THE Doge of Genoa might well say, that the most extraordinary thing he observed at Versailles was his being there himself; but an ordinary stranger would have been much less embarrassed in his decision. Be that as it may, not the least of the curiosities of the court of Louis XIV. was the constant motion, the conversations, the promenades, the perpetual goings and comings. With the exception of the humming,-for the gravity of the monarch seemed to have communicated itself to his humblest valet,-this château of Versailles was not unlike a gigantic bee-hive. On the side of the gardens, particularly,— unless the weather were bad,-not an instant passed, without several persons having either entered or come out of the many doors which there opened; and as the weather must be very cold or very rainy to prevent the king from walking severa: times every day, this prodigious activity continued nearly the whole year. It would have been much too bourgeois to remain in the chimney-corner when his majesty was out of doors. "The rain at Marly does not wet one," said to the king one day a cardinal who followed him in the midst of a heavy shower, and who was advised to take shelter within doors. "Thus," says La Bruyère, "whoever will consider, that the countenance of the

prince makes the whole of the courtier's happiness, that he occupies himself, and satisfies himself, all his life in beholding it and being beheld by it,-will understand in a measure how the saints can make the beholding God their whole glory and felicity."*

Thus, the aspect of the gardens of Versailles on a fine day, or a beautiful evening, had something about it almost fabulously splendid. But, frequent as were the objects which might remind one of the presence and hand of a king, nothing was easier to forget, than that you were at the central point of a kingdom,— at a seat of government. Versailles always had a holiday aspect; you might easily have believed yourself at a place of amusement, whence its master had carefully banished all that could remind one either of care or toil. You might have walked for hours in the populous galleries, in the park with its groups of courtiers, without dreaming that these people had anything else to do, save to walk about like yourself, or anything else to wish, save to live and die in this place. And you would have been doing the greater part of them no injustice, for they very rarely remembered the existence of anything beyond the court. This oblivion, so ably brought about by Louis XIV., is to be found in men who seem the most incapable of it. The author of "Characters," is more liable to it than any one else. In his chapter entitled "Of the Sovereign and of the Republic," he has in vain struggled to rise to a level with the most elevated maxims; at the end of the chapter it is easy to perceive that he has not once quitted Versailles.

The court was all in all. This way of thinking had even passed into the language. How many times, instead of saying all the court, the expression used was, all France ! But this way of * Chapter viii. The Court. + La Bruyere. Even the fashionable oath, "May I be hung!" would have been too

speaking, which was so familiar to Madame de Sévigné, to Dangeau, to St. Simon, to all the great noblemen of the time, and alas, also to Racine the plebeian gentleman in waiting, this way of speaking, we say, was not altogether the consequence of their looking upon, or imagining they looked upon the people* as so profound a nonentity; there was at the bottom of it, a very tangible fact, and one not very flattering to the nobility. They called themselves "La France," only on the condition of being nothing at all; they only represented France, in order to prostrate themselves in her name at the foot of the throne, and the more exclusively they used their ancient right of despising the people, the more they ought to have felt, that it was the only one which remained to them. But no, it appears that they did not perceive it, or rather, that they dared not perceive it; and although this, after all, was a very fortunate thing for the country which they had ruined so many times, and in so many ways, yet we cannot help feeling some sympathy with the chagrin of a La Rochefoucault and a St. Simon, at seeing so many people of heart and head, forced to throw away their lives in useless promenadings, and frivolous conversations about nothings. It is true, that these nothings did not seem so to those who were constantly occupied with them. Little matters always become great matters, in proportion as men interest themselves in them; and this same St. Simon, sometimes so good a philosopher, had not his equal for elevating a trifling question of vanity or etiquette into an affair of state.f

plebeian. The noblemen said, "May I be beheaded !" Richelieu had not refused them this right.

"After all, what is the nation?" said the Regent one day to Stair, the English ambassador. "I confess it is no great thing," replied the Englishman, so long as there is no standard raised,” i. e. no fighting to be done.-Letter from Stair to Stanhope.

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"In vain were courage, honor and industry combined in the soul of

"It is difficult for us," says a modern critic,-" with our habits of regular occupation, to picture to ourselves faithfully this life of leisure and gossip. Our days are passed in study or in business, -our evenings in discussions;-of gossiping there is little or none. The noble society of our days, which has retained in the highest degree the idle habits of the last two centuries,-has done so only at the expense of remaining ignorant of the ideas and * of the present.* ways In any age which advances this is inevitable ;—but at that time the age was not advancing. One man alone moved on, and provided that the eyes of men were fixed upon him, they might be sure of not being left behind."

In the midst of these perpetual conversations, the language had made such progress, that it became at last more elegant than the manners. The more we examine the history of this reign, the more remnants of barbarism do we find concealed beneath its brilliant exterior;-yet the most astonishing thing is, not to find them there, but to perceive how far the most reasonable and humane persons were from feeling the absurdity and horror of a number of things, the very remembrance of which is revolting to us. But how was it possible not to look upon all as beautiful and good in a country viewed through the medium of the splendor of Versailles! How criticize a machine, the creaking of whose wheels was so faintly heard above the sound of fountains and balls, and the flourish of trumpets?

It is only towards the end of Louis XIV.'s reign, that we begin to perceive some traces of opposition, properly speaking, in France; that is to say, criticism directed in the name of the na

this worthy man, so eminently suited to ruin a kingdom. Like those madmen who are possessed of but one sole idea, he saw nothing else in the universe but the privileges of the peerage."-LEMONTEY. History of the Regency.

* ST. BEUVE.—Article Sévigné.

tion against the king or the government. Until then, all discontents had a purely personal character. Excepting some complaints in regard to the taxes,-common complaints regarded as of so little consequence, that they were repeated in the pulpit, and even before the king,-every man complained for himself when he thought he had reason. If contented himself, no man thought of crying out for others. Crying out, moreover, is scarcely the expression, for any such cry would undoubtedly have died away beneath the vaults of the Bastile; but even in secret, it appears that complaints were rarely of a political character. The affairs of state occupied but little attention, save in so far as private interests might be involved with them. If a campaign were talked of,—no one thought of inquiring its cause,—but only who was to command, and who was to receive promotion. If any question arose, it was but rarely that any one ventured to have an opinion upon its fundamental considerations; if any discussion took place, its object was rarely any other than that of trying to know or guess what the king's decision would be. Thus there were none save the ministers, the ambassadors, and a very small number of clear-headed men, who had any connected views in regard to the policy or enterprises of Louis XIV. In the army, the general himself often gave himself little trouble to know exactly what he was fighting for. The subordinate officers did not imagine that it concerned them the least in the world.*

All being thus left to the supreme decision of the king, everything reduced to the knowledge of what his orders would be,— every one eagerly caught at the slightest rumor; all puzzled their

* "How should I know?" said the Captain; " and what difference does this fine project make to me? I live two hundred leagues from the capital;—I hear it said that war is declared ;-I immediately leave my family and go to seek fortune or death,-provided that I have not much labor to perform."-VOLTAIRE. Babouc.

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