, which was published separately in 1685), scholars have identified “Pilpay” as the source for only fourteen of these fables, with five others reflecting La Fontaine’s encounters with travellers to India, specifically Bernier and Tavernier. For the rest, La Fontaine had recourse to the same “ancient” Western sources he used for the first volume. It is also intriguing to note that, while La Fontaine identifies “Pilpay, sage indien,” as the source of his work, in reality he never had first-hand knowledge of Pilpay’s fables, which today we refer to as the Panchatantra, a famous collection of animal fables that were compiled in Sanskrit around 200  BC. Indian lore has it that Vishnu Sharma composed them for the king’s sons to teach them political science. La Fontaine used a 1644 French translation of the fables entitled Livre des lumières ou la conduite des Rois composé par le sage Pilpay Indien, which was translated from Persian by the French orientalist Gilbert Gaulmin. Pilpay is actually “Bidpai,” which is derived from Sanskrit and means “court scholar.” The tales were translated from Sanskrit into Arabic and Persian and eventually made their way to the west in approximately the sixth century.56 The “Avertissement” is designed primarily to emphasize difference. In turning from Aesop to Pilpay, La Fontaine opts for a different source, but it is the origin that the name Pilpay evokes that inspired La Fontaine to cite him as his source. This new source has appeared in many forms, and in many different languages. La Fontaine underscores that “son livre a été traduit en toutes les langues.” La Fontaine states in this opening preface that he is giving these new fables “un air et un tour un peu différent de celui que j’ai donné aux premières, tant à cause de la différence des sujets, que pour remplir de plus de variété mon ouvrage”/“I judged it to be appropriate to give most of these [fables] an air and a turn a bit different from what I gave to the first ones, as much because of the difference in the subject matter as to fill my work with more variety.”57 By identifying “Pilpay, sage indien”/“Pilpay, the wise Indian,” as the source, and not the French translator of the version translated into Arabic, La Fontaine turns the spotlight on India, not the entire Orient, and accentuates the “difference” and “diversity” that is associated with India in the minds of La Fontaine’s seventeenthcentury contemporaries, especially those with knowledge of Bernier’s



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texts. La Fontaine proposes that the reader open his/her mind to new approaches to the world, to new knowledge, which he identifies with India thanks to the new milieu in which he composes this second volume. La Fontaine wants to give his work more “variété,” to be accepting and open to diversity like the India he encounters through Bernier. Tellingly, the first definition of “variété’ in his friend Furetière’s diction­ ary is “incertitude, inconstance”/“uncertainty, inconsistency,” but the second entry is “diversité”/“diversity.” With Aesop, Phèdre, and other ancient Western sources, “incertitude” is held at bay, but originality and new knowledge is limited as a result. India, as portrayed by Bernier and others as accepting of a variety of points of view and as epitomizing diversity, endows “incertitude,” the antithesis of the stance of the absolutist monarch, with a positive valence. Just as La Fontaine’s friend Marguerite is inspired by her encounter with India to rethink the categories of mankind, so too does La Fontaine see in this opening out to India the exciting possibility of new knowledge. The “incertitude” inherent in variety and diversity, in this context as in the Indian subtext, is characterized as liberating for the mind and the imagination. The impression that La Fontaine’s identification of his second volume of fables with India goes beyond simply a reliance on a new source is confirmed when one examines the actual content of the fables themselves. One would expect that the “oriental taste” would result in new, exotic animals being introduced in this second volume if La Fontaine’s main interest were to emphasize his departure from traditional sources and rewrite Pilpay’s fables. It is intriguing to note that, in a brief overview of the animals that inhabit the first volume of Fables, books 1–6, and those that roam in the second “more oriental” volume, books 7–12, there are more animals and of a greater variety in the first volume than in the second. Moreover, one might think La Fontaine would have turned to Pilpay in order to introduce new animals to his repertoire of beings. But the new ones introduced in the second volume are hardly the exotic ones one might expect. A heron, a vulture, a pigeon, a nightingale, a capon, a cormorant, a sparrow, a duck, a magpie, and a “poulet d’Inde,” which is the name for a turkey, join La Fontaine’s menagerie, along with a flea, a pig, a grass snake, a turtle, a parrot, a crayfish, a hedgehog, and a gazelle – hardly the mythical and unknown Orient. Interestingly, the fables that can be associated most directly with India and “Pilpay” have people as their main characters almost as often as they do animals. And even

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the animals in the fables derived from Pilpay behave more as people do than as animals do, which is often seen as a distinguishing characteristic of the “oriental” fable tradition as opposed to those in the Western tradition. It would seem that La Fontaine’s “diversité” cannot be equated solely with “Other” or “oriental taste.” I would propose that in the “Avertissement,” La Fontaine is suggesting that this second volume reveals the encounter of salon culture and Indian culture and points to what can be gained by this meeting of different worlds. His dedication of the volume to Mme de Montespan, Louis XIV’s powerful mistress at the time, points to this confluence of worldly culture epitomized by La Sablière’s salon and the worldly milieu’s burgeoning interest in India. He is perhaps exchanging the ancient Aesop with the more “modern,” in the sense of less canonical, Pilpay in order to signal what he views to be a meeting of worlds, an encounter between French worldly culture and the “new” world of les Indes orientales. His Fables are the product of this meeting. La Fontaine is paying homage to the concept of “diversité” epitomized by India as well as by La Sablière’s salon, a milieu that celebrated diversity and collaboration among people and indeed cultures in the search for knowledge. Not only is India more present in the second volume, so too is the worldly salon public. One recent editor characterizes the second volume as possessing “une tonalité plus mondaine”/“a more worldly tone.”58 Following La Fontaine’s dedication to Mme de Montespan there are numerous references and dedications, especially to his friends Sévigné, Sévigné’s daughter, Bernier, La Sablière’s daughter, and of course to La Sablière herself.59 Sévigné qualified the first volume of Fables as “joli” but those of the second volume “divines.”60 In a departure from the actual fables, in the middle of book 9 La Fontaine inserts “Discours à Mme de La Sablière” in which he recreates conversations such as those in which he participated in La Sablière’s salon. This “Discours,” however, does more than echo the overall “worldly tone” of the 1678 volume. It reveals the influence such conversations, in particular about distant worlds as encountered through their fellow salon habitué Bernier, were exerting on La Fontaine’s own vision of the world as well as that of his worldly contemporaries. In the “Discours,” La Fontaine delves into a philosophical debate that was attracting the attention of many philosophers and scholars, as well as the general public.61 In the Discours sur la méthode, Descartes had maintained that animals were mere machines, devoid of reason,



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emotion, souls, and even any capability for rational thought.62 In contrast, other philosophers, such as Gassendi, following the reasoning attributed to Epicurus, advanced that the strident, one-dimensional position held by Descartes, in which there was no room for so much as the slightest chance that animals acted out of more than mindless instinct, needed to be nuanced, or at the least debated. Given La Fontaine’s penchant for fables and his portrayal and use of animals, this philosophical debate attracted him and inspired him to think as perhaps no other could. However, his most overt addition to the debate, the “Discours,” reflects more than his desire to consider animals as more than mere machines. He uses the subject to reflect on how knowledge itself is constructed. Inspired by the diversity of thought and openness to difference embodied by the India he says he uses as his primary source, La Fontaine invites us to interrogate the role worldly conversation about difference, as inspired by Bernier’s texts on India, plays in the construction of knowledge. The title of this philosophical piece inserted in the middle of the Fables accentuates the value placed on the relationship between orality, conversation, and the creation of new wisdom. Just as Pilpay’s fables have their original source in oral storytelling, so too is La Fontaine’s interrogation of the nature of animals grounded in conversation. Furetière defines “discours”/“discourse” as “expression faite de vive voix de ses pensées sur quelques points, sur quelques matières qu’on veut faire entendre à plusieurs personnes. Il se dit tant de discours oratoires, que des entretiens familiers … se dit aussi des pièces d’Eloquence, ou des traités par écrit”/“expression made aloud of one’s thoughts regarding some points, some subjects, that one wants to be heard [understood] by many people. This is used to refer to public speeches as well as private ones … it also refers to written texts on Eloquence or written treatises.” In naming his treatise “Discours à Mme de la Sablière,” La Fontaine valorizes the art of conversation that nourished the reflections that follow as he identifies its particular source in this instance: Marguerite’s salon. The opening word also accentuates the link between salon culture, conversation, and knowledge. “Iris,” as Marguerite was known in worldly circles, is the goddess who “avait poussé les premiers philosophes aux spéculations philosophiques”/“had inspired the first philosophers.”63 The accent is clearly on conversation as La Fontaine multiplies the nouns referring to this salon activity: “propos,” “commerces,” “entretiens.” La Fontaine goes on to extoll the value of eclectic conversations and chance encounters:

202  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal … Propos, agréables commerces, Où le hasard fournit cent matières diverses, Jusque-là qu’en votre entretien La bagatelle a part: le monde n’en croit rien. Laissons le monde et sa croyance. La batagelle, la science, Les chimères, le rien, tout est bon. Je soutiens Qu’il faut de tout aux entretiens: C’est un parterre, où Flore épand ses biens; Sur différentes fleurs l’Abeille s’y repose, Et fait du miel de toute chose.

(ll. 13–23)

Remarks, pleasant conversations, Chance furnishes a hundred different subjects, Until then in your engagements Trifles dominated: society doesn’t believe it at all. Put aside society and its beliefs. Trifles, science, Chimeras, nothing, everything is good. I maintain That conversations need everything: It is a garden where Flora spreads out her goods; Bees alight on different flowers, And make honey out of everything.

In these opening lines of the “Discours,” La Fontaine indicates that what follows is not just an inquiry into a leading philosophical question of the day. La Fontaine is as focused on analyzing the process we use to gain insight and knowledge as he is interested in delving into the issues pertaining to animals and their minds. And in his view, as we have seen in the “Avertissement,” diversity is at the very heart of his enterprise. Even opposites such as “chimera” and “science” find their place in conversation. Indeed La Fontaine stresses that “everything is necessary in conversations,” “everything is good.” Referring specifically to La Sablière’s gatherings, he remarks that “le hasard,” or fortune or destiny, has furnished “one hundred different subjects,” perhaps pointing to the fortune that has brought together in this one time and place individuals as diverse as La Fontaine, La Sablière, and Bernier. “Le hasard” is an ally, a tool, of the “diversity” so coveted by La Fontaine in the “Avertissement.” Chance encounters draw people and ideas together in previously unknown ways to reflect on the experiences and ideas



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offered by the various participants in the conversational banquet. La Fontaine depicts himself as the bee that gathers the various sorts of pollen offered by the diverse set of flowers or salon participants, and then creates honey from this diversity of ideas and influences. In the case of “Discours à Mme de la Sablière,” the “honey” La Fontaine makes is an appreciation of the value of different points of view and a recognition of the value of conversation as one questions precepts and debates ideas. He submits one particular “new philosophy” to the test of conversation, stating that, “Ils disent donc que la bête est une machine” (ll. 29–30). One can imagine that La Fontaine was drawn to this question because he has transformed these so-called “machines” with his own poetic voice, but it is also plausible that he was inspired to reflect on the nature of animals by Bernier, especially by his writings and discussions regarding Indian beliefs. One belief that drew particular attention from Western publics was the Hindu concept of reincarnation. One can imagine how the idea that one could be reborn at all, much less as an animal, could have compelled people to consider the other non-human inhabitants of the world in a very different light. Half a century later, Voltaire will attribute what he characterizes as the accepting and patient nature of Indians to their belief that all living beings could potentially share or have once shared human form or essence.64 La Fontaine does not specifically address this notion in the “Discours,” but his refusal to submit entirely to the idea propagated by Descartes and accepted by many of his salon habitués that animals are nothing but machines can perhaps be attributed to the ideas about India, religion, and beliefs disseminated by Bernier and his fellow travellers, and even to his contact with writers such as Pilpay.65 In the “Discours,” La Fontaine does not pronounce definitively on the validity of Descartes’s point of view. Rather, he uses the “Discours” to offer different points of view, a variety of perspectives, derived not just from other texts but from personal experience. Specifically, La Fontaine offers four examples of animal behaviour in an effort to have his readers consider what is behind actions that Descartes and his followers would dismiss as purely mechanical and instinctual. For example, La Fontaine relates how the partridge (perdrix), when she senses that her fledgling offspring are in danger because they do not yet have feathers to enable them to fly out of harm’s way, will pretend to be wounded herself in order to attract an enemy, such as a hunter, away from the nest, thus saving her family (ll. 82–8). This example, as well as the other three, invites the reader/interlocutor to reflect on how such behaviour

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could be possible without any rational thought whatsoever. In the example of the partridge, humanity is left confused and it is the partridge who is the thinking being: “elle lui dit adieu, prend sa volée et rit/De l’Homme, qui confus des yeux en vain la suit”/“She says goodbye to him, takes flight and laughs/At the man, who perplexedly follows her with his eyes” (ll. 90–1). La Fontaine leaves open the possibility that animals are not only thinking beings, but that they are emotional ones as well. The variety of examples he offers inspires thought and has the potential to lead to new knowledge. La Fontaine suggests that, while animals may not have souls, they might have “esprit.” He emphasizes various points of view without explicitly espousing one explanation or principle. What emerges from the “Discours” is La Fontaine’s valorization of diversity and the art of conversation. Indeed he ends the “Discours” with a question, thus encouraging the reader to further the discussion: Aussi faut-il donner à l’animal un point Que la plante, après tout, n’a point. Cependant la plante respire: Mais que répondra-t-on à ce que je vais dire?

(ll. 175–9)

Thus we must say that the animal possesses something That the plant, after all, does not at all. And yet the plant breathes: What will people respond to what I am about to say?

It is not the single voice that can “respond” but rather the collective voice, informed by a variety of experiences and perspectives, that can add knowledge to the world through conversation.66 The “worldly tone” of the second volume is thus a valorization of salon culture and its potential to create new knowledge. La Fontaine is marked by the variety of people and experiences united in La Sablière’s salon. Just as he uses a new source for inspiration, so too does he draw upon the collective experience and wisdom of this new entourage and its engagement with India, in particular, to nourish his poetic creation. In addition to recreating the salon in the “Discours,” La Fontaine rewrites one of Pilpay’s fables to illustrate the conversation between himself and this salon milieu and his valorization of diversity. “Le Corbeau, la Gazelle, la Tortue, et le Rat” was not originally part of the second volume of fables published in 1678. It appeared a few years later, in 1685,



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in a small collection of works La Fontaine produced with M. Maucroix. Since the 1690s, however, it has been published with the other fables in that collection as Book XII of the Fables. It is impossible to know precisely when La Fontaine composed “Le Corbeau … ,” but the spirit of the text and La Fontaine’s rewriting of Pilpay’s fable illustrate the same tenets that underlie the “Discours” published seven years earlier. Of the fables published as volume 12, it is the only one that uses Pilpay as a source, which would seem to indicate that this fable was composed at the same time as the second volume of Fables. At the very least, it is evident that “Le Corbeau …” echoes the spirit of “diversity” and the value of conversation that are imprinted in the second volume. Writing in 1877, Anatole France characterized this fable, which La Fontaine dedicates to Marguerite de La Sablière, as “toute candide et affectueuse, de génie hindou”/“completely candid and affectionate, deriving from the Hindu spirit.”67 Indeed, this fable can be read as a celebration of “diversité” that characterizes seventeenth-century perceptions of “les Indes” and La Sablière’s salon culture.68 Pilpay’s fable, in the French version La Fontaine used as his source, is much longer and more detailed than La Fontaine’s verse version, so it is interesting to see what La Fontaine decided to delete, as well as what he decided to add to this fable. Both contain the same animals, who themselves incarnate diversity. In Pilpay’s version, the crow, the turtle, and the rat are three friends who meet a gazelle who is fleeing from a hunter and ask her to join them. When the gazelle later becomes trapped in a hunter’s net, the others come to her rescue and the crow asks the rat to save the gazelle by eating through the net. The turtle is then caught and the rat comes up with a plan: the gazelle will distract the hunter by pretending to be lame, and when he drops his bag to chase her, the rat will gnaw through it to liberate the turtle. The fable ends with the hunter “tout saisi de crainte, et d’étonnement”/“completely seized by fear and shock”believing he is in “la région des Lutins et des Esprits” /“the region of spirits and ghosts” because of the inexplicable behaviour of the gazelle and what he thinks is the turtle’s prowess in gnawing through the sack. The moral is that when people are true friends, they can be “delivrés de leurs maux.”69 So what does La Fontaine do with this fable? It is immediately apparent that the animals’ actions, as well as the human hunter’s reactions to their savvy moves, illustrate in fable form what La Fontaine was advancing in his “Discours à Mme de la Sablière.” Like the partridge who saves her young by pretending to be injured, the gazelle

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tricks the hunter into thinking he can easily nab the injured beast. In both instances the animals reason in order to escape the clutches of the human, who is left perplexed and incapable of explaining what he has witnessed. But the “Discours” and this particular fable have more in common than the animal essence they illustrate. In “Le Corbeau” La Fontaine again emphasizes that worldly conversation, especially when it is created by a diverse group of individuals, can serve as a path to new knowledge.70 The differences between the two versions of the fable underscore this second theme. While La Fontaine’s version of the actual story is significantly shorter, his introduction is much longer. He uses it to praise La Sablière and her salon. Verses 1–53, out of a total of 134 lines, describe La Sablière and her “court.” Her “esprit,” “à beauté d’homme avec grâces de femme”/“a male beauty with a woman’s grace” (l. 33), brings together diverse gender characteristics just as she unites a disparate group of people in her salon. La Fontaine begins the fable stating that “Quatre animaux, vivants de compagnie, / Vont aux humains en donner des leçons”/“ Four animals, living together/will give lessons to humans about life” (ll. 52–3), suggesting that knowledge has its source in the plurality of experiences embodied by the four and their act of living together in each others’ “company.” When La Fontaine turns to the fable, the four animals are friends and “vivaient ensemble unis: douce société”/“Lived together in sweet company” (l. 55). This is a departure from Pilpay’s version in which, as we have seen, the gazelle is invited to join the other three in order to escape a hunter. The opening lines of La Fontaine’s rewriting thus mirror the introduction to the whole, and the animals reflect the friends of La Sablière’s salon. The gazelle then goes off “innocently.” When the other three meet again, this time for an elegant dinner and not around a watering hole as they do in Pilay’s version, the rat asks the whereabouts of the gazelle: La Gazelle s’allait ébattre innocemment, Quand un chien, maudit instrument Du plaisir barbare des hommes, Vint sur l’herbe éventer les traces de ses pas. Elle fuit, et le Rat à l’heure du repas Dit aux amis restants: D’où vient que nous ne sommes Aujourd’hui que trois conviés? La Gazelle déjà nous a-t-elle oubliés?

(ll. 62–9)



Penser autrement 207 The Gazelle went off to frolic innocently When a dog, cursed instrument Of man’s barbaric pleasure Arrived to sniff out the traces of her steps. She ran away, and the Rat at dinnertime Said to the friends who remained: How is it that we Today are only three? Has the Gazelle forgotten us?

The turtle then laments the fact that he is not a crow so he can’t fly to find out what happened to the gazelle, thus inspiring his feathered friend to fly off in search of the gazelle, whom he finds trapped in a hunter’s net. He immediately flies back to inform the others. La Fontaine stresses that the crow “avait trop de jugement”/“had too much sense” to waste time asking the gazelle “quand, pourquoi, ni comment / Ce malheur est tombé sur elle”/“when, why or how this misfortune had befallen her” (ll. 80–4). La Fontaine endows his creatures with more reasoning than Pilpay’s, who are more emotional, while at the same time distinguishing this form of reasoning from traditional scholastic knowledge. He contrasts the crow’s actions and those of a “Maître d’Ecole”/“school master” (l. 85) who, in the narrator’s opinion, would have lost “en vains discours cet utile moment”/“wasted this precious moment in useless discourse” (l.84) by waiting to enquire of the gazelle how she came to find herself in such a trap. Upon the crow’s return, the three friends then “tiennent conseil”/“meet to discuss” (l. 89) and the crow and the rat decide to go to the gazelle’s aid. The crow tells the turtle to guard “le logis”/“the lodging” (l. 92) because she is so slow she would most likely only arrive after the gazelle’s death, but the turtle, undaunted, decides to go anyway. The rat then cuts the cords for the gazelle, and the crow, the rat, and gazelle all escape as the hunter arrives, but the hunter spies the turtle and nabs him. The crow tell the gazelle to distract the hunter, which she does by appearing before the hunter and pretending to be lame, thus inciting the man to drop his bag with the turtle and give chase to the gazelle. The rat then profits from the distraction to “délivre encor l’autre soeur”/“liberate the other sister” (l. 119) the turtle, by chewing through the bag. The narrative of the fable ends here – ”Qu’il délivre encore l’autre soeur, / Sur qui s’était fondé le souper du Chasseur”/“He liberated the other sister that the hunter had envisioned for his supper” (ll. 119-20) – with no reference to the hunter and his fear as seen in Pilpay’s version.

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In the last fifteen verses, La Fontaine returns to interpret the story, and his “moral” stresses the major difference between his version and Pilpay’s. He specifically invokes Pilpay, saying, “Pilpay conte qu’ainsi la chose s’est passé”/“This is how Pilpay tells what happened” (l. 121) in order to remind his audience of this Indian source. He then ends by highlighting his one main interest in the story. In La Fontaine’s version, each animal is given a more distinct role as they work together to help each other. La Fontaine does not simply describe true friendship, as Pilpay did. Rather, he uses the same narrative elements to illustrate that everyone, even animals as “diverse” as a gazelle and a turtle, can work together to achieve something that an individual cannot. He stresses the “diversité” of the individual roles and how these differences can be combined to create something better than the individual components. La Fontaine praises each actor for the role s/he played, without creating any lasting hierarchy: Rongemaille [the rat] ferait le principal héros, Quoiqu’à vrai dire ici chacun soit nécessaire. Portemaison l’Infante y tient de tels propos Que Monsieur du Corbeau va faire Office d’Espion, et puis de Messager. La Gazelle a d’ailleurs l’adresse d’engager Le Chasseur à donner du temps à Rongemaille. Ainsi chacun en son endroit S’entremet, agit, et travaille. A qui donner le prix? au coeur si l’on m’en croit.

(ll. 125-34)

Rongemaille [the rat] would be the principal hero, Although to be honest each one is necessary. Portemaison speaks so convincingly that Monsieur Raven takes on the role Of spy and then of messenger. The Gazelle has the ability to distract The Hunter to give time to Rongemaille. Thus each one in his/her own way Intervenes, acts, and works. To whom shall the prize be given? To the heart in my opinion.

La Fontaine thus celebrates the “diverse” actions and qualities of each individual animal, and their ability to do something exceptional



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when they work as a group. The lesson he infers from the Pilpay-derived fable is that diversity engenders solutions and new knowledge. This fable not only shows the value of friendship, it also illustrates for La Fontaine the importance of “le coeur”/“heart.” La Fontaine’s reference to Pilpay at the end of the fable underscores diversity just as the four animals do. Pilpay is a deviation from his traditional sources and is also a nod to the country that for many of his French compatriots embodied diversity: India. But it is not enough to simply encounter this diversity through Pilpay’s text. La Fontaine highlights the need to interact with this source through conversation, which explains why such a large portion of his rewriting of this fable is devoted to evoking La Sablière and her salon and why the four animals themselves seem to reflect salon habitués. New knowledge, here in the form of a recognition of the importance of “the heart,” comes from the encounter with diversity as filtered through a salon that itself incarnates diversity. At the end of book 11 of the Fables, La Fontaine inserts an “Epilogue” that eloquently celebrates difference among cultures, especially languages, and his reliance on this diversity for his art: C’est ainsi que ma Muse, aux bords d’une onde pure, Traduisait en langue des Dieux Tout ce que disent sous les cieux Tant d’êtres empruntant la voix de la nature. Truchement de peuples divers, Je les faisais servir d’acteurs en mon ouvrage; Car tout parle dans l’Univers; Il n’est rien qui n’ait son langage. Plus eloquents chez eux qu’ils ne sont dans mes vers, Si ceux que j’introduis me trouvent peu fidèle, Si mon oeuvre n’est pas un assez bon modèle, J’ai du moins ouvert le chemin Thus my muse, on the shores of a pure waterway, Translated into the language of the gods Everything that is said under the heavens So many beings using nature’s voice. Interpreter of diverse peoples, I have made them actors in my work; For everything in the universe speaks; There is nothing that does not have its language.

(ll 1-12)

210  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal More eloquent in their own context than in my verses, If those that I include find me inexact, If my work is not an acceptable model, At least I paved the way.

La Fontaine conveys no desire to unite these voices into one universal one. Each being has “son langage”/“his own language” and others are “plus éloquents chez eux”/“more eloquent in their own context” than in translation. La Fontaine’s perspective resembles Lafayette’s outlook towards creativity that we have seen played out in La Princesse de Clèves. These two salon habitués used their encounter with Bernier to reflect on the need for the mind to look outside of the familiar, the known, for inspiration and for new knowledge. Like La Fontaine’s references to and reliance on Pilpay, Lafayette’s inscription of India into the most creative and provocative scene of her novel is also designed to celebrate “diversité,” especially a particular form embodied by the India they encountered through Bernier and others. La Fontaine and Lafayette both celebrate the ability of a worldview to nourish literature and the mind in general. La Fontaine turns to India, as translated through his friend Bernier, to think outside the norms and thought patterns associated with the West, just as he uses Pilpay to rethink literary inspiration. Critics have often remarked that the second volume of fables is an interrogation of the notion of power. It is possible that La Fontaine’s evocation of Pilpay is perhaps intended to direct his public to read the fables in this vein given that the fables of the Panchatantra were specifically designed to impart political knowledge to the ruling class. As critics have observed, La Fontaine’s fables often have strong political overtones or are even overtly political, especially in the second volume. In emphasizing his debt to Pilpay, La Fontaine would also seem to be encouraging a more politically informed reading of this second volume of fables. He invites his public to read through the lens of Bernier’s texts and the discussions they inspired. An example of La Fontaine’s inscription of this type of reading is found in volume 7. One of the early fables in the second volume addresses the question of personal property. In “Le Chat, La Belette, et le Petit Lapin,” La Fontaine poses a question no doubt inspired by Bernier’s letter to Colbert: “le roi est-il ou non … propriétaire de son royaume”/“the king is he or is he not the owner of his kingdom?”71 Pilpay is the source of the fable, which again accentuates the notion that La Fontaine desires to have his readers make the



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connection with India. The encounter with Mughal practices initiates the conversation about private property in the form of the fable. But it is not only political power that La Fontaine invites his readers to consider. La Fontaine is questioning the type of absolutist power over thought that Louis XIV was determined to develop and maintain. This form of power would be especially hard for La Fontaine to accept because it does not allow for the diversity of thought he subtly argues leads to new knowledge and wisdom. Wisdom, for La Fontaine, is the most important gift one can obtain.72 Absolutist thought, by denying diversity, makes such gifts impossible. Fontenelle: A Conversation between and of Different Worlds Like La Fontaine and Lafayette, Bernard le Bouvier de Fontenelle (1657–1757) found food for thought among the habitués of La Sablière’s salon. In the early 1670s, this precocious young writer made his way to Paris from Rouen and began a prolific and eclectic career in the world of letters and science that would span almost 100 years. Aided by his maternal uncles, Pierre and especially Thomas Corneille, Fontenelle made a name for himself relatively easily and became a desirable presence at some of the most prestigious salons, including that of Mme de La Sablière. Not long after his arrival, he became the permanent secretary of France’s nascent Académie des sciences. Fontenelle was a historian of mathematics, a dramaturge, a philosopher, a writer for the Mercure Galant, and a noted essayist. A staunch “Modern” elected to the French Academy in 1691 despite not receiving the votes of the resident “Ancients,” Fontenelle spent most of his life as a broker of sorts between different social spheres and institutions. Fontenelle’s impressive and diverse literary corpus attests to his varied interests as well as to his engagement in the conversations and debates that mark the end of the seventeenth century, conversations both worldly and otherwise that provide the foundation for the “enlightened” Europe we associate with the next century. Like his friend La Fontaine, Fontenelle was drawn to La Sablière’s circle for its unique blend of erudition and sociability. He most likely found echoes of the openness and acceptance of difference he had grown up with in Rouen, a city that was home to a vibrant Protestant community.73 Fontenelle’s paternal grandfather was the only one in his Protestant family who converted to Catholicism; as a result, while Fontenelle was raised Catholic and educated by the Jesuits, he was

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surrounded by Protestants as he grew up, family as well as friends, and thus would have felt very comfortable in the diverse group gathered rue Neuve des Petits-Champs. Nina Gelbart characterizes Fontenelle as “an active seeker of religious toleration due to his upbringing.”74 Fontenelle certainly developed an openness to new ideas and an acceptance of difference, as well as a healthy scepticism toward all rigid religious doctrine, that pervades many of his literary works. In this respect he had much in common with François Bernier who, as we have seen, was also of the opinion that human nature had a propensity for superstition and, while neither thinker openly equated superstition with Catholicism, both led their readers to reflect on the role superstition played in any belief system. In 1686 Fontenelle published two works whose source of inspiration can be traced back to his contact with François Bernier and tangentially to the conversations in which Fontenelle probably was engaged in the last years of La Sablière’s salon: Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes and Discours sur les oracles. The controversial premise of the Discours was that pagan superstition did not end with the birth of Christianity, thus implying, as Bernier subtly does in his letter to Chapelain, that the practices of Christian priests are not necessarily devoid of some “superstitious” elements usually seen as underlying non-Christian faiths.75 While some of the ideas in these two works reflect the general conversations that were the hallmark of La Sablière’s salon, the Entretiens has an even more direct affiliation with these gatherings. It can be argued that Fontenelle structures the Entretiens sur la Pluralité des mondes/ Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds to mirror this specific salon itself. Commentators and editors usually attribute the dialogue form Fontenelle adopted for many of his works to his involvement with the salons in general. I maintain, however, that this particular work exhibits influences from La Sablière’s salon specifically. The work is a series of six conversations held over six evenings in the country home of a certain marquise, who is usually identified as having been modeled on La Sablière’s daughter, Mme de La Mésangère.76 The subject matter of the Entretiens allies this text with La Sablière, who was particularly well known for her fascination with astronomy and the telescope she had on her roof. The identification with this specific salon milieu is also strengthened in Fontenelle’s preface to the Entretiens in which he associates the work with La Princesse de Clèves, also composed while its author was surrounded by these particular salon habitués:



Penser autrement 213 J’ai mis dans ces entretiens une femme que l’on instruit, et qui n’a jamais ouï parler de ces choses-là. J’ai cru que cette fiction me servirait et à rendre l’ouvrage plus susceptible d’agrément, et à encourager les dames par l’exemple d’une femme qui, ne sortant jamais des bornes d’une personne qui n’a nulle teinture de science, ne laisse pas d’entendre ce qu’on lui dit. … Je ne demande aux dames pour tout ce système de philosophie, que la même application qu’il faut donner à La Princesse de Clèves, si on veut en suivre bien l’intrigue et en connaître toute la beauté. Il est vrai que les idées de ce livre-ci sont moins familières à la plupart des femmes que celles de La Princesse de Clèves, mais elles n’en sont pas plus obscures, et je suis sûr qu’à une seconde lecture tout au plus, il ne leur en sera rien échappé. (51–2)77 In these Conversations I have represented a woman receiving information on things with which she was entirely unacquainted. I thought this fiction would enable me to give the subject more ornament, and would encourage the female sex in the pursuit of Knowledge, by the example of a woman who though ignorant of the sciences, is capable of understanding all she is told. …Women may understand this system of philosophy by giving it as much attention as they would bestow on the Princess of Clèves, in order to understand the story and see the beauties of the work. I do not deny, that the ideas contained in this book are less familiar to the generality of females than those in the Princess of Clèves, but they are not more abstruse, and I am convinced that on a second perusal they would be perfectly understood.78

Like La Sablière and her contemporaries, and even Lafayette’s fictional princess, the fictional marquise arrives at knowledge through conversation. Fontenelle thus found inspiration for his work in the encounter between science and salon culture that characterized La Sablière’s salon in particular. Just as the construction of the work is designed to pay homage to La Sablière and her salon, so too do the ideas used to spark the conversations reflect many of the preoccupations of this particular salon and its encounter with other worlds, in particular the India conveyed by Bernier’s texts and experiences. As we saw in La Fontaine’s fables, Fontenelle advances that diversity of thought, experience, and, in this work, perspective are all paths to new knowledge. And like La Fon­ taine, the Entretiens is as much about the acquisition of knowledge as

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it is about the existence of other worlds. Readers at the time seemed to sense Fontenelle’s broader purpose from the moment of the work’s publication. What we would classify today as the scientific content of the Entretiens became obsolete almost immediately, upon Newton’s publication of his Philosophia Naturalis Principia Mathematica. That did not impede the Entretiens from being translated into English by Aphra Behn, and into many other languages.79 The Entretiens was republished a total of 140 times over the course of Fontenelle’s life and was by far his most popular work. Like La Fontaine with his Fables and Bernier with his texts on India, Fontenelle struck a chord particularly with a worldly, female-dominated salon public open to new ways of knowing and alternative visions of the world, or in this case, the universe. In the Entretiens, Fontenelle strives to make science accessible as well as pleasurable for a worldly, specifically female, public. It is important to underscore that in the late seventeenth century, “science” was defined more broadly as knowledge in general. The strict boundaries separating various disciplines such as science, literature, and philosophy were not yet in existence. Thus, the pursuit of knowledge necessarily involved the intermingling of a variety of areas of study and ideas, and conversations wove together ideas from diverse sources.80 Uniting the various elements was the sense of curiosity, which is at the heart of the Entretiens as well as Bernier’s travel narratives and conversations. Could other planets or the moon be populated? This is one of the principal questions posed in the Entretiens inspired, I would argue in large part, by the encounter with different civilizations and belief systems embodied by texts such as Bernier’s. In his preface, Fontenelle quiets “scrupulous people” who might object on religious grounds to the idea that other planets or the moon might be inhabited, those who “les gens scrupuleux, qui pourront s’imaginer qu’il ya du danger par rapport à la religion, à mettre des habitants ailleurs que sur la Terre” (54)/ “may imagine religion is endangered by placing inhabitants any where but on the earth” (12). Inspired by the “diversité infinie que la nature doit avoir mise dans ses ouvrages” (55)/ “endless diversity of the works of nature,” (12), Fontenelle counters that he is not arguing that human inhabitants who precisely resemble us occupy other celestial bodies, but rather he is suggesting that the idea that living things might inhabit the moon or other planets would be examples of the diversity of nature and the potential existence of an “infinité de mondes” (54)/ “infinite number of worlds” (12). Inspired at least in part by the diversity of belief systems and ideas encountered and transmitted by Bernier in



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particular, Fontenelle, like La Sablière, embraces the possibility of new ideas and reacts to this encounter with diversity by celebrating the creation of new knowledge it engenders.81 We will recall that La Sablière herself wrote to Bernier expressing much the same outlook, advancing the idea that the discovery of new worlds necessitated a rethinking of our classification of human kind. The Entretiens is a celebration of the art of conversation as practiced in the salons. The marquise, like La Sablière and other salon women, is not a passive observer content to simply absorb knowledge from her male interlocutor. In the Entretiens, Fontenelle’s marquise engages with her male guest and draws on her own knowledge, founded on reason as well as experience, to question him at every turn. She uses the new knowledge she gleans from each conversation to question preconceptions as well as to inspire new perspectives. In one passage, for example, Fontenelle includes a reference to Indian mythology, which the marquise then uses to question the idea advanced by the philosopher that the earth is suspended in a kind of “celestial fluid.” She queries her male interlocutor: Mais m’assurez-vous bien qu’il n’y ait rien à craindre sur une pirouette aussi légère que vous me faites la Terre? Eh bien, lui répondis-je, faisons porter la Terre par quatre éléphants, comme font les Indiens. Voici bien un autre système, s’écria-t-elle. Du moins j’aime ces gens-là d’avoir pourvu à leur sûreté, et fait de bon fondements, au lieu que nous autres Coperniciens, nous sommes assez inconsidérés pour vouloir bien nager à l’aventure dans cette matière céleste. Je gage que si les Indiens savaient que la Terre fût le moins du monde en péril de se mouvoir, ils doubleraient les éléphants. (76) But tell me, is it not dangerous to inhabit such a whirligig as you represent the earth? If you are afraid, said I, let us have the world supported by four elephants, as the Indians do. Well! cried she, here is a new system. I like those people for providing such good foundations for the earth to rest on, whilst we Copernicans are imprudent enough to swim at random in this celestial fluid. I dare say if the Indians knew there was the least danger of the earth’s being moved, they would double the number of elephants. (32–3)

Instead of rejecting the concept of Indian elephants stabilizing the world, the marquise applauds Indians for having devised a more

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reassuring belief system than her Western one. What is most important here is the fact that she and the philosopher allow these different systems to coexist and do not try to conclusively prove that one is more correct than the other. They allow the diversity of opinion to inhabit the same space, just as it did in La Sablière’s salon, as well as in the India described by Bernier and others. Throughout the Entretiens, the marquise and the philosopher illustrate the effect new experiences and new ideas such as those emanating from Bernier and his texts could have on the mindsets of salon participants. The marquise often voices tolerance, rather than the rejection of new ideas, as when she states,“Les deux mouvements de la Terre, dont je ne me fusse jamais doutée, me rendent timide sur tout le reste; mais pourtant serait-il bien possible que la Terre fût lumineuse comme la Lune?” (83)/ “The two different motions of the earth, which I never before knew anything about, make me fearful of hastily rejecting any other opinion” (40). New discoveries invite people to be more tolerant, more open to other opinions. In a similar vein, in the Entretiens Fontenelle advances the idea that to accede to knowledge one must recognize that one’s perspective plays a critical role. The philosopher says “Nous voulons juger de tout, et nous sommes toujours dans un mauvais point de vue Nous voulons juger de nous, nous en sommes trop près; nous voulons juger des autres, nous en sommes trop loin” (84)/ “we take upon us to decide on every thing, but we are never in a proper place for making our observations. We would form an opinion of ourselves, and we are too near; we would judge others; they are too distant from our view” (41). What is required is a mingling of perspectives, an acceptance of the variety of ways of interpreting the world and an acknowledgement that knowledge is an amalgam of these diverse perspectives and beliefs; wisdom does not come from embracing one point of view or opinion in a vacuum but rather from the juxtaposition of these various positions. Moreover, the vantage point from which one considers an idea or an object can itself change, which then has an effect on one’s perception. To illustrate this point, Fontenelle describes the atmosphere and its influence on the colour of objects we perceive through it. Le ciel, disent-ils, où sont attachées les étoiles fixes, n’a de lui-même aucune lumière, et par conséquent il devrait paraître noir; mais on le voit au travers de l’air qui est bleu, et il paraît bleu. Si cela est, les rayons du Soleil et des étoiles ne peuvent passer au travers de l’air sans se teindre un peu



