Posts tagged ‘France’

21/01/2021

The Reviv’d Fugitive: A Gallant Historical Novel

 

 

She render’d a Visit to Madmoiselle of St. Hubert, to shew her what part she took in that sorrow which that ill News did cause her, and resolv’d not to leave her very soon, she gave Orders to keep that Visit private, that she might not be disturb’d. They related to one another very agreeable things on the conformity of their Inclinations; they exclaim’d against that blindness of Fate, that had produc’d such cross oppositions in their Amours, in managing so ill their Inclinations; they both storm’d against the rigour of the Edicts, and a Thousand times wish’d to have them re-establish’d in the same condition in which Henry the Great had left them…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I last ventured into my list of books for Chronobibliography, lo, these many—well, not years; but as it turns out a year ago, sigh—I pointed out the increasing tendency, from 1690 onwards, not only for a novel to declare itself so, without any fudging about it being a true story, but for the fact that a book was a novel to become a major selling point.

We see this clearly in the title page of Peter Belon’s The Reviv’d Fugitive—which unfortunately is one of those books where the title page is more interesting than anything behind it.

We’ve met Peter Belon before at this blog, as the author of the infuriating Sham Prince scandal-novel, The Court Secret, and as one of the translators of Jean-Baptiste de Brilhac’s Agnes de Castro: Nouvelle PortugaiseThere’s not a lot out there about him personally (do you know how annoying it is to search for information and have your own posts come up first?), but he seems to have been of French Huguenot extraction; while in 1664 he published a translation of a paper in French on “Sr Walter Rawleigh’s great cordial”, in which he refers to himself as a “student in chymistry”.

The best source of information about Belon turns out to be the 2019 book, Early Modern Ireland And The World Of Medicine: Practitioners, Collectors And Contexts, edited by a J. Cunningham. The chapter by Peter Elmer, Promoting medical change in Restoration Ireland: the chemical revolution and the patronage of James Butler, duke of Ormond (1610 – 88), discusses, “Pierre Belon, a Huguenot physician patronised by Ormond who was involved in efforts to promote a spa at Chapelizod near Dublin”, and offers the following intriguing comments:

In the same year, he sought to secure an ecclesiastical licence to practice medicine and surgery in England, testimonials certifying that Belon was a Londoner by birth, was well skilled in medicine and surgery, including optical ailments, and was well versed in all aspects of pharmacy and chemistry. No licence, however, was granted in 1664, nor in 1667, when it would appear Belon was once more turned down by the licensing authorities…

…which might explain why, like so many others, he turned to writing to support himself. Also—

A year later, in 1668, he would appear to have been taken under the wing of the court, where he held minor office as ‘one of his Majesties Servants in Ordinary’. In all likelihood, Belon had attached himself to the circle of George Villiers, second duke of Buckingham, whose passion for chemistry was second only to the restored monarch…

…which throws an interesting light upon Belon’s attack upon James in The Court Secret.

But though it references Belon’s writing, this chapter is (properly enough, if disappointingly from our point of view) focused upon his medical career.

Despite the patronage of two dukes, in 1690 Belon was still supplementing his income by writing. While the title-page of The Reviv’d Fugitive foregrounds “NOVEL”, its use of “historical” is interesting. Thomas Leland’s Longsword, Earl Of Salisbury, which deals with events from the 13th century, refers to itself as “an historical romance”, which is about right; while the anonymous author of Reginald du Bray preferred “an historic(k) tale”. Belon’s use of the more modern term is misleading, however: though it does touch upon real events, far from dealing with “history” as we think about it in this context, his work is set only some five years in the past. “Gallant” also seems an odd word to use, though perhaps it simply meant “of gallantry”.

Meanwhile, I’ve come across no specific reason for Belon’s dedication to “Her HIGHNESS the Dutchess of Brunswig, Lunebourg, and Zell” (Brunswick, Lüneburg and Celle); and frankly this looks like a shameless publicity stunt. A bigger issue at this distance is just who Belon was referring to: there was the Princess Christine Louise of Oettingen-Oettingen, who in 1690 married Louis Rudolph, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (thus becoming the Duchess of Etc.); but there was also Sophia Dorothea of Celle who, after much manoeuvring on the part of her parents, was declared Princess of Brunswick-Lüneburg-Celle in 1680; who in 1682 married the future George I of England; and who in the critical year of 1690 supposedly began an affair with Count Philip von Königsmarck, with disastrous consequences for both.

Which, to paraphrase the poet M. K. Joseph, is interesting but not relevant. Alas, I can stall no longer in getting to the work itself.

The Reviv’d Fugitive bears an unfortunate resemblance to my previous entry for Chronobibliography, Leandro: or, The Lucky Rescue. Both overtly deal with the effect upon French Protestants of the 1685 Edict of Fontainebleau, which revoked the religious tolerance introduced under the Edict of Nantes in 1598, and forced many Huguenots to convert or flee—or die. In reality, both use this backdrop merely as the excuse for a bit of inconsequential amatory fiction—which seems particularly odd with respect to Peter Belon, given both his own background and his anti-James, pro-William writing. To be fair, there is a bit more substance here than in that other piece of nonsense, and certainly more of religion.

On the other hand, “inconsequential” is being polite. At least half of The Reviv’d Fugitive is almost pointless, a supposed comedy of love at first sight and mistaken identity, but which is (even allowing for the vagaries of 17th century literature) so badly written and spelled, it’s nearly impossible to follow at some points, and entirely impossible to be interested by.

(The available online copy is also a very poor one, with several patches of repeated pages; which at least has the benefit of making it shorter than it appears.)

Briefly, “the Knight of St. Hubert”, a French Catholic, falls in love with a beautiful young woman who he sees at the opera. After some farcical misunderstanding and general angst resulting from her resemblance to a young Marchioness who is involved with our hero’s cousin, unhelpfully called the Viscount of St. Hubert – no-one in this has a name – he discovers her to be a Mlle. de Chanlieu.

A friendship develops between the two cross-purpose couples, which expands to include our heroine’s brother, who completes the set by falling in love with Mlle. de St. Hubert.

The Knight is not particularly bothered by the fact that his new friends are Huguenots: as we will see repeatedly in English literature over the next hundred years or so, a “good” Catholic is one who is not too Catholic; we get this while the Knight is first hunting for his elusive love:

Those marks of a true right Hugonot, or Protestant, were not capable to divert him from the satisfaction he propos’d to inform himself throughly at Charanton, which is the place where those of the Reformed Religion have a Church allow’d them. He return’d to his Inn, well satisfied with so happy a discovery, and resolv’d to go thither the very next Day to Church. But it was his ill fortune not to find there what he sought after. The King had not yet caus’d the Edict to be Proclam’d, which forbids the Hugonots to suffer any Roman Catholicks in their Assemblies; and that which might have rais’d some scruple in the Knight, (who was an absolute worthy Person) could not yet produce any in him. He remain’d in the Church very quiet during the whole Sermon, which that Day was deliver’d by an eminent Preacher; and he being not a Romanist by meer stubbornness and Caprichio, he found nothing in it that was either horrid or black…

However, Mlle. de Chanlieu is not so accommodating. The Reviv’d Fugitive gives us an amusing sliding-scale here, suggesting that Protestants are more devout than Catholics, and wives more likely to be converted by their husbands than vice-versa. Thus, it is acceptable for Mlle. de  St. Hubert to marry M. de Chanlieu, because that could end in her becoming Protestant; but it would be wrong for Mlle. de Chanlieu to marry the Knight of St. Hubert, because that might end in her becoming Catholic.

