Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXIV.: ANECDOTES CONTINUED. - The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XII (Age of Louis XIV)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAPTER XXIV.: ANECDOTES CONTINUED. - Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XII (Age of Louis XIV) 
The Works of Voltaire. A Contemporary Version. A Critique and Biography by John Morley, notes by Tobias Smollett, trans. William F. Fleming (New York: E.R. DuMont, 1901). In 21 vols. Vol. XII.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Louis XIV. was desirous of joining the sweets of friendship to the glory, the pleasures, the pomp, and the gallantry which brightened the first years of his reign; but to make a happy choice of friends is a difficult task for a monarch. One of those in whom he placed the greatest confidence basely betrayed him, the other made an ill use of his favor. The first was the marquis de Vardes, who was privy to the king’s affection for Madame de la Vallière. It is generally known that court intrigues induced him to seek her ruin; her situation exposed her to the ill-will of the jealous, but her character should have secured her from the machinations of enemies. It is known also that he had the boldness, in concert with the count de Guiche and the countess of Soissons, to write a counterfeit letter to the queen, in the name of the king of Spain, her father. This letter informed the queen of what should have been concealed from her, and what could not but disturb the peace of the royal family. Besides being guilty of this piece of treachery, he was malicious enough to spread a report that the duke and duchess of Navailles, the worthiest persons at court, were at the bottom of it. These, though entirely innocent, were sacrificed to the resentment of the deceived monarch. The villainous proceeding of de Vardes was detected, but too late; criminal as he was, however, his punishment did not exceed that of the innocent persons whom he had accused, and who were deprived of their places, and obliged to retire from court.
The other favorite was the count of Lauzun, afterward created duke, sometimes the king’s rival in his occasional amours, sometimes his confidant, and so well known since, by the marriage which he contracted in too public a manner with the king’s niece, and which he afterward renewed in secret, notwithstanding the promise he had given to his master.
The king, disappointed in his choice of favorites, declared that where he had sought for friends he had found only intriguers. This unhappy knowledge of mankind, which is generally acquired too late, caused him likewise to say: “Whenever I give a vacant place I make a hundred malcontents, and one ungrateful wretch.” Neither the pleasures nor embellishments of the king’s palaces and of Paris, nor the care of the police, were in the least discontinued during the war of 1666.
The king danced at the balls till the year 1670. He was then thirty-two years of age. Upon seeing the tragedy of “Britannicus” played at St. Germain, he was struck with the following verses:
From that time he ceased to dance in public, and the poet reformed the monarch. His connection with the duchess de la Vallière still subsisted, notwithstanding the frequent breaches of his fidelity to her. These were not attended with much difficulty. He found every woman disposed to receive his addresses with transport, and he constantly returned to her, who by the mildness and goodness of her character, and even by the force of habit, had captivated his affections without art. But, in the year 1669, she perceived that Madame de Montespan was gaining the ascendent: she bore this with her usual mildness; she supported the mortification of being a long time witness to the triumph of her rival: she scarcely uttered a complaint, but thought herself happy in her misfortune, because she was respectfully treated by the king, whom she continued to love, and had opportunities of seeing him, though she was not now the object of his affections.
At length, in the year 1675, she had recourse to the refuge of a mind replete with tenderness and sensibility, which can only be subdued by the most profound and affecting considerations. She thought that God alone was worthy to possess a heart which had been honored with the affection of such a lover; and her conversion in a short time made as much noise as her passion had done formerly. She became a Carmelite at Paris, and persevered in the austerities of that order. The delicacy of a woman accustomed to so much pomp, luxury, and pleasure was not shocked when she was obliged to cover herself with a hair-cloth, walk barefooted, fast rigidly, and sing among the choir at night in a language she did not understand. In this manner she lived from 1675 till 1710, by the name of Sister Louisa the Penitent. A king would deserve the name of tyrant should he punish a guilty woman with so much severity; yet many a woman has punished herself thus for having loved. There are scarcely any examples of statesmen who have buried themselves in this manner; yet the guilt of politicians seems to stand more in need of expiation than the frailty of lovers; but those who govern souls have authority only with the weak.
It is generally known that when Sister Louisa was informed of the death of the duke of Vermandois, her son by the king, she said, “I should lament his birth more grievously than his death.” She had a daughter, who, of all the king’s children, had the nearest resemblance to her father; and afterward married Prince Armand of Conti, cousin of the great Condé.