Penser autrement 217 de sa couleur, et prendre autant de celle qui lui est naturelle. Mais quand même l’air ne serait pas coloré de lui-même, il est certain qu’au travers d’un gros brouillard, la lumière d’un flambeau qu’on voit un peu de loin paraît toute rougeâtre, quoique ce ne soit pas sa vraie couleur; et notre air n’est non plus qu’un gros brouillard qui nous doit altérer la vraie couleur, et du ciel, et du Soleil, et des étoiles. … Enfin, à l’égard des gens de la Lune, cette lunette, au travers de laquelle on voit tout, est changée. (106) The firmament, say they, in which are the fixed stars, has no light in itself, and consequently ought to appear black, but as we see it throughout blue air, it seems to us to be blue. If that is true, the rays of the sun and stars cannot pass through the air without receiving a slight tinge from its colour, and losing a degree of that which is natural to them. But supposing the air is not coloured, it is certain that through a thick fog the light of a flambeau, seen at some distance, appears of a deep red, which is not its real colour; if therefore our air be considered only a mist, it must necessarily alter the colour of the sky, sun and stars. … In a word, the glass through which the people in the moon view these objects is of a different nature to ours. (62)

Following this analogy, there is no one correct colour, no absolute idea that cannot be altered by the “atmosphere” through which it is considered. Both La Fontaine and Fontenelle valorize the diversity of perspectives and suggest that embracing such a position can lead to deeper wisdom. Different cultures view the world through different “atmospheres.” The same phenomenon could thus be perceived differently depending on one’s culture. Fontenelle does not negate truth here; he suggests that different perceptions can occur as they are coloured by the hues of cultural relativism. Like Bernier’s “Indian taste,” Fontenelle’s “atmosphere” is a celebration of the creativity inherent in the diversity of thought and openness to new worlds. Throughout the Entretiens, the conversation between the marquise and the philosopher valorizes an exploration for knowledge that accepts diversity of opinions. The interlocutors clearly find pleasure in discussing the advantages and disadvantages of various ideas and beliefs rather than adhering to a singular, unifying belief. The rejection of a hierarchy of values is clear in the example Fontenelle offers of the moon. The philosopher laments that the people who inhabit the moon never see rainbows: “Puisqu’il n’y a autour de la Lune ni vapeurs assez grossières, ni nuages pluvieux, adieu l’arc-en-ciel avec l’aurore, et à quoi ressembleront les belles de ce pays-là? Quelle source de comparaisons

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perdue?” (108)/ “Since the moon has neither dense vapours nor rainy clouds, farewell to Aurora, and the Rainbow! Alas! to what can they liken the beauties of that country; what a source of comparison are they deprived of!” (64). The marquise, however, counters that there are advantages and disadvantages to both the earth and the moon: /“je trouve qu’on est assez bien récompensé dans la Lune, de n’avoir ni aurore ni arc-en-ciel; car on ne doit avoir par la même raison ni foudres ni tonnerres, puisque ce sont aussi des choses qui se forment dans les nuages. On a de beaux jours toujours sereins, pendant lesquels on ne perd point le Soleil de vue” (108)/ “I think the inhabitants of the moon have ample amends made them for the loss of rainbows and twilight by being exempted from thunder and lightning; for these likewise are formed in the clouds. They have constant serenity of weather; never losing sight of the sun” (64). “Perfection is not of this world,” as Voltaire would later say. Nor does knowledge derive from embracing one perspective, one country, one set of precepts. Enlightenment is formed at the intersection of a variety of ideas and perspectives. It is generated in the in-between spaces created as ideas, or the cultures that produce them, collide. In addition to rejecting a hierarchy for ideas, Fontenelle also uses the Entretiens to illustrate that people are ultimately not so different, although they may interpret the world and its events in contrasting ways. Inspired perhaps by Bernier, Fontenelle uses an exceptional event, an eclipse, which had so marked the period, to illustrate his point that every country can offer its own explanation and each can be wrong. This stance is a clear rejection of the notion that the Ancients of the West must be the models for the entire world, and more generally that the West holds the keys to knowledge.82 Upon learning of the scientific reasons behind an eclipse, the marquise exclaims, “Je suis fort étonnée, … qu’il y ait se peu de mystère aux éclipses” (87)/ “I am very much astonished … that there is so little mystery in eclipses” (45) and yet that so much mystery surrounds them. The philosopher then lists various erroneous interpretations, starting with Indians, and ending with the French themselves. Indians, qui se sont mis dans l’eau jusqu’au col, parce que c’est une situation très dévote selon eux, et très propre à obtenir du Soleil et de la Lune qu’ils se défendent bien contre le Dragon. En Amérique on était persuadé que le Soleil et la Lune étaient fâchés quand ils s’éclipsaient, et Dieu sait ce qu’on ne faisait pas pour se raccommoder avec eux. Mais les Grecs qui étaient



Penser autrement 219 si raffinés, n’ont-ils pas cru longtemps que la Lune était ensorcelée. … Et nous, n’eûmes-nous pas belle peur il n’y a que trente-deux ans, à une certaine éclipse de soleil, qui à la vérité fut totale? Une infinité de gens ne se tinrent-ils pas enfermés dans des caves … ? (87–8) who have put themselves up to the throat in water, because, according to their notions, this is a very religious act, and will induce the sun or moon to defend itself bravely against the dragon. In America, it was thought that the sun and moon were angry when they were eclipsed, and every kind of absurdity was practiced to regain their favour. The Grecians too, who had arrived at such a height of refinement – did they not, for a long time, believe that the moon was eclipsed by the power of sorcery … and were not we, likewise, in great alarm but two and thirty years ago, at a total eclipse of the sun? Did not an immense number of people shut themselves up in caves and cellars … ? (45)

No one individual or culture has a monopoly on truth, which in the Entretiens is revealed to be elusive or even nonexistant. Knowledge is subject to change as individuals glean new ideas from discovering new worlds and then debating and reflecting on these ideas. The one constant in Fontenelle’s text is the idea that diversity, in whatever form it takes, is to be valorized and ultimately can open the way for insight. Both the marquise and the philosopher pronounce their scepticism and dislike of exactitude, consistency, or the imposition of one idea over all others: Oh! Dit la Marquise, puisqu’il est possible que cette grande égalité ne soit que dans notre imagination, je me tiens fort sûre qu’elle n’est point hors de là. Je suis bien aise qu’une chose qui n’est point du génie de la nature retombe entièrement sur nous, et qu’elle en soit déchargée, quoique ce ne soit à nos dépens. Pour moi, repris-je, je suis si ennemi de l’égalité par­ faite …” (165) Oh! replied the Marchioness, I could venture to say this exactitude existed only in our imaginations. I am glad that any thing inconsistent with the genius of nature, which this equality in so many moving bodies would be, should depend on our motion, and she, even at our expense, be free from the charge of inconsistency. For my part, said I, I dislike a perfect regularity …” (112)

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Fontenelle would seem to be privileging the actual process for gaining knowledge as practiced in worldly salon culture over the “perfect regularity” of an absolutist classicism founded upon a blind, unswerving faith in the perfection of the Ancients. The encounter with India, a place that embodies “inconsistency” and diversity, an encounter that is ingrained in both Fontenelle’s and La Fontaine’s texts, is valorized as a means to access new knowledge. At the same time, Fontenelle’s and La Fontaine’s texts both illustrate that it is not just an encounter with India that leads to knowledge, but rather the specific encounter with India as mediated by and interpreted in salon culture, specifically La Sablière’s eclectic salon milieu. Inherent in Fontenelle’s valorization of diversity is a none-too-veiled critique of the absolutism Louis XIV was imposing on politics and thought. In a curious reversal, at the end of the Entretiens, Europe is hailed as the principal source of genius, a position that the rest of the Entretiens would not seem to support. In the last paragraph Fontenelle writes, “En vérité, je crois toujours de plus en plus, qu’il y a un certain génie qui n’a point encore été hors de notre Europe, ou qui du moins ne s’en est pas beaucoup éloigné” (173)/ “Really I am more and more of opinion that Europe is in possession of a degree of genius which has never extended to any other part of the globe, at least not to any distant part.” (118). This intriguing position can perhaps be attributed to Fontenelle’s desire to avoid censorship and critique. He goes on to mitigate his praise of European genius, suggesting that this genius is not innate to Europe, but rather has chosen to descend on Europe at this particular moment, and could just as easily choose another place in the future. “Jouissons-en tandis que nous le possédons” (173)/ “Let us then make use of it while it is in our possession” (118). Fontenelle leaves open the possibility that genius is not attached to any one place or belief system, as he suggests through the Entretiens that insight and knowledge is the product of a dynamic process of exchange and conversation.83 This attraction to and celebration of diversity as exemplified by La Sablière’s salon and some of the texts it produced did not go unnoticed by Louis XIV. New forms of knowledge as well as diversity were more and more perceived by the absolute monarch as a threat, even as they were celebrated by worldly contemporaries as a liberating force. As some of his subjects expanded their horizons and opened their minds to new possibilities, Louis in many ways sought to reorient and refocus their gaze on him alone, and on a world that he could control. This reaction against diversity and openness, what can even be considered as



Penser autrement 221

a clampdown on curiosity, took many forms as Louis sought not only to control knowledge but also to impose his version of knowledge on the rest of Europe. The taste for the foreign inspired in part by Bernier’s texts on India especially needed to be reined in; Louis confronted the power of his subjects’ taste for India not only by banishing religious diversity, but by controlling the visible manifestations of the attraction to India, the “biens innombrables” evoked by Charpentier, described by Bernier, and so coveted by his contemporaries. It is to this material culture that we now turn.

Chapter Four

Indian Taste, A Taste for India

“… je ne sais pas bien encore si je n’aurais point le goût un peu trop indien …” François Bernier, Letter to Monsieur de La Mothe le Vayer1

When Marguerite de La Sablière decided to renounce her formal salon life and move into a small room at Les Incurables, at least for part of the year, she carefully chose the few items that would accompany her. The inventory made of her belongings at Les Incurables after her death attests to the fact that this move was not designed to be a complete break with her past worldly existence, either physical or intellectual. One of the items listed is toiles peintes, or painted fabrics, referring to the luxurious and ornate fabrics originating in India and often referred to as indiennes.2 All the vogue beginning in the early 1670s, it is highly probable that La Sablière’s salon had also been decorated with these stylish fabrics that, along with other types of indiennes, constituted the principal import for all the East India companies, including the newly founded French Compagnie des Indes orientales (see Plate 3).3 La Sablière did well to hide her indiennes in her tiny room at Les Incurables, for by the 1680s this exotic commodity was already being seen and treated as a threat to Louis XIV’s absolutist agenda. The taste for indiennes, developed and propagated in large measure by the worldly public and epitomized by figures such as La Sablière and her salon habitués, illustrates a shift in the history of taste, one that Louis XIV was determined to extinguish. He recognized that his subjects’ taste for indiennes was much more than an attraction to beautiful fabrics; it was a taste for the foreign, for the exotic, and an acknowledgement of India’s superiority in this domain.4

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As we resurrect and discover the traces that contact with India left on the French imagination, we are inevitably led not only to the ideas that changed seventeenth-century thought, but also to the physical objects that engaged the minds of those who contemplated them and sparked further reflection. One of the most important “precious things” to which Charpentier referred in his exhortation to the French public to support the newly founded Compagnie des Indes were these same toiles peintes, or indiennes, in La Sablière’s possession. In what follows, we will explore some of the most important material traces of France’s contact with India and ask what this new taste for India can tell us about how people were relating to and imagining this foreign culture. While Indian exports such as fabrics were flooding the entire European market, the French context in which they were received possesses some particularities that illuminate why Bernier would fear that his taste had become “too Indian” rather than simply acknowledge or even celebrate his new taste. In his dictionary of 1690, Furetière writes that taste se dit figurément en morale des jugements de l’esprit … se dit aussi des bâtiments, des statues, des tableaux. Le goût des Grecs a été le meilleur pour les bâtiments. Les uns ont le goût des tableaux de Poussin, les autres de Rubens. Le bon goût consiste à se former une idée des choses la plus parfaite qu’on peut, et à la suivre. is used figuratively in moral thought in relationship to judgment … is also used with respect to buildings, statues, and paintings. The Greek’s taste was the best for buildings. Some have a taste for paintings by Poussin, others for Rubens. Good taste consists of developing the most perfect idea of things that one can and then adhering to this idea.

Taste was an integral part of seventeenth-century culture; worldly members of salons as well as established intellectuals parsed its meanings, debated who could possess it, analysed its influence, and often strove to impose their particular version of taste, or at least have their version of taste recognized as valid. “Le bon goût” was a criterion for judging; it was called upon to evaluate literary works as well as the artistic productions to which Furetière refers. Women were considered by many to be endowed innately with “bon goût”/“good taste” that could enable them to discern good literature from bad, and they wielded this tool of literary criticism in the salons they animated, as well as imparted this good taste to those they invited into their midst.5

224  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

By the 1670s, the members of La Sablière’s salon would have been called upon to exercise their taste on the new products coming from India. As we have seen, Lafayette expresses her desire for anything Indi­ an, illustrating that these imports meet her criteria of “bon goût.” In particular, the taste for Indian toiles peintes and other printed Indian fabrics became so widespread that people surrounded themselves with these indiennes, using them to decorate interiors as well as to adorn their bodies. This passion for indiennes represents a dramatic change in taste, nurtured and inspired, at least in La Sablière’s salon and elsewhere, by accounts of travellers such as François Bernier as much as by the appearance and increased availability of the products themselves. Bernier’s accounts inspired his interlocutors to reflect on their own conception of taste as he also provoked a new taste for India, specifically for “all things Indian.” Bernier’s descriptions of India helped to promote this taste and to inspire an examination of the concept of taste in general. In his letter to La Mothe le Vayer, Bernier responds to a question that he says many of his contemporaries asked him: are Delhi and Agra “aussi belles, aussi grandes et aussi peuplées que Paris”/“as beautiful, as large, and as populated as Paris”? Instead of extolling Paris’s legendary beauty, Bernier uses this question to reflect on the cultural relativism that should play a role in the answer to such a question.6 He boldly gives his provocative answer in the opening lines of the letter: Pour ce qui est de la beauté, je vous dirai par avance que je me suis quelquefois étonné d’entendre ici de nos Européens mépriser les villes des Indes, comme n’approchant pas des nôtres au regard des bâtiments; car aussi ne faut-il pas qu’elles leur ressemblent, et si Paris, Londres ou Amsterdam étaient dans l’endroit où est Delhi, il en faudrait jeter par terre la plus grande partie pour bâtir d’une autre façon. (177) As far as the idea of [urban] beauty is concerned, I can tell you that I’m often shocked to hear we Europeans disparage Indian cities, (stating) that they don’t approach ours in terms of the buildings. Yet [Indian cities] shouldn’t resemble [ours], and if Paris, London, or Amsterdam were situated where Delhi is, it would be necessary to demolish most of them in order to rebuild in a different way.

London, Paris, and Amsterdam could and indeed would have to be reduced to rubble if they were located in India. This possibility would

Indian Taste, A Taste for India  225

most likely have appeared quite shocking to a seventeenth-century European public. In Bernier’s view, given the extreme differences in climate, one must reformulate one’s idea of urban beauty. One cannot compare Delhi and Agra qualitatively to these great European capitals using European criteria for beauty or utility. In Bernier’s words: Nos villes, sans contestation, ont de grandes beautés, mais ce sont des beautés qui doivent leur être particulières et accommodées à un climat froid; Delhi de même peut avoir les siennes qui lui soient aussi particulières et qui soient accommodées à un climat très chaud.” (177–8) Certainly our cities have beautiful things [sights], but these are beautiful things that must be particular to them and adapted to a cold climate. Delhi also can have its own [beautiful things] that are equally particular to it and that are adapted to a very hot climate.

One can sense an underlying tension in Bernier’s remarks. The concept of beauty Bernier uses to compare European cities to the cities he is experiencing in India is not a universal concept. Bernier thus subtly places into question the accepted rules of his European contemporaries governing taste, the venerable criteria passed down from Greek and Roman antiquity that determine the acceptability of everything from poetry to palaces. When describing the Grand Mosque in Delhi, Bernier seems surprised by his own admiration for something that escapes European classification and norms of beauty: Je veux bien que cet édifice ne soit pas dans ces règles et ordres d’architecture que nous croyons devoir être suivis indispensablement, néanmoins je n’y remarque rien qui m’y choque la vue; au contraire, tout m’y paraît bien entendu, bien conduit et bien proportionné; et je m’imagine même que si nous avions dans Paris une église qui tirât sur cette sorte d’architecture, on ne la trouverait pas laide. (276) I agree that this edifice does not conform to the rules and demands of architecture that we believe must be respected. Yet I don’t remark anything that is shocking; on the contrary, everything seems to me to be well considered, well constructed, and well proportioned; and I even imagine that if we had in Paris a church that was constructed using the criteria that produced this kind of architecture, we would not find it ugly.

226  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

Bernier not only suggests that his public would not condemn the different norms and taste he witnessed in India, he proposes that rules that result in the architectural spaces he experienced merit incorporation into “nos livres d’architecture”/“our architecture books” (297). This is quite a revolutionary statement coming from a mid-seventeenthcentury French philosopher. Bernier is questioning the primacy of the Ancients, still considered by most as the foundation of all taste and judgment, and proposing that Europe revise its own rules, and learn from India. Bernier’s experience of the whole complex of the Taj Mahal in particular, that is, the mausoleum itself and the surrounding buildings, sparks an intriguing and provocative examination of taste. He offers a long, very visual portrait of the ensemble built by Shah Jahan to honour Mumtaz Mahal: Véritablement, on ne voit pas là des colonnes, des architraves et des corniches taillées dans la proportion de ces cinq ordres d’architecture qu’on observe si religieusement dans nos palais. C’est une espèce de batiment différente et particulière, mais qui ne laisse pas d’avoir de l’agréable dans sa bizarre disposition, et qui, à mon avis, mériterait bien sa place dans nos livres d’architecture. Ce n’est presque qu’arcades sur arcades … et cependant tout paraît magnifique, assez bien entendu et bien conduit, rien n’y choque la vue; au contraire, tout y rit et on ne peut se rassasier de le regarder. La dernière fois que je l[e] vis fut avec un de nos marchands français qui ne pouvait aussi bien que moi se lasser de la regarder; je n’osais lui en dire mon sentiment, appréhendant de m’être corrompu le goût et me l’être fait à l’indienne, mais comme il revenait fraîchement de France, je fus bien aise de lui entendre dire qu’il n’avait jamais rien vu de si auguste, ni de si hardi dans l’Europe. …. Je ne sais pas bien encore si je n’aurais point le goût un peu trop indien, mais je crois qu’on le devrait plutôt mettre au nombre des merveilles du monde que ces masses informes de Pyramides d’Egypte. (297–300) To tell you the truth, you don’t see the columns, the arches, and the cornices sculpted according to the proportions that follow the five orders of architecture that we follow so religiously in our palaces. It’s a very different and particular kind of building, but one that nonetheless has something pleasing about its bizarre [irregular] layout, and which, in my opinion, would certainly merit a place in our books on architecture. It is almost

Indian Taste, A Taste for India  227 entirely a series of arches, … and yet everything appears magnificent, fairly well conceived and executed, nothing shocks the eye; on the contrary, everything in it shines and one cannot stop looking at it. The last time I saw it I was with one of our French merchants who, like me, could not stop looking at it; I did not dare to tell him my opinion, because I was afraid that I had corrupted my taste and that it had become indianized, but since he was coming directly from France, I was relieved to hear him say that he had never seen anything so majestic, nor so bold in Europe. … I’m still not sure if my taste has become a bit too Indian, but I think it merits inclusion among the world’s wonders more than those misshapen masses, the Egyptian pyramids.

The sheer magnificence of the Taj Mahal elicits admiration and wonder, despite the fact that its “bizarre” in the sense of “irregular” layout does not conform to European models. Neither Bernier nor the French merchant, usually identified as Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, can take their eyes away from something so “different” and “particular.” This clearly pleasurable and new visual experience, confirmed by his fellow Frenchman, also provokes a curious malaise on the part of the philosopher. Bernier’s wonder and admiration make him feel guilty, as though by judging the Taj as “merveilleux” he could be accused of questioning European creations and the standards of taste that govern them, and finding these to be inferior. Bernier attributes this possibly misplaced admiration to having had his own taste “indianized.” Bernier’s apprehension is palpable – and comprehensible. As the Sun King’s subject, writing in 1670, when Louis was himself striving to produce similarly spectacular effects, Bernier perhaps felt the need to keep the expression of his admiration for Shah Jahan’s marvel in check by attributing his reaction to a change in his personal tastes due to his long exposure to Indian culture. His strategic and defensive explanation allows for the existence of a different concept of taste at work in India. Rather than judging the architecture of India and France according to a singular concept of taste founded on Western values, Bernier strategically suggests that Western taste would benefit from exposure to different norms. Inherent in his description of the Taj is the suggestion that were he to judge the Taj complex according to France’s accepted notions of beauty, it might be found to be superior to Louis XIV’s own magnificent products – this at a time when Louis was actively constructing his own masterpiece, Versailles.

228  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

Bernier’s detailed descriptions of the physical nature of India allow his public to visualize a world that they have little chance of ever encountering in person. The traveller/philosopher takes seriously his responsibility to describe India and inspire his public to think. He wants his public not only to possess a mental picture of India, but to use this construction to interrogate their own tastes, their own judgment, and their own preconceptions. In his descriptions of India’s physical spaces, Bernier often refers to French monuments known to his public, inviting his readers to compare some of his descriptions of the marvels of India to them, especially to Paris’s newer edifices such as the Val de Grace. These descriptions spark an interrogation of taste and undoubtedly fueled many conversations in La Sablière’s salon. While Bernier’s contemporaries were not able to judge India’s architectural wonders for themselves, they were able to gaze upon some of the products flooding the European market, particularly the exotic imported fabrics Bernier describes at great length. His text and the physical objects he describes come together to characterize India and embody Indian taste. The reception of these fabrics in France offers an interesting case study of the influence of India on the development of French taste, and indirectly, allows us to understand more fully the impact Bernier’s text had on the imaginary of his worldly public through his descriptions of what, even in 1670, was the most important and lucrative import of the East India companies. As we saw in chapter 1, throughout the Histoire and his letters, Bernier weaves in descriptions of these fabrics and their uses; fabrics come to represent India itself and convey the advanced artistic culture of the Mughals and Indians. Textiles are not only used for decoration or personal adornment in India; they are so valued that the Mughal emperor and others in authority bestow them as gifts to honour ambassadors or use them to reward subjects for their loyalty. Bernier recounts, for example, how Aurangzeb showed favour to the ambassadors from Uzbek by offering them examples of Indian textiles: Aurangzeb leur fit donner à chacun une veste de brocart, un turban et une écharpe ou ceinture de soie en broderie qui est ce qu’on appelle communément ser-apah, comme qui dirait vêtement depuis la tête jusques aux pieds … il leur donna aussi pour présenter aux khans, leurs maîtres, de très beaux serapahs, quantité de brocarts des plus riches et des mieux travaillés, quantité de fines toiles; et d’a’lachas, ou étoffes de soie à raies d’or ou d’argent, quelques tapis et deux poignards couverts de pierreries. (134–6)

Indian Taste, A Taste for India  229 he gave each of them a brocade vest, a turban, and a scarf or belt made of embroidered silk that is called a ser-apah, which is a long piece of clothing that goes from the head to the foot … he also gave them, as gifts for their masters, beautiful seraphas, many rich and finely worked brocades, many delicate fabrics; and a’lachas, or silks with gold or silver threads, some rugs and two daggers covered with jewels.7

Such fabrics obviously must be extraordinary in order to be considered appropriate and acceptable diplomatic gifts. Moreover, as gifts to be taken back to the ambassadors’ countries, fabrics are endowed with a certain status. They are portrayed as representing India itself. Through these unique and luxurious fabrics, the Mughal court and the India that produces these marvels enter the French imaginary as places of a superior order of life. Cotton and silk are not just commodities; their production has been raised to a level of artistry that does not exist elsewhere. A civilization that devotes such effort to these creations and with such success is thus regarded with respect, admiration, and even envy. As La Sablière’s habitués listen to and discuss Bernier’s descriptions, they gaze upon these indiennes and use them to comprehend this intriguing exotic culture. In Bernier’s text, the adjective that appears most frequently to characterize the various fabrics produced in India is “riche.” Fabrics are on display, for example, in the yearly market that takes place in the seraglio, and indeed make up the preponderance of goods sold for amusement by the princesses and their entourage. Bernier writes that “les marchandises sont quelques beaux brocarts, ou riches broderies de nouvelle façon, quelques riches turbans bien travaillés sur ces toiles d’or, ou quelques pièces de ces fines toiles que portent les grandes dames”/“the merchandise consists of beautiful brocade fabrics, or richly embroidered fabrics with new designs, some rich turbans intricately worked with gold fabrics, or some of those exquisite fabrics that upper class women wear” (269). When comparing the various streets of Delhi and Paris, Bernier again chooses to concentrate on these fabrics: Pour ce qui est de l’apparence et richesses des boutiques, qui est ce qui contribue le plus à la beauté de nos villes d’Europe … il ne faut néanmoins pas s’imaginer qu’il s’y trouve de nos rue Saint-Denis. Je ne sais si dans toute l’Asie il y en a une semblable et même ce qu’il y a de plus belles et de plus riches étoffes n’est ordinaire que dans des magasins (les boutiques n’en soit point parées) en sorte que pour une qui paraît un peu, c’est à dire

230  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal dans laquelle il se vend de ces belles et fines toiles, de ces étoffes de soie rayées d’or et d’argent, de ces toiles d’or, turbans en broderie d’or, brocart et autres marchandises de grand prix, vous en trouverez toujours vingtcinq et davantage qui ne sont pleines que de pots d’huile et de beurre et que de paniers les uns sur les autres, remplis de riz…de pois chiches … et de je ne sais combien d’autres sortes de grains et de legumes … (244–5) As for the appearance and wealth of shops, which is what contributes the most to the beauty of our European cities … one can’t find a street such as our rue St. Denis. I don’t know if one similar to [the rue St. Denis] can be found in all of Asia, and even the richest and most beautiful fabrics are usually only found in wholesale stores [magasins] (the boutiques don’t have any) such that for every one boutique that sells these exquisite fabrics, the silk ones that are woven with gold and silver thread, this cloth of gold, turbans with gold embroidery, brocade, and other merchandise of great value, you’ll find twenty-five others and even more that have only pots of oil and butter and baskets of grains piled one upon another filled with rice … chickpeas … and I don’t know how many other kinds of grains and vegetables.8

These fabrics are not merely possessed by the aristocracy; they are in evidence throughout India and at every level of society. Of course, those that are associated with the court are especially ornate and “riche,” but this particular commodity characterizes India as a whole. The entire culture values these fabrics, which are constantly improved upon, created “de nouvelle façon”/“in a new way,” as we see in his description of the seraglio market. Bernier evokes this world through the richness of its materials because, given that these indiennes were finding their way into France, his interlocutors are able to gaze upon actual examples and verify the truth of his account as they worked to construct their impressions of les Indes orientales through such written accounts.9 The textiles that were imported into Europe from the end of the sixteenth century until near the end of the seventeenth exhibited a variety of Indian designs. We can get a sense of what these fabrics were by the few surviving examples from the seventeenth century, but also from Mughal miniature paintings and others works such as the series of paintings by Lisbon artist Andre Reinoso to honour Francis Xavier. In these paintings we see the vibrant flower prints and the place accorded to textiles at all levels of society.10 Even in his letter to Colbert, Bernier inscribes fabrics and uses them to

Indian Taste, A Taste for India  231

give Louis’s finance minister knowledge of India and its values. This particular letter, as one would expect, focuses on India’s financial characteristics. Often referred to as a “trou d’argent”/“an abyss for money” by Europeans because merchants left large quantities of gold and silver in India in order to obtain goods such as fabrics, Bernier tries to explain to Colbert how India absorbs these precious metals.11 What does the emperor do with this influx of gold and silver? Bernier’s enlightening answer to this question, asked by many Europeans, has fabrics at its heart. The emperor must spend a fortune on his harem, which, as we have seen, Bernier characterizes as “plus indispensable qu’on ne saurait presque croire”/“more indispensible than one would think” (216). The luxury of the seraglio is evoked through references to fabrics. It is “cet abîme de toiles fines, de toiles d’or, de brocarts, d’étoffes de soie, de broderies, de musc, d’ambre, d’huiles de senteur et de perles”/“this abyss of exquisite fabrics, fabrics of gold, brocades, silks, embroidered textiles, musk, amber, precious oils, and pearls” (216). Gold and silver are in such abundance that they are used throughout India, especially in the manufacturing of these fabrics. Bernier explains that gold and silver are used to produce “toutes ces broderies, alachas, ou étoffes de soie rayées, touras ou touffes de filets d’or qui se portent sur les turbans, dans ces toiles d’or et d’argent, écharpes, turbans, brocarts et autres pièces de la sorte”/“embroideries, alachas, or striped silks, decorations made of gold threads that are used to decorate turbans, fabrics made of gold and silver, turbans, brocades, and other such things” (218–19).This is a civilization that has the means as well as the expertise to spin cloth from gold, and the desire to do so. Bernier uses fabrics to evoke les Indes orientales as a whole, not just the court, and in so doing affects the imagination of his French contemporaries and distinguishes India as a particular place with particular values, art, and expertise. Indeed not only are fabrics used as gifts and for decoration, they are so much a part of life that luxurious fabrics are even used to create the tents that the court uses as it moves from place to place (Plate 13). As the first westerner to visit the almost mythical space of Kashmir and Shangri-La, Bernier’s descriptions of his voyage there with the court are especially prized by his readers and interlocutors. He whets M. de Merveilles’s appetite by promising that he will “vous faire voir un des beaux pays du monde”/“show you one of the most beautiful countries in the world” (374). And his descriptions do indeed create a visual portrait for his readers. Bernier describes in detail the tents used by the court during the trip to Kashmir:

232  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal … ils dressent les tentes, et entourent tout ce grand carré de kanates ou paravents de sept à huit pieds de hauteur. … Ces kanates sont d’une toile forte qui est doublée d’indiennes, ou toiles peintes. … Au milieu d’un des côtés du carré est l’entrée ou Porte Royale, qui est grande et magnifique, et les indiennes dont elle est faite, comme aussi celles dont est doublé en dehors tout le côté du carré de la face, sont bien plus belles et plus riches que les autres. … Plus avant sont les tentes particulières du roi qui sont entourées de petites kanates, de la hauteur d’un homme et doublées d’indiennes au pinceau, de ce beau travail de Machilipatnum, qui representent cent sortes de fleurs différentes et quelques-unes sont doublées de satin à fleurs …”(375–6) They set up tents and surround this large square with kanates or screens that are seven to eight feet high. … These kanates are of a strong fabric that is lined with indiennes, or toiles peintes … in the middle of one of the sides of the square is the Porte Royale, which is grand and magnificent, and the indiennes of which it is made, are more beautiful and richer than the others. … Further on are the king’s tents, which are surrounded by small kanates the height of a man which are lined with indiennes drawn with a brush “au pinceau” using this beautiful technique from Machilipatnum, which represent a hundred different kinds of flowers, and some are lined with satin decorated with flowers.

This is a description of the court as it wanders its way from Agra to Kashmir. The fabrics are the mark of its culture. The fabrics are uniquely indiennes and to be distinguished from anything produced in Europe because, as Bernier precisely describes them, they are “drawn with a brush” not simply printed on the material. His reference to the “100  different kinds of flowers” painted onto the material for these tents illustrates the artistry and care that produces “this beautiful work” he so admires. Bernier creates a bond between the Mughal court and his own French public. Both appreciate such artistry and strive to surround themselves with beauty and luxury. But in the case of fabrics, the techniques and artistry of the Mughals and Indians in general exceed the capabilities of artisans in seventeenth-century France, who do not yet have the expertise to paint on fabrics. India actually surpasses France in textile manufacturing. As Bernier’s descriptions underscore, these painted fabrics are so common in India that they can even be used to create the enormous tents used by the court as it migrates to its summer retreat.

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Implicit in Bernier’s evocation of fabrics is the sense that he is encountering something new, something that does not have its equivalent in the West. In his letter to Colbert he specifically states that India is superior to Egypt: “toutes ces marchandises si considérables que l’Egypte ne connaît point, comme les soies, les cotons, l’indigo et tant d’autres que les relations marquent assez … l’artisan … ne laisse pas par necessité ou autrement de s’appliquer au travail, au tapis, brocarts, broderies, toiles d’or et d’argent, et à toutes ces sortes de manufactures de soie et de coton dont on se sert dans le pays ou qui se transportent ailleurs”/“all this merchandise that is unknown in Egypt, such as silks, cottons, indigo, and so many other things that accounts have recorded … artisans … work on rugs, brocades, embroideries, gold and silver cloth, and create all kinds of silks and cottons which are used in this country or exported” (199). Just as the Taj Mahal goes beyond “les pyramides d’Egypte,” so too do Indian exports, especially fabrics, surpass the models of the Ancients whose standards were founded on Egypt and Rome. Bernier’s choice of Egypt as a referent in his comparisons is meant to inspire his public to reflect on these models, these standards of perfection and taste, and to find these new Indian examples superior to productions of the past that were created using the familiar models upon which their own French taste was established. Importing Taste: Le goût féminin et la guerre des étoffes12 To judge by the success imports from India enjoyed in seventeenth-­ century France, Bernier’s descriptions and those of others helped to inspire a new taste for India and its artistic production and merchandise. We remember that Charpentier stressed the desire to acquire these marvellous things in his Discours d’un fidèle sujet du roi touchant l’établissement d’une Compagnie française pour le commerce des Indes orientales, adressé à tous les Français, a work ordered by Colbert to raise capital for the new company. Charpentier urged his compatriots to go to India to procure “ce qu’il y a de plus précieux parmi les hommes, et ce qui contribue le plus, soit à la douceur de la vie, soit à l’éclat et à la magnificence”/“what is most precious among men, and what most contributes either to the sweetness of life or to its brilliance and magnificence.”13 As Bernier’s texts illustrate, cultural artefacts such as fabrics do indeed “contribute … to the brilliance and magnificence” of les Indes orientales and, conversely, create this “brilliance and magnificence” that Colbert and Louis XIV consider a “necessity” for their own French court.

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The Mughal miniature paintings entering Europe, combined with narratives such as Bernier’s, created a portrait of an Indian culture that had reached a refinement that merited emulation. The new “Indian taste” was not only a taste for the exotic, for what could not be produced in Europe, it was also a taste that affirmed that some aspects of les Indes orientales were considered different but equal to the best Europe had to offer, or perhaps could even surpass French productions. India’s power to inspire emulation would have political, economic, and ideological repercussions, especially in France. Bernier’s texts and his descriptions of fabrics and taste added to the body of information circulating about Indian textiles. By the seventeenth century, Indian fabric designers and producers had been recognized for generations as the global masters of their craft. While other countries, such as China, that made up what was often referred to as les Indes orientales produced silks and even some painted and printed cottons, they were overshadowed by the quantity and the quality of the Indian production of all types of fabrics (Plate 11).14 It was not until the mid-eighteenth century that some of the secrets of this production began to filter into the continent, enabling some Europeans to finally start to compete with their Indian counterparts. Much of this information came from Jesuit missionaries who, intrigued by the production of this fabric during their various stays in the Indian subcontinent, meticulously wrote down their observations for consumption by their contemporaries. In January of 1742, for example, Father Coeurdoux wrote to Father du Halde relating his personal investigation into the mysteries of Indian fabric production. His remarks underscore the high esteem in which such fabrics were still held by consumers in the West: Ayant eu quelques moments de loisir, j’en ai profité pour m’instruire de la manière dont les Indiens travaillent ces belles toiles qui font partie du négoce des compagnies établies pour étendre le commerce, qui, à travers les vastes mers, viennent du fond de l’Europe les chercher dans des climats si éloignés. Ces toiles tirent leur valeur et leur prix de la vivacité et, si j’ose m’ex­ primer ainsi, de la ténacité et de l’adhérence des couleurs dont elles sont teintes, et qui est telle que, loin de perdre leur éclat quand on les lave, elles n’en deviennent que plus belles. C’est à quoi l’industrie européenne n’a pu encore atteindre, que je sache. Ce n’est pas faute de recherches de nos habiles physiciens ni d’adresse dans nos ouvriers. Mais il semble que

Indian Taste, A Taste for India  235 l’Auteur de la nature ait voulu dédommager les Indes des avantages que l’Europe a d’ailleurs sur ce pays, en leur accordant des ingrédients, et surtout des eaux, dont la qualité particulière contribue beaucoup à la beauté de ce mélange de peinture et de teinture des toiles des Indes.15 I took advantage of some free time I had to learn how Indians make the beautiful fabrics that are such a part of the trade undertaken by companies that travel vast seas from the heart of Europe to acquire these fabrics from such distant places. These fabrics owe their value to the vividness, and if I may say so, the tenacity and the adherence of their colours, which is such that, far from losing their brightness when washed, they only become more beautiful. The European [fabric] industry, as far as I know, does not yet have this ability. This is not due to a lack of research on the part of our skilled practitioners, nor is it due to the [lack of] talent of our workers. It seems as though the Author of nature, in order to compensate India for the advantages Europe has over this country, gave them the ingredients, and especially the waters, that have a particular quality that adds a great deal to the beauty of this mixture of painting and dying of Indian textiles.

