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Title: Clio
Author: France, Anatole
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Clio" ***

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    _The Château de Vaux le Vicomte_ is a translation of the
    text of a sumptuously illustrated volume descriptive of this
    wonderful monument of human frailty and ambition, published
    in 1888 by Lemercier et Cie with plates by Rodolphe Pfnor.
    Although the text has not been published apart from the
    plates in France, it seemed only fitting to include a
    translation of _The Château de Vaux le Vicomte_ in a
    complete edition of Monsieur Anatole France's works.






[Transcribers' Note: to this English translation of Clio we added 12
plates by Mucha, who illustrated the French 1900 edition, which is also



Along the hill-side he came, following a path which skirted the sea.
His forehead was bare, deeply furrowed and bound by a fillet of red
wool. The sea-breeze blew his white locks over his temples and pressed
the fleece of a snow-white beard against his chin. His tunic and his
feet were the colour of the roads which he had trodden for so many
years. A roughly made lyre hung at his side. He was known as the Aged
One, and also as the Bard. Yet another name was given him by the
children to whom he taught poetry and music, and many called him the
Blind One, because his eyes, dim with age, were overhung by swollen
lids, reddened by the smoke of the hearths beside which he was wont
to sit when he sang. But his was no eternal night, and he was said
to see things invisible to other men. For three generations he had
been wandering ceaselessly to and fro. And now, having sung all day
to a King of Ægea, he was returning to his home, the roof of which
he could already see smoking in the distance; for now, after walking
all night without a halt for fear of being overtaken by the heat of
the day, in the clear light of the dawn he could see the white Kyme,
his birthplace. With his dog at his side, leaning on his crooked
staff, he walked with slow steps, his body upright, his head held
high because of the steepness of the way leading down into the narrow
valley and because he was still vigorous in his age. The sun, rising
over the mountains of Asia, shed a rosy light over the fleecy clouds
and the hill-sides of the islands that studded the sea. The coast-line
glistened. But the hills that stretched away eastward, crowned with
mastic and terebinth, lay still in the freshness and the shadow of

The Aged One measured along the incline the length of twelve times
twelve lances and found, on the left, between the flanks of twin rocks,
the narrow entrance to a sacred wood. There, on the brink of a spring,
rose an altar of unhewn stones.

It was half hidden by an oleander the branches of which were laden
with dazzling blossoms. The well-trodden ground in front of the altar
was white with the bones of victims. All around, the boughs of the
olive-trees were hung with offerings. And farther on, in the awesome
shadow of the gorge, rose two ancient oaks, bearing, nailed to their
trunks, the bleached skulls of bulls. Knowing that this altar was
consecrated to Phœbus, the Aged One plunged into the wood, and, taking
by its handle a little earthenware cup which hung from his belt, he
bent over the stream which, flowing over a bed of wild parsley and
water-cress, slowly wound its way down to the meadow. He filled his cup
with the spring-water, and, because he was pious, before drinking he
poured a few drops before the altar. He worshipped the immortal gods,
who know neither pain nor death, while on earth generation follows
generation of suffering men. He was conscious of fear; and he dreaded
the arrows of Leto's sons. Full of sorrows and of years, he loved the
light of day and feared death. For this reason an idea occurred to him.
He bent the pliable trunk of a sapling, and drawing it towards him hung
his earthenware cup from the topmost twig of the young tree, which,
springing back, bore the old man's offering up to the open sky.

White Kyme, wall-encircled, rose from the edge of the sea. A steep
highway, paved with flat stones, led to the gate of the town. This gate
had been built in an age beyond man's memory, and it was said to be
the work of the gods. Carved upon the lintel were signs which no man
understood, yet they were regarded as of good omen. Not far from this
gate was the public square, where the benches of the elders shone
beneath the trees. Near this square, on the landward side, the Aged One
stayed his steps. There was his house. It was low and small, and less
beautiful than the neighbouring house, where a famous seer dwelt with
his children. Its entrance was half hidden beneath a heap of manure, in
which a pig was rooting. This dunghill was smaller than those at the
doors of the rich. But behind the house was an orchard, and stables of
unquarried stone, which the Aged One had built with his own hands. The
sun was climbing up the white vault of heaven, the sea wind had fallen.
The invisible fire in the air scorched the lungs of men and beasts.
For a moment the Aged One paused upon the threshold to wipe the sweat
from his brow with the back of his hand. His dog, with watchful eye and
hanging tongue, stood still and panted.

The aged Melantho, emerging from the house, appeared on the threshold
and spoke a few pleasant words. Her coming had been slow, because a god
had sent an evil spirit into her legs which swelled them and made them
heavier than a couple of wine-skins. She was a Carian slave and in her
youth the King had bestowed her on the bard, who was then young and
vigorous. And in her new master's bed she had conceived many children.
But not one was left in the house. Some were dead, others had gone away
to practise the art of song or to steer the plough in distant Achaian
cities, for all were richly gifted. And Melantho was left alone in the
house with Areta, her daughter-in-law, and Areta's two children.

She went with the master into the great hall with its smoky rafters. In
the midst of it, before the domestic altar, lay the hearthstone covered
with red embers and melted fat. Out of the hall opened two stories of
small rooms; a wooden staircase led to the upper chambers, which were
the women's quarters. Against the pillars that supported the roof leant
the bronze weapons which the Aged One had borne in his youth, in the
days when he followed the kings to the cities to which they drove in
their chariots to recapture the daughters of Kyme whom the heroes had
carried away. From one of the beams hung the skin of an ox.

The elders of the city, wishful to honour the bard, had sent it to
him on the previous day. He rejoiced at the sight of it. As he stood
drawing a long breath into a chest which was shrunken with age, he took
from beneath his tunic, with a few cloves of garlic remaining from
his alfresco supper, the King of Ægea's gift; it was a stone fallen
from heaven and precious, for it was of iron, though too small for a
lance-tip. He brought with him also a pebble which he had found on the
road. On this pebble, when looked at in a certain light, was the form
of a man's head. And the Aged One, showing it to Melantho, said:

"Woman, see, on this pebble is the likeness of Pakoros, the blacksmith;
not without permission of the gods may a stone thus present the
semblance of Pakoros."

And when the aged Melantho had poured water over his feet and hands in
order to remove the dust that defiled them, he grasped the shin of beef
in his arms, placed it on the altar and began to tear it asunder. Being
wise and prudent, he did not delegate to women or to children the duty
of preparing the repast; and, after the manner of kings, he himself
cooked the flesh of beasts.

Meanwhile Melantho coaxed the fire on the hearth into a flame. She
blew upon the dry twigs until a god wrapped them in fire. Though the
task was holy, the Aged One suffered it to be performed by a woman
because years and fatigue had enfeebled him. When the flames leapt up
he cast into them pieces of flesh which he turned over with a fork of
bronze. Seated on his heels, he inhaled the smoke; and as it filled
the room his eyes smarted and watered; but he paid no heed because he
was accustomed to it and because the smoke signified abundance. As the
toughness of the meat yielded to the fire's irresistible power, he
put fragments of it into his mouth and, slowly masticating them with
his well-worn teeth, ate in silence. Standing at his side, the aged
Melantho poured the dark wine into an earthenware cup like that which
he had given to the god.

When he had satisfied hunger and thirst, he inquired whether all in
house and stable was well. And he inquired concerning the wool woven in
his absence, the cheese placed in the vat and the ripe olives in the
press. And, remembering that his goods were but few, he said:

"The heroes keep herds of oxen and heifers in the meadows. They have a
goodly number of strong and comely slaves; the doors of their houses
are of ivory and of brass, and their tables are laden with pitchers
of gold. The courage of their hearts assured them of wealth, which
they sometimes keep until old age. In my youth, certes, I was not
inferior to them in courage, but I had neither horses nor chariots, nor
servants, nor even armour strong enough to vie with them in battle and
to win tripods of gold and women of great beauty. He who fights on foot
with poor weapons cannot kill many enemies, because he himself fears
death. Wherefore, fighting beneath the town walls, in the ranks, with
the serving men, never did I win rich spoil."

The aged Melantho made answer:

"War giveth wealth to men and robs them of it. My father, Kyphos, had
a palace and countless herds at Mylata. But armed men despoiled him of
all and slew him. I myself was carried away into slavery, but I was
never ill-treated because I was young. The chiefs took me to their bed
and never did I lack food. You were my best master and the poorest."

There was neither joy nor sadness in her voice as she spoke.

The Aged One replied:

"Melantho, you cannot complain of me, for I have always treated you
kindly. Reproach me not with having failed to win great wealth.
Armourers are there and blacksmiths who are rich. Those who are skilled
in the construction of chariots derive no small advantage from their
labours. Seers receive great gifts. But the life of minstrels is hard."

The aged Melantho said:

"The life of many men is hard."

And with heavy step she went out of the house, with her
daughter-in-law, to fetch wood from the cellar. It was the hour when
the sun's invincible heat prostrates men and beasts, and silences even
the song of the birds in the motionless foliage. The Aged One stretched
himself upon a mat, and, veiling his face, fell asleep.

As he slumbered he was visited by a succession of dreams, which were
neither more beautiful nor more unusual than those which he dreamed
every day. In these dreams appeared to him the forms of men and of
beasts. And, because among them he recognized some whom he had known
while they lived on the green earth and who having lost the light of
day had lain beneath the funeral pile, he concluded that the shades of
the dead hover in the air, but that, having lost their vigour, they
are nothing but empty shadows. He learned from dreams that there exist
likewise shades of animals and of plants which are seen in sleep. He
was convinced that the dead, wandering in Hades, themselves form their
own image, since none may form it for them, unless it were one of those
gods who love to deceive man's feeble intellect. But, being no seer,
he could not distinguish between false dreams and true; and, weary of
seeking to understand the confused visions of the night, he regarded
them with indifference as they passed beneath his closed eyelids.

On awakening, he beheld, ranged before him in an attitude of respect,
the children of Kyme, whom he instructed in poetry and music, as his
father had instructed him. Among them were his daughter-in-law's two
sons. Many of them were blind, for a bard's life was deemed fitting for
those who, bereft of sight, could neither work in the fields nor follow
heroes to war.

In their hands they bore the offerings in payment for the bard's
lessons, fruit, cheese, a honeycomb, a sheep's fleece, and they waited
for their master's approval before placing it on the domestic altar.

The Aged One, having risen and taken his lyre which hung from a beam in
the hall, said kindly:

"Children, it is just that the rich should give much and the poor less.
Zeus, our father, hath unequally apportioned wealth among men. But he
will punish the child who withholds the tribute due to the divine bard."

The vigilant Melantho came and took the gifts from the altar. And the
Aged One, having tuned his lyre, began to teach a song to the children,
who with crossed legs were seated on the ground around him.

"Hearken," he said, "to the combat between Patrocles and Sarpedon. This
is a beautiful song."

And he sang. He skilfully modulated the sounds, applying the same
rhythm and the same measure to each line; and, in order that his voice
should not wander from the key, he supported it at regular intervals
by striking a note upon his three-stringed lyre. And, before making a
necessary pause, he uttered a shrill cry, accompanied by a strident
vibration of strings. After he had sung lines equal in number to double
the number of fingers on his two hands, he made the children repeat
them. They cried them out all together in a high voice, as, following
their master's example, they touched the little lyres which they
themselves had carved out of wood and which gave no sound.

Patiently the Aged One sang the lines over and over until the little
singers knew every word. The attentive children he praised, but those
who lacked memory or intelligence he struck with the wooden part of his
lyre, and they went away to lean weeping against a pillar of the hall.
He taught by example, not by precept, because he believed poesy to be
of hoary antiquity and beyond man's judgment. The only counsels which
he gave related to manners. He bade them:

"Honour kings and heroes, who are superior to other men. Call heroes
by their own name and that of their father, so that these names be not
forgotten. When you sit in assemblies gather your tunic about you and
let your mien express grace and modesty."

Again he said to them:

"Do not spit in rivers, because rivers are scared. Make no change,
either through weakness of memory or of your own imagining, in the
songs I teach you, and when a king shall say unto you: 'These songs are
beautiful. From whom did you learn them?' you shall answer: 'I learnt
them from the Aged One of Kyme, who received them from his father, whom
doubtless a god had inspired.'" Of the ox's shin, there yet remained a
few succulent morsels. Having eaten one of them before the hearth and
smashed the bone with an axe of bronze, in order to extract the marrow,
of which he alone in the house was worthy to partake, he divided the
rest of the meat into portions which should nourish the women and
children for the space of two days.

Then he realized that soon nothing would be left of this nutritious
food, and he reflected:

"The rich are loved by Zeus and the poor are not. All unwittingly I
have doubtless offended one of those gods who live concealed in the
forests or the mountains, or perhaps the child of an immortal; and
it is to expiate my involuntary crime that I drag out my days in a
penurious old age. Sometimes, without any evil intention, one commits
actions which are punishable because the gods have not clearly revealed
unto men that which is permitted and that which is forbidden. And
their will remains obscure." Long did he turn over those thoughts in
his mind, and, fearing the return of cruel hunger, he resolved not to
remain idly in his dwelling that night, but this time to go towards
the country where the Hermos flows between rocks and whence can be
seen Orneia, Smyrna and the beautiful Hissia, lying upon the mountain,
which, like the prow of some Phœnician boat, plunges into the sea.
Wherefore, at the hour when the first stars glimmer in the pale sky,
he girded himself with the cord of his lyre and went forth, along the
sea-shore, toward the dwellings of rich men, who, during their lengthy
feasts, love to hearken to the praise of heroes and the genealogies of
the gods.

Having, according to his custom, journeyed all night, in the rosy dawn
of morning he descried a town perched upon a high headland, and he
recognized the opulent Hissia, dove-haunted, which from the summit of
her rock looks down upon the white islands sporting like nymphs in the
glistening sea. Not far from the town, on the margin of a spring, he
sat down to rest and to appease his hunger with the onions which he had
brought in a fold of his tunic.

Hardly had he finished his meal when a young girl, bearing a basket
on her head, came to the spring to wash linen. At first she looked
at him suspiciously, but, seeing that he carried a wooden lyre slung
over his torn tunic and that he was old and overcome with fatigue,
she approached him fearlessly, and, suddenly, seized with pity and
veneration, she filled the hollows of her hands with drops of water
with which she moistened the minstrel's lips.

Then he called her a king's daughter; he promised her a long life, and

"Maiden, desire floats in a cloud about thy girdle. Happy the man who
shall lead thee to his couch. And I, an old man, praise thy beauty like
the bird of night which cries all unheeded upon the nuptial roof. I am
a wandering bard. Daughter, speak unto me pleasant words."

And the maiden answered:

"If, as you say and as it seemeth, you are a musician, then no evil
fate brings you to this town. For the rich Meges to-day receiveth a
guest who is dear to him; and to the great of the town, in honour of
his guest, he giveth a sumptuous feast. Doubtless he would wish them to
hear a good minstrel. Go to him. From this very spot you may see his
house. From the seaward side it cannot be approached, because it is on
that high breeze-swept headland, which juts out into the waves. But if
you enter the town on the landward side, by the steps cut in the rock,
which lead up the vine-clad hill, you will easily distinguish from all
the other houses the abode of Meges. It has been recently whitewashed,
and it is more spacious than the rest." And the Aged One, rising with
difficulty on limbs which the years had stiffened, climbed the steps
cut in the rock by the men of old, and, reaching the high table-land
whereon is the town of Hissia, he readily distinguished the house of
the rich Meges.

To approach it was pleasant, for the blood of freshly slaughtered bulls
gushed from its doors and the odour of hot fat was perceptible all
around. He crossed the threshold, entered the great banqueting-hall
and, having touched the altar with his hand, approached Meges, who
was carving the meat and ordering the servants. Already the guests
were ranged about the hearth, rejoicing in the prospect of a plenteous
repast. Among them were many kings and heroes. But the guest whom Meges
desired to honour by this banquet was a King of Chios, who, in quest
of wealth, had long navigated the seas and endured great hardship. His
name was Oineus. All the guests admired him because, like Ulysses in
earlier days, he had escaped from innumerable shipwrecks, shared in the
islands the couch of enchantresses and brought home great treasure.
He told of his travels and his labours, interspersing them with
inventions, for he had a nimble wit.

Recognizing the bard by the lyre which hung at his side, the rich Meges
addressed the Aged One and said:

"Be welcome. What songs knowest thou?"

The Aged One made answer:

"I know 'The Strife of Kings' which brought such great disaster to
the Achaians, I know 'The Storming of the Wall.' And that song is
beautiful. I know also 'The Deception of Zeus,' 'The Embassy' and
'The Capture of the Dead.' And these songs are beautiful. I know yet
more--six times sixty very beautiful songs."

Thus did he give it to be understood that he knew many songs; but the
exact number he could not tell.

The rich Meges replied in a mocking tone:

"In the hope of a good meal and a rich gift, wandering minstrels ever
say that they know many songs; but, put to the test, it is soon seen
that they remember but a few lines, with the constant repetition of
which they tire the ears of heroes and of kings."

The Aged One answered wisely:

"Meges," he said, "you are renowned for your wealth. Know that the
number of the songs I know is not less than that of the bulls and
heifers which your herdsmen drive to graze on the mountain." Meges,
admiring the Old Man's intelligence, said to him kindly:

"A small mind would not suffice to contain so great a number of songs.
But, tell me, is what thou knowest about Achilles and Ulysses really
true? For many are the lies in circulation touching those heroes."

And the bard made answer:

"All that I know of the heroes I received from my father, who learned
it from Muses themselves, for in earlier days in cave and forest the
immortal Muses visited divine singers. No inventions will I mingle
with the ancient tales."

Thus did he speak, and wisely. Nevertheless to the songs he had known
from his youth upward he was wont to add lines taken from other songs
or the fruit of his own imagination. He himself had composed wellnigh
the whole of certain songs. But, fearing lest man should disapprove of
them, he did not confess them to be his own work. The heroes preferred
the ancient tales which they believed to have been dictated by a god,
and they objected to new songs. Wherefore, when he repeated lines of
his own invention, he carefully concealed their origin. And, as he was
a true poet and followed all the ancient traditions, his lines differed
in no way from those of his ancestors; they resembled them in form and
in beauty, and, from the beginning, they were worthy of immortal glory.

The rich Meges was not unintelligent. Perceiving the Aged One to be a
good singer, he gave him a place of honour by the hearth and said to

"Old Man, when we have satisfied our hunger, thou shalt sing to us all
thou knowest of Achilles and Ulysses. Endeavour to charm the ears of
Oineus, my guest, for he is a hero full of wisdom."

And Oineus, who had long wandered over the sea, asked the minstrel
whether he knew "The Voyages of Ulysses." But the return of the heroes
who had fought at Troy was still wrapped in mystery, and no one knew
what Ulysses had suffered in his wanderings over the pathless sea.

The Old Man answered:

"I know that the divine Ulysses shared Circe's couch and deceived the
Cyclops by a crafty wile. Women tell tales about it to one another. But
the hero's return to Ithaca is hidden from the bards. Some say that he
returned to possess his wife and his goods, others that he put away
Penelope because she had admitted her suitors to her bed, and that he
himself, punished by the gods, wandered ceaselessly among the people,
an oar upon his shoulder."

Oineus replied:

"In my travels I have heard that Ulysses died at the hands of his son."

Meanwhile Meges distributed the flesh of oxen among his guests. And to
each one he gave a fitting morsel. Oineus praised him loudly.

"Meges," he said, "one can see that you are accustomed to give

The oxen of Meges were fed upon the sweetsmelling herbs which grow on
the mountain-side. Their flesh was redolent thereof, and the heroes
could not consume enough of it. And, as Meges was constantly refilling
a capacious goblet which he afterwards passed to his guests, the repast
was prolonged far into the day. No man remembered so rich a feast.

The sun was going down into the sea, when the herdsmen who kept the
flocks of Meges upon the mountain came to receive their share of the
wine and victuals. Meges respected them because they grazed the herds
not with the indolence of the herdsmen of the plain, but armed with
lances of iron and girded with armour in order to defend the oxen
against the attacks of the people of Asia. And they were like unto
kings and heroes, whom they equalled in courage. They were led by two
chiefs, Peiros and Thoas, whom the master had chosen as the bravest and
the most intelligent. And, indeed, handsomer men were not to be seen.
Meges welcomed them to his hearth as the illustrious protectors of his
wealth. He gave them wine and meat as much as they desired.

Oineus, admiring them, said to his host:

"In all my travels, I have never seen men with limbs so well formed and
muscular as those of these two master herdsmen."

Then Meges uttered injudicious words. He said: "Peiros is the stronger
in wrestling, but Thoas the swifter in the race."

At these words, the two herdsmen looked angrily at one another, and
Thoas said to Peiros:

"You must have given the master some maddening drink to make him say
that you are the better wrestler."

Then Peiros answered Thoas testily:

"I flatter myself that I can conquer you in wrestling. As for racing, I
leave to you the palm which the master has given. For you who have the
heart of a stag could not fail to possess his feet."

But the wise Oineus checked the herdsmen's quarrel. He artfully told
tales showing the danger of wrangling at feasts. And, as he spoke well,
he was approved. Peace having been restored, Meges said to the Aged One:

"My friend, sing us 'The Wrath of Achilles' and the 'Gathering of the

And the Aged One, having tuned his lyre, poured forth into the thick
atmosphere of the hall great gusts of sound.

He drew deep breaths, and all the guests hearkened in silence to the
measured words which recalled ages worthy to be remembered. And many
marvelled how so old a man, one withered by age like a vine-branch
which beareth neither fruit nor leaves, could emit such powerful notes.
For they did not understand that the power of the wine and the habit of
singing imparted to the musician a strength which otherwise would have
been denied him by enfeebled nerve and muscle.

At intervals a murmur of praise rose from the assembly like a strong
gust of wind in the forest. But suddenly the herdsmen's dispute,
appeased for a while, broke out afresh. Heated with wine, they
challenged one another to wrestle and to race. Their wild cries rose
above the musician's voice, and vainly he endeavoured to make the
harmonious sounds which proceeded from his mouth and his lyre heard by
the assembly. The herdsmen who followed Peiros and Thoas, flushed with
wine, struck their hands and grunted like hogs. They had long formed
themselves into rival bands which shared the chiefs' enmity.

"Dog!" cried Thoas.

And he struck Peiros a blow on the face which drew blood from his mouth
and nostrils. Peiros, blinded, butted with his forehead against the
chest of Thoas and threw him backwards, his ribs broken. Straightway
the rival herdsmen cast themselves upon one another, exchanging blows
and insults.

In vain did Meges and the Kings endeavour to separate the combatants.
Even the wise Oineus himself was repulsed by the herdsmen whom a god
had bereft of reason. Brass vessels flew through the air on all sides.
Great ox-bones, smoking torches, bronze tripods rose and fell upon the
combatants. The interlaced bodies of men rolled over the hearth on
which the fire was dying, in the midst of the liquor which flowed from
the burst wine-skins.

Dense darkness enveloped the hall, a darkness full of groans and
imprecations. Arms, maddened by frenzy, seized glowing logs and hurled
them into the darkness. A blazing twig struck the minstrel as he stood
still and silent.

Then a voice louder than all the noise of combat cursed these impious
men and this profane house. And, pressing his lyre to his breast, he
went out of the dwelling and walked along the high headland by the sea.
To his wrath had given place a great feeling of fatigue and a bitter
disgust with men and with life.

A longing for union with the gods filled his breast. All things lay
wrapped in soft shadows, the friendly silence and the peace of night.
Westward, over the land which men say is haunted by the shades of the
dead, the divine moon, hanging in the clear sky, shed silver blossoms
upon the smiling sea. And the aged Homer advanced over the high
headland until the earth, which had borne him so long, failed beneath
his feet.



In a land of mists, near a shore which was beaten by the restless
sea and swept by billowy waves of sand raised by the Ocean winds,
the Atrebates had settled on the shifting banks of a broad stream.
There, amid pools of water and in forests of oak and of birch, they
lived protected by their stockades of felled tree-trunks. There they
bred horses excellent for draught-work, large-headed, short-necked,
broad-chested and muscular, and with powerful haunches. On the
outskirts of the forest they kept huge swine, wild as boars. With their
great dogs they hunted wild beasts, the skulls of which they nailed on
to the walls of their wooden houses. They lived on the flesh of these
creatures and on fish, both of the salt-water and the fresh. They
grilled their meat and seasoned it with salt, vinegar and cumin. They
drank wine, and, at their stupendous feasts, seated at their round
tables, they grew drunken. There were among them women who, acquainted
with the virtue of herbs, gathered henbane, vervain and that healing
plant called savin, which grows in the moist hollows of rocks. From the
sap of the yew-tree they concocted a poison. The Atrebates had also
priests and poets who knew things hidden from ordinary men.

These forest-dwellers, these men of the marsh and the beach, were of
high stature. They wore their fair hair long, and they wrapped their
great white bodies in mantles of wool of the colour of the vine-leaf
when it grows purple in the autumn. They were subject to chiefs who
held sway over the tribes.

The Atrebates knew that the Romans had come to make war on the peoples
of Gaul, and that whole nations with all their possessions had been
sold beneath their lance. News of happenings on the Rhone and the
Loire had reached them speedily. Words and signs fly like birds. And
that which, at sunrise, had been said in Genabum of the Carnutes was
heard in the first watch of the night on the Ocean strand. But the
fate of their brethren did not trouble them, or rather, being jealous
of them, they rejoiced in the sufferings which they endured at Cæsar's
hand. They did not hate the Romans, for they did not know them.
Neither did they fear them, since it seemed to them impossible for an
army to penetrate through the forests and marshes which surrounded
their dwellings. They had no towns, although they gave the name to
Nemetacum,[1] a vast enclosure encircled by a palisade, which, in case
of attack, served as a refuge for warriors, women and herds. As we have
said, they had throughout their country other similar places of refuge,
but these were smaller. To them, also, they gave the name of towns.

It was not upon their enclosures of felled trees that they relied for
resistance to the Romans, whom they knew to be skilled in the capture
of cities defended by stone walls and wooden towers. But they relied
rather on their country's lack of roads. The Roman soldiers, however,
themselves constructed the roads over which they marched. They dug the
ground with a strength and rapidity unknown to the Gauls of the dense
forest, among whom iron was rarer than gold. And one day the Atrebates
were astounded to learn that the Roman road, with its milestones and
its fine paved highway, was approaching their thickets and marshes.
Then they made alliance with the people scattered through the forest
which they called the Impenetrable, and numerous tribes entered into
a league against Cæsar. The chiefs of the Atrebates uttered their
war-cry, girded themselves with their baldrics of gold and of coral,
donned their helmets adorned with the antlers of the stag, or the elk,
or with buffalo horns, and drew their daggers, which were not equal to
the Roman sword. They were vanquished, but because they were courageous
they had to be twice conquered.

Now among them was a chief who was very rich. His name was Komm. He
had a great store of torques, bracelets and rings in his coffers.
Human heads he had also, embalmed in oil of cedar. They were the heads
of hostile chiefs slain by himself or by his father or his father's
father. Komm enjoyed the life of a man who is strong, free and powerful.

Followed by his weapons, his horses, his chariots and his Breton
bulldogs, by the multitude of his fighting men and his women, he would
wander without let or hindrance over his boundless dominions, through
forest or along river-bank, until he came to a halt in one of those
woodland shelters, one of those primitive farms of which he possessed
a great number. There, at peace, surrounded by his faithful followers,
he would fish, hunt the wild beasts, break in his horses and recall
his adventures in war. And, as soon as the desire seized him, he would
move on. He was a violent, crafty, subtle-minded man excelling in deed
and in word. When the Atrebates shouted their war-cry, he forbore to
don the helmet which was adorned with the horns of an ox. He remained
quietly in one of his wooden houses full of gold, of warriors, or
horses, of women, of wild pigs and smoked fish. After the defeat of
his fellow-countrymen, he went and found Cæsar and placed his brains
and his influence at the service of the Romans. He was well received.
Concluding rightly that this clever, powerful Gaul would be able to
pacify the country and hold it in subjection to Rome, Cæsar bestowed
upon him great powers and nominated him King of the Atrebates. Thus
Komm, the chieftain, became Commius Rex. He wore the purple, and coined
money whereon appeared his likeness in profile, his head encircled by
a diadem with sharp points like those of the Greek and barbarian kings
who wore their crowns as tokens of their friendship with Rome.

He was not execrated by the Atrebates. His sagacious and
self-interested behaviour did not discredit him with a people devoid
of Greek and Roman ideas of patriotism and citizenship. These savage,
inglorious Gauls, ignorant of public life, esteemed cunning, yielded to
force and marvelled at royal power, which seemed to them a magnificent
innovation. The majority of these people, rough woodlanders or
fishermen of the misty coast, had a still better reason for not blaming
the conduct and the prosperity of their chieftain; not knowing that
they were Atrebates, nor even that Atrebates existed, the King of the
Atrebates concerned them but little. Wherefore Komm was not unpopular.
And if the favour of Rome meant danger to him, that danger did not come
from his own people.

Now in the fourth year of the war, towards the end of summer, Cæsar
armed a fleet for a descent upon Britain. Desiring to secure allies
in the great Island, he resolved to send Komm as his ambassador to
the Celts of the Thames, with the offer of an alliance with Rome.
Sagacious, eloquent and by birth akin to the Britons--for certain
tribes of the Atrebates had settled on both banks of the Thames--Komm
was eminently fitted for this mission.

Komm was proud of his friendship with Cæsar. But he was in no hurry to
discharge this mission, of the dangers of which he was fully aware.
To induce him to undertake it Cæsar was compelled to grant him many
favours. From the tribute paid by other Gallic towns he exempted
Nemetacum, which was already growing into a city and a metropolis, so
rapidly did the Romans develop the countries which they conquered. He
somewhat relaxed the rigorous rule of the conquerors by restoring to
it its rights and its own laws. Further, he gave Komm to rule over the
Morini, who were the neighbours of the Atrebates on the sea-shore.

Komm set sail with Caius Volusenus Quadratus, prefect of cavalry,
appointed by Cæsar to conduct a reconnaissance in Britain. But when the
ship approached the sandy beach at the foot of the bird-haunted white
cliffs, the Roman refused to disembark, fearing unknown danger and
certain death. Komm landed with his horses and his followers and spoke
to the British chiefs who had come to meet him. He counselled them to
prefer profitable friendship with the Romans to their pitiless wrath.
But these chiefs, the descendants of Hu, the Powerful, and of his
comrades in arms, were proud and violent. They listened impatiently to
Komm's words. Anger clouded their woad-stained countenances, and they
swore to defend their Island against the Romans.

"Let them land here," they cried, "and they will disappear like the
snow on the sand of the sea-shore when the south wind blows upon it."

Holding Cæsar's counsel to be an insult, they were already drawing
their daggers from their belts and preparing to put to death the herald
of shame.

Standing bowed over his shield in the attitude of a suppliant, Komm
invoked the name of brother by which he was entitled to call them. They
were sons of the same fathers.

Wherefore the Britons forbore to slay him. They conducted him in chains
to a great village near the coast. Passing down a road bordered by
huts of wattle-work, he noticed high flat stones, fixed in the ground
at irregular intervals, and covered with signs which he thought to be
sacred, for it was not easy to decipher their meaning. He perceived
that the huts of this great village, though poorer, were not unlike
those of the villages of the Atrebates. In front of the chiefs'
dwellings poles were erected from which hung the antlers of deer, the
skulls of boars and the fair-haired heads of men. Komm was taken into
a hut which contained nothing save a hearthstone still covered with
ashes, a bed of dried leaves and the image of a god shapen from the
trunk of a lime-tree. Bound to the pillar which supported the thatched
roof, the Atrebate meditated on his ill luck and sought in his mind for
some magic word of power or some ingenious device which should deliver
him from the wrath of the British chieftains.

And to beguile his wretchedness, after the manner of his ancestors, he
composed a song of menace and complaint, coloured by pictures of his
native woods and mountains, the memory of which filled his heart.

Women with babes at the breast came and looked at him curiously and
questioned him as to his country, his race and his adventures. He
answered them kindly. But his soul was sad and wracked by cruel anxiety.

[1] The modern Arras.--_Trans._


Detained until the end of summer on the Morini shore, Cæsar set sail
one night about the third watch, and by the fourth hour of day had
sight of the Island. The Britons awaited him on the beach. But neither
their arrows of hard wood nor their scythed chariots, nor their
long-haired horses trained to swim in the sea among the shoals, nor
their countenances made terrible with paint gave check to the Romans.
The Eagle surrounded by legionaries touched the soil of the barbarians'
Island. The Britons fled beneath a shower of stone and lead hurled from
machines which they believed to be monsters. Struck with terror, they
ran like a herd of elks before the spear of the hunter.

When towards evening they had reached the great village near the coast,
the chiefs sat down on stones ranged in a circle by the road-side
and took counsel. All night they continued to deliberate; and when
dawn began to gleam on the horizon, while the larks' song pierced the
grey sky, they went into the hut where Komm of the Atrebates had been
enchained for thirty days. They looked at him respectfully because of
the Romans. They unbound him. They offered him a drink made of the
fermented juice of wild cherries. They restored to him his weapons, his
horses, his comrades, and, addressing him with flattering words, they
entreated him to accompany them to the camp of the Romans and to ask
pardon for them from Cæsar the Powerful.

"Thou shalt persuade him to be our friend," they said to him, "for
thou art wise and thy words are nimble and penetrating as arrows. Among
all the ancestors whose memory is enshrined in our songs, there is not
one who surpasses thee in sagacity."

It was with joy Komm of the Atrebates heard these words. But he
concealed his pleasure, and, curling his lips into a bitter smile, he
said to the British chiefs, pointing to the fallen willow leaves that
were driven in eddies by the wind:

"The thoughts of vain men are stirred like these leaves and ceaselessly
carried in every direction. Yesterday they took me for a madman and
said I had eaten of the herb of Erin that maddens the grazing beasts.
To-day they perceive in me the wisdom of their ancestors. Nevertheless
I am as good a counsellor one day as another, for my words depend
neither upon the sun nor upon the moon, but upon my understanding. As
the reward of your ill-doing, I ought to deliver you up to the wrath
of Cæsar, who would cut off your hands and put out your eyes, so that
begging bread and beer in the wealthy villages you would testify to his
might and justice throughout the Island of Britain. Notwithstanding I
will forget the wrong you have done me. I will remember that we are
brethren, that the Britons and the Atrebates are the fruit of the same
tree. I will act for the good of my brethren who drink the waters of
the Thames. Cæsar's friendship, which I came to their Island to offer
them, I will restore to them now that they have lost it through their
folly. Cæsar, who loves Komm, and has made him to be King over the
Atrebates and the Morini who wear collars of shells, will love the
British chiefs, painted with glowing colours, and will establish them
in their wealth and power, because they are the friends of Komm, who
drinketh the waters of the Somme."