In the meantime Madame de Montespan enjoyed the monarch’s favor, and availed herself of it with an external pomp and pride equal to the modesty of Madame de la Vallière.
While Madame de la Vallière and Madame de Montespan continued to vie with each other for the first place in the king’s affection, the whole court was taken up with love intrigues. Louvois himself became sensible to the influence of this passion. Among the many mistresses of this minister, whose rough character seemed so incompatible with love, was Madame du Frenoi, wife of one of his clerks, in whose favor he, by his credit, afterward caused a new place to be established among the queen’s attendants: she was created lady of the bedchamber: she had access to the queen’s person on all occasions. The king, by thus indulging the private inclinations of his ministers, thought to justify his own.
There cannot be a more striking example of the power of prepossession and custom than married women being at that time allowed publicly to have gallants, while the granddaughter of Henry IV. was refused even a husband. She, after having rejected so many sovereigns, and having entertained hopes of marrying Louis XIV., was, at the age of forty-three, desirous to make the fortune of a gentleman of a noble race. She obtained leave to marry Péquilin, of the Caumont family, count of Lauzun, and a captain of one of the two companies called the hundred gentlemen pensioners, which are now extinct, and for which the king had instituted the place of colonel-general of the dragoons. There were numerous precedents of princesses who had married gentlemen: the Roman emperors often gave their daughters in marriage to senators: the daughters of the sovereigns of Asia, more powerful and more despotic than a king of France, always marry the slaves of their fathers.
Mademoiselle bestowed upon the count of Lauzun all her possessions, valued at twenty millions, four duchies, the sovereignty of Dombes, the county of Eu, and the palace of Orleans, called Luxembourg. She retained nothing, having given herself up entirely to the pleasing idea of making the person she loved richer than any king ever made a subject. The contract was drawn up; Lauzun was for a day duke of Montpensier; nothing now remained but to sign. In a word, all things were in readiness, when the king, attacked on every side by representations of princes, ministers, and the enemies of a man whose prosperity was too great to be borne, retracted his promise, and forbade the alliance. He had, by letter, apprised foreign courts of the intended marriage; he wrote again to inform them that it was dropped. He was censured for having permitted it; he was equally censured for having forbidden it. He was afflicted at being the cause of Mademoiselle’s unhappiness. However, this very prince, who had been grieved at being under the necessity of breaking his word with Lauzun, caused him, in November, 1670, to be confined in the castle of Pignerol, for having privately married the princess, who he had, a few months before, given him leave to marry publicly. He was shut up during the space of ten years.
There are many kingdoms whose sovereigns have not so much power; those that have are most beloved when they decline to make use of it. Should a citizen who does not violate the laws of the state be so severely punished by him who represents the state? Is there not a wide difference between offending one’s sovereign and betraying one’s sovereign? Should a king treat a man with more rigor than the law would treat him? Those who have asserted that Madame de Montespan, who put a stop to this marriage, being irritated against the count de Lauzun for the bitter reproaches he uttered against her, exacted that vengeance, have done that monarch great injustice. It would have been a proof both of tyranny and pusillanimity to sacrifice to female resentment a brave man and a favorite, who, after being deprived of an immense fortune by his master, had been guilty of no other crime but speaking too freely of Madame de Montespan.
I hope my readers will excuse these reflections, which the natural rights of mankind oblige me to make; but at the same time equity requires that as Louis XIV. had not been guilty of an action of that nature during the whole course of his reign, he should not be accused of so cruel a piece of injustice. He was certainly severe enough in punishing with such rigor a clandestine marriage, an innocent union, which it would have been more prudent in him to pass over in silence. To withdraw his favor from Lauzun was but just, to imprison him was too severe.
Those who call this private marriage in question need only read the memoirs of Mademoiselle with attention. These memoirs reveal what she endeavors to conceal. It appears from them that this princess, who had complained so bitterly to the king when her marriage was forbidden, did not dare to complain of her husband’s being imprisoned. She owns that she was thought to be married; she does not, however, assert that she was not: and, if there was no proof of it but that expression: “I neither can nor ought to change my sentiments for him,” it would be conclusive.
Lauzun and Fouquet were astonished at meeting in the same prison; but the latter, who in the height of his glory and power had seen Péquilin mixed with the crowd like a gentleman of no fortune from one of the provinces, thought him out of his senses when he assured him that he had been the king’s favorite, and had obtained leave to marry the granddaughter of Henry IV. with all the wealth and the titles of the house of Montpensier.