As Father Coeurdoux remarks, the quality of Indian production is so great and unique that Europeans risk travelling to “des climats si éloignés”/“distant places” to procure them. As he clearly states, Euro­ peans do not yet have the ability to compete with India in this area, even after almost eighty years of the massive importation of these fabrics. There is an aura of frustration in the missionary’s remarks as he tries to account for this Indian superiority. He emphatically states that it is certainly not for lack of research by Europe’s own “ habiles physiciens”/“skilled practitioners” or because of a lack of skill, “adresse,” amongst European workers. Unable to find a reason why indiennes become more beautiful the more one washes them and the colours never fade, Coeurdoux has recourse to his ultimate master as the only possible explanation: God must simply have endowed India with special water and ingredients. Even at the end of the eighteenth century, Roland de La Platière, the “inspecteur des manufactures de France” at the time, laments the superiority of Indian technology in this domain, commenting that Indian fabrics inspire admiration among Europeans and “désespoir,” or desperation, among France’s own manufacturers because “toutes les couleurs dont elles sont peintes ou imprimées [sont]

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d’une vivacité, d’un éclat, dont rien n’approche”/“all the colours with which they are painted or printed are so bright and so brilliant that nothing else comes close.”16 In the seventeenth century, as these fabrics were entering European markets, they provoked more wonder and curiosity than a desire to search for reasons for European inferiority in this area, at least at the beginning.17 Accounts show that across the economic spectrum Euro­peans, including the French, could not get enough of these toiles peintes. Fabrics were the principal import for the East India companies.18 For the French Compagnie, fabrics constituted more than half of the value of its shipments.19 These imports consisted of the toiles peintes or teintes from various regions in India, but also plain white and blue cottons, mousselines, and the famous Bengali silks.20 Haudrère specifies that between 1600 and 1664 the French sent thirty-three ships to India. Between 1664, when the Compagnie was founded, and 1719 that number more than quadrupled to 209, a fact that attests to the growing desire for Indian merchandise, especially the fabrics that constituted the ships’ principal payload.21 Europeans tried to imitate these popular toiles peintes, even labeling their productions as indiennes and toiles peintes when in reality they were toiles imprimées, that is printed – not painted – fabrics.22 Merchants tried to sell all these fabrics, imported as well as locally made, by stressing indes and indiennes in their descriptions. As Natacha Coquery underscores, the use of such terms attests to the commercial success enjoyed by the Indian imported fabrics and how desirable they had become for the public. Indes and indiennes had become synonymous with distinction and could be used as a marketing tool.23 With our twenty-first-century perspective, our eyes clouded by the colonialism of succeeding centuries, we might be tempted to interpret the craze for Indian fabrics as simply a desire for the exotic, and explain  the very skewed fabric trade between Europe and India as the exploitation of indigenous people by stronger, more advanced Western powers. To do so, however, would be entirely anachronistic, for the history of the fabric trade and European, and especially French, efforts to  obtain this merchandise offer a much more complex and nuanced portrait of the relationship between these cultures in the centuries before colonialism. Indian fabrics, like the culture that produced them, were not seen as inferior to French culture or to European ingenuity. In the seventeenth century the various European East India companies were not colonizing entities exploiting the labour of Indians. As

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Haudrère explains, in the case of the French Compagnie founded by Colbert, like its European counterparts, it was necessary to first establish a comptoir, or trading post, in India where cargo could be disembarked and exports held for shipment. The company bought the rights to the land for the comptoir, but the personnel that were in charge of managing it remained under the control of the local authorities. The Mughal emperors as well as the various Hindu princes were very tolerant and accepting, and granted a great degree of both judicial and administrative control to those Europeans sent to govern these various comptoirs. Such trading posts were seen by the Mughals and the Hindu princes as advantageous, for the foreigners brought with them huge amounts of precious metals, primarily gold and silver, in order to buy products such as fabrics. (We recall Bernier’s description of India as a “trou d’argent.”) Europeans accepted being, as Haudrère describes it, “dans une position juridiquement subordonnée,”/“in a legally subordinated position” either with respect to the Mughal emperor or to the governors of the various provinces, who, by the eighteenth century, were becoming more and more independent of the Mughal emperor.24 We are thus very far from the colonialist mentality that would start to develop with respect to India only in the mid-eighteenth century.25 When French contemporaries contemplated these toiles peintes or heard or read about them in Bernier’s accounts, they thus did not imagine that these unique products were miraculously being produced by a culture somehow inferior to their own; different, yes, intriguing, of course, but worthy of examination and study, not derision. The importation of these fabrics added to the growing fascination with India and admiration for a place that few could experience first hand.26 The French public avidly consumed them just as they did the narratives like Bernier’s describing les Indes orientales. Adding to the popularity of indiennes was the fact that there was such diversity in terms of patterns as well as quality. Indiennes were produced all over India and thus were associated not just with the Mughal court, but with the country as a whole. While the Mughals were certainly known for the luxury of their fabrics, as illustrated by the miniatures depicting everyday life at court, some of the best examples of toiles peintes came from areas outside of their control. Fabrics can thus be seen as synonymous with Indian ingenuity and artistry and were not associated with one particular regime or one region. By the 1670s, Louis’s subjects were able to obtain these fabrics, and indeed did so with great enthusiasm.27 The historian Edgard Depitre

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a­ ttests to this new French taste for foreign fabrics: “Séduit par l’agrément, la commodité, la singularité des nouvelles étoffes, le public s’est jeté sur les toiles peintes”/“Seduced by the attractiveness, the usefulness, and the originality of these new fabrics, the public threw themselves at toiles peintes.”28 He cites one contemporary as saying “le goût en est devenu si universel qu’on en use non seulement en habits, mais en toutes sortes de meubles”/“the taste [for these fabrics] has become so widespread that people use them not only for clothes but for all kinds of furniture.” Depitre goes on to point out that “this new consumption only exists to the detriment of old, traditional fabrics: the fashion of indiennes replaced silks, lace, batistes, and linens”/“cette consommation nouvelle n’a lieu qu’au détriment des anciennes: la mode des indiennes a supplantée celle des soireries, des dentelles, des batistes et des linons.”29 In part due to their durability, but also their vibrant colours and intriguing and new patterns, the passion for Indian toiles spread far beyond the aristocracy. The person selling the fabric was just as likely to be wearing a version of it as his or her noble clients. And of course, since they were so popular among the nobility, many people who aspired to those lofty ranks sought to imitate this taste. Indiennes were used for decoration and eventually for clothing beginning in the second half of the seventeenth century.30 By the 1670s le goût indien and le goût français were actually becoming enmeshed; one could even say that French taste in fabrics was indianized. While women and men alike were attracted to indiennes, women were arguably the driving force behind this new taste. We have already seen how Lafayette, a regular at La Sablière’s salon, expressed the collective taste for anything Indian: “J’ai déjà mandé à Mme Royale que nous aimions ici tout ce qui vient des Indes, jusques au papier qui fait les envelopes”/“I told Mme Royale that we love anything that comes from India, even the paper that the envelopes are made of.”31 In her letters, Lafayette’s closest friend and fellow salon habitué at La Sablière’s, Sévigné, discusses her desire for indiennes and underscores the durability for which they were so coveted and famous. Given how precious these fabrics were, as well as how durable, it was common to recycle them, transforming a dressing gown into a screen, for example, as Sévigné suggests in a letter to her daughter in 1674: “Ma bonne, apportez-moi votre vieux éventail et votre vieille robe de chambre des Indes. De l’un, je vous ferai faire un petit tableau, et de l’autre un petit paravent. Il ne faut point rire; vous verrez!”/“My dear, bring me your old fan and old dressing gown made from indiennes. I’ll have a painting made from one

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of them and a screen from the other. Don’t laugh; you’ll see!”32 In another letter Sévigné thanks her daughter for having thought to obtain an ’Indian dressing gown’: “Je vous remercie, ma chère bonne, d’avoir pensé à me chercher une robe de chambre des Indes.”/“Thank you, my dear, for thinking of getting an Indian dressing gown for me.”33 The Mercure Galant, the leading newspaper of the period, confirms the dominant role Indian fabrics were playing in French fashion from the 1670s on, the period during which Louis XIV was consolidating his power, building Versailles, and seeking to impose his own taste on Europe. Indiennes were becoming increasingly popular and widespread. In May of 1680, the author of an article on fashion relates how tout ce qu’il y a de femmes de qualité porte des étoffes or et argent. … La robe de chambre est toujours d’une couleur différente de la jupe. Je dis robe de chambre, parce que l’on ne porte presque que des indiennes; mais ces indiennes sont si bien faites, que l’on ne voit rien qui habille de si bon air. Il y a peu d’ouvriers qui réussissent”34 all the women of quality wear gold and silver fabrics. … The dressing gown is always a different colour from the skirt. I say dressing gown because people are only wearing indiennes; but these indiennes are so well made that there is nothing else that compares to them. Few artisans can successfully make them.

Two years later, indiennes still reign: “Les indiennes sont en règne plus que jamais. Les dames les portent toujours de la même sorte; mais les bourgeoises les font faire toutes en gorges rondes”/“Indiennes still reign more than ever. The ladies still wear them the same way; but the bourgeois women have them made with round necklines.”35 The taste for indiennes was spreading from “dames de qualité” to “bourgeoises.” Women’s influence in the dissemination of indiennes was not limited to determining taste; they wielded power in real economic terms as they became avid consumers of indiennes and perhaps their most effective marketing agents. In this respect they were actually mirroring their female Indian counterparts. Ellison Findly writes of Indian women’s involvement with every aspect of the fabric trade, beginning in the early seventeenth century. “Women of all classes … were major consumers of products internal to the country and in that had a certain decided influence on the market. The millions of yards of cotton and silk materials produced in India every year were bought primarily by

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women for their own use … specific articles successful in both domestic and foreign trade were dependent upon the tastes and demands of women in the Indian marketplace who, at least as consumers, could exert substantial influence on the nature of commerce.”36 We know from accounts of European travellers at the beginning of the seventeenth century that merchants were often surprised to find that they had to deal with the Mughal emperors’ female relatives, who in fact economically controlled the cities in which many of the comptoirs, or posts, that Western companies established were located.37 At the beginning of the century, one particular figure stands out: Nur Jahan, whom we encountered in chapter 2. Nur Jahan ruled the city of Surat, which was the primary port for British and Dutch trade in fabrics during her lifetime. Much of Nur Jahan’s wealth was derived from foreign trade, primarily in these famous fabrics. Nur Jahan’s niece and Shah Jahan’s daughter, Jahanara, continued as the matriarch of Surat through her brother Aurengzeb’s reign until her own death in 1681. Surat became France’s primary comptoir in the early years of Louis XIV’s reign. In 1666, Colbert and Louis XIV sent le sire de La Boullaye on a diplomatic mission to try to open a French comptoir in India; he was allowed to establish a trading post in Surat for the French Compagnie. Haudrère explains that La Boullaye obtained “l’appui de la princesse Jahanara, soeur de l’empereur Aurangzeb, qui avait droit aux revenus du port. Toute présence étrangère lui paraissait utile pour l’aider à défendre Surate contre les Marathes, qui avait déjà pillé la ville’/“the support of the princess Jahanara, sister of Emperor Aurangzeb, who had been given the right to the revenue from the port. All foreign presence seemed useful to her to help defend Surat from the Marathas, who had already pillaged the city.”38 Thus Mughal women, the same ones evoked in Bernier’s account, were an economic force behind the scenes in the fabric trade, and women throughout the Indian subcontinent influenced the taste and manufacturing of these coveted toiles. One can only speculate about the ways seventeenth-century French women would have contextualized the indiennes they were buying so avidly, but it seems probable that their female counterparts in India would have been part of this conversation. What is certain is that Bernier could have added to this conversation upon his return from India, particularly given his personal involvement in the establishment of France’s trading posts or comptoirs in the 1660s, and his association with Jahanara and her favorite brother Dara when he first arrived in India. As a resident expert on India,

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Louis  XIV’s  and  Colbert’s emissaries consulted with Bernier upon their arrival in India. Henri-Louis Castonnet Des Fosses, one of the nineteenth-century historians to take an interest in Bernier, relates that Caron, who was sent by Colbert to Surat to establish a comptoir, met with Bernier upon his arrival. Bernier provided him with a “mémoire,” or a written document, detailing how Caron should set about negotiating with the Indians, urging him particularly to, in Des Fosses’s words, “agir avec prudence, de ne pas choquer les usages du pays et d’éviter toute propagande religieuse. Les Français devraient partout se présenter comme des marchands qui désirent faire du trafic et imiter la réserve des Hollandais”/“act prudently, to abide by the customs of the country, and to avoid all religious evangelization. The French should present themselves everywhere as merchants who want to negotiate and [they should] imitate the reserve of the Dutch.”39 Bernier’s “taste” for India includes a sensitivity to its cultural practices. He hopes that his French compatriots can learn from the negative lessons of other Europeans, primarily the Portuguese, who had sought to impose their religion in their dealings with India. Perhaps Bernier was also referring obliquely to Thomas Roe’s earlier failure at the beginning of the century to establish trade in Surat, a debacle that Roe had detailed in his written account. As we will remember, Roe had had difficulty dealing with the “usages du pays”/“customs of the country,” particularly with the fact that to establish trade in Surat he was obliged to deal with Nur Jahan and other powerful women instead of with the Mughal emperor himself. The French, most likely due to Bernier’s knowledge of and sensitivity to the “usage du pays”/“Indian customs,” and especially his acknowledgement of women’s important roles at court and in Surat, did not make the same mistake and negotiated with Jahanara to establish their comptoir. Des Fosses relates that Bernier counselled Caron to establish comptoirs in Golconda, in Mazulipatam, and in Kassim-Bazar in Bengal, in addition to Surat. Perhaps Bernier wished to ensure that the French had access to the best toiles peintes, as the places he chose were particularly renowned for the superiority of their fabric production.40 This new taste for vibrant and diverse indiennes, developed through imports as well as texts such as Bernier’s, was the main force behind the vogue for indiennes, along with the recognized superiority of the product when compared to what was produced in Europe. Indian fabrics were the economic mainstay of all the East India companies, a product without which these companies could not hope to make a profit. This attraction to and celebration of these new fabrics was not universal

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however. By the 1680s, English textile manufacturers were complaining that the influx of Indian imports was ruining their livelihoods, and urging their Parliament to put restrictions on these imports. In the French context the importation of indiennes proved to be an even more destabilizing force. The Sun King had a similar reaction to the popularity of indiennes, and sought to protect France’s fabric industry, but the policies he attempted to put in place show that there was more at stake in the French context than the protection of an industry. Taste became a political and ideological battleground, as is clear in the rhetoric in what can be called the “guerre des étoffes”/“fabric wars” and women were pivotal players in this war. In 1686, Jean-Baptiste de Seignelay, Colbert’s son and secretary of the navy, inspired perhaps by British manufacturers, complained about the effect of fabric imports in France: “La seule chose que l’on reproche à la Compagnie des Indes est de ruiner par les grands retours de toiles les manufactures de France”/“The only reproach one can make of the Compagnie des Indes is that it imports so much fabric that it has ruined French companies.”41 Louis reacted to this supposed economic threat by declaring that the importation of toiles peintes and indiennes had to be completely banned. But he did not stop there. Not only did Louis ban imports of Indian fabrics, he outlawed the making of imitation toiles peintes, the printed cottons produced in France in an effort to capitalize on the new French taste for indiennes and to rival the Indian imports. According to Louis’s ban in 1686, only plain cottons were to be allowed into the country, and French manufacturers were required to focus their expertise on “French” methods of production and on French fabrics. While the original edicts targeted the popular toiles peintes and imprimées, even plain white cloth from India used by French manufacturers to create imitation toiles peintes, as well as Indian mousselines, both of which were considered superior by the French public to those fabrics produced in France, were eventually banned.42 The Compagnie des Indes protested, of course, knowing that they would never be able to finance their trading missions to India without the ability to import and sell their most profitable product. Louis relented somewhat under this pressure and allowed the Compagnie to import fabrics, even the popular toiles peintes, but they could be sold only outside France’s borders. His officers developed an elaborate system of labeling every piece of cloth arriving from India and making sure that they were all excluded from sale in France. The language in these edicts, beginning with the 1686 text, underscores Louis’s desire to control taste as well as mercantile practices. The

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indiennes are usually described with the same terms that Bernier uses to underscore their attraction. The ban pertains to “les étoffes de la Chine et des Indes de soie, et à fleurs d’or et d’argent, et écorce d’arbres”/“the silk textiles from China and India, and those with gold and silver flowers and made from tree bark.” Merchants must “cesser à l’avenir de faire venir dans le royaume aucune toile de coton peinte des Indes, ni des blanches pour être peintes en France”/“must cease in the future to bring into the realm any painted cotton from India, or any white cotton to be painted in France.” The edicts expressly prohibit even the importation of plain cottons because “des toiles blanches … ne peuvent servir à d’autre usage que pour être peintes”/“white cloth … can only be used for painting/printing,” and since Louis was determined to change the taste of his subjects as well as the type of fabric they were drawn to, he included provisions in the edicts that “toutes les fabriques établies dans le royaume pour peindre des toiles de coton cesseront, et les moules et utenciles seront brisés, avec défense de les réetablir aux peines portées par ladite arrêt”/“all manufacturing throughout the realm that exists to paint cotton cloth will cease, and their dyecasts and utensils will be broken; they are prohibited from being reestablished by the present edict.” The edicts provide for a short period of time during which merchants can liquidate what they have already imported, but after these few years, Louis prohibits “à toutes personnes de les exposer, ni vendre … et aux particuliers d’en acheter”/“everyone from showing them or selling them, and [prohibits] individuals from buying them.”43 Each succeeding document reiterates the same terms, occasionally elaborating in order to cover all possible infractions. In 1687, for example, Louis makes it clear that no one, even his nobles, will be exempted from the ban: “Sa majesté défend à toutes personnes de quelque qualité et condition qu’elles soient de les exposer, ni vendre, et aux particuliers d’en acheter. … Ordonne que celles qui seront trouvées dans les magasins et boutiques seront brulées et les propriétaires condamnés en pareille amende de 3000 livres”/ “His Majesty prohibits all people of quality and of any rank from showing or selling them, and any individual from buying them. … He also commands that those [fabrics] that are found in warehouses and stores be burned and their owners fined 3000 livres.”44 By the end of the seventeenth century the two edicts and more than forty arrêts had had devastating consequences for the French fabric industry. The public, especially women, continued to purchase indiennes clandestinely and blatantly ignored the bans, even though the

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punishment could be harsh. The Musée de la Compagnie des Indes in Lorient has on display an arrest warrant, for example, for a certain Isabelle Champiron. It states that she will be incarcerated for three months for having dared to wear and for illegally selling “toiles et étoffes des Indes”/“textiles and fabrics from India.” In 1709 Le Chéron, the inspecteur des manufactures in Rouen, wrote in exasperation about this state of affairs, blaming “people of quality, especially women,” for continuing to flaunt the law against indiennes instead of serving as an example to the people. He explained that the demise of French fabric manufacturing vient aussi de ce que les femmes qui s’habillaient ci-devant des étoffes de ces manufactures ne s’habillent presque plus aujourd’hui que de toiles peintes; et ce qui les autorise davantage, c’est que les personnes de qualité et même ceux qui devraient par leur exemple l’empêcher [la mode des toiles peintes] sont ceux qui portent le plus [de toiles peintes], y ayant des dames qui en ont des robes de chambre qui leur coûtent presqu’aussi cher que celles d’étoffes d’or et d’argent: tellement que cela s’est si fort répandu dans le peuple qui s’est avisé de faire teindre des toiles en bleu et en rouge sur lesquelles ils font des fleurs et autres figures.45 derives from the fact that women who used to wear the fabrics of these companies only wear indiennes these days; and what authorizes them to do this is that people of quality and even those who should set the example and stop [this fashion for indiennes] are those that wear them [indiennes] the most, there are women who have dressing gowns [robes de chambre made from indiennes] that cost them almost as much as fabrics made of gold and silver: so much so that this is the fashion among the people who have decided to dye fabrics in blue and red on which they draw flowers and other figures.

The attraction to these indiennes was so strong, even after almost twenty years of edicts against them, that no one was willing to step forward to be a “good example” and support Louis in his effort to suppress this taste. Indiennes went “underground”: women had them made into “robes de chambre,” which they wore at home in order to avoid punishment, but these dressing gowns, alluded to here and in Sévigné’s letters, as we saw earlier, were as elaborate and as much of an investment as the gowns they would wear outside. Since French manufacturers had been prohibited since 1686 from even trying to copy indiennes, they

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could not profit from a taste that did nothing but increase. Instead of inspiring French companies to compete and the French public to “buy French,” these policies had the same effect on the fabric industry as Louis’s Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (passed at the same time) had on Protestants: it forced them beyond France’s borders. Indeed, many of the French fabric manufacturers were Protestants who moved their production to Switzerland when faced with the manufacturing bans in addition to religious persecution. Without the ability to import and sell these wildly popular toiles, the French Compagnie des Indes could never reap anywhere near the same profits as its British or Dutch counterparts.46 Moreover, while silk production continued to flourish in Lyon (silks were never really in danger because they constituted only a tiny fraction of the Compagnie’s imports), French cottons, especially those with any design, suffered and almost disappeared.47 Since manufacturers were not allowed to make printed cottons, they could not develop the techniques necessary to compete with Indian imports even if they wanted to. This ban lasted from 1686–1759, but the taste for indiennes never diminished. All these laws and the bans did little to curb French taste for indiennes. The fabrics remained readily available outside of France’s borders; the British and Dutch companies were only too happy to nourish French tastes. There are many stories of how people got around the ban even within France. Before ships would dock in the port of Lorient, for example, small boats would meet them in the harbour to unload indiennes. Often ships arriving in Lorient were met by large crowds who hid goods under their clothing. In fact, a significant percentage of the population of Lorient made their living by trafficking in indiennes.48 (See Plate 1.) Sailors were allowed to bring in small amounts for their personal use, a law they usually exploited. One, for example, came home with enough mouchoirs or handkerchiefs to allow him to have a different one every day for four years.49 Throughout the period, many of those who openly flaunted the bans were women. Haudrère recounts that even the wives of the parliamentarians who put in place the bans and were supposed to enforce them were caught wearing the contraband indiennes.50 In Paris the wife and the daughter of the concierge of the headquarters of the Compagnie des Indes caused a scandal by openly wearing indiennes after the edict prohibiting them was published.51 St. Simon, the century’s self-appointed social commentator and historian, evokes the spirit of rebellion illustrated by women who continued to indulge their taste for indiennes, writing that “the mode of toiles peintes has prevailed over

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all rule and reason; the greatest ladies, and others in imitating their example, wear them publicly and everywhere with impunity, with the most scandalous public contempt for defenses against them.”52 In 1708 the députés de commerce, or commerce officials, called upon Louis XIV himself to implore women in particular to stop buying and using toiles peintes because his edicts were having little effect on the taste for India: La nouvelle fureur avec laquelle des dames de la Cour et de la Ville se servent des toiles peintes et du haut prix auquel sont montées ces toiles, puisqu’on paye jusqu’à cinquante pistoles ce qui n’en coûte pas dix en Hollande … on supplie le Roi de marquer aux dames de la Cour qu’elles lui déplairont si elles usent de toiles peintes; car, d’abord qu’on les portera à la Cour, on en usera à la Ville et dans toutes les provinces, et cet exemple sera infailliblement suivi par toutes les nations de l’Europe parce qu’elles imitent toujours les Français dans leurs habits et meubles, que par là nous procurons à nos ennemis le plus grand avantage qu’ils puissent tirer de leur commerce, nous leur donnons les moyens de nous continuer la guerre, nous achevons de ruiner nos ouvriers.53 The new furore with which women at court and in the city use these painted fabrics “toiles peintes” and the high price they have reached, since people now pay up to fifty pistoles for something that only costs ten in Holland … we beg the King to tell the women of the court that they will displease him if they make use of these Indian fabrics; because if they’re worn at court, they will then be used in town and in all the provinces, and this example will no doubt be followed by all the nations of Europe because they always imitate the French in their clothing and furnishings, and in this way we will be giving our enemies the greatest advantage they can obtain through trade, we give them the means to continue the war against us, and we ultimately destroy our own workers.

The deputies paint a dismal picture for the French fabric industry if Louis cannot control “women at court and in the cities.” France’s enemies will use this Indian taste against them, and wage a commercial war with France, a war France presumably will not win in the deputies’ estimation, which will lead to the ruin of French workers. Economic historians have been puzzled by these particular protectionist policies against indiennes not only because they were so detrimental but because they were also ineffectual. As the rhetoric of the war

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on Indian fabrics conveys, the desire to eliminate indiennes was much more than an effort to protect French fabric manufacturing, although that is how historians have usually interpreted the imposition of these edicts.54 However, if the ban on indiennes had had as its sole purpose the protection of the French fabric industry, Louis would have had no need to prohibit French companies from imitating indiennes. Indeed, French companies, inspired by this new Indian taste, could have worked instead to develop the techniques necessary to compete with the Indian imports, thus ensuring themselves a huge market because the taste for these fabrics was already solidly in place. And since the French were clearly imitated throughout Europe, French manufacturers could feasibly have eventually competed with imported indiennes and sold their own toiles imprimées across Europe.55 The explanation for Louis’s attempt to erase indiennes from French culture lies beyond the realm of economics. While Louis XIV may indeed have wanted to support French fabric production, his real motives lay elsewhere. Throughout the last third of the seventeenth century, there was a marketing campaign to promote France as the ideal in fashion, a movement initiated and led by the Sun King himself. Caspar Luyken, a Dutch commentator and writer, cynically remarked at the beginning of the eighteenth century that Parisian fashion “has spread like a crab consuming everything in its path, so that several nations now are infected.”56 The Mercure Galant was an instrument in the dissemination of these principles and, as Jennifer Jones remarks, was used “to promote France’s luxury and fashion trades.”57 One writer states unequivocally that “chacun doit demeurer d’accord que leur nombre (quantité de modes) ne diminue rien de leur agrément, que rien ne plaît davantage que les modes nées en France, et que tout ce qui s’y fait a un certain air que les étrangers ne peuvent donner à leurs ouvrages, quand même ils les surpasseraient en beauté: c’est pourquoi dans toutes les provinces du monde on fait venir de France quantité de choses qui regardent l’habillement, encore qu’on ne s’habille pas tout à fait à la française”/“everyone must agree … that nothing pleases more than fashions born in France, and that all that is made there has a certain look that foreigners cannot give to their goods even when they surpass French goods in beauty: this is why all over the world people import so many things related to clothing from France, even though people don’t dress exactly à la française.”58 The desire was for “everyone” to “agree” that “fashions born in France” were best. The taste for indiennes that Louis’s own subjects were elevating to the height of French fashion

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thus posed a threat to their monarch’s absolutist agenda and his desire to impose French taste on Europe, or even the rest of the world. Louis fully expected his subjects to follow his royal taste in everything from lace to shoes to feathers. The leading publication of the day, Donneau de Visé’s Mercure Galant, disseminated the king’s preferences and fashion whims.59 In June of 1677, for example, the author of the quarterly article on fashion begins by saying that he would have loved to describe the rich fabrics that are in style, but “la défense de l’or et de l’argent qui a été publiée ici, a rompu toutes mes mesures”/“The prohibition against the use of gold and silver which has been published here, has made it impossible for me to do so.”60 Louis regulated the use of gold and silver in fabric production and closely monitored who could wear what. In the case of gold and silver threads, only those of a certain rank were allowed to sport such luxury.61 The same journalist goes on to relate that he has heard that people had dared to disobey this edit, but that he couldn’t lend credence to such rumours because in his opinion no one would dare to brave monsieur de La Reynie, Louis XIV’s lieutenant general of police in Paris. The author praises La Reynie, saying “Jamais la police n’a été ni si bien, ni si avantageusement observée que depuis qu’elle lui a été commise”/“never have the rules been so observed as they have since he was appointed.”62 The fact that the chief of police himself is engaged by Louis XIV to enforce the rules of fashion underscores the serious nature of fashion’s role in Louis’s absolutist system, and the importance he attached to controlling taste and la mode. The edicts regulating the use of gold and silver in fabric production are developed at the same time as his edicts banning toiles peintes and indiennes. Both kinds of bans can be traced to Louis’s desire to “Frenchify” the taste of his subjects, in addition to his desire to use fashion to control them. As Bernier and others relate in their accounts of India, the most luxurious indiennes worn by Indians or used for decoration and exported to the West were made with gold and silver thread. As we have seen, India had so much surplus gold and silver because that was the only commodity they desired in exchange for the goods so coveted by the West; Mughals could even make tents out of material laced with gold and silver. Louis’s ban on gold and silver thread, like his edicts banning indiennes, can be interpreted as attempts to erase India from the material culture of seventeenth-century France and reorient the taste of his contemporaries to French products. The bans on indiennes underscore that “foreign,” specifically Indian, taste itself was what had to be controlled or even censured. From 1686

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to 1746, when the ban was officially lifted, there was constant conflict between worldly taste, defined and disseminated largely by women, who continued to covet and even flaunted their attraction to indiennes, and the official decrees of the crown that denounced these unpatriotic acts and desperately sought to secure France’s borders to keep out the Indian cottons. This taste had to be combatted because, as the députés de commerce so clearly saw, it was spreading not just throughout France but to “toutes les nations de l’Europe”/“all European nations.” While Louis would have found desirous and flattering an imprinting of French taste on the face of Europe as a whole, and even could be said to have actively worked to make France the most envied and thus imitated nation in Europe, he wanted an unadulterated French taste, a taste associated with the qualities derived from and illustrated by France itself, not an indianized version of French taste, to be the coveted norm. As Jennifer Jones remarks, “by the end of his reign Louis had laid the foundation for the French belief that the textile and fashion industries were a vitally important national resource and that the French court stood at the centre of the elite culture of fashion in Europe.”63 She goes on to state that however much Louis may have desired France to be the centre and model of fashion and taste for Europe, he was never able to completely subjugate the tastes of his individual subjects to his own, absolutist ones: “But while Louis might attempt to wed absolutism to la mode (both economically and iconically), he could never gain full dominion over fashion, especially when his subjects played the role of individual, private consumers.”64 The case of indiennes illustrates particularly well that his subjects were not the compliant sheep we tend to consider them today. Resistance might have been subtle, but it was present. Women in particular continued to cultivate and disseminate the taste for indiennes, serving as agents of resistance who could not and would not be completely harnessed to the dictates of Louis’s taste. The incursion of the taste for paisley into France thus had ideological consequences that the desire for indiennes did not evoke in other European countries in the seventeenth century. It is interesting to remark that the primary design associated with many indiennes, what the British named “paisley” after the Scottish city best known for producing imitation indiennes, has a different linguistic history in the French context, a history that underscores Louis’s desire to keep the “Indian” out of French taste. Instead of coopting the design and emptying it of all its Indian origins, as the British did, in French “paisley” is referred to as “cashemire,” thus linguistically keeping the design and the taste

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it inspired separate from the French language, perhaps in an effort to eliminate it, or at least distinguish it, from “true” French design and thus French taste. Even today indiennes is still used in French to refer to these cottons with their Indian designs. As Natacha Coquery remarks, the term underscores “the commercial success and the public’s attraction to indiennes. … The term valorizes the foreign origins, which are synonymous with quality (’distinction’).”65 In the seventeenth century the taste for indiennes threatened the absolutist machine that Louis XIV was developing to standardize his power. France was not producing the most desirable fabrics and could not compete with India in this arena. This fact affected not only France’s vision of itself, but also the image that it wished to construct as the capital of style for the world.66 Like precious gems or even the wealth of the Mughal emperor himself, these indiennes that adorned bodies and provided a sumptuous decor served as a constant subtle reminder of France’s inferiority when compared with the luxurious style of the Mughals and the expertise of Indian artists and craftsmen. Interpreted in this context particular to France, the worldly taste for fabrics can also be viewed a form of subtle resistance on the part of the French public, particularly women, to Louis’s imposition of uniformity, standards, and classicism. One has only to think of Louis XIV’s absolutist agenda with respect to clothes and style to appreciate how indiennes departed from Louis’s program. Bright colours, and chaotic and exotic prints reflected and conveyed a desire for freedom, originality, and diversity. This was too Indian for Louis’s tastes. Transforming Taste: Diamonds and Political Capital Louis XIV’s efforts to transform, contain, or even eliminate his subjects’ taste for indiennes ultimately proved to be futile. He would adopt a different tactic with another commodity that figured among Charpentier’s “precious things”: diamonds. Until the eighteenth century, the world’s diamonds hailed almost solely from India, the most spectacular specimens coming from the Golconda diamond mines near present-day Hyderabad.67 In his definition of “diamant,” Furetière describes it as “la plus dure, la plus brilliante et la plus précieuse de toutes les pierreries”/“the hardest, the most brilliant, and the most precious of all gems” and specifies that this rare queen of all precious gems comes from India. He then further associates diamonds with India by describing the value of the Grand Mughal’s most beautiful diamond: “Le plus

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beau diamant qu’ait le grand Mogol pèse 279 carats, et vaut onze millions sept cents vingt-trois mille deux cents soixante et dix-huit livres … suivant la règle de la supputation de la valeur des diamants que rapporte Tavernier en ses Voyages”/“the Great Mughal’s most beautiful diamond weighs 279 carats and is worth eleven million 723 thousand 268 and eighteen livres … according to the calculations used to evaluate diamonds that Tavernier gives in his Voyages.” His next example is the diamond belonging to the grand duc de Toscane, also originally from India, which weighed 139 carats. Noteworthy is the fact that no diamond possessed by the French figures in his list, although he does mention “le diamant de Sanci tant vanté autrefois”/“the Sancy diamond so esteemed in the past,” which “pesait 100 carats”/“weighed 100 carats” and was “la grosseur d’une amande et taillé à facettes”/“the size of an almond and facetted.” This was the diamond that Henri IV gave to Marie de Medici.68 Compared to Aurengzeb’s hefty diamond of 279 carats, though, the lowly Sancy seems totally passé, as indeed Furetière’s expression “tant vanté autrefois”/“so esteemed in the past” makes abundantly clear.69 In the seventeenth century, diamonds are clearly identified with India. Like indiennes, they cannot be created or copied by the West. And like indiennes, they come to express the power, mystique, beauty, and expertise of this distant culture. European travellers to India all include descriptions of the lavish use of gemstones, especially diamonds, by Mughal rulers as well as Hindu royalty in their accounts of their travels to India. Furetière in fact relies on Tavernier’s account for his own definition. Narratives such as Bernier’s and Tavernier’s were used by contemporaries to create dazzling visual portraits of les Indes orientales. French travellers such as Bernier and Tavernier, due perhaps to their own monarch’s love of visual display, offer particularly detailed descriptions of the use of precious gems, not only at the Mughal court but in India in general. Both men were clearly amazed by the display of wealth and especially bedazzled by the use of gemstones to display this economic power and luxurious lifestyle. Bernier and Tavernier both describe in great detail the Mughal emperors’ elaborate Peacock Throne (Plate 12). This throne comes to embody Mughal opulence, which reached a quasi-mythical level in the seventeenth century – an opulence to which European courts could only aspire and could never really hope to reach. By the time Tavernier and Bernier were writing, this Peacock Throne was already known to their European public and the myths surrounding its creation had begun to circulate.70 Both Bernier and Tavernier attempt to

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be as factual as possible and to have their eye-witness accounts appear as truth, in an effort, perhaps, to combat such myths. Tavernier’s description of the Peacock Throne is the most extensive and detailed. Contemporaries would also have found it the most authoritative and credible given the fact that he was a celebrated gem merchant and was the purveyor of diamonds to their own monarch, Louis. Tavernier begins by evoking the immense size of this throne and the dais and canopy surrounding it: “Sur les quatre pieds, qui sont fort gros et de vingt à vingt-cinq pouces de haut, sont posées les quatre barres qui soutiennent le fond du thrône, et sur ces barres sont dressées douze colonnes qui portent le ciel de trois côtés, n’y en ayant point à celui qui regarde la cour”/“On the four legs, which are very thick and twenty by twenty-five inches [pouces] high, are positioned four bars that hold the bottom of the throne, and on these bars are positioned twelve columns that hold up the canopy on three sides; [the fourth side] that looks out to the court doesn’t have any [columns].”71 This immense structure is then completely covered in gold, silver, and precious gems, in various configurations, which Tavernier meticulously describes: Tant les pieds que les barres, qui sont de plus de dix-huit pouces de large, tout est revêtu d’or émaillé et enrichi de quantité de diamants, de rubis et d’émeraudes. Au milieu de chaque barre, on voit un gros rubis ba­lais cabochon avec quatre émeraudes autour qui forment une croix carrée. … Les émeraudes sont taillées en table, et les places que sont entre les rubis et les émeraudes sont couvertes de diamants dont les plus grands ne passent pas dix à douze carats. … Il y a aussi en quelques endroits des perles enchâssées dans l’or. … Je fis compte des gros rubis balais qui sont autour du grand thrône, et il y en a environ cent huit, tout cabochons, dont le moindre pèse cent carats; mais il y en a qui apparemment pèsent deux cents et au-delà. Pour ce qui est des émeraudes … la plus grande pouvant être d’environ soixante carats et la moindre de trente. J’en comptai jusquà près de cent soixante. … Le fond du ciel est tout couvert de diamants et de perles, avec un frange de perles tout autour; et au-dessus du ciel, qui est fait en voûte à quatre pans, on voit un paon qui a la queue relevée faite de saphirs bleus et autres pierres de couleur, le corps d’or émaillé avec quelques pierreries, et ayant un gros rubis au-devant de l’estomac, d’où pend une perle en poire de cinquante carats ou environ. … Du côté du thrône qui regarde la cour, il y a un joyau à jour, où il pend un diamant de quatre-vingts à quatre-vingt-dix carats avec des rubis et émeraudes au­ tour. Mais ce qu’il y a à mon avis de plus riche, dans ce magnifique thrône,

Indian Taste, A Taste for India  253 est que les douze colonnes qui soutiennent le ciel sont entourées de beaux rangs de perles qui sont rondes et de belle eau, et peuvent peser la pièce depuis six jusques à dix carats. The feet as well as the bars, which are over eighteen inches wide, are all covered in gold and enriched with lots of diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. In the middle of each bar, one can see a large ruby with four emeralds around it that form a square cross. … The emeralds are table cut, and the spaces between the rubies and the emeralds are covered with diamonds among which the largest are not more than 10 or 12 carets. … There are also places where pearls are encrusted in gold. … I calculated the number of large rubies around the throne, and there are about 108, all cabochons, of which the smallest weighs 100 carets; but there are also some that weigh more than 200 carets. As for the emeralds … the biggest could be about sixty carets and the smallest thirty. I counted about 160. … The background of the canopy is completely covered with diamonds and pearls, with a fringe of pearls all around; and on top there is a four-sided voute that has a peacock with its tail spread made of blue sapphires and other coloured gems, the body is of gold with some gems, and it has a large ruby on its stomach, from which dangles a pear-shaped pearl of about 50 carets. … On the side of the throne that faces out to the court, there is a jewel displayed that consists of a hanging diamond that is 80 or 90 carets with rubies and emeralds around it. But in my opinion what is the most impessive, in this magnificent throne, is that the twelve columns that hold the canopy are covered in beautiful strings of pearls that are round and of wonderful clarity, and each one weighs between six and ten carets.