These quibbles are Belon’s, however: Mlle de Chanlieu is stauncher in her feeling that in marrying the Knight, she would be putting her love ahead of her religion.

She must struggle hard with herself, however, particularly in the face of the Knight’s desperate pleas—which Belon, in effect, presents as “Jesuitical”:

…he did particularise to her the secret motions of his passion, and omitted nothing to make her approve of so Heroick a Love. Must it be that through a diversity of Faith (said he) you should refuse to give he yours, which would render me most happy? believe me, Madmoiselle, the Orders of the Court shall never make me to act any thing to your prejudice: You shall ever be the Mistress of my Heart, and I shall sacrifice with pleasure my Fortune to my Love. Then would he change Discourse, to inform her after what manner they might Love without agreeing in their Religions; he seem’d by these Arguments to set both their Hearts in a perfect harmony, and that nothing could oppose it; he offer’d at making some agreements as to the differences of their Belief, but she for her part unwilling to venture any thing of that nature, called him a Love Casuist, she told him that he look’d on their difference in Opinions, but by the most advantageous Light, and that he spoke but by halves concerning their difficulties: Yes, Knight, I suspect you, added she, and If I distrust my self in Love, why may I not suspect you?

Mlle. de Charlieu’s battle with herself causes her to blow hot and cold upon the two men courting her, the second being a M. de St. Sauveur, a Huguenot. She is bolstered in her sense that she ought to choose the latter by her confidential maidservant:

La Grange, (so was the Maid nam’d) who knew after what manner she was to manage her Mistresses mind, had never directly oppos’d herself to her pleasure, not to affrighten her passion on the suddain, she had contented her self ’till then, to dexterously insinuate to her, without affectation, some hatred for all that was Catholick, and whether through that Motive, or for some other secret Reasons, she never ceas’d speaking well of St. Sauveur; yet perceiving that now her heart was on the point of determination, she made her so powerful a representation of the evil consequences which see did foresee, thereby to retard the course of a tenderness, which was taking a Road so contrary to her desires, that at last she did quite byass her. She said that so strong a passion could not be cur’d, but by violent Remedies; that to that effect, she was accustom her self with some Gentleman worthy of her; that that was an easie way to destroy the Ideas of a primary flame…

We subsequently learn that what looks like La Grange’s devotion to the cause, and to an extent is, is significantly encouraged by fat payments from St. Sauveur.

St. Sauveur’s courtship of Mlle. de Chanlieu is facilitated by the Knight’s absence upon his military duties. We get some “historical” background here, though of events of only a few years prior, with the Knight being called away to participate in the Siege of Luxembourg. (I think Belon has his dates wrong here, placing the Edict of Fontainebleau before the siege when it was the other way around, 1684 and 1685, respectively.)

Though Mlle. de Chanlieu does not love St. Sauveur, she has no doubt of his love for her. She is even morbidly attracted by the idea of martyring herself for her religion by marrying him; and she is weakening towards him when word is received that the Knight has been wounded, and is suffering from a dangerous fever. This causes a total revulsion in Mlle. de Chanlieu’s feelings: she can no longer pretend, to herself or others, the strength of her love for the Knight.

Peter Belon’s presentation of the struggle between romantic love and religious devotion is completely unpersuasive, too much telling and very little showing, with neither party displaying much sincerity about the latter; but in the next section of The Reviv’d Fugitive he is horribly convincing—because in St. Sauveur’s reaction to his rejection, he offers, alas, nothing that is not depressingly recognisable to this day:

    …his Resentment prevail’d above his reason, and vex’d to have been the Cully of a Woman, he resolv’d to have no considerations for a Person who had so little regard for him.
    There is nothing so dangerous as a Lover, who thinks himself play’d upon by that Person of whom he is favour’d, his Love frequently degenerates into fury, and nothing is capable to put a stop to his fatal designs. St. Sauveur resenting a wrong which he look’d on as the highest of scorn, prepossess’d on the other hand with his good Qualities, pass’d on the sudden into extravagancies, and resolv’d to revenge himself, at any rate forever. He remember’d that an Italian had frequently mention’d to him a compos’d Perfume, which might easily be inclos’d in a Packet of Letters, and which at the very first opening would attack with his suttle and corrosive parts, whatsoever offer’d it self to them.
    He was not ignorant how jealous a young Lady is of her Beauty, and that treachery seem’d to him proper for his revenge, he was resolv’d to make use of it, to punish that which he call’d the infidelity of a Demon…

Belon also offers the following piece of editorialisation…and ditto:

Without dispute, Love frequently produces a strange Metamorphoses, and if it is a fine thing in it self, he yet sometimes begets Monsters. St. Sauveur had always pass’d for a brave and good Man, incapable of an ill Action, and some little vanity which he naturally had, did not hinder but that he had acquir’d the Reputation and Esteem of gallant Men. Mean time his Passion having seiz’d his Brain, he fansied that he had right to revenge himself of an unconstancy, and his despised flame continually offering it self to his Eyes, he resolv’d in that infatuation, to satisfy himself at the cost of his Honour and Conscience…

Having sent off his little love-token, St. Sauveur departs France for Holland, leaving behind a confidential servant to gather intelligence on his plan’s success:

…he learnt by his Man’s arrival the mischief which his Perfume had caus’d, in taking away Madamoiselle of Chanlieu’s Life with her Beauty; that that Tragedy had surpris’d divers Persons, and that at the first noise of it it had hastened to join him at the Rendevous. Never was Man more deeply struck than he was at that Relation, he fell into a kind of Swound, which depriv’d him of is Senses, and at last coming to himself again, he continued making reproaches to himself that mov’d compassion; he twenty times call’d himself the Executioner of the fairest Person in the World, and passing from invectives to a giddiness, he secretly felt a sorrow which devour’d him…

Yyyyyeah… Not much “compassion” over here, I must say.

But while St. Sauveur is left to his deserved torments of conscience, Belon relieves the reader’s misapprehension. It turns out that the victim was not Mlle. de Chanlieu, but La Grange: she, still eager in her twin causes, intercepted the package and, believing it to be from the Knight, opened it herself to investigate the contents.

Returning home from the wars, St. Hubert is not slow to take advantage of Mlle. de Chanlieu’s softened feelings:

…St. Hubert, who knew what Corrective she made use of, did so well play his batteries that way, that he never shot at random; he set himself up for a Master-mender of both the Religions, and dexterously applying those softenings which Monsieur de Condom has made use of to delude the Reformed, he had perhaps led her into some of those kind of Pitfalls, if she had had less of inlightning, and of fortitude.

(Ahem. This gentleman, Jean de Monluc, later Bishop of Condom, advocated “freedom of conscience” with respect to religious faith, although reading of the fine print reveals he believed that the conscience of the Huguenots would lead them to obey the king and be reabsorbed back into the Catholic church.)

