History of the Rise of the Huguenots Volume I Part 13

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Unfortunately, there seems to be none. On the contrary, we have Brantome's direct testimony to the effect that the composition of the book was the employment of the queen's idle hours when travelling about in her litter, and that his grandmother, being one of Margaret's ladies of honor, was accustomed to take charge of her writing-case (Ed. Lalanne, viii. 126). Equally untenable is the view taken by the historian De Thou (liv. vi., vol. x. 508), who makes the fault more venial by representing the Heptameron to have been composed by the fair author in her youth. (So, too, Soldan, i.

89.) I am sorry to have to say that the events referred to in the stories themselves belong to a period reaching within a year or two of Margaret's death.

The facts, then, are simply these: The tales of Boccaccio's Decameron were read with great delight by Margaret, by Francis the First, and by his children. They resolved, therefore, to imitate the great Italian novelist by committing to writing the most remarkable incidents supplied by the gossip of the court (see the Prologue to the Heptameron). Francis and his children, finding that Margaret greatly excelled in this species of composition, soon renounced the unequal strife, but encouraged her to pursue an undertaking promising to afford them much amus.e.m.e.nt. Apportioning, after the example of Boccaccio, a decade of stories, ill.u.s.trative of some single topic, to each day's entertainment, the Queen of Navarre had reached the seventh day, when the death of her brother, the near approach of her own end, and disgust with so frivolous an occupation, induced her to suspend her labors. The Heptameron, as the interrupted work was now called, was not apparently intended for publication, but was, after Margaret's death, printed under the auspices of her daughter, the celebrated Jeanne d'Albret.

As to the stories themselves, they treat of adventures, in great part amorous and often immodest. In this particular they are scarcely less objectionable than those of Boccaccio. They differ from the latter in the circ.u.mstance that the author's avowed purpose is to insert none but actual occurrences. They are distinguished from them more especially by the attempt uniformly made to extract a wholesome lesson from every incident. The prevalent vices of the day are portrayed--with too much minuteness of detail, indeed, but only that they may be held up to the greater condemnation. It is particularly the monks of various orders who, for their flagrant crimes against morality, are made the object of biting sarcasm. The abominable teachings of these professed instructors of religion are justly reprobated. For example, in the Forty-fourth Nouvelle, Parlamente, while admitting that some Franciscans preach a pure doctrine, affirms that "_the streets are not paved with such, so much as marked by their opposites_;" and she relates the attempt of one of their prominent men, a doctor of theology, to convince some members of his own fraternity that the Gospel is ent.i.tled to no more credit than Caesar's Commentaries.

"From the hour I heard him," she adds, "I have refused to believe the words of any preacher unless I find them in agreement with G.o.d's Word, _which is the true touchstone_ to ascertain what words are true and what false" (Ed. Soc. des bibliophiles, ii. 382-384).

Modern French _litterateurs_ have not failed to eulogize the author as frequently rivalling her model in dramatic vividness of narration. At the same time they take exception to the numerous pa.s.sages wherein she "preaches," as detracting from the artistic merit of her work. It is, however, precisely the feature here referred to that const.i.tutes, in the eyes of reflecting readers, the chief, if not the sole, redeeming trait of the Heptameron. As a favorable example, ill.u.s.trating the nature of the pious words and exhortations thrown in so incongruously with stories of the most objectionable kind, I translate a few sentences from the Prologue, in which Oisile (the pseudonym for Margaret herself) speaks: "If you ask me what receipt I have that keeps me so joyful and in such good health in my old age, it is this--that as soon as I rise I take and read the Holy Scriptures. Contemplating there the goodness of G.o.d, who sent His Son to earth to announce the glad tidings of the remission of all sins by the gift of His love, pa.s.sion, and merits, the consideration causes me such joy that I take my psalter and sing in my heart as humbly as I can, while repeating with my lips those beautiful psalms and hymns which the Holy Ghost composed in the heart of David and other authors; and the satisfaction I derive from this does me so much good that all the ills that may befall me through the day appear to me to be blessings, seeing that I bear in my heart Him who bore them for me. In like manner, before I sup, I withdraw to give sustenance to my soul in reading, and then at night I recall all I have done during the past day, in order to ask for the pardon of my faults and thank G.o.d for His gifts. Then in His love, fear and peace I take my rest, a.s.sured from every ill. Wherefore, my children, here is the pastime upon which I settled long since, after having in vain sought contentment of spirit in all the rest.... For he that knows G.o.d sees everything beautiful in Him, and without Him everything unattractive."

Prologue, 13-15.

If any one object that no quant.i.ty of pious reflections can compensate for the positive evil in the Heptameron, I can but acquiesce in his view, and concede that M. Genin has been much too lenient in his estimate of Margaret's fault. It is a riddle which I leave to the reader to solve, that a princess of unblemished private life, of studious habits, and of not only a serious, but even a positively religious turn of mind--in short, in every way a n.o.ble pattern for one of the most corrupt courts Europe has ever seen--should, in a work aiming to inculcate morality, and abundantly furnished with direct religious exhortation, have inserted, not _one_, but a _score_ of the most repulsive pictures of vice, drawn from the impure scandal of that court.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 212: He was born at Cognac, Sept. 12, 1494.]