This passage, even in its abridged state here, evokes wonder, admiration, and even disbelief. Tavernier counters the latter reaction by continually referring to himself, “je,” thus relying upon his reputation as one of the, if not the, foremost jewellers of the time. In addition, his attention to detail and occasional judgments as to the colour of some gems (the emeralds are “d’assez bonne couleur”/“of pretty good colour”) and the size of the specimens all lend an air of authenticity to his description. Bernier also devotes a long passage to describing the famous Peacock Throne, which he includes as part of a description of the Mughal court in general in his letter to La Mothe le Vayer. In contrast to Tavernier’s almost overwhelming precision and detail, Bernier’s description is designed more to contribute to the author’s overall evocation of the

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grandeur and opulence of the Mughal court. He begins by creating a visual portrait of Aurangzeb’s appearance on the throne, highlighting first the fabrics surrounding him: Le roi paraissait assis sur son thrône … magnifiquement vêtu. Sa veste était d’un satin blanc à petites fleurs et relevée d’une fine broderie d’or et de soie, son turban était de toile d’or et il y avait une aigrette dont le pied était couvert de diamants d’une grandeur et d’un prix extraordinaires, avec une grande topaze orientale qu’on peut dire être sans pareille, qui brillait comme un petit soleil; un collier de grosses perles lui pendait au col jusques sur l’estomac. (264, my emphasis) The king appeared on his throne … magnificently dressed. His vest was of white satin with small flowers and decorated with fine silk and gold embroidery, his turban was of gold fabric and he had an egret ornament on it whose foot was covered in diamonds of an extraordinary size and value, with a large oriental topaz that was incomparable, that shown like a small sun; a necklace of large pearls hung from his neck to his stomach (my emphasis).

Fabrics and precious gems together create this “sans pareille,” unparalleled, scene; diamonds, gold thread, and pearls all combine to transform Aurengzeb into “un petit soleil”/“a small sun,” a choice of metaphor that would have a particular, perhaps daringly provocative resonance for Bernier’s seventeenth-century public and their own Sun King, whose chosen image was Apollo. Bernier attempts to mitigate any misunderstanding by stating that it is the topaz, specifically an oriental one, that is unparalleled, but the implicit comparison to Louis XIV still hovers over the description. Bernier then turns to the Mughal throne itself: Son thône est soutenu par six gros pieds qu’on dit être d’or massif et tout semé de rubis, d’émeraudes et de diamants; je ne saurais vous dire au vrai la quantité, ni le prix de cet amas de pierreries, parce qu’on n’en peut pas approcher d’assez près pour les compter et pour juger de leur eau et netteté; seulement vous puis-je dire que les gros diamants, entre autres, y sont à confusion et que tout le thrône est prisé quatre kouroures de rou­ pies, si j’ai bonne mémoire. J’ai déjà dit ailleurs qu’une roupie vaut environ trente sols, qu’une lecque sont cent mille roupies et qu’un kourour

Indian Taste, A Taste for India  255 sont cent lecques; ainsi le thrône serait estimé quarante millions de roupies, qui valent soixante millions de livres ou environ. (264) His throne is supported by six big legs that are said to be of solid gold and decorated with rubies, emeralds, and diamonds; I couldn’t tell you the exact number or the value of all these gems, because one can’t get close enough to count them nor to judge their quality; all I can tell you is that there are a lot of large diamonds strewn about, and the throne is estimated to be worth 4 kouroures of rupees, if memory serves me. I have already said that one rupee is worth about thirty sols, that a lecque is 100,000 rupees and that a kourour is 100 lecques; thus the throne is valued at 40 million rupees, which is about 60 million livres.

Unlike Tavernier, who carefully counted the number of diamonds, emeralds, and rubies and even listed their probable weight in carets, Bernier is content to overwhelm his reader by evoking the overall value of the throne as he offers a lesson on Indian currency.72 It is interesting that, of all the gems he mentions, Bernier chooses to highlight “les gros diamants,” the gems that could never be “à confusion”/“strewn about” in a Western setting given their provenance. Bernier thus exoticizes the scene as he elevates it above what is even remotely possible in Europe. In addition to almost blinding his readers with this verbal display of gold, silver, and gems, Bernier situates the Peacock Throne in its historical and cultural contexts. He relates that “Shah Jahan, père d’Aurangzeb, est celui qui le fît faire pour faire paraître tant de pierreries qui, par succession de temps, s’étaient amassées dans le trésor, des dépouilles de ces anciens Pathans et rajas et des présents que les omerahs sont obligés de faire tous les ans à certaines fêtes”/“Aurangzeb’s father, Shah Jahan, is the one who had the throne made to display his jewels, which over time had accumulated in the treasury, deriving from the Pathans and rajas and the gifts that the nobles are required to give him every year at certain holidays” (264). The throne thus evokes the emperor’s political power over “ces anciens Pathans et rajas.” Bernier’s remarks point to the fact that the emperor is not the only person in the empire who possesses or has access to these precious gems. The throne consists in part of gifts that the nobles are required to offer to the emperor yearly, especially on the occasion of his birthday. This passage thus evokes the wealth and specifically the gemstones that are present throughout India, not just at the Mughal court. Nobles, the omerahs to whom

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Bernier refers, possess enough themselves to be able to offer them as gifts to the emperor. Bernier ends his description of the Peacock Throne by returning to the court setting as a whole, and to these wealthy omerahs and the fabrics that distinguish this world from European ones as much as the Peacock Throne itself does. Au bas de ce trône paraissaient tous les omerahs magnifiquement vêtus, sur une estrade couverte d’un grand dias de brocart avec de grandes fran­ ges d’or et enfermée d’un balustre d’argent. Les piliers de la salle étaient tapissés de brocart à fond d’or et ce n’était par le haut de la salle que grands dias de satin à fleurs, attachés avec des cordes de soie rouge, où pendaient de grosses houppes de soie mêlées de filets d’or; et par le bas, ce n’était que grands tapis de soie très riches d’une longueur et d’une largesse prodigieuses. (265) At the base of the throne appeared all the noblemen magnificently dressed, on a stage that was covered in brocade with gold tassels, enclosed by a balustrade made of silver. The pillars of the room were covered with brocades made of gold, and the top of the room had a flowered satin canopy with silk cords from which hung silk hangings with gold; and on the floor there were very rich silk rugs of prodigious length and width.

The omerahs mirror the emperor himself, who was also described by Bernier as “magnifiquement vêtu”/“magnificently dressed.” Thus, whereas Tavernier’s description of the Peacock Throne focuses on the display of jewels, Bernier’s description associates the power of this display with the emperor himself and his court. In his portrait, the wealth exemplified by the jewelled Peacock Throne does not exist simply for the individual pleasure of the Mughal emperor. The throne’s existence illustrates Aurangzeb’s power, but it also represents the wealth of India as a whole and the material treasures that are possessed not just by the emperor himself but by the nobility. The emperor uses the throne for public audiences, thus allowing his subjects to participate in this display of beauty and opulence to which many have actually contributed. Moreover, throughout his narrative, Bernier describes whenever possible the various uses of precious gems, which can be found encrusted in the handles of swords, are given as gifts by the emperor, are used in profusion by women as well as men for adornment, and are even possessed by those outside of noble circles. We have already seen how gold

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and silver threads weave their way into all sorts of fabrics produced throughout the country and are so common that they are used to decorate tents as frequently as they appear in personal clothing. In Bernier’s account, this taste for gold, silver, and gems, for creating beauty, permeates Indian society as a whole. The magnificence described by Bernier extends beyond the emperor himself to all of Indian culture. Until the seventeenth century, pearls were the most highly valued and most visible precious gem in Europe. While diamonds and other precious stones occasionally made their appearance in the crowns and sceptres of royalty, pearls were much more available and thus adorned the bodies and decorated the clothing of royalty and nobility alike, to judge by portraits of the period. Perhaps this is why Bernier and others describe the profusion of pearls in India: he knew that this would create a common bond between his public and the subject of his narration. But of course India had much more than pearls, and Louis XIV, by the end of his first decade of absolute rule, decided that he, too, was not satisfied with the traditional accouterments of the European noble. When Tavernier returned from his last voyage to India, Louis XIV summoned him to his side. Having heard descriptions of India from Bernier and his entourage, as well as having consulted with Tavernier himself, Louis XIV opted to try to imitate his Mughal contemporaries, particularly previous Mughal rulers such as Aurangzeb’s father, Shah Jahan.73 In  1669 Tavernier sold an impressive number of Indian diamonds to Louis XIV; 44 large stones and 1200 small ones, including one, a bluetinged diamond, the future Hope diamond, that weighed 111 carets.74 Some of the stones Tavernier sold were over 100 carets, and even the small ones averaged between 8 and 12 carets. Louis then started the vogue of wearing as many of these precious stones as possible, and continued to purchase diamonds throughout his reign. Louis XIV was acutely aware of the power that could be derived from such visual displays of opulence and luxury. But he was also a monarch who clearly relished complete control over these displays and the materials of which they were composed. We have already seen how he tried to eliminate the taste of his contemporaries for indiennes, as well as his efforts to determine who could use gold and silver thread and to what ends. But his attempts to control taste, especially a taste that was partly under the influence of France’s contact with India, did not stop there. Louis was not content to simply imitate his Mughal counterparts. Encouraged perhaps by an incident that occurred in 1669, Louis sought to impose a French style on diamonds. In 1669, when Louis received

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the Ottoman emissary, the Grand Vizier’s envoy, Soliman Ferraca, at his court, or at least an emissary purporting to be the official envoy, he decided to impress him by bedecking himself in every diamond he owned. It was reported that the emissary was underwhelmed by Louis’ display, and even remarked that horses at his court wore more jewels than Louis.75 Indian courts even surpassed the Ottoman court of this emissary. As Louis and his subjects knew from accounts such as Bernier’s and Taverniers, Indian rulers not only adorned their bodies with jewels, they encrusted their walls, ceilings, and thrones, indeed all their surroundings with gems.76 It is hardly surprising that an emissary from an Eastern court, most likely with knowledge of Indian magnificence, was not impressed by Louis XIV’s display. Following this affront, Louis encouraged and in fact demanded more and more that the diamonds he bought from India be cut, or facetted, and French jewellers became the global masters of this craft. Tavernier, among others, was appalled because this diminished the size of the largest diamonds considerably at a time when size was considered to be one of the most important criteria in the evaluation of these stones.77 Historians and critics have attributed Louis’s fascination with faceting and diamonds to his desire to shine. Joan DeJean expresses the conventional vision of Louis as innovator when she states that “no man before Louis realized the link between diamonds and power.” Louis used diamonds to show that he was, in her words, “the most powerful in the world.”78 As Tavernier, Bernier, and others attest, however, Indian and Mughal rulers, and Shah Jahan in particular, developed and exploited the association between diamonds and power long before Louis XIV. Of course facetted diamonds glittered more than those worn by the Mughal emperors and other Indian rulers. But this cutting down to size can be interpreted differently, especially when it is viewed in conjunction with Louis’s reaction to indiennes and his control of even the composition of indiennes, specifically their use of gold and silver thread. Louis appropriates an attribute clearly associated with foreign, particularly Indian, power and superiority – a display of power unique to Indian courts given that at this point in time the world’s diamonds emanated from that space – and imposes his own French style or taste.79 Faceting is an effort to control this expression of power and attenuate oriental, specifically Indian, values by absorbing them. Louis XIV appropriates these attributes, fabrics and jewels, associated with the Indian subcontinent as a whole and either uses them for himself, in the case of diamonds, or attempts to takes them out of circulation

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entirely, as he tries to with indiennes. He even employs La Reynie, the head of police, in an effort to deligitimate or even criminalize this public taste and specifically to disassociate this taste from its Indian origins. By faceting the diamonds he acquired from India, Louis makes the huge gems described by Bernier and Tavernier, among others, unrecognizable. Similarly, he attempts to eliminate the taste for the exotic designs of indiennes by not only banning their importation, but by suppressing even their imitation in France. In sum, Louis makes every effort to divorce this taste derived from the encounter with India from its origins. When his subjects think about luxury and taste, they are not to be encouraged to look to the East for examples of splendour. Louis wants their gaze focused on one ruler and one realm. Directing Taste: Molière’s Le Bourgeois gentilhomme Immediately following the disastrous visit of Soliman Ferraca, the Otto­ man envoy, Louis XIV ordered Molière and Lulli to compose an intriguing comédie-ballet to be presented at Chambord during the court’s annual fall hunting festivities. By 1670 Molière was already known for his astute and satirical social critiques, having produced entertaining but provocative satires of the salons and women’s incursion into the intellectual matters of literary taste (Les Précieuses ridicules, 1659), the tyranny of society and the difficulties associated with not “playing the game” (Le Misanthrope, 1665), and the touchy subject of overreaching religious zeal (Tartuffe, 1667), among other themes. In ordering the composition of what would become Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (The Would-Be Gentleman), Louis hoped once again to use his playwright’s talent to project a mirror on his society in order to entertain. But Louis desired more than to simply please the public with an amusing social satire. As was usually the case with creative compositions, the goal was to both please and to instruct. In the case of Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, Louis XIV would use Molière to provide instruction to his subjects on class distinctions and relations, and the danger, in the form of dreaded ridicule, in store for those who attempted to subvert the social order without the approbation of the monarch. This, however, was not the only lesson Louis XIV desired to impart. More subtle, but perhaps more important, is the lesson on taste, especially a taste associated with foreigners, that pervades the entire play. With the help of his playwright, Louis attempts to regulate his subjects’ opinions about the East in general, but in particular their taste for the “precious things” associated with India.

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Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme is usually interpreted as a direct response to Soliman Ferraca’s visit. As Michèle Longino has convincingly shown, Le Bourgeois gentilhomme does illustrate to an exceptional degree “the intense rivalry of the French with the Turks.” Longino’s cogent analysis describes how the play directly satirizes oriental values and the Ottoman court that embodies them.80 Molière’s staging of a “grand turkerie” at the end of the play, as M. Jourdain is transformed into a “mamamuchi” and convinced that he is being conferred the honour of Turkish nobility, is quite over the top by any standard, seventeenth as well as twenty-first century. At one point, the actors dressed in Eastern garb kneel and a Koran is placed on their backs. Most of what is spoken is gibberish, which, as Longino rightly points out, indicates the uneasy linguistic relationship between France and the Ottoman Empire. The fact that Louis XIV and Molière felt the need to be so openly hostile to Ottoman culture and even mock some of its most valued cultural icons, such as the Koran, underscores Louis’s desire to control his subjects’ reaction to foreign, especially Eastern, courts. But there is another theme, another “Other,” that permeates the play and reveals that Louis’s unease was not limited to the Ottoman Empire. This play can be interpreted as a response to the taste for “all things Indian;” woven throughout the play are references to those “precious things” coming from les Indes orientales. Produced and published in 1670, Molière’s play can be situated in a context that includes Bernier’s and Tavernier’s perceptions of India, related upon their return in the late 1660s, stories and details encountered by Molière and his public, as well as by Louis XIV himself, at the same time as this play was commissioned.81 We know that Bernier and Molière were acquaintances, and that Molière attended La Sablière’s salon. Bernier even advised the playwright for his portrayals of doctors in his plays. The play remained a staple of La Comédie Française long after the memory of the visit of the vizier’s envoy had faded in memory. Between 1680 and 1690 Le Bourgeois gentilhomme was staged more than 1,000 times at the Comédie Française. Like the edicts banning indiennes and the production of their imitations, repetition is a method that the king used to inspire compliance. Perhaps Louis XIV hoped that ridicule and satire could create the change in worldly taste that his legal and economic measures seemed powerless to alter. From the opening scenes of the play, indeed from the moment M. Jourdain takes the stage, it is evident that Louis XIV intended to use Molière’s genius to respond to more than the one affront by the

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Turkish emissary. The play opens with the music instructor and the dance teacher discussing how they have been employed by M. Jourdain in his efforts to transform himself into a “gentilhomme.” The scene is designed to prepare M. Jourdain’s entrance and to direct the audience to view him immediately as a bumbling imposter whose only merit lies in the fact that he is ready to pay anything to transform himself into what he imagines is a “gentilhomme”; as the music master remarks, money is what “maintenant nos arts ont plus besoin que de toute chose”/“money is what our arts need these days more than anything else” (Act I, Sc., I, ll. 28–9).82 This laughable figure then appears in scene two, and the focus is on his appearance: Monsieur Jourdain: Je vous ai fait un peu attendre, mais c’est que je me fais habiller aujourd’hui comme les gens de qualité, et mon tailleur m’a envoyé des bas de soie que j’ai pensé ne mettre jamais./I have made you wait a bit, but it’s because today I have had myself dressed like people of quality, and my tailor sent me silk stockings that I thought I would never be able to get on. Maître de Musique: Nous ne sommes ici que pour attendre votre loisir./ We are at your service. Monsieur Jourdain: Je vous prie tous deux de ne vous point en aller qu’on ne m’ait apporté mon habit, afin que vous me puissiez voir./ Please don’t leave until they have brought me my outfit, so you can see it. Maître à danser: Tout ce qu’il vous plaira./As you wish. Monsieur Jourdain: Vous me verrez équipé comme il faut, depuis les pieds jusqu’à la tête./You will see me decked out in the proper manner, from head to foot. Maître de Musique: Nous n’en doutons point./No doubt. Monsieur Jourdain: Je me suis fait faire cette indienne-ci./I had this indienne [robe de chambre] made for me. Maître à danser. Elle est fort belle./It is very beautiful. Monsieur Jourdain: Mon tailleur m’a dit que les gens de qualité étaient comme cela le matin./My tailor told me that people of quality dressed like this in the morning. (Act I, Sc. 2, ll. 9–26)

Fashion and taste are the indispensible accoutrements of the nobleman, of all “gens de qualité,” male and female, who desire to please and belong. In 1670, indiennes are already identified as one of these necessities. While indiennes eventually infiltrate more than simply the ranks of the nobility, here they are posited as markers of taste and status.

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Molière points to a reality in which “persons of quality” are identified with indiennes and then ridicules this taste by having his ludicrous imposter, who has been described in the opening scene as having no taste, subvert it. Reflected in this bourgeois mirror, nobles are invited to question their own attraction to indiennes. The negative connotation associated with indiennes is enhanced later in the play when M. Jourdain’s father is identified as someone specializing in textiles, especially foreign ones: Monsieur Jourdain: Mon père?/My Father? Covielle: Oui./Yes Monsieur Jourdain: Vous l’avez fort connu?/You knew him well? Covielle: Assurément./Of course. Monsieur Jourdain: Et vous l’avez connu pour gentilhomme?/And you knew him to be a gentleman? Covielle: Sans doute./Without a doubt Monsieur Jourdain: Je ne sais donc pas comment le monde est fait./ I don’t understand how the world works. Coveille: Comment?/What do you mean? Monsieur Jourdain: Il y a de sottes gens qui me veulent dire qu’il a été marchand./There are stupid people who tell me that he was a merchant. Covielle: Lui, marchand! C’est pure médisance, il ne l’a jamais été. Tout ce qu’il faisait, c’est qu’il était fort obligeant, fort officieux, et, comme il se connaissait fort bien en étoffes, il en allait choisir de tous les côtés, les faisait apporter chez lui, et en donnait à ses amis pour de l’argent./ Him, a merchant! That is pure gossip, he never was such a thing. All he did was he was very obliging, and in an unofficial capacity, since he was very knowledgeable when it came to textiles, he would choose them from all over, have them brought to him, and give them to his friends in exchange for money. (Act IV, Sc. 5, ll. 18–35)

The valet Covielle, playing the role of an emissary of the “son of the Grand Turk” who supposedly wants to marry M. Jourdain’s daughter, uses a reference to “étoffes” to trick the bourgeois into thinking that his father, and thus by extension he himself, was a” fort honnête gentilhomme.” The detail that the fabrics were chosen “de tous les côtés”/“from all over” suggests that Molière is inscribing this passion for foreign fabrics into his text. The whole scene is duplicitous; thus fabrics and the attraction for them are commandeered by the poet and used to create and then condemn a fictional world embodied by M. Jourdain. M. Jourdain

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is ridiculous in his efforts to imitate a gentilhomme by wearing indiennes. Covielle manipulates the language around the selling of fabrics to similar effect: it is equally ridiculous to suggest that M. Jourdain’s father was not a merchant because he “gave” fabrics to his “friends” for money. In both instances Molière is playing off the public’s attraction to and interest in fabrics and identifying these textiles with the ridiculous and negative antics of M. Jourdain as he tries to be something that will always be a nonexistant, oxymoronic status in this society: a bourgeois gentilhomme. Molière thus subtly associates indiennes and étoffes with duplicity in this play as he tries to counter the public’s attraction to this superior foreign product. Another “precious thing” identified with India is inscribed in a similar fashion in Le Bourgeois gentilhomme: diamonds. In an effort to embody the role of gentilhomme as completely as possible, M. Jourdain decides he must have a noble mistress. He is, of course, married to the pragmatic Mme Jourdain, who sees through all his antics, but that does not impede him from trying to attract the marquise, Dorimène. Dorante, an impoverished count who is in love with Dorimène, is only too happy to supposedly aid M. Jourdain in his quest by serving as an intermediary between the two. Unbeknownst to M.  Jourdain, however, Dorante simply appropriates M. Jourdain’s money and gifts, destined to please and attract Dorimène, and passes them off as gifts from himself to his beloved. The principal gift in this charade is a diamond. Dorante explains to M. Jourdain the marquise’s reaction upon receiving it: Dorante, bas à M. Jourdain: Notre belle marquise, comme je vous ai mandé par mon billet, viendra tantôt ici pour le ballet et le repas; et je l’ai fait consentir enfin au cadeau que vous lui voulez donner./Our beautiful marquise, as I told you in my note, will arrive here soon for the ballet and dinner. I have convinced her to accept the gift that you want to give her. M. Jourdain: Tirons-nous un peu plus loin, pour cause./Come over here to talk privately. Dorante: Il y a huit jours que je ne vous ai vu, et je ne vous ai point mandé de nouvelles du diamant que vous me mîtes entre les mains pour lui en faire présent de votre part: mais c’est que j’ai eu toutes les peines du monde à vaincre son scrupule, et ce n’est que d’aujourd’hui qu’elle s’est résolue à l’accepter./I haven’t seen you for eight days, and I haven’t told you about the diamond that you gave me to give to her from you; but I

264  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal have had such difficulty convincing her to overcome her reticence, and only today has she resolved to accept it. M. Jourdain: Comment l’a-t-elle trouvé?/What did she think of it? Dorante: Merveilleux; et je me trompe fort, ou la beauté de ce diamant fera pour vous sur son esprit un effet admirable. … Je lui ai fait valoir comme il faut la richesse de ce présent et la grandeur de votre amour./ She thought it was marvellous, and if I’m not mistaken, the beauty of that diamond will have an admirable effect on her. … I extolled as was proper the value of this gift and how much you love her. (Act 3, Sc. 6, ll. 12–27, 31–2)

Later we learn the extent of Dorante’s deceptive practices. Rather than being M. Jourdain’s humble liaison, he takes the diamond and passes it off as his own gift to the very Dorimène he is supposedly helping M. Jourdain to seduce. Dorimène appears uncomfortable with such an extravagant gift: “le diamant que vous m’avez forcé à prendre est d’un prix”/“the diamond that you forced me to accept is so expensive” (Act 3, Sc. 18, ll. 42–4). When M. Jourdain finally welcomes Dorimène into his home for the promised meal and ballet, all arranged by Dorante and appropriated as his own gifts to the marquise, Dorante attempts to continue the charade. He instructs M. Jourdain to not say a word about the diamond. Doronte: Prenez bien garde, au moins, à ne lui point parler du diamant que vous lui avez donné./Be careful not to talk to her about the diamond you gave her. M. Jourdain: Ne pourrais-je pas seulement lui demander comment elle le trouve?/Can’t I at least ask her what she thinks about it? Dorante: Comment? Gardez-vous-en bien. Cela serait vilain à vous; et, pour agir en galant homme, il faut que vous fassiez comme si ce n’était pas vous qui lui eussiez fait ce présent./What? Don’t you dare. That would be very bad behaviour on your part, and to act as a gallant man, you must pretend that you didn’t give her this gift. (Act 3, Sc. 20, ll. 30–40)

M. Jourdain obediently follows Dorante’s advice; when Dorimène encourages him to remark upon her diamond – “mais vous voulez parler du diamant, qui est fort beau”/ “oh you mean the diamond, which is very beautiful” (Act 4, Sc. 1, ll. 37–8) – M. Jourdain dutifully responds: “Moi madame! Dieu me garde d’en vouloir parler: ce ne serait pas agir en galant homme, et le diamant est fort peu de chose”/“Me Madame?

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I would never talk about it. That would not be acting as a respectable gentleman, and that diamond is such an insignificant thing” (Act 4, Sc. 1, ll. 39–41). The diamond is not functioning the way it should; like indiennes, it is associated with satire and duplicity. In both instances,­ Molière creates negative connotations for these “precious things” that were changing the taste of his contemporaries. In the case of diamonds, he seems to suggest that they do not belong with the bourgeois M. Jourdain or even in the hands of the nobleman Dorante, neither of whom uses this precious stone properly. Even the marquise gives the impression that she does not merit such a valuable stone. Perhaps the only one truly worthy of diamonds is Louis XIV himself.83 Le Bourgeois gentilhomme can thus be interpreted as an attempt by Louis XIV to gain control. For Michèle Longino, Molière’s carefully crafted play expresses a desire for mastery over the Ottomans and the French nouveaux riches. She states, “Molière’s play was not simply a comedy with a few ’turqueries,’ but a compensatory exercise in which the French indulged to console themselves for their inability to manage the Ottomans to their advantage and keep the French nouveaux riches in their place. What they couldn’t control in the world, they would control on the stage.”84 She goes on to explain that ultimately the play confirms “to what extent the Ottoman world … had actually succeeded in colonizing the French aristocratic imagination.”85 Molière’s use of diamonds and textiles illustrates, however, that the Ottoman world was not the only one “colonizing the French aristocratic imagination.” The fear that inspired Louis to commission this play was that foreign taste for indiennes and diamonds could not be controlled to the extent that he wished it. Associating these “precious things” in the play with both classes of society, the bourgeoisie as well as the nobility, underscores Louis’s realization that this taste had already infiltrated all classes, and thus would prove to be even more difficult to reformulate than turning a bourgeois into a gentilhomme. Reflecting Grandeur: Mirroring India Much like Louis XIV, but 40 years prior, Shah Jahan was particularly well known for his keen interest in building. Not only did he personally supervise the construction of the Taj Mahal, but he also transformed the Mughal palaces he inherited into awe-inspiring showplaces designed to convey the emperor’s power in addition to building entirely new palaces. His extensive use of jewels to dazzle his subjects

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was complemented by an equally dazzling use of mirrors. Many of the palaces, including the forts at Agra and Lahore, as well as Shah Jahan’s new fort in Delhi, which should be termed more properly a palace, had rooms called “shish mahal,” or “mirror rooms or palaces” (Plate  14). The marble walls and even ceilings were covered with mosaics of mirror pieces in all kinds of patterns (Plates 15 and 16).86 According to lore, a single, tiny candle could illuminate the entire room. Such mirror decoration was also used with similar theatrical and spectacular effect in other rooms, such as bedrooms, although the shish mahal themselves made the most flamboyant and extensive use of these mirror mosaics. Most Mughal palaces showcased a shish mahal; early modern travellers to India were thus no doubt familiar with this use of mirrors and described these marvels to their contemporaries.87 Both Bernier and Tavernier were frequent visitors to the courts at Agra and Delhi and thus would have witnessed such spectacular displays. It is not inconceivable that Louis would have heard about these marvels from them as well as from others. Louis decided, perhaps, to mirror this form of royal display. But whereas he sought to impose his own control by cutting diamonds, in this instance he enlarged mirrors to aggrandize his own image. In Les Fastes de la Galerie des Glaces, Stéphane Castelluccio offers a very useful account of the construction of the Galerie des Glaces (the Hall of Mirrors) at Versailles and a short compendium of the articles in the Mercure Galant that describe what until the nineteenth century was simply referred to as La Grande Galerie de Versailles. Castelluccio explains that Louis XIV participated fully in the construction of the Galerie from 1678–86. The mirrors that were installed were the largest ever created.88 Like Mughal emperors and their shish mahals, Louis used the play of light on the mirrors to dazzle his contemporaries, but instead of one candle, his gallery required “26 lustres de cristal et 16 chandeliers d’argent portés par des gueridons dorés”/“26 crystal chandeliers and sixteen silver chandeliers on gilded pedestal tables [large candelabras],” according to the Mercure Galant.89 Such aggrandizement is consistent with Louis’s effort to outshine his predecessors, but the bright lights reflected “un million de fois” also served the purpose of hiding some less than spectacular details of the Grande Galerie. Castelluccio explains that the descriptions in the Mercure Galant left out “les châpiteaux et les petits trophées d’armes en plomb, ainsi que les sculptures de stuc sur la corniche. Placés loin des yeux en hauteur, l’architecte et Louis XIV estimèrent que des materiaux moins coûteux

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suffisaient, la dorure camouflant la nature du matériau”/“the corner decorations made of lead and the stucco sculptures. Placed high above out of eyesight, the architect and Louis XIV considered that less costly materials would suffice, and the gilding camouflaged the nature of the actual material.”90 In contrast, Mughal emperors and Indian rulers in general had no need to resort to such camouflage. Louis used the Galerie to receive foreign dignitaries only three times, and two of those receptions were to impress ambassadors from Eastern courts, namely Siam in 1686 and Persia in 1715, just before his death. This perhaps points to Louis’s knowledge of the prevalence of the use of mirrors by Mughal emperors in particular and his desire to upstage them.91 According to Castelluccio, “l’emploi à une telle échelle de matériaux aussi somptueux était inédit”/“the use at this magnitude of such luxurious materials was unheard of.”92 However, such a statement is only true if one neglects the Indian palaces. Given that sumptuous Indian fabrics and diamonds were already a significant part of the French imaginary by the 1670s, the French public could feasibly compare Louis to his Indian counterparts. Indeed, it is possible to interpret Sévigné’s remark to her daughter that “rien n’est égal à la beauté de cette Galerie de Versailles. Cette sorte de royale beauté est unique dans le monde”/“nothing can compare to the beauty of this Galerie de Versailles. This kind of royal beauty is unique in the world” as an attempt to participate in the creation of a French superiority rather than a confirmation of its existence. In elevating Louis to the apex of royal spectacular display, Sévigné colludes with Louis in the suppression  of the origins of the monarch’s “beauté royale.” Given the fact that Sévigné was one of the principal participants in La Sablière’s salon, in which Bernier was a central figure and Tavernier a visitor, her suppression of these origins, like Louis’s, can be read as intentional rather than unconscious. India’s “precious things” thus had intriguing effects on the seventeenth-century French court and society. Louis’s reaction to fabrics, diamonds, and even mirrors attests to the power contact with India was exerting on French society and especially on Louis XIV, a ruler history has had a tendency to portray as a unique phenomenon immune to outside influences. However, when one reads Louis XIV’s France through the accounts of travellers to India, this French cultural superiority, and particularly its innovation, is placed into question. French taste in general, and Louis’s “unique beauté royale” bear traces of an Indian imprint and an especially strong resemblance to Shah Jahan in

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the first third of the seventeenth century. Louis’s contentious relationship with fabrics, diamonds, and mirrors illustrates his efforts to contend with and control India’s influence on his contemporaries, and his attempts to erase this new taste as he constructed an image of French cultural superiority. In her study of the relationship between Fouquet’s château of Vauxle-Vicomte and Versailles, Claire Goldstein underscores how Louis XIV’s “Grand Siècle” is, as she states, “a complex and powerful reaction to its unacknowledged sources.”93 For Goldstein, Fouquet’s chateau of Vauxle-Vicomte is one such source. India, I would argue, is also one of these “unacknowledged sources.” Louis’s efforts to erase Indian origins from his Grand Siècle did have the desired effect, at least in one particular instance. The entry for “Mogol” in the Encyclopédie contains a curious omission. The author lists the principal emperors as Akbar, Jahangir, and Aurangzeb, omitting Shah Jahan, the creator of the Taj Mahal and the Peacock Throne, whose political ideology and cultural practices most resemble those of Louis XIV. Even the Peacock Throne, commissioned by Shah Jahan according to Bernier and others, is attributed to Aurangzeb in the Encyclopédie. The sources listed for the Encyclopédie include Tavernier and Bernier, in whose accounts Shah Jahan figures prominently. Such historical ellipses become the norm in western historiography, as Louis’s sun joined forces with the British Empire’s to outshine and eclipse a rival world.

Afterword

“Le cours des idées depuis un siècle a été tout à fait dirigé par la conversation.” Germaine de Staël, De l’esprit de conversation1

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, emerging from the tumultuous years of the French Revolution, Germaine de Staël devoted her considerable intellect to reflecting on the qualities that distinguished France from the rest of Europe. Given Staël’s role as one of the principal salonnières of her time period, a position she inherited from her mother, Suzanne Necker, it is not surprising that she identifies the art of conversation as it was practiced during the Ancien Régime as an essential thread in the tapestry of France’s collective identity. “Il me semble reconnu que Paris est la ville du monde où l’esprit et le goût de la conversation sont le plus généralement répandus”/“It seems to me that Paris is recognized as the city in the world where the spirit of [esprit] and taste for conversation are the most widespread,” Staël writes in “De l’esprit de conversation.”2 Much more than a vehicle for transmitting ideas, in Staël’s formulation conversation à la française is an art: it is “pas seulement un moyen de se communiquer ses idées … c’est un instrument dont on aime à jouer et qui ranime les esprits, comme la musique chez quelques peuples”/“not only a way to communicate one’s ideas … it is an instrument that we like to play and that reanimates the spirit, like music in some cultures … .”3 Conversation is a pleasurable activity that unites those who engage in it, men and women, the bourgeoisie and the nobility, effacing difference and capitalizing on the diversity of points of view of the various interlocutors. Above all, conversation for Staël is the expression of the sociability for which France is justifiably famous.

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Staël’s seventeenth-century predecessor, Marguerite de La Sablière, would have agreed with Staël’s characterization of conversation as an art form that was particularly prized and eloquently practiced by their own contemporaries, but she most likely would have taken issue with Staël when she maintains that “les idées ni les connaissances qu’on peut y dévélopper n’en sont pas le principal intérêt; c’est une certaine manière d’agir les uns sur les autres … de parler aussitôt qu’on pense”/“the ideas and knowledge that one can develop through conversation are not its principal objective; it is a certain way to interact with each other … to speak as soon as you think.”4 For La Sablière and the interlocutors she united rue Neuve des Petits-Champs, however, ideas and “connaissance”, knowledge, were the raw materials, the threads, that allowed conversation to occur. The pleasure lay not only in the act of conversing, but in the weaving of the individual threads of experience, knowledge, texts, and ideas that each contributor brought to the conversation. The end product was not the pleasure of social interaction so prized by Staël, but rather the new knowledge, the innovative and complex tapestry of ideas woven out of these threads. Form was important and pleasurable, but the participants in La Sablière’s salon valued the content of the conversation, the new fabrics woven from these new threads, over all else. India was one of these threads that became enmeshed in the many different fabrics produced through La Sablière’s salon conversations. This Indian thread was added primarily by François Bernier and composed of his personal experiences and his published texts. But while Bernier was the principal source on India for La Sablière and her entourage, the conversations were no doubt also nourished by salon habitués’ contact with other travellers such as Tavernier, who in turn added their own threads to the conversations or even occasionally participated themselves. Other texts also circulated, such as those translated and published by the armchair traveller and scholar Melchisédech Thévenot. The diverse impressions of les Indes orientales conveyed by these texts and the stories they contained also became part of the conversation. The development of commerce between Europe and India provided tangible, visible threads in the form of textiles that also nourished the conversations and inspired thought. Gazing upon such products, the seventeenth-century public was compelled to question the nature of a culture that could produce such beautiful art and intricate designs. Many of the textual products of the hypothetical conversations in La Sablière’s salon illustrate just how intellectually stimulating this

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seventeenth-century public found the India embodied by these multiple threads. Writers like Lafayette and La Fontaine reflected on and reacted to Bernier’s accounts and texts like Tavernier’s individually, but also as a group, encountering India through conversation in the uniquely French context of the salon.5 Bernier’s engagement with the worldly public influenced the way he transmitted the India he had experienced; in turn his texts and the conversation they and his experiences in India generated fuelled the imagination of his contemporaries. Bernier’s account of India and those of others resonated differently with this French salon public because of the existence of their particular experiences in seventeenth-century France. The status of women in French intellectual culture, as salonnières but also as writers, led the French public to be interested in the status of women in India and to applaud a figure such as Nur Jahan rather than condemn her as Dryden did. The growing religious intolerance of Louis XIV led the eclectic group gathered at La Sablière’s to interrogate the existence of the religious pluralism they perceived in India. The intermingling of the threads of French personal and collective experience with the threads of conversation describing India came together to produce intriguing and original portraits of this new world, portraits that in turn inspired new conversations and new knowledge of les Indes orientales. This confluence of ideas generated through conversation, this encounter between two great cultures, can only be perceived when we listen to the various voices that have often been suppressed over the years. When we find these various threads and voices, and attempt to reconstruct these conversations and the knowledge they produced, we are confronted with the fact that the India France was encountering, imagining, and conversing with, is not at all the India created out of colonial paradigms. Just as Louis XIV’s France differs significantly from Charles II’s England and thus cannot be subsumed entirely into a singular Europe, so too les Indes orientales encountered by La Sablière and her contemporaries must be distinguished from the Levant and the Ottoman Empire and not subsumed under a reductionist notion of “Orient.” In Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal I have tried to revive the interaction between India and France through the prism of conversations developed in the worldly milieu of salon culture in which the interactions between Bernier and these now canonical French writers and other thinkers occurred, and where Bernier first compiled his texts on India. I have shown how Bernier and his texts were part of a vibrant interpretive

272  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

community, a network that is not traditionally seen as germane to understanding or interpreting this libertine philosopher’s work. This new contextualization of one of the most influential accounts of India reveals a different Bernier, but also a different conception of India held by his contemporaries. Bernier’s interlocutors did not understand his texts the way our twenty-first century postcolonial interpretive communities do today. Their view of India did not resemble ours. They did not encounter India from the vantage point developed under colonialism of supposedly “superior, enlightened Westerners.” It is my hope that the present study has illustrated how fruitful an approach that acknowledges the diversity of interpretive communities and attends to voices that have been marginalized can be. Throughout my life as a scholar I have explored the many facets of cultural memory; how memory is created and inscribed in writing, how it is revised and to what ends, how it is mastered and transformed, and how cultural memory becomes a contested space. Memory and the narratives that convey this memory, history, can be powerful tools to unify a culture, but also the means used to oppress and silence. In all my previous work, I have delved into the construction of cultural memory in order to give voice to some of those who have been silenced in its construction, particularly women. This present study continues this interrogation and reconstruction of cultural memory, as it broadens its scope as well as geography. By reviving Bernier’s original context and tracing the effect of his interaction with a different public than the one we usually associate with this traveller/philosopher, I hope to have challenged our traditional conception of the relationship between India and the West, in particular the visions of India in the Western imagination dominated by the specter of colonization. The origins and the creation of today’s image of India and its relationship to Western culture can be traced back primarily to British authors and scholars writing since the late eighteenth century. As Amartya Sen points out in his discussion of India and the Western imagination, while there are many Europeans who wrote about India during the early modern period, “the real eruption of European interest in India took place a little later, in direct response to the British – rather than Italian, or French – scholarship on India.”6 The effect of this colonialist, anglicanized construction not only on the concept of India but also on the relationship between India and the West has been dramatic and long-lasting. This privileging of one lens through which India’s cultural memory is constructed is detrimental and damaging. Not only have

Afterword 273

these images affected the West’s view of India and its history, this narrative has been ingrained in the minds of Indians themselves.7 It is my hope that the present study can add to the efforts to dismantle this history, to decolonize our conception of India and the relationship between India and the West. Serendipitous encounters such as those in the seventeenth century between Lafayette, Sévigné, La Fontaine, La Sablière, and Bernier engender new knowledge, new narratives of the past, and new perspectives for the present. By listening to voices that have traditionally been marginalized, especially those of women and others who have been excluded from the historical and literary canon, we begin to hear the dynamic and often contentious debates that lie beneath the gleaming façade composed of the palaces and people who have come to dominate the historical imagination, namely Louis XIV, his court, and Versailles. The story of the encounter between Bernier and La Sablière’s salon also enriches and complicates the cultural memory of France’s Grand Siècle. Surfacing from time to time in these conversations are the unexpected and surprisingly influential resonances of les Indes orientales. I hope that the preceding pages will inspire more conversations, which will lead to more knowledge. For it is in recovering and renewing our vision of the past and constantly questioning our concepts of the present that we can forge new paths for future inquiries and new conversations.

