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own views. If he did, he gained nothing by it. He was coldly and calmly repulsed; and a letter from him falling into her husband's hands, she was prohibited from seeing him any more.


The course of the Marquis de Sévigné's follies was not a long one. He was killed in a duel only seven years after the marriage; and, in spite of his faults and failings, his sudden and sanguinary death fell heavily on his wife. Years afterwards, in speaking of her good uncle De Coulanges, whom she heartily liked, and always called bien bon (worthy creature), she says: 'He extricated me from the abyss in which I was plunged at the death of Monsieur de Sévigné.' soon as he could venture to approach her, the persevering Bussy again offered himself to her acceptance, and was again refused; but not, he says, without her having shewn so much pleasure in his attentions, as to be jealous when they were transferred to another—an allegation for which there may possibly have been just grounds enough for his vanity and self-love to build on. She liked him, she said, because the same blood ran in their veins. She admired his wit, and had certainly always shewn a preference for his society. And if she did manifest a feeling of mortification on some ill-bred slight from him, or pretended devotion to another, paraded probably with the design of annoying her, it was not on this occasion only that she shewed that amiable desire so rarely gratified of retaining a rejected lover as a friend.

But it was not to listen to a new suitor that Madame de Sévigné dried her tears. She retired to the country, and devoted her time and attention to the education of her two young children, and to the task of repairing their almost ruined fortunes. Her good sense and natural rectitude shewed her the value of that liberal and consistent economy, which her uncle's early instructions had taught her to understand. She delighted in the country-in all its natural sounds and sights-and was as happy 'half-way up to the knees in dew, laying the lines for her new walks,' as she ever was in Paris, surrounded by the most refined and brilliant wits. She had no aversion to business; and she understood how to sell or let her estates, receive her rents, and direct her workmen. It is characteristically told of her, that one day when talking of some rather important business to the President Belliévre, she felt herself at a loss for the proper term to be used, and naïvely said: 'Ah! monsieur, I know the air perfectly, but I forget the words.'

The young widow, finding her heart fully satisfied with the affection existing between her children, her kind relations, and herself, would never again hear of marriage. Most of her biographers have discussed her character in connection with this determination; some of them considering the feeling which led to it as a virtue, and others as a defect. A phrenologist would allow it to be neither the one nor the other, but simply the result of a primitive tendency of the mind, dependent on the size of the brain at a particular part of the cranium. In all cases, it is

certainly safe to attribute a great deal to natural constitution; but as we in our turn are constituted to approve more of one class of feelings than another, without at all disputing the more perfect blessedness or happiness which may result from a complete and reciprocal union of two natures, we cannot help looking on devotion to offspring as the more generous and disinterested affection of the two. There have been instances, no doubt, of as pure self-renunciation in a husband or wife as in a parent; but it seems essentially the nature of parental love, to give all and to ask for nothing in return, except the good and the happiness of the beloved object. It may seem to be anticipating a little, but see how sweetly and reasonably Madame de Sévigné in afteryears speaks to her daughter on the subject:

You say you will love me both for yourself and your child. Ah! my dear child, do not undertake so much. Were it even possible for you to love me as well as I love you, which, however, is not possible, nor at all in the course of nature, yet even then my granddaughter would have the advantage of me in your heart, and fill it with the very same tenderness that I feel for you.'

Her duties to her family were not inconsistent with the enjoyment of society suitable to her youth and gay disposition. Three years after her widowhood, we find her again, with undiminished beauty and spirit, taking her proper place among the most distinguished people in Paris, both at court and in the reigning literary circles of the day. In spite of her attachment to her political and religious friends, the De Retzes and the Jansenists, who were much out of favour at court, the respect which she always cordially entertained for Louis XIV., the result of her genuine loyalty of feeling, made her present herself frequently there; and the king had too much good taste, as well as gallantry, not to bestow a gracious word or pleasant bow in acknowledgment of the courtesies of so charming a person. She was the friend and favourite of the magnanimous Duc de Rambouillet, governor to the dauphin, of whom she said, that 'he possessed every virtue, and had a sincerity and plain-speaking worthy of the knights-errant of old;' and of his wife, once the famous beauty and bel-esprit Mademoiselle de Rambouillet; and she constantly made one at the reunions of the celebrated Hôtel de Rambouillet, though without the taint of pedantry, which characterised so many of the members of its society.