Matters then reach a crisis:

    The Edicts, and the King’s new Declarations did then cause an infinite number of innocent Persons to shed tears, and forc’d a great number to flye from a Countrey where their minds were kept under such a severe slavery. Madmoiselle of Chanlieu did so ingenuously disingage her self from those false shadows which Love us’d to lull her Conscience asleep, that she vow’d to follow the example of so many generous Fugitives, and to abandon her own Countrey…
    She openly chid her Brother on his sluggishness, and told him things grounded on so firm and Christian a Moral, that peradventure he had resolv’d not to be of the numbers of the Temporisers, if he had less permitted himself to be possess’d with his passion…

Mlle. de Chanlieu then calls upon the Knight to prove the depths and generosity of his love for her by helping her flee the country, an act that will effectively separate them forever. After several pages of angst and speechifying, he agrees: with M. de Chanlieu staying behind for the present to quickly put the family’s affairs in order, the Knight escorts Mlle. de Chanlieu and her new maid to the coast and arranges for some fishermen to row them out to a ship bound for England.

He soon has cause to regret his co-operation:

He frequently did go to the Sea-shore, as if to ask news of his Mistress; and some days being pass’d in an unparallel’d expectation of Letters; news was brought by another Packet-Boat, that the first had wracked against an Hollander, and that the storm was so high, that they had not sav’d so much as the Crew…

A friend and fellow officer advises the grief-stricken Knight to go to Holland himself, to inquire more closely into the disaster. He does so, but almost immediately receives confirmation of the worst in the sight of a gown he knows very well to be Mlle. de Chanlieu’s hanging in a merchant’s window. The shopkeeper admits that he bought it from a man who had been among those scavenging the debris from the wreck, which was tossed up on the shoreline.

Travelling around aimlessly, except in an effort to assuage his grief, the Knight ends up in the Hague—as it turns out, in the very rooms previously occupied by St. Sauveur. There he finds papers left behind that spell out the entirety of his connection with Mlle. de Chanlieu, including the plot which ended (as he believed) in her death. Depicting himself as wracked with guilt and remorse, St. Sauveur declares his intention of expiating his crime by burying himself in the wilds of South Carolina.

(We won’t debate whether the punishment fits the crime…)

The Knight then learns that several bodies were also cast up on the shore, including one of a woman found with jewels sewn into her clothing. This final confirmation sends him back to his military service: he hopes that activity, in territories with no sad associations, will help him to move on. However—

    In that conflict of Thoughts, there happen’d one very surprising, which was that he believ’d, in going to make his Campaign the Ghost of that illustrious Person would reproach his Conduct, and would blame him for having made War against Persons that were of her Religion.
    That consideration did stay him in the Province of Dauphine; besides he being not over much prepossest with the Opinions of the Catholicks, he found that they acted with too much rigour against innocent Persons, which were charg’d with imaginary Crimes…

The Knight’s lingering ill-health is made an excuse for him to request leave. He ends up in Marseilles, where he haunts the docks and the shore—and where he presently gets a surprise:

…the pleasure which the Knight took to be on Ship-board, having obliged the Governour to invite him one day to Dinner on one of the largest that was in the Harbour; he was interrupted by an Officer, who gave him notice, that one of the Visitors had found some Protestant Subjects on a Dutch Vessel, which the storm had forc’d in…

Sure enough:

But how great was St. Hubert’s surprise at their coming! he thought he saw amongst them Madmoiselle of Chanlieu; and taking for a fantasm, what doubtless was a real Body, he fancied himself to be in an Inchanted Island, or that at least this adventure was nothing but a Dream…

The “reviv’d lovers” are left alone by the tactful governor, and we hear Mlle. de Chanlieu’s story: that it was her maid, not herself, who was drowned; that she was wearing her, Mlle. de Chanlieu’s, own dress with the jewels sewn into it, to keep them from the rapacity of the fishermen who transported them. (This woman sure does churn through maids!) Furthermore, her life was saved by a passenger on the Dutch ship with which her own collided, who turned out to be – surprise! – St. Sauveur on his way to America. He subsequently died, having confessed his plot to her.

This is all very well, but as the Knight’s friend, the governor, points out, the reviv’d Mlle. de Chanlieu is still a Huguenot fugitive, and strictly he is obliged to take her prisoner and report his having done so at court. He leaves the two of them alone again, and voila!—

    According to all appearance there was but little remedy to be found to wholly free themselves from troubles, and had she not resolv’d to dispute of Religion with him, at that time he intended to speak of nothing but Love, peradventure that she had never seen an end to her miseries.
    She was perfectly instructed in the Roman, as well as in her own, and the Knight, being accustomed to hear her frequently decide divers Controversial points, he began to receive that which proceeded from her delicate mouth as Oracles, and at last was of Opinion, that in spight of his Director he might enter into a particular examination of his Belief. The hard usage against the poor Protestants had already given him some Ideas of their Innocence, and of the Injustice of their Cause, he a-new consulted his own Conscience, and pierc’d by those Instructions that were given him, he believ’d that without allowance to his Love, he ought to be of the Religion of that Person whom he so tenderly lov’d…

The two are secretly married as quickly as it can be arranged and, after much necessary manoeuvring (involving, among other things, the Knight’s desertion of his military duties), make it safely out of the country—

…they pass’d through the Milanese, and took the great Road into Germany, and from thence the Road to London, where one may remain as incognito as in Paris.

 

24/10/2017

The History Of The Mareschalless De La Ferté


The Marquess de Beuvron believing himself handsome enough to be happy, was not contented with the leavings of so many; and Madame d’Olonne being not more faithful to him, he not only resolved to see neither of ’em, but also to ruin their Reputations in the World. As he durst not brag publicky to have lain with two Sisters, he gave ’em to understand that he had enjoy’d that happiness with one, and that it was only his own fault that he had not arriv’d to it with the other. Those who knew ’em both, had no hardship to believe it, but many believing it was malice that occasion’d his railing, the injury he thought to do their Reputations, excited only in them a curiosity to see such remarkable Ladies…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So! – it is with an altered perspective that I returned to The History Of The Mareschalless De La Ferté. Possibly because, in this instance, he was dealing with people much more widely known, the anonymous author does reel himself in a bit, with this narrative being far less sexually explicit; but otherwise, it is business as usual.

The author starts out by introducing his new cast of characters:

What I have told you of Madam de Lionne, shews a great condescention in one who had aspired to Charm even the King; yet it is nothing in Comparison of what I am going to relate concerning the Mareschalless de la Ferté, who is my other Heroess; but one so Illustrious, that it would be difficult to find her fellow, should you seek throughout Paris, which is nevertheless a Marvellous place for such kind of Discoveries. However, she was no sooner thrown from the aspiring hopes I have before mention’d, but she began to endeavour to comfort her self: And it seem’d not difficult, since he who had made her forget so Charming an Idea, was not one of extraordinary merit. She was of a good Family, and the Mareschal prov’d himself more couragious when he marry’d her, than he had before done by all the Warlike enterprises he had ever attempted. For she must either have been chang’d at nurse, or resemble the rest of her Relations who were so inclin’d: a fair Example whereof was to be seen in her Sister the Countess d’Olonne, whom Bussy has endeavoured to render famous to his Abilities, tho’ he has very much fail’d in it. The Copy falling so short of the Original. This Lady, tho’ of an indifferent Beauty, and far beneath her Sisters, had nevertheless so good an Opinion of her self, that she thought it her right to Charm the World…

The narrative then offers an unpleasant sketch of the Maréchal de la Ferté, “the Mareschal” – the most brutal Man that ever was – who is shown using threats and violence against his erratic wife, in an effort to keep her in line when his military duties call him away from home. In particular, he warns her against keeping company with her sister, the Countess d’Olonne, who is less than pleased at being cast in the role of corrupting influence:

And as Revenge is commonly the darling sin of Women; she could not rest till she had place’d him in the same rank with her own Husband, that is, till she had contriv’d a pair of Horns for him. Having discover’d her intentions in this to the Marquess of Beuvron who lov’d her, she desir’d him to render her that service, in hopes, that being both handsom and witty, it would not be difficult for him to supplant a Jealous Coxcomb, who could never have pleas’d her Sister any other way than by making her Fortune.