And Komm of the Atrebates spake again and said: "Learn from me that
which Cæsar shall say unto you when you bend over your shields at the
foot of his tribunal and that which it behooveth you in your wisdom to
reply unto him. He will say unto you: 'I grant you peace. Deliver up
to me noble children as hostages.' And you will make answer: 'We will
deliver up unto you our noble children. And we will bring you certain
of them this very day. But the greater number of our noble children are
in the distant places of this Island, and to bring them hither will
take many days.'"

The chiefs marvelled at the subtle mind of the Atrebate. One of them
said to him:

"Komm, thou art possessed of a great understanding, and I believe
thy heart to be filled with kindness toward thy British brethren who
drink the waters of the Thames. If Cæsar were a man, we should have
courage to fight against him, but we know him to be a god because his
vessels and his engines of war are living creatures and endowed with
understanding. Let us go and ask him to pardon us for having fought
against him and to leave us in possession of our sovereignty and of our

Having thus spoken, the chiefs of the Island of Fogs leapt upon their
horses, and set forth towards the sea-shore where the Romans were
encamped near the cove where their deep-keeled ships lay at anchor, not
far from the beach up which they had drawn their galleys. Komm rode
beside them. When they beheld the Roman camp, which was surrounded by
ditches and palisades, traversed by wide and regular thoroughfares and
covered with tents over which soared the Roman eagles and floated the
wreaths of the standards, they paused in amazement and inquired by what
art the Romans had built in one day a town more beautiful and greater
than any in the Isle of Mists.

"What is that?" cried one of them.

"It is Rome," replied the Atrebate. "The Romans bear Rome with them

Introduced into the camp, they repaired to the foot of the tribunal,
where the Proconsul sat surrounded by the fasces. His eyes were like
the eagle's; and he was pale in his purple.

Komm assumed a suppliant's attitude and entreated Cæsar to pardon the
British chiefs.

"When they fought against you," he said, "these chiefs did not act
according to their own heart, the dictates of which are always noble.
When they drove against you their chariots of war, they obeyed,
they commanded not. They yielded to the will of the poor and humble
tribesmen who assembled in great numbers against you; for they lacked
understanding and were incapable of comprehending your might. You know
that in all things the poor are inferior to the rich. Deny not your
friendship to these men, who possess great wealth and can pay tribute."

Cæsar granted the pardon which the chiefs implored, and said unto them:

"Deliver up to me as hostages the sons of your princes."

The most venerable of the chiefs replied:

"We will deliver up unto you our noble children. And some of them we
will bring to you this very day. But the children of our nobles are
most of them in the distant places of our Isle, and to bring them
hither will take many days."

Cæsar inclined his head as a sign of assent. Thus, by the Atrebate's
counsel, the chiefs surrendered but a few young boys and those not of
the highest nobility.

Komm remained in the camp. At night, being unable to sleep, he climbed
the cliff and looked out to sea. The surf was breaking on the rocks.
The wind from the Channel mingled its sinister moaning with the roaring
of the waves. The wild moon, in its stately passage through the clouds,
cast a fleeting light on to the water. The Atrebate, with the keen eye
of the savage, piercing through the shadow and the mist, perceived
ships, surprised by the tempest, toiling in the waves and the wind.
Some, helpless and drifting, were being driven by the billows, the foam
of which shone upon their sides like a pale gleam; others were putting
out to sea. Their sails swept the waves like the wings of some fishing
bird. These were the ships that were bringing Cæsar's cavalry, and they
were being scattered by the storm. The Gaul, joyfully breathing the sea
air, paced awhile along the edge of the cliff; and soon he descried
the little bay, where the Roman galleys which had alarmed the Britons
lay dry upon the sand. He saw the tide approach them gradually, then
reach them, raise them, hurl them one against the other and batter
them, while the deep-keeled ships in the cove were tossed to and fro
at anchor by a furious wind which carried away their masts and rigging
like so many wisps of straw. Dimly he discerned the confused movements
of the panic-stricken legionaries running along the beach. Their
shouts reached his ear like the noise of a storm. Then he raised his
eyes to the divine moon, worshipped by the Atrebates who dwell on
river-banks and in the deep forests. In the stormy British sky she hung
like a shield. He knew that it was she, the copper moon at the full,
that had brought this spring tide and caused the tempest, which was now
destroying the Roman fleet. And on the cliff, in the majestic night, by
the furious sea, there came to the Atrebate the revelation of a secret,
mysterious force, more invincible than that of Rome.

When they heard of the disaster that had overtaken the fleet the
Britons joyfully realized that Cæsar commanded neither the Ocean nor
the moon, the friend of lonely shores and deep forests. They saw that
the Roman galleys were not invincible dragons, since the tide had
shattered them and cast them, with their sides rent open, on the sand
of the beach. Filled once again with the hope of destroying the Romans,
they thought of slaying a great number by the arrow and the sword, and
of throwing those that were left into the sea. Wherefore every day
they appeared more and more assiduous in Cæsar's camp. They brought
the legionaries smoked meats and the skins of the elk. They assumed a
kindly expression; they spoke honeyed words, and admiringly they felt
the muscular arms of the centurions.

In order to appear more submissive still, the chiefs surrendered their
hostages; but they were the sons of enemies on whom they wished to
be revenged, or uncomely children not born of families who were the
issue of the gods. And, when they believed that the little dark men
confidently relied upon their friendliness, they gathered together the
warriors of all the villages on the banks of the Thames, and, uttering
loud cries, they hurled themselves against the camp gates. These gates
were defended by wooden towers. The Britons, unacquainted with the art
of carrying fortified positions, could not penetrate through the outer
circle, and many of the chiefs with woad-stained visages fell at the
foot of the towers. Once again the Britons knew that the Romans were
endowed with superhuman strength. Therefore on the morrow they came to
implore Cæsar's pardon and to promise him their friendship.

Cæsar received them with a passive countenance, but that very night he
caused his legions to embark in the hastily repaired ships and made
for the Morini coast. Having lost hope of receiving his support of his
cavalry which the tempest had scattered, he abandoned for the time the
conquest of the Isle of Mists.

Komm of the Atrebates accompanied the army on its return to the Morini
shore. He had embarked on the vessel which bore the Proconsul. Cæsar,
curious concerning the customs of the barbarians, asked him whether the
Gauls did not consider themselves the descendants of Pluto and whether
it were not on that account that they reckoned time by nights instead
of by days. The Atrebate could not give him the true reason for this
custom. But he told Cæsar that in his opinion at the birth of the world
night had preceded day.

"I believe," he added, "that the moon is more ancient than the sun. She
is a very powerful divinity and the friend of the Gauls."

"The divinity of the moon," answered Cæsar, "is recognized by Romans
and Greeks. But think not, Commius, that this planet, which shines upon
Italy and upon the whole earth, is especially favourable to the Gauls."

"Take heed, Julius," replied the Atrebate, "and weigh your words.
The moon that you here behold fleeing through the clouds is not the
moon which at Rome shines on your marble temples. Though she be big
and bright, this moon could not be seen in Italy. The distance is too


Winter came and covered Gaul with darkness, with ice and with snow.
The hearts of the warriors in their wattle huts were moved as they
thought on the chiefs and their retainers whom Cæsar had slain or sold
by auction. Sometimes to the door of the hut came à man begging bread
and showing his wrists with the hands cut off by a lictor. And the
warriors' hearts revolted. Words of wrath passed from mouth to mouth.
They assembled by night in the depths of the woods and the hollows of
the rocks.

Meanwhile King Komm with his faithful followers hunted in the forests,
in the land of the Atrebates. Every day, a messenger in a striped
mantle and red braces came by secret paths to the King, and, slackening
the speed of his horse as he drew near to him, said in a low voice:

"Komm, will you not be a free man in a free country? Komm, will you any
longer submit to be a slave of the Romans?"

Then the messenger disappeared along the narrow path, where the fallen
leaves deadened the sound of his galloping horse.

Komm, King of the Atrebates, remained the Romans' friend. But gradually
he persuaded himself that it behooved the Atrebates and the Morini to
be free, since he was their King. It annoyed him to see Romans, settled
at Nemetacum, sitting in tribunals, where they dispensed justice, and
geometricians from Italy planning roads through the sacred forests. And
then he admired the Romans less since he had seen their ships broken
against the British cliffs and their legionaries weeping by night on
the beach. He continued to exercise sovereignty in Cæsar's name. But to
his followers he darkly hinted at the approach of war.

Three years later the hour had struck: Roman blood had flowed in
Genabum. The chieftains allied against Cæsar assembled their fighting
men in the Arverni Hills. Komm did not love these chiefs. Rather did
he hate them, some because they were richer than he in men, in horses
and in lands; others because of the profusion of the gold and the
rubies which they possessed; others, again, because they said that
they were braver than he and of nobler race. Nevertheless he received
their messengers, to whom he gave an oak-leaf and a hazel twig as a
sign of affection. And he corresponded with the chiefs who were hostile
to Cæsar by means of twigs cut and knotted in such a manner as to be
unintelligible save to the Gauls, who knew the language of leaves.

He uttered no war-cry. But he went to and fro among the villages of the
Atrebates, and, visiting the warriors in their huts, to them he said:

"Three things were the first to be born: man, liberty, light."

He made sure that, whenever he should utter the war-cry, five thousand
warriors of the Morini and four thousand warriors of the Atrebates
would at his call buckle on their baldrics of bronze. And, joyfully
thinking that in the forest the fire was smouldering beneath its ashes,
he secretly passed over to the Treviri in order to win them for the
Gallic cause.

Now, while he was riding with his followers beneath the willows on the
banks of the Moselle, a messenger wearing a striped mantle brought
him an ash bough bound to a spray of heather, in order to give him to
understand that the Romans had suspected his designs and to enjoin him
to be prudent. For such was the meaning of the heather tied to the
ash. But he continued on his way and entered into the country of the
Treviri. Titus Labienus, Cæsar's lieutenant, was encamped there with
ten legions. Having been warned that King Commius was coming secretly
to visit the chiefs of the Treviri, he suspected that his object was to
seduce them from their allegiance to Rome. Having had him followed by
spies, he received information which confirmed his suspicions. He then
resolved to get rid of this man. He was a Roman, a son of the divine
City, an example to the world, and by force of arms he had extended
the Roman peace to the ends of the earth. He was a good general and
an expert in mathematics and mechanics. During the leisure of peace,
beneath the terebinths in the garden of his Campanian villa, he held
converse with magistrates touching the laws, the morals and the
customs of peoples. He praised the virtues of antiquity and liberty.
He read the works of Greek historians and philosophers. His was a rare
and polished intellect. And because Komm was a barbarian, unacquainted
with things Roman, it seemed to Titus Labienus good and fitting that he
should have him assassinated.

Being informed of the place where he was, he sent to him his master
of horse, Caius Volusenus Quadratus, who knew the Atrebate, for they
had been commissioned to reconnoitre together the coasts of the isle
of Britain before Cæsar's expedition hither; but Volusenus had not
ventured to land. Therefore, by the command of Labienus, Cæsar's
lieutenant, Volusenus chose a few centurions and took them with him
to the village where he knew Komm to be. He could rely upon them.
The centurion was a legionary promoted from the ranks, who as a sign
of his office carried a vine-stock with which he used to strike his
subordinates. His chiefs did what they liked with him. As an instrument
of conquest he was second only to the navy. Volusenus said to his

"A man will approach me. You will suffer him to advance. I shall hold
out my hand to him. At that moment you will strike him from behind, and
you will kill him."

Having given these orders, Volusenus set forth with his escort. In a
sunken way, near the village, he met Komm with his followers. The King
of the Atrebates, aware that he was suspected, would have turned his
horse. But the master of the horse called him by name, assured him of
his friendship and held out his hand to him.

Reassured by those signs of friendship, the Atrebate approached. As he
was about to take the proffered hand a centurion struck him on the head
with his sword and caused him to fall bleeding from his horse. Then
the King's followers threw themselves upon the little band of Romans,
scattered them, took up Komm and carried him away to the nearest
village, while Volusenus, who believed his task accomplished, crept
back to the camp with his horsemen.

King Komm was not dead. He was carried secretly into the country of the
Atrebates, where he was cured of his terrible wound. Having recovered,
he took this oath:

"I swear never to meet a Roman save to kill him." Soon he learnt that
Cæsar had suffered a severe defeat at the foot of the Gergovian Mount
and forty-six centurions of his army had fallen beneath the walls
of the town. Later he was told that the confederates commanded by
Vercingétorix were besieged in the country of the Mandubi, at Alesia,
a famous Gallic fortress founded by Hercules of Tyre. Then, with a
following of warriors, Morini and Atrebates, he marched to the frontier
of the Edni, where an army was assembling to relieve the Gauls in
Alesia. The army was numbered and was found to consist of two hundred
and forty thousand foot and eight thousand horse. The command was
entrusted to Virdumar and Eporedorix of the Edni, Vergasillaun of the
Averni and Komm of the Atrebates.

After a long and arduous march, Komm, with his chiefs and fighting-men,
reached the mountainous country of the Edni. From the heights
surrounding the plateau of Alesia he beheld the Roman camp and the
earthworks dug all around it by those little dark men, who waged war
with the mattocks and the spade rather than with the javelin and the
sword. This seemed to him to augur ill, for he knew that against
trenches and machines the Gauls were of less avail than against
human breasts. He himself, though well versed in the stratagems of
war, understood little of the engineering art of the Romans. After
three great battles, during which no break was made in the enemy's
fortifications, the terrific rout of the Gauls carried off Komm as
a blade of grass is whirled away in a storm. In the mêlée he had
perceived Cæsar's red mantle and taken it for an omen of defeat. Now he
fled furiously down the track cursing the Romans, but content that the
Gallic chieftains, of whom he was jealous, were suffering with him.


For a year Komm lived in hiding in the forests of the Atrebates. There
he was safe, because the Gauls hated the Romans, and having themselves
submitted to the conquerors they had a great respect for those who
refused them obedience. On the river-bank and in the green-wood,
accompanied by his followers, he led a life not differing greatly from
that he had lived as the chief of many tribes. He gave himself up to
hunting and fishing, devised stratagems and drank fermented drinks,
which, though depriving him of the knowledge of human affairs, enabled
him to understand those that are divine. But his soul had suffered a
change, and it pained him to be no longer free. All the chiefs of his
people had been killed in battle, or had died beneath the lash, or,
bound by the lictor, had been led away to a Roman prison. No longer
did a bitter envy of them possess him; for now all his hatred was
concentrated upon the Romans. He bound to his horse's tail the golden
circlet which he, as the friend of the Senate and the Roman people,
had received from the Dictator. To his dogs he gave the names of
Cæsar, Caius and Julius. When he saw a pig he stoned it, calling it
Volusenus. And he composed songs like those which he had heard in his
youth, eloquently expressing the love of liberty.

Now, it happened that one day, absorbed in the chase, having wandered
away from his followers, he climbed the high, heather-clad table-land
which commands Nemetacum, and, gazing thence, he saw with amazement
that the huts and stockades of his town had vanished, and that in a
wall-encircled enclosure rose temples and houses of an architecture
so prodigious as to inspire him with the horror and fear caused by
works of magic. For he could not believe that in so short a time such
dwellings could have been constructed by natural means.

He forgot the birds on the moorland, and, prone on the red earth,
he lay and gazed long upon the strange town. Curiosity, stronger
than fear, kept his eyes wide open. Until evening he gazed upon the
spectacle. Then there came to him an overpowering desire to enter the
town. Beneath a stone on the heath he hid his golden torques, his
bracelets, his jewelled belts and his weapons of chase. Retaining
only his knife, hidden under his mantle, he descended the wooded
hill-side. As he passed through the moist undergrowth, he gathered some
mushrooms, so that he might appear as a poor man coming to sell his
wares in the market. And in the third watch of the night he entered the
town through the Golden Gate. It was kept by legionaries who allowed
peasants bringing in food to pass. Thus the King of the Atrebates,
disguised as a poor man, was readily enabled to penetrate as far as the
Julian way. This was bordered by villas; it led to the Temple of Diana,
the white façade of which was already adorned with interlacing arches
of purple, azure and gold. In the grey morning light Komm saw figures
painted on the walls of the houses. They were ethereal pictures of
dancing girls and scenes drawn from a history of which he was ignorant:
a young virgin whom heroes were offering up as a sacrifice, a mother
in her fury plunging a dagger into her two children as yet unweaned,
a man with the hoofs of a goat raising his pointed ears in surprise,
when, unrobing a sleeping and reclining virgin, he discovers her to
be at once a youth and a woman. And there were in the courtyard other
pictures representing modes of love unknown to the peoples of Gaul.
Though passionately addicted to wine and women, he had no idea of
Ausonian voluptuousness, because he had no clear idea of the variety
of human forms and because he was untroubled by the desire for beauty.
Having come to this town, which had once been his, in order to satisfy
his hatred and inflame his wrath, he filled his heart with fury and
loathing. He detested Roman art and the mysterious devices of the
Roman painters. And in all these census figures on the city portals he
saw but little, because his eyes lacked discernment save in observing
the foliage of trees or the clouds in a dark sky.

Bearing his mushrooms in a fold of his mantle, he passed along
the broad-paved streets. Beneath a door over which was a phallus
illuminated by a little lamp he saw women wearing transparent tunics,
who were watching for the passers-by. He approached with the intention
of offering them violence. An old woman appeared, who in a squeaky
voice said sharply.

"Go thy way. This is not a house for peasants who reek of cheese.
Return to thy cows, herdsman." Komm replied that he had had fifty
women, the most beautiful of the Atrebates, and possessed coffers full
of gold. The courtesans began to laugh, and the old woman cried:

"Be off, drunkard!"

And it seemed to him that the duenna was a centurion armed with a
vine-stock, with such splendour did the majesty of the Roman people
shine throughout the Empire!

With one blow of his fist Komm broke her jaw and serenely pursued his
way, while the narrow passage of the house was filled with shrieks,
howls and lamentations. On the left he passed the temple of Diana of
the Ardeni and crossed the forum between two rows of porches. When he
recognized the goddess Roma standing on her marble pedestal, wearing
a helmet, with her arm outstretched to command the peoples, in order
to insult her, he performed before her the most ignoble of natural

He was now coming to the end of the buildings of the town. Before him
extended the stone circle of the amphitheatre as yet barely outlined,
but already immense. He sighed:

"O race of monsters!"

And he advanced among the shattered and trampled vestiges of Gallic
huts, the thatched roofs of which once extended like some motionless
army and which were now degraded into less even than ruins--into little
more than a heap of manure spread upon the ground. And he reflected:

"Behold what remains of so many ages of men! Behold what they have made
of the dwellings wherein the chiefs of the Atrebates hung their arms!"

The sun had risen over the grades of the amphitheatre, and with
insatiable and inquisitive hatred the Gaul wandered among the vast
enclosures filled with bricks and stones. His large blue eyes gazed on
these stony monuments of conquest, and he shook his long fair locks
in the fresh breeze. Thinking himself alone, he muttered curses. But
not far from the stone-masons' yard he perceived, at the foot of an
oak-crowned hillock, a man seated on a mossy stone in a crouching
position, with his mantle thrown over his head. He wore no insignia;
but on his finger was the knight's ring, and the Atrebate knew enough
of a Roman camp to recognize a military tribune. This soldier was
writing on tablets of wax and appeared wrapt in thought. Having long
remained motionless, he raised his head, pensive, with his style to his
lips, looked about him vacantly, then gazed down again and resumed his
writing. Komm saw his full face and perceived that he was young, and
that he had a gentle, high-born air.

Then the Atrebate chief recalled his oath. He felt for his knife
beneath his cloak, slipped behind the Roman with the agility of the
savage and plunged the blade into the middle of his back. It was a
Roman blade. The tribune uttered a deep groan and sank down. A trickle
of blood flowed from one corner of his mouth. The waxen tablets
remained on his tunic between his knees. Komm took them and looked
eagerly at the signs traced thereon, thinking them to be magic signs
the knowledge of which would give him great power. They were letters
which he could not read and which were taken from the Greek alphabet
then preferred to the Latin alphabet by the young _littérateurs_ of
Italy. Most of these letters were effaced by the flat end of the
style; those which remained were Latin lines in Greek metre, and here
and there they were intelligible:


    O thou, whom Varius loved more than his eyes,
    Thy Varius, wandering beneath the rainy sky of Galata ...
    And the couple sang in their golden cage of gold.
       .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    O my white Phœbe, with prudent hand give
    Millet and fresh water to thy frail captive.
    She sits, she is a mother: a mother is timid.
       .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    Oh! come not to the misty Ocean's strand,
    Phœbe, for fear ...
     ... Thy white feet and thy limbs
    So nimbly moving to the crotalum's rhythm.
       .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    And neither the gold of Crœsus nor the purple of Attala,
    But thy fresh arms, thy breasts....

A faint sound ascended from the waking town. Past the remnants of the
Gallic huts where a few barbarians, fierce though of humble rank, were
still lurking in the trenches, the Atrebate fled, and through a breach
in the wall he leapt into the open country.


When, through the legionaries' sword, the lictor's lashes and Cæsar's
flattering words Gaul was at length completely pacified, Marcus
Antonius, the quaestor, came to take up his winter quarters in
Nemetacum of the Atrebates. He was the son of Julia, Cæsar's sister.
His functions were those of paymaster to the troops. It was for him,
also, to apportion the booty captured, in accordance with established
rules. This booty was immense; for the conquerors had discovered bars
of gold and carbuncles under the stones of sacred places, in the
hollows of oaks and in the still water of pools; they had collected
golden utensils from the huts of exterminated tribes and their chiefs.

Marcus Antonius brought with him many scribes and land surveyors who
set to work upon the apportionment of lands and movable goods, and
would have perpetrated many useless writings had not Cæsar prescribed
for them simple and rapid methods of procedure. Merchants from Asia,
workmen, lawyers and other settlers came in crowds to Nemetacum; and
the Atrebates who had quitted their town returned one by one, curious,
astonished, filled with wonder. The Gauls, for the most part, were now
proud to wear the toga and to speak the tongue of the magnanimous sons
of Remus. Having shaved off their long moustaches they had resembled
Romans. Those who had succeeded in retaining any wealth employed a
Roman architect to build them a house with an inner porch, rooms for
the women and a fountain adorned with shell-work. They had paintings
of Hercules, Mercury and the Muses in their dining-room, and would sup
reclining on couches.

Komm, though himself illustrious and the son of an illustrious father,
had lost most of his followers. Nevertheless he refused to submit,
and led a wandering, warlike life in company with a few fighting-men
who were addicted to plunder and rape, or who, like their chief, were
possessed of a keen desire for liberty or of hatred for the Romans.
They followed him into impenetrable forests, into marshes and even into
those moving islands which occur in the broad estuaries of rivers.
They were entirely devoted to him, but they addressed him without
respect, as a man speaks to his equal, because they were actually his
equals in courage, in the extremes of continual hardships, of poverty
and wretchedness. They dwelt in trees or in the clefts of rocks. They
sought out caverns worn in the friable stone by the water gushing
down narrow valleys. When there were no beasts to hunt, they fed on
blackberries and arbutus berries. They were excluded from towns by
their fear of the Romans or by the vigilance of the Roman guards. In
few villages were they readily received. Komm, however, always found a
welcome in the huts scattered over the wind-swept sands which border
the lazy waters of the Somme estuary. The dwellers on these dunes fed
on fish. Poor, dishevelled, buried among the blue thistles of their
barren soil, they had had no experience of Roman might. They received
Komm and his companions into their subterranean abodes, which were
covered with reeds and stones rounded by the Ocean. They listened to
him attentively, having never heard any man talk so well. He said to

"Know who are the friends of the Atrebates and the Morini who live on
the sea-shore and in the deep forest.

"The moon, the forest and the sea are the friends of the Morini and the
Atrebates. And neither the sea nor the forest nor the moon loves the
little dark men who follow Cæsar.

"Now the sea said to me: 'Komm, I am hiding the ships of the Veneti in
a lonely cove on my shore.'

"The forest said to me: 'Komm, I will provide a secure shelter for thee
who art an illustrious chieftain, and for thy faithful companions.'

"The moon said to me: 'Komm, thou hast seen me in the isle of the
Britons shattering the Roman ships. I command the clouds and the winds,
and I will refuse to shine upon the drivers of the chariots which bear
victuals to the Romans of Nemetacum, in order that thou mayest take
them by surprise in the darkness of the night.'

"Thus spoke unto me the sea, the forest and the moon. And this I bid

"Leave your boats and your nets and come with me. You will all be
chiefs in war and of great renown. We shall fight great and profitable
battles. We shall win victuals, treasure and women in abundance. Behold
in what manner:

"I know so completely the whole country of the Atrebates and the Morini
that there is not a single river, nor pool, nor rock with the situation
of which I am unacquainted. And likewise every road, every path with
its exact length and its precise direction lies as clear in my mind as
upon the soil of our ancestors. Great and royal indeed must be my mind
thus to encompass the whole land of the Atrebates. But know that many
another country is likewise contained in it--the lands of the Britons,
the Gauls and the Germans. Wherefore, had it been given me to command
the peoples, I should have conquered Cæsar and driven the Romans out
of this country. Wherefore we, you and I who speak, shall surprise
the couriers of Marcus Antonius and the convoys of food destined for
the town which has been reft from me. We shall surprise them without
difficulty, for I know along which roads they travel, and their
soldiers will not discover us since they know not the roads we shall
take. And were they to follow on our tracks, we should escape from them
in the ships of the Veneti, which would bear us to the isle of the

With such words Komm inspired his hosts with confidence on the misty
sea-shore. And he finally won them over by giving them pieces of gold
and iron, the last vestiges of the treasure which had once been his.
They said to him:

"We will follow thee wherever it please thee to lead us."

He led them by unknown ways to the edge of the Roman road. When he saw
horses grazing on the bush grass near the abode of a rich man, he gave
them to his companions.

Thus he gathered together a body of horsemen which was joined by those
of the Atrebates who desired to wage war for the sake of booty, and by
some deserters from the Roman camp. The latter Komm did not receive,
in order not to break the oath which he had sworn never again to look
a Roman in the face save to slay him. But he had them questioned by
some one of intelligence, and dismissed them with food for three days.
Sometimes all the male folk of a village, young and old, entreated
him to receive them as his followers. These men had been completely
despoiled by the tax-gatherers of Marcus Antonius, who in addition to
the imposts which Cæsar levied had demanded others, which were not
due, and had fined chiefs for imaginary offences. In short, these
publicans, after filling the coffers of the State, took care to enrich
themselves at the expense of barbarians whom they thought a stupid
people, and whose importunate complaints could always be silenced by
the executioner's axe. Komm chose the strongest of these men. The
others were dismissed, despite their tears and their entreaties not
to be left to die of hunger or at the hands of the Romans. He did not
wish for a great army, because he did not wish to wage a great war as
Vercingétorix had done.

In a few days he had, with his little band, captured several convoys of
flour and cattle, massacred isolated legionaries up to the very walls
of Nemetacum and terrified the Roman population of the town.

"These Gauls," said the tribunes and centurions, "are cruel barbarians,
mockers of the gods, enemies of the human race. Scorning their plighted
word, they offend the majesty of Rome and of Peace. They deserve to be
made an example. We owe it to humanity to chastise these criminals."

The complaints of the settlers and the cries of the soldiers penetrated
into the quæstor's tribunal. At first Marcus Antonius paid no heed
to them. In well-heated, well-closed halls he was busied with actors
and courtesans who were representing on the stage the works of that
Hercules whom he resembled in feature, in the cut of his short curly
beard, and in the vigour of his limbs. Clothed in a lion's skin, club
in hand, Julia's robust son threw fictitious monsters to the ground and
with his arrow pierced a false hydra. Then, suddenly exchanging the
lion's pelt for Omphale's robe, he likewise changed his passion.

Meanwhile convoys were being intercepted, bands of soldiers surprised,
harried and put to flight, and one morning the centurion, G. Fusius,
was found hanging disembowelled from a tree near the Golden Gate.

In the Roman camp it was known that the author of this brigandage was
Commius, formerly king by the grace of Rome, now a robber chieftain.
Marcus Antonius commanded energetic action to be taken in order to
assure the safety of soldiers and settlers. And, foreseeing that
the crafty Gaul would not easily be captured, he bade the Proctor
straightway to make some terrible example. In order to carry out his
chief's design, the Proctor caused the two richest Atrebates in the
city of Nemetacum to be brought before his tribunal.

One was by name Vergal, the other Ambrow. Both were of illustrious
birth, and they had been the first of their tribe to make friends with
Cæsar. Poorly rewarded for their prompt submission, robbed of all their
honours and of a great part of their wealth, ceaselessly annoyed by
coarse centurions and covetous lawyers, they had ventured to whisper a
few complaints. Imitating the Romans and wearing the toga, they lived
in Nemetacum, vain and simple-minded, proud and humiliated. The Proctor
examined them, condemned them to suffer the traitors' death and on that
very day handed them over to the lictors. They died doubting Roman

Thus did the quaestor by his firmness banish fear from the hearts of
the settlers, who presented him with a laudatory address. The municipal
councillors of Nemetacum, blessing his paternal vigilance and his
piety, decreed that a bronze statue should be raised in his honour.
After this several Roman merchants, having ventured out of the town,
were surprised and slain by Komm's horsemen.


The prefect of the body of cavalry stationed at Nemetacum of the
Atrebates was Caius Volusenus Quadratus, the same who had formerly
enticed King Commius into a trap and had said to the centurions of
his escort: "When I hold out my hand as a sign of friendship you
will strike from behind." Caius Volusenus Quadratus was held in high
esteem in the army because of his obedience to the call of duty and
his unflinching courage. He had received rich rewards and enjoyed the
honours due to military virtue. Marcus Antonius appointed him to hunt
down Commius.

Volusenus zealously carried out the mission confided to him. He planned
ambuscades for Komm, and, keeping in constant touch with his robber
bands, harassed them incessantly. Meanwhile the Atrebate, a cunning
master of guerilla warfare, wore out the Roman cavalry by his swift
movements and surprised isolated soldiers. As a matter of religious
sentiment he slew his prisoners, trusting thus he propitiate the gods.
But the gods hide their thoughts as well as their countenances. And
it was after one of these pious performances that Komm fell into the
greatest danger. Wandering in the land of the Morini, he had just slain
by night on a stone in the forest two young and handsome prisoners,
when on issuing from the wood he and all his men were surprised by the
cavalry of Volusenus, which, being better armed and better skilled in
manœuvring, surrounded him and killed many of his warriors and their
horses. He succeeded, however, in making his escape, accompanied by the
bravest and the cleverest of the Atrebates. They fled; they galloped
at full speed over the plain, towards the beach where the misty Ocean
rolls its pebbles over the sand. And, looking round, they saw the Roman
helmets gleaming far behind them.

Komm had a fair hope of escaping. His horses were swifter and less
heavily laden than the enemy's. He reckoned on reaching in time the
boats awaiting him in a neighbouring cove, and with his faithful
followers making for the land of the Britons.

Thus thought the chief, and the Atrebates rode in silence. Now a drop
in the ground on a clump of dwarf-trees would hide the horsemen of
Volusenus. Then on the immense grey plain the two companies would again
come in sight of one another, but separated by an increasingly wide
interval. The pale bronze helmets were outdistanced and Komm could
distinguish naught to the rear save a cloud of dust moving on the
horizon. Already the Gauls were breathing with delight the salt sea
air. But as they drew nigh the shore the dusty incline caused the pace
of the Gallic horses to slacken, and Volusenus began to gain on them.

Faint, almost imperceptible, the sound of Roman voices was caught by
the keen ears of the barbarians, when, beyond the wind-bent larches,
they first descried from the summit of a dune the masts of ships that
lay gathered in the bend of the lonely shore. They uttered one long cry
of joy. And Komm congratulated himself on his prudence and good luck.
But, having begun their descent to the beach, they paused half-way
down, seized with fear and horror, as they perceived the fine boats of
the Veneti, broad keeled, lofty of stem and stern, now high and dry
on the sand, there to remain for many a long hour, while far away in
the distance gleamed the waves of the low tide. At this sight they sat
inertly, stricken dumb, stooping over their steaming horses, which with
muscles relaxed bowed their heads to the land breeze which blinded them
as it blew their long manes into their eyes.

In the confusion and the silence resounded the voice of the chief

"To the ships, horsemen! The wind is good! To the ships!"

They obeyed without understanding. And, pushing on to the ships, Komm
bade them unfurl the sails. They were the skins of beasts dyed bright
colours. No sooner were they unfurled than the rising wind filled the

The Gauls wondered what could be the object of this manœuvre and
whether the chief hoped to see the stout oaken keels ploughing through
the sand of the beach as if it were the water of the Ocean. Some
thought there might yet be time for flight, others of meeting death
while slaying the Romans.

Meanwhile Volusenus, at the head of his horsemen men, was climbing the
hill which borders on the pebbled, sandy shore. Rising from the bottom
of the cove he saw the masts of the ships of the Veneti. Perceiving the
sails unfurled and filled with a favourable wind, he bade his troops
halt, called down obscene curses on the head of Commius, groaned over
his horses, which had perished in vain, and, turning bridle, commanded
his men to return to camp.

"What is the good," he thought, "of pursuing the bandits any farther?
Commius has embarked. He has set sail, and, borne by such a wind, he is
already far beyond the reach of the javelin."

Soon afterwards Komm and the Atrebates reached the thickets and the
moving islands, which they filled with the sound of their heroic

Six months later Komm again took the field. One day Volusenus surprised
him, with a score of horsemen, on open ground. With the prefect was
about an equal number of men and horses. He gave the order to attack.
The Atrebate, whether he feared his inability to meet the charge, or
whether he planned some stratagem, signed to his followers to flee, and
himself wildly dashed across the immense plain in a long, galloping
flight, hard pressed by Volusenus. Then, suddenly, he turned, and,
followed by his Gauls, threw himself furiously on the Prefect of the
Horse and, with one thrust of his lance, pierced his thigh. At the
sight of their general struck down the Romans fled in amazement. Then
the discipline of their military training asserted itself, enabling
them to overcome the natural instinct of fear; they returned to pick up
Volusenus just as Komm, full of a fierce delight, was pouring upon him
the most ferocious insults. The Gauls could not withstand the little
Roman band, which, forming a compact mass, charged them vigorously and
slew or captured the greater number. Commius almost alone escaped,
thanks to his horse's speed.