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Notes

Introduction 1 Voltaire, Essai sur les moeurs et sur l’esprit des nations, 1:237. Cited by Lyane Guillaume in “L’Inde retrouvée ou la nostalgie des origines,” 182. 2 Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, marquise de Sévigné, letter of 12 August 1689. The marquise writes, “nous allâmes le lendemain, qui était jeudi, en un lieu qu’on appelle Lorient, à une lieue dans la mer; c’est là qu’on reçoit les marchands et les marchandises qui viennent d’Orient. Un M. Céberet, qui arrive de Siam, et qui a soin de ce commerce, et sa femme qui arrive­ ­de Paris, et qui est plus magnifique qu’à Versailles, nous donnèrent à dîner; nous fîmes bien conter au mari son voyage, qui est fort divertissant. Nous vîmes bien des marchandises, des porcelaines et des étoffes. Cela plaît assez. Si vous n’étiez point la reine de la Méditerranée, je vous aurais ­cherché une jolie étoffe pour une robe de chambre, mais j’eusse cru vous faire tort.” / ’The next day, which was Thursday, we went to Lorient, and a mile out to sea; this is where merchants and merchandise from the East arrive. A certain M. Céberet, who arrived from Siam, and who is in charge of this trade, along with his wife, who came from Paris, and who is more magnificent than at Versailles, invited us to dinner; we had the husband tell us about his voyage, which is very entertaining. We saw a lot of merchandise, porcelain and textiles. Those were pleasing. If you weren’t the queen of the Mediterranean, I would have bought you some nice fabric to make a dressing gown, but I was afraid of displeasing you.” Sévigné, Letters, 3:666. 3 The English referred to these indiennes as chintz or calicoes. The French called both printed and painted fabrics indiennes and also referred to ­textiles with painted designs as toiles peintes, or painted fabrics.

276  Notes to pages 7–10 4 La Fontaine, Fables, Pléiade edition, 245. 5 There have been a number of interesting studies that illuminate France’s engagement with India, but from a different perspective than the one I am adopting. For example, Nicholas Dew’s Orientalism in Louis XIV’s France offers an in-depth analysis of the French scholarly world’s interactions with the East during this period. He does not, however, include the world of the salons, in which these same intellectuals circulated, in his discussion. Michèle Longino also explores the impact of the East on the literature and the history of French thought during this period, but she focuses primarily on France’s encounter with the Levant, which was much more fraught and even antagonistic than France’s seventeenth-century encounters with India. I build upon Longino’s insights by adding India and worldly salon culture to the conversation. Many scholars have been drawn to travel narratives and use them to construct how France viewed India. Notable among these studies are Kate Teltscher’s India Inscribed, and Rahul Sapra’s The Limits of Orientalism. These works are especially useful for understanding how India was being portrayed in the seventeenth century. I wish to continue this line of interrogation and broaden it by situating these travel narratives in their specifically French seventeenthcentury context in order to explore not just what authors said about India but how their narratives affected the French mindset, and how the cultural context in which they were produced impacted the composition of the texts on India themselves, specifically Bernier’s influential narratives. In Le noble désir de courir le monde: Voyager en Asie au XVIIe siècle, and throughout his corpus of scholarly work focused on seventeenth-century French travellers and their narratives, Dirk Van der Cruysse explores in great depth the history of France’s encounter with the Orient in general. His work is invaluable for understanding this complex and vast history. Van der Cruysse, however, does not distinguish between the various “orients” as I do in this study. I will argue that the encounter with India specifically, as opposed to the Orient in general, will exert a singular influence on French thought, the histoire des mentalités, of seventeenth-century France. Other studies with which I will be in dialogue throughout this study include Kate Marsh’s, India in the French Imagination, and Ina Baghdiantz McCabe’s, Orientalism in Early Modern France. Both Marsh and McCabe focus, however, on the eighteenth century. 6 Subrahmanyam, Mughals and Franks, 144. 7 For a brief history of the salon during this period, see my introduction­ to Options for Teaching Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century French Women Writers in which I examine in depth how the salons influenced the

Notes to pages 11–12 277 development of French literature. Linda Timmermans’s L’accès des femmes à la culture (1598–1715) is the most in-depth and complete source for understanding women’s engagement with the Republic of Letters and the world of ideas. 8 The most complete biography of Marguerite de La Sablière was published by Samuel Menjot d’Elbenne in 1921: Madame de La Sablière: Ses pensées chrétiennes et ses lettres à l’abbé de Rancé. Menjot d’Elbenne traces Marguerite’s lineage in the first chapter of this work (1–16). More recently John J. Conley, S.J., offers a biography of La Sablière in The Suspicion of Virtue: Women Philosophers in Neoclassical France. 9 When La Sablière’s mother died in 1649, her uncle, Antoine Menjot, and her cousin, Madeleine Gaudon de La Raillière, marquise de Saint-Aignon, took responsibility for her education. She studied Greek and Latin, math, and especially science and astronomy. A contemporary, Corbinelli, even said of her, “She understands Homer as well as we understand Virgil” (Conley, The Suspicion of Virtue, 76). Conley states that, “several histories of science cite Mme de la Sablière’s pioneering role as a woman astronomer” (77). 10 Kate Teltscher, for example, qualifies Bernier’s account as “hugely influential,” not just in France, but across Europe, as evidenced by its immediate translation into several languages (India Inscribed, 3). She also stresses that Bernier’s work influenced the narratives of other travellers: “Bernier’s History, which ran to eight editions in the French original (over the period 1670–1725), and three in English translation (from 1671–1684), was to exert a lasting influence over later authors” (India Inscribed, 14). Teltscher, in line with most scholars who have studied Bernier, identifies Bernier’s main influence as his “comprehensive critique of Mughal government based on the misconception that the Mughal nobility held land only for life, and that at the landholder’s death the property reverted to the emperor,” a description Bernier advances in his letter to Colbert (India Inscribed, 14). As we shall see in chapter 1, Bernier’s influence should not be limited to this critique, which itself can be interpreted very differently when read within its seventeenth-century context. 11 Bernier, Voyage dans les états du grand Mughal, ed. France Bhattacharya. See the informative introduction to this modern edition of the Voyage (pp. 7-23). In 2008 Frédéric Tinguely published a complete edition of Bernier’s works on India: Un Libertin dans l’Inde Moghole. I am indebted to both Bhattacharya’s and to Tinguely’s introductions for Bernier’s bio­ graphy. Neither Bhattacharya nor Tinguely develops Bernier’s ties to La Sablière’s salon, however. Peter Burke situates Bernier in his intellectual context in “The Philosopher as Traveller: Bernier’s Orient.”

278  Notes to pages 12–14 I have opted to use Tinguely’s edition of Bernier’s text because it is based on the first edition of 1670–1. Tinguely also attempts as much as possible to remain faithful to this edition, the only one, as he points out in his introduction, whose production was supervised by Bernier himself. Bhattacharya chose the 1723 edition produced in Amsterdam as her base text. She enumerates a number of editorial changes she made throughout in order to render the narrative more accessible to a modern-day public. As one of my main purposes is to create a dialogue between Bernier’s original text and the first public that received it, I feel that Tinguely’s edition is more useful in the present context. Tinguely also includes paratexts such as the “Au Roi” and the “Au Lecteur” that appeared in the original edition, but which are not reproduced in the Amsterdam edition used by Bhattacharya. 12 Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655) was one of the leading intellectuals of the first half of the seventeenth century. Primarily known for his work in philosophy and astronomy, Gassendi was drawn to new scientific methods of discovery developed by Copernicus and worked to reinterpret Epicureanism for the early modern world. 13 Tinguely, introduction to Un Libertin dans l’Inde Moghole, 9. 14 Thomas Roe published an account of the years he spent in India from 1615–19, parts of which were translated into French, that was widely circulated during the seventeenth century. Melchisédech Thévenot translated a portion of this account for his Relations de divers voyages curieux. Roe’s work most likely informed Bernier before he left for India. Stanley Tombiah, in fact, maintains that Bernier was reading the Indian scene almost verbatim in terms of the account of earlier travellers to India, particularly Sir Thomas Roe (Tombiah, “What did Bernier Actually Say?” 362). I will argue that when we read all of Bernier’s texts it is apparent that  his approach is in fact very different from those who preceded him. 15 As we shall see in chapter 1, Bernier had a more nuanced opinion of Aurangzeb. Today there has been an effort to reconsider Aurangzeb and even to rehabilitate him. See in particular Rajeev Kinra’s enlightening study “Handling Diversity with Absolute Civility.” In 2017 Audrey Truschke published Aurangzeb: The Life and Legacy of India’s Most Controversial King in which she also works to rehabilitate this much-maligned emperor. 16 Bernier accompanied the court to Kashmir from 1662–4. 17 Tinguely, introduction to Un Libertin dans l’Inde Moghole, 16. 18 Charles de Saint-Evremond (1614–1703) was a libertine who was forced into exile due to his association with Nicolas Fouquet, who was the finance minister at the beginning of Louis XIV’s reign. Many members

Notes to pages 14–20 279 of La Sablière’s salon were part of Fouquet’s entourage until he was arrested by Louis XIV and stripped of his chateau, Vaux-le-Vicomte. For an analysis of this milieu and its influence on the French cultural landscape, see Claire Goldstein’s Vaux and Versailles. 19 Castonnet des Fosses, “François Bernier,” 54. 20 See Frédéric Tinguely’s introduction for a detailed summary of the work’s publication history (introduction to Un Libertin dans l’Inde Moghole, 20–1). 21 Conley, for example, identifies François Bernier as Marguerite’s tutor in philosophy, but does not identify Bernier as the author of the most influential texts on India during this period, nor does he mention that Bernier actually resided with La Sablière. Peter Burke puts Bernier and his texts in dialogue with the major intellectual movements of the early modern period, especially the philosophical thought beginning with Montaigne and that of the libertine movement. He also carefully situates Bernier’s texts with respect to other travel narratives. But he does not make the connection between Bernier’s texts on India and La Sablière’s salon, stating only that Bernier became “a well-known figure in the famous salon of Marguerite de La Sablière” (“The Philosopher as Traveler,” 134). Like Conley he only associates Bernier’s philosophical texts with La Sablière’s salon. 22 Craveri, L’âge de la conversation, 314. 23 André Hallays, “Le Salon de Mme de La Sablière,” in Les Grands salons littéraires, 64–5. 24 Melchisédech Thévenot should not be confused with his nephew Jean, who did travel and published accounts of his voyages to the Orient. Jean Thévenot’s work has attracted critical attention, most recently by Michèle Longino in French Travel Writing in the Ottoman Empire, 39–56. 25 A number of scholars have treated the history of conversation in France, most notably Elizabeth Goldsmith, Bernadette Craveri, Emmanuel Godo, and Marc Fumaroli. For an examination of the rapport between conversation, especially as developed in salon culture, and literary production, see Elizabeth Goldsmith’s groundbreaking work, Exclusive Conversations, Erica Harth’s Cartesian Women, Joan DeJean’s Tender Geographies, and my Mastering Memory. See also Alain Viala’s La France galante, his wide-ranging study of the “galant” aesthetic in the seventeenth century, particularly chapter 9. 26 Chartier, “Loisir et sociabilité,” 131. 27 Ibid., 140. Alain Viala and Marc Fumaroli adopt a similar approach to salon culture. 28 Le Bouëdec, “L’Impact culturel des échanges entre l’Inde et la France au XVIIIe siècle,” in Le Goût de l’Inde, 170.

280  Notes to pages 21–4 29 Brock, Travels in the Mogul Empire, 1:viii–ix. 30 Ibid. It is important to note that this is not a complete translation from the original French but rather a selection of passages chosen by Irving Brock. This is the English translation that has been used by Anglophone scholars for years. Brock’s “translation” is problematic and should more properly be characterized as a rewriting of Bernier rather than a translation. 31 “Discourse from a faithful subject of the King concerning the creation of a French company for the commerce of the oriental Indies, addressed to all the French.” 32 Philippe Haudrière discusses this “Discours” in his article, “La Compagnie des Indes,” 37–8. 33 This was particularly the case for France. See Rose Vincent, “L’apogée de Pondichéry,” 73. 34 Bernier, “Lettre à Monseigneur Colbert,” in Un Libertin dans l’Inde moghole, 201. 35 Das, India Unbound, 55. See also Sven Beckert’s Empire of Cotton for the history of India’s fabric trade, especially chapters 1 and 2 for the period of interest here. 36 Das underscores the associations “Golconda” had for the seventeenthcentury imagination, both Indian and European: “In the European mind, the name ’Golconda’ became the symbol of the haunting wealth of India. Famous for his diamonds, the king of Golconda was the richest prince in India after the Mughal emperor” (India Unbound, 55). 37 Irfan Habib, as cited in Das, India Unbound, 56. Das explains that “even the subsistence-oriented peasant got a good return. India had a vigorous and large skilled workforce that produced not only cotton but also luxurious products for the rich landlords, the courts, and the aristocracy. Consequently, the economy produced a fabulous financial surplus” (India Unbound, 56). 38 Das, citing the economic historian Angus Maddison, in India Unbound, 56. 39 Das, India Unbound, 56. Das cites Irfan Habib, who writes, “The annual revenues of the Mogul emperor Aurangzeb (1659–1701) are said to have amounted to $450,000,000, more than ten times those of (his contemporary) Louis XIV. According to an estimate of 1638, the Mogul court of India had accumulated a treasure equivalent to one and a half billion dollars.“ Das continues: “The economic surplus was used to support the vast and growing Mughal Empire and finance spectacular monuments like the Taj Mahal … India had a 22.6 per cent share of the world’s GDP, according to economic historian Angus Maddison. Paul Bairoch confirms that it had a 25 per cent share of the global trade in textiles. ’More important, there

Notes to pages 24–31 281 was a large commercialized sector with a highly sophisticated market and credit structure, manned by a skillful and in many instances very wealthy commercial class’” (India Unbound, 56). 40 For an interesting study of the theme of curiosity in the texts of these French travellers, see Sukumari Polavarum’s unpublished 1999 dissertation, “The Commerce of Curiosity: Seventeenth-Century French Travel Accounts on India.” 41 Many recent scholars have questioned the use of standard definitions of orientalism as a framework for studying precolonial engagements with the East, especially when the object of study is France as opposed to England, and India as opposed to the Levant. See in particular Dew’s discussion in his introduction to Orientalism in Louis XIV’s France, especially pp. 5–16, and Teltschler’s rehearsing of these arguments in India Inscribed, pp. 7–9 and chapter 1. In “The Philosopher as Traveller: Bernier’s Orient,” Burke discusses Said’s classic essay, stating that while it is “one of the most brilliant attempts to work with the ideas of Michel Foucault … its reconstruction of the Western construction of the Orient suffers from certain weaknesses, three in particular. In the first place, the author is curiously reluctant to discuss what he admits to be the variety of responses to ’the Orient’ to be found in the work of an ’almost uncountable’ number of individual writers … Said presents an Orientalism virtually without Orientalists. He discusses Western assumptions of superiority, but not the Western use of the East to question these assumptions. In the second place, he does little to place specific texts, even texts he uses again and again, in any sort of social or cultural context. In the third place, asserting that the late eighteenth century marks the rise of Orientalism in the sense of ’a corporate institution for dealing with the Orient,’ he passes over centuries of Western writing about the Middle East, India and China” (124–5). Chapter One 1 “This wise and incomparable Sablière.” As cited in Petit, “Mme de la Sablière et François Bernier,” 681. 2 Chartier, “Loisir et sociabilité,” 128. 3 See my Mastering Memory for a study of “salon taste” and its effect on the practice and reception of literature. 4 The art of conversation as developed in these salons has long been associated with French culture and is even considered a characteristic of French cultural identity. In Mastering Memory I explore the influence of conversation on the development of literary form as well as literary criticism,

282  Notes to pages 31–2











focusing on the particular formulations of conversation in the ruelles, or salons, of seventeenth-century France. 5 Godo, Une Histoire de la conversation. The title of the chapter devoted to the seventeenth century is “Le XVIIe siècle ou la conversation souveraine”/­“The Seventeenth Century or the Reign of Conversation.” See Godo’s work for an excellent discussion of the development of conversation and its influences. 6 See Marc Fumaroli, “La Conversation,” written for Pierre Nora’s edited collection Les Lieux de Mémoire, for a discussion of the development of conversation in France, and my response to his history in Mastering Memory. In his history of conversation, Godo grants the ruelles/salons more importance in the development of France’s particular brand of conversation than does Fumaroli. For an analysis of the importance of conversation, see Elizabeth Goldsmith’s Exclusive Conversations and Erica Harth’s Cartesian Women. 7 Godo characterizes worldly conversation as “feminine”: “Si la rhétorique et sa logique demonstrative sont une allégorie de la masculinité, la conversation mondaine, avec son naturel savamment élaboré et son élégance désinvolte, se pense comme féminine”/“If rhetoric and its demonstrative logic are an allegory of masculinity, worldly conversation, with its natural quality knowingly elaborated and its unexpected elegance, thinks of itself as feminine” (Une histoire de la conversation, 149). See also Emmanuel Bury’s discussion of the relationship between the art of conversation and the ruelles in his Littérature et politesse. 8 There have been a number of excellent studies of the salons and their roles in seventeenth-century society. See in particular the work of Carolyn Lougee, Joan DeJean, Dena Goodman, Elena Russo, Elizabeth Goldsmith, Linda Timmermans and Erica Harth. Emmanuel Bury in Littérature et politesse traces some of the influences of salon culture on the French Republic of Letters during the early modern period. Alain Viala offers a wide-ranging study of the influence of the aesthetic category of “galanterie” in La France galante. For a more complete list of this body of work, see my Mastering Memory, as well as my Options for Teaching Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century French Women Writers. French scholars such as Antoine Lilti have recently turned their attention to the salons, especially those of the eighteenth century, often in reaction to the scholarship that preceded them in the United States in particular. Lilti’s Le Monde des salons is a case in point. See Elena Russo’s extensive critique of Lilti’s work in her review essay of his work, in Reviews in History. 9 Marc Fumaroli has studied extensively the influence of the “galant” aesthetic and its expression in the conversations and literature of Le Grand

Notes to pages 32–3 283 Siècle. See, in particular, his La Diplomatie de l’esprit: De Montaigne à La Fontaine, particularly chapters 9 and 10. Fumaroli’s groundbreaking and influential work has inspired us to see this period with a fresh perspective. I extend many of his observations to an engagement with Mughal India, which is not present in his analysis of the period. I also see the salons, and women in particular, as much more central to the “galant” aesthetic and a driving force that was an integral part of what might be termed “mainstream” or “canonical” French literary culture. 10 In his Nouvelles de la République des Lettres of 1685, Pierre Bayle wrote: “Mme de La Sablière est connue partout pour un esprit extraordinaire et pour un des meilleurs”/“Mme de La Sablière is known everywhere for her extraordinary mind and for having one of the best” (1008). 11 I am drawing the details of Marguerite’s life from her detailed biography composed by Menjot d’Elbenne in 1923. My is the most complete work devoted exclusively to Marguerite de La Sablière. This biography is also indebted to the various works that Anatole France composed at the end of the nineteenth century (a list of these works has been compiled by Jacques Lion and Ernest Max in “Anatole France and Madame de la Sablière”), as well as to the recent studies on La Sablière by John Conley, The Suspicion of Virtue, and Bernadette Craveri, L’âge de la conversation. 12 History has a tendency to portray education in the early modern period as an exclusively male domain. However, many of the women who animated salons were quite well versed in literature, languages, philosophy, and even occasionally, like La Sablière, in science and math. See Natalie Zemon Davis and Arlette Farge, Histoire des femmes, for a history of women’s education. 13 Antoine de Rambouillet was not directly related to the famous salonnière, the marquise de Rambouillet. 14 Menjot d’Elbenne gives a detailed account of M. de La Sablière’s life in Mme de La Sablière, 29–48. He appears to have been a relatively well-known figure in worldly society. In fact, his presence frequently overshadows Marguerite’s in literary histories and even in biographies of Marguerite’s female friends, such as Ninon de Lenclos. One such example is Michel Vergé-Franceschi’s 2014 biography, Ninon de Lenclos: Libertine du Grand Siècle, this despite Vergé-Franceschi’s assertion that Marguerite was one of Ninon’s closest friends. 15 Conrart was the first secretary of the French Academy. Like La Sablière, he was a Protestant. Conrart was also a prominent member of Madeleine de Scudéry’s salon. 16 Menjot d’Elbenne, Mme de La Sablière, 51 and following.

284  Notes to page 34 17 Ibid., 56. Michel Vergé-Franceschi paints a very different picture of the demise of La Sablière’s marriage. In his account, Antoine has an affair with Ninon de Lenclos in 1651, but ultimately demands a separation from Marguerite when she is unfaithful to him: “Galant, riche, séparé de son épouse infidèle à partir de 1667 (l”Iris” de La Fontaine), Rambouillet lui versa une pension, lui retire ses enfants et la fit enfermer à l’hospice conventuel de la Charité, rue des Saints-Pères, suite à sa liaison avec le marquis de La Fare”/“Gallant, rich, separated from his unfaithful wife beginning in 1667 (the “Iris” of La Fontaine), Rambouillet gave her a pension, took her children from her and closeted her in a convent on the rue des Saints-Pères after her liaison with the marquis de La Fare” (Ninon de Lenclos, 198). This account, however, is not substantiated by any other historian. In a letter to Madame de Grignan dated 4 August 1677, Sévigné writes of Marguerite’s attachment to the marquis de La Fare, but this is almost a decade after Antoine forced the legal separation (Sévigné, Correspondance, 2:514–51). Sévigné later describes the end of La Fare’s relationship with Marguerite in a letter to her daughter, dated 8 November 1679, in which she relays the opinion of a friend, Mme de Coulanges, who believed that La Fare was never in love with La Sablière, stating that he “ne cherchait chez Mme de La Sablière que la bonne compagnie”/“only went to Mme de La Sablière’s for the pleasant company” (Sévigné, Correspondance, 2:731). 18 Menjot d’Elbenne relates that even after the separation of Marguerite from her husband, Antoine Menjot continued to live with Marguerite’s husband, also named Antoine, and even entered into numerous business­ arrangements with him (Mme de La Sablière, 113). Menjot d’Elbenne explains­ this by saying that their Protestant faith, as well as their various intellectual interests, united them. But it is also possible that Marguerite’s uncle used the opportunity to keep an eye on Marguerite’s children, who had remained with their father. 19 Roger de Bussy-Rabutin, who was Sévigné’s cousin, had a copy of this portrait in his chateau, along with the portraits of all the famous women of the period. 20 In her groundbreaking study, Le Paradis des dames: Salons and Social Stratification in Seventeenth-Century France, one of the first serious studies of seventeenth-century French salons, Carolyn Lougee explores how salons encouraged encounters between classes. We tend to associate salons uniquely with the nobility, but as Lougee so astutely recognized, they were a social force across classes. The attempt to identify salon culture

Notes to pages 34–5 285 only with the very elite is yet another way to marginalize their importance and influence. 21 Menjot d’Elbenne, Mme de La Sablière, 70. See Vaux and Versailles, Claire Goldstein’s fascinating study of Fouquet, his chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte, and their influence on Louis XIV’s reign. 22 Menjot d’Elbenne, Mme de La Sablière, 70. He describes the salon in detail in chapter V, 65–83. It is curious to note that Menjot d’Elbenne devotes a chapter to La Fontaine, as one of the principal habitués, but not to Bernier. 23 Petit also gives a complete portrait of La Sablière’s salon, characterizing it as a diverse milieu that attracted people from many different spheres. He writes, “Grands seigneurs et dames de qualité, hauts magistrats et ambassadeurs s’y rencontrent avec tout un essaim de beaux esprits en premier lieu La Fontaine, qu’elle s’attachera, Racine aussi dit-on, Molière, Conrart, Charles Perrault, Pellisson, Vergier, Chapelle et nous en passons. … Mais à ces réunions prenaient également part quantité d’hommes de science, car tel était le goût de la maîtresse du lieu. Anatole France, qui séduisit l’histoire de cette femme, a pu dire justement que sa maison était devenue l’hôtellerie des savants”/“Nobility and women of quality, magistrates and ambassadors met a number of beaux esprits, including La Fontaine, whom she attached to herself, Racine also it is said, Molière, Conrart, Charles Perrault, Pellisson, Vergier, Chapelle, and others. … Also at these meetings there were a number of men of science, because that was what the mistress who presided over the meetings was attracted to” (“Mme de la Sablière et François Bernier,” 670–1). 24 Dangeau was elected to the French Academy in 1668 to replace George de Scudéry, Madeleine’s brother. St. Simon used Dangeau’s journal extensively as a source for his own memoirs. Dangeau was born a Protestant, but then converted to Catholicism. 25 Claude-Emmanuel Luillier, “Chapelle,” (1626–86) was a student of Gassendi; he came into contact with Bernier before Bernier’s voyage to India. Bernier included one of his letters to Chapelle in his second volume of texts on India. 26 In Mastering Memory I recount the first minister Richelieu’s unease with Rambouillet’s chambre bleue. It can be argued that he founded the French Academy in order, in part, to combat the influence of Rambouillet’s salon on literary culture. His exclusion of women from membership suggests that he wished to exclude not just women but the entire salon culture they created and dominated. 27 As cited in Menjot d’Elbenne, Mme de La Sablière, 71.

286  Notes to pages 35–6 28 It should be remembered, though, that fairy tales were not destined entirely for a juvenile public in the seventeenth century. They were first developed in written form in France by women writers such as Catherine Bernard and Mme d’Aulnoy and inserted into novels destined for an adult, worldly public. See in particular Lewis Seifert’s work on the genre, as well as Allison Stedman’s Extravagant Narratives, and Lewis Seifert’s and Domna Stanton’s edited volume of fairy tales, Enchanted Eloquence. 29 We will develop Fontenelle’s ties to this salon and to Bernier in chapter 3. 30 Antoine Gombaud, the chevalier de Méré (1607–84) is primarily known for his work on honnetêté, although his work on probability theory was also influential. Méré frequented a number of salons over his long life, and also published a text on the art of conversation. Isaac de Benserade (1612–91) composed poetry, plays, and fables. Like Méré, he was active in salon circles, but he was also elected to the French Academy in 1674 to replace Jean Chapelain, a figure who had a special connection to François Bernier. Chapelain and Benserade had similar intellectual trajectories; both circulated easily between the most celebrated salons of the period and the exclusively male domains of scholarly cercles such as the French Academy. 31 Bouhours (1628–1702) and Rapin (1621–87) were both learned Jesuits. Bouhours was a grammarian and a historian, and is best known today for his work Entretiens d’Ariste et d’Eugène, in which he discusses and debates the various attributes of different languages and arrives at the unsurprising conclusion that the French language is superior to Italian, German, and most other forms of expression. Rapin composed works on Virgil and Homer, as well as philosophical explorations such as “Du grand etdu sublime dans les moeurs.” 32 Gilles Personne de Roberval (1602–75) was a professor of philosophy and mathematics at the Collège royal. He was also a founding member of the Académie royale des sciences. He published very erudite texts in both French and Latin. Joseph Sauveur (1653–1716) was also a mathematician. He joined Roberval at the Académie des sciences. 33 Conley, The Suspicion of Virtue, 77. 34 Huet actually wrote a long preface detailing the history of the novel for Lafayette’s work Zayde, published in 1671. For more on the relationship between Lafayette and Huet, as an example of the kind of intellectual collaboration between men and women that one can find in seventeenthcentury France, see my “The Voices of Shadows: Lafayette’s Zayde.” 35 Menjot D’Elbenne, Mme de La Sablière, 80. 36 As cited in Menjot d’Elbenne, Mme de La Sablière, 85.

Notes to pages 36–9 287 37 I will not be treating Marguerite’s life after her salon closed. Marguerite converted to Catholicism in order to be allowed to stay in France. Historians often attribute her move to a convent and her conversion to her unhappy affair with La Fare. The actual reasons behind her decision to convert and to leave worldly society are actually much more complex. This story, however, is beyond the purview of the present study. John Conley has detailed Marguerite’s life after her salon and analysed her religious writings in his The Suspicion of Virtue. 38 Craveri, L’âge de la conversation, 322. 39 Charles de Marguetel de Saint-Denis Saint-Evremond (1613–1703) was a moralist and a libertine. He was a prolific writer, and penned both scholarly and worldly compositions, including memoirs, plays, and philosophical conversations. He was in exile in London at the height of La Sablière’s salon, but most likely he was kept abreast of the conversations there through his cohorts who were part of the salon, as well as later by Bernier in ­person when Bernier left France and joined him in England. 40 See Elizabeth Goldsmith’s fascinating account of the Mancini sisters in The King’s Mistresses: The Liberated Lives of Marie Mancini, Princess Colona, and Her Sister Hortense, Duchess Mazarin. 41 Menjot d’Elbenne, Mme de La Sablière, 74. Bayle was another erudite Protestant who lived in exile in Holland beginning in 1681. 42 Cited in Petit, “Mme de la Sablière et François Bernier,” 674. 43 Boileau, “Satire X” in Oeuvres complètes, 73. 44 Cited in Menjot d’Elbenne, Mme de La Sablière, 209. 45 Mercure Galant, January 1693, cited in Menjot d’Elbenne, Mme de La Sablière, 209. Menjot d’Elbenne incorrectly lists December. 46 Menjot d’Elbenne recounts this encounter in Mme de La Sablière, 72–4. 47 As Erica Harth has carefully documented and explored, Descartes’s philosophy was disseminated through the salons in the seventeenth century. See her Cartesian Women. 48 Menjot D’Elbenne, Mme de La Sablière, 73. In Molière’s satire of learned women, Les Femmes savantes (1672), Philominte is also depicted as being attracted to the study of the heavens. One wonders if this portrait was inspired in part by La Sablière. 49 Ibid., 73. 50 Castonnet des Fosses writes that, “Quand elle [La Sablière] se fut retirée du monde pour se réfugier aux Incurables, Bernier continua de correspondre avec elle et, jusqu’à la fin de sa vie, elle demeura l’âme de ses écrits”/“When she withdrew from the world and sought refuge at the Incurables, Bernier continued to correspond with her and, until the end

288  Notes to pages 39–42 of his life, she remained the soul of his writings” (François Bernier: Ses voyages dans l’Inde, 55). And later in the same work, Castonnet des Fosses elaborates: “Quoique absent de Paris, Bernier restait en correspondance avec Mme de La Sablière. Il lui communiquait ses impressions, lui rappelait les conversations qu’il avait eues avec elle, les spirituelles et savantes discussions dont son salon avait été le théâtre. Plusieurs de ces lettres furent publiées. L’une des plus curieuse est celle qui parut en 1685 dans le Journal des Savants. Bernier essaie de faire une classification de la race humaine.”/ “Even when he was no longer in Paris, he continued his correspondence with Mme de La Sablière. He told her about his impressions, reminded her of conversations that he had had with her, wrote about the lively and learned discussions that had occurred in her salon. Many of these letters were published. One of the most curious appeared in 1685 in the Journal des Savants. Bernier tried to create a classification of the ­human race” (56). 51 See Frédéric Tinguely’s analysis of Tavernier’s text and his influence in “Jean-Baptiste Tavernier et l’expertise interculturelle,” in Reading the Great Moghul edited by Vijaya Rao. This volume also contains an English translation of Tinguely’s article (pp. 3–19). 52 Tavernier’s presence in La Sablière’s salon, and in Bernier’s intellectual­ orbit specifically, was short-lived. Like La Sablière, Tavernier was a Protes­ tant who, despite his position as chief procurer of diamonds for Louis XIV, was increasingly the object of religious persecution. Tavernier eventually left France and settled in Switzerland. 53 Tinguely, introduction to Un Libertin dans l’Inde moghole, 20. 54 Lens, “Les Correspondants de François Bernier ,” 8–9. 55 According to Lens, this account was crafted from letters that Bernier had originally written to M. de Merveilles. Lens writes, “C’est à lui [Merveilles] que Bernier adressa, en 1660, après son arrivée dans la capitale de l’Inde, les deux lettres relatives à l’avènement d’Aurangzeb publiées d’abord par Thévenot et dont l’auteur fit plus tard l’Histoire de la dernière révolution.”/“It was to him that Bernier addressed, in 1660, after his arrival in the capital of India, the two letters concerning Aurangzeb’s rise to power, published first by Thévenot and which the author used to write l’Histoire de la dernière révolution” (“Les Correspondants de François Bernier,” 11). Thévenot actually only published excerpts from these ­letters and the Histoire goes beyond what is contained in the letters. 56 We will explore more of the ramifications of Bernier’s choice of the term Histoire in chapter 2.