[Footnote 213: See the fac-simile in the magnificent work of M. Niel, Portraits des personnages francais les plus ill.u.s.tres du 16me siecle, Paris, 1848, 2 vols. fol.]

[Footnote 214: The envoy's description of Francis's curative power is interesting. "Ha una proprieta, _o vero dono da Dio_, come han tutti li re di Francia, di far guarire li amalati di scrofule.... E questo lo fa in giorno solenne, come Pasqua, Natale e Nostra Donna. Si confessa e communica; dipoi _tocca li amalati in croce al volto, dicendo: 'Il Re ti tocca, e Iddio ti guarisca_!'" Cavalli thinks there can be no doubt of the reality of the cures effected; otherwise, why should continually increasing numbers of sick folk come from the most distant countries, if they received no benefit? Relazioni Venete (Alberi), ser. i., i. 237. It must not be imagined, however, that the kings of France engrossed all virtue of this kind. The monarchs of England were wont to hallow on Good Friday certain rings which thenceforth guaranteed the wearer against epilepsy. These _cramp-rings_, as they were called, were no less in demand abroad than at home. Sir John Mason wrote from Brussels, April 25, 1555, that many persons had expressed the desire to obtain them, and begged Sir W. Petrie to interest himself in procuring him some of this year's blessing by Queen Mary. MSS. State Paper Office.]

[Footnote 215: The small size of the brain and the depression of the forehead indicated in all the different contemporary portraits of Francis have been noticed by M. Niel (Portraits, i. 10), who dryly adds that in view of them he might have been inclined to withhold the eulogies he has inserted in his notice of the monarch, "had he not recollected in time that the laws of phrenology are not infallible."]

[Footnote 216: Robertson, Charles V., iii. 396.]

[Footnote 217: Relazione di Francia (1538), Alberi, i. 203, 204. It will be noticed that Giustiniano wrote at a period when the youthful ardor of Francis had somewhat cooled down.]

[Footnote 218: The French king's proverbial ill-success gave rise to the taunt that his was "un esser savio in bocca e non in mente," but Marino Cavalli is charitably inclined to ascribe his misfortune rather to the lack of the right men to execute his designs, than to any fault of his own. Rel. des Amb. Ven., Tommaseo, i. 282.]

[Footnote 219: "Sire, vous en seriez marri le premier, et vous en prendroit tres mal, et y perdriez plus que le pape; car une nouvelle religion, mise parmi un peuple, ne demande apres que changement du prince." Brantome, M. l'Admiral de Chastillon, uvres, ix. 202.]

[Footnote 220: Brantome, Femmes ill.u.s.tres: Marguerite, reine de Navarre.

Also Homines ill.: Francois premier (uvres, vii. 256, 257).]

[Footnote 221: The Bulletin de la Soc. de l'hist. du prot. franc., v.

380, 381, publishes from a MS. in the library of the Louvre, an order from Francis I., countersigned by Bayard, directing his treasurer to pay to "Cecille de Viefville, _dame des filles de joye suivans nostre court_," the sum of forty-five livres tournois. This gift is to be shared with "_les autres femmes de sa voccation_," as she and they shall see fit, and to be received as "a New-Year's present for the first of January past, such as it has been customary from all time to make." The last clause may have been inserted for the purpose of palliating the disgraceful usage. This precious doc.u.ment is followed by Cecile's receipt, dated, like the order, Hesdin, February 18, 1539 (1540 New Style).]

[Footnote 222: Ch. de Sainte-Marthe, Oraison funebre, 1550, _apud_ Genin, i. 3.]

[Footnote 223:

_Une doulceur_ a.s.sise en belle face, _Qui la beaulte des plus belles efface_; D'un regard chaste ou n'habite nul vice;

Tons ces beaulx dons et mille davantaige Sont en ung corps ne de hault parentaige, Et de grandeur tant droicte et bien formee, Que faicte semble expres pour estre aymee D'hommes et dieux.

--Ined. Epistle of Marot to Margaret, prefixed to Genin, Notice, xiii., xiv. One of the two crayons of Margaret by contemporary artists, reproduced by Niel, Portraits des personnages ill.u.s.tres, etc., tome ii., was taken in early life; the other represents her as wearing the sombre dress she preferred in her last years.]

[Footnote 224: Vie politique de Marg. d' Angouleme, by Leroux de Lincy, prefixed to the Heptameron (Ed. of the Soc. des bibliophiles), i. p.

lxiv.]

[Footnote 225: "La serenissima regina di Navarra ... e donna di molto valore, e spirito grande, e che intervienne in tutti i consigli." Relaz.

di Francesco Giustiniano, 1538, Alberi, i. 203.]