After having languished ten years in prison, he was at length released; but it was not till after Madame de Montespan had engaged Mademoiselle to confer the sovereignty of Dombes and the county of Eu upon the duke of Maine, then an infant, who possessed them after the death of that princess. She made this donation merely through a hope that the duke of Lauzun would be acknowledged as her husband; but she was herein deceived: the king only allowed her to bestow on her concealed and unfortunate husband the lands of St. Fargeau and Thiers, with other considerable revenues, which Lauzun found insufficient. In a word, she was obliged to be satisfied with being his wife in private, and to suffer herself to be neglected by him in public. This princess, unhappy at court and unhappy at home, which is the ordinary effect of violent passions, died in 1693.
As for the count of Lauzun, he went over to England in 1688. Being fated to extraordinary adventures, he conducted to France the queen of James II. and her son, then in the cradle. He was created duke. He commanded in Ireland with but indifferent success; and returned more celebrated for his adventures than esteemed for his personal merit. We have seen him die at a very advanced age, quite forgotten, as is generally the case with those who have been concerned in important events, without having performed great exploits.
Madame de Montespan, however, was all-powerful at court, at the beginning of the intrigues just spoken of.
Athénaïs de Mortemart, wife of the marquis de Montespan; her elder sister, the marchioness de Thiange, and her younger sister, for whom she obtained the abbey of Fontevraud, were the finest women of that age; and all three added the most refined and lively wit to their personal attractions. Their brother, the duke of Vivonne, marshal of France, was one of the most eminent men at court, both for taste and learning. The king, happening one day to ask him: “What advantage is there in reading?” the duke, who was fat and of a ruddy complexion, answered, “Reading has the same effect upon the mind that partridges have upon my cheeks.”
These four were universally admired for a happy turn of conversation, which united humor, simplicity, and refinement, and went by the appellation of the Mortemart wit. They wrote with inexpressible ease and grace. This sufficiently shows the absurdity of a story which I have heard repeated over and over, that Madame de Montespan was obliged to employ Madame Scarron to write her letters; and that she thereby became her rival, and afterward supplanted her.
It is true, indeed, that Madame Scarron, since Madame de Maintenon, had more acquired knowledge, and her conversation was more agreeably insinuating. There are letters of hers extant wherein art embellishes nature, and which are written with the utmost elegance. But Madame de Montespan had no occasion for the assistance of another’s wit; and she was long possessed of the king’s favor before Madame de Maintenon was presented to him.
Madame de Montespan’s glory was in its brightest lustre at the time of the king’s journey into Flanders in 1670. The ruin of the Dutch was planned during this journey, in the midst of pleasures. It was a continual festival, attended with the utmost pomp and magnificence.
The king, who generally went upon an expedition on horseback, upon this occasion went in a coach. Post-chaises were not invented till afterwards. The queen, her sister-in-law, and the marchioness de Montespan, were in this magnificent equipage, which was followed by many others; and when Madame de Montespan went alone, she had four of the king’s guards to attend her. Then the dauphin came with his retinue, and Mademoiselle with hers: this was before the fatal affair of her marriage; she, in perfect peace of mind, partook of all these triumphs, and saw with secret satisfaction her lover, who was the king’s favorite, at the head of his company of guards. The finest movables of the crown were carried into the towns where the king passed the night. In every city the court passed through there was either a ball or fire-works. The king was accompanied by all the troops of his household, and all his domestics went before or followed. A public table was kept at St. Germain. In this pomp the court visited all the conquered towns. The chief ladies of Brussels and Ghent came to see this magnificent procession. The king invited them to his table, and with great generosity made them presents. All the officers of the troops in garrison received gratuities. There was frequently no less than fifteen hundred louis d’or a day spent in liberalities.
All the honors and distinctions were intended for Madame de Montespan, except what duty exacted for the queen; yet that lady was not in the secret of the expedition. The king knew how to make a distinction between pleasure and state affairs.
The king’s sister, who was alone intrusted with the care of uniting two kings, and bringing about the destruction of Holland, embarked at Dunkirk aboard the fleet of her brother, Charles II., king of England. She carried with her Mademoiselle Kerowal, afterward duchess of Portsmouth, whose beauty was equal to that of Madame de Montespan. She afterward became, in England, what Madame de Montespan was in France, but with greater credit. King Charles was governed by her to the last moment of his life; and though he was by no means constant to her, she always preserved her ascendency over him. No woman’s beauty was ever more lasting than hers; when near the age of seventy she had something noble and pleasing in her countenance, which years could not efface.