The Marquess, while attracted by the idea of bagging sisters, suspects that the Countess is trying to palm him off so that she can move on to the Duke de Candalle. He shows his jealousy so clearly, she abandons the notion of using him as her tool; though not the notion itself. After some reflection, she comes up with an alternative lover for her sister:

…she fixt upon her own Husband, in whom she fancy’d, she had heretofore observ’d some kind looks towards her Sister, by which she concluded her not indifferent to him; and besides she thought it not ill Policy to amuse him with some engagement, that he might not pry so narrowly after her affairs.

The Countess is right about her husband, but this plan falls through too: the Count d’Orlonne being so aware of his own shortcomings that he can bring himself to make no real attempt to seduce his sister-in-law. Exasperated, the Countess then fixes upon a certain Valet de Chambre in her sister’s employ, who helps her scheme along by being reticent about his background. The Countess brings the young man to the Mareschalless’ attention, suggesting to her that he is, in reality, some young lord who is in love with her, and has adopted the disguise of a servant to get close to her. The Mareschalless is intrigued and flattered, as she intended; while she also takes opportunities to urge the young servant on. He is dazzled, but doubtful; and hesitates in a manner that frustrates the Mareschalless, and forces her to make the first move:

…he, who was afraid of being guilty of any disrespect that might occasion his discharge, had still continued so dull not to have profited by the opportunity, had not the Lady, who kindly interpreted his proceedings, forc’d him into her lap, where she made him so many advances, that he could no longer be in doubt of his good Fortune. At these signs he took Courage, and the Bed being not yet made, the half hour he remained with her, was so well employ’d, that she conceiv’s a great esteem of his merit…

The affair being so unlikely, and the Mareschalless’ lover living under her roof, the intrigue goes undiscovered by the spies placed by the Mareschal, as well as by the world at large. This does not suit the Countess d’Olonne, who is perfectly prepared to sacrifice her sister to make a fool out of her brother-in-law: she sends him an anonymous letter informing him of the intrigue. Despite his low opinion of his wife, the Mareschal can hardly believe such a thing, and determines to hide his doubts and keep watch upon her himself:

His resentment was not the less for being conceal’d, on the contrary, it disturb’d his quiet both Night and Day; which afforded no little joy to the Countess d’Olonne, who was so clear sighted to discern through all his false disguises, he suffer’d all the torture she could wish him…

However, the Countess reckons without the jealousy of the Marquess de Beuvron who, angry at being made to share her favours, secretly gives her away to the Mareschalless. She, terrified of her husband’s violence, immediately breaks off the affair—or tries to: the young man, tempting fate, digs in his heels when she tries to dismiss him from the household; time enough for the Mareschal, who has plans of his own, to offer him a position in his own service. The young man foolishly takes this as a sign that the cuckolded husband does not know about the affair, a misapprehension which costs him his life:

For taking a Journey not long after this, towards his Government of Lorain, by the way Assassinated him with his own hand, that no one might know what was become of him…

The Mareschal takes pains to advertise the disappearance of his servant, whose body is found some time afterwards, and his own anger at the cowardly crime:

The Garrison of Luxemburgh, having at this time sent Parties abroad, this Murder was attributed to them, and the Mareschal seem’d to be so incens’d at it, that he commanded a Village in that Duchy to be burnt, tho’ it was under Contribution.

Though to the world at large the Mareschal is innocent, those closest to him know better. The Countess sends the Marquess to warn her sister (without giving away her own part in the matter), and the Maraschelless takes heed, altering her conduct and confining herself to home and family parties. This attempt to allay her husband’s anger backfires, however, because “family party” means the company of the Count d’Olonne, who finds his passion for his sister-in-law becoming uncontrollable. Meanwhile, the Marquess de Beuvron, having had several private meetings with the Mareschalles while they planned the best way to placate her husband, also finds his inclinations drifting from one sister to the other. Granted, a few days earlier he was urging her to behave herself at all cost; but, oh well…

The Mareschalless is surprised by the Marquess’ sudden declaration; doubtful that he means it; and frightened of her husband. The Marquess has an answer for all this—that since he is so well known as the Countess d’Olonne’s lover, no-one will suspect them, including the Mareschal; that he is fed up with the Countess’ infidelities; and that, while the Countess is generally deemed the most beautiful women in Paris, he finds himself drawn to the Mareschalless’ less obvious charms.

The Mareschalless doesn’t quite believe any of this but, having lived all her life in her sister’s shadow, the thought of stealing her lover is too tempting. The mere fact of it is not enough for her, however:

She ask’d him which (meaning she or her Sister,) afforded him the most ravishing transports, and he…laying aside his discretion, freely confess’d, her self without Comparison: She see,’d not to believe him, pretending his Raptures did not appear to her violent enough, but this was only to give him the opportunity to begin again; which he perceiving, acquitted himself so well of his Duty, that she was forc’d to confess that if he did not love her, his treatment of her had very much the appearance of it…

The smokescreen of the Marquess’ long-standing affair with the Countess operates as anticipated—except, curiously, in one quarter. The Count d’Olonne, having turned a blind eye to the Marquess’ affair with his wife, is infuriated to find him beforehand with the Mareschalless, and picks a violent quarrel with him.

In the end it is the Countess who must act as peacemaker, inviting de Beuvron to a private supper with herself and the Count as a public show of friendship and reconciliation. The Count, however, afraid that this reconciliation may mean a resumption of the earlier affair, determines to do his best to ruin the Marquess with her, and excuses his conduct in terms of defending his sister-in-law’s reputation. This ploy fails in its intent, the Countess concluding, correctly, that he is is driven by his desire for the Mareschalless, but dismissing the notion of the Marquess cheating on her as ridiculous.

But as it turns out, the Countess has created a monster. Her desires being let off the leash via her consecutive affairs, the Mareschalless goes wild:

In effect finding her Husband more tractable at his return than she could hope, she stopped not at the Marquess de Beuvron, but associated with him many Comrades of all sorts. The Church, the Law, and the Sword, was equally well receiv’d by her, and not contented with these three States, she made a Favourite of a fourth. Those who were concern’d in the Revenue pleas’d her extreamly, and having a great inclination for Play, many believ’d her Interest engag’d her to it.

Indeed, the behaviour of the Mareschalless is so outrageous, it attracts notice in high places:

This happen’d whilst the King was young, and but little of his adroitness either in War or Love had yet appear’d; but as he had the inclinations of a great Prince, of all the Women about Court these two Sisters were the least in his esteem, and he could not forbear to say one day, speaking of the Countess d’Olonne, that she was a shame to her Sex, and that her Sister was going the way to be little better…

Meanwhile, we discover that the reason for the Mareschal’s unwonted compliance is his own secret affair. In fact, in order to keep him distracted, the Marquess has procured a pretty young prostitute and thrown her in the Mareschal’s way; and he, unknowing, has snapped at the bait:

He look’s very much upon her, and believing her as vertuous as she affeted to appear, it was not long before he made her an offer of his Heart. She at first refused it, and his passion was so enhanc’d by the denyal, that he openly Courted her. His Wife, to push the design, pretended to be offended at it, but he desisted not for this, neither car’d she much, for what she did, was only to make him believe he was not indifferent to her.