[Footnote 226: The doc.u.ment contained a proviso that, should Francis be liberated, the Dauphin was to restore to him the sovereignty for the term of his natural life. It was dated Madrid, November, 1525. Isambert, Recueil des anciennes lois, etc., xii. 237-244.]

[Footnote 227: "Le mercredy _penultiesme jour de janvier_, au dict an, ils furent espousez an diet lieu de _Saint Germain_ (_en Laye_). Apres furent faictes _jouxtes et tournois et gros triomphes_ par l'es.p.a.ce de huict jours ou environ." Journal d'un bourgeois, 302. Olhagaray states the date differently, viz., January 24th; _ubi infra_, 488.]

[Footnote 228: See Olhagaray, Histoire de Foix, Bearn, et Navarre (Paris, 1609), 487.]

[Footnote 229: He was born April, 1503, and was consequently eleven years younger than Margaret.]

[Footnote 230: Catharine's bitter reproach addressed to her husband has become famous: "Had I been king, and you queen, we had been reigning in Navarre at this moment." Prescott, Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, iii.

353. Olhagaray gives another of her speeches: "O Roy vous demeures Jean d'Albret, et ne penses plus au Royaume de Navarre que vous avez perdu par vostre nonchalance." _Ubi supra_, 455.]

[Footnote 231: The Spanish conquest of Navarre is narrated at length by Prescott, Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, iii. 347-367. See also Olhagaray, 454, etc., and Moncaut, Histoire des Pyrenees, iv. 233-271.

It will be borne in mind that the great crime of John d'Albret was his adhesion to Louis XII. of France, in his determined struggle with Julius II.; and that Ferdinand's t.i.tle was justified by a pretended bull of this Pope giving the kingdoms of his enemies to be a prey to the first invader that might seize them in behalf of the Pontifical See. The bull, however, is now generally admitted to be a Spanish forgery. See Prescott, _ubi supra_. Baron A. de Ruble observes (Mem. de La Huguerye, 1, note): "On sait aujourd'hui que cette bulle est apocryphe."]

[Footnote 232: Brantome does, indeed, accuse Henry of using severity toward his wife, on account of her religious innovations, until threatened with the displeasure of Francis; but the truth seems to be that the King of Navarre was himself not ill-disposed to the religious reformation.]

[Footnote 233: M. Herminjard has been criticised for inserting too many of Bishop Briconnet's epistles in the first volume of his Correspondance des reformateurs dans les pays de langue francaise. M. Genin also gives specimens of the bishop's bombast, observing maliciously: "Si Briconnet argumenta en pareil style aux conciles de Pise et du Latran, il dut embarra.s.ser beaucoup ses adversaires." Lettres de Marg. d'Angouleme, i.

128.]

[Footnote 234: "O impiam et inverecundam arrogantiam," etc. See chapter I., p. 24.]

[Footnote 235: Determinatio Facultatis, etc., Gerdes., iv. (Doc.) 10, etc.; Bretschneider, Corpus Reformatorum (Opera Melanchthonis), i. 366, etc., 371, etc.]

[Footnote 236: Adversus furiosum Parisiensium theologastrorum decretum Philippi Melanchthonis pro Luthero apologia, Bretschneider, i. 399-416.]

[Footnote 237: Lettre de la faculte de theologie a la reine, Oct. 7, 1523, Gerdes., iv. (Doc.) 16, 17.]

[Footnote 238: Articules concernans les responces que apres meure deliberation a fait la faculte de theologie. Gerdes., iv. (Doc.) 17-21.]

[Footnote 239: "Qui [les livres de Luther] furent imprimez et publiez par toutes les villes d'Alemaigne et par tout le royaume de France."

Journal d'un bourgeois de Paris, 94.]

[Footnote 240: Ibid., 104.]

[Footnote 241: "Ego confidenter loquar, credens in Domino quod verum sit, quod plus syncerioris theologiae in libris praedictis continetur, quam in omnibus scriptis omnium monachorum, qui a principio fuerunt."]

[Footnote 242: A contemporary song (1525) denouncing woes against Strasbourg for harboring the "Lutherans," contains these doggerel lines:

"Ce faulx Lambert, heretique mauldict, Te fait prendre la dance De l'infemal deduyt."

Bulletin de la Soc. de l'hist. du prot. franc., ix. (1860) 381.]

[Footnote 243: Margaret of Angouleme, out of all patience, at last sent word requesting him to desist from these untimely letters to her brother--"qu'il n'escripva plus ny au Roy ny a aultres." Toussain to Farel, December 17, 1524, Herminjard, i. 313.]

[Footnote 244: Witness the malignant satisfaction exhibited by the Nuncio Aleander when noting the reported death of Lambert and his entire family: "Mi ha detto hoggi, che Francesco Lamberto d'Avignon, qual fugito dal monasterio, et ito astar un tempo con Luther ha scritto infiniti libri contra la Chiesa di Dio, quest' anno in terra del Langravio di Ha.s.sia insieme con la moglie et figliuoli tutti miserabilmente, et come da miracolo, in gran calamita _son crepati_."

History of the Rise of the Huguenots Volume I Part 13

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