The king’s sister went to see her brother at Canterbury, and returned with the glory of being successful. She had not long enjoyed it when a sudden and painful death carried her off, at the age of twenty-six, on June 30, 1670. The court was seized with grief and consternation, aggravated by the manner of her death. The princess thought she had been poisoned. Montague, the English ambassador, was convinced of it, the court scarcely doubted it, and it was the received opinion all over Europe. One of her husband’s old domestics told me the name of the person who, as he thought, gave the poison. “This man,” said he, “whose circumstances were but narrow, immediately afterward retired into Normandy, where he purchased an estate upon which he lived a long time in opulence.” The poison was a diamond reduced to powder, and strewed over strawberries, instead of sugar. The court and city were of opinion that the princess was poisoned with a glass of succory water; after which she felt insupportable pangs, and in a short time died in convulsions.
But the malice of mankind, and a love for the marvellous, were the sole causes of this general persuasion. There could have been no poison in the glass of water, since Madame de la Fayette and another drank the remainder of it without being in the least affected. The powder of diamond is no more poisonous than the powder of coral. The princess had been a long time troubled with an abscess formed in her liver. She was in a very bad state of health, and had even been brought to bed of a child entirely putrefied. Her husband, who has been much suspected all over Europe, was never accused of any crime, either before or after this event: and there are but few instances of criminals who have been guilty of only one inhuman action. The human species would be indeed unhappy if atrocious deeds were as often committed as believed.
It was said that the chevalier of Lorraine, a favorite of the duke of Orleans, had recourse to this horrible vengeance on account of his being banished and imprisoned for his ill behavior to the princess. People do not reflect that the chevalier of Lorraine was then at Rome, and that it is difficult for a Knight of Malta, of twenty years of age, to occasion, when at Rome, the death of a great princess at Paris.
It is but too true that a weakness and indiscretion of the viscount de Turenne was what first gave rise to these invidious reports, which men take a pleasure in reviving. At the age of sixty he was the lover and the dupe of Madame Coatquen, as he had been before of Madame de Longueville. He disclosed to that lady the secret of state, which was concealed from the king’s brother. Madame de Coatquen, who loved the chevalier of Lorraine, divulged it to her gallant, who informed the duke of Orleans of it. The family of this prince was deluged with the bitterest reproaches and the most tormenting jealousies. These vexations began before the princess’ voyage to England. The evil was aggravated by her return. The duke’s sallies of passion, and the frequent contentions of his favorites with the friends of the duchess, filled the house with trouble and confusion. The duchess, a few days before her death, tenderly complained to the marchioness of Coatquen of the misfortunes which she had occasioned. That lady kneeled down by her bedside and, bathing her hands with tears, answered only by these verses from the tragedy of “Wenceslaus:”
j’allois—j’étais—l’amour a sur moi tant d’empire Je m’égare, Madame, & ne puis que vous dire.
I thought—I was—love reigns with boundless sway—
In mazes lost—I know not what to say!
The chevalier of Lorraine, who had caused all these dissensions, was immediately sent by the king to the prison of Pierre Encise; the count Marsan, of the house of Lorraine, and the marquis, afterward marshal, of Villeroi, were banished. In a word, the natural death of this unhappy princess was looked upon as the consequence of these misunderstandings.
The public belief that the duchess of Orleans had been poisoned was greatly confirmed by this crime’s becoming prevalent in France at that juncture. Amidst all the horrors of a civil war, this base method of revenge was never put in practice. This crime, by an unaccountable fatality, infected France at the time of its greatest glory, and of pleasures calculated to soften the manners of mankind, just as it gained ground in Rome during the most shining period of the commonwealth.
Two Italians, one of whom went by the name of Exili, labored for a long time in conjunction with an Italian apothecary named Glaser, to discover the philosopher’s stone. Having lost the little fortune they had, they endeavored to repair their loss by carrying on a criminal commerce. They secretly sold poisons. Confession, one of the greatest restraints upon human depravity, but which men frequently abuse in the belief that they may commit crimes and afterward expiate them; confession, I say, made it known to the chief penitentiary of Paris that some persons had died by poison. He gave immediate notice of this to the government. The two Italians, who were suspected, were confined in the Bastille; one of them died there. Exili continued in confinement without being convicted; and from the midst of a prison he spread over Paris those fatal secrets which cost the civil lieutenant Daubrai and his family their lives, and at last gave occasion to erecting the chamber of poisons, commonly called “The Fiery Chamber.”
