Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

2

themselves that the greatest of ministers was the most ignorant and tedious as well as the most extravagant of writers; it may afford some gratification to those who detest his tyranny. It is also a fact worth preserving in the history of the human mind, that this despicable work was praised for more than thirty years, while it was believed to be that great minister's; and quite as true, that the pretended Testament made no noise in the world until thirty years after the Cardinal's death; that it was not printed until forty-two years after that event; that the original signed by him has never been seen; that the book is very bad; and that it scarcely deserves to be mentioned.

Did Count De Moret, son of Henry IV., who was wounded in the little skirmish at Castelnaudari, live until the year 1693 under the name of the hermit Jean Baptiste? What proof have we that this hermit was the .son of Henry IV ?-None.

Did Jeanne d'Albret de Navarre, mother of Henry IV. after the death of Antoine, marry a gentleman named Guyon, who was killed in the massacre of St. Bartho.lomew? Had she a son by him, who preached at Bourdeaux ?. These facts are detailed at great length in the Remarks on Bayle's Answers to the Questions of a Provincial, folio, page 689.

Was Margaret of Valois, wife to Henry IV. brought to bed of two children secretly after her marriage?

We might fill volumes with enquiries like these. But how much pains we should be taking to discover things of no use to mankind! Let us rather seek cures for the .scrofula, the gout, the stone, the gravel, and a thousand other chronic or acute diseases. Let us seek remedies for the distempers of the mind, no less terrible and no less mortal; let us labour to bring the arts to perfection, and to lessen the miseries of the human race; and let us not waste our time over the anas, the anecdotes, and curious stories of our day, the collections of pretended bon-mots, &c. the Letters to a friend, the Anonymous letters, the Reflections on the new tragedy, &c. &c. &e.

I read in a book lately published, that Louis XIV,

one.

exempted all new-married men from the taille for five years. I have not found this fact in any collection of edicts, nor in any memoir of that time.

I read in the same book that the King of Prussia has fifty livres given to every girl with child. There is, in truth, no better way of laying out money, nor of encouraging propagation : but I do not believe that this royal munificence is true; at least I have never witnessed it.

An anecdote of greater antiquity has just fallen under my eye, and appears to me to be a very strange

It is said in a Chronological History of Italy, that the great Arian, Theodoric, he who is represented to have been so wise, had, amongst his ministers, a Catholic, for whom he had a great liking, and who proved worthy of all his confidence. This minister thought he should rise still higher in his master's favour by embracing Arianism; but Theodoric had him immediately beheaded, saying, If a man is not faithful to God, how can he be faithful to me, who am but a man? The compiler remarks, that this trait does great honour to Theodoric's manner of thinking with respect to religion !

Į pique myself on thinking, in matters of religion, better than the Ostrogoth Theodoric, the assassin of Symmachus and Boëtius; because I am a good Catholic, and he was an Arian. But I declare this king worthy of being confined as a madman, if he were so atrociously besotted. What! he immediately cut off his minister's head, because that minister had at last come over to his own way of thinking! How was a worshipper of God, who passed from the opinion of Athanasius to that of Arius and Eusebius, unfaithful to God? He was at most unfaithful only to Athanasius and his party, at a time when the world was divided between the Athanasians and the Eusebians. But Theodoric could not regard him as a man unfaithful to God, because he had rejected the term consubstantiul; after admitting it at first. To cut off his favourite's head for such a reason could certainly be the act of none but the wickedest fool and most barbarous blockhead that ever existed. What would you say of Louis XIV, if he had beheaded the Duke de la Force because the Duke de la Force had quitted Calvinism for the religion of Louis XIV?

I have just opened a History of Holland, in which I find that, in 1672, Marshal De Luxembourg harangued his troops in the following manner_"Go, my children, plunder, rob, kill, ravish; and if there be anything more abominable, fail not to do it, that I may find I have not been mistaken in selecting you as the bravest of men.”

This is certainly a very pretty harangue. It is as true as those given us by Livy, but it is not in his style. To complete the dishonour of typography, this fine piece is inserted in several new Dictionaries, which are no other than impostures in alphabetical order.