Volusenus was carried back in a dying state to the Roman camp. But,
thanks to the leech's art or the strength of his own constitution, he
recovered from his wound. In this fray Commius had lost everything,
his faithful warriors and his hatred. Satisfied with his vengeance,
henceforth tranquil and content, he sent a messenger to Marcus
Antonius. This messenger, having been admitted to the quæstor's
tribunal, spoke thus:

"Marcus Antonius, King Commius promises to appear in any place which
shall be indicated to him, to do all that thou shalt command and to
give hostages. One thing only he asks--that he shall be spared the
disgrace of ever appearing before a Roman."

Marcus Antonius was magnanimous.

"I understand," said he, "that Commius may be somewhat disgusted by his
interviews with our generals. I excuse him from ever appearing before
any of us. I grant him his pardon; and I receive his hostages."

What happened afterwards to Komm of the Atrebates is unknown; the rest
of his life cannot be traced.




                        Ed ei s'ergea col petto e con la fronte,
                        Come avesse lo inferno in gran dispitto.
                                     _Inferno_, Can. 10.

She sat on the terrace of his tower, the aged Farinata degli Uberti
fixed his keen gaze on the battlemented town. Standing at his side,
Fra Ambrogio looked at the sky that was blushing with the rosy hues of
evening and crowning with its fiery blossoms the garland of hills which
encircles Florence. From the neighbouring banks of the Arno the perfume
of myrtles was wafted upwards into the still air. The birds' last cries
had re-echoed from the bright roof of San-Giovanni. Suddenly there
came the sound of two horses passing over the sharp pebbles from the
riverbed which paved the road, and two young riders, handsome as two
St. Georges, emerging from the narrow street, rode past the windowless
palace of the Uberti. When they were at the foot of the Ghibelline
tower one spat as a sign of contempt; the other, raising his arm, put
his thumb between his fore and his middle finger. Then both, spurring
their horses, reached the wooden bridge at a gallop. Farinata, a
witness of this insult offered to his name, remained tranquil and
silent. His shrivelled cheeks trembled and briny tears moistened his
yellow eyeballs. Finally, he shook his head three times and said:

"Why does this people hate me?"

Fra Ambrogio did not reply. And Farinata continued to gaze down upon
the city, which he could no longer see save through the bitter mist
which veiled his eyes. Then, turning towards the monk his thin face
with its eagle nose and threatening jaws, he asked again:

"Why does this people hate me?"

The monk made a gesture as if he would drive away a fly.

"What matters to you, Messer Farinata, the obscene insolence of two
striplings bred in the Guelf towers of Oltarno?"


Nothing to me, indeed, are those two Frescobaldi, minions of the
Romans, sons of pimps and prostitutes. I fear not the scorn of such
as they. Neither for my friends nor, especially, for my enemies is it
possible to despise me. My sorrow is to feel weighing upon me the
hatred of the people of Florence.


Hatred has prevailed in cities since the sons of Cain introduced pride
with the arts, and since the two Theban horsemen satisfied their
fraternal hatred by shedding each other's blood. Insult breeds wrath,
and wrath insult. With unfailing fecundity hatred engenders hatred.


But how can love engender hatred? And wherefore am I odious to my
well-beloved city?


Since you wish it, Messer Farinata, I will give you an answer. But from
my lips you will have naught but truthful words. Your fellow citizens
cannot forgive you for having fought at Montaperto, beneath Manfred's
white banner, on the day when the Arbia was stained with Florentine
blood. And they hold that on that day, in that fatal valley, you were
not the friend of your city.


What! I have not loved her! To live her life, to live for her alone,
to suffer fatigue, hunger, thirst, fever, sleeplessness, and that most
terrible of woes, exile; to brave death at every hour, to risk falling
alive into the hands of those whom my death alone would not suffice to
content; to dare everything, to endure everything for her sake, for
her good, to rescue her from the power of my enemies, who were hers,
to induce her whether she would or not to follow wholesome advice, to
espouse the right cause, to think as I thought myself, with the noblest
and the best, to wish her entirely beautiful and subtle and generous,
to sacrifice for this object alone my possessions, my sons, my
neighbours, my friends; in her interest alone to render myself liberal,
avaricious, faithful, perfidious, magnanimous, criminal, this was not
to love my city! Who loved her, then, if I did not?


Alas, Messer Farinata, your pitiless love caused violence and craft
to take arms against the city and cost the lives of ten thousand


Yes, my affection for my city was as strong as that, Fra Ambrogio. And
the deeds it inspired me to perform are worthy to serve as examples to
our sons and our sons' sons. That the memory of them might not perish
I would write of them myself, if I had a head for writing. When I was
young, I composed love-songs, which ladies marvelled at and the clerks
put into their books. With that exception, I have always despised
letters as greatly as the arts, and I have no more troubled to write
than to weave wool. Let every man follow my example and act according
to his rank in life. But you, Fra Ambrogio, who are a very learned
scribe, it is for you to relate the great enterprises I have led. Great
honour would it bring you, if you told them not as a monk, but as a
noble, for they are knightly and noble deeds. Such a story would show
how active I have been. And of all that I have done I regret nothing.

I was exiled, the Guelfs had slain three of my kinsfolk. Sienna
received me; of this my enemies made such a grievance that they incited
the Florentines to march in arms against the hospitable city. For the
exiles, for Sienna, I asked the aid of Cæsar's son, the King of Sicily.


It is only too true: you were the ally of Manfred, the friend of the
Sultan of Luceria, of the astrologer, the renegade, the excommunicated.


Then we swallowed the Pontiff's excommunications like water. I know not
whether Manfred had learned to read destiny in the stars, but true
it is that he made much of his Saracen horsemen. He was as prudent as
he was brave, a sagacious prince, careful of the blood of his men and
of the gold in his coffers. He replied to the Siennese that he would
grant them succour. He made great promises in order to inspire great
gratitude. He gave them but meagre fulfilment through craft and fear
of diminishing his own power. He sent his banner with one hundred
German horsemen. Disappointed and incensed, the Siennese spoke of
rejecting this contemptible aid. I gave them better counsel and taught
them the art of passing a cloth through a ring. One day, having gorged
the Germans with wine and meat, I induced them to make a sortie at so
unlucky a moment that they fell into an ambuscade and were all slain
by the Guelfs of Florence, who took Manfred's white banner and trailed
it in the dust at the end of an ass's tail. Straightway I informed the
Sicilian of the insult. He felt it, as I had foreseen, and, to execute
vengeance, he sent eight hundred horsemen, with a goodly number of
infantry, under the command of Count Giordano, who was reputed to be
the equal of Hector of Troy. Meanwhile Sienna and her allies assembled
their militia. Before long our strength was thirteen thousand fighting
men. We were fewer than were the Guelfs of Florence. But among them
were false Guelfs who merely awaited the hour to declare themselves
Ghibellines, while among our Ghibellines there were no Guelfs. Thus
having on my side, not all the advantage (one never has all), but
advantages which were great and unhoped for, I was impatient to engage
in a battle, which, if won, would destroy my enemies, and, if lost,
would only crush my allies. I hungered and thirsted after this battle.
To make the Florentine army engage in it I used every means of which I
could conceive. I sent to Florence two minor friars charged secretly
to inform the Council that, seized with repentance and desiring to
buy my fellow-citizens' pardon by rendering some signal service, I
was ready for ten thousand florins to deliver up into their hands one
of the gates of Sienna; but that for the success of the enterprise it
would be necessary for the Florentine army, in as great strength as was
possible, to advance to the banks of the Arbia, under the pretence of
coming to the aid of the Guelfs of Montacino. When my two friars had
departed, my mouth spat out the pardon it had asked, and, perturbed by
a terrible anxiety, I waited. I feared lest the nobles of the Council
should realize the folly of sending an army to the Arbia. But I hoped
that the project, by its very extravagance, would please the plebeians
and that they would adopt it all the more eagerly because of the
opposition of the nobles, whom they mistrusted. And so it happened:
the nobility discerned the snare, but the artisans fell into it. They
were in the majority on the Council. At their command the Florentine
army set forth and carried out the plan which I had formed for its
destruction. How beautiful was that dawn, when, riding into a little
band of exiles, I saw the sun pierce the white morning mist and shine
on the forest of Guelf lances which covered the slopes of La Malena!
I had put my hand on my enemies. But a little more artfulness and I
was sure of destroying them. By my advice, Count Giordano caused the
infantry of the commune of Sienna to defile three times before their
eyes, changing their helmets after their first and second appearances,
in order that they might seem more numerous than they actually were;
and thus he showed them to the Guelfs, first red, as an omen of blood;
then green, as an omen of death; then half-black, half-white, as an
omen of captivity. True omens! O what delight! when, charging the
Florentine horse, I beheld it waver and wheel in circles like a flight
of crows, when I saw the man in my pay, him whose name I may not
utter for fear of defiling my lips, strike down with one blow of his
sword the standard which he had come to defend, and all the horsemen,
looking vainly henceforth for their rallying point, the white and blue
colours, flee panic-stricken, trampling one another down, while we in
their pursuit slaughtered them like pigs brought to market. Only the
artisans of the commune stood their ground. Then we had to slay round
the bleeding quarry. Finally, there remained before us naught save
corpses and cowards, who joined hands to come to us and on their knees
to beg for mercy. And I, content with my work, stood apart.


Alas, accursed valley of the Arbia! It is said that after so many years
it still smells of death, that by night, deserted, haunted by wild
beasts, it resounds with the howls of the white witches. Was your heart
so hard, Messer Farinata, that it did not dissolve in tears when, on
that evil day, you saw the flower-clad slopes of La Malena drinking
Florentine blood?


My only grief was to think that thus I had shown my enemies the way to
victory and that, by humbling them after ten years of pride and power,
I had suggested to them what they themselves might do in turn after the
lapse of so many years. I reflected that, since with my aid Fortune's
wheel had taken this turn, the wheel might take another turn and
humble me and mine in the dust. This presentiment cast a shadow over
the dazzling light of my joy.


It seemed to me as if you justly detested the treachery of that man who
trailed in dirt and blood the standard beneath which he had set out to
fight. I myself, who know that the mercy of the Lord is infinite, I,
even, doubt whether Bocca will not take his place in hell with Cain,
Judas and Brutus, the parricide. But if Bocca's crime is so execrable,
do you not repent having caused it? And think you not, Messer Farinata,
that you yourself, by drawing the Florentine army into a snare,
offended the just God and did that which is not lawful?


Everything is lawful to him who obeys the dictates of a vigorous mind
and a strong heart. When I deceived my enemies I was magnanimous, not
treacherous. And if you make it a crime to have employed, in order to
save my party, the man who tore down his party's standard, then you are
wrong, Fra Ambrogio, for nature, not I, had made him a traitor, and it
was I, not nature, who turned his treachery to good use.


But since you loved your city even when fighting against her, it must
have been painful to you that you were able to overcome her only with
the aid of the Siennese, her enemies. Were you not somewhat ashamed at


Wherefore should I have been ashamed? Could I have re-established my
party in the city in any other way? I made alliance with Manfred and
the Siennese. Had it been necessary, I would have sought the alliance
of those African giants who have but one eye in the middle of their
foreheads and who feed upon human flesh, according to the report of
Venetian navigators who have seen them. The pursuit of such an interest
is no mere game played according to rule, like chess or draughts. If
I had judged one thing lawful and another unlawful, think you that
my adversaries would have been bound by such rules? No, indeed, we
on Arbia's banks were not playing a game of dice under the trellis,
tablets on knee and little white pebbles to mark the score. It was
conquest that we were working for. And each side knew it.

Nevertheless, I grant you, Fra Ambrogio, that it would have been
better to settle our quarrel between Florentines alone. Civil war is
so grand, so noble, so fine a thing, that it should, if possible,
be waged without alien intervention. Those who engage in it should
be fellow-citizens and preferably nobles, who would bring to it an
unwearying arm and keen intelligence.

I would not say the same of foreign wars. They are useful, even
necessary enterprises, undertaken to maintain or extend the boundaries
of State or to promote traffic in merchandise. Generally speaking,
neither profit nor honour results from waging these great wars unaided.
A wise people will employ mercenaries, and delegate the enterprise to
experienced captains who know how to win much with few men. Nothing
but professional courage is needed, and it is better to spill gold
than blood. One cannot put one's heart into it. For it would hardly be
wise to hate a foreigner because his interests are opposed to ours,
while it is natural and reasonable to hate a fellow-citizen who opposes
what one esteems useful and good. In civil war alone can one display a
discerning mind, an inflexible soul and the fortitude of a heart filled
with anger or with love.


I am the poorest servant of the poor. But I have one master alone; he
is the King of Heaven. I should be false to Him were I not to say,
Messer Farinata, that the only warrior worthy of the highest praise is
he who marches beneath the cross, singing:

    _Vexïlla régis prodeunt._

The blessed Dominic, whose soul, like a sun, rose on the darkened
Church in a night of falsehood, taught us, concerning war against
heretics, that the more fiercely and bitterly it is fought the more
does it display charity and mercy. And he must have known, he who,
bearing the name of the Prince of the Apostles, like the stone from
David's sling, struck the Goliath of heresy on the forehead. Between
Como and Milan he suffered martyrdom. From him my order derives great
honour. Whosoever draws sword against such a soldier is another
Antiochus, fighting for our Lord Jesus Christ. But, having instituted
empires, kingdoms and republics, God suffers them to be defended by
arms, and He looks down upon the captains who, having called upon Him,
draw sword for the deliverance of their country. But He turns away His
countenance from the citizen who strikes His city and sheds its blood,
as you were so ready to do, Messer Farinata, undeterred by the fear
that Florence, exhausted and rent by you, might have no strength to
withstand her enemies. In the ancient chronicles it is written that
cities weakened by internecine warfare offer an easy prey to the
foreigner who lies in wait to destroy them.


Monk, is it best to attack the lion when he watches or when he sleeps?
Now, I have kept awake the lion of Florence. Ask the Pisans if they had
reason to rejoice at having attacked him at a time when I had made him
furious. Search in the ancient histories and you will find there also,
perhaps, that cities which are seething within are ready to scald the
enemy who lurks without, but that a people made lukewarm by peace at
home has no desire for war abroad. Know that it is dangerous to offend
a city vigilant and noble enough to maintain internal warfare, and say
not again that I have weakened my city.


Nevertheless, you know that she was like to perish after the fatal
day of the Arbia. The panic-stricken Guelfs had sallied forth from
her gates and had taken the sad road to exile. The Ghibelline diet,
convoked at Empoli by Count Giordano, decided to destroy Florence.


It is true. All wished that not a stone should be left upon another.
All said, "Let us crush this nest of Guelfs." I alone rose to defend
her. I alone shielded her from harm. To me the Florentines owe the very
breath of life. Those who insult me and spit upon my threshold, had
they any piety in their hearts, would honour me as a father. I saved my


After you had ruined it. Nevertheless, may that day at Empoli be
counted to you for righteousness in this world and the next, Messer
Farinata! And may St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of Florence,
bear to the ear of our Lord the words which you uttered in the assembly
of the Ghibellines! Repeat to me, I pray you, those praiseworthy words.
They are diversely reported, and I would know them exactly. Is it true,
as many say, that you took as your text two Tuscan proverbs--one of the
ass, the other of the goat?


That of the goat I hardly remember, but I have a clearer recollection
of the proverb of the ass. It may be, as some have said, that I
confused the two proverbs. That matters not. I rose and spoke somewhat

"The ass bites at the roots as hard as he can. And you, following his
example, will bite without discrimination, to-morrow as yesterday, not
discerning that which should be destroyed and that which should be
respected. But know that I have suffered so much and fought so long
only in order to dwell in my city. I shall therefore defend her and
die, if need be, sword in hand."

I said not another word and I went out. They ran after me, and,
endeavouring to appease me by their entreaties, they swore to respect


May our sons forget that you were at the Arbia and remember that you
were at Empoli! You lived in cruel days, and I do not think it easy
either for a Guelf or a Ghibelline to see salvation. May God, Messer
Farinata, save you from hell and receive you after your death into His
blessed Paradise.


Paradise and hell are but the creations of our own mind. Epicurus
taught this, and many since his day have known it to be true. You
yourself, Fra Ambrogio, have you not read in your book: "For that which
befalleth the sons of men befalleth Beasts; as the one dieth so dieth
the other." But if, like ordinary souls, I believed in God, I would
pray to him to leave the whole of me here after death, that soul and
body alike might be buried in my tomb beneath the walls of my beautiful
San Giovanni. All around are coffins hewn out of stone by the Romans
to receive their dead. Now they are open and empty. In one of those
beds I would wish to rest and sleep at last. In life I suffered
bitterly in exile, and yet I was but a day's journey from Florence.
Farther away I should have been more wretched still. I desire to remain
for ever in my beloved city. May my descendants remain there also.


It fills me with horror to hear you blaspheme the God who created
heaven and earth, the mountains of Florence and the roses of Fiesole.
And that which most terrifies me, Messer Farinata degli Uberti, is
that you contrive to invest evil with a certain nobility. If, contrary
to the hope which I still cherish, infinite mercy were not to be
vouchsafed to you, I believe you would be a credit to hell.


In the city of Troyes, in the year of grace, 1428, Canon Guillaume
Chappedelaine was elected by the Chapter to be King of the Epiphany, in
accordance with the custom which then prevailed throughout Christian
France. For the canons were wont to choose one of their number and to
designate him as king because he was to take the place of the King of
kings and to gather them all round his table, until such time as Jesus
Christ Himself should gather them, as they all hoped, into His holy

Sieur Guillaume Chappedelaine owed his election to his virtuous life
and his generosity. He was a rich man. Both the Burgundian and the
Armagnac captains, when ravaging Champagne, had spared his vineyards.
For this good fortune he was indebted first to God and then to
himself, to the kindness he had shown to the two factions which were
at that time rending asunder the kingdom of the lilies. His wealth
had contributed not a little to his election; for in that year a
_setier_[1] of corn fetched eight francs, five-and-twenty eggs six
sous, a young pig seven francs, while throughout the winter Churchmen
had been reduced to eat cabbages like villeins.

Wherefore on the Feast of the Epiphany, Sieur Guillaume Chappedelaine,
clothed in his dalmatica, holding in his hand a palm-branch in lieu
of a sceptre, took his place in the cathedral choir, beneath a canopy
of cloth of gold. Meanwhile, out in the sacristy, there came forth
three canons, wearing crowns upon their heads. One was robed in white,
another in red, the third in black. They stood for the three kings
of the East, the Magi, and, going down to that part of the church
which represents the foot of the cross, they chanted the Gospel of
St. Matthew. A deacon, bearing at the end of a pole five lighted
candles, to symbolize the miraculous star which led the Magi to
Bethlehem, ascended the great nave and entered the choir. The three
canons followed him singing, and, when they reached this passage in
the gospel, _Et intrantes domum, invenerunt puerum cum Maria, matre
ejus, et procidentes adoraverunt eum,_ they stopped in front of Sieur
Guillaume Chappedelaine and bowed low before him. Then came three
children, bearing salt and spices, which Sieur Guillaume graciously
received after the manner of the Infant King who had accepted the
myrrh, the gold and the frankincense of the kings of this world. After
this divine service was celebrated with due devoutness.

In the evening the canons were invited to sup with the King of the
Epiphany. Sieur Guillaume's house was close against the apse of the
cathedral. It was recognizable by the golden hood on a shield of stone
which adorned its low door. That night the great hall was strewn with
foliage and lit by twelve torches of fir-wood. The whole Chapter
sat down to the table, groaning beneath a lamb cooked whole. There
were present Sieurs Jean Bruant, Thomas Alépée, Simon Thibouville,
Jean Coquemard, Denys Petit, Pierre Corneille, Barnabe Videloup and
François Pigouchel, canons of Saint-Pierre, Sieur Thibault de Saugles,
knight and hereditary lay canon, and, at the bottom of the table,
Pierrolet, the little clerk, who, although he could not write, was
Sieur Guillaume's secretary and served him at Mass. He looked like a
girl dressed up as a boy. He it was who on Candlemas Day appeared as
an angel. It was also the custom on Ember Wednesday in December, when
the coming of the Angel Gabriel to announce to Mary the mystery of
the Incarnation was read at Mass, for a young girl to be placed on a
platform and for a child with wings to tell her that she was about to
become the mother of the Son of God. A stuffed dove was suspended over
the girl's head. For two years Pierrolet had represented the angel of
the Annunciation.

But his soul was far from being as sweet as his countenance. He was
violent, foolhardy and quarrelsome, and he often provoked boys older
than himself. He was suspected of being immoral; and in truth the
soldiers garrisoned in the towns set no good example. Little notice,
however, was taken of his bad habits. That which most vexed Sieur
Guillaume was that Pierrolet was an Armagnac and for ever quarrelling
with the Burgundians. The canon repeatedly told him that such a state
of mind was not only wicked but absolutely devilish in that good
town of Troyes, where the late Henry V of England had celebrated his
marriage with Madame Catherine of France and where the English were the
rightful masters, for all power is of God. _Omnis potestas a Deo._

The guests having taken their places, Sieur Guillaume recited the
_Benedicite_ and every one began to eat in silence. Sieur Jean
Coquemard was the first to speak. Turning to Sieur Jean Bruant, his
neighbour, he said:

"You are wise and learned. Did you fast yesterday?"

"It was seemly so to do," replied Sieur Jean Bruant. "In the rubric,
the eve of the Epiphany is described as a vigil and a vigil is a fast."

"Pardon me," retorted Sieur Jean Coquemard. "But I, together with
notable doctors of divinity, hold that an austere fast accords ill with
the joy of the faithful as they recall the birth of our Saviour which
the Church continues to celebrate until the Epiphany."

"In my opinion," replied Sieur Jean Bruant, "those who do not fast on
these vigils have fallen away from our ancient piety."

"And in mine," cried Sieur Jean Coquemard, "those who by fasting
prepare for the most joyful of festivals are guilty of following
customs censored by the majority of our bishops."

The dispute between the two canons began to wax bitter.

"Not to fasti What lack of zeal!" exclaimed Sieur Jean Bruant.

"To fast! How obstinate!" said Sieur Jean Coquemard. "You are one of
those proud, reckless men who love to stand alone."

"You are one of the weak who meekly follow the corrupt herd. But even
in these wicked times of ours I have my authorities. _Quidam asserunt
in vigilia Epiphaniæ jejunandum."_

"That settles the question. _Non jejunetur!_"

"Peace! Peace!" cried Sieur Guillaume from the depths of his great
raised seat. "You are both right: it is praiseworthy of you, Jean
Coquemard, to partake of food on the eve of the Epiphany, as a sign of
rejoicing, and of you, Jean Bruant, to fast on the same vigil, since
you fast with seemly gladness."

This utterance was approved by the whole Chapter.

"Not Solomon himself could have pronounced a wiser judgment," cried
Sieur Pierre Corneille.

And Sieur Guillaume, having put to his lips his goblet of silver gilt,
Sieurs Jean Bruant, Jean Coquemard, Thomas Alépée, Simon Thibouville,
Denys Petit, Pierre Corneille, Barnabé Videloup and François Pigouchel
all cried with one voice:

"The King drinks! the King drinks!"

The uttering of this cry was part of the festival, and the guest who
failed to join in it risked a severe penalty.

Sieur Guillaume, seeing that the flagons were empty, ordered more wine
to be brought, and the servants grated the horse-radish which should
stimulate the thirst of the guests.

"To the health of Monsignor, Bishop of Troyes and of the Regent of
France," said Sieur Guillaume, rising from his canonical seat.

"Right willingly, sieur," said Thibault of Saulges, knight. "But it is
an open secret that our Bishop is disputing with the Regent touching
the double tithe which Monsignor of Bedford is exacting from Churchmen,
under the pretext of financing the Crusade against the Hussites. Thus
we are about to mingle in one toast the healths of two enemies."

"Ha ha!" replied Sieur Guillaume. "But healths are proposed for peace
and not for war. I drink to King Henry VI's Regent of France and to the
health of Monsignor, Bishop of Troyes, whom we all elected two years

The canons, raising their goblets, drank to the health of the Bishop
and of the Regent Bedford.

Meanwhile there was raised at the bottom of the table a young and as
yet piping voice, which cried:

"To the health of the Dauphin Louis, the true King of France!"

It was the little Pierrolet, whose Armagnac sympathies, heated by the
canon's wine, were finding expression.

No one took any notice, and Sieur Guillaume having drunk again they all
cried in chorus:

"The King drinks! The King drinks!"

The guests, all speaking at once, were noisily discussing matters both
sacred and profane.

"Have you heard," said Thibault de Saulges, "that the Regent has sent
ten thousand English to take Orleans?"

"In that case," said Sieur Guillaume, "the town will fall into their
hands, as have already Jargeau and Beaugency, and so many good cities
of the kingdom."

"That remains to be seen!" said the little Pierrolet, growing red.

But, he being at the far end of the table, once again no one heard him.

"Let us drink, monsignors," said Sieur Guillaume, who was doing the
honours of his table lavishly.

And he set the example by raising his great cup of silver gilt.

More loudly than ever the cry resounded:

"The King drinks! The King drinks!"

But after the thunder of the toast had rolled away, Sieur Pierre
Corneille, who was seated rather low down at the table, said bitterly:

"Monsignors, I denounce the little Pierrolet. He did not cry 'The King
drinks!' Thereby he has transgressed our rights and customs, and he
must be punished."

"He must be punished!" repeated in chorus Sieurs Denys Petit and
Barnabe Videloup.

"Let chastisement be meted out to him," said, in his turn, Sieur
Guillaume. "His hands and face must be smeared with soot, for such is
the custom."

"It is the custom!" cried all the canons together.

And Sieur Pierre Corneille went to fetch soot from the chimney, while
Sieurs Thomas Alépée and Simon Thibouville, laughing unrestrainedly,
threw themselves upon the child and held his arms and legs.

But Pierrolet escaped out of their hands, then, standing with his back
to the wall, he drew a little dagger from his belt and swore that he
would plunge it into the throat of anyone who came near him.

Such violence highly amused the canons, and especially Sieur Guillaume.
Rising from his seat, he went up to his little secretary, followed by
Pierre Corneille, who held in his hand a shovelful of soot.

"It is I," he said in unctuous tones, "who for his punishment will make
of this naughty child a negro, a servant of that black King Balthazar
who came to the manger. Pierre Corneille, hold out the shovel."

And, with a gesture as deliberate as that with which he would have
sprinkled holy water upon the faithful, he threw a pinch of soot into
the face of the child who, rushing upon him, plunged his dagger into
Sieur Guillaume's stomach.

The canon uttered a long sigh and fell with his face to the ground. His
guests crowded round him. They saw that he was dead.

Pierrolet had disappeared. A search was made for him all over the town,
but he could not be found. Later it became known that he had enlisted
in Captain La Hire's company. At the Battle of Patay, under the Maid's
eyes, he took prisoner an English captain and was dubbed a knight.

[1] An obsolete measure varying according to place. In 1703, in the
Orkney and Shetland Isles a setten of barley was about twenty-eight
pounds' weight.


    "And sometimes, during our long evenings, the Commander-in
     -Chief would tell us ghost stories, a species of story in
     the telling of which he excelled."--_Mémoires du Comte

For more than three months Bonaparte had been without news from
Europe, when on his return from Saint-Jean-d'Acre he sent an envoy
to the Turkish admiral under the pretext of negotiating an exchange
of prisoners, but in reality in the hope that Sir Sidney Smith would
stop this officer on the way and enlighten him as to recent events;
whether, as might be expected, these had been unfavourable to the
Republic. The General calculated rightly. Sir Sidney had the envoy
brought to his ship and received him there with honour. Having entered
into conversation, the English commander soon learnt that the Syrian
army was totally without despatches or information of any kind. He
showed the Frenchman the newspapers lying open on the table and, with
perfidious courtesy, invited him to take them away with him.

Bonaparte spent the night in his tent reading them. In the morning
he had resolved to return to France in order to assume the government
in the place of those who were on the point of being overthrown. Once
he had set foot on the soil of the Republic, he would crush the weak
and violent government which was rendering the country a prey to fools
and rogues, and he alone would occupy the vacant place. Before he
could carry out his plan, however, he must cross the Mediterranean in
defiance of adverse winds and British squadrons. But Bonaparte could
see nothing save his purpose and his star. By an extraordinary stroke
of good luck he had received the Directory's permission to leave the
Egyptian army and to appoint his own successor.

He summoned Admiral Gantheaume, who had been at head-quarters since
the destruction of the fleet, and instructed him quickly and secretly
to arm two Venetian frigates, which were at Alexandria, and to direct
them to a certain lonely point upon the coast. In a sealed document he
appointed General Kléber Commander-in-Chief. Then, under the pretext of
making a tour of inspection, taking with him a squadron of guides, he
went to the Marabou inlet. On the evening of the 7th of Fructidor in
the year VII, at the junction of two roads, whence the sea was visible,
he came face to face with General Menou, who was returning with his
escort to Alexandria. Finding it impossible and unnecessary to keep his
secret any longer, he took a brusque farewell of these soldiers, urged
them to acquit themselves well in Egypt and said:

"If I have the good luck to set foot in France, the reign of the
chatterboxes will be over!"

He seemed to say this spontaneously and, so to speak, in spite of
himself. Yet such an announcement was well calculated to justify his
flight and to suggest future power.

He jumped into the boat, which at nightfall drew alongside of the
frigate, _La Muiron._ Admiral Gantheaume welcomed him beneath his flag
with these words:

"I command under your star."

And he set sail immediately. With the General were Lavallette, his
aide-de-camp, Monge and Berthollet. The frigate, _La Carrère,_ which
served as a convoy, had on board the' wounded generals, Lannes and
Murat, and Messieurs Denon, Costaz and Parseval-Grandmaison.

Hardly had they started when the wind dropped. The Admiral proposed to
return to Alexandria lest dawn should find them in sight of Aboukir,
where the enemy's fleet lay at anchor. The faithful Lavallette
entreated the General to agree. But Bonaparte pointed seawards.

"Have no fear. We shall get through."

After midnight a fair breeze began to blow. By dawn the flotilla
was out of sight of land. As Bonaparte was walking alone on deck,
Berthollet came up to him.

"General, you were well advised to tell Lavallette not to be afraid and
that we should be able to continue on our course."

Bonaparte smiled.

"I reassured one who is weak but devoted. Your character, Berthollet,
is different, and to you I shall speak differently. The future must
not be counted upon. The present alone matters. One must dare and
calculate, and leave the rest to luck."

And, quickening his steps, he muttered:

"Dare ... calculate ... avoid any cast-iron plan ... conform to
circumstances, follow where they lead. Take advantage of the slightest
as well as of the greatest opportunities. Attempt only the possible,
and all that is possible."

At dinner that day, when the General reproached Lavallette with his
timidity on the previous evening, the aide-de-camp replied that at
present his fears were different but not less, and that he was not
ashamed to confess them, because they concerned the fate of Bonaparte,
consequently the fate of France and of the world.

"I learned from Sir Sidney's secretary," he said, "that the commodore
believes in keeping out of sight during a blockade. So, knowing his
strategy and his character, we must expect to find him in our way. And
in that case...."

Bonaparte interrupted him.

"In that case you cannot doubt that our intuition and our skill would
rise superior to our danger. But you flatter that young madman when you
regard him as capable of any consecutive and methodical action. Smith
ought to be captain of a fire-ship."

Bonaparte was not fair to the formidable commander who had been the
cause of his misfortune at Saint-Jean-d'Acre; and his injustice arose
doubtless from a wish to attribute his failure to a turn of fortune
rather than to his adversary's skill.

The Admiral raised his hand as if to emphasize the resolve which he was
about to express.

"If we meet the English cruisers, I will go on board _La Carrère,_ and,
you may depend upon it, I will keep them so well occupied that they
will give _La Muiron_ time to escape."

Lavallette opened his mouth. He was about to observe that _La Muiron_
was not a fast sailer and that consequently such an opportunity would
be lost upon her. But he feared to displease the General, and swallowed
his words. Bonaparte, however, read his thoughts; and, taking him by
the coat button, said:

"Lavallette, you are a good fellow, but you will never be a good
soldier. You never think enough of your advantages, and you are for
ever concerned with irreparable disadvantages. We cannot make this
frigate a fast sailer. But you must think of the crew, animated with
the brightest enthusiasm and capable of working miracles, if need be.
You forget that our boat is _La Muiron._ I myself gave her that name.
I was at Venice. Invited to christen the frigate which had just been
armed, I seized the opportunity of honouring the memory of one who
was dear to me, of my aide-de-camp, who fell on the bridge of Areola
while protecting his General with his own body under a hail of shot and
shell. In this ship we sail to-day. Can you doubt that its name augurs
well for us?"

For a while longer he continued to hearten them with his glowing words.
He then remarked that he would retire to rest. It was known on the
morrow that he had decided to endeavour to avoid the British squadrons
by some four or five weeks' sailing along the African coast.

Henceforth day followed day in uneventful monotony. _La Muiron_ kept
in sight of the low, unfrequented coast, which was not likely to be
reconnoitred by the enemy's ships, and every half league she tacked
without venturing out to sea. Bonaparte passed his days in conversation
and in reverie. Sometimes he was heard to murmur the names of Ossian
and Fingal. Sometimes he asked his aide-de-camp to read aloud Vertot's
_Revolutions_[1] or Plutarch's _Lives._ He appeared neither anxious
nor impatient, nor preoccupied, more, probably, through a natural
disposition to live in the present than as the result of self-control.
He seemed to take a melancholy pleasure in contemplating that sea
which, whether angry or serene, threatened his destiny and divided
him from his object. On rising from table, when the weather was fine,
he would go on deck and half recline on a gun-carriage in the same
somewhat unsociable and forlorn attitude that was his when, as a child,
he would lie propped up by his elbows on the rocks of his native isle.
The two scientists, the Admiral, the Captain of the frigate and the
aide-de-camp, Lavallette, would stand round him. And the conversation,
which he carried on by fits and starts, most frequently turned on
some new scientific discovery. Monge was not a brilliant talker; but
his conversation revealed him as a clear, logical thinker. Inclined
to consider utility even in physics, he was always a patriot and a
good citizen. Berthollet was a better philosopher and more given to
evolving general theories.

"It will not do," he said, "to represent chemistry as the mysterious
science of metamorphoses, a new Circe, waving her magic wand over
nature. Such ideas may flatter vivid imaginations; but they will
not satisfy thoughtful minds, who are striving to prove that the
transformations of bodies are subject to the general laws of physics."