The girl eventually gives in, of course; and, primed by the Marquess, does her best to keep everyone happy:

She took great care to entertain him with the Vertue of the Mareschalless, under the pretext that having a Wife so commendable in all things, the Passion he had for her would no doubt be quickly expir’d.

No doubt.

Worried that she is overplaying her hand, the Marquess thinks it prudent to brings matters to a conclusion:

    …to prevent the worst, he caus’d her one day to be taken away by stealth, and carry’d her to Rouen, from whence he sent her to America.
    The Marechal made a great noise about it, and attributed it to his Wife’s Jealousie, which she did not at all deny. This occasion’d a breach for some time, but the Mareschal’s love fit being over, he was reconcil’d to her, and the Friendship he shew’d her, was so much the more sincere, as he believ’d a Woman capable of so much jealousie, could by no means be unfaithful to him.

The fortunes of the two sisters then shift. It is the Mareschalless who is courted by the public, her husband’s infatuation leading him to fund her various pleasures; while the Countess d’Olonne is shunned and despised. She finally stoops to a single lover, the undistinguished but wealthy Feruaques; excusing her connection with him under the guise of trying to arrange a marriage between the rich man and her comparatively poor niece, Mlle de la Ferté. But in time she stops making excuses, and the affair becomes open enough to alarm Feruaques’ family, who are afraid that, should the Countess be widowed, the foolish young man might be infatuated enough to marry her.

By this time, we are to understand that both sisters are “elderly” (they might be in their thirties); not that this has altered their desires, if it has their opportunities. The Mareschalless, being the younger, is still doing better; and it is at this point that the narratives of Gallantry Unmask’d and The History Of The Mareschalless De La Ferté begin to cross paths:

‘Twas not ill Fortune to an Elderly Lady, as the Countess was, to have the enjoyment of a Lover young and rich, but yet she fell far short of her Sister, who after she had tasted of all the Court, and even her Brother In Law, was so lucky to engage a young Prince of great Merit, the Duke of Longueville, Nephew to the Prince of Condée…

This arrangement was brokered by none other than our old acquaintance, the Count de Fiesque, who is one of the few men at court whom the Mareschalless has not “sampled”, and who she therefore regards as an actual friend. The Count is likewise a close friend of de Longueville, and warns the Mareschalless that her only hope with the young man is to reform her conduct, as the Duke is not one to be toyed with, and neither a man to share a woman’s favours. He promises her that if she can behave herself, he will put in a good word for her.

The Mareschalless is so determined on this triumph, she takes heed of de Fiesque’s advice:

‘Twas thus that the Mareschalless, by the necessities of her temper, overturn’d the Laws of Nature; for, not considering that ’twas the Woman’s part to expect the Courtship from the Man, it is evident, that she first made Love to the Duke of Longueville. The Count de Fiesque, who beliv’d she would find it very difficult to discharge so many favourites for the sake and enjoyment of one, mention’d nothing at first, of this Conversation to the Duke; but when he found she began in earnest to effect her Promise, and had parted with the Count d’Olonne, the Marquess Dessiat, and many more too tedious to name; he thought himself oblig’d to perform his promise…

The Duke, meanwhile, is willing enough now that the “obstacle” of countless rivals has been removed; and the affair is delayed only because of a certain inconvenience on his part:

In fine, too much health had occasioned his sickness, for frequenting too often some brisk Ladies about the Court, he was forc’d to retire from theirs, to put himself into the Chirurgeons hands…

In order to make sure that nothing can happen immediately, the Duke insists upon the Count de Fiesque accompanying him to his first interview with the Mareschalless, in which each of them promises to give up all their other lovers and swears fidelity (the Mareschal notwithstanding) to the other:

…she, who thought those earnests not sufficient, threw her arms about his neck, and gave him a thousand amorous kisses: Had not the Prince been indispos’d, his temper had been too acknowledging to have omitted a suitable answer. But knowing that it was not in this Distemper, that a hair of the same Dog was to be taken for a Remedy; he broke off the entertainment as soon as he could…

All of the Mareschalless’ former lovers are aggrieved by their abrupt dismissal, but none so much as the Count d’Olonne, who has spent a small fortune on her, and is wounded in both his purse and his feelings. We get a sliver of historical fact here, as with great presence of mind, the Mareschalless puts her rejection of him down to the disrespect he has shown her sister by separating from her. (The d’Olonnes did separate after ten years of marriage, when Catherine-Henriette failed to produce an heir.) The Count, bewailing the cruel fate that involved him with the sisters, is not to be persuaded by either words or tears, and the two part bitterly.

For a time the Mareschalless is concerned that he might vent by telling her husband; and we now learn that the Mareschal, much afflicted by gout, has effectively withdrawn from public life and is the one person who knows nothing of his wife’s latest escapade.

The affair between the Mareschalless and the duke hots up, but even so, he has enough caution to resist when she tries to persuade him to spend the entire night with her. Instead, he compromises:

…he desir’d Fiesque to hire a House in his name. He took one near St Anthony’s Gate, where the Mareschalless, pretending to go walk, sometimes to the Arsenal, sometimes to Vincenne, often came through a back Gate. The Petticoats began to rise with these Interviews, and finding her self with Child, she was in some concern. Yet seeming to be careless of the resentment of her Husband, to shew the greater violence of her Passion to her Gallant, she contriv’d ways to hide her great Belly, and was brought to Bed in her own Apartment…

The baby is smuggled out of the house, and the Duke puts it out to nurse. Its existence is whispered about, however, and when the still bed-ridden Mareschal makes an enemy through his rapacious and often violent acquisition of other people’s land, he retaliates via an anonymous letter hinting at the infant’s parentage. The Maraschel tries to believe that this is just slander, but he can’t help but notice that the illness which has lately confined his wife to her own bed had the same duration as a traditional recovery period…

…the time of lying in being pass’d, the Lady’s distemper vanish’d, and she came into his Chamber in as good health as if she had ailed nothing. As soon as he saw her, he began to cry out as if he had a fit of his Pain, and the Mareschalless demanding the reason. Ah Madam, said he, when you cry’d out louder than I do, not long ago, I did not ask you the matter, and therefore pray let me alone…

Before long, France and Holland being at war, the Duke de Longueville is ordered into the field. this causes the Mareschalless less distress than we might expect, as a coolness has arisen due to jealousy on her part; and when the Duke is killed in action she shrugs it off.

(More historical fact here: the Duke de Longueville was killed in 1672. Before he left Paris, he had his bastard son legitimated, a common practice at the time, a sort of “spare heir” arrangement; although history does not seem to record the identity of the boy’s mother.)