Notes to pages 46–52 289 57 Excerpts from two long letters to François Boysson, seigneur de Merveilles, who supported Bernier financially while he was in India, were published by Melchisédech Thévenot in the first volume of his Relations de divers voyages curieux, published in 1660, before Bernier returned from India. As Tinguely explains, Thévenot placed these excerpts, which describe some of the events associated with Aurangzeb’s rise to power, in the introduction to Thomas Roe’s memoirs. This is a curious choice given that Roe, who was the first English ambassador to the Mughal court, writes about the India of Aurangzeb’s grandfather, Jahangir. Tinguely, introduction to Un Libertin dans l’Inde Moghole, 19. 58 Tinguely, introduction to Un Libertin dans l’Inde Moghole, 21. 59 In his study titled “What did Bernier actually say? Profiling the Mughal Empire,” Stanley Tombiah, for example, focuses almost exclusively on this letter to Colbert, stating, “Our text shall be his letter to Monseigneur Colbert” (364). Tombiah follows the approach to Bernier adopted by the majority of scholars. I will argue that this lack of contextualization and recognition of Bernier’s text as composed of many parts offers a limited understanding of Bernier and his depiction of India. 60 Tinguely, introduction to Un Libertin dans l’Inde Moghole, 21. 61 Ibid. 62 Burke, “The Philosopher as Traveller,” 134. 63 Neither the dedication to the king nor the “Au Lecteur” were printed as part of the Amsterdam edition of the text used by Bhattacharya, nor do they figure in most English translations of the text. However, they shed light on how Bernier wanted his text to be received by his seventeenthcentury public, and thus merit our attention here. 64 This and all subsequent in-text page references to Bernier’s work refer to the 2008 Tinguely edition, Un Libertin dans l’Inde Moghole. 65 Bernier thus distinguishes his narrative from the type studied by Michèle Longino in French Travel Writing in the Ottoman Empire. He is, in fact, a notable exception in a long line of Europeans who penned travel accounts. For a history of this narrative tradition, see the introduction to Voyages and Visions: Towards a Cultural History of Travel by Jas Elsner and Joan-Pau Rubiés. 66 Bernier’s relationship to Chapelain is particularly interesting for our purposes and will be explored in depth in chapter 2. Chapelain remained in contact with Bernier the whole time he was in India. Petit remarks that Chapelain even sent Bernier cases of books while he was in India, and upon his return, Chapelain worked to introduce Bernier to Colbert and

290  Notes to pages 54–61 perhaps even to Louis XIV himself. Petit, “Mme de la Sablière et François Bernier,” 672. 67 In Mughals and Franks, Sanjay Subrahmanyam remarks that Roe’s need toalways rely on interpreters “must surely have influenced the very nature of the enterprise of conceptual ’translation’ … when that translation passed literally through language, and was not simply a question ofinterpreting gestures, visual events, or physical signs” (154). 68 See Ellen McClure’s “’Une Parfaite et sincère bonne correspondence et amitié,” and Michèle Longino’s discussion of this incident in Orientalism in Seventeenth-Century French Drama. 69 We will analyse Le Bourgeois gentilhomme in depth in chapter 4. 70 Historians have pointed out that Bernier helped Molière with his portraits of the medical profession. However, he is never cited as a possible source for material in Le Bourgeois gentilhomme. As we will see in chapter 4, it is very possible that Bernier spoke to Molière about much more than doctors. 71 François Caron (1600–73) was born in Brussels to a family of Huguenots who had sought religious freedom there. He became a French citizen when Colbert convinced him to become the head of the French East India Company. 72 Castonnet des Fosses relates this encounter between Bernier and Caron in Surat, explaining that as Bernier was preparing to leave India in 1668, “à ce moment Caron arrivait, et … il vit de suite quels avantages il pourrait recueillir en se mettant en rapport avec notre compatriote [Bernier] qui était au courant, mieux que personne, des intrigues des cours de l’Inde et de la conduite que nous devions y tenir si nous voulions réussir. Caron ne cessait de le questionner … et Bernier s’efforçait de le satisfaire en lui donnant de nombreux renseignements sur les pays qu’il avait visités et sur les personnages qu’il avait connus, et il se décida même, sur la demande de Caron, à écrire un rapport, qu’il intitula: ’Mémoire sur l’établissement du commerce dans les Indes.’ Ce mémoire est accompagné d’une lettre adressée aux directeurs de la compagnie des Indes chargés de diriger la factorerie à Surate.”/“at that moment Caron arrived, and … he immediately saw what he could learn from our compatriot [Bernier] who knew better than anyone Indian court intrigues and what one had to do to succeed in India. Caron questioned him constantly … and Bernier tried to satisfy him by giving him lots of information about the countries he had visited and the people he had met, and he decided, at Caron’s request, to write a report that he titled ’Memoir concerning the establishment of commence in India.’ This memoir is accompanied by a letter addressed to the directors

Notes to pages 61–9 291 of the East India Company who were charged with directing the trading post in Surat” (François Bernier: Documents inédits sur son séjour en Inde, 10). 73 This text is reproduced in its entirety by Castonnet des Fosses in François Bernier: Documents inédits sur son séjour dans l’Inde, 1885. This passage ­appears on p. 16. Bernier was not the only one to critique these emissaries. Tavernier also was appalled by their behaviour and wrote about the incident in his memoirs. His text was composed after Bernier’s and actually has many similarities. It is very likely that Tavernier composed his narrative after reading Bernier’s. See Tinguely’s analysis of Tavernier’s account of the incident in “Jean-Baptiste Tavernier et l’expertise interculturelle.” 74 To quote Bernier, “Pour ce qui est de la lettre du roi, on pourra toujours ­témoigner qu’on souhaiterait fort de la donner en main propre. Néanmoins je ne crois pas qu’il se faille obstiner la dessus d’autant plus que c’est une chose que je n’ai vu concéder qu’à l’ambassadeur de Perse. … Pour ce qui est du salam … je ne vois pas d’inconvénient de le faire, d’autant plus que je n’ai aussi jamais vu aucun ambassadeur qui ne l’ait fait, si ce n’est celui de Perse qui ne va pas pour son intérêt comme nous, mais seulement par honneur”/“As concerns the King’s letter, one can always say that one really hoped to deliver it by hand. But I don’t think one should be fixated on this, even more so because that is something that I have only seen conceded to the Persian ambassador. … As far as the salaam is concerned … I don’t see any problem in doing it, even more so because I’ve never seen an ambassador who didn’t do it, except for the one from Persia, and he is not going to the court for his own interests but only out of honour.’ Cited in Castonnet des Fosses, François Bernier, 18–19. 75 Bernier says that “la grandeur du présent qu’on fera pourra suppléer à tout”/“the size of the gift that one makes can make up for everything’ and perhaps make the Mughals forget the unfortunate La Boulaye incident. Cited in Castonnet des Fosses, François Bernier, 18. 76 For an analysis of the Fronde and its relationship to literary production, see my Revising Memory. 77 In succeeding centuries, historians use Bernier’s text and others to construct the image of the “oriental despot.” But Bernier’s text can only be used in this construction if it is read outside of its seventeenth-century context and if one privileges a few selections from a nuanced and complex textual corpus. 78 In this respect Aurangzeb is not very different from Louis XIV, at least as he is created in his Mémoires, penned at about the same time. Louis comes across as a thoughtful monarch whose only desire is to guide his young son. Aurangzeb has the negative reputation of being a ruthless,

292  Notes to pages 70–80 fundamentalist ruler whose policies brought an end to the glorious Mughal rule of his forbearers. Bernier offers, however, a more nuanced portrait of this figure, one with which some recent historians might concur. See, for example, the revisionist history of Aurangzeb offered by Rajeef Kinra in “Handling Diversity with Absolute Civility.” 79 In “Handling Diversity with Absolute Civility,” Kinra studies in great depth how the Mughal court dealt with diversity. Many histories show that this pluralism goes back millennia. 80 Voltaire, Essai sur les moeurs et sur l’esprit des nations, p. 226 of 1759 edition. Nicolas Dew also says that Bernier’s reliability is often questionable. He reads the Colbert text as a stand-alone commentary on India (Orientalism in Louis XIV’s France, 133). 81 In a later text Bernier will describe this throne in more detail, but in the context of the Evénements he draws on his public’s knowledge of its existence to add to the story he is recounting about the relationship between Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb. 82 Bernier writes, “Et c’est de là que j’en ai vu qui s’étonnent tant en considérant le nombre immense de personnes qui vivent de la paie (car cela va à des millions), ne se pouvant imaginer où il se peut trouver des revenus suffisants pour de si grandes dépenses, quoique pourtant il n’y ait point tant à s’étonner, vu les richesses du royaume, le gouvernement particulier de l’Etat, et cette propriété du souverain”/“And it’s due to this that I have seen a number of people who are shocked by the immense number of people who live off the emperor, for this is in the millions, not being able to imagine where he could find sufficient revenues for such great expenses, although it’s not that surprising, given the richness of the realm, the way the state is governed, and what the sovereign possesses” (Un Libertin dans l’Inde Moghole, 216). 83 For an examination of economic policy under Louis XIV and the Ancien Régime in France, see Jacob Soll, The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations. 84 See Sylvia Murr, “Le Politique ’au Mogol’ selon Bernier,” on Colbert and private property. See also Jean-Charles Darmon, “Prudence politique et droit de propriété privée selon Bernier.” 85 As we have seen, La Sablière herself remained friends with Fouquet’s family. Sévigné and Lafayette, among other members of the salon, had been present at the sumptuous party offered by Fouquet at Vaux that ultimately led to his arrest. Fouquet had been widely touted as the potential first minister, to succeed Mazarin, but Louis XIV eliminated this position

Notes to pages 80–92 293 and decided to govern alone when Mazarin died. Ultimately Colbert, who was jealous of Fouquet, was able to orchestrate Fouquet’s downfall. Fouquet spent the rest of his life in prison until he died in 1680. See Claire Goldstein’s Vaux et Versailles. 86 Drawing on Marc Fumaroli’s work in Le Poète et le roi, Claire Goldstein identifies the ties between Fouquet and the worldly milieu of the Paris salons, stating that “Fouquet wanted the poetry of Vaux to reflect his contemporaries’ tastes and to model the way post-Fronde France was going to work, feel, and look. To this end, the minister became the leading sponsor of Scudéry and her circle and forged friendships with Sévigné and other veterans of Paris salons (Fumaroli, The Poet and the King, 164). Fouquet strove to recreate the style of salonnières for his artistic court, cultivating their aesthetic and literary values in the sociopolitical model Vaux represented” (Vaux and Versailles, 15). 87 For an account of Colbert’s actions and influence, see Jacob Soll’s The Information Master. 88 We will explore this characteristic of Bernier’s text further in chapter 3. 89 Chapelain was the first secretary of the French Academy. He was a writer, but also an active participant in salon culture beginning in the 1630’s. Later in life he was responsible for vetting people to receive pensions from Louis XIV. Chapter Two 1 Chapelain wrote to Bernier on the following dates: 13 November 1661, 9 November 1662, 26 August 1666, 16 February 1669, and 25 September 1669. The principal and longest letter was the first one, composed on 13 November 1661. Many of the other letters refer to that one, which he implies he tried to send through various channels at multiple times during the decade Bernier was in India. 2 For an in-depth examination of Chapelain’s involvement with the various seventeenth-century French intellectual networks, see Georges Collas’s meticulous study, Jean Chapelain, particularly pp. 293–443. Christian Jouhaud devotes a chapter to Chapelain in his study of the relationship between power and literature in seventeenth-century France. See his Les Pouvoirs de la littérature, especially chapter 2. 3 For an analysis of this quarrel and Chapelain’s participation in it, see my Mastering Memory, 102–14. See also Collas’s description in Jean Chapelain, 337–9.

294  Notes to pages 92–5 4 See Collas’s description of Chapelain’s role in Colbert’s creation of an alliance between the intellectual and political worlds, especially in the 1660s, the foundational years of Louis XIV’s reign (Jean Chapelain, 349–443). 5 Linda Timmermans discusses Chapelain’s relationship to la chambre bleue in L’accès des femmes à la culture, 24–9. 6 Collas, Jean Chapelain, 294. 7 Unfortunately for Chapelain, his fellow academicians and would-be academicians at the time, figures such as Boileau, mercilessly panned this work, not viewing it as conforming adequately to the standards of classical literature because it was too influenced by worldly taste. Chapelain remained proud of his literary achievement, even sending Bernier numerous copies in India. He was determined to be recognized across the intellectual spheres. 8 Collas, Jean Chapelain, 294–5. 9 Ibid., 388. 10 Ibid., 337–9. Nicholas Dew analyses the relationship between Bernier’s text and this intellectual network in Orientalism in Louis XIV’s France, 131– 67. He focuses on Chapelain’s correspondence, as I do, but he does not develop Chapelain’s ties with salon culture. Dew primarily sees Chapelain as a member of Melchisédech Thévenot’s circle and of the group that met at Hubert de Montmor’s home, as well as another exclusively male group, the French Academy. 11 Chapelain, Lettres de Jean Chapelain, 2:171. See Lens’s articles on Bernier’s correspondence while in India. 12 Nicholas Dew remarks that, “As was normal practice at the time—and as Chapelain mentions—the letters that Bernier sent back were not kept private” (Orientalism in Louis XIV’s France, 160). Dew enumerates some of the likely recipients of Bernier’s missives, but does not suggest or examine the possibility that the salons could have been involved in this diffusion of information. 13 This and the following in-text citations refer to Chapelain, Lettres de Jean Chapelain. 14 “Quand vous nous écrivez, il ne faudra qu’adresser votre paquet à M de Monmor, rue du Temple … et en son absence, à M Thévenot, … près des Capucins du Marias à Paris; et en son absence encore, à M de la Cambrae, médecin ordinaire du Roy, rue Grenelle près l’hôtel Seguier. Il ne pourra se perdre avec ces adresses.”/“When you write to us, just address your packet to M. de Monmor, rue du Temple, … and when he’s gone to M. Thévenot, … near the Capuchins du Marais in Paris; and if he’s gone then to M. de La Cambrae, doctor to the King, rue Grenelle near

Notes to pages 95–100 295 the Séguier mansion. It won’t get lost with these addresses.” Chapelain, Lettres de Jean Chapelain, 2:170. 15 Chapelain is referring to the Qutub Minar in Delhi. 16 Specifically regarding Roe’s account, which clearly was widely circulated, Chapelain says of Roe, “mais c’est qu’il y aurait plaisir et avantage de conférer vos originaux avec les siens pour les confirmer ou pour les contredire, le tout à l’éclaircissement et à l’établissement de la vérité. Pour cela, il serait bon que vous vous rendissiez habile dans la langue du pays que je m’imagine être la persienne et cet [sic] étude pourrait vous servir à plus d’un usage et vous serait fort considérer de ça quand vous y retourneriez.”/“but it would be good and advantageous to confer and compare your originals with his to confirm them or contradict, all with the goal of enlightenment and to establish the truth. For this it would be good if you could become proficient in the language of the country, which I imagine to be Persian and this study will be very useful to you and will make add to your reputation when you return’ (Chapelain, Lettres de Jean Chapelain, 2:168. This letter is from 1661). 17 Chapelain’s disdainful opinion of merchants did not impede him from seeking assistance from the most well-known French merchant of the peri­ od, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier. In his letter of 9 November 1662, Chapelain informs Bernier that he is sending a copy of his first letter through Tavernier: “Et le porteur sera M Tavernier, qui s’en retourne à la Cour du grand Prince que vous servez, et qui s’est bien voulu charger de mon paquet à la prière de M de La Mothe le Vayer, son ami intime. … S’il prend son chemin par Marseille, j’avertirai M. de Merveilles de son passage, afin qu’il puisse écrire aussi par lui”/“And the carrier will be M. Tavernier, who is returning to the court of the great prince you’re serving, and who was willing to take my packet through the intercession of M. de La Mothe le Vayer, his close friend. … If he goes by way of Marseille, I’ll alert M. de Merveilles that he’s passing by, so that he can write through him also’ (Chapelain, Lettres de Jean Chapelain, 2:265). Evidently Tavernier is more appreciated by other intellectuals such as La Mothe le Vayer, to whom Bernier addresses one of his letters. This passage also illustrates the circle of intellectuals interested in Bernier’s exploits and how knowledge circulated even across great distances. 18 “Il n’y faudrait pas même omettre quel est le génie de la nation pour les sciences auxquelles elle s’adonne plus volontiers; s’ils ont des écrivains qui s’en piquent et si leur langue est riche et douce, comme elle est ordinairement dans les grandes cours.”/“Don’t forget to consider the character of the nation by determining what sciences it is most attracted

296  Notes to pages 101–2 to; if they have writers who compose and if their language is rich and agreeable, as is normally the case in the great courts”(Chapelain, Lettres de Jean Chapelain, 2:169; 1661). 19 “Il serait bon encore que vous recouvrassiez tous les livres principaux et estimés parmi ces peuples, d’ou vous tireriez de notables instructions pour toutes leurs sortes de connaissances, et qui passeraient dans l’Europe pour un trésor, en les y apportant. Par là vous auriez moyen de faire voir en combien de sortes de disciplines ils sont instruits, et jusqu’où ils ont poussé leurs connaissances; comment ils conduisent leur raisonnement, de quelle morale ils se servent; quelle est leur religion gentile ou mahométane, ou toutes deux; comment ils contemplent les choses de la nature, soit pour la physique simple, soit pour la médecine; quelles observations ils ont fait des astres, et s’ils y suivent la doctrine Grecque ou l’Arabe, ou quelque autre qui leur soit particulière; jusqu’où ils sont instruits de la géographie; quelle est l’étendue de l’Etat et à quels royaumes ou mers il confine; quelles sont ses forces, soit d’hommes, soit de places, soit d’éléphants, soit d’armes offensives et défensives; quelles ses coutumes et ses lois; quels leurs allies, quels leur ennemis; de quelle sorte ils instruisent leur jeunesse pour la guerre ou pour les lettres.”/“It would also be good if you obtained all the most important books that are esteemed among these people, from which you’ll learn about their knowledge, which will be seen in Europe as a treasure if you bring it back. In this way you’ll be able to show us in what disciplines they’re learned, and how far they have extended their knowledge; how they reason, what is their morality; whether their religion is Hindu or Muslim, or both; how they look at nature, either through simple physics, or through medicine; how they observe the stars, and if they follow Greek or Arab doctrine, or something else that is particular to them; how much they know about geography; how big their state is and what realms and seas it contains; what its military is like, in terms of men, fortresses, elephants, offensive and defensive arms; what their customs and laws are; who are their allies and their enemies; how they teach their young for war and for the arts” (Chapelain, Lettres de Jean Chapelain, 2:168–9; 1661). 20 This treatise will serve as a “preface” for Mme de Lafayette’s novel, Zayde. For a discussion of the relationship between Huet’s preface and Lafayette’s novel, see my “The Voices of Shadows: Lafayette’s Zayde.” 21 Chapelain assures his friend Sévigné that he will “[faire] les offices que vous désirez auprès de Mesdames de Rambouillet et de Montauzier” just as he did with “Mme la duchesse de Nemours” (Lettres de Jean Chapelain, 2:173), underscoring his network of female interlocutors. Nicolas Dew also

Notes to pages 103–7 297 attributes Chapelain’s question about women to Chapelain’s experiences as a salon habitué (Orientalism in Louis XIV’s France, 159). 22 Many contemporaries as well as literary critics and historians identify sociability as a French “national” trait. Bernadette Craveri, for example, titles a chapter “L’Esprit de société: le caractère de la nation.” Craveri states that the eighteenth century is the apogee of this movement that began with the marquise de Rambouillet: “En 1721, un siècle après le geste fondateur de Mme de Rambouillet, les observateurs les plus attentifs considéraient l’art de vivre en société comme l’une des spécificités de l’identité française”/“In 1721, a century after the founding act of Mme de Rambouillet, the most attentive observers considered the art of living in society as one of the specificities of French identity” (L’Age de la Conversation, 340). I would go further and advance that France’s particular form of intellectual life, influenced by salon culture, is also one of the defining characteristics of French collective identity. 23 Dew, Orientalism in Louis XIV’s France, 156. 24 Ibid., 164–5. Dew specifies, however, that, “This shift in the cultural space occupied by Bernier’s text did not, however, mark any complete break with the Thévenot circle that had supported him. On the contrary, learned correspondence was crucial in the distribution of the book. The English translator of Bernier’s book which was to inspire Dryden’s tragedy Aurengzeb (1676) was … Henry Oldenburg, the secretary of the Royal Society, with whom the Thévenot group had long been in contact” (162–4). 25 Ibid., 164. He discusses Bernier’s association with salons on pp.163–4. 26 Ibid., 156–7. 27 Dew also attributes Bernier’s choice of Barbin to an effort to “[identify] his book with the galant literary milieu, based in polite salons like those of Mme de La Sablière. Barbin was associated with the vogue for galanterie” (Ibid., 163). 28 Ibid., 163. 29 Bernier, Un Libertin dans l’Inde Moghole, 48. 30 See my Revising Memory, particularly chapter 1, for an elaboration of the relationship between history and fiction at this time, especially women’s roles in the development of the genre. 31 Charnes, Conversations sur la critique de la Princesse de Clèves, 137. 32 Saint-Evremond, Discours sur les historiens français, 7:67. 33 As cited in Beasley, Revising Memory, 31. 34 See chapter 1 in my Revising Memory. 35 Thomas Roe, in his account of his diplomatic trade mission, does include Nur Jahan, Jahangir’s favourite wife, but he does so primarily to complain

298  Notes to pages 108–14 about her intrusion into his negotiations. In his own account of his reign, Jahangir refers to Nur Jahan, but she is depicted primarily with respect to her husband and is not granted much individual agency. 36 When compared to other accounts of the war over the Mughal throne, Bernier’s focus on a particular gendered history is especially apparent. Tavernier does not adopt such a perspective, for example, even though he later attended La Sablière’s salon. 37 Bernier does devote a long passage of his letter to M. Chapelain to sati, but, as we shall see, this is not the only image of Indian women that pervades the entire account, nor is it the dominant view. One must read the text as a whole in order to put his discussion of sati in perspective. We will analyse his discussion of sati in chapter 3. 38 Of particular interest are the historical novels composed by Indra Sunde­ resan that focus on the lives of women at the Mughal court. Sunderesan’s meticulous research makes these novels particularly valuable to those who wish to learn the history of this period. 39 Furetière, Dictionnaire universel. 40 For a discussion of esprit in the salon context, particularly as a tool to evaluate and critique literature, see my Mastering Memory, especially ­chapter 1. 41 This brief biography of Nur Jahan is drawn from Findly, Nur Jahan, and from Amina Okada’s introduction to her book, A Jewel of Mughal India: The Mausoleum of I’timad ud-Daulah. 42 Ruby Lal compares Ottoman, Safavid, and early Mughal conceptions of the harem and women’s influence on the political sphere, and concludes that each empire had its specific configurations. She writes that although Western visitors to Jahangir’s court often remarked upon Nur Jahan, in her view “it was only the uncommonly determined, talented and lucky women – even among royalty – who gained political prominence and visibility here” (Domesticity and Power in the Early Modern World, 224). Even Jahangir barely mentions Nur Jahan in his memoirs of his reign (The Jahangirnama, 225). Ellison Findly’s depiction of Mughal and noble Indian women during this period contrasts with Lal’s assessment. See in particular Findly’s study of women and trade in her “The Capture of Maryam-uz-Zamani’s Ship.” 43 For an excellent overview of the women in Mughal India see chapter 5 of Annemarie Schimmel’s The Empire of the Great Mughals. 44 In Domesticy and Power in the Early Mughal World, Lal offers an in-depth study of the harem and women’s agency in the early years of the Mughal Empire under the emperors Babur and Akbar. She argues against the

Notes to pages 114–18 299 notion that Nur Jahan was “a bolt from the blue” (10) and details women’s roles in the public sphere as she complicates the concept of private/public spheres and the place of the Mughal harem in this conception of genderspecific space. See especially her introduction, and chapters 2 and 7. 45 Even if it can be argued that Safavid or Ottoman women also exercised political power, it is important to underscore that this is not inscribed in travellers’ texts of the seventeenth century. Bernier’s and others’ emphasis on Nur Jahan thus depicts the Mughal Empire as different from its Islamic counterparts of the Middle East. 46 As cited in Okada, A Jewel of Mughal India, 12. 47 Mu’tammad Khan, Iqbal nama-Jahangri, as cited in Okada, A Jewel of Mughal India, 12, who draws from Findly, Nur Jahan, 43. 48 Okada writes that, “The emperor had also granted his spouse another ­exceptional privilege customarily reserved exclusively for the reigning monarch, that of having her own court orchestra and kettle drums (naqqara) play after the imperial orchestra played the music that was dedicated to the sovereign” (A Jewel of Mughal India, 13). 49 Schimmel describes Nur Jahan as a “great landowner … [who] cared for orphaned girls. … She was the de facto regent, and had coins minted in her own name. … She also engaged in trade, with her brother Asaf Khan acting as the chief agent in the administration of her ships, which she used to transport indigo and other goods from Bayana to international ports on India’s west coast. Nur Jahan was particularly interested in European goods, especially English embroidery. She became an expert in Indian textiles, and also designed jewelry and goldsmiths work … she received a vast income from customs duties …” (The Empire of the Great Mughals, 149). 50 Findly remarks upon the vast wealth amassed by many women in the Mughal harem. She refers to Thomas Roe’s 1616 memoirs in which he describes the wealth of one of Nur Jahan’s maidservants who, at her death, left an estate “in pearls, jewels, and ready cash valued at Rs. 160,000” (“The Capture of Maryam-uz-Zamani’s Ship,” 231). Findly explains how women procured such wealth and the power they exerted over trade in “The Capture of Maryam-uz-Zamani’s ship.” 51 As cited in Okada, A Jewel of Mughal India, 12, who is indebted to Findly, Nur Jahan, 47. 52 See Nath, Notable Mughal and Hindu Women, 96–7 and Findly’s in-depth study in “The Capture of Maryam-uz-Zamani’s Ship.” 53 As Okada notes, Achibal used to be called Begumabad, because it was created by Nur Jahan (A Jewel of Mughal India, 13). 54 Ibid., 13

300  Notes to pages 118–20 55 The most comprehensive study of I’timad ud-Daulah’s tomb is Okada’s study, A Jewel of Mughal India: The Mausoleum of I’timad ud-Daulah, first published in French and then translated into English by Eleanor Levieux. The stunning photographs by Jean-Louis Nou convey the wonder of this little-known monument. Its splendour is similar to that of the Taj Mahal, despite the years of neglect and vandalism during the colonial period. 56 See Lal’s history of the haram in pre-colonial India, Domesticity and Power in the Early Modern World. See also Renuka Nath’s informative and well-­ researched study, Notable Mughal and Hindu Women in the 16th and 17th century A.D. Emmanuelle Peyraube reconstructs the harem during a later period in Le Harem des Lumières: L’image de la femme dans la peinture orientaliste du XVIIIe siècle. Drawing from descriptions of travellers, in particular to the Ottoman Empire, she reconstructs the imaginary of European society and its perception of the “oriental” woman. Peyraube makes no distinction between the various Eastern courts, and draws her description of the harem primarily from the accounts of travellers to the Ottoman Empire. She thus conflates all Eastern cultures under the rubric “Orient” rather than attempting to ascertain whether India might have entered the French imaginary differently from its Ottoman cousin. 57 It is interesting to note that while he refers often to Nur Jahan, Jahanara, and Raushanara, Bernier only mentions Mumtaz Mahal in relation to her tomb, the Taj Mahal. One can conjecture that Mumtaz, in her role as a traditional wife and mother, provoked less interest than her aunt and nieces, whose stories told an inspiring history of female agency and power. 58 Montpensier was Louis XIV’s first cousin. She was especially well known for her rebellious activities during the Fronde. While in exile, she published volumes of written portraits. She also composed her memoirs. 59 It should be noted, however, that Bernier is considered to be responsible for the rumour that Shah Jahan’s love for his oldest daughter went beyond that of a father. In his portrait he includes the “rumour” that he heard, which has never been verified, that Shah Jahan “l’aimait jusques à un point qu’on a de la peine à s’imaginer, et qu’il disait pour excuse que selon la décision de ses mollahs, ou docteurs de sa loi, il serait bien permis à un homme de manger le fruit d’un arbre qu’il aurait planté”/“loved her to the point that it is difficult to imagine, and that he used the excuse that according to his mullahs, or the doctors of his law, that it is possible for a man to eat the fruit of the tree that he planted” (Un Libertin dans l’Inde Moghole, 49). He does not elaborate further, but as we shall see, he does

Notes to pages 121–3 301 talk about Jahanara’s love affairs, which could seem to contradict these rumours about incest. 60 “[Aurangzeb] savait très bien que c’était Dara et Begum [Jahanara] qui avaient porté Shah Jahan à donner ces ordres, dans l’appréhension qu’ils avaient qu’il ne se fît trop puissant”/“Aurangzeb knew very well that it was Dara and Jahanara who had pushed Shah Jahan to give these orders, out of their fear that he would become too powerful” (Ibid., 57), and later “Aurangzeb, de son côté, voyait bien aussi qu’il ne se devait pas trop fier aux paroles de Shah Jahan, d’autant plus qu’il savait que Begum Saheb [Jahanara], son ennemie, était jour et nuit auprès de lui, et que sans doute il n’agissait que par son mouvement”/“As for Aurangzeb, he could see very well that he couldn’t trust Shah Jahan’s words, even more so because he knew that Jahanara, his enemy, was by his side day and night, and that no doubt he only did what she told him” (Ibid., 91). 61 “… ce fut Raushanara Begum qui trouva moyen d’en donner avis à Aurangzeb, comme elle avait aussi fait de ce mauvais tour qu’on lui préparait avec ces femmes tartares”/“… it was Raushanara who found the way to warn Aurangzeb, as she had done previously regarding the trick they were preparing for him with the tartar women” (Ibid., 94–5). 62 Of course such “amourettes” were not always “galantes” or “comiques” in French narratives either. One has only to think of Lafayette’s novel, La Princesse de Montpensier, for example, in which the comte de Chabannes dies. 63 See Nath’s chapter, “Cultural Activities of Jahanara Begum, Roshanara Begum, Zeb-un-nissa and Zinat-un-nissa Begum,” in Notable Mughal and Hindu Women in the 16th and 17th Centuries A.D. 64 For a discussion of Jahanara’s literary works, see Nath, Notable Mughal and Hindu Women in the 16th and 17th Centuries A.D., 134–5. Schimmel relates that “Jahanara was immensely wealthy. She had inherited half of her mother’s fortune, but also traded with the Dutch (her father gave her the harbor dues at Surat, through which the majority of the imports entered the country), who had been in competition with the Portuguese and also the British since Jahangir’s time. The princess was a good letter writer, and she corresponded with the princes of the Deccan. She also saw to it that the widows of mansabdars were well provided for” (The Empire of the Great Mughals, 152–3). 65 Raushanara died in 1671, which perhaps enabled Jahanara to play more of a role than she would have had her sister continued to live. We have Jahanara’s letters, which were published in 1911. See Nath, Notable Mughal and Hindu Women in the 16th and 17th Centuries A.D., 132.

302  Notes to pages 124–39 66 Nath says “the like of which no man has ever seen” (Ibid., 161). 67 For a biography of Zinat-un-Nissa, see Nath, Notable Mughal and Hindu Women in the 16th and 17th Centuries A.D., 164–70. 68 Nath details these political activities in Notable Mughal and Hindu Women in the 16th and 17th Centuries A.D., 166–7. 69 See Nath, Notable Mughal and Hindu Women in the 16th and 17th Centuries A.D., 168–70. Nath recounts that this tomb was demolished after the revolt of 1857. The mosque itself suffered the fate of many similar edifices under British rule. It was transformed into an artillery barrack. 70 Nur Jahan, however, was known for rejecting purdah at times, as when she hunted with her husband Jahangir and his courtiers. In his own memoirs, Jahangir compliments her for her prowess and marvels at her marksmanship. A story circulated that she once shot a tiger from the top of an elephant, thus saving Jahangir’s life. 71 “More indispensible than one could almost believe.” 72 We will return to these fabrics, these “toiles” and “étoffes,” in chapter 4. 73 As cited in Peyraube, Le Harem des Lumières, 46. 74 “A very extraordinary Indian cane.” 75 For an overview of this debate, see Elizabeth Goldsmith’s article, “The Quarrel over La Princesse de Clèves,” as well as Maurice Laugaa’s study of the novel’s reception, Lectures de Mme de Lafayette, and my chapter on the novel in Revising Memory and Mastering Memory. 76 For an in depth examination of these two works that are the major ­contributions to the debate, see my Mastering Memory. 77 For an analysis of Descartes’s reception in the salons, see Erica Harth’s Cartesian Women. 78 See my Revising Memory. Lafayette even recorded the princess’s remark in the memoirs she penned for the princess. 79 Lafayette to Lescheraine, 9 December 1680, in Correspondence, 99–100. 80 Lafayette to Lescheraine, 4 January 1681, in Correspondence, 103–4. These boxes are most likely paper maché boxes coming from China through India, which were very popular by the 1670s in Europe. While “les Indes” is vague and could refer either to the “New World” or to the East, in this case it is clear that Lafayette is referring to les Indes orientales” because there were no such boxes coming from les Indes occidentales. 81 For an in-depth analysis of this portrait gallery and Lafayette’s revision of her sources, see my Revising Memory. 82 French citations of Lafayette’s La Princesse de Clèves refer to the 1996 edition, edited by Jean Mesnard.

Notes to pages 139–57 303 83 Citations of the English text refer to the English translation of Lafayette’s text by Terence Cave, published by Oxford University Press in 1992. 84 For an in-depth analysis of the relationship between history and fiction during this period, see my Revising Memory, introduction and chapter 1. 85 Valincour, Lettres à Madame, 9–10. 86 Ibid., 8. 87 Ibid., 9. 88 For an in-depth analysis of Lafayette’s use of history, see Chamard and Rudler’s careful comparisons of the novel to its sources and my analysis in Revising Memory. 89 Lafayette actually deviates from her historical sources in order to grant Diane de Poitiers more agency. See my Revising Memory, 214. 90 See Joan DeJean’s discussion of the word “aveu,” which is usually translated as confession, in “Lafayette’s Ellipses.” See also my reading of this scene in Revising Memory, chapter 5. 91 The best way to ensure a fiction’s vraisemblance or moral plausibility was to ground the fiction in history. This was a requirement of the nascent genre of the nouvelle historique. 92 Beasley, Revising Memory, 224–7. 93 Dandrey, La Fontaine ou les métamorphoses d’Orphée, 16. 94 See my discussion of Lafayette’s use of history in this scene in Revising Memory, 225–6. In the newest version of Garnier Flammarion’s edition of La Princesse de Clèves, the editor Jean Mesnard inexplicably changes the wording of this scene and writes that it was Monsieur de Clèves, not the princess, who had the paintings copied (205). He thus denies the princess agency over the portraits. As is clear from reactions at the time of the novel’s publication, Lafayette’s public would have read the original iteration. Valincour, in fact, critiques the princess’s actions as too bold, especially the fact that the princess took the paintings to Coulommiers. Valincour, Lettres à Madame, 246. 95 The novel was published in 1678 when Mme de La Sablière was still involved with M. de La Fare. It is ironic that just a year after the publication of La Princesse de Clèves, Mme de La Sablière will suffer the fate that the princess was so determined to avoid: La Fare leaves her. This event, combined with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, forced La Sablière to disband her salon. She converted, and like the fictional princess, she spent the rest of her life between “chez elle” and a small room at “Les Incurables” where she did works of charity. One could almost say that she eventually lived out the life of Lafayette’s fictional princess. Sévigné

304  Notes to pages 157–62 recounted La Fare’s infidelity to her daughter in 1679 and La Sablière’s move to les Incurables in a letter to the same dated 14 July 1680 (Sévigné, Correspondance, 2:731 and 1012–3).   96 Valincour constantly condemns the princess as too autonomous and ­forward. See my Revising Memory, chapter 5.   97 Valincour states that, “Novelists are not permitted to abuse [poetic license] to the point of creating monsters and utopian dreams”/“Il ne leur est pas permis d’en abuser, jusques à faire des monstres et des chimères” (Lettres, 90).   98 In Under Western Eyes, Balachandra Rajan explains that while Bernier was not the only source on the Mughal Empire, his “was the voice everyone heard.” Rajan states that, “It is standard practice to regard his [Bernier’s] book as the ’source’ for Dryden’s play” (69).   99 Craft, “Dryden’s Transformation of Bernier’s Travels,” 47. 100 Link, Aureng-Zebe, xiv–xvii. 101 In The Limits of Orientalism, Rahul Sapra explores the relationship between Bernier’s Histoire and Dryden’s play, focusing on the figure of Aurangzeb. He argues that Bernier’s portrait of Aurangzeb was nuanced and detailed and can thus justifiably be considered the source for Dryden’s title character in spite of some historical inaccuracies that have led other critics to reject Bernier as Dryden’s source. As Sapra points out, in the seventeenth century, and especially in Bernier’s text, the Mughal emperor was not depicted as the oriental despot responsible for the decline of his empire as he has come to be viewed by historians after the seventeenth century. See in particular chapter 5, 133–63. 102 As a playwright, Dryden worked under the same creative constraints as his fellow artists in France: a dramatic work must be vraisemblable, that is, morally believable. Dryden was very much aware of these constraints, which became more integrated into English poetic practice in the late seventeenth century. Dryden analysed the rules governing poetic composition, especially those in use by his French counterparts, in his An Essay of Dramatic Poesy, composed in 1665–6 and published in 1668. See John Campbell’s illuminating discussion of Dryden’s relationship to French literary culture in his “Accueil et rejet de l’invasion littéraire française.” 103 As Mita Choudhury remarks, the play had a mediocre performance record in 1675–6, which leads her to suggest that Dryden chose to set the play in India simply to “shore up interest in the theatre in general” by capitalizing on the public’s “fascination with global exchange” (Interculturalism and Resistance in the London Theatre, 143).