He had a presentiment that the reactions, which the chemist provokes
and observes, occur under precise mechanical conditions which some day
may be the subject of exact calculation. And, constantly recurring to
this idea, he would apply it to a variety of data, known or surmised.
One evening Bonaparte, who had no sympathy with pure speculation,
brusquely interrupted him:

"Your theories...! Mere soap-bubbles born of a breath and dissipated
by a breath. Chemistry, Berthollet, is no more than a game when not
applied to the requirements of war or industry. In all his researches
the man of science should set before him some definite great and useful
object, like Monge, who, in order to manufacture gunpowder, sought
nitre in cellars and stables."

But Monge himself, as well as Berthollet, insisted on representing to
the General the necessity of understanding phenomena and submitting
them to general laws, before attempting practical applications, and
they argued that any other procedure would lead to the dangerous
obscurity of empiricism.

Bonaparte agreed. But he feared empiricism more than ideology. And
suddenly he inquired of Berthollet:

"Do you, with your explanations, hope to penetrate into the infinite
mystery of nature, to enter on the unknown?"

Berthollet replied that, without pretending to explain the universe,
the scientist rendered humanity the greatest service by substituting
a rational view of natural phenomena for the terrors of ignorance and

"Is he not man's true benefactor," added Berthollet, "who delivers him
from the phantoms introduced into the soul by the fear of an imaginary
hell, who rescues him from the yoke imposed by priests and soothsayers,
who expels from his mind the terrors of dreams and omens?"

Night rested like a vast shadow on the great expanse of sea. In a
moonless and cloudless sky, multitudes of stars glittered like a
suspended shower. For a moment the General remained lost in meditation.
Then, lifting up his head and half rising, he pointed to the dome of
heaven, and with the uncultured voice of the young herdsman and the
hero of antiquity he pierced the silence:

"Mine is a soul of marble which nothing can perturb, a heart
inaccessible to common weaknesses. But you, Berthollet, do you
understand sufficiently what life and death are? Have you explored
their confines so far as to be able to affirm that they are without
mystery? Are you sure that all apparitions are no more than the
phantoms of a diseased brain? Can you explain all presentiments?
General La Harpe had the stature and the heart of a Grenadier. His
intelligence was in its element in battle. There it shone. At Fombio,
for the first time, on the evening before his death, he was struck
dumb, as one who is stunned, frozen by a strange and sudden fear. You
deny apparitions. Monge, did you not meet Captain Aubelet in Italy?"

At this question, Monge tried to remember, then shook his head. No, he
did not recollect Captain Aubelet.

Bonaparte resumed:

"I had observed him at Toulon, where he won his epaulettes, like a hero
of ancient Greece. He was as young, as handsome, as courageous as a
soldier from Platea. Struck by his serious air, his clear-cut features
and the look of wisdom on his young countenance, his superior officers
had nicknamed him Minerva, and the Grenadiers also called him by that
name, though they were ignorant of its significance.

"Captain Minerva!" cried Monge. "Why did you not call him that at
first? Captain Minerva was killed beneath the walls of Mantua a few
weeks before I arrived in that city. His death had made a great
impression, because it was associated with marvellous happenings which
were related to me, though I do not remember them exactly. All I
recollect is that General Miollis ordered Captain Minerva's sword and
gorget, crowned with laurels, to be carried at the head of the column
which one feast day defiled in front of Virgil's grotto, as a tribute
to the memory of the poet of heroes."

"Aubelet's," resumed Bonaparte, "was that perfectly calm courage which
I have never observed in anyone save Bessières. His passions were of
the noblest. And in everything he sacrificed himself. He had a brother
in arms, Captain Demarteau, a few years his senior, whom he loved
with all the affection of a great heart. Demarteau did not resemble
his friend. Impulsive, passionate, equally eager for pleasure and for
danger, he was always the life and soul of the camp. Aubelet was the
proud devotee of duty, Demarteau the joyous lover of glory. The latter
returned his comrade's affection. In those two friends the story of
Nisus and Euryalus was re-enacted beneath our flag. The end, both of
one and the other, was surrounded with extraordinary circumstances.
They were told to me, Monge, as to you, but I paid better heed,
although at that time my mind was occupied with greater affairs. I
desired to take Mantua without delay and before a new Austrian army
had time to enter Italy. Nevertheless I found time to read a report of
the incidents which had preceded and followed Captain Aubelet's death.
Certain of these incidents border on the miraculous. Their cause must
either be assigned to unknown faculties, which man may acquire in
unique moments, or to the intervention of an intelligence superior to

"General, you must exclude the second hypothesis," said Berthollet.
"An observer of nature never perceives the intervention of a superior

"I know that you deny the existence of Providence," replied Bonaparte.
"That may be permissible for a scientist shut tip in his study, but not
for a leader of peoples who can only control the ordinary mind through
a community of ideas. If you would govern men, you must think with them
on all great subjects. You must move with public opinion."

And, raising his eyes to the light flaming in the darkness on the
pinnacle of the mainmast, he said, with hardly a pause:

"The wind blows from the north."

He had changed the subject with the suddenness which was his wont and
which had caused some one to say to M. Denon:

"The General shuts the drawer."

Admiral Gantheaume observed that they could not expect the wind to
change before the first days of autumn.

The light was flaring towards Egypt. Bonaparte looked in that
direction. His gaze plunged into space; and, speaking in staccato
tones, he let fall these words:

"If only they can hold out yonder! The evacuation of Egypt would be
a commercial and military disaster. Alexandria is the capital of the
controllers of Europe. Thence, I shall destroy England's commerce and
I shall change the destiny of India.... For me, as for Alexander,
Alexandria is the fortress, the port, the arsenal whence I start to
conquer the world and whither I cause the wealth of Africa and Asia
to flow. England can only be conquered in Egypt. If she were to take
possession of Egypt, she instead of us would be the mistress of the
world. Turkey is on her death-bed. Egypt assures me the possession
of Greece. For immortality my name shall be inscribed by that of
Epaminondas. The fate of the world hangs upon my intelligence and
Kléber's firmness."

For some days afterwards the General remained silent. He had read to
him the _Révolutions de la République romaine,_ the story of which
seemed to him to drag unbearably. The aide-de-camp, Lavallette, had
to gallop through the Abbé Vertot's pages. And even then Bonaparte's
patience would be exhausted, and, snatching the book from his hands,
he would ask for Plutarch's _Lives,_ of which he never tired. He
considered that, though lacking broad and clear vision, they were
permeated with an overpowering sense of destiny.

So one day, after his siesta, he summoned his reader and bade him
resume the _Life of Brutus,_ where he had left off on the previous
evening. Lavallette opened the book at the page marked, and read:

"Then, as he and Cassius were preparing to leave Asia with the whole of
their army (the night was very dark, and but a feeble light burned in
his tent; a profound silence reigned throughout the whole camp and he
himself was wrapt in thought), it seemed to him that he saw some one
enter his tent. He looked towards the door and he perceived a horrible
spectre, whose countenance was strange and terrifying, who approached
him and stood there in silence. He had the courage to address it. 'Who
art thou,' he asked, 'a man or a god? What comest thou to do here
and what desirest thou of me?' 'Brutus,' replied the phantom, 'I am
thy evil genius, and thou shalt see me at Philippi.' Then Brutus,
unperturbed, said: 'I will see thee there.' Straightway the phantom
disappeared, and Brutus, to whom the servants, whom he summoned, said
that they had seen and heard nothing, continued to busy himself with
his affairs."

"It is here," cried Bonaparte, "in this watery solitude, that such a
scene has its most gruesome effect. Plutarch narrates well. He knows
how to give animation to his story, how to make his characters stand
out. But the relation between events escapes him. One cannot escape
one's fate. Brutus, who had a commonplace mind, believed in strength of
will. A really superior man would not labour under that delusion. He
sees how necessity limits him. He does not dash himself against it. To
be great is to depend on everything. I depend on events which a mere
nothing determines. Wretched creatures that we are, we are powerless to
change the nature of things. Children are self-willed. A great man is
not. What is a human life? The curve described by a projectile."

The Admiral came to tell Bonaparte that the wind had at length changed.
The passage must be attempted. The danger was urgent. Vessels detached
from the English fleet, anchored off Syracuse, commanded by Nelson,
were guarding the sea which they were about to traverse between Tunis
and Sicily. Once the flotilla had been sighted the terrible Admiral
would be down upon them in a few hours.

Gantheaume doubled Cape Bon by night with all lights out. The night
was clear. The watch sighted a ship's lights to the north-east. The
anxiety which consumed Lavallette had attacked even Monge. Bonaparte,
seated, as usual, on his gun-carriage, displayed a tranquillity
which might be deemed real or simulated according to the view taken
of his fatalism! whether it arose merely from a sanguine temper and
the capacity for self-deception or was simply one of his numerous
poses. After discussing with Monge and Berthollet various matters of
physics, mathematics and military science, he went on to speak of
certain superstitions from which perhaps his mind was not completely

"You deny the miraculous," he said to Monge. "But we live and die in
the midst of the miraculous. You told me the other day that you had
scornfully put out of your mind the extraordinary happenings associated
with Captain Aubelet's death. Perhaps Italian credulity had embroidered
them too elaborately. And that may excuse you. Listen to me. On the
9th of September, at midnight, Captain Aubelet was in bivouac before
Mantua. The overpowering heat of the day had been followed by a night
freshened by the mists rising from the marshy plain. Aubelet, feeling
his cloak, became aware that it was wet. And, as he was shivering
slightly, he went near to a fire which the Grenadiers had lit in order
to heat their soup, and he warmed his feet, seated on a pack-saddle.
Gradually the night and the mist enveloped him. In the distance he
heard the neighing of horses and the regular cries of the sentinels.
The captain had been there for some time, anxious, sad, his eyes fixed
on the ashes in the brazier, when a tall form rose noiselessly at his
side. He felt it near him and dared not turn his head. Nevertheless, he
did turn, and recognized his friend, Captain Demarteau, in his usual
attitude, his left hand on his hip and swaying slightly to and fro.
At this sight Captain Aubelet felt his hair stand on end. He could
not doubt the presence of his brother-in-arms, and yet he could not
believe it, for he knew that Captain Demarteau was on the Maine with
Jourdan, who was threatening the Archduke Charles. But his friend's
aspect increased Aubelet's alarm, for though Demarteau's appearance was
perfectly natural there was in it notwithstanding something unfamiliar.
It was Demarteau, and yet there was something in him which could not
fail to inspire fear. Aubelet opened his mouth. But his tongue froze,
he could utter no sound. It was the other who spoke: 'Farewell! I go
where I must. We shall meet to-morrow!' He departed with a noiseless

"On the morrow, Aubelet was sent to reconnoitre at San Giorgio. Before
going, he summoned his first lieutenant and gave him such instructions
as would enable him to replace his captain. 'I shall be killed to-day,'
he added, 'as surely as Demarteau was killed yesterday.'

"And he described to several officers what he had seen in the night.
They believed him to be suffering from an attack of the fever which
had begun to declare itself among the troops encamped in the Mantuan

"Aubelet's company completed its reconnaissance of the San Giorgio
Fort without hindrance. Having achieved its object, it fell back on
our positions. It was marching under the cover of an olive wood. The
first lieutenant, approaching the captain, said to him: 'Now, Captain
Minerva, you no longer doubt that we shall bring you back alive?'

"Aubelet was about to reply, when a bullet whistled through the leaves
and struck him on the forehead.

"A fortnight later a letter from General Joubert, which the Directory
communicated to the Italian army, announced the death of the brave
Captain Demarteau, who fell on the field of honour on the 9th of

As soon as he had finished his story the General left the group of
silent listeners, to pace the deck with long strides and in silence.

"General," said Gantheaume, "we have passed the most dangerous part of
our course."

The next day he bore towards the north, intending to sail along the
Sardinian coast as far as Corsica and thence to make for the coast of
Provence; but Bonaparte wished to land at a headland in Languedoc,
fearing that Toulon might be occupied by the enemy.

_La Muiron_ was making for Port-Vendres when a squall threw her back on
Corsica and compelled her to put into Ajaccio. The whole population of
the Island flocked thither to greet their compatriot and crowned the
heights dominating the gulf. After a few hours' rest, hearing that the
whole French coast was clear of the enemy, they set sail for Toulon.
The wind was fair, but not strong.

Now, amidst the tranquillity which he had communicated to all,
Bonaparte alone appeared agitated, impatient to land, now and again
clapping his small hand suddenly to his sword. The ardent desire to
reign which had been fermenting within him for three years, the spark
of Lodi, had set him in a blaze. One evening, while the indented
coast-line of his native island was fading away into the distance, he
suddenly began to talk with a rapidity which confused the syllables of
the words he spoke:

"If a atop is not put to it, chatterers and fools will complete the
downfall of France. Germany lost at Stockach, Italy lost at the
Trebbia; our armies beaten, our Ministers assassinated, contractors
gorged with gold, our stores empty and deserted, invasion imminent, to
this a weak and dishonest government has brought us.

"Upright men are authority's only support. The corrupt fill me with an
invincible loathing. There is no governing with them."

Monge, who was a patriot, said firmly:

"Probity is as necessary to liberty as corruption to tyranny."

"Probity," replied the General, "is a natural and profitable quality in
men born to govern."

The sun was dipping its reddened and magnified disc beneath the misty
circle of the horizon. Eastward the sky was sown with light clouds
like the petals of a falling rose. On the surface of the sea the blue
and rosy waves rolled softly. A ship's sail appeared on the horizon,
and the telescope of the officer on duty showed her to be flying the
British flag.

"Have we escaped countless dangers only to perish so near our desired
haven!" exclaimed La Valette.

Bonaparte shrugged his shoulders.

"Is it still possible to doubt my good luck and my destiny?"

And he continued his train of thought:

"A clean sweep must be made of these rogues and fools. They must
be replaced by a compact government, swift and sure in action,
like the lion. There must be order. Without order, there can be no
administration, without administration, no credit, no money, but the
ruin of the State and of individuals. A stop must be put to brigandage,
to speculation, to social dissolution. What is France without a
government? Thirty millions of grains of sand. Power is everything. The
rest is nothing. In the wars of Vendée forty men made themselves the
masters of a department. The whole mass of the people desire peace at
any price, order and an end of quarrelling. Fear of Jacobins, Émigrés,
Chouans will throw them into the arms of a master." "And this master?"
inquired Berthollet. "He will doubtless be a military leader?"

"Not at all," replied Bonaparte swiftly. "Not at all I A soldier never
will be the master of this nation, a nation illuminated by philosophy
and science. If any General were to attempt the assumption of power,
his audacity would soon be punished. Hoche thought of doing so. I know
not whether it was love of pleasure or a true appreciation of the
situation that restrained him; but the blow will assuredly recoil
on any soldier who attempts it. For my part, I admire that French
impatience of the military yoke, and I have no hesitation in admitting
that the civil power should be pre-eminent in the State."

On hearing such a declaration, Monge and Berthollet looked at one
another in amazement. They knew that Bonaparte, in spite of the perils,
known and unknown, was about to grasp at power; and they failed to
comprehend words which would seem to deny him that which he so ardently
coveted. Monge, who, at the bottom of his heart, was a lover of
liberty, began to rejoice. But the General, who divined their thoughts,
replied to them immediately: "Of course, if the nation were to discover
in a soldier such civil qualities as would render him an efficient
administrator and ruler, it would place him at the head of affairs;
but it would have to be as a civil not as a military leader. Such must
needs be the feeling of any civilized, intelligent and educated nation."

After a moment's silence, Bonaparte added:

"I am a member of the Institute."

For a few moments longer the English ship was visible on the purpling
belt of the horizon; then it disappeared.

On the morning of the next day, the watch sighted the coast of France.
Yonder was Port-Vendres. Bonaparte fixed his gaze on the low, faint
streak of land. A tumult of thoughts was surging in his mind. He had
a striking and confused impression of arms and togas; in the silence
of the sea an immense clamour filled his ears. And amidst visions of
Grenadiers, magistrates, legislators and human crowds, he saw smiling
and languishing, her handkerchief to her lips, her throat bare,
Josephine, the remembrance of whom burned in his blood.

"General," said Gantheaume, pointing to the coast, which was growing
bright in the morning sunshine, "I have brought you whither destiny
called you. You, like Æneas, reach a shore promised you by the gods."

Bonaparte landed at Fréjus on the 17th of Vendémiaire in the year VIII.

[1] René de Vertot (1655-1735), author of three books on revolutions:
_Histoire des Révolutions de Suède,_ 1695; _Histoire des Révolutions
de Portugal,_ 1711; _Histoire des Révolutions arrivées dans le
gouvernement de la République romaine,_ 1720.



In 1656, Foucquet was forty-one years of age. For five years he
had been Attorney-General in the Paris Parliament, and for three
Comptroller of Finance, having been the control of the Treasury at the
troubles which had afflicted France during the minority of Louis XIV.
He had successfully weathered a difficult period, and had acquired no
little confidence in his genius and his guiding star. Now, in the prime
of life, feeling securely established in office, he proceeded to order
his life in accordance with the magnificence of his tastes. Ambitious,
pleasure-loving, adoring all that was great and beautiful, sensitive
to all that exalts or caresses the soul, he called upon the Arts to
surround him with the symbols of glory and of pleasure. The miracles of
Vaux were the outcome of this demand, which was first satisfied, then
cruelly punished.

On the 2nd of August, 1656, in the presence of Le Vau, his architect,
Foucquet signed the plans and estimates for this mansion of Vaux, which
was to be built within four years, in a new and noble style. It was to
be adorned with magnificent paintings, with statues and tapestries; it
was to command a view over gardens, grottoes and bewitching ornamental
waters; to abound in gold plate and gems and valuables of every kind.
It was destined to receive, with a luxury hitherto unknown, the most
powerful and the most beautiful alike, to welcome the Court and the
King. Thereafter, when the last lights of a miraculous festival had
been extinguished, it was to be the home, for ever, of only solitude
and desolation.

Nevertheless, to Nicolas Foucquet remains the honour of having
discerned and selected men of superior talent, and of having been the
first to employ those great masters of French Art whose works have
shed an enduring splendour over the reign of Louis XIV. After he had
disgraced his Minister, the King could not do better than take from
him his architect Louis Le Vau, his painter Charles Le Brun and his
gardener André Le Nostre, and remove to Paris the looms which Foucquet
had set up at Maincy and which became the Manufacture des Gobelins.
But there was something which the King could not appropriate: the
taste, the feeling for art, the delicate yet profound instinct for
the beautiful which endeared the Comptroller to all the artists who
worked for him. Le Brun, on whom the King showered benefits, regretted
notwithstanding his generous host of Vaux.

It is said that during his trial, when in danger of a capital sentence,
Foucquet, on leaving the Court, was walking, strongly guarded, past
the Arsenal, when seeing some men at work he asked what they were
making. Hearing that they were at work on a basin for a fountain, he
went to look at the latter and gave his opinion of it. Then, turning to
Artagnan, the Musketeer, who was in charge of him, he said, smiling:
"You are wondering why I meddle in such a business? It is because I
used, to be something of an expert in these matters." And Foucquet
spoke the truth. He was surely a sincere lover of the arts whom the
sight of men at work upon a fountain could suddenly distract from the
thought of dungeons and the imminence of the scaffold.


The Foucquets were citizens of Nantes, and in the sixteenth century
they traded with the West Indies. By these maritime expeditions they
gained great possessions and a peculiar quality of mind, a crafty and
audacious spirit which may be discerned in their descendants. Nicolas
Foucquet, with whom alone we are concerned here, was born in 1615. He
was the third son of François Foucquet, a King's Councillor, and of
Marie Manpeou, who had twelve children, six sons and six daughters.
This François Foucquet, originally councillor in the Rennes Parliament,
purchased a place in the Paris Parliament, became a Councillor of
State, and was for a while Ambassador in Switzerland. He was a
collector: he formed a collection of medals and books which Peiresc,
when he passed through Paris, visited with great interest, jotting down
in his note-book[1] particulars of the more remarkable objects.

In the Councillor's exalted hobbies some have sought to discern the
origin of the taste displayed by his son Nicolas in the matter of
the ancient sculpture and the pictures which he spent great sums in

As for Marie Manpeou, she came of an old and honourable legal family.
Left a widow in 1640, she sought repose, after her numerous maternal
duties, only in the practice of asceticism and in works of Christian
charity. She lived, in retreat, a life wholly occupied in the giving
of alms, the application of remedies and the recitation of prayers.
She was one of those strong-minded women who, like Madame Legras and
Madame de Miramion, were moved at once to a courageous pity and angelic
melancholy by the spectacle of the miseries and crimes of war. The
ordering of her life was in almost all respects comparable to that of
a Sister of Mercy. Far from rejoicing at the promotion of her sons, it
was with deep anxiety that she beheld them captive to the seductions
of a world which she knew to be evil. Nicolas especially and his
brother, the Abbé Basile, alarmed her by the extent of their ambition.
The Comptroller's fall, which disconcerted all France, left her
untroubled. On hearing that her son had been cast down from the heights
of pomp and power, she is said to have thrown herself upon her knees,
exclaiming: "I thank Thee, O my God! I have always prayed to Thee
for his salvation: now the path to it is open."[2] This saintly idea
implies a perfection which is alarming because it is utterly inhuman:
it is difficult to recognize maternal affection thus transfigured and
freed from the weakness of the flesh which naturally accompanies it.
Yet even this mother, for twenty years dead to the world, was perturbed
when she knew that her son's life was threatened. Every day throughout
the Comptroller's long trial she was to be seen at the door of the
Arsenal, where the Court was sitting, and she petitioned the judges[3]


    Que mon fils est heureux, que j'aime sa prison!
    Il est guéri du moins de ce mortel poison.

    Par ses malheurs son âme à présent éclairée,
    Voit comme dans la Cour elle était égarée.
    Plût à Dieu que sa grâce ouvre si bien ses yeux
    Qu'il ne les tourne plus que du côté des Cieux.


    Il peut, quoique Colbert lui déclare la guerre,
    Ouvrir encor les yeux du côté de la terre.


    Si la terre, Madame, a du péril pour lui,
    J'aime mieux à mes yeux le voir mort aujourd'hui.

(Le livre abominable de 1665 qui courait en manuscript parmi le monde,
sous le nom de Molière (comédie en vers sur le procès de Foucquet),
découvert et publié sur une copie du temps par Louis-Auguste Ménard.
Paris, Firmin Didot et Cie. 1883, 2 vols. Vol. II, p. 116.)

The book is neither abominable nor a comedy of any kind. It consists of
five Dansenist dialogues in the most insipid style. M. Louis-Auguste
Ménard, who attributes this rhymed play to Molière, cannot expect many
to share his extraordinary opinion.

The young Queen was ill at the time. Foucquet's mother sent her one of
the plasters she was in the habit of making for the poor, and she was
so fortunate as to save the wife of him who was seeking to ruin her
son. At least, the Queen's recovery is generally attributed to Madame
Foucquet's remedy.

We shall see later that the cure did not produce any change of heart in
the King.

This incident, however, refers to the downfall of a fortune of which we
must first explain the beginnings, and the progressive stages. This I
shall do without entering into details of administration or business.
I am not writing an essay on the politics or finances of the days of
Mazarin. My sole endeavour will be to depict the tastes, the manners
and the mind of the creator and the host of Vaux. Vaux is the centre of
my design.

In 1635, Nicolas Foucquet, at the age of twenty, entered the magistry
as Master of Requests. The Masters of Requests were regarded as forming
part of the Parliament, where they sat above the Councillors. From
among those officers the Kings had long been accustomed to choose the
commissaries whom they despatched into the provinces, to superintend
the administration of justice and finance, or to the armies, when they
were charged with all that concerned the policing and the maintenance
of the troops.

Their journeys were known as the circuits of the Masters of Requests.
They gave rise, at a date unknown, to a new office, that of Intendant,
which grew in importance with the increase of the royal power. The
young Foucquet, in 1636, was sent as Intendant of justice to the
district of Grenoble. The difficulties attending such a mission were
great; and Richelieu could not have been ignorant of them. He had,
however, diminished them somewhat by suspending the sittings of the
provincial parliament which was the Intendant's natural enemy. But
Foucquet found the people of Le Dauphiné agitated by the memory of the
religious wars and ardently engaging in new disputes in respect of
certain taxes levied on the goods of the third estate from which the
nobility and the clergy were exempt. The decree of the Royal Council
which abolished the citizens' grievances remained a dead letter.[4]
Feeling ran high. Foucquet did not succeed in alleviating it. After a
revolt which he had been unable either to prevent or to repress he was
recalled to Paris. From an inexperienced youth of twenty-one Richelieu
could not have expected services which could only have been rendered
by an old hand, experienced in negotiation, such, for example, as the
Intendant of Guyenne, the skilful and resolute Servien. The opinion
is seldom held to-day that the great Minister employed the system
of Intendants[5] as a regular instrument of his policy; which may
explain how he came to confide to an apprentice a mission which is
regarded as of secondary importance. The office of Intendant was not a
permanent one, so that Foucquet's recall was doubtless not regarded as
an absolute disgrace. Nevertheless, during the five years of life and
power which yet remained to him, Richelieu, as far as we know, never
again employed the young Master of Requests.

But Mazarin, having become first Minister, sent him, in 1647, to the
Army of the North, which was under the command of Gassion and Rantzau.
The leaders' disagreements were arresting the army's progress. Rantzau
was a drunkard whom Gassion could not tolerate. Gassion, sober,
energetic and fearless, displayed a brutality insufferable even in a
soldier of fortune. He forgot himself so far as to strike in the face a
captain of Condé's regiment who had misunderstood his orders. The whole
regiment determined to withdraw and the officers struck their tents.
Only with great difficulty were they persuaded to remain. Touching
this incident, Foucquet wrote to Mazarin: "All are agreed that M. le
Maréchal de Gassion committed a serious abuse in striking the captain
of His Royal Highness's regiment. Every one condemned such an action,
considering that M. le Maréchal should have sent him to prison, or
should even have struck him with his sword, or fired his pistol at
him, if he thought it necessary; but that it would have been better not
to have resorted to such an extreme measure."

We ought not, I think, to pass over a fact which permitted Foucquet to
display, for the first time, as far as we are aware, that spirit of
moderation which, until his reason became clouded, enabled him for a
time to serve the State so well.

Mazarin was not slow to discern the Intendant's merits. In 1648, at
the time of the first disturbances,[6] thinking to quit Paris and
withdraw with the Court to Saint-Germain, he sent Foucquet to Brie
"with orders there to collect large stores of grain for the maintenance
of the army."[7] The Intendant established himself at Lagny and
commandeered supplies from the peasants of Brie and Ile-de-France. He
was then instructed to compile a list of those Parisians who possessed
châteaux or country-houses in the suburbs of the city. Promising
to preserve these properties from fire and pillage during the war,
Mazarin taxed the owners. In reality he mulcted the rich of the money
which he needed. When the Fronde was a thing of the past, Foucquet,
as procurator of Ile-de-France, accompanied the King into Normandy,
Burgundy, Poitou and Guyenne.

On his return from this royal progress, he bought, with the Cardinal's
approval, the post of Attorney-General in the Paris Parliament. From
this office a certain Sieur Méliand retired in Foucquet's favour,
"receiving in return Foucquet's office of Master of Requests, estimated
by the son of the said Sieur Méliand as being worth more than fifty
thousand crowns, plus a sum of one hundred thousand crowns in money."[8]

If Foucquet obtained preferment, it was not without the aid of a young
clerk at the War Office, who at that time displayed a great deal of
friendliness towards him, but was destined, eleven years later, to
bring about his downfall, take his office and endeavour to procure his
death. Colbert, who was then on terms of friendship with Foucquet,
employed his interest with Le Tellier to recommend the ambitious
Intendant. In August, 1650, he wrote to the Secretary of State for War:

"M. Foucquet, who has come here by order of His Eminence, has already
on three several occasions assured me that he is possessed of an ardent
desire to become one of your particular servants and friends because
of the peculiar estimation in which he holds your attainments, and
that he has no particular connections with any other person which
would prevent his receiving this honour.... I thought it would be
very suitable, he being a man of birth and merit and even capable,
one day, of holding high office, if you in return were to offer him
some friendly advances, since it is not a question of entering into an
engagement which might be burdensome to you, but merely of receiving
him favourably and of making him some show of friendship when you meet.
If you are of my opinion in this matter, I beg you to let me know as
much in the first letter with which you honour me; nor can I refrain
from assuring you, with all the respect which is your due, that I do
not think I could possibly repay you a part of all that I owe you in
better coin than by acquiring for you a hundred such friends, were I
only sufficiently worthy to do so."[9]

This is a warm recommendation. We have quoted it in order that the
reader may see with what confidence Foucquet inspired his friends, even
in those early days, and how highly they thought of him. Moreover,
it is interesting to find Colbert praising Foucquet. The latter was
installed in his new appointment on the 10th of October, 1650. He
was thenceforth the first of the King's servants at the head of that
bar which the two Advocates General Omer Talon and Jérôme Bignon
had caused to be renowned for its eloquence. An instrument of that
great body which dealt with the administration of justice, controlled
political affairs, exercised an influence over finance, whose
jurisdiction extended over Ile-de-France, Picardy, Orléanais, Touraine,
Anjou, Maine, Poitou, Angoumois, Champagne, Bourbonnais, Berry,
Lyonnais, Forez, Beaujolais and Auvergne, the Attorney-General, Nicolas
Foucquet, subdued the fleurs-de-lys to the policy of the Cardinal.
Between such virtuous fools as the worthy Broussel, who, through
very honesty, would have surrendered his disarmed country to the
foreigner, and the Minister who had humiliated the house of Austria,
threatened the Emperor even in his hereditary dominions, conquered
Roussillon, Artois, Alsace, and who now sought to assure France of her
natural boundaries, Foucquet's genius was too lucid and his views too
far-reaching to permit him to hesitate for a moment.

He remained attached to Mazarin's fortunes when the Minister's downfall
seemed permanent. In 1651, that inauspicious year, he never ceased his
endeavours to win supporters in the _bourgeoisie_ and in the army, for
the exiled Minister on whose head a price had been set. And when the
Prince de Condé, in his manifesto of the 12th of April, 1652, confessed
that he had formed ties, both within and without the kingdom, with
the object of its preservation, it was the Attorney-General, Nicolas
Foucquet, who uttered a protest which compelled the Prince to strike
out of his manifesto the shameful avowal of his alliance with Spain,
the enemy of France. He contributed not a little to ruin the cause of
the Princes in Paris. When Turenne had defeated their army near Étampes
(5th May, 1652), the Parliament wished to open negotiations for peace.
The Attorney-General repaired to Saint-Germain, bearing to the King the
complaints of his good city of Paris. The speech which he delivered
on this occasion has been preserved. Its general tone is resolute;
its language, sober and concise, contrasting with the obscure and
unintelligible style affected by the judicial eloquence of the period.
This address is the only example which we possess of Nicolas Foucquet's
oratorical talent. It will be found in M. Chéruel's _Mémoires_.[10]
Here are a few passages from it:

" ... Sire, I have been commissioned to inform Your Majesty of the
destitution to which the majority of your subjects have been reduced.
There is no limit to the crimes and excesses committed by the military.
Murders, violations, burnings and sacrileges are now regarded
merely as ordinary actions; far from committing them in secret, the
perpetrators boast of them openly. To-day, Sire, Your Majesty's troops
are living in such licence and such disorder that they are by no means
ashamed to abandon their posts in order to despoil those of your
subjects who have no means of resistance. In broad daylight, in the
sight of their officers, without fear of recognition or apprehension of
punishment, soldiers break into the houses of ecclesiastics, noblemen
and your highest officials....

"I will not attempt, Sire, to represent to Your Majesty the greatness
of the injury done to your cause by such public depredations, and
the advantage which your enemies will derive therefrom, beholding
the most sacred laws publicly violated, the impunity of crime firmly
established, the source of your revenues exhausted, the affections of
the people alienated and your authority derided. I shall only entreat
Your Majesty, in the name of your Parliament and all your subjects, to
be moved to pity by the cries of your poor people, to give ear to the
groans and supplications of the widows and orphans, and to endeavour
to preserve whatever remains, whatever has escaped the fury of those
barbarians whose sole desire is for blood and the slaughter of the

"Make manifest, Sire, O make manifest at the outset of your reign,
your natural kindness of heart, and may the compassion which you will
feel for so many sufferers call down the blessings of heaven upon the
first years of your majority, which will doubtless be followed by many
and far happier years, if the desires and prayers of your Parliament
and of all your good subjects be granted."

These words had little effect. The war continued; the people's
sufferings increased; in the city the disturbances became more violent;
several councillors were killed, and the _hôtel de ville_ was invaded
and pillaged by the populace and by the troops of the princes. In the
face of such disorders, which the magistrates could neither tolerate
nor repress, the Attorney-General, accompanied by several notables,
members of the Parliament, went to the King, who listened to his
counsel. To the Cardinal he demonstrated the necessity of holding the
Parliament and the Court in the same place, in order to display to
the kingdom the spectacle of the King and his senate on the one hand
and the rebel Princes on the other; and it was by his advice that a
decree was issued on the 31st of July which ordered the removal of the
Parliament from Paris to Pontoise, where the Court then was. Foucquet
with the utmost energy devoted himself to the execution of this politic

On the 7th of August, the first President, Mathieu Molé, presided at
Pontoise over a solemn session in which the members present constituted
themselves into the one and only Parliament of Paris. This assembly
requested the King to dismiss Mazarin, and this they did in concert
with Mazarin himself, who rightly believed his departure to be
necessary. But he counted on speedily resuming his place beside the
King. In the meanwhile he corresponded with Foucquet, in whom he placed
the utmost confidence, "without reservation of any kind," and whom he
consulted on matters of State. Still, there was one point on which they
did not think alike. Mazarin eagerly desired to return to Paris with
the King, and, as it seemed, for the time being, that this desire could
not be gratified, His Eminence was not displeased that the state entry
into the capital should be delayed. Foucquet, on the other hand, was in
favour of an immediate return to the Louvre. On this subject he wrote
to the Cardinal:

"There is not one of the King's servants, in Paris or out of it, who
is not convinced that in order to make himself master of the city
the King has only to desire as much, and that if the King sends to
the inhabitants asking that two of the city gates shall be held by a
regiment of his guards, and then proceeds directly to the Louvre, all
Paris will approve such a masterful action and the Princes will be
compelled to take flight. There is no doubt that on the very first
day the King's orders will be obeyed by all. The legitimate officers
will be restored to the exercise of their function, the gates will be
closed to enemies; such an amnesty as Your Eminence would wish will be
published, and our friends will be reunited in the Louvre in the King's
presence. So universal will be the rejoicing and so loud the public
acclamations that no one will be found so bold as to dissent."[11]

A few days later, on the 21st of October, amid popular acclamation,
Louis XIV entered Paris. The stripling monarch brought with him peace,
that beneficent peace which had been prepared by the tactful firmness
of the Attorney-General.