It is a trifling error in the Abrégé Chronologique de l'Histoire de France (Chronological Abridgment of the History of France) to suppose that Louis XIV., after the peace of Utrecht, for which he was indebted to the English, after nine years of misfortune, and after the great victories which the English had gained, said to the English ambassador, “I have always been master at home, and sometimes abroad; do not remind me of it." This speech would have been very ill-timed, very false as it regarded the English, and would have exposed the King to a most galling reply. The author himself confessed to me, that the Marquis de Torcy, who was present at all the Earl of Stair's audiences, had always given the lie to this anecdote. It is, assuredly, neither true nor likely, and has remained in the later editions of this book only because it was put in the first. This error, however, does not at all disparage this very ful work, in which all the great events, arranged in the most convenient order, are perfectly authenticated.

All these little tales, designed to embellish history, do but dishonour it; and unfortunately, almost all ancient histories are little else than tales. Mallebranche was right, when, speaking on this subject, he said, " I think no more of History than I do of the news of my parish."

In 1723, Father Fouquet, a jesuit, returned to France from China, where he had passed twenty-five years

use

This poor

Religious disputes had embroiled him with his brethren; he had carried with him to China a gospel different from theirs, and now brought back to France memorials against them, Two Chinese literati made the voyage along with him; one of them died on the way, the other came with Father Fouquet to Paris. This Jesuit was to take the Chinese to Rome secretly, as a witness of the conduct of the good fathers in China, and in the mean time Fouquet and his companion lodged at the house of the Professed, Rue St. Antoine.

The reverend fathers received advice of their reverend brother's intentions. Fouquet was no less quickly informed of the designs of the reverend fathers; he lost not a moment, but set off post the same night for Rome. The reverend fathers had interest enough to get him pursued; but the Chinese only was taken. fellow did not understand a word of French, The good fathers went to Cardinal Dubois, who at that time needed their support; and told him that they had amongst them a young man who had gone mad, and whom it was necessary to confine. The Cardinal immediately granted a lettre-de-cachet, than which there is sometimes nothing which a minister is more ready to grant. The lieutenant of police went to take this made man, who was pointed out to him.

He found a man making reverences in a way different from the French, speaking in a singing tone, and looking quite astonished. He expressed great pity for his derangement, ordered his hands to be tied behind him, and sent him to Charenton, where, like the abbé Desfontaines, be was flogged twice a week, The Chinese did not at all understand this method of receiving strangers ; he had passed only two or three days in Paris, and had found the manners of the French very odd. He lived two years on bread and water, amongst madmen and keepers; and believed that the French nation con sisted of these two species, the one part dancing while the other flogged them.

At length, when two years had elapsed, the ministry, changéd, and a new lieutenant of police was appointed. This magistrate commenced his administration by visitVOL. I,

I

1

The ma

ing the prisons. He also saw the lunatics at Charenton. After conversing with them, he asked if there were no other persons for him to see? He was told that there was one more unfortunate man; but that he spoke a language which nobody understood. A Jesuit who accompanied the magistrate, said it was the peculiarity of this man's madness that he never gave an answer in French; nothing would be got from him, and he thought it would be better not to take the trouble of calling him. The minister insisted. The unfortunate man was brought, and threw himself at his feet. The lieutenant sent for the King's interpreters, who spoke to him in Spanish, Latin, Greek, and English, but he constantly said Kanton, Kanton, and nothing else. The Jesuit assured them he was possessed. gistrate, having at some time heard it said that there was a province in China called Kanton, thought this man might perhaps have come from thence. An interpreter to the foreign missions was sent for, who could murder Chinese. All was discovered. . The magistrate knew not what to do, nor the Jesuit what to say. The Duke De Bourbon was then prime minister; the circumstance having been related to him, he ordered money and clothes to be given to the Chinese, and sent him back to his own country, whence it is not thought that many literati will come to see us in future. It would have been more politie to have kept this man and treated him well, than to have sent him to give his countrymen the very worst opinion of the French.

About thirty years ago, the French Jesuits sent secret missionaries to China; who enticed a child from his

parents in Canton, and brought him to Paris where they educated him in their convent of La Rue St. Antoine. This boy became a Jesuit at the age of fifteen; after which he remained ten years in France. He knows both French and Chinese perfectly, and is very learned. M. Bertin, comptroller-general, and afterwards secretary of state, sent him back to China in 1763, after the

* A very characteristic fact, and admirably illustrative of good government, aud the use of the Lettre-de-cachet.-T.

« AnteriorContinuar »