Love was the original source of these shocking adventures. The marquis of Brivilliers, son-in-law of the civil lieutenant, Daubrai, lodged in his house St. Croix, a captain in his regiment, who was remarkable for his agreeable person. His wife suggested to him the ill consequences that this might produce. The husband, however, was obstinantely bent upon having the young man live in the same house with his wife, who was young, handsome, and very susceptible. The event was such as might have been expected; they conceived a mutual passion for each other. The civil lieutenant, father of the marchioness, was severe and imprudent enough to cause the captain to be sent to the Bastille, when it would have been sufficient to send him to his regiment. St. Croix unluckily happened to be confined in the same chamber with Exili. This Italian taught him to wreak his revenge. The consequences, which are enough to make one shudder with horror, are universally known.
The marchioness did not make any attempt upon the life of her husband, who considered with indulgence a passion of which he himself had been the cause; but her ardent desire of vengeance impelled her to poison her father, her two brothers, and her sister. Though guilty of such execrable crimes, she retained a sense of religion: she often went to confession; and even when she was apprehended at Liège, a general confession written with her own hand was found upon her. This was not considered as a positive proof of her guilt, but only as a presumptive. It is not true that she made experiments of the efficacy of her powders in the hospitals, according to the popular report which has been adopted by the author of the remarkable trials, the work of a lawyer without employment, and calculated to amuse the vulgar. But it is true that both she and St. Croix had private dealings with persons since accused of the same crimes. She was burned in 1679, her head being first cut off. But this crime continued to infect Paris from 1670, when Exili began to compound poisons, till 1680. It cannot be concealed from the world that Pennautier, receiver-general for the clergy, and the friend of this woman, was accused some time after of having made use of these secrets, and that it cost him one-half of his wealth to stifle the accusation.
La Voisin, la Vigoueaux, a priest named le Sage, and others dealt in Exili’s secrets, under the pretext of amusing persons of curious and weak minds with the sight of apparitions. The crime was imagined to be more general than it really was. The Fiery Chamber was established at the arsenal near the Bastille in 1680. Persons of the first quality were cited before it: among others, two nieces of Cardinal Mazarin, the duchess of Bouillon, and the countess of Soissons, mother of Prince Eugene. They were not ordered into custody, as we are told in the history of Reboulet. He is not less mistaken when he asserts that the duchess appeared before her judges with so many friends that she would have been in no danger even if she had been guilty. What friends could at that time have screened anybody from justice? The duchess of Bouillon was accused of nothing but indulging an absurd curiosity.
The countess of Soissons, who retired to Brussels, was charged with something of a more serious nature. The marshal of Luxembourg was confined in the Bastille, and underwent a long examination, after which he remained fourteen months longer in prison. It is easy to conjecture the shocking reports which these accusations gave rise to in Paris. At length, upon la Voisin and her accomplices being burned alive, these crimes and inquiries discontinued. This abomination, however, was peculiar to some individuals, and did not corrupt the refined manners of the nation: but it left in the minds of men an unhappy propensity to suspect natural death of being occasioned by violent means.
The same opinion which had been formed concerning the unhappy fate of Henrietta of England, duchess of Orleans, was afterward revived with respect to her daughter, Mary Louisa, who was married in 1679 to Charles II., king of Spain. That young princess set out for Madrid with regret. Mademoiselle had often said to the duke of Orleans, brother to the king, “Do not carry your daughter so often to court; she will be too unhappy elsewhere.” This young princess was desirous of marrying the dauphin. “I make you queen of Spain,” said the king, “what more could I do for my daughter?” “Ah!” returned she, “you might do much more for your niece.” She died in the year 1689, at the same age as her mother. It was regarded as an incontestable truth that the Austrian council of Charles II. was desirous of removing her out of the way, because she loved her country, and might prevent the king, her husband, from declaring for the allies, against France. An antidote was sent her from Versailles; but these remedies are very precarious, since what may cure one disorder occasioned by poison may increase another; and there is no universal antidote. The pretended counter-poison arrived after her death. Those who have read the memoirs compiled by the marquis de Dangeau, will find therein that the king said at supper, “The queen of Spain has been poisoned by eating of an eel-pie; and the countess of Pernitz, with the two attendants Zapata and Nina, eating it also, have lost their lives by the same poison.”