Now, Mazarin's friends had only to hasten his recall. This the
Attorney-General and his brother, the Abbé Basile, succeeded in
obtaining, and the Cardinal entered Paris on the 3rd of February,
1652. The office of Superintendent of the Finances had then been
vacant for a month owing to the death, on the 2nd of January, of the
holder, the Duc de La Vieuville. Despite the unfavourable condition of
the kingdom's finances this office was most eagerly coveted. And the
very disorder and obscurity which enveloped all the Superintendent's
operations excited the hopes of those men whom the Marquis d'Effiat
compared with "the cuttle-fish which possesses the art of clouding the
water to deceive the eyes of the fisher who espies it."[12] Then the
Superintendent had not the actual handling of the public moneys. Income
and expenditure were in the hands of the Treasurers. But he ordered all
State expenditure, charging it without appeal to the various resources
of the Kingdom. He was answerable to the King alone. If, apparently,
all his actions were subject to a strict control, in reality he worked
in absolute secrecy. In the year we have now reached, 1653, the
Treasury's poverty and the Cardinal's laxity permitted every abuse.
Money must be found at any cost; all expedients were good and all rules
might be infringed.

Things had been going badly for a long while. Since the Regent, Marie
de Médicis, had madly dissipated the savings amassed by the prudent
Sully, the State has subsisted upon detestable expedients, such as
the creation of offices, the issue of Government Stocks, the sale of
charters of pardon, the alienation of rights and domains. The Treasury
was in the hands of plunderers, no accounts were kept. In 1626,
Superintendent d'Effiat found it impossible to arrive at any accurate
knowledge of the resources at the State's disposal or at the amount
of expenditure incurred by the military and naval services. Richelieu,
when he came into power, began by condemning to death a few of the tax
farmers-general. Had it not been for "these necessities which do not
admit of the delay of formalities," he might perhaps have restored
the finances to order. But these necessities overwhelmed him and
compelled him to resort to fresh expedients. He was driven to court the
tax-farmers, whom he would rather have hanged, and to borrow from them
at a high rate of interest the King's money which they were detaining
in their coffers. Exports, imposts and the salt tax were all controlled
by the tax-farmers. An Italian adventurer, Signor Particelli d'Hémery,
whom Mazarin appointed Superintendent in 1646, created one hundred and
sixty-seven offices and alienated the revenue of 87,600,000 livres
of capital. In 1648 the State suffered a shameful bankruptcy and the
troubles of the Fronde supervened, aggravating yet further a situation
which would have been desperate in any country other than inventive and
fertile France.

The office of Superintendent, which the worthy La Vieuville had held
since 1649, was disputed after his death by the Marshals de l'Hôpital
and de Villeroy, by the President de Maisons, who had held it already
during the civil war, by Abel Servien, who during his already long
life had proved himself a harsh and precise administrator, a skilful
man of business and a thoroughly honest man, and, finally, by Nicolas
Foucquet, who in public opinion was unlikely to be appointed.

Foucquet, on the very day of La Vieuville's death, had written the
Cardinal a letter, partly in cipher, of which the following is the

"I was impatiently awaiting the return of Your Eminence in order to
inform you in detail of all that I have learned of the cause of past
disorders and their remedies; but as the bad administration of public
finance is one of the chief causes of the discreditable condition of
public affairs, the death of the Superintendent and the necessity of
appointing his successor compel me to explain to Your Eminence in this
letter what I had determined to communicate to you by word of mouth on
your arrival, and to impress upon you the importance of choosing some
one of acknowledged probity who will be trusted by the public and who
will keep inviolate faith with Your Eminence. I will venture to say
that in the inquiries which I have made into the means of ending the
present evils and avoiding still greater ones in future, I have found
that everything depended upon the will of the Superintendent. Perhaps I
should be able to make myself useful to His Majesty and Your Eminence
were you to think fit to employ me in this office. I have studied the
means of filling it successfully. I know that there would be nothing
inconsistent in my employment, and several of my friends to whom I
owe this idea have promised me in this connection to make efforts to
be of service to the King of a nature too considerable to be ignored.
It therefore remains for Your Eminence to judge of the capacity with
which eighteen years' service in the Council as Master of Requests and
in various other offices may have endowed me; and as for my affection
for you and my fidelity in your service, I flatter myself that Your
Eminence is persuaded that I am inferior to no one in the Kingdom. My
brother will be my surety; and I am certain that he would never pledge
his word to Your Eminence whatever interest he may feel in that which
concerns me, were he not fully satisfied with my intentions and my
conduct hitherto and had we not thoroughly discussed Your Eminence's
interests in this connection. Once again let me protest that you may
rely upon us absolutely, and that you will never be disappointed, since
no one in the world has more at heart the advantage and the glory of
Your Eminence. I entreat you to let no one hear of this affair until it
is settled."

Recalled by his adherents, Mazarin returned to Paris, very discreetly,
on the 3rd of February. One of his first acts was to appoint a
Superintendent. He divided the office between Nicolas Foucquet,
his own supporter, and Abel Servien, who was singled out for this
employment by his own character and by public opinion. To act in
conjunction with the two Superintendents he appointed three Directors
of Finance, one Comptroller-General and eight Intendants. Such an
arrangement served to please two people; but it had the disadvantage
of costing the Treasury a million livres a year. As a matter of fact,
it was, as we shall see, to cost much more. According to the terms of
his commission, Foucquet was in no way subordinate to his colleague,
but age, experience, vigilant industry and a tried and distinguished
probity gave Servien the chief authority. Foucquet was young; he might
wait. He held the office which he had so greatly desired. Alas, in
desiring it he had desired what was to be his ruin! Henceforth his
pious mother might apply to him the words of Scripture: _Et tribuit eis
petitionem eorum._

If he speedily entered upon the path of the merely expedient, can we
be surprised? Both necessity and the Cardinal's wishes drove him to
it. In 1654, he found money necessary to oppose an army led by the
rebel, Condé. How? By creating new offices and selling them to the
highest bidder. A detestable method; but it is questionable whether,
considering the state of the Treasury, it would have been possible to
devise any better. At all events, at this cost the Spaniards were
defeated. Unhappily there is no doubt whatever that Foucquet had to
provide not only for the expenses of the war, but for the exigencies of
Mazarin, who, through the medium of Colbert, obtained from the Treasury
the millions with which he enriched his family. Mazarin himself became
a farmer of the revenue and derived enormous profits from the bread
of the wretched soldiers. "By appearing under the name of Albert, or
another," he concealed his part in these transactions. The letter
is extant in which he himself suggests this broker's trick. He also
made use of what were called _ordonnances de Comptant._ The term was
applied to decrees authorizing the payment of money, the employment of
which was not specified. To-day we should describe it as dipping into
the secret funds; and the Cardinal did dip into them with both hands.
Sometimes Foucquet endeavoured to resist these criminal demands, but
in the end he always gave way. Mazarin must have known that he was not
intractable since he always appealed to him rather than to Servien
even in matters like orders for the payment of officials which were
the special function of the senior Superintendent. Foucquet deducted
certain payments; from the proceeds of tax-farming; from the farmers
of the salt-tax he received one hundred and twenty thousand livres a
year; from the farmers of the Bordeaux convey fifty thousand livres;
from the farmers of the customs one hundred and forty thousand livres.
The clerks who handled this last contribution added for themselves a
sum of twenty thousand livres. It is probable that the bargain was not
concluded without the distribution of a few "bonuses" in the offices.
And when we recollect that these customs were duties imposed on wine
and on food and drink in general, on the very life, therefore, of the
poor, one cannot forbear from cursing Mazarin's murderous and impious
cupidity, for it was for the Cardinal that Foucquet deducted these
payments. He remitted these sums without receiving any formal receipt,
and there is reason to believe that he himself kept some part of them.

Following Mazarin's example, Foucquet himself became a tax-farmer
under a false name; moreover, he lent the State's money to the State
itself, and was repaid with heavy interest. Again, following Mazarin's
example, he made the public Treasury pay the cost of the promotion
and the alliances of his family. On the 12th of February, 1657, his
only daughter by his marriage with Marie Fourché, lady of the manor of
Quehillac, married the eldest son of the Comte de Charost, Governor
of Calais and Captain of the King's Guard. She brought her husband
five hundred thousand livres. When this alliance was contracted, the
first Madame Foucquet was dead and the Superintendent had married as
his second wife Marie-Madeleine de Castille-Villemareuil, the only
daughter of François de Castille, President of one of the Chambers of
the Paris Parliament.[13] The Castilles were merchants, reputed to be
very wealthy, who had certainly made rich marriages. Marie-Madeleine
provided no matter for gossip so long as the union was happy. She
doubtless played but an insignificant part in entertainments which
offended her modesty and the brilliance of which was intended rather
to please her rivals than herself. Her husband, it would seem, at
all events, always esteemed her as she deserved and, where she was
concerned, never wholly departed from that urbanity which was natural
to him. He was one of those men who understand how to please a woman
while they are deceiving her. In the Superintendent's house a work of
art or a statue celebrated the apparent union of husband and wife. In
France it was then becoming the fashion to represent as allegorical
figures the lives of great men whom earlier painters had portrayed in
the costume and with the attributes of their patron Saints. Conforming
to the new custom, the Superintendent ordered from his favourite
sculptor, the skilful Michel Anguier, a group of Madame Foucquet and
her four children. She appeared as Charity. The group was said to be
one of the master's finest works. Guillet de Saint-Georges, in his _Vie
de Michel Anguier,_ expressly says that Foucquet ordered from this
artist "a Charity, bearing in her arms a sleeping child, with another
at her feet and two close at hand, to represent Madame Foucquet and her
children and to testify the affection and unity which reigned in this

An act of homage at once commonplace and ostentatious, yet just and
prophetic, rendered to a wife whose lovely nobility of heart was to
be revealed only by misfortune. Somewhat withdrawn in the season of
prosperity, it was only when those whom she loved were unhappy that
Madame Foucquet revealed herself. During the slow investigation of the
accusers, Madame Foucquet saw that her husband's furniture, which had
been placed under a seal, was carefully guarded; and this vigilance
was inspired by the noblest of motives. "Any loss or injury," she
said, "would tend to involve the creditors in absolute ruin, and
among them are an incredible number of poor families of all sorts of

She was seen, during her husband's trial, with her mother-in-law at
the Arsenal gates, presenting petitions to the judges. When he was
condemned she asked permission to rejoin in prison the husband who had
betrayed and forsaken her in his hours of happiness. No sooner was this
sad favour granted than she hastened to avail herself of it. Having
consoled him in captivity, she closed his eyes in death. Left a widow,
she followed the example set by many lonely ladies of rank in those
days: she withdrew to a convent. For her retreat she chose the royal
Abbey of Val-de-Grâce of Notre-Dame de la Crèche, which was on the left
bank of the Seine, in the Rue Saint-Jacques. This Benedictine convent,
as we know, owed its origin to a vow of Queen Anne,[16] who built it
when she at length had a King.[17] Thus the walls within which this
lady retired to shelter her widowhood were a hymn of thanksgiving in
stone, a monument of gratitude to God for His gift to France of the
persecutor of Nicolas Foucquet. Did she not realize this? Or did her
piety forbid her to nourish any bitterness toward the enemies of her
house? There were, no doubt, old ties between her and the nuns of
Val-de-Grâce. It must not be supposed that she lived in a cell the life
of a recluse. To do so would be to show little knowledge of convents
as they were in those days.[18] The nuns were the innkeepers of the
period. Sumptuously lodged in buildings dependent on the community,
the ladies lived a quiet but still worldly life, keeping their own
servants, paying and receiving visits. Such was Madame Foucquet's
position at Val-de-Grâce. She devoted herself, it is true, to the
practices of religion; and we know, for example, that, having obtained
the body of St. Liberatus, a martyr of the African Church, she had
it borne in a procession, on the 27th of August, 1690, to the parish
church of Saint-Jacques du Haut-Pas.[19]

She occupied a pavilion in the convent garden, where, in default of
gold and silver plate, she kept a few pieces of furniture worthy of
her rank. In the month of March, 1700, a royal edict ordered private
persons to declare and to take to the Mint all furniture in which there
was any gold or silver; and Madame Foucquet, widow, declared to the
commissioner of her district that she possessed "a camp bed adorned
with cloth of gold and silver, with chairs to match, hangings of gold
damask, single width, twenty chairs and a bedstead in wood inlaid with
gold, a sofa in the same with six places, a tapestry bed and chairs
trimmed with gold fringe, six small consoles, twelve little gilt
stands, two small round tables, two other tables and a bureau partly
gilt, and a small bed upholstered with gold and silver lace."

Madame Foucquet survived her husband thirty-six years. She died in
Paris in 1716 "in great piety," says Saint-Simon, "having withdrawn
from the world, and having, during the whole of her life, constantly
engaged in good works."[20]

Foucquet had an exalted soul. He was born to tempt fortune and to take
Fate by storm. As early as 1655 he was cherishing the boldest designs.

Realizing that in proportion as he obliged the Cardinal the latter grew
suspicious of him, since each service that he rendered was a secret of
which he became the inconvenient guardian, the Superintendent resolved
to assure himself by his power against the chance of disgrace. With
this object he began to think of converting the port of Concarneau and
the fortress of Ham, which belonged to his brother, into strongholds,
where his adherents might assemble in arms in case the Cardinal were to
attempt to lay hands on him. He therefore drew up a detailed programme
of the project, recommending his supporters to go for orders to the
house of Madame de Plessis-Bellière. "She knows my true friends," he
said, "and among them there may be those who would be ashamed not to
take part in anything proposed by her on my behalf."

This lady, who was so much in Foucquet's confidence, was the widow of a
lieutenant-general in the King's army. She had never refused Foucquet
anything: but gallantry was by no means her first concern. It was even
said that she saved herself the trouble of contributing in person to
the Superintendent's pleasures and that she preferred providing for
them to satisfying them herself. She was a strong-minded woman, and a
great politician, even in that age of intrigue, ambitious and proud
enough to do herself credit, as we shall see later, by her display of
loyalty and devotion. In Foucquet's project, should occasion arise,
she, in conjunction with the Governors of Ham and Concarneau, was to
provide those two fortresses with men and with victuals. The Marquis
de Charost, Foucquet's son-in-law, was to defend himself in Calais,
of which town he was the governor. The Governors of Amiens, Havre and
Arras were to assume an equally threatening attitude. As allies at
Court the rebel Minister counted on M. de la Rochefoucauld, Marsillac,
his son, and Bournonville; in Parliament on MM. de Harlay, Manpeou,
Miron and Chenut; at sea, on Admiral de Neuchèse et Guinan. We may
note, in passing, that in the matter of his friends he was mistaken in
fully half of them. He gave it to be understood that Spain might be
appealed to. If his arrest were sustained and his trial instituted,
there would be civil war. A monstrous project, a chimerical conception
which it was childish to write down, and which served only to make
doubly sure the ruin of its mad inventor.

It was during this period of folly and of splendour that Foucquet, with
a magnificence hitherto unequalled, created the estate and château of
Vaux-le-Vicomte, near Melun.

We shall treat separately, in a special chapter, of all that concerns
this subject.

At the same time he continued to provide for his safety. In order to
assure it with greater certainty he bought, on the 5th September, 1658,
the island and fortress of Belle-Isle for a sum of 1,300,000 livres,
of which 400,000 were paid in cash.

Once the possessor of this fortress, Foucquet applied himself to
placing it in a state of defence. He despatched engineers thither
to fortify the citadel; from Holland he brought ships and cannon.
Modifying his plan of defence, he substituted Belle-Isle for Ham and

Belle-Isle was to him what her milk-pail was to Perrette. He dreamed
of deriving more wealth from it than the whole of Holland from her
ports. Madame de Motteville got wind of these chimerical hopes. "The
friends of Foucquet," wrote this lady, "have said--and apparently they
have told the truth--that the Superintendent, who was indeed capable,
by virtue of his courage and his genius, of many great projects, had
conceived that of building a town the excellent harbour of which was
to attract all the trade of the North, thereby depriving Amsterdam of
these advantages, and rendering a great service to the King and the
State."[21] Foucquet was at this time at the height of his power. In
spite of his motto, he will not rise any higher, unless his constancy
in misfortune may be taken to have raised him above himself, in which
case he may be said to have grown greater in prison by the knowledge of
the vanity of all that had previously attracted him.

But it is the man in his prosperous days, the friend of art and of
literature, Foucquet the magnificent, and Foucquet the voluptuous, whom
we are describing here. No better description can be given of him than
to reproduce the portrait which Nanteuil executed from life.[22]

What do we see there? Large features, eager, charming eyes, in roomy
orbits, the shining pupils of which gleam beneath their lids with an
expression at once of shrewdness and of pleasure. A long, straight
nose, rather thick, a full-lipped mouth beneath a fine moustache;
finally, that smiling expression which he retained even during his
trial. The face is pleasing, but there is something disquieting about
it. The costume is rich; not that of a gallant knight, or of a great
noble, but of a magistrate. A little cap, a broad collar, a dark
robe; the dress of a lawyer, but of a magnificent lawyer; for over
the robe is thrown a sort of dalmatic of Genoa velvet, with a large
flowered pattern. What this portrait does not reproduce is the charm
of the original. Foucquet possessed a sovereign grace; he knew how to
please, to inspire affection. It is true that he possessed a key to all
hearts--access to an inexhaustible treasury. He gave much, but it is
true also that he gave wisely, and he was naturally the most generous
of men.

Poets he succoured with a noble delicacy. Since it is true that he
usurped the rights which were then attributed to the Sovereign, his
master, by disposing of the public revenue as though it were his own,
at least he made a royal use of the King's treasure by dispensing some
of it to Corneille, to La Fontaine and to Molière. The rest was spent
on buildings, furniture, tapestries and so forth; and this, again, when
all is said, was a royal habit, if regarded, as it should be, in the
light of ancient institutions. If Foucquet cannot be justified--and how
can he be, since there were poor in France in those days?--at least his
conduct is explained, in some degree excused, by the institutions, and,
above all, by the public morality of his period.

While his Château de Vaux was building, Foucquet lived at Saint-Mandé,
in a house sumptuously surrounded by beautiful gardens. These gardens
adjoined the park where Mazarin used to spend the summer. The financier
had only to pass through a door when he wished to visit the Minister.
The estate of Saint-Mandé was formed by the union of two estates
bought from Mme. de Beauvais, Anne of Austria's first lady-in-waiting.
Gradually, Foucquet acquired more land and added wings to the main
building, so that the whole construction cost at least 1,100,000
livres; and yet the finest part of it remained unexecuted.[23]

We may form some idea of the beautiful things which Foucquet had
collected in this house by consulting the inventory preserved in the
Archives, and published by M. Bonnaffé,[24] "of the statues, busts,
scabella, columns, tables and other works in marble and stone at

Among these things there are many antiques. Most of the modern pieces
of sculpture are by Michel Anguier, who passed three years, 1655-58,
at Saint-Mandé. There he executed the group of _La Charité_ which
has already been mentioned, and a _Hercules_ six feet in height, as
well as "thirteen statues, life-size, copied from the most beautiful
antiques of Rome, notably the _Laocoôn, Hercules, Flora,_ and _Juno_
and _Jupiter._" This we are told by Germain Brice.[25] He had seen them
in a garden in the Rue Culture-Sainte-Catherine, where they were in
the beginning of the eighteenth century, Germain Brice also tells us
that in those days eight other statues, by the same sculptor, and also
coming from Saint-Mandé, adorned the house of the Marquise de Louvois
at Choisy. We learn also, from other sources, that one of the ceilings
of Saint-Mandé was painted by Lebrun.[26]

Finally, the Abbé de Marolles speaks of the beautiful things which
Foucquet had painted at Saint-Mandé, and the Latin inscriptions which
were entrusted to Nicolas Gervaise, his physician. We may remark
in this connection that Louis XIV, who in art did little more than
continue Foucquet's undertakings, derived from the functions which
the Superintendent conferred upon this Nicolas Gervaise the ideas of
that little Academy, the Academy of Inscriptions and Medals, which he
founded five or six years later.

But the most famous room in the house of which we are now speaking was
the library, because the noblest room in any house is that in which
books are lodged, and because La Fontaine and Corneille used to linger
in the library of Saint-Mandé. It was there that the poets used to wait
for the Superintendent. "Every one knows," said Corneille, "that this
great Minister was no less the Superintendent of belles-lettres than
of finance; that his house was as open to men of intellect as to men
of affairs, and that, whether in Paris or in the country, it is always
in his library that one waits for those precious moments which he
steals from his overwhelming occupations, in order to gratify those who
possess some degree of talent for successful writing."[27]

It was in this gallery that La Fontaine, as well as Corneille, used
to sit waiting until the master of the house had leisure to receive
the poet and his verses. One day he waited a whole hour. Monsieur le
Surintendant was occupied; whether with finance or with love posterity
cannot hope to know. Nevertheless, the good man found the time
short: he passed it in his own company. Unfortunately, the _suisse_
unceremoniously dismissed "the lover of the Muses," who, having
returned home, wrote an epistle which should assure his being received
the next time. "I will not be importunate," he said:

    Je prendrai votre heure et la mienne.
    Si je vois qu'on vous entretienne,
    J'attendrai fort paisiblement
    En ce superbe appartement
    Ou l'on a fait d'étrange terre
    Depuis peu venir à grand-erre[28]
    (Non sans travail et quelques frais)
    Des rois Céphrim et Kiopès
    Le cercueil, la tombe ou la bière:
    Pour les rois, ils sont en poussière:
    C'est là que j'en voulais venir.
    Il me fallut entretenir
    Avec les monuments antiques,
    Pendant qu'aux affaires publiques
    Vous donniez tout votre loisir.
    (Certes j'y pris un grand plaisir
    Vous semble-t-il pas que l'image
    D'un assez galant personnage
    Sert à ces tombeaux d'ornement).
    Pour vous en parler franchement,
    Je ne puis m'empêcher d'en rire.
    Messire Orus, me mis-je à dire,
    Vous nous rendez tous ébahis:
    Les enfants de votre pays
    Ont, ce me semble, des bavettes
    Que je trouve plaisamment faites.
    On m'eut expliqué tout cela,
    Mais il fallut partir de là
    Sans entendre l'allégorie.
    Je quittai donc la galerie,
    Fort content parmi mon chagrin,
    De Kiopès et de Céphrim,
    D'Orus et de tout son lignage,
    Et de maint autre personnage.
    Puissent ceux d'Egypte en ces lieux,
    Fussent-ils rois, fussent-ils dieux.
    Sans violence et sans contrainte,
    Se reposer dessus leur plinthe[29]
    Jusques au brut du genre humain!
    Ils ont fait assez de chemin
    Pour des personnes de leur taille.
    Et vous, seigneur, pour qui travaille
    Le temps qui peut tout consumer,
    Vous, que s'efforce de charmer
    L'Antiquité qu'on idolâtre,
    Pour qui le dieu de Cléopâtre
    Sous nos murs enfin abordé,
    Vient de Memphis à Saint-Mandé:
    Puissiez vous voir ces belles-choses
    Pendant mille moissons de roses....[30]

At once absurd and charming is this song which the Gallic lark composed
to the sarcophagi of Africa. It is hardly necessary to say that the
coffins, at the strange shape of which La Fontaine wondered, had never
enclosed the bodies of "Kiopès and of Céphrim." Messire Orus had not
told his secrets to the most lovable of our poets. We must not forget
that the scholars of that time were as ignorant on this point as our

These two mummy-cases were the first which had been brought to Paris
from the banks of the Nile. They bore their history written upon them,
but no one knew how to read it. The chance guess of some admirer had
attributed to them a royal origin.[31]

The truth is that they had been discovered twenty-five years earlier
in a pyramid by the inhabitants of the province of Saïd; transported
to Cairo, then to Alexandria, they were bought by a French trader, who
landed them at Marseilles on the 4th September, 1632, where they were
acquired, it is believed, by a collector of that town, M. Chemblon.[32]

There was then at Rome a German Jesuit, by name Athanasius Kircher, a
man of vivid imagination, very learned, who, having dabbled in physics,
chemistry, natural history, theology, antiquities, music, ancient and
modern languages, invented the magic lantern. This reverend Father
really knew Coptic, and thought he knew something of the language
of the ancient Egyptians. To prove this he wrote a large quarto
volume entitled _Lingua Ægyptiaca restituta,_ which proves quite the
contrary. But it is very easy to deceive oneself, especially when one
is a scholar. A brother of his in Jesus, Father Brusset, told him
of the arrival of the two ancient coffins, and Father Kircher went
to Marseilles to see them. Later he treated of them in his _Œdipus
Ægyptiacus,_ a pleasant day-dream in four folio volumes; La Fontaine's,
in the Saint-Mandé library, was at all events shorter.

About the year 1659 the sarcophagi were bought for Foucquet, and
taken to the Superintendent's house. When La Fontaine saw them they
no longer contained the bodies which Egyptian piety had destined them
to preserve. The two mummies had been unceremoniously relegated to an

As for the sarcophagi themselves, Foucquet had intended to send them
to his house at Vaux. He had conceived the charming idea of restoring
them from the land of exile to the pyramid from which they had been
taken.[33] But his days of prosperity were numbered. This project was
to be swept away like a drop of water in the great shipwreck. The two
sarcophagi, seized at Saint-Mandé, where they had remained, were valued
on the 26th of February, 1656, at 800 livres, and were classified as
"two ancient mausoleums, representing a king and queen."[34]

A sculptor, whose name remains unknown, bought them at the public sale
which followed Foucquet's condemnation. He then gave them to Le Nôtre.
Le Nôtre, having passed from the service of Foucquet into that of the
King, was then living in a little pavilion at the Tuileries, into which
the two mausoleums, as the inventory calls them, could not enter. They
were therefore highly inconvenient guests. They were placed "in a
little garden of the Tuileries, where these rare curiosities remained
for a long time exposed to the injurious effect of the atmosphere and
greatly neglected."[35]

Finding that he had no use for them, Le Nôtre presented them to a
neighbour and friend, M. d'Ussé, Comptroller of the King's Household,
whose garden adjoined that of the Tuileries. M. d'Ussé had them placed
"at the end of a bowered alley." According to the virtuoso, Germain
Brice, the Comptroller, did not realize their value and their rarity.
A Flora or a Pomona, smiling on her marble pedestal, would have been
more to his liking. Nevertheless he had them taken to his estate of
Ussé, in Touraine, which shows that he did not disdain them. Thus
the repose which La Fontaine desired for these worshippers of Messire
Orus was denied them. Even yet they had not made their last journey.
M. d'Ussé had married a child of twelve, who was the daughter of a
great man. Her name was Jeanne-Françoise de Vauban. Her father, then
Commissary-General of Fortifications, paid a visit of some length to
his son-in-law. He could not resist the temptation of shifting the
soil, and he made a terrace; at the foot of this terrace he constructed
a niche for the two "mausoleums." Now, half a century later there
lived at a distance of five miles from Ussé an antiquarian called La
Sauvagère, who went up and down the country examining ancient stones,
for stones had voices before to-day. He did not fail to go to Ussé. He
saw the sarcophagi, and marvelled at them. He wrote about them to Court
de Géblin, who replied to his letter. Court de Géblin was investigating
the origin of the world. This time he thought he had found it.

La Sauvagère published plates of the sarcophagi and of the
hieroglyphics which covered them.[36] Here was a fine subject for
conjecture. After thirty years, La Sauvagère's enthusiasm had not
cooled. To the Prince de Montbazon, who had just bought the château,
and the Egyptians with it, he ordained fervently: "Prince, there you
have something which is by itself worth the whole of your estate."

In 1807 the Egyptians were still in the niche where Vauban had
installed them. The Marquis de Chalabre then sold the estate of Ussé,
which he had inherited from his father, but he kept the sarcophagi and
took them to Paris th his apartment.

Then they disappeared, and, in 1843, no one knew what had become of
them. M. Bonardot, the archaeologist, who displayed so much care in the
preservation of old engravings, visited that year the cemetery of the
old Abbey of Longchamps. By the edge of a path he discovered two stones
sticking out of the ground. Having poked about with his stick, he saw
that these stones were in the form of heads, and by the hair-dressing
he recognized two Egyptians. He made inquiries, and learned that they
were the two sarcophagi, sent there by M. de Chalabre's son, and
forgotten. M. de Chalabre was then dying; his heirs had the Egyptians
disinterred and gave them to the Louvre Museum, and there they are
to-day.[37] Their names have been deciphered. They are not royal names.
One is called Hor-Kheb, the other Ank-Mer.[38]

They wear their beards in beard-cases, according to the custom of their
time and country, and it was these beard-cases that La Fontaine took
for bibs.

The gallery of Saint-Mandé, which contained these two monuments that we
have followed so far afield, was magnificently decorated with thirteen
ancient gods in marble, life-size, and thirty-three busts in bronze or
marble, placed on pedestals. Among these busts were those of Socrates
and Seneca. Imagine these faces, brown or luminous, ranged about the
chamber, where the books displayed the sombre resplendence of their
brown and gilt backs. Imagine the pictures, the cabinets of medals,
the tables of porphyry, the mosaics; imagine a thousand precious
curiosities, and you will have some idea of this gallery, the rich
treasures of which were to be dispersed almost as soon as they had been

The Superintendent had little time for reading, but he loved to turn
over the pages of his books, for he was a well-read man. He promised
himself the pleasures of learned, leisurely study in his old age,
when he would no longer read a welcome in ladies' eyes. Meanwhile, he
had had twenty-seven thousand volumes arranged on the shelves of his
gallery, around those two sarcophagi the story of which had carried
us so far afield from Saint-Mandé and the last days of Mazarin. These
twenty-seven thousand volumes comprised seven thousand in folio,
twelve thousand in quarto and eight thousand in octavo. They were not
all in the gallery. There was, in particular, a room for the "Alcorans,
the Talmuds and some old Bible commentaries."[39]

The rich collection of printed books which he had gathered together
embraced universal history, medicine, law, natural history,
mathematics, oratory, theology and philosophy, as well as the fine
arts, represented by illustrated volumes.

These books, of which it would not be possible to compile a catalogue
to-day, were not, it would seem, contained in beautiful morocco
bindings, finely gilt and richly adorned with coats of arms, like those
which honoured Mazarin's library. The financier had bought hastily, in
a wholesale fashion, books already bound, so that we cannot rank him
among the great bibliophiles, although he may be numbered among the
lovers of books.

That Foucquet loved books, as he loved gardens, as he loved everything
flattering to the taste of a well-bred man, that he even preferred
books to anything else, there is no doubt, for we have irrefutable
testimony of the fact. In the _Conseils de la Sagesse,_ which he wrote
in prison, may be found this beautiful phrase: "You know that formerly
I used to find convention in my books."[40]

Alas, why did he not oftener listen to those consolers which speak so
gently and so softly, and which can bestow every blessing upon the
heart that is innocent of desire? _In angello cum libello._ Therein,
perhaps, resides all wisdom. But, if every one sat in his corner and
read, what would books be about? They are filled with the sorrows
and the errors of men, and it is by saddening us that they give us
consolation. Yes, there was in Foucquet the stuff of a librarian in the
great style of a Peiresc or a Naudé. But this stuff was but a fragment
of the whole piece. Cæsar, also, would have been the first book-lover
of his day if he had not been eager to conquer and to reign, if he
had not possessed a genius for organizing Rome and the world. One
needs a childlike candour and a pious zeal if one would shut oneself
up with the dust of old books, with the souls of the dead. The humble
book-lover who holds this pen, for his own part, savours with delight
that reposeful charm, but he knows well that the purity of this charm
can only be bought at the price of renunciation and resignation.

A word as to what became of Foucquet's library. But let the reader
not be alarmed; the fate of the twenty-seven thousand volumes which
composed it will not occupy us so long as that of the two Egyptian
sarcophagi. This library was sold by auction, like the rest of the
Superintendent's movables. Guy Patin wrote from Paris on the 25th
February, 1665: "M. Foucquet's effects are about to be sold. There is a
fine library. It is said that M. Colbert wants it." Perhaps Colbert did
want it, but for the King. Colbert was not a second Foucquet.

Carcasi, the keeper of the Royal Library, bought for the King about
thirteen thousand volumes. The accounts of the King's buildings
mention, under the date of January, 1667, the payment of six thousand
livres "to the Sieur Mandat, liquidator of the assets of M. Foucquet,
for the price of the books which the King has had bought from the
Library of Saint-Mandé." And another payment of fourteen thousand
livres "to the Sieur Arnoul for books on the History of Italy, which
His Majesty has also bought."

As for the manuscripts, they were bought by various libraries and
scattered. The catalogue which the purchasers compiled of these
manuscripts forms a small duodecimo volume of sixty-two pages,
entitled: _Mémoires des Manuscrits de la Bibliothèque de M. Foucquet,
qui se vendent à Paris, chez Denis Thierry, Frédéric Léonard, Jean
Dupuis, rue Saint-Jacques, et Claude Barbin, au Palais. M. D. C.

So much for the house; now for the guests. We have already met La
Fontaine and Corneille in the gallery. We shall see them there again;
they are assiduous visitors. Old Corneille brings his grievances
thither. Poor, half forgotten, he was then labouring under the blow of
the failure of his _Pertharite._ His great genius was wearing out, was
becoming harsh and uncouth, and poor Pertharite, King of the Lombards,
who was too fond of his wife Rodelinde, had met with a bad reception in
the theatre. Corneille, who was slow to take a hint, for acuteness is
not a characteristic of men of his temperament, nevertheless understood
that the hour of retreat had sounded. With a vestige of pride, which
became his genius, he pretended to take initiation in the retirement
which was forced upon him. "It is better," he said, "that I should
withdraw on my own account rather than wait until I am flatly told to
do so; and it is just that after twenty years' work I should begin to
see that I am growing too old to be still fashionable. At any rate, I
have this satisfaction: that I leave the French stage better than I
found it, with regard both to art and to morals."