Her letters had already gained for her a considerable reputation as a bel-esprit; and in those years she was still more admired for her beauty, vivacity, and agreeableness. Among her adorers of the great world, were the sage Turenne; the Prince de Conti, brother to the great Condé, who writes to Bussy in warm terms of her attractions, adding, with the self-sufficient presumption of a royal lover, that he should have a word or two to say to her next winter;' and Fouquet, the superintendent of finance, whose

wealth and magnificent generosity generally secured to him the favour of all to whom his devoirs were paid. And among the witty and learned may be noted the brilliant Chevalier de Lude, whose vivacity charmed her, and with whom she always kept up a running-fire of wit and graceful gaiety; the Chevalier de Meré, once the lover as well as the tutor of Madame de Maintenon; and her good uncle's friend, the learned Abbé de Ménage, who courted her in Italian madrigals, and whose devotion to her was so great and so well known, that when he spoke in a tender tone to one of her friends-Madame de Lavardin-she laughingly told him she saw he was rehearsing for Madame de Sévigné. But to none of all their love-addresses would she lend a favourable ear. She was ever open, gracious, friendly, and candid; and when obliged to put an end to pretensions offensive to her notions of propriety, she contrived, by the slight importance she seemed to attach to her severity, to avoid wounding the self-love of all whom she really esteemed, and indeed appears to have succeeded better than almost any other woman on record, in the gentle art of retaining her rejected lovers as attached friends. Between her and the superintendent Fouquet, in particular, there was a most devoted friendship, which seemed to increase on her side with his adversity. He was impeached for squandering the public money, as his predecessors had done before him; and as his enemies were his judges, he was in great danger of being guillotined. She heard of his fall with lively grief. Twelve of her earliest letters, addressed to the Marquis de Pomponne, afterwards minister of foreign affairs, give an admirable and touching description of his trial, and are expressive of the utmost zeal in his service, as well as the most genuine interest in his fate.

Her most intimate friend for many years was Madame de la Fayette, author of the Princesse de Cleves, one of the most popular of the Louis Quatorze novels. This lady was also celebrated for her friendship for the Duc de la Rochefoucault. His delicate health and irritable temperament required the care of a devoted friend; and her disinterested attachment to him became the occupation of her existence, and only ended with his life. She never recovered his loss, and after his death gave herself up to devotion. She had a cold, dry manner; but as the fastidious Duc said of her, she was true; and Madame de Sévigné, who had warmth enough herself to dispense with it in those she esteemed, admired her genius, loved her, and pitied her sorrows. Another of her literary friends was Mademoiselle de Scudery, author of Cyrus, Clelie, and several other of those long-winded romances which pleased the French then, as Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison did ourselves a little later, from their minuteness and perfect truth of detail, and the passion they often exhibited. Mademoiselle de Scudery was as ugly as she was clever and agreeable. Madame de Sévigné said of her, that her understanding and penetration were unlimited. In her letters, she often calls her

No. 4.


Sappho, the name by which she was known at the Hôtel de Rambouillet, where she was the admired of all admirers.