After having read this extraordinary anecdote in these manuscript memoirs, which are said to have been carefully written by a courtier, who had scarcely ever quitted Louis XIV. during the space of forty years, I still entertain some doubt. I inquired of the king’s ancient domestics, whether it was true that a king always so reserved in his discourse had expressed himself in so indiscreet a manner. They all assured me that nothing could be more false. I asked the duchess of St. Pierre, on her return from Spain, whether the three persons mentioned had died at the same time as the queen; she gave me convincing proofs that they had all three survived their mistress. In a word, I discovered that these memoirs of the marquis de Dangeau were nothing more than a collection of news, written by one of his footmen; and this may be very easily perceived by the style, the trifling circumstances, and the falsehoods with which it abounds. After all these dismal ideas, to which the death of Henrietta of England has led us, we must now return to those events by which her loss was followed at court. The princess palatine succeeded her a year after, and was mother of the duke of Orleans, afterward regent of the kingdom. She was under the necessity of abjuring Calvinism, in order to marry the duke of Orleans; but she always retained a secret veneration for her own religion, which is not easily shaken off when it has been impressed upon the mind from infancy.
The unfortunate adventure of one of the queen’s maids of honor in 1673, gave rise to a new institution. This misfortune is well known by the sonnet of the abortion, which has been so frequently cited.
The dangerous situation of maid of honor in a gay and voluptuous court occasioned twelve ladies of the bedchamber to be substituted in the room of the twelve maids of honor; and this regulation has ever since continued in the queen’s household. This institution rendered the court more numerous and magnificent, by fixing there the husbands and relatives of these ladies, which increased the number of those who attended the court, and made it more brilliant.
The princess of Bavaria, who had espoused the dauphin, added lustre and vivacity to the court. The marchioness of Montespan always attracted the chief attention: but at last she ceased to please; and her violent emotions of grief by no means conciliated the almost alienated affection of the monarch. However, her connection with the court always continued, as she was possessed of a responsible place there, being superintendent of the queen’s household. Her connection with the king remained likewise on account of the children he had by her, the force of habit, and the ascendency she had acquired.
She retained all the outward show of esteem and friendship, but that was no consolation to her; and the king, afflicted at being the occasion of her frequent inquietudes, and inspired by another passion, already began to find pleasure in conversing with Madame de Maintenon, which he no longer enjoyed with his former mistress. He found himself at once divided between Madame de Montespan, whom he could not forsake, Mademoiselle Fontagne, whom he loved, and Madame de Maintenon, whose conversation was necessary to his distracted mind. The rivalry of these three kept the whole court in suspense. It reflects great honor on Louis XIV. that none of these intrigues had any influence on public affairs; and that love, which disturbed the court, never caused the least disturbance in the kingdom. There cannot, in my opinion, be a better proof that the soul of Louis was as great as it was tender.
I should even look upon these court intrigues, which have no connection with state affairs, as undeserving of a place in this history, if the name of Louis XIV. did not render everything interesting, and if the veil had not been removed from those mysteries by several historians, who have for the most part disfigured them.
NOTES TO CHAPTER XXIV.
Montespan.—At the end of the memoirs above mentioned is printed a history of the amours of Mademoiselle and M. de Lauzun. It is the work of some valet de chambre. Verses on a parallel with the history are subjoined, and with all the absurdities which the Dutch book-sellers have long had a sort of a privilege to impose upon the world.
We should place in the same class most of the stories concerning Mademoiselle to be met with in the memoirs of Madame de Maintenon: it is there said, that, in 1681, one of the ministers of the duke of Lorraine came disguised like a beggar, and presenting himself before Mademoiselle in church, showed her a prayer-book upon which was written: “From the duke of Lorraine,” and that he afterward endeavored to prevail on her to declare the duke her heir. (Vol. ii., page 204.) This fable is copied from the adventure of Queen Clothilde; whether true or false, Mademoiselle takes no notice of it in her memoirs, in which she seldom omits little circumstances. The duke of Lorraine had no pretensions to the succession of Mademoiselle: add to this that she had in 1679 appointed the duke of Maine and the count of Toulouse her heirs.
The author of these wretched memoirs says, on page 207, that the duke of Lauzun, on his return, looked upon Mademoiselle in no other light but as a woman inflamed by an impure passion. She was his wife, and he himself acknowledged it. It is hardly possible to write a greater number of falsehoods in a more indecent style.