A touching and a noble farewell, but a painful one. Foucquet recalled
him; a kind word and a small pension sufficed to cheer the old man's
heart, to console him for long neglect, and for the languishing of his
fame. He presented his new benefactor with an epistle full of gratitude:

    Oui, généreux appui de tout notre Parnasse,
    Tu me rends ma vigeur lorsque tu me fais grâce,
    Ec je veux bien apprendre à tout notre avenir
    Que tes regards bénins ont su me rajeunir.
       .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    Je sens le même feu, je sens la même audace
    Qui lit plaindre le Cid, qui fit combattre Horace,
    Et je me trouve encor la main qui crayonna
    L'âme du grand Pompée et l'esprit de Cinna.
    Choisis-moi seulement quelque nom dans l'histoire
    Pour qui tu veuilles place au Temple de la Gloire,
    Quelque nom favori qu'il te plaise arracher
    A la nuit de la tombe, aux cendres du bûcher.
    Soit qu'il faille ternir ceux d'Énée et d'Achille
    Par un noble attentat sur Homère et Virgile,
    Soit qu'il faille obscurcir par un dernier effort
    Ceux que j'ai sur la scène affranchis de la mort;
    Tu me verras le même, et je te ferai dire,
    Si jamais pleinement ta grande âme m'inspire,
    Que dix lustres et plus n'ont pas tout emporté,
    Cet assemblage heureux de force et de clarté,
    Ces prestiges secrets de l'aimable imposture,
    Qu'à l'envie m'ont prêtés et l'art et la nature.
    N'attends pas toutefois que j'ose m'enhardir,
    Ou jusqu' à te dépeindre ou jusqu' à t'applaudir,
    Ce serait présumer que d'une seule vue
    Jamais vu de ton cœur la plus vaste étendue,
    Qu'un moment suffrait à mes débiles yeux
    Pour démêler en toi ces dons brillants des deux,
    De qui l'inépuisable et per çante lumière.
    Sitôt que tu parais, fait baisser la paupière.
    J'ai déjà vu beaucoup en ce moment heureux,
    Je t'ai vu magnanime, affable, généreux,
    Et ce qu'on voit à peine après dix ans d'excuses,
    Je t'ai vu tout à coup libéral pour les Muses.[41]

This, after all, is little more than a receipt expressed in Spanish
style. None the less, the poet promises the financier that he will
treat the subject which the latter indicates. Foucquet gave him three
subjects to choose from. _Œdipe_ was one of the three; it was the one
which Corneille chose. He treated it, and we may say that he treated it
gallantly. He endowed his heroes with wonderfully polite manners. It
is charming to hear Theseus, Prince of Athens, saying to the beautiful

    Quelque ravage affreux qu'étale ici la peste,
    L'absence aux vrais amants est encor plus funeste.

Old Corneille, delighted with himself for having conceived such
beautiful things, flattered himself that _Œdipe_ was his masterpiece,
although it had taken him only two months to write it; he had made
haste in order to please the Superintendent. This work, which was in
the fashion and was, after all, from the pen of the great Corneille,
was received with favour. The gazeteer, Loret, bears witness to this in
the execrable verses of a poet who has to write so much a week:

    Monsieur de Corneille l'aîné,
    Depuis peu de temps a donné
    A ceux de l'hôtel de Bourgogne[42]
    Son dernier ouvrage ou besogne,
    Ouvrage grand et signalé,
    Qui _l'Œdipe_ est intitulé,
    Ouvrage, dis-je, dramatique,
    Mais si tendre et si pathétique,
    Que, sans se sentir émouvoir,
    On ne peut l'entendre ou le voir.
    Jamais pièce de cette sorte
    N'eut l'élocution si forte;
    Jamais, dit-on, dans l'univers,
    On n'entendit de si beaux vers.

We mentioned that Foucquet, when proposing to Corneille the subject of
_Œdipe,_ suggested two other subjects, one of which was _Camma._ The
third we do not know.[43] Camma, who slays her husband's murderer upon
the altar to which he has led her, is no commonplace heroine. Corneille
was a good kinsman; he passed on _Camma_ to his brother Thomas, who
made a pretty dull tragedy out of it; such was the custom of this
excellent person. Thomas also participated in the Superintendent's
generosity. He dedicated to Foucquet his tragedy _La Mort de Commode,_
in return for the "generous marks of esteem" and benefits which he had
received. He said, with charming politeness, "I wished to offer myself,
and you have singled me out."

Pellisson, a brilliant wit and a capable man, became, after 1656, one
of Foucquet's principal clerks. He had for Mademoiselle de Scudéry
a beautiful affection which he loaded with so many adornments that
it seems to-day to have been a miraculous work of artifice. It was
marvellously decked out and embellished; an exquisite work of art.
Had they both been handsome, they would not have introduced into
their liaison so many complications; they would have loved each other
naturally. But he was ugly, so was she, and as one must love in this
world--everybody says so--they loved each other with what they had,
with their pretty wit and their subtlety. Being able to do no better,
they created a masterpiece.

Pellisson was an assiduous guest at the Saturdays of this learned and
"precious" spinster. There he met Madame du Plessis-Bellière, whose
friendship for Foucquet is well known to us. Witty herself, she was
naturally inclined to favour wit in the new Sappho, who was then
publishing _Clélie_ in ten volumes, and in Pellisson, her relations
with whom were as pleasant as they were discreet. She introduced
them both to the Superintendent, who lost no time in attaching them
both to himself in order not to separate these two incomparable
lovers. Pellisson paid Mademoiselle de Scudéry's debt by writing a
_Remerciement du siècle à M. le surintendant Foucquet,_ and presently
on his own account he fabricated a second _Remerciement,_ full of those
elaborate allegories which people revelled in at that period, but which
to-day would send us to sleep, standing.

Pellisson, having become the Superintendent's steward, bargained with
his tax-farmers and corrected his master's love-letters, for he was a
resourceful person; and, as he piqued himself especially on his wit,
he obligingly served as Foucquet's intermediary with men of letters.
On his recommendation the Superintendent gave a receipt for the taxes
of Forez to the poet Jean Hesnault, who thus found at Saint-Mandé
an end of the poverty which he had so long paraded up and down the
world, in the Low Countries, in England and in Sicily. Jean Hesnault
was an intelligent person, but untrustworthy: "Loving pleasure with
refinement," says Bayle, "delicately and artistically debauched."

A pupil of Gassendi, like Molière, Bernir and Cyrano, he was an
atheist, and did not conceal the fact. For the rest, he was a good
poet, and he had a great spirit. Was it his audacious, profound and
melancholy philosophy which recommended him to the Superintendent's
favour? Hardly. Foucquet in his times of good fortune was far too much
occupied with the affairs of this world to be greatly interested in
those of another. And when misfortune brought him leisure, he is said
to have sought consolation in piety. However that may be, the kindness
which he showed to Jean Hesnault was not bestowed upon an ungrateful
recipient. Hesnault, as we shall see, appeared among the most ardent
defenders of the Superintendent in the days of his misfortune. Foucquet
also counted among his pensioners a man as pious as Hesnault was the
reverse. I refer to Guillaume de Brébeuf, a Norman nobleman, who
translated the _Pharsale,_ who was extremely zealous in converting the
Calvinists of his province. He was always shivering with fever; but his
greatest misfortune was his poverty. Cardinal Mazarin had made him
many promises; it was Foucquet who kept them.

He also helped Boisrobert, who was growing old. Now, old age, which
is never welcome to anybody, is most unwelcome to buffoons. This
poetical Abbé, whom Richelieu described as "the ardent solicitor of
the unwilling Muses," had long been accustomed to ask, to receive and
to thank. Compliments cost him nothing, and he stuffed his collected
_Épîtres en vers,_ published in 1658, with eulogies, in which Foucquet
is compared to the heroes, the gods and the stars. Gombault, who wrote
in a more concise style, and was a shepherd on Parnassus, dedicated
his _Danaides_ to him, by way of expressing his thanks. Before 1658
this poet of the Hôtel de Rambouillet had experienced the financier's
generosity. As for poor Scarron, he was in an unfortunate position. He,
unhappy man, had taken part in the Fronde. He had decried Jules, and
Jules, not generally vindictive, was not forgiving in this case, where
to forgive was to pay. Foucquet treated the Frondeur as a beggar, and
then, repenting, gave him a pension of 1600 livres. Nevertheless, he
remained indigent and needy. His creditors often hammered violently at
the knocker of his iron-clamped door, making a terrible noise in the
street. Once the poet was blockaded by certain nasty-looking fellows.
Three thousand francs, which Foucquet sent through the excellent
Pellisson, came just in the nick of time to deliver him from prison.
Madame Scarron was in the good books of Madame la Surintendante. From
Foucquet she obtained for her husband the right to organize a company
of unloaders at the city gates. The waggoners, doubtless, would have
been just as well pleased to do without these unloaders, who made them
pay through the nose, but the crippled poet who directed them received
by this means a revenue of between two and three thousand livres.

I forgot Loret; the worst of men, because the worst of rhymers, and
there is nothing in the world worse than a bad poet. Yet every one must
live--at least, so it is said--and Loret lived, thanks to Foucquet.
He received his pittance on condition that he would moderate his
praises. Foucquet was a man of taste; he feared tactless praises, a
fear which we can hardly appreciate to-day. Nevertheless, in spite of
these remonstrances, Loret did not cease to be eulogistic. It was after
having celebrated in very bad verses Foucquet as a demigod that he

    J'en pourrais dire d'avantage,
    Mais à ce charmant personnage
    Les éloges ne plaisent pas;
    Les siens sont pour lui sans appas.
    Il aime peu qu'on le loue,
    Et touchant ce sujet, j'avoue
    Que l'excellent sieur Pellisson
    M'a fait plusieurs fois la leçon;
    Mais, comme son rare mérite
    Tout mon cœur puissamment excite,
    Et que ce sujet m'est très cher.
    J'aurais peine à m'en empêcher.

But enough about this gazetteer, who, after all, was not a bad fellow,
although he never wrote anything but foolishness, and let us come to
the poet whose delightful genius even to-day sheds a glory over the
memory of Nicolas Foucquet.

La Fontaine was presented to Foucquet by his uncle, Jannart, in the
course of the year 1654. He was then absolutely unknown outside his
town of Château-Thierry, where he was said to have courted a certain
Abbess, and to have been seen at night hastening over a frosty road,
with a dark lantern in his hand and white stockings on his feet. That
was his only fame. If he was then occupied with poetry, it was for
himself alone, and to the knowledge, perhaps, of only a few friends.

Jacques Jannart, his uncle, or, to be more precise, the husband of
the aunt of La Fontaine's wife, was King's Counsellor and Deputy
Attorney-General in the Paris Parliament. He was a great personage and
a good man. He was not displeased that his nephew should be a poet,
should commit follies and should borrow money. He himself was not
innocent of gallantry, and was inclined to interpret the law in favour
of fair ladies. He thought that La Fontaine's poetry would please the
Superintendent and that the Superintendent's patronage would please the

Foucquet had good taste; La Fontaine pleased him; indeed, he has the
merit of having been the first to appreciate the poet. He gave him a
pension of one thousand francs on condition that he should produce a
poem once a quarter. What is the date of this gift I do not know; the
poet's receipts do not go further back than 1659, if Mathieu Marais[44]
was correct in attributing to this same year a poem which precedes
the receipts, and which the poet published in 1675[45] with this

_M._ [_Foucquet_] _having said that I ought to give him something for
his endeavour to make my verses known, I sent, shortly after, this
letter to_ [_Madame Foucquet._][46]

In this poem he jokes about the engagement which he had entered into
with the Superintendent for the receipt of his pension:

    Je vous l'avoue, et c'est la vérité,
    Que Monseigneur n'a que trop mérité
    La pension qu'il veut que je lui donne.
    En bonne foi je ne sache personne
    A qui Phébus s'engageât aujourd'hui
    De la donner plus volontiers qu'à lui.
       .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    Pour acquitter celle-ci chaque année,
    Il me faudra quatre termes égaux;
    A la Saint-Jean je promets madrigaux,
    Courts et troussés et de taille mignonne;
    Longue lecture en été n'est pas bonne.
    Le chef d'octobre aura son tour après,
    Ma Muse alors prétend se mettre en frais.
    Notre héros, si le beau temps ne change,
    De menus vers aura pleine vendange.
    Ne dites point que c'est menu présent,
    Car menus vers sont en vogue à présent.
    Vienne l'an neuf, ballade est destinée;
    Qui rit ce jour, il rit toute l'année.
       .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    Pâques, jour saint, veut autre poésie;
    J'envoyerais lors, si Dieu me prête vie,
    Pour achever toute la pension,
    Quelque sonnet plein de dévotion.
    Ce terme-là pourrait être le pire.
    On me voit peu sur tels sujets écrire,
    Mais tout au moins je serai diligent,
    Et, si j'y manque, envoyez un sergent,
    Faites saisir sans aucune remise
    Stances, rondeaux et vers de toute guise.
    Ce sont nos biens: les doctes nourrissons
    N'amassent rien, si ce n'est des chansons.[47]

This engagement was kept, with certain modifications, for a year at
least. The poet's acknowledgments were in a graceful and natural style,
unequalled since the time of Marot. The ballad for the midsummer
quarter was sent to Madame la Surintendante:

    Reine des cœurs, objet délicieux,
    Que suit l'enfant qu'on adore en des lieux
    Nommés Paphos, Amathonte et Cythère,
    Vous qui charmez les hommes et les dieux,
    En puissiez-vous dans cent ans autant faire.

We have seen Madame Foucquet as Charity; now we see her as Venus. But
it was only to poets that she was a goddess; in reality she was a good
woman whose mental qualities were lacking in charm; she was sympathetic
only in misfortune.

La Fontaine, in this poem, asks Madame Foucquet whether "one of
the Smiles" whom she "has for secretary" will send him a glorious
acquittal. Now, the Smile who was Madame la Surintendante's secretary
was Pellisson. As we have said, he was a wit. It delighted him to
think himself a Smile hovering round the Venus of Vaux. As for the
acknowledgment he was asked for, he composed two, one in his own name,
and the other in that of his divine Surintendante. Here is the first,
which is called the Public Acknowledgment:

    Par devant moi sur Parnasse notaire,
    Se présenta la reine des beautés,
    Et des vertus le parfait exemplaire,
    Qui lut ces vers, puis les ayant comptés,
    Pesés, revus, approuvés et vantés,
    Pour le passé voulut s'en satisfaire,
    Se réservant le tribut ordinaire,
    Pour l'avenir aux termes arrêtés.
    Muses de Vaux et vous, leur secrétaire,
    Voilà l'acquit tel que vous souhaitez.
    En puissiez-vous dans cent ans autant faire.

Here is the second, under private seal, in the name of the

    De mes deux yeux, ou de mes deux soleils
    J'ai lu vos vers qu'on trouve sans pareils,
    Et qui n'ont rien qui ne me doive plaire.
    Je vous tiens quitte et promets vous fournir
    De quoi par tout vous le faire tenir,
    Pour le passé, mais non pour l'avenir.
    En puissiez-vous dans cent ans autant faire.[48]

But Jean could not lay restraint upon himself. As he himself
ingenuously admits, he divided his life into two parts: one he passed
in sleeping, the other in doing nothing. For writing verse was doing
nothing for him, it came to him so naturally. But he could not do it
if he were obliged. In October, the second quarter, when his second
receipt fell due, we find the poet very much embarrassed. He sends a
poem, the refrain of which betrays this embarrassment:

    To promise is one thing, to keep one's promise is another.[49]

In the first quarter of 1660, all he produced was a dizaine for Madame
Foucquet. Foucquet, not unnaturally, mildly objected; and the poet

    Bien vous dirai qu'au nombre s'arrêter
    N'est pas le mieux, seigneur....

Foucquet was content and did not trouble his poetic debtor any further.
The latter thought that he would pay his debt by a descriptive poem of
some length, but this poem, _Le Songe de Vaux,_ was never finished. The
terrible awakening was near at hand.

We have already seen La Fontaine in the gallery at Saint-Mandé. Whilst
he was waiting Foucquet was busy, whether with an affair of State or of
the heart is doubtful, for he burnt the candle at both ends. "He took
everything upon himself," says the Abbé de Choisy, "he aspired to be
the first Minister, without losing a single moment of his pleasures.
He would pretend to be working alone in his study at Saint-Mandé; and
the whole Court, anticipating his future greatness, would wait in
his antechamber, loudly praising the indefatigable industry of this
great man, while he himself would go down the private staircase into
a garden, where his nymphs, whose names I might mention if I chose,
and they were not among the least distinguished, awaited him, and for
no small reward."[50] He would send sometimes three, sometimes four
thousand pistoles to the ladies of his heart,[51] and some of the most
charming sought to please him.[52]

Would it be true, however, to say with Nicolas:

    Never did a Superintendent meet with a cruel lady.[53]

Madame de Sévigné was wooed by Foucquet, and yet she had no difficulty
in escaping from him. She made him understand that she would give
nothing and accept nothing. She was reasonable; he became so. "Reduced
to friendship, he transformed his love," says Bussy, "into an esteem
for a virtue hitherto unknown to him."[54] Madame de Sévigné was not
alone obdurate.

Madame Scarron, beautiful and prudish, found a way to obtain great
benefits from Foucquet without involving her reputation. When the
Superintendent granted her a favour, it was Madame Foucquet whom she
thanked. Thus, for the privilege which we have mentioned: "Madame,"
she writes to Madame la Surintendante, "I will not trouble you further
about the matter of the unloaders. It is happily terminated through the
intervention of that hero to whom we all owe everything, and whom you
have the pleasure of loving. The provost of the merchants listened to
reason as soon as he heard the great name of M. Foucquet. I entreat of
you, Madame, to allow me to come and thank you at Vaux. Madame de Vassé
has assured me that you continue to regard me kindly, and that you
will not consider me an intruder in those alleys where one may reflect
with so much reason, and jest with so much grace."[55]

Madame Foucquet, who was a kind woman, wished to keep Madame Scarron
about her; but the cunning fly would not allow itself to be caught. She
wrote to her indiscreet benefactress: "Madame, my obligation towards
you did not permit me to hesitate concerning the proposition which
Madame Bonneau made me on your behalf. It was so flattering to me,
I am so disgusted with my present circumstances, and I have so much
respect for you, that I should not have wavered for a moment, even
if the gratitude which I owe you had not influenced me; but, Madame,
M. Scarron, although your indebted and very humble servant, cannot
give his consent. My entreaties have failed to move him, my reasons
to persuade him. He implores you to love me less, or at any rate to
display your affection in a way which would be less costly to him.
Read his request, Madame, and pardon the ardour of a husband who has
no other resource against tedium, no other consolation in all his
misfortunes than the wife whom he loves. I told Madame Bonneau that
if you shorten the term I might, perhaps, obtain his consent, but I
see that it is useless thus to flatter myself, and that I had too far
presumed upon my power. I entreat of you, Madame, to continue your
kindness towards me. No one is more attached to you than I am, and my
gratitude will cease only with my life."[56]

Mademoiselle du Fouilloux was no prude; quite the contrary. She
appeared at Court in 1652; she showed herself and she pleased.

    Une fleur fraîche et printanière,
    Un nouvel astre, une lumière,
    Savoir l'aimable du Fouilloux,
    Dont plusieurs beaux yeux sont jaloux,
    D'autant que cette demoiselle
    Est charmante, brillante et belle,
    Ayant pour escorte l'Amour,
    A fait son entrée à la Cour
    Et pris le nom, cette semaine,
    De fille d'honneur de la reine.[57]

She figured in all the ballets in which the King danced, and Loret
sings that in 1658:

    Fouilloux, l'une des trois pucelles,
    Comme elle est belle entre les belles,
    Par ses attraits toujours vainqueurs,
    Y faisait des rafles de cœurs.

Foucquet lost his heart to her. He spoke; he gained a hearing.
Mademoiselle du Fouilloux, frivolous and calculating, was doubly made
for him. Their liaison was intimate and political. Fouilloux was
absolutely self-interested; she did not ask for what was her due, being
too great a lady for that, but she demanded it by means of a third
person, and even insisted upon advances. "I will tell you," wrote this
go-between,[58] "that I have seen Fouilloux prepared to entreat me to
find a way to inform you, as if on my own account, that I knew you
would please her if you would advance one hundred pistoles on this
year's pension."

We know also, from the same source, that the beauty asked for money
to pay her debts, and did not pay them. Here is the end of the note:
"Mademoiselle du Fouilloux has assured me that, of all the money that
you have given her, she has not paid a halfpenny. She has gambled
it all away." We must do justice to Foucquet, and to Fouilloux;
they were very reasonable. Fouilloux's one thought was to have her
own establishment, and she had her eye on an honest man, something
of a simpleton, but of good family, whom she had watched by the
Superintendent's police.

In those days the Queen's ladies-in-waiting were flattered in song.
Fouilloux had verses addressed to her:

    Foilloux sans songer à plaire
    Plaît pourtant infiniment
    Par un air libre et charmant.
    C'est un dessein téméraire
    Que d'attaquer sa rigueur.
    Si j'eusse été sans affaires
    La belle aurait eu mon cœur.[59]

Other verses celebrate Menneville:

    Toute la Cour est éprise
    De ces attraits glorieux
    Dont vous enchantez les yeux,
    Menneville; ma franchise
    S'y devrait bien engager;
    Mais mon cœur est place prise
    Et vous n'y sauriez loger.

This Menneville, celebrated in such bad verse, was, with Fouilloux,
the prettiest woman at Court. On this matter we have the testimony of
Jean Racine, who, banished to the depths of the provinces, wrote to
his friend La Fontaine, citing Fouilloux and Menneville as examples of
beauty. "I cannot refrain from saying a word as to the beauties of this
province.... There is not a village maiden, nor a cobbler's wife, who
might not vie in beauty with the Fouilloux and the Mennevilles.... All
the women here are dazzling, and they deck themselves out in a manner
which is to them the most natural fashion in the world, and as for the
attractions of their person,

_Colors vents, corpus solidum et sued plenum._"[60]

Of the two, Menneville is thought to have been the more beautiful. A
song says of her:

    Cachez-vous, filles de la reine,
    Car Menneville est de retour,

She sold herself to the Superintendent. As she did not equal Fouilloux
in her genius for intrigue, Foucquet used her more kindly. While this
lady-in-waiting was yielding to the suit of the seigneur of Vaux,
she was trying to force the Duc de Damville to marry her, as he had
promised. Like Fouilloux, she begged the Superintendent to help her
to get settled. He did so with a good grace, and sent the fair lady
fifteen thousand crowns, which ought to have decided Damville. The
latter hesitated. An accident decided for him: he died.

There were no pleasures, no distractions--if we employ the word in
the strict sense which Pascal then gave it--there were no means of
enjoyment and oblivion for which Foucquet had not the most tremendous
capacity. Business and building were not enough to absorb his vast
energies. He was a gambler. The stakes at his tables were terribly
high. So they were at Madame Foucquet's. In one day Gourville won
eighteen thousand livres from the Comte d'Avaux. No money was laid
on the table, but at the end of the game the players settled their
accounts. They played not only for money, but for gems, ornaments,
lace, collars, valued at seventy to eighty pistoles each.

Foucquet, playing against Gourville, in one day lost sixty thousand
livres. "He played," said Gourville, "with cut cards which were worth
ten or twenty pistoles each. I put one thousand pistoles before me
almost desiring that he should win back something, which did happen.
Nevertheless, he was not pleased to see I was leaving the game."[61]

This wild play was not altogether to the Superintendent's disadvantage.
In the end his intimate friends, who were great personages, were
ruined, and came to him for mercy. Thus, for instance, he held in his
power Hugues de Lyonne--the great Lyonne. But he himself was at his
last gasp, and overwhelmed with anxiety.

Sole Superintendent of Finance since Servien's death, on the 17th
February, 1659, Foucquet had filled Mazarin's crop without having won
him, for Mazarin loved and served only himself, his own people and
the State. As a private individual he was self-interested, covetous
and miserly. As a public man he desired the good of the kingdom, the
greatness of France. He was never grateful to his public servants for
anything they did for his own person. Foucquet felt this; he perceived
that he had no hold over this man, and that Mazarin, when dying, might
ruin him, having no further need of him.

For Mazarin was dying; he was dying with all the heartrending regret
of a Magnifico who feels that he is being torn from his jewels, his
tapestries and his books--beautifully bound in morocco, delicately
tooled--and also, by a curious inconsistency, with the serenity of a
great statesman, of another Richelieu, full of a generous grief that he
could no longer play his part in those great affairs which had rendered
his life illustrious. He was anxious to assure the prosperity of the
kingdom after his death. "Sire," he said to the young Louis XIV, "I
owe you everything, but I think I can in a manner discharge my debt by
giving you Colbert."[62]

At the very point of death he was conferring with the King in secret
conversations, which caused Foucquet great anxiety, precisely because
they were concealed from him. Then, at length, the light of eyes which
had so long sought for gold and sumptuous draperies, and pierced the
hearts of men, was finally extinguished.

On the 9th March, 1661, as Foucquet, leaving his house of Saint-Mandé,
was crossing the Gardens on foot to go to Vincennes, he met young
Brienne, who was getting out of his couch, and learned from him the
great news.

"He is dead, then!" murmured Foucquet. "Henceforth I shall not know in
whom to confide. People always do things by halves. Oh, how distressing
I The King is waiting for me, and I ought to be there among the first!
My God! Monsieur de Brienne, tell me what is happening, so that I may
not commit any indiscretion through ignorance."[63]

The day after Mazarin's death the King of twenty-three summoned
Foucquet, with the Chancellor, Séguier, the Ministers and Secretaries
of State, and addressed them in these words: "Hitherto I have been
content to leave my affairs in the hands of the late Cardinal. It is
time for me to control them myself. You will help me with your counsels
when I ask you for them. Gentlemen, I forbid you to sign anything, not
even a safe conduct, or a passport, without my command. I request you
to give me personally an account of everything every day, to favour no
one in your lists of the month. And you, Monsieur le Surintendant, I
have explained to you my wishes; I request you to employ M. Colbert,
whom the late Cardinal has recommended to me." Foucquet thought that
the King was not speaking seriously. That error ruined him.

He believed that it would be easy to amuse and deceive the youthful
mind of the King, and he set to work to do so with all the ardour,
all the grace and all the frivolity of his nature. He determined to
govern the kingdom and the King. Foucquet did not know Louis XIV, and
Louis XVI did know Foucquet. Warned by Mazarin, the King knew that
Foucquet was engaged in dubious proceedings, and was ready to resort
to any expedient. He knew, also, that he was a man of resource and of
talent. He took him apart and told him that he was determined to be
King, and to have a precise and complete knowledge of State affairs;
that he would begin with finance; it was the most important part
of his administration, and that he was determined to restore order
and regularity to that department. He asked the Superintendent to
instruct him minutely in every detail, and he bade him conceal nothing,
declaring that he would always employ him, provided that he found him
sincere. As for the past, he was prepared to forget that, but he wished
that in future the Superintendent would let him know the true state of
the finances.[64]

In speaking thus, Louis XIV told the truth. He has explained himself in
his _Mémoires._ "It may be a cause of astonishment," he says, "that I
was willing to employ him at a time when his peculations were known to
me, but I knew that he was intelligent and thoroughly acquainted with
all the most intimate affairs of State, and this made me think that,
provided he would confess his past faults and promise to correct them,
he might render me good service."

No one could speak more wisely, more kindly; but the audacious Foucquet
did not realize that there was something menacing in this wisdom and
this kindness. He was possessed of a spirit of imprudence and error. He
was labouring blindly to bring about his own fall. Day by day, despite
the advice of his best friends, he presented the King with false
accounts of his expenditure and revenue. For five months he believed
that he was deceiving Louis XIV, but every evening the King placed his
accounts in the hands of Colbert, whom he had nominated Intendant of
Finance, with the special duty of watching Foucquet. Colbert showed
the King the falsifications in these accounts. On the following day
the King would patiently seek to draw some confession from the guilty
Minister, who, with false security, persisted in his lies.

Henceforth Foucquet was a ruined man. From the month of April, 1661,
Colbert's clerks did not hesitate to announce his fall. He began to be
afraid, but it was too late. He went and threw himself at the King's
feet--it was at Fontainebleau--he reminded him that Cardinal Mazarin
had regulated finance with absolute authority, without observing any
formality, and had constrained him, the Superintendent, to do many
things which might expose him to prosecution. He did not deny his own
personal faults, and admitted that his expenditure had been excessive.
He entreated the King to pardon him for the past, and promised to serve
him faithfully in the future. The King listened to his Minister with
apparent goodwill; his lips murmured words of pardon, but in his heart
he had already passed sentence on Foucquet.

Is it true that some private jealousy inspired the King's vengeance?
Foucquet, according to the Abbé de Choisy,[65] had sent Madame
de Plessis-Bellière to tell Mademoiselle de Lavallière that the
Superintendent had twenty thousand pistoles at her service. The lady
had replied that twenty million would not induce her to take a false
step. "Which astonished the worthy intermediary, who was little used
to such replies," adds the Abbé. However this may be, Foucquet soon
perceived that the fortress was taken, and that it was dangerous to
tread upon the heels of the royal occupant. But in order to repair his
fault he committed a second, worse than the first. Again it is Choisy
who tells us. "Wishing to justify himself to her, and to her secret
lover, he himself undertook the mission of go-between, and, taking her
apart in Madame's antechamber, he sought to tell her that the King was
the greatest prince in the world, the best looking, and other little
matters. But the lady, proud of her heart's secret, cut him short, and
that very evening complained of him to the King."[66]

Such a piece of audacity, and one so clumsy, could only irritate the
young and royal lover. Nevertheless it was not to a secret jealousy,
but to State interest, that Louis XIV sacrificed his prevaricating

His intentions are above suspicion. It was in the interest of the
Crown and of the State alone that he acted. Yet we can but feel
surprised to find so young a man employing so much strategy and so much
dissimulation in order to ruin one whom he had appeared to pardon. In
this piece of diplomacy Louis XIV and Colbert both displayed an excess
of skill. With perfidious adroitness they manœuvred to deprive Foucquet
of his office of Attorney-General, which was an obstacle in their way,
for an officer of the Parliament could be tried only by that body, and
Foucquet had so many partisans in Parliament that there was no hope
that it would ever condemn him.

Louis XIV displayed an apparent confidence in Foucquet and redoubled
his favours; Colbert, acting with the King, was constantly praising
his generosity. He was, at the same time, inducing him to testify his
gratitude by filling the treasury without having recourse to bargains
with supporters, which were so burdensome to the State. Foucquet
replied: "I would willingly sell all that I have in the world in order
to procure money for the King."

Colbert refrained from pressing him further, but he contrived to lead
the conversation to the office of Attorney-General. Foucquet told him
one day that he had been offered fifteen hundred thousand livres for it.

"But, sir," answered Colbert, "do you wish to sell it? It is true that
it is of no great use to you. A Minister who is Superintendent has no
time to watch lawsuits." The matter did not go any farther at that
time; but they returned to it later, and Foucquet, thinking himself
established in his sovereign's favour, said one day to Colbert that he
was inclined to sell his office in order to give its price to the King.
Colbert applauded this resolution, and Foucquet went immediately to
tell Louis XIV, who thanked him and accepted the offer immediately. The
trick was played.[67]

The King had done his part to bring about this excellent result
by making Foucquet think that he would create him a _chevalier
de l'Ordre,_ and first Minister, as soon as he was no longer
Attorney-General. Here is a deal of duplicity to prepare the way for an
act of justice! Foucquet sold his office for fourteen hundred thousand
livres to Achille de Harlay, who paid for it partly in cash. A million
was taken to Vincennes, "where the King wished to keep it for secret

Loret announced this fact in his letter of the 14th August:

    Ce politique renommé
    Qui par ses bontés m'a charmé,
    Ce judicieux, ce grand homme
    Que Monseigneur Foucquet on nomme,
    Si généreux, si libéral,
    N'est plus procureur général.
    Une autre prudente cervelle,
    Que Monsieur Harlay on appelle,
    En a par sa démission
    Maintenant la possession.

As a further act of prudence, and in order completely to lay Foucquet's
suspicions to rest, Louis XIV accepted the entertainment which Foucquet
offered him in the Château de Vaux. "For a long time," said Madame
de Lafayette, "the King had said that he wanted to go to Vaux, the
Superintendent's magnificent house, and although Foucquet ought to have
been too wary to show the King the very thing that proved so plainly
what bad use he had made of the public finances, and though the King's
natural kindliness ought to have prevented him from visiting a man whom
he was about to ruin, neither of them considered this aspect of the

The whole Court went to Vaux on the 17th August, 1661.[70]

These festivities exasperated Louis XIV. "Ah, Madame," he said to his
mother, "shall we not make all these people disgorge?" Infallible
signs announced the approaching catastrophe. In his Council, the King
proposed to suppress those very orders to pay cash which served, as we
have said, to cover the secret expenditure of the Superintendents. The
Chancellor strongly supported the proposal. "Do I count for nothing,
then?" cried Foucquet indiscreetly. Then he suddenly corrected himself
and said that other ways would be found to provide for the secret
expenses of the State. "I myself will provide for them," said Louis
XIV. Nevertheless, Foucquet, though deprived of the gown, was still a
formidable enemy. Before he could be reduced his Breton strongholds
must be captured. The prudent King had thought of this, and presently
conceived a clever scheme. As there was need of money, it was resolved
to increase the taxation of the State domains. This impost, described
euphemistically as a gratuitous gift, was voted by the Provincial
Assemblies. The presence of the King seemed necessary in order to
determine the Breton Estates to make a great financial sacrifice, and
Foucquet himself advised the King to go to Nantes, where the Provincial
Assembly was to be held.[71] Foucquet himself helped to bring about
his own ruin. At Nantes he had a sorrowful presentiment of this. He
was suffering from an intermittent fever, the attacks of which were
very weakening. "Why," he said, in a low voice to Brienne, "is the
King going to Brittany, and to Nantes in particular? Is it not in order
to make sure of Belle-Isle?" And several times in his weakness he
murmured: "Nantes, Belle-Isle!" When Brienne went out, he embraced him
with tears in his eyes.[72]

The King arrived at Nantes on the ist of September, and took up his
abode at the Château. Foucquet had his lodging at the other end of
the town, in a house which communicated with the Loire by means of a
subterranean passage. In that way he could reach the river, where a
boat was waiting for him, and escape to Belle-Isle.

Summoned by the King, on the 5th September, at seven o'clock in the
morning, he went to the Council Meeting, which was prolonged until
eleven o'clock. During this time meticulous measures were taken for
his arrest, and for the seizure of his papers. The Council over, the
King detained Foucquet to discuss various matters with him. Finally,
he dismissed him, and Foucquet entered his chair. Having passed
through the gate of the Château, he had entered a little square near
the Cathedral, when D'Artagnan, 2nd Lieutenant of the Company of
Musketeers, signed to him to get out. Foucquet obeyed, and D'Artagnan
read him the warrant for his arrest. The Superintendent expressed
great surprise at this misfortune, and asked the officer to avoid
attracting public attention. The latter took him into a house which was
near at hand; it was that of the Archdeacon of Nantes, whose niece had
been Foucquet's first wife. A cup of broth was given to the prisoner;
the papers he had on him were taken and sealed. In one of the King's
coaches he was conveyed to the Château d'Angers. There he remained for
three months, from the 7th of September to the 1st of December.