Notes to pages 162–71 305 104 Ascsah Guibbory explores Dryden’s use and conception of history in “Dryden’s View of History.” 105 Mita Choudhury cites Nandini Bhattacharya, who contends that Dryden’s play “represents an emergent ’structure of feeling’ that tends to cast the ’non-European in ahistorical and disempowering terms’” (Interculturalism and Resistance in the London Theatre, 136). Choudhury argues that the play “mirrors the irrevocable cleavage between the two cultures” (135). In a similar vein, Balachandra Rajan interprets Nourmahal as representing India and Dryden’s treatment of her as reflecting England’s imperialist goals. See chapter 3 in Under Western Eyes, 67–77. 106 As we have seen, nineteenth-century British translators of and commentators on Bernier used their versions of his text to justify the British colonialist project. 107 Choudhury, Interculturalism and Resistance in the London Theatre, 143. 108 “He saw that she was tying bows on a cane from India, very extraordinary, that he had carried for some time” (my translation). Terence Cave translates “une canne des Indes fort extraordinaire” as “a very unusual malacca cane” (128). Chapter Three 1 La Fontaine, “Discours à Mme de La Sablière,” Fables, ll. 19–20. 2 La Fontaine, Fables, Pléiade edition, 245. 3 Furetière, Dictionnaire universel. La Fontaine quarrelled with Furetière over the production of his dictionary, perhaps to ingratiate himself with the French Academy members by whom he had been just recently accepted. The Academy had been scooped by Furetière, who published his dictionary before the illustrious body could finish its own. Furetière, an academician himself, was viewed as a traitor by the other Immortels, who promptly banished him, proving that immortality in the French Academy had its own peculiar definition, one that did not allow for diversity. 4 La Sablière’s salon was of course not the only one that was drawn to Descartes’s philosophy. See Erica Harth’s in-depth study of salon engagement with the philosopher’s ideas in Cartesian Women. 5 Marc Fumaroli describes this vibrant philosophical milieu in his discussion of La Fontaine. He writes that, “Gassendi avait plus particulièrement pour élèves des amis de La Fontaine, le jeune … Chapelle, que le poète fréquentera de nouveau, après 1664, dans la société de Molière, de Racine, et de Boileau, et le jeune François Bernier, que le poète retrouvera plus tard … dans la société de Mme de La Sablière”/“ Specifically Gassendi

306  Notes to pages 171–6 had as his students friends of La Fontaine, the young…Chapelle, whom La Fontaine would associate with later after 1664, within the group that included Molière, Racine, and Boileau, and a young François Bernier, whom the poet would encounter again later in Mme de La Sablière’s entourage” (Le Poète et le roi, 335). 6 Bayle, Nouvelles de la république des lettres, 1008, as cited in Conley, The Suspicion of Virtue, 78 and 202, n.28. 7 In his book, The Suspicion of Virtue, John Conley refers to Bernier’s essay in his analysis of Mme de La Sablière religious writings (77). 8 In his analysis of Bernier’s description of “race,” Léon Petit explains the genesis of the article, writing, “Puis, parlant sans transition à un tout autre sujet, le narrateur [Bernier] rappelle à Mme de la Sablière que jadis, au cours d’un entretien, elle avait considéré comme ’une pensée à cultiver’ celle d’une division nouvelle du monde selon ’les différentes espèces ou races d’hommes qui l’habitent.’” (“Mme de la Sablière et François Bernier,” 677). Bernier’s categorization of the various “races” has inspired a number of commentaries, with some critics even identifying him as an early example of racist thought, in the negative sense of the term. Bernier’s text needs to be read in its seventeenth-century context in order to understand what the author means by “race,” which was a term that had very different connotations in seventeenth-century France than it does today. Bernier is more concerned with categorizing humanity according to environmental factors than biological ones. 9 See App, The Birth of Orientalism. 10 These early missionaries travelled primarily in the south of India, where they met Indian Christians and Hindus. During this period Catholics did not have much influence on Mughal India. See Frykenberg, “Christians in India,” 46. 11 Frykenberg, “Introduction: Dealing with Contested Definitions and Controversial Perspectives,” 1. See, in particular, Frykenberg’s introduction and the two essays most relevant to the seventeenth century, Frykenberg’s own “Christians in India: An Historical Overview of Their Complex Origins,” and Iwona Milewska’s “First European Missionaries on Sanskrit Grammar,”. 12 Frykenberg underscores the diversity at the heart of Christianity, remarking, for example, that “Christianity, unlike other major religious traditions, has never possessed a single ’sacred language’“ (“Introduction,” 3). ­He points to the feast of Pentecost, for example, when the apostles were endowed with the gifts of languages. Frykenberg goes on to cite the scholar Lamin Sanneh, who states that “Christianity triumphs by the

Notes to pages 176–7 307 relinquishing of Jerusalem or any unified universal center, be it geographical, linguistic or cultural, with the result that we have a proliferation of centres, languages and cultures within the Church. Christian ecumenism is a pluralism of the periphery with only Christ at the centre’“ (cited in Frykenberg, “Introduction,” 3). He goes on to cite an Indian bishop who concurs with this view: “Bishop Vedanayagam Azariah of Dornakal … wrote: ’The religion of Christ is one of the most dynamic factors in the world. It always bursts its boundaries. … It refuses to be confined to any one race, class, or caste. It seeks to embrace all’“ (“Introduction,” 3). 13 See Frykenberg’s “Christians in India ” for a clear and succinct history of the presence of Christians in India. As Frykenberg explains, the spread of Christianity to the East is less well-known by westerners than its spread to the West. Few realize, for example, that “forms of Christian presence and tradition became established along Indian shorelines during the earliest (ante-Nicene) centuries of the Christian era” (33). Frykenberg goes on to point out that “Thomas Christians firmly believe themselves to be descended from the converts of the Apostle Thomas. They claim he arrived in A.D. 52 and was martyred in Mylapore (near St. Thomas Mount, Chennai/Madras), about A.D. 69” (34). 14 Roman Catholics arrived in India only in 1498, after the arrival of Vasco da Gama. As Frykenberg explains, while these early European clerics sought to gain control over the Indian Christians they encountered, “Popaganda Fide in Rome never succeeded in fully imposing its authority upon this ’Eastern Rome’ located in Goa, nor upon Indian Christians” (“Christians in India,” 40). 15 Of course, Evangelical and Protestant Christians are also found in India, but their presence postdates the principal period of interest for the present study. Protestant Indians began to be a presence only after 1700 and Pentecostal Christians after 1900. 16 Frykenberg, “Christians in India,” 44. 17 For an overview of Nobili’s work in India, see Frykenberg, “Christians in India,” 44–6. For an in-depth analysis of Nobili, in particular his conflict with his Jesuit colleague who did not share his assimilationist views, see Inès G. Zupanov’s, Disputed Mission: Jesuit Experiments and Brahmanical Knowledge in Seventeenth-Century India. The following discussion is indebted to Zupanov’s carefully constructed and insightful history. 18 Zupanov explains that “as [Nobili] started studying Sanskrit, the ’Latin of the Brahmans’, he felt increasingly confident that some fragments of the ’true faith’ – the monotheistic god, the Trinity, etc. – had been revealed to Tamils in a distant past. From then on, Nobili endeavoured to ’sacralize’

308  Notes to pages 177–8 Tamil society, in the Augustinian sense of giving a visible form, the Catholic Church, to the invisible grade of God” (Disputed Mission, 3). 19 In “First European Missionaries on Sanskrit Grammar,” Milewska analyses the relationship between early Christian missionaries, particularly Jesuits, and the study of Sanskrit and other Indian languages. She identifies the end of the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth centuries as the period in which interest in Sanskrit first appeared, which is earlier than most scholars acknowledge. This interest would remain primarily in the Jesuit community until the late eighteenth century, although some worldly travellers such as Bernier did try to learn Indian languages. See Milewska’s study in Christians and Missionaries in India, 62–69. 20 As Frykenberg, Zupanov, and others point out, Nobili directed his evangelization to the Indian upper classes in the hopes that this would trickle down to the masses. Nobili used his own Italian nobility to gain acceptance into these Indian upper classes. Frykenberg quotes Nobili’s manifesto, which the Jesuit posted outside his home: “I am not a parangi. I was not born in the land of the parangis, nor was I ever connected with their lineages. … I come from Rome, where my family holds a rank as respectable as any rajas in this country“ (As cited in “Christians in India,” 45). Frykenberg explains that by “parangi” Nobili was referring to the Portuguese, from whom he wished to entirely distance himself, viewing them as uncivilized “barbarians” from Europe (45). 21 Fernandes had a very different reaction to religious differences. As Zupanov explains, in Fernandes’s view, “the society and religion he described were not comparable to any others. They were unique and different. Virtually nothing from Indian culture could be assimilated into Christianity” (Zupanov, Disputed Mission, 139). Thus Fernandes’s goal was to make Indians adhere to his Western, Christian practices by giving up their own. 22 Zupanov, Disputed Mission, 5. 23 For a discussion of these compilations see Zupanov, Disputed Mission, 11–12. She states: “Concerning the missionary field in New France, 41 volumes of letters were printed in Paris between 1632 and 1672. Lettres édifiantes et curieuses, a French compilation of letters, selected on the basis of their ’curiousness’ and moral and religious examples, was published in Paris in 34 volumes between 1703 and 1776” (11–12). Milewska also discusses the Lettres édifiantes and characterizes the series as “rich in information concerning India” (“First European Missionaires on Sanskrit Grammar,” 67). 24 See Zupanov, Disputed Mission, 116–25. Bouhours was an active member of La Sablière’s salon.

Notes to pages 179–81 309 25 Castonnet des Fosses remarks upon this relative acceptance of religious difference even in Aurangzeb: “Les Mogols qui constituaient la race dominante étaient Musulmans, mais montraient une assez grande tolerance et chez eux on ne trouvait pas ce fanacisme qui malheureusement est la principale qualité des Turcs et des Persans. Le souverain donnait lui-même l’exemple, en témoignant sa bienvaillance aux Chrétiens aussi bien qu’aux Gentils, et cette politique n’était pas personnelle à Aurangzeb. Son prédecesseur avait constamment agi de même”/“The Mughals who were the dominant race were Muslims, but showed a fairly great tolerance and with them one did not see that fanaticism which unfortunately is the principal quality of the Turks and the Persians. The ruler himself set an example, by showing his regard for Christians as well as Hindus, and this political outlook was not unique to Aurangzeb. His predecessor had always acted the same way” (François Bernier, ses voyages dans l’Inde, 21). 26 I’timud ud-Daula’, Nur Jahan’s father, was one of Akbar and Jahangir’s most trusted advisors. His son, Asaf Khan, who was Nur Jahan’s brother, played a similar role in Shah Jahan’s government. Asaf Khan’s power increased after his daughter, Mumtaz Mahal, married the emperor, Jahangir. 27 In her study of the Mughal Empire, Schimmel devotes a chapter to religion. She writes that, “The interrelationship among the Indian religions has primarily interested both admirers and critics, many finding themselves mired in the many shades of Islam, from the strictest fundamentalism to ecstatic Sufism. The majority of the population were Hindus, but Christian, Jewish, Parsi, Jain and many other religions contributed threads to the colourful tapestry of a multi-faith empire” (The Empire of the Great Mughals, 17). 28 Polavaram, “The Commerce of Curiosity,” 33. Frédéric Tinguely has produced a small volume devoted to Bernier’s description of Hinduism. See his Le Fakir et le Taj Mahal. 29 Schimmel, The Empire of the Great Mughals, 35. 30 This tolerance of difference is a characteristic of Indian society that is frequently underscored by historians and continues to characterize this society today. Jacques Weber underscores the tolerance of Indian society, calling it “l’un des traits dominants de cette vénérable civilisation, la tolérance” in “Contre l’oublie de l’Inde,” introduction to Les Relations entre la France et l’Inde de 1673 à nos jours, 9. 31 Schimmel, The Empire of the Great Mughals, 36. 32 Ibid., 114; Weber, Les Relations entre la France et l’Inde, 94–5. 33 Schimmel, The Empire of the Great Mughals, 97. 34 Weber, Les Relations entre la France et l’Inde, 94–5.

310  Notes to pages 181–97 35 Schimmel, The Empire of the Great Mughals, 41. 36 One can speculate that Jahangi was following a tradition of his Hindu mother. 37 It is worth noting that the Ottomans avoided using halos in their depictions of sultans. Thus, Mughal iconography could be distinguished from that produced in the Middle East. 38 Schimmel, The Empire of the Great Mughals, 48. 39 In The Argumentative Indian, Amartya Sen discusses India’s long history of religious tolerance. See especially pp. 16–19 and 60–1 for Mughal India, but this theme permeates his entire exploration of India’s “tradition of heterodoxy” and the construction of its intellectual identity. 40 Sen, The Argumentative Indian, 61. 41 Castonnet des Fosses, François Bernier, ses voyages dans l’Inde, 21. 42 Ibid., 50. 43 Ibid., 21. 44 Kinra, “Handling Diversity with Absolute Civility,” 255–6. 45 Tinguely, introduction to Un Libertin dans l’Inde Moghole, 23. 46 Ibid., 28–9. 47 Ibid., 30. 48 It is interesting to note that Bernier explicitly says that the Mughals are “enemies” of this custom of sati and made efforts to control it. Dryden, who states that he based his play Aureng-Zebe on Bernier’s writings, clearly chose to disregard this passage when he had one of the Mughal princesses commit sati. Dryden wanted to create a different image, a more barbaric image, of the Mughal court, one that was actually in direct contraction with his source. See my discussion in chapter 2 of Dryden’s curious use of Bernier. 49 As cited in Petit “Mme de la Sablière et François Bernier,” 674. La Bruyère published the first edition of his Caractères in 1688. 50 Couton provides an excellent synopsis of La Fontaine’s trajectory as a writer in his introduction to his edition of the Fables, published by Garnier Flammarion. The characterization of the differences between the two volumes of Fables that I am tracing is indebted to Couton’s portrayal of La Fontaine and the relationship to his sources. 51 La Fontaine, Fables, Pléiade edition, 245. All in-text references to the Fables will be to this edition. 52 Couton, Fables, xx. 53 Ibid., xxi. 54 Castonnet des Fosses writes: “La Fontaine, malgré son caractère si indépendent, subissait lui-même l’influence de l’illustre voyageur. Ce

Notes to pages 197–8 311 fut sous son inspiration qu’il composa son poème sur le quinquina … à partir de 1678, l’on est surpris de voir que plusieurs de ses petits drames, au lieu de s’accomplir en Grèce, comme d’habitude, se passent aux régions lointains de la Perse et de l’Inde, et que parfois les personnages, au lieu d’être des citoyens d’Athènes, sont des sujets du Grand Mogol. Parmi ces fables … nous citerons les Souhaits, Les Deux Amis, Le Bassa et Le Marchand, Le Dépositaire Infidèle, La Souris Métamorphosée en Fille, le Songe d’un Habitant du Mogol. La présence de ces nouveaux acteurs ne peut guère s’expliquer que par les entretiens que Bernier avait avec La Fontaine. C’est ainsi que le ’grand enfant’ aurait pris goût aux choses du Haut Orient.”/“La Fontaine, even though he was very independent, was influenced by the famous traveller. It was under his inspiration that he composed his poem on quinine … starting in 1678, we can see that many of his little dramas, instead of occurring in Greece, as had been his habit, occur in far off regions of Persia and India, and sometimes the ­characters, instead of being citizens of Athens, are the subjects of the Great Mughal. Among these fables … we will cite the Wishes, The Two Friends, The Bassa and the Merchant, The Unfaithful Depositor, The Mouse Metamorphosed into a Girl, The Dream of a Resident of the Mughal. The presence of these new actors can only be explained by the conversations Bernier had with La Fontaine. This is how the ’big child’ developed a taste for things from the Orient” (François Bernier: Ses Voyages dans l’Inde, 54–5). 55 La Fontaine, Fables, Pléiade edition, 245. 56 Adnan Haddad identifies La Fontaine’s source as the Arab version translated by Ibn al-Muqaffa’: “La Fontaine et Ibn al-Muqaffa’ sont deux noms célèbres, l’un en Europe, l’autre dans le monde arabo-musulman. Leur dénominateur commun est le ’pantchatantra’. Ibn al-Muqaffa’ l’a lu pour le reproduire dans une adaptation conforme et à la langue arabe et au milieu musulman; La Fontaine l’a scruté pour y puiser des idées nouvelles: des idées orientales mais qui seraient habillées à la française. Pourtant, nous nous hâtons de signaler que La Fontaine n’a connu le fond indien qu’à travers une traduction française de la version arabe d’Ibn al Muqaffa’…”/“La Fontaine and Ibn al-Muqaffa’ are two famous names, one in Europe, the other in the Arab-Muslim world. Their point in common is the “pantchatantra.” Ibn al-Muqaffa’ read it in order to reproduce it in an adaptation that conforms to the Arabic language and to the Muslim world; La Fontaine studied it to obtain new ideas: oriental ideas but cloaked in French sensibilities. At the same time, we must stress that La Fontaine encountered the Indian content only through a French translation of the Arabic version by Ibn al-Muqaffa” (Fables de La Fontaine

312  Notes to pages 198–203 d’origine orientale, 77). He goes on to explain the work’s origin: “vers l’an 570, la fable indienne fit son entrée en Perse”/“around 570, the Indian fables entered Persia” (94). “C’est au VIIIième siècle qu’Ibn al-Muqaffa traduisit en Arabe les fables indiennes dans une adaptation intitulée: ’Livre de Kalila wa Dimna.’ Cet ouvrage connu également sous le nom de Fables de Bidpaï, est attribué à un brahmane légendaire, Bidpai ou (Pilpai) qui y prend la place de Vichnouçarman”/“In the eighth century Ibn alMuqaffa translated into Arabic the Indian fables for an adaptation titled ’The Book of Kalila and Dimna.’ This work, also known by the name The Fables of Bidpaï, is attributed to a legendary Brahman, Bidpai or (Pilpai) who stands for Vichnouçarman.” (93). 57 La Fontaine, Fables, Pléiade edition, 245. 58 Darmon, preface to Fables, Poche edition, 473. 59 Marc Fumaroli has remarked upon La Fontaine’s success among female readers. See Le Poète et le roi, pp. 304–9 in particular. 60 Fumaroli, Le Poète et le roi, 380. Fumaroli cites Sévigné’s letter of 20 July 1679. He then writes, “‘Personne,’ ajoutait-elle le 2 août, ne connaît et ne sent mieux son mérite que moi.’”/“‘No one,’ she added on 2 August, ‘knows or feels his worth more than I do.’” (380). 61 Jean-Charles Darmon has examined La Fontaine’s work in depth, especially with respect to Epicurean philosophy as transmitted through Gassendi, in particular in Philosophie épicurienne et littérature au XVIIe siècle. We should remember that Bernier produced his Abrégé de la philosophie de Gassendi while a member of La Sablière’s salon, after his time in India. It is possible that Bernier’s contact with India led him to interpret Gassendi and his philosophy in a particular way, which then influenced the thinking of the philosophers around him, such as La Fontaine, who clearly refers to discussions of Gassendi and Descartes throughout the Fables, as well as in other works. Darmon and others do not make this connection between Bernier’s Indian experience and his role as an interpreter of Gassendi’s philosophy, but such a connection could be fruitful. 62 It should be remembered that La Fontaine’s acceptance speech to the French Academy in 1684 will be another “Discours à Mme de la Sablière,” underscoring yet again his effort to combine the scholarly world founded upon knowledge of classical texts, in this case the Academy, with the salon world that nourished him. 63 Craveri, L’Age de la conversation, 322. 64 Voltaire will incorporate these ideas into his Essai sur les moeurs. 65 Descartes was very well known in salon circles and his work provided fodder for conversation for almost a century. For an in-depth analysis of

Notes to pages 204–5 313 Descartes’ influence on seventeenth-century worldly culture, see Erica Harth’s invaluable Cartesian Women. See also Harriet Stone’s wide-ranging interrogation of Descartes’s influence in her Tables of Knowledge: Descartes in Vermeer’s Studio. 66 Other fables in this second volume underscore La Fontaine’s accent on the acquisition of knowledge and its association with diversity, India, and salon culture. It is interesting to note that after stressing the word “divers” and “diversité” in the “Avertissement,” these words do not appear again until volume 9, the volume that contains the “Discours” and many of the Pilpay-derived fables. The volume as a whole seems to underscore many of the themes we have seen in the “Discours” and that were again present in the “Corbeau” fable. In fable 7, for example, titled “La Souris Métamorphosée en Fille”/“The Mouse Metamorphosed into a Girl,” La Fontaine delves into Hindu thought, showing his interest in reincarnation. He begins the fable writing, “Une Souris tomba du bec d’un Chat-Huant: / Je ne l’eusse pas ramassée; Mais un Bramin le fit; je le crois aisément: / chaque pays a sa pensée. / La Souris était froissée: / De cette sorte de prochain / Nous nous soucions peu: mais le peuple bramin / Le traite en frère; ils ont en tête / Que notre âme au sortir d’un Roi / Entre dans un ciron, ou dans telle autre bête / qu’il plaît au Sort. C’est là l’un des points de leur loi.”/“A mouse fell from the mouth of a wood owl: / I wouldn’t have picked it up, but a Brahmin did; I firmly believe: / every country has its way of thinking. / The Mouse was crumpled: Of this kind of fellow being / we give little thought: but the Hindu people / treat [such beings] as brothers; they believe that the soul of a King / enters into a mite, or another such animal / as fortune would have it. That is one of the characteristics of their law” (Garnier Flammarion edition, 274). La Fontaine’s choice of a king whose soul could next be found “dans telle autre bête” also underscores one of the other themes explored in this particular volume: the foundations and the limits of political power. 67 Anatole France, “Mme de La Sablière,” Journal officiel de la République Française, 7 October 1877, n.p. 68 Collinet, the editor of the Pléiade edition of La Fontaine’s works, maintains that “le Corbeau” “regroupe les thèmes majeurs de ses fables” (La Fontaine, Fables, 1292). It can thus be read as representative of La Fontaine’s thought in general in this second volume. 69 The edition of Pilpay/Bidpai used by La Fontaine has the title Le Livre des lumières, ou la Conduite des rois, composé par le sage Pilpay indien, traduit en français par David Sahib d’Isaphan, ville capitale de Perse. David Sahib is likely the pseudonym of the orientalist Gilbert Gaulmin, according to La

314  Notes to pages 206–14 Fontaine’s Pléiade editor, Jean-Pierre Collinet. This edition was published in Paris in 1644 by Siméon Piget. 70 For an analysis of La Fontaine’s use of Pilpay, see A. Tilley, “La Fontaine and Bidpai.” Tilley provides a reading of the differences between Bidpai’s “Le Corbeau” and La Fontaine’s (37–9). He also stresses the diversity of the group of animals. 71 La Fontaine, Fables, Garnier Flammarion, 456. 72 Ibid., 211. 73 In her introduction to an English translation of the Entretiens/Conversations, Nina Gelbart describes Rouen as “a city in Provincial Normandy, an area with considerable Protestant roots.” (xiv). 74 Fontenelle, Conversations, xiv. 75 As the editor of the 2008 English edition of the Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds explains, in the Histoire des Oracles “There was a clear implication that Christianity itself was, if not based on superstition, at least tainted by it. … The book was clearly interpreted in this light by the Jesuit, Jean François Baltus, who published a Réponse à L’Histoire des Oracles de M. de Fontenelle in 1707. That this response had taken over twenty years gives some indication of how hard Baltus had worked to counter this perceived threat to the Church” (xvii). 76 See Timmermans, L’accès des femmes, 103. 77 Fontenelle, Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes. All citations from the French are drawn from the 1998 Garnier Flammarion edition. 78 Fontenelle, Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds, ed. by Lalande 10 –11. All references to this work in English are to this 2008 edition, translated by Elizabeth Gunning. 79 Gelbart writes that, “Since its first appearance in French, there have been approximately one hundred editions of the Entretiens. It has been translated into English, Danish, Dutch, German, Greek, Italian, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish. Thus there is a very real sense in which Fontenelle’s work spread the word, encouraged the curiosity, and created the international audience that this subject [astronomical theories] still enjoys today” (Fontenelle, Conversations, vii–viii). 80 See Juliette Cherbuliez’s insightful depiction of the intellectual realm as reflected in the Entretiens in “Ways of Knowing: Fontenelle and Gender” in Options for Teaching Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century French Women Writers, 109–18. 81 We remember that La Sablière wrote to Bernier that the discovery of new worlds necessitated a rethinking of our classifications of human nature.

Notes to pages 215–30 315 82 In The Argumentative Indian, Amartya Sen disputes the claim developed under colonialism that reason is located in the West and that a “spiritual” culture like India’s does not function according to reason. 83 In “The Voices of Shadows: Lafayette’s Zayde,” I argue that Lafayette explores how multiple voices lead to knowledge. Zayde was published in 1670. I don’t believe it is entirely coincidental that the only novel Lafayette penned that has an “oriental” flavour centres on ways of knowing and how knowledge must be constructed through collaboration and conversation. Chapter Four









1 Bernier, Un Libertin dans l’Inde Moghole, 300. 2 Menjot d’Elbenne, Mme de La Sablière, 167 3 It is interesting to note that Colbert’s family made its fortune in textiles. 4 See Ellen Welch’s A Taste for the Foreign for an enlightening examination of the kind of taste that I will be examining in this chapter. Welch does not identify this taste with India, but she illustrates how the seventeenth-­ century public was attracted to the exotic, which in her analysis she associates primarily with the Ottoman Empire. 5 See my Mastering Memory for a discussion of the use of taste as a tool for evaluating literary works. 6 The editors of Distant Lands and Diverse Cultures: The French Experience in Asia, 1600–1700, Glenn J. Ames and Ronald S. Love, also comment upon this sense of cultural relativism that pervades many of these early travel narratives: “Thus, a developing cultural relativism is perhaps the most vital thread that runs through all of these books, as each author came to appreciate that difference a priori did not constitute inferiority or superiority” (xvii). 7 It is interesting to note that while the Mughal emperor willingly gave silks spun with gold and silver threads, Louis XIV eventually banned his subjects from wearing fabrics woven with gold and silver, reserving that right for himself and for the few individuals he himself chose to grant that privilege. 8 In the seventeeth century, a ’magasin’ was where goods were sold wholesale in large quantities, whereas ’boutique’ was the word used to designate store or shop in the modern sense of the term. 9 In paintings of the period artists often evoked India through these indiennes. A particularly striking example is the series of paintings by André Reinoso depicting the life of Saint Francis Xavier, especially his travels

316  Notes to pages 230–5 in India. These paintings are found in Lisbon at the Church of Sao Roque. I wish to thank Pierre Léglise-Costa for introducing me to these paintings. In Interwoven Globe, Melinda Watt’s contribution identifies other places where one can see examples of seventeenth-century indiennes. She relates a description of a room in England in 1655: “Here was a roome hung with Pentado full of figures neat and small, prettily representing sundry trades and occupations of the Indians, with their habits” (89). 10 Guy, “’One Thing Leads to Another’,” 19. 11 Philippe Haudrère explains that the “principale difficulté rencontrée par les commerçants de la compagnie est que la vente des envois de marchandises ne permet pas, même si on y ajoute les profits tirés des diverses spéculations, d’avoir les sommes nécessaires pour acheter la totalité des cargaisons de retour. La différence est réglée en métaux précieux, or et surtout argent. Cette exportation d’argent est un élément constant des critiques contre la poursuite du commerce en Asie. … Citons, par exemple, un ’bon françois, fidèle sujet de Sa Majesté,’ qui affirme: ’L’Europe serait infiniment plus riche, si l’on n’avoit connu ce pays là …’ ”/“the biggest difficulty encountered by the merchants of the Compagnie is that the sale of their merchandise, even if one added the profits from various speculations, didn’t add up to enough to pay for the shipments that were going back. The difference was made up in precious metals, gold but especially silver. This exporting of silver is a constant complaint held against Asian commerce. … One ’good Frenchman, a faithful subject of his Majesty’ affirmed that ’Europe would be much richer if we had never known that country’” (Les Compagnies des Indes orientales, 38). 12 Women’s Taste and the Fabric Wars 13 As cited in Haudrère, “La Compagnie des Indes,” in L’Aventure des Français, 37–8. Les Indes orientales was used to refer to India but also to all the countries of the Far East. In this instance, Charpentier seems to be referring to countries beyond India, but it should be remembered that much of the trade from the East went through India. Fabrics were, as we shall see, most developed in India itself, and thus associated with India in the seventeenth century. 14 See Sven Beckert’s Empire of Cotton for an in-depth study of the global ­history of this commodity. 15 P. Coeurdoux to P. du Halde, 18 January 1742, Lettres édifiantes et curieuses des jésuites de l’Inde au dix-huitième siècle, eds. Isabelle and Jean-Louis Vissière, 142–3. 16 Cited in Haudrère, “La Compagnie des Indes,” in L’Aventure des Français, 13.

Notes to page 236 317 17 For an historical analysis of the trade in Asian textiles in France during this period, see Felicia Gottmann, Global Trade, Smuggling, and the Making of Economic Liberalism: Asian Textiles in France 1680-1760, which appeared after the completion of the present study. Gottmann’s valuable analysis is focused primarily on the eighteenth century, but chapter 1, especially pp. 18–33, provides a good synthesis of the history I am presenting here. For Gottmann, and other scholars such as Watt, however, indiennes were not necessarily associated primarily with India in the minds of early modern Europeans. Their provenance was often identified as the more nebulous “Orient.” I argue, however, that these textiles were identified specifically with India, due in part to travellers such as Bernier who clearly describe indiennes and their role and function in Indian society. As shall become apparent in my analysis, Bernier’s seventeenth-century contemporaries and interlocutors associated these fabrics with India and its culture. 18 Haudrère explains that fabrics were the principal import, stating that, “l’essentiel ce sont les cotonnades, dont une fois encore les quantités embarquées ne cessent de croître, de 100,000 pièces à la fin du XVIIe siècle et au début du XVIIIe siècle, à 200,000, puis 300,000 pièces, dont moitié de cotonnades blanches, et le reste de mousselines, cotonnades teintes en bleu, ou cotonnades ’peintes.’ Il y a très peu de soieries”/“Most of this was made up of cottons; yet again the quantities kept rising, from 100,000 pieces at the end of the seventeenth century and beginning of the eighteenth, to 200,000 and then 300,000, of which half were white cottons and the rest were mousselines, dyed blue cottons, or ‘painted’ cottons. There were very few silks.” “Les Ventes,” in Les Compagnies des Indes, 80. 19 See Haudrère, “La Compagnie des Indes,” in L’Aventure des Français, 52. 20 In his contribution to L’Aventure des Français en Inde, Haudrère describes in detail the various merchandise obtained by the French Compagnie des Indes. See his “La Compagnie des Indes,” pp. 37–58. 21 Ibid., 57. This desire continued well into the eighteenth century. Haudrère specifies that between 1720 and 1770, France sent 533 ships to India. By the second half of the seventeenth century, France ranked third in the world in maritime commerce. See Philippe Haudrère, Les Compagnies des Indes orientales for a complete history of the European East India Companies. 22 Olivier Raveux discusses these fake indiennes. See “Du commerce à la production,” 23–4. He explains that Armenian merchants were responsible for teaching Europeans how to produce these printed cottons. They brought the technology from India and introduced it to Persia, from where

318  Notes to pages 236–7 it filtered over to the continent (24). Cities such as Marseille, Avignon, Genoa, Gênes, Livourne, London, and Amsterdam all produced imitation indiennes, but the public was not fooled, especially because these printed fabrics faded immediately upon washing, unlike true indiennes. 23 Coquery, “Luxe, Orient, consummation,” 29: “La fréquence des termes ­“indes” et “indiennes” est un indice du succès commercial et de l’attractivité du produit. … La plupart ont choisi de mettre en valeur l’origine étrangère, synonyme de distinction”/“The frequency of the appearance of the terms indes and indiennes is an indication of the commercial success and of the popularity of the product. … Most merchants chose to highlight the foreign origin [of the textiles,] which was synonymous with quality.” 24 Haudrère, “La Compagnie des Indes,” in L’Aventure des Français, 42. “Pour faire du commerce, il fallait créer des ’comptoirs,’ c’est à dire un ensemble de logements et de magasins établis sur un terrain dont la Compagnie était propriétaire, avec la possibilité d’abriter les cargaisons en attendant l’arrivée des vaisseaux. Un personnel résident était chargé des achats, des ventes, des expéditions, de la comptabilité. Cette installation était relativement facile à conduire, car les autorités locales étaient favorables à l’établissement de commerçants étrangers. La loi des Mogols se montrait tout à fait tolerante à l’égard des communautés étrangères, auxquelles elle laissait une grande autonomie administrative et judiciaire. Quant aux princes hindous,…ils recherchaient les commerçants étrangers, qui versaient de fortes sommes pour obtenir l’autorisation d’acquérir un terrain, et apportaient ensuite de grandes quantités de métaux précieux, argent et or, pour acheter des produits fabriqués ou des matières premières.”/“In order to enter into trade, it was necessary to establish ’comptoirs,’ which is to say a lodging and warehouse established on land that the company owned, with the possibility of storing cargo while waiting for the arrival of ships. Resident personnel were in change of buying, selling, shipping, and accounts. This installation was relatively easy to do because local authorities looked favourably on these foreign traders. Mughal law was tolerant of these foreign communities, to which it gave great administrative and judicial autonomy. As for Hindu princes … they sought out foreign traders, who gave them large sums to obtain the right to buy land, and then brought large quantities of precious metals, silver and gold, to buy products or to obtain materials.” Europeans accepted being “dans une position juridiquement subordonnée, soit à l’égard de l’empereur mogol, suzerain par excellence, soit à l’égard des gouverneurs qui, au XVIIe et surtout au XVIIIe siècle, tendaient à devenir de plus en plus indépendants

Notes to pages 237–9 319 de l’autorité de l’empereur”/“in a position that was juridically subordinate, either with respect to the Mughal emperor, who was the most important ruler, or with respect to the governors who, in the seventeenth and especially in the eighteenth century, tended to become more and more independent of the Mughal’s authority,” (42–3). 25 As Rose Vincent states, “l’argent, tel était le souci majeur de ces mar­ chands. Ils étaient, comme la Compagnie elle-même, à mille lieues de ce qui devint au siècle suivant l’esprit colonialiste. Aucun rêve de conquête ou de domination ne venait troubler leur sommeil: tous espéraient, après fortune faite, revenir en France”/“money was the principal interest for these merchants. They, like the company itself, were far from the colonialist mindset of the following century. Not a single dream of conquest or domination troubled their sleep: each one hoped, after making a fortune, to return to France,’ (“L’apogée de Pondichéry,” 61). 26 Ibid. 27 I argue here that the popularity of these toiles peintes from India begins in the 1670s, if not a few years before, and corresponds to Bernier’s accounts and his return from India. Other historians, however, have attributed this passion for indiennes to the arrival of the Siamese ambassador to Louis’s court in 1680. But, as Pierre Dardel has noted, indiennes were already quite popular by the 1670s and the French companies were already imitating them in Marseille in the 1660s and in Rouen in the 1670s. He concludes that “ces toiles étaient connus chez nous depuis 1658, au moins”/“these fabrics were known [in France] from at least 1658” (Les Manufactures de toiles peintes, 12). 28 For a complete history of this industry and trade in France, see Edgard Depitre, La Toile peinte en France au XVIIe et au XVIIIe siècles. 29 Depitre, La Toile peinte en France, 15. 30 Haudrère, “Naissance du goût de l’Inde en Europe (XVIe-XVIIIe siècles),” 11–13. “… grâce à l’excellente qualité des mordants utilisés par les Orientaux elles peuvent conserver leurs couleurs, même après un long usage”/“… thanks to the excellent quality of the dies used by the Orientals, they could conserve their colors for a very long time” (13). 31 Lafayette, letter to Lescheraine, 9 December 1680, in Lafayette, Correspon­ dance, 99–100. 32 Sévigné to Madame de Grignan, 29 January 1674, Sévigné, Correspondance, 1:687. 33 Letter to Madame de Grignan, 2 March 1689, Sévigné, Correspondance, 3: 525. 34 Cited in Thépaut-Cabasset, L’Esprit des modes, 122–3.

320  Notes to pages 239–47 35 Thépaut-Cabasset, L’Esprit des modes au Grand Siècle, 134. In this volume, Thépaut-Cabasset has assembled all the entries from the Mercure Galant pertaining to fashion. 36 Findly, Nur Jahan, 150. 37 See chapter 2, where I elaborate on the relationship between Mughal women and trade based on Findly’s study, “The Capture of Maryam-uzZamani’s ship.” 38 Haudrère, “La Compagnie des Indes,” in L’Aventure des Français, 43. This is the same La Boullaye we encountered in chapter 1. 39 Castonnet Des Fosses, François Bernier, ses voyages dans l’Inde, 51. 40 Ibid. 41 Edgard Depitre, La Toile peinte en France, 15. 42 Garrigou and Ziéglé, “Bordeaux, Port de la façade atlantique et ses relations commerciales avec les Indes Orietales,” 22. Agnès Garrigou and Anne Ziéglé explain bans by saying they were to protect French manufacturers. 43 Arrêt du Conseil d’Etat pour l’éxecution du celui du 27 janvier dernier concernant les toiles de coton tant peintes que blanches. 8 février 1687. BN 23640, F 150–231. 44 Arrêt of 26 octobre 1686. BNF F23640 (121) 45 Cited in Depitre, La Toile peinte en France,10. 46 Philippe Haudrère gives a succinct overview of the bans imposed on fabric imports and the financial ramifications for the French East India Company. See “La Compagnie des Indes,” in L’Aventure des Français en Inde, 54. 47 Silks from Bengal, which were the most sought after, and also those from China were also eventually banned for a short while between 1714 and 1727. 48 Haudrère, “Les Ventes,” in Les Compagnies des Indes, co-written by Haudrère and Le Bouëdec, p. 84 (See Plate 1). 49 Margoline-Plot , “Les Pacotilles et les circuits parallèles de distribution des cotonnades en Bretagne au XVIIIe siècle,” 70. 50 Haudrère, “La Compagnie des Indes,” in L’Aventure des Français en Inde 54. 51 Ibid. An example of such a is reproduced in Haudrère’s “La Compagnie des Indes et le commerce des toiles indiennes” in Féerie ­indienne, 17. 52 Cited in Jones, Sexing la Mode, 32. 53 Cited in Depitre, La Toile peinte en France, 69–70. 54 See Wellington, East India Companies, 37, for example. In his studies of the Compagnie des Indes, Philippe Haudrère is of this opinion. Jennifer Jones also explains the ban on indiennes as Colbert’s desire to protect Lyon’s silk industry (Sexing la mode, 32). But as we have seen, silks were not the most

Notes to pages 247–9 321 important imports; cottons were. The silk industry in Lyon was never ­really in danger from indiennes. 55 Indeed after the bans were officially lifted in 1760, French manufacturers did respond and produced printed cottons that were quite successful. The “toiles de Jouy” are just one example of a French fabric manufacturer who used Indian inspired designs and imported cottons to create quality French printed cottons that were successfully marketed throughout Europe and even today enjoy great popularity. Even during the bans, certain French manufacturers did manage to continue to develop the printing techniques needed to compete with Indian imports. Certain cities such as Marseille were exempt from the bans at times, or at least from certain parts of these bans. This explains in part how “paisley” became synonymous with “provençal.” 56 In 1703 Caspar Luyken compiled a Gallery of Late 17th-century Costume, which he published in Nuremberg. In his introduction he writes that “dress distinguishes people of one class from those of another, allowing one to distinguish a nobleman from a peasant, a German from a Pole, and so forth, since rarely does one country wear the same costumes as another, an exception being the recent Parisian fashion that has spread like a crab consuming everything in its path, so that several nations now are infected” (vii). 57 Jones, Sexing la Mode, 38. 58 Mercure Galant, 1673. French text reproduced in L’Esprit des modes au Grand Siecle (51–2). English cited in Jones, Sexing la Mode, 38. 59 As Corinne Thépaut-Cabasset, the editor of the compilation of the articles on fashion that appeared in the Mercure Galant, underscores, “En tant que consommateur, le roi donne l’exemple qui est suivi par toute la cour” / ’as a consumer, the king sets the example that is followed by the whole court’ (L’Esprit des modes au Grand Siècle, 30). 60 Ibid., 69. 61 Thépaut-Cabasset explains that “ces édits ou lois somptuaires étaient destinés à limiter ou interdire la consommation de produits luxueux, et particulièrement celle du métal précieux dans les vêtements, restant réservé au rang social le plus élevé”/“these edicts or laws were designed to limit or interdict the consumption of luxury products, especially those with precious metals in clothes, which were reserved for the highest rank in society” (L’Esprit des modes, 33). 62 Ibid., 69. 63 Jones, Sexing la Mode, 40. 64 Ibid.