The Marechalless’ next venture is with a certain M. Bechameil who, as a “mere citizen”, she feels should be willing to pay for his pleasure, and hers; and pay – and pay – and pay. Bechameil tries to rein in her demands, insisting upon a fixed allowance, to which she reluctantly agrees; but when he finds out she has been taking his money and cheating on him anyway, he breaks off the connection:

So that not being seis’d of the whole I am contented to part with what I had to the advantage of whom you please, or, to speak properer, to the first Comer; in doing whereof, I shall for the future employ my ten thousand Crowns in Manuring a ground which shall be till’d by me alone…

Things go from bad to worse for the Mareschalless. Not only does she have debts of her own, but when soon afterwards the Mareschal dies, she learns that he too was in debt, besides the stopping of his government stipend. Desperate, the Mareschalless begins holding card parties, at which (surprise!) she does not always play fair. She finds a partner in crime in the Marchioness de Royan, who has likewise been left in difficult circumstances, and threatened with a convent by her family. To circumvent this, she agrees to marry a brother of the Count d’Olonne – there was nothing in nature more horrible than this Chevalier…he had rather the air of a Cow than a Man – a marriage which the Count has a particular reason for bringing about:

Thus it was, that the Count d’Olonne fearing there should be no Cuckolds in the Family, took himself care of that Subject…

But the cheating being suspected, the Mareschalless’ card parties do not serve her as she hoped; and at last she is driven to try and steal the still-infatuated Feruaques from her sister:

For she was vex’d at the very heart, that her Sister, who was older than her by several years, and had not a better Reputation, should have a purse like that at her command…

At this time the whole family is at loggerheads, with the debauched young Duke de la Ferté finally driven to reprimand his mother, who responds in kind:

    The Mareschalless…told him that he truly had great reason to complain, who was not only despis’d by the Court but the Town. This was nothing but the truth, but as all truths are not to be spoke; he could not bear it, but reply’d, there was yet less on hers, who was an old Wh–e, and hereupon he reckon’d up all that had to do with her, and the sum amounted to threescore and twelve; a thing not to be credited, was not Paris sufficiently satisfied of the truth of what I say.
    The Mareschalless bid him not forget his own Wife, who was as much to blame as any body; but the Duke stopt her mouth by telling her, he very well knew he was a Cuckold, but that did not hinder his Father from being one beforehand, in marriage, and after his death.

The family quarrel soon achieves such proportions, it reaches the ears of the king. Even this cannot bring them into line, as each (rightly) considers themselves already ruined at court, and so sees no point in reformation:

The Duke de la Ferte, who knew his Reputation was already lost with him, concern’d himself for it no more than the Mareschalless who continu’d this way of living; so that perhaps I may some other time acquaint you of the rest of her life, as well as the Story of Madam de Lionne, if they are still so lucky to meet with those who will accept of ’em, and Age as well as Shame does not bring ’em to Conversion…

…an offer, I am not in the least sorry to say, that does not appear to have been taken up.

 

14/10/2017

Gallantry Unmask’d; or, Women In Their Proper Colours


 
    Whether Madame de Lionne took any new offence at the Letter, or had too good an appetite (as is more likely) to be contented with the Count, who had the reputation of being more Gentile than Vigorous, she threw the Letter into the fire, and told the Messenger, she had no answer to return to it. This encreas’d the passion of the Lover, who with all haste imaginable flew to her Apartment, telling her, if she would not pardon him, he came to die at her feet, but hop’d his offence was not beyond the reach of mercy, that his Notary’s Wife, call’d le Vasseur, had forgiv’n her Husband, tho’ he had caus’d her to be proclaim’d a publick Whore by arrest of Parliament, and had long confin’d her in the Magdelonnettes or Bridewel; that his Crime was not so notorious as the Husband’s, who whatever he perceiv’d, was oblig’d by the Articles and Contract of Marriage to be silent; that there was no such Law for the Lovers, but on the contrary, Complaints were always permitted, as the kind effects of Passion, and to deny him, was an infringement on his undoubted Right.
    Tho’ the only difference between Madame de Lionne and Madame le Vasseur was, that one was a Notary’s, and the other the Wife to a Minister of State; that one was declar’d so by an Arrest of Parliament, and the other by the Voice of the People, which is nevertheless the Voice of God; the Comparison did not please her…

 

 

Welcome back, Chronobibliography. It’s been a while, by gar!

As we have seen already, with Lisarda; or, The Travels Of Love And Jealousy, the receding of politics in literature in the wake of the Glorious Revolution opened up a space within English fiction for the return of the story of romantic – or at least, sexual – misunderstanding.

Though these narratives bear a distinct resemblance to the rogue’s biographies that flourished earlier in the decade, we note too some very marked differences between them. In the first place, there tends to be more of a balance within the narrative, with neither men or women necessarily dominating in the role of identification character; and in the second, most of the subsidiary material – the cheating, and scatological humour, and physical brutality – has fallen by the wayside, leaving us with stories focused almost entirely on the mutual manoeuvring of the sexes. This might be within a context of “honourable love”, as was the case with Lisarda; or conversely, we might get something like Gallantry Unmask’d; or, Women In Their Proper Colours, which is an unapologetic sex-farce.

Though in all other respects a very minor work, Gallantry Unmask’d is important for its failure to pretend to be anything other than a work of fiction: note that on the title page, the words “A NOVEL” are in the largest font, again indicating the increasing importance of fiction in the literary marketplace. Otherwise, the one really notable thing about this short work are the lengths to which it goes in order to remind us that, prior to the 18th century, it was widely believed that women were the sexually insatiable sex—incapable of fidelity, still less monogamy; moving briskly from lover to lover, and willing to do anything to get the latest object of desire into bed; though quick to grow bored afterwards. Men, meanwhile, tend to be presented in these narratives as the hapless victims of female scheming and deceit; while husbands are simply ridiculous—unknowing cuckoldry the best they have to hope for, and no redress for their wives’ wrongs except (as with M. le Vasseur in the quote above) at the price of public humiliation and scorn. Indeed, the only thing funnier than a cuckolded husband is an impotent lover.

However, while the female-centricity of Gallantry Unmask’d puts a significant distance between it and something like The English Rogue, there’s no celebration associated with the sexual conquests described here, as there always is with those of the male (anti-)heroes of the rogue’s biographies. In its place is a constant air of tut-tut-tut, with the inevitable double-standard being applied: men are men, but women are whores.

It’s exasperating, of course; though given how little has changed since in that respect, we can hardly make it grounds for condemnation. And besides— Gallantry Unmask’d ended up teaching me new euphemisms for impotency and pregnancy; so it wasn’t a complete waste.

This anonymous work is in fact comprised of two short, related fictions (which may have been published separately in the first instance, though I can find no solid evidence of it): the title story, which follows the sexual misadventures of a certain Madame de Lionne, and The History of the Mareschalless de la Ferte, which picks up one of the minor characters of Gallantry Unmask’d and follows her sexual misadventures. Both are set in France, during the reign of Louis XIV (or “the Great Alexander” as the author discreetly calls him, following Voltaire); and once again we see a tendency to set stories of people behaving badly in not-England (another shift since the heights, or depths, of the rogue’s biography). This choice of setting also allows the author to take numerous pot-shots at the hypocrisy of the Catholic clergy.