Meanwhile his prosecution was being prepared. Certain letters from
women, found in a casket at Saint-Mandé, were taken to Fontainebleau,
and given to the King. They combined a great deal of gallantry with a
great deal of politics. Many women's names were to be read in them,
or guessed at. Madame Scarron's was mentioned and even Madame de
Sévigné's, but in an innocent connection. On the whole, only one woman,
Menneville, was shown to be guilty.

Foucquet was removed from Angers to Saumur. Taken on the 2nd of
December to La Chapelle-Blanche, he lodged on the 3rd in a suburb of
Tours, and from the 4th to the 25th of December remained in the Château
d'Amboise. Shortly after Foucquet's departure, La Fontaine, in company
with his uncle, Jannart, who had been exiled to Limousin, halted below
the Château and swept his eyes over the fair and smiling valley.

"All this," he said, "poor Monsieur Foucquet could never, during his
imprisonment here, enjoy for a single moment. All the windows of his
room had been blocked up, leaving only a little gap at the top. I asked
to see him; a melancholy pleasure, I admit, but I did ask. The soldier
who escorted us had no key, so that I was left for a long time gazing
at the door, and I got them to tell me how the prisoner was guarded. I
should like to describe it to you, but the recollection is too painful.

    Qu'est-il besoin que je retrace
    Une garde au soin non pareil,
    Chambre murée, étroite place,
    Quelque peu d'air pour toute grâce;
        Jours sans soleil,
        Nuits sans sommeil;
    Trois portes en six pieds d'espace!
    Vous peindre un tel appartement,
    Ce serait attirer vos larmes;
    Je l'ai fait insensiblement,
    Cette plainte a pour moi des charmes.

Nothing but the approach of night could have dragged me from the

On the 31st December, Foucquet reached Vincennes. As he passed he
caught sight of his house at Saint-Mandé, in which he had collected
all that can flatter and adorn life, and which he was never again to
inhabit. He was, indeed, to remain in the Bastille until after his
condemnation; that is to say, for more than three years; and he left
that fortress only to suffer an imprisonment of which the protracted
severity has become a legend.

The public anger was now loosed upon the stricken financier. The people
whose poverty had been insulted by his ostentatious display wished
to snatch him from his guards and tear him to pieces in the streets.
Several times during the journey from Nantes, D'Artagnan had been
obliged to protect his prisoner from riotous mobs of peasants. In the
higher classes of society the indignation was fully as bitter, although
it was only expressed in words.

Society never forgave Foucquet for having allowed his love-letters to
be seized. It was considered that to keep and classify women's letters
in this manner was not the act of a gallant gentleman. Such was the
opinion of Chapelain, who wrote to Madame de Sévigné:

"Was it not enough to ruin the State, and to render the King odious
to his people by the enormous burdens which he imposed upon them, and
to employ the public finances in impudent expenditure and insolent
acquisitions, which were compatible neither with his honour nor with
his office, and which, on the other hand, rather tended to turn his
subjects and his servants against him, and to corrupt them? Was it
necessary to crown his irregularities and his crimes, by erecting in
his own honour a trophy of favours, either real or apparent, of the
modesty of so many ladies of rank, and by keeping a shameful record
of his commerce with them in order that the shipwreck of his fortunes
should also be that of their reputations?

"Is this consistent with being, I do not say an upright man, in which
capacity, his flatterers, the Scarrons, Pellissons and Sapphos, and
the whole of that self-interested scum have so greatly extolled him,
but a man merely, a man with a spark of enlightenment, who professes
to be something better than a brute? I cannot excuse such scandalous,
dastardly behaviour, and I should be hardly less enraged with this
wretch if your name had not been found among his papers."[74]

We can admire such generous indignation, but it is hard to be called
"self-interested scum" when one is merely faithful in misfortune.

The truth is that Foucquet still had friends; the women and the poets
did not abandon him. Hesnault, to whom he had given a pension, was
not a favourite of the Muses, but he showed himself a man of feeling,
and his courageous fidelity did him credit. He attacked Colbert in an
eloquent sonnet, which was circulated everywhere by the prisoner's

    Ministre avare et lâche, esclave malheureux,
    Qui gémis sous le poids des affaires publiques,
    Victime dévouée aux chagrins politiques,
    Fantôme révéré sous un titre onéreux:

    Vois combien des grandeurs le comble est dangereux;
    Contemple de Foucquet les funestes reliques,
    Et tandis qu'à sa perte en secret tu t'appliques,
    Crains qu'on ne te prépare un destin plus affreux!

    Sa chute, quelque jour, te peut être commune;
    Crains ton poste, ton rang, la cour et la fortune;
    Nul ne tombe innocent d'où l'on te voit monté.

    Cesse donc d'animer ton prince à son supplice,
    Et près d'avoir besoin de toute sa bonté,
    Ne le fais pas user de toute sa justice.

This sonnet was circulated privately. It was generally read with
pleasure, for Colbert was not liked, and it will not be inappropriate
to cite here an anecdote for which Bayle is responsible.[75]

When the sonnet was mentioned to the Minister, he asked: "Is the King
offended by it?" And when he was told that he was not, "Then neither
am I," he said, "nor do I bear the author any ill will."

If Molière kept silence, Corneille, on the contrary, now gave proof of
his greatness of soul; by praising Pellisson's fidelity, he showed that
he shared it:

    En vain pour ébranler ta fidèle constance,
    On vit fondre sur toi la force et lat puissance;
    En vain dans la Bastille, on t'accabla de fers,
    En vain on te flatta sur mille appas divers;
    Ton grand cœur, inflexible aux rigueurs, aux caresses,
    Triompha de la force et se rit des promesses;
    Et comme un grand rocher par l'orage insulté
    Des flots audacieux méprise la fierté,
    Et, sans craindre le bruit qui gronde sur sa tête,
    Voit briser à ses pieds l'effort de la tempête,
    C'est ainsi, Pellisson, que dans l'adversité,
    Ton intrépide cœur garde sa fermeté,
    Et que ton amitié, constante et généreuse,
    Du milieu des dangers sortit victorieuse.

Poor Loret found it difficult at first to collect his bewildered wits
and relate the catastrophe. It was a terrible affair; he didn't know
much about it, and he says still less. But, far from accusing the
fallen Minister, he was inclined to pity and esteem him. This was
courageous; and his bad verses were a kind action:

    Notre Roi, qui par politique
    Se transportait vers l'Amorique,
    Pour raisons qu'on ne savait pas,
    S'en revient, dit-on, à grands pas.
    Je n'ai su par aucun message
    Les circonstances du voyage:
    Mais j'ai du bruit commun appris,
    C'est-à-dire de tout Paris,
    Que par une expresse ordonnance,
    Le sieur surintendant de France
    Je ne sais pourquoi ni comment,
    Est arrêté présentement
    (Nouvelles des plus surprenantes)
    Dans la ville et château de Nantes,
    Certes, j'ai toujours respecté
    Les ordres de Sa Majesté
    Et crû que ce monarque auguste
    Ne commandait rien que de juste;
    Mais étant rémemoratif
    Que cet infortuné captif
    M'a toujours semblé bon et sage
    Et que d'un obligeant langage
    Il m'a quelquefois honoré,
    J'avoue en avoir soupiré,
    Ne pouvant, sans trop me contraindre,
    Empêcher mon cœur de le plaindre.
    Si, sans préjudice du Roi
    (Et je le dis de bonne foi)
    Je pouvais lui rendre service
    Et rendre son sort plus propice
    En adoucissant sa rigueur,
    Je le ferais de tout mon cœur;
    Mais ce seul désir est frivole,
    Et prions Dieu qu'il le console.
    En l'état qu'il est aujourd'hui,
    C'est tout ce que je puis pour lui.[76]

In time poor Loret did more; he tried to deny his benefactor's crimes.
"I doubt half of them," he said in the execrable style of the rhyming

    Et par raison et par pitié,
    Et même pour la conséquence
    Je passe le tout sous silence.

Pellisson was admirable. He wrote from the Bastille, where he was
imprisoned, eloquent defences in which, neglecting his own cause, he
sought only to justify Foucquet. His defence followed the same lines
as that of Foucquet himself. He pleaded the necessities of France,
the need of provisioning and equipping her armies and of fortifying
her strongholds. He imagined a case in which Mazarin himself might
have been criticized for the means by which he had procured money for
the war and ensured victory. "In all conscience," he said, "what man
of good sense could have advised him to reply in other than Scipio's
words: 'Here are my accounts: I present them but only to tear them
up. On this day a year ago I signed a general peace, and the contract
of the King's marriage, which gave peace to Europe. Let us go and
celebrate this anniversary at the foot of the altar.'"[78]

Mademoiselle de Scudéry distinguished herself by her zeal on behalf of
her friend, formerly so powerful, and now so unfortunate. Pecquet, whom
the Superintendent had chosen as his doctor, in order that he might
discourse with him on physics and philosophy, the learned Jean Pecquet,
was inconsolable at having lost so good a master. He used to say that
Pecquet had always rhymed, and always would rhyme with Foucquet.[79]

As for La Fontaine, all know how his fidelity, rendered still more
touching by his ingenuous emotions and the spell of his poetry, adorns
and defends the memory of Nicolas Foucquet to this very day. Nothing
can equal the divine complaint in which the truest of poets grieved
over the disgrace of his magnificent patron.


    Remplissez l'air de cris en vos grottes profondes,
    Pleurez, nymphes de Vaux, faites croître vos ondes;
    Et que l'Anqueil[81] enflé ravage les trésors

    Dont les regards de Flore ont embelli vos bords.
    On ne blâmera point vos larmes innocentes,
    Vous pourrez donner cours à vos douleurs pressantes;
    Chacun attend de vous ce devoir généreux:
    Les destins sont contents, Oronte est malheureux[82]

"In a letter written under the name of M. de la Visclède, to the
permanent secretary of the Academy of Pau, in 1776, Voltaire," says
M. Marty-Laveaux, "quotes these verses, and adds: 'He (La Fontaine)
altered the word _Cabale_ when he had been made to realize that the
great Colbert was serving the King with great equity, and was not
addicted to cabals. But La Fontaine had heard some one make use of the
term, and had fully believed that it was the proper word to use.'"

    Vous l'avez vu naguère au bord de vos fontaines,
    Qui sans craindre du sort les faveurs incertaines,
    Plein d'éclat, plein de gloire, adoré des mortels,
    Recevait des honneurs qu'on ne doit qu'aux autels.

    Hélas! qu'il est déchu de ce bonheur suprême!
    Que vous le trouverez différent de lui-même!
    Pour lui les plus beaux jours sont de secondes nuits,
    Les soucis dévorans, les regrets, les ennuis,
    Hôtes infortunés de sa triste demeure,
    En des gouffres de maux le plongent à toute heure
    Voilà le précipice où l'ont enfin jeté
    Les attraits enchanteurs de la prospérité!
    Dans les palais des Rois cette plainte est commune;
    On n'y connaît que trop les jeux de la fortune,
    Ses trompeuses faveurs, ses appas inconstants:
    Mais on ne les connaît que quand il n'est plus temps,
    Lorsque sur cette mer on vogue à pleines voiles,
    Qu'on croit avoir pour soi les vents et les étoiles.
    Il est bien malaisé de régler ses désirs;
    Le plus sage s'endort sur la foi des zéphirs.
    Jamais un favori ne borne sa carrière,
    Il ne regarde point ce qu'il laisse en arrière;
    Et tout ce vain amour des grandeurs et du bruit
    Ne le saurait quitter qu'après l'avoir détruit.
    Tant d'exemples fameux que l'histoire en raconte
    Ne suffisaient-ils pas sans la perte d'Oronte?
    Ah! si ce faux éclat n'eût point fait ses plaisirs,
    Si le séjour de Vaux eût borné ses désirs
    Qu'il pouvait doucement laisser couler son âge!
    Vous n'avez pas chez vous ce brillant équipage,
    Cette foule de gens qui s'en vont chaque jour
    Saluer à longs flots le soleil de la cour:
    Mais la faveur du ciel vous donne en récompense
    Du repos, du loisir, de l'ombre et du silence,
    Un tranquille sommeil, d'innocents entretiens,
    Et jamais à la cour on ne trouve ces biens.
    Mais quittons ces pensers, Oronte nous appelle.
    Vous, dont il a rendu la demeure si belle,
    Nymphes, qui lui devez vos plus charmants appas,
    Si le long de vos bords Louis porte ses pas,
    Tâchez de l'adoucir, fléchissez son courage;
    Il aime ses sujets, il est juste, il est sage;
    Du titre de clément, rendez-le ambitieux;
    C'est par là que les Rois sont semblables aux dieux.
    Du magnanisme Henri[83] qu'il contemple la vie;
    Dès qu'il put se venger, il en perdit l'envie.
    Inspirez à Louis cette même douceur:
    La plus belle victoire est de vaincre son cœur.
    Oronte est à présent un objet de clémence;
    S'il a cru les conseils d'une aveugle puissance,
    Il est assez puni par son sort rigoureux,
    Et c'est être innocent que d'être malheureux.[84]

La Fontaine, not satisfied with this poem, addressed an ode to the King
on Foucquet's behalf. But the ode is far from equalling the elegy.

    ... Oronte seul, ta creature,
    Languit dans un profond ennui,
    Et les bienfaits de la nature
    Ne se répandent plus sur lui.
    Tu peux d'un éclat de ta foudre
    Achever de le mettre en poudre;
    Mais si les dieux à ton pouvoir
    Aucunes bornes n'ont prescrites,
    Moins ta grandeur a de limites,
    Plus ton courroux en doit avoir.
       .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    Va-t-en punir l'orgueil du Tibre;
    Qu'il se souvienne que ses lois
    N'ont jadis rien laissé de libre
    Que le courage des Gaulois.
    Mais parmi nous sois débonnaire:
    A cet empire si sévère
    Tu ne te peux accoutumer;
    Et ce serait trop te contraindre:
    Les étrangers te doivent craindre,
    Tes sujets te veulent aimer.

These verses refer to the attack made by the Corsicans on the Guard of
Alexander VII, who, on the 20th August, 1667, fired on the coach of the
Due de Créqui, the French Ambassador.

    L'amour est fils de la clémence,
    La clémence est fille des dieux;
    Sans elle toute leur puissance
    Ne serait qu'un titre odieux.
    Parmi les fruits de la victoire,
    César environné de gloire
    N'en trouva point dont la douceur
    A celui-ci pût être égale,
    Non pas même aux champs où Pharsale
    L'honora du nom de vainqueur.
       .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    Laisse-lui donc pour toute grâce
    Un bien qui ne lui peut durer,
    Après avoir perdu la place
    Que ton cœur lui fit espérer.
    Accorde-nous les faibles restes
    De ses jours tristes et funestes,
    Jours qui se passent en soupirs:
    Ainsi les tiens filés de soie
    Puissent se voir comblés de joie,
    Même au delà de tes désirs.[85]

La Fontaine submitted this ode to Foucquet, who sent it back to him
with various suggestions. The prisoner requested that the reference
to Rome should be suppressed. Doubtless he did not understand it, not
having heard in prison of the attack upon the French Ambassador at the
Papal Court.[86] He also disapproved of the allusion to the clemency
of the victor of Pharsalia. "Cæsar's example," he said, "being derived
from antiquity would not, I think, be well enough known." He also noted
a passage--which I do not know--"as being too poetical to please the
King." The last suggestion speaks of a true nobility of mind. It refers
to the last passage, in which the poet implores the King to grant the
life of "Oronte." Foucquet wrote in the margin: "You sue too humbly for
a thing that one ought to despise."

La Fontaine did not willingly give in on any of these points; to the
last suggestion he replied as follows: "The sentiment is worthy of you,
Monsignor, and, in truth, he who regards life with such indifference
does not deserve to die. Perhaps you have not considered that it is I
who am speaking, I who ask for a favour which is dearer to us than to
you. There are no terms too humble, too pathetic and too urgent to be
employed in such circumstances. When I bring you on to the stage, I
shall give you words which are suitable to the greatness of your soul.
Meanwhile permit me to tell you that you have too little affection for
a life such as yours is."

It was in the month of November only that a Chamber was instituted by
Royal Edict with the object of instituting financial reforms, and of
punishing those who had been guilty of maladministration. Foucquet
was to appear before this Chamber. It met solemnly in the month of
December. The greater part of it was composed of Members of the
Parliament, but it also included Members of the Chambre des Comptes,
the Cour des Aides, the Grand Council and the Masters of Requests. The
magistrates who composed it were, to mention those only who sat in it
as finally constituted:

The Chancellor Pierre Séguier, first President of the Parliament of
Paris, who presided; Guillaume de Lamoignon, deputy president; the
President de Nesmond; the President de Pontchartrain; Poncet, Master
of Requests; Olivier d'Ormesson, Master of Requests; Voysin, Master
of Requests; Besnard de Réze, Master of Requests; Regnard, Catinat,
De Brillac, Fayet, Councillors in the Grand Chamber of the Paris
Parliament; Massenau, Councillor in the Toulouse Parliament; De la
Baulme, of the Grenoble Parliament; Du Verdier, of the Bordeaux
Parliament; De la Toison, of the Dijon Parliament; Lecormier de
Sainte-Hélène, of the Rouen Parliament; Raphélis de Roquesante, of the
Aix Parliament; Hérault, of the Rennes Parliament; Noguès, of the Pau
Parliament; Ferriol, of the Metz Parliament; De Moussy, of the Paris
Chambre des Comptes; Le-Bossu-le-Jau, of the Paris Chambre des Comptes;
Le Féron, of the Cour des Aides; De Baussan, of the Cour des Aides;
Cuissotte de Gisaucourt, of the Grand Council; Pussort, of the Grand

It must be recognized that the creation of such a Chamber of Justice
was in conformity with the rules of the public law as it then existed.
Had not Chalais and Marillac, Cinq-Mars and Thou, been judged by
commissions of Masters of Requests and Councillors of the Parliament?
And, if our sense of legality is wounded when we behold the accusing
Monarch himself choosing the judges of the accused man, we must
remember this maxim was then firmly established: "All justice emanates
from the King." By this very circumstance the Chamber of Justice of
1661 was invested with very extensive powers; it became the object
of public respect, and of the public hopes, for the poor, deeming it
powerful, attributed to it the power of helping the wretched populace,
after it had punished those who robbed them.

Such illusions are very natural, and one may wonder whether any
government would be possible if unhappy persons did not, from day to
day, expect something better on the morrow.

Thus the tribunal constituted by the King was no unrighteous tribunal;
yet there was no security in it for the accused. He was apparently
ruined. Condemned beforehand by the King and by the people, everything
seemed to fail him, but he did not fail himself. After having wrought
his own ruin, Foucquet worked out his own salvation, if he may be said
to have saved himself when all he saved was his life.

His first act was to protest energetically against the competence of
the Chamber; he alleged that, having held office in the Parliament
for twenty-five years, he was still entitled to the privileges of its
officers, and he recognized no judges except those of that body, of
both Chambers united. Having made this reservation, he consented to
reply to the questions of the examining magistrates, and his replies
bore witness to the scope and vigour of a mind which was always
collected. The Chamber, on its side, declared itself competent, and
decided that the trial should be conducted as though Foucquet were
dumb: that is, that there would be no cross-examination, and no
pleading. By this method of procedure the Attorney-General put his
questions in writing, and the accused replied in writing. As the
documents of the prosecution and of the defence were produced, the
recorders prepared summaries for the judges.[87]

It is obvious that in such a case the reporters, who are the necessary
intermediaries between the magistrates and the parties to the case,
possess considerable influence, and that the issue of the lawsuit
depends largely on their intelligence and their morality. Consequently,
the King wished to reserve to himself the right of appointing them,
although according to tradition, this belonged to the President of the

Messieurs Olivier d'Ormesson and Le Cormier de Sainte-Hélène were
chosen by the Royal Council, and their names were put before the First
President, Guillaume de Lamoignon. This magistrate apologized for
being unable to accede to the King's wish, alleging that M. Olivier
d'Ormesson and M. de Sainte-Hélène would be suspected by the accused;
at least, he feared so. "This fear," replied the King, "is only another
reason for appointing them." Lamoignon--and it did him honour--gave
way only upon the King's formal command.

That was quite enough to make Lamoignon suspected by Foucquet's
enemies. Powerful as they were, he did nothing to reassure them; on
the contrary, he saw that the accused was granted the assistance of
counsel, and that the forms of procedure were scrupulously observed.
When one day Colbert was trying to discover his opinions, Lamoignon
made this fine reply: "A judge ought never to declare his opinion save
once, and that above the fleurs-de-lys."[88]

The King, growing more and more suspicious, nominated Chancellor
Séguier to preside over the Chamber. Lamoignon, thus driven from his
seat, withdrew, but unostentatiously, alleging as his reason that
Parliamentary affairs occupied the whole of his time.[89]

In vain the King and Colbert, alarmed at having themselves dismissed
so upright a magistrate, endeavoured to restore him to a position of
diminished authority; he was deaf to entreaties, and was content to say
to his friends: _"Lavavi manus meas; quomodo inquinabo eas?"_[90] Old
Séguier, who though lacking in nobility of soul possessed brilliant
intellectual powers, grew more servile than ever. Feeling that he
had not long to live, he prompdy accepted dishonour. In this trial
his conduct was execrable and his talents did not, on this occasion,
succeed in masking his partiality. Great jurisconsult though he was, he
did not understand finance, and this stupendous trial was altogether
too much for an old man of seventy-four. He was always impatiently
complaining of the length of the trial, which, he declared, would
outlast him.

With audacity and skill Foucquet held his own against this violent
judge. Brought up in chicanery, the accused was acquainted with all the
mysteries of procedure. He made innumerable difficulties; sometimes he
accused a judge, sometimes he challenged the accuracy of an inventory,
sometimes he demanded documents necessary for the defence. In short,
he gained time, and this was to gain much. The more protracted the
trial, the less he had to fear that its termination would be a capital

The King was not at all comfortable as to its issue; his activity was
unwearying, and he never hesitated to throw his whole weight into the
balance. The public prosecutor, Talon, was not an able person; he
allowed himself to be defeated by the accused, and was immediately
sacrificed. He was replaced by two Masters of Requests, Hotmann and
Chamillart. One of the recorders caused the Court a great deal of
anxiety; this was the worthy Olivier d'Ormesson. Efforts were made to
intimidate him, but in vain; to win him over, but equally in vain. He
was punished. His offices of Intendant of Picardy and Soissonnais were
taken away from him. Finally, the idea was conceived of enlisting his
father, and of trying to induce the old man to corrupt the honesty
of his son. Old André would not lend himself to these attempts at
corruption; he replied that he was sorry that the King was not
satisfied with his son's behaviour. "My son," he added, "does what I
have always recommended him to do: he fears God, serves the King, and
he renders justice without distinction of person."

The Court and the Minister were, indeed, exceeding all bounds; Séguier,
Pussort, Sainte-Hélène and others displayed the most odious partiality.
False inventories were drawn up; the official reports of the
proceedings were falsified. The King carried off the Court of Justice
with him to Fontainebleau, fearing lest it should become independent in
his absence. This was going too far; Foucquet grew interesting.

Public opinion, at first hostile to the accused, had almost completely
turned in his favour, when, more than three years after his arrest, on
the 14th October, 1664, the Attorney-General, Chamillart, pronounced
his conclusions, which were to the effect that Foucquet, "attainted and
convicted of the crime of high treason, and other charges mentioned
during the trial," should be "hanged and strangled until death should
follow, on a gallows erected on the Place de la Rue Sainte-Antoine,
near the Bastille."

The trial was generally regarded as being overweighted. Turenne said,
in his picturesque manner, that the cord had been made too thick to
strangle M. Foucquet. The financiers, always influential, having
recovered from their first alarm, tried to save a man who, in his fall,
might drag them down with him. For, in so comprehensive an accusation,
who was there that was not compromised?

Colbert was now detested; as a result his enemy appeared less black.
As for the Chamber itself, it was divided into two parts, almost of
equal strength. On the one hand there were those who, like Séguier
and Pussort, wished to please the Court by ruining Foucquet, and on
the other those who, like Olivier d'Ormesson, favoured the strict
administration of justice, exempt from anger and hatred.

It was on the 14th November, 1664, that Nicolas Foucquet appeared for
the first time before the Chamber, which sat in the Arsenal. He wore a
citizen's costume, a suit of black cloth, with a mantle. He excused
himself for appearing before the Court without his magistrate's robe,
declaring that he had asked for one in vain. He renewed the protest
which he had made previously against the competency of the Chamber,
and refused to take the oath. He then took his place on the prisoners'
bench and declared himself ready to reply to the questions which might
be put to him.

The accusations made against him may be classified under four heads:
payment collected from the tax-farmers; farmerships which he had
granted under fictitious names; advances made to the Treasury; and the
crime of high treason, projected but not executed, proved by the papers
discovered at Saint-Mandé.

Foucquet's defenie, which disdained petty expedients, was powerful and
adroit. He confessed irregularities, but he held that the disorders of
the administration in a time of public disturbance were responsible for
them. According to him, the payments levied on the tax-farmers were
merely the repayment of his advances, and that the imposts which he had
appropriated were the same. As for the loans which he had made to the
State, they were an absolute necessity. To the insidious and insulting
questions of the Chancellor he replied with the greatest adroitness. He
was as bold as he was prudent. Only once he lost patience, and replied
with an arrogance likely to do him harm. He certainly interested
society. Ladies, in order to watch him as he was being reconducted to
the Bastille, used to repair, masked, to a house which looked on to the
Arsenal. Madame de Sévigné was there. "When I saw him," she said, "my
legs trembled, and my heart beat so loud that I thought I should faint.
As he approached us to return to his gaol, M. d'Artagnan nudged him,
and called his attention to the fact that we were there. He thereupon
saluted us, and assumed that laughing expression which you know so
well. I do not think he recognized me, but I confess to you that I felt
strangely moved when I saw him enter that little door. If you knew how
unhappy one is when one has a heart fashioned as mine is fashioned, I
am sure you would take pity on me."[91]

All that was known about his attitude intensified public sympathy. The
judges themselves recognized that he was incomparable; that he had
never spoken so well in Parliament, and that he had never shown so much

The last Interrogatory, that of the 4th December, turned on the scheme
found at Saint-Mandé, and was particularly favourable to the accused.

Foucquet replied that it was nothing but an extravagant idea which
had remained unfinished, and was repudiated as soon as conceived. It
was an absurd document, which could only serve to make him ashamed
and confused, but it could not be made the ground of an accusation
against him. As the Chancellor pressed him and said, "You cannot deny
that it is a crime against the State," he replied, "I confess, sir,
that it is an extravagance, but it is not a crime against the State.
I entreat these gentlemen," he added, turning towards the judges, "to
permit me to explain what is a crime against the State. It is when a
man holds a great office; when he is in the secret confidence of his
Sovereign, and suddenly takes his place among that Sovereign's enemies;
when he engages his whole family in the cause; when he induces his
son-in-law[93] to surrender the passes and to open the gates to a
foreign army of intruders in order to admit it to the interior of the
kingdom. Gentlemen, that is what is called a crime against the State."

The Chancellor, whose conduct during the Fronde every one remembered,
did not know where to look, and it was all the judges could do not
to laugh.[94] The cross-examination over, the Chamber listened to
the opinion of the reporters and pronounced sentence. On the 9th of
December, Olivier d'Ormesson began his report. He spoke for five
successive days, and his conclusion was perpetual exile, confiscation
of goods and a fine of one hundred thousand livres, of which half
should be given to the Public Treasury, and the other half employed
in works of piety. Le Cormier de Sainte-Hélène spoke after Olivier
d'Ormesson. He continued for two days, and concluded with sentence of
death. Pussort, whose vehement speech lasted for five hours, came to
the same conclusion.

On the 18th December, Hérault, Gisaucourt, Noguès and Ferriol
concurred, as did Le Cormier de Sainte-Hélène, and Roquesante after
them, in the opinion of Olivier d'Ormesson.

On the following day, the 19th, MM. de La Toison, Du Verdier, de La
Baume and de Massenau also expressed the same opinion; but the Master
of Requests, Poncet, came to the opposite conclusion. Messieurs
Le Féron, de Moussy, Brillac, Regnard and Besnard agreed with the
first recorder. Voysin was of the opposite opinion. President de
Pontchartrain voted for banishment, and the Chancellor, pronouncing
last, voted for death. Thirteen judges had pronounced for banishment,
and nine for death. Foucquet's life was saved.

"All Paris," said Olivier d'Ormesson, "awaited the news with
impatience. It was spread abroad everywhere, and received with the
greatest rejoicing, even by the shopkeepers. Every one blessed my
name, even without knowing me. Thus M. Foucquet, who had been regarded
with horror at the time of his imprisonment, and whom all Paris would
have been immeasurably delighted to see executed directly after the
beginning of his trial, had become the subject of public grief and
commiseration, owing to the hatred which every one felt for the present
Government, and that, I think, was the true cause of the general

On the 22d of December, this same Olivier d'Ormesson having gone to the
Bastille to give D'Artagnan his discharge for the Treasury registers,
the gallant Musketeer embraced him and said: "You are a noble man!"[96]

Foucquet, as a matter of form, protested against the sentence of a
tribunal whose competence he did not recognize. And the sentence did
not please the King, who commuted banishment into imprisonment for life
in the fortress of Pignerol. Such a commutation, which was really an
aggravation of the sentence, is cruel and offends our sense of justice.
Nevertheless, one must recognize that such a measure was dictated
by reasons of State. Foucquet, had he been free, would have been
dangerous. He would certainly have intrigued; his plots and strategies
would have caused the King much anxiety. The religion of patriotism had
not yet taken root in the heart of the great Condé's contemporaries.
The strongest bond then uniting citizens was loyalty to the King.
Foucquet was liberated from that bond by his master's hatred and anger.
It was to be expected that the fallen Minister would probably have
conspired against France with foreign aid. These previsions justified
the severity of the King, who throughout the whole business appeared
hypocritical, violent, pitiless and patriotic.[97]

The wisdom of the King's action is proved by Foucquet's conduct at
Pignerol, where he arrived in January, 1665. There, in spite of the
most vigilant supervision, he succeeded in carrying on intrigues.
He could not communicate with any living soul. He had neither ink
nor pens, nor paper at his disposal. This able man, whose genius was
quickened by solitude, attempted the impossible in order to enter
into communication with his friends. He manufactured ink out of soot,
moistened with wine. He made pens out of chicken bones, and wrote on
the margin of books which were lent to him, or on handkerchiefs. But
his warder, Saint-Mars, detected all these contrivances. The servants
whom the prisoner had won over were arrested, and one of them was

In the end, these futile energies were defeated by captivity and
disease. Foucquet became addicted to devotional exercises. Like
Mademoiselle de la Vallière, he wrote pious reflections.[98]

It is even thought that he composed religious verses, for it is known
that he asked for a dictionary of rhymes, which was given to him.

For seven years he had been cut off from living men. Then a voice
called him. It was Lauzun,[99] who was imprisoned at Pignerol, and who
had made a hole in the wall. Lauzun told his companion news of the
outer world. Foucquet listened eagerly, but when the Cadet de Gascogne
told him that he held a general's commission, and that he had married
La Grande Mademoiselle, at first with the approval of the King, and
then against it, Foucquet considered him mad and ceased to believe
anything that he said.

About 1679, Foucquet's captivity at length became less severe; he was
permitted to receive his family. But it was too late; those fourteen
cruel years had irreparably undermined his strong constitution; his
sight had grown weak; he was losing his teeth; he was suffering pain
in his whole body, and his piety was increasing with his weakness.
He died in March, 1680, just as he had received permission to go and
drink the waters of Bourbon. His body, which had been laid in the crypt
of Sainte-Claire de Pignerol, Madame Foucquet had transferred the
following year to the church of the Convent of the Visitation in the
Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine. The register of this church contains the
following entry: "On the 28th March, 1681, Messire Nicolas Foucquet was
buried in our church, in the Chapel of Saint-François de Sales. He had
risen to the highest honours in the magistracy; had been Councillor in
Parliament, Master of Requests, Attorney-General, Superintendent of
Finance, and Minister of State."[100]

Whatever may be said to the contrary, posterity does not judge with
equity, for it is partial; it is indifferent, and makes but hasty work
of the trial of the dead who appear before it. And posterity is not
a Court of Justice; it is a noisy mob, in which it is impossible to
make oneself heard, but which, at rare intervals, is dominated by
some great voice. Finally, its judgments are not definitive, since
another posterity follows which may cancel the sentence of the first,
and pronounce new ones, which again may be revoked by a new posterity.
Nevertheless, certain cases seem to have been definitely lost in the
court of mankind, and I find myself constrained to rank with these the
case of Foucquet. He was an embezzler, and was definitely condemned on
this point--condemned without appeal. As for extenuating circumstances,
it is not difficult to find them. Illustrious examples, even more,
perpetual solicitings and the impossibility of observing any regularity
in troubled times, impelled him to steal, both for the State and for
certain great men. Of his thefts he kept something; he kept too much.
He was guilty, doubtless, but his fault seems greatly mitigated when
one remembers the circumstances and the spirit of the time.

I am going to say something which is a kind of redemption of Nicolas
Foucquet's memory; I will say it in two charming lines which are
attributed to Pellisson, and which appear to have been written by
Foucquet's friend, the fabulist. Pellisson, in an epistle to the King,
said of Foucquet:

    D'un esprit élevé, négligeant l'avenir,
    Il toucha les trésors, mais sans les retenir.

This it is which redeems and exalts this man. He was liberal, he loved
to give, and he knew how to give, and let it not be said in the name of
any morbid and morose morality that, even if he had taken the State's
money without retaining it, he was only the more guilty, uniting
prodigality to unscrupulousness. No, his liberality remains honourable;
it showed that the principle which prompted his embezzlements was not
a vile one, that, if this man was ruined, the cause of his ruin was
not natural baseness, but the blind impulse of a naturally magnificent
temperament. Thus Foucquet will live in history as the consoler of the
aged Corneille, and the tactful patron of La Fontaine.

No one will deny his faults, the crimes he committed against the State,
but for a moment one may forget them, and say that what was truly
noble, and even nobly foolish in his temperament, half atones for the
evil which has been only too thoroughly proved.

[1] Cf. _Les amateurs de l'ancienne France: Le surintendant Foucquet,_
by Edmond Bonnaffé. _Librairie de l'Art,_ 1882. The book contains
particulars drawn from Peiresc's unpublished manuscript. During the
course of this work we shall have frequent occasion to quote from this
excellent study of an accomplished connoisseur.