322  Notes to pages 250–8 65 Coquery, “Luxe, Orient, consommation,” 29. “La fréquence des termes ­“indes” et “indiennes” est un indice du succès commercial et de l’attrac­ tivité du produit. … La plupart ont choisi de mettre en valeur l’origine étrangère, synonyme de distinction.” 66 See DeJean, Essence of Style. Throughout her study of Louis XIV’s influence DeJean does not discuss the role and influence of India as I am doing here. In fact, when she does refer to India, it is to systematically elevate Louis XIV over his Mughal counterparts. See n. 79, p. 323 of the present study. 67 Furetière cites Borneo as another source for diamonds. The most wellknown specimens, however, all came from India. 68 This diamond was recently sold at auction by Sotheby’s. Henri IV had given it to his wife, Marie de Medici. It was originally from India. 69 Furetière, Dictionnaire universel. 70 Even today people remain attached to various myths surrounding the Peacock Throne. Some say it was commissioned by Jahangir, others attribute it to his son Shah Jahan. Some say it was designed entirely by a French jeweller named Augustin Hiriart from Bordeaux who went to Jahangir’s court and served as a jeweller as well as a military engineer. Others dispute this foreign attribution. In her article, “Des Aventures de quelques Français en Inde au XVIIe siècle,” Annette Frémont accepts Hiriart as the designer and quotes him as stating that he designed a throne for Jahangir because “il a plus de diamants à lui seul que tous les princes de l’univers réunis”/“the king has more diamonds than all the princes of the universe put together” (14). 71 Frédéric Tinguely provides Tavernier’s description of the peacock throne in his edition of Bernier’s text, Un Libertin dans l’Inde moghole, 491–2. 72 Tavernier was perhaps able to observe the throne more closely because he was granted access to the royal treasury by Aurangzeb himself. He describes examining the emperors’ treasure in his memoirs. 73 Aurangzeb was actually the least flamboyant of all the Mughal emperors. He was a very conservative Muslim who looked down on such displays of opulence except when they were associated with the act of ruling, as in Bernier’s description of Aurangzeb’s official audience. Aurangzeb’s father, Shah Jahan, on the other hand, whom Bernier also writes about and whom he met, was known for his cultivation and expansion of the arts. 74 This blue diamond would eventually be known as the Hope Diamond when it was purchased by Henry Philip Hope in 1839, after it was stolen from the French crown jewels during the Revolution. DeJean recounts Louis’s relationship to diamonds in The Essence of Style, 168–76. 75 DeJean, The Essence of Style, 172. I discuss this episode in chapter 1.

Notes to pages 258–66 323 76 Travellers describe the blankets of pearls, for example, that were made to cover Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb at the Taj Mahal. 77 For example, the Blue or Hope Diamond was reduced from 111 carets to 69 in 1673. It was reduced again to 45 carets in 1812 in order to make it marketable. DeJean, The Essence of Style, 167. 78 Ibid., 173 79 DeJean proposes that the French love for diamonds brought the “world he [Louis] had discovered in India to an end” (Ibid., 176). This statement grants Louis more power than he deserves. Diamond production from Golconda did diminish by the end of Louis’s reign, but this was not due to the fact that Louis had bought all the diamonds, as DeJean suggests, but rather was due to political instability in the region and the decline of the Mughal Empire itself. 80 See Michèle Longino’s chapter devoted to an analysis of Le Bourgeois gentilhomme in Orientalism in French Classical Drama, 109–46. Longino focuses her analysis on the play’s use of language and the way Molière treats “the linguistic and commercial, and, by implication, diplomatic and cultural relations that obtained between the French and the Ottomans in and around 1670, when the play was first staged” (110). Her rich and provocative reading is the genesis of my own interpretation here, with the emphasis shifted from the inscription of the Ottoman Empire to what I view as a less obvious but nonetheless important trail of references to les Indes orientales. See also Ellen McClure’s provocative and innovative reading of Molière’s play in relation to orientalism in her “’Une parfaite et sincère bonne correspondance et amitié’”. 81 See my “Reseaux mondains et créations littéraires” for a reading of the play in the context of salon conversation and textual production. 82 Molière, Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, 1670. 83 It is interesting to note that Tavernier himself was a bourgeois merchant who was eventually ennobled by Louis XIV. However, as a Protestant he eventually fled to Switzerland after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. 84 Longino, Orientalism in French Classical Drama, 145–6. 85 Ibid., 146. 86 Schimmel, The Empire of the Great Mughals, 289. 87 Currently the shish mahal in Agra fort is being restored. Another later, particularly remarkable example of this creation, arguably modeled on Shah Jahan’s shish mahal in Agra, can be found in Jaipur at the Amber Fort. Hundreds of thousands of mirror mosaics line the entire surface of this large shish mahal, which is the centrepiece of the fort. One can only imagine the shimmering effect produced by candles in such rooms. Even

324  Notes to pages 266–73 today one has the impression of being inside a facetted diamond. The effect is compounded by the mirroring of these rooms in the reflecting canals and pools symmetrically organized around them. 88 Castelluccio, Les Fastes de la Galerie des Glaces, 10–12. 89 Ibid., 33. 90 Ibid., 13. 91 The first time was for the Doge de Gènes, arguably someone who also would have been familiar with Indian use of mirrors. 92 Castelluccio, Les Fastes de la Galerie des Glaces, 12. 93 Goldstein, Vaux et Versailles, 4. Afterword

1 Staël, “De l’esprit de conversation,” 102. 2 Ibid., 101 3 Ibid. 4 Ibid., 102. 5 Another salon where Bernier was welcomed as a guest was in London, but its founder and animator was the Cardinal Mazarin’s exiled niece, Hortense Mancini. 6 Amartya Sen, The Argumentative Indian, 145. 7 Sen focuses on the creation of India’s “intellectual past” in his analysis of the construction of India in the western imagination. He compelling shows how these conceptions still affect reality today. See in particular chapter 7, “Indian Tradition and the Western Imagination” in The Argumen­ tative Indian, 139–60.

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Index

absolutism, 24, 81, 92, 173, 185, 211, 220, 222, 248–50. See also Louis XIV Académie française. See French Academy Academies, 17–19, 31, 32, 40, 93, 102, 195, 211, 286n32. See also French Academy; Chapelain Aesop, 195, 196, 199 Agra, 45, 54, 65, 77, 82, 113, 118, 127, 129, 183, 187, 224, 225, 266, 323n87 Akbar, 23, 52, 113, 116, 122, 128, 177, 178–82, 187, 268, 309n26. See also Mughals: emperors astrology, 69–70, 83, 147–52 astronomy, 39, 212, 277n9, 278n12 Aurangzeb, 13, 23–4, 45, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59–60, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67–8, 69, 72–9, 105, 108, 110, 112, 116, 119, 120, 121, 123, 124, 128–9, 139–40, 181–3, 228, 240–1, 251, 254, 255, 256, 268, 278n15, 280n39, 288n55, 289n57, 291–2n78, 292n81, 301n60–1, 301n101, 309n25, 322nn72–3. See also Dryden; Mughals: emperors; Peacock Throne Aureng-Zebe. See Aurangzeb; Dryden

Barbin, Claude, 14, 40, 42, 81, 104, 105, 174 Bayle, Pierre, 14, 37, 171, 283n10, 287n41 Beckert, Sven, 280n35, 316n14 Bernier, François, 11–14, 16–18, 23, 29, 32, 36, 37, 39, 41, 42, 46, 50, 58, 60–4, 65–90, 91–103, 103–35, 137, 138–43, 146, 147, 158–9, 162, 171–4, 175, 178, 180, 182, 183, 184–95, 196, 197, 198, 199, 200, 202, 203, 210, 212, 216, 217, 218, 221, 222, 224–34, 237, 240, 241, 248, 251–2, 253–6, 258, 259, 260, 266, 267, 268, 270, 271, 272, 273, 276n5, 277n11, 278n14, 279n21, 285n22, 285n25, 286n30, 287n39, 287–8n50, 288n52, 288n55, 289n57, 289n63, 289n66, 290n70, 290n72, 291nn73–5, 291n77, 291–2n78, 292n82, 293n1, 294n7, 294n10, 294n12, 295n17, 297n24, 297n25, 297n27, 298n37, 300n57, 300n59, 304n98, 304n101, 305n106, 305–6n5, 306n8, 308n18, 310n48, 310–11n54, 315n81, 317n17, 319n27, 322n71, 322n73, 324n5;

340 Index – L’abrégé de la philosophie de Gassendi, 16, 171; – Doutes de M. Bernier sur quelquesuns des principaux chapitres de son Abrégé de la philosophie de Gassendi, 16, 171; – Evénements particuliers, 14, 42–4, 51, 52, 57, 58, 60–4, 67–70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 79, 81, 86, 87; – Histoire de la dernière révolution des états du Grand Mogol, 14, 40, 42–3, 48, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 56, 57, 64, 66, 67, 71, 72, 73, 74, 79, 81, 87, 104–35, 139–40, 141, 160, 162, 185, 186, 288n55–6, 304n101; – Lettre de l’étendue de l’Hindoustan (addressed to Colbert), 14, 25, 43–4, 46, 51, 52, 71–81, 125–6, 188, 210, 230; – Relation du voyage fait en 1664… au royaume de Cachemire (addressed to M. de Merveilles), 14, 45–6, 52, 128–34, 231–2; – and salon culture, 16, 39, 42–8, 52, 65, 71, 103–35, 297n25, 297n27; – Suite des Mémoires du Sieur Bernier sur l’empire du Grand Mogol (contains letters to Chapelain, La Mothe le Vayer, Chapelle, and M. de Merveilles), 14, 44–5, 47, 52, 81–90, 122, 126–8, 159, 173, 186, 189, 194, 224, 253, 285n25; – and textiles, 63, 64, 87, 224–33, 240, 241, 248, 317n17, 319n27; – writings on India, composition of, 24–5, 30, 31, 39, 40, 41, 42–8, 54, 91–113, 103– 35, 171–4;

– writings on India, interpretations of, 15, 16, 25, 46–7, 53, 71–2, 85, 289n59. See also Chapelain; Dryden – writings on India, publication history of, 40–7, 103–4, 158; Bhattacharya, France, 277–8n11, 289n63 Bidpaï. See Pilpay Boileau, Nicolas, 37–8, 40, 294n7, 305n5 Bouhours, le père, 35, 286n31, 308n24 Brock, Irving, 21, 280n30 Burke, Peter, 277–8n11, 279n21, 281n41 Bury, Emmanuel, 282n7, 282n8 Cadre, Pierre, 3–4 Caron, François, 61, 241, 290–1nn71–2 Castelluccio, Stephane, 266, 267 Castonnet des Fosses, Henri-Louis, 14, 182–3, 197, 241, 287–8n50, 290n72, 291n73, 309n25, 310–11n54 Catholicism. See religion Céberet du Boullay, Claude, 4, 6, 275n2 Chapelain, Jean, 14, 18, 40, 45, 47, 52, 81, 86–7, 91–103, 104, 105, 108, 110, 137, 156, 159, 165, 173, 174, 187, 188, 189, 192, 194, 212, 286n30, 289n66, 293n89, 293– 4nn1–5, 294n7, 294n10, 294n12, 294–6nn14–19, 296–7n21, 298n37 Chapelle (Claude-Emmanuel Luillier), 12, 14, 35, 40, 45, 47, 81, 87, 285n23, 285n25, 305n5. See also Bernier: Suite

Index 341 Chardin, 174, 180 Charnes, Jean Antoine, abbé de, 106, 135 Charpentier, 22–3, 221, 223, 233, 316n13 Chartier, Roger, 18–19, 30 Choudhury, Mita, 168–9, 304n103, 305n105 Colbert, Jean-Baptiste, 4, 14, 22–3, 25, 46, 47, 51, 53, 61, 71–80, 91–3, 99, 125–7, 210, 230–1, 233, 240, 241, 242, 277n10, 289n59, 289n66, 290n71, 292n80, 292n84, 292–3n85, 293n87, 294n4, 315n3 Collas, Georges, 92–3, 293–4nn2–4 colonialism, 21–3, 109, 118, 163, 168–9, 176, 188, 236–7, 271–3, 300n55, 305n106, 315n82, 319n25 commerce with India, 22, 25, 115, 222, 240, 270, 275n2, 280–1n39, 317n17, 318n23, 318–19n24, 319n25, 319n28, 320n37, 320n47. See also Compa­gnie des Indes; diamonds; East India Company; textiles Compagnie des Indes, 3–4, 22, 24, 61–2, 74, 222, 233, 236, 237, 240–7, 290–1n71–2, 316n11, 316n13, 317nn17–18, 317nn20–1, 318n24, 319n25, 320n46, 320–1n54 Conley, John, 36, 277n8, 277n9, 279n21, 283n11, 287n37, 306n7 Conrart, Valentin, 33, 195, 283n15, 285n23 conversation: as cultural practice, 10, 16–17, 19, 20, 29–30, 31, 32, 60, 79, 102, 178, 185, 200, 201, 203, 204, 206, 211, 212, 214, 215, 217, 220, 228, 240, 269–73, 276n5, 279n25, 281n4, 286n30, 287–8n50, 315n83. See also salons;

– and textual production, 18, 25–8, 31, 42–8, 53, 65, 66, 71–2, 79, 81, 84, 85, 90, 92–5, 102–10, 111, 113, 118, 121, 134, 137–8, 143, 146–7, 150–1, 153, 155, 159, 172–3, 195–9, 200–10, 315n83, 323n81 Coquery, Natacha, 236, 250, 318n23, 322n65 Corneille, Pierre, 92, 211 Couton, George, 196–7, 310n50 Craft, Peter, 159, 161 Craveri, Bernadette, 16, 37, 279n25, 283n11, 297n22 cultural relativism, 45, 81–2, 85, 184, 185, 224 Daneshmend Khan, 13, 54, 87, 189, 190 Dangeau, marquis de, 35, 38, 285n24 Dara Shikoh, 13, 55, 56, 57, 65, 120, 122, 139–40, 160–1, 165, 182, 186, 301n60. See also Mughal: emperors Das, Gucharan, 24, 280–1nn35–9 DeJean, Joan, 258, 279n25, 282n8, 303n90, 322n66, 322n74, 323n77, 323n79 Depitre, Edgard, 237–8, 319n28 Descartes, René, 26, 39, 87, 136, 150, 171, 200, 201, 203, 287n47, 305n4, 312n61, 312–13n65 Dew, Nicholas, 17, 103, 104, 276n5, 281n41, 292n80, 294n10, 294n12, 296–7n21, 297n24, 297n27 diamonds, 11, 13, 23, 27, 32, 39, 250–9, 263–5, 267, 268, 280n36, 288n52 diplomacy, 58, 59–64, 123, 228–9, 259–61, 267; and Mughal culture,

342 Index 59–64, 123, 228–9; and seventeenth-century France, 59–60, 61–64, 267. See also Louis XIV; Molière: Le Bourgeois gentilhomme; Mughals: diplomacy; Mughals: emperors Donneau de Visé. See Mercure Galant Dryden, John, 158–69, 271, 297n24, 304n98, 304–5nn102–5, 310n48 DuJarric, Père, 178–9

France, Anatole, 205, 283n11, 285n23 Fronde, the, 67, 110, 291n76, 300n58 Frykenberg, Robert, 175–6, 306– 7nn11–14, 307n17 Fumaroli, Marc, 279n25, 279n27, 282n6, 282–3n9, 293n86, 305–6n5, 312nn59–60 Furetière, Antoine, 171, 199, 201, 223, 250–1, 305n3, 322n67

East India Companies, 24, 74, 97, 115, 116, 222, 228, 234–7, 240–2, 245, 246–7. See also Compagnie des Indes Edict of Nantes, 36, 86, 146, 173, 193, 194, 245, 303n95, 323n83 Egypt, 72–3, 78 Encyclopédie, 268 England, 20–2, 24, 31, 67, 106, 159, 160–1, 242, 245, 268, 272–3, 301n64, 302n69. See also Dryden Enlightenment (French), 19, 28, 36 esprit, 113, 120, 204, 206, 269, 298n40

galanterie, 104, 139–40, 282–3n9, 297n27. See also sociability Galerie des Glaces. See mirrors Gassendi, Pierre, 12, 16, 26, 32, 39, 46, 87, 150, 171, 201, 278n12, 285n25, 305–6n5, 312n61 Gaulmin, Gilbert, 198, 313–14n69 Gelbart, Nina, 212, 314n73, 314n79 gemstones, 56, 61, 63, 64, 65–6, 74, 144–6, 151, 152, 250–9, 265, 266, 322nn67–8, 322n70, 322n74, 323n77, 323n79. See also diamonds Godo, Emmanuel, 31, 279n25, 282nn5–7 Golconda, 13, 23, 65, 250, 280n36, 323n79. See also diamonds Goldsmith, Elizabeth, 279n25, 282n6, 282n8, 287n40, 302n75 Goldstein, Claire, 268, 278–9n18, 285n21, 293n86 goût. See taste Great Mughal, 41, 45. See also Mughal: emperors Grand siècle, 21, 27–8, 268. See also Louis XIV

fabrics. See indiennes; textiles Findly, Ellison Banks, 111, 118, 239, 298nn41–2, 299n50, 320n37 Fontenelle, Bernard le Bouyet de, 26, 35, 36, 89, 172, 211–20, 314n73; Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes, 27, 89, 195, 212–20, 314n73, 314n75, 314n79, 314–15n80 Fouquet, Nicolas, 34, 80, 268, 278–9n18, 285n21, 292–3n85, 293n86. See also Vaux-le-Vicomte French Academy, 18, 35, 36, 92–3, 99, 211, 283n15, 285n24, 285n26, 286n30, 294n10, 305n3, 312n62 French East India Company. See Compagnie des Indes

Hall of Mirrors. See mirrors; Galerie des Glaces harem. See seraglio

Index 343 Harth, Erica, 279n25, 282n6, 282n8, 287n47, 305n4, 312–13n66 Haudrère, Philippe, 236, 237, 240, 245, 280n32, 316n11, 317n18, 317n20, 318–19n24, 319n30, 320n46, 320n54 Henri IV (French king), 86, 173, 251, 322n68 Herbelot, Barthélemy d’, 39 Hessein, Gilbert de, 11, 32, 34 Hindoustan. See India histoire des mentalités. See history: history of thought history: composition of, 8–10, 19, 20, 39, 41, 42, 43, 65, 85, 98–113, 140, 152, 159, 175, 182, 183, 102, 236–7, 267, 268, 271, 277–8n11, 283n12, 283n14, 324n7; – and cultural memory, 272–3, 324n7; – of encounters between France and India, 8, 19–20, 95, 236–7, 241, 246–7, 258, 268; – and fiction, 49, 54, 103–8, 135–58, 163, 297n30, 298n38, 301n62, 303n83, 303n88, 303n91, 303n94. See also Lafayette; novel; – gender and, 9, 31, 65, 104–6, 159, 269–73, 298n36; – histories of India, 13, 21, 107, 175, 182, 268, 291n77, 309n30, 324n7; – history of print culture, 26, 31; – history of reading, 30; – history of thought (histoire des mentalités), 9, 19, 20, 23–6, 28, 96, 97, 103, 269–73, 276n5, 324n7; – methodologies, 8–9, 18–19, 46, 98, 104–6, 140, 272–3, 289n59; – salons and, 16, 39, 42–8, 66, 86–90, 103–7, 159, 178, 269–73,

277–8n11, 282nn6–8, 282–3n9, 284–5n20, 294n12; – women in historical narratives, 8, 16, 65–6, 87, 89, 101, 103–35, 141–3, 151, 152, 153, 159, 269–73, 282–3n9, 283n12, 283n14, 284n17, 285n26, 287n37, 297–8n35, 299n45; – women writers and, 104–8, 135–58, 164, 276n7. See also Bernier; Chapelain; Chartier; conversation; Dryden Holland, 20, 22, 24, 241, 245, 246, 247, 287n41, 301n64, 317–18n22 Huet, Pierre-Daniel, 30, 36, 92, 101, 136, 137, 286n34, 296n20 Incurables, les, 36, 38, 287n50, 303–4n95 India, 22–4, 41, 55, 62, 102–3, 265–8, 276n5; – Delhi, 45, 54, 56, 82–5, 94–5, 112, 124, 126–7, 188, 224, 225, 229–30, 266, 295n15; – in the early modern imagination, 48, 64–5, 71–5, 74, 81, 98–100, 102–3, 110, 134, 138, 143, 159, 169, 172, 179, 199, 203, 205, 222–3, 229, 231, 237, 238, 250, 251, 270, 280n36. See also Dryden; Fontenelle; Lafayette; La Fontaine; taste, textiles; – Kashmir, 13–14, 41, 45, 46, 87–9, 116, 128, 130, 231–2; – Surat, 12–13, 53, 54, 61, 115, 240–1, 299n72, 301n64; – travellers to, 12–13, 22, 24, 32, 99, 124, 172, 174, 175, 178, 179, 198, 203, 240, 251, 266, 267, 276n5, 277n10, 281n40. See also Bernier; Mughals; Roe; Tavernier;

344 Index – wealth of, 71–80, 125–8, 250, 251–8, 267, 280nn36–7, 280– 1n39, 292n82. See also Peacock Thone indiennes, 4, 27, 222, 229, 230–50, 261–3, 275n3, 315–16n9, 317n17, 317–18nn22–3, 319n2, 320–1n54. See also Bernier: and textiles; taste; textiles Italy, 22, 31, 175 I’timad ud-Daulah, tomb of, 118, 300n55, 309n26 Jahanara, 65, 66, 107, 108, 110, 119–25, 129, 132, 141, 159, 182, 240–1, 300n57, 300–1n59, 301n60, 301n64–5. See also history: women in historical narratives; Mughals: women Jahangir, 23, 70, 110, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 120, 156, 161, 166, 180–1, 186, 268, 289n57, 297–8n35, 298n42, 301n64, 302n70, 309n26, 322n70. See also Mughals: emperors Jesuits. See religion Jones, Jennifer, 247, 249, 320n54 Kinra, Rajeev, 183, 278n15, 291–2nn78–9 La Boulaye, 61–3, 291n75, 320n38 La Bruyère, Jean de, 194, 310n49 Lafayette, Marie-Madeleine Pioche de La Vergne, comtesse de, 6, 8, 10–11, 17, 19, 27, 30, 35, 36, 40, 67, 80, 91, 102, 104, 105, 107, 108, 118, 135–58, 159, 164, 169, 170, 172, 197, 210, 213, 224, 238, 271, 273, 286n34, 292n85, 296n20, 301n62, 302n75, 302n78, 302n80, 303n95, 315n83;

– La Princesse de Clèves, 6–7, 9, 16, 91, 104, 105, 135–58, 160, 170, 197, 210, 212–3, 302n75, 303n88 –9, 303n94, 303nn96–7 La Fontaine, Jean de, 7–11, 16–17, 19, 30, 36, 40, 80, 89, 92, 153, 170, 172, 195–211, 213, 214, 220, 271, 273, 284n17, 285n22–3, 305n3, 305–6n5, 310n50, 310–11n54, 311–12n56, 312n59, 312n61–2, 313n66, 313n68, 313–4n69, 314n70; – “Discours à Mme de La ­Sablière,” 200–4; – Fables, 7, 16, 26, 27, 89, 170, 195–211 – and Marguerite de Sablière, 36, 37, 153, 197, 199, 200–10; Lal, Ruby, 298n42, 298–9n44, 300n56 La Mothe le Vayer, François, 12, 14, 44, 47, 52, 81–6, 92, 93, 99, 112, 122, 224, 253, 295n17. See also Bernier: Suite La Reynie, monsieur de, 248, 259 La Rochefoucauld, 30, 67 La Sablière, Antoine de Rambouillet, seigneur de, 11, 33–4, 38, 39, 195, 283n13–14, 284n17 La Sablière, Marguerite de, 11–14, 16, 18, 20, 24–5, 27, 29–39, 42, 46, 47, 65, 67, 70–1, 79, 85, 87, 90, 93, 102, 104, 106, 110, 118, 124, 135, 137, 140, 143, 146, 150, 151, 153, 155, 158, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 177, 184, 185, 194, 195, 197, 199, 200–11, 212, 213, 215, 216, 220, 222, 224, 228, 229, 238, 260, 267, 270, 273, 277n8, 277n9, 277n11, 279n21, 283n11, 283n15, 284n17, 287n37, 287n48, 287–8n50, 292n85, 297n27, 298n36, 303–4n95, 305n4, 305–6n5, 306nn7–8, 315n81;

Index 345 – salon, composition of, 26, 32, 34–6, 39, 93, 171–2, 196, 197, 278–9n18, 285n22–3, 288n52 Lenclos, Ninon de, 36, 283n14, 284n17 Lens, Louis de, 40, 288n55 Lescheraine, 138, 302nn79–80 Levant, 20, 32, 109, 276n5. See also Ottoman Empire libertines, 12, 16, 36, 42, 272, 278n18, 279n21, 287n39 London, 37, 287n39, 317–18n22, 324n5 Longino, Michèle, 260, 265, 276n5, 279n24, 289n65, 290n68, 323n80, 323n84 Lorient, Brittany, 3–4, 6, 244–5, 275n2 Lougee, Carolyn, 282n8, 284–5n20 Louis le Grand. See Louis XIV Louis XIV, 20, 22, 24, 27, 29, 32, 39, 48, 49, 50, 52, 53, 58, 59, 60, 62–3, 64, 71, 75, 77, 79, 80, 91–3, 101, 102, 131, 136, 137, 143, 146, 173, 178, 184, 185, 199, 200, 220–1, 222, 227, 233, 239–59, 259–60, 265, 265–8, 271–3, 278–9n18, 280n39, 285n21, 288n52, 289–90n66, 291n78, 292n83, 292–3n85, 294n4, 300n58, 319n27, 321n59, 321n61, 322n66, 322n74, 323n79, 323n83. See also absolutism Lullier, Claude-Emmanuel. See Chapelle Luyken, Caspar, 247, 321n56 Mancini, Hortense, 14, 37, 324n5 Manucci, 65. See also travellers Marsh, Kate, 276n5 Mazarin, Jules, Cardinal, 14, 37, 67, 292–3n85, 324n5 McCabe, Ina Baghdiantz, 276n5

McClure, Ellen, 290n68, 323n80 Mehrunnisa. See Nur Jahan memory, 272–3. See also history Ménage, Gilles, 92, 136, 137 Menjot, Antoine, 33, 277n9, 284n18 Menjot d’Elbenne, Samuel, 33, 34, 39, 277n8, 283n11, 283n14, 284n18, 285n22 Mercure galant, le, 38, 135, 211, 239, 247–8, 266, 321n59 Méré, chevalier de, 35, 286n30 Merveilles, monsieur de, 14, 45, 47, 52, 81, 87–9, 95, 98, 116, 128, 231–2, 287n57, 288n55, 295n17. See also Bernier: Suite Milewska, 308n19, 308n23 mirrors, 27, 127–8, 265–8, 323–4n87, 324n91; and la Galerie des Glaces, 266–7; shish mahal, 266–7, 323–4n87 missionnaries, 17, 22, 24, 173, 175–9, 234–6, 306n10, 308n19. See also religion Molière, 27, 30, 35, 59, 259–65, 285n23, 287n48, 290n70, 305n5, 323n80; Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, 27, 59, 259–65, 290n70, 323n80; Les Femmes savantes, 30, 287n48 Montpensier, Anne-Marie Louise d’Orléans, duchesse de, 35, 67, 119, 137, 300n58 Mughals, 12–13, 20–1, 41, 45, 46, 54, 55, 58, 62, 65–6, 68, 71–80, 82–9, 105, 109–10, 111–19, 128, 137, 162, 172–84, 190–4, 226, 231–2, 248, 268, 277n10, 280n39, 299n45, 309n26, 310n48; – emperors, 23–4, 41, 45, 50, 53, 62, 64–6, 76, 100, 113–18, 119–25, 139–40, 156, 162, 172–84, 228–9, 237, 250–8, 267–8, 277n10,

346 Index 291n77, 301n101, 309n26, 318–19n24, 322n73. See also Akbar; Aurangzeb; diplomacy; Dryden; Jahangir; Shah Jahan; – and religion, 70–1, 80, 86, 150–1, 165, 172–84, 185–94; – women, 65–6, 87, 101–2, 107–35, 141, 156, 164, 240, 298n42–4, 309n26, 310n48, 320n37. See also Dryden; Jahanara; Mumtaz Mahal; Nur Jahan; Raushanara Mumtaz Mahal, 108, 112, 115, 119, 156, 300n57, 309n26, 323n76. See also Mughals: women Nath, Renuka, 300n56, 301n64, 302nn68–9 networks (seventeenth-century France) and knowledge creation, 17–18, 25, 91–5, 99, 102­–3, 136, 137, 195, 211, 272, 286n30, 293n2, 293n85, 294n10, 295n17, 296n21, 314n80, 324n5; – and textual production, 25, 91–5, 102–6, 108. See also academies; salons Nobili, Roberto de, 177–8, 193, 307–8nn17–18, 308n20 nouvelles historiques. See novel novel, 26, 30, 49, 54, 101, 104–8, 119, 135, 136, 137, 297n30, 298n38, 301n62, 303n84, 303n91, 303n94, 304n97. See also history: and fiction; Lafayette: La Princesse de Clèves Nur Jahan, 110, 111–19, 120, 121, 132, 141, 142, 151, 156, 159, 166, 167, 179, 240, 271, 297–8n35, 298nn41– 2, 298–9nn44–5, 299nn49–50,

299n53, 300n57, 302n70, 305n105, 309n26. See also Dryden; Mughals: women Okada, Amina, 114, 299n48, 300n55 Orient, 25, 47, 73, 196–9, 200, 271, 276n5, 281n41; seventeenth-­ century conceptions of, 11, 17, 20, 73, 260, 300n56 orientalism, 25, 109, 118, 125, 197–8, 281n41, 323n80 Ottoman Empire, 58, 60, 61, 64, 68, 78, 80, 109, 111, 114, 122, 125–6, 128, 179, 181, 183, 258, 260, 261, 265, 267, 271, 298n42, 299n45, 300n56, 310n37, 323n80 paisley, 249–50. See also textiles Paris, 82–5, 122, 136, 224, 225, 228, 230, 245, 275n2 Pascal, Blaise, 136, 150 Peacock Throne, 74–5, 85, 251–6, 292n81, 322nn70–2 Pellisson, Paul, 35, 195, 285n23 Perrault, Charles, 35, 285n23 Persia. See diplomacy; Ottoman Empire Petit, Léon, 87, 285n23, 306n8 Pilpay, 7, 16, 170, 196–9, 200, 201, 203, 205–10, 313n69, 314n70. See also La Fontaine Poitiers, Diane de, 139, 141–2, 151, 153, 303n89 Pondicherry, 20 Portugal, 22, 116, 174, 175, 177, 230, 241, 301n64, 308n20, 315–16n11 public: scholarly, 91–5, 195–6, 254, 276n5, 286n30; worldly, 9, 70, 92, 103–6, 124, 136, 159, 164, 174, 196, 200, 214, 223, 238, 237, 254,

Index 347 276n5, 282n7. See also salons; worldly culture Racine, Jean, 35, 40, 168, 285n23, 305n5 Rajan, Balachandra, 304n98, 305n105 Rambouillet, Catherine de Vivonne, marquise de, 10, 18, 32, 35, 92, 136, 283n13, 285n26, 294n5, 296n21, 297n22 Rapin, le père, 35, 92, 286n31 Raushanara, 65, 87, 107, 108, 110, 119–25, 129–34, 141, 300n57, 301n61, 301n65. See also Mughals: women Reinoso, André, 315–16n10 religion, 193, 70–1, 86–7, 122–4, 150–1, 172–84, 185–95, 212, 306n10, 309n25, 309n30, 310n39; – Catholicism, 35, 36, 86, 173, 176, 194, 211, 212, 285n24, 287n37, 306n10, 307n14, 307–8n18. See also Jesuits; – Christianity, 70, 86, 175–9, 181, 193, 212, 306n10, 306–7nn12–13, 307n15, 308n21, 314n75; – Hinduism, 45, 70, 86, 123, 175–83, 187, 190, 191, 192, 193, 203, 205, 306n10, 309n28; – Huguenots, 33, 174, 193, 290n71; – Islam, 59, 70, 80, 86, 123, 175–83, 190, 309n27, 322n73; – Jains, 70; – Jesuits, 175–80, 183, 186, 187, 211, 230, 234–6, 286n31, 307n17, 308nn19–20, 308n23, 314n75, 315–16n11; – Protestant, 70, 87, 146, 173, 184, 192, 211, 245, 283n15, 284n18,

285n24, 288n52, 307n15, 314n73, 323n83; – Sikhism, 70, 176; – Sufism, 122, 123, 124, 182, 309n27. See also Bernier; missionaries; Mughals: and religion Republic of Letters, 93, 101, 169, 172, 277n7, 282n8. See also academies; Chapelain; salons Richelieu, cardinal de, 92, 285n26 Roberval, Gilles Personne de, 36, 286n32 Roe, Thomas, 13, 22, 53, 54, 65, 86, 95, 111, 115–16, 166, 173, 241, 278n14, 289n57, 290n67, 295n16, 297n35, 299n50 ruelle. See salons Said, Edward, 25, 197, 281n41 Saint-Evremond, Charles de, 14, 37, 106, 107, 108, 171, 278n18, 287n39 Saint-Simon, 245–6, 285n24 salons, 9–12, 16, 18, 24–5, 30, 31, 32, 37, 39, 47, 70, 72, 82–8, 89–90, 92–3, 101–6, 113, 118, 119, 124, 125, 136, 137, 143, 147, 150, 169, 195, 197–8, 200, 204, 205, 211, 212, 213, 214, 216, 220, 223, 224, 228, 229, 238, 259, 276n5, 281–3nn4–9, 284–5n20, 286n30, 287n39, 287n47, 287–8n50, 293n86, 294n10, 294n12, 296– 7nn21–2, 312–13n65, 313n66. See also Chapelain; conversation; history; La Sablière; Scudéry Sapra, Rahul, 276n5, 304n101 sati, 86, 165, 168, 189–92, 298n37, 310n48 Schimmel, Annemarie, 180–1, 298n43, 299n49, 301n64, 309n27

348 Index Scudéry, Madeleine de, 10, 32, 35, 85, 92, 102, 105, 136, 164, 195, 283n15, 285n24, 293n86 Sen, Amartya, 182, 272–3, 310n39, 315n82, 324n7 Seraglio, 65, 76, 85, 88, 109, 110, 114, 118–35, 141, 181, 229, 230, 298n42, 298–9n44, 300n56 Sévigné, Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, marquise de, 3–4, 6–11, 17, 19, 36, 80, 92, 102, 118, 136, 137, 200, 238–9, 244, 267, 273, 275n2, 284n17, 284n19, 292n85, 296n21, 303–4n95, 312n60 Shah Jahan, 24, 55, 56, 65, 68, 69, 70, 75, 77, 108, 110, 112, 115, 119, 120, 123, 129, 139–40, 156, 160–1, 180–2, 227, 255, 257, 258, 265, 266, 267, 268, 292n81, 300n59, 301n60, 309n26, 322n70, 322n73, 323n87. See also Dryden; Mughals: emperors shish mahal. See mirrors sociability, 18–19, 30, 31, 48, 90, 102–3, 139, 211, 269–70, 297n22 Soliman Ferraca, 258, 259, 260, 261 Staël, Germaine de, 269–70 Stone, Harriet, 312–13n65 Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, 8, 290n67 Sufism. See religion: Sufism Sun King, the. See Louis XIV Surat. See India: Surat suttee. See sati Taj Mahal, 13, 23, 77, 108, 115, 118, 126, 156, 181, 226–7, 233, 265, 280n39, 300n55, 300n57, 323n76 taste (French concepts of), 20, 27, 30, 38–9, 73, 196, 199, 217, 221, 222–8, 233–5, 238–9, 242–50, 257–9, 260–2, 267–8, 281n3, 294n7. See also

diamonds; Le Bourgeois gentilhomme; Molière; textiles Tavernier, Jean-Baptiste, 13, 24, 39, 62, 65, 71, 86, 126, 146, 174, 175, 180, 198, 227, 251, 252–3, 255, 256, 257, 258, 259, 260, 266, 268, 270, 288n51–2, 290n73, 295n17, 298n36, 322nn71–2. See also diamonds Teltscher, Kate, 276n5, 277n10, 281n41 textiles, 23, 27, 63, 64, 65, 73, 74, 85, 87, 89, 115, 116, 125–8, 181, 222–3, 228–50, 254, 256–7, 258–9, 260–3, 267–8, 270, 275nn2–3, 280n39, 299n49, 315n7, 316nn13–14, 317nn17–18, 317–18nn21–3, 319n27, 319n30, 320–1nn54–5, 321n61, 322n65. See also indiennes Thépaut-Cabasset, Corinne, 320n35, 321n59, 321n61 Thévenot, Melchisédech, 14, 17–18, 42, 92, 94–5, 104, 111, 138, 270, 278n14, 279n24, 288n55, 289n57, 294n10, 294–5n14, 297n24 Timmermans, Linda, 276–7n7, 282n8, 294n5 Tinguely, Frédéric, 12, 39–40, 41–2, 46, 47, 184, 277–8n11, 279n20, 287n51, 289n57, 291n73, 309n28, 322n71 toiles peintes. See indiennes; textiles Tombiah, Stanley, 278n14, 289n59 translation, 9, 59, 111, 178, 180, 189, 195, 196, 198, 210, 214, 278n14, 290n67, 314n79; of Bernier’s texts, 14–15, 20, 41, 109, 168, 277n10, 280n30, 297n24 travellers. See India: travellers to travel narratives, 41, 42, 70, 99, 114, 138, 158, 174, 178, 179, 276n5, 278n14, 279n21, 289n65, 295n17, 299n45, 323n76. See also Bernier; Roe; Tavernier; Thévenot

Index 349 Valincour, Jean-Baptiste Trousset de, 135, 145, 303n94, 304nn96–7 Vaux-le-Vicomte, 34, 80, 268, 278–9n18, 285n21, 292n85, 293n86 Versailles, 23, 77, 88, 131, 143, 227, 266–7, 273, 275n2. See also Galerie des Glaces; mirrors Viala, Alain, 104, 279n25, 279n27, 282n8 Villedieu, Marie-Catherine Desjardins, madame de, 105, 107 Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet), 3, 27–8, 71, 203, 218, 292n80, 312n64

Watt, Melinda, 315–16n10, 317n17 worldly culture, 10, 17–18, 29, 40, 43, 47, 92–3, 100, 109, 136, 137, 140, 159, 171, 200, 204, 249, 276n5, 282n7, 293n85, 314n80. See also conversation; networks; salons; taste Zeb-un-nissa, 123, 124 zenana. See seraglio Zinat-un-Nissa, 124, 302n67 Zupanov, Inès, 177, 307–8nn17–18, 308n20–1, 308n23