At the beginning of Gallantry Unmask’d, Mme de Lionne is trying – and failing – to achieve the honour of becoming Louis’ mistress. Her lover, the Count de Fiesque (who she keeps, presumably with her husband’s money), is unbothered by her attempts to gain the King’s favour; but when he realises her eyes are wandering further afield, he is affronted:

He was not angry at her desire to please the King, neither would it have troubled him had she succeeded in it: but finding, that not considering he had serv’d her from her youth, she was purveying for her self else where, he frankly bid her think well of what she was going to do; that it was enough to be contented with the leavings of a fulsome Husband, without suffering the refuse of others; that if he had afforded his assistance to her amour with the King, ’twas upon promise that he should only partake the pleasures of the Body, without any interest in her affection; but her daily proceedings sufficiently convinc’d him she was in search of some new Ragoust; and he was not at all pleas’d at it…

Mme de Lionne is affronted in turn, and warns M. de Fiesque that she can very well do without him: better than he can do without her money. He considers this an empty threat and, besides, that he doesn’t really care for her any more – perswading him he lov’d her now no more than a Husband does his Wife – until she starts to act upon her threats…whereupon he finds himself desperate to win her forgiveness. He goes about it rather unwisely, however, making the quoted comparison between Mme de Lionne and “publick Whore” Mme de Vasseur in the course of asserting his common-law right over her conduct. The quarrel ends with the smashing of a lute, and the entrance upon the scene of the Duke de Saux, who is amused by this evidence of a falling-out, and who Mme de Lionne immediately starts trying on, so to speak, as a replacement for M. de Fiesque.

In fact, the Duke is manouevring to get into the good graces of the Marchioness de Cœuvres, Mme de Lionne’s daughter; and it suits him for the moment to pretend not to understand her overtures. However, the Duke’s jocular attitude puts all sorts of fears into M. de Fiesque’s head, and he tries to find out Mme de Lionne’s intentions by sending her a forged letter, supposedly from the Duke, putting his failure to take her hints down to, uh, medical reasons, and suggesting an assignation at a more appropriate time:

…but, Madam, when it is ones ill fortune to be in the Chirurgeon’s hands, is it not better to seem not to understand, than expose a Lady to such certain repentance as must reasonably occasion hatred to succeed the friendship? If they tell me true, I shall be well in eight days…

Mme de Lionne’s response is alarmingly practical:

This accident has thrown me into a despair; for who can ever assure me that I can place a confidence in you; there are so many Quacks at Paris, and if by misfortune, you are fallen under any of their hands, into what extremity will you reduce those who shall fall into yours? If decency would permit me to send you my Chirurgeon, he is an able man, and would soon lead you out of this misfortune; let me know your thoughts of it…

The enraged M. de Fiesque threatens to expose Mme de Lionne, first to her husband, then to the world at large, which sends her in a panic to the Duke; arguing that if she is caught in a scandal, his name will be blackened too. She promises him that if he will help her, she will pave his way to her daughter; and offers him – or rather, demands – a few other things; right now.

Well. The spirit is willing enough, but the flesh, it turns out (the Duke having passed the previous night with a certain famous courtesan), isn’t up to the challenge:

    …he asked her if she would have money in hand, or defer payment to the following night. Madam de Lionne, who knew Man to be mortal, thought ready money best, but nevertheless she she told him, if he was not provided with the whole Sum, she would give him credit for the remainder for the time he should require.
    The Duke quickly understood the meaning of this, and placed the Cushions for a Table whereon to Count the money; but when he pull’d forth his purse, it was quite empty, to the great astonishment of the one, and no less Confusion of the other…

Knowing that one of his friends, stricken in the same way, blamed his use of a certain perfumed powder known as “Puvillio” for his failure, the Duke believes himself afflicted for the same reason. Having excused himself to the angry and frustrated Mme de Lionne, the Duke carries his grievance to Vienne, the compounder / seller of the powder, who tells him scornfully that there is nothing wrong with the cosmetic, and that the Count de St. Poll was merely trying to shift the blame to save his own reputation. Vienne also pleads with the Duke not to spread such a story about his Puvillio, but to no avail: various other men, finding themselves unable to satisfy their rapacious female partners, are glad enough to have such an excuse to fall back upon, and continue to use it, much to the indignation of the unfortunate Vienne.

A second running joke here emerges regarding the elderly Mareschal de Grancey, and the constant attempts by his servant, Gendarme, to convince him that his mistress of long-standing, Madame de Mesuil, is cheating on him with—well, just about everybody. Gendarme tries again and again to hurry the Mareschal to the scene of the crime, but since the Mareschal always has to stop and put on his truss and his wooden leg first, he never manages to catch the cheaters in the act.

Meanwhile, feeling reinvigorated, the Duke returns to Mme de Lionne, but catches her in the act of, uh, reconciling with M. de Fiesque. As they try to cover their confusion and excuse themselves, the Duke takes the opportunity to resume his pursuit of the Marchioness de Cœuvres, persuading her to a meeting. The two travel separately to the house of Mme de Mesuil (which she allows her friends to use for their assignations):

No sooner were they arriv’d, but he had a mind to know if he was still enchanted; and he found that two or three days of rest to a Man of his Age, was a wonderful remedy against such sort of Charms; when he had caress’d her twice he was glad to entertain her with some other diversion…

…but that’s not good enough for the Marchioness:

…the Duke she found was again enchanted; the Marchioness de Cœuvres, who was one of the prettiest Women in Paris, took it for a great affront to her, and began to be concern’d; she not only shew’d it by her Countenance, but resented it in these terms; I was never a Glutton in this point, and if you knew what Monsieur de Cœuvres says of me concerning it, you would find it was not on that occasion that I speak; besides, it is often a great punishment to me to endure it, which makes him often say, that I am not my Mothers Daughter, and that certainly I was chang’d at nurse. Yet altho’ my coldness might have discouraged him, he never gave me such an affront as you have done. I remember that on our Wedding Night—but why should I tell you, it will make you dye with shame; and yet he was a Husband, but you a Gallant. But yet Gods what a Gallant? one that has taken that Name to abuse me…

Frustrated and jealous that her daughter has got in before her with the Duke, Mme de Lionne rats her out to her husband, the Marquess de Cœuvres; only going so far, however, as to hint that he might want to keep a closer eye upon his wife. Nevertheless, the Marquess is sufficiently outraged to call a family meeting, in order to decide what is to be done; at which point we learn that the Mareschal de Grancey is the Marquess’ grandfather:

Most of ’em were for sending the Marchioness to a Nunnery, saying this was what might be expected from so unequal a match… Some enlarg’d upon it, and said, that an ill Tree seldom brings good Fruit; and when her Mother had always made profession of Gallantry, it was not to be expected, but her Daughter should resemble her. That they had Whores enough in the family without her…

To everyone’s surprise, the Mareschal offers a spirited defence of his granddaughter-in-law:

In troth you make me mad to hear ye talk thus; ye that pretend to be so delicate, but who had not been here any more than myself, had our Mothers been so nice… If her Crime has been only to seek the Pleasures of Nature, I declare my self her Protector. Let all this be kept secret amongst our selves, that the Court know nothing of it; The shortest Follies are the best, and it will be ill husbandry to let the whole Town laugh at our Expence…

The Mareschal is then called away, but his son, the Bishop of Laon, takes up the argument—insisting that if the Marchioness is unfaithful, she is at least discreet, and brings no discredit upon the family name. He offers to keep an eye upon her in future, which the Marquess de Cœuvres agrees to:

But he was the only man in the Company who did not penetrate his Design. The good Prelate was fal’n in love with his Niece, and not having leisure enough to follow the whole Duty of a Lover, he resolv’d to make her esteem this as a great piece of Service, and to demand an immediate recompense for it…

The Bishop does exactly that—leaving his father’s defence of the Marchioness out of his version of events. The Marchioness experiences a variety of emotions, but relief at discovering that she is only suspected by the family predominates. The situation also allows her to assume a pose of outraged virtue, both generally and in rejecting the Bishop’s overtures—which, seeing her reaction, he quickly downplays to platonic adoration; not that this deceives her:

What, ’tis a trifle then with you, says Madam de Cœuvres, for a Bishop to make Love to a marryed Woman, and for an Uncle to endeavour to seduce his Niece? Believe me, if I have any Case of Conscience to consult of, you shall never be my Casuist…

She finishes with a threat to tell the Marquess. The Bishop, stunned and disappointed at first, soon grows angry, and decides to do in reality what he promised in self-interest: to watch her, and catch her out; intending not to expose her to the family, but blackmail her into his bed.