[2] _Mémoires de Choisy,_ Ed. Petitot et Monmerqué, p. 262.

[3] _Journal d'Olivier d'Ormesson,_ Vol. II, p. 60. The unknown
author of the dialogues attributed to Molière by M. Louis Auguste
Ménard brings Mme. Foucquet on to the stage and makes her utter words
in keeping with those pious sentiments which were well known to her
contemporaries. The fictitious scene which confronts her with Anne of
Austria is a paraphrase of the words I have quoted in my text from the
_Mémoires de Choisy._

[4] _Histoire du Dauphiné,_ by M. le baron de Chapuys-Montlaville.
Paris, Dupont, 1828, 2 vols. Vol. II, pp. 460 _et seq._

[5] Cf. _Les premiers intendants de justice,_ by S. Hanotaux, in _La
Revue Historique,_ 1882 and 1883.

[6] Of Fronde.--_Trans._

[7] Mazarin's note-book, XI, fol. 85, Biblioth. Nat.

[8] Unpublished Diary of Dubuisson-Aubenay, cited by M. Chéruel in the
_Mémoires sur N. Foucquet,_ Vol. I, p. 7.

[9] _Histoire de Colbert et de son administration,_ by Pierre Clement.
Paris, Didier, 1874, Vol. I, p. 15.

[10] _Mémoires sur la vie publique et privée de Foucquet,_ by A.
Chéruel, Inspector-General of Education. Paris, Charpentier, 1862, Vol.
I, pp. 86-88.

[11] Bibliothèque Nationale, MSS. collection Gaignieres. This letter is
quoted by Chéruel, I, p. 183.

[12] _Histoire financière de la France,_ by A. Bailly. Paris, 1830,
Vol. I, p. 357.

[13] In 1651, Foucquet received from Marie-Madeleine de Castille,
the daughter of François de Castille, his wife, one hundred thousand
livres, the house in the Rue du Temple, the abode of the Castille
family, as well as the buildings adjoining, which were let at 2200
livres. (Cf. Jal, _Dictionnaire,_ article on Foucquet)

[14] Cf. Eug. Grésy, _Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte._ Melun, 1861.

[15] Archives de la Bastille, Vol. II, p, 171 _et seq._

[16] Anne of Austria (trans.)

[17] Her son, Louis XIV (trans.)

[18] And are now in Austria, Germany and elsewhere.--Editor.

[19] _Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art français,_ note by
M. Guiffrey, July, 1876, p. 38.

[20] Saint-Simon adds: "She was the widow of Nicolas Foucquet, famous
for his misfortunes, who, after being Superintendent of Finance for
eight years, paid for the millions which Cardinal Mazarin had taken,
for the jealousy of MM. Le Tellier and Colbert, and for a slightly
excessive gallantry and love of splendour, with thirty-four years
of imprisonment at Pignerol, because that was the utmost that could
be inflicted on him, despite all the influence of Ministers and the
authority of the King."--_Mémoires du duc de Saint-Simon,_ éd. Chéruel,
Vol. XIV, p. 112.

[21] _Mémoires._ Collection Petitot, Vol. LX, p. 142.

[22] It is the portrait which is reproduced at the beginning of the
French edition, because it seems to us at once both the truest and the
happiest picture of the extraordinary man who, both in letters and in
art, inaugurated the century of Louis XIV. The head, three-quarter
profile, is turned to the left. It is a medallion inscribed with the
words: "Messire Nicolas Foucquet, chevalier, vicomte de Melun et de
Vaux, Conseiller du Roy, Ministre d'État, Surintendant des Finances
et Procureur général de Sa Majesté." Signed "R. Nanteuil ad vivum
ping. et sculpebat, 1661." The style is at once soft and firm, the
workmanship pure and finished, the rendering of the colours excellent.
This engraving was executed after a drawing or a pastel which Nanteuil
had done from life, and which is lost. This work, and the engraving
which perpetuates it, seem to me to form the origin of a whole family
of portraits, of which we will mention several.

(1) A shaded bust, on a piedouche, bearing Foucquet's arms. The
arrangement is bad, the inscription:

    Ne faut-il que l'on avouë
    Qu'on trouve en luytous ce qu'on espérait.
    C'est un surintendant tel que l'on désirait.
    Personne ne s'en plaint, tout le monde s'en louë.

Signed: "Van Schupper faciebat. P. de la Serre."

(2) The head in an oval border. Raised hangings which reveal a country
scene, with dogs coursing. The inscription:

"Messire Nicolas Foucquet, chevalier, vicomte de Melun et de Vaux,
Ministre d'État, Surintendant des finances de Sa Majesté et son
procureur général au Parlement de Paris."

(3) A much damaged copy. The face is pale and elongated, the expression
melancholy and sanctimonious. It is an oval medallion, 1654, without
signature, Paris, chez Daret.

(4) The same, chez Louis Boissevin, in the Rue Saint-Jacques.

(5) The same, with this quatrain:

    Si sa fidélité parut incomparable
    En conservant l'Estat,
    Sa prudence aujourd'huy n'est pas moins admirable
    D'en augmenter l'éclat.

(6) Medallion. The picture is much disfigured; the inscription:

    Qu'il a de probité, de sçavoir et de zelle,
    Qu'il paroit généreux, magnanime et prudent,
    Que son esprit est fort, que son cœur est fidelle,
    Toutes ces qualités l'on fait Surintendant.

(7) Medallion, with drapery. Very bad. Signature: "Baltazar Moncornet,

(8) The same, with a frame of foliage, 1658.

(9) A small copy, reversed, executed after Foucquet's death, the date
of which is indicated, 23rd March, 1680. It is old, hard, dark and
damaged. Signature: "Nanteuil, pinxit, Gaillard, sculpt."

A portrait of Lebrun deserves honourable mention after that of
Nanteuil. The features are practically the same as in the engraving by
Eugène Reims; but the expression is not so keen, nor so cheerful. The
head, three-quarter profile, is turned to the right. This picture is
the original of the three following engravings:

(1) A large oval. Signature: "C. Lebrun pinx, F. Poilly sculpt."

    Illustrissimus vir Nicolaus Foucquet
    Generalis in Supremo regii Ærarii
    Præfectus: V. Comes Melodunensis, etc.

In a later copy, Foucquet's arms replace the Latin inscription.

(2) A spoiled and softened copy, very careless workmanship. Signature:
"C. Mellan del. et F."

(3) An imitation. Foucquet, seated in a straight-backed armchair, with
large wrought nail-heads, with a casket on the table beside him. He
holds a pen in his right hand, and paper in his left. Inscription:

    Magna videt, majora latent; ecce aspicis artis
    Clarum opus, et virtus clarior arte latet,
    Umbra est et fulget, solem miraris in umbra
    Quid sol ipse micat, cujus et umbra micat.

Signature: "Œgid. Rousselet, sculpt., 1659."

(4) An imitation. Signature: "Larmessin, 1661." Finally, we must
mention a full-length portrait, which seems inspired by the foregoing.
The Superintendent is standing, wearing a long robe; he holds in his
right hand a small bag, in his left a paper. A raised curtain displays,
on the right, a country scene, with a torrent, a rock and a fortified
château. In the sky, Renown puts a trumpet to her mouth. In her left
hand she holds another trumpet with a bannerette on which is written:
"Quo non ascendet?" Inscription:

    A quel degré d'honneur ne peut-il pas monter
    S'il s'élève tousjours par son propre courage?
    Son nom et sa vertu lui donnent l'advantage
    De pouvoir tout prétendre et de tout mériter.

[23] A summary of the inventory at Saint-Mandé: MS. of the Bibliothèque
Nat. Manusc. Suppl, fr. 10958, cited by M. Edm. Bonnaffé, _Les Amateurs
de l'ancienne France_.--Le Surintendant Foucquet, librairie de l'Art,

[24] Loc. cit., pp. 61 _et seq._

[25] Description of the city of Paris, 1713, p. 60.

[26] _Mémoire des Académiciens_, Vol. I, p. 21. Bonnaffé, loc. cit., p.

[27] Preface to _Œdipe, Collect. des grands écrivains,_ Vol. VI, p. 103.

[28] With great pomp.

[29] The original edition has _plainte._

[30] Œuvres complètes de La Fontaine, published by Ch. Marty Laveaux,
Vol. III (1866), p. 26 _et seq._

[31] The inventory of the 26th February, 1666 (Bonnaffé, loc. cit., p.
61), classes them as follows: "Two antique mausoleums representing a
king and queen of Egypt, 800 livres."

[32] At least, this is the hypothesis propounded by M. Bonnaffe. It is
founded on the fact that an anonymous document of 1648, published in
_Les Collectionneurs de l'ancienne France_ (Aubry, ed. 1873), mentions
le sieur Chamblon, of Marseilles, as a professor "of Egyptian idols to
enclose mummies." But it seems as if the anonymous document referred
not to sarcophagi of marble or basalt, but rather to those boxes of
painted and gilt pasteboard, with human faces, which abound in the
necropolises of ancient Egypt. The port of Marseilles must at that time
have received a fairly large number of such. We must remember that the
mummy was in those days considered as a remedy, and was widely sold by

[33] Cf. Mlle, de Scudéry, _Clélie._ "Méléandre (Lebrun) had caused
to be built, on a small, somewhat uneven plot of ground, two small
pyramids in imitation of those which are near Memphis."

[34] See note, p. 10.**

[35] Description of the city of Paris, by Germain Brice, ed. of 1698,
Vol. I, p. 124 _et seg._

[36] _Recueil d'antiquités dans les Gaules,_ by La Sauvagère, Paris,
1770, p. 329 _et seq._

[37] D.5.D. 7^8.

[38] In this story, I have followed M. Bonnaffé. Loc. cit., p. 57.

[39] Inventory and valuation of the books found at Saint-Mandé on the
30th July, 1665. Biblio. Nat. MSS., p. 9438. The whole was valued at
38,544 livres.

[40] _Conseils de la Sagesse,_ p. x.

[41] Lines presented to Monseigneur le procureur général Foucquet,
Superintendent of Finance, at the opening of the tragedy of _Œdipe,_

[42] One of the earliest French theatres. It was founded by the
Confrères de la Passion in 1548.

[43] Cf. _La Vie de Corneille,_ by Fontenelle.

[44] _Histoire de la Vie et des Ouvrages de La Fontaine,_ by Mathieu
Marais, 1811, p. 125.

[45] _Ouvrages de prose et de poésie des sieurs de Mancroix et La
Fontaine,_ Vol. I, p. 99.

[46] There are two blank spaces in the 1685 edition. I have filled them
with the two names in brackets. For the first I have put the name of
Foucquet, which is given in the _Œuvres diverses_ (Vol. I, p. 19). To
fill the second space I have followed the suggestion of Mathieu Marais.
Walkenaer puts Pellisson, which is not admissible.

[47] Edit Marty-Laveaux, VOL V, pp. 15-17.

[48] No one can answer for the correctness of the text of these two
poems. Chardon de La Rochette published them from memory in 1811
(_Histoire de la Vie et des Ouvrages de La Fontaine,_ by Mathieu
Marais, p. 125). He had possessed the receipts for both in Pellisson's
own hand-writing, but had not kept it, because, he said, he did not
think "that it was worth it." This sagacious Hellenist set little store
by a Pellisson autograph, in comparison with the Palatine MS. of the
Anthologia. And he was right. But it is odd that he should have known
the verses by heart, and that, having neglected to preserve them in his
desk, he should have retained them in his memory.

[49] Promettre est un, et tenir promesse est un autre.

[50] _Mémoires de Choisy,_ coll. Petitot, p. 211.

[51] _Ibid.,_ loc. cit., p. 230.

[52] Bussy, II, p. 50.

[53] "Jamais surintendant ne trouva de cruelle."

[54] Bussy, II, p. 50.

[55] Letter of the 25th May, 1658.

[56] Letter of 18th January, 1660.

[57] Loret, Muse historique, letter of the 28th of December, 1652.

[58] In 1661 (?) _Papiers de Foucquet_ (F. Baluze), Vol. I, pp. 31-32.

[59] Maurepas Collection. Vol. II, p. 271.

[60] Letter of the 11th November, 1661.

[61] Gourville, in _Monmerqué,_ Vol. II, p. 342.

[62] _Mémoires de l'abbé de Choisy,_ p. 579.

[63] _Mémoires de Brienne,_ Vol. II, p. 52.

[64] _Mémoires de Choisy,_ p. 581. Chéruel, _Mémoires sur Nicolas
Foucquet,_ Vol. II, p. 97.

[65] _Mémoires de Choisy,_ p. 249.

[66] _Mémoires de Choisy,_ p. 249.

[67] _Choisy,_ p. 586. "I learnt these details," said Choisy, "from
Perrault, to whom Colbert related them more than once."

[68] _Ibid.,_ p. 586. Cf. also Guy Patin, letter to Falconnet, 2nd
September, 1661.

[69] _Histoire d'Henriette d'Angleterre,_ by Mme de Lafayette. Paris,
Charavay frères, 1882, p. 53.

[70] See Part II for the story of this entertainment.

[71] Cf. _Mémoires sur Nicolas Foucquet,_ by Chéruel, Vol. II, pp.

[72] _Mémoires de Brienne,_ Vol. II, p. 153.

[73] La Fontaine, letter to his wife, Ed. Marty-Laveaux, Vol. III, p.
311 _et seq._

[74] This letter was published for the first time in _Les Causeries
d'un curieux,_ VOL II, p. 518.

[75] _Dictionnaire Antique._ Article on Hesnault.

[76] Letter of the 10th of September, 1661.

[77] Letter of the 2nd October, 1661.

[78] Second Speech to the King, in _Les Œuvres diverses,_ p. 109.

[79] Cf. _Mélanges,_ by Vigneul de Marville.

[80] Such is the title of the original edition, printed in italics,
without date or address, on three quarto pages.

[81] "The Anqueil is a little river which flows near Vaux." (Note by La

[82] Variant:

La Cabale est contente, Oronte est malheureux.

[83] Variant:

    Du grand, du grand Henri qu'il contemple la vie.
    (Original edition.)

[84] Edition quoted, Vol. V, pp. 43-46. One contemporary copy,
preserved in the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, contains a text altered by
one of Foucquet's enemies.

Instead of the two lines:

    Voilà le précipice où l'ont enfin jeté
    Les attraits enchanteurs de la prospérité,

we read in this copy:

    Il se hait de tant vivre après un tel malheur,
    Et, s'il espère encor, ce n'est qu'en sa douleur,
    C'est là le seul plaisir qui flatte son courage,
    Car des autres plaisirs on lui défend l'usage.
    Voilà, voilà l'effet de cette ambition
    Qui fait de ses pareils l'unique passion.

[85] Edition cited: Vol. V, pp. 46-49. Published for the first time by
La Fontaine in his collection _Poésies chrétinnes et diverses,_ 1671,
Vol. Ill, p. 34.

[86] La Fontaine, Letter to Monsieur Foucquet. Edition cited: Vol. Ill,
pp. 307-308. This letter was published for the first time in 1729.

[87] Cf. Le procès de Foucquet, a speech pronounced at the opening of
Conférence des Avocats, Monday, 27th November, 1882, by Léon Deroy,
advocate in the Court of Appeal. Paris, Alcan Lévy, 1882.

[88] Recueil des arrêtés de G. de Lamoignon, Paris, 1781. _Vie de M.
le premier président,_ by Girard, p. 14. (The fleur-de-Iys was very
largely employed in the decoration of the walls, floors, ceiling, etc.,
of the Parliaments, etc.--Ed.)

[89] Journal d'Olivier d'Ormesson, Vol. II, p. 26.

[90] _Recueil des arrêtés,_ already cited.

[91] Madame de Sévigné, letter of the 27th November, 1664.

[92] _Ibid.,_ letter of the 2nd December.

[93] "The Duc de Sully, the son-in-law of the Chancellor, Séguier, had,
in 1652, yielded the crossing of the bridge of Mantes to the Spanish
Army." (Note by M. Chéruel.)

[94] _Journal d'Olivier d'Ormesson,_ Vol. II, p. 263. Letter from Mme.
de Sévigné, 9th December.

[95] _Journal d'Olivier d'Ormesson,_ VOL II, p. 282. Letter from Mme. de
Sévigné, 9th December.

[96] _Ibid.,_ Vol. II, p. 283.

[97] _Ibid.,_ Vol. II, p. 286.

[98] The Comte de Vaux, Foucquet's eldest son, having obtained his
father's MSS. from Pignerol, published extracts entitled: _Conseils de
la Sagesse_ ou _Recueil des Maximes de Salomon._ Paris, 1683, 2 vols.

[99] The Duc de Lauzun, said to have married La Grande Mademoiselle,
Mlle, de Montpensier, cousin of Louis XIV. (Trans.)

[100] Delort, _Détention des Philosophes,_ Vol. I, p. 53.



During his trial Foucquet declared that he had begun the building of
his house at Vaux as early as 1640. On this point his memory betrayed
him. Reference to the inscription on an engraving by Pérelle, after
Israël Silvestre, assigns the commencement of work upon the house to
the year 1653, but there is no doubt that Israël Silvestre planned
the château on lines which were not absolutely final. Nor was the _ne
varietur_ plan, signed in 1666, exactly followed.[1]

It is not until 1657 that the registers of the parish of Maincy attest
the presence of foreign workmen who had come to undertake certain
building operations on the estate of Vaux.

The architect, Louis Levau, employed by Foucquet, was not a
beginner. He had already built "a house at the apex of the island
of Notre-Dame,"[2] which is none other than the Hôtel Lambert,[3]
the ingenious novelties of which were greatly admired. Especially
noteworthy was the chamber of Madame de Torigny, on the second floor,
which Le Sueur had decorated with a grace which recalls the mural
paintings of Herculaneum. This chamber was called the Italian room,
"Because," said Guillet de Saint-Georges, "the beauty of the woodwork
and the richness of the panelling took the place of tapestry."

Levau, born in 1612, was forty-three years of age when he signed the
_ne varietur_ plan. We know little about the life of this man whose
work is so famous. A document of the 23rd March, 1651,[4] describes
him as "a man of noble birth, Councillor and Secretary to the King,
House and Crown of France." He then lived in Paris, in the Rue du
Roi-de-Sicile, with his wife and his three young children, Jean, Louis
and Nicolas.

Besides the Hôtel Lambert and the Château de Vaux, we are indebted to
him for the design for the Collège des Quatre-Nations, now the Palace
of the Institute; the Maison Bautru, called by Sauvai "La Gentille,"
and engraved by Marot; the Hôtel de Pons, in the Rue du Colombier
(to-day the Rue du Vieux-Colombier), built for President Tambruneau;
the Hôtel Deshameaux, which, according to Sauvai, had an Italian room;
the Hôtel d'Hesselin in the He Saint-Louis; the Hôtel de Rohan, in the
Rue de l'Université; the Château de Livry, since known as Le Rainey,
built for the Intendant of Finances, Bordier; the Château de Seignelay;
a château near Troyes; and the Château de Bercy.[5]

We may add that Louis Levau, having become first architect to the King,
succeeded Gamard in directing the works of the church of Saint-Sulpice,
and that he, in his turn, was succeeded by Daniel Gillard in 1660.[6]

Louis Levau died in Paris. His body was carried to the church of
Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois, his parish church, on Saturday, the nth
October, 1670, as attested by the register of this church. There,
under the above date, may be read: "On the said day was buried Messire
Louys Levau, aged 57 or thereabouts, who died this morning at three
o'clock. In his life a Councillor of the King in his Council, general
Superintendent of His Majesty's buildings, first Architect of his
buildings, Secretary to His Majesty and the House and Crown of France,
etc., taken from the Rue des Fossés, from the ancient Hôtel de

In the _Archives de l'Art français_ (Vol. I) there is a document
relating to Louis Levau:

"There has been submitted to us the plan and elevation of the building
of the Cathedral Church of Saint-Pierre of Nantes, of which the part
not already constructed is marked in red. This church is one hundred
and eleven feet high from the floor to the keystones of the vaults at
the meeting of the diagonals, and the lower aisles and chapels are
fifty-six feet, measured also from the floor.

"It is desired to finish the said church, and to respect its symmetry
as far as may be, and to make the lower aisles and chapels around the
choir like those which are on the right of the nave.

"The difficulty is that, in order to finish this work, it is necessary
to pull down the walls of the town, and to carry it out into the moat,
and it is desirable to take as little ground as can be, in order not to
diminish too greatly the breadth of the moat. Wherefore it is proposed
to do away with the three chapels behind the choir, marked by the
letter H.

"But, if those three chapels are removed, it will be seen that the
flying buttresses which support the choir will not have the same thrust
as those which support the nave; the strength of these buttresses will
be diminished, and the symmetry of the church destroyed, in a place
where the church is most visible.

"With this plan we send the elevation of the pillars and buttresses to
show how they are constructed in the neighborhood of the nave.

"The whole of this is in order to ascertain whether the three chapels
can be dispensed with, and the safety of the choir and the whole
edifice secured."

To create the estate of Vaux in its prodigious magnificence, it was
necessary to destroy three villages: Vaux-le-Vicomte, with its church
and its mill, the hamlet of Maison-Rouge and that of Jumeau. The
gigantic works which were necessary are hardly imaginable; immense
rocks were carried away; deep canals were excavated.

Foucquet hurried on the work with all the impatience of his intemperate
mind. As early as 1657 the animation which prevailed in the works was
so great that it was spoken of as something immoderate, as though more
befitting royalty. Foucquet felt that it was of importance to conceal

The following is in Levau's own hand:--

    "In order to reply to the above questions I, Le Vau,
    architect in ordinary of the King's buildings, certify that,
    having inspected the plan and the elevation of the flying
    buttresses of the church of Nantes, which have been sent
    me, having carefully examined and considered the whole, and
    having even made some designs for altering and dispensing
    with the chapels H H H; after having considered all that can
    be done in this matter, I have come to the conclusion that
    it cannot be accomplished without weakening and considerably
    damaging the pillars of the choir, and the other aisles, and
    destroying all symmetry; in a word, ruining it. I therefore
    do not submit the design that I have made, for my opinion is
    that the original design should be followed, and that the
    church should be finished as it was begun; as nothing else
    can be done save to the great prejudice of the said church.
    In attestation of which I sign.                   'LE VAU.'"

which gave the impression of enormous expenditure. He wrote on the 8th
of February, 1657:

"A gentleman of the neighbourhood, who is called Villevessin, told the
Queen that he was lately at Vaux, and that in the workshop he counted
nine hundred men. In order to avoid this as far as may be, you must
carry out my design of putting up screens, and keeping the doors shut.
I should be glad if you would advance all the work as far as possible
before the season when everybody goes into the country, and I want
you to avoid, as far as possible, having a large number of workpeople

If we compare the statement made by M. de Villevessin with a note
written by Foucquet on the 21st November, 1660, we may conclude that at
one time there were eighteen thousand workmen occupied on the buildings
and the gardens.[8]

Such works could not be kept secret. Colbert, jealous for his King and
perhaps for himself, came to visit them in secret. Watel, Foucquet's
steward--he who later entered the King's service, the story of whose
death is well known--Watel, faithful servant, surprised Colbert making
his inspection, and told his master. Foucquet took some precautions,
but none the less the matter created a bad impression at Court. One day
when the King, with Monsieur, was inspecting the building operations
at the Louvre, he complained to his brother that he had no money to
complete this great building. Whereupon Monsieur replied jokingly:
"Sire, Your Majesty need only become Superintendent of Finance for a
single year, and then you will have plenty of money for building."[9]

These immense works necessitated great institutions. Foucquet founded
at Maincy a hospital called La Charité, where the workmen were received
when they were ill.[10]

Tapestry rooms were also established at Maincy. There, according to Le
Brun's designs, were executed _Les Chasses de Méléagre_ and _l'Histoire
de Constantin._[11]

Le Brun himself settled at Maincy, with his wife Suzanne, in the autumn
of 1658.

This great artist did not merely provide cartoons for tapestry; he
decorated the ceilings of the halls of the château with allegorical
paintings. Several pieces of sculpture also were executed from his
drawings. Thus the four lions which are still seen at the foot of the
staircase leading to the great Terrace des Grottes were designed by
the painter; or, at least, so Mlle, de Scudéry says. These lions have
almost human countenances. We know that the art of the eighteenth
century was very free in its treatment of wild animals. The face
expresses pride as well as gentleness. Lying in its innocent claws is a
squirrel, pursued by a viper. Colbert again!

Now I must recall the great days of Vaux. They were not many, and the
most brilliant was the last.

After the marriage of the King and the Infanta at
Saint-Jean-de-Luz,[12] the Court took the road to Paris. It halted at
Fontainbleau, and Foucquet received it at Vaux with that audacious
magnificence which he preferred even to the realities of power. The
courtiers walked in the gardens, where the fountains were playing, and
a wonderful supper was served. The gazetteer Press has preserved for us
a list of the fruits and flowers which adorned the tables, as well as
"preserves of every colour, the fritters and pastries and other dishes
which were served there."[13]

A year later the Château de Vaux received the widow of Charles I,
Henriette of France, Queen of England. She was accompanied by her
daughter, Henrietta of England, and the Duc d'Orléans, her son-in-law.
Henrietta, or, to give her her title, Madame, was in all the brilliance
of her youth, had a genius both for affairs of gallantry and matters
of State. She lived as though in haste, consuming in coquetry and
in intrigue a life which was not fated to be a lone one. A woman of
this character, so nearly related to the King, was bound to interest
the ambitious Foucquet. He received her with all the refinements of
magnificence. After dinner he had a Comedy played before her. The
piece was by Molière himself, who was already greatly admired for his
naturalness and truth to life. The play was then completely new; it
had not been seen either by the town or the Court, it was _L'École des

Shortly afterwards the Château of Vaux was to witness a yet more
brilliant festivity--the last of all. When Foucquet invited the King,
he was possessed by a spirit of unwisdom and of error; all about him,
men and things alike, cried out to him in vain: Blind! blind!

The King set out from Fontainbleau on the 17th August, 1661, and came
to Vaux in a coach, in which he was accompanied by Monsieur, the
Comtesse d'Armagnac, the Duchesse de Valentinois and the Comtesse de
Guiche. The Queen-Mother came in her own coach, and Madame in her
litter. The young Queen, detained at Fontainebleau by her pregnancy,
was not present at that cruel festivity. More than six thousand persons
were invited. The King and the Court began by visiting the park. All
were loud in their admiration of the great fountains. "There was,"
says La Fontaine,[15] "great discussion as to which was the best,
the Cascade, the Wheat-Sheaf Jet, the Fountain of the Crown or the
Animals." The château also was inspected and Le Brun's pictures greatly

The King could ill contain his wrath at a display of luxury which
seemed stolen from him, and which he was later on to imitate at
Versailles, with all the diligence of a good pupil. He was angered,
so it is said,[16] by an allegorical picture into which Le Brun had
obviously introduced the portrait of Mademoiselle de la Vallière. The
fact may be doubted, but it is certain that the courtiers, with eyes
sharpened by envy, remarked on all the panelling Foucquet's device:
_"Quo non ascendant,"_ or _Quo non ascendet?_ accompanying a squirrel
(or foucquet) climbing up a tree. Louis XIV, according to Choisy,
conceived the idea of arresting his insolent subject on the spot, and
it was the Queen-Mother, who had long been Foucquet's friend, who
prevented him from doing so. But such impatience is not consistent with
that patient duplicity which the King displayed in this connection.
Almost at that very moment, did he not ask his hospitable subject for
another festival to celebrate the churching of the young Queen?[17]

After the château and grounds had been visited, there was a lottery in
which every guest won something: the ladies jewels, the men weapons.
Then a supper was served, provided by Watel, the cost of which was
valued at one hundred and twenty thousand livres. "Great were the
delicacy and the rarity of the dishes," says La Fontaine, "but greater
still the grace with which Monsieur le Surintendant and Madame la
Surintendante did the honours of their house." The pantry of the
château then contained at least thirty-six dozen plates of solid gold
and a service of the same metal.[18] After supper the guests went to
the Allée des Sapins, where a stage had been erected.

Mechanical stage effects were then much in vogue. Those of Vaux were
wonderful. The mechanism was the work of Torelli, and the scenery was
painted by Le Brun.

    Deux enchanteurs pleins de savoir
    Firent tant, par leur imposture,
    Qu'on crut qu'ils avaient le pouvoir
    De commander à la nature.
    L'un de ces enchanteurs est le sieur Torelli,
    Magicien expert et faiseur de miracles;
    Et l'autre, c'est Lebrun, par qui Vaux embelli
    Présente aux regardants mille rares spectacles.[19]

Rocks were seen to open, and statues moved.

The scene represented a grim rock in a lonely desert. Suddenly the rock
changed to a shell, and, the shell having opened, there came forth
a nymph. This was Béjart, who recited a prologue by Pellisson. "In
this prologue, Béjart, who represents the nymph of the fountain where
the action is taking place, commands the divinities, who are subject
to her, to leave the statues in which they are enshrined, and to
contribute with all their power to His Majesty's amusement. Straightway
the pedestals and the statues which adorn the stage move, and there
emerge from them, I know not how, fauns and bacchantes, who form a
ballet. It is very amusing to see a god of boundaries delivered of a
child which comes into the world dancing."

The ballet was followed by the play which had been conceived, written
and rehearsed in a fortnight. It was Molière's _Les Fâcheux._ The play,
as we know, has interludes of dancing, and concludes with a ballet.
"It is Terence," was the verdict. No doubt, but it is a devilish bad

The night was one of those fiery nights of which Racine writes in the
most worldly of his tragedies. Fireworks shot into the air. There was
a rain of stars; then, when the King departed, the lantern on the dome
which surmounted the château burst into flames, vomiting sheaves of
rockets and fiery serpents. We know what a sad morrow succeeded that
splendid night.

My task is completed.

Madame Foucquet, of whose biography we have already given an outline,
obtained a legal separation of her property from her husband's before
the sentence of the 19th December, 1664. She was able to retain a
considerable part of her fortune. "On the 19th March, 1673, she bought
back from the creditors, for one million two hundred and fifty thousand
livres, the Viscounty of Melun, with the estate of Vaux, and made a
donation thereof to her son, Louis-Nicolas Fouquet, by various deeds,
dated 1683, 1689, 1703. Her son having died with out posterity in 1705,
she sold the estate on the 29th August, 1705, to Louis-Hector, Duc de
Villars, Marshal of France, who parted with it on the 27th August,
1764, to C.-Gabriel de Choiseul, Duc de Praslin and peer of France, for
one million six hundred thousand livres."[20] The château remained in
the family of Choiseul-Parslin until the 6th July, 1875.

By a piece of good fortune it then passed into the hands of M. A.
Sommier. From that day one may say that art and letters have been
vigilant in its preservation, for M. Sommier combines the most perfect
taste with a love of art, and Madame Sommier is the daughter of M. de
Barante, the famous historian.[21]

But for M. Sommier it was not enough to preserve this historical
monument. His artistic munificence was prepared for any sacrifice
in order to restore those cascades and grottos at which La Fontaine
had marvelled, and which had fallen into ruins, been overgrown with
brushwood, in which vipers lurked and rabbits burrowed. In this noble
task M. Sommier was fortunately aided by a learned architect, M.
Destailleurs. M. Rodolphe Pfnor, my collaborator and friend, holds it
an honour to associate himself with the praises which I here bestow
upon the understanding liberality of M. Sommier. M. Pfnor, by reason of
his skill in architecture and the arts of design, is competent to give
these praises a real and absolute value. Be it understood that I speak
for him as well as for myself.

It is just that art and letters should unite in congratulating M.
Sommier. The restorer of the Château de Vaux has deserved well of both.
It was reserved for him to realize in all its splendour _Le Songe
Vaux._ He has uttered the command in a voice which has been obeyed:

    Fontaines, jaillissez,
    Herbe tendre, croissez
    Le long de ces rivages.
    Venez, petits oiseaux,
    Accorder vos ramages
    Au doux bruit de leurs eaux.

[1] Bonnaffé, op. cit., p. 27.

[2] Guillet de Saint-Georges, in _Les Archives de l'Art_ _français,_
1853, Vol. III.

[3] Cf. Jal., Diet.

[4] Occupied successively by the President of the Chambre des Comptes,
Lambert Torigny; the Marquise du Chastelle; M. de La Haye; the Comte
de Montalivet; the Administrator of Lits Militaires; and Prince Adam
Czartoryski, the present owner (1888).

[5] Ad. Lance, _Dictionnaire des Architectes français,_ Paris, 1872, 2
vols. Article on Levau (Louis).

[6] _Archives de l'Art français,_ Vol. I, 1852.

[7] Letter cited by M. Pierre Clement, _Histoire de Colbert,_ p. 30.

[8] cite almost literally a phrase by M. Eugène Grésy. M. Grésy's
valuable work on the Château de Vaux is contained in _Les Archives de
l'Art français._ Vol. I, p. I _et seq._

[9] Cimber et Danjou, _Archives curieuses de l'Histoire de France,_
Second Series, Vol. VIII, p. 415 (Portraits de la Cour).

[10] M. Eugène Grésy, loc. cit., p. 7.

[11] It is well known that the Maincy factory, taken to Paris by
order of the King after Foucquet's disgrace, became the Gobelins.
(Lacordaire, article on the Gobelins, second ed., 1855, p. 65.) Cf.
also _L'Histoire de la Tapisserie,_ by J. Guiffrey.

[12] 9th June, 1660.

[13] Cf. Loret, letter of the 24th July, 1660.

[14] _Ibid.,_ letter of the 17th July, 1661.

[15] Letter to Maucroix, 9th ed., cited Vol. Ill, p. 301.

[16] Choisy, in his _Mémoires._ Ed. cited p. 587.

[17] Cf. La Fontaine, letter previously cited.

[18] Cf. Chéruel, loc. cit., who cites (Vol. II, p. 223) the portfolios
of Valiant, Vol. Ill, in the Biblio. Nat. MSS.

[19] La Fontaine, letter from Maucroix, Vol. Ill, p. 304.

[20] See the excursion made by the subscribers to _l'Ami des Monuments_
to the Château de Vaux-le-Praslin, or le Vicomte, near Melun, in
_l' Ami des Monuments,_ a magazine founded and edited by M. Charles
Normand, 1887, p. 301, No. 4.

[21] In the Château de Vaux one of the rooms on the first story, and
certainly the most beautiful, bears the name of the "Room of M. de
Barante." It has a ceiling which represents one of those nymphs of
Vaux which La Fontaine celebrated so charmingly. This ceiling has been
recently restored. M. Destailleurs has displayed great art in its


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