No salon or coterie, before or since, has ever exercised such authority over the world of Paris as the Hôtel de Rambouillet then did. Besides fashionable people and learned ladies, it was frequented by prelates, magistrates, and military men. But what gave it the peculiar tone, from which it was afterwards held up to ridicule, was the genius of Mademoiselle de Scudery, who both spoke and wrote in a style of high-flown pedantic gallantry, which, though natural to her, and, consequently, not unbecoming, became detestable jargon in the mouths of her imitators, who could only exhibit the contortions of the sibyl without any of the inspiration. Nothing could be too inflated or ingenious to suit the taste of this society. Tropes and figures were used on the commonest subjects. The ladies called each other either by fancy names, or by such affected expressions as mon cœur, ma précieuse. Mademoiselle de Rambouillet was the incomparable Artemise' to the end of her days, and was so called by the preacher Flechier in her funeralsermon; and in allusion to the endearing epithets so much in vogue, Molière named his comedy, written to expose the folly, Les Précieuses Ridicules. Rochefoucault wrote his book of maxims at that time, one of which refers to the romantic jargon just then introduced: There are follies,' he says, 'that are caught like contagious diseases.' In short, bombast and affectation mixed up with wit was the order of the day and place; and it is curious to note, that reunions so conspicuous for a want of nature and simplicity, were held in a famous chambre bleue, the favourite colour, as it seems, of all sociétés à prétention. Although, like all the polite world of Paris, a frequenter of this formidable Hôtel de Rambouillet, the perfect good taste and good sense of Madame de Sévigné enabled her to nourish her lively imagination with the gaiety and wit-which were present there no less than the absurdity-without the faintest echo of its falsetto tone.

But although she mixed freely with it, was its ornament, and the accurate observer of all that went on around her, it is not as the woman of society that Madame de Sévigné so much interests our feelings. The true idea of her, on the contrary, for the greater part of her life is, that of an affectionate domestic woman, much trusted and beloved by her friends, gay spirited, easily amused, a constant reader, writer, talker, thinker; her master-passion, love for the daughter to whom most of the letters are addressed, in which she lays bare her sweet nature, and obligingly thinks aloud for the benefit of posterity. Her good uncle's abbey was situated at Livry, near Paris. Sometimes she resided there with him-glad to be quiet, and to hold sacred there, some of the days set apart by her church; generally with lively feelings of devotion, though often humbly accusing herself of allowing worldly concerns, particularly those of her daughter, to intrude on her devout meditations.

Sometimes her uncle accompanied her to the estate which had belonged to her husband, on the sea-coast of Brittany, called 'The Rocks,' where she looked after her improvements, made kind arrangements for her tenants, lived in the open air, always walking out late by moonlight; planted trees, built chapels, listened to the nightingales, and quizzed her neighbours when they were affected or ridiculous, or, above all, if they had in any way slighted or offended the beloved daughter. Sometimes she was at her own estate of Bourbilly, in Burgundy, and at others in her house in Paris-the Hôtel de Carnavalet, which is now a school, but will be celebrated as long as it stands, as her latest and best known abode.

The young Marquis de Sévigné was certainly not a son of whom such a mother could have been either very proud or very fond. Diminutive in his person, not particularly handsome, and of a feeble rather than an impassioned temperament, he was in his youth idle, frivolous, and dissipated; with the ambition not uncommon to such a character, of being looked on by the world around him, as above all things the man of 'wit and pleasure.' Rochefoucault said of him, that his highest ambition would have been, to die for a love which he did not feel. But, though heartless, he was perfectly good-humoured and pleasant; was kind and attentive as a son; and his mother, though too discerning not to be aware of the shallows as well as the shady recesses of his nature, was, from her sweet temperament, at all times ready to draw out and dwell on the fair points. They lived together, therefore, on an easy, kindly footing. Along with his dutiful attention, he seems to have favoured her with his confidence in the matter of his intrigues, to a degree that is quite startling to our modern ideas of delicacy, or even of decency. Indeed, she herself sometimes expresses her dislike to the extreme unreserve of his communications, and appears only to have submitted to the infliction, in the hope of winning him either by affectionate remonstrance, by raillery, or by such reasoning as he could comprehend, from the hurtful excesses of which he was so foolishly vain. There is rather an entertaining collection of letters professing to have passed between him and Ninon de l'Enclos, which is said not to be genuine; but we find plenty of curious notices of their intimacy in Madame de Sévigné's correspondence with her daughter. She particularly disliked his connection with Ninon, as having led him into the doubledyed error of a moral and religious scepticism; but with her usual sense of justice in the matter, tells how Ninon had at last discarded him, 'heartily tired of loving a man who had no heart,' and repeats to her daughter some of her contemptuous sayings of him, such as that he had a soul of pap,' and 'the heart of a cucumber fried in snow.' Fortunately for his mother's comfort as well as his own, the little marquis did not go on all his life in a course which she describes as offensive to God, and

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