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till at last he fell into the hands of a woman who obtained such an influence over his weak mind as to compel him to make her his wife ; and, in the year 1685, Louis the Fourteenth, the proudest monarch in Europe, secretly married the widow of a buffoon, born in beggary, to whom he had a few years before refused alms. This was Madame de Maintenon, who, though possessing many virtues and accomplishments, had been the wife of Scarron, a gross, vulgar, and licentious man, and so ugly as to be accustomed to say of himself, that “ Nature had made him of the scrapings of her pot.” This woman almost enslaved Louis, although she was fifty years old at the time of her marriage. She appointed, removed, preferred, or disgraced ministers, and they were obliged to consult her pleasure in every thing.

Thus he who was the terror of Europe, and who seemed to be the absolute master of France, was converted into the easy tool of a talented woman. While, in the fancied exercise of an unfettered will, he issued his commands to obedient millions, he was himself controlled in almost every movement, and, though it is little to his credit, it must be stated that his government was benefited by this course. When he had set himself free from all outward restraints, he was the more sure of having his mind enslaved. He was disturbed by no representative assembly; he had silenced even the judicial bodies, which, before and after him, manifested a noble independence.

The word “people no man in the dominions would have dared to utter in any other sense than that of " slaves." am the state,” said he. Dungeons were everywhere provided for the writers who could be so insane as to

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utter a syllable of censure on his measures.

The torture was used without scruple; the practice of arbitrary imprisonment was applied in the most remorseless manner.

He confined a man for many years, whose condemnation by any competent tribunal was never made public, under a horrid artifice which stands alone in the history of human cruelty. We refer to the celebrated “ Man in the Iron Mask," of whom Voltaire gives the following account.

“ A short time before the death of Cardinal Mazarin, there happened an event unexampled in the history of the world, and, what is still more surprising, it was not known to any of the historians of that time. An unknown prisoner was carried with the greatest secrecy to the island of St. Marguerite, on the French coast of the Mediterranean; he was a tall young man, with an elegant and noble figure. He wore a mask, the lower parts of which were furnished with steel springs, so as to allow him to eat with the mask on. His guards had orders to kill him, should he discover himself. He remained in the island till 1690, when a confidential officer, named St. Mars, was appointed governor of the Bastile at Paris. This officer transported him from the island to the Bastile, the prisoner constantly wearing his mask. The Marquis de Louvois, the minister of war of Louis the Fourteenth, paid him a visit while in the island, and treated him with a consideration bordering on respect, never sitting down in his presence. This unknown personage was left in the Bastile, and as well accommodated as it was possi. ble to be in that place. Whatever he requested was granted him. He showed a great partiality for lace

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and fine linen, and played upon the guitar. His table was served in a superior style, and the governor rarely sat down in his presence. An old physician of the Bastile, who attended him often during illness, affirmed that he never saw his face, though he had often examined his tongue and the rest of his body. This man states that he was extremely well made, with a brownish tint of the skin; the tone of his voice was highly interesting, though he never complained of his situation, and gave no sign to discover who he was.

“ This unfortunate person died in 1703, and was buried at night in the parish of St. Paul. What adds to the mystery is, that, at the time he was transported to the island of St. Marguerite, no person of any note disappeared in Europe. The prisoner was, without doubt, a person of consequence, as may be inferred from the following circumstance, which happened shortly after his arrival in that island. The governor commonly placed the dishes on the table before him, and then retired. One day the prisoner wrote something with the point of his knife on a silver plate, and threw it out of the window towards a boat which he saw on the beach near the tower. A fisherman, to whom the boat belonged, picked up the plate and brought it to the governor, who, in great alarm, demanded, “ Have you read what is written on the plate, or has any one else read it?' - I cannot read,' replied the fisherman, “I have just picked it up, and nobody has seen it.' The governor kept him in cus. tody till he had assured himself that all this was true, and then dismissed him, saying, 'Go, 't is lucky for you that you cannot read.'

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252 SKETCHES FROM THE HISTORY OF FRANCE.

Among many persons who knew this singular his. tory, there is one very trustworthy individual still living (1760). M. de Chamillart was the last of the ministry who possessed the knowledge of this strange secret. The second Mareschal de Feuillade, his son. in-law, told me, that, on the death of M. de Chamillart, he begged him on his knees to let him know this

mys. tery of the person who went by the name of the Man in the Iron Mask. M. de Chamillart replied, that it was a secret of state, and that he had taken an oath never to divulge it. Many of my contemporaries are still living to confirm the truth of the above relation. I know of no fact in history better proved or more extraordinary."

Louis the Fourteenth died in 1715, leaving France in a most unprosperous condition, the finances ex. hausted, public morals corrupted, and the people oppressed by enormous taxes. He may be said to have laid the foundation of the French Revolution by his prodigality and despotism.

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In the eighth century, the Gothic conquerors of Spain had so far declined from the valor of their ancestors that they seemed no longer to belong to that warlike and enterprising race which humbled the pride of

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