Sure enough, the Bishop soon becomes convinced that she is carrying on with the Duke de Saux, who has indeed returned to his pursuit of her, but is disguising it behind a smokescreen of a seeming affair with Mme de Lionne. The latter is not happy with him, but the two eventually come to an understanding, agreeing to keep each other’s secrets. Their reconciliation is taken the wrong way by the Marchioness, however, who sends the Duke an angry letter in which she blames his “failure” on her mother:

It is not above an hour or two since I design’d to enquire how you did after your paralitick fit, but when I saw you get into your Coach so overjoy’d at Madame de Lionnes, I thought my Complement would be to little purpose. Any besides my self would have wonder’d, that she should perform a Miracle, they had so unsuccessfully endeavour’d to Compass; but I find the reason; in many things, I have not an Experience equal to hers; and perhaps she may have an interest with the Saints, that I cannot boast of; Let me know which you are beholden to, for I have all the reason in the World to believe it proceeds from a Religious Effect, when I find you pay such Devotion to Relicks…

His favourite courtesan being temporarily hors de combat (in her “Chirurgeon’s hands”, we gather), the Duke has no immediate choice of women, and so quickly sends his own letter to the indignant Marchioness:

I have been in search for you ever since my misfortune, to let you know ’tis you alone can cure me; if you will make an Experiment of it about two in the Morning, I have an infallible secret will help me to the door of your Apartment. Be satisfy’d you run no danger, since your Husband will not return from Versailles before tomorrow Night; if you have but the least consideration for my health, you will accept this offer; remember that old mischiefs are dangerous, and if you permit mine to root it self deeper, have a care lest it becomes at last incurable…

The Marquess de Cœuvres may be out of the way, but the Bishop of Laon is on the watch, and gets wind of the assignation. He sees in it the opportunity he has been waiting for, and determines to go to any lengths to catch the lovers out. Divesting himself of all the paraphernalia that might give away his identity, he sets himself to spy upon the Hotel de Lionne (where the de Cœuvres also live). Embarrassingly enough, he is caught by a servant of M. de Lionne, who takes him for a lurking thief. The Bishop being recognised, he begs that the servant be sent away, and then explains himself to M. de Lionne; putting his spying in terms of preserving the Marchioness’s reputation. Like everyone but the Marquess, M. de Lionne knows that the Bishop desires his daughter; but he has enough at stake in terms of the family reputation to take him at his word, and offers to watch with him.

Meanwhile, the banished servant hasn’t gone far, and so sees a man climbing in over the garden wall, and then entering the house through a window; though in the darkness he cannot see who it is.

It is the Duke de Saux, who is caught while making his way to the Marchioness’s room by Mme de Lionne, who is expecting the Count de Fiesque. After a moment of mutual alarm, they identify each other. The Duke proposes that they each just go about their business, but Mme de Lionne, assuming since it is so late, that M. de Fiesque has let her down, has other ideas:

No, no, Sir, replyed she, it shall not go as you imagine, I know it is my Daughter you would be at, but let it displease you both if it will, I shall nevertheless make use of the opportunity, since it has offer’d itself so kindly; in all likelihood the Charm of the Puvillio may be broken, and you must give me proofs of it this very instant…

The resulting low-voiced dispute, which finds the Duke trying but failing to extricate himself from Mme de Lionne’s clutches, ends with an unexpected compromise:

…she propos’d a medium, which was to go her self, and fetch her Daughter. He accepted the proposition, not being able to get out of her hands by any other means; but before she went, she conducted him to her Chamber, obliging him to go to bed, and promising to bring her Daughter, bidding him take care how he behaved himself, since he was to pass that night between ’em. If the Duke had been too scrupulous, such a proposition would have startled him, but he being a Courtier fear’d nothing of this nature; but answer’d, that he should expect ’em both with great impatience…

Mme de Lionnes does not prepare her daughter, simply ordering her to follow to her own room. She, torn between the fear of losing her assignation and that of being found out, does as she is bid. Finding the Duke in her mother’s bed, she assumes the worst, until her impatient mother explains the situation:

This a little appeas’d the young Lady, and tho’ she was sorry to be forc’d to part with a share to her Mother, of what she had all expect’d to her self, she lik’d it yet much better than to have found the Duke unfaithful… She undress’d her self, half out of obedience, and half through inclination and desire. Madam de Lionne was doing the same thing on her side, and both, expecting good fortune that Night, were only in loose Gowns, which were soon taken off, and one would have thought a reward had been promis’d to those who should be first undrest, such haste did they seem to make…

Outside, M. de Lionne’s servant tells the guardians of the family honour what he has seen. M. de Lionne takes it quite coolly, thinking only of the best way to keep the matter quiet, which drives the insanely jealous Bishop, who is thirsting for the Duke’s blood, to abuse him as a coward and a cuckold. The servant leads both men to Mme de Lionne’s room:

The Duke and the two Ladies were so busily employ’d, that they heard not the door open… M. de Lionne was so surpris’d, that he said not one word. He thought himself a Cuckold, but to find a Spark between the Mother and the Daughter, seem’d so strange a thing to him, that he could not have more wondred, had the horns sprouted out immediately on his forehead…

As the embarrassed Duke slinks away, Mme de Lionne casts herself at her husband’s feet, the Marchioness at the Bishop’s: the latter quietly promising everything her uncle wants, if only he will not expose her. The Bishop is so delighted, he switches stance, agreeing that M. de Lionne’s initial plan of hushing the matter up is by far the best proceeding:

After this the Bishop, under a pretence of correcting his niece, led her to a Chamber, where demanding her promise, she durst not refuse him, for fear he should ruin her with her Husband, and the whole Family. And having obtain’d what he desir’d, knowing she did it only out of fear, imagin’d she would quickly return to her first Affections; and to prevent it, he manag’d the affair after that method with her Husband, that she was sent into the Country to a seat of his, not far from the Bishops. This produc’d a good effect, for he recided more constantly than usual in his Doicess…

But regarding his wife, M. de Lionne has second thoughts. He places her in a convent, where she remains confined until his death; at which time she…

…is become so old, that she is forced to be contented with the Count de Fiesque, who out of necessity is oblig’d to pass by many things which would not be agreeable to a more Critical Lover.

Meanwhile – of course – the Duke emerges from the escapade with his reputation not only undamaged, but if anything enhanced:

He publish’d himself his own Adventure, chusing rather to be tax’d with indiscretion, than be depriv’d of the pleasure of talking…

 

[